Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year in review

- Gordon Brown says that "Britain is better placed than most to withstand the global turbulence". Famous last words.
- The Government nationalises Northern Rock but privatises the profits.
- Actor Heath Ledger dies age 28.
- Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair says he's optimistic about peace in the region.
- Barack Obama wins the Iowa caucases unexpectedly. Hillary Clinton starts worrying.

- French President Nicolas Sarkozy marries former supermodel Carla Bruni.
- Nine civilians are killed 'accidentally' in Baghdad by US forces.
- Shannon Matthews, a nine-year-old girl from West Yorkshire, goes missing. The Sun offers a £20,000 reward.

- Business Secretary John Hutton argues that "more millionaires are needed" in Britain.
- Heather Mills is awarded £24.3m in her divorce settlement with Paul McCartney.
- Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Socialist Party secure another four years in government with a general election victory in Spain.
- Police find Shannon Matthews and arrest her mother and relatives on suspicion of abduction.

- Media tycoon and right-wing politician Silvio Berlusconi wins the Italian elections.
-In Austria, it is reported that a man called Josef Fritzl had incarcerated his daughter in a custom-built cellar for 24 years, raped her and fathered seven children by her, leaving three of them in the cellar.

- Labour suffer a humiliating defeat at the local elections. Brown admits it's a "bad night".
- Boris Johnson defeats Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral elections.
- Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin announce their £3m wedding.
- On BBC1's Question Time, chief moron Richard Littlejohn accuses Polly Toynbee of "not living in the real world". Because he does, doesn't he?

- The Government narrowly wins the 42 days detention vote.
- The UN Security Council accuses Robert Mugabe of not allowing free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.
- Yet another Big Brother hits the nation right in the face. It's the ninth time in eight years.
- Football: Spain win the Euro 2008 after beating Germany in the final.

- British newspapers discuss the escalating problem of knife crime.
- Max Mosely wins £60,000 in his privacy battle against the News of The World. A rare instance of tabloid bullying being legally condemned.
- Labour is trounced by the SNP in the Glasgow East byelection.
- Former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon is accused of abusing Bloc Party's Kele Okoreke.

- War erupts between Russia and Georgia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
- The Bejing Olympics kick off amidst controversy over China's crap human rights record.
- Alistair Darling gets massacred by the Tory press for simply admitting the truth: this is Britain's worst economic crisis in 60 years.
- Barack Obama becomes the official Democratic nominee for the White House.
- Jeremy Paxman talks underpants and says middle-class white males are discriminated.

- John McCain's running mate, bible-belter Sarah Palin, is the talk of the town.
- The subprime mortgage crisis escalates in the US. The investment bank Lehman Brothers goes bust. In Britain, Bradford & Bingley are part-nationalised.
- Movie legend Paul Newman dies aged 83.
- The expression 'credit crunch' is literally everywhere.
- Pink Floyd's Richard Wright, 65, says farewell.
- The Sun's Fergus Shanahan pens the most appalling article of the year.

- Iceland is in the throes of a financial collapse. There are severe repercussions in Britain.
- Peter Mandelson becomes Lord and returns to the Cabinet.
- The US Presidential campaign reaches fever pitch.
- Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross are in the nation's bad books.
- In the wake of a botched TV appearance, the tabloids decide Kerry Katona is bad again.

- Barack Obama is the new American President.
- Prince Charles turns 60.
- A report into the failings in the case of Baby P kickstarts the Sun and the Dail Mail's crusade against left wing councils, single mothers and social workers.
- Busy with Baby P and Karen Matthews, the country's tabloids don't seem particularly interested in reports of a British Fritzl.
- The charity single "Heroes" recorded by the X-Factor finalists reaches no.1.
- 188 people die in an islamist terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.

- A series of riots erupts in Greece.
- In the US, President elect Obama names his cabinet, including Hillary Clinton.
- David Cameron accuses banks of having been irresponsible.
- Gordon Brown says he has saved the world.
- Woolworths, MFI, Zivvi and Whittard are the latest victims of the economic crisis.
- A debate starts on the idea of bailing out Jaguar.
- An Iraqi journalist throws two shoes at President Bush during his final visit to Baghdad.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Highs and Lows of 2008

by Stan Moss and Claude

The economic crisis was a rude awakening after the Blairite binge of freelancers, wealth creators and billy bollocks. And the extent of the damage is only hitting home now, with Woolworths and others dropping like flies.

We typed up 'Mumbai attack' but then Israel's mass massacre in Gaza took place. A vicious circle of violence producing more fodder for the hate merchants.

Man of the year: Barack Obama. Twelve months ago his chances of making it to the White House were akin to Hull City netting the Premier League. Yet he trounced the Clintons first and McCain/Palin next and he's now the biggest hope the world's had in twenty years.

Over-rated MP. John Cruddas. If this is the Labour left's best hope, we are doomed.

Wisest politician. While Labour, Tories and Nick Clegg were all dancing to the same tune, Vince Cable had the sense to forewarn that Britain's sandcastle economy was about to collapse. No one paid heed.

Crappiest politician. Where do you begin? Off-your-arse-you-scrounger James Purnell and work-or-lose-home Caroline Flint for picking on the weakest targets. John Hutton for unashamedly licking big business' arses. Kim Howells for flirting with Colombia's paramilitary. Derek Con way. John Redwood for going baaaaa about the crisis. George Osborne for not having a clue about what it feels like not to be loaded from day one. [and the list goes on...]

Top blog of the year: Chicken Yoghurt. Witty, outspoken, dysfunctional,'s my new favourite website. Just take a look for yourself.

Shit blog of the year: I have one firmly in mind and it's called something like Ich werde vollgeschissen or something. But a link would grant it free publicity which, given how desperate they are (he is) for attention, would be the wrong thing to do.

Fetish of the year: Cheryl Cole. With Britain in short supply of saints to idolise, literally not a single day goes by without tabloids reporting astonishing exclusive news of the Bless-her-of-the-Year prize winner leaving the house, breathing, walking, sobbing, smiling, drinking water, existing. Awww.

Crusade of the year
: The Sun Their Baby P "crusade" turned into a voodoo a-la Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a precise, nasty political agenda.

Achievement of the year: The sacking of Jon Gaunt. Excuse my language, but I almost spunked. Especially when the miserable right-wing bilebag started clutching at human rights. Him!
Best album: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig!!!. He's hit 50 and he's on top form. Nick Cave's a rare example of an artist improving with age. Like a bottle of fine Shiraz.

Best new band: Glasvegas. There's just something about them. A breath of fresh air, perhaps? The NME called it best new band in Britain. We beg to agree.

Most under-rated act: Paul Heaton. His second life (or third, actually, after The Housemartins and The Beautiful South) produced one of the most exciting albums of the year. It may have slipped under the radar, but his album The Cross Eyed Rambler is 10 out of 10.

Most irritating music act: Katy Perry. When a song is played more than 30 times a day on the radio it turns annoying. Throw in plasticky poses, superprocessed crap voice and cringeworthy lyrics and it's like being hit by a wet plimsoll. Please be a one hit wonder!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

This week

↑ UP

Harold Pinter. The legendary playwright died on Thursday. His spirited contribution to theatre, human rights and politics was from another planet. However, Johann Hari in The Huffingdon Post makes a good point about Pinter's dubious views on Milosevic and the Balkan wars.

Paul Routledge in The Mirror on Boxing Day with a mock Gordon Brown speech.


Channel 4. The idea of granting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran a prime time TV slot to air his 'Alternative Christmas message' was a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of oppressed and tortured people in Iran. Like Peter Tatchell wrote in The Guardian: "Whatever next? Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe? Herry Kissinger? Vladimir Putin?

Daniel Finkenstein in The Times on Tuesday. Believe it or not, this Tory is convinced the debt crisis "was caused by too much government, not too little". He must have slept through the last twenty years of galloping financial deregulation. Also, look at this pearl, "what['s] the difference, in principle, between Woolworth's and Jaguar? [...]why [does] someone, somewhere think it is right to rescue one and not the other?". The Chief Leader of the Times can't see the danger of a country that produces less and less stuff, where manifacturing skills are dying and where there are devastating ramifications for the rest of our manufacturing base (the automotive indusry emplys 800,000 people).

Nick Cohen in The Observer. He's back on Iraq. This time yakking against Harold Pinter (see above) for his opposition to the war. Pinter knew "betrayals" intimately, he wrote. Not a word, instead, on the fact that, on Iraq, Pinter managed to see past the end of his nose. Cohen didn't and he was wrong.

'Sweeney podge' more important than Gaza massacre

Strictly Tess pregnant, Video Vixens and Babe Abbey. How British tabloids value the life of over 220 people.

We knew our tabloids are vulgar, but this? The same day Israel killed over 220 people in what has all the potential to ignite the most destructive start of 2009, the Daily Mail online edition looks as follows:

Main story: Thousands of players blocked from buying lottery tickets. To its right, three photos are offered the same relevance. 1) Strictly's Tess Daily is pregnant; 2) "How Claire Sweeney piled on two stone"; 3) Hundreds dead after Israel war planes bomb Gaza strip.

The Sun doesn't fare much better. Top stories: 'Tickly Tum Dancing', 'Sweeney Podge', 'Babe Abbey in Sizzling Underwear Snaps' as well as Arsene Wenger lashing out at Martin O'Neill.

The Express has no mention whatsoever except for the tiny caption Abbas condemns Israeli attacks tucked away amongst the 'breaking news'. Priority goes to Woolworths closing down, Sbragia named new Sunderland manager and, in case your brain is yet to register, 'Strictly Tess pregnant with second child'.

The Daily Star at least doesn't hold any pretence of righteousness. At least not as much as the other tabloids. However, the editorial line is quite clear: nevermind over 220 people annihilated in one go, GEMMA BARES ALL, CELEB BABES and VIDEO VIXENS are there to steal the limelight. And we thought we were repetitive.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Massacre in Gaza

No-one knows if and when peace will ever be achieved in the Middle East. One thing is certain though: today Israel's act of 'self-defence' has recruited at least half a dozen suicide bombers.

This is what Middle East Peace envoy Tony Blair said exactly a year ago in his usual sanctimonious can-do fashion: "Sure, it is absolutely possible to have a peace deal by the end of the year", he mouthed, citing January 2009 as a "reasonable target".

If anyone still doubted that Tony Blair's gob can only produce delusional rubbish, as we speak the Israeli government is on course for the biggest mass murder of the year. And no, we haven't forgotten that living under rockets constantly flying in from Hamas must be a real nightmare. Nor is it realistic to expect Hamas as a reasonable negotiating partner.

But to butcher more than 200 Palestinians in one go, like if they were ants, the way Israel did today in "the bloodiest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict with the Palestinians", says a lot about their intent for peace. The Israeli military said "the air strikes were launched in a bid to stop terrorist attacks from the Hamas-run enclave".

But to give you a sense of proportion, according to the pro-Jerusalem Israel Project, the total number of Israeli deaths (civilians and military combined) from Palestinian terrorism in 2008 as a whole amounted to 31. Just in the first three months of the year, the UN reported 234 Palestinians deaths as a result of Israeli military attacks.

The Telegraph quotes B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group reporting that "nine Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since [Israel] withdrew all settlers and soldiers from the territory in September 2005 [while] over the same period, at least 1,400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in Gaza". Unlike St. Tony, no-one knows if and when peace will ever be achieved in the Middle East. One thing is certain though. Today's massacre has sown the seeds of at least half a dozen suicide bombers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ode to the record shop

With former Virgin Megastores going into administration, the day record shopping joins moustache-waxing in the graveyard of obsolete activities is getting closer.

Very soon popping into town to buy a CD, let alone a vinyl, will be remembered the same way some of us recall dialling numbers on a rotary phone. Completely obsolete. Our memories of hours spent bumming around record racks are destined to follow the footsteps of our ancestors' tales of fountain pens, moustache waxing or sword fighting.

I wrote 'destined to become' but, really, it's one step away. The news that Zavvi, known to a generation or two as Virgin Megastores, is going into administration, threatening 3,400 jobs, signals another blow to the old world of record shops and music-related purchases - at least in the way we grew to know them. Yet, in the words of Nick Hornby, author of that ode to the record shop known as High Fidelity, "at the time, it felt like it was there forever".

At some point in the 90s, I landed a crap job as a receptionist at a now defunct hairdresser's on New Street. Even though each shift felt like holding my breath under water, the job gave me a chance to be right in the middle of town and lunch time felt like an epiphany. Instead of wasting precious time chewing on Boots sandwiches or similar, I figured it'd be an excellent opportunity to hop from record shop to record shop.
I could spend ages in each, flicking through books, and sifting through records and CDs, staring hypnotically at the sleeves, wishing perhaps that I had enough money to buy at least one hundred at a time. To me, each band was a distinctive world made of song titles, sleeves, logos, photos and hairdos and, in the pre-google days, records and books were the only window to this mythical realm. The collection of music all stacked in one place, the magazine racks and the zines at the front, the dust and the musty smell were all part of a musical junkies' haven.

Town had a healthy range of independent stores. There was a tiny VIP outlet tucked away in the Piccadilly arcade off New Street with a remarkable supply of 7"s and CD singles that would make my wallet throb like fuck. Past the law courts, there was the legendary Plastic Factory. And then Highway 61 and Reddingtons Rare Records, the latter a real teaser with posters and the most unlikely memorabilia. Out of all the independent retailers there are only two survivors: Tempest on Bull Street and Swordfish on Temple Street, the place where a long time ago I managed to dig up the original 7-inch release of Hand In Glove.

Then there were the big ones. Birmingham was home to Tower Records on Corporation Street, while Virgin Megastore had a humongous place right next to Oasis market and, later on, another one in the Pavillions on the High Street and I can't quite remember if the big HMV next to it was already there. Some 'indie' kids would stick to the cliché that those corporate department stores lacked of atmosphere and were exactly the same all over the country. But for all their faults, like good old Woolworths, they felt immortal.

And yet, Tower Records kicked the bucket a few years ago, and when the one remaining Zavvi in the Pavillions shuts down next month, HMV will remain the last big record shop in town. Suddenly, it won't lack atmosphere and it won't look the same as everywhere else. But placed again a 'download here' click and an online shopping basket, now it's got the hell of a torch to carry.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rory Bremner's review of 2008

A round-up of Christmas messages

Optimism and the Queen's fear

A friend of mine called Max used to be popular for his incurable optimism. Storms would always give way to sunshine. A shit casual job would turn into a wonderful career opportunity and the crappiest of venues would piss all over Wembley Arena. A handy outlook, most certainly over Christmas.

And in fact this is the spirit of today's leader in the Independent (There are still reasons for cheer this Christmas) which is a spectacularly optimistic way of reading the current crisis. For example, "Here in Britain, we live in a more inclusive and equal society than ever before. Women are no longer formally treated as second-class citizens. Gay people have the right to enter into civil partnerships". You can almost picture the workers at Jaguar, Woolworths and Zavvi all cheering.

The Queen's Christmas message instead informed us that "this year is a more sombre occasion for many. Some of those things which would once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain". She was probably referring to Prince William who, while announcing he's spending Christmas in Australia this year, also managed a sombre night out with his brother and close friends, spending "at least $20,000 on booze".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pope: homosexuality "a destruction of God's work"

Ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet like never before. And what does the Pope preach about? Saving humanity from homosexual behaviour.

Thank (enter name of your god here)__________ that most Catholics are decent people and have minds of their own. Because, right when he could be preaching about seriously important stuff and offer support to the multitudes in financial and existential misery, Pope Ratzinger a.k.a Benedict XVI is still sprinkling bowels juice all over 'non-heterosexuals'.

He said yesterday that "saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction". Fancy that. It's like a 90s revival - like back to the days when The Sun were howling against the "Gay Mafia". But, as far as the Vatican goes, this Taleban-style kick is nothing new. In October, a leading catholic official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound". In November, the Vatican announced the “psychological screening” of all new applicants for the priesthood in the hope of weeding out gays.

Time is ticking and, at the Vatican, they keep speaking out of their arse.

According to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, the Vatican still "identifies homosexuality as a deep-seated personality disorder and psychological flaw; condemning same-sex acts as 'grave sins', 'objectively disordered', 'intrinsically immoral' and 'contrary to natural law'. Even men who have a gay orientation but abstain totally from sex are condemned by the Pope as possessing a 'tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil.'"

The easy temptation is to take a swipe at Ratzinger's Nazi youth (as it's well-documented, Ratzinger was enrolled in the Hitler Youth until 1941), but it'd have little to do with all the high ranks in the Vatican who are similarly homophobic and never spent a minute of their youth doing the macarena to Hitler.

In the words of the Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement: "When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way because they feel that they are doing God's work in ridding the world of these people." Bear in mind that up to 70 nations still have legal punishments for gay people including, in some instances, the death penalty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is Simon Cowell killing music?

You don't have to watch it? Just try and live your life without knowing a thing about the X-Factor. It's impossible.

Oh how many times have I heard it: "Why do you moan about the X-Factor? Who's forcing you to watch it". Really? So how is it that someone who lives abroad still knows, without watching a single minute of the whole show, that someone called Alexandra won it? But this is the thing: the "you-don't-have-to-watch-it" brigade have obviously never heard of the word marketing. They're like pawns on a chessboard and they're not even aware of it.

Like Big Brother, the astronomic money behind the X-Factor ensure that it's everywhere. You read a paper, any paper, and there are at least a couple of pages and big photos dedicated to it. And let's not get started on the magazines. The day Alexandra won, BBC News online gave it more prominence on the home page than the death of two British soldiers in Afghanistan or the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. It's like those saying "no need to whinge, just avoid McDonalds" except that if you plant one at every corner it's quite obvious that you'll walk into one sooner or later, if anything for a jimmy riddle.

And how about the other cliche, "Oh come on, the X-Factor or Pop Idol are just harmelss entertainment". We already spoke about the disturbing political message of the ode-to-our-boys Heroes. On another level, former winner Steve Brookstein was spot on when he recently accused the X Factor of "turning music into the WWF". "It’s about killing music to make light entertainment", he said. Bite the hand that feeds you and all that, but how can you disagree?

Let's have a look at it while we try and keep snobbishness at bay. Cheesy, manufactured charts pop has always existed. Back in the 70s The Supremes and Bay City Rollers were driving teenagers mad. And for all their posturing, the Sex Pistols themselves were a band assembled and manufactured by Malcolm McLaren. In the 80s you had Bros, Bananarama, the GoGos and dozens of others. But all of them put together were nowhere near as cumbersome as the whole X-Factor phenomenon. What we have now, courtesy of Simon Cowell and friends steamrolling their "product" into every living room in the country, is a whole new generation brainwashed into thinking that the X-Factor is the be all and end all of music. Anything outside of the pop or R & B styles is not even worth a look.

Here is a massive TV circus that is to music what Greggs is to haute cuisine. Aside from the contestants not even singing their own songs, they are treated like blank canvases whose sole aim is to impress Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and the two plastic dolls on their side (of which, for unfathomable reason, one is on course for the Bless-Her Award of the Year). It's like, forget your personality or individuality, the whole thing is about having a load of desperate young people begging the Emperor of Trash Music for a chance. "I'd do anything. Whatever it is you're looking for, I can give it to you. Please, I can do it. Just listen to this vibrato. Didn't the last X-Factor winner also sing like this?".

And they've got a point. What Simon Cowell is looking for is more of the same to feed the humongous beast of a mass market he's created. The X-Factor is where music ceases to be a form of art. It's where you should forget about pushing the boundaries, searching for something new or re-inventing genres, those 'talents' are only there to be given a song, churn out a no.1 single and fatten Simon Cowell's fund to purchase more of his beloved nipple-tickling trousers.

Just imagine if giving the public more of what they already have had been the dominant trend in the past few decades. Think of all those bands who ended up giving the public what they didn't even know they needed. Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, Nirvana, The Clash. Would they ever have stood a chance?

I mean, when you look at the quick money the X-Factor or Pop Idol can generate, why should record companies invest money in obscure 'indie' bands finding their own route along the pub circuit when there's a freshly baked manufactured no.1 at hand? Of course no-one's saying that there won't be another Franz Ferdinand or Kaiser Chiefs. But, for sure, the X-Factor's bulky presence will halve their already meagre chances and push real musicians and bands further into obscurity.

And if that was enough to make you shake in revulsion, just remember the rumours that make Simon Cowell the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Music at the next Brit Awards.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This week

↑ UP

Al Gore. He accused the world of having more interest in Paris Hilton, OJ Simpson and Anna Nicole Smith than saving the planet. "This celebrity-obsessed world had lost its way", he said.

"Is it a crime to throw your shoes at the President of the United States? If so, is it a serious felony deserving a savage beating and a spell in jail, or a minor offence to be dealt with by a fine and a ticking-off?" Believe it or not, these were questions asked by the Mail's Peter Hitchens. And denouncing the arrest and savage treatment of Muntadar al-Zeidi (the shoethrower), he added: "If the new Iraq is so free and democratic, why is this happening? We all know the truth. The claims of freedom are a fake and a lie, like everything else about this war". Fair play, Hitchens, fair play.

Johann Hari in the Independent on Wednesday. He called Cheryl Cole "most over-rated celebrity of 2008". Damn right. The Girls Aloud Saint is the epitome of Britain's pathological obsession with celebrities. Alone she's grabbing more headlines (for no reason) than David and Victoria Beckham in their 90s heyday. It must be to do with our feudal history.

I'm seriously worried, but I can't disagree with this piece can't type it... Ann Widdecombe. The former Conservative MP wrote a piece in the Express about "the barrage of nasty material to which children are so routinely subjected" these days.


Sean Mercer. The scumbag 'gangstaprick' who killed Rhys Jones was sentenced for at least 22 years. Let's just hope that, while in prison, he gets his arse ripped to shreds.

"Tawdry, exploitative business"

The tabloids are still rummaging around the leftovers of 'Sachsgate'. Like scavengers down the press foodchain.

Animals like hyenas, vultures and jackals are known as scavengers. Once the flesh has been gobbled by a hunting beast, those freeloaders turn up and rummage around the leftovers for anything they can turn into food. They're basically the cesspit of the foodchain.

Without wishing jackals and mates any disservice, they are the closest biological equivalent to British tabloids. You may remember, in fact, how the national saga known as Sachsgate resulted in Russell Brand resigning and Jonathan Ross earning a two-month suspension. Well, you may have thought the world would move on. Wrong. You underestimated the scavengers' resourcefulness. They're able to turn the most decomposing of corpses into a lush evening meal. And this is what the Sun and the Daily Mail have been doing.

Look at them yesterday, those fine purveyors of national news worrying about the nation's morals as they gnaw away at the bones, in this case the trashiest, most sordid aspects of a story. While the Sun, cheekily announces that "GEORGINA BAILLIE has directed her own porn movie", the Daily Mail, for its part, engages in a lecture about the "drug abusing Satanic Slut whose fling with Russell Brand led to THAT furore".

In a piece in today's Mail, Helen Weathers calls it "unedifying that a girl born with every advantage should consider 'adult entertainment' as a valid career choice rather than the demeaning, tawdry, exploitative business it really is". Does the demeaning, tawdry, exploitative business also include this stuff published by the same paper in October?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Heroes'? Watch this...

A video in response to the eerie blend of trash TV, tabloid populism and military propaganda.

You may not like hogwash telly like the X-Factor, but until now you thought it was harmless fun and politically neutral. Maybe so. But when said trash is pumped into every living room and, with a hand from The Sun, becomes the vehicle for vintage military propaganda to be soaked up by the whole country, things turn a little more disturbing.

This fantastic blend of mass television, tabloid indoctrination, populism and political brainwashing appeared, as you already know, in the guise of Heroes, a vomit-inducing Mariah Carey-song as covered by the X-Factor finalists. You've probably heard it a thousand times already. Tons of publicity allowed it to stay at number one for weeks in November and it's still on course for the Christmas chart-topping slot.

Its message is that British soldiers are heroes - by default. No matter what they're up to. Because they're 'our boys'. Our boys who've been spending five years invading another country, ripping it to shreds, torturing, and overall writing one of the most shameful pages of modern British history.

While you enjoy the young talents making a meal of each note, take a peek at this video compiled by Irish site eirigi. In the words of Organized Rage, "due to pressure brought to bear by the British government the video has been censored by various video hosting sites", so try and post it wherever you can.

Viewer discretion is advised as some may find some of the scenes contained within this video disturbing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The most overrated bands in history - Part 2

"Seriously??? How can you not like (...)?"
By Emma Munn

It beggars belief how a band who's singer sounds like a cross between an out of tune Thom Yorke and a trapped cat could be so successful. Bland, insipid, with all the appeal of soggy egg sandwiches on a crap school trip, combined with aimless 'anti-poverty' rhetoric, made all the more pointless by the fact that the band has no idea what the phrase means.

A group of old sods who have been reliant on the same one-string, delay-drowned note for 30 years, fronted by a man with such a superiority complex he makes Phil Collins sound like a manic depressive. The trouble is, they really think they're the best thing since sliced bread. Like a bunch of embarrassing dads.

The Stone Roses
Delusional singer, tuneless, droning dirges a speciality, eerily reminiscent of an irritating student who wants to impress as he goes on and on about how 'fucked' he is. Pathetic.

Forget the death of Freddie Mercury. Here you have the tackiest, most un-ironically naff band to ever grace this earth, combined with a hefty amount of sheer B-side fodder hidden behind 4 or 5 'classics'. The biggest shame of all is nobody handed Brain May a pair of clippers in 30 years.

Arrogant, disgusting, middle-aged cunt who spends her days strapped up in lycra, inflicting her sinewy husk of a body on the public. Can't sing at all. Famous solely for shagging about. Retire, now.

Mark Ronson
Take a well-known song, shove some deeply irritating horns over the top, get the flavour of the month to sing it, then claim world fame. Nothing to do with famous mummy and daddy, obviously. Talentless prat.

Ozzy Osbourne
Bumbling dick who releases laughable cover albums, and has made a living from getting his family to humiliate themselves on television, if you overlook his pitiful career in Black Sabbath. Not forgetting his bat-head antics and pissing on the Alamo. Rock and Roll, man.

Girls Aloud
The Spice Girls, except more like over-buffed fem-bots, and you're not allowed to say they're manufactured tripe because they're all indie now. They walk, they talk, they drink, they swear, and one of them is like, soooo rock & roll because she drinks Jack Daniels from a bottle and hangs around with the Arctic Monkeys. We wait with baited breath until they fall into the abyss, stupid twats.

George Michael
Would rather spend time cottaging in Hyde Park than writing songs. Also responsible for one of the worst facial-hair atrocities in the world. What a waste of talent.
(Read Part 1 here)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The world according to The Express

It's only since May 1997 that brutal murders began and men turned lazy and wicked and started spending money on sovereign rings and lager.

Once upon a time there was a crime-free country. Its towns and cities were punctuated by estates that were the envy of the world. Pretty and green, with pristine walls and state-of-the-art facilities, those lovely estates would house hard-working young men and women who'd always greet you with a smiling "good morning, sir" and take pride in helping the elderly cross the street. The words 'gangs' and 'crime' were not even in the dictionary. Here was a country where serial killers and brutal assassins were considered 'foreign' words, what else.

Those rare moments of leisure were spent listening to classical music or Cliff Richard, enjoying a game of chess or watching young mothers making a lovely cake for the whole family.

This all came to an abrupt end in May 1997. A gang of horrible social-communists sent over by the wogs of Brussels took over Britain. Their first decision was to place "the irresponsible and feckless at the front of the queue for social housing" as well as "women of low intelligence". Within months, feral creatures started infesting our streets. Cake-making women turned into slappers and got pregnant at every turn. Encouraged by the socialists' lavish handouts, men became lazy and wicked and spent money on sovereign rings and lager. They started forming gangs and killing children. For the first time ever, crime appeared in our towns. Graffiti began to smear those formerly pristine council estates. Soon, "the welfare-dependent criminal underclass [started to] rule the roost".

This is the world as seen by the Daily Express and its columnist Patrick O'Flynn. Even the tragic murder of Rhys Jones, perpetrated by a total scumbag, turns into udders to be cynically milked for cheap political pointscoring.

'MURDERS WILL KEEP HAPPENING IF WE KEEP BANKROLLING THE UNDERCLASS', wrote O'Flynn yesterday, while today, an editorial in the Express shouts that 'SOCIAL HOUSING POLICY IS TO BLAME FOR THIS GANG PLAGUE', adding that this is all "a product of a social experiment that continues to fail disastrously".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Low wages, Daily Mail and single mums

The Mail is convinced single parents are behind child poverty. But in a country where wages are absurdly low and the rich/poor gap huge, playing happy family is never going to stand much of a chance.

And so David Cameron was caught pissing in the tent. Yesterday's pledge against the Government's welfare shake-up on the subject of single mothers was never going to go down well with the tabloids. Their relentless banging on the subject that single mothers are all like Karen Matthews (i.e. little more than feral beasts), fitted in perfectly with Gordon Brown and James Purnell's crackdown on spongers. How could the Tory leader play spoilsport?

Which is why today the Daily Mail is pissed off. Really pissed off. Cameron ducks the welfare question, goes their editorial, accusing him of 'mixed signals', 'meaningless gesture politics' and lack of 'substance'. "And while you're at it, Mr Cameron, show us some credible policies for welfare reform", is their scathing conclusion.

Their obsession with single mothers is spectacular. For the Mail, they are truly the root of everything that is going to pot in Britain. "For proof, look no further than yesterday's official figures, showing that as the number of single parents has increased, so too has the number of children living in poverty", they write.

So here's the tabloid's warped logic. The number of single mothers has increased therefore there are more children living in poverty. A, therefore, B. Textbook false premise for the braindead.

Because the Mail isn't even interested in finding out why there's been a rise in single parents. Could it be, just by chance, that economic conditions are pushing people into the sort of life your average Mail reader wouldn't even know about?

It fits the tabloids' narrative to write that everyone who lives on a council estate is a benefit-sponging scumbag, but are the millions of men and women working on the minimum wage (or under) invisible? Where are they supposed to live? How are they going to be able to play happy married family and afford a mansion in the Cotswolds? Low wage work in the UK increased significantly in the early 1980s and it is still at an historic high. And it's exactly those miserable wages that allow the people at the top to rake in eye-popping dividends.

So how about a correlation between the poorer getting even poorer and the number of single parents increasing? The gap between rich and poor in the UK has been getting progressively worse for the past 40 years. "The disproportionately wealthy are becoming segregated from the rest of society, creating a deep polarization. Some cities in Britain have areas where more than half of all households are struggling on the poverty line", said a recent report.
According to the OECD, "the divide in earnings widened by 20 per cent between 1985 and 2005, leaving the gap between the top and the bottom greater in the UK than in three-quarters of other developed nations".

Add to the equation the demise of social mobility, meaning that people in poverty or semi-poverty are very likely to remain stuck where they are, and it's quite clear that whether a single mother is on benefit or whether she's stacking shelves at Tesco, her children will remain in poverty.

The most overrated bands in history

The sacred cows you were told you must love. By Mark Reed.

The Beatles:
Over-rated hippy drivel. Nowhere near as good as everyone thinks they are, The Beatles are an OK pop band that went weird and up their own bum when drugs and indulgence infected them. Wandering around India with a maharja isn't 'consciousness expansion', but loafing. And if you've heard “Maxwells Silver Hammer”, you know I'm right.

The Rolling Stones: Oooh misognystic, derivative, dull rubbish that now exists as a franchise to be ruthlessly exploited by pensioners who haven't written a good song... well, ever, come to think of it.

Van Morrison: same old, same old. Grumpy bastard grumbles and hates his audience.

Bob Dylan: An apathetic busker who wrote some average songs a very long time and now is a parody of himself.

The Artic Monkeys: Load of old, noisy tosh with rubbish lyrics sung by scruffy oiks with a poverty / chip fetish. Drivel. (The Last Shadow Puppets are much better, because they don't sound like Sham 69 being fed through a grinder whilst fighting polar bears).

Pete Doherty: Kill yourself and get it over with, you boring fucking retard. You've mistaken being fucked up with being a fucking genius.

Amy Winehouse: see Pete Doherty. See also Adele, Duffy, Katy Perry, Kt Tunstall, etc. Woo, a woman with a guitar. Big deal. The world is full of gazillions of talents that care exclipse you but happen to have a couple of different chromosomes and thus, languish in obscurity.

Oasis: This generation's Rolling Stones: the two feuding brothers (one with a brain, the other a ridiculous idiot savant who married an All Saint) trodge around the world every few years, shitting out a new album that sounds like a bunch of b-sides from a band ten years past its prime, changing drummers weekly, and serving up nostalgia pie to remind everyone that they used to be almost tolerable, and are now a parody of even that. Whilst Noel Gallagher can write a decent tune, he clearly can't be bothered and the rest of the band between them try and fail to bridge the gap with more porcelain, dull stodge rock. Like watching grey paint dry onto concrete in a rainstorm.

The Verve: If ever a band deserved knocking off their self-appointed pedestal, it's this lot of half-arsed, tuneophobic chancers. Their recent reformation has had all the artist credibility of a handjob, and quite why this 'comeback' - from a band that should never have been famous, to be frank- yielded a truly tedious album I don't know. Whilst The Verve managed to combine their core ingredients - such as fifth-form philosophy lyrics packed with cliches, truisms, and dumb lines stolen from pubtalk, combined with a rabid, deluded belief that they are the Second Coming of music, alongside formless drudgy jams that are lacking in anything memorable (there's not even enough in the music to hate, it's just plodding, boring drivel), The Verve are a band that want to reach the stars and climb mountains, and can't even be bothered to. Also known as 'Messiahitis". Bloody prats.

(written by Mark Reed. More by the same author here)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jukebox Review

Hear hear...You can now listen to bits of Hagley Road to Ladywood online at the excellent Jukebox Review website.

"El Che" Cameron sticks up for single mothers!

First he lashed out at the City. Now he's defending single mothers of young children being "pushed" into work. Is this the new hero of the British Left?

What we suspected for a long time has now become official news. New Labour has dragged its corpse so far to the right that they've officially outToried the Tories. Much has been said about the Government 'benefit shake-up' and James Purnell's tough posturing. But my eyes popped when I read this on The Telegraph online: David Cameron attacks Gordon Brown as 'sick' and 'macho' over family welfare.

It's exactly that. This morning we read Polly Toynbee wishing that it was Gordon Brown, and not Cameron, the one attacking irresponsible City practises. Now, the Tory leader is pledging to "block" James Purnell's welfare overhaul when it reaches Parliament! That alone is enough to ignite some hope amongst Labour backbenchers, those who had resigned themselves to losing yet another battle against their own 'macho' government.

Looking at the language David "El Che" Cameron deployed, you start wondering whether the battered British left has found, at last, its new paladin: "The Government wants to force single mothers of pre-school children to start the process of getting back into work. That includes mothers of children possibly as young as one year old. Many parents choose to go back to work and we should support them in that choice. But the state prodding, pushing and cajoling you into work like this with children so young, I believe, is wrong".
And then, "I don't know whether James Purnell is just trying to be tough or if he genuinely thinks it is OK to force mothers of young children to go to work. Either way, I think this is a shameful proposal".

He added: "It is vital in this recession that we at the very least don't do anything that makes our broken society worse. We need to help families, not make life harder for them, and that especially applies to single-parent families who already have it hard enough.
"It won't do much good for our economy and it certainly won't do any good for our society".

If Maggie Thatcher's still alive at the next elections Gordon Brown can be sure her vote's in the bag.

Envy vs Greed

One politician said yesterday that "the City will face its reckoning". It wasn't Arthur Scargill.

For years we had to endure the City's cheerleaders accusing whoever called for more regulation of being "envious". The phrase "politics of envy" was dispensed as easily as hot cakes in a bakery. We were constantly reminded that everybody involved in the City was a wealth creator. You introduce a regulatory framework, you bring in accountability, and those 'wealth creators will flee.

This was Tony Blair's obsession throughout his tenure. Let loose the greediest human being on earth. Don't ask questions, don't whinge, everything is fine. Can't you see, you socialistic twit? We'll all benefit from the 'trickle down effect'. More cleaners will have a job, more hotels will cater for City types, and the champagne will flow.

But 2008 brought us a different perspective. What New Labour's John Hutton said only nine months ago (that we need to be even nicer to the rich in this country) today would be textbook political suicide.

It's turned surreal. The 'credit crunch' first and now Bernie Madoff's arrest for the biggest banking fraud in history have turned the rhetoric on its head. Would you believe it that the Daily Mail, is calling for regulation? And The Times too, is writing that what we need is "stricter scrutiny by investors and regulators", while Dominic Lawson in The Independent, adds that the greedy's "characteristic, of course, is that they truly want to be very rich indeed. The desire burns within them with an intensity which almost defies rational analysis". Belatedly, the accusation of politics of envy has been topped off the charts by the politics of greed. You've made £15om? You need to double that at all costs, otherwise your hands will start itching.

One politician said yesterday that "the City will face its reckoning". "On behalf of the cleaner on the minimum wage, on behalf of working families worrying this Christmas like never before about what next year will bring", he proclaimed, "I say it is fair and reasonable that those responsible are held to account for their behaviour and that we show clearly that in this country there is not one rule for the rich and a different rule for everybody else". It wasn't Tony Benn. It wasn't Arthur Scargill, whatever happened to him, it wasn't someone from Socialist Workers. It was David Cameron.

Polly Toynbee is right that "it should have been Gordon Brown making that speech yesterday", but the guy is too busy plastering town with 'We're closing in on benefit thieves' posters. In the meantime, rest assured City chaps, fuckall will change. But at least for the time being let us enjoy the rare feat of seeing all the former arselickers give you a right dressing down.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Voodoo creeps

They got her sacked and with no payoff. Now the Sun and the Daily Mail are stalking Sharon Shoesmith in the street. Do those creeps realise their witchcraft may result in blood on their hands?

Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian calls it "21st century voodoo" and she's being polite. Because the harassment our finest tabloids are subjecting former head of Haringey children’s services Sharon Shoesmith has now reached the levels of a horror film script.

First, The Sun and the Mail went on a rampage that they wanted the woman sacked. She got sacked. Then they demanded that she receive no payoff. She got no payoff. Now they're saying she should receive no pension. And, for at least five years, she won't touch any of the pension she's entitled to. Even though Shoesmith worked all of her life and paid her tax until the age of 55, our crazed tabloids think she should never be allowed to touch her retirement money.

If that wasn't enough, their psycho obsession has now stepped up one gear. They are now stalking every one of Shoesmith's moves. True to gutter journalism, the Daily Mail is nosing into where she lives and how much she pays. Whether she's renting or whether she isn't. Because of course that is so relevant to Baby P.

The creeps also went off on one because the woman was guilty of walking to a "nearby Waitrose before popping into a Pret-A-Manger" with a few friends. For a second she was photographed smiling. Bad call. The braindead tabloids kicked off again. 'Wipe that smile off your face', you 'social smirker'. If that weren't enough, Sharon Shoesmith also had the nerve to go for a meal. Bitch. According to the Sun, she "smirks in the street yesterday — before heading off to a swish Italian restaurant".

So what could possibly end this creepy, irresponsible obsession? Shoesmith locked in a basement engaging in 9 til 5 sessions of self-flagellation? Rocking in a chair at a mental institution with her hair shaven off? Because they won't print it, but I suspect driving the woman to death, whether suicide or carried out by some dim-witted vigilante, is the only thing that would stop the hate-soaked tabloids from acting like such a bunch of raving maniacs.

The saddest aspect is that the 'Baby P case' started out as a genuine tragedy and ended up as an even bigger one. In the sense that a helpless, guiltless 2-year-old baby became the amulet of an insane, literally, insane witch-hunt run by a bunch of ruthless money-making yobs with no sense of proportion.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This week

↑ UP

Peter Tatchell in The Times on Friday: "When Gordon Brown condemns the Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe I can't take him seriously. He's all talk, no action. I had Mugabe under citizen's arrest in London in 1999, but the Government allowed him to return to Zimbabwe to continue his murder and mayhem. If Mugabe had been put on trial in 1999, Zimbabwe would have been spared the past nine years of torture, rape, kidnapping, murder, rigged elections, hunger and now disease. Tens of thousands of lives might have been saved".

Matthew Norman, in The Independent on Thursday wrote the quote of the week. Referring to James Purnell and David Freud, the millionaire architect of the White Paper on welfare reform, he wrote: "to watch a minister with a plumply padded pension and a free widescreen telly and, of all creatures, an investment banker threaten those on £69 per week is to observe the unspeakable in pursuit of the unemployable".

A back-to-form Nick Cohen in The Observer on the subject of New Labour, "tough choices" and tax dodgers. A truly outstanding article.

Believe it or not, The Express. We salute the fact that, for once, they wrote an editorial which has relevance to people's ordinary daily life instead of talking about the Queen, Brussels bureaucrats and left-wing Stalinists. "GREED OF ENERGY GIANTS IS A GROSS ABUSE OF POWER", they wrote on Friday, adding that "Thousands of elderly people are likely to die this winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly".

Similarly, it's not everyday that you find an enlightened column in the Sun. On Saturday, following the controversy surrounding the Sky documentary about assisted suicide, Lorraine Kelly explained why terminally ill people should be allowed to die with dignity.


When you read people like Carol Malone in the News of the World you realise the effect James Purnell's crackdown is already having. Today Malone features another one of her patronising lectures about "workshy single mothers" and the myth that the benefit system is a free for all. I'd love to see Carol Malone being forced to flip burgers or mop the floor at McDonald's on the minimum wage for years on end and then hear what she thinks about "work ethic".

The UK press. Always ready to jump on scroungers and evil mothers, they virtually passed by the story of two solicitors, Doncaster-based Beresfords Solicitors, who took millions of pounds from compensation money to sick miners. Yes, there was the odd report but, (with the Mirror a partial exception) you didn't read of any OUTRAGE shouted at a couple of greedy 'professionals' who literally ripped off ill, vulnerable workers.

Ken Livingstone
. Asked to comment over the de Menezes fiasco, the former London mayor offered a fine display of backslapping. "Cressida Dick (the commander in charge) has commissioner potential", he said. Lord help us.

Open verdict? My arse

De Menezes: clearly the jury didn't believe the police. But, nevermind the lies, most of the press keep telling us not to forget how tense the atmosphere was on that day.

As the inquest over the killing (sorry, the open verdict) of Jean Charles de Menezes came to an end, someone pointed out that a similar incident in Brazil wouldn't have been granted a similar degree of discussion, let alone a legal enquiry. It's almost as if the de Menezes family should be grateful for the privilege of dealing with that wonderful sanctuary of legal rights that is Britain.

That may be the case. And in fact, Britain most certainly allowed reports, debates and inquests, all quite thorough and all quite costly (£8 million). Except that it takes one little detail to turn it into a surreal farce. And, a Brazilian may be quite right to point out, the kind only a Brit can tolerate with such a passive shrug. Because just before the final verdict, the jury was effectively gagged from expressing their full findings. The coroner in charge of the proceedings, Sir Michael Wright, ordered that the one verdict the police were dreading, 'unlawful killing', be struck out.

Excuse the light-hearted comparison, but it's like being 3-0 up with five minutes to go and the referee tells you that, forget the three goals, the only possible score to be allowed at the end of the match is either a 0-0 draw or victory for the opponents.

Hence the Kafkaesque 'open verdict' expression. Good Lord, you can even picture it: "Jury, have you reached a verdict?" "Yes, Your Honour". "What is your verdict?" "Open verdict your honour". "We found the accused guilty of everything, therefore it's an… open verdict".

And in fact the inquest did reveal a spectacular display of incompetence and foul play on the part of the police. And the jury took note. There were disturbing accounts of how, in the words of Gareth Peirce, the solicitor representing the de Menezes family, "officers ostensibly trained to operate a military policy in effectively a war situation […] didn't even know the basic terminology to use [and] seemed incapable of setting up a central command system that obtained information and gave it". Not to mention that the evidence given by the police as regards the few seconds leading up to the shooting was contradicted by each and every single witness. The jury didn’t believe a single one of the officers. Which is why the de Menezes family lawyer is currently considering perjury action against the Met.

Yet wide sections of the country's press seemed disturbingly unconcerned. At best, they hold on to a couple of routine formulas that sidestep the whole de Menezes affair. 'Don't forget the tension on that day' and 'the police had to decide within seconds'. In the Times, David Aaronovitch goes for the strawman tactic. He writes: "Sometimes it seems to need restatement that the police did not set out that morning looking to kill an innocent young man". Then, as he reminds us of the "confused circumstances" surrounding the killing, he quotes press reports from 22 July 2005 about "'an Asian guy' in a heavy coat […] running on to the train", as well as "bomb belt and wires".

Except that Aaronovitch doesn't tell you that those press statements were based on the information passed on by Scotland Yard. The day after de Menezes' death, a Met's official statement was still portraying a false version of the facts. "His clothing and behaviour added to [the surveillance officers'] suspicions". Scotland Yard initially claimed he wore a bulky jacket and jumped the barrier when police identified themselves and ordered him to stop. Still the day after the shooting Ian Blair was spreading the fable that de Menezes "challenged police and refused to obey orders before he was shot"
They knew they were talking rubbish, but they had no problem telling the press. This is what should be at the centre of the de Menezes' case. Because nobody doubts the pressure the police were under, nobody forgets the charged atmosphere of those days. But what's it got to do with lying?

Aaronovitch doesn't tell you that, as it emerged from the inquest, "one surveillance team member had altered his log to say that he had not positively identified the subject as the bomber, though his original entry indicated the opposite". Quibbles. The people in charge of defending the nation at the height of a security alert feel free to release false information and alter evidence and that's ok, isn't it?

"Don't treat the police as criminal", says Maria Dejevsky in the Independent. Not criminals, but the unexplained "failure (of anyone) to apprehend the suspect before he reached the station" is surely a magnificent display of ineptitude. As she concedes herself, "Challenging a suspected terrorist in a relatively quiet street is one thing; risking a bomb blast inside a Tube station at rush hour is quite another".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It was acceptable in the Eighties...

Sometime in the early 1990s, just as Paul Weller was starting another critical revival, the NME published an old interview with him from the 1970s. At one point, Weller stated that he would never vote Labour again, and supported the Conservatives. Whilst this might surprise people who knew of his subsequent support for Labour and Red Wedge in the eighties, at the time it shocked me more at the thought that there was a time when people would openly avow their support for the Tories. By Ceri Ames.

Now, at the, probable, end of another long period of government by one party, this in itself is worth remembering. Labour’s defenders are reduced to a rump of the usual suspects, always less numerous and prominent in the media than the Tories’ supporters, and the party looks increasingly clueless.

The Conservatives, not withstanding Labour’s slight revival, are starting to be seen as the Government in waiting. But at the time I read this interview, Labour were in this position, and the Conservatives were almost entirely discredited. But beyond the salutary warning for those too quick to talk of the end of Labour or the Conservatives as a political force, it is worth comparing the probable political legacies of these two periods of government.

After more than a decade of Conservative government, public support was increasingly rare. Apart from the usual role call of business supporters and has-been entertainers (Cilla Black, Phil Collins), very few people would declare their support for the Conservatives. By the early nineties, the writing was on the wall for the Tories, the 1992 election victory just creating a sort of shambling undeath, a prolonged death rattle of a project that was obviously in need of a reinvention that Major and co. just couldn’t provide. The recession, the poll tax and, for many Conservative supporters, the deposing of Thatcher, had taken the gloss from the Tories. However, for the majority of the population, there was never any gloss in the first place.

The great, broad brush strokes of nostalgia from the right, of caricature from the Left, and the initial assessment of history, have created an impression of the Eighties that is essentially the Right’s own fantastic view. Of a country dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world, of a country rediscovering it’s pride and solving social problems in an era of wealth and prosperity. The problem with this is that it is nonsense. For much of the UK, there simply was no 80s boom, growth in wealth and employment in the late 80s barely made up for the recession of the early part of the decade. The South East of England, and parts of the Midlands did well, along with pockets of prosperity elsewhere, and it is no surprise to see these areas voting Tory. They were, as the Conservatives would have approved, pursuing their own interests.

Outside of these areas, the picture was far gloomier. Economic growth in these areas in the ‘boom years’ of the mid-late 80s was no more than the South East of England saw in the gloomy years of the early 90s. Even this masked the reality of poorly paid service sector jobs replacing the well paid, respected jobs in manufacturing. The ‘grim up North’ stereotype may have been a cliché, but it was for a reason, and reflected a certain reality.

For the Tory faithful, the Thatcher years are essentially a morality tale, a fable which has parallels with other historical myths. It is a story of heroic achievements, tragic fall, and awful consequences caused by those who betrayed Thatcher, and those who reigned after her, not by their hero herself. But even the realisation that the policies of the 80s helped cause the problems of the early 90s does not really get to the point of the massive failure of the Thatcher governments.

The Tories left untouched the great problems facing the British economy. They thought that smashing union power would let the UK close the massive gap in productivity; it didn’t, because poor management and woeful investment were as much to blame, and the Tories did nothing to improve these. In fact, the increased power and influence of the financial sector probably worsened these problems.

The great Thatcherite sell off of council houses was nothing more than a sustained attack on the principle of publicly owned social housing. The Tories, keen as they were on extending home-ownership, did not think of passing on the benefits to private tenants; again, protections for private tenants and restrictions on landlords were abolished. The cumulative effect of this is the massive shortage of council houses and huge waiting lists.

The massive, unspoken disaster of British society over the last few decades has been prolonged mass unemployment. Beneath the unemployment claimant numbers, and the figures if those seeking work, lie millions of others on sickness benefits. The real unemployment rate in UK over the last 30 yrs as been at 2-3 million. Mass unemployment on a scale that would never have been countenanced prior to 1980s. The fear of the negative effect of this level of unemployment, as much as concerns about poverty and waste, had ensured that no government of left or right had allowed unemployment to rise anywhere near this; Labour’s failure to control unemployment had famously been used by the Tories in 1979. Yet, we have tolerated this level of unemployment for decades, and are seeing the effects everywhere. People and communities brutalised by poverty, unemployment, poor housing, cheap drugs and poor health. The Right and its cohorts in the media try to blame this on benefit dependency, but here they are again, as with council housing, making a dogmatic attack under cover of populist sloganeering.

The Right has, in large part, created many of our current social problems, but has the chutzpah to blame their victims for this; and to castigate Labour, when, for the most part, it has simply carried on with the Right’s policies. While New Labour isn’t Thatcherite, it is a social democratic response to Thatcherism. It assumes many of the Right’s view of economics, society and the problems facing them. However appalling new Labour has been in power, and however justified the Left may feel in bemoaning its latest missed opportunity, it will not deserve its attacks from the Right. Not whilst the Thatcher governments continue to bask in the adulation right-wingers, because New Labour is simply trying to battle the problems the Right created and identified, using largely the tools left behind by the Right. Unless David Cameron has a big idea, the Tories might soon find out just what a hopeless task this has become.