Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why can't a woman be more like a lady?

'Feminine values' are making a comeback but do they have any place in today's world?Rachel Shields from the Independent on Sunday write's today. I think it's a very good question to discuss on Stroppyblog.

Rachel states: The eternal question of what makes a woman a lady has reared its well-coiffed head once again this summer thanks to a raft of new experts queuing up – politely, of course – to tell British women to polish their shoes, mind their p's and q's, and generally be a little more ladylike.

While for many the very idea of ladylike behaviour is outdated, or even risible – as illustrated by the memorable Little Britain sketches in which David Walliams cries: "I am a Laydee" – a controversial book poised to hit UK bookshops next month is seeking to rescue the term from ridicule, advocating a "return to feminine values". This may not be entirely fanciful.

At the same time, sales of the conservative magazine The Lady are soaring, and Miss Debrett, the etiquette authority's new online agony aunt, is offering women a helping hand on everything from weddings to email etiquette.

In her book How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, Jordan Christy laments the rise of the "stupid girls", represented in the public eye by such celebrities as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, declaring our "current female landscape as "embarrassing, flippant and shallow".

I don't think it's totally fair to split women into two camps - the Paris Hilton vs the Ladees camp realy is it? I think Paris Hilton is stupid, flippant and shallow but no dafter than walking about with books on your head or knowing how to set a table which includes a fish knife.

According to Ms Christy, a Christian from Nashville, Tennessee, who advises on everything from style to careers and relationships, women should be "tactful, well-spoken, cute but modest; the most intelligent version of ourselves". No pressure there, then, girls.

Oh dear ladies of Stroppyblog - we're fecked then - how many of us are tactful? Well spoken? Cute or even modest? Not many of us - I think we are though the most intelligent version of ourselves though - most of the time, well atleast when we are sober.

While the book is aimed squarely at teenagers and twenty-somethings, it is not just youngsters who are trying to work out what it means to be a lady – a word that for many remains unambiguously a compliment – in 2009. Sales of The Lady, the average age of whose readers is an impressive 78, were up 9.1 per cent in the first half of this year on the second half of 2008. The growing popularity of one of Britain's oldest weekly titles follows attempts to shake off its fusty image, a move likely to be hurried by the appointment of the author and columnist Rachel Johnson as its new editor.

This revival of interest in ladylike behaviour is also being played out on TV, with 2.6 million viewers tuning in to the final episode of the most recent series of Ladette to Lady, the show that sees wild young women sent to finishing school.

Has anyone seen that show? Ladette to Lady? It's awful and really sexist. OK, some of the ladettes are foul mouthed show offs and not always that bright but why do they have to wear American tan tights and polo necks and why do they have to go to Young Farmers Balls? I would cut off my right breast rather than do any of those things! In fact I think we should take up arms against such nonsense!

While the manners, social graces and appropriate clothing espoused by these arbiters of "style and grace" can be empowering, enabling women to move between different situations with ease, some believe the advice they offer is restrictive and sexist.

"I find the very term 'lady' offensive," said Ellie Levenson, author of The Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism. "It suggests that women have to conform to an outdated gender stereotyping in order to be treated with respect."

I quite like the term Lady and use it all the time but it's more to do with taking the piss rather than embracing cowl neck jumpers and getting in and out of sports cars without flashing your knickers - the SSP has an annual Ladie's Camping trip - where we wear frocks, some people take it too far and this year our lesbian National Secretary wore a pink 80s disco frock which was probably slightly too short (or so the reports go from the other Lady Campers).

While How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World stresses that it is important for women to have self-respect, some of its advice jars with feminists. Tips such as wearing a knee-length skirt and not drinking too much sit alongside a chapter entitled "Let Him Come Callin'", which reads like an updated version of The Rules, the 1995 book that advised women to play elaborate games to encourage men to propose marriage.

Now The Rules was just awful and hopefully no one took any notice of them, how to trap a man or something nonsensical like that - now wimmin of a certain age probably best to wear skirts that are not half way up their thighs but surely that is their choice and not drinking too much! How much is "too much"?

"Being a 'lady' seems to involve not being too opinionated, not having too much personality, and not being sexually forward," said Ms Levenson. "It is not what I want, and it is not what the men I know want either. Not that it would matter if it was."

Ms Christy disagrees, arguing it is the wild behaviour displayed by some celebrities and the young women who look up to them – such as drinking heavily and going out without underwear – that is anti-feminist.

"Females have made great advances in the world, but sometimes I feel like we are trampling on all the hard work of the women who came before us with our stiletto heels," she said.

O dear - again a juxtaposition of wild outrageous "celebrity" behaviour vs sitting nicely! Pish really. Etiquette for "ladies" is about controlling them and their sexuality, wild outrageous behaviour is being out of control and probably not a good look most of the time but giveus a break - some of it of course is based on the raunch culture which can be seen as anti-feminist, but mostly it's just bad behaviour. Sitting about in a knee length tweed skirt is anti-feminist grooming yourself for a accountant or banker, unless of course that is your look.

While the arguments rage, the demand for enlightenment on etiquette remains strong, according Jo Bryant of Debrett's. "When we launched, we wanted a new, modern way to talk about etiquette. Manners are about how you interact with people, so of course they matter. Etiquette changes so much with technology; a couple of years ago we were talking about mobile phones, and now we are on to dealing with Facebook and Twitter.

"We have a mixed audience. We'd never tell people not to go out and get drunk. It's all about balance. There are people who can be too mannered, and it doesn't put people at ease. Until we published Etiquette for Girls in 2006, other guides didn't reflect a world in which women went to work."

SO until 2006 they were out of touch with the majority of women. Perhaps we should have a Stroppy Finishing School? That might be fun! Maybe even dangerous!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Manchester Pride in Photos

From Infantile and Disorderly

There was at lively contingent from Queer Youth Network, injecting Pride with an important political message- LGBT liberation hasn't been achieved and Pride shouldn't be about profit at the expense of protest.



LGBTory. The Conservatives cleverly erasing Trans identity with their very name. I take it they haven't heard of Section 28?


Labour Party wearing some snazzy 'I've Never Kissed a Tory' shirts. You can't tell from the photo, but there's actually quite a lot of them.


About 6 Lib Dems.


The contingent from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF), featuring their "Homo Heroes". It doesn't take much to be a hero these days, does it? Lindsey Lohan is one, as is Tony Blair. Apparently.


Quite impressive bus from the UNITE union (one of Manchester Pride's sponsors).


George House Trust raising awareness of HIV stigma.


Plenty of enthusiastic support for LGBT NHS workers.


Pink owl.


Others present at the Pride Parade included the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Fire Service, the Unitarian Church, Quakers, LGBT Parents, Liverpool John Moores University, Salford Ladies United Temperance Society (the fabulous SLUTS) and Amnesty International. On a lesser note, the police, the Prison Service and - unbelievably - the UK Border Agency also marched (how many LGBT asylum seekers have they sent to their deaths?)


Friday, August 28, 2009

'Guilty and Proud of it': latest book news

Thank you to Christine Shawcroft, herself a former Poplar councillor, who has written an enthusiastic and praise-ful review of my book in Labour Briefing. I can't provide a link, as Briefing appears not to have a functioning website at present (someone please correct me if I am wrong), but Christine's final sentence is both highly complimentary and shows that she really gets the point of 'Guilty and Proud of it': This whole book is a magnificent rebuttal of the excuse that the old fights are somehow no longer relevant to us, or that the old battles have now been won.

A very nice chap by the name of John Leach - apparently the President of RMT - has posted an excellent review on Amazon.

Left-Wing Criminologist gives qualified praise, prompting a discussion in the comments box between him/her and me, covering - amongst other things - to what extent Militant's leadership of Liverpool City Council in the 1980s is comparable to the Poplar struggle of the 1920s.

The Hackney Gazette published a rather sweet article about my stoicism in writing a book while recovering from losing my eye. The article in the printed paper is longer than the linked article on the website, and it does cover the politics as well as the personal angle!

Forthcoming talks/presentations by my good self about the Poplar rates rebellion include:
  • Sunday 13 September, 7pm: Hackney Solidarity Network film night, MOTH club, Valette Street, Hackney
  • Wednesday 21 October, 8pm: Radical History Network meeting, North London Community House: 22 Moorfield Road, London N17 (just around the corner from Bruce Grove British Rail Station, where Bruce Grove meets the High Road in Tottenham).
  • Thursday 22 October, 7pm: Pages of Hackney bookshop, Lower Clapton Road


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fay Weldon, the only real feminist ...apparently?

Fay Weldon is plugging her latest book . Shock horror in the Mail and Telegraph, this 'feminist ' is saying women should just accept men need looking after and don't challenge them too much. Well its not really a shock ,she has been coming out with this crap for a while now . As the interview in
The Guardian points out :

She was vilified for her assertion in an interview in 1998 that being raped wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a woman, and a few years ago she complained that feminism had undermined men too much. In her book What Makes Women Happy she advised faking orgasms. Did she feel part of the feminist movement? "Inevitably, but I never wrote propaganda because it all seemed so evident. It became obvious that you had to be a feminist because it was such a ridiculous state of affairs." Her contemporaries, she says, "usually come round to my way of thinking in the end. I'm probably the one, the only feminist there is and the others are all out of step."

Well arrogance aside that she is the only real feminist, it seems that by most criteria she seems pretty out of step. The tag is useful to get her some headlines , as seems clear from this interview:

... which is what brings me (the journalist, SB) to her kitchen table in her lovely stone house in Dorset, where she lives in apparent bliss with her third husband, an Aga, a library and apple trees. 

... I ask her how much of what she tells journalists is true and she laughs and says, "Ooh, about 60%". She smiles and giggles her way through every sentence so that everything she says comes out sugar-coated. 

I'm sorry, but views such as these are reactionary and show no understanding of a feminist critique of marriage  :

She believes in marriage (Nick Fox is her third husband, a poet and also her manager) because “it’s a ceremony, it’s a ritual, like being buried but you’re still alive, and the only reason you don’t get married is because you’re not really committed and you think someone else is going to come along”.

So marriage , for straight people only, is the only real commitment ?  Well if that is the case how come she has got through three husbands then?  Buried alive, hmm no thanks, sounds suffocating to me. But I do get really pissed off that marriage is seen as the only real commitment, it isn't.

The comments that have excited The Telegraph (and The Mail) are :

...does she think that feminism has ruined females?

“It hasn’t. No. Life is much better, because you are not dependent on the goodwill of men. But the trouble is, the battle became too fierce, and the whole culture encouraged women to believe that men are stupid, useless creatures who are the enemy. But men nowadays aren’t s––––. They’re actually much nicer. They just don’t want to commit to you, and why would they when you are a busy working woman who can look after yourself and probably goes to bed easily with them?

Hmm, why should women play games? If they want to have sex 'easily,' so what? Oh no, we are back to Daily Mail land, a place where men marry 'nice' girls with the implication that men are sexual beings and women, well they shouldn't be too keen .

And what's with the busy working woman who can look after herself?? Fay, basic of feminism, women need to be independent of men ! This means earning and managing our own money and shock horror , working. Don't know about your world Fay, money needs earning to pay bills . And yeah, some of us, like men, have careers and are busy and not waiting around to be looked after. Or would she rather women were dependent and couldn't get out of abusive or unhappy relationships ?

“The thing is, you need to find a man who is cleverer than you, or at east not let him know that you are cleverer than him. Women want their boyfriends to be like their girlfriends, fun to go to the pictures with, but men are not like that. They want sex and they grunt. If you really want a man to be nice to you, never give him a hard time, never talk about emotions and never ask him how he is feeling...”

Actually for all her nonsense about women belittling men she seems to do a pretty good job of it herself. So men don't want women to be too clever and they basically grunt and have sex ? Well sex is good, but in a relationship being able to hold intelligent conversations is pretty useful in the time not spent shagging. In Fay's world the male ego is so fragile it needs a woman to pretend to not be as clever as she is, to make him feel superior? Should we also flutter our eyelashes whilst looking up at him adoringly as well?

Tell me again, why is this woman classed a feminist ??

Oh and most women I know, who have male partners, do not see them as the same as their female friends. What does never give a hard time mean ? Put up and shut up whatever they say or do ? Well they are cleverer , or at least think they are, so little woman shut up. That's not to say don't treat each other with respect when discussing issues, but sounds like Fay is confusing women with a doormat.

... “There are women at work and there’s mating behaviour and women get them confused. At work, gender should not come into it. Women are right to refuse to make the coffee, but when you get home I’m afraid you have to make the coffee. It’s such a waste of time trying to tell your husband to pick up the socks or clean the loo. It’s much easier just to do it yourself.”

Well I am soooo grateful that Fay thinks women should have some equality in the workplace, though won't this upset the man, being a working woman who is capable ?? Ah no, because when she walks through the door she then reverts to 1950s housewife . Yep, its just easier to do stuff for the man, who of course is your husband ...that is unless you were 'easy' and then my dear no man, however stupid you are, will 'commit' and let you clean his toilet.

Am I being a bit (pretend) dim here ? Can someone , perhaps of the male variety, explain why having a penis stops them picking up socks or cleaning the toilet ? Unless you are of the male freakish porn star build I wouldn't of thought so. 

If both partners are busy at work, and of course that as we know is problematic in Fay's feminist world, why the fuck should women then do all the household tasks ? I am not better at cooking, cleaning or tidying than any male partner I have had.  I certainly don't enjoy it. So why should I just go round cleaning the toilet or picking up their socks? If I leave my underwear on the floor, which I do, then I should pick it up.  

Any man who thinks I should run around after them and who would make my life less easy for challenging that can take a hike.

“I think we should have more teenage pregnancies, and work afterwards. If you have children late you have no energy left for sex, and then men wander off to find someone else. The definition of a good man has become ridiculous. I just think that as long as you have a sort of semi-good looking, able-bodied, intelligent man, you should have his baby.”

Again, seems Fay again belittles men as much as she seems to think us not proper feminists do. Yep, grab a man , who will just do, and breed. And linked to her other stuff, perhaps if the man did his share of household and childcare tasks the woman might not be too tired for sex.

This may help sell her books, but do shut the fuck up about being a feminist. By any of the definitions you are not . Your view of women AND men is insulting , seeing them as insecure shallow beings who need looking after and pandering to.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Union fires official for taking side of low-paid women"

I wonder whether any of our Scottish readers or Unison members might be able to tell us more about this?

Sounds pretty outrageous to me.

One thing (among several) that stands out for me is the it appears that the union sacked this geezer following complaints from an employer.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Real face of the BNP ‘family festival’ exposed

Yeah I know its the News of The World, but they have done an undercover expose of the real nature of the 'family' Red White and Blue festival .Demos against the BNP event are good, but the numbers won't match those that voted for them . What is needed is to take apart their arguments, policies and expose what they really stand for and seems like the NOTW has done a good job of that last element. Its not enough to shout racist, we need to argue why they are wrong to blame immigrants for a lack of decent social housing and jobs if we are to counter their hate filled message.

Although I'm saying its good the NOTW has exposed this, I'm in not in anyway saying the Murdoch press are on our side, but lets use what they have discovered in our arguments and campaigns.

Pop over to read in full, but its pretty stomach churning :

For £1 a go, people were throwing wet sponges at a man in a Barack Obama mask locked in stocks.

Elsewhere stalls were selling T-shirts with slogans like It's A White Thing and books such as Race, Evolution and Behavior - which insists whites give birth to larger-brained babies and blacks are prone to crime.

Supporters gave Nazi-style salutes and shouted Sieg Heil.

But the most sickening bit was :

...local council candidates John Coombes, of Maidenhead, Berks, and Dick Hamilton of Marlow, Bucks, were sitting with others around a brazier.

Hamilton's ghettoblaster blared out songs supporting Hitler and attacking "ni**ers".

Then began the "trial" led by Coombes, 45.

A 12-year-old girl there with her dad (we are protecting her identity) held a golly called Winston over the fire as Coombes "charged" him with "mugging, rape, drug dealing".

He sneered: "Right Winston, you're about to get cooked. Anything else to say?

"Says he ain't a drug dealer. He thinks he's not black. He's charged with being black. Now get on there."

Skinhead Hamilton chipped in: "If he jumps off he's innocent." Coombes went on: "He's guilty, guilty as charged.

"Let's get a real one - in the town we'll find one or two. They'll also be guilty of the heinous crimes I charged him with - may God forgive your horrible soul." Coombes repeated the charges then added: "He may have appeared innocent to you lot but I'm sure he done lots of things wrong."

Much as I dislike the NOTW, the reality is I'd much rather this was in their paper than a leftie one due the the numbers who will read it .


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Release on compassionate grounds

Kenny McAskill MSP and Justice Minister in Scotland today decided to relaese Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on "compassionate grounds." As he dropped his appeal he remains convicted of bombing the Pan Am Flight 103 and the death of 270 people .

I supoort this decision 100% and actually worried that he would buckle under pressure from US. See the news story

In Scotland (I don't know about England and Wales) when a prisoner is terminally ill or is diagnosed with alzhemiers or vascular dementia(or similar condition) there is an application for compassionate discharge from prison in order they can recieve the care that they need. In the majority of cases this is granted it is only not granted if the prisoner remains at risk to the public or targetted victims. Al-Meghari has a poor prognosis - he has terminal prostrate cancer. A doctor has said he would be dead within 3 months.

I am concened that the appeal has been dropped, I think this is a travesity of justice, both for Magrhi and for relatives of the victims.

I understand that Richard Nixon in the 70s advocated very strongly for Rudolf Hess to be releasedfrom Spandeau Prison as he had dementia and was in prison by himself. The British agreed but the USSR refused to let him go.

However today I saw that there is now a Boycott Scotland campaign set up! What is interesting is that Dr Jim Swires, father to Flora Swires who was killed on the Pan Am 103 Flight has supported an appeal for Al-Megrahi and believes that Al-Megrahi is innocent, Dr Swires has said publicly that he welcomes Megrahi's release. However with the appeals being dropped we might never know what really happened.


More US right wing hysteria on Obama's healthcare plans

Via Hakmao, good put down:


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jim Denham on Facebook...hmm

Regular readers will know , this blog started  the Jim4Leader campaign and set up Dolls4Jim on Facebook. In fact some might consider we, OK me, have a sort of weird fascination with Mr Denham !

Yes, it is true that I have whiled away a good few hours drinking JD with JD.

Anyway, it seems the man himself is on Facebook .
However, he seems to have ignored my friend request .

Pah...unless of course its an impostor ??

Has he really succumbed to the joys of status updates on cake and hours playing scrabble ? Will he start twittering next ?


'Guilty and Proud of it': update on my book

I'm well chuffed this morning to find that my book, 'Guilty and Proud of it', is 'Book of the week' on the Spartacus Educational website - look, right there on the front page. Having dipped into it several times myself, I am under the impression that Spartacus is a very widely-read site, and it is certainly stuffed full with historical info, so being the Book of the week could very well be a big deal.

The book is now 139,256th best seller on Amazon - up from 161,554th a couple of days ago, so is obviously on a run! It keeps popping in and out of the top 100 bestselling books about London.

If you have read 'Guilty and Proud of it', by all means post a review on Amazon, or on the various other websites that feature the book and have a review facility, including Well Red, Housman's, Waterstones, Review Scout, or various others.

Meanwhile, the East London Advertiser ran a story about the book last week, but although it pops up on a Google search, but when I click the link, I just get a spinning 'P' thing. Obviously something technical.

Hackney readers can expect to see an article about the book in tomorrow's issue of the Gazette (no promises though!).

I will be giving several talks about the Poplar rebellion over the next few months. Confirmed dates are:
  • Sunday 13 September, 7pm, MOTH club, Valette Street, Hackney (map here) - as part of Hackney Solidarity Netowrk's monthly film night
  • Thursday 22 October, 7pm, Pages of Hackney bookshop, Lower Clapton Road - venue details here

My talk includes a PowerPoint presentation of contemporary photos and facts, a 1921 Topical Budget newsreel clip of the councillors about to be arrested, all in front of a backdrop of a replica of the Poplar councillors' banner, made for me by the marvellous banner-maker Ed Hall.

I'll also being giving the presentation at the North-East London Radical History Network on an as-yet-unconfirmed date, and some other appearances are in the pipeline too. If you would like me to give a presentation at your group's meeting, or would like to organise an event in your neck of the woods, please e-mail me.

Oh, and Luke Akehurst managed to describe 'Guilty and Proud of it' as "rather well-written", despite being credited on the first page as the Hackney councillor whose defence of cuts partly inspired the book!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Good girls and bad, the world of the Daily Mail.

I know, I know, I really shouldn't look at the Daily Mail. I'm like Mary Whitehouse was with sex on TV, just have to look and then be outraged.  But I looked and I went pah !

Yep, it was like being transported to the 1950s, good girls 'saving' themselves for Mr Right. What I'm talking about is the comments in the femail 'agony aunt' column. Now if you think the print version is bad, check out what the readers have to say in the online paper; Frothing Mr and Mrs angry, wittily  signing themselves as from "broken Britain."

Anyway, someone wrote to Rowan Pelling asking whether she should tell her boyfriend she had slept with 40 men by the age of 34 when he was shocked at 10 (she bottled out of telling the truth). 

It goes to the heart of what kind of person you are. I suspect she is shallow, loose and lacks self respect and decency.
I wouldn't touch her with a bargepole.

Darling, I really wouldn't say anything. Nobody likes used goods.

For a man to sleep with lots of women, he needs to be witty, charming, attractive, wear nice shoes, be well-groomed, polite...I could go on.
For a woman to sleep with lots of men, she just needs to be there at the bar.

...if you are Man thinking of getting married you will be hard pressed to find a young (ish) woman in the UK who is likely to have had less than 10 partners, such a person is simply not marriage 'material' as you will surely be faced with a woman who after you have been married 10 years to and given at least 2 children, will turn around to you one day and say 'you're boring' , ' I miss the wild times we used to have ' , 'you are not the same person you used to be'
'I miss going out with my girlfriends and getting drunk and having casual sex with strangers in nighclub toilets', well she wont say that last part, but that is what she will mean, shortly after this she will walk out on you to take up home with a work colleague or your best friend !

Call me old fashioned but I think women and men who sleep around are cheap and nasty and I would have nothing to do with them. To have 40 sexual partners and to have never been married is a matter of shame.

I definitely wouldn't take her home to meet my mother.

If she wants repentance see a priest.

As a male who indeed judges women based on how long their past "hit list" is here is why MOST guys would ask the question.

1) ...guys want as little experience (numbers not skill) in a woman as possible. If a guy can get a girl who's been with 2 guys and learned how to please a Man from those experiences versus a girl who's been with 20 and all else equal, he's choosing the lower tally simply because she's less "dirty". It's just how most guys think.

2) ... some guys actually are selective about who they have sex with and will not tolerate relations with women they consider "loose" , now a loose woman doesn't mean a whore, it could be simply "more conquests than me" a standard , not insecurity.


So for those that think there is real equality, this illustrates the double standards still operating in Daily Mail land  . Women are meant to learn how to 'please their man' whilst off course having as little experience as possible. They are 'dirty' if they have sex too much and with too many people and heaven forbid for fun. There are women that you just wouldn't take home to mother, who of course was a virgin on her wedding day , not.  They are 'damaged goods,' so when did a woman become a commodity rather than a person. Seems men want to have their fun and then find some woman that will be impressed with them, not have any ideas herself re sex and certainly not challenge them. 

Of course this is the same Mail that forever has men whining in the comments that their nice wifey isn't interested in sex (without ever wondering their role in that).  Hmm, well if you are that judgemental and have such reactionary views about women liking sex, and even having it with people before you, is that any wonder?

Bollocks to that.  Have they thought that not all women want the white dress, boring domesticity and are not grateful in the least to be taken off a "shelf "by some bloke that  belongs in the 1950s? Like it or not, women like sex as much as men and if they have lots of it with many people then so what ? Some actually prefer men, or women, that do not judge and are not so insecure in their sexuality to be threatened by women who like sex and know what they want.

I'll leave you with a quote from Mae West :

"When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better!" 


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Congratulations to Marsha Jane

MJ, who for the last week has been living off curries to hurry things up, has given birth to a baby girl. 

Lydia-Rose  was born at 6.34pm and typically for MJ, this was announced on Facebook :-)

Best wishes to mum and baby.

Is the Recession affecting TV Adverts?

I may be imagining it, or on the other hand it may be self-evident and others may have made this observation before and with more expertise than me, but I can't help but notice two apparent developments in TV advertising since the recession started to bite:

1. There has been a return of adverts not seen for years, recycled for a 21st century audience. The Milky Bar kid has swaggered back into town, Persil is broadcasting its greatest hits, the OXO family are back round the kitchen table, and the red car and the blue car are once again racing to promote Milky Way. Perhaps the companies are saving the cash of which they are strapped by using archive ads rather than making new ones. But I suspect it is more to do with appealing to viewers' desire for security in troubled times, for reminders of "better days" even if they were not much better at all, and to show that these particular products have stood the test of time.

2. Some British TV adverts have adopted the practice of directly slagging off their rivals. Is it Morrison's telling us how many more price cuts they have than Asda, or was it Tesco dissing Sainsbury's? I can't remember, but while this sort of stuff has been standard on say, US TV, for decades, in Blighty it was always seen as rather too distasteful or impolite. Profits down, knives out, it seems.

Which all begs the questions ... Any old-time ads you'd like to see re-broadcast? Or any that you hope will never see the light of day again? And any companies you would really like to see sticking the boot into others? Comments box open ...

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cross post by Yassamine Mather -Show Trials and apologetics

Yassamine has kindly agreed that I can cross post articles by her on Iran.

This also appears on the Hopi website and the Weekly Worker:

Just as Iranian ex-leftwingers in the west call for reconciliation between the two wings of the Islamic regime, the ruling faction clamps down on its rivals. Yassamine Mather reports

The Stalinist show trial of Saturday August 1 – when a number of prominent ‘reformists’ appeared on Iranian state TV to ‘thank their interrogators’ before repenting – was not the first such event in the Islamic republic’s history. Leaders of the ‘official communist’ Tudeh Party were similarly paraded on Iranian TV to denounce their own actions in the 1980s, while in the 1990s we had the trials of ‘rogue’ elements of the ministry of intelligence.

However, this time the Islamic leaders forgot that a precondition for the success of such show trials in terms of imposing fear and submission on the masses is total control of the press and media. What made this particular effort ineffective – indeed a mockery – was that it came at a time when the supporters of supreme leader Ali Khamenei have not yet succeeded in silencing the other factions of the regime, never mind stopping the street protests. So, instead of marking the end of the current crisis, the show trials have given the protestors fresh ammunition.

The paper of the Participation Front (the largest alliance of ‘reformist’ MPs) stated: “The case of the prosecution is such a joke that it is enough to make cooked chicken laugh.” The Participation Front was one of nine major Islamic organisations which ridiculed the prosecution claim that the ‘regime knew of the plot for a velvet revolution’ weeks before the election. Some Tehran reformist papers are asking: in that case why did the Guardian Council allow the ‘reformist’ candidates to stand in the presidential elections? Perhaps the Guardian Council itself should be put on trial!

Former president Mohammad Khatami, candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi and other ‘reformist’ politicians have denounced the trial as “illegal”, yet they do not seem to realise the irony in this criticism. First of all, no-one but the ‘reformists’ within the regime has any illusions about Iran’s legal system (both civil and sharia law). Second, the time to oppose show trials was two decades ago, not when you yourself are a victim of the system and there is no-one left to defend you. It was not just in the 1980s that messrs Khatami, Moussavi, Karroubi, etc kept quiet about similar trials. As late as the 1990s, during Khatami’s own presidency, they did not exactly rebel against the show trials of the intelligence agents who ‘confessed’ to having acted alone in murdering opponents of the regime. Some of the most senior figures implicated in that scandal, a scandal that was hushed up by the Khatami government (‘for the sake of the survival of the Islamic order’) – not least current prosecutor general Saeed Mortazavi – are now in charge of the ‘velvet revolution’ dossier.

For the Iranian left the trial and ‘confessions’ have also been a reminder of the plight of thousands of comrades who probably faced similar physical and psychological torture in the regime’s dungeons in the 1980s, although only a handful of them ever made it onto TV screens – many died anonymously in the regime’s torture chambers. Of course, we do not know if the Iranian government has improved its torture techniques since those times, but some senior ‘reformist’ politicians appear to have broken down much more easily than those thousands of young leftwing prisoners.

Those ‘reformist’ leaders who are still at liberty are not doing any better. Despite facing the threat of arrest and trial themselves, they maintain their allegiance to ‘Iran’s Islamic order’, reaffirming their “commitment to the Islamic regime” (Khatami) and denouncing the slogan promoted by demonstrators, “Freedom, independence, Iranian republic”, as Moussavi did on August 2.

A couple of weeks ago there were signs that negotiations between Khamenei and another former president, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, had made some progress and once more there was the possibility that, as the two factions of the regime buried some of their differences, the mass movement could become a victim of reconciliation amongst senior clerics.

The show trials not only put an end to such illusions, but promised an unprecedented intensification of the internal conflict. But this came too late for the authors of the statement, ‘Truth and reconciliation for Iran’, signed by a number of academics and activists who are notorious apologists of the Iranian regime and published on a number of websites, including that of Monthly Review.1 The statement has one aim: to save the Islamic regime by advocating peaceful coexistence between the two warring factions or, in the words of the statement, “the vital unity of our people against foreign pressures”.

In explaining the background of the conflict with imperialism, the authors state: “… despite Iran’s cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the administration of George W Bush labelled the Islamic Republic a member of the ‘axis of evil’.”2 I am not quite sure why Iran’s support for US imperialism in the terrible Afghanistan war should be put forward as an example of the regime’s reasonable and moderate behaviour by anyone who claims to be anti-war.

The statement goes on to praise the wonderful election process, failing to mention that only four candidates loyal to the regime’s factions were allowed to stand or that voting for a president of a regime headed by an unelected ‘supreme religious leader’ is a bit of a joke … But this marvellous ‘democratic election’ is used to legitimise Iran’s nuclear programme.

The statement contains some seriously false claims: “… we have advocated the human rights of individuals and democratic rights for various groups and constituencies in Iran.” I am not sure which universe they think the rest of us reside in, but until the escalation of the conflict between the two factions of the regime many of the authors of the statement were insisting that everything in Iran’s Islamic Republic was great.

According to the defenders of ‘Islamic feminism’ amongst them, Iranian women enjoy complete political and social freedom – which no doubt would have come as a shock to tens of thousands of young women who joined the protests precisely because of their opposition to draconian misogynist regulations imposed by the religious state.

Many of the signatories are associated with Campaign Iran and the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, which have made a virtue of not advocating “democratic rights” for Iranians, since that would confuse those simple-minded ‘ordinary people’ at a time when Iran is under threat. They insisted that the existence of a women-only fire brigade was proof of gender equality in Iran and the fact that the ‘crime’ of homosexuality is punishable by death is no reason to declare the regime homophobic – after all, liberal Iran has a very high rate of sex-change operations.3 The signatories are mistaken if they think they can rewrite history and portray themselves as defenders of “human rights” in Iran – we will neither forgive nor forget their disgraceful pro-regime apologetics.

Our ex-leftists clearly fail to understand the significance of the street protests: “The votes of a great portion of the Iranian society for both Ahmadinejad and Moussavi show that the best solution is negotiations for reconciliation and creation of a government of national unity from the ranks of principlists and the green movement and reformists.” While even bourgeois liberals and Moussavi supporters admit that the protests have now reached the stage where the green movement has no alternative but to tail the masses and their anti-regime slogans, the signatories’ advice to the ‘reformists’ is to ‘negotiate’ with those who have killed dozens of demonstrators, tortured hundreds and imprisoned thousands, including some of Moussavi’s allies.

When the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement tries to look at the causes of the current unrest, it gets things wrong: “However, in the view of a considerable number of Iranians who are discontented and frustrated with the restrictions on civil and political freedoms, there were various irregularities in the elections, including the suspension of reformist newspapers and mobile telephone SMS service on election day. This caused mass public demonstrations in support of nullifying the election.”

In fact both wings of the Islamic republic have made a lot of people “discontented and frustrated” and restricted “civil and political freedoms” since the day the regime came to power. There have been disputed results in at least three previous presidential elections, but what differentiates the current crisis from previous ones is ‘the economy, stupid’. Not only is the global economic crisis being felt far worse in the countries of the periphery, but the effects in Iran are compounded by a government that based its 2008-09 budget on selling oil at $140 a barrel; a government that aimed to privatise 80% of Iran’s industries by 2010, thus creating mass unemployment, a government that printed money while pursuing neoliberal economic policies; a government whose policies resulted in a 25% inflation rate, while the growing gap between rich and poor made a mockery of its populist claims to be helping the common people.

Last week I wrote about the political stance of Stalinists who, by supporting Moussavi, are advocating, as they have done throughout the last decades, a stageist approach to revolution.4 The signatories of the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement have taken things a step further: they do not aim for the next ‘stage’ any more, advocating instead the continuation of the religious state with peace and harmony amongst its many factions. The protests might have pushed Khatami, Moussavi and Karroubi to adopt slightly more radical positions, but they certainly have failed to influence our conciliators.

The demonstrators in Tehran shout “Death to the dictator”, but the Casmii and Campaign Iran educators condemn “extremist elements who used the opportunity to create chaos and engaged in the destruction of public property”. Anyone who knows anything about events since the election is aware that it is the state and its oppressive forces that have used violence against ordinary people. How dare these renegades condemn the victims of that violence for resisting this brutal regime?

What is truly disgusting about the statement are the pleas addressed not only to leaders of the Islamic reformist movement in Iran (to make peace with the conservatives), but also their requests to Barack Obama and other western leaders to be more accommodating to the Iranian regime. As if imperialist threats and sanctions have anything to do with the good will, or lack of it, of this or that administration. The language and tactics might change, but just as a bankrupt, corrupt and undemocratic Islamic Republic needs external threats and political crisis to survive, so US and western imperialism needs not only to offload the worst effects of the economic crisis onto the countries of the periphery, but also to threaten and occasionally instigate war. Our movement must aim to stop this lunacy, but in order to do so we need to address the democratic forces in Iran and the west rather than pleading with imperialism and Iran’s reactionary rulers.

The open support of the supreme religious leader for the conservatives has radicalised the Iranian masses. Separation of state and religion has now become a nationwide demand and we must support the demonstrators’ calls for the dismantling of the offices and expropriation of funds associated with the supreme leader and of all other religious foundations. The abolition of sharia law, of the religious police and of Islamic courts is part and parcel of such a call. Even as the show trials were being broadcast, Iranian workers were continuing their struggles against privatisation (Ahmadinejad’s first economic priority in his second term is the privatisation of oil refineries) and the non-payment of wages.

These days capitalists who say they are unable to pay their workers blame not only the world economic situation but also current events in Iran itself. Yet many of them do make profits and quickly channel them abroad. Iranian workers have been demanding representation at factory level to monitor production and sales, and calling for the total transparency of company accounts. We must support these immediate demands as part of our own anti-imperialist strategy.

At a time of crisis it is inevitable that the bourgeoisie, both in the developed world and in the countries of the periphery, will act irrationally. However, it is sad to see sections of the ‘left’ adopting a different form of irrationality. If we are to expose the warmongering endemic to contemporary capitalism, we must base our approach on the independent politics of the international working class.

That is why the idiotic, class-collaborationist ‘theories’ of Casmii, Campaign Iran and the current dominant line in Monthly Review are such a disaster for the anti-war movement.


1. Over the last few weeks Monthly Review has published a number of statements defending Ahmadinejad, which has led to resignations by some members of the board and has been condemned by socialists in the US and elsewhere.
2. ‘Truth and reconciliation’,
3. See ‘Lies cannot stop imperialists’,
4. ‘Out of step with the masses’, July 30.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Curious Incident of Hazel Blears' Car

Hazel's car was vandalised by persons unknown, and a debate rages: Was she targeted by angry voters, or was it, as she claims, just young hoodlums?

I will leave the speculation on the answer to this conundrum to others, because there is something else that bothers me rather more - Hazel's casual assumption that the perpetrators were young despite, as far as I can tell, no evidence whatsoever as to their age. Blears' windscreen-smashers could well have been middle-aged hoodlums, anti-social fifty-somethings or feral pensioners for all she knows.

This sloppy blame of the young is now such an accepted practice in society that it goes by without remark. When I lost my eye to a sideways-flying firework nearly four years ago, I constantly had to correct people - journalists, well-wishers, even friends - who simply stated as though it were fact that the firework-firers were "youth". They have never been identified, they were over 100 metres away, it was dark, I could not for the life of me tell you how old they were.

The solutions to genuine issues of youth crime are complex. But casual, groundless assumptions of youth perpetration of every bit of vandalism is no part of any solution.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Round up

Last week busy helping Dave entertain his girls in Brighton and this week bloggers block, so no posting from me recently.

To try to kick start myself, here is a round up of what other people are writing about on the blogs.

Well the F- Word are highlighting the reactionary views of some Tories, including Phillip Blond who appears to be part of cuddly caring Cameron's inner circle.

This, for example, is his take on abortion: "I find it deeply, deeply problematic, and very, very worrying. I think it's one of the more disturbing moral things we do … There probably are cases for abortion in very extreme instances … but by and large, I think it should become an unacceptable practice. I would probably want to limit it to only the most extreme cases: rape, or when someone was very young, or incest. It's not something I can philosophically support."

He is also not to keen on lesbian and gay people being parents either:

The evening’s chief provocateur is Phillip Blond, director of the Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos. Blond stirs the conversation pot by arguing that society should discourage adoption of children by gay couples. There is much hooting around the table and a call for data supporting his claim that having one parent of each sex is best for kids. Instead, Blond resorts to a line of argument I find weak, namely that since humans have raised kids in heterosexual couples for aeons, it must be good.

More off message Tories here.

Hakmao, who I'm glad to say hasn't disappeared, posts on a story I meant to cover :

Exams for an Evangelical Christian curriculum in which pupils have been taught that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution and racial segregation is beneficial have been ruled equivalent to international A-levels by a UK government agency.
The courses are based around the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme, which originated in Texas in the 1970s.
* the Loch Ness monster, which “appears to be a plesiosaur” from photographs, helps to disprove evolution;
* apartheid was beneficial to South Africa; reasons include the claim that segregated schools “made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children”;
* “unquestionable proofs” and “unarguable evidences” existed for creationism.

Pretty scary that kids can be taught such crap. Isn't education meant to look at facts, evidence and develop critical thinking? How can using the example of a tourist attraction that does not exist be the basis for disproving evolution ? Will the tooth fairy and Father Xmas be part of the curriculum next ? I suppose if people can believe in imaginary gods then the Loch Ness monster is plausible.

Liam has posted on why being arsey to Special Branch at the airport might not be a good idea if you want to get home for a pint. 

 Check Jim's 'Sports Desk' which this week  includes  fishing  !

Now for travel and over to Coatsey who writes off a whistle  stop day round East Anglia.

Back to more serious matters and Dave looks at how the awful death of baby P, or Peter Connolly as we now know him, is being used as a stick to beat single parents :

For every Tracey Connolly, there are hundreds of thousands of warm, loving and supportive lone parents who do their best by their kids. To generalise from two deeply damaged individuals to a political offensive against single mums as part of some back-to-the-fifties family values drive smacks of grandstanding of the most contemptible kind.

Thats your lot, hopefully I will feel inspired soon.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Pakistan: Bosses Strike Against Workers

The message below is from Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan. Hat tip: Faz.

Dear all,

Faisalabad has seen a unique strike. This is a bosses strike against workers. Power looms and small textile owners have announced a complete closure of all their units. The reason: workers are demanding 20 percent wage increase. The government had announced a 20 percent wage increase for all public sector workers, but private sector have refused to do so.

Labour Qaumi Movement is leading this struggle of workers. On 28 July, all power looms workers went on strike and took out a huge rally to press for wage increase. The bosses agreed for negotiations. Three rounds of talks proved futile. Bosses argued that because of economic crisis, they can not increase the 20 percent. Workers representatives showed flexibility, but the bosses showed arrogant behavior.

Bosses put up banners all over the city that LQM is a terrorist organization. That the government must take notice and ban it. LQM leadership have also put up banners and wrote, " demanding wage increase is not terrorism, workers are also human being".

The strike of bosses have brought nearly half a million workers out of job.

LQM leadership are members of Labour Party Pakistan. LPP fully support the demands of workers.

Farooq Tariq

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Demonstrations and Meetings in Support of Vestas Workers

Wed 5 August
BRIGHTON The Cowley Club, London Road, Brighton Support for Vestas Workers meeting, 7pm, tel: John 07845 183407

Thurs 6 August
LONDON DECC, 3 Whitehall Place, rally, 6.30pm, organised by CACC

Fri 7 August
SOUTH LONDON Sayes Court Club House, 341 Evelyn Street, Deptford SE8 5QT, 3pm, picket Joan Ruddock, climate change minister, tel: 07951 450370

Sat 8 August
MANCHESTER 1pm, Market Street, street stall; 3pm, march from Market Street to Piccadilly Gardens for a rally, tel: Hugh 07769 611320

Wed 12 August
LIVERPOOL Casa (the dockers' pub), 29 Hope St, 7pm, RMT, dockers and Merseyside TUC meeting to set up solidarity campaign, tel: 0151 709 1786/07940 244718/07930 870934, email:

In the event of eviction:
Bristol: demonstrate 5.30pm same day at Bristol fountain
Manchester: 5pm same day in Piccadilly Gardens and organise a protest at 8am the following day at Vestas HQ in Warrington

Sat 19 September
LOCATION TBC 12-6pm, Workers' Climate Action conference

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Thomas Cook workers arrested

So, defending your job is a crime. Obviously.

Click here.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Dear Ed, about Vestas, ... erm ...

So, you are the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, which makes you a (even the) leading spokesperson for workers in Britain. In the midst of a recession, hundreds of jobs are to be lost as a factory closes on the Isle of Wight. Moreover, this is a wind turbine factory, and so plays an important role in the transition to environmentally-friendly energy production that is so desperately needed. The workers get organised, occupy the factory, attract loads of support from across the union movement, and what do you do ...?

Well, the one good thing that can be said for Brendan Barber is that he has written to Ed Miliband saying that he thinks that efforts should be made to keep Vestas open. Bravo. Better than not writing a letter, I'm sure.

But the letter - copied below - is at pains to praise the government's efforts so far (what efforts?!) and conspicuously avoids either mentioning the workers' occupation of the factory or suggesting even tentatively that the government might possibly consider bring the factory into public ownership.

With union leaders like this, the bosses must be quaking in their boots (not).

Dear Ed

Vestas Wind Systems

As you are aware, the TUC shares your absolute commitment to tackle climate change, including through the development of a low carbon industrial strategy with quality green jobs and skills at its heart.

I am sure that you also share our frustration and dismay about the planned end to production at the Vestas wind turbine facility on the Isle of Wight – the only one of its size in Britain – which would result in the loss of over 600 jobs directly, and many more through the supply chain. In the context of a growing global urgency to cut carbon emissions, it would be difficult to find a more damning example of market failure, or of corporate inflexibility, than one such as this which threatens the viability of existing UK based green energy manufacturing, and the livelihoods of a skilled and dedicated workforce.

I want to acknowledge the considerable efforts you have already made to intervene in respect of the planned closure of the Vestas plant, to secure investment and to tackle the barriers to renewable energy market growth. However, I am sure you understand that unions, and the members they represent in the Vestas workforce, will want to feel sure that no stone has been left unturned in our bid to find an alternative that would protect green manufacturing skills and jobs on the island and elsewhere.

Even at this late stage we believe that Vestas should be pressed to halt its closure plan to give time for proper dialogue and for every possible alternative to be fully explored. I would also ask Government to urgently bring together business, unions and industry experts with a view to securing a future for wind turbine production in the UK, and so that the lessons of Vestas can be learned and never allowed to happen again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely

Brendan Barber
General Secretary

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hopi v LRC cricket and social fundraisers 1st August

Had a great time yesterday. I'll post on this more tomorrow when others have and I can link to pics , reports and how much raised.

Hopi won.

More later...


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Workers' Climate Action - Volunteer for Vestas

An appeal from Workers' Climate Action to support the fight to keep the Vestas wind turbine factory open ...

On Tuesday 4th August the injunction brought by Vestas plc to evict the workers from their wind turbine factory, currently under occupation in the Isle of Wight, will be in court.

This is the second time the injunction has come to court, and if Vestas plc win then the forcible eviction of the workers will be imenent (likely to be within the next 1-2 weeks).

The workers urgently need more support from all areas of the movement - environmental, socialist, anarchist, any combination of the above! We are organising a mini bus to head to Vestas in time for the injunction hearing. It will leave on Monday evening about 6pm and return on Wednesday morning. Take a day off work, pull a sickie, change your plans - this factory needs to be saved for the workers, and for the planet.

All help is appreciated, but if you can offer any of the following things then please especially think about getting down there and let us know what skills or resources you're taking with you:

*Can you help organise a direct action skills-up?
*Would you like to help organise and provide some childcare?
*Are you good at media work including media contacts?
*Experience in legal observing?
*Do you have infrastructure which can be used at the camp including tents/small marquees/cooking facilities/kids stuff/anything to make it livable
*And most importantly are you a willing pair of hands (all support is very useful)?

The minibus will cost around £30 (return) and will hopefully be subsidised. This needs to be organised asap so if you can help and want to get on the minibus call Maddy on 07954251724 or Bex on 07971719797. Any questions call or e-mail

If you can't make it down on Monday then please think about taking the time to go down in the period in between the injunction hearing and the eviction which may result from it if the hearing goes in favour of Vestas plc. We will send around another update later in the week with more information about plans for the post-injunction resistance. However, getting skills and infrastructure down there is important *now*.

Having both been down there we can assure you that it is a really friendly open environment, everyone is welcome, and everyone's skills can be put to good use!

Make this the last email you read - and get down to the Isle of Wight!

Solidarity, Maddy and Bex on behalf of Workers' Climate Action

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