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Posts from the ‘Man In Labour’ Category

Herd Impunity

A bit of a lengthy read, so I know I’ll lose quite a lot of people who absorb their knowledge through the cut and paste the meme culture of social media. If you believe the UK government has handled this situation correctly, then I’m not here to convince you otherwise or even attempt to change your mind. I suggest you stop reading now and go about your day. Those that remain please I encourage you to read on.

It may come as no surprise that you have been spun. Such is the growing unease in government it has been reported that Johnson has now hired the same ‘messaging gurus’ who sold the successful 2019 Conservative election campaign to oversee the communications on the UK’s response to the virus.  Public exposure to the Government’s cock-ups started just over a week ago when they admitted that “a communications mix-up meant it missed the deadline to join an EU scheme to get extra ventilators for the coronavirus crisis.” Until then No. 10 was ahead of the game with their slick new chancellor leading the public message, but you can only spend the same money a limited number of times before the fig leaf slips.

Remember as early as January 2020 reports of the severity of this virus were known by governments across the world. Those who immediately attacked it are now in the best position to manage it, which does not mean it will be easy, but it does look percentage-wise fewer people will die in those countries. As well the as lockdown, public advice and large funding stimulus packages to protect the economy. The key seems to be mass testing, in effect to hunt the virus down and kill it. This enables governments to understand the hotspots, how it is spreading and respond with appropriate restrictions when needed. This is precisely the strategy Germany has adopted and the results are the envy of those fighting the virus.

And here is the marked difference in German and UK leadership. The German chancellor has a Doctorate in quantum chemistry and the training to appreciate what the scientists were telling her and she act on it. As a country, Germany has a well-resourced health service and a strong industrial base. They had the capacity to respond. In the UK we have a clickbait writer in charge who is far more interested in projecting his pound shop Churchill pantomime act.

From January to March the Johnson administration with its pool of ‘weirdos and misfits’. The mavericks who think off the wall because Johnson and Cumings do not trust Whitehall civil servants started to play around with the notion of herd immunity. It was widely reported that Cummings had made some reference to, “if a few old people die, so be it. The priority is to protect the economy.” If this is true or not is hardly the point. The fact is that Johnson went on TV in the same period of time and spoke openly about herd immunity, letting the virus simply pass through the population and in his own words, “take it on the chin.”

Let me try to explain herd immunity. This is simply the notion of allowing a majority of the UK population to catch the virus or the disease so they become immune. At this point, the virus can no longer spread and you achieve herd immunity. Measles can’t spread because our population is immune. So if someone comes to the UK with measles, one or two unimmunised people might get infected, but it no longer spreads. We have herd immunity. The herd is protecting the weak. Johnson’s self-entitled ‘weirdos and misfits’ had this idea that they could just let the population get infected. Once 60 per cent of the population was infected, the epidemic would be over because there would be herd immunity.

The trouble is if you just let the virus spread at any rate and lose control, you actually get overwhelmed with the numbers of infected people. The UK’s population is 70 million, 60 per cent of them is 42 million people. Even with a 1 per cent mortality, that’s 400,000 deaths. (Further reading here) Currently, in the UK, the mortality rate is 5 per cent, which translates to an estimated 2 million deaths.

Boris Johnson suddenly realising the magnitude of his dreadful mistake in taking time to listen to his ‘weirdos and misfits’ who seemed more excited about eugenics than the immediate task of saving lives. While some governments had started to fight back Johnson was still caught pondering his university undergraduate days and the privileged networks where along with his friends and fellow toffs like Toby Young they would self-flagellate over (Young’s term) “progressive eugenics.”   

Johnson went into full panic mode to change policy by backtracking and staying away from public scrutiny. He is now beyond accountability and questioning as he is self-isolating and becomes part of the herd. From the confines of his isolation, he makes pronouncements. His latest is “testing would unlock the puzzle.” To be polite, he is full of shit.

Firstly, it’s not a puzzle. It is a virus and like all virus’s you need to hunt it down and kill it. You can only do this will information and data. You only get this information by (you’ve guessed it) mass testing. Secondly, he is now spinning beyond his own control by repeating things he does not understand. It’s straight out the Trump playbook, say something often enough, and the fuckwits will ultimately believe you and he will probably get away with it. People want to believe. And when you have a sizable proportion of the public in fear they are hungry for belief and will believe in anything. 

A the end of the day. People have died because of Johnson’s stupidy. The vast majority of people (thankfully) will not be faced with losing a loved one because of his incompetency, but any decent person under the illusion that Johnson is fit to be a world leader will no doubt seek herd impunity once this is all over.

Big Wheels Keep On Turning: Part 1

Big wheels keep on turning. There is no bigger truth. Those feeling depressed and dispirited by the current state of politics in the U.K. should remember what goes around, ultimately comes around. Many look back with rose filtered glasses to the Conservative-Thatcher decade of the 80s. The decade when the barking dog of unfettered greed was unleashed. Forty years on are there parallels between now and then? Then I was a young man growing up in the North East of England. The heartland of Labour’s so-called red wall, which lazy political commentators get so excited about from their studios in London or garbling hyper-nonsense from the steps of Downing Street.

Right-wing, working-class patriotism has always been a reality behind the ‘red wall’ as it no doubt exists behind the ‘blue-wall’ of Christchurch.

Now and then the Tories manage to select a leader from their most elite ranks, who by birthright attain the Tory crown and their spin doctors, advisors and supporters then mould a persona and finance their chosen one’s adventures behind the red wall.

Back in the 80s, it was Thatcher, and now it’s good old Jolly Johnson who enjoys nothing more than driving dumpster trucks, sharing a jar with his flat-capped buddies down the local and sticking it up those pesky foreigners across the channel.

The late 1970s/1980s in the U.K. were much more than punk, disco, padded shoulders, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Filofaxes, house brick mobile phones and the birth of “loads of money.” For many, it was often a fucking bleak and violent place to exist.

Poverty rates rocketed as the gap between rich and poor escalated beyond anything previously experienced in our modern history.  The Brixton Uprising, followed by civil unrest in Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

Blair Peach who campaigned against the rise of fascism was killed by a member of the infamous Special Petrol Group (SPG) within the Met. Police, who were less trusted than a South American paramilitary hit squad. The SPG seemed to operate with impunity under cover of the stop and search law, which permitted a police officer to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824.

Clause 28: Played on the ignorance, prejudice and fear often felt towards the gay community. As the world mobilised against the apartheid regime of South Africa, Thatcher welcomed its leaders to this country, as friends. Extremist’s in the Conservative Party, including Thatcher’s husband Denis, who happened to have business interests in the racist state, openly applauded denunciations of the ANC as a terrorist organisation at the Conservative Party Conference. Other delegates called for the hanging of the ANC leader Nelson Mandela.  March 1990 and again, towns and cities were subjected to violent riots. This time against the poll tax, introduced by the Conservative government of the day. Then in 2011, under the watch of the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron rioting broke out in London, Birmingham and other cities in the U.K.

The script may change, it may be tailored, dressed up, spun and efficiently targeted through Fakebook ads, but be in no doubt whatsoever the book remains the same.

The Johnson administration is now feeling its way, pushing against barriers it may feel are sensitive, to test the waters and judge the strength of push back they receive. The deportations of Jamaicans by the Johnson administration is straight from the Trump textbook, which is to agitate discontent between communities. Stirring up the pot to see what happens, forming the narrative, and drip-feeding messages to a targeted audience.

Johnson is merely a complicit puppet in the reactionary and populist politics, funded by billionaires and oligarchs whose only interest is to destabilise any sense of oversight or accountability by any government i.e. their war on the EU. Unfettered greed will ultimately consume itself, but in the meantime, a lot of poison is going to be injected into our social fabric, which will take time to rinse out.

When I look back at the 80s, put them into context today, and reflect on what I believe is coming over the next five years. The depth of the damage, in my opinion, will be determined by the level of resistance our young people give to it. Until then, Johnson will continue to push.

My hope is that it does not result in violence, as it did in the 80s, 90s, and 2011, but given the track record of the Conservatives I don’t think they care that much, to be honest. To them, it will only be collateral damage.

Foundations for Walls

Having been a member of the Labour Party since  I was 16 years old it does not come down to who was/is the leader that would not change my reason for being a member, which has more to do with the values I believe in.

As a party, which seeks to be in government, we only win when we think of ourselves as a family of 12 million forging alliances with like-minded people beyond our family rather than focussing in on what our membership thinks, regardless if its 100,000 or 500,000 members. As far as the north goes it’s not simply about building political alliances but social networks. It’s also not just about rebuilding a red wall but understanding the foundations, which that wall needs to be built upon.

To be in government Labour needs to win in Scotland, the North, Midlands, as well as further afield.  So my fellow Labour Party friends, think very carefully when choosing our next leader because we will determine if Labour is in our out of power for 5 or decades.

This can be done if we once again think of ourselves as that wider family forging those alliances with like-minded people. BUT after such a devastating defeat, it is often best to show humility, listen, reflect, learn. Then come back stronger. More determined. Hurling abuse, blaming others, taking no accountability are symptoms as to why we lost in the first place.

Anger is an energy. Please use it wisely.

12.12.19: GIVE A SH*T

An emotionally conflicted day, yesterday. General election and during the day helping the campaign to hopefully elect a more compassionate government. By the evening attending a fundraising event called Give a Sh*t for local homeless charities. Then leaving the gig after storming performances from Idles, Beak> and Billy No Mates to realise things might not be getting better soon for those much more vulnerable than the most of us. I managed to survive the Thatcher years, and I empathise with those, especially younger people who may be feeling dejected today. It’s exhausting, but remember anything worth struggling for never comes easy.

Beak>

Reflecting echoes of oneself

The Sandringham Pub is a no-nonsense pub located on Sandy Park Road, Brislington, Bristol.  Amongst the struggling shoots of cafe life its stands definitely, tired, but proud. The clientele in the downstairs bar sit, chat, exchange stories from the day while upstairs political candidates prepare themselves for a ‘husting’ where would-be candidates set out their case for election or re-election.

Having arrived early into a near-empty room with an abandoned father Christmas costume, a well-worn skittle alley to one side, a Banksy print ominously hanging in the background and the intermitting flushing of the toilets conveniently located so audience members need to navigate themselves over the skittle lane and behind the speakers.

The fun of watching the organiser’s deliberations on the location of the top table, various angles are tried, varying sizes of gaps between the tables attempted, each attempt 6 glasses of water are moved from one table to the other enabling tables to be moved, then move back, and then moved again. Until reluctant resignation is accepted that no amount of reconfiguration is going to deny the spacial reality that either the person chairing the meeting or indeed one of the speakers will need to be seated on the skittle alley.

The evening had all the hallmarks of an Armando Iannucci script in the writing while reflecting all the ingredients of what makes British politics, so quintessentially British at this grassroots level. A mixture of pantomime, personalities, amateur dramatics, serious concerns, barrackers, political tribes with a fixed position and the occasionally bemused observer, who has mistakenly taken the wrong turn on route to the bingo.

In the world of spin, social media isolation and soundbites there is something rudimentary and honest about these types of meetings. One which cajoles people from different positions and opinions into a room, to meet people, listen and confront the stark reality that this much more that unites us in common concern than divides us in frustrated anger. The issue, in many cases, is the journey rather than the destination.

Yes, Brexit dominates, like a stroke victim jerking and increasingly struggling with their words any other subject no matter how big and small are drawn back to the B-word. It is depressing but equally fascinating, but like the audience, the eyes of each speaker tells the same story. We are all in a collective ditch, we have set symbolic dates and deadlines for “getting Brexit done,” but nobody has a clue about healing the self-inflicted wounds we have perpetrated upon ourselves, within families, neighbourhoods and communities. Some politicians seem to be pushing for that knock out blow, to be the victor, but a victor over who? In life total victory does not exist, nor is it practical or desirable. The art of compromise may be wanting at the moment, but she will be knocking shortly I just hope we have the commonsense to answer the door.

Diddly Squat

There is something quite telling about the Liberal Democrats economic plans for the 2019 election. The cornerstone of their plans seems to be the Treasury running a permanent surplus. A sound bite some may feel attracted too, although running a national economy is not the same as running a household budget. Any serious government seeking to hold a permanent surplus as its central economic plan is either going to tax like it’s 1977 or deliver austerity like its 2010.

Regulation No. 2257/94

Bananas should be firm and intact, fit for human consumption, not “affected by rotting”, clean, free of pests and damage from pests, free from deformation or free from bruising, free of any foreign smell or taste.

No definition or guidance was given about the degree of curvature.

Summer Holidaze

Stanely stands upright at the edge of the curb with his wife Doris besides him. A driverless bus hurtles down the hill, inches from where he and his beloved stand. Passengers arguing and fighting, fellow onlookers from the village look on angst.

Sitting immediately behind the vacant driver’s seat fingers in ears sits Theresa oblivious to the chaos around her. Jeremy sits immediately opposite hands over eyes, peeping through a narrow gap of his fingers to the vacant driver’s chair muttering a mantra of solidarity and hope to himself. Behind them, stands Nigel pointing his long, twisted accusing finger at the last passengers to get on the bus, “sabotage” he shouts.

A small group of irate passengers spit obscenities at the rest of the passengers and occasionally at each other. As the bus jumps headlong over traffic calming bumps Ariaf loses grip of this Mcdonald’s vanilla shake, which doses Tommy who burst into tears and places his pet snail Bernard back in its dark cardboard box. “How am I going to explain this to mum?” He sobs as he looks down on his new and ruined school uniform, but he already knows who to blame.

Vince jumps up and down seeking attention, after being sent to the back of the bus for helping David, the driver, escape through the emergency exit. Meanwhile, a small group of ideological puritans from left and right of the “spectrum” exchange admiration for the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Caroline sits patiently by herself, knitting a jumper, waiting. On seeing the large brick wall coming at them with growing speed Chuka, Anna and Heidi form a circle with a handful of other devotees to sing hymns from the old book.

Meanwhile, Nicola demands a show of hands for those interested in joining her on the roof. Ariene screams “no surrender” at the wall.

The vast majority of the nation sits at home listening to BBC Radio 1 playing Cliff Richards singing summer holiday on an endless loop. Young people look at each other in despair.

Stanley turns to Doris with loving eyes, “ah Doris, Brexit, means Brexit.” Doris takes a lick of her ice cream, turns to the button on the pelican crossing, the rapid beeping, cars come to a halt and hands in hand they stroll aimlessly across the road to the bus station.

End Games

Realisation can be slow and often it comes surprisingly wrapped neatly, with a bow, in a large package of commonsense. Mine was delivered towards the end of 2018 when I took the conscious decision to disengage from groups on social media platforms, namely on, Facebook, initially set up by people to encourage ‘free-speech’ dialogue between those with differing views and opinions. This weekend I re-engaged.

The calmness, which I had got to know over the past few months had vanished into the mist. Within hours I had been caught up in “arguments” of intolerable attitudes. One such platform on Facebook was nothing more than an echo chamber of sad, angry, dull and yes mostly white men hurling abuse at one another through manufactured meme’s. Those photos, generally of a famous person with imposed comments to ridicule. It was nothing more than finding yourself in the middle of a room with children throwing custard pies at one another. I guess this is what has become of the UK.

We no longer talk and more importantly listen to one another. We seem to shout, ridicule or seek to physically harm each another. A nation divided, at each other’s throats, a union on the brink of falling apart. An identity being fought over by extremes while the majority have turned their backs ashamed and embarrassed as the rest of the world looks on bewildered. On Saturday, I disengaged completely from these platforms of ‘free-speech’ and said hello to a complete stranger when out walking with my dog.

We need to talk about Peter

I want to share an experience I had quite recently and in doing so shine a small light on the discourse, which is happening in communities and neighbourhoods across the UK, in the US, and further afield. It’s about perception, personal accountability and the duplicity that some people choose to live. It’s about how we communicate and engage with one another as we flip between our real day to day lives and the virtual world we increasingly inhabit via social media platforms. Moreover, it’s about how a person you think you know in one world is not the person you know in another world.

However, mostly it’s about preying on ignorance to deliberately fuel hate and toxicity between people something that has seeped into our cultures, reflected and used by politicians. In his classic novel 1984, George Orwell introduced us to the concept of “doublespeak.” When Big Brother says, “Love”, he means to hate. When Big Brother says, “Peace”, he means war.

When my family and I left Salisbury after seven happy years and returned to Bristol, we left behind a network of friends whom we value to this day. People who have enriched our lives and sincerely hope will continue to do so. I must stress at this point that our neighbours and vast majority of  Salisbury people whom we came to know did nothing but show us kindness and make us feel welcome.

During our time living in Salisbury Peter would become a regular and welcome visitor to our home, he undertook paid house repairs and socialised with our families. Even Poppy, our pet dog, would dance a merry dance on hearing his voice. He was ‘just there’ when we needed a helping hand. In our interactions with him, we believed there was not a bad bone in his body, which was vital given we were new to the city with a diverse family (immediate and extended).

When we finally settled in Bristol and started to hook up with our friends back in Salisbury via Facebook a startling and unpleasant realism dawned on us. As if from nowhere hateful articles and images began to appear on our Facebook updates from extreme rightwing groups. Often this was beyond the shock-jock humour and rubbish we have sadly become accustomed too and occasionally, this would include images from groups with known violence towards people.

The source of these posts was Peter.

After a run of rather ugly posts, including Peter’s obsession with wanting to reinstate the Golliwog as a reflection of his Britishness, my wife parted ways with him by writing a considered and heartfelt message to him concerning his behaviour. Peter simply liked the message with a thumbs up, no replay and carried on regardless.

After discussing this, I decided to stay the course and challenge his behaviour. I was under no illusion I could ever change his bitter and offensive stupidity I could at least plant a seed of doubt into his followers and family who must have been watching the on-going war of attrition taking place between the both of us.

It’s was not surprising to discover that when directly and calmly challenged hateful people quickly run away, tails between their legs, but then reemerge when they believe the coast is clear to carry on with their vile, ugly and horrid behaviour. This was our experience of Peter’s behaviour.

A few weeks ago he must have started to realise the dwindling number of likes he was receiving for his posts, so he went on the offensive by starting to post his views on my page. It has been said before, and I’ll repeat here again. Not all people who voted for Brexit are racists, but an am very confident that all racists voted for Brexit. Peter is, of course, a passionate advocate of Brexit, UKIP and Trump style politics and watching him stumble, clunk and pathetically wallow around when challenged by my friends on Facebook has become one of my moments of the year.

Things took a further turn recently. Upset by the recent poor news coverage concerning Brexit we went on a somewhat bitter sad and bitter ranting episode during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony trying to score cheap and nasty political points. I merely asked him to show some respect and not use the memory and the commemoration of brave people who have paid the ultimate price to further his hatred of people.

Then shortly afterwards he returned to his old obsession with his beloved Golliwog. I rechallenged him on the Golliwog and why it’s us both offensive and ugly. In true 1970s sitcom style Peter replied that he had none white friends with children, so this proved he was not racist. To which I merely replied, “So you would have no problem in buying them a Golliwogg’s for Christmas then?” An implosion occurred. The results of which I am unable to report given Peter blocked me.

Peter is what George Orwell describes as practising doublespeak. What he says and what he does are two completely different things. The articles and images he decides to publish via Facebook are products of rightwing groups who feed them to him, and he shares them. He chooses to associate with these groups, and so they become part of him, a reflection of him and he a representation of them.

So why am I posting this? Firstly, I’m genuinely relieved that Peter is no longer a part of our lives. Secondly and far more critical. We live in dangerous times when decency and moderation seem out of fashion as some seek answers in the shadow of reactionary, nationalist and racist politics.

They are not the mainstream and never will be, but those who know better need to stick together, calmly resist these people and push them back under the rocks they have scrambled from underneath. Have the confidence to challenge those who ultimately mean you harm regardless of who they are and remember the words of Bill Hicks would say, “Love all the people all the time.”

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