You can have a woman prime minister, a woman home secretary, a woman metropolitan police commissioner, but until we change the power structures in this country then things will never really change for the better. This staid old country that places more importance on protecting statues than it does protecting women. And don’t be thinking of making any noise about it because there’s a new Bill that’s handily going to put a stop to any of that. Tory MPs are openly admitting that it has been drawn up to tackle groups like Extinction Rebellion and their “dreadfully disruptive” tactics of non-violent protest. Protect your freedom to protest
Picture courtesy of Cold War Steve
A bit of Bikini Kill seemed about right
If enough of us keep banging on about this, eventually something will change, right?
2020 – Serco (underlying annual profit in 2019 £120.5 million, estimated underlying profit in 2020 £163m) awarded a contract initially worth £108 million as part of the UK government’s test and trace programme for Covid-19 infection monitoring. The contract was awarded under special procurement rules under which there was no competitive tendering and no public tender advertisement. The outcome? Hopeless contact tracing rates, delays contacting people who may have been exposed to Covid-19, data protection breaches, and recruitment of inexperienced staff who appear to have either ended up sitting around with little to do or lacking the skills required to properly deal with the complexities of contact tracing. Apparently not bad enough to prevent the contract being renewed last September.
2021 – Announced that Serco added around £400 million to its revenues from Covid-19 services and that dividends totalling £17 million are due to be paid to its shareholders.
Oh and by the way, Edward Argar MP, the Health Minister was previously Head of Public Affairs at, yeah you guessed it, Serco.
And don’t tell me the public sector isn’t up to it. Look at the NHS-run vaccination programme or the great work done by local councils across the country to pick up the pieces from the government’s test and trace shambles.
The whole sorry mess of Serco’s involvement in the NHS can be found here on the excellent, if slightly depressing, NHS For Sale website.
“A lot of my songs deal in lyrical abstraction, but as the NHS has had such a profound effect on every aspect of my life since birth, this was a commission that I felt duty-bound to throw myself into. The title, ‘No Profit In Pain’, is an attempt to counter the mentality of platitudes like “no pain no gain” and “tough love” that are peddled by zealous free-marketeers.
The NHS is something that we can too easily take for granted. I’ve twice toured with musicians in America when they’ve had broken limbs and not been able to afford treatment. Each time, they had to continue touring in pain in cramped vans, using homemade splints and slings. It’s a precarious way to live if you don’t have insurance.
The NHS has been there for me throughout my life and has saved many of my family members’ lives. It means more than anything I could ever hope to convey in a melodramatic synth-pop power ballad. For the song (recorded with Kliph Scurlock on drums and Llion Robertson producing), I focused on the battle to keep the NHS as a free service in public ownership. There’s loads of swearing in it. Privatisation is creeping in and it will be a death knell for the NHS if we are not vigilant. As a devolved issue in Wales, and as an idea that was born here, the idea of a free health service for all serves as a beacon of what we can achieve as a nation and is something we must pass on intact to future generations.
I namecheck a trio of Welsh healthcare pioneers in the song – Aneurin Bevan, William Price and Betsi Cadwaladr – but I’m just scratching the surface. I can’t ever hope to contribute to society what NHS staff do on a daily basis. But I do write songs, and while I don’t expect it to be to everybody’s taste, this is my heartfelt if feeble attempt to pay them some respect.”
The words of Gruff Rhys. Top bloke.
Kind of feels like we need to keep our comrades close right now so it was sad to hear of the loss of Stefan Cush of The Men They Couldn’t Hang. Perhaps not a group that I sufficiently appreciated, but they always had my respect for the way that they encouraged us that there was many a lesson to be learnt from the past.
‘The Ghosts of Cable Street’ took as its inspiration the 1936 Battle of Cable Street in London when the Jewish community of East London with the backing of Irish dockers and a wider, anti-fascist movement successfully blocked a march by the British Union of Fascists. That event, and a similar blockade at Holbeck Moor in Leeds, should rightly be celebrated as examples of our proud heritage of standing up to fascism. Acts of resistance that remain relevant to this day.
Stefan Cush photo by Sean D Taylor
“It’s not every day that you find the woman of your dreams, who will always be there no matter how bad things seem”
Today I had to say my final goodbye to the love of my life and a fierce campaigner in the human rather than political sense. She taught me all I thought I knew but didn’t really. She was a natural, always putting others before herself. And she has left a huge hole in my life.
Massive Attack’s Blue Lines was our record and this song has been in my head all day
I’ve been wanting to write something about the government’s response to Covid for a while but each time I’ve tried it’s just made my blood boil. Then, today a friend sent me a link to a speech in the House of Commons by Dan Carden, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton which just said it all really. This is what he said:
“It is very difficult to convey the real strength of feeling across Liverpool at the utter failure of this government, from care homes to PPE to test and trace. Constituent after constituent has come to my office with heart-breaking stories, one being sent to South Wales on a 70 mile journey, 2 and half hours in the car with an autistic child, only to find that the test and trace centre had closed for the day because it had run out of tests, costing them £40 in petrol that they simply didn’t have. The anger and frustration isn’t just that the response is failing but that it is failing because the government refused to enable and invest in local authorities and public health teams. Instead chose to pump billions into scandal ridden government contractors that have a record of failure. Under the cover of the pandemic, billions of public money handed to faceless corporations including Tory-linked firms, without competition or transparency, without democratic accountability, or any accountability for that matter, to the public. It’s money that should have been invested in our NHS, it should have left a legacy for the British people by building up properly funded public services that we can all rely on in the future. But instead it was siphoned off. The most egregious example being the eye watering £12 billion of public money handed out to private companies including Serco for this failing test and trace service. Conservative baroness and business executive Dido Harding appointed as the Head of Track and Trace. Serco CEO, the brother of a former Tory MP, and Tory MPs on the boards of companies winning contracts. If you’ve got a problem with any of this, then why not take it up with the Government s anti-corruption champion, Dido Harding’s husband and a Tory MP. The whole thing stinks. This government’s incompetence, it’s cronyism, its ideological obsession with outsourcing and rip-off privatisation has undermined our NHS and put lives at risk.”
This goes beyond incompetence. It is a national scandal. For more on public services for people not profit, please visit the ‘We own it‘ site.
I hadn’t heard of Dan Carden before today and then I found out that he had today resigned from the Labour front bench for voting against the Government’s appalling Covert Human Intelligence Bill. He did so with great dignity. The people of Liverpool are going through hard times at the moment (again) but at least they have an MP that they can be proud of. Not many of us can say that.
‘A Very British Coup’ is a collaboration organised by Jah Wobble and involving Mark Stewart (see elsewhere on these pages) and members of the original Public Image Limited line up…thankfully not John Lydon but it did get me thinking what a late 70s line up of Mark Stewart, Jah Wobble, Keith Levene and Richard Dudanski would have sounded like. Anyway this track was aimed at the way the Tories went about pulling the UK out of Europe but equally applies to what’s going on now. I may be wrong but I think it was also the last thing that the mighty Andrew Weatherall worked on before his untimely death. Jah Wobble’s a legend by the way.
A couple of things.
Sad to hear today of the passing of Chris Killip. Back in the 1980s I bought his In Flagrante collection of photographs taken in the North East. Raw portraits of a country in decline that I pilfered for what turned out to be imaginary magazine covers. Looking at them now, who’s to say they weren’t taken more recently, as the decline continues. A true great of photo-documentary.
Elsewhere, I was avoiding work and half-heartedly flicking through online articles when I came across what was little more than a click-bait commentary about a feud between the bands Idles and Fat White Family, mostly it would seem about working class authenticity. Now I’ve been wound up about lots of things recently but none more so than the fact that this godawful government is able to get away with so much. Same as it ever was. As far as I’m concerned Jeremy Corbyn brought hope and, importantly, fear across the established order. That he was continously undermined by those to the right of his party who saw their power slipping away, drove me up the wall. But it’s no better now that those on the left who bitterly complained about this, seem to spend all their energy pulling apart Starmer’s leadership. There’ll be no preparing for a revolution as everyone’s too busy arguing amongst themselves about authenticity and purity of direction without realising how far up their arses they all are. Meanwhile, people are really suffering at the hands of those in real power. Arguments around authenticity in music are a microcosm of the same issue. Back in the days of my youth I remember Billy Bragg taking a constant ear-bashing for supporting Neil Kinnock (including from me probably!) but you would be hard pressed to name a musician who has so consistently argued the case for socialism. To me it comes down to who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t give a damn about “working class appropriation” and I’ll support anyone who stands up against hate and inequality. Can we not just get over ourselves and make a stand together?
Schools attended by Cabinet Ministers:
Boris Johnson – Eton (PRIVATE)
Rishi Sunak – Winchester College (PRIVATE)
Dominic Raab – Grammar School in Amersham
Pritti Patel – Comprehensive in Watford
Michael Gove – Robert Gordon’s College (PRIVATE)
Robert Buckland – St. Michael’s School (PRIVATE)
Ben Wallace – Independent School, Millfield (PRIVATE)
Matt Hancock – King’s School, Chester (PRIVATE)
Alok Sharma – Reading Blue Coat School (PRIVATE)
Elizabeth Truss – Comprehensive in Leeds
Therese Coffey – St Edward’s College, Liverpool (PRIVATE)
Gavin Williamson – Comprehensive in Scarborough
George Eustice – Truro Cathedral School (PRIVATE)
Robert Jenrick – Grammar School in Wolverhampton
Grant Shapps – Grammar School in Watford
Brandon Lewis – Forest School, Walthamstow (PRIVATE)
Alister Jack – Glenalmond College, Perth (PRIVATE)
Simon Hart – Radley College (PRIVATE)
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park – Grammar School in Hampstead
Oliver Dowden – Comprehensive in Watford
Ann Marie Trevelyan – St Paul’s Girls School, Hammersmith (PRIVATE)
Amanda Milling – Moreton Hall School, Oswestry (PRIVATE)
Stephen Barclay – King Edward VII School, Lytham St Annes (PRIVATE)
Jacob Rees Mogg – Eton (PRIVATE)
Mark Spencer – Community School in Nottinghamshire
Suella Braverman – Heathfield School, Harrow (PRIVATE)
67% privately educated compared to 7% of the UK population. 50% went on to attend either Oxford or Cambridge.
So don’t be too surprised by the exam results scandal. They’re just keeping things going.
Until we abolish private education we will continue to be governed by people promoted beyond their competence.
Ghostpoet continues to dig into the dark corners of modern life and challenge what he finds. Most of it, as we know, is not pleasant but there’s something about his hypnotic voice and constantly evolving musical approach that charms the pants off me. The title track of his latest LP ‘I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep’ kind of sums up my thoughts about the past year. On a personal note it has been the worst year of my life and politically there has been so much to grow tired about, but I am still awake!
By the divine right of Etonians, there is some dreary inevitability about the crowning of Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister of this fucked up country. So, in our greatest time of need, we turn to a lying, cheating, spineless charlatan.
Beneath the bumbling oaf character lies real menace. Don’t forget the £350m on the side of that bus, the “letter box” bigotry, the “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles” racism, the “tank-topped bum boys” homophobia, the “pat her on the bottom” sexism, the accusations that Liverpudlians were wallowing in their victim status, nor the £46m of public money wasted on his botched Garden Bridge. And definitely don’t forget his cowardly intervention during the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran, which only put her at even greater risk, before dismally failing to leave “no stone unturned” in securing her release. Nazanin is currently still imprisoned and on hunger strike over her appalling treatment, which has included lack of access to her now 5 year-old daughter, a lawyer or medical treatment. Her husband has joined her hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London. We may be helpless about who is appointed as our next Prime Minister but we can make a difference by offering our support to those who continue to be betrayed by those in power. If nothing else, please support this petition – https://www.change.org/p/free-nazanin-ratcliffe
I picked out Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Beyond Skin’ CD yesterday and couldn’t believe it’s 20 years since its release. It remains a thing of beauty; challenging nationality and identity in a gorgeous mix of “indian classical music, flamenco, acoustic drum and bass, hip-hop, jazz and soul”.
From the liner notes:
“I believe in Hundu philosophy. I am not religious. I am a pacifist. I am a British Asian. My identity and my history are defined only by myself – beyond politics, beyond nationality, beyond religion, and Beyond Skin.”
That’s the kind of thinking we need. God only knows what Boris Johnson would make of it.
When you go out on Thursday and cast your vote in the local elections…and let’s have no crap about not voting because of the mess that we easily blame on national politicians as a single entity when really we all know it’s not as simple as that…here is a cold hard fact to help you decide:
From 2010-11 to 2017-18 there was a 49.1% real-terms reduction in government funding for local authorities.
My local council has had its Revenue Support Grant from government cut from £52.2m in 2013-14 to £13.4m in 2018-19. Instead of giving councils money to spend on local priorities decided by councillors directly elected by local communities, the government makes available funding that can only be spent on what it thinks should be local priorities. So we end up in a situation where vital services are decimated due to lack of money (spending on youth services cut by 61% over six years) at the same time that councils are blamed for wasting money that they had no choice in spending on unwanted highways schemes. Does it really matter who is in power at your local council then if the government has so much control of the purse strings? Well yeah it does because Conservative controlled councils will only reinforce the damage being done by their government. So more money wasted on services for the few while the vulnerable continue to suffer.
Alan Brown is a poet of the North and his way with words were an inspiration for me from his days in bIG fLAME and then on to his (hopefully ongoing) project, the Great Leap Forward. bIG fLAME were angular, abrasive and uncompromising…and therefore could only go so far. When they burnt out, as planned, Alan’s melodic pop undercurrent was released with the intention of taking the message to a wider audience. Yet the attitude remained and he continued to say what needed to be said. ‘Well Belle’ is a great example, a call to arms couched as a love song…in this case for “regional voices in regional choices”. Alan remains active and has returned with a couple of Great Leap Forward releases in recent years; still carrying the spark. For more info and songs, try his website – https://www.thegreatleapforward.net
If you want to protect local services, get out and vote on Thursday.
So Rees-Mogg can change his mind but 17.4 million people can’t?
This is turning into a very bad week as now comes news that Ranking Roger has passed away. The Beat brought joy into my heart when I was growing up and, along with the rest of the Two Tone roster, taught me my first dance moves and steered me in the right direction politically. ‘Best Friend’ is probably one of the best pop songs ever recorded and on the flip side was this…
She’d only been in office a year when it came out. Unfortunately she didn’t get the message and stuck around for another ten years.
Love and unity. RIP Roger.