Eclectic Blue

Go ahead. Make my day.

0 Comments 18 April 2018

A capable leader of the Labour Party would today have the opportunity of toppling Theresa May and Amber Rudd. Both are up to their necks in the Windrush fall out and there surely can be no other subject for Jeremy Corbyn to choose at prime minister’s questions (PMQs).

To date, Corbyn has barely failed to lay a glove on the weakest, most incompetent Tory prime minister in living memory. Even if he chooses the correct subject for PMQs, he simply reads out his questions, unable to think on his feet and so react against May’s usually shifty and evasive answers. This must change.

We might not like the childlike noise in the House of Commons. I certainly don’t. Many of our MPs have no idea just how bad they sound to the people who elected them in the first place. It is one of many explanations as to why politicians are not liked or trusted. Corbyn can change that today.

What has happened with the Windrush scandal is entirely the fault of the current prime minister and current home secretary. Worse still, it was Theresa May who was home secretary when her department destroyed thousands of landing cards, despite civil servants protestations that this would make it harder to check the records of the many older people from the Windrush generation. Amber Rudd, who has already made a complete mess of the current situation, has already apologised for the treatment of these poor people, which was actually a scathing denunciation of her home office predecessor Theresa May who created the ghastly atmosphere in the first place with her vicious attacks on immigrants.

Rudd has been vulnerable in her job for some time, but fortunately for her, the Labour shadow home secretary is Diane Abbott, a worse communicator even than Jeremy Corbyn, and that’s saying anything. A clever, forensic shadow would have demolished Rudd. We have Abbott.

Corbyn simply must deliver today. If he does not, if he lets May off the hook yet again, then surely his cult following will finally recognise that he is not up to the job. It is the purpose of the leader of the opposition to oppose and to expose the incompetence and hypocrisy of our so called leaders. I don’t think he can deliver, but to end, I’ll just say this: “Go ahead Corbyn. Make my day.”

Eclectic Blue

Billy, you’ve been a hero

0 Comments 18 April 2018

After the last few days’ news, the Windrush scandal, a debate on anti-Semitism in our parliament in 2018, the military attack on chemical weapons’ facilities in Syria, I really needed some good news. Last night, I got it.

One of my heroes in life is the Accrington Stanley striker Billy Kee. Billy suffers from severe anxiety and depression and yet manages not just to play football at a professional level, he is the top scorer in League Two. Not least because of his efforts, his team were last night promoted to League One.

I’ll try not to turn this round to be all about me – as I am prone to do – and focus instead on how this awful illness can affect you. Anxiety is an horrendous condition. Allow me to use an example of how it can affect people from the Everyday health website:

An anxiety or panic attack often comes on suddenly, with symptoms lasting only a few minutes. For doctors to diagnose a panic attack, they look for at least four of the following signs: sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing your mind, fear of dying, flushing, feeling that danger is nearby, a racing heart (heart palpitations), and feeling an intense need to escape.

Billy suffers from some or all of this, but it’s even worse than that. Again from the same website this is about depression:

It is a serious mental illness in which feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, anger, frustration, or other negative emotions like irritability (especially in adolescents) last for weeks or years and interfere with daily life.

Actually, it’s far more complicated than anything I have lifted from the Everyday Health website could possibly described. Someone can suffer from some of these symptoms for a short time, someone else can suffer from some or all of them for a very long time. There are no set rules for mental illness. The only sure one is that these dreadful illnesses can ruin someone’s life or, looking on the bright side, affect it in a negative way.

Depression in particular can make someone feel like they are walking through treacle. It can make you burst into tears without warning and, apparently, without reason. It can make you lose the will to live. To achieve what Billy Kee has achieved is little short of heroic and he should be encouraged to keep up the good fight.

Whatever Billy does in his life from now on, he has already done something most of us football fans have never done and that is to be paid for playing football. And he has now won something. This does not seem to be a man who shouts things from the rooftops so I am doing it for him.

You’re a footballing superstar, Billy. Right up there with the big names in your profession. And in human terms alone, us fellow sufferers are in awe of your achievement and wish you nothing but more success.

Eclectic Blue

Lucky Man

0 Comments 17 April 2018

One thing I have had to re-learn following my grim working experience with the British Red Cross has been to not take work home with me. In my 39 years in the civil service, I got to the stage that once I walked through the exit door at night, that would be it. I could concentrate on the things I really wanted to do in life. Working was, is, merely a means to an end.

At the height of the Red Cross bullying – and I intend to write in more detail about how insidious and unpleasant it was in the next few days – my sleep patterns were ruined. My diet became unhealthy. As my mood sank, I ate and drink too many things that were not good for me. That’s something else I am addressing now. I was professional enough to do a good job on behalf lonely, isolated, ill, sometimes terminally ill, people during my working day for less than the national minimum wage, which is only a gross figure. But once I left work and tried to wind down, I couldn’t. The bullies and abusers occupied my mind.

The mind occupation went on when I was off sick, after my breakdown and even last through Christmas when I had resigned. It is only since their half-hearted apology that I have started to get closure and I no longer wake up in a near state of panic. I don’t wish to sound self-pitying, but it has been very hard.

I’m now working for another employer, a smaller, far more compassionate employer that, unlike the groaning behemoth that is the corporate British Red Cross where the high flying executives ‘earn’ large six figure salaries and those delivering vital services earn peanuts. I do the best job I can and then, once I have finished, never cutting corners, I switch off.

This has not been easy, recovering from a mental breakdown with no medical assistance other than increased medication. At least I am now off the waiting list to get on the waiting list for treatment. Now I am on the waiting list and expect to be seen sometime, although the waiting list is at least six months. As you can tell, Theresa May’s commitment to mental health does not extend beyond mere words.

It is lucky I was not suicidal. When I was assessed before going on the waiting list to get on the waiting list, the safeguarding consisted of me being asked – once – whether I felt like killing myself or self-harming. I said no, but what if I was lying? What if I had lied and really wanted to end it all? Luckily, everyone who is mentally ill always tells the truth. Possibly.

I’m stronger than I think and I am relatively stable at the moment. I don’t need any more shocks and surprises, I need a long spell of stability and predictability. And I need to get more hate and negativity out of my system, hence a huge cull on social networks, a mixture of blocking and muting, and leaving behind things I don’t need and can manage without. The out and out venom, the pettiness, the smart-ass loathing and Schadenfreude, the sarcastic, superior baiting and boasting has become a huge part of social networks. I’m regulating more what I read and reply to.

This is essentially self-medicating, self-diagnosing and self-treating, things you could hardly do with a physical illness. For some odd reason, I’m in a better than I could possibly have anticipated way, I have somehow got better. A bit better – the mood swings are still immense, but I know I am better than I was – and a bit better is better than a bit worse.

I would not advise or recommend self-treatment for anyone with anything. I feel that, for a variety of reasons I don’t necessarily understand, I have got through a terrible time of my life. I have had a shed load of good luck and I’m hoping for a little more. You don’t make your own luck because it would not then be luck. I’m hoping my share of it lasts.

Eclectic Blue

Nowhere to go

0 Comments 16 April 2018

I struggle to make any sense of the current political system. At the moment, we have a right wing Tory Party which is killing the country with austerity, underfunding the NHS and schools and making a mess of Brexit, which to be fair would be the case whoever was in power. We now have a Labour opposition which is controlled by the hard left, with millionaire Stalinist Seumas Milne literally making party policy. The Lib Dems are still toxic after propping up Cameron’s awful government for five years, so where do we go?

Most people I call friends and acquaintances will hold similar views to my own. This would include one or two Tories, certainly those who support MPs and Lords on the moderate wing of the party like Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine. It would be very difficult to sustain a friendship with, say, a hardline Ukip supporter or a member of Britain First, which to my mind is much the same thing.

My own feeling is that there is nowhere to go for a whole swathe of voters all the way from mainstream left to one nation Tory. I am utterly appalled by Theresa May’s dire government but almost as much with Jeremy Corbyn’s pitiful opposition. Both leaders are Pound Shop politicians, devoid of any leadership qualities and vision. Where May panders to the hard right in her party, Corbyn genuinely is from the hard left, a disciple of Tony Benn’s simplistic slogans and rhetoric of the 1970s and 1980s with literally nothing new to say.

The Liberal Democrats should be an alternative but they aren’t. Personally, I can’t forgive them what they did to prop up Cameron, nor the lies they told in blaming the worldwide financial crash on Labour, as their Tory paymasters told them to do. And Vince Cable has arrived in the top job a decade too late.

In an ideal world, Corbyn and the comrades would be in some kind of Socialist Party, along with the likes of Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Arthur Scargill, Ken Loach, Mark Serwotka and every other bampot from the ultra left. They’d be campaigning for Corbyn’s beloved Brexit, the nationalisation of everything, disarming, leaving NATO and basically printing money as the economy collapsed. Labour would be led by someone like Yvette Cooper or Dan Jarvis and would be campaigning on a mainstream left of centre agenda, focusing on greater fairness and equality, strengthening schools and hospitals, ensuring the country was properly defended and if not staying in the EU (my preferred option is staying) then doing something like a Norway.

This kind of Labour would surely seek to attract the centre ground, the swing voters. Now, the country is split down the middle, even though I don’t believe that over 80% of the electorate actually believe passionately in the talent and ability of May and Corbyn, but if they actually do the country is in an even bigger mess than I thought it was.

But what is going to happen? That’s the problem because I think the answer is nothing. I do not want to see mainstream left members leaving Labour to form a new party. I want the hard left to piss off and start their own party. I think the Lib Dems are irretrievable and I won’t vote Green because I need my car. And the Tories? Never in a million years. But, I can see them bouncing back before too long.

Once Brexit has been decided, May will be ditched and a new leader will be in place. If they choose correctly – and there are some decent candidates – I believe they will win and win big. Never underestimate the Tories, no matter how much you might hate them. They are the greatest political winning machine in history.

Ultimately, it’s out electoral system, the first past the post system that is our downfall. If we can achieve anything in our lifetimes, it will be fair votes by way of proportional representation in parliament. Millions, many millions of votes, don’t count at all in many parts of the country. That’s undemocratic. The problem is that the Tories are against PR and the Bennite left is against it too. The alternative to PR is what we have now – May v Corbyn. It’s an easy decision. Isn’t it?

Eclectic Blue

Amber warning

0 Comments 16 April 2018

Home Secretary Amber Rudd today made a belated attempt to rectify one of the most terrible wrongs in recent years, accepting it was “wrong” and “appalling” that some people from the Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation. As the journalist John Crace put it this afternoon, imagine how angry she will feel when she finds out who is in charge of the Home Office.

Rudd has said that those affected will be helped for free to obtain the necessary documents to stay and quite right, too. David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham said: “It has come about because of a hostile environment policy that was begun under her prime minister. Let us call it as it is; if you lay down with dogs, you get fleas, and that is what has happened with this far-right rhetoric in this country.” He hits the nail right on the head, here.

For it was Theresa May whom when home secretary, sent a load of vans around London urging illegal immigrants to “Fuck off back home or we will fucking kick you out” (I cannot remember if these were the actual words, but this is close enough).

The Windrush generation have been dragged into Theresa May’s grubby populist dog whistle politics, people who came here to work some 70 years ago with the best possibly motives. Lammy described their treatment as “inhumane and cruel”.

Rudd had better get on with it sharpish. I wonder if she had a lightbulb moment when it occurred to her that the Windrush generation might not have been the preferred colour for some of the racists and bigots in this country? Better late than never but she should never have been late at all.

A dark, dark day for Britain once again. Expect many more such days when our useless Home Office has to process the applications of some three million European workers as we leave Europe.

Eclectic Blue

My first game

0 Comments 15 April 2018

The first professional football match I ever attended was on 19 August 1970. It was at the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam between Feyenoord and FC Utrecht. The Feyenoord team was: Treytel, Romijn, Israel, Laseroms, Van Duivenbode, Hasil, Jansen, Van Hanegem, Wery, Kindval and Moulijn. The three big names were Rinus Israel, Wim Jansen and Willem van Hanagem. Feyenoord won 4-1.

I know that Utrecht were leading, I remember van Hanegem scoring a spectacular goal from, it appears, miles from the Utrecht goal. I remember the smell of tobacco on the terraces, I remember the smell of the beer, too. I remember being high in the stands, so high that the players looked like Subbuteo figures.

I was taken by my Uncle Koos, short for Jacobus. I remember going to the game on the tram, I remember going back to my grandmother’s house. I remember my uncle buying me a huge cone of chips which almost drowned under the weight of mayonnaise. To this day, I can recall the atmosphere at this game better than I can any game I have ever been to, and that includes the only Premier League game I have ever attended at Selhurst Park which finished Wimbledon 0 Tottenham 0. I wonder why that is.

It was on that day, Willem van Hanegem became my favourite player. He still is. He was built like Malcolm McDonald and was as hard as nails. He was also the best passer of a ball I have ever seen.

I wrote this as I watched a greatly diminished Feyenoord playing Utrecht on Sky TV in a horror of a game. It’s about time I went to the De Kuip again.

Eclectic Blue

Democracy ignored

Comments Off on Democracy ignored 14 April 2018

As soon as I woke to the news that the Danny Baker show on 5 Live had been delayed by 30 minutes, I realised the UK had been involved in military action against Syria. Right up until yesterday, I was in the “don’t know” camp. Now, I do know and I have nothing but contempt for Theresa May and her dreadful government.

After reading a prepared statement about British involvement in which May, unusually, sounded statesmanlike and coherent, she took questions from journalists and immediately became entirely robotic and unconvincing. She made the speech she should have made to the House of Commons last week, putting a case to MPs, sending our brave armed services personnel into danger.

It has recently been a convention that the government consults parliament before taking military action. In 2013, the House of Commons voted to prevent David Cameron, and ultimately our other allies, from taking action against Syria. May learned the lesson.

May could easily have recalled parliament to debate the issue. This cynical prime minister didn’t even try to recall our MPs. There are three reasons why.

First, I suspect May genuinely felt action was necessary. Whilst we know she is a lame duck PM and hopelessly out of her depth, she genuinely believed that Assad’s stocks of chemical weapons should be degraded.

Second, she probably knew that she might be defeated in a Commons vote and action would then not be possible.

Third, and most contemptibly, May is absolutely desperate to do a trade deal with Trump post Brexit, if he hasn’t been impeached by then, given the chaos that is beginning to unravel as we prepare to leap off an economic cliff. Being at Trump’s beck and call for military action, believes May, will give us a better chance of a trade deal. Politics at its most cynical. Do not be surprised.

May is forever prattling on about the need to regain our sovereignty and for our parliament to be sacrosanct in decision making, yet given the chance to do just that, she proceeds down the road of ignoring parliament. It will not be enough for her to justify her actions: it is for our elected representatives to make the decision on the basis of the facts and evidence.

I am not interested in being on the same side of the argument as Labour’s pacifist leader Jeremy Corbyn. The only thing he is correct about is that the Commons should have been consulted. My view has been shaped by May’s actions and inactions: this military action should not have happened without first allowing MPs to debate.

May’s post action explanation of events won’t wash with me. She is a disgrace to her office, she has behaved in an undemocratic way and our armed forces personnel may pay a heavy long term price if we get sucked in to a long term conflict. And you just know that if Trump tells her to involve British troops, then she will.

Not for the first time in recent years, I am ashamed of my country today.

Eclectic Blue

Someone’s son, someone’s etc etc

Comments Off on Someone’s son, someone’s etc etc 13 April 2018

I haven’t got a lot to say that hasn’t already been said about the death of Henry Vincent, as he attempted to rob from 78 year old Richard Osborn-Brooks and ended up dying from a stab wound from the very weapon, a screwdriver, he could have used to inflict a similar fate on Mr Osborn-Brooks. I am not interested in the fact Vincent was a gypsy. If he had been an Oxford don, I’d have still described him as a piece of human excrement for what he did.

Do I have sympathy for Vincent’s family? Honestly? I feel nothing. A family has lost one of their own, I suppose they are bound to grieve, even if they know he was a career criminal, a loser and a lowlife. He was someone’s son, someone’s etc etc. However, I have nothing but contempt for what has happened since.

Mr Osborn-Parks may never go home again. Vincent’s family/friends/whoever, have been created a shrine opposite Mr Osborn-Parks’s house, which has been dismantled every time by angry people. Look. If these people want to grieve, then let them grieve as normal people do, in private, in their own space. Instead, they choose to grieve at the very place their odious family member or friend attempted to destroy someone else’s life. They are not the sharpest tools in the box, are they? And now, the victim – and make no mistake, Mr Osborn-Parks is and will always be the victim – loses his home.

Think about being that old, living with a disabled partner, facing the prospect of leaving your own home because you were burgled by a man who brought with him a weapon with which he could have killed you. It must have been absolutely terrifying. I don’t want to go down the road of calling Mr Osborn-Parks a hero, or suggesting he should be knighted: it’s more serious than that. The truth is that Vincent died by the weapon he could have used on this victim and potentially many more in the future. The trauma Mr Osborn-Parks and his wife must have suffered, and are still suffering, must be immense. The poor man will have to live with the fact he killed a man purely in self-defence. He did what any one of us with his courage would probably have done. I’ll be the last thing he wants is to be thrust front and centre stage.

It’s all much more complicated than most of us can ever imagine. This poor man and his disabled wife will have their lives changed forever by someone else’s recklessness and greed. Burglars are the lowest of the low. That’s one for Vincent’s family and friends to dwell on when they turn up night after night adding fuel to the fire. They’re making things worse for everyone. How can that be right?

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle Friday 13 April

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle Friday 13 April 13 April 2018

Will this random music shuffle, made my my elderly iPod, played through a bank of Marshall speakers (well, not really) in my Man Cave bring bad luck? It certainly will for those who do not share my eclectic musical tastes.

Nevertheless, here goes. Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends. Let’s rock.

1. Statues by the Foo Fighters. This is gentle Dave from the Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace long player.

2. Fox on the Run by the Sweet. Great song but I’ve always hated the production, with the vocals too high in the mix and the guitars too low.

3. Same Name by Field Music. Cracker by the brilliant Mackems, from their indispensable Commontime album.

4. All We Make Is Entertainment by the Manic Street Preachers. Still up there among our most important bands, asking the big questions at the same time as making brilliant music. Postcards from a Young Man is a wonderful piece of work.

5. Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan. Live version from George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh way back in 1971 when the ex Beatle assembled rock royalty to raise money in the first of the big fundraiser shows.

6. 1,2,3 by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Some lush latin pop from the Cuban/American superstar. Great pop music.

7. Wallflower by Jordan Rakei. Title track from his brilliant 2017 record. This boy is so talented. #manlove

8. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again by Dionne Warwick. Okay but not a patch on Bobbie Gentry’s version.

9. Love Like Kerosene by Gregg Allman. Great tune from his final record Southern Blood. RIP.

10. Green and Blue by Deep Forest. Sounds literally from the rain forests and jungles set to wonderful ambient, new world music. Comparsa a sensational album.

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Don’t Know

Comments Off on Don’t Know 13 April 2018

It is the lack of political leadership that bothers me most. Granted that not all strong leadership is good leadership. In Britain today we have absolutely none.

Theresa May holds an emergency cabinet meeting and comes to the conclusion that the there is a “need to take action to deter the further use of chemical weapons”. Unequivocal “strong and stable leadership” there, then? Er, no. Boris Johnson’s more intelligent brother Jo goes onto Question Time and gets a mid show briefing after which he says: “There has been no decision to take military action at this point.” Would it be wrong to question a meeting of the Cabinet which concludes that “something must be done” but they have no idea what that something might be? “Does everyone agree that something must be done? Right, that’s unanimous. I’ll make some vague statement to the media and we’ll wait for Donald Trump to tell me what to do next.”

Is Labour any better? Of course not. Its current ‘leader’ – I used the word inadvisedly – is a pacifist. His shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, was asked today whether she could come up with an example of a just war in which we were right to involve ourselves. “World War Two,” was the only one she could come up with. The genocide in Srebrenica and ┼Żepa in the Bosnian War of 1992-95 was not a just cause for a military response, then, or the retaking of the Falkland Islands in 1982 after Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous blunder in allowing the Argentines to invade in the first place. It was just dandy to let all manner of genocidal maniacs all over the world just do what the hell they like. This is the madness of Corbyn’s Labour. I wonder whether how a Labour government under Corbyn would have dealt with the holocaust. Would he have called for a full investigation and urge all sides to sit down at the negotiating table and sort out their differences?

The public is not convinced of Theresa May’s march to war. The polls suggest we are convinced that Assad employed chemical weapons against his own people and they also suggest that we don’t want to bomb the shit out of Syria. Why the contradiction? Poor leadership.

May is a poor communicator, in the same way that she is poor at everything else. If you are asking our armed service personnel to go to war, you need to take the electorate with you. You need to make a case, you need to explain what you intend to do and what you aim to achieve. You cannot go around saying how “strong and stable” you are and hoping the public will buy into armed conflict. If Jo Johnson is correct, May has not even been able to persuade her own Cabinet. How on earth does she expect the public to persuaded?

I am open to persuasion. I opposed action against Syria in 2013 because David Cameron failed to convince parliament and the wider electorate. At least he tried. He asked parliament, as you do in a parliamentary democracy. They didn’t buy it.

May has not convinced me, but Corbyn has not dissuaded me from the need to take action. I don’t bloody know. If May fails to consult parliament and allow our representatives to debate the issue in public, I will have to oppose any military involvement. The lack of political leadership is a national disgrace. Politicians are elected to represent us. This lot are not doing a very good job.

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