Anyone else following the story of little Bradley Lowery, the amazing little lad from Sunderland who is dying from a rare form of cancer? The story of five year old Bradley has broken the hearts of millions and yet made us smile as he posed with Jermain Defoe, his footballing hero, and led out the England team at Wembley. Tonight’s tweet by his mum Gemma made for very sad reading:
“Bradley is not good 😢 he has been in horrendous pain with his leg since yesterday to the point he couldn’t move in bed last night. We have had him to the hospital today and they have give him a x Ray but it didn’t show anything. The doctors gut feeling is that it is his cancer progressing but we need to wait and watch for a few days to see what happens.
Bradley was due to be mascot at the Riverside tonight but he is not well enough to go so we have had to cancel it.
I am hoping and praying that it is nothing serious and he starts to improve as I’m not ready for this to happen yet 💔💔 #keepfighting.”
I do not really know how my words can follow that. This lovely, sweet boy has done nothing to deserve the horrendous pain that neuroblastoma has visited upon him. Surely he was not born just to die young, before he had ever really lived at all, awash, as soon he will be, in an ocean of tears.
The more I know, the less I understand. I know in my heart that little Bradley was no more given this illness by some supernatural being than it will be taken away by one. Bradley’s, I’m afraid, is the tragedy that afflicts some people and avoids others. It is very hard to see anything positive in such a negative situation. And yet.
Through the darkness shines a light of sheer humanity, a torch held by extraordinary people, like you, you and you, who do extraordinary things. Like Defoe’s inspirational support, born of love and compassion, and the donations made in the hope that somehow Bradley might survive, from people who never met him, just read a sad story and tried to make things better. There’s that light. And I see it shining every day.
Bradley’s story won’t end well. For a time, the darkness that eventually consumes us all, will snuff out the light on Bradley. A young boy, loved by the nation in a sort of twice removed way, but loved by his family more than anything else on this earth.
Bradley Lowery reminds us that it’s good to love one another. No Newcastle United fan feels different from a Sunderland fan about Bradley’s plight. The colour of a shirt means nothing at all. The colour of anything means nothing at all. He’s just a young boy, like every other young boy in the world. Bradley teaches us that love will save the day, that hope will triumph over hate, that one day we will find treatments and cures that will mean no one ever needs to suffer like Bradley and his inspirational family. One day.
Nothing can compare to a young child in pain. It isn’t fair, life isn’t fair but if we all put our minds to it, we can love everyone, like we love Bradley. If we can all learn to do that, maybe there will be a happy ending. Keep fighting, little man.
There you have it. The future of the NHS depends on how you vote on 8th June. Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for dismembering the NHS, effectively said so today. Hunt’s words formed part of an old Tory slogan that having an NHS depends on a strong economy. What he, and his Tory friends, actually mean by this is simple: if the economy tanks badly you can kiss goodbye to the NHS and when we complain about it they will say “told you so.”
Today, Hunt made a subtle change to the Tory line. He brought the forthcoming Brexit negotiations into the equation. He said: “If we get a bad outcome, it will be terrible for the British economy. We won’t be able to lock in our recovery, there will be less money for the NHS – all of our public services.” What’s more, Hunt managed to keep a straight face throughout.
So, if we get a “bad outcome” – and any outcome May comes up with will be worse than what we already have – the NHS and just about every other vital public service is in serious danger. And if May is true to her word that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, it will be just as well to not get ill at any point in the future unless you are as wealthy as Jeremy Hunt.
Unless you were born yesterday – or believe every word you read in the Mail and Sun – you will know full well that the NHS and the Tory Party are not natural bedfellows. The NHS only just survived a sustained assault from Margaret Thatcher’s government from 1997 which took it near to a point of ruin. It was New Labour, under Tony Blair, which made record investment in our NHS, investment that ended once the Tories assumed power again in 2010. Now, with Labour destined for a long period of opposition at best and oblivion at worst (and most likely), the Tories have their biggest opportunity to get rid of the NHS once and for all. And now they have the excuse to do it.
Brexit will be long, complex, tortuous, painful, damaging and expensive for our country. Chancellor Phillip Hammond has already set aside £60 million of our money, which surely could be better spent, to deal with the financial storms which will soon hit. We already have a slowing economy where growth has been based almost entirely on borrowing and consumer spending. What happens when the borrowing and spending stops? Why, the government has lower tax receipts. Some things will have to give.
I have no faith in the ability of Theresa May to negotiate her way out of a paper bag, never mind “the best possible deal for Britain”, whatever that is supposed to mean (which is nothing). But I do believe that she is cynical enough to carry out an exercise whereby Brexit goes horribly wrong, as I suspect it will, and armed with a substantial three-figure majority can get rid of the NHS “at a stroke” and blame everyone else in the process. It will be the EU, those remoaners, Jeremy Corbyn, who will by then returned to the backbenches voting against everything the Labour does, the BBC and everyone else, except her.
Jeremy Hunt has admitted the NHS is on the line and a vote for Theresa May’s nasty Tory Party is a vote to end the NHS. Think about that one when you get in the polling booth and vote for that hard Brexit.
I am sure you are familiar with the old expression, “This changes EVERYTHING”. Suddenly, straight from left field, something so utterly startling occurs that everything you thought you knew, understood and believed in turns out to be untrue. In every single election of any kind since 1979, I have voted Labour, even when my candidate was Tony Benn who oversaw its collapse in 1983, but now, thanks to Keir Starmer’s confirmation of what we already suspected, that Labour really does support Theresa May’s hard Brexit, what do I do now?
One reason I stuck with Labour, until the ill-timed invasion of Iraq, was because it was truly internationalist. Labour’s hard left always hated the EU because they saw it as a “rich man’s club” and because Winston Churchill was always a fierce proponent of the concept, Indeed, Margaret Thatcher opposed the EU so much she helped create the single market and took us deeper into Europe than anyone else. Thatcher was horribly wrong about so many things, but not about the EU.
Theresa May is taking the country to a damaging hard Brexit and the least I expected from Labour was a serious fight about what kind of Brexit we should have to endure. May is the first PM in our history who is committed to obtaining a worse deal than we already have on Europe and today Starmer effectively said that Labour agreed with her.
Labour has now accepted the end of free movement which will have profound effects not just on those pesky Europeans who want to come and work here, but to our citizens who want to live, love, work, study and just abroad. They want to come to an early deal regarding people who are already here, but to hell with everyone else. Labour, through Corbyn and John McDonnell, have already conceded we must leave the single market which will have a serious impact on both our imports and exports. And they accept leaving the customs union. This is exactly May’s agenda. It’s breathtaking. I am wondering how I can even consider voting Labour after this and my job was made even more tricky when Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said he wasn’t as homophobic as we thought he was.
Now I like Starmer. He’s a smart operator, more a safe pair of hands than a charismatic Macron, Trudeau or, yes, Blair but in these dangerous times maybe a safe pair of hands is better than the alternative. But in committing Labour to the end of free movement and leaving the single market, that goes against everything I stand for and believe in. It’s not Starmer’s fault that he had to deliver such a clunking, incoherent speech because the blame lies firmly at the top, the useless comrades around the top table who haven’t the faintest idea of what they are doing.
Right now, as I have said before, I am becoming politically homeless. The far right has been invaded by May’s Tories, thus rendering Ukip irrelevant, and Labour has lurched the hard left fringes, leaving the Lib Dems. But really?
I still see the Lib Dems through the prism of their taking seats in the last Tory government, enabling David Cameron to attack the sick and disabled, enabling the Tories to bring in the Bedroom Tax, raising VAT and of course lying to the country about tuition fees. It would be a massive step for me and I am, for once in my life, that swing voter, undecided as to what I should do. “None of the above” is currently in front.
Imagine a Labour Party supporting the end of the free market and leaving both the single market and customs union, things that will damage the lives and prospects of the very people Labour is supposed to represent, the very people Labour was formed to represent.
By Christmas of this year, someone will have written a definitive book about how Labour set about committing electoral suicide and allowing the country to live under an elected dictatorship for a decade, maybe longer, maybe forever. Just when I thought Labour couldn’t sink any lower, they sank lower. What am I going to do now?
Speaking via the inter web today with old friends who used to be very senior people in the Labour Party, one of the centre left, the other of the mainstream, conventional not-as-extreme-as-Corbyn left and both feel the same thing. The opinion polls are wrong. Things are much, much worse than the polls suggest. Current polling suggests the Tories are at around 50% with Labour on 25%. This doesn’t feel good to me.
I realise that this is all anecdotal, based more on gut feeling than actual statistics but all the feedback so far is that Labour in general but Jeremy Corbyn in particular is toxic on the doorstep, to the extent that even previously rock solid guaranteed Labour voters are either wavering or they’re donating their votes elsewhere and it’s not just to the Lib Dems.
Part of the Tory resurgence is, we can all agree, because of the collapse in support for Ukip. With Theresa May’s Tories lurching to the right at breakneck speed, embracing the far right vote, there’s no point to Ukip. They’ve got us out of the EU. What’s left for them? But in many areas, particularly in more working class areas where Labour support leaked away to Ukip, that support is not all coming back to Labour. It’s going to Theresa May.
“So things are worse than they seem,” I said. “What sort of Tory majority are we facing? 100? 150? 200? 250?” The view of both friends was the Tory majority was far more likely to be at the higher end of predictions. 250 was a real possibility. “And the number of Labour seats? 150? 125? 100? Less than that?” Yes, less than that.
The election campaign is not a week old yet and we are talking about Labour going into meltdown before the manifesto is even published. If Corbyn is toxic on the doorstep now, I was told, just wait until the Tories and their media friends start dragging up old quotes, old interviews, photographs of the old boy with terrorist sympathisers and out and out terrorists. Not to mention his disagreement with half of Labour’s policies, especially on defence. Yes, less than 100 seats for the Labour Party. Any less than that and the SNP will be the official opposition.
Actually, I was not really shocked by these apocalyptic predictions. Labour, for reasons best known to itself, has sent out the likes of Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry to face the media and none of them are effective communicators. Far from it. Every time Abbott and Thornberry are interviewed, I can almost feel votes slipping away from Labour. Worse still, they haven’t got a message for the electorate.
Theresa May has a message, even though it’s empty rhetoric. The need for “strong and stable leadership” which she most definitely not brought so far and describing the opposition as the “coalition of chaos”. It doesn’t mean anything, but people are actually starting to quote her, in the same way people talked about “taking back control” in 2016. It might be tosh, but it works.
An incompetent leader, no message for the voters, a hard right media – what could possibly go wrong for Labour? I’d say absolutely everything.
Labour’s problems are becoming existential and if they are not careful they could end up like the socialist candidate in the French presidential election, with less than 7% of the vote.
As I said the other day, Corbyn might be an idiot but not all of his team are and they will know, as well as we do, what a mess Labour is in. If they really care about the future of Labour and the future of the country, they would have a word with old Corbo, but the truth is they don’t. This is all going to end terribly, or wonderfully if you are a Tory supporter.
In two weeks, the people of France could be in a position to start the world fightback against the hard right. With Russia under the dictatorship of KGB thug Putin, the USA with a hard right unstable idiot at the helm and the victory of Ukip in Britain as we leave the EU, the centrist candidate Emmanual Macron will be up against the Front National candidate Marine Le Pen.
Yes, it is a matter of concern that an out there fascist like Le Pen has attracted over 11.2 million votes. There is no getting away from that. And it is a concern that the mainstream socialist party has collapsed to 6.8% of the popular vote. Macron, from a standing start, in the centre ground of French politics could end this crazy march to the right.
That France, which was occupied by the fascists in the Second World War, is even considering the election of a fascist is astonishing and worrying enough. I have said this before and I will probably say it again, we in Britain have consistently rejected the far right in elections, from the days of the National Front, the BNP and now Ukip. Granted, the country embraced the existential reason for Ukip’s very existence last June, and much of the anger and antipathy towards foreign people was part of the referendum result. Theresa May has marched at top speed to trample all over Ukip territory in recent weeks and plant her tanks on Nigel Farage’s lawn. I am hoping this will be a short term aberration on May’s part before moving back to the centre right.
The Trump/Putin axis is worrying enough, what with Trump being incredibly close to Farage. Trump is close to Le Pen too. One day someone will follow the money and find that Russian money is everywhere and has poisoned everything. As we found with Watergate, money is at the centre of every scandal.
How I wish we had a Macron type politician to represent the huge mass of those of us in and around the centre ground. In Britain, I am all but homeless. New Labour, which gave us three general election wins, gave millions more a home but old Labour, the resurgence of the nasty Tory Party, the hangover of the Lib Dem sell out from 2010 and the hard right Ukip provide us with no real choice at all.
Surely the French will support a presidential candidate who seeks to unite the country and not a fascist who will divide not just France but the rest of the world. Surely they will send the rest of a glimpse of hope that there can be something better.
When we elect a right wing Tory Party in six weeks or so, we will have five years to think about what we really want in this country. In an ideal world, Labour would dump yesterday’s men and women who have ripped the heart out of the party with their dogma and return to a Labour that understands and supports aspiration, fairness, equality and seeks to reward success. If Macron can win, it will be a victory of hope against hate. And that hope could spread everywhere.
First, a message to Jeremy Corbyn: your country needs you. To stand aside. Now. Theresa May is heading for a landslide general election victory on 8 June, with the polls suggesting a Tory majority of over 200. Once the Tories and their friends in the media get to work, that Tory lead is going to stretch even further. A huge part of the reason for the impending electoral disaster for Labour is its leader. If Labour’s defeat is to be in any way minimised, Corbyn has to go this weekend.
It is hard to know where to begin with Corbyn’s sheer unsuitability for the role of prime minister. A serial rebel throughout his own miserable backbench career, Corbyn did not so much ignore the Labour whip, he paid no attention to it. Labour’s hard left rump met every week and decided how they would vote collectively. A big word in politics is trust and when people look at Corbyn with his history of disloyalty, it will not take the electorate terribly long to judge him. He will never, under any circumstances, use our nuclear deterrent. He has a terrible track record of supporting despots and terrorists. The list goes on forever but as important as anything else, Corbyn has no message for the British people. A hotch potch of random slogans, like more bank holidays, is not a vision for the country. Flowery words about equality and fairness are fair enough, but where’s the beef?
Corbyn and the comrades who surround him must know what we all know, that he is leading Labour to a humiliating wipe out that will make Michael Foot’s defeat to Margaret Thatcher in 1983 seem like the good old days. But then, they don’t care about general elections. They don’t care about winning. The comrades want to build a social movement, whatever that’s supposed to mean. They want to control the levers of power of whatever is left of the Labour Party after 8 June and they really don’t care what kind of state it’s in. It’s about purity, not winning.
A Labour loss is inevitable and under Corbyn that loss will be catastrophic. This might not matter to the hipsters and chattering classes supping their craft beers in their niche London pubs, but it sure as hell matters to the very people Labour is supposed to represent. A Tory landslide will guarantee a hard and very damaging Brexit, rises in VAT and other taxes to try to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit as the economy begins to tank, the further dismantling of the NHS, underfunded schools, the end of the triple lock for pensioners and more attacks on the sick and disabled. Corbyn and the comrades must know all this and the conclusion must surely be that they think that it’s worth it, a price worth paying, even if it’s someone else paying it.
A decent man of principle, which Corbyn isn’t, would step aside now, see someone like Keir Starmer put in acting charge of the party, restore to the front benches the genuine talents currently going to waste on the back benches and try to limit the damage to Labour. I am not sure if things are already too far gone for this scenario to unfold and then make any difference, but what’s to lose?
Please step aside now, Jeremy Corbyn, and take the equally useless John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Emily Thornberry and the even more useless Diane Abbott with you. If you cared about the country more than you cared about yourself, you’d have quit ages ago. By staying on in a job you plainly can’t do your legacy to the working people of England will be every bit as pernicious and damaging as the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Think about that one for a moment.
John Crace, the brilliant Guardian journalist, really got me thinking today. He always does get me thinking. He’s the writer I’d like to be, as I wanted to be Simon Hoggart, his parliamentary sketch writer predecessor, and Clive James who combines brilliant writing with being the smartest man in the room. He also has his mental health demons about whom he writes with sometimes startling clarity and always honesty. Today he wrote about the dramatic intervention of Prince Harry on the subject. This blog is really lifting John Crace’s comments.
I was moved to tears by Prince Harry’s naked honesty about the death of his mother and how he never really dealt with it for two decades. I remember 1997 when Princess Diana died and the nation wept. I also remember how she was, before she died, a press hate figure, despised for spending the summer with her new boyfriend at the expense of her children. The same press that pressured the royal family into going into the public arena to console members of the public who never met or knew her. Diana’s sons, William and Harry, who were children at the time, were forced to appear in public too. But the red tops cheered. Diana was the “people’s princess”, not someone’s one and only mum.
Harry’s deeply affecting words this week took some degree of courage. His support for ‘Heads together’ is utterly genuine. To share his own pain could have the most dramatic impact on attitudes to mental health. Harry deserves the greatest respect possible. But who was looking after his mental health?
This was the question from John Crace, not mine, so I won’t claim the credit for what follows, but what the hell was going on at the palace? What was his tree-hugging father up to at the time?
I have very little interest in Prince Charles, that weak-chinned buffoon who will, one day, assume the throne of England (the rest of the UK will have buggered off by the time he lands the big prize) and it is well known that Camilla Parker-Bowles was always his preferred partner. Diana herself noted that there were three people in her marriage and we all knew what she meant. But back to the point: what the hell was he thinking about when his sons were suffering? Why did Harry, who comes across as a very decent, compassionate human being, not receiving the counselling he needed? Did it not occur to anyone that he just might, having lost his mother at the age of 12, have suffered a mental reaction?
I have had it up to here, wherever here is, with the “stiff upper lip” nonsense. It’s bad for you. Grief is good, talking about your demons is good, counselling is good, therapy is good. And it doesn’t matter if your name is Harry Prince or Prince Harry. Harry should have been supported and if he, a member of the royal family, didn’t get help, what hope is there for the young lad, living in social housing, with no prospects in life and no hope? Is it any wonder so many young men take their own lives?
Thanks, Prince Harry. You’re a good lad. It’s not your fault you live in an unreal world of luxury and privilege. It’s been shown that the section of society in which you live can let you down, just like the real world where we live lets down everyone else. You’ve helped, you’ve made a difference. It would be a step too far to you to say that the government should hang its head in shame for the severe cuts it has made to mental health funding, but please drop a few hints.
I hope I don’t come over as a bit Donald Trump here, but I am beginning to despair about the failing Bristol Post newspaper. Put to one side my enduring bitterness for being axed as an unpaid Rovers fan columnist for supporting the “wrong side” during the Bristol Rovers boardroom bust-up of 2006, which I have dealt with by not buying the paper ever since, I despair at the state of the written media. A lot of people have joined me in abandoning the paper, albeit probably not for the same reason. Having dispensed with the services with most of their better journalists, the Post has now resorted to inventing news on the basis of speculation from social networks. Let me give you an example.
Gasheads may be familiar with someone called Keith Chimp. I don’t think this is his real name. Anyway, Mr Chimp tweets all kind of information and, usually, misinformation about things that are supposedly happening at the football club. Some people actually believe Mr Chimp, especially Bristol Post reporters.
This time, Mr Chimp has tweeted the following: “BIG BIG News to come out of @Official_BRFC following Millwall FC game next week about UWE Stadium sustainability survey carried out #UTG.”
For all I know, it is entirely possible that “BIG BIG news” will emerge from the football club anytime soon but we do not know that. And the new owners of Bristol Rovers have consistently made it clear that they are not going to engage in speculation and instead will inform supporters when there is something to tell us. This approach makes complete sense to me. Negotiations with the UWE are bound to be extremely complex and it would be absurd for the club to give a running commentary of any kind. We might not like the fact that these things are being dealt with “behind the scenes” but I would say this too is an entirely sensible thing to do.
Mr Chimp either makes things up or he has a somewhat ill-informed source at the club. Perhaps he IS an ill-informed source at the club – who knows? We can all give examples of directors at Bristol Rovers, at least one of whom is still there, who have engaged in selective leaking at one time or another. I would like to think that Mr Chimp simply makes things up, even if it makes him – I am guessing he is a ‘he’ – look a bit of an arse.
Yes, we need a new stadium for Bristol Rovers and now we have owners who are committed to building one. Keith Chimp has every right to speculate on anything he wants. The worst thing about the Keith Chimp character is that it’s not as funny as its creator appears to think he is. That’s a far worse crime in my eyes that pumping out guesswork and presenting it as fact. A newspaper that bases a story on it is in a deeper mess than I thought it was.
So, the Sun has made a public apology to Ross Barkley, the Everton footballer who has Nigerian heritage, after its (Fifth?) columnist Kelvin MacKenzie compared him to a gorilla. Indeed, the Sun put a photograph of a gorilla next to a photo of Barkley. They had not been aware of Barkley’s heritage and there was “never any slur intended”. Pull the other one.
There are a few things at work here. If a simpleton like me knew that Barkley’s grandfather was Nigerian, I cannot for the life of me understand how neither MacKenzie nor the small army of sub-editors and lawyers who would also have seen the article didn’t know. It defies belief and suggests to me that the comparison was deliberately racist.
On 14th April, Mr MacKenzie said looking at Mr Barkley’s eyes had given him a “similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo”. Now, square that with the Sun’s subsequent apology which say there was “never any slur intended”. That’s simply not true. Even if the comment was not intended to be racist – and I say it was – in what way is it not a slur? And the Sun’s apology is only half an apology anyway.
They have not said sorry for Mackenzie’s latest in a long line of slurs about Liverpool where he said the only people in Liverpool who could earn as much as footballers were drug dealers. In other words, it’s perfectly okay to continue with his onslaught that started in 1989 when he abused the victims of Hillsborough.
I know there are calls to ban the Sun here, there and everywhere but soggy liberal in me has an issue with that. As I have said many times before, people should not be banned from saying and doing things that are offensive but legal, whether they be the odious writings of the Sun in general and MacKenzie in particular or cartoonists who take the piss out of the alleged Prophet Mohammad. Don’t ban all forms of hate. Don’t buy the Sun or Charlie Hebdo. Don’t read things that upset you.
I choose not to buy the Sun and Mail to give them money because it just legitimises their hate. We are still, at least for now, living in a free country where we have the right to offend and be offended. Banning things and people makes us sink to their level. Rise above it. We are better than that.
I’ve spent a lot of my life listening to music and this Friday is highly illustrative of that fact. I’ve been in my man cave for some of the day with the iPod on shuffle and occasionally listening to whole albums right through. Three albums, to be precise. One from 30 years ago and the other two more recent.
Tango in the Night was Fleetwood Mac’s 14th album and the last with the classic modern line up and I had completely forgotten just how good it is. The rhythm section is, of course, spot on although they are far from the creative edge. This is essentially a Buckingham/McVie (Christine) record.
Stevie Nicks was so wrecked at the time, little of her remains on the final recording. Buckingham even removed some of her vocal parts from the final mixes and whilst the entire band was addled, it’s an incredible body of work.
I had pretty well forgotten about it and assumed, as you do, that Rumours was their definitive recording and Tusk the most cutting edge and, I have to say, bizarre. But I assumed wrong. Any record with Little Lies, Everywhere, Big Love, Seven Wonders and the utterly magnificent You and I Part 2 cannot be anything less than perfect. And it’s all killer, no filler.
Need I add that one of the new records is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy, which it certainly isn’t. It’s a long, occasionally rambling but consistently powerful and often stunning. I shed a tear during Ballad of a Dying Man and another during the astonishing Leaving LA. This is one of the greatest records of all time.
And the third one – I kid you not – is Good Times by the Monkees from 2016 and all four of them are here. Obviously, some cutting and pasting has gone on to include Davy Jones who is of course dead, but here he is on Neil Diamond’s Love to Love from 1967, updated thanks to some outstanding engineering and production. Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and, wonderfully, Michael Nesmith are all here, singing and playing and, to my astonishment it’s a fine piece of work. If I say that the songs were composed by Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher, Rivers Cuomo, Harry Nilsson, Andy Partridge, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, as well as the aforementioned Mr Diamond you get my drift. I’d go to say it’s right up there with their very best work and certainly far better than anything they have come up with since the 1960s. Imagine it: the Monkees making a great record in the 21st century.
I should hope I didn’t bore you, but I don’t. I’m taking a 10 second break from slagging off Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, the Daily Mail, Brexit and of course Theresa May (did I mention Theresa May?) to write about something nice. Nice to me anyway.