Thursday, October 28, 2004

It's (not) his Party... and he'll sulk if he wants too!

An egotistic former Labour politician joins an emerging political party and announces his intention to break the mould of British politics…then throws his rattle out of the pram because he cannot have everything his own way. Farewell David Owen, hallo Robert Kilroy Silk. Owen formed the SDP with Shirley Poppins and her mates, and then ended up being sucked into Liberal Party and eventually into the dustbin of history. Kilroy only joined UKIP to publicise himself and because their inherent xenophobia closely matched his extreme views on race. Now if he can’t be the leader he wants to wreck not only the EU… but UKIP too. What’s the chance of UKIP being swallowed up and incorporated into the Tory right-wing? Incidentally, how quaint of the Beeb to censor LBJ's quote about Hoover. He said he would rather have Hoover "inside the tent pissing out".

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

RIP John

You feel your own sense of mortality when those you have admired so much start dying off. Paul Foot, Brian Clough...and now John Peel. The most innovative and influential man in British popular music, has died in Peru. For large sections of a whole generation of people, Peel will be greatly missed. He helped to shape our whole musical outlook,and beyond, (I'll never forget the tingling feeling the first time I heard The Captain playing Big Eyed Beans from Venus with the guitar solo intro "Mister Zoot Horn Rollo, hit that long lunar note....and let it float"). Peel was always moving on to something new, and we would 'discover' it a year or so later. There are those like The Liverpool Scene, Medicine Head, Kevin Coyne, who were terrific without finding or craving 'fame'. Others like T. Rex, The Bonzo's, Rod Stewart went on to great heights but probably never achieved the quality of their material in the Peel days. He hated the 'star' syndrome and positively delighted in uncovering obscurity despite the fact that many of those he championed going on to fill giant stadiums and become the very sort of showbiz 'personalities' he chided. He used to do a regular stint at Mothers Club in Erdington in my youth and he was such an amusing and approachable person. I could even forgive him that dreadful Radio 4 programme.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Stuff your bloody casinos

A fair number of people in my Ward campaigned succesfully against a company called Blue Chip Casinos from opening a gambling casino in the heart of their community. Some were opposed because it was scheduled to open 20 hours a day, and they didn't want the noise and nuisance in the early hours of the morning. Some thought it would attract prostitution, drugs and organised crime. Some were moralistic and opposed to the whole notion of gambling. For me, I did resent the noise and nuisance, but I also resent the way these casinos will suck money out of working class communities and transfer the income to their fat cat US sponsors... and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (who, if we believe the chattering classes, is apparently opposed to the gambling bill). I know its not popular, but I do want an increase in graduated income tax and funds spent on pensions, the NHS and public services, and we can do that without the leeches in the gambling business contributing to the cost of human misery.


Whew! That makes me feel so much safer.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A guide to brummie-speak

Anyone for arse cream? Or would you prefer a bag of suck?


£73 Million goes up in smoke in Sandwell.

Help needed

Steve (or BykerSink) or Our Man in Hanoi, is trying to raise money for what sounds like a truly marvellous project in Hanoi. The aim being to take street kids and give them a grounding in working a running a restaurant. If you, or a trade union, business or voluntary agency are in a position to assist him to raise funds, drop in on his site (the post headed smiles and tears tells you as much as you need to know... about Steve and the Koto project). Oh... and he's had a VIP visitor.

Even the President of the United States sometimes has to stand naked...

Martin Jaques (a man I don't have to try too hard to disagree with) argues in The Guardian that the concept of the nation state is still intact, despite all the predictions of globalisation, economic interdependence and the spread of the multi-national corporations. He cites the political weakness of the EU and the dominance of US imperialism in Iraq to justify his argument. I find it somewhat comforting to find that as usual I think Jaques has got it completely wrong again. The US example seems particularly weak. The imperialist aggression in Iraq is about extending economic power and influence... power and influence aimed at strengthening US capital, not extending 'democracy' or political influence over or on behalf of the Iraqi people. As Michael Moore ably demonstrated in Fahrenheit 911 the US governmental administration was effectively neutered in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers by the power of Saudi investment in the United States. When the brown stuff hit the fan, it was all too clear who was calling the shots and it wasn't the little fellah in the White House. The Multinationals and giant economic institutions have no nation, they have no concept of patriotism, they think that is for mugs. Unemployment in Detroit will not pull on their heartstrings if there is a bigger buck to be made in 'communist' China or the back streets of Thailand. The EU argument is easier to sustain, but the whole issue of the single currency is about centralising economic control to sideline the influence of the nation states... and in a true Orwellian way creating a European political institution to reflect the new economic circumstances. It is not all that new you know... this notion that the political instituitions change to reflect the economic organisation, why, an old German philosopher sitting in the British museum said as much about 150 or so years ago.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Walsall blasts back

Earlier in the week I made some lighthearted and, let's face it, downright insulting remarks about the town of Walsall. Well now I have got my comeuppance. I had an e-mail from someone who berates me for hypocrisy for taking Boris Johnson to task for allowing insulting and patronising remarks about the City of Liverpool, whilst doing the same thing myself about her home town. Furthermore she says, for someone so keen on markets, why not give credit to Walsall for its excellent streetmarket? Of course, she is spot on. My remarks, although joking, were insulting and I'm sorry if they upset you Jean, or anyone else... and the Walsall market really is great. I hear, by the way, they have recently started selling oysters, which brings to mind Frank Skinner's remark that eating oysters is like "licking phlegm off a tortoise."


It would appear that Liverpool Council is about to ask the government to introduce legislation which would allow the city to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places. I went to Ireland last year not long after their national ban on smoking in the workplace, which effectively does the same thing. The one major difference it would appear, is the way the law would be enforced. In Ireland the responsibility is that of the employer, bar owner, restaurant owner etc. They could be fined for what amounts to putting their staff at risk by allowing smoking on the premises. This seemed to work fine and the customers appreciated the publican's dilemma and respected the ban. If in Liverpool the onus is placed on the police to go into a pub and start issuing fines or arresting people, it has the potential to lead to a lot of trouble... or the ban simply not working very effectively.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Drove up to Liverpool yesterday to meet student daughter, and we went to see the fabulous Youssou N’Dour at The Philharmonic Hall. He essentially reproduced his album ‘Egypt’ together with a 12 piece Egyptian band and some traditional Senegalese musicians. Before that she took me for an extended tour of Liverpool City Centre… nice place I thought. Frankly I can't go along with all those people who think that the public school tub of lard Boris Johnson is a jolly good chap who was honest enough to admit his mistake. Anyone who has read Rogan Taylor's book on Hillsborough would appreciate the pain of the relatives... and any city which still steadfastly refuses to buy The Sun is OK with me.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


For many more years than I care to think about, I have worked in Walsall (or Walsall Nil as their football team is affectionately known). I was referred to this unique site by Jim at Slave to the 11C. It is unique because the author obviously likes the place, (rare in itself) but in describing it, he makes the place sound just exactly as bad as it is. For instance, the Homepage bears the legend "People always leave Walsall smiling". Yes... but of course, that could be because they're leaving! As my workmate used to say, "The only good thing that ever came out of Walsall was the A34.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

At last!

After what seems like years of trying, we finally managed to get the Bearwood Farmers' Market off the ground this morning. There were only a handful of stalls, and there is an obvious need to attract a greengrocers... but there was a good variety of bread and baking, meat and fruit... and most importantly of all, loads of punters. In the coming months we want to make it into a community event. Involve the local jazz club, get the school kids to do carol singing at Xmas and perhaps involve the local Woods Trust by giving them a stall to sell produce such as wood chip, holly etc. It was well supported... and I'm chuffed.

Bearwood Famers' Market

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I hate commenting on things based simply on news headlines because they are usually so inaccurate and sensationalised that you often find the truth got lost in the telling somewhere. But as this is a report about the BBC from the BBC, perhaps there is an element of accuracy somewhere. Apparently a 'marketing' professor has been commissioned to carry out an 'independent' review of BBC 3 and BBC 4 and he has decided they are not sufficiently popular. BBC 4, he advises, should stop making arts prograsmmes that virtually no-one watches. BBC 3 should scrap its news programme, whilst BBC 4 should also either scrap or revamp its news programme. Yes... why not fill it up with wall-to-wall 'reality TV' programmes, gardening and house relocation crap, interspersed with brain-numbing soap operas. The news could be revamped Sun-style and have the headlines read by topless models. That'll pull 'em in, eh Mr Marketing Man. Public service broadcasting? Gods teeth!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

What's so funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?

I had a letter this morning from a constituent who wants to know how in all honesty I can remain a Labour councillor whilst this Government is pursuing a war in Iraq that I am so clearly and fundamentally opposed to. I have written back to her explaining why I can, but I thought I would copy some of my thoughts on the subject here.

If I, or anyone else of a left persuasion didn't stand, does anyone for one second imagine that Labour would leave the seat uncontested? Or do you think they would find some bright-eyed New Labour Blairite (or old fashioned and old right-Labourite, for that matter) to stand in my stead. Would that move the forces of progress one-inch further forward, or persuade Blair, who would be delighted if we left, to call an immediate halt to hostilities and bring the troops home.

I cannot stop the war in Iraq, bring peace to the Middle East, stop the genocide in Darfur... or even be much more than a voice in the wilderness about privatisation in Sandwell. But I can help the two refugees who came to my surgery two weeks ago, give support to the residents group fighting the mobile phone companies who want to put even more masts in their back garden, help the old chap who is waging a one-man war against the post office, try to get rehousing for the single woman with four kids under 6 years of age(!) and living in a third floor flat without a lift, and on, and on and on. I know Tory and Lib Dem councillors would also do their best at this sort of thing too, but I happen to think I can also do a good job.

I have respect (ouch) for comrades who have left the Party, or never even joined it, and are now in RESPECT, but at the moment I know, and so do 99% of them, that they cannot win seats, and therefore influence things in the way that I wish to do so. I once worked with a chap who joined Nupe, even though virtually the entire workforce were in Nalgo, because he said, "Nupe were more left-wing". I respected his principled stand, but when it came down to arguing with management, stopping redundancies etc. his principles stood for precisely nowt! So, those of us on the Labour left will have to continue shouting from the sidelines, winning the odd vote and hoping to exert some influence whilst acting as the conscience of the Party, those comrades who are shouting but didn't even want to come to the match, will have to keep on prodding us and acting as ours.

I suspect she won't be happy with my response, but if she wants to join in and disrupt the BNP leafletting in my Ward this Saturday... she's more than welcome.

Fireworks...not yet

David Blunkett may well be the most authoritarian Home Secretary since... well, Jack Straw, at least, but there will be a lot of people who will breath a sigh of relief if the new law on fireworks prevents neighbourhoods having to suffer a recreation of the blitz for about two months either side of the so-called 'bonfire night'. No doubt there will be much hand-wringing in Lib-Dem circles about nanny states and draconian laws, but on working class housing estates it will be much welcomed.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

It's Official

Go to The Conservative Party's website... type in dracula in the search box ...and guess what comes up!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Good on ya, Lin!

Sandwell Labour councillor and Mayor Linda Turton has taken a stand against animal cruelty. Perhaps now she will have her house surrounded by hooray Henrys and the sons of long forgotten pop singers... (if Brooklyn Beckham was named after the place he was conceived in, where was Otis Ferry conceived?)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Treading on your toe to cure a headache

I can't say I wasn't warned. When I said I was seeing a chiropractor for my bad back people muttered darkly about 'seeking a second opinion'. The pain was too bad. I didn't listen. So I went for my treatment... (and bloody expensive it was too). I was lifted up and lain down on a bench. "Relax your shoulders" she said. I did as I was told. My shoulders were completely relaxed... and unprepared. Whooomph! With all her might she literally bashed me in the back. "There... did you here that noise" she said, "that was the air coming out of your back." "No" I replied "that was the air coming out of every orifice in my body... and possibly the sound of one of my ribs cracking." I limped out, battered. For the last two nights I have been in agony... not from my back, but my ribcage. Turning over in bed is an exercise of major proportions, like an oil tanker manoeuvring in the English Channel. Back to the acupuncturist, I think.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Samarra Burning...

The horrors of liberation described at Baghdad Burning "It's like a nightmare within a nightmare, seeing the corpses pile up and watching people drag their loved ones from under the bricks and steel of what was once a home.
To top it off, we have to watch American military spokespersons and our new Iraqi politicians justify the attacks and talk about 'insurgents' and 'terrorists' like they actually believe what they are saying... like hundreds of civilians aren't being massacred on a daily basis by the worlds most advanced military technology.
As if Allawi's gloating and Bush's inane debates aren't enough, we have to listen to people like Powell and Rumsfeld talk about "precision attacks".

You can take the boy out of Newcastle...

...but you'll never take Newcastle out of the boy! BykerSink, Our Man in Hanoi has been on the march for peace again, this time in Vietnam!

I haven't posted for a few days due to a mental paralysis caused by my bad back. The Chiropractor has given me a good mauling, and now I feel like I have got several broken ribs... but at least it has taken my mind off my back.