The EU referendum, John Longworth and the British Chambers of Commerce

If you head an apolitical organisation that publicly takes a neutral position on a major political issue then when questioned by the media – as a representative of your members – you should not take a political position. So, during the independence referendum in Scotland the Law Society of Scotland did not take up any public position. It was conscious that among its membership there were supporters, and active campaigners, of both sides. And during the referendum the Society enhanced its reputation by providing balanced papers on a variety of issues on the implications of a vote in favour of independence. As a member of the Law Society of Scotland I am not conscious of any senior officer bearer taking up a public position during media interviews. Former presidents of the Law Society appeared on both sides of the referendum debate. But they did not do so in any representative capacity, and no then current office bearer, nor the chief executive assumed a public position. If any had – for one side or the other – the membership of the Society would, rightly, have objected that a person worthy of interview solely because he or she was in a representative role in the Society was not representing those members and should be suspended or dismissed. As it was, that didn’t happen and the Society left the referendum campaign with reputation enhanced – as a decent and honest broker trying to provide independent information to the public and the media.

This shouldn’t need explaining but given the hysterical reaction of disgraced former Cabinet minister, Dr Liam Fox (who resigned in disgrace) and Boris Johnson to the suspension of John Longworth, as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce it appears necessary to state this. The BCC represents 52 chambers of commerce across the UK. And through that it represents thousands of businesses of all sizes. That membership is split. The BCC has taken up a neutral position to respect that split. For the director general, interviewed solely because he is director general, to take a public position undermines his organisation and its membership. His suspension is not government interference or indicative of project fear, as the journalistic cheerleaders for the leave campaign (those fans with laptops like Julia Hartley Brewer), are arguing this morning. It is an organisation trying to protect its reputation and its neutrality.    Those who argue that the media was interested in the views of Longworth know the only interest people have in his views is as a representative of the BCC. I don’t recall the press rushing to the door of John Longworth for a quote prior to his assumption of the role of director general of the BCC in September 2011 (apart from the time he was representing the CBI  as chair of its retail and distributive trades panel).

He represents a neutral organisation. He took a line while speaking as representative of that organisation. He therefore undermined its neutrality. His suspension is right.


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Please sign my petition banning referendum poetry


I’ve had the call to launch my mission

So started up an e-petition

Its object honest, pure, and good

To save us all, each neighbourhood,

From tortured metre, inept verse,

Fractured similes and worse

Prepared intending to deceive

Supporting stay; supporting leave

Garbled lines that just confuse

None inspired by any muse.

The safest course for all readers

Is to make it clear to leaders

Against such work we all do stand

Until the bloody lot is banned.


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On the early appearance of EU referendum poetry

Tortured non-arguments hidden in verse

Are things to which most normal folk are averse.

So Leave or Remain camps you know what to do

Destroy every stanza mentioning  EU.

‘cos each inept poem, causes such distress

Do mankind a favour and quietly suppress.


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Loss and absence

When the news broke I turned to my wife.

“have you seen?” I said, my voice hushed.

She covered her eyes, nodded.

I held her. We could do little else. At times like this we need support, the warmth of human contact.

“we should see if the children are all right.”

She took my hand, and we went upstairs. They slept, oblivious. In repose their faces so relaxed, so innocent. Unaware of the maelstrom engulfing the world’s media.

I leaned over my daughter, gently kissed her forehead. “He’s gone,” I whispered. “He’s gone.” My eyes prickled with tears.

I didn’t, couldn’t, sleep. Those first moments, the first nights, after an absence are hardest. Would there be a press conference? Some statement? Or was the airport uncontactable?

I switched on the radio. Nothing. It was almost as if they didn’t care. But I knew.

I knew.

As dawn broke the birdsong seemed strangely muted. The passers by making their way home from late shifts or off to early shifts trudged slowly, dragging their feet. They knew the world was not the same.

Tim had gone.

A man on the internet I had not heard of had briefly trended on twitter, and gone.

This was a gamechanger.

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The Jeremy Corbyn story that nobody wanted to publish

It is a great pleasure today to write about the Jeremy Corbyn celebrity tour of Slade prison – known as #JC4PM@SLADE – which the media has failed to cover. I want people to know about the existence of the tour, and I also want to alert people to the fact that none of the newspapers I contacted are interested in reporting it. Journalist after journalist has told me that despite the appearance of Jeremy Corbyn and his top celebrity team, with John McDonnell’s ten best haiku, Ken Livingstone doing his “my contribution to the national success of the Labour party has been my newt” gag (you have to be there to hear it! Hilarious!) and Mark Serwotka playing Jimmy Shand tunes on the piano accordion, the story was ‘not newsworthy’.

‘Not newsworthy’ is obviously not a scientific term. It’s purely subjective. And it’s also just absolutely plain wrong if you consider what the #JC4PM@SLADE tour is, because we have got a veritable plethora of celebrities prepared to visit Slade prison and to rally the troops (but not those troops Ken and John! Don’t panic!) in the same way as he had last summer. We were not asked to do this by the Labour Party, perish the thought – or even by Jeremy Corbyn’s office. It was something we drew up together.

We had hoped to have Michael Parkinson, or even The Goodies, when we visited Slade, but unfortunately they were busy with celebrity commitments so we have a top line up including that red-haired man who tells the weather on Anglia TV, a pair of script writers for someone quite famous, a former Guardian journalist well connected with the heyday of the world of television, a bloke fresh from a highly successful season at the Al Hambra Swansea, and Janey Godley fresh from her Scottish TV New Year’s eve ratings triumph. And I can assure you that there will be no Buck Tarbrush or any of that lot.

As someone who has put on comedy night fundraisers (I’ve raised flags and put up posters in more places than I care to remember, I can tell you!), I know that many of these names would do nothing for Labour before Jeremy Corbyn was leader. But now that the party is marching resolutely onwards to electoral success because we are prepared to discuss the big issues – the Falklands/Malvinas, filling in the incorrect tax return, and the like – they want nothing more than to sprinkle the stardust of celebrity on the movement (but not the Larkin/Amis/Wain reactionary movement, eh guys?).

So why aren’t the media reporting on the #JC4PM@SLADE tour? Why is it being dismissed as not newsworthy? Why aren’t we being told that Jeremy Corbyn has support from across entertainment and culture and that these talented people are prepared to put their reputation on the line for the Labour leader?

You know the answer. And I know the answer.

That’s right. The answer is MSM bias. And that MSM bias is why you will never find an article like this in the pages of a newspaper and heavily promoted by a newspaper website for clickbait.

So in drawing attention to this on my blog, I hope I will manage to make a difference.

In the next few days I am aiming for as many as some hits and from that small acorn a great oak tree of people discussing it, joking about it on the twitter, and abusive comments to my facebook page  may appear prompting a small PA report in newspapers that previously reacted with disinterest.

Many in the media may oppose Corbynomics but, in the end, they will have to respond to that.


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It Happened One Night

Our phone was at the bottom of the stairs on a little wooden cabinet; sitting squat, cream, a cord of ringlets connecting the receiver. Standard GPO Mayfair style? In my head, yes. In my head it’s still our old phone, town and four digit number printed in the middle of the dial. When you spoke you sat on the second or third bottom stair, and everything you said could be heard upstairs and down. Hard for a teenager flirting badly in hour long phone calls about poems and stories. But had the phone gone by then? Were we on the new number, the six digit number? Had we moved from the old hand dial to push buttons by the night the call came? I can’t remember. The details aren’t there. In my head it’s the old phone. The old number. The ones from being small.

I should have been there, but I wasn’t. I was revising. For exams after Christmas. I’d wanted an excuse. I didn’t want to go. So I wasn’t there. I’m in the house when the phone rings, in the living room when the call comes, probably watching the television. It’s after seven o’clock. My mum answers. We stay in the living room. There’s a laugh.

Then there isn’t a laugh.

When she comes back through she tells us it was my granny, that she’d asked if my mum had heard the bang. And my mum had laughed because she’d thought that it was one of my sisters, that they’d dropped something, that they’d broken an ornament. But my granny was serious and had told her that a plane had crashed into the house four doors away but that she and my sisters and my uncle were all right. They were all all right.

And we put on the news that’s on just after seven, Channel Four. And there’s nothing on. No mentions. Until the presenter (Jon Snow? In my head it’s Jon Snow) says that a Jumbo jet had gone missing in the Scottish borders.

A jumbo jet.

It’s confusing. That’s enormous. If that had crashed into the house four doors away then why was my granny’s house fine?

And then we hunt for news. Channel to channel. And it’s confirmed it’s a jumbo. And on Border TV within half an  hour or so a call goes out for medical help. For anyone. For everyone with medical experience across the region to go. To help. And my mum is a nurse and she phones for a lift to go. And doctors and nurses and ambulancemen go. Because people want to help.

And I keep watching. Flick from channel to channel. Every snippet of news. And it’s impossible. The news is garbled, messy. There are two hundred and fifty people on the plane. More. The petrol station is on fire. The petrol station we pass on the bus.

Later, some of this turns out not to be true, but then. It sounds like hell. And I’m not there.

And when my mum comes back later she tells us about the police cordon, about the gawpers lining up for a view, about her threatening to walk past the petrol station  through the underpass below the railway line, to get to her mum and her girls to see they’re all right. And about heading to the centre and finding that she was not needed. That none of them were needed. There aren’t injuries.

There are no injuries.

Not then.


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Reflections on the resignation of a man who writes in a newspaper from a political party: a personal response






































Yeah, they’re screwed but what does it mean for Ed Miliband?

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Review-Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Christmas

Like many parents at this time of year I read my children Christmas books. Tonight’s choice from my youngest was Mr Christmas, a late addition to the Roger Hargreaves Mr Men series.

When it comes to the Mr Men I am a traditionalist. I read the stories to my children doing an Arthur Lowe impersonation. I prefer the morality tales of the first twenty or so books, where a small character is sadly afflicted by the curse of nominative determinism (Happy, Greedy, Uppity, Messy, Tickle) and over the course of the story encounters something that impacts on that characteristic. In the ideal Mr Men story the characteristic is remedied and the nominative determinism that has tainted the life of the Mr Man is thrown off demonstrating the importance of free will to pre school children. In much the same way that The Bill went off the rails when the show started concentrating on the personal lives of the characters, things all went wrong when the Mr Men started making guest appearances in other Mr Men’s books. At times the guest appearance involved the Mr Man having resumed the character flaw from his eponymous tome. What sort of message is that to send to children?

Now Mr Christmas is a late entry to the series. Illustrated by Adam Hargreaves it shows little sign of the classic Roger Hargreaves formula. In it Mr Christmas, who lives at the South Pole and has a penguin as a postman, is invited by Father Christmas to deliver presents to the Mr Men because there are so many of them Father Christmas can’t make it round all of them without help. This confuses the small child. There are lots of children in their nursery or school. More, in fact, than there are Mr Men. But Father Christmas can’t handle the pressure of delivering to the forty odd Mr Men. He needs to contract out his work, in a manner which fails to satisfy basic requirements of public procurement legislation. This creates unnecessary panic in the child that Christmas may not be delivered, due to pressure of work.

More confusing though is Father Christmas’s relationship to Mr Christmas. He is referred to, throughout, as Mr Christmas’s uncle. Given the shared surname it may be thought by the casual reader that Father Christmas is his paternal uncle. However, Mr Christmas’s mother may be Father Christmas’s sister, and be a single parent, or in a relationship but has retained her own name, or may have reasserted her name following a relationship breakdown. I have discounted the possibility that an Icelandic system of surname allocation is adopted (with “mas” meaning son) given the later Little Miss Christmas. On this important question of the relationship between Father and Mr Christmas the book is sadly silent.

Contemplation of the blood relationship between Father and Mr Christmas does lead one down some difficult paths. We are aware from earlier books, Mr Small and Mr Silly being two classic illustrations, that Mr Men and humans co-exist in the world. However, the prospect of inter species breeding, creating some sort of Gallifrey worrying hybrid, is not raised in other books. Mr Christmas though hints at the issue. Father Christmas is a big bloke, beard, hat, the usual stuff. Mr Christmas is a Mr Man. Now, whether maternal or paternal uncle the physical appearance of Father Christmas this suggests that, unless the parents of Mr Christmas have adopted a Mr Man and a Little Miss, there is cross breeding. The matter of fact way in which this is presented in the text is commendable, but does little to assist the parental reader in addressing the inevitable questions asked.

Cumulatively I feel these factors impact on my rating of the book so two stars.


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Analysis of the political debate

Let us be clear on this: any observer will note that everyone seems certain. Whether you are of the view that something or nothing must be done the position taken is certain. There are some who with certainty say that something must be done.  And as this is something we must do it.  And there are others who say with certainty that this is wrong and that nothing should be done, or that while something should be done the something that is proposed is not desirable and that other things should be done, although the nature of those other things is such that in effect they are things that amount to nothing. And those who argue that nothing (or a collection of things that are something but in effect amount to nothing) must be done say, with certainty, that those who are in favour of doing something have not thought about the consequences of doing something, and that doing something will mean that a much worse thing will happen. And those who argue that something must be done point out, with certainty, that doing nothing has consequences too, because doing nothing is the omission of doing something and that the consequences of failing to do something (or doing things that in effect amount to doing nothing) will mean that a much worse thing than the something they propose will happen. The difficulty in comprehending how to proceed is not helped by the fact that the main person who wants to do something always seems to want to do something. Indeed, two years ago he wanted to do something that was directly contradictory to the thing he wants to do now – but at the time it was a thing that could be done, and so he would have been prepared to do it. Because it would have been something. However, he is now glad that he did not do something then, because if he had done something then it would have meant that something worse might have happened now, and that is an even worse thing than the thing that happened because he did nothing.  Now this might seem to make things easier, but the person who wants to do nothing is pretending that he would be happy to do something if the thing that could be done did not actually amount to anything by setting a series of conditions as to things that he knows are impossible to attain, and consequently amount to nothing. Every observer knows that he always wants to do nothing, and so arguing that he has carefully considered the position and concluded that doing nothing is the answer sits awkwardly with his never wanting to do something, meaning that the things he has said he has considered before deciding that he should not do something but should instead do nothing might actually not have been things at all, and were in fact nothing.

In conclusion if, like me, you are someone who thinks that sometimes you should do something, but that sometimes you should do nothing you fall into an undesirable position of uncertainty which means that your views count for nothing, or something – depending on who you talk to.

I hope that has cleared things up.

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an open telegram to people who write open letters in The Guardian

Stop Stop

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on hearing incidental music in a news segment on a radio news programme

We need a montage on the news.

Let music sweep

Survivors weep

And experts share their views.

Let us skilfully juxtapose

The soaring tones

With victims’ moans –

Let editors impose.

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What the terrorists don’t want

What the terrorists don’t want

is my hot take:

my carefully crafted tweet,

sincerely fake.

Admire how hashtag riddled

I pontificate:

on why my politics is right

and why those others are talking shite.

And you will see

what this tragedy

means really

for me,

for me.

For me.

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The first named British storm – live blog

16.16 – still windy. and wet.

16.10 – the rain is so hard it has set off all the car alarms in the street making a sound like an orchestra of found sounds in an avant garde concerto by an American who spent too long in Paris in his early twenties

16.06 – the trees visible from my bedroom window bend awkwardly in the wind like Jeremy Vine completing a Latin dance move with his much shorter partner on the Strictly.

16.02 – the sky is as grey as the suits worn by Conservative MPs sent to tell a party leader that he or she has lost the confidence of the backbenchers.

15.59 – the lampposts are  swaying like an alcoholic man walking along a road after an evening in a local hostelry.

15.58 – the rain is bouncing off the ground as if it was rain hitting the ground and bouncing.

15.57 – it’s wet and windy, and dark, and wet. And did I mention the wind?

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the news where you are

They sit on the sofa. As he speaks she gazes through him with awestruck attention, nods and smiles to camera as he tells us

– and now a chance to hear the news where you are.

It never is though. With news of crime there is nothing about missing school ties.  It is strangely silent on the trauma caused by the Cheerios running out when all that is left is Weetabix. Amidst the politics the newsreader has no space for the prohibition on living room gymnastics.

– and now the weather.

We look out of the window.

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the shy atheist

in court

he speaks

he swears

(and lies)

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A letter to my solicitor

Dear sir,

I wish to meet with you at the earliest opportunity to instruct some amendments to my will. I would be grateful if you could advise on the implications of disinheritance of children and whether reference to the reasons within the will is valid.

Yours faithfully

E. Malley

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A further letter to my twelve year old son and ten year old daughter


Mother would like a word with you.


Yours etc

E Malley

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A letter to my twelve year old son and my ten year old daughter

Look you two,

I am not saying this whole remote control thing is putting a strain on our relationship but if you don’t tell me where you have hidden it right now I am afraid I am going to have to go public on this in a clickbait column in a newspaper.

yours faithfully

Ernest Malley, esq

(your father)

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A letter to my ten year old daughter


he says you had the remote control last and it is not down the side of the sofa and I am not watching this rubbish any longer. Now where is it?



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A letter to my twelve year old son

how do?

Where the fuck have you put the remote control?



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