20 October 2016


When I was young, I always had this vision
Of me, in my old age, sitting in a cottage garden,
At a rickety wooden table, wife and children by my side,
And dogs running around the lawn.

As it turns out, I don’t much care for dogs,
Only for cats and people.

That cottage never materialised either,
But the children and the wife did,
Even though, at times, they seemed an impossibility,
And even though I am not now that kindly patriarch
The stories, and my father, told me I should and would be.

It’s best that way.

Just imagine what I would never have learned
If I was always the strongest,
If mine was always the last word,
If women were not equal or more in my world,
If everyone looked up to me rather than just at me.

Just imagine what I would have missed
If we had never shouted or cried or laughed together,
If we had never agreed and never agreed to differ,
And never chosen our own ways and roads,
Our own ideas and consequences,
If we had never been brave enough to lead our own lives.

That cottage would have been a boring place indeed,
A prison and a gravestone,
But never a milestone on the long journey we all should travel.

So I’m glad you’re there,
And I’m here,
Glad you’re at the beginning
While I’m still in the middle,
Finding my way just as much as you are.

R, 17/10/2016
For Charlotte on her birthday.

20 September 2016


I thought second time round would be easier.
I was wrong.
It’s like having a part of me ripped away
With nothing to replace it.
It’s only temporary, of course,
And life moves on
In its inevitable way,
Bringing with it old age and regret.
Those were the minutes we should have
Held dearest, the memories
We should have written down
As soon as their storm had settled.
But we were too tired.
And now we are too awake
Inside the emptiness
That is this four-dimensional vacuum.

R, 20/09/2016

3 September 2016

I Reject

I reject that autumn starts on the first of September.

I reject that organised religion is faith.

I reject that faith engenders violence.

I reject that one faith is greater than another.

I reject that faith and science are mutually exclusive.

I reject that one country is greater than another.

I reject that humans are basically bad.

I reject that war is inevitable.

I reject that peace is impossible.

I reject that those who seek peace are appeasers.

I reject that those who oppose war are cowards.

I reject that austerity is a sound economic principle.

I reject that the poor should pay for the crimes of the rich.

I reject that immigration should be limited.

I reject that there is any difference between races.

I reject that there is any difference between individuals.

I reject that the EU referendum was anything but advisory.

I reject that the sword is mightier than the pen.

I reject that love is nothing more than chemistry.

I reject hate.

I reject evil.

12 July 2016

Politics, mandates, and real life

It's been a while. In real life, anyway. In politics, not so.

We're due to have a new Prime Minister on 13th July, some time in the evening, a Prime Minister without a mandate from her own party, never mind from the country. I said the same thing at the time Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair (and so did Theresa May, actually). It brings the country to the brink of being a one-party state. She didn't say that today, mainly because she'll be the leader of that party, the totalitarian leader, in fact. All heil, Theresa.

And we've had almost three weeks to reflect on a referendum won by lies. I was going to say subterfuge, but that's too mild a word. And by a process that went against the process by which democratic referenda are managed. No minimum turnout threshold, no two thirds majority. That's because the law which enshrined the referendum didn't set any such parameters, and the absence of any such parameters made it only advisory. If it had been intended to be a conclusive vote, the law which allowed the referendum would have said so.

Those who say I am writing this with sour grapes between my teeth and in my gullet I say this: had the law set the appropriate parameters, had the law said that the referendum was binding, I would not be arguing against the legality of it; I would merely be pointing out that it was won on falsity, and that it played upon the mistaken belief by many people that it would take immediate effect. It has not taken immediate effect; it is not legally binding, and it never was.

Leaving aside for one moment the lies peddled by racists such as Nigel Farage and his merry band of foreigner and LGBTQ-hating rich chums, leaving aside for a minute the biggest lie of all, that the NHS would benefit immediately to the tune of £350 million a week, spread by the liberals (ha!) on the right wing of the Tory party, leaving all that aside, I am looking at a landscape of devastated generations. And I don't just mean future generations, not just your children and mine, and their children, and their children's children. I'm looking at people older than me, those who have relied until now on charities and grantmakers (what's known as the Third Sector) to maintain or improve their quality of life - because state support has been gone for some years.

Many charities have investments, investments that have fallen rapidly and devastatingly since 24th June. A fall in the value of those investments brings with it a fall in the return on those investments, in other words a fall in the money charities generate. This in turn means that many charities now immediately have less disposable income, less money to hand out, less money to give to the people who most need it (and there are lots of those, especially with the austerity measures imposed by the party which Theresa May will now, unelected, lead). This means that real life, for old people, for those in poverty, for those most in need, is actually already worse, never mind if the UK Parliament's sovereignty is impinged upon and the decision of the advisory referendum is actually implemented.

That's what this all means.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected by the membership of the Labour Party last year, to be the leader of the Labour Party. This was not an advisory election; the rules of Labour leadership elections clearly make such an election binding. He polled over 59% of the vote. A clear mandate, in anyone's eyes, by anyone's measures. And yet someone, somewhere, decided that this wasn't good enough, that he wasn't fit to be leader. Why? Probably because he presented them with some unpalatable truths; like the truth that wars aren't worth fighting, that Blair was wrong to send the UK to war with Iraq, that politics should be conducted in a fair and respectful way, that it's better to be in opposition with principles intact than to be in power with almost the same policies as the Nasty Party. So many MPs in the Labour Party, crazy for personal power no doubt, decided they would try to throw him out, tried even to amend the crystal-clear rules of the leadership contest process so that he wouldn't even be on the ballot paper. They have failed, thankfully, and a proper leadership contest will now take place.

But why is a leadership election even necessary ten months after the last one? Why does the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) think Corbyn is unelectable? Is it because he will ask for Blair to be indicted as a war criminal? Definitely. Is it because he is a man of principle? Probably. Is it because he thinks about real life rather than the rarefied atmosphere of Westminster politics? Very probably. Is it because he is, actually, very electable, and that the Labour Party stands a good chance of being elected, but on a platform that is somewhat to the left of the party that was elected in 1997? Definitely. There is the decayed scent of personal profit about the actions of the PLP and all those who sail in her. That's sad. And despicable. Because that makes those people no better than the hyenas in the Tory Party.

Naturally, if the national membership of the Labour Party vote against Corbyn, even by 50.1% to 49.9%, I'll not argue with that. And why? Because such a leadership election is binding. Because party politics is cyclical, and those cycles often even themselves out. Unlike the referendum, where futures upon futures will be blighted by a non-binding and advisory vote by people who didn't understand what they were voting for, because none of the liars on the Leave side told them it would tear the fabric of the country apart, and that real life, for those of us who do not live in ivory towers shored up by bags of coin, would get worse and worse, not better. That's why.

27 June 2016

We Are The World


They say a week is a long time in politics. One minute is a long time in world economics. Within a minute of the result of the EU referendum result becoming a certainty, the pound plummeted on the stock exchanges of the world, and is still in freefall as I write. Many people think this is an irrelevance because they don’t realise that the pound, in a world of many currencies, is central to the UK’s economic survival, if there is in fact still a United Kingdom.


Not only will this fall result in an immediate rise in petrol prices for everyone, with its knock-on effect on food and transportation prices, it will undermine any efforts to reduce the UK’s trade deficit and lead to increased austerity. The pound, and with it the UK’s standing in the world is already much reduced compared to what it was before voters went to the polling booths last Thursday, their ears full of the lies and confusion sown by the Leave campaign.


The week before last, I went to a wedding in Norway, which, despite not being in the EU, is a part of the Single Market, with freedom of movement and adherence to EU law. Those at the wedding were of all persuasions and nationalities, because what better way is there to celebrate real love than with multi-national and multi-orientation friends? It appears this was a last moment of multicultural innocence before the world changed.


And politics? What about politics? While the economy and the nation shatter more quickly than you can say current account deficit, politics, despite appearances to the contrary, is actually in stasis. The parties may be in turmoil, but no-one, not a single politician has actually put his or head over the parapet and taken charge of the situation. Not the Prime Minister, not the Chancellor, not the Leader of the Opposition (and it pains me to say that), nor those swaggering men of the Leave campaign who promised to the millions of confused and disenfranchised that the world would change for the better on Friday morning if the referendum would won.


What they didn’t explain, of course, was that their campaign was based on lies, something they only admitted in public on Friday morning whilst at the same time hailing that day as Independence Day (independence from whom? From the UK itself which sets EU laws in consensus with the other member states, from the duped British electorate?). By the time they were calling Leavers bitter, by the time the first racial abuses and attacks had happened and been glossed over without the government even condemning them, it became apparent that the referendum had not been an exercise in true democracy, but a simple power play for those wanting to take the power of the prime ministership for themselves (and for a more complex and ironic representation of them have a careful read of my rewriting of Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and The Carpenter).


And here’s the rub – the referendum is only advisory. The legislation which set out the terms of the referendum, which allowed it to be called, makes it clear that any outcome of the referendum only becomes legally binding if voted into law by Parliament, a vote into law which has to be ratified by the local parliaments in Scotland, Wales and England. Further, any withdrawal from the EU has to be legally effected by the formal triggering, in writing or express public statement, by the government of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. And with the government now rudderless, Article 50 may well never be triggered. This is why I have started a petition calling on Parliament to exercise its constitutional right not to pass the referendum into law, a petition which uk.gov has not yet made public, but which you can support here.


Britain, once considered by many the cradle of democracy and tolerance, is now nothing but a laughing stock to the rest of the world, a nation of bitter people, isolated, marginalised, a hotbed of racism and intolerance. And that’s sad. We are all people, the billions of us who share this fragile planet, this beautiful blue oasis in the darkness of the immediate universe. We are the world, and we are doing our best to destroy it and ourselves.