Aside

Defending Democracy


The Labour Party is a great party, it has achieved so much and has been the vanguard of democracy both at home and abroad, indeed, while in government, the Labour Party has sent our young people in to military action in defence of democracy. Given this, one would imagine, no! One would expect, the Labour Party to fiercely defend the democratic process internally as strongly as it does externally, after all if it is a principle for which good people have died in order to protect! Unfortunately, however, this is clearly not the case for many of our elected representatives in Parliament.

The current crisis in the Labour Party flies in the face of democracy.  Corbyn supporters will argue, with some justification, that he (Jeremy Corbyn) has a true democratic mandate to lead the Party. After all, Corbyn received some 60% of the vote of ordinary members in last year’s leadership election! While Labour Party members rejected the stance of the so called ‘Blairite’ supporters, with the candidate seen as having the closest policies to the Blair government, Leicester West MP Liz Kendal, receiving around 5% of the vote. Yet, in the Parliamentary Labour Party, Corbyn enjoys no such support! Over the past week we have witnessed the resignation of the vast majority of Labour’s front bench and shadow ministerial team in a coup that is not only ripping the Party apart, but, is also frustrating an electorate that desperately need strong political representation more now than it has since the Thatcher years.

The Parliamentary Labour Party acts as an independent section of the Labour Party, above ordinary party members, with an absolute right to decide who their leader should be. Those involved in the coup argue that ‘they’ [Labour MP’s] are answerable, in the first instance, to the electorate, Party 2nd and party membership bringing up the rear. Labour MP’s enjoy a different relationship with the Party membership than do, for example, Labour Councillors who go through a full selection process before each election. MP’s, however, avoid deselection by the membership completely, giving them the prospect of a job for life and a false belief that the membership are not relevant. And here lies a problem! Some Labour MP’s view politics as a career option not the privilege it undoubtedly is. Since the 1990’s it has become much more difficult for someone from the wider community to get on the list of perspective Labour MP’s let alone selected for a ‘safe’ seat. The majority of Labour MP’s come through the educational conveyer belt with a great degree but little in the way of experience of life in today’s cutthroat world of work and worklessness. They ‘choose’ a career in politics rather than feel compelled to ‘act’, compelled to stand-up for their communities, to stand-up for their families and for families like their families, creating a disconnect between our elected representatives in Parliament and the electorate they seek to represent. This disconnect is at the very heart of British politics and the party system today, as was evident in the recent Brexit referendum.

Throughout the Country, since the financial crash, people have been sending a message to the political establishment which, until the results of the Brexit referendum, had largely gone unnoticed. In the week since the referendum, however, that message has been received loud and clear! The ‘Leave’ vote resulted in the resignation of the Prime minister, disarray and bitter division in the Conservative Party and a coup in the Labour Party. The Parliamentary Labour Party has used the ‘Leave’ vote as their excuse to remove Corbyn as Leader, through drip-fed resignations and recriminations ranging from support for racism to the manipulation the Labour Party ‘Remain’ policy to ensure a ‘Leave’ vote. Their tactics involve Piling-up the pressure on Corbyn to force his resignation rather than following the Party’s own democratic process by putting-up a candidate, with 51% support from Labour MP’s, in a new leadership election to stand against Corbyn. It beggars belief that a Political party which so strongly defends democracy would ignore the democratic process when they feel it is a threat to their ‘jobs’! Democracy isn’t something you can use or reject when it suits, it is a fundamental principle that has been hard fought and defended with the blood of heros!

If the Labour Party are to become relevant again then ‘they’ would do better than to manufacture crisis after crisis and brief against each other at the first hint of a journalists pen! They need to understand that their actions are being viewed as a self-indulgence they can ill afford! A couple of questions I was asked on Thursday night is typical of the way in which the Labour Party is seen by the wider public…

“If Labour MP’s don’t want to follow their own rules, how can we trust them to represent us?”

“If they [Labour MP’s] can’t sort themselves out what hope do we have in them sorting out the mess the Country is in now?”

I could offer no answer!

JSB

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Aside

Pain really is a pain (Re-Post)


Pain is a pain, we all know that; I know that as an irrefutable fact.

I get nervous when writing about myself; about ‘cronic-pain’ and depression, Myoclonic-jerks and falls, its personal… very personal and you can’t be sure who the audience is, who am I trying to reach; are you interested in the trials of life of a middle-aged, slightly shy male?

Pain is a pain, we all know that! It’s said that all of us will suffer back-pain sometime in our lives; if you haven’t had it yet then you’ve probably got it to come. Our hope is, that, it comes and goes in the blink of an eye, the truth is, when pain comes, it will linger for sometime and cause lost moments of living not to mention days off work.

Pain is a pain, we all know that! It’s not a pleasant thought, but, take heart in the knowledge that you may never have another episode again in your life! Unfortunately some will have repeat episodes which could go on to become cronic-pain.

Pain is a pain, In my case, it started with neck-pain and sotmach-pain, followed a month or two later,  with back-pain. That was about 18 years ago and little has changed, despite medical interventions, and, so-called, cures. Little has changed, except my state of mind!

I’ve now been offered a choice: nerve-block jabs in the spine, which was less than successful on the 3 previous occasions; spinal fusion to ‘help the pain in the leg’ or accept that today is the best it will ever be!

I had an operation before, with high hopes of success, it failed!

Pain is a pain, we all know that; 3 years ago, I was sent to a consultant regarding issues in the thoracic area… ‘It’s muscular, but, I will send you for a scan because your GP has asked for one!’ So I go for a an MRI and await the results. Some two years later and yet another consultant, looking into an unrelated issue, tells me the results. It turns out the first consultant hadn’t reviewed the scan; the very same consultant now offering, yet another, operation???

Pain is a pain, we all know that! But how far do you go to get rid of it?

JSB

Aside

Response to Paul Mason, Guardian June 25th 2016


​This is a really good article from Paul Mason, however, it does suppose that the Labour Party is populated by principled politicians, who represents the wider community. This is not, in my experience, the case!

The Labour Party has embraced the notion of career politics and have encouraged people to stand for office, both at a local and national level, for nothing more than quedos, or status.

Our political representatives should reflect wider society and accept that to be elected is a privilege not a career choice and that personal status is a barrier to true democratic representation. We need our representatives to reflect our communities, to have experienced real life not merely read about it in some obscure Oxbridge reference book!

This is a good article but the call for a new left alliance, led by the Labour Party, is doomed to failure. Labour has lost its influence in our former industrial heartlands, people don’t just feel let down by Labour, they feel abandoned by them! So, a new left alliance, yes! But one that has, at its heart, the people who have been worse hit by the lack of any meaningful industrial policy and the worst hit by needless austerity!…

http://gu.com/p/4myb2?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook

JSB

Aside

Political Disintegration 


​As I write this post the ramifications of #Brexit and the failure of the ‘remain’ campaign are ripping apart the old political order as coup upon coup unfolds in both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.

At just after 1:30am Jeremy Corbyn sacked his shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, whom, the Observer newspaper claimed, had been phoning around Labour MP’s asking two questions: (1) Should he (Hillary Benn) ask Corbyn to stand down as Labour Party leader and (2) If Corbyn refuses, would other shadow cabinet members join Benn and resign en masse?

I feel they still don’t get the fact that Corbyn was the last hope for the Labour Party, or at least his principles were. While the ‘careerists’ are running around like headless chickens, worried for their own ‘jobs’, the people they purport to represent are overburdened by needless Tory austerity, which many of the ‘careerists’ supported, at least in part, and angry by political misinformation and lies, so very evident throughout the referendum campaign, that they will never trust their political representatives again!

The question shouldn’t be ‘how can we make the Labour Party relevant again?’ It should be ‘how can the left re-engage with abandoned Britain?’ More people these days get their political information from organisations such as #38degrees rather than from a leaflet stuffed through their door in the run-up to an election! The Labour Party reeks of ‘establishment’, the very thing that the public stuck two fingers upto in the #Brexit referendum and the focus of anger throughout western democracies. Everything about the Labour Party is outmoded, even it’s name is irrelevant and harps back to a pre-thatcherite, industrial, Britan that will never return. So now it’s time to put the Party to bed, to work on new alliances and new structures which can adapt to the needs of a 21st century Britan. A positive, progressive, force rooted in the united goals of the left and representative of the dissolutioned and abandoned communities so desperately needing a voice!

(previously posted on Facebook June 26th 2016)
JSB

Richard 3rd; An APOLOGY


So King Richard lll or ‘tricky dickie’, as he is sometimes, affectionately, known as here in Leicester, is confirmed as being the bones in the car park.

The car park, at Gray Friars, is very close to the ‘Shakespeare’ public house, a short distance from the ‘Last Plantagenet’ pub and not too far from King Richard lll road. Later years, the building around the car park housed Leicester City Council Social Services department and is flanked by a considerable number of hostelries and popular bars.

Over a weekend, the area is particularly busy, with young and old partaking in copious amounts of liquid refreshments and all having to relieve themselves of ‘spent’ alcohol, mostly in the appropriate place, some, however, in all to public a  place, such as: doorways, alleyways and the odd car park.

Before I continue, I need to make it absolutely clear that I have not felt the need to relieve myself in such a public manner, on the streets of this wonderful, historic, City of Leicester!

The thought that some unsuspecting persons, let’s say, for the sake of argument, some boisterous history students from the University of Leicester, have, should we say, ‘watered’ the head of the last Plantagenet, is amusing, sad and ever so slightly sick!

Maybe now is the time for these people to search their souls in regret at such an outrageous act of humiliation against a former Monarch of the realm. It is also an appropriate time it for others, such as myself, to review their actions; how many, I wonder, have walked on Richards grave or parked their car on top of ‘Those lovely bones’? Well, it is with huge regret and shame that I, quite possibly, could have done both! (although, I can promise you, I have never danced in any part of Gray Friars car park!).

In the spirit of this momentous occasion, I would like to offer an apology to the family and friends of King Richard III for my indiscretions, in my defence I would just say that I did not notice the large ‘R’ inscribed in paint on the tarmac directly above Richard’s grave, the significance of which was, in hindsight, fairly obvious.

JSB

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The Strangler Figs


Popped along to The Musician on Friday (28th Feb 2014), one of Leicester’s premier live music venues offering new acts as well as established ones, a chance of getting down close and personal, with a knowledgable and appreciative audience. I went along with one purpose in mind, to find out more about a local band… The Strangler Figs.

I had previously heard them at The Exchange  in Leicester, at an event designed to give talent, both new and old, a chance of playing to a substantial crowd at this years Western Park Music Festival. There were some good acts on that night, I had gone to support Sam Bradshaw, a solo experimental guitarist I had come to know. Sam was at his provocative best and well worth seeing. Sam, along with Becky, a great soloist, made it a really good night.

I had been sat by a group of young lads who appeared a little nervous. When asked, they told me they were the first ‘band’ on that evening and that their name was ‘The Strangler Figs’.

The Strangler Figs are a five piece outfit from Leicester, Hinckley and a smattering of Wigan. They are brothers Joe and Freddie Pickering on guitar/vocals and keyboard respectively, Joel Hanson on double bass James Lyons on drums and Rosie Price on backing vocals. they told me they were once asked if they were a ‘Stranglers’ tribute band. Well I can tell you with certainty they are not!

Moments before their gig I passed two of the band members of the stairs, they looked a little concerned, which made me wonder if they would get up and play. I need not have been concerned.

They took to the stage amid mutterings of… ‘look at the size of that double bass’ (True, the double bass did look huge! huge enough to make a cello look like a fiddle.) As they tuned-up and began their set, it was clear, any nervousness was channelled right back into their music; enough to be edgy, enough to be different.

The Strangler Figs set started with a cover of The Pixies ‘Where is My Mind’, which they owned, and included a memorable  rendition of Jungle Books ‘King of the Swing’ which demonstrated both their expertise and their sense of humour. After a couple of their own numbers the set was, all too soon, over.

They left the stage as true professionals and true to the principle of ‘leave them wanting more’. I wanted more, hence popping in to The Musician on Friday… and I’m very glad I did!

You can see The Strangler Figs at The Donkey on Wed 5th March

STOP PRESS: Strangler Figs to play at Simon Says 2014

Video courtesy of DemonFM:

JSB

Aside

TheGuyWithaStick


Over the next few weeks this  blog site is changing.

all blogs and reviews in one place with a new name… TheGuyWithaStick

The @johnsblackmore twitter account will continue and a new account @theguywidastic will be added.

TheGuyWithaStick will link the blog spot, facebook, twitter and Paper.li and make it easier to get involved. We will, of course, continue to contribute content to external sites.

If you have a music/arts/film review you would like us to post, please get in touch.

We hope you like the changes.

Warming the cockles of my heart


Sunny day in Leicester, great to feel the warmth easing the aches and pains, ready for them to kick the crap out of me tomorrow, not doubt.

People suffering with cronic-pain will tell you just how so very frustrating life can be. It’s difficult for a non-sufferer to understand, how this daily trial that we call life, is for those in the know. You see, you cant see pain! Oh! Yes! You can see the ‘effects’ of pain written on the face of every sufferer. It may be that you don’t see someone for months, well, that’s usually because they been having a crap time of it lately.

I sometimes wonder whether its just sufferers and physicists that understand. I say ‘physicists’ because if you can comprehend black holes and dark matter or quarks and neutrinos, then, surely, you can comprehend neurons firing pain throughout your body, or should that be misfiring? If physicists do understand just what pain sufferers are going through, on a day-to-day basis, then, they will be members of a very small club indeed. for, it seems beyond the understanding of many in the medical profession.

I have been suffering from constant cronic-pain for some 18 years now, and, bit by bit, it seems to take just that little bit more of me. The most recent acquisition has been my mind.

Sometime back, and as a result of cronic-pain, I developed depression followed by ‘jerks’, you’ve all had them, you know, you are sitting watching your favourite show, when, out of nowhere, you arm shoots out or you kick the coffee table for no reason, well I developed a more severe form of the same. It was quite amusing at times and most frustrating at others; they are called Myoclonic-jerks.

Sometimes, Myoclonic-jerks become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more you try not to focus on them the worse they become. In my case, they led to ‘seizure’ like episodes which, eventually, led to a week in hospital, so high on medication that I was bouncing off the walls!!!

Now, Just to be clear, I am not seeking your sympathy, far from it, there are many people who wish they had my problems! No! i’m not seeking your sympathy, I merely seek your understanding!

Imagine you have a tooth abses, the pain is all-encompassing, it’s shooting through your face, into your head and through your neck. Now imagine that pain, running, like Usain Bolt, down your body and through your legs… now smile!

‘Chin-up!’, ‘you look as though you have the weight of the World on your shoulders!’ ‘never mind, things can only get better!’

Things can only get better, um! today, I may well agree! Tomorrow? Well, we’ll see!

JSB

Aside

DOMOCRACY’S REVIVAL?


Since the British Government lost the vote in Parliament for military intervention in Syria, we have seen Conservative MPs, bloggers and television pundits tell who ever would listen, that the Leader of the Labour opposition, Ed Miliband MP, has lost the UK influence on the World stage and in particular, with the US President Barack Obama. Those decriers of Parliaments refusal to intervene with bombs in Syria, appear to brush over the fact that 30 Conservative and 14 Lib-Dem MPs either voted against their own Government or didn’t bother turning-up at all!!! Yet, they say, it’s all Ed Miliband’s fault even though the Labour amendment did not rule-out the use of force but called for time to obtain and review All the evidence, including that from the UN weapons inspectors.

Ed Miliband, they say, was ‘playing politics’ with the National interest , yet, David Cameron’s Conservative led coalition Government could, have accepted the Labour amendment (especially since Cameron must have known the numbers just weren’t there for him) and still had their military intervention. We must assume, then, that it was not in Cameron’s or Clegg’s Political interest; it would appear that Cameron’s Conservatives and Clegg’s Lib-Dems would rather lose a crucial Parliamentary vote than be seen to be supporting Ed Miliband’s Labour Party! So, we should ask ‘who is playing politics with the National interest? Parliaments refusal to accept military intervention in Syria was not an embarrassment to Britain but an example of democracy at its glorious best!

Members of Parliament have been much maligned over the years, particularly since the Iraq war. Voters on both sides of the pond, have an innate distrust of all politicians irrespective of party and with some justification. The evidence to go to war against Iraq was fundamentally flawed and the vote for the war by the British Parliament was seen as a forgone conclusion, even though an estimated 2 million people took part in marches against the war. The then Prime Minster, Tony Blair, made it clear that he could go to war without Parliamentary approval. MPs, presumably, felt that Parliament would be weakened if they voted against. Whatever the reasons, the majority of MPs voted to go to war and public distrust for their elected representatives resulted. Thursdays vote has helped to give back a little of that trust.

On Saturday 31st August President Obama argued for accountability of the Office of President and his decision to take military action against Syria. In what was a historic speech, Barack Obama informed the World of his decision to take military action and, crucially, to get authority to do so from Congress. Congress will now debate the issue when they return on Monday 9th September.

The US needs legitimacy for military action against Syria. If an international coalition could have been formed that would be all the legitimacy required (‘we are not alone in the need to take action’ etc.) but when your “closest ally” will not join the action and the UN route is ruled out, the President has no alternative but to look inward and seek legitimacy from Congress, with all the uncertainties that brings, it’s a brave move indeed! Having said that, it does show that President Obama is a democrat and not the evil despot some would have the World believe. Obama’s position is clear, he believes, truly believes, that military intervention in Syria to stop Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons is absolutely necessary, however, he accepts that others may not agree. A despot would go ahead anyway, a democrat would open it to debate and a vote. The democratic route could back-fire on Obama but its a chance he’s prepared to take. What happens if Congress votes against military action is unsure. Will Obama go ahead anyway? We’ll wait and see; the sure thing is that he will be a very busy person for the next week or so.

So, now that the UK and the USA governments have discovered a greater version of the democratic process, perhaps they will use their collective energies to encouraging other Governments to trust elected representatives in the decision-making process and find some other activity for their trigger-fingers, at least for now!