What’s The Past Got to Do With It? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

According to Theresa May, and much of the broadcast and print media that support her, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have in the last three weeks or so (through the policies they have announced and the much discussed leaked and actual Manifesto) ‘taken us back 40 years’ to the 1970’s. As many people have pointed out there was much about the seventies to applaud. In addition to many cultural references on which there will likely be much difference of opinion #GreatThingsFromThe1970s has prompted much political discussion. Here are just a few I found:

Nationalised transport. Bus fare was 5p, then 9p, then privatised and went up to 32p almost overnight #GreatThingsFromThe1970s

We had secure jobs + free education. Our NHS was in good shape. Work life balance was much better.We could breathe #GreatThingsFromThe1970s

#GreatThingsFromThe1970s Universities were places of learning and research not simply businesses

#GreatThingsFromThe1970s People could afford houses. People looked forward to careers not the gig market

Given that the focus of Labour’s policies is on making things better for the 95%, not least in terms of our health, education, security and income, the critique is clearly yet another attempt to smear and to scare. Not everyone is taken in. See for example this series of letters in The Guardian – ‘Finally, a Labour Manifesto to Really Get Behind’ – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/11/finally-a-labour-manifesto-to-really-get-behind. Just a couple of snippets, do read the letters in full:

. . . .predicable claims from the right that Jeremy Corbyn wants to take the country back to the 1970s, forgetting to mention that this was a time when corporations and high earners contributed a fairer share to the public purse and we had a functioning welfare state and regulated public utilities providing essential services.

For traditional Labour voters like me – someone who has not voted Labour since the Iraq war – this suddenly sounds like why I joined the Labour party, became a Labour councillor and voted Labour in the first place.

And although the BBC manages daily to find anti-Corbyn, lifelong Labour voters lamenting the fact that they can’t vote Labour anymore, there is much evidence on social media of longtime Tories turning left and others who have never voted before being energised by what Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are offering.

The criticism of Labour as taking us backwards is ironic from a Prime Minister and a party that has a record of doing just this both in terms of attitudes and actions. It was after all Margaret Thatcher (PM 1979-1990) and her government who wanted us to return to ‘Victorian Values’ (a time notorious for poverty, disease, domestic abuse and other hugely significant inequalities). Thatcher’s legacy continues in that there remains a powerful misconception that the ‘have nots’ are to blame for their own misfortunes and that there are those that ‘deserve’ help and those that do not. Thus, the blame lies with the individual and not the unjust society in which they/we live. And the woman who would continue as Prime Minister for another five years, and who assures us that only under her is the country safe, herself has attitudes that many would consider outdated, divisive and cruel (from her support of grammar schools to fox hunting), and furthermore presides over a government with a sorry record. An example or two. First,in terms of health and illness:

Second, the economy (unbelievably an area the Conservatives claim as a particular strength of theirs):

And so:

With all of this in mind. Read the Labour Party Manifesto at:


OR view the policies in brief here (provided by Eoin Clarke @LabourEoin)

If all of this is indeed ‘taking us back’ to the 1970’s: BRING IT ON for what we need right now is change.

Changes David Bowie (released 1971) https://www.google.ca/search?q=Youtube+Changes+Bowie&oq=Youtube+Changes+Bowie&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.12097j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Perhaps I’ll pass on the yellow loons this time around though.

SO: What’s History Got to Do With It?

Answer: A LOT

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

We Need To Talk About: A Financial Transaction Tax

“We bailed out the City 10 years ago when the crash came, we poured hundreds of billions of pounds into it. Since then £100bn has been given out in bonuses in the City. So we are asking for a small contribution…to fund our public services.” – John McDonnell MP

Image result for "corbyn hood" tax

Last night, Labour announced one of their keynote policies ahead of the 2017 General Election. A financial transaction tax on the City of London. Time for a blog to outline just what in the name of Jim it actually is and what it’s supposed to do.

A Financial Transaction Tax, also known as a “Robin Hood” tax or a Tobin Tax – after one of its early proponents – is essentially a form of stamp duty on the purchase of stocks, shares, currency exchange and derivatives based on them. Every time you buy one of these applicable items or services, you pay a small tax on it. Often on the order of 1% or less of the value of the stock or share. If you later sell it, the person who buys it from you pays the tax again but there is no further payment should you simply hold on to it.

This policy is being largely sold on the basis that it could raise a substantial amount of revenue for the UK Treasury. Estimates are that Labour’s scheme of a 0.5% FTT could bring in up to £5.6 billion per year (about the equivalent of that brought in by insurance premium tax and all betting and gambling duties combined). There’s another, potentially more important, aspect to a tax like this though and that’s its power to reshape behaviour and the economy of the country.

The history of the idea is solidly rooted in the Keynesian school of economics with Keynes himself being a solid proponent of the tax in the mid-1960’s and with American economist James Tobin bringing it to attention again in the 1970’s as the Bretton Woods monetary arrangement broke down.

When Bretton Woods collapsed the advanced economies, including the UK, started experiencing exchange rate fluctuations between their trading partners. Tobin realised that this would present an opportunity for market speculation to profit from these fluctuations or for speculators to outright attack currencies which tried to maintain stable exchange rates. By taxing this activity at a level which discourages making  these trades, especially those to try to make them rapidly and repeatedly, you can hopefully prevent them destabilising the greater economy.

Through the 1980’s and the Regan/Thatcher this fear would become magnified. The deregulations supported by those administrations coupled with increasing computational power brought in the ability to massively ramp up the frequency of trades. Now, instead of talking about holding on to shares for years or months or even weeks, traders increasingly started looking at holding on to shares for days, or hours, or minutes or even seconds. At this point one is no longer even pretending to invest in a company and hoping to support it as it grows. One is simply gambling on the basis of near-random noise and froth in the system.

And it gets more divorced from reality yet. The 1990’s saw the rise to prominence of the financial derivative market. Where before one would have to actually buy a stock or share in order to sell it for profit, the derivative market opened up something else entirely.

Imagine me buying a share on Monday, waiting for it to go up in value then selling it to you on Friday. Imagine instead I simply said to you “See that share? It’s worth £100 now. On Friday, if it goes up, you pay me the difference. If it goes down, I’ll pay you the difference. Deal?”

This is the wonderful world of the derivatives market in a nutshell.

Of course it gets worse. Maybe your friend sees our deal and says to his friend “Bet you £1,000 that Craig makes a profit on that contract”. And then people can create further deals and bets based on those deals and bets until the amount of money being traded is many, many times larger than the original real share on which the whole rickety pile rests.

Or, as it was so wonderfully outlined in The Big Short:

Today, automation and the derivatives market means that the London foreign exchange industry turns over some £730 billion worth of transactions PER DAY. and automated stock trading can turn over millions of shares every minute with barely any human interaction. The entire industry is now so complex that I doubt that anyone truly understands its complexity or from where the next big flaw or crash could emerge.

What is clear is that with the speed and ease of this kind of trading, those with the cash to splash have ever less incentive to invest in the real economy of actual goods and services. And why would you? Why would you go to all the effort to build a factory, fill it with plant and people and then wait months or years for it to start making money when you can just throw a pile of (someone else’s?) cash into the aether, move it from one pile to another until it magically comes back larger than it started and you make out with a profit in a couple hours tops?

It’s no wonder that there’s a clear correlation between the growth in a country’s financial industry and the drop in productivity elsewhere. This kind of activity crowds out everything around it.


The financial transaction tax hits this kind of business the hardest. You might not notice at all an extra 50p on top of a £100 trade you make once to buy a share that you hold for ten years but you might notice if you were bouncing that £100 trade in and out once per second for a year. It’d cost you £15.8 million to do that. You might decide that investing in that factory suddenly starts to look like a better way to invest your money and we can move some of the UK’s economic activity outside of the Great Attractor that is London.

File:Gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant in purchasing power standard (PPS) in relation to the EU-28 average, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (% of the EU-28 average, EU-28 = 100) RYB2016.png

GDP/capita regional disparity in the EU28+EFTA. Compared to the rest of the EU, Britain isn’t Great. Britain is weird.

Of course it might also mean that you decide to move your gambling operation to another country which doesn’t have an FTT to which many might be just as fine with. This money isn’t part of the productive economy but you can bet as surely as you can that the finance houses which glut themselves with this business and demand ever lower taxes and fewer regulations will be the first to beg for a bailout and protection when the next crash they cause comes around. Maybe we’d like to insulate ourselves from that crash before it happens. Either way, our economy will be better for it.

So yes, I support Labour’s proposed Financial Transaction Tax, as the Green Party of England & Wales and the Scottish Greens have for some time now. It offers a genuine chance to boost revenue and redistribute and rebalance the economy. It’s an exciting idea in an increasingly politically moribund age and I hope it should spark some passionate discussion on the topic. I’ll finish up with the Artist Taxi Driver who is currently doing a good job of infecting us with just that kind of enthusiasm. Let me know what you think in the comments.

You can read more from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green


What Has Gender Got to Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May





Couple of weeks ago I received my copy of a journal which includes an article written by myself and friend and colleague Mike Brennan (Brennan, M. and Letherby, G. (2017) ‘Auto/Biographical Approaches to Researching Death and Bereavement: connections, continuums, contrasts’ for Morality: Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying 22(2)). Our piece is about the interconnection between autobiography and biography in social research focusing on death and bereavement. As such the article contains reference to aspects of each of our personal and professional identities and experiences. Given this we both wrote our biographical notes in the first person. I did not pay much attention to the biographies at the copy-editing stage – ‘silly’ mistake. From the content of my contribution to the article it is obvious that I am a woman (amongst other things I make reference to my experience of miscarriage). Yet, my biography now reads:

Gayle Letherby is currently [job title] and combine (sic) freelance academic activities with other writing and non-academic projects. His academic research and writing interests embrace all things methodological (including feminist, auto/biographical and creative approaches); reproductive and non/parental identities; gender, health and wellbeing; loss and bereavement; travel and transport mobility and working and learning in higher education. His recent publications include . . .

Throughout my career as a sociologist in higher education I, alongside other female colleagues, have experienced regular sexism. I have had my status and titles denied or deleted and my abilities questioned. My late husband (also a sociologist) and I wrote together of our different experiences within the academy (Letherby, G and Shiels, J. (2001) ‘Isn’t he good, but can we take her seriously?’ in Anderson, P. and Williams, J. (eds.) Identity and Difference in Higher Education London: Ashgate). Amongst other things we reflected on the different ways students related to us in that my expertise on many subjects and issues, including feminism, was much more likely to be challenged than John’s (i.e. ‘Can we take her seriously?‘); and although we were both conscientious about and enjoyed the pastoral care aspects of the job John was much more likely to be lauded for this whilst I have have often been criticised for ‘not being available’ when needed (i.e. ‘Isn’t he good‘).

I don’t recount these anecdotes to wallow but rather to provide examples of some of my personal examples of @EverydaySexism. The general acceptance of words and phrases that are derogatory towards women and girls is another example of day-to-day sexism and with this in mind a little while back I published a Blog entry on how the language used in political debate is often sexist. Here is an extract from my piece:

Social media – which I greatly appreciate – both for its challenge to the mainstream media and the opportunity it provides for broad based discussion, debate and education – adds to the problem. I, and I know I am not alone in this, am dismayed by the possibilities it gives for smears and insults, bullying and intimidation; both from named individuals and those who hide behind anonymity/alternative identities.  Indeed, on many occasions the ease of the action seems to inflame the activity. Sadly, it seems that people from all sides of the political debate; both those on the right and on the left, use Twitter and Facebook and so on, to assault those with whom they do not agree. Even those who are not particularly aggressive or personal in their condemnation of a person, political party, policy or news item often resort to chauvinistic abuse; unfortunately supporting the view that these are just normal, everyday, acceptable insults.  With this in mind I groan when people I admire refer to the minister for health as Jeremy *unt and I shudder when those I don’t combine racism, sizeism, ageism with misogyny to describe or lambaste female, and male, politicians and those that support or challenge their approach, actions and ideas. Recently, on my Facebook feed I was more than heavyhearted to see, on a page very supportive of the Labour leadership, a cartoon meme with Jeremy Corbyn holding a banner complete with the words ‘let’s try not being twats’.  When asked why he doesn’t retaliate to the constant barrage of, often extremely personal, attack he receives Corbyn’s response is ‘I’m not going to get in the gutter with anyone’. With this in mind it’s hardly likely that ‘twat’ is part of his vocabulary. As with many other issues, I’m with Corbyn on this. http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.ca/2017/03/mind-your-language-watching-our-ps-qs.html

On Tuesday the 9th May Theresa May and her husband Philip appeared on The One Show on BBC 1. The following has already been much reported:

‘Well, there’s give and take, like in every marriage!’ said Mr May, laughing. ‘I get to decide when I take the bins out – but not if!’

‘There’s boy jobs and girl jobs,’ said Mrs May.

The language used by May is interesting. First: the girl/boy issue. Although, as I wrote in the earlier piece referred to above, reclaiming of language is a good thing, that she used childhood descriptors in referring to herself and her husband is not, I would suggest, ‘sweet’ as a writer in The Telegraph claimed but rather shows a spectacular like of insight from such a powerful woman.  Second: the gendered job issue. Where to start here. To begin we know that in the UK and elsewhere in heterosexual relationships:

Women today spend as much time doing housework as in the 1990s. Men have increased their housework contributions – a nod towards greater gender equality. Yet women still spend twice as much time on housework as men. http://theconversation.com/we-can-we-reduce-gender-inequality-in-housework-heres-how-58130

I sometimes write short fiction including pieces prompted by my research interests. I have for almost 30 years studied and written about the experience of women and men who do and do not have children in terms of both experience and status. This story (also published on ABCtales https://www.abctales.com/user/gletherby) seems relevant here:

Hard Labour

I’ve never worked as hard as I have since I gave up my full-time job to stay home with the twins. Then I worked eight-to-five, an occasional evening and a few hours over the weekend. Now I’m on duty all day and all night.

I’m exhausted.

I couldn’t manage without mum. She comes over every weekday and feeds, bathes or plays with Harry and Ben whilst I catch up with housework and throw a few vegetables and some meat in the slow cooker in an attempt to prepare a supper that doesn’t need three to five minutes in the microwave.

I’m exhausted.

I was once amongst the first to scoff at stay-at-home mothers who moaned about their lot. How hard could it be? I’d planned to get back to my art, pick up where I left off after leaving college, before joining the rat race. I haven’t opened the new brushes I bought in the last months of the pregnancy, my artist’s eye useful only for deciding which primary colours to dress the children in.

I’m exhausted.

The boys’ faces light up when Sam comes home, devaluing my daily grind in a heartbeat. I listen to the stories of deals and mergers, of collaborations and office politics. I nod but I’m uninterested, my own workplace all consuming. I used to enjoy sex. Now I’m grateful there’s somebody else around at night to take a turn with wet bottoms and fractious moments.

I’m exhausted.

Tuesday and Friday I attend mother and toddler group; my lifeline. I was quiet at first, unusual for me. I felt out of place. But the twins are a novelty and there’s always a pair of arms to relieve me of at least one. I’ve made a new friend. Alice too is overwhelmed by the whole experience and never has time to read a book or take a bath. She tells me about her cracked nipples. I wince, grateful for formula feed, and admit to wearing yesterday’s underwear as all the rest are in the washing basket. Conspiratorially we talk of our lives BC (before children) when we were smart, intelligent change-makers in the workplace, efficient in the home and fun outside of it. Before children we were our own people with our own separate identities. Now all our energy, our effort, our conversation, is devoted to our children.

I’m exhausted.

A rare night out. I book the babysitter early so I can wash and dress slowly and alone. The drive is blissful with folk music on the stereo rather than children’s favourites. After parking the car and flicking a bit of what I think might be banana off my jacket I walk to the party. I see Sam talking animatedly with some old friends. We wave. The hostess hands me a drink and introduces me to her neighbour. He smiles and asks the usual icebreaker question; ‘what do you do?’

‘Me, I’m just a househusband,’ I reply.  https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/hard-labour

And, what about households that do not fit into the neat ‘boy/girl’ mix? One response I read on Twitter was by a woman asking May’s advice on who should take out the rubbish, herself or her female partner. And my Twitter response:

‘As a woman who lives alone luckily I have learnt how to ‘take the bins out’ – it was tough!’

In another part of the programme the focus was on Theresa May’s love of shoes and she retold an anecdote that she has shared before about a woman she met in a lift who told her that it was her (May’s) shoes that prompted her to pursue a political career. If true, is this really something a female Prime Minister should be proud of; that her fashion sense and not her personal and political values are what makes her a role model to others?  In a piece of ‘fiction’ I wrote recently about both the pantomime that is Prime Minister’s Questions and the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ type presentation by the Tories, both within and outside of Westminster, I referred to May’s love of clothes. Sadly much of the response to this piece was in terms of criticisms of her appearance which was not my intention. I regret that my piece was not clear or nuanced enough although I stand by my view that the Mrs May needs to think more carefully about her presentation  of self in a society where increasing numbers of people do not have enough money for food and buying new shoes is way down on their list. The best response (in my opinion) to Monday night’s programme was from Cat Smith, previous MP and current Labour candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood ‘Your shoes got me into politics #GE2017’. Her tweet was accompanied by this picture:

A few weeks ago I came across an interesting article posted by the Women Against Tories Facebook page (who now kindly also promote my Blog posts). When searching for the page a list of other Women Against . . . options came up. I found the Women Against Feminism page particularly upsetting. This image is prominent on the site. This poster and other pictures and posts on the page are distressing and insulting in their inaccuracy. They are also disrespectful to the many, many female and male campaigners, activists, teachers, academics and others who have throughout history, and to date, worked tirelessly for gender equality. Many/most such advocates also reflect on how issues other than sex/gender such as ethnicity, age, dis/ability, sexuality are significant and indeed often interact with each other and with gendered difference in terms of in/equality and in/justice.   In my own sociological work on (amongst other things) reproductive and non/parental status and experience; working and learning in higher education; travel and transport; loss and bereavement I have always, alongside other feminist social scientists, considered gendered expectations and experiences. This has included attention to when the gender order works against men and boys; when and how male and female experience intersects as well as a focus on the inequalities that women and girls face (for example Marchank, J. and Letherby, G. (2014) An Introduction to Gender: social science perspectives (revised second edition) London: Routledge).


Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development. Girls and women have made major strides since 1990, but they have not yet gained gender equity. The disadvantages facing women and girls are a major source of inequality. All too often, women and girls are discriminated against in health, education, political representation, labour market, etc. – with negative consequences for development of their capabilities and their freedom of choice. (see The United Nations Human Development Reports for more detail http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-index-gii

A newspaper article written by Ryan Frances in March 2017 highlights some specific issues in the UK. Her analysis considers how gender differences intersect with class, ethnicity and other differences, thus:

That ‘austerity is a feminist issue’ is now a well-used idiom does not mean it’s any less true. Look at the latest gender breakdown of cuts released this month and what’s striking is that nothing’s changing. According to Sarah Champion, the shadow equalities minister, 86% of the burden of austerity has fallen on women since 2010 –a figure that remains entirely static from last year. Inequality is business as usual: by 2020, a decade on from when austerity first began, men will still have borne just 14% of the total burden of ‘welfare’ cuts.

This unequal impact isn’t just contained within the benefit system, but rather spreads to many of the choices the Conservatives are making. NHS and local government cuts of course affect men as well, but as women are a vast chunk of the public sector workforce, they are hurt most when public services are squeezed. Similarly, although it’s rarely talked about in such terms, the crisis in social care is in many ways gendered: it’s largely women who make up home care and agency staff – insecure, low-paid work – while it’s also women who are the bulk of family carers for disabled children and elderly parents. When a council cuts a care package, it’s largely wives, mothers, and daughters doing the unpaid labour to plug the gap…..

Crucially, in the push to acknowledge what’s being done to women in an era of cuts, we have to highlight how race, class, and disability fit into this. By 2020 Asian women in some of the poorest families will be £2,247 worse off. That goes up to £3,996 for black single mothers. White men in some of the richest households, by contrast, are set to lose only £410.  Disabled and chronically ill women – many of whom are carers themselves – face huge and continuing cuts to disability support, from fit-for-work tests to the latest changes to personal independence payments.

By definition, vast cuts to the social security system are going to hurt not the middle classes, but low-income families already struggling. Yet next month’s new round of benefit measures take this even further, in essence targeting poor mothers and their children. The ‘rape test’ for benefits coming into force in April [and since defended as ‘fair’ by Theresa May and other Conservatives *] – part of a crackdown on child tax credit claims for more than two children – is reflective of how low the government has sunk, yet it is part of a string of upcoming policies that independent bodies warn will cost families thousands. The charity Gingerbread says universal credit changes alone will see working single parents lose £800 a year on average by 2020 (90% of single parents are women).  As a new wave of child poverty approaches,  it’s working class mums – scraping by on zero-hours contracts, agency work and benefits – who will be queuing in food banks and opening eviction notices.

For more detail here read this article (complete with embedded video) by Kerry-Anne Mendoza https://www.thecanary.co/2017/04/27/theresa-may-stand-indefensible-comments-rape-video/

With all of this in mind I just can’t take this image seriously:

For some further detail on how the Conservative (Theresa May), Labour (Jeremy Corbyn) and Liberal Democrat (Tim Farron) leaders have voted on issues that specifically affect women see https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/tim-farron-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-voted-womens-issues/. In sum Jeremy Corbyn has voted consistently in favour of women’s reproductive and human rights whereas Tim Farron and Theresa May were much more likely to not vote or vote against issues that benefited women. (NB: the 2015 Amendment making it explicit that gender selective abortion is illegal was aimed at criminalising women and there were concerns of increased ‘back-street’ type terminations).

In my academic work I have written critically about how women are often expected in their professional life to be better than men, work harder than men, in order to ‘get on’ whilst at the same time they are required to demonstrate the caring qualities that are seen as a key part of ‘ideal’ womanhood: ‘the doctor/teacher (see above)/social worker (etc.) was a woman so I expected her to be more understanding, supportive blah, blah, blah’. Yet, I cannot help be so very disappointed that the second female British Prime Minister is as unconcerned with gender (and human and animal rights (note her recent statement that she supports an overturn of the current ban on fox hunting)) issues as was the first. As Debbie Cameron wrote recently:

Conservative women like Thatcher can also exploit the fact that authority itself is positively valued on the political right. As much as he or she may resent being bossed by a woman, your average Tory will take a strong female leader over a weak and ineffectual male one. If she passes their political virility test by being tough enough on their hot-button issues (war, national security, crime and immigration), conservatives may be willing to elevate her to the quasi-mythical status of the ‘Iron Lady’ [as they did with Thatcher].

Despite her record as a hardliner on at least three of the issues mentioned above, Theresa May has not been given the ‘Iron Lady’ title. But it’s no accident that she and her supporters have spent the last two weeks talking incessantly about her ‘strong and stable leadership’. This is simultaneously a dig at her opponent Jeremy Corbyn (who is by implication weak and chaotic), and a message to anyone who might harbour doubts about a woman leader’s strength, determination or resilience. Like Thatcher before her, May is willing to embrace sexist stereotypes, but selectively, to suit her purpose. What she seems to be trying to project in this campaign is a combination of Mummy’s* [maternal power being the only expression of female power acceptable to the right] ruthless protectiveness (she’ll give no quarter when it comes to standing up for her British brood) and the stubborn persistence of the ‘bloody difficult woman’. https://debuk.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/a-very-british-sexism/

*an internal Conservative Party nickname for May and Thatcher before her.

SO: What Has Gender Got to Do With It?
Answer: A LOT

8th June 2017, the day of the General Election, is also the 104th anniversary of the death of Emily Davison Wilding a British suffragette who fought for the right for women to vote. She was arrested nine times and was force fed whilst protested through hunger strikes whilst in prison. On the 4th of June 1913 Davison Wilding stepped in front of King George V’s horse and died from her injuries four days later.

We ALL know what to do.

TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

featured image Gender

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

Back to the good old days…..

Whoever leaked Labours Manifesto probably did them a huge favour, this is what happens when you throw a boomerang, it tends to come back and hit you in the face!

As expected the Tories have been quick to jump on it with the PM saying they will take us back to the 60s and 70s. Well Prime Minister some of us who remember the good old days would rather be there than where you are taking us.

Jeremy Corbyn is obliged to take Brexit forward if he became PM but at least he would seek a ‘soft’ Brexit and would not be so confrontational.

The parameters for Brexit have been laid out as per the rules, if the PM can’t or doesn’t understand those rules she is about to find out the hard way.  This is not about being bullied by the other member states it’s about rules……rules we signed up to. Rules that were made to protect all remaining states.  All this is Britains fault…..we are the ones walking away from the family, in this case we are the ‘separatists’.

Jeremy’s plans have been well accepted and could change the outcome of this Election if and it’s a big iff, he can get the numbers right.  Labours heart is always in the right place but all to often the sums don’t add up.

Oh for the good old days!

featured image Jeremy Corbyn

You can follow Joan McDowall on twitter at @JoanFlitcroft and at her webpage Joan Flitcroft

What Have Love and Hate Got to Do With It? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

I’ve been trying to finish this piece for a few days. After last week’s local elections I wanted to write something hopeful. Despite some good local successes and the analysis suggesting some overall movement in favour of the left at first it was hard. But the more I wrote and thought, and thought and wrote, the more positive I became. This piece, inevitably perhaps, is mixed but bear with me and you’ll see where I’ve got to.

Recently I have begun to think that one of the ways to consider the popularity or not of Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May is by using the analogy of a weather house. As one figure comes out in the sun the other retreats only to emerge when the rain falls.

The polls and much of the mainstream media (MSM) assures us that its Mrs May that bathes in the sunshine and Mr Corbyn who has to duck the downpours and yet a mere glance at the internet suggests a different story. In contrast to images of Theresa May in closed meetings (standing in front of banners that emphasis her rather than the Conservative Party, in a bid to play to her ‘popularity’ and to avoid associations with election fraud and the like, lhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/general-election-2017-theresa-may-tory-fraud-investigation-expenses-scandal-cps-decide-press-charges-a7723501.html) repeating her ‘strong and stable’ mantra there are innumerable images of Jeremy Corbyn in the middle of crowds; talking to children; being hugged, kissed and back-slapped by women and men of all ages, being handed red roses and asked for yet another selfie. An example from yesterday: Corbyn outside the Town Hall in Leamington Spa and May’s ‘team’ in yet another room in Harrow, London; which could have been anywhere as the stage managed outings are all of a muchness.

Whilst Theresa May locks journalists in cupboards, handpicks the questions that she is willing to answer and constantly refers to ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ Jeremy Corbyn speaks of ‘our’, ‘we’ and ‘us’, sympathises and jokes with everyday people (including journalists) and rolls out policy after policy. The leader of the Labour Party has had poems and songs written about him (this one is my favourite: I feel like Jeremy Corbyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NwS1Ebb8-s), people chant his name at indoor and outdoor gatherings and meetings and he is apparently notorious for lingering to talk when he should be on his way to another venue or to catch a train (if this makes him late, it doesn’t matter, people wait).

He is also, as I read yesterday morning, ‘The Most Electable Politician in a Generation’, not least because of:

His record of previous success: not only has he been an MP since 1983, and more recently convincingly won two leadership elections, but has also attracted huge numbers of new members to his party. In July 2016 100,000 new members [including me] joined the Labour Party in just 10 days, the majority of whom doing so in support of Corbyn at a time in which his leadership was under threat.

His character: history has shown that Corbyn has precisely the character that a nation’s leader should have. He has always been highly consistent in his views. He is known, even by those who did not support his leadership bid, as an honest, sincere and decent individual. He has an evident kindness and compassion towards those less fortunate.

AND VERY IMPORTANTLY: His policies: The policies which Corbyn stands for are rarely seriously challenged. There are few negative comments people can make about increasing the minimum wage, renationalising the railways, increasing NHS funding, restoring NHS bursaries, providing free school meals, combating inequalities, building more houses, reversing corporation tax cuts and so on. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/damir-rafi/jeremy-corbyn_b_16470650.html

Not long after campaigning for the General Election began Brendan Cox (husband of the MP Jo Cox who was murdered last June) wrote an article for The Guardian which includes the following:

At the turn of the year I decided the best way to mark the anniversary of Jo’s death would be to give people the opportunity to come together to celebrate all the good things that unite us as a nation. The idea has really taken off and on the weekend of 16-18 June there will be thousands of events all across the country under the banner of The Great Get Together.

The idea is simple: to show the truth behind what Jo said in her maiden speech in parliament, that “we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”. The Great Get Together will now take place just a week after the general election. And I’m convinced that after polling day a collective moment of coming together will be more relevant than ever.

Later in the article Cox adds:

For lots of reasons, this isn’t an election I’m looking forward to. We’ve got a proud tradition in this country of airing our opinions and having our disagreements while at the same time respecting those whose views we do not share. What worries me is that respect for our opponents has become a disposable quality, too easily jettisoned when passions rise. But elections don’t have to widen divisions in society and I desperately hope this one won’t….

…. I hope that, while we must have a robust debate over the next few weeks, we also use the campaign as an opportunity to reach out to people whom we might disagree with and, of course, to drive those peddling hate out to the margins where they belong. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/24/extremism-killed-wife-jo-cox-death-great-get-together

Sadly, Brendan Cox’s wish has not been granted. In mainstream and social media the attacks endemic to personality politics abound. There are of course perpetrators and victims on all sides of the political debate. And yet there is clear bias from much of the MSM in favour of the right and just yesterday we heard that the Green Party has made an official complaint to the BBC concerning coverage of the local elections https://www.thecanary.co/2017/05/08/bbc-hot-water-bias-time-complaint-biggie/. With the Labour Party in mind there is a plethora of examples of key figures, and their supporters, being at the brunt of biased coverage that goes way beyond fair reportage or constructive critique:

While the right-wing press is expected to be harsh on a Labour leader, biased coverage of Corbyn crosses traditional boundaries, infecting centre-left papers as well. The MsM’s seeming contempt for the people’s decision [the twice election of Corbyn by Labour Party members] gives pause to anyone who values democracy, whatever one’s ideological persuasion, whether you agree with Corbyn’s policies or not. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kadira-pethiyagoda/jeremy-corbyn–the-people_b_11048424.html

In addition to writing here I occasionally write pieces for my CLP (Truro and Falmouth) Blog. A piece I wrote last year included:

Several academic studies have highlighted media bias against Jeremy Corbyn, his policies, his shadow cabinet and his supporters (see The Media Reform Coalition 2015; The Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics (LSE) 2016; The Media Reform Coalition and the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck, London 2016).


The LSE report went so far as to argue that in the first two months in his role as leader of the opposition the majority of the press did not act as a ‘critical watchdog’ of Jeremy Corbyn, but rather more often as an antagonistic attackdog’ . . . .

And further:

[A]s the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, reminds us:

It’s not immigration that drives down wages in this country, what drives down wages are globalisation, and predatory employers and employees either not knowing or not having their employment rights.

We need to be careful of that kind of rhetoric, because it’s not helpful…

Yet still the tabloid press regularly publish pieces that draw on the ‘politics of fear’: stereotypes and untruths that negatively label, even demonise immigrants and refugees. http://www.truroandfalmouthlabour.org/seasons_of_goodwill

That the Tories campaign is built on the politics of hate and fear is not in doubt. See for example this analysis suggesting that Theresa May’s election platform is identical to that of the BNP in 2005 http://evolvepolitics.com/ambassador-theresa-may-manifesto-bnp/ Additionally, on the day before the local elections last week we were encouraged by the Prime Minister to trust her, and only her, as the one who could save us from those in Europe who threaten our democracy and are by implication ‘out to get us’. Only she, we were told, is strong enough to protect us from the dangerous ‘other’ (although whether this is through negotiation or the buying and deploying of bombs is a little unclear (both probably)). And lest we forget the strength and stability of the PM (and a party) – who backtracks and u-turns on a regular basis; breaks promise after promise http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/20-promises-tories-broken-being-10371384; and refuses to debate the leader of the opposition in public – on the day of the local elections the Conservatives paid for four-page adverts (although only acknowledged as such in the small print) in many local newspapers to tell us again.

That Jeremy Corbyn offers and alternative is obvious also. His ‘people powered’ approach which involves highlighting the many injustices and inequalities resulting from the ‘rigged’ system within society is clearly terrifying to some. If not why this response to a policy that favours the 95% from The Telegraph (or The Torygraph as it’s also know):

Labour tax to hammer workers on £80,000

As Roger C (@enablerbro1) writes in ‘An open letter to the British public regarding the 2017 general election’:

The ONLY factor that can return the Tories in government after the election on the 8th June 2017 is if the public have swallowed what they’ve been led to believe about the leadership of the opposition from the same media who have been lying about the capability of the Tories in government. The Tories can’t rely on a good record in government. They can’t even rely on a claim that they offer stability or that continuity is what Britain needs right now. The Tories can’t even rely on a charismatic, inspiring and inspired leadership. All the Tories can hope for is that the public are gullible enough to believe that the leader of the opposition is in some way worse than them and the ONLY evidence they have to support that is the testimony of a lying mediahttps://medium.com/brexit-britain/an-open-letter-to-the-british-public-regarding-the-2017-election-3b5f8d85c4ba

Lindsey German, writing for Counterfire, adds to this thus:

It is clear that there are other issues on which people are voting, such as the NHS and education, which Labour has far more popular policies on. However there is a limit to the extent this can be won just on policies, since the Tories are putting forward so few and are trying to make this all about leadership. There is also a limit to seeing elections as being the main way of changing consciousness. We have endured many years of austerity, backed up by right wing ideas from government and the media in terms of migration and scapegoating, and a stress on individual self-advancement, not collective change. There has been a very low level of collective struggle, in particular strikes, at the same time. This leaves working people isolated and open to some right wing arguments. This will not be overcome in weeks or without the struggles which do change people’s ideas.
But we can use the election to begin to alter those ideas. My suggestion for the next month would be, yes, good policies but a much less cautious way of getting them across. Corbyn won two leadership campaigns on the basis of mass campaigning including large public street rallies. These must be a feature of the next four weeks in order to explain what he stands for, to cohere his existing supporters and to build confidence to go out and mobilise. These rallies would also stand in contrast to the invisibility of May’s public campaign. If Jeremy Corbyn is so unpopular, how come hundreds flock to hear him speak and that he is prepared to turn up in public and deal with any criticism face to face? http://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/18934-four-weeks-to-turn-this-around-election-briefing-11

Corbyn made a good start on this yesterday.

At the risk of sounding mawkish (I don’t care) it seems to me that if Theresa May’s Team (i.e. the Conservatives) focuses on hate and fear Jeremy’s Corbyn’s Labour is concerned with love and hope for a better present and future for us all. And yet there are many (including sadly some that call themselves left-wing) that continue to attack him. There are those who write and promote articles with titles such as ‘What should you do if you support Labour but can’t stand Jeremy Corbyn?’ (I refuse to provide the link to this); others who insist that he is ‘a perfectly nice and decent man’ but a ‘useless leader’ and of course the torture of the constant drip, drip, drip  in the press and on the TV by those who tell us Labour can’t win and the Conservatives can’t lose. And yet:

We may each be whispers in a raging storm, but eventually enough whispers can turn into voices, and voices into roars which can create a political movement with the potential to defeat those who desire nothing more than to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. There has never been a more important time to increase our collective roars and cries of genuine peace, justice and equality. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/damir-rafi/jeremy-corbyn_b_16470650.html

Whatever happens in the next few weeks, even if the worst happens (and let us all work every day to try to make sure that it doesn’t), something has changed. Many people, young and older, have become energised in politics in an unprecedented way and social media, if not the MSM, provides us with a wide range of challenge and critique that it seems the mainstream are beginning to fear (https://skwawkbox.org/2017/05/06/skwawkbox-in-the-news-buzzfeed-and-the-alt-left-media/). And for those of us who are talking and writing about all of these issues there is support, camaraderie and shared humour (see this report of Amazon reviews for life size cardboard cut outs of May and Corbyn http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/theresa-may-cardboard-cutout_uk_5908376de4b02655f83ff48f OR look for yourself). Although I am aware of the ‘speaking to the converted’ argument, like others I believe that these shifts are fundamental to our current and for our future collective voice in support of the many rather than merely the few.

What happens when humans hug

As noted earlier, contrary to suggestions otherwise (again largely by the MSM), the election campaigns of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are very, very different. Despite the vicious and often libellous critique of Corbyn by the Tories, much of the media and others the warmth and affection surrounding him is palpable and joyous. A while ago I posted this image (shared via Twitter by Banksy) on my Facebook page and then in a Blog post. Despite the negative discourses that surround us, for me as a Labour Party member and Corbyn supporter, as a campaigner and activist (online and on foot) this represents all that is positive about the left at the moment. The picture remains one of my favourite images of the last few months.

I like this one too:

SO: What Have Love and Hate Got to Do With It?

Answer: A LOT.

TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

Featured image Love N Hate


What’s Auto/Biography (and history and society) Got To Do With It? | TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

In his hugely influential, and still relevant, book – The Sociological Imagination (published in 1959) – the America Sociologist Charles Wright Mills argued: ‘neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both’.  So Mills was interested in the interconnection between (auto)biography, time (history) and place (society). He encouraged sociologists to look at the familiar and to see it afresh; to rethink the ‘things we take for granted’; ‘the things that everybody knows’. Part of this included a focus on the relationship between ‘personal problems’ and ‘public and political issues’ in that what is often presented as a personal responsibility or ‘failing’ is in fact of public and political concern. Just one example from Mills’ analysis:

[C]onsider unemployment. When, in a city of 100,000, only one man (sic*) is unemployed, that is his personal trouble and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed … the correct statement of the problem and the range of possible solutions require us to consider the economic and political institutions of the society, and not merely the personal situation and character of a scatter of individuals. (* forgive the sexist language Mills was writing 58 years ago).

For unemployment we might substitute homelessness, poverty, mental distress and so on. . . . Mills was clear that sociologists had a political responsibility to understand the social world and to try to make it better. In recent years, some within the discipline have attempted to work with Mills’ ideas and vision through a further focus on the relationship between autobiography and biography (Auto/Biography) to further explore people’s life experience. Through research and critical autobiographical reflection this work highlights the relationship between the self (as in I, myself) and the other (those close to us and others less so) whilst at the same time thinking about the auto/biographical with reference to (history) and place (society). The academic (and political) equivalent then of ‘no (wo)man is an island’.

On Saturday the 29th April 2017 Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech that made me reflect on Mills’ writing and on my own auto/biographical sociological imagination. Amongst other things the Leader of the Opposition spoke of his own history within politics and the history of British politics more generally and of past and present inequalities and injustices. Near the beginning of his speech he said (NB this speech in red throughout):

… something hangs in the air. It typically goes unspoken.

It’s the unheard story of why so many of us are scaling back our hopes and dreams in favour of just getting by.

It’s the reason why this country is unable to unleash its potential.

Because as families, communities – entire regions – we are all being held back….

Being held back means we can’t provide the life that we want for ourselves and those closest to us.

And it hurts. It makes people angry and worst of all resigned to the idea that nothing can be done about it. We end up blaming ourselves or each other.

This is life in modern Conservative Britain.

Making reference to his own motivation and history is unusual for Corbyn. As he said: And now for a sentence I’ve yet to utter in my political life. Enough about you, what about me’. Adding:

In the 34-years since I became a MP, I have been attacked for what I believe in. But it has not changed my core values – and sadly many of the problems we faced then are still with us.

In 1983, I stood up in Parliament for the first time and used my maiden speech to condemn deeply damaging cuts in public services and the NHS.

It’s a tragedy that I could make a very similar speech today and it would once again hold true… .

I appreciate Corbyn’s concern to focus on policies and plans but I know I was not the only one (see below for an example) to welcome this inclusion of the personal for it helps to make sense of his vision and puts the record straight with regard to at least a couple of myths. Corbyn who has, and continues to be, the brunt of so much criticism and personal abuse it’s a wonder to many how he manages to stay standing, let alone continue to work tirelessly for others, spoke of the need to challenge leadership. He referred to his willingness to being criticised, when the case is reasoned. Lack of challenge, he suggested, can lead to poor decision making and to arrogance. Thus:

Barely nine months into Theresa May’s premiership, there are clear warning signs that she and her closest advisers are slipping into that presidential bunker mentality.

Which is supported by the increasing evidence that Theresa May (and other members of the Conservative Party) are avoiding, as much as possible, any real engagement with voters:

‘She won’t take part in TV debates and she won’t talk to voters,’ Corbyn said. ‘Refusing to debate Labour in this election isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness. What is she afraid of? Voters deserve to know what political parties are offering.  In response a Conservative source said:  ‘The MP has visited cities, large and small and today she visited a rural community‘… ‘She has been in the three nations of Great Britain since the start of the campaign. In contrast Corbyn today ventured all of two miles from his own house to give a speech about himself. ‘https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/29/theresa-may-campaign-event-in-scottish-forest-prompts-new-claims-she-is-hiding

(See also a short piece I wrote earlier today for more evidence of May’s reluctance to meet the public: http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/elections-taking-it-personally-prequel.html). I feel sure I’m not the only one surprised this spokesperson didn’t choke on their words: given Corbyn’s historical focus on ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘you’; the current focus by him and his team on policy in trips also across England, Scotland and Wales, not to mention that each and every speech and interview which May speaks is dominated with references to ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘I’  In response to the, I would suggest, uncritical self-promotion by May, Corbyn responds thus:

Whereas insecure leaders want to feel stronger by asking you to give them more power.

I recognise strong leadership as equipping you with more power….

We are a party that wants to bring together people and ideas, and harness the thirst for real and lasting change. Watch the speech – It’s Time to Step Up For Britain – in full here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0Cr8CVkdMs

SO as Jeremy Corbyn says: Step up. Register to vote. Claim your future. https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

There has been much positive response to Corbyn’s speech on Saturday. Many were moved and inspired by it. This is an extract from Jeff Goulding’s Blog:

In an epic journey from Trade Union organiser to Labour Councillor and from the backbenches of Parliament to leader of a movement of more than half a million people and growing. Today he finds himself in a position he didn’t ask for and few, himself included, thought he could ever secure.

His rise to prominence and passionate defence of the weak and the disadvantaged has seen him vilified and abused, both personally and politically. In all that he has never wavered not even for a moment. His principles and values remain as strong today as they were forty years ago. Is this not the definition of strong and stable leadership? . . . .

As I write this I am conscious that it is laden with emotion. I have deleted and then retyped sentences, striving to be more analytical, objective and unbiased. But why should I be. I have tears in my eyes as I pen this, precisely because I am moved by the vision set out today by Jeremy Corbyn for the country and for the style of leadership he offers us.

Two years ago today, the humble man from Islington’s epic journey took an unexpected turn. Like all hero’s journey’s there has been adventure and intrigue along the way. He has stumbled, but never fallen and he has always had his eyes fixed squarely on the goal of a more just and equal society.https://jeffgoulding.com/2017/04/29/forged-in-the-fire-of-protest-a-prime-minister-for-the-many/

Hear, Hear.

As a brief reminder of some of the differences between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in terms of their own beliefs and their concerns for others within society take a look at this list of their voting behaviour (see @LabourEoin for this and more such information).

On Sunday 30th April in answer to Andrew Marr’s (BBC1) the Prime Minister had to be reminded that 3 million people are due to be hit by in-work benefit cuts after she insisted that ‘work is the best route out of poverty’. Then in response to Marr’s:  ‘We have nurses going to foodbanks that must be wrong’ May gave, this already  infamous answer: ‘There are many complex reasons why people go to foodbanks.’  A detailed account of the scale of food insecurity is available here: http://taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/news/food-bank-britain-amid
The Prime Minister attempts to persuade us that the 2017 General Election is all about Brexit. IT IS NOT. And indeed in terms of this issue, as in all others, another five years of the Tories is a frightening prospect. If reports of a recent meeting between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker is anything to go by:
For more detail read this: https://www.forbes.com/sites/francescoppola/2017/04/30/the-uk-government-is-completely-deluded-about-brexit/#50a64a84f046  OR watch this analysis of just how unsafe we are with Theresa May as PM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i529NnS0MI (Professor Michael Dougan, Liverpool University).  To end, just a few more examples of Corbyn and Labour versus May and the Tories; historically and to date:  ‘Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of history for 30 years. That’s real leadership’ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-david-cameron-libya-labour ‘Labour proffer up our only chance to end the ‘rigged economy”  http://www.thelondoneconomic.com/tle-pick/labour-proffer-chance-end-rigged-economy/01/05/  ‘Theresa May is ahead of Trump in undermining the refugee system’ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/30/us-travel-ban-may-is-ahead-of-trump-in-undermining-refugee-protection-system ‘Don’t worry about Brexit – worry about the Great Repeal Bill that comes after it’ http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-great-repeal-bill-eu-rights-and-protections-bill-you-should-be-worried-a7705286.html And what of my own life experience? I don’t intend to write much about my own experience in this Blog entry although I have previously and will again. But, just to say I don’t consider myself to be part of a cult. Neither do I think that I am deluded or stupid or any of the other things I and similar others have been called in recent months. What I do passionately believe, with reference to my own life experience to date –  as a sometime carer and as someone who has needed professional (as patient) and personal (as daughter, wife, friend) care from others, as a student, a teacher, a researcher, a volunteer, a women and a citizen  – is that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is our best hope, our only hope of a decent future for all.  As Chris Williamson who is standing for Labour in Derby North in the General Election (after losing his seat in Parliament by 41 votes in 2015 to a Conservative) wrote today:  This is a high stakes campaign. It is literally life or death. Not in terms of the careers of   politicians but in terms of our country’s public services, our most vulnerable citizens and in terms of Britain’s foreign policy and our shameful legacy of vain and dubious wars.

 You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

Kim Jong-May LOCKS Journalists In Room & REFUSES Permission To Film Her During Latest “Campaign” Visit

The PM headed to Cornwall today to continue her general election “campaign” — as has now become standard procedure: May all but refused to answer any questions from journalists — this time, however, her team went one better — locking reporters in a room away from the PM during the visit, and refusing them permission to film her.

The monicker Kim Jong-May has recently been coined precisely because of May and her campaign’s insanely tight management of campaign events — mirroring that of dictatorships in which the media isn’t allowed to ever question, and in this case, even film the great and supreme leader.

This is an exceptionally sad state of affairs: we now live in a country in which the PM openly refuses to be filmed taking questions from journalists, and locks reporters away behind closed doors to stop them from reporting on her — shocking.

The reason that May is so averse to talking to the media should be obvious by now to anybody. Her team is smart enough to know that she’s intensely unlikeable, unable to answer any questions, and relies heavily on her 3 catchphrases: “strong and stable” now becoming a complete and utter joke even among Tory supporters and right-wing journos.

The way that May is treating the media is starting to piss a lot of them off — they are expected to blindly tout the Tory lines and spout endless praise of May, without getting anything in return — May is simply expecting them to act at foot-servants to her coronation — this kind of attitude doesn’t sit well even with a lot of the establishment media, and may well lead to some kind of backlash against her and her team.

Local news outlet Cornwall Live reported on May’s visit to the area today on her campaign trail.

The reporters noted the insane level of control that May’s team insisted on during the event, saying that they had been locked in a room and banned from filming the PM.

Cornwall Live reported that they had been banned from showing the PM arriving for her visit to a local industrial estate.

May’s team then locked the journalists in a room while May was doing stage-managed photo-ops on the other side of the door.

Cornwall Live said that the insane level of secrecy involved in the visit was unlike anything they had seen before:

Having covered several high-profile politicians’ and royal visits over the years, the level of media control here is far and above anything I’ve seen before. We’re not even allowed to show you her visiting the building.

Cornwall Live said that May’s team would only allow them to ask two questions and that May wouldn’t allow them to film the answer — they were given a maximum of 3 minutes to quiz the PM.

They asked her about the funding crisis in the area with public services, such as health, social care, and education — May answered using her using robotic slogans about “strong” and “stable” leadership.

Cornwall Live says:

With the county’s health and social care system heading towards a £264million deficit and the county’s head teachers warning they are facing millions being axed from their budgets, Prime Minister Theresa May was asked to find more money for Cornwall.

We even used the magic word…”please.”

Mrs May said there had been huge levels of spending in those sectors, but said Cornwall Council was also in a position to raise money for social care.

They also report that May dodged their question about Brexit, and gave her standard responses:

we stand at a crucuial moment” and that we must “get the right deal in Britain.

And, of course, no “response” from May would be complete without adding the pre-requisite:

That is about strong and stable leadership.

While the Cornwall Live reporters were locked away, May was being filmed by her tightly controlled team, and presumably cherry-picked journalists from MSM outlets — those who are allowed to report on our supreme leader the right way — ie: one in which May risks fucking up the least — a task which Laura K proves herself to be more than adept at every single day for the BBC.



Even if you are an avid Tory supporter, this stuff should worry you — why the hell is May so reluctant to ever be questioned by reporters? Well, as we saw a few days ago, when Andrew Marr decided to give journalism a go and actually gave the supreme leader a bit of a grilling — May doesn’t exactly handle questions well, does she?

As much as Corbyn clearly hates the media — a relationship that is more than mutual — it is hard to imagine his team banning journos from filming during one of his campaign visits — a campaign visit which his team has orchestrated in the first place.

It is common for the local press to have a hard time getting politicians to answer questions when they visit — but I’ve never heard of this level of media control being exerted by a political campaign team.

A local journalist from Essex illustrates the situation perfectly: here he goes to interview Jeremy Corbyn during one of his rallies in Harlow. Far from locking the reporter in a room — the rally was conducted in an open field that anybody could attend — and, of course, Corbyn fielded the reporter’s question….

May attitude kind of says it all about her and her campaign — far from being strong and stable she is terrified of any form of scrutiny — perhaps that’s why she keeps repeating her “strong and stable” slogan like a lobotomised oak table — it is herself that she is speaking to, rather than anybody else.

May it seems has to keep telling herself that she is “strong and stable’ I guess she thinks if he says it enough times, it’ll start to be true — of course, it never will be, and it has become a national joke.

So, in a strange way, the slogan PERFECTLY sums up the Tories — a national fucking joke.

WATCH: May Fails on Marr’s recent interview.

Featured image by Red Raiph
You can follow Chris Turnbull on twitter at @EnemyOfTheState or at his webpage Enemy of the state



Wales voting Tory is almost like the end of humanity!

Channel 4 seem to be peddling a story as well now as the BBC that opinion polls are putting the Tories ahead of Labour in Wales for the first time since about 1859. We’ll soon find out for real I suppose but even the thought of it is making me physically sick. Why? What might be provoking my fellow Welshmen to be contemplating such a hideous action?

Of course it’s all Jeremy Corbyn fault according to his enemies and to those who blame Jeremy for all the problems of the world. Labour was doing so well in Wales that he’s come along with his hard left stances and Welsh people just don’t buy socialism like this. What utter rubbish. EVEN if you did think this WHY does it necessarily follow you would vote for a Party Aneurin Bevin called “lower than vermin?”

Let’s first deal with the myth that it’s all Corbyns fault. Labour just about has a majority in the Senedd due to Dafydd Ellis Thomas. Labour should be flying in Wales after 7 years of Tory misrule. But Welsh Labour has been stagnant and bereft of ideas for some time. It’s stuck in a mentality that Welsh people will always vote Labour and taken the Welsh people for granted. People in Wales have become more disenchanted than vote for anyone. Plaid should have picked up the mantle and much as I like Leanne Wood, they haven’t made the progress they ought to have done. Basically Labours misfortune in Wales pre-date Corbyns election as national Labour leader.

So let’s now discuss why any sane Welshman would vote Tory. I think you need a PhD in logic to work this one out but I will try. “Mrs May is a strong leader” I hear done say on tv. String? She’s already had more change of mind than toucan remember and she failed to stand up to Trump on her visit to the racist bigot. She has resorted to threatening her EU partners and has poodle like followed American imperial ambitions around the globe. She voted for disability cuts and supported the austere government cut backs to the NHS and education. If that’s strong then I’m a Dutchman.

There is NO LOGIC for most Welsh people to vote Tory. They have not changed nor reinvented themselves. They are the same old Tories. They support tax cuts for the wealthy. They allow big companies to pay little or no tax and they bungled into a referendum that need not have been held just to appease their rabid right wingers. They have destroyed the industrial base in Wales and helped Wales become one of the poorest parts of the Eu. They don’t deserve to be a party in Wales let alone vote for them. Welsh people do do do are either rich, deluded, forgetting their history or all three. I am ashamed as it is that Wales voted Brexit but to contemplate Wales voting Tory would be a kick in the teeth for all those Welsh people who have stood up to the vile philosophy that this party espouses. It’s Corbyn tho is advocating policies to rescue Wales from the abyss and how people think the Tories are doing a good job doesn’t say much for our education system….think on pobol Cymru!

You can follow Leighton on twitter at @leightonkib63  and at his webpage LEIGHTONSIMPLYRED

featured image Welsh Dragon

What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May

Over the last few days the misrepresentations of and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have escalated. Whilst Labour continue, day-on-day to publicise and attempt to widely promote new policies on health, housing, Brexit, pensions, education and so on all we hear from the Conservatives (aside from juvenile insults and made up smears) is how ‘strong and stable’ they are. Their claims are twofold in terms of a ‘strong and stable leadership’ and ‘a proud record’ as opposed to ‘a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn’. There is no talk of how the Tories might tackle poverty, homelessness, the health and social care crisis and so on and in their attempt to distract us from election fraud, their dubious allies (at home and abroad), the poor state of the economy, rising child hunger and the rest they continue with their their two pronged campaign of a) smearing the Leader of the Opposition and b) the cracked record like messages. In this they are largely supported by the mainstream media (MSM). No need to take my word for it; check out these two recent articles by Steve Topple:

The Tories have been caught using fake news to smear Corbyn

We need to talk about the mainstream media and the Election. Because a disaster is looming 

In the few ‘closed’ speeches she has given in the last week (in contrast to the very public presence of Corbyn, other members of the shadow cabinet and politicians from other parties), and in the final Prime Ministers Questions before the General Election, Theresa May repeated her key phrases, most especially ‘strong and stable leadership’, and popped in other references to ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ innumerable times. To save you having to look I can also confirm that there are short clips of her repeating this mantra on her twitter feed also. There is a precedent for this type of campaign as the constant repetition of  ‘strong leadership’, a ‘clear economic plan’ and ‘a brighter, more secure future’ helped the Conservatives to gain power in 2015. Well that worked out well, didn’t it.

We have to hope this time that the simultaneously teeth grindingly annoying and comical repetition of ‘strong and stable’, (rather than, as many have noted, the more accurate ‘weak and wobbly’) by Theresa May, and anyone near her, has less of an hypnotic effect on the many. Anyone who parrots it needs to be reminded of this; a ‘proud record’ indeed.

I have written before of my gratitude to the alternative news sources (and to various bloggers and vloggers) for the challenge to and corrections of the MSM. If like me you lament the election coverage on the BBC and many other outlets and in much of the newsstand coverage have a look at The Canary, The Morning Star, The Word, The Prole Star (all available online) or written and video posts by people such as Peter Stefanovic, Harry Leslie Smith, Lindsey German, Rachael Swindon (and others) and look at some of my previous posts here.

Yesterday I was cheered also by a tweet from @MirrorPolitics. By way of introducing an article focusing on the foolish posturing of Boris Johnson MP (there’s no need for me to go into detail given the MSMs preoccupation with this non-story but read the article if you want to here http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-blasts-boris-johnson-10306382) they wrote:

      Labour leader vows not to use Tory’s ‘personal’ tactics (and gets on with campaigning about               housing instead). 

As a further example of the current MSM spin on the messages from and behaviour of Jeremy Corbyn the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg @bbcclaurak tweeted: Corbyn says ‘I don’t do personal attacks’ but says disappointing the tories are doing negative campaigning. As at least one person has pointed out why BUT and not AND here. . .

Recent political events (in the USA as well as closer to home), and the media coverage of them, have led some to reflect on the significance of George Orwell’s work. I see the point. Returning to Animal Farm (1945) recently myself I was struck, as others have been, by the rewriting of the agreed seven commandments of Animalism, by the ruling elite (the pigs). The seventh commandment which begins All animals are equal and becomes All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others is relevant not least in that: All British people are equal but some are more equal than others (and just as in Animal Farm it is the many rather than the few that are other/less equal. And it is the 1%/more equal whose privilege can even protect them from both the laws of the land and the demands of the tax office that the rest of us are subject to).

And then there’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Any cursory dip into mainstream or social media gives us much fuel for comparison between our most powerful media and the propaganda machine at the heart of the novel: the infamous ‘Ministry of Truth’. Additionally, we know that Big Brother is not only watching but silencing us as the new surveillance law, or as it has been termed ‘The Snoopers Charter’, requires web and phone companies to store everyone’s browsing histories for 12 months and gives the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data. There are implications here for all of us, not least in terms of the investigative journalism that we have left.

I wonder what’s in your Room 101?  As a researcher of both patient and healthcare professional experience; as a daughter and wife of individuals who suffered cancer and heart disease; as a friend of people who care for young children and others who care for elderly parents; as a mid-life woman who already accesses screening services (and will likely access more in the future) and who has a health condition that will need monitoring and treatment for as long as I live the death of the NHS is high up on my list. Take a look at this Alan B’stard YouTube clip which is doing the rounds at the moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVltOSC0JMQ Sadly and frighteningly if it wasn’t for the laughter it would be easy to think this wasn’t a comedy sketch.

Staying with Orwell for a moment, anyone reading Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) or The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and comparing the injustices and inequalities so evidence today to those described by Orwell in the 1930’s must surely ask themselves, as Orwell did ‘Why are we not all socialists?’ 

So as I said I see the point of these references but I’d like to suggest there were warnings in other iconic books. Just a brief review of a couple from my own childhood and youth.

John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos tells the story of an alien invasion of children born on the same day across the world; children who protect themselves as much as possible using a form of mind control. When the people in the village that is the focus of the book begin to understand what is going on they attempt to resist but to no avail as ‘the Children’ make the villagers attack each other. Sound familiar?

Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives, published in 1972 focuses on the town of Stepford where ‘Diz’ (a previous Disney employee) is the ominous leader of

the Stepford Men’s Association and the power behind the Stepford phenomenon of the gynodisation of the women of the town. The popularity of The Stepford Wives is reflected not least in the classification of Stepford as an adjective: 
‘Relating to a person who has an unthinking. conformist, and uncritical attitude.’ 
www.wordspy.com/words/Stepford.asp Take note everyone.


SO: What’s propaganda got to do with it?
Answer: A LOT.

It is, I believe, the responsibility of all of us to keep challenging the dominant messages we are hearing and seeing and to keep offering the alternative. With this in mind  I watched a vlog by Giles Fraser this morning:

 ‘Maybe that;s why I am a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’ says @giles_fraser ‘…he seems like an 
        ordinary bloke, concerned with ordinary people’. #bbctw 

Please go to his twitter page and watch it too. Have a look as well at  #publicduty, the hashtag being used by individuals across health, education and beyond, warning us all of the consequences of five more years of the Conservatives: https://www.indy100.com/article/general-election-2017-tories-hashtag-publicduty-7703846

Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May.

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog

featured image by by Dave Brown political cartoonist
NB: with my friend and colleague Deborah Davidson I have previously used the Stepford analogy to reflect on the increasing corporatism of higher education: Davidson, Deborah and Letherby, Gayle ‘Heroes of Higher Education?: Stepford Wives, Non/Mothers and Academics’ Auto/Biography Study Group Conference, BSA, Reading University (July 2012) 

SHOCK! Corbyn Would WIN! If Only Under 40’s Voted—New Mega-Poll Says

Corbyn’s Labour would win the upcoming general election — if only people under 40 voted, a new YouGov mega-poll has found.

The finding should not come as a surprise – the majority of Corbyn’s support comes from a young base. The finding illustrates the sharp generational divide that runs across British politics — Brexit being yet another example.

The reasons for the divide may well have something to do with the fact that young people have borne the brunt of many of the Tory austerity assaults — frankly this country has become so miserable under Tory rule that any alternative that doesn’t involve racism, xenophobia, and offers some form of a positive future looks appealing at this point.

The mega-poll was conducted by YouGov over a 2 and a half week period (2nd-20th April 2017) and questioned a sample of 13,000 voters. The poll found overwhelmingly that Labour would win the next election if only people between 18-40 voted. The finding is in stark contrast to the between 10, and 25 point lead that the Tories have overall — much of which is clearly down to the voting preference of people over 40.

Labour is particularly popular with women under 40, who favor Corbyn by 42% compared to May who received 27%  — Farron received 12% support from this group. Men under 40 also back Labour — but by a much slimmer margin: 32% for Labour and 31% for the Connies — 18% back the Lib Dems.



Polling typically underestimates the voting intentions of young people, because they say they are unlikely to vote when compared to older people. Only 40% of people under 40 say they are likely to vote compared to 63% of the older people questioned for the mega-poll.

This raises an often overlooked question: if young people do decide to go to the polls in droves to support Corbyn — would Labour win?

The numbers of young people voting have declined steadily over the years due to apathy over the centrist two party neo-liberal system.

But, as I wrote about last week — this election does offer an actual choice between the neo-liberal xenophobic and racist nightmare presented by the Tories – and Labour under Corbyn — who wants to put an end to the neo-liberal disaster, austerity, poverty, privatization, etc, etc..


It is particularly telling those young women overwhelmingly support Corbyn — this may well be because women have disproportionately been affected by the Tories austerity knife, of course, this has a knock-on impact on children, families, education, etc.

Corbyn’s cabinet also contains a record number of female shadow cabinet ministers. A point rarely raised except to bash him with as is illustrated here, by that well-known bastion of the left: the Guardian.

Or maybe it’s just his sex-appeal?

The impact of the Tories policies has also been heavily felt — and this continues to be amplified — by young people.

Wage stagnation — cuts in working age benefits —  university tuition fees through the roof that laden us with debt, for jobs which are either underpaid, insecure, non-existent — or reserved for the privileged few who can afford to undertake 6-month unpaid internships.

Millenials are the poorest generation since World War 2 — but, shhhhhhhh, everything’s fine! don’t ever mention this small fact.

The generational difference may also arise from the fact that younger people have far greater access to independent media, websites, such as the Canary, Evolve Politics, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge, (my two-bit operation) and a whole range of other similar outlets have all enabled us to cut through the mainstream media’s nonsense. The older generations, of course, still rely on the BBC for news — we don’t, and we know that it’s clearly biased.

Older people, of course, are kept in a state of fear about the outside world — delusions presented to them as if they are facts by the mainstream media.

“More jobs than ever!” Theresa May announces while The BBC champions the line — forgetting to mention just how badly paid, and insecure these jobs are — forgetting to mention that wage stagnation, forgetting to mention the fact that nobody can save up for a house due to all this, forgetting to mention the ever-growing hours that people are working for less money, forgetting to mention any of this.

Forgetting to mention that fact that what’s counted as employment can mean anything in this day and age — from zero hours contracts to so-called self-employment.

And so older people — frightened by the propaganda against Corbyn from their trusted BBC — who recite the Tory line that Corbyn is some sort of threat to national security —  sit there absorbing all of this nonsense.

They could never vote for Corbyn or Labour, could they? No — the BBC keeps telling them he’s a national security threat and the economy is doing just fine!

Why do all these young dreamers keep banging on about Corbyn? These idealistic idiots — do they not realize how silly they are being?

Why is it now considered to make us idealists, just because we don’t want to live in a country in which disabled people die at the hands of the Tories, and so-called welfare reform?

Why does it make us idealists to save the NHS?

The reason I’m ranting about this, is because I’ve already had an older person say this to me in response to this poll — idealistic?

If Corbyn represents idealism then that’s just a statement about how f*cked up your perception of the world is.

Fuck sake.

The mega-poll illustrates at least 2 important points:


  1. Young people need to register, campaign, and vote.
  1. We need to talk to older people more — as angry as it makes me that so many older people seem determined to vote against, not only our interests, but also their own — I honestly think this is mainly because they don’t realise just how bad things are right now — locked away as they are with the TV for company acting a fictional window to the world with nothing but the lovely trustworthy Huw Edwards and Laua K for company.

That’s unless we are talking about the boomer generation — who for some reason — almost always seem determined to be as selfish as one can imagine.

They are the only generation to have experienced growth throughout their lives, and yet still, they cannot even seem to make the most minor of efforts to help or share in their privilege. The neo-liberal generation if you will…

Of course, let’s not forget the fact that many older people do support Corbyn, or at least are against the Tories — I don’t wish to paint everybody with the same brush here, as polling obviously looks at majorities — not individuals.

I have held to the fact that as the older generation die off, and the younger ones start to take over it is quite likely that neo-liberal policy will start to be reversed, and killed off. The findings from the mega-poll support this claim, and my instinct.

In the meantime, though it seems as if we will all have to live under Tory rule — why? Because a bunch of Daily Mail reading, baby boomer, BBC loyalists all think we have to.

Thanks, old people — jeez if  I only had 20 years left to live then I wouldn’t even care about who’s in government.

FFS — you know your pension’s safe! What you need to worry about are your children and grand children’s futures, the local hospital, social care — all of these things.


featured image Jeremy Corbyn

You can follow Chris Turnbull on twitter at @EnemyOfTheState or at his webpage Enemy of the state