Harold Pinter… may he rest in peace

A giant in his field – both as an actor and a dramatist – Harold Pinter was a man who was moved to speak out for peace and social justice, he unleashed the raw emotion he felt, even as he battled cancer. And while his engagement in progressive struggles drew criticism from those cynics who believe artists should be engaged only in passive commodity production, we shall remember him for his words, his deeds, and… also… his pauses.

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At the crossroads

A bit of culture – a satirical poem by Adrian Mitchell:

At the crossroads
I built the best of England
With my brain and with my hands.
Liberty Equality Fraternity –
That’s where I took my stand,
And the people called me Old Labour
The brave heart of this land

I walked out of the smoky streets
To enjoy some country air,
But when I came to the crossroads,
I saw a weird sight there –
A man in a silver business suit
Swivelling in a black leather chair

He jumped right up and shook my hand
and giggled with mysterious glee.
Then he stared and said: ‘Old Labour,
I can tell your destiny.
I’m the Great Political Entrepreneur –
Would you like to do a deal with me?’

Well, the style of his smile and the size of his eyes
Made him look like a shopping mall.
I told him straight: ‘I’m a socialist,
I support fair shares for all.’
He said: ‘Capitalism means fair shares,
Provided that you play ball.’

I said: ‘I can think of something
Capitalism can’t arrange
And that’s the common ownership
Of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
And war makes so much more profit
That the idea of peace is strange.

‘I was born for peace and justice
For every race and nationality
I’m for people, not for profit,
I want to see the children free
With no more than 12 kids in a class
Revelling in liberty.’

‘But let’s not talk about the people,’
The sophisticated stranger said.
‘You must have targets of your own –
Let’s talk about you instead.’
And my brain was enthralled by his silver voice
Though my heart was filled with dread.

‘I know you have a heart,’ said the shining voice
‘And I know you have an excellent mind.
Why not become an Entrepreneur –
Leave those people of yours behind?
You shall live in mansions and grand hotels
And be constantly wined and dined.

‘You shall have your own island and bodyguard
And your own show on TV,
And a heated pool and a gymnasium
And become a powerful Celebrity.’
‘I think I could fancy that,’ I said,
‘But what’s the cost going to be?’

Well, I knew. But I signed – in my own life-blood.
He extracted my soul with care
and placed it in his credit card case
And gave me his black leather chair
Then he laughed and said: ‘You are New Labour now.’
I said: ‘Thank you, Mr Blair.’

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Charlie Palloy:

Tom Waits:

George Michael:

Judy Collins:

Bing Crosby:

Postman Pat’s present for Gordon

[Friday]

“Come on Jess, I’ve got a parcel here for Gordon Brown – but I’m not going to put it through his letterbox!”

“Meow!”

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Shipbuilding

[Saturday]

Another piece of completely escapist light-entertainment…

And again, by Elvis (not the dead one)

Remember Suede?

Remember the eighties?

I would write something about how the song sums up the desperation of proletarian existence under capitalism, but words fail me…

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Blog off

[Sunday]

In the spirit of comradely debate, I reply to a post by Miles on blogging and political activism…

It has often been said that blogging has changed the nature of political activism – allowing grassroots campaigning and the almost immediate debunking of deception.

Conversely, it has been argued that blogging saps the energy of activists – that all of the time spent posting and commenting could otherwise be devoted to the cause.

There is truth to both positions, but I feel that the supposed negative aspects of blogging – that is to say, that it is a waste of time – ignores the benefit that is gained from the distant discourse of the internet.

If one was to eschew blogging then the types of political views you would encounter would be limited to your colleagues, friends, family, and comrades. The diversity of opinion is far greater in cyberspace, and because dialogue is not instantaneous, “speech” can be more considered and concise.

This said, I do take on board Miles’ views. But the time that I devote to blogging would otherwise be spent reading, watching soap operas, or quarrelling. Honest.

I will leave aside my political affiliations and activities, because I doubt they would be affected were I to cast aside the computer.

For many years I kept a journal, in a vain attempt to develop my skills as a diarist to the level of Samuel Pepys. As it happens, I’ve never been as humorous as Joe Orton or Bridget Jones, or as tragic as Charles Pooter or Anne Frank.

And because the daily routine soon becomes reducible to a simple short form, I started detailing events from the realm of “current affairs” that I thought significant whilst at the same time developing my theoretical knowledge.

This blog has now replaced the journal, and my attempts at artistic greatness, and I feel it is perhaps more valuable than what I was doing before.

Let’s face it, no one is going to read my diaries (or can read them – my handwriting is appalling, for a variety of reasons) so the time I could be wasting is not being wasted.

If this is not a convincing enough self-justification, I will say that I think blogging is good; I enjoy it, so it can’t be all that bad.

There.

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Gordon Brown for Britain!

[Wednesday]

Here’s an excerpt from my next bestseller, Gordon Brown for Britain, a political thriller about a politician’s rise to the office of Prime Minister.

*

“After a tragic accident almost robs him of his sight, a young visionary named Gordon Brown fights against all odds to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, leader of the Labour party, and eventually the British Prime Minister. Driven by a deep desire to help the rich become richer, the compassionate yet misunderstood leader fights his inner demons and bites his nails.

He bravely jousts with the evil villain, Alex Salmond, who plans to break up the United Kingdom and run Scotland as an independent sovereign state and the nice-but-dim David Cameron, who plans to open a hair salon and run it like a bath.

“Our hero struggles to gain public support for the new Crusades in the Middle East, despite the obvious fiendishness of the Iranians who are planning to build to nuclear power stations!

“Brown has one hundred days to save the British Empire. He must wipe the smile of Salmond’s face, scrub behind Cameron’s ears, defeat the organised working class, and help America launch pre-emptive humanitarian bombing campaigns against several disobedient states.”

*

On becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown immediately got on the phone to the head of the armed forces, General Sir Richard Dannatt. “Floods have shut down towns and cities, hitting factories and offices, homes and businesses.”

“Yes, I know,” said Sir Richard. “We have Sky News.”

Brown paused, for effect. “We need to get them up and running as fast as possible. Sir Richard, I want all you’ve got: troops on the ground to clear debris and strengthen flood barriers, helicopters to evacuate people in the event of further flooding elsewhere, and I want you to ensure the readiness of our navy to assist with rescue operations at sea!”

Silence greeted the bombastic Brown. He waited for a moment, and then the reply came. “Prime Minister, there is no way that I can do what you ask. As you will be aware from your visits to the region, the armed forces are primarily located in the Middle East. Currently we are assisting the United States and other international forces in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, where, as you recall, we kicked in the door…”

“Yes, yes, I know all this.” Snapped the new PM, “I’ve done my fact finding, I’ve crunched the numbers. But there must be some way that I can intervene in the severe flooding that has hit South Yorkshire and…”

Sir Richard interrupted with a cough. “Ahem, I too am aware of the situation. I have the internet. But our hands are tied, I’m afraid. I know that you are keen on making a show of being a strong leader in a time of crisis, but we can’t pull the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the people at home.”

Thoughts were racing through Brown’s large head. Oh, God! Murdoch will ruin me over this, I just know it. Thirteen years I’ve waited for this job, and now I’ve got the power – all the power – I could lose it within a short period of time. The City will go for Cameron at the next election, I can feel it. Campbell won’t take me up on the offer of a coalition, and Alex Salmond has plenty up his sleeve to help him win independence for Scotland.

A wave of panic engulfed the Iron Chancellor and he began sobbing. “You’ve got to help me! Please help me, I’m begging you! I’ll be remembered as the man who broke Britain.”

“Ah, look here, Gordon – you don’t mind me calling you Gordon, do you? You’ve got to pull yourself together. I can’t talk about the political side of things –”

Brown stopped bawling and sat up straight. “That’s never stopped you in the past, you made that speech remember, I gave you permission and this is how you repay me…”

“There, there, Gordon.” Sir Richard cooed. “Look, if you want my opinion the most popular thing you could do is pull out of Iraq.”

“WHAT?!” thundered Brown. “Have you lost the plot? We’re going to invade Iran soon.”

“Let me finish. Announce that you are setting a timetable for withdrawal and make an apology. You understand me, I mean ‘pull out of Iraq eventually’.”

“Hold on, me apologise?! For what?”

Sir Richard paused for thought. “Perhaps you could make an ‘apology’ – an apology that isn’t an apology?”

“Have you been got at by Harriet Harman?” Brown asked in earnest.

“If we announce withdrawal from Afghanistan – sorry, I mean Iraq – then you’ll get a boost. A Brown bounce, as they say.”

Brown shifted in his chair. “That’s a fucking stupid idea, Richard. Anyone would think you were a bloody hippy.” And with that he slammed the phone down.

He sat in silence for a few moments, wiping the tears from his eyes. Already, he was missing his old life at Number 11. Things were so much easier then, with Tony shouldering all the blame. Now it appeared as if he would lose the dream he had cherished since he was a young man.

Severe flooding, the first national postal strike in a decade, a US investigation into the Al-Yamamah arms deal by the British government, an up-coming by-election in Tony’s Sedgefield constituency, and the threat of co-ordinated public sector strikes in the Autumn. How he envied Tony now: unburdened of petty national politics and able to strut around the world stage like a peacock.

Something had to be done to rescue the Gordon Brown for Britain campaign, but what? The former Chancellor racked his brains and nibbled on his nails. He could call an election campaign, but the party was short on funds and few billionaires would be willing to fill the coffers whilst the cash for honours probe was still ongoing.

The new Prime Minister needed something big to distract attention from the wars, the rising inflation, and the fact that he had not come to power after a general election.

Giving power away always went down a storm with the nice people at the CBI and the City of London. Already he had followed up NHS independence with a proposal for new freedoms allowing private equity firms to sell their staff along with the furniture. For some reason, people didn’t think this last one was a good idea. The suggestion that there should be an Empire Day to complement the proposed Britain Day had been similarly received. He had even come up with an idea for an EU constitution before he realised that one already existed…

What else could grant independence to? Perhaps he could give the police powers to make up laws on the spot? Whatever scheme he came up with, there was always the problem of the party. Expectations of a radical change of policy were high within the ranks of the Labour Party, and it was clear that if there was no movement away from the neo-liberal “reform” agenda, the unions would stop bankrolling the party.

I know what to do, he thought, recalling the stunt days before in which a Conservative MP called Quentin defected to the Labour Party. A cunning plan had formed in his mind and it was a much more spectacular act than bribing an eccentric Tory to say nice things about him. This will guarantee my position as PM for years..

With a grin, he reached across the desk and picked up the telephone handset. “Susan, would you put me through to David Cameron. I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse…”

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