Not seen, but getting heard

 has bragging rights to open threads on Slugger O’Toole, and kicked off a good one:

Ruth Taillon chaired a panel with Dawn Purvis, Martina Devlin and Bernadette McAliskey for a session entitled And where were the women when history was made? at the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh.

Note the names already in the frame there.

So I had to have my two cents’ worth, and here for the record it comes:

For a few examples from Easter Week:

  • Mollie Adrian, on her bicycle, shuttled orders and reports between Pearse in the GPO and the Fingal Battalion, so that Thomas Ashe would get the credit.
  • Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh was in command of the Cumann na mBan at Jacob’s factory, from where she had an excellent view of the pounding the GPO was getting.
  • The Cumann na mBan had to be ordered out of the GPO — it took Seán McDermott backing up Pearse before they would agree — late on the Friday morning of Easter week. The first shell arrived soon after their departure.
  • At the Department of Agriculture farm at Athenry, Mellows had about 500 men armed with a total of 35 rifles and 350 shotguns. The women of the Cumann had the local bullocks slaughtered, and made the stew to feed them all — which was about the most positive aspect of Mellows’ “campaign`”.
  • The Kilkenny Cumann were (later) more than tart in their comments about how the menfolk sat around debating, but not actually getting stuck in.
  • Marie Perolz of Inghinidhe na Éireann, on her motor-bike, all the way from Dublin to the brigade in Cork, brought MacCurtain and MacSwiney the orders for the Rising (how the other eight orders got through, I’m not sure).
  • Rose McManners of the Inghinidhe was in the Jameson distillery to observe how clueless MacDonagh was when it came to leadership. When the garrison of 44 men at the South Dublin Union surrendered, and dumped arms, Rose and the other twenty Cumann picked up the weapons and brazenly carted them into the Richmond Street barracks. They got away with it, because the British Army had no women searchers to hand.
  • Kathleen Lynn took command at City Hall after Seán Connolly was killed, and negotiated the surrender of the ICA garrison.
  • Elizabeth O’Farrell, nurse and midwife, of the Cumann na mBan, under fire took the white flag from the GPO to Moore Street, to open the surrender negotiations.

Then, of course, as Kathleen Clarke never stopped complaining, the women of 1916 were largely elided from the record. It’s not they weren’t there, but as Jessica Rabiit said, “I’m just drawn that way”.

KathleenClarke

As I was posting that, it came to my mind that once — around 1960 — I shook hands with Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh.

She was

  • a Sinn Féin TD in the Second Dáil (and spoke against the Treaty in the Great Debate),
  • was on the receiving end of attention (first from the British, then from the Free Staters),
  • was a Fianna Fáil TD for Mid Dublin in the Fifth Dáil, then in the Seanad,
  • then on Dublin Corporation — including being the first woman to be Lord Mayor.
  • To her credit, she was one of the women who despaired of de Valera after the 1937 Constitution re-defined the role of women, and then continued her shift to the left (or, rather, maintained her stand as Fianna Fáil became corporatist and shifted to the right).
  • So, in 1948 she was a candidate for Clann na Poblachta.

By the time I met her, she was definitely out in the leftist fringes. A Great Lady.

 

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Filed under Dublin., Ireland, politics, Republicanism, Sinn Fein, Slugger O'Toole

The world re-arranged (slightly)

Yesterday I had an appointment with the local GP (and would be seen, promptly, by a very personable young lady doctor). As I waited,  I was continuing re-reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, a text which requires a considerable degree of focus.

In the background there was a radio, tuned to BBC Radio 2, burbling MOR pop, which I could barely hear. Somehow my attention drifted from Stephenson to the radio. It took a moment to identify the track:


I can’t say I ever paid much attention to Terry Parsons, a.k.a. Matt Munro. Probably one of the few occasions he came to my 51D0MjaOdCLattention was as “Fred Flange” on Songs for Swingin’ Sellars. For some reason — probably because we were fans of The Goon Show (largely because we thought we spotted the dirty jokes smuggled past the BBC editorial blue pencil) — the LP was declared kosher among jazzers, as we were.

Yet this particular song resonated for me. As I recall, it appeared around 1970 — by which time I was well over the adolescent (and subsequent) music addiction.

The lyrics (apparently by Tim Harris) involve a list of Harris’s ex-girlfriends — hence Shirley Wood, Margaret Baty/Beatty and Annie Harris.

My guess: had the song appeared a decade earlier (at the height of the CND marching epidemic) it would have done a heck of a lot better.

Still: it has survived. It is as slick as anything that the London production line was churning out at that time. The sentiments aren’t too dusty, either.

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Filed under Britain, British Left, Music

All gloom and doom

Expressing what I feel about the state of the Labour Party comes easier vocally. Putting it into words here is more difficult, because a stream of blasphemies and obscenities doesn’t adequately suffice.

So let me start a distance back, and take a run at it.

First there was Peter Bradshaw on screen villains in today’s Guardian G2. This on Lotso-Huggin’-Bear from Toy Story 3:

… the “loveable” Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, richly and warmly voiced by Ned Beatty. He is the senior prisoner and everyone appears to respect him as a sweet, grandfatherly figure — but, in fact, he is an insidious and creepy bully, almost like a cult leader, who rules with henchmen enforcers. That name, and the character’s bland cuddly teddybear face are both highly effective at putting across Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear’s parasitic villainy.

Remind you of anyone?

Meanwhile, the stiletto’ed arm of the Murdoch Empire, The Times, has been assiduous in rooting out the excesses of the Corbynist/Momentum Tendency. Anyone have any notion what that motive might be?

Sure enough, Lucy Fisher, “Senior Political Correspondent”, gets her by-line as the main item on today’s page 2. She starts by reporting that:

Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, improved her security after an internet troll sent her pictures of a woman impaled by a spear upon which her face had been superimposed.

There’s a lot of that sort of thing around, but  — be assured — it’s absolutely nothing to do with the pro-Corbs lot. As they rarely desist from telling us.

Then Lucy Fisher, “Senior Political Correspondent”, comes up with something quite astounding:

Another Labour MP yesterday accused Momentum, the left-wing network of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, of planning to film constituents visiting his advice surgery in what he said was a bid to intimidate them.

Neil Coyle, the MP for Southwark, asked on social media why the group’s “cronies” were allegedly targeting his surgery. He said he had seen 50 per cent fewer constituents since Momentum protested outside his office several weeks ago.

On Wednesday night a left-wing activist posted on a Facebook group for Southwark Momentum details of the time and place of Mr Coyle’s next surgery. Another man on the thread, which was seen by The Times, wrote: “Be firm but polite and make sure someone is videoing.”

Mr Coyle said: “The intention to protest, the consequent police presence and the cameras outside stop people coming to see me. You don’t visit your MP unless you’ve got a significant problem — often it’s benefits issues, housing pressure, immigration concerns. People coming about these serious things are not in a mood to be filmed.”

Mr Coyle said that after he contacted Southwark Momentum, the post encouraging video cameras to be used outside his office was taken down. A Momentum spokesman said Mr Coyle’s claim that activists linked to the group were trying to intimidate his constituents was nonsense.

You see! As sure as night follows day, there’s the blanket Momentum denial. It’s nuttin’ to do wit’ us, guv! Honest!

And yet …

It all sounds terribly familiar.

My alter-ego (who must be well-identified by anyone in the know) has been there, and bears the political scars. I have mentioned them here in previous posts, and I don’t retract from them one iota.

In my case, in that lobby to Haringey Council Chamber, the push to the wall, the clenched fist waved in front of the face, the crude threat with the expletive, was made by one Councillor Ron Blanchard, a close acolyte of the Blessed Jeremy Redeemer. But, of course, there was no third-party witness. So it couldn’t have happened. Could it?

And here we are …

The whole Party mechanism has been put into cold storage, for fear of those regimented hordes of infiltrators, for fear of personal abuse, and worse. But it’s all  MI5 plotting against the Sainted Jeremy and his variant of “democracy”.

44 Labour women MPs (that’s out of a total of 99, with one murdered already) have complained of continuing on-line personal abuse. They put their grievances in a formal letter to the Party Leader:

Rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows are disgusting and totally unacceptable in any situation.

This is acknowledged by all factions, yet the simple words of condemnation offered in response are inadequate.

We expect swift and tangible action against those who commit such acts.

Response: oh, well, the abuse goes with the job. And anyway, it’s gotta be some other lot. It’s nuttin’ to do wit’ us, guv! Honest!

This way madness lies …

If ever there was proof positive that a point-of-view was plain wrong, it has come from the mouth of Diane “unsuitable blonde, blue-eyed Finnish nurses” Abbott.

Here she is, given her hat-stand and rope-to-hang-her-arguments-from by The Times:

… it is interesting to compare and contrast Corbyn and Sanders. Their political programmes are very similar. Like Sanders, Corbyn is proud to call himself a socialist. In fact Sanders calling himself a socialist is remarkable in a country where, in living memory, using such a term was enough to get you witch-hunted out of public life. Even in Britain, under New Labour, calling yourself a socialist was forbidden to anyone with serious political ambitions…

Both are treated with cool disdain by their political establishments. Email leaks this week revealed how antagonistic Democratic bigwigs were to the Sanders campaign. As a result the chairwoman of the Democratic national committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had to resign. Goodness knows what the leak of similar emails by the Labour Party would reveal. But it is easy to guess

But the big difference between the two is the way they have been treated by their respective country’s media. Mainstream media in the US has been very sceptical about Sanders’ policies, particularly his signature policies on healthcare. This has been bruising, but fair.

By contrast the British media has scarcely discussed the policies on which Corbyn campaigned. Instead they have concentrated on tearing him down as a man and delegitimising  him as a political actor.

For the record, as long ago as 1974, when my alter-ego put out an election address  and described myself as a “socialist”, eye-brows raised. Even Tribune, which was my spiritual home in many ways, felt the usage worth notice.

What we need to underline (as I do above) is the paranoia that Diane Julie, M.A. (Cantab) radiates. Len McCluskey knows it has to be MI5. Diane Julie sees pale-pinkos machinating against the Blessed Apostle in the National Executive.

Is it all hopeless?

Well, it’s going to be hard to drain the swamp while we are up to our arses with rabid alligators. But for the sake of having a real Opposition, delivering for the people (not just the mouthy student types) Labour has properly sought to represent these hundred years and more, it has to be done.

Owen Smith may not be the instant solution. He’s an improvement on the Corbs lot, and I’ll be doing my bit in the cause. And if Smith doesn’t hack his way through the swamp of Momentum dis- and mis-information, we’ll have to try again.

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Filed under British Left, Guardian, Labour Party, politics, Times

Boneheads

I don’t care if you can unscrew the inscrutable. I just don’t get it with these self-exculpatory ultra-Corbynistas:

Corbyn himself has received death threats, it seems that there are head de balls on both sides most of whom are probably hopping on the wagon just to stir it up.

Err, no.

The incoming nastiness is all from one direction.

There are a whole series of clues:

  • When you recall the various (and overlapping) trot factions (IMG, SLL, International Socialist, London Labour Briefing, Socialist Organiser) that clustered around the weirdos and with which Corbyn and co. were deeply involved, you wonder about motivation.
  • When you remember how those factions combined to take over Islington North, de-select Michael O’Halloran, block Keith Kyle, and enstool Jeremy Corbyn as their surrogate, you are entitled to see the germs of a familiar pattern.
  • When you notice the many, many Socialist Worker banner and placards at Momentum gatherings, you begin to wonder which party is involved.
  • When you’ve had a close associate of Corbyn thrust you to the Council Chamber wall, and tell you, “We’ll fuckin’ get you” (and that was 1982), you despair that we are going through the same intimidation and thuggery.
  • When you hear of foul-mouthed threats screeched down a blocked ‘phone at long-serving party stalwarts, at 2 a.m. in the morning …
  • When an individual is arrested in Paisley (Paisley!) for a death-threat to Angela Eagle, you wonder how such a cretin was inspired and why she/he bothered.
  • When you hear about the serial threats (death, rape) that women MPs have to endure, you marvel at their commitment.
  • When you have decent, not-front-line CLP officers having to change their telephone numbers because of the threat of abuse, you ask, “Why bother any more?”

Let’s get to the bottom-lines:

  1. It should never have started.
  2. It has got to stop.
  3. None too long ago, the Labour Party was a decent, principled place to be.

Heracles’ Fifth Labour: Cleaning the Augean Stables:

1992.11.0019

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There are times …

… when the excesses of the Murdoch press are so grotesque, they defy imagination.

Today’s very-shady Sun has this, from the Honourable Toby Young [1]:

If the new Prime Minister is serious about taking us out of the EU, we need a Foreign ­Secretary who’s upbeat about Britain’s post-Brexit future, not another doom-monger. [2]

It will be the job of Britain’s 150 ambassadors to sell this new vision of the UK to the rest of the world, so it makes sense they should be led by someone who believes in it. [3]

Boris is a pretty good salesman in his own right. As Mayor of London, his main job was to attract business and investment to our capital — and the transformation of the city’s skyline [4] is testament to how effective he was. If he can do the same for UK PLC, Britain’s depressed northern cities will be lit up like Las Vegas. [5]

[1] Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is the son of Baron Young of Darlington, major contributor to the 1945 Labour Manifesto, and a distinguished sociologist. The Moorsom is for his mother, Sasha, who kept the BBC Third Programme and elsewhere culturally sound, and wrote a couple of decent books herself. As such, the offspring is entitled to be an “Hon”.

This fruit has fallen far, far from the Muswell Hill tree.

[2] Up to a distant point, Lord Copper.

It obviously hasn’t dawned on the Honourable Toby that Theresa May, in her wisdom, has made quite sure BoJo will have little to contribute on #Brexit. Were he even considering so doing, he would collide forcibly with the adamantine David Davis, Secretary of State for #Brexit. That would be an event where it would be would be worth having the popcorn franchise. Essential differences are that Davis does his homework, knows his stuff and is licensed to kill.

[3] Even further from the point, Lord Tinplate.

Theresa May has delegated International Trade to Liam Fox, the one Tory outstanding for being more devious, more self-seeking, more duplicitous, more venomous than BoJo. If Davis leaves a bloody BoJo corpse at the Cabinet table, Fox can be guaranteed to boot it on the way out.

[4] Ah, yes.

Generations yet unborn will hail BoJo for his architectural significance. He did more for the London skyline than the Luftwaffe. His greatest hit [sic] ought to be the car-killing 20 Fenchurch Street, a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie.

[5] Either the Honourable Toby has smuggled an irony past the Sun sub-editors, or this has to be further proof of the man’s excellence in crassness.

The architect of Carbuncle-of-the-Year is Rafael Viñoly. A previous “commission” (read that as you please) was the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. This was Viñoly‘s previous attempt to build a death-ray. The curved frontage, as at Fenchurch Street, focuses the sun, with the result that sun-bathers can have their hair scorched and their loungers melted.

 

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Filed under Boris Johnson, London, Murdoch, Muswell Hill, Tories.

A tradition of national ineptitude

The tradition of Lord North (who lost British North America), Neville Chamberlain (who came close to losing the Second World War before it had really got started) and Anthony Eden (who lost out over Suez) is a dishonourable one.

Just when I assume things cannot get worse, Theresa May springs a new foreign calamity on us:

BoJo

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, Conservative Party policy., History, politics, Tories.

Taken aback, a long way back

I remember teaching Chaucer and explaining why the Merchant in the General Prologue, lines 278-279, provided a precise dating:

He wold the see were kept for any thyng
Betwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.

l

The Staple was (and already I’m questioning my use of tense there) a taxation device. All English wool sold across the Channel had to pass through an English trading company: the Merchants of the Staple. In 1363 just 26 English merchants, located in Calais, had the monopoly of all English wool sales. The Staple shifted around, depending on political conditions in the Low Countries. Between 1384 and 1388, it was located in Middleburg on the island of Walcheren. So, that gives us a definitive reference and dating.

Come to think of it, like the Merchant, we are still in the thorny post-#Brexit business of keeping the route open,  for any thing and at any price, between Ipswich (though the port of Harwich is more contemporary) and the Continent.

I had assumed the Staple was something of and for the history (and, in my case, literary history) books. Then, today, at the Great Yorkshire Show I was confronted with:

Untitled

The Lady in my Life accosted a worthy, and was told, yes, indeed it was a survival. I looked it up:

The Company of Merchants of the Staple is one of the oldest mercantile corporations in England.

It is rare, possibly unique, in being ‘of England‘ and not bounded by any city or municipality. It may trace its ancestry back as far as 1282 or even further. A group of 26 wool merchants apparently first started the Company. The Dukes of Burgundy and Counts of Flanders granted it charters. The Merchants were in Bruges in 1282, Dordrecht in 1285, Antwerp in 1296 and St Omer in 1313. The Company controlled the export of wool to the continent from 1314. The Duke of Flanders awarded a grant to the English Merchants in 1341.

The Company’s commercial significance in the 14-16th centuries was in the control of the export of wool to the continent of Europe through Calais and later Bruges.

Today the Company runs a growing charitable trust with scholarships and projects in the wool, textiles and agricultural sectors, as well as university student travel bursaries.

The Staple company has over 120 Freemen who meet and dine in Yorkshire and London. It is governed by its Court of Assistants; the Mayor serves for one year from the Michaelmas Court meeting in October.

Watching the sheep-shearing demonstration I heard the term “staple” used again, to define the length of the clipped wool. Sure enough, Oxford English Dictionary: staple, n.3:

The fibre of any particular variety or sample of wool (in later use also of cotton, flax, or other material for textile processes) considered with regard to its length and fineness; a particular length and degree of fineness in the fibre of wool, cotton, etc.

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