Thursday, 17 December 2015

Stump singer is no more (Mick Lynch R.I.P.)

I remember being thrilled when I saw Stump on The Tube. My mother had only recently begun hiring a video recorder. The promo for Buffalo (which I think The Tube paid for)was one of the first things I taped and I watched it over and over again. John Peel gave the band some much needed promotion which led to them being signed and getting on the cover of Melody Maker magazine. My friend Barney bought the band's debut album with record tokens he got for Christmas. I can remember sitting in his bed room listening to songs like "Everything In It's Place" and feeling envious that I didn't have enough money to buy the album myself. When the band played The Deptford Albany Empire my friend and I were the youngest heads in the crowd that night. We didn't stay to the end and I remember we ran from the venue to New Cross station as we were scared something bad would happen to us. Stump's second album featured the near hit "Charlton Heston Put His Vest On" I remember wayching the video on The Chart Show and not enjoying it as much as I want to. C'est la vie. Five years after being hooked on "Buffalo" I met Stump's sing Mick Lynch is Camberwell, South London. I was now aged 18 and was doing a foundation course at Camberwell School of Art - Mick Lynch was working as sort sort of technician. My friend Rowland Smith went over to him and asked for his autograph. After chatting to the Stump singer for a few seconds Rowland went off to the bar, when he eventually came back he explained Lynch had said he would only give him an autograph if he bought him a drink. Rowland showed me what Lynch wrote - it said: "To Rowland, a man with more money than sense." 15 or so years later I put together an exhibition where artists paid tribute to John Peel by doing a painting of a band he championed. Rowland and I had a go at painting Stump. It was a bit of a rush job. Maybe now the time is right to do a better one?
I still love Quirk Out and the video for Buffalo. R.I.P Mick Lynch

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Whose Trolling Who?

In my opinion - dropping bombs in Syria is a terrible, terrible idea. The majority of Labour Party M.P's share my opinion. It's frustrating that a minority of Labour M.P. voted for dropping bombs. But no matter how frustrated you are please don't send angry and abusive e-mails to your M.P. Send lists, send long letters, send jokes but please don't become an internet troll.
Siobhain Mcdonagh is the Labour M.P. for Mitchum and Morden in Greater London. She is a very popular and hard working M.P. who has lived her whole life in the area she represents. I was sad to hear she's been getting unpleasant mail. http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/siobhain-mcdonagh-labour-mps-must-speak-up-for-democracy-against-hard-left-trolls-a3137526.html Mrs Mcdonagh is not alone.
MP Neil Coyle spoke of his fears for his pregnant wife following a Twitter message featuring knife images. “There is this vociferous minority that think that they can make these threats and abuse people,” Mr Coyle told Sky News. “My concern is also for my staff and my volunteers in the local Labour party volunteers who give their time… and are not being told we need security for our events and things like that. That’s unacceptable. “My home address was put online - I have to worry about my wife who’s pregnant. Fundamentally, there is something wrong about people who think it’s OK to make these kinds of threats.” Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, who has faced threats of deselection, was forced to leave the chamber during Syria debate to deal with abusive phone calls to her office.
John McDonnell said any complaints would be investigated and members using "unacceptable" bullying or abuse on either side of the debate would face disciplinary action. Revealing that he had received a death threat for his anti-war stance, the shadow chancellor said: "All of that intimidation is not acceptable." One thing I would take issue with in Ms Mcdonagh's article for The Standard is that she says huge numbers of Labour Party members are leaving. It appears to me that actually the opposite is true. More and more and joining and although The Conservatives are ahead in the polls Labour are catching up.
The Labour Party was founded in 1900. In July 2008 The Labour membership fell to it's lowest level in the party's history. In a desperate bid to get rid of some of their £18 million debt the party were forced to slash its staff and spending. In an official submission to the Electoral Commission, Labour admitted that its membership at the end of 2007 was 176,891. That is scarcely 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 when Tony Blair took office. Total Labour membership fell by nearly 6,000 during 2007, the year Gordon Brown replaced Mr Blair as leader. It is believed to have gone on falling. The Conservatives do not publish national membership figures, but in 2006 the party estimated its total at 290,000. According to the commission records, Labour had 213 staff at the end of 2007, down from 302 in the election year of 2005. Labour also recently announced that the party's annual spring conference would be cancelled next year as a money-saving measure. The party is continuing to struggle in the wake of the cash for honours scandal, when it emerged that both Labour and the Conservatives had got around election rules by taking loans at preferential rates from wealthy backers. Membership of the Labour Party has practically doubled since their catastrophic defeat in May's General Election, mostly due to the surprise election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Labour now has 370,658 members, its highest total since the halcyon days of 1997. Of these, 183,658 joined since May. The total number of Conservative members is thought to number around 150,000. When left wing candidate Corbyn threw his cap into the ring there was a quick surge of new £3 members, each of whom were then able to vote for him - or other candidates - as leader. However even following his election the number of new members has risen by another 50,000, (October 2015) Corbyn has faced a barrage of criticism from many sections of the media, the Conservatives and even some within his own party due to his uncompromising stance on issues like defence, terrorism and not singing the national anthem. However, even some of Corbyn's opponents seem agreed his emergence into the light after 32 years in the relative shade of Islington North has helped energise young people in particular. Corbyn has given his blessing to the "Momentum" movement which hopes to become a major force for social change. His maiden leadership speech in Brighton was relatively well-received but since then the Conservatives had a strong showing at their own conference in Manchester. Now Corbyn stands accused of snubbing the Queen by not attending the Privy Council. Corbyn claimed he'd already made other arrangements, and will join the council at a later date. However, according to an analysis of opinion polls carried out by New Statesman, the "Corbyn effect" doesn't seem to have had much impact on the wider electorate. Whilst the proportion of voters who said they would vote Labour has gone up, the gap between them and the Tories remains 2.3 per cent.
Vanessa Baird (of The New Internationalist) compiled ten reasons why bombing Syria is a bad idea... 1 Civilians will suffer most. The so-called Islamic State (IS) isn’t stupid. When Raqqa is bombed, IS fighters scurry into their tunnels or into areas of high civilian density. The idea of surgical strikes in this context is fanciful. Read what Syrians have to say about bombing. 2 There is no ‘end’ in sight, no plan for reconstruction or stabilization post bombing Syria. It can only deepen the chaos. Have we learned nothing from Iraq, from Libya? 3 Most military experts don’t think bombing will work – and certainly not without ground troops. French efforts, despite numerous sorties, have hardly been a resounding success. So if he is serious, David Cameron should be calling for permission to send thousands of British troops to fight in Syria. That, after all, is what it may come to if he gets his way with the vote this week. 4 David Cameron’s claim that there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ opposition fighters in Syria, ready to take the ground fight to IS, has been derided by experts. The opposition consists of at least 100 different groups, each with their own aims, not all of which can be trusted to oppose IS. 5 The call for Britain to join France in bombing IS in Syria is a direct result of the Paris attacks. At an emotional level it is entirely understandable. And a robust military response works wonders for the political fortunes of an unpopular leader – as President Hollande is now discovering. But neither provide a rational or moral argument for revenge bombing. 6 The recent globalization of IS activities, exemplified by the Paris attacks, follows a period when IS had been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. On this basis, Western bombing of IS in the region will not make Europe safer. Rather it is likely to recruit more sympathizers to violent Islamic extremism and increase the risk of devastating copy-cat attacks by autonomous cells of homegrown terrorists in the West. 7 The West is falling into a trap of IS’s making. The Salafist game plan is to draw the West into a war that will not end and that it cannot win; to degrade and bankrupt the enemy infidel. 8 The casting of IS as ‘enemy number one’ also suits the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has killed many more people than IS has, but is now presented as ‘maybe not so bad after all’. 9 The blunt instrument of Western bombing will obscure what really needs to be done to beat IS: to choke its supply line of funding, oil and sympathy. To do that involves following the money and the oil, investigating the activities of Western allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. 10 The Syrian civil war has become an immensely complex regional problem. The solution needs to be regional. Western military action is likely to be blundering at best. The West’s greatest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is the source of most of IS’s foreign fighters. Despite its anti-IS rhetoric, the regime has only engaged in the most desultory and symbolic military action against IS in Syria. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to bomb neighbouring Yemen to pieces. But that’s another story – or is it? - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/01/10-reasons-not-to-bomb-syria/#sthash.jzfYC8Rt.dpuf
An Open letter to Stella Creasy posted by K Barlow on the 13th of Dec On Sunday December 6th 2015, I attended an event at which Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, attempted to justify to local residents – the majority of which, by her own admission, opposed the bombing of Syria – why she had voted with the Government in favour of extending air strikes. Stella’s rationale left a number of fundamental questions unanswered, and reproduced below is my email to her following the event: Dear Stella, I was at the meeting on Sunday and unfortunately (frustratingly) didn’t get the chance to ask a question. I felt, fundamentally, you failed to provide an adequate response to the key issue – namely what is the evidence that a bombing campaign is an effective, let alone moral, response to the situation in Syria. Much of what you said consisted of emphasising how evil and barbaric IS is, and how ‘this is an organisation that throws gays off the top of buildings’. That is not the issue – no one contests the brutality of IS’s actions, and simply re-stating over the over the ‘evil’ of IS does a disservice to those opposed to the bombing, and sets up a false dichotomy between dropping bombs and ‘doing nothing’. What is the actual empirical evidence (not supposition, speculation and assertion) that a bombing campaign will either help those in Syria or protect those in the West from terrorist attack? The ‘War on Terror’ has been waged for almost fifteen years now, and what is the evidence that any of the bombing campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have made any positive long-term (or indeed short-term) impact? What is irrefutable is that hundreds of thousands of civilian lives have been lost, millions displaced, and resentment against Western foreign policy has increased exponentially. As for the ‘intelligence’ you refer to that the bombing might help prevent attacks at home, as well as striking at the heart of IS’s leadership, you’ll have to be forgive me my scepticism. We were told that there was compelling military intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, only for it later to transpire that this ‘evidence’ was based on the testimony of a single, unreliable source who fabricated everything. It also strikes me as curious that you said that it was partly the intelligence that, as an MP, you were privy to (and that we, as mere members of the public, didn’t have access to), that led you making your decision to support the bombing. Jeremy Corbyn, as Leader of the Opposition, would presumably have access to the highest level of intelligence available, and yet chose to oppose the bombing – which would suggest you have a pretty low opinion of his judgement. I was also unclear as to what you see the primary purpose of the bombing as being. Is it to protect those of us in the UK from terrorist attacks? Aside from my incredulity that bombing a foreign country will do anything to ‘protect’ us, that on the contrary will stoke resentment, that the actual perpetrators of atrocities in the West have been mainly citizens of the countries in which they occurred, the fact remains that the number of casualties of terrorism in Western countries is dwarfed by the number of innocent civilians killed by Western bombing campaigns. No matter what spin is put on it, bombing in Syria will kill vast number of innocent civilians. These are areas IS controls, where their fighters will be able to command shelter and refuge from bombing, and those who will bear the brunt of the destruction will be civilians who do not have that luxury. We will be killing a large number of civilians ‘over there’ in order to supposedly protect a smaller number of lives ‘over here’, in effect valuing the lives of those in Western countries far higher than those in Syria. Or do you see the primary purpose as protecting civilians in Syria? Again, for the reasons outlined above – added to the fact that no one, but no one, truly thinks the phantom army of 70,000 is going to turn up to fight in glorious unity anytime soon – I do not believe bombing will help relieve the suffering of the Syrian people, and will on the contrary exacerbate it. To quote Syrian refugee Ahmed, 17, interviewed in the Evening Standard: “The situation in Syria is really bad. If Britain starts bombing too, Daesh will escape but innocent people, children will die. When Nato planes come to Syria, the aircraft destroy everything. They are destroying people’s homes, and only a little bit Daesh. They become stronger, we see that.” Or perhaps you see the primary purpose as being to support our ‘allies’? At the meeting on Sunday, you said we should support the French government in their bombing campaign because a ‘socialist’ administration had asked for our help. I found this comment both disturbing and confusing – are you saying the political hue of the government in power of an allied country should guide whether we offer assistance or not? If the Front National were to gain power in France, would you then call for our support for bombing to be withdrawn? And why should we unquestioningly be expected to offer support to Western European governments simply because we consider them ‘allies’? Our solidarity should be extended to the everyday victims of terrorism, be that in Nigeria, Somalia, Syria or anywhere else in the world, not simply to the governments of countries in the West most like ‘us’. Finally, you repeat the usual mantra of IS being a ‘death cult’ (I’m not even sure what that actually means) that cannot be negotiated with. Whilst it is true that IS as an organisation isn’t open to negotiation, I do not think it helpful to assume that everyone who is purportedly a member of IS is beyond being reached, or is an irredeemable ‘terrorist’. There are men in areas occupied by IS who have the choice of joining IS or being killed. As we have seen recently, there are a number young women in the UK who have attempted to join IS. They may consider them stupid or na├»ve, we may consider their political views abhorrent, but do we really think that by these actions they are deserving of an extrajudicial death warrant? Do you really have such a nihilistic view of human nature that you believe no one who joins IS can ever again be convinced to leave? Certainly I don’t think those minds are likely to be changed through the bombing of innocent civilians. In sum, despite your assertion that you have explained your rationale for voting in favour of bombing, I still feel at a loss to understand what the evidence underpinning your decision was, beyond the fact you think IS is ‘evil’. Ken Barlow
Merry Christmas!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Interview with Jasper Joffe of Joffe Books

The Rebel Magazine: Were you a keen reader from an early age? Jasper Joffe: "The first series of books I loved, when I was six or seven, were The Great Brain books, which are about a precocious boy in 19th century Utah. I loved all his business schemes and wanted to be as clever as he was! I had a red table next to my bed covered in books (now I store them underneath) and it feels like I have read almost every night of my life before I go to sleep. It's a funny sort of ritual." The Rebel: I understand you are looking for new writers to publish. What kind of writers are you signing up and which kind of writers are you showing the door to? Joffe: "Yes, we're always looking for fantastic new writers at Joffe Books. We're signing high-quality mystery, thriller, and romance novelists. We tend not to be keen on sci-fi, short stories, and erotica. I look for strong characters, an interesting premise, pellucid prose, and a gripping story."
The Rebel: How much of the book do you need writers to send you? Is one chapter and a synopsis ok? Joffe: "That used to be the case when you had to put your submission in an envelope. Now we ask for the whole book plus a short synopsis. It's really important that the author says in the email they send us what kind of book they've written (e.g. a thriller) and what it's about in a few sentences. (I've put some notes below from when I gave a talk about what not to do in a submission!)" The Rebel: What are your 3 most successful Joffe books so far - what kind of sales figures are we talking? Joffe: "Well, our best-selling books recently have been the four Calladine and Bayliss mysteries by Helen H. Durrant. They sold 50,000 copies last month alone!"
The Rebel: How do you edit your writer's work. Have there been any books you've left alone as they were perfect? Any bad reactions to your suggestions of what should be cut? Joffe: "We employ editors and proofreaders, and I sometimes do some editing myself. A few writers don't need much editing, they've really honed everything, and it's hard to move a word. Most writers are happy to have careful editing done and they understand it can make a huge difference. It's really about seeing the book from the outside, how a reader will experience the book, and sometimes that can be hard for the writer to see. Eventually you feel, if you edit a lot of writer's work, that you know all their linguistic quirks and many of their thoughts, which is weird but good. But, of course, you have to respect and amplify the writer's intentions. We've never had a bad reaction (so far!)."
The Rebel: How do you define success? Joffe: "In publishing? or life? In publishing I'm always pleased when we can help a writer earn a living from doing what they love. That's life-changing. It's exciting when a book is published, I get a real buzz out of that, and then thinking of all the people that read them (and the ones who leave reviews) makes me happy. Success, I think, personally, is about building something which reaches people, and learning new things. I feel that Joffe Books has done that."
The Rebel: Do you think Joffe books will keep going on getting bigger and better or do you think you'll get bored and start directing films or staging operas? Joffe: "I do like ballet! I think one thing leads to another, but there's much yet to be done at Joffe Books before we start on the ballets."
Jasper Joffe's Tips For Submissions 1. Put something in the email. A blank email with an attachment isn’t so good. 2. Spell the company's/editor's name right, get their gender right, etc. 3. Read the submissions page, it will help! Do what it says, more or less. 4. Press send once. 5. PDFs: yuck! Word rules. 6. Tell us what the genre it is, what other books it resembles, who will read it, and tell the story in one paragraph. 7. Check your spelling/write in sentences. 8. Find out a bit about what the publishers do. Mention that. 9. Tell them why you’re great or just passionate, but not too much! (or any relevant achievements). 10. Keep it clear, short, simple.
Find out more at: www.joffebooks.com See also: https://twitter.com/JoffeBooks and: facebook https://www.facebook.com/joffebooks "The Laughing Jasper" photograph at top of page is courtesy of Deba Banerjee