Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and the Revival of the Labour Right, by David Lindsay

I had wanted to support Andy Burnham. But I am disabled, and he did not think me worth voting for. So, Jeremy Corbyn it is, then. The personal is political. What is more, the score between New Labour and the Conservatives now stands at a mere 3-2. The last New Labour victory was 10 years ago, or 15 years before the next General Election. It is time to try something new.

On the scale of public ownership and on the extent of trade union power, Corbyn is well to the right of Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home. That is not hyperbole. It is fact. As it is that Margaret Thatcher presided over publicly owned railways, and over a 60p top rate of income tax well above that proposed by Corbyn. And as it is that Tony Blair promised to renationalise the railways in the 1997 manifesto and in several speeches leading up to that General Election.

Why would Corbyn’s position not be the centre ground? You can have all the private health insurance that you like. But if you were hit by a car, or if you collapsed in the street with a heart attack, then someone would call 999, and an NHS ambulance would take you to an NHS hospital.

That that call would certainly be made, even by a perfect stranger, is testament to the definition of the United Kingdom’s culture by the social democratic legacy of previous Labour Governments, supremely that which was elected in 1945. Everyone benefits, of all classes and in all areas. Such was always the intention behind it. This is the only British identity that almost anyone alive can remember, or that almost any of the rest would wish to have.

Today, however, it is under threat as never before. Even in the 1980s, nothing came close to the scale of the attack, not merely since the recent General Election, but since that of 2010; under the Liberal Democrats, who never moderated a thing, as much as under the Conservatives. The election of Tim Farron augurs well, as does the vote of all eight Liberal Democrat MPs against the Welfare Reform Bill. But we must not let that recent party of government off the hook for its numerous offences.

Labour grew from many and various roots. Trade union and co-operative. Radical Liberal and Tory populist. Christian Socialist and Social Catholic. Fabian and even, in the space both on Labour’s fringes and on Marxism’s fringes, Marxist, subject to the balancing and moderating influences of the others. Giving the wrong answers does not preclude asking the right questions. Much of the Fabian tradition also gives the wrong answers.

We need a broad alliance between the urban and the rural, the metropolitan and the provincial, the secular and the religious, the socially liberal and the socially conservative. An alliance including all ethnic groups, all social classes, and all parts of the country: One Nation.

Labour has always had a right wing. It always will have. It always should have. People who would prefer the purity of a Stalinist, Trotskyist or Maoist groupuscule have never been short of options. The point is to have a right wing of the Labour Party, and not merely a right wing in the Labour Party. The Leadership of Jeremy Corbyn will achieve that.

Who are the hundreds of thousands who have signed up in order to vote for him? Are there that many Stalinists, Trotskyists and Maoists in Britain, collectively more numerous than the entire membership of the Conservative Party? Are there that many sad acts who do whatever Toby Young tells them? Of course not.

And if they are not already, then most of these mainstream, moderate centrists will become full members of the Labour Party once the mainstream, moderate and centrist Corbyn is Leader, involving themselves fully in local party activity even where they have to organise it entirely from scratch.

By Christmas, every Constituency Labour Party will contain a majority that had joined specifically because of Jeremy Corbyn. Abstentionist MPs who had thought that you had meal tickets for life, you need to start looking for jobs. Although good luck to most of you with that. Tony Blair used to talk about “literally a new party”, but it is Corbyn who has already created one.

From the Trade Union Bill, to public ownership, to the proper centrality of rail and coal, to foreign policy and wars, to Trident, to civil liberties, to the case against the EU from the very start, Corbyn’s views are the views of Peter Hitchens. Many of them are also shared by Peter Oborne and by several other commentators who could hardly be described as “Loony Left”.

Furthermore, they are popular. For example, the renationalisation of the railways is consistently supported by between 65 and 70 per cent of the population, stable across all parts of the country and across the electoral bases of all parties. There is strong public support for rent controls, and for a mandatory Living Wage properly so called. Defending the NHS is massively popular.

But even if none of those things were the case, a political party does not exist purely in order to follow public opinion. What would be the point of the Labour Party if it did not campaign for such policies as these? Or if it did not vote to defend the best legacy of Blair, his drastic reduction in child poverty?

Figures of such Olympian self-regard as to profess that they “would not serve under Corbyn”, as if they would have been asked, need to be made aware that plenty of people without a Marxist bone in their bodies would be more than happy to do so, and would merrily relieve them of the parliamentary seats that they obviously would not be needing. Any seat that was Labour in 2015 will always be Labour.

Corbyn’s position on Northern Ireland has been that of the Conservative Party since 1993 in principle, and since well before that in practice. There are people in Northern Ireland who dissent from it, but for whom do they vote? With their Confederate, apartheid and Nazi flags, they identify publicly as one Lost Cause among many.

Whereas Corbyn will soon speak at a Sinn Féin-associated cultural festival alongside a Democratic Unionist MP and former Lord Mayor of Belfast who was 13 at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. The most controversial thing about the entire week is the question of whether or not Frankie Boyle will appear.

On the Falkland Islands, I am as fierce as Michael Foot was on the right of the inhabitants to self-determination. But I doubt that much of the British population would share that view in practice if this tiny community a very long way away were to take this country to war for the second time in 40 years.

I was born in St Helena, but the employment of St Helenians on the Falklands is not necessarily conditional on British sovereignty. Believing that having once been invaded qualifies them for every conceivable goodie, the Falkland Islanders are the kind of entitled lot whom Thatcherites would ordinarily despise. Even with the impending airport, St Helena makes do with much less for more people. The treatment of the British community on Ascension Island is a national disgrace. The only strategic interest in the Falkland Islands is in the defence of the Falkland Islands.

Corbyn, Parliament’s doughtiest battler for the Chagossians and a scourge of the tax havens beloved of the Conservative Party’s paymasters, will take a more rounded and balanced view of the Overseas Territories. The Falkland Islanders, among others, will need to up their game from “Because we’re worth it”, never mind “Good old Maggie Thatcher”.

Corbyn once hosted Hamas, with which the Israeli Government negotiates all the time, and Hezbollah, alongside which our Armed Forces are now at war, a war that Corbyn was one of very few MPs to vote against. It was not he who lowered the flag over the Palace of Westminster when King Abdullah died.

Corbyn is in favour of the abolition of the monarchy in Britain, but it is inconceivable that he would ever press that issue. There would simply be rather more immediate calls on his time, and his side would be guaranteed a crushing defeat in any referendum. This question is never asked of those who identify with either or both of Thatcherism and Blairism. Yet the Thatcher and Blair Projects were both incompatible with the monarchy in principle, and, using and used by the Murdoch media, they were both extremely hostile in practice to the Queen and to the Royal Family.

What of the SNP, that collection of former Tory candidates, youthful Tory-Nationalist dynasts, and erstwhile speechwriters for Daniel Patrick Moynihan, none of whom is ever asked when he or she mysteriously became a figure of the radical Left? It has done as well as it ever possibly could, and it is therefore no longer any kind of threat to Labour.

Labour is bound to regain a few seats in Scotland, and probably quite a few, because the only way for the SNP is down. For differing but not unconnected reasons, the factually baseless existence of some special relationship between Labour and Scotland has long been a staple of Scottish Labourites, Scottish Nationalists and English Tories.

But Scotland now returns exactly as many Labour MPs as Conservatives or Liberal Democrats, while the Labour Whip is at least informally accepted by three times as many MPs from Northern Ireland, where Labour does not even stand candidates, as from Scotland, with a fourth Northern Irish MP also a kind of Labour supporter. Labour has barely noticed this “loss” of Scotland.

The SNP would only have mattered anywhere outside its increasingly curious fiefdom if there had been a hung Parliament. But there is not. Moreover, it has already proved wholly incapable of dealing with the media scrutiny to which it is unused. It is time to turn that on its disastrous record of running Scotland’s health and education, and on its downright corrupt relationship with Brian Souter over transport policy.

Speaking of transport, if recall elections are introduced, then the rail unions, affiliated and otherwise, need to fund Labour’s petitioning for them, and then winning them, across all 44 Conservative seats in the North of England, three in North Wales, and one, precisely one, in the South of Scotland.

The pre-Blairite right-wing faction Labour First professes to believe that “The unions are an integral part of our party” and to favour “More power for local councillors, not unaccountable community groups and quangos”. Yet it is campaigning for tactical voting against the only candidate who shares those views. Its unbending support for Trident, ostensibly in order to protect vastly fewer jobs than have been allowed to go to the wall elsewhere, now makes it more belligerent than Michael Portillo. Like its hardline neoconservatism, that stance alienates it from at least one MP who is a veteran of the traditional Labour Right.

Even before he becomes Leader, Corbyn needs to announce a bank of independent policy advisors including all MPs who nominated him, all MPs who signed the uncalled Goodman Amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, all Labour MPs who voted against Second Reading of that Bill, all signatories to this, all signatories to this, all contributors of essays or commendations to this, all non-Labour MPs who voted against war in Syria in 2013, all MPs who voted against war in Iraq in 2014, and all seat-taking MPs from Northern Ireland.

Although not affiliated to the Labour Party since the High Blair Period, the RMT and the FBU remain affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee, which is constitutionally committed to the election of a Labour Government. They ought to undertake to pay all election costs of Labour MPs or candidates in any of those categories, as well as of candidates selected in place of prima donnas who thought that they were indispensable.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Trial, by Franz Kafka, adapted by Nick Gill, the Young Vic; reviewed by Ian Oakley

The first thing that hits you when you enter the Young Vic for their production of The Trial is the set.

It is not easy to describe, but the best way to think of it is as if the Old Bailey was given a re-design by Ikea, with a conveyor belt thrown in as the stage.

As this suggests you realise you are not going to get a cosy night at the theatre.

The production brings the quality of a fevered dream to Kafka’s story of Joseph K, an everyman who wakes up one day to find himself arrested for an unknown crime, whose life collapses under the pressure of the criminal proceedings.

The setting has been relocated from early twentieth century Prague, to a sort of crazed 1970s Britain, think of The Good Life meets Waiting for Godot and you get the idea.

The nature of Joseph K’s predicament, not knowing what - if anything - he has done wrong and his increasingly desperate attempts to escape from the proceedings are inherently surrealist.

But ultimately, Nick Gill’s adaptation of Kafka’s work builds a barrier with the audience rather than involving us in K’s nightmare journey, so that by the end you don’t really care what is happening you just what the nightmare to end.

I fear this is a function of modern young playwrights realising that to get on in their careers they need to appeal to their peers by dazzling with innovative techniques, such as K’s monologues being in poetical child speak, and the concerns of relating to the audience come second.

Perhaps I am being unfair, but that is certainly what it felt like after two hours.

In having said all that, the cast were excellent, in particular Rory Kinnear as K, who spends the whole production on stage, you can almost see his character physically imploding under the pressure.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Two Months of Laudato Si’, by David Lindsay

Two months ago today saw the publication of Laudato Si’.

Sticking it to the pickiest of all Cafeteria Catholics, the right-wing American and wannabe American ones, is always necessary. Popes have been doing it, at least implicitly, for as long as the terms have been meaningful. But this time, the targets have paid attention. One might call that a climate change.

As ever, bioethical matters and sexual matters, matters of social justice (a term of Papal origin, like the Living Wage) and matters of peace, are presented as an indivisible whole. Such is catholicity.

Of course, it did not take long for the Malthusians to emerge, even though their position provides no possible basis for resisting George Osborne’s spiteful restriction of child tax credits, a measure that they ought to applaud.

Consumption is at its highest where birthrates are at their lowest, just it is anything but counterintuitive that there is the most abortion where there is the most contraception.

But the anti-natal answer to every question is always, “There are too many proles and darkies, and we should be allowed to have completely consequence-free sex with every woman on earth.”

Ever faithful to Marie Stopes, author of extravagant, versified love letters to Hitler. Marie Stopes, who disowned her own son because he married a woman who wore glasses.

Marie Stopes, who campaigned for the compulsory sterilisation of “the C3 population”, of “half-castes” and of “revolutionaries”, among numerous others.

Marie Stopes, who opened dozens of clinics in working-class areas to reduce the number of “undesirables” by persuasion if force were politically impossible.

Yet those clinics now retain the right to “counsel” women considering the abortions that they have a gigantic financial and an immeasurable ideological interest in ensuring go ahead.

They still carry the name of Marie Stopes. Our televisions now carry their adverts. Our 50p stamps have recently carried her image. And we all carry the shame.

As they do across the Atlantic, where tax dollars fund the heirs of Margaret Sanger, whose stated primary objective was always to prevent black babies from being born, the objective still pursued above all others by her successors, so that “Planned Parenthood” would more accurately be called “Planned Genocide”.

The womb, the streets and the battlefield are the locations of the triple genocide to which the American black male, in particular, is now subject.

The Unholy Trinity is completed by Helen Brook, who in February 1980 wrote in The Times that, “From birth till death it is now the privilege of the parental State to take major decisions – objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child.”

In 1995, this deranged creature was given the CBE. The Conservative Party was not at that time in coalition with the Liberal Democrats or anyone else.

Femaleness has been classified as in itself a medicable condition by means of the contraceptive pill, which is simply not a medicine at all.

It is, in point of fact, a poison, designed precisely to stop healthy body parts from performing their natural functions, and accordingly attended by all manner of horrific side effects, for no reason except to make women permanently available for the sexual gratification of men.

The feminist backlash against surrogacy and IVF has already begun. This will be next, and it will happen soon.

The World Health Organisation, which is hardly a Vatican puppet, more than acknowledges the unrivalled effectiveness of Natural Family Planning if it is taught and practised properly, a practice only possible by a faithful married couple.

As with the Catholic Church’s uniquely successful approach to the spread of HIV (Africa is awash with condoms, and for what?), who is incapable of the requisite discipline? Women? Black people? The poor? The inhabitants of the developing world? Or just poor black women in the developing world?

The Pill, in turn, has wrought havoc by filling our water supply with synthetic oestrogens. If that is not both a social justice and an environmental concern, then I cannot imagine what could be, or what it is instead.

Following logically, maleness itself has also been so classified, leading to the heavy medication of boys purely for being boys, by means of Ritalin and other powerful “treatments” for largely or entirely invented conditions.

The impact of antidepressants on the rise of violent mental illness, especially among young men and teenage boys, also calls for the most unflinching examination.

As, while, we are about it, does the impact of cannabis on the rise of schizophrenia, and by extension also on lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, brain tumours, serial miscarriage, low birth weight, male and female infertility, impotence, and a huge number of other conditions.

We need an approach to climate change which protects and extends secure employment with civilised wages and working conditions, which encourages economic development around the world, which upholds the right of the working classes and of non-white people to have children, which holds down and as far as practicable reduces the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, and which refuses to restrict travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich.

Climate change is supposed to be anthropogenic. The human race makes the weather. The burning of carbon is the foundation of the working class, the foundation of the Left, the foundation of human progress (problematic though that term is), the foundation of civilisation.

We need a celebration of the full compatibility between the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

The problem with the world is not that it has people in it. Which people, exactly? We all know the answer to that. Rather, people produce wealth, material and otherwise. People are wealth, material and otherwise.

The Pope has said nothing that does not confirm and reiterate both these principles and the urgency of their practical application.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Blue Labour, Blue Danger?, by Hani Latif

Since its conception during the dying days of the last Labour government, Blue Labour has developed into a community of interested thinkers.

Like any brashly packaged, attention-grabbing, tribal phenomenon this community is diverse.

Many subscribers are fully committed to its ideas, whatever they interpret them to be. Others see it and its audience as a useful opportunity to strengthen or supplement their brand of Labourism. Others again are convinced only by one or two details of the picture, and are yet to be convinced of the merits of the whole piece.

To summarise, and to do a great disservice, the Blue Labour message is that Labour must rediscover the importance of things that its modernisers thought unnecessary or unhelpful, but which its historical support base hold dear.

To give an example that may conjure up flickers of remembrance for anyone who knocked on doors during the 2015 General Election, being seen to be strong on controlling immigration to this country has not been a policy priority for Labour politicians, but many people who stopped voting for Labour this year see it as crucial.

With immigration and many other issues, it is Labour’s modernisers that have failed to offer a convincing answer as to why their aims have had to trump these people’s concerns, and thus they have alienated the party from the working-class base.

This disconnect has driven on Blue Labour thinkers such as Maurice Glasman and Adrian Pabst (co-editor with Ian Geary of Blue Labour: Forging A New Politics) to collect together those interested in resurrecting the Labour Party’s traditional position on these issues and those interested more explicitly in Labour’s winning elections.

That those behind the Blue Labour movement would hold the movement’s summer get-together in Islington was not lost on the organisers

Of course, quite apart from the, rather unfair, effete image that has developed about this neighbourhood, Islington and its environs are represented in Parliament by the troublemaker de nos jours, Jeremy Corbyn MP and the bête noire of England’s conducteurs des camionnettes blanches, Emily Thornberry MP.

Those two figures were held up pointedly by the attendees as symptoms of a Labour Party that was failing.

Corbyn’s brand of politics may arguably have a coherent message, but it does not appeal to the socially conservative principles of many in the Labour movement.

It is too closely influenced by the Marxist elements that have been ever-present in the party, but have never had real mass appeal.

Thornberry, on the other hand, committed the sin of being seen to sneer at the traditions and the culture of English people.

Blue Labour is a movement that respects people’s patriotism and understands the emotional connection that people have with this sort of iconography.

Blue Labour feels that Labour has lacked empathy when dealing with people who put a love of England above other important factors.

Speaking at the Islington event were Maurice Glasman, the movement’s founder and de facto leader; Dr Adrian Pabst, the post-liberal academic from the University of Kent, who has been a strong contributing voice in the discourse surrounding Blue Labour; Rachel Burgin, Labour’s unsuccessful PPC for Hitchin and Harpenden; and the assembled sympathetic crowd of between 50 and 100 people.

Lord Glasman spoke quite openly and honestly about his displeasure at the state of the Labour Party.

This was a feeling from which one could not easily escape; there were few people in attendance who seemed enthusiastic about any Labour Leadership candidate.

If, in a year or so, we hear the winning candidate claim to be a “champion of Blue Labour values” and to have run as the Blue Labour candidate, then your cynicism will be justified.

The central motif of Lord Glasman’s speech was the words “the common good” and “common good Labour”. 

This buzz-phrase is designed gradually to replace the name “Blue Labour”, which was originally designed to upset the sensibilities of Labour people by presenting a deliberately controversial and jarring image.

With his words, Glasman struck a note of togetherness and solidarity , and pushed for the membership to look at its history, in which Labour was as conservative as it was radical.

He spoke about the great things that the movement has achieved in its last century and why it is essential that it continues to transform and improve lives. It is clear the affection that the man has for his party.

But, in harking back to the figure of Ernie Bevin, he could not resist a dig at today’s confused and impoverished organisation.

What would be his reaction, Glasman asked, if Bevin were around to see Jeremy Corbyn leading the race for Labour leader in 2015?

The room’s deafening answer was Blue Labour.

Bevin, of course, the hammer of the Marxists, the man who got us the A-Bomb “with the bloody Union Jack flying on top of it”, the English (not British) patriot, was a co-founder of the TGWU.

That union does not exist anymore. It is part of Unite.

Lord Glasman seems set to try to build stronger institutional framework for his Blue Labour ideas both inside and outside of Parliament.

Time will tell whether he achieves this, but he expresses his ideas in a very cogent way and, what is more, he has converted  to his cause others who speak and write just as fluently and persuasively.

That is a strong base for any movement and, given that Labour may be out of power for a long time, “common good Labour” may find the time to flourish inside the chamber and in the tea-rooms and bars of the Palace of Westminster as well as in church halls and scout huts from Land’s End to Lerwick.

Ms Burgin’s speech was also very well received in the room. Its central theme, that of religion, and of the continuing importance of religious traditions to the lives of people in her ancestral home of Lowca, West Cumberland, is central to Blue Labour.

Burgin recalled Harold Wilson who remarked that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than it did to Marxism.

Religion and its assets, which bind communities together while they feel distant from Westminster, also provide for the struggle against poverty where nothing else can.

The Trussell Trust, for example, runs many foodbanks out of churche,s and has an ethos grown out of the Christian tradition.

For Ms Burgin, where Labour has failed to capitalise because of the preferences of its Westminster establishment, Blue Labour must highlight this and work for change.

Burgin’s speech was written in three parts to fit the three themes of Blue Labour: faith, flag and family.

She celebrated the way that the flying of the national flag need not be a divisive image, but can become a focal point for emotional expression within a community.

Ms Burgin spoke about the beneficial love and goodwill that is expressed between people through their families, and argued that Blue Labour’s focus on the family must involve an active state, willing to spend money to create jobs in order to protect families’ traditions and locations.

It was Dr Adrian Pabst who also provided food for thought by highlighting just how far Labour is behind the Conservatives.

George Osborne’s budget stole Labour’s message and made its policies from 2015 look wildly outdated.

The exciting ideas being spoke of by Conservative thinkers, such as the idea of putting workers’ representatives on company boards, shows that in 2020 the Labour Party will be fighting a battle in which the initial position of the Tories cannot be predicted or second-guessed.

Labour must forge its own ideas, and appeal to people in a way that the Tories failed to do.

Blue Labour is, for Dr Pabst, a very important step towards re-establishing an emotional connection with the voters.

Dr Pabst expressed the view that Labour must engage with England.

The debate over the English Parliament and the English Labour Party continues to ruffle feathers. From the audience in Islington, there was remarkable consensus and unity.

The existence of a major problem and the general flavour of the direction needed was not questioned at all.

There was, however, some disagreement about whether Blue Labour should be in favour of an English Parliament, and moreover it remains to be seen what will happen once the organisation develops and the more specific policies are arrived at.

One point which was made several times was the importance of maintaining a clear division between the New Labour wing of the party and Blue Labour, although it was interesting to note that in attendance were a number of recognisable Progress-aligned faces, indicating a broad interest in the movement from other parts of the party.

The audience itself, it was interesting to note, was made up of a surprisingly high number of young people, which potentially suggests that Blue Labour is finding favour amongst the young and has a strong future.

However, the number of women in attendance was very low and Lord Glasman acknowledged the importance of spreading the message of the group to a wider audience.

So, what will become of Blue Labour?

All in all, its fleeting stopover in Islington was thought-provoking and raised important questions about Labour’s direction.

There is little doubt that more will be heard about Blue Labour in the next 10 years as Labour walks the long road back to credibility.

The development of the institutions and direction of Blue Labour or “Common Good Labour” will be of especial interest to many.

It remains to be seen, however, if it will be able to hold out against colonisation by those who see it as just another bolt-on element of their overall plan to make Labour an election winning machine again.

It is possible that this message could deliver a Labour victory but there is something deeper here that must not be fudged.

Blue Labour is a critique of New Labour, not a reformulation of it.

The persistent assertion by some who flirt with Blue Labour that only a return to Blairite fiscal values will win us an election may be unhelpful.

Anyway, let’s see what happens.

Something of a Marker by Society, by Godfrey Bloom

The sixty-fifth birthday is something of a marker by society. It means that you are officially old.

You can,of course, kid yourself it is the new 40, you are in late middle age. But you are not. You have the biblical three score years and ten with perhaps a little interest.

Ten years to go then with a following breeze. After a health scare or two it is natural therefore not morbid to take stock.

The mind is particularly focussed for the military historian like myself who has seen more headstones in memoriam to boys in their twenties than enough.

As I deadhead the roses and mow the lawn, and get about my charity business it is easy to fall into the trap that you might not have made much of a fist of it.

This feeling can be quite strong if you are self critical, most of us are maybe with the exception of professional politicians of whom thankfully I never was.

I am often asked to speak at schools and universities, usually on classical liberalism or Austrian School economics, but the questions afterwards usually reflect anxiety amongst the young about how to be successful.

Well, I suppose it is how you judge success and, as Kipling rightly pointed out, how to judge those two imposters.

I would argue the criterion for judging success is experience.

As a baby boomer, I was lucky not to have to fight in a world war as did my father and grandfather. Indeed I had a very soft and cosy ride liberally laced with opportunity.

Did I blow it? My immediate answer to myself at 65 was yes, Bloom blew it big time. But on reflection, not so.

Certainly, I missed opportunities. But much of that can be put down to the folly of youth. I suppose there is nobody on the planet who has not missed opportunities, and we can't always blame youth.

There is always a natural tendency to anchor on the failures, which are often simply easier to spot. 

A ramble through the good things here because the 'what ifs' of failure are of no interest to anyone and can't even be accurately assessed, they simply give us the conundrum, as Frederick Bastiat, pinpointed of 'the unseen'.

Let me hasten to add these observations are not made in any boastful way most of them were dictated by fate, or luck if you prefer.

So youngsters may take a view on how to judge the imposter, and those of my age might like to reflect on the positive aspects of their lives. 

I was born into a middle class home in 1949, the son of an RAF pilot and WAAF mother. A stable happy marriage which is always a sound base camp for any youngster.

My father and his father were public school educated, but in the 1950s there was simply no money. I was extremely lucky to win a scholarship to one of the old Elizabethan Grammar Schools, an opportunity I certainly blew.

If it wasn't rugby, cricket or tennis I took no part, save the school history society giving me an interest I have never lost.

I drifted into the City, took my professional exams, joined the County of London Yeomanry and played rugger for the old boys.

I was in London in the Swinging Sixties, drove a mini and the girls wore them, life was good and I bought a London flat with a mortgage easily affordable for a young professional man. Very young, actually; 21.

Now the details are in a short autobiography, A Guinea a Minute, but that is not the point of this article at all.

I was dealt by fate a very good hand which I didn't play very well. But did I blow it? Here is where you can make a subjective judgment, old or young.

My experiences are in no chronological order or even importance. Some I suspect will seem of little value.

I have ridden with over a dozen hunts from the Vale of the White Horse to the Isle of Wight and as far north as the Percy in Northumberland.

I make mention of this only because I have therefore seen a very large part of one of the world's most beautiful countries on horseback. Only equalled by river or canal.

In my youth I climbed the three peaks ,Ben Nevis, and nearly all the Lake District fells. I have walked the coastal paths from Dorset to Pembrokeshire and most of Yorkshire.

My wife and I have ridden in Wyoming,Virginia and the South American Pampas, seen the storms in the Drackensburg mountains in January gin and tonic in hand, chartered a yacht off Cape Town cruised up the North West passage to Alaska and from Hong Kong to Japan, bathed on Waikiki Beach, seen both Niagara Falls and Milford Sound, even been shown the Golden Temple by the leading figures of the Sikh religion.

Other experiences include joining the best club in the world, the British Army, and passing out at RMA Sandhurst, admittedly bottom of the class.

I was in Germany with my regiment when the wall came down, and more recently rode shot gun from Kandahar to Camp Bastion in a Chinook.

Away from travel and to sport, I have been deeply involved with both junior rugby and ladies' rugby, mostly but not exclusively at Cambridge University.

A brief foray into politics, as with most backbenchers, achieved nothing very much save perhaps a small but not insignificant part in persuading this government to hold a referendum on self-government.

It could have been worse, as some politicians cause active harm.

I have also been honoured with invitations to speak at many of the most prestigious universities in the world, something always valued very highly, and many of the undergraduates I have met I remain in contact with many years on

People as well as places often inspire. I have had some memorable meetings with a very eclectic range of people, lunch with actors, musicians and sportsmen.

A particular favourite with Fred Truman, still unbelievably full of bounce only a few months before he died. A long lunch à deux with a totally un-luvvy-like Edward Fox, and a pub crawl with an irrepressible genius pianist John Lill.

Yet some of the most inspiring individuals were not the famous, or the great and the good, but tireless workers at local level for the common good, standing up to fight against school bullying, against crime families, and for local environment matters.

Although I mention some of the great vistas of international renown, many are on our own doorstep.

The beach walk from Bamburgh Castle to Seahouses, or the views of the Farne Islands from the Cheviot, or my favourite the sight and sounds of Hawes from the northern fell on a summer's Sunday morning, mists and church bells, as good an experience as any I have had in my life.

So we can all make our own luck without great cost because opportunities are everywhere if we know where to look.

On a personal note, I have been happily married for 30 years.

I see too many families wrecked because couples cannot be bothered to work a bit harder at it, give a little here and there.

You will note that I have made no mention of money. I am long enough in the tooth to know money is important, the oil that smooths the engine of life. But make no mistake, it is well down the list of life's priorities.

You can only drink one pint, drive one car, eat one meal at a time. You need enough, but no more than enough.

Although if I won millions on the lottery I would be pleased, indeed amazed as I don't buy any tickets.

I have never changed jobs, moved house or compromised my lifestyle or principles for money, neither have I inherited any.

It may be you are fortunate enough to have a vocation, not given to many of us. I have always envied those in perhaps medicine or teaching where they can be found.

A vocation is wonderfully self-contained, it travels with you permanently through life, it takes away much of the angst in life.

Every morning you know what you have to do, albeit you may not be quite sure how to set about it.

So if you are starting out, then think about what you want.

If you are entering the autumn of your years, then have a think about all those things that have worked out for you. Probably more than you think.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Chesterton and the Jews, by Ann Farmer

Best known for his detective hero Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton’s patriotism and growing sympathy for the poor vied with his appreciation of Jewish family values and his gratitude to the Jewish people for bringing God to the world.

With the rise of Nazism, Chesterton once again became their champion.

Although his Zionist views – as much misunderstood now as then – attracted controversy, he foresaw the perils of a race obsession that knew no boundaries, and his warnings against a resurgent German militarism were heard (or, mostly. not heard) as early as Winston Churchill’s.

He also saw the dangers to the family from both Left and Right; and as the Nazis strove to control family life, his admiration and gratitude for Jewish family values came to the fore.

Chesterton and the Jews peels away post-Holocaust assumptions to reveal his complex feelings for ‘the Jews’ - admiration, fascination and fear – discovering neglected layers of meaning in stories hitherto seen as anti-Semitic.

And with many life-long Jewish friends, Chesterton, prince of paradox, seems never to have suspected that his closest friend – his wife – was in all probability Jewish.

Chesterton and the Jews sets its subject in the context of his times, but also examines his claims to universal relevance as a modern prophet, studying him alongside close friends H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Hilaire Belloc.

Although all had strong opinions on the ‘Jewish question’, Wells and Shaw have emerged from history with their reputations unstained, while Belloc and Chesterton have acquired a reputation for anti-Semitism.

Belloc was self-consciously rational and strove to avoid prejudicing his case by unthinking prejudice; he managed to restrain the excesses of G. K.’s brother Cecil (although Cecil’s wife was harder to restrain), but although G. K. was badly knocked off course by his brother’s death in the closing days of the Great War, and took up the latter’s more aggressive stance on the ‘Jewish question’ almost as a mark of respect, he slowly recovered his sanity on the issue.

His entry into the Catholic Church, itself regarded as irredeemably anti-Semitic by many Jews, actually marked the emergence of a milder, more universalistic Chesterton, characteristically though paradoxically in tune with his nationalistic theory.

Shaw regarded the unlikely union of Chesterton’s and Belloc’s contrasting philosophies as an ungainly pantomime animal, the Chesterbelloc.

The contrast between their differing approach to the ‘Jewish question’ could be summed up by saying that following Cecil’s death at least, Chesterton tried to be anti-Semitic; Belloc tried not to be anti-Semitic; both failed, although after the rise of the Nazis, Belloc like Chesterton spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism.

On the surface they appeared to have the same view of the ‘Jewish question’, but a close study of their writings suggests that while the half-French Belloc feared that the English would become increasingly ‘Jewish’ (in a negative sense) over time, Chesterton feared that by rejecting their Jewishness, Jews would become ever more English (in a negative sense).

Of course, the problem with rebutting the often inaccurate and hyperbolic claims of anti-Semitism against Chesterton can make it appear that there was no problem. This is far from the case, but it was a much more complex problem than might at first appear to post-Holocaust eyes.

Nonetheless, in my desire not to overlook any hint of anti-Semitism I became almost as fanatical in my anti-anti-Semitism as any anti-Semite, and I have stressed that such references, themselves expressed with a nuance that was almost finicky, constitute a mere fraction of a huge outpouring of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and biography.

As to the ChesterShaWells and the ‘Jewish question’, each of its individual parts espoused the cause of the underdog, and this brought Chesterton into conflict with what became known as ‘Jewish finance’, because he had genuine sympathy with the poor, whereas Shaw and Wells were more interested in eradicating poverty by eradicating the poor.

Chesterton was suspicious of bureaucracy and overweening state power, whereas Shaw and Wells were attracted to that supreme, neutral entity, the totalitarian state, by its power for doing good.

Disregarding Acton’s warning about the corrupting power of power, they believed that so long as absolute power was in the right hands it would be wielded with absolute safety – but the right hands must be the strongest hands.

Their advocacy of the extermination of the weak did not cause the Holocaust, but both saw the Dictators as an evolutionary stage to their Utopias; desperately revising their predictions in the light of the latest totalitarian outrage, they became prophets in reverse.

And while Shaw and Wells supported totalitarianism because they saw it implementing some of their cherished ideas, Chesterton rejected fascism despite its potential for implementing his Distributist ideas.

While not planning their Utopias principally to address anti-Semitism, all claimed their Utopias – and in Shaw’s and Wells’s case they were ‘I-topias’ - were the answer to it.

All attacked Nazi anti-Semitism, but when ‘the Jews’ failed to spearhead his revolution Shaw transferred his hopes to the Nazis.

Wells, in the face of the Nazi extermination programme, eventually accepted that Jewish assimilation, a crucial stage on the way to creating his World State, was not an immediate possibility, but he blamed anti-Semitism on the Jewish insistence on remaining ‘separate’.

When tested by anti-Semitism, the I-topias survived. Millions of Jews did not.

Chesterton – the only one of the three who did not live to see the War – responded most realistically to Nazi anti-Semitism, and if the claim to prophet status in the age of Dictators is based on correct analysis of power politics and identification of the biggest threat to Britain, to democracy and to civilization, Chesterton’s claim surpasses that of Wells and Shaw.

The latter saw a separate Jewish people as an existential threat to their Utopias, but Chesterton believed they should not disappear even if they wanted to. Thus, his approach may be seen as equally flawed.

Nevertheless, unlike Shaw’s Shawtocracy of the Strong Man, and Wells’s worldwide expertocracy, Chesterton never abolished free will. When his ‘peasantocracy’ idea was largely rejected, only Chesterton trusted Man as God trusted Man: enough to accept rejection.

None of the three giants was perfect, or a perfect prophet. However, the ‘prophet test’ is not a test of perfection.

Chesterton admitted he was not perfect – no mere human being could be – but he was the only one of the three literary giants of the early twentieth century to reserve a place in his worldview for the Jewish people.

Shaw and Wells failed to see that the killing they advocated could be applied to other categories of human beings, but Chesterton realized that the ‘strong man’ could apply eugenics to anyone he chose.

Far from an historical curiosity, Darwinism is once again influencing the view that certain categories of people are not human persons and thus may be killed.

Indeed, ethicist Peter Singer, who has advocated infanticide for the disabled and who believes that human rights should be conferred on the great apes, has been lavished with praise and national honours.

Unlike Shaw and Wells, Chesterton did not urge the disappearance as the Jewish people as a precursor to his small-property-owning idea.

He maintained that Jewish financial power was in decline, and his belief in democracy and revealed religion, against fashionable evolutionary theories, Utopias and the Superman idea, challenged him on the ever-present yet ever-changing “Jewish question”.

That he met this challenge makes him the best prophet in the age of dictators.

His controversial version of Zionism, feared by some Jews as heralding a return to Medieval ghettos, is capable of a less threatening interpretation. But Chesterton may now be regarded by progressives as a failed prophet on the “Israel problem” in view of his advocacy of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, whose creation and continued existence they blame for provoking violent reaction worldwide.

Indeed, in the progressive worldview, Hitler’s ‘sincere’ opposition to Israel could yet be seen as prophetic, while the post-Modern aversion to objective truth, shaped by concerns about the ‘authoritarianism’ that supposedly led to the Holocaust, has itself led to a situation in which Holocaust denial is just another opinion.

It was not necessary to be a prophet in the 1930s to foresee the resurgence of anti-Semitism, that most enduring of hatreds. Indeed, Wells, Shaw and Chesterton all warned of a recurrence if their advice was not heeded.

But even without the lessons of history, they merely had to look around, see what was happening, and project it into the future if, as Ebenezer Scrooge remarked, ‘things did not change’.

Because Chesterton trusted men but distrusted Man, he could see what would happen if things did not change.

Shaw and Wells distrusted men but trusted Man, whom they saw as a eugenically purified and racially homogenized Superman. They denied the Fall of Man, and forgot, as Chesterton warned, that men make mistakes simply because they are men.

The very old-fashioned Chesterton espoused the diversity of Man before it became orthodoxy, but he knew that a diversity of men was needed to restrain the Strong Man and empower the weak.

Democracy depended on diversity of opinion, a democracy built on the Christian belief in free will.

While Shaw and Wells celebrated the Strong Man and were incapable of understanding the deeper meaning of Jack the Giant killer, Chesterton saw only too well the meaning of the Nazi Giant menacing the Jewish people.

G. K. C. died before the War, but gazing through the lens of the Holocaust, many present-day critics would no doubt condemn his writings for anti-Semitism, while falling into the age-old trap of singling out the Jewish state above all others for criticism, and blaming its existence for world unrest.

I do not expect progressive received opinion to regard Chesterton other than with a sneer, but interest in his writings is growing among ordinary people, and the test of a true prophet is whether he can be discovered afresh by each new generation – by people who may never have heard of him, but who now hear him addressing their own concerns, which are the enduring concerns of Man.

Even if not a prophet in the strictest sense, this makes him a man for all seasons.

It is sad that Chesterton is more likely to be recognised and acclaimed in the rest of the world than in his own country. But no prophet ever is recognised and acclaimed his own country, and that may be an indication that he may after all have a claim to prophet status.

More importantly, the progressive elitist classes that he warned about, which once constituted a tiny minority in society, now wield the greatest power, largely through the media.

They are doing exactly what he predicted – creating a progressive I-topia of birth control, abortion and euthanasia.

With the best of intentions, they have succeeded in delivering the medical fascism of eugenics and the neo-colonialism of population control, by re-packaging as rights and choices the old abuses that Hitler imposed on his victims.

Or perhaps, more insidiously, and consequently more dangerously, they will succeed in introducing genetic cleansing of the pre-born – for the avoidance of suffering, naturally.

As Chesterton realised, their intentions are good. But he also knew that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

That realisation constitutes a much greater claim to prophet status.  

Chesterton and the Jews: Friend, Critic, Defender (Angelico Press, June 2015).

Biographical information

Ann Farmer studied for a master’s degree at the Centre for Jewish Christian Relations in Cambridge, England. Publications include Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (1995); Prophets and Priests: The Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (2002); By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (2008); The Five Wounds (2012). She is married with three children and four grandchildren.

Labour at the End of the EU, by David Lindsay

Did no one foresee the catastrophe that the euro has become? Of course they did.

On precisely those grounds, 59 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht at Second Reading, joined by a mere 22 Tories, while 66 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht at Third Reading, still joined by only 41 Tories.

On both occasions, both tellers for the Noes were Labour, Jeremy Corbyn was among the Noes, and five Labour MPs were among the Ayes. Of those five, none is still in the House of Commons, and two are dead.

But the Labour MPs who opposed Maastricht were ignored in favour of the far smaller cast of comedy characters on the Tory benches.

Today, we have to endure the domination of the debate by people who not only supported Maastricht, but were in some cases Cabinet Ministers at the time.

Plus another generation of late night television clowns to make the case against the EU appear ridiculous and lacking in the intellectual ballast that in fact it possesses by the bucket load.

Whatever arrangement with the EU has been renegotiated to the satisfaction of David Cameron will be horrendous from the point of view of British workers and the users of British public services.

But then, the economic, social, cultural and political power of the British working class, whether broadly or narrowly defined, cannot exactly be said to have increased since 1973.

Any more than Britain has fought no further wars since joining a body as successful as NATO or nuclear weapons when it comes to keeping the peace.

We had full employment before we joined the EU. We have never had it since. No job in the real economy is dependent on our membership. Or were trade with, and travel to, the Continent unheard of, because impossible, before our accession to the EU?

Not for nothing did Margaret Thatcher support that accession, oppose withdrawal in the 1975 referendum, and go on, as Prime Minister, to sign an act of integration so large that it could never be equalled, a position from which she never wavered until the tragically public playing out of the early stages of her dementia. Her “No! No! No!” outburst was not part of any planned speech.

Those who bang on about her rebate need to ask themselves where any of that money ever went. In any case, it was no compensation for the loss of powers.

In anticipation of Cameron’s Single European Act on speed, Labour needs to get its retaliation in first. All of the candidates for Leader and Deputy Leader need to demand immediate legislation.

First, pre-emptively disapplying in the United Kingdom any Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, thus effectively strangling the whole wretched scheme in its cradle.

Secondly, restoring the supremacy of United Kingdom over European Union law, using that provision to repatriate industrial and regional policy as Labour has advocated for some time, using it to repatriate agricultural policy (farm subsidies go back to the War, 30 years before we joined the EU, and they are a good idea in themselves, whereas the Common Agricultural Policy most certainly is not), and using it to restore the United Kingdom’s historic fishing rights of 200 miles or to the median line.

Thirdly, requiring that all EU legislation, in order to have any effect in this country, be enacted by both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or the other of them.

Fourthly, requiring that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fifthly, disapplying in the United Kingdom any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament. That would also deal with whatever the problem was supposed to be with the Human Rights Act.

Sixthly, disapplying in the United Kingdom anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs who had been certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

Thus, we should no longer be subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, of neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, of members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, of people who believed the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, and of Dutch ultra-Calvinists who would not have women candidates.

And seventhly, giving effect to the express will of the House of Commons, for which every Labour MP voted, that the British contribution to the EU Budget be reduced in real terms.

All before Cameron even set off for his renegotiation, never mind held a referendum on that renegotiation’s outcome.

After all, which privatisation did the EU prevent? Which dock, factory, shipyard, steelworks or mine did it save?

If we needed the EU for the employment law that, since we do not have it, the EU is obviously powerless to deliver, then there would be no point or purpose to the British Labour Movement.

Far from preventing wars, the EU has done nothing to prevent numerous on the part of, at some point, most of its member-states.

Not least this member-state, which has been at war for almost the whole of the present century. Whether or not the EU caused those wars, it most certainly did nothing to prevent them.

The EU was a key player in, and it has been a major beneficiary of, the destruction of Yugoslavia, a process that events in Macedonia more than suggest is ongoing even after all these years.

It is now a key player in, and it seeks to be a major beneficiary of, the war in Ukraine, which is the worst on the European Continent since 1945.

That war is a direct consequence of the EU’s expansionist desire to prise a vital buffer state out of neutrality and into the NATO from which the EU is practically indistinguishable.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

It's Up To Europe's Leaders Now, by Bryan Gould

Like so many others, I long ago got used to being pilloried as “anti-European” for daring to say that the “Europe” we were urged to sign up to was no such thing, but was a particular arrangement cooked up by the powerful and foisted on the people of that often benighted continent without bothering either to consult them or to take count of their wishes.

As the Greek crisis unfolds, and as it strips bare the pretensions of those powerful forces who talk with less and less conviction of the European ideal and of democratic rights, we can surely no longer be in any doubt.

The “Europe” in whose service so much sacrifice is now demanded is a cartel of bankers, financiers and right-wing politicians who have no interest in democracy, or jobs, or the living standards of ordinary people.

As the Greek people suffer, and plead “no more”, it is not the travails of the Greeks – or, for that matter, the Spanish, or the Portuguese, or the Italians – that weigh with Europe’s powerful; their sights are fixed on maintaining austerity and discipline, on adhering to ideology and doctrine.

Above all, they are determined to protect the euro, because it is the one weapon that ensures that there can be no backsliding.

The euro was put in place so that, whatever temptations – or even imperatives – there may be, there can be no going back. The grim and unrelenting disciplines of neo-classical economics demand nothing less.

For many of us, this imposition of a single monetary policy and discipline on a hugely diverse European economy was always destined to fail.

There was no way that small and underdeveloped economies like Greece could survive competition from a powerful German economy, especially when it was the Germans who had the power to decide on the monetary policy that should be put in place – and no prizes for guessing whose interests that policy turned out to serve.

The irony is that is those powerful interests – represented by the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission and obliged to follow the dictates of the German Finance Minister – who now find that, despite the disparity in power between them and a bankrupt and demoralised Greece, it is they – and not the supposedly feckless Greeks - who have the responsibility for saving the euro.

With the power of the referendum result behind him, Prime Minister Tsipras can now say that there is nothing more he can do. Ravaged by austerity, Greece has no resources left. Unless they are helped by a bail-out package that does not drive them deeper into collapse but instead gives them a chance, over time, to begin to grow again, they will be forced – since there is no other option – to leave the euro and seek their own salvation.

The Greeks have, in other words, taken their decision. There is nothing left for them to decide. The ball is now in the court of Europe’s leaders. It is now for them to give up entrenched positions.

It is up to them to decide whether to refuse to help, with the result that Greece will have to leave the euro whether they like it or not, simply to survive, or to relent and offer a more acceptable and realistic package that will keep Greece afloat and allow them to stay in a re-shaped common currency.

We know what they want to do. They have stuck to the current stance in the hope that the Greek government will fall and “regime change” will be brought about.

There has even been talk of a government imposed on the Greek people from outside or of a government of “technocrats” that will do the bidding of the financial establishment.

The referendum result, though, seems to have put paid, for the time being at least, to that disgraceful objective./

But, for a brief period, the Greek crisis has given us a glimpse of the mailed fist and doctrinaire rigidity behind the “European” ideal.

Rarely can there have been such a stark demonstration of the inherently undemocratic nature of the European power structure and of the interests it truly serves.

It may be that the Greeks, by forcing an “agonising re-appraisal”, will end up having done the true adherents of a united Europe a favour.

It may be that, at long last, we will begin to contemplate a Europe based on agreement freely given by the continent’s governments and peoples, an agreement to build a Europe by learning from each other how to work together and to cooperate more closely, a functional Europe that will do those things that are best done together rather than separately, a “bottom-up” Europe that will develop as a result of, but not getting ahead of, a growing sense of European identity and the wishes of its peoples.

We need a Europe, in other words, that is not just a vehicle for advancing powerful interests, and riding roughshod over everyone else, but that understands that the Greek poor and unemployed are just as important, and just as essential, to Europe’s future, and that enabling them and millions like them to live a better life is both a united Europe’s true purpose and its only real chance of success.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Constellations, by Nick Payne, touring and then the West End; reviewed by Ian Oakley

Constellations is a product of the Royal Court, so for a start you know you are not going to get a Noel Coward play-like experience at the theatre.

Constellations is also one of the most lauded new plays to come out of the Royal Court in years, premièring in 2012. When I sat down to watch the play, I knew nothing about it, other than its rave reviews.

The play conforms to the Royal Court’s cutting edge reputation by being an experiment in form. It is a two hander, with a woman physicist, Marianne, and a man who is a beekeeper, Roland.

What makes it experimental is that scenes are repeated with different outcomes, whether it is the emphasis of the words or with different reactions.

The idea is explained in the play via the description of multiverses that Marianne provides. If this makes it sounds dry, then it should not; for all the experimentation in form, the relationship between the two characters is at the core of the drama and at times very moving.

The two actors in the production, Louise Brealey (best known for playing the lovelorn Molly in Sherlock) and Joe Armstrong, were both excellent, giving their characters real humanity and depth.

This is a good play, but I did not find it a great one.

I could see why the comparisons had been made to Tom Stoppard - the combination of beekeeping and high physics is just the type of thing you could imagine Stoppard exploring - but for me it was like a Tom Stoppard play that had not been completed.

The running time at only 70 minutes helped reinforce this impression of incompleteness. If the writer had been given more space, then I think he could have explored his characters over a two hour running time.

Of course, this might have been too conventional. It is sad to think that in the desire to please the critics and the ‘artistic community’, the audience and ultimately the work is sacrificed.

In saying all this it does not detract from a good play, well-acted, but I just think it could have been a great play.

I just hope Nick Payne goes on to more theatrical triumphs before he is no doubt lured away to television, if not ultimately Hollywood.

How the Struggle of British Fathers Was Born in the Labour Party, by Matt O'Connor

I was born and raised in the Labour Party.

When I was a young child my mother took me to sit under the sycamore tree on the green at Tolpuddle where one of the first trade unions was formed.

My father shared stories with me about Irish Chartist leader, Fergus O’Connor and ‘The Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell, who had lived close to our family home in County Kerry, Ireland.

As a teenager, I joined the CND rally in London in 1983 and in 1984 joined miner’s picket lines during their strike for survival.

By the late 1980’s I was a campaign co-ordinator for Amnesty International and actively supported the Anti-Apartheid movement.

My belief in human rights and social justice, instilled in me by the Labour Party, is unshakeable.

Nothing then could have prepared me for the discovery in 2001, that my party had betrayed so many of its founding principles.

At a time when the Blair led government was about to engage in a catastrophic and illegal war, it was waging a war at home on fathers.

I was separated from my two young sons in our secret family courts after a difficult divorce.

I discovered an unelected, unaccountable judiciary, operating in complete secrecy.

Before my baptism of fire, I thought courts were for criminals, not families, and that I had a human right to family life, enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I was mistaken.

This was legalised cage fighting, pitching parent against parent, and all done in ‘the best interests of the child’.

Something had to be done to make this injustice visible, and Fathers4Justice was born, drawing inspiration from the Suffragettes and the Chartists, with a splash of Monty Python thrown in for good measure.

One Fathers4Justice member, a constituent of Tony Blair, met the then Prime Minister and begged him to give dads a right in law to see their children.

He explained that nearly 4 million children lived in fatherless homes, that the cost of family breakdown to the country was £44 billion and that every day 200 children lost contact with their fathers in secret family courts.

Blair washed his hands of the matter with a few token words of sympathy. “But we can’t change the law with sympathy”, the father told him.

As the Suffragettes said, it’s about deeds, not words. So we responded with our ‘Superheroes’ campaign placing protesting fathers dressed as comic book heroes on national landmarks.

Several months later, in May 2004, the Prime Minister was ‘powderbombed’ during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by Fathers4Justice protestor Guy Harrison using a condom packed with self-raising flour, mixed with purple icing sugar. (Purple was our adopted colour for equality.) 

This was a protest forged in the fires of civil disobedience, inspired by the party we now took aim at.

One Labour MP railed on BBC Radio 5 Live that we were the worst campaign group he had ever heard of. But he had heard of us.

Another Labour MP berated our methodology. I told him that without people like us, people who fought for basic human rights, the Labour Party would never have existed.

So why have the Labour Party abandoned Britain’s fathers when the party and the trade unions were set up by poor, working class men? In one word, feminism.

Feminism was once a noble cause, fearlessly trailblazed by the Suffragettes who demonstrated immense courage in the face of a hostile public.

Yet the cause has been hijacked by extremists. A party that was once committed to equality and justice for all, is in the ideological grip of a pernicious, fraudulent creed that makes victims of women and demonises men.

Led by Harriet Harman, feminism in the Labour Party peddles a malevolent falsehood to women.

Where instead of achieving equality and improved working rights, women have been herded into poverty pay, plantation labour and fatherless families.

It has turned women against men and driven fathers from families with catastrophic consequences for our children. It has left women either hooked on state benefits, shackled to a till, or worse, a lap dancers pole. 

That 1 in 3 children now lives without a father is living proof of this chilling act of social engineering. Yes, we have a Minister for Women and Equalities, but where is the Minister for Men and Boys?

White working class boys now have the lowest chances of academic achievement and the lowest chance of working life success.

Is it any wonder given so many have been cruelly denied the love and support of their fathers by successive governments?

Even more worrying are pronouncements like those by Caroline Flint, when she was Public Health Minister, who said, “We are considering whether the need for a father is something we need to have” when debating new IVF legislation in 2006.

The consequences for men have been equally disastrous. The biggest killer of men under the age of 50 is now suicide

Fathers are also three times more likely to die after separation than mothers, yet the Labour Party continues to turn a blind eye to the cancer of family breakdown and the impact this has on fathers.

This gender apartheid imprisons many fathers in a glass cellar where they are separated from their children and denied the most basic of human rights, the right to be a parent.

I am ashamed that it was the Labour Party that followed the Conservative Party in demonising fathers as ‘feckless deadbeats’ for cheap political capital as the party cynically attempted to woo the largest constituency of floating voters, single mothers.

In doing so it reduced half the population to the status of sperm banks and cashpoints. Their mantra? You can abandon your children tomorrow, provided you pay. And I thought child support was about emotional and financial support.

But far worse is the implication that 50% of the parenting population are unfit to share in the parenting of their children simply because of their gender.

No wonder support for the party disintegrated at the last election, given they long abandoned their core constituency.

Many fathers now feel they have no voice in their country, no representation in their parliament and no faith in the politicians there.

But there is a way forward.

Before the 2010 General Election, the Conservative Party made a commitment to Fathers4Justice to introduce shared parenting if they were elected.

It was no surprise that they broke this promise, but it paved the way for increasing political and public support.

In 2012, a YouGov poll said 84% of the public supported shared parenting and a poll by Lord Ashcroft for the Conservative Party found that Fathers4Justice were the third highest supported campaign group in the UK just behind Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

In 2013, George Galloway lent the campaign his support, declaring Fathers4Justice to be one of the biggest civil rights campaigns in Britain.

Galloway said that the issue of fatherlessness was one prevailing orthodoxy that was taboo for all the main political parties.

He said that politicians were scared of upsetting a lobby that holds that mothers are always right, but that the idea of shared parenting was one whose time had come.

Last year, 104 MPs from all parties supported Early Day Motion 210, tabled by Galloway on behalf of Fathers4Justice and calling for a presumption of shared parenting.

Many Labour MPs signed the motion including David Blunkett, Frank Field and David Lammy. UKIP even included shared parenting in their 2015 election manifesto.

The consensus for shared parenting is building as Fathers4Justice moves from direct action to political action.  

There exists an opportunity for left of centre parties to engage with Fathers4Justice with a view to creating a fair, open and transparent system of family justice, one that seeks to heal fractured families, not lock them into years of bitter conflict.

A presumption of 50/50 shared parenting and shared child support can only lead to better outcomes for our children, our families and our country.

Shared parenting is responsible parenting and deserves serious consideration by all political parties, but none more so than those on the left, with a legacy of championing human rights and social justice for all.

Fathers4Justice was born out of my love for my children. I want them to grow up in a society where they are valued and respected, where the content of their character is more important than their gender. 

And if we truly believe in gender equality, then fathers deserve shared parenting rights.