Friday, 27 August 2010


Cruddas and D. Millipede in bed together?

This is so wrong I don't know where to begin. One of the most strikingly upsetting things is the evasive politicospeak of Cruddas's rationale:

We should not just be running from the record but having a nuanced approach to some of the things that went wrong, as well as defending the things that went right.

Such vapid bullshit.

I'm aware this is probably the outcome of some sort of long-brewing Granita-esque pact that will see Cruddas winning an influential right-hand position under David, but I really can't get my head around the sheer insincerity of the endorsement. The most outrageous claim is that DM is a "communitarian":

What was interesting to me about this was when he started talking about belonging and neighbourliness and community, more communitarian politics, which is where I think Labour has to go. He's the only one [of the leadership contenders] that has got into some of that.

I've been following the leadership race pretty closely and I haven't once heard even a hint of sentiments like this from the elder Miliband. To me he seems very clearly and unambiguously the least community-minded of the six candidates, the least in touch with the notion of grassroots, the least human. It would be difficult to imagine a more cold-blooded, imperious mandarin.

For those that need reminding, here is a useful summary of David M's standpoint, somewhat approvingly relayed by the Telegraph last week. You just cannot justify phrases like

... big in heart but essentially naive, well-meaning but behind the times

I could throttle the superior little Fabian shit.

Let's hope Cruddas knows something we don't, but I very much doubt it judging from the vague, spurious reasons he gives for his backing in the New Statesman piece.

Sorry Jon, but I won't be voting as you advise me in your official campaign email. In fact, I'll probably resign my scarcely 2-month-old Labour Party membership if your man gets in.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Short review of this over at the Oxonian.

On reflection, a world full of "instantly canonical, mature hip-hop" might not be too hot.

Neat record though.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pretty good wasn't it?

Saturday, 14 August 2010


“And even those who still have the power to cry out, the cry hardly ever expresses itself, either inwardly or outwardly, in coherent language. Usually the words through which it seeks expression are quite irrelevant. That is all the more inevitable because those who most often have occasion to feel that evil is being done to them are those who are least trained in the art of speech. Nothing, for example, is more frightful than to see some poor wretch in the police court stammering before a magistrate who keeps up an elegant flow of witticisms”. Simone Weil, “Human Personality”.

Recently, The Sun published one of its classically vituperative articles, featuring allegations of pro-Raoul Moat chanting by Newcastle United supporters at the pre-season friendly against Carlisle:

Sections of the 2,000-strong away support sang “there’s only one Raoul Moat” during United’s 3-0 win at Carlisle.

They also copied an old terrace song about 1960s triple cop killer Harry Roberts when they sang: “Raoul Moat, he’s our friend, he shoots coppers.”

The Toon Army also tried to mock home fans with the chant “Who the **** is Derrick Bird?” – a reference to the Cumbrian gunman who murdered 12 people in a shooting spree last month.

There is subtle gallows humour in this passage, and some comic misreading on the part of a sanctimonious tabloid media of what is basically tongue-in-cheek, carnivalesque Geordie braggadocio (albeit of a wildly inappropriate kind). Nevertheless, it’s true that responses to the Moat Saga over the last few weeks have ranged from slightly misguided to downright alarming. Witness the misogynistic, vigilante-ish comments on pro-Moat Facebook groups, where epithets for Moat have included “total warrior and legend”,  “martyr”, and – my personal favourite, for sheer gall – “the British Mandela”.
Writers like Charlie Brooker, John Tatlock, Martin Robbins, and Mark Fisher have written brilliantly about the implications and resonances of all this. I mostly don’t have anything to add to these analyses. (Fisher’s phrase “Britain’s anti-Diana moment” is trenchant to the point of genius.)

However, I have to say that I think Tatlock’s Quietus piece, with its accompanying Spotify playlist on “how folk heroism warps reality”, is massively misjudged. Casual anti-establishment populism can warp, no doubt about that, especially with the help of media exaggeration. Raoul Moat was a deranged, pathological killer – of course he was – and any outright valorisation of the man and his actions is ridiculous. But there was undoubtedly something more to the story than media hype, more to the popular reaction than neo-right mob hysteria. Most importantly, and presciently, I think, was the clear intimation that what you might term folk-opposition remains a powerful extant force in British culture, even after 30-odd years of neoliberal hegemony.


The word folk (and especially its German correlative volk) has extremely dangerous connotations, of course, and from a certain angle, the Raoul Moat narrative does seem like a frightening tale of Robin Hood-style mythologizing eliding with a resurgent thug-libertarianism. Nevertheless, this interpretation necessitates overlooking a number of important contexts. Most notably, there is the whole tangle of social, cultural, political and historical factors that constitutes the identity of the north east of England. What John Tatlock’s piece doesn’t allow for is the fact that: 1) The vast majority of the “support” shown for Moat was from this region, and 2) That such sentiments were, at bottom, an expression of a profound antipathy to the media, to London, and the police force, which may have been utterly misplaced as regards Moat, but must not thereby be dismissed as mere chauvinistic “Geordie nationalism” allied to a sort of anarcho-gangsterism.

The sources of such attitudes are too numerous to list here (though the 1980s would be a good place to start). Suffice to say, Tatlock’s blasé-rationalist dismissal of “folk heroism” does not entertain the fact that there might be entirely sound reasons for the anti-establishment, anti-media, anti-London attitudes which somehow – stupidly and unfortunately – found an avatar in the figure of Moat. Instead, Tatlock explicitly sides with David Cameron, whose “full stop, end of story” rejection of “public sympathy for the callous murderer” Tatlock finds “pithily accurate”. Anyone from the north east, mindful of David Cameron’s recent attack on the region – one of the places where the state has “got too big [sic]” and where “we need a bigger private sector” (surely the prelude to an imminent full-blown Thatcher-style jobs cull in the area) – would think twice before accepting Tatlock’s equable appraisal of Cameron’s good common sense in “taking down” Moat. (Charlie Brooker has interesting things to say about Cameronian sympathy, in a follow-up piece in The Guardian).

In light of such lofty, centrist disdain for populist feeling (however reasonable in the case of Moat taken in total isolation), and in addition to the frankly neo-colonialist, Boys Own-style behaviour of the London media in Rothbury (as reported by Brooker and Robbins), the actions of a minority of Newcastle supporters in eulogizing Moat begins to look, at the very least, a good deal more complicated and ambiguous than the narrow, Old Tory, “full stop, end of story” reductionism of Cameron and Tatlock implies.
As everyone knows, Newcastle United fans are used to being deprived of a voice, and to being treated as “mugs”; “dogs” if they happen to be female. (These two terms were first deployed by former NUFC director Douglas Hall in a Spanish brothel in 1998.) For decades now, Toon fans have been denied representation and dismissed as primitive imbeciles. In such circumstances, people will inevitably latch onto, and identify heavily with, desperate causes, outsiders, even homicidal loners. Hence the whole history of football violence eliding with far-right politics. Hence, “there’s only one Raoul Moat”. Hence, the tragic appropriateness of Gazza – a desperate victim of media celebrity if ever there was one – appearing in Rothbury with a can of beer, determined to go for a fish and “have a chat” with “Moaty”.

It is depressing that Gazza, along with a significant minority of north easterners, was able to overlook the very real crimes committed by Moat, sad and absurd that an apolitical, sociopathic individual should be posited as a kind of bizarre, postmodern Bobby Sands. But conversely, and more importantly, the whole narrative underlines the sheer depth of oppositional feeling in places like the north east to a London-centric nexus that is now, once again, unequivocally Conservative, hard-line, unsympathetic, given to scapegoating individuals, and wholly unapologetic about launching explicit attacks on entire localities like Northumbria and Northern Ireland.



While the pro-Moat chants at the Newcastle vs. Carlisle match represent the benighted, if lightly-meant, actions of an extremist few, there have also recently been signs of a more constructive, less macho and hot-headed, form of folk-opposition beginning to take root in the north east, with football at its centre. As Mark Fisher has written:

Football has been at the forefront of the total re-engineering of English culture, society and economy wrought by neoliberalism over the last thirty years. 

This is self-evidently true, and Toon supporters know better than most what it is like to be on the forgotten fringes of an aggressive, market-driven regime. Neoliberal English football culture has not been kind to the north east. (This fact is reflected in the current England team, which consists almost entirely of players from West London’s Chelsea and clubs within commuting distance of Cheshire like Man United and Liverpool. Contrast this with the Italia ’90 north-east main artery of Bobby Robson – Bryan Robson – Waddle – Beardsley – Gazza. Added to this, the region’s main teams – Newcastle, Sunderland, and Middlesbrough – are all now firmly entrenched on the inferior “second tier” of club football.)

However, after years of muddled acquiescence to all manner of “inevitable” corporate encroachments (inevitable because “investment” is ultimately “for the good of the team”), the actions of the NUFC power-elite reached such an extreme of absurdity and anarchic ridiculousness in the past few years, that the support base has arguably taken the first steps towards radicalization, or at least to something resembling old-fashioned-style collective representation. The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) is hardly the Fifth International, but the establishment of this independent body (and one that has a genuinely popular base) represents a significant milestone. The efficacy of organizations like this has not yet been proven, but their very existence is a testament to a more hopeful, less-fatalistic climate, and to ways in which the folk-sentiment that found an unfortunate outlet in the Moat debacle can be put to more positive use.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that football is the battleground on which many of the most vital political and cultural debates of the next few years will take place. Indeed, the growing popular discontent with the Premier League and the F.A. might represent first signs of a thaw in the neoliberal winter, the first chinks in the armour of an adversary hitherto regarded as unbeatable. With this in mind, it is encouraging that certain sectors of the Labour Party have sought to establish links with organizations like the NUST, in this crucial (to put it mildly) period of ideological renewal. Chi Onwurah, who represents Newcastle Central, is one of a handful of newly elected Labour MPs notable for being archetypically Labour in a way that has become increasingly rare over the past couple of decades. As an individual Onwurah offers a reminder that, for all the invidiousness of Blair and New Labour, there are still sizeable and numerous individuals and enclaves wholly resistant to being incorporated into the new centrist/centre-right political orthodoxy. Onwurah both symbolically and actually represents a constituency that is something close to the antithesis of David Cameron in almost every sense, so it came as no surprise when she recently announced her membership of, and support for, the NUST. Hers is a constituency that encompasses the extreme fringes of pro-Moat sentiment, but it is also the constituency of Newcastle United supporters who have finally exchanged apathy for a semblance of organized resistance.

In these sorts of oppositional matrixes, and these sorts of allegiances, there is an ocean of potential for the British left. Tragically, it seems that the only Labour leadership candidate who understands this is the otherwise arch-Blairite Andy Burnham, who was a member of the Football Taskforce in the late-nineties, and who makes great show of his role in opening the dossier on the Hillsborough disaster last year. For all his New Labour odiousness in other areas, Burnham at least has the prescience to recognize that a renewed British left must re-engage with its grassroots on the sort of “folk” territories of which football is by far the most prominent and pithy example. The Moat narrative underlines just how vital it is that the sort of folk heroism so disdained by Tatlock and Cameron, should not become the province of the far-right, that it should be re-channeled and re-directed to become a major bastion of its historical home, the Labour Party. Unfortunately, this a truth that will probably always evade the technocratic, mandarin, classically neoliberal sensibilities of the Miliband brothers (both of them), who appear most likely to shape Labour policy for the next few years. Meanwhile there are millions of Britons – and not just in the north east, of course – who hate the establishment, hate David Cameron, hate the media, who hate what was happened to football, and who hate neoliberalism, even if they couldn’t put a name to it. All they are lacking is someone better than Raoul Moat to speak for them.

screenshot from the NUST website

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Somehow minimalistic and excessive at the same time.

So much mainstream pop is just so darn sad below the surface these days, isn't it? A sort of desperate pathos: very '80s, very un-'90s.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Bravura extended intro, jump-up in excelsis, perfect pop.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


link to the Coalition of Resistance: Can't Pay Won't Pay blog (a call for a coalition of resistance against cuts and privatisation), with a petition and information on the November conference.

The main commitments are to:

• Oppose cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services.
• Fight rising unemployment and support organisations of unemployed people.
• Develop and support an alternative programme for economic and social recovery.
• Oppose all proposals to "solve" the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating.
• Liaise closely with similar opposition movements in other countries.
• Organise information, meetings, conferences, marches and demonstrations.
• Support the development of a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance.

Get on it.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Penguin porn, ubiquitous right now
I've got big issues with England and Englishness, but reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End tetralogy this summer, I felt the first pangs of a rapprochement.

I've never had a problem with marginal, radical facets of English culture. But somewhere in the following passage - a vision experienced by protagonist Christopher Tietjens in the WWI trenches - there is a nigh-on orthodox English identity I feel like I might be able to get on board with, one day. This worries me slightly. Maybe I've just been seduced by the fine filigree of the prose. But this is no excuse.

But what chance had Anglican sainthood, accuracy of thought, heavy-leaved, timbered hedge-rows, slowly creeping plough-lands moving up the slopes? ... Still, the land remains ...

The land remains ... It remains! ... At that same moment the dawn was wetly revealing; over there in George Herbert's parish ... What was it called? ... What the devil was its name? Oh hell, between Salisbury and Wilton ... The tiny church ... But he refused to consider the plough-lands, the heavy groves, the slow high-road above the church that the dawn was at that moment wetly revealing - until he could remember that name ... He refused to consider that, probably even to-day, that land ran to ... produced the stock of ... Anglican sainthood. The quiet thing!
The name Bemerton suddenly came on to his tongue. Yes, Bemerton, Bemerton, Bemerton was George Herbert's parsonage. Bemerton, outside Salisbury ... The cradle of the race as far as our race was worth thinking about. He imagined himself standing up on a little hill, a lean contemplative parson, looking at the land sloping down to Salisbury spire. A large, clumsily bound seventeenth-century testament, Greek, beneath his elbow ... Imagine standing up on a hill! It was the unthinkable thing there!

Thursday, 5 August 2010


From the tough-love glibness of the title downwards, this Guardian piece of yesterday is truly reprehensible, not to mention sinister and worrying.

How such a blatant piece of corporate PR got to be published by a still-at-least-notionally-sort-of-left-wing-ish paper is beyond me. In the comments section, the Guardian's Andrew Dickson offers the following pathetic, arch-Liberal defence:

The point of running a piece by someone who works for a bank (as I think is reasonably obvious) is to put a point of view that doesn't often get heard in these circles. In all the articles we've fun on the funding debate over the last few months, we haven't heard from anyone who actually stumps up some corporate cash. Hence this. 

The naivety of this astonishes me. Does he think Rena De Sisto is solely responsible for "stumping up cash", Old World patron-style, and that this article offers any kind of subjective insight into her reasons for doing so? There seems to have been some confusion on the part of the Guardian about what constitutes "opinion" and "debate", and what is, quite obviously, meticulously oiled propaganda. Serious questions should be asked about how this article - a straightforward case of stealth marketing granted legitimacy by the Guardian name/blog format - managed to slip through the net.

A few risible low-lights from De Sisto's piece itself:

Companies have many people to answer to – shareholders among them – and must extract sound business benefits, such as access for employees, brand visibility and client outreach opportunities.

[If this sentence made sense, it might be easier to debunk. The suggestion seems to be that, because companies have to respond to shareholders, and increase "brand visibility", this will encourage them to fund edgy, worthwhile creative projects? As I say: difficult to respond to logic this perverse.]

Treat your funders like valued clients and, like all satisfied clients, they will become more loyal. Some organisations, such as the Old Vic and Tate, do this very effectively and make it easy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch to continue our support of them.

[The mask slips a bit here, as De Sisto's prose begins to sound truly shuddersome, nay devious.]

That said, companies have an obligation not to interfere in artistic matters.

[Just not true. Again, obligation to whom? Shareholders? Employees? "Client outreach opportunities"?]

... more companies need to learn what support for the arts can do for their company. These may include connecting to existing or potential customers; creating benefits for employees; providing arts education to tomorrow's workforce; being a good corporate citizen; creating a more culturally aware society; enriching the community it is doing business in. Or perhaps all of these things.

[Isn't this called something like "humaneness" or "being a good person"? It's not entirely clear how this might viewed as in any way related to "companies doing something for their company". "Corporate responsibility" is simply illogical, as well as hollow and untenable.]

Our company understands that the arts matter.

Following our merger with Merrill Lynch, our company now has nearly 300,000 employees, and millions of clients, in more than 40 nations around the world – and thus a vested interest in improved cultural understanding.
In fact, one of the most compelling reasons for corporations to invest in the arts is its power to create greater cultural understanding. Problems of economic stability, standards of living, the environment, peace and prosperity among nations and peoples all require a foundation of cultural understanding and tolerance to progress towards solutions.

And so on ad nauseum ...
Meanwhile, farcical/profoundly disturbing developments seem to be arriving so thickly and fastly in the footballing world, myself and assorted pals have decided to set up a separate football blog (news on this soon).

Top of the list at the moment are proposals to involve the Premier League in the Tories "free schools" policy. I think if I had to choose the organization I would least like to take responsibility for the education of the country's young, it would surely be either the FA or the Premier League.

Instead of allowing flagships and grammars to take over failing schools, how about letting Premier League chairmen run educational institutions? In which case, Mike "Local Hero" Ashley of Newcastle United, with his proven record of competence and organizational nous, could be an inspirational figurehead for the new policy.