Sunday, 31 May 2009
Back to a more traditional hustings on the Thursday organised by the PCS trade union in Edinburgh. Colin was doing the tv debate so I came through for it. There were 10 candidates ! So each of us got 2 mins to speak and the questions came from the floor. Because of responses we only managed to get 4 or 5 questions in the time we had. So a lot less inclusive than the Wednesday one.
And pretty shockingly every candidate was male. The Labour and Green guys were the same ones as the night before. Surprisingly, I thought, UKIP were invited. Their candidate was outrageously right wing but he mumbled quite a lot so I dont think people picked up on what he was saying. He started his speech claiming to be a climate change denier, thought the BNP should have a platform and that Griffin's Nazis were "too left wing"! because they stood for troops out of Iraq, scrapping Council Tax etc. I was sitting quite near him so I heard it all dont think the audience did!
Tommy Sheridan was there for no2eu - he's the second on their list. I thought his opening speech seemed pretty stilted as he was referring to a lot of detailed legislation -European directives from 1989 for example! He got into a bit of flow later on during the questions but only when he moved away from focusing on the EU and went into general propaganda. It shows the limits of the narrowness of the no2eu agenda though. He had quite a few supporters in the audience maybe about a dozen who were looking for some rousing stuff but they didnt really get it. He was referring quite heavily to a CWI journal Socialism Today in front of him for the detail.
Jim McDaid from Scargill's Socialist Labour Party was there he did the withdrawal from EU from a left wing perspective bit much more fluently. Mind you they have been arguing that since they were formed in 1995 and Scargill has been arguing that since 1975!
Again showed the tragedy of having such a splintered left in this election.
Questions focused on privatisation, pensions, public sector pay and the BNP (which doesnt begin with P!). I managed to bring my own experience in working in a new uni and of course the battle against INTO.
New Labour guy got a bit of a hard time though he answered the question on no platform for the BNP quite well. He left at the same time as me and said he couldnt believe the hostility of the left to New Labour! Where had he been for the last 12 years I wondered. Well the answer is not here - he works in Brussels for the EU and lives in Sweden a lot. You can tell he was a bit of an outsider to the battles of Scottish politics. He thought the Tories would win the next election and then people would regret attacking Labour.
Friday morning and did a photo shoot for the STUC against the BNP - most of the parties were there :us, Greens, Liberal, NuLabour, Tories and the SNP. It was the big names that were there for most of the parties apart from the Tories and of course the SSP :-). Rikki R came along and took some photies one of which is on here.
Last week of campaign beckons...
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Wednesday night saw me attend the hustings organised by the Glasgow World Development Movement Hustings in the West End. It was around their trade justice campaign , they want all the MEPs and potential candidate to sign a pledge to stop European institutions tying poorer countries into unfair trade deals.
It was a different format - each candidate spoke for 3 minutes then each one sat at a separate table with tea and cake! and people could move from table to table and quiz the candidates. It allowed people more time for one on one discussions I guess and didnt allow the candidates to confront each other in a top table structure.
The other parties that were there were the 4 establishment ones - Nulabour, Tories, SNP and the Libs. The others represented were us, the Greens and No2EU - the formation called by Bob Crow of the RMT and backed by Solidarity and the Morning Star Communists up in Scotland.
Only ourselves, the Greens, Labour and the Tories sent actual Euro candidates. Most of the introductory speeches were fairly inoccuous. The Labour Candidate was a Euro apparatchik Paul McAleavey who actually works for the European Commission bureaucracy. The Tory was 2nd on their list Belinda Don who was a very "Dave" Cameron candidate: very approachable and posh and believe it or not the first candidate to mention the crisis facing the environment and the only one of the establishment candidates (I hadnt spoken and the Greens hadnt mentioned it at all!) I mention those 2 because they were the only ones that didnt sign the Trade Justice Pledge at the end.
The Liberal was Elspeth Atwooll who is standing down as MEP this year - She taught me at Glasgow Uni and she is very nice sort of Old School Liberal I get on quite well with her. The Nat was Patrick who works for Jamie Hepburn in the Scottish Parliament, the green was Alastair Whitelaw who is on their list been around for ages and was wearing a nice pair of green slacks! The no 2EU rep was Ian McInnes who I know quite well he is a Govanhill community activist and had been dropped into doing the hustings at last minute. They are all pretty good guys so couldnt get much snarling done there :-)
I spoke last was the only one that mentioned expenses in the opening speeches surprisingly said I was disappointed that they had supplied coffee and cake because I wouldnt be able to stick in a claim for high tea at the Grosvenor Hilton!
Then I took my table -see photo at top!
The idea was that people could go from table to table to question the candidates and the WDM guys sort of facilitated it and raised their issues of trade justice between the EU and other countries, lack of democracy in the negotiations and the ignoring of factors like sustainability for poorer countries.
It was good in the sense that people got a fair say and it was more interactive- everyone got to speak that wanted to. I learned a bit at it as well. People raised issues on Africa, economic growth, the lack of democracy within the EU.
One older guy said he was a socialist and enjoyed my speech but what society needed was a "meltdown" before it could happen. Another woman was an ex-journalist who is carrying out a campaign against the building of a new Coalfired power station at Hunterston by Danish company DONG which would put all CO2 targets out the window - I hadnt heard about that. I would say the bigger parties probably had more people going to speak to them - maybe that wanted to have a go at them or maybe because they have a better chance of being elected.
Anyway Steve Rolfe from WDM concluded it and me, the Liberals, SNP, Greens and no 2 eu signed the pledge. Unbelievably or rather believably the two Big business parties didnt sign it. Shows how much New Labour have changed and how little (apart from posh appearances)the Cameron Tories have.
WDM seem quite a campaigning body - will look out for stuff they do.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
The SSP European Election Rally in Glasgow went well last nite. Around 60 attended. There were speakers from Save Our Schools - the Glasgow campaign - Donna and Jacqui from Wyndford and Billy from Bellahouston. They brought a taste of real community campaigning - outlining the numerous activities they have all taken part in since the January announcement of the school closures by New Labour. Also the unrelenting anger that has been unleashed. They plan to stand at every polling station they can on the day of the Euro elections telling people not to vote Labour!
We also had music interspersed through the evening with acoustic sets(!) from Kevin and Pauline. Good to hear a Beautiful South track from Kevin and Pauline sang a song I'd never heard about the Liverpool Dockers' struggle in 1995 which was excellent.
I addressed the masses with some stuff - think it may be appearing online video somewhere so god help us all - incorporating phrase to condemn neo-liberal capitalism and greedy politicians :"We can do what we want". Also updated on police/BBC/BNP action.
We were lucky to have comrade Joachim over from France and the new Anti-Capitalist Party which is a sort of united left party like the SSP seeks to be. Although it was difficult for him with an interpreter (Johanna another candidate who did brill job) he got some important points across. He's from Mulhouse in Eastern France and part of the movement of workers who have literally locked up their bosses to explain their hardship!This is taking place in the midst of massive strikes and protests against Sarkozy. The party should do well with this background but they are just new and trying to build for the future.
Onto a hustings tonite (note the sacrifice as this is corresponding with the European Cup Final, Go Barca!)Speech now on line in 3 parts! First bit here, and Parts 2 and 3 linked
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Review of BBC Business guy Robert Peston's book: Who Runs Britain?
Very readable and full of jaw dropping statistics on New Labour's obsession with the super wealthy and their lifestyles which is likely to bring them down. Particularly good are the chapters on private equity, pensions and the peerage scandal.
There are problems with work however - it doesnt really feel like a whole book more a collection of writings - which it is not sold as. The chapter on Marks and Spencer for example doesnt even follow the same structure as the rest and repeats points made in other parts of the book. The conclusion is also contradictory which strikes at another flaw - Robert Peston's ambiguity.
Some of his writing condemns the wealthy with also harbouring a large amount of admiration for them. He condemns pension schemes for not following private equity in taking huge risks - surely if they had done this we'd all be in even biggertrouble than we currently are. His support for Post Office privatisation in the current climate is also faintly bizarre.
His political position reminds me a bit of Brian Gould in the 80s Labour Party - remember him! A moderniser at the time calling for popular capitalism in 1987 booed at conference etc but by the time Smith was dragging Labour to its neo-Liberal position Gould ended up on the left of sorts! I think he stood against Smith in 1992. Essentially a lover of the exploitative system of capitalism but not its excesses.
Having said that a good guide to the current crisis - not completely thorough though - it was published in the midst of it and that does come across
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Monday, 11 May 2009
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Review of Iceberg Slim's semi-biographical work 1967: Pimp
Relentless from the first disturbing page to the jailhouse revelation Slim gets by the end.
Very well written with intelligent use of metaphor - which is just as well because a more direct application of language would make many scenes unreadable with their brutality.
One criticism may be that each chapter seems to be based around one particular brutal episode - normally involving a women. But I guess it was a way for him to structure.
It also has that problematic ambiguity of gangster rap - used a lot by Ice T named after slim. Is the misogynistic violence sexual and actual being exposed or celebrated. There were some parts where I actually didnt know.
However as the afterword from a black female writer puts it -it shows elements of African American male culture which had been ignored or idealised by some in the past.
Read it in very nicely laid out new edition with foreword from Irvie Welsh and you can see the influence with a number of scenes seeming to be lifted directly into his work.
Shocking but readable.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Review of SFA's new work published in Scottish Socialist voice May 1st 2009.
Although it is 13 years since their debut album, Fuzzy Logic, Super Furry Animals are still something of an overlooked gem on the music scene. They also are the only group to appear in the NME reading the seminal Scottish socialist work Imagine, apart from the Pussycat Dolls. That last part was a joke!
Their current album Dark Days/Light Years was revealed with an online concert playing it in full a few weeks ago. For me, in our climate-ly changing world it is already the sound of the (premature) summer.
The last Super Furries’ work Hey Venus was a concept album about a young girl running away to the big city. Although containing a couple of cracking pop songs it was fairly short and had a slight feel to it. Dark Days, however, is a massive smorgasbord of tunes with literally something for everything: glam rock, heavy metal samples and disco all make an appearance.
One of the skills that SFA have showed over their nine albums is using all of pop music’s heritage but presenting in a way that is relentlessly current and original. Partially this is down to Gruff Rhys’ lyrics – sample song titles “The Very Best of Neil Diamond” and “Moped Eyes”.
The musical diversity is reflected in the album’s dialectical title – although there is a happy upbeat feel to many of the tracks they are placed in the context of the “dark days” that the planet is currently experiencing. For example the jumpy song “Inaugural Trams” salutes the wonders of an integrated public transport system (yes really) whilst recognising currently such a thing is unlikely, utopian even. Rhys has also said it is a salute to technology: “It’s a celebration of living with science rather than religion”. It also has a real Kraftwerk vibe, to the extent that a member of Franz Ferdinand raps in German throughout it.
There is a degree of retrospection to this work too there are two lengthy electronic soundscapes – which have a techno feel to them. They are a bit softer than some of the Super Furries earlier dance material but are quite stunning and in “Cardiff in the Sun” they have created a beautiful piece of music. There is also a nod to their Welsh roots, having once released an album of entirely Welsh tracks, with “Lliwiau Llachar” meaning Bright Colours.
Personally I think the stand out is “Mt” which is an inspirational celebration of human society – if you only seek out one track make it this one.
An excellent soundtrack for life at the moment then and the funny thing is the Super Furries make it seem so effortless .