Sunday, 11 June 2017


And what a contest it is! 'The Spirit of 45' was a team that looked as if it was heading for oblivion. Their belief in socialist values and in the power and strength of communitarianism had attracted fewer and fewer spectators. They found themselves losing bigtime. A new manager had arrived, Tony Blair, and rebranded the team calling it 'The Spirit of 97'. It was a spin doctor's dream. He had taken the name and spirit and ideology of the other big team in town - 'The Spirit of 79' - and tweaked their formation and playing style a bit to include a little of the best from the old 'Spirit of 45' - and then gave the 'Thatcherites', as 'The Spirit of 79' were nicknamed, a drubbing.

'The Spirit of 45' under their manager, Clem Attlee 

Elements within 'The Spirit of 79' were far from alarmed. After all, they were the natural leading team, created to be champions. They might be losing a few battles, a few elections, but the old manager had known a thing or two - what did she say? 'My greatest achievement is 'The Spirit of 97'. She knew that her philosophy as a manager , her commitment to individualist playing styles - to the all-conquering neoliberal approach to the modern game - had been thoroughly absorbed through every pore of the skin of 'The Spirit of 97', the 'Blairites' as they were called.

Sure enough, 'The Spirit of 79' bounced back and in 2010 - under new management and an even more ruthless and refined playing style yet still using the tactics and formation that first saw the light of

Sunday, 4 June 2017


I picked up this analysis by Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC senior political editor, a few days ago.

"A lot of people are only just starting to think about the election and they won't have sat through every bit of the TV event last night. What they'll glean, though, from snippets and headlines is a sense of how this campaign has changed, written on the leaders' faces. Jeremy Corbyn, more comfortable, more assured, with better prepared answers. Theresa May, really having to explain herself. And in this last stage the vulnerabilities are exactly where you'd expect. For Mr Corbyn it's on issues like security, his personal views on groups like the IRA. And for Mrs May, it's a Conservative prime minister facing tough questions over public services ..."

Labour Party activists campaigning in Hayle in Cornwall - 29/5/2017 - I can name Kelly, Mick, Dawn, Alana, Keith, Charles and me 

We have come a long way in a month of campaigning. Kuenssberg had been found quite recently to be in breach of BBC neutrality guidelines in her hostile treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. The bias against the man and his values and policies was evident across the media, mirroring the power of an establishment locked into either direct self-interested hatred for socialism or a refusal to acknowledge that this maverick backbencher could ever be taken seriously since to do so would mean tearing up a lifetime of assumptions.

In short, many sections of the media have been guilty of lazy and short-sighted journalism. They have failed to give adequate attention to the exponential rise in the membership of the Labour Party. We are now half-a-million strong. Nor have they had the foresight to credit ordinary people with the

Saturday, 3 June 2017


In Part 2, I continue with more of this extract from my chapter: 'Lifting a Lid on Jago'.

Jenny’s husband, Tony, also remembers Jago and Rowland - and nights in the Red Lion that lengthened into the early hours of the morning.  Rowland was a ‘colourful piece of village life’. Tony agreed immediately with my expressed thought: ‘The country squire?’. ‘Yes! – and he revelled in being so’. ‘Rowland’, Tony continued, ‘divided the people he was thinking about inviting into his social world of parties and drinking into Gin Set Mark 1; Gin Set Mark 2; and Gin
Set Mark 3’. These were the levels in Squire Rowland’s hierarchal trinity of social acceptability.

The English Village - (detail) - Jago Stone (1986)

I was curious about how the squire of Hellidon stood in relation to his responsibilities towards that other foundation of village life, separate from the public house – the village church.  This, after all, was the church run by the Church of England which had its own Trinity and hierarchies.
Rowland, according to Tony, did indeed support the church. He was a generous man and he knew his obligations. He even, occasionally, attended the Sunday service. But being Rowland, the most memorable of these attendances was when he brought with him an African woman whom he had

Sunday, 28 May 2017


My last post concerning my research and writings on the life of Jago Stone (1928-88) was dated May 3, less than a month ago. I presented images of previously unseen Jago's paintings - images that have been gifted to me by those who had contact with Jago in his lifetime. I also indicated that I had gained new insights into Jago's life in the last two decades of his lifetime - the 1970s and the 1980s - through contact with my anonymous source, Mark, and the former village postmistress of Hellidon, Jenny Fell.

The post that follows is based on the memories of Jenny and her husband, Tony, as they cast their minds back three decades and more to a past when village life was not quite the same as it is now.

Jenny married Tony Fell in 1966 in her home town of Coventry, honeymooned in the Scillies, and then settled in the village of Hellidon in Northants with its population of around 140 and fifty or so houses. They had two children. In 1974, Jenny determined to take on the role of village postmistress when the matter of the vacancy was raised at a parish council meeting. By the time of the millennium in 2000 she had researched, written and published ‘Three Ells in Hellidon’, a rather fine history of the village. Today, in 2017, she and Tony are members of that small group – half a dozen or so - who have been resident in Hellidon for around half a century. There is not much that escapes the eyes or the ears of a key villager such as the postmistress.  Jenny and Tony remember Jago very well.

The English Village - Jago Stone (1986)

Jenny’s story begins with the man who in the late 1970s became the licensee of the only surviving public house in Hellidon. His name? Rowland Thomas, the village squire whom Mark, my anonymous source, first met in 1974. Rowland was the only child of wealthy parents who had bought Hellidon’s Leam Farm and its estate in 1948, having lived there as tenants since the early 1930s. Rowland’s parents had had a commitment to Hellidon. Their son was born in the village in 1936. When Rowland married, his


The Tory lead over Labour stood at 20 percentage points when Theresa May called this General Election. That was one key reason why Lynton Crosby, her strategist, said that she should go to the country. Wipe out Labour now - before the economy hits the rocks and the people start blaming the Conservative government.

We go to the polls on June 8 and that Tory lead has already been cut by fifteen percentage points in a couple of weeks. The Tories know by now that they have blundered. May will suffer the consequences after the Election. The knives are already being sharpened. When Tories rid themselves of a leader who has reached  their sell-by date, they are ruthless. Meanwhile, they will be gnashing their teeth at having gifted Jeremy Corbyn the space and time to tell the country about his vision - Labour's vision - of socialism for the 21st century. And the people are not fools. Despite the media's best efforts, the message that there is a better way of running the country - in the interests of the many, not the few - is getting through. A political meme has formed that can take Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party into government.

The leader on the roll ... Jeremy Corbyn - May 2017

I was struck by the pro-Corbyn tone of so many of the letters published in last Saturday's 'Guardian' and intended to focus on one letter in particular in a post soon after. The Manchester atrocity has delayed that action until now but sharing this particular letter with you still seems an important  thing to do. I have already cancelled my subscription to the Guardian with effect from September because I  cannot stand the anti-Corbyn bias in this supposedly left-of-centre newspaper. The Morning Star now graces our table each day. But there will  be aspects of the paper I will miss, not least the Letters pages.

And so to the letter. It's from Sheila Spencer in Newcastle and contains fifteen bullet points. It appears under the headline: Why poorer people should vote Labour. She begins by agreeing with a

Saturday, 20 May 2017


In this post I want to tease out why Jeremy Corbyn - the elected leader - has faced such hostility from so many within the Labour Party. A majority of the PLP - the MPs who form the Parliamentary Labour Party - still, in varying degrees, display a lack of confidence in a leader who has received an overwhelming endorsement from ordinary members of the Labour Party in not one but two leadership elections. Across the country, there are still executive committees of local Labour Parties that are dominated by those who wish to see the back of the Corbyn phenomenon.

Blair and Corbyn - rival mind-sets within the Labour movement

In my own constituency of St Ives in Cornwall, I have produced a report - following a survey of new members - in which I summarise some common threads of concern that are now apparent. Most of those surveyed felt uncomfortable at meetings due to the tension between the two wings of the Party. I make it clear that I think these differences need to be much more out in the open with both sides prepared to articulate and justify their positions - with respect shown by all to all. We need to remember the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox, and her line that there is more uniting than dividing us. And we need to remember how much of our exponential increase in membership - the Labour Party is now the largest democratic socialist party in Europe with over half-a-million members - is  due to Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader.

Those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn within Labour ranks have had their mind-set shaped by history. They grew into political maturity when Tony Blair's vision of a New Labour Party was being

Sunday, 14 May 2017


As promised, after Friday's Introduction post, the series begins - and will continue until after the election.

Let's start with the Manifesto that was leaked before its intended publication, apparently by those hostile to their leader within the Party (more on that issue in another  post, another time).

Jeremy Corbyn - the natural leader - a strong and stable normal person

Here is the Daily Mirror 'take' on the Manifesto:


It was shortly after 7pm on Wednesday evening when I put the call in to a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s team, to warn them the Mirror had obtained a leaked copy of Labour’s manifesto and would be publishing it the following day.
These conversations are never easy.
First there was silence. Then a hollow laugh. Then incredulity.
“Of course you have. The whole manifesto. Right.”
To their immense credit, they remained calm – ‘Monsieur Zen’ apparently extends beyond JC himself - and called back a few minutes later to ask how we would be reporting it.
I told them we would be highlighting the plans to bring the energy, rail and mail industries back into the public sector, and describing it as Labour's most left-wing manifesto in a generation.
This final point sparked the only bone of contention.
“I wouldn’t describe it as left-wing,” the source said.
“I think that left/right stuff is really not relevant any more. What these policies are, is popular.”

The answer gives a telling insight into the way Corbyn’s top team hope to re-shape him as a populist insurgent.
It also has the benefit of being true, as our exclusive ComRes poll shows today.
Re-nationalising the railways is backed by 52% of voters, with 22% opposed .
Re-nationalising the energy market is supported by 49%, with 24% against.
And re-nationalising the Royal Mail is backed by 50% of voters, with 25% opposed.
Other popular policies include banning zero hours contracts - with 71% in favour - and new income taxes for people earning more than £80,000, which is backed by 65% of voters.
If this is 'Back to the 70s', as the right-wing press would have it, then it seems voters rather like the idea of selective time-travel.

The problem, however, is Corbyn himself.
Our poll found only 30% agree he should be given a fair chance at leading the country - while 56% say he would be a ‘disaster’ as Prime Minister.
The Labour leader has less than four weeks to turn that around.
He will start today on what is seen as his weakest subject – defence – with a major speech insisting he is “not a pacifist” and would go to war as a last resort.
His opponent Theresa May will be in the North East - her own tanks parked squarely on Labour’s lawn - to insist the Tories are now the only choice for “patriotic” voters.
We’ll be following all the developments through the day on our election live blog.

If you want to get in touch my email is and you can follow us @mirrorpolitics on Twitter.

Mirror Politics

There is a general consensus that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is offering the electorate a genuinely popular programme in this Manifesto. I remember an account of a television programme that was told to me in the pub by two Momentum activists after the anti-Trump demonstration on Lemon Quay a