Tuesday, 14 August 2018

WOMEN'S VOICES ON 'THE ROAD TO CORBYN'

It has only just struck me how much of the positive feedback for 'The Road to Corbyn' (TRC) has come from women. Let me illustrate the point with some instances.

First, an acknowledgement fleshed out. Pippa Stilwell was one of the four members of a Cornish reading group singled out in my Acknowledgements at the front of TRC. It is worth expanding on my debt to Pippa. She had read the manuscript of 'Deception' - the work that became TRC after I had added two chapters following the 2015 General Election and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party - and commented that 'The book is nicely written and one definitely gets the feeling of a Pilgrim's progress towards knowledge and a healthy distrust of the status quo'. The references were 'wonderfully comprehensive'. But she didn't feel that the lady Hope had been much help and she noted that 'Apart from Hope and Charity there are only two women in your book, both reduced to serving tea.'




Ouch! A thoroughly warranted rebuke - sometimes someone has to prise open your lids. Pippa continued:

'As we know that women have suffered hugely more than men under austerity, I wondered if you could introduce a page turning element by creating a female character, whom Pilgrim meets at crucial points in both their careers. She could be a single mother, public sector worker, made redundant, reduced to zero-hours cleaning, loses flat, rehoused outside her local area and networks - maybe starting a big campaign as in the New Era Housing campaign ….. so many stories in the last five years, and so many more to come.'

Read the published, final version of TRC, listen to my new improved Lady Hope - and you will understand my debt to Pippa. Being male carries its burdens, as Pilgrim himself found out. I was

Monday, 13 August 2018

NAZANIN ZAGHARI-RATCLIFFE AND LIFE IN AN IRANIAN JAIL

This blog is different from any that I have published before. Here, instead of my words, are the reflections and insights of Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe, as his wife copes with Day 862 of her captivity in an Iranian jail separated from her daughter. Do share if you are so inclined. This is such a painful slice of reality, made all the worse because of the awful part played by the British Foreign Secretary at the time, a man called Johnson. 

Day 862 #FreeNazanin – Evin University

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom
12 Aug 2018 — 
A lot has happened: We have a new Foreign Secretary, with promise inherited, a new court case, and more British Iranians taken, on the margins of the news. From no stones unturned to more stone collecting.
It has also been a hot summer also in Iran – with tumult even inside the ward. There have been a number of new arrivals, including some famous ones. Some women were transferred away, resulting in a long hunger strike, and time in hospital.
But also there have been releases.
Releases have a bittersweet left-behind feeling – a jealous happiness. Ex-prisoners come to Evin the following visiting day to share sweets with the families going in. Each time Gabriella asks Nazanin confused: ‘Mummy, but

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

A SOCIALIST LITERARY MASTERPIECE - ROBERT TRESSELL'S 'THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS'

Robert Noonan only wrote one book in his lifetime and that under the pseudonym of Robert Tressell. He never lived long enough to see it published but make no mistake his work is a masterpiece. The version that I read last month uses the text in the Lawrence & Wishart edition of 1955 - it's the Wordsworth Classics edition of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (TRTP) with a Foreword by Tony Benn, first published in 2012. There is general agreement that this version is the best we have but it is important to know that the book which was first published in 1914, three years after the death of its author, was compiled from the pages of the hand-written manuscript in a different order from today's version and leaving out much detail. Bearing in mind some have argued that Labour's landslide victory in the General Election of 1945 was due in no small measure to the number of copies of TRTP read by WW2 servicemen during the war, it is remarkable how powerful the socialist message of the book was, even in a form less than Robert Noonan would have wanted.




In this blog-post, I would like to share some of the insights about the book's history that I now have thanks to reading Ian Hernon's admirable biography of Robert Noonan - Robert Tressell: A Life in Hell (2015). Hernon's Introduction conveys very well the impact of the book in its different versions on the British Labour movement. Listen to the opinions of these left-wing names:

  • Eric Heffer (MP) - 'It had a profound influence. For the first time it showed what the world of work was really like and how the workers were exploited. It influenced generations of socialists and trade unionists.'
  • Margaret Drabble (novelist) - 'The classic text of the Labour movement exposing the

Thursday, 2 August 2018

THE DEATH OF DR DAVID KELLY - A SUMMARY OF MILES GOSLETT'S NEW STUDY


For starters, the background:

David Kelly (1944-2003)

Scientist
David Kelly
David Christopher Kelly CMG was a Welsh scientist and authority on biological warfare, employed by the British Ministry of Defence, and formerly a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003 when an unauthorised discussion he had off the record with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan about the UK Government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was cited by Gilligan and led to a major controversy. Kelly's name became known to the media as Gilligan's source and he was called to appear on 15 July before a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating the issues Gilligan had reported. Kelly was questioned aggressively about his actions. He was found dead two days later.


And so to Miles Goslett and his new book. 


Miles Goslett is an award-winning journalist. His book An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered up the David Kelly Affair was published in May this year. My judgement on the book is very positive. The reviewer in The Times - David Aaronovitch - was very negative. Indeed, so hostile that it seems legitimate to suggest that his review is a further ploy in an

Saturday, 21 July 2018

JEREMY CORBYN'S SOCIALIST VISION VERSUS THE THIRD WAY OF MR BLAIR


In the last few weeks, I have been indebted to Koser Saeed, a Labour party activist who has established an online news source called Spotlight Newspaper Public - here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/737462606444000/?multi_permalinks=889563267900599&notif_id=1532123084596195&notif_t=group_highlights.
Koser's aim is to disseminate the fruits of her experiences and readings as widely as possible to help her campaign to achieve democracy within the Labour movement, not least in her own location in the West Midlands. This blog-post is in support of Koser - and it also catalogues my search to understand what is happening within the Labour movement and why. 

I rejoined the Labour Party in 2015 almost as soon as Jeremy Corbyn (JC) was elected leader on the back of rule changes that in effect allowed ordinary members to determine who would lead the Party. The prospect of a socialist vision for 21st century Britain becoming a reality through the ballot box in a General Election was awesome. I had just completed the writing of 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

JAGO IN FLIGHT

The Penzance Literary Festival Fringe invited me to give a talk that linked to their theme this year of 'Flight'. Since Jago Stone's life had been touched by this idea of 'flight' in a variety of ways, I did not hesitate in accepting their kind offer. The following blog-post gives my readers the chance to follow my thinking as I teased out how Jago's life had been a story of flight in my talk at the Redwing Gallery on Monday evening, July 9, 2018:

Jago Stone was born in 1928. He lived for 60 years, dying in 1988 - 30 years ago. There are ways in which he spent his whole life in flight. Let's explore first:

THE CHILDHOOD FLIGHT

James Henry Galilee entered this world as a bastard, the standard legal and non-legal term used at that time to describe an illegitimate child. He remained one for 11 years, six years longer than he needed to. When his mother married Wilfred Leonard Stone in 1932, Jago now had a father and by the terms of the Legitimacy Act of 1926 the young boy was entitled to be registered as legitimate. The family did not get round to filling in the paperwork until Jago was aged 11.

Detail from 'The Maker of Sweet Smells' - Jago Stone - 1969


Jago's mother was 18 years old when he was conceived. Who his genetic father was, Jago never discovered. But his genetic grandmother certainly made a tangible impact on his life. Her daughter, Louisa, had brought shame on their respectable and aspiring Quaker household in the Birmingham suburb of Aldridge. Louisa was banished to a nursing home in Surrey to have her child, away from

Thursday, 12 July 2018

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART EIGHT

The post that follows first appeared - for the most part - as my July Mailchimp Newsletter. Some readers will have already seen it there, but many won't. Just out of interest, you might like to know that 34 subscribers so far have read the Newsletter this month. By comparison, a typical Jago - American Connection blog will have picked up around 250 views in the first three months. For those who are now familiar with this eighth American Connection I hope you enjoy it a second time - and for those who are coming to the story for the first time, I hope you share my sense of wonder at the ways and means of cyberspace detection. Here's the post: 

 

'The Residency at the Redwing Gallery in Penzance during June was very enjoyable for me and I hope interesting for the handfuls of people who attended the seven talks I gave. I have produced seven blog-posts in June to tell the stories of these Redwing gatherings in words and images.

If you know anyone you think might be interested in these mailings about 'Jago' do encourage them to follow the link to my website. Here it is:  www.robdonovan-author.co.uk/JagoStone-Biography.html

You can also use this page to access my Jago Stone blogs.

Copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' can be purchased at a discount using this link: www.robdonovan-author.co.uk/TheRoadToCorbyn.html.

Here are some details for Redwing:
 
1pm until 3pm
Opening Hours:
                       Monday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Tuesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Wednesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Thursday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Friday 10:30 am - 4:30 pm
                       Saturday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm



Looking back down the side-street to Market Jew Street


In the last couple of Newsletters, I have outlined my searches for a literary agent who could secure publication for 'Jago'. That activity still continues - but by now it is not difficult to read the runes. There are tens of thousands of authors out there chasing the dragon of mainstream publication and we are all 'commercial risks' until someone inside the system decides to take a chance. I expect to be