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