Saturday, 30 May 2020


My next literary venture is well underway. It is a tale shaped by these Covid times. As I write my book, I see unfolding the latest episode in this UK horror show. SKWAWKBOX keeps me informed as to the detail but the general thrust of events is one that I, like them, have been expecting. My task in these blogposts is to pass the parcel, as Alan Bennett wrote in the concluding pages of 'The History Boys'. Please do remember to pass on what you discover through reading this blog - however you see fit.

Exposed again: Boris Johnson's claims to be 'following the science'

Lock-down in the UK arrived on Monday March 23, at least three weeks too late. Ten weeks later, we are being encouraged out of lock-down too soon for the health of the nation, prompted by neoliberal Tory concerns for the nation's wealth. Having made a similar mistake at the beginning of the crisis, they are apparently intent on repetition. Even more people will die needlessly. The economy will take

Thursday, 28 May 2020


And so we reach the fourth week of May and the fourth and concluding post in this series which presents a psychoanalyst's view of how people should love one another - alongside a parallel study of a terrible failure in love. The PM of the UK does not love himself. He acts to maximise his own interests but that is not the authentic self-love that Erich Fromm is advocating. Unless you know how to love yourself, you cannot love other people. Tens of thousands of UK citizens have died of Covid 19 as a consequence of the actions and inactions of two emotionally crippled men, Boris Johnson and his narcissistic special advisor, Dominic Cummings.

Love works

And so back to Professor Fromm. Having discussed what is needed for the practice of any art, Fromm hones in on the qualities that are needed for the ability to love. He states as a given that 'the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of ones narcissism'.

Just let Fromm's magisterial insight work its magic as you read these words:

'The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one.'

Think of Johnson or Trump considering their next move, their next statement. Do Fromm's insights

Monday, 25 May 2020


My latest Jago Stone Mailchimp Newsletter was written and circulated a few days ago and has been seen by 45 people - 65% of those who have subscribed at some point over the last four years. Following the usual pattern, I am now recycling that Newsletter as a blog-post in order to widen the circulation of its contents - specifically, in this instance, to tell the story of the Daventry Express Review last week and share a couple of pieces of correspondence from across the Pond. It's also an opportunity to brighten up your screen with a further reminder of some of Jago's finest artwork! 

Untitled - Jago Stone (1971)

This MailChimp newsletter is another opportunity to share the feedback that I have received to date from readers of 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone'.

Many of you will have seen the blogpost that I published on May 6 and also posted on Facebook. Here's the main thrust:

'I couldn't resist sharing this [an online review from Frost - see below] having received the alert

Wednesday, 20 May 2020


The conjunction 'AND' is vital in the title - this is not a blogpost detailing the art of loving the dark side of the prime-minister. I do recommend reading Parts One and Two in this series first, before gathering the fruits of this third part.

Here is the link for Part One - just press.

And here is the link for Part Two - just press.

In Part Two, I outlined Erich Fromm's understanding of the active nature of real love for other people. Such authentic loving always has these four characteristics: we care; we respect; we recognise our responsibilities in the relationship; we seek to understand that person and empathise with what has shaped them.

Love is …..

In 'The Art of Loving', Fromm develops his argument further as he examines the love between parent and child; brotherly love (by which Fromm means love for neighbour in a biblical sense - the masculine gender is a token of the decade in which the book was written); motherly love; erotic love; self-love; and love of God. Fromm then moves on to consider what he sees as the disintegration of love in western society.

Fromm is clear about the economic and social reasons for such  a collapse of love:

"Modern capitalism needs men who co-operate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume

Tuesday, 19 May 2020


When the going gets tough, knives are sharpened in Tory ranks - and their leaders will need to look to their fig-leaves. Today, the 'i' newspaper carried a short article - under the title: 'Reckoning is coming for Johnson' from an associate editor, Sean O'Grady, which would have been unthinkable for them to publish even a fortnight ago. Here's a taste:

"Every bumbling performance at Prime Minister's Questions. each stumbling appearance at a coronavirus media conference, all the 'ramped up' insincere promises only serve to build up the evidence that we have placed a clown in charge of dealing with the worst pandemic in 100 years.
When will the madness end? i think by Christmas.  .... In due course, Johnson will become an insupportable political burden for his party. .... More than anything, the people are beginning to comprehend the human cost of Johnson's failures. He has let us down. That is the unforgiveable bit. .... There will be a reckoning.'

I had the clown nailed back in 2019. So did all the other socialists in the Labour Party. My resistance started a couple of days after our election defeat in December. See my blog-posts, all safely stored within my website. Then came Covid-19 and the clown turned murderous. See my blog-posts published this year that have brought you, my readers, the latest real news from Skwawkbox which otherwise is ignored or airbrushed by the mainstream media. Until now. We are seeing, I hope, the beginning of the end.

Johnson behind bars

Here's the latest from Skwawkbox:

 Government's scientific advisers - and other scientific groups - recognise return to school likely to fuel second and potentially larger 'spike'

The government's measures for 'COVID-secure' work and school places are a joke. The Tories know that putting children back into schools spreads the virus but have taken no significant steps to limit that spread. There has been no

Sunday, 17 May 2020


Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it has.

UK deaths drastically understated - and even Financial Times' 'cautious' estimate misses mark
(Skwawkbox: Friday 15 May 2020)

The global comparison on the government's own sham figures - this is what is being withheld from the daily press briefings

The UK government continues to understate the deaths Boris Johnson's mismanagement of the UK's response to the coronavirus pandemic has either caused or allowed - many of them entirely avoidable. The official daily total, exposed weeks ago by the SKWAWKBOX as a sham, barely states half of the deaths even according to the 'cautious' analysis of the Financial Times.
ITV's Piers Morgan on the latest FT figures

The Tories' daily charts - now abandoned after the UK reached second-worst in the world even on the government's figures - showed this country in a cluster of European nations, including France, Spain and Italy, with the US way above.
But even based on that cautious FT analysis, an honest chart - shown in a linear form so the distances

Saturday, 16 May 2020


I need a break from the horror story of our misgovernment. You may well feel the same way. I will return soon enough to the task of speaking truth to power and spreading touches of reality across the canvas of lies and deception created by those who have power and wealth. But today I bring you a blogpost with two wonderful videos, courtesy of YouTube. They feature different artists but it is the same song. And it's a song with radical edge.

I'll start this story with a tale from my formative St Catz years at Oxford. In my second year, 1968-9, I found myself President of the Dean Kitchin Society, in effect the college historical society. I rose to the challenge with a flourish and sent off invitations to historians left, right and centre. Come and speak to us! We will entertain you, with a college meal and the pleasure of our company! Peter Burke came from the University of Sussex - he seemed so young; I guess he was my historian of the centre. It never occurred to me he would need travelling expenses. My tutor, the late George Holmes, rescued me from that pit-hole. George Holmes later became a don at All Souls in Oxford. One other invitee was already a don at All Souls. He was Max Beloff and definitely a historian of the right. I remember him making mincemeat of my attempt to ask a question after his talk; my mind was befuddled with the rather good burgundy we had been served in the dining room set aside for our gathering. And then there was Christopher Hill, master of Balliol College in Oxford - and definitely a historian of the left. A Marxist, no less.

Christopher Hill was my academic god. His book: 'The Century of Revolution' had been my school text book for A-level history; I gained my Oxford entrance scholarship in part on the back of Hill's 17th century wisdom. It took two shots but I bagged Christopher Hill on the second attempt; he replied; 'It's a fair cop ….'. I still have the letter. And it was from his writing that I had learned about the Diggers.

Sweet music to a swinging sixties radical looking to turn the world upside down himself

Hill distinguished between the Diggers and the Levellers, another radical force who emerged with the world turning upside down during the English civil war. The Levellers expressed the outlook of men of small property, the artisan, yeoman, and husbandman majority of the population; the Diggers advocated a communist programme under the leadership of Gerrard Winstanley and began communal

Wednesday, 13 May 2020


As promised, here is Part Two of this exploration of the insights into living the good life that a study of Erich Fromm's 'The Art of Loving' provides - counter-balanced and illuminated by any insights that a knowledge of the darker side of our prime-minster's personal and professional life may throw up.

Pablo Picasso - a mother's love

If you missed Part One, here's the link - it will make more sense if you do read the parts in order:

Now, more Fromm:

  •  We need to understand what kind of union we are talking about when we speak of love. Mature love is union with another in which our individuality is not sacrificed. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.
  •  Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are passions; love is an action, not a passion, which

Monday, 11 May 2020


You can feel it as the language becomes ever bolder on Skwawkbox. Anger is in the air. It's out there in cyberspace. But for how many British men and women has the penny dropped? How many British households echo this evening to the sound of diatribes directed towards the PM and the Government?

Chaos and confusion as weapons against working-class people
(Skwawkbox: Monday 11 May 2020)

Millions poured back to work this morning after Johnson's chaotic message. How many will die in the inevitable new spike?

Boris Johnson's garbled and self-contradictory message last night was mocked brilliantly by comedian Matt Lucas, but it is anything but a laughing matter - and the chaos has continued this

Sunday, 10 May 2020


Expect nothing less - but it still hurts when it comes. Our misgovernment continues. Prepare for a second spike in deaths.  

'Stay alert' - to the invisible? 'Control' the virus??
(Skwawkbox: Sunday 10 May 2020)

Image created by @ukdemockery

The Tories have changed their coronavirus slogan from 'Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives' to 'Stay alert, control the virus, save lives'. Boris Johnson is softening up the UK for a relaxation of the lock-down.
The new slogan, which has appeared on the front page of right-wing papers today, has been attacked as both meaningless and sinister - and as a cover for the next phase of Johnson's 'herd immunity' plan, which never went

Thursday, 7 May 2020


I've set myself a bit of a challenge here. I intend to produce a series of blogposts all under the title: THE ART OF LOVING (ERICH FROMM) - AND THE DARK BEAST OF BREXIT (BORIS JOHNSON). This post is Part One in the series.  I don't yet know how many there will be in the series; I'll try to write one a week so perhaps there will be four, making the production a venture for the month of May.

The first part of each blogpost will be an insight into the wisdom of Erich Fromm; the second part will be a recirculation of facts about the life of the current prime-minister of the UK, Boris Johnson. My aim is to set up a creative tension between the psychotherapeutic verities of one of the great minds of the 20th century and the biographical details of a disturbingly damaged and harmful man whose ruthless ambition has helped take him to the top of the greasy pole of political power.

Detail from the image on the front cover of 'Boris Johnson: The Best of Brexit: A Study in Depravity' by Heathcote Williams (2016)

I should explain that when I was an undergraduate at St Catherine's, Oxford in 1968, I did read Fromm's 'The Art of Loving' (1956) in a paperback edition well enough to realise this was a profoundly important book. The way I have lived my life at its best has, thank goodness, been shaped by Fromm's wisdom. Half-a-century later, I have returned to reading his seminal work with a tangible sense of excitement. Here's just the briefest of biographical detail for Erich Fromm (1900-80):

Born the only child of Orthodox Jewish parents in Germany, his doctorate in 1922 was in sociology. He then studied as a psychoanalyst completing his training in 1930. After the Nazis came to power in

Wednesday, 6 May 2020


I've copied the text below from the Mirror Politics Online yesterday - Tuesday 5 May 2020. I fear the opinion poll is probably pretty accurate; it hurts to say so. How can 61% of my fellow citizens think the Government is handling this existential crisis well? And still almost a half of those surveyed trust Johnson to lead the country through this outbreak. This so recently elected PM of the UK is a bad and sad scalliwag, not as mad as Trump but more cunning. He is the epitome of deception. See my previous blogposts since December - and before - and my series for May awaiting publication.  

Would you give this man control over your life? 


Mirror Politics Online - 05/05/2020

"An opinion poll at the weekend showed the public is as capable as politicians at sending out contradictory messages.

A clear majority (67%) thought the Government had been badly prepared for the coronavirus and had been too slow to implement the lockdown (62%).

But an equally clear majority (61%) thought the Government was handling the crisis well and had more trust in Boris Johnson (48%) than Keir Starmer (19%) to

Sunday, 3 May 2020


It's now Sunday morning and as I reflect on the week that's passed I recall hearing the confirmation of the escalation in cases of Covid-19 in care homes. Channel 4 News had already been releasing stories from individual care homes that pointed to a crisis for around a fortnight beforehand. On Tuesday 28 April 2020, the Office for National Statistics (OFN) now issued statistics that indicated around 5,000 of our citizens had died so far in care homes from Covid-19 related causes.

Hugo Gye, deputy political editor of  the 'i' newspaper, reported on Wednesday 29 April 2020 that the government would be publishing a new more comprehensive daily count of how many people have died in care homes. I discovered this because I've just checked online to see if what I remember hearing on the TV news was not a figment of my imagination. We were going to be told on a daily basis, not only how many deaths in hospital there had been but also how many deaths had occurred in care homes. That's what I heard - and now I've read it too.

A US mass grave for Covid-19 victims - but our death rate is the worst in the world, apart from San Marino's.

So what happened? Have you heard any updates? I haven't. The care home focus has vanished.  

Censorship. This feels ugly.

What we do have are diversionary stories of how the powerful prepared for politics after Johnson's

Saturday, 2 May 2020


I published my latest Jago Stone Mailchimp Newsletter towards the end of April and over 40 subscribers have seen it to date. Following the usual pattern, I am now recycling this Newsletter as a blog-post in order to widen the circulation of its contents - specifically, in this instance, news about how people reacted to reading my account of his life. It's also an opportunity to brighten up your screen with a reminder of some of Jago's finest artwork!

Jago Stone - still from Harlech TV programme - 1983

I expressed my hope in the last Newsletter that my biography of the remarkable artist, Jago Stone, may bring meaning to any time wisely spent in self-isolation.

This Mailchimp newsletter is my opportunity to share the feedback that I have received to date from readers of 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone'. A remark from our dear friend, Dr Julia Bush, served as a prompt when she

Tuesday, 28 April 2020


The Mirror on line today was critical of Boris Johnson's address to the nation yesterday on two grounds. He talked about his government's 'apparent success' in tackling the Covid-19 crisis; the Mirror pointed out we were heading for the highest death rate in Europe. He didn't talk enough about the crisis in care homes. The rate of daily deaths in care homes is actually increasing. 

The Mirror is sounding a critical note, albeit still respectful in tone.

So far so good. The road to the place where the little boy says the emperor isn't wearing anything has to start somewhere.

The man who was sacked by the editor of the Daily Telegraph for lying

Tom Peck in the 'i' today was even stronger. Here's a taste.

'When Johnson went into hospital three weeks ago, there had been 5,000 fatalities from coronavirus. There have now been 20,000, at least, and countless more in care homes. (Countless not in the sense

Monday, 27 April 2020


The man who knew his destiny was to be prime-minster dared the gods to do their worst and shook the hands of Covid-19 patients when he visited a hospital at the end of February. A few days later on 3 March 2020, he boasted about his actions accompanied by his medical and scientific expert who did not dissent from Johnson's statement that it was all about washing hands. Google 'Johnson shaking hands' and find the video performance of the buffoon. By early April, he had been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and spent two nights in intensive care. Today he is back, leading the nation.

Consider what is happening very carefully. 

Do you hear the mainstream media asking the questions that are crying out for answers?

I don't.

Why did you not move to lockdown earlier? 

There is little or no focus on such a vital matter. It is being 'nudged' out of the picture by a media intent still on colluding with this government of Tory neoliberal mediocrities.

Why did you not listen and act on the scientific and medical advice that you must have heard and rejected and instead opt for a half-baked, pseudo-scientific idea of achieving herd immunity? 

Did you do as little as possible in order to steal a market advantage on economic competitors?  

How do you feel now, Mr Johnson, when you got it so terribly wrong?

How do you feel now, Mr Johnson, with so much blood on your hands?

How do you feel now, Mr Johnson, knowing that your mad decisions have cost the lives of tens

Wednesday, 22 April 2020


One of the many magnificent moments in 'Les Miserables' comes with the music and lyrics of the number: 'Do you hear the people sing?'

'Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men'

Angry men and women.

I feel angry right now. So angry. And this is an anger that demands justice. 

Les Miserables - The Song of Angry Men. 

We have been murderously misgoverned by buffoons who have put the pursuit of wealth before health. 

Scores of thousands of lives will have been lost in this Covid-19 pandemic due to the incompetence and inane ideologies of morally bankrupt politicians whose election left them holding the power of life and death over us. 

The Lyrics - The Song of Angry Men

These buffoons must face the legal consequences. Administrative malfeasance is one possible charge; so too is corporate manslaughter.  

The words of The Secret Medic in the 'i' newspaper today are apposite:

'By all accounts, it looks as if the UK is heading for one of the worst death rates in the world ... no one should be hindered from engaging in objective scrutiny of government policy. In a

Saturday, 18 April 2020


The eleven days that have tragically cost the UK so much in the fight against coronavirus

I have copied this account by Dominic Minghella from the New Statesman webpage where it appeared yesterday, Friday 17 April 2020. It seems to me that as many people as possible should have the opportunity to read this - and consider what they should do in the light of the inaction of this government. My thanks to Dominic Minghella - press here for a link to his Wikipedia article. Dominic is the creative mind behind 'Doc Martin', otherwise known as Dr Ellingham, an anagram of the family name: Minghella.

'In a personal account, Dominic Minghella recalls the pre-lockdown period in which he and others were spreading Covid-19 across the UK.

Dominic Minghella - British television producer and screen writer - survivor of Covid 19

Ask yourself, as I have done, what those 11 fateful days in March cost us. You won’t like the answer. It has kept me up, my mind spinning like it does when I’ve had too much caffeine, half the night.
The days in question are 12-23 March, days in which the government decided to all but give up contact tracing and do, well, nothing. Mass gatherings were still allowed; concerts and racing and Champions League football; pubs and public transport. The over-70s, it must be conceded, were advised to avoid cruises.
Medics in Italy screamed: “Do something!” “Don’t make our mistakes!” “Look at what happens if

Thursday, 16 April 2020


A Skwawkbox post this morning cries out for sharing:

UK government is nowhere near meeting World Health Organisation criteria for exiting lock-down

Labour leader Keir Starmer, in common with a number of right-wing commentators and lobbyists, is pushing for the government to publish an 'exit strategy' saying how and when the UK will come out of 'lock-down', in spite of continuing high numbers of deaths and the unfolding horror of a huge toll in the nation's care homes.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has six reasons why such talk is not only premature but entirely inappropriate - six tests that a nation should be able to meet before any 'exit' is considered.

And the UK is a long, long way from meeting any of them.

The WHO's tests are:

  •  1) transmission is controlled
  •  2) health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case - and trace every contact
  •  3) outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes
  •  4) preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it's essential for people to go
  • 5) 'importation' risks can be managed
  • 6) communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the 'new norm'
Transmission is not controlled. The government's decision to close underground stations and reduce public transport


Here are extracts from pages 139 and 142 of my biography of Jago Stone:

'January 2017 was an especially rich period for the online detective agency. Alastair Mould sent me this email .... that added significantly to my understanding of the shape of Jago's circuit as the itinerant, gypsy artist. 

I thought I would drop you a line after reading Louise Donovan's experience of Jago wandering up the driveway and painting her parents' house. The same thing happened to me in 1973 at Park House, Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire when I was about 9 years old ....

Ashton Keynes  is a village in north Wiltshire …. and within the Cotswold Water Park ….

Alastair wrote that he had spoken to a friend of his, Dave, who had been living at another dwelling,  Cove House, in Ashton Keynes in 1973. Jago had painted that house too …. Jago and young Dave had talked together and, Alastair continued, 'Jago must have made an impression as Dave named one of his sons Jago, "after Jago Stone". How charismatic is that?!'

As last month drew to a close, that son of Dave named Jago made Facebook contact with me. That's Jago above. Here's Jago Hartland's email to me a day or so later, dated 1st April, 2020:  

  Hi Rob, 

   Thank you for your fast reply on Facebook. I was quite fascinated to discover your book about Jago Stone and the small mention in regards to my father and myself. Jago Stone had a large impression on my father which of course led him to name me after him - I was glad to discover the wonderful thought behind my name as I grew older! 

   I own a copy of 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' and Jago and myself seemed to have a similar sense of humour. We also share a fondness for writing and art! I studied A Level Art and my father is an artist weirdly enough. I also published my first children's book in May of 2019 which has had a very good response also. 

   I plan to purchase your book soon and look forward to giving it a read. If you would ever like to have a chat about a possible feature or discussion about Jago then please do get in touch as I find this quite an interesting networking opportunity! 

Kindest regards,

Jago Hartland  

We're on the same wavelength, Jago! I bought Jago Hartland's book on Amazon and read it last