15 years ago we protested against the Iraq War…

Back in February 2003 people from all over the UK marched to protest the then proposed invasion of Iraq. About a million or two of us took to the streets in London on a cold later winter afternoon to march through the city to hear a number of speeches in Hyde Park and to show that we, as the people of this country, won’t stand for what was proposed being done in our name.

It was an amazing day. As the Channel 4 report says, there was a mix of people, and as a painfully ill Mo Molam pointed out, the war was indeed used as a recruitment tool plus as we know, from the war came ISIS not to mention an almost permanent state of war in Middle Eastern countries and radicalisation of the likes we’ve never seen.

Yet that march and those like it across the UK and the world, should have sparked a Golden Age of political involvement. Indeed it did have political consequences in that it helped along such divergent political events like the election of Barrack Obama to the Scottish independence movement as people tried shrugging off the old order to try to create a new, and better one. The facts are that for all our marching, speeches and protests it was for nothing. Tony Blair got his war thanks to enough Labour MP’s as well as Tory support, and we’re still there 15 years later.

As for the glorious mixture of people on those Stop The War marches, they’re all gone after the SWP & their ilk managed to take a broad, vibrant coalition from all political viewpoints and change it into one that served them. On that day 15 years ago in London I met people from Labour, Tory, Lib Dems, Greens and across the board. There were kids who knew exactly why they were there articulating themselves brilliantly and the general feeling of change was for many, lost.

But we marched to hear speeches and to be honest, most of us only heard these speeches on the TV news later because it took so long to get from Paddington to Hyde Park, and also because the sound was crap so you’d hear Tariq Ali through crackle while hoping the wind changed direction. The fact is most people wanted to hear George Galloway’s speech even though people like myself knew him to be a hypocrite at best, he could articulate what many of us thought that day. Thing is looking back, none of the speakers had much to lose. Galloway, Tony Benn and Tariq Ali were the main speakers and they were doing what was expected of them. Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t a big name back then and once he made his speech remained with Labour on their back benches rather than quit as many did. These folk didn’t put their entire career on the line as then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy did.

The media savaged Kennedy. People in has party who wanted to go to war gunned for him after this. He stuck to his guns, voted against the war and in the 2005 election managed to grab a huge amount of support from people who saw Tory and Labour as two sides of the same coin. Kennedy’s actions were essential because there was an argument for invading Iraq along the lines of intervention in the Balkans in the 90’s. I sat with mates in the pub who were agonising over what to support because they knew (as we all did) that Saddam was a monster.  It was Kennedy’s rational argument for the law and decency that swung so many people to the cause. His subsequent treatment by his party and untimely death left a hole in UK politics that’s been replaced by people unfit to call themselves ‘liberals’.

I digress slightly…

Even if I’d had some sort of future knowledge o events I’d still have marched in 2003. It needed to be done and a line needed to be drawn. It didn’t work, but we needed to try because if we hadn’t tried we’d have failed everything, and everyone. The aftershocks of this can still be felt today with things like Brexit where people voted to leave to have their voice heard to the general distrust, even hatred, of mainstream politicians.

But still, for one cold day in February 2003 we felt the world was going to change for the positive. If only it had.

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Princess Diana has risen from the grave

20 years ago Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris and the UK lost it’s tiny little mind for what seems like a lifetime, but it is only 20 since the ‘people’s princess’ speech from a then, fresh-faced Tony Blair which really helped the lunacy kick into gear.

The week before was the Reading Festival and the dregs of Britpop died a death then, but waking up on that warm August Sunday morning 20 years ago to face wall-to-wall media enforced grief imposed upon a people who somehow mainly became infected with something that wasn’t just normal human responses to the death of someone famous, but something almost hysterical in it’s response.

Then there was the conspiracy theories. Oh god, the theories! I went to my local that Sunday night (I was living in Leicester at the time) and even in those early days of the internet there were people talking of what they’ve read online. As for the funeral it was a ridiculously mawkish display from a people who’d lost all sense as they were all driven forward as driven on by some memetic infection as everyone had to shown to pay respects and be stricken with grief about someone many of them were sneering at or lapping up Sunday tabloid headlines the week before her death.

The lunacy took years to die down. It even affected comics as writer Pete Milligan and artist Mike Alldred were planning to use Diana in the pages of X-Statix, an X-Men spin-off title, in 2002. That was until the press got hold of the plan.

And after a Daily Mail/Express fuelled outrage, Marvel changed the storyline from it being about Diana to a nondescript ‘pop star’.

It didn’t have anything like the same impact even if reading the story it was clearly Diana, the faux outrage neutered the story. Thankfully things started retreating into the pages of hysterical tabloids as people woke up from what was a feverish dream, or nightmare depending on your point of view.

And now here we are in 2017 facing the 20th anniversary of her death and those that canonised her in death (but mocked/hated her in life) are now flooding back into the media like a burst sewer telling us of how sad, upset and tearful we all were. Well, we weren’t. On the day of her funeral I went to the pub, and with others, played pool and stuck the Sex Pistols on the jukebox til the whole thing washed over us. Two decades on and I’m a different person to the one I was on that warm late summer’s day, but I again treat the oncoming storm of Diana programming and articles with suspicion. After all, Diana can now be used as this immortal figurehead of a Britain that doesn’t exist except in the heads of people who see the British identity as a superior one, and her ‘sacrifice’ gives these people a martyr to rally behind.

So I suggest over the next few weeks retreating to the pub to ignore this. Even if you, like me, no longer drink. It’s the only way to maintain sanity.

Whatever happened to the 2000’s?

The other day I was chatting to someone at my new workplace and we both did that thing where me thought the 1990’s were last decade, not 20 years ago as we missed out the 2000’s from history. This isn’t the first time this has happened and it probably won’t be the last, and it isn’t just me but friends have also done the same thing but I never did this in any other decade so what is it about the 2000’s that make people skim over it, even miss it out completely?

One big obvious thing is 9/11 which cuts into the decade like a scar. If you’ve seen, or grown up, with an event which was televised, talked about and effected everything that came after it then it’ll be something that people want to forget yet there’s so much great about a decade that nobody really wants to own.Sure there wasn’t a single music scene that came through as there had been since the 1950’s, but we had acts like The White Stripes, The Libertines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and loads more come through in a decade where manufactured pop dragged its shitty arse all over the decade like an Alsation with worms.

Yes, culture did suffer from being it seems fully monetised and commodified, but it’s been 16 years since the Brass Eye paedophilia special.

And can you imagine anything as nihilistic as Team America being released by a major American film studio in 2017?

Today we’ve got studios tripping over themselves to create extended universes along the lines of Marvel, and as enjoyable as the Marvel films now are they’re all following a formula, but the 2000’s gave us the flawed, sometimes tedious but interesting Ang Lee Hulk film.

The 2000’s seemed to be about washing away the 90’s while setting up the rest of the century, so we had Tony Blair setting up politics in the UK and George Bush in the US making it clear their bloody pawprints are seen on everything that’s come since but so do the protests for the Iraq War which have ended up shaping everything since from the Scottish independence movement, to Corbyn, to Bernie Sanders.

I’m in that crowd somewhere. It was a remarkable day with the very old and very young uniting with the left, right and centre in a way I’ve never, ever seen before or since. It engaged people and gave them an idea that a mass movement could be a good thing even though our work never actually stopped the war, it did create a spark.

Decades come and go but the 2000’s deserve a wee bit of praise, love and affection because so much of where we are now comes from there, and there’s a real chance this may well be the last decade where art, culture, politics and the world in general were something worthwhile and actually understandable because right now culture is patchy, and politics are as impossible to read as a drunken doctor’s signature.So give the 2000’s another chance. You won’t regret it.

The covuluted position of Owen Jones and the English left in regards Brexit

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken again on Brexit and although he’s talking bollocks in regards the EU changing it’s line on freedom of movement, he’s right when he says that Labour’s somewhat pro-Brexit line under Jeremy Corbyn could well come back and bite it hard. Up pops Owen Jones to Tweet this…

Now Corbyn’s position is a ”jobs first Brexit” and we can get ‘the same access to the Single Market” we get now. This is bullshit. Corbyn knows this is bullshit because we can see the EU’s red lines and realise very quickly the idea the UK can pick and choose what it wants. I recommend this excellent piece from Byline to see exactly the state of play and once you digest it realise that Corbyn’s position on Brexit is as shaky as Farage, Johnson and Theresa May because the EU have made this point clear:

Cherry-picking of the Single Market and a sector-by-sector participation in the Single Market has been excluded by the European Council guidelines. The Union has also stressed that its four freedoms (people, goods, services and capital) will remain indivisible.

No ‘jobs first Brexit’ is coming. We can’t get what we want regarding Single Market access. We will not get anything like we have now. This isn’t going to happen because we can read the EU’s position in black and white so Theresa May knows this and so does Jeremy Corbyn. They’ll stick to their lines because they’re trying to win votes but both positions will end up with the most vulnerable picking up the cheque for either person’s plan.

Now, you’d expect a journalist like Owen Jones to not just know this, but tell his followers and readers this but he doesn’t. Now this is either because he doesn’t know the EU’s position (which makes him just a wee bit crap at this journalism malarky) or he does know and is holding back this information because it’ll hurt Labour’s chances of being elected and Corbyn becoming PM which is dangerously failing to hold power to account as he puts part first. See, it won’t be the well off that pays for Brexit; it’ll be the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, the weakest in society. The people who can’t leave, or ride out the next 10-20 years as the UK rewrites itself in either a Tory or Labour image.

Jones knows Corbyn’s massive renationalisation plans can’t work with EU membership, but there’s no chance of Labour being a ‘party of social justice’ when people are being laid off in droves because we’ve left the EU and we’ve got austerity that makes what we have now seem like good times. You can’t have a ‘kinder, gentler politics’ either when your entire position revolves around accepting that people’s fear and xenophobic hatred of immigrants is more important than jobs or social justice, but when the party you support comes first, anything goes. Even if it involves you turning your personal politics til this point all over the place in order to support your party’s damaging position.

I despise Blair. He should be in prison, but he does raise some good point but Jones is so locked in the bizarre hubris Labour have been in since they lost another election that suddenly he adopts a position that I’m sure he’d have attacked a few months ago had say, Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson adopted it.

To be clear then. There is no ‘soft’, ‘hard’, ‘jobs first’ or even a ‘red, white and blue’ Brexit. There’s only going to be one that hurts and we’re now trying to see if we have a government, or a potential party of government, fighting to make that pain as negligible as possible but the Tory and Labour position is to wheel out the line ‘the will of the people’ because both are too shit scared or ideologically driven (or both) to present the idea that Brexit is insanely damaging and the UK deserves a say in what type of Brexit we’ll get come spring 2019. But no, both Labour and Tory are not being honest here and neither are people like Owen Jones who is putting party ahead of what is going to help the most vulnerable.

And this is the thing that annoys me about the English left. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the left has, more or less, united to fight Brexit and try as much as possible to protect devolution. In England, folk like Owen are willing to sell our rights, jobs and futures out if it means his party wins votes and frankly, I’m done with the cynicism of some on the left in England. We need to make the case for immigration, integration and something better than what we have not for the sake of whatever party we support, but because it’ll be for the good of all of us.

But nah, blind support seems to win the day here and that’s terrifying.

Your chance to help Tony Blair stand trial for Iraq

blair_killer_by_juliangibson-d6yr9wk

I’ve not made any secret of the fact I despise Tony Blair as much, if not more than I did Margaret Thatcher and after the Chilcot Report he deserves to spend time in the dock facing the families of the 179 men and women he send to be killed for no reason at all in the Iraq War.

Now the families of the dead British service men and women are trying to crowdfund enough money to carry on legal proceedings so they can finally face Blair, because Blair being the coward he is, refuses to meet them face-to-face so might as well make their first meeting in a court of law.

The link to the crowdsourcing page is here, I’ve chucked in a tenner I can’t really afford but this is important. It might not end up in a conviction but if it helps make Blair’s life an ongoing hell then it’ll be a tenner well spent.

Brexit Breakdown-The Day After Chilcot

It is the day after the Chilcot Report was released damning Tony Blair forever as not just everything we thought he was, but actually worse as even now he spins to an inch of his life invoking 911, indulging in conspiracy theories and trying to spread blame where he can. Meanwhile his Blairite followers wake up today in force to attack figures likes Alex Salmond, Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn who spoke out so totally against Blair and Labour.

My only hope some of them perhaps watch this Mitchell and Webb sketch and realise where in history they now stand as they’re not on the side of what’s good or right.

Meanwhile the Tories fight among themselves to see who’ll be the next Prime Minister. We have Michael Gove, a sack of skin that somehow thinks it can act human. Andrea Ledsom, the sort of person who gives idiots a bad name and Teresa May who makes Torquemada look like Tony Benn.

torquemadatory

So a fortnight after the EU Referendum we’re seeing Sterling drop to levels not seen in decades, companies arranging to close down parts of their operations in the UK, a possible second independence referendum in Scotland, EU Nationals rights being thrown around like confetti, a Tory leadership contest that places the chance of someone to the right of Cameron or Osborne in power and a potential Labour split because part of the party still thinks they were right with Blair and the deaths of up to a million people are things to casually dismiss.

And oh, there’s still a government governing and they’re still fucking us over, plus Portugal got to the final of Euro 2016 even though they’re one of the worst teams I’ve seen in the last four of an international competition in some time.

Just imagine what it’s going to be like when things really get bad?

The Chilcot Report: Tony Blair. Liar, warmonger, egomaniac.

blair_killer_by_juliangibson-d6yr9wk

The Chilcot Report came out today. Instead of the meek whitewash that limply smacks the wrists of Tony Blair and the people who took us to war in Iraq in 2003 we got something that damns Tony Blair, his style of government, his spin doctors and his Labour Party of the time. It damns those that supported the Iraq War and vindicates those of us that protested the war that cold Saturday in February in 2003, and who Blair was so dismissive of. It vindicates the likes of Alex Salmond who tried to impeach Blair in 2004. It vindicates Jeremy Corbyn who is now hounded by the same people who cheered this war on and and stood behind Blair. It vindicates Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dem leader who saw the same information as Blair and decided it wasn’t enough to go to war on and was then destroyed firstly by the media and then his own party.

Most of all it vindicates the families of the dead British service people who died for nothing. 250 people died in Iraq two days ago. We have no idea how many Iraqis have died in 13 years because the Americans couldn’t care less, and we didn’t bother trying to count how many people we were slaughtering.

I marched that day in 2003. I remember feeling futile and impotent as Blair went to war regardless. 13 years later we live in a vastly less safe, more uncertain, less trusting world. Blair took advantage of the post 911 months to use that to help George Bush and America reshape the world. Blair didn’t have a plan.We sent men and women into a warzone without proper kit, proper equipment. They were failed.

Blair’s egomania lives on. He’s spent two hours today trying to spread blame. Alistair Campbell is allowed to comment in The Guardian that it was all justified. John McTernan praises Blair as a great leader still, on the day we know for sure he sent young people to their deaths and destabilised a region, fuck, a world, for what exactly? What good has come out of that for anyone apart from the likes of Blair, Campbell and McTernan who’ve made themselves wealthy, comfortable and assured while families weep and grieve.

I have no idea where things go from here. Labour as I see it is over. Corbyn now mas the moral authority to stamp the Blairites out his party. The UK as a nation is over. I’ve no idea how the ripples of this affects America. This however can’t be allowed to slide away, Tony Blair needs to be brought to justice for this as he has blood on his hands and all the spinning in the world won’t change that.