29 December 2015


Little Atoms, 28 December 2015

A new outro for Moscow Gold? by me and Kevin Davey online here.

22 December 2015


'All over the war-wrecked areas from Brussels to Stalingrad, other uncounted millions are living in the cellars of bombed houses, in hide-outs in the forests, or in squalid huts behind barbed wire. It is not so pleasant to read almost simultaneously that a large proportion of our Christmas turkeys will come from Hungary, and that the Hungarian writers and journalists – presumably not the worst-paid section of the community – are in such desperate straits that they would be glad to receive presents of saccharine and cast-off clothing from English sympathisers. In such circumstances we could hardly have a "proper" Christmas, even if the materials for it existed.

'But we will have one sooner or later, in 1947, or 1948, or maybe even in 1949. And when we do, may there be no gloomy voices of vegetarians or teetotallers to lecture us about the things that we are doing to the linings of our stomachs. One celebrates a feast for its own sake, and not for any supposed benefit to the lining of one’s stomach. Meanwhile Christmas is here, or nearly. Santa Claus is rounding up his reindeer, the postman staggers from door to door beneath his bulging sack of Christmas cards, the black markets are humming, and Britain has imported over 7,000 crates of mistletoe from France. So I wish everyone an old-fashioned Christmas in 1947, and meanwhile, half a turkey, three tangerines, and a bottle of whisky at not more than double the legal price.'

George Orwell, Tribune, 20 December 1946

2 December 2015


It's difficult to know where to begin on this, but here goes:

  • The proposal to expand UK airstrikes against Isis from Iraq to Syria is not massively important in military terms. The RAF is already running anti-Isis strikes on targets in Iraq and it's clear that targets in Syria have already actually been hit. The Cameron government's proposed deployments are minimal.
  • It's important symbolically, however, both internationally and domestically.
  • Internationally, it shows that Britain is lined up with France and the US in solidarity and is, um, trying to work out what to do about Russia, Iran and the Kurds -- and, er, Turkey and the Sunni states of the Arabian peninsula, which are the key local players (apart of course from Iraq and Syria). This is rather less than convincing. It might be that the UK getting on board with France and the US makes it easier for the west to cut a shabby deal with Assad and Putin; but it might not.
  • Domestically, it has given David Cameron a chance to batter Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Corbyn has been principled in a pacifist/anti-imperialist way but lacklustre on the issue, allowed it to be turned into a test of his leadership and then performed poorly in the House of Commons debate.After moaning about Cameron's reported remarks on terrorist sympathisers in Labour's ranks, the PLP in the Commons responded seriously on the intervention motion. It was the first time in several years that the house was must-watch TV -- I think since the 2003 Iraq war debate when Robin Cook announced his resignation. The quality of debate was good, and the proceedings were civilised. Hilary Benn made an effective if hardly profound speech disowning the Corbyn perspective, and nearly 70 Labour MPs voted for the government motion. That's nearly one-third of the PLP. We live in interesting times.