Winter 2015/16

Posted Feb 10, 2016

Newsletter/Blog

(Winter 2015)

DON’T BOMB SYRIA

 The summer has been over and gone and I didn’t feel ready to think about  Autumn, so here’s Winter! So much seems to happen, so fast… too fast! The wonderful Festivals I’ve played, from Shepley Festival in May (16th); Music on the Marr in Castle Carrick,Cumbria (July 18th); Warwick (July 25th); Wickham (August 7th); Towersey Festival (18th-21st) and SpookyFest (September 5th)……! Each Festival has received me and Marc with enthusiasm and generosity. All of you have sung your hearts out at the right time and (what’s more) in tune! (joke!) 

As this all went on, my friend and comrade, Jeremy Corbyn has won an outstanding victory in the Labour Leadership election and is trying to change the nature of politics at Westminster. The BBC and ITV political journalists are increasingly desperate to find something to talk about or even write about! Anything other than when will the Labour Party implode? (See, I started this some time back!) They seem unable to just accept that the new Leader of the party refuses to be dragged into their game, indeed their need, to find the Party in disarray. They interview Jeremy Corbyn and find he remains calm and considered in his responses and refuses to answer questions before he’s ready. He doesn’t offer immediate “sound bites” which is what they live on! He wants and demands discussion where sound bites are what they want for their headlines and indeed from which they can find and sustain controversy. [That’s what they call ‘news’.] Have we become so used to sound bites we don’t hear anything else? Soundbites are, often, simply vacuous short hand comments that impart little information but do identify the intellect of the speaker. He or she rarely constructed such empty, yet easy to digest, information. They have speech writers! It’s not them! We become convinced the speaker has the gravitas to be Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary or any other Government ‘celeb’ when in fact some of them are puppets while others (?) pull the strings, write the words and determine the policies.

The treatment by, among others the BBC, of Jeremy Corbyn is a disgrace. I’m pleased he refuses to be drawn into confronting such treatment. I’m hopeful, if not convinced he is going to slowly grow into a major political force as people get sick and tired of the ‘rubbishing’ and demonising of this gentle and civil man. Could it be that the ‘power elite’ the Tories represent, are very worried he might “catch on” with the general public.

I am also disgusted at those within the Labour Party who are simply waiting for him to be destroyed so they can get back to business as usual within the Party. It really will be unelectable then!! Who needs the Daily Mail et.al. when we have Labour MPs declaring such things as “Jeremy is unelectable!” He’s been an elected MP for 30 years and more and he’s been overwhelmingly elected by the Membership of the Labour Party, so they should shut up and get involved in the Socialist endeavours of the Labour Party. That’s what it was created for! They should be speaking out against this Tory Government and continue to do so for the next 5 years or leave the Party! If they keep saying he’s unelectable it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and neither he nor they, will probably be elected! If they are consistent and keep urging a politics that is committed to building a society based on Equality (not hierarchy); on Freedom (not Order); on Justice (not Discipline) and Internationalism (not Nationalism,) such sentiments will ‘settle’ in the public consciousness!  However, add Nationalism to Socialism and we got Nazism! Add Nationalism to the Tories and I’m sure we’ll get either Nazism or perhaps worse!

There’s plenty to concentrate the minds of the Parliamentary Labour Party, (PLP) or at least those who have or are moving in the direction of their Party membership. Tory welfare policy, for example! Ian D Smith responding to criticism of the removal of Tax Credits on which many working families depend because of either below Living Wage levels or Zero Sum Hours contracts, declares that such a cut for low paid families “will teach parents that children cost money.” The sheer inhumanity of such a statement should render him ‘unelectable.’ But no! He is at the centre of this Tory Party! A Tory Party Cameron has the audacity to declare ‘Compassionate’ Conservatism!  A Tory Party that witnesses Food Banks springing up all over one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is hardly the result of “compassionate” Tory economic & welfare policies! The ‘haves’ represented by Ian Duncan Smith, have more, while the ‘have-nots’ represented by Jeremy Corbyn have less! This is the age-old battleground for each generation. The struggle has no final ending. No final defeat. No final victory. At least Jeremy recognises this and is willing to present a radical socialist alternative.

Labour is not a ‘deficit denier’ and as Jeremy has said, repeatedly, “Austerity” is a political policy choice NOT an economic necessity. There are quite legitimate methods of working down the deficit that doesn’t involve rendering the already ‘have-nots’ to further indignities that gives then even less! Borrowing to invest in infrastructure is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. That needs repeating over and over until it is firmly established in popular sentiment.

The economic condition is itself a subjective interpretation. Of course, there are horrible, ‘stubborn’ facts like, unemployment; poverty; homelessness; excessive wealth; vast private estates and more but how one understands these facts is a subjective interpretation, depending on your economic & political interests.  The owners of Capital are free to place where-ever those ‘owners’ want, regardless of the consequences for the majority, while those who represent Labour, the other half of the economic creation of value, the majority of whom are the ‘have-nots’ are constrained by a myriad of restrictions and lacks that freedom of movement. Labour must not have such freedom and this is demonstrated by the opposition to, for example, opposition to “economic migrants.” Capital can enjoy the right to be placed anywhere in the world. Wherever there is profit to be made. Labour, however, is saddled by rules and regulations as to where it can earn better wages.  [Labour is of course limited by other domestic ‘chains’ when it comes to such freedoms!]

Thus ‘Labour’ is disadvantaged and ‘Capital’ through it’s representation by the Tory Party leads to a policy of Austerity.  The Tory policy has its “trickle down” principle, namely, that the wealthy (the haves) create the wealth, so they must be encouraged to invest, in order that value, thus created will eventually ‘trickle down’ to the wider populus (the have-nots.) It doesn’t work like that, as has been demonstrated a number of times. Capital, alone, does not create value! Capital needs Labour to create value (& vice versa!) Playing the financial markets simply makes money! There is a world of difference between making Money and creating Value. Making money, e.g. buying and selling Debt is unsustainable.  Gordon Brown, demonised by the Tory marketing onslaught, knew this and introduced amongst other things, quantitative easing to shore up banks to encourage financial support for infra-structure. QE also was intended as the way to support (even save) the relatively small savings the like of you and I might have! The banks didn’t respond as required and now, nationalising the banks doesn’t seem such as bad idea after all!

It is, however, an anathema to Tories. Any talk of nationalising anything results in Tories and their wealthy backers and ‘hangers-on’ to circle the wagons to protect the ‘haves’ and their wealth. Indeed, the Tories are busy with their objective of reducing the State, namely the public sector, to a minimum. We’re not at the reintroduction of toll gates yet only because, I suggest, business depends on the movement of materials and goods and toll gates would slow that down! So roads may stay as national (vis. as public,) assets!

You remember how the Tories lambasted Gordon Brown and the Labour Party for failing to regulate the financial sector?  Do you also remember how Labour, Gordon Brown particularly was lambasted, ridiculed and virtually demonised by Cameron, Osborne and the Tory Party generally, for leaving us in a mess with a huge deficit because Labour failed to regulate the banking and Financial System? I remember it all too clearly. I was meant to, as was the general electorate, the public, the ‘people.’ So when it came to the General Election “it was all Labour’s fault!” [Most people, probably still think in this way?] The deficit, the Tories exclaim is the fault of the last Labour Government! I also remember, George Osborne in 2006, speaking on Regulation saying: “In an age that demands a light touch, he (Brown) offers that clunking fist. He has clobbered business with £50bn of regulation, when we should be liberating our economy to compete.” Every opportunity was taken to resist regulation of almost anything! A few years later he was clobbering Brown for failing to regulate!

The great impetus for deregulation was, of course, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher! It all began with her ‘Big Bang’ of the Stock Exchange, so that every attempt to regulate that system (or any other system) was resisted, with great energy by the Tory Party in Parliament and through its ‘friends’ in the media. The dawning of the age of easy money for the few was upon us. ‘Working’ the Stock Exchange resulted in individuals “earning” millions of pounds. Bankers ‘playing’ the Market were given eye-watering bonuses. Borrowing reached enormous levels, yet “We see no need to continue to regulate the provision of mortgage finance, as it is the lending institutions rather than the client taking the risk.”(John Redwood 2007)  Tell that to the poorest who are paying the price now with Austerity programmes in the UK, Greece, Spain and elsewhere!  I don’t care if the wealthy are also paying. They can afford it. So many of the current Tory Cabinet are virtually untouched by ‘austerity’ – it doesn’t really impact on their daily lives or their pockets! This is true for all the wealthiest in this country. Many of whom became wealthy as a result of Tory deregulation. The financial crisis certainly wasn’t created by those trying to survive on Tax Credits and Food Banks! The mantra of “We’re all in this together” is a political con! The idea that this justifies the need for austerity, in which the poorest, who had nothing to do with the crisis in the banking and financial sector, should somehow be part of the “solution” is blindingly unfair and unjust.

As each month, each week, each day passes, new economic and political constraints are imposed on us – selling off the NHS, the East Main Line train service, and so much more. Selling is essentially to those who attend the same clubs, the same dinner parties, the same schools.  Whose sons and daughters meet & marry and bind this elite into tighter and tighter connections. This is what I mean (with apologies and respect to C.Wright Mills) by The Power Elite. I’ll not even begin to rant about Osborne’s smoke and mirrors Autumn Statement! He may have removed the term ‘tax credits’ from his policies but don’t be surprised when his ‘reforms’ still leave the weakest, the poorest, the most vulnerable £1000+ worse off than they were before (when they had little enough, then!!)

To demonize and ridicule a civil and decent man like Jeremy Corbyn is shameful. I can only trust that he will persist with his decency, his civil and careful contribution to political debate and that he will eventually break through the barriers so erected against him. He refuses to support the bombing of Syria and I hear Hilary Benn arguing how he will support bombing in spite of the Party Leader. I was so saddened and shocked to hear him speak, trying to carefully place himself in a respectful yet dissenting position from Jeremy. We are being told lies or, at best, half truths about Cameron’s desire to bomb again. One example: apparently we’re told, 70,000 ground troops from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) & elsewhere, are ready and willing to finish the job after the bombing – we are not reminded that the Russians are currently bombing that same Army, regarding them as terrorists against the Assad regime! The Kurdish troops certainly won’t join the 70,000 , they’re concerned with the creation of their Kurdish State. Bombing Syria will add to the argument that the ‘the West’ is bombing and killing Muslims. Syria and Iraq is a maelstrom of competing forces into which Cameron wishes us to add our air attacks to the already bombing Air Forces of the USA and France! There is no coherent strategy on display here, only a desire to be seen as one of the ‘big boys’, maybe to claim a seat at the table in any possible future negotiations. It’s an ego trip not a comprehensive strategy to rid the middle east of the extremists! You cannot bomb a country into accepting a western model of a liberal democracy any more than we could slaughter Arabs into accepting the religion of Christianity!! Only argument and negotiation has any hope of achieving peace. It took England and the UK hundreds of years to achieve a maturity that could accept the ‘liberal’ policies we suffer under today and we’re not completely civilised yet!

To those who decry their elected Party Leader I say why don’t you just quit? You are defying the will of the Party membership who voted overwhelmingly, for him and for his approach to politics as well as the political direction he wants to takes the Party. Tony Benn was accused of destroying the Labour Party in his democratic bid for the position of Deputy Leader, he missed by the smallest of margins. Indeed, so small that one might well argue that it was Dennis Healey who split the Party!  Many of the new members of the PLP are against Jeremy and many older members are biding their time before they launch their own bid for the Leadership. If they showed some loyalty to the Party that got them where they are, they might stand a chance of winning an Election is 2020!

Enough! I’m going mad trying to relieve my sense of impotence!  I must remember Arundhati Roy’s advice:

 The only dream worth having is:  To love. To be loved

To never forget your own insignificance.

To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you.

To pursue beauty to its lair

To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple.

To respect strength never power.

Above all, to watch, to try and understand, to never look away.

And never, never, forget.

 

And now, for something completely different!

 My 80th birthday concert on Tuesday (October 20) in Sheffield was truly wonderful. My heartfelt thanks to all who came and I was sorry that many others who wanted to attend couldn’t, as it sold out very quickly I was told. I’ve been accused of ‘selling out’ so many times I should have known better!! Val and I were invited by our daughter, Kit and son, David to a family lunch the following Sunday (28 October.) That was very nice. We had a good time. Then, people started to arrive – at first I thought it was a coincidence that Jane had an appointment at the same pub, The Stag… until …. a few others arrived carrying birthday cards and gifts…!? Only then did it dawn on me. This was turning into a party – a birthday party, also organised by Kit & David with the connivance of my wife, Val and everyone! It was lovely. I was in a whirl. I tried to speak to everyone, which meant I hardly had a conversation with anyone! After a few hours, Martin (Simpson) Andy (Cutting) and Marc (Block) plus numerous others began playing. Fantastic! “Sing us a song, Roy” – Such a lot had happened, such a lot people arriving and departing, I couldn’t think of a single song I knew! My friend Ray Hearne was sitting next to me and playing along with everyone. I said lets do Ray’s song, ‘Calling Joe Hill.’ I remembered Ray had sent me his song to sing way back in 1995 at the first concert, a tribute to Joe Hill as the concert was to celebrate this fine Socialist. The concert became a bi-annual event, now held in Bradford, I think? It is now called the ‘Raise Your Banners Festival of Political Song’.  I thought I could remember that, but after the first verse of the song, a song I’ve sung from Australia to Canada and elsewhere, I couldn’t remember it, at all! Ray began whispering the opening words to each verse, which gave me the prompt I needed to continue. [Thank you, Ray!] It was ridiculous. Fortunately, I was indeed among friends and it didn’t matter. We had a great time. Thank you all for coming and for dazzling me with your presence. Thank You!  What a great birthday week it had been. I didn’t really recover until well into the following week. This had happened before [at our golden wedding anniversary] and from now on, any invitation to the Stag by my family and I’ll be suspicious and on my guard against some personal celebration!!

I’ll also be really disappointed if there’s not a ‘surprise’ party about to happen! 

To close this hopeless rant and simultaneously a release of my own tension and insecurity, I just want to comment on the two concerts I’ve managed to do in this last week or so. In 1997 I was invited by Robb Johnson to join his group of musicians and singers as his “cast” to perform his song suite ‘Gentle Men.’ He had been invited to write this suite by the organisers of the annual Passendael Peace Concert. He decided to write the story of WW1 (or indeed any war) through the lives of ordinary people, namely his two grandfathers and he invited me to sing the part of the grand fathers! It was, and remains a wonderful set of words and music. It was eventually put to bed in about 1999/2000(?). In 2006(? – I can’t remember dates!) Robb revised the programme and once again I was asked to sing the same role(s). We recorded it again with a new English band. We played a couple of concerts but the cost of the new line-up was prohibitive. For the last few years Robb has performed the Gentle Men story with fewer people, and indeed alone. He and I discussed it and agreed Robb should write a script to tell the story in both songs and spoken word. He and I have performed the 2 man show a few times. I enjoy it. The songs are still fresh and ever more relevant for me. I love singing them. We performed the suite recently at the Kardomah94 Club in Hull(14th Nov) and at Cecil Sharpe House in London(21st Nov). I still enjoy singing & performing it immensely We both want to do it in the coming year and we’re talking with Festivals and Folk Clubs. Fingers crossed! Watch our respective Web Pages.

 One final thing: Along with my friend Richard (‘Ich’) Mowatt (sound engineer genius!) we tried to record my annual concert at Towersey Festival last August. We also tried to keep this recording secret, even from my friends, the musicians until after the concert. A day or so ago we listened to the recording. I was delighted with it and we’re now set on editing and producing  the CD: “Roy Bailey at Towersey Festival – 2015.” I’m still crossing my fingers and probably won’t relax until I have the CD in my hand! So…. This is just a warning – there will be (I hope) a CD available in 2016!!

I keep adding to and subtracting from this as events unfold, so unless I send this, in it’s incomplete form, I’ll never get a Winter Newsletter/Blog to you! 

I wish you a very merry Christmas (or Bah Humbug celebrations - whichever you prefer) and a very happy, healthy and successful New Year.    Here we go again……..

Love    Roy   x

DON’T BOMB SYRIA!

 

Sheffield 

28th November 2015


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