MI5 & the Historians: time for an official apology

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2014 by kmflett

MI5 and the historians: time for an official apology

There will be few on the left who will have been surprised at The Guardian’s story on 24th October that MI5 spied on leading post-1945 historians such as Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm because, amongst other reasons, they had until the crisis of 1956 or just after been members of the Communist Party.

The Guardian story is here:

The reason for The Guardian story was that files have been newly opened up ( and some haven’t)detailing what MI5 knew about Hobsbawm and Hill.

The fact that the security services had kept tabs on them and prevented them from getting certain posts is well known already. It was part of the British Cold War when the old Soviet Union was regarded as an enemy of the UK. In practice as the work of John Le Carre amongst others has underlined there was little actual difference in practice between the way the two countries went on.

Beyond that, while, ironically, the Mi5 records are useful material for historians of the left, there was no genuine justification for keeping such distinguished historians under surveillance beyond the point that the British Establishment regarded anyone that did not share its small and large ‘C’ conservative views as suspect.

Hill went on to become Master of Balliol College Oxford and Hobsbawm was appointed a Companion of Honour. In other words they became pillars of the very Establishment that had been keeping tabs on them.

It might be argued that this demonstrates the genius of the British Establishment for incorporating its enemies. More realistically as the book Spycatcher indicated it proves that MI5 was an unaccountable law unto itself.

It is time for official apologies to the relatives of Hill and Hobsbawm for the fact the State peered into their lives in an unwarranted way.

It also begs the question of whether MI5 are still at it. I convene the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research and organise the London Socialist Historians Group. Along with the Socialist History Society we stand as successor organisations to the old Communist Party Historians Group.

If MI5 want to know what I’m up to and who I’m talking to they can read The Guardian or check my twitter feed.


Veteran singer Leonard Cohen shaves Roy Keane in Beard of Autumn poll

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2014 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
Press Release 23rd October Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Veteran singer Leonard Cohen shaves Roy Keane in Beard of Autumn poll

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that veteran singer Leonard Cohen has shaved Roy Keane of Aston Villa FC in the poll for the Beard of Autumn that closed at 6pm on Thursday.

Leonard Cohen who is usually clean shaven appears with a stylish hipster style beard on the cover of his current hit record, Popular Problems, and the campaigners say that such is the positive impact of the image that the singer won over 50% of the vote consigning Keane, who shaved his beard during the poll, to third place.

England cricketer Moeen Ali was second.

The Award is the final one of four seasonal Awards before the announcement of the coveted Beard of the Year Award at the end of December.

The Quarterly Awards focus on beards who have made an impact in the public eye during the three month period.
BLF Organiser Keith Flett said the Seasonal and Annual Beard Awards are all about positive public images of the hirsute and although Leonard Cohen rarely has a beard his new album cover is a magnificent ambassador for facial hair.

Beard of Autumn Shortlist
Moeen Ali, Top performing England cricketer
Leonard Cohen, Performer
Tim Howard, Everton goalkeeper
Roy Keane, Aston Villa FC manager

The Beard Liberation Front announces the shortlist for the Beard of Halloween on 25th October


How does Russell Brand compare to the great radical beards of the Victorian era

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2014 by kmflett

Whatever you may think about Russell Brand’s views there is no doubt that his image and perhaps particularly his beard makes an impact.

Unsurprisingly Brand’s beard is more designer than organic,poised for public impact.

It is without doubt a beard. It easily surpasses the stubble benchmark set by Clint Eastwood in a number of Spaghetti Westerns

How does his beard compare to some of the great Victorian radical leaders? Henry Hunt who was at Peterloo in 1819 was clean shaven as was the Chartist leader Fergus O’Connor,though he had robust sideburns.

The mid-Victorian radical GWM Reynolds was also without a beard.

All these radicals like Brand were idiosyncratic individuals but none had a stylish beard. HM Hyndman by contrast,the former banker turned marxisant if not Marxist had a full organic beard which puts Brand to shame.

Brand’s beard will never match that of Keir Hardie, but then the ILPer would never have regarded himself as a hipster

The verdict? Beard Power is not always quite everything with radical leaders. But think of the impact if Brand could get his discussant Owen Jones to grow a beard,or Evan Davis on BBC Newsnight for that matter.


Organic Beard Wearers urged to avoid ‘Up, Up & Away’ Wind Damage

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2014 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
21st October
Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that as the tail of Hurricane Gonzalo hits the UK those with organic beards are strongly advised to take special care of their follicles.

The campaigners says that while danger to life and limb is the central issue when extreme weather hits a secondary concern for beard wearers is that exposing the beard to high and blustery winds may blow the beard out of shape and may cause permanent follicle damage in some cases.

The BLF says that the key concern is for those with large organic beards in the style of Brian Blessed or David Bellamy. It is unlikely that designer beards will suffer significant wind damage.

The BLF advises the following precautions:
Keep the beard slightly damp at all times by immersing it in a glass of imperial stout. This will give solidity to the follicles and prevent them being blown around
Use a scarf to protect the follicles at all times
If the beard is blown out of shape use a hair dry to re-form the follicles in the correct position and then stay indoors for a several hours to allow the follicles to recover

BLF organiser Keith Flett said, it’s true that blustery weather can provide useful practice in beard waggling. The problem is that if the wind catches an untreated organic beard it can blow the wearer off their feet. This is known technically as ‘up, up and away’ syndrome.


You Say You Want a Revolution? Russell Brand talks to Owen Jones

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2014 by kmflett

You Say You Want a Revolution: Owen Jones talks to Russell Brand
On Thursday 23rd October, a conversation between Owen Jones and Russell Brand will be live streamed [at 7pm]to cinemas across the UK. Unfortunately the discussion will not involve Brand giving Jones tips on how to grow a beard but instead a chat about Brand’s new book[y-wook]Revolution.

I checked and the cost of attending this 90 minute event is £10 or so. Frankly if you want to spend the money you might be better off heading down a bookshop and buying the book.

That said I don’t doubt many will attend and in my view that is a good thing. Engaging people generally in political discussion and whether it is possible to make the world a better place than it is now surely can’t be bad.

Of course if one looks on social media there is a lot of moaning and groaning. I can understand why.

Both Russell Brand and Owen Jones are formidable self publicists [I also try my hand at this in a small way..] and that irritates some. On the other hand the left has far too few people who can speak more or less coherently and get a big audience for doing so.

Brand’s book will without question spark discussion about ‘revolution’ as his interview with Jeremy Paxman created talk about the importance of voting [or not].

Many will say that Brand shouldn’t be taken too seriously, that he is maverick and so on. Probably so. He has however pitched up on a number of demonstrations recently. True he has no accountability to anyone but the left has always had its share of interesting characters. One thinks of John S Clarke, the Labour MP who was also a poet and a lion tamer.

Brand may well be more in the mould of the nineteenth century popular novelist GWM Reynolds. Reynolds wrote racy if social realistic books in the 1830s and 1840s and no doubt made much money. Around 1850 he decided he was a Chartist, not something that went down well with the existing Chartist leadership.

However he was prepared to publicise Chartism in his paper Reynolds’s News and he stuck with it. The paper was the biggest selling weekly paper in the later decades of the nineteenth century and retained its radical politics.

Others will object- and this is well covered in the pages of EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class- that the left should not be about popular leaders and great [mostly male] figures.

Rather the left is about grassroots organisation and movements that do not need to be told by the well-known and perhaps wealthy what they should do or think.

It is an attractive point but if there is a battle of ideas in society- and one which the Faragists are currently doing quite well at- having Russell Brand and Owen Jones live streamed across numerous cinemas talking about revolution can be no bad thing either.


The Ambridge Socialist: John Barleycorn to be performed live

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2014 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist
20th October CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266
The real Borsetshire Echo: 60 years of class struggle in Ambridge

John Barleycorn to be performed live
Following the dispute between Bert Fry and Joe Grundy at the recent Harvest Supper as to which version of John Barleycorn was really traditional [the Ambridge Socialist opted for Traffic’s version from 1970] the song will be performed live on London’s Bankside on Sunday October 26th.

It is part of the October Plenty festival:

Ambridge Socialist Editor Keith Flett said, the issue of drinking, whether beer or cider, is central to the Archers so the question of which is the truly correct version of John Barleycorn is important. The October 26th festival offers another way to review this important matter


The Ambridge Socialist: BBC was in plot to frame Ed Grundy for murder

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2014 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist
19th October CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266
The real Borsetshire Echo: 60 years of class struggle in Ambridge

BBC was in plot to frame Ed Grundy for murder
The Guardian has reported that the BBC planned to frame Ed Grundy for murder.

The plan was to frame Grundy for the murder of Helen Archer’s then partner, Greg the game keeper who sadly took his own life.

Grundy was only saved from being banged up for a crime he had not committed by the then Controller of Radio 4 Helen Boaden who stepped in to stop the plotters.

Ambridge Socialist Editor Keith Flett said, it just shows that the anti-proletarian bias in the BBC’s coverage of affairs in Ambridge knows few boundaries. Fortunately for Eddie Grundy in this case someone was prepared to step in before things went too far.

Link to Guardian report:

thanks to Hazel Potter

Depopulation in Ambridge
Ruth and David are thinking of leaving, kidnapping Jill to go with them. The Tuckers are already off to ‘leafy’ Brum and Hayley has also fled there to escape Roy. Which is understandable. Will Ambridge soon be a ghost town?

I Hate You
Phoebe’s view of Roy. It seems rather moderately expressed

In Other News
At the Harvest Supper Bert and the Grundys have squabbled over which is the correct version of John Barleycorn. The answer is that sung by Traffic in the July 1970 album of the same name

As David and Ruth prepare to value Brookfield the ruling Archer clique looks to be headed for a split. Look out for in depth reporting in future issues of the Ambridge Socialist

Panto Update: Lynda Snell is to star in her own one person show at Xmas. The name of the production is yet to be revealed…


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