Beard Friendly Party Conference 2017: Title is Labour’s to lose

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
press release 23rd September
Contact keith flett 07803 167266

Beard Friendly Party Conference 2017: Title is Labour’s to lose

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with the Party Conference season firmly underway the battle has been well and truly joined in the poll for the ‘Most Beard Friendly Party Conference’.

The LIbDem conference in Bournemouth saw a decline in hirsute attendees and in particular hirsute conference speakers.

The LibDems are the traditional party of beard and sandal wearers but their conference last won the Beard Friendly title in 2014
The BLF has observers watching each of the main conferences, LibDems in Bournemouth, Labour in Brighton and the Tories in Manchester with the winner announced on October 4th the final day of the Tory conference.

The title looks set to be Labour’s to lose with its first bearded leader since Keir Hardie stood down in 1908, Jeremy Corbyn, set to make the keynote speech in Brighton.

There is an on-line poll which closes on 3rd October.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett underlined, it looks like the title of Most Beard Friendly Conference is Labour’s to lose this year after disappointing LibDem Conference. The Tories in Manchester could yet surprise us, but it would a major shift in political style and appearance from recent conferences

Recent winners of the Beard Friendly Party Conference
2013 Liberal Democrats
2014: Liberal Democrats
2015 Labour
2016 Labour



The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival (final day Sat 23rd Sept)

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2017 by kmflett

The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival

I’ve been attending the annual Cardiff beer festival organised by CAMRA, now styled as the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival, for a very long time.

Indeed I was there at the festivals held in the old pre-modernised, Star Centre in Splott. They were celebrations of a Cardiff cask beer drinking culture that is perhaps now passing into social history.

Pitching up for the opening day of the 2017 festival on Thursday now at the Depot a short walk on the far side of Cardiff Central railway station, the thing that first impressed was the numbers. For a Thursday early evening it was busy and it wasnt all old blokes either.

The reality is that, whatever the picture elsewhere, Cardiff CAMRA has put down deep roots in the City’s drinking culture over the years.

With my partner Megan I joined a table with several of Cardiff’s Labour MPs while we puzzled over a rather dubious pub quiz. It is perhaps just as well that we didn’t win.

Anyway we were of course there primarily for the beer. Unlike in the Splott days there are many, many Welsh breweries these days and some are both rather good and little known outside Wales. Grey Trees, whose Afghan pale was judged the Champion Beer of Wales also had a well-balanced and highly drinkable IPA on at 7% (I should add we were drinking thirds at best, sometimes sharing  a third to sample).

I was impressed to find that Brains, the still dominant regional brewer, who I’m no huge fan of had on an eminently drinkable barrel aged (in Penderyn Whisky casks) version of their 6.5% Boilermaker IPA. Like Greene King, Brains can make good beer, when they want to..

Cardiff CAMRA might be styled one of the more traditional CAMRA branches but the times they are changing so two Cardiff breweries Pipes and Crafty Devil had beer delivered in some form of keykeg or keycask arrangement as CAMRA called it. Whatever the precise means of delivery was the beer was unpasteurised and not fizzy.

Pipes Black Bretty at 8.5% was interesting although not quite Brettish enough perhaps. Crafty Devil’s 7% Not So Safe as Milk a 7% milk stout was superb.

Would either of these beers have been dreamt of let alone appear in the Splott days? Of course not.

Anyway the festival is on until Saturday its cheap-ish to get in, there is plenty of seating and a decent range of food (as well as cider and perry of course). If you haven’t been before why not go and see where a key part of Cardiff’s beer drinking culture is at in 2017





Tottenham Breweries: hello, goodbye

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2017 by kmflett

The times continue to change with brewing in Tottenham.

Pressure Drop, who have been Hackney based, have started brewing in Tottenham on the same industrial estate as Beavertown at Tottenham Hale. A tap room should be open soon giving a real focus to great beers on that site, well served by public transport.

Meanwhile Affinity, who have been based in South Tottenham in Markfield Rd have announced plans to for a tap room and brewery in Bermondsey which apparently is in Sarf London. Good for them and I look forward to sampling their beers again at IndyMan in Manchester next week (ahead of my regular visit to the Tory Party conference).

It’s good to see Pressure Drop in Tottenham and I’m sorry to see Affinity leave but it underlines the vitality and continuing expansion of the brewing of good beer in London.


Tory trade unionism, Uber & worker’s rights

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2017 by kmflett

Tory trade unionism, Uber & Worker’s rights

I don’t often use cabs in London, after all there is an extensive public transport system that also runs in part (and more often on Fridays and Saturdays) on a 24 hours basis.

When I do take a cab it is invariably a black cab. They are certainly expensive but when you take one, you know exactly what you are getting  (including I note Arsenal supporting cab drivers in North London).

I never take an Uber because it exits in a poorly regulated non-union environment.

The decision of TFL not to renew Uber’s licence is obviously an attempt to make it conform to reasonable regulations that apply to others. I expect eventually it will, at least up to a point.

Uber is not some innovative start-up, it’s a mini-cab firm with an App. As the GMB who have pursued it have underlined it has consistently tried to shirk its employment responsibilities for those who drive for it.

When comment is made that 40,000 people will lose their jobs this seems to be from people who said nothing when Uber repeatedly said it was not in any case responsible for those jobs anyway.

So what interests me in the Uber case is not ultimately whether people use their cabs or not. After all its more or less impossible to exist in a market capitalist society without being complicit in exploitation in some way or another (drinking in a bar for example- how much are the staff paid…)

What interests me is who is to be found defending Uber as a jolly good thing. They include George Osborne Editor of the Evening Standard, Fraser Nelson, Editor of the Spectator and Andrew Boff, member of the London Assembly. Yes they are all Tories.

What does this say about the Tories as the ‘worker’s party’ project. If the Tories back the workplace race to the bottom that Uber is an example of, that isn’t likely to be too attractive to workers.

Ive been a trade union activist for many years. So long in fact that I can recall the days when there were actually Tory union activists who were out and proud about their politics. They disliked higher taxes and public spending and were against unions being involved in politics, itself of course a political position.

Yet they also understood that workers needed decent terms and conditions and they often dealt with Tory employers who were broadly on the same page.

Then came Mrs Thatcher. Of course numbers of trade unionists still vote Tory but it is rare indeed to find an activist. When you find senior Tories backing Uber you can begin to understand why that might be.


Cask Ale Week: a memoir of a London cask beer survivor

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2017 by kmflett

Cask Ale Week: a memoir of a London cask beer survivor

When I was a young drinker in London in the first half of the 1970s the choice of beer was simple. There was no Wetherspoons. There was Watneys, Ind Coope and Whitbread keg. They were widely available and to my mind undrinkable. In North London the nearest Youngs pub, the Spreadeagle, which sold cask was in Camden Town and the nearest Fullers pub was the Anchor and Hope on the Lea. Both are still there, still selling those beers

Otherwise for cask ale you had to hunt out pubs that sold Charrington IPA and/or Bass. There were just a handful of pubs that sold Whitbread (Marlow bitter)- the Victoria in Highgate for example and Courage best (John Baird in Muswell Hill).

Charrington IPA by this time was on its way to blandness but the other beers were decent pints (you drank pints in those days).

If a pub sold only keg I would walk in, check and walk promptly out. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one because by the mid-1970s Ind Coope had restored handpumps in many pubs with Draught Burton Ale (a cask Double Diamond in effect) at the then amazingly strong 1048 OG. The only regularly available beer that was stronger was Fullers ESB at 1055.

This is where we were the best part of 50 years ago.

Thanks to the work of CAMRA, then primarily full of young activists like me, cask made a return to many pubs and it stayed. Until very recently the number of London breweries did not increase but beers from around the UK, say Regionals like Greene King, Sam Smiths, Shepherd Neame, started to become available here and there in London.

After the law changed, again largely thanks to CAMRA, and many pubs could have guest ales, things moved on further. Wetherspoons was probably the game changer here. A Spoons would often have cask beers on from around the UK that otherwise would not appear in London. Whether they were any good or not is another matter but some, like Hop Back Summer Lightning- a Spoons regular, not really seen much elsewhere, certainly was.

Obviously if the cask beer was warm or cloudy (it was not meant to be, and nor was it meant to have twigs in it) or had off notes back it went. Generally though the cask beer was drinkable enough. Did we know, or care much if the beer was a little green, a little tired or not in top condition? Not that much because the alternative was undrinkable keg.

The world has moved on further as it does. Cask is not the only decent beer game in town now. Nor is drinking beer in pints always a great idea given the proliferation of different strengths and styles.

That said a pint of cask in top condition is still a great thing and worth celebrating. Where you can find it.. And you still can.





Beard Campaigners urge boycott of Victoria & Abdul over Eddie Izzard’s Yak hair beard

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front press release

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

20th  September

Beard Campaigners urge boycott of Victoria & Abdul over Eddie Izzard’s Yak hair beard

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, is urging its supporters to boycott Stephen Frears new film Victoria and Abdul because Eddie Izzard who plays Victoria’s son Bertie, later Edward V11, has a false beard made out of Yak hair.

The campaigners say that while Yak hair is not unknown when it comes to theatrical and cinema beards there is absolutely no reason why Izzard, who is sometimes hirsute, could not simply have grown his own beard

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, for Eddie Izzard to wear a false Yak hair beard when he could easily have grown his own beard is demeaning to the hirsute. We are asking our supporters to boycott Victoria and Abdul.








Stop the Haringey HDV; Defend local democracy March 23rd Sept Midday Tottenham Green

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2017 by kmflett

On Saturday 23rd September housing campaigners, community activists,trade unionists and socialists will gather on Tottenham Green to march to Finsbury Park. The aim is to stop the Haringey HDV, a plan to ‘transform’ parts of the Borough with a ‘partnership’ between Haringey Council and leading privateer Landlease.

The campaign to criticise the HDV has met official opposition at every turn, but deciding the future of how we live and where is surely at the centre of local democracy. Protest and survive!

Details of the demonstration are here: