Cheese-maker & Brewer in close shave for lead in Beard of the Year poll

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2016 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Media Release

3rd December

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Cheese-maker & Brewer in close shave for lead in Beard of the Year poll


The Beard Liberation Front the informal network of beard wearers has said that with 3 weeks to go in the poll North London cheesemaker Philip Wilton and brewer Tim O’Rourke are facing a close shave for the lead

The on-line vote ends at midday on 24th December

In 2015 Weird Beard brewer Bryan Spooner won the vote.

The campaigners say that the award is specifically not about who has the best or most magnificent beard. Rather it focuses on the beard wearer who has made the most positive hirsute public impact during the year.

With the rise in hirsuteness there is now a longlist poll which trimmed down the contenders to 10 for the final vote. The winner is announced on 29th December.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, it is early days in the poll yet but beer, cheese and beards is an excellent combination.

Beard of the Year shortlist

Joe Ledley, footballer

Stig Abell, Editor, TLS

Gary Lineker, broadcaster

Simon Stevens, NHS CEO

Moeen Ali, cricketer

James O’Brien, broadcaster

Tim O’Rourke, Howling Hops brewer

Philip Wilton, cheesemaker

Andy Murray, tennis player

Jurgen Klopp, football manager



Campaigners say its not Christmas unless Santa has a REAL beard

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2016 by kmflett


Organised by the Beard Liberation Front

Press release 3rd December

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266




Larry Jefferson

The Campaign for Real Santas, which promotes Santas with genuine organic beards, has said that with three shopping weekends left until Christmas those seeking the essence of the annual festival must seek out a Santa with a genuine beard.

The Campaigners say that with unemployment and under employment amongst mature men over 50, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to use an assistant Santa who does not have a real beard.

In America many Santas do have genuine beards including the man dubbed the ‘first’ black Santa, Larry Jefferson.

The Campaign is also keen to encourage more female Santas with organic knitted beards.

Campaigners are urging parents and children to vigorously tug the beards of Santas they encounter as a definitive test as to whether they are in the presence of a real Santa or not.

CFRS organiser Keith Flett said, let’s face it. Santa does not have an absurd fake beard made of cotton wool and glued on to his face. Santa has a real beard and that is one of the fundamentals of Christmas

The shortlist for Organic Santa 2016 is revealed on 10th December


1 Tug the beard of the Santa. If it comes away, then the Santa is FAKE

2 Tug the beard of the Santa again. If the Santa swears then they are genuine. If they simply repeat a ‘ho ho ho’ mantra they are FAKE

3 The Campaign for Real Santas says that genuine Santas must have just the right mix of bonhomie and grumpiness and a real organic beard.


The Organic Santa of 2016 will be named on December 18th

The Campaign for Real Santas is organised by the Beard Liberation Front


Richmond, Labour & lost deposits

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2016 by kmflett

Richmond, Labour & Lost Deposits


You can find many explanations via Google for what the result of Thursday’s By-Election in Richmond might mean for UK politics. Personally I agreed with Jay Rayner’s tweet that at least Zac Goldsmith had been responsible for two of the best moments of a not terribly great year- losing the London Mayor to Sadiq Khan and losing his seat as an MP.

An interesting footnote to the result, observed inevitably by those who focus on political minutiae- and the odd labour historian such as myself- was that in polling 3.7% of the vote Labour lost its deposit.

For either Labour or the Tories to lose their deposit in a Parliamentary election is of course not unheard of but it is comparatively unusual.

This is perhaps more so since the deposit was increased to £500 in 1985 and the threshold reduced from 12.5% to 5%.

An obvious explanation for the lost deposit in Richmond is that voters on the left (those that turned out anyway- the poll was 53%) wanted to punish the Tories, the Brexiteers or both and saw the LibDems as the way to do this. After all in political territory terms South-West London has some history of LibDem support, Labour perhaps a little less so in recent times.

That said 3.7% remains low. Of course Labour stands in elections to win them but it invariably stands in more or less all UK constituencies (except the Six Counties) and in some of those there isn’t a great chance of victory. The purpose of standing, at least historically, was to present an independent working class political presence at the polls (sometimes socialist) and expect that there is a certain bedrock of voters that will back that come what may.

You might say that Richmond suggests that Labour’s core vote is in doubt or at the very least that political volatility in general means it’s not an absolute given. You might also say that one By-Election with a specific context can’t really prove these points one way or another.

Any way the post-1945 figures for lost deposits at General Elections are at this link:

It doesn’t have data for 2015 where Labour lost 3 deposits, 2 less than in 2010.

Some perhaps significant points are that Labour lost a lot of deposits in 1983 under Michael Foot (but taking into account that was still the 12.5% threshold) and didn’t lose any in the New Labour electoral period, although that may have been as much to do with Tory unpopularity.

I should add that from my left perspective elections are far from the only way to change the world and that electoral statistics are a crude measure of what is happening to the political views of ordinary people but, that said, historical comparisons still have some interest.







Historians & the world of post-truth

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2016 by kmflett

Historians and the world of post-truth


Particularly since Donald Trump won the US Presidential Election there has been much discussion of ‘post-truth’ and a related issue ‘fake news’ this last being focused on the social media site Facebook.

The general idea is that Trump and his associates said what they felt like and what they thought would play well to an audience without the slightest regard to whether or not it was true or had any relationship to reality.

The same approach was apparent during the Brexit Referendum campaign in the UK, from the side of the political right. Michael Gove denigrated the value of ‘experts’ that is people who actually know something about a subject as opposed to those that just have an opinion or make it up.

More recently hard right Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has told BBC Newsnight that experts are in the same category as soothsayers.

One reaction to this is to revisit the regulation of the media proposed by the Leveson Report. But the post-truth world of stories, myths and lies goes far deeper and wider than that.

One way, from the left, that an effective challenge can be built to post-truthers, is through historical research and publication.

Of course academia has plenty of both but that is hardly going to reach to that many of those who are inclined to go along with reactionary ideas.

This year sees the 40th anniversary of the first publication of History Workshop Journal, which at the recently published issue 82, leading with new research on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, is still going strong.

It is also the 20th anniversary in December of the untimely death of Raphael Samuel, a key founding figure behind the History Workshops held at Ruskin College in Oxford and the Journal as well.

The first History Workshop day event held at Ruskin in March 1967 was called a ‘Day with the Chartists’. It heard from socialist academics like Dorothy Thompson who were researching the subject but the emphasis was on what the participants could discover themselves.

The idea in this case was to look at what the Chartists had been doing in their own local areas, to check original sources of evidence, for example in local record offices, and to understand from their own experience what the Chartist challenge to capital had been in the 1840s.

The Journal when it was launched placed a similar emphasis on grassroots research.

There were reports about labour history to be found in archives and perhaps most of all a fascination with what working people had done politically in previous times and how.

Samuel himself was invariably immersed in the details of the history of the lives of workers. His classic study of Victorian industry and labour, Workshop of the World, available free on-line, is notable for its large number of footnotes.

The Workshop and Journal spawned a series of pamphlets which were and remain classic studies of the detail of aspects of working class history.

For example Stan Shipley’s Club Life and Socialism in mid-Victorian London uncovered the history of working men’s clubs, particularly in areas like Homerton, and how their activities formed part of the basis of the socialist movement’s development after the demise of Chartism in the 1860s.

History Workshop is now arguably a little more academic in style and the link to worker historians is gone. However it helped to inspire a network of left-wing history groups across the UK that carry on the tradition of researching and remembering the realities of working class life and politics.

In the age of post-truth remembering reality is important.

This post appeared in the Morning Star 30th November 2016




Corbyn establishes lead as Parliamentary Beard 2016 poll enters final week

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2016 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Media Release

1st December

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Corbyn establishes lead as Parliamentary Beard 2016 poll enters final week


The Beard Liberation Front the informal network of beard wearers has said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has established a lead in the Parliamentary Beard of the Year poll with a week left for voting. Mr Corbyn who has won the Award a record 6 times trailed earlier in the week but has since picked up support.

The poll closes at midday on December 8th and competition continues to bristle for the coveted Award.

Chris Elmore a newcomer to the Parliamentary Beard of the Year being elected for Ogmore in May 2016 and Paul Flynn the veteran MP for Newport are currently second and third in the poll.

There were 6 Labour MPs, 4 Tory MPs and one SNP MP fighting it out for a place on the shortlist together with three Peers. The bottom four in the poll have been eliminated for the final vote from 25th November.

In 2015 Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn just shaved SNP MP Steward McDonald for the coveted title but Mr McDonald declined to compete this year after trimming his beard.

The campaigners say that the award is specifically not about who has the best or most magnificent beard in Parliament. Rather it focuses on the MP or Peer who has made the most positive hirsute impact during the year.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, Jeremy Corbyn has won the Award a record six times and could be on track for a 2016 victory now. However with 7 days left to vote there is still time for opponents to shave him for the Award.


Chris Elmore (Labour)

Paul Flynn (Labour)

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)

Kelvin Hopkins (Labour)

Lord Hylton (Crossbencher)

Lord Toby Harris (Labour)

Michael Gove (Tory)

Stephen Crabb (Tory)

Rob Wilson (Tory)

John Spellar (Labour)




Once again on the Pigs Ear beer festival

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2016 by kmflett

Once again on the Pigs Ear Beer Festival


Once again I found myself at the opening day of the Pigs Ear Beer Festival (the 33rd) organised by the East London and City branch of CAMRA.

I’ve been going since the days it was in Bethnal Green Town Hall (in October) and the world has moved on a good deal since then.

The current venue the historic Round Chapel in Clapton- in effect central Hackney-is certainly atmospheric and it has ample seating in upstairs galleries.

Of course it being a beer festival it is about the beer and as in recent years the Pigs Ear is on or around the zeitgeist not just for CAMRA festivals but for beer festivals in general.

After doing some limited UK keykeg dispense several years back, this is now kept to European beers and the entire UK beer selection is on cask. In quite a few cases this means that the keen drinker can try cask versions of beers that normally only appear on keg. Pressure Drop Bosko for example or Anspach and Hobday Scotch Ale. For me (& I suspect others) a real stand out was Chorlton’s 2016 version of their imperial gose Dark Matter. Other favourites included beers from Redemption and Weird Beard- their South Pacific collab was in particularly good condition I thought.

Of course beer requires food and as well as the regular cheese and chocolate stands there is also Capish who are to be found at Mason & Co in Hackney Wick. Their Porchetta roll was (for meat eaters obviously) possibly amongst the best beer festival food ever.

In recent times the Pigs Ear has also been notable for a somewhat broader range of drinkers than may sometimes be seen at such events. I was pleased to meet an old acquaintance the Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and his partner who had launched the event. There were of course a good number of old blokes like me, but also a diverse younger cohort of drinkers (some with beards) and rather more female beer lovers than might sometimes be seen at such events.

In short I suppose you could say that the Pigs Ear mirrors to a significant extent the community in which it takes place.

None of this happens without the hard work of CAMRA volunteers and assistance of helpful local brewers and its worth remembering that. Such events just don’t ‘happen’, they have to be organised.

All that said the Pigs Ear runs until Saturday and if you’ve never been, or not been for a while you are in for a treat.



Can UKIP replace Labour: some historical thoughts

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2016 by kmflett

Can UKIP replace Labour: some historical thoughts


Paul Nuttall the latest far right leader of UKIP has proclaimed that he plans to replace Labour as the party of the working class.

This seems as improbable as most UKIP pronouncements even if The Sun had not gathered from Professor Matthew Goodwin a rather impressionistic list of seats where UKIP might beat Labour. They might of course, as we know elections can produce interesting results. But given that the UKIP vote seems to be in decline currently, the party is in chaos and a considerable chunk of members have gone over or back to the Tories, there would need to be a question mark.

Further even if UKIP did succeed in winning a few Labour seats this doesn’t make them the party of the working class.

What it suggests is that it could be successful at gathering a section of working class voters who traditionally do not vote Labour. Allan and McKenzie’s 1968 book Angels in Marble studied the working class Conservative. While some may still be Tory, in recent years despite attempts to rebrand themselves as the ‘workers party’, that link seems to be in something of a decline.

It is difficult to see moreover how a party which has nothing positive to say about any workplace issue or indeed about defending the NHS would be likely to win support from the core Labour vote.

Moreover with just a few thousand members and even fewer activists how it would go about building longer term roots in working class communities and workplaces is also a question. Typically therefore one finds that where UKIP win a local election, often one suspects as a protest vote, they lose the seat next time.

These are issues about what kind of party Labour still is to some extent- particularly with its union links- and UKIP is not.

Mr Nuttall was apparently at some point a history lecturer and on Monday he claimed he wanted UKIP to be the party of the ‘patriotic’ working class. Patriotism can of course be understood in a number of ways. Keir Hardie no doubt felt he was being patriotic in opposing the slaughter of the First World War for example.

One wonders however what Mr Nuttall,should he be familiar with the text, makes of EP Thompson’s Freeborn Englishman. Thompson argued that such a person was against arbitrary power and for the rule of law, and wanted above all to be left alone by the State. In short he was someone who could, depending on context, appear on the right or the left of politics. I’m not sure Mr Nuttall has such nuance.