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May 7th in historical context: not all doomed

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2015 by kmflett

May 7th and after: not all doomed

The result of the May 7th Election was not good news, particularly for those who are hit by the bedroom tax, benefit cuts and zero hours contracts.

There is a debate about how bad the news was. Some echo Private Fraser in Dad’s Army whose often expressed view covering many situations was to utter ‘we’re doomed, all doomed’.

That is going too far certainly not least because while Elections are an important way of changing things, organising, petitioning, demonstrating and taking industrial action can also have a significant impact.

Indeed since the Election large anti-austerity protests in London, Bristol, Cardiff and elsewhere have underlined that electoral legitimacy- claimed by the Tories- only goes so far in what many see as a broken political system.

This was the point made by the father of the now former Labour leader, Ralph Miliband in his book Parliamentary Socialism. Namely that Labour was obsessed about the first of those words but not unfortunately about the second.

In addition there are those, particularly supporters of what was once ‘New Labour’ who are determined to paint Labour’s performance on 7th May as bleakly as possible so that can shift the party way off to the right. We have heard a lot from them in the media over the last week.

Historically speaking the matter is more complex.

Seats won determine Parliamentary majorities while the number of votes cast is a crude but interesting measure of basis class politics.

In the 1959 Election which Labour lost it got 12.2 million votes. That defeat led to a period of soul searching about Labour’s direction. On May 7th Labour got just 9.3 million votes.

It is possible to argue that Labour is in long term decline, but that is equally likely to be true of the Tories. They got 11.3 million votes this time yet as recently as 1983 they totalled 13 million

Taken together both parties got less than 70% of the vote in 2015. Other parties such as the SNP, Greens and UKIP took significant shares of the poll as well.

Another argument is that Labour’s result was its worst since 1983.

1983 saw Michael Foot as Labour leader and a Manifesto that was dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’. Time moves on and much of it, for example on not having nuclear weapons, and controlling banks, would find much support now.

That said while in 2015 Labour ended on 232 seats, in 1983 it got 209 and after Neil Kinnock took charge in 1987 it achieved 229. In 1983 Labour got 8.4 million votes.

So bad as May 7th was for Labour it was not another 1983.

It is interesting to note that Labour lost just 3 deposits, underlining that of the major parties it retains the most widespread core support

It will be debated whether Labour can recover and if so in what form, or whether other left political formulations will develop, as Labour itself over took Lib-Labism a century ago.

The argument of neo-Blairites that Labour needs to be centrist (that is closer to the Tories) hardly fits the clear anti-austerity mood in Scotland. Nor does the idea that Labour didn’t appeal to those who are prospering or at least aiming to even in an austerity economy fit. Labour did well in London (it could have done even better) which is certainly the most prosperous part of the UK.

The refrain that Labour needs to distance itself from the trade unions, which occurs from time to time is back. Those who support that need to ask themselves where they think funding and activists are going to come from if that happens. Given it was the unions that founded Labour in the first place though, union members and activists might well ponder whether there are more effective ways of organising and funding political representation. It is a debate that should be had, and it should be had in the labour movement not the Murdoch media.

But the obsession of rich right-wing media owners with Labour’s and the wider lefts future, or lack of it as they would hope, should not allow our gaze to wander off the Tories.

When Blair won his first Election in 1997, the Tories achieved just 165 Parliamentary seats. Less than 20 years on they have formed a Government with a small majority. Yet the Tories are a party with an ageing membership, activist base and core support. David Cameron’s attempt to grapple with this, his so called ‘modern conservatism’ has long since gone out of the window.

Finally we should say something about one group that is doomed at least in the format it has pursued over the last 10 years or so- the LibDems. Since they failed to split when Clegg backed the Tories, as they did in the 1930s when Liberals joined the National Government, the electorate has done the job for them. They now probably have a generation at least to ponder whether they are anything but history.

 

 

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Flower Show: Going to Chelsea now costs up to £99

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2015 by kmflett

The Socialist Gardener

Press Release                       18th May contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

FLOWER SHOW: GOING TO CHELSEA NOW COSTS UP TO £99

weeds

The Socialist Gardener, the occasional organ of socialist gardeners, has urged people to avoid the Chelsea Flower Show, describing it as tending too much towards a celebration of gardening for the wealthy rather than developing interest in matters horticultural.

This is reflected in a significant hike for ticket prices this year.

 ‘Ordinary’ people- members of the public- are only allowed in for the final three days of the Show and even here these are likely to be mostly the more well to do. All Day tickets now cost £99 a head on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday up from £58 in 2014 . People who employ gardeners or who engage designers to landscape their gardens are probably more likely to attend than those who garden for themselves.

The irony is that RHS membership not only brings the cost of entry to Chelsea to more manageable levels but also gives entry to other gardens around the country that do focus on  more plebeian gardening activities.

While the Flower Show raises money for charity and showcases some important developments in horticulture, the campaigners say that it remains to a significant degree part of the London social season for the haves rather than the have nots

Editor of the Socialist Gardener Keith Flett said, ‘The RHS does useful work around the UK but at Chelsea gardening can be a way for those who still have any money after 5 years of austerity to show off. Meanwhile public parks are being neglected and spending on them drastically cut back. It’s time for a move towards people’s gardening. We say tax the rich gardeners and use the money for parks and allotments.

The 2015 Manifesto for a Socialist Garden

  • We demand that the Government shows it is really a ‘one nation’ administration and launches a massive programme of investment in public parks and provision for allotments so that all may enjoy the pleasure of gardens and gardening
  • We believe in the right to roam over the gardens of the rich
  • We support the nationalisation of the land and the creation of public parks and gardens as a matter of priority
  • We believe that real gardeners should eschew the use of garden centres. If you need a new plant, simply liberate it from the garden of a wealthy neighbour.
  • We support the hop family as the ultimate in grass roots garden plants

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Wetherspoons to open in Muswell Hill: bringing it all back home (slight reprise)

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2015 by kmflett

Wetherspoons to open in Muswell Hill: bringing it all back home (slight reprise)

 

I posted the comments below in February 2014. On May 12th 2015 planning permission was granted for the pub. When I passed on that day, work was already underway, unsurprisingly given the delay.

The planning application had been subject to a good number of comments (far more in support than against) and the Inspector had visited. The smoking area has been relocated to the front (where smokers can also breath in traffic fumes) and the rear garden will have to close at 9pm.

The Inspector felt that while there would be some noise it would not be excessive. Claims that the pub would promote disorder were dismissed. That is a licensing not a planning issue.

Most pertinently it was felt that given pub closures in Muswell Hill, the opening of a new pub was to be supported.

I’m not an unequivocal fan of Wetherspoons but it is good to see them back in their ancestral home of London N10 and an all too rare example in North London of a pub opening rather than closing.

The CAMRA magazine London Drinker has revealed that JD Wetherspoon is set to open a new pub in Muswell Hill Broadway in the summer of 2014.

It will be a return to its roots for the giant pub chain.

It is perhaps not well known that Wetherspoons, along with Alexandra Palace and Spurs, is amongst the London Borough of Haringey’s most visible exports to the world.

Wetherspoons’s founder Tim Martin is on record as saying that when he was a young lawyer he was disappointed with the pubs in Wood Green [not too much has changed there] and decided to try opening his own.

That pub was in Colney Hatch Lane N10 around 10 minutes walk from the one set to open later this year.

Last time I checked it was still open and called ‘Spoons’ although it is not a Wetherspoons pub.

I well remember that first venture of what was to become probably the UK’s best known pub empire. Why?

Probably firstly because I lived no more than about 15 minutes walk away at the time, down the hill in Bounds Green. But more particularly because the pub sold beers that you really did not see elsewhere not just in north London but in London generally.

This may surprise younger readers but these beers were not the interesting products of a local micro-brewery which one would expect nowadays. They were in fact the products of well known and long established regional brewers such as Greene King, Sam Smiths and Arkells.

To repeat beers from these breweries were more or less unobtainable in London in the late 1970s. The cask ale drinker in north London was invariably faced with a choice of Charrington ipa [3.8% ish btw] Bass, and Courage Best. If you looked really hard you might find [primarily on the River Lea] a Fullers or a Youngs pub.

I suppose you could argue that in those pre-Thatcher days when market and choice did not rule at least you knew what beer you were going to get. Reflecting on the reality however [and without in anyway praising Mrs T] if that hadn’t changed cask beer would be dead in the UK by now.

Perhaps unsurprisingly that first Muswell Hill pub proved to be very popular and before long a Wetherspoons empire was being built. At first Tim Martin sought to conquer not the UK or even London but Haringey.

The Borough is littered with former Wetherspoons pubs. A few remain as pubs, owned by other pub companies. Most don’t and are now shops or private houses. I sometimes think a Wetherspoons heritage trail around Haringey would be interesting. Then again, you could just go for a pint

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The Ambridge Socialist: Ed & The Man- take care out there

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2015 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

 

May 17th  CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266

The real Borsetshire Echo: 60 years of class struggle in Ambridge

Ed needs to take care out that

Clearing ditches and culverts for The Man after the Great Flood of Ambridge Ed has noticed some ‘irregularities’ and mentioned this in passing to David Archer. Now the Environment Agency is involved. This has gone down very badly with The Man. Rob has had a word with Ed to be careful who talks to and what about. Joe Grundy has warned Ed too that the ruling class has different standards to the proletarian honesty of the Grundys. Ambridge Socialist Editor Keith Flett said, accidents will happen

Bird Watching

Its quite boring on radio really

The Fairbrothers

Two new speaking characters have joined the Archers. It is a new financial year so it would seem there is budget available for a few lines of script.

In other news

Jolene and Kenton continue to struggle at The Bull. It’s time for a community buy-out (by David Archer)

Ed has had a discussion with Will. Eddie is still his best man.

Pip has been interviewed for a job. She took advice from Rob…

 

 

 

Articles

Brains (nearly) open craft beer pub in Cardiff

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2015 by kmflett

Brains (nearly) open craft beer pub in Cardiff

Of all the established UK regional brewers Brains of Cardiff have probably gone the furthest in embracing at least some idea of craft beer.

They have brewed numbers of craft beers in different styles, often collaboration brews, and they have been available in cask, keg and bottle format (with cans now added too). Those who spend their time drinking in London may find the beers mostly a little under powered but Brains have to relate to their own market (which is largely not London).

In tandem the pub scene in Cardiff has been undergoing a minor revolution. There is a Brewdog, Zero Degrees and Tiny Rebel’s Urban Tap House all within a few minutes both of each other and Cardiff Central rail station. Five minutes walk across the centre can be found Waen’s Gravity Station.

Brains are now adding to this by opening a craft beer bar, the Cambrian Tap in what was a well known Brains pub Kitty Flynns. It is on the site of one bit of Brains Old Brewery, (the actual brewery is now just behind the far side of the railway station).

I can’t actually report directly on what the pub is like because while it was due to open on May 15th this was changed at short notice to May 18th. One suspects there are just some annoying technical issues.

However I have been in enough craft pubs to be able to report reasonably accurately by just peering through the windows. The pub is selling a range of keg and cask beers (18 draught in total). Some are from their own craft brewery and others from small brewers around the UK.

The opening line up including Bristol Beer Factory, Wild and Beavertown looks solid. Cans and bottles are also available as well as pies. Beer flights are advertised, also a positive idea when beers may be both unfamiliar and a bit strong.

Prices are reasonable for Brains cask and keg (under £4 a pint mostly) and a bit more expensive for other brewers products.

The pub itself has retained original features and also has a wall drawing noting some of Brains craft beer collabs. It is probably the only pub where one can find the names of Des de Moor, Peter Brown and Adrian Tierney Jones written on a wall (and no, it’s not in the gents).

On the whole it looks like a welcome initiative by Brains and a positive contribution to the growing Cardiff beer scene.

When it actually opens I’ll write more. In the meantime here is a link to the pub’s website:

http://www.thecambriantap.com/

 

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‘Beards, shorts & sandals’ 2015 season declared officially open

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

PRESS RELEASE 16th May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

 

‘BEARDS, SHORTS & SANDALS’ 2015 SEASON DECLARED OFFICIALLY OPEN

sandals

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that Saturday May 16th marks the official start of the 2015 Beards, Shorts and Sandals  seasons with broadly warmer weather forecast for the coming period

 

The BLF has updated guidelines for the 2015 Season:

 

1] Shorts and sandals may be worn after midday until 8pm at the discretion of the wearer.

2] Where sandals are worn the wearing of socks is discouraged but not forbidden

3] If socks are not worn toenails must be neat, trimmed, clean and fungus free

4] Shorts should ideally be no longer than knee length to provide a balanced image with the beard

5] Shorts should be of conservative design and colour. Wearing of bright red, yellow or floral patterned shorts is forbidden.

 

The campaigners say that it is expected that the image of hipster beard, shorts and sandals will again be one of the fashions of 2015

 

The official season traditionally runs until August 31st. During that period the wearing of shorts and sandals- preferably without socks unless special dispensation is given-is permitted for BLF supporters.

 

The BLF says that ‘beards, shorts and sandals’ are often a stereotype deployed by pogonophobes and so the wearing of shorts and sandals by the hirsute needs to be within an agreed and defendable framework.

 

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said a beard, shorts and sandals is a classic look but it must be done with style and in the correct manner or frankly it will attract the attention of pogonophobes and snapping dogs in equal measure.

 

Articles

SAB Miller buys Meantime: is it good news for UK craft beer?

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2015 by kmflett

SAB Miller buys Meantime: From craft to industrial?

As you probably won’t have missed (if you have Google it)  brewing giant SAB Miller has bought Meantime brewery.

It is reported as being Miller’s entrance into the UK craft brewing market.  It has been stressed that Meantime’s ‘autonomy and distinct character’ will be maintained in a statement that almost certainly did not pass the eyes of Miller’s Chief Financial Officer that closely.

What Meantime gets of course is funds to expand the brewery and production. That will mean wider availability of Meantime beers which while perhaps not at the cutting edge of craft beer are decent enough.

Miller gets a well known brand which they can develop, they would hope profitably.

However- and my background is as a private sector manager- a key part of profit is cost control and efficiencies. While any business needs both to survive if they became the dominant issue above all else the product can suffer. To give a basic example, using rather less of this or that ingredient can save money and will most drinkers really notice….

I’m not saying this is inevitable but it can happen particularly if the accountants seize control (as they like to do) over operational types.

I’m grateful to Jeff over at Stonch’s Beer Blog http://stonch.blogspot.co.uk/  for highlighting another issue, which is whether the takeover means Meantime becomes industrial rather than craft.

I don’t really see this is as an either/ or question but a continuum. Once a brewery has reached the stage where the brewing process is run by someone at a control panel watching it take place largely automatically it is industrial.

Human intervention in the process can lead to disasters but also to great things as well. That is surely part of what artisanal production is about.

I do agree with Jeff though about quality control. As craft tends towards the industrial that should be better. It costs money to do it and that makes more sense when production is larger and hence more is it at stake if it goes wrong and the beer is less or un drinkable.

As a trade union officer (representing those private sector managers, one of whom I used to be) I often give qualified welcomes to takeovers of smaller companies by larger ones.  Whatever else may be thought they often safeguard jobs and often lead to expansion of employment. Curiously this aspect seems to be missing from today’s announcement.

Update 1

Pete Brown has blogged on the development. He knows a good deal more about the beer industry than I do (its his job after all) and I agree broadly with him. I might have said that the SAB Miller wouldn’t neccesarily be a bad thing rather than saying it was a good thing though. My comments above are just that. Neither for or against but ‘on’.

I take the point about the role of Meantime in the revival of London brewing and the influence it has. That surely is one of the reason why the SAB Miller move interests so much

I think Pete also makes a particularly good point about Sharps- owned by Coors- who churn out mega pints of Doombar but elsewhere produce some much smaller batch are generally rather good beers. That might well be a sustainable industrial and craft model (see my point about a continuum rather than a break between the two above).

Anyway the post is here:

http://petebrown.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/why-sabmillers-acquisition-of-meantime.html

 

Meantime explain the move here. Even though I normally bar those who use the meaningless phrase (off the sports field) ‘raising the bar’ here let’s assume its a pun.

The points are decent enough if also the kind of words that tend to be associated with any merger or take-over

http://www.meantimebrewing.com/raising-the-bar

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