Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


The size of the crowd: a note

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2017 by kmflett

The size of the crowd: a note



The Guardian published a piece in the summer of 2016 suggesting that there is a sociological formula for working out the size of crowds. Unfortunately crowds are comprised not of statistics but real people who come and go and do all manner of things to frustrate an understanding of numbers attending

It is often taken that the police underplay numbers on protests [which just occasionally has caused the left to slightly overplay them in response] unless they were seeking to justify a particularly high overtime bill in which case they exaggerated how many were there.

That said the police did have an official way of estimating numbers which they used for example on the Stop the War demonstration in London on 15th February 2003. This involved counting the number of people passing a certain point in a set amount of time and then extrapolating the size of the protest from that.

Government cuts in expenditure on the police seem to have ended the practice.

It was one way of judging numbers but a moment’s thought suggests issues with it.  How is it known if the count is taken when the demonstration is at peak numbers for example? How is account taken for the fact that people join and leave demonstrations throughout their duration?

The argument about the size of demonstrations goes right the way back to the start of the modern movement.

On Monday 10th April 1848 the Chartists gathered on Kennington Common to protest for the vote. It was the first protest ever to be photographed and the photo survives.

The problem is, what does it show in terms of size? It is taken from outside the Common and it is thought that it was taken well before the numbers at the protest peaked. Further in those pre-amplification days there was not one platform but several so people could hear speakers around the Common making estimates of numbers even more difficult.

The press the following day played down numbers at the demonstration with the exception of the Chartist Northern Star, which was the largest circulation paper of the day.

Subsequent analysis of how many demonstrators could be in Kennington Common for each square foot of grass has suggested 100,000 attended- a huge protest for 1848.

That is one way of working out the size at a particular moment of a demonstration. If for example Trafalgar Square is filled with a protest- as it was for the Women’s March on 21st January- as it arrives a rough idea of numbers can be gained because it is a fixed space.

Hyde Park is much more complicated because while it is a fixed space it is very much bigger.

Recent decades have seen some very large demonstrations, primarily in central London because there are so many people already in the area who can attend with little travel needed. CND and Stop the War have held huge protests as has the TUC.


Perhaps another criteria we might think about though is not just size but impact. The Women’s Marches around the world on 21st January had far more impact than the 250,000 or so who appear to have shown for Trump’s Inauguration.


An earlier version of this post appeared in the Morning Star on 23rd August 2016.


Campaigners name top hipster beard locations in England & Wales

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Media Release

January 21st

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Campaigners name top hipster beard locations in England and Wales

hipsterbeard (ad)

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has named the top locations for hipster beard wearers in the UK after a new year survey.

The campaigners say that while there is no general definition of the hipster beard it is generally distinguished from the ‘other’, the full Brian Blessed organic style beard, by its shaped or designed features.

The survey checked areas of England and Wales for hipster beard density and particularly the following signifiers:

Beard friendly pubs or bottle shops: bars where a higher than usual density of beard wearers is found

Coffee shops: generally independent selling a range of coffees but including some smaller chains

Farmers/Food markets: selling artisan foods from bread to cheese and street food

The top locations

Homerton, Hackney

The Lanes, Brighton

King St/Queen Square, Bristol

Northern Quarter, Manchester

Canton, Cardiff

Church St, Stoke Newington

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, probably none of the locations have the perfect mix of pubs, coffee shops and markets but we can guarantee that if you find yourself  in any of these areas you will find a fine selection of hipster beards




Is Trump the most right-wing President ever?

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2017 by kmflett

Is Trump the most right-wing President ever?

Making historical comparisons is tricky stuff (how to be sure that like is really be compared to like). There is no doubt that President Trump is both an unpleasant individual and politically a man of the hard if not far right. Yet is he the most right-wing US President ever? Time will tell perhaps. But such statements lack, as media coverage far too often does, historical perspective.

Ronald Reagan a former actor and veteran anti-Communist was elected President in 1981 at the age of 70. He dubbed Russia the ‘evil empire’ and together with Margaret Thatcher threatened nuclear war. Many thought it was going to happen, see the very popular poster below. It didnt, for a range of reasons one important one of which was that people got out and protested against the renewal of nuclear weapons and the prospect of a new nuclear arms race. Protest and survive as the slogan went.



Donald Trump, the end of the world & the Battle of Bossenden Wood

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2017 by kmflett

Trump, the End of the World, & the Battle of Bossenden Wood


Apparently the end of the world is scheduled for Friday 20th January. It is yet another attempt by a religious group to claim that a ‘prophecy’ they have found in an obscure text will in fact lead to cataclysmic material changes happening. It won’t of course but it must be said that the day of the Inauguration of Trump would be quite a good starting point for anyone genuinely attempting to work out if the world might end.

Such ideas are generally known as millenarian and were common in the first half of the nineteenth century in Britain. Times of social upheaval and disruption tend to provoke thoughts of the end of days. The idea is that Christ reappears on Earth (with a beard obviously) and true believers find themselves in some sort of promised land. It’s a nice idea I suppose, although changing the world requires rather harder and more practical activity.

The last armed battle on English soil, at Bossenden Wood near Canterbury in May 1838 focused on a millenarian leader ‘Sir William Courtenay’ who had managed to gather a group of around 50 peasants to ride around Kent villages on horse-back, armed with pistols and carrying a loaf of bread on a pole under a blue and white flag with a rampant lion..

Reading from the Bible he proclaimed:

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you..

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth..

(E.P Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class)

Courtenay and around a dozen followers were shot dead by a crack regiment of the British Army but his words are surely a template for The Donald to follow on 20th January



The Ambridge Socialist, Village Green Vigil, Fri Jan 20 4pm: Titchener & Trump out now!

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2017 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

January 19th CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266

The real Borsetshire Echo: 65 years of class struggle in Ambridge

Village Green Vigil: Friday 20th Jan 4pm. Titchener & Trump out now


The Ambridge Socialist has called a vigil on Friday 20th January at 4pm to demand that Titchener and Trump get out of our lives.

Trump is inaugurated on Friday afternoon in Washington while at café somewhere near Ambridge Titchener is due to meet Stefan to hand over the reasonable sum he has demanded to keep quiet about what knows on the Great Flood of Ambridge two years ago.

The vigil will run from 4-6pm after which we will retire to The Bull to plan further campaigns


How big is my brewery?

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2017 by kmflett


There has been recent discussion about whether some of the newer (say broadly 2010 and after) breweries have now reached a size where they might more reasonably be classified as small to middle sized regional brewers. Not exactly Greene King but perhaps a Robinsons or a a Batemans.

How to tell? Capacity and barrels produced? Impact on the market?

Today as seen one interesting if not, naturally, absolutely clear guide to the matter as a number of smaller (that is not mega but certainly not small) brewers have issued a statement about the need for beer duty reform:

Their poiut is that the tax advantages for small brewers introduced in 2002 encouraged the massive expansion of breweries we now have. They welcome that but argue that the current tax structure acts as a disincentive to growth because above a certain level of production higher tax kicks in and makes it less economic to expand. I suppose you’d expect a Tory Government which is meant to be business friendly to take that seriously although of course it was Labour that introduced the tax changes in the first place. We shall see.

The interesting thing at the moment is who is on the list. It includes of course Adnams, and Charles Wells and Theakstons and so on. Also there are Beavertown, Dark Star and Harbour. A sign of changing times in brewing.

The list of brewers pressing for a change to duty is here:

List of not so small not huge UK brewers


Bath Ales


Black Sheep Brewery


Charles Wells



Daniel Batham & Son Ltd

Dark Star Brewing Company

Exmoor Ales

Frederic Robinson Ltd

Fuller, Smith & Turner Plc

George Bateman & Son

Hall & Woodhouse Ltd

Harbour Brewing

Harvey & Sons Ltd

Hepworth & Co Brewers

Hogs Back Brewery

Hook Norton Brewery Co Ltd

Hop Back Brewery plc

Inveralmond Brewery

Jennings Brewery

Joseph Holt Ltd

J W Lees &Co

Lancaster Brewery


Nethergate Brewery

Otter Brewery

Ridgeway Brewery/Beer Counter

Ringwood Brewery

SA Brain

Shepherd Neame Ltd

St Austell Brewery Co Ltd

T&R Theakston Ltd

Timothy Taylor

Tring Brewery

Trumans Brewery

Wadworth & Co Ltd


Wye Valley Brewery Ltd


Brexit, class & the vote

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2017 by kmflett

Brexit, Class & the Vote


The left and the labour movement were split on last year’s EU Referendum. Some saw it as a chance to leave behind the neo-liberal policies of the EU while others worried that the level playing field that the EU had created in some areas for employment would tilt even further towards the employer.

Whatever your view key sections of the ruling class and media were extremely unhappy about the Brexit vote. There have been a range of suggestions about how it might be over turned from a second Referendum to giving MPs a vote on the Brexit terms, should they ever be concluded.

Some however have gone further. On this view most of those who voted for Brexit were ignorant or ill-informed or hankering after a mythical past. We may allow that this does indeed cover a section of UKIP voters but at best they would have been a limited minority of the 52% who voted to leave the EU.

These re-moaners do however have a solution. Those who dared to vote for Brexit should be banned from voting. A columnist in GQ wrote that all pensioners should not be allowed a vote. What? Do they mean me. I’m over 60, but still working. Apparently when you get old you develop reactionary views which means you automatically vote for Brexit. This seems a little simplistic.

A columnist in the Times Higher Education Supplement, Joanna Williams, was perhaps more to the point. Noting that many academics had voted to remain she noted:

But the first lesson for universities is that when it comes to democracy, everyone’s vote is equal. Having a PhD does not mean that your vote is worth more. Believing that you know what it is in the best interests of everyone else in society does not give you the right to override the will of the majority. The UK is not a dictatorship of the doctorates.

The defence of popular democracy is well made. A degree does not make your opinion more important than a street cleaner or bus driver when it comes to universal suffrage.

The interesting thing is that the argument about who should be able to vote and whether workers can qualify goes right the way to back to the origins of the suffrage in Britain.

The 1832 Reform Act had managed to extend the vote to much of the middle class but left very few of the young and fast growing working class enfranchised. Chartism pressed for further reform (for men) and after its slow decline in the 1850s the pressure continued for more people to get the vote.

A further Act in 1867 saw a limited number of working men get the vote but it wasn’t until 1918 that women got the suffrage.

In the 1850s and 1860s there was extensive debate about how far the vote should be extended, to who and on what basis. A leading figure in that was George Jacob Holyoake a former Owenite and Chartist who sat on the First International. Marx described him as thin voiced, intrusive, consequential.

Holyoake claimed that he supported full adult suffrage but in practice spent his time devising schemes which would allow workers the vote but also made sure that they were in a minority to the better educated middle class. He wrote in 1865 of a ‘plan which will enfranchise all honest men without thus swamping the votes or influence of gentleman’.

150 years on nothing could better sum up the attitude of Establishment ‘remainers’. Those who want to leave the EU can have their say provided they don’t carry the day.

This post appeared in the Morning Star 18th January 2017