The Ambridge Socialist: the Spirit of Joe Grundy lives

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2022 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

2nd October

The spirit of Joe Grundy lives

This week in the Archers has been mostly about Kenton’s youth diary, Eddie and George managed to persuade Kenton that the reference to him kissing Clarrie 40 years ago was sufficient to cause a breakdown in their marriage. In compensation Eddie pursued free beer at the Bull and some bar shifts for Clarrie. As she noted the spirit of Joe Grundy lives

Grundy Memorial at St Stephens

The Grundys are of course Methodists so chapel not church. However after the Vicar of St Stephens appropriate decision to reject Peggy’s attempt to have a permanent memorial to the Archer Dynasty in the Church. We say there should be an annual Grundy cider festival in the Church. The Rev Alan Franks is known to be a fan of Tumble Tussocks

Grundy’s Turkeys, thriving for now

The turkey season has started early at Grange Farm with Eddie, via George, buying in extra stock. What Mia Grundy thinks about all this hopefully we will find out

Kenton’s Diary and Harold Wilson

Kenton revealed that in 1974 he had been in favour of a Hung Parliament, was keen on Harold Wilson and thought of himself as a socialist. It was enough to cause apoplexy in the Archer household at the time- not reported by the BBC. Kenton is played by Richard Attlee who is related to Clement Attlee

What colour scheme should Brookfield have?



After the Johnson Government the Truss regime refines the practice of Old Corruption

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2022 by kmflett

After the Johnson Government, the Truss regime refines Old Corruption

The Government of Johnson was of course a bad one, so bad that his own MPs ejected him eventually. One speciality was the letting of Government contracts to their mates.

It was an echo of the pre-1832 Reform Act practice of Old Corruption. That is a system that lacked democratic accountability, where people held political positions and exploited them for their own wealth, not on the basis of competence or suitability, but of who they were and who they knew.

Rupert Murdoch who owns the Times brand clearly wants Johnson’s successor Liz Truss gone as the Sunday Times (2nd Oct) has run several stories on dubious practices at the centre of Government.

The Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is reported to have attended a champagne party for hedge fund managers shortly after his Fiscal Statement that removed the cap on banker’s bonuses and handed out tax cuts for the rich. The paper reports that several attendees referred to Kwarteng as a ‘useful idiot’.

Also reported is that several senior Truss aides were in fact being paid by the lobbying firm of Mark Fullbrook, Truss’s Chief of Staff. Only when the matter came to light did the Government agree that this was inappropriate and put them on the Government payroll


Sartre, Beer & Hackney

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2022 by kmflett

Having a drink with friends at the well known craft beer and beard pub in central Hackney on Friday evening I noticed that the (clean shaven) man at the next table was reading Sartre with his pint.

I can reveal that the book was Sartre’s first novel, Nausea, about a dejected historian who struggles to understand the impact of the world on his consciousness.

Perhaps he was pondering in this respect the impact of the beer on his thought processes.

Sartre (1915-1980) is known more as a smoke of pipes and cigarettes than as a drinker but I’m sure the occasional glass was imbibed


Does it matter if 32 Wetherspoons pubs are for sale?

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2022 by kmflett

Does it matter if 32 Wetherspoons pubs are up for sale?

Earlier this week Wetherspoons announced they were selling 32 of their pubs.  Spoons do sometimes shut or sell pubs but this quite a large number in an 800 pub estate.

It is reportedly related to Wetherspoons making a financial loss. While it might be assumed that the pubs concerned are poor performers it might equally be that they are on sites where a sale is likely. The Penderels Oak in Holborn is on the list. One presumes that the pub has been hit by a downturn in office workers trade but its still in a prominent location.

Roger Protz has tweeted that whatever one’s opinion of Tim Martin and Spoons  many of these pubs are well used locals- I’ve posted on the Tollgate in Turnpike Lane, Those without much money- that’s many of us now- can afford a well-priced pint of cask beer or indeed lager. They can also do so in a social environment instead of stuck at home with a can in front of the TV.

There is I think a case for pubs like Wetherspoons, just not run by them, recognising a union for staff and cutting the Brexit  crap


Truss & Kwarteng make Tory economic policy the most right-wing out of 275 parties in 61 countries

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2022 by kmflett

Truss and Kwarteng make Tory economic policy most right-wing out of 275 parties in 61 countries

The Financial Times has published a chart (30th September) which demonstrates how Trussonomics has taken Tory economic policy which was mainstream centre right, to the far right of the economic spectrum.

Truss and Kwarteng now stand beyond Donald Trump and Brazil’s Bolsonaro. Its what nineteenth century radicals would have called really useful knowledge. Its not something likely to be analysed in the Tory media but the FT notes that  out of 275 parties in 61 countries Trussonomics is the most right-wing of the lot


‘Cleaned’ photo of the Chartist rally for the vote, Kennington Common, Monday 10th April 1848

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2022 by kmflett

‘Cleaned’ photo of the Chartist rally, Kennington Common 10th April 1848

This photograph is the first of a demonstration taken anywhere in the world and shows that the Chartist demonstration for the vote on Monday April 10th 1848.

The photo is in the possession of the Crown at  Windsor Castle but has been ‘cleaned’ by BabelColour @stuarthumphreys

There are some interesting features highlighted. There is for example a distinct difference in headwear between those watching (in the foreground) some of have top hats and the flat caps of the Chartist crowd. The caps were prudent as it rained in the afternoon.

The main platform of speakers can be clearly seen but in the era before amplification not all could hear. In the distance of the photo there is evidence of  crowds at parallel platforms rather like the overflow meetings of 2022


A genuine British tradition: 2022 conker season reaches peak

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2022 by kmflett

The Campaign for Real Conkers

Media Release. Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

30th September

A genuine British tradition: 2022 Conker Season reaches peak

The Campaign for Real Conkers, that opposes bans on conker playing and unnecessary rules and regulations in games has said that that with windy and wet weather during  September there has been a significant conker fall and the 2022 season is reaching its peak

The campaigners they are maintaining their usual ‘anything goes’ approach to conker games, to encourage people to play without arbitrary rules.

Campaign Organiser Keith Flett said, it is peak conker season. There are plenty available this year and people can play without the absurd rules of the so called World Conker Championships on October 9th which the campaign traditionally boycotts. Conkers is a genuine British tradition not one we have just invented.

Guide on how to play real conkers safely in 2022

1] Select your conker. Do this yourself. DO NOT use a conker provided by someone else who may give you a poor specimen.

2] There is no specific kind of conker that makes a good game winner. Large conkers may more easily splinter for example. Some prefer conkers with flat and sharp edges

3] You may use the conker ‘as is’ known as ‘organic’. Alternatively you may seek to harden it by baking it, soaking it in vinegar etc. There is no guarantee that an artificially enhanced conker will perform any better than an organic one.

4] Drill a small hole through the conker. A nail will often achieve this. Again you must do this yourself

5] Thread the conker through the hole you have drilled. A strong chord, perhaps a shoelace is best

6] You are now ready to play.

7] Make sure that the chord is long enough to allow you to stand at least 1 metre plus away from your opponent. This would generally be the case as space is required for the conker swing.

8] Players take alternate turns to try and hit and destroy their opponent’s conker


Jacob Rees Mogg, Robert Peel & Tory Party splits

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2022 by kmflett

Jacob Rees Mogg, Robert Peel & Tory Party splits

It might be assumed that as usual when Jacob Rees Mogg in 2018 compared Theresa May’s position on Brexit to that of Robert Peel on the Corn Laws after the 1841 Election he didn’t know what he was talking about.

On reflection (see below) that does seem to be likely. However Rees Mogg has a 2:1 degree in History from Trinity College Oxford in 1991. While I’m not sure if the syllabus covered nineteenth century British political history or indeed whether Rees Mogg was paying attention (ability to pass final examinations is a different question, although I can say that I rarely attended lectures during my first degree and still got a 2:1).

Peel was elected in 1841 with the backing of landowners who did not want the Corn Laws (a tax on imported wheat that kept domestic bread prices high, likewise profits for farmers) repealed but did in fact repeal them in 1846 with the backing of the Anti-Corn Law League. The working class, primarily the Chartists, were only marginally concerned pushing instead, in due course successfully, for a Ten Hours Act to reduce the length of the working day. A measure they correctly judged would have more impact on workers lives.

Rees Mogg argues that Peel’s actions split the Tory Party and they were out of Office for several decades as a result.

The Tory Party of the 1840s was hardly the one we know today (ok a few representatives may still be in the Lords). The modern Liberal Party was not formed until 1858 and the present shape of the Tory Party arguably was not fully defined until the early twentieth century. The second half of the nineteenth century saw several significant realignments in ruling class politics between Tories and Liberals.

Where Tories who face losing their seats as a result of the Trussketeers might go we may find out quite shortly

However if you are on the left the definitive view of what the Repeal of the Corn Laws actually meant for workers is below. As several commentators have noted it seems Rees Mogg would have been fully in favour

The English workers have very well understood the significance of the struggle between the landlords and the industrial capitalists. They know very well that the price of bread was to be reduced in order to reduce wages, and that industrial profit would rise by as much as rent fell.

Karl Marx Brussels January 1848

Dr Keith Flett convenes the Socialist History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, School of Advanced Studies


After the Fiscal Statement: 1992-2022, Labour & the polls

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2022 by kmflett

After the Fiscal Statement: 1992-2022: Labour & the opinion polls

Following the debacle of the Chancellor’s Fiscal Statement Labour has a significant poll lead

Poll leads though are not everything. They usually appear because the incumbent Government is messing things up. They are maintained to a successful Election victory if the opposition in this case Labour is able to harness the discontent to a positive mood to support it

We can see this in the period 1992-1997

We can’t obviously be sure what moves the polls but I do think that there is some evidence that there are particular events which change people’s minds on a long-term basis, as Black Wednesday seems to have done in 1992

By 1992 Thatcher had been forced to resign over the Poll Tax debacle and was replaced by John Major. Major, unexpectedly and quite narrowly, beat Labour, led by Neil Kinnock, in a General Election on 9th April 1992. For the few months after wards the Tories led Labour on average by 5 points in the opinion polls.

Then came Wednesday 16th September 1992, ‘Black Wednesday’. On that day the Tory Government withdrew the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). In order to protect the pound Chancellor Lamont raised interest rates from 10% to 12% in the morning, and then up to 15% in the afternoon.

The following day interest rates returned to 10% but the damage was done in terms of electoral standing. Voters with mortgages, perhaps more inclined to vote Tory, had seen the spectre of the cost rising by 50% in a day. If it had happened once clearly it could happen again.

By November 1992 polls were showing ratings of around 30% for the Tories and 50% for Labour. They changed little until the eventual election in 1997. Labour’s lead was nothing to do with Blair, who wasn’t Labour leader in 1992, rather it was the late John Smith, but with an event so potentially cataclysmic in its impact that it stuck in voter’s minds.

It’s worth pointing out (thanks to Lindsey German for this)dthat the October 1992 pit closure crisis underlined and amplified the Tory crisis. The Tories had spent the mid-1980s demonising and defeating the miners on pit closures. But when Heseltine tried again in 1992 the mood was very different. Public support swung behind Arthur Scargill and the NUM’s efforts to stop further closures.

Whether you think Starmer is a decent Labour leader or not, it won’t be that much to do with anything he does or doesnt promote, at least at the moment. What 1992 suggests is that it’s about Tory crisis and whether the left and labour movement can galvanise the mood around that which has the real impact. Work in progress


Pipe Smoking & the left from Stalin to Harold Wilson

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2022 by kmflett

The post below is a research note. It was sparked by the publication of a new biography of Harold Wilson by Nick Thomas-Symonds. The book obviously is not about pipe smoking but there are illuminating passages about Wilson’s use of a pipe.

I’m not sure how widespread pipe smoking was amongst radicals in the nineteenth century, men and women, and more research is needed.

In the twentieth century Raph Samuel notes in the Lost World of British Communism that Stalin who was a pipe smoker, or at least pictured with a pipe, inspired at least some Communists to smoke a pipe. My late father who was a CP member smoked a pipe throughout his life, the Balkan Sobranie tobacco as pungent as cannabis (although it didn’t smell the same). Samuel notes a war time verse written by Hamish Henderson: ‘Hitler’s a non-smoker/Churchill smokes a cigar/but Uncle Joe smokes a workman’s pipe/and he wears a taxi drivers hat.

Thomas-Symonds writes that Wilson switched from cigarettes to a pipe not because of a love of Stalin but because the process of filling and lighting a pipe gave him more time to answer questions and make comments.

In the 1960s Wilson’s pipe smoking, along with his liking for HP Sauce was a symbol that he was a politician in touch with the ‘common man’. Thomas-Symonds recounts how Wilson argued that people who smoked pipes lived longer than those who smoked cigarettes.

However Thomas-Symonds touches on the issue around Wilson and pipe smoking that has caused comment over the years. The statue of Wilson outside Huddersfield station shows him without a pipe. Mary Wilson noted that Wilson’s hand was in his pocket reaching for his pipe. Thomas-Symonds suggests that in private when no journalists were present Wilson might more usually smoke a cigar, his preference. The pipe was important for his public image.

Certainly in the 1960s pipe smoking amongst men on the left was far from unknown, influenced by Stalin, Wilson or simply preference. Eric Hobsbawm is pictured smoking a pipe and Tony Benn was an inveterate pipe smoker