Saturday, 21 July 2018

The Tories are Cheating & Lying to Get Bonkers Brexit Through Parliament. Elsewhere - On Another Planet - Trump redefines the English language

Lib Dem MP, Jo Swinson, went ballistic this week when she discovered that Tory MP, Brandon Lewis, had voted in a crunch Brexit vote. The problem was that they had a pairing agreement. She was on maternity leave so couldn't vote and he agreed to not vote either.

Pairing is an arcane parliamentary tradition invoked if a member cannot vote for reasons of illness or maternity leave, for example. To make it fair, an MP from the other side agrees not to vote either. Except, Mr Lewis reneged on this arrangement, helping Theresa May inch a little bit closer to Brexit Armageddon.

He claimed it was “an honest mistake” but Swinson wasn’t having any of it. “It’s called cheating”, she raged. Another word is “lying”!😈

Turns out that Lewis was apparently ordered by chief whip, Julian Smith, to break the pairing, and vote. The Times reported seeing evidence that that had been the case and Theresa May got herself into yet another pickle. Then it emerged that Mr Smith has form when it comes to targeting women on maternity leave. Apparently he had previously “lied” to Tory MP, Andrea Jenkyns, allegedly ordering her to come to London to vote, on multiple occasions, while she was on maternity leave. 

Fortunately, Tory veteran Michael Heseltine, waded into the row and helpfully explained the fundamental flaw that underpins the pairing protocol. “It’s a gentleman’s agreement” he said. Pausing whilst the slower listeners (it was a Radio 4 interview) caught up. There you have it. The gentleman's agreement, like the old boys' club, is an exclusive club. Women need not apply and if you dare. By god, there will be penalties.

Britain, like the Tories, is in the final stages of decrepitude. I can literally hear the bones creaking.

Elsewhere, Trump left our shores, amid contrails of flatulence and fury, to hang out with the man to whom he owes his presidency. Vladimir Putin. During a Press Conference in Helsinki, he dismissed FBI and CIA claims that Russia meddled in Trumps presidential election. Trump said there was no reason why Russia would interfere with the US elections. But, when it all kicked off back home and people in his own party were calling him a traitor, he helpfully clarified that what he meant to say (though it should have been obvs – PEOPLE – jeez – cue rolling, mad eyes) was wouldn’t. Got it? There’s no reason why President Putin wouldn’t interfere in his presidential election! It’s a double negative, apparently 😱

So, integrity, truth and decency in politics have been replaced by stupidity, lies and contempt for democracy -on both sides of the pond. What could possibly go wrong.

I’m off to have a Brexit breakdown at an undisclosed, secure location. On arrival, all gadgets and electronic equipment will be removed so that I won’t be a danger to myself - or others. For the next 5 weeks, I’m pulling the plug and going off grid. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this little vid - one of my personal favourites of the 2017 General Election. It's called Liar, Liar. Enjoy!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The NHS is 70 Today. Happy Birthday!

The NHS is 70 years old today. It was conceived and given birth to, by Labour. Resisted by doctors and blocked 21 times by the Tories, the NHS is Labour’s greatest achievement.

Nye Bevan created the NHS so that everyone, whether rich or poor, could have equal access to healthcare – free at the point of use. He warned at the time that the NHS would last only as long as folk are prepared to fight for it. In its 70 year history, the fight has never been harder and the stakes never been higher.

All around the country, hospitals are being shut, beds cut, services axed, all in readiness for full blown privatisation. The leaner the NHS machine the more attractive it will be to the US capitalists bidding for contracts. Everything from mental health to children services is being outsourced to privateers, whose priority is not patient care. It’s profit. Hiding behind the NHS logo, the NHS itself is being broken up and, brick by brick, it’s being dismantled and destroyed.

To mark the NHS’ 70th birthday, the National Health Singers, have launched a new single, “Won’t let go”. It’s a kick ass fight back tune that Jeremy Hunt will be hoping flops. For that reason alone it’s worth buying - in a bid to help it on its way to Number 1 in the charts!

Today, I’ll celebrate the heroes - the nurses, doctors, healthcare workers and porters that keep the NHS alive, but I’ll also be mobilising my community against those that are bent on killing it. We must fight - now - against cuts & closures to our vital services. If we don’t, there’ll be nothing left to salvage from the Tory wreckers' rubble. Complacency and apathy are not an option. Future generations will never forgive us if we fail to act now.

Happy 70th, NHS πŸ’™

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Stop Tory Brexit!

This week, more than most, I felt like I was drowning in a cesspit of Tory generated excrement. Just when you think a new low is not possible, the Tories reached new depths of depravity.

By Wednesday, they had blocked upskirting legislation, lied about NHS funding, claiming it would come from a fictionalised “Brexit dividend,” and made sick and pregnant women cross the lobby in wheelchairs, in a bid to force through the doomed EU withdrawal bill. The Tory/DUP democratic heist has put us in the hands of the three musketeers. What could possibly go wrong?

Theresa May called a snap election last year to get a mandate for a hard Brexit. The people’s answer? “Not on your Nellie”! Yet, here we are, a year later, with the Brexit time bomb strapped to our collective chests. This is a Tory suicide mission and they’re bent on taking us all down with them.

Elsewhere, in the real world, the EU rejected Theresa May’s Northern Ireland back stop. The subject that no-body talked about in the referendum campaign, is now the circle that just can’t be squared. And still May carries on like a demented despot in charge of a runaway train.

The pundits got Brexit wrong. They got the outcome of the 2017 General Election wrong and they are doing it again. In their bubble of groupthink and incompetence, they have completely misjudged the anger out there on the streets. It is palpable for anyone who engages with real people in the real world. Far from getting £350 million a week for the NHS, Brexit is driving the final nail into the coffin. Closures to A&Es and hospital services are being predicated on staff shortages – brought about by the hostile immigration culture and fear generated by Brexit. When we need them most, foreign nurses and doctors are fleeing this country in their droves.

Who’s to blame for Brexit? The Tories and the right wing of the Labour party who, for years, threw immigrants under the bus, accusing us of stealing British people’s jobs, blaming us for the housing shortage and admonishing us for not assimilating into the British way of life, whatever that is.

Having scapegoated immigrants for years, Chuka Umunna, was a bad choice to be the poster boy of the Labour Remain campaign. It’s a bit like putting Trump in charge of UNICEF. Labour’s rhetoric had moved so far to the right, under New Labour (in a bid to woo UKIP voters), that there was a vacuum in political discourse - promoting the benefits of immigration.

As chair of the Labour In campaign, Alan Johnson’s line up of pale, male and stale spokespeople, failed to inspire. Producing the toxic trio (Blair, Brown and Campbell) was a serious strategic error. The idea that the men who presided over the global financial crash could boost trust and credibility to the Remain camp signals the extent to which Alan Johnson, like his Blairite plotters, was in denial about the incendiary legacy of New Labour.

New Labour was part of the problem. Progressive Labour can be part of the solution. That’s why I’ve signed Momentum’s Stop Tory Brexit petition which calls for the many to have the final say.

For anyone who hasn't read my angry Independent Brexit articles (there are many), here's one to get you going:

Thursday, 14 June 2018

One year on from Grenfell, survivors remain traumatised & homeless. Deprived of justice & peace

I wrote the blog below shortly after the preventable inferno at Grenfell tower that killed 72 people. Twelve months on, survivors remain traumatised, homeless and without justice. The raw feelings captured in this blog haven't diminished with time so, to mark the one year anniversary, I'm re-telling the story. Undiluted, unedited and unapologetic. πŸ’šπŸ’š

The acrid stench infused the air. The landscape, adorned with messages and memorials, struggled to reconcile the veneration of dignified grief and irreverent, visceral anger.

I oscillated between both. Grief hung in the ether like a flammable fume. Volatile, toxic, debilitating. The photos of those whose lives were lost. The prayers, the pleas, the eulogies. The human faces behind the headlines.

Days before, some of the dead and feared dead would have taken the train journey I just took, walked the route I just walked to get there, sat in the park around the corner that I just sat in and exchanged perfunctory pleasantries with the local shop keeper like I just did.

The photo of Isaac caught my eye. He left school at the same time as my little boy that day. He will have had his tea, maybe smearing ketchup on his school jumper, like mine did and went to bed, forgetting to brush his teeth, like mine did. Wrapped in a blanket of love he may have told the spiders lurking in a corner of his room a story, like mine did, before drifting off to sleep clutching his threadbare teddy, like mine did.

The difference between Isaac and my child is, Isaac lived in a tower block with no fire sprinklers, exposed gas pipes, combustible cladding (cheaper than the non-combustible yet aesthetically pleasing variety) and dodgy electrics prone to potentially lethal surges. Illegal? You’d think so, but Tory cuts to legal aid means rights are now only available to those who can afford to buy them. That ruled Grenfell Tower residents out.

Five weeks on and survivors are still homeless and dependent on sporadic, demeaning state handouts. A hundred quid here and a voucher for a hotel there isn’t good enough. Survivors need certainty, security and dignity. That starts with a secure, safe home. Some children don’t know if they’ll be returning to the same school in September because they don’t know where their new home will be. Some survivors say they’ve been told to accept homes without being allowed to see them first. Others say they fear being forcibly rehoused outside the borough. I’ve been told of survivors who’ve been threatened that declining housing they’re offered, however inappropriate, would be deemed as elected homelessness, and would incur benefit penalties.

Even now, survivors are being excluded from key decisions that will impact their future. Security firms were employed, at tax payers expense, to “keep them out” of Kensington and Chelsea’s council meeting on Thursday. Scenes of survivors being kettled into a public gallery, side-lined and silenced, prevented from participating in decisions about their own lives, were a national disgrace. The footage of Tory councillor, Mathew Palmer, mouthing “Don’t let them in” spoke volumes about the Tories’ contempt for humanity, decency and democracy.

Making my way back to the tube, I was stopped in my tracks by a child. She was surveying the messages pinned to the street railings and was transfixed by an elaborate picture of a dove. She asked her Dad what the text around it said. “I don’t know love, it’s written in a foreign language”.  I squinted to read it, “It says, Suaimhneas stΓ­oraΓ­ da anam, which is Irish for, may your souls rest in peace”.

If the souls that perished in Grenfell are ever to find peace, they must first be afforded truth and then justice. We owe Isaac, and all those who died with him, that much. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Today is Repeal the 8th day. The Catholic Church has exerted jurisdiction over Irish women's wombs for too long

This piece was published in today's Independent.

I was in Dublin during the launch of the abortion referendum, and was completely winded when a man in a T-shirt with a picture of a foetus and the words, “Licence to kill”, verbally attacked me on O’Connell street. It unleashed an avalanche of painful memories.

When I was 16, I had a secret whip 'round to pay for a friend to go to London for an abortion. When drinking neat spirits and taking scalding hot baths didn't terminate her pregnancy, she became suicidal. 

We scraped together enough to pay for the abortion itself and Aine's (not her real name) fare, but it didn’t stretch to accommodation so she slept on the floor at Victoria bus station. She had to make that agonising journey across the Irish Sea, alone.

The image of Aine, so tiny and vulnerable, beneath the giant, forbidding steam ship at Dublin docks - on a dank, drizzly day, still haunts me. She had never been away from home before. I remember feeling ashamed of living in a country that subjected women to such punitive indignity.

This week, I helped fund another teenage girl's voyage across the sea - going in the opposite direction. She's going home today to vote "yes", in a bid to repeal the barbaric 8th amendment, which enshrines misogyny into the Irish constitution.

In 2018, even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality, abortion remains illegal in Ireland. Over 170,000 Irish women have travelled to Britain for abortions in the 35 years since the inception of the 8th amendment. Around 12 women and girls take that lonely voyage across the sea, every day, to end their pregnancies.   

But travelling overseas is not an option for everyone. Teenage girls on the estate I grew up on can’t afford to go abroad. Many buy abortion pills online, risking their lives and incurring a custodial sentence.

The anti-choice propagandists are warning that, with “a licence to kill”, there’ll be pop up abortion clinics on every high street, from Bantry to Ballyjamesduff, offering two for the price of one and free subscriptions to Abortion Weekly.

As a therapist, I’ve worked with women who have had abortions and the decision is never taken lightly. Girls in Ireland, having been violently impregnated by rape, face the added trauma of being forced to give birth to their abuser’s baby. In case x, when a 14 year old girl was impregnated by rape and became suicidal, a court injunction was taken out preventing her parents from taking her abroad for an abortion.  

The anti-abortion rhetoric is imbued with the dogma of the Catholic Church, but an institution so mired in paedophilic scandals, is in no position to lecture women on the sanctity of life. Only last year, the remains of almost 800 babies were discovered “dumped” in a septic tank on the grounds of a convent in Galway.

In 2012, the needless death of Savita Halappanavar shamed the nation. She died of blood poisoning after being refused an abortion, even though her baby had a fatal foetal abnormality. “This is a catholic country!”, she was told. A change in the law in 2013, purportedly to allow abortions if the mother’s life is at risk or if she’s suicidal, has proved shockingly inadequate. 

In 2014, a clinically dead woman was kept alive on a life-support machine, against her family’s wishes, to protect the life of her unborn child. Last year, a 14 year old suicidal child was sectioned by her doctor when she sought permission, with her mother’s approval, for an abortion. But, instead of admitting that the girl was being sent to a psychiatric hospital, the doctor told them that she would undergo an abortion. Despite acknowledging the child was suicidal, due to her pregnancy, he denied her the legal right to a termination and tricked her into being sectioned.

Last year, the UN ruled, for the second time, that Ireland's harsh abortion laws violate human rights. A woman carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality was, it stated, subjected to, “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. The woman had to travel abroad for an abortion, but was forced to leave her foetus’ remains behind. Weeks later, the ashes were delivered by courier. The UN has called for the 8th amendment to be repealed, to allow women to terminate a pregnancy safely, at home.

The church has exerted undue jurisdiction over women’s wombs - and our lives – for far too long. By repealing the 8th today, we transfer the deeds back to their rightful owners – the women of Ireland.

Polls are open until 10pm tonight!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

"I thought my baby was going to die"! Mother warns health bosses that A&E closures will be the death of people

Meet Sarah. Friend and single mother to 5 children, one with a chronic illness. Under the cover of daily dead cats & Tory chaos, the decimation of our NHS is in full swing.

Click on the link to hear Sarah's heartbreaking story

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Angry about Windrush & austerity? Get out and Vote today!

Are you angry about Windrush? Or, the eight years of austerity that has seen the poor atone for the sins of the rich? Or, the decimation of our NHS? Or, the Brexit shambles? Or, the scandalous rise of homelessness? Or, the injustice of Grenfell, Or, [insert your own list] – Get out and vote today!  

As a therapist, I’m not afraid of anger, which is just as well because I’ve been angry every day for the past eight years. The only people I know who are not angry right now are either very rich (thus inoculated against the ravages of austerity) - or Yoga instructors.

I’ve picked up the pieces of lives crushed by the cruelty of this Tory government. Injustice is hardwired into every sinew of the system, with Human rights now only accessible to those who can afford to buy them.

The hostile environment that spawned the Windrush scandal was no accident. It’s indicative of a culture that has enshrined racist rhetoric into practice. Dawn Butler described May’s hostile environment as the new face of Tory institutional racism, “ever present from Stephen Lawrence to Windrush”. She’s right.

In 2011, Theresa May vowed to get rid of Article 8 (the right to family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights because, she claimed, it “perverted” the removal of “illegal immigrants”. Her competence as Home Secretary was called into question when it emerged that the example she cited, that of a pet cat scuppering deportation, was untrue and appeared to have been lifted, “word for word,” from a speech made by (then) UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. In fact, the case had been mishandled by immigration officials.

The morality of her contempt for the right to family life largely escaped scrutiny and went on to underpin the 2014 immigration Act. It should come as no surprise that this resulted in the Windrush scandal that has seen families ripped apart, denied access to jobs, health care, justice, dignity and hope. Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell anticipated the “unintended” consequences for Commonwealth citizens and voted against it.

Racism has rarely been career limiting in the Tory party. In 2011, Tory Dover councillor, Bob Frost, described people involved in the Tottenham riots as “jungle bunnies”. He lost his job as a Maths teacher, but the Conservative Party only suspended him for two months. The emergence of Oliver Letwin’s sinister racist memo in 2015 did not result in him being sacked as David Cameron’s policy adviser.
Under Theresa May’s leadership, racism has become mainstream Tory policy. Directly (and indirectly) discriminating against black and brown skinned people - with impunity. When Theresa May appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, it seems she deleted the traditional job requirement, “Portfolio of diplomacy” and replaced it with, “Portfolio of racist remarks”.
As Commonwealth leaders gathered in London amidst the Windrush scandal, who better to mollify the mood, than Johnson? Regaling delegates with stories about “flag waving piccaninnies” and “Pangas” with “watermelon smiles”.
If a Labour Politician made even one of those remarks, they would be hounded out of office, and rightly so. Having been suspended for using the racist term “N***** in the woodpile” in July, Anne-Marie Morris had the whip re-instated after only five months. 
At least 12 Tory candidates had to withdraw from the today's elections having been suspended amid accusations of anti-antisemitism, Islamophobia and far right links. One of whom, a former UKIP candidate is alleged to have racially abused Diane Abbott on social media.

Theresa May should not be surprised that her "Go home" buses, hostile immigration environment, the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister and her tolerance of racism generally, has acted as a recruitment sergeant for the far right. As David Lammy said, If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Today is channel your anger into action day. All you have to do is get up, get ready and vote the Tories out of your town! 

#Vote Labour πŸ’“

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Brexit is undermining The Good Friday Agreement & peace in Northern Ireland

It's the twentieth anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement today. My piece in Independent Voices below.

You might also like the article below which had 76,000 shares up until December. For some reason the share counter got wiped recently. Not sure it matters, just fecking annoying..

Also this in The New Statesman:

The role lies about immigration played in Brexit (Also in the Independent & wow, the share counter on this has also been wiped? πŸ˜•:

Friday, 23 March 2018

Irrespective of whether the BBC intended to frame Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian Stooge”, the risks of that perception should have been apparent and intercepted.

Carole Cadwalladr and Channel 4’s exposure of the Cambridge Analytica scandal reminded me of the legendary Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee. Commenting on his role in exposing Watergate, he said,

The more complicated the issues and the more sophisticated the ways to disguise the truth, the more aggressive our search for truth must be”.

When I advised the broadcast media on editorial ethics, I used this quote – a lot, but never before has the role of the media as honest broker been more crucial to the wellbeing of democracy, than now.

Listening to Cambridge Analytica’s recently sacked boss, Etonian old boy Alexander Nix, boasting about propagating the digital landscape with lies, fear and hate, to win elections, was chilling. To mitigate against these fake news propagandists, actual journalism must be underpinned by facts and unfettered by favour.

While Channel 4 conducted a masterclass in broadcast journalism this week, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, became mired in an unedifying controversy over its handling of Labour’s response to Theresa May’s Russia ultimatum. The choice of backdrop (a red infused picture of Jeremy Corbyn in a hat, as opposed to a suit, in front of the Kremlin) betrayed a crisis in editorial judgement. Irrespective of whether the BBC intended to frame Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian Stooge”, the risks of that perception should have been apparent and intercepted.

When dealing with a highly charged and politically sensitive incident, such as a chemical attack, licence fee payers expect probity and integrity in the BBC’s handling of it.

Two days before Theresa May issued her ultimatum to Russia, a Survation poll put Labour 7 points ahead of the Tories and showed that 60% of those polled had had enough of austerity, including almost half of Tory voters. The same week, Philip Hammond scrapped free school meals for 1 million children in poverty, Unilever announced it was moving its HQ out of the UK and the Brexit impact assessment was finally published. Summary: Whatever Brexit we get, we’ll be worse off.

Instead of holding the governments’ feet to the flames over any of the above, Newsnight went after the leader of the opposition for daring to do his job. If the Russia ultimatum was a dead cat, it worked. A lot of bad news got buried beneath the bluster.

Analysing media failings in the lead up to the Iraq war in 2016, Ian Birrell wrote, “The initial reporting showed how a supposedly free and fearless press was powerless, vulnerable and gullible in a moment of national crisis concluding”, “…it meekly fell into line with Government propagandists”.

The Economist’s analysis of the Chilcot inquiry revealed: That lack of caution, combined with a disregard for process bordered on the feckless…The intelligence was not questioned or challenged in the way it should have been, given how much was resting on it”.

MPs should have spoken out and demanded more and better evidence. Instead they put self-interest ahead of the national interest. Many of the same right wing Labour MPs who backed Blair’s reckless war, put self-interests before national interest again this week. Instead of backing Jeremy Corbyn’s sober call for calm and evidence, they were signing a letter blaming Moscow, ‘unequivocally” for the attacks.

Jeremy Corbyn is right to challenge Theresa May. There are few things as perilous as a weak leader trying to appear strong.  If she sees this as her Falklands moment – an opportunity to deflect from her huge unpopularity and domestic failures – she could take us into dangerous territory. This is a time for quelling - not fanning - the flames of hysteria.

The framing of Jeremy Corbyn as a “Russian stooge” by some media outlets is an obvious red herring. He robustly condemned the Salisbury attack but his track record is equally strong. Eight years ago, he signed a Parliamentary Motion accusing Putin’s Russia of corruption and human rights abuses and has called on the government for a UK version of the Magnitsky Act, which allows for financial sanctions. Something the Tories had previously resisted.

It is the Conservative party that has received £3m worth of donations from Russian donors and it was Boris Johnson who accepted £160,000 in exchange for a game of tennis with Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former Putin minister. The same woman bid £30,000 to have dinner with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Chernukhin’s husband was Putin’s deputy finance minister. Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s fund management’s firm has profited from a £60m investment in a Russian bank, despite being under EU sanctions since 2014. 

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Our democracy has been hijacked and apostles of hate have stolen our privacy and exploited our vulnerabilities. Now is not the time to be deflected by dead cats and red herrings. The wellbeing of democracy depends on the media pursuing truth with the same determination as those in power seek to obscure and distort it. 

Other articles Tess has written on the media and Jeremy Corbyn:

On the BBCs crisis of governance:

On the right wing of the Labour party: 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Bonkers Brexit update: Theresa May's absence of a cogent alternative makes a hard border in Northern Ireland increasingly inevitable

Theresa May’s much awaited Brexit speech on Friday, failed yet again, to propose any workable alternatives to a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Disgraced/deluded Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, proffered some advice to Theresa May ahead of her speech. In a leaked letter, he urged her to be relaxed about the whole hard border thing. So what if the Good Friday Agreement unravels? – small price to pay for being able to decide the shape of British, err, bananas.

This is completely at odds with the fact that Theresa May signed off on phase one of Brexit in December, contingent on the fact that there would be no hard border in Northern Ireland and, in November, Boris Johnson himself said, There can be no return to a hard border. That would be unthinkable, and it would be economic and political madness".

Why the change of heart? We don’t know, because the media hasn’t deemed it necessary to press the Foreign Secretary on his complete U-turn. This buffoon even compared Northern Ireland to London’s congestion charge this week and still the media afford him the veneer of credibility. Lies have long since been Johnson’s strategy of choice. Remember the £350 million a week he promised for the NHS?

The vacuum created by the absence of any cogent workable alternatives to economic and moral bankruptcy post Brexit, is being filled by anodyne soundbites, deception and lies. David Davis lied about the existence of the Brexit risk analysis and on Wednesday, Jacob Rees Mogg lied when he said Jeremy Corbyn voted against the GFA on Channel 4 news.

The people on the Island of Ireland, my family and friends, deserve better. They want to know what Brexit will mean for their livelihoods and their future. These are just some of the practical questions that Theresa May has yet to answer:

If Northern Ireland leaves the single market, a hard border is inevitable. What will become of the cross boarder collaboration enabling farmers on both sides to compete with their counterparts elsewhere in the world?

 25% of the region’s raw milk goes south of the border to be processed and 40% of Northern Irish lambs are processed in the republic. A hard Brexit would impede that flow, not just because of tariffs and customs checks, the burden of paperwork around traceability and standards would be prohibitive.

What will become of the joint initiatives on shared waterways? Access to medicine? And the current all-island approach to preventing the spread of animal diseases, such as, foot and mouth?

What will become of patients from the Republic who receive radiotherapy in the north and the children who travel from Belfast to Dublin for heart surgery in the only all-Island newly opened world class facility? How will emergency services continue to collaborate post Brexit?

What about subsidies? Northern Ireland already has the highest levels of unemployment and poverty in the UK and can ill afford to lose €3.5bn in EU subsidies up to 2020. Unless the magic money tree in Panama is raided, the British exchequer would struggle to fill that gap.

By getting into bed with the DUP and riding rough shod over the rigorous impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement, the Tories are gambling with peace in the province. The majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. Despite the Tories having no mandate to impose a hard border and promising there wouldn't be one, their continued inability to propose concrete alternative plans and failing to address the above questions, makes the hard border inevitable.

In the words of a Dublin friend: "Jaysus, Mary & Holy St Joseph - We're feckin doomed!"

Monday, 26 February 2018

My thoughts are with you Rob Delaney. And your family. And your beloved son, Henry.

Earlier this month US actor, devoted Dad & lovely man, Rob Delaney, announced the death of his beloved 2 & a half year old son, Henry.

When I saw him at a Labour event in Hackney during the General Election Campaign, our conversation revolved around our boys. They were the reason we were both in that room. For the NHS, for compassionate socialism, for our kids.

Ar dheis DΓ© go raibh a anam…

Rob's full facebook announcement is below. He asks that we donate to  Rainbow Trust ( or Noah's Ark ( in Henry's name or in the name of someone we love & urges us to take concrete and sustained action to support the NHS, however you can. Do not take it for granted.

I have very sad news. My two and a half year year old son Henry has passed away. Henry had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, shortly after his first birthday, following persistent vomiting and weight loss. He had surgery to remove the tumor and further treatment through the early part of 2017. Then the cancer returned last autumn and he died in January.
My wife and Henry's older brothers and I are devastated of course. Henry was a joy. He was smart, funny, and mischievous and we had so many wonderful adventures together, particularly after he'd moved home following fifteen months living in hospitals. His tumor and surgery left him with significant physical disabilities, but he quickly learned sign language and developed his own method of getting from A to B shuffling on his beautiful little bum. His drive to live and to love and to connect was profound.
I am astonished by the love-in-action displayed by Henry's mom and his brothers. They are why I will endeavor to not go mad with grief. I don't want to miss out on their beautiful lives. I'm greedy for more experiences with them.
The NHS nurses and doctors and the home carers and charity workers who helped our family survive Henry's illness will be my heroes until the day I die. I am desperately sad right now, but I can say with authority that there is good in this world.
If you'd like to help other families in the UK with very sick children, please make a donation to Rainbow Trust ( or Noah's Ark ( in Henry's name or in the name of someone you love. Our family would be in much worse shape right now if it weren't for them. I would also urge you to take concrete and sustained action to support the NHS, however you can. Do not take it for granted.
Finally, I ask that you respect my family's privacy regarding this matter. I have nothing else to say that I haven't said here.
Thank you, beautiful Henry, for spending as much time with us as you did. We miss you so much.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Want equal pay girls? Forget the vulgar militancy of the suffragettes & ask nicely

If I never hear the word “suffragette” again, it’ll be too soon. Last week’s media fest was tiresome. Fortunately, this week it’s business as usual with women fading into their rightful place. The background.

A few years ago, I cringed as I watched my toddler grab a toy from a similar aged girl in playgroup. Supernanny would advocate that I intercept my son, “encourage” him to return said toy and teach him the virtues of sharing. I wrestled with this and, on balance I decided that, whilst sharing is a valuable life skill, it’s gender specific.

After all, when that girl (with princess emblazoned across her chest) grows up, there won’t be a knight in shining armour to fight her battles for her. If my son snatches a coveted promotion from under her nose while she’s on maternity leave, she’ll have to find the time and energy to snatch it back, all by herself. If she persists she’ll be labelled a trouble maker and will face a tribunal, whereupon an all-male panel will preside as judge and jury.

Since Tory cuts put legal aid beyond the reach of ordinary people, she’ll have to re-mortgage her house to pay for the court case, the strain of which will have caused her marriage to collapse, resulting in a nervous breakdown and the baby being taken into care.

A responsible parent would teach their daughters not to resist the inevitable. Why not give them less pocket money than their sons? I realize now that, if you’re a parent, equal pay only matters if you have a daughter.

As things stand, the odds are stacked in favour of my son. He only needs to achieve average grades to get paid up to double that of a more qualified female graduate. If he marries and has children, it will be his wife (she’ll be paid less) who stops working. Fulfilling society’s expectation of him as breadwinner, he’ll be free to network and get noticed (she’ll be working ‘round the clock for no pay and no-one will notice). His route to world domination need not be derailed by fatherhood.

Why should I take on someone else’s battle? What with sourcing Mini Boden outfits and block booking Monkey Music, it’s all I can do to lift a glass of Chardonnay before unwinding in front of Loose Women.

With few exceptions, women who make it to the top are unlikely to have done so by challenging the status quo. Parliament, business and the media, is awash with women willing to demonstrate their masculine credentials. Rebekah Brooks didn’t get where she is today by tackling sexism (page 3) at The Sun. Until there are sufficient numbers of women in top jobs to make a difference, my boy’s future is safe.

The BBC knows this and has taken steps to ensure women are kept in their place. They do this, allegedly, by paying their male talent more than their female counterparts. When “dissident” BBC journalist, Carrie Gracie, demanded to know why her male colleagues get paid some 50% more for similar work, she got a perfectly logical explanation. Their work is more valuable.

Take John Humphrys on the Today Programme. In a leaked recording, this legend was heard ridiculing Carrie Gracie, for daring to question their pay disparity. Previously, he conflated the sexual harassment of female MPs with normal dating behaviour. Granted, none of Humphrys’ female colleagues could pull that off and that’s why his “talent” is worth £400,000 more than theirs.

Despite the fact that it is men’s reckless incompetence at the highest level that has brought the global economy to its knees, still we don’t question their merit. In 2008, a male journalist made a compelling case as to why men were to blame for the recession. No-one has heard from him since. Rumour has it he’s in witness protection and writes verses for Hallmark.

The bottom line is, when my son takes his rightful place (s) at the top table (s) of power, be it as media mogul, corporate giant or political behemoth, even if he did fail (through no fault of his own, obviously), his contract will contain so many get out of jail cards he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, where he’ll take out enough money to buy a peerage and live happily ever after on the Costa del Tax Haven.

As long as our daughters aspire to be princesses rather than politicians, men will continue to ride roughshod over women. If I had a daughter I’d be throwing myself in front of the Queen’s Corgis, but I don’t, so I’m off to the hairdressers instead.