legacy technology

Bert signed up on his birthday. He was sick and tired of the looks people gave him, the whispered comments, the shopkeeper’s glare.

So he signed up as soon as he could.

And they marched a lot, and they scrubbed a lot, and there was shouting and six months later he found himself shipping out for France.

For a few weeks, they were behind the lines, billetted in a chateau, but soon enough the message came, as the days lengthened.

And then it was trench rations, and billy cans, and snobbing boots and waiting.

And then, one morning, there was no more waiting to be done. And the order came. And over they went.

And a few minutes later, Bert was staring at the sky and thinking.

He could see a lot of mud, splashes of mangled barbed wire with what he hoped was cloth hanging off. There were people, too, or bits of people, groans and the sound of mud bubbles being blown.

And Bert thought of his mum, as he try to hold his insides inside. Stuck in a crater, leaking from his middle, he thought of his mum and his sisters and of his uncles. And the shopkeeper. And all the hands he hadn’t held. And he hoped they’d remember.

He hoped they’d think of him in time to come. Hoped they’d remember him, laughing, brave, remember what he’d given. He hoped they’d take a moment every now and then to think of him.

He hoped, most of all, that they’d remember him by having a self-aggrandising oaf get photos of himself taken while playing tug-of-war, so that he could become prime minister one day.

Yes, he hoped that most of all.

And then Bert died.


…A decapitated pig’s head.


The left prides itself on listening to people. We’re quick to notice men telling women that their experiences aren’t what they say they are. We’re attuned to the Islamophobic conflations that crop up in the media. We’re the first to concede that history often elides the testimonies of witnesses who fall outside the mainstream discourse. We’ve got a vocabulary of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, gaslighting to employ when we see rhetoric and privilege being used to elide people’s experiences.

We pride ourselves on hearing when someone is trying to tell us something.

Except when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn.

When an embattled minority tell us (on the whole) that they feel threatened not only by the people he associates with, but that they fear his leadership might pose an actual threat to their safety, we’re pretty quick to issue a “Calm down, dear,” and move on.

Why? And let’s whisper this: MIght it be… Because they’re Jews?

Not all Jews, of course, (that’s usually our first defensive fallback) but we have to ask how comfortable are avoiding clear concern by pointing at Miriam Margolyes and Michael Rosen and saying “See? See?”

When 67% of Jews are worried about something, it’s no better an argument to point to the 13% who are unconcerned by it than it would be to dismiss the concerns of women fearful of being attacked by pointing out that some women aren’t afraid of it.

And yet we do.

We dismiss the experiences of decent, thoughtful, sensitive people, people we like and respect because they’re Jews. And the left is the champion of the underdog. And Jews no longer fit the underdog narrative.

(It seems redundant to point out here that, of course, Jews never have. That’s how antisemitism works. The basis of antisemitism as far back as we can follow it is always that the Jews are more affluent than others, that they’re disproportionately represented in the media, or in banking, and that you should envy their position. The attack on Jews is always that they’re too powerful…)

At the base of this is a suspicion that antisemitism isn’t a reality in Britain today, or, if it is, it is one so vanishingly small as to make it irrelevant.

So let’s look at some facts:

It’s at this point that someone will point out that there are more Islamophobic hate crimes than there are antisemitic ones (as if that were relevant, as if we only have the mental space to deal with one hatred at a time). That’s true, of course, because the Muslim population is much larger than the Jewish population. Looked at per head, the situation is very different.

If you are a Jew you are six times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than if you are a Muslim

Per capita, Jews are the most attacked minority in the country. Underdog enough for you, now?

Be aware of what you’re doing every time your response to having antisemitism pointed out to you is to point out that other kinds of attacks happen, too. You’re the guy arguing against shelters for battered women because there aren’t any shelters for battered men.

That’s the context of people’s worries about Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the context of their fears, and it won’t do to brush them aside.

In fact, let’s concede that the fear that a Corbyn leadership would bring a rise in antisemitism might be something we didn’t notice, even if it were true. Because we’re not noticing it now.

At the same time, let’s ask ourselves how antennae so attuned to picking up dog whistles about Islam are failing so utterly to notice the antisemitism that is growing around us.

It breaks my heart that to find good sources about the incidents above I’ve had to link to The Daily Mail and Breitbart. When the “Hurrah For The Blackshirts,” “stateless Jews pouring in from every port,” Hitler-congratulating Daily Mail is doing better at covering antisemitic attacks prominently and ferociously than other parts of the media, we have to change the way we behave. And quickly.

There are two issues: that of Corbyn’s past associations and what they signify, and that of whether his election will promote antisemitism. I disagree with the ‘concerned’ Jewish community about both of those things. But explaining why is for a different article, one that isn’t about listening to people: Gentilesplaining Corbynmania.

Here’s the thing. If I’m wrong (and they’re right), I won’t be the one who suffers. They will. It’s something I can afford to take a punt on because I’m playing with the house’s money, and shouldering no risk myself.

That’s why it’s incumbent on me, and everyone else who has supported Jeremy Corbyn, to show that antisemitism does concern us, that we are listening, and that we will do whatever we can to combat it.

Yes, it shouldn’t need saying. But it does.

Yes, we shouldn’t have to say it. But primary school children shouldn’t have to go to swastika-daubed schools under armed protection where they will learn to hide under their desks in case of gunfire, at risk simply because of their faith.

We have to say that this cannot be right, that this cannot be the 21st-century, that this cannot be Britain.

We have to write about it, shout about it, and challenge it wherever we see it, and leave no one in any doubt that antisemitism will no more pass unchallenged than racism or sexism or homohpobia.

Oh, and should tell the world, proudly, that we are Zionists.

Bear with me, lefties.

The term ‘Zionism’ has become conflated with expansionist, authoritarian Likudnik policies. This lazy alteration of the meaning of the word has been accepted by the right because it lets them lay claim to a whole movement, and by the left because it burnishes its anti-imperialist credentials.

It’s also become a word in which antisemitism lurks.

We’ve all seen it. We’ve all seen the way that criticism of Israel can drift into unacknowledged antisemitism, usually blanketed by the word ‘Zionist’.

When we let a word which means “the belief that the Jews have a right to a homeland, and that homeland is in Israel” become something else, something vague, we give away the conceptual space inside it, only to find it inhabited now by extremists of all stripes.

We on the left use “anti-Zionist” as an amorphous badge to signify anti-imperialism, a broad critique of Western intervention in the Middle East, support for the human rights of Palestinians or any number of other things depending on what day it is. As such a broad, hazy, umbrella term, it’s unsurprising that such a vague term also includes people who are just “anti-Jew.”

Let’s examine, for a second, what actually being an “anti-Zionist” might mean. It means you don’t accept that the Jewish population of Israel have a right to a state.

In fact it means you’re against their having a state, and you’re against their being in Israel (or whatever you’re intending to call it when Israel isn’t there). The problem with that position, of course, is that Israel is there, and if your future solutions involve it not being there, the implications of that are pretty horrific.

It means you’re aiming to displace 6 million people, almost half of the world’s Jews. Charitably. The other option is that you’re aiming for them to be dead.

If you have no qualms about destroying the lives of 6 million Jews you may not be as un-antisemitic as you’d like to think.

No matter what your opinions on the history of Israel, to be an anti-Zionist now is call for (or, at the very least, express ambivalence to) its non-existence now. That’s what you’re saying about yourself when you adopt the term “anti-Zionist”, and I say this not so much to berate others as clarify thinking I’ve had to do to clarify years of muddiness.

If you support Jeremy Corbyn it’s time to stand up and say you’re a Zionist. Even if you hadn’t realised it.

Zionism, of course, has many strands. It encompasses peace-makers and warmongers, liberals and conservatives, the religious and the secular, Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky.

It may have become a loaded term, but all of us who wouldn’t countenance a peace process based on Israel’s not existing are Zionists.

Not until we’ve said it can we stand side by side with the Liberal Zionists (who, incidentally, want an end to the settlements, the occupation and a free and sovereign Palestine) as they campaign against discriminatory laws within Israel and work to prevent displaced people being dispossessed of their land.

Not until we’ve said it can we sponge off the stain of years of lazily sharing a term with people devoted to corrupting its meaning.

Not until we’ve said it can we properly understand the range of opinions and experiences and lives that there are in Israel and begin to come to some understanding of what a nuanced, complicated, almost-certainly-unsatisfactory-but-workable peace process would look like.

Not until we’ve said it can we look  our friends in the eye, hold their hands and say: “If I’m wrong about this, I’m sorry, and I’ll be right here with you, fighting.”

So I’m a Zionist.

It just took Jeremy Corbyn to make me realise it.


If you live in or around London, or work there, or know anyone who does, your social media will have been drenched in anger at the Tube strike this morning, along with the occasional voice popping up with: “I was saying Boo-urns.”

Anyway, many people’s first instinct is to blame the strikers (even if they couched in terms of support for nurses / teachers / anyone except tube drivers), so I thought I’d explain why mine isn’t.

To begin, I must declare an interest: I intend to use the Night Tube. I’d rather the person in control of the metal drunk-ferry burrowing its way through subterranean London at peak suicide time felt well-rested and recompensed and able to concentrate on getting me home without being dead.

They’re actually fighting for your pay and conditions

Wait, what? No they’re not? I don’t earn that much.

In a country where more people are employed with better pay and conditions it puts EVERYONE in a better position to negotiate with their employer. The problem with this strike is that rail unions are pretty much the only ones that have been doing their job for the last 30 years.

When unions don’t fight for pay and conditions, they are pushed down, because there are lots of people wanting them pushed down. And if they’re pushed down in one industry, they will be pushed down in another.

Don’t believe me?

The main argument you’ll hear against the Tube drivers is that other people in other industries don’t earn that much. Because their pay hasn’t risen in line with inflation since the seventies, whereas the RMT has made sure Tube drivers’ has.

The low pay of others is used as a stick to lower the pay of everyone else.

However, in a world where everyone has decent pay and conditions is much more difficult for employers to make people accept painful changes in working conditions because there are lots of other places they can go. Well-paid work that offers good benefits is contagious, it gives you options. It gives you the chance to say “Sod this. I’m going to be a train driver.”

It’s part of the fight for a better world

I know, I know, it’s terribly unfashionable to want a better world nowadays, and even more gross and decrepit to actually try and do something about it. I’m old. Deal with it.

Which is what many people are telling the strikers:


If the real world sucks, we shouldn’t get over it. We should fight it. That’s what you do when something sucks. That’s what you’re meant to do.

That’s what being a decent human being is. Not getting over the things that suck, and not getting over the things that suck for other people as well as for yourself.

I’m tired of the hideously unproductive people of Nepal coming whining to me every time one of their mountains falls on their heads. Welcome to life in the Himalayas. It sucks. Get over it.

If we get over it every time something sucks then things will just continue to suck and then begin to suck more and more as the people who are making it suck see us getting over it every time something sucks.

(Incidentally, that “good luck” comment pretty much shows why, if every union fought like this everyone would get paid more. Because you wouldn’t need luck. Those jobs would be available.)

What is a strike?

I appreciate that none of this will convince people who fundamentally think that certain people shouldn’t be entitled to be consulted when their working hours are changed drastically overnight.

But it is an important part of a free market that when someone wants to renegotiate a contract, by, say, making you now essentially nocturnal for a significant part of your life, that you should have a say in whether that’s an acceptable amendment to your contract.

Because that’s the way contracts work.

You don’t get to change them and at the same time expect the other party to continue working as they did before. It’s a process of negotiation, and as a working person one of your negotiating tools is your right not to work.

It’s your key tool. Your right to say, “Nope, I’m not doing that. It doesn’t pay enough, it’s too dangerous, it will ruin my home life. I’m not doing that for that.”

And if an employer can come up with an offer you are willing to work for, then that’s just dandy.

It’s fundamental to human dignity, to the idea of control over your own life to be able to decide what is worth you doing for what money. To enter into a contract as an equal.

“Would you do this for this much?”



“Would you do this for this much?”


That’s the way free markets are meant to work. It’s the way life is meant to work. It’s about having the ability to dispense with the one asset you really have – your time on this planet – in the way you decide will be most beneficial for you and your family.

And every assault on pay, or conditions, for anyone in any industry narrows the options for us all. It means there are fewer jobs that you would find worth doing for what they pay, you have fewer options.

That’s why I support today’s strike, and that’s why I support every strike.

The good thing about UKIP is they’ll talk about the things no other politician will talk about. They’re not afraid to discuss the elephant in the room. Finally, they’ve got the politicians talking about immigration.

In 2002, when David Blunkett called for the Sangatte refugee camp to be closed because of people trying to cross the Channel, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2003, when David Blunkett said our school were being “swamped” with immigrants, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2004, when Jack Straw said he felt uncomfortable when recent immigrants wore the veil to constituency surgeries, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2005, when the Conservative Party had a general election poster that said “It’s not racist to want a cap on immigration”, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2006, when John Reid said the immigration service was not “fit for purpose” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2008, when Jacqui Smith said that immigrants would have to pass a citizenship test before being allowed to stay, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2009, when Gordon Brown promised “British jobs for British people” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2010, when David Cameron campaigned on the basis of an upper limit to immigration, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
From 2011 to 2015, when Nigel Farage appeared on Question Time 13 times, we just weren’t talking about immigration.

Now – FINALLY – we can at last start talking about immigration. Thanks, UKIP…

Hey, everyone! Remember back in the old days, when I used to write a #bbcqt fact sheet for UsVsTh3m every week?

Well, unfortunately, UsVsTh3m is dead, and its corpse is currently passing painfully through the digestive tracts of vultures and parasites, so that can’t happen any more.



I just do one of my own! So here it is. Your new and improved Question Time Fact Sheet. Keep it to hand as the horror begins…

Cross Mary Creagh

Cross Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh (Lab, MP for Wakefield, Shadow Secretary for International Development)

  • She’s a Labour leadership candidate supported by an MP with perhaps the best name in the whole House of Commons, Thangam Debbonaire. (Source)
  • From 2007-9 she was Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe. (Source)
  • As a councillor she started the longest-ever investigation by the Standards Board. A tribunal called her an “inventive witness, lacking in balanced judgement and one who was prepared to make assumptions about the honesty and integrity of others without any proper basis.” (Source)
  • Her children are called Clement and Beatrice, either after Clement Attlee and Beatrice Webb, or Clement Freud and Princess Beatrice. We’ll just never know. (Source)
  • Is a keen cyclist. (Source)

In summary: Unknown quantity, who perhaps deserves to remain such.

What to shout at the telly: “I preferred Ronnie and Reggie,” “velocipede wanker,” “Mary Crain’t, more like.”

Completely Norman Lamb

Completely Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb (Lib Dem, MP for North Norfolk)

  • Is a candidate for the Lib Dem leaderhsip, who wants to legalise cannabis. (Source)
  • Worked as a parliamentary researcher for Greville Janner in the early 1980s. Yes, THAT Greville Janner… (Source)
  • In January 2015 announced £497,000 from the Coatal Communities Fund for his constituency. 80% of the grants from the fund set up by Danny Alexander went to Tory or Lib Dem constituencies. (Source)
  • Was PPS to both Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg. (Source)
  • He invested £10,000 in the career of Tinchy Strider and claimed he and his wife were “living the grime scene.” (Source)

In summary: Lembit’s sensible twin, cut from his shoulder at birth.

What to shout at the telly: “Fucking quisling Lib Dem bastard,” “Smiling herb-goon,” “North Norfolk Digiturd.”


It’s only Justine Bleedin’ Greening

Justine Greening (Con, MP for Putney, Secretary of State for International Development)

  • Was an accountant with PriceWaterhouse Cooper, Glaxo SmithKline and Centrica before entering parliament. (Source)
  • Was found to be the MP who is 9th best value-for-money according to the unbiased bods at the Adam Smith Institute in 2009. In 2012. The Adam Smith Institute was later paid £37 million by Greening’s department, the DfID to “promote the free market in the third world”. Coincidentally. (Source)
  • Failed to vote on Syria because she was too busy chatting to notice the division bell, Or did she? (Source: Wikipedia)
  • Is currently the boss of Grant Shapps, who has been alleged to be Westminster-based Wikipedia editor Contribsx. Contribsx is the editor who added the information above about Greening missing a vote because she was too busy chatting to Wikipedia. (Source)
  • Opposes a third runway at Heathrow. (Source)

In summary: The daughter of whom Rick Wakeman is most proud.

What to shout at the telly: “Broken Toby jug, full to the brim with mouse corpses,” “Lispy, brittle-eyed gauleiter,” “Scowl owl.”

kirbynormal (1)

Jill Kirby (writer, Conservative blogger)

  • She was Director of the Centre for Policy Studies 2007-2011 (Source)
  • She blogs for Conservative Home (Source)
  • Wants to “introduce proper welfare sanctions to end the incentives to fecklessness” (Source)
  • Doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page (Citation Needed)

In summary: Like an Eastern European ersatz Melanie Phillips for when their factories couldn’t shurn out enough actual Melanie Phillipses.

What to shout at the telly: “Venomous hell twig,” “the creeping hand of death,” “jill Dando’s ghost.”


Susie Boniface (journalist, Fleet Street Fox)

  • Gatecrashed Katie Price’s wedding to Alex Reid. (Source)
  • Won the London Press Club award for Blog Of The Year in 2013. (Source)
  • Was accused by Sarah Ditum of “hysterical misogyny.” (Source)
  • Until 2006 was married to a Sun journalist. (Source)

In summary: Human word-user.

What to shout at the telly: “At least someone’s still getting paid by The Mirror!” (Or maybe that will just be me…)

Bear Hug Card, (2014)

So, this is a thing i do now…

I’ve always loved woodcuts and linocuts. I love the mixture of the rustic and the elegant, where swooping curves can meet rough lines that feel like they’ve been hewn from the very stuff of the earth (because they have).


Felix Vallotton - Portrait Of An Old Man

Felix Vallotton – Portrait Of An Old Man

I love the huge slabs of light and dark, and the fact that it seems like an art with no messing about. It’s art which is trying to communicate in the most direct way possible, through the most primitive means we have, and yet the results can be unbearably delicate.

Dig Linocut (2012), Etsy

I love the fact that children can do it, that you can do it with a potato if you don’t have lino or wood or any cutting tools sharper than a kitchen knife. I love the fact that block printing is probably the first art form you’ll be introduced to after finger painting, and the tactile sensations of squashing ink on something, pressing it on paper, and then peeling the paper off remain as satisfying as they did when you were three.

Valentine Lino Print block, Mangle Prints (2013)

Valentine Lino Print block, Mangle Prints (2013)

So, because I love block printing, and because writing often means days of waiting for feedback on a script, and performing often means your days are pretty empty even when your evenings are full, at the end of last year I decided to try linocutting.

The initial kit of plastic cutters and a bit of lino was reasonably inexpensive, and the more I looked at linocuts, and the more I thought about them, the more I thought I could maybe do them. And that that wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do with any free time I had.

After Christmas (where I learned the importance of carving the letters and numbers backwards)…

Remember to cut your words and letter backwards, kids!

Remember to cut your words and numbers backwards, kids!

I eventually made some that I was happy with, and decided to pop them online to see if there was any response. There was.

Now, little more than six months later, I have lots of designs, my cards are selling online (at Linoceros Cards), and you’ll also find them in nine shops around the south-east. I get to spend slightly more time than I’d envisaged covered in ink and looking places to stick cards so that they can dry.

Catch Of The Day

What started as something to do to see if I could has become something that I’ve now got to decide if I want to devote more time and resources to. It’s still telling jokes, but it’s telling them in pictures, now, rather than words.

I Will Have Your Chips (2014)

Anyway, so if I’ve been a little quiet lately (and the infrequent blog updates suggest I have), it’s because I’ve been quietly wasting flooring material, and stabbing myself in the thumbs with tiny V-shaped knives.

And I love that now, too.

(If you’d like a voucher for some of my cards, you can get £5 free here.)

Yesterday, Sir Ian went to the UKIP Carnival. What he found may mean you never taunt racists in the same way again!

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