My Own Hypocrisy.

I have been a social media slut for 8 years. I joined Facebook then a while later, Twitter. I innocently thought it would be a good way to chat to old friends, make new friends and keep an eye on happenings around the world.

Maybe this is the motivation of many of us that join the social media world? Maybe we have an idealistic view that it can be a place to share memories, chat with good folks and exchange thoughts and pictures?

Eight years on, I have fallen out and back  in love with Twitter. I have fallen out of love permanently with Facebook but still maintain a presence. I share photos from my Instagram account. Nearly all are of landscapes/nature/home-baking. Nothing to incite a riot or complain about.

I watched the Graham Norton interview with Hilary Clinton yesterday. It really got me thinking about how such an online platform as Facebook can be used to peddle dangerous mistruths. How those mistruths are taken up and used to justify outright lies. How a country can use it as a means of interfering with the democratic process of another. It got me thinking. How many times have I read an article without checking the source? How keen am I to agree with one that confirms my suspicions/fears/prejudices?

I only stay on Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with family and old friends. I get their feeds and they get mine. Well I assume they do unless they don’t follow me! I have been very preachy, very opinionated and downright angry at times. These occasions may have been sparked by an article that has no basis in fact, heavily skewed to besmirch another. I am a hypocrite.

The USA has a president that tweets like a parrot with tourettes. He introduces legislation in 140 characters. he picks fights with other world leaders. He is incapable of being challenged to the validity of his ramblings. Any challenge is seen as ‘fake’ or ‘sad’. He has reduced the most powerful political office on earth to a freak show run by an idiot. The term statesmanlike should reflect the manner in which a world leader conducts his or herself. The ability to think before you speak. The realisation that your comments and responses carry a great responsibility.

His election campaign used social media to spread falsehoods about its opponents. It took the concept of attack ads to a new level. to recruit another state to do its dirty work and then repeat it was terrifying. His response to the allegations is to dismiss staff that challenge him, to just call it ‘fake news’. He threatens, bullies, shouts over opponents because he thinks thats what his people want to see. His opponent also used social media but didn’t employ outsiders to spread lies about the other candidates. Well at least I think they didn’t!

So when I read an article about how the British government handles an issue such as Brexit or universal credit, how can I be sure it is a factual analysis of the issue? Should I be reading all sides of the discussion then making up my mind? should I be forced to read the Daily Mail or Sun to get an opposing view of immigration, Brexit, the management of the economy? Where does this mistrust end? Can I trust the BBC/SKY/ITV/Channel 4 news to report the news in an unbiased way. Will I always go the network, newspaper that best reflects my own political views?!

The solution is in one way, simple. Just avoid social media altogether and stop watching the news. Blissful ignorance. If I don’t read or watch it, I can’t be influenced. That is the ostrich approach. The other alternative is to filter my twitter feed to those that avoid any political/news event. That however is an impossibility as everyone dips their toe into a news story.

The former BBC newscaster Martyn Lewis wrote an article in 1993 in which he suggested media outlets give equal time to positive news items. His argument was that ‘the bigger the tragedy, the more images of the disaster, the more prominence it acquires’. I have been compelled to tweet or post on Facebook when something terrible happens. It doesn’t make the disaster any less disastrous but just adds a comment on it. Is that comment really needed? Who cares what I think about it. It is the social media equivalent of standing around in a crowd watching a building burn down. It still burns down but at least you were there to offer an opinion about how they could have prevented the fire or two terrible it looks.

I was in the newly refurbished Piece Hall in Halifax a few weeks ago. A woman was pushing an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair across the new paved centre. She didn’t see a step. The man very slowly fell out of the wheelchair. The woman was understandably very upset. Three people immediately came to help and the situation was sorted. An older middle aged fourth man however, came over to just inform the woman that she would have gone round the step as there was a ramp. He offered no assistance, just wanted to tell her where she went wrong.

Maybe I am as guilty as that man. I don’t do anything to rectify the worlds wrongs, I just comment on them. I have been actively involved in conservation and am a member of political party. I do support charities and have petitioned my MP for changes in legislation.

I am however, still a hypocrite. Maybe the answer is to keep our opinions to ourselves. Read the papers, watch the news and process the information. Maybe I should be less Trump?



Desperate Measures

The General Election was interesting wasn’t it? Interesting would be one word for it. It hasn’t delivered the one word she grasped following the result , certainty. Neither will it show fairness, honesty, integrity or any other one upbeat word she utters.

It certainly isn’t the two words Theresa May hoped for, Strong and Stable. She touted that the progressive parties working together would lead to a Coalition of Chaos. Well we have one except she owns it now.

Ok, I am a Labour Party member and lifelong  Labour voter. We didn’t get a majority and are not even the biggest party. We did however defy pretty much all political commentators expectations. Our membership mobilised tremendously. We offered a radical, progressive and unlike the Tories, costed manifesto. We gained 30 seats and have created dozens of very marginal Tory seats.

Yes, the Tory press tried their hardest to wipe the Labour Party off the map with scare tactics, smears and lies. The Conservatives shot themselves in both feet, their shins and most of the way up to their spine (if they actually possessed one). The electorate spoke and gave at best a tepid and at worst damning evaluation of Theresa Mays decision to have a snap election.

Theresa May has turned a small commons majority into and minority government. Let’s be clear about why I say Theresa May and not the Conservative party. It was her decision. She put her name above her party on all party slogans and leaflets. She decided to make it a presidential election, a straight fight between her and Jeremy Corbyn. This has ‘backfired spectacularly’ to quote BBC political editor Laura Kuennsberg.

Her next move was to seek support from Northern Ireland. She is attempting to make a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. The party of bigots, homophobic, terrorist supporting, bible bashing extremists. She risks crashing the Anglo Irish agreement into a cliff face. No UK Prime Minister with any clue about the history and politics of Ireland has ever come out untainted by siding with one side.

The press and Tory party had the temerity to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of supporting terrorism because he met with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams. And now they cosy up to a party linked with protestant paramilitaries who have murdered in the name of a warped sense of justice in just the same way that the IRA did. There is no justification for terrorist murder in any form.

Having sucked up to the right wing of Ulster, she reshuffles her loaded deck of cabinet  cards. She keeps her friends close and enemies closer. Gove returns, Johnson remains. She dare not oust any big hitters for fear they may stab her in the back.

This is mainly just news.

The point is that she has learned nothing.

She has listened to no one.

She does not appear to show any remorse or humility. She is purely and simply corrupted by power and control. Power and control mean more to her than the country’s best interests. She does not care if the population, the reputation of the country abroad or her own party suffer.

She is for the moment, Prime Minister.

She has been found out though.

She can never be trusted again. The sycophants who surround her, should never again be trusted. The few prominent Tories who have spoken up against her have been ignored by her. She is out of touch with every aspect of her support.

We must remain calm and grow our membership base. We must turn the Labour Party into an even more popular, progressive mass movement. Our membership moves quickly towards One Million members. The party has engaged the young like never before.

The Tories have had their day. Their cruel, inept management of the UK has been exposed. There are many moderate Tories wishing for a return to the moderate, even some could say compassionate conservatism of pre Thatcher.

She once said that there is no such thing as society. Well I tell you what Mrs May, you better realise very quickly that there is.

And we’re pretty angry now.



A Nation Divided.

The United Kingdom. Four countries joined/linked/coerced/invaded Ok whatever the historical connection. The sixth largest island on earth but still pretty small compared to many of our European fiends, tiny compared to USA or Australia. Under 900 miles from top to bottom and less than 150 miles at its widest. If you are rushing to Google in order to prove me wrong on the facts then you may as well stop reading this. 

I was born in York. An ancient city which was once briefly the capital of the Roman Empire. It’s in Yorkshire which is an amalgamation of 3 ridings or nowadays several counties and authorities. It starts about 170 odd miles north of London and 150 miles south of Edinburgh approximately. I grew up in Kent which is south east of London. I have a hybrid accent that reflects both counties. I can be understood in both hopefully. This is all background so you know where my rant is going. 

I have no interest in defining where ‘Up North’ or ‘Darn Sarf’ start or end. I don’t care if the midlands begin at Northampton or Coventry. I don’t think southerners are soft or northerners tight. I don’t exercise much energy wondering if all Geordies go out on the lash without coats whatever the weather. You see it’s all so tiresome. 

We live on an island which views it’s own citizens with suspicion and mystery. Some people I grew up with have never ventured as far north as I live now. I know folks who have never been to Scotland. This requires no passport, ferries or even flights. You can drive into Scotland and even use English money. It was not uncommon that before the invention of the motor car , some villagers would never travel further than the boundaries of their own village. Now much has changed since the 1890’s but that mentality still prevails in some. So there is maybe no surprise that the home nations occasionally view each other with suspicion born of ignorance. 

Division has existed throughout the centuries. The division of wealth and its lack of distribution. The division of work. The old industries were centred where the raw materials were to be found. These are largely defunct with thousands left to reinvent themselves and their region. However many schemes set up to decentralise government and finance from London, the capital retains the vast majority of both. It’s the capital of Great Britain and England although Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast are national capitals. That United Kingdom controlled hundreds of miles away from millions of its citizens. Admittedly the USA is governed from Washington DC but it’s formation is a nation of states. The UK is a nation of nations annexed by England. The English took control of their neighbours over the last few hundred years. By fair means and otherwise. 

We stand at a crucial point in our history. The UK has narrowly voted to leave the European Union. Scotland and Northern Ireland actually voted to remain in the EU but our lords and masters in Westminster fail to recognise the validity of this argument. This is driving more wedges between our nation of nations. That is also driving wedges between itself and our partners on the continent of Europe. 

Far right politicians across the European Union have seized the lurch away by the UK as a means of further fracturing the EU. This organisation was set up to partly help heal the wounds caused by the Second World War. The conservative and right wing politicians use Winston Churchill as their figurehead but he was an advocate of European Union. He fought against his own party’s insular suspicion of Europe because he wanted it to learn from the lessons of division and nationalism. 

Whilst I still can, I shall proclaim myself to be a proud European. To see what unites us and what we can achieve by working collectively. Our diversity is not a reason for mistrust but a reason to celebrate. That mistrust creates fear, bigotry and hatred. The UK feels a nation divided more so than in all my 50 plus years on this planet. We surely are grown up enough to throw our arms out and share with all. 

But what do I know. The little Englanders are in charge, dragging the islands further towards the orange tyrant over the Atlantic and away from friends a mere 22 miles away in mainland Europe. We are returning to our village mentality where mistrust of our neighbours is preferable to inclusive cooperation. I just hope the regression is worth it for you small minded insular nationalists. 

The President’s New Suit

“Nice suit Mr President”

“It’s a great suit. I always wear great suits”

“Very bold to go with white sir”

“It’s grey. Always wear grey suits. It’s my colour”

“But excuse me sir, I think you are mistaken”

“Grey suits are business like. That’s why I only wear grey”


“But sir if you look in the mirror, You will see it’s white”

“I will see grey because it is”

“Sorry but sir, mirrors only show a reflection of what is”

“My mirrors show me wearing grey suits. You are mistaken. You are talking fake suits”

“I only report what I see sir and you are wearing a white suit”

“One of us is lying son and that’s you”





By Definition

The world is a very complex thing. It’s a complex planet with billions of processes carrying on every second. The structure is formed through millions of years of change. Humans have been shaped by environment, the ability to to reason or not. Civilisations have grown and collapsed due to a myriad of events. And now we are here in the 21st century still trying to make sense of it all.

Those who believe they have the answers, who know what label to put on themselves and what that label requires them to behave must be happy. They know what they are and what they stand for. They know who they dislike, fear, mistrust, oppose. They are clear about how the rest of us who are less certain should think, behave, respond.

But what actually defines who we are? What is it that assigns us a label, a persona, a group within we can sit?

Political affiliation is seen as an easy grouping to be assigned. After all if we have the ability to vote freely and exercise that vote, we must therefore identify with the core aims of a political party or movement. This doesn’t always follow. People will vote differently at different stages of their lives. People will switch allegiances according to the promises or rhetoric espoused by a party at an election. Age is supposed to affect how one votes. The older you get, the more conservative with a small ‘c’ you become. Maybe however it may be that you become more entrenched in your opinions?

The current new world order is veering towards extremism. Intolerance, fear and hatred and becoming state sponsored. The world after 1945 sought by and large to cooperate. The rise of communism did not necessarily help with this nor did many brutal dictatorships but communism in itself is not a system of extremism. It was merely used as such by the ruling elite of these countries. People power eventually pulled back the iron curtain. The void left by many decades of state control has had its many downsides and power is still in the hands of ruling elites in many former soviet block countries. Power has also been in the hands of global corporations, social classes and dominant political movements in too called democratic countries who sought to lecture the eastern block about freedom and democracy. It was easy in the 1950’s to see communists as dangerous because the arguments were often presented so simplistically. Indeed the rise of far right extremism leading to the election of Donald Trump and the far right in Europe has returned to the language of fear simply presented. The millions left worse off by global corporate greed have turned to the loudest voices claiming to represent those disaffected voters. Many of these voters stuck slavishly to old political allegiances despite their own circumstances deteriorating at the hands of the few.

I have always been a consistent voter. I have rarely switched because I believed my countries best interests were best served by my party of choice. I am no longer that person however. I find myself more liberal and less entrenched in party politics now. Having said that, you will probably guess my politics are not conservative in any way! It does not however determine who I am. It merely asks me to question what do I believe in?

Religion is a vastly influential cornerstone in millions of people lives. You are often assigned a religion at birth by the very religion that then demands your allegiance and unquestioning devotion. Some come to religion or change religious affiliation in adulthood. Many find a comfort in an order that prescribes a way of living and a code of ethics to adhere to. Atheism is feared by some as there is no real value system based on faith. The vast majority of religions at their heart claim to promote peace, love and cooperation but yet again, those in power seek to use selected doctrines to promote more extreme versions of their faith. You cannot blame the faith for acts of barbarism carried out in its name. A wooden stick is not inherently violent unless its used in a violent act. I don’t follow a religion but I have faith in my fellow human beings to eventually do the right thing. This can be tested and I have done so myself on occasions. My faith or perceived lack of one does not however define who I am.

Gender and sexuality can be a minefield of continental proportions.  Gender and sexuality are fundamental to the core of humans and centuries of persecution because of supposed differences in gender assignment and sexuality have made the battle for mainstream acceptance extremely tough. To be someone who realises they are gay or that their assigned gender at birth is incorrect must feel at odds with a world still predominantly heterosexual and gender pre determined. The issues and struggles are massive and should never be belittled. However, I do not wish to be known by my sexuality or gender. It isn’t who I am. It is merely a part of the whole who I am. I don’t take my gender or sexuality for granted but have never experienced what it would be like to be otherwise.

I am a slightly overweight, white middle aged man. I am a writer, poet, parent and partner. The writer, poet part is what I do. That is what defines me. Being a parent and a partner are states of being. Once you have children, you are seen as someones dad or mum. Your children mainly see you as their parent and rarely as a man or woman, conservative, liberal, heterosexual, homosexual person. These are not what constitutes being their parent. Being a partner is a state of being. Yes we have choices in that and we are seen as our partners other half, significant other, boyfriend/girlfriend. They are however states of being.

I prefer to be known by what I do. By what I contribute to the world and how I help others and the world around me. I could introduce myself by saying “Hi I’m John. I’m a straight middle aged atheist, liberal” . What does that tell you about what I do in the world? It hangs labels round my neck for others to form judgements about me. I accept others have different political beliefs to me, that others have different sexual and gender assignments, that their religion is different to mine. I do not mistrust those people by their labels but more by how they act and what they do. People can judge me by the actions I take or don’t take. It is far harder to run away from the consequences of your actions or inactions. To hide behind a label of which version of god I hold up, to adhere to the doctrines of the party I vote for does not define me.

Now can we get on being decent people and making a world that helps each other instead of worrying which side of the fence you wish to stand on and why the other side is wrong. It’s just different. If the world was made up of white middle aged, liberal, atheistic men, it would crumble. Difference is wonderful, enriching, enlightening.




Worrying Times

Can’t put the news away

Can’t not read the words

Hiding from the TV doesn’t work

When fear is all around


Transfixed by hatred, pain, terror

Hoping for glimmers of hope

Mesmerised by mans inhumanity

When fear assumes command


Rise up all you good people

Should loud and long and true

Make freedom and love your targets

Now worrying times are here