Monthly Archives: April 2008

Karma Police and the fashion failure of fascism

Karma police, arrest this girl, her Hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us

Radiohead, Karma police

For reasons that may (or may not) become clear, the Daily Mail made me think of these lyrics today. As it has done through the years, thankfully a mite more critically this time, the paper has done a piece on the fascist du jour Richard “Dick” Barnbrook. The main revelation which I did not know was that he is in the final stages of divorcing a woman he met during his “Derek Jarman gay porn” years. Not terribly impressed with his politics, she says:

“In a way, I wanted to join the police to redress the karmic imbalance in the world caused by my husband’s views.”

Barnbrook has also been in the News of the World this week for two-timing his ballerina fiance with a nurse from Finland. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that NotW failed to use the headlines “a kick in the Balkans” or “Finns ain’t what they used to be”.

Possibly the most disappointing thing about the state of British fascism (apart from, of course, the fact that they are racist, violent thugs who are improbably gaining electoral support at the moment), is their sartorial inelegance. Oswald Mosley may have dressed his blackshirts up like Doctor Who villains, but at least they knew what a fucking iron was.

Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts

Richard Barnbrook as Adolf HitlerOne thing you can say about Barnbrook is that with his brown suit and already suggestive fringe, at least he makes it easy for people to caricature him.

Frankly though, I prefer these fellers.

Boris is punk’d

Yesterday, I kept getting twitter messages about “Boris and Torche on tour.” Naturally, I assumed this meant that in order to avoid the homophobic brush, Mr Johnson had been going round Soho with members of the Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality (which appears to have folded given that I can’t find any evidence of their existence other than an archive). However, it turns out to be a couple of punk bands. Who knew?

Matt O’Connor and the English Democrats split

Long time readers of this blog will be aware that Quaequam Blog! is a great friend of the English Nationalist movement (and indeed nationalism in general). So it brings me great sadness to have to report to you that a schism has emerged between the English Democrats and their candidate for London Mayor, Matt “fathers4justice” O’Connor:

The problems O’Connor discovered were that there was no party machine in London as promised, no advertising budget as promised, and they were economical with the facts about whether we’d be funded by backers. His recent party election broadcast which he organised also had amendments made without his knowledge.

He also struggled with an organisation that didn’t share his ideas and vision as evidenced in the difference between O’Connor’s official www.voteenglish.org site and the main party site.

On one occasion he was called racist and anti-Semitic by a senior member – a claim O’Connor described as ‘absurd’. He is also profoundly disappointed that they are now deliberately trying to smear him whilst at the same time the party was happy for him to stand.

Said O’Connor this morning, ‘It is sad but inevitable that they are trying to cover up their own internal problems. They did not deliver on their part of the agreement. It is extremely regrettable that this happened at this stage but I cannot stay in the party where people say things like that or where we have no sensible funding. I also had a clear vision to raise the issue of an English Parliament which they didn’t share.’

Nadine Taylor, Matt’s Campaign Manager resigned several weeks ago because she could not work with the level of incompetence within the party. O’Connor recognises now “that I should have listened to her advice”.

‘Descending to abusing somebody who campaigned in the Anti-Apartheid movement would be laughable if it were not so offensive. I am truly sorry for the good men and women in the party that this happened and while I wish the party every success, my record speaks for itself. Fathers 4 Justice has existed for the same amount of time as the English Democrats and F4J is a household name, with more members and wider recognition. The reality is that my resignation may generate more publicity for them than they achieved in the last six years.

‘Later this year I will launch a new campaign to raise issues like Tartan Taxes. Awareness is everything and they would probably stand to benefit from it.’

English Democrats Leader Robin Tilbrook was quick to issue a stern rebuttal:

I am obviously very disappointed that Matt O’Connor has issued this statement but I have to admit, not entirely surprised. What I now say is in sorrow, because Matt has done the cause some good but, contrary to what he now claims, Matt approached the English Democrats Party to put himself forward to be our mayoral candidate. In January he came to our National Council meeting in Leicester to urge us to select him and promised to “give the campaign 110%”!

During several discussions, he was made fully aware of the problems confronting a candidate for a smaller political party which is challenging the Establishment Parties – not least the problem of raising sufficient funds to fight an election campaign especially given the lack of media coverage of non Establishment candidates.

Within the bounds of our limited manpower and financial resources, Matt has been given 100% support by the English Democrats and many of our London members who have campaigned for him, and for England’s cause. Day in and day out, for many weeks the English Democrats have paid for all the campaign expenses that have been incurred. At no time has any funds been received from Matt.

Unfortunately – and this is not a subject I would have wanted to air publicly had it not been for the statement released by Matt O’Connor this morning seeking to blame us – it became apparent that there were problems with Matt’s candidacy arising from his own personal problems, not least following his disappearance from the campaign for several days, to the extent that I advised him to seek professional counselling regarding alcohol abuse, which he did. Matt did not disclose this problem to us when he urged us to select him as our candidate.

Despite this counselling, Matt again went missing last Saturday; – neither his office nor his partner seemed to know of his whereabouts and he could not be contacted at home. Indeed the Party prepared a statement last night raising concerns at his disappearance, as we were becoming genuinely worried for his safety.

Now, he has stated that he has resigned, although he cannot, of course, at this late stage, remove his name from the ballot paper.

This is all a great pity for Matt personally – he obviously has personal issues that he needs to address – but it also a pity for English Democrats’ candidates standing for the London Assembly – of which we have a full slate. They feel badly let down by Matt – but the campaign for English Democracy goes on!

The assembly campaign is running well and we have great hopes of getting a candidate elected, particularly on the party list, to campaign against the Establishment’s discrimination against London and England. The campaign for fair spending for London, an end to the Tartan Taxes, and real democracy and freedom of speech, will go on.

So I urge the people of London to give their vote, particularly their list vote, to the English Democrats. England’s cause is far bigger and more important than any one individual!

To lose one Mayoral candidate is unfortunate, but to lose two smacks of carelessness. Taking sides in this debate is like choosing between my children, but it has to be said that O’Connor brought with him a slickness that the English Democrats will miss. Whether that slickness was an unambiguously good thing however is another matter. Their recent PEB was a bile-filled attempt to resemble will.i.am’s homage to Barack Obama “Yes We Can” which ends up looking more like “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. And not in a good way. Can you say David Brent? Yes we can:

Sarcasm aside, it is hard to feel sympathy for a party and candidate whose sole objective seemed to be to piss off the Scots as much as possible, making exaggerated claims about “Tartan Taxes” and claiming that the only things the Scots ever gave to the world were “deep fried Mars Bars and Irn Bru.” The English Democrats also managed to cause me great amusement earlier this year by getting apoplectic about the SNP’s suggestion that Berwick might want to come back to Scotland, forgetting the fact that one year earlier they stood in the Welsh elections on a platform to do exactly the same thing with Monmouthshire. This is the disease of nationalism; the inability to see how bloody ridiculous you are being.

Constantwhine (can’t be arsed to think of a decent title)

I watched the film Constantine last night despite having avoided it for three years. It was three quid at Madame Zaza’s or whatever the Virgin Megastore is called these days, and I was at a loose end.

For those who don’t know, Constantine is based on the DC/Vertigo comic Hellblazer although the main character first appeared during Alan Moore’s iconic run on Swamp Thing. I’ve only recently started reading it again (I gave up when it was written by Americans and they used Manga-esque artists to draw it; I intended to pick it up when Mike Carey started scripting chores but never got around to it), but doggedly collected all the Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis scripted issues.

The important thing to know about him is that he is an occult grifter; a chancer and a gambler who is always a couple of steps away from damnation and who invariably ends up getting his mates killed. The tone is not so much Gothic as grungy. He survives pretty much by his wits alone and certainly doesn’t have any Batman or James Bond style gadgets. Superficial characteristics? John Constantine is blond and English (Liverpudlian technically); Alan Moore’s description of him was that he looks like Sting (this was in the early 80s when that was meant as a compliment). It is mostly set in London and he has a dimwit mate who is a cabbie called Chaz.

The film version? Constantine is the ultimate Californian, played as he is by the black haired Keanu Reeves. It is set in LA. His “assistant”, called Chas, is a cab driver but a sharp witted kid played by that bloke off the Transformers film. Oh, and eschewing the no gadgets rule, Constantine has a pair of ‘holy’ knuckle dusters, a ‘holy’ gun and a dragon flame flamethrower. It borrows liberally from both the Delano and Ennis runs of the comics (Papa Midnight, Gabriel, the lung cancer…) but twists each and every one of these features into something more generic and less fundamentally interesting compared with what can be found in the original. Far from the solo operator found in the comics, Constantine is recast as some kind of quasi-official exorcist who “deports” “half-breeds” on behalf of the Catholic church.

It is usual for film adaptations of comics to play fast and loose with the source material, yet the most successful (critically if not commercially) have been the ones which, if not in keeping with the details of the strip on which they are based, at least stick to the essence. Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman Begins and Ghostworld are all examples of this. There does seem to be something about Alan Moore creations which inspire filmmakers to simply take the piss out of the original fanbase. Constantine isn’t actually, in my opinion, the worst offender in this respect. From Hell was utterly horrendous, taking as it did a book which explored the subject of Jack the Ripper in a poetic, meta-fictional way and shoehorned it into a bog standard Hollywood thriller with Johnny Depp doing sub-Jack Sparrow impersonations.

At least there are no pretensions about Constantine. It’s trash and it knows it is. I found myself liking it a lot more than most of the other popcorn sub-horror trash I’ve put myself through in recent years. Both Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare are fabulous.

But why does Hollywood gorge itself on this hamburger when if it stuck more closely to the source material it could be feasting on steak? Yeesh. Watchmen is going to be so painful, isn’t it?

The 10p rate “compromise” stinks to me

Since I’ve been blogging light in recent weeks, I’ve not commented on the ongoing mess that Labour have got themselves into over the scrapping of the 10p rate of income tax. There isn’t much I can add that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. It is of course ludicrous that the Labour backbenchers have suddenly woken from their slumber on this issue, a year after we warned them what the implications of this reform would be. That the BBC have given the rebels such an easy ride for their johnny-come-lately rebellion is just par for the course.

But they do appear to have been bought off remarkably easily. The main measures for helping those hurt by scrapping the 10p rate seem like a total crock.

Let’s start with the retrospective raising of the winter fuel allowance. This is going to apply to all pensioners between 60 and 64, including my partner’s mother who is already roughly £50 a week month* better off due to her enjoying the full impact of cutting the basic rate from 22p to 20p. This is just throwing money around at random in the hope that some of it will stick.

And then there is the pledge to raise the national minimum wage for younger workers. First of all, this will only help those earning the absolute minimum wage for 18-21s. Someone working full time on the London “living wage” (£7.20 an hour) will still be whacked by the tax rise and yet only earns £13,000 a year. Secondly, it should be pointed out that any such an increase will mean that at least some of the cost of raising the winter fuel allowance is going to be paid out of increased tax revenue generated from young earners. The very lowest earners are going to be subsidising a benefits rise that will help many of the wealthiest (and yes, I do accept that the winter fuel allowance helps poor people as well, but still).

I’m all for raising the NMW for young people so it is comparable to the NMW for older workers, but this rise is happening for all the wrong reasons: getting the government out of a fix rather than doing what is right in the first place.

Surely it is unacceptable to have people on minimum wage paying income tax anyway? It is just a deadweight cost to the economy. The government should be working to narrow the gap between personal allowance and the NMW, not widen it. What possible economic reason is there to make employment even more expensive and wages even more inflationary?

But my greatest fear is that if the Labour rebels really are so easily bought off, they will capitulate over 42 days quite easily as well. They really are a useless shower. Give them a totemic act of class warfare like fox hunting to get self-righteous about and they will push the government to the limit. But helping poor people? Defending civil liberties and the rule of law? What is the bloody point of them?

* Oops! Good job I corrected that before anyone else spotted it.

Which MP could this be referring to?

Ten seconders frameThere are few crossovers between this blog’s twin main obsessions (2000AD and Libby Dem politics). A few years ago there was some dig at the Lib Dems in a strip called Thirteen but that’s pretty much your lot.

So you takes your references where you can get them, as the accompanying panel taken from this week‘s Ten-Seconders strip demonstrates. Who could they be referring to I wonder?

Tories lose 4 MPs in less than a year – will James Gray be number 5?

Quentin Davies – defected
Andrew Pelling – whip withdrawn over allegations of wife-beating
Derek Conway – whip withdrawn over expenses scandal
Bob Spink – whip withdrawn before he could resign. Now a member of UKIP.

My prediction at the start of the year that Cameron would have a bad year has remained unfulfilled, but this has mainly because Labour are having such a God awful year that Cameron’s problems have faded into the background. But losing 4 MPs – 2% of the total Parliamentary Party – in less than a year suggests a shambles whichever way you look at it.

How long before we see Cameron having to sack number 5? One MP who has survived scandal up until now has been James Gray. But for how long? The Mail reports:

Only last month, MPs of all parties were being urged not to hand out jobs to family members because of the scandal over Conway receiving taxpayers’ cash for his sons when they weren’t actually doing any work.

Now Gray, an ex-shadow defence spokesman, appears to have ridden roughshod over Cameron’s demand by putting Mrs Mayo on the payroll.

It is the latest twist in a sorry tale – and another act of bravado by the 53-year-old MP for North Wiltshire.

Last night he confirmed that mother-of-three Mrs Mayo, 45, was on his staff. “It is true, but I am not prepared to go into detail about my private life,” he told me.

In the wake of his split from Sarah, 53, it was disclosed he continued to pay her £2,400 a month from his staff allowance even though she had stopped work as his secretary two years before in order to undergo cancer treatment.

He secured permission to pay her until the terms of their separation were agreed last April. It is not known how much he is now paying Mrs Mayo.

See also: Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, Derek Conway: Shades of Gray?

Would Joseph Rowntree have praised or damned religion?

Reporting a recent piece of research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Times adopts this approach:

A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century – religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith – not just in its extreme form – was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Would it have dismayed him or confirmed his beliefs? After all, as a Quaker, Rowntree was a non-conformist. No other faith group has done more to promote secularism worldwide than the Quakers and as a group which has been at the sharp end of organised religion in the past, they have some considerable experience of religion as a social evil.

Besides, the full report paints a more nuanced picture. Religion is only listed as the ninth “evil”, while a decline in values is listed third. If people are decoupling religion from values that can only be a good thing and I suspect Rowntree would have approved as well.

Evening Standard piece on JK Rowling

This was published in the Evening Standard on Thursday, slightly edited:

The Harry Potter series is one of the most derivative works of fiction ever devised, from its boarding school setting (The Four Marys, Billy Bunter), magical theme (too many to mention) and even its plot (drawing from the same well as Star Wars and even The Matrix). He isn’t even the first fictional English boy wizard with spectacles and a pet owl, as fans of Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic will testify.

None of this is to deride J.K. Rowling’s genius for taking hoary cliché and making something new out of it, but perhaps one would have thought it would have given her a more enlightened view regarding intellectual property law. The Harry Potter Lexicon is clearly a blatant cash in but one which will only promote her original books. If she wants to produce her own, more authoritative encyclopedia, no one is stopping her.

In any case, existing copyright laws mean that while the strikingly original and iconic Alice in Wonderland books became public property 50 years after Lewis Carroll’s death aged 65, Harry Potter will be owned by Rowling’s estate for 70 years after her death. The state of modern medicine and her millions mean that she is likely to survive well into her 90s. I don’t begrudge her money, but I do have an issue with her great grandchildren continuing to rake it in during the 2120s.

James Graham