"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Monday 21 October 2013

Never Forget - Aberfan

Its pouring with rain today. Just as it had been in Aberfan forty seven years ago, although not on the day itself.

This is a deeply personal blog. When the news of the Aberfan disaster reached us in Essex, my family only heard that it was a place with the name beginning with 'Aber'. Like many Welsh ex-pats, my Father's home village began with the prefix 'Aber'*. However the slag tip that moved and engulfed the school, the children and the teachers was at Aberfan, about 25 miles away.

As we sat and watched the tv news, somehow more horrific in black and white although we were watching in real time, as in so many houses across the UK and the world, the tears were pouring down our faces. We knew the area, not that far from 'our' village, but that surely made no difference to the horror and empathy every parent and observer felt. But all those who had lived and played in the shadow [quite literally] of slag tips felt an extra pain.

My father hardly slept that night. And the little sleep he had, was full of nightmares that he was pulling my cousin out of the slag.

There is no need here to replay the causes, the warnings not heeded, the wonderful rescue efforts, the lessons learnt, many web sites detail** all this. They tell of lives affected, not just those left living in the village itself but those like the nearby university students who arrived to try and pull survivors from the wreckage only to find that it was not survivors they were recovering. Many of those students went on to become teachers and replayed those days over and over again.

But we must never forget those children and adults who died. We must never forget the warnings that went unheeded and remember now when health and safety jobs have been amongst the many job cuts recently that we can never be too careful.

May all who died sleep gently and may their families find peace. May we never forget.

* which means the mouth or confluence of a river or small stream. It is usually followed by the name of the river.

**Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

Photo above shows the Aberfan memorial garden.

Thursday 3 October 2013

A [Peace] Poem for National Poetry Day


Untitled poem by Bertolt Brecht:

General your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.
by Bertolt Brecht

Wednesday 2 October 2013

A Lesson in Double Standards or an Open Blog to Lord Rothermere

When teaching, especially small children, sometimes the easiest way to teach literary terms, everyday sayings, proverbs etc is to give an example of the point under discussion.

So today's example for the saying under discussion 'Double Standards' was provided nicely for me by a discussion on last night's BBC2 Newsnight programme. If you missed the piece in question you can view it here.

The piece featured an interview with Jon Steafel, the deputy editor of the Daily Mail followed by a discussion between Steafel and Alistair Campbell on the subject of the Mail's article by Geoffrey Levy published last Saturday attacking Ed Miliband's father Ralph. 

Interviewed by Emily Maitlis, Steafel defended his paper's decision to publish the article by suggesting that Ed Milliband must have been influenced by his father's 'dangerous' political views which commenced with a diary entry of a boy of seventeen, quoted out of context* . However when Maitlis asked whether the paper's owner - Lord Rothermere - had been influenced by his g.grandfather's publication in 1934 of the article written by him [and adult!!] Hurrah for the Blackshirts 

Steafel insisted it would not have done! I was surprised that the walls of the studio did not fall in with such a blatant example of Double Standards.

In the interview on Newsnight, Alistair Campbell displays - imo - a righteous anger against the Daily Mail. Today's edition of the Daily Mail shows no repentance. 

Normally I try to inject a bit of humour into my blogs. I cannot find anything funny in this subject.

*In an article in today's Guardian the author of Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left (Merlin Press, 2002), Michael Newman explains how the Mail distorted quotes from his book.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Don't buy the Daily Fail, read Ed Miliband's reply here!

'Ultimate tribute': Ed, pictured with Ralph in 1989, is determined to bring about his father's vision of socialism

Ed & Ralph Miliband in 1989 as published alongside Geoffrey Levy's article
Below is Ed Miliband's reply, published in today's Daily Mail, to the scurrilous article by Geoffrey Levy which the Mail published last Saturday [28th September]
Ed Miliband: My Dad Was A Man Who Loved Britain
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, writes in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Mail:
"It was June 1944 and the Allies were landing in Normandy. A 20-year old man, who had arrived in Britain as a refugee just four years earlier, was part of that fight. He was my father. Fighting the Nazis and fighting for his adopted country.
On Saturday, the Daily Mail chose to publish an article about him under the banner headline “The Man Who Hated Britain.”
It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticised and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory. The British people have great wisdom to sort the fair from the unfair. And I have other ways of answering back.
But my Dad is a different matter. He died in 1994. I loved him and he loved Britain. And there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would “disturb everyone who loves this country”.
Saturday’s article referred to a single diary entry by my father, written as a 17 year old, describing the suspicion he found of the Continent and the French when he arrived here. To ignore his service and work in Britain and build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd.
In fact, his story will make you understand why he loved Britain. Britain saved him from the Nazis. He arrived here as a 16 year-old boy - a Jew - having walked 100 kilometres with his Dad from Brussels to Ostend to catch one of the last boats out before the German soldiers arrived.
It was a boat to Britain. He arrived, separated from his mother and sister, knowing no English but found a single room to share with my grandfather. He was determined to better himself and survive. He worked as a removal man, passed exams at Acton Technical College and was accepted to university. Then he joined the Royal Navy.
He did so because he was determined to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in Belgium. He was fighting for Britain.
When I was growing up, he didn’t talk much about the Holocaust years because it was a deep trauma for both sides of my family. But he did talk about his naval service.
The Daily Mail’s article on Saturday used just a few words to brush over the years my father spent fighting for his adopted country in the Second World War. But it played a bigger part in his life than that.
It was hard for him as a newcomer in the Navy. Life could be rough. But when we were growing up, he talked about how he had grown to have deep respect for the people he served with. He loved how the Navy brought together people from all classes and all backgrounds.
My father would often talk about the time he spent on the ships where his job was to pick up and translate German radio messages. He remembered the banter at meal times and recounted moments like his discharge from the Navy when his commanding officer’s parting words were: “Don’t vote Labour, Miliband.”
After the war, he went back to university. Later, he would meet my Mum, become a university teacher and raise a family. My father’s strongly left wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision.
He was a man with a great sense of humour so the idea of me being part of some “sinister” Marxist plot would have amused him and disappointed him in equal measure and for the same reason - he would have known it was ludicrously untrue. I want to make capitalism work for working people, not destroy it.
But whatever else is said about my Dad’s political views, Britain was a source of hope and comfort for him, not hatred. Having been born in Belgium he didn’t start from a belief in the inferiority of other countries, but he loved Britain for the security it offered his family and the gentle decency of our nation.
When we went on holiday abroad, the part he would look forward to the most was coming home. When he taught in America, he hated being away from our family and from Britain. When he thought of how many Jews had been killed, including members of our family, he felt very lucky that his boat from Belgium had come here.
Like most refugees, the security of our country was really important to him. And like some refugees, he owed his life to it. So my Dad loved Britain, he served Britain, and he taught both David and me to do the same.
Britain has always benefitted from a free press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account - none of us should be given an easy ride - and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.
But what appeared in the Daily Mail on Saturday was of a different order all together. I know they say ‘you can’t libel the dead’ but you can smear them.
Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War, or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a ‘grave socialist’.

The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician - any politician - in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.
There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run."

I am declaring a personal interest, I suppose, as my late father was a friend of the late Ralph Miliband. However as my Socialist politics are more to the left of my father's socialist politics & Ed Miliband's are to the right of his father's socialist politics there is a sort of ironic cross over! I never met Ralph or his sons.