Wild, wild men of Rock’n’Roll

In the past couple of weeks I’ve played some of my old vinyl. I have a considerable collection of 1950s-style rock’n’roll (also traditional Country Music). I’m also slowly acquiring a CD collection. None of this stuff do I play that often, finding so many other things to do when I’m at home. TV and the computer taking up much of my spare time. I tend to play Country audio cassettes I made up years ago when on long train/coach journeys or sunbathing. I haven’t adopted the fad of everyone under 40 to go around permanently with earphones/Ipods, oblivious to the world around them, and I haven’t traded in my record player, CD player or audio cassette player for an I-pod. The technology, time, know-how and hassle required to transfer my considerable vinyl, CD and audio cassette tracks to an I-pod would just not be worth the effort – I’ve had enough trouble trying to transfer VHS stuff to DVD.

Anyway, I digress from the main theme of this blog, which is the wild men of original 1950s rock’n’roll and rhythm’n’blues which have never been equaled or surpassed since. It was a crazy time with crazy characters, the like of which will never be seen again.

Take Esquerita, for instance. A wild, wild extrovert gay piano thumper and singer who was a mentor for another gay wild piano player/singer, Little Richard. Esquerita was even wilder and more outrageous, wearing his hair piled up in a sort of beehive, and sequinned shades over his eyes. He recorded such gems as ‘Hole In My Heart (And All My Love Leaked Out’), ‘Rockin’ In The Joint’, ‘Batty Over Hatty’ and ‘Hey Miss Lucy (You’re Too Fat’n’Juicy For Me)’.

His piano playing and singing was manic, as was another Little Richard style black guy, Larry Williams whose ‘Short Fat Fanny’ might raise a few eyebrows in England where ‘fanny’ has a much more vulgar meaning than in his native America. Larry Williams also gave us ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’, ‘Bony Maronie’ and the inappropriately named ‘Slow Down’ which is one of the fastest rock’n’roll records, moving along with an irresistible rhythm.

Little Richard in the 1950s

Little Richard himself, of course, gave us wild melodies like ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘She’s Got It’, ‘Heebie-Jeebies’ and many more. He too was (is) very extrovert, climbing on his piano and stripping in the 1970s and later.

Little Richard 1970s


Little Richard in 21st Century


My own personal favorite, and the only white guy among those mentioned so far, is Jerry Lee Lewis. Still alive, recording and touring, he is now a sweet old man who sedately sits at the piano and runs thru a set-list, but until quite recently he was totally unpredictable, and occasionally a spark of his old rebelliousness shows thru even today. He thought nothing of tearing the sound people off a strip or two, and quite recently walked off stage to sort them out. He also recently gave a band member the finger as he walked off, though nobody’s sure what upset the man known as The Killer. Once, when a spotlight kept wandering off him on to his backing band, I heard him change the words of one of his Country hits from ‘There Must Be More To Love Than This’ to ‘There Must Be More To Lights Than This’ and tear off the ‘boy, girl or whatever you are’ controlling the spotlight, adding: ‘Just keep that spotlight on ME!’

Jerry’s shows were very wild, ending with him climbing on top of the grand piano or even inside it. In the 1950s he wore bright-colored drape jackets and he sported long hair and blond highlights long before anyone else in the pop music business. His hair was always combed back neatly, but fell down around his face during his wilder perfomances, making him look like the proverbial Wild Man of Borneo (well Louisiana actually, or Tennessee, or Mississippi – the three states he has lived in, apart from when he lived in the Republic of Ireland during the 1990s).

Above: two pictures of Jerry Lee Lewis in 1960s

Jerry Lee is responsible for perhaps the wildest ‘live’ album ever recorded – ‘Live At The Star-Club Hamburg’, and as recently as the late 1980s was still climbing up on pianos and violently kicking back piano stools (I wonder how many he’s broken in his long career?)

Jerry Lee Lewis in 21st Century

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Henry

Eclipsing all these characters in sheer eccentricity is another black guy, the late Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, whose records I also played recently. His most well-known song is ‘I Put A Spell On You’ also recorded by other artists, but Jay’s specialty (I use the American spelling/pronunciation rather than the British ‘speciality’) was to dress in what can only be described as native African garb, often with a bone thru his nose, carrying a skull on a stick called Henry (who often was smoking a cigaret).

Jay used to jump out of coffins, and introduced all sorts of special effects like flashes of fire and bangs, and apparently was known to throw wriggly things into the audience screaming ‘worms, worms, worms’.  As his name implies, his trademark was screaming and talking a load of nonsense, much of which (along with his appearance) would be considered very politically incorrect and in fact racist if done by a white guy. He mimicked African language, and also Chinese in some of his songs. In one of his later performances, available on YouTube, he even added AIDS to the recipe of some of his imaginary potions like ‘Alligator Wine’. Other melodies included ‘The Feast of the Mau Mau’ (they put their thumbs in their eyeballs and make pickled olives – reach out into his chest man and let me bite on that cat’s bone – give me some more of that inside soul, etc.)

If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘murdered’ in relation to a song, listen to Jay’s version of  ‘You Made Me Love Ya’ complete with screams, ‘boyoings, gimme, gimme, gimmes’ etc. – wonderful stuff! In ‘Hong Kong’ he does a brief round-the-world talking bit, imitating Chinese and German, and for Africa just throws out the line: ‘I saw Mau Mau kissing Santa Claus’.

This crazy American moved to France, and died on a train from his last performance in Amsterdam back to Paris, leaving many ex-wives and about 65 children behind, all claiming some of his inheritance. This puts to insignificance Jerry Lee’s six wives, two married bigamously, one only 13, though such a young age or even younger was commonplace in the Deep South at the time. Bigamy was not encouraged, but as his sisters Linda Gail (married at 14, now been married 8 times) and Frankie Jean (married at 12)  explained: ‘He gets confused.’ ‘ He marries people but forgets to divorce them.’ Actually he did divorce them, eventually.

Screamin’ Lord Sutch 1960s

Screamin’ Lord Sutch, another white guy and a Brit to boot, took his name and rock-horror act from Screamin’ Jay. Never a brilliant singer, he was a great publicist, standing for elections for his National Teenage Party, and latterly his Monster Raving Loony Party. His early recordings for gay record producer Joe Meek include ‘Jack The Ripper’, ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ and ‘Black and Hairy’. Sutch was often carried on stage in a coffin, would light a fire on stage with petrol during ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and put a toilet seat round his neck and don a pig’s head mask for ‘I’m A Hog For You Baby’.

Screamin’ Lord Sutch with ax

Screamin’ Lord Sutch, Monster Ravin’ Loony

All the above, apart from the one Brit Lord Sutch, were piano players as well as singers. Screamin’ Jay’s ambition was to sing opera, and indeed he had a rich baritone voice which would have enabled him to do so – presumably without the screams and the bones thru his nose.

Such eccentric characters and wild men seemed to be produced by that early era of rock’n’roll. Many now dead, of the above only Jerry Lee and Little Richard survive, both shadows of their former selves though still capable of singing and playing their old hits, and indeed recording new material. Larry Williams died in 1980, Esquerita died of an AIDS-related illness, Sutch tragically commited suicide. Screamin’ Jay’s demise has already been described above.

Where are the eccentric characters to replace these legends? Lady GaGa seems very tame by comparison.

Happy Birthday, George

My partner, who transited to Spirit in 1991, would have been 67 today. As usual on anniversaries, I wrote him a posthumous letter. In the letter I wrote in the past hour or so, I suggested he might try a new way of communicating. In the past he has answered questions in these letters very quickly, showing me where things were hidden in the flat, for instance.

Today was no exception. He has communicated to me in various ways since his transition, and only recently via two different methods he advised that an outbreak of eczema was caused by my developing sensitivity to shellfish, and also that the place where my friend Steve was moving to (in two days time actually) had a connexion with Bexhill. When I rang Steve, he said without prompting they were moving just off the Bexhill Road.

Today he sent all sorts of messages after I wrote him the letter, including confirming yet again that my skin complaints were only superficial and not serious. As to finding a new way of communicating, well in the past he has interfered with this computer. With this weblog actually, if you look at the ‘About’ section in the top menu you’ll see how he (or certainly Spirit) has intervened to censor certain weblogs I was trying to post.

Today, within minutes of me suggesting he tried new ways to communicate, I was playing on-line Scrabble with the computer. I didn’t have a particularly good set of letters. The board suddenly cleared for no apparent reason, and a new game started. I was given a new set of letters which enabled me to make a 7 letter word with a 50 score bonus, and also I was the first to start, unlike in the previous game which was interrupted.

This has never happened before. I am convinced, on his birthday, George cleared the board and gave me the letters to give me a good start to a new game, which I then won with a large score over the other 3 computer players.

Actually George now has two birthdays. May 27th being when he would have been 67 had he not transited to Spirit, and September 29th when he transited and was born into his new life. He prefers to celebrate that birthday as next September over there he’ll only be 19!

Of course we are all ageless on the Other Side, or at least we can choose what age we appear. Eventually we dispense with such things altogether and exist as pure Spirit or conscious energy, once we develop and ascend to the higher planes.

Thanks George. Not for helping me win a silly game of Scrabble, but for showing you are still close and can find all sorts of ways to prove it. On another anniversary a few years ago, he communicated to me within minutes of my turning a spotlight on a memorial panel and kissing his picture that he’d seen me do this.

This intervention via my computer  is, of course, a form of ITC or Instrumental Trans-Communication, which many scientists are experimenting with and getting fantastic results. Spirit messages, voices and even photos are coming thru via computers, TV sets, radios, recording equipment, etc. When this technology is perfected communicating with the Spirit realms and their inhabitants will be as easy as communicating with friends on Earth via the phone or a computer Messenger service with a webcam.

To those who think this is a load of tosh – fine. I have had far too many such experiences personally, and researched so much after-life evidence via books and the Internet, that I know that ignorance is not bliss, just stubborn refusal to look at the facts and smell the coffee.

Happy birthday again George. And I send good wishes and greetings to all my friends and relatives on the Other Side.


I just wanted to write a blog thanking all the people, and animals, who have helped me over the years. It is impossible to name them all even if I could remember, but some readily come to mind.

My mother, now in her 96th year, who brought me up in very difficult circumstances.  I needed constant hospital treatment and operations as a child, and her marriage to a violent, frequently drunken and abusive husband broke up when I was only 6. In later years, as I grew up into a teenager and into my twenties, she had to cope with my involvement in politics and the peace movement, my joining in demonstrations which got me arrested, and culminating in my becoming a fanatical Stalinist, plastering my bedroom wall with Soviet/Maoist posters, creating a secular altar to Communism and insisting on putting a ‘Vote Communist’ poster in the window of the flat we shared. I also came out as being gay, and this was another thing she had to digest and deal with. She managed to take it all in her stride.

I also want to thank my life-partner, George Miller, now on the Other Side. He came into my life at the height of my Stalinist period, and helped me enormously in so many ways. We grew very close over the next 21 years we spent on Earth together, and he continues to contact and help me from the Spirit realms. It was George who finally got me to break with Stalinism, and in the end we both had very similar political views well to the left of center, but not extremist or dictatorial.

When George died in 1991 my mother again helped, coming down to London from Hertfordshire that very day and staying with me, doing very difficult jobs I was in no fit state to handle on my own.

I want to thank Tibby, the most affectionate cat I ever had, which George chose from a Blue Cross home 10 months before he died. I suspect George knew he hadn’t long to live, and chose Tibby to be my loving companion after George died. This was indeed the case, and I don’t know how I’d have gotten thru those first few months and years without her. Also all the other cats I’ve had – Specs, Dixie, Dinky and Trixie.

The group of friends who share my musical tastes, mostly around the same age as myself, and who I met just before George died were a great help as well. Never having made many friends myself previously, this group who became known as ‘the Woodies’ gave me a new set of friends and a lively social life in the years after George’s death, which continues to this day. I want to thank all of them.

A special thanks to Steve who some years after George died showed me such affection, and proved to me that love was possible for me again. Not free to become a new life-partner for me, nevertheless we spent some happy times together, and he still keeps in touch though he and his family have long since moved away from London.

Thanks too to all the doctors and nurses at the now demolished Middlesex Hospital who enabled me to live a more or less normal life. Born with a cleft palate, hare lip, club foot and other medical problems I just can’t imagine what sort of life I’d have lived had it not been for their expertise. And thanks to our National Health Service all these expensive operations and treatments were cost-free to us.

All this help from friends, professional people and pets is, of course, not just one-way. I hope it is a two-way process, and that I have also helped them (well I certainly helped keep the doctors and nurses at the Middlesex in paid employment for years!)

Life is a learning process, that is why we are here I believe, and the various people who come into our lives are all part of this process. Whether they are a good or bad influence it is all part of our spiritual development.

Here I must mention my father, who died in 1998. Never close by any means, we had a totally different set of values, and a totally different culture – he being Greek-Cypriot and me being brought up in England by my English mother and maternal grandparents. He lectured me whenever we met right up till his death, and we just didn’t see eye-to-eye on anything. But there were a few happier moments together. I got to know him a bit better on my first trip to Cyprus in 1977. When my brother’s wife-to-be decided she didn’t want George at their wedding, my father got on the phone to my brother and told him in no uncertain terms that I could bring who I damned well liked to his wedding (it was in Yorkshire, and she had loads of her family there, including a sister who was obviously gay, while my brother’s family who managed the trip up North, including George in the end, numbered about half a dozen.)

My father has indicated since his death that, just as I have learnt lessons and progressed, he is on a similar path of spiritual development. Specifically I took down my picture of the mass-murderer Joseph Stalin years ago and my father made a picture of mass-murderer George Grivas fall out of its frame (where it had been for 20 or 30 years) in the hour or so after his funeral in Cyprus.

So thanks to everyone who has come into my life and helped me in some way, and I hope this has been mutual. When George died he left me what he, and I, called his ‘lame ducks’. Some people just seem to be destined to attract such people, and I am no exception. Many of these ‘lame ducks’ have now too passed on, some linger on. I have to say even they have had their positive input in my life, making me feel useful and often giving me a laugh. Brian in particular, now in a care home, who although dysfunctional all his life has been a great source of humor, which keeps us all going. Often not intentional humor on his part, just his over-the-top character which is very amusing, in small doses. As someone once remarked: ‘a little of Brian goes a very long way’.

Since George’s death I know I have developed in all sorts of ways. Really come out of my shell, made friends and developed a wisdom and quick wit I never had before. So thanks also to Spirit friends and guides who help me all the time, whether I’m always aware of it or not.

Diana and Rose on Violent Teens/Twenties

The spirit of Diana (former Princess of Wales) has recorded another interview with American channeler Rose Campbell, conducted thru Diana’s voice-channel Andrew Russell-Davis, an Englishman living in Germany. The interview was conducted over the phone, and can be heard by scrolling down to the May 2010 podcast at the bottom of the following page: http://www.dianaspeaks.info/CurrentMessages.html

In the interview Diana welcomes the new coalition government led by David Cameron and his deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, then goes on to discuss with Rose the problem of teenage violence and related subjects.

I don’t agree with everything they are saying, and Diana, Rose and Andrew are fully aware of my reservations particularly about compulsory military service. I think the last thing violent teenage gang-members need is to have guns, bayonets and even more lethal weapons put into their hands and sent out to places like Afghanistan where they might well think it would be fun to rape and kill a few innocent civilians which would no doubt be dismissed as ‘collateral damage’.

I myself am in favor of arming our civilian police with all this gang warfare on our streets, and I’m also in favor of an armed international security force, preferably under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly.

I would not, however, advocate recruiting teenage gang members into these services. They need highly responsible individuals who would only use lethal weapons as a very last resort in extreme circumstances, and then only target criminal elements or those committing atrocities, such as terrorist activities or State-sponsored torture and genocide.

I do, however, advocate some sort of compulsory Citizenship or Community Service for teenagers (both male and female) to teach them responsibility to society and respect for their elders, their fellow citizens, and those less fortunate than themselves. This could include service overseas to help people in famine and war-torn areas, and community service here at home in hospitals, with the elderly, keeping our streets and parks clean, cleaning off graffitti, maybe working for various charities.

For violent gang members and those with strings of ASBOs (Anti-Social Behavior Orders) the strict discipline of a Boot Camp may well be necessary, but the very last thing I would do is put guns or other weapons into their hands.

Diana’s argument that being sent to the front line might well ‘scare the shit out of them’ may be true, but do we really want to be teaching these already violent youths to fight and kill others? Surely this is just gang warfare on a bigger scale? The very opposite of the lesson they need to learn.

Not only that, but there was compulsory military National Service in the 1950s (with alternatives for conscientious objectors as Diana advocates), but this was the time of violent Teddy boy gangs on our streets armed with flick-knives (jackknives) and bicycle chains, knuckledusters, etc. So I don’t see military service as the answer at all.

Teenage violence is not a new phenomenum. In the 1960s we had the clashes with Mods and Rockers. I have been a rocker or second-generation Teddy boy since the mid-1960s, but I never took part in this violence against other teenage/twenties tribes. I may have booed supporting Mod acts on rock’n’roll shows, heckled them and even thrown the odd ice-cream carton at them, but I never got involved in fights with Mods or other Teds.

The point is, some youngsters love violence and fighting. There seem to be waves of this teenage and twenties gang warfare, and currently in the UK it is mainly among black teenagers who are in gangs and are both perpertrators of the violence and its main victims.

A lot of what Diana and Rose say in the interview/discussion is true. There is a lack of parental and school discipline. Whether this should take the form of a smack now and again when a child has been naughty, I take no strong view one way or the other. I do think parents and teachers need to be allowed to discipline the children in their care, and if the child can haul them up before the courts and charge them with assault for a light smack when they’ve been naughty, well it hardly empowers the parents or the teachers.

It seems the pendulum has swung too far towards leniency. At my last place of employment gangs of teenagers regularly broke into our bicycle shed and stole bikes. They were caught on CCTV, but the police would do nothing about it saying they were ‘under the age of criminal responsibility’. They were teenagers for goodness sake, and when my boss saw them breaking in one day and went out to challenge them they just carried on stealing the bikes and shouting that there was nothing he could do about it, or the police, as they were under-age.

A rock’n’roll singer/pianist I love suffered a stroke and is now unable to play following an incident when he apparently challenged a gang of youths outside his house. He was evidently violently attacked by them – this shows how dangerous it is for citizens to challenge these gangs, and unarmed police seem quite rightly scared to do so as well.

An armed police force, or even the army brought back from places abroad and put on our city streets to round up these teenage gangs, is needed. As I say, Boot Camps are probably needed initially to instil discipline in these gang members, and later Community Service of some sort here or abroad.

Diana mentions ID cards, and I would be in favor of these, though the party I voted for in the General Election, the Liberal Democrats now in coalition with the Conservatives, are against these.  Anything that helps to identify a person, proves their age and their right to even be in the country is surely helpful. You should have to show some sort of identity in shops before being able to purchase certain things, like alcohol for instance.

The whole podcast sounds very reactionary, but we do have a very bad situation which needs a reaction. We can’t carry on letting teenage gangs run wild on our streets killing each other, and maybe attacking other citizens as well. I would even prefer these gangs were rounded up and put on some remote uninhabited islands to fight it out among themselves, than that they be allowed to make no-go areas of parts of our cities, and terrorize other youngsters, forcing them into gang membership. But the real answer is to surely drum the violence out of them thru initially Boot Camps and then Community Service.

If anybody is to be given guns and other weapons to fight violent criminals, terrorists and the like then it has to be mature, responsible people in the security and police forces, not former gang-members forcibly recruited straight from the streets. People who hate violence and would only use it as a last resort, not those who love it and would be only too eager to be given a license to kill.

Violence in the world today, not least teenage gang warfare, is a great problem, but it is not an entirely new one. National (military) Service didn’t solve it in the 1950s and it won’t today. But some sort of compulsory community or citizenship service, which the Conservatives were advocating in their election propaganda, would be a good idea.

I did my teenage service (not compulsory I admit) in the peace movement. I worked full-time in it for 6 years, and was Treasurer of my local CND group. I was also involved in other political organizations, like the Young Socialists and the Labour Party (later the Young Communist League and Communist Party). All of this was out of a desire to promote peace and a better society.

I don’t regret anything I did in those years, and I still fight for peace and Socialism. I did go astray at times, thinking the end justified the means. This was why I at one time worshiped Stalin and endorsed some of his methods. But I soon learnt that discipline and service to others is one thing, but trying to force people to be better by using violence and terrorizing them doesn’t work.

The balance is difficult to achieve. Too much leniency and you have anarchy, but if you use violence and terror you actually create terrorism, wars and brutal dictatorships.

Using unemployed and bored teenagers, and violent teenage gang-members, as cannon-fodder for wars is not the answer to the violence in this world, as most advanced Spiritual beings and guides will tell you.

The Direct Voice messages of Leslie Flint (who was himself a pacifist) which can be Googled and found on the Internet, often speak of the folly or war and violence, even from former soldiers and others who fought or approved of war during their lifetimes.

Diana was always anti-war, and her anti-landmine campaign was probably what finally sealed her fate. She is understandably now swayed by the fact that her two sons, Harry and William, are in the military. Whether you approve of military service or not, Harry and William are not former gang members who roamed the streets looking for the thrill of violence.

Also, while I respect Diana’s views and the right to hold them, this is the lower Earthbound essence of Diana speaking and writing thru Andrew, not her higher Spiritual essence. Diana has chosen to remain Earthbound and to be readily recognizable as the personality we knew when she was alive. She has undoubtedly gained wisdom since her death, but she is not speaking from the Spiritual realms and has not consciously reconnected with her Higher self. Rose Campbell channels this Higher Diana, so perhaps a comment from this source can be added to this blog.

The discipline and comradeship of a military-style organization may well be very helpful in instilling a sense of responsibility into former gang-members, but I would stress that the very last thing anybody should do is put weapons of any description into their hands. Those in our police and security services entrusted with weapons should be responsible, mature people who hate violence, certainly not young thugs who love it!

But I invite you to listen to the latest Diana/Rose podcast and decide for yourself. Comments, as always, are welcome below.

(Please click on ‘Show Comments’ below to read the varied  responses from Rose Campbell, the Higher aspect of Diana and the Earthbound spirit of Diana attached to Andrew Russel-Davis)

Coalition Government

As I said, things changing very quickly. Nick Clegg now announced as Deputy Prime Minister, whatever that means in practice. This coalition certainly gives the Liberal Democrats a much higher profile since they are now in government, albeit as very much the junior partner in a coalition, but it could be a double-edged sword as they’ll have to take a share of the flak for unpopular policies the government adopts.

On the issue of Trident renewal, the LibDems have predictably had to give way, with just a review on the cost. But let’s face it, we were never going to get like-for-like replacement of Trident scrapped by either a Tory-LibDem or a Labour-LibDem coalition.

However events could force a re-think. The mounting cost and increasing irrelevance of Trident could well bring about a change in policy. And above all Barack Obama could pull the plug at any time. The American President has said his ultimate objective is to get rid of all nuclear weapons, and it is the USA which supplies and maintains much of the Trident system. It may well be that the days of Britain’s so-called ‘independent nuclear deterrent’, which is neither independent nor a deterrent, are numbered. If USA says it goes, it goes and Britain can do nothing about it – that’s how ‘independent’ it is. Going it alone would be untenable without the US, especially if further cuts in nuclear weapons (or at least those on active deployment) are agreed between the USA and Russia.

As to other policies which the Liberal Democrats were keen to pursue, we’ll have to wait and see. A Tory government, in my view, would have been little different from a New Labour one. A Tory-LibDem coalition brings it slightly to the Left surely of a Tory or New Labour majority government.

There is also no guarantee the coalition will hold together for five years until the next General Election. Anything could happen in the intervening months and years. By-elections will be fought, won and lost. Backbenchers on the coalition side could rebel and defy the Party whips. Rebel Tory or rebel Liberal Democrat MPs voting with Labour and the Nationalists could defeat certain measures, even abstentions could defeat them.

It will be a rocky road over the next five years whatever happens. But it could be that coalition or consensus policies are here to stay, with a new voting system in the offiing depending on the outcome of the referendum.

If the coalition is a success and proves popular, this is bound to greatly increase the Liberal Democrat vote at the next General Election whatever electoral system is then in place.

The days of Thatcherite and New Labour arrogance are over, at least for the next five years (barring a stalemate caused by collapse of the coalition.)

We are in new territory, let’s just wait and see what happens, and how Labour responds. Is this the end of New Labour, and if so will it move to the Left of the Liberal Democrats once again? All bets are off in this new political situation.

Voting reform?

Things have been changing daily the past few days, it’s a job to keep up. So a coalition has now been agreed between David Cameron and Nick Clegg, still to be approved by their party hierarchies but this seems likely.

The difficulty with a Labour-LibDem coalition or pact was always the maths – it would not give such a government a majority in the House without the support of Nationalists and the one Green MP.

The difficulty with the Conservative-LibDem coalition will be their differing policies in various areas.

The main point, however, is political reform, particularly of the voting system. We don’t yet know the details of the agreement. All we know is that there is to be a fixed term parliament. Even this is in doubt in the current situation, since the coalition could come apart and then a new election might become a necessity.

The last offer on electoral reform  by the Conservatives made public was a referendum on the Alternative Vote system. This may have been improved to include other systems such as Single Transferable Vote (I got mixed up with this two similar systems in previous blogs) and full Proportional Representation in the Referendum options.

But even a chance to vote in a Referendum on the Alternative Vote would be progress, and would mean voters no longer have to vote tactically. It would give parties which came second in any constituency a much greater chance of overtaking the leading party and taking that seat. This would be the Liberal Democrats in many seats, perhaps more in future as people realize that under a new voting system the LibDems could actually win more seats if they overtook the second most popular party in any constituency. This system would do little for the smaller parties, however, like the Greens unless their votes increased considerably.

We now have to wait for the fine details of the joint Tory-LibDem program, and about the prospects for electoral reform.

As to whether we are worse off with a Tory-LibDem coalition than we were with New Labour, it remains to be seen. With so little difference between the Tories and New Labour, the LibDems in coalition with the Tories must surely mean a more progressive government than New Labour governing on their own. Of course New Labour in partnership with the Lib Dems and Nationalists would have been even more progressive.

At least voters will now have a chance to opt in a Referendum for a new voting system, which should change the face of British politics forever.

Now’s the chance!

The Liberal Democrats now have a rare chance to obtain a fairer voting system for the British people, and break the monopoly of the two-party domination of government which has continued for too long.

The current late-day offer by the Tories, on realizing a deal might be cut with Labour now Gordon Brown has announced he will resign by the Autumn, is in my view just not good enough. A referendum on the Alternative Transferable Vote is a half-hearted measure given grudgingly. If we are going to have a referendum it should include the three options now being discussed:

  • Keep the present first-past-the-post system
  • Change to the Alternative Transferable Vote (where candidates are numbered by voters in order of choice, and the ones with lowest votes eliminated)
  • A fully proportional system, where seats are allocated strictly according to the number of votes cast for each party.

The Labour Party’s offer is much better, switch to an Alternative Transferable Vote system for the next General Election, and put to the electorate in a referendum whether they want to go the whole hog to a PR system.

Quite apart from the electoral reform issue, the Liberal Democrats would have to do somersaults to approve a Tory Party program. A progressive coalition of Labour, Lib-Dem, various Nationalists and the one Green MP would seem much more feasible in terms of policies.

The difficulty is the maths. A Tory-Liberal coalition would give a clear majority of seats, whilst a Labour-Liberal Democrat one would not. They’d have to rely on support from minor parties. This is the problem with our first-past-the-post voting system, the Liberal Democrats and other smaller parties are under-represented in terms of parliamentary seats. According to the percentage of the vote these parties got, they should have far more seats and the Labour and Tory parties fewer seats each.

Therefore the moral majority is surely for a progressive coalition, with a guaranteed more democratic electoral system for the next election, and the opportunity to vote in a referendum for an even more democratic one for future elections after that.

I hope the talks with the Tories fall thru, and a coalition or pact is cobbled together with the progressive and Nationalist parties. After all a huge majority of the electorate voted for these and against the Tories, even if you discount the Ulster Unionists and DUP. Sinn Fein will not take their seats in the Westminster Parliament, otherwise they would surely usually vote with a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, along with Carol Lucas of the Greens,  Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Northern Ireland SDP and Alliance parties.

The Tories would find themselves hard pressed to cobble together a Conservative/Loyalist alliance commanding a majority in parliament, so why should the Liberal Democrats help them out? As a friend said to me, we didn’t vote Liberal Democrat to get a Tory government, but to get a new voting system and to break the two-party monopoly which has governed Britain for 65 years.

Is Social Housing On Its Way Out?

This was a discussion I had with a friend during the General Election when I said one reason I was voting for Lib-Dem councillors was that Party’s commitment to social housing. My friend expressed the opinion that social housing was dead in the water and on its way out.

This may appear to be the case to those on council or housing association waiting lists for years with little or no hope of ever getting a home that way. It is not the case for everybody, nor is it the same all over the country.

In Glasgow, for instance, where my partner’s relations live council housing is very much alive, and there is very little trouble even single people getting council homes. I myself live in a council flat, and new tenants have moved in the flat next door twice over the past few years. So even in London council homes are still being allocated to people.

It is certainly true, however, that since Thatcher’s government introduced the ‘right to buy’ for council tenants, and since Labour governments have continued that disastrous policy coupled with a stipulation that council rents are not allowed to be used to replace council homes sold off, the social housing stock held by councils has been very much depleted and the goal of both Tory and Labour parties, committed to the interests of the upper and middle home-owning classes, has been to abolish council and probably social housing altogether.

As I pointed out to my friend, this policy is not set in stone forever. Circumstances could change and indeed are changing at this very moment. As more and more people are unable to get on the home-ownership ladder, and as more of those with a mortgage get into financial difficulties, then sooner or later a crisis will force a change in policy. If millions of people become homeless because they have defaulted on their mortgages or can’t ge a mortgage in the first place, then social housing will again have to be a major provider of homes for people.

The ‘right to buy’ has proved disastrous, not only in depleting the council housing stock, but the mix of rented and leased homes in the same blocks and estates simply doesn’t work. I live below a leased property, and have had no end of trouble. Constant leaks of water into my council flat and the one below me, constant noise, parties in the street, a fire, they have ripped out the central heating system (this indirectly caused the fire since they then left an electric one on all night), and a massive drugs raid by the police after the fire. The council have done nothing about all these infringements of the terms of their lease – the council’s attitude seems to be that leaseholders can do what they like, cause as much nuisance as they like, it is no longer the council’s responsibility.

The ‘right to buy’ policy must be ended, and all council homes bought (certainly in blocks of flats) must be requisitioned by the council for those on the waiting lists. The occupiers can continue to live there as council tenants (they would of course be paid back for the property in money or in rent-free council accommodation) or they can use the money to buy a home on the open market.

Changes need to be made to the rights of long-term council tenants. After they have been tenants for a number of years this should be reflected in greatly reduced rents, or even rent-free accommodation. I have been a council tenant for 32 years so have paid, at today’s prices, over £166,000 in rent. Council tenants who have paid rent for so long should be entitled to at least a greatly reduced rent. Those who wish to buy and have paid council rent for a certain number of years should qualify for a grant to vacate their council property to make it available for those on the waiting lists. This grant could go towards buying a home on the open market, rather than selling off council property.

Another thing which has depleted the council housing stock is a rule which prevents them using income from council rents to replace homes sold to occupiers. This is deliberate policy to try to eventually abolish council housing, for which there will always be a need.

In addition to all this, there are thousands of empty properties around the country. Those standing empty for years should be requisitioned by councils for use by those on their waiting lists. It was done after the Second World War when thousands were homeless due to the bombing, it should be done again. If owners have properties standing empty for years they obviously do not need them, councils should compulsorily purchase them for council tenants. It would be cheaper than building new council homes from scratch.

Is social housing on its way out? If it is, this is only a temporary thing. Sooner or later it will have to be a major part of homes provision again if we don’t want thousands sleeping on the streets, with relatives/friends or a new Squatter movement taking matters into their own hands by direct action to occupy empty properties.

Incidentally, housing associations are still allocating homes to people fairly quickly. This is often a quicker route than council waiting lists.  A well-run housing association, especially one run as a cooperative or non-profit organization, is a good alternative to local authorities in providing much needed social housing for those who can’t, or don’t wish, to buy their own homes.

The bottom line is that we live in a democracy. If enough people want social housing then they should vote for a party which is committed to insuring it is provided. To take a defeatist, fatalistic attitude and just say ‘social housing is finished’ is short-sighted. The political pendulum swings both ways. Wait till thousands lose their homes or are unable to buy in the first place, till thousands are sleeping on the streets or taking direct squatter-type action and the policy on providing social housing will HAVE to be revised.

British General Election

I’ve gotten the best outcome I could realistically have hoped for under the very unfair electoral system we have. That is a hung parliament, with the Lib-Dems effectively deciding the nature of the next government.

Cameron has offered the Lib-Dems virtually nothing in exchange for them supporting his Party’s program. The offer will undoubtedly be rejected by Clegg and his colleagues.  Electoral reform, or at least a referendum on it (not just another ineffective Parliamentary Committee) is the minimum price for Lib-Dem support, and even then there are so many differences on other issues, not least the EU.

What will eventually happen, after days or even a week or more, is that Labour will form a government with support from the Lib-Dems and other smaller parties such as the one Green MP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the SDP and Alliance MPs from Northern Ireland.

Electoral reform or at least a referendum about a new voting system will be the price of Lib-Dem and other party support for Labour, and Brown will have to resign as Labour leader and Prime Minister. A new leader from Labour or the Lib-Dems will have to be found, probably David Miliband but possibly even Nick Clegg himself.

This is not undemocratic, it is the present first-past-the-post electoral system which is undemocratic. The seats won by the various parties in no way reflects the actual votes they got.  With 29% of the vote Labour got, at present, 258 seats while the Lib-Dems with 23% of the vote only got a miserly 57 seats and other minority parties combined considerably less.

We need an electoral system which reflects the actual votes cast for each party in the country as a whole. It should not be the case that only those in marginal constituencies have a meaningful vote, and even there many are pressurized into voting tactically to keep one party out. We should all be able to vote for the party or candidate nearest to our own views, and not feel that vote is wasted.

To those who say coalitions and deals between parties, a common occurrence with proportional representation, leads to weak government, that does not seem to be the case in many European countries.

It should also be realized that all the Socialist (Communist) countries effectively had coalition governments. East Germany and Czechoslovakia, for instance, had many parties in their coalition, while one-party states like the Soviet Union were in effect coalitions themselves - they had to be because the ultimate goal was a classless Communist society.  OK, these were dictatorial regimes dominated by the Marxist-Leninist parties, but nevertheless they governed as a coalition, well or badly.  Hardly weak or indecisive government, and different interests were catered for reflecting minority and different class interests. In East Germany, for instance,  there were private shops, women’s and gay rights, rights of Christians/churches to practise their faith, Christian Democrat representatives in parliament, the rights of conscientious objectors to refuse military service, even the peasants and former Nazis/Wehrmacht officers were represented in parliament with their own political parties. Yes the German Liberal Democrats were also represented in the coalition parliament, with their own party organization. I traveled to the GDR in 1968 in the company of a British Young Liberal invited there by the LDPD (East German Liberal Democrats).

The main difference was that the coalition in these countries was permanent, whereas in genuine multi-party democracies with free elections, the voters decide every few years on which party governs either alone or in coalition with other parties.

I am a leftwing Socialist, but I feel a pooling of ideas between parties is a good idea. I can see good points in the programs of nearly all parties, including the Conservatives and even the BNP. In the case of the Conservatives, for example, I’m very much in favor of a National Citizen Service for all teenagers, and in the case of the far-right BNP I agree with them that political correctness has stifled democratic debate and that immigration must be controlled, with jobs and social housing prioritized for people born in Britain. Of course I’m much nearer to the policies of the Greens, the far-left, the Lib-Dems and even Labour, or at least the Old Labour strands that remain in the party. Trade Unionism is a vital part of our society, protecting workers’ wages and conditions and preventing people (often immigrants)  being exploited by working below union or even below minimum wage rates.

Of course the real change won’t come as a result of this election under first-past-the post, but under the next General Election held under a fairer voting system. Preferably full PR, though the alternative transferable vote would be a compromise. This ATV system would at least give the second largest party in any constituency a much greater chance of winning that seat, and make tactical voting unnecessary.

The important point to remember is that smaller parties, i.e. all those other than the Labour and Tories, would all get much bigger popular votes under a PR or ATV electoral system, since people could vote for who they liked without fear of letting in a candidate they totally disagreed with. The present system actually deflates the votes for all the smaller parties, including the Liberal Democrats. They’d have gotten far more than 23% of the vote had the General Election on May 6th been under a PR or ATV voting system (or indeed an election with several elimination rounds.)

I voted Liberal Democrat in my Labour marginal knowing full well it would result in the Tory getting in. I have never voted tactically in my life, and quite honestly I couldn’t give a fig whether Labour or Tories formed a government, their policies are almost identical. What I was hoping for, and got, was a hung parliament with the real prospect of electoral reform for future General Elections.

Now all we can do is sit and wait. I can predict what will happen. Some sort of progressive coalition or pact with Labour, Lib-Dems and smaller parties and a new General Election, under a new more democratic voting system, in months or a couple of years at the most. Then all bets are off as to what a new government will look like after that election. Expect to see far more Lib-Dems and smaller parties represented in parliament, and far fewer Labour and Tory MPs.

The European Union


The EU is by no means perfect. It is, basically, a union of capitalist nations in Europe. For this reason most leftwing parties oppose membership of the EU and adoption of the Euro. They claim the EU outlaws public ownership.

In actual fact this is not the case. The EU has laws against monopolies, but this is as much directed against corporate mergers as against State monopolies.

In any case it is clear that public ownership is not outlawed in the EU. Many railways, post office/mail networks, etc. in the EU remain State owned and controlled. Also there are many cooperatives and mutuals within the EU, which is another form of public ownership.

My view, and experience, is that a lot of legislation coming from Brussels has been very liberating and progressive. This is not so much due to the EU itself, as to the fact that most European countries were far in advance of Britain when it came to matters such as equality and human rights. The public transport systems of many European countries are also far superior to Britain’s, and are more heavily subsidized by the State.

Legislation to enforce non-discrimination in age, sex and sexual orientation has come from Brussels, kicking the UK into the 21st Century.

The Euro is a very convenient currency for those trading with or traveling around Europe. I’m all in favor of a single currency.

The bottom line is, if a Socialist government is elected in any member State and falls foul of EU legislation, the solution is very simple – as a last resort that state can leave the EU. Several Socialist States in Europe could form their own Socialist Union. It has not come to that yet, so for the present the EU is an internationalist union which, at the very least, makes another war in Europe very unlikely. For that reason alone I would support it, and also because of ease of travel restrictions, progressive legislation which has come from the EU, etc.

There may well come a time when membership of the EU does not coincide with our interests, and in any case the EU will continue to develop and change. It must become more democratic. A fully-fledged federal Europe would have a much clearer system of devolved and central government.

But yes, of course if Britain or any other member state wants to implement full-blooded Socialism and this conflicts with EU membership, then that will be the time to leave and possibly join in some other federation.

It should be remembered, however, that many EU states have a much stronger Socialist/Communist tradition that Britain, so it is unlikely Britain alone would find itself at odds with a capitalist EU in the future. Greece, Italy, France, Cyprus, Scandinavia and many East/Central European member States have a strong history of Socialism either in government of in the form of huge Socialist/Communist parties.

The international nature of the EU and the need to have an alternative super-power base to that of the USA, and to avoid the danger of more wars in Europe, are reason enough to support continued EU membership.

If a number of EU states ever want to adopt a Socialist economy/Constitution they are free to leave the Union and form their own federation. Or one state could leave and go it alone, in a looser alliance possibly with other Socialist states around the world.

Now, however, is not the time for Britain to go it alone. So many good laws and so much good legislation has come out of the EU, or been encouraged by our membership, that I would be very reluctant to see Britain leave unless a more progressive union took its place.

If we were not in the EU would ideas like civil partnerships, equal age of retirement for men and women, no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, the smoking ban in public places, etc. have spread to Britain?

I remember the days when Britain was a Victorian backwater in a Europe and world which had left us far behind in many of these areas. I don’t want to see us return to the island fortress of Little Britain.

Also, within a federal EU,  nations like England, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland would have autonomous State governments and legislatures, not the messy half-and-half situation we have in the UK at the moment. Like in the old USSR and the present day USA, all member States would have their own government, and I would suggest all the above along with nations like the Basques and Catalans would also become autonomous EU member states in a federal union.  A true federation devolves power downwards, but the EU is not yet a federation, still a looser political and economic union. The key to any future EU Constitution would be, of course, the right to leave the union either to go it alone or join another federation/union.

Roll on a federal EU, and in the more distant future, a break-away Socialist European Union.

In the forthcoming General Election I am in agreement with the Liberal Democrats’ pro-EU policies and against like-for-like replacement of Trident (which in effect will mean putting our nuclear warheads into storage, which is a great advance over active deployment, targeting civilian populations, and a first step to destroying all nuclear weapons stockpiles.)

Oh, and only two EU states have their own nuclear weapons, the others manage perfectly well without them. A federal EU may well outlaw them altogether!

NATO is another kettle of fish altogether. An outdated American-dominated, nuclear-armed military alliance which should be disbanded. We should, of course, leave NATO.