Saturday 10 December 2016

BBC Radio 4 Extra to repeat ST IVES AND ME Wed 21st Dec 6.30am, 1.30pm and 8.30pm: presented by Anna Chen

Spend the longest night of the year with me on BBC Radio 4 Extra when St Ives and Me is repeated on December 21st

ST IVES AND ME on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I've just learnt from my lovely producers, Mukti Jain Campion and Chris Eldon Lee at Culture Wise, that my BBC R4 programme about the history of artists in St Ives, Cornwall, is on again.

BBC Radio 4 Extra is repeating St Ives and Me on Wednesday 21st Dec 6.30am, 1.30pm and 8.30pm. And there may even be one at 1.30 the next morning if you haven't had enough of me by then or have rolled in merry from Christmas season fun and frolix and are in need of entertainment.

Available after broadcast here.

The original broadcast in 2011 was Pick of the Day for the Radio Times, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Observer and the Independent.

St Ives, a Cornish seaside town 300 miles from comedian and poet Anna Chen's London home has been attracting artists for two centuries. A varied assortment of eccentrics, entrepreneurs and free spirits have turned the pilchard-fishing and tin-mining town into a popular cultural haven.

Anna has been holidaying there since she was ten and knew many of the famous artists who've populated and popularised St Ives.

In the late 1970s the bohemian fashion journalist and novelist Molly Parkin was a regular on the St. Ives scene and she recalls how, in the dark recesses of Mr Peggotty's disco, she introduced Anna to artist Patrick Heron. In his Porthmeor studio by the Atlantic, Heron used to make Anna mugs of tea while he painted and sketched her and their conversations opened her eyes to the arts. Revisiting those studios, she meets two present day painters maintaining the St Ives' tradition.

On a personal tour of the town, she returns to Barbara Hepworth's sculpture garden, hears about the unique light conditions that attract so many artists and reveals the vital roles Napoleon, Von Ribbentrop and the 1960s hippies played in promoting and preserving St Ives.

At lunchtime, in Norway Square, Anna performs her comic poetry in the St Ives Festival, which has been attracting trendsetters for thirty years.

And she waits on the beach, with bated breath, for the legendary 33rd wave.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

I may even be reading a bit of poetry. Here are a few photos from St Ives September 2011. For more pix, go here.

At Tate St Ives for Martin Creed's balloon installation

Jan Jefferies and Anna

Denise and Steve Ingamells at Tate St Ives

Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray at Tate St Ives

Producer Chris Eldon-Lee interviews Valerie Hurry in the Tate St Ives Rotunda

Chris recording in Fore Street, St Ives

Chris reads at a St Ives festival session in Norway Square.
Also present, artists Bob Devereux, Keir Williamson
and the late, much missed Colin Birchall

Bob Devereux hosts the St Ives Festival lunchtime sessions in Norway Square.
With Marc Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray

Lol in Norway Square

Rod Bullimore, Norway Square, St Ives

Buffalo Bill Smith and Colin Birchall at the Frug in the St Ives Arts Club

With Clare Wardman in the studio she shares with Iain Robertson

Clare and Iain's view over the beach from Porthmeor Studios

Charles Shaar Murray in The Hub

Anna and Jan in Barbara Hepworth's conservatory

Anna and Jan on the Island below St Nicholas Chapel

Charles Shaar Murray and Chris Eldon Lee in The Mermaid

Jan, Anna and Denise in The Mermaid
Sunset over Porthmeor Beach and the Clodgy

Molly Parkin
Bob Devereux
Valerie Hurry
Steve Dove
Tony Carver
Jo McIntosh
Denise Ingamells
Annie Jackson
Iain Robertson
Clare Wardman

Charles Shaar Murray and Buffalo Bill Smith — Walking Blues by Robert Johnson
Charles Shaar Murray — Dylan in '66
Bob Devereux — Queen of the Gypsies; Oak
Lol accompanying Bob Devereux
Rod Bullimore — Last Orders; Sewage Against Surfers
Anna Chen — Ode to a Detox on Leaving St Ives; Kicking a Dinosaur

Anna's poetry collection, Reaching For My Gnu is available here

More information on Anna's radio programmes here

Saturday 26 November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum betrays the 70% of Labour voters who voted Remain

Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum group repackages betrayal as a nationwide campaign to 'Take Back Control' of Brexit and push it through despite only 37 per cent of the electorate voting Leave.

Around 70 per cent of Labour voters chose Remain in the EU referendum but Remainers are unrepresented by the main parties. Instead of robustly challenging the Brexit narrative and the referendum result which was always advisory only, Labour plans to help the Conservatives slip it through with a few tweaks if we're lucky.

Far from saving £350 million per week to give to the NHS, the politically neutral Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that Brexit will cost an EXTRA £250 million per week or a weekly total of £600 million, and forecasts a £220 billion increase in national debt by end of parliament to a shocking £1.945 trillion. If this happens, you can forget state pensions, saving the NHS or having anything like a stable economy.

If it hadn't been for Bank of England chief Mark Carney pumping another £60 billion pounds into the economy by buying up gilts (government debt) after the EU vote, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn and keeping the stock markets artificially inflated, it would have been even worse.

How many of us knew that we were voting to make ourselves poorer?

Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement on Wednesday confirmed that there's already a £100bn hole in the treasury, £58bn of which is a direct result of the Brexit vote.

So the worst off who suffered most under Bullingdon brat George Osborne's "austerity" measures when he should have been spending to stimulate the economy at rock bottom interest rates have even more to lose in the years ahead. Will the richest who tripled their wealth during the same period take their turn to recapitalise the banks? I wouldn't bet on that.

EU immigrants may be a net gain to the public purse but they are anathemised with barely a whisper from Labour. If their numbers fall, public finances will take an even bigger hit. Theresa May knows this. Jeremy Corbyn et al know this. The economy is reeling, the pound plummeting way below the level necessary to be advantageous to our exports. Britain's population is getting older and needs immigrants to do the work but Labour still panders to the right's obsession.

In response to a catastrophic future, Corbyn's Momentum leaders squeal breathlessly about a series of events whose objective appears to be to bamboozle their audiences that Brexit is an inevitability and the result of an "overwhelming majority". Only a quarter of the population voted for this permanent wrench and yet only the terms of Brexit are to be debated, not the legitimacy of it happening at all.

Momentum's Emma Rees gushed:
“After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”

Momentum's "exciting" sounds more like the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

It's like asking how you would like the poo in your dinner. Hard or soft? The answer, "I'd rather not have any, thank you," is not up for grabs at all.

LATEST: LABOUR LIST: The Brexit referendum wasn't legally binding, however ...Corbyn: “Article 50 has to be invoked now” 

GUARDIAN: State pension under threat as pension age may be about to rise again, says former minister. Not what most people would describe as "exciting" prospects.

INDEPENDENT: John McDonnell: Labour will not block hard Brexit – but will rely on 'moral pressure.'

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Hard Brexit could lead to '25 years of economic pain' for UK.

SUNDAY TIMES: Why Brexit means a bigger debt burden for Britain

Andrew Coates thinks the Momentum membership might not have been consulted.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Trump's protectionism could be midwife to prosperous Asian region — if he doesn't nuke it first

New Beijing-backed RCEP trade treaty offers hope to emerging markets in Asia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just had a grovelling meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump. My guess is that Abe offered Trump unconditional support in the South China Sea and Pacific. (There are moves to allow Japan to have an army and nuclear weapons which, considering the history of Nanjing and concerns about rising Japanese fascism, is alarming.)

As Europe implodes and the US goes into protectionist lock-down, the strongest potential area of growth is the Asian region (including Australasia) due to powerful demographics. Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts Asia to drive nearly two-thirds of global growth over 4 years. But that was BT (before Trump).

President Barak Obama saw China as an economic rival and tried to strangle it by creating the Tran-Pacific Parternership (TPP) consisting of 12 South American and Pacific nations and the US but EXCLUDING China in its own backyard. Poking the sleeping dragon with a sharp stick, Obama also transferred military from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim and the South China Sea.

Whether you like it or not, China saw what was coming down the pike and asserted its presence by building those islands.

Trump is throwing out TPP but his protectionist policies as trumpeted have already hit emerging markets just as they they were about to bloom (and boom!). EM stocks are falling off a cliff. Peaceful prosperity for nations such as Vietnam, which has suffered horribly, has been snatched away at the very moment of its flowering in 2016. Its markets are sharply down since the US election and bouncing around like an ECG chart.

It's the same for all of the EM. The stable economic conditions that would have seen the growth and expansion of a new middle-class as great slices of the population were raised out of poverty – and probably would have brought with it more stable, democratic governments – have been torpedoed.

It's little wonder that China proposes a new trade deal that Australia is supporting in a significant pivot away from the US.

Reuters reports Xinhua News Agency as saying:
China's Xi is selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which as it stands excludes the Americas.

Chinese state media has warned Trump against isolationism and interventionism, calling instead for the United States to actively work with China to maintain the international status quo.

"The billionaire-turned-politician needs to prove that derailing the global economy has not been one of the reasons why he ran for U.S. president," Xinhua said.

So a region that was set to be a new area of hope in the world, now that western leaders have screwed our economics, our politics and our principles, could very well find itself a war zone if the new administration follows through. War is, after all, only economics by other means and investments in defence stocks are on the up. I wonder if one of the things Obama is drilling into Trump in his presidential tuition sessions is continuing US ambition in the very, very wealthy Asia.

If the US doesn't engineer a war, then Trump's protectionism is the very mechanism that could give China and the region the chance to break out as world economic leaders while the US self-destructs and developed Europe splinters — under hard conditions in the short term but clear winners in the long.

Of course, the alternative would be a world revolution in favour of all humanity but how likely do you think that is given the current circumstances?

My dream is that the Asian region will enjoy the springtime that the West had after World War II, complete with its own equivalent of the 1960s (ours, not theirs when the Allies bombed the hell out of Indo-China). And that they won't make the same mistakes.

My dread is that the West will spend those decades choking on our own fossil-fuel pollution under the draconian rule of the Trump era and jealously stamp out all sparks of life elsewhere.

I am my brothers' keeper and I am my sisters' keeper. Love is the glue that holds us together. Without that we are nothing.

EDIT: More information.

THE DIPLOMAT: Should America Fear China’s Alternative to the TPP? "RCEP is unlikely to include any provisions on issues such as labor, food safety, and the environment, or on sensitive political areas like government procurement. ... the U.S. should practice more restraint in framing the TPP as a counterweight to the Chinese-led RCEP. ... Finally, the U.S. should pressure its TPP partners which are also negotiating the RCEP (there are seven: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei) to press for standards and regulations in the RCEP that can be consolidated with the TPP."

CNBC: A likely beneficiary of Trump’s tough talk on trade: China

CHINA DAILY: Both the US and China deserve better than TPP

THE TELEGRAPH: China will struggle to fill vacuum in Asian trade after US's ill-judged exit

Monday 7 November 2016

Zombie Punks vs Scary Clowns in the New World Order after Clinton or Trump wins POTUS election

With only one day to go before the US votes for its next president, one question remains: who is the least worst?

Think about this. Trump, Putin and now, it appears, China, are contemplating a period summed up in the famous term of the early 20th Century economist Joseph Schumpeter as ‘creative destruction’.

Tom Phillips writing in the Guardian:
... “It was Mao Zedong who said: ‘Without destruction there can be no construction’. And, if I interpret him correctly, Donald Trump is the suicide bomber of American politics,” said Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New York’s Asia Society.

... Trump’s statements questioning US support for its Nato allies and defence treaty with Japan meant he would be “an absolute gift” to Beijing as it strove for superpower status.

“Trump - even though he is ‘anti-China, anti-China, anti-China’ - has always talked about deals. That’s his shtick… [and] the Chinese would be only too happy to do a deal with Trump if that was on the cards.”

Recession is coming to the UK thanks to inflation of at least 4 per cent headed our way. (Mark Carney is staying on at the BOE until 2019 'cause he knows the chickens will be coming home to roost by 2018.) Employers won't match inflation, wages will freeze or effectively fall, our spending will drop and companies will go bust. And there's that great big global debt bubble that has to eventually go "pop" ...

But for capitalists who can hang on through the slump, there are fortunes to be made as Britain then "recovers" and stocks bought at fire sale prices rise. Same for the US where markets are at the end of a bull run that has been fuelled by easy money injected into the system by the central banks. Only the fittest survive in Trumpworld, everyone else is going to find it very hard.

War and slumps reset the bankrupt old system and I have to admit I'd rather take my chances in a slump than in a war, especially with Russian nuclear bombs that can take out an area the size of Texas and trigger-happy Amurkins missing their targets.

Even if Clinton wins, the chances of military conflict are high(er) and the inevitable correction in the markets will happen but it might take longer to get to the end of this round of pass the parcel with a live grenade.

'Fonly we had a strong, humane, effective, intelligent left to lead us through this.

In the meantime, everyone with an outside area should have a water butt and learn to grow food. And organise locally. If we all pull together on the basis of need not greed we can raise our collective consciousness in the struggle as well as survive.

And take comfort that those of us who possessed little in the last slump in the 1970s barely noticed it except for bin bags piled high in the streets and corpses left unburied. At least we got punk out of it. Expect Zombie Punks versus Scary Clowns in the next phase of the science fiction writer's coma dream where we are all trapped.

EDIT: Monday 2pm. I think they are both awful in their own ways but I reckon it's a Clinton win and so does the Independent.
INCOMING: Oh, good god. All bow to our Orange Overlord.

Friday 4 November 2016

BBC turns Terracotta Warriors origins into culture wars

The world is changing, the sun sets on the British empire and all that is solid melts like a Mr Whippy ice-cream in the summer heat.

Some people can't stand it. In terms of cultural appropriation, Dan Snow's claim in his programme, The Greatest Tomb On Earth: Secrets Of Ancient China, that the Terracotta Warriors (made some two centuries before the Common Era), were Greek-led innovations takes the chauvinist biscuit.

Snow dons his best Victorian colonialist demeanor to assure BBC viewers that, joy of joys, it was us who did it after all. All is right with the world.

According to the BBC puff, "Mobilising the latest technology, delving into some of the oldest texts, enlisting world experts and employing forensic science, together the three reveal an explosive secret from the foundations of the Chinese empire".

That "explosive secret" is the leap from simplistic human representation in art to the full-on 3D life-size figures discovered in the tomb of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210BC). For which Snow credits the west on not very much evidence.

As if, as in every culture, the Chinese weren't already on the road to increasingly "accurate" representations of the human figure. European art underwent its own revolutionary leap in human depiction in the middle-ages, more than a thousand years later: from stiff, unreal figures (similar to early Greek sculptures) where man was peripheral to God, to man placed at the centre of the universe as a spiritual being, giving rise to perspective and an attempt to inject life into the art. But even that is not as a big a leap as Snow taking credit on behalf of the West. History isn't — or shouldn't be – a competition. (Yes, that goes for Chinese chauvinism as well.)

Qin Shi Huangdi unified China, often brutally, and standardised weights, measures and language. It was a period of massive change giving rise to a super-state that could draw on all its resources.

Of course, cross-fertilisation happens. Hey, the West got China's silk, porcelain, tea technology, gunpowder and hydraulics and a whole lot more. The Jesuits may have introduced the water screw to China but the Chinese soon replaced it by vastly more efficient piston-pumps.

But, let's say Greek statues found their way into China. If it was such a massive influence, then surely there would be copies of the Greek style cropping up elsewhere? That distinctive fluid, muscular style: where is it in ancient Chinese art?

The whole weight of the programme rests on the assertion that the terracotta warriors would not have been possible without the Greeks teaching the Chinese how to do it, even though the Chinese were technologically more advanced.

During Qin Shi's reign there occurred a paradigm shift in figurative representation in the plastic arts, a vast improvement on how the Chinese had hitherto comprehended the world. Given that China had the ceramics technology, how long would it have been for them to size up? The puppyish Dr Albert Lim (not a threat to Dan Snow's officer-class authority) happily bounds alongside providing ethnic and scientific cover with lots of excited gasps but he never challenges the narrative swerve being constructed out of the flimsiest evidence.

On closer inspection, China history buff Hooi Yau Ming writes in one Facebook discussion:
The evidence was not conclusive, and they acknowledged that in the documentary. The skull that was found in Xi'an, whilst not of Chinese origin, was not of European origin. And the DNA test which showed genes of European origin, was done on DNA located in Xinjiang province, which is nearly 3,000km away from Xi'an - I myself am not surprised by this particular result.

Why don't we ever see what the Greeks learnt from Egypt? Two years ago, I proposed to the BBC history department for their 2017 Hong Kong handover anniversary season that, among other subjects, we make a programme about Joseph Needham's scholarship around China's innovations that have affected the west. I suspect mine was a perspective they'd rather not deal with.

The BBC should be making programmes about the richness of human diversity and celebrating how we are all interconnected, not blowing up some jingoistic arts and tech turf war. Dinosaurs from a fading empire comfort themselves that Chinese are mere copyists and Mighty Whitey the true innovators, but from what I've seen, the reverse is true.

Sadly, I suppose we can expect more of this twisted history now that the sun is setting on the empire.

Now THIS looks interesting: why didn't science rise in China? Jonathan Spence and Alan L Goodman debate.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Wonder Woman UN appointment less about gender than Israel, Syria and World War III

Reports of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman appointment to the UN miraculously omit her Israeli Army background

More proof that we've slipped into the Twilight Zone as the popular culture takes a hit.

Today's news about Wonder Woman at the United Nations yields a graphic example of how slippery the media is and why we need some sort of media studies in schools teaching us to analyse exactly what narrative is being shoved down our throats. Like geese being fattened up for paté foie gras, we're being asked to open wide for war with Syria.

Just at the point where Clinton's path to the White House looks clear, the cuddly librul Guardian manages to publish an article about the appointment of DC Entertainment/Warner Brothers' fictional character – Wonder Woman – to the UN without mentioning once that her current incarnation is played by Gal Gadot, no mere conscript who served her mandatory two years in the Israeli Army, but an enthusiastic combat trainer and cheerleader for the killing of Palestinians.

Neutrality, much? It's not as if you have to dig deep on this issue. Gadot is perfectly open about her pro IDF stance.

"Israel's real-life Wonder Woman", purrs The Times of Israel.

Was this all literally too blindingly obvious for the Guardian? Or another new low in cynicism?

The Guardian, drowning in a glut of articles about peach-flavoured vaginas, siezes on the issue of gender representation and says of a UN staff protest on the matter:
... It mentioned concerns over her “overtly sexualized image” that is not “culturally encompassing or sensitive”. ... “The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real-life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all around the world should look up to,” the petition read.

Protesters entered the chamber at the start of the event, and stood with their backs turned and their fists raised. ... Though they didn’t intend to speak about their protest to the media, one, who was asked if the Guardian could mention her remarks anonymously, said she wished a real person had been chosen for the role of ambassador.

Well, a real person has been chosen, sweetie. It's just that press reports are blinding you to what's just happened.

And how about "Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all around the world should look up to"? White, Israeli American is our collective role model? I'm not sure, either, how many Palestinian girls will be identifying with someone who wants to drive them into the sea which, from looking at satellite pictures of the tiny Gaza Strip, is an aim close to being accomplished.

The Guardian continues:

Cristina Gallach, UN under secretary general for communications and public information, attended on behalf of the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. She seemed to explain the choice of Wonder Woman in her remarks. “I don’t need to tell you Wonder Woman is an icon,” she said. “She has been known for justice, peace and equality and we are very pleased that this character will help us reach new audiences with essential messages about empowerment and equality.”

The whole process provides a handy shorthand for stamping Israel with the DC superhero qualities of "justice, peace and equality" through the metonymic representation by Gadot, morphing Wonder Woman into a potent symbol for Israel and her interests. Soft propaganda in action, the politicisation of the culture, and nary a challenging word from the press.

In focusing exclusively on the hyped-up gender controversy about women in the UN, the media add to the smoke 'n' mirrors obfuscating the fact that this UN appointment is a partisan, political one with a purpose and potentially catastrophic results.

Gender politics is increasingly used as safe, stupefying fodder for the uninformed in our depoliticising media, totally obliterating the key political dynamic that a conscientious press should be all over like a rash — warming us up for Clinton's imminent war with Syria and Russia.

Friday 21 October 2016

Global economy running on fumes: let's have a jolly nice war

Sterling has taken a post-Brexit pounding and may even fall below parity with the dollar. The US economy is at the top of a bull run and running on fumes. The Euro is sliding and the European Union may disintegrate. Deutsche Bank may fail (it's much, MUCH bigger than Lehman Bros) and could be the trigger for another economic meltdown ... only without the safety next of a wealthy China growing at full throttle. China has the best potential to thrive but has a ticking time-bomb credit bubble of 250 per cent of GDP.

How to get out of this mess?

Apropos of nothing, shares of Raytheon and British Aerospace, purveyors of death machines, are doing rather well, thank you, with brokers urging BUY BAE Systems. Wonder why that could be.

Perhaps what capitalism needs is a nice world war to clear debt, make fortunes and reset us all to the stone age. Hey, let's stir it up in Syria, ignore the tyrants in Saudi and the Stans, and go and live in a deep mineshaft somewhere in survivalist country.

Here's Dr Strangelove ...

Thursday 6 October 2016

Brexit: a depreciating currency and the mirage of a thriving economy

The Reluctant Capitalist: a depreciating currency and the mirage of a thriving FTSE (or: how we are so screwed).

Keeping the Left up to speed.

The pro-Brexit camp is lulling us into complacency over the results of the EU referendum where only 37 per cent of the electorate voted Leave, along with a summer bounce in retail sales and the FTSE breaking through the 7000 mark.

Let's take a closer look as those markets.

The FT, not known for dissembling to its moneyed-class readers on economic matters, unlike certain Brexit-cheerleading newspapers, says:
The pattern of the UK’s performance looks wholly different when viewed in dollar terms; the FTSE 100 is down slightly for the year in dollars, and lags behind FTSE’s index for the rest of the world by seven percentage points. Substantially all of that gap has opened up since the Brexit referendum in June, which initially caused stocks to fall globally. Stocks in the US made a full recovery; stocks in the UK did not, unless you measure them in the UK’s depreciated currency.
... 1998, the FTSE 100 has underperformed the rest of the world by 50 per cent in dollar terms ...
... UK stocks have lagged behind the world badly since the referendum, in common currency terms, and that the pound has dropped to a fresh 31-year low since UK politicians started saying over the weekend that they were prepared to suffer a “hard Brexit” in return for regaining control of migration, show that international markets perceive Brexit as risky, and potentially harmful for the UK economy.

Apart from being a huge bubble trading at 69 times earnings, only seen at the height of the tech bubble and 2009 crash aftermath,
... the gains have been concentrated in the materials and mining groups that populate the London market. Anglo-American has trebled this year, while Fresnillo and Glencore have more than doubled; all are rallying from a severely sold-off position, and rely on a continued recovery in commodity prices.
And don't forget that Bank of England chief Mark Carney had to pump another £60 billion pounds into the economy by buying up gilts (government debt) after the EU vote, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn, keeping the stock markets artificially inflated.

And yet Money Week points out that:
In the three months to the end of July 2016 – so roughly a month and a half either side of the Brexit vote – it showed that the UK’s broad money supply grew at 14.7%. ... this rate exceeds even the previous high of 12.8%, set in 2006 at the peak of the boom before the global financial crisis. We all know what happened next.

... only about 10% of newly-created money has made its way into the kind of consumer items tracked by CPI. Instead, 37% has gone into financial markets, 40% into residential and commercial property, and 13% into real businesses that create jobs and boost economic growth. ... So all the official measures do, effectively, is track the 10% of “inflation” that has gone into consumer goods.

Sterling probably has further to fall. It was $1.55 before the vote, then plunged to around $1.30 and now it's $1.27 and slipping. Some commentators have been talking about $1.05 which was last hit in the mid 1980s.

The pound has fallen more than 14 per cent this year, only beaten by the Argentine peso as the worst performing major currency for 2016.

But what does this mean for the many working class voters who want Brexit?

When you have few assets and are living essentially hand to mouth much of this goes over your head. I was blissfully untouched by ERM, the dot com bubble and the 2008 crash, only vaguely aware that some awful calamity was going on in the upper echelons. This is likely to be how many poorer Brexiteers — done over or neglected by successive governments, left largely undefended by either of the parties when austerity was running full tilt — feel about the current economic hit, especially if the Tories can keep some plates spinning. Problem this time, though, is what's coming down the pipeline: more "soft" austerity, collapsing pensions hit by ultra-low interest rates, cuts in services and a privatised NHS will all hurt.

While domestic goods made here will be more expensive due to cost of imported materials, so will imports, so UK manufacturing may gain the upper hand in time, and rising UK earnings may also help soften the blow.

However ... value for investors isn't present even with a fallen pound. One study found only four of the giant stocks had any value left (including dealer of death BAE, of course!). Investors may flee or just sit tight and watch for now.

So we have the worst of both worlds. A severely damaged economy where those at the bottom are picking up the bill, no revolutionary movement to change society and a degenerated left waiting on the wings for capitalism to deliver the working class into their hands. It won't, at least this time around. That's the genius of capitalism — it mutates and leaves us in its dust.

Such great material to work with. UK productivity gap widens to worst level since records began. 

Tories under pressure to go for investment: Labour's opportunity to drive the economic narrative

Theresa May bragged about Britain being world’s 5th-largest economy. After her speech, it dropped to 6th.

Banking revenues about to fall off cliff as UK signals slashing regulations. Remember Reagan doing the same and Clinton abolishing the Glass Steagal Act separating investment and savings banks? And the 2008 crash that those policies led to?

Tories under pressure to go for investment: Labour's opportunity to drive the economic narrative

The Reluctant Capitalist: keeping the Left up to speed

From Anna's Facebook post Sunday 2nd October 2016:

I'll give this to Team Corbyn for free (as always).

I'm delighted to see left arguments for infrastructure investment entering the debate at the Labour conference. What you might not know is that investors, AKA the capitalist class, are in a panic because austerity hasn't worked for them, either. It’s all very well being a First Class passenger on the Titanic while those in steerage drown first under George Osborne’s austerity measures, but they know the sea will get you in the end.

The markets are fat, flat and running on petrol fumes. Bonds have no yield. Gold has soared as the last refuge of value but looks like dropping. Everyone is expecting a massive correction (slump), only unlike the 2008 crash, an economically strong China is not there to help pick up the pieces — China has a terrifying amount of debt as they have learnt about printing and pumping money from our own Quantitive Easing (QE). It is like playing pass the parcel with a live grenade.

Philip Hammond is now under pressure from significant bodies of Tories. Now that the central banks have run out of ammo and the poorest have suffered from austerity while national and personal debt has soared, there’s a clamour for what we needed right after the 2008 crash: investment in infrastructure such as rail, roads, housing, ports, power stations and so on.

However, Hammond is dithering. This means there is a window of opportunity to change the austerity narrative and get speakers into the media — you'll be pushing at an open door. This is your chance to update your fact-files (I am sure you do this regularly), brief your speakers, give them some media training and shape the debate.

For instance, the Tories will baulk at building social housing among all the possible projects. Your task, if you care to take it, is to grab the limelight PROACTIVELY, get into the various print, broadcast and social media and foreground the facilities we want built for need not greed.

Aditya Chakrabortty: Hammond is leading Britain into another lost decade

Saturday 3 September 2016

Friday 2 September 2016

WASPI guide to stolen state pensions: did you know?

WASPI guide to the 6-year State Pension Age rip-off by Trudy Baddams


1. Your wife, your mother, your grandmother, your sister, your auntie will now have to wait until they reach 66 before they can retire?

2. In 1940 in fairness to men the women’s pension age changed to 60 because married men had to wait until the wife turned 65 before he could retire, this allowed the couple to enjoy their retirement together.

3. In the late 60’s / early 70’s the 50’s women embarked on their journey into work. They paid the same percentage contribution towards National Insurance as men but didn’t earn equal pay. When they reached 18 the also contributed to the Graduated Pension until it later merged with N.I.

4. When the 50’s women began paying their dues they were told they could retire at 60.

5. When the 50’s women married they had a choice, they could continue paying the standard rate of NI entitling them to benefits and retiring at 60 in their own right, or opt for the lower ‘married woman’s rate’ but would have to wait until their husband reached 65 before they could retire.

6. So, women of the 50’s have been paying NI for anything from 35 – 44 years believing they would retire at 60 or at the very least until the husband retires.

7. Did you know the chancellor has been holding onto £30bn of NI contributions and government says they can’t afford to pay our pensions at 60 even though we’ve been paying all these years and continue to pay and they have this surplus just sitting there?

8. So, despite paying our dues, now the government is refusing to pay our pension at 60.

9. The government have played on our goodwill, and have breached their verbal, social, legal contract. We kept our side of the contract and have paid up to retire at 60.

10. Apparently labour introduced an increase of pension age to 65 in 1995 but failed to inform the women of the 50’s who would be most directly affected, the government failed its legal duty to inform all women personally of this change, they tried to get away with this by stating they didn’t have any current details, except they forget that they have all details from PAYE, us women still received all our NI demands and self-assessments as well as any tax or child benefit details, so they do have out details, they just failed to carry out this legal action. They also tried to get away with this by saying they put adverts in magazines (I’ve yet to see) and pension pack were available for anyone who requested them.

11. The legal contractual duty according to the Pension Advisory Service is that the provider MUST inform its clients of any changed, the government failed to do this on 2 occasions and they decided without consulting us of any changes to increase our pension age to 66 thus every 50’s woman is losing anywhere between £35,000 - £40,000 in the pension they were contracted to receive.

12. The change to women’s pension age was blamed on the EU, this is simply not true, it was labelled ‘unfair to men’ and had to be equalised, but hang on; did we not do the ‘fair’ bit in 1940? And other European countries are not equalising and some are reducing pension age Poland for example, not as wealthy as us, the 6th richest country.

13. When the government called to change the pension age they promised a relaxed transition but we’re now looking at working an EXTRA 6 years, not the 18 months MP’s keep stating in their interviews. This is hardly fair to women when men only have to work an EXTRA 1 year.

14. We do not dispute that men and women should be equal in everything including their pension age but it has to be done fairly.

15. Looking back to the 1940 issue and continuing now, women in general marry men a few years their senior, this change in pension age has turned the tables on fairness, we are now seeing men retiring earlier than their wives, this is unfair especially to those who opted for the ‘standard rate’ NI to retire at 60 in their own right.

16. 50’s women who have reached or are nearing 60 have had no time to change their plans, many finding themselves unemployed and in the clasp of the jobcentre with workfare, work programmes, working for their benefits as they are claiming Job seekers allowance, or they find themselves on ESA and its strict regime of sanctions. This is no way to treat women who have done the ‘right thing’ who have paid their dues, and who are entitled to their pension.

17. A pension is not a benefit and for Mr Cameron and others to say there are other benefits to claim, we don’t want benefits, we don’t deserve to be treated this way, going to the jobcentre cap in hand. Signing on at 60 is degrading and insulting.

My Story
I started work at the age of 16, I married at 17 and I was verbally offered the married rate NI, mentioned above, the company accountant sat and explained that if I continued to pay the ‘standard rate’ I would be able to retire at 60 in my own right, as my husband was 3 years my senior this was a good option for me, rather than waiting until he reached 65 when I would be 62, so that is what I did and paid the standard rate since then. I will now be retiring 3 years after my now ex-husband, how is this right? This is NOT what I signed up for; this is not what I paid all my NI contributions for. Women are now retiring later than their husbands in a situation where the government are trying to make things fair they are making it extremely unfair to women.

So I can no longer retire at 60 despite all those years of expecting to do so, I now have to work an EXTRA 6 years, I cannot even retire at 62 as if I had paid the ‘married woman’s rate’ so in my case, this is extremely unfair. The government say no-one will have to work anything over an EXTRA 18 months, this is simply not true.

So I have paid NI over 44 years for a pension at 60 which I will not be getting, I continue paying NI for a pension I will not receive and I will continue to pay for a further 6 years. Why am I still paying for something I will not get? Why have I paid all these years for something I will not receive?

Instead of settling into my retirement next year at 60, allowing my husband in his ill-health to cut down on his hours, and taking care of our grandchildren, helping my daughter out with ‘free’ childcare while she works, we’ll be denying our grandchildren and ourselves the right to a family life as they are dumped at costly childminders. My husband will have to continue working his long hours now we’ve been denied my pension at 60, denying us a better quality of life.

I have done the right thing, please reverse the decision and give us our pensions at 60, give us the respect we deserve.

The link to my newspaper interview
Mrs T Baddams

See also:

July 2018: The rape of the National Insurance Fund A draft prepared by Tony Lynes as a basis for a National Pensioners Convention factsheet on the National Insurance Fund

Waspi busts the myth of State Pension Age "equalisation": Waspi fact file

WASPI women's pensions were in surplus but RAIDED: restore our pensions

Osborne clobbers low paid freelancers and deals fresh blow to women born in the 1950s in Budget 2016

No way to treat a woman: Waspi case study video exposes state pensions rip-off.

Hansard on the Waspi debate in Parliament, 1st Feb 2016.

WASPI women are the first line of defence in the government's war on state pensions — YOUR state pension.

Waspi busts the myth of State Pension Age "equalisation": Waspi fact file

Trudy Baddams' open letter to the Guardian on WASPI and their stolen pension years; "We Paid In, You Pay Out.”

There are several aspects to the 50’s women’s pensions and I have broken them down below.
1. In the mid 1960’s – early 1970’s when the 50’s women began their journey into work and contributing to Graduated Pension and National Insurance the pension age was 60 for women and men retired at 65.

2. From 1925 – 1940 women’s pension was equal to men’s at 65, but because women usually married men a few years their senior, it was believed that this was unfair on married men as they had to continue working until their wives reached 65 also, so in 1940, in fairness to MEN, the government changed the women’s pension age to 60 so the married couple could enjoy their retirement together. The government at the time showed compassion.

3. Nothing has changed, women still usually marry men a few years their senior.

4. Women continued to pay Graduated Pension contributions until it was phased out and merged with National Insurance.

5. Paying National Insurance contributions entitles the contributor to some benefits and old age pension, unconditionally and with no means testing.

6. Women of the 50’s didn’t have the opportunities men had and didn’t enjoy the life style of women folk of today, they didn’t even have equal pay, still don’t, they had no choice but to pay their contributions by law at the same rate as men.

7. So single women worked their way through life, from the ‘60’s/70’s making their contributions and their employers matching these contributions, anything from 9% - 12% of their wages just like men. They entered into the pension contract in the knowledge they would retire at 60. They have paid for their pensions and other benefits as required by law, they’re not expecting anyone to pay for them, they have contributed to their pensions for some 45 years and are still contributing today.

8. Up until the 1970’s married women were given the option of paying the lower ‘married woman’ rate of NI, sometimes referred to as the 2p rate, this dis-empowered women as they would not be entitled to certain benefits and their pension age would be based on when their husband reached retirement.

9. But married women who married before the ‘70’s who opted to continue paying the ‘standard NI rate’ the same as men were entitled to all benefits and were entitled to retire at 60 in their own right.

10. Those who married and had children were often frowned upon if they worked, they were expected to stay at home, look after the children and become housewives, looking after their husbands and household too, men were the breadwinners, the wage earners. Mothers tended to find small part-time jobs such as dinner ladies, or cleaners to fit in around the children’s school hours and holidays just to add a couple of bob to the family purse, often these jobs were under paid, and didn’t have the equal pay commission on their side in those days, or a national minimum wage, often they were scant hours with no tax or NI responsibility.

11. Mothers and carers were covered by the ‘Home Responsibilities’ credits, for example mothers were covered for 16 years while they looked after their children.
So, the above are the bullet points relating to the history of women’s pensions. That is how things were, the law of the land from 1940, men retired at 65 and their wives and single women retired at 60 in fairness to men. Now let’s look at the present and the future shall we?

A. We now learn that in 1995 the government decided to revert back to the 1920’s and bring back the age of retirement to 65 for both men and women in fairness to MEN again, but no sooner than 2020. This rise was blamed on the EU at the time and the EU was happy with a relaxed transition and other European countries don’t have equalisation and indeed some are bringing down the pension age for men and women, it was not an EU directive at all.

B. The government said it personally informed all those affected by this change, as is legally required, but this was not the case, very few, if any, actually received any notification of any change, this is being blamed on the fact that the government departments did not have up to date contact details for the women involved, but I hasten to add that these women still received their NI demands for payment, their self-assessment forms for their self-employment and their child tax credits, child benefits and their working tax credits, so the lack of up to date contact information is questionable, and most women were unaware of this change in law. Out of the blue women were finding they had to work an EXTRA 5 years, giving no time to make adjustments to their life styles to take this change into account.

C. In 2007 the government passed yet another law, again on the quiet, not informing women or men that the pension age would increase to 66 but not before 2024 and 2026. Women all of a sudden would have to work an EXTRA 6 years while the men only had to work an EXTRA 1 year, in fairness to MEN.

D. In 2011 Women’s state pension age would now be raised more quickly to reach 65 in 2018 which breached the coalition agreement promise of ‘no sooner than 2020’ women's state pension age would rise to 65 by 2018 and men’s and women’s pension ages would rise to 66 would be rushed through by April 2020.

E. The pension age is based on life expectancy at the time, for example the life expectancy of a woman my age (1 year off the original retirement age of 60) is 86 and the government says we should all be able to enjoy 1/3 of life in retirement, which would make my retirement age 58, but the pension age as it stands with this new law at 66 would create a life expectancy of 99 years, someone somewhere has made a grave mathematics error.

The above points are the here and now, this is where women stand at this point in time, while men only have 1 year EXTRA to work and in fairness to MEN, equalisation, 500,000 women will have to wait longer than a year, 300,000 the rest of us 50’s women have an EXTRA 6 to wait for our pensions despite the facts pointed out in the issues above.

So looking at the facts alone it is clear discrimination of women vs men, in fairness to MEN the law was changed in 1940, again the law changed in fairness to MEN in 1995, nowhere do I see any fairness to WOMEN, all I see is discrimination, women staying home looking after the children, not working, keeping house, women earning a pittance before the equalisation of wages, and before the introduction of the minimum wage, working and paying contributions towards their pensions, but now 45 years on they are being denied what that have paid into. These women are still paying for their right to a pension. Many have paid over the odds as married women opting to pay the ‘standard rate’ in order to retire at 60, clearly as Baroness Altmann says this pension has been mis-sold by the government to women of the 50’s. If women are not going to get their pensions at the age agreed when they began paying then the government has no right to collect any further contributions and has a duty to repay the overpayment to the women who have over-paid for a service they will never receive.

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that everyone understands the system, it is not the young paying for our pensions and it is wrong for the government to imply this, it is us, we have paid in and we want our entitlement, this is not a benefit this is something we have paid into all our working lives under the assumption that the government would honour its side of the agreement as we have done, as our employers have done.

Government have a duty of care to its people, women are suffering at the hands of governments policy, they are unable to work, they are in the hands of the jobcentre, they are in training or work experience, this far down the line when they should be enjoying their retirement with their family.
We Paid In, You Pay Out.

It is also wrong to say the money isn’t there we all know that the NI pension fund should have been ring-fenced, and that the government have had their fingers in the pot as there is only £30bn left, but this is enough to begin paying what is due to us 50’s women.

There have been rumblings that the government would like to ‘help us’ we don’t want ‘help’ we want what is rightfully ours, and talks about deals, so we can ‘retire early’ we don’t want to ‘retire early’ we want to retire at the age we were told we could retire when we entered into this agreement. ‘Lower life time’ rate has been discussed but this just adds to the discrimination, we have been discriminated against all our lives, to have to draw a lower rate of pension than our menfolk is utterly wrong when we’ve all paid in the same percentages.

It is cheaper to pay a woman her pension at the agreed date she began paying her dues, than it is to fund a young unemployed family, release our jobs for the youngsters, allow us women to retire at the age we agreed when we began our journey in our working life of contributions, look after the women who never stood a chance of accumulating the necessary years of contributions as their caring responsibilities didn’t allow them to work, to build up their credits, the mum’s who had children, they were allowed 16 years of home responsibilities credits but this has now changed to just 12 years, those who are looking after disabled children or elderly parents, of those who were housewives looking after their husbands and not working, relying on their husbands NI who have become widowed.

Women have planned for their retirement to look after their elderly parents or their grandchildren or volunteer in the charity shop, this government has stripped the country of its army of grey volunteers in its greed, costing the taxpayer thousands in caring, in childminding. It’s time for change, for respect for the 50’s women, some of us 60 something ladies have been found wanting, some on workfare working for jobseekers allowance, lost their dignity, lost their will to live as their old bodies are cracking around them and they can’t cope with the hard graft day in, day out, some go cap in hand to the jobcentre for benefits, and some go to foodbanks, some have sold their homes, this is degrading when they have done everything required of them all their working lives, this is a serious matter and needs to be addressed now, not in a months’ time, it needs urgent attention, we didn’t choose to be born women and I thought discrimination against women had been stamped out, this government has brought it back on the biggest platform ever, this is an issue which affects every man, woman, child, grandchild, boy, girl, mum, dad, sister, brother, those in need of voluntary services, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, time to wake up and understand we will not give up, time to pay up.

As Ros Altmann says we were not given notice and have had no time to make changes to our retirement plans. Men are now retiring earlier than their womenfolk, the system has gone full circle in 'fairness to men' without a thought to the womenfolk, some men are having to work on longer as the 'expected' wife's pension is denied and the joint income including the man's pension isn't enough to cover household bills.

On a personal note, I was going to retire next year at 60 because I paid the ‘standard rate’ of NI, had I paid the married woman’s rate, my retirement age would then have been 63 as my first husband was 3 years my senior, paying the ‘standard rate’ all these years has made no difference to my retirement age whatsoever I find I have to work until I’m 66 no matter what. But my present situation is slightly different, I was hoping to receive my pension at 60, not long to wait, my 59th birthday this week, that way my husband who suffered a ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm a few years ago is finding it difficult keeping up with his full time work, he tires easily, the plan was to cut his hours to suit his needs when I retire next year, with the sudden changes in pension ages he will have to continue to work full time until we both reach 66 or if this fatigue worsens he will have to think about claiming benefits.

So all those years I paid into a system believing I would retire at 60 and now at 59 I find I am not, and still this government is taking my NI contributions at the ‘standard rate’ but the goalposts have changed beyond reach. All those years paying into a system which would look after me and mine in my retirement, except governments have reneged on the deal we entered into when us 50’s women began our journey into work 40 odd years ago, the government owes us, they are in breach of contract.

Women of the 50’s are strong we will continue our fight until we get what is ours by right.

We Paid In, You Pay Out.
Trudy from Somerset"

See also:

July 2018: The rape of the National Insurance Fund A draft prepared by Tony Lynes as a basis for a National Pensioners Convention factsheet on the National Insurance Fund

WASPI guide to stolen state pensions: did you know?

No way to treat a woman: Waspi case study video exposes state pensions rip-off.

WASPI women's pensions were in surplus but RAIDED: restore our pensions

Osborne clobbers low paid freelancers and deals fresh blow to women born in the 1950s in Budget 2016

Hansard on the Waspi debate in Parliament, 1st Feb 2016.

No way to treat a woman: Waspi case study video exposes state pensions rip-off.

This video explains the adverse effects the State Pension Age (SPA) changes introduced by the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Acts are already having on 1950s-born women just three years into the ten year timetable.

As the former pensions minister Stephen Webb pointed out in 2014, pensions are not a benefit. You have paid for this right through National Insurance Contributions.
“Absolutely rightly, it is yours by right, you have paid your national insurance contributions. There's a certain amount of stigma about claiming benefits, when people draw their state pension that's not how they think of it."

However, I disagree with the Waspi organisation's conclusion that acceptance of the raised State Pension Age for women is the only way forward. Women earn only about 80 per cent of men's income so any description of this SPA hike of 6 years with little notice as "equalisation" is brutally cynical. And how many jobs are there for women aged 60 to 66? Britain has one of the worst pension systems in the wealthier developed world and we should not accept a race to the bottom in the 4th/5th/6th richest economy on the planet, especially when there's money for bank bailouts, wars and expensive vanity projects such as the proposed Garden Bridge over the river Thames, or HS2.

I trust that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and a significant swathe of cross-party MPs, will defend the most vulnerable in society and support the WASPI APPG. But bring back the 60 year SPA.

See also:

July 2018: The rape of the National Insurance Fund A draft prepared by Tony Lynes as a basis for a National Pensioners Convention factsheet on the National Insurance Fund

Waspi busts the myth of State Pension Age "equalisation": Waspi fact file

WASPI women's pensions were in surplus but RAIDED: restore our pensions

Osborne clobbers low paid freelancers and deals fresh blow to women born in the 1950s in Budget 2016

No way to treat a woman: Waspi case study video exposes state pensions rip-off.

Hansard on the Waspi debate in Parliament, 1st Feb 2016.

WASPI women are the first line of defence in the government's war on state pensions — YOUR state pension.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Cuddly liberal Guardian claims first hand transplant for whites

The world's first succesful hand transplant was carried out in China when microsurgery was being pioneered in the 1960s. My dad came back from a China visit with a fascinating set of black and white photos (wonderfully gruesome for a kid to pore over) of a male worker who'd lost his hand above the wrist in a factory accident. The first photo was him sitting calmly with his arm resting on a table with the severed hand placed inches away from the stump. Over the course of photographs you saw the various stages of attachment, exercise and training. The final one was taken months later of a smiling patient with his new working hand and the happy medical team that carried out this remarkable operation.

When I was old enough to talk about this, I was angrily told by jingoistic white geezers that this was an impossibility. "How could you sew all those nerves and blood vessels together?"

If you thought we were living in more enlightened times, here's the cuddly, liberal Guardian all these years later claiming this breakthrough for European white civilisation.

This Guardian story by Nicola Davis reads: "Clint Hallam, the patient who received the world's first transplant 1998 ..."

A thing doesn't exist unless white Europeans invented it. Like hydraulics, the multi-tube seed-drill (2ndC BC), printing, the crank handle, suspension bridge, stirrup, masts and sailing, gunpowder (850AD) and the humble cup of tea. [See Joseph Needham and Robert Temple.]

Shouldn't we be talking about the achievements of human endeavour and give credit where it's due? Isn't it time to jettison this soft white supremacy?

It's an attitude that's inscribed deeply in our culture, perpetuated by white liberals who really should do better research. The late black historian and writer Alan Mitchell was adamant that it needed challenging as it's been going on at least since the ancient Greeks appropriated Egyptian knowhow as their own discovery.

And it still goes on from the macro to the micro. F'rinstance, I've been told by leftists of all people, such as writer Ian Sinclair (The March That Shook Britain), that I couldn't possibly have done the pioneering presswork for the left that I did. Lucky I kept all my press releases, photos and notes, eh, Ian? Eh, Seumas?

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Sending off Alan Mitchell in pan-African style

Alan Mitchell's Ipswich posse yesterday at Manor Park cemetary, along with nearly a couple of hundred mourners, witnessing him being laid to rest in a spectacular pan-African ceremony.

The rain sheeted down in the kind of perfect Pathetic Fallacy weather that Alan would have struck out as a cliché had anybody been sufficiently corny to have included it in a script. However, the sun also struggled through, though our hearts were breaking. The grief rolls in on you in outsized waves and I don't surf.

Thank you, Nelson Mitchell, for the anecdote earlier that morning in the church service about Alan playing Doctor Who as a kid, using the wardrobe as his Tardis (for it was he who was the Doctor, natch!) and ordering his younger brothers Nelson and Emmanuel to be Cybermen and attack him as soon as he exited. Unfortunately, this was nine at night and bedtime. The noise of Alan's vocal Tardis noises and the rocking of the wardrobe in the small Bethnal Green flat soon attracted the attention of his Mum. The only battle victor when Alan emerged was his Mum who administered "licks" while his brothers laughed themselves silly. This is the one thing that made me smile in a long, wrenching day.

Charles Shaar Murray said he once teased Alan that Nelson was a younger, handsomer version of him. Alan harrumphed and retorted, "No, not handsomer. Just prettier!"

Alan, you are beautiful in all our eyes. And will always be. RIP

Sunday 10 July 2016

Farewell Alan Mitchell: comics and black history writer

Paul Anderson, Anna Chen and Alan Mitchell in Suffolk, March 2016.
Pic by Charles Shaar Murray

Tomorrow we bury our friend, brother, son, and father, Alan Mitchell.

Alan Mitchell 9th November 1960 to 22nd June 2016

In the outside world, it was the darkest period of our lives in a generation. We were about to topple into a post-truth era where politics, economics, race and ethics would all be thrown into the air. However, after years of struggle we were temporarily safe in our new home which was to be a writers’ retreat for myself, Charles Shaar Murray, Paul Anderson and Alan Mitchell.

They say the sound you hear while making plans is the gods laughing. At 6.30pm on 22nd June 2016, the eve of the catastrophic Brexit vote, the wheel of fate creaked round a new notch and the walls were breached. The powers of destruction in evidence Out There crashed in with the news that one of my best friends, my bro, the person I could talk to and share experiences with of racism, exclusion and injustice, had died that morning.

Alan Mitchell, with whom we were going to do amazing things now that the house was almost finished — including his history of black creatives and heroes in comics — had gone and left us bereft.

He had persuaded me to turn my show, Anna May Wong Must Die!, into a graphic novel. He was always brilliant when it cames to matters of race and black history in particular and he thought that this was an important project about the Chinese diaspora and my own place in it. Conversations with him had already led to me adding a new section to the end of a lengthy piece I’m writing about my experience in the far left and how their particular brand of conscious and unconscious racism works.

Alan always understood me with great kindness and insight. He was to be my editor and script consultant, basically holding my hand through the process of adapting to a new writing genre. I’m missing his love, his wisdom, his humour. I’m so sorry for his beautiful children, his family and his mother, all of whom he loved so deeply; for the writer Charles Shaar Murray who brought him into my life 18 years ago. And especially for Sarah Adams who'd found love with him in the last six months of his life.

There are many cruelties to this early death. To pass on at 55 is to feel cheated of the promised three score years and ten. All of us are feeling the Alan-shaped hole left behind, but no cosmic joke is as profoundly hurtful as this talented man working for decades to perfect his art finally reaching a point in his life where he was about to blossom with the conclusion of various projects and the birth of many more.

He was going from strength to strength, inspiring and supporting everyone, and I hope feeling the same in return.

The butterfly broke out of its chrysalis ... and was gone before his beautiful irridescent wings had even unfurled.

So now, in memory of him, we have to channel Alan, allow his spirit to take our hand, and create the most fabulous, soul-soaring body of work within our abilities and beyond.

Loving you always, Alan. Your spirit sister, Anna.

9th July 2016, Suffolk