Saturday, 9 January 2010

Northern Soul Classics - The Four Seasons - The Night

Anyone not familiar with Northern Soul is usually surprised to see the Four Seasons included. In fact, most of their catalogue gets a play at some time. This actually wasn't the track I was going to play. I was going to play Frankie Valli's solo effort with "You're Ready Now" to follow up last week's offering, because they date from around the same era. I couldn't find a copy for now. But, as I said, its all good stuff, and this is another great dancer.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Plots And Missing Weapons

When Britain went to war with Iraq it was on the basis of their being Weapons of Mass Destruction that could be utilised within forty-five minutes. Those that voted for the war did so they tell us on the basis of accepting this evidence. Yet, many of us presented with pretty much the same evidence thought it unreliable at best, and a pretext at worst. There were no WMD. Yesterday, the BBC and other News organisations came out with their own version of the “Dodgy Dossier”, and asked us, indeed continue to ask us to believe, that Hoon and Hewitt had their own Weapons of Mass Destruction, in the form of six Cabinet Ministers who were prepared to join them in a rebellion against Gordon Brown. For anyone with an ounce of political common sense this made no sense. No Cabinet Minister is going to jump ship or join a rebellion against Brown at this stage of proceedings, especially as Labour has been climbing back in the polls. It would have been as much an act of political suicide as would have been the use of WMD by Iraq against any Western power. Yet, the BBC, in particular has persisted with this nonsense. In fact, rather like Tony Blair’s insistence that he knew something the rest of us did not know, the BBC and other news organisations use the method of the nod and the wink to suggest, that whatever the politicians actually say, they know a greater hidden truth. But, in fact, it reminds me not just of the dodgy dossiers, but simply of the methods used by teachers at school.

If teachers feel that something is going on that they don’t know about they call in one or two students, and make vague statements to the effect that someone has made a complaint against them followed by, “You know what I’m talking about don’t you?” The pupil then blurts out some series of events or details that they think might be why they have been carpeted. In politics its called a “fishing expedition”. The BBC was guilty of a similar thing last year in relation to another supposed plot against Brown, when they claimed to have had sight of an anonymous e-mail that was going round asking people to sign up to challenge him. But, of course anyone including the Tories or the BBC itself could circulate an ANONYMOUS e-mail! Just like the teachers fishing expedition, the purpose is to flush out anyone who might harbour some desire to rebel. What was so significant about the e-mail rebellion, and yesterday’s damp squib is the fact that next to no Labour MP’s were foolhardy enough to sign up to it!

The BBC simply repeated the rumour put out by Hoon and Hewitt that there were six Ministers prepared to back them, and failed to verify that with any of the named Ministers, some of whom even a casual political observer would realise would never be in such a camp. Apparently, Nick Robinson has already sent an apology to Jack Straw for naming him without checking first. But, the BBC’s line basically remains, “Well they would say that wouldn’t they”, backed up by the ex Tory MP, Matthew Parrish. And then they go on to infer that there is something sinister or significant about Labour Ministers not coming out to support Brown immediately. They also claim that David Miliband did not give his support to Brown only to supporting Labour’s election campaign. Yet I heard Miliband do precisely that in one interview where he talked about supporting Brown who would be leading that very campaign. Yet, that part of his comments was cut out of further reports!

In fact, it was clear why Ministers did not respond to Hoon and Hewitt’s pissing in the wind. It was precisely that. Had they come out immediately to disown them they would have given Hoon and Hewitt far more credibility than they deserved. That, in fact, is precisely what Mandelson had said early in the day, and other Ministers followed his lead. The other other tack the media have taken is to say, look Hoon and Hewitt are experienced politicians, they wouldn’t do this or say they had the support of six Ministers unless there was some substance to it. Of course, they would! Hewitt is not even standing at the next election, and Hoon ought not to be standing if his CLP have anything about them. If Hoon and Hewitt really wanted to test MP’s feelings, if they really thought they had the support of Ministers then their course of action was obvious. Rather than launching a media circus focussed around their own sad egos they could have simply put their proposal behind closed doors to the next meeting of the PLP! They didn’t because they knew what the reaction would be. Its hard to see their actions as being anything other than that of two has-beens (or more like never- weres) who seeing the end of their own political careers have decided to bring Brown and the LP down with them.

Why is there this biased reporting? Well one BBC newsreader, when questioned during the expenses scandal, told us that she earned £92,000 a year. Some BBC News presenters we know get much more. The figures put out by the BBC show its top bosses earning huge salaries, and we know that the BBC vets new reporters to ensure that their views are acceptable. Given all that, and the educational and social backgrounds of such people its unlikely that they have any great love of Labour, certainly not of any radical Labour alternative. They may have been swayed by the approaches of New Labour, who themselves came from similar backgrounds, especially at a time when the Tories wee in complete disarray, but its likely that the kind of comments made by the uber Blairites attacking Brown’s “class war” (what a joke) politics, finds a resonance amongst such an elite. Its one reason that the opening up of bourgeois democracy that began after the expenses scandal has to be extended into an opening of the books on these news organisations whether they are in the public or private sectors. We need to have full disclosure of the salaries, expenses, and contacts of all these journalists and their bosses, all their connections with other rich and powerful people and organisations. See: Open The Books On Bourgeois democracy.

But, there is also likely to be another reason alluded to yesterday in my blog about media hyperbole. More Hyperbole. The same reasons that explain why they have to hype up weather conditions in order to make a more sensational story, also explain why they have to hype up non-events like yesterday. It might be devastating for Britain’s economy to blow up the kind of antics of yesterday – the pound fell on the currency markets on fear of a Brown deselection – but so long as the News organisations can sell papers or get their viewer numbers up by creating a story, or sensationalising it out of proportion they are not bothered.

Whatever, it highlights the pressing need for the Labour Movement to have its own media organisation. The development of technology means that is now highly achievable. TV is increasingly a thing of the past let alone the print media. Interactive media, and online webcasting is the future, and one that the Labour Movement could develop at relatively small cost. Moreover, it is one that could be developed on the basis of a Workers Co-operative owned and controlled by workers themselves, and thereby providing a powerful example of how a Co-operative, socialist society could function.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Get Rid Of These Tory Agents

The call by Hoon and Hewitt for a secret ballot on Brown’s leadership BBC News can be seen as nothing more than an attempt to ensure a Tory Victory at the General Election. Either consciously or unconsciously they are acting as Tory agents inside the LP. They and the other uber Blairites around them should be ditched immediately. I’m not talking about the kind of witchhunt that such people and Kinnock initiated against socialists in the Party in the 1980’s, only that CLP’s should root out such people from any positions of authority in the Party, and remove them.

As a socialist I have severe criticisms of Brown’s leadership of the LP. Indeed, I have severe criticism of the Labour Party’s overall programme. But, I am a consistent democrat. My job as a Marxist is to do what Marx and Engels advised, to win the battle of democracy inside the working class, and the starting point for that is to win the battle inside the Workers Party itself, for the ideas I believe in. Gordon Brown was elected by the LP according to its rules and Constitution. I may think that those rules and Constitution are inadequate, but until such time as I and others can persuade the working class, and its representatives inside the LP to change that, I have to accept those rules as they stand. I think that the current programme of the LP is inadequate, and as I have said elsewhere, although I accept that the LP will fight the election on that Programme, I do not see that that prevents socialists like myself putting forward for consideration a series of other socialist policies we believe the LP and the working class should adopt, provided we do not attempt to pass those policies off as being the policies of the LP itself. See:Why We Need A Socialist Campaign For A Labour Victory.

But, Hoon and Hewitt are not saying that they are prepared to accept the LP’s elected leaders and programme, whilst putting forward an alternative. On the contrary, their call for a secret ballot of MP’s is highly unconstitutional, and an affront to ordinary members of the Party who would be disenfranchised in such a vote. Nor are they putting forward any alternative policies to those pursued by Brown. Their position is just a dishonest manoeuvre whose intent is solely destructive. According to news reports Tessa Jowell was canvassed to join this rebellion following her recent comments attacking Brown’s “class war” politics of attacking Cameron in his “Playing Fields of Eton” comment. Jowell, has had the good sense to recognise a dead horse when she sees one. But, Jowell is one of those uber Blairites whose motivation here is based solely on looking to her political career not to any political principle. No doubt if she thought the rebellion had any chance of success her position would be different, as would that of others in that gang.

All of this tendency goes back to Kinnock, and the train of events he set in motion in the 1980’s. Many on the “Left” of that time went along with his attacks on the Militant and others in the Party, because they believed that it was necessary for the LP to present a more acceptable face to the electorate, to not rock the boat and so on. Of course, the antics of the Militant and others inside the LP at the time made it easy for them to accept such a course of action. But, today ordinary workers inside the LP must see where that has led. It is time for ordinary working class LP members to stand up and be counted, and for the Trade Unions to back them up. Whilst there is time before the election we need to clear out the uber Blairite MP’s and candidates, and all the other dead wood. We need to follow up the attacks on the Tories, with the elaboration of a more working class oriented programme that is based not on the idea put forward by the Blairites of some cross class approach to win the votes of disgruntled Tories, but which is based on winning the votes of ordinary working class and middle class people by a positive programme that defends their interests against the attacks of Capital. The basic idea has to be – “Make The Bosses Pay”.

In that way, not only can Labour win the next election, but we can begin to rebuild the party itself, alongside rebuilding the Trade Unions, Co-operatives, and other Labour Movement bodies.

More Hyperbole

I heard a news reader the other day ask someone from the met Office what the cause of the current snow was. Bear in mind that these news readers are paid £92,000 a year! The cause is obvious, its Winter for goodness sake. We live in Britain, a northerly country on the same latitude as Canada, where no one wonders each Winter why they have had far more snow than there has been in Britain! I heard another comment that there had been more snow “than for many generations”! Complete hogwash. There was definitely more snow in 1963 and 1947.

The real question, and one that the Climate Change deniers have avoided is why is it that for the last twenty years we have had so little snow!!! I can’t remember going back into the 1950’s so well, but during the 1960’s, the kind of snowfalls we have had over the last couple of weeks were nothing exceptional. They were what you expected each year. Having to use an outside toilet during all that time, you do tend to remember such things. I can’t remember that many White Christmases, but I can remember, most years, going out Carol singing, in the weeks before, in the snow. And from when I was 12 I ran papers, and every year had to trudge through deeper falls of snow than are currently on the ground. The northern end of the village is terminated by Kidsgrove Bank, which marks a sharp geological divide with the Cheshire plain that stretches out beyond it. Every year the Bank was impassable, every year snow drifted so high that it covered the tops of cars.

I can’t remember a single year when I was a kid when there wasn’t enough snow to make large snowmen, and to roll into huge balls down the hills in the fields. I can’t remember a single year that there wasn’t enough snow to go sledging in those fields, usually on a cardboard box, or the side of an old washing machine. But, I also can’t remember a single day when snow caused us not to go to school. Partly that was because we could all walk. Those who came from the next village had about a mile to walk, which many people wouldn’t consider today (as the 118 advert says, “anymore than 20 paces, and I get a taxi”), but in those days no one even thought about. Some of the teachers also lived in the village. But, also you knew it was going to be like that in the Winter so people acted accordingly. As now the main roads were usually mostly clear, in fact, less traffic on them meant fewer people to get stuck, and an easier path for buses and snow ploughs. Its only because people have become so inseparable from their cars that they think they are trapped if they can’t drive from their front door to wherever they are going. Side roads are impassable by car, but does no one think to stick on their wellies, and simply walk to the main road to catch a bus??

I can remember even as late as the early 70’s when I first started driving it was quite common for people to carry snow chains with them over the Winter. Today, I doubt most drivers even know what snow chains are! Yet, snow chains would mean that few people had any reason to get stuck. It’s a bit like I’ve written before. The News is no longer really about providing News. It is about providing entertainment, capturing viewers, and for that reason everything has to be hyped up, even distorted. Last night the BBC had a reporter in Wiltshire who told us that it had been snowing for 5 hours, and so on. Yet, his coat was immaculately free of any snow, there was no sign of any snow coming down, and behind him the fields were so little covered in snow that they were still distinctly green. In a later interview he actually admitted they had missed the worst of it. But, for anything today to be NEWS, particularly News that you have to keep endlessly repeating every 15 minutes, only something unusual will do. Everything has to be the worst, the best, the most or least of whatever it is. That is made worse by the fact that the News readers themselves are relatively young. If you are only 30 years old then you will think the uncommonly mild Winters of the last 20 years are normal, and a bit of snow like that now will seem inexplicable.

Many people have commented about the fact that the country seizes up. My son was talking to someone in Scandinavia the other day, who thought it was hilarious. In Scandinavia they don’t even bother using salt on the roads, because below –4% it has no effect. I’ve actually been to the Salt Union mine in Winsford. Its very impressive, but how ridiculous is it that the salt whose purpose is to keep the roads open is transported by road?? Again, I can remember when I was a kid the side roads never got gritted. As few people had cars that didn’t matter too much. But also, I remember that because we all had coal fires, whenever it snowed, in the morning, when people emptied their grates, they would tip the ashes on to the road, so we didn’t need the street gritting.

What has been good though is the extent to which people have co-operated to help deal with the problems they face. It shows once again that whatever the apologists of Capitalism and class society might say to try to denigrate the real nature of human society, to portray us all as the greedy, self centred beings that they are, the majority of human beings remain, co-operative, compassionate people, who recognise that such actions are also to their own advantage.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Northern Soul Classics - The Snake - Al Wilson

This is an absolute stormer and the latest in a run of Northern Soul classics used over the last few years in TV adverts. Its from way back in the day, and I think was first played at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester in the 60's. It was certainly a favourite from the early years of the Torch. I also remembe in the late 60's or early 70's seeing Tom Jones give a more than acceptable rendition of the song too.

Al Wilson's powerful and versatile voice was just made for Northern Soul, and he has a number of classics to his name. I first bought "The Snake" on an imported version, on the rare Soul City label. I later sold it, and bought the Uk release on Bell. A big mistake, because the Soul City version would be worth much more today. The Snake has everything a serious Northern Soul dancer requires. Uptempo, and with enough breaks to throw in your preferred 'tricks', a back-drop, splits, spin or whatever takes your fancy at the time, as the second video below demonstrates.

I've included two videos. The first is a better recording, but I'm including the second which I came across, because I think I might be the bloke in the muscle vest doing lots of spinning in the foreground. My wife said she thought it was me because of the white socks! I must have been feeling a bit knackered, because my feet are normally moving much more than that, and unless it was when I'd done my knee in I'd have been including some back-drops and splits. The blonde girl in the black trousers, who can be seen doing a back-drop, can also dance some.