Yet more reasons not to vote Tory

As if we needed them!

Taking a leaf out of George Bush’s book, today the Conservative party leader Michael Howard announced that he’d back a change in the law on abortion.

Now, Michael Howard having an opinion on abortion is no bad thing – I’m rather glad that he’s concerned. What is a HUGE problem is him turning it into an election issue. This is clearly in response to observing how single-issue voting helped the right in the US – by turning the election into a conflict about abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research, the republicans mobilised millions of conservative religious people in the US, who considered those issues more important than protecting the poor and the enviroment…

The lunacy of Howard’s pronouncement here is that Abortion has always been a free vote in UK parliment!!! – it’s never been a partisan issue. The various lobby groups involved are cross party, and no party has ever applied the whip to try and get a particular result.

So his motivation is clearly to divide opinion and paint Labour as child-hating murderers… What a loser, what a party full of losers.

I really really wish we had a stronger opposition in UK politics. Labour have got very complacent and started doing some really stupid things (the war being the most obvious example) – a strong opposition is good for the democratic process. But Michael Howard is such a waste of time. I’d hate to see the Tories get back in in the UK, but I’d like to see them push Labour harder than they are.

this is so lame – the US election was a farce because ‘people of faith’ were blackmailed into supporting a party that embodied virtually no ‘christian values’ but talked the talk of ‘personal morality’ – they give tax breaks to the super rich and make life ever harder for the poor, pollute the enviroment, crap on the rest of the planet, wage unjust wars and are fronted by a moron, but they were elected by scaring right-wing so-called-christians into voting against abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.

Those are all really important issues, but not deciding calls in an election, especially not a UK one.

Email your local MP and tell them just how crap this is.

Soundtrack/, ‘Get Happy’; Tom Waits, ‘Foreign Affairs’.

Jerry Springer – The Opera

No, that’s not just a clever heading, it’s an actual show. For those of you outside the UK, it’s a stage play that’s been on in London’s West End for about two years, getting rave reviews and packed houses. The basic premise is it’s a satire on the Springer Show, that ends up with Jerry getting shot and going to hell.

The BBC filmed it, and showed in on TV on Saturday night, and what’s noteworthy about that is the volume of complaint from Christians, accusing the show (that 99% of them knew nothing about, and were quoting made-up figures for) of blasphemy and obscenity. One of the marvellously outlandish claims was that the show features ‘8000 swear-words’ – yeah, only if you multiply up each time the chorus sings one by the number of people in the chorus (27)… what bollocks.

So, anyway, the program drew the largest number of complaints ever for a BBC show, and not only did it draw complaints but there were demonstrations outside the BBC buildings around the country, with people burning their TV licences, and waving placards.

…and then people wonder why I’m reticent to talk about matters of faith, when I’m likely to be lumped in with people who do things like that.

What a moronic thing to complain about, what a disgusting waste of campaigning time and effort. What a feeble target. What a huge embarrasment to thinking people of faith the world over.

There are so many huge injustices in the world that christians should be complaining about, from unjust wars to unfair trade laws, third world debt to child prostitution, institutional racism in the police force to potentially rigged elections in so-called democratic countries. And these schmoes pick on a TV show. A marginal TV show, on the BBC’s ‘arts’ channel. A show that none of them had seen. A show about which they felt it neccesary to make up stats to back up their claims of it’s shock-value. Good God.

Why on earth can’t these same self-righteous moralising masses get of their lazy arses and complain about shit that really matters? God, I get so angry at stuff like this. I missed the show – why? cos I was volunteering in a homeless shelter. Does that make me Mr Worthy? Not at all, I do one night every other week for three months of the year, while the people who really deserve us to be supporting their protests are out changing people’s lives with little regard for their own safety and comfort.

I’m not suggesting everyone should like Jerry Springer The Opera, I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing to complain about. But at least watch it first!! And calling for the broadcast to be cancelled is madness. What kind of weird country are we living in?

Once again, the outcry against a marginal bit of art has turned it into a huge hit. The viewing figures for JSTO will almost certainly be over double what they would have been. The BBC news have had a field-day reporting on the complaints, flagging up the broadcast every hour or so on their news reports, making a huge deal out of it. The same thing happened with ‘The Last Temptation Of Christ’, which wasn’t even looking like getting a full cinema release until some overly zealous complainants got their teeth into a campaign and made it a box office smash.

Maybe I need to release an album with really disgusting titles to all my tunes and get organisations like Christian Voice to do my publicity for me? (for some reason this bunch of particularly zealous muppets ended up getting tonnes of airtime over the campaign… even amongst the people who protested, they were particularly odeous. Poor old God – with friends like these, who needs enemies?)

Please, please, please – channel your campaigning energy and righteous anger into things that are going to change the lives of those who have no power to change things for themselves. Support the Make Povery History Campaign, lobby parliment for trade justice, write to your MP about the rights of asylum seekers and the homeless in your borough, push for better recycling, start a soup run, volunteer with a charity overseas, send money to the relief effort in Asia, scream on the street corners about the tragedy of the Tamil communities that have been cut off from the aid that’s going to Sri Lanka. Anything, anything but whinging about TV shows.

So who’s up for joining my new Messianic Taoist group?

The two best suggestions for the betterment of society in 2004

So, the two best suggestions I’ve heard all year both came from the radio –

the first was on Danny Baker’s Breakfast Show on BBC London earlier on in the year, in the run up to the Mayoral elections here in London. Danny was getting people to phone in with their suggestions for a platform on which to campaign. The finest suggestion came from a guy who rang in to say that if he was elected mayor, he’s make it so that whenever one of the new bendy buses in London went round a corner, it would play accordian music… :o)

The second came from a phone in show on BBC 5 Live, on the theme of what could do done to make Snooker more interesting. Someone rang in suggesting that they trained hamsters to play in goal across each of the pockets on the table!

Definitely two suggestions that would make the world a better place if they were adopted in 2005…

Soundtrack – Stevie Wonder, ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’; Strongbad, ‘Strongbad Sings and other type hits’; Finley Quaye, ‘Maverick A Strike’, and the songs for the wedding I played at yesterday…

four more years of winter…

Went to see Show Of Hands at the Bloomsbury this evening. They are, without a doubt, one of the finest live acts in the UK. They offer everything a great live music event should – they are moving, funny, exciting, energetic, soothing, virtuosic, inspiring and authentic. Just brilliant. On one song, called ‘I Promise You’, all about being in a bad patch but looking for promises of something better, Steve Knightly ad-libbed the line ‘I promise you… four more years of winter’. It refers to the line that follows all the good promises in the song – ‘but first we must face the winter’.

The feeling that we are facing four more years of winter is pretty strong right now. Last night’s election result has left us without hope of something better. I wasn’t a huge fan of, or believer in John Kerry and the Kerry message. Sadly he was no where near as ‘liberal’ as the Bushites were trying to paint him (if he had been, he’d have had my vote for sure), but he was new, and electing him would have got rid of the Chaney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft axis of evil, and offered ‘the chance’ of something better. Kerry’s voting record didn’t fill me with confidence that he’d sort out the fuckup in the middle-east, but his domestic promises on taxing the rich and channeling the money into primary health care would have been a huge step forward in a country with the kind of deficit that Bush has run up.

All he would have offered would have been a glimmer of hope. The hope that he could have been lobbied and cajoled into acting at least partially in line with the democratic model he was inheriting as that party’s candidate. Clinton did a fair amount of damage to the Democratic principle, and throughout the latter half of the 20th century, democratic presidents in the US were pretty hawkish, but there was that hope. A hope that is now gone.

So what’s the best that can be hoped for now? What on earth is the future in Iraq? I’m neither a military strategist or an expert in middle eastern politics, so have no suggestions for whether a partial withdrawal, total withdrawal or a firm military approach would sort this out, but the man who started this utter fiasco that has lead to the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis (so much for Saddam’s record as butcher of his own people) has been re-elected, to carry on. He wasn’t promising a change of plan, wasn’t appologising for the balls-up thus far, just spouting shite about being ‘tough on terror’ – there is no war on terror. I’m hardly the first one to say it, but you can’t have a war on terror. It’s like having a war on bad stuff, or a war on attitudes. The word war is at the root of the problem, because it’s that kind of imperial behaviour that fosters terrorist motives. So the more you bomb, the more you turn moderates into radicals. If my family were living in faluja, I’d be feeling pretty extremist right now too.

That’s not to justify the behaviour of the ‘militants’ – al sadir and his ilk are evil murderous tyrants who need to be stopped. This is no time to go soft on psychopaths, but it is a time to acknowledge that the invasion has given motive and a localised legitimacy to some pretty messed up groups, who are no recruiting like mad to fight the aggressors.

Those that were opposing Saddam for all those years and are opposing the US invasion too are caught in a really really tricky situation. According to an arcticle by Nick Cohen in The New Statesman this week, they are largely trade unionists, who have been sidelined by well meaning anti-war protestors choosing to paint the ‘insurgents’ in Faluja as freedom fighters, rather than as yet another screwed up faction in a war of people who really shouldn’t be there.

So who knows what Kerry would have done? Maybe the same as Jnr, maybe worse, but there was hope. And now it’s gone.

The best we have is inertia. God Bless America.

It’s weird, I really like america. I’ve never met an American visiting the UK that I didn’t like (well, OK, there was one, but he was very odd). I have a great time every time I visit the country, and have no trouble at all separating the actions of Bush PLC from the love, warmth and positivity of the American people I know and love. But that’s the problem, I can’t find a connection at all. The US seems like the most divided country I’ve ever witnessed (at least since Thatcher’s britain in the mid-80s, anyway).

I guess it’s back to thinking global and acting local. Macro-politics are just to depressing to even consider. So buy low energy light-bulbs, drive the car less, eat organic, shop fair trade, smile at people on the bus, and wait to see what happens in the UK elections next May…

SoundtrackMiranda Sykes, ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Miranda was singing and playing double bass with Show Of Hands this evening – very talented, and her CDs damn fine too); Show Of Hands, ‘Dark Fields’.

Talking of Show Of Hands, they’re on tour at the moment – Click here for their upcoming dates – don’t miss them out tour if they come near you.

In preparation for the US elections…

Here’s a really useful site for making up your mind and wading through the spin and BS that both sides are spouting –

www.factcheck.org – an analysis of claims, accusations and news stories with corroborated factual references. Well worth a look whenever you hear one side or the other throw out another ‘sensational’ claim…

So come on, own up, who the hell was voting UKIP???

So the UK Indepedence Party came third in the Euro Elections, gaining 12 seats on the European Parliment. Who on earth was voting for them? Is it just that people are scared of Europe but don’t see the European parliment as important enough to not waste a protest vote on it? The Greens are also against the european constitution, but also have a series of policies on everything else. UKIP are a pressure group, and a pretty daft one at that.

The ludicrousness of a political party with Robert Kilroy Silk and Joan Collins as it’s public face is to farcical for most comedy writers to have come up with it. Since when did I care what either of those two losers thought about anything? Kilroy only got back into politics because he was sacked for writing racist crap in the papers (he claimed that the Arabs have contributed nothing to world culture at all… huh? Clearly he’s not been listening to Andy Kershaw or Late Junction…). He’s a former labour MP, who went on to present daytime chat shows with people who married their step parents or fell in love with their pets or were bullied for having two heads, his perma-tanned faux-sincere frown fronting the UK equivalent on Springer without the comedy. He’s a moron. And Joan Collins? When did she even last live in the UK? Why is anyone concerned what she might think about anything? She’d be well into the UK getting into NAFTA given that she’s a UK citizen living in the US, but it’d be lunacy for the entire country.

There’s an article in this week’s New Statesman by a former UKIP party activist, who paints a picture of a highly divided party, whose only point of common value was their homophobia. Hey, that’s a great party image…

So they came ahead of the Lib-Dems in the Euro-Elections, which does say a lot about the Euro-Scepticism of the UK population, and also that the Europhiles have a very long way to go in making their case palletable for the general public.

So while the sport obsessed section of the population are getting upset over England’s defeat by France in Euro 2004 last night (very funny it was too – two goals in extra time by the French – that came as a bit of a shock… DOH!), I shall be mourning the stupidity of the UK electorate…

Soundtrack – still me, I’m afraid…

Vote on Thursday.

If you live in Britain, you HAVE to. Seriously, if you don’t, it’s effectively a vote for the BNP and UKIP. Both of those parties rely on a low turnout to get their insane indeologies into the political system. 5% of the vote will guarantee them a seat in the European Elections.

I’ve just had a BNP leaflet through the door, pedalling all kinds of insane lies and propaganda about Britain and it’s ‘asylum seeker’ problem. False statistics, overly emotive language. All bollocks. They are a racist, fascist party, who have done nothing in the areas where they’ve got local councillors.

So all you need to do is go out and vote. I don’t really mind who for – could be Labour, Liberal… heck, even the Conservatives are miles better than either the BNP or UKIP (who want us to join Nafta!!! Have they not seen what’s happened to the Mexican and Canadian economies??? do they not realise that 60% of our trade is with Europe? Are they not aware that the Atlantic is very big indeed???? Morons!!)

If you’re not into the whole EU deal, vote for the Green party – an intellegent party that oppose European integration for sound reasons. I’m pretty pro Europe, by and large, but am still not sure which way I’ll be voting… But I will vote. We have to. you have to. Please.

have a read of this article from the Guardian about the daughter of the BNP leader, and her twisted thinking. Read the bit about that woman that was duped into standing as a local councillor before realising that even their odious manifesto was lies, and the truth of what they are trying to do is far more sinister.

and sign up to the pledge at the unite against fascism website, encourage all your friends and family to get out and vote, and stop them getting anywhere in these elections.

3 gigs in three nights

that’s going to gigs, not playing them this time.

Monday night was Carleen Anderson at the jazz cafe. I’ve see her there before now, and it’s always an amazing gig. Her band is wonderful – Ben Castle on Sax, Andy Hamill on bass, Winston Clifford on Drums, Mark Edwards on keys, Mark someone on guitar (didn’t catch his surname, but he was very very good), and a backing vocalist I think was called Natasha. Anyway, a great gig – Carleen’s voice is amazing, her songwriting is really strong, the grooves were exceedingly funky, and a fine time was had by all.

Tuesday night involved going to hear Duke Special at Sound Acoustic in Leicester Square, which is a lot better than the Sound venue upstairs in the same building, which is horrible. Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson, is brilliant – dread-locked piano-playing singer-songwriter with a stellar voice, beguiling stage presence, and some fantastic songs. His EP ‘Lucky Me’ is brilliant, and he was one of my top three favourite acts from Greenbelt last year. He’s on again at The Barfly in Camden tonight, but I’m teaching til 9, so don’t think i’ll be able to make it. I’ll have a mooch around online and see if I can find a stage-time…

Then last night (wednesday), I spent a very pleasant evening listening to the JazzBerries in the Crypt at St-Martins-In-The-Fields, in Trafalgar Square. It was a rather lovely set of vocal standards, well played and sung. Good stuff.

I love wandering round London on balmy evenings – the centre of london is such a gorgeous historic place, brimming with culture and marvellousness. Theatres, restaurants, street musicians, historic buildings and monuments, groovy cafes and swanky celeb bars. Add to that the majesty of the museums, and you’ve got one amazing city. OK, so we’ve got one of the worst recycling records in Europe, the public transport infrastructure has gone to shit, the hospitals are being sold off to people who don’t want to do operations that aren’t ‘cost effective’, the government are happy to ignore democracy in action, gun crime is rampant… etc. etc. but it does have its upside too… :o) I tend to walk around with a big grin on my face at this time of year.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been listening through all the tracks that I recorded for ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ that didn’t get used, and some of it’s really good! I obviously did a really strong stylistic selection job on what went on and what got left off, and there’s tonnes of stuff here I really like. So it might be time for a downloadable extra and live tracks album… I’ll get round to that ASAP!

– right now, more of the out-takes. Before that, Carl Young, ‘A Few Sides Of Myself’; Ben Castle, ‘Blah Street’ (which is out next Monday, and is fantastic); St Germain, ‘Tourist’; David Sylvian and Holgar Czukay, ‘Flux and Mutability’.

photos from traders gig in february

So I finally got round to looking at the photos I was sent of the gig at Traders in February – some of them are rather good! So here’s a selection. The smiley chap in the highly dubious T-shirt is Iain Martin who runs Stiff Promotions (hence the slogan), who organised the gig, and the Petersfield and Southampton gigs on the tour with Michael Manring.







and here’s one from the Traders gig last week, with Michael Manring –

there you go!

Soundtrack – nothing yet today.

The Lib Dems have it all to play for…

So Michael Howard, leader of the Tories, has published a list of his ‘beliefs’ that will inform Conservative policy in the run up to the next election. Nice to see that the Thatcherite cult of individuality is still alive and well. Howard’s statements reveal a sickening obsession with people’s ‘freedom to do well’, and no sense of our corporate responsibility for the poor, marginalised, homeless, sick and under-priviledged. All his ‘beliefs’ are about the rights of the rich and so-called-free to stay that way, with no solid commitment to building a society of inter-dependence. What a loser…

Here’s his self obsessed list in full –

“I believe it is natural for men and women to want health, wealth and happiness for their families and themselves

I believe it is the duty of every politician to serve the people by removing the obstacles in the way of these ambitions

I believe people are most likely to be happy when they are masters of their own lives, when they are not nannied or over-governed

I believe that the people should be big. That the state should be small

I believe red tape, bureaucracy, regulations, inspectorates, commissions, quangos, ‘czars’, ‘units’ and ‘targets’ came to help and protect us, but now we need protection from them. Armies of interferers don’t contribute to human happiness

I believe that people must have every opportunity to fulfil their potential

I believe there is no freedom without responsibility. It is our duty to look after those who cannot help themselves

I believe in equality of opportunity. Injustice makes us angry

I believe every parent wants their child to have a better education than they had

I believe every child wants security for their parents in their old age

I do not believe that one person’s poverty is caused by another’s wealth

I do not believe that one person’s ignorance is caused by another’s knowledge and education

I do not believe that one person’s sickness is made worse by another’s health

I believe the British people are only happy when they are free

I believe that Britain should defend her freedom at any time, against all comers, however mighty

I believe that by good fortune, hard work, natural talent and rich diversity, these islands are home to a great people with a noble past and exciting future.

I am happy to be their servant. ”

What a tosser.

So with Socialism DOA, and a Conservative party that seems hell-bent on dragging us back into the political dark ages of Thatcherite hell, the Lib Dems are our only hope. This has to be their best chance at getting somewhere in parliment since the Liberal hey-day in the early 1900s.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that on the day that Michael Douglas’ ‘Greed Is Good’ speech in the movie ‘Wall Street’ is voted one of the all time top 10 movie quotes, the Conservatives write a longwinded speech to much the same effect – fuck the poor, we’ve got a right to make millions without contributing our share.

Thanks Michael Howard, you’ve just given Charles Kennedy an open goal. Let’s hope he’s got his boots on.

Soundtrack – Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite – what a great record this is!!