Thursday, 28 November 2019

Michael Rosen's views on allegations of antisemitism in The Labour Party

This morning Micheal Rosen wrote the Facebook message below and said it was fine to share it anywhere and everywhere. Micheal is the author of over 100 books. In 2007 he was appointed British Children's Laureate. For full bio visit: here.
1. I've met people who think that there are no Jews left in the Labour Party. 2. I've met people who think that the Chief Rabbi is in some way or another in charge of, or a representative of all Jews in Britain. Neither of these statements is true or anything like true. There are several Jewish candidates for the Labour Party. There are thousands of Labour Party members who are Jewish. Several times in the media people have said how it's impossible or 'not safe' for Jews to stay in the Labour Party. It's not impossible. If the media had wanted to, they could have asked Jewish MPs, Jewish candidates in this election 'Is it impossible or unsafe for you to be in the Labour Party?' It has been dishonest of them to have not done that.
There are also Rabbis who have either said that they will vote Labour and/or have expressed great concern over the way Jewish religious leaders (Rabbi Romain and the Chief Rabbi) have intervened in this election. You can read about these Rabbis in the Jewish Chronicle online: Rabbi Danny Rich and Rabbi Howard Cooper. This tells us that within the religious part of Jewish life, there are people who are worried about how religious leaders have politicised religion. In the past this has been levelled at Muslims for having brought in 'communalist politics'. Commentators like Nick Cohen were particularly scathing about this at the time of, say, George Galloway being elected. The silence in the mass media about the dangers of a religious group saying, in effect, 'don't vote for Party X' are very great. Howard Cooper could see a danger that it could invite persecution. In this particular election, it is also particularly dangerous because it is a two-horse race. Saying 'don't vote Labour' is in effect saying, 'Let's have a victory for the Tories'. This is no surprise, as the Chief Rabbi welcomed the election of Boris Johnson to the leadership of the Tory Party and blessed him.
Johnson is a bigot and a liar. He and the Tories have been quite content to snuggle up to extreme right wing and antisemitic parties in Europe - like Orban in Hungary. He has also kept quiet about the pattern of antisemitism coming from Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has talked of his Jewish colleagues in the House of Commons as 'Illuminati', questioned whether they 'understand' the constitution, he has done the 'Soros jibe' (this is an antisemitic 'trope' about the financier Soros deemed to be an international wheeler and dealer); Rees-Mogg has also retweeted a tweet from the Alternative für Deutschland - the far-right organisation in Germany and he has had dinner with the far-right British organisation, 'Traditional Britain Group'. There are other incidents of antisemitism in the Tory party that Boris Johnson has 'kept silent' about (Crispin Blunt, Suella Braverman, Toby Young).
Yet, the Chief Rabbi is in effect entrusting those who regard him as their figurehead to a Johnson Tory government!
For clarity's sake, the Chief Rabbi may 'speak for' a majority of Jews in the UK but he does not 'represent' them. He is the leader of the United Synagogue which has a congregation of around 40,000. According to the Board of Deputies there are 284,000 Jews in the UK. Half of us are affiliated to synagogues, half of us are not. In all the surveys of Jewish opinion in the UK, I have never been sure of how the survey of the 142,000 non-religious Jews is done. How do they find us? One survey created a 'panel' having found secular Jews by focusing on Jews in areas where there is a high Jewish population and people having 'Jewish names'. Ahem ahem - apart from Hebrew and Hebraic names there are no Jewish names. Most Jews in this country have German, Polish (if they (we) are 'Ashkanzim' or Sephardi names which may be e.g. Italian or Spanish) and/or we have English names! What's more, since the arrival of many EU citizens, there are many Germans and Poles who have names that before were considered to be 'Jewish' like 'Meyer' - a standard German name that some Jews have. The surveys may be accurate - perhaps - but this method of polling looks decidedly dodgy. I have challenged this many times on twitter and no one has successfully defended it so far. I have been asked several times to come on the radio and TV to talk about supporting Corbyn. I have refused. I have said to the producer - 'Do the honest thing, talk to a Labour voting rabbi, and/or a Jewish Labour candidate and/or a Jewish Labour Party member.' The reason why I say this is because a) I can't answer any questions that the interviewers ask all the time 'Is enough being done? Are Jews being bullied in meetings etc' I don't want to screw up this matter by appearing on programmes and saying 'I don't know...' or 'some of my best friends are Jewish and they tell me....x' It's a trap. b) The times I have appeared e.g. on al-Jazeera, the method of dealing with me (or Miriam Margolyes or Alexei Sayle) is to say that we represent no one. At one level, I have to say that that is true. I have never pretended and can't pretend and would never pretend that I 'represent' any other Jews. I have no trouble making another claim that I am entitled to have my views but again, is not great TV in a 2 minute interview!
For the record, for people who are not Jewish: I am no less Jewish than the Chief Rabbi. I was brought up knowing that I was Jewish, and have participated in all my life (read, studied, reflected on, been particularly interested in ) secular Jewish activities to do with Jewish writers, artists, and Jewish history and have of course reflected on this in my writing in hundreds of different ways. I see myself as a poet and performer who has absorbed many traditions one of which is 'aggadic' - that of Jewish story-telling. To say these things has invited Jews and non-Jews on twitter to call me a 'kapo' (a Jewish concentration camp guard), a 'used Jew' (that from the editor of 'Jewish News'), someone who 'dons the cloak of Jewishness' (a Jewish DJ and actor), one of the 'useful Jewish idiots' (from the commentator Dan Hodges, 'a cheerleader for Soros' (from Lee Harpin political editor of the Jewish Chronicle), and a plea to the BBC to not employ me to present 'Word of Mouth' (from the QC Simon Myerson and the campaigner against antisemitism (!) Euan Philips.
Clearly some people think that the best way to combat antisemitism is to be antisemitic. Further: the whole question of 'antisemitism' has been fogged by an unknowing or unwilling lack of clarity over distinctions between slurs, prejudice, bias, discrimination, persecution, incitement to antisemitic violence, and the violence itself. There are times when you might have thought that UK Jews were experiencing a pogrom. Secondly, the minimum requirements for a claim that there is a 'problem' in a given area (e.g. antisemitism in the Labour Party) is that it is distinctly and measurably worse than in other places or in society as a whole. If that hasn't been shown , (and it hasn't been) it's not a Labour Party problem it's a societal problem.
I've known Jeremy Corbyn for 30 years. He is no antisemite. He has put his neck on the line hundreds of times in opposing racism, antisemitism, far right fascism, holocaust denial.
For the record the sudden loss of Jewish support for Labour came when Milliband was leader who the Jewish Chronicle described as 'toxic' for Jewish voters. Milliband is Jewish. It was his support for recognition of Palestine before negotiations that did for him, they said. Being Jewish was no shield against this hostility.
Ask me, who am I 'safer' with: a Johnson-led government with its record of the 'hostile environment', persecution of Windrush generation, and persistent antisemitic jibes from leading party members or this Labour Party, and I say, Labour every time. But I don't look at the election purely through a Jewish prism. It is a clear class issue: a Tory government will continue to ravage the lives of of working class people through attacks on wages, public services, and the disabled. A Labour government will halt these and start to reverse them. World business ('capitalism') is in crisis: huge levels of debt, massive 'productivity' problems (in their frenzy to compete with each other) a slew towards 'economic nationallism' (the Steve Bannon philosophy ) and Johnson is riding the Bannon bus which is driven by the US. The US are desperate to create a bogus 'free trade' world, which in actual fact is a US-protectionist world. Johnson is backing this as a 'solution'. I'm voting Labour.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Tav Falco kicks off his UK tour in Ramsgate

On Tuesday 19th November living rock legend, Tav Falco, came to blow our minds at The Ramsgate Music Hall, Ramsgate CT11 8NJ
Allmusic say of Tav: “Ramshackle, raw, unholy, and utterly amazing”
"Equal parts primal rock ’n’ roll, hill country blues & avant-garde art, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns aren’t just music, but a state of mind."
"Raised in rural Arkansas, Tav Falco embarked on his long, distinguished musical career upon arriving in Memphis in the mid-1970s. Teaming up with local music legend Alex Chilton in 1978, the duo formed the long-running, still active band Tav Falco’s Panther Burns."
“End-of-the-World blues from torch singing maestro. Uneasy listening of the finest kind” – UNCUT
Cabaret of Daggers is a high point in Falco's vast discography with MOJO Magazine declaring "Four decades in to a career which began alongside kindred spirits Alex Chilton and The Cramps, Tav Falco's new album conjures up a potent blend of blues, jazz and tango rhythms in which 1920s Vienna café culture seamlessly rubs shoulders with Beale Street juke joints"
When asked what fans can expect from the tour, Falco replied “WATCH OUT for your happy home. The 40th PANTHER HOWL Art-Action Happening is coming to your town! The Panther Burn Beat goes on and on! Bringing you songs of dissent, reckoning, and uptight America’s decline into global destruction. Dance the last naked Tango and behold a striptease of the senses that will leave your naked brain crying for more.”
The Music Hall in Ramsgate was filled with Falco fans. It was a long set. The band (Walter on drums, Giuseppe and Mario on guitars) were all fantastic.
A highlight of the night was when Tav put down his guitar and treated us to his cool dance moves. Everyone I spoke to was glad they came and Tav stayed behind for a long time signing albums and chatting to fans. I bought a CD called, A Tav Falco Christmas which I whole heartily recommend to music lovers everywhere.
Above: "Sign Your Name Across My Heart"
Above: "We Should Be Together at Christmas"
Above: "The youngest head in the crowd that night"
Above: "Everyone's a winner Baby" Lucky Tav gets presented with a free CD of 'Bonjour' the classic album by Francis Macdonald & Harry Pye.
Tav Falco's famous fans include Fat White Family and Primal Scream on Saturday 23rd November he plays at Glasgow's Broadcast. On Tuesday 26th he's playing Oslo in London. Catch him while you can! Full tour dates here.

Monday, 18 November 2019

The Spammed Get It On with Tony Visconti

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall at Rak Studios where supergroup, The Spammed were recording a cover of Marc Bolan's Get It On. The track will appear on a Specialized compilation released album next year entitled, Blockbuster.
Since 2012, The Specialized team have been putting out splendid CD compilations of cover versions that are sold in aid of charities that improve the lives of teens and young adults with cancer or who are living in difficult circumstances. The Specialized Project supports The Teenage Cancer Trust, National Foundation for Youth Music and Tonic Music for Mental Health. Paul Willo, who is one of the key people in charge of The Specialized project, recently announced that this year alone sales of the last compilation album and ticket money from their live festival events raised over £24,000 and that over the last 7 years, an astonishing £200,000 has been raised. You can find out more about them and the great things they do by clicking: here. The Spammed (Kevin Eldon, Neil Innes, Horace Panter, Rat Scabies, and Micko Westmoreland) were joined by their special guest pals; guitarist Jon Klein, saxophonist Terry Edwards, and singer Kristeen Young. Sitting in the producer's chair was none other than Mr Tony Visconti. Here are 15 of the many snaps I took at Rak studios.
Photo ONE: In the back row there's Tony, Neil, Jon, Rat, Horace, Terry, Kristeen. And in the front row it's Micko and Kev.
TWO:Neil and Micko
THREE: Hardworking Horace on the bass
FOUR: Horace does his best Mickey Mouse impression
FIVE:Tony and Wes
SIX: Kev 'n' Horace
SEVEN:2-Tone legend Sir Horace Panter being interviewed by Ben Willmott. During the interview Horace was keen to sing the praises of Paul Willo and Specialized team. Paul Willo is the lead singer of The Skapones which you can find out about: here.
EIGHT:It's Kevin
NINE: Tony conducts The Spammed
TEN: The amazing Wes Maebe at his mixing desk
ELEVEN: Jon Klein impressed everyone with his guitar playing. Ex Banshee Jon is now a proud member of Micko and the Mellotronics. Check out their latest single, The Finger: here.
TWELVE: When I took this photo I was wearing a t-shirt designed by Duglas of The BMX Bandits which features a hand painted skeleton. Spookily the reflection of the skeleton has found itself under Terry's face.
THIRTEEN: Heroes
FOURTEEN: Klein and Innes. Neil's fab new album, 'Nearly Really' is available from: here
FIFTEEN: Mr Scabies
Last year The Spammed recorded a cover of the 2-Tone classic, The Prince which features on, "Specialized 8 - Check One 2 the Spirit of 79"
There are a few copies still available to buy from: here A snip at just £18

Thursday, 14 November 2019

On The Road Again: A film about Vincent in South London and Ramsgate

Gordon Beswick and Harry Pye collaborated with the composer Francis Macdonald on this very short, lighthearted film about the artist Vincent van Gogh's life in South London and Ramsgate. 'On The Road Again' was first screened at Tate Modern's Blavatnik Building in August 2019.
The Tate director, Maria Balshaw, pictured above, described the painting featured in the film as, "Fantastic." The film features the voice talents of Dan Antopolski, Jasmine Holly Bullock, Walter Michael DeForest, Kevin Eldon, Robert Goldstein, James Johnston, Chantal Joffe, Neil Mullarkey, Nick Revell, and Rita Sharma. If you haven't seen it already, you can watch the film: here

Monday, 21 October 2019

Happy Birthday Julian Cope

I've been a fan of Julian Cope since his days in The Teardrop Explodes. Today is his 62nd birthday so I hope he's celebrating in style. In March 1991 I went to see him sign records at a Virgin Mega store. He was promoting Peggy Suicide - which is an album I've always loved.
I remember Mr Cope was interviewed in store. He was asked about being prolific. They mentioned his books, tours, double albums etc. And Cope said, "It's not about me being prolific, it's more that everyone else is a lazy turd."
The artist Sarah Sparkes and I once collaborated on a Julian Cope painting called, Citizen Cain'ed. I hope we do another Cope painting together one day soon.
Cope his written so many great songs, my personal Top 5 is; World Shut Your Mouth, Crazy Farmyard Animal, Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed, Sunspots. And... (Read It In) Books. Have a listen: here