Book Worms and Political Bugs


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How to crash Cannes

By Dannie Gruff

Adapted from my debut novel “How to look like you belong somewhere when you don’t have an invite.”

I realise the Cannes Film Festival finished about a month ago. But then it’s never too late to share hints and tips on crashing things is it? A wiser blogger than I would have written this blog as the Festival came to a close, and people still had some lingering interest. But I’ve always thought courting popularity and relevance is rather bourgeois..

After having worked with a family in Cannes for six months, I knew the town fairly well. I had asked the Grandmother of the kids I looked after, how easy it was to get into the film festival. Her answer left me sorely disappointed, apparently it was as tricky as I had heard with everything shut off to anyone without a pass.

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Around the time we were almost resigned to defeat.

An NUS extra card wasn’t enough either. Even if Pete and I had actually managed to arrange picking up our life memberships before we left. Apparently you needed a letter from a film school too to get a student pass.

But undeterred, we rocked up on the first Saturday night with little but our charms to recommend us. My companions Pete and Greg being sorely hungover from the previous night’s antics – while I was, well just probably doing that thing where I look bored, even when I’m not – so even attempting to look the part seemed like a dubious strategy.

Upon arrival at the front of the Festival Palace we saw what we expected; swarms of people in their best robes and tails holding up signs ranging from “travelled here from England – ticket please” to “will kiss for a pass”. The thing with Cannes is all you need is a ticket for a film screening to gain access. It really is that easy – at least in principle. But there were just too many people doing it, and they seemed to have been hanging round for hours. There must be a way to have more fun.

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Just after we “broke in” via the car park. See our hands already covering the fact we don’t have a pass.

We had almost resigned ourselves to watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the beach (the scraps thrown to the riff-raff of the Festival). But I didn’t come to Cannes Film Festival to sit on a beach and watch a Western. I knew we could find a way, besides I had read that it is possible to crash Cannes on the internet – and as we all know the internet is never wrong.

We had a glass of wine on the bench and discussed the situation. Pete was flaking having been out til at least 7am that morning partying away (classique Pete). We agreed on a collective recharge at McDo’s [French for McDonalds] and so set off with half-opened bottle of wine in hand.

Sorry if this tale is full of more ups and downs than you expected – but don’t fret too much for us – it was by no means a lost cause and suddenly our luck began to change. As we passed the Festival Palace (again), I noticed a group of policeman standing outside a door, who didn’t seem to be checking passes, unlike at the other entrances. It was clearly not an official entrance, but surely behind every door there’s another door waiting? I nudged to Gregor that this gap in the wall had some promise and before I knew it he had casually strolled past the policemen and through the gap.

We followed, trying to remain cool, calm and collected, although trying not to giggle at how “cool” this was, was by no means easy. We were truly giving the finger to the establishment, strolling past policemen patrolling, what turned out to be a car park.

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Looking pleased with ourselves.

Remember those wise words of mine, “behind a door there’s usually a door”? There’s logique to it. After a few minutes exploring this car park, and feeling like perhaps we were never going to make it – we climbed some stairs and Voila – we were in. There were some security guards at the entrance but I imagine no-one thought anyone would be so duplicitous and scheming as to “break-in” through the car park.

The game was on. Our next task was to try hide the fact we weren’t wearing passes, everyone else was – and there were still security checks going on. For the next hour I think I had my hand permanently attached to my neck, like I had a sore throat or something (rock ‘n roll).

We saw something resembling a party and Greg sniffed something resembling Moët (in joke). We headed in the Moët’s direction, finding ourselves in a party right on the coast. Nice enough, but we were getting hungry and the night was young. Alas, cursed for breaking in before our precious McDo.

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Less pleased here.

We tried a couple more smaller parties, but too many had guest lists. One was for Finnish film, where we attempted and failed to convince them we were huge fans. Eventually we found one – I’d be lying if I remembered what it was about – but the main point is, is that they served wine and peanuts. No McDo, but it would do for now.

Feeling that rush one can only get from breaking into a Film Festival to gain access to peanut snacks, we decided we should try see a film. The entrance to the main screenings had heavy security, so we tried our luck at the exit, and voila! I think that can sometimes be a trend in society – while people obsessively check credentials at entrances, no-one is actually bothering with the exits.

We snuck into a film screening involving planes and much pretension (it really was awful). After about five minutes, Gregor loudly informed the entire cinema that he was leaving as this was “shit”, and by now Pete and my stomachs were rumbling too much to resist. Slipping out we had a last go in the enclosed area at a Russian film party. We gave fake names but no such luck. I can’t believe neither Countess Danna Grufferina, Count Pyotr Mercosky nor Count Gregory Daubski were on the guest list.. Even our self-assuredness wasn’t enough for them.

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Looking smug.

So now to the highlight of the evening – our recharge at McDo. That’s when we began the fake stories. Hearing British accents almost everywhere we started chatting to randoms and making up histories. This was better fun than the parties – yet this was to be short-lived. We were in cocky-mode now. We needed to do more crashing to fulfil our inner desires for anarchy and rebellion.

Through the process of… telling porkies, we began to stick with our stories. I was soon to be appearing in the new Star Wars – “Shouldn’t you be in London?” A common response. Pete “hipster” Mercer was a composer for some low-budget independent films, though I was sure to inform them that he had turned down “lots of big names”. [Yes I am cringing as I write this]. And Gregor? Well Gregor was of course a published poet. [Alas for Pete and I - this remains the only one of these histories to be actually true.]

Further along the promenade, we saw a large tent and a large queue outside it. So we slipped around the back where a kitchen appeared to be and followed some random chap in. “Besides queuing is for riff raff” we convinced ourselves. The woman stopped me at the kitchen door asking me who I was, and I just pointed at the chap who had gone in just before me and simply said in most probably awful French, “Bonjour, la meme Madame” (the same), I don’t understand how it worked, particularly when I am convinced I must have seemed like a right wally – but it did.

This party was ok, I suppose. I think you should judge a party by the length of the queue, and I’ve never had to queue for a party I really enjoyed. The length of this party’s queue was certainly not correlational to how good it was. It was actually shit, mainly due to the people, the music and the.. well the whole thing in fact.

This can be summed up by a British man I met inside who actually claimed to be “Mr Glastonbury”. As in, that he could get anybody in. (I hope this includes the Abbey as National Trust prices can be extortionate.) He was possibly the most annoying person I’ve ever met, and I’ve met Lembit Opik.

We soon got bored. Next we tried the world famous Carlton, where Harrison (my co-star) was staying. We tried the front door – no luck. So we walked along a few hundred metres and found a small hedge. Judging my chances of jumping over without being seen, I waited for a waiter to turn his back and we were in, strolling up to the hotel like we were the coolest kids in town (writing this all is painful, believe me – but my crashing tips need to be spread to the masses).

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Delicieux snax!

We met some nice, funny people but alas they were all meant to be there and so were slowly heading out to invite-only parties. So we next tried our chances at the beach parties. Now this is what we were waiting for.
Live music, dancing on the beach, unpretentious people (in the main) – generally lots of fun was had. We tried our chances at the next party along the beach but couldn’t get in (I’m not sure why we did that – as the party we were at was perfectly fine – I suppose it’s again that addictive quality to “crashing”). But as folk started leaving, we heard Bohemian Rhapsody at this more exclusive beach party – knew it was our last chance – I mean it’s hardly a middle-of-the-night song is it – and so we jumped the hedge and were in.

And then there was another party at a hotel. Was ok. I mean parties are parties eh?

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Oh dear.

By my calculations we “crashed” five. Yet ironically (or perhaps pitifully) my favourite party was the one that didn’t require sneaking past security guards. Bored, we three musketeers slowly drifted off to the train station and happened across a cute little bar with people spilling out onto the streets. No crashing required, and the people were cooler. Another correlation perhaps?

In typical fashion we lost Greg – so Pete and I began the journey home, as the commuters were off to work. Rock ‘n’ roll! (It was actually Sunday so that line doesn’t really work). Luckily I was with Pete when he fell asleep, otherwise he could have ended up in Italy – tempting though that was. Besides, he would have been fine – like that time he got the London night bus and ended up in Stanstead airport. He only had to wait there seven hours before he could get a bus back.

So what did I learn? Crashing is fun, there’s a sort of addictive thrill that goes with it – and an almost toxic thirst for more – but the most important lesson I learnt was friendship, love and solidarity, with my fellow nobodies.

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A thrilling tale where important lessons of love and friendship were learned. Aaah.

It was the company that made it. Each party was cool but we got quickly bored and wanted to move onto the next adventure. And the less exclusive the party, the more fun we had. No jokes.

Hang on no. That’s not the most important lesson I learnt at all. The most important lesson I learnt was that if you dress relatively well and act like an arrogant, rather conceited partygoer, it’s pretty easy to crash Cannes.

See you next year for more tales of how to do a “f**k you” to the establishment! (In short – through lying to people, while accepting their hospitality, peanuts and wine.)


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Is a Live Below the Line spoof below the line?

The Live Below the Line campaign aims to raise awareness and funds for the fight against extreme poverty. Participants live on £1 a day for 5 days in a bid to have a greater understanding of poverty itself.

Whilst there’s no doubt that participants have the best of intentions, want to do something to help, and learn from experience, there are many elements of the campaign that we take issue with and there are certainly a number of people who seem to miss the point – tweeting that they’re off to enjoy a giant kebab to celebrate completing the challenge, or complaining about the hardship of having to shop in Tescos..

It’s in tribute to such self-sacrifice that we post this diary we’ve obtained.

Jo Qualmann more seriously examines some of the issues the campaign raises in her blog ‘Why I won’t live below the line’.

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My Live Below the Line Diary: Day One

So here it goes. £1 a day for £5 days. Here’s my story. A tale of suffering but also of hope (after all the suffering).

I’ve always loved the country of Africa and been passionate about poverty, so as I begin the challenge, of course I’m excited to see how I cope with living like an African, but I’m also apprehensive and have a lot of questions about what this week will mean for me.

Can I really live on just £5 for five days when I’d usually spend this on just one glass of vino in a bar?

Will anyone I know spot me shopping in Tesco, or worse, Lidl?

Will those people I’m sure I’ve seen eyeing me up in the gym lose interest if I start to look all thin and mangled?

So many questions!

To kick things off today I went to Tesco to do some poverty-style shopping. It’s not the sort of place I’d usually buy food but I guess this whole week is about new experiences and taking me out of my comfort zone.
I thought it’d be really difficult to buy anything for under £1 but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could buy for so little. It turns out there’s loads of cheap food on offer if you’re just willing to shop around. I don’t know what people are complaining about.

I found a packet of 20 Weetabix for 99p in the ‘Reduced to clear’ section – I guess because nobody wanted such a dull cereal – so snapped them up. If I have four a day that’s breakfast and lunch sorted!

I also managed to get three tins of Thomas the Tank Engine spaghetti shapes for £1, which will not only be nourishing but spotting the different characters will be the sort of entertaining game an African child would love.

I’m starting to think this week will be a lot of fun.

I also ventured into ‘Poundland’ to see what bargains they had, and managed to get two Easter eggs for a Pound which seems a pretty sweet deal.
I hope the Africans have Poundland where they can pick up cheap Easter eggs. Although in fact do they know it’s Easter-time at all?

This week’s already raising so many questions I’ve never considered before.
After dinner of two tins of spaghetti and an Easter egg for dessert I’m going to bed with my stomach full as well as my head.

I made sure to instagram photos of my dinner, so people can feel involved in my struggle. Just hope none of my followers ever actually have to eat this kind of thing.

1 day down, 4 to go!

This is the amount of food I imagine I'll have to live on!

This is the amount of food I imagine I’ll have to live on!

Day Two

My Live Below the Line odyssey is proving really challenging but also so rewarding.

Today got off to a frustrating start as I tried to toast my Weetabix and found it just fell apart in the toaster. Perhaps this is why the pack was reduced? After attempting to salvage the crumbs and toast them in the AGA, I eventually gave up and was forced to throw away two precious Weetabix slices.

But then I suppose this highlights the sort of setback Africans face all the time. We’re lucky that if something goes wrong with a meal we can just make something else. If their breakfast gets trampled by an elephant or stolen by a monkey they have to go hungry.

But as I ate my replacement slices of Weetabix, cold and raw, I did feel a sense of contentment with my humble fare. Despite all their problems I do envy the Africans their simplicity of life, free of modern stresses and complications.

I made a Weetabix sandwich for lunch, with a couple of cans of tinned fruit for variety. (I don’t think I’ll count this as coming out of my budget as in Africa I would have just found these growing on trees.)

I can’t say this challenge isn’t tough as I’m already worrying about what I’ll make for dinner. I’m not sure I can face another Weetabix main course and Easter egg dessert!
But I’m sure I’ll think of something using my instincts.

At least I’ll have plenty of money I haven’t spent this week on food to spend on other things like some new items for the old wardrobe to cheer me up. Though I might have to really indulge on eating this weekend to ensure I put the weight back on quickly, so the clothes actually fit me!

Day Three

This is hell.

I don’t know how the Africans manage it every day.

I’ve been concerned that I might not be getting the most authentically African experience during my week of living to in poverty, so I started the day by travelling to work in the African manner – walking six miles with my briefcase on my head.
I felt a little guilty as I was wearing shoes – hard to come by for the average African I’m sure, but to be fair they don’t have the threat of London cyclists cycling over their toes (although granted, it must be frightening to go barefoot with all the snakes).

After 100 metres my briefcase had fallen off three times and I’d been abused by some local youths who seemed to think the issue of poverty is funny.
Although I had to give up at the end of my street and jump in a taxi, it gave me a new respect for the women of Nairobi and Johannesburg who have to walk miles every day just to get water.

Now after my stressful journey and a hard day harvesting the fields of management consultancy I’m exhausted.

I’m now feeling very morose and grumpy. For lunch I microwaved up some left-over spaghetti shapes, but they’ve now become a horrible mush and all the engines look the same which is dispiriting.

Knowing I had to make something cheap for dinner I brought a few assorted organic vegetables and herbs to make a healthy stew (I sweet talked the dude at the Delicatessen into selling me some kale, a radish and a mangel-wurzel for a mere £1.50), but I’m afraid it looked and tasted like putrid garbage. No wonder there’s so much violence in Africa with people having to eat stuff like this all the time. I’d be furious!

My mood isn’t helped by the fact the repetitive meals I’m eating are so boring. In Africa I’d at least have some safari animals to keep me entertained while I eat. Might have to put The Lion King on.
Or that Made in Chelsea episode when they all go to Africa to talk about their feelings on safari.

Day Four

This is so tough. I’m worried I’m in the early stages of starvation. I’m sure the seagulls outside my window are starting to eye me up like vultures.

Following the fiasco of last night’s vegetable stew I’m running perilously short on money.

After raw Weetabix for breakfast and a Weetabix sandwich and tin of peaches for lunch I was desperate for something different for dinner. But what could I afford already being down to my last 50p?

I considered doing some hunter-gathering but I thought I might risk arrest if I ventured out with a spear, and I wasn’t sure I’d want to eat a squirrel from the local park even if I could catch one.

Eventually, examining the more dubious looking sections of Tesco, I managed to pick up a box of sausages for £1. I threw half of them away to make up for going over budget, but this still left me 4 sausages for 50p.

I then thought I might try cooking them over a fire for an authentic African experience, and I was rather proud of myself that, with the help of a few logs ‘borrowed’ from next door’s woodpile (sssh!), a cigarette lighter and an old can of petrol, I managed to get a blaze going in the back garden.

Unfortunately I was a bit too good at getting the fire going and within a few minutes my sausages were burnt, charred and inedible, and it had also destroyed a large section of the lawn.
I have really struggled to get the fire if I didn’t have smoke-detecting sprinklers in the garden. One can never be too careful.
I felt such a failure, though to be fair in Africa I’d probably have a few wives to help me cook.

All this meant I had to eat Weetabix yet again on my own for dinner. On top of the starvation, I actually feel really lonely too from having to cancel all the lunch dates I had planned.

I certainly have!

I certainly have!!

This whole week has been so exhausting. I can’t imagine having to do a tribal war dance on these energy levels.

Luckily tomorrow is my last day of poverty. It can’t come soon enough!

Day Five

Today’s been the toughest one of all and I’m not sure if I’d have managed it if I didn’t have the end in sight.

I was really struggling, but luckily I did have a stroke of good luck. On the way to work I passed an ice cream parlour offering free samples. I went back throughout the day and had about eight cones of ice-cream. Both filling and tasty!

I did wonder if by accepting free food I was cheating on the challenge, but I don’t think so as the free samples were just the equivalent of the aid agencies you find in Africa giving out free stuff.

I might request that the money I raise in sponsorship could be used specifically to provide ice cream for African children, and perhaps an airfare for me so I can hand them out myself, while telling them my inspiring story. Though would I have time before the ice-cream melted in the scorching African heat? Might have to rethink this.

I imagine for welcome for my ice-cream van will be something like this.

I imagine for welcome for my ice-cream van will be something like this.

This week’s been really tough, but it’s also been eye-opening, and looking back I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of living in poverty. I feel so much stronger as a person now I know I could manage it. From now on I’ll follow the plight of Africans with a new understanding, and the work of heroes like Bono with a new appreciation.

I’m so lucky to live in a wealthy country and must keep using my good fortune to help others.
I do think if only more people appreciated their privilege the world would be a happier place.

On the way back from work a homeless man whined at me for money. ‘Sorry mate’ I said ‘I understand real poverty. You don’t know how lucky you are.’

But thanks to my week of living below the line I now do. Hakuna Matata.

Now it’s 5pm – the week’s basically over. I’m off to get the biggest Nando’s to celebrate!

 


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Frozen isn’t Feminist?! Let it go!

By Dannie Gruff

Over the last few months if there’s one thing I should be sick of it’s 5 year old girls singing “Libérée, délivrée, Je ne mentirai plus jamais”.

When I started working with these kids, I had no idea what they were talking about. I mean I suppose even for those with working-levels of Franglais, “Libérée” sounds something like “liberate”, so I guessed it was some kind of younger girls’ feminist anthem.

Then I clocked on. A few months ago, I realised that my girls were singing “Let it go” from Disney’s Frozen. I wasn’t well acquainted with the song at the time, or it’s singer, Idina Menzel – or as John Travolta calls her for some reason – Adele Dazeem, but that was all to change. (Though now I’ve got to know her back catalogue it makes slightly more sense that friends used to sing ‘Defying Grufferty’ at me.)

I recently found another family and along with it, another 5 year old girl who sings this song, all the time. I’m not exaggerating – to say these girls love this song wouldn’t do it justice. It’s all they sing. Personally I’m more a fan of je voudrais un bonhomme de neige/ do you want to build a Snowman, but I know better than to argue with a 5 year old about such things.

So, I watched the film with the kids a little while back. I enjoyed it, it was in French but it was Disney so…. you know I got the jist. I particularly enjoyed Olaf the Snowman and his pipe dream of chilling out under the sun. My favourite character? Elsa of course. What a woman!

More recently, I happened across an article written by a dad. He doesn’t go out of his way to herald Frozen as a feminist masterpiece, but he does talk about it in light of his daughter’s love for Let it Go/ Libérée, délivrée. And argues that the song is at the centre of the film’s message; “I want versus I am”.

It seems no coincidence that children everywhere adore this song.

So I went on a fact-finding mission. Asking my two girls (from different schools, different parts of town) who they preferred – Elsa the Queen of Arendelle and/or Snow, or her younger sister Anna – who in some ways is your classic Disney heroine – she makes some bad decisions (going in search of her sister without a coat in a blizzard being one example), is often quite helpless, is certainly a hopeless romantic, but does indeed end up with her Prince Charming.

I don’t mean to be harsh to Anna, I find her a most endearing, fun character – particularly when she gets cross or when she sings such lines as “I don’t know if I’m elated or gassy”.

But she’s nothing to Elsa.

So I was surprised when googling “Frozen, feminist”, I found only negative articles and blogs. I read a few and while not without their important points, each one seems to fail to mention – unlike this dad I mentioned earlier – what young girls are saying about the film.

So back to my quizzing of these five year old girls. Who did they prefer?

Elsa of course. And why? Answers ranged from “because she is the one with the power”, to “because she is her own person”. (Not much of a range, I know but then my working sample was two.) One of the four year old boys I work with said a similar thing.

When I pressed as to why they didn’t want to be Anna; the one with the romantic happy-ever-after ending, the answers were again pretty straightforward, both saying that marriage was of little importance to either of them. One even said she would rather be alone and frighten people than be somebody’s wife. I can sympathise with that.

I’ve always wondered at Disney’s obsession with romance. With Princes who sweep a young, usually naïve, and always beautiful damsel off her sweet little feet. Frozen, like other more recent Disney films gives couples a little time to get to know each other first. (OK granted, I think Anna and Kristoff know each other for about a day, but I doubt many people notice that and besides they go through a lot together…)

It seems to me that much of the criticism of Frozen seems to come from people who haven’t actually spoken to young children about what it means to them. Having not considered that in the eyes of young children, the fact that Elsa is saved at the end not from Prince Charming’s kiss but from the love of her sister – says a great deal.

Some feminist criticism has been levelled at the fact Disney changed the name of the Hans Christian Anderson story on which the film is loosely based, from The Snow Queen; to Frozen, removing any sign that the film centres around women. Because that’s usually what Disney does – shy away from having woman-centered titles…

Now I’m not saying that Disney’s most famous titled-leading ladies, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – are in my view very good role models for young women. Despite being often strong women themselves, they only find redemption via a man they barely know. But Frozen is different. It’s pretty bloody obvious in my mind that the two leading characters are women – the male characters in this film undoubtedly pale into significance (perhaps ironically except Olaf the Snowman, though I’m not sure he defines either way). Throughout the film, the men are rather negative characters, bar nice wholesome Kristoff who is by no means perfect and a bit of a Fixer-Upper (I’m still not sure what this means).

Unsurprisingly, it seems non-English speaking children would rather not watch their favourite films in English with subtitles. In fact almost every other translation has directly-translated The Snow Queen, and almost no other country has used the title Frozen. So if there is any confusion about the role of men in the film, the families I work with are in little doubt that it stars a woman (I suppose it could be a gay Queen.. but come on a gay leading character in a Disney film? They won’t risk that again after Hercules…) And I wager more children have seen it in languages other than English around the world anyway. So, although it might be easier to critique in this way, we shouldn’t act like English is the only language in existence.

Other criticism says that many of the women characters in Anderson’s original tale have been replaced by chaps. And that in fact the original story centres around a young girl Gerda who is on a mission to rescue a boy, Kai. Sure, they’ve cut some women out of the original tale. But surely nobody can doubt that the two women at the centre of the story are by far the strongest characters. Besides in the original story, The Snow Queen is the enemy – I thought it was a nice twist that Elsa was a sort of strange mix of both good and bad, a complex character who could be rather cold and cruel (the antithesis of the classic Disney heroine), yet sacrificed her own happiness to protect her sister from harm. Besides she can also put up a good fight and she’s had far from an easy life.

I could have written a detailed feminist critique deconstructing various scenes from this film, like sisters before me. But I don’t think you can write about this film and at the same time ignore the voices and views of those who love the film so much.

And I also strongly believe that the song at the centre of the film is the main moment for young women out there. So rarely are films made where a young woman is talking about not what she wants to be, or what she could learn to be – but in fact what she has always been, something that is an intrinsic part of her identity – despite being reviled by almost everyone for it.

The girls I look after who sing this anthem so often, particularly love playing out the scene in the song where she lets her hair fall free, from a rather boring middle-aged up-do to a long free, dare I say it, even slightly messy number. She then slams the door on all the other haters.

I hope these kids – girls and boys alike – continue to appreciate the wonderful free-spirited, often selfless Elsa.

Sometimes it feels like others are too quick to assume children are too naïve to comprehend what a woman – who finally chooses to embrace her true identity – looks like. For my part, I think kids, and particularly young girls, know a woman not defined by the men around them when they see one. You go Elsa.


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REVEALED: Chris Grayling’s Personal List of Banned Books for Prisoners

As Dannie’s home MP is Chris Grayling, we have some sources within his office, and as such we’ve obtained these shocking internal emails from within the Ministry of Justice.

They expose beyond doubt the weak intellectual foundations upon which the ban on prisoners receiving books is based.

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From: Grayling, Chris <graylingc@parliament.uk>
Date: 31st March 15:32
Subject: RE: Books in Prison
To: Simon Hughes <hughess@parliament.uk>

Hughes,

Thanks for tweeting in defence of the ban on prisoners being sent books.

Your loyalty is appreciated. And duly noted.

I see a load of writers worried about their royalties are still complaining – and that naturally our friends at the BBC are giving them airtime.

I’m not sure our argument that prisoners are still reading 50 Shades of Grey is really winning these eggheads over, so I’ve drawn up a little list of the sort of dangerous books that in fact inspired the ban.

I’m planning to write to HM Prison’s Service asap asking them to check each and every cell for the “books” outlined below, to prove our point.

In the meantime perhaps you could mention them in any media interviews,

Cheers,

Chris

 

Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci

We don’t want to be encouraging prisoners to think about political theory. Well in fact to think at all. It just adds fuel to the fire of this “votes for prisoners” claptrap.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Titles like this will just depress morale for those in solitary confinement.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Assume this is some kind of social commentary about the rise of food banks? Don’t want HM Government blamed for people not controlling their finances.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Raskolnikov got a mere eight years labouring in Siberia. Another novel soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime. Much like a certain opposition party we all know. Rasko also gets redemption at the end which isn’t really our line.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Don’t want to encourage pensioners to complain they’ve got no money, no prospects, no country… we get enough of that already.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde

Again, paints a very unhelpful view of prison life. Also written by Oscar Wilde, a highly disreputable character when he was loafing around Parisian B&Bs. I don’t think the owners should have been obliged to let him stay but that’s another story. I’ve made this point before.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Such sentiments will only encourage whining appeals against the bedroom tax upon release.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Again prisoners just don’t deserve such things.

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Haven’t these crooks got better things to do in prison than read celebrity biographies of over-rated Welsh crooners?

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Isn’t she pals with the Browns? Besides, why would anyone read this? Wizards aren’t real.
Add that whole lot of Oxford intellectuals Tolkien, Lewis etc… Sure they use Lions and Wizards to spread the gospel but it still reeks of the dark arts.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Don’t want any prisoners thinking if they start eating people’s livers with fava beans and a nice Chianti, they’ll get a glass screen instead of bars – all in a bid to intimidate us.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Don’t want books suggesting some prison sentences may be unjust. Also, doesn’t this promote terrorism?

The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Prison is no place to find your soul-mate. Or use the clever positioning of a poster and a small chisel to break your way out of prison. (Hope you’ve read/seen it or I’ve just spoiled the end, soz.)

Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly

Assume this is the sort of Marxist nonsense Michael Gove wants us to crack down on?

The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers took their Children’s Future by David Willetts

The less said about this the better… Particularly given the mess poor David’s got himself into with tuition fees.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Definitely not the sort of message we want. Scarlett replaces paid black workers with unpaid convicts in the Reconstruction Era and gets criticised for “exploiting” them. I think using convicts as free labour is a great idea, as IDS is proving with workfare.

Anything by Katie Price

Most criminals are just in my opinion too stupid to understand her delicate, yet rich use of satire and symbolism. I bloody loved her latest offer, “Love Lipstick and Lies” but these Philistines won’t.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Sensationalist propaganda about prison and debt being social problems. Also an unfair portrayal of hard-working bureaucrats.

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond

A disgraceful book which encourages the harbouring of illegal immigrants. I hardly think a ‘Please look after this bear’ note constitutes correct paperwork? This Brown family should have texted ‘Go Home’ to report the Peruvian scrounger as soon as he turned up.

Prisonomics by Vicky Pryce

I’m not keen on prisoners reading, let alone writing books. Don’t want that bloody Lib Dem (no offence Simon….) giving them ideas.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Haven’t read it but the title suggests it’ll just be used for cheap satirical digs at the Ministry of Justice.

The Right-Honourable Chris Grayling MP
Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell
House of Commons,
London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8194
Fax: 020 7219 1763

UK Parliament Disclaimer:

This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

—-

From: Simon Hughes <hughess@parliament.uk>
Date: 31st March 15:35
Subject: RE: Books in Prison
To: Grayling, Chris <graylingc@parliament.uk>

Chris,

Thanks for this. Agree wholeheartedly. Will tow the line for sure if any media opportunities arrive. Come to think of it, are there any forthcoming slots that I could step-in and do? Newsnight perhaps?

And can I just confirm that the Bible is still ok? I mean if it’s good enough for people who use Britannia Hotels…?

Si

Simon Hughes MP
Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark
House of Commons,
London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8194
Fax: 020 7219 1763

UK Parliament Disclaimer:

This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

—–

Grayling and Clegg bravely explain to some convicts why books are bad for them.

From: Grayling, Chris <graylingc@parliament.uk>
Date: 31st March 16:30
Subject: RE: Books in Prison
To: Simon Hughes <hughess@parliament.uk>

Sure yeah the Bible’s fine. We don’t have to pay for them anyway.

In terms of media stuff, let me get back to you.

Come to think of it I don’t think we should just stop with books. Some songs have atrocious messages. Gangsters’ Paradise for instance.

Also, I want to Break free, Jailbreak, Mercy Seat.. there’s loads of undesirable messages in those too.

And obviously anything by Johnny Cash.

Perhaps we should work on a pre-election crack-down?

The Right-Honourable Chris Grayling MP
Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell
House of Commons,
London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8194
Fax: 020 7219 1763

UK Parliament Disclaimer:

This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

———–

From: Simon Hughes <hughess@parliament.uk>
Date: 31st March 16:35
Subject: RE: Books in Prison
To: Grayling, Chris <graylingc@parliament.uk>

Yes Sir!

:)

Simon Hughes MP
Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark
House of Commons,
London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8194
Fax: 020 7219 1763

UK Parliament Disclaimer:

This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

 

#booksforprisoners


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Crucial questions of Labour History: Was Attlee or Blair a better typist?

By Joe Oliver

The flurry of reviews appearing for John Campbell’s new biography of Roy Jenkins have made me lust to read it with all the fervour of Jenkins lusting after a fine claret or a new centre party.

Roy Jenkins, 1991However, wincing at the £30 cover price, I’ve contented myself with returning to Jenkins’ own 1991 autobiography A Life at the Centre (picked up for £3 in an Oxfam shop), from the cover of which a well-rounded (in every sense) Jenkins smiles owlishly at the reader amidst a nest of books.

It’s well worth reading both as an interesting account of life at the centre of political events for much of the twentieth century, and for no other reason than that Jenkins has such a rich, entertaining writing style.

The chapter on his comparatively brief time as Home Secretary ‘The Liberal Hour’ (or precisely the Liberal twenty-one months) is fascinating, accommodating at breakneck speed the aftermath of the abolition of the death penalty, reform of divorce laws, modernisation of the police and judiciary, the legalisation of homosexuality, abortion and (most crucially of course) Sunday opening of cinemas.

While his account of his time as a code breaker during the Second World War is one of the best descriptions of what actually went on in the huts at Bletchley Park. (Given the friendship between Jenkins and Robert Harris, I was slightly disappointed that a young Jenkins doesn’t make a cameo in Harris’ Bletchly-based thriller Enigma.)

The section on his celebrated 1979 Dimbleby Lecture is perhaps one of the most valiant attempts to make the issue of constitutional reform exciting.

Jenkins is also a man after my own heart at collecting historical minutiae, and the book is stuffed with interesting facts and anecdotes.

One in particular which caught my eye was his account of his friendship with Clement Attlee (mildly ironic given historians will probably remember Jenkins’ name in association with his door-stopper biography of Churchill).
Jenkins knew Atlee well – he was a family friend, Jenkins father Arthur having served as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, and so, in 1946 Atlee invited him to edit a volume of his speeches (Presumably a slim volume given how famously taciturn he was).

As Jenkins records ‘For this I was paid £50…Typical of both of us was what then followed. He sent me the cheque himself. I was slow to acknowledge. About five days later I received one of his famous self-typed pungent missives:

Dear Roy, I sent! you a
Cheque fOR £50 a week ago. I
(have nothad? an acknowledgement.
You’Rs eVer,
C.R.Attlee

Luckily a hasty apology restored good relations, but Jenkins remembers the incident as remarkable for ‘What other Prime Minister would ever have produced such a letter on his own typewriter?’

Probably none while in office, though talk of Prime Ministers and typos did remind me of an old C.V. of Tony Blair’s which turned up a few years ago to mild mockery in the press.

Written in 1983 when he was seeking to be selection for the Sedgefield constituency, it comes across as an amiable enough document, with a few points of interest to those with a sweet tooth for historical trivia, such as the alphabet soup of trade unions Blair mentions to stress his Labour credentials.

That Blair was a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties, like many other Labour politicians, is not surprising, particularly given he was a lawyer, but it might have bemused some years later when the N.C.C.L., now Liberty, found itself vigorously opposing proposals for 90 days detention, ID cards and a host of other Blair Government measures.

Blair himself would probably have been surprised as a proud member of C.N.D. to learn that it 20 years’ time he’d be both Prime Minister, and spending billions renewing Trident.

However the comforting vague, abstract quality of his ambition for a Labour Party providing ‘radical solutions within a framework that people understand and which touches their everyday lives’ seems reassuringly like the Blair we know.

But the point that really stands out is just how terribly typed it is, with the massed ranks of typos making Attlee look like a touch typist in comparison.
It’s probably fair to assume it was hastily typed before a selection meeting on a typewriter which didn’t have a backspace function, as there really are some howlers – including one typo so unfortunate it’d make the most hardened career adviser shudder.

Name: Tony Blair

Age: 30 years

Trade Union: Transport and General Workers Union

Previous Parliamentary Experience:
I stood, during the Falklands war, in the Beaconsfield by-election, a Tory seat with a mojority of 93,000. I lost, (unsurprisingly) but gained valuable experience. Michael Foot speaking an BBC Newsnight said:
“In my view Tony Glair will make an exceptional contribution to British politics in the months and years ahead”

Background:
From 1972    -75 I attended Oxford University (St. John’s College) where Iread law.
In 1975-6 I was pupip to Alexander Irving Q.C. At the end of my pupillage, at the age of 24 years, I was awarded a full place in Chanbers as a practising barrister.

Nature of work:
I specialise in trada union and industrial law, which, in effect, has meant living and wording in London.
I also work for several major County Councils and in the area of civil liberties. The Unions I have worked for include TGWU; ISTC; NUR; GMBATU; TSSA; AUEW; NALGO.

Amongst the major cases in which I have bee involved over the past few years are:
- Defending the Labour Party in court action ageinshe Reg Prentice and his supporters
- Several cases arising aout of redundancies espesially at the British Steel Corporation, inclusing winning the unfair dismissal claim of the 30 Birmingham steelworkers

I am a member of the Excutive committee of the Society of Labout Cangreess and of C.N.D.; N.C.C.L.; L.C.C.

Family:
I am married to Cherie Booth, who was bor and bred in Liverpool. Cherie is now a barrister ( having come top in the professional exams in 1976 for the whole country). She specialises in child care and adoption work.
Cherie’s father is the actor Tony Booth of ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ fame. Anthony and Pat Phoenix form ‘Coronotion Stree’ both came and canvassed for me when I previously stood for Parliament and would be happy to do so again.

Short statement of views and intent:
I have always wanked to come back to the North East to represent the community here.
I would of course live in the sostituency in selected, and I would be a full-time M.P. to put the best case for logal people in Westmenster.
I believe in a united Labout Party offering radical solutions within a framework that people understand and which touches their everyday lives. I support party policy as determind by Party Conference.
When arguments do take place they should take place within the party, not on the media, and in a spirit of democray. That means not only the right to express your views, but the right to have them listened to.
**

Tony Blair typingBlair, as we’ve been reminded by evidence in on-going criminal trials, is now an avid user of emails, so we can assume with the help of computer power only found in Bletchley Park in Attlee’s day, he’s now a much better typist.

But I found his 1980s efforts rather pleasing, both as for providing rare comparison between Blair and Attlee, and proving, than if someone with such a terribly typed C.V. rise to become Prime Minister, there’s hope for any job applicant.
We all have to start somewhere.

 


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Tony Benn: A few of his best jokes

by Joe Oliver

With Tony Benn’s funeral being held in Westminster (where else could it be?) today will inevitably be a sad and sombre day for many of his friends and fans.

Though I hope, amidst the inevitable sadness, most people will be able to remember him with a smile, as one thing he loved – and one of the key weapons in his armoury – was making people laugh.

Writing about him last week I mentioned that one of the reasons for his popularity was that he was made radical arguments without ever being dull, flavouring speeches, even on the most serious and technical of topics, with dashes of humour.

Denis Healey commented caustically that ‘Tony’s always had a silver tongue in his head, and now it’s making him a lot of silver’ and indeed in his later years he almost made a living off his wit.
Part of the reason he managed to pack out theatres in every corner of the country was that people knew An Evening with Tony Benn would be very entertaining, and send the audience into the night laughing as well as thinking.

Benn versus Healey: 'I didn't know Smith & Wesson made cameras'

Benn versus Healey: ‘I didn’t know Smith & Wesson made cameras’

I’ve made an attempt to collect a few Tony Benn jokes and stories here, which are either taken from his Diaries or which I remember him telling.

I’m sure there are many more I’m missed hovering tantalisingly just beyond my memory so if you’ve got any suggestions please do comment or send them me and I’ll add them to the list.

**

On the House of Lords, and his fight to disclaim his hereditary peerage:

‘Most Labour politicians start off on the left and end up in the House of Lords. I did it the other way round.’

‘The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to visit.’

On the hereditary principle: ‘If I went to the dentist and as he began drilling my teeth he said, “I’m not a dentist myself, but my father was a very good dentist,” I think I would jump out of his chair!’

‘When I was trying to give up my peerage a helpful member of the public wrote to me and said ‘If you can prove you’re illegitimate then the title wouldn’t rightfully by yours anyway’. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case.
One Conservative peer did tell me ‘As far as I’m concerned you’re a bastard!’ but sadly it had no legal validity.’

On Politics:

‘Labour isn’t a socialist party, but it’s got socialists in it – just as there are some Christians in the Church of England.’

Asked his opinion of the Church of England’s position on equal marriage: ‘”When you think of the number of men in the world who hate each other, why, when two men love each other, does the church split?’

On the press in 1975: ‘If I rescued a child from drowning, the press would no doubt headline the story: ‘Benn grabs child.’

Asked about being a Eurospectic: ‘I don’t like being called a Eurosceptic. I just disagree with the system. I wasn’t an Anglo-sceptic when Mrs Thatcher was in power. I just disagreed with her policies.’

On New Labour and quangos:

‘In 1842 The Economist, a very wise paper as you know, had an article saying ‘You can’t abolish the slave trade because there’s all these ignorant blacks with nothing whatever to do in Africa and they’re needed in the plantations of America. So they said we shouldn’t abolish the slave trade we should regulate it. And I thought of Chris Woodhead in charge of Ofslave, naming and shaming those slave ships where the sanitary arrangements fell below standard.’

‘It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.’
[Of course not really a joke but it always got a laugh]

Announcing his decision to stand down from the House of Commons: ‘I want more time to devote to politics.’

On Northern Ireland’s politicians:
Tony Benn must have been one of few politicians who by the end of his life countered both Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams as personal friends. Though this didn’t stop him poking fun at them:

‘I remember in the House of Commons we had a vote on abortion, and Iain Paisley voted in favour of banning it. I saw him afterwards and said ‘Fancy Ian, you and the Pope in the same lobby’.

A few weeks later we had a vote on gay rights and I saw Ian Paisley voting against. So I said ‘Now Iain, the link between the Vatican and the DUP is getting very worrying.’

‘I’ll give Gerry Adams this – he sticks to his guns.’

On Immigration:

‘Our country has been so enriched by immigration. My mother was a Scot – my wife was an American of French extraction. One son married a Muslim. Another’s married someone of Jewish and Indian extraction. I mean I’m breeding a UN peace keeping force in my family.’

‘I had a brilliant time in Australia but honestly all the questions the Australian Immigration Officers asked me! When they asked me ‘Have you ever had a criminal conviction?’ I said ‘No. Is it still required?’

In old age:

Being asked if he still thought he was bugged by the security services: ‘I do hope so, it’s the only remaining contact I have with the establishment.’

‘I got a death threat the other week and I was so pleased! I haven’t had one in ages’

‘At my age your bladder can play up a bit. There was one time where I had just come out of my publishers in Vauxhall Bridge Road, and I was driving home. Well, to cut a long story short it became clear I wouldn’t make it home in time. So in the end I became so desperate I stopped the car and got out. I knew I wouldn’t have time to walk anywhere, so I opened the car boot, and, well, did what I needed to do.
Then as I was zipping up a man walking past came up to me and said: “I think I see your problem.”
‘Oh yes’ I said, ‘What’s that?’
‘Your radiator’s leaking.’

His memories of the end of the Second World War:

‘I was actually in Israel when I heard the war in Europe was over. Myself and two other pilots had been rowing in the Sea of Galilee. It was a sort of Biblical scene.
And we stopped at Capernaum and an old Jewish fisherman said ‘The war is over’. I can remember it so clearly. I celebrated with a glass of orange juice.

Then that night everyone gathered round and Jewish refugees from across the world performed their national dances.
Then someone said something in Hebrew and I said ‘What did they say?’
It turned out they’d said ‘The three English pilots will now perform an English national dance’.
And I believe whoops-a-daisy is still very popular in parts of Galilee.’

On Question Time in 2004 when asked ‘Where are the panel coming from in regards to the Plain English campaign on our most annoying phrases?’:

‘Well in the ultimate analysis, when we put it out for consultation, there’s absolutely no doubt that we’ve got to get a level playing field by moving the goal posts, so we can name and shame people through regime changes all over the world. And if we could put that out, and bring vulnerable people in the community closer to the community in which they live then there’s no doubt the bottom line would be very much clearer, and I feel that’s the way to do it.’

**

A few from the Diaries:

19th October, 1964 (On being appointed to Harold Wilson’s Government)

I told the press that all I could say was I hadn’t been made a peer.

4th January, 1984

Arkady Maslennikov, the London correspondent of Pravda, came to interview me. He had said he would very much like to see how my computer worked, so, before he arrived, I prepared ‘A message from the Central Committee of the CP in Moscow to the London Pravda correspondent.

The message stated that it was amazing that he was still using a typewriter which was a tsarist invention, that he might even be using a medieval instrument known as a pen, that all correspondents had to equip themselves with computers in order to demonstrate the Soviet lead in technology, and would he please confirm receipt of this message by sending a carrier pigeon at once to Moscow.
..Then I showed him how it could be printed in various typefaces and he took four copies away with him.

3rd November, 1993

In the evening there was absolute chaos in the House – Points of Order and shouting. We delayed the vote and made it last about 40 minutes, and the Serjeant-at-Arms with his sword was sent in to tell us to go through the Division lobby or else he would take names.
I turned to the Members who were sitting and said: ‘What he has done is absolutely contrary to the Speaker’s Ruling of 1622.’ They all roared with laughter and when the Serjeant had left, I said I’d made it up.

20th November, 1999

Got a penalty notice on my car, so I blew it up to A4-size and stuck it on the Speaker’s ceremonial coach at Westminster Hall and took a couple of photographs.

21st February, 2000

I said to Brian Sedgemore ‘Tony Blair is becoming a Mussolini.’
‘Oh no, he’s not,’ said Sedgemore ‘He can’t make the trains run on time.’ That was quite funny.

12th March, 2001

In the Speaker’s House Tony Blair unveiled the bust of Harold Wilson by Ian Walters…I took a picture of Blair with Harold’s bust. I said I wanted to get a picture of Boom and Bust.
22nd March, 2002

To Truro Cathedral to give a lecture and take questions…The last question was ‘If Jesus was still alive would he be a member of the Labour Party?’ I replied ‘Who am I to suggest here in this cathedral, and in the presence of two bishops, that Jesus is not still alive?’

24th January, 2008

‘I had an email today from a man who said I was the biggest hypocrite in politics, so I sent him a message back, saying some nutter had got hold of his email and was sending silly messages.’

 

And the characteristic message he left with Channel 4 to be broadcast after his death:


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One Direction backs campaign with No Direction

(Also backed by Bono. Naturally.)

I’ve often wondered to myself whilst mourning for the poor state of humanity – Why do good people do bad things?

Take Live Aid. Get over it, stop thinking that you can end poverty with a pop concert.

In all fairness, neither Bob Geldof nor Bono are particularly good people – but that’s another bitter tale for another bitter time.

History appears to be repeating itself though.

Global Citizen is a new campaign that launched recently, encouraging people to take action for ‘justice’ (Good reasoning – if we keep the objectives to vague buzz words we can maximise our middle of the road appeal).

By taking action you earn points and then ‘Get rewards’ – usually tickets to see bands play.

Points win prizes apparently. Watch a video, tweet, send an email if you can be bothered, and then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Essentially, we should reward ourselves for doing something worthwhile because why would anyone care about social justice unless it meant seeing One Direction in concert?one-direction-in-ghana-africa-pic

Justice today remains nothing other than “ending extreme poverty”. That and a pop concert. Taking action? That’s writing to the Chancellor. I mean if George suddenly has a change of heart because some One Direction fans have written to him then great.

We’ve actually done one of the actions already. We earned a whopping 150 points by watching a video of Ban Ki Moon talking about gender equality. In fact we watched it again and found if you watch these videos on mute, and skip right to the end – you earn the points regardless. Great.

So justice is about extreme poverty. And keeping the 0.7% GDP cap on international aid is the only thing that can help end poverty.

Here’s a thought. Why are they always talking about “extreme poverty”? Why is it always this kind of narrative;

“Those nameless people over the water are extremely poor. Some of us over here are poor, but none of us extremely so. We’re rich! Hence, we must help the extremely poor (and helpless) ones”.

Justice is a term all too seldom heard nor debated in the multi-billion pound aid industry.

Maybe it’s because of the arguments for Aid. Aid in itself suggests a relationship of patronage – it is in no way a term suggesting a relationship of equality between giver and receiver (not that in practice it never achieves that, of course it sometimes does).

Justice on the other hand, suggests equality.

But we couldn’t have that. If we didn’t focus on how “poor” those people are, we wouldn’t get our donations would we.

Furthermore, I’d question why maintaining the figure of 0.7% GDP has become the ultimate be-all and end-all progressive cause celebre? Hopefully it’s more than just a quick bit of intellectual shorthand so we can reassure ourselves we’re doing our bit (well the minimum possible) rather than addressing the more complex long-term political and economic issues at play here.

Without debt cancellation, reparations from the slave trade, and most importantly with the continued interference of the Global North, Aid can sometimes signify nothing more than a twisted form of neocolonialism.

That’s not to say that there are not good people in the aid industry who are genuinely committed to repairing some of the damage done by the continuous shitting on the Global South, by the rest of us.

So they’re not all bad by any means. We’re only saying that the Aid Industry is overwhelmed by white, predominantly middle-class, self-righteous pricks. And don’t get us started on the gap yah types.

It’s full of them, to the brim.

  1. The celebrity (often just Bono out on his own), rich white male oligarch types who like to discredit African women who dare to suggest that aid has not really achieved anything.

(While you’re at it, let’s play a game. How many people of the Global South on ONE’s Board of Directors?)

  1. The gap-year types who once made some black kid smile by giving them a pencil and so heroically travelled through 50 countries handing out “thousands of pens and pencils” to nameless black people.

       Why? Because white people are kind and generous and lovers of justice! Unlike those corrupt oligarchs of the South who waste all the generous aid we white people send to them.

  1. And then there’s the tax-dodging types who claim to give a shit.

We’re being unfair. I’m sure 1D are taking a big hit to their finances and global brand by handing out a couple of free tickets for each of their gigs. Not that they have to worry much about their finances… tumblr_mif7w8qmzd1qklju2o2_500

“One Direction have taken advantage of Ireland’s corporate structure to manage their earnings…. taking advantage of the country’s attractive corporation tax rate of 12.5%.”

Attractive tax rate? Let’s try scandalous. Of course we love the Irish (who doesn’t) but they’ve had a long-standing obsession with Irish artists remaining in Ireland (because they were all leaving for the UK and US). The “Artists Tax Exemption” was introduced in 1969, applying tax exemption to any income earned by artists, writers, composers.

That explains why Bono is still there.

Not the biggest injustice in the world, but why should they pay less tax than teachers, doctors, nurses, even roadies?

I mean the thing with Politicians is that at least they admit that compromise is necessary. The Aid Industry rarely does this. Because they’re all too often rammed with the most self-righteous people you could ever have the displeasure to meet.

And we’ve met too many aid-workers who work abroad and point-blank refuse to mix with local people.

This is about Race. The Aid Industry continues to be so structurally racist – with practices that are so overtly neocolonial, it should be making us all cringe on a daily basis. But it doesn’t. In fact it does the opposite. In fact we applaud these people. We think they’re all great.

So we’re going to, in a typically patronising way, let a woman of Africa have the last word. Dambisa Moyo is a force to be reckoned with, and if you haven’t read her stuff, do.

“I wanted to talk to anybody who watches TV and sees a poor starving African child and thinks, ‘This is ridiculous,’ – but at the same time is interested in finding a long-term solution. Who’s not just going to say, ‘Oh, I’ll write another cheque for 14p,’ who thinks, ‘I actually want to see these countries really rise up from this horror, into something where the country and its people contribute meaningfully – not just to their countries, or to their continent but to the world as a whole.

I want to know African artists, musicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, writers – I want them to be on equal footing.’ I want people to call their MPs after reading it and say, ‘Hang on, you’re asking us to give more aid – do you know that there are actually other alternatives? What do you think about that?’”.

Bono famously sung in Do you know it’s Christmas time; “well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”. (We’re not linking to this, we couldn’t forgive ourselves really.)

Like obviously Bono we’re all secretly delighted that it’s not us there with the flies, the poverty and the starvation but you didn’t need to like rub it in their faces. The Aid Industry does that enough already.

****

If you have a spare hour to watch this brilliant piece from Jane Bussman, do https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXASpoRrx9Q

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