Britain Explained

My new book Britain Explained is published tomorrow by John Harper Publishing (see foot).  Completed on the eve of the general election it is an up to date guide to the UK on the eve of Brexit.  The defining institutions of the UK are identified and dispassionately probed: what are the Westminster System, the BBC, the NHS or the Arts Council? How do they shape the shifting national identities of the UK.

This is no patriotic puff. The divisions of this ‘United’ Kingdom are laid bare, be they political, national, social or cultural.  They aren’t just between the nations but within them: city and country, North and South, metropolitan and excluded.

And it’s a bargain at just £12.99 from your favourite online bookshop

 

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An Ode to Owen Smith

In 1912, F.E. Smith condemned the Welsh Disestablishment Bill as ‘A Bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community in Europe.’  G.K. Chesterton’s famous Antichrist, or the Reunion of Christendom: An Ode punctured his ridiculous hypocrisy.  The BBC recently reported that Owen Smith praised Jeremy Corbyn for helping Labour “rediscover its radical roots” and would offer him the role of President to “speak for the party” to the wider membership. This awoke in me sentiments not unlike Chesterton’s, though my eloquence is less than his.

 

SO YOU’RE IN A GIVING VEIN,

ARE YOU SMITH?

WANT TO PUT YOUR OFFER PLAIN,

DO YOU SMITH?

SO WE’LL HAVE A PRESIDENCY FOR THE PARTY AND WE’LL THEN SEE

ALL THOSE MEMBERS WE’VE RECRUITED QUITE CONTENT TO BE UPROOTED,

WHILE YOU’LL BE THE REAL LEADER, OWEN SMITH.

 

YOU’D LIKE CORBYN TO PRESIDE,

WOULD YOU SMITH?

WHILE THE PARTY YOU WOULD GUIDE,

OWEN SMITH.

TO YIELD UP HIS LEADER’S POWER TO THE MP OF THE HOUR

WITH THE MEMBERSHIP THAT BACKED HIM RALLYING BEHIND WHO SACKED HIM

IS THAT PRACTICABLE THINKING?

REALLY, SMITH.

 

WHEN YOU TOOK BIG PHARMA’S SHILLIN’,

OWEN SMITH,

DID IT ENTER YOUR CAMPAIGN IN

PONTYPRIDD?

WAS THE VOTERS’ MAIN IMPRESSION YOU WOULD KEEP THE NHS ON

DID THEY WANT A COMPROMISER WHO’D BEEN HELPED ALONG BY PFIZER,

DID THEY KNOW JUST WHERE YOU STOOD, OWEN SMITH?

 

WHEN FOR TRIDENT THEY FOUND BILLIONS,

OWEN SMITH,

DID YOU THEN THINK OF THE MILLIONS,

TELL ME, SMITH,

WHO CAN’T FIND THE CASH FOR RENTING WHEN THE LANDLORD’S UNRELENTING,

AND WHO SEE NO COMMON SENSE IN THIS UNUSABLE ‘DEFENCE’.

DID YOU WEIGH THEM WHEN YOU VOTED, OWEN SMITH?

 

ARE THE MEMBERS IN YOUR THOUGHTS

OWEN SMITH?

CANVASSERS, RETIRING SORTS,

ARE THEY SMITH?

NOT REQUIRED TO GIVE THEIR VIEWS, WATCHING MPS HOG THE NEWS,

KEEPING SILENT, UNCOMPLAINING, PUSHING LEAFLETS WHILE IT’S RAINING

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR THEM, OWEN SMITH?

 

IS IT ONLY YOU THAT FEARS,

OWEN SMITH,

TORY POWER FOR MANY YEARS,

TELL ME SMITH?

IS IT YOU ALONE THAT WORRIES FOR THE POOR AND DISPOSSESSED?

ARE YOU SOLITARY IN YOUR WISH TO REPRESENT THE REST?

IS IT ONLY YOU CAN SAVE US, OWEN SMITH?

 

WHAT’S YOUR CAMPAIGN REALLY FOR,

OWEN SMITH?

IT’S HIGH TIME WE KNEW THE SCORE,

COME ON SMITH!

IS YOUR TALK OF ‘REVOLUTION’ JUST HISTORICAL ABLUTION?

IS THE MEANING OF YOUR FIGHT JUST TALKING LEFT WHILE ACTING RIGHT?

IF SO, YOU WON’T FIND MANY TAKERS,

CHUCK IT SMITH.

 

Martin Upham

 

FREE VOTE ONLY POSTPONES RECKONING

Labour needs to make it unmistakeably clear that it is committed to keeping the country and its people safe, thereby snuffing out pacifist accusations, but also giving a context for the ensuing forensic argument. People must know we are prepared to defend the country. If Labour is not pacifist the only question is whether bombing Syria will advance or degrade safety – a pragmatic, and therefore a secondary issue. Jeremy’s objections are all valid except for one – that it increases the risk of attack at home. There is no doubt – the security services have sad so – that that is going to happen anyway.
It is impossible for one of the country’s two main political parties not to have a position on whether to go to war. What could be more fundamental? I see all the dangers to the Labour Party of a whipped vote – they are great and growing. However the yawning gap between the Leader and some Labour MPs is a political fact. If not confronted now when will it be?
The dangers of not having a view at all on peace or war are worse: it will be seen an abdication of leadership which, after all, is largely about managing difficulties. Labour will wriggle off this week’s dilemma only to postpone the reckoning. It must have a sense of direction, even if there is a rebellion. The Leader has rightly consulted and the result, I believe, has been decisive. Moreover there are large numbers of people outside the Party who are opposed, including Tories (the Mail, Matthew Parris) and people of no party. Who is to speak for them? The SNP? A free vote will make the Leader appear as his enemies portray him – an impotent sentimentalist, a new George Lansbury, ‘hawking his conscience about…’ as Ernie Bevin cruelly said. This is not an issue of conscience but of policy on the most fundamental question any country ever has to face.