Happy birthday, Frank Parr: the Gaffer!

May 30, 2008 at 10:58 pm (food, jazz, Jim D, whisky, wild man)

The patron saint of this blog, Frank Parr, is eighty on 1st June. We must get hold of him, and have an “event” (ie: piss-up), because he is/was The Master. Never mind amateurs like these: Parr is The Gaffer!

We’ve previously quoted the late George Melly on Frank Parr (jazz trombonist and Lancashire wicket-keeper), but the following is just great:

“It might…appear extraordinary that, far from playing cricket for England, the following summer saw Frank touring with a jazz band. The reason had nothing to do with Frank’s wicket-keeping, but it had a lot to do with Frank. From what I can gather, although the ‘gentlemen’ and ‘players’ labels have disappeared, the attitude of the cricketing establishment remains firmly entrenched. The professional cricketer is not just a man who plays cricket for money. He has a social role. He is expected to behave within certain defined limits. He can be a ‘rough diamond’, even ‘a bit of a character’, but he must know his place. If he smells of sweat, it must be fresh sweat. He must dress neatly and acceptably. His drinking must be under control. He must know when to say ‘sir’.

“Frank, we were soon to discover, had none of these qualifications. He was an extreme social risk, a complicated rebel whose world swarmed with demons and Jack O’Lanterns, and was treacherous with bogs and quicksands. He concealed a formidable and well-read intelligence behind a stylised oafishness. He used every weapon to alienate acceptance. Even within the jazz world, that natural refuge for the anti-social, Frank stood out as an exception. We never knew the reason for his quarrel with the captain of Lancashire, but after a month or two in his company we realised it must have been inevitable…

“Food and drink were the other weapons in Frank’s armoury. He was extremely limited in what he would eat for a start. Fried food, especially bacon and eggs, headed the list;; then came cold meat and salad, and that was about the lot. Any other food, soup for instance or cheese, came under the heading of ‘pretentious bollocks’, but even in the case of food he did like, his attitude was decidedly odd. He would crouch over his plate, knife and fork at the ready in his clenched fists, and glare down at the harmless egg and inoffesive bacon, enunciating, as though it were part of some barbarous and sadistic ritual, the words ‘ I’ll murder it.’ What followed, a mixture of jabbing, tearing, stuffing, grinding and gulping, was a distressing spectacle.

“In relation to drink he was more victim than murderer. He drank either gin and tonic or whisky and, once past the point of no return, would throw doubles into himself with astonishing rapidity, banging the empty glass down on the counter and immediately ordering another with a prolonged hiss on the word ‘please’. He passed through the classic stages of drunkenness in record time, wild humour, self pity, and unconsciousness, all well-seasoned with the famous Parr grimaces. His actual fall had a monumental simplicity. One moment he was perpendicular, the next horizontal. The only warning we had of his collapse was that, just before it happened, Frank announced that he was ‘only fit for the human scrap heap’ and this allowed us time to move any glasses, tables, chairs or instruments out of the way. 

“Frank’s spectacular raves didn’t stop him looking censorious when anyone else  was ‘going a bit’ – he used the same phrase for socks or drunkenness – but then we were all like that.

“If I think of him I can see certain gestures; his habit of rapidly shifting his cigarette around between his fingers, his slow tiger-like pacing, his manner of playing feet apart, body leaning stiffly backwards to balance the weight of his instrument.

“His music was aimed beyond his technique. Sometimes a very beautiful idea came off, more often you were aware of a beautiful idea which existed in Frank’s head. In an article on Mick (Mick Mulligan: Melly’s and Parr’s bandleader in the 1950’s -JD) in the Sunday Times, Frank was quoted as saying: ‘All jazzmen are kicking against something, and it comes out when they blow.”

“This was a remarkably open statement for Frank who, during a wagon discussion on our personal mental quirks and peculiarities, had once told us that he was the only normal person in the band.

“This gained him his nickname, ‘Mr Norm’, and any exceptionally Parr-like behaviour would provoke the conductor (ie: bandleader Mick Mulligan – JD) into saying: ‘Hello Frank. Feeling normal then?'”

George Melly – “Owning Up

Anyway: happy 80th, Frank. And keep on being normal!

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UCU anti-Israel fanatics at it again

May 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm (anonymous, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, israel, Jim D, unions)

I see that the anti-Israel fanatics in the University and College Union (UCU) have voted “overwhelmingly” to call on members to “consider” their links with Israeli academic institutions.

The weasely-worded motion is typical of the UCU’s professional Israel-haters, like SWP’er Tom Hickey of the union’s NEC and Brighton University: he has a long record of trying to dress up boycott resolutions as merely “suggestions” that union members “consider” the situation…this year, in typical slimy form, he told delegates: “Being a student or teacher in Palestine is not easy…we are talking about not just impediment but serial humiliation and that’s the order of the day in Palestine.”

“In the face of accusations of anti-semitism and legal threats we refuse to be intimidated. We will protect the union from legal threats but we will not be silenced.”

A typical dishonest rant from this charlatan. Firstly, he had nothing to say about positive solidarity with the Palestinians, only about boycotting Israel; secondly, he didn’t mention the fact that he and his organisation (the SWP) rejects the right of Israel to exist, even within pre-1967 borders; thirdly, his references to “legal action” against the union are nothing to do with anti-union legislation, but to do with the Race Relations Act 1976 – which the union (so it has been advised), would be in breach of, should it attempt to implement a boycott of Israeli institutions – and, therefore (inevitably) of Israeli Jewish individuals.

This boycott rubbish has already been thrown out by the membership of the old (pre-merger) union, the AUT,  when put to a ballot of the membership (noticeably, the pro-boycotters are vehemently opposed to a ballot); and the new union has been advised that any boycott would probably be in breach of anti-discrimination legislation…and other unions’ (eg: the T&G and UNISON) boycott policies have been noteable for their lack of effect. Yet still, the UCU anti-Israel fanatics persist.

The left has a long-standing principle against involving the law in unions’ internal affairs. Fair enough. I do not suggest legal action against the UCU itself; but the Race Relations Act 1976 can be used against individuals as well as institutions and employers. I strongly suggest that someone initiates action against Tom Hickey, on grounds of direct and indirect Race Discrimination.

P.S: see also a UCU conference visitor’s eye witness account of the “debate”, here.

This is also relevant and worth reading…

…so is this

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UPDATE: Left Women’s Network Issues Public Statement on HFE Votes

May 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm (abortion, Feminism, left, LGBT, liberation, TWP, women)

After an at times heated discussion on the Left Women’s Network list, the majority of sisters and comrades decided to go ahead with the proposal put forward as amended slightly by one of the members. The result is that the following was printed on the LWN website this afternoon:

Statement on The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women

* The Left Women’s Network understands that 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women

*The Left Women’s Network understands that, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to substitute “supportive parenting”

* LeftWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war

* LeftWN believes that as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred

* LeftWN resolves to post our disappointment in the 3 LRC MPs on the LWN website

* LeftWN resolves to submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting for the LRC NC to agree to;

* LeftWN resolves to write to the 3 MPs concerned expressing our disappointment in the way they voted and clearly setting out our opposition to lowering the time limits

* LeftWN resolves to write to request that there is link put on the LRC website to the LWN statement on the positions of these LRC MPs


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Sex, sadism and snobbery?

May 28, 2008 at 4:39 pm (Jim D, literature, media, Tory scum, trivia)

On the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth, Sebastian Faulks’s new 007 novel Devil May Care hits the bookstalls – but only after the books were transported to HMS Exeter by supermodel Tuuli Shipster, accompanied by Royal Navy Black Cat Lynx helicopters, and then transferred to a waiting Bentley S1 Continental convertible…

Oh well: no sillier than all that nonsense when the last Harry Potter was launched. Although I suppose it could be argued that at least the Harry Potter books are meant for children.

As an adolescent I read most of the Bond novels, attracted by the garish covers, the fact that they were banned in our school, and the famous denunciation of them as comprising “sex, sadism and snobbery”.

But I never went much for the films, and in particular disliked the arch, gadget-ridden Roger Moore travesties. I haven’t read a Bond book for about thirty five years, but listening to Dr No on the radio last week reminded me just how good some of Fleming’s writing could be – and why he could count PG Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler among his fans.

But is it all just harmless, escapist fun, or something (however enjoyable) essentially nasty, sexist and imperialistic? I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other, but would be interested to hear yours.

Meanwhile, here’s a range of views worth considering (and please note my scrupulously fair balance of pro- and anti- opinions):

In Chapter 3 of The Spy Who Loved Me there is a sudden silence at the baccarat table: ‘the table was becoming wary of this dark Englishman who played so quietly, wary of the half-smile of certitude on his rather cruel mouth. Who was he? Where did he come from? What did he do? ‘ (Kingsley) Amis’s answer in The James Bond Dossier follows immediately from the quotation: ‘Well, he started life about 1818 as Childe Harold in th later cantos of Byron’s poem, reappearing in the novels of the Bronte sisters, and was around until recently in such guises as that of Maxim de Winter in Miss Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca’.” –  Kingsley Amis quoted by Zachary Leader in The Life of Kingsley Amis.

 “Ah, Bond. The human Swiss Army knife, capable of running, killing, boozing, being sarcastic and fornicating, all at the same time. I hate him. I’ve always hated him. As an international spokesmodel for the old imperial boy’s club, Bond represents everything that’s odious about the status quo: smug machismo, the military industrial complex and its gadget-porn, boxy tailoring. Bond’s naff delux combo of the Milk Tray man, the Grecian 2000 hair dye advert dude, a low-level guest at the Chanceller’s reception and a financial adviser from Hemel Hempstead.” – Bidisha in The Observer Review, 18.05.08 

“If they (ie people who have only seen the films) bothered to read Fleming in the original, they would find a more sympathetic Bond than is found in the films, one who does not always get the girl and who grieves at the emotional compromises he is forced to make in the course of duty. They would be carried along by the verve of the author’s style, known as the ‘Fleming sweep’, which marries a journalist’s attention to detail with a great storyteller’s capacity to generate pace and excitement.” – Andrew Lycett in The Times, 28.05.08

“If the existance of an inner life can only be guessed at, Bond’s externals are described with such sober precision that it is remarkable no one ever launched a range of Bond leisurewear…Actually, you wonder if this passion for clothes might not explain, up to a point, the requirement for regular, balancing outbursts of manly woman hating. ‘Women were for recreation,’ opines Mr pyjama-coat designer, for whom sex is always better when it has the ‘sweet tang of rape’.” – Catherine Bennett in The Observer Review 18.05.08

“James Bond was born into a world of Fifties austerity. Through the decades he has spoken not just to schoolboys, but to the inner child that survives in most of us – in women almost as much as men. I tried to imagine Fleming having recovered his appetite for life and for his character, then tried to write a book that showed both men at the top of their form. For decades, James Bond has been a beacon of dependable excitement in many a drab existence, and Devil May Care is my attempt to offer thanks for this to his creator.” – Sebastian Faulks, The Times Magazine, 24.05.08

“Mr Fraser is a skilful and meticulous writer, twice as good as Buchan, and twenty times better than Fleming.” – Auberon Waugh, on George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books.

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A Call to the Labour Representation Committee on Abortion and LGBT rights

May 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm (abortion, Galloway, labour party, left, LGBT, TWP)

This is re-posted from my blog Unknown Conscience at Volty’s request:

As my good blog readers will know, I have been out of blog land for the last few months due to a very heavy workload at university. I came back to discover that Andy Newman at Socialist Unity Blog – a blog I refuse to link to because of the behaviour of its moderator and a blog that I refuse to read – had launched an attack on me and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) for my continued and principled oppsosition to George Galloway’s horrible position and record on abortion rights. He attacked me claiming that a conversation that I had in the comments section with people on Liam MacUaid’s blog meant that I was being a hypocrite for criticising Galloway because David Drew, an LRC affiliated MP, had a rubbish record on abortion rights as well. These were comments that I made months ago as anyone who knows me will know that I haven’t written anything on the abortion issue for some time. I had not known who David Drew was previously but Andy pointed out that he had a horrible record on abortion rights and LGBT rights.

“Fair enough” was my reply and I then said that I would raise it and speak with the LRC about it – and I did. I had informal conversations with a number of members over the last few months about what we should do about the issue and am now making a public appeal through the LRC women’s organisation, the Left Women’s Network (LWN), to release a statement about the 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs who voted to reduce the time limit and also voted in favour of a proposal which would make it impossible for single women and lesbians to have IVF treatment.

This is something that would have come about regardless but for Andy Newman scoring cheap shots by brow beating me for not knowing who David Drew was all those months ago, calling me a “liar” for pointing out that he did not include my original response in his attack on me and now attacking me once again for an article I wrote defending the Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) organisation from the Stop the War Coalition last year are more important than having a civil discussion and work rather well to deflect attention from the record of his own MP over which he and his orgainsation have full control, George Galloway.

I have been consistent in my call for MPs to be held to account. Andy Newman has been all over the place on his blog about women’s rights, sexism and LGBT rights. Far from creating “left unity” his blog does nothing but divide the ranks of those who should be working together. Hold your MP to account Respect Renewal – don’t allow an opt out for women’s rights!

Here is a letter I wrote yesterday to members of the Left Women’s Network:

Hello Sisters and Comrades,

Many thanks to all of you who worked so very had to ensure that the right wing was not able to push women’s rights further backward with the recent prosposed amendments on to the Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill. However sisters, I am afraid that there is an elephant in the room with the results that we need to address urgently. Of the 9 affiliated LRC MPs 3 voted to oppose keeping the 24 week time limit. These were Bob Wareing, David Hamilton and David Drew. The first two voted for a reduction to 22 weeks with David Drew voting for a reduction to 12 weeks. Further, the 3 aformentioned MPs voted in favour of a proposed amendment to deny IVF treatment to lesbian couples and single women.

While it may be difficult to do, we must be openly critical of these MPs. The Left Women’s Network is seen as the women’s section of the LRC. We would be completely remiss to not say a word about the votes of MPs who we are affiliated with. In light of this, I propose the Left Women’s Network adopt the following as a matter of urgency and print it as a matter of public record on our website:

*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women

*That 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women

*That, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to subsitute “supportive parenting”

*That given that the LWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war

*That as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred

*That the Left Women’s Network will post our opposition to these votes publicly on our website

*That we call on the LRC as an organisation to publicly state its opposition to the positions of these LRC affiliated MPs

*That we submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting

I hope that LWN is going to be the kind of organisation that not only fights for women’s rights, but is able to be critical of our allies when they have taken the wrong position. Too often abortion rights and LGBT rights are seen as simply “matters of conscience” but the reality is sisters, that war, racism and discrimination are all “matters of conscience” and we do not allow our political allies “opt out” clauses on these issues. This is an extension of the false belief in the distinction between the “private” and “public” sphere and we must reject the Victorian notion that these issues are somehow outside of the realm of “real politics”. Our sisters in the 1970s taught us that “the personal is the political” and I believe that this is in fact still the case. We must ensure that we address these issues both inside and outside of our movement in order to have a strong socialist feminist organisation in the coming months and years.

Comradely and in Sisterhood,

Tami Peterson

You will see no such letter from Andy, Liam or anyone else in Respect Renewal about George Galloway – that’s because although they have the power to hold him to account, they prefer to allow him the ability to opt out on women’s rights. Some of us are consistent with our principles and if that is something that others want to continue to attack me for then that must mean I am doing something right. I will continue to fight until women’s rights are not seen as “optional” or “secondary”. It’s a fight worth undertaking – both inside and outside the left and one that I hope we will eventually win.

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Desperately Debating Susan

May 25, 2008 at 9:58 am (blogging, blogosphere, labour party, left, voltairespriest)

Ever have one of those moments of total frustration? I get them when arguing with intransigent members of the Labour left who refuse to realise that the game is up. And it’s even more frustrating when they react to suggestions that the Labour Party is irredeemably lost (talk about something that’s obvious from the outside) as though you’ve just insulted their Mum.

Apparently I’ve pissed off Susan of GrimmerUpNorth by stating the obvious point that there is no mechanism, no agency within the Labour Party for its left (even were it able to stop atrophying) to assert some kind of control in order to implement alternative economic policies. That is quite simply true, and indeed was finally tied up by the unions’ collective hari-kiri, giving up their most crucial democratic rights within the party since the 2007 conference in Bournemouth. She finds having the point stated to be “exceptionally tiresome”. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; either way it certainly isn’t hard to see that it’s founded on hard facts.

What is noticeable, is that neither Susan nor anyone else amongst the remnants of the Labour left has come up with a reason why what I’ve said on this subject could actually be incorrect – all one sees are shrugs, expressions of “we’re not all like Tony Blair”, or “but the SWP/SP/Galloway are really crap”. None of which, regardless of the validity of the statements in themselves, is an answer to the question put.

As I’ve said before, this is one of those questions where I’d like nothing better than to be wrong. But I rather suspect I’m not. It seems to me that the fact is, no matter how well attended yesterday’s LRC economics conference was, it will have come up with ideas that have no chance at all of being implemented by a Labour government. And Susan telling the truth about that is not “sitting at home moaning”, it’s a call for a reality check. Because the Labour Party’s membership (even if most of it wanted to) cannot move it to the left in any meaningful way.

“Tiresome” or not, them’s the breaks.

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Obama on Roth, and vice versa

May 25, 2008 at 9:56 am (Democratic Party, Democrats, elections, Jim D, literature, Obama, politics, United States)

Unlike my comrade Volty, I do not advocate support for Barak Obama, either for the Democratic Party nomination or for the Presidency itself.

However, I have to agree with Philip Roth’s comments in an interview with Der Spiegel:

“He’s an attractive man, he’s smart, tremendously articulate. And I think it would be tremendously important to American blacks if he became president. It would say something about this country, and be a marvellous thing.”

Roth then goes on to issue a word of warning about the possible downside of recieving his endorsement:

“I don’t know whether it’s going to happen, I rarely vote for anyone who wins. It’s going to be the kiss of death if you write that I’m going to vote for Barak Obama. Then he’s finished!”

Philip Roth, I should add, is one of my favourite writers (even if some of his more recent work hasn’t been quite up to scratch), so his opinion carries a lot of weight with me. Emotionally, I share his opinion of Obama; even so I still wouldn’t advocate a vote for him. But I have to admit that an Obama victory would, indeed, be “tremendously important” -and good- not just for American blacks, but for America as a whole and for the world.

Quite independently, Obama (in an Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (that for some reason I don’t seem to be able to link to: http://jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/05/obama_on_zionism_and_hamas.php ) said:

“I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and  writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some more popular writers like Leon Uris.”

NB: Acknowledgements to yesterday’s Graun for most of the above.

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Johnson’s Marxist Cabal?

May 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm (left, perversity, rcp, Uncategorized, voltairespriest)

Has anyone else noticed that Boris Johnson appears almost as keen on shadowy ex-Trot groups as Ken Livingstone was? No sooner do John Ross, Redmond O’Neill et al shuffle off from City Hall into (presumably equally lucrative) employment in Socialist Action’s next target area, than a new Sheriff comes to town. And who, I hear you ask, could be better at deep-deep-deep undercover colonisation than Socialist Action? Why, the Revolutionary Communist Party of course!

Yes, Munira Mirza of RCP off-shoot the Manifesto Club follows her illustrious predecessors including Martin Durkin (he of totally bollocks documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle” fame) into a high profile job with unlikely political implications, as she becomes a “cultural advisor” to the floppy-haired fop. As the RCP’s merry band of contrarians go, Munira is one of the more interesting. Indeed, whether one agrees or disagrees with what she writes, it seems to me clear that she’s very bright, and willing to think new thoughts about multiculturalism and its implementation in public policy. In at least as much as she opens up a debate, she’s really quite impressive.

Well, it doesn’t get much more contrarian than this. Munira, good luck and I hope your new job helps you to get get the booze ban overturned.

Update: A trawl reveals that this was already mentioned at Harry’s Place. Hat-tip of sorts to my favourite limpet, Jules, who presumably must have some interesting choices of bedtime reading. xxx VP

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Cult prosecutes teenager for telling the truth

May 23, 2008 at 6:44 am (cults, Free Speech, Human rights, scientology, voltairespriest)

I kid you not. Of course, it goes without saying that the cult in question is the Church of Scientology, who called out the City of London police to the entirely peaceful May 10th Anonymous protest, in order to arrest an unnamed 15 year-old who is now being prosecuted under the Public Order Act for carrying a placard that addressed the term cult to Scientology. Entirely appropriately, but why let the obvious get in the way of a good bit of litigation?

If you’d like to know more about this or upcoming actions against the cult of Scientology, please visit the Enturbulation site.

(h/t – John A)

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Ralph Miliband on Crewe and Nantwich

May 23, 2008 at 12:10 am (elections, history, Jim D, labour party, left, politics, workers)

Written in 1972 (as a Postscript to his book Parliamentary Socialism):

“The Labour Left in Parliament can mount episodic ‘revolts’ on this or that issue, though with dubious effect; and it can act as a pressure group upon Labour leaders, with equally uncertain impact. But more than this it cannot be expected to do.

“What this means is that the Labour Party cannot be transformed into a party seriously concerned with socialist change. Its leaders may have to respond with radical-sounding noises to the pressures and demands of their activists. Even so, they will see to it that the Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been – a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted. That system badly needs such a party, since it plays a major role in the management of discontent and helps to keep it within safe bounds; and the fact that the Labour Party proclaims itself at least once every five years but much more often as well to be committed not merely to the modest amelioration of capitalist society but to its wholesale transformation, to a just social order, to a classless society, to a new Britain, and whatever not, does not make it less but more useful in the preservation of the existing social order. 

“It is very likely that the Labour Party will be able to play this highly ‘functional’ role for some time to come, given its overwhelming preponderance as ‘the party of the left’ in the British political system. There is at present no party or grouping which is capable of posing an effective challenge to that preponderance; and this helps to explain why so many socialists in the Constituency Labour Parties, in the trade unions (and for that matter in the Communist Party) cling to the belief that the Labour Party will eventually be radically transformed. But the absence of a viable socialist alternative is no reason for resigned acceptance or for the perpetuation of hopes which have no basis in political reality. On the contrary, what it requires is to begin preparing the ground for the coming into being of such an alternative: and one of the indespensible elements of the process is the dissipation of paralysisng illusions about the true purpose and role of the Labour Party.”

And – yes – Ralph was, indeed, the father of David!

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