Posts Tagged ‘J.K. Rowling’

‘I’ Newspaper on Rowling and Riley Planning to Launch Blairite Party

February 12, 2019

Today’s I for 12th February 2019 also carried the news that J.K. Rowling, Rachel Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman were in a meeting with former members of Blair’s staff to launch this new, Centrist party that has periodically been mooted for the past year or so.

The article by Jane Clinton, ‘Rowling and Riley ‘plotting Blairite party’, on page 26 of the paper, runs

Countdown’s Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actress Tracy Ann Oberman have joined forces with advisers from Tony Blair’s government and JK Rowling’s agent to create a centrist breakaway Labour party.

Riley and Oberman, who are both Jewish, have been attacked by Labour supporters for criticizing Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism row that has engulfed the party. Riley revealed last month that Channel 4 bosses ordered extra protection following her comments.

They met Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, and his former speechwriter, Philip Collins, last Tuesday at the London offices of Ms Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair. There were 50 supporters present.

Details of the event, confirmed by I, include the creation of a pro-European centrist party which would appeal to the left of the Conservative party and the right of Labour.

Observers believe its creation would be the death knell for the Liberal Democrats.

At the meeting, during discussions as to who should be leader of the new party, Rowling’s name was shouted out to applause.

The Harry Potter author has been critical of Mr Corbyn, but leadership is not believed to be her ambition. Instead, it is thought shemay offer financial backing or fund a think-tank.

The good peeps over at Zelo Street have already critiqued this piece of Blairite aspiration, and pronounced the new party DOA. They note that such a party has been mooted several times, the names of various right-wing Labour MPs have been suggested in connection with it. And each time take-off has been aborted or not even attempted.

They point out that people have been proclaiming the death of the Lib Dems since the 1950s, but each time such predictions have been greatly exaggerated. The article goes on to mention the serious matter of Riley’s and Oberman’s conduct, which makes them totally unsuitable as leaders for any new party. Oberman threatened to sue blogger Shaun Lawson because he mentioned her in one of his tweets and in an article. Why? Because Riley, Oberman and their followers had viciously attacked and smeared a 16-year old schoolgirl and her father with false claims of anti-Semitism. The girl, who suffers from anxiety anyway, was threatened and harassed. Zelo Street concludes

Well-documented and cringe-inducing harassment, to boot. If that is the depth of the political talent pool available to the new Centrist party, it’s going to look more like a puddle.

Right now, it looks as though this new venture is DOA. No surprise there, then.

See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/new-centrist-party-looks-doa.html

Mike was also on the receiving end of the wrath of Riley and her army of fanboys for a piece he did reporting Lawson’s article and Riley’s and Oberman’s bullying of the teenager. And yes, they tried smearing him as an anti-Semite. Rowling’s also tried attacking Mike over social media, and got her rear end handed to her as a result. If I remember correctly, Rowling, Riley and Oberman are part of a little circle with Z-list actress Frances Barber, Al Murray and David Baddiel, who believe that they are genuinely tackling racism. They’ve been quoted as joking with each other about whether this is 1936 or not. Of course it isn’t. If this really was anything like 1936 there’d be no question of it. Real anti-Semitic mobs wearing Fascist uniforms, like Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts would be goose-stepping into Jewish and working class areas trying to provoke fights and intimidate the people there. You would hear speech from bigots and Nazis telling everyone that Jews were an unassimilable threat, and that further Jewish immigration should be curbed. And the same Nazis would also talk openly about Jews being ‘the money power’ behind capitalism and communism and plotting to destroy the White race. And as for Germany, Jews would be progressively banned from getting jobs or entering the universities, their businesses closed, and themselves publicly beaten and humiliated. while trade unionists, socialists, communists, anarchists, recidivist criminals, neurotics, the long-term jobless, sex workers and other dissidents and individuals the Nazi state decided were undesirable and ‘dysgenic’ would be rounded up to be worked to death in the concentration camps. The Alternative Fuer Deutschland are a bunch of Nazi goons, and there is the spectre of read Fascism and Nazism in eastern Europe – in Poland, Hungary, the Baltic States and Ukraine. But here in Britain is very much not like 1936. Not yet.

Tony Greenstein has repeatedly pointed out that while there has been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, Jews in Britain as a group are very comfortably middle class and most definitely do not suffer the real persecution of other ethnic minorities. For example, they are not being forcibly and unjustly deported, like the Windrush migrants. Other groups, such as Blacks, Asians and Muslims suffer far higher levels of violence and abuse. I haven’t heard any mainstream politician attacking the Jews or demanding that Jewish immigration be stopped. But there have been any number of Conservative and Kipper MPs making racist comments about Muslims and suggesting that they are incompatible with the British way of life.

As Riley’s and Rowling’s friends, Frances Barber also weighed in to accuse Mike and Owen Jones of being anti-Semites, while David Baddiel seems to have swallowed the Integrity Initiative black propaganda about Corbyn. I found a video on YouTube commenting on him declaring that Corbyn was an agent of Putin.

They’re spouting dangerous nonsense. The vast majority of the people accused of anti-Semitism in the Labour party were smeared because they were Corbyn’s supporters, members of the party’s left-wing, or critics of Israel. It was part of the campaign by the Blairites to hang on by attacking ordinary Labour party members. The Jewish establishment and the Zionists in the Labour party got involved because they support the Israeli state’s policy of ethnic cleansing and the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was clearly shown in the Al-Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, when Joan Ryan attempted to get an ordinary Labour party member thrown out as an anti-Semite because she had the temerity to ask Ryan a question she couldn’t answer. She wondered what the Jewish Labour Movement was doing to promote the two-state solution, and what would be done about the illegal settlements in Palestine if the solution was successfully put into operation. As for this country’s Jewish establishment, the Board of Deputies declares itself in its constitution to be a Zionist organization, and the other year former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs led a party of British Jews to the March of the Flags. This is an annual event where the Israeli equivalent of skinhead boot-boys march through the Muslim quarter vandalizing homes and property and threatening its people. Liberal Jewish organisations urged Sachs not to go, but he ignored them. They were ‘the wrong kind’ of Jews, you see.

As for the rise of Fascism in eastern Europe, this is being assisted and defended by Israel, whose supporters, like Stephen Pollard, the far right editor of the Jewish Chronicle, declare them to be ‘good friends of Israel’ because they buy Israel arms. And so are the remaining Jews of eastern Europe put in danger through lack of support from Israel. All while Israel proclaims itself to be the protector of Jews worldwide.

As for this supposed Centrist party, I can remember it being touted last year, when it was supposed to have millions of pounds in funding ready for, along with legions of corporate donors. At one point Blair’s son, Euan, was discussed as a founding member and possible leader. Then it all collapsed again. It had no members, no policies, and one of the founders walked out after a disagreement with the others.

All this Centrist party represents is continuity Blairism. Which means more privatization, more NHS privatization, more attacks on the welfare state, meaning more homelessness and starvation, and more corporatism. Which means that in exchange for funding, private industry can have their chairmen and senior management appointed to positions in government and the civil service.

Rowling, Riley, Oberman and Barber are a disgrace. The Centrist party Rowling and her friends Riley and Oberman are expected to lead represents nothing but further corporate exploitation and misery. It has collapsed several times before, and will do so again. No matter how much it is puffed by the papers.

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Vox Political’s Personal Tribute To Terry Pratchett

March 13, 2015

Yesterday Terry Pratchett, one of Britain’s greatest and most prolific writers of genre fantasy, shuffled off this mortal coil. Mike over at Vox Political has posted his personal memories of meeting the great man, and the inspiration he gave him for pursuing a career as a writers. It’s simply called Personal thoughts on the legacy of Terry Pratchett and begins

You’re probably wondering how this ties in to politics. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

I first met Terry Pratchett at Forever People on Park Street, Bristol, on the afternoon of September 20, 1986 (if I recall correctly). It was the day of the big fire at the Fowler’s Motorcycles outlet on the Bath Bridge, which makes it an easy date to check. My recollection is that the blaze had not really got started as my brother (the blogger Beastrabban) and I on our way into town, so ‘that Discworld guy’ was much more interesting.

We arrived early, which meant nobody else had arrived by the time Terry did. This was 1986, remember – he was only just getting started. This meant we had him all to ourselves for a good few minutes before anybody else appeared to hesitantly proffer a copy of The Light Fantastic for his squiggle – and nothing’s going to make as great an impression on an impressionable adolescent trying to work out how to make it in the world as a few minutes with the undivided attention of someone who has literally just worked it out.

This was before Terry evolved into the personality he became – the bald beardie with the big black hat and the weakness for banana daiquiri. Obviously he was bald (genetics) and he was bearded (aesthetics) but the rest was yet to reveal itself (unless the memory cheats).

We talked about ideas, work ethics, how to keep people interested (basically, it has to interest you first). By the time we – reluctantly – left, the motorbike place was blazing like Ankh-Morpork in the very first Discworld story (The Colour of Magic) and we had to take a detour to avoid it. My brain had already taken a somewhat longer diversion that would lead to amateur journalism, professional newspaper reporting, and eventually this blog.

I also remember first seeing Terry Pratchett with Mike back in 1986 at Forever People in Bristol, though I’d completely forgotten about the fire at Fowler’s. Forever People was one of those small, independent comic shops that existed before Forbidden Planet expanded to just about corner that area of retailing. It has, unfortunately, vanished. It was how I think comics shops should be – stuffed full of the mainstream and the bizarre, with the weird novelties in the windows, role-playing games and TSR miniatures of wizards, warriors and orcs on tables on the ground floor, and rubber monsters and plastic models of artefacts and creatures from SF movies hanging from the ceiling or adorning the walls. It was also slightly disreputable. It was permeated with a musty smell from old comic back issues, and was also regularly raided by the police for stocking magazines and literature on drugs.

Terry was on the second floor, signing copies of his books. I can’t remember now whether Mike brought one he already had, or picked one up while he was there and had the great man sign it. I think it was the latter. What I do remember was catching sight of Terry himself, sat behind the desk, saying to the person in front of him, ‘Well, the Bambleweeny 47 sub-meson brain is important’, while the long queue snaked away. The shop was packed, though that wasn’t particularly hard as nearly every inch of available space stuffed full of books, magazines and merchandising. I was amazed! He was a fan of Hitch-Hiker, just like I was! Mike duly took the book to the counter, got it signed, and we left.

I saw Terry several times again over the years. As Mike says, I went to College in Cheltenham, which has a massive literary festival at which Terry became a regular speaker. The first time I saw him I think he was speaking at the town hall. He appeared wearing his characteristic broad-brimmed, black hat and the black ‘Tel-shirt’ with death strumming a guitar. Just as he got to the lectern and was about to begin speaking, someone came up to him and gave him a banana daiquiri. He thanked them, and explained that it came from a question he and Neil Gaiman had been asked when they were together writing Good Omens. They’d both been asked what they would most like to be given. Gaiman said simply, ‘Money’, while Pratchett said, ‘A banana daiquiri’. He joked that since then, he’d got seven banana daiquiris, and Gaiman hadn’t seen a penny. So there, if someone asks you that question in future, keep to the drinks. You just might get what you want that way.

His topic was the nature of comedy, and how repetition and deliberate references can be used in humour. He said that his style was influenced by P.G. Wodehouse, and gave as an example of how repetition can b4e funny he gave the example of an incident one of the great explorers gave of one of their party telling the same, unfunny story every night until the rest of the party started falling about laughing. It was the story of a man, who left to go to work, but didn’t pack his lunch. When it got to lunch time, he looked for his lunch box. It wasn’t there. He was stupid. That’s more or less the entire story, as it was told. Terry described how the first time it was told, nobody laughed. The next night, there was something like a giggle, the night after that a few more pieces of weak laughter, until at the end of the week people were falling over themselves laughing at what was really a pathetically weak story.

He also discussed the way he deliberately put in references to other bits of popular culture in his books. Like in Guards, Guards!, one of Ankh-Morpork’s finest points a crossbow at one of the villains and says, ‘I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire five bolts or six. Well, frankly I can’t remember. Do you feel lucky, punk?’ He also talked about the inspiration for the dragon in one of his other books. These were taken by a group of young women, who appeared at one convention at which he was speaking. They were all Anne McCaffrey fans, and had stuffed dragons sitting on their shoulders. He said it was obvious that McCaffrey’s dragons were a feminist metaphor, and very good thing too. But it also struck him that the problem with a dragon that sat on your shoulder would be that its fiery breath would singe one side of your face, while it would also defecate down your back.

The next time I was him at the festival was a few years later. He described how Fantasy was still very much looked down on in literary circles. One of the festival’s organisers when talking to him had looked at him as if, in Pratchett’s words, he was about to talk about fixing motorcycles. His talk was on the nature of Fantasy, and he had some fairly forthright comments about Tolkien. Like if when you’re thirteen, you don’t consider The Lord of the Rings to be the greatest book in the world, there’s something wrong with you. And if you still consider The Lord of the Rings to be the greatest book in the world when you’re 33, there’s something really wrong with you. It was in this talk that he described some of the class bias in Tolkien’s work, such as the idealisation of the Shire, while the Orcs were foul and nasty and ‘almost as bad as people from Birmingham!’ One of the speakers on BBC’s The One Show said a few years ago in a piece about Tolkien and the local places that inspired the geography of Middle Earth, that one of the emotional factors behind its writing was Tolkien’s own fear of the urban sprawl from Birmingham overwhelming the semi-rural suburb in which he grew up. It was at this talk, that Terry made the point Mike mentioned – that the ending of the Lord of the Rings is quite daft, because in conquering Sauron they’d destroyed the industrial base for half a continent. But hey, it’s alright, because they’ve got a king back!

He also said that magic itself was actually quite boring. It simply did what it did. What he found really fascinating was the organisational magic by which people came together to produce nails, and other items, which other people then went on to use to create further objects, quite without the planning of the original producers, and which all led to the complexities of modern life and culture. At that time he was also pessimistic about the state of Fantasy literature. This was several years before J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman came forward to re-invigorate it with Harry Potter and the Amber Spyglass. I think he thought at the time that it was more or less dead. I certainly remember him describing himself as ‘a big, hairy maggot crawling over its corpse’. Of course he was far from that.

I was talking to a friend of mine about Pratchett and his work a little while ago, and he surprised me as he’d also met him. This particular friend is a fan of Role-Playing Games. He’s written several game books himself, and knows personally many of the people behind some of the games companies. He’d met Terry a decade or so previously, when one of his friends was looking for inspiration behind a line of Fantasy figurines he was crafting. He was looking for a character on which he could base a wizard, and so wrote to Terry asking him if he could use Rincewind. Terry agreed. He later met Terry along with the rest of the RPGers in the pub. He liked and admired Pratchett personally, because he was also good to his fans. He was protective of them, and seemed genuinely grateful simply that there were people who read and liked his work.

He was also very used to the kind of weirdness that might have other people running for the hills. At one of the Cheltenham festivals he talked about how he encountered a group of Viking re-enactors while out walking with his small daughter. As they were going through the countryside, they noticed a group of young men in chain mail running up and down and hitting each other with swords. One of them came running up to him, and asked him if he could lend them a cup. They’d been fighting for a little while, and were now thirsty. Terry said, yes, and got out his daughter’s Asterix the Gaul lunchbox, and gave them the cup from her Obelix flask. The Viking warrior thanked them, went off to a nearby standpipe, and he and the other Norsemen duly quaffed deep of the water before returning the cup to Terry and his daughter.

Later that day, Pratchett met them in the pub. They were curious about him. Most people, they said, took one look at them when they were out fighting, and fled in the opposite direction. But he hadn’t been at all bothered. Why? Well, said Terry, it was because he reasoned that anyone mad enough to do what they were doing was obviously far too mad actually to harm anyone. He went on ‘Nobody ever says when they find a serial killer, ‘Oh, we knew he was a bad ‘un, because he had a wardrobe full of uniforms and last week he went to a convention. No! They always say, ‘He was a quiet one. And then they find the load of human skulls in the sink.’

He also wasn’t afraid of bikers either. At one convention he was warned by others in the crowd that there were a group of Hell’s Angels in the queue. Well, he met them, and they weren’t. He said they were just a group of polite young men, who wanted to talk about his book and liked motorcycles. Perhaps this is where the Cheltenham literati got the impression that he was going to talk about fixing bikes.

In his fiction, Pratchett created baroque worlds with wit and good humour, taking the motifs of genre literature and then transforming them again to bring out something fresh, producing a bizarre, comic cavalcade of strange gods, wizards, witches, trolls, warrior women, warriors and mobile, predatory luggage. Oh yes, and people from the Counterweight Continent selling In-Sewer-Ance Polly-Seas, all infused with an equally bizarre logic. For example, in Pyramids he concluded that camels have to be experts in quantum physics because of the mathematical intricacies of the way they walked. The world he created with words, and which his illustrator, Josh Kirby, painted, was one of colour, absurdity, and laughter. Although the strongest, and most obvious influences on his work were Tolkien and Conan, it was also like the very best fiction in that it appealed to people of all ages. It wasn’t only children who read them, but also their parents and grandparents.

Mike says in his piece that it kept him sane while he was at College. I think that’s probably true of a lot of people. The world can be a horrifyingly grim place, and there is a lot of pressure on young people. It was certainly the case when I was at school, and things seem to have got worse since then. It really doesn’t surprise me that one quarter of all university students will suffer from depression or some mental health problem during their time at uni. Pratchett’s fiction offers an escape from all that, away from grim reality into a unreality that may also be grim, but is at least comically so. And like good fiction, it isn’t just mere escapism, but often makes a serious point while making you laugh at the same time.

RIP big man. May you rest with the great bards in the celestial realms as one of the great, modern skalds of Middle Earth.