Monday, 29 April 2019

Catalan News: Pro-independence ERC party's win

IT was a historic general election for the pro-independence Esquerra party (ERC), which increased its number of seats to a record 15 in the Spanish parliament.

Winning six more seats than in it did in the last general election in June 2016, it is the first time since the 1930s that ERC has come first among the Catalan parties.

With the Junts per Catalunya party (JxCat) coming in with seven seats (one less than the last election), it means the pro-independence bloc in the Congress has an unprecedented 22 seats.

This could be significant, as Pedro Sánchez's Socialists, who won the election with 123 seats, may need the support of the pro-independence bloc to form a government.

Next among the parties in Catalonia came the Catalan Socialists (PSC), who went up five seats to 12, although the leftwing En Comú Podem party (ECP) was unable to maintain its good showing from three years ago, dropping from 12 seats to seven.

The unionist Ciutadans party (Cs) held on to its five seats, while the also unionist People's Party (PPC) lost five seats, dropping to just one.

It was also an historic night for the far-right Vox party, which entered parliament for the first time with one seat in Catalonia, and a further 23 in the Spanish wing of the party.


Broken Politics on the Iberian Penisular

 by Brian Bamford
BROKEN-up politics has characterised Spain since the successful rise of Podemos and the Citizen's Ciudadanos party in the 2015 election.  After that the two-party system was over.  Now with the far right VOX party gaining 24 seats in yesterday's elections there is a real fragmentation in political life which mirrors events elsewhere in Europe.

This election came less than a year after Spain’s then prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was defeated in a vote of no confidence owing to corruption in his Popular Party.  The leader of the socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, then formed a minority government with the help of the Catalan separatists, leading his critics to accuse him of being too friendly with the independentistas.  
However, Sanchez was unable to hold this informal coalition together and last February he called a snap general election when he was unable to get a national budget through the Cortes parliament when the Catalan nationalists witheld their support owing to the problems over Catalan independence.

The issues of independence, identity and Spanish unity flavoured the election.  And yet, the most significant consequence of these elections was the fragmentation of the right and the centre right.  The most damaged party in these elections has been the conservative Popular Party, which has lost votes to both the far Right VOX and the more centrist Ciudadanos Citizen's party.

  Catalan Independence

The Catalan independence conflict originally came to a crisis in October 2017 when the Catalan separatists held an unconstitutional independence referendum, which drew 40% of eligible voters but saw a 90% vote to secede.  Three weeks later, Carles Puigdemont, the region’s president at the time, declared independence — leading to Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis since its return to democracy.

As a result, the Spanish government, then led by the Popular Party, fired the Catalan parliament, wrested control of the region, began arresting the movement’s leaders and called for fresh regional elections.

While separatists criticized the government for cracking down, some on the right argued the Popular Party was too soft on the independentistas.

Fragmentation of the Right

Consequently some Popular Party voters turned to VOX, which seeks to suppress regional autonomy in Catalonia.  A xenophobic party VOX echoes Franco’s nationalist rhetoric and follows the populist trend seen in recent years across Europe, stoking fear of immigrants and demonizing feminists.

On the other hand some other former Partido Popular voters seem to have drifted towards the centrist Citizen's Ciudadanos party.

The Catalan crisis and the rise of Vox have changed the debate in Spanish politics.
'This is not an election about the economy - a different situation from what we have seen in more than 20 years,' says Juan Rodríguez Teruel, professor of political science at the University of Valencia.

Despite widespread concerns about unemployment - which remains high in Spain compared with its European neighbours - it barely featured during the campaign and was raised during the debates only briefly

But Prof Teruel warns that the surge for Vox is coming at the expense of other right-leaning parties - the PP or Ciudadanos. And for the first time since the 1970s, the right is 'very fragmented' - something that could benefit opponents on the left.

'The main reason now to vote for the left-wing electorate is to avoid the potential coalition among right-wing parties,' Prof Teruel says. 
Ciudadanos, meanwhile, could feasibly support a coalition with the Socialists, despite publicly dismissing the idea.

'I'm not sure they could keep this position if the numbers give the potential of a coalition,' Prof Teruel says.

'The pressure on Ciudadanos will be very, very high.'


Saturday, 27 April 2019

James Connolly Festival, 2019 7–12 May


Benefits For Older People Under Attack!

Hard-hitting report demands end to winter fuel payments, free TV licences and bus passes » Government should abandon triple-lock that guarantees pension increases, says Lords committee » Age UK agrees more should be done to help young people – 

Lords committee report says it is time to cut back dramatically on free bus passes and winter fuel payments for elderly people.

A call for pensioners’ benefits – including free TV licences, bus passes and winter fuel payments – to be scrapped or scaled back has been made by a parliamentary committee.

Ministers have been urged to tilt the balance between the generations back towards younger groups because the spending power of retired people has now overtaken many workers in their twenties and thirties.

Help should be stepped up for younger people in the jobs and housing markets, the Lords Committee on Inter-generational Fairness and Provision also argued in a report published today. The peers said that age-based benefits and allowances had been justified to tackle pensioner poverty, but that the time had come to cut them back dramatically.

They said the free TV licences for all over-75s should be phased out, with the Government left to decide whether to subsidise them against a broader measure of household income. Free bus passes and winter fuel payments – currently £200 for under-80s and £300 for over-80s – should become available five years after a claimant reaches pension age, they added.

Their report called for an end to the so-called “triple lock”, which guarantees the state pension rises by the highest of inflation, wage growth or 2.5 per cent. It should be replaced with annual increases to pensions in line with average earnings, the peers argued, while better-off workers over pension age should continue to make national insurance contributions if they are still working.

The committee chairman, Lord True, said benefits needed to be re-balanced towards the young to prepare the country for 100-year lifespans.

We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed,” he said. 

Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale, but that is no longer the case.”

Ministers were condemned in the peers’ report for doing too little to ease the shortage of affordable homes for young people to buy and rent.

The Government was urged to give councils greater freedom to build homes and to tailor policies to meet the housing needs of younger adults.
Peers also argued that ministers should boost funding for further educational and vocational training.

Friday, 26 April 2019

HOBSON’S CHOICE at Royal Exchange

By Harold Brighouse
In a new adaptation by Tanika Gupta
Directed by Atri Banerjee

31 May – 6 July
MULTI-award-winning writer Tanika Gupta has reimagined her 2003 adaptation of HOBSON’S CHOICE for the Exchange. In this sharp and witty retelling of Harold Brighouse’s classic take on family loyalty, we meet Hari Hobson, played by Tony Jayawardena (Ackley Bridge), who has fled Uganda to make a new life for his family in Manchester’s ever-changing Northern Quarter of the 1980s.  This universal story explores family relationships and reflects the hopes, aspirations and disappointments of families everywhere who are trying to build a new life.  Set in a city with a complex history of cotton and a striking feminist past we meet Durga Hobson (Shalini Peiris) who is determined to challenge the patriarchy and change the status quo.  The Hobson family is completed by Maimuna Memon as Sunita Hobson and Safiyya Ingar as Ruby Hobson. HOBSON’S CHOICE runs in the Theatre from 31 May – 6 July.
Regrettably, due to unforeseen personal circumstances director Pooja Ghai has had to step away from this production, Atri Banerjee will take over as director.  HOBSON’S CHOICE will be his directorial debut for the Exchange’s main-house.  The Royal Exchange looks forward to welcoming Pooja back to Manchester in the future. Pooja commented…
“It’s been a delight to be able to assemble this exceptional cast and creative team, and it’s been a privilege to work for the Royal Exchange.  I have full confidence that Atri will take the lead and fully realise Tanika’s wonderful adaptation.” 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Election statement by MICK COATS

'MAKE A DIFFERENCE' VOTE Mick Coats: Spotland and Falinge ward Green candidate:

THANK YOU for reading this.  I am standing as the local candidate for this ward.  This is an election about what we can do locally and why it is important to vote.  We do not need another party hack elected in Spotland, who will be more concerned with obeying orders sent down from their party leader than addressing the issues in the ward.
First, a word from Carl Faulkner who has stood as an independent in the ward over several elections.We have fought together on a number of issues, both believing that Rochdale has had a poor deal from the main political parties and their politicians. We have tried to make sense of local politics.

Carl says:  
'Locally I have been very concerned with issues that affect us – particularly the pitiful standard of our local councillors.  We cannot rely on them to represent us in the way that they should. They have done nothing to protect our open spaces, done nothing to deal with the old, highly toxic Turner Brothers site or even to tackle the problem of speeding.  I have worked with Mick on these and other issues.  Unlike the other candidates, he actually attends meetings and questions councillors.  He is the only candidate worth your vote.'

We have fought to resolve the problem of the old Turner Brothers Site.  It is a 72 acre wasteland of toxic material, mainly asbestos.   It is too dangerous for housing and the safest solution is to turn it into a country park.  What does the Labour Party candidate say about it?   Nothing!

Another problem is cars speeding.  It is a problem for us all.  But what is Labour's solution to deal with cars speeding on Rooley Moor Road?   It is to remove cars parked on the road (which act as a natural restraint on speeding cars), allowing cars to go even faster.  It makes no sense.

Until now we have had the opportunity to question councillors at the local Forum. This was held four times a year in a central location with good public transport where the public could question councillors.  Now the local Labour Party have unilaterally decided to hold these Forums in the middle of Falinge Park.  Why?  Few people live near the park, it is mainly populated by various animals and birds with only a few people living nearby.  Is the Labour Party going to 'talk to the animals' like some latterday Doctor Dolittle?  (An all too appropriate name perhaps).

Locally we should be ensuring local work is done by local companies with local people.  In the past we even had consultants coming into the town (from Yorkshire!) to tell us what we need to do to improve the town.  Other towns (for example Preston) have kept services local and reaped the benefits.

Locally, and nationally we should not be building on Green Belt land.  Nor should we be building anything other than affordable houses to buy or rent.   There is enough land available for housing that has previously been used in other ways.  (Where there was once factories and shops for instance).
These derelict sites could also be given over to local groups to use prior to being used.  There is a lot of land all over Rochdale that has lain unused for years.  Let people use it for recreational purposes until it is needed.

I do not understand why there is a threat to demolish some of the 'seven sisters' against the wishes of residents, and I fully support there cause.  Another issue that does not make sense.
These are local elections, but national Green Party policies are relevant locally.  The council should clearly and openly oppose fracking.  Integrated publically owned railways and buses are common sense. These should also be electrically powered.  Building laws should insist that all new buildings incorporate environmentally sound measures such as solar panels.  Policies to improve the environment are of particular concern to me.   Having experienced pollution elsewhere I know how important it is to stop choking the planet.  These measures should be in the minds of the local council and opportunities should be taken to further them where possible.

Our policies are vital and we would encourage main stream parties to adopt them.  We can take credit for some policies already but the important thing is to get them introduced, not to look important.
This election is important as local democracy is being abused .  People are being ignored and worse. At the last election a candidate actually voted twice; a criminal offence that resulted in a police caution. His election as one of our councillors was allowed to stand.  But why did he think it was ok to vote more than once?  Why did his fellow councillors accept that he did not know that he was not allowed to vote twice?  What does it say about their view of what standards a councillor should aspire to?  Now he is the agent for the current Labour Party candidate. (The agent is responsible for the right procedures to be followed by the candidate!  No further comment needed)
We have also had recent examples of other councillors failing to reach the standards that we have a right to expect from them, including the council leader.  The main opposition are also failing to hold the current council leaders to account.   We need to reclaim local democracy.

Just a personal note; I live in Spotland and am married with three sons, two of which ran the Manchester marathon.  I am a season ticket holder at Rochdale football Club (Up the Dale!), play in Rochdale quiz league and am a supporter of several local drinking establishments.

Make a change, give me a chance to shake up the local political establishment and hold them to account.  We have been labelled a 'rotten borough' for far too long.  Just complaining is not enough, you have a vote, use it.

Mick Coats 

66, Rooley Moor Road,
Tel. 07590595473

Commemoration, Conflict & Conscience festival

THE full programme of events for the national Commemoration, Conflict & Conscience festival at M Shed (Saturday 27th - Sunday 28th April) and other venues in Bristol has been announced and can be viewed here. Highlights include Cyril Pearce, one of the foremost researchers into WW1 conscientious objectors, Janet Booth who has campaigned to clear the name of her grandfather who was shot for desertion, Piet Chielens of the 'In Flanders Field' museum and many others. On the evening of Saturday 27 April at the Southbank Club, Paul McGann will be in conversation about his appearance in the classic BBC TV series 'The Monocled Mutineer'. Two events happening over the next few days as part of the festival are:

Play: This Evil Thing 
Date: Sunday 21st April, 2019
Time: P
erformances, 3.30pm and 7.30pm
Crypt at St John the Baptist Church, Broad St, Bristol BS1 2EZ
£11/£9, but need to book here. Note: spaces are left for the evening performance.
With: Michael Mears
This acclaimed solo play tells the compelling and inspiring story of Britain’s WW1 conscientious objectors. January 1916: Bert Brocklesby is a schoolteacher and preacher at his Methodist chapel; Bertrand Russell is one of the greatest philosophers of his time. With the advent of military conscription their worlds are about to be turned upside down. More details here.

Film showings: These Dangerous Women: Women who stood up for peace during and after the First World War

Date: Tuesday 23rd April, 2019
Time: 8.00pm

The Cube, Dove Street South, [off top-left of King Square], Kingsdown, Bristol BS2 8JD
£5/£4, booking here
With: Michele Ryan, June Hannam
Thursday’s Child:
Best remembered as a suffragette, Sylvia Pankhurst was also a passionate supporter of the Russian revolution, a founder of the British Communist Party and a talented visual artist. Narrated by Marxist historian Gwyn Williams.
These Dangerous Women: A drama-documentary on the women who tried to stop WW1. In 1915, 1,300 women from 12 warring and neutral nations got together in the Hague to find a way towards peace. More details here.


Sunday, 14 April 2019

This Sporting Life

by Les May

ACCORDING to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church my wife and I are adulterers.
According to an Australian rugby player called Israel Folau the doors of Hell await us, along with ‘Drunks, homosexuals, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators’.  As that covers most of the human race I assume the place is going to be a bit crowded when I get there.

Personally I don’t take this sort of stuff very seriously so as to avoid encouraging them.

Unfortunately some people do take it seriously including rugby player Billy Vunipola who ‘liked’ it on Instagram, the English Rugby Football Union who have ‘summoned’ Vunipola, his club Saracens, and Channel 4, which has decided not to employ him again as a contributor to its match coverage.

Now I don’t think that the decision by these organisations to pillory England’s number 8 is an attempt to pledge their undying support for we adulterers, atheists, drunks, fornicators, idolators, liars and thieves. It’s more likely to do with a Times headline of ‘England rugby star defends post telling gay people hell awaits’.

Which rather prompts a question about why homosexuals are thought more worthy of protection from comments like this than than the rest of us.  And please don’t tell me that homosexuals are a persecuted minority.  Forty odd years ago my wife lost her job because the life she had chosen did not meet with the approval of her church.

Will the English Rugby Football Union and Saracens behave like the Roman Catholic Church did all that time ago, and how Channel 4 have behaved just recently?  Quite likely, but what strange bedfellows they make.

As far as I am concerned those who feel offended by this kind of thing are what my Dad would have called ‘mard-arses’.   It’s a pity they’ve nowt better to do with their time.


Saturday, 13 April 2019

The arrest of Julian Assange

AUTHOR Jerome Corsi, who was questioned by the Mueller probe about his relationship with Wikileaks, reacts to the arrest of Julian Assange on FBN's "Trish Regan Primetime," saying the Wikileaks founder is being unjustly prosecuted.

"This is another attack on journalism," Corsi said about Assange's arrest. "in 2013 the Obama Justice Department decided not to indict Julian Assange over these Chelsea Manning issues because they said it would be tantamount to indicting the New York Times of the Washington Post. As a journalist, Julian Assange has a right to publish even stolen materials."

"The New York Times and Washington Post, in 1971, worked hand in glove with Daniel Ellsberg to get the Pentagon Papers in print. That is not a collaboration that is criminal, that is journalism, and Julian Assange is being unjustly prosecuted."

"I would recommend to Julian Assange that he fight back just like I did,"
Corsi said. "Julian Assange can come back and prove the second shoe dropping, the double whammy. Robert Mueller says there was no Russian collusion. Julian Assange can come back and prove that Russia was not involved in stealing the Democrats' emails. Julian Assange can come back and open up the Seth Rich case, where he has suggested time and again that there was this DNC employee who was murdered in Washington during the 2016 campaign who supplied him the emails."

"Julian Assange should do what I've done and write a book," he also said. "If Julian Assange wants to write a book and get it published we'll get it published for him. If he wants a co-author or a ghostwriter call on me. Fight back! Because Assange has information that can absolutely destroy the Russian collusion hoax. He said it from the beginning. I never talked to him, all I had to do was listen to his press conferences. He said the Russians were not involved in stealing the emails."

Posted By Tim Hains
on 'Real Clear Politics' (Date April 12, 2019)

Quien es el último?:

 The last shall be first. A saying of Jesus; in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus declares that in the world to come, “The last shall be first and the first last.”

by Brian Bamford
A MONTH ago I was Bavaria with some women discussing the English art of queueing and I introduced the Spanish solution to the problem by saying that the Spaniards avoid queueing in an orderly way by standing in a crowd and when someone new turns up they simply ask:  'Quien es el ultimo?'  To which the Germans said:  'No German would ever admit to being the last one!'

I was put in mind of this discussion when I recently had occasion to point out to a lady councillor from Crewe involved with the International Brigade Memorial Trust that the International Brigades had left Spain on the 28th, October 1938 not 1939 as she had proposed on an inscription to commemorate two local volunteers.  Perhaps with justification she quickly argued:  'I would suggest that there were those who remained fighting alongside their Spanish comrades right up to the end after the IB had marched out of Barcelona.'

On their official departure the in October 1939 the International Brigaders had left behind 9,934 dead, 7,686 missing and had suffered 37,541 wounded.  But more than that it was later discovered by the international commission of the League of Nations overseeing the withdrawal of foreign volunteers, were to find about 400 International Brigaders in prisons in and around Barcelona, including Montjuich and the 'Carlos Marx' prison'.  Colonel Ribbing. the Swedish member of the international commission reported:  'As regards the international volunteers, they had sometimes been convicted for pure trifles, sometimes for definite and serious undisciplined behaviour.  Many stated they were accused of espionage and sabotage; most of them protested their complete innocence.'

To any decent person it must have seemed quite shocking that even though the Negrin republican government had agreed to the repatriation of the International Brigade prisoners, the international commission was to find some 400 had been left behind as late as January 1939 just as the nationalist troops were advancing on Barcelona.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Fall of Madrid: March 1939

by Brian Bamford (Sec. of Taneside TUC)
IN SPAIN on this day 80 years ago, the Republican defenders of Madrid raised the white flag over the city, bringing to an end the bloody three-year Spanish conflict entitled the Spanish Civil War  (30th, March 1939).

In his reflective commemoration of this event Tom Sibley in the Morning Star (Thursday, March 21, 2019) wrote: ‘Until the end of February 1939 Prime Minister Juan Negrin and his only reliable allies, the Communists, were determined to fight on despite a series of crushing military defeats in Catalonia.’

Tom Sibley entitles his column 'The betrayal of Madrid & the triumph of fascism in Spain' but much of his argument seems to be rooted in an earlier article by Paul Preston attacking Orwell's Homage to Catalonia as 'bad history' published in The Observer (7th, May 2017).  

Yet what are we to make of the Spanish Prime Minister Negrin, who while urging the Spanish republicans to stand firm, moves to live close to the port of Alicante and make preparations for evacuation and exile?  No wonder people were puzzled, and even his generals were not convinced complaining of the lack of arms and supplies, and with Admiral Buiza, commander of the fleet, suggesting that without an immediate solution the fleet would have to abandon Spanish waters.

The distinguished military historian, Antony Beevor, in his book The Battle for Spain [2006] wrote: ‘Despite his calls for resistance, Negrin did not install his government in either Madrid or Valencia. He went to live in a villa near Elda, close to the port of Alicante, guarded by 300 communist commandos from XIV Corps. From there, by telephone and teleprinter, he sent a frenetic series of instructions, on the one hand attempting to invigorate the defence of the republican zone, and on the other making preparations for evacuation and exile.’

The International Brigades had already been removed from Spain in October 1938; although the International Brigades are often presented by some as a kind of cavalry saving the Spaniards from Fascism, by September 1938  only 7,102 foreigners were left in the International Brigades.   Antony Beevor in his observation of this decision to withdraw writes:   'It [the withdrawal] was an astute propaganda move, because both the Republic and the nationalists had greatly exaggerated their role'.

All this will have escaped Tom Sibley's attention because in his Morning Star diatribe he is all too anxious to deploy his scatter-gun approach to target George Orwell and his book Homage to Catalonia claiming Orwell 'knowingly misleads his readers to this day'


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Our Buses in Greater Manchester Aren’t Working

Better Buses for GM

Article written for GMPA by Pascale Robinson
Pascale Robinson

Right now, bus operators can’t be forced to run any service, and they set the fares, but in the next year, we have a huge opportunity to change this wild west scenario.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is deciding now whether to pick a better way of running the bus network, re-regulating it, which puts buses back into public control.
37% of Greater Manchester’s job seekers said that lack of access to transport is a key barrier to getting work, backed up by JRF research in low-income neighbourhoods in Manchester. This is in one of the UK’s biggest and best city regions.
People from the poorest fifth of households catch nearly 10 times as many buses as trains. For lots of us, without a bus we’re stuck. Across Greater Manchester, many reported that cars and trains are simply out the question in terms of price. However, with buses their last option, they highlighted how expensive fares and unreliable services prevent them from taking up positions, and how the un-joined network can mean commutes of over three hours a day (over Jobcentre Plus’ limit for reasonable travel).
Our bus network is not serving us. Instead people are being locked out of opportunities for work. With re-regulation, or franchising as it’s known, a fully integrated and planned network across GM’s 10 local authorities could connect us to our work places, our loved ones and the services we need at affordable fares, as we see in London.
What does this mean? Re-regulation means companies are told by local authorities what services to run, when, and how to set the fares. It also means local authorities can:
  • Plan and expand the network – Profits from busy routes could subsidise less busy but needed services. Right  now, bus companies cherry pick only profitable routes and make a killing, but local authorities could use profits to give everyone a better service.
  • Make buses affordable – Income could be used to lower fares, which have increased 55% above inflation in the last ten years.
  • Make buses reliable – Bus companies would have to share data – meaning buses don’t disappear from the time table or app.
  • Make buses frequent – Income could also be used to provide evening and weekend services, like we had before.

This would transform buses for a lot of us. Re-regulating in GM would set a precedent across the UK for a bus network that serves people, not profit. We’ve launched a petition calling for re-regulation and it already has over 5,000 signatures, but we want twice as many so please sign and share the petition to join the call for better buses.
Right now, we have a postcode lottery and a poverty premium, with richer areas often getting the better routes and cheaper fares, at least during commuter hours. Public money is used wherever possible, to plug gaps where there is need, however this is an inefficient use of public money. Better Buses for Greater Manchester found that on average £18 million a year is going to shareholder pay outs in the North West region.
Re-regulating our bus network would mean that Greater Manchester could have publicly controlled buses which connect communities to where they need to be.
Join the campaign by signing the petition now:
We’d also love to hear from you. We need organisations, businesses and groups to pledge their support for the campaign. Whether you can offer your logo to show support, as GMPA have, or your time, or both, we need as many people speaking out for better buses as possible.
To find out more about the campaign, please say hello at

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Review: Di and Viv and Rose

by Asclepias

IF the Director has to put notes on the back of the programme it is usually not a good sign, so I thought it might be ‘early doors’ for me when I went to see in Rochdale The Curtain Theatre’s current production of Amelia Bullmore’s play Di and Viv and RoseStrictly speaking I should say ‘we’ because there were four of us in the party.  With three in their 70s and the fourth a mere 55 we were a reasonable sample of a typical CT audience.

It’s 1983; three young women go to university and share a flat.  We follow snippets of their life for three years.   Rose is a pleasant young woman who cannot just say she likes sex, but seems to want to endow it with some sort of transient spirituality.   Di is a sport loving lesbian who cannot get round to asking the object of her affection for a date.  Viv is a sociology student who makes clear she is at uni to work not play.

The memorable things are that Rose forgets to take the dirty clothes to the launderette so they nearly run out of clean bra and knickers, Di is raped in her bed by an intruder and a dream comes true for Viv when she is offered a chance to study with an American professor.  Oh, and Rose gets pregnant.

If this sounds flippant it’s because to this point both story and dialogue seemed shallow.   Three of us could not work up the enthusiasm to find out what became of the characters in the following thirty years.  This was to be revealed in the second act. The fourth stayed having left a coat in the theatre.

As one of our party said, ‘It’s old hat’.  We’ve heard it all before.  The rape of Di isn’t one of those ambiguous ‘she said, he said’ affairs, which made the response from the sympathetic lady at the Rape Crisis Centre of ‘Its not your fault’, a bit lame to say the least.

Perhaps in the end this playing up of the nature of friendship between women is a belated response to too many TV outings for Das Boot, The Cruel Sea or Band of Brothers.   If it is then it is misplaced. Comradeship and friendship are not the same thing.

The thinness of the play was more than compensated by the quality of the acting. The original Viv had been forced to drop out of the role and it had been taken by the director Jessica Wiehler who made a superb Viv reminiscent of a younger Marina Warner during her ‘broomsticks are a symbol of women’s drudgery’ witchcraft phase.   Ellaney Hayden was a well cast and utterly believable Rose.  Molly Stedman as Di had by far the most difficult role in coping with a poorly sketched character, some weak dialogue and a couple of not altogether convincing plot lines.

The Curtain Theatre is fortunate in having so many talented performers to choose from and I have watched many excellent productions. But oh how I wish the annual programme paid less attention to plays which win praise from the critics and more to the catalogue of older plays. When Harold Brighouse’s 1914 play The Game was staged a year or so ago by the CT it made for a very enjoyable evening out, though it had languished in near oblivion for nearly a century.

The art of theatre is to persuade the audience to suspend their disbelief. Di and Viv and Rose failed to do this.

Monday, 1 April 2019

When Brexit Really Does Mean Brexit

by Les May

IT is well known that Donald Trump offered Theresa May advice about how to handle Brexit. What has been a mystery until now has been what he actually said in the private discussions.

Thanks to a recent intercept made today 31 March between 01.00 GMT and 02.00 BST by the Australian administered repeater station where the Tera-bit Trans-Pacific Optical Fibre Link (TTPOFL) comes ashore on the island of Rabaul, we now know much more about what Trump had to say when she told him ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

After his success in the November 2016 presidential election his shadow administration had set up a small group charged with coming up with policies which would bring about a seismic shift in geopolitical alignments and in so doing promote his America First policy.

This group contacted two Southern Baptist University engineers, Professor Sellers Strange and Dr Peter Lurve, who in 2001 had written a paper published in the Journal of Terraforming advocating nuclear mining. They proposed that Great Britain should detach itself physically from the continental shelf and set itself adrift from the European tectonic plate.

This would have required the drilling of several hundred holes deep enough to reach the Mohorovic Discontinuity, lowering into each one a low yield nuclear bomb and triggering these simultaneously. The shock wave would shatter the rock and Great Britain really would be free from Europe.

Trump put this proposal to Theresa May and offered the use of the newly commissioned Glomar Explorer to undertake the drilling. (The original Explorer had been used to recover part of a Soviet submarine K-129 in 1974 and was scrapped in 2015). He also agreed to supply up to 970 low yield nuclear devices. These had originally been designed in the 1950s and 60s as battlefield or tactical weapons to be used to halt Russian tanks crossing the German Plain en masse if the Cold War suddenly turned hot, but were now redundant and unstable. It was also a convenient way of disposing of fissile material away from US soil in line with Trump’s America First policies.

Initially the Cabinet was sceptical and dismissed it as just another of Trump’s daft ideas. But according to a Japanese website it gained traction after May’s disastrous election gamble in 2017 when she found herself having to bribe the DUP for their support. Seemingly Arlene Foster’s intransigence caused May to lose patience and she proposed that Strange and Lurve’s original scheme be modified so that only England, Wales plus the Scottish mainland and nearer islands be detached. Ulster would be left to negotiate with the Irish republic and Shetland would be ceded to its original owners in Oslo having. This became known as the Norway Option.

If you’ve been to the seaside recently and spotted a large vessel with what looks like a pylon on top of it a long way offshore it may have been the Glomar Explorer.

For more details of May’s reworked proposal excluding Northern Ireland and Shetland see and the links therein.

I’d like to thank MIT educated engineer Howard Wolowitz M. Eng. for his help with this piece.