Tag Archives: Longreads

Louis Tomlinson’s “Fly High Buddy” Interview Transcript.

NO PART OF THIS ARTICLE OR THE PHOTOGRAPHS THERIN MAY BE USED IN FULL OR IN PART WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR

Yesterday I published an article on Inquisitr that received an incredible amount of attention. The article concerned One Direction star Louis Tomlinson and the support both Louis and his mother Johannah (Jay) Deakin had given to the family of nine-year-old Harvey Hex who was sadly claimed by childhood cancer neuroblastoma.

Harvey’s mother Sarah agreed to being interviewed by me and the interview made up the bulk of my story.  To date the Twitter imprint for the article is over 2.5 million and I found myself in the bizarre situation of trending all over the world.

I was shocked, surprised and if it doesn’t sound too immodest thrilled to see this happening.  Of course when writing for a trending news outlet you can’t simply use the interview and nothing else and people have indicated that they would like to see the full interview.  I am of course delighted to do this for one reason.

I can’t even begin to tell you how honored I am that Sarah agreed to this interview. We should never forget that Sarah’s family are dealing with a huge tragedy in their lives.  Little Harvey fought his illness with everything he had and sadly he ultimately lost that fight.  Sarah and her family are still trying to work out how to fill the huge whole that Harvey’s loss has left in their lives.

More than anything this is the story of two amazing family’s,  Sarah Hext’s and Louis Tomlinson’s.  What makes this story so incredible for me is how a world renowned star like Tomlinson is so securely ground, kind considerate and so very very thoughtful.  Sarah says that Louis, his family and the amazing charities that have supported them have given her family the most precious gift of all.  Sarah says her family have been given a host of special memories of Harvey.  Those memories are simply beyond price.

Below is the full interview.  All I have edited is grammar and spelling, these are Sarah’s words.  My questions are in bold.

Tell me a little about your family.  What sort of little boy was harvey?  How close are your kids?  What do the twins like to do?  

David and I met in 1995 and were married in 1997. In October 2002 our Daughter Olivia was born and in July 2006 she became big sister to our beautiful identical twin boys Spencer and Harvey, the boys were diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome. The diagnoses was a huge shock and we had been thrown into a world that we knew nothing about, but it wasn’t long before the boys personality’s started to shine through and we all fell head over heels in love with them. The early days went past in a bit of a haze, having twins is hard work!
All three children were incredibly close and Olivia was a very proud big sister, we worried what affect the boys diagnoses may have on Olivia at first, after all she had two brothers with special needs that took up a lot of our time but she took to them like a duck to water, they were just her little brothers and she was always ready to show them off at every opportunity. Olivia never complained about the lack of attention she received, she was just happy to help us with the boys in any way she could.
Spencer and Harvey were a real double act, they went everywhere together and would always be up to some kind of mischief. Dave once decorated a bedroom and when he had finished he came downstairs to have a cup of tea, in the meantime the boys snook upstairs and found a 1/2 full tin of pain without a lid on, they had a paint fight and ended it by pouring the tin of paint over Harvey’s head!
They would love to play hide and seek with Harvey once running off in a shop and us in complete panic searching for him, only for someone to point out that the little mannequin in the shop window had just moved! Both boys were full of fun but Harvey was always the instigator of trouble and fun, he had spirit and wasn’t frightened of anything where as Spencer was always far more sensitive. The boys would love to confuse their swimming teacher by telling her they were each other! Spencer and Harvey were two halves of a whole and something that always gave me comfort was knowing they would always have each other, they would never feel that they were different because some one else was the same as them.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

How did you find out about Harvey’s illness?  What effect did the news have on you all?  How did you cope with the illness?
In 2010 a month before Harveys 5th birthday.  Harvey had been poorly on and off for months and had a very distended tummy, he didn’t want to walk and wasn’t sleeping at night but the Doctors always put it down to a bug or food poisoning, after around 7 visits to the GP and twice going to A&E insisting that something was wrong they told me that they could find nothing untoward and if I was still concerned to go and see a paediatrician.
The Paediatrician referred us to a local hospital for tests and within a few days we were referred to Bristol Children’s hospital and given the devastating news that they believed our little boy had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma – a very aggressive childhood cancer with a survival rate of 20%. The cancer had spread to Harvey’s bones. Straight after we were given the news the Doctors asked for Spencer to be tested, thankfully he was clear of cancer but he will be monitored for many years to come. The actual diagnoses took a few weeks as there are no other cases worldwide of any child ever having Down Syndrome and Neuroblastoma, Kids with DS don’t usually get solid tumours. It was unheard of.

 

The news was devastating, the treatment protocol for Neuroblastoma is harsh, we were looking at 18months of intensive treatment. After 8 rounds of punishing chemotherapy then surgery (Harvey’s operation was 14hrs long) we were told that the treatment was not working, two more rounds of chemo was then followed by MIBG therapy in London, this entailed Harvey having a high dose of a Radioactive  drug and having to stay in a lead lined room until his levels were low enough for him to mix with the general public.  As parents we had restricted contact with him for our own safety although we did stay with him as much as we were allowed. After further tests Harvey was given an oral chemotherapy for 18months and his Neurablastoma remained stable, never cured but stable.

Over the years Harvey had many blood transfusions, a stem cell transfusion, platelets and general aesthetics but he would often wake from a GA and ask to go to school. He did manage school now and then and Spencer was always so thrilled.That whole period of time took its toll on all of us.

My Mum moved in with us and looked after Olivia and Spencer as we were always in hospital or London and Dave was eventually made redundant from his job- this often happens to parents of sick children.

As Harvey didn’t follow the treatment protocol we were taken off the Neuroblastoma trial, this meant that all treatment options were no longer available to Harvey so we started the mamouth job of raising £300,000 incase we needed to take Harvey to the USA or Germany to access the treatment privately. [We currently have £200,000 in a fund that will be used to Help children in Harvey’s situation].

We managed Harvey’s illness day by day but for us it put the fact that the boys had Down Syndrome in a completely different context, the Downs didn’t matter to us at all and to be honest made Harvey who he was, so for that I am grateful.

How did you meet Jay?  I assume Jay got Louis involved but how did that happen?
I first met Jay at a Believe in Magic Party at London Zoo in Dec 2014, Louis had asked her to attend the party for her as they had funded the event but he couldn’t be there as he was on the X Factor that night. Jay came over and introduced herself and I think Harvey and Spencer stole her heart there and then. Only a twin mum can really understand the impact that losing one twin could have on a family and of course Jay having two sets of twins made her fully qualified to understand my fears.
Harvey has a Facebook page and soon after Jay sent a message saying that she had been thinking of us a lot, we started chatting and soon build up a friendship. Louis became involved through Jay and started supporting Harvey by doing things like wearing a Gold ribbon for Childhood cancer awareness.
LouisTomlinsonHarvey5
Tell me about the Cinderella Ball.  Were the whole family Louis & Johanna’s guests at the event?  How was the evening, what was the experience like?
Yes the whole family were guests at the ball. For us the Ball was the stuff that fairy tales are made of. We were all taken to the beautiful Langham hotel in London and the boys were given Ralph Lauren suits to wear, Olivia was given a made to measure silk dress.
Cars were at the hotel to collect us and we were taken to the beautiful Natural history Museum. When we arrived  there were 100’s of 1D fans at the gates and as we walked up the red carpet Harvey turned to them, stopped and gave them a bow! Spencer turned to the crowd an shook his bottom! Everyone was cheering and clapping them, it was magical.
Inside we had a champagne reception and the kids were entertained by Dynamo. Olivia was busy star spotting and she has made some lovely friends through Believe in Magic so spent time running around with them.
Then we were called to the main room and all the children walked down the main staircase in true Cinderella style. I have to say it was just breath taking. So much thought had gone into the children and there was a section of the room filled with toys, face painting,arts and crafts. There was also a photo booth which was a great hit. The food was beautiful and again there was food especially for the kids. There was a really fun auction and then Ben Heynow sung a few songs. Unfortunately we had to leave before 12 as Harvey couldn’t keep his little eyes open but it was a night we will treasure forever.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I understand that at that event Louis and Liam and Jay tried to spend time with all of the children.  Is that correct?  How did they deal with getting round so many people etc.  What did they say?  Were they comfortable?  How did the children react?
All the children were greeted at the foot of the staircase by Louis and Liam, many had photos taken with the boys and then we sat for Dinner. After dinner the boys were having more photos with the kids, they spent time in the arts section with the kids and lots of funny photos were taken with the boys in the photo booth, Ben Heynow also joined in the fun. Liam had his face painted as a tiger and the boys were in fine spirits. they were just chit chatting as anyone else would, asking the kids if they were enjoying the evening, were they feeling ok? etc.  They seemed completely relaxed and I am sure they enjoyed the evening as much as we did. Jay was talking to everyone as were Meg and Jean [founders of BIM].  Cars were waiting outside to take anyone back to the hotel when they were ready to leave.
I notice on your Facebook post you talk about Louis and Jay providing support to Olivia and Spencer.  How is that provided?  Do you have regular contact etc?
Jay and some of her family came to Harvey’s celebration. We played “Best song ever” in the church and had a little smile to each other whilst it was playing. We exchange texts fairly regularly and a week after the service Jay called and said that Louis had two tickets for the X Factor finals and they wanted to offer them to us, we decided it would be good for the kids so we accepted.
On the Saturday we went to the Believe in Magic Christmas party, it was hard without Harvey but they are a fantastic charity that continue to support siblings even after the sick child has passed. That’s so important to family’s. After the party Jay had booked us into a beautiful Central London hotel and Dave and Spencer went swimming and out for dinner whilst Olivia and I were whisked off in a luxury car to a VIP X Factor party and then to see the show. The whole night was a very welcome distraction and although we were so so sad we did manage to have a fun weekend, never forgetting Harvey though.
Jay and Louis do all these amazing things and never ask for anything in return, what could you possibly give them? We decided that we would send them a treasured colouring that Harvey had done and Dan has laminated it and its used as a family placemat. I loved that idea.
LouisTomlinson Harvey3
Tell me about the Disney trip.  How did Harvey react, did you all have fun?
Disney was awesome. We didn’t tell the boys we were going until just before and they were so excited. Disney was Harvey’s favourite place. There were about 10 Believe in Magic family’s who went and the kids were given a suitcase each full of beautiful clothes.  We stayed in The Pink Palace hotel which is just stunning,everything was taken care of. We were there Monday-Thursday and we had a ball. There were characters walking around the hotel and at night we all went to the top floor of the hotel to watch the Fireworks. Harvey and Spencer loved the Frozen show so we went to that a few times. Some of the girls had lunch with Cinderella but my boys just wanted to go on the rides over and over again!
Harvey was a real thrill seeker and the faster the rides the better. Jay and her family joined everyone for the last few days. We had the best time there and the kids were just blown away by the whole experience.
Tell me about the microphone, how it was delivered and Harvey’s reaction.  Why was this a big deal for him?  Were there gifts for the other kids too?  If so tell me a little about that.
On the way to London I sent Jay a video of Harvey singing to 1D in the car, “Best song ever.” I understand Louis was with her when she received it, when we arrived at the hotel (another beautiful one) there were two microphones waiting for the boys, it was so thoughtful and  there were also some beautiful girly gift’s for Olivia. The boys started playing with them immediately and took them to the concert that night. Spencer often plays with his Microphone and I love the photo we have of Harvey with his. Gifts sent with such thought behind them.
What is your impression of Louis as a man?  Does he love kids as much as he appears to?  How do children react to him?
Louis is kind and considerate. He comes from a large and loving family and I guess that helps him to stay grounded. Louis younger twin sisters are also kind sweet girls so I think it runs in the family. When you come from a large family I think you feel at ease with children and he seems to be able to make people feel naturally at ease. Olivia loves Louis, she giggles a lot when she sees him, he’s in 1D and she’s 13yrs old! Lol.  Harvey and Spencer didn’t really appreciate the fact he is a global star but that makes it even more genuine for me as it shows Louis not doing it for the glory.
Louis Tomlinson Harvey1
Tell me about Harvey’s 1D concert.  Did you all manage to go?  How did Harvey react?  Did you all get to go backstage to meet Louis and the rest of the boys?  How were you treated?  
We stayed in the beautiful Kensington Hotel . There were gifts for the children and Louis’ PA called to give us all the arrangements. We were made to feel very special. These are hotels that we would never normally be able to experience.
The Concert was something I would never have taken the boys to for fear of it being too loud or us having to leave and spoiling Olivia’s fun so we took my niece in case she needed to take the boys out for us.
Louis had offered us the Green room should the boys decide it was too much for them. We were taken to the friends and family room before the show and then back stage to meet all the boys. It was a bit of a whirlwind meet as there were many other fans waiting to meet the boys. After that we were taken to our seats right near the stage and the concert began. All the children absolutely loved the concert and Harvey was up dancing to many songs. It was a lovely experience and one that I would not have chosen to take the boys too but I am so glad we did. After the concert Louis PA came and showed us to our waiting car. Everything we needed was taken care of.
The next day a car was sent for us to take us to a Believe in Magic party in Hamley’s toy store. It was a perfect weekend and we made some beautiful memories.
What are your thoughts about how Louis is being treated by some sections of the media?
It makes me angry. These people don’t know the real Louis, to them its a story but its actually quite hurtful to the people that know different. Something they don’t understand is that he helps so many familys and the fact that he doesn’t shout about it makes him even more special, he doesn’t do it for the glory he does it because he wants to help people. Jay once told me that on a bad press day Louis will often say to her. “Come on mum, lets make someone happy today”
What do you think people should know about Louis and Johannah?
How genuine they are. They go out of their way to help people and expect no recognition for it. Louis has stayed grounded and I think that’s thanks to great parenting on Jays part. He’s a lovely family orientated guy. Jay doesn’t have to help us or anyone else but she does it because she wants too and she is truly grateful for what she has.
Tell me about your charitable efforts in Harvey’s memory.  Links to any website, just giving page etc.
Harvey only passed on 29th Nov, I am hoping to set up a charity in his name providing treats for poorly children but haven’t yet got this up and running.
http://solvingkidscancer.org/ hold Harvey’s appeal page, money donated to them will pay for research into Neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers.
http://upsanddowns.net/ are the charity that have supported us since the boys were born and this is the charity we collected for at Harvey’s Celebration.
LouisTomlinsonHarvey6
What question do you really wish I had asked and didn’t?  What would the answer be?  Feel free to add anything you think relevant or that you want people to know about.
When Jay knew that Harvey didn’t have much time left she came to the house with her Twin girls [Daisy and Phoebe], they took a day out of school to come and spent all day playing with Olivia, Harvey and Spencer.
Louis sent Olivia a Pandora bracelet and lots of toys for the boys. Louis driver brought them here and came in to say hi, he’s a lovely guy and also came to Harvey’s celebration, in fact he arranged the balloon release on that day. As they left we talked about doing a winter wonderland for Harvey on our decking but sadly there was never the time. We left for the hospice that day and only had two other days at home.
I cant tell you the importance of having things to look forward to and Jay and Louis have given us many of them. Louis has also offered us a holiday at Centre parcs whenever we are ready. They hold a very special place in my heart and Jay keeps in regular contact by FB or texting every now and again to see how we all are.
Louis and Jay have given us precious memories with Harvey and all of our children and that is priceless, we have so many beautiful photos of Harvey to look back on in some amazing places!  I do feel that I have made a genuine friend in Jay and she certainly doesn’t do it for the glory.
I once asked Jay if any of the boys knew Ant and Dec as Harvey loved them. A few weeks we had a personal message from them to the kids and wishing Harvey well.
NO PART OF THIS ARTICLE OR THE PHOTOGRAPHS THERIN MAY BE USED IN FULL OR IN PART WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR
Advertisements

The WordPress community – A depressive gives thanks

I must say I am feeling very humbled today.  Do you want to know why?  Well if you have five minutes, grab a coffee, put your feet up and have a read.  It may turn out to be a little bit of a long read, but it might be worth it, I hope so anyway.

Back in February of this year I was retired from the Police service in Dorset (UK) as a result of my ill health.  I have never been out of work for a single day in my life though I have had a couple of lengthy periods of sickness due to my depression.  Work related depression has been my companion for some time but after a lengthy bout in 2002 I managed to get back on top of it, returned to work and had some promotions and very responsible positions.

In 2011 I reached rock bottom again as a result of stress related depression.  I have so much to be grateful to my family for.  My wife and my son were stalwarts throughout the bad times, offering unwavering support even at times when I was  insufferable.  My son has just turned 16 and, to be frank, he shouldn’t have had to put up with what he did but he was an absolute star.  I did manage to get myself back to work in 2012 but I just couldn’t cope and was soon on sick leave again.  I was surprised but relieved when the decision was made to medically retire me.  Whilst I was relieved and knew deep down that I couldn’t cope with work I couldn’t escape the feeling that, there I was, on the scrapheap aged just 52.

Despite a good education, 8 years in the Navy and 29 years in the Police, a wealth of transferable skills and numerous years of experience as a trainer I did feel washed out and apprehensive about the future.  Now I have never been afraid to talk about my mental illness but I am all too aware that there is a general lack of understanding and a great deal of prejudice where mental illness is concerned.  I was concerned about how my family would cope and to how I would adapt to life without a job.

I have always considered myself lucky, I have a lovely family, a nice home, I live in a beautiful area and I have my dogs to keep me occupied when I am at home alone.  As those of you who read my blog regularly will know I have had a really busy summer immersing myself in one of my great loves. Music!  Family, friends, my dogs, Freemasonry and my music.  The five things that have helped me through all of the bad times and made my life bearable and worthwhile.  Since May though a sixth dimension has entered my life and I am really grateful for it.

Whilst I was still receiving counselling my counsellor advised that I should take up some creative pastimes.  Some 18 months ago I started to teach myself to play guitar.  I spend a little time most days playing guitar and learning new songs.  I do love to play and whilst I am by no means great I have reached a reasonable standard and I do love to sing.  Music has always been a huge part of my life and it always will be.  I love to immerse myself in music, I love music that makes you think, that is outside the mainstream and that has something to say.  I love music that challenges the establishment and that has a political message.  I wanted to channel my creative energies and I have always loved writing.  I have also had a passing interest in Photography.  What better way to channel my energy than to write about music and better still to illustrate my work with my own photographs.

In recent years I have become very cynical about politics, all of the corruption in the UK political system, politicians abusing the system, lining their own pockets at tax payers expense has brought me to believe the system is rotten to the core.  As an armed services veteran I am scandalised that our politicians continue to send our young men and women to war in places were we have no right to be, where there is no end game in sight and based on false premises.  I find it unbelievable that western governments cannot see that interference in middle eastern politics only builds Islamophobia in the west and radicalises young people in those regions.  Ultimately our policies in the regions will serve to create more terrorists not fewer.

So, as you can tell there is a lot going on in my world.  I really needed a medium to allow me to pull everything together.  As I started to explore options I came across WordPress.  After having an explore and setting up a trial site I slowly began to gain followers.  As I began to understand better how WordPress works I began to discover the WordPress community.  I was amazed that there is so many things going on, that there are huge numbers of people out there who share my views, who have similar interests and who want to talk about it.  I found people who love music, who are living with mental illness, who take photographs and who are willing to engage with others will similar interests.  I also found people who have interests so diverse I had no idea they would want to talk about them in a similar way to myself.  It must be said some of the interests I find bizarre, crazy even.

I was totally amazed to find that WordPress even runs classes to help us newbies to make the most of their sites, to network with others, to uncover hidden assets and to optimise their sites.  Whats more it is available to any WordPress user free of charge.  Amazing.

I have signed up for, and completed, Blogging 101, Blogging 201, Writing 101 and am now doing Photography 101.  These courses are all great fun, I have learned a huge amount and more importantly I have built up a great network of like minded people.  I would really recommend doing these courses, especially if you are early in your blogging career.

I am fortunate in that I have the time and enthusiasm to write most days and it seems that some people at least have an interest in what I have to say.  I won’t say that I haven’t had my dark moments.  There have been times where I have thought “Why Bother” but you know what if I stopped I would miss it.  As time has gone on I have seen a regular group of people making comments on my blog. My readership has started to expand and I now have nearly 850 followers.  In less than five months I have had almost 20 thousand hits on my blog and earlier today I had my 1000th ‘like’.  I have been nominated for several blogging awards and I now get 150 or more hits on my blog virtually every day.

I am stunned that so many people from all walks of life are interested in my little corner of the internet.  I find it so gratifying when someone makes a comment on my blog, when people like my photographs or share my love of a music album or an interest in a band.  I like it when people take the time to discuss a point of view even, or perhaps especially, when they disagree with my own views.  In the five months I have been blogging I have only had one negative experience, that was when I challenged a persons views on a difficult and contentious issue.  To be fair I should have realised from the tone of that persons site that an opposing view would not be discussed rationally.

Last but by no means least I have been totally amazed by the wonderful people who have reached out when I have written about my mental illness.  Some of these people have some experience of living with mental illness, either themselves or in a loved one.  Others have little or no experience but what they have all shared is a sense of empathy.  The willingness to just reach out and say hello or “Thanks for sharing, stay well”.

So many people write so powerfully about their own experiences, whether this is to discuss their experience of being a survivor of mental illness, of domestic abuse, of rape or of any of the myriad challenges that we humans face.  People write with courage, with fortitude and sometimes even with humour about the dark times. You find everything here on WordPress, everything from the born comedian who writes a few lines that make you smile.  The poets who artfully turn their thoughts into prose to surprise and delight us, the artist or photographer who shares a little beauty with us in the shape of a photograph.  There are those, like me, who just write on whatever captures our imagination on any given day, who write just as an outlet, sometimes emotional, sometimes dull, sometimes nonsensical, just giving their thoughts a voice. Some, again like me, jump onto the often fascinating daily or weekly prompts and some just throw random, sometimes irreverent thoughts around.

There is one thing that binds WordPress writers together though.  You are all amazing.  I offer heartfelt thanks to every single person who has visited my blog, left a comment, hit the like button, nominated me for an award or just dropped in, found nothing of interest to them and moved on.  Each and every one of you give me another reason to carry on writing and that helps to make my days a little better and helps me to cope with my depression 🙂

The UK needs more radicals! Here is why?

On Wednesday 22nd October 2014 I was watching the BBC evening news when my heart hit the floor.  The Reason?    The leader of the UK’s labour party Ed Miliband had made a speech in which he promised that he will introduce an immigration reform bill within a month of winning the next election that offers “clear, credible and concrete” measures to deal with the ‘concerns of voters’

Miliband said Labour’s policy would strengthen our borders, restricting recruitment from abroad and ensuring immigrants could speak a good standard of English.  He went on to say that he did not want the UK to withdraw from the European Union but that he did want additional restrictions placed on EU migrants into Britain.  So why should I be concerned about this?

This ‘policy initiative’ by Miliband is his response to tough talking by the Conservative party and by (UKIP) the United Kingdom Independence Party and, sadly, it marks yet another lurch to the right by the supposedly ‘socialist’ Labour Party.  This is just the latest move to the right in a seemingly inexorable shift to the right over the past 35 years.  Between the end of World War 2 and Margaret Thatchers rise to power in 1979 successive UK governments of all parties were strongly rooted in a Social Democratic mixed economy model.  Universal health care, Nationalisation of monopolies, social welfare and social housing.  These policies helped the UK to its post war recovery and to the longest period of stable economic growth in our history.  Even conservative Prime Ministers during this period were to the left of the political centre.

When Thatcher came to power she set about ‘rolling back the state’ and even went so far as to claim that ‘There is no such thing as society’.  Thatchers Neoliberal economic model was strongly resisted by the unions but she set about destroying the power of the unions by breaking strikes, restricting the rights of assembly by pickets and, because she had such a huge majority, she was able to pass legislation banning ‘closed shops’, and restricting the influence of the unions.  This brought the unions to their knees and enabled Thatcher to set about dismantling the huge traditional industries that hitherto had provided full employment in the UK.  These industries were unsurprisingly the bedrock of labour support and based primarily in the industrial heartlands of the North of England, Wales and Scotland.  One by one the great British industries of mining, shipbuilding, steel, car making, textiles and manufacturing were broken up in favour of what Thatcher described as a ‘service economy’.  This model was adopted by the USA in 1981 when Thatchers great friend Reagan came to power.

Unfortunately for the Labour party this came at a time when the party tore itself apart with political infighting which made it virtually unelectable.  As a result ‘Thatcherism, aided by the right wing and ‘Murdoch’ press empires had 18 years to become embedded into the national psyche.

In order to challenge the Conservative party in the 1997 election (after 18 years of conservative rule) ‘New Labour’ was born under the leadership of Tony Blair.  To challenge the Conservatives,  New Labour adopted the economic policies of the Conservatives, a position unthinkable a few years before and far to the right of any UK Government before 1979.

Lets reflect for a moment on ‘Socialism’.  It is generally agreed that Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.  “Social ownership” may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these.  The ‘New Labour’ model failed to meet any of these criteria.  Instead their economic policies continued an inexorable move to the right.  To give just a few examples they:

  • Failed to renationalise the rail industry despite an election manifesto pledge to do so.
  • Deregulating the financial sector and abandoning state control of the Bank of England.  These policies were undoubtably responsible for the numerous misselling, rate fixing and toxic debt scandals that lead to the 2008 financial collapse.
  • refusal to renationalise or even regulate the power and water utilities
  • Use of private Finance Initiatives for public sector building schemes that allowed private investors to lock public sector industries into hugely expensive projects that gave no ownership or security of tenure at the end of the contract.  This has built up an estimated £250 billion ‘black hole’ in the future public purse.
  • Refusal to build new public sector housing and continuing to sell off the public housing stock at discounts of up to 80%
  • The introduction of privatisation into the health and education sectors.
  • Failing to tackle tax dodging by the Super rich and by multi-national corporations.

These are just a few of the policies that would have been unthinkable even by Conservative Governments prior to 1979.  Ed Miliband defeated his brother David in a closely fought leadership election in 2010 after Gordon Browns resignation in the wake of failing to win the 2010 election.  Ironically it was the union block vote that carried him to victory in that leadership race.  Ironic because he almost immediately set about further restricting the power of the unions to influence Labour Party policy.

Since Miliband became leader of the labour party he has been smeared by the right who pushed stories about his fathers marxist past into the press in an effort to undermine his ‘credibility’.  Despite the fact that the majority of the British public want to see the rail network and the energy companies renationalised and the vast majority of Labour voters want to see the NHS, the railways, the Royal Mail and the utilities companies renationlised and run as not-for-profit public services.  Despite these facts Miliband has repeatedly ruled out any denationalisation instead saying that he will ‘cap the energy companies’ for a period of time if he wins next years election.  Miliband has even failed to condemn the Conservative ‘workfare’ scheme that forces the long term unemployed into mandatory unpaid labour.  At one time we would have called this slavery.

So where does this leave the UK?  Well the two main parties are clearly far to the right of centre and  the Liberal Democrats, whilst more moderate, are still slightly to the right of centre.   Unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats entering into coalition with the Conservatives has done them irreparable harm.   their support has evaporated and in most of the recent by-elections they have been pushed into fourth place behind the two main parties and UKIP.

Worryingly UKIP has just won its first parliamentary seat and came frighteningly close to a second in what had hitherto been a safe Labour seat in Heywood and Middleton.  Whilst the Labour vote held up the support for other parties switched to UKIP who came within 600 votes of taking the seat.  Unsurprisingly these results have terrified both the main parties with a general election just 7 months away.  In the weeks since those elections we have seen the anti-immigration rhetoric ramped up by both the main parties.

Prime Minister David Cameron continues to state that he will win reforms from the EU before a referendum on Britains membership in 2017.  Our news media continues to feed us a diet of anti-EU rhetoric.  Stories that blame the EU for the Human Rights Act for our inability to expel terrorist suspects and asylum seekers from the UK.  There is an inexorable growth in the numbers of asylum seekers housed for years in ‘detention centres’ whilst their case is processed.  Increases in immigration are falsely blamed on asylum seekers who are often fleeing persecution in their Countries of origin often as a result of unrest caused by our interventions in those countries.  The reality of course is that the numbers seeking asylum in the UK is minuscule when compared with the 100’s of millions of EU citizens who are entitled to live and work in the UK should they so desire.  Of course in true Conservative style Cameron also announced that anyone who has over £5 million in the bank can move to the UK and be fast tracked for a British passport.  As always one rule for the rich and one for the poor.

So whilst UKIP has a stated aim to take the UK out of the EU and have the most right wing views on immigration it seems that the main parties are so worried about UKIP splitting their vote in marginal seats that they are falling over themselves to come up with ‘populist’ policies that are more extreme than those of the extremists.  This has the net effect of moving the UK political establishment still further to the right.

The rightward shift is further illustrated by the continued mess that is UK & US foreign policy in the Middle East.  During the 1960’s and 70’s there was mass immigration into the UK from the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  Since the first Gulf war in 1990 there has been a dramatic increase in Islamaphobia.  This has increased dramatically and perhaps unsurprisingly since the commencement of the ‘War on Terror’ in the wake of the horrific attacks on 9/11.  Since then Western policy has been engaged in a futile exercise to distinguish between ‘good Muslims’ and ‘bad Muslims’.  By this I mean that the USA lead coalition has waged war in the Middle East to either directly or indirectly overthrow regimes ‘we’ do not like.  I posted a tongue in cheek article from the ‘stop the war coalition’ explaining this a while back.  It is well worth the read if you haven’t seen it.

Sadly in both the USA and the UK Welfare is being cut back, the poor are becoming poorer whilst the rich get richer.  It seems that whilst we cannot afford to look after the most vulnerable in our societies we can afford the weapons to kill many thousands of innocent people in the Middle East.  It is estimated that the cost of the war on terror (dependant on which measure is used) to the USA is likely to be around $6 Trillion or around 1/3 of the US national debt.  The cost to the UK to date is more difficult to quantify but it is estimated that around £40 Billion has been spent in Afghanistan.  This at a time when support for public services are being cut and when PM Cameron has reportedly done a multi Billion pound behind the scenes deal with President Obama for a replacement for trident so that the UK can maintain an ‘independent nuclear deterrent.

It is estimated that the cost to the UK economy of tax avoidance by the super rich and by Multi-National Corporations runs to some £120 Billion a year.  If all of that tax was collected it would put the UK into a budget surplus and allow us to pay down the national debt that now stands at around £1400 Billion.  Rather than tackle tax avoidance we choose to  demonise the needy labelling them social security scroungers and so on.  The Government lead us to believe that the work shy are a huge drain on the public purse.  What they do not tell you is that around 50% of the welfare bill is spent on old age pensions only 3% is spent on jobseekers allowance and a further 2% on Employment support allowance.  The majority of the remainder goes in disability and benefits for low paid working people.

It was interesting to see that just yesterday the UK Office for National Statistics reported that economic growth in the UK is running at 0.7%.  This despite the fact that we are constantly being told what a great job the current Government have done in ‘fixing’ the economy is 0.3% lower than it was when the Government took office in 2010.  The Chancellor, George Osborne, has massively increased the National Debt, borrowing more money in 4 years than every Labour chancellor in history combined.

So where does this leave us.  There can be no doubt, given the global financial collapse in 2008, that Thatchers Neo Liberal economic model is just as much a failure as totalitarian communism was in Eastern Europe.  In my view it takes us to a position where we desperately need the UK to be more radical.  We need a radical left of centre political party who will do some or all of the following:

  • Recognise that the UK is no longer a global superpower, we must stop trying to act like one by taking a colonial attitude towards the Middle East and Africa.  We must stop aligning ourselves with the USA and acting like the worlds policeman (or the school bully).
  • We should scrap trident and forget about replacing it
  • We should aggressively pursue those who fail to pay their taxes
  • If necessary we should either nationalise or more strictly regulate essential services to ensure that people receive a good service at a fair price.
  • We must make determined moves to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels
  • We must make a concerted effort to develop and utilise alternate energy sources
  • We should abolish the unelected ‘House of Lords’.
  • We should reduce the influence of Multi National corporations in our political system by stopping our elected representatives holding directorships in those same companies
  • More power should be devolved away from Westminster to Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland and the English regions.
  • We must implement a form of Government that works to the benefit of all of the citizens of the UK.  A move away from Government by the rich for the rich is essential.
  • There must be less political interference in policing.  We are seeing examples at present of where legitimate public process is being quashed by the police on the orders of the Home Secretary.
  • mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that our members of parliament vote according to the wishes of the people they represent rather than according to how the party whips tell them to vote.
  • measures must be put in place to reduce or eliminate the costs of University Education to help improve social mobility.

I could continue to write thousands more words on these subjects but I am sure you have the idea by now.  In short the UK needs a new radicalisation of its political system, a move back to a form of democracy that better represents the interests of the many rather than the few.  We need a balanced mixed economy, we need to stop the seemingly inexorable shift to the right wing of the political spectrum.