Monthly Archives: December 2019

Joly and the Fox

Boxing Day: the big day in the hunting calendar and, amid horrid scenes from hunts across the country, including footage of a sab vehicle being battered with a dead fox 1, we got this from leading barrister, Jolyon Maugham:

jolyfox

Where do you start? What sort of person does that? And why? What sort of barrister, a QC no less, keeps a baseball bat handy, just in case? Further revelations from Mr Maugham included that he was wearing his wife Claire’s green kimono and was nursing a hangover with coffee at the time of the attack. The poor animal was trapped in netting near Mr Maugham’s chicken coop and Jolyon the Fox Batterer further excused his behaviour by explaining that the RSPCA were unavailable in Central London that day. 2

A one-off atrocity then, out of character from a man more used to a courtroom than a barroom brawl or, indeed, a baseball match, a man who has dedicated his not inconsiderable talent as a lawyer to taxation and to legal challenges to leaving the European Union. But wait, what about this tweet from November, some six weeks before he bludgeoned a fox to death in his garden, wearing his wife’s kimono?

jolyfox2

Hard not to assume that the baseball bat is his weapon of choice, rather than just fell to hand, and was kept nearby for the explicit purpose of clubbing a fox to death. That’s not for us to determine, of course, that’ll be for the police, CPS and the courts. 3  Jolyon did, helpfully, ring the RSPCA and explain what he’d done once he realised that maybe his tweet hadn’t achieved overwhelming public support. It says a lot about his attitude to the fox’s life and cruel death that he thought it suitable material for his audience on Twitter.

So we say this: On this matter Mr Maugham, we are not on your side. We’re on the side of the fox.

We know a song about him:

Here comes Mr Superior

Here comes Mr Slightly Shocked

Here comes Mr Christmas Hangover

Here comes Mr Bash the Fox

Here comes Mr Green Kimono

Here comes Mr Property

Here comes Mr Tooth and Claw

Here comes Mr Atrocity

Oh yeah

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Heseltine strangled his mum’s dog

Emily’s mum put down the cats

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion

Now here comes the lawyer with the baseball bat

Oh yeah

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Oh yeah

Here comes Mr Superior

Here comes Mr Bludgeon it to Death

Here comes Mr Devereux Chambers

Here comes Mr Fox’s last breath

Here comes Mr Waiting for Tax

Here comes Mr Sorry ‘Bout That

Here comes Mr Defender of Chickens

Here comes the lawyer with the baseball bat

Oh yeah

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Heseltine strangled his mum’s dog

Skint Emily’s mum put down the cats

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion

Now here comes the lawyer with the baseball bat

Oh yeah

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Heseltine strangled his mum’s dog

Skint Emily’s mum put down the cats

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion

Now here comes the lawyer with the baseball bat

Oh yeah

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

Joly and the fox

We know a song about him.

Steve

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/27/police-investigate-film-of-man-hitting-van-with-dead-fox
  2. We don’t know what their availability might have been, but you can always get hold of an emergency vet.
  3. Wait, is that the sound of us collectively holding our breath? If you believe in petitions, signing this may help the CPS decide if a prosecution is in the public interest: https://www.change.org/p/cps-cps-to-investigate-and-prosecute-jolyon-maugham-for-cruelty-to-a-fox

 

P.S. Hat-tip to PJ for the reminders about Michael Heseltine and Emily Thornberry.

A Christmas Message

Xmas MessageThe Queen’s widely previewed but rarely watched Christmas message will be delivered in a royal blue 1 cashmere dress by Angela Kelly adorned with the sapphire and diamond brooch given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1840. In it she’ll encourage the country to put past differences behind us by referencing D-Day and describe the unveiling of her favourite son as a rapist and a liar as “quite bumpy” 2. Essential viewing for fans of carefully guarded language and calls for unity from super-rich folk who will do little else to achieve it.

Boris Johnson 3 meanwhile, clearly didn’t get the memo about national unity and focuses his Christmas message on Christians alone, referencing them three times in a 350-word statement while addressing a country whose own census data recognises several other major religions, Christianity’s declining popularity, and a rise in the number of people declaring themselves to be of no religion.4

On the subject of the census, Herod the Great’s Christmas message is that it, along with the Massacre of the Innocents, is just fake news.

We have yet to hear from Donald Trump, the festive season has gifted us impeachment after all, but his Christmas message will no doubt follow a similar pattern:

  1. A Christian message.
  2. Gratitude to the armed forces for freedom, democracy, etc.
  3. Gratitude to the police 5 and any other public servants working on Christmas Day.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, bucks the trend by using his Christmas message to point out that Baby Jesus’ instruction to love thy neighbour isn’t reflected in the doubling of rough sleeping in the UK over the last six years of austere Tory rule.6

And that’s our message to you too this Christmas. It’s a tough old world out there that looks set to get tougher, so look after yourselves and each other and, however you identify, however you celebrate, if you’re a victim of the system, their system, we’re on your side, making music to bring hope, healing, encouragement, entertainment and outrage.

Hold your loved ones close this Christmas if you can, and think about those that can’t. Let’s all come out fighting in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Steve

Xmas Fist

 

1. Obviously.

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50895486. And listen out for Air Miles Andy, at gigs and hopefully on record soon.

3. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-minister-boris-johnsons-christmas-message-24-december-2019

4.https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/religion/articles/religioninenglandandwales2011/2012-12-11

5. Always the police, followed by nurses. Rarely do the other services get a special mention.

6. https://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyn-my-christmas-message/index.html

We Shall Overcome at What’s Cookin’

“This is about stopping the Tories killing people. We’ll stop them with a raised fist: in the streets, on demonstrations and by organising in our trade unions, our workplaces and our communities. Tonight we’re going to stop them with a helping hand. All tonight’s acts are playing for free, all the money will go to people on the front line of stopping Tories killing people: a food bank, a soup kitchen, and a charity that supports disabled survivors of abuse and hate crime.”

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Picture: Alison Foster

Well, we all needed that after this week: some joy, some solidarity. Never underestimate the healing power of music.

There is perhaps no better band to lift your post-election blues than Commie Faggots, no better R’n’B to dance the night away to than The Beatpack’s, book-ending our favourite ever pub rockers Graham Larkbey & The Escape Committee, the irrepressible Efa Supertramp, our hero Robb Johnson thanking the audience for lifting his spirits and, of course, us, debuting Air Miles Andy and leading a rousing chorus of Bring the Bastards Down.

We emerge this morning bleary-eyed but calmer, with a renewed sense of purpose.

We shall overcome.

The final fundraising figures aren’t in yet, but the legendary What’s Cookin’ whip-round won’t have let us down. If you couldn’t make it but would like to make a contribution, here are the links:

Eat or Heat

The Christian Kitchen

Stay Safe East

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

Steve

UCU vs UUK

pensions shit

Once you reach a certain age you become an expert in pensions, and what I now know (state pension not withstanding) is that they fall into two broad categories, defined contribution and defined benefit schemes.

If you’re a member of a defined benefit scheme then, irrespective of your or your employer’s contributions, you know what you’re getting at the end: it’ll be a proportion of either your final salary, your career average earnings or somewhere in between. Your contributions may go up or down but, by and large, the financial risk is taken by your employer. The public sector pensions which came under government attack in 2012 are defined benefit schemes; “gold plated” as their pals in the press would have you believe, “our deferred wages, paid to us in retirement, pensions that we pay handsomely for” we respond.

Conversely, if you’re in a defined contribution scheme, the risk is all yours. You know how much you’re going to pay, and how much your employer’s going to put in, but that money’s invested by the pension company in stocks, shares, property etc. and results in a “pot” available to you on retirement with which to buy an annuity. An annuity is you going to an insurance company and saying “I’ve accumulated £ x-thousand over my working life, if I give it to you, how much will you pay me a year for the rest of my days?” And the answer is, you’ve guessed it, market-dependent.

blackboardWhy is this important? Well, the first attack on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was in 2011 [1] , when it moved from a final salary scheme to a career average earnings scheme, saving the employers a ton of money.

(“Who are the employers?” I hear you ask. Well for these purposes they’re Universities UK (UUK) the chancellor, vice-chancellor and principal’s club that dates back to a 19th century consultative committee. Effectively, the marketisation [2]  of higher education has turned universities into businesses and pension reforms into marginal gains.)

But worse was to come. In 2017/18, despite members’ contributions continuing to rise, UUK decided to close the defined benefit portion of the USS, shifting all the risk to the workers. They decided to, but it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for one reason and one reason alone: sustained and determined strike action by UCU members. Don’t let anyone tell you that striking doesn’t work. [3]

So, why are they back on strike? Well, part of the resolution of last year’s dispute was the creation of the Joint Expert Panel to review the valuation of the pension scheme and (surprise!) the employers have decided to ignore some of the panel’s findings.

Today’s picket at Goldsmiths was as large and lively as the one that Russ and I visited last year, despite losing a bunch of activists to various Labour Party canvassing activities around London. They’re well-organised (well, they are teachers) and in good spirits.

We talked about the FBU pensions victory and the potential impact on millions of public sector workers’ pensions, Grenfell, Boris Johnson, solidarity, rudimentary sound engineering [4] and the general election. And we sang a few songs. [5]

 

The message is clear: UUK – play fair on pensions, the UCU ain’t going anywhere.

picket line

Steve

[1] https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-explained

[2] The Jarratt Report, published in 1985, laid the groundwork for the transformation of universities into factories, students into customers and academics into education delivery vehicles, consolidated and accelerated by the introduction of tuition fees of up to £9000 pa by the 2010 coalition government.

[3] We can have the debate as to whether music can change the world, but the Goldmiths end of this dispute was supported by both The Protest Family and Maddy Carty. Just sayin’.

[4] Keep the mic behind the speaker!

[5] We know a bunch of songs about strikes: Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums, Funky Lol’s Picket Line and Bad Day for Bojo to name but three.