I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


 OK. It’s pretty cocky of me to hijack Emile Zola’s iconic strapline and fix it on top of this blog. Fair cop! My hands are well and truly held up. But one of the joys of penning a blog is the fact that I don’t have a sensible editor breathing down my neck.

Emile Zola is a big personal hero of mine and he should be a hero of anyone who aspires to use the power of words to make life tough for the authorities when they step out of line.
It was 1899 when Zola shocked the people of France to their Gallic core when he published his article in L’Aurore.
The title was simple and it has stood the test of 116 years of time.


I accuse.

It was an open letter to the President of France and he accused the French Government of wrongly arresting Captain Alfred Dreyfus for the heinous crime of spying for the hated Germans. The Dreyfus story had gripped the French for months and the nation had been exultant when the evil spy had been shipped off to a life of living hell on Devil’s Island penal colony.

By this time Dreyfus was rotting away and slowly but surely being eaten up by all kinds of tropical illnesses.

He had basically been found guilty for one very compelling reason – he was a Jew.

Of course being a Jew was not a great thing to be at that time and nobody was too concerned about such things a s evidence, proof or possible innocence. Dreyfus was deemed to be a rich, arrogant Jew and so he simply had to be guilty.

Zola gave up some time to the small group of voices in the wilderness who were fighting for justice for Dreyfus. Once he reviewed the paperwork it immediately became clear that Dreyfus had been fitted up by a state consumed by anti-Semitism. Even Inspector Cleuseau on a bad day would only have needed half an hour or so with the evidence to see that the hard drinking, whore loving Count Esterhazy was the real spy. 'L’Aurore' was Zola’s rooftop of choice and he cried long and loud.

The French state didn’t mess about. They had Zola tried for libel in two weeks flat and he only narrowly escaped prison by legging to England to claim asylum. I guess he was lucky it was 1899. He probably wouldn’t have had much joy today.

Once the cat was out of the bag world opinion soon did the rest. Dreyfus was brought back home and fully exonerated. He went on to serve his country with great distinction in the Great War as an artillery officer whilst Zola staked out his place in history as a writer willing to tell the kind of truth nobody wants to hear much.

Sadly the Jews of France had no kind of a happy ending as they went on to a fate worse than death. And then death.

So what is my 'J’Accuse?'

Well it is hardly the Dreyfus Affair. My Alfred Dreyfus is may mate Richard Arkless MP and thankfully he is not about to be shipped off to a British penal island of the coast of the Falklands.

I got to know Richard well during the heady days of the summer of 2014. We were fellow travellers for the 'Yes' campaign and we shared lots of different stages. September 19th saw me return to being an apolitical Charity manager whilst Richard decided to stay in the fray and put his name forward to become the Member of Parliament for Dumfries and Galloway.

In May he won by a country mile.

He is exactly the kind of guy most people want to be an MP. He has never been any kind of political advisor and has spent all of his adult life living in the same real world as the rest of us. He earned his corn first as a corporate lawyer and then as a small businessman selling LED light bulbs online.

He was never paid so much as a penny for the endless hours he dedicated to the dream of Scottish Independence and believe you me, it was a hell of a lot of hours. He did it because he believed in it.


And when the dream of 'Yes' crashed and burned in the early hours of September 19th he chose not to lie down and play dead. Instead he stuck out his chest and continued to fight.

So Richard is a genuine believer in a cause who has lived out his life in the much vaunted real world.
How nice it would be if that kind of determination, passion and energy could be viewed with a degree of respect by those on the other side of the fence.

Fat chance.

Being endlessly attacked has become a very common experience for those of us who stuck our heads above the parapet and fought for 'Yes'. It has been made very clear to us that ours is a crime that will be neither forgotten nor forgiven. We are now deemed to be subversives. Troublemakers. Rebels.

Oh of course in theory we are allowed to claim our birthright of free speech and campaign to live in an Independent Scotland. This is exactly the sort of thing that is supposed to be allowed. In practice the experience is very different indeed.

The 'No' side has been quietly settling scores for over a year now. Project Fear lives on in a constant torrent of disinformation and smear. Of course when any of us complain about this we are immediately mocked and derided for our paranoia.

We are all conspiracy theory loving nut jobs. Oh of course we are.

Luckily the murky forces of Project Fear tend to be pretty rubbish at what they do. Almost every week Wings over Scotland picks apart yet another pitiful attempt to blacken the names of those who continue to speak up for 'Yes'.

There is nothing new in this of course. Britain has hundreds of years of experience when it comes to squashing pesky independence movements. Times have changed of course. Thank God! We are not subjected to the kind of torture and imprisonment that was routinely meted out to those who fought for Indian and Kenyan Independence. Or indeed Irish Independence.

Thankfully rules and regulations mean they have to take a more subtle approach with us. Damp, rat infested cells are no longer a part of the playbook.

Now the playbook is much less in your face. Instead the newly tried and trusted method is to make something up and plaster it across the front pages of the Unionist Press. Once these accusations are slammed down in front of the public under screaming headlines, nobody will be overly bothered to check out the small print.

Classic disinformation.

Last weekend Richard became the latest in a line of victims that stretches back well over a hundred years. Someone, somewhere has deemed him to be a problem. A threat to the Realm. A subversive. An enemy within.

A target.

So what did they do?

They made stuff up and plastered it all over the front page.

Richard got a call on Saturday. Hello Mr Arkless. This is the Sunday Express. This is a courtesy call. You see, we are making you our front page lead tomorrow and not in a good way. We are going to strongly suggest that you are a cheat and a bounder andf an embarrassment to your Party. Any comment Mr Arkless?

Richard asked what on earth he was supposed to have done. They told him that his business was about to be investigated by the Trading Standards. He told them this was news to him and he asked if they would hold the story whilst he looked into it.

Hold the story? Dream on. We’re about to take you to the cleaners sunshine and we can’t bloody wait.

So it was that Richard became front page news.

Of course Trading Standards don’t work on a Sunday so Richard had to sweat out a miserable weekend whilst his phone rang and rang and rang.

On Monday morning he was able to get the facts, every one of which has been confirmed in writing by the Dumfries and Galloway Trading Standards Department.

On October 16th the Citizen’s Advice Helpline received a call from a customer of Richard’s company from somewhere outside Dumfries and Galloway. The caller had a problem with either the product or the service they had received from Richard's company. The caller asked Citizens Advice to forward their complaint to the people at Trading Standards. Citizen Advice informed the caller that this was not the kind of thing Trading Standards would deal with. They explained that it was nothing more than a routine issue to be settled between customer and supplier. They informed Trading Standards as a matter of courtesy and duly closed the case down.

The nature of the complaint is confidential and so we have no clue as to what it was. We probably never will. 

It was one phone call.

Richard asked Trading Standards when the Sunday Express had made contact.

October 16th.

Well would you credit that. The very same day that the complaint was a raised, advised on and closed down. It has to be said that the Sunday Express certainly has its ear to the ground when it comes to a punter receiving a delivery of light bulbs in damaged packaging. Or not.

But there was more.

Oh there really was more. Because in their written response to Richard’s enquiries the people at Trading Standards let him know that the first contact they had received for the Sunday Express had in fact been on October 9th.


What a newspaper. Surely this is the truly remarkable part of the whole story – the astounding reveleation that the Sunday Express is in possession of a fully functional crystal ball. This is the perfect asset for any newspaper. It gives them an ability to see the future in high definition. I am a little confused as to why they decided to use this remarkable asset for something as utterly hum drum as a punter receiving a delivery of defective light bulbs. I mean, they could have predicted 9/11 on 2/11. They could have called the General Election and the Grand National winner and every set of winning lottery numbers. How very odd that the best thing they could do with their supernatural powers was to call Dumfries and Galloway Trading Standards about a complain a week before the actual complain had actually been made. Even though it wasn't actually made. well not to Trading Standards. But never mind.


Hang on a sec here….

Maybe there is another answer.

Maybe someone, somewhere had a quiet word. Over the port and the cigars. Now look here. This Richaqrd Arkless chappie. Don’t like the cut of his jib much. Don’t like it all in fact. Rather hope he might be taken down a peg or two. You know the kind of thing. The man’s a bloody pest.

Could it be that the phone call to the Citizen’s Advice helpline was in fact nothing more than pre-planned mischief making? Oh surely not. And could it be that wires got themselves crossed and that is why the heroic reporter from the Sunday Express rang up to investigate the complaint a full week it was actually made?

The article that followed the damning front page headline was filled with lots of appalling revelations the relentless and intrepid reporters had managed to dig up by their sheer dogged professionalism. It was the kind of journalism that makes the Washington Post’s efforts to shine a light on Watergate look quite pathetic in comparison.

The forensic reporters from the Sunday Express burned the candle at both ends and they dug deep. They read through the Facebook page for Richard’s business. I know. Fantastic isn’t it. Truly inspiring. They really had the courage and tenacity to read through the complaints section on his Facebook page. Respect guys. Serious respect.

And they hit paydirt.

They found the real filthy truth about Richard Arkless MP. Subversive. Enemy within. Threat to the Realm.

Brace yourselves for this is going to be a hard read.

One customer ordered light bulbs on a Monday and hadn’t received them by Wednesday and when he called to complain the phone was not answered.

Christ. It makes you shudder. It really does. How could anyone do that?

And it gets worse.

Another customer complained that the website wasn’t working properly.

Well there really is nothing more to be said, is there? The website wasn’t working. Jesus Richard. And to think I actually considered you to be a friend. Well I know the horrible truth now. You are the kind of scum who runs a company which has a website that sometimes doesn’t work.

You utter bastard. I can only thank God that we now know the truth about you. This is where democracy needs a free press to keep the likes of you honest.

You deserve to rot in hell.

This morning I glanced through yesterday’s edition of the Dumfries Standard. It is not every day that our local MP finds himself all over the front page of a national Sunday paper. In fact I am pretty certain that it is the first time such a thing has happened in twenty years. Let’s face it, Dumfries and Galloway is hardly a region with a particularly high profile.

Oddly enough there was not so much as a sentence about the scandal.

The Standard had obviously checked out the Sunday Express story and then cross referenced it with the facts from the Trading Standards Department and quickly concluded that not only was it not a front page story, but it wasn’t any kind of story at all.

It was nothing more than a badly executed stitch up that fell apart within hours. But I don’t suppose anyone will lose any sleep. When all is said and done they succeeded in what they set out to do. They slagged Richard off on the front page and plenty of the mud will stick.

It is clear that this isn’t about to stop any time soon. It will go on and on and on until the day finally arrives when enough of us vote 'Yes' and we can be done with these ghastly people for ever and ever.


Until that day we just need to stick together and keep on fighting.

So Rich, a few very well worn words of advice.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I took a drive through the Eurotunnel a few days ago and I was surprised to bump into a few unexpected ghosts. Over the last ten years or so, the journey from Dumfries to Belgium and back has become a part of my routine. It is my tobacco run. Twenty hours of driving to buy a year’s worth of nicotine addiction. £900 on the credit card for tobacco which would set me back over £6000 were I to buy it in Tesco.

Sorry George, but that’s life. You’re just going to have to tax some other poor sod to death.

I left at five in the evening and drove east along Hadrian’s Wall with the dying autumn sun at my back. By the time I hit the A1 it was well and truly dark. A gliding drive south through the slowly unfolding hours of a regulation weekday night. Familiar landmarks. Doncaster. Newark. Grantham. Stamford. Once upon a time I covered these very same miles in my old VW Beetle as I headed north from the ancient Disneyland of Cambridge to the bear pit of Anfield and 1980’s Liverpool. There are no more roundabouts now. And the airbases are empty of American planes. The Pershing missiles of the 80’s have been replaced a chain of gaudily lit roadside diners.

Night driving makes the mind wander, usually backwards. When you drive the length of the A1 you can feel the shift from North to South in your bones. Once upon a time it wasn’t so very subtle because the North still looked like the North. The horizon framed great mills and winch gear on top of the pits. In the year we won the European Cup in Rome for the second time, a ride up the Al meant being stopped at least three times by hard faced coppers in riot gear. Who are you? Where are you going? Where have you come from? It was really hard to make them believe that I really was nothing more than a student headed back north to watch the match. I was male. I was in my early twenties. I was a scruffy bastard in a clapped out car. They saw me as a flying picket trying to make my way to the front line of the Miner’s Strike. My Lancashire accent marked me out as being the ‘Enemy Within’.

Now the visual gap between the north and the south is rather more subtle. More traffic. Huge infrastructure projects. Less patience.

Once I was over the Thames the road signs started to tell me there were delays at Junction 11A of the M20. Sod it. Was that the exit to the Eurotunnel? Probably. Pictures of a twenty hour snarl up started to form.
Maidstone Services at two in the morning. I logged onto the Eurotunnel site to be informed there were no problems. Not tonight. Operation Stack was not required. Not tonight. So maybe it would be OK.
I waited on a black coffee from the smiling East Europeans who were running the 24 hour McDonalds. A young couple joined me at the counter. Early twenties and dressed up to and beyond the nines in designer ware. They had followed me onto the car park in the kind of car that would make a copper with a speed gun lick his lips with anticipation.

They were dolled up for the kind of night club we get to see on the Bacardi adverts on the TV. After huge consideration, they ordered just about everything on the menu and then carried their feast next door to a room of gaudily flashing slot machines that promised a maximum win of a thousand pounds.

Was this the destination they had in mind when they spent big on getting their hair done with such precsion? Life in the fast lane? Two thirty in the morning with a Big Mac meal and a slot machine promising a grand to the lucky winner?

Young designer love in Britain 2015.
Once I was within thirty miles of the Eurotunnel there were wagons everywhere. Parked up. Beached. Hundreds and hundreds of them. This was not Operation Stack. This was clearly the new normal.
There was a five mile queue of them at Junction 11A. 

But the car lane was empty. I felt a bizarre guilt as I slid by and checked myself onto the 5.30 crossing.
It was still dark when I reached France and the road to Belgium was pre dawn quiet. I parked up, crashed out and by 8.30 I was on the road back to the tunnel complete with a bootfull of Virginia’s best.
A watery sun lit up a picture of utter chaos. It felt like every wagon in Europe was clogging up every centimetre of spare ground in and around Calais. Hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds. They were queuing two abreast for the last ten miles of motorway before the tunnel. The remaining two lanes were not enough to deal with the day to day traffic. So all was snarled and in every car there seemed to be a fuming face. Christ the people of Calais must be seriously pissed off with having the paranoid craziness of the British immigration policy dumped on their doorstep.

Once again there was no queue for cars.

But the wagons? Their queue must have been at least two or three days long. Once upon a time I had a lot of dealings with the haulage industry and their profit margins are forever tight. The chaotic Calais car park must surely be  graveyard for hundreds of small haulage companies. You can’t make any kind of living when your truck stands idle for days at a time because Theresa May wants to look good in the eyes of the Daily Mail. It hit me that the hundreds of static trucks represent our life blood. We neither make stuff nor grow stuff any more. Instead our miraculous economy is all about printing money and buying what we need form someone else. 

Including 70% of our food.
On any given day our supermarkets have enough in the cupboards to cover two days of sales. After two days we all rely on the supply chain. After two days we rely on all of those hundreds and hundreds of wagons to keep the shelves topped up. In the 1940’s we all relied on the Atlantic convoys to bring us our daily bread. Then the enemy was the U boat fleet for the Kriegsmarine. Now we rely on thousands of wagons, most of them owned and driven by one man band operations trying to scratch enough of a living to cover the mortgage. They are not facing oblivion care of one of Admiral Canaris’s torpedoes. Instead their enemy is to be found in the bitter and twisted corridors of the Home Office where it seems to have been deemed to be acceptable for our haulage fleet to be sacrificed in order to keep 3000 refugees living rough in the woods outside Calais.

Nice one Theresa. It seems the Welfare Reforms are not making enough people hungry for your liking. First you starve the unemployed poor. Then you starve the working poor. And then the only thing left to do is starve every bugger else.

But hey, at least the Daily Mail will be happy and they will keep telling you what a completely terrific gal you are and my oh my aren’t those new shoes to completely die for.

The Calais end of the Eurotunnel has changed a lot over recent years. Now it is all about fences. Lots and lots of fences. High gleaming fences with razor wire glittering in the morning sun.

Fortress Britain on French soil.

Dodgy semi armoured vans riding the no-mans land between the fences. No mines there yet. No machine gun nests either. Just lots of hard faced tyoes cradling automatic weapons and itching to let the bullets fly.

And this was the moment when my unexpected ghost arrived.

The early eighties were a time when a daft lad looking to walk on the wild side didn’t have to travel all that far to get a feel for life on the edge. A short ferry ride over the waters of the Irish Sea would take you to the bullet scarred streets of West Belfast where a Lancashire accent in the wrong pub could earn you the kicking of your life. Or much, much worst.

And then there were the trips into the East. Through the Iron Curtain. Into the frightening greyness of East Germany. The other side of the looking glass. A border like no other. Rough handling and god help any Westerner who hadn’t left a bottle of scotch handily placed for the guys with the unsmiling faces.

Three times I went through the line at Eisenach. A small town on the Thuringian plain. A small town on the road to Leipzig with its vast smoke belching factories.

At night you could see the Eisenach border crossing from about three miles out as the straight line of the autobahn carried you towards the glow of the arclights.

It was a huge sprawling place of brutal white light and watch towers and fences.

Fences and fences and fences.

On one side of the fence were chocolate villages with streets full of Mercs and BMWs and supemarkets selling mountains of bananas. One the other side of the fence were smoke belching Trabants and not a banana to be found. Ever.

And between the one and the other was Eisenach.

Fences and fences and fences.

And a clear message. You are not welcome here. Not now. Not ever. We don’t want your type.

We don’t do niceties here.

We don’t greet visitors with a warm smile.

We don’t say ‘Welcome to the German Democratic Republic, we hope you enjoy your stay.”

Oh no.

Not here.

Not in Eisanach.

Not in this nest of razor wire.

Here we are all about dead eyes and machine gun towers.

Here the message to visitors is crystal clear.

Why not fuck off.

Before we shoot you.

Eisenach border crossing on a glittering winter night was like nowhere else. It was the Cold War up close and personal. It left a mark.

And now as I made my way through security zones of fencing and hard faced men with cradled guns, the ghost of Eisenach was in the passenger seat.    

We don’t do niceties here.

We don’t greet visitors with a warm smile.

We don’t say ‘Welcome to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we hope you enjoy your stay.”

Oh no.

Not here.

Not in Calais GB.

Not in this nest of razor wire.

Here we are all about dead eyes and machine guns

Here the message to visitors is crystal clear.

Why not fuck off.

Before we shoot you.

And once again it hit me. We are slowly but surely becoming East Germany. A small battened down hateful place when nasty beaurocrats hold sway. We’re good at sport and rubbish at everything else except corruption on an industrial scale. We have CCTV instead of the Stasi, but Big Brother watches all the same.
We have walled ourselves in to treasure our arrogant mediocrity. And we spend our money on fences and fences and fences.

And we have spent big to get our very own Eisenach.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Over the last few months it has become increasingly common for people to call me a Marxist. All kinds of people. Invariably this has been done with a smile in the voice which suggests mild amusement rather than any kind of Ronald Reagan style loathing. 

I find it somewhat bizarre to be honest. In my fifty four years on the planet I have never read so much as a word written by the German immigrant with the big beard. I suppose the fact that the renowned author of Das Kapital is remembered with a degree of affection says a lot about the guy. These days he would have been a tabloid hate figure on three levels. Big beard, European migrant and Leftie – a heady cocktail for any Daily Mail headline writer.

I guess he probably stands at number two on the list of the most successful German immigrants to set down roots in the UK. Well maybe not. Can Aldi and Lidl be classed as German immigrants? What is beyond doubt is that Karl has never remotely threatened the greatest immigrant family of them all for the top slot. Few families in history have been as upwardly mobile as the Saxe Coburgs of Gotha. I mean, come on. Old Karl might have a fancy tomb in Hampstead but it pales into insignificance when held up against Buck Palace, Windsor and Balmoral.

On the whole question of who is the most successful German immigrant, I now have skin in the game which has nothing whatsoever to do with being branded as a Marxist. As a lifelong Koppite I am now also a Kloppite and hopefully Liverpool Football Club's new bearded wonder from the Black Forest is about to leave a legacy to make Karl Marx’s efforts seem trivial.

I find it particularly amusing when my pal Councillor Archie Dryburgh calls me a Marxist. This comes from a lifelong Union man who would be in his element in the midst of a picket line brawl. Archie was extolling the virtues of Jeremy Corbyn ten minutes after the beared wonder threw his hat in the ring. And still this old school firebrand calls ME a Marxist!

Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

So how on earth have I attracted this strange label? Well in some quarters it seems that supporting the dream of an independent Scotland is deemed to be clear evidence of loony leftism. That of course is when we are not being branded as old school nationalist fascists from the Mussolini school of black shirtedness.

Maybe that’s it then.

Or maybe it is because I have completely lost any faith I might have had of Capitalism being a good way to run a railroad. Questioning capitalism is still not allowed. We are required to accept it warts and all. End of story. It’s not up for discussion. Anyone who questions capitalism is treated in much the same way as those who once upon a time had the temerity to suggest that the world might not be flat after all.

I don’t question capitalism as a result of ploughing through the pages of Das Kapital. Instead I have given it a once over as a cynical old Lancastrian and it seems pretty damned obvious that it ain’t working. 

When capitalism burst onto the scene a couple of hundred years ago, it was the kind of ultra simple idea that was bound to catch on. Lots of ultra clever guys were inventing a whole bunch of cool stuff like steam engines and trains and Spinning Jennys. The Industrial Revolution was making all things possible and factories were the absolute thing. But massive red brick factories don’t come cheap and the money had to come from somewhere. Capitalism created the answer and allowed those with all the old money to invest in the new technologies. They bought stocks and shares, enjoyed the dividends and sold them on for a fat profit.
So it was the First World was born and the rest of the world was left floundering in our wake as we roared off over the horizon riding in our shiny new steam trains. Like Jim Morrison said, ‘The West is the best.’

It wasn’t pretty of course. The average age for a Lancastrian factory worker in 1840 was less than forty. And when the salesmen couldn’t open up new markets for our goods, we used gunboats and soldiers to find buyers for our Sheffield steel and Dewsbury wool and Blackburn cotton. 

Buy our stuff our else. Wog.
In the end the big scramble for market share got completely out of hand and World War One put an end to the golden era of untrammelled, buccaneering capitalism. Then came seventy years when capitalism was looked on fondly because it was so patently better than Bolshevik Communism which was all about secret policemen and rotten cabbage. It was easy to miss the bad bits of capitalism when the hard faced men in the fur hats were to be seen on the Kremlin balcony watching their nukes trundle by every May Day.

The comfort blanket of communism was ripped away when the Berlin Wall crashed and ever since it has become harder and harder to see capitalism in any kind of good light. The years since the collapse of the Soviet Union have seem a vast chunk of the world’s wealth flow into the offshore coffers of a thousand or so ulta rich individuals who make Scrooge look like a rank amateur when it comes to hoarding. Now the eighty five richest people on the planet own more than the four billion poorest. Maybe I have become a complete Trot in my old age, but I cannot for the life of me see how this can possibly be deemed to be a good thing.

Those of us who feel it would be a good idea to redistribute these vast treasure troves among the billions who try to get by on a dollar a day are deemed to be barking mad extremists by the very same people who thought it was a great idea to sell mortgages to people with neither jobs nor income and pretend they were worth something by wrapping them up in shiny paper.

Examples of the abject failure of capitalism are all around us and yet we seem determined to ignore them. In this respect, we are al little like the last citizens of ancient Rome. When the vast armies Gauls and Vandals were massing at the gates, the citizens of Rome were still convinced that everything was going to be OK because the the priests in the temple were slaughtering a variety of animals and then promising that everything was hunky dory.


A couple of weeks ago I made a call to the bank to ask a couple of questions about the mortgage. ‘What kind of mortgage do you have Mr Frankland?’ asked the voice on the phone. When I told him it was a repayment mortgage there was something of a stunned silence. It was a bit like I had told him that I commuted to work every day in a horse driven carriage.

A repayment mortgage? How very quaint. He obviously wasn’t used to repayment mortgages. Instead he was used to the shiny interest only variety. The ones with as much reality as the promises made by the doomed high priests of the Roman Empire.

Once you take a step back, the capitalist play book is such utter nonsense.

You take a two bedroom flat in a high rise block in Hackney. You pretend it is worth £600,000. Which is completely ridiculous of course. Then you find a couple of young professionals who between them are earning £80,000 a year gross and £50,000 net. Hi folks! Why not buy a nice two bedder in high rise Hackney? Oh but we simply can’t afford it Mr Banker. After all, a repayment mortgage will cost us £42,000 a year and we only earn £50,000. It’s quite impossible.

Oh don't worry yourselves you nice young hard working couple. I will give you a super duper interest omly mortgage for a piddling £18,000 a year. Peanuts. But Mr Nice Banker, where will you find £600,000 to lend us for our piece of high rise Hackney heaven? Oh that’s easy peasy. I’m a banker. I'm Alchemist of the twenty first century. A high priest. Just you watch. All I need to do is press this button on my key board and hey presto, the money is right here. I could say I have printed the money, but that would be wrong of me. Instead I have merely created a digital six and five digital noughts. Now. You jusy sign here and for the next twenty five years you can give me £18,000 a year in exchange for me creating a digital six and five digital noughts on my screen. And then will we own our little piece of high rise Hackney heaven Mr Banker? No. Who will own it? Me. But what is in it for us then? Oh lots ands lots. You see, in a year’s time your flat will be worth £700,000 and you will have earned yourselves a digital one and five digital noughts.

And all the while nobody wants to stop and take a moment and ask how it can be that a poxy two bedroom flat in Hackney can ever be deemed to be worth £600,000. As in twenty four times the national average wage.

Whichever way you look at it, such a state of affairs is abject lunacy. But we don’t look. To look is the see the kind of truth we don’t want to see. It is the hard truth so brutally demonstrated in the suburbs of Detroit when houses which were deemed to be worth $100,000 fell all the way to being offered for sale at $10 each. And still there were no buyers.

What kind of system can claim that a house is worth $100,000 in May and a sound investment and then turn full circle and value the very same asset at $10 and say it represents a lousy investment in October?

Complete nuts.

Imagine yourself back in 2007. You have £200,000 in the bank and you need to invest it in your future. It’s your nest egg. It will have to look after you in your old age. It’s a truly massive decision, right? So you need to be sensible and careful and conservative and cautious. This is no time to be throwing your life savings at Fancy Dan dot com start ups.

So you play it safe. Sensible. You go blue chip. You stick to the cast iron rules of capitalism and you seek safety and security in the comforting arms of the trusted and the big.

You divide your nest egg into five and you put it where it is safer than safe.

£40,000 to the nation's greatest grocer.


£40,000 to the nation's greatest bank.

The Royal Bank of Scotland

£40,000 to Europe’s greatest car maker: 


£40,000 to the nations greatest oil giant.


£40,000 to the nation's greatest purveyor of all things electrical.


Blue chip compamies selling blue chip products that people will always buy. Surely....

I wonder how much your £200,000 would be worth today after all of those careful, safe investments? 

Maybe £60,000?

You would have been £140,000 better off had you drawn the cash and stuffed it in the mattress. So much for the cast iron security of blue chip capitalism.

Once upon a time Capitalism was all about building factories and making stuff and selling stuff for a profit which was then shared out among the stockholders. It made sense in a way, though not much for the poor sods who worked in the factories.

Now it is all about finding new and fancy ways to pretend that something that is worth a quid is actually worth a tenner and getting a bunch of suckers to buy it in the hope that it will be worth twenty quid next year.
Those in the middle of the con know they have a matter of months to get their cash out and stuff it away in Grand Cayman before the wheels fall off and the real value to the asset is revealed for all of the world to see.

Two bedroom flats in Hackney aren’t worth £600,000. Not even close. In the old sane days of capitalism, the price of bricks and mortar was deemed to be three and a half times the income of the buyers. Maybe £175,000 would be vaguely realistic. £600,000 is utter nonsense and one day the whole house of cards will crash. And when it crashes everyone will wonder how on earth anyone had ever imagined that two bedroom flats in Hackney could possibly be worth £600,000. A bit like how people now scratch their heads and wonder how in a million years anyone could ever have believed it was worth paying £60 for an RBS share which is worth £3.50 today.

Well. I have never read Das Kapital. But I have an idea that Karl Marx clearly saw the kind of road capitalism was travelling. And he predicted it would all end in tears.

I can only agree. Does that make me a Marxist? I suppose it does in a way. Oddly enough, it is still the case that anyone who agrees with Karl Marx is deemed to be a barking mad extremist whilst those who still feel that Sir Fred Goodwin was on the right track are deemed to be sound chaps one and all.

Oh really?   

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


It was only a little over a year ago when Scotland seemed to be on the brink of a new beginning. Just for a few weeks. A few amazing weeks when the sun seemed to shine every day.

There was no sunshine on September 19th of course. It was a grey day in every sense. And now we are back to business as usual. So much for all of those promises of life being better should we wake up to the fact that we are better together.

There seem to be an awful lot of Union flags in Manchester’s Midland Hotel this week. Interestingly enough, this grand old Victorian pile was once upon a time pre-selected by Hitler to be the Nazi HQ of a conquered Britain. A different sort of take on the whole Norther Powerhouse idea. I guess he would have instructed his interior designers to hang plenty of flags from every available wall as well.

The Tories are clearly very pleased and proud of themselves and they miss no opportunity to tell us all how proud we should be of our better together Kingdom.

Oh really?

A year on and it is very hard for 'Yes' supporters to resist the temptation of sayimg we told you so.

Britain is a hard country to feel proud of in the era of Dave and George.

Our reaction to the death of a quarter of a million Syrians, mainly care of Assad’s barrel bombs?

Drop more bombs of course.

Our reaction to the greatest tide of human misery and desperation Europe has seen since those days when Uncle Adolf eyed up a top floor suite in the Midland Hotel?

Pull up the drawbridge and lock the doors tight.

And all the while the poor get punished whilst the super rich get super richer. Tax on inherited houses worth a million quid? – Down. Tax credits for the poorest of working families? Down

A few months ago the United Nations released its five yearly report of the world’s drug crisis. They explained how the times they are a changing. Colombia’s time as bad guy number one seems to be over. Now there are new kids on the block.

The report summed up the state of play in the global narcotics trade rather succinctly.

‘Mexico is the heart: London is the head’

Better together in Dave and George’s land of racketeers and money launderers. We’ll wash your cash and sell you weapons with no strings attached. It’s what we do. It’s how we roll. Thirty years ago this Joe Strummer line appeared in the album Sandinista.

‘In a war torn swamp stop any mercenary and check the British bullets in his armoury.”

The big problem with a country where there is untrammelled nastiness at the top is that the self same untrammelled nastiness seeps all the way down to the bottom. The programme schedulers at Channel 5 have a good reason for giving their prime time over to a seemingly endless series of programmes designed to mock and demonise the poor. They have identified a market. In fact it is the very same market that Dave and George managed to tap into on May 7th.

A market made up of many of the same people who said No Thanks last September. I’m all right Jack so even though everything around me is crap, I will hang on to what I’ve got. Better the Devil you know…

For the first time in well over a hundred years there is a vast national debate about which people are the deserving poor and which are undeserving. The despicable underclass who are shirking and scrounging and not playing up and playing the game.

There is a chap who isn’t willing to grace the world with his name who writes long angry letters to our local paper every week explaining why I should be ashamed at myself for refusing to take time out to harangue the people who come to First Base to eat. He is disgusted at me for not taking time out to lay into the feckless for the bad life choices they have made. Week after week the letters page carries his angry, poisoned words. How dare First Base give these undeserving wretches a tin of beans for their tea!

At times I read his bile and wonder if the date at the top of the page is in fact 1873 and the front page dominated by the story of a British punitive column slaying an army of uppity natives in Bechuanaland.
My letter writing nemesis is adamant that the vast silent majority of Brits are well and truly on his side of the fence. Make the lazy buggers pay a heavy price for their dissolute lives! Starve the idle swine into finding a zero hours job! And let's all heed the sage worlds of our gallant and far sighted Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt who boldly announced that stripping the working poor of their tax credits will encourage them to work as hard as Chinamen.

Christ it’s depressing.

There was a nasty little meeting in Dumfries last week which epitomised the hideous world of Dave and George and the Daily Mail.

I received an e mail a while back. An electronic invitation. Some half forgotten group from some half forgotten quango from Tony Blair’s time was meeting up to discuss the provision of emergency food in the region. A talking shop? Probably. Jugs of luke warm coffee and market value biscuits. Did you see that programme on Channel Five last night…..?

Should we go? Probably. I put off deciding. To be honest I have had a lifetime’s fill of talk about working in partnerships to deliver support to service users at the interface of the third sector and the public sector. Endless earnest sentences stuffed to bursting point with the politically correct jargon of the day.

Should we go? Probably.

I put off replying. And then I forgot to reply. And then other events swept through my life and I forgot all about it. Which meant that I was somewhere else entirely when the time for the meeting arrived and there was no First Base representative to join in with all the interface talk.

So it was that Lesley got a call last Thursday afternoon. Where are you? The meeting has started? You need to come! And so it was that Lesley duly dropped everything and legged it across town to fly the First Base flag.

She hadn’t been in the room so very long when she wished she had left the summons to attend to be dealt with by the answer phone. The feeling of the meeting was that it was a great shame that there seemed to be an impass between First Base and Trussell Trust. Everyone got into a Geneva mood and decided it was high time for a peace accord to be announced. Come on Lesley. Shake hands! Bask in the kind of moment that Begin and Arafat once enjoyed on the White House lawn.

Talk about being put on the spot. Put in the spotlight. Come on Lesley. Shake hands! There’s a good girl now. You know it’s the right thing to do….

So she shook. What the hell else was she going to do?

And then the meeting moved along to the business of the day in the spirit of peace and harmony. Emergency food provision in and around Dumfries. No doubt the main item on the agenda would be how all the support agencies might collectively meet the needs of all the families who are about to lose £2000 a year as a punishment for not being paid enough.

Well. No actually. Instead the meeting was all about how to create a robust system to make sure the undeserving poor didn’t get a hold of food they didn’t deserve. It became very clear to Lesley that everyone had been watching Channel 5 on a nightly basis. A vast new database is required to identify the rotten apples and to make sure they get nothing until they spend a long time in front of the mirror and own up to the fact that they are basically wicked and worthless human beings.

It should be made very clear that there is no place for these kinds of people in Dave and George’s brave new world. They must be stopped in their tracks. They must be issued with a prescription of tough love. Because Dave and George cannot succeed in their historic task when the Voluntary Sector panders to the shirkers and the scroungers by feeding them when they are hungry. After all, we are learning NOT to feed seagulls and foxes, right? Urban pests.

Is the fact that one or two chancers talk themselves into a food parcel they don’t strictly need the biggest problem we face right now? Of course it isn’t. The problem is that we aren’t giving out nearly enough emergency food. We should be seeing lots more of the workimg families who Dave and George are hell bent on kicking in the teeth. We are seeing a steady increase. You know who they are the moment they come through the door. How? Because the first thing they say is ‘Sorry’. The next thing they say is that they never dreamed they woul ever have to come to a place like ours to put food on the table. And over the course of a five minute chat, it soon becomes clear that they really should have come to us at least six months sooner. Because the six months will have seen them fall into the suffocating embrace of the likes of Wonga.

Right now we are handing out 100 food parcels a week. The figure really should be at least 150. The reason why it isn’t 150? Simple. Stigma. The fear of being seen. The fear of the vicious gossip from vicious neighbours who spend their evenings hating the poor care of Channel 5. Vicious neighbours who spend their mornings hating the poor over their Cornlakes care of the Daily Mail.

Of course everyone doesn’t really hate the poor. If they did, there is no way in a million years that we would be receiving £50,000 a year’s worth of donated food. My letter writing pal has it entirely wrong on this point. The silent majority are the ones who hand in the tins of beans and soup. The problem is that the constant message of hate that comes from the Government and the media makes it seem like every man and his dog is a Channel 5 devotee, even though their viewing fugures hardly set the heather on fire.

It is bad enough when the likes of my letter writing friend jump on the band wagon. But when so called support agencies join in enthusiastically over coffee and value biscuits, it becomes truly depressing.

Better Together in Dave and George’s world where judging people is the hip thing to do.

The next day Lesley received a call from the Trussell Trust to rubber stamp the new mood of peace and accord. 

They have just given out a food parcel to Joe Bloggs. So. Should Joe Bloggs come in to us looking for food we need to know that he isn’t entitled to one.

We have known the Joe Bloggs in question for years. He is a thoroughly decent guy who has fallen on hard times. Really hard times. No money. No electric in the plugs and barely a shred of hope to make the next day worth living. A proud man reduced to roaming the streets hunting for docked out fags.

But he wouldn’t scam us in a million years. Not a chance. What conceivable right did they have to make such an arbitrary judgement about him? And to share it? And why had they come to such a damning conclusion which they felt compelled to share? I have no idea, though I suspect it must have been his appearance. When you go for months on end with neither electricity nor cash, your appearance tends to go downhill. And so it was that this particular book was duly judged by it’s careworn cover.

Judged to be one of those bad poor people. Undeserving.

Joe Bloggs didn’t come in to scam a food parcel. Of course he didn’t. But it’s the thought that counts, right?