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Jeremy Thorpe: why I believed in him at the time

June 10, 2018

David Boyle writes:

I watched the Thorpe scandal on the BBC series A Very English Scandal with a great deal of emotion. In fact, at the end of the last programme, I found myself in tears – and I’ve been wondering why ever since.

It was, of course, brilliantly directed, written and acted – and also brilliantly evocative of a period when I was first politically aware.

I remember vividly poring over the blow-by-blow accounts of the trial in the Telegraph in my friend Stuart’s room in college (I still have the cuttings somewhere).

That was before I knew Thorpe himself, many years later. He and Marion were very kind to me. He was also still a purveyor of the Liberal, and now the Lib Dem, besetting sin – policy wheezes designed to attract attention, but with virtually no content.

And admire him as I did, especially in those trial days – and I joined the party only weeks before the trial – that was the Thorpe problem: brilliant razzmatazz, genuine Liberal convictions, but no coherent programme.

I’m not sure if I was weeping for myself or for my party. Or indeed for Thorpe and Scott, who both seem to me – and the series portrayed this even-handedly – the victims of forces beyond themselves.

As I appear to be the only person on earth to remember what the late 1970s felt like, I feel some responsibility to explain what it seemed like at the time.

It certainly was hardly an easy time to be a Liberal (it was the pillow-biting that did it). I remember convincing myself, after reading the detailed account of Norman Scott’s meltdown during the trial – not included in the BBC drama – that his affair with Thorpe was a fantasy, though realising that Thorpe may, even so, be guilty of incitement to murder, along the lines of Henry II and Thomas Becket.

It was a period of complex conspiracy theories – now long forgotten – and so here are three to explain some of the background.

  1. The Apartheid Connection. It was widely believed that the acquittal of Peter Hain, then Young Liberal chair, on a charge of theft, was despite a plot to bring about a case of mistaken identity engineered by the South African secret service. Hain and Thorpe were two of the most prominent anti-Apartheid activists in the UK, so it seemed likely to us at the time that the Scott affair had some South African links too. That was, unfortunately, also what led us to dismiss the allegations made public by RAP about Cyril Smith.
  2. The Harold Wilson connection. It was strange, as I remember it, that the trial of Andrew Newton, the would-be assassin, took place on the same day as Wilson announced his resignation and Princess Anne announced her divorce. Wilson was connected because he had secretly contacted two Sunday Times journalists, told them he would guide them to a big story, and then got irritated because instead he had guided them to the Thorpe Affair, which they then failed to look behind. You can read what they found in The Pencourt File.
  3. The intelligence connection. What was Wilson’s real story? It seems likely that it was his conviction that the intelligence services were plotting against him. You can read more on this in The Wilson Plot. And here we find ourselves at the heart of the real conspiracy theory, during this strange period of private armies. In 1987, the Sunday Times reported on the 1975 plot to borrow the QE2, put Wilson and his cabinet aboard and take over the government. You can read a little about this shadowy affair, by members of the establishment and the military, here. Those involved, as the Sunday Times did not report, were also linked to the bid to make Margaret Thatcher leader of the opposition that same year.

I have long since abandoned the hope that maybe Thorpe was innocent. But equally I don’t think the Scandal series was quite accurate in its portrayal of a politician protected by the establishment. Of course, Thorpe was protected, but only because they had already thrown him to the wolves to distract from the real story.

Or have I myself become victim to the conspiracy mania that the 1970s seems to have generated?

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Do people really still hate Govia Thameslink?

May 24, 2018

David Boyle writes:

I remember some years ago a TV documentary called ‘why do people hate Ryanair?’ I found it so influential that I never flew with them again.

What particularly struck me was the way they hid the free or cheap options on their website. It was as if this had confirmed what was otherwise an uneasy sense that the company regarded their customers with some contempt.

So I have been wondering why people hate Govia, operators of Southern Rail. On the face of it, the last two years of insane disruption has not been their fault. CEO Charles Horton is a mere cipher, pushed this way and that between the demands of owners Go-ahead and the Department of Transport. The mess has been an inevitable result of a dysfunctional contract.

It is true he has not played a difficult hand that well, but even so. The mess – and the new train I tried to catch today (the 10.43 from Shoreham-by-Sea) has disappeared from the timetable after only four days – has been a result primarily of their failure to recruit enough drivers. But even that mistake derived from a contract that divides their interests from those of their passengers.

But then take a little look at their irritating ticket machines. They will no longer sell period returns, which is infuriating enough. But the main page only offers you tickets to London Terminals, which is £5 more expensive where I live than a ticket to London Victoria. But there is no option for that.

You can get the proper fare but only by searching for Victoria – a process that takes 15 keystrokes with dysfunctional machines and an impatient queue behind you.

I asked a technician about this earlier in the week and he said they would recommend a change to Govia. We will see what they say.

That may not be a good enough reason to hate a prisoner of Chris Grayling, but it doesn’t exactly imply customer care. You can read some of the history of all this in my book Cancelled!

Sadly the same abuses happen in most privatised services, just as they did before they were privatised. It isn’t a question of public or private, in fact. It is a matter of big versus small – and aligning the interests of operators with customers. Otherwise the gods clash in battles above our heads, us ordinary train travellers. And it isn’t fun.

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May 1968, the Liberals and community politics

May 09, 2018

David Boyle writes…

The Real Press specialises in history, but we also publish the occasional self-help or how-to-do-it guide. One of these was Fourth to Firstwhich was part history of a Norfolk County Council election and part guide to winning using updated community politics techniques. It struck me that we should have a closer look at where community politics came from originally. Hence this blog.

I turned ten in May 1968. I remember how upset I was at all the Paris students breaking up the pavements to throw stones at the police. I was clearly not a very radical little boy.

Fifty years on, it does give us a chance to take another look at the heady mix of angry student radicals, community organising, hippies tuning in and dropping out, plus the civil rights movement in the the big US cities and the divided cities of Northern Ireland. It was hard to make sense of it at the time, and almost as hard now.

It was also in some ways the culmination of an equally wild and heady mixture of narratives, including the self-help movement, the anarchic street theatre, adventure playground and city farm movements, the first seeds of community protest, and the whole bundle of revolts against conventional institutions and politics of right and left.

It is a mixture that is known really only as the ‘counterculture’. It didn’t mean that you had to throw flagstones at the police to be part of it, but the counterculture was in revolt against the technocratic thinking that brought us the whole gamut of monstrosities posing as progress – high rise flats, nuclear missiles, the Vietnam War, urban motorways and so on.

Like TV channels in those days, there were only three mainstream political parties. And looking back, it seems to me that the Liberal Revival (1958-2015) was an expression of this same critique of conventional progress. If so, that was largely because of the thoughtful positioning of Jo Grimond.

And therein lies the tragedy. There were powerful forces pulling both ways in the party during those years – those who wanted to embrace the countercultural critique more wholeheartedly, and those who distrusted it and wanted the party to remain a conventional subset of the corporate establishment.

There were counterculture victories. The emergence of community politics owed itself directly to the aftermath of 1968. But sadly the counterculture has petered out inside the Lib Dems, and has become so much part of the background noise that nobody really notices it any more.

Consequently, those at the heart of the 1968 revolt were looking for independence – or were inner-directed, to use the jargon of the 1980s – so wholeheartedly that they backed Margaret Thatcher in 1979, who provided something rather different. Rather like the hero of Malcolm Bradbury’s campus revolt novel The History Man.

It seems to me that the opportunity is still there, not completely filled by the Greens: the Conservative commitment to independence is misleading, and Labour is not interested. The Lib Dems won’t fill it either with conventional soft left Fabianism – the counterculture was also in revolt against Labour welfarism – or with conventional yellow-tinged establishment thinking either.

Will they seize the day? They certainly will not do without looking a little closer at their own history, as I have tried to help them do here.

You can read our new version of community politics in Steffan and Freya Aquarone’s book Fourth to First here.

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Man, it’s sweary! Simon Zec on his poems…

May 03, 2018

Web diary by Simon Zec..

1 May 2018

After months of fallowness, within two days, I’d written two more poems.

All it took was to get a book published. It’s re-inspired me.

And tonight, I went out to an evening organised by the bookshop and listened to other people’s poems and music and words and it was lovely.

I was introduced to a couple of people as a poet and a bard and someone else recognised me from a while ago and remembered my mattress poem.

Last time I met her, she asked where she could get a copy and I had nothing to offer. Now I could say she can get it online and hopefully soon in the Steyning bookshop. It’s all very surreal.

Apparently now I have sold ten copies. That’s double figures. So not only am I a poet, I’m a published poet, who has sales of over ten.

Sara from the bookshop reiterated the offer of having a book launch. It seems a self indulgent thing to do, but it may never happen again.

I might get a poem out of it at least.

So, in my first week as a published poet, it’s all been very exciting. And tomorrow, hopefully, I get to look at a print edition of my book. That feels like a really cool thing to happen, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to play it anywhere near cool.

3 May 2018

The book arrived yesterday and I got to hold in my hand my own copy. Decidedly weird. One slight error with the book but easily amended. Also making these first few copies extra rare!

I self consciously, self absorbedly read it.

Man, it’s sweary.

I mean, I know I’m sweary, but in a book it really comes across.

Chatting to my partner, we realised it might be problematic for the kids to read it.

I think I intentionally put in some of the more personal stuff that I don’t often share. When I wrote them, I wasn’t really planning to publish them.

Now they are out there and the (over ten) people who’ve bought the book (mainly/only friends) also get to see the stuff I didn’t think would ever see the light of day.

Now I have the problem of how to deal with letting the kids see the side of me that they don’t need to know about.

Past drug taking, calling my dad the worst word. They will see it eventually and I suppose I will have to deal with it somehow.

I’m amazed by all the people buying the book. Some really nice feedback so far. But no one is really going slag it off, certainly not to my face.

As a countenance to wandering around behaving like a poet and self promoting, in the past two days, in the real world, I got soaked to my skin and had to pick up a rotting carcass of a hedgehog. The smell was retchingly bad. The two different lives couldn’t be further from each other!

Simon Zec’s poems are published in the new Real Press book Death of the Suburb, available on kindle and as a paperback – at the moment only from Amazon but soon also from here. See this title on our website here.

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However you organise UK railways, the Treasury always wins

April 22, 2018

David Boyle writes:

I never went inter-railing, as so many of my friends did in the 1970s, but I have now to mark the imminent arrival of my sixtieth birthday.  So I went with my children and family, and the trip included Rome, Venice and Vienna, and – my goodness – was I didactic. I’m surprised they never throttled me.

As those who have read my short book about the Southern Rail fiasco will know (Cancelled!), I have recently found myself rather unexpectedly involved in the railway debate. The latest incarnation of this is on the new Financial Times TV report on rail privatisation, which – unusually for television – includes some definite facts which I didn’t know already. There I am in a disturbingly pink scarf.

But travelling around Europe by rail has given me a new perspective on the debate. The trains were not just on time, they were also comfortable, well-designed. And, they were also designed for human beings, unlike the new Southern and Thameslink trains, which look as if they have been designed to be hosed down after use.

The days when Laurence Olivier caught the Brighton Belle, and ate kippers all the way home after an opening night. Never mind the incessant lateness, the constant breakdowns, the sheer incompetence – it is the technocratic transformation of human trains to trucks that really upsets me.

I keep on being asked why. Why is it so bad in Sussex compared to continental rail travel?

Is it primarily because they are nationalised, integrated systems? Because that is the current solution being touted by the Labour Party.

I find myself explaining two peculiarities of the Govia franchise which better explain what has gone wrong. The first is the dysfunctional contract, whereby Govia only gets 3 per cent of the takings, and nothing they can do will make them more of a profit.

The second is that – because of the contract – the dead hand of the Treasury is hugely influential. This is ironic, because under both the current system, and the nationalised solution that Labour proposes, our trains  are run more or less directly by Treasury mandarins. Don’t let us pretend that anything about the current system has much to do with privatisation in any sense of the word.

And there you have what, to my mind, is the biggest threat to humane public services – direct control by the Treasury. Inflexible, technocratic, inhumane, they provide precisely the oversight that privatisation was designed to end – and yet…

 

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Why the BBC finds the truth about their wartime role embarrassing

January 16, 2018

David Boyle writes…

If the period portrayed in the film Darkest Hour is the founding myth of the modern British state, it also provides a kind of mythic justification for the BBC – for pretty much everything. And we can listen to the BBC’s Ed Stourton weaving it again on Radio 4, in last week’s Book of the Week, his own Auntie’s War.

It goes like this. The commitment to truth in the news led to huge respect, not just at home but across Europe. From a dull, preachy, rather puritanical radio station among so many, it became a beacon of hope.

This was largely true, but the real question is: who was primarily responsible for it? Because, like all the official BBC histories, this one sidesteps the real issue – the furious struggle in and around the BBC over wartime broadcasting to Europe, and the role of the controversial figure in charge, Noel Newsome.

As director of European broadcasts, Newsome led what is still the biggest broadcasting operation ever mounted, in 25 different languages for a total of just over 25 hours a day, across three wavelengths.

It was he who set out the strategy to use news as a weapon on war – it had to be not just true but also recognisably British.

Newsome and his deputy, Douglas Ritchie, presided over the V for Victory campaign, designed to foment a spirit of resistance in occupied Europe – so successful that Joseph Goebbels tried to organise his own V campaign to subvert it. Find out more in my book V for Victory.

And it was Newsome who, frustrated with the pettifogging delays of the BBC bureaucracy, persuaded the Foreign Office to take control of the European Service from the BBC. In practice, he came under the control of the diplomat Ivone Kirkpatrick, the man who had just interviewed Rudolf Hess after his unexpected flight to the UK, and “Kirk” let Newsome get on with the job. Stourton’s book tells the story with great atmosphere and names Newsome and Ritchie properly. But even in the book, he does not get to the real reasons why the BBC is still so nervous about it.

There was postwar embarrassment at the BBC about the V for Victory campaign and its instructions for sabotage, assassination and industrial action in the sort of style that would later be used for making Christmas decorations or collecting silver paper for the lifeboats.

But it seems likely that it was the bid for independence from the BBC which was never forgiven by Auntie. Newsome was sacked by the BBC at the end of the war and remains almost unmentioned in the official BBC histories.

“There were giants in Bush House at that time, and battles of giants,” wrote a member of his staff, Maurice Latey, later eastern Europe editor. “At the centre the massive figure of Noel Newsome … engaged in epic contests with Hugh Greene, in charge of German broadcasts – six or seven feet of quiet implacable determination beside a basilisk stare – and the late Darsie Gillie, in charge of French broadcasts, six or seven feet of gesticulating vehemence which earned him the nick-name of ‘the semaphore’.”

The two-hour BBC epic to celebrate 50 years from VE Day in 1995, a two-part documentary called What Did You Do in the War Auntie?, devoted just seven minutes to the European Service. Only a few of the Colonel Britton broadcasts by Ritchie, or Newsome’s The Man in the Street broadcasts, remain in the BBC’s archives.

Newsome had to wait for the historian Asa Briggs, in his mammoth history of broadcasting in the UK in 1970, to give him his place as “the central figure in the organisation … and the most industrious, lively and imaginative of all its wartime recruits”.

I never met Newsome (full disclosure: he married a relative of mine). He died in 1976. But it was Newsome and Ritchie who really created the myth of the BBC, by using news as a weapon – not quite what the myth suggests – with all the resources of culture and music and humour.

Hitler’s propaganda chief Goebbels warned in 1944: “There is one way in which the British, despite the narrowness of their political thinking, are ahead of us – they know that news can be a weapon and are experts in its strategy.” (This quotation is disputed: it may have been a Stuttgart reporter at the same date).

So they seem to have been right. It is time they took their full places in the history books. See this one: V for Victory.

This post first appeared in the Guardian

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How I came to write Tearagh’t…

December 06, 2017

Craig Newnes writes…

Dunquin is unremarkable as you approach – apart from the extraordinary views over the Atlantic. On blustery days you can see four or five storm systems and the curve of the earth.

It lies on the Dingle peninsula not far from Coumenole beach where Ryan’s Daughter was filmed. The pub – of course there’s a pub – has photographs of Sir John Mills and the cast drinking Guinness and enjoying the craik.

There’s a fine restaurant where I was once served by a man in his nineties whose grandmother had been born in 1796 – really. His mum had lived on the Great Blasket, an island cleared of its ageing population in 1953 but a place with a literary history second to none. Millions of books describing the hazardous life of the islanders have been sold since Tomás Ó Crohan wrote The Islandman – in Irish – in 1929.

Born in 1856, O Crohan lived on the island until his death in 1937. In my 64 Ways to Change Your Life (a volume comprising one line per page), visiting the Great Blasket is high on the list. To the west of the Blasket lies Tearagh’t; the fact you can see the mainland from there, but reaching it is potentially lethal, may make it the loneliest place on earth.

But Dunquin has something else; an ancient church and graveyard. In the graveyard lies the grave of the fourteen-year-old son of the Santa Maria de la Rosa. The ship went down in the treacherous Blasket sound in 1588 and the boy, the only survivor, was tortured to death by the English seeking information. He had none; most of Felipe II’s Armada had either sunk or gone off course and was heading south for Spain. There had to be a story in there somewhere – after all, there are already two novels simply called “Armada”.

So, I started writing; recording conversations and converting them to a version of Elizabethan English, visiting Vigo fish market at five in the morning, noting down menus and other script on the walls of pubs in London and Dartmouth, remembering people I knew from holidays around Slea Head – Padraig used to run a Dingle pub.

But what to do for a central tale? The characters came easily; the men are mostly versions of me: writers, peacocks, animal-lovers, gardeners, fathers. Isidore is, I think, a man many aspire to be – loyal, brave, observant. But he has at least one flaw – he thinks being a man must involve adventure.

My grandmother is in the book – Jewish and shocked at the behaviour of her husband. It was said that my grandfather had two families in Greece as a result of his exploits in the Merchant Navy. If it’s a myth – it’s also true for countless families.

And the reason for writing? When my eldest daughter’s mum died I promised her I would live forever – and writing is the closest any of us will get.

You can buy the book here. We are also giving away a signed paperback copy of Tearagh’t through the Goodreads Giveaway this week – you just have to sign up here! See below…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tearagh't by Craig Newnes

Tearagh’t

by Craig Newnes

Giveaway ends December 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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In praise of great mavericks

December 03, 2017

David Boyle writes…

I met the folk singer Pete Seeger just before he died. He was jamming outside in the July sunshine, with some young violinists, playing Ashokan Farewell. He was at a conference near the Hudson River about local currencies where I had just been speaking.

It was a great honour to meet him, a friend of Woody Guthrie no less, partly also because – when I was growing up – the only 45rpm single my parents possessed was Seeger singing Little Boxes. I told him this and he told me how the author, Malvina Reynolds, composed the song driving just outside San Francisco when it came into her head – she said to her husband ‘Stop the car! I feel a song coming on…’

It is a powerful song about sprawling suburbs, but it goes beyond that in my favourite lines:

“They were doctors
and lawyers
and business executives
and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
and they all look just the same…”

Because Little Boxes was not just about houses, it was about minds – “tinned minds”, as John Betjeman put it. The song is a hymn to the only kind of Liberalism I recognise, which is prepared to think outside the little boxes, even though the world thinks differently.

I don’t believe this need to encourage the kind of nihilistic approach to everything that you might hear, to choose a random example, on most BBC comedy panels – I may be showing my age here – but it is an approach to life and politics which dares to think differently and to stand out from the crowd.

I have also realised that a great deal of my writing has been about the maverick approach, so I have collected an anthology of three short books, all about people living or working differently, and daring to refuse to submit to the generally accepted tramlines of thought. I have called it Great British Mavericks.

The first of these books, Scandal: How homosexuality became a crime is also in a series of Goodreads Giveaways before Christmas. So if you want to enter the draw for a new one, click here…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Scandal by David Boyle

Scandal

by David Boyle

Giveaway ends December 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

For me, the mavericks are the glory of the nation, and we need to find ways of encouraging more of them. Here’s a start anyway – do feel free to buy the book for Christmas!

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Ireland, Irish politics and the homosexuality laws

December 01, 2017

David Boyle writes…

The main roadblock to a negotiated Brexit still looks as though it is likely to be the Irish border. And that reminds me about other incident of Anglo-Irish muddle which led to extreme events on the mainland – in this case, the so-called Dublin Scandal of 1884, which led directly to the criminalisation of homosexuality the following summer.

It also, as I discovered when I wrote Scandal two years ago, involved my great-great-grandfather as one of its central figures. He had been chairman of the Dublin Stock Exchange, but he was forced to escape on the ferry to Spain wearing a false nose, turning up in Denmark Hill, of all places, using false identities, as an ‘artist in glass’.

His life, and the unprecedented moment of intolerance and fear which swept England ten years later on the arrest of Oscar Wilde under the same law, were intertwined in unusual ways. Writing the book completely obsessed me, and there are still details I long to track down, and his unconventional relationship with the landlord of the Rising Sun in Blackfriars Road.

Most of it I shall never know, but know a great deal more than I did, and I’m glad to say that we are giving away a number of free copies of Scandal in the weeks leading up to Christmas, through Goodreads. See details here

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Scandal by David Boyle

Scandal

by David Boyle

Giveaway ends December 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I have also included Scandal in the anthology of recent books that we have bundled together as Great British Mavericks – all stories about people who thought for themselves and in their own way, in defiance of the authorities and of accepted wisdom. Three books for the price of, well, about one!

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Why would scientists, economists and ecologists replace facts with folk tales?

November 28, 2017

Andrew Simms, the editor of Knock Twice, writes: 

‘The last person on earth sat alone in a room, and there was a knock at the door…’ If you want to know what happened next, so do I.

But what about this: ‘the concentration of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, recently hit 404.19 parts per million.’ Is the curiosity quite the same? Less so, I suspect, even for those who care passionately about our destabilising climate. Stories, more than facts, hold our attention and pattern our lives. Facts we can deny, but stories slip passed our ideological guard into the imagination.

That’s why a group of leading scientists, economists and ecologists recently sat themselves alone in their rooms, put facts momentarily to one side, and wrote modern folk tales for troubling times to convey their issues of concern.

In stories, we make sense of the world, and find ways to deal with what doesn’t make sense. They let us imagine how things can be different, helping them become so.  It doesn’t take many words. ‘For sale, baby shoes, never worn,’ has been called the saddest story written.  Margaret Atwood’s, ‘Longed for him. Got him. Shit,’ needs no elaboration. And, Eileen Gunn’s six word story: ‘Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?’ in all its brevity detonates a tension at the heart of human progress. Love allowed in. Demons cast out. Questions raised.

It may be the season of flamboyant, escapist horror, but from manipulative male impresarios exploiting fairy tale ambitions, to overheated hurricanes fuelled, fundamentally, by myths of limitless natural abundance, it seems there are real monsters out there.

Folk tales typically emerge in circumstances of upheaval, enabling us to process and assimilate extreme experience.  The irony is that the excesses we wreak on each other through chauvinism and prejudice, or on the non-human world through self-centredness, happen because at some level they are justified by the tales we have told ourselves.  That might be to do with apparently innate patterns of power in an industry, or about humanity’s own, unchallengeable power over the natural world. Bad things happen because of the stories we tell that normalise and justify them.

So, if you want change to happen, you have to change deeply embedded cultural narratives. Progressive have learned the hard way in an age of Brexit and Trump that views which resonate with mythologies – such as ‘making America great again’ tapping the former frontier optimism of nation builders, or ‘taking back control’ for the brave, resilient island – are impervious to fact and rational argument.

In both you might also glimpse the village whipped-up by the charismatic trickster who appears in their midst, into a fury of self-destructive suspicion and isolation.

Progressive politics needs better stories as much as it needs facts and policies. Without them, it will flail and flounder. That’s what pushed the group of policy experts to go beyond simply presenting evidence and hoping for the best, to write their own, new compelling tales.

They range from one of the world leading authorities on climate and geo hazards, to one of India’s most prominent and progressive economists, to a leading authority on corporate corruption, the former head of a UK Cabinet Office inquiry, to the head of a UN inquiry into designing a sustainable financial system, and several members from a new generation economic and social activists.

Philip Pullman, the great contemporary storyteller whose new novel is out, like William Blake, is healthily sceptical of institutional religion. But he is evangelical about the importance of stories, which he calls the most ancient and effective ways of making sense of the world that can guide us, as we try to live good lives in a world we seem to be simultaneously destroying.

But Pullman also laments how the devil too often gets all the best lines. That’s why it’s so urgent for progressive voices to practise and experiment with their own, more compelling and convincing stories of how to reimagine the world. We can be led by tales that leave frozen by shadows and insecurity, vulnerable to the pedlars of dark myths, who manipulate us with our own fears.

The technocratic world of politics, whether green, left, liberal or other shade of progressive, feels like it has had an imagination by-pass. Compared to the resurgent right its stories too often seem flat and less able to hold an audience. No one is going to change the world if they can’t hold its attention. For those who are committed to creating a fairer world where everyone can thrive within planetary ecological boundaries, it’s time to tell better tales of what went wrong, and how that better world  might come to pass.

Knock twice: 25 modern folk tales for troubling times, was published by the Real Press and the New Weather Institute on All Hallows Eve, October 2017.

 

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