Author Archives David Boyle

Get your own print from Simon Zec’s latest book!

September 23, 2020

After two bland and uneventful years, our poetry editor Simon Zec finally managed to find something interesting to write about for his second poetry collection, available here.

In the Downtime is a reaction to both the world and his personal life. Trying to find the cracks in the darkness where the light can shine through.

Simon has striven to make the book beautiful as well as thoughtful and together with two talented artists (Benita Hibbert and Rob Winterson) they have created two original artworks to go with the books.

These are available to purchase for £15 each, but we are making available the first 20 prints of both pieces as a special deal combined with the book for a special price of £28.99 (plus p&p).

The book and the prints will also be signed by the creators too.

In the Downtime is now available from here. Also available from Steyning Bookshop, and also from JE Books in Hull, on Amazon and on kindle. You can also get £3 off by buying both of his poetry books together..

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Lesley Yarranton at rest, after publication of Saving Munich

August 20, 2020
Lesley Yarranton

Lesley may look like an Englishwoman in Gloucestershire – which is what she is – but she also speaks fluent German, ran her own press agency in Berlin when the wall came down, and in Saving Munich 1945, she has written, researched and chased down one of the remaining great untold stories of the Second World War.

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Chronicling covid in poetry

August 17, 2020

To celebrate our resident poet, Simon Zec, joining the team as Poetry Editor we will are happy to announce the launch our first project…

Simon in various moods…

The Covid Chronicles will be a compilation of poems from a diverse selection of poets, who will donate their words and thoughts on the past few months of trials, tribulations and narratives old and new.

All of the profits will be donated to a chosen charity (to be announced soon).

We ask that your submissions are not overly long and have no offensive language. We cannot guarantee that your submission will be used and please limit your submissions to no more than two per poet.

Closing date for submissions is 2 October 2020. Please submit your poems to
simon@therealpress.co.uk

We look forward to reading your words…!

Thank you

Simon Zec
Poetry Editor
The Real Press

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Simon Zec is our new poetry editor…

July 26, 2020
Simon in Steyning, not actually reciting…

Simon is a poet and has two poetry collections with us (Death of the Suburb and In the Downtime (forthcoming)) and we will be working together to publish a diverse selection of poets to represent the modern poetry scene. 

We hope to dive deep into the well of modern poetry, finding abdominal working with voices that represent the modern world that we live in. Please feel free to submit a small selection of your work for us to have a look at. 

Simon is also active on Twitter at @simonzec23…

But watch this space too!

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Missed opportunities – how to avoid them

July 22, 2020

Lesley Yarranton, author of Saving Munich 1945, writes…

What exactly was it that melted Germany’s ‘Iron Chancellor’ into ferrous gloop this week? Political scientists probing the wet, shapeless mass puddling around their feet have barely started to come up with answers.

Read the book – it’s a brilliant read!

No doubt alarm at estimates prediting that covid losses would shrink the Eurozone economy by up to 9 per cent this year, leaving millions facing unemployment at a time when Germany’s export-driven economy was already becoming sluggish, had something to do with it.

But Angela Merkel’s switch from years of staunch resistance to handouts and imposing merciless book-keeping on faltering economies, to suddenly lobbying for a Euro 1.8 trillion spending package, including Euro 390 billion in grants with few restrictions, can be seen as nothing less than a ‘Damascene’ conversion.

Supporters hailed the agreement as a generous gesture of trust that has now broken the taboo of EU shared debt. Detractors bemoaned the turning of the EU into a Geldautomat (cash machine). Whatever the reason, the masked crusader charged turbo-driven at dawn on Monday from behind the other 26 EU leaders to seal the deal, leaving the bleary-eyed frugalists blinking feebly in the blinding glare of her headlights.

“She understood the significance of the moment,” an insider from within her ranks said. “It was clear this could break the EU apart.”

The art of homing in with unfettered clarity on the myriad of outomes that can arise from one, often seemingly insignificant ‘decision of a moment’ – and deciding how to seize it for the best – is perhaps a politician’s most highly-prized skill. Yet since the days of the ancient Greeks, often the outcome is not clear for decades and decisions hailed as heroic at the time are, with hindsight, assessed as woeful failures as the eye-gouging despair of Sophocles’ Oedipus attests.

The nineteenth-century German philosopher and poet Friedrich Schlegel seized a ‘moment’ to declare historians to be “prophets looking backwards”, elevating historical novelists to the position of soothsayers we should all revere.

But even with hindsight, ‘seized’ and ‘missed’ moments are at the very heart of the interplay between ‘what-might-have-been’ and what actually took place in any history narrative; their outcomes are nearly always nuanced and ambiguous – rarely black and white.

This tortured ambiguity is demonstrated in my book Saving Munich 1945, the story of Rupprecht Gerngross, (a true story, published yesterday) where crucial moments are repeatedly missed, seized, recaptured and lost forever in equal, terrifying measure as events unfold. The result was hailed as “the only successful military putsch against the Third Reich” – yet it led to the loss of an estimated 200 lives.

Gerngross, a former student at the London School of Economics, was a Munich solicitor conscripted into Hitler’s army but with a secret plot to challenge the Nazis and achieve his dream of democracy and freedom and save his city (Munich) from destruction.

He seized an opportunity to secretly transform his unit of army translators into a fearsome fighting force. Then he and his conspirators miss an opportunity to save more of Germany because Claus von Stauffenberg seized an opportunity to attempt to assassinate Hitler with his briefcase in a bomb.

Gerngross’ later decision to seize the right moment to stage a coup against the Nazis in Munich using a radio station to trigger mass rebellion becomes a missed opportunity when US troops divert from their push on Munich to save the lives of dying prisoners at Dachau concentration camp.

And, for all his courage, Gerngross missed an opportunity to save more lives because he did not reckon with the possibility of betrayal, or the ferocity of SS troops sworn to fight to the death.

BBC interviewer Noel Newsome, who travelled to Germany to talk to Gerngross after the coup also found himself pondering the ‘missed opportunity’ Europe had to unite after the Second World War instead of dividing into the conflict that became the Cold War. Pondering what he described as “the haunting spectre of the might-have-been,” he wrote: “There could have been a determined effort by the victorious Allies to establish an effective world authority, with a united Europe, as one of its main supports… It was not to be.”

In the end we can never know how history will asses events and can only act in blind faith. Newsome, like Gerngross and today’s Chancellor Merkel believed simply in doing the ‘right’ thing. People will often be divided by the result, as Mark Twain pointed out, saying: “It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Saving Munich 1945: the story of Rupprecht Gerngross by Lesley Yarranton was published yesterday.

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It was excised from the party’s playlist in 1993 on the grounds that, only when the Labour Party is electable that Tory voters will feel safe enough to switch to the Lib Dems. We will see whether Paddy Ashdown was right about that next month.

But then, it may be that the situation is different these days. Equidistance between right and left could make a comeback when both Labour and Conservative parties are suddenly equally extreme.

But then, as far as the Lib Dems are concerned, there are three different kinds of equidistance.

#1. Political equidistance. This was the concept that Ashdown banned a generation ago. And you can see why. If, for example, Corbyn goes left, then the centre would move with him. This kind of equidistance arguably hands over your centrist positioning to the extremes.

#2.  Psychological equidistance. Forget about specific policies for a moment, and you can see that there are abiding psychological stances that lie behind political allegiance. For the right, there is a tendency towards cynicism. For the left, they seem generally to be angrier than everybody else. Faced with these twin perils, rage versus cynicism, it is obvious where the centre ground lies. The problem is that centrists have their own besetting sin, which is a kind of smug reliance on existing institutions. Another reason why it might be a good idea to cling to the radical centre.

#3. Distributism. There is a way to escape this particular besetting sin, which is via the Liberal ‘heresy’, Distributism – an idea based on how both capitalism and socialism tends towards slavery – was developed during the 1920s by former Liberals Hilaire Belloc and G. K.Chesterton. These days, it is the shorthand that academics use to describe the old Liberal ‘back to the land’ tendency.

I have always had an fascination with the Distributists (who had their own besetting sins), and especially now there is a new exhibition just open at the Ditchling Museum in Sussex.

In fact, I recently published two books – and my own past, present and future of Distributism (Back to the Landand Arthur Penty’s 1937 Distributism: A Manifesto. I recommend them.

The problem with equidistance is that the word implies that Liberalism is of the centre ground, some kind of midway between the rage and cynicism of right and left, when it is actually promoting a different scale altogether. About that at least, I believe, Belloc was right.

* David Boyle is policy director of the Radix thinktank, the author of Back to the Land (and other titles) and publisher at the Real Press.

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When fairy tales come disturbingly true

November 01, 2019

It could be something taken straight from a folk or fairy tale. A young child with a gift for seeing the truth, and the courage to tell it, sails across a great wide ocean to a land with a palace where the most powerful people on earth gather. Fearlessly, she berates them for the suffering their complacency is causing and the perils people face as a result. Then she tells them what to do: act on the science of the climate emergency.

The cover of Knock Three Times

Most powerful of all, and again like something conjured from a firelight story, her impact comes from a complete lack of guile. Her earnest delivery comes unfiltered, straight from the heart. The directness is part of what she calls her ‘gift’.

Because the Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, has Asperger’s Syndrome. She describes herself how one consequence of this condition – the difficulty she finds in being with others – contributed to her decision to begin the lone protest which sparked a global movement. Another effect is that she holds herself to very high standards and expects others to do so too. She does not set out to please people or be liked, and is not interested in excuses. The tale continues.

Greta’s approach was coolly logical, she questioned why she should attend school and listen to teachers when politicians weren’t listening to the facts. She committed to strike each week until the politicians acted.

It’s ironic that the young woman, whose recent life carries the contours of a slightly unlikely story, rightly accuses the powerful of believing in ‘fairy tales of eternal economic growth’. Of course, she is right. ‘Fairy tale’ is a synonym for something that cannot exist in the real world. Much the same is true when something is described as being an ‘old folk tale’ – it is not to be believed. Both types of story, however, aren’t meant to be plausible in their worldly details; they are about revealing deeper truths.

There are plenty of myths, fables, folk and fairy tales that warn of the destructive power of greed and of disregarding natural limits. From the Midas touch to the flight of Icarus, King Canute’s inability to halt the incoming tide, and the abuse of the goose that laid the golden eggs, there is wisdom embedded in our cultural heritage that could better guide us.

Another function of folk tales, written about in the introductions to our previous story collections – There was a knock at the door and Knock Twice – is to help people come to terms with extremes of human experience. Tales often have their roots in times of struggle, during wars and the famines that result from them.

In the light of our current political and ecological upheavals, and the great displacements of people driven by climate extremes and blocked by intransigent borders, we need new tales more than ever for this reason.

But even greater, as the forms of an old culture of unbounded consumerism die, we need new stories to help us imagine and make the rapid transition to a different future. ‘Stories are one of the most ancient and most effective ways of making sense of the world,’ wrote the author Philip Pullman in a foreword to the first collection of stories in this series, adding: ‘When we try to live a good life in a world we seem to be simultaneously destroying, there is nothing more valuable or worth encouraging.’

In this regard, nothing has changed since our last collection. In other, very important ways, many things have. Partly because of the real life tale of a Swedish child with a very special gift, the world is dramatically more aware of the critical threats to the biosphere and our life support systems. Millions are taking to the streets and taking risks to push for change from below, because those on high have failed to act on the science.

There are too many rich tales in our new collection, Knock Three Times, to pick out any one, but we can guarantee you a rich and surprising variety. All, in different ways, seek to reveal a truth or light the way ahead. We invite you to knock three times on this book, turn the page, and begin a journey that may contain some peril, some surprises and doors that may open, hopefully, to new possibilities. Although to sometimes highly differing degrees, this is the prospect and predicament facing us all.

You can buy a copy of Knock Three Times as a paperback from here, on epub from the online bookshop Hive, on kindle – or all three books together at a reduced price of £5 off.

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How we broke the news of D-Day

June 06, 2019

Noel Newsome was director of European broadcasts at the BBC European Service from 1939-44, one of the few who knew the secret date for D-Day. He was in many ways the architect of the BBC;s international reputation for truth – believing that truth was a potential weapon of war. This led him into constant struggles with the authorities, which he described in his newly-published memoirs, Giant at Bush HouseHere he describes getting the news about D-Day out there…

“I had received my D-Day briefing. In the first week of June, the tides in the English Channel would be right for the great venture, and would remain so for about 36 hours. Provided the weather was all right for the air assault, the airborne landings and the sea borne invasion, the operation would take place during the night of June 4. Declarations by the supreme commander, Eisenhower, and by Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle, were all prepared and recorded in advance for transmission directly the SHAEF communiqué announcing the landings was issued. This was timed for 10am on June 5 and strict instructions were given that no mention should be made of the invasion having begun until then.

All that night, I stayed in my office listening to the ceaseless drone of our aircraft heading for the continent. Early next morning, I got the news that rough weather in the Channel had prevented the assault. It had to be the next night or indefinite postponement. And we were still awaiting the arrival of the ‘V’ weapons. A nerve-wracking day passed and then another sleepless night, with the ‘planes again droning away across the city. Would it happen this time?

Soon after dawn, we began to receive flashes from the monitoring services and the news agencies, saying that the German news service was reporting Allied landings in Normandy and in the Calais area. We had every reason to believe that the reports of the Normandy landings must be correct, but believed that those of attacks in the Calais area were false, as we knew of no plans for landings there. But if these were false, might not those of the Normandy assault also be untrue? Might they have been put out by the Germans to enable them to claim, if bad weather had again prevented the invasion, that we had been repulsed?

My instructions were to wait for the SHAEF communiqué, not due for many hours even if landings had begun. On the other hand, our broadcasting services had built their reputation on the speed, as well as the accuracy, of their news. My own overpowering instinct as a newspaperman was to report the news from whatever source as soon as I got it.

Half-an-hour passed and German reports of Allied landings continued to come in thick and fast. I took the bull by the horns and ordered that we should start transmitting the German reports, with a statement that there was no confirmation of these in Allied quarters. Meanwhile, I took immediate steps to check the true position with SHAEF. This was not easy. Perhaps naturally, SHAEF was in a state of high excitement and it was impossible to get a clear telephone line for some time.

Eventually, I got through and secured confirmation that the invasion was on, that we were ashore in Normandy, and that a feint attack had been made in the Pas de Calais to sow confusion in the German defence. This was a great relief. Obviously, we could help the feint to achieve its purpose if we continued to relay German reports about the Calais attack as if confirming them. This we did….”

Read more in Noel Newsome’s memoir of the war, published by the Real Press in paperback and on kindle.

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Feeling sick that I work in a system that condones this shit

April 01, 2019

Ben Donner, the editor of Clinical Psycholoy Forum, has reviewed Craig Newnes’ impassioned book A Critical A-Z of Electroshock. This is what he wrote...

Firstly, a note about the limitations of scholarship in scientific writing. A proper reference should not just be an author and year of publication, but also a page number placed as a footnote with some explanatory prose. This facilitates scrutiny of argument and the sources cited. British psychologists have made a case for this in the past, but to no avail. Thankfully, Craig Newnes refuses to doff his hat to the APA, so we have 61 pages of properly referenced endnotes here, dealing with a treasure trove of sources. It’s a joy to be able to follow an author’s line of enquiry easily and in detail. I would have preferred them at the bottom of each page with added prose, but you can’t have everything.

Secondly, I am persuaded by the use of the term inscription throughout the book to describe psychiatric diagnosis – a position building on the author’s previous work. Even the term ‘Electroshock’ to describe ‘Electro Convulsive Therapy’ is one I will use from now on. As revealed here, the way electrocution has been reframed as ‘treatment’ and carefully branded for public acceptance is quite something.

Each chapter has its own angle and you can read the book in any order you want. I particularly liked ‘Killing with kindness and Kitty Dukakis’. Here, the toxicity of closed systems and the misogynist nature of electroshock is discussed. Misogyny being a theme that resurfaces throughout the book. The mysteries of failed public enquiries resonated significantly for me, as it explains much that is rotten with the system.

Having recovered from the hideousness that is the Henry Cotton award for kindness, we are presented with who Kitty Dukakis is. The partner of Michael Dukakis, the American presidential candidate of the late 1980’s who continues to receive maintenance ECT at the age of 80. Apparently, the Dukakis’s think well of electroshock, although you are left wondering if Kitty just doesn’t want to remember anything.

The Chapter on Sadism and Spike Milligan also stands out. I liked the analytic bent that takes seriously the drive to hurt others, as acted out in the electroshock ‘suite’. To quote from another chapter, the author suggests shock doctors (mostly white men of course), should ask themselves, “Why do you think you want to electrocute children?” Newnes’s prose on informed consent for psychiatry is even better. I am tempted to plagiarise this spiel for when I next work in an NHS MDT.

Although the book left me feeling sick that I work in a system that condones this shit, I am buoyed by the fact that someone from my own profession has written a book like this. For anyone early in their career trying to work out which way is up, read it. For anyone involved in research or academia, read it.

For anyone still deluded about the ethics of psychiatry, most definitely read it. It may look like a home brewed book from the cover, but it is a most serious work and something I will likely refer to again and again. As they say, once you have seen something you can’t exactly unsee it. Unless…

You can buy A Critical A-Z of Electroshock here, or on Amazon, either as a paperback or on kindle.

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The strange mysogyny of the climate contrarians

February 28, 2019

Contemporary history requires us to take a second look at recent events. Richard Black does just that…

Back in 2009, during the Copenhagen summit, Sunday Times columnist Charles Clover wrote an article noting that the contrarian interpretation of the emails hacked from the University of East Anglia ‘has unleashed upon the rest of us the phenomenon of the born-again climate sceptic, the kind of man (always a man, almost invariably wearing a tweed jacket) who now materialises beside me at parties and confides that he has been having second thoughts about climate change’.

As I explained in my book, Denied, Clover had hit anecdotally on a conclusion borne out by research such as the 2009 ‘Six Americas’ survey. The 7 per cent of the US population most dismissive of climate change, they found, comprises twice as many men as women.

Today, the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Board of Trustees and Academic Advisory Council together number 36 men – and just one woman. The group of contrarian commentators in the UK media also includes a single woman, Melanie Phillips – and she is not now a frequent writer on the issue. The Spectator’s infamous pre-Paris Agreement ‘special edition’ featured not a single woman among the featured contrarians.

Why this might be is a question that would necessitate a whole other book. Suffice it to say that statistically, the odds of it occurring by chance are vanishingly small. But what is also undeniably true is that at least some prominent contrarian men have a problem treating women as equals.

This is doubly noticeable in an era when some of the UK’s best energy journalism – traditionally the preserve of men – is being done by women. Jillian Ambrose, Emily Gosden at The Times, Nathalie Thomas and Sylvia Pfeifer at the Financial Times are among the finest journalists on the beat, and they are not alone. Their gender and age appear to be problems for some contrarians.

It certainly appears to be an issue for climate sceptic and blogger Paul Homewood and his supporters, among whom the widely-respected Gosden is dismissed as ‘little Emily’. ‘Dear little Emily does not get it, does she?’, he opens a 2016 blog post.

After she moved from the Telegraph to The Times, he was equally outraged about her equally respected successor Jillian Ambrose who, he writes, ‘seems just as soppy’.

Commenters on his blog seem quite happy with this tone of discourse. One suggests that neither journalist would know the difference between a combined-cycle and an open-cycle gas turbine (CCGT and OCGT) and would ‘probably think it’s something to do with gin and tonic.’

Another recalls former Telegraph environment correspondent Louise Gray, and suggests that all three are ‘jejeune ladies’ who ‘don’t do techie stuff’. On another post, Homewood weighs in on Telegraph columnist Lucy Mangan, dismissing her as a ‘silly little girl’.

Nigel Lawson has not been above such comments himself, referring in 2014 to Dame Julia Slingo, one of the UK’s most decorated climate scientists and at the time Met Office Chief Scientist, as ‘just this Julia Slingo woman’.

To James Delingpole of Breitbart News, the equally decorated Professor Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London, until recently the Royal Society’s scientific lead on climate change, is a ‘puffed-up missy’, and Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Head of Open Oceans at the British Antarctic Survey, ‘some foxy chick’.

Why this male corner of climate and energy discourse should hold half of the human race in such apparent disregard is not clear to me. However, a clue appeared in a comment posted on my BBC blog from Copenhagen – the blog highlighting the over-representation of men in the contrarian community.

The person commenting – a man, I presume – suggested it was because men were more intelligent than women and were thus better able to spot holes in the edifice of climate science. It was apparently made seriously.

Though other contrarians might privately be appalled by all of this, none, to my knowledge, has called out his fellow travellers.

Whatever the reasons behind it, it is surely abundantly clear that such attitudes will win you few friends. As a strategy for gaining kudos in the twenty-first century, belittling women is as poor as it gets.

It is another reason why, as I explain in the book, climate contrarianism is now virtually at an end.

Richard Black’s book Denied is available here.

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