John Booth
Ukraine needs our hearts – and our heads too

Ukraine needs our hearts – and our heads too

As I’ve never been to Ukraine or Russia or speak the languages, what can I usefully say about this detestable war beyond expressing my outrage at yet another invasion and again feeling grievous disappointment that instead of the peace dividend promised after the collapse of the Soviet Union last century we see another round of increased military spending in 2022? Friends who live in Central and...

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Scotland in changing times

A Difference of Opinion: My Political JourneyJim SillarsEdinburgh: Birlinn, 2021, £14.99 There aren’t many people still active in British politics who served in the Royal Navy when sailors were given 200 free cigarettes a month. But Jim Sillars is one of them and has lived to reflect thoughtfully on the 65 years since he joined up ‘to dodge’ national service in the Army. He was posted as a...

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A whiff of Munchies in the air?

What a start to the week: Rupert Murdoch telling those who read The Sun or hear of it in news reviews that there’s just “48 hours to war” followed by a Times front-page picture of a gun-toting Ukrainian grandma. If the gnarled old media mogul ever reaches the Gates of Heaven will he be able to plead with St Peter: “In my long life of feeding fear and promoting conflicts around the world I may...

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Here come the McDermid Ladies

While some footballing eyes were on Boreham Wood as they dumped Bournemouth out of the FA Cup on Sunday, others looked to the banks of the Forth to watch McDermid Ladies emerge for their very first fixture. Not that this was their first game together under captain Tyler Rattray. After years as Raith Rovers, they had swapped for and the BBC, STV and Sky News were among lots of news outfits there...

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A good sign for our times

The unopposed second reading of the Private Member’s Bill to give British Sign Language (BSL) legal status is a welcome bright light in these dark and dingy days. In proposing the Bill Labour MP Rosie Cooper recalled her own experiences of growing up as the hearing child of deaf parents. “I saw first-hand the difficulties deaf people face every day – the huge challenges my parents had to...

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While waiting for Sue…

Whatever “formidable” civil servant Sue Gray uncovers about the Prime Minister, his wife and their coterie of pals, advisers and party backers, there are a few other events going on worth our attention. One takes place in the High Court on Monday morning to Julian Assange: will he be allowed to appeal the High Court’s ruling on extradition to the United States? Try to hold these two pictures in...

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Are you the wrong kind of…?

What must it have felt like for Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, to learn that he was “quite a lightweight figure” in the eyes of his fellow Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg? As a qualified football referee the MP for Moray will have received much more vulgar abuse than this patronising putdown from Boris Johnson’s fellow Etonian, but it was still pretty nasty from the grandiloquent...

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Still seeking justice

It’d be hard to think of a better time to celebrate the life of Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, brought so vividly to life in ITV’s drama Anne. ((https://www.itv.com/hub/anne/2a5505)) If we’re discouraged by Downing Street deceit as we try to cope with Covid, rising inflation and the rest, imagine what it was like for the Merseyside mum whose young teenage son died in the 1989...

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Healing the Heartlands?

A Journey through Labour's Lost England Sebastian PayneLondon: Macmillan, 2021, £21.00 Whether Boris Johnson gets bored with No 10 or nervy Conservative Party funders push him out of the door, the author of Broken Heartlands finds little to comfort those hoping to see Sir Keir Starmer in Downing Street any time soon. While the Labour leader may want to flush his efforts to block Brexit down the...

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Chris Williamson and Labour anti-semitism

Perhaps this important book may one day be read by those alerted to it by seeing reviews in the mainstream press. But given its subject matter – former Derby North Labour MP Chris Williamson and ‘Labour anti-semitism’ – I’m not holding my breath that many will appear. Both man and subject are now dismissed as old hat by many inside and outside the party to which he devoted his political life. But that doesn’t mean that the events taking place in the years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – well described by Lee Garratt – aren’t worth our scrutiny: where the mainstream is silent is where our attention is often most needed.

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Suddenly in September?

When in 2016 I assembled some material on the September 11 attacks in the United States, the 15th anniversary generated very little mainstream interest. Would the investigation of 9/11 go the way of the President John F Kennedy assassination in 1963: anniversary recycling of old stories with its surviving researchers inhabiting the Grassy Knoll cast as ‘conspiracy theorists’?

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Memoirs of a dutiful malcontent

If Sir Keir Starmer ever chooses to confront Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions he could do worse than draw upon these diary entries of the Tory leader’s former deputy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Sir
Alan Duncan’s near-daily record has presented the ‘forensic’ Leader of the Opposition with an arsenal of ammunition that Rumpole of the Bailey could only dream of after his third bottle at Pomeroys.

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Hartlepool by-election 2021

IN the political turmoil following Labour’s Hartlepool rout, many in the party fear for its future despite its relative success in Wales and several parts of England. The forthcoming by-election in Batley and Spen following Tracy Brabin’s election as West Yorkshire Mayor has added to the concern: are we in for another Conservative drubbing?

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Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus

There are journalists – and then there are journalists. There’s Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who while London Mayor called his £250,000 Daily Telegraph second-job contract ‘chicken feed’. ((https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jul/14/boris-johnson-telegraph-chicken-feed)) And then there’s the digging work Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnot have put in for the The Sunday Times over the past Covid year and which they have brought together in this important book.

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The Corbyn years

When back in 2015 newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was first hit by critical abuse, Benjamin Netanyahu had just warned President Barack Obama of the power of the friends of Israel in Washington DC. Hundreds of members of the US Congress afforded Israel’s prime minister repeated standing ovations for assertively undermining their president’s Iran nuclear deal.

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Labour, Corbyn and anti-semitism

Anyone reading and hearing about Labour’s annual conference in Brighton might have thought it riven by yet more acrimonious controversy over anti-semitism. From The Guardian to the Daily Express and the broadcast journalists in between that was the big story for those critical of the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

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Bad News for Labour

Perhaps it was inevitable that the September launch of this book on Labour Party strife during its annual conference in Brighton should itself become embroiled in controversy. Hoping to hear and question the academic authors when they appeared in the city’s Waterstones store, I purchased my ticket, only to learn the following day that the bookstore’s London HQ had ordered the event’s cancellation.

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Israel and Palestine

In the swirl of controversy over ‘Labour’s anti-Semitism problem’ that has followed Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015, the complex subject of Israel and Palestine has rarely featured in popular discussion. These three books offer those who wish to move beyond this largely faux confection more understanding of an issue that has dogged international affairs since the foundation of Israel in 1948.

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