Thursday, August 20, 2015

Corbyn threatens to unleash activists on elected Labour MPs

If I was remotely waivering about NOT voting for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, the latest pronouncement of the man has clinched it for me. Corbyn is threatening to discipline elected representatives of the people (i.e. MPs) with the pressure of un-elected activists if Labour MPs don't back him as leader. 

If this sounds familiar it is partly what the neo-Blairites thought they could achieve by setting up the registered supporters scheme a couple of years ago. It is absolutely what Benn unleashed in the 1970s and '80s. 

Remember "extra-parliamentary action"? Benn used it, and the force of his acolytes and Troskiyite fellow-travellers in the Party, to try and force his way into the leadership of the party against the wishes of many elected Labour MPs and of the then party leader Jim Callaghan and then Michael Foot (both far greater men than JC could ever dream of being). 

It was Foot who, as leader, told the Party Conference in 1981 that "Labour Party democracy" has to be a marriage of what the members want and what the Parliamentary Labour Party wants. Foot knew his history - Labour history and British democratic history. The semi-Burkean in him didn't believe that MPs were elected by the public to be told what to do by party activists accountable to no one but themselves.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Faith and Good Vibes in St Leonard's

Councillor Trevor Webb, a veritable musical impresario in his spare time, runs the Hastings Friendship Group (HFG). He delights in giving a platform to local musical talent. Especially, he says, if they’re young, old, or female (or maybe two of the three, but you don’t have to be any of these things).

The latest HFG benefit gig was held on Wednesday night at Gecko’s, the St Leonard’s seafront bar and eatery. The cause this time was the Hastings Inter-Faith Forum (HIF). HIF brings together the diverse traditions of the area in dialogue and mutual support, and its head was present to thank people for their backing (otherwise known as throwing money into a bucket).

Trevor’s line-up this week included singer and guitarist Joanna Turner who, after a nervous start, soon found her feet and impressed with her vocal delivery. She showcased some of her own songs as well as a few pop/RnB covers. 

Joanna was followed by Dave Williams. Dave was likewise armed with just an acoustic guitar and, also like Joanne, hasn’t played that many gigs before. Dave told me beforehand that his live performances are normally confined to Church. He bravely opted to tackle some rock classics. These included The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. (As Dave played I kept wondering which Labour leadership candidate would be the most appropriate target for Pete Townsend’s lyrical attack on would-be political bosses masquerading as those who would deliver radical change).

For my money Dave’s best moment was saved ‘til last when he brought out his ukulele and sung Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’.

Tony Peek performed only his own songs, including ‘Bottle Alley’, a number that formed part of a Hastings musical that once toured the country. The song movingly references a renowned Hastings street to tell of past and present suffering. Tony was at his best when his barbed lyrics focused on such social observations. By contrast, I found some of his overtly political lyrics a bit jarring. Tony has a very distinct, and appealing, singing style. It reminded me a little of a solo Syd Barrett minus the astral subject matter.

Michael Stoggewl’s wife told me that her husband has been drumming for many years, but that his musical partner on the night, Eric Harmer, hadn’t sung in public before. Eric, who is retired, clarified that in fact he had played in public three times already! For me Eric and Michael were the best performers of the evening. Unassuming but effective. Eric’s almost scratchy sounding acoustic guitar gelled with Mike knocking out the rhythm on an amplified empty wooden speaker cabinet. 

Opening up with ‘Riders on the Storm’, if you can pull it off, is always a good move. ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It?’ (the Small Faces’ song of that name, I think) concluded their set. As he took the stage, Eric observed that a few drinks were needed in preparation. Well, it didn’t show, other than perhaps to encourage a pleasingly relaxed vibe. Paul Crimin then treated us to some early Beatles’ LP tracks, including ‘No Reply’ and ‘This Boy’. And very good he was too.

I had to depart to the wilds of Crowhurst before Vincent Turner, the headline act, took the stage. I understand he went down well, despite being a little nervous. Apologies to Vincent. My loss not yours. 

(This is a shot of Vincent performing in a different local venue)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rockitmen rock Crowhurst

The Rockitmen hit Crowhurst last Friday night with a storming set that had half the village dancing. These guys could play anything, at least if it loosely fitted within the pop canon. Urban, RnB (in all senses), rock, soul. You name it, these (not so young) boys could do it. They make no bones about what they do either. It’s emblazoned on the banner behind them. “Professional functions party band” goes the no-nonsense description. They are cabaret and proud. Their website says they’ve backed The Real Thing, Cutting Crew and Andy Bell of Erasure. So no slouches then.
Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’, the multi-million-selling piece of pseudo gospel that normally induces nausea in me, was sung with real feeling by the front man. Perhaps it helps being 40+ (to this particular 50+ person) if you’re trying to do plaintive, earnest and, yes, soulful. 
The band can play too. The keyboardist has feel, the guitarist rocks; they give it their all. At one moment it was as if the marquee was fuelled by something other than the Pimms or Harvey’s on offer at the bar. The rush as they piled through a medley of ‘Disco Inferno’, ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ and ‘I Feel Love’ was something to behold. ‘Are you ready?’ the singer teased as the band were about to hit a particular high point of the Donner Summer/Giorgio Moroder classic and the floor erupted once again.
Something that got this obsessive’s goat however was when the front man introduced songs by UB40 or Madness as these bands’ material. It helps for punter accessibility I guess. However people should be reminded that the incomparable Labi Siffre wrote and first performed ‘It Must Be Love’, and that ‘Red, Red Wine’ became a reggae number before UB40 covered it and after Neil Diamond wrote it!  
I sadly had to leave before the show ended way after midnight (!), although not before enjoying an inspired merging of ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘La Bamba’.
If you’re getting married, divorced or planning a bar mitzvah, these are the boys for you.