Labour and antisemitism: yes, it’s a real problem

Published on: Wed, 17/07/2019 - 06:42

Cathy Nugent

The BBC Panorama programme (10 July) about Labour’s antisemitism problem has intensified the Party’s internal row.

Unfortunately, because the programme was not well done, and because Labour’s response has been to “shoot the messenger” as Emily Thornberry rightly put it when criticising that reaction, the renewed row has brought very little light so far.

Thornberry said: “I think that we shouldn’t be going for the messengers, we should be looking at the message. I think that is what is important.

“Nobody can pretend that there isn’t an ongoing problem within the Labour Party about antisemitism,

HBO’s Chernobyl: a service to us all

Published on: Wed, 03/07/2019 - 10:29

Les Hearn

Chernobyl was a disaster — there is no doubt about that — but what lessons should we learn from it?

Though the catastrophic meltdown and explosion of the RBMK Reactor No 4 happened almost half a lifetime ago, when police states claiming to serve the workers ruled eastern Europe, the recent HBO mini-series Chernobyl has brought that time back to life.

Though partly fictionalised and sometimes wrong (according to survivors and experts), the basic facts are correct.

During an “experiment” aimed at improving safety procedures, Reactor No 4 responded erratically and attempts to bring it under

A British counter-revolution

Published on: Wed, 05/06/2019 - 10:26

Cathy Nugent

The current BBC2 documentary series Thatcher: A Very British Revolution is worth watching for the film footage — interviews with Thatcher, old news reports of events, and other rarer clips. Beyond that, it won’t tell you much more than Wikipedia does.

Most of the talking heads are Tory ex-MPs and civil servants who served under Thatcher. Also Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary, who proves that reactionary pomposity does not fade with age.

After three instalments, I can say the first episode was the most interesting. It explained how Thatcher came to be leader of the Tory Party in

Game of Thrones: A World on the Edge

Published on: Wed, 29/05/2019 - 08:25

Screenwriter Clive Bradley (The Vice, A Harlot's Progress, Trapped) on why Game of Thrones was so good.
*This article reveals plot details*

Game of Thrones was produced by HBO, a company which made its name as a maker of ‘high-end’ TV drama with such shows as The Sopranos and The Wire. The Wire was a highly realist account of the police and drug gangs in Baltimore. GoT on the other hand has, well, an army of zombies and fire-breathing dragons.

What does it tell us about the world today that a magical fantasy set in a reimagined medieval Europe has been such a phenomenon? Most obviously, its

“If I don’t get satisfaction I’ll be at that Wilson’s house, private house, until I do...”

Published on: Wed, 03/04/2019 - 10:25

Luke Hardy

Hull's Headscarf Heroes on BBC iPlayer tells the story of a inspiring fight by working-class women in Hull to put workers’ safety at sea ahead of profits.

In 1968, the deep water fishing industry employed thousands, not just on the ships but on shore processing. A whole community centred around Hessle Road depended on the trawlers. The trawlers were an extremely dangerous industry, only partially organised in unions. Even though many women worked in the industry onshore, the trawlers themselves were operated only by men. In the Hessle Road community, women were relatively marginalised,

The Satanic Verses thirty years on

Published on: Sat, 02/03/2019 - 08:56

Matthew Thompson

It is thirty years since the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, partly based on the life of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, sparked protests across the Muslim world, with riots in India and Pakistan in which dozens of Rushdie's fellow Muslims were shot dead, book burnings on the streets of Britain, and ultimately an Iranian death sentence which sent its author into hiding under armed police guard.

In BBC Two's The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On, radio presenter and journalist Mobeen Azhar travels around the country, speaking to protagonists in what became known as the

Left candidate wins Scottish Labour leadership

Published on: Mon, 20/11/2017 - 12:26

Dale Street

On Saturday 18 November, Richard Leonard was announced as the new Scottish Labour leader. In the election contest triggered by the sudden resignation of Kezia Dugdale, he defeated Anas Sarwar by 57% to 43%.

Among individual members Leonard had a narrow majority (52% to 48%). Among affiliated trade union supporters he had an overwhelming majority (77% to 23%). Among registered supporters Anas Sarwar secured a narrow majority (52% to 48%).

A sizeable chunk of Sarwar’s votes from individual members would have come from new members who signed up under a special “join for £1 a month” scheme. It

When Britain invaded Russia

Published on: Wed, 25/10/2017 - 15:26

Keith Road

When Britain invaded Russia’ was one of the more interesting of the BBCs output about the Russian Revolution. It covers the allied invasion of Russia during the Civil War. Not just Britain but 14 nations invaded joining the counter-revolution.

Two things struck me about the programme, both the utter desperation that seemed to fill the imperialist powers as they rushed to get war-weary troops to take up positions across Russian territory. The British advanced from Arkhangelsk alongside French troops. Their equipment was severely lacking, they weren’t able to light fires to stop them drawing


Published on: Wed, 18/10/2017 - 10:50

The BBC should hang its head in shame. Their documentary (aired 9 October) about the Russian Revolution was appalling.

Anyone wanting to know what happened and why in 1917 will need to go elsewhere, consulting the Oracle at Delphi would be more rewarding. No kind of analysis or narrative of the events of 1917 was offered, nor any attempt to tackle important questions and certainly no attempt to offer a range of views for debate. Instead the viewer was bombarded with a venomous and, at times, monumentally stupid, lambasting of the Bolsheviks, particularly Lenin and Trotsky.

The makers of

A tale that is close to home

Published on: Wed, 14/06/2017 - 13:06

Rosalind Robson

When the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, its author, Margaret Atwood, was concerned about the growing strength of Christian fundamentalism in US politics. Unfortunately her story is still very relevant, in fact more relevant, thirty years later.

In 1985 Ronald Reagan was in the White House. His attitude to the Christian right (which in fact has a long tradition in US politics) was one of containment. Yes, Reagan campaigned to reverse a ban on school prayers, and he himself was a nasty anti-abortionist. However, concerned about keeping a broad base of Republican

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