Wednesday, 29 June 2011



the costs go on rising
they are absolutely mind-boggling
the economists estimate $4 trillion
that's 4,000,000,000,000 dollars
oh what a terrible terrible waste!
but that doesn't recognise the human costs
the dead children
the orphans
the quadriplegic veterans
the ruined lives
the enormity of the suffering
it is immeasurable
it is unconscionable
it is unbearable
we must shout louder to make it end!


tomorrow the teachers go on strike
kids across the country rejoice at their freedom
but wait...there is something afoot
a strange high-pitched voice cries havoc!
michael glove says parents should pop into school
to teach the lessons themselves!
literacy with mrs storey the lollipop lady
maths with mr fraction the car salesman
cookery class with dick the milk
learning journey with young miss trip
just returned from her gap year
actually mike this could turn out to be a bloody good idea
we might find that our kids don't actually miss
their 'professional' teachers at all
and that mums and dads and people in the community
are actually the children's best teachers
we could save the treasury billions
and expose the education industry
as the money-grubbing business corporation it is!
but i'm afraid i don't go along with mike
when he says that missing a day's school
will scar kids for life
hang on mr grove
were they scarred by missing school for the royal wedding?
are they damaged by all those bank holidays?
or when they have a couple of days off with the measles?
will their lives become a wasteland of drug abuse
just because teachers strike tomorrow?
come off it mike
if i were a kid these days
i'd be more worried about the massive debt i'd racked up
just to get a university education!

Monday, 27 June 2011


The photo links to the film


the kind lady at the swimming baths
is looking a bit down in the mouth
last week she lent me her token for the lockers
(i never remember to bring a pound for the lockers)
i ask her what's up
as if i couldn't have guessed
snip! snip! snip!
i sense a case of government cuts coming on
the council is demanding that all its employees sign a new contract
they must agree to waive their rights to a weekend allowance
for working anti-social hours
in other words
these low-paid workers stand to lose 2600 squid a year
they must also be willing to work at any pool across the city
(in the largest local authority in europe)
while agreeing to a pension cut...
or they lose their jobs
this lady has been working at the baths for thirty years
sacrificing her family life at weekends to support her kids
and now she's wondering if it's all worth it
wouldn't it be better to get out now and sign on?
her grand-daughter has worked hard
to get through her a-levels
but has balked at higher education debts
and has instead found herself a 'job'
an eight hours a week contract on minimum wage
(four pounds something an hour)
no sick pay
no security
no pension contributions
so the grand-daughter has come to a decision
she is going to become cannon fodder
in someone else's war
she has decided to join the military
in heaven's name why, i ask?
because she gets a free education
and a chance to 'see the world'
so there we have it
how incentives work
for working class kids in modern britain

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Some truly jaw-dropping comments in today's Observer editorial:

'It is vital that Nato is more proactive both in the air and on the ground to break this current impasse...more support on the ground and much more than the current few air sorties a day.'

How can the Observer's editors suggest this action as civilian casulaties steadily mount? Are they really urging NATO to kill more children?

This 'requires Nato to abandon its limited, cautious, low-risk approach and flex far more of its muscle', claim the editors. This must surely be black comedy, or am I living in some kind of parallel universe?

The Observer unashamedly greases the wheels of state-corporate propaganda once again.


Disciplined minds hold sway
Disciplined minds hold the reins
They pick up their salaries
They count up their calories

Disciplined minds are all the rage
Disciplined minds are what it takes
To get the work done
To get the web spun

Professionals – they are the heart and soul
Professionals – they take the parts and make a whole

Disciplined minds crack the whip
Disciplined minds won’t let standards slip
They root out the troublemakers
They shoot up the instigators

Professionals – they are soul and heart
Professionals – they make a whole from all the parts

And when the day is done
They all go home
To their wives and their children
Who do not know
What it takes to be a professional

Disciplined minds grease the wheels
Disciplined minds secure the deals
They smother compassionate feelings
They banish any grave misgivings
They don’t challenge the systems
Inject more steam in the pistons

Professionals – they are the heart and soul
Professionals – they take the parts and make a whole
Professionals – they are soul and heart
Professionals – they make a whole from all the parts


Your eyes penetrate my soul
Your smile swallows me whole
Your face draws me like a flame
Your gaze makes me look away

Your voice is music to my ears
Your laughter reduces me to tears
When you breathe the air refills my lungs
When you leave it hits me in the guts

Your breath is warm upon my skin
It’s like death the moment you walk in
Your indifference cuts me like a knife
When you’re distant I am mortified

Your heartbeat is like a distant drum
When we meet your appearance strikes me dumb
Your name echoes softly round my head
My brain juggles everything you said

I watch you tremble like a tiny child
I dissemble as my thoughts run wild
Your lips are waiting to be kissed
Your hips convert me to a Creationist

When you go it is an awful ache
I think I know what is keeping me awake
I can’t bear this situation any more
I declare this to be the final straw

I’m hanging there on a row of tenterhooks
Let me swear upon the holy books
The Lord has mercy on me, I devoutly pray
For my obsession will not go away

By now I think the evidence is clear
That this obsession could cost me dear
I wish I could be more dutiful
But after all you are so beautiful

Friday, 24 June 2011



Tell me Oracle what do you see?
How will the future be?
I ask you Oracle urgently
Bestow your wisdom kindly on me

I’m hungry for knowledge
I’m dying of thirst
I drink at your fountain
I am immersed
I’m desperate for answers
I’m yearning for truth
I’m down on my knees
I’m not ashamed of my youth

I must be honest, my earnest son
Crumbs of comfort have I none
I see a species with its head in the sand
Its reins controlled by an idle hand
I see a people paralysed with fear
I see catastrophe coming near
No spiritual conversion
No end to the greed
As the temperatures rise
And the floodplains recede

Oh tell me Oracle what should I do?
I’m at a loss and I’m depending on you
I ask you once, I ask you twice
Three times I plead for your advice

I tell my friends but they think I am mad
I ask my teachers but they say that I’m bad
I write, I draw, I play and I sing
But no one seems to be listening

I cannot lie, my earnest boy
Your task is great and your time is short
You must devote your life and work
To proselytising your view of the world
However small your audience
However great their indifference
You must keep up the conversation
You mustn’t give in to intimidation

I thank you Oracle gratefully
Your words of wisdom hearten me
You will not be disappointed with me
I’ll do your bidding, you will see


Dear Mary Dejevsky

I write to take issue with your article of 24 June: Obama is right. Britain, too, must seize the chance to leave Afghanistan.

You claim: “It is not only military victory that remains elusive, but many of the higher purposes that have studded this near decade-long campaign – women's rights among them. Obama, to his credit, had progressively returned to the mission's original justification – rooting out the al-Qa'ida bases held to harbour the instigators of 9/11.”

It is quite frankly a myth to suggest that such higher purposes as protecting women’s rights - or even capturing Bin Laden - was ever the major intention of the US in pummelling the world’s poorest country into the dust. There are far more plausible reasons for the terrifying obliteration of Afghanistan, not least its role as a giant act of retaliation in order to demonstrate US power, the purpose of the war against al-Q'aida in Afghanistan being to remove the threat the organisation posed to the ‘stability’ of the Saudi regime and to ensure that oil remained in the correct hands.

Please don’t let yourself be fooled by blatant US propaganda and try to get your facts right.

Yours sincerely


Thursday, 23 June 2011


Dear Sirs

I was staggered to read the following in today's Indie Pendant editorial:

'Libya...may turn out to be where idealism...meets reality, the recognition that there is neither the money nor the mandate to achieve much more.'

Are you seriously suggesting that NATO's good intentions to bring peace and harmony to North Africa are being undermined by a lack of military resources?

I find your analysis frankly absurd. It is blindingly obvious from the flood of Wikileaks exposés regarding Libyan oil that NATO has not an iota of interest in humanitarian issues and is determined to remove Gaddafi in order to install a regime more reliably subserviant to Western oil interests.

You do yourselves no favours by making such absurd claims. I urge you to please refrain from treating your readers with contempt.

Yours sincerely



Wednesday, 22 June 2011


I turned on the radio
To hear the latest trouble
I heard some voices echoing
From inside a bubble

Plausible discussion
Of the day's events
Articulate analysis
Well spoken common sense

Consumer confidence
Bank accounts offshore
The Justification for violence
And perpetual war

But the cognitive dissonance
Struck me in the face
Ninety-nine percent of us
Had vanished without a trace

The poor ones and the marginalised
Did not appear at all
Their voices filtered and silenced
By a firewall

A narrative of human nature
Fuelled by venality
A chronicle of misadventure
A tale of acrimony

Tempered by the benevolence
Of the USuk
The very 'special relationship'
That makes it all okay

Yet outside this tiny bubble
Another world does exist
'Real' people across the planet
Fighting to resist

Sharing common interests
Of family and love
Of honest labour, home and friendship
Of laughter, tears and fun

I turned off the radio
To miss the latest trouble
I'd heard enough of the empty talk
From inside the bubble

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Dear PM

I am writing to express my deep concern over yesterday’s coverage of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. In particular, I was dismayed by the programme’s lack of focus on serious efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.

Your editors chose to limit the spectrum of possible action to the narrow range of views expressed by Malcolm Charmers and Abdul Barry At War. The options explored were restricted to continuing aerial bombing for the foreseeable future versus sending in ground forces, in other words warmongering versus warmongering. These commentators, unchallenged by your interviewer, dismissed the fact that US, Britain and NATO are clearly not adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections. Balanced coverage would surely embrace a wider range of viewpoints, including those expressing a genuine commitment to diplomatic and political solutions.

This blinkered coverage condemns the BBC to a mere propaganda role. The tragedy is that a government mired in recession and debt, intent on savage cuts to public services, can continue to attempt to police the world with interventions of this nature while the BBC simply looks the other way.

Yours sincerely


PS: Please don’t refer me to the BBC’s Complaints Department. If I want antiseptic, I will go to the chemist. BBC editors are paid from the public purse and should be accountable to the public.


It floats above Afghanistan
Patrols the skies of Pakistan
It cruises over Yemen
Libya is in its sights
Its human operators
Watch from across the ocean
An airforce base in Virginia
Remote control from Nevada

It pours down its destruction
With no fear of casualties
Nobody to shoot at
No sight of an enemy

But this is not war
It's just a military operation
No, this is not war
It's only active participation
And if they tell you that we're fighting
It is just misinformation
Because this is not war
It's a humanitarian obligation

Monday, 20 June 2011


In God's country
The hills tumble down from the sky
In God's country
The land is easy on the eye
In God's country
The buzzard scours the fields
In God's country
The swallow cavorts and reels

In God's country
The ancients tilled the land
In God's country
The barbarians fought their last stand
In God's country
The plough is mightier than the sword
In God's country
There is harmony and accord

In God's country
The old traditions die hard
In God's country
A metre is less than a yard
In God's country
Grow the seeds of discontent
In God's country
The nightingale sings her lament

In God's country
The sorrows can't be drowned
In God's country
Solace can’t be found
In God's country
It's enough to make you cry
In God's country
There's no space for you and I

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Dear Billy

I am writing to urge you to end the bombing campaign on Libya and to pursue a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.

Colonel Gadhafi's dictatorship is a brutal one and civilians are dying and suffering, but nothing will come of further bloodshed. Violence simply begets more violence. The US, Britain and NATO are clearly not adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections.

Rather than descending to the use of brute force, a humanitarian intervention requires a permanent, well-equipped UN peace-keeping force and effective international courts to prevent massacres and mass brutalities. Surely this should be high on the agenda of all civilized nations.

I seriously wonder how a government mired in recession and debt, intent on savage cuts to public services, can continue to attempt to police the world with interventions of this nature.

Yours sincerely



healthy body healthy mind
body stiff and sore from friday football
mind numb from five days of teaching and marking
while the woodle has her weekly lesson
i take the plunge
goggles in position
body braced for the chill of the water
nostrils braced for the chlorine rush
up and down the pool i labour
alternate lengths of calm breaststroke
unsighted backstroke and breathless front crawl
in half an hour
i rack up fourteen lengths
a quarter of a mile
this is great anaerobic exercise
no stresses or shocks to the joints
no tackles from behind
two birds killed with one stone
afterwards we play 'timmy in turtle land'
and sea conservationists
i pose as a nautilus called naughty
while woodle captures me in her net
a specimen for the sealife centre
well it's better than being harpooned!

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Malfaisance, I can't resist your charms
Malfaisance, take me in your arms
Malfaisance, you are so fair of face
Malfaisance, I'm lost in your embrace

You are the arch seductress
You enticed me, lured me in
You led me into temptation
Then forced me to give in

Now my entrapment is complete
And there's no turning back
You have swept me off my feet
I jump when your whip you crack

Malfaisance, your beauty disarms
Malfaisance, touch me with your palms
Malfaisance, kiss me on the lips
Malfaisance, you've launched a thousand battleships

Now I'm in your pay
I cannot prise myself away
I am powerless to resist
My little disillusionist

You call the tune and I come running
You call my name, you flick my switch
I cannot help but do your bidding
I'm always willing to scratch your itch

Oh the unpeople are people too
But to admit it just wouldn't do
We've got to stay on message
We've got to see this through

Malfaisance, you're my satisfaction
Malfaisance, you drive me to distraction
Malfaisance, let me take you for a wife
Malfaisance, stab me with your knife


a sad torn-up cookie box littering our front lawn
calls me defiantly to action
i hold the bin bag
while woodle brandishes the litter picker
our progress along the road is slow
garden lawns and gutter are strewn with
empty cigarette boxes
packing tape
spastic drinks bottles
crushed cans
candy rappers
carrier bags
baby wipes
pizza boxes
turning the corner
we amble through a bizarre world of angular legoland houses
then turn into millenium wood
i tell woodle how it was planted when she was minus three
this makes her giggle
we descend the steep log steps
and emerge into the long meadow
here the litter dries up
replaced by copious piles of dogshit
miraculously not a single building spoils this vista
legoland or otherwise
woodle gets a couple of minutes in the kiddies' playground
before a noisy band of older kids turn up
and she asks to leave
as we turn back into our road
we complete our litter haul
with a broken umbrella
and a deflated football
well done woodle!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


i am pottering around the garden with a watering can
in the cool dusk of the summer evening
i inspect my compost-filled tyres under the shady lilac tree
where my little cucumber plants nestle
i give them a light dousing and turn to move on
out of the corner of my eye
i gauge a movement
peering warily around the privet bush
i make out a stealthy form making its way under h's playslide
a long orangey-brown snout
long pointed ears
a white throat
eyes bright and alert
a large fox!
for a moment we're strangers
face to face a few yards apart
sizing each other up
adrenaline pumping
fight or flight?
then as suddenly as it appeared
the animal turns and bolts over the fence
disappearing into the shadows of the neighbour's bushes

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


bound by a thousand tiny transparent threads
censored by unstated norms
hemmed in by undrawn boundaries
fenced in by invisible walls
contained by a haha ditch at the edge of the lawn
grounded by unperceived forces
we do not notice these constraints
until we try to break free
it is only then that we see through the lie
that comment is free

Monday, 13 June 2011


Days of restlessness
Nights of regret
Failing to banish thoughts
That he can't forget

He can't differentiate
Between night and day
Dream and reality - it's all the same

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

Days of frustration
Nights without release
Visions of dismembered corpses
May they rest in peace

He can't tell the difference
Between dusk and dawn
Caffeine puts him to sleep
The uppers can't stifle a yawn

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

He tosses and turns
He paces around his room
While the footage burns
Dogging his every move

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

Sunday, 12 June 2011


where has this country's wealth all gone?
our nation is blighted by economic misery and social exclusion
2.5 million people unemployed
1.5 million working part-time but would like a full-time job
youth unemployment heading towards one million
graduate unemployment around 20 per cent
13.2 million people living in poverty
including 2.8 million children and 1.8 million pensioners
the state pension the lowest in western europe
15 per cent of high street shops empty
and the government’s austerity measures set to deepen the misery
the stark reality of the world’s sixth largest economy
so where does all the wealth go?
gdp has grown from £621 billion in 1976 to £1,318 billion now
but has not been accompanied by equitable share for workers
in 1976 workers' salaries and wages accounted for 65 per cent of gdp
in the wake of mass privatisations,
the demise of skilled jobs in the manufacturing sector
and the weakening of trade unions
this share fell to 53% of GDP in 1996
after the introduction of the minimum wage
and expansion of the public sector
workers’ share rose
now it's falling again and stands at 55%
wage freezes and loss of pension rights are imminent
the government is reviewing employment laws
which will further shrink workers’ share
of the 200,000 new jobs created in the last year
only 3% are full-time
and many do not give employees rights to pension, sick pay or holidays
all this tells only part of the story
because corporate execs have taken the largest slice of the shrinking pie
between 1997 and 2008 under tory blair
income for the top 0.1 per cent of the population grew by 64%
while that of an average earner increased by just 7%
a typical FTSE 100 exec is on a pay package of £3.7 million
nearly 145 times more than the average worker
these trends have resulted in 50 per cent of the population
owning less than 1 per cent of the national wealth!
with a wealth of £4.2 billion sir fill-up green is the 13th richest person
many of his employees still receive the minimum wage
the state has not collected a higher share of the gdp in taxes
to allow it to redistribute wealth
in 1976-77, taxation took 43% of gdp
now it is 37%
this is one of the reasons behind the brutal public expenditure cuts
and loss of welfare rights
the public share of taxes has declined even though more people are in work,
there are more billionaires than ever before
and the corporate sector enjoyed record profits before the recession
corporations have been the biggest beneficiaries of government policies
as successive governments have shifted taxes away from capital
to labour, consumption and savings
hikes in VAT and NI contributions are a reminder of this major policy shift
income tax personal allowances have not kept up with inflation
successive governments have been engaged in a race to the bottom
and have appeased the corporate lobby by reducing corporate taxes
in 1982 the rate was 52% of taxable profits
by 2007 it fell to 30%
it is set to be reduced again to 23% by 2014
and corporations are demanding even lower taxes!
what abou the amounts they should be paying?
corporations & wealthy elites have become very adept at shifting incomes and profits by using opaque structures and schemes to avoid taxes
boots the chemist now has its headquarters in switzerland
to enable it to avoid british taxes
google dominates the internet and its revenues have soared to £6.35 billion
but the company is estimated to have paid only £8 million in corporate tax
the uk is home to a destructive global tax avoidance industry
headed by major accountancy firms kpmg, pricewaterhousecoopers et al
economic models suggest tax avoidance may be losing us £100 billion a year in tax
this has reduced the tax take, increased the national debt
and threatened hard-won welfare rights
this distribution of income and wealth will not help a sustainable economic recovery
ordinary people spend money on everyday things such as food, transport and clothing and generate a greater effect
compared to the concentration of wealth in relatively fewer hands
yet the uk trend has been in the wrong direction
there is no evidence that feeding fat cats percolates wealth downwards
the obsession with reducing corporate taxes has not been matched by any boom
in private sector investment and jobs
too many already make ends meet by borrowing
one of the factors behind the banking crisis
yet the government has learned nothing
rather than redistributing wealth or pursuing progressive taxation policies
it expects ordinary people to take on even more borrowing to stimulate demand
personal household debt is already £1.6 trillion
bigger than gdp and the largest per capita in europe
the government expects it to reach £2.1 trillion by 2015
there is so sign of a sustained attack on organised tax avoidance
or broadening of the tax base by considering financial transactions tax,
mansion tax, wealth tax, monopolies or land value tax
these are the economics of a madhouse
and the lunatics are running amok!


You ask me why I don't get printed
In respectable publications
You ask me why I don't get published
In the mainstream magazines
What have I done to burn my bridges
With the editing committees?
How did I manage to crush so many toes?

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
They won't touch me with a bargepole
They avoid me like the plague
Because I'm radioactive
That is why

You ask me why I get rejected
By the paragons of Fleet Street
You ask me why I don't impinge
On our prestigious Fourth Estate
Could I have been a touch more clever
Than to ruffle all their feathers?
How did I put their noses out of joint?

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
They won't whisper my initials
They won't codify my name
Because I'm radioactive as plutonium

The answer is simple
I tried to tell it like it is
But my honesty was treated with disdain
Now my face doesn't fit
I've landed in the shit
And none of them will speak to me again!

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
I am persona no grata
I'm the devil incarnate
And I'll be radioactive till I die
And I'll be radioactive for a thousand years!


'who's this creepy dude on the bike?'
i glance up at the impudent mug
of a spiky-haired kid of no more than 11 or 12
'who are you lookin' at?'
impudent spiky-haired kid intones rudely
as i cycle by
loud enough for his mates to hear
as they lark about in the background
among a scattering of discarded steel and aluminium
as i head for the park exit
ISPK has now worked himself up into a lather of hate
'i'll f***ing something or other! he yells
to anyone who might be listening
accompanied by a scampering of feet
for a moment i think he might be intending to jump me from behind
but thankfully i am pedalling alone
through the sanctuary of sedate eymore close
my immediate worry is for other passers-by
who may be subjected to a similar onslaught or worse
perhaps someone who can't take care of themselves
a schoolkid or elderly person
i am also indignant
what gives these kids the right
to make my local park a no-go area?
(some of h's korean schoolpals were threatened
a few weeks ago at her birthday party
when they tried to play football)
once home i quickly google the local police switchboard
the operator tells me she'll inform the local 'asbo patrol car'
she takes my name, address and number but no one calls back
when i go back yesterday armed with a binbag and litterpicker
the area is spotless
some other friend of the park got there before me
perhaps cameraman's big society is not a total dead duck!...

my thoughts return to asbo kid
what kind of childhood has he had?
what kind of encouragement or opportunities?
what makes him rail against complete strangers twice his size?
how could this kid turn out so different from my own?
what are his life chances?
what are the chances he'll be in youth custody in a few years time?
what kind of fabulously wealthy society
produces this kind of casualty?


Dear Mr Soya

Thanks again for your reply. I appreciate your attempts to engage with a listener.

I chose to highlight the 'populist demagogue' phrase as an example of the editorialising you seem so anxious to avoid when it comes to our leaders. Can you seriously imagine such a description being applied to Obama or Cameron in our media? Of course not.

You have failed to address the main thrust of my concerns about your Obama coverage voiced in my second paragraph. I fear that is because you are unable to, which is a great pity.

Don't worry - I will not be troubling the antiseptic BBC complaints department.

Yours sincerely


Subject: RE: Unbalanced coverage of President Obama's address
Date: Fri 10 Jun 2011]

Dear Fireseed

Interesting - ironic even - that, while accusing us of selective partiality, you choose to highlight 'To his detractors he is a populist demagogue with a patchwork quilt of political beliefs' while ignoring the subsequent phrase 'To his supporters he is the leader that Venezuela needs to sweep away a corrupt and outdated establishment'.

Your extrapolations regarding motive are fanciful.

We are not going to agree on this, obviously. If you use the link I've twice sent you, your concerns will be reviewed by the complaints unit, which is completely separate from and independent of programme teams.

All the best

Roger Soya

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Dear Roger Soya

I'm fascinated by the concept of 'editorialising' you introduce in your response to my email. Would this be in the same vein as reporting 'maverick' MP George Galloway (1) or 'leftwing Venezuelan firebrand' Hugo Chavez (2), who 'to his a populist demagogue with a patchwork quilt of political beliefs.' (3) However, I'm also interested in your presumption that journalism can be totally objective, an idea that I would like to take issue with.

The fanfare and applause happened. You were reporting what happened. The point is that you chose not only to report it but to relay this segment in all its pomp and circumstance. Not only that but you decided to devote around 10 minutes of the programme to coverage of the speech. As you are well aware, there is no shortage of newsworthy events happening around the world. Yet close to a fifth of an hour-long programme was dedicated to Obama and his speech. Thus BBC News made an 'editorial' decision to give extended coverage to this particular story at the expense of other news. Why? I would suggest the answer is because Obama is a spokesman for the power and privilege of the few over the many. The lengthy inclusion of Brooks Newmark, clearly an awed, star-struck admirer of the president, was also an editorial decision. It would have been straightforward to find a more sceptical member of the audience to give some sense of balance - a Caroline Lucas or a George Galloway, for instance. However, no such editorial decision was taken, a case of 'editorialising' by omission. Bolted on to the onslaught of rhetoric exercepted from the speech, there was barely any need for the kind of 'editorialising' you suggest that I am proposing.

You're absolutely right to characterise me as a partisan critic of the chief spokesman for a military-industrial combine that kills, maims and blights the lives of millions of innocents across the world, actions which are frequently either under-reported or not reported at all by your organisation. However, my personal views are obviously not what are at issue here. As a public-funded, public service broadcaster, you have an obligation to provide coverage that gives the public a fighting chance of making up its own mind on world affairs. What I am objecting to is your programme's propaganda role in shoving the benevolence of Obama down listener's throats until they choke on his virtue, and by extension that of his bellicose administration and its warmongering little brother on this side of the Atlantic.

Yours sincerely



Subject: RE: Unbalanced BBC coverage of President Obama's address
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2011

Hello Fireseed

The fanfare and the applause happened. We were reporting what happened. To have failed to include that would have been to create a false impression. It would have ben editorialising.

I completely disagree with your assertions as to Norman's tone. He was reporting in a normal voice, the same as he does with all his reports. The excerpts were chose to reflect what Obama said, not to create a false impression. Which excerpts would you have had us use to 'create' a negative impression, as that is what you seem to want?

Norman was reporting the speech. He was not there to analyse it, but to report what President Obama had said through clips and reported speech. If there had been points of fact that he knew were wrong, he would have mentioned that, but he is not there to pass comment. You seem to take a lot of what is merely reported speech as eulogising.

We reported the speech in the same way that we report any major speech. We report what is said and the reaction to it. So, for example, if a minister is jeered or applauded during a speech to a union conference, we say: "Mr Blogs said blah blah blah, which was loudly applauded/booed by the delegates". What we do NOT say is: "Mr Blogs said blah blah blah, which is clearly nonsense (by the way it was applauded by conference, but we won't play you that bit of applause because it might counter MY partisan analysis of the speech)".

So yes, I completely stand by my comment that this was simply reporting what was said. What you appear to have wanted us to do was to adopt a partisan and negative attitude to a speech so that Norman's/PM's reportage mirrored and reflected your personal view of it.

That's not what we are here to do. If Obama had been booed, shouted down, jeered, we would have reported it.

The link for taking your complaint further is:

Your sincerely,

Roger Soya

To: Roger Soya
Subject: RE: Unbalanced BBC coverage of President Obama's address

Dear Roger Soya

Many thanks for your swift response to the email I sent to PM yesterday. However, I find it absolutely astonishing that you can describe the coverage of President Obama’s speech as ‘simply reporting what was said’ – as if there was any semblance of objectivity or balance.

The item opened with a trumpet fanfare and the breathless introduction of the Westminster MC, followed by a passage of enthusiastic applause for the entrance of the president. The excerpts from Obama’s speech, interspersed with Norman Smith’s commentary, delivered in a thinly-disguised admiring tone, were carefully selected to present an overwhelmingly positive impression. “Mr Obama began with a generous tribute to Britain’s role in fostering freedom and democracy,” Smith began approvingly, “and he noted that what was central to both Britain and America was our tolerance, our willingness to accept argument and diversity...”

“Mr Obama’s central theme this afternoon was leadership at a time of change – it was, he said, a new era after a decade of war and recession,” Smith declared in a similarly upbeat vein.

The overwhelmingly positive impression given made it clear the inference listeners were to draw – that here was a world statesman bestriding the narrow confines of Westminster like a colossus. Smith appeared simply to take the rhetoric at face value with no analysis of Obama’s high-flown pronouncements. Would the same approach be applied, I wonder, to the rhetoric of the ‘bad guys’ – the Gaddafis, Kim Jong Ils and Ahmedinejads of this world? Smith showed himself completely unable to distinguish between ‘Brand Obama’ (high on soaring rhetoric) and President Obama, who has just approved the largest military budget in world history.

“Alongside their economic leadership, Britain and America will be at the forefront of encouraging the spread of free enterprise and free markets, ensuring international security and the spread of democracy – with no let-up in confronting terrorism,” Smith cooed, seemingly blissfully unaware of the implausibility of his words given the disastrous recent record of ‘the essential relationship’ in bringing mayhem to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the following excerpt, Obama promised his adoring throng: “As Osama Bin Laden and his followers have learnt, as we fight an enemy that respects no law of war, we will continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard - by living up to the values, rule of law and due process that we so ardently defend.” That this could statement could pass without comment, let alone ridicule, in the aftermath of Bin Laden extra-judicial killing was telling indeed.

Smith finally lingered on the personal chemistry between Obama and Cameron in the “sun-drenched garden” of Lancaster House - where both men appeared “decidedly relaxed”. After a jokey Cameron aside about grillings at the BBQ, Obama “sketched out his vision for the challenges facing the West”, like an artist poised deftly with his palette at the canvas of history.

To hear Brooks Newmark gush sycophantically about Brand Obama - “a breath of fresh air when he took office” – and his ‘inspirational’ speech was utterly cringe-making. ‘A superstar in action’; ‘a master act’; Blair, Brown, Major and Cameron all “rapt with attention”. Newmark simply dismissed fellow-MP Mark Pritchard’s comments on the reluctance of Obama to fully commit to the bombing of Libya, a campaign presumably self-evidently assumed to be benevolent.

Are you really suggesting that this sequence of uncontested platitudes represents ‘simply reporting what was said’? If so, this is a depressing state of affairs indeed.

Yours sincerely



later this month
the peace flotilla sails again
a huminatarian effort to break the brutal blockade
on the innocent civilians of gaza
these brave souls risk being on the receiving end
of more disproportionate violence
from the elite israeli defence force
violence which left nine activists dead last spring
their bodies punctured and violated by thirty bullets
these brave activists
these compassionate freedom fighters
deserve the support of us all

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


where is the green tin of paint?
does nobody care about this?
will no one stand up and be counted?