Monday 11 November 2019

The Politics of Remembrance Day: From #BowGate to #WreathGate (and why remembering isn’t enough)

Yesterday in a series of tweets I wrote:

My twitter presence is much bigger than it was a year ago (thank you everyone) and inevitable this means I face more online 'critique' than previously.

Today the focus has been my 'politicising' o#RemembranceSunday

I have just a few things to say:

As the granddaughter and daughter of army and navy veterans I know personally about the costs of war & would suggest that my views are as valid as anyone's.

As a sociologist, and a critical thinker, I argue that ALL life is political and what more than war & peace, war related death (suicide included) and justice for veterans & their families.

As a @UKLabour member I applaud our party's plans for service personal & veterans, especially with SO many veterans experiencing homelessness and/or PTSD (issues cruelly ignored by the current government).

As a media observer I note once more the implied criticism by some of the MSM (BBC R4 included) at the depth of Corbyn's bow whilst a dishevelled looking Johnson lays his wreath upside down. [NB Johnson also spent the two minute silence looking around and made another gaffe by stepping forward too soon when it was his time to lay his wreath]

As an experienced twitter user I see again and again that those criticising myself and others for politicisation are the very people who constantly, unrelentingly criticise Corbyn for the size of his poppy, the depth of his bow etc. and so on. Corbyn the man who drinks tea with veterans (before attending a service in his own constituency) rather than attend a dignitaries lunch.

With all this in mind I humbly suggest that in always working for peaceful solutions and looking for ways to support veterans whilst genuinely honouring all those who have served our Corbyn-led @UKLabour social movement should be applauded and celebrated not vilified and mocked by anyone who truly cares for those we have lost and those that return from war.

There I’ve made another POLITICAL statement and I’m proud to stand by it. #Solidarity


Today like many others I was shocked, if sadly not surprised, when BBC Breakfast showed footage, not of yesterday’s ceremony but of the ceremony in 2016. 


I have written not one but two complaints to the BBC. The second one following their 'apology'. Thus: 

The ‘apology’:

This morning on the programme we incorrectly used footage from a Remembrance Day service that was not filmed yesterday. This was a production mistake and we apologise for the error.

My complaint:
Earlier today I send a complaint re BBC Breakfast use of footage from Remembrance Sunday 2016 instead of 2019. I have just read your apology on twitter. I cannot accept that this was a ‘production mistake’ not least because it is clear in the 2016 footage that Theresa May and not Boris Johnson was the Prime Minister. Additionally, it surely take some ‘skill’ to mix up footage from yesterday with footage from three years ago. I, and I know many others, can only conclude that your intention was to present the PM as more statesman like, more respectful, than yesterday’s performance showed him to be.

You might find the following from Louise Cooke interesting also:

I used to work for @BBC news. The previous day’s footage is right there in front of you. Footage from 3 years ago needs to be specially ordered from the Library. What sort of ‘error’ is that? #WreathGate If they’re lying like that, this needs investigation. #bbcbias

I’ll leave it there …..

This isn’t the first year I’ve written about Remembrance Day, including the frequent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and why remembering is not enough. If you are interested please see below (in backwards chronological order).

Last year I wrote three pieces about Remembrance Day:

The following is an extract from the first:

Of course Sunday was not by any means the first time that the Leader of the Opposition has been criticised either for his appearance or his supposed lack of patriotism. I’m sure there is no need to go into detail although it is interesting to reflect on how, and possibly why, these issues collided (yet again) last weekend. It is well known, by those who look at little further than the mainstream media outlets that Jeremy Corbyn practices 'Lest we forget' differently to many other politicians. Just a little research uncovers pictures and stories of him meeting with veterans after the man event (rather than attending lunch with dignitaries) and attending and speaking at Remembrance events in his own Islington constituencey as he has done for many years. And yet year after year the focus is on his appearnace - from his 'poorly knotted tie' to his 'scruffy coat' - and his so-called lack of respect - 'he did a jig on the way to the Cenetaph' (no he did not and the papers that reported this had to retract) to 'he's wearing such a tiny poppy.' 

And here is a section from the second of the three pieces:

A few days ago I wrote a piece about my father and grandfathers’ wartime experiences which also included some reference to our current remembrance reflections in the 100th anniversary year of the end of World War I (2).There is an irony here which I pointed out in my piece. There are an estimated 13,000 homeless veterans and there are also obvious deficiencies in the health, work, educational and financial support (for this group and many others). Yet, despite this, it was Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes and his poppy that was the focus of much media discussion (3). This is surprising (or maybe not given that our mainstream media increasingly seems to be unfit for purpose (4)) given that on the same day the Labour Party made a pledge to veterans, summarised in the following tweet:

Our veterans deserve security when their time in service ends:
Here’s our pledge to veterans:
Proper mental health services to treat PTSD
And end to rough sleeping
Free education, retraining, and more apprenticeships

In 2017 I wrote two related ‘stories:

Remember, Remember …
Remember, remember when it was only kids, proudly displaying a man made of paper, dressed in dad’s old clothes, that people gave money to on the streets. That was before an increased awareness of stranger danger; the favouring of the North America fancy dress accompanied candy-fest over bonfires and apple bobbing; and a more nuanced understanding of the gunpowder treason and plot.

I was one such child.

My sister was lauded by all as ‘the artistic one’ so it was she who was responsible for the PENNY FOR THE GUY sign, decorated with colourful drawings of firecrackers, Catherine wheels and fountains. Susan also had the job of painting Guy’s face. But, I could stuff as well as the next boy and I made sure that no newspapers were thrown out for weeks before. Complete with our effigy we’d walk into town, via the seafront, every afternoon once school was over and early on Saturday morning, for two weeks prior to bonfire night. We generally did pretty well and we always had enough to buy sparklers and some toffee to supplement the box of fireworks and the potatoes to bake our parents brought to the party.

Remember, remember the war that, many argue, won a prime minister and her government a further term or two in power. But less of the consequences of that and more of long-term personal impacts of conflict. Once abandoned HMS Sheffield continued to burn for six days until it sank. Twenty crew members were lost and more than that number suffered serious physical injuries. Others, lots of others, from that battle, from all the battles during the conflict, were left with wounds not visible to the naked eye. Post-traumatic stress disorder; just one of the legacies of military activity for more men and women than we like to admit.

I was and I am one such man.

My mental scars influenced by life from then on; my choice to leave the service, my inability to hold down a job, my increasing awkwardness in both intimate and acquaintance relationships. I felt such guilt you see. Guilt for my survival. Guilt for the opportunities which ironically I was ultimately unable to make the best of. Finding joy in nothing and in nobody I retreated from the individuals and the things I once loved. Even now when I experience a little pleasure from the kindness of strangers, an occasional hot meal, an overheard snatch of once beloved music I push it away; unworthy as I feel that I am.

Remember, remember when you next pass by a homeless person on the streets or in the park that you too, or someone you cherish, might be one experience, one crisis, one pay packet away from a life with no security and little comfort. Remember too that an estimated one in ten rough sleepers are thought to be from a service background.

I am one such statistic.



It’s my birthday today.

I’m eight years old.

My name is Poppy Rogers.

I was born at twenty past nine in the morning on November the 11th. Mum says if I’d waited a little longer we’d have scored a hat-trick. I think that’s a funny thing to say.  

Last year I had a party but this year I am going to a restaurant for a pizza instead. My friend Beth is coming with me. Mum is taking us but not coming in. I’m going to text her on my new mobile phone when we have finished our pudding. She says she’s going to go for a walk in the park to see the ducks. It’s raining so she’ll probably wear her old mac. Nan bought the phone for me as my birthday present and it’s got a whole five pounds worth of credit on it. I got some new shoes and a book from mum. I’m excited about going out. This place is too small for a party anyway. Mum and I live on our own in one room in a big house. I’ve never met my dad. We have a sink, a kettle and a microwave so we can make ourselves hot stuff to eat. My favourite is tomato cuppa-soup with bread. The other day we had tinned rice pudding which was nice too. Mum said that there was a whole box full at the food-bank. She hasn’t been eating much lately. I think she must be on a diet. We have to share a bathroom with three other lots of people which neither of us likes much. The boys in the room next door wee on the seat. We moved here just after Easter when the rent on our flat went up. Nan used to take care of me after school on the days that mum was at work but we live further away from her now. Mrs Barsar from the room across the corridor sometimes makes my tea. Mum says we are part of the hidden homeless. But we have a home, even if it’s not a very nice one, and everyone knows we live here so that doesn’t make any sense. Tomorrow we will probably go to church with nan to say a prayer for grandad. I’ve not met him either but mum says it’s not because he doesn’t want to see me but that’s he’s poorly and finds it difficult to be with people, even us. Nan doesn’t see him either and he is her husband. We don’t even know where he is. Grandad was in a war a lot of years ago and his ship was attacked. We learned about another war in school this week and wrote some poems about it. Mr Potts asked me to read mine out first. He said it was ‘fitting’ but I’m not sure what he meant by that. We made poppies out of red tissue paper, black wool and a safety pin. I wore mine all evening and asked mum why she didn’t have one. I was worried because when we walked home Beth’s mum said that everybody who loves our country and is patrotic – I think that was the word – wears one. Mum just snorted though and said that of course she loves the country and proves it when she pays her taxes, unlike some people. I don’t know what taxes have to do with anything.

Grown-ups are really weird. 

NB: Remember, Remember … - although stand alone, could be read as a sister piece to Poppy.

I also wrote a story in 2016. Here it is: 

Hold the Front Page: TIEGATE

'Not good enough, not good enough Frost. We need something catchier, more sensational. Our sales figures have been down recently and this is hardly going to improve them.' As he speaks the newspaper's editor in chief tosses aside the piece his junior colleague has been working on for two days. 

He continues, 'Celebrity break-ups and royal babies just don't do it anymore sadly. The great British public want more, demand more, these days. Having said that there seems to be quite a bit of attention for our latest piece on Brexit, Toberlone and Marmite. What else have you got, anything?'

'Yes, in fact I do.' Frost clears his throat nervously and continues. 'The new figures on child poverty and homelessness are out today and I've also got an idea for something about the human rights agenda and of course there's the recent NHS cuts and creeping privatisation story.' 

'No, no, too depressing and doesn't really portray the country in a good light now does it?' I know you're new Frost but I expected better. This doesn't really cut it in terms of your personal key performance indicators. Haven't you been to the company values induction session? I can get someone else to take over this assignment, if you're not up to it.'

'No chief no. I've got something else. The leader of the opposition has just made some really interesting comments about the US presidential election. I could easily put together a piece with some facts and figures to support his concerns and write something detailed on the Left's position on the similarities of some of the issues facing the UK and America and maybe something on how our 'special relationship' might be from now on.'

'For f*&k sake, are you serious? I really am losing patience now. The PM has already made a speech, everything's going to be fine, and even if it isn't our readers don't want to hear that. Surely it must be clear even to someone as stupid as you that we're not interested in what any of the opposition has to say. What do you think our job is; to educate people? Huh!' He laughs. 'If you'd got in first with a piece about the size of his poppy or his poorly tied tie. Now that would have been a little more acceptable. Look, I guess I'd better do the job for you. Just write something about the refugee issue, we haven't published anything on that for a few days. If you can't think for yourself just rework the usual. Be sure to emphasis the cost to the country and the taxpayer's purse and words such as surge, swarm and scrounger are always good for copy.' 

'But, but...' 

'No time for buts I'm busy and you've taken enough of my time. Just get on with it. It's the annual Children in Need fest next week so your next assignment can be something on that and the goodwill and generosity of the nation, blah, blah.'  


Thursday 31 October 2019

#WinWithLabour: Do You Wish?

NB: I’ve been very quiet blog wise recently, but much more active on Twitter. You can follow me on @gletherby 

Now campaigning for #GeneralElection2019 has started I plan to be busier here. Thanks for reading.

Jeremy Corbyn accompanied by his Shadow Cabinet launched the @UKLabour General Election Campaign. You can read the script here:

A key message: 

Here I add the narrative from a series of tweets I posted on the 28th (the day before the election was called) and the 29th October which demonstrate, I believe, how we will all #WinWithLabour (which has been trending on Twitter all day).

28th October 2019
Do you wish you could end homelessness?

Do you wish you could end child hunger?

Do you wish you could improve workers’ rights?

Do you wish you could ensure the future of our NHS?

Do you wish you could do something to help save the planet?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour

Do you wish you could end hospital parking charges?

Do you wish you could reform the media?

Do you wish you could ensure better support for those with mental health needs?

Do you wish you could renationalise the railways & domestic utilities?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour

Do you wish you could ensure that fat cat companies pay fair taxes?

Do you wish you could scrap Universal Credit?

Do you wish you could breathe new life into our high streets?

Do you wish you could end HE tuition fees and reinstate nurse bursaries?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour

29th October 2019
Do you wish you could be sure the NHS was safe from Trump?

Do you wish you could have 4 more bank holidays?

Do you wish you could stop post office closures?

Do you wish you could give every child a fee school meal?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour

Do you wish you could work a four day week?

Do you wish you could reverse legal aid?

Do you wish you could access a citizen journalism fund?

Do you wish you could stop Saudi Arabia Arms Exports?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour

Do you wish there was a way to make your life a little more comfortable?

Do you wish there was a way to help those less fortunate than you?

Do you wish you could do something to ensure workers’ rights, human rights, animal rights? 

There IS. Just #VoteLabour2019 #GE19

Do you wish you could be entitled to free at the point of use education throughout your life?

Do you wish you could ensure more money for grassroots football?

Do you wish you and your loved ones could be sure of access to a National Care Service?

You CAN. Just #VoteLabour 

And a final tweet on the 29th written a little differently. 
Do you want a better today for you and your loved ones?

Do you wish for a better future for the next generations?

Do you hope for help for those less fortunate?

We CAN have it all. JUST #VoteLabour2019 #GeneralElection2019 #GE2019

I got the idea for my ‘Do you wish…’ etc. lists from the end of John McDonnell’s (Shadow Chancellor) speech at #Lab19 (Labour Party Conference 2019).

 We have this ONE chance of a truly transformative Socialist Government.
 We CAN make history.
 Everyone who donates time, money, energy to @UKLabour, everyone who #VotesLabour2019 is part of it.

 It’s time.
 It’s time for real change.


More soon #Solidarity

Oh and as it's the 31st of October 

Thursday 4 July 2019

Open Letter to Ian Lavery MP, Chair of the Labour Party: Jeremy Hunt

This is my first blog entry for a while. It’s not that I’ve been short of things to write about but one way and another it’s been rather a busy, full-on year. I’ve had a couple of bouts of illness, work has been hectic and there have been some good and happy social times too… It seems as if the mis/adventure will continue as only this Monday a friend ran over my foot with his car (I’m fine, my foot is fine; rearrange ‘old, boots, as, tough’); more of that another day maybe. Despite my lack of activity here I have not been silent/silenced as far as politics goes. This time last year I had approximately 700 follows on Twitter, today, at the time of writing, I have 10,190. This increase is largely due to #SocialistShoutouts from like-minded others and despite the insults and trolling my increased numbers have prompted (I WILL be writing about that on another occasion) I very much appreciate the support and the care I have received via this medium, not to mention the further development of my (lifelong) political education (again… more later). So, what is it that has driven me to pick up my blog writing again today? The title and what follows makes it clear: 

Open Letter to Ian Lavery MP, Chair of the Labour Party: Jeremy Hunt

Dear Ian (if I may)

I am writing to you as Chair of the Labour Party and as the only MP (to my knowledge) who has condemned Jeremy Hunt MP for his recent disgraceful (verbal and written) comments thus:

@Jeremy_Hunt: When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, ‘thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing in the UK’ and now I find myself faced with the leader of @UKLabour who has opened the door to antisemitism. 

As I am sure you are aware a petition (close on 16,500 signatures to date) is calling for Mr Hunt to apologise to the LOTO, given Hunt's 'weaponising of antisemitism’ linking Jeremy Corbyn ‘who has publicly condemned antisemitism on numerous occasions, with Hitler and the atrocities that Jewish people endured and suffered during the Holocaust.’  As the petition notes, and many, many others on Twitter have highlighted (see not least Frea Lockley’s piece for The Canary Hunt’s hideous, political game-playing (just like his recent support for a free vote on fox hunting) appears to be all part of a cynical attempt to enhance his chances of winning both the Tory leadership contest and a future General Election by discrediting Labour. I share here just one quote from Lockley’s article:

@MichaelRosenYes: Hunt linking the place where my relatives were killed to an accusation about the Labour Party; not at all unprincipled hijacking of a world tragegy for his own electoral advantage. Free airtime provided my the mass media. Get off our history you horrible man.

Whilst I agree with you and many others that an apology is needed given the significance of and distress caused by Hunt’s words this does not seem to me to be nearly enough. Such an attack is so, so offensive to Mr Corbyn a life-long, anti-racist; his supporters (MPs, Labour Party members and others) who are regularly smeared (and insulted) by association; anyone who truly wants to fight all and any racism; and of course, as Michael Rosen’s tweet (and similar by many others) highlights, those who suffered and died under the Nazi regime and their relatives and decedents. Surely, there should be demands for Hunt's resignation – how can such a man be seen fit, by anyone, to be a Member of Parliament let alone a Prime Minister – and for legal action against him?

I know we are used by now to an unfair coverage of @UKLabour’s vision, policies and internal issues and concerns by the mainstream media (MSM) but the lack of attention, the almost complete silence from the MSM, following Hunt’s comments is a new low. Furthermore, why is it only you, amongst MPs, that have called out Hunt’s despicable political game-playing? Should not every politician, from each and every political party be condemning this? I appreciate, as you yourself note, that one of Jeremy Corbyn’s admirable strengths is his refusal to sink into the gutter, along with his/our opponents, but is this incident not something we should ALL be taking a stand on, given the real threat to our democracy from both the rise of the far-right, at home and abroad, and the ever-present and increasing attempts (often successful) to shut down the voices of the left?

The reason I am sharing this letter is that I know, as stated above, that I am not the only one with these concerns, not the only one distressed by Hunt’s words and also by the lack of visible outrage from those with more power to challenge. I have of course signed and shared the petition but this feels to me, and I know to others, way, way too little.

I would be more than grateful for your thoughts.

Thank you for reading this, and for all that you do.

Yours in solidarity


Gayle Letherby, (Truro and Falmouth CLP)

Sunday 17 February 2019

LABOUR are RED | Poems NOT just for Valentines's Day

Earlier in the week I wrote some poems. I learnt how to make memes too….

Roses are red,
Labour is too.
Sisters and brothers,
I salute You.

In our thousands we campaign,
With love and support.
Together we’re stronger,
In all that we’ve fought.

So onwards and upwards,
Despite insult and smear,
Remember who told us,
‘It’s YOU that they fear.’

          Labour are red,
Tories are blue.
When voting day comes,
You know what to do.
If you care #4TheMany,
And (rightly) mistrust the few.
Then please vote for Labour
Who care for you too.

Media don’t help us,
Their interest is nil.
Don’t let that stop you,
For triumph we will.

Roses are red,
Labour is too.
The Red Flag is flying,
For me and for you.

For peace and for justice,
For the young and the old,
Shoulder to shoulder,
We need to be bold.

United we're powerful,
Together we stand.
Our present, their futures,
It's all in our hand(s).