Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clapham History: Murder and Fashion

Feels a bit odd discovering a sensational murder took place virtually on my doorstep almost 60 years ago, one which propelled a youth phenomenon into the national consciousness to boot.

In the early 50s Londoners were still overcoming the legacy of World War II, with austerity still casting a baleful pall. Gangs of youths in South London started to adopt a flamboyant style of dress in rebellion against the depressing drabness. Apparently, they were inspired by upscale west end gay fashionistas. The look was flash and expensive.

On the evening of the 2nd July 1953 a fracas started near Clapham Common bandstand and spilled over to North Side, where two lads were dragged off the 137 bus and one of them, John Beckley, was fatally stabbed. The gang wore the cutting-edge fashionable teenage costume which referenced Edwardian style - newspapers found the word too long for headlines so shortened it to "Teddy" and the Teddy Boys were born.

Read Another Nickel in the Machine's great post on this incident.

Friday, July 22, 2011

R.I.P. Lucien Freud

One of the greats passed away sadly on Wednesday evening. From his obit in the Guardian:

"Freud described the move to England as "linked to my luck. Hitler's attitude to the Jews persuaded my father to bring us to London, the place I prefer in every way to anywhere I've been.""

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ask Murdoch!

There have been loads of exciting investigations and enquiries happening here in the good ol' 'UK the last few months, and of course The Guardian has been plugging away at the News International hacking and corruption saga for years.

After Rupert and James Murdoch's extraordinary appearance before a parliamentary committee yesterday, a useful website has been set up - Ask Murdoch - in which you too can query Rupes on pressing issues and get answers in his own inimitable style. I've just tried it out:

Now someone will have to develop a cyber Wendi to leap Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon style into the fray! That would complete the parliamentary experience. Oh yes - and a custard pie.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Stuck on repeat

. . . literally!

. . . is how Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class wittily described Ed Miliband’s doleful and dispiriting response to the public sector strikes last week in the Labour leader’s television interview with ITV’s Damon Green, above. Owen was speaking at an event at the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival.

Miliband is in a difficult position as the Tories and their propaganda cheerleaders in the press are still desperate to pin the “Red Ed” tag on him. Ed’s winning the election by a whisker, largely thanks to Union votes, leaves him vulnerable to being painted as the Unions’ puppet. Ridiculous as it is, 40 years on from the 70s and with Britain having the tightest restrictions on Union activity in the Western world, both major parties and the media still regard this as a touchstone issue in contemporary British politics.

And yet, as general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Mark Serwotka’s annihilation of Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister on the Today programme on Radio 4 demonstrated, the government’s position on the pensions issue and the strikes themselves is almost nakedly hypocritical - a cynical, ideological attack on civil service pensions.

But instead of capitalizing on this line of engagement Miliband chose misjudged, clumsily executed and unconvincing triangulation. It makes him look weak.

Tony Blair did triangulation so much better back in the 1990s. But it is not the 1990s any more, and the financial crisis has exposed the fundamental flaws in the Thatcherite neo-liberal project. We need to get rid of it, not compromise with it.

There has never been a better moment for a Labour leader to expose the Tory subterfuge on the cuts, to drive home to the electorate just how ideologically motivated they are, on an issue that every voter can understand - pensions.

Margaret Thatcher overthrew the post-war social democratic consensus by being bloody minded, brave, and unapologetically clear in her pronouncements. Miliband is not going to overturn the Thatcherite consensus by weaseling about with soundbites.