Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Death Spiral UK

If the Labour implosion has achieved anything, it is that it has raised me from despair to fury. I’ve seen interviews with a succession of Labour MPs, grandees and apologists (some of whom are Tory party members, fercrissakes!) saying that Corbyn should step down, but it is the reasoning that is really making my blood boil.

I have heard people opine that he has been a leader with no direction, and no policies, and done nothing to show opposition to the government - and then watched a clip of today in Parliament where, as usual, Cameron did nothing but hurl personal insults and Corbyn shrugged them off with dignity, and attacked the PM on policy, pushing his consistent agenda of an alternative to the destructive austerity measures. Just like he has done day after day, week after week, since he became leader.

The other argument sounds more convincing at first hearing; that, while Corbyn may have a massive mandate for leadership from Labour party members, the MPs who are opposing him have a bigger one - but this is utterly false. Yes, MPs WERE elected by the votes of the electorate, but as representatives of the Labour party. This may have been where there was a real race between getting a Labour MP or a Tory or SNP or (possibly) a LibDem or, as in the constituency in which I live, where Labour are going to win and it is a question of how much by. The difference is in that those of us who voted for Corbyn as Leader were trying to shape the focus and direction and future of the Labour party, to turn it once again into a political party that represents the majority, that represents the greater good of society and fights for inclusiveness and justice and pulling everyone up together, rather than the spineless Tory Lite that the party has become. Yes, many of us would vote for the the Greens or the Socialist Workers party if we weren’t stuck with this stupid electoral system, but we are so we need to try to (re)shape the main party closest to our views back into something that represents us.

So instead of taking stock of where we are after the referendum, seeing if anything can be done about the result and deciding on how best to proceed if not, the Blairite wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party took the opportunity to stage a coup, and much of the rest of the PLP followed suit; I don’t know what was going through Tom Watson’s mind, but I am particularly disgusted with him. Corbyn has said he will not step down, and he has shown himself to be a man of his word. However, I for one would not blame him if he caved to what must be intolerable pressure, threw up his hands, and said “FUCK THE LOT OF YOU!” If it comes to another Labour leadership election I shall be voting Jeremy Corbyn. If he doesn't stand, or is ousted, I am frankly cancelling  my membership and, I am sorry to say, I am done with the Labour party for good.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Book review: When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has long been one of my favourite authors, ever since I read her debut Behind the Scenes at the Museum. When she turned her talents to crime fiction with Case Histories she brought her wonderful skills to that genre, but it is with the third installment of the Jackson Brodie series that she’s really blown it out of the water.

The book opens with a prologue set 30 years ago, with Atkinson showcasing her complete mastery of character and the seemingly effortless way she builds a scene so real we are immersed in it. A woman takes her three young children for a walk in the Devon countryside. They are displaced from London due to her absent husband’s whim and she is at once trying to keep the children active and entertained, make the most of the situation and walk off her obvious frustration. As with the rest of the book, each piece of description and dialogue and inner monologue or realisation tells us all of this, every bit building and advancing the story (although you might not realise it for a long time) but utterly subtle and realistic. So beautifully and immersively is this scene constructed, the brutal denouement is like punch in the stomach.

The rest of the novel is in the present day and, while the first chapter features the titular main character of the series, Jackson Brodie himself is absent or, at most, on the periphery, throughout the great majority of the story. Instead, we see the tale unfold largely through the eyes of Brodie’s erstwhile colleague/sparring partner/potential love interest DCI Louise Monroe and sixteen-year-old Regina (Reggie) Chase. Reggie is a wonderful character, caught in between so many different worlds; looking younger than she is but wiser than her years, a working class girl who had received a scholarship to a posh school but had to drop out, her mother has recently - suddenly - died and Reggie lives in the unchanged flat with the ghosts of her memory and has a job as a babysitter and home help for Dr Joanna Hunter, who is posh and beautiful and capable and Reggie’s ideal mother figure.

This is a literary novel both in that it is in the literary genre and in the quality of the writing, but it is also definitely a mystery novel. The story unfolds like a puzzle-box, every part of the story intertwining (most often in entirely unexpected ways) and with clues laid out in full view that the reader only realises were clues when the subtle “TA-DA!” of revelation occurs. As well as enmeshing the stories of Louise, Reggie, Jackson and Joanna Hunter (along with Louise’s new, too-perfect husband, and her colleagues, Reggie’s millennialist classics tutor and her criminal, possibly sociopathic, brother, Joanna’s upwardly-mobile, wide-boy Glaswegian husband) she weaves them together thematically - motherhood and loss, partnership and the suitability or otherwise of our choices, the risks posed to women by strangers and those close to them.

This is a terrific book, up there with Behind the Scenes and her more recent, much- and rightly-lauded Life After Life. Every character is built with depth and breadth (even Sadie, Dr Hunter’s German Shepherd) and the way every aspect interweaves - plot and character, motivation and theme, even location - is breathtaking, but done so well and so subtly that it is only breathtaking in retrospect. The resolution of the mystery is truly shocking at the same time as being utterly right and the bow on top is the final paragraph of the penultimate chapter which brings everything full circle and where you realise that Jackson Brodie is the central thread in the tapestry, after all.

You should read this, it is wonderful.


( first published on goodreads )