Manifesto: How Labour Party activists fought for Socialism in Liverpool and the bitter sweet results that followed

Poster for the new film

Manifesto is a new film out this week that explores in depth local Labour Party activists and their fight to get a Labour government elected in the December 2019 general election.

It is an unusual film as it covers a constituency – Liverpool, Walton – ignored by the national media -concentrating on the passion of grass roots activists in one of the poorest parts in Britain. It is also Labour’s safest seat.

The film conveys the idealism of the campaigners and how the last Labour manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn would have meant real change for the people of Walton – many relying on free school meals and food banks – by providing better schools, a better NHS, more worker’s rights and better wages. But it was not to be. Instead Labour lost the general election in the fog of the Brexit row where unknown bureaucrats in Brussels were scapegoated as holding the working class back and depriving them of their ” freedoms”.

A street in Walton. Still from the film

The prism the director Daniel Draper ( who was born and grew up in Walton) uses is to tell the tale through the eyes and voices of local activists -a group that are normally completely ignored.

He intersperses their views with quotes from Robert Tressell’s work The Ragged -Trousered Philanthropists – regarded by George Orwell as a ” book everyone should read”. This tells a semi autobiographical story of a house painter’s struggle to get work in Edwardian England. He died from TB in Liverpool Royal Infirmary and was buried in a pauper’s grave in the city. The link between today’s activists and his legacy is vividly portrayed in one scene in the film.

He also intersperses the dialogue with stills of part of the constituency showing the poverty and both neat and neglected streets.

A thoughtful Ian Byrne during the 2019 election count. Still from the film

The result is a bitter sweet documentary. The campaigning in Liverpool was a great success – with both Parliamentary candidates who are on the left of the party, Dan Carden ( Liverpool Walton) and Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby) returned with thumping majorities.

But in the rest of the country Labour lost badly -including two seats Walton activists were sent to help the party in Blackpool and Crewe.

Since then internal struggles in the Labour Party -including in Liverpool – have divided Labour activists and I am pretty certain Liverpool Walton is not a priority for the new leader Sir Keir Starmer – precisely because it is such a safe seat where Labour voters are taken for granted.

But in my view this would be a mistake. Labour has always been a broad church and the hopes, aspirations and frankly, eternal optimism to create a better society from the people portrayed in this film should not be ignored or squandered by party bosses in London.. The present mess and chaos we are in under this Tory government is too bitter a pill to swallow not only for the voters of Liverpool Walton but for everyone else. As Dan Carden, the MP for Walton said on the film before the result: “We can’t afford another five years of Tory government.”

Dan Carden during the campaign Still from the film

Initial screenings:

16 June: Picturehouse At FACT, Liverpool (Q&A: MP Ian Byrne, activist Alan Gibbons, director Daniel Draper, hosted by Ross Quinn)

16 June: Glasgow Film Theatre (Q&A: MSP Paul Sweeney & former MSP Neil Findlay, hosted by Ruth Gilbert)

17 June: Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle (Q&A: MP Ian Lavery, Laura Pidcock from People’s Assembly, activist Ben Sellers, director Daniel Draper)

30 June: Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds (Q&A: MP Richard Burgon & director Daniel Draper)

DATE TBC: Savoy Cinema, Nottingham (Q&A: MP Nadia Whittome & director Daniel Draper)

3 August: Duke’s At Komedia, Brighton (Q&A: MP Lloyd Russell Moyle & director Daniel Draper)

Further details of other venues including two in London will be on this link https://www.shutoutthelight.co.uk/manifesto

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Living with Shadows: How refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism pass down their angst to future generations

Powerful book is a timely reminder of the trauma of the present day Ukrainian invasion could affect generations to come

Merilyn Moos, the author, and her dog Rama. Pic credit: Carey

By a curious freak of timing as millions flee the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine a remarkable memoir of earlier horrors of the last century – the rise of the Nazis and Stalinists and their effect on the refugees who fled Germany and Russia – has just been published.

The author Merilyn Moos is the daughter of two refugees who fled the Nazis in Germany to live in the UK and this short book describes in a thematic way her childhood here and how extraordinarily she only found out the full story about her parents’ past after they died.

Her father, Siegi ,was a lapsed Jewish Communist theoretician and director of an agit-prop theatre group performing plays by Brecht and a workers opera in Berlin. He went underground on the night of the Reichstag fire and fled Berlin minutes before the Gestapo raided his flat and walked over 1000 kilometres from Berlin to the Saarland to escape, only catching a train to cross the French border at Saarbrucken.

Lotte , her mother, met Siegi in Berlin and also escaped to the UK. But in 1936 she decided to go alone to Russia to visit a lover and friend , Brian Gould-Verschoyle, just at the time Stalin ordered show trials of Trotskyists. Both were put under house arrest and Brian was sent to Spain to work as an engineer to help the Spanish Communist Party. They were supposed never to communicate again but Lotte ignored this sending him a postcard praising a political group to the left of the Communist Party. This was intercepted by Stalin’s agents, he was kidnapped and put on trial as a Trotskyist and sent to a gulag where he died. She blamed herself for his death, fled the USSR coming back thoroughly disillusioned to the UK only to arrested as a suspected spy.

A rich history denied to their daughter

You would think with such a rich history her parents would tell Merilyn about their past. But as the main point of this memoir reveals, the opposite was true. So traumatic was their past they pretended to her that it never happened. Her parents were overprotective of her and paranoid. She never knew that she was from Jewish heritage until she was a young adult. Her father denied he was a Communist and pretended his family was Swiss. His mother never discussed her relationship with Brian.

As Merilyn says in the book: ” No family photos adorned our walls or mantelpieces. It was as if the three of us had been dropped onto earth by a stork, unencumbered by the ties and rituals of family life.”

She had an unhappy childhood, going to bed early until she was a teen and hardly ever allowed out alone from the house except to go to school. Her parents also did not want to her to become involved with boys and effectively pressurised her to break up up her first serious relationship with a boy after she got to Oxford University. No wonder she hardly spoke or visited them for 20 years.

The fascinating part of this book is that despite all of this Merilyn rebelled and followed in her parents footsteps becoming an active trade unionist campaigner and supporter of left wing causes. She is obviously now proud of their hidden past. She also is an accomplished sculptor and I have included one of them in this blog. Her son Josh, is a campaigner on climate change.

Sculpture of a pregnant women by Merilyn Moos

She and her son have been moved by the discovery of her parents real past. One of the most poignant moments in her memoir is how she and Josh traced their history back to Berlin and smuggled their ashes into Germany finding the apartment blocks where they had lived together and scattering the ashes around flower beds and bushes in the courtyard. As she said ” I had brought my parents home.”

This book has real insight into the trials and tribulations of refugees driven out of their country by hostile regimes and the dilemmas they face. Published at the same time as Europe faces its biggest war since the time the Nazis invaded the rest of mainland Europe, one wonders how many Ukrainians feel about their lives as they are driven from their homeland. It is also an intensely personal and honest account of a child of a refugee’s life in the UK and all the better for it.

Living with Shadows by Merilyn Moos. Available from Amazon £8.25

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Review: Social Media & The Seven Deadly Sins: A stunning critique of what went wrong

Book cover of Social Media & The Seven Deadly Sins

I am not a competent authority on using social media. I am no gamer. Indeed I haven’t played a computer game in my life. Yet I do worry as a journalist about the effect of social media on our lives. How it created a super rich elite, how people’s personal data can be manipulated for huge financial gain, how ” fake news” can spread in an instant and how democracy can be destroyed by dark forces on line.

This is a remarkable, well written first book. Its author, Rory Wilmer, is an insider who has made money from digital marketing and advertising for big companies. As he says himself: “I have got to a moral crossroads within myself… I too, have been part of – making a living and a career on the back of surveillance capitalism, data mining and the exploitation of people’s addiction to social media”.

He points out how we, the avid consumers of social media, who never read the terms and conditions of the websites we sign up to – submit to exploitation by allowing companies to make huge profits by “leeching your data and selling it to the highest bidder”. They do this by using clauses allowing them to change the terms and conditions without” even informing you of why and how.”

How an atheist takes a Biblical script

The book is cleverly constructed taking, as an atheist, a Biblical script of the Seven Deadly Sins and dividing the faults of social media between them.

His chapter on lust – reveals the scale of a male dominated internet – and how pornography and sexual titualation. is rife. Put one search for girls on Instagram – and you will find 8 million images of girls. Put one for boys – and you get 2 million images. Everyday 95 million images are loaded onto Instagram – that is 4 million an hour.

He cites Twitter as a site that allows pornography and sexual exploitation of children and is scathing of some of activities of dating sites in protecting data.

His gluttony chapter covers everything from celebrity chefs, promoting diets to wanting the perfect body. His chapter on greed looks at our appetite for viral blogs and clicks while sloth looks at our laziness in discerning the truth -leaving us to believe fake news and be prey to ideas that the earth is still flat and covidiocy. It also deals with sinister Q-Anon movement and interference in elections, topically including Russia.

Making money out of wrath

This book challenges us to look behind what we click and also not to fall for provocations. The chapter on wrath looks at trolls and the nasty Incels movement – the misogynist white supremacists who use the internet to rage that they have not been laid by women and act out fantasies on the internet of raping and dominating women.

This is a thought provoking book. There is of course another side of the internet – its virtues in bringing people together, making people aware, revealing the truth about disastrous situations like the current invasion of the Ukraine and allowing ordinary people the freedom to develop their own ideas and publish them without having to get approval from officialdom. The author is promising a sequel- the seven virtues of social media. I await this with interest.

Social Media & The Seven Deadly Sins by Rory Wilmer. Available from Amazon £14.99 hardback, £8.99 paperback and free with Kindle Unlimited

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Revealed: The secret child sex abuse scandals at Dolphin Square

An amazing new book by ex MP Simon Danczuk and author Daniel Smith

New book published today reveals child sex scandals dating back to the 1980s and a thwarted Met Police investigation that wasn’t the discredited Operation Midland

An amazing new book today reveals the notorious history of one of London’s iconic block of flats – the 1930s built Dolphin Square overlooking the Thames- home over the last nine decades to the rich and famous, spies, Fascists, entertainers and glitzy film stars and even the unofficial home of the Free French army during World War II.

The authors chronicle the lives of about 300 people who lived there from Oswald and Diana Mosley who were interned in World War Two, the Vassall Russian spy and Profumo sex scandals of the 1960s to murders down to an amazingly discreet character, Major Monty Chidson, who smuggled diamonds out of Amsterdam in a daring do operation during the German invasion of Holland. It kept them out of Nazi hands in the Second World War.

This book has been well covered by the Daily Telegraph magazine and other national media with one extraordinary exception. Not a single word has been written about the groups of men who used Dolphin Square for child sex abuse despite two chapters in the book devoted to their alleged crimes.

I am going to concentrate on these stories because you won’t read them anywhere else – I suspect because both the police and the media have been bruised by the activities of Carl Beech, a paedophile who posed as a survivor and fed elaborate and detailed stories of the rich and powerful abusing children and is now in jail for perverting the course of justice.

The terrible heart rending tale of David Ingle

The first story dates from 1982 is of David Ingle, described as an articulate and handsome youth from Lincolnshire, who was taken to Dolphin Square by a Lincolnshire farmer, Gordon Dawson,, after being repeatedly raped by him.

The authors write “According to David, he suffered abuse in three locales: in Lincolnshire, at Dolphin Square and in guesthouses close to the spectacular Blickling Estate in Norfolk. All the while, David’s life away from Dawson was unravelling. He became withdrawn and his previously high performance at school dipped steeply. His only real peace came in the company of the horses he loved to ride”

Dawson took him to London while on church business where he sub leased a flat in Dolphin Square. He took him to dinner with “important people” from the Church of England and MPs. Later he was taken back to the flat. The authors write: “He does have memories of waking up in the flat the next morning, sometimes hearing the voices of men milling about the apartment. He frequently experienced pain in his body that he knew did not correspond to the physical effects of the rapes that Dawson had perpetrated. In other words, he was assaulted by some person or persons other than (or in addition to) Dawson on these weekends. Unable to recall the specifics of the attacks, he would feel ashamed, stripping the bed of soiled sheets, removing the very evidence of his abuse in his anxiousness that no one should know what had been done to him.”

It took him to 2007 to go to Lincolnshire Police to complain about Dawson. The police told him that he was not the first to complain about him. They went to arrest Dawson but once he knew about David’s complaint he went into the woods and was found dead with a bullet to the head.. An inquest gave an open verdict.

The case was raised again in 2015 under the Met Police’s Operation Fairbank but because he couldn’t name anyone it was dropped. Lincolnshire Police also re-opened their inquiry but could not progress the case further.

“It felt to David as if he would only be listened to if he could come up with the name of a ‘big-hitter’ to investigate, or else he would need to produce a signed confession from one of his abusers, or perhaps a videotape.”

William van Straubenzee

The second story comes from the late David Weeks, Tory leader of Westminster about the role William van Straubenzee, a Tory minister who was solicitor to the Dolphin Square Trust and also a paedophile. Weeks said van Straubenzee was a gatekeeper to getting a flat in Dolphin Square. Straubenzee himself lived in a grace and favour flat in Lambeth Palace. The authors write, using evidence given to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:

William van Straubenzee in 1970. Picture credit :BBC

‘In 1982, MI5 received information that suggested that William van Straubenzee engaged in sexual activities with young boys whilst in Northern Ireland [he had been Northern Ireland minister
between 1972 and 1974]. This information was shared with the Cabinet Office, who shared it with the Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher).’ MI5 confirmed that if this intelligence had been received today, under current policy it would be passed to the police.”

Incendiary evidence

The third story is the most dramatic. The authors write:

“Among the most incendiary evidence of wrongdoing at Dolphin Square came in a statement taken from a former police officer identified only as GB. It was entered into evidence only at the end of the last day of hearings in IICSA’s Westminster investigation and the witness did not appear in person to give evidence, nor were they seemingly provided with questions by the inquiry to which GB would have been
legally obligated to give answers. The statement adduced in evidence dated from 20 December 2016 and was given as part of Operation Winter Key, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into allegations of
non-recent abuse.”

He revealed another investigation called Operation Mileshogue.

“GB’s statement was wide ranging. It included allusions to surveillance of a London MP who was suspected of hosting young people overnight in his constituency office. But it also included significant detail of police operations concerning Dolphin Square in the 1990s.”

“MH was … an intelligence gathering operation revolved around a guy called [NAME REDACTED] … He had been a rent boy himself, living in Greenwich at that time. He had a series of young boys. One was [WM-A118] another was (WM-A119] and another 5 or 6. Those boys I interviewed on tape several times. suggested that these children were thirteen or fourteen when they were speaking to them but that their abuses had started when they were as young as 8.]
“They claimed one another had been abused by other people, were taken to parties and things by [NAME REDACTED] himself he was like a modern day Fagan [sic]. He also had them doing robberies and burglaries but he was also an informant for the police, inform on them and then turn up as their appropriate adult. These were kids all from local Children’s Home”.

GB then referred to the ‘Fagin-figure’, saying: ‘He also mentioned Dolphin Square he had been there as a child himself, been abused.’
GB discussed how they had made requests for additional investigative resources to senior officers but their requests were repeatedly refused or bounced back as it was ‘too difficult to do at this time’ and ‘we weren’t regarded as a priority of the Paedophile Unit at that time, GB said: ‘They didn’t want to know about a mass operation with loads of kids to interview. They didn’t know how to deal with it.’
I asked the child sex abuse inquiry their reaction to this. A spokesman denied the inquiry had not weighed up GB’s evidence and pointed instead to an inquiry by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into GB’s allegations. and evidence from Met Police Commander Catherine Roper about the operation. She gave evidence on a number of child sex abuse investigations in London to the inquiry.

Whatever the disclosures both the inquiry and the book conclude there was never a specific VIP paedophile ring.

But they do say: “it is fair to conclude from a wealth of evidence, powerful individuals who did abuse children in Dolphin Square and who got away with it because of who they were and who they knew: in other words, they abused because they knew they could.”

Scandal at Dolphin Square: A notorious history . History Press £20

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Book Review: Traitor King – the pathetic, anti- Semitic monarch who could have turned the UK into a Nazi state

The story of the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 has always been portrayed as a man who gave up the throne to marry the woman he loved. It was often thought that he was a victim of the British Establishment who would never favour in the 1930s a Royal marrying an American divorcee.

Now a new book by historian Andrew Lownie examines what happened after the abdication – and it is not a pretty picture. His meticulously researched account reveals a pathetically weak character falling desperately in love with Wallis Simpson who never really loved him but felt all her life duty bound to stay with the man who gave up the throne.

In this book the Duke of Windsor emerges as a tax avoider, a possible accessory to a murder, a golf bore, barely capable of reading a book and living a lavish tax free lifestyle, often at other people’s expense, in expensive homes in Paris and the French Riveria.

They truly emerge as a ghastly couple, who treated their loyal staff badly, strained relations with their friends and spent their lives in a fantasy world where they pretended they were still a King and Queen with all the trimmings and trappings. It is no wonder the Royal Family wanted little to do with them.

Support for the Nazis

But the most damaging behaviour revealed in this book is their active support for Nazism, including later the holocaust and encouraging the Isolationists in the United States not to become involved in the war.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor went on a tour of pre war Germany in 1937, had a close relationship with Ribbentrop and had tea with Hitler in Berchtesgaden. After the war. there were attempts to conceal embarrassing German papers which showed the connections between them and the Nazis. MI5 had a dossier on the couple which was destroyed after the war.

And strangely the one paper from the captured papers that is missing is the Duke’s conversation with Hitler in 1937. What is known that the Nazis thought the former King was a key person to get the United Kingdom to sue for peace after Dunkirk and he had been sounded out whether he would return to throne to head a Nazi state after peace negotiations. Such concerns led to him being whisked away to Bermuda and then made governor of the Bahamas for the rest of the war. He would have much preferred a role in the United Kingdom or the United States but turned them down the moment it was mentioned he would have to pay tax.

Even in the Bahamas he got involved with pretty despicable company, dodgy business people linked to money laundering and is thought to have been involved in the framing of a man for the murder of wealthy businessman, Sir Harry Oakes, whose fortune was hidden in a bank used as a stash house for Nazi war loot. It is even suggested he might have illicitly benefitted from Sir Harry’s fortune after he was murdered.

Their secret affairs

There is virtually nothing redeemable about the pair in this book Wallis had a long standing affair with a flamboyant gay dancer and socialite Jimmy Donahue. The Duke was bisexual and one his lovers was the Walter Chrysler, Junior, son of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation. Together it is said they organised a party for1000 sailors aboard a Navy ship in Florida with 200 hookers. An Office of Naval Intelligence investigation into Chrysler has disappeared.

Andrew Lownie has chronicled a tragic tale of the idle rich who have nothing useful to do with their lives. It shows that money alone when you have no other purpose in life does not make you happy. But if he had succeeded in getting a negotiated peace with Germany he would have had a role and the UK and the British Empire would have been turned into a Fascist state. The country is lucky he failed.

Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Andrew Lownie £25

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