Gerry Conlon Memorial Lecture…Preview

Previewing An Feile programme last week on Slugger O’Toole, Alan Meban noted that the “SDLP is back”. Well, I am tempted to say that we havent gone away ya know…although GOD knows Slugger would like that. But I think Alan is wrong.
As you will see from the small insertion (page 33) in An Feile brochure, the Gerry Conlon Memorial Lecture does not carry any indication that this is a specifically SDLP event.

I have always defended An Feile against the charge that it is little more than a “Provo front” But increasingly West Belfast, thru the wall murals, community organisation, An Feile etc, is virtually a one party state.

For my American friends, I should point out that the Westminster MP is from Sinn Féin. Five of the six members of the Stormont Assembly are from Sinn Féin (Alex Attwood from SDLP is the sixth) and Sinn Féin hold the lions share of Belfast City Council seats in West Belfast wards.
The showpiece event of An Féile is “West Belfast Talks Back”. It is a panel event featuring representatives of political parties. Sinn Féin is quite properly represented but SDLP is never invited.
This year, the panel is made up of a Sinn Féin councillor, Gavin Robinson MP (DUP East Belfast), Julie Ann Corr (PUP Councillor) and Jeremy Corbyn MP who is from London,a British Labour Party Leadership candidate.
Its hard to see that this is not a calculated snub to both SDLP and Gerry Carroll, the People Before Profit councillor, who is making an impact in West Belfast. Frankly real or imagined threats to Sinn Féin dominance in West Belfast are not tolerated. And Sinn Féin seem further intent on marginalising SDLP. DUP and PUP are not a serious threat and SF can appear inclusive sharing a platform with unionists.

Events at An Feile have a routine. A few words of welcome from one of the organising committee. So two years ago in 2013, we had the spectacle of (then) Director, Danny Morrison introducing a SDLP event. Morrison is a former Chief Press Officer, “a journalist and author” (we are ALL journalists and authors Danny) and notoriously dismissive of SDLP.
The 2013 “SDLP” event featured a panel discussion on Victims. It featured Catherine McCartney whose brother was murdered by people close to the IRA and Breege Quinn whose son was murdered by people close to the IRA. Both murders occurred since the Good Friday Agreement. During this discussion, Danny Morrison had the sense to sit in sullen silence on the front row….his big hat possibly hiding any embarrassment.
SDLP members present considered it a success. My blog on the event can be found in my August 2013 archive.

Yet there was no “SDLP” event in 2014.
Why not?
There are two answers. According to SDLP sources, they were informed by An Feile organisers that An Feile would not host an event organised by a political party.
But according to An Feile source, SDLP did not submit a proposal.
I know who I am inclined to believe.
Just take a look at the 2014 programme and note the event where Gerry Adams unveils a memorial to Bobby Sands in the Felons Club.
Or just look at the pics in the brochure…isnt that Spike Murray of Sinn Féin at the top of the page. Arent Martin McGuinness, Bobby Storey and Danny Morrison all on An Feile programme.

Of course apologists for Sinn Féin will point out these “SF” events are one step removed from the political party. They are organised by ex-prisoners, residents groups etc but clearly the fingerprints of Sinn Féin are all over these events.

In January this year (see my blog archive), the first Gerry Conlon Memorial Lecture was held. There was,..I emphasise…no SDLP signage and no reference made to SDLP during the event. It was chaired by Alex Attwood MLA and featured Michael Mansfield QC and Paddy Hill a member of the Birmingham Six.
Gerry Conlon was of course apolitical but SDLP seem to have earned the right to adopt Gerry and his legacy. Certainly his family was in attendance in January.

So An Féile 2015 and the second Gerry Conlon Memorial Lecture in seven months and it is an “SDLP” event. Clearly, this is a good move on SDLP part and effectively the third successive event, where SDLP has challenged the Sinn Féin record on Justice.
The Organisers of the Gerry Conlon Memorial Lecture (tomorrow evening in St Marys University College) are as different from SDLP as the ex-Prisoner Committees are distinct from Sinn Féin.
The keynote Speaker is Mairia Cahill the young woman who has challenged Sinn Féin on her treatment when she accused a senior member of Rape and more senior members of a cover-up. Suffice to say that her allegations, bravery and demeanour rattled Sinn Féin….not least the reaction of some of Sinn Féins over-hyped and over-promoted women.
So tomorrows lecture is going to be interesting.
As I recall, Mairia Cahill was a volunteer with An Féile and my first thought is who from An Féiles Organising Committee will make the welcoming speech.
The other Speakers will be interesting. At this point, I do not know who is on the panel. Certainly, Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International’s local franchise, did not cover himself in glory in January.
Certainly, there is a wider pattern, where women and children were routinely abused by all sides during the Troubles. Kincora, for example.
Just how “Republicans” react to the Lecture…thats interesting. Certainly there will be some embarrassment that a well rehearsed narrative of West Belfast solidarity with the “Republican Movement” will be undermined …even if its only for an hour and a half.
Sinn Féin would certainly prefer the narrative of brave women in Armagh Gaol in the 1970s. One other Féile event is “The Sisterhood” where ex-Prisoners talk about their experiences.
These days, there is little to fear from the “Republican Movement” in terms of kneecaps being shot off. Thats so ….20th Century. The biggest threat in 2015 is likely to be a warning from a solicitor. In my experience, very few solicitors earn as little as the “average industrial wage” earned by prominent “Republicans”.

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Glasgow Belongs To…..?????

Several years since I spent any meaningful time in Glasgow.

It has changed…a lot. My first visit in early 1970s, the Gorbal tenements were still there and the City carried a lot of the nasty sectarianism of Rangers (mostly) and Celtic (less) and “Taggart” -style menace as well as the Billy Connolly-style humour and the late-night pub brawls in Renfrew Street.

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Glasgow has been re-generated in much the same way that Liverpool and Manchester have been re-generated. And Belfast and Dublin for that matter.

Arriving in the city at Buchanan Street Bus Station, there is an immediate awareness that this city is proud of itself…frankly in a way that neither Belfast or Dublin can match. Maybe I am just overly familiar with the two largest cities in Ireland. The hotels in and around the City Centre and the Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre show a city on an upward spiral.

I dont ever recall Buchanan Street being this exclusive in shopping terms. Entire shopping arcades selling expensive jewelery. Who can actually afford this? Besides footballers at Celtic FC?

George Square is still George Square. The pillar with whatever “King George”, who gives his name to the Square. This is “Establishment”…Georgian meets Victorian…Robert Peel, William Gladstone and the Cenotaph. This is the Square where Glasgow comes together. Unlikely equestrian statues of Victoria and her consort Albert…it seems a parody.

But even in the days when I visited more often, George Square looked dated and a relic. City of Empire was nineteenth century. There was a different narrative for the twentieth century.

For Glasgow was the “Red Clyde”. The shipyards and the factories might well have been in terminal decline in the 1970s but this was solid Labour. The Scottish Nationalists were confined to the Highlands and little more than an irritant. They would never challenge Labour in Glasgow and  across the great central bank of solid seats.

This was the Scotland of Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling, Robin Cook, John Reid, John Smith…Donald Dewar ….and it was all swept away less than three months ago. The SNP took 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats. Neatly the Labour Party, Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats have one seat each.

Donald Dewar was the Secretary of State for Scotland in Tony B Liar’s first government after 1997, He died around 2001. But his big idea was that a devolved Scottish Assembly would neutralise Scottish nationalism. When he died, he was quite well respected and they even erected a massive statue to him outside the Buchanan Galleries. It now seems premature.

For as Donald Dewar looked down Buchanan Street last Saturday, he would have seen Palestinian supporters collecting signatures for a petition. And he would have seen the Socialist Workers Party, Communist Party stalls and around the corner in Argyle Street, he would have seen the Socialist Party.

The SWP people were really nice guys. They promised to pass my good wishes to Vanessa Redgrave. Interestingly Labour still controls the Glasgow Council but will be swept away in the next local election. I was told that Labour doesnt like the politicalisation of the City’s most exclusive shopping area. And I was told that SNP, who dont have a stall in the street (they dont need one!) will be much more tolerant of the fringe left-wing groups.

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There is an integrity about the re-generation of Glasgow. It needs no Giro d’Italia or World Police and Fire Games. It needs no Tall Ships Race or Titanic crap. There is no “Bread and Circus” here. No LetsGetAlongerism. Just a quiet confidence…as quiet as the bi-lingual sign in Queen Street Railway Station, barely one hundred metres from Queen Victoria unlikely sitting on a horse, looking very imperial. She would not be amused. But she better get used to it.

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The Royal Mile (Edinburgh Re-Visited)

Thirty seven years ago, I spent a lot of time in Scotland. Over the course of eighteen months, I was in Edinburgh on  seven occasions. Sometimes I was there for two weeks. Sometimes I was there for three days. It was all work related but plenty of leisure time to see the sights…to take a Saturday trip to Inverness and walk around Culloden Battlefield or go to a pre-season football match between Dunfermline and Hartlepool United or freeze watching Hearts Reserves against Raith Rovers Reserves.

Staying in the Inverleith B&Bs with other colleagues from Belfast, Newry, Derry and Enniskillen. Having the waitress in a bar near Edinburgh Castle come to our noisy table….we had been celebrating a good night at Powder Hall Greyhound Stadium and tell us that we should leave. Our accents were agitating the off-duty soldiers from the Castle. I dont know if they were the brave Scottish Soldiers that Andy Stewart used to sing about. All we knew…Catholic nationalist from West Belfast or Protestant unionist from Coleraine….was that in 1978 in Edinburgh, this was a very bad pub to be in.

Edinburgh always struck me as a strange city. Little to do on a Presbyterian Sunday. And Conservative. Despite the dubious link to the Highlands and Jacobites and a tourist industry that bought into “shortbread tin” Scottish Nationalism, all the evidence pointed to a very unionistimage image image


Indeed I recall one Victorian hotel was called the “North Britain Hotel”. Of course, even in 1978, I knew that West Briton was a term of abuse for Dubliners who showed some unionist or pro-British sentiment. But Edinburgh was different in pre-Thatcherite times. They embraced the term “North Briton”. It under-scored the legal, business and political Establishment.

The last time I was in Edinburgh was the early part of 1979. I had not yet met Mrs Fitzjames Horse but we have talked for several years about going there. In part, I wanted to show her part of my life that she has never seen. The cluster of B&Bs around the old Training Centre. And the functional Edinburgh around Princess Street and the historic Edinburgh up on the Hill. GOD knows I had forgotten just how steep that hill is. In 1978 and 1979, I was up and down the Royal Mile like a mountain goat. But in 2015, It was really hard on our elderly knees.

So what did I learn from this?

I dont think I ever noticed the park benches in Princess Street before. Many dedicated to Scottish (British) regiments and many dedicated to individuals “who loved this city”. Yet the one that struck me most was the bench dedicated to the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War. It is pictured above as is the more conventional statue dedicated to the Black Watch (also above).

The Castle is as I always remember it…British rather than Scottish. It did after all hold out against the Jacobites in 1745 and indeed much of the Royal Mile leading downhill from the Castle is very “Establishment”….St Giles Cathedral, the University, the David Hume statue, the Heart of Midlothian mosaic (above) , Deacon Brodies, John Knoxs House (above).Little has changed. There is a flavour of antiquity in the high buildings where it is easy to imagine the population looking out of those windows to gaze on the public executions

For my taste, there was too much “shortbread tin” Scottishness in the kiltmakers, whisky shops and souvenir shops on the Royal Mile. The large men wearing kilts, who owned or worked in these shops struck me as “Tartan Tories” rather than Scottish Nationalists.

There is a lot of History in the Royal Mile and within the “old” city. The City was once walled and there is certainly a lot to see…this is the city of Robert Louis Stevenson, of a very deprived underclass who lived in caves below the streets. It is the city of Burke and Hare (the grave robbers) of Walter Scott (a very impressive memorial in Princess Street).

It is the city of Greyfriars Bobby. It is the city of….Harry Potter tours.

Oddly the National Museum of Scotland had little to interest a Jacobite historian. Three cabinets of fairly mundane artefacts and the only surviving Jacobite flag from The Battle of Culloden. All captured Jacobite banners were ritually burned by the Edinburgh Hangman, after the Battle.

But overall my impression was that while Edinburgh went “nationalist” in May’s Westminster Election, there is something in and around the Castle…the Militarism of the Edinburgh Tattoo and the “Establishment” that is still very much West Briton in character.

It contrasts unfavourably, with Glasgow and I find this odd. In the 1970s Edinburgh at least had an aspect of (shortbread tin) Scottishness while Glasgow had the air of a British city…a Labour stronghold.

There has been an odd role reversal.





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The Tories Have A Mandate…So Do Labour!

It is sad to see the British Labour Party implode under the temporary leadership of Harriet Harman. But she was always a phoney. A total careerist who would jump on any bandwagon to climb thru Labour ranks.

Leading the Labour Party to abstain on the Welfare Cuts is shameful. Her excuse …that the Tories won the Election on the basis of imposing cuts …they have a mandate ….misses the point entirely.

First off, the draconian cuts go much further than anything that was in the Conservative manifesto.

Second and more importantly, Labour Party have a mandate…to oppose the Tories. Labour is the Official Opposition. It is bizarre that Labour politicians are arguing that the Tories and/or the voters got it right in May and that the Labour Party got it wrong.

The fact is that the opposition to the Tories was led by Scottish Nationalists, LIberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and the single member of the Green Party…and of course the forty eight Labour MPs who defied their Party whip and voted against the Government.

Leadership candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall abstained. The three of them are of course totally useless. I dont expect much from them. But there are decent people on those benches….Alan Johnson, Hillary Benn for example and sad to see them abstain. Shameful and pathetic.

Credit therefore to Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and others, who actually had the courage to do the right thing. They will be called dinosaurs. But they are more in touch with the feelings of voters…Labour voters than the mainstream Parliamentary Party.

It would shake things up if a bearded Lefty like Corbyn won the Leadership. If anyone predicted that twenty years ago, they would have been put in a padded cell. Corbyn has not “moved to the centre”. The likes of Harman, Burnham, Cooper and yer woman, Liz Somebody have abandoned the centre and moved to the right of a place where no Labour Party member should be.

Yet I dont think Corbyn will win. It is still for Burnham to lose.

Twenty five years ago….when Jeremy Corbyn’s beard had fewer grey hairs….the Militant Tendency (the left wing Party within a Party) was a threat. Neil Kinnock, as Party Leader fought against it. Today, the greatest threat to Labour is the Non-Militant Tendency….the cowards who abstained on Monday night. Ironically one of them was Stephen Kinnock….the son of the same Neil Kinnock. Hillary Benn (son of Tony) also abstained. And that really sums up where Labour is in July 2015. A very bad place.

But the greatest irony is that SNP, Plaid Cymru and SDLP….nationalist parties….are representing the interests of ENGLISH working class much better than the (majority of) Labour Party. It is of course cheeky that yesterday SNP occupied the Commons benches reserved for the Official Opposition…but GOD knows, they made a point which will not be lost on English voters.

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Wellington Meets His Waterloo…in Glasgow.

So …the Battle of Waterloo 1815-2015. A big Bicentenary in Scotland? After all…those Red Squares…the Black Watch, the Gordon Highlanders, the Scots Greys and a lot of other Scottish regiments took part in the Duke of Wellington’s most famous victory over the French.


I bought the above postcard, thinking that it was just a one-off, literally a snap-shot of Scottish humour. The statue is outside Glasgow’s Modern Art Gallery and the pic below is how it looked on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week.

image It appears that the traffic cone on the Iron Duke’s head is now an integral part of the statue.

In Buchanan Street on Saturday, there were a lot of street performers. The pic below is one of them.


So what is it with the Duke of Wellington and the Traffic Cone? Well….it is a tradition. Every so often the traffic cone is removed by the Council. But every time it is removed, it is replaced. So the Duke of Wellington and his Traffic Cone are now part of the fabric of the City of Glasgow. I really love this.

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The “Queen”…Nazi?

Buchanan Street Bus Station on Saturday. I bought the “Scottish Sun”. Seven full pages …exclusive. A video exists of Mrs Windsor performing a Nazi salute. Well, it would be a constitutional crisis if “The Queen” performed a Nazi Salute in Buckingham Palace last week. Unfortunately for Republicans like myself, the footage is over eighty years old. Mrs Windsor was a seven year old girl. She was in the company of her mammy, wee sister and her uncle….Uncle David, later “Edward VIII”, later Duke of Windsor. He was a complete and utter bounder…a cad of the worst sort, as Bertie Wooster might have put it.

I wonder if her Daddy, Bertie, later “George VI” took the home movie.

You either like the institution of Monarchy or you dont. I dont.  You either like the “Royal Family” or you dont. I dont. You either like the “United Kingdom” or you dont. I dont.

This is a unique aspect of the “United Kingdom”. As a nation, it is locked into Monarchy. And Monarchy is linked into a single, extended family.

Most enlightened democrats …including Englishmen annd English women would regard Monarchy as an outdated and undemocratic system of governance. Worse than a single person as Monarch, there is the theological nonsense that the “Queen” is Supreme Head of the Church of England and the bizarre nonsense of Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, Lords, Knights, which makes up English aristocracy.

For monarchists, the stability of the “kingdom” is held together by the personal charm and sense of duty of the long-serving Elizabeth II…sixty odd years on the throne…and the grooming of William, Kate and their babies, George and Charlotte to be fairy tale distractions in the middle of the 21st century. Charles and Camilla dont really pass muster in the “charm and service” category. Nor are they a fairy tale distraction.

Just like the fate of French King Louis XVI was sealed when he walked up to the guillotine, so Charles’ fate was sealed during the sham marriage to Lady Diana.

The courtiers have been busy re-inventing the Monarchy and the “Royals”. The unlovely Anne, Randy Andy and the really useless (sic) Edward have been air-brushed out of the narrative.

But as monarchists shamelessly use a family (blessed by GOD) to bolster Monarchy and a wider conservative agenda, they denounce liberals for using their distaste for Monarchy by attacking an “ordinary family”.

If it is wrong for liberals to use the family as a weapon…it is equally wrong for monarchists to use the family as a weapon.

Which brings us to the Nazi Salute. Monarchists become defensive. Republicans see an opportunity.

The German ancestry of the English Royals is, in this case largely a red herring…more so in 2015 than in 1933, when the footage was shot. The First World War and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm had largely severed dynastic ties. Likewise the murder of the Russian Czar. Europe was a very different place in 1933.

So I dont see any great Germanic connexion. But bachelor Uncle David playing around with his neices seems a more likely context. Surely most Norn Iron parents will be familiar with their seven year old children being influenced by a lovable but politically incorrect uncle.

Surely Protestant parents sending their children to an integrated school in Bangor wince when the East Belfast uncle shows up to a summer BBQ and teaches the children how to sing “The Sash” and prance about like an Orange man. Likewise, Alliance voting Catholics in Carrickfergus might wince when the uncle from Crossmaglen shows up and teaches the children the words of “Sean South from Garryown”

No Big Deal. Uncles go home to East Belfast and Crossmaglen and parents duly lecture the kids “dont sing that song at school” and “dont say that at the pony club”. Likewise Uncle David in 1933. He goes home to Fort Belvedere and Bertie and Elizabeth lecture Lilibeth and Margaret Rose “dont do that Nazi salute in front of the servants”.

This context does not entirely let the the Old Queen Mum off the hook. She would later be able “to look the East End in the face” when Buckingham Palace was bombed in WW2 and become Britain’s favourite granny….while being a gin-soaked old racist. She was cheerily joining in the Nazi Salute in 1933.

But this footage was shot in a “country house” and in between shooting grouse and taking cocaine at parties, many in the English aristocracy were also practising the Nazi Salute and wangling invitations to meet with Herr Hitler in Berlin and Munich. Meeting Hitler was as much part of the 1930s “Season” as Royal Ascot, the Henley Regatta and the Lords Test Match.

Indeed admiration for Hitler was not confined to the Upper Class. Bands of black-shirted thugs roamed around the East End involved in street-fighting with Jewish people. Maybe there is a narrative that English people in the early 1930s were not aware of how bad Hitler would become. There was a growing awareness thru the Decade but by 1938, there can be no excuse for the  England football team produing a Nazi Salute before an international match against Germany in Berlin.

What is clear is that by 3rd September 1939, English men from the aristocracy and working class…many who had previously expressed pro-Nazi sentiment…signed up to fight Hitler, Germany and the Nazi Cause. Did they abandon anti-semitism? That is harder to say.

This past weekend, royalists have rushed to point out that the young “Princess Elizabeth” herself signed up to drive and repair British Army trucks. She fought the Nazis.

But where does that leave Uncle David? A cad and bounder from a story by P G Wodehouse? Or Upper Class Twit of the Year from a Monty Python sketch?

More likely a man …born into privelege, humoured by sychophants and with a sense of Entitlement, made worse by having  to abdicate the throne when he wanted to marry an American divorcee.

Wallis Simpson is cast as the villain of the Drama. Not content to be a Royal Mistress, she wanted to be Queen. It was never likely to happen. The lifestyle that she and David Windsor lived was too well known to Intelligence Services and Media to allow him ever to be on an English throne and be “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.

Royalty is a Soap Opera. Parts are played by Actors and Actresses.

Just like actor, William Roache is a prominent member of the Conservative Party in Cheshire….it is too easy to confuse him with Ken Barlow, the character he has played for fifty five years in Coronation Street. “Ken”, a socialist, even spent a week in prison in the early 1960s for a protest against nuclear disarmament.

Elizabeth Windsor, the actress is no different. Privately educated multi -millionaire with an interest in Horse Reacing and friend to her tweedy aristocratic cousinage, she plays the part of the politically neutral Queen of England. She has played the part for nearly a decade longer than William Roache has played his part in Coronation Street.

There is of course an “Heir and Spare” aspect to the 1933 footage. The rules for the Heir and Spare are different.

Thus Lilibeth the Princess in 1933 was the heir (thru her father Bertie, heir to unmarried David). Certainly since the abdication in 1936 to her coronation in 1953, she was the chosen one. Her sister Margaret was therefore at liberty to be a fixture in London’s High Society and have affairs notably with Group Captain Peter Townsend…until she married Anthony Armstrong-Jones and …..divorce and her decline into alcohol and drug abuse and boorishness.

Likewise Charles could de-flower English Roses in High Society …and the newspapers were suitably discrete. All under the tutoring of an Australian “lady” called Kanga.Of course he ended up marrying the only virgin left in the English aristocracy. In many ways different from Wallis Simpson….Diana also did not know or care about the rules.

The Spare to Charles was “Prince” Andrew, who not actually being Heir was legitimate tabloid interest. His affairs, notably with Koo Stark, an actress and his marriage to Fergie all contributed to the Randy Andy image. But as he lost his youth and descended into boorish, golf club, royal entitlement, the British Nation fell out of love with him.

Likewise William and Harry. Harry, born to be the Spare can do the things that William cant do….at least publicly. Thus a brief scandal at a Las Vegas orgy is explained as a war hero letting off some steam. He is 30 years old. It is behaviour which will be tolerated until he settles down with a nice girl. Of course, just like Uncle Andy, such behaviour might not look so good when the Ginger Prince is in his fifties.

The Heir and Spare issue brings me back to Uncle David and Bertie. Heir and Spare. Yet somehow, they were miscast in the Royal Soap Opera. David, Man-About-Town-And-Orgy was the Heir and yet he behaved like the Spare. Dull, family man, Bertie was the Spare and yet he behaved like the Heir.

Of course the vitriol reserved for David Windsor is not just about his depraved lifestyle, his choice of Mistress/Queen or choosing her above his Duty to the Nation. The admiration for Hitler was real enough and in WW2 , the former King was given a minor role as Governor of Bermuda, effectively exile on a remote island. Suspicions remain that he would have willingly returned as a “puppet King” in the event of a Nazi victory. I think its an accurate assessment but David would have said it was for the good of a defeated nation.

aThe Press Office at Buckingham Palace are of course outraged that this footage has emerged. “Her Majesty is Furious” is the headline. The Daily Mail (Rothermere family supported the Nazis) claims that Lilibeth was actually mocking the Nazis in the footage. That seems unlikely.

But surely this is a product of the confusion of a Family AND a Nation. A private family fun moment in the 1933 sunshine should probably stay “private” ….except of course where the “family” is the hereditary “Head of State”. The moment when the Monarchy …Lilibeth and Margaret Rose are mere children….but their mother and uncle are adults….perform a Nazi salute IS of National Importance. It deserves to be seen by the British Public and while Rupert Murdoch will be vilified for its publication and no doubt has an agenda, no democrat should really be outraged at ridicule being heaped on an Institution, which is at best, outdated and at worst, sinister.

Of course, the “Royal Family” is no stranger to the Nazi Party. Lest we forget, the kilted Duke of Edinburgh is a charachter played by a Greek actor, whose stage-name is Philip Mountbatten. Lest we forget Philip is of German heritage and had two brothers in law in the German Army  in WW2. Nor should we forget Charles Edward (died 1954) who attended his cousin George’s coronation in 1937.  Charles was German and a member of the Nazi Party.

But can a thorough review of the links between the British Monarchy and Nazi Germany ever take place?

Yes. It is surely all in the Archives…just like this previously unseen footage from 1933. Are the British people entitled to see the photographs and read the correspondence? Ah…..see thats a problem. Because that would be an intrusion into the private life of an “ordinary” family.

As always, Monarchists want it both ways.

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Atticus Finch…LetsGetAlongerist

In Glasgow and Edinburgh, this weekend, I kept seeing copies of “Go Set A Watchman” (Harper Lee) Well to be fair, I spent a lot of time in Waterstones, WH Smith and other bookshops. That might explain it.

The publication of the book and the book itself , are two different stories.

I have not really followed either in detail.

But it seems simple enough. “Go, Set A Watchman” is set twenty years after “To Kill A Mockingbird” but it was written BEFORE “Mockingbird”. And now published six decades after “Mockingbird”

“Mockingbird” is a classic of both American Literature and American Cinema. And I suppose Harper Lee is living proof (she is now frail and elderly) that there is a “book inside all of us”. In material terms, she had no need to ever write another book.

There ARE issues. Is “Watchman” (written first) a draft of “Mockingbird”? Is “Watchman” the intended third part ofa Trilogy?….Is the intended canon….”Mockingbird”, a second novel and rounded off by “Watchman”?

As the premise of the recently published “Watchman” is 35 year old Scout returning to Alabama to visit her father and discuss issues arising from a period decades before…the discovery that Atticus Finch was not so liberal minded after all…it suggests that the young Harper Lee had a foresight beyond her years.

I am always wary of making too much of the parallel between the American Civil Rights movement and the Norn Iron Civil Rights movement.

But I do recognise a LetsGetAlongerist when I see one. And I suspect Atticus Finch Was at heart…a LetsGetAlongerist. A lawyer who did his best for his clients against a background of a set of laws, he would like to change…but not radically.

The Law Library in Belfast was full of such people….so-called “liberal unionists” in the 1960s. Richard Ferguson was one. So arguably was Robert Porter. So arguably was Basil McIvor.  But ultimately an alleged sense of “British” decency did not prevent Ferguson being a Unionist MP before defecting to Alliance. Nor did it prevent Porter being a Unionist Stormont MP who was Minister for Home Affairs. Nor did it prevent McIvor from serving as a Minister under Brian Faulkner before 1972.

Ferguson went to London to further his legal career. Porter and McIvor left Politics to become Judges.

But Ferguson, Porter and McIvor are usually described as “liberal unionists” and no doubt would have wanted to see Norn Iron develop along non-sectarian and British lines….but at a controlled pace.

And no doubt that there were decent, white lawyers who would have wanted to see Alabama adopt a non-racist and mainstream American way of life. But most were lukewarm about radical change. Yet I think this truth….that most “liberals” have limits to their “liberalism” is unlikely to have been known by a young  Harper Lee.

There is a generational factor. And I think that Harper Lee would have been unaware of this. I dont necessarily believe in a cliché that radicals and liberals become more conservative as they…we …getolder. Every journey is different. Maybe most people get less motivated by ideas and are guided by pragmatism. I never believed there was an End to History (that was an idea that came with the end of the Cold War and went with the Twin Towers).

But ten years ago, I might have believed there was an End of Politics. I was wrong. The Collapse of the Economy in 2008, Israel-Palestine, Ferguson (Missouri), Greece, the Confederate Flag, Angela

Merkel, ISIL, Taliban, Migrants drowning in European Waters, Cameron’s Tory Government, Bush-Obama-Clinton…Sanders!!!….Donald Trump.

I was very wrong. I am more politically motivated in 2015 than at any time in my life.

So Atticus Finch? Aside from the first draft, the fifty years of silence, the controversy around the publication itself…..has a more accurate version of Finch been unwittingly revealed in “Watchman”?

On balance…I am iinclined to think he was a decent lawyer with a desire to do the right thing legally. He might have wanted a fairer society but as Saint Agustine might have said “not yet”.

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