Tools down it's festival time

Brighton werewolves, saying the N-word and rusty nails through your nose

Dear Marina

As a born, bred and proud resident of Portslade, I have always treated you B-right-on people with suspicion. So it came as no surprise when I heard that Brighton police are putting more officers on the beat at a full moon. Is it because everyone there is a werewolf or something more sinister?

Worried, Sussex

More sinister, definitely. It’s a knee jerk response to people engaging with the natural world – have you ever wandered in the darkness on a moonlit night? Magical.

The full moon has always brought people outdoors. Pre-street lighting the big houses in the country held their balls on a full moon to make it easier for people to find their way. Successful trysts, ditto. But poaching’s better on a dark moon, for obvious reasons.

If people are allowed to go about their business of meeting up with friends in public spaces they might start having genuine fun, instead of being stuck at home in front of the telly.

And we all know that genuine fun has a tendency to encourage humanity to actually care about life. Next individuals might talk and together decide to act on their cares and before we know it we’ll have a cultural revolution on our hands and the G8 will have to keep its promises and the power will reside with the people. You can understand the authorities wanting to take precautions.

I feel a full moon protest party coming on. The kids are going to howl with laughter.

Dear Marina

Did you watch Big Brother? Emily “there’s a new music and it’s called indie” Parr has been booted out for saying the N-word. Now I know she’s a Tory voter but it was a bit harsh, don’t you think?
Jade, Essex

Oh Jade. I haven’t got a TV owing to it not liking being switched off properly every time – it was designed to be left on standby – what’s that about?

Anyway, having trained the kids up proper, the telly stopped responding to a positive current. So no, I haven’t watched BB. Or read a newspaper or even listened to the radio (my son sat on the wind-up’s aerial. You can vaguely still get Radio Five, but other than that it’s all French).

To what are you referring when you use the word harsh? Her expulsion or her use of the N-word? How did she use it? If it’s any help, I’m on the road quite a bit these days, preparing for a festival I’m helping to organise in September (www.outoftheordinaryfestival.com).

Among the Traveller community, I meet some of the most creative free spirits on the planet who have much to teach the housed population. When I meet them, they’re hired.

As I travel on with some I’m occasionally afforded a small insight into what it must feel like to be truly offended – hurt – by the use of the N-word.

The word Traveller itself is a dirty word in some mindsets. And yet it is the official term for a disparate band of tribes many of whom have no more in common with their fellow travellers than the fact that they all experience prejudice.

Much like Blacks, Muslims, Asians, Chavs, young people, old people and the rest. I guess we all live with prejudice. I’m a single mother of two, Liberal Democrat revolutionary, so called witch and your mum’s a lesbian. Are we in agreement? But when the opportunity arises to speak out and act against it, speak out and act we must.

Hence BB has refocused its editorial policy on such matters. Fair enough. Although since we’ve all had our sensibilities crushed by your unique take on cultural affairs, in this context the girl's removal might well be construed as harsh by many. Others will say lessons have been learned. While others still will contest that they haven’t been learned at all.

Keep in touch Jade. I’m off to some festival at Herstmonceux Castle this weekend, then on to Glastonbury. Maybe catch you at Secret Garden Party in July. I’m in the Feast of Fools tent. After that Small World and then Out of the Ordinary. Jade you are going to just love my zero waste strategy.

Not only will festival goers be expected to sort their paper/cans/plastics/compost, they must also, should they bring supermarket items on site separate out the non-recyclable packaging.

This will be returned to the relevant supermarket sources – en masse. Well what’s the alternative? Why should Out of the Ordinary pay to dispose of it? We’d rather spend the money on more artists. God, the world needs them. I think a bit of widening of your horizons is in order. Why not come and help? We could call it Community Service. It could be the makings of us all.

Dear Marina

My 18-year-old son, who sports a red Mohican and rusty nail through his nose left for Germany last week telling me he was “going to put the boot in.” Reading my Daily Mail, I realise now he’s been off lobbing rocks at Vladimir Putin and his G8 chums. What I can’t understand is why he’s so angry when all the G8 seem to want to do is give money to Africa and sort out climate change. Am I confused?

Bewildered, Surbiton

If you want peace, prepare for war. You must be so proud of your son getting fired up in his war paint and going off to play his part in making the world a better place.

Without our young guns sorting out the publicity, we’d never notice the G8 met and made promises.

Well done you for bring up such a well rounded young man. Now we just have to work out how to steer the G8 in a more positive direction than its usual round of Talk Global Do Fuck All Local.

Just one word of caution: don’t let your son go out with a rusty nail through his nose. As a Daily Mail reader, you must surely have been warned on the health pages at some point that it can’t be good for him.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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David Blunkett compares Labour membership to failed revolution “from Ukraine to Egypt”

The Labour peer and former home secretary says new members need a “meaningful political education”, and accuses unions of neglecting their “historic balance”.

There are three sorts of opposition. There’s the civil society opposition, with people campaigning in their own specific areas, people who’ve got an interest group or are delivering social enterprise or a charity. I don’t think we should underestimate that because we're going to have to hang on to it as part of the renewal of civil society.

The second is the opposition formally, within the House of Commons: those who have agreed to serve as the formal shadow ministerial teams. Because of what I’d describe as the turmoil over the last two years, they’ve either not been able to be impressive – ie. they’re trying very hard but they don't have the coherent leadership or backing to do it – or they’ve got completely different interests to what it is they’re supposed to be doing, and therefore they’re not engaged with the main task.

Then there’s the third, which is the informal opposition – Labour linked sometimes to the Lib Dems and the SNP in Parliament on the opposition benches as a whole. They’re not doing a bad job with the informal opposition. People getting on with their work on select committees, the departmental committees beginning to shape policy that they can hopefully feed to the National Executive Committee, depending on the make-up of the National Executive Committee following this year’s conference. That embryo development of coherent policy thinking will be the seed-bed for the future.

I lived through, worked through, and was integrally involved with, what happened in the early Eighties, so I know it well. And people were in despair after the ‘83 election. Although it took us a long time to pull round, we did. It’s one reason why so many people, quite rightly in my view, don't want to repeat the split of 1931 or the split of 1981.

So they are endeavouring to stay in to argue to have some vision of a better tomorrow, and to persuade those of goodwill who have joined the party – who genuinely believe in a social movement and in extra-parliamentary non-violent activity, which I respect entirely – to persuade them that they’ll only be effective if they can link up with a functioning political process at national level, and at townhall and county level as well.

In other words, to learn the lessons of what’s happened across the world recently as well as in the past, from the Ukraine to Egypt, that if the groundswell doesn’t connect to a functioning party leadership, then, with the best will in the world, it’s not going to achieve its overall goals.

How do we engage with meaningful political education within the broader Labour party and trade union movement, with the substantially increased rank-and-file membership, without being patronising – and without setting up an alternative to Momentum, which would allow Momentum to justify its existence as a party within a party?

That's the challenge of the next two years. It's not just about someone with a vision, who’s charismatic, has leadership qualities, coming forward, that in itself won’t resolve the challenge because this isn't primarily, exclusively about Jeremy Corbyn. This is about the project being entirely on the wrong trajectory.

A lot depends on what the trade unions do. They command effectively the majority on the National Executive Committee. They command the key votes at party conference. And they command the message and resources that go out on the policy or programmes. It’s not just down to personality and who wins the General Secretary of Unite; it’s what the other unions are doing to actually provide their historic balance, because they always have – until now – provided a ballast, foundation, for the Labour party, through thick and thin. And over the last two years, that historic role has diminished considerably, and they seem to just be drifting.

I don’t think anybody should expect there to be a party leadership challenge any time soon. It may be that Jeremy Corbyn might be persuaded at some point to stand down. I was against the challenge against him last year anyway, purely because there wasn't a prepared candidate, there wasn't a policy platform, and there hadn’t been a recruitment drive to back it up.

People shouldn’t expect there to be some sort of white charger out there who will bring an immediate and quick end to the pain we’re going through. I think it’s going to be a readjustment, with people coming to conclusions in the next two years that might lead the party to be in a position to fight a credible general election in 2020. I’ve every intention of laying down some good red wine and still being alive to drink it when the Labour party is elected back to power.

David Blunkett is a Labour peer and former home secretary and education secretary.

As told to Anoosh Chakelian.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition