In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people. Picture: University of Ulster
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My Irish lover thought sex the ultimate sin. I like that in a man

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

I must say that I find most contemporary dating advice completely mystifying. Dating is something Americans do, as far as I’m concerned. English people get drunk and have inappropriate sex. Ditto, engagement. What the hell is it? Are women public toilets that are either vacant or engaged? Clearly I have not a clue.

When I hear people say that their relationships are going nowhere, I do wonder what the final destination is. It’s probably having the sort of deranged problems that people write to Pamela Stephenson Connolly about in the Guardian: “I can’t orgasm with my husband, whom I have never found attractive in any way WHATSOEVER.”

Everyone should relax about “relationships” that don’t go anywhere – that are not goal-orientated. Yet even such casual arrangements can become fraught with unforeseen complications. I should know.

I had one such arrangement when I first lived in London, with an Irish fellow I’d see once a week. Let’s call him John, as that was his name. We met in a pub, of course. It was all very passionate, as he thought that sex was the ultimate sin, some sort of desecration that caused him paroxysms of guilt. I like that in a man.

The Sinn Fein paper An Phoblacht was lying round his flat. In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people.

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

“Keep your mouth shut,” he said. I sat there terrified, nursing a drink, while he went in a huddle. It was apparent that my English accent was never to be heard.

We continued seeing each other weekly and I would always get up before him and leave. Who knew what his job was? He had probably told me. I probably hadn’t listened.

One morning, he had to get up to go out very early. “Wake up. I can’t leave you here alone,” he said.

I pretended to be sleepy and refused to move. He was very annoyed.

As I heard the door slam, I leaped out of bed and searched the flat. Every bit of it. And there it all was. Several different passports. Other forms of ID and diaries, each written in different handwriting. Whole identities bundled away in plastic bags. Some of it had his picture on. Some didn’t.

I put everything back and left. As I pondered all of his other lives and what he did with them, I realised that it would not be wise to end it there.

So I met him the following week for a drink as usual.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve met someone else. We can’t go on like this any more, John.” I was telling the truth. For we both knew as I said it that John was not even his actual name.

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.