Poem: Grenfell Tower, the arithmetic of grief

Do you know the first time I knew

I was not safe because of my class,

Because of the accident of my birth,

My factory-working parents?


I was thirteen, in 1966, World Cup year

And a great pile of dirt

Slid down a hillside in Aberfan, South Wales

And killed children and adults in a school.


I wasn’t ready to be angry.

I was too young for that.

I wasn’t ready to be angry.

That would come later.


Do you know when I realised

I was ready to be angry?

It was when a chemical plant

Blew up in Flixborough. 28 dead. I was twenty-one.


I was ready to be angry then.

I was old enough to walk a picket line.

I was angry enough to push a police horse back

At Lewisham when fascists marched.


Do you know when I realised

They even made our leisure time deadly?

It was in 1985 when Bradford City burned

And fifty-six people burned with it.


And did we learn? Did we fuck.

They went on treating us like shit,

Our class watching our sport

And the shit came home to roost at Hillsborough.


Do you know how long it took to understand

The arithmetic of class? It took me

Twenty-one years, the time it takes

To make a man, an angry man.


Here is the arithmetic:

Aberfan, 116 children, 28 adults,

Flixborough, 28 souls,

Bradford, 56 beautiful lives,

Hillsborough 96 unforgotten dead.


So here is what I want to know,

Now I get the mathematics of class,

At the Grenfell Tower,

In London Town, when will we know

The number, the calculus of grief?



Letters from an encouraged Corbynite #4

The spectacle of commentators who made ludicrous claims about the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn now giving equally ludicrous explanations of how and why it happened, is grotesque. This is not about their ability to rummage effectively through the entrails of a bull. It is a misunderstanding of what politics is.
I remember one definition being the common affairs of the people. In the common affairs of the people, the public make decisions for several reasons: because it furthers their own interests; because it furthers the interests of others they care about; because they become convinced that there is a better way of living.
That is why so many socialists were right to persevere with Jeremy Corbyn and why so many non-socialists and waverers were so wrong to distance themselves from him. The commentariat think that it is only able to achieve office by courting a small section of an arbitrarily decided middle ground. People living in the real world believe that change can be achieved by talking to and convincing millions of ordinary people. All kinds of shifts and changes will occur in the course of the lead-up to the next election. Quite simply, it is not how we read polls or juggle the Thesaurus to find the best word for ‘moderate’ that will determine the outcome. It is what we do. So, anyone who wants an alternative to the Tories, let’s start doing more good things.

Letters from an encouraged Corbynite #1

“Letters from an encouraged Corbynite #1:
Tory 318, Labour 261 as I write. It is a hung parliament. Theresa May said she would go to the country to win a strengthened mandate. She didn’t get it. That she is going to stay in office despite Labour’s strong showing by relying on an arrangement with the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland shows she has no honour. Clearly, she should go. She is a lame duck Prime Minister, a diminished figure.
Be clear. This is not just because she ran a bad campaign, not just because she is arrogant, not just because she has a tin ear for the interests of working class people, not just because she has the charisma of a parsnip. It is because the people are tired of austerity. It is because Labour has a leader who could give voice to their concerns and because Corbyn increasingly impressed people with his honesty, integrity and policy platform. It is because we have a movement that could put an army of volunteers on the streets to convince people, particularly UKIP voters that Labour was on the march. Possibly, most importantly, Labour started to sink roots outside its metropolitan heartlands, establishing itself as a party that can win the south, the midlands, large parts of Scotland, all this on the basis of an unequivocally socialist leader and growing, grassroots organisation. This must be reflected in all party organisations and the wider Labour movement.
This encouraging result is the beginning, not the end of a process leading to a majority Labour government. Be active. Be active in your CLPs, your campaigns, your trade unions, your communities. Labour must not be a party that does well in one election, but one that represents working people and is there week in, week out.
We are on the march. Once we have had a short period of rest and enjoyment, we build this movement even more strongly.

Letters from an encouraged Corbynite #2:

Theresa May’s speech yesterday was as stiff as the starched dog collar in a vicar’s wardrobe. When any survivalist politician would have shown herself capable of listening to the public and to her parliamentary party, May chose to lecture the people on what was needed (strength and stability) as if the winds of electoral change had not just stripped her of the little bit of credibility she had left. For her to choose supine deference to the homophobic and anti-feminist Loyalist supremacists of the DUP is the final, shabby act in a wretched farce that has demeaned her and her office.
She will be gone by the autumn and Labour stands on the verge of power as the Tories try to cling to office and squirm and wriggle through a doughy Brexit with hard chunks and some liquid. There are possibly traces of salmonella too. Corbyn will, as he has done in recent times, coopting Burnham and Cooper supporters into his team, draw on talents outside his own circle. Given the make-up of the CLP, he has little choice. Domestic opponents of his radical, reforming projects are discovering that, contrary to previous reports, they really do quite like Jeremy. It is now imperative that we strengthen the left in the CLPs and wards so that our left wing Manifesto is not neutralised and our left wing leadership is not held hostage by Mandelson-style pleas for the top team to compromise with the baleful ghosts of post-Blairism.

Facts for a bug-eyed Tory

Some facts for a bug-eyed Tory.


Nuclear states in the world:


United States

Russian Federation

United Kingdom





North Korea

State believed to have nuclear weapons:



Number of countries in the world:



Distance between the UK and North Korea:

5,219 miles


Number of nuclear weapons in the world:



Estimated deaths of the Tsar bomb, the largest tested by Russia, hitting London:



Morality of First Use:



School visit review

This is a review of my school visit to Lytham High School by librarian Gerry Bruen.


“Author Visit: Alan Gibbons

I just thought I’d share our experience of having Alan Gibbons in school last week. We had of course been promoting his titles in the months leading up to the visit, with his latest novel, The Trap, which focuses on a terrorist attack. The week of Alan’s visit was the last before the summer half term, and began with the shocking attack in Manchester, which 4 of our students escaped unhurt from. 

After having some discussions at school with SLT it was decided to contact Alan and had a conversation about how we might continue with the event in such a way as to lighten everyone’s load and see the students off safely on their half-term break. Alan was really very understanding – even agreeing not to promote The Trap – and managed to deliver two stellar sessions to large groups of younger readers in the morning. He was just great with the kids and got them all laughing and listening closely to his pathway into writing. Beginning with his early childhood, he took them through his love of the Beatles and American soul music which then took him into the politics of equality, justice and the Civil Rights movement. Using a PPT with some great YouTube clips, and a cracking sound track, he carefully outlined how he connected the personal up to the social and political, and how that flourished into a career and lifetime of writing. All the staff that attended (including Head of English and the Deputy Head) agreed that he managed to get the balance just right. Many of the students had been reading his thrillers in advance, and I’m sure that given the shocking events that had just happened nearby, appreciated the very, very funny mix of self-deprecating humour and pathos of his childhood years and growing up. Of course he wove in his books with hard-hitting themes, and he did so with a very positive message and spirit. 

During the afternoon, he delivered two masterclass writing sessions with smaller groups of PP boys from years 7-9, which was very interesting to watch from my point of view. He took students closely through a short section of a Hollywood film. By pausing it continually, he led them through the film really slowly and carefully as they formed a short piece of writing describing the action and mood of the scenes. The students – all able but under performing learners – got what was expected of them straight away and just got stuck into their writing for the duration of the session without fuss or distraction.

Alan was excellent.”

Tears on the stones

There are tears on the stones,

Tears on the flags,

From Liverpool to Manchester,

There are tears in the wind.


Sometimes words fall to dust,

Words like petals

In the rain,

There are words made of dust.


There are heads missing

Tonight, heads absent

From pillows,

Their sleep never will end.


There are tears on the stones,

Tears on the flags,

From Liverpool to Manchester,

There are tears in the wind.

Drop a bomb for Britain

Drop a bomb for Britain,
Drop a bomb for Ma’am,
Drop a bomb for Theresa,
They don’t do any harm.

Raising pay is alien,
Raising pay is soft.
Pay people just for working!
What’s missing in your loft?

Drop a bomb for Britain,
Drop a bomb for Ma’am,
Drop a bomb for Theresa,
They don’t do any harm.

Peace is just for wussies,
Peace is for feeble types,
I would get my whip out
And give them thirty stripes.

So drop a bomb for Britain,
Drop a bomb for Ma’am,
Drop a bomb for Theresa,
They don’t do any harm.

Party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative party

We raise the national debt

three quarters of a trillion pounds.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We make your wages rise slower still

Than any land but Greece.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We ride the coat tails of Donald J Trump

In any military act.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We demonise your poor, disabled

And vulnerable.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We protect the bankers, love the rich,

Make profit our holy creed.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We dodge debate

Spread anti-immigrant hate.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.


We steal elections,

Sneer and lie.

That’s strong and stable, strong and stable,

Strong and stable leadership.