Monday, 1 July 2019

Left Field: CHAPTER THIRTY THREE- Ships at Sea




HOOPTEDOODLES ....Our lives are only chronological in that we think time is ordered into past, present and future and that events fit neatly into that timescale. Left Field has moved along that continuum until now. The following chapters are the parts of my life that can’t easily be slotted into date order.

My wife, Anne, suggested that I call them ‘Hooptedoodles’. Hooptedoodle is a term first used by John Steinbeck in his novel Sweet Thursday, when he wanted to include stories which didn’t neatly fit into the logic of the rest of the book.
 
Sometimes,’ Steinbeck said, ‘I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle – spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language.’ But he goes on to say that the reader doesn’t have to read them: ‘I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.’

So you don’t have to read my hooptedoodles either, but here they are and one of them isn’t even mine. Linda McCartney asked to read Anne’s ‘Behind God’s Back’. I’ll never know for sure, but I think it was the reason why she donated 22 tonnes of veggie burgers to War Child.


Ships at Sea

 

One cold November Saturday morning in 1960 I was standing outside Bromley Library, the CND symbol proudly self-sewn on the back of my donkey-jacket. I was with a friend selling Peace News. Two men ran across the street shouting ‘Bloody yids’ and beat us up. They were from the British Movement, forerunners of the British National Party. They were probably at the library to return Mein Kampf.

With a black eye, a swollen knee and ‘Bloody yids’ ringing in my ears, I tracked down the Zionist Federation and bought a dozen yellow Star of David badges. The following Saturday my friend and I wore them and gave one away with each of the five copies of Peace News we sold that day. One of the fascists came back to harass us, but this time he just shouted obscenities. He wasn’t brave enough to attack two pacifists on his own.

After being beaten up, my father supported me in my efforts to help change the world, but advised me never to be alone on the streets. My mother shook her head each time she saw me put on my jacket to head out to the High Street. ‘What if my friends see you?’

I’ll try and sell them Peace News.’
 

‘Why are you such a rebel? You’re another Uncle Bill.’ Uncle Bill was my grandfather Rees’s brother. He never had any money and used to tramp around south Wales. When he was desperate, he’d telephone Rees and demand £50. A huge sum in those days. If Rees refused, Uncle Bill would threaten to stand outside Briton Ferry steelworks selling matches, a sign around his neck, I AM THE GENERAL MANAGER’S BROTHER.

Did he get the £50?’ I asked.
 

My mother laughed. ‘Of course he did. Every time.’
 

‘Did you like Uncle Bill?’
 

She smiled. ‘I adored him.’
 

At the height of the Cold War, nuclear weapons were to be deployed at five bases in Britain. In 1961, CND organised a weekend of protests at all five. I told my mother I was going to the West End to see The Guns of Navarone, but headed to the demonstration at RAF Ruislip in north-west London. I arrived to see thousands of people with placards and even ladders to scale the perimeter fence. Though I had no ladder, I was held in a police van for four hours.

This was my first arrest. Aged 16. My incarceration lasted a lot longer than Navarone so I rang from Ruislip station to tell my parents not to worry. My mother answered and I heard her shouting at my father, ‘Ian, I blame you for this.’

Soon after Ruislip, a police inspector turned up at our house. He wanted to question me about a march I was helping to co-ordinate as secretary of South London Youth CND. ‘Are you the organiser?’ he asked.

I’m one of them.’
 

‘What is your role?’
 

I was being introduced to page one of the police training
manual: locate the leader. I said nothing, but my mother tapped him on the arm. ‘He’ll get over this,’ she said. ‘He’s still growing up.’

As the front door closed, she pleaded with me. ‘David,
darling. Why can’t you be normal?’ 

‘What is normal, Mum?’
 

‘Why don’t you go into politics?’ 

‘I am into politics.’

Banning the bomb isn’t politics. Why don’t you join a party? You could end up in Parliament.’

Ambrose Bierce, the American wit, said that politics is ‘a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.’ Politics that you ‘go into’, takes place in a box with shared rules of engagement. If, like me, you believe there is nothing ‘shared’ about our world, the only place for politics is on the streets, not in a debating chamber full of Right Honourables who barrack and ridicule each other, then go off to have cosy lunches together.

For my mother, my extra-parliamentary activities made me an extremist. But it’s like ships at sea. If a fleet of them are sailing together, a lone ship on the horizon is viewed as one which occupies an extreme position. However, from the point of view of the lone ship, you have to be a damn good sailor.

The next year ships were to play an important part in everyone’s lives. With the1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear war seemed imminent. If the missile-carrying Soviet vessels didn’t turn back from Cuba, there would be war. Jackie Kennedy recalled that she insisted on sleeping with her husband – not something she often did. She didn’t want to die alone. If she was scared, the rest of us had every right to be.1

As a result of the Cuban crisis, the anti-nuclear movement remained the focus of my politics. I read Robert Jungk’s Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, the horrific telling of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with its account of the shadows of the dead imprinted on the earth. It left me in shock. The book’s title is taken from Robert Oppenheimer’s words when witnessing the first atomic bomb explosion in July 1945. He quoted the Bhagavad Gita, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’

I started to self-educate myself with all that was not taught at Canford, following Bertrand Russell’s axiom that ‘Men are born ignorant not stupid. They are made stupid by education.’ I read everything: from Marx to Dostoyevsky, from Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

In 1966 I moved to Oxford and worked at Oxfam. I decided I wanted to go to university, but didn’t have A levels. I took a correspondence course.

Two years later, I was at Essex University studying sociology. On the edge of Colchester, above the muddy River Colne, the half-built campus already seemed half-forgotten. We would change that. May came early for us. On March 17th, 1968, 40,000 people marched to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest the Vietnam war. I helped a friend from the chemistry department make paint bombs, sealed inside plastic milk containers. 

 
My most vivid memory is of linking arms behind a Vietnam Solidarity banner and running to the chorus of ‘Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is going to win’. There was an attempt by anarchists to substitute this with, ‘Hot chocolate, drinking chocolate.’

Few of our paint bombs made it onto the embassy walls and I watched as demonstrators rolled marbles under the horses’ hoofs. Some of them were brought down, the horseshoes kicking sparks on the tarmac.

Two months later, the Sorbonne was occupied, French students were marching on the Renault factory at Billancourt and we were not going to let Colchester be left behind.

It only needed a spark to set the university alight and it came, appropriately, from the Chemistry Society. In May, scientists from the biological war research facility at Porton Down were invited to address chemistry students at Essex.

Led by David Triesman, 30 of us occupied the lecture hall. The police were called. Triesman was suspended and a General Assembly was organised with a motion to declare ourselves a Free University. Not expecting to win the vote, some of us left the meeting to blockade the Vice Chancellor’s office. We used desks, chairs and filing cabinets. These had to be quickly removed when we ‘vanguardists’ were told that the university had voted in favour of the motion. No need to barricade liberated territory, comrades.

Students and staff met to change syllabuses and, in the Sociology Department, Emile Durkheim’s Division of Labour in Society was replaced with Karl Marx’s Das Capital. The head of the Department, Professor Peter Townsend, invited us to critique our lecturers. I argued that was going too far with Maoist self-criticism and that we would let him know if we weren’t happy. He looked relieved when the meeting supported me.

I joined a delegation to inform other universities about a demonstration we planned in London against chemical and biological war research. I also had the task of alerting the media. The press considered Essex a flashpoint and asked me how many thousands of students would take to the streets. I stumbled a reply as I wasn’t confident that we were going to get the numbers out.

On Sunday, May 26th, the day of the demonstration, it was pouring with rain. The paint from our posters, hastily made in Lincoln’s Inn Fields the night before, dripped onto our feet. We were left to shout our slogans to an almost empty Oxford Street.

In some confusion, and in small numbers, we arrived in Whitehall. We banged on the huge front door of the Ministry of Defence. A side door opened and a janitor poked his head out. We handed him our petitions and he said he would pass them on to the ‘relevant authority’. There was a brief sit-down in the street and the two mounted Household Cavalrymen at Horse Guards were, we later learned, persuaded by the Sun’s photographer to dismount and draw their cuirasses. In the absence of a student riot in the centre of London, the Sun had its picture. More Monty Python than Battleship Potemkin.

A year later the Sun got another photo. At the June 1970 General Election, I went to Colchester Town Hall to heckle the deputy leader of the Labour Party, George Brown, about Vietnam. I was sitting in the front row and shouting at him. He climbed off the platform and punched me in the face. The next day George’s punch was on the front page of the Sun above a headline, ‘Up and at ’em, George’.

This time my mother was unconcerned. ‘My friends don’t read the Sun.’


The miners went on strike in 1974. They won a 35 per cent pay increase after successfully closing down the massive coal stockpile at Orgreave in South Yorkshire. But things were going to change for the worse. It started with the defeat of a strike at Grunwicks, a photo-developing works in Willesden, north-west London. In August 1976 its workforce, mostly Asian women, dubbed by the media as ‘strikers in saris’, walked out over poor conditions and wages.

The dispute lasted two years. The total of over 500 arrests made during the strike was the highest figure in any industrial dispute since the 1926 General Strike.

One Monday morning I was standing on the pavement outside Grunwicks, holding a placard that said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Suddenly, Special Patrol Group officers attacked us. I was dragged across the street by my hair, bundled into a van, taken to Wembley police station and charged with assaulting a police officer.

A month later, at Willesden Magistrates’ Court, the arresting officer read from his notebook, ‘the defendant ran into the street and attacked me with his fists. I restrained him with difficulty.’

My solicitor passed a photo to the magistrate: me being dragged across the road. He looked at it and murmured, ‘Case dismissed.’ It seems perjury is never a crime when committed by a police officer.

A week later the Grunwick Strike Committee called for support from the miners. Just before scab buses were due to be driven through the picket line, several thousand Welsh and Yorkshire miners arrived. To roars from the crowd, they sealed the factory. The Welsh lifted some of the women on their shoulders and sang ‘The Red Flag’.2

With little support from the TUC and none at all from the Labour Party, the strike was defeated.

Towards the end of the dispute, I remember a speaker calling for a march on Parliament. This was booed and someone shouted out, ‘Don’t disturb the dead.’ I was not alone in my scorn for the ‘parliamentary road’.

The next time I witnessed the solidarity seen at Grunwicks was during the 1984 miners’ strike. I was teaching at Kilburn Polytechnic and my union branch set up a food support group for the Blaenant miners in the Neath Valley, south Wales. Their families had no money and the men had set up shooting parties to kill rabbits in the hills above their homes. Some local farmers supported the miners and supplied them with milk, eggs and, occasionally, fresh meat. I was one of those who drove groceries down to their families: tinned and fresh fruit and vegetables, cartons of long-life milk, pasta, cheese, biscuits, soft drinks and toiletries.

Our supplies were dropped off at the miners’ social centres and distributed by the miners’ wives support group who had precise information on every family’s needs. Proof that a co-operative society can develop under the most extreme conditions.

I stayed with Pat and Selwyn Davies in Pen-y-Cae and, over the weeks and months of the strike, we became friends.

One weekend I travelled there with the North London Gay Liberation Front. They staged a benefit for the strikers and their families in the miners’ club at the Onllwyn Miners’ Welfare Hall in the Dulais Valley. It ended with a mass hug-in: miners and their wives and children embracing their visitors. That evening has been accurately represented in the 2014 film Pride


Onllwyn is ten miles north-east of Pontardawe where my mother had lived. My grandfather would have been shocked by the GLF and even more so by his grandson’s support for the miners. When I told my mother what I was doing, she answered in her confusion, ‘You’re helping the miners. Good. Do you sing with them?’

Sing?’

Yes,’ she said. ‘They sing such lovely songs. I hope you sing with them. They are very happy,’ she said.

Who?’
 

‘The miners. The miners are happy. That’s why they sing.’

The miners were defeated and their defeat marked the start of the neoliberal years of anti-union laws and privatisation. Margaret Thatcher had come to power in 1979 and her government’s bludgeoning of the miners followed her Falklands War ‘victory’ two years earlier. Her obsessive attacks on society – ’And, you know, there is no such thing as society’ – marked the end of the post-war consensus which had brought about the National Health Service and the welfare state. These years also marked my temporary withdrawal from political activity as I moved from teaching to the art world to film- making and then to aid work. It wasn’t until the start of the second Iraq war in 2002 that I would return to activism.

When a military invasion of Iraq looked increasingly likely, Brian Eno agreed with me that we should do something to oppose impending war.

I had made contact with Noam Chomsky and he agreed to meet with Brian if we came to film in the US. We wanted him, and other interviewees, to appear in a documentary titled Not in Our Name. We had a meeting at Channel 4 TV to see if they would commission us to go to the USA and speak with opponents of an attack on Iraq. Nothing came of it and I apologised to Brian for wasting his time.

A few weeks later, I was contacted by ITN. Brian, they said, could meet up with Iraqis and design anti-war posters in his studio. A filmed collaboration with Chomsky in the US to poster-making in London didn’t seem like a good idea to either of us. We declined the proposal, but nevertheless ITN went on to commission me to make a short film about how the Iraqi community in the UK felt about a possible military attack on their country.

With a £17,000 budget, I recruited the journalist Felicity Arbuthnot. She had researched for John Pilger’s films and had worked with Dennis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General in Iraq. I asked Edwin Maynard to be my cameraman. He’d worked with Brian and had come to Mostar on numerous occasions to film and photograph for War Child.
 

After a number of interviews, we quickly found that the Iraqi community in Britain were, not surprisingly, unexcited about an assault on their country, even those violently opposed to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The writer Haifa Zangana had been tortured and raped in Saddam’s gaols, and academic Kamil Mahdi was a refugee from Iraq. Both were bitter opponents of the regime and were campaigning against the continuation of sanctions and in opposition to war.3


Haifa and Kamil spoke passionately to camera, and bravely. When we filmed at Haifa’s house in north London, a black Mercedes was parked across the street. When I asked her whose car it was, she shrugged. ‘They are Iraqi National Congress thugs.’
 

The INC were the CIA-backed politicians who were waiting to ride back into Baghdad on US tanks. A few days before our film, an ex-CIA operative commented on BBC Radio 5 that ‘the INC are a greater threat to the world than Saddam Hussein’. Their leader in Germany had said that if democratic opponents of Saddam returned to Baghdad, they could expect to be hung from the lamp posts.

ITN were insistent that we include the Iraqi National Congress as a part of the Iraqi ‘community’ in the UK. Their Head of Press and Humanitarian Affairs in London was Ahmed Chalabi and we interviewed him at their office in Kensington. When we arrived, I noticed Chalabi’s screen saver was a cruise missile with ‘for Saddam’ written on it.

Felicity got the interview off to a sparkling start. ‘Mr Chalabi,’ she said, ‘why are Iraqis in this country as scared of you as they are of Saddam?’

Mr Chalabi shrugged and answered, ‘Next question.’

The narrator for our film was Nadje Al-Ali, a young Iraqi academic. We included interviews with Dennis Halliday, ex-United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and Ramsey Clark, former-US Attorney General. Brian Eno let us use the track, ‘Regiment’ from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the album he’d made with David Byrne.4
When we started to edit in Edwin’s small studio in Belsize Park, we would get a daily visit from our ITN executive producer. Each day, she would take a tape of the current cut and return the following day with suggested changes. We were told it was to be edited to 12 minutes, then 10, until finally ITN asked for 8 minutes.


On the morning of transmission I delivered our film. We included contributions from all those we had recorded, including the INC. Nadje’s narration carried the story and ‘Regiment’ was the backing track. I was told that it would be shown in its entirety.

At 7.30 that night they showed just four minutes and it bore no resemblance to the cut I’d delivered that morning. The narrator, music, statements and most of the interviews had been removed. There was no structure or logic to any of it. The film concluded with Mr Chalabi’s interview and Nadje had been replaced by Simon Israel telling the viewers that he had been meeting with Iraqis in Britain.

The next morning, the executive producer rang me. She assumed I was unhappy.

You’re right,’ I said. ‘Simon Israel didn’t meet any Iraqis.’

Oh well. He met me.’ She went on to add that her boss ‘doesn’t like to receive phone calls’.

I had cut short a holiday to make this film and felt that we had precisely kept to our brief. We had given voice to those Iraqis hoping that their country would not be attacked and destroyed. I shouldn’t have been so naïve about the behaviour of the mainstream media. Others were going to learn this lesson once the war started.

As a sop to us, Brian Eno was invited to join a TV discussion on another night to debate the possibility of an impending attack on Iraq. He emailed me soon after.
 
Dear David, I didn’t feel I did that well, didn’t land the killer blow. Shawcross is a sneering twat, a playground bully. Adelman is a classic cowboy zealot (I didn’t mention it on air, but he was wearing cowboy boots). It was uncomfortable being stuck between them, but I was pleased that Adelman was goaded into an “America the Good” rap – because that was guaranteed to make the English public puke. After we’d finished, I asked the email girl what the drift of things had been. She told me that the emails had been increasingly in our favour as the evening progressed and that many of them had named Shawcross and Adelman as idiots (but she felt she couldn’t say that on TV).5

So I think we won by default if by no other means – by not appearing to be prats ... I’m sorry they apparently chopped [your film] so mercilessly. At least you had them to blame – I could only put my half-hearted performance down to severe jet lag. Why is TV always always always always always always always always always always always so utterly fucking infuriating? Remember: regime change begins at home! Brian.’ 

 
At the time of the 2005 election, and three years after Iraq had been invaded, Brian told me he would put up money for an anti-war candidate to stand against Tony Blair in his Sedgefield constituency.

Reg Keys was the father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys, who’d been killed at Majar al-Kabir in Iraq. Tom and his fellow soldiers had been sent to a police station where they were ambushed. They had no radios and had been issued with limited ammunition. In Reg’s words, ‘They were let down in life by the men who sent them to their deaths and they have been let down in death by the people who continually deny responsibility.’

Reg was campaigning against the government and the Ministry of Defence and was planning to stand against the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in Blackburn. Felicity Arbuthnot knew Reg and, through her, I made contact. He agreed to switch his candidacy to Sedgefield and I organised his first press conference at Brian’s studio.

Chris Nineham and Andrew Burgin from the Stop the War Coalition were there and asked me if I’d help Andrew with press work. I accepted the offer and found myself dealing with media, writing articles and helping to manage the national office.6 


Over the next few years and using the skills I had learned at War Child, I also organised fundraising music events. I produced a Tom Morello gig at the Scala in Kings Cross and in November 2005, working with Rikki Stein, the Rachid Taha Band performed with Brian Eno and Mick Jones at a gig at London’s Astoria.7 I also organised a number of fundraising evenings at St James’s Church, Piccadilly.

Working with Anthea Eno and the publishers Verso, I helped put together two books for Stop the War: Not One More Death and War With No End. The first had contributions from Brian, Richard Dawkins, John le Carré, Michel Faber, Harold Pinter and Haifa Zangana. The second book followed a year later to mark the sixth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. We had contributions from Naomi Klein, Hanif Kureishi, John Berger and the cartoons of Joe Sacco. 


My last fundraiser was a professional reading of The Trainer, a play I co-wrote with Anne, to raise money for the Stop the War Coalition and the Gaza Music School that had been destroyed by the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008. The Zionists who gave me the Star of David badges 40 years before would not have approved of this play, but they should take note of Primo Levi who said, ‘Everybody has their Jews, and for the Israelis, it’s the Palestinians.’ 

 

After leaving office as Prime Minister, Tony Blair gave a ‘faith’ lecture at Westminster Cathedral. I suggested we organise a ‘rough musiking’ for him, a popular form of protest in the Middle Ages when people played instruments, beat drums and made as much noise as possible to annoy and disturb the class enemy: the priest, the landlord, tithe and tax officials.

Two thousand protesters, with everything from drums to sound systems, marched around the building as Blair spoke. A journalist from the Catholic Herald had agreed to be my spy inside the cathedral and text me what was happening. She sent eight messages. They all arrived in my phone after midnight; they had been blocked. She’d been trying to tell me that Blair and his audience were well aware of the racket outside and that he looked unnerved.

Peter Mandelson made the mistake of leaving from the front entrance where most of the demonstrators were gathered. I followed him across Victoria Street, clanging a cowbell close to his ear, shouting over and over, ‘Murderer, murderer, murderer.’ He was furious and kept looking around at his two security men, as though expecting them to take action against me.

As we now know, thanks to Edward Snowden, the intelligence services are never far away. When I was involved with the Reg Keys campaign, Anne and I received anonymous phone calls every morning at exactly 3am. I decided to drop out when the campaign moved up to Sedgefield. The calls suddenly stopped.

When I mentioned this to Reg, he said that one day he was driving home to north Wales from London. He took a call on his mobile, asking him to come to a Birmingham radio station for an interview. Luckily for Reg, there was a traffic jam on the M6 and he was 90 minutes late. The ‘radio station’ was a trap. It was, in fact, a massage parlour. He said that he guessed that the ‘interview’ was a set-up and that there must have been a photographer waiting for him there who’d given up and gone home.

Tabs have been kept on me for half a century. One of my brothers-in-law was an officer in the Gurkha Rifles. In the 60s he was involved in one of the last gasps of Empire, fighting the anti-colonial insurgents in Borneo. When he was appointed Intelligence Officer in his regiment, MI6 asked him if he had any contact with me.8 And those were the years before computers and the internet. It was staggering that they’d go to the trouble and the expense.

Those Bergen-Belsen photos were an early and striking lesson in the violence of fascism. I never asked my father why he showed them to me when I was so young. Was it out of rage and despair, or a call to action? Then the arrival of the Hungarian students who lived with us showed me that barbarism came in many forms. The family journey to the West Country in 1956, passing those tanks en route to Suez, was first-hand evidence that my own State had a tendency to exercise extreme violence.

For most of my life, I have been conscious of our common humanity: an injury to one is an injury to all. Sometimes those injuries have been personal. If my son Ben was, as I now suspect, a victim of the Glaxo Wellcome scandal, then the feelings of anger and bitterness don’t get more political. With his struggles today to keep going in the face of the government’s attacks on welfare benefits, my hatred of capitalism is, if anything, stronger than ever.

THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTIONS HALFWAY ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES. Forty-eight years later this Paris graffiti from ’68 seems appropriate. The many graves I saw in the Balkans now stretch to Mesopotamia in the south and to the Hindu Kush, and beyond in the east. The dead in Africa from war, starvation and AIDS amounts to tens of millions. The years since 1968 have been ones of bloody imperialism. And yet, because of 1968, many of us who were politically active then, remain active today. We are, in Gramsci’s words, ‘pessimists because of intelligence, but optimists because of will’.

David Triesman was suspended from Essex in 1968 after leading us in the breaking up of that Porton Down meeting. Forty years later, and now Baron Triesman, he was a Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Tony Blair’s New Labour government.

In May 2007 he took part in a debate in the House of Lords and spoke in favour of this country’s use of cluster bombs. ‘The United Kingdom has concluded that these weapons have a real and significant military value when, and only when, they are used in compliance with both international humanitarian law and the United Kingdom’s own rigorous targeting guidelines.’ I wrote to him asking whether he was the same David Triesman I had known all those years ago at Essex and, if so, what had happened to him.
I didn’t receive a reply from his Lordship. I’d rather be on my ship than his. 


 

POSTCRIPT
October 2015: Despite my aversion to the ‘parliamentary road’ and not wishing to disturb the dead, I supported Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership campaign. I helped work the phones and databased the media. I have now joined the Labour Party. Perhaps this is because Jeremy is one of the few MPs who is not dead. One of the few who offer an alternative to austerity and war, an alternative to the estate agents of New Labour. I have consistently voted for him as my constituency MP for these reasons and not because he belongs to the Labour Party. I write this on a Sunday afternoon in October after bumping into him on the street as he was cycling to visit his grandchild. He stopped to talk and asked me for permission to continue his journey! The next day he was addressing 7,000 people in Liverpool. 



NOTES

1 At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy telephoned Jacqueline, at their weekend house in Virginia. From his voice, she would say later, she could tell that something was wrong. ‘Why don’t you come back to Washington?’ he asked, without explanation. ‘From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping,’ Mrs Kennedy recalled. She begged her husband to remain with him. ‘If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you,’ she told him in October 1962. ‘I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too’. She told all this to Arthur M Schlesinger, the historian and Kennedy aide.

2 The Labour Government commissioned an Inquiry which recommended both union recognition and re-instatement of the workers, but the employer, backed by the right-wing National Association For Freedom and the Conservative Party, rejected the recommendations. The TUC subsequently withdrew their support and the workers’ strike committee announced the end of the dispute in June 1978. The repercussions for British industrial relations were far-reaching, significantly weakening the British trades union movement. For the Conservative Party and the right-wing this was seen as a major political and ideological victory, preparing the ground for their success in the 1979 general election and their subsequent curbing of union power in the 1980s.

3 Haifa Zangana and her husband have since become good friends of mine. She is a novelist, poet and polemicist and I recommend City of Widows and Dreaming of Baghdad.

4 My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno/David Byrne, Sire Records, 1981.

5 William Shawcross is Chairman of the Charity Commission of England and Wales and a right-wing commentator. He was a supporter of the war on Iraq. Kenneth Adelman is a long-time Washington insider closely aligned with neoconservatives. He was a member of the Defense Policy Board during the George W. Bush administration.

6 ‘There are Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. They are ours’, Futuretrust.org; ‘The Gloucester Weapons Inspectors’, Counterpunch.org, January 30th, 2003; ‘Collapse of Iraq’s Health Care Services’, Counterpunch.org, October 14th, 2006; ‘Bush in London’, Counterpunch.org, June 18th, 2008; ‘What a Strange Way to Protect Civilians, Depleted Uranium and Libya’, AntiWar.com, April 16th, 2011; ‘The Terror Weapons Israel is Using in its War against Gaza’, Stopwar.org. July 23rd, 2014; ‘Famous Jews Who have Opposed Israel’, Stopwar.org, August 12th, 2014.

7 ‘Stop the War Benefit at the Astoria’, DVD with Brian Eno, Rachid Taha Band, Mick Jones, Nitin Sawhney, Imogen Heap.

8 When he told me this story, he added that he and my sister had been visited in Singapore by a young woman who I had dated for a month when I was sixteen. Her name was Jane Smith and she was in Singapore en route to Australia. She told them she had applied for a job at the Foreign Office and had been asked if she had ever had a boyfriend who was in CND. She said ‘No’. They accused her of lying and she didn’t get the job.

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