We need to talk about Anna.

I have a confession. I once had a soft spot for Damian Green. I know little about him other than he is in cabinet and has a rumpled look that makes him look like a benign Greg Dyke. Oh, and he likes  the band Half Man Half Biscuit.

As a fellow fan of the Wirral satirists, my logic ran thus: if he also likes them, actually likes them in a wgay much different than Gordon Brown’s professed love of the Arctic Monkeys, then he must be alright on some levels. Not enough to vote for, should the chance arise, but enough not to see him in same way I see the other rapacious rats in a sack that make up our current government.

Then it turns out he’s accused of abusing his power to harass women and has a massive load of extreme grumble on his hard drive, and suddenly being able to appreciate the nuances of Joy Division Oven Gloves isn’t quite enough to ameliorate his shiteness.

Soubry is, to far too many people, a similar case. She appeared on Channel 4’s Last Leg this week, where one question sent in via twitter asked if it was ok to simultaneously hate Conservatism but like Anna Soubry.

At a glance, it’s probably not so surprising. Anyone on the political left of Farage probably sees her as an insurgent in the Hard Brexit Tory party, calling out the excesses of the rabid Europhobes that have set this country on a course to crapness. An outspoken free-speaker, who called for Theresa May to ‘consider her position’ in the early hours of the Tory electoral foot-shoot. A liberal on social issues, a modern, uber-Cameroonian who comfortably shakes off the sleazy hypocrisy of moralising Toryism that saw them rot from the core out in the nineties.

As such, she also has fans on the left-leaning commentariat: Owen Jones has professed to a soft spot for her, as has Jack Monroe and others. Then there is More United, a group set up following the politically divisive Summer of 2016, when the referendum split the country (thanks, Cameron!). In an attempt to stop the further polarisation of the nation, they set out with a noble mission statement:

We believe it has never been more important for people to come together to champion what unites us and to stop the growing hatred and intolerance in our country.

Roll on 2017, and the snap election as May attempted a power-grab to allow her to implement a much harder Tory agenda and Brexit than her slender majority allowed.  More United picked out several MPs from all parties, who shared their values. Soubry was one of them, picked by their supporters who then contributed to crowdfunding donations to the MP’s in question. To many people in Broxtowe who donated to More United, Soubry was one of them, and subsequently received an endorsement, volunteer support and £6,000 towards her campaign – though heaven only knows what that was spent on considering her lacklustre, invisible campaign.

When More United accompanied her to Beeston in June, I received the true wrath of Soubry when I asked her about her dubious claims to have ever lived in the constituency (she did buy a flat in Bramcote, but very rarely used it, instead seemingly using to put up activists). Knowing about the well-documented physical abuse I suffered as a child, she used it to attack me when in public.

Since then, I received much correspondence from people who Soubry had similarly treated. Former staff and activists told me of her tantrums, her frequent and loud use of the word ‘cunt’, and how she was intolerable to work for/with. I even heard from an ex-tech who worked with her at Central News in the eighties, who reported that her behaviour was horrific to anyone she perceived as lower down the ladder than her – while obsequious to those she perceived as her superiors

So what led More United to back her? I asked, they answered:

Anna is a passionate and principled campaigner who has repeatedly demonstrated a desire to promote More United’s values of openness and tolerance, even when it has meant defying her party. That sort of bravery should be applauded and supported, wherever possible.

Many of my readers here, especially those who tune in when I turn my mind towards local politics, will be aware I’ve known Soubry a long time and will remember the consistent theme of my pieces on her: Anna Soubry is a nasty, perfidious person. This is no knee-jerk reaction to the fact shes a Tory, because even if you strip away the policy and party allegiance you have a woman who has built a career bullying, lying and treating others like the crap she perceives they are. I’ve seen such people right across the political spectrum in the years I spent working with them, and I do know that politics is structured to reward such behaviour. It is still wrong and must be called out.

I’m going to list a few of the reasons that Anna Soubry is not the liberal, rebel minded liberal hero many seem to think she is. We’ll assess this through More United’s stated values, and see how they match up. I’ll link through to articles that expand on points, and try and be as thorough as possible; if you’d like more, please contact me. This is a mere dusting of her awfulness.

Right, let’s check out More United and theie principles, and see how Anna matches up:

Tolerance: we want to live in a free, diverse society where our differences are celebrated and respected:

Anna has long been intolerant of alternative viewpoints, to the point she simply doesn’t bother listening or replying to correspondence of those who she perceives to be politically different to her. She boasts of throwing away petitions that come via 38 Degrees and similar crowd-campaign aids, and when the local Royal Mail sorting office staff asked her to not support privatisation, she instead stood up in the Commons and lied that they were, in fact, in favour.

  • Her behaviour in the Commons shames Broxtowe. The speaker has frequently had to admonish her when she has used inappropriate language, on one notable occasion three times in one session.
  • She has constantly tried to divide. Those against her are ‘trots’, rather than people she is paid to represent. She makes no effort to reach out across the political divide, instead using division to rule.
  • She endorses the notoriously racist and rabid Ranting Rooms: a Facebook group set up to try and polarise opinion in Beeston. The site, thankfully now in its death throes, was infamous for banning anyone and bullying them online should they step out the party line. They doxxed people, and took delight in issuing violent threats: to this day, I still have to report these to the police when they arrive (this article will provoke a few, i can almost guarantee). When I asked Anna why she continued to support this group, she told me ‘she couldn’t control what happens online’. Yes, but you can think twice about endorsing them in parliament, perhaps? (added note: after the Grenfell tragedy, one of the central users / avid Soubry ickmahoneycheerleader of the site wrote a post that blamed immigrants for the disaster; the post stayed up until the police had to pay a visit. Did Anna speak out against such intolerance, when asked? Nah, she didn’t).
  • Talking of Grenfell, Soubry had to get her grubby oar in there as well, retweeting a Mel Phillips article that tastefully claimed the left were ‘fanning the flames’. Aside from the wisdom of retweeting anything from notorious Islamophobe Phillips, she then failed to apologise for repeating the phrase ‘fanning the flames’, claiming those who found it a wee bit offensive were  – and that sound you here is irony about to die – politicising the issue.

Democracy: we want you to have real influence over politics. 

 

  • Environment: we must do everything possible to tackle climate change and protect our environment:

  • Soubry loves a bit of fracking, even when it is earmarked for her own constituency, and has gone on record supporting the industry. Fracking beneath both Bramcote Park and Attenborough Nature reserve might not be what her constituents want, but donations to her party are always of greater value than those she is supposed to represent.
  • Soubry touted herself as the saviour of the greenbelt in Broxtowe, coming out against the development of Stapleford’s Field Farm. That will be the Field Farm that currently is covered in earth movers and dug up turf, despite Tories running the local council and the Government. Is this a case of gross incompetence, or was she being a little less honest with the truth when painting herself as the local Caroline Lucas?Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.52.01Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.52.35 Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.53.15

 

 

  • Openness: we welcome immigration, but understand it must work for everyone, and believe in bringing down international barriers, not raising them. We also want a close relationship with the EU:

Her voting record hardly shows a rebellious, EU-championing hero:

  • Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.46.15Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.46.50Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 14.51.18

So why do More United continue to support Soubry? I wrote to them over the Summer asking this in light of the aforementioned child abuse mocking. They agreed it was wrong of her, and promised to review their support…then nothing. Another MP supported by MU got in touch to say they were probably a bit trapped as they struggled to find a Tory in the first place. They too were suckered into thinking Soubry is a moderate ‘good’ Tory. I hope after this is read the true Soubry, the principle-free, misanthropic careerist Soubry, reveals herself and they take appropriate action.

 

 

 

Happy 18th BirthdayLeif.

My son Leif turns 1 today. I’ve written this for him to read in seventeen years. Promise I’ve kept the schmaltz as much at bay as I can, but still….

You’re 18 today. I might not be around to read this with you, and if I’m not I’m sorry. I’ll try and stay healthy so I do. I can’t imagine what you’ll be like as an adult, I can barely get my head around you moving to mewling infant to grinning toddler. Imagining you with stubble and a broken voice before I’ve even heard the unbroken version is head-spinning. I’ll get down the gym. I’ll take my vitamins. I won’t interrupt mummy during Bakeoff1 and tell her ‘It’s just cake”. I’ll do my utmost to be around, ok? Ok.  Let’s talk about your appearance in our lives.

A year ago today from when I write this, and 18 years before you read this, you came along. 5.40am in the morning, after a 52-hour labour where every fear was thrown up and we went from the tranquillity of a softly lit birthing suite to the clinical shiny fluorescent-lit operating suite.

You appeared on the second yank of a pair of forceps (check the above photo for the temporary mark they left behind, which gave you a strange sideburn effect) and when they put you to your mother’s chest I shouted ‘Oh fuck it’s a baby!’. I’m sorry about that, I was tired. Swearing isn’t big or clever, but sometimes you have no choice.

I also apologise for appearing surprised: I was aware that you were coming along, although my sweary shout would perhaps make it seem like your mum had just popped by to have her appendix removed and they’d found a son swimming around inside. I knew you were coming, so no idea what that was about. Probably because when you leiflittlewere the size of a poppy seed, or even full size but shielded behind a swollen belly in a sac of warm heaven, I couldn’t imagine you. On telly, where you appeared when they pushed an ultrasound against your home, you were just a mess of topography ‘There is his nose!’ the sonographer had cried, pointing to a small blob on a larger blog next to a larger blob. You then moved around, annoyed by this sonic intrusion and two buttocks appeared. I felt strangely proud as the sonographer blushed.

Yet you weren’t real, and it wasn’t until you were there in the flesh, a tight tiny but huge thing utterly helpless and wailing, that it hit me. They say it’s the most wonderful moment of your life. Not true, that was probably last week when we both lay on our backs and kicked our legs and waved our arms and both joyfully yelled before bursting into laughter that made us both cry. That was much better. To be honest, when you appeared I was just so, so relieved: relieved you weren’t dead, mum wasn’t dead. Relieved you were now breathing air, warmed by arms not amniotic fluid, alive. I wanted to wrap around you and mum, enclose you and be enclosed, create our womb we could rest in together and never have to look the fear in the face again.

A lot of mad thoughts fly through your head at that point. Again, I don’t hold that childbirth is miraculous: if it was they could have cleaned it up around the edges a bit. Walking on water, water you then turn into wine: miracles. Childbirth: intense it is, miraculous it’s not. You don’t remember it, mum was whacked out on a cocktail of drugs and sheer exhaustion, and I was really sweary and emotionally wrought. Let’s not dress it up. It was utterly awful. Great end product, for sure. But jeez. Sort it out, evolution.

The tears came then, from which emotion I do not know. The hugeness of the occasion was broken by a conversation between two of the otherwise heroic NHS2 theatre staff

“Looks like Donald Trump3 got in then” a face-masked surgeon told the woman standing by the machine that went bing ‘That’ll be the end of the world then”. I had last checked my phone about midnight, when it still looked like Clinton. Oh crap. We’d just bought you into the world only for that same world to be scheduled for annihilation.

Your mum didn’t want to hear this ‘DON’T TALK ABOUT DONALD TRUMP!’ she gasped, her utter weariness not masking her indignation.  You began to cry, and you were held harder to the breast.

I cut your umbilical cord: when making the birth plan4 I’d asked not to but when you appeared I had to do it, some possessive parental compulsion taking over. You have probably realised now that I’m quite clumsy, and that could have been disastrous. But I encourage you to do some navel-gazing son: I did a pretty good job there. If you need your tonsils doing, bear me in mind, yeah?

There were tests to ensure you are ok, beds on wards sorted (mum had to stay in for a20161113_123526 few days after, due to fatigue). Phone calls were made, after frantic running around the reception of the QMC trying to find the islands of phone reception. I couldn’t stop looking at you. You were perfect. You were fascinating. It made me gasp to think of what you were to me. I realised I was in love, deep deep love that shocked me when I approached it. How did wattle and daub dwelling peasants feel when they first stepping beneath the dome of a grand cathedral? The sheer awe, the breath-taking dimensions of it. I just looked at a picture of you, and I felt it freeze me again: to know such love is a fearsome, beautiful thing.

At some point, I went home for some sleep, sitting on a bus5 amazed that people were doing normal things, commuting and suchlike. I felt like grabbing them all and shouting ‘DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT HAS HAPPENED? SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAS HAPPENED!” , The woman sitting next to me was reading an article on her phone about trump, and frowning. How could she frown? What madness was this? In retrospect, she probably had more right to question the sanity of the crazily grinning, rumpled red-eyed mess sat next to her.

fullsizeoutput_b4a

I never really thought I’d have kids. I had a pretty disastrous relationship with my own parents, which you probably know all about by now. I was terrified I’d make their mistakes, that the violence they dispensed and had in turn been dispensed onto themselves, generation after generation, the misery that, as Larkin 7 put it, ‘Deepens like a coastal shelf’ would be as locked into my genes as surely as the green of my eyes. I don’t know what type of father I have been over the years, but I know from where I am sitting right now I would never do anything to hurt you, would never do anything that didn’t somehow ultimately lead to your happiness. I don’t just know with a simple clarity I would stop a bullet for you, but find myself willing that situation to occur to demonstrate that I would.

I wish you’d met your great granma Lil. She would have been so proud.

I don’t want to live vicariously through you, but I do want you to take your parent’s curiosity for the world, couple it with kindness, love nature, help those less fortunate, and realise that all that remains is love 7 Son, I orbit you. Son, I love you. Welcome to adulthood.

NOTES

1 Bakeoff was a popular TV series in the years around your birth where ten people made cakes and the one who made the worst cake was sent away to consider their awful cake until one person was crowned king or queen of the cake and everyone cheered and bought their branded cake or cookbook in a shop for a maximum of 9 months before they abdicated and the hunt for a new cake emperor or empress began anew.

2 If you still have an NHS when you read this, congratulations. They did things prior to your birth which made them seem like superheroes. A whole team appeared at 5am. Just like that. Imagine. I hope you don’t have to. If the NHS isn’t cherished then it’s likely that when you find yourself in such a room again, there will be no instantaneous response in the maternity theatre, but a 10-month waiting list.

3 A quick primer on Trump: by the time you read this the orange fascist who conned a nation will either be a bizarre regrettable footnote in history, not unlike when all them Eastenders stars had pop careers; or PREZTRUMP3000, a half human half mechanoid tango-faced cyborg of hate ruling over the galaxy and enslaving us all. He won the election on the day you were born, and your appearance was for many a silver lining on a huge sulphurous cloud.

4 A detailed plan you make a few weeks prior to the due-date outlining how you’d like things to precede once birth begins, drawn up utterly ignorant of the fact that NATURE DOESN’T CARE and only the really arrogant won’t wave a little white flag the moment they feel the baby move down and defer to the infinitely more trained and knowledgeable midwifery team. Ours had all sorts of things on it. Not one of them was an excruciating terrifying two days of sheer tedious horror. It had whale music. Bollocks to whale music.

5 Back then, these didn’t fly, but instead trundled down these big tarmac rivers called ‘roads’. Madness!

6 ”Bloody hell dad, quoting Larkin in a piece about child-raising. Nice. Any other clichés you want to get out the way? He also said ‘Get stewed. Books are a load of crap’. Perhaps you should take heed here: stop writing and get me down the pub. I’m 18 now, you realise?”

7 “I spotted that and don’t think I didn’t”