Beeston Town Hall: The Answers You Need To Know.

Hopefully, this article isn’t news to you, and the substantial media coverage the planned selling off of the Town Hall has garnered over the last few weeks has already informed you. I’ve spoke about it in the papers, on TV and radio and, of course, all over social media, as have representatives from Beeston and District Heritage Society and others.

It is often the case that when big issues like this come about that a lot of confusion follows: rumours, misinformation etc. It is seldom malice, but more a case of Chinese Whispers, as the story pings around the internet or through general chatter. I helped man a stall in Beeston Town Centre on Saturday, and was surprised by some of the suppositions bandied about. While the vast majority of people I talked to were very much anti disposing of the Town Hall, most had a phalanx of good questions the answers of which might be obvious to me,(who has been working on things like this for years so sees the cogs and wheels), but not so much to someone who hasn’t got that same geekish attraction to civic stuff.

As such, I’ve written the following FAQ (frequently asked questions) to help clarify as much as I can right now; and to show you how YOU can have your say. Information is a vital component to democracy; do not hesitate to get in touch if a question you have remains unanswered here, and myself or a fellow member of the Civic Society will be happy to attempt to answer.

Although I am a committee member of Beeston and District Civic Society, the entirety of this article does not necessarily reflect the exact views of the society, and are expressed in a personal capacity as a resident of Beeston. 


The building was built on Foster Avenue by the people of Beeston in 1936 as a civic centre to Beeston. It’s a fine building, with some wonderful exterior and interior features, and since the adjacent library was rejuvenated last year, has been seen from a new perspective as the library now opens out onto the area. With the library, the new council offices and the police station It forms a civic centre to the centre of Beeston, on a parade of fine buildings.


The building currently has several functions, serving as offices and as a location for council committees and meetings. It has a purpose-built council chamber, reception rooms and more. Civic functions are also held here on occasion.


Money and ideology.


Of course. And if the figures issued by the council are to be believed, the upkeep of the building is considerable, totalling over £100,000 per annum.


That’s the way the council are portraying it. If the council continues to spend so much money, then that is cash diverted from more pressing needs. However, this argument presents a false dichotomy. This is not a question of ‘this or that’.

The first point to note is that the figures released by the council on the upkeep costs are open to a great deal of scepticism. Not only do they not seem to tally with other figures in the public domain, but they include duplicate and transferable costs: business rates for instance. Staff costs and server costs are also included, those these are costs that will have to be retained even if the Town Hall closes. It seems that an emotive, 6 figure number has almost been plucked out of the air in an attempt to justify this.

The building is an asset to the council, and an either be cashed in once, or made to work to generate income into the future (and still be ours).


We can only find that out with proper scrutiny, in the form of an impact study. However, the council have not responded to the Civic Society’s call for this to be conducted, which means the savings they set out are utterly pie-in-the-sky. We call on them to conduct an independent assessment.


Of course, buildings do. But the Town Hall serves a purpose and has great potential to recoup costs – and possibly even turn a profit – if used correctly.


Well, venue hire is an ever-growing market.


You can, but the council have been notoriously keen NOT to promote this. The Hall was once licensed for marriages: I met a couple of pensioners who had done just that many years ago. When I married a few years back, I enquired about marrying there, but found their license had lapsed, so instead had to have the ceremony at Nottingham Council House. With very little effort, the council could make the place available.

That’s just one idea. I’ve heard dozens of brilliant suggestions over the last few weeks, including a fully costed detailed submission from a local retired academic.


Errr….no. The public consultation form that is currently available for residents to complete gives just three options.


  1. RETENTION: leave the building as it is (where it will be left to decay and then sold off at a later date)
  2. SELL FOR HOUSING: This sounds ok, as we do have a housing crisis, but would almost certainly mean the demolition of the building as it is purpose-built to be functional as a town hall and would cost more to convert than to start from scratch. Plus, many of the exterior and interior features are worth a lot of money on the open market, so would be too attractive to retain.
  3. DEMOLITION AND SELLING OFF TO A DEVELOPER: This is almost certainly the favoured choice for the council, as it means getting a quick buck and having the building off their hands as soon as possible.


Indeed. The way it is worded, and the way the council are refusing to extend the consultation plan despite the Civic Society requesting as such (conducting a consultation over Christmas, when the populace is less likely to notice it in the haze of Quality Street and turkey dinners- see also Network Rail last year) suggests that the administration is keen not to consult, but close down any objection.


While I am sure many Conservatives do think that way, and for that they deserve our credit, the leader of Broxtowe, Cllr. Richard Jackson takes a much different ideological view. Paradoxically, he does not believe that the council he leads should exist at all, having voted for the abolition of Broxtowe at County level, where he is also a councillor. To suggest that abolishing a council and absorbing the responsibilities into the County would be financially beneficial ( Broxtowe Councillors receive a relatively small expenses payment for their role, while County councillors receive a significant sum that would no doubt be boosted by extra responsibilities) is perhaps unfair: this is more about Cllr. Jackson’s philosophy that a council should do as little as possible. After his plans to abolish Broxtowe were thwarted at County level, he’s doing the next best thing: selling off the council incrementally. The council will thus receive a bump in their budgets through selling off the Hall, but once it is sold, it is gone forever.

We propose that the building is retained and invested in so it becomes sustainable,  so future generations can enjoy it and feel that they have some stake in their town, as our predecessors in the 1930’s so wished.


A moot point. Broxtowe absorbed the building when it came into being in 1974, but it will require scrutiny on the legalities of their responsibilities of property from the Beeston and Stapleford Urban District, Broxtowe’s predecessor.  Only a proper impact assessment can determine this.

Not a single councillor mentioned that they wanted to sell the Town Hall in their 2015 election materials. This is utterly without mandate.


Yes it can, but you have to do it, and do it now.

  1. Fill in the consultation form online: it takes five minutes. We recommend ticking ‘none of the above’ and putting your suggestions on usage in the space provided.
  2. Sign the petition. We have had a staggering response to this so far and will be presenting it to the council soon, but still ensure your name is on it.
  3. Write to councillors: first, your own, then members of the committee who will determine this decision. These can be found in full below. Be reasonable and polite in your correspondence. 
  4. Write to the MP: Although she is for selling it off (see below) she is obliged to listen to you at the very least. Again, please be reasoned and polite when doing so: 
  5. Tell people about this: not everyone is on the internet or has noticed this, so ensure friends and neighbours, or even random passers-by, are informed. Feel free to print this off and distribute if you so wish.
  6. Attend the council meeting where this will be discussed. The council meeting where the matter will be discussed will be held in the Town Hall at 7pm on the 31st January: it is here that the petition will be handed to the mayor and a representation given. Please attend -and see the Town Hall at the same time!


We’ve even been surprised by the response: several hundred consultation forms have been returned to the council already, and the petition has 2070 signatures online and many more over other locations.


  • SIR NEIL COSSENS: The retired head of English Heritage has come out to support the campaign, and has written to the council expressing his dismay at the plans.
  • PROFESSOR SIR MARTYN POLIAKOFF: As well as being a global scientific sensation, Martyn is also very proud of where he lives and frequently engages in civic matters.
  • BEESTON AND DISTRICT LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY: The venerable local historians do a wonderful job showing Beeston’s rich past history.
  • DR PETER ROBINSON: The brilliant mind behind Beeston’s (and beyond!) Blue Plaque project is very much against the sell-off, and has accordingly sent representations to council.
  • STEWART CRAVEN: Over a decade ago, Stewart looked at the canalside cottages by Beeeston Weir and saw a potential no one else could. Gumption, hard-work and belief saw this vision made real when the cottages opened as the Canalside Heritage Centre last year. Such an addition shows how we can be innovative with our heritage, and build something for all of us to share.
  • THE BEESTONIAN: Well, of course.
  • POSSIBLY, BROXTOWE COUNCILLORS: Steve Carr (Lib Dem) has stated his opposition, and we’ve heard rumours of discord within the Conservative group about the proposals. Labour, as far as I am aware, have not set down an official line which is rather disappointing.  If this changes, I will willingly amend.


  • CLLR RICHARD JACKSON: The brainchild behind this, the aforementioned Jackson is a vigorous asset-stripper and a staunch opponent of public ownership.
  • ANNA SOUBRY MP: We can perhaps forgive Soubry’s lack of civic affinity to Beeston as she lives in the rather more genteel bucolic fields of Charnwood, Leicestershire, but she has stated that she supports Cllr Jackson and wants the building disposed of. She claims that she doesn’t support demolition, but as explained above that would be the most likely outcome of any sale.
  • DEVELOPERS: While the council have struggled to find a developer for the Square Phase 2 (despite numerous promises that a deal is ‘nearly done’, huge amounts of public money have so far failed to get anything certain), the location of the Town Hall is hugely attractive to developers, prime land that could be used for high-end housing, or simply for land banking.  


We can, and with determination, we will. Last year, Network Rail were shocked by the level of opposition to their plans to close access across the tracks to Attenborough Nature Reserve and put the plans on ice for the foreseeable future. We can do this, if we do this together.



Currently not being made available: we will explain more when we find out why.






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.


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.


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”

John McDonnell visits Beeston, gets collared by Beestonia and Son.

mattand sonMy Thursdays are now spent solely looking after my son, Leif: we don’t put him in nursery that day and my wife works, so I have the day ‘off’ from my job, and it’s just me and him all day. I love my job (yes, I have one, Anna Soubry, and a good one, despite your snarling ‘Get a job you layabout’ comment when I questioned your attitude to constituents, back in May. True Tory colours shone through there, didn’t they?), but this is my favourite weekday.

So Thursdays are a joy of playing with Leif, feeding Leif, getting Leif to nap, taking Leif for a push around Beeston, changing Leif’s nappy and generally immersing myself completely in parenting. As someone whose own dad was at sea for most of his formative years, I know the importance of that bond and what happens when it doesn’t form, so am vigilant to ensure it does. It seems to have. We spend the day laughing.

So far, so Mumsnet-friendly. Yet then I get a call from Labour HQ, asking if I’d like to interview John McDonnell for Beestonia. I’m about to turn it down with a self-righteous ‘No. nothing will spoil this precious time between my baby and me’ when I realise it’s only round the corner. Plus, Leif likes accompanying me on journalistic stuff: he came

radio Leif

Radio Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga

with me to a pre-record a few weeks back at BBC Radio Nottingham: halfway through the interview he started making loud ‘blah blah blah’ noises: not quite as viral-worthy of the famous BBC News clip, but an interesting, if not a mildly harsh commentary on my self-promoting style from an infant critic.

Plus, the massive poo that he’s been storing up for days finally broke through earlier in the day, and he’s been in a much better mood since that particular horror. He can come with me.

Into the pushchair he goes, and we head out.

I set up a camera next to Notts TV and the Nottingham Post, and hastily scribble some questions. I was here -the Shed in Beeston- a few weeks ago when Corbyn visited. It was that event when it started to really dawn on me the Tories were not in for a landslide. I’ve been to many political rallies over the years but never seen so many new faces, so many young faces. The youth vote came out in force, inspired by a less dull type of politics.

McDonnell doesn’t attract such numbers -it’s a Thursday afternoon, and we’re not in the heat of an election – but it’s still an impressive turnout. Again, I’m struck by the young voters. When I first voted, it was in the age of Kinnock and a growing centrism in politics. I probably would have been in raptures about someone like Corbyn: instead, a succession of slick, uninspiring ideologically shallow suits presided. That’s not necessarily a complaint -they did a fair measure of good stuff- but you can see why it turned off the young. The Clegg / Cameron / Miliband 2015 offering was probably the nadir of this. I’m not a Corbynista as such, but I am impressed with his campaigning and the way he put forward a costed manifesto that simply made sense. I like the way Labour does seem a hotbed of ideas now, a broad church gradually coming to a sort of peace with itself, messy around the edges but not the whipped-to-hell sterile slickness of modern politics.

IMG_2729Not to say McDonnell isn’t slick. He arrives and launches into a stump speech without notes, straight off the back, and fields questions with ease. I get a few snaps, all the time while holding a baby with my free hand. I didn’t have a great deal of time to prep my questions, and a dodgy contact lens hindered my attempts to read my notes, so apologies for the rather clumsy questioning.


And if the producers of BBC’s Today programme are reading, I’m sure John Humphries isworth every penny of his £600,000, but if you need a cheaper option I can do it for a fraction of that….if you don’t mind a few baby babbles in the background.



Brexit Watersheds

I’m fascinated by the period of time when Sixties radicalism realised it had failed to paint it black: the slouch away from Babylon marked by Withnail, The White Album, Altamont and Francis Wheen’ s Strange Days Indeed. A time described by Hunter S Thompson as “where you could see the ring of scum from the high-tide mark slowly appear, clinging to Californian hills as the dream drained” 
I think we’re living in a similar phase of history, but with that other baby-boomer concept in fast retreat: right-wing nationalism.
A year ago it appeared a tsunami; after a surprise 2015 election, the shock of Brexit. I was abroad when it happened, and spent the days following talking to other Europeans on the same Greek Island: Dutch concerned it would now break the dykes and flood their lowlands; Germans shocked at the poison they’d tirelessly drawn from their system for 8 decades was now being enthusiastically injected straight into an artery; French worried that as the channel closed, the wave would sweep East onto their beaches with Marine Le Pen elevated on the crest of foamed breakers.
Yet a year on, it looks like Brexit was the peak. Yes, it swept across the ocean, taking time to smash into Atlantic seaboards, but when it did it was diminished. Trump failed to get the popular vote, and was elected fatally wounded; his presidency limping along, bleeding out.
Le Pen, Wilders and many others touted in 2016 as the fresh face of democratic fascism have proven to be as robust as paper flag topped sandcastles.
UKIP are failed, and disintegrating fast. Yes, they have been largely absorbed by the Tories, but after a ‘Brexit election’ proved to be easily turned towards the social inequity that the right wing thought we could be distracted from with patriotic chest-beating. 
Boris Johnson increasingly looks less like the clubbable, charmingly-unkempt funnyman we always knew he wasn’t, and more like the nasty, self-preserving fuckwit he truly is. 
May is finished, after her tilt towards codifying the Tory belief in their divine right to rule. Andrea Leadsom revealing demands broadcasters support the government out of  patriotic duty. Davis looking like a mouse cornered by the European Bueracats he has long held irrational hate for.
A year on, it feels like we can breathe again. The young have stood up and shown they cannot be  dismissed again. Corbyn has crossed over to the mainstream, and now feels like a credible leader. Left-wing critiques on issues are being debated when previously the media wouldn’t touch such perspectives.  Half of all Sun readers didn’t vote.
It’s probably a reversion to the mean, a settling to sea-level. Liberal democracy has a way of doing that. As for Brexit? The day after the referendum, I was in a taxi after a day swimming in warm Greek seas. “We voted no, but we didn’t leave” the driver told us “You see, that will happen to your country”. I thought that as likely as breathing under water. Now it feels increasingly possible. We’re no longer swimming upstream. We’re winning.

Shower of Soubs

For someone who was doing his very best to not write about the forthcoming election, I’m not doing too well. With my actual job, my freelance work, running The Beestonian and spending as much time I can with my beautiful son, I don’t really have time to write.

Yet I’m finding time today after one of the most revealing, nasty thing happened courtesy of Anna Soubry, who, as readers of this blog know, is no fan of mine. I revealed recently that she actually living in Leicestershire, despite promising many many times to move to Broxtowe. This has, I hear, really got under her skin.

I was taking my son for a walk in Beeston today, picking up the new copy of The Beestonian and generally enjoying the summer weather. I saw Soubry on the High Street. This is like Bill Oddie spying a dodo in his back yard. She’d actually deigned to descend on the town she clearly dislikes.

I thought it might make an amusing photo op, so i popped into Poundland and picked up a white board, wrote ‘LIVES IN CHARNWOOD’ on it and asked my friend Christopher to take a photo of my holding it behind her. He agreed, I stood a few feet to her rear and the photo was taken. At this point she span round, recognised me then said something quite extraordinary.

“You’re a horrible man. You’re horrible to everyone. You’re very horrible to you mother”


I best give some context, without washing too much dirty laundry in public. A few years ago, I decided to cut off contact with my parents. This was a very tough thing to do, but a necessary decision. Years of emotional abuse and a childhood of physical abuse had done a lot of damage, and continued to eat at me. Having a clean break was startlingly effective. I have only just really started exploring it in my head. Having my own child has given immense clarity: I was terrified of having a boy in case I was to him what my parents were to me. Man passes misery on to man / it deepens like an ocean shelf, as the Humberside miserabilist had it.  But when he came along, my past fell away, and my future began. I loved him with every fibre of my existence, and that has only grown. My life would course differently. No ocean shelves of misery, no punches and kicks. I could only see love, pure love. I was cleansed of my past.

But to Anna it is fair game. Back in 2015, she mentioned my mother on social media on knowing it was a raw point. I wrote to her asking her to decline, as it was a low blow. She told me to man up.

So I was on the street, trembling with rage. What sort of person sinks that low? I decided I had to get her to clarify it, so I started filming on my phone and approached her again.

…and shot five seconds of my feet before mistaking the pause button for the record. I will instead give an account in words.

I approach the shonky politician “Anna” I ask her “Could you explain why you bought my family up just then? Why did you do that?”

Anna sees me, and turns from the camera. First for everything, I suppose.

I ask again. Her activist goons start crowding round me, trying to block the camera and telling me to move on. But I need an answer. I need to know why she feels she can do this to people.

I do a rather deft feint, and sidestep the blue-rosetted huddle trying to get round me. Suddenly I’m face to face with her. Her face contorts into a sneer. That often sounds a bit over-dramatic when people say that, and often refers only to a half-smile. But this is a sneer, a full, nasty, incisor-glistening sneer “Why don’t you get a job, you horrible layabout?”

Well, I have a job. I have several jobs, and have to now turn down work. I tell her this and she says ‘A real job, you lazy boy”.

I aspire to laziness, I really do. As it is, I’m up at dawn with the baby, work all day then do my share of the cooking and cleaning when i get back. I also run the magazine, contribute to a podcast, run local charity events, oversee several online community forums, volunteer for the local Civic Society, and lots of other stuff I could be doing now instead of typing this.

I ask  her to retract what she said about my family. She calls me a ‘loony’.

“Your mother has every right to think you are a despicable boy” Boy! I’m 43. The condescension is strong on this one. I am agog.

“I’m going to call the police” she tells me “They’ll have fun with you” (?)

I tell her she can call them, but first will she retract.

“You’re not worth it, rubbish like you” she shouts back.

Her activists are now crowding round me. One tries to be ultra-reasonable and ays ‘You’re obviously upset” and tries to shepherd me away. Another digs me in the kidneys from behind, making me jump.

I decide that i am not going to get an answer from her, and I am upset and shocked and utterly not going to get any form of apology for a remorseless, nasty Soubry.

The activist goons help speed me away. I can’t help but swear at this point “You’re a shower of shit” is my rather crap parting shot.

I go off and see my wife upset, as she can see what happens. We find coffee and a sit down. I go to check the footage. My mouth dry with fading adrenalin. I discover i can’t work my new phone and the footage is of my, appropriately enough, foot. A wave of depression blacks over my mind. It lifts when I later feed my baby, and I realise that I am blessed.

Soubry? I pity her. She is so lost in her nastiness, her sneering, senseless nastiness she shows how perfect she is in a party that uses hate, smears and fear to rouse their voters.

Soubry disappears…last seen in Leicestershire.


That question has been on many lips the last few weeks, as she seems to have slipped from all view. Empty chaired at hustings, it’s caused a fair amount of speculation. She’s even slipped out of her self-appointed role as Head of the Tory Remainers: having her cake and eating it by mouth-piecing for disaffected Europhiles, while happily voting along with the Brexiteers.

The election has caught her on the hop though. While her decision to tack left seemed good relatively early on in the parliament -it allows her time to be seen as a sage when Brexit goes tits-up – it’s an albatross during an election. The strategy of soaking up voters leaking heavily from a pointless Farage-free UKIP isn’t going to work when you’ve been pretty outspoken about them: accusations of working-class racism up in the more Europhobic Northern half of Broxtowe are still very fresh in the air.

So perhaps no wonder she has gone to ground. But a recent idle check on the Broxtowe Borough Council has probably given more insight into her low profile. For Anna Soubry, who promised during her 2010 campaign that an MP had a moral duty to live in her constituency actually lives in Charnwood.


2017 Statement of Nomination

Where’s Charnwood? I hear you cry, thumbs clicking onto Google Maps. Well, it’s not Broxtowe. It doesn’t even border Broxtowe. It’s not even in Nottinghamshire, but rural Leicestershire: the posh bit where fox-hunts are more common than Sunday League kick abouts.

I have long suspected as much. Her expenses show that returning from Parliament at the end of the week she travels to Leicester station. She’s been doing this for some time.

Charnwood is where her partner, former  shonky-building firm director Neil Davi(D)son (sic) lives, in a large pile most likely not built by the awful firm of botch-job builders he worked for. Nowt wrong with that of course. Love needs closeness to flourish, even among awful people. But why has she moved there, rather than she move to the plush Bramcote apartment she claimed to live in?

You see, less than two years ago Anna Soubry claimed to be living the Bramcote life. Her cloying newsletters told of how she was DEFINITELY ONE OF YOU, taking the odd stroll on Bramcote Park, supping an ale in the Top House, getting their stamps from the shop that used to be Cloughies. Bramcotian through and through! Cut her, she bleeds NG9.

5963_200052928_IMG_00_0001_max_656x437 She lived in the Lawns, a lovely little development just off Town Street, tucked in near Bramcote Ridge.

When she stood for reelection in May 2015, she gave this address as her residence. However, checking the history of the property, it seems that it was only purchased on the 2nd December 2014, a few months before the election, handily. So Anna Soubry lived their for just a few months, to cash in on the ‘local aspect’ . Soon after that election was over, she hot-footed back to Charnwood away from us Nottinghamshire plebs and our utterly unreasonable desire to be represented in Parliament.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 16.19.19

2015 Election Statement of Nomination

The 2017 snap election caught her off guard: now she has been cast out of the ministerial inner-circle, and the abandonment of fixed-term elections, she’s been wrong footed. No chance to move back to Broxtowe in late 2019 so she could play at being a local in the scheduled May 2020 election. So reluctantly, she entered her address as Charnwood. Ouch.

Before I’m accused of some League of Gentleman local-snobbery, some context. I have no issue with where a politician lives as long as they do a good job. Nice if they do live in it, or nearby, and have a good relationship with their constituency, and the way it works. Yet Anna has been claiming she would be ‘Broxtowe’s Voice in Westminster’, dismissing her then-opponent Dr Palmer as a man who could not deign to live in his own area. Promises were made to give up her lavish Mapperley Top home, and be part of our community. She sold herself as being ‘One of us’: a pretty condescending attitude only someone who can’t bear anyone outside her own clique would feel the need to repeat.

A couple of other questions remain. If she bought the house for purely campaigning reasons, how does she feel to adding to the borough’s housing crisis? Buying up property for purposes other than actually living in has led to a dysfunctional, hugely skewed property market, which creates massive inequality and the need to squeeze housing developments out of towns and over greenbelt.

And who has paid for this property? If someone fancies having a forensic look at her expenses in relation to claimed housing costs, be my guest. I’m sure everything is in order, but if we can’t trust her on this, what can we trust her on?