• Journalism

    The Hunt shows how little we understand Orwell today

    This feature, on the ways in which Orwell is mistreated and misunderstood by popular culture, appeared in The Telegraph in March 2020. “You’ve read Animal Farm?” So says the female villain of The Hunt, Blumhouse’s slasher-cum-satirical film, to the unlikely heroine, a Mississippi hick she’s nicknamed Snowball. As she learns to her cost, during their showdown, she has a bad case of cognitive bias. Despite Snowball’s lowly identity – in the eyes of her hunter at least – our heroine, real name Crystal, has read a book or two. Briefly, the background, and the premise of the film. Crystal is the last survivor of a human hunt that targets a group…

  • Journalism

    Talk of the town: On the road in Worksop with Lisa Nandy

    This profile piece of Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy appeared in The House magazine, the in-house magazine of The Houses of Parliament, and Politics Home in February 2020. After 85 years as a Labour seat, the Nottinghamshire constituency of Bassetlaw witnessed the largest swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the country at the general election. Benedict Cooper joins Lisa Nandy on a trip to the area to hear first hand how she plans to reconnect with the party’s former heartlands   It’s a bright, crisp winter’s day in Worksop, and in the café of The Crossing church and community centre the lunchtime trade is under way. As I cross…

  • Journalism

    Byline Times: Can Labour Fight Against Infighting in its Leadership Contest?

    A report from the Labour leadership hustings held by Open Labour in January 2020, originally posted on Byline Times. There was a conspicuous lack of discord and disharmony at the Labour leadership and deputy leadership hustings in Nottingham. For the past four years, gatherings of Labour members have tended towards the truculent wherever debate is involved. Or, when Jeremy Corbyn has been present, they have been love-ins; orthodoxies of uncritical faith and untempered affection. There was, of course, some liveliness. It is hard to bring a number of Labour members together without hearing that accusations of anti-Semitism against the leadership were “illegitimate” spurious “smears” against Jeremy Corbyn – up to…

  • Journalism

    The school protest bigots in Birmingham would love Labour to trigger Jess Phillips

    It will make a lot of Labour members in Birmingham Yardley, and beyond, extremely happy if their MP Jess Phillips is ‘triggered’ in a vote tonight.  Phillips is one of Labour’s most prominent working class female MPs, one of the few MPs whose appeal reaches out to the wider electorate; a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, who came into politics to do more to protect victims of domestic abuse; and in the last fortnight alone has stood out for standing up to Boris Johnson in the fight to keep the Domestic Abuse Bill alive.  But none of that matters in the Labour party today if you’re not a Corbynite.…

  • Journalism

    ‘The Ministry of Truth’ at Five Leaves Bookshop

    ‘1936 was the year in which Orwell himself said that “history stopped”; in The Ministry of Truth, Lynskey adds that “history stopped, and Nineteen Eighty-Four began”.’ From my write up on the Orwell Society blog up of ‘The Ministry of Truth’ by Dorian Lynskey, who came to talk at Five Leaves Bookshop last week. George Orwell left London for Catalonia on December 22nd 1936. He fled Barcelona in fear for his and Eileen’s life six months later, hastily across the French border at Perpignan, through France by train, “away from the mountain and the vine, back to the meadow and the elm”, and was back in the family home in…

  • Journalism

    Lost children of Empire

    In the 1980s a Nottingham social worker uncovered a “government-approved programme of betrayal, institutional abuse, colonial callousness, racism and deceit”. Here’s my feature for @LeftLion on Margaret Humphreys and the child migrants scandal https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2019/july/margaret-humphreys-home-children-child-migrants-trust/#.XSSJYUsxjv4.twitter Gripped with terror, a young mother races along the crowded platform at Liverpool’s Lime Street station, her eyes wildly scanning for any sight of her son. She hasn’t lost him in a moment of lapsed attention – her little boy has been taken from her. Then suddenly, amidst the tumult and the smoke, there he is. Her only child, helpless and confused, on board a train that in a few seconds is going to grind into…

  • Journalism

    Farwell, The Maze

    The Maze is Closing For Good 19 April 19 words: Benedict Cooper (link to feature on LeftLion) Gaz and Steph Peacham have announced the closure of much-loved pub and venue The Maze. You have until the end of June to get your last orders in. Here’s the full story in their own words… Gaz Peacham can still remember the moment, to the beat, when he knew The Maze could be something really special. November 12 2007, Israeli funk band The Apples were just getting into their set, building up slowly, climactically, to one of those rare indescribable moments you get in live music; when the crowd and the venue and…

  • Comment,  Journalism

    “F**k’em”

    What used to be said, disdainfully, of Leave voters – ‘They were duped…they didn’t know what they were voting for.. things have changed etc.’ – has been reduced to a single sneer over the past few weeks: “Fuck’em” (that’s a direct quote). But isn’t turning over the referendum going to destroy millions of people’s faith in democracy? “Fuck’em.” Isn’t stopping Brexit a gift for the far-right? “Fuck’em. They shouldn’t have voted Leave.” But aren’t these the people who are going to be most hurt by no-deal? “Fuck’em. Serves them right.” Every day for the past 1000 days, there are those who have woken up refusing to accept the result of…

  • Journalism

    What we might have lost

    A fire at the Cattle Market in November wrecked four buildings and damaged several more. But it could have been worse. We went down to see what Notts would be missing if the whole thing had gone up..  www.leftlion.co.uk The blaze at the Cattle Market was so intense, and the flames so high, that looking out of the skylight in my flat on Forest Road, a hazy orange aurora hung behind the city centre, casting Nottingham in a strange, ominous backlight. If it hadn’t been for the direction of the wind, and the rapid response from the emergency services, we might well be ruminating on what we lost the night…

  • Journalism

    The People’s Vote movement is playing with far-right fire

        Take a placard calling for a ‘People’s Vote’, spin it around. You might well find the reverse bears another slogan: ‘Stop Brexit’. Keep spinning: Stop Brexit – People’s Vote – Stop Brexit – People’s Vote – Stop Brexit, until the two phrases blur into the political axiom of the day. Ostensibly – and perhaps practically, if it comes to it – they don’t mean the same thing at all. But assuming, as the post-referendum Remain camp confidently does, that a re-run vote does lead to Brexit being overturned, what then? Addled and vile as they are, the thugs caught on camera abusing Remain MP Anna Soubry outside Parliament…

  • Journalism

    The NHS whistleblower

    This article appeared in the Guardian Society section in October 2018. I was left to fight alone for NHS whistleblowing protection Blowing the whistle in the NHS is meant to be easy. Medical bodies such as the Department of Health and Social Care, the General Medical Council (GMC) and individual hospital trusts all encourage the practice – on paper. But when Chris Day, a junior intensive care doctor, raised numerous concerns about understaffing and safety at the intensive care unit of Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, he found out all too quickly the toll it would take on his career. Day says he made a “protected disclosure” to hospital management…

  • Journalism

    The city’s ancient hill

    My piece for LeftLion magazine on the history of Canning Circus, Nottingham SIX ROADS meet at Canning Circus. From the north, three of the major highways into the city form a delta in the urban space between them; converging then splitting off, renamed, they ferry traffic and people down the hill out into the splintering, winding channels and streams of the city. To the south lies the city centre, to the west, the Park Estate and the Castle. To the north, Lenton, the university, Wollaton Park and Radford, and to the east a canopy of green trees shelters thousands of gravestones, sweeping all the way down to Waverley Street and…

  • Journalism

    Comment piece

    This comment piece appeared in the Times online at the end of July By nothing more than my increasingly hollow-feeling membership of a particular Labour Party constituency, I am now officially affiliated with one of the most contentious, offensive groups in left-wing politics. Actually it was very straight forward. An emergency motion was proposed, there was a show of eager upstretched hands, a prolonged round of applause, and that was it. We’re in. Nottingham East is officially affiliated with Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). There was no mention that JVL has deeply and routinely offended Jewish party members ever since it was set up just under a year ago. When…

  • Journalism

    Rebel City! Nottingham’s radical activist history

    There was a day in the summer of 1985 when the two great political movements of the era converged in Nottingham. On the Forest Rec, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) staged a mass rally urging solidarity with striking miners, while over on Victoria Embankment, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) welcomed thousands to the Nottingham Peace Festival. The hardest part for the organisers was driving guest speakers between the two; some of the same speakers, maybe the same speeches. “We saw it as one cause,” says Ross Bradshaw, owner of radical Nottingham bookshop, Five Leaves, who was one of those fighting the traffic between the rallies. “It was all…

  • Features,  Journalism,  Politics

    Stories of the Streets

    This article initially appeared in the Guardian in July 2018. ‘Give a homeless person a camera and they will see the city in a different way’ “You’re worth nothing,” Colin’s stepfather used to tell him as a child. Even now, sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester, the words haunt him; as a child he started believing it himself, and is still racked with self-doubt. It’s easier not to think what demons might be plaguing a person sleeping rough. Much simpler to keep walking, pass them by: out of sight, out of mind. It’s the natural response, says Alex Greenhalgh, co-founder of social enterprise People of the Streets. “The norm…

  • Journalism

    I see the broken eggs, comrades..

    ..but where is this omelette you promised us? Swelled by that old intoxicant, victory, Labour big guns joined MPs and staffers on Tuesday to lift a glass to the party’s new general secretary – Corbyn candidate Jennie Formby. While inside the Two Chairmen pub, John McDonnell, Len McCluskey, James Schneider, Emily Thornberry et al sipped sweet success, and the seeing-off of Formby’s predecessor Iain McNicol, on the street in front of Labour HQ, Momentum, the party’s guerrilla wing, was also celebraring. “McNicol’s gone,” bellowed Jackie Walker and supporters, “now it’s time for the rest of them.” That shouldn’t take long – a flurry of resignations went in even before the…

  • Journalism

    Little John the Bare-knuckle Boxer

    When Pete Radford arrived backstage for the closing night of Romeo and Juliet, the first thing the director noticed was the state her actor was in. His lip was split in two from front to back; he had a shiner under his right eye, a graze under his left eye, his cheeks were still swollen and he bore the unmistakable pallor of a man who’s been in a scrap… “She wasn’t too impressed,” admits Pete. “She suggested I use some concealer.” There wasn’t a lot of concealer being handed out the last time I’d seen Pete, backstage at a very different venue on a very different night. The shabby dressing…

  • Journalism

    The Kurds are being left to twist in the wind

    Britain and the US have fought alongside the Kurds in Syria. Now they are leaving them to the mercy of a Turkish President vowed to “cleanse” them from their homes. The last time they were left in such peril, they were massacred in Kobane. This time the consequences could be even worse. With the first Turkish bodybags returning from Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest drive against the Kurdish people is officially underway. But the grand plan has Russian chess manoeuvres written all over it, and taking the fight wilfully to where the U.S. has troops could force a capitulation that leaves the Kurds well and truly stranded. Not that any…