The story of President Jimmy Carter being attacked by a rabbitt (!) whilst canoeing in Georgia on 20 April, finally makes the headlines.
In a very short space of time, the search engine Google has become a large part of our lives. Indeed it has become not just a multi-billion pound company, but a verb in its own right.
A google backlash was inevitable. Certainly Google and Microsoft have shown themselves more than willing to get into bed with the Chinese dictators who wish to ensure their country's web users are restricted as much as possible. The other problem is the amount of data Google holds on those who use it - put simply, this appears to be a hell of a lot. In practicce, they can use that information in any way they wish, and of course it can all be passed on to our own versions of the Stasi as soon as they ask for it.
Scroogle is a reaction against this. If you want to look at Google without the adverts, and without your web activity being stored indefinately why not give it a go? Have a look yourself here
Three of the pubs featured below are in areas that have particularly "benefitted" from gentrification - Hoxton and Broadway Market. The fourth, the old Crown and Castle and Dalston Junction, is now quite a good Chinese restaurant.
Over the last ten years one of the most noticeable changes in the borough has been the decline in the number of pubs. Usually these have been replaced with housing developments, several have become restaurants, sometimes they have simply been boarded up and left to rot, and in one or two cases pubs have simply been knocked down and open spaces left.
Then there are the old style pubs that have been "redeveloped", either as part of a corporate chain or gentrified by a developer with money to spare and an eye on a quick buck. Some of these may as well be closed to me, given their prices and clientele!
Why have so many east end pubs vanished in such an historically short space of time? I would venture the following reasons:
1. Competition from corporate chains. All those old boys nursing a pint of Old Peculiar in Stoke Newington Wetherspoons used to drink somewhere else you know. Few small, privately run pubs can be making serious money these days.
2. The housing market. Pub owners struggling to make a profit can easily be tempted to sell up by property developers waving big wads of cash.
3. Lifestyle Changes. A pint in the pub can be a lot more expensive than a can brought in on a booze cruise from Calais. Add to that those who prefer to stay in and smoke dope, or take other drugs that cannot easily be taken in a high street pub, and the local looks a lot less appealing than your own sofa.
4. Population Change. Many people who now live in Hackney come from backgrounds without a strong pub going tradition. Whilst this applies to some of the white middle class people that have moved to the borough in recent years, it particularly applies to people who were born in Turkey, West Africa and Asia. At the same time significant numbers of white working class people have moved out of the area, leaving the pubs of their youth behind.
Below are some of the "lost" pubs I have managed to capture with my camera. Others will follow in the coming weeks.
The Mitre, once of 71 Downham Road, N1. Shut for many years, this was one of Hackney's few remaining squats, but now appears to be under the curse of redevelopment.
Known for having Jim, the largest landlord in Hackney (his twin brother was also well over 20 stone) Ye Old Ivy House was at 32 Hertford Road, N1. It too now seems to be in the midst of redevelopment.
Clearly Hackney's "Community Support Officers" do not have much to do.
Apparently one of their current games is to lurk around an the entrance to Regents Canal towpath, trying to catch cyclists cycling on the pavement before they join the canal itself. I have seen them doing this twice this week, and have been informed of a third occasion.
Yesterday two CSO idiots were involved in a stand up row with 6 cyclists on Canal Walk, N1, with police being called to resolve the issue (one cyclist I spoke to decided to cycle off rather than risk arrest when the real police came) Hilariously the kerb has just been lowered at this very spot, precisely so people can cycle on the path the CSO are guarding so jealously.
There is nothing like joined up government is there?
A few years back Steve Booth produced a poster that reminded me of my in-built distrust of "specialists" and "professionals". It was very simple - a picture of Dr Harold Shipman, and the words "Don't Trust Experts" underneath.
One person who might agree is Russian Grigori Perelman. He appears all set to turn down the highest award in mathematics, the Fields Medal, and indeed does not seem very taken with the one million dollars also on offer. It seems he feels alienated from the "mathematics community" and does not want to be seen as the leader of such a shower.
You can read a brief biography of this singular man here
I listen to a lot of ambient music (it is good for my temper) but a lot of stuff out there sounds, well, samey after a while.
One person who does not is Overclocked Mind. You can download several of his tracks here
Oh, you will need to register with the site, but it is free.
Somewhere in the depths of my record collection I have an LP, a few singles and a Peel session 12 inch by the Redskins. Their modest aim was to "walk like The Clash and sound like The Supremes" and on some of their best tracks - like "Keep On Keeping On" they came pretty close.
Their 1986 album "Neither Washington Nor Moscow" actually stands the test of time really well - apart from the title of course. Perhaps "Neither Capital Nor Islam" would be more appropriate in 2006!
Just by chance today I came across a website devoted to the band - go here. There is a discussion forum, pictures, discography and the guy who runs it is supposed to be putting some MP3s of their final gig on the forum shortly.
The picture below is of a CCTV camera attached to one of Ireland's most historic buildings - Blarney Castle in County Cork.
I can only assume it is there to protect the historic property, or for the security of those visiting.
It has to be said that the chances of you being robbed and murdered in Blarney are pretty slim, so we can presume the cameras (there were several others) are there to protect the castle.
Think about this. In order to protect the castle, the authorities drill bloody great holes into it, and attach an electronic CCTV system to its walls. Walls that had otherwise stood unmolested for hundreds of years. Is it me, or is that absolute fucking madness?
I recently noticed this on the Morrissey website
An exclusive version of The Youngest Was The Most Loved is now available for download on iTunes USA. It features several unreleased b-sides and live versions of the single with the following tracklisting:
1. The Youngest Was The Most Loved
2. If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me.
3. A Song From Under The Floorboards
5. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (Live From Manchester Apollo)
6. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (Live From Gateshead)
7. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (Live From Grimsby)
8. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (Live From Manchester Opera House)
How long it seems since The Smiths recorded "Paint A Vulgar Picture"
"Re-issue, re-package, re-evaluate the song, double pack and a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge.......... Slip them into different sleeves, by both and feel deceived"
As the man himself once said "but you could have said no if you wanted to..........."
I bought this album over 20 years ago, and still play it virtually every week. Indeed I have worn out the LP and purchased a CD version a few years back. Easterhouse were rather dour Mancunians, dominated by the Perry brothers, vocalist Andy and guitarist Ivor.
Over the years I have more than grown out of the Leninist politics of "Get Back To Russia" but the album still stands to me as one of the best political albums of all time. Few records about Ireland can match "1969" (except perhaps "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello") although the track "Inspiration" about the 1981 hunger strikes actually comes pretty close.
It is tempting nowadays, when the country dances to the tune of new Labour, to get in some way misty-eyed about the old Labour party, and to imagine they were something that they were not. Easterhouse wrote the following in 1986:
"Where is the man who is speaking up for me?
Community leaders want more black shop keepers.
The unions a say in the jobs thrown away.
And I'm told that my home's in a nuclear free zone.
But that ain't much help when there's bills to be paid.
'Police accountability': 'Non-nuclear defence strategy'.
This foolish ideology has made our fight a mockery!
As a critique of what the left had become, the track "Out On Your Own" was simply years ahead of its time. The stand out track on "Contenders" however was "Lenin In Zurich" a tale of commitment and adversity over a wall of sound that hits you in the pit of your stomach, and carries on hitting you. Great music, you can almost forgive them the Leninism!
Easterhouse were good, very good in fact.
For more on them try
To Bath - for a visit to Britain's only natural thermal spa. In recent years I have visited natural spa's in Hungary, Slovenia, Iceland, Serbia and Germany, so given the re-emergence of Bath (it closed in 1978) I wanted to visit as soon as it opened. Indeed, given the Spa arrived three years late and £10 million over budget, I was not the only one keen to see what was on offer!
The first thing to say is the Spa is not cheap. My trusty companion and I paid £29 each for a four hour session. For 2 hours, it is £19. Add rail fares from London and a bit of lunch and you are comfortably breaking the £100 barrier for a day out for two.
What do you get for your money? Two baths, the Minerva Bath on the lower ground floor, and the spectacular rooftop pool, where you can lie in beautiful warm water whilst looking out across Bath and its environs. For many people, that experience alone will be worth the visit.
Elsewhere there are four steam rooms, each of varying temperatures, and assorted foot baths. The hot bath appeared to be reserved only for those taking treatments, and a massage suite is available for those interested in mud wraps, reiki and traditional massage. What was missing? Well a Finnish, wooden sauna usually makes me sweat more than the type of steam rooms on offer, and it is curious to be surrounded by so much water and there not be a cold plunge pool. Given the medicinal benefits, particularly to athletes, of cold water after exercise, this is a curious ommission.
Massaging Fat Wallets
It has to be said that the prices for massage and specialist treatments at Bath Spa are truly shocking. A Thai massage retails at £48 or 50 minutes, which when you have had an expert Thai massage, in Thailand, for 200 baht (about £2.80) hardly appeals. Mud wraps at £45 for a 50 minute session are no bargain either - indeed it would almost be cheaper for anyone whose skin actually needs this on a regular basis to fly to Budapest with a budget airline and use one of the many Spa's there.
Bath is a tourist city, and nearly all of the people we saw inside the Spa had, like us, travelled some distance to be there. Given it is local taxpayers though who have stumped up much of the £45 million total cost of Thermae Bath (some funding also came via the national lottery) the Spa may have to do more to justify itself to local council taxpayers. Time will tell.
Several issues remain outstanding from the Nicky Cruz affair in Hackney. Not least the question of who runs the Hackney Ocean - the Metropolitan Police, or Hackney Council? Given this, and other concerns, I have written today to the Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, making the following points:
Thank you for your reply to my complaint. I do appreciate that you took the time personally to do so.
Whilst I will not re-hash old arguments, I am afraid I still have concerns about this matter, and would be grateful if you could consider the following points.
1. I am still unclear as to why the final decision about whether an event should go ahead at a Council
owned venue rests, not with Hackney Council but with the Metropolitan Police.
2. The Hackney Gazette reported on its website on 21 July that Nicky Cruz had been stopped from appearing at the Ocean, after the council had come under pressure to cancel the performances. Was this ever the case? If so, how did Cruz become "un-banned"?
3. I believe a clear conflict of interest has occurred here. You state in your e mail of 8 August that the
final decision over this concert rested with Borough Police Commander Simon Pountain. Yet the Metropolitan Police had already listed TRUCE as one of their key initiatives for Hackney on their website - they were hardly likely to ban their own concert. Do you agree with me that there was a clear conflict of interest in Simon Pountain's actions?
That conflict of interest could of course have been avoided had the final decision been taken by the owners of the Ocean - Hackney Council.
4. Finally I agree with you a full assessment should be made of TRUCE's work. But do you honestly believe the police, with key operational (and in the case of at least one officer, Peter Jordan) religious links to TRUCE are in an impartial position to conduct that assessment?
I would also urge that the success (or otherwise) of TRUCE's 2004 mission to the North West of England is considered in any evaluation.
I thank you in advance for your consideration of these points.
Well, it may be too much for the BBC to tolerate me dissing Linford Christie and Dwain Chambers on their discussion forums, but it seems I am not alone in my views.
Some robust views have been aired by the UKs best long distance runner Paula Radcliffe. As the BBC can hardly ignore her, this is even carried on their website. Like me, Ms Radcliffe sees the idea of Linford Christie being a "mentor" for British athletes as simply wrong. I would go further than her however, and prevent Christie from promoting or training athletes as well.
Just to show that Paula Radcliffe has always been on-side on these issues, here she is demonstrating on the subject back in 2001. All in all, a gold medal performer!
The BBC has a strange attitude towards opposing the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. Lots of windy rhetoric, but little in the way of specifics is the order of the day.
Following the row over Darren Campbell's behaviour at the European Athletics championships, I posted the following comments on the 5 Live Discussion board:
Three cheers for Darren Campbell!
If only those running British athletics had his backbone!
The need to sweep away Dwain Chambers, Linford Christie (what sort of role model is he for young athletes?) and all the other convicted drugs cheats, with proper life bans, has never been clearer.
Take a look at the Tour de France if you do not believe me......
Even though both Dwain Chambers and Linford Christie have failed drugs tests and served two year bans from the sport, my comments were blocked from the BBC site, and I received an e mail informing me that:
Postings to BBC messageboards will be removed if they:
*Break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity. This includes defamation and contempt of court.
Quite where my post does any of the above is beyond me. I have not broken the law, condoned illegal activity or defamed anyone - both Chambers and Christie were banned by their sports governing body, having failed doping tests.
A poor show from the BBC!
I reviewed former World boxing champion Terry Marsh's autobiography in issue 91 of Class War, and for some reason forgot to put the review on this site. Here it is!
Undefeated – My Story by Terry Marsh (Self-published, £20) order from here
Sporting autobiographies are two a penny. Henry Cooper has written three at the last count. George Best has written more than he has had livers – and that is saying something! It is perhaps because there are so many, that the good one’s actually stand out. “Undefeated” stands alone, not merely for its honesty, but the range of experiences it shares with the reader.
From his birth in east London in 1958, until 1991 (when the books narrative ends) Terry Marsh fitted in more than many people manage in a lifetime. A career in the Royal Marine Commandos, life as a fireman, an amateur and then professional boxer, media celebrity, a remand prisoner and defendant at the Old Bailey, all are relayed to the reader in an easy-going, self deprecating manner. At times it actually sounds easy!
Marsh touches on his working class upbringing in Stepney, where his parents cared for his disabled older brother in difficult surroundings. Like many Londoners of their era they took the opportunity to move to better surroundings in Essex, but this is no clichéd tale of East End boy made good, indeed he is at pains to point out that despite living in Stepney for 48 years his dad appears to be the only person there never to have met the Kray Twins!
Joining the Royal Marines whilst still a teenager, Marsh gives an interesting insight into the selection, training and life of a Royal Marine. It is unlikely to be one used for promotional purposes by the Marines recruitment officers. A picture easily emerges of officers who are indifferent or even callous to those in their charge, whilst Marines try, collectively, to get through a recruitment process that is designed to separate them into competing, atomised individuals. Whilst the Marines would no doubt claim the end justifies the means, a slightly unpleasant picture emerges, which is amplified by the pages describing Marsh’s service in Northern Ireland, in the republican stronghold of South Armagh. Supposedly fighting the IRA, Marines instead sit about bored, or carry out tedious searches designed to do little more than harass and provoke Catholic residents. They don’t put this in the adverts.
Despite all this, Marsh set his heart on joining the Special Boat Service, before coming out of the military intending to improve his education. Instead he switched from amateur to professional boxing, embarking on a career that would give him British, Europe and World honours. Unusually he did much of this whilst maintaining a day job – that of a fireman. It says much about the poor pay that firemen receive that this job is described as merely paying the bills, whilst the money to actually “live” came from boxing.
As a boxer, Marsh was skilful rather than explosive in the ring. His autobiography rather understates his abilities, and whilst some personalities emerge from what was a very good era for British boxing (Nigel Benn, or promoters the Maloney brothers) they are sketches rather than detailed portraits. Having become World Light Welterweight Champion by beating the American Joe Manley, a new life opened – that of the media celebrity. What happened next is not unique in boxing - a dispute with a smooth talking, somewhat slippery manager, followed by financial difficulties and a feeling of a loss of control. Here some humour still emerges – in his first title defence Marsh was aghast when “God Save the Queen” was played, and deliberately jogged on the spot rather than standing stiff as a statue. Despite a nasty cut, he did what he set out to do – to make one successful defence as World Champion.
By now Terry Marsh’s legal dispute with his manager, Frank Warren was getting ever more complicated, heading towards the libel courts, and attempts at becoming a fight promoter himself had got off to a slow start. Family and health problems (his wife Jacqui is portrayed as a sort of Footballers Wives character throughout the book) clearly did not help his situation.
When Warren was shot and seriously injured in Stratford in 1989, Marsh was not originally a suspect, although Warren had recently brought libel proceedings against him. His subsequent arrest, and time spent in prison on remand are described in detail.
One of the ways you can always tell the police have little or no case against a defendant is when a central plank of the prosecution is the testimony of a fellow prisoner. Time after time cases have centred not on evidence collected by the police before or shortly after arrest, but instead on evidence dubiously obtained from within the prison system. Sometimes we are expected to believe a defendant who never agreed to say a single word to the police whilst being questioned, gets straight to prison, finds the biggest scumbag in the whole jail and immediately starts bragging to him about what he has supposedly done. Such was the case with Terry Marsh.
Life, outside of the police mindset, is simply not like that.
Remanded in custody charged with attempted murder, Marsh spent time in three London prisons, spending time on the block on each. The banality and sheer stupidity of prison life, and in particular prison officers, has rarely been detailed with such gusto. Viewing prisoners who meekly do as they are told as collaborators, Marsh quickly became a marked man as far as the authorities were concerned. This resistance inspired other prisoners – in one of the most exciting narratives Marsh stands his ground with a group of screws in Wormwood Scrubs. His offence? Refusing to tuck his shirt in. Surrounded by more and more officers, Marsh was resigned to a beating until a fellow prisoner urged him to stand his ground – the screws were losing their nerve. He walked through their lines untouched, to pats on the back from his fellow inmates.
This was a testing time for those running Britain’s prisons – the Strangeways riot and poor industrial relations between the Prison Officers Association and the Prison Service stretched the authorities in a way they had rarely been tested before. Of these “disputes”, Marsh is scathing “Double their money and they will be willing to have six to a cell. It was the first industrial dispute where I have had no sympathy for the union”. Interestingly he is far from scathing when describing the IRA prisoners he met in HMP Brixton, with whom he played many hours of scrabble. His life had turned full circle.
That the police were willing to fight dirty to convict Marsh is clear from several unexplained events, be it curious letters sent to Marsh whilst he was in jail, to people approaching members of his family whilst he was in custody, asking if they could obtain access to firearms. Marsh’s wife was “looked after” by female police officers whose brief even extended to do her shopping for her.
The vultures of the tabloid media also circled, desperate for the big story – about Terry Marsh if he was convicted, from Terry Marsh if he was found not guilty. One female journalist even hinted she wanted a relationship with Marsh on his release, to try and secure his story.
Marsh does not overly dwell on his dramatic acquittal at the Old Bailey, and shows little triumph that his eventual libel action against Frank Warren went ahead, resulting in what could be best described as a narrow points victory. Instead, the impression is left of a man who appreciated the simple things in life all the more for nearly losing them.
The more things change…..
“Undefeated” ends, rather abruptly, in 1991. As such it is a snapshot of a life, and a world that has changed. Or has it?
Instead of being unpopular in Northern Ireland, the Royal Marines are unpopular in Afghanistan and Iraq. The prison service has strengthened its control over prisons, some of which are now privatised, but the problems of hard drugs and overcrowding inside are worse than ever. Solidarity amongst prisoners is however, sadly, well below the levels that it was in the early 1990s.
Boxing is continuously referred to as being a sport down in the dumps, yet it continues to provide an excellent living for a few, and a harsher life for many. People said much the same 14 years ago. And this year an unbeaten World Light Welterweight champion has been involved in an increasingly bitter dispute with his manager. For Terry Marsh, substitute Ricky Hatton. For Frank Warren, substitute….. Frank Warren!
As a book, it is possible to find faults with “Undefeated”. Boxing fans may have preferred more detail about some of the fight characters Marsh undoubtedly met, whilst those expecting tales of celebrity drug taking and partying will be disappointed – when Marsh succeeded in getting a date with Miss Isle of Man, he was horrified to turn up and find she had brought her boyfriend with her! Although the issues Terry Marsh faced with epilepsy are mentioned, the reader is not informed if these problems persist today.
Given the book trades increasing dominance by a few big publishers, and a decreasing number of book stores, self-published titles like this, which have not kissed the hand of the safe, corporate chains are to be applauded. That however is not the reason to buy “Undefeated” – buy it because you will laugh hard, you will wonder, and most of all you will learn something – about sport, about politics and about life.
Quite a lot if you are the BBC.
For much of the week the corporation has been reporting from Burma, where it is banned by the dictatorial regime. Reports such as these will have got the blood pressure of Burma's military pumping.
This is one part of the world where the BBC appears to be sparing no effort in being partisan. By referring to the country as Burma, rather than its official name of Myanmar, any attempt at neutrality is abandoned before it has even began. Yet, whether the BBC likes it or not, that is the official name of the country, and its reporters, if they entered the country legally, will all have stamps saying Myanmar in their passports. Indeed, I have one in mine, following a 30 minute visit to the country in March to renew my Thai visa.
I have now received a reply from Hackney Council following my complaint about the Nicky Cruz fiasco in the borough. Indeed, no less than the Mayor himself has replied on the subject:
Dear Mr Stott
Thank you very much for your e-mail concerning Nicky Cruz and TRUCE.
It is extremely important that the Council meets the needs and beliefs of all Hackney’s communities are respected. Hackney is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country – not only in terms of ethnicity, but also faith, disability, age, sexuality and gender. We are committed to promoting equality and community cohesion across the borough.
In terms of the TRUCE events at the Ocean last month, I too was concerned about the involvement of Nicky Cruz after reading the homophobic comments that had been posted on his website. Homophobia is abhorrent and inexcusable, and the Council would never knowingly give support to a homophobic organisation. The TRUCE events were commissioned by the Metropolitan Police, and as soon as the issue came to light I asked the police to carry out an urgent investigation, and seek assurances from both TRUCE and Nicky Cruz. Responsibility for allowing the event to go ahead lay with Chief Supt Simon Pountain, the Borough Commander.
Chief Supt Simon Pountain liaised with representatives of the Church and the lesbian and gay community, before making a decision on this matter. Following the apology from TRUCE that was published in the Gazette, he received assurances from Nicky Cruz that he is committed to the equalities policies and values of both the Metropolitan Police and Hackney Council. For this reason, Chief Supt Pountain decided not to oppose the events taking place. He issued the following statement on this matter:
“After careful deliberation, during which time I have worked closely with representatives of both the Church and the Lesbian and Gay community in Hackney, I have decided not to oppose the events at Ocean this week, where youths from the local community will be showcasing their experiences of the TRUCE initiative to parents and visitors.
“I delayed making this decision until I was sure that Nicky Cruz had been spoken to, in person, about the values of the Metropolitan Police and Hackney Council, and that the assurances we sought had been given unequivocally.
“Subsequently, I am reassured that the sole purpose of this event is one for our young people, as TRUCE have demonstrated their understanding and shared their expertise in the growing issue of youth gang culture.I appreciate that you would have preferred the event not to have gone ahead, but I hope that this does give you some reassurance that complaints were treated seriously before the events went ahead, and guarantees were sought that Nicky Cruz and TRUCE would sign up to the equalities policy and not make any homophobic remarks.
“We are committed to working with all out communities to make Hackney a safer place, and the overriding principle in this case is the benefit that has been given to our young people. I will work with all involved and endeavour to ensure that the event goes ahead peacefully, in the hope that it is used to showcase the encouraging efforts from the young people of Hackney.”
Cllr Sally Mulready, out Cabinet Adviser for Equalities, and Council officers attended the event at the Ocean to monitor the situation. The have confirmed that Nicky Cruz did not at any point refer to gay people or make any remarks about the lives of gay people. I have asked the police for a full evaluation of the events, so that a proper assessment can be made as to their impact and the outcomes in terms of engaging youth and reduced gang activity.
Mayor of Hackney
Well - I have been on my holidays - visiting Cork, and the north west of England.
I managed to take in Manchester United's friendly at Macclesfield, day 2 of the Lancashire v Yorkshire cricket match, and a bit of walking in the Cheshire countryside. I was in Ireland for five days, spending time in central Cork, Cobh, Blarney (my mother felt I needed to kiss the Blarney Stone) Bantry and Clonarkilty. Does anyone recognise the shifty looking character next to the statue of Michael Collins?
Today is International Prisoners Justice Day.
I have only been to prison once - in Zajevacar in Serbia of all places, but will never forget the warmth and friendship I received from the remand prisoners I met. Good luck guys, where ever you are.
In N Ireland, Private Ian Thain murdered Thomas Reilly, road manager of the band Banamarama. Thain was convicted of murder, but released in 1987 and immediately re-joined the Army.
Thain was from Doncaster, and I knew several people who knew him. He was well known for bragging about his exploits down the pub when he was on leave, until one day armed soldiers and police turned up at his house, and gave him 5 minutes to get out. They believed an IRA attack on him was imminent.....
Below is a slightly edited article I wrote in 2004 for the cominform website, about the late Manchester boxer Len Johnson.
It reflects a forgotten era in British sport, perhaps best summarised by the comment that whilst black people in America faced few if any restrictions in sport, they faced restrictions everywhere else in society. In Britain, bizarrely the opposite was true, certainly where boxing was concerned.
Len Johnson deserves to be remembered by boxing fans, and Communists everywhere. Born in Manchester in 1902 to an African father and a Mancunian mother, Johnson was one of Britain’s best middleweight boxers in the 1920s and early 30s. His career was ruined however by the colour bar in British boxing, that insisted that any title fight could only be between British subjects of white parents.
Despite a strong campaign by boxing fans, and Johnson himself, the British Boxing Board of Control refused to lift this despicable ban, and it remained in place until 1948.
Comfortable at light-heavyweight, an indication of Johnson’s ability is that even at the end of his career in 1933 he beat heavyweight Jack London, a man who later went on to become British Heavyweight champion.
After the Second World War Len Johnson joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, and became one of its best known activists in Manchester. An election candidate for the party on six occasions, he enjoyed the company of Paul Robeson on his visits to Manchester, and briefly wrote a boxing column for the Daily Worker.
Len Johnson died in Oldham in 1974, and is brilliantly remembered by the book “Never Counted Out!” by Michael Herbert. Disappointingly this great fighter did not even warrant a mention in the Trotskyist Peter Fryer’s “A History of black people in Britain”.
He should not be forgotten.
Fredrich Engels dies. Yes I know he was an upper class leftie with a taste for young factory girls, fox hunting and big bushy beards. But "The Condition of the Working Class in England" is one of the books that has most influenced me, on a "never forgive, never forget" basis.
It remains the first book I would recommend to anyone reading about politics for the first time.