Like curry? Like Corbyn? You’d have liked this…

Curry for Corbyn pictureCurry Corbyn picture

It is thought that curry brings on labour and, if you’ll pardon the pun, there are clearly many Labour supporters who like a spicy night out. How else would you explain the existence of Labour Friends of Curry and the multitude of Labour Party fundraising curry nights all over the country?

But how many curry nights cost only £10 for three courses? And how many have the added attraction of Ken LIvingstone as guest speaker? Welcome to Curry for Corbyn, which took place at the Kingway Banqueting Restaurant on Sunday 6 September.

The restaurant in Hounslow is probably the most Labour Party-friendly eaterie in west London. Not only is there a picture of the owner, Amrao Singh Atwal, with Tony Blair (!) on the wall, but the owner’s daughter, Harleen, is a Labour councillor in Hounslow. The venue has put on many curry nights or buffets for famished comrades, including a big occasion when former Labour leader Ed Miliband attended.

Ed Milband’s appearance saw every seat taken and that was also the case with Curry for Corbyn. As has been happening all over the country since July, the name Jeremy Corbyn is box office dynamite.

Even though Corbyn could not appear himself, the guest speaker Ken Livingstone was a great replacement.

Ken was happy to chat with fellow diners before the starters arrived and we were all in for a treat as massive trays of salad, samosas, pakoras and chicken tikka were placed on all the tables. Many of the diners were under the impression this was the extent of the food and really got stuck in. But no table managed to finish all the food available to them. The pastry for the samosas was pleasantly crisp and the salad complemented the spicy tikka perfectly.

Ken Livinstone curry 2Ken Livingstone curry

While we digested our food and considered whether it was possible to eat more (perhaps through unbuckling a belt or undoing a button), Ken Livingstone made a speech and took questions from Corbynistas. You can see Livingstone’s speech and the questions here.

Livingstone spoke with authority about Corbyn’s economic strategy and how it had already been adopted in other countries, like Germany, where investment in manufacturing and infrastructure had paid dividends. These policies were not ultra-left, but sensible ways to increase productivity, produce jobs, build houses and schools.

Livingstone was talking as though Corbyn was Labour leader and already leading the opposition to the Conservatives and coming up with alternative policies.

This put a spring in the step of everyone in the room and, three-quarters of an hour later, we were all ready for the main course. This was a buffet affair. With butter chicken, lamb Jafrezi and veggie-friendly paneer, plus rice, naan, raita and kheer or ice cream for dessert, there was a long line of Corbynites queuing, chatting happily and filling up their plates.

I had the jalfrezi and the sauce was not as hot as I anticipated. This was probably a good thing as I was required to go up and introduce guest speaker John Moloney from Slough Labour Party (and the PCS union). John outlined the implications of the Conservative government’s proposals for trade union reform and how important it was that we put up resistance to what is an infringement of basic human rights.

John was followed by Dr Jacky Davis, a well known NHS campaigner, who confessed that she had not voted Labour since 1997. She had fallen out with the party over the sale of the NHS through PFI and told us that she trusted Corbyn with the NHS in a way that she didn’t trust any of the other candidates.

The night ended with the customary Labour Party raffle and an auction for two tickets to The Jeremy Corbyn Night, which will be held two days after the result of the leadership election is known.

Corbynistas attending included Labour members from as far as Wiltshire, Dorking and the other side of London. The curry lovers ranged from teenagers to octogenarians and it had the atmosphere of a large family gathering. It was the second Jeremy Corbyn event I had attended this summer and, on both occasions, I have experienced an atmosphere of optimism and bonhomie. It certainly raised the spirit of all who attended and I hope that Corbyn will become leader on Saturday so I can plan the next Curry for Corbyn.

Labour leadership lesson from 7/7

Personal experience of a terrorist attack has led me to the conclusion there is only one Labour leadership candidate worth voting for

It was ten years ago today that I witnessed at first hand the effects of war on innocent civilians.

What had seemed like a mundane Thursday morning – commuting from Hammersmith to Old Street – turned into a horror film, as I found myself late for work and 50 yards in front of the bus bomb in Tavistock Square.

7 July image

At first I thought it was a building that had been blown up as all I could see when I turned around was stuff in the air. I sprinted into the revolving doors of the nearest office and, from there on, witnessed the most traumatic events of my life.

A bloodied office worker with a pinstripe suit, ripped to pieces like a cartoon character who had been in a lion’s cage, wailed and walked with his arms outstretched. I felt powerless to help. And then I felt guilty that I had not done anything. So I tried to go out of the office to see if I could support someone in some way. But when I walked out on to the pavement I was yelled at by a man in a reflective jacket and told to ‘get back in the building’.

I phoned my manager to tell him I’d nearly been blown up by a bomb and would be late. It seemed like a natural thing to say but obviously it was a lot for him to take in and, as I was trying to explain, the signal cut out.

It was surreal. How could I be in the middle of all this?

When eventually I walked out of the office and ducked under the police tape, I was scared that every bus or vehicle could blow up. I had no confidence in anything at all.

That night I went home and turned on the telly to find out what had happened. I felt sick at the idea of what had happened to all those people who were not as fortunate as me. But I was also angry. The reason? Tony Blair. He appeared on the news:

“Our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.”

Tony Blair

I was livid. When was Tony Blair ever travelling on a tube train or on a bus going to an office to earn enough money to pay the rent? When was he not being protected by security?

I had no wish to be a participant in an ideological clash of ‘values’. The only heroism I wanted to show on a Piccadilly Line train was being extremely patient as I waited for the lights to change at Hyde Park Corner.

And speaking of Hyde Park Corner signals, two million people (including me) had already sent a clear signal to Tony Blair and the government that we did not want to invade Iraq and start killing innocent civilians there. I was part of the largest demonstration of my generation. But Tony Blair had decided to follow George Bush’s lead. That was his ‘value’, not ours.

So, now on 7 July, civilians in London were being asked by Tony Blair to pay the price for this war. There is no doubt that the Iraq war and the London bombings were linked. It was revenge.

No civilians should have to pay the price for warmongering politicians. ‘Collateral damage’ has far-reaching consequences. The number of dead is only part of it. It casts a shadow over the families and friends of those who died; it causes lifelong trauma to those who witness it; and it breeds resentment and anger towards those who inflict it.

Labour’s position now

My anger with Tony Blair was such that I didn’t join the Labour Party until he had stood down as leader.

Recently Ed Milliband supported the government in air raids on ISIS targets in Iraq. I was opposed to this. These bombing missions are not precise and they do not hit the right targets all the time. No matter what the propaganda says, there have been civilian casualties. In my opinion, we have authorised the bombing of innocent people who are going about their lives minding their own business, just as I was ten years ago.

Labour doesn’t have to toe the line on air strikes on Iraq or on Syria. It is not true that the end justifies the means. Killing innocent people will take away any moral high ground.

Iraq demo

There has always been a strong anti-war faction in the Labour Party. From George Lansbury’s idealistic attempts to make Hitler see reason (he wasn’t alone in this) to Michael Foot and others marching against the bomb, Labour has always had anti-war activists who can see that violence does nothing more than escalate the problem. It is for this reason that I am supporting Jeremy Corbyn for leader. He is the only candidate who has consistently opposed the murder of innocent civilians.

“My weapons are spiritual, which take away the occasion of war, and lead to peace.”
George Fox

Should a free newspaper be able to distribute propaganda on public property?


We take electoral law very seriously in this country. Every leaflet must have an imprint and every penny spent must be accounted for.

During the election campaign period, or purdah, it is also the case that public buildings and institutions are obliged not to show support for any political party or candidate. I found myself in hot water with this when a comedy night I was holding at the Watermans Centre in Brentford was pulled by the (publicly funded) theatre as it was called ‘Let’s laugh at Boris‘.

There have been occasions where elections have had to be rerun when electoral law has been broken. Labour MP Phil Woolas lost his seat and was suspended from the Labour Party for making up damaging allegations about his opponent.

it therefore baffles me that a free newspaper is distributed on public land (Transport for London property) and that this newspaper is able to endorse or promote one or other political side without any questions asked. How is it that over 900,000 copies of the Evening Standard are given out without needing to carry any legal imprint or being part of the election expenses for the Conservative Party. Were people to pay for these it would possibly make a difference, but this is free publicity!

Evening Standard FullSizeRender

It’s clear that the Evening Standard had a big part to play in Boris Johnson’s marginal victory over Ken Livingstone in the last election for London Mayor. And it’s clear that the same paper will have had an impact on the General Election result, where it urged people to vote Tory as this was a ‘Vote for London’.

I believe there are good grounds for challenging the right of the Evening Standard to promote any candidate during purdah and have already received support for this from people like Tom Watson MP and Catherine Speight (political officer for the GMB).

I have set up a petition and it would be good if you could sign it. The link is here.

What Next for Labour? Report of public meeting

JeremyCorbynThe General Election result was a great disappointment. Right up to the moment that last ballot paper was dropped in a ballot box, I thought Labour had done enough to stop the Conservatives forming another government – even a coalition one. I believed the opinion polls – as most people did – and it was heartbreaking to see David Cameron outside Number 10 on Friday 8 May.

I suppose it was inevitable that Ed Miliband would stand down as leader. Had he managed to stop the Tories forming a government he probably would have stayed but the result was a humiliation for him. This has led to the major framework for discussion about Labour’s future becoming one about which personality should take the helm: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall or Mary Creagh. I have not been impressed with the level of discussion from the candidates as it has mostly been soundbites about ‘aspiration’, ‘middle England’ and ‘moving out of our comfort zone’. Continue reading

One million members by 2020 will win us the election

JustJoinedDuring the run-up to the General Election campaign our campaign organisers said we might not have the money to spend on advertising, but we would win the ‘ground war’. It was put out to the media that our grassroots was so strong compared with the Tories that we would win the election, conversation by conversation.

This view was incredibly optimistic.

Time after time, putting on Stand up for Labour fundraising events, I would see that the number of local activists was pitifully small. Reading pulled their event three weeks early because it was felt it was impossible to attract 50 people. The Swindon event (a joint fundraiser) was attended by only 60 people; the lowest attendance of all went to Burton-on-Trent, where just 22 turned up. These were all key marginals and I could see no evidence that we could win these seats on the ground as the active membership was tiny and there were only a handful of young members. Continue reading