Pro Wrestling Alternatives: Are We All In?

It may come as no surprise to you that professional wrestling started off in fairground fighting contests alongside strongman competitions, and as its popularity grew with its dangers, fight fixing became more prevalent along with it – the matches had predetermined outcomes based on what would be most compelling for audiences to come back again the next time the “carnies” were back in town.

Throughout most of the 20th century in the United States, the National Wrestling Alliance oversaw this travelling roadshow through a regional network of local promoters who held events in specific territories, based on handshake agreements and semi-formal committees.

The NWA’s “world” champion, of course, went from territory to territory (sometimes even outside the United States), headlining each show by taking on the region’s top star, and this formula worked very well, especially when the villainous heel champion either used skulduggery to come out on top (and then get beat up after the bell to please the crowd), or lost by running away, or getting disqualified for cheating so that the crowd favourite won but still failed to take the title (belts couldn’t change hands via count-out or disqualification, since pins and submissions were considered more decisive victories).

Of course, sometimes the local hero won the belt, but the storylines often worked best when the heroes chased the villain, and crowds flocked to shows in the hopes he’d finally receive his comeuppance. But which hero was deemed worthy of taking the title was largely decided by the NWA’s committee, based on the territories, upcoming storylines, and the applicant’s attributes. Would crowds still come along in droves to see a hero who keeps winning? These were all important considerations for those booking the events.

The son of events promoter Roderick James “Jess” McMahon, Vince McMahon held his own territory, the WWWF, in the north-east, including New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which was key to him promoting legendary champion Buddy Rogers in New York, where they preferred a popular hero defending the title against various villains, a formula that worked well for them. When, in 1963, the NWA decided Lou Thesz would be the one to dethrone Rogers as NWA World Champion, McMahon withdrew the WWWF’s membership of the NWA, feeling Thesz was unworthy and less of a draw for their following in New York. McMahon declared Rogers the “WWWF World Champion,” and he was publicly presented the brand-new belt on the explanation that he won a tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (which of course was not true, but without the internet at this time, and everything taken at face value, who would ever know?)

Nonetheless, Vince McMahon agreed to continue promoting the WWWF in the north-eastern territory only, so as not to step on the toes of other NWA-affiliated promoters, and that he did, throughout the 1970s. As the 1980s approached, he then handed over the WWWF to his son, Vince McMahon Jr, who oversaw the change in name to WWF and introduced an Intercontinental Championship, its first champion being Pat Patterson, who – you guessed it – became titleholder after apparently winning a tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil!

Vince McMahon Jr maintained the relationship with Madison Square Garden for a third generation, promoting history-making shows there, with the WWF World Championship centre stage. However, he also reneged on his father’s promise, and aggressively encroached into NWA territories, using his winning formula, its resulting financial success, alongside some risks and a whole lot of luck, to put NWA territories out of business. Vince McMahon Jr hated the NWA, seeing them as a cabal, and genuinely saw himself as the underdog in his fight for pro wrestling dominance (and ethics aside, he was).

After the success of WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden, and further follow-up money-making Pay-Per-View events, Vince enjoyed incredible success, the fan favourite formula still working well for him throughout the 1980s, with Hulk Hogan fighting villainous stereotypes like “evil” Japanese fiends, and, in slightly more up-to-date nationalism, Soviet henchmen, and Iranian sheiks. Hogan’s “Real American” song rang out through Madison Square Garden as he vanquished threat after threat in the Reagan era. Vince, meanwhile, made millions, as WrestleMania became a household name and annual tradition on Pay-Per-View television. In order to avoid sporting regulations, Vince broke “kayfabe” (the pro wrestling equivalent of the Magic Circle) by giving away business secrets in court and happily explaining the planned, predetermined nature of pro wrestling to convince authorities that the WWF should not be subjected to the same scrutiny as other legitimate sporting events.

One NWA promoter who was still enjoyed great success was Jim Crockett, who presented a more traditional “kayfabe” product and promoted stars popular in the south – such as Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair – and was considered the primary showcase for fans of the NWA. After the huge success of his televised Starrcade events, Crockett decided it was time to offer Pay-Per-View shows as well, and he booked a slot for Thanksgiving in 1987. Vince, meanwhile, told the cable companies that he was going to hold a second annual Pay-Per-View event too, on that very night, called the Survivor Series. The PPV companies accepted the proposal, since pro wrestling fans could enjoy two offerings on the same evening. However, for Vince that wasn’t good enough, and the cable companies had clearly missed his original point: citing the huge success of WrestleMania, Vince made it clear that if they aired Crockett’s Starrcade, they could never have WrestleMania ever again. Almost all PPV networks caved in and refused to offer Starrcade on their broadcast schedule, and this resulted in financial disaster for Crockett.

Nonetheless, Crockett went back to the cable companies and reasoned with them to have another opportunity – one without Vince’s sabotage. They arranged an exclusive slot for Crockett to present Bunkhouse Stampede on PPV, and all seemed well. However, Vince then decided he was creating a third major annual show that would take place on that very same night: the Royal Rumble. Being unable to air it on PPV was fine by him, because he simply showed it on regular television, essentially free of charge. Unsurprisingly, most pro wrestling fans chose to watch the free show rather than the PPV, and Crockett was financially ruined.

While up for sale, Jim Crockett Promotions did enjoy one last bit of revenge against Vince: By the time WrestleMania rolled around again in the spring of 1988, airing as usual on PPV, they offered a special Clash of the Champions event for free on television, taking a chunk out of WrestleMania’s PPV buys and bloodying Vince’s nose.

Billionaire Ted Turner then bought Jim Crockett Promotions later that year, renaming it World Championship Wrestling, or WCW – designed to be a direct competitor to Vince’s WWF. Pro wrestling fans debated on who was the true champion: WCW’s NWA World Champion (more often than not Ric Flair), or Vince’s WWF World Champion (usually Hulk Hogan).

The 1990s saw this war rage throughout the entire decade.

In a coup, Ric Flair showed up on WWF television with the NWA World Championship belt after contract negotiations with Turner’s people broke down and Flair walked out without dropping the title to anyone (almost unheard of at the time). Yet Vince never promoted a Flair-Hogan high profile match, believing nobody in the northeast hotbed or even on PPV wanted to see it.

Turner’s response to Flair leaving and taking the NWA belt with him was to create the WCW World Championship, with its own brand-new belt, and put in charge of WCW one media man named Eric Bischoff, who was able to lure Hulk Hogan away from the WWF to WCW, with help from Turner’s millions. By this time, the NWA was an afterthought: it was all about the WWF and WCW, each with their own exclusive champions, neither affiliated with the NWA.

Vince came up with the weekly show, Monday Night Raw (“uncut, uncensored, and uncooked”) on the USA Network. Bischoff audaciously responded by creating Monday Nitro on TNT network, going head-to-head with Vince’s show. Incredibly, WCW started beating the WWF in the ratings war.

Vince’s response at this time was to claim Ted Turner had a vendetta against him because Vince had refused to sell the WWF to him years before, and claimed Turner was unfair and unethical, and wanted to put the WWF out of business, ‘a monopolist’s dream,’ claimed Vince. He even created a character on his show called “Billionaire Ted” to parody Turner.

And yet this kind of tit-for-tat business competition and aggressive expansion from WCW seemed to reflect Vince’s own efforts against the NWA when he first got into the pro wrestling business. Vince’s trailer park roots and carny promoter heritage are rarely mentioned, as he’s presented himself as a Greenwich businessman who promotes “sports entertainment,” rather than “wrasslin’” (he even asked his TV show commentators to refrain from using the terms “wrestler” or “belt”). He was enamoured by showbusiness, loved nothing more than getting Hollywood celebrities on his shows, and made numerous attempts to succeed in business ventures outside of pro wrestling, almost all of them failures. The more he attempted to run away from carny pro wrestling, the more he was trapped by it.

By now the NWA was solely made up of regional territories with little or nothing to do with the WWF or WCW. One of its promotions, Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW), in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gained a cult following by offering something completely different: Mexican and Japanese talent with extreme athleticism, alongside extreme violence, bloodshed, and racy storylines. This affiliate organisation, too, would break away from the NWA, presenting itself as a fresh, modern alternative to both WCW and the WWF, a departure from tradition (including the NWA) and, under brilliant manager/promoter Paul Heyman, renaming itself Extreme Championship Wrestling. Impressively, ECW became the distant third.

Meanwhile, Lex Luger, initially pushed in the WWF as the next Hulk Hogan by Vince McMahon Jr, defected to WCW, appearing on Monday Nitro after deciding not to renegotiate his contract with Vince as had been expected. Alundra Blayze, the WWF’s Women’s Champion, also left in similar circumstances, taking her belt with her to Nitro and dumping it in a trashcan on live TV. WCW even enquired about finally holding a show at WWF’s old stomping ground, Madison Square Garden, who refused due to their loyalty to Vince. Yes, WCW’s Eric Bischoff was as aggressive and merciless as Vince ever was, relentless in his attempts to sabotage the WWF and win the war between the two.

Using Turner’s millions, Bischoff next had his sights set on WWF star Bret “Hit Man” Hart, a legit-tough and cool, charismatic Canadian athlete who did most of his talking in the ring and who was able to fill the vacuum left by Hogan’s departure (and later Flair’s return to WCW). Bischoff offered ridiculous money to Bret, who instead decided to remain loyal to Vince, even for less money, since Vince was still offering him millions of dollars per year, and a 20 year contract: 3 as a performer, 17 as a backstage advisor. Bret seemed to care more about loyalty, values, and credibility than a few million more dollars in the bank.

WCW and especially the WWF began to emulate ECW’s extreme “crash” TV product, in a bid to outdo each other and win over audiences on Monday nights. Bret Hart’s antagonists, D-Generation X, led by Shawn Michaels, publicly urinated, played strip poker in the ring, and encouraged female fans to flash their breasts, while Texan loner “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came in from WCW via ECW and guzzled beer, used colourful language, and beat up corporate “suits,” initially as a villain but then becoming an antihero as working class fans related to him and lived vicariously through him literally giving his boss the finger and walking off drinking a Budweiser. With Austin’s popularity skyrocketing, Bret was instead juxtaposed as his foil. While Americans cheered on Austin, Canadians backed Bret. This stoked a tribal nationalistic feud that still allowed Bret to remain an upstanding role model in his native Canada, where he was nothing less than a national hero. Capturing the ECW vibe, Bret and Austin fought at WrestleMania in a fantastic encounter that saw Bret pummel a bloodied Austin after the bell before the American crowd, solidifying their opposite positions as hero and villain on different sides of the border.

But with the cult following of ECW and its incredible influence on pro wrestling, and the unexpected popularity of DX and Austin, Vince decided they were the future of the WWF, not Bret, and that Bret would not offer a return on the investment from his massive contract that gave him guaranteed downside pay and creative influence, even as a wrestler. Austin, after all, was a WCW reject, a young up-and-coming workhorse who had been hungry for opportunities in a WCW full of Hogan’s old friends way past their prime and getting by mostly on name value. Vince realised it was the younger stars like “Stone Cold” and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that needed to be centre stage in the WWF, and informed Bret that, with funds so tight at such a crucial time in the ratings war with WCW, he was happy to release Bret from his contract so he could take Bischoff’s outstanding offer and join WCW.

Yet Bret, the WWF World Champion at the time, was still reluctant to leave, and only agreed while insisting to Vince that, in his showdown against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series in Montreal, Canada, he be allowed to come out of the match victorious at the PPV, before dropping the belt on TV later on in the United States, before going to WCW. Burnt by Lex Luger and especially Alundra Blayze, who infamously took her WWF belt with her and threw it in the garbage on Nitro, Vince was paranoid, unable – or unwilling – to trust Bret, demanding he lose to Shawn in Montreal before Hart’s own fans (when Shawn had defeated “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith in a title match in Birmingham, England, the fans almost rioted, threatening to attack DX and throwing trash and other objects at them). Bret utilised his creative control, and again insisted that he beat Shawn in Canada, then drop the title in the States before leaving. Vince reluctantly agreed.

In what became known as the infamous “Montreal Screwjob,” Vince marched to ringside during Bret’s title match with Shawn and – as Shawn held Bret in his very own Sharpshooter submission hold – demanded the referee call for the bell and declare Shawn the winner and new WWF World Champion. Shocked, Bret looked around and saw the faces of the conspirators who agreed to work together to dethrone Bret: Vince McMahon Jr, referee Earl Hebner, and Shawn Michaels, who alongside his DX ally Triple H, avoided a legitimate beating by swearing to Bret that they weren’t in on it, and the finish was as much as a surprise to them as it was to him (they later admitted were lying, and were in on it all along). Vince wasn’t so lucky: Bret confronted him backstage and punched him in the face so hard it lifted Vince up in the air off his feet, leaving him lying in a heap. It was Bret, not Austin, who legitimately fulfilled the fantasy of the working man or woman: he knocked out the boss.

The following day, Vince, complete with black eye, broke character and, appearing before cameras, famously said ‘Bret screwed Bret,’ claiming he was left with no other option than to force a different match outcome to the one agreed because Bret was rejecting a ‘time-honoured tradition’ of dropping a belt before leaving a promotion, even though Bret was outwardly willing to do so at a later date. This from a Vince McMahon who, years before, welcomed Ric Flair on to his own TV show carrying the NWA World Championship belt he had never dropped before arriving in the WWF.

Again, the rules are different for Vince. His WWF went on to destroy the overpaid, stale superstars of WCW anyway with a product heavily influenced by ECW, a libertarian politician by the name of Lowell P. Weicker Jr on his board of directors as the ultra-conservative Parents Television Council targeted WWF advertisers in protest at the sex and violence, only fueling the WWF’s rebranded image as controversial, edgy, must-see TV – helped further by the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his inevitable storyline feud with boss Vince McMahon, who was now harnessing the hatred of the fans for the “Montreal Screwjob” by playing the evil boss with relish for the cameras.

When what was left of WCW was sold off on the cheap to Vince McMahon himself, he gave a speech about mercilessly and ruthlessly choking out his competition, knocking Ted Turner, and conveniently forgetting his complaints about Turner’s “monopolist’s dream.” Classless as ever, Vince was a sore winner, and again the more he tried to avoid being perceived as a carny promoter, the more he fulfilled the persona of one. He hired Hollywood writers to create pro wrestling storylines when they knew nothing about pro wrestling. The product suffered as a result and has remained stagnant ever since.

By this time, Vince McMahon the Monopolist had put WWF Entertainment (or WWFE) on the stock exchange, and had his wife Linda court favour with politicians so as to avoid those pesky regulations again. Part of this plan to “go public” was to raise funds for the XFL, Vince’s latest non-wrestling venture that joined all of his others in complete failure. When challenged legally by the World Wildlife Fund for use of “WWF,” Vince spun his defeat in the courts as a cool campaign to “Get the ‘F’ Out,” renaming the WWFE simply “WWE.”

With Weicker off their board, and a rehabilitated PG product to appease their shareholders, the McMahons instead pumped money into the Donald Trump presidential campaign, betting on some healthy returns on the investment once he made it to the White House. He did, and promptly made Linda part of his administration, proving their investment paid off. The McMahons now had direct influence in the White House, a dream come true. Meanwhile, with Trump’s tirade against protesting players in the NFL, Vince re-launched the XFL as a strict, anti-protest American football league. Again, Vince is a conservative carny redneck promoter just the same.

The WWE product, meanwhile, has remained corporate and stale with not a single rival in sight. While WWE business interests make more money than ever, its TV ratings are by no means awe-inspiring, and Vince’s formula has become outdated as he refuses to hand the reigns over to the next generation. ‘I’ll die in the chair,’ he claims. You’d better believe it.

But meanwhile, the nonsensical storylines, product placements, corporate WrestleManias high on glitz and low on quality, have all, perhaps inevitably, over time created an opening in the pro wrestling market.

Fans who wanted the actual athleticism to do the talking with such realism as to make suspension of disbelief almost effortless have sought solace in New Japan Pro Wrestling, which has been around since 1972 and is being expanded globally by its newest CEO, the worldly-wise Harold Meij. Those who wanted a Stateside alternative to WWE with a more sporting “code of honour” received refuge in Ring of Honor. Those who wanted comic book characters and storylines that were actually well-written and consistent enjoyed escape in episodes of Lucha Underground, featuring high-end Robert Rodriguez production and stars from Mexican lucha libre and beyond. Those who wanted talent that WWE rejected, missed out on, or have yet to discover, found comfort in Major League Wrestling. And those disappointed in the pro-Trump world of WWE who wanted more modern, progressive alternatives have run riot in the feminist punk product of Pro Wrestling: EVE, who threaten to “piledrive a fascist.” And of course there’s Impact Wrestling, which after years of mismanagement and misdirection attempting to copy WWE as “Total Nonstop Action”, have been revitalised under the guidance of brilliant minds like Don Callis, an intelligent, articulate former wrestler rather than a Hollywood writing reject.

All of these offer something for every fan, and all completely different to WWE, and remarkably refreshing. Essentially, this growing network of “independent” pro wrestling promotions has superseded the National Wrestling Alliance. Many still have agreements, and work with each other. You’ll see Matt Striker on MLW, as well as Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground’s Johnny Mundo is Johnny Impact on, yes, Impact. Impact’s Don Callis commentates for NJPW, as does Kevin Kelly, who worked for ROH as well.

But whatever happened to the NWA itself since the days of Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair? Well, the NWA carried on as a smaller organisation since the WWF, WCW, and ECW all each abandoned it, and was recently bought by Smashing Pumpkins rock star and pro wrestling fan Billy Corgan. And it just hit the headlines yet again: Cody, son of Dusty Rhodes, captured the NWA World Championship at one of the most important pro wrestling shows in history.

Some of the highest-selling pro wrestling merchandise today is that of the Bullet Club; Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega, all of whom many would argue are the biggest stars in the business (not a surprise, when you see the tacky, uncool t-shirt designs put out by WWE who must have the same designers as they had when they started). These stars have worked for many of the aforementioned promotions and just this past weekend made history, and not just with Cody’s title win.

Last year, someone on Twitter asked pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer if he thought a promotion like ROH could fill an arena with 10,000 fans, to which he replied ‘not any time soon.’ Cody Rhodes replied: ‘I’ll take that bet, Dave.’ Cody and the Young Bucks set about organising an independent pro wrestling show themselves, called “All In,” at the 10,000-seat Sears Center in Chicago, Illinois. Since it was designed to be a one-off show, it was open to almost every non-WWE pro wrestler on the planet whose current contracts and agreements allowed them to appear. Even former WWE star Chris Jericho – who has appeared at NJPW shows in Japan and had reportedly promised Vince he wouldn’t appear on any non-WWE event Stateside – showed up at All In. For the record, there were 10,411 fans in attendance, the show was a critical and commercial success, and there is already talk of a follow-up event. All In was the first non-WWE pro wrestling show to take place before a crowd of 10,000+ people for nearly twenty years.

Because of the success of All In, there is clear evidence of a strong appetite for an alternative to WWE. Even WWE knows this, as evidenced by their own recent actions. Rumour has it Vince will attempt to secure the services of several Bullet Club stars, which would not only capture some of that magic, but also stifle the competition. And it is competition. Everything starts small. There is a huge demand for these alternatives to a WWE product which is worse than it’s ever been. For all their millions of dollars, their product is style over substance, and people demand more. Yes, almost all of these fans will still watch some WWE and even attend WrestleMania (why do you think WrestleMania matches get booed?) But at the same time, more and more WWE fans are also headed in the opposite direction, seeking alternatives – and this flow means the tide is rising.

ROH and NJPW recently announced they were teaming up to host a “G1 Supercard” show at Madison Square Garden. Yes, the Madison Square Garden. During WrestleMania weekend – that time when pro wrestling geeks from all over the world converge in one place with a passion for all things headlocks and histrionics.

While Vince has been busy re-branding his WWE – he demanded his people stop calling WrestleMania “the granddaddy of them all” because he felt it made it sound old, and almost entirely stopped promoting shows at good old Madison Square Garden, instead using the modern Barclays Center in Brooklyn – ROH and NJPW approached Madison Square Garden at an opportune time. With Vince clearly disinterested in the venue, the arena agreed to host G1 Supercard. This news was huge.

However – you guessed it – Vince seemingly got in touch with Madison Square Garden and reminded them that they had an agreement with the McMahons going back three generations, of course. For years, as with many other arenas, Madison Square Garden were held to an agreement by WWE that no other pro wrestling company could hold a show there within so many months of a WWE show (and sure enough, WWE kept repeatedly rolling through town frequently enough that literally no other promotion could have chance to use that arena). Of course, these days – and with seemingly no competition in sight seemingly capable of fully utilising the Madison Square Garden space – Vince had waning interest in the venue, and has barely held shows there compared to years past. But now, suddenly, with the G1 Supercard threatening to sell out the arena and really shake things up, Vince seemed to plead, ‘What about our agreement?’ And yes, Madison Square Garden appeared to buckle under this bullying. The show was suddenly, it seemed, off.

But there’s another big business interest involved. Sinclair Broadcast Group, who now own ROH, also happen to run forty-three Fox affiliate TV stations that are airing WWE’s weekly SmackDown show. That’s a large chunk of the WWE viewing audience. With Sinclair Broadcast Group ready to take action, suddenly WWE issued a public statement: ‘Madison Square Garden are, of course, free to work with ROH however they want.’ And the G1 Supercard was back on.

This is an exciting time in pop culture. For all the wonder and magic offered by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s part of Disney, who also own the Star Wars franchise. In pro wrestling, WWE – despite Vince McMahon Jr’s alternative facts – have monopolised the business for almost twenty years, and it’s not even a good product. It’s not Rogue One. And Infinity War it sure ain’t. No, WWE is akin to a Battlefield Earth, shall we say. It’s great to see so much more on offer – driven by intelligent, ambitious entrepreneurs, chief executives, and presidents with their fingers on the pulse – all offering something different, something better. If you’re even remotely interested in the stunt-work world of professional wrestling, check out some of them when you get chance, and be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

Hogan Doesn’t Know Best

Terry Bollea rode the wave of professional wrestling’s 1980s boom as Hulk Hogan, headlining World Wrestling Federation shows on MTV and hanging out with Cyndi Lauper and Mr T as “WrestleMania” took off and became an annual American tradition. Wearing red and yellow and walking to the ring to the sounds of Rick Derringer’s “Real American,” he told his young followers (or “Hulkamaniacs”) to say their prayers, and eat their vitamins (and of course he offered his own brand of vitamins too).

Unthinkable in today’s fast-paced world of 24/7 pro wrestling networks and short attention spans, Hulk Hogan held the WWF’s World Championship for four whole years until, in 1988, he was finally dethroned due to fiendish cheating from a host of villainous characters, including Andre the Giant, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who – the story goes – had bribed match officials. Nonetheless, this only increased sympathy and support for the Hulk Hogan character in the predetermined match-ups, and he’d go on to regain the title just over a year later, with good triumphing over evil once again.

However, Hogan’s ill-fated appearance on Arsenio Hall’s show arguably began his fall from grace. The awkward interview suggested that it wasn’t, in fact, vitamins he had been taking, but steroids. The entire WWF got caught up in the drug scandal, and the WWF’s owner Vince McMahon was indicted by the FBI, barely escaping a prison sentence himself.

Hogan jumped ship to the WWF’s rival, the rising WCW, but despite this change of scenery, and audience, his popularity waned. Co-opting the unfavourable crowd responses, he reinvented himself, cleverly aligning himself with other ex-WWF stars who were younger, hipper, and cooler than him, and “invading” WCW; Hogan dropped the red and yellow for an all-black biker wardrobe, shades, and a beard, and became the leader of the faction calling itself the “New World Order” of pro wrestling. Fans loved to hate him as he took short-cuts to survive against WCW’s heroes. Despite his age, his injuries, and the resulting limited ability, he was back on top of the business yet again by the late 1990s.

Still, nothing stirs up innovation quite like adversity, and despite losing his established stars, Vince McMahon was busy creating fresh, up-and-coming characters like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, with cutting-edge storylines to go with them. WCW, meanwhile, ran out of ideas beyond the “New World Order,” and lost momentum, the “NWO” superstars and their guaranteed big-money contracts still needing to be paid even as revenues declined, and WCW began to collapse under this weight. Hemorrhaging millions of dollars, WCW was put up for sale on the cheap by its parent company looking to cut its losses – and ironically it was McMahon himself who swooped in to buy it.

Despite himself being partly responsible for the decline of WCW – leveraging his creative control to stay on top and ensuring those close to him had all the best spots on the show even at the expense of younger, better talent – Hogan’s own “brand” survived yet again. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the WWF (by now known as WWE after being taken to court by the World Worldlife Fund). He’d even harnessed the power of nostalgia, as well as the cheap junk-food formula of “reality” television as the star of “Hogan Knows Best,” helping his daughter, Brooke, launch her own showbusiness career as a result.

Gawker then revealed Hulk Hogan spouting racism, via transcripts of its tapes.

WWE promptly removed him from their Hall of Fame listing as the news spread of Hogan’s vile prejudiced remarks. Mattel refused to produce Hulk Hogan action figures. Hulk Hogan merchandise was removed from the shelves in major stores such as Walmart and Toys R Us. But the news of the scandal took on a life of its own, and has done ever since, to the point where Hogan’s peers, fans, and critics all too often discuss the incident without actually addressing the words used. Because Hogan’s diatribe speaks for itself:

On the topic of Brooke allegedly offered financial support for her music career from a black billionaire while being linked with his son, Hogan went on a tirade:

I don’t know if Brooke was f***ing the black guy’s son…I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, f***ing n*****s…I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f*** some n*****, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n***** worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!…I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking n*****.

– Hulk Hogan

Yes, it’s hateful stuff. It’s sickening.

Since that time, while business interests have kept a safe distance from Hulk Hogan for public relations purposes, discussion has continued on what he represents; his reputation; his aura; his mystique. Many people saw him differently, of course, while others – including black wrestlers who worked with him – said this is the first time they had noted any hint of racism from him; some even claimed he stuck his neck out for them at a time when it was tough to get ahead in pro wrestling as an African-American star, and Hogan had pushed for them to be his headline opponent in storyline matches. Beyond this, many have downright denied Hogan is a racist – despite Hogan’s own admission of ‘I am a racist.’ Incredible.

The brilliant businessman behind the Inside the Ropes venture, Kenny McIntosh, covers many pro wrestling topics on his outstanding podcast, and on a recent episode alongside probably the best-ever pro wrestling writer Fin Martin, he tackled the racism controversy as Hulk Hogan begins to attempt to rehabilitate his image in the public eye. McIntosh made the superb point that many people are perhaps in denial about Hogan because they have a nostalgic view – and this can cover both his fans and fellow wrestlers, too. But many more, present-day black WWE stars – from Mark Henry, to Titus O’Neil – do not seem to have a view clouded by nostalgia; they are stars bravely speaking out and saying that Hogan’s words were racist, offensive, and hurtful, and are not easy to forgive.

Hogan’s own opinion is that he was “in a dark place” – that mysterious, mystical location all celebrities claim they visited when they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. Most decent human beings, of course, don’t suddenly become racist just because they’re having a bad day. Again, Hogan’s exact words were ‘I am a racist.’

When Hogan was finally invited by WWE suits to a recent show, he had the opportunity to address the current roster to express regret for bringing their business into disrepute. Reportedly, Hogan began his speech to the other stars by telling them to be careful what they say in case they’re being recorded. Immediately, this put off the likes of O’Neil (who expressed his disappointment publicly) because Hogan seemed to be saying he was more regretful of being caught, than by what he did.

What McIntosh and Martin intelligently suggested were that Hogan should have actually had a meeting behind closed doors with the black wrestlers of WWE and simply listened to them. Because clearly he doesn’t have any grasp of the seriousness of the offensive views he expressed, whether caught on tape or not. This is a great idea.

The problem here is that WWE are driven by public relations, not values. They’ll allow Hogan a platform to help him repair his reputation, they’ll promote women into positions of prominence on their shows, and anything else with a money-making opportunity attached to it, but they still hold shows in Saudi Arabia where women wrestlers are prohibited, and fund Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in return for a position of power in his rotten administration.

Intersectionality is driven by values committed to opposing all forms of oppression, understanding the way these separate issues link with one another.

With that in mind, an interesting point raised is that, according to McIntosh, O’Neil apparently wore an Ultimate Warrior t-shirt in homage to the man who had died after enjoying a successful pro wrestling career yet who was, as I’ve examined before, a raging hateful homophobe. Despite being best friends with his on-screen tag team partner Darren Young, one of pro wrestling’s first openly gay stars, O’Neil was at ease wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of the bigoted Ultimate Warrior. Martin, who while editor of Power Slam magazine had helped raise awareness of the homophobic campaign Warrior had embarked on, acknowledged the hypocrisy in this.

But the trouble with all this is that, as McIntosh and Martin suggested, it risks becoming a discussion amongst white people, and while any decent white person should be offended by racism, ultimately the buck stops with black people, and it’s those voices that should be heard – especially by Hogan.

McIntosh thankfully acknowledged the issue with white privilege, albeit claiming many of us Caucasian folks have been utilising our white privilege by claiming Hogan is a racist, when that must be turned on its head, because most of the narrative on the internet has been white people saying Hogan isn’t a racist – and that is a far more important and dangerous reflection of white privilege that McIntosh could have (and indeed should have) highlighted. Again, Hogan didn’t just use racist language (rather than “racial” language as McIntosh put it – there’s an important distinction); Hogan said, ‘I am a racist.’ Let’s not forget his exact words, which included ‘n****’ repeatedly: racist – not “racial” – language.

The issue here is that McIntosh talked about “separation,” where you can respect an artist for their work, without liking them as people. So how far does that reach? If McIntosh can, for example, enjoy the works of the right-wing libertarian Clint Eastwood, or the accused sexual harasser Kevin Spacey, but not, I’d assume, the songs of paedophiles Gary Glitter and Ian Watkins, or the architecture of Nazi Albert Speer, isn’t that the same kind of hypocrisy?

No, a boycott of an artist’s work must be consistent for all of us (yes, including O’Neil, although he perhaps feels more established now so as to use his influence for causes he can fight for at this point in his career). But artistic boycotts aren’t just commercial: taking in the works of lyricists or screenwriters or playwrights with intolerant, fascist views is to open yourself up to their artistic expressions and even their perspectives and prejudices. Media is manipulative by nature.

So until such a time as Hulk Hogan actually cares enough to spend time with black people, understand their history, their culture, their views, and why he was so very wrong – and works to highlight the importance of causes like Black Lives Matter – then we’d all do well to boycott any companies he’s involved in. And, yes, WWE comes top of that list.

Why I Don’t Have a Proper Job

‘So what is it you do again?’ I think that’s the most frequently asked question presented to me. And it’s always tough to answer, but I generally cite I’m a social entrepreneur, since I’ve been involved in founding several non-profit companies over the decades, and a community coach, because I manage a socially progressive, independent women’s football club and facilitate media and technology workshops – which I approach with a passion for alternative ways of learning, outside of set course structures and outcomes, and a focus on the process of personal development, with empowerment being key.

That probably won’t come as a surprise to those who know I was pulled out of school at the age of 11 due to being a victim of bullying, and was taught at home by my mother. The upshot of that was that I subsequently struggled in structured learning or work environments where I couldn’t come up with my own system of operating – something my wife Jane Watkinson reminds me about regularly, and perhaps a reason why I dropped out of university and haven’t yet worked in a traditional 9-to-5 job.

Yes, my childhood was far from ordinary. I grew largely reading books because I didn’t have to, scribbling ideas for a fairer society, and drawing sketches of superheroes, professional wrestlers, female bodybuilders and football players. I got chance to stay up late watching old movies, from German Expressionism to classic 1940s films featuring Katherine Hepburn, who I loved, and James Stewart, but also the B-movie horror of Edward D. Wood, Jr, largely regarded as “the worst filmmaker of all time.” This clearly gave me no fear of making shitty movies myself, as I’ll come to in a bit.

My brother was nine years older than me, my sister twelve years older, and my mother and father, when they had me, were in their 30s and 40s, respectively. I didn’t have anyone my own age to spend time with, and the home education movement was still in its infancy (we had angry education officials visit us many times to complain about me not being in a school and threatened to have my mother put in prison; eventually she began hiding behind the sofa with me when we knew they were coming – yes, my parents were both quite anti-establishment, also telling me many stories of questioning authority).

So, instead of friends in the school playground, almost everyone around me was much older than me and that was my education in the subject of history in many ways. I found out about 1940s democratic socialist politician Nye Bevan, who I also got a kick out of because he shared my birthday of November 15th. He once said, ‘The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away,’ and that statement struck a chord with me. What’s more, the Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life stated, ‘All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away’ and that galvanised my belief that we’re all here to play our part in positive social change.

I just wasn’t sure how.

For a time my teenage self planned on donning a cape and fighting injustice as a masked adventurer, until my mother found out and expressed disappointment in the plan, which promptly put me off. My mother was always very tolerant of many of my weird and wacky interests, but rightly drew the line at me swinging from rooftops looking out for the little guy. So instead, I tried to make my way in civilised society – with great difficulty.

Without school exams to sit, my mother got me going for my GCSEs at nightschool and college at the age of 14 (she put a false birthdate for me of July 15th, which is still found on my certificates and which would mean today is my birthday, yay!)

The college careers advisor suggested I take a job at McDonald’s, then when I explained my main reason for rejecting that prospect, mocked my vegetarianism and my hope to work in the media (I’d go on to become a vegan, and, yes, work in the media, so f*** him, and f*** anyone like that who tries to ridicule your dreams).

After dropping out of my media degree where I’d made some incredible, awe-inspiringly awful films, I was put on a welfare-to-work programme at an arts centre and got my first freelance work through that – in event organisation and videography, and I teamed up with another drop-out to create an independent community film company; we engaged over forty young people in creating their own feature film to reflect their lives in South Yorkshire. But after seeing Michael Moore’s documentaries I knew non-fiction was something I really wanted to do, and I did so, starting with Get Over It, about the post-industrial population of South Yorkshire being constantly told to “get over it” after their major unionised industries were shut down and replaced by retail.

Given my driving motivation was to do something positive in society, with this combined with my own idiosyncrasies I began to find it increasingly difficult to talk about myself over the years – often to my detriment as a I failed to defend or stand up for myself sometimes – and writing this blog post is part of my way of getting past that, especially in the hopes that doing so will provoke thought about our society and our roles in it.

When I gave a talk to his media and journalism students as austerity measures were being introduced and Education Maintenance Allowance was being scrapped, University of Huddersfield lecturer Bruce Hanlin kindly told me afterwards, ‘You provoked more questions (than usual) from students – (that) might be because your ‘alternative’ and varied way into the media might look more realistic at a time when the established media are in retreat and job opportunities at a virtual standstill.’ That was a relief: Talking to students as a university drop-out who went on to work in the media was very tricky!

Over the years my work has led me to many public speaking engagements, and with issues to passionately talk about I’d never had difficulty with them until I was interviewed for “My Life So Far” by Rony Robinson on BBC Radio Sheffield. I’d partly hoped I’d be able to highlight some important issues, and partly intended to try and tackle my aversion to talking about myself or my feelings. Funnily enough, Rony had me all choked up when he caught me off-guard posing me with the question of if I’m so keen to empower others because of the powerlessness I felt in my past. Ouch! Right in the heart, dude.

Interviewed by Rony Robinson from Jay Baker on Vimeo.

But this is why I marvel at so many people who do so many good things in life just, well…because. I often ask social justice campaigners I meet what got them active, a little envious of their stories – they got involved in a local campaign and it went from there, or they and their fellow workers went on strike (or, in my wife’s case, simply becoming a sociologist!) – because Pop Psychology 101 suggests, yes, I simply became passionate about social justice because I was bullied as a child in the 1980s. Pffft!

In his brilliant book Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman states, ‘Countries with big disparities in wealth also have more bullying behaviour, because there are bigger status differences’ and then goes on to cite the term ‘psychosocial consequences’ from Professor Richard Wilkinson who, alongside Kate Pickett, told me when I interviewed them both for my documentary Return to Doncatraz that ‘inequality really took off under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and sort of plateaued after that.’

Return to Doncatraz, as the title suggests, was a follow-up to another documentary I made, Escape from Doncatraz, which actually premiered at Kitchener City Hall in Ontario, Canada, where I got my first-ever standing ovation (presumably because they thought the British expected one rather than the documentary being all that good). I ended up over there starting up a media company with my first wife, who was a Canadian, after I’d spent considerable time with her there beforehand and my UK film company’s committee had shut it down, blamed incomplete projects entirely on me, and transferred its assets to sister companies they were running – which then made my time in Canada an all-or-nothing scenario with nothing to go back to. That kind of pressure never helps, and my then-wife and I separated, with her literally tearing up the plans for our own venture that my visa was dependent on, and I ended up homeless there, although – thanks to some fantastic friends – escaped rooflessness; sleeping in spare rooms, on floors, or in basements for weeks and then months back in Europe, staying with family in Spain. Again this was a time where I failed to effectively stand up for myself or defend myself for a fear of being too personal, or being negative, but the intentional damage inflicted on me and my reputation by a few individuals in both Britain and Canada was long-lasting yet humbling, and a valuable lesson that changed my character for the better. It’s also made me far more resourceful, better at choosing friends, less bothered about external validation, and more grateful just to have a home.

By the time I’d returned to the UK, David Cameron was claiming cuts in public services were able to be replaced by the third sector, his “Big Society” that I initially thought may be a chance for me to succeed with fresh social enterprise ideas but which turned out to be a way of, in most cases, funding those who were already running successful start-ups. My luck had largely run out. Although I was never one of them, born and raised in a mining town in a house literally split down the middle due to subsidence from the coal mines beneath it, I’d previously enjoyed success in both Britain and Canada partly because people thought I was better-educated and from a better background than I actually was: my demeanour and accent were developed not by school but by growing up consuming media and travelling and living around the world. Because I had taken advantage of this misconception, I feared anyone knowing about my failures – the sleazy real estate guy in American Beauty said, ‘In order to be successful you have to project an image of success at all times.’ And whether we admit it or not, so many of us buy into that. But now I understand that being poor is not the same as being unsuccessful. As Rutger Bregman also states in Utopia for Realists, ‘Poverty is not a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash.’

So I’ll be honest: Since my return to the UK in the era of austerity, I’ve yet to earn more than even a quarter of what I was earning beforehand (I’ll leave it to your imagination how much that might be, but rest assured I was far from rich before!) But in the years both before and after that life-changing experience, I’ve spent thousands of pounds of my own money on documentaries, business premises for social enterprises, and other good causes. Again, not because I’m somehow simply a kind-hearted good human being like the above-mentioned types, but because, if I’m honest, as you can see…I don’t really know any different. This is what I do.

I’m in my forties now and people still ask me when I’ll get a proper job.

But when I see, through Libre Digital, dozens of older people setting up their own long-term IT support group with the skills and tools given to them via the FreeTech Project, or documentaries hitting 3000 hits in three days just before an election via SilenceBreaker Media, I want to keep doing this. When I see over a hundred women playing soccer through AFC Unity when they never had the opportunities nor the environment to do so otherwise, and raising nearly 1000kg of food for local food banks, I want to do more. And when my wife and I not only work together on the above but also focus on helping other creatives, community groups and independent businesses at affordable rates via Jay & Jane, I don’t know what else I could be doing that’s so rewarding. I’ll never have a big house or car, or many if any holidays, no savings, and probably no pension. But all you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.

Kap-tain America and Black Protest in Sports

When we think of sport being adopted as a forum for political causes, we more often than not conjure in our minds the image of African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos standing on the 1968 Olympic medalists’ podium, raising their fists during the playing of the United States national anthem – a gesture of strength and unity for those fighting for human rights, they said.

If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.

– Tommie Smith

Controversial at the time, their act has since become synonymous with the empowerment of historically oppressed people, and a symbol of inspiration for millions. They were also concerned, they said, about the way a certain world-famous black boxer was stripped of his title…

From a heritage of slavery, Cassius Clay rejected his family’s slave name of Clay, becoming Cassius X and then – after joining the Nation of Islam – “Muhammad Ali.” Rival pugilist Ernie Terrell still insisted on ignorantly referring to him as “Cassius Clay,” so in his fight with Ali, Muhammad famously pummeled him while asking, ‘What’s my name?!’ and calling him an “Uncle Tom.” Muhammad Ali then went on to sacrifice his boxing career for a court battle as he resisted being drafted to fight for the U.S. in Vietnam, declaring, ‘I got nothing against no Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a n***er!’ Threatened with imprisonment over his resistance, he simply stated, ‘So what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.’ With mass protests against the military campaign in Vietnam – an unmitigated disaster for the U.S. elites – decades later few even attempt to defend it, in the same way few now defend the opposition to the civil rights movement at the time.

If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me – I’d join tomorrow.

– Muhammad Ali

But the civil rights movement has long been oversimplified as a single-issue cause of the legendary Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, when in fact his commitment to social justice naturally reached into the realms of trade unionism, and American culture today generally holds him in high regard while at the same time cleverly omitting the fact he was assassinated while supporting striking sanitary workers. Like Muhammad Ali, he was also vocally opposed to the military involvement in Vietnam.

The creation of communist threats around the world was important for the military industrial complex: weapons manufacturers make millions from war, and peace doesn’t boost profits for their shareholders (this is why the military industrial complex sponsors presidential candidates). The insanity of this is represented by how the U.S. and the U.K. both permit arms sales to human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia, who in turn support the latest threat: ISIS.

Our government officials wear poppies at the same time as neglecting armed forces veterans, using them instead to promote and justify military aggression overseas for – in the case of Afghanistan and especially Iraq – resources such as oil. The rise of militarism and flag-waving is not a coincidence, and the rise of the “Tea Party” and Donald Trump in the U.S. and “Britain First” in the U.K. are a product of this: rampant nationalism within an increasingly militaristic culture, where in order to care about your country – or better yet, your armed forces – you have to support your government’s military aggression overseas that so often put brave servicemen and women unnecessarily in harm’s way, even if it provokes terrorist attacks on your towns (in fact, the terrorist attacks help too, because in turn, they promote nationalism and militarism).

Suppose somebody asks, ‘Do you support the people in Iowa?’ …It’s not even a question; it doesn’t even mean anything. And that’s the point of public relations slogans like ‘Support Our Troops,’ is that they don’t mean anything, they mean as much as whether you support the people in Iowa. Of course there was an issue: the issue was, do you support our policy, but you don’t want people to think about the issue. That’s the whole point of good propaganda, you want to create a slogan that nobody is gonna be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: ‘Do you support our policy?’ And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.

– Noam Chomsky

All of these violent atrocities in the West, as well as overseas in bombing campaigns, certainly put sports into perspective, and as we can see, several athletes have realised this and used their athletic platform to raise awareness on issues far more important than a sporting contest.

In the wake of a disproportionate amount of police brutality towards African-Americans in particular, including murders, the last few years have seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers would turn out to be embroiled in controversy surrounding the cause, despite society long since redeeming the likes of Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Muhammad Ali, all of whom began a battle continuing to this day: it’s the same one Colin Kaepernick is fighting.

As is no secret, the Pentagon takes millions of dollars in taxes from struggling American citizens to pay for bombing campaigns while people at home struggle to pay for healthcare or education – and they get away with it because of the culture of fear, and the perpetuation of the perception of threats from overseas. But what is less known, is the fact that – to further boost militarisation and nationalism in American culture – they went directly to the NFL.

That’s right. Pentagon officials reached into their deep pockets to strike a deal that would be laughable if it wasn’t so cynical: they paid between $60,000 and $1,000,000 to initially 14 teams to have them pause before the start of their games so they could sing the anthem, fly the flag, and – yes, you guessed it – “support our troops.” Yes, as Chomsky suggested, who wouldn’t want to support their troops? It’s unquestionable. And that’s what the Pentagon intended by striking at the core of apple-pie American culture: get the American people associating even their favourite sports with nationalism and militarism. And, as we have seen, it has largely worked.

Hence such a bizarre backlash – despite all history has shown us – against Colin Kaepernick when he decided to drop to one knee during such flag-waving ceremonies. The media quickly confronted him about it, and he was quick to articulate his actions.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

– Colin Kaepernick

The San Francisco 49ers had a change of Head Coach, and the regime change saw “Kap” released from the team. Usually, a quarterback of his stature would have been snapped up by another franchise pretty much immediately. But it didn’t happen. And apart from the same kind of white racists over in the U.K. who called soccer player Eni Aluko ‘bitter’ for challenging racism while being dropped from the national team, most people began to believe this ongoing free agent status was simply because Kap had openly opposed the establishment, albeit by merely taking a knee during the national anthem.

Yes, having the teams observe the anthem was a recent phenomenon in the NFL, but even so, as NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy stated at the time, ‘Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.’ So of course, it’s not like this was even that much of a deal at all.

But the culture had changed: Pentagon money had meant that the rules of the NFL or even of the flag itself were irrelevant – they had successfully created a nationalistic, militaristic culture where people were outraged over something as simple as taking a knee, even if it wasn’t breaking any rules – they were angrier about this than they were about black people being slaughtered in the streets of the United States by officers of the law. Think about that for a moment.

That absurdity is the greatest possible victory for fascists in the Pentagon and in the White House.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.’? You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag – he’s fired.’

– Donald Trump

Of course, the amazing and inspirational women of basketball have been protesting injustice for quite a while longer. Recently, protest has been increasingly prominent amongst their male counterparts, as well – but without the same outcry provoked by American football, something some feel is due to the different audiences attracted by the sports.

Oh, (Colin Kaepernick) is being blackballed. That’s a no-brainer. All you have to do is read the transactions every day, when you see the quarterbacks who are being hired. He’s way better than any of them. But the NFL has a different fan base than the NBA. The NBA is more urban, the NFL is more conservative.

– Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach

Pentagon bribery doesn’t hurt, either.

Those around the important, bold and brave Black Lives Matter movement all seemingly unanimously embrace Colin Kaepernick for standing up (or kneeling down) for the worthy cause – including his own brilliant awareness-raising Know Your Rights initiative – but have different thoughts on the prospect of an NFL team finally hiring the excellent quarterback, from what I’ve gauged from the internet the last few months:

In the midst of his legal action against the NFL, some worry that Kap signing for a team would be part of a compromise where it would disprove the claims of being “blackballed,” and potentially contain him (if that’s possible), while subjecting him to further abuse if he continued protesting; others feel his message would be uncompromising yet amplified if he was part of an NFL team, and would be a vindication of his efforts, taking his standing and his protests to another level of prominence, perhaps even expanding the movement even more to the mainstream.

From the excellent “Superheroes In Full Color”

There are indeed pros and cons to both. But just as Muhammad Ali simply wanted to take part in high-profile boxing competition while in his own prime that was stolen from him because he stood up for what was right, Colin Kaepernick is still an American football player who keeps training, and simply wants to play. He deserves to play. Whether he’s a more effective activist as an official NFL player, or outside of the NFL, remains to be seen – but if he does get signed by a team, they will, on principle, enjoy my support, providing they set him loose to both play, and protest, with freedom. I’ll be buying the merchandise, just to prove a point of popularity.

As history has told us, sport means nothing without principles, but is at its best when it retains them, free from the vested interests of war profiteers and corrupt politicians. In fact, its enjoyment for all of us is heightened when its participants stand up for fairness on and off the playing field…otherwise, you’re just cheering for a jersey.

The England Women’s Team Represent White Privilege

Women’s association football in England is finally starting to recover from the FA’s fifty-year ban (banned because it wasn’t ladylike – whatever the heck that means) but with its catching-up to the men’s game come the growing influences of profit, patriarchy, commercialism, and corruption.

While the stateside tradition of “soccer moms” and girls in cleats led to the U.S. national women’s team reaching incredible heights, they’ve had to form a movement to reap the same benefits as their male counterparts, who were paid more despite being less of a draw.

In England, meanwhile, the massive crowds women’s football matches were pulling abruptly ended when the FA banned them from any sacred football league ground in 1921, a ban only lifted in 1971 after pressure from UEFA and England’s post-1966 feelgood football fever, meaning the women’s game, at the time under the WFA, had an even longer way to go here in England. While the first-ever men’s international match was between England and Scotland way back in 1872, the public wouldn’t see the female equivalent until exactly one hundred years after that, as Sheffield’s own Eric Worthington led the England women to take on and defeat their own Scottish counterparts. Tom Tranter then took over as manager until 1979, replaced by Martin Reagan, who guided the team through the entirety of the 1980’s. After that came Barrie Williams and John Bilton, until the team was officially sanctioned by the FA, who were able to co-opt the national women’s game, assigning managerial duties to Ted Copeland (yes, the same Ted Copeland who went to coach football in Saudi Arabia, that leading abuser of women’s rights).

But while Copeland’s star player Hope Powell would be chosen as his successor, the appointment of a black, female, and gay manager was likely to be less about progress within the traditionally conservative FA, and more about, well, apathy. The FA concentrated its energies so much to the men’s game that it changed managers of its national side every couple of years or so, but Hope remained in charge of the national women’s team for a staggering fifteen years – yes, with an impressive 52% win ratio, though still less successful than Glenn Hoddle, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello, and even Roy Hodgson, none of whom lasted more than five years, never mind fifteen!

But as the women’s game – and with it, naturally, the national team – became more popular, and more commercialised, attention and expectations grew. In 2013, the FA got their man, Mark Sampson, to carry out their football aims in true England style: conservative, defensive, negative – and sexist, condescendingly referring to Fran Kirby as “mini-Messi,” the tennis equivalent of which would be to call Serena Williams “mini-Murray.” Meanwhile, as the FA’s public relations campaign, Respect, was putting out videos emphasising etiquette and proper conduct from grassroots coaches, Sampson was throwing tantrums at referees, to the point where he ripped his shirt in a fit of fury during the 2017 Euros – and the football establishment, commentators, and Sampson himself were laughing it off. What a character! It’s all in good fun if you’re the national team’s manager, eh? Those grimy grassroots volunteer coaches must surely remember to do as they’re told by the Wembley Stadium elites, not do as they do. Forget that the same coaches forced to sit through Respect videos are just as, if not more, likely to spend their time watching national team managers like Sampson. This once again proved that the Respect campaign, for all its positive messages, could never be genuine or heartfelt – it was just a CSR technique from the same old hypermasculine, hypocritical FA. This isn’t my opinion; this is a fact based on their ease with Sampson’s behaviour while (albeit rightly) constantly condemning grassroots petulance.

As if these warning signs weren’t enough, Nigerian-born Eniola Aluko, a long-time star England footballer and lawyer, said she felt ‘undermined and belittled’ by England staff, claiming a chuckling Mark Sampson had expressed hope that her visiting family would not bring Ebola with them from Nigeria. After making the claims, she was promptly deselected from the squad, and paid £80,000 by the FA to ‘avoid disruption’ in the run-up to a Euros competition where England’s “Lionesses” were considered favourites, having been the dominant European team in the 2015 World Cup. Eni Aluko, with 102 caps for England, was forced to watch from the sidelines and television studios, unable to help her team as England’s negative football fell to the positive, pro-active, high-pressing and beautiful Barcajax game of the Netherlands, the eventual winners and by far the best team in the tournament. As the England women pursued the level of the men, so they also adopted their seemingly doomed, pessimistic approach.

Further allegations emerged, including a mixed race player from South London being accused of having a criminal past as part of another Mark Sampson training ground “joke.” And yet existing England players – some even represented at one time or another by legal eagle Eni Aluko – said very little. When they did speak publicly about the allegations, it was to portray themselves as the victims. Captain Steph Houghton complained that the allegations ‘hit the squad very hard.’ Meanwhile, Jodie Taylor stated ‘Mark Sampson has been great for my career,’ as though that was all that mattered let alone even relevant to the serious allegations, adding that the squad had been ‘brought together’ by the allegations against him. This was all after Eni had appeared on television interviews in tears, yet these women stressed how difficult it all was for them and their manager, as if Aluko’s revelations were a challenge to women’s empowerment rather than a crucial defence of it.

That right there is the definition of white privilege: they believe that, since their manager has been great for their individual careers, the claims are an inconvenience for them – a difficulty, even – and one that unites them around the man with the power to crown a woman a “mini-Messi.” Not once has any one of them, it seems, stood up with any integrity to lend support for their former teammate and ally (and a lawyer, no less) who has spoken out about the racism and bullying she has been subjected to.

Yes, every one of us – even those with Sampson’s attitude – are innocent until proven guilty. But the team’s rallying round him acted as though he already had been proven innocent, in the midst of very serious claims from one of their former teammates who had even helped them negotiate their own contracts with the FA. They were standing up for the system, for all the things they cited as important: their careers, their tournament, their lifestyles – a warning like no other that women’s football, in wishing to become as mainstream as the men’s game, needs to be careful what it wishes for.

As I write, allegations continue to emerge. There’s an old saying: ‘If you don’t think white privilege exists, congratulations, because you’re enjoying the benefits of it.’ I’m sure Mark Sampson, and possibly even the FA bigwigs themselves, genuinely believe they aren’t racist – individually or institutionally – simply because they are so out of touch it is unbelievable. White privilege is so inherent among them that they can’t even recognise what would be offensive and what wouldn’t.

Regardless of what happens, they’ll keep hiring people like Mark Sampson, or Glenn Hoddle (you know, the ex-England manager who claimed disabled people were being punished for sins in a past life), and they’ll keep them in place until the next scandal forces them into the public relations exercise of removing that person. They can’t help themselves, because even if someone’s offensive bigotry is listed on their resume, it seems they wouldn’t even see anything wrong with it until somebody like Eni Aluko pointed it out.

Is the News Really Faker Than Wrestling?

Donald Trump might be President of the United States, but he’s a really bad businessman. That’s a well known fact. He inherited a fortune of between $40 million and $200 million – and then blew most of that. Of course he got ahead with financial assistance from his father, but he also got by with a little help from his friends. While his Trump Plaza Hotel, Casino & Convention Center was another white elephant, things might have been much worse without event promoters like Don King taking a gamble of their own and hosting shows there.

Another promoter who took such a chance was Vincent K. McMahon, Jr, the professional wrestling guru who had successfully taken his own father’s north-eastern promotion and gone national, running roughshod over regional promoters who had for years held gentlemen’s agreements to host the “World Champion” against their respective area’s top stars, but never cross over or encroach on each other’s patch. This ruthless ambition, coupled with a desire to take pro wrestling from smoky bars and into arenas of smoke-and-mirrors, led McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation to become a global phenomenon, in 1987 culminating in “WrestleMania” at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan, where Hulk Hogan faced Andre the Giant, billed at 7’4″ tall, before what McMahon’s WWF announced to be a “world indoor attendance record” of 93,173.

Upon learning that it appeared Hulk Hogan, who left the show as “World Champion,” earned more money than every other wrestler on the event combined, Jesse Ventura attempted to set up a wrestlers’ union, an idea promptly extinguished by McMahon himself after none other than Hogan ratted them all out to protect his own position. Making it in Hollywood alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in movies such as Predator and The Running Man, Jesse joined Arnie in the political arena, but not before first using his Screen Actors Guild membership to claim royalties from his WWF commentating duties.

Despite the success of WrestleMania to the point where it was able to fill stadia, McMahon agreed to stage not one but both of his follow-up WrestleMania shows – in 1988 and 1989 – at the Trump Plaza, which held less than 20,000 spectators. Donald Trump was so pleased by this that he sat in the front row, right at ringside, at each of the events. Trump and McMahon remained trusted allies as a result.

What’s more, breaking the age-old Magic Circle-style code known as “kayfabe,” Vince McMahon went against wrestling tradition and admitted to the State of New Jersey Senate that, of course, all matches were predetermined and that shows were not sporting contests but simply entertainment (a word that you’ll notice became more prominent in Vince’s publicity as the years progressed). These admissions removed the scrutiny and taxation faced by other athletic promoters, something Vince’s wife Linda had been battling with for years while running the business behind the scenes.

Yes, if you hadn’t guessed, pro wrestling was officially “fake.” And the grudge matches and publicity stunts weren’t the only fictitious part of the whole presentation: Andre the Giant’s height and even WrestleMania’s success itself had been embellished – it turned out that there were not, in fact, 93,173 in attendance at all, as explained by Dave Meltzer, who has for years largely been the only serious and widely-respected documentarian and critic of pro wrestling:

So from that front row seat where he’d sat through hours upon hours of heroics and histrionics, staged fights and scripted challenges, Donald Trump learned from pro wrestling how to perform, how to gain notoriety, and how to throw away any factual basis to his threats, promises, or claims while garnering attention – hence running The Apprentice and using Vince’s line ‘You’re fired!’ on mainstream media. To truly test this knowledge and showmanship, he joined McMahon in his own storylines in 2007 and Trump took to the stage of WrestleMania where the two wagered their own infamous hairstyles on their respective chosen charges, with wrestler-turned-Celebrity Deathmatch star Steve Austin playing the role of the Mills Lane-style special guest referee.

Vince McMahon lost, getting his head shaved. But he didn’t mind public humiliation as part of the show; after all, he had nothing else left to prove.

Fellow billionaire Ted Turner, owner of CNN, TNT and TBS, so begrudged Vince’s refusal to sell the WWF to him that he threw everything from his other successful ventures into the wrestling organisation he did acquire, WCW – even if it meant losing Pay-Per-View revenue by putting top main event marquee matches on Monday nights, up against the WWF’s flagship show. By the time AOL Time Warner bigwigs came in to take over Turner’s businesses, they realised WCW was leeching off the other initiatives, so sold it off from Turner’s empire – ironically, to none other than McMahon himself, meaning he’d bought Turner’s wrestling company, rather than the other way around.

Vince immediately portrayed the turn of events as the victory of an up-and-coming underdog against a mighty multinational conglomerate – mostly driven by his own jealousy of Turner – and given the somewhat petty, classless way Turner had gone about trying to crush the WWF, it was easy at the time to applaud McMahon for the upset. But there were other forces, too, that contributed to sympathy for Vince and Linda McMahon around this time.

WWF star Mick Foley, who hit the news for his death-defying stunts to a backdrop of fan-made signs reading “Foley is God,” wrote New York Times bestseller Foley Is Good: And The Real World is Faker Than Wrestling. In that book, he highlighted how the right-wing Parents Television Council clashed with the WWF for their increasingly mature programming content that included racy storylines and Foley’s own violent performances. The PTC was set up by L. Brent Bozell, III, son of infamous communist witch-hunt leader Joseph McCarthy’s ally L. Brent Bozell, Jr, and according to Foley’s book utilised similar scare tactics against the wrestling company, even blaming four playground deaths on WWF performances. Wrote Foley: ‘It was a strategy that has produced marvelous results in the storied history of smear campaigns. No one could possibly prove that they were not a witch during the Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. The Jewish people could not prove that they were not a cause of economic problems in Germany in the 1930s. Alleged Communists could not possibly prove that they were not communists during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. And Bozell probably believes that the World Wrestling Federation cannot possibly prove that wrestling did not play any part in those four deaths.’

The rags-to-riches WWF later humorously co-opted the campaign against them by creating an on-screen parody of the PTC called the RTC (Right to Censor), while company directors like Lowell P. Weicker, Jr – a liberal politician – continued to defend the WWF publicly in opposition to the ultra-conservative “religious right.” The McMahons eventually weathered the storm, just as they had in the 1990s when the feds targeted their company specifically for rampant steroid use, nearly putting the WWF out of business, just as Vince had been pursuing his labour of love, the World Bodybuilding Federation (or WBF).

The McMahons after their successful steroid trial defence.

But after Ted Turner’s WCW had been bought – and promptly crushed; shut down – by Vince McMahon, his rebellious streak began to arrive at its end. There was no more competition. He’d become more rich and powerful than he’d ever imagined, and the family business was suddenly becoming the monopolising ultra-corporate interest he’d criticised Turner for pursuing: stock traded as WWFE (World Wrestling Federation Entertainment), with its initial public offering in 1999, partly to raise finance for his latest pet project, the XFL, after the collapse of the WBF.

Vince was obsessed with being more than just a “carny” pro wrestling promoter; he banned from his shows words like “wrestling” to be replaced with terms such as “sports-entertainment”, “wrestlers” instead called “superstars” even if they were unknown, and screamed into commentators’ headsets to have them refrain from saying “belts” or “bouts” or “feuds.”

As an alternative to the NFL, the XFL, of course, was another failure, and admittedly the mainstream media were not without fault, with their instant ridicule of the product challenging the American football establishment, despite the fact the XFL actually inspired change in the NFL as well.

After the XFL was gone, along with directors like Lowell Weicker, Jr, the all-powerful, all-knowing yet unknown WWFE shareholders remained, and Vince’s campaign to “Get the F out” – changing the WWFE to simply WWE after the World Wildlife Fund had taken legal action on use of the acronym “WWF” – was one of his last attempts of edgy rebellion, by definition a surrender to long-established forces. Far from being diehard fans of his product, the shareholders were of course only interested in the bottom line, which meant no more experimental creativity, and no more risks. The product, to this day, has remained ultra-corporate, formulaic, and stale, full of hyper-scripted content and product placement.

It also meant no more scandals.

When mild-mannered Canadian wrestler Chris Benoit – secretly suffering from severe concussions and brain damage – shockingly killed himself and his family, while pro wrestling roving reporters like Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller were trying to draw attention to the industry’s need for better wrestler rights (something Jesse Ventura had wanted while fighting to form a union), the mainstream media instead threw investigative journalism completely out of the window and claimed steroid abuse and ‘roid rage had caused the killings, despite the fact they had occurred not, in fact, in a fit of rage but over the course of a weekend.

It didn’t matter. The feds returned, and the McMahons were back in front of them again having to explain themselves, only briefly touching on wrestlers’ rights enough to force Vince to introduce a WWE “Wellness Policy,” but stopping short of preventing them tying wrestlers into unfairly binding contracts while calling them “independent contractors” and making them pay for their own travel, injury bills and pension plans.

Vince (far right) famously rolls his eyes during Linda’s speech conceding to Chris Murphy in a race for the U.S. Senate.

Linda, meanwhile, had by this time unsuccessfully run for office more as a personal ambition, and as seemingly an annoyance to Vince. Until Vince realised he could get the government off his back for good if he had influence there.

When they found out their old oddball ally Donald Trump was now running for office himself, they pumped around $7 million into his campaign to help get him into the White House. Trump’s approach, ‘unparalleled in modern presidential history,’ was to guarantee influential positions for those willing to pay for it by putting him in power.

Almost all of these cabinet picks have massive conflicts of interest from the public’s perspective, but from their own perspective they now occupy the corridors of power for the express purpose of deregulating the business sectors in which they operate. Trump’s simply giving them dividends on their investment. When he campaigned suggesting he meant business, you’d better believe at least that much is true.

It might treat pro wrestlers shamefully, but WWE is safe and sound even though it may have no soul left. No longer innovative, ground-breaking, or risk-taking with liberals on its board taking on the McCarthyists, today it’s part of the establishment it used to rail against. In their pursuit of more money and power, they’ve been swallowed whole by a shareholder profit motive and their political allegiances, and they’re a bigger part of the problems they used to cite and complain about. Even Ted Turner opposes Donald Trump, who in turn attacks CNN. Now, Turner is the favourable anti-hero, and Vince the establishment stooge who didn’t make it on his own in the end but was bailed out and bought and controlled by investors and politicos.

Linda McMahon has been appointed Administrator of the Small Business Administration and the McMahons – and therefore WWE – have reach right into the White House. There resides a President who, true to pro wrestling live-action pulp fiction, claims his predecessors are “McCarthyists” while he himself was mentored by Joe McCarthy’s sidekick, Roy Cohn. But again, truth doesn’t matter, and if you argue with him, state your case, or even present cold hard facts, you’re labeled “fake news” – what the Nazis used to call lugenpresse to discredit evidence against them.

Trump, like the McMahons, know too well the dishonesty of the corporate mainstream media and its various agendas, but is now exploiting that in order to attack any and all evidence against himself. In many ways, the press brought it on itself, but the lies of this President are on such a scale that they threaten to provide a smokescreen over the truths we do get from mass media and journalists. It’s frightening to dismiss all of it as “fake news.”

No, the only truly “fake news” these days is that coming out of the Trump administration, you can be sure of that. In a regime targeting environmentalists, Native Americans, African-Americans, Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, women and the LGBT community to name a few, they’re relying on the white nationalist Steve Bannon to handle the propaganda strategy while sending Sean Spicer to berate the press that are being kicked out if they don’t report on Trump favourably. When confronted with facts, they present “alternative facts” (also known as lies). In true Orwellian fashion, to Trump lies are truth and truth is lies – or “lugenpresse.”

Again, this is far more fake than pro wrestling, where chair shots to the head gave life-shattering concussions and supposed “superstars” pay for their own trips and healthcare costs and often end up making more money on the independent circuit. The dangers of pro wrestling are very real, but now the carny promoters are part of Trump’s administration, they don’t have to worry about that. They’ll just keep promoting Trump instead – a superstar more dangerous than Hulk Hogan, more scripted than John Cena. A superstar they helped to create to gain influence, in exchange for millions of dollars and the spirit of entrepreneurial rebellion.

They taught him how to create a show and tell a story, even if it wasn’t true or real. And now Mick Foley is finally right: the real world is faker than wrestling.

The Lie of the Broad Church

It seems like every major political party in Britain has its own identity.

The Conservatives take care of the elites. The Greens are modern-day hippies and idealists. The Liberal Democrats are whatever they feel like being at the time. And UKIP are bigots. Simple! Easy to remember off the top of your head.

But you’d be forgiven for assuming the Labour party are all about democratic socialism, I’m afraid. Because apparently, in recent history, they’re actually All Of The Above.

How is this possible, you ask? Welcome to The Broad Church™!

Yes, the term “broad church” has been utilised ever since the “New Labour” project came about, when the electoral machine that grabbed onto power three general elections in a row – hemorrhaging three million votes in the process, mind you – believed it could be all things to all people, be they small-C conservative types, aspirational folk, “looney lefties,” starry-eyed Blairites in awe of war criminals, or red dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters.

This meant Peter Mandelson was accepted with open arms. So was Alastair Campbell. And John McTernan. Even someone called Jamie Reed. All were welcome, whether they were right-wing ruthless capitalists, warmongers, pro-privatisation campaigners selling off schools and hospitals, big brother surveillance state advocates, or those who, in fact, wanted to change the party membership itself, like Luke Akehurst!

Like some of these ideas? Come on in, sunshine! Labour has suddenly become a “broad church,” don’t you know? Did you not get the memo about “unity”? You can be of any opinion and any political background you like, even if you aren’t a socialist after all!

Ah, as long as you aren’t actually a socialist. They forgot to mention that.

Groups like Progress and the Fabians are treasured and respected, while Frank Field fawned at JK Rowling and called the Momentum movement an ‘execution squad.’ While left wingers are purged, the right-wingers are invited to pull up a pew in the house where Blairism is the dying religion spreading superstition about the Labour party leader.

So, no, the “broad church” was a creation to allow money to pollute Labour like it did every other party before its formation.

That’s why they now suddenly want to even elect their own cabinet, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, to stop him from effectively leading – even if this meant Labour kept losing to the Tories. They want anti-socialism, or nothing at all. And they’re seemingly untouchable.

The pomp and ceremony of the Commons, the Lords, once gifted land as far as the eye can see, and all of these elite systems, are all to be protected – to keep us as peasants. A cabinet elected by MPs – today instead gifted not land but safe seats in Labour “heartlands” used and abused for years – means they would wrest power away from party members; away from the working class mass majority. It’s always been done. It’s always been an oppression.

We marched against Blair’s war crimes paid for by our taxes. The government is the only product where if you don’t cough up your hard earned dough to buy it, they can come and put you in jail. They say voting is your defence, but only one of the three “houses” are elected, and even that’s done by first-past-the-post. This is all forced on us by elites.

Jeremy Corbyn is terrifying to these privileged Westminster elites. His policies are progressive, yes, but they’re hardly radical socialism in the grand scheme. The fact one of our guys became leader – and not one of theirs – is the real reason they’re rattled. It’s why they want to choose the leader’s cabinet, while having a nasty little man as Deputy Leader who is protected from another members’ vote.

We even get lectured by Ed Balls on the importance of reaching out beyond the membership to Tories – and he lost his seat to the Tories anyway and ended up making a fart of himself on TV to stay relevant so, clearly, not caring about the backing of his own members should have been more of a concern!

No, don’t ever let anyone talk to you about Labour’s “broad church” again. Don’t accept the term. Instead, see it as a major warning when someone throws that around in conversation. It’s code for “corporate-friendly” used by the hypocrites of the party, wanting to embrace elements of Tory capitalism but stopping just short of it, using the popular Labour brand to keep gaining some power. It’s why they talked a good talk during Corbyn’s leadership hassles but shat themselves at the thought of having to create another party – while others actually believed they could buy the Labour name as well!

But many, in a way, have bought it, haven’t they? They bought themselves a ticket to the promised land by wearing a red rosette in a nice safe seat somewhere, using the working class mass majority for personal gain, not for the collective interests of those people being forgotten. This is why Jeremy Corbyn is important. It’s why we can never let them demonise Momentum while there are anti-socialism types like Progress in the party, who might as well tear up their membership cards that, on them, declare a dedication to socialism.

The “broad church” is the war cry of the hijackers. Never accept it. Never fall for it. Always stand up for socialism. After all, it’s what Labour is supposed to be for.

Owen Smith: You Had One Job

Interviewed on the day of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election from Jay Baker on Vimeo.

Well that was a tiring and pointless campaign, wasn’t it? As if 2016 wasn’t rough enough with the assassination of a Labour MP and the spectre of right-wing politics looming at home and abroad, Jeremy Corbyn had to direct many of his energies throughout the year instead inward, against those in his own party, despite the membership backing him in historic, overwhelming fashion.

Just as Labour looked like a genuine threat to the Tories, the Westminster elites decided they knew better than the thousands of members in the Labour party when it came to leadership; they wanted it to be one of their favoured folks, not someone who actually reflected the views of the party’s base, one that enjoys the status of being the largest socialist party in Europe.


Angela Eagle launched her own perfume leadership challenge in opposition to the sentiments from within her own constituency, only to in turn be challenged by misogynist Owen Smith.

Yes, Owen Smith may have looked like D-Fens from the movie Falling Down, but he knew what he was doing. A former corporate lobbyist, he was the perfect representation of New Labour’s vacuous, soulless ideology. Given that Jeremy Corbyn’s incredible success was in part due to the fact he wasn’t a public relations-savvy businessman, this seemed an odd choice.

Whether the abusive, bullying onslaught the Labour leader had endured was intended to scare him and make him quit before a formal leadership challenge ever commenced, or they simply massively underestimated him in thinking this nonperson, Owen Smith, actually had a chance of beating him, is a fascinating question that remains unclear to this day. Either way, it certainly was, as people on Twitter called it, a “chicken coup.” It was calamitous, and disastrous. More importantly, it was disastrous for Labour, at a time when they needed to be challenging the brand-new unelected Tory leadership of Theresa May.


So, given this awful, corporate, bland presentation, you can be forgiven for simply assuming Owen Smith is a career politician.

Aside from bullying Corbyn and his supporters in order to provoke a response that they could use to tar all Corbynistas with the same brush – Andrew Marr reading out selective vile tweets from purported Corbyn supporters – it was also important for the Smith campaigners to deflect attention from his Big Pharma background by co-opting this “careerist” tag and attempting, rather cleverly, to apply it to Corbyn, who’s spent decades getting re-elected by his constituents of Islington North, where he actually lives, while Smith was busy putting the “PFI” in Pfizer.

By this rationale, I imagine they thought – since he did not much besides spend years in a cell and then serve office as President of South Africa – Nelson Mandela was a bit of a “careerist” as well, dedicating as he did his entire life to change.

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith takes to the stage as he launches his campaign at the Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw in Wales.

No, Orwellian perspectives aside, Owen Smith was the careerist. Not least because he was representing those colleagues of his in Westminster who felt the Labour party still needed to be utilised in order to open doors to corporate boardrooms – that is why they wanted to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn; he was representing not their interests but the interests of the party members who elected him, with policies that therefore would be favourable to people rather than profits. That’s why nearly a million pounds was pumped into his leadership challenge (about four times as much as Jeremy Corbyn managed to raise in campaign funds).

A friend of mine in the Labour party – not a Corbynista by any stretch of the imagination – recently made a comparison that became popular amongst Smith’s supporters: a boss can’t run a company to just keep the paying customers happy; he has to keep his workers happy too (this analogy was used by May to cast Corbyn as the unpopular boss in her infamous Thatcherite ‘Remind him of anybody?’ Commons remarks). However, my friend also admitted, ‘If someone is a career politician, their career is to be a politician…so what does that say about them when they can’t even get that job done? They had one job!

Of course, the truth is, politicians aren’t in a career. An MP answers not to a corporate boss, but to us. They are not mere workers like you or I, but representatives honoured enough to be sent by their locality to parliament to fight for those interests. Given the time it takes, they are compensated rather well for the tasks they carry out, but despite this responsibility still earn less than most bankers or professional footballers. It ought to be the highest honour one can receive, with no greater responsibility than being the one citizen from their area to represent those collective interests. But instead, it’s treated by too many like a birthright, or a nice little addition to a CV on the way to greater power and wealth.

Owen Smith was chewed up and spat out by the very system he stepped forward to represent and protect. But, until that system is democratised for the many and not the few, I suspect he’ll do just fine. After all, his job goes on, and since he did stand up for the cause, it’s one that will lead to a long illustrious career in the boardrooms of those interests.

Broken Panes and Gravy Trains

The broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics

– Emmeline Pankhurst

My birthplace of Doncaster – home of the Mallard itself – missed out on the chance to host the National Railway Museum, which is now instead based in York. While a Canadian friend I took to visit the place thought it was the most boring thing she’d ever seen, I found it fascinating. How terribly British of me!

But while there, by far the most interesting discovery for me was the revelation that the Duke of Wellington was immensely concerned about the development of the rail network across the country because ‘it will allow the lower orders to go uselessly wandering about.’ He actually said that.

Of course, it’s important for elites to enjoy their avarice by ring-fencing themselves off from those who are, as a result, left with very little – it’s how they get away with a situation where around 1% of the global population control half of all the world’s wealth. The filthy rich riding the gravy train enjoy their spoils as the poor are kept behind borders – be that in the southern hemisphere, the East, Eastern Europe, or in Northern England; every part of the world has its traditionally poorer areas, the localised conclusion to this approach being the “ghetto.” Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra called ghettos ‘modern day concentration camps.’

Today, those of us who reside in Northern England – traditionally industrial, working class, and socialist – find ourselves having to find about a hundred quid to be able to get to our nation’s capital of London by train on a network sold off and bought up by corporations like Richard Branson’s Virgin. Yes, it effectively still stops us “lower orders” from moving about and bothering those in the areas of wealth. Enjoying a drink in a nice Soho bar one evening, a friend of mine and I got told to keep our voices down because regular customers could hear our northern accents, which they clearly found most unsavoury. At least they could rely on the expensive, privately-owned rail network to at least attempt to stop us “lower orders” showing up very often.

With the British public clamoring for a reversal to rail privatisation, former Labour leader Ed Miliband took a step in the right direction by suggesting the state ought to be able to bid for ownership of the networks – albeit with the government £1.5 trillion worse off after its little gift to the banks. But current leader Jeremy Corbyn has been bold enough to represent the public interest and call for control of the railways to be wrested away from corporate ownership, even personally demonstrating the packed carriages of the sold out trains – and sold out in more ways than one.

Of course, an establishment media that conveniently eventually fell asleep during David Cameron’s tax affairs scandal and Tory election fraud suddenly pounced into action to aid and abet their corporate friends as Richard Branson’s Virgin attempted to deny their train carriages were ever crowded and that Jeremy Corbyn was lying – offering their own CCTV images to the press in a break from normal protocol.

This clip exemplifies everything a statesman is, and all that a journalist is not; it’s public relations work for vested interests in direct opposition to our own interests:

The right-wing media barrage was evident from day one, and I’ve already written about that and the importance for them to stop Corbyn talking about policy – to prevent these popular ideas gaining support from the people, and sweeping him into greater power. The more they talked about his love life, his clothes, his diplomatic history, the more Corbyn talked about policy. And this was dangerous; a threat to the status quo right from the start. They were so used to riding the gravy train that they were now more than a little worried.

Some Labour figures, like Will Simpson of Soft Left Politics, claimed they totally accepted the democratic decision of the party and its members with enthusiasm, only to then attack Jeremy Corbyn later. Owen Smith himself did exactly the same. Others, like then-unknown Jamie Reed, made a name for themselves by immediately issuing statements suggesting that, in this case, democracy was wrong, and they were right, damn it.

Meanwhile, several Labour politicians plotted against him to the point where they leaked his plans to give the Tories a heads-up against him, and briefed Nick Robinson’s replacement Laura Kuenssberg, the media establishment’s “Journalist of the Year.” It became apparent that his leadership was a glitch in the Matrix; it was an unplanned anomaly that all of the metropolitan elites needed to undo. The newspapers, radio stations, and television channels were key tools to do this.


American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore welcomed the rise of Bernie Sanders in the States, and Jeremy Corbyn over here: in a Western culture sick and tired of career politicians, democratic socialists like these were an effective counter to the thick right-wing thuggery of the Tea Party and UKIP. You may remember Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine (still one of his best), where he got into “gun nut” Charlton Heston’s house by flashing his membership card for the National Rifle Association, reiterating to him that ‘I’m a member of your organisation’ so he could then go on to demand answers, eventually exposing him.


This media technique was applied by Britain’s Ben Ferguson while shooting the documentary The Outsider. He introduced himself as a Labour party member, building up enough trust with Jeremy Corbyn over two months to then arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the newly-elected Labour leader was unfit to take the party into a general election.

Owned by Disney, Vice Media enjoyed an additional $70 million investment from Rupert Murdoch in 2013, and one year later launched Vice News, which produced The Outsider. Similarly to Panorama and Dispatches in their own ill-fated quests to dig up dirt on Corbyn and the Momentum movement, Vice News failed in its attempt to assassinate Corbyn’s character, the greatest success of The Outsider being its feeding of headlines to national newspapers quoting Corbyn saying Labour ‘held on’ to many council seats in amongst his string of successes in defiance of adversity – the papers spinning it as an admission that, instead, Labour barely “HELD ON” changing the entire context and subsequent narrative in talking about these council elections.


So, with The Outsider’s hatchet-job not executed as well as they’d hoped, the political and media establishment then got together to portray Corbyn’s train experience as a “publicity stunt” in the same way Michael Moore pulled off “publicity stunts” to raise awareness of the scandalous bank bailout. By this rationale, we would have completely rejected any credibility of the message of the Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in protest because, hey, it was a “publicity stunt.” Perhaps Tony Blair’s disciples shouldn’t be talking about “publicity stunts” given their own track record of using them so cynically themselves.

But apparently, Corbyn’s “media strategy” is awful. Even if this were true, would it be a shock? Media gurus with ruthless ambition tend not to be attracted to campaigns of politicans who won’t open doors to big corporations for them. Of course, if Corbyn did somehow get himself a top-of-the-line public relations team, the media establishment would use it as evidence that “traingate” was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the very best in the business. He can’t win.

So what the Labour leader does instead is just highlight issues straight from the heart. What matters is the purpose. Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of history, at little or no personal gain (in fact, even sometimes to the detriment of himself).

But John Mann is a very different kind of MP. Like most career politicians who just want power and fame, Mann’s value system, like the late New Labour project itself, remains a machine with no fuel but plenty of hot air, and he quite happily revealed that Owen Smith had been willing to challenge Jeremy Corbyn since the beginning of 2016. By the spring, Margaret Hodge was maneuvering to commence machinations against the leader. And in the EU referendum campaign chaos, while Jeremy Corbyn was doing more than almost anyone else in his party to campaign for the country to choose to remain in Europe, Hilary Benn was instead busy gathering signatures to mount a vote of no confidence in his leader.

Another attempt at pushing Jeremy Corbyn’s buttons was in exploiting the strong link between the Labour leader and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was an opponent of the fascist Daily Mail and Evening Standard and a champion of human rights at home and abroad who had long supported the Palestinian cause and opposed the Israeli state’s atrocities carried out in the name of Zionism – which, you know, exists separately from Judaism the same way ISIS operates in contrast to the billion peaceful, pacifist followers of Islam around the world.


Livingstone regularly gave interviews on the subject, and so no doubt footage was trawled through with a fine tooth comb and any newer media appearances scrutinised for slip-ups or discrepancies or anything that could be used to damage Corbyn. Inevitably, the moment soon came, and Livingstone was caught pointing out the allegations that Nazis supported Zionism – which somehow, in our neo-McCarthyist era, of course automatically meant he was suddenly a racist anti-Jew; an anti-Semite – and our friend John Mann was there, quick as a shot, to shout at him and point the finger, complete with the press corps in tow, as their news room colleagues concocted a narrative about, get this: ANTI-SEMITISM IN LABOUR, a party founded on the principles of standing up for oppressed peoples!

Even Momentum, arguably the most exciting mass movement to happen in party politics since the birth of Labour itself, with a membership of 12,000, was accused of “anti-Semitism” even with its high-ranking Jewish figures. It was important that your usual white Anglo-Saxon Protestants told us who the anti-Semites were, even if the accused were Jewish – the same way they claim Christmas is at risk of being banned because ‘it offends Muslims,’ when Muslims almost always say no such thing. The establishment were calling the shots – the same rich, white old men as ever, telling us who were the anti-Semites and who were the commies and who were the ones wanting to ban Santa.

The media, then, had successfully backed Corbyn into a corner: to do nothing would have been political suicide and the opening the plotters had needed as the media kept beating the drum and singing from the hymn sheet of the McCarthy witch-hunt. Corbyn spoke out on anti-Semitism and suspended Livingstone from his party. And yet his popularity still sustained in the face of the press corps as 75% of their coverage was said to misrepresent him, a staggering statistic.

Despite losing a key socialist ally in the former Mayor of London, Corbyn went on to lead a Labour party that forced Tory reversals, won by-elections and mayoral elections, Sadiq Khan cleverly riding the wave of Corbynism to get into office and yet at the same time keep himself away from – then even turn against – Corbyn himself, as Labour elites mobilised more to find ways to oust their leader, their media contacts offering a blackout on these additional little-known yet massive victories, to protect the public from any awareness of Corbyn’s ability to win.

It was important that every single day, people were put forward in the press to talk about Corbyn being a ‘weak leader.’ Even my own friends and family, some formerly staunch self-professed “Corbynistas,” started to concede ‘Ah, actually, maybe he’s not strong enough to lead Labour to victory.’

If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as an axiom, even in direct opposition to the facts of reality. And that’s how you stop someone successful: you create a narrative that they’re miserable failures, so people fall out of love with them. We love winners; hate losers – just ask the Americans who championed such a culture. Meanwhile, the American media itself took a businessman who inherited a fortune and completely squandered it, and portrayed him as a success: Donald Trump is now president-elect of the United States.

Despite the Westminster elites undermining him, attacking him almost every day – even writing for The Sun to do so – Corbyn has succeeded time and again. That under Corbyn’s leadership Labour have enjoyed any successes at all is testament to Corbyn’s popularity due to his social democratic principles, popularity that sees thousands of people lining up to hear his speeches and rallying in support of his views, though again, with next to no media coverage – but if these incredible rallies were on the evening news every time they took place, he’d look more like a winner, and we can’t have that, can we? It can’t be allowed to look like a movement; in fact, it mustn’t be seen at all. And it rarely is.

The media fall silent on Corbyn’s successes and scream headlines on even the tiniest failures. For example, Labour lost a single councillor in my humble city of Sheffield that rarely otherwise gets any attention at all, and it made the national news. The truth is, the councillor that lost the seat was anti-Corbyn. But they never bothered mentioning that little detail much, instead portraying it not as a symptom of the party’s disunity but as DISASTER FOR CORBYN! Meanwhile, a massive parish win from UKIP was no big deal. And let’s not forget Corbyn’s historic mandate, with nasty little Labour plotter Luke Akehurst saying ‘we must change the membership.’ He actually said that! (I’d cite this one, but his tweet since seems to have become “unavailable”). Fortunately, I took a screenshot:

Yes, the attitude was one of, ‘Keep having leadership elections over and over until we get the one we want…by any means necessary.’ They hated the momentum behind Corbyn – namely, Momentum itself.


Momentum crowds – as incredibly diverse as any you’ve ever seen in this country, as you’ll know if you’ve attended one – were portrayed by politicians and their pals in the press as dangerous. Of course, this is dangerous to the establishment, but these depictions were of abusive, violent protesters, “Fleet Street Fox” Susie Boniface calling the peaceful members a minority, ripping into Momentum and Corbyn with such hatred and vitriol, and with zero irony. An entire group demonised; democracy itself deemed the enemy.

So what of the spirit of the Labour party we were told needed to be “healed” by preachers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith after they challenged their democratically elected leader to wound it so badly in the first place?

We must remember Jo Cox, assassinated by a right-wing extremist, and her legacy of believing we have “more in common.”

Clearly this is not a view shared by those in parliament, where the likes of Jamie Reed belittle and ridicule and mock our own party leader to contribute to the official opposition’s impotence as he, in particular, instead praises David Cameron’s successor, Theresa May. Apparently, as expressed by his aggressive opposition to Corbyn’s leadership since day one, he and his ilk do not feel we have “more in common,” but instead must refuse to support the party’s democratically elected leader. All the while, carefully orchestrated publicity stunts were still set up to hammer home messages to the mainstream media-consuming public in direct opposition to reality. Still, Corbyn expressed his desire for a “kinder, gentler politics.”


Although the country seems to have already forgotten the horror of such an incident, the Labour party suspended campaigning on the EU referendum for a few days after the murder of Jo Cox. But a brick through the window of the same building that also acts as a constituency office for Angela Eagle was apparently enough for party head honchos to ban constituency party meetings as they, one after another, were passing votes of confidence in Corbyn, which we must assume was just a coincidence. And let’s not forget that once again the press were right there at the scene to capture Eagle’s reaction to the broken window actually implying it was Corbyn’s own personal responsibility, even though the police, at the time of writing, have yet to capture the perpetrator (and you can be forgiven for suspecting David Cameron).

While Owen Smith was revealing his misogyny, Labour women instead attacked longtime feminist Jeremy Corbyn by blaming him for abuse they’d received. Quite incredible, as reality was turned entirely on its head like never before by a media that had blamed Scousers for the Hillsborough Disaster, portrayed picketing miners as aggressors against police, and reported to us that Saddam Hussein could launch a nuclear attack upon us inside 45 minutes. This was beyond anything they’d ever done. John McTernan was given airtime screaming about Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism being dangerous. Yes, you read that right. It all became downright Orwellian. Even The Guardian made wild claims, only to offer corrections down at the bottom of their articles.

The Owen Smith campaign cleverly adopted a strategy where his supporters constantly read out from scripts saying people were dying because of Tory policies so we had to act fast and get into power – while Corbyn, not Smith, was the one with a track record of completely juxtaposing himself against Tory policy. Still, who needs facts when you can just prey on people’s emotions. After all, there’s a gravy train to ride.


Nonetheless, let’s face it, Jeremy Corbyn truly has ‘held on.’ It’s a miracle he’s even managed to last this long. As I write, his deputy leader Tom Watson – not, by the way, subject to re-election to prove his worth – is busy talking to those plotting the next wave of attacks on their leader, on those around him, on the party membership, on those at rallies, and on Momentum. In truth, these people would rather see Labour lose to the Tories under Jeremy Corbyn than help those dying under the Tories, but to admit that would be too honest. And honesty, as you can see, has never really been their thing.

Why Labour Aren’t Rallying the Troops

In 1992, it was The End of History and we were “rockin’ in the free world.” But how did it happen?

As Oliver Stone repeatedly demonstrates in his brilliant series The Untold History of the United States, key figures are important to diplomatic relations.

By the late 1970s, the days of a trade union talisman like Jack Jones were few and far between, and a breakdown in negotiations between unions and the party of Labour they often relied on led to such disastrous events as the Winter of Discontent, and – as a result – Labour in-fighting. With the Winter of Discontent came darker days, blackouts, and the fading of the Post-War Consensus.

The socialism of Michael Foot, who had slowly worked his way up to the leadership of Labour, was routed by the flag-waving nationalism led by the Falklands-fighting Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. With the Winter of Discontent still fresh in the collective psyche of the British population, Labour’s Neil Kinnock turned his back on striking coal miners who were having their pits closed by Thatcher simply because theirs was the strongest union around.


Thatcher went on to dominate the 1980s Social Darwinist culture of “survival of the fittest.” It was indeed, a different time. Council houses were being bought up and sold off, and almost everyone believed they too could make it big. State services were subjected to a big sell-out. Entire sectors were being deregulated, giving financiers free rein. The money was flowing into London via the stock exchange, bankers were wheeling and dealing, and casino capitalism thrived, and as a result, a devastating £1.5 trillion bank bail-out looming in the not-too-distant future.

As Labour figures like Tony Benn had warned, neoliberalism turned out to be disastrous for our society. Thatcherism and, to a lesser extent, Blairism, exacerbated inequalities and overseas adventures damaged our standing in the world, with Iraq making the Falklands look like a playground fight by comparison. The ramifications would be felt to this very day, given the instability caused to the Middle East as a result of the illegal intervention.

While Tony Benn was with his ‘favourite politician’ Jeremy Corbyn and hundreds of thousands more of us protesting the horrific attack on Iraq, his son Hilary Benn was voting for it. And just this year, he called for air strikes on Syria in what the media claimed was an oratory masterpiece worthy of any historic figure able to rouse his population towards war. And this has been key: form over content; style over substance.

While Hilary Benn was being cheered on by Conservatives in the House of Commons, the same Tories were still intoxicated by the celebration of the harm they’d caused through blaming the debt left by a £1.5 trillion bank bail-out on Labour “overspending” on public services, using the lie as a way to stop said services, or even sell them off to their rich mates. Thatcherism was alive and well: it was “survival of the fittest” again.

Working class people had had enough of being left mere scraps. Some were so angry they’d even fight over the scraps with anyone else disadvantaged, be it neighbour or immigrant. Communities were being devastated. The Eighties were over. Greed was no longer seen as good. “Occupy” protests unfathomable in the Eighties were suddenly commonplace. If Labour’s Eighties brand of weak ineffectual socialism was resented, Eighties Thatcherism was downright hated. When she died, people were burning effigies of her in the street.


In high contrast to Hilary Benn, when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader in September of 2015 he was criticised for reading out statements from citizens he was representing, and I recall someone on Twitter pointing out, ‘Surely what matters more are the words on the paper?’

Corbyn’s entire approach has realigned our perception of politicians and made us believe that it can be policy, not pizazz, that matters – that going to court because you refuse to pay the poll tax means more than throwing your jacket over your shoulder, flashing a grin, snapping a selfie, and then going and killing thousands of people. What we do matters more than what we say. Corbyn had a long history of doing the right thing, even when his own party weren’t.

No surprise, then, that Blair’s old buddies were immediately setting out to stop Corbyn as soon as he became leader. They’d plotted to take him down since before the EU referendum. At this point doing better in the polls than other party leaders, Corbyn – who has never been slow to point out the flaws of the EU – still campaigned harder than anyone else in Labour to resist knee-jerk xenophobia and call for us to “remain,” as meanwhile Hilary gathered signatures to call for his resignation.


Hilary and his plotters against Corbyn had already been given a gift by David Cameron: if Britain chose to “remain,” then Corbyn was a hypocrite and only succeeded because of the party’s position on the matter; if the UK decided to “leave,” he was a failed campaigner. Of course, as I had predicted for months, it was the latter: people who wish for the status quo will never mobilise the way those who want change do. It was always going to be “leave.” The only thing that surprised me was that it was as close as it was.

So the plotters upped the ante. They coordinated resignations with the BBC for maximum media effect. They briefed Laura Kuenssberg and, thus, David Cameron, on Corbyn’s planned remarks in parliament.

We can only assume – given the absolutely awful “candidates” they ultimately ended up proposing as alternatives to Corbyn – that their plan was to pile on so much pressure on him that he’d buckle, resign, and they’d have a replacement.

Hilary’s buddies who backed Blair bombing Iraq were no doubt anxious to see a Labour leadership act as an apologist for Blair upon the release of the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry. The nearer it approached, the more heat they put on Corbyn. But still, he didn’t go. Instead, he saw the Chilcot findings as a vindication of his – and our – opposition to the attack on Iraq, and issued a long-needed apology on behalf of the Labour party.

Corbyn standing his ground was more important than that, though. Any resignation from Corbyn would have turned away an entire generation from politics; far from being time-travelers from the 1970s, this is a generation interested again – a generation which values multiculturalism, European diplomacy, and social democracy and who will deliver us the future of our country, and this means we must keep them engaged as citizens or finally reduce them to bitter and twisted consumers as Thatcherism sought. Tens of thousands joined Labour to make it the largest socialist party in all of Europe. Thousands marched in British cities in support of the Labour leader. I’ve been on them myself.


Even those few who had returned to the party were being targeted; Labour head honchos were spending more time, effort and energy chasing out socialists than chasing Tories in the race to power, and when asked who they thought would make a better Prime Minister out of Prime Minister Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn being undermined by his own MPs, the British public were thinking the former, in an <sarcasm>absolute shocker</sarcasm>.

When Angela Eagle stepped aside for the sad figure of Owen Smith in the last resort of a formal leadership challenge, the plotters tried to ensure the incumbent couldn’t again stand for election, such was their fear of Jeremy Corbyn remaining leader. The National Executive Committee then declared he could indeed stand, but set about deducting over a hundred thousand votes from him by declaring newer members ineligible to vote, and blocking members of the Unite union, who in turn suggested regional constituents de-select the plotting MP’s…which of course resulted in the suspension of regional constituency meetings. Which was just a coincidence.

But this isn’t a leadership challenge. It’s a membership challenge. It’s a challenge to all of us, as evidenced by the plotters’ asinine suggestion that they’ll have these challenges over and over and over again until they get the one they – not us – want…one of the most insulting sentiments ever directed at Labour party members who knock on doors and post fliers.

This is a struggle for democracy itself. It’s a struggle between the people and the elites in Westminster, and on Fleet Street – whatever’s left of it, as old media slowly and painfully goes into decline while Corbynistas utilise social media to seek out alternative, more reliable and authentic sources of information rather than the opinions of one rich Australian, or one of his fellow media barons, or the BBC establishment.

This is also an opportunity to start the dismantling of a system of power and control and influence that, if continued, would accelerate, rather than stave off, the destruction of the environment, of workers’ rights, and of democracy itself.

London’s outdated relics house a Westminster bubble of leather and gold representing oppressive established entitlement, where echoes bounce around corridors of power to present us with pantomime as an illusion of democracy. The media outlets highlight the delivery and posture of “Maggie” May as she avoids Corbyn’s question on workers’ wages and instead fires at him a personal attack implying he’s at loggerheads with his own “workers” – leaving the social media-savvy citizens to search for the full clip where Corbyn replies with one of the most poignant and pertinent points of our time: that neither she nor any of her colleagues, nor indeed anyone in Westminster, can relate to those of us relying on food banks to eat.


But this particular attack by May – chosen as Prime Minister of Britain by a hundred or so toffs – is telling: it exposes the real delusion of party politics – that a party leader is akin to a chief executive, with key staffers, and shareholders on the outside. Despite the fact shareholders are generally treated with far more reverence than political party members, this comparison is grotesque, and shows how low our expectations of the political system have sunk since the formation of the Labour party itself just over a hundred years ago. We are not shareholders, but stakeholders. We are driven by values, rather than the value of things.

The accidental representative rather than ambitious leader, Corbyn has embraced the simple idea that being in Westminster isn’t a career, but merely a role designated by communities who select their MP. Angela Eagle nodded in agreement with her own constituents, then walked off, drove away in her car, and days later defied their wishes, challenging Corbyn – such is the arrogance and sense of entitlement of these politicos.

Ed Miliband represents my birthplace of Doncaster with no connection to the town whatsoever, merely gifted a “safe” Labour seat to suit what was an up-and-coming politician rewarded for being part of the political establishment with this role to keep him in Westminster; they don’t want some Trot, rabble or Doncastrian dog such as, say, myself who understands Donny villages like Bentley or Askern. I’m not cut from the right cloth, after all. I’m not a careerist who wants power to push apart the doors to boardrooms and corporate-sponsored trust funds for my kids.

You only have to look at the most successful politician in recent history – Tory blue-blood David Cameron – to see the best example of modern politics: if you’re from the right background, you get gifted a safe seat, you rise up the party, do the bidding of elites, and then quit politics to enjoy your yachts while being a token director of a board of some corporation that gets to spread word on the prawn cocktail circuit that they have a former Prime Minister don’t-you-know, and all the contacts that go with that, right there in their company. They all win. The only losers are us. By this point, it’s all so far removed from democracy that we’re utterly irrelevant.

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to all of this. ‘This is the way it’s always been,’ they cry over their canapés.


So it’s not even just about Jeremy Corbyn though, is it? It’s about what he represents. It’s about his desire for politics to embrace the grassroots, rather than coming from these corporate penthouses. And it’s also about his brand of socialism, for which there is an appetite not seen since 1945.

Corbyn has battered the Tories into several reversals in policy, on tax credits, on housing benefits cuts, on disability cuts, on police cuts, on the trade union bill, on academies, and on, and on. All this despite those Westminster elites undermining him, attacking him daily in the press.

Can you imagine what genuine social good could be achieved if the whole party was behind him? If they actually gave a shit about people like you and me, rather than what Board of Directors they get to sit on after parliament, or how big the trust fund for their kids might be.

But though the money never seems to truly trickle down, the sense of entitlement sure does. You can feel it in Labour party events and meetings. The old guard, who stood by war criminal Tony Blair, and scoffed at the hundreds of thousands of us who marched against him. I attended my Constituency Labour Party meeting recently and sat there in utter shock as one woman supporting Owen Smith angrily shouted, ‘We don’t want rallies!’ This sounds like a joke but I’m not making this up. It actually happened! I have witnesses! The punchline would have to be when dozens more “delegates” erupted into applause as us mere members sat stunned at the back of the room (the naughty area, I assume).

Consider this for a moment. Imagine possessing so much passion in opposition of mass mobilisation around your leader and, as a result, your party. What could be the rationale? What could be seen as threatening about this? What is it about this idea that Labour needs to be Blairite? That Tony Blair had got it right? Because that is an idea removed from reality. New Labour was supposed to be an “election-winning machine” yet it bloody hemorrhaged three million votes! So I ask Blairites: do you want to win elections? Do you really actually want that? And if so, is it on the condition that younger people come into your party, go to the back of the room, sit down, shut up, and just deliver fliers for you when you tell them to?

But, I tell them, if you truly wanted to win a general election, you’d get behind the leader the party members, overwhelmingly, chose. You’d join the momentum. You’d get behind the campaign. You’d fight for the true socialist Labour values that he represents, and that have been written on your membership card, if you’d taken the time to actually read it rather than take absolutely everything for granted for years.

So now, if Jeremy Corbyn again becomes Labour leader, and they again undermine him…they clearly want the Tories to win in 2020. It’s as simple as that.

I thought Gordon Brown was an improvement on Tony Blair, but who is he going to brag to about that? I still got chased by police for peacefully protesting the G20 when he was Prime Minister. But you know what? When the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, I remained a Labour supporter. Just like I did when Ed Miliband was leader.

Abby Tomlinson, the leader of #Milifandom, like Ed, backed Owen Smith, suggesting rallies don’t win elections because, hey, newsflash: the Tories get into power without them!

Despite wisdom beyond her years, this view is an astonishingly naive one, shared by too many in Labour.

While it’s true the Tories don’t win with rallies, it is a fact they win on apathy. They rely on working class citizens staying at home. Corbyn’s rallies have mobilised people, made them excited again, and inspired people to once more believe in democracy and engage in the issues with family and friends – what Michael Moore, when referring to Bernie Sanders over in the States, refers to as the “dragging people to the polls” effect. It’s all so exciting that even Smith himself wants to attend the rallies to talk to Corbyn’s supporters, while Smith’s followers claim rallies are worthless. Confused? Understandably!

If the Labour party now chooses to disconnect itself even further from the communities it was set up to represent, if it feels justified in rigging a democratic process, again and again and again, until it can effectively serve a select few vested interests, and if it decides that it should not fight for democratic socialist values but instead be a “broad church” that is all things to all people – a ship never anchored in principles, left adrift in right-wing waters of murky vested interests – then it won’t have a soul left to be fought for; it will have already lost it. It will have accepted the media and its narrative as it is, when – as Francesca Martinez said – there’s no time left for that; it’s do or die. It’s the end of “The End of History.” It’s an opportunity to truly change things and, hey, as Gordon Brown might say, change the world.

There is one certainty: after this latest ill-intended and anti-democratic process, whatever the result, it will have repercussions on the political landscape felt for many years to come. Either the party elites will save Labour from themselves by ceding more power to democracy, or the politics of cynicism will win the day, casting adrift hundreds of thousands of social democrats who want change – and will seek other means to get it, leaving Labour without the biggest socialist membership in Europe it currently enjoys, but instead a base, and a position, almost every bit as pessimistic, miserable and introspective as the Tories.

Hundreds of thousands of us are involved in this struggle because it matters. I for one will remain active, be it in party politics or simply in politics generally.

Because, after all, politics is too important to be left to politicians.