I was first attracted to Greenpeace because they actually did stuff. Strong beliefs and inactivity can make strange bedfellows, often resulting in apathy, cynicism or hopelessness, but last year I feel I made a difference. I was able to play a small part in making a small change. Making that change involved a lot of hard work, plenty of fun and the chance to celebrate some successes along the way. This is the brief story of Northants Greenpeace in 2010…….
On a recent bus ride to Leicester, I passed through quaint English villages with cricket pitches, ancient taverns and church spires. Between the villages lay miles of green, unspoilt countryside. There were trees, hedges, cows, sheep and the occasional tractor chugging away in a distant field. A beautiful vision of old England, perhaps, so if a group of people were fighting to protect our green and pleasant land, surely, as a patriotic environmentalist, I’d be the first to get right behind them……
At last, the opportunity to combine some political activism with a decent lie-in. The very wise organisers of the Take Back Parliament rally on Saturday 15 May had the good sense to arrange the event for 2pm, giving me time to love my pillow and democracy. I’d just stood in the General Election and had seen the effects of our substandard electoral system: voter apathy; people unable to vote with their hearts; and grossly disproportionate results. I felt the need to be a part of a new movement which is mobilising for greater democracy, demanding fair votes now.
Way back in June last year, Gill and I ran a No2ID stall for a Mark Thomas gig at a theatre in Wellingborough. In return for being able to have a stall at each gig on the tour, No2ID volunteers agreed to help Mark out with one of his many cunning plans. Little did we know where it would all lead. Gigs based around crazy and radical ideas from the audience for a people’s manifesto? Less than a year later, the book is out and Danny Kushlick is standing as the People’s Manifesto candidate for Bristol West in the General Election. Game on…..
We don’t know the true motives behind Gordon Brown giving MPs a vote for a referendum on electoral reform. We don’t think the proposal for an AV system goes anywhere near far enough down the road towards change. We’re just glad that, at long last, the issue of electoral reform has got beyond the talking stage. Take the Red Pill is strongly in favour of radical reform of our voting system. Unlike the Tory leader, David Cameron, who is strongly opposed to proportional representation but, like Blackadder’s Baldrick, has a cunning plan……
There was a great story in the news last week. Tosco, that supermarket bastion of all things posh, decided enough was enough when it came to sloppy ‘in store’ dressing. One of its hideous outlets in Cardiff put up a notice which in effect bars customers who are barefoot or wearing pyjamas. At first we thought we should protest at this outbreak of fashion fascism but then we had a better idea. Let’s make dress code rules for everyone associated with the retail disease more commonly known as Tosco Horribilis……..
It’s a damp, cold November day in Northamptonshire, England. You’re with a bunch of mates outside a country pub which has a wide selection of drinks, delicious food and a roaring log fire. What do you do? That’s right, you all troop into the soggy garden and start reading poetry. Welcome to the world of local Greenpeace activists....
The BBC’s Lack of Irony department has been at it again. On the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of Radio 5 Live presenters, Nicky Campbell, was remembering the momentous occasion and reminded listeners that the event had liberated East Germans, describing them as “the most spied upon people” in the world. It’s a shame that modern journalists seem to have lost the art of linking two very obvious stories......
I’ve been meaning to write this all down for a while and it’s probably quite apt that I’ve finally got started on 11 November, Armistice Day, a time set aside for remembering the war dead. Every year this day fills me with conflicting emotions. I feel huge gratitude to those who died in combat as well as deep sadness for those who are grieving freshly for soldiers killed in more recent times. Battling these emotions is a fierce anger against the stupidity of war, the folly of those who keep us at war and, worst of all, the companies which profit from the misery of war.
It was another of those Saturdays when the lie-in looked like it was going to have to be, as Scooby Doo would put it, a ‘racrifice’. Nottingham was calling and it was too big an issue to claim that the pillow had me in a killer headlock. Plus we had another reason to visit Robin Hood’s hood. Our son Billy was off to Trent Uni open day to check out the politics course. Happily our route to that fine city took us along the wonderful A453, right past the dirty beast that is E-on’s coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar.
There are a lot of efforts at humour on the internet but a lot of efforts fall short of the mark, perhaps causing just a wry smile. Occasionally something will make me laugh for real. But when I saw the picture of the Climate Rush’s stunt at Jeremy Clarkson’s house – dumping a whole load of horse manure on his driveway - it made me laugh out loud. Was it my male English weakness for toilet humour or a sense of justice that caused my response? Puerile or prophetic? You decide....
It was by sheer luck that we happened to be holidaying on the Isle of Wight at the height of the Vestas dispute. Having spent a couple of frustrating days waiting for our car to be fixed, we finally made it to the protest and were able to talk to some of the workers, environmental campaigners and trade unionists who were camped outside the plant. We also managed to replenish some of their basic supplies and leave behind a multi-purpose tea strainer. The whole sad story makes a mockery of all the government’s fine words about a green economy.
Recalling the behaviour of the police at Climate Camp* last year, it was with some mixed feelings that we set out for Kingsnorth again. The site of an old coal-fired power station – and the planned site for the first of a new generation of the same dirty beasts – Kingsnorth has become a key focus for the campaign against climate change. Instead of going up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Steve & Gill (from Take the Red Pill) joined social justice campaigners, green activists, bird lovers and subversive jam makers on another jaunt to the deepest dirtiest part of Kent....
As I write this and think back, I am angry and I feel sick. Many people will have watched the news or read a newspaper about events in the City of London last Wednesday. They may have got the impression that it was all about violent protesters and criminal damage but we know different. How? Because we were in the City on Wednesday – very close to that RBS window - and saw it with our own eyes. Here’s our report and pictures from a day when legal protest was stifled and more people saw the police for what they really are......
The old joke about protest marches is that the organisers usually claim a million people turned up, the police say it was nearer a dozen and the truth lies somewhere in between. So when “the police estimated the crowd at about 35,000”* on Saturday’s Put People First march and rally in London, it would be fair to assume that a lot of people turned up. Steve, Gill & Billy from Take the Red Pill spent a day down south, marching, whistling, shouting, listening, dreaming of a new revolution and then hoping that the coach was coming soon ‘cos it was bloody cold......
Walkers Crisps is an iconic British brand, proud of its British heritage and still making its crisps from “100% British potatoes” at the world’s largest crisp factory in Leicester. On its website, you can read things like, “next time you get stuck into a pack of Walkers Crisps just remember every crunch is the best of British!” Gary Lineker, ex-England striker and now Mr. Bland on BBC’s Match of the Day, is the brand’s poster boy. So why would any patriotic Brit have a problem with buying and eating Walkers Crisps?
Just as the brand name Hoover became synonymous with an everyday activity, so Google has gone from being a brand to being a verb. For many people, searching for something on the internet is the same as ‘googling’ it. For those who used to research using a combination of bulky business directories, microfiches and libraries, searching on the internet can be a liberating experience. It’s not without its dangers, though, and Take the Red Pill has one simple tip which could protect your privacy, your bank balance and possibly your conscience.......
Last Wednesday was another dark day for civil liberties in the UK. Not the first or the worst, but sadly probably not the last. Gordon Brown led his beleaguered government to a nine vote victory for extending the limit for pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects from 28 days to 42 days. Democracy had a bad day and few people come out of the campaign with clean hands. TTRP looks back in anger and looks forward in faint hope......
I don’t mind people disliking me for my beliefs or principles, but when someone gives me a mouthful of abuse because they’ve misread my t-shirt, I really have to draw the line. Enough is enough! I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Croydon, waiting for a friend and minding my own business. Really looking forward to some good company and decent food. Then I noticed a bloke staring at me as if I’d just taken a pee in his chicken chow mein. I checked over my shoulder but there was nobody there – he was definitely eyeballing me and he didn’t look impressed......
It was the perfect election for the reactionary media. Evil left wing, whisky-drinking, newt-loving, car-hating tyrant slain by loveable floppy-haired buffoon. The Evening Standard had a field day with its relentless attacks on Ken Livingstone while no-one really bothered to find out what Boris Johnson actually stood for. It wasn’t so very surprising that Boris Johnson got elected as London Mayor but the campaign and the result did cause us to reflect on one or two other issues. Issues that might have an impact on all of us in the years to come.
Breaking news - loads of kids had a day off school and lots of Scottish people had to queue for petrol! It’s hardly Armageddon and it wouldn’t make a very exciting blockbuster film (“Mel Gibson plays the distraught Scottish motorist fighting against the hordes of evil communist agitators”). Nowadays it seems you only need a one-day strike by one of the teachers’ unions and the threat of strike action at a Scottish oil refinery to get the media wittering on about another “winter of discontent” or “the country grinding to a halt”.
One national radio station’s early evening presenters have been encouraging listeners to ring in and say how expensive fuel is in their area. There have been excited shrieks in the studio as people with nothing better to do have (presumably) pulled over to the side of the road to call in or text the news. “Yes, that’s right, diesel at £18 a litre and I was served by Elvis Presley!” Diesel demos? Unleaded unrest? Whatever next? Here’s TTRP’s potted history of the UK’s failed and somewhat selfish fuel protests.....
The great British public have been asking tough questions about the opening of the new Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport. Oh yes! Unfortunately they’ve been questions like, “can I buy Celebrity Gossip Hell in WH Smith?”, “do you think that Muslim over there is a terrorist?”, “should we forget this lark and take the train?” and “I’m going to New York so why are my bags going to Cape Town?” Still, they’re tougher questions than those being asked by the Queen and the Prime Minister. “Can I wear my red hat?” and “Is CO2 a mobile phone company?”
To some it’s a time of huge religious significance. To others it’s a couple of days off work and a nice long weekend. For some, an excuse to indulge their craving for chocolate. In deepest, darkest Northamptonshire, in the heart of the English countryside, redpillboy started thinking about what Easter meant to him and came up with some disturbing conclusions. Something for consideration and hopefully some action by those with faith and those with none.
Living in a Northamptonshire village, we’re hardly overwhelmed by overt radical activism on a daily basis. Buying a copy of the Guardian can be considered slightly subversive and the only union activity happens behind drawn curtains after Match of the Day on a Saturday night. But in early 2008 something is stirring in the village - and not everyone is happy about it. Yes, the shopping bag revolution has arrived, led by a very determined local lady, aided and abetted by a most unlikely source.
I was listening to a depressing radio show phone-in this week. As usual, those invited to contribute weren’t the most reasonable and coherent speakers, but those taking the most extreme views. A stage managed row to make a more interesting show and to leave listeners shouting at the radio. No effort at unity or consensus. A couple of people kept repeating the well-worn phrase ‘blame culture’ and it got me wondering whether, to some extent, we’ve allowed this catch–all phrase to stop us asking the right questions.
Let’s face it, trade unions in the UK are about as popular as Osama Bin Laden. And as fashionable as socks and sandals. It’s true that, from time to time, the unions have shot themselves in the foot with ill-conceived plans. On the whole, however, public attitudes to unions seem to have been shaped by the mainstream media and the inconvenience union actions can cause to our comfortable lives. There’s been a recent spate of union activity and TTRP has been thinking about the role of unions in today’s world. Would we better off without trade unions?
Having been so badly let down by the last Labour Prime Minister, we’re not going to rush into acclaiming Gordon Brown as the one to lead us into a bright new future. We partied when Labour won the 1997 election but soon we realised that the light at the end of the Thatcher era tunnel really was a train coming to mow us down. A train carrying an illegal war, repressive anti-civil rights legislation and tools like the Private Finance Initiative for stealth privatisation of health and education. But there've been a few encouraging signs in the early weeks of Brown’s reign.
I remember being on holiday in Devon when I heard about a man being shot by the police at Stockwell tube station in South London. I also remember the stories about the man wearing a bulky jacket, leaping the ticket barrier and refusing to comply with instructions from the police. In the context of the failed suicide bombings earlier that week, few people doubted that the brave British police had foiled yet another dastardly plot. But Jean Charles de Menezes was an innocent man and his family is still waiting for British justice two years later…..
If you’re fed up with feeding supermarket monsters like Tossco and Asad (part of the War-Mart family!), but not sure if there are any alternatives, there is good news. Despite the voracious appetite of such beasts to destroy our local businesses and communities while posing as our friends, there are people out there who offer a viable alternative to the “buy one get one free (or the farmer’s kids get it)” brigade. The supermarket fat cats must be having a right laugh, telling us to “Bogof!” then waddling off to the bank with our cash…..
Have you ever searched for your own name on the internet? In a moment of boredom, I scroogled my name and found out some very interesting things that I didn’t know about myself. Apparently I am a man with many talents. I have also come across some people with very interesting and embarrassing names, names to make my slightly dodgy surname seem like a blessing from the gods.
According to one email doing the rounds recently, the following scene took place on a British Airways flight between Johannesburg and London. To be honest, I’d love the story to be true but, even if it’s just a good joke, it’s very funny and deserves to be distributed widely in honour of the British National Party’s pathetic performance in the recent local elections.
Just when we thought we’d all have to stop flying in order to save our planet, along came a saviour in the shape of Carbon Offset Man (wearing organic fair trade cotton boxers over his equally politically correct tights). Now all we have to do is give a few pennies to one of the many firms advertising carbon offsetting services and we can carry on flying with a clean conscience. But what if carbon offsetting is at best ineffective and, at worst, a complete con? Put aside that Easy Jet brochure and take a closer look with TTRP…..
Mention tax to some people and it’s quite possible that they’ll start to twitch, have trouble breathing and occasionally, in extreme cases, start to foam at the mouth. It’s rumoured that some even have wax voodoo dolls of senior Inland Revenue staff on which they take out their frustrations. Many law-abiding citizens moan about tax and see its evasion as an indoor sport rather than a crime. It’s not just because we like bucking the trend that TTRP has some good things to say about tax……..
What occasion could bring together such an unusual mix of people united in the same cause? Ronan Keating, the Archbishop of Canterbury, old people, young people, Muslims, Jews and Christians. People wearing their pants on the outside. People banging drums, paint pots, nappy bins and saucepans. Marching past Parliament and Downing Street. All sending the same message to the UK government – stop giving taxpayers’ money to the people who perpetuate poverty. So does people power work?
How would you or I like it if tomorrow we were picked up by the police and rushed to a high security prison where we were locked up for years on end without being charged with any offence or even told why we had been arrested – and then refused adequate legal representation – and then told that the prison in which we existed was in a place like Narnia where standard international law didn’t apply?? Let’s talk about Guantanamo Bay…..
When Nick Yarris walked out of prison in 2004, he says that he “began life all over after 8,057 days locked in a box.” He was released after 23 years on death row in the US when DNA evidence proved his innocence. 23 years alone in a cell no bigger than the average bathroom…..
Some people would say that corporations are concerned with only one thing. Making as much money as possible for their bosses and their owners (shareholders) as quickly as possible. The term ‘fat cat’, once used of tubby moggies like Garfield, is now reserved exclusively for overpaid executives. So why are huge corporations like McDonald’s, BP and Nestle spending millions trying to convince us that they are employee-loving, tree-hugging, community-building companies. Could it be because they have to or because failing to do so might hurt their profit figures?
When William Wallace cries freedom near the climax of Braveheart every libertarian fibre in my body responds in perfect unison with the hairs on my back (a true urban gorilla) and my wayward male tear ducts. Suddenly I want to fight the powers that would dictate our freedom, to stick two fingers up at those who tell us we should respect them simply for who they are and I want to rage against the machine which would make us dumb compliant cogs.