Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

The Tiger In The Smoke


The Tiger In The Smoke –
Art and Culture in Post-War Britain
By Lynda Nead
Yale University Press – £35.00

Six years of war had drained the colour from Britain. Or so it seemed to those arriving in the country at its ports and railway stations from overseas and to those living in its faded, battered streets and amongst the broken buildings and bombsites. The aftermath of war was perceived and later remembered through a register of greys: the colours of bombed ruins and rubble, the hue of fatigue and austerity, of ongoing rationing and uncertainty. To many, even the air, the atmosphere, was gloomy and muted, with fogs making the landscape strangely and relentlessly colourless, spreading a pall of smoke-saturated particles over streets, buildings and trees.

                                            Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces’
                                            (‘The Atmosphere of Ruins’)

This is an absolutely terrific book.

Indeed, The Tiger In The Smoke – Art and Culture in Post-War Britain is without any fog-induced, remote shadow of a doubt, one of the most inspired, invigorating and above all, quintessentially English books I’ve read in a long, long time. But what’s interesting, is there’s also no doubting that – that for all the wrong reasons – someone like former Smiths singer and annoying, current-day gob-shite of utterly unwarranted racist persuasion, Morrissey, would undoubtedly embrace it with all the tactile impudence of an over zealous apostle.

Likewise, former UKIP head-honcho and equally ill-informed, hypocrite from hell, Nigel Farrage.

Reason being, both brazen bigots and their idiosyncratic ilk, inexorably (and blindly) hark after a period in relatively recent English history, wherein myopic, super independence and everything that that nigh entailed – rationing, sectarianism, dire discrimination and the contagion of the horrific class system – was the invariable, ‘right-on’ order of the day.

As if ”the hue of fatigue and austerity, of ongoing rationing and uncertainty,” resembled something of the good old days; and was/is thus, something to be adhered to.

Admittedly, this absolutely isn’t to say The Tiger In The Smoke in anyway condones Britain’s black and white era of ”rationing and uncertainty.”
It resolutely does not.

It’s just that here we have a book which wholeheartedly substantiates what Britain, or England to be precise, really was like after the Second World War.
Not great.
Yet it remains some sort of nostalgic epoch – clearly underlined by perpetuating hardship and struggle – which today’s ignorant and utterly foolhardy Brexiteers long to return to.

Authoress Lynda Nead touches on as much in the chapter ‘Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces,’ where she writes: ”In Lewis Gilbert’s controversial 1953 film Cosh Boy, the young and violent juvenile delinquent, Roy, forces his respectable girlfriend to have sex with him in a bombsite. Bombsites were where ‘spivs’ made their deals and carried out their crimes: crepuscular, broken places that were breeding a corrupt and depraved population. They seemed to draw suspicion, violence and discontent; in 1955 the race relations writer Michael Banton observed that white hostility to the colonial immigrant population was, in part, because ‘Indecent behaviour in the alleys and bombed buildings was frequent.’ This was the world of bombsites as opposed to picturesque ruins: murder, rape, prostitution, spivs, homosexuals and black immigrants, the nightmare antithesis of the ideal new Britain of the planners and improvers.”

Nead could quite easily have called the chapter ‘Broken Britain and Horrid Empty Spaces,’ because in a way, these 337 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Notes and Index) are just as social as they are political as they are timely – simply because it captures said time period, both majestically and magnificently.

The photography throughout is alone, profoundly stark and telling.

Whether it’s Bill Brandt’s ‘The Square Where the Nightingale Died with the Fog in its Throat,’ Bert Hardy’s ‘The Birmingham of Yesterday,’ Haywood Magee’s ‘Immigrants Arriving at Victoria Station, London, or once again, Bert Hardy’s ‘The Horse Dealers.’

All tell the truth as it so effervescently needs to be be told; because as we all well know, true photography – before the onset of photo-shop and the ease with which to so readily manipulate – doesn’t lie.

To be sure, The Tiger In The Smoke tells the truth.
Just one facet (among many) which warrants investigation.

Other than that, each of Nead’s nine exceptional chapters traverse a certain interdisciplinary approach to film, television and advertising; which to be honest, more or less transcends time (and to a certain degree, fashion). With such chapter headings as the aforementioned ‘Broken Buildings and ‘Horrid Empty Spaces,’ ‘To Let In The Sunlight,’ ‘Learning To Think In Colour’ and ‘Battersea, Whitechapel and the Colours of Culture,’ the book provides unprecedented analyses of the art and culture – not to mention the trajectory of life and subliminal politics – within the shot-gun parameters of post-war Britain.

The ghastly repercussions of which the equally ghastly Foreign Secretary (a joke, surely?) Boris Johnson is still utilising and distorting for his own, ego-driven ends.

The kernel of said, ego-driven ends is touched on throughout.
None more so than in the fifth chapter, ‘Thirty Thousand Colour Problems,’ where Nead candidly writes: ”The dissolution of the empire after 1945 was ragged and violent; in the mid-1950s, Britain was involved in colonial wars in Cyprus, Malaya and Kenya, and reports of these conflicts fed into beliefs and assumptions about migrants from the empire who were now living in Britain. In particular, the conflicts in Kenya between 1952 and 1956, involving the Mau Mau, seemed to feed into long-established imperial fantasies of superstitious and violent natives, violating and murdering English women and bringing on themselves violent reprisals.”

As mentioned at the outset of this review, the likes of Morrissey, Farage and perhaps the BNP et al, will undoubtedly confide, take some sort of comfort in as well as confuse The Tiger In The Smoke with that of their own disgruntled, dishonest and utterly disgusting world-view.

This is a colossal shame, because this rather magisterial book cries out to be seen and wholly embraced for all the right reasons, and for what it really is: that of a template as to what Britain will probably revert back to – if it hasn’t already done so by way of the increase in recent hate crime – once the true horror of Brexit finally descends.

David Marx


The Politics of English Nationhood


The Politics of English Nationhood
By Michael Kenny
Oxford University Press – £18.99

What counts as culture in England now […] is the detritus left behind by the disappearance of the stolid independence and self-reliance of it’s working class. In its place has emerged a loud, rude, and self-interested individualism which occasionally erupts in the form of chauvinistic nationalism.

At the vanguard of Britain’s deplorable chauvinistic nationalism, stands the overtly vile, dangerous and detrimental excuse of a human being, Nigel Farage; for whom the words intelligence and understanding clearly count for very little.

If anything at all.

As one of the prime, fundamental architects of Brexit, he and his most myopic ilk have a hell of a lot to answer for. First and perhaps foremost, for having promoted Engerland unto the nigh high-octane stakes of it, along with the US, being the laughing stock of much of the western world. Not to mention the ever increasing upsurge in all round general nastiness and hate-crime – wholeheartedly substantiated by the above opening quote.

To be sure, The Politics of English Nationhood absolutely isn’t coy in what it says; and luckily, for those with a conscience at least, nor does it cower beneath the power of the right-wing media and (surely unsustainable) abundance of fake news. A social cancer of sorts, currently doing the elongated and inexorable rounds of ill-advised persuasion.

But herein, Michael Kenny, who is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University in London, offers more than a mere ”powerful challenge” to current day thinking.

These 243 pages (excluding a Preface to the paperback edition, Acknowledgements, Notes and Index) do much to traverse the staid, negative, political behaviour, that is by far, far too prevalent amid Britain’s current political ideology: ”Throughout the EU Referendum campaign, the dual focus of the ‘Leave’ campaign upon the elitist and metropolitan interests served by arguments for ‘Remain,’ and a continual focus upon immigration, were combined with the language of popular sovereignty and national recognition. This rhetoric spoke particularly to English voters for whom worries over migration have served as a proxy for fears about the perceived indifference of the political establishment to their economic position and cultural traditions. The ‘Leave’ slogan ‘Take back control’ proved highly effective in this context, and allowed figures like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to speak simultaneously to concerns about sovereignty, belonging, and nationhood.

Refreshingly and rightly so, Kenny brings in all the relative parties here, and tells it with all the fine nuance of how it really ought to be told.

He also addresses all the terrible, smokescreen bullshit head-on, as he continues: ” Its vernacular companion was the phrase ”I want my country back,” and was repeatedly used by UKIP leader Nigel Farage. This spoke to nativist fantasies of an England unmarked by ethno-cultural diversity and of a socio-economic order that had long disappeared. The Referendum afforded the opening for an outpouring of some of the nationally focused frustration, and the inchoate desire for greater self-determination, which had been building in many different parts of England for the last quarter of a century.”

Equally well researched and illuminating, The Politics of English Nationhood, will in future years, be undoubtedly held in high-regard; not to mention referred to as the book that divulged how, where and why, England got it so horribly and undeniably wrong.

David Marx

Ethics for a Full World


Ethics for a Full World
Or, Can Animal-Lovers Change the World?
By Tormod V. Burkey
Clairview Books – £12.99

The ”control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.

                                                                                        (Rachel Carson) 1962

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

                                                                                        St Augustine

As with the above quotes, this most thought provoking of publications is liberally peppered throughout with enough ”stop you in your tracks” type quotes, to hopefully hush even the the most buffoon induced likes of Boris ‘I Really Do Need To Start All Over Again’ Johnson (‘Especially In The Ethics Department’).

But hey, long-lost principals aside, Ethics for a Full World – Or, Can Animal-Lovers Change the World?, really is the sort of book that is not only paved with tumultuous good intentions, but needs to be read (and then re-read) by everyone in Texas and the deplorable likes of perhaps Theresa May’s entire government – over and over and over again.

Sadly though, Tormod V. Burkey has herein written the sort of book that will no doubt be wholly embraced by the likes of Brighton’s Caroline Lucas and perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, yet probably – or should I say absolutely – no-one within the Conservative Party (not to mention Texas).

The mere fact that the word ‘Ethics” appears on the cover, will undoubtedly substantiate as much.

Indeed, these 150 pages (excluding Notes) are, as the author of Environmental Politics for the 21st Century, Lloyd Timberlake has said: ”one of the shortest, sharpest, clearest and most compelling descriptions of the causes and cures of our environmental bankruptcy that I have ever read.” To which one can only comply and wholeheartedly agree, for if, as Thomas Pynchon is quoted as saying (in chapter three’s ‘Why Are We Not Acting To Save The World?’) ”they can get you asking the wrong question, they don’t have worry about the answers.”


One of the most vital, vivid and translucent of books in a very long time.

David Marx

Europe Since 1989


Europe Since 1989 – A History
By Philipp Ther
Princeton University Press – £27.95

The Brexit campaign succeeded because it insisted there is an alternative, even if it is detrimental to large parts of the population and might in fact lead to the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

Who’d have thought that back in 1989 – when Germany was still (just about) divided into two parts and the dreadful Margaret Thatcher was still at the helm of British politics – that less than thirty years later, Westminster would bestow the entire country’s future upon the neanderthalic shoulders of rabid nationalism?

Whether it’s the inexorable bumbling oaf that is actual Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson (who, along with the vile Nigel Farrage, the more than accommodating playwright, Alan Bennett, has since described as ”not having a moral bone in his body”), or the tumultuous hordes of racist empty heads from Newquay to Newcastle – the United Kingdom is indeed on a dissolutory slope to unspeakable disaster.

As one reads through the ten chapters of this altogether compelling book, one very much comes to realise as much. Especially as Phillip Ther, who is Professor of Central European History at the University of Vienna, hurls a menagerie of political punches – almost all of which land right upon the wide-open face of current-day, populist posturing.

To be sure, since the initial inception of Europe Since 1989 – A History, Britain has a new Prime Minister in Theresa May, while both the US and France have new Presidents; but the all round general essence of what is written amid these 337 pages (excluding Preface, Acknowledgments, Notes to Chapters, Selected Bibliography and Index), makes for more than robust reading.

Not to mention, profound common sense.

In the final chapter (‘The Roads Not Taken’) for instance, Ther refers to the liberal, Oxford-based sociologist, Ralf Dahrendorf, who, in relation to ”Japan, South Korea and Taiwan […] having generated wealth before introducing democracy,” he quotes as having rejected ”the use of the term ”revolution” in the context of 1989. In his view of history, revolution always caused more harm than good, especially on an economic level. To him, 1989 was, instead, a ”transition” to a liberal democracy and market economy, which he hoped the West would assist, as actively and sympathetically as possible.”

In response to this, one can only agree that most of the West has assisted, although the UK, it has to be said, has major problems with said assistance. Furthermore, due to the utterly absurd and long-forgotten ideology of Cool Brittania, the powers that be do not even want to reach out to Europe – let alone Asia.

Again, as the author makes clear in the Preface to this English edition: ”As Brexit shows, the old specter of nationalism is back again, and has greater popular appeal than the EU, which as been made the scapegoat for all sorts of social and economic problems. The populists promise to safeguard their ethnically defined nation from the ills of global competition, labour competition at home, rising criminality, foreign terrorists, and the decay of traditional national values.”

Hmm., ‘traditional national values,’ at the acute and detrimental expense of everything it supposedly holds dear, and dare I actually say it: values.

For further substantiation and background, read this exceedingly well-researched book.

David Marx

Messages From A Lost World


Messages From A Lost World –
Europe On The Brink
By Stefan Zweig
Pushkin Press – £16.99

Darkness must fall before we are aware of the majesty of the stars above our heads. It was necessary for this dark hour to fall, perhaps the darkest hour in history, to make us realise that freedom is as vital to our soul as breathing to our body.

                                                                                                                        Stefan Zweig

With regards Germany having fallen unto the abyss of such abhorrent absolutism during the nineteen-thirties; are the above words not as equally descriptive and heartbreaking as events currently taking place in both the United Kingdom and the United States?

With such division as directly manifested by Brexit and the vile, vitriolic likes of Donald Trump, one cannot help but ask if humanity, let alone society at large, has learnt anything (from history).

Wasn’t Hitler’s madness enough?

The New Republic succinctly refers to Stefan Zweig as ”one of liberalism’s greatest defenders,” which, it has to be said, this astonishingly brave and in parts, beautiful book, more than quintessentially attests to.

In ‘The Sleepless World’ alone, the Austrian born, Jewish writer bequeaths the reader with such majesty as: ”A thousand thoughts restlessly on the move, from the silent towns to the military camp-fires, from the lone sentry on his watch and back again, from the nearest to the most distant, those invisible gliding threads of love and tribulation, a weft of feelings, a limitless network now covering the world, for all the days and all the nights.”

To think that an array of monsters amid the Third Reich may well have read these words – but still acted the deplorable way they did (by among other atrocities, initiating the Final Solution), really is hard, if not impossible to comprehend.

There gain, certain books were only written so’s to be burnt – were they not?

Were the likes of Gove, May, Farage, Johnson and that utterly messianic, deplorable cunt, Trump, to even have the capacity to evoke, let alone believe in and/or act upon ”those invisible gliding threads of love and tribulation […] a limitless network now covering the world, for all the days and all the nights;” said world would (today) be a far better, safer place.

As Will Stone has written in this edition’s Introduction: ”Nationalism is the sworn enemy of civilisation, whether past, present or future, its malodorous presence thwarting the development of intelligence, its tenets those of division, regression, hatred, violence and persecution. In nationalism, with the Nazis as its most lethal form […]. Zweig’s Europe is an almost mystical conviction that whatever remains of the European spirit, the sum of artistic achievement that has accrued for centuries, can only survive the modern plague of nationalism, materialism and philistinism, can only safeguard its crown jewels of philosophical thought, art and literature through a practicable spiritual integration, a higher guild of amiable coalition.”

Try telling that to the current Foreign Secretary; or indeed, any of the words contained herein (and no, I’m not coming from a coveted pedestal of implausible idealism).

If you only read ONE book this year, make it Stefan Zweig’s Messages From A Lost World.

It really is that stunning, pertinent and invaluable.

David Marx

Go Betweens For Hitler

go betweens

Go Betweens For Hitler
By Karina Urbach
Oxford University Press – £20.00

The Duke believed until recently that Germany would win the war. He thinks that Hitler did a wonderful job in Germany. Only trouble is that he ‘overshot the mark.’ Hitler should have managed his ‘Drang nach Osten,’ by measures short of war. The method used in eliminating the Jews was harsh, but he thinks it was necessary to remove the Jewish influence from the German theatre, art, newspapers etc. When asked what he thought had been the percentage of Jews in Germany he replied: ‘about ten per cent.’

This (in a way) timely publication, is both a clarified and justified nod to the distractionary classes who only see things their way – regardless of whether the consequentialist outcome can, or will eventually entail huge disappointment and suffering for society at large. Upon reading this altogether well conceived book, I couldn’t help but think of former Etonian/London mayor, Boris Johnson, spouting forth about how Britain really should leave the European Union.

So far as his own twisted view, and somewhat ignorant agenda is concerned, it may be right for him. Surely as a whole, it’s absolutely not right for the country.

Likewise, Hitler and his odious cronies during the thirties – whose own despicable agenda entailed the murder of millions and the nigh annihilation of Germany itself. Now I’m not for a second, comparing the buffoon that is Johnson with the ghastly intent of Hitler; but what I am saying is that people in power, Donald Trump being another wretched example, ought to look beyond their own myopic calculation, and assess social topography and demographics for what they TRULY are.

Go Betweens For Hitler is a an overt, coherent example of what can happen when one person in (blind) power, can catapult himself way beyond the stratosphere of all reason, by way of a handful of well-connected, intelligent, yet highly selfish people. Its 321 pages (excluding Abbreviations, Notes, Archives and Bibliography, Picture Acknowledgements and Index) are a more than revelatory account of a fundamentally untold story.

The untold story of how some of Germany’s top aristocrats contributed to Hitler’s secret diplomacy during the The Third Reich, providing a direct line to their highly influential contacts and relations across Europe – in Britain especially, where their secret channels included that most unpleasant of press barons: The Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere.

Not to mention the future King Edward VII.

Might this partially have been due to that of ”an aristocratic lifestyle could vary from country to country, but everywhere in Europe the maxim was: aristocrats have access to other aristocrats?”

Naturally this was most certainly the case, and Hitler knew and nurtured this all too well; which again, reinforces how myopic some peoples’ agendas truly are. Or in some cases, how horribly naive some people are in general; especially those in relatively high places who really ought to have known better.

This is without any shadow of a doubt, brought to the very fore quite early on in the book, where on pages 29/30, authoress Karina Urbach writes: ”Although the Kaiser recognized the signs of the times, Queen Victoria was obviously out of touch with German affairs. To her, Coburg was still the charming little town her husband came from, a sort of fairytale place. She was not alone in seeing its harmless side. For the average British newspaper reader, Coburg was a Pumpernickel dukedom with a few toy solders – politically negligible. These perceptions overlooked an important fact. The dukedom of Coburg was the most nationalist in Germany. If one wants to understand the growth of German nationalism, Coburg offers the idea case study: it developed from a dukedom that supported national unity in the first half of the nineteenth century, into a highly chauvinistic place that would after the First World War become a refuge for radical right wing movements and eventually the first town in Germany to be governed by the Nazis.”

Using previously unexplored sources from across Europe and the USA, Urbach herein unravels the charade of top-level go-betweens such as the Duke of Coburg (grandson of Queen Victoria) and the coquettish Stephanie von Hohenhow, who rose from a life of near destitution in Vienna to become a princess and an intimate of Hitler.

It’s a book, that amid its unraveling, seeks to roundly clarify yet never justify, what truly went on within Europe’s corridors of ill-fated, purposefully misguided power.

One of my favourite writers on the Second World War, Richard Overy (editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of World War II), has himself stated that this is: ”a fascinating and painstaking reconstruction of the real history of the go-between, so long shrouded in rumour and speculation. This really is a privileged journey behind the scenes of international diplomacy in the company of a cast of larger than life characters brought vividly to life.”

To be sure, Go Betweens For Hitler may essentially be based within the parameters of a scholarly undertaking, but it almost reads like that of a John Le Carre or Robert Littell novel. In and of itself, this speaks volumes.

David Marx

How To Be A Conservative


How To Be A Conservative
By Roger Scruton
Bloomsbury – £20.00

So here it is, another election riddled with foregone conclusion.

So what on earth happened to social justice? Any semblance of the truth? Not to mention that small but highly significant item known as the NHS?
Oh I see, greed and a nation of gullibility got in the way – well that’s fair enough then.

It does indeed seem, that nigh all of the people can be fooled nigh all of the time; of which this quizzical, entertaining, exceedingly well written yet at times, preposterous book, is a pristine example.

With regards the election of 2015, one could, if actually sound of mind, holler the words: ”Forgive them lord, for the electorate know not what they do.” Although such ought absolutely not be the case when it comes to the transparently super intelligent, academic writer and philosopher, Roger Scruton.

A mere few pages into the highly readable How To Be A Conservative, it becomes immediately apparent as to why gullibility, and to a certain extent, greed, currently reigns supreme throughout the United Kingdom. Reason being, Scruton writes from that of an overtly defensive premise, wherein every single path of decency and humanity is surely of a conservative persuasion.

If one is deluded, this would be fine.
If one is, dare I actually mention it, sensible, this is clearly complete bollocks.

The very opening gambit of this book’s first chapter (‘My Journey’) reads as follows: ”It is not unusual to be a conservative. But it is unusual to be an intellectual conservative. In both Britain and America some 70 per cent of academics identify themselves as ‘on the left,’ while the surrounding culture is increasingly hostile to traditional values, or to any claim that might be made for the high achievements of Western civilization. Ordinary conservatives – and many, possibly most, people fall into this category – are constantly told that their ideas and sentiments are reactionary, prejudiced, sexist or racist. Just by being the thing they are they offend against the norms of inclusiveness and non-discrimination. Their honest attempts to live by their lights, raising families, enjoying communities, worshipping their gods, and adopting a settled and affirmative culture – these attempts are scorned and ridiculed by the Guardian class. In intellectual circles conservatives therefore move quietly and discreetly, catching each other’s eyes across the room like the homosexuals in Proust, whom that great writer compared to Homer’s gods, known only to each other as they move in disguise around the world of mortals.

Is it that unusual to be ”an intellectual conservative”?
Traditional values: what are traditional values? Or more pertinently: what does Roger Scruton deem ”as traditional values”?
Do most ordinary people really fall into the category of being ”ordinary conservatives”?
By ”being the thing they are,” may well account for some people being ”reactionary, prejudiced, sexist or racist.” Just as ”being the thing they are,” may also account for others being complacent or callous, funny or frigid, sexy or stupid. The list is endless… And?
If someone is ”racist or sexist,” or an all round unpleasant maggot, then yes, they will naturally offend ”by being the thing are they.” This is blatantly obvious. This is human nature.
”Honest attempts to live by their lights.” Is David Cameron honest? Is Rome old? Is anyone in the conservative party (or any party come to that) actually honest?
”Scorned by the Guardian class.” Really? Or is Scruton being just a little too defensive for his own good here?
”Quietly and discreetly”? Boris Johnson?
”Homosexuals in Proust”? Oh please. I did say this book was entertaining.
”[…] in disguise around the world of mortals.” Hmmm; is William Hague mortal? Is Roger Scruton an all round good egg (who means well)?
Is How To Be A Conservative a brilliant template for that what actually transpired last night?

Forgive him lord, for he quintessentially know not…

David Marx