December 21, 2018 10:20
30 years on, remembering the 270 people who lost their lives in the Lockerbie bombing
by Kenny MacAskill
As the thirtieth anniversary draws near the focus once again returns to Lockerbie. For, on the night of 21 December 1988, a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103. Only one man has ever been convicted, and despite an extensive global manhunt and inquiries, trials and appeals conspiracy theories continue to run.
The atrocity wasn’t a one-off event, but part of a chain of action and re-action as the West and some of the Arab world perpetrated terror and counter-terror over decades. More recent outrages have perhaps dulled memories, but in the years leading up to Lockerbie terror was perpetrated, from airport massacres in Rome and Vienna to bombings in Berlin and attacks on cruise liners. The West reacted in kind, including bombing Gaddafi’s compound. And so it continued until July 1988, when the USS Vincennes brought down an Iranian airliner for which initially there was neither an apology nor atonement. Revenge was sought, a bounty put up and a group hired to carry it out. Events were set in motion which, despite the interception of a terror cell and the awareness of an imminent attack, resulted in the tragic events of that December night later that year.
The pursuit of justice, though, was to be subservient to global, strategic and economic affairs. Big business wanted access to Libya’s natural wealth and Western powers sought a bulwark against Islamicist terror. The crime had been perpetrated by the North African state, albeit in conjunction with many other nations and groups. Someone had to be brought to trial though, but who? The USA and the UK brokered an agreement through the UN with NATO. There was to be no regime change and those offered up for trial were the lowest ranking officials the West would accept, and the highest-ranking that Libya would release. As the Scots – and myself in particular – were castigated, British leaders embraced Gaddafi and American leaders behaved similarly. From rendering prisoners to training the Libyan despots’ elite brigade, the hypocrisy was manifest, and well documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
It was a web of intrigue with even the supposed ‘hero’s reception’ for Megrahi who I released on compassionate grounds being fake news. The alliance sought with Libya was exchanged for NATO bombing to bring Gaddafi down. Prisoners rendered to him for torture by MI6 and CIA were supported in the uprising, yet are now the enemy in turn.
The reason that conspiracy theories still run is not because there remain a few unanswered questions, as the culpability of Libya is clear and the criminal investigation was thorough. Instead it is because the UK and USA prefer to obfuscate their complicity and refuse to reveal the extent of their involvement with Gaddafi. What I wrote a few years back still stands true: Scottish justice was to be just a small cog in a very large wheel of international intrigue.
The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice | Kenny MacAskill | @KennyMacAskill
December 10, 2018 13:02
Terry Allcock is arguably the most astute signing Norwich City ever made having snatched him from what looked like being a promising career with Bolton Wanderers.
Terry Allcock was one of those naturally blessed athletes who excelled at a number of games.
At one point in his nascent sporting career Allcock, a lad from Leeds, represented Yorkshire schoolboys at football and cricket – he remembers having cricket nets at Headingley with two future Test captains, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth, and the celebrated umpire Dickie Bird. He also played rugby league for Leeds.
It was as a footballer, though, that he made his mark, albeit a far less indelible one than he might have done had a footballers’ wages not been capped when he was making his way as a young professional.
In March 1958 Bolton Wanderers, a First Division club with a stellar cast of senior pros, decided that the 22-year-old Allcock, despite his palpable promise as a goal scorer, was supernumerary and sold him to Norwich City, who were in the Third Division South.
Very soon the East Anglian life was suiting Allcock just fine and with no financial incentive to move given that the wage cap meant none of the headline clubs, where he belonged, could offer him more money this is where he stayed – and still lives.
Allcock had scored for Bolton in the early rounds of their triumphant 1957-58 FA Cup run and was shocked when without any warning he was told that Norwich had made an offer for him, which Bolton had accepted.
‘Having got over my surprise,’ he says, ‘my first thought was, “Where the hell’s Norwich.” I thought for a minute it was Northwich.’
Improbably, it was the nuns at St Anthony’s, a Catholic comprehensive in Leeds, who made sure Allcock’s love of football was nurtured from his early school years.
‘They showed a great interest in sport,’ he says, ‘which was good because the school didn’t have a sports master as such and sport wasn’t very highly organised. If it hadn’t been for the nuns and their enthusiasm we’d have been in the hands of this one male teacher, an elderly gentleman. He was more or less a do-it-yourself job. He wasn’t particuarly interested but, despite everything, we were very successful.’
Within the space of a few years, Allcock had progressed from the protégé of nuns to claiming a place in the England schoolboys football team against the Rest. Along with most of the boys who were in that England side Allcock was automatically filtered, as he says, into a top Football League club. He and Ray Parry joined Bolton; two of the others, Duncan Edwards and David Pegg, went to Manchester United.
‘We weren’t old enough to sign as professionals straightaway,’ he says, ‘and there weren’t apprentices as such in those days. I signed immediately I was 17 for a weekly wage of five pounds in the summer and seven in the winter.’
The new signing was still 17 when he made his debut for the Bolton first team, a home game against Manchester City in October 1953. He remembers his great excitement at being picked and playing in front of 50,000 people in what was a local derby, City being just five miles up the road. ‘The crowd was big,’ he says, ‘but we’d been playing regularly in front of ten to 15,000 in the reserves, so it wasn’t too much of a shock.’
Allcock would score twice – a goal with each foot – as Bolton beat City 3-2. ‘This was quite normal for me,’ he says. ‘I naturally worked the ball with my left foot but I felt equally adequate with either foot. Not like present players who can use only one foot.’
But before the Fifties were out, Allcock had been transferred to Norwich and would spend the rest of his football career playing in the lower divisions. He scored more than 100 goals for the club between 1958-69.
This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.
December 03, 2018 11:10
Jon Henderson recalls the heady days of the FA Cup, the fancy dan of the English game until a richly endowed rival pitched up.
More than half a century later, my memories of a few fleeting moments on the afternoon of Saturday 4 May 1957 remain clear: schoolboy cricket match, master in charge, knowing my interest in football, comes over to tell me something.
There has been an incident early on in the big match at Wembley. A forward and goalkeeper have collided resulting in the badly injured goalie being carried off on a stretcher.
Now, on a mid-winter’s morning, my reason for travelling from London to Bournemouth is to meet that forward, Peter McParland.
The weather is mild but given the time of year it is still a surprise when McParland comes to the door wearing a pair of shorts – long shorts, mind you, but still shorts. ‘I always wear them indoors,’ he says. Could it be a last, nostalgic association with playing football?
We sit talking across a small kitchen table. He recalls the collision and analyses it with frame-by-frame precision.
And when the goalkeeper recovered how did he react?
‘He wasn’t happy,’ McParland says. ‘But I wouldn’t have been either’.
The reason the collision was a defining event in McParland’s career and is lodged so firmly in my memory is that these were the days when the Cup was king – and it was in an FA Cup final in front of a huge audience that McParland, playing for Aston Villa, crashed into Ray Wood, the Manchester United goalie.
Had it been a league match it would hardly have registered.
In 1957, The Cup Final was still the major event in the football calendar. It dwarfed any other match, home or away, in the English public’s consciousness, including the World Cup final.
The FA Cup, first played in 1871-72, is the world’s oldest – and, for many years, was its most popular – football competition. The World Cup followed nearly 60 years later, only to be ignored by the English for its first three stagings. The FA finally deigned to enter the national team in 1950, but very few in England took much notice.
It was not until towards the end of the twentieth century that the FA Cup started to lose its lofty place in public esteem. The really steep decline in its popularity came after 1992 when massive investment saw the First Division repackaged, rebranded and reborn as the Premiership.
Having been the fancy dan of the English game, the FA Cup suddenly found itself being pushed aside by a hustler not afraid to flex its commercial independence to exploit football’s popularity like never before. Players’ wages surged as clubs fought for the considerable financial rewards, made possible by TV money, for success in the new league.
The FA Cup was now a distraction viewed, increasingly, with condescension by the top clubs. Infamously, the FA themselves did not help by backing the disrespectful idea that Manchester United, the holders, skip the 1999-2000 competition to play in the world club championship.
There had been a steady improvement in what players earned since the upper limit of £20 a week had been removed in 1961, but this was hardly surprising given the low base from which this improvement began.
For the last Cup Final before the demolition of the wage ceiling, Wolves v Blackburn in 1960, Dave Whelan recalls the Blackburn players each received a princely six quid from a Milk Marketing Board advertisment of the team drinking the board’s product. This bumped up Whelan’s Cup Final extras to eight pounds. He cannot recall the source of the other two pounds.
With his £20 weekly wage and with Blackburn’s defeat meaning he was denied a win bonus, Whelan made £28. It was the most he ever earned from football in a single week.
Howard Riley was on the losing side a year later when Tottenham completed the Double with their 2-0 win over Leicester City. ‘The maximum wage had ended shortly before the final,’ Riley says, ‘but I think we were still probably on 20 quid a week or not much more – and I’m not sure we were on a win bonus even if we had won, in front of 100,000 spectators.’
The improvement in pay would continue but the relentless upward mobility of the Premier League means the Cup is unlikely ever again to achieve the status it enjoyed when footballers were paid buttons.
Today, McParland’s collision with Wood would be noticed only if it occurred in a top league fixture – or if Woking FC, ball number 54 in this evening’s third-round draw, were to draw Man City away and proceed to give them a good thrashing.
This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.
November 30, 2018 10:44
Sunday’s match at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Fulham is a fixture in which players’ leader Jimmy Hill played days after he had masterminded the campaign that brought an end to football’s maximum wage.
Not only was Jimmy Hill – the bearded one in the photograph – an unflinching inside-forward for Fulham, he was a union leader who believed in getting his hands – and knees – dirty.
The photograph, which shows Hill tangling with Chelsea’s goalkeeper Peter Bonetti at Stamford Bridge on 4 February 1961, was taken a few days after Hill, as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, had led the players to victory in their wages war against the Football League and its clubs.
Hill’s vigorous command was a major factor in forcing the players’ employers to agree to abolish the cap on earnings. At the start of 1961 players were not allowed to earn more than 20 quid a week. Hill, having rallied the overwhelming support of his members, told the clubs: ‘Give way or we strike.’ The clubs gave way.
No one had more reason to be grateful to Hill for the clubs’ landmark capitulation than his Fulham team-mate nd England international Johnny Haynes.
The story that has been somewhat embellished but is broadly true is that the chairman of Fulham, the comedian Tommy Trinder, was so confident the maximum wage was a permanent fixture that he had boasted his star player, Haynes, was worth £100 a week.
Haynes, a streetwise Londoner, kept the press cuttings and, straight after the PFA’s victory, Trinder had to pay up.
There is more to this story than simply that but the fact is that Haynes’s substantial pay rise outraged officials of other clubs. Major H. Wilson Keys, West Bromwich Albion’s chairman, was not alone when he harrumphed that Haynes’s wage was ‘dangerous and unsettling’ and speculated that Fulham might have ‘to starve other players’ to finance it.
In fact, the idea that players across the board might straightaway start making extravagant demands was never going to happen.
At that time a lavish lifestyle was an unknown concept, to professional footballers, anyway. They were so conditioned to low wages in a low-wage society that the next step up was not-quite-so-low wages.
Bill Nicholson, Tottenham Hotspur’s manager, gave a much more realistic reaction than Wilson Keys: ‘No one can tell what difference it will make. We have a fair idea of the percentage increase we will offer but it would not be wise for me to disclose it. It is a matter for the club and player and might be some way from the amount we ultimately pay.’
The advent of players being paid serious money did not come for another 40 years with the convergence of two significant arrivals: the Premier League and satellite television. These in turn brought on a third significant arrival: every player’s must-have accessory, the agent.
What looked to many like a reckless gamble by Rupert Murdoch’s arriviste TV station, Sky, turned out to be the work of a savvy business brain. In 1992, Murdoch agreed to pay the newly formed league the thick end of £304 million, a stratospheric figure at the time, to secure live coverage of 60 matches a season over five years. The 2016-9 deal struck by Sky and BT Sports was £5.1 billion.
Sky has raked in massive winnings from its 1992 investment – and not just for themselves. The age of the multi-millionaire footballer was about to begin.
It might be nice if the Chelsea and Fulham players who on Sunday afternoon tread the same turf as Hill did in 1961 give at least a moment’s thought to the man who prepared the way for the huge rewards they now take for granted.
This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.
November 27, 2018 10:47
Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance || Bernie Sanders
During my campaign for president in 2016, I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution. I stressed that real change never occurs from the top down. It always happens from the bottom up. No real change in American history—not the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, nor any other movement for social justice—has ever succeeded without grassroots activism, without millions of people engaged in the struggle for justice.
That’s what I said when I ran for president. That’s what I believe now. That’s what I’ve been working to accomplish over the last several years. At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality, as our nation moves closer and closer to an oligarchic form of society, we need an unprecedented grassroots political movement to stand up to the greed of the billionaire class and the politicians they own.
And the good news is, we’re making progress. People in every region of our country are standing up and fighting back against the most dishonest and reactionary president in the history of the Republic. In state after state they are also taking on establishment politicians who are more concerned about protecting their wealthy campaign contributors than they are with the needs of the middle class and the working people they are supposed to represent.
We’re making progress when millions of people, in every state in the country, take to the streets for the Women’s March in opposition to Trump’s reactionary agenda. We’re making progress when an unprecedented grassroots movement elects a young African American as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. We’re making progress when tens of thousands of Americans turn out at rallies and town hall meetings to successfully oppose the Republican efforts to throw thirty-two million people off health insurance. We’re making progress when governors and local officials announce, in response to student demands, tuition-free public colleges and universities. We’re making progress when over the past two years hundreds of first-time candidates from every conceivable background run for school board, city council, state legislature, and Congress—and many of them win.
The good news is that the American people are far more united than the media would like us to believe. They get it. They know that over the last forty years, despite a huge increase in worker productivity, the middle class has continued to shrink, while the very rich have become much richer. They know that, for the first time in the modern history of the United States, our kids will likely have a lower standard of living than us.
The bad news is that instead of going forward together, demagogues like Trump win elections by dividing us. The bad news is that too many of us are getting angry at the wrong people. It was not an immigrant picking strawberries at $8 an hour who destroyed the economy in 2008. It was the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street. It was not transgender people who threw millions of workers out on the street as factories were shut down all across the country. It was profitable multinational corporations in search of cheap labor abroad.
Our job, for the sake of our kids and grandchildren, is to bring our people together around a progressive agenda.
Are the majority of people in our country deeply concerned about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we are experiencing? You bet they are. Do they believe that our campaign finance system is corrupt and enables the rich to buy elections? Overwhelmingly, they do.
Do they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and provide pay equity for women? Yes, they do. Do they think the very rich and large corporations should pay more in taxes so that all of our kids can have free tuition at public colleges and universities? Yup. Do they believe that the United States should join every other major country and guarantee health care as a right? Yes, again. Do they believe climate change is real? You’ve got to be kidding. Are they tired of the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, falling apart at the seams, with roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, rail, levees, and dams either failing or at risk of failing? Who isn’t?
Further, a majority of the American people want comprehensive immigration reform and a criminal justice system that is based on justice, not racism or mass incarceration.
Today, what the American people want is not what they are getting. In fact, under Republican leadership in the House, Senate, and White House, they are getting exactly the opposite of what they want.
The American people want a government that represents all of us. Instead, they are getting a government that represents the interests and extremist ideology of wealthy campaign contributors. They want environmental policies that combat climate change and pollution and that will allow our kids to live on a healthy and habitable planet. Instead, they are getting executive orders and legislation that push more fossil fuel production, more greenhouse gas emissions, and more pollution. They want a foreign policy that prioritizes peacemaking. Instead they are getting increased military spending and growing hostility to our long-term democratic allies. They want a nation in which all people are treated with dignity and respect, and where we continue our decades-long struggle to end discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and nation of origin. Instead, they have a president who seeks to win political support by appealing to those very deep-seated prejudices.
During the last several years, I’ve worked hard in Washington, but I have also traveled to thirty-two states in every region of our country. I have seen the beauty, strength, and courage of our people. I have also seen fear and despair.
I have talked to people with life-threatening illnesses in West Virginia who worry about what will happen to them, or their loved ones, if they lose the health insurance that keeps them alive. I have talked to young immigrants (Dreamers) in Arizona who are frightened to death about losing their legal status and being deported from the only country they have ever known. I have talked to a young single mom in Nevada worried about how she can raise her daughter on $10.45 an hour. I have talked to retirees and older workers in Kansas who are outraged that, as a result of congressional legislation, they could lose up to 60 percent of the pensions they paid into and were promised as deferred compensation for a lifetime of work. I have talked to senior citizens in Vermont who divide their pills in half because they are unable to afford the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. I have talked to workers in San Francisco who, as a result of gentrification, are no longer able to live in the neighborhoods they grew up in and love. I have talked to family members around the country who have lost loved ones to the opioid and heroin epidemics sweeping the nation.
I would hope that each one of us honors the men and women who have, throughout history, put their lives on the line to defend our country. I will never forget meeting, in a small town in northern Vermont, an older gentleman who was part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. I had goose bumps talking to him, trying to imagine all that he had gone through and the extraordinary sacrifices he and his comrades made.
In school, we teach our kids to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that veterans made in defending “our way of life.” But we spend too little time explaining to them what that “way of life” means.
Standing in Gettysburg in November 1863, soon after that terrible battle that claimed tens of thousands of casualties, Abraham Lincoln reminded his compatriots, and all of us, what that “way of life” was, and what our enduring responsibility in a democratic society is. He stated “… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Creating a nation that works for all, and not just the few. That was worth fighting for in 1863. It is worth fighting for today.
Maintaining a vibrant democracy based on principles of justice has never been easy. In these dangerous and unprecedented times, it may be more difficult than ever.
As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars anonymously in ugly TV ads demonizing candidates who dare to stand up to them. Republican governors and legislatures are working overtime to suppress the vote, making it harder for people of color, poor people, and young people to vote.
The internet and social media now allow for the worldwide transmission of total lies, and the capability of targeting those lies to susceptible populations.
Further, recent studies show what the average American has long known. More and more mainstream media political coverage is devoted to gossip and issues of personality, and less and less to the major problems facing our country and the world. During the last presidential campaign, for example, there was almost no discussion devoted to climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet. There was hardly a mention that, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 40 million Americans live in poverty, or that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.
Yes, I know. These are painful and frightening times. Many friends have told me that they dread reading the papers or watching TV. But let us be clear. Despair is not an option. This struggle is not just for us. It is for our kids, our grandchildren, and the future of the planet.
This book is about some of what I and millions of progressives have been trying to accomplish day by day over the last several years.
Some of that work took place inside the Beltway, and much of it outside the Beltway. But no matter where it took place, the goal has always been the same. We must create a vibrant democracy where the voices of all people are heard. We must build a nation that leads the world in the struggle for peace, and for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. And we must unite our country while repairing the damage Trump has done trying to divide us up.
The struggle continues.