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Sun, Jan. 1st, 2017, 09:33 am
Gigs #55 - #60

#55 False Lights @ Water Rats 11/10/2016

False Lights doing their thing again, more or less the same as when we saw them last time and more or less as good.

Support by Said The Maiden, who we liked a lot.

#56 Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker @ Shoreditch Town Hall 26/10/2016

First time seeing Josie and Ben and first time at Shoreditch Town Hall which is way fancier on the inside than on the outside. They do a sort of chamber music/folk thing with a large band and in the second of two halves play the entirety of their new album with no chat (even though the first-half chat was great) and occasional poetic interludes.

No support (that I can remember).

#57 Jon Boden @ Union Chapel 11/11/2016

There was about three different gigs we could have gone to that week but the promise of a Friday night seeing Jon Boden at Union Chapel was too good, so the Oyster Band, the Oyster Three, and maybe somebody else all got passed up. Jon was great as always, though doing a one man show with no backup whatsoever, I felt he struggled a little in a large venue. It was also the week that Trump was elected and that Leonard Cohen died. 'I only know one Leonard Cohen song,' said john, 'but it's the one everybody knows so maybe you'll join in.' He did a delicate unamplified version of Hallelujah on an acoustic guitar, but it was the crowd singing the chorus, quietly and desperately fragile, allowing the church acoustics to do the work, that nearly brought me to tears.

Support was by Blair Dunlop, who we have seen before and is good.

#58 Nerina Pallot @ The Tabernacle, Notting Hill 10/12/2016

Someone Lily likes who I didn't know from a hole in the ground. This is apparently her regular Christmas show in Notting Hill and the audience is overwhelmingly middle-aged and middle-classed (think tall yoga-honed women in knee-high boots with identical small daughters), the venue is much the same, an arts center selling Caribbean food and home-made cake and bearing no resemblance on the inside to the church it used to be. Nerina Pallot is dead good though, and very funny when chatting between songs. She apparently always shows a Christmas movie on the screen behind the stage and this year it was Muppets Christmas Tale, the best Christmas movie.

Support was by Two Cities, all the right notes in all the right places but not a lot else going on.

#59 Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker @ The Courtyard Theatre, Shoreditch 17/12/2016

Basement theatre would be more accurate, I saw no evidence of a courtyard.

A second chance to see Josie and Ben on a Saturday night in Shoreditch. This is an event called Folkroom's Blue Christmas and also features Jack Harris, an earnest young man with an acoustic guitar who is comically bleak and really very good; and the great John Spiers, once of Bellowhead, playing squeezy things.

Unlike the Town Hall gig down the road Josie and Ben are just a duo here (although even that was in doubt for a while as Ben was rushing there from a delayed flight into Gatwick and only just made it) and the set is much folkier. They get the two support acts onstage a regular intervals to do Christmas songs and it's all very merry.

#60 Belshazzar's Feast @ The Oval, Croydon 21/12/2016

An identical gig (same gags and everything) to the one we went to last year, although this time Lily is working in Croydon so the logistics are a lot easier. Belshazzar's Feast are brilliant as always, mixing musical virtuosity with humour like a pair of Les Dawsons. It is one of the cheeriest gigs I know.

Mon, Nov. 21st, 2016, 11:15 am
Brexit: The Board Game

I present Brexit: The Board Game. A fun game for 28 players.

In Brexit: The Board Game one player nominates himself as the Brexiteer. He is then dealt a hand of cards detailing which prizes he must secure.


The prizes are then distributed randomly among the other 27 players. The Brexiteer has until the timer runs out to persuade the other players to give him the prizes listed on his cards WITHOUT REVEALING WHAT HIS CARDS ARE.

If the Brexiteer persuades the other players to give him the prizes listed on his cards he wins the game. If, after the timer has expired, he does not have all the prizes listed on his cards, he loses.


Play continues until nobody wants to be the Brexiteer anymore or everybody gets bored and dissolves the European Union.

Fri, Nov. 18th, 2016, 03:52 pm
Big Thinks on Trump

When I predicted the UK would vote to remain in the EU it was because I thought I had some great understanding of the national mentality (that we were fundamentally cautious) and losing was doubly hurtful because I had to accept I was wrong. When I predicted Hillary Clinton would win the US election I had no such delusions, I just trusted the experts (my chosen experts were FiveThiryEight, who gave Trump something like a 30% change of winning). Consequently I was not that shocked when he won, and have not been as distressed by it. It's very not good, but it didn't really shake my view of humanity.

I don't just want to celebrate my mental well-being though, I want to rail uselessly against the cottage industry of articles explaining how Trump won. How Trump won is a fundamentally useless question because he quite patently fluked it. Electoral colleges tend to flatter winners so it is important to remember Trump lost the popular vote and won only the thinnest majority in the swing states.

Here are two far more interesting questions.

1. How come he was competitive at all?

He polled somewhere down near Corbyn levels on questions of competence, must surely have turned off the family values brigade (which we're told is big over there), had a walk-in gold-painted closet full of skeletons the size of most New-Yorkers' apartments, and... My! God! He was just awful. It's hardly rocket science that he won a big swing from the working-class white vote after he batted for it so very very hard, but how did he not lose everyone else along the way?

The answer, it turns out, is simple. He won because he was a Republican. He didn't win huge swings from unusual places, he didn't turn out non-voters in unprecedented numbers, he mostly just got the same bunch of rubes who voted for Romney four years ago.

2. How come the vote was so close?

People sometimes talk about a Beige dictatorship, or if they're more up on their political theory, Hotelling's Law; the way in which, in a democracy, the two main party's will draw so close together as to be indistinguishable, both attempting to occupy the sweet spot in the centre ground that will win them all their side's natural constituency and a sliver of the other side's.

I've said before that this is bollocks (by which I mean, the parties might try it, but it doesn't work), and Trump vs Clinton surely blows it out of the water. Never has there been two such vastly different candidates. The supposedly right wing guy was advocating a debt led stimulus, the supposedly left wing woman was the experienced serious candidate, plus one of them spouted racist slogans and was a serial sex-pest. It defies belief that they pushed the vote so close to 50/50 by chance. Something else was going on.

I think the answer to question two is the same as question one. Nobody, at least nobody who voted Trump, and nobody who voted Obama but stayed at home this time around, gave a flying fuck for the serious business of competence or policy. America, remember, is the country where you register as one side or the other which would already make the vote a bit sticky (it being human nature to double down on your earlier stupid opinion rather than risk the embarrassment of publicly changing it) but this was like Gorilla Glue. The whole country got vigorously shaken and hardly anybody budged an inch.

My guess: nobody voted for Trump or against Clinton, they voted with the 50% of the population they feel they belong to and against the 50% of the population they feel they don't. They don't divide ideologically but culturally, and they self-organise based on who they do and don't want to be with.

Brexit, because of course

The Trump vote looked a lot like the Brexit vote in that it showed a willingness to take a really stupid risk with the country, and featured a marked display of cross-cultural anger, and a nasty racism.

The first of these, the willingness to gamble with the future, is often put down to nearly a decade now of slow growth and stagnant wages. The 'unhealed scar of 2008' as Ken Clarke & Nick Clegg put it in a recent talk, but two groups most hurt by this, blacks in the US and young people in the UK, voted for Hillary and Remain - so it's not that good an explanation (although the UK young, we're told, will gamble everything on Corbyn, so the desire for stupid risks is there, just not any old stupid risks).

The second, the venom of both campaigns, does perhaps have a good explanation. The last couple of decades have seen a lot of what you might call cultural progress on both sides of the Atlantic. Gay marriage is the most marked but there are other things: increased European migration over here, liberalisation of drugs over there, a black president, the Black Lives Matter campaign, the huge popularity of the Paralympics, women 'leaning in' (whatever that means), white kids liking hip-hop, a tendency for the protagonists of TV shows, movies, and computer games to look a lot more like the population as a whole and lot less like straight white blokes.

However a lot of people have been left behind, dragged into a brave new world they did not want. If you had a referendum in this country gay marriage would be annulled, hanging would be brought back, and we'd close the border with Northern Ireland, let alone the rest of Europe. They are the bigots, the nationalists, and the grumpy authoritarians (I like to call them The Coalition of Arseholes). They are a majority but they are a shrinking majority, and up till this year they were consistently losing their battles.

It's probably worth pointing out why they were losing when they were a majority. The answer is simple: the people in charge of the country, and in charge of the culture, were not them. One similarity between the Trump demographic and the Brexit demographic is that both divide markedly on education. Put simply, going to university cures bigotry (it genuinely seems to, it's amazing!), and movies and laws are all made by people who went to University. But now they've realised they're losing, and are aligning themselves politically to fight back. This is typical of a losing groups backed into a corner, and they are dangerous (as they have shown), but the demographics are against them and they are dying off. Culture wars are fought in the culture not the ballot box, and in the culture we are still winning.

The interesting difference is that while Brexit is a political realignment (and how much of it will remain come a general election is the scary thing), in the US politics already separated along this divide and has done since it shifted massively in the wake of the Civil Rights movement (when the south went from strongly Democrat to strongly Republican). This is why it was possible for Trump to rise up in an existing political party and get elected as President whereas Nigel Farage had to form his own and consistently failed to get elected as an MP. The US system was ripe for takeover by Aresholes, the UK system (not the referendum) has so-far proved more resilient.

Tue, Nov. 15th, 2016, 01:22 pm
Books #145 - #151

Racing through books again now I'm back commuting by train.

#145 The Bull From The Sea - Mary Renault
The sequel to The King Must Die, not quite as good perhaps, but still very good.

#146 The Sick Bag Song - Nick Cave
The poetry collection/tour memoir Cave bought out last year. I avoided it then because the stupid presentational box was too damn expensive. Now it's just a paperback book it makes much more sense, and the release of the new album & film inspired me to finally pick it up. It really is exceptionally good.

#147 Wings On My Sleeve - Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown
I got turned on to Eric 'Winkle' Brown when I got linked to this marvelous talk by him a couple of years ago. Lily picked up this book for me and it is marvelous. A well-written generous-hearted autobiography of a truly amazing man.

#148 The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen
I book I picked up simply because I thought it looked good. It was.

#149 Silk - Alessandro Baricco
A tiny book I picked up at a second hand sale because it was so small. It's a rather heavily stylised, mannered thing which is structured more as a long short story than a short novel. It didn't outstay it's welcome though and was very good. Genuinely sexy as well.

#150 Lily Poole - Jack O'Donnell
A book by an ABCTales person which I helped crowdfund. There's a very good novel struggling to get out of it I think, a genuinely different take on a ghost story that mixes in a realistic account of mental illness so that the reader never quite knows what to believe; but the writing, enjoyably rich for a large part, lapses into opacity far too often, making it often difficult to follow. It is plagued by the sort of errors which a good editor would probably have fixed: occasionally dialogue leaps out of register, for about a hundred pages in the middle nothing seems to happen at all, and seemingly huge moments have a habit of passing almost without comment (a character admits to a recurring nightmare of raping his young sister in a matter-of-fact way the first time he talks to his therapist, the death of a father is harrowing but the subsequent disappearance of a small daughter feels almost like a normal event, no more than an annoyance to the remaining family). The ending made no damn sense either, but I suspect that was because I missed something.

#151 The Island of Dr Moreau - HG Wells
Picked up because it was small enough to fit in my pocket when I was going out one evening. Cracking stuff.

Sat, Nov. 12th, 2016, 04:30 pm
Gigs #40 - #54 Folk East

#40 John Spiers & Peter Knight @ Broad Roots Stage, Folk East 19/8/16
Having missed John Spiers last year we were determined to leave in good time to make this, his first team up with Peter Knight. Unfortunately a puncture on the A14 scuppered that and we ended up only catching the last fifteen minutes. Still very good though.

#41 Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 19/8/16
Eliza Carthy's latest venture, a big rowdy band perhaps looking to fill the space left by Bellowhead. Eliza Carthy is always good, but this was particularly welcome on a wet evening.

#42 Chad Mason @ Soap Box Stage, Folk East 20/8/16

#43 Unknown Session Band @ The Hop Inn, Folk East 20/8/16

Can't remember who these guys were but they were good and won extra points for matching tweed.

#44 Gilmore & Roberts @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 20/8/16
At least I think this is who we saw, my memory is hazy.

#45 Dan Walsh @ Broad Roots Stage, Folk East 20/8/16
The lovely Dan Walsh, Britain's best clawhammer banjo player and a Folk East regular it seems.

#46 Sam Carter @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 20/8/16
Another folk east regular, and another favourite of ours.

#47 RURA @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 20/8/16
Stonkingly good Irish group.

#48 The Roaring Towmen @ Broad Roots Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
Entertaining male vocal trio.

#49 The Georgia Shackleton Trio @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
Little bit of Americana as we laze in the sun.

#50 Open Mic @ Soapbox Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
Lots of lovely people, including one called Lily.

#51 The Larks @ Broad Roots Club, Folk East 221/8/16

#52 O'Hooley & Tidow @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
Good female duo, but a bit lost on the big stage.

#53 Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
I think he might be off x-factor or something like that, anyway, he's good.

#54 Usher's Island @ Sunset Stage, Folk East 21/8/16
Irish super group, and genuinely super.

Thu, Sep. 29th, 2016, 02:57 pm
Books #141 - #144

As ever, not much reading done over summer because I was cycling into work rather than taking the train.

#141 Ship Of Magic - Robin Hobb
A silly fantasy novel that Amazon gave me free for the kindle. Plain bad to the point of irritation in places but still quite a lot of fun. I may yet read the sequels.

#142 Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers, by Jane Shaw
Ever since I chanced on a review of this book and discovered Bedford had its own cult I've been wanting to read it. They were a fascinating bunch, issuing religious edicts on how to hold a garden party and how much fruit to put in a cake, and to this day (although there are few left) holding a flat ready for the return of Jesus with the existing tenants on a short notice period. They had their dark side, but not much of one, mostly they were just adorable and strange.

#143 The Perfect Storm- Sebastian Junger
Picked up at a free book exchange by Lily who thought (correctly) that I would be interested. Best bit is when he describes at length the incredibly tough training of USAF Pararescuers: how 80% of them don't make the grade and the ones who do are known as supermen, only to have them peer through the windows of their helicopter at a yacht in trouble and go (I paraphrase) 'don't fancy that much.' Scary stuff.

#144 The King Must Die - Mary Renault
One of Lily's. I randomly picked the sequel to this off the shelf because I wanted a book small enough to fit in my pocket when I was going out on a warm night. After discovering there was a prequel I decided to read that first. It's a great read. Not entirely unlike the John Carter of Mars books in that the attraction is all about following a proud, honourable, highly sexed hero who enjoys fighting. Basically a trashy adventure yarn but better written than the average.

Fri, Sep. 16th, 2016, 03:25 pm
Gigs #38 - #39

(just wrapping up a couple of stragglers before doing folkeast)

#38 The Proclaimers @ Fairfield Halls, Croydon 26/6/16

We saw The Proclaimers once at a Big Session festival (back when it was in Leicester) and really enjoyed it. Consequently a Saturday finds us hurrying back from a family party in Beford, not stopping at home (which is good because the train doesn't), and heading straight for Croydon. As remembered they are loud and rousing and great fun. I have never really listened to a great deal of their recorded output but the big takeaway from this gig was the stuff from their musical Sunshine On Leith. We rent the film a few weeks later and it is great.

Support (the internet tell me) was by Will Varley, an earnest young man with an acoustic guitar who foolishly mentioned the referendum. He is proud of his generation for voting in he tells us, but we voted out shouts a woman from the back, the audience divides into those who boo and those who cheer. Will wisely forgets the subject and moves straight on to the next song.

#39 Hunter and The Bear @ The Underbelly, Hoxton 7/7/16

A rather fun little venue off Hoxton Square. We manage to nab a pair of (stylishly distressed, natch) armchairs overlooking the stage and feel like king and queen of the gig. Hunter and the Bear are excellent as ever but only half the audience really seem to be into it. The venue is a little small for their sound perhaps.

Support was by Twinnie, a british Nashville-style country/pop/rock singer and drop dead gorgeous to boot. Felt like seeing an early Taylor Swift gig.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2016, 02:34 pm
Skeleton Tree / One More Time With Feeling

(Just wanted to get some thoughts in order while they are fresh)

When I heard last summer about the death of Nick Cave's son my heart went out to him, of course it did, but when I heard he was going to release an album only a year later I did not understand it. I could not imagine how you could write about that (or how you could not!). Even Nick Cave, who in 20,000 Days On Earth described himself as like a cannibal: consuming all the precious private moments between husband and wife and translating them into songs; how could he tackle something so huge, so soon.

The answer it seems is that he did not. The songs were all written before the event and only recorded afterwards. Cave says in One More Time With Feeling that writing has become impossible, the "trauma" is so big that it leaves no room for the imagination to move. Consequently the songs on Skeleton Tree, he says, have been released raw and newly-formed, not edited and perfected to the extent he would normally demand.

Most reviewers, either ignorant of this fact or finding it inconvenient, have scoured the lyrics for references to his son. This is foolish because it is all there in the performances. With a stripped down version of the Bad Seeds, sometimes hardly more than just Warren Ellis on keyboard and effects pedals, this is an astonishingly stark, fragile, damaged album.

It is illuminating perhaps to imagine how the songs would have been treated in happier times. The brooding Jesus Alone as a sort of rousing alt-hymn perhaps, lines like "the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming" played for humour, Anthrocene careening around like Higgs Boson Blues, I Need You romantic and tender instead of fractured and desperate, the girl in the "red dress, falling" a overtly sexual image instead of "falling, falling in, falling in."

Another lazy canard of reviewers that has annoyed me has been to make the point that Cave has always covered dark subject matter in his songs, as if he should, as a writer, take the death of his son in his stride. Such comments always put me in mind of what Townes Van Zandt supposedly told Gillian Welch when she was accused of writing too many miserable songs: "there ain't but two types of music in this world, the blues and zippety doo-dah." Any piece of art worth a damn is both dark and light, and Nick Cave's songs are no different. What most people misidentify as darkness is grotesquery. Cave's songs have, for instance, never openly touched on his addiction to heroin, the death of his father, or anything much worse than an unhappy love affair, but the stories within them have dwelt obsessively on murder and other horrors. These are not dark places but outlandish fantasies, and as he has tended away from wild narratives the imagery may have remained but the subject matter, although often obscure, appears to rarely venture far from portraits of a family life in Brighton. The Prince of Darkness he is not and never has been.

Where Skeleton Tree is an astonishing album, a set of songs transformed by the performances into something almost painful to listen to, the documentary, One More Time With Feeling, is a shatteringly honest examination of a family dealing with grief. When I bought tickets I told Lily that I was both excited and scared, not sure what to expect but certain it was going to be a harrowing experience. It was (we were both almost silent on the bus home and then desperate to talk about it the following day), but it was also beautiful and, in it's way, uplifting. It artfully disassembles itself, showing the cameras at work (and occasionally not working), while carefully circling the subject of the Arthur's death. It opens with an off-camera discussion with Warren Ellis about the boundaries of what he's willing to discuss and then does not approaching the matter again for nearly an hour. When it finally does, in interviews with Nick and his wife, it is heartbreaking. It is the most astonishing portrait of how you can go on, leave the house, work, appear to be okay, and even be okay in a way, while having a massive hole punched through the centre of your life.

I wondered to myself the other day if Nick Cave could go on to write a Tears In Heaven? That is, to express his grief directly in a song. I don't doubt he will one day address the subject, how could he go on writing and not, but Tears In Heaven? No, he'll do something different. In one of the documentary's more heart-rending interviews he says he wishes he could find a platitude (and what is "there'll be no more tears in heaven" if it is not a platitude) that would help but he cannot. "He lives on in my heart," he says. "Except that he doesn't. He's in my heart but he doesn't live." (I'm quoting from memory btw). No, when Nick tackles the subject it'll be in ways we do not expect, and ways that will astonish us.

Like the last line of the film: "We have decided to be happy as an act of revenge". Astonishing!

Thu, Jul. 28th, 2016, 02:08 pm
"Theresa May, You should have stayed at home yesterday."

So my predictions after the election were way off - I couldn't even count the majority right! I correctly foresaw that the renegotiation with Europe was a bust but I never even imagined we'd lose the referendum.

Anyway, in the continued interests of being falsifiable where possible, some thoughts about our new PM:

- I've tended to view the Brexit vote as a far-right coup within the Tory party. In which case May's ascendancy is a counter coup by the establishment.

- Viewed through this lens she looks weak, she's tried to mollify the insurgents (the Three Brexiteers in government) and brutally dispatched the old guard anyway (Osborne). In which case if trouble comes, it will come from the right (wanting the full English Brexit) rather than the centre (arguments for a second referendum/commons vote on Article 50/etc.)

- Following this line of reasoning, it's going to dicey when the Brexiteers start realising how difficult leaving is going to be. Business is going to be pushing hard to retain the single market etc. (a continental Brexit) and it's going to be hard to ignore them. The question is probably how much of a delay will the Tory right put up with before anything happens? I'd guess they've got till spring next year before anyone starts making a fuss.

- Supposedly David Davis and Liam Fox (pronounced: dɪsˈɡreɪst fôr′mər mĭn′ĭ-stər li'əm fŏks) can't stand to be in the same room as each other. I doubt either of them are fans of Boris (and probably doubt his true belief), and Boris is only ever in anything for Boris. There will be no united front there.

- I also wouldn't be surprised if some ex-General or other comes out of the woodwork with questions/allegations about Liam Fox - conspiracy theories aside the business that led to his previous resignation was deeply dodgy and never properly explained.

- On the other hand Theresa May has enjoyed a remarkably quiet six years at the home office (a job that used to dispatch Tony Blair's ministers at a rate of knots). She can probably ride a lot of things out, especially while Corbyn remains Labour leader.

- Similarly, while it's been pointed out that she's sacked more ministers and junior ministers than she has a majority, I doubt there's going to be trouble from that quarter; Tories are loyal when it matters and the old Cameroonian-Osbornites no longer have a dog in the fight (unlike the right).

- Elsewhere, there will doubtlessly be much fuss about Priti Patel at Int. Dev. in the liberal papers but she'll ride it out. Her own party won't care much and the tabloids will love her. She's probably a good bet for next leader in ten-or-so years time.

- Hammond's going to have a tricky time if the economy wobbles as much as looks likely. The old austerity rhetoric will sound outdated from a new chancellor but any attempt to produce a stimulus will be seized upon as an admission that A. Brexit is damaging, and B. Six years of tight fiscal policy have been the wrong thing to do. But again, with John McDonnell not looking very serious on the other side of the house, he'll ride it out.

- The only other nasty business on the horizon is the decision whether or not to ditch Universal Credit. Damian Green's appointment doesn't give much clue but I guess it'll be quietly shuffled aside rather than taken out back and shot.

- I doubt there will be an early election. It would be a pain to call under the fixed-term act, an unnecessary risk, and an exposure of the fact that there is still no Brexit plan. There might be one in 2017/2018 if a plan takes shape (or possibly a second referendum, but don't bank on Remain being one of the options). By 2019 it would be too close to the scheduled election anyway.

- The current strong polls are pretty typical of a new PM and you will probably see them die back to a mid-to-high-single-digit lead over Corbyn's Labour party pretty soon (that's still feckin' awful for Corbyn btw).

- We'll all get a bit of blessed peace over the summer while parliament is in recess. I expect the rest of the 2016 to lack any more fireworks (and look like beautiful calm efficiency compared to the Labour party).

- Fun fact: Theresa May's unopposed appointment actually goes against the Conservative constitution (which states that the membership will be given a choice). It's illuminating to contrast this with the Labour party currently being taken to court over their own leadership election - tells you a lot about the two parties.

- Less fun thought: An Owen Smith Labour party is going to look a lot like Neil Kinnock vs Margaret Thatcher all over again. Probably with the same outcome.

Thu, Jul. 28th, 2016, 12:46 pm
The Great White Hope

So we went to see Owen Smith do his first London rally and I thought I'd get some thoughts down while they're fresh (and so I can be proved hopelessly naive and wrong at some later date).

- Turnout was pretty good but not great. The event was short notice and the actual venue not confirmed until the night before though, so they might have been deliberately keeping it low key.

- He's a genuinely good orator. The speech was barnstorming, the Q&A afterwards full of good content and the questions answered. He's can also tell a joke and is witty off the cuff. I expect he'd be great at PMQs.

- The thing that really stood out was the wealth of policy, and that was before his big policy speech the following day, most of it practical and imaginative. All of it good left-wing stuff.

- He was strongly pro-europe (be still my beating heart!).

- He was strongly pro-engaging with Corbyn supporters and persuading them.

- The crowd loved him. The impression was of people who are daring to hope their saviour has come (or maybe I'm projecting).

- He would have wiped the floor with all of them in 2015. He'll be competitive now if people listen to him - but I'm not sure they will.

- He popped into the same pub as us afterwards and had a proper pint of proper beer (was hoping for a chance to congratulate him on the speech but it didn't happen).

Racial factors aside (obviously), he feels like the Great White Hope of the labour party, a world class fighter, and his supporters desperately want him to win, but you suspect Corbyn is going to be picking smashed teeth from his glove at the end.

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