Twelve Songs for Madiba

The passing of Nelson Mandela – Madiba – caused me great sadness. He’d been the backdrop to most of my politically conscious life from the early 1970s onwards. Music played a significant part in the struggle to overthrow apartheid and free Mandela and his colleagues. Yet already, some of this musical history is being lost. So I’ve been moved to prepare a small compilation of music that moved me – and millions – over the years. If you can, listen. Continue reading

Mandela – a musical tribute

I was involved in the struggle against apartheid from 1970 onwards. Whilst I was involved in all sorts of campaigns in the 70s and early 80s, it was the 1988 70th Birthday Concert for Mandela that lifted to campaign to new heights. And central to this new phase was music – joyous, liberatory, defiant, music. Below is my own, completely idiosyncratic, ‘top ten’ bits of music that – for me – symbolise the striggel against one of the world’s most evil regimes – apartheid South Africa

Nelson Mandela – Specials – the song that more than any other captured the spirit of the campaign. (join the campaign to make this the Christmas number one for 2013)

Mandela Day – Simple Minds

Mandela (live) – Hugh Masakela

Mandela – Salif Keita

Mandela – Santana

Biko – Peter Gabriel – the song that became an anthem for a new generation of anti-apartheid activists in the late 80s.

Impi – Johnny Clegg – once a song buy a despised progressive, now the unofficial anthem of the Springboks. The world turns.

Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City – Steven van Zant

You have placed a chill on my heart – Annie Lennox – a she sang it at the Birthday concert in 1988, dedicated to Madiba – chilling indeed.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika – nuff said.

Finally, I’d add a tribute to George Michael. he performed a magical set of three numbers by black artists in 1988. As he came off stage a somewhat naive TV reporter asked him “was there any significance to you choosing to cover songs from three bald artists?” To which George replied: “what do you think?”

Human Nature: our (four) Human Social Instincts

It is often said that “human’s are social animals” without really thinking what that implies. Many creatures are social, in the sense that they live in groups, but there are wide differences in what ‘social’ means – from the simple semi-chaos of herding for cattle or deer through to the elaborate, regimented, division-of-labour society of the termite or the honey bee.

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Norman Geras: For Human Nature

photo-3Norman Geras died today. Many people will never have heard of a retired politics professor from Manchester, who wrote books on obscure German revolutionaries (Rosa Luxemburg) or human nature in Marx. Some may have seen his more recent “NormBlog” or maybe even heard about his support for theIraq war. But Norman’s influence has been profound on many people, including me. I met Norman back in the early 1970s when I joined the International Marxist Group (IMG), the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International. The Manchester branch of the IMG was a revelation to a working class boy from Barrow – full of powerful intellects like Norman and Ian Gough, and teeming with debate and ideas. I haven’t seen Norman in many years, although we did exchange some emails when I came back to Manchester a few years ago. He’d retired by then and was writing Normblog and I was busy with my academic and domestic life, with a new son to look after. We said we should meet up, but it never happened. When I found out Norman had died this morning my first reaction was to find my copy of one of his books, from 1983. Here’s why: Continue reading

Whitehall Watch has gone, to a better place…

Dear friends, colleagues and readers,

Whitehall Watch has gone – but just to a better place. It has now joined what will be a suite of blogs under the umbrella of Manchester Policy Blogs.

If you have come here (by mistake) then please just click this www.manchester.ac.uk/whitehallwatch and it’ll take you to the new home of Whitehall Watch.

After nearly four years and over 180,000 hits I have to say it’s been a wrench “letting go”.  It has been quite a journey, with more than a few unexpected twists and turns. Above all WW has had far greater impact than I ever thought possible. And reach – it’s extraordinary that its been read in over 140 countries. But, onwards and upwards… so join me and us at our new home.

Colin

Government defeats over public money in Parliament (crowd sourcing examples)

This is an appeal for a bit of research help from Whitehall Watch’s highly knowledgeable readership…..

There is a widespread belief – often repeated  in serious academic texts – that any defeat on ‘budget’ or ‘money’ motions in the House of Commons is tantamount to a vote of no confidence. I’m grateful to Prof Philip Cowley for pointing out this isn’t actually true in practice   – there have been about 20 cases, at least, of defeats since 1918 (see table below) none of which was treated as a vote of confidence. Continue reading

Britons say no to smaller state (BSA 30)

By Colin Talbot, University of Manchester

Britain is still a majority social-democratic country. That is, politically, the most significant finding of the latest British Social Attitudes survey published this week. Most people want a country which “gets and spends” about what we do now, or even more, rather than less. The BSA figures seem to contradict the often heard assertion that the British people want Scandinavian levels of public services for American levels of taxes. Continue reading