It is not that I would like to lay claim to fully understanding the situation in Libya. The historical context, the various international incidents, the current conflict between Gaddafi’s forces and the rebels: of all of these things, I have a superficial knowledge, mostly gleaned through the liberal press, and even that is UK specific.

However, there is one thing that I have an opinion on. That is: why are we, and in that I mean the UK, adding our names to a roster of countries that are forming an international ‘peacekeeping’ task force? The last time I checked, UK council budgets were being slashed. NHS funding has not been ‘ringfenced’, what ever that means. We’re opening it up to a private sector crapshoot which will lead, inevitably, to corners being cut and a priority to treating the kinds of illness that yield a profit.

We are joining forces with four other countries to fight another vastly expensive foreign war, to stake a claim to being an agenda-setter, a world power. The nation has an underperforming economy, rising obesity rates, an absurb dependence on credit, a HE system that has just been comprehensively overhauled because the baby-boomers, have, as is their wont, taken too much from the kitty and paid far too little in. Generations that benefited from free, funded HE are now stripping that right from future generations.

And now, despite all that, we are bombing the crap out of yet another country a long way away in the name of the UK’s status at the ‘top-table’ of nations. We look to our government to provide valid reasons for this and there is, of course, the reason that we can see: that innocent people are being hurt, killed. But many thousands of innocent people have been hurt, and killed by Gaddafi over the many decades that he has been in power. We have not invaded at any of these points. We have stood idly by, selling them the very weapons that they have used on their citizens, and the very weapons that they will now be training on our forces.

The situation is so preposterous, in fact, that there isn’t very much more sense to be drawn out of it by rational debate. There are innocent people in the firing line and it is right to defend their lives. However, the lingering image in the history books will be Blair, bear-hugging Gaddafi, and the preposterous ‘Dave’ Cameron spending money the country doesn’t have in another war. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, hasn’t yet withdrawn from Iraq, and has signed up to add yet more dollars to the amount that they will never, in a million years, be able to pay back to the Chinese.  I don’t claim to fully understand the complex vagaries of these situations, but there are large pieces of the jigsaw refusing to fit together.

Sketches from East Ham: I


My brother, who now works in Moorgate, catches the Hammersmith and City Line from Upton Park every day. Wearing the Phillips headphones I bought him for Christmas, he can’t hear too much of the background noise, especially when the volume is turned high. He told me that his alarm had gone off at the start at the journey and it had been ringing for its entirety. No one had motioned to him, or told him to turn it down, or tapped him on the shoulder. For 30 minutes, his fellow passengers put up with a loud, intrusive alarm that he couldn’t hear. This is the climate of passive-aggressive rage, suspicion and smouldering resentment that lingers on journeys like a mythic London fog.


The 104 bus pitches up outside the barbers and opposite the furniture shop. There are a number people who want to get on, but although upstairs is relatively empty, everyone bottlenecks at the foot of the stairs. The driver lets people on up to a point, then shrugs and shuts the front doors on people without even announcing it. I wonder what passes through his mind as he presses the close button without getting people to move down the bus. The 104 bus moves off and people are left standing in the cold looking at the bus drive off, half empty upstairs.