Friday, 15 May 2015

Lux - Flash Fiction

I have been exposed to the light just the once. The occasion of the expulsion of my birth. Tumbling from the primordial interstitial paradise, into a searing light that sundered the milky membranous veil from my eyes. Reflexively I averted my head and pressed it into the cold breast of my mother who had expired from the moil of evacuating me. Burying my face into her clabbered flesh blotted out the punishing light and stopped up my incipient breath. These twin inundations red-illuminated the arteries behind my own eyes and caused shooting spangles of stars. Another tunnel of light opened up before me, its adit beckoning me into its maw. Light beyond and light within. Fortunately I blacked out until the siege of me was somehow lifted by the midwives.
Since then I have only ever shunned the light. Reverse heliotrope. Abetted by the pollution in the air that strains the sunlight and turns it caliginous. Some say such fetid air reeked of brimstone, but such a notion struck me as fanciful though it enfettered me in my daily wake. Abroad at night, the reflected and depleted light of the moon pierced me no threat. While the spill of the gaseous orange glow of the street lamps served to smear and blanch the twinkling of the stars. I just had to ensure I kept my head down so as not to stare into the coronas generated by the bulbs. I had my catapult in my pocket were any street lamp to shine too brightly, but even that I knew was a harbinger of its imminent death as the filament teetered on the point of burning itself out. Light does that, it consumes itself bloodily.
So I inhabit the shadows and the gloom. I bask in the Cimmerian. It puts me proximate with other tenebrous brokers and stewards of the night. These creatures with reptilian eyes. Yet when they look into mine unshrouded by any lids, they misconstrue my gaze as unflinching and steadfastly abysmal. A trick of the, well light. Or lack of it. But the opacity of my gaze is sufficiently indurate for them to pledge me adamantine fealty. 

Nevertheless I am not one of their cohort. I promise them nothing, reward them less. Still they seek my sanction for their wicked acts. They propitiate what they imagine must be my appetite for blood. They see me vampire, when in fact I am more humble angel. 

Nor can I abide the fires they light to warm themselves, for there coruscates an accelerated energy giving rise to sharp stabs of light. Fulgurant embers rise into the air as an unsympathetic echo of the spangles which stamped my newborn vision. So when I am accused of presiding over a realm of persecutory flames, I shrug my wings in refutation. They dub me "Lucifer", the son of dawn, bringer of light. Have they failed to notice that I am usually long-gone before Helios has mounted his chariot? 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Whither The Labour Party?

The Labour Party have just been defeated in the UK election this week. The post-mortems will begin through the medium of a leadership election as the unsuccessful candidate Ed Miliband has resigned in defeat. As usual such a post-mortem will not address the real underlying issues and yield a leader who will in all likelihood be just as unsuccessful as Miliband.

1) Although they won the election, the Conservatives don't have a large majority so they potentially become vulnerable in Parliamentary votes on contentious issues if their own contumacious back-bench MPs decide to flex their own muscles and defy party discipline. Exactly the same as at the start of the last Parliament when the UK had it's first coalition government in 36 years. However, then Labour was so consumed by its own leadership election process that took a year or so, they were unable to apply any pressure on the fledgeling coalition government in its first year and it remained relatively unscathed. Labour has to avoid that this time round and maintain a rigorous opposition.

2) Proper post-mortems do not get conducted through the process of a leadership election. First of all the debate is internal, through MPs, Trade Unions and party members. The aspect of a proper post-mortem that is omitted, is actually consulting with the public. Asking those floating voters why in the end they didn't vote Labour. These are the crucial opinions and they are overlooked. The internal debate is only conducted with an eye to which wing of the party as represented by which leadership candidate will triumph in the final selection voting process.

3) The failure of a vaguely Left-Wing Labour election campaign has been pounced on by Labour centrists as proof that only their way can deliver Labour any future victory. This of course completely overlooks that a Centrist Labour Party has no real reason to exist. Tony Blair as a Centrist was only successful because he came to power in a period of economic boom. This boom was predicted by all economists as the corollary of coming out of the bust of the 1990s, when people were feeling bruised and fed up with the longevity of the Conservatives in power and weary of various scandals that had afflicted that party. They were ready for a change and it coincided with economic growth. But when the country is an a period of economic sluggishness, when savings are needed which implies a level of austerity, people will trust the Conservatives over Labour to deliver these cuts, because Labour are morally torn about cutting welfare and public services. Now you can argue with the narrative of austerity, but a Centrist Labour party's craving to appeal to the middle classes means they will not rock the economic boat of austerity. Yet they cannot outtrump the Conservatives in that sphere. It makes no sense to try and out-Tory the Tories. Austerity with a smiley-face.

4) So the alternative is to be a Left-Wing party, which Ed Miliband was accused of by his opponents with both Labour and Tory circles. He wasn't in many ways, because he accepted the austerity narrative as above. He just wanted to try and ameliorate some of its victims, such as those on zero-hours contracts, those accessing foodbanks and the like. But none of this plays to those in middle England, in the market towns that they desperately need to convince to have any chance of winning a parliamentary majority. England is a conservative (small 'C') nation, of Napoleon's famous shopkeepers and entrepreneurs. Any sniff of a Left-wing government is going to have those people fleeing for the mountains and doing everything they can to 'stop the socialists' gaining power. It's hard without an economic crisis seeing Labour ever regaining government.

5) At present, a left-wing Labour party has no real principles or ideology on which to base itself. The moment Tony Blair succeeded in expunging the 1918 Clause IV as a founding principle (so much so it was printed on every membership card) was not only the moment 'New Labour' replaced (old) labour, but the moment all its history was erased at a stroke. The history of its origins, its principles and what it stood for. Now whether you subscribe to the principle of Clause IV "To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service"  is not really the point. The point is it has ceased to stand for anything principled or distinctive, so that even when ed Miliband tries to take the party more leftwards, it's completely without context or focus because it's not based on any bedrock of belief. 

6) Looking at the demographics of the Labour Party MPs returned in the election, it has utterly become a party of the cities. All the major conurbations of England are solidly Labour. It has virtually no representation in the smaller urban areas and now nothing in a former heartland Scotland. London is a Labour City, yet London is a very rich (and expensive) city which goes against the grain that Labour can't appeal to the middle classes, although it is also hard to see what inhabitants of Labour constituencies like Hampstead or Islington have in common with inhabitants of Northern constituencies like Stockton and Bury. That makes it slightly schizoid in make-up. Scotland rejected Labour because it wasn't left-wing enough, London votes Labour because they like this cosy left-centrist Labour. London is of course the most ethnically diverse of all cities in the UK and draws much support from these communities, while there is also an element of having the wealth and privilege to desire to share some of that wealth with the less fortunate in a way that Tory voters in say Peterborough or  Swindon don't seem to feel. If London becomes more exclusive due to its property prices and hogging of the job market, if more oligarchs from around the globe buy expensive holiday homes, then that natural Labour tendency may evaporate and Labour will lose its second major core of parliamentary seats as it has just done in Scotland. How does it knit together  a strategy to represent Northern cities, Scotland, the wealth of Londoners who are already its supporters and then somehow to entice those of small town and middle England to come across from the Tories?

I say it's an impossible job and Labour has no real sense of any identity here in the early 21st Century. Nor will its leadership contest likely to furnish it with one. I don't know about a 1000 year reich of Conservative government, but it's hard to see it being limited to just the next 5, 15 or 25...

Monday, 4 May 2015

Zombie - Flash Fiction

She had the bagginess removed from her eyes, but as she also had a facelift to banish her wrinkles, the tightened scalp only served to bulge out her peeper from the thinned skin.

All the rhinoplasty procedures on her nose had denuded the cartilage until the nasal vestibules started rising back up until the whole structure fell off the central axis to one side of her face, just like her favourite pop star who she modelled herself on.

The second Botox had never worn off, freezing the whole lower half of her face in an incessant rictus.

The silicon implants in her breasts had started to leak and necrotised the flesh of her chest.

Augmented by her tummy tucks being unable to withstand the constant stuffing of nourishment causing her abdomen to burst and her viscera to hang out of the cavity. She was no longer able to stand fully upright. 

Apart from the patches of burned skin around her buttocks, the liposuction had removed so much cellulite that her muscles were tightly smothered by their subcutaneous layering, starving them of oxygen entailing that her movement was sluggish and laboured. 

The only flesh being consumed was her own. 

if you enjoyed this alternative take on the zombie myth, you may also like the take on the werewolf myth "Lupus"

"Zombie" taken from flash fiction collection "Extra-Curricular" available in print and ebook from Amazon & I-Tunes