The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

 The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics

Published in Poetry

The PM's Chief Adviser Addresses His Critics

by David Betteridge, with image by Martin Gollan

My eyes are dim, I cannot see.
Come wife, come child,
and drive with me!

To drive at speed on public roads
may remedy my sight.
If not, and we get mangled in a crash,
it proves my first assessment right.

I cannot see how anyone can think my judgement or my actions wrong;
but if you do, heigh ho! I do not care.
I carry on, and on, for you are weak,
and I - prepared to boldly, blindly drive,
unstoppably - am strong.

Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24


Published in Poetry


by Mark Kirkbride

Contagion wants to shake your hand. Now you’re ‘it’
and you don’t even know it. When everyone else
could see it coming, the Prime Minister dismissed it.
With more time to prepare than most around the world,
he squandered it all, sleep-walking into disaster
with missed COBRA meetings, warnings disregarded,
then talk of ‘herd immunity’ and ‘losing loved ones
before their time’ as if sacrificing the sick
and vulnerable to a lottery of death
was a plan. Now the Government’s playing catch-up
to avoid a backlash as a silent wave of death
sweeps the country, taking mums, dads, husbands, grans, thousands
upon thousands more than the official figure
because if you weren’t tested you didn’t die of it.
The dead nurses, who worked 12-hour shifts, caught it
on their own time, not due to binbag PPE
after the hollowing out of the NHS.
You see, the Conservatives are super-spreaders
of lies. The problem is, they just don’t care. They read us
to see how normal human beings should react.
So take off your Brexit blinkers. COVID – the Tories
are on it, they’re all over it, it’s on them, they own it.

The Unopened University: Stay Alert, Boris!
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

The Unopened University: Stay Alert, Boris!

Published in Poetry

Overacting, or The Unopened University

by David Erdos

And so the Unopen University fails as its peri-pathetic
Lecturer garbles. Transmitting graphs and equations
That would set the mathematically untrigged into spin;

A series of mixed ratios equal R over the rate of dissent
Subdivided, before what is in blue times the yellow,
Can, to the power of shite, infect twins. Or some other

Nonsense that shows no clarity, only static,
As hints were leaked of announcements that would
Returns us all to clear air. Before a broadcast that singed

Everyone confused, watching. By a form of brute
Aping Churchill, with a delivery so emphatic
That it seemed to press once wild hair. ‘Stay Alert’,

He said. Where? And how for that matter.
Alert at home or out jogging now that apparently
We all can? But just as long as we’re related? I see.

Or rather I don’t. What’s the question? Are we to now
Jog with passports, or have our DNA stamped across us
As the Street Block Corona Bill tests for clans?

Those who can’t work at home can go to work,
But must bike there. So does that mean as I say
This that the Tour de London streets that were

Empty will now resemble that famous race
Through the Alps? Or will millions of builders
Now walk from one far away zone to another,

While at the same time keeping distance
From the clatter of traffic, and the greasing
Of wheels. I have doubts. I have proper visions

Now of the past as pennyfarthings crest above
Scooters. I see pony traps, horse and carriage
Crammed across Kilburn High Road. And on

The Uxbridge Road a relay from Hillingdon
Down to Acton, as frustrated plumbers
Stop and start and stop. Hope’s borrowed.

Tonight’s lecturer stunned with his lack of clarity
And false promise. It was a tease, a temptation
To make the rabbits twitch in the hutch.

Hotel owners despaired, along with restaurateurs
And pub landlords. As others had no idea
Of what happens when you have moved so far

Beyond what’s enough. Give the public what
They want is the trick, while you in fact
Give them nothing. People will not be as tidy

As you think or expect them to be. For further
Traps can be set if you encourage past
Experience as nostalgia in yet another attempt

To win over, the fact deprived who stay squeezed.
The toothpaste tube empties out, as does the piggy
Banks and the wallet. Those eager to live risk reversals

If a false start yanks their frail lead. And Scotland
Does not agree, along with Wales and Ireland.
A four nation state hung, drawn and quartered,

Along these badly sketched lines can’t be freed.
Stay Alert: More design from the slogan smeared
Cummings. Stay Alert Twats is more like it, as you

Can see the sneer as he writes, on his little
Whiteboard, or iphone, containing pictures perhaps
Of the gravestones, each empty space filled

With scribble, which is conditional, naturally.
And so the rhetoric came. And the lecture screen
Remained empty. Devoid of real information

He talked to us, liminally. Everything remained
Vague or faint despite the overarchedness
Of his acting. He was both Henry the Fluff

And a Falsestaff roaming around ruined fields.
Which he almost ‘Blaked’ or ‘Dunkirked,’

As he tried to rouse the long fallen. Who must not
Rise but keep rocking. Pass our tests to keep failing.
Numb yourselves down. That’s the deal.

Let Us Face the Future
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

Let Us Face the Future

Published in Poetry

ronavirusLet Us Face the Future

by Chris Nash

Common and apart, we stand in defiant windows,
Each in a viral, personal Grenfell, care of,
we’re refugees like all the rest, too late we know
our land’s no longer ours, beyond the heal of love:

An invisible hand locks our lives in data series,
all the roads we assembled to the future together,
are needlessly dissolved in self-inflicted fevers
to end in malls, they commandeer as mortuaries.

The poorest she that is in England screams for relief,
ghosts of daffodils shake masked heads in disbelief:
When and how did we allow our golden western isles
to be consumed cut-price, in death’s supermarket aisle?

From the doorstep shore, oh yes, we’ll clap our NHS,
Remembering whose 21 votes stopped its progress
We will rise, raise our eyes from TV’s slumbering view,
to see from island isolation, over white cliffs, a world anew.

Author's Notes:

Let Us Face the Future was the title of the Labour Party’s visionary 1945 Election Manifesto.
‘Ghosts of daffodils’ is an echo of Wordsworth’s vision of our holy, golden islands.
The Tories voted 21 times to stop the passage of the NHS legislation. Winston ‘Boris’ Churchill said it ‘was the first step to turn Britain into a National Socialist economy’.
‘The poorest she that is in England’ is an echo of the famous words of Thomas Rainsborough in the Putney Debates 1647.
‘TV slumber’ is an echo of the revolutionary lines of Percy Shelley in The Masque of Anarchy 1819 - ‘Rise like lions after slumber’.

RIP - the criminal Tory lack of preparation, and mishandling of our people - more St Bodge than St George.

Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24


Published in Poetry


by Sally Flint

'I owe them my life.' - Boris Johnson, thanking NHS staff.

It's early morning: no-one speaks. Not yet.
Yellow's Orthopaedics, pink Paediatrics,
purple Chemo ‒ not enough aqua for A&E,
so there's a sharing out of ICU's blues.

They've sat with the dying beyond shifts,
high-fived and hugged each other for the ventilated
dads, mums, daughters, sons, brought back.
Now, in handovers with bleary-eyed night-staff,

they dread further shortages coming.
It'll take more than a pandemic to examine
if the 'public purse', can pay those on 'the frontline'
enough to 'put food on their tables', settle their debts.

Nurses always applaud patient recoveries,
know sometimes it's a word, a touch, saves
a life. It's not about colours. They know politicians
who clapped loudly when blocking their pay rise.
Some dream of a future government unmasked.

After Lockdown
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

After Lockdown

Published in Poetry

After Lockdown

By Christopher Norris, with images by Martin Gollan and James Gillray

No we’ll never go back to the bad old days,
To the days of corporate greed,
When the bankers thrived on their bad old ways,
And the poor folk went in need.
For when viruses strike they don’t care who pays,
Who’s the bit-part or who plays the lead,
As the thing goes into its critical phase
And the leveller gets up to speed.

Oh we’ll not go back to the years we spent
Being told that the set-up was fine,
Though the good things went to the 1%
And the crap to the 99,
While they tried to muffle the discontent
Among those at the end of the line
By treating the Coronavirus ‘event’
As just that: not for us to repine!

But we’ll not go back to their crafty tales,
To their trickery, scams and lies,
To the nincompoops raised as alpha-males,
And the hedge-fund hiking guys
Whose idea of a game-plan that never fails
Is to chase the brown-envelope prize
Till the plan goes tits-up and a long spell in gaol’s
The just sentence that never applies.

For we’ll not go back to that time before
The Coronavirus struck,
Though it struck all the harder if you were poor
Or temporarily down on your luck,
And not raking it in like those devil’s spore
Soon competing to make a fast buck
From the plagues of the time, whether sickness or war,
With us plebs as their sitting duck.

No we’ll not go back to all that again,
To the age of executive jets
And the time when we thought you could hop on a plane
And then life would be good as it gets.
For it’s now clear as day if you’ve half a brain
That the present’s no time for regrets
If the skies show blue through the windowpane
And the Sun gleams bright as it sets.

No, we’ll not go back to the days of old
When those racketeers ran the show,
When our lives were wrecked by the lies we were sold
And the rip-offs they had on the go,
While their government lackeys did what they were told
Or picked up on the quid pro quo,
And the huddling masses, left out in the cold,
Were the last ones who got to know.

Yes, I grant you, the worst time we had to get through
Was the time when that plague hit its peak,
When the doctors and nurses did all they could do
But a vaccine was still far to seek,
And we suddenly knew, as the death-figures grew,
That for many the prospects were bleak
Since we all, nervous sailors and medical crew,
Were headed up Corona Creek.

But know this: if there’s one bit of wisdom we learned,
As we fretted lest months become years,
It’s that even the worst of events can be turned
To good ends as our retrospect clears;
For there’s strength to be had from those lessons hard-earned,
From the hopes intermixed with the fears,
And the new life discerned as we lock-downers yearned
To make good on those lives in arrears.

So there’s no going back to how matters stood then,
No regressing to times gone by,
When the captains of commerce were masters of men
And their whims could decide: live or die!
Yes, we lived through the virus and told ourselves: when
This thing’s finished we’ll want to know why
The old fixers and fraudsters had done it again,
Screwed us over and wrung us out dry.

Now we’ve made sure their schemes and devices won’t come
Back and bite us, like last time around,
That the billionaires won’t get us under their thumb
Till we end up six feet underground,
That their mansion won’t tower over our little slum
Where the viral infections abound,
And that never again shall they do zero-sum
Calculation of lives to the pound.

main image

A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, by James Gillray, 1792

Prime Ministerial Couplets
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

Prime Ministerial Couplets

Published in Poetry

Prime Ministerial Couplets

by Edward Mackinnon

Not favouring Curry
John had his way with her, but wouldn’t promote her
She was salmonella poison to the loyal Tory voter

Suppliers of corpses
His Edinburgh schooling must have taught Blair
he needed a Bush just as Burke needed Hare

Economic Braveheart
No return to boom and bust: he certainly had some baws
when he claimed he’d put an end to capitalism’s laws

Distant relative of the Royals
Though born to rule, he said he was a team player at heart
ER and PR failed him when his heartless team fell apart

Surveyor’s report
Clad with towering faith and burning conviction
her strength and stability were proved a fragile fiction

Proving Juvenal right
Classic narcissist and Olympian liar
makes lyric poets give up and turn to satire

An Eton Mess

Image by Martin Gollan

An Eton Mess
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

An Eton Mess

Published in Poetry

An Eton Mess

by Christopher Norris, with cartoon by Martin Gollan

We’re in an Eton mess, my friends,
We’re in an Eton mess.
Those posh-boy crooks have cocked their snooks
And cooked the books when no one looks:
That’s how it goes I guess, my friends,
That’s how it goes I guess.

We’re back up Eton creek, my mates,
We’re back up Eton creek.
Those stuck-up fools from public schools
Have bribed their tools and fixed the rules
To suit their crony clique, my mates,
To suit their crony clique.

They lied to win our votes, you folk,
They lied to win our votes.
They said ‘Vote leave, one final heave’,
But whispered ‘We’ve tricks up our sleeve’,
And now they’re at our throats, you folk,
And now they’re at our throats.

They played the racist card, old chums,
They played the racist card.
They said ‘we’ll claw back cash galore
If we show more of them the door’.
They hit the migrants hard, old chums,
They hit the migrants hard.

It’s you they’re out to screw, you lot,
It’s you they’re out to screw.
They say the gains outweigh the pains
But use your brains, you’re still in chains:
You’ll starve before they’re through, you lot,
You’ll starve before they’re through.

Fight back and see them off at last!
Fight back and see them off.
Just seize the day, make that lot pay,
Get back what they have stashed away
And stuff that tosspot toff at last,
And stuff that tosspot toff.

You’ll clear the Eton mess all right,
You’ll clear the Eton mess.
You’ll hold the pass, put ruling-class
Dolts out to grass, and kick some ass:
One gang of thieves the less all right,
One gang of thieves the less.


The Buttering of the Bread
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

The Buttering of the Bread

Published in Poetry

The Buttering of the Bread

by Rob Walton, with image by Martin Gollan

Just because I changed to the Tories
people tell me I don't know
which side my bread is buttered
when in actual fact
and no word of a lie
the smiling Mr Johnson
buttered both sides.

He covered one side in our beloved Brexit
so we won't be bothered by the French
and the Germans and all them eastern Europeans.
Then on the other he spread a better NHS
and tax cuts and more or less more police.

And if he put a little bit of ground glass in the butter
that's a small price to pay
and besides I'll get treated for free
in one of the forty new hospitals.


black friday
Monday, 29 November 2021 15:24

black friday

Published in Poetry

black friday

by Fran Lock, with unlovable labour by Steev Burgess

 hours awake, the news begins
its lisping instrumental. incidental
music for a hunger strike. the tv's
bland incitements. johnson's mouth,
a gimmicked sleeve. dandelion
and atomised, we barely breathe.
hours awake. cities: slagheaps
of a mass extinction. burning
dirty crack-rock earth. we are
ready. for the end times, for
the paranoid mental event,
renouncing our passports.
the rich are padding out
their hollow boasts with glum
extravagance. phoney and vibrating
sky. women walk circuitous
lusts through the subtle legal dusk
in heels. shard. rain. cold hard cash.
no love so deep and pure as brand
loyalty. johnson, a funerary cuckoo,
a soundbite in a fright wig. we are
ready. the bodies of the poor are
batons of pulp. are strenuous meat.
the narcotised light that flows
upward over glass. high-tension
carnivores, bearing down. hours
awake, through the crypts of this
city like pestilence, like hazard
and insomnia, the shivery
international green of money.
to want the fat clam of the dark,
the faces of the addicts, toothless
and intent as mediaeval glass
blowers. to want the water.
johnson, falling like a stone,
through our conscience
and our wallet.

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