On the Polarisation of Debate

It’s good to have comments; they can be very stimulating and sometimes a conversation can lead into another post – like this one on the polarisation of debate around the transgender issue. This has now become a form of trench warfare with armies dug in on both sides firing guns at each other across a bleak no-man’s-land. In this environment, even sticking your head above ground can be very dangerous.

Let me say at once that it is not trans people I have a problem with. I’ve met a few and I try to be respectful of their preferred names and pronouns and to treat them the same as anyone else. But to accept a person is not the same as accepting an agenda, a bill of rights, if you will, about that person – and it’s this ‘bill of rights’ which is causing so much hassle. The debate has become polarised politically too: people on the left have lined up in favour of the whole LGBTQ (or ‘quiltbag’ if you prefer) agenda and vilify anyone who questions it is labelled transphobic. Meanwhile those of us with a problem are likely to find that our only allies are on the political right: I was offered the opportunity to give an interview to the Daily Telegraph but I declined because I don’t want to be a part of their culture wars. I don’t agree with the self-ID law recently passed in Scotland but I totally disagree with the UK government’s decision to block it, because they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

Recently I watched a trans woman being interviewed by Owen Jones (sorry I can’t find the video). She said that it wasn’t just outright abuse which hurt her but when ‘nice, middle-class people’ started asking ‘what is a woman?’ I can understand that that might seem a tad personal but in general if we can’t even ask questions without being labelled a TERF then what hope is there? The very essence of what it means to be female is caught up in this debate, and simply repeating the mantra ‘trans women are women too’ is not going to help our understanding. The nature of femaleness is profoundly affected by this and it’s quite valid to want to debate it, particularly in Scotland where self-ID seems wide open to abuse.

I expect I’ve said this before, but we have had decades of debate on other issues, for example racism, feminism, gay rights and disability rights. Those debates are still ongoing. They haven’t always been respectful and I regret that, but we’ve had them – and out of these debates society as a whole has arrived at an agreed position, much of which has been enshrined in legislation. I realise this is a gross oversimplification but the point is that this situation arose out of debate. People were able to ask such questions as ‘are women able to do most things that men can do?’ (spoiler alert: we’re already doing them) without being vilified as a beyond-the-pale misogynist. Yes, I know we haven’t eradicated misogyny any more than racism or homophobia but these things are now publicly unacceptable – and that is a position which arose out of sustained public debate. With the trans issue, on the other hand, I feel that the T has simply been stuck on the end of LGB without any debate at all. I’m not sure I would have expressed myself the way JK Rowling did but she had a perfect right to ask the questions that she did; they are legitimate subjects for debate – but instead of having those questions answered she has been vilified and subjected to death threats. It’s quite scary.


Apart from having an effect on ‘cis’ women this agenda impacts on other groups. I don’t think most people have realised this yet, least of all Owen Jones, but if straight partners like me are being told that ‘sexuality is fluid’ what does that mean for gay rights? As far as I’m aware one of the main planks of gay rights is the belief that sexuality is not a choice. Being gay isn’t a choice; being straight isn’t a choice. Yet I have effectively been told that I can go from a straight relationship to a gay one without losing anything because I ‘fell in love with a person, not a gender.’ But what does this mean? Are gay people going to be told that they can now be in a straight relationship? How’s that going to work? These are questions that need asking. We need – please god – to have a proper debate. It is perfectly legitimate to ask questions such as ‘what is a woman?’ or ‘how do trans rights affect all-female spaces?’ It’s legitimate to be concerned about what happens when those self-identifying as female are allowed access to all-women spaces. It’s legitimate to be concerned about prisons, changing rooms and sports. But when I look around all I see are people on opposite sides slinging mud at each other. And the government isn’t helping one little bit.

Do please comment but make it respectful.

Kirk out

PS what do you think about the new colours? Are they hard to read? Is black and white better?

Wild? We’re Absolutely Livid!

Now this is what I call a proper documentary. Intelligent, unintrusive commentary, no inane chatter, very little done to camera and no incessant recaps. I refer of course to last night’s Wild Isles, David Attenborough’s latest (and last?) docuseries. It’s lovely to see a work on Britain for a change and as ever the photography is stunning. The ‘how we did it’ section at the end shows just how much work goes into a few minutes of film. This is utter dedication and love and it puts some so-called documentaries to shame.


There’s controversy about the last episode, though, in which he talks about how much damage we are doing to the environment. This is reportedly going to be streaming on iplayer rather than broadcast live, and some people suspect that the BBC has once again caved in to pressure from right-wing Tories on this.

There’s a theme emerging here, what with the Gary Lineker fiasco, though that seems to have been resolved now; the BBC have reinstated him following the disaster of Saturday night’s football coverage, given how much support Lineker got from colleagues and players.


This was very heartening to see, and the more it happens the more the government seems out of step with its own people. Amazing how we didn’t hear a word about free speech from the usual quarters; makes you wonder whether, had he tweeted in support of the government, he would have been disciplined in the same way. It looks very black (or blue.)

I could, if I allowed myself, get angry on a regular basis. I try not to because it’s not good for my health and it doesn’t achieve anything – but I must say the government works very hard to rile me; between interfering with the BBC and Rishi Sunak’s ridiculous swimming pool (never mind that he’s paying for it, what about the carbon emissions? Bastard bastard bastard!!!! Deep breaths, deep breaths… it is very hard to stay calm these days. I’ve just been round the supermarket and noted how many prices have gone up yet again – after paying £20 for a miniscule amount of petrol which would have cost me a fiver just a couple of years back. So yes, no wonder when I think of Wild Isles I want to say ‘wild? We’re absolutely livid!’

Word of the day: skimpulse – when you suddenly put something back on the shelf because you’re worried you can’t afford it.

Kirk out


If you understand that acronym you’re probably under 40. Then again you might not be cos I’m not, as yesterday’s post proved when it brought me a letter inviting me to apply for my pension. I’ve already sussed out how much I’m going to get so in one sense the letter was welcome, though in another, of course… Anyway, AITA stands for the succinct and elegant question, Am I The Asshole? (being an internet thing, we obviously have to use the American spelling.) You can find a whole series of AITAs on the internet and let me tell you, it’s a real self-righteous fest; almost as good as watching Crash Detectives where trained police officers try to figure out what happened in an RTA (there’s another acronym for you: AITA in the RTA?) Replies begin with either YTA (you’re the asshole) or NTA followed by an explanation; from the ones I’ve seen there’s usually a surprising amount of unanimity.

Which brings us to Gary Lineker. As you no doubt know by now, Lineker has found himself in hot water (unlike the poor sods trying to cross the channel who are in very cold water indeed) about remarks he made following Suella Braverman’s announcement of the latest plan to deter small boats. He tweeted that the plan was ‘beyond awful’ and later defended the comment by saying that there was ‘no huge influx’ and that the policy was ‘immeasurably cruel.’ He went on to compare it to those used by Nazi Germany in the ’30’s. The BBC had said it will be speaking to him about impartiality but as he’s freelance and particularly as he has garnered a lot of support (including from Piers Morgan, improbably) he’s unlikely to be dropped from the schedules. I was quite shocked to learn, however, that he earns more than 1.3 million quid for that gig. That’s a heck of a lot of money – but beside the point here.



So is Gary Lineker TA? I would say absolutely NTA and maybe those who bang on about free speech can take note.

What’s your view? Vote below with HTA or NTA but be warned; racist comments will be deleted and the author blocked. Not that any of my lovely followers would be so mean… just saying.

Kirk out

I’m trying some new colours. You like? Of course you have to change the text one block at a time, which is annoying – but then everything about blocks is annoying. I suspect there are a lot of bullshit jobs in WordPress which involve annoying the users in a variety of interesting ways.


I’m thinking about money. There’s never enough of it, some people have far too much and don’t know what to do with it and we spend half our lives thinking about it, but what is it? I’m writing a story at the moment about the collapse of money; not the economy but money itself – a situation where money no longer means anything therefore nothing can be bought or sold.

In this scenario the banks have disenfranchised so many people that they’ve given up on making money and started to form small communities. In these communities resources are shared and the more people join the more resources are available. In the end the only people using money are the very rich who finally find themselves in deep doo-dah when money itself collapses and everything they own is suddenly worthless.

In a way this is a utopian vision but in another sense it’s something that could happen because of the way banks are going. It’s also been inspired by ‘Bullshit Jobs’


on how many jobs are pointless and despite being well-paid, serve no useful function at all. There are examples in every area of life but the one that often occurs to me is government; in my youth there used to be about 20 minsters in the cabinet but nowadays we seem to have a minister for almost every aspect of life. It’s a gravy train: it’s bullshit. Meanwhile those doing useful jobs – nurses, sewage workers, cleaners – find themselves being squeezed on every level. Caring doesn’t pay any more, and it’s not only in the ‘caring professions’ that caring happens – the chief objection to doing away with, say, ticket offices in stations is not that a machine could sell the tickets but that the staff deal with multiple unexpected human problems every day. As for doing away with guards on trains, the prospect is horrifying. A friend of mine who was once a guard told me of all the human situations he’d dealt with over the years, from dealing with drunks to helping deliver a baby. This society sucks, and why? Because nothing matters unless you can put a price on it. We need to do something about this, and I’m not convinced that electing a Labour government (though I really do want one) is the answer.

What is?

Answers on a postcard please (or comment below).

Kirk out

Broad Thoughts from Home…

It’s warmer here today in blogland – BBC weather says 8 degrees but it feels more like 12. I’ve entered a short story into the Bristol Short Story Prize (they have 50 free entries a month and I’ve nabbed one of those) and now I’m sitting here trying to think what it is that I’m thinking. I’m a bit miffed today because I keep putting on weight despite exercising loads and not eating much: by ‘loads’ I mean 5-10k on the exercise bike, a walk and yoga in the mornings, and by ‘not much’ I mean fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, salad or soup for lunch and a cooked meal in the evening (typically pasta and veg or something similar.) So judge for yourselves. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I suspect it’s my tendency to get older with each passing year. I should probably do something about that…

I’m looking forward to watching ‘Nolly’ tonight.


This much-trailed series stars Helena Bonham-Carter and features Noele Gordon, aka Meg Richardson of ‘Crossroads’ fame. I never thought much about Noele except as a fairly bad actor but apparently there was a lot more to her; according to the divine Helena (heard on ‘Woman’s Hour’ yesterday)


she was a producer, a pioneer and a powerful woman in her own right, which was probably why she was summarily sacked at the age of 61. Bonham-Carter talks about women coming into their prime in their 60’s and as a 65-year-old I whole-heartedly agree. With child-rearing behind us and a lifetime of accumulated wisdom, it’s time to kick arse (I can’t help spelling that the British way) and I look forward to doing so.

Another powerful older woman I enjoy is Joanna Lumley. Though I (probably wrongly) thought of her as a bit of a pin-up in her youth, I have admired her since she was in Ab Fab, and OH and I have very much enjoyed her and Roger Allam in ‘Conversations from a Long Marriage’.


This is brilliant, so catch up with it if you haven’t already done so. Lumley got in trouble for saying a few weeks ago that women should be tougher and that her generation had to put up with a lot more harassment than we do nowadays. This is undoubtedly true, but it caused a meltdown on social media (obvs); however the Guardian has a much more balanced view


which broadly I agree with. I note that street harassment is liable soon to be punishable by up to 2 years in jail; and while I would welcome a reduction in the sort of crap I had to endure just walking down the street, I’m not sure this is the way to go. What we need is a change of culture – above all online: I was shocked to find out how many young girls are harassed by being sent completely unsolicited obscene images or texts.


So there we are – broad thoughts from home.

Kirk out

I’ll Be Back

Well I seem to be back, don’t I? I didn’t mean to be back, but one thought led to another and I decided just to put some news in a post and then there was a film I wanted to review and before I know it I’m blogging again. The French have an expression ‘en mangeant l’appetit vient’ – it is in eating that the appetite comes – and the same applies to writing. If I’m ever stuck for ideas I just plunge right in and put down any old nonsense and before I know it I’m in the flow again. This seems to be happening here too.

How many times a day to you think of Boris Johnson? I know, I try not to either, but sometimes he just insists on popping up, and I read today that he’s been seen in his old constituency of Henley


looking at schools and houses; which presumably means he’s thinking of standing in that constituency. His majority in Uxbridge (my old stomping ground, at least until I was 2, so I guess I should call it my old toddling ground) is not very large and I’m absolutely certain he’s not given up hope of running for PM again. Even Owen Jones yesterday was saying he thinks the Tories might have one last desperate throw of the dice and bring him back again. Johnson, of course, thinks he’s Churchill. Not even close, sunshine. Not even close.

Can you imagine, though, if they did? Four Prime Ministers in as many years, only one of whom was actually elected by the public. And if he thinks we’ve forgotten Partygate, he can think again.

Sometimes I despair.

To cheer myself up I get emails from Positive News


This basically does what it says on the tin and reports good news stories from around the world, particularly on the environment. It’s very salutary. We all have to take care of our mental health – to which end, I’ve started turning my phone off while I work, something I should have done before but didn’t.

Happy Monday,

Kirk out

I Gave it 20 Minutes

I’m not in the habit of watching PMQ’s (Prime Minister’s Questions for those not in the UK) as I find the continual posturing, braying, shouting and paper-waving quite annoying – but today I made an exception. Having read the (very short) Sue Gray report – or what’s left of it after the MET got their mitts on it – I decided to tune in to see what happened. The report is limited but quite damning in some ways – she lists a total of 16 ‘gatherings’ which took place in or around No 10, either in the office or the garden or in the Johnsons’ flat. 12 of these events are now being investigated by the police. Gray makes no specific mention of Johnson himself but talks about the culture of No 10 and events being ‘difficult to justify.’ She makes reference to the sacrifices the public were being asked to make and is obviously quite peeved at being asked not to publish it in full. Before PMQs the BBC were outside Parliament interviewing MP’s – they didn’t find any Tories to speak to apart from one who wasn’t an MP but everyone else was unanimous in saying that Johnson was a disgrace and should resign.

And at 3.30, out he comes, managing a full three minutes of remorse. He was sorry. Mistakes were made. There will be a shake-up at No 10. He was grateful to Sue Gray for her report. He acknowledged that there was public anger. And that was that. Like a reluctant teenager forced to make conversation with an aging aunt at a party, he swiftly moved on to more pleasant things – basically, the usual suspects. Didn’t he make a good job of Brexit? And isn’t everything going to be so much better now? Wasn’t the vaccine rollout great? And isn’t it time we turned our attention to Ukraine?

It was pathetic. Frankly, it was nauseating and for once, Keir Starmer said everything I wanted him to say. Johnson is a disgrace, he has brought his office into disrepute, he has (whatever the euphemism is that you have to use instead of saying ‘lied’) and he must resign. Johnson replied, now in full fighting mode, all aura of repentance long since evaporated. Enter Theresa May. I was never a fan of hers but one of the effects of Johnson’s premiership has been to make her look like a solid and principled leader. He should have known the rules, understood the rules and applied the rules, she said. Either he didn’t, or he didn’t bother – which was it? It was a good intervention, but the SNP leader went for the jugular and ended his speech saying the PM lied. The Speaker told him to retract; he refused. Rinse and repeat four times, after which Ian Blackford came out with some convoluted form of words which got him off the hook. But he’s right. Johnson lied; and I can’t believe how long he’s managed to hold on to his office given the blindingly obvious facts. He lied.

After 20 minutes of watching this farce open-mouthed, I switched it off.

On a lighter note, we’ve discovered a real gem of a programme on BBC Scotland called Roaming in the Wild. Most ‘adventure’ programmes nowadays feature a bunch of people thrown together with elements of competition, some contrived ups and downs, an end to be gained within a certain length of time and some potential conflicts between the participants. There must be triumph and disaster, there will be manufactured tension and a ticking clock. Frankly, I’m sick of it. But this programme has absolutely none of that; it’s just two guys off exploring Scotland and having a great time while they do it. They may or may not travel the length of Loch Ness in a paddle boat (spoiler alert – they don’t), they may or may not ski across the Grampians and spend the night in a snow hole, or paddle down the River Esk or hike across the mountains in North-East Scotland but whatever they do it’s interesting and above all, fun. They have some great laughs and the scenery is brilliant. So I recommend that. It’s a good antidote to all ‘structured reality’ shows – and above all, to PMQs.

Here is the Sue Gray report and here, should you wish to subject yourself to it, are today’s PMQs.

Kirk out

I’m Scared

There’s much to be scared of in these dark days: climate change, covid, rising prices and the effects of Brexit. But the thing that terrifies me today is the possibility that after all the parties and the revelations, after all the lies and corruption, after virtually spitting on the Queen by forcing her illegally to prorogue parliament and then by holding parties on the eve of her husband’s funeral, an event at which, lest we forget, she followed the rules and sat alone: that after all these events we still might not be rid of Boris Johnson.

So far in order to shore up his position he has thrown civil servants under the bus, got MI5 to find a Chinese informant, announced the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and hid behind an inquiry into his own behaviour which is unlikely, we now hear, to be published in full. His lapdog newspapers, after a ritual excoriation, have now got behind him and published a frankly desperate photo of Keir Starmer drinking a bottle of beer in his office and are now waiting for the results of Sue Grays enquiry which they desperately hope will enable him to cling on.

If Johnson survives all this then I don’t know where we’re heading as a country. Johnson’s supporters are unlikely to storm parliament but in every other way he’s becoming more Trump-like by the day. And if the police and crime bill passes you can say goodbye to our right to protest about it – or anything else for that matter. Every day I get up and think, how the hell did we get here?

Kirk out

The Life and Lies of Boris Johnson

Fans of Harry Potter will recognise the title here as a parody of The Life and Lies of Albus Dunbledore by the scurrilous hack Rita Skeeter. But whereas just about every page of that book was false, accusations against Boris Johnson, that he lies almost as often as he opens his mouth, are not, alas, fabricated. The leader of our great nation has lied and lied again, not only since becoming PM but throughout his life.

I’ve been reading the work of Peter Oborne. Oborne is a much-respected political commentator and journalist. He’s politically on the right but has a high regard for truth and integrity and since 2019 has made it his business to track the almost uncountable lies told by Johnson, particularly on the subject of coronavirus but by no means limited to that topic. The Assault on Truth is a detailed and scrupulously researched book detailing the rise of Johnson and Trump and how they exemplify a particular kind of politics, one with scant regard for the truth: Matilda springs to mind – I’m working on a parody as we speak. ‘Johnson told such dreadful lies/it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.’) To my mind it’s not a question of if Johnson goes, but when: the knives are sharpening daily, a second Tory MP has defected to Labour and the only person who can’t seem to read the writing on the wall is Johnson himself.

The best scenario for Labour would be to postpone a vote of no confidence until after the May elections. If, as looks likely, the government does badly (there are reports of activists being so demoralised that they’re refusing to deliver leaflets) that would bode well for Labour. On the other hand if they go for a leadership election sooner and elect Rishi Sunak who then gives people help with energy bills, it’s not so good. Either way it’s an interesting time. Sickening, yes. But interesting.

Kirk out

Just a Little Prick..

I expect you’re wondering why I called you all here today… well, it’s because I want to talk to you about vaccines. I’m going to be blunt; health conditions aside, I simply can’t understand why anyone would choose not to have the covid vaccine. Common reasons given are that we ‘don’t know what’s in it’ so why would we trust it? Well it’s true, I don’t know what is in any of the vaccines. But this is not some wonder drug sold over the Internet. It’s developed by scientists, researched in labs and peer-reviewed: there’s a process – and by and large I trust that process. The vaccine-sceptical are fond of justifying their position by saying that they’ve ‘done their own research.’ Oh really? So you have access to a lab? What tests have you done? What conclusions have you reached? Where are the papers published? Are they peer-reviewed? Or does this ‘research’ consist of an Internet trawl digging up a few conspiracy theories? I saw a post just today saying ‘When we buy a house we do our own research and we’re praised for it, but when it comes to vaccines…’ (fill in the rest yourself.) Yeah, about that: it’s true that we’ll look at estate agents and visit houses ourselves, but do we do our own survey of the building? Do we conduct our own conveyancing? No. Most of us are not remotely qualified to do these things. We leave them in the hands of experts, and generally we trust them to do the job.

This is getting serious. Between 75 and 90% of covid patients in hospital (depending on the area) are unvaccinated, putting a great strain on the NHS. Not only that, but some staff are also unvaccinated. If they have a valid medical reason for this, fine – but I listened to a midwife on Woman’s Hour explain why she was unjabbed, and as far as I can make out it just came down to ‘personal choice.’ This is unacceptable. Can I exercise my personal choice not to wear a seat belt, or to drive when over the limit? Of course not. We understand that these rules are in place for a reason, and mostly we abide by them.

This is not to say that I agree with the Government’s stance. Threatening to fire unvaccinated NHS staff is unhelpful and draconian, especially in a climate where the government has been seen not to follow its own rules. But I simply can’t understand why anyone without an exemption would not simply get the vaccine. Its easy: think of Boris Johnson and say to yourself, just a little prick

Kirk out