Poetic charge sheet

Tony Benn reviews Michael Horovitz's powerful new anti-war polemic

January 30, 2008
4 min read

In his new book, A New Waste Land, Michael Horovitz has deployed all his many talents to produce a passionate, poetic and immensely powerful polemic against Tony Blair’s New Labour administration for the policies he pursued as prime minister – and in particular his wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, his threats to Iran and his consistent and deliberate deception of the British public and parliament to justify his actions.

For those who have been advocating a war crimes tribunal to arraign him and President Bush this poetic charge sheet could be used by any lawyer as a brief to guide him in preparing his case. Since no such trial has ever taken place A New Waste Land will remain on the record as a reminder for all those around the world who do not wish these crimes ever to be forgotten.

Michael was disappointed that the hopes raised in 1997 were so quickly dashed. Even those who, like myself, never expected as much as he did, find it hard to believe that it went as badly wrong as it did.

His style is brilliant using historical quotations, pictures, cartoons and poetry laid out in a way that elevates it to the level of art to make his point and it is effective in a way that no speech could do. Thoroughly researched, with footnotes to justify his assertions, he tackles a wide range of subjects, ranging from atomic weapons to privatisation as a deliberate instrument to diminish the role of the electorate and transfer the power back to the powerful economic forces that today dominate the political process so comprehensively.

Reminded of Hiroshima, we see the decision to renew Trident in its proper historical context as a conscious decision to maintain weapons of even greater power that could – if ever used – inflict death and destruction on millions of innocent people.

Palestine’s unanswered pleas for peace and justice feature strongly, and we are reminded of the wicked practice of unspeakable torture that we have come to accept, as well as the rendition process, which makes it easier to transport the victims to countries where it can be done in secret, leaving the perpetrators to deny their own responsibility.

A New Waste Land was published on the 250th birthday of William Blake and, wherever his spirit now rests, Blake will be proud to read such a clear re-statement of the principles that he enunciated and that have – as this book will have – a permanent place in the libraries of the world and in the minds of those who read them.

But horrific as the picture Horovitz paints may be, we must never allow it to drive us into pessimism about the future, for hope is the fuel of progressive movements and fear is a prison into which we confine ourselves. Knowing Michael’s indomitable spirit I am sure that he too retains the hope we shall need if a peaceful and just world is to be built – as it must be.

‘Timeship Earth at Nillenium’

(from A New Waste Land)

Is not a reverence



for life


– for all land, sea and air



the path Jesus struck,

Shock and Awe Basher Bush,

Trade and War Preacher Blair?




Have you no shame?

How could you claim

to follow Christ

when your fame has spread

so many dark days and nights

with more dead

across so many lands, from your hands




famed oily blood brothers

who wrought so much hurt, loss and fright

– dread of so many children and mothers



with your gospel of markets and self-righteous might

whose weapons ignite still more terror and plight

filling land, sea and air

with endless infection, bombs and despair

‘Love thy neighbour

as thyself’

– NOT

‘An eye for an eye’


is what Jesus preached,

Big Top Barker Bush,

and your yapping

Dog-collared Upsucking

Mascot Blair



A New Waste Land (New Departures) is available, price £25 hardback, £15 paperback, from Central Books www.centralbooks.com


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill