Tag Archives: commentariat

Have a pop at Polly

Polly Toynbee is really starting to depress me. The fact that a member of the aristocracy actually gets paid to write, week after week, about the need for the government to intervene on absolutely everything, is quite remarkable. She is beginning to eclipse any attempts at parody.

Today, she writes a heartfelt paean to the joys of the surveillance society, suggesting that anyone who opposes ID cards and a national DNA database is a green ink using paranoiac. Fortunately, there is a much more sensible piece by Michael White in the same paper to give a bit of balance (one suspects that the latter was written in response to the first), but I can’t help but feel that someone really needs to give her a proper fisking.

Unfortunately I’m far too busy to day to do it justice, and there are far more eloquent people out there than me. So please, if you get a chance, do make an effort to write your rebuttal and leave a link in my comments section so my faith in humanity can be restored.



Tommygate continues to bemuse. Is Watson the first minister to resign in order to spend more time with the Chancellor’s family?

The “cover story” – that Watson was merely visiting to give Brown’s baby a present – is so laugh-out-loud unlikely that it could actually be true – who would make up an alibi like that? On the other hand, its very unlikelihood could be purpose built to bamboozle us.

Watson is, of course, a past mater of the bamboozle, managing to portray the Hodge Hill by-election as a magnificent victory when the truth is it was a rout as far as Labour were concerned.

But one thing has become apparent from all this – none of the political correspondents have a clue who he is, with Jackie Ashley thinking he is a horny-handed Scottish trade unionist (instead of the lily-livered ex-student hack from the Midlands we all know), and Michael White calling him, of all things, a Brownite.

Snyde on the Lib Dems

I couple of days ago I suggested that Iain Dale was seeking to emulate Marina Snyde’s glittering career: now he’s taking the shortcut by quoting large chunks of her articles on his website. What can I say? QED.

As for the article itself, it starts off well: there certainly is a self-destructive streak running through the Lib Dems at the moment. I feel it myself. It is borne out of an anxiety that came out of the last general election. A lot of people are asking themselves “is this it?” A few gains here, a few loses here, the prospect of becoming the official opposition in the next 20 years IF we can hold it all together? Shouldn’t we be doing more?

This has externalised itself in the form of a lot of odd behaviour: the way Kennedy was treated, the way Kennedy was behaving, Mark Oaten full stop. But much as our political opponents would like to claim that this is The End, such periods of ennui and self-doubt have the potential to be incredibly creative. I have a feeling we may yet have a few surprises up our sleeves.

None of this of course was explored by Ms Snyde. Her article, apart from a couple of half-decent gags, just seems to fizzle out, which is par for the course. Snyde is an example of what happens when you combine Julie Birchill’s attitude with a posh middle class upbringing and remove most of the intelligence. The result is some weird parody that you can only stare and gawp at. Still, it’s nice to have a bit of attention.

Iain Dale’s Lord Levy moment

I do worry that certain bloggers are getting too big for their boots. I’d draw an analogy here with one of my past obsessions: Robot Wars.

I used to love the show for the simple reason that it involved lumps of metal sawing the crap out of each other. Another entertaining feature was seeing the geeks who built the things being interviewed by the rather lovely Philippa Forrester (before she lost all credibility over the Brass Eye paedo debacle). Socially awkward at the best of times, they were all so clearly terrified of her it made truly entertaining telly.

The problem was though that after a few series, the programme started to hit the mainstream. Robots would be invited to open Village Fetes, become the talk of water cooler conversations, have affairs with Z-list celebrities and have embarrassing photos of them climbing out of cars with their undercarriages exposed published in Heat magazine, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile their designers started to believe that they themselves were minor celebrities. They started wearing team uniforms, developing team songs. Worst of all, they all started to think that Phillippa actually liked them. The sight of a sweaty, fat bearded man with no social skills attempt to flirt with an attractive woman 15 years his junior was truly awful to watch.

My question is, is the same thing happening with bloggers? Guido has been bouncing around the blogosphere recently expounding the Power of the Blog. And the lest we forget the supreme pretentiousness of the Euston Manifesto.

As for Iain Dale, he’s been roasted a bit on his blog today for writing a very silly post claiming that former Labour David Hinchcliffe’s decision to take up a non-executive directorship of South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust is an example of New Labour sleaze. His defence seems to be that the press release announcing his appointment claims it wasn’t a political appointment but rather Hinchcliffe was appointed on merit (which on my reading it would appear that he was) and that, um, anyone criticising him is “employed to post on the blog by the Labour Party”. Including me.

Yes indeed. Iain is such a threat to New Labour that they employ people to discredit him, and his proof is that people post on his blog to tell him when he’s being a bit of a berk. He might as well just write a post entitled “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?” and be done with it.

Hubris. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Freedland on the Conservative and Anti-Unionist Party

At the risk of having my comments filled with swivel-eyed loons with an penchant for calling everyone who doesn’t agree with them a “c***”, I just thought I’d recommend Jonathan Freedland’s article on the Tories’ daft proposals on breaking up the UK.

There are however, the points in this I take exception to:

  1. You don’t need to go back as far as Prussia to find an example; a more contemporary example of what happens when you create an assymmetric union of nation states can be found in the form of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
  2. I don’t actually accept Jonathan Freedland’s view that Scotland and Wales “civilise” the English and that without them we will simply drift to the right, although I accept that most Tories probably think that.

If the latter were true however, I think the case for breakup would be much stronger than it is: if our cultures are so sui generis, why not go our seperate ways?  In fact, what we’ll find quite quickly is that instead of all this moaning about the West Lothian Question, the feeling that the North of England is being subjugated by the South will become even more acute.  Over time, we’ll probably end up federalising England in exactly the way the Tories most fear, but with a lot more unpleasantness and a lot more time and energy wasted.  The Tories haven’t just given up on Scotland and Wales; they have discovered that by simply concentrated on a few voters in the Midlands and the South, they can use the electoral system to orchestrate a coup, and are using the Scots as convenient scapegoats in the hope that the North won’t notice.

The real problem is the massive centralisation of England; the West Lothian Question is a trainspotter’s obsession (coming from me, that’s saying something) and a serious distraction.

My links with the Modern Review

Well, actually, they’re extremely tenuous at best, but I did enjoy watching When Julie Met Toby last night on BBC 2.

My “links” such as they are were that I went to Manchester University just after Charlotte Raven had left. Raven was the sabbatical Women’s Officer when Derek Draper was a sabb as well (in fact, they went out with each other for a time). Back then, these two obsessed the UMU hacks no end – they all hated them, they all wanted to be them. Both of course fell from grace shortly afterwards, Icarus like, but at least Derek Draper is still tabloid-fodder due to his marriage to Kate Garraway. Raven has disappeared; at the end of the programme Julie Birchill mentioned that she’s now married to a truck driver and has grown so fat she has to use one of those mobility scooters. I hasten to add I have no idea if that is true. One other theory is that she got a peroxide job and transmogrified into Marina Hyde, but I think the fattie story is kinder.

My other link to the Modern Review is that at work, we still get their post (the ancient Egyptians believed that you only truly died when no-one could remember your name – I have a theory that no-one will ever truly die again now due to us remaining on junk mail lists until the end of time). No mention of 6 Cynthia Street was made on the programme however and it would appear that the first incarnation of the Modern Review was edited entirely in Toby Young’s flat. What of Charlotte Raven’s short lived second incarnation? The rumour is they used to do their ad sales out of the place, but no-one seems sure. Anyone out there know?

I’m feeling oddly nostalgic about my uni days at the moment – see the mention of Nick Angel in my previous post. 1996 was a fucking great year for me and one of the few times in my life when it actually felt good at the time.

You missed my rant

Just got back from doing The Big Issue programme on Resonance FM alongside Alex Runswick/One Perfect Rose, Nick Edwards/Londonist and presenter Mark Hanson.

If you missed it, which you probably did as I didn’t exactly flag it up in advance, you didn’t hear my launch of Hands Off Our Future, my latest project. Have a look at the site, such as it is at the moment (lots of balls in the air at the moment – but watch this space) and join the forum.

Should we be panicking about Russian spunk?

Madeleine Bunting is very worried. Gallons of semen from Eastern Europe could be heading this way. And yes, she does employ the image of the HFEA playing the role of King Canute, attempting to turn back the waves. Thanks for that mental picture Maddy.

I do apologise for not taking this all that seriously, but is this really something that should be concerning us? More precisely, can this really be described as “genetic imperialism”? In which case, who is the empire?

There is a genuine issue here, which is that it is that poor people undergoing invasive medical operations in order to feed and clothe their families is obviously a moral problem. I’m a little more worried about people getting paid for their kidneys than their eggs though, and getting a peasant to bash one out in a paper cup worries me substantially less than the centuries old practice of poor people selling their hair. In short, the knives are the problem, not the DNA.

Far from being guilty of wicked imperialism, genetics here is actually quite benevolent. The demand for spare parts from the developing world will always be limited by genetic compatibility. Demand for sperm and ovum will be limited by parental preference. People are likely to want genetic material coming from people with the same race. They’re likely to want sperm from intelligent and attractive people and there aren’t that many concert pianists and underwear models in the barrio.

In evolutionary terms, who exactly is exploiting who? The scenario that Bunting describes as nightmarish is a delightful inversion of social Darwinism: the genetic code of poor people being spread far and wide around the globe. Herbert Spencer must be rolling in his grave. In terms of sexual selection, the implications are intriguing, but hardly worrying: filling the genepool with attractive, intelligent attributes is unlikely to do anyone very much harm, although I’m sure the BNP are unlikely to see it that way.

If anyone here is a “victim”, it is the kids growing up with absolutely no idea of who their genetic parents are and little prospect of finding out. Again however, there isn’t anything particularly new in this.

Poverty is a problem and we should do something about it. Coming up with new moral panics however is to badly miss the point.

The evils of liberalism

I’ve blogged about this before and I’m sure I will again, but what is Nick Cohen’s problem with liberalism? He has never spelt it out beyond complaining that reality rarely meets the ideal, but that is true of all ideologies, and yet he returns to the subject again and again.

This week, Kate Winslet’s Number One Fan is attacking “Europe” (whatever that is…) for not being as liberal as it claims to be. In doing so, he cites Simon Jenkins – an arch Tory – and Franco Frattini – Sylvio Berlusconi’s personal appointee to the European Commission. He laments the prohibition of Holocaust denial and laws to prevent criticism of religion, both of which are predominently advocated by socialist parties. He suggests at the end that the people of Europe are becoming contemptuous of hypocritical politicians who espouse liberal ideals yet fail to observe them in practice, yet that is an argument for more liberalism, not less.

More to the point, this Euston Manifesto supporter fails to come up with something even vaguely resembling a leftist alternative. Indeed, that manifesto includes plenty of exhortations to freedom which, last time I looked, was the alpha and omega of liberalism. Euston can be read as a wholesale surrender of the left to come up with a better model for society than liberalism after two centuries of wasted effort. Yet for Cohen, it continues to be the root of all evil.

I should probably stop reading these columns as Cohen has become so idiosyncratic now that they are seldom worth the time. But one day I would love to see him attempt to come up with answers. Polly Toynbee may be consistently wrong, but at least she tries. The polemicist schtick has got old, Nick.

Millennial Tension

What are we to make of the fact that Frank Luntz took the time to email a fluffy toy elephant a response at 5.30am?

As with his response to the Liberal Review, he appears to be blissfully unaware that he didn’t make any quantifiable predictions at all, or that, in the case of the Tory leadership piece particularly, his findings were used to boost the fortunes of David Cameron.

Could it be that he is simply blissfully innocent?