Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tough on grannies, tough on the causes of grannies

If there is a small crumb of comfort for Gordon Brown as he prepares for an evening of two posh boys trashing his cherished self-image as a towering economic genius... actually, scratch that. There isn't a crumb of comfort. Let's start again.

If there is one thing that might raise Gordon Brown's mood from the blackest soul-crushing despair to a state of mere doom-laden, unremittingly hopelessness it is the though that the he is not alone in having a less than favourable impression of the sort of people who vote for him. Here is one of his predecessors, Lord Salisbury, on campaigning

... days and weeks of screwed up smiles and laboured courtesy, the mock geniality, the hearty shake of the filthy hand, the chuckling reply to the coarse joke, the loathsome choking compliment that must be paid to the grimy wife and sluttish daughter, the indispensable flattery of the vilest religious prejudices, the wholesale deglutition of hypocritical pledges.

Admittedly, Salisbury is not directly comparable to Brown. He was not the sort of person to cling to office at all costs (after being ousted for the first time his son sent him a telegram reading: "I hear you are turned out. Many congratulations"); more to the point, he led his party to victory.

Nonetheless, it does suggest that saying what you really think might not be the worse thing for a politician to do. If only Brown promised to be tough on grannies and tough on the causes of grannies, if only he had promised to free the land from the menace of elderly ladies with their poorly articulated failure to grasp the nature of socio-economic change in a globalised economy - well, he'd hardly be worse off, would he? It would probably win back a few Guardian readers from the Lib Dem camp.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Never be rude to an Arab

The Nigerian slang term for an idiot is Dundee United.

As The Sun puts it:

According to legend, the term came about after the Terrors played several friendlies in Nigeria in 1972.

The tour was a disaster - and the term 'Dundee United' had been used ever since to describe someone of low intelligence among Lagos's Yoruba-speaking population.

I guess it's another distinction for a rather curious club. The club started life as Dundee Hibernians and now plays in orange; it's two nicknames are the Arabs* and the Terrors (an unfortunate juxtaposition that).

I once lived in Dundee; ghastly place, give me Lagos any day.


* For rather mundane reasons; they used to put sand on the pitch in winter.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Dished by the Whigs

We live in a land of weather forecasts and breakfasts that set in... shat on by Labour, shovelled up by Tories.

Oh go on then, let's talk about the general election. There is something genuinely interesting afoot here. And it's not simply the delightful unpredictability that the rise of the Liberal Democrats brings. Frankly anything is possible - so don't expect predictions here. (Although I stand by my earlier forecast that things will end very badly for Gordon).

The big thing here is the blank incomprehension displayed by many on the Tory and Labour sides as the yellow tide starts to rise above their heads. Admittedly the less delusional elements of the Labour party have just about accepted that their leader is not terribly popular and that spurning the repeated chances to jettison the Jonah before the good ship Labour glug-glug-glugs into the deepest recesses of the ocean may not have been the wisest course of action.
But there's an obvious point that many people on both sides are missing.

A great many people dislike - with varying degrees of intensity - both the Labour and Conservative parties.

You might call this Morrissey syndrome - I've been dreaming of a time/When the English/Are sick to death /Of Labour and Tories - or you may prefer the more elegant line for Withnail & I at the top of this post.

You hear supporters of both parties complaining the leaders' debates have reduced politics to a sort of X Factor in which the poor, stupid deluded voters are falling for the empty charms of Nick Clegg. (Translation, they are losing and they don't like it). I would suggest that underestimating both the electorate and your opponents at the same time is a rather foolish way of looking at things.

There is a pretty deep well of Liberal Democrat-leaning people - remember there are liberals in all three parties - who have always been deterred from voting for the party because they couldn't see the point. The discrediting of the old way of doing politics, the debates and the resultant Lib Dem bounce might, just might, have unlocked this potential. At the very least there is a strong possibility that the public wants to give Labour the most enormous kick where it hurts but does not trust the Tories sufficiently to give them free rein.

The Tories don't seem to have grasped this yet, nor can they quite shed the assumption that they have a divine right to govern simply because Labour has made such a royal balls up of things. If their biggest selling point is being lead by a man who is Not Gordon Brown then they can hardly complain if someone who is better at being Not Gordon Brown than the spivvy, moon-faced gobshite they are offering as the next prime minister emerges.

As for Labour, oh dear. It is not simply that they are led by a man with all the appeal of a leper's clammy embrace, it is that his coronation as Labour leader is a symptom of how badly they've gone wrong. In part, it because Brown encapsulates the uniquely unappealing mixture of rank incompetence, self-righteous authoritarianism and over-bearing desire to meddle in every aspect of people's lives. But there's more to it than that.

In the Nineties Tony Blair realised that if Labour kept losing election after election to a widely disliked, if not hated, Tory party then maybe, just maybe, the problem was with Labour and not the electorate. Large chunks of the Labour party never forgave Blair for this insight, and by repudiating him in favour a more traditionally minded party figure showed that this old delusion - that Labour is the political wing of the British people - will not die.

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British hacks: no better than a Frenchman

Once again France outdoes England. Whereas England's footballers' sex scandals are rather tawdry and vulgar affairs, the French manage a genuine level of scandal, sleaze and, well what you would expect of the French.

The teenage call girl accused of sleeping with at least three French football stars when she was underage broke her silence over the scandal announcing: "I loved them all".

Zahia
Dehar, now 18, said she was "shocked" that the players were facing up to three years in prison for the crime.


You may well have read about it already, of course. It's a good story and the English press has reacted with predictable glee. But there is one interesting aspect to this reporting; the journalistic mind works in a rather predictable fashion - when reporting a scandal of this nature there is an immediate desire to dig up similar examples. Virtually every report I have read - be it the Times, Telegraph, Mail, , (not the Guardian, admittedly) has a similar example of moral turpitude to hand.

As the Times put it

The public, whose morale often seems linked to the fortunes of the national side, has reacted with hilarity, annoyance and dismay to the prospect of the side being dragged through the mud by footballers’ libidos. It happens just as the international furore over a Thierry Henry handball against Ireland — allowing les bleus to qualify for the World Cup — has begun to subside.

One might get the idea that your average journalist believes that cheating the Irish out of a place in the World Cup is really comparable to paying a 17-year-old for sex. I can assure you this is not the case: most of them believe Henry's offence was far worse.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The last refuge of the scoundrel

England is the least patriotic country in Europe, according to a study.

It's things like this that make me proud to be English.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Literal of the week

Election? Volcanic ash? These matters interest me not. (Oh, okay the election is getting kinda interesting now). But this is more my sort of thing.

An Australian publisher has had to pulp and reprint a cook-book after one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" instead of black pepper.

Anyone who has ever edited anything will recognise that sinking feeling when an obvious, silly and embarrassing error makes its way into print - there is a natural tendency when reading something to see what ought to be there rather than what is actually there and it can never be entirely eradicated. (And there seems to be an iron law of nature than any attempt to highlight or laugh at spelling or grammatical errors made by others means your own post will contain at least one howler).

In any case, I like to thing this sense of "there but for the grace of God go I" is why cock ups of this nature are so enjoyable when somebody else makes them. It also explains why the splendid Regret the Error website, which points out the worst press cock-ups, is especially popular amongst production journalists.

Nor is this cookbook by any means the worst example of this sort of error. In the 17th version of the Bible was published in which the "not" was missing from the "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" part of the 10 Commandments; inevitably it became known as the Adulterer's Bible or the Wicked Bible. Reassuringly for students of human nature the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to this with the age-old lament that standards were slipping and this could never have happened back in the day.

I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the beste, but now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.

One would like to think that copies of this Wicked Bible were carefully guarded and used by societies like the Hell Fire Clubs and the like a couple of generations later. The few surviving copies are certainly highly desireable collectors' items today. One doubts the cookbook will ever have quite the same value; but those who have a copy would be well advised to hang on to it.

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