Thursday, April 30, 2009



I may have mentioned this before, but Mark Steel really is an obnoxiously unfunny little tit.  But he does have the benefit of acting as a policy wind-vane – whatever he thinks is a good idea clearly isn’t.  And he also demonstrates an unusual ability in this column – that of destroying your own argument by attempting to illustrate it.

The argument that raising tax doesn't bring in any extra money is mad on lots of levels. It's a good job these people don't run a shop, as presumably they'd tell their customers "Oh don't bother giving me any money for those biscuits. The notion that if you give me money, that will raise any more money for me than if you don't give me any is a myth," and be bankrupt in a week.

It’s evidently a good job that Mark Steel doesn’t run a shop, relying instead on free money from Radio 4, because he would presumably say to his customers “By the way, I’ve jacked up the price of biscuits by a tenner a packet so that I get more money for them.  The notion that rational people might change their behaviour as a result of a change in financial incentives is a myth,” and be bankrupt in a week, surrounded by packets of unsold biscuits.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Into the last lap

Into the last lap

Another day, another disastrous poll – in the Sun this time.  This Government has gone toxic.  The Conservatives, on the other hand, look better and better.  Now, I am obviously biased on this, but for most of the last, oh, 12 years or so the Tories have looked as though they lacked a theme.  Why did they want to get into power?  So that they would be the Government.  That was more or less the raison d’etre  for New Labour, but they were buoyed into victory by the tide of sleaze and weariness that annihilated John Major.

It has been Labour’s response to the recession that has given the Tories a new force behind their desire to get into power.  Funnily enough, even if there had been no recession and we were muddling along much as we were in the spring of 2008, I suspect that the Tories would have won the election.  Labour, like the Tories in ’97 is too shop-soiled and too weary to deserve another go.  But the recession, and crucially the Labour approach to combating it that was revealed in the budget, has given the Tories a purpose.

Labour has no intention of seriously trying to get the accounts back in balance.  It’s only deadline is the next election, and its only aim is to limit the scale of its defeat.  Spending will not be cut, and taxes will not be raised (except symbolically on ‘the rich’).  It’s only plan is to stagger on to the finishing line, where it can pass the whole mess on to the Tories, in the hope that, in dealing with the mess the Tories will make themselves so unpopular that Labour can return.

As a result, the Tories have a motivation for victory that is more respectable than mere lust for power – someone has to fix this mess.  I suspect that this is now filtering through to the electorate.  If this were a case of general disgust with politics and politicians, one would expect to see the Lib Dems profiting – and they aren’t.  Gordon Brown’s team thought they were onto a winner with the theme that serious times call for serious people.  The problem is that Labour under Brown has become so fundamentally unserious.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Racist! Racist!

Racist! Racist!

I must admit that, with a few exceptions, I have always found the Fabians to be humourless little tits.  Good evidence as to why that is comes from their leader – Sunder Katwala.

Sunder has been engaged in an online pursuit of Dan Hannan, on the grounds than Dan’s failure to predict the collapse of Iceland’s economy a mere four years before it happened renders him ineligible to have opinions – a point echoed by Sunny Hundal, who went on to make a series of irrelevant/inaccurate observations about Dan’s speech to the European Parliament.

Dan twits Sunder and Sunny mildly over this in a blog over at the Telegraph, saying that:

There are two Lefties, though, who follow this blog keenly. They are called, confusingly, Sunder and Sunny. One writes for Next Left, the other for Liberal Conspiracy - or possibly the other way round: as with Ant and Dec, I've never been entirely clear on which is which.

before going on to say that the recent elections in Iceland do not demonstrate the turn towards the EU that Sunder posited, even though they do represent a swing to the left.

All reasonably cheerful stuff.  And Sunder’s response is to say that

As far as I can tell, the humour depends on a 'don't these chaps have funny names' piece of side-splitting hilarity, or may be a nostalgic attempt to revive the sadly neglected 'why is it so hard to tell Asian people apart' humour that many people thought was getting a bit stale back in the early '80s when I was at school.

Funny names, presumably, like Ant and Dec.  It’s not really surprising that his instant reaction is to smear Hannan as racist, but it is a little dispiriting.

Top rate tax

Top rate tax

The politics of the new top rate are potentially toxic; the economics of it are much more straightforward.  The main problem with it, of course, is that it is in itself a popular measure – everyone wants ‘the rich’ to pay more tax, provided always of course that ‘the rich’ is defined as ‘people who are richer than me’.  Any suggestions that it is somehow unfair to impose higher rates of tax on the rich are met with incredulity and anger – let them sod off to a bloody tax haven, as Janice Turner put it.

And fair enough really, on an emotional level.  But then, I’m a Conservative, and I don’t believe that tax should work on emotional levels.  I believe that tax should be levied for two purposes: to raise revenue and to influence behaviour, and I’m not too keen on that second purpose in most cases.  Since the new rate will not raise revenue significantly, and may actually reduce it, it should be scrapped in the Tories’ first budget – even if, especially if, that budget is a tax-raising budget.

More polling disasters

More polling disasters

I’ve been spending a bit of time recently wondering just how bad for Labour the election is likely to be.  Conventional wisdom still holds that the Tories have a psephological and electoral mountain to climb, even Cameron said that – a while ago admittedly – and it remains the case that they are hampered by systemic electoral bias.  But I have become increasingly convinced that they are on course for a big majority, possibly a very big one.

For a start, this feels like one of Jim Callaghan’s tidal moments in political history.  The budget looks like being an abject disaster – not only was there the totemic increase in the top-rate of tax, thereby breaking (another) manifesto commitment and winning the scorn of Tony Blair, but it also lacked any route out of the fiscal slough into which Labour have driven us: it was, as I said, fundamentally unserious and seemingly designed solely for petty party political positioning.

And then there are the polls.  The Evening Standard has a London only poll that ought to make shattering reading for Labour.  The headline figures are

Con: 45
Lab: 33
LD: 16

When I first saw this poll I thought it might be reasonable for Labour – after all they’ve been scoring in the mid 20s for the last few.  But when you compare the figures from the last election (Con: 32; Lab: 39; LD: 22) you begin to see that this is all starting to look seismically awful for Labour.

Pub politics

Pub politics

If one can manage to get past the involuntary shudder that Bruce Anderson inevitably causes, there is often a good deal of sense in what he writes.  Today, for instance:

There was a shrewd old Tory MP called John Stokes, who was never given enough credit for his wiseacre wisdom. In the 1980s, during one of Margaret Stormcrow Thatcher’s recurrent crises, he warned the Commons that things were bad; people were talking about politics in the pubs. Oh yes, he persevered above the incredulous laughter, it was never a good sign when pub talk became too political; always meant that there was something wrong with the country. It is happening again, and it still does.

It’s easy for sad politics bores (like me) to miss this, but he’s right.  A couple of years back, politics was simply off the agenda, unless you were with other politics bores.  Now, wherever you are, and whatever company you’re in, everyone’s talking about it, and always in the same context: Brown is a useless cretinous moron, and Labour should be booted out of office as soon as possible.  Labour have run the gamut of public reaction from hope, to enthusiasm, to disillusion, to disengagement to disgust.  The election could be bloody.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Furious Gordon...

Furious Gordon...

One responses of the leftish blogs to the McBride affair was a tu quoque – how can the Tories (and Guido) complain about these smears, they asked, when there is a consistent meme on the right that Gordon Brown is bonkers?  Superficially this is quite a compelling argument – to describe a political opponent as being mad is, almost by definition, a smear.  And yet, and yet

The strain shows, say current and former Brown aides: Among other things, it has inflamed a temper that has always been the subject of gallows humour among those who work with him, they say.

The prime minister, 58, has hurled pens and even a stapler at aides, according to one; he says he once saw the leader of Britain’s 61 million people shove a laser printer off a desk in a rage. Another aide was warned to watch out for “flying Nokias” when he joined Brown’s team.

One staffer says a colleague developed a technique called a “news sandwich” -- first telling the prime minister about a recent piece of good coverage before delivering bad news, and then moving quickly to tell him about something good coming soon.

Coupled with that peculiar video, in which Brown gurned and grimaced and grinned and rocked himself in strange ways, it adds to the impression of a Prime Minister who is, well, a bit weird.  Is that a smear?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fifth column at the Telegraph

Fifth column at the Telegraph

So, Guido is reporting that Iain Martin has finally had enough of the Daily Labourgraph  and has handed in his hat.  I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to be honest.  I’ve said it before, frequently, but the slide in standards at the Telegraph is a disgrace.  Simon Heffer is bad enough, the Polly Toynbee of the right, having to read Mary Riddell, Janet Daly and associated horrors is enough to put anyone off.  Nope, the Telegraph is a shower, and I’ve stopped reading it.

Except, except, there is a fifth column operating within.  Presumably because Heffer doesn’t know how to use the internet, the Telegraph blogs are rather good.  You’ve got Con Coughlin, Iain Martin (until now obviously) new boy Ben Brogan, Dan Hannan – it’s a smorgasbord of old-fashioned Telegraph rightism.  How long before either they take over the main paper in a beer-hall putsch, or get extinguished in a Barclay inspired pogrom?

A fundamentally unserious budget

A fundamentally unserious budget

Well, that went down well then.  Darling had two choices in yesterday’s budget.  He could have started down the long road of balancing the books, cutting public spending in significant ways and raising taxes to increase revenue.  Or he could have continued to fudge along as we were, increasing spending, and relying on monumental borrowing to tide us over.  No real surprise that he chose the latter option.

There was nothing in this budget – beyond the raw borrowing figures, which were jaw-dropping – to suggest that the Government have the faintest idea of how to get us out of this mess.  Indeed, there is plenty to suggest that they have no interest in getting us out of the recession, just in hanging on until the election and then handing the whole stinking mess over to the Tories.  Look, for instance, at the proposed reductions in spending.  None of it is scheduled to begin until 2011 – after the election, when all these nasty cuts can safely be blamed on the Conservatives.  Up until the election, public sector spending will actually continue to grow by 5.5% p.a. – the fastest rate since the early 1990s.

There is not even a cursory attempt to get serious in this Budget – the entire process is designed to tide Labour over until they can be put out of their misery.  Everything then will be Cameron’s problem and, hopefully, Cameron’s fault too.

The 50p income tax rate was introduced solely as a political heffalump trap for Cameron to blunder into.  If the Tories come out strongly against raising the top rate of income tax to the third highest in the West (which of course on pure economics terms they should) it will be used by Labour as a dividing line: we care about the many hard-working families; the Tories just want to cut taxes for the very rich through inheritance tax and income tax.  Unfortunately for the Labour Party, it’s such a blindingly obvious trap that the Tories barely even needed to shimmy to avoid it. 

There is, in fact, an easy way for the Tories to run this campaign: “The public finances are ruined.  The budget forecasts Darling made were fantasies.  There will be an emergency budget as soon as we can ascertain just how bad things are.  We favour a transparent, simple and low tax regime, so we can try to regain the economic competitiveness that Labour has destroyed.”  Simple, and avoids offering specific hostages to fortune.  Provided that the Tories set out the tune of their economic plans, which will basically be spending cuts immediately, with tax cuts to follow as they can be afforded, the exact words can be fudged for now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Great Revival?

A Great Revival?

Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 is justly famous as a great reforming budget, introducing pensions and increasing social spending at the cost of significant tax increases.  It is understandable that Tony Dolphin should want Darling to emulate it.  Regardless of the intrinsic merits of such a budget, however, Dolphin makes the following claim:

Raising existing taxes and introducing new ones may sound like a sure route to political unpopularity, but the fiscal position leaves the Chancellor with little choice. It may reassure him to know that Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ helped revive the Liberal Party’s political fortunes, showing that boldness can deliver votes as well as economic results.

Um.  The 1906 election was one of the great electoral wins of all time, seeing the Liberals win a majority of 125 and the Conservatives lose half their MPs.  The 1909 budget, which was blocked in the Lords, was the last budget of that Parliament, causing a general election in 1910 to be fought specifically on the question of House of Lords reform, made necessary by the blocking of the budget.  So, how revived were the Liberals by the budget?

There were two elections in 1910, in each of which the Conservatives received more votes than the Liberals, who were forced into coalition government with the Irish nationalists.  The Liberal Party never again formed a Parliamentary majority, and after the war-time coalition ended, never again formed a Government.  Not quite the great revival that Dolphin depicts is it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wasn't this what Jacqui Smith's husband was watching?

Wasn't this what Jacqui Smith's husband was watching?

This might be one of the finest news stories of the year.

In what is either the weirdest Russian crime story of the year so far or a new low in yellow crime journalism, a female hair stylist in the Kaluga region is suspected of holding an armed robber in captivity as a sex slave for two days after he unsuccessfully tried to knock over her beauty salon…

…after the other stylists and clients went home for the evening, Olga told Viktor to "take off his underwear" and, with apologies to John Cougar Mellencamp, let her do as she pleases, lest she call the cops, said.

She tied him to the radiator with handcuffs covered in frilly pink fabric, gave him some Viagra and had her way with him several times over the next 48 hours. When she finally let him go on the evening of March 16, Viktor had been "squeezed like a lemon," reported.

Magnificent. And people say that the glory days of newspapers are over.

(Hat tip to Tim Blair)

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden

The stirring actions of the US Navy in reaction to the kidnapping of an American skipper off Somalia have brought the whole question of Somali piracy back into the headlines.  My first reaction when I heard that pirates had attacked a Maersk ship with an American skipper was that they had bitten off more than they could chew and that retribution would be swift.

However, three shots from a sniper rifle do not and will not solve the piracy issue.  For all the size of the US surface fleet, there are simply not enough ships in the world to police the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean.  Another idea that has been floated has been the use of Q ships – heavily armed but disguised merchant vessels that effectively act as lures.  Less elaborate is simply that merchant vessels should carry armed personnel.  All these ideas rely on the belief that the best way to defeat the pirates is at sea – as Jonah Goldberg says if more pirates were shot, there would be fewer pirates.

Sadly they all ignore the reasons behind the piracy.  This is not a cultural relativist ‘it’s their culture, and it’s equally valid’ point, it’s a practical point.  Somalia is not so much a failed state as a destroyed state.  Moreover, as Ben Macintyre points out, the culture of piracy – of shiftinnet – has held sway in Somalia for hundreds of years.  The extension onto the water is inevitable, once you consider the wealth of the shipping passing within a few hundred yards of the shore.  Piracy in Somalia made $150 million last year alone, probably the biggest industry in Somalia, especially since the Islamist driven decline in the qat trade.  The pirates are the big players in town.  They pay the wages of the police, and they earn more than the politicians.

Macintyre’s solution is probably right, albeit depressing.  Until law and order is established in Somalia, along with economic prosperity, there is little prospect of stopping the shifta, whether on land or sea.  For an idea of what a depressing answer that is, read this:  That cannot be done with guns alone, and will never be achieved until and unless Somalia can finally rid itself of the culture of the gun.  Now ponder on how realistic that is in our lifetime.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Draper isn't the point here...

Draper isn't the point here...

Tim Ireland has responded in post-form, as well as at length in the comments, to this post.  Unfortunately, I still think he’s missing the point.  By focusing on the role played by Guido and Iain, Tim misses the important things about this story.  Reminding me that he doesn’t like Derek Draper either is really not relevant.

I’ll say it again: Draper isn’t the interesting part of the story here.  ‘Bloggers misusing blogs in various nefarious ways’ is just not very interesting.

What is important is that this was being planned from no. 10.  The important figure in this story, as it currently stands, is McBride.  Draper is a lackey; a remf.  Incidentally, I entirely believe Draper’s line of defence that he had only responded so enthusiastically because he wanted to curry favour with Downing Street to win its support for his website, LabourList because it so utterly fits with what I have heard about him.  It doesn’t excuse it, but it does explain it.

Tim has said that since the claims that Tom Watson was copied in on the emails have not been substantiated – and have now in fact been retracted – this devalues the underlying story.  That since Guido/Iain are smearing Watson it invalidates their story about McBride/Draper smearing other people.  Bluntly, this is rubbish.  If the story had been broken by Baron Munchausen, with Pinocchio standing as corroborative evidence, it would still have been a significant story.  No-one denies that these emails were written by McBride – he’s resigned as a result.  No-one denies that there were plans to set up Red Rag – it was in beta and ready to go.

As I said in the comments, if this had been a story where Andy Coulson had been ringing up Guido and Iain about setting up a website designed to smear the family members of Labour MPs, I doubt whether Tim would be concentrating on the foibles and flaws of the people who broke the story.

Augean open-plan offices

Augean open-plan offices

Right.  Barring the appearance of another round of revelations on the McBride/Draper emails, it looks as though the story is more or less over.  What, if anything, have we learned from it?

The deep unpleasantness of Gordon brown’s closest advisers can have been no news to anyone who has read Rawnsley or Bower on Brown and the Labour Government.  For McBride in 2009, read Whelan in 1999.  Nothing has really changed.  Alice Miles’s column today is spot on, and rather dispiriting, because one thing is certain: McBride’s nature and methods, and by extension the nature and methods of the whole coterie of Brown advisors from Balls to Watson, were known by every political journalist in the country.  What has been striking, however, is the sheer mean-spirited lowness that this affair has revealed.  Squalid and debasing and utterly unworthy of a Government.  It’s been like turning the light on and watching the cockroaches scuttle into the shadows.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quick! Look over there!

In amidst the enormous kerfuffle caused by the McBride/Draper emails, the way that most left-wing blogs have reacted has been hilarious. We are all missing the real scandal here. OK, civil servants paid by the taxpayer may be spending their time concocting lies about Tory MPs and their families, OK, the civil servant in question might be one of Brown's closest advisors, and work from the next-door desk to the PM. OK, fine, but the real scandal is that Paul Staines isn't very nice! And Iain Dale didn't get to be involved!

But the ne plus ultra post of this sort is up on Bloggerheads. Wondering how much it addresses the issues?

Number of times Derek Draper mentioned: 1
Number of times Damien McBride mentioned: 0
Number of times Iain Dale mentioned: 8
Number of times Paul Staines mentioned: 10

It's almost like he's obsessed or something...


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fighting words...

Fighting words...

How is it possible for a cabinet minister to remain in office with this sort of press coverage?

Jacqui Smith protests she's a victim of a smear campaign over her expenses because she's a woman with no independent wealth.

No, Home Secretary. You're receiving this unwelcome attention only because you're a liar and a thief.

That’s not a Heffer-esque fulmination from the opinion pages, that is the lead editorial from one of the highest-circulation papers in the country.  Normally you’d say she’s toast, but Labour ministers have astonishingly thick-skins for this sort of thing…

The new Blair Peach

The new Blair Peach

The images of police hitting and shoving Ian Tomlinson in the back during the G20 protests are pretty damn horrible.  Regardless of whether it caused the heart attack that’s unacceptable behaviour from a police force that seem increasingly to view themselves as outside the law.  There needs to be an investigation and, if the results merit it, a prosecution.  The police are not exempt from the law, they should in fact be most subject to it.  Anything else and we really are on the path to a police state.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009



Last word for now on the MPs’ expenses shenanigans.  Take a look at the Green Book for 2009, the official guide to Parliamentary expenses.  These are the areas for allowances:

  • Employing staff (Staffing Expenditure)
  • Provision of facilities, equipment and supplies for themselves and their staff (Administrative and Office Expenditure)
  • Overnight stays away from home whilst on parliamentary duties (Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure)
  • Communicating with constituents (Communications Expenditure)
  • House stationery and postage (Stationery and Postage)
  • Travel – between Westminster, the constituency and main home (Travel expenditure)

Now, at risk of angering those who think MPs should have no expenses whatsoever, these all look perfectly reasonable.  Taken in conjunction with the over-riding requirement that Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties the current requirements, at their basic level, look like a perfectly good basis for a reformed system.

It is, of course, in the finer print that the abuses creep in.  The allowance for overnight stays away from home turns into an allowance for a second home – including to buy furnishings, cleaners and ‘subsistence’, terms so wide-ranging that Gordon Brown used it to pay for his Sky Sports package.  Jacqui Smith buys suede cushions and stone sinks on our buck.

There is a perfectly good answer to all this, which is for the House of Commons to publish all expense claims made by MPs each year – or, if this is seen as too massive an undertaking, a randomly selected representative sample.  I can see, for instance, why the taxpayer should subsidise MPs accommodation near the Palace of Westminster, but not why I should be buying cushions, or Sky Sports packages.  If the MP knew that each claim they make would be subject to public scrutiny, then the sort of rule-stretching that we have seen recently would stop.

Monday, April 06, 2009

How's the job hunt going?

How's the job hunt going?

The series of expenses scandals, which will be as much the hallmark of the death of this Labour administration as sleaze was for John Major, has its origins, as I said, in a disconnect between the public’s perception of what MPs are worth, and they themselves believes they ought to be paid.

£63k isn’t all that much money in certain circles – it’s roughly what a newly-qualified solicitor in a big city firm would get for example.  And when you consider that the pay for bankers, CEOs and other big-wigs is now stratospheric, it’s not so very surprising that MPs want a piece of it.  After all, as Jackie Ashley says in today’s column in the Guardian, many politicians are not venal, are motivated by decent feelings, and could have got better jobs elsewhere.

Wait a minute.  Could they?  Some could, certainly.  William Hague for one will take a substantial pay cut when he becomes a minister.  Ken Clarke has already taken his pay cut in anticipation.  There are a few other Tories, like Alan Duncan who was an oil trader, and a string of barristers, who could be reasonably sure of making more money outside the Commons than inside.

But in Government?  Jacqui Smith was a teacher.  Alistair Darling was a provincial solicitor.  Alan Johnson was a postman and trade union official.  Gordon Brown spent a couple of years lecturing in a college of adult education.  The Milibands and Balls and Coopers and Purnells and Burnhams have all spent their whole careers in wonkery.  Could any of these really make more money in business than in politics?  None of them has ever tried.  Lets have a look in five years time, how many of the voted-out MPs have gone on to better jobs shall we?

Chancellor of the world...

Chancellor of the world...

Gordon Brown must have glowed with pleasure on reading Nick Robinson’s assessment of the G20 summit.

The Chancellor of the World Exchequer. That is how Gordon Brown appeared today as he delivered his global budget speech at the end of this G20 summit.

It all felt so very familiar - and yet at the same time so very different.

But, as the small print of that $1 trillion comes under the spotlight, it is increasingly clear that the comparison to a Brown budget is not a compliment.  Just like them there is an eye-catching up-front figure, a reliance on off-budget accounting, and the hidden reality that there’s not much behind it.  It’s always been Brown’s biggest failing: a desire for favourable headlines the following day regardless of what that means a week, or a year, down the line.  He’s got his three point bounce from the G20, but I wouldn’t bet on that effect lasting.  In fact, as people realise that he has raised their hopes only to dash them, I’d anticipate the Labour poll falling again…

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Double standards much?

Double standards much?

There’s a rather lovely illustration into the mindset of the Guardian today.  It comes in the form of literary criticism of two different cartoons.

The first was a picture of a chimpanzee shot dead by New York police, with one copper saying to the other that ‘now they’ll have to get someone else to draft the stimulus bill’.  Despite the fact that there is no explicit linking of the chimp to Obama, this cartoon is “obviously racist”.  It is, in fact “unserious” to deny this.

The second cartoon looks like this:


The cartoon shows a headless Nazi-like, goose-stepping, jackbooted figure, with one arm raised and outstretched, holding a sword, and the other wheeling a head in the form of a Star of David – one side of which is a wide-open mouth, equipped with vicious teeth, about to devour a very small, fleeing refugee-like female figure holding a baby. The word "Gaza" is emblazoned on her cloak.

Now, given that racism was obviously, incontrovertibly apparent in a cartoon of a monkey, what is the implication of this cartoon that explicitly compares Jews (Israel by implication, but it’s not the flag of Israel used, but the Star of David) to Nazi Germany?

Political cartoons are often very offensive, and offensive – even when it involves comparing Israelis with Nazi – does not automatically mean anti-Semitic.

Well, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.  Brilliantly, the article goes on to argue that comparing Israelis to Nazis can’t be anti-Semitic because anti-Semites in the 1930s were hardly likely to compare Jews with jackbooted Germans.

So, the drawing of a monkey in a political context is automatically racist, because it might be held as referring to Barack Obama.  But Jews are Nazis and it’s fine to depict them as such.  There’s something marvellously consistent about the Guardian’s inconsistency.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Morons with dreadlocks

Morons with dreadlocks

Popped out at lunchtime and wandered through the Bank/Cannon Street area.  Place full of crusties expressing their hatred of capitalism by milling around untidily.  A troupe of idiots were doing their bit to bring down the Government via the medium of tambourines.  It was, in short, a dispiriting exhibition of the sort of political expression I’d hoped I’d left behind in the JCR.  Apparently RBS had installed a water-cannon on the premises – what this crowd really needed was soap as well.

So I responded to the crisis in the way I know best.  I bought a book by the most right-wing person I could think of off-hand, and then had a quick look in Hacketts.



Natalie Haynes is right: it’s getting ever harder to work out what the April Fools stories are in the news these days.  Waking up to the Today programme this morning, the only story I thought looked like an obvious candidate was this one, but c’mon, re-organisation of local government?  Surely that’s too tedious to be a joke?  So presumably then, it’s Alan Shearer becoming Newcastle manager?  Well, if so I hope the BBC are ready to pay a lot of Magpies’ therapy bills.

I actually thought I’d nailed it in, of all places, the Times TV section.  Entitled BBC's black, high-kicking Friar Tuck annoys historians it talks about the new approach to Robin Hood: having Friar Tuck as an African martial-arts expert.  It’s a bit of a twofer really: very few sub-Saharan Africans in 12th century England.  Not much Christianity south of the Sahara then either.  Not to mention the whole martial-arts thing.  So, basically, it’s bollocks from ball one.  But is that it?  No, of course not.

“If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic,” Harewood said. “He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic. He wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.”

Sadly for the premise of my supposition, the article was published on March 28th, meaning that there really is a republican, martial-arts expert, Christian African Friar from the twelfth century in Robin Hood.  Give me strength.  Happily I do have a coping mechanism that will allow me to enjoy this series of Robin Hood as much as I did the earlier ones.  I won’t watch it either.