Author Archive

August 10, 2014

Anti-Semitic double standards: the arts and the Jews

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‘Would you force anyone else to behave like this?’ the promoters of the UK Jewish Film Festival asked the artistic director of London’s Tricycle Theatre.

Indhu Rubasingham and her colleagues dodged and hummed. They didn’t like the question and did not want to reply to it. The silence was an answer in itself. Of course the theatre would not hold others to the same standard: just Jews.

Carry on reading

July 3, 2014

Propaganda shouldn’t pay

As with Nye Bevan and Conservatives so with me and PR departments: “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for press officers. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Or as the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston put it in his recent Charles Wheeler lecture, “I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy.”

Let me explain how they are the nearest thing to prostitutes you can find in public life.

Carry on reading

June 30, 2014

Iain Duncan Smith: A neurotic authoritarian disaster

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At a time of miserable conditions for the poor, sick and disabled people, the administration of the welfare state is a disaster. The grand projects the Department for Work and Pensions has launched since the general election have been bureaucratic fantasies and practical catastrophes. Ministers have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of public money – Tory ministers, mark you, who pose as the defenders of hard-working taxpayers. For all that, Iain Duncan Smith tramps on without a thought of changing his ways: a character study in destructive pig-headedness

Carry on reading

June 26, 2014

We want your money and your labour but we don’t want you

The story of the University of London’s cleaners ought to be a modern Made in Dagenham. Immigrant women were scraping a living on a poverty wage from an employer who wanted them to clean up other people’s mess and get out of sight when they’d finished. They fought back and, in a rare uplifting moment in these dismal times, won. They forced the university to raise their pay from £6.15 to £8.80 an hour and give them decent holidays and sickness leave.

But no one will make a film about the university cleaners because it lacks the prime ingredient for a feelgood story: a happy ending.

Carry on reading

June 21, 2014

The collapse of the free speech movement

Steve Coogan after giving evidence

I have looked everywhere. I have Googled, and asked around. But I can find no evidence that Steve Coogan has ever taken the trouble to defend freedom of speech at home or abroad.

Carry on reading

June 16, 2014

Jailing the handicapped – the prisons have mental health problems

Inside a prison: no place for the mentally ill.The government may not mean to kill people with mental disabilities but it’s deeds, not motives, that matter, and when the coalition subtracted political cost from economic gain, it found those with disabilities were the easiest people in Britain to dispose of.

Carry on reading

June 2, 2014

When journalism dies

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For here is what no one understood: the web would indeed set people free. It would empower the masses and tear down hierarchies. But once the web had destroyed the old funding model for journalism, no one would take the place of the reporters who trudged along to crime scenes, meetings and court cases. It turned out that unless a news organisation trained people to do it, paid them to do it and ordered them to do it, no one would want to do a difficult and at times boring job for nothing.

Read the whole thing

May 30, 2014

As Ukip wins the right loses

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Ukip has added a baggage train to the simple demand for the British to have a say on whether they stay or leave. It has turned EU membership from a constitutional question into a culture war. Look at the British right today, and you see that Farage’s chicanery has made being against the EU mean being against gay marriage and sexual and racial equality, and in favour of flat taxes and of Vladimir Putin too.

Read the whole thing

May 26, 2014

The end of the boring EU

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You have to pay attention at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to realise it is inviting the public to witness the death of old Europe. The Dutch don’t know it. They have spent €370m refurbishing its 19th-century halls and the museum now shines as one of the world’s great cultural centres. Nor do funereal sentiments greet the millions of visitors. They are welcomed instead by two over-confident English philosophers, who have splattered their thoughts over gallery walls like middle-brow graffiti artists.

It is as if the culture ministry of a totalitarian state has taken control.

Carry on reading

May 22, 2014

Politically correct Ukip goes mad

Nigel Farage“Political correctness” is a treacherous ideology, which can turn you upside down. I avoid the term if I can because it has a double meaning. On the one hand, it describes a liberal and in my view admirable campaign to persuade institutions and the wider population to treat people equally regardless of gender, colour or sexual orientation. Like all campaigns in democracies, it can win only by winning arguments.

But political correctness has become a despised term because it also means the silencing of arguments.

carry on reading

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