From the Observer 9 May 2015
Contrary to what the traffic police tell you, careful driving does not always save lives. Until the moment he careered into the electorate, Ed Miliband was a safe pair of hands. He kept Labour quiet, and hid its divisions. The splits between left and right, which came close to destroying the party when it went into opposition in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s, did not happen under his leadership. Everything seemed calm. But as his career ends – and what, he may think as he looks back, was the point of all that? – the quiet that Miliband brought looks like the quiet of the grave.
From the Observer 2 May 2015
On 16 February 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill confided a plan to destroy his Liberal opponents to the Conservative lawyer Gerald FitzGibbon. It was a risk, he implied. But if William Gladstone’s Liberal administration proposed home rule for Ireland, “the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two”.
Before tobacco and alcohol killed him – possibly with the help of tertiary syphilis (historians differ on whether he added the pox to his wages of sin) – Churchill was one of the most formidable and unscrupulous Conservative politicians of his age. Read the rest of this entry »
From the Observer 25 April 2015
In London’s East End, where so many battles against real fascism were fought in the 20th century, “anti-racism” has become little more than a swindle. Far from being just or noble, it was a pretext to bribe journalists, pay off accomplices and frighten poor immigrants into supporting a crooked demagogue, who despised his “own” people so much he would not even grant them the right to participate in an honest election.
The formal reasons judge Richard Mawrey gave for disqualifying Lutfur Rahman from office last week are bad enough. The now ex-mayor of Tower Hamlets used fake “ghost” voters to win elections and public funds to buy votes. He offered grants to groups “that hadn’t even applied for them”. He took money that was meant to be going to the Alzheimer’s Society and poor wards that needed all the help they could get. He ran a “ruthless and dishonest” campaign to convince the electorate that John Biggs, his Labour rival for mayor, was a racist. When the election court asked Rahman if he believed for a moment that Biggs was an actual racist, he dodged the question. No matter. The truth of the charge didn’t worry him. His only concern was getting the lie out, and seeing it taken up by the local Bengali TV stations, five of which received public money from the mayor.
From the Observer 12 April, 2015
If there were ever a good time to have a nervous breakdown, now would appear to be it. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the treatment of mental illness is an election issue for the first time in British or, as far as I can see, world history. Say what you will about the Liberals, and I have said much, but this is an achievement.
Meanwhile, the health service, the bureaucracy and the “serious” media show their respect for mental illness by enforcing speech codes that would make a Victorian clergyman blink. You should never use words that have become insults even if they were not originally insults or are not always used as insults now – “cretin”, “simple”, “cripple”, for instance. You should never say that someone is “suffering” from autism or schizophrenia – even if they are. On no account should you describe someone as “mentally ill”. You must refer to “people with mental health problems” instead. By extension, mental health patients are no longer “patients”, but the “users” or “consumers” of health services.
From the Observer 4 April 2015
NOTHING is more dishonest than David Cameron’s slogan that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for “competence over chaos”. Nothing is more disreputable than the failure of our allegedly ferocious 24/7 media to examine it.
Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on Europe in 2017, should the Tories win, will bring political, constitutional and economic chaos, which will continue into the 2020s. I suspect he is bailing out because he knows it all too well.
His announcement that he won’t serve a third term is little more than a confession that Britain might soon be ruled by a prime minister chosen by Tory party members rather than the voters. Cameron has given everyone who wants to succeed him permission to begin campaigning as soon as his hollow victory is assured. Boris Johnson, Theresa May, George Osborne and ambitious Tories whose faces you will struggle to recognise, grasp that the only way to win over a greying, nationalist party membership is to demand ever more concessions from the European Union or complete withdrawal.
From the Observer 29 March 2015
Being a racist is like being a snob. You are always on patrol; always noticing differences others ignore. Nigel Farage’s enemies accuse him of being obsessed with race. I assumed Farage would use this campaign autobiography to refute them. Instead he obsesses for England.
He tells the standard inspirational story of triumph over adversity, physical as well as political. Farage recalls how cancer left him with a Hitlerian deficiency, when it took away one of his testicles. The NHS misdiagnosed his condition and allowed one testicle – the left, he tells us – to become “as large as a lemon and rock hard”. I am not sure I needed to know that. But three decades after the event Farage still wants the reader to know that the blundering physician was “an Indian doctor”. When he calls on a neurosurgeon, Farage again feels the need to dwell on his physician’s immigration status. This time he tells us he was treated by “an Indian migrant who grew up in Slough”, although Farage does not mind over-much because the doctor turned Read the rest of this entry »
Newspapers that tell you how to vote are asking for trouble. I still meet readers with harsh words to say about the recommendation of the editorials of the Guardian and Observer that they should vote Liberal Democrat at the last election. (Those who followed it are the most scathing.)
So it is with a stammer in my voice and fear in my eyes that I say that, in theory, some of you should vote Tory in May. Hold on! Put that pitchfork down. I just said “in theory”. My point is that liberal or leftwing readers in Kent and Essex could, in theory, consider tactically voting Conservative to stop Ukip winning.