From The Observer 13 June, 2015
The pretence that sportsmen and women are “role models” is impossible to maintain. It’s not just that no parent tells their teenage children to model their sex lives on premier league footballers or holds up Lewis Hamilton’s flight to a tax haven as a model of good citizenship. To be a member of the sporting “elite” is to live in a state of perpetual childhood without enjoying or even wanting the rights and responsibilities of a grown-up.
It is impossible for anyone involved in politics to write without lying. The act of joining a party and committing to collective discipline compels loyalists to “take one for the team” when required. They do not want to give aid to their enemies or cause distress to their friends, so they avoid the questions that anyone else would ask automatically.
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. Continue reading
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.