Tuesday, June 30, 2015 

Membership of Conservative party 'may be sign of extremism'

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has defended the government ahead of tomorrow's introduction of a legal requirement on schools to prevent extremism.

Morgan, who still looks visibly surprised to be in a position of any authority whatsoever, was combative.  "What our critics have to understand is this puts us under the same level of scrutiny as everyone else.  And let's be honest here, the Conservative party could until recently have fallen foul of our definition of what extremism is.  The mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs? I should coco."

"Individual liberty is all well and good, but if it leads to someone saying things we now declare to be extremism of the non-violent variety then obviously we have to step in," Morgan continued.  "As for the rule of law, the law is whatever we declare it to be, and if we don't like the interpretation of one judge, well, we can always get that of another.  Nor are we safe when it comes to democracy, as we have no problem whatsoever with palling up with some of the most unpleasant governments on the face of the planet, like our good friends the Saudis, who respond to demands for freedom of thought with the sword and the whip.  Did you see there was another attack today in Yemen claimed by Isil on the Houthis?  We're hoping no one notices that we are on the same side as IS there, not to forget allied with al-Qaida's affiliate the Nusra front in Syria."

Asked whether it was the height of hypocrisy for Morgan to claim that homophobia might be a sign of extremism when she and many other Conservatives opposed gay marriage, Morgan gave a remarkably straight answer.  "Well, obviously.  But we either can't or won't do anything real that might help tackle extremism, so we decided making life even more miserable for some of the people least likely to vote for us was as good a way of any of showing we're doing something."


In other news:
Fifteen-year-old threatened with TPIM for describing teacher as "well gay"
Parents of latest IS runaway blame teachers, police, government, social media, Basil Brush, Charlotte Church, and Buzz Aldrin for her disappearance
Counter-terrorism exercise held in London, officers trained to shoot for head of nearest Brazilian
Labour party abandons policy of social democracy, as "issue is gone"

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Thursday, March 05, 2015 

Still mass debating the debates.

It really can't be stated enough just how much of a blinder David Cameron has played from a position of weakness on the debates, or increasingly likely non-debates, and what a spectacularly craven one the broadcasters have from a position of strength.  For months before the first proposal sources made clear Cameron would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of what he and his advisers felt was a debacle last time round, when Clegg seized the advantage they felt was rightfully theirs.

Rather than adapt their bids accordingly, they walked straight into Craig Oliver's trap.  Dave debate with Nige? Not without Natalie there to snipe at Ed and Nick from their blind sides.  Instead of saying OK and calling his bluff, they came up with the completely ridiculous and unwieldy idea of also inviting Plaid Cymru and the SNP, and to two rather than just one of the showdowns.  Why then not invite the DUP as well, or Sinn Fein, the Natural Law party, the Pirates, the Real Elvis continuity wing?  There didn't seem to have been the slightest thought put into how a 7-leader debate could possibly work, presumably because they were expecting Miliband and Clegg to now say hang on, this is becoming a joke.

Only they didn't, apparently believing the pressure on Cameron to take part would become too much.  It hasn't, as was predictable considering there isn't as much demand for the debates as the broadcasters, heady from the belief the debates were the campaign last time, and the other parties have convinced themselves.  Then you also have to factor in the lack of pressure from the press, both as they have an interest in not helping out the broadcasters and as most have already dismissed Miliband as only slightly less weird than Arnold Layne, making anything that could prove them wrong extremely unwelcome.  If it was Miliband refusing to be involved you can imagine the uproar, the jibes, taunts, the multiple interns in chicken suits that would be following him around everywhere.  As it's Cameron he'll raise the ire only of the Daily Mirror, and their stock isn't exactly high at the moment.

Now we have Oliver and Cameron's "final" offer, and it's playing the broadcasters at their own game.  You wanted 7 leaders, you've got it, but we're only doing one and before the campaign proper gets under way.  As contemptible as this is for all the reasons the other politicians have spent the day outlining, you also can't help but admire the way it's been done.  It's been Campbell-esque in its evil genius, which is no doubt why it's annoyed the man himself so much.  Having a debate before the Conservative manifesto has been published is all but pointless, as Paddy Ashdown pointed out, as is one when the very presence of at least two of the leaders is completely irrelevant to most of those watching as they can't vote for the SNP or Plaid Cymru whether they like the sound of their policies or not.  Even if answers to questions were limited to two minutes, that's nearly quarter of an hour that's going to be spent on just each leader's opening gambit.  No wonder Cameron thinks he'd escape completely unscathed from such an encounter.

And so we are once again left with the broadcasters threatening to "empty chair" Cameron.  Only because of the impartiality rules the Conservative policy would have to be outlined regardless, quite possibly by a journalist, making the spectacle even more ludicrous, and leaving the one-on-one debate with Miliband presumably transformed into either a long-form interview with Paxman or a town hall style non-event.  The question is who comes out of such silliness looking worse, and Cameron will quite happily take a few negatives headlines rather than risk Miliband appearing prime ministerial a week before voting.  Channel 4 and Sky offering to move that debate forward yesterday was all the encouragement Cameron and Oliver needed to make a final mockery of the "negotiations".  What a mess, and for all the cowardice, cynicism and calculation of the Conservatives, the incompetence of the broadcasters has been just as remarkable.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015 

Mass debating the debates.

Is there anything more thrilling, more guaranteed to get the pulses racing than a debate about having debates?  Does parliament get any more electrifying than when the back and forth is effectively the equivalent of two eight-year-olds saying I know you are but what am I?  Could the public, supposedly completely engaged and at one with the leaders demanding the debates take place, in fact be any less interested by this cavalcade of nonsense, from both the political parties and the broadcasters?  Is that enough rhetorical questions for an opening paragraph?  (Yes. Ed.)

Christ alive.  If anything, what I find most perplexing about this entire farrago is the insistence, best expressed by Roger Mosey, that "In a short time, television debates have become a vital part of our democracy".  To which I say: bollocks.  What they most certainly have become is very lucrative indeed for the broadcasters, especially when budgets have been slashed for news gathering in general.  Why bother to follow the party leaders around the country on the campaign trail when you can let a skeleton crew do that and instead concentrate on those heavyweight clashes between the big three, or indeed four, or even five?  David Cameron is of course prevaricating over the inclusion of the Greens when he just doesn't want to take part as there is no possible way he could gain from the debates unless Farage shoots Clegg and Miliband dead while a bodyguard takes the bullet intended for him, but all he's really doing is reverting back to practice before 2010.

What's more, there's a decent case to be made for having no debates at all, or just the one between Cameron and Miliband.  Everything about our political system makes the presidentialising (or infantilising, if you prefer) of party leaders problematic.  Just look at the outcome in 2010: "Cleggmania" led to the Lib Dems increasing their share of the vote, only for the way those ballots were spread across the country to mean the party in fact lost seats.  However you try to dress it up, come May we'll be casting votes not for a party leader, but a party's local candidate.  Only those lucky enough to live in Witney, Doncaster North or Sheffield Hallam will have the chance to personally support one of the big three. 

For all the uncertainties over the election outcome, there's also no doubt the prime minister will either be from the Conservatives or Labour.  Unlike in presidential systems, our party leaders also do regularly go up against one another, although the quality of their tete a tete's are not always as high as they could be.  True, they rarely face questions direct from the public, but it's also not as if they won't have answered the ones set to be posed dozens of times before.  There's something to be said for taking a leader out of their comfort zone and seeing if they get agitated or crumble under studio lights, and they clearly serve a purpose for all those smart enough not to follow politics or the news in any great depth, but otherwise they are supremely overrated and over analysed events.

Whether they suck the life out of the campaign as a whole though, as Cameron is felt to believe the debates did in 2010 is more open to question.  Also different this year is the campaigns have already effectively started; most people won't be taking any notice till around the start of April, it's true, but can anyone really say they're looking forward to Cameron then repeating for the umpteenth time it's a choice between competence or chaos?

Besides, this isn't for once a mess of the big three's making.  The broadcasters must have known the second they started making plans for Nigel every other smaller party would demand they get a hearing too.  Invite him and you surely have to invite the Greens; invite the Greens and you may as well get the SNP and Plaid Cymru in too, as otherwise they'll start whinging despite not standing candidates outside of Scotland or Wales.  As to whether this makes the entire thing even more ridiculous, or impossible to contain to 90 minutes, let's worry about that nearer the date.  Oh, except this provided Cameron with his excuse to back out.

Only now comes the call for the broadcasters to go ahead without Cameron should he continue to refuse to attend.  Really?  This isn't HIGNFY where Roy Hattersley can be replaced by a tub of lard with hilarious consequences, it would render the entire spectacle completely pointless, a bit like those wonderful debates between Clegg and Farage last year that no one watched.  If the incumbent doesn't go along with it, it snookers the entire process,  and would surely also be unfair to Clegg, who'll be left having to defend the coalition at the same time as he'd like to be distancing himself from it.  For all the half serious half snide remarks about how without Natalie Bennett the debate would be one between four men on the centre-right, it would also result in Clegg and Miliband ganging up on Farage, which if they sat back and thought it through is unlikely to help them much either.

Surely the best solution is as the Graun suggests, for ITV to call Cameron's bluff and invite Bennett regardless of what Ofcom's final decision is.  If they won't, and the wider media really is sincere about this being what the public expect now and the very essence of democracy and so on, they should step into the breach themselves.  Otherwise, is it really unimaginable for there to be a campaign which doesn't revolve around the leaders and instead is about, horror of horrors, policy?  Would it be possible for the manifestos to be somewhat gone over and compared with each other, for instance, or even a series of films on what the issues are in different constituencies across the four nations?  Are we back asking rhetorical questions again?  (Yes. Ed.)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014 

An open letter to Alex Willcock, CEO of VisualDNA.

As a digital stick in the mud, one of those people who enjoys the benefits of the internet but doesn't feel the need to share his every waking moment and feeling with a bunch of strangers, it falls to me to state that the wankery expressed in your Graun advert is even by the usual standards of the guff produced by marketers and advertising agencies quite something to behold.

It's also an extraordinarily pretentious way of saying that you're going to continue sucking up people's data regardless of whether you have permission to do so or not, as your company does currently, boasting of how you can tell your customers of the "Demographics Interests Intent and Personality (DIIP) data of almost 450m people worldwide" (sic).  This is obviously a load of utter crap, but then what else is the point of businesses like yours?

Hopefully this response to your attempt to spark "discussion and debate" reaches you well. Now do everyone a favour and poke your "understanding economy" up your arse.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014 

The speed of stupid.

It's hard to disagree with Chris when he writes of a turn away from politics.  Not in the sense of apathy, but in how so many appear incapable of seeing the wood for the trees.  Never has it been so possible to fully immerse yourself in politics, and yet many of those who chose to do so spend much of it squabbling at the margins.

Take just today's example:  Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweets a picture of a house in Rochester with three England flags adorning the outside.  There's also a white van in the drive.  Image from #Rochester is the message.  Almost instantly she's jumped on for her apparent blatant snobbery, veteran idiot Dan Hodges describes it as "an entire political movement defined by a single tweet", and those whom should know better like Anne Perkins are describing it as Labour's biggest mistake since Ed Miliband stabbed Myleene Klass live on TV (is this right? Ed).

Small things like how Thornberry had already tweeted a photo of a "vote Felix" sign and what ordinary voters had told her under a Tales from #Rochester hashtag obviously don't matter.  Her explanation, that she was surprised by how the flags were blocking a window entirely also makes no odds.  Clearly just a feeble effort from an Islington liberal to deny her own bigotry.  Right on cue, in calls a hopping mad Ed Miliband to reprimand Thornberry for not considering absolutely every possible way her tweet could be interpreted, and the inevitable apology is made.

Which is the key.  Being incredibly loud and not giving in works.  It's why #gamergate is still going on, despite everyone having long since forgotten what it was meant to be about.  It's why Sheffield United have now retracted their training offer to Ched Evans, Julien Blanc was refused a visa, and a real life Nathan Barley received far more attention than his alleged comedy had previously once he became the target for campaigners.  Both left and right can lead a monstering in this brave new world, where tribalism meets narcissism and threats are the most powerful currency.  Forgive me if nihilism seems ever more attractive.

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Monday, September 01, 2014 

Y'all are breaking the first two rules of Fight Club.

EXCLUSIVE TO ALL NEWSPAPERS AND NEWS SITES


  • IF YOU DOWNLOAD THE LEAKED CELEBRITY PICTURES YOU'RE JUST AS BAD AS THE EVIL, VILE PERVERT WHO RELEASED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE, PERPETUATING THE ABUSE
  • A COMPLETE HISTORY OF EBAUM'S WORLD, THE WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN FIND THE LEAKED CELEBRITY PICTURES

In related news:

  • Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Hadley Freeman and Jess Cartner-Morley on how to take a better naked selfie - "get the lighting right and the rest will follow"
  • Kate Upton joins Arsenal on season-long loan in defensive midfielder role
  • Seth MacFarlane Oscar routine suddenly even creepier in retrospect
  • David Cameron attacks Magna Carta, media uninterested after finding she hasn't had risqué self-shots leaked
  • Jessica Brown Findlay, in all seriousness, we're really, really sorry

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014 

Is 29 the perfect age?

No.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 

Those all important silly season stories in full.*

Death to racist feather headdress wearing festival fucks, says the Graun.

Commonwealth games awesome says athlete, Commonwealth games pointless and bit shit say public.

Ebola: we could die, say people in affected countries.  Ebola: we're all going to die, say Telegraph, Mail and government of hypochondriac dickheads.

Real-life Nathan Barley gets TV series on dedicated idiot channel in latest example of death of satire.

Person with breasts attacks other person with breasts.

People on Twitter do something in defiance of something someone somewhere said.

People use internet to advertise drugs, shock BBC investigation finds.

I've had just as much if not more casual sex than Byrony Gordon, pay me the same level of attention pleads Rhiannon Lucy Seagulling Cosslett.

Album format dead, say artists who've never managed to produce a single decent tune.

I can't make promises on tax, says Cameron. Cameron to cut tax, reports entire media.

ISIS releases video of murder of dozens of captives, Tony Blair still Middle East peace envoy, George W. Bush still incoherent inoffensive dauber, Israel still decimating Gaza to neutralise terror threat.

*In full meaning as many as I can stand without getting a hatchet and driving it with full force into my skull.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 

This blog is fully in favour of fundamentally disrupting power relations and reframing the debate to make a good society both feasible and desirable.*

Within hours of the budget last week, the Labour Uncut blog had a post up quoting a anonymous backbencher as saying such was Ed Miliband's response to George Osborne's pensions gambit, the way things were going the party would need a Devon Loch scenario to win a majority come the election.  For those under the age of 70 or who aren't much interested in the annual flogging a live horse round a deadly obstacle course soiree at Aintree, Devon Loch did a Bambi while just yards from the finishing post in the Grand National.  This rather strained metaphor ignores that for some time it's been Labour out in the front, not the Tories, but still.

Such is the way some of those on the right of the party have long responded to even the slightest of setbacks, or in this case less than that. Absolutely no one remembers the responses to budgets, and as it seems the coalition declined to provide Labour with the traditional redacted version of Osborne's speech in advance, Miliband would only have been able to respond to the specifics off the cuff.  Instead he went for a general critique, and while it wasn't great, it was nowhere near as poor as has been made out.

Nor is the rise in support for the Tories since the budget anything approaching a surprise. Osborne succeeded in presenting it as a giveaway, albeit "fiscally neutral", and reined in the austerity masochism as far as he could. There were no further painful cuts outlined, although whether they might well be needed when Osborne is spending money he hasn't properly allocated as the IFS pointed out remains to be seen.   Precision geared towards those already more likely to vote Tory, in effect bribing them with their own money, exactly the claim they used to throw at Gordon Brown, add on the changes to pensions and the bounce ought to have been expected.  The real question is whether the uptick remains over time, as it did for Labour long after the omnishambles of 2012.  As yet there's nothing so much as approaching an indication this will turn out to be the case.

For Dan Hodges and his ilk though this is the final proof Miliband is a loser, or rather, "isn't working".  Hodges has been pushing his the only way to win is to out-Tory the Tories shtick for so long now it's stopped being entertaining in the same way as watching a film that's so bad it's good is, and has just become incredibly boring.  Nonetheless, Hodges' line into the soul of the party is John Mann, who urges Ed to speak the language not of a Hampstead academic but of the average resident of Bassetlaw.  These would presumably be the same people telling Mann that what the country desperately needs is a vote on our membership of the European Union, a cause he insisted was top of their agendas just a couple of weeks back.

Thankfully for all concerned who should enter the fray at this precise moment other than a horde of think-tankers with their own views on how Labour should fight the 2015 election.  Or, as they describe themselves, "members of the progressive community".  Think my writing is turgid, highfalutin, unnecessarily verbose and arch?  You should try this unholy alliance, who take Birtspeak to extremes.  They want Labour to make all powerful institutions accountable to their "stakeholders", action on the causes of "our social, environmental, physical and mental health problems", something that requires a "holistic" approach, and obviously, the "empowerment of everybody".  Not aiming too high there, are you lads?  Apparently the time of politicians doing things to people are over (or at least prospective Lib Dem candidates must hope this to be the case), while the era of "building the capacity and platforms for people to do things for themselves, together is now upon us".  Translated, this essentially means they are in favour of devolution and localism, and while it all sounds suspiciously like the Big Society all over again, only rebooted for the crowdsourcing Twitter and Wikis can solve like, everything, man age, it isn't meant as a cover for cuts.  Only there's no money to pay for anything, so sisters people doing it for themselves does help matters immensely.

If like me you can recall the times when Luke Akehurst seemed to embody everything that was wrong with the Blairite tendency within Labour, it comes as a deep shock when his is the voice of reason.  He notes how the letter seems to leave room open for another coalition, suggesting everyone should just forget how the Lib Dems have rejoiced in ripping the state to shreds over the past 5 years, and more pertinently, that as much as localism excites a certain section of politicos, it's mostly deeply unpopular or treated with deserved suspicion by the voters.  Unlike the Hodges/Labour Uncut sect, he even suggests 5 policies which aren't the same old triangulation, nor are they obvious pipe dreams fluffed by arcane language.

All this is to rather ignore just how the Tories seem likely to fight the election.  When they tire of the country is saved thanks to us routine, they fall back on policies that are deeply divisive.  See Cameron returning to the theme of cutting inheritance tax, the coalition having wisely not touched it during this parliament.  The Conservatives have become a party that is openly in favour of oligarchy, the passing down of unearned wealth from generation to generation.  The Mail naturally thinks this is a huge vote winner, while anyone with half a brain can see that you simply can't go on saying you're the party of aspiration while doing everything in your power to screw over those who don't have comfortably off parents.  If Cameron couldn't win outright in 2010 on a centre-right ticket against Liability Brown, what makes him think they can do so on a right-wing ticket in 2015?  The obvious answer is that they can't.  Miliband and his ministers do need to flesh out many of their their policies, but to panic at this point or take advice from either extremely dubious faction would be a misstep.  The budget bounce will dissipate.  Everything is still to play for.

*Yes, that really is how the thinktank alliance conclude their letter to the Graun.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013 

The year round silly season.

Tom Daley is in a relationship with a man.  Somehow, despite Daley's announcement, life yesterday went on pretty much as normal.  In a country where same sex marriage will very shortly be legal, it might be an indication of how far we still have to go that pretty much every newspaper today has Daley on its front page, or it could be just another reminder of the cult of celebrity.  Coming out as bisexual, while certainly a big moment and decision for Daley (and probably a bit of a choker for his legion of female teenage fans) doesn't really affect the rest of us.  It's interesting in how a sports star feels the need to make clear his sexuality, and it's a reminder that in other sports, football especially, players don't yet feel secure enough to be open about being attracted to other men, yet it's also an insight into one reason why no one since Justin Fashanu has came out: the media simply wouldn't shut up about it.  Even if you made it easier for others to follow, would you really want your career to be overshadowed by something that shouldn't make any difference whatsoever?  Daley was concerned if he'd made the admission in an interview that his words would be twisted or misconstrued, hence he made sure there was no chance of that happening by taking to YouTube.

This isn't a post about Tom Daley or sexuality though.  Rather, what has really began to irk me is the way insubstantial or less important pieces of news are often responded to in an attempt to create a debate that simply isn't there.  Take the Graun, which just hours after Daley posted his video had a piece up by Nichi Hodgson, arguing "we shouldn't rush to define Daley's sexuality" (who was?) and that it suggests "being bisexual is still taboo".  While you can certainly make that case, it was just last week a survey suggested the number of women who'd had a same-sex partner had increased over the past 10 years, while predictably the Graun also had a piece up baldly stating "sexual fluidity is a fact of life for women".  It might not be the same for men, but what exactly is the point of addressing an issue that wasn't there in the first place?

The answer is, obviously enough, it draws in traffic.  Some days it seems news sites engage in little else but click bait, where what someone said on Twitter is dissected and squeezed for all it's worth, or where the latest meme or passing frenzy is debated for no discernible reason other than without it there wouldn't be much to fill out the page.  Then there are writers whose entire output seems to be designed to either wind the reader up or published purely as a kind of an elaborate joke on us poor bastards who used to quite like browsing Comment is Free.  Once there was Julie Burchill, who oddly enough now can't find anyone to take her nonsense, so instead we have Bidisha and Brendan O'Neill.  Not quite as irritating but still bizarrely foisted upon us are Holly Baxter, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Daisy Buchanan.  And occasionally, there are just fantastically stupid one-offs, like Nicolaus Mills' article yesterday on "self-gifting", which silly old web 1.0 me thought was err, buying stuff, or Lola Okolosie telling Marco Pierre White his hash of chicken, rice and peas was "a classic case of disrespectful cultural appropriation".

Point is, if I in fact do have one, is I can't be the only person who just really doesn't care about 99.99% of what's being discussed on Twitter or Facebook or on pretty much any social media.  If I did, I'd seek it out there.  It therefore doesn't interest me in the slightest that Katie Hopkins has said something else extremely vaguely distasteful, or the whole Elan Gale thing (who he? Ed) was a hoax which proves once and for all the internet is an unkind and mean place where adults act like children.

To almost completely contradict myself, very occasionally not enough is made of appalling similar behaviour, such as Peaches Geldof tweeting the alleged names of the two women who abused their babies for the approval of Lostprophets' Ian Watkins.  Apparently not realising that by doing so she was all but identifying their children, she later gave the most mealy-mouthed non-apology possible, focusing on how Watkins and the two women "will be gettings [sic] three meals a day, a double bed, cable TV etc – all funded by the tax payer alongside not being named apparently".  Whether she will be charged with any offence remains to be seen, but considering others have been convicted for naming rape victims on the site it would be inconsistent to say the least if the CPS declines to do so.  Coming in the same week as Lee James was convicted of the vigilante murder of Bijan Ebrahimi, it ought to have served as the perfect example of how quickly a mob mentality can be fomented.

You don't of course have to read any of those named above or those like them, let alone Buzzfeed or certain sections of the Huffington Post.  The portraits do however stare out at you, the headlines meant to draw you in, while you can't avoid their entries on the front page of CiF. Moreover, while there has always been an amount of fluff and barrel bottom scrapings on group blogs, it does seem to be getting worse.  Once there was considered and worthy content not apparently thrashed out to meet an artificial deadline; now we get pieces on "Lycra rage".  The silly season continues all year round.  Or maybe I'm just a bitter, miserable turd.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013 

Get over here!

In a sign of the race to succeed David Dimbleby as the scion of the BBC establishment heating up still further, both Hugh Edwards and Jeremy Paxman have been to quick to reveal that unlike Dimbleby, they've been sporting ink for far longer than the Question Time and election special host.

"While they might not look like it," said Edwards, in an interview with Horse and Hound magazine, "I can reveal that my lips are actually tattoos.  I thought accentuating the outlines would help my career.  Unfortunately, I didn't realise quite how painful having a red hot needle poked through one of the most sensitive parts of the skin would be, and I was left with the problem of my upper lip curling when I speak.  To my surprise, this facial quirk seems to delight some viewers, even bringing comparisons to Elvis.  It certainly hasn't done any harm in the long run."

"While it might not look like it," said Paxman, in an interview with Hirsute Monthly, "my sudden penchant for facial hair is in fact a cleverly conceived ruse. My chin does indeed seem to be sprouting hair, but it's actually an incredibly complex and realistic tattoo of a beard. I can't be bothered with keeping growth on my face in trim, so I had it all removed by laser and got the ink instead. Some of the more observant Newsnight viewers have noticed it hasn't been getting longer, and Dimbleby's off the wall six-legged scorpion made me decide to come clean."

Other unlikely celebrities to reveal their love for tattoos include George Osborne, who has a black line down the middle of his nose, not realising it would make his appendage look like buttocks, and Cliff Richard, who has a "living doll" he says talks to him etched on his chest. The Sun is even reporting that the Queen is thinking of getting a tribal butterfly on her lower back, in a gesture designed to show there's no reason for her subjects to be embarrassed by such ink, unlike Cheryl Cole.  Prince Harry meanwhile quite fancies a traditional Indian symbol (That's enough made-up tattoos. Ed.)

In other news:
Disaster in Philippines, thousands dead, not yet known how many were tattooed
Third Dimbleby brother, locked away in family annexe, revealed not to have tattoos
18-year-olds see sad old men getting tattoos, say fuck this shit

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Monday, November 04, 2013 

I WAS STITCHED UP TOO, SAYS TV'S ESTHER

The "Plebgate" scandal took a new twist yesterday when Esther Rantzen, former host of much-loved now defunct BBC1 show That's Life!, yes, the one with the amusingly shaped vegetables and the talking dogs, recalled how she too was subject to police lies.

"The officer who stopped us when we were travelling at a mere 110mph through a 30mph speed limit wrote down that my dear now deceased husband Desmond Wilcox had said to him: "I am the well-known celebrity producer Desmond Wilcox, and my wife Esther Rantzen is a TV celebrity; don't you know who we are?"

"Of course, he would never have said anything like that.  He was humble enough to know no one knew who he was, he merely said that I was Esther Rantzen, and didn't he know who I was.  Clearly, there's a few rotten apples in the barrels [sic] where this just comes as second nature.  I would have taken the matter further, but we felt we had no chance against the word of a police officer.  That, and the owners of the dog we had run over and dragged along under the car for 10 miles also didn't take kindly to the don't you know who we are argument."

Rantzen is appearing in panto this year as the Cheshire Cat.

In other news:
Dead black man latest suspect in Madeleine case, say Metropolitan police
EU support wafer thin, says Mr Creosote
Aircraft carrier contract renegotiated, vessels now to be built to float
I bedded Sir Alex Ferguson, says Sven-Goran Erikkson. "He was less hair dryer, more blow (That's enough. Ed)

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Thursday, October 24, 2013 

Those letters between the press and the Queen in full.

Your Majesty,
                             (Actually, before we get started, do you mind if we call you Liz? Your Majesty is really quite formal, and as modern press representatives we loathe formality, as your friend and ours Paul "double cunting" Dacre attests. OK, Liz it is.)

Liz,
      As you will no doubt be aware as a regular puruser of our publications, your government is currently try to ram through statutory regulation of the press. We believe this would signal the end of 300 years of press freedom, and as it is being achieved through a royal charter, we also believe it has the potential to sully the good name of the finest monarchy in the world.

We're sure you agree far too much has been made of the fact one or two newspapers were caught breaking the law on an industrial scale just to get the latest exclusive on which celebrity was shagging another, as we know you're as partial to OK! magazine as most other housewives. That we may have also smeared a few people who were arrested for serious crimes and then released without charge, or hacked the mobile phone of a murdered schoolgirl we can't condone, but such things have to be put in the context of our contribution to democracy, as recent articles such as Red Ed: Did his evil Marxist father help with the attempt on the life of Princess Anne? make apparent. Hopefully you'll also overlook this whole thing started with the regrettable hacking of the phones of members of the royal household. You wouldn't hold that against us, would you?

Britain has long stood as a shining beacon of freedom, and the vibrancy of the press has always reflected that. Our notoriety worldwide has been hard won, and not something we will relinquish lightly. The freedom of the press is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, drafted by our very own Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, and the fact that some of us have long campaigned for the abolition of the Human Rights Act and withdrawal from his charter for criminals and terrorists by no means makes us horrendous hypocrites.

Worst of all, the charter would almost certainly be used by autocrats and repressive governments worldwide as an excuse for attacks on the press in their respective countries.  This terrifying knock-on effect will be all the more devastating as it will carry with it the respect in which you personally, and the crown institutionally, are held throughout the world.  Of course, that we've never previously shown the slightest interest in freedom of the press worldwide, and have no problem with running supplements paid for by tyrants is something that shouldn't be held against us.  Nor does the fact some of us have suggested the Guardian should be shut down, prosecuted for endangering the security of the nation, and Alan Rusbridger strung up from the nearest lamppost mean that far from believing in the freedom of expression we believe only in the freedom to make money.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We therefore urge you, Liz, as the final guarantor of freedom of expression across the UK and your Commonwealth, not to sign this charter.  We hope you found this morning's headlines, where we universally described your great grandson as "Georgeous", to your liking, and that you've forgotten all about our publishing of photos of Fergie toe-sucking, Harry buck-ass naked and the hounding of your daughter-in-law to the point where she died trying to escape from our photographers.

Signed by the Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch no surrender committee

-----------------------------------------------
 

Dear representatives of the press,                                           
                                                                     Piss orf.
The Queen (Liz)

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013 

How discrimination still works.

Is there anything the media loves more than a good scare story, particularly when it involves the other?  When it also plays on the desperation of those who have lost a child, the cynicism takes the breath away. The story from Greece of little blonde girl found with a Roma family she has no biological link to doesn't have any significance outside of eastern Europe whatsoever, and yet thanks to global coverage of this truly shocking discovery the authorities and charities have received thousands of inquiries from those who hope the child may be theirs.

Quite apart from how the case seems likely to lead to Fritzl style demands for every Roma child in that benighted country to be investigated, something of great help to the Golden Dawn movement, the last thing it ought to have inspired is raids elsewhere. Just as we had idiots a few years ago who thought every blonde child in a foreign clime with parents of the wrong skin colour could be Madeleine McCann, so it seems the garda acted after a numbskull thought a gypsy couple couldn't possibly have produced a blonde girl. 48 hours later, and after the Mirror had splashed on the "panic", it unsurprisingly turns out the child is theirs.  The parents now seem certain to take legal action.  Rather than offer an apology, the garda has instead restated they "take extremely serious all reports received from members of the public concerning child welfare issues", which seems to suggest anyone acting upon prejudice and age-old racist assumptions still has a friend in the Irish police.

The Roma really are the last racial group it's socially acceptable to discriminate against.  Nor is it just in Europe, as a headline in last weekend's New York Times made clear, asking whether the Roma are primitive or just poor.  The body of the article is in fact, as you would expect from the NYT, a perfectly sensitive account of the attitudes towards the Roma on the continent, but the idea the paper would run a headline asking whether any other racial group is primitive or just poor, or cultured or just rich is laughable.

As Joseph Harker writes, whereas we now have endless discussions about whether or not a celebrity of one kind or another has said something racist, with what seems like an incident every month or so, the latest being the ridiculous mini-furore last week over Roy Hodgson's use of an old joke as an illustration, we don't seem to want to talk about genuine discrimination.  There was almost no wider coverage of BBC London's investigation into letting agents that suggested some were more than prepared to abide by stipulations from landlords that they couldn't let to those of an Afro-Carribbean background.  It's even more surprising when allegations of misogyny are thrown around in regards to the silliness surrounding a fucking baking reality show, and so much was made of the way women who come into the public eye were being treated on Twitter.  Like with so much else, we focus on the ephemera and neglect that which lurks just out of our line of sight.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013 

Don't you just love nostalgia for the 80s?

The Department for International Development today insisted that it was allocating aid according to need following allegations from a UKIP MEP that taxpayer's money was being sent to fictional countries.

Speaking at the Embassy comedy club, George Stereotype was recorded as saying: "An if it weren't bad enough that they're still all coming over ere, did you know that we're sending £1 billion a month to Bongo Bongo Land? The place doesn't even exist, and yet they're all swanning around in their Ray-Ban sunglasses, with their F18 fighter jets and nuclear powered toasters!  What about our people, having to live in cardboard boxes and get by on 15p a week and a kick up the arse if they're lucky?  It's treason, I tell ya, treason.  If you ask me, I'd string 'em all up.  An I mean all of 'em.  It's the only language they understand.  I'd do it myself an all, only I've got a bad back at the moment.  An I'm married to a Pole, so don't start with none of that racist bollocks.  An I pay two Kashmiris to be my friends.  I'm speaking for the common man, not these politically correct namby pamby shandy drinking southern softies down in that there London.  I met that Rod Liddle once.  Very clever man."

A spokesman for DfID, after a prolonged conversation with a man with an Australian accent, gave the following statement: "We would like to thank George Stereotype for bringing this issue to our attention.  As far we can ascertain, Bongo Bongo Land has not received any government aid since our records began in 1841.  We do however understand people's concerns about taxpayer's money being misspent, and so in future we will not be allocating any spending to countries where it is known that tribal drums are used.  We hope this reassures the general public.  I've also been asked to say that if you see anyone carrying around a set of bongos, don't be afraid to inform the Home Office so that their immigration status can be checked."

Having originally refused to apologise for publishing the original article, the Guardian has since shifted its position.  "We sincerely regret any genuine offence that was caused by presenting George Stereotype as a comedian.  He is clearly a highly accomplished politician, likely to be welcomed with open arms by the Conservative party in time for the next election.  All he needs to do is moderate his language slightly, and his fantastical tale of aid being spent on Ferraris and solid gold AK47s will be accepted by all right-thinking people as a perfectly accurate picture of our development programme."

The Labour leader Ed Miliband is still missing.

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Thursday, August 01, 2013 

That Queen's speech on the eve of nuclear war in full.

When I spoke to you less than 3 months ago, we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas.  The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as I once again regaled you all with how well the Commonwealth had been doing.

Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.  We intend to do this by carrying out a "first strike" on the Soviet Union with a "limited yield" nuclear weapon.  The experts war gaming this entire thing seem to believe this will be enough to make the Soviets back down, rather than launch an all out war.  I'm not quite sure about the logic of that myself, but I'm assured the prime minister knows what she's doing.

In any case, I have never forgotten the sorrow and pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father's inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939.  If we should get through this, I hope that moment could be immortalised on celluloid, and go on to win Oscars from the typically gullible American awards system.

Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.  In fact, the thought surely must have dawned on me at one time or another, especially during the Cuban missile crisis, but then you can't get the scriptwriters these days, can you?

But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.  I can't quite remember what those qualities were at this precise moment, as it's dubious as to whether they'll help much if all our major cities are vaporised, but try not to worry, everything is in hand.

My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country. My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.  Actually, I couldn't much care if the silly sod gets blown to kingdom come, but scriptwriters again, eh?

It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken.  This is why I am immediately opening Buckingham Palace to the public as a refuge.  What's that Philip?  Oh, you're right.  We can't be dealing with mud on the carpets.  Sorry, change of plan.  Ha ha ha.

As we strive together to fight off the new evil, let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.  I'm now off to a bunker with the rest of my family and the government.  You can be safe in the knowledge that even if you, your friends and your family die in the terror to come, that we and the rest of those who got the world into this mess will come out of it alive.  God bless you all.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013 

Important news story.

Mr and Mrs Tyler Wallbanger have "decided not to find out" the gender of their baby, a spokesman for the Scunthorpe couple has said.

The baby will be delivered on the very public maternity ward at the Scunthorpe General Hospital, where Diana Spencer might have had her sons had she been born into a northern working class community and not into the landed gentry, and therefore never met the Prince of Wales.

The baby is due in mid-July, and Tyler Wallbanger hopes to be present if his duties as a spellchecker for the council allow. Officials at the Wallbangers' home on the Rick Astley estate have appealed for an "appropriate degree of sensation" regarding the birth.

The birth was "a very personal matter for Tyler and Ashlee," the same officials said.  "But they also know it's a time to celebrate and many will want to share in their joy.  This is why, should the hospital's permission be forthcoming, the couple hope to broadcast Ashlee's labour live over uStream.  It will also mean that if Tyler isn't able to get away from work that he'll be able to watch the birth from his desk."

"Both Tyler and Ashlee are very excited about how their friends and the general public will learn the gender of their baby at the same time as they do.  In no way is their announcement at this time designed to further public interest in their child, as they believe the BBC has been hyping the pregnancy and birth up more than adequately for them."

Despite the possibility of the live stream, once Mrs Wallbanger goes into labour there will be no further public statement until the baby is born and the Queen, the Wallbanger family and other senior celebrities have been told.

Senior gynaecologist Dr Serena Williams will be delivering the baby.

Asked whether the couple have decided on any names, officials at the semi-detached were giving little away. "Let's just say, if it's a boy, they're thinking of naming him after the place where he was conceived, and if it's a girl, after a British national hero."

The Wallbangers are known to have visited Jamaica last year, while Tyler has long been under the misapprehension that the commanding officer at the battle of Trafalgar was a woman named Fellatio.

Reports suggest that the Wallbangers have asked the foreign secretary William Hague for some of the surplus weapons not fit to be sent to the rebels in Syria to enable them to fire a 21 gun salute to mark the birth.  It is not yet known whether he has responded.

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Monday, April 08, 2013 

Death to penguins!

  • GREATEST WOMAN TO HAVE EVER LIVED, DECLARE BLAIRITES
  • GREATEST WOMAN TO HAVE EVER LIVED, DECLARE LABOUR MPS TOLD TO BE ON BEST BEHAVIOUR
  • WHO'S JOSEPHINE STARCHER, ASKS EVERYONE UNDER 16

Madam Josephine Starcher, the first and so far only female British prime minister has died at the age of 106, her chief propagandist Lord Ho Ho has announced.

Struggling to hold back the tears and dressed entirely in black, the normally jovial Ho Ho delivered his message to the massed ranks of the British press, knowing that this was a truly historic moment.  "This is a truly historic moment.  Madam Starcher is dead.  She choked on a Ritz cracker.  Mark and Carol Starcher have asked for the utmost media intrusion at this time.  As a supporter of a free press, it's what their mother would have wanted."

From humble upbringings, born into a family of fish gutters, Madam Starcher rose to be one of the defining political personalities of the 20th century.  Abandoning a career in turning the windmill round at the local crazy golf course, she joined the Conservative party, influenced heavily by the political philosophy of the German panel beater Herman von Paddle Steamer.  Realising that his aquatic based economics were rather antediluvian, she soon settled on the far more sensible writings of Fredrich von Hayek.

First selected by the Tories to contest the safe Silly Party seat of Luton, she nonetheless succeeded in reducing their majority by first 10 and then a further 5 votes.  It was not until 8 years later that she finally entered parliament, having won the London seat of Finchley thanks to a mistake on the ballot which listed her as the Ayn Rand Continuity party candidate.  The electorate were rather miffed at first to have elected someone so moderate, but soon took Starcher to their hearts.

Starcher's first taste of real power was as education secretary in the Conservative government of 1970.  Given the position by noted sailor and bon vivant Samuel O' Beckett, who approved of her past flirtation with the works of von Paddle Steamer, she excelled in the job, with her decision to introduce Turkey Twizzlers onto the lunch menu of every school in the country welcomed by all, especially newspaper owner Sir Bernard Matthews.

Rising to become leader of the party after O' Beckett mysteriously fell off a barge into the Grand Union Canal, she fought both sexism and the patronising mentality within the Conservatives, many of whom kept mistaking her for the charwoman right up until her resignation in 1990.  She nonetheless led the Conservatives to victory in 79, the Labour party's policy of discounting tents for summer holidays having been a unmitigated disaster for the country.

Once ensconced in Downing Street, she set about introducing reforms which were controversial from the outset.  At first, it seemed as though her policy of "Voucherism", whereby money was abolished and vouchers given out instead was leading Britain towards ruin, as unemployment increased by 25 million and a 6 hour week had to be put in place.  Criticised and cajoled by the "damps" in her cabinet, she gradually reintroduced money and later claimed that she had never supported voucherism at all.

Despite this set back, her first term came to be defined by the Rockall war.  The tiny island was invaded in 1982 by penguins who declared a socialist state, much to the dismay of the local population of British gannets.  Intervening on the side of the gannets, who she believed shared her political philosophy, the war lasted 30 minutes and cost the lives of approximately 59 penguins.  1 British soldier took a peck to the groin.  The successful action came to be the seen as the turning point in the government's fortunes, and the slogan "death to penguins" was a rallying cry for young Conservatives everywhere during the 83 election campaign.

Her second term was dominated at first by a strike by sewage workers, whose campaign of civil disobedience came to a head when they almost killed Starcher with a massive "shit cannon" blast in Brighton.  After defeating their leader Captain Crabs, she set about privatising much of the country's infrastructure, starting with the state owned glass eye maker.  Her victory in the 87 election assured, concerns began to be raised that power had gone to her head.  Her edict that every man, woman and the child in the country with the exception of nuns and the insane had to cut off their left ear, legislation that became known as the "ear tax", resulted in riots in Victory Square.  Challenged for the leadership of the party by Didbin Jane, she failed to win on the first ballot and was persuaded to stand down, leaving Number 10 with noticeably wet armpits.

In a sign of the unanimity of feeling across the political spectrum, a joint statement on Starcher's death has been issued on behalf of David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage:

"Truly, Starcher was the queen of hearts.  She cured the blind, healed the sick, and only once did she call for everyone to cut off their left ear.  Her successes were numerous, and the country was transformed from the hell hole it was in 79 to the paradise it continues to be today.  She literally single-handedly defeated the Soviet Union, the evil empire collapsing like a pack of cards with one swish of her right hook, while she also established the enterprise culture that today means anyone can take out a payday loan on an APR rate of 600,000%.  We hope that all will join us in saying one last time, death to penguins!"

Nick Clegg was unavailable.

The response elsewhere has been mixed.  In Scotland, where many of her policies were first tested out, a mass event appears to be taking place in Glasgow's George Square, although reports are unclear about whether or not the mass drinking is usual for a Monday.  Also indifferent it seems are the young, many of whom appear to be unaware of the legacy left for the country by Starcher.  One 15-year-old asked for his opinion merely grunted and then walked off, while a 17-year-old left the following message on Twitter:

"Everyone in politics is a fucking fag."

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 

The great giving and taking offence stakes.

Over the last couple of months, it's been difficult not to notice a rise in the number of people either taking great offence at a perceived slur (see the ridiculous claims of transphobia against Suzanne Moore, followed by the genuine transphobia of Julie Burchill), those pretending to be outraged about something someone wrote 15 years ago (David Cameron and various Tories attacking John O'Farrell over his memoir, in which he described how as a callow young activist he'd wished Margaret Thatcher had died in the Brighton bombing), or, most seriously, representatives of a state actively trying to silence criticism through accusations of racism (the Israeli ambassador denouncing Gerald Scarfe's depiction of Benjamin Netanyahu). This culture of condemning and taking offence on behalf of others may well be as old as village gossips, yet in the last few years it seems to have been supercharged by the social networks and 24-hour news, where something that happened an hour ago is already regarded as old hat. It's also not always relatively harmless: those who've admittedly overstepped the line in their comments online, such as Azhar Ahmed or Matthew Woods, haven't just been convicted of sending "grossly offensive" messages, they've been threatened with violence and worse.

Last week we had the passing frenzy over Hilary Mantel's supposedly "venomous" remarks about the People's Kate, for which she was taken to task by both leaders of our main political parties, neither of whom could possibly have read her speech.  Mantel was big enough to ignore the entire silliness, leaving it to her agent to suggest her almost 6,000 word speech should be read in context rather than as a headline on the front of the Daily Wail.  This week we've had twins, so to speak, both gestated thanks to the Oscars. First there's Seth MacFarlane's entire performance as host, and then we also had the sheer horror of a tweet from The Onion, which read "[E]veryone else seems afraid to say it but that Quvenzhan Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?"

Dealing with the latter first, the main objection seems to be that anyone would ever refer to a 9-year-old girl as a cunt, even as a joke or satirical point.   Apparently "cunt" in American is even more offensive than it is in English, as while we often use it as term of endearment or in every other sentence when it comes to discussing football players, there it "has a particularly sexualised intent that makes it even more horrific when applied to a child", according to Sarah Ditum.  Fair enough, but can I suggest the usually excellent Ditum was perhaps a little slow on the uptake in this instance, it taking her a while to realise the Onion was mocking the modern tendency of some on social networks to criticise famous people in the most brutal terms, not just the snarkiest of gossip hacks. It also seems to be a dig at how child stars are often treated as not just precocious but simply smaller versions of their older contemporaries, regardless of the reality.  That the Onion decided to apologise is a shame, not least because as the Thick of It showed, inadvertently calling children cunts is really funny.

As for Seth MacFarlane, you really do wonder what people were expecting him to do as host.  Family Guy hasn't been funny in years (some would say ever), and while American Dad can be great, it's enjoyable precisely because it doesn't go off on the tangents Family Guy does, as well as having characters that may have started off as stereotypes but have since grown beyond that.  Singing about seeing the boobs of female nominees might be crass, and as has been pointed out, when the actors in question were portraying rape victims it was in even more dubious taste, but it's not misogyny.  The same goes for the gags about Jews and Wallis being too young even for George Clooney; they might not have been funny but getting worked up about them is just daft.  Far more questionable in my view was having Michelle Obama present the Best Picture award, which not only falls straight into the right-wing trap of Hollywood being Democrat to the core, it's that Argo, a film with a grip on reality almost as slight as that of Zero Dark Thirty was the winner, something seemingly designed to cause consternation in Iran.

My own view as to why there seems to have been so much of this nonsense of late isn't just that it's all down to Twitter or tabloid newspapers ever more desperate to stir the pot, it's that we also seem to be ever more intolerant of opinions different to our own, whether you're broadly on the left or the right. Any advantage that can be seized on will be, regardless of whether it can be ultimately stood up or not. There are some ideas, values or institutions which some regard as so sacrosanct that they can never be questioned, whether it be the monarchy, the military or the NHS.

When it comes to where comedy fits into this, with complaints recently about Jack Whitehall, and two new BBC Three alleged sitcoms, the real issue is that so much of it over the past few years has been ghastly, and not just on TV. The problem isn't that Ricky Gervais thinks there's some point to be made by playing someone who's simple, it's that he keeps getting away with writing the same show over and over, and where he is always the main character even if he doesn't play him. The Office was brilliant, but it's been downhill ever since.  On the big screen, the way Movie 43 has flopped despite its stellar cast hopefully suggests we've moved past the point at which a film gets a pass simply because it is so supposedly outrageous that it has to be seen to be believed.  South Park worked for so long (it has sadly declined markedly in recent years) because it had plenty of pathos to go along with the more outré material.  If nothing else, the Liberal Democrats wouldn't be in so much trouble now if Lord Rennard had heeded Sexual Harassment Panda's advice (allegedly).

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013 

A plastic newspaper, edited to mislead.

When it comes to taking comments out of context, or to be accurate, deliberately misconstruing them, the hatchet job being performed on Hilary Mantel comes second only to the monstering Jeremy Clarkson received in late 2011 when his joke on the One Show was misunderstood by nincompoops.  "Venomous", says the Daily Mail's front page, Mantel savaged for daring to suggest the People's Kate is perhaps a little dull, as though she was "machine-made" for her role as duchess and (eventual) queen.  "Completely wrong and misguided", says David Cameron, taking a break from selling weapons to foreign johnnies to talk to the media, and what's more, she's "a fantastic ambassador for Britain".

A comment which says pretty much everything about how politics now sees the royal family.  Almost 80 years ago the then prime minister tried but ultimately failed to persuade Edward the VIII not to abdicate; now their usefulness extends only to how they influence Brand Britain.  As for how the rest of us view a family on welfare that is most certainly exempt from the bedroom tax, much of it comes from a media that doesn't really know what to do with them, post-Diana.  Once the likes of the Mirror urged royal princesses to make their mind up on whether to marry or not; now the closest they get is pondering as to whether they should publish incredibly grainy shots of Kate in a bikini.  The Sun might print Harry buck naked, covering his crown jewels with his hands, or indeed put a model wearing just a bikini and a pout on its front page the day after her violent death, but to publish snatched shots of a pregnant princess is now beyond the pale.

The end result of this decision as to which members of the royal family should be protected or venerated and which should be mocked or held in contempt is, as always, the most cynical humbug and hypocrisy.  While none of the papers would touch the shots of Kate on holiday with a barge pole, they will of course describe her as "putting her bump on parade" when she does venture out into the glare of the cameras.  Harry, meanwhile, used as a propaganda prop by the MoD, was treated even worse, his "comments" about killing Taliban which were in fact nothing of the sort becoming the story in part because of his open disgust for the media as made clear in the interview.  No one can say anything even slightly detrimental about Brenda herself, while it's all but permanent open season on Charles and her other two sons.

Even the most cursory glance at Mantel's speech makes clear that she is not saying unequivocally that Kate is an automaton, without character or personality or any of the other things that the Mail and other papers have got up in arms about, but rather that this is how the media and indeed the royals themselves have constructed her image.  Mantel writes in her very first paragraph that she "saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung", not that she is, or was.  Mantel sees her like this because this is how either the royals or the media want her to be seen, and in her view, it's as far from the image of Diana, as she was presented and later presented herself as it's possible to imagine.  The worst that can be said about Mantel's depiction of Kate is as the Heresiarch says, it comes across occasionally as "gratuitously mean", even if it also seems to be all but confirmed by the responses from Cameron and the boss of her charity.

More intriguing though is quite how far Mantel appears to fall for the cult of Diana.  This entire paragraph, taken from mid-way through the speech is almost certainly a shoe-in for the next Pseuds Corner:


In the next stage of her story, she passed through trials, through ordeals at the world’s hands. For a time the public refrained from demanding her blood so she shed it herself, cutting her arms and legs. Her death still makes me shudder because although I know it was an accident, it wasn’t just an accident. It was fate showing her hand, fate with her twisted grin. Diana visited the most feminine of cities to meet her end as a woman: to move on, from the City of Light to the place beyond black. She went into the underpass to be reborn, but reborn this time without a physical body: the airy subject of a hundred thousand photographs, a flicker at the corner of the eye, a sigh on the breeze.

A sticky stain on the newspaper, perhaps?  Quite why Diana continues to inspire this kind of almost idolatry is unclear: Mantel describes her as both receptive and passive, but she was also manipulative and more than capable of playing the media at their own game.  Her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir is the ultimate example of the underdog turning the tables on her accusers, and while she may have been uninformed by history as Mantel writes, she succeeded in writing her own.  Charles undoubtedly deserves all he gets and more, yet the idea that there were three people in the marriage is to completely forget about Diana's lovers, as indeed she wanted the public to.

That slight diversion into pretension aside, Mantel's speech is beautifully written, and if nothing else its seizure by the Mail means that many more will read and hear it than otherwise would have done.  I haven't read any of her novels so can't comment on how they ultimately play out, but her speech portrays the monarchy as a centuries long tragedy, and brings out the loneliness and futility of being a part of it, whether it be the guests at Buckingham Palace avoiding speaking to Brenda or the detritus of the event Charles was attending which he must notice everywhere he goes.  Where I part company with the Heresiarch is when he says "Kate herself is an entirely blameless woman, doing her best to make sense of her bizarre role in national life".  The second part is certainly true, and she may well be blameless, but she most definitely did have a choice as to whether or not to join the entire rotten institution.  She may not be able to control the way she has since been projected, or how her sister (or just a part of her anatomy) has been made into a sex object in her stead, but she didn't have to go along with the pantomime.  And ultimately, that's why she has to put up with the occasional jibe thrown her way, misconstrued in repetition or otherwise.

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