Yesterday’s Observer was, in Malcolm’s estimation, a great issue. Things at the King’s Cross Lubyanka (as right) may not be tickety-boo financially; but this is how to fight back. Guardian Media Group must go back to first principles, be a campaigning, aggressive force for the centre-left.
Pride of place has to go to Andrew Rawnsley’s authoritative listing of the:
10 reasons to recast a government or, if you like, 10 tests of whether there was any serious point to holding a reshuffle.
That was worth the entry fee in itself; and will — let us hope — provide him with repeat fees when it reappears in anthologies of political wit and wisdom (and, as in this case, awful warnings).
Elsewhere Toby Helm, politically editing, was black-dotting the eyes, and double-crossing the local tea-party tendency. It was a Stakhanovite effort: Helm’s inky fingers were all over the place. Here we find Helm reminding us that Cameron serially irritates his “natural” Tories in the Shires, there he has David Miliband looking for Blairite inspiration in Barack Obama. He main-headlines with the way the Tories are betraying any “Green” credentials. Any one of those would amount to “good stuff”: together they are an all-out onslaught.
Just what is needed à la entrée. Normal hostilities are recommenced.
Then there’s page 35, and two seminal pieces. Catherine Bennett on David Cameron’s way with women? Show them the exit. Ms Bennett may, by name, seem an escapee from a Jane Austen novel, but she shows she has one of the sharpest knees to the groin. Below that again, Nick Cohen details how Our children go hungry for want of Tory compassion:
‘Compassionate conservatism” turned from a slogan into an oxymoron on the day when Save the Children launched an appeal to feed the British poor. For what it is worth, that was also the moment when I understood that removing the Conservatives from power is now a national priority.
The charity had launched its first appeal for British children in living memory. It asked the public for £500,000 to help provide them with “the essentials – a hot meal, blankets, a warm bed”. I know what you’re thinking. Why so little? The average Manchester City player earns £500,000 in six weeks. The average FTSE-100 company boss takes £500,000 from shareholders in two months. £500,000 will not buy you a decent flat in a smarter part of London or semi in the home counties. Last month, property journalists gasped like porn actresses at the size of Heath Hall, a 14-bedroom mansion just north of Hampstead. The agent’s asking price for the most expensive home ever to go on sale on the open market was £100m – or 200 times the £500,000 Save the Children want to relieve the suffering of British children.
The modesty of last week’s appeal did not enrage Conservatives, however. Rather, the charity’s insistence that British children needed the public’s help to provide them with “hot meals” drove them wild. Conservative newspapers denounced Save the Children as “obscene” for implying that British children were as needy as African children. I won’t waste your time or mine by refuting their arguments in detail. Their main evidence that the charity was now a leftwing propaganda outfit was that Justin Forsyth, its chief executive, was once an aide to that notorious socialist Tony Blair.
That, and the rest of a potent eleven paragraphs, is worth inscribing in granite, and dropping it from high altitude on any convenient assembly of Tory hierarchs and their smoothie-chopped SpAds. It’s Orwellian, almost Swiftean, in its “savage indignation”:
The collapse in living standards means that those who once lived comfortably now worry about filling their cars and those who once scraped by worry about filling their bellies. You cannot generalise about them or fit them into a comforting Conservative cliche. People of all backgrounds need food parcels: small businessmen and women who can’t get invoices paid; parents who are living on toast or potatoes and spending what little money they have on better food for their children.
To use old-fashioned language, the Conservatives who fail to acknowledge their distress are no longer patriots. Instead of asking how their government can stand by while their fellow citizens go hungry, they denounce the charities, which in however small and pathetic a manner, try to take on the responsibilities of a failed state.
If Rawnsley paid for the entry, Cohen provides for anything else.
From troubles of the world I turn to …
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings
By water cool …
As a respite from a PoW camp in WW1 Germany, that is understandable. Despite being a “favourite poem” for those pseudo-research exercises, Ducks can cut:
Fearful too much to sleep
Since they’ve no locks
To click against the teeth
Of weasel and fox.
And warm beneath
Are eggs of cloudy green
Whence hungry rats and lean
Would stealthily suck
New life, but for the mien
The bold ferocious mien
Of the mother-duck.
When Anthony Boden was writing a monograph on Harvey, the sharp side came out. This, for brevity (and because Malcolm doesn’t have the original to hand), from a review:
… the poem was written in Holzminden Prison Camp when Harvey was a prisoner of war in the First World War, and had come out of Harvey’s deep gloom during his time there… Boden tells us that when Harvey was told that “during the Second World War one of the English exercises in German schools had been to translate Ducks into German, his reaction was: “Serves the Germans damn well right!”
And so to Wells
The last time Malcolm was in Wells (Norfolk, that is) there was a small convoy of ducks paddling along the quay wall. This, as far as Malcolm can recall is something of a novelty. Still, where there’s Warburton‘s, there will be ducks.
That, contrived as it is, has to be Malcolm’s link to John Naughton, also in yesterday’s Observer. Naughton, unlike most commentators, sees new hope for the failing, flailing giant that is Microsoft:
How Microsoft is looking beyond an app-centric world
Microsoft may have stolen a march on its smartphone rivals by putting social connectivity at the heart of the user experience
Agains the tidal flow, Naughton reckons the Dark Side is ahead of Apple and Android:
There is one company that is trying to challenge the dominance of the app-centric model. It has released phone software that puts social connectivity at the heart of the user experience… This makes the app-centric design of Android and iOS look quite clumsy.
Brave stuff, the week before the latest iPhone is released. But that wasn’t what made Malcolm sit up and take notice of Naughton. It was his intro:
When my kids were small, one of their favourite walks was down Staithe Street in Wells-next-the-Sea, a charming seaside town in Norfolk. Staithe Street is long and narrow and is lined by small shops on either side. What fascinated my kids, however, was not the second-hand book shop, or the antique dealers or the delicatessen or the cafes but the fact that there were several shops selling plastic toys of the kind one finds only in British seaside towns. In addition to buckets and spades and improbable fishing nets, there were exotically shaped pump-action water pistols, plastic swords, three-legged boomerangs, plastic tennis rackets with balls attached by elastic strings and battery-powered devices with lights that flashed and sirens that wailed.
Well, fair enough. There isn’t a seaside or holiday resort in the world that doesn’t sport its tat. It goes with the territory. And Malcolm can tell Mr Naughton those three-legged boomerangs are great fun; so don’t knock it.
Anyway, Wells is like that for just a few weeks in the summer. Much of the year Staithe Street is unfrequented.In a rude, blustery and bone-chilling mid-February north-easterly, Malcolm reckons it’s best for being twelve years old, and charging a bicycle down at full tilt, against the gusts, and doing the equivalent of a hand-brake turn round the corner by the Golden Fleece. He remembers that as well.