Category Archives: Ann Treneman

Jumping on the bandwagon

That previous post, taking from Anne Treneman, had Dodgy Dave the Snakeoil Salesman:

It is rather extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman comes here, having not said that [Maria Miller] should resign, saying that she should have resigned. It shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. He is jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

I see there some dangers of a stale metaphor.

The OED‘s earliest citation for band wagon is from 1855 and the Life of P.T.Barnum, who must have known something about circuses and bandwagons:

In our subsequent southern tour we exhibited at Nashville (where I visited General Jackson, at the Hermitage), Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Vicksburg and intermediate places, doing tolerably well. At Vicksburg we sold all our land conveyances, excepting the band wagon and four horses, bought the steamboat “Ceres,” for six thousand dollars, hired the captain and crew, and started down the river to exhibit at places on the way. At Natchez our cook left us, and in the search for another I found a white widow who would go, only she expected to marry a painter. I called on the painter who had not made up his mind whether to marry the widow or not, but I told him if he would marry her the next morning I would lure her at twenty-five dollars a month as cook, employ him at the same wages as painter, with board for both, and a cash bonus of fifty dollars. There was a wedding on board the next day, and we had a good cook and a good dinner.

 I like that, not just for the pragmatics of Barnum’s domestic arrangements, or even for that dry style. It also shows that the band wagon (two words) was the only item the circus didn’t leave behind and so onto which one might jump when the circus had already left town. One can see why, if this specimen is anything to go by:

2hemispheres_bandwagon

Hobgoblins

We have to wait nearly half a century for band wagon to become a metaphor.

The OED has a bizarre citation from the Congressional Record 25th August 1893:

 It is a lamentable fact that.. our commercial enemy..should come along with a band wagon loaded with hobgoblins.

Indeed. Just the kind of thing that makes one seek the full source for explanation. Now, have you tried to access the Congressional Record for 1893? It is, apparently, out there on the net; but glacial it hardly approaches. So far I have not managed it, but I suspect it may be something to do with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.

Note, though, that band wagon is still two separate words.

Teddy Roosevelt is of the two-word party in a letter of April 1899:

When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the band wagon.

 That would be when he was tiring of life in Albany as Governor of New York, and when the New York Republicans were tiring of his radicalism, and the meeting-of-minds led to his nomination for the Vice-Presidency.

As far as I can see we didn’t get to bandwagon (as a composite single word) until the end of the 1950s. I wonder how many would recognise that Juggernaut of Barnum’s as a “band wagon”.

Oh, and the OED has Juggernaut as:

A title of Kṛishṇa, the eighth avatar of Vishṇu; spec., the uncouth idol of this deity at Pūrī in Orissa, annually dragged in procession on an enormous car, under the wheels of which many devotees are said to have formerly thrown themselves to be crushed.

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Filed under Ann Treneman, David Cameron, History, Oxford English Dictionary, Times, Tories.

A canine lickspittle

Anne Treneman doing the parliamentary sketch on yesterday’s PMQs:

Dave accused Ed of jumping on a political bandwagon. At the words “bandwagon”, some Tory MPs, who, like Pavlov’s dog, cannot control themselves, started to whoop. Michael Ellis, a strong contender for lickspittle of the year, actually pounded his feet on the ground.

The rest is good stuff. At least I feel that Ms Treneman was really there, unlike Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail who never fails to witness Cameron and his the big, swinging dick:

QUENTIN LETTS sees Cameron wipe the floor with Ed at PM’s Questions
By QUENTIN LETTS

Nice repetition there: hate to think this squit was a pale imposter’s:

An odd moment: on the squashed benches, as Nigel Adams (Con, Selby  & Ainsty) was about to ask a question  on coal mines, his local pit having just  been closed. Mr Adams reached into what he thought was the right pocket of his suit jacket and, to his surprise, pulled out a packet of fags.

Turned out the MPs were packed so close to one another he had accidentally picked his neighbour’s pocket.

Oh, so droll! Oddly enough, I had found myself commenting on the several aching gaps of empty green leather toward the rear on the Tory side. Easter hols, y’know.

But, to stay with Ms Treneman. 

The much-coveted Order of the Brown Nose award

The much-coveted Order of the Brown Nose award

The Pavlov tendency is strong among Tories. With good reason:

With the parliamentary expenses scandal fresh in the memory, it takes a bold politician to suggest rewarding politicians.

Step forward David Cameron, who has revived the parliamentary and political service honours committee.

There was a time when Tory MPs of a certain vintage could look forward to a knighthood, as ordinary workers would look forward to a long-service watch.

The Liberal Democrats, too, used to dispense political honours – failed parliamentary candidates could sometimes look forward to an OBE by way of consolation, although for many in politics public service is its own reward.

The new committee will also consider awards for members of the UK’s devolved assemblies …

Kudos then to Paul Flynn, who nailed it:

Paul Flynn, had another suggestion for those behind the new awards: “Did you consider if you were rewarding people who were the whips’ favourite, the order of the lickspittle or the order of the toadie, which would be appropriate?”

Take your pick, Michael Ellis.

Sad to say, Mr Ellis may not be with us for long. His majority is below 2,000. His seat, Northampton North, changes hands with each change of government. The strong Lib Dem vote (28% at the last outing), will be wilting next time — and will not naturally lean Tory either.

Which leaves one question:

Why do Tories insist on living up to the “stupid party” reputation?

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The pernicious influence of Goveian militarist clap-trap

As far back as March 2010, and that’s before he was enstooled at the DfE, The Times was mocking Michael Gove as a “meerkat“.  It’s not just the facial expressions: the constant self-grooming and sublime self-confidence are ever reminding of the fabulous Alexandr Orlov:

aleks_trans

Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse. However, Anne Treneman has his service number:

New Year, New Gove. It seems that over the Christmas break Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has been busy turning himself into a military man or, in his case, meerkat.

Field Marshal Gove, of course, is currently re-fighting World War I:

He condemned the widely held view that the prosecution of the war was “a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite” as the misrepresentation and myth-making of “dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely WarThe Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder” and “left-wing academics” such as Sir Richard Evans, regius professor of history at Cambridge. In fact, he denounced Sir Richard’s views as “more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate”. A dismissive comparison indeed coming from a man who thinksBlackadder is a drama.

Evans himself, Tony Robinson and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt all returned fire and even Margaret Macmillan, a historian praised by Gove, responded coolly saying: “You take your fans where you get them, I guess… but he is mistaking myths for rival interpretations of history.” Meanwhile, a fellow Tory member of the government said that “Michael should get back in his box”.

“Michael should get back in his box”

Ouch! And double ouch! What interpretation could possibly be lurking there? Here’s an unboxed clue:

2_0_ctm_meetthemeerkats-02_v21

Nosology

Nothing to do with the snout, but the “study of diseases”. In this case a verbal dysentery, “an inflammatory disorder of the mouth”.

When Gove shouted “Rule Britannia,”
When he’d sung “God save the Queen,”
When he’d finished killing Evans with his mouth,

Mark Wallace at the ConHome cheer-leader squad donned the brass-hat and the red tabs, and contracted Gove’s ailment.  His piece is thin as gossamer, but the rhetoric is instructive: “invade new territory”, “stronghold is collapsing”. ” new campaign”, “dodgy generalship”, “core territory”, “solid supply lines”, “drive his divisions”, “own fortress”, “sallying forth”, “super weapons”, etc., etc.

Don’t you just feel the military metaphors are a trifle overdone? It’s party — even partisan — politicking, for heaven’s sake! Not the drums of total war, June 1941 and Fall Barbarossa.

Surely we should always be suspicious of such strained, purplest prose: it generally disguises threadbare argument. It may encourage the troops (which, apart from providing a jam-pot for the Kippers to buzz around in, is what ConHome is about), but we deserve something better, more solid than either Wallace or Gove, in their separate ways, provide.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition

That was the thought that came to mind, reading Wallace.

It seemed a trifle Kiplingesque. But, no, it is as recent as 1942, and comes from Frank Loesser:

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate,
Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate.
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look,
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book,

Shouting …

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
And we’ll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can’t afford to be a politician!
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea.

So, two lessons here:

1. The war-talk is precisely what turns folk off political discourse. It’s unreal. It’s extreme. It’s contrived. It’s hysterical.

If political commentators or practitioners have something of point to say, that should be enough. Henry V before Harfleur, they are not. Today’s PMQs were instructive: Cameron seems to have relapsed into his shrill hectoring mode (his only alternative register to his pseudo-bedside palliatives). Miliband is experimenting with a softer, more measured, more deliberate tone. Nick Robinson, on BBC2 Daily Politics, murmured that the former might cheer the troops in the Tea Room and appeal to the lobby sketch-writers, but the latter could well have wider listener appeal. We shall see.

2. The other lesson is we are still sixteen months out from a General Election.

Under normal conditions — not this artificial fixed-parliament five-year-stretch abomination — we really would be waiting for the electoral starting gun.

Even at the outset, there was general agreement (i.e. everywhere except Nick Clegg’s inner circle) that five years was too long. Even the Commons own political and constitutional reform committee saw that:

Among its main concerns was the proposed length of the Parliament, which experts suggested should be shorter.

The government had justified the length by saying it went “with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution” – the maximum length of a Parliament was curtailed from seven years to five in 1911.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also said it followed the previous government’s precedent and would “give any government of whatever complexion enough time to govern and deliver a programme of change and reform”.

But the committee points out that the expectation of the 1911 changes was that five years would be the maximum – and, in practice, terms were expected to be four years.

Since 1979 four general elections were called after four-year parliaments, while three, in 1992, 1997 and 2010, were called after five years.

Constitution expert Professor Robert Hazell told the committee: “Those parliaments which lasted for five years did so because the government had become unpopular and did not want to hold an earlier election.

Instead there is still 1/3rd of a normal term to go. Parliament ought to have much unfinished business: it doesn’t. It has run out of puff. Lassitude is setting in. Every MP has eyes on May 2015, marking time, sounding off, filling in the voids, fretting on the majority. Among Tories, Item One is the inroads UKIP might make, particularly coming off a high in the Euro-poll.

In that sixteen months there is still ample room for umpteen mood-shifts either way. Writing off any — any — party (as Wallace does with contempt) and its leadership so prematurely is prejudging the case.

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And treat those two impostors just the same

OK: that one started with those reports of Cameron and Clegg posturing, and imposturing at the CNH tractor plant at Basildon.

The photographers, out on the jolly, seemed to take pleasure in capturing very odd body language (example, right), while the columnists were just out for a laugh, The Guardian‘s Michael White as much as anyone:

Almost exactly two years after their fateful tryst in the Downing Street rose garden, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are sick and tired of people likening their coalition knee-trembler to a marriage. Politically speaking, they’re not even engaged. And, if they were, they’d be dividing up the CDs after last week’s election battering.

Where better to shake off the taint of matrimonial metaphor and renew their alliance on a more business-like footing than in Basildon? No one goes on honeymoon to Basildon. Southend perhaps, but not to the 60s new town, home patch of the legendary reality TV show, The Only Way is Essex. So Essex it was.

Just to be on the safe side and eradicate the last vestigial scent of the rose garden romance (how could they have behaved that way on a first date?), their minders dispatched the pair to the thriving, Fiat-owned New Holland factory where they assemble 26,000 tractors a year, mostly for export. If only all Britain could be like this!

The macho, male-dominated backdrop thus provided for the Cameron-Clegg anniversary speeches, plus Q&A, was strangely evocative of the Soviet era of heroic five-year tractor plans and targets regularly smashed, at least on paper.

Ann Treneman, in the new “Dave-not-so-friendly” Times [£], was up for the odd zinger, too:

A mere two years ago Dave and Nick strolled down the garden path, birds singing, sun shining, bees buzzing. I suppose the danger signs were there last year when they spent their first anniversary at the handball arena in the Olympic Park. But tractors?

Next year, who knows? Maybe it will be an abattoir.

The award for Murdochian butchery, though, must go to Michael Savage’s twitter message:

The tractor factory Cam and Clegg are visiting appears to make Big Blue tractors that pull little yellow trailers…

Another dimension of If

Joy, indeed, to find old-friends back among the strips in The Guardian. Steve Bell has brought back Seaman Kipling, apparently for the Falklands anniversary:

The penguins can never be far away — another of Bell’s inspired creations.

No Bell artefact could possibly be cute and cuddly. His penguins are not the photogenics featured by the London Zoo. They have teeth. They bite. As did Professor Pongoo, who ran fifth (behind two assorted Hendersons and a couple of Tories  — by the way, it looks as if the Scottish Tories haven’t quite got the hand of this transferable vote business) in the Edinburgh Pentland Hills Ward. As is widely reported and commented upon, Pongoo was well ahead of the LibDem. Which is one of the two “astonishing statistics” about that Ward: the other is that all but fifty of eight thousand ballots cast were deemed “valid votes”. The strong temptation must have been to scrawl Trams!, and leave it at that— one issue above all else did for any hope the Edinburgh LibDems had, as well as for any vestige of a competent reputation. What doesn’t get so noted in the reports is that Pongoo also bit off the Green candidate. That ought to be worthy of note, for the Greens in Scotland are pro-SNP referendum, and had a working relationship with the SNP in the 2007 Assembly, so have some claim to be a “national” party.

One last thought

For now, at any rate.

There’s a lot of imposturing pretence in politics at any time. With the revelations we are promised from Leveson, courtesy of Mrs Brooks and Coulson, there’s rather more than usual this week.

For all the palaver over the Queen’s Speech, it took much padding to get it to stretch out over a mauvais quart d’heure.

So, back to Kipling and If.

We are blaming it on you, Cameron and Clegg. Even among your own, many doubt you. You have, most assuredly, dealt in lies. As Peter Cruddas crudely expounded, some men, those laden with lucre, clearly count with you … too much. You walked and talked, and rode, with Murdoch’s, and — with that and the 50p tax rate — were seen to lose the common touch. You can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of twaddle and distortion. You certainly don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

Your reward: even the Bookies are giving odds that that Labour will be the biggest party after the next Election.

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Lost in translation

Hugh Muir, back doing the day-job on The Guardian Diary, today encounters a linguistic problem. In full:

… it has fallen to Northern Ireland assembly Speaker Willie Hay to rule that the term “village idiot” is not acceptable for use within the chamber, after health minister Edwin Poots said his political rival Kieran McCarthy was acting like one. This appears to overturn precedent. Lord Alderdice, a previous Speaker, judged “eejit” to be OK. The key seems to be pronunciation. Fewer problems in the Republic, where there is a list of words banned in the Dáil, including chancer, coward, guttersnipe, rat, scumbag and fascist. But then they had reason to act after one former representative shouted “Fuck you, Deputy Stagg, fuck you!” Seemed better to have some rules.

Two points of clarification, there, Ceann Comhairle:

First, the loose mouth

Emmet Stagg (brother of the more famous, loopier, and more defunct Frank) can look after himself, and needs no defence. Anyway, as a Labour man with a TCD connexion, he gets respected here.

However, Paul Gogarty deserved all he got, and has a track-record for staging similar stunts — Babygate, Callely, numerous “celebrity” outings for RTÉ (not that the bar for celeb-status is that much lower in Dublin). He won the soggy biscuit when he denounced Free Education for Everyone protestors as “muppets” and supported the physical intervention of the Gardai — doubtless in retaliation for FEE previously taking over his office. How Green! What a brave civic activist!

The electors of Dublin Mid-West had Gogarty’s number, all right: in the 2011 General Election, he lost his seat ignominiously. He took all of 3.5 % of First Preferences, limping in eighth of the fourteen runners. The previous outing he had taken 10.8%, and finished second after transfers.

After Gogarty’s excursion in English guttersnipery, it involved a change in Irish parliamentary proceedings:

CHANGES ARE likely to be made to the document dictating acceptable parliamentary language in the Dáil and Seanad after Green Party TD Paul Gogarty’s defence of his use of an expletive in the Dáil last week.

The 18-member Dáil committee on procedure and privileges, which meets tomorrow, will deal with Mr Gogarty’s use of the “f-word”, directed against Labour party whip Emmet Stagg.

Second, a cultural chasm

Anyone familiar with Hibernicisms knows that “eejit” and “idiot”are no way near synonyms.

You’d take a drink with an “eejit”, even a “mad eejit”, and even respect him. You take a swing at an idiot, and be cheered for doing so and laying him out. Gogarty, for example, belongs in this latter category.

Believe it or not (number 94)

There really is an academic study on what is acceptable in a parliamentary exchange. The key “finding” goes this way:

Parliamentary insults are offensive rhetorical acts performed in a highly competitive institutional setting. They are deliberate in the sense that they are intended to be perceived and recognised as such by the person targeted. Unparliamentary language uses can provide important clues about moral and social standards, prejudices, taboos, as well as value judgements of different social and political groups in a community. Because they underlie culturally defined negative values and norms, insults are meant to reduce the targeted person, group or institution (and what they stand for) to stereotypically undesirable or detestable attributes. Cross-cultural studies are particularly enlightening in this respect, since it can safely be assumed that the forms and functions of insults and their respective feedbacks vary in different cultures and institutional settings.

Enjoy that? Then your sociology degree must be showing.

Compare and contrast:

1. David Cameron, 6th December 2005:

… we need to change, and we will change, the way we behave. I’m fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name calling, backbiting, point scoring, finger pointing.

2. David Cameron, 18th April 2012:

The right hon. Gentleman will not take any lectures on the fuel strike because he is in the pockets of the people who called the fuel strike. That’s right. They vote for his policies, they sponsor his Members of Parliament, they got him elected. Absolutely irresponsible—that is what we have heard once again from the right hon. Gentleman. Not good enough to run the Opposition, not good enough to run the country.

Of which Ann Treneman said in her Parliamentary Sketch for The Times [£]:

Dave did his usual Flashman, refusing to answer the questions, changing the subject to Ken Livingstone’s taxes, playing to the gallery. He was sneery, insulting, preening. When you seeDave like this, you just know he deserves to end up in panto.

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Oooh, no missus!

No… no…hold on…
wait a moment…

Either she’s the best Frankie Howerd impersonator in town, or she just doesn’t get it.

Here’s Ann Treneman doing the ‘Conference Sketch’ on page 25 of Malcolm’s Times:

Mariella [Frostrup] wondered what he had done when he [Gordon Brown] was young.
“I played sports,” he announced (he didn’t say during which meal). He had gone to University at 16 but, in the first week, hurt his eye playing rugby.
“I spent several years in and out of hospital. Some of you may not know this but this was the Sixties and Seventies. At my hospital at 9 o’clock in the evening—this was the NHS, free at the point of need!—and I was only 17 and 18, they would serve all the patients with drinks!’
The audience barked, possibly with shock.
“Yeah! You could have Guinness. You could have beer! Free beer for all the workers!”

Oh god, where does one start?

Look, Anne dear; that is true. Arthur Guinness and Co believed that their product was healthy and good. They provided, free of charge, one third of a pint bottles for patients in hospital. Malcolm knows that, for sure, because, at the age of barely sixteen, because of a broken arm in a rugby game, he was in the Meath Hospital, Dublin, and was provided with, and—yes— joyfully imbibed the stuff (and looked for seconds).

So what?

Meanwhile, Gordon’s punchline: you simply didn’t get it, did you?

Well, dear, there’s this song, you see. It used to be very popular among the Lefties. Particularly after pay-day.

Some say it came from the Wobblies (and they’re still out there, you know!)

Everyone can make up verses to infinity. Basically, it goes like this:

[Invent your own iambic dodecasyllabic line, as offensive as possible, or]
We’ll hang [any four-syllable name] from a sour apple tree
When the red revolution comes.

Then the only other rule is that every verse, however inane or inflammatory, has a rousing chorus:

Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever!
When the red revolution comes!

After a requisite intake of mild, bitter and comradeship, everybody staggers home, carolling an obligatory final chorus:

Free beer for all the workers! Free beer for all the workers!
When the red revolution comes!

Gordon knew that. The Labour membership knew that. The Times readership, alas, remain no better informed from Ms Treneman’s efforts.

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