Category Archives: bigotry

How socially-prejudiced is that?

Yesterday our local political discourse was enhanced by an otherwise-unremarkable Tory back-bencher [*]

A Conservative MP has been suspended from the party after it emerged she used a racist expression during a public discussion about Brexit.

Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot, used the phrase at an event in London to describe the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

She told the BBC: “The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.”

The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.

Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was “shocked” by the “completely unacceptable” language.

“I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip,” she said in a statement.

I was much taken by Stephen Bush (of the New Statesman) instantly producing a 26-point check-list, notably this bit:

10. How on earth do you become an MP while being so stupid as to use the N-word at a public event?
11. I mean, surely, even if you are an honest-to-God, white sheet-wearing KKK racist, your basic self-preservation instinct kicks in and goes “Hmm. Wait a second. I wonder if this might possibly backfire?”
12. I mean, come on, aren’t these the same people who go on about political correctness gone mad?
13. Anne Marie Morris presumably had to defeat at least one other person to be selected as the Conservative candidate.
14.Imagine how rubbish you must be to lose to someone who uses the word “n****r” at a meeting in 2017.
15. Anne Marie Morris is 60.

Some of the follow-ups have come close to that. There was Paul Waugh’s Waugh Zone for HuffPo, which deserves repetition:

Given the damage done, it’s hard to see how Morris can regain the Tory whip, no matter what the ‘investigation’ by Tory campaigns HQ concludes. Which raises the issue of whether she will be booted out for good, and whether she would quit to trigger a by-election. Her majority in her west country seat is 17,000.  But as this year has taught everyone, electoral norms can be upended.

Morris had already been forced to distance herself from her electoral agent and partner Roger Kendrick last month, after he claimed “that the crisis in education was due entirely to non-British born immigrants and their high birth rates’.” Kemi Badenoch, the Tory MP for Saffron Walden, told the Telegraph she spoke to the Chief Whip “to express my dismay, and I am pleased that decisive action has been taken”. Maidstone MP Helen Grant said she was “so ashamed” that a fellow Tory could use the phrase without knowing its history (and it’s an awful history) or impact.

[*] Lest we forget, Matt Chorley, for The Times Red Box categorised the lady:

Anne Marie Morris – who until this point was best known in the Commons for waving a sling around while wearing Deirdre Barlow’s glasses – used the n-word yesterday at a public meeting.

All of which stirred the Redfellow Hippocampus to two thoughts:

1. How far we have come in my lifetime.

I became politically active in the 1960s — by which I mean I discarded the political attitudes I inherited, and adopted an alternative set. Whether that also means I “started to think for myself” is more debatable.

What did shock was what happened in the 1964 General Election for the Smethwick constituency. It wasn’t that the Tory — against the national swing — took the previously Labour seat. It was how it was achieved. There have been any number of re-drafts of that bit of unpleasantness. At the time it was generally accepted that

  • there was effectively a colour-bar being operated for social housing in the borough, in pubs, youth clubs and social centres;
  • that, officially or not, the Tory campaign was sustained by propaganda such as the leaflet (right) — note that it comes without the “imprint” required by electoral law;
  • that Harold Wilson was entirely justified in declaring the elected Tory a parliamentary leper. Many Tories were deeply uncomfortable about the elected MP as a fellow: even Enoch Powell (whose “rivers of blood” speech came two years later) refused to campaign with him.
  • that the local Trade Union branches and whatever were not beyond reproach.

In our innocence, we — and I include myself explicitly — believed such horrors had gone away. As if …

2. Just how racist is our language?

Put the woodpile (above) aside.

We could quibble about “nitty-gritty” (and many have done). Indeed, almost any use of “black” and “white” could be construed as a racist offence, if one was so determined.

And then there is (sharp intake of breath) “calling a spade a spade”. However that one dates from 1542, and Nicholas Udall translating Erasmus Apophthegmes ii. f. 167:

Philippus aunswered, yt the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

Erasmus, in turn, was translating Plutarch’s Greek into Latin, and hesitated over a literal rendering of to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough, which some ascribe to Aristophanes. His hesitation might plausibly because “fig”, as the Oxford English Dictionary has as the second meaning:

A contemptuous gesture which consisted in thrusting the thumb between two of the closed fingers or into the mouth. Also, fig of Spain, and to give (a person) the fig.

Which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Pistol (Henry V, Act III, scene vi):

Pistol: Die and be damn’d! and figo for thy friendship!
Fluellen: It is well.
Pistol: The fig of Spain!

Preferring the epicene, Udall goes for the horticultural reference. The racial slur dates only from the 1920s, and apparently from New York, and specifically Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1927).

And one more to finish

What about “beyond the Pale”?

Note the capital “P’. Any delineated space could be a “pale”. In Ireland it had a specific connotation:

The area of Ireland under English jurisdiction (varying in extent at different times between the late 12th and 16th centuries, but including parts of modern Dublin, Louth, Meath, and Kildare).

By implication, anything “beyond the Pale” would be among the wild Irish. As one who has frequently been called a “West Brit”, I know we have our archipelagic variant of Crow Jim.  Now consider all those places with a district “Irishtown” or even “Irish Street”. Without exception, they will be less favoured, and more down-market. In medieval Dublin, Irishtown was the bit outside the city walls, down to the slob-lands of the River Dodder. Only last week, the Irish Times had this:

A plague of flies of “biblical proportions” has descended upon the Dublin 4 suburbs of Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown, according to residents and local businesspeople.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said he had received “hundreds” of complaints from locals in recent days over the fly infestation, which has forced people to keep their windows shut and resulted in the closure of some businesses.

Tony “Deke” McDonald, who runs Deke’s Diner at the Sean Moore Road roundabout in Ringsend, said the infestation was the worst he had ever seen.

“It started around four or five days ago with a swarm of biblical proportions. People would be used to flies in the summer, but I’ve been running the diner 17 years next week, and I’m 30 odd years in the area, and I’ve never seen the like of it. There [were] hundreds of them.”

It didn’t take more than moments for Dublin wit to crack in, saying Ringsend and Irishtown deserved all they got, for social-climbing and pretension to post-code D4.

Then there’s Louis MacNeice describing:

…. Smoky Carrick in County Antrim
Where the bottle-neck harbour collects the mud which jams

The little boats beneath the Norman castle,
   The pier shining with lumps of crystal salt;
The Scots Quarter was a line of residential houses
   But the Irish Quarter was a slum for the blind and halt. […]

I was the rector’s son, born to the anglican order,
   Banned for ever from the candles of the Irish poor;
The Chichesters knelt in marble at the end of a transept
   With ruffs about their necks, their portion sure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Belfast, bigotry, Britain, Conservative family values, culture, Dublin., Ireland, Irish Times, New Statesman, Northern Ireland, Paul Waugh, politics, prejudice, Quotations, Racists, Tories., underclass

Guaranteed to turn marmalade toast to bitter gall

The Sunday Times misses the mark, by lang Scots miles.

Murdoch’s Sunday Times is a nasty, vicious, trivialising thing. In that it is the reflection of its master, now “best mates” with Alex Salmond.

My previous post was a jotting after being in Edinburgh yesterday. I’m not Orange. However, I do have to appreciate the viewpoint: even Gerry Adams and Máirtín make that leap. That is a recognition of the importance of the Orange sympathy across protestant Northern Ireland. Nor should it be scorned in lowland Scotland.

Yet the Orange don’t read the Sunday Times, do they? So it’s always Open Season when the Boss is calling the shots. And, I’ll lay odds, Camilla Long’s piece didn’t get the same page 2 prominence in today’s Scottish edition:

ON A small square of emerald behind Edinburgh Castle a furious Hobbit army gathers.

Nearly 15,000 Orangemen and women — none more than 5ft 6in — pour into the park, clutching fancy caps, braids, straps, pompoms, feathers, actual flutes of war and swag upon swag of militant polyester.

Even the mobility scooters seem ready for battle, pimped with “naw” slogans and fluttering Union flags.

One man, next to a burger van, has the pin of a “no” badge jammed through his ear.

And to help our mockery:



Oh, how droll. Definitely not one of us, say the ladies congregating at Moningside Parish Church. But sisterhood pervades under the skin, and I suggest a jerk of cross-class recognition. Good on you, love!

Even if your threads come from Primark, and not Jenners, you can still be Bonny Jean, and a lass o’ pairts. And your mother could well be buried under her maiden name, in the fine tradition of till death us do part. Some of us take pride in those differences.

A generation or so earlier …

Let us remember where these Scottish Orangemen come from. Some of them, those in the mobility scooters … ready for battle, are old enough to have laboured in the shipyards, the steel-works, the collieries that Margaret Thatcher’s government left derelict.

As for the Hobbitry, let’s look at a better writer than Ms Long, who went Down the Mine:

There is the heat—it varies, but in some mines it is suffocating—and the coal dust that stuffs up your throat and nostrils and collects along your eyelids, and the unending rattle of the conveyor belt, which in that confined space is rather like the rattle of a machine gun. But the fillers look and work as though they were made of iron. They really do look like iron hammered iron statues—under the smooth coat of coal dust which clings to them from head to foot. It is only when you see miners down the mine and naked that you realize what splendid men, they are. Most of them are small (big men are at a disadvantage in that job) but nearly all of them have the most noble bodies; wide shoulders tapering to slender supple waists, and small pronounced buttocks and sinewy thighs, with not an ounce of waste flesh anywhere.

[For the record, Ms Long’s privileged background includes the Dukes of Newcastle: coal-magnates of Nottinghamshire and beyond.]

That’s not the case with the younger generation — the thick-set, bellied ones swinging the drum-sticks. But anyone with an eye notes the ex-service types who have seen it a’ in Basra and beyond. Ms Long heard:

A “yesser” from Leith calls them “a***holes” and “filth” in “ridiculous wee outfits” and “stupid hats”. They would “s***’ their pants if they actually had to pick up a rifle”.

The “yesser” and Ms Long should have looked more carefully. They must have missed the large Lee Rigby banner carried by one Lodge.

Those British Legion badges in the lapels, the poppy symbols, the Help for Heroes stickers are there by conviction, and from experience. A lot of rifle-picking-up has been done by these types. The majority of those 15,000 Orange marchers worked or work in “hobbit”-like manual trades. Nothing as challenging as the heavy-industrial phone-tapping, photo-shopping and text-inputting needed at News Corp, right? So what do they know of work, who only work at it?

If Camilla Long represents the effete Murdoch tendency, Jim White is more real for the Telegraph:

The drumbeat hammering through Edinburgh on Saturday morning rattled the rib- cage. Dogs within a fifteen-mile radius cowered as the shrill chirrup of the pipe band cut the air. Surely no one could have seen batons thrown so high, with such a flourish, along the streets of the city before.

For this was the Loyal Orange Order of Scotland thumping its noisy way through Scotland’s capital, determined to demonstrate its opposition to the very idea of an independent Scotland. This was the sound of the No campaign on a very noisy, very colourful march.

“There’s no doubt the Nationalist campaign has shown more pizzazz; it’s appealed to that part in the Scot that is passionate, proud, romantic,” admitted Ian Wilson, a past Grand Master of the Scottish Orange Lodge, who had helped co-ordinate the march. “But there’s nothing dispassionate about this organisation. We’re putting the passion back into the No campaign.”

As he spoke, the march was thumping on, led by the Black Skull band of Glasgow, in their full Scots Guards regalia. Behind them some 15,000 people snaked through the city, yelling out their desire to say No.

There were endless lines of men in black suits with orange sashes marked LOL (that stands for Loyal Orange Lodge, not Laugh Out Loud). There were women in vivid orange dresses, children waving Union flags…

This was the Orange Order, founded in 1795 to protect Protestant interests in Ireland and celebrate the memory of William of Orange, who defeated the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

It is best known for its annual march on July 12, celebrating William’s victory. Although most prominent in Northern Ireland, it also has lodges across the Commonwealth and the US as well as the significant presence in Scotland that it demonstrated yesterday. The Order in Northern Ireland has insisted it will stand with its Scottish counterparts to protect the Union.

This was democracy in action. Bands lined up as far as the eye could see. Groups of women in their Sunday best marched alongside them, carrying banners reading “Proud to be British, proud to be Scottish”.

Why did nobody notice the symbolism, especially important this day? Each Lodge is preceded by a member carrying the open Bible and a Crown: more than the sashes and the banners and the bands, the two unifying symbols of Orangism. And not to be scorned.

Later on Saturday, the Lady in My Life and I, filling in time before the evening train south, took drinks in a clubroom overlooking Princes Street and across to Edinburgh Castle.

At the next table were three archetypal Scots ladies, several classes different from those Camilla Long took time out to mock. Their sisterhood was in sympathy with the swag upon swag of militant polyester. I wonder what is their reading of Camilla Long.

1 Comment

Filed under bigotry, Britain, broken society, Daily Telegraph, Military, Murdoch, Northern Irish politics, reading, Scotland, Sunday Times

Trusted truths

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146, a chorister’s favourite (it has just ten verses — and that could be one of few verifiable truths in this post).

And so, by a natural progression, to Anthony Wells at

Wells had spotted an oddity in the ICM/Guardian poll:

More unexpectedly the ICM poll also found a jump in support for the BNP, up to 4%, the highest any poll has had then at for years. This is strange. The BNP have certainly not had any great publicity boost, at the local elections they seemed essentially moribund. It may just be an odd sample, or perhaps as Tom Clark suggests it is just a case of confusion amongst respondents, with some people getting the names of the BNP and UKIP mixed up.

ICM also asked about voting intention in an EU referendum, finding voting intention fairly evenly balanced – 40% would vote to stay in (22% definitely, 18% probably), 43% would vote to leave (32% definitely, 11% probably).

UPDATE: ICM tabs are up here. Topline figures without reallocation of don’t knows would have been CON 27%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 19%, BNP 5%.

That strange boost of support for the BNP is almost wholly amongst women, almost wholly amongst C2s, almost wholly amongst over 65s and almost wholly in Wales. The unweighted number of 2010 BNP voters in the sample was 1, increased to 18 by weighting. What that strongly suggests to me is that there was one little old C2 BNP-voting Welsh lady who got a very high weighting factor, and probably makes up almost all of that 4%! Such things happen sometimes, but it means the BNP blip is probably just a data artifact that can be ignored.

A euphemism newly minted

Now, there’s a nice one: “just a data artifact”. Try typing that, and most spell-check utilities flag up an error. That’s because the preferred version is subtly different, another form of “truth”.

It’s also a prime example of word-drift. Once upon a  time there was:

artefact: An object made or modified by human workmanship, as opposed to one formed by natural processes.

At some point the alternative spelling seemed to be the norm for an alternative signification:

artifact: Science. A spurious result, effect, or finding in a scientific experiment or investigation, esp. one created by the experimental technique or procedure itself. Also as a mass noun: such effects collectively.

As a point of fact, Mr Chairman, the entire public opinion polling business is based on such “data artifacts”. Notice, even in what Wells says there, how an eight-point Labour lead (35-27) is manipulated down to just six points (34-28) for a headline figure.

Today there are two types of truth …

That’s the start of page 40 of the current Private Eye (#1340, 17th-30th May, so verifiable, if not a “truth”). It becomes an exposé of a criminal Yorkshire property developer who is running the usual rings around the Serious Fraud Office, but begins with a telling generalisation:

Today there are two types of truth. Electronic truth — provided via the ever expanding knowledge universes of the internet. And historic truth — provided by those facts not yet or no longer recorded on easily searchable internet databases.

An American truth

There is a poem by the American romantic, Professor John Russell Lowell, which Malcolm has always assumed to be essentially anti-slavery and pro-“freedom”. Its best-known snippet is the eighth stanza:

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

A bit too theist for Malcolm, but he appreciates the sense and sensibility.

[For the record, Lowell was President Chester Arthur’s appointee as US Ambassador in London. Here he was a literary lion, running Henry James around the Bloomsbury salons, and becoming Virginia Woolf’s god-father.]

Trussed truths

Electronic “truth” contains too many “data artifacts” for comfort. Pseudo-statistics (those perpetrated by serial-offending politicians as much as by their natural allies, the opinion-pollsters) are just one source of this creeping corruption.

Psalm 146, of course, prefers the eternal (and unprovable, and frequently controvertible) truths:

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

Therein you may find your “truth”. If so, it is where you find all you need to know about:


Filed under BBC, bigotry, Britain, education, films, Guardian, Herald Scotland, Labour Party, Literature, politics, polls, poverty, prejudice, Private Eye, Quotations, Racists, reading, Tories., ukpollingreport, US politics


Good fences make good neighbors

Robert Frost, of course, hence the spelling:

There where it is we do not need the wall: 
He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.

As is generally accepted, the proverb goes far further back than Frost in 1914. Benjamin Franklin had it in Poor Richard’s Almanack, in the form:

Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.

Clearly it was a well-worn axiom, even then.

Or, as Dominic Behan — ambiguously — had it:

The sea, oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide
Long may it stay between England and me
It’s a sure guarantee that some hour we’ll be free
Oh! thank God we’re surrounded by water.

Somehow that was transported (like much else) to Newfoundland, where Joan Morrissey gave it new life:

The whole point of the relationship of the Celt and the Saxon is mutual incomprehension. It is a gaping chasm dividing the nearest of neighbours. A couple of the Great Moments of Anglo-Irish history were:

  • Queen Elizabeth I being verbally lambasted (in Irish) by Shane O’Neill (6th January 1562):


John Onell the Frenshman who had don much myschief the sommer past in Ireland cometh by save condytt into England and was receved gentelly in the courte in his saffron shorte the twelveth day at night. He accuseth the erle of Sussex of great crymes, crueltie, breache of promyse, putting to death of divers contrary to promyse and saue conduytt, pilling and polling etc.

O’Neill and his party were the subject of much chatter at Court. They were so unlike us, my dear. The version given on is strong on romantic imagination, if nothing else:

Few scenes could be more picturesque than this visit of the great Ulster chieftain to the capital of his unknown sovereign. As he came striding down the streets of London on his way to the Palace, attended by his train of gallowglasse armed with the battleaxe, his was indeed a figure to strike the imagination. Like the great golden eagle from far-off Donegal, when seen among homely surroundings, Shane the Proud impressed those who gazed at him as being indeed a king of men. He stalked into the Court, his saffron mantle sweeping round and round him, his hair curling on his back and clipped short below the eyes, which gleamed from under it with a grey lustre. Behind him followed his gallowglasse, their heads bare, their fair hair flowing on their shoulders, their linen vests dyed with saffron, with long and open sleeves, surcharged with shirts of mail which reached to their knees, a wolf-skin flung across their shoulders, and short, broad battle-axes in their hands.

The redoubtable chief had no reason to be dissatisfied with his reception. The Council, the peers, bishops, aldermen, dignitaries of all kinds, were present in state, and the assembly included ambassadors from the King of Sweden and the Duke of Savoy.

O’Neill, later that same year, sweetened the occasion by sending Elizabeth, through Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a present of two horses, two hawks, and two Irish wolfdogs.

  • Then early in September 1593, Gráinne Ní Mháille (a.k.a. Grace O’Malley), de facto (leaving aside any legalistic details) lord of Umhall Uachtarach, came to Greenwich to make her complaints.

Let’s hear it from Mary O’Dowd, writing for the Dictionary of National Biography:

40_small_1246292510On her husband’s death, O’Malley, according to her own account, ‘gathered together all her own followers and with 1000 head of cows and mares’ went to live in Carraighowley Castle, co. Mayo, on part of her late husband’s territory, where she continued to ‘maintain herself and her people by sea and land’ . She may initially have established friendly relations with the new president of Connaught, Sir Richard Bingham, but she and her sons soon fell out with his regime. Owen was killed by the president’s brother George Bingham in 1586 and O’Malley was imprisoned and threatened with death. Theobald was maintained in the president’s household for some time as a pledge.

O’Malley was implicated in the Burke rebellions of 1586 and 1588 by Sir Richard Bingham, who accused her of drawing Scottish mercenary soldiers into co. Mayo. Her actions suggest, however, that she was primarily concerned to protect the interests of her immediate family and particularly those of Theobald. By 1591 Theobald had emerged as the leading Burke and the strongest contender for the position of MacWilliam but despite submitting to the government he was still regarded with suspicion. Her son’s arrest precipitated O’Malley’s visit to Elizabeth I in the summer of 1593. A remarkable aspect of O’Malley’s petitions was that she acted as spokesperson for the men in her family. She asked the queen for the release of her son and of her brother, who had also been arrested by Bingham. She also requested that her two sons and two other male members of the Burke family be given letters patent for their lands. As a widow under English common law, O’Malley also laid claim to dower from the land of the O’Malleys and of the O’Flahertys. In a much quoted passage she explained that a widow under Gaelic law had no right to her husband’s land. The royal visit was a success from O’Malley’s point of view. Bingham was ordered by Elizabeth to release Theobald and to grant O’Malley maintenance from her husbands’ lands. As a demonstration of loyalty, O’Malley claimed that she had ‘procured all her sons, cousins and followers of the O’Malleys’, with a number of galleys (some newly built on her return from London) to assist the Elizabethan forces in the Mayo area . The Irish administration was, none the less, slow to implement the queen’s instructions and in 1595 O’Malley made another visit to London, renewing her requests for herself and her male relatives.

There are umpteen accounts of the meeting of O’Malley and Elizabeth — the number of them alone testifies to the strangeness of the occasion, of two worlds colliding. Here is E. Owens Blackburne, doing one of those mid-Victorian (1877) shelf-fillers,  in Illustrious Irishwomen: Being Memoirs of Some of the Most Noted Irishwomen:

Tradition says that Grainne O’Mailly and her retinue performed the entire journey by sea, and sailed up the Thames to the Tower Gate. In this case tradition does not seem to be far wrong, for her little son, Theobald, or Toby, who was born during the journey, was called, Tioboid-na-Lung, or “Theobald of the Ship.”

The meeting of the two royal ladies must have been a strange sight, — the light-haired, light-eyed, fair-faced and rather shrewish-looking Elizabeth, and the swarthy, black-eyed, and black-haired Queen of Connaught. That the latter and her retainers were not attired in the then prevailing mode is pretty certain; but it may also be positively stated that, whatever was the fashion of their habiliments, the texture and workmanship would have borne comparison with any to be found at the Court. For in Ireland, from the earliest ages, skilled needlework was held in the highest esteem.

There are many traditional accounts of this memorable interview, but the chief and best result of it was that it consolidated the treaty already made between Grainne and Elizabeth. At the same time the Irish chieftainess although expressing herself grateful for the protection afforded by the English Government did not cede one inch of her royal dignity. The English Queen offered to create her a countess ; to which Grainne replied that she could not do so, as they were both equal in rank. But she said she would accept a title for her little son Toby, who had been born on the passage from Ireland. Accordingly, the infant was brought into Court, and then and there created Viscount Mayo ; from whom the present noble family of the Earls of Mayo is descended.

When the Irish chieftainess arrived at the English Court, she described herself as “Grainne O’Mailly, daughter of Doodarro O’Mailly, sometime chief of the country called Upper Owle O’Mailly, now called the Barony of Murasky.” This statement rather puzzled Elizabeth, who knew that Grainne was a married woman, until it was explained to her that it was customary amongst the Irish for the women to retain their maiden names after marriage.

They haven’t gone away, you know

The cultural differences extend well into the 21st century. Hence the Celt (who has a more intimate experience of the pained relationship) views the Saxon with amused contempt; while the return glance — when it is deigned to be afforded — remains devoid of real understanding.

The whole thing was writ small and neatly summed by a letter on The Guardian website, reproduced in the Saturday Review section. It’s from a regular contributor to the Books pages, poet, and publisher. The topic is Hilary Mantel’s London Review of Books article:

Given Cameron’s role in this affair, it’s difficult for an Irish person not to take some unwonted pride in a recent speech by much-maligned Irish poet-president Michael D Higgins; Joyce, Beckett, Marx, Sartre, de Beauvoir were all name-checked by a career politician who has read their works.



Leave a comment

Filed under bigotry, blogging, Britain, David Cameron, Guardian, History, Ireland, Irish politics, Literature, reading

Honour Hizzoner!

Compared to the ball of inertia that is the Mayor of London, there’s a lot going for Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City.

And here’s why:

… the plastic-foam container may soon be going the way of trans fats, 32-ounce Pepsis, and cigarettes in Central Park.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose regulatory lance has slain fatty foods, supersize sodas, and smoking in parks, is now targeting plastic foam, the much-derided polymer that environmentalists have long tried to restrict.

On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg, in his 12th and final State of the City address, will propose a citywide ban on plastic-foam food packaging, including takeout boxes, cups and trays. Public schools would be instructed to remove plastic-foam trays from their cafeterias. Many restaurants and bodegas would be forced to restock.

In excerpts from his speech released on Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg rails against plastic foam, even comparing it to lead paint. “We can live without it, we may live longer without it, and the doggie bag will survive just fine,” the mayor plans to say.

Nobody would argue that NYC’s air quality is “good” (no city air quality is “good”), but what is remarkable is that it is by no means the worst across the USA — ten of the worst dozen ozone-polluted,  and seven of the worst dozen counties for particle-pollution are in and around LA, so no surprise there.

It’s a live and populist issue in NYC. Meanwhile BoJo is failing to come to terms with London’s air pollution: he postures whenever his past mis-steps trip him up.

We know that BoJo and Bloomberg live on the same land-surface, though it might as well be on different planets:

… some of his more high-minded policies, like soda limits, have left the [London] natives bemused.

When the mayors met for the first time, Mr. Johnson recalled, Mr. Bloomberg kept talking about trans fats.

“I didn’t know what trans fats were,” Mr. Johnson said, a glint in his eye. “I thought it had something to do with transsexuals, obese transsexuals, or something. Anyway, he made a great deal about that.”

That went down like a 2-pint cola with the UK pink press.


Leave a comment

Filed under bigotry, Boris Johnson, health, London, New York City, New York Times


Malcolm was about to wax lyrical and literary on the current vogue for Richard III and Richard III. No; they’re not the same thing. One is a tragedy and the other isn’t. Oh, work it out for yourselves.

Instead, and for the time being, he was distracted by Cllr H. Phibbs (by name, by nature), the saturnine Uncle Fester of ConHome, given unnecessary added airing by the ever-expanding Harry Cole (once “Tory Bear”, now “neo-Guido”):


It does: it’s two sets of marbles. Even in these austere times, we are allowed duplication (two governing parties, two party platforms, two loads of liars …). Even as metaphors. It’s even a kind of zeugma — something else to look up and work out.

The rest of Polly Toynbee’s piece,  gets to the belly of the beast:

The gay marriage debate has uncovered a nest of bigots

Far from showing off the party’s modernity, today’s vote has brought out the Tory old guard in all its out-of-touch glory

She hits the solar plexus:

What reasonable observer would expect gay marriage to seize their passions instead? US-style culture wars have broken out – but only within the ranks of the Tory party. Deep divides exist on many social issues, but usually the other side is at least comprehensible to the majority. We can understand why a minority of people are profoundly upset by abortion, but this arcane marriage dispute is beyond the ordinary comprehension of anyone not guided by the Bible. The anti-gay brigade built their barricades but failed against civil partnership, which gave gay couples equal rights. Although marriage is no more than a mystical word, adding no new rights, fighting over that word lets homophobes again vent abhorrence at the modern world and all its filth.

As Malcolm has sought to show, the phalanx of these self-deceiving bigots is a homophobic, theocratic, fundamentalist, creationist operation, the very unchristian Christian Institute of 4 Park Road, Gosforth, and its front organisation, the Coalition for Marriage of (surprise!) 4 Park Road, Gosforth.

That the once great Tory Party (or, at least a significant proportion — and even a “thinking” element — thereof) can be manipulated by weirdos of this ilk  tells us all we need to know.

Leave a comment

Filed under bigotry, ConHome, Conservative family values, Guardian, Guido Fawkes, Polly Toynbee, Tories.

Marry and burn

A heart of stone is needed, not to mock the continuing havoc an eight-letter word is causing the Tory Party.

At a quick count, at toast-and-marmalade-time today, seven of the top eight (that number again!) items on ConHome Newslinks were about “marriage” — single-sex, the financial arrangements thereof, and other hokey-cokeys. There’s even one of those annoying rolling ads for the Coalition for Marriage.

From Institute to Coalition (across the hall-way)

This Coalition for Marriage deserves a moment’s attention. Its address is 5 Park Road, Gosforth. This takes us to a soul-less warehousing development on the outskirts of Newcastle — within whiffing distance of the big Greggs pasty plant across the hedge. Presumably no coincidence, it is bang next door to The Christian Institute of  Wilberforce House, 4 Park Road, Gosforth. For all the “Christian” ethos here, the “Christian Institute” seems to have a particular track record:

  • it sought to retain Thatcher’s vindictive Clause 28, discriminating against the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality;
  • it argued for an older age-of-consent in homosexual relationships;
  • it opposed Civil Partnerships;
  • it opposed single-sex adoption rights;
  • it meddled in Northern Ireland’s attempts to draw up rules on gender equality;
  • it funded a case in Islington, where a Council employee refused to work on the documentation of civil partnerships (and lost);
  • it funded the boarding-house owner who discriminated against gays(and lost).

Not surprisingly, then, the Institute has repeatedly been warned off crossing the line between “charity” and political activism.

Oh, and the Institute are New Earthers, theocrats, and bigots:

The Bible is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos. Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

Anyone for an auto-da-fé?

The Christian Institute is strong on discipline:

The Church’s calling is to worship and serve God in the world, to proclaim and defend his truth, to exhibit his character and to demonstrate the reality of his new order.

New order … where did we come on that before? Then, in the original, was it not more correctly Neuordnung?

And also hot on punishment:

Evildoers will suffer eternal punishment. God will fully establish his kingdom when he creates a new heaven and a new earth from which evil, suffering and death will be excluded, and in which he will be glorified for ever.

Ah, yes: bring back the old ways of glorifying for ever:


A Malcolmian solution:

Ever one to be helpful, Malcolm reckons he has a way to satisfy all but the most extreme theocrat:

  • Allow whatever religious, denominational or whatever practices of human bonding to persist, but keep them at pitchfork’s length from the State;
  • Recognise only civil-marriage sand registrations of relationships to be recognised for official State needs.

In other words, do as they do in France — a civil and (should the couple wish) a religious ceremony. But only the one has the official imprimatur and it has to happen first. If the Château de Candé was good enough for an (ex-)King and Emperor, then the local Town Hall should suit anyone else.


Filed under bigotry, Britain, broken society, civil rights, ConHome, Conservative family values, Religious division, Tories.