Category Archives: Homophobia

The end of Swiveleyesation as we know it?

Another magnificent coinage by the great Steve Bell:

Steve Bell 21.05.2013

Yesterday Malcolm was attempting to find some kind of historical context — or, failing that, the comedy of errors — which has led to the present Great Tory Bad-Hair Day.

Today Benedict Brogan writes his Morning Briefing for the Telegraph blogs, and sweepingly assumes it’s all water down the sink. Happy Days are Hair Again. The skies above are clear again. So we’ll sing a song of cheer again:

Well, almost:

Cast your eyes along the waterfront this morning after the night before and you might conclude that things are fairly dire for Dave. He’s suffered another major rebellion (I know, I know it was a free vote, but he still failed to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead), there’s lashings of backbiting, and he’s been reduced to sending a pleading ‘Dear Mr Loon, I still love you’ letter to his members, something even American commentators have picked up on as a bad look. Nick Watt, a keen reader of Tory runes, spots a sea-change in attitudes to Dave among MPs and raises the prospect of a move against him in The Guardian, with more letters going in to Graham Brady. As I mention in my column, grown ups inside No10 realise that they are stuck with a number of what they refer to as ‘legacy issues’, from not winning the 2010 election to the gay marriage idea.

200px-Candide1759The rest of Brogan’s musings stretch for, but don’t quite reach a Panglossian optimum:

Much of what has excited us in recent weeks will have passed the voters by, and after tonight’s vote gay marriage will be on its way to becoming law, and passing out of the current political debate. With the economy slowly improving and Labour wallowing, the Tories surely should be able to claw themselves off the rocks. This will require a fair wind, and a commitment by Mr Cameron and those around him to sharpen up. It also means not surrendering to the bullying disguised as advice from those agitating against Dave, whether it’s David Davis or Lord Ashcroft. The recess starts today, a good opportunity for everyone to calm down and for the PM to have a think about how he organises himself from now on.

[For the record, Voltaire in 1759 is parodying Leibnitz of 1698: not many people know that.]

Legacy issues

Such was the vein into which history-mining Malcolm was driving his shaft with yesterday’s piece. Let us then consider what rich ore Brogan has found:

Gay marriage served as a stark reminder of just how far removed Dave’s world view often seems from his troops. As The Guardian notes, the inter-generational divisions in the Tory party were particularly stark. Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister last year knighted on the PM’s advice, warned in yesterday’s debate of an “aggressive homosexual community” in the country. Edward Leigh lamented that the “outlandish views of the loony left of the 1980s” had become “embedded in high places”.

Really? Really! It’s all those gays? Hardly!

Brogan concludes by passing us and the tar-baby onto Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. Ganesh asserts it’s 2010 and All That:

… the election that should detain David Cameron is the last one. The prime minister’s estrangement from his party has many causes – the inexhaustibly vexed question of Europe, the same-sex marriage bill he takes to Parliament this week – but the rancour really set in with his failure to win in 2010. This original sin led to coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a political miscegenation that turns Tory stomachs, and broke the unspoken covenant that allows a leader to be as autocratic as he likes as long he delivers. Last week, a prime ministerial ally was reported to have disparaged the party’s grassroots as “swivel-eyed loons”. “Arrogant losers” tends to be the rejoinder.

Ganesh then reprises the course of the 2010 Tory election campaign, concluding:

For all the campaign’s haplessness, the Tories ended it with roughly the same poll lead over Labour as they began it. Mr Cameron was still preferred by voters to his party. The campaign was a non-event, as they usually are. The real reason for the Tories’ failure had more to do with the economic insecurity that nagged at voters when shown blueprints for austerity by a party they already mistrusted. That the economy was slithering out of recession at the same time hardened their risk aversion. Fiscal clarity made for bad short-term politics, and yet the blame has somehow gone to other, softer aspects of the Tory offering.

The Conservatives did not fail because they were seen as high-minded metropolitans, but because they were too redolent of the same old Tories. They had changed too little, not too much. The people who should have been vindicated by 2010 were the modernisers. But their chronic passivity, their lordly distaste for a fight, has allowed a misremembered version of that election to become the definitive history. This is undermining Mr Cameron and shaping a future in which only the ideologically orthodox can lead the Tories.

That is indeed the “high-quality journalism” that the FT prudently reminds low-life, thieving types (like Malcolm, shamelessly ripping of those extracts) needs paying for. [Again, for the record, Malcolm happily pays for the print edition, especially at weekends, if only to pre-empt what he knows the Sundays will regurgitate as original thought.]

Two small details (1):

Those televised debates (and Cameron’s foolish participation in televised debates that he flunked) really screwed up the opinion polls. In a different context (to which we may come in a moment), Malcolm was reviewing just how the 2010 polling went. The answer is not very well:

2010 polling

Got that? The main impact of the televised debates was to flatter the LibDem vote by anything between 3% and 6% (which amounts to gross “data artifact“), while under-rating Tory support just slightly, and Labour’s quite significantly. One might feel that Cameron & co. have been blinded by those errors ever since.

Two small details (2):

On their perception of the election result, and of the “reliability” of the LibDems, the Cameron & co. “modernisers” entered their Mephistophelean pact with Clegg & co. — two capitalist combines monopolising the market for their short-term profit. Let’s have another 18th-century great intellect’s view on that:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (see page 111 in this e-text)

An alternative history

Wind back to Friday, 7th May, 2010, with the last of the 649 results coming in (the 650th, a safe Tory seat — Thirsk and Malton, was delayed by the death of a candidate). This is what we saw:

  • Tories: 305 (and bound to be 306);
  • Labour: 258, plus Caroline Lucas, the Green for Brighton Pavilion, and Sylvia Herman, likely to attend infrequently but then vote with Labour (so call it around 260);
  • Lib Dems: 57, plus Naomi Long for Alliance in East Belfast (so 58 at a pinch);
  • DUP: 8;
  • SNP: 6;
  • SDLP, Plaid Cymru: 3 apiece.

The Speaker is neutral, though votes for the government in a tie, and Sinn Féin are non-attenders (so, n=650-6). A cynical calculation is the cash-strapped sand bruised Labour and LibDem contingents aren’t too keen on a quick re-run; but, more to the point, there are at least a score of odds-and-sods turkeys there who can’t afford to vote for Christmas (sayn n=650-26). The most basic “working majority” would be, in practice, well short of the nominal 326 (the calculation above suggests 312 at most)— and Dave’s Tories are within a spit of just that.

So, in the short term, Dave’s Tories could talk the talk, cobble a “confidence and supply” arrangement with even the DUP (306+8=314), and walk the walk through until a second election in the autumn. By which moment Tory coffers, uniquely among the main operators, would be topped up by the grateful and expectant clique of bond-traders and hedge-funders.

A second election, please note, that could have been contrived by losing a vote of confidence on some populist issue (immigration?). A second election, too, in which the Tory economic record would be buffed up by the tail-end of Alistair Darling’s economics (it was only in the autumn of 2010, thanks to Osborne’s austerity, that the UK economy went into flat-lining).

In short, had Cameron done the right thing, the Tory thing, he would now likely be sitting on a secure Tory majority, and figuring his way to calling the next election at his choosing, on his terms, and not on those of the LibDem dictated Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He would also have enjoyed the benefits of a greater patronage for Tory backbench nonentities, not having to service the self-esteem of LibDem nonentities.

All the Tory back-benchers, and the wannabes out in the cold have done that math. The iron has entered their souls.

One last thing

We were looking there at how the polling companies had cocked it up. Enter the new-boy on the block, Survation. Ben Brogan (see above) gave that a nod in passing:
The fightback could just start here. Though from a low base if you believe a new Survation poll in The Guardian. It has the Tories down to 24 pc – just two points above Ukip.

Look closer, and we find The Guardian, doesn’t give Survation more than the time of day.

Andrew Sparrow counters with the YouGov/Sun numbers:

Last night Survation released a poll showing the Tories just two points ahead of Ukip.

Here are the figures.
Labour: 39% (down 1 from YouGov in the Sunday Times)
Conservatives: 31% (up 2)
Ukip: 14% (no change)
Lib Dems: 10% (up 1)
Labour lead: 8 points (down 3)
Government approval: -34 (up 5)

Finally, let’s hear it from Anthony Wells (whose shock-factor is also set to minimum):

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.
In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.
More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

As Wells implies, there, swallowing Survation might not produce the glorious summer the Kippers expect. More likely, “up like the rocket, and down like the stick”: UKIP is hardly the best-presented pyrotechnic in the box.

Swiveleyesation may endure yet.

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Is the future really bright?

The memory is clear from the revival of Close the Coalhouse Door. Malcolm was a bit rusty on the exact Alex Glasgow lyrics, but help was at hand:

“— When its ours, Geordie lad, when its ours:
There’ll changes bonny lad, when its ours!”

“— Are you sure we’ll be all right? Is the future really bright?”

” — (Oh, for God’s sake, man) We’ve won this bloody fight!
An its ours, all ours!”

pic8So, on 1st January 1947, the miners of the North-East (and across Britain) sincerely believed nationalisation would change the nature of pit-work. For many it did: the very next year, Malcolm’s Uncle Ernest Copley was leading the stay-down strike to keep open the Waleswood Colliery. That campaign failed. Today the only mine in the South Yorkshire coalfield is Maltby.

The message, as always, remains: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it —

“— When its ours, Geordie lad, when its ours:
Man, the wife’ll be reet glad when its ours!”

“— Tell me Jackie, whats in store? What will she be grateful for?”

” — Why, I’ll stop in bed, wi’ her,
When its ours, all ours!”

Self-deception

You’d find a similar bubble cruelly popped by Malcolm d’Ancona in the Torygraph, as he suggests:

Westminster’s Tory tots must do some growing up

The mutineers are living in a Hogwarts fantasy world – where all it needs to achieve growth is a wave of the magic wand

“The Tory century”

He opens:

The Conservatives have a do-or-die decision to make before the next general election – and it is not about the identity of their leader. They must decide if, having dominated the 20th century, they are serious about being a party of government in the 21st. They must decide if they want to retain their reputation as the nation’s crisis managers. They must decide if they want to be seen as political grown-ups, or a bunch of overgrown kids using Westminster as a playground.

At this stage of the Parliament, Ed Miliband was expected to be the tribal chief facing a leadership crisis, and the Lib Dems the party answering hard questions about their commitment to office. Yet, in February 2013, it is David Cameron who is being undermined by talk of a leadership contest, and the Conservatives who – in some garrulous cases, anyway – are more deeply preoccupied by internal party intrigue than by the governance of the country.

Well, well: that must make Asquith, Lloyd George, Clem Attlee — not to mention Beveridge and Nye Bevan — all makers of 20th century Britain, equally all natural Tories.

As for being the nation’s crisis managers, there was that 1946 business when Hugh Dalton had to despatch J.M.Keynes to Washington.  Or the other one, 1974-9, when Denis Healey was coping with the economic ruins of the Heath administration. Odd how, in the parallel universe populated by the d’Anconas, “clearing up the mess left by the previous government” is persuasive only when it falls from Tory lips.

As for the c-word, we could have a good’un cooking right now, as even the Torygraph‘s James Quinn recognises:

Sterling caught in a quiet crisis

It’s only “quiet” until the screaming starts. That could come along very soon; and — as Quinn glosses George Soros (and even the IMF) — the fault is not longer “the previous government” but:

austerity was the “wrong policy at this time”

Have the Tories lost the plot?

Well, some most definitely have — which is d’Ancona’s beef,  following that excellent, if mischievous, Guardian editorial earlier this week

Meanwhile, Andrew Rawnsley takes the argument a step further into the shrubbery — and has something very nasty stirring in there. He emphasises the chasm between Tory myth and Tory reality:

There are few things so forlorn as a cliche that has turned into the opposite of the truth.

Ah, yes, Andrew: the miners of ’47 had just that experience. But, sorry to interrupt, pray continue:

One such is the aphorism of Lord Kilmuir, the Tory grandee, who declared that “loyalty is the secret weapon of the Conservative party”. If you were to tell this to David Cameron, he’d surely laugh. So would all his recent predecessors as Tory leader. It was not even true in Kilmuir’s day as he discovered when he was summarily sacked from the cabinet by Harold Macmillan in the 1962 “Night of the Long Knives”.

The trademark of much Tory history is that the party frequently kills its leaders and its leaders often betray their friends. Ted Heath was toppled by Margaret Thatcher. She was defenestrated and replaced by John Major. That saved the 1992 election for the Conservatives, but the Thatcher regicide injected a virus into the party’s bloodstream that has made life hell for every leader since. His party so tortured Mr Major that he felt compelled to reapply for his job in the “put up or shut up” contest of 1995. They re-elected him and then promptly went back to torturing him. After their 1997 defeat, the Tories went through three leaders in eight years before they arrived at David Cameron. Just half way into his first (and possibly only) term as prime minister, they are at it again. His party swirls with talk of knives being sharpened, signatures on no-confidence letters being collected and assassination plots being hatched.

 Much as Malcolm likes and admires Rawnsley, a piece by Peter Franklin for ConHome, over five years ago, ran on remarkably similar lines. Franklin concluded:

I’ll leave you with another cliché, but one that’s as true as it’s ever been:

There’s no ‘I’ in team.

There’s no ‘I’ in loyalty either. Disloyalty, however, is another matter.

For once, Rawnsley isn’t taking us anywhere, and his perceptions are as mundane as Malcolm’s too often are. We can forgive him, however, for fingering the guilty (as the dissident Tories would see it): Cameron himself —

… his unforgivable crime for many of them: not winning a proper Tory victory at the last election, which fuels the growing fear in Conservative ranks that the same will happen next time. Mr Cameron’s enemies within are absolutely correct that this was a big failure, but they are quite wrong when they go on to say it was because he did not offer enough right wing meat to the voters. The party tried that in 2001 and 2005. In 2001, after four years of Labour government, the Tories made a net gain of just one seat. In 2005, after eight years of Labour and the Iraq war, the Tories made a net gain of less than 1% in the share of vote. There has been some fascinating analysis of voters who thought about voting Conservative in 2010 but in the end didn’t. The conclusion from these studies is that swing voters were unpersuaded by the Tories not because they were insufficiently right wing, but because they were not detoxified enough. Mr Cameron is now paying the price for that.

The “detoxification” cliché

 Rawnsley doesn’t need to spell it in full. The poison in the Tory blood will be evident again next week.

We learn — depending on your source — that 130 or even 180 Tories will vote against the gay marriage bill. That’s more than half the non-payroll vote, even half the parliamentary party.

To what end?

The bill will pass. Nobody outside a small group of the politically-committed will notice the passing. Tim Montgomerie gets that one:

There’s lots of nonsense emanating from certain pollsters, notably ComRes, about gay marriage having a disastrous impact on Tory fortunes. YouGov’s Joe Twyman has Tweeted an important link which shows that the effect might well be negative in the short-term but that – AT WORST – it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%…

Joe’s numbers don’t account for the generational issue. Younger voters really cannot understand the opposition to same-sex rights. The Conservative Party rebels on gay marriage are putting themselves on the wrong side of history.

As of now, the ConHome comments on that article run to some two gross: far too many are defiantly, aggressively the wrong side of the generational issue and the wrong side of history. Yes, many of those can be dismissed as the usual rants from UKIPpers and (by the sniff of it) escapees from the local tin tabernacle.

Then the mainstream Tory press is reporting a new grassroots campaign, and here things may be a bit more serious. Despite protestations:

… along with many faithful, local Conservatives, we have become increasingly concerned at the policy direction of the Party and the apparent rejection of cherished Conservative principles.

This appears, for now, to be a single-issue campaign:

We are particularly disappointed at the manner in which the leadership is seeking to push through the redefinition of marriage, squeezing out the debate, scrutiny and accountability that Conservatives so value. Yet we fear that this experience is symptomatic of a wider problem – of a leadership that is out of touch with its grassroots.

This campaign is mighty mysterious: no address, a mobile ‘phone number and contact only via an anonymous web-site. But that’s how guerrilla warriors work. A cynic might wonder if this is another front of that dubious Coalition for Marriage, or, if not, why a parallel fifth column was required.

No, Mr Cameron, your future is none too bright. Is it?

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That was easy

Malcolm enjoys his sallies into Slugger O’Toole’s fragrant boudoir. At its best (and that’s frequently), Mick Fealty’s little empire provides some of the best on-line discussions on things Northern Irish and beyond. There’s been an uplifting one, these last few days, on Eric Hobsbawm, no less. Any thread initiated by Brian Walker is well worth the study.

It is a very well-run joint, too: disrespect and naughty words earn a yellow, red or — perish the thought! —black card.

Yet in Sluggerdom Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies is never far below what is actually said. This is, after all, a place of resort for the knuckle-draggers and sash-wearers of the most unreconstructed statelet in western Europe. Their wrap-the-green-flag-round-me bhoys opposite numbers are none the better.

At which point, temptation strikes. And Malcolm inevitably surrenders:

For the record, Malcolm’s current score is two yellows and one red — largely because there is at least one Slugger administrator with an abysmally-low threshold of irony.

A bit of background here:

  • The Ulster Unionist Party is as fissiparous as orgiastic amoeba in eukaryotic ecstasy.
  • The UUP is engaged in one of its twice-monthly spats.
  • David McNarry, the MLA for Strangford is flying the coop, into the arms of Nigel Farage’s little coterie of miscreants, gay-bashers, chauvinists and golfers.
  • Malcolm was awake much of the night with gout. He was not a happy bunny this morning.

And so to the post:

Which means, apart from here, that thought will never been seen again.

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Filed under Homophobia, human waste, Northern Irish politics, sleaze., Slugger O'Toole, UKIP

The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no. 27: more Fitzroving

Swiftly on to our next specimen.

Getting there may take more than a moment. This is, at first, a story of sex, power and connections, so let’s start by taking a step back.

Malcolm thinks he has the family-tree fettled. His intended target is in the second generation after the previous no.26, Anne Fitzpatrick.

In graphics it looks like this:

He was neither up nor down

We pass quickly on over  the Lord Charles Fitzroy, the second son of Augustus Henry Fitzroy (1735-1811) and his first wife, the flighty Anne Liddell.

Charles (1764-1829) was essentially an army officer, first in Flanders as bag-carrier to the Grand Old Duke of York (which is where the nursery rhyme originates), later running round after George III as aide-de-camp with the consolation prize of rank of Colonel. He was in Ireland as a major-general in the ’98. Safely back home, he was O.C. the Ipswich garrison, rising through the senior echelons to be a full General by the end of the Napoleonic Wars (though he seems never again to have needed to soil his dress uniform outside of the Home Counties).

He served two periods as MP for Bury St Edmunds, between 1787-96 and 1802-18, apparently never once making a speech; and spent his last two decades travelling between Northamptonshire and Berkeley Square.

His first, brief (1795-7) marriage was with Frances, the daughter of Edward Miller Munday, the Derbyshire Tory MP (now, he‘s a story), which produced one son, Charles Augustus. A second marriage, with Lady Frances Anne Stewart, eldest daughter of Robert Stewart, first marquess of Londonderry (nice choice!), engendered two more sons (the elder of whom is Malcolm’s coming topic) and a daughter.

Big stepbrother

Before we move onto the main item, let’s pause to acknowledge Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy  (1796-1858 — as left).

This one took a commission in the Horse Guards and was at Waterloo, which suggests that — unlike his Da — he saw a some real mud and blood.

After the wars:

  • he found himself on half-pay;
  • made a more-than-useful marriage to the daughter of the Duke of Richmond (whose mother was the daughter of the Duke of Gordon);
  • doubtless pulled strings — of which the family seem to have developed quite a few at the highest level;
  • then took up the white man ‘s burden to become a colonial governor, first in Prince Edward Island, then the Leeward Islands;
  • then a sticky job — in 1845 the colonial secretary, Lord Stanley, appointed him to succeed as governor of New South Wales Sir George Gipps the worst Governor New South Wales (thus, perhaps unfairly, the Sydney Morning Herald of 4 July 1846).

It gets down to serious stuff, and even admirable to a degree.

Australia had been transformed from a prison colony to a free, mainly pastoral society (the tipping-point was one of the problems that had plagued Gipps). Fitzroy, against much opposition from London, seems to have had a humane and independent-minded agenda. He benignly brought to an end the era of transportation, dealt with the start of the gold rush, and fostered moves to a new constitution for a federation of the Australian colonies. If Australia has an onlie begetter, he ought to be a contender. Between 1851-55 he was Australia’s first governor-general.

A fatal accident in 1847 killed his first wife, when he was driving her in a carriage. Fitzroy promptly set about earning a reputation as a womaniser, to the considerable excitement and distress of the presbyterian moralists (one of whom, Dr J. D. Lang, denounced him at the farewell ceremonies).

Back in London there were no further appointments for Fitzroy. He endured retirement, married again, and succumbed to fatal boredom.


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Some bigotries never go away

Try this:

A FORMER leader of the SNP has called on ministers to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Former MP Gordon Wilson, who led the party from 1979 to 1990, said same-sex marriage would “undermine” the traditional Christian understanding of the institution.

He argued that if the issue of the 300-year-old Union with the rest of the UK is worth a referendum, so is over a millennium-and-a-half of Christian teaching and he called on ministers to hold one instead of simply consulting on same-sex marriages.

Now Malcolm has been married to a good Northern Irish (ex-) young Unionist (with good Clydeside connections) for … ummm .. well into five decades. Oddly enough, Malcolm does not need anyone to define for him what that mutual commitment involves. He suspects that all other members of the “happily-married” fraternity and sorority would concur:

  • It’s not divinely ordained.
  • It’s nothing to do with deism or vows in a place of worship.
  • Or even legalistics.
  • It’s good old-fashioned understanding and tolerance.
  • It’s a four-letter word, my friends: l-o-v-e.
Every couple — whatever their gender(s) — have to find their way to consensual endurance together.

Definition

Malcolm’s (alas, long-dead) headmaster (at the High School, Dublin) was a classical scholar.

On special occasions the great-and-good Dr Ralph Reynolds wore what he himself referred to as his “Grand Vizier” outfit — the full-fig gold-and red doctorial gown of Queen’s University.

Malcolm particularly recalls a dusty classroom in the High School, then at the top of Harcourt Street. Dr Reynolds discoursed on the Greek terms for “love”. The bit Malcolm recalls went something like:

  • Agápe (ἀγάπη) is what you feel for for parents
  • Philia (φιλία) is what you feel for your friend
  • Éros (ἔρως) is what you fell for your friend’s sister.

Malcolm doubts that many who went through the route of classical eddikashun didn’t get something similar.

So, let’s return to Gordon Wilson.

Wilson represents the years when the SNP was in the wilderness, between  the froth-and-fury of Billy Wolfe and the Machiavel “Wee Eck” Salmond. Let it be understood that Malcolm, not without qualification, was a Wolfe-man. Well, to be honest, since a youthful Bo’ness evening which involved amounts of heavy and many, many improvised verses of the Ballad of the Learig Bar.

Now, what — in any name of reason — is Wilson doing here?

If nothing else, the SNP — if it is to achieve a plurality — cannot afford to identify with any faction. And the religious elements in Scotland are just a wee bit too puissant and divisive to have as affiliates.

So: Shut up, Gordy!

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Helmer: more hell for Dave?

Two high-level resignations in just a couple of days:

Both give the same reason: disillusion with Cameroonie policy back in Whitehall.

Malcolm has always held the notion it would be the European issue that broke not just the ConDem coalition, but — once again — also the Tory Party. Come the moment, the wedge-issue could be Labour, coolly and cynically, backing a referendum on matters European. If Merkel gets her way, that opportunity might come sooner rather than later — the dynamic is already building in Ireland (and Martyn Turner exploiting, as right).

Helmer is particularly blunt:

… my decision is dictated in part by my increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party.  I am finding it ever more difficult to defend the policies of the Coalition, not only on my key issues of Europe, and of climate and energy, but on a range of other matters besides.

I will have more to say about this in coming days.

Malcolm very much doubts Helmer will have much of use or ornament to say; and will go largely unreported. The climate-change-deniers, in particular, are the nearest approach to British Israelites and  flat-earthers the Tories have as statutory resident weirdos at the moment.

Even so, Helmer can put himself around. Yet another dissident voice floating around the Round Table circuit and Tory dinners is not what the party hierarchs would prescribe.

Helmer is, in any case, a loose cannon with a run-away tongue, prepared to pontificate on anything from sexual relations via religious faith and the divine right to break speed limits to serious politics.

Above all, as Norman Clegg said of Foggy Dewhurst, on their first meeting, “I confidently expect this one is potty on a full -time basis.”

The relocation of Helmer to Roy Clarke’s version of Holmfirth, rambling and ambling along that marvellously-named Upperthong Lane (better believe it!) , is none too fantastical, either. He’d fit right — well, far right — in.

Addendum:

Looking a trifle closer, there is an extra level here, and it’s one of intra-party factions.

By resigning at the end of the year, Helmer eases into place by co-option an also-ran Tory from the last euro-election, and so books a spot for the next one. This would apparently be one Rupurt Matthews, a fellow spirit on the frothing wing of the Tory Party.

The intention: so that CCHQ can’t fiddle the list come next election.

 

 

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Figs of thistles?

That’s the Gospel of Matthew, 7, 16:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

So, let’s pick through the thistles of Rod Liddle’s recent oeuvre:

  • First up, in The Spectator for 1st October:

There is something attractive about Harriet Harman’s proposal that the leader of the Labour party must, by law, be a lesbian. It is only in the last couple of years that I have been able to accept that lesbians exist at all, so it will be doubly exciting for me to watch this sort of person lead the political party of which I am a member. According to Harriet, if no lesbians are available to lead Labour, the party should choose from a shortlist of endangered woodland creatures, such as pine martens or crossbills, so as to raise their profile among the wider population and ensure that their views are represented at the highest level. I have my doubts that a crossbill could carry the thing off, frankly, and I fear that their strange beaks would be a constant source of amusement for the tabloid press.

That appears, counter-intuitively, under the headline Don’t blame immigrants for immigration – blame Ed Miliband. Even more confusing and inconsequential, Liddle goes on to define Miliband as “racist”.

The predictable decline of the lesser spotted lesbian

The country is not quite as our liberal Establishment wishes it to be — there are far fewer lesbians and far more Christians than it professes

Where have all the lesbians gone? There used to be millions of them around, cheerfully going about their exotic Sapphic business, causing no harm to anyone — and now they are gone.

Millions of sometimes rather gruffly spoken ladies, all disappeared.

The gay pressure groups had suggested that between 7% and 12% of the British population is gay or lesbian — which would be about 6m people, with an equal split between the two.

However, new figures out from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that the number of lesbians in Britain has fallen to a record low of 0.6% of the population, or about 350,000 people — a rate of decline comparable to that of the red squirrel.

Perhaps, like the red squirrel, the lesbians are all hiding in forests in Northumberland, somewhere near the famous Kielder forest. A sanctuary has been set up to preserve them, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, but, of course, they are having certain difficulties with a breeding programme.

A real prick

By this stage it might be time for sending the flapping white coats to restrain the poor unfortunate Liddle— either because he obviously has a monomania, or to prevent (as can be seen about) plagiarizing himself. Surely, Malcolm is not alone of the readership of both periodicals to notice the heavy overlap (or the shortage) of ideas — and hence this feeling of being sold short measure.

Psychiatrics may be the more logical explanation. For, only a fortnight previously, the Spectator readers had Liddle’s observations that the Tory band could be detoxified with more stuff like:

the future Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, with a black whore on his lap and three kilos of gak up his left nostril, allegedly.

From that same article we learn that Liddle’s LSE career was somewhat coloured and colourful:

When I was at university, only a few years before Dave ’n’ George, all the Tories took cocaine. The comparatively sensible left-wingers were rarely seen without spliffs and the anarchists and members of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) favoured amphetamine sulphate. The politically non-aligned went for ecstasy.

All Malcolm, at TCD in the early ’60s, can admit are alcohol- and intellect-fuelled romps. Some of the mental-stimulus experienced at the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth may have come from weekly sessions with The Spectator, then far more staid under the editorship of Iain Macleod. How things, especially that presently louche, loose and leery journal, do change.

A fig for Liddle!

Now, if Malcolm were to bring all these notions together — the sexual shenanigans for which the contemporary Spectator is well-famed, the self-robbery, the triviality, the excess, and even the metaphorical fig — it might look something like Act I, scene iii of The Merry Wives of Windsor:

NYM: He was gotten in drink: is not the humour conceited?
FALSTAFF: I am glad I am so acquit of this tinderbox: his thefts were too open; his filching was like an unskilful singer; he kept not time.
NYM: The good humour is to steal at a minute’s rest.
PISTOL: ‘Convey,’ the wise it call. ‘Steal!’ foh! a fico for the phrase!
FALSTAFF : Well, sirs, I am almost out at heels.
PISTOL: Why, then, let kibes ensue.
FALSTAFF: There is no remedy; I must cony-catch; I must shift.

Kibes? They’re chilblains, especially on the heels. And Falstaff has just said he is short of the readies, almost out at heels. Rather like Mr Osborne (see above), whose economic management has ensured UK growth of a magnificent 0.1% over the last twelve months.

Incidentally, the Oxford English Dictionary seems reluctant to explain why the second meaning for the noun fig is Obs(cene):

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 .

So work it out for yourself. Or go to Alexander Dyce’s Glossary for help.

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