Category Archives: Paul Waugh

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The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.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

Obs.
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!
Exit

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.

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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

A quick fisking

Two prefatory notes:
1. Each week-day morning I get three emails:

    • The Times is usually first out of the traps with Matt Chorley’s Red Box;
    • Paul Waugh shrewdly chips in with Waugh Zone, the political lead of HuffPo UK;
    • and, trailing the rear, because he has been mulling yet another excruciatingly-brilliant punning headline, comes the New Statesman‘s Stephen Bush.

2. Back in the days of yore, when social media were in their infancy, we took umbrage at the utterances of Robert Fisk. Because we were so much more intelligent than Fisk, we would “fisk” his columns, with counter arguments.

So, this grey Yorkshire morning, I’m fisking Paul Waugh.

REALITY BITES

Way back in 2010, David Cameron made the Liberal Democrats “a big, open and comprehensive offer” to join him in Government. Tomorrow, Theresa May will make what looks to Labour like a small, closed and limited offer to prop her up in power.

Without exception — and for once even the Torygraph is on board — the commentariat do not like the idea.

May’s relaunch speech has been well trailed overnight and includes a line that she will accept “the new reality” of her loss of a Parliamentary majority. But given her lifelong instinct of trusting only a tight-knit team around her, can May reach out to her own party, let alone Labour and others? May rightly wants to build consensus on areas like social care, but just ask Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham how open to cross-party working she has been in the past. On the Today programme, even the impeccably moderate Damian Green underlined the difficulties of any cross-party working, ridiculing Angela Rayner over the cost of wiping out all student debt. No wonder Labour’s Andrew Gwynne dismissed May’s olive branch, saying “they’re having to beg for policy proposals from Labour”.

We are not — heaven forfend! — to see this as a “relaunch”. Such lèse-majesté would deny the glory of Number 10.

The rest of that paragraph amount to a recital of so many current metropolitan political memes. Memes they may be; but they seem copper-bottomed. The jibe about student debt should not be over-looked: all sides are now coming around to recognising what a total disaster, educationally and financially — as well as electorally, the ConDem government inflicted by cranking up student fees and debt to the highest in the developed world. Predictably, the Tories continue, officially, to impale themselves while, behind the arras, scratching around for a way to climb-down.

If the UK were Germany, we might have seen some sort of ‘grand coalition’ in the wake of the snap election, driven by a sense of national mission to deliver a consensual Brexit (I remember Gisela Stuart floating the Tory-Labour coalition idea if the 2015 election had seen a hung Parliament). But we are not Germany and it takes world wars, rather than impending trade wars, to make our opposing parties work together on that level.

The essential differences between English and continental political practices derive from:

  • the shape of the Commons chamber, itself a distant legacy from the choir-stalls of St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Once there are two sides, each individual member of the Commons had to decide whether he (and it was always a “he”) was right of the Speaker (the Administration) or left (Opposition). Not for nothing are the two front benches traditionally two swords’ lengths apart.
  • over the centuries, the main supply of parliamentarians has been the Law, they are a contrarian, disputatious and forensic lot. Each argument has to be set against a counter-argument. Remember Swift’s satire of the Little-Endians versus the BigEndians.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far has been built on vigorously opposing the Tories, not working with them. And everyone in Parliament remembers just how badly burned the Lib Dems were by the Tories in coalition, never given credit for the good stuff, blamed for the bad stuff. May will say tomorrow that through cross-party working, “ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found”. But in fact she’s admitting the reality that just 7 Tory MPs is all it takes to defeat the Government. And critics will say the only true way to get her to make concessions is to threaten rebellion after rebellion.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far“: notice two presumptions there. “Success” in practice amounts to gaining 30 seats when all the indicators were for a possible loss of as many as sixty. However, in all truth, Labour opposition has been remarkably limited: in particular on the #Brexit thing. When 49 Labour MPs voted against the Government to keep the UK in the single market, they were abused and worse by Corbynite supporters.

One person who could more credibly make a genuinely big, bold offer to Labour is David Davis, precisely because he would be trusted by his own side not to sell out on the big principles, while being pragmatic enough on how to deliver them. I’ve said before that DD is the Martin McGuinness of the Brexit movement, capable of compromise without abandoning his supporters’ main strategic goal. And despite errors from key allies like Andrew Mitchell, he looks increasingly like the favourite in any Tory leadership race. Green this morning reiterated David Lidington’s line about “the warm Prosecco problem” of Tory MPs gossiping about the leadership. But Mitchell’s parties feature only the finest Champagne, and DD himself likes a pint of bitter. That’s the kind of cross-class, party consensus that May will need to worry about most.

For little obvious reason — but mainly, one has to suspect, for want of a better — David Davis has emerged as the Tory front-runner for a new leader (and, in the present dispensation, Prime Minister). I cannot help musing the Waugh over-eggs his pudding with the “trusted by his own side”. The ultras on the frothing right of the Tory Party trust no-one but themselves — which is why Theresa May keeps head-bangers and second-raters like Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom as household pets. As of now, Davis’s key strength is keeping in line. Were he to go rogue, he could easily bring down the whole shebang.

One final, dislocated thought:

John Rentoul (another commentator of value) is, but of course, cocking an ironic eye there. Irony on irony: that Paul Staines (by name and by nature) felt moved to protect “the establishment”.

On Saturday I was at the Big Meeting, the Durham Miners’ Gala. The Red Banners flew free. The Red Flag was sung, and — uniquely — the singers knew more than the first verse and chorus.  Tee-shirts proclaimed ¡No pasarán! and La lutte continue! I even heard a scratch band bash out The Internationale. I could have bought books, badges and posters celebrating Lenin, Trotsky, James Connolly.

It was all festive, and slightly tongue-in-cheek. For all the revolutionary ardor, these subversives were set on little more than getting down the next pint.

And yet, according to Guido Fawkes: they had already won! These north-easterners had voted #Brexit. They were successfully challenging the Establishment.

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Filed under Beer, Britain, British Left, Conservative Party policy., democracy, Europe, Guido Fawkes, International Brigade, John Rentoul, Labour Party, leftist politics., Paul Waugh, politics, socialism., Spanish Civil War, Theresa May, Times, Tories., Vince Cable

Everyone remembers their first …

This one started with a Paul Waugh tweet:

Waughbear

The link would take you to a BBC web-site with David Laws doing a interview with school students.

And why not?

To be honest (something Laws wasn’t over his expenses), the teddy-bear’s name question is:

  • a terrific idea for an interview;
  • as good a way to humanise a politician (or any other figure) as comes along.

So, to join the fun, and win brownie points, mine (not just first, but only) was boringly “Teddy”.

The rest is a bit different.

Teddy-bears, new, were not a readily-attainable consumer item as the Second World War moved on after Alamein to complete the conquest of North Africa. I adopted Uncle Derrick’s cast-off.

He was a previously well-loved and well-worn specimen, presumably from a couple of decades earlier. His limbs were loose, so my mother sewed them back on. His paws were even more threadbare than the rest of him, so she made cut-outs from yellow dusters, and sewed those as well.

He was in due course discarded into the toy-box (my grand-father’s old cabin-trunk), and his later whereabouts remain unknown. Three daughters later, he could well be in the attic, in one of the many boxes of soft toys we seem still to be lumbered with.

The cabin trunk lives on

It occupies a corner of the Pert Young Piece’s bedroom, packed with her complete (I believe) collection of annual Harrods’ teddies, plus Ellis (a skinny, gingery, super-hirsute and rather frightening beastie).

 

 

 

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Filed under History, Lib Dems, Paul Waugh, politicshome, Uncategorized, Wells-next-the-Sea

Nazi crap

It started with this:

Waugh

 

Mr Hughes hasn’t learned his manners since he:

was Mayor of Royston, Chairman of North Herts District Council and twice a Parliamentary Candidate

In one of those candidacies (the only one I can immediately find), in 2005 for Wentworth constituency, he came second with 17.33% of the poll, just 42% behind Labour.


He is, moreover
,

a key economic adviser who … will advise newly appointed Ukip economic spokesman Steven Woolfe.

Furthermore, he is a:

like-to-think-he’s-seen-it-all ‘Digital Strategist’ who uses highly targeted eMarketing techniques on Facebook (which let’s face it is still in its infancy in this regard) to target young people.

His LinkedIn profile is interesting. Consider:

HughesLinkedIn

Elsewhere you may find that the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is, and will be until 2016, David Lloyd, elected as a Conservative.

UKIP put up a candidate, Marion Mason, who finished bottom of the poll.

On past experience of Kippers, we shall doubtless hear more of this wunderkind. And that past experience should lead us to expect nothing good.

More Herts crap

Down the road a bit, and in the same local rag, we find this:

WGCcrap

It was them fascist plods, wot dun it. Obvious.

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Filed under Conservative family values, crime, Paul Waugh, politicshome, sleaze., UKIP

Another low blow

There’s the Bristol Channel earthquake. Felt in Exeter. Doubtless gave the Somerset Levels a small jolt.

There’s this, on the BBC website strap-line:

The UK has had wettest winter on record – 486.8mm of rain – beating previous 1995 record, Met Office says

Err … how bad was the flooding in 1995?

But what really, really got to me this afternoon was on politicshome:

WELFARE FAILURE BLASTED

The Archbishop of Canterbury has lent his support …

That is a seriously stale metaphor, and even a mixed one, but also one I never quite understood.

What kind of “support” is intended?

Here’s some, of the ecclesiastical kind, I see every time I wander past Bootham Bar:

2301821771_9acdb75244

Having builders in the house since the start of the year, I am aware of Acrows:

acrow_bendigo

Do hierarchs of the Church of England run a sideline in them?

And, what with stoles, chasubles, surplices, copes, cinctures and mitres, one doesn’t like to enquire too precisely what goes under the cassock. Could it be one of these? And would you truly want to have a borrowed one? Even one “lent” by the fragrant Dr Welby?

$T2eC16V,!w0E9szNZILGBRwWuPI4J!~~60_12

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Filed under Paul Waugh, politicshome, reading, Religious division, weather

Putty medal to Yvette

On Tuesday, when Gids Osborne was shafting Ed Balls — to loud approval from his backbenches, everything was fine-and-dandy.

By PMQs on Wednesday, the shaft was thrusting the other way — to the extent that Quentin Letts had to construct a Mail sketch wholly ignoring the headline act.

Advantage, Dominic Raab

Then, today, total Tory chaos ensued with Dominic Raab (himself a distinguished lawyer) putting an amendment to the Immigration Bill. With its explicit and deliberately-intended ECHR-illegality, this was nearly wished upon Theresa May. A messy bit of on-off Tory whipping (allegedly the party line was changed five times during the morning) ended up with mass abstention by the pay-roll vote, and 87 Tory and 10 Labour votes in favour. Labour and LibDem votes saw the Home Office off this hook, for the time being.

We await, with some interest, how all this can be spun to the lasting credit of Tory HQ, Downing Street, the Home Office, and sold to the loyal Tory press.

Cue, Paul Waugh

Then we had this (continuing) exchange:

Twitter spat

 Kudos, Yvette Cooper

Earlier, Paul Waugh had been tweeting:

I suspect EdM, not Cooper, made the final call on Lab voting against Raab. Echoes of Liam Byrne kneecapped to vote against Benefits cap?

Whatever the truth there, Yvette Cooper was able to take chunks out of Theresa May and the Home Office — seemingly to enjoy herself thoroughly.

Of course, it will hardly be a lasting achievement. Somehow the amendment, had it been carried would have been mislaid somehow, somewhere, or sucked into the Black Hole that is the House of Lords. Had Labour been truly, deeply nasty, also abstained, let Raab have his wicked way, it could even have transpired (knowing the ironies and delays of these things) that after 2015 a future Labour Home Secretary would be paying good lawyers good money to defend this abomination before the ECHR.

Hence Ms Cooper deserves only a “putty medal”. Let’s consult the OED:

putty medal   n. humorous a worthless reward for insignificant service or achievement.

To which is appended a citation:

1893 Times 26 July 11/6 (advt.)  Our system..is as far removed from the little five and ten pound systems of dealing as is a genuine sovereign from a putty medal.

Malcolm’s Dear Old Mum had the expression too often for Malcolm’s self-esteem, but it seems to have lapsed in usage subsequently.

Welcome, Betty Martin

When the dust settled, the Raab amendment had been rubbished by 241 Nays to those 97 Ayes. In the run-up we had Norman Smith doing his impartial BBC bit:

No 10 say “relaxed” about Tory ‘rebel’ vote on Immigration Bill

and

No 10 say “not that far apart” from Dominic Raab over his ‘rebel’ motion but do not think it is is workable

Spinning away there, the afternoon press briefing.

Of which one can cheerfully say:  all my eye and Betty Martin. Let’s help the OED here, which simply calls it a noun, with no great explanation except the citations. Its modern equivalent would be along the lines of

“a load of old cobblers”

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, George Osborne, Labour Party, Oxford English Dictionary, Paul Waugh, politics, politicshome, Theresa May, Tories.

Nick, Nick!

Sir Nick Harvey MP can have few reasons to be wholly in sympathy with the ConDem coalition. Actually, his relationship with his own LibDem party might be considered to be … semi-detached.

Let’s tick off a few reasons:

  • Newly elected in 1992, he was the unique LibDem to vote against Maastricht;
  • He was less than effusive about the “leadership qualities” of Charles Kennedy;
  • He opted out of being the LibDem front-man on Culture, Media and Sport to spend more time with his family (now there‘s a new one!);
  • He was LibDem Minister of State at Defence from the start of the ConDem coalition to last September’s re-shuffle. He distinguished himself at the outset of the Libyan adventure by shrugging off questions of exit-strategy: “How long is a piece of string? We don’t know how long this is going to go on for.”
  • For that, or other infringements, he was returned empty (except for the knighthood) to the back-benches.

Still, you can’t keep a good man down.

Today, according to Paul Waugh at politicshome, Harvey is all of a-tweet:

Waugh

Dontcha just lurve that hashtag!

Or, as today’s Daily Telegraph has it:

Maria Hutchings (Conservative)

— She’s a mum-of-four. This is the mantra that Mrs Hutchings and others keep repeating in their campaign to present the Tory candidate as ordinary, straight-talking and down-to-earth…

— She doesn’t come from Eastleigh but appears to have earned some local stripes by staying here with her family after a defeat at the 2010 general election. Back then, she promised to live in the town and commute to Westminster each day.- Her local credentials were somewhat undermined when she was accused of cutting and pasting a description of Eastleigh’s history from its Wikipedia page

— She is a former Labour supporter who once confronted Tony Blair on television over the lack of schools and services for her disabled son.

— Despite her outspoken nature, she rejects the idea she is a feminist as she “doesn’t like labels”. She was one of a band of ambitious female wannabe MPs who use[d] to be described as “Cameron’s cuties”.

By some partial accounts, Mrs Hutchings is being very closely-minded.

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Filed under Daily Telegraph, Elections, Lib Dems, Paul Waugh, politicshome, Tories.