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July 20, 2001
[politics] A On-line Petition: To Mr Big, Please make Lord Archer your Bitch. ‘Who’s the Daddy Now?’ [via Haddock]
[politics] The judge’s every word dripped with loathing and contempt — Simon Hoggart on the Archer Verdict. ‘Then the sentence and a speech from the judge which surely smashed into him as hard as the prison term. It must have been like being hosed down with sewage. Every word dripped with loathing and contempt: “As serious an offence of perjury as I have experience of, and as serious as I have been able to find in the books”. The judge spoke of the way he had preyed upon the weak and vulnerable to concoct his alibis; the way he had hurried along the original libel trial in order to tell his lies and spin his fabrications. It was a short speech, but lethal. Mr Justice Potts was about to take away his liberty, but first he wanted to strip off what shreds were left of his reputation.’ [Related: Archer’s Greasy Pole]
July 19, 2001
[politics] Hats off to Ken — The Guardian analyses Ken Clarke’s sense of fashion… ‘Yet it is precisely Clarke’s lack of fashionableness that may well prove to be his strength. Despite the horrified cry of Loaded’s Adrian Clarke – “Surely he should have an adviser to help him with these matters?” – this hat exemplifies the lack of spin in Clarke’s image. It is worn, pure and simply, to keep the rain off his head. ‘
July 18, 2001
[politics] Welcome to the House of Usher — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership Contest. ‘We will come out of this stronger and more united than ever!” Mr Ancram said. Oh, give it a rest, I thought. Only a hour or so ago, Nick Soames bellowed “F*** off!” at Michael Fallon. One Tory wife accused her husband – voting the wrong way, she thought – of “going through a midlife crisis and plunging his party into total oblivion”. There’s enough bitterness, wormwood and gall in the Tories now to keep an illegal absinthe distiller going for decades. And they haven’t even had the final round.’
July 17, 2001
[politics / tv] Portillo knocked out of the Tory Leadership Contest / Helen and Paul nominated in BB2… What an afternoon…
July 13, 2001
[tv] Louis Theroux and Ann Widdecombe…. TV doesn’t get any better than that! ‘Ms Widdecombe later said it was what she called the “perfectly sensible” interview Theroux conducted with Paul Daniels that persuaded her to take part. “He has a slightly zany approach but I can cope with that,” she said.’
July 11, 2001
[politics] Think Tory, Think Iain — Matthew Parris on your typical Tory and what it means for the current leadership battle… ‘Take Margaret Thatcher herself. [ … ] Far from being extreme or right wing in her origins, she was a progressive woman of the 1950s — one who actually went to university. She voted for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, a radical idea in the 1960s. She married a divorc. She went out to work while her children were still young. Her equivalent in the Tory party today would be quite prepared to contemplate relaxing the law on cannabis, and most younger Conservatives are.’ [Related: electportillo.com, voteids.com]
[politics] Tension mounts, the votes are in and, er … everyone’s a winner — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership election process. ‘The press amused themselves by insulting passing Tories. Someone offered Peter Lilley a spliff. “Only on Sundays,” he said. Nicholas Soames insulted us. “Why isn’t that man wearing a tie?” he demanded of a hack. “I have it in my pocket,” the fellow quavered. “Well, PUT IT ON!”. Ann Widdecombe rolled towards us. “Ancram!” she shouted at the massed questors for truth. “Ancram, Ancram, Ancram!” As she left the room, she barked: “Still Ancram!”‘
July 10, 2001
[politics] Another long, interesting political profile of Michael Portillo. ‘Moving the political battle on to cultural grounds exposes another division among Conservatives, between authoritarians and liberals. The people who encouraged John Major to go “back to basics” and William Hague to portray Conservatives as “the party of the family” are genuinely shocked that Portillo can suggest it is an area where neither the party nor the state has a role. “None of my colleagues understand the real game,” he complained to friends recently. Intellectual, arrogant, a man who holidays in Bayreuth for the Wagner and Morocco for the ruins, a man viewed with suspicion by most of his political colleagues, his only hold on the party is their desperation to win.’ [Related: Official Portillo Site]
July 9, 2001
[politics] ThatcherWeb — Thatcher fan site. Check out the messianic Flash intro… ‘Let me give you my vision: A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master – these are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free economy… and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.’ [via Haddock]
June 29, 2001
[cartoon] Steve Bell on David Trimble’s threatened resignation
June 28, 2001
[politics] There’s only one person that knows me – and that’s me — long, intriguing, “fills-in-the-blanks” profile of Michael Portillo in the Telegraph… ‘…He still has his detractors. One of Hague’s team says: “William was being shot at from the inside on a daily basis. Michael often didn’t return emails or pick up the phone. He’s impossible to get close to, he’s such a big secret. He has a grandeur and aloofness that William lacks.” Another says: “It was like living with Princess Diana.”‘
June 27, 2001
[politics] Kenneth Clarke joins the battle for Tory Leader… Steve Bell’s view and Simon Hoggart’s‘Ken Clarke rolled up, literally. Everything about him is round. His face, his body, his belly, his eyes, even the movements described by his torso as he circles a room, are all spherical. If Lucian Freud had been there he’d have ripped Ken’s clothes off, shouting: “I want a crack at that!”‘
June 19, 2001
[politics] Anne Widdecombe checks out… Steve Bell’s view and Simon Hoggart’s…. ‘We have lost her from the high seas; no more will we gaze at the billowing sails, the ensign fluttering proudly from her poop deck! And what made it perfect was that she went down with her guns firing – specifically at Michael Portillo, a pocket battleship which made the terrible mistake of approaching her broadside. Crump! “I don’t believe that Michael Portillo is the right person to lead the Conservative party!” Thump! “This is nothing personal, all I can say is, that this is what I sincerely believe!” Nothing personal? She loathes him. “I don’t want today to turn into personal denigration of Michael Portillo,” she added, to the sound of a 12″ gun slamming into foot-thick steel. This means, in translation, “I want you all to take it personally”.’
June 12, 2001
[execution] Steve Bell on Tim McVeigh’s Execution and George Bush. ‘God Bless All The Dead Guys’
June 10, 2001
[politics] What Portillo did next: ‘He had left his election count at Chelsea and boarded a bus for Stansted airport looking “like a dead man”, according to a fellow passenger. When the news was broadcast of Hague’s resignation, which Portillo had thought unlikely, he stared moodily into space. Once in Morocco, as donkeys passed slowly in front of the tour coach on Friday, he was overheard talking to colleagues in London by mobile phone about the leadership. The serious mood passed. In the Palais Jamai hotel in Fes he was joking around, imitating Ross’s radio show. Witnesses said he was dancing “like some demented genie” at 1am yesterday at a festival in Volubilis. “I am practising my election dance,” he told onlookers. Next he visited a 10th century mosque.’
June 9, 2001
[politics] Okay, the final election link — election sketches from cartoonist Posy Simmonds. The Tory Leadership Election starts here… VIVA WIDDECOMBE!
June 8, 2001
[politics] Astute analysis from Michael Heleltine of where the Tories went wrong… ‘…Mr Blair’s Labour Party today is in many vital respects a recycled Conservative Party, but with fresh faces and a new language. For the majority of people in this country, rule by Mr Blair has meant little more than a continuation of the policies established by the Tories. But Mr Blair has profited from another vital phenomenon. While the Conservative Party has looked backwards, Labour has adopted the vocabulary of the future. Britain has moved on – whether for good or ill scarcely matters. Marital breakdown, single-parent families, partners, gay rights, a multi-ethnic population are all parts of modern life, while a relatively privileged majority enjoys ownership of homes, cars, pensions, inheritances. These things forced Labour onto the centre ground and keep it there. ‘
[politics] A final election sketch from Simon Hoggart… Tories slapped in the face with a wet kipper. ‘At Tory central office there was a mood of miserable, dull acquiescence. It was as if the whole party had been slapped in the face with a wet kipper. The only excitement came when Michael Portillo declared on television that, whatever happened, he truly hoped William Hague would remain as leader. My goodness, we thought, will the desperate don stop at nothing to get the job? I thought of popping round to his house to see if BT installs phone lines at 2 o’clock in the morning. But some took a different view. Over at ITN, Norman Tebbit was asked if Portillo’s remarks meant that he had finally got cold feet. “I wouldn’t know,” Tebbit replied, “I have never slept with him.”‘
June 7, 2001
[politics] True Colours — Joe Klien on Tony Blair… How to describe Tony Blair to a Martian: ‘On a train to Newcastle, where she was to stump for various Labour hopefuls, Mo Mowlam did a rather funny parody of how one might actually speak to a Martian: “Tony Blair is the prime minister of the United Kingdom. He is our political leader. He is young, thin, losing his hair. He is a good leader, a good family man, religious, a lawyer. He cares – and he wanted the job. He cannot be stereotyped.”‘

Anne Widdecombe: Vote Labour... or next time shes naked.

[via Wherever You Are. Cheers!]
June 6, 2001
[politics] Fantastic portrait of Mrs. Thatcher in Northampton a few days ago from Matthew Parris. ‘…oblivious to the hands of worshippers reaching out to touch her, her expression said: “Make my day sonny, ask me a question.” “Why are you afraid of the euro?” asked Hayes. “What a question!” she snapped. “What a question.” Mr Hayes flinched. “As” — she stabbed him in the chest with an index finger — “a broadcaster” she stabbed again — “you should protect” — stab — “the pound”. Hayes began to back away into the crowd. She pursued him! Then she grabbed his mike like some kind of trophy and brandished it in front of his own crew’s camera. In much the same way the tribesmen of the Danekil in the Horn of Africa sport, on a necklace, the withered penises of the men they have killed in battle.’
June 5, 2001
[politics kinda] The BBC wonders: What happened to the Natural Law Party? ‘…while other candidates might bat around finer points of fiscal policy in a hypothetical TV debate, the NLP’s representative would likely wade in with the view that Britain’s problems were down to the fact the prime minister lived in a house with a south entrance. This was in fact one of the points made at the party’s third international convention, in 1996, when blame was also heaped upon the Channel Tunnel, which provided a south entrance to the UK. Such things go against the principles of Natural Law.’ [Related: Natural Law Party Website]
[politics] Hats off to Soames, off-message but in majestic form — Simon Hoggart sketch of the grandson of Winston Churchill. ‘Many of the people we meet probably voted Tory when Soames’s grandfather, Winston Churchill, led the party. He gave me the true version of what I had always suspected was an apocryphal story. In or around 1953, when Soames was five, he didn’t know how important his grandfather was until someone told him. So he walked up to the old man’s bedroom, managed to get past the valets and the secretaries, and found him sitting up in bed. “Is it true, grandpapa, that you are the greatest man in the world?” he asked. “Yes I am,” said Churchill. “Now bugger off”.’
June 1, 2001
[politics] Boris’s problem: he actually says what he thinks. Simon Hoggart on Boris Johnson‘…he is too honest. He can’t help saying what he means. I asked how William Hague was playing on the doorstep and he replied, “Huge, oh huge!” But that is not true, and so he can’t leave it there. He made massive, swooping, burying-head-in-hands motions, to show what he really meant. A woman said she had always voted Tory, but not this time. “You don’t engage me at all. You have too many people in the party now who are from a different planet entirely. And you’re going to win and be in a morale-destroying minority, when you could have a much better time editing the Spectator. And what about your wife and children?” Boris groaned, presumably because he suspected she was right on all counts.’
May 31, 2001
[politics] A decent fellow leading a lost cause — another profile of William Hague. ‘Despite his reputation as an orator, Hague’s ideas stubbornly refuse to take verbal flight. With an inexpressive face and a narrow vocal range, he makes no attempt to vary his pacing or trajectory. There are none of the pauses that might suggest reflection or permit emphasis. He rattles through every item on his agenda with an impressive command of his material but a lack of emotional impact. He itemises; he does not persuade. And there is a hint of aldermanic pomposity, evident since puberty. ‘
May 30, 2001
[politics] Thatcher stars in Return of The Mummy‘She was immediately surrounded by Tories, protesters, television crews, reporters, uniformed policemen, special branch coppers, a man waving a 4ft cardboard cutout of her, twin girls performing karaoke versions of Abba hits, a chap with an anti-Kenneth Clarke poster, and a Scotsman with a rasping voice who accused her of hiding bribes from General Pinochet in a secret bank account – in short, a typical cross-section of modern British society. She clambered out. A woman stepped forward and shyly handed her a banana skin, which she accepted as if it were a bouquet. So when the woman began to harangue her about Tory education policy she swerved smartly away. “God bless Margaret Thatcher!” Conservatives shouted. “Boo! Out, out, out!” others shouted. “But she is out!” one of the Tories raged.’
May 28, 2001
[politics] How one man put Bush on the ropes. ‘The tremors of the political earthquake about to strike in Washington were first felt in the plush Senate toilet on Capitol Hill. It was there, last Monday, that Senator James Jeffords of Vermont told shocked colleagues he had made a decision that would shatter their political agenda and make their new president look naive, petty and out-of-touch.’
May 26, 2001
[bell] More political cartoons… Steve Bell’s Campaign Diary — commentary and sketches + his view on George Bush’s current problems…. Holy Democrat Shit!! I feel a disturbance in the Force!!
May 24, 2001
[more politics] How could I have missed this? Steve Bell does another Thatcher and Hague cartoon. ‘The EURO BOGEYMAN is going to TAX YOU TO DEATH!!’ [via Nutlog]
[politics] Joe Klein explores the differences and similarities between US and UK elections…. ‘I should also praise the relative absence of security here. Most American presidential candidates travel about with more armed guardians than Vespasian needed to conquer Jerusalem. John Prescott’s attacker, had he survived the secret service, would be nursing some severely damaged limbs and organs (though at least he wouldn’t have had to wait six months for NHS treatment). The absence of overwhelming security allows for the intermittent presence of humanity. John Prescott’s humanity would have been a big hit, as it were, in America – our politicians tend to go numb, and are shuffled off by their minders, when pelted with eggs, tomatoes or aborted foetuses (which has actually happened).’
May 23, 2001
[more politics] Mother Goose — William Hague’s political muse interviewed in the Telegraph… ‘Mr Hague and Doreen agree on everything, except whether he should have become party leader. “We met up for lunch the day after the last election. His mother and I didn’t think he should stand as leader. We said the party would be at each other’s throats; William should bide his time. But Ernest and William’s dad said: ‘Go for it – you never get the same chance twice’.” Does she still think it was the wrong decision? “He’s made a good job of it. The press has been so hostile – it would have buried anyone else, but he doesn’t know how to lose his temper. He doesn’t wallow in self-pity. I’ve never seen him down. His aunt Marge, his mother and I do his worrying for him.”‘
[politics] Steve Bell on Thatcher and Hague… here’s a report on Thatcher’s speech. ‘Earlier, as she greeted the audience at Plymouth Pavilion she said: “I was told beforehand my arrival was unscheduled, but on the way here I passed a local cinema and it turns out you were expecting me after all. The billboard read The Mummy Returns.”‘
May 22, 2001
[politics] Out campaigning with Britain’s most aggressive candidate…. ‘The Labour canvassers talked with awe of their candidate’s encounter with a send-them-home voter the previous day. “The difference between you and me,” said Mr Marshall-Andrews, “is that you are a racist and I am not.” “What they do for us in the war, then?” asked the man, and Mr Marshall-Andrews told him about the Indian and West Indian regiments. “While we’re at it, what did you do?” “I’m too young.” “Well, you don’t look it. And under no circumstances are you allowed to vote for me. You will not vote for me!” “I’ll vote for who I please,” the man finished lamely, making him, presumably, a “don’t know”.’
May 21, 2001
[politics] What They Would Rather Say In This Already Horrendous Campaign. ‘Twat. Fucking Cunt. Shithead.’ [via AngryBlog]
[politics] John Prescott profiled in the Independent… ‘…not be surprising that the Deputy Prime Minister has seen the film Billy Elliot five times. Or that he can quote large tracts of dialogue from the story about a young boy who rebels against the strictures of working-class life to become a ballet dancer. Prescott confided in an interview earlier this year: “I do see a bit of myself in Billy. This lad Billy rose up against the prejudices of his community and against the very structure of that community and said, ‘This is what I am. This is how I want to live my life.’ And yes, that moved me. Billy Elliot dancing his heart out, to make his father understand that he must live a different life, makes me cry.”‘
May 20, 2001
[distractions] The C Team. ‘In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. They promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The Conservative Party.’ [via Tajmahal]
May 19, 2001
[politics] Great profile of William Hague in the Telegraph… ‘If politics is a perpetual state of war, then perhaps the enemy is best placed to weigh up the threat you pose. It was Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s notoriously tough press secretary, who first alerted his boss to the strength of the new Tory leader. Campbell had noticed the Yorkshireman’s incredible stamina. ‘He’s a sticker,’ Campbell warned Blair, ‘and the British are a nation of stickers.’ It was Campbell’s private view that one day New Labour would have to watch out for plain-speaking William Hague, but he added a crucial rider: ‘If he can survive his own party.”
May 17, 2001
[politics] Gary Younge profiles William Hague ‘This is Mr Hague’s challenge over the next three weeks. It goes beyond the physical to the political. Standing before a huge poster declaring “Keep The Pound” he looks less than the sum of his slogans. Now he has to grow in the public perception. He needs to think big. They have to imagine him at the top table with Jospin, Schröder, Putin and Bush; leading the country into battle in foreign parts or encapsulating the national mood after the death of a monarch. People have to imagine waking up on June 8 and seeing him wave from the steps of Downing Street. There are already many, although by no means enough, who say that is what they want to see. But polls suggest that when even they close their eyes they cannot picture it. In the public imagination, William Hague just keeps coming up short.’
May 15, 2001
[politics] Amusing interview with Arthur Scargill in the Independent…. ‘Everything, with Arthur, has something to do with the class war. Even tea has something to do with the class war. “Do you know why they say you should put the milk in first?” he asks. No, I say. “Well, when tea was first imported it was very expensive so only the nobility could afford it, and they drank it from bone china. Now, if you pour boiling tea into bone china, it cracks it like crazy paving. But if you put milk in first, it doesn’t. So that’s why they did it and then, of course, the myth grew up that it’s the way you should do it.” Oh. “Although actually,” he continues, “it’s far better to put the tea in first because then you can see how much milk you want.” Truly, the ruling classes have a great deal to answer for.’
May 13, 2001
[politics] Sid, soothsayer of the suburbs — election commentary from The Observer. ‘Meet the first star of election 2001. He is Sidney, a retired salesman from Borehamwood, and he bestrides the Telegraph ‘s new focus group of floating voters like a glum colossus. Every time William Hague comes on the television ‘my wife says he’s a little weasel – and she’s a lifelong Tory’. The only guy who told the truth was that grey Major fellow. ‘It didn’t get him anywhere.’ And as for the prophet himself, doomed to constant invigilating by research company Live Strategy Ltd, well ‘we’ve got a long month of all this. I’m not looking forward to it at all’. Sidney speaks for Britain – and Fleet Street.’
May 11, 2001
[politics] The Guardian profiles the Future Leader of the Tory PartyAnne Widdecombe. ‘…setbacks have not written off her hopes of winning the party leadership – and Miss Widdecombe may yet be the “second coming” of Thatcher – frustrating Michael Portillo’s hopes of taking the same job if William Hague fails to dismantle the Labour government’s majority at the next election. Her simple authoritarian appeal has a resonance among the grey-haired rank and file members who now dominate the shrunken Tory party and the increasingly rightwing and europhobic Tory MPs. Partly because of her operatic style, and partly because of her absolute commitment to hard-right views, she has risen in prominence and is arguably the only Tory frontbencher apart from Mr Hague and Mr Portillo most voters could name.’ [Related: Widdy Web]
[photo] Only one woman scared me, says Helmut Newton. ‘Newton, one of the most famous fashion and portrait photographers, was speaking on the eve of a retrospective at the Barbican, London, marking his 80th birthday. He said he finally captured Mrs Thatcher in Los Angeles, on her first lecture tour after leaving office. After waiting for her in a hotel, breaking out in a cold sweat, he thought to buy roses: “All I could get were some wilted, awful things for an awful lot of money.” They did nothing to melt the ice. “She did not like her portrait,” he said, of the life size image now in the National Portrait Gallery. “She said, ‘one looks so disagreeable when one is not smiling’. But she is not unfrightening – she’s quite scary.”‘ [via Phil]
May 10, 2001
[politics] Steve Bell kicks off the election with his first cartoon‘Please Sir – May I be excused? You’ve just bored my arse off!
[politics] Am I Electable or Not…. Who will lead us? Davros or Ann Widdecombe or Hunter S. Thompson?
May 9, 2001
[politics] Votémon — excellent children’s guide to the General Election from BBC Newsround. [via Interconnected]
May 7, 2001
[politics] Long, interesting profile of Tony Blair’s last four years as Prime Minister….. ‘The more disappointing Blair is manifest when he is controlled by the side of his nature which is cramped by calculation and caution. A female member of the Cabinet privately refers to him as ‘Mr Crab’ for scuttling away from difficult decisions. As time has stripped off the rhetorical varnishing, the Government emerges through the hyperbole for what it is: incrementally reforming, social democrat, with some illiberally socially authoritarian edges, which broadly sums up Blair himself. A couple of months ago, he gave an under-reported and remarkably candid speech self-dissecting the Government. He conceded that the ‘first phase of New Labour was essentially one of reassurance’. The overwhelming driver has been to prove they are safe hands, fit to run the country, especially its economy. Allied to that has been the obsession with re-election, ‘the most important thing’, as he put it to me in the garden of Number 10 in the spring of 1997.’
May 5, 2001
[century] 1974 – Nixon Resigns‘If Mr Nixon had been at his best last night, then he was at his worst this morning. Sometimes one wished that his agonized wife would take this wretched slobbering, spluttering man away by the arm and propel him into some windowless vehicle for transport to obscurity. But Pat Nixon, with Julie and Tricia and their grey-faced husbands beside them, allowed the man to proceed. It would have been worse, perhaps, if they had tried to stop him. “I remember my old man. They would have called him a common man… he was a street car motorman at first… my mother” – at this point he sobbed violently, his tears somehow eluding the gravitational pull and remaining shining in his eyes – “a saint. She will have no books written about her.”‘
May 4, 2001
[century] 1965 — The Guardian sums up after the death of Winston Churchill…. ‘It was his fate that in spite of his gifts he had only at exceptional moments the full confidence of his fellow-countrymen. This lack of trust cut across all parties. Labour feared what it called his class bias. Some Conservatives thought that he was not biased enough; they felt that, with his past, he was not a sound party man, and they did not like the warmth for his former associates, the Liberals, which he never wholly extinguished. A sentiment very widespread was that Churchill was to be kept only for great occasions: he was too incalculable – or dangerous – for politicians’ daily food.’
May 3, 2001
[century] The Guardian Century1990 – Thatcher Resigns (another posting about that joyous day): ‘For old time’s sake, she had a jolly good shout at Neil Kinnock. Before finally hanging up her handbag, she gave it one last swing at a few Labour backbenchers who strayed within range. And then Dennis Skinner engaged her in a double-act. Asked whether, in retirement, she would still oppose a European central bank, Mr Skinner fed her a line, shouting: “No, she’s goin’ to be the Guv’nor.” “What a good idea!” she cried, to swelling cheers. “I’m enjoying this,” she said, doing little bows. “Thank you. Thank you.” They have loved her never so much as when losing her.’ [discovered via Tom]