June 5, 2001
[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]
April 29, 2001
[profile] The Independent profiles Ken Livingstone after a year of being Mayor of London. ‘After Labour’s triumphant election in 1997, he predicted a recession and suggested that Gordon Brown should be sacked. When the recession did not arrive he claimed, with a mischievous smile, that this was because the Chancellor had adopted his policies. Mr Brown did not reciprocate with a smile. In the 1980s, Mr Livingstone similarly fought against Neil Kinnock’s policy reforms. At a meeting of Labour’s national executive in 1988, he is said to have declared with a hint of self-pity: “I won’t be silenced by the party machine.” Mr Kinnock responded by saying: “Silenced? You have been on every bloody media outlet for the last 24 hours.”‘
April 18, 2001
[politics] Proof that the Tory Party is indeed The Dogs Bollocks… [thanks to Meg — blogging via proxy!]
April 2, 2001
[politics] The Guardian interviews Michael Helseltine — another politician retiring at the next election…. ‘If you push your hair forward, how far would it go, I ask. My bet is that it would hang off his chin. “I haven’t the first idea.” Go on, try it. “No, I shan’t. I certainly won’t try it.” Go on. “No, not at all. “I didn’t always want long hair. I just had long hair. There was no conscious decision.” Come off it, hair length is a choice! “You can have a passive choice.” Laziness? “Yeeeeaassss. Indifference.” Indifference!’
March 29, 2001
[politics] Dogged as does it — interesting profile of William Hague from a reporter who followed him around for a week…. ‘Hague works his way around the room, shaking hands, signing autographs, having his photograph taken next to candidates for the local council elections. I overhear a woman say, ‘Taller than you think, isn’t he?’ A man with a pound sign in his lapel says: ‘Isn’t that Seb Coe over by the door?’ It is. When I wander over to join Coe he says, ‘I’ve just remembered I was once kicked out of this bar when I was a student.’ (Drunken revelries, apparently. These Tories never pass up a chance to show that their formative years were ‘normal’.)’
March 28, 2001
[politics] As the UK elections approach it’s important to know which party the major cartoon characters are supporting. (By the way, Porky the Pig was slaughtered and burned earlier this week… so I suspect he’s not supporting Nick Brown any longer.) [thanks to Marcia]
March 27, 2001
[politics] launches…. a ‘Balanced News Filter for the UK General Election’.
March 22, 2001
[politics] The Guardian interviews Tony Benn and Sir Edward Heath about their 50 years of service in the British Parliment…. ‘Heath remains silent. As an Oxford student of modest origins and progressive instincts, he took himself off to Germany to inspect Hitler at close quarters. Making his way to Nuremberg in 1937, his memoirs report, he witnessed the Führer walking to the podium, “his shoulder brushing mine as he went past”. “This experience subsequently dominated my political life,” Heath would one day write, confirming him as an anti-appeaser, later (after he had returned to Germany in battle) as a passionate European, convinced that only a Europe “united, free and democratic” would be safe from the demons of ultranationalism.’
March 16, 2001
[politics] BBC News reports that the infamous ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ poster was a clever fake. ‘After the election Lord Thorneycroft, Tory party treasurer at the time, claimed that the poster had “won the election for the Conservatives”. When, in the 1980s, unemployment began to soar, the poster stayed in the public spotlight – this time as a prime example of both political hypocrisy and, just as importantly, the ability of advertising to sell almost anything.’
March 8, 2001
[budget] Steve Bell on Gordon Brown’s Budget…. ‘The Poor Box’. Simon Hoggart’s sketch of the Commons yesterday: ‘The Tories were thunderstruck by the chancellor’s boast, as if their entire air force had, so to speak, been destroyed on the ground. Michael Portillo looked utterly miserable. Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude seemed positively distraught. Ann Widdecombe’s eyes bulged alarmingly, as if her corsets had come to life and were squeezing the breath out of her. Michael Ancram, the normally ebullient party chairman, gave the impression of a man who has just detected a ferret climbing his trousers, north towards his Y-fronts.’
March 5, 2001
[politics] Guardian Unlimited wonders… Why is the Labour Party so Dull? ‘After almost four years in power, with the largest majority in Labour’s history, and the Conservatives empty of rival ideas, all the prime minister had come up with was another cautious summary of the Third Way. Taylor is rather ruder about it: “The ridiculous, fatuous claim that a mild form of Christian democracy represents a new politics . . .” His smooth, media-ready voice rises with the disappointment. Without sounding terribly regretful, he adds: “I’ve fucked my peerage.”‘
February 22, 2001
[politics] The Independent interviews Tony Benn who will stand down soon after 50 years in the House of Commons…‘”Thatcher was a teacher. I didn’t like what she taught. But it wasn’t her legislation that was important, but the fact that she bumped a lot of awful ideas into our minds. “For fun, I once drafted a bill called the Mrs Thatcher Global Repeal Bill. It was a one-clause bill in which everything she’d ever passed was repealed. And you realise that if it was carried it would have practically no impact on the Thatcher legacy, because it was what she talked about that had a profound and permanent influence on the minds of a lot of people. Some are now rejecting it, but the ideas are still the conventional wisdom of the British establishment, aren’t they?”‘
February 17, 2001
[politics] Interesting profile of Sebastian Coe — William Hague’s close personal friend. ‘”It is fair to question the judgement of any leader whose chosen confidant is Sebastian Coe,” the Tory grandee Max Hastings has said somewhat archly. It is a verdict apparently shared by Coe’s peers. The year before he was booted out of the House of Commons in 1997 he was voted by fellow parliamentarians to be among the “least impressive MPs” of those first elected in 1992. “He is an amiable non-person politically, harmless, content-free, a political vacuum,” said one. “And over-promoted,” said another. “It doesn’t reflect well on William.”‘ [Related Links: GuardianRunning battle between Christie and Coe, BBC NewsLinford Christie: Polishing his pride]
January 25, 2001
[comics] Steve Bell on Peter Mandelson ‘The Millennium Brown Nose Experience’ and today’s cartoon ‘Dropping the Pilot’
January 24, 2001
[politics] David Icke on the inauguration of George Bush ‘The Bush inauguration marks the start of the massive push by the Illuminati to further their agenda for a global fascist state. You will see this clearly unfolding in the next 24 months and, as usual, watch what they do, not what they say. The Bush administration will be a cold, calculating, vicious, period of human history. I know people who have met the Shrub during his period as Governor of Texas and cold, calculating, and vicious, as well as staggeringly unintelligent, are words they chose to describe him. But those who will be dictating the actions of his presidency make him look like a puppy dog. Or maybe lapdog would be more appropriate.’ [Related Links: Disinfomation Dossier on Icke]
January 22, 2001
[net] Row over crackdown on adoption websites. Just how stupid is the British Government? ‘The government is to clamp down on adoption over the internet by warning British-based service providers that they face criminal prosecution for relaying material which infringes British adoption law, it emerged yesterday. The extraordinary move by the Department of Health, which came as the controversy concerning the case of the couple who adopted twins on the net continued to gather pace, was immediately attacked as unworkable.’
January 20, 2001
[politics] Bill Clinton’s Final Days… The Onion reports — Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’ ‘Bush swore to do “everything in [his] power” to undo the damage wrought by Clinton’s two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street. During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.’
January 19, 2001
[politics] Ten American perspectives on Clinton — various Americans discuss ‘history’s verdict’ on Clinton. ‘Clinton is a total mystery in some ways. He’s such a rogue. Yet he’s so intelligent. He’s on top of issues, I think, better than any president I can remember since Lyndon Johnson. My goodness, we’re going to miss him. It’s quite wrong to see him as entertainment, quite wrong. Tell me somebody in the House of Commons who’s as good, as articulate, who’s got a grasp of so many issues in such detail…’Alastair Cooke.
January 18, 2001
[comment] Tea with Dirty Desmond. Francis Wheen does a fantastic hatchet job on Richard Desmond ‘…if the PM studied the porn website, which is owned by Richard Desmond, he might have truly believed that the Express boss was indeed a New Labour kinda guy. Desmond is, for instance, determined to end the misery of social exclusion. Hence the appearance on his website of nude photos of Grace, a 79-year-old woman who would like to meet men under the age of 20 for sex.’
January 10, 2001
[politics] Are you a Ku Klux Gran? ‘Not old ladies dressed up in white sheets, rather very, very traditional and conservative housewives aged over 55. There are just under 2m of them in the UK and they believe that a woman’s place is in the home, disagree with the euro, buy British wherever possible and dislike foreign food.’
January 5, 2001
[politics] Tory Thinktank comes up with a Back To The Future scenario for the current Labour government… ‘By 2003, with another election looming, Mr Tyrell ponders deepening economic problems with a government “beleaguered and isolated”. The following year sees strikes, consumer boycotts, demonstrations and “mild acts of mass civil disobedience”. The transport networks are frequently targeted – perhaps indicating how last year’s fuel protests were a taste of things to come. Following Mr Blair’s resignation, Mr Tyrell predicts a political landscape which “resembles Italy in the 1970s and people talk of Britain being ungovernable”.’
January 1, 2001
[politics] Thatcher — started as she meant to go on‘Margaret Thatcher’s first recorded intervention in Edward Heath’s cabinet was to propose the imposition of borrowing charges on library books, and the abolition of free school milk for children over seven, which earned her the nickname Milk Snatcher. The new education secretary told the cabinet in September that “she had been able to offer the chief secretary, Treasury, rather larger savings than he had sought on school meals, school milk, further education and library charges”‘
December 30, 2000
[politics] Politics is boring. LMG wants more Christmas photos of Ann Widdecombe and her cats — Pugwash and Carruthers…. and little poems as well: ‘Goodness gracious, what is that? It’s Mr. Pugwash, my black cat. Goodness gracious, are there others? Yes indeed, my cat Carruthers.’
December 23, 2000
[interesting metaphor] BBC News profiles the major players in British politics as pantomime characters‘William Hague, unfortunately, has been likened to Aladdin. He was down on his luck, unloved and alone when he suddenly discovered his magic lamp. Trouble was when he rubbed it, rather than a genie leaping out to fulfil his every political desire, he got Michael Portillo. The new shadow chancellor immediately went around tearing up all Aladdin’s policies and refusing to get back into his lamp. He now hovers over Mr Hague’s shoulder insisting there is no way he wants his job.’