Saturday, 24 July 2010

Guardian prints Balls

Being something of a connoisseur of the art of the headline and the utter tosh the Grauniad has been publishing as 'news' since Labour was kicked out, Methuselah was pleasantly surprised at the candour of the front-page headline on Saturday's print edition:

Gove has plans for covert selective education - Balls

I really couldn't have put it any better myself. The ensuing waste of printer's ink was nonsense by any news editor's standards, but for a front-page lead it was pure and unmitigated Betty Swallocks.

The story, as the Guardian presented it, was that a "leaked government document questioned the admissions code that stops schools favouring children they believe are more likely to produce better results".

The inference one was supposed to draw was that Michael Gove, or one of his senior dastardly henchwonks, had authored this "leaked government document", thus implicating themselves in a secret conspiracy at Tory HQ to renege on assurances that plans for academies and free schools would remain committed to a comprehensive admissions policy. (From there it was but a short step to wheel out prospective Labour leader and useful idiot Ed Balls for a rentaquote marathon, and give that heroic sub-editor the opportunity for a subversive headline, not that any of the joyless, lemon-sucking Grolies would have noticed it.)

Except that in the fourth paragraph of this front page news story it turned out that the author was one Clare Simpson, "an education department official" (for which read, "progressive Sir Humphrey-type interfering civil servant unelected nobody") who had been briefing against her political masters to the teaching unions, with a slideshow presentation of her own devising. Had the whim taken Ms Simpson, the "leaked government document" might equally have claimed the moon was made of green cheese, for as much as it purported to represent the views of any elected member of parliament.

The sleight of hand lay in the ambiguity of the term "government". In the story, it meant anybody employed in the public sector, but the Guardian wanted its readers to think it referred to actual policy-makers. This might seem an obvious point, but it is an important one, given the timing, as the Guardians agenda eventually emerges in the seventh and ninth paragraph:

"The academies bill [is] expected to pass its final Commons stage on Monday... The document was leaked to the Guardian as Lib Dem backbenchers indicated they are prepared to rebel against the bill."

So anyway, I digress, all of that is but a sideshow to the main event, which is this: As a blog writer with a readership of about two, Methuselah both considers himself practically a senior cabinet minister, and also demands to be known as "The King of the World".

Grauniad, go do your thing!

Friday, 23 July 2010


German Mods raise their game

"What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" asked Mildred in The Wild One.

"Whaddya got?" replied Johnny, and that's fair enough because, after all, this was the point. Or rather it wasn't. Whichever, had Marlon Brando been playing Johnny's modern-day German counterpart however, the reply might have been very different.

"Well, since you ask Fräulein Mildred, puppy-throwing and comedy getaway routines," may well have been the response in downtown Allershausen, judging from this BBC report:

A German student mooned a group of Hell's Angels and hurled a puppy at them before escaping on a stolen bulldozer, police have said.

The student, known only as 'Jimmy', explained: "I don't wanna be like everybody else, that's why I'm a Mod, see?"

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I've got a dirty little secret and I need your help!

Well, you see, I’ve got this, um, friend. Not me, you understand, but a friend, a very good friend as a matter of fact. Known him a long time. All my life actually, he’s like a brother, except, well, he’s not. And, er, he’s done something, something that perhaps he doesn’t feel too proud of, but he doesn’t know why. It felt right at the time. God knows, he’s been feeling that way for a long time, visited by thoughts and feelings which perhaps he couldn’t explain to himself, but it certainly didn’t feel exactly wrong as such (in fact, after such a long time of denial, it felt positively good!). And still he doesn’t know why what he did was so wrong, he doesn’t think it was wrong, but everyone that knows about it seems to think it was. Society has weighed him and measured him, and society has found him wanting.

So what did my friend do? He voted Tory at the general election, which for some reason is about as socially acceptable as cracking a paedo joke on a council estate.

Now let me get to the point. I want your opinion for an article I’m writing about the stigma of voting Tory. Why should this be? Why is it that voting Labour or Liberal Democrat is something people can do freely and admit to without a second thought – indeed some will boast of as a badge of honour - but voting Conservative is something dreadfully furtive, to be conducted in shameful, self-conscious secrecy, rather like that thing the French do when they stuff tiny songbirds in their mouths whole, bones, beaks and all the filthy buggers, with a teatowel over their head?

And let us make no bones about this. It could be that because of his job and background, my friend, ahem, naturally knows people who are generally more left-leaning than the average, but there most definitely does exist a taint to being a Conservative supporter.

Consider the election of 1992: while returning the Conservative government with a clear overall majority, many thousands of Tory voters couldn’t bring themselves to tell the truth to a complete stranger, according to exit polls.

Or indeed, consider the most recent election: In my constituency, the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative vote were for the second time very close, yet to judge from the front-garden billboards in the area – a sea of orange, interspersed only very occasionally with a speck of blue – the Liberal Democrat candidate should have swept in on a surge of support with an utter drubbing for the Tories.

So come on people, what’s the problem with voting Tory? Is there some residual inherent mark of Cain left over from a more class-stricken age, when grotesque privilege equated to outright exploitation? Or is there perhaps a natural bias in the protestant work ethic? Is it Thatcher? Or do we just dislike Tories as a group, on general principles, rather as my grandparents distrusted anyone who wasn’t white, British and working-class?

As I said, this is something of a crowdsourcing exercise (albeit not exactly scientific, given the sample group) and I really would be interested in getting as many answers as possible. So if you would, leave a comment, send an email, dispatch a courier pigeon etc etc, I would really value your opinion. Please feel free to make it anonymous if you want. Rest assured, I shall treat what opinions are expressed privately in complete confidence.