Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Harry's Place.

I have just seen "Harry's Place" for the first time . (strapline "Hurry up Harry" TM Jimmy Pursey/Sham 69) Disturbing or what! Melanie Phillips diary and Oliver Kamm's nonsense all accessible on one site. Is garry Bushell in there as well?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Decent Left" slams Uzbekistan shocker!

Up to now the Decent Left has been silent about Islam Karimov and his regime in Uzbekistan.This was no doubt to show solidarity with Blair/Bush etc. who saw the Butcher of Tashkent as someone who was "with us" in the war on terror. Now Fearless Nick Cohen has come out in print against the Uzbek government. Apparently their human rights record has suddenly come to Nick's attention.What has caused this sudden rush of conscience? Could it be Karimovs recent decision not to allow the USA to remain in their huge Uzbek airbase after the end of this year? There he is, Freedom's Champion - Way to go Nicky boy!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Give the People What They Don't Want

Call that a holiday, Nicko? Well, the hardest working man in showbusiness is back for the attack. With a couple of comments so boneheaded the Standard might have rejected them (Good old George Bush for taking his holidays on his own ranch! Talk about not setting the bar too high. And apparently Uzbekistan is all the fault of the EU, because it was absolutely impossible for us not to have sacked our own ambassador there for cutting up rough).

But the main comment is red meat for the Watchers. We're in the business here of every week teasing out the ways in which Tweedledum and Tweedledangerous are always trying to advance the Decent Left agenda, even in seemingly sensible or unobjectionable columns. And this week's Cohen piece on homeopathy is a nice easy full-toss over middle stump of which even an Australian might be ashamed:

On the rare occasions the NHS is forced to defend pandering to ignorance, it says that large numbers of people believe in complementary medicine, which is true. It adds that an aromatherapist or dispenser of Bach's flower remedies can at least offer patients the herbal tea and sympathy which busy GPs haven't the time to deliver, which is also the case. We're a democracy and the public likes to have its superstitions treated with respect; where's the harm in giving the punters what they want?

The answer is that the government is dealing in deceit. It may be a harmless deceit most of the time, but it can be cruel and occasionally fatal deceit when the quacks are set loose on the seriously ill. A government which is prepared to deceive about medicine will deceive about much else besides.

Well yes Nick. Meanwhile, I'm stuck on the Azed crossword. Four letters, begins with "I" and ends with the British Army presiding over Iranian-style sharia.

Friday, August 26, 2005

David Aaronovitch is Fat

Well perhaps not so much now that he's been to the Pritikin Longevity Center And Spa in Aventura, Florida. (Yes, it is indeed the same place.) Can this be true, is the one certain fact of blog life really going to crumble?
OK, this story has a very tenuous connection to David Aaronovitch, but the imagination reels.
Mike from from Michigan called himself an "independent film-maker." This had a clear downside, as he was paying the spondoolicks out of his own pocket. My heart bled for him. And he was fat. How very like a whale as the writer chappie had it.* Unlike the dapper fatsoes lounging elsewhere, Mike was sort of scruffy, and wore a basball cap. He had a bit of a chip about coming from a place called Flint, which sounds a bit drab, if free of the Shiraz-types. I tried to win him round by slagging off main stream movies. At least you're an independent film maker, Mike, mate," I said. "Wasn't it just awful how the Academy gave an Oscar to 'Fahrenheit 9/11'? Cosseted Hollywood, what do they know?"
*See my previous post for more of Dave's knack for misquoting cliches. (I've never read a blogger who has injuncted "Read them all" either.)

Friday forecasts

Not much to work with this week; I'm rolling over my own forecasts from last week, although I suppose that there is some possibility that Aaro will write up his Brunei trip in the column rather than in the Travel section. I actually suspect that the Cohen col won't appear at all as it would be his second week of holiday (assuming he is on holiday; the Observer sez "away" which might mean he's researching something?).

Harry's Place indicator isn't really much help either; there sort of seems to be a general theme of "comparisons with the ANC", but it would be much too blatant a steal ... wouldn't it?

If you want to tweak your predictions or to join in the contest, it's in the comments below ...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why we write

I hesitate to put up a link which is closer to the subject matter of a proper blog than a "watch" site, but if you think that this is completely irrelevant to the subject of David Aaronovitch, you're wrong.

Update: No not the Hitchens bit, you predictable bastards. This bit:

Thomas L. Friedman: The Enabler

In some ways, the well-known New York Times columnist doesn’t fit with the others on this list. A neoliberal rather than a neoconservative, Friedman never drank all the Kool-Aid. But he was a vital -- perhaps the vital -- enabler of the war, because from his Times perch, he convinced many a reader (elite and layperson alike) who never would have been persuaded by the likes of Kristol that the war needed to be fought.

Nick Cohen sometimes veers into Hitchens territory ("I am the columnar expression of the World Spirit and the Universal Will To Power and anyone who disagrees with me, including me five minutes ago, is a miserable amoral wretch who must be crushed"), but Aaro is straight up and down a salesman. The only constant in his columns is sales; the only variation is whether this week's special offer is on overseas adventurism, domestic authoritarianism or holidays in Brunei.

Also: This too, thanks to an anonymous commentor. By the way, anonymous commentors, if you select the "Other" option in our comments system you can give yourself a nickname and it will be a lot easier to keep track of who said what.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Tyranny of High Expectations

Aaro may be on holiday, but he still manages to pop up on Normblog’s “Writer’s choice.”

The [Just William] books are also one long poem of praise to anarchism and the unfettered human spirit. I am a supporter of Asbos in general, but if ever there were a literary candidate for one, his name was William Brown.

Thus writes a professional journalist. Perhaps my memory is a little misty, but I can’t recall him doing anything which even merited a clip round the ear from the local bobby, let alone the involvement of a court. William Brown’s spirit did not need fettering as anti-social, because it was mostly harmless. Still one can’t be too careful with kids, so give the little brat one anyway.

Otherwise his choices are anodyne and uncontroversial — to me, anyway. There’s a fiction writer trying to get out of David Aaronivitch:

…but his [Marx’s] description of how the classes behaved during the French crisis of the mid-19th century, and how the bourgeois revolutionaries were — in the words of The Who — fooled all over again, is more than compelling.

Where did The Who sing the words “fooled all over again.”?

And finally, arrived at late because Communists didn’t read Orwell, there’s George.

Dave has listed Tolstoy and Dostoevsky: when did Communists read them? I like his pride in “because Communists didn’t” therefore he didn’t. Worth noting when he rails at whoever he chooses to rail at.

It’s the clarity of the writing, the complete lack of obfuscation, the demolition of convenient intellectual hidey-holes, the absence of bullshit, the intellectual fearlessness.

Well, that’s how Orwell saw himself in Politics and the English Language. Methinks David doth praise too much. Surely for most purposes “obfuscation” and “bullshit” are the same thing. See Jim Holt:

It would, of course, be hasty to dismiss all unclear discourse as bullshit. [G. A.] Cohen [a fellow of All Souls College] adduces a more precise criterion: the discourse must be not only unclear but unclarifiable.

So Orwell is clear, he is clear, he demolishes “convenient intellectual hidey-holes” (I’m trying to think of an example of this), he is clear, and he is intellectually fearless, which sounds like a good thing to be, and reminds us, should we have forgotten, that he was an intellectual.

Anything more different from current fashions among the academic, post-modern ultra-lefts is hard to imagine. No wonder they hate him so much.

Well, spiders are things and are very different from “current fashions among the academic, post-modern ultra-lefts” and I can easily imagine them, especially as one seems to be caught up in my hair as I type. Likewise, sunsets, hangovers, MRSA, diminished thirds, sauropoda, and Croydon facelifts, are all things which are different from academic fashions. This wouldn’t be a criticism by David Aaronovitch, former Communist who didn’t read Orwell because Communists didn’t? Whatever would he know about “fashions among the … ultra-lefts"? Who hates Orwell so much? Perhaps David has confused the ultra-lefts with his parents. Paging Dr Freud. (And don't forget Orwell hated fad diets too.)

Update: I’ve been reading some of Orwell’s essays since I posted this, and I still like Orwell’s style. (This is what infuriated me, and moved me to post, for I am a "post-modern ultra-left" — what David Aaronovitch seems to mean by the term, anyway. I’m a Foucault-admiring Stopper.) Here is George on Swift in Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels:

Swift approves of this kind of thing because among his many gifts neither curiosity nor good-nature was included. Disagreement would always seem to him sheer perversity. “Reason,” among the Houyhnhnms, he says, “is not a Point Problematical, as with us, where men can argue with Plausibility on both Sides of a Question; but strikes you with immediate Conviction; as it must needs do, where it is not mingled, obscured, or discoloured by Passion and Interest.” In other words, we know everything already, so why should dissident opinions be tolerated? The totalitarian Society of the Houyhnhnms, where there can be no freedom and no development, follows naturally from this.

I think David sees a higher clarity in Orwell than Orwell would have been uncomfortable with. In the same essay, Orwell lets himself down toward the end. He is a very good literary critic, but he falls into the Hellalump trap of analysing the writer rather than the text. On Swift (and, somehow, also Tolstoy):

Such people are not likely to enjoy even the small amount of happiness that falls to most human beings, and, from obvious motives, are not likely to admit that earthly life is capable of much improvement. Their incuriosity, and hence their intolerance, spring from the same root.

I’m not happy with the first sentence. If happiness is not enjoyed, in what sense is it happiness. But if Orwell had meant “good fortune” he would doubtless have written that instead. Then he sticks his head into the hunny pot for good measure.

To-day, for example, one can imagine a good book being written by a Catholic, a Communist, a Fascist, pacifist, an anarchist, perhaps by an old-style Liberal or an ordinary Conservative: one cannot imagine a good book being written by a spiritualist, a Buchmanite or a member of the Ku-Klux-KIan. The views that a writer holds must be compatible with sanity, in the medical sense, and with the power of continuous thought: beyond that what we ask of him is talent, which is probably another name for conviction.

Orwell the literary critic was familiar with Byron and Christopher Smart, not to mention the great crazy Russians, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. He had probably heard of Jean Genet. Even if he were to answer that the first two are poets, whose wits from madness are by thin partitions divided, the second two only joined the Battersea Dogs Home chorus after their best work had been written, and the last was not crazy, more determinedly anti-social, he'd still have to explain the movies. I’ll judge Orwell guilty until proved innocent.

Rassen frassen ravid raaronovitch

He's still in bloody Brunei apparently. No Aaro and most likely no Tuesday Cohen either. This week's prediction contest has to be declared a washout; I'll roll everyone's forecasts forward to next week unless you want to change them.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Forecast

Well, I would say that this week's Friday Forecast competition is a race with one heavily-backed favourite. I can't see any way in which Aaro doesn't respond to the Matthew Parris column, surely? Other possibilities would of course be de Menezes (particularly as this now offers a wonderful opportunity to "reach out to the left") and the Gaza withdrawals, but MP has got to be the bookie's choice.

For Cohen it's a more difficult call. An anonymous commenter has posted "Can I have and advance bet on 'From BNP to MCB, one letter at a time' for next weekend? " in a thread below; maybe he's a ringer with the inside track? I don't think that Cohen's New Statesman piece from this week is recyclable for the Observer so no clues there either.

The often useful "Harry's Place" forecast isn't really giving much of a steer this week but if anything points to the topic of "The Iraqi Resistance: Bastards". So I'm going to take a flyer and say:

Cohen (Sunday): The death of Stephen Vincent, Talibanisation of Basra and how the liberal left isn't doing enough about it.
Aaro (Tuesday): "I am as frightened by the way things are going in Iraq as I am by the shootings in London. But we can do nothing other than trust the police and the government".
Cohen (Tuesday): A Levels are getting too easy these days, guv.

Faites vos jeux, as always, in the comments thread below. Anyone is entitled to bet on all, some or none of the three Watch categories; winner to be decided on Tuesday on the basis of accuracy and specificity.

Update: On the other hand ... "A senior columnist from The Times Newspaper UK, Mr. David Morris Aaronovitch, was recently in the Sultanate for a short visit to feature Brunei and the Empire Hotel & Country Club in The Times newspaper". "Brunei, a successful Islamic state and a model for us all??????". Junketastic.

Second update: going by the Harry's Place indicator would indicate that late betting might be going on some reference to WHSmith's policy of selling Playboy branded pencil cases. I really don't think this is likely and won't be altering my own forecast at all, but if Aaro or Cohen so much as mention it then it will be a brave man who bets against Harry's Place in future weeks.

Hush my baby, my own sweet baby

I intimated not so long ago that I was stumbling toward a more general theory of what it is that’s wrong with Decent Dave and Nasty Nick. This, from the New Statesman, has proved to be the tipping point for me to publish it. It’s pretty unobjectionable in itself; dull as ditchwater obviously but if you subscribe to the Staggers you get what you deserve in my book. But the key excerpt is this; after 1200 words on the subject of why big book chains are bad, there’s a sudden volte face
Listening to Pack's incandescent critics, I couldn't help feeling sympathy for him. Anyone who has heard the herd of editors, publishers, authors and critics mooing their political and cultural cliches at a London literary party and not felt the urge to reach for a baseball bat is less than human.

Always with the parties, isn’t it? I have to say, if I was in the same social circle as Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch I would sort of quietly stop inviting them. They eat like horses, they complain about the food, they slag you off in the newspapers the day after you invite them round for dinner and now it appears that Nick at least is on the edge of murderous violence. Fuck that for a game of soldiers (for what it’s worth, the only time I have felt the urge to reach for a baseball bat in a social situation was at a Scouse wedding and then it was more for simple self-protection than rage at the industry structure of the book distribution trade).

But anyway, the point is, Nick and Dave have been going on about dinner parties for the last year. Coincidentally, at the same time, Aaronovitch has taken up a fad diet and Cohen has “become a father late in life”. I would hazard a guess that at about the same time they started banging on about the dinner parties of Hampstead and Islington, they stopped actually going to them.

There’s a lot going on here. Becoming a father does odd things to you, psychologically; it really is not just women whose hormones go up the wall at the sight of a new baby that’s their own. Come round my house for bruschetta one day and I’ll show you the massive collection of Israeli Army self-defence books that I bought when my son was three months old; never cracked the spine on a single one of them and have no real idea why I own them, but something about the idea that it’s a threatening world out there and a man has to defend his family must have been speaking to me. God knows what I’d have been like if there had been a war on.

Also, your social circle changes. Everyone who’s got young kids will remember that period of blind rage at all your friends that you go through at about nine months of age when you realise that all those good mates who swore that they’d be round all the time, see the babby grow, we’ll babysit for you no problem, just fucking haven’t because dammit they can’t realise that little Junior is the most important thing in the world and they ought to be rearranging their lives round him in the same way that you did. You grow out of it but you go through it, and it’s unusual to say the least to not lose a few mates along the way.

As well as shrinking, your social circle becomes a lot more, well, circular. You end up talking to a lot of the same people over and over again, about the same subjects, over and over again. You tend to lose your sense of proportion.

This works better as a theory of Cohen than of Aaronovitch, whose children are somewhat older. But I think it has good explanatory power; the aggression, the rage at former comrades, the curious obsession with grammar schools.

Friday forecast time coming up this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I want my, I want my ...

Does anyone have a copy of the Times hanging about? Tuesday's DA column didn't show up on the Web. This has happened once before and it was added later, but given that this is August he might just have been on holiday. What gives, folks?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dr Cohen and Mr Cohen?

I find it hard to accept that the cheery, anodyne (although he'll wag a stern finger at French and Belgian litterbugs!) Nick Cohen in tonight's "Evening Standard" is the same person as the bitter and slightly spooky guy who frightens readers of "The Observer" on Sundays.

I had that David Aaronovitch in the back of my cab once ...

Cohen-in-the-Standard Watch won't take up much time this week:

1. Paula Radcliffe, isn't she bloomin' marvellous?
2. Course A-levels these days, they're just bollocks, aren't they?
3. I don't think much to those advertising hoardings
4. Tell you what, that Tony Blair, he used to be a right focus-group Charlie but you can't say that about the Iraq War, can you guvnor?
5. Bloody British Airways, they should never have sold off the catering in the first place!
6. Sorry guv, which end of Upper Street was it you wanted? That'll be nine pound sixty.

(actually numbers 3, 4 and 5 have an element of "reach out to the left" in them so I call a qualified predictive success, but the whole column is dreadful. Capital Radio has disc jockeys with more insight to add than this weeks Standard column).

Update: You lot don't deserve this level of tireless watching. I have just discovered that number 4 above (the meat of Cohen's Standard col this week) certainly looks very much as if it was recycled from this piece in the New Statesman. Associated Newspapers perhaps ought to have a word ...

Watching the detectives ...

And in our continued quest to turn "watching" into a trend, here's MCB Watch, keeping an eye on perennial Nick 'n' Dave betes noires the Muslim Council of Britain. Personally I am less inclined that they are to regard the MCB as a fifth column of fundamentalists, but they seem reasonably fact based (the same cannot be said of commenters there, health warning) and they haven't blamed anything on "the liberal left" in the last few weeks so I heartily recommend them as an alternative source to the Decent Punditocracy if you're in the market for low-strength Islamophobia.

Friday forecast, here on a Tuesday

Surely to hell, Aaro's got to pick up this gauntlet. Matthew Parris, in the Times. Not possible to ignore it (because it's in his own paper) and not possible to dismiss Parris as a fellow-traveller of the SWP. I suspect that Aaro will simply grasp the nettle, with a dark horse outside bet that he claims that the Iraqis are ready to look after themselves with their new Constitution draft Constitution negotiations about a Constitution.

Update: congratulations to commenter "Sonic" who took the Friday forecast prize for Cohen's column with:

It's down with multi-culturalism and can't we all unite under good decent (white) British values. Oh and anyone who talks about anti-racism is just in it for the money (unlike Nick who writes as a community service)

Monday, August 15, 2005

What's the matter with Nick?

At first glance, it looks like our various predictions about Nick’s latest were wrong. Instead of leaping rightwards, he swerves instead into inanity:

If you want a society that is really welded together, there are certain things that unite us because we are British,' said Hazel Blears in her clumsy way. Indeed they should.

So, yay Hazel Blears and rebranding. But this is just a rather weak hook on which to hang something a little more rancid. Nick starts his piece at the London Islamic Centre, where he attends a conference of women in business. The women in business, and Nick, are subject to a video of a speech made by a local imam who tells them to drop the laptops, get back in the kitchen, and rattle those pots and pans.

Nick doesn’t tell us how the women who were actually there actually respond to this. He tells us that in the basis of this speech, the whole conference was pointless. This is because, I presume, women who happen to be muslim never make any decisions contrary to the opinions set forth by imams.

Nick goes on from this to make various assertions, to wit: A) All people are now officially categorized by their religions. B) That this is important because all kinds of public funding depend on such official classifications and c) Liberals are responsible by promoting segregation. Moreover, they did it intentionally. We know this because Nick says they did it with “the best of intentions”.

In response: A) People are classified by all sorts of things. The census has me, for instance, down as a jedi knight. B) Religions have always been part of the general architecture of public funding. This is because they pursue various projects considered worthy of public funding. No religion in Britain is funded simply because it is a religion. If I, as a jedi knight, wish to support women in business I can get a grant to do so, even if I tell them that they should be at home polishing my light sabre. C) is simply bizarre. The old Nick Cohen would have used this as a peg to have a crack at religions using public money to further their own agendas, and criticize the government for letting them do so – which does, after all, disburse the money. Nick however, thinks it’s all a liberal plot. His evidence is a bad interview by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight with a representative of the Bosnian government. Kirsty then convened a central committee meeting of Liberals and the word went out to promote segregation. Or something. The rest is a big pile of assertions. Taken on their own grounds they have an internal logic. But the word we generally use for a big pile of assertions driven by their own internal logic is “fiction.”

Back in February, Nick discovered the world of blogs and told us that he’d been keeping company with people “he’d normally cross the street to avoid. “ He seems to have taken quite a lot on board from his new mates. There’s a certain similarity in technique. Find something you consider undesirable. Take it as given that liberals are responsible. Construct a theory that takes you from point a to point b. As a kind of ill-grace note, there’s also the idea that any project designed to deal with the particular problems of a group within society promotes segregation, and the implication towards the end that saying the BBC is pro-Israeli is de-facto evidence of extremism or even anti-semitism.

Broadly, this is the process described by Tom Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas and elsewhere, a mode of argument which in which the unity and healthy values of the Volk are being constantly undermined by self-hating liberals – though in this case, self-hating liberals with the “best of intentions.”

The Rioja Kid

Nick on nomenclature, the joy of secularism and aren't liberals these days crap compared to when etc. etc.

I had to think hard about the title of this post. Nick is all over the place this week, firing off in so many directions that it is difficult to see his central theme. Does he even have any central theme?

So it wasn't easy to capture the essence of Nick's article in one line, but my chosen title at least summarizes the subjects of his musings

His advocacy of secularism ( I think that's what it is) results from Nick's observations of a conference entitled "Women and entrepreneurial London" held at the London Muslim Center.

The building and the women are "bright" and "modern" and are concerned with "creating new businesses". However a dark cloud appears in this bright and modern utopia in the form of a wide screen television showing a video of the local Imam giving his views on women and employment.

These are unsurprisingly conservative; women have many opportunities to create businesses, limited only by having to spend all their time looking after their husbands and children.

The villain of this particular piece of the column then is a religious leader preaching a religion, which calls for 7th century Arabian cultural norms being applied to 21st Century metropolitan London life. Or is it?

Two more shots are immediately fired off, I paraphrase but essentially he is saying "The Archbishop of Canterbury wouldn't get away with it" and that this is (the old reactionary catch-all) "misuse of taxpayers money".

The first point is not only nonsense, it is clumsily argued nonsense, a local Imam addressing a conference at the London Muslim Center is not an event in any way similar to the Archbishop of Canterbury addressing the CBI.

Nick rails at someone (anyone? everyone?) for the absurd assumption that the Bengali ladies at the London Muslim Center are all Muslims, and that possibly they choose to be listen to the TV Imam.

First off, London Muslim Center Nick. Second off as to the TV sermon, if there is any evidence of the women being coerced into attending the meeting or into watching the galloping Imam then I'm with Nick on this baby? If not, what is the issue Nick? What are you saying?

We get to Mail/Telegraph territory proper when Nick reveals that the conference is "supported by public bodies ... University of East London...EU money sloshing around" (sic). This is clearly Decent Left speak for "taxpayers money" being wasted. Of course the subtext here is that the liberals who "slosh" this money around are the dupes of whoever it is that Nick is having a go at, was it just Islam or was it all revealed religions? You never really know with Nick.

As Nick seethes into the middle section of the column he gets a little scary. The Bengali women at the London Muslim Center are "for the purposes of official classification" Muslims. That's it. No prior or further detail. Just "Muslims".

Nick, you must know that depending on the nature of the office requiring classification (medical, social security, judicial) they will also be "women" and "Londoners" and "Asian" and "Bengali".

I hope no one will ever be grouped into Nick's suggested alternatives, "working (or indeed any other) class", and "English" anything as opposed to "British" thesamething.

Notice that, English working class.

The last sentence of the paragraph I repeat in full. Nick reveals that somehow as a consequence of the liberals classifying the women as Muslims, "They were Muslims and their religious leaders must have a large say in how they lived” What can this mean, it seems to be saying "this group of women are classified by all officialdom simply as Muslims and therefore that their clerics must be allowed to tell them how to live.

To be fair to Nick, to understand why some Muslim women will actively seek a religious authority to guide their personal behaviour and others will not, it is necessary to know something of the history and culture of Islam and that is a complex subject.

It would also help of course to know the history of the particular group of women but hey, Nick is Generalissimo Generalization, they are Muslims. Nuff said.

Islam was initially a primitive Bedouin theocracy. The relationships between the heads of state and the clerics was such that that it was the religious leaders who interpreted and codified the Koran and the Hadith into the sharia, the state legal system (indeed in the early years of Islam the Heads of State were the religious leaders so there was no distinction between secular and religious law whatsoever)

There are now 4 systems of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, some more liberal than others. Many immigrants to Britain from the Indian subcontinent belong to the more conservative traditions.

Obviously the more traditional the system of law, the more rigid their interpretation of and adherence to the strictures of sharia law. Unless there is evidence to the contrary we must assume that these Bengali women choose to listen to conservative clerics. It wouldn't be my choice and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be Nicks, but it's theirs and it's still a free country Nick.

Nick leaves nomenclature temporarily for a detour into more liberal-bashing. Apparently anti-racism isn't what it used to be because today’s liberals allow people of different religions to be treated differently by their religious leaders and some of those religions have brown people in them.

Nick tells us "now there are different rules for different religions". What are these rules exactly Nick? Alas we are not told. Difficult to say much about this as it’s such bollocks.

I think every time he says liberals in this section of the column he means "those that work in the public services", the official classifiers etc, and that it is they that "...have segregated with the enthusiasm of an apartheid police chief and left common humanity out in the cold" You are a nutter Nick.

Nick goes for the old columnular standby now, "when in trouble give a condescending show of support for Hazel "clumsy" (NC) Blears. In this section Nick has come up with his classification for official classifiers, (that is the public service liberals, I know, it's tortuous) they are "segregationists". That's a vile word to use Nick.

In Cohen’s world, the pointy-head metropolitan liberal sophisticates rubbish Blears’ contributions to the ongoing effort to not be blown up while going about our daily lives, because they remember the Dome and Cool Britannia. This PHML thinks that changing what some people call some other people is not going to do anything to ensure my medium term safety, and therefore is a waste of valuable time.

Incidentally, I was neither for nor against Hazel Blears until I saw her on TV squirming as she refused to condemn The Sun for the Saddam underpants photos. This was a week or two after the 7th May election day "VOTE BLAIR" headline. It seemed to me that her extraordinary acquiescence in the unpleasant and dangerous antics of the Sun, and that organ's support for New Labour were in some way linked. Since then I have doubts about her integrity.

Back to classification Not official this time (I don't think) but everyday words for non-white people. Nick tells us that until the 1980's all non-white people, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, ("even at it's broadest anyone with a dark skin" says Nick) were called Blacks. Not by me they weren't but lets assume they were.

Although they later became "blacks and Asians", in Nick's book, they were still one homogenous group, those people that had "a common interest in fighting colour prejudice". I would have thought that includes most people of whatever colour but let's persevere.

This part of the column ends on the bizarre claim that "The Commission for Racial Equality still works on the old notion of solidarity but everywhere else it is in retreat"

I can't think how you would either prove or disprove that statement, or indeed what it is precisely that Nick is trying to say. One thing I do know is that it is aimed once again at "liberals" That's where "the old notion of solidarity" (as worked on by the CRE) is in retreat. It's them official classifiers again.

Nick thinks a lot about categorisation. He explains its centrality to his philosophy with some crap about a Community Center.Essentially some categories are broad and good and some are narrow and bad.

The worst categorisation is religious. That excludes all people not of that religion and therefore is the most exclusive. Well it depends where the community Center is Nick. If it's a Muslim community Center in Lahore, it won't be exclusive at all. You berk.

All this is illustrated by example of the narrowing categories "Anyone" "Asians" and "Sikh/Muslim/Hindu". Nick says there are very few Catholic or Jewish centres in the East End now.

I don't think that Nick objects to community centres for specific groups (religious or other shared interest) as such, I think he may be concerned about them being "supported by public bodies". Official classifiers may be wasting taxpayers money.

Nick moves on, back to liberals. This time I think that he means all liberals not just those liberals engaged in officially classifying other people for the public services.

Anyway, in the 1990's the liberals did something to do with stopping being cautious about other people defining themselves by their religion, "segregation by faith could seem the free thinking thing to do". That word segregation again, sends shivers down my spine. Segregation can lead to some very bad places.

The thing is, I must have missed that happening in the 1990's, but I would say that the people I know who I would describe as liberal have always been notable for their acceptance of all people and peoples, and their respect for all people and peoples so maybe Nick has got that "changed in the 1990's" thing wrong.

You see that's what liberals do Nick, be liberal about stuff. Thus if someone wishes to be defined by their religion and assuming that their religion is neither illegal or morally suspect, liberals accept that, liberals respect that. Always have always will.

The offensive rubbish Nick writes about the liberals (this time he possibly refers only to media and diplomatic liberals) being responsible in some unidentified way and to some unidentified extent for the evils that erupted in the former Yugoslavia is both comic and tragic.

Comic because the daft things he says did actually make me laugh, and tragic because either he knows it is rubbish and is therefore not being honest or he doesn't know it is rubbish and is therefore bonkers.

I followed the Yugoslav situation reasonably closely and do not recall the term Bosnian Muslims being used unless ethnic Bosnians who were Muslims were being differentiated from the Bosnian Serbs.

Nick, in Bosnia there were Bosnians who were Muslims and Serbians who had been moved to Bosnia by Tito and were neither Bosnians nor Muslims even though they had settled in Bosnia. Under those circumstances "Bosnian Serbs" and "Bosnian Muslims" seems like a reasonable categorization. Also Nick, Croatia was a different war and isn't relevant in this context.

The "exiles" and their "jaw dropping moment" at Kirsty Wark (media liberal and obviously an aspirant official categoriser) sounds like a "were you up for Portillo" type thing, but I don't remember it and actually I don't believe Nick knows any "exiles" (exiles from where and why they are exiles is not explained ). By this point in the column I'm pretty sick of Nick and his nasty insinuations.

Next some nonsense about unemployment and some more categorisation. This time it's the office of national statistics and male unemployment rates. Nick says that the categories are "Muslims" and "Christian men". Nick thinks that "Christian men" really means "white men" which makes me wonder what category black non-Muslim unemployed men would be in. Maybe Nick thinks that all Black people are Muslims. I am starting to think Nick is making it up.

The Muslim Council of Britain aren't interested in things like male Muslim unemployment according to Nick, they are purely sectarian, sometimes repellently so. The Observer today carries an investigation into the MCB, it seems that there may be a hardline Deobandi element (although reading Maulana Maudidi is not yet a criminal offence.) but Nick doesn't really address this , simply rerunning the Panorama story from the investigation.

Finally, Nick quotes Hazel "Clumsy" Blears" and asks ominously if poor Hazel knows how many people have an interest in ripping society apart. Do you Nick? Who are they Nick.

On a lighter note, good to see that Nick has stepped into Dave Aaronovitch's shoes and is now the owner of the Blue Space on the Observer letters page. I can hear the gravelly voice now"The big issue WAS David Aaronovitch: The Big Issue IS Nick Cohen"


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Vinnie Grett.

I am proud to announce that as of tomorrow I will be monitoring those "Paul Johnsons des nos jours" (spanking good chap old Paul), David "Dave" Aaronovitch and Nick "mad as a box of frogs" Cohen. I have been trying to engage Dave's attention for over a year now, I need him to explain why he is really doing this bizarre thing but apart from one patronising e-mail from him I have had no answers. There is a record of my struggle for enlightenment at

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday Forecasts

OK, time to set out the runners and riders for the next week of watching ...

Aaronovitch, I am convinced, has more for us on his theme of "our precious civil liberties and why we must get rid of them". However, having given us "libertarian slogans won't cut it" this week, it is now time to "reach out to the left". Another week of authoritarianism lite would eat into his credibility too much. So my guess is that he will abandon the theme of the War On Some Kinds Of Terror and do us a column about famine in Niger.

Cohen is a racing certainty to mention the BA workers' strike, but I would guess that it will be in the Standard column rather than the Observer. There's also a funding crisis at the Royal Free Hospital at the moment, so if this is "reach out to the left" week he'll be able to knock out a bit about the PFI.

The "Harry's Place" forecast would be for something about Dr Sa'ad al-Faqih, but this would be too much like shitting where you eat as it the big story is about someone getting a comment published in the Guardian, so I would guess that it will either go unremarked, or they will have to fight a proxy war via someone else. Perhaps we need a column about the deported "preachers of hate"?

Time to put my money down; I think that preachers of hate is the topic and that the decent left spin is "if people are so concerned about deporting people to Syria to be tortured, why aren't they asking why Syria is a torturing regime in the first place". Messieurs, faites vos jeux in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Libertarian slogans won't cut it

In yesterday's Times piece David seems not to like Shami Chakrabarti.
Which, once again, infuriated Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty. “If Friday was intended as Mr Blair’s ‘fight them on the beaches’ moment,” she wrote yesterday, “I am afraid that he blew it.” Great wartime leaders, she implied, don’t mess about with cherished liberties.
Except, of course, that that is exactly what they do do. As David Blunkett likes to point out, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in September 1862 and in 1940 Winston banged up over a thousand Mosleyites under the famous Defence Regulation 18b, their only right of appeal being to an advisory committee, which would rule on the basis of an intelligence assessment that the detainees never saw.

I like the "once again" there. You cannot accuse David's snide of lacking subtlety. He knows he's fighting a rearguard battle (against those Islingtonians and, well, anyone who didn't use to be a self-satisfied police state supporting Trot, provided it was his lot's police state of course) and boldness is not his friend here.
Here's right-wing blogger, political insider, and copper-bottomed cynic Guido Fawkes:
Liberty is reputedly laden with Hampstead liberals, but increasingly right-wing libertarians recognise the value of an organisation which was once monitored by MI5 as subversive (in the days when Patricia Hewitt was involved). Liberty is not really a twenty wonk strong think-tank, its more a human rights organisation. Something worth supporting whatever your party allegiance.

The Yank equivalent of Liberty is the ACLU. It's suddenly popular among bloggers on the far side of the pond: hilzoy of Obsidian Wings; The Poor Man; and Radley Balko.
David is certainly right when he says, "Libertarian slogans won’t cut it" no they won't; only action will. I hate blogging: now I have to add myself to Liberty's members.
One more thing. David can still write nonsense paragraphs with the best of them, and the Thunderer doesn't even try to stop him. Try this for size.
He [Tony Blair] knows, because this is what he is good at, that people wonder why the French can take action when we apparently can’t, and yet no one suggests that Paris is at the heart of an authoritarian state. Or that the German interior minister, Otto Schily, can demand whether it is “really unthinkable that they (rogue preachers) should be isolated for a period of time” without being denounced as a born-again totalitarian.

How does our David know what Tony Blair knows? And what is the PM "good at"? -- knowing things? How does Mr Blair know that other people wonder things? Is there a secret room in Number 10 where the PM dons a telepathic helmet and reads the thoughts of the people? (It's a frightening thought, for him I mean. I wouldn't do it.) Or does he just read the letters to the Daily Mail? People were suggesting all sorts of things about the French, until about two months ago: Nazi collaborators, spineless cheese eaters, etc; and, as it happens, I do find aspects of French law unliberal and authoritarian. Again, I don't know how our favourite comment writer knows what's said in every bierkeller, but let's suppose that he's right. Herr Schily hasn't been "denounced as a born-again totalitarian." And, if you take this Biblical worldview test, you should know that the wording "separation of church and state" is not found in the U.S. Constitution.
Of course, I'm sure people do wonder exactly what David suggests, just as I'm sure "people" wonder why noone listened to Enoch Powell, and "people" wonder why noone believes them when they say Bush and Blair are dirty great blood-drinking lizards.
Meanwhile Britain has still failed, after a decade, to extradite Rachid Ramda to France on charges of having financed the group behind the 1995 Paris Métro bombing campaign. Imagine how we would feel if the situation were reversed.

Imagining this isn't hard. Remember the IRA? And have we extraditied one Bostonian sponsor? Our Allies against terror are a little selective it seems.

Midweek Nick Cohen Watch

The Cohen Evening Standard column trundles on … has anyone noticed that Sir Paul McCartney is a bit past it these days? Crikey some people have funny ideas about bringing up babies! Isn’t it murder when you’ve finished writing your column and have only done half the number of words commissioned? Sorry I made that last one up. Btw, message to Aaro and Cohen both; if you like the “Harry’s Place” blog so much, why not give the guy a job already rather than just repeatedly rubbing your readers’ noses in the fact that half your respective columns have usually appeared there a week earlier?

The substantial bit of Cohen’s column is a dicey bit of triangulation; if you’ve decided to brand your little corner of “Decent” left-liberal politics the “anti-fascist left”, then it’s a bit embarrassing to also be committed to supporting as “basically sensible” the policies of a government that is going around passing broadly drafted anti-sedition laws, banning political parties and detaining people without trial. Cohen correctly notes that Charles Clark has had less of a kneejerk reaction than one might have expected from his predecessor (Charlie the Safety Elephant is like the Gary Neville of Home Secretaries; he’s shit, but in tough conditions he doesn’t get any worse and can sometimes therefore be made to look good).

The trouble is that the latest bout of Toytown authoritarianism is coming direct from the Maximum Leader Tony, and not even his wife supports it. So Aaro and Nick are both left in the uncomfortable position of loudly belting out “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” on foreign policy while simultaneously whispering “now do you think you can control them?” on domestic policy. There is a bit of a wedge between Tweedledum and Tweedledangerous here by the way; Aaro has always been much more of a party-line guy with authoritarian tendencies while Cohen has much, much more baggage in the form of fiery past pronouncements on civil liberties issues. Expect a lot more of this in coming weeks; I suspect that the next cols from both Nick and Dave are going to be on the “Our Precious Civil Liberties: A Luxury We Can’t Afford” theme, although obviously I will have to read the next few days of “Harry’s Place” before I can make a definitive Friday forecast.

The really interesting bit of Cohen’s Standard col, though, is one of the joke items; he’s still on (and on) about the “parents moving house to places with good schools” theme. I have a lot to write about this minor obsession of Nick’s, because I think it holds the key to understanding a lot of DecentLeft politics. But I’m going to wait until he mentions it in something I can link to on the web (there is nothing in this week’s Standard col that is worth the effort of typing out. For the time being I note that Putney, Kingston and a number of southwestern suburbs all have local schools which are at least the equal of those in Barnet and Stamford Hill. But, crucially, they are not on the Northern Line and thus are not attractive to well-paid parents who believe themselves to still be Billy Big-Biscuits media in-crowd types. It’s not really about the kids, Nick.

Update: I forgot to mention one insanely annoying piece of sloppy writing (which thinking about it is another of the early symptoms of whatever it is Melanie Phillips has got) - the reflexive inability to write the word "journalists" without the prefix "BBC". Either Nick Cohen has seen loads of examples of Hizb'ut Tahrir getting a hard time from ITV, Channel 4, Sky News and the print media, or he just means "journalists" and ought to consider what kind of people he is allying himself when singling out the BBC for criticism. Like the State of Israel and the Socialist Workers' Party, the BBC is an intrinsically rather unlovable entity which becomes worthy of support simply because of the calibre of creep that keeps harping on about it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Heads up

I will have time to do the latest Aaro justice later today, but for the time being:

1. I think in retrospect our prediction that last week's column was aimed at preparing the ground for portraying the latest Blairite sedition laws as a middle way between Al-Qaeda and the BNP looks pretty damn fucking good. Score one to the watchers (actually score two as we had Cohen taped this week too).

2. The comment on Galloway's latest speech ("I imagine that the metaphorical 'doing as they will' attached to the helpless but alluring female cities, does not refer to them being plied with scones and Earl Grey tea") is not just ridiculously coy but actually misleading. There is no need for us to rely on Aaro's imagination here. The next two sentences of the transcript has Galloway saying "The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters". Did Aaronovitch not bother to read anything beyond a wire service summary of the first sentence, or could he just not resist that joke about Earl Grey tea? Inquiring minds couldn't really give a fuck.

More later ...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

going to hell

The hunt is on, it seems, for Nick’s conversion moment. I have it!

The only time I realised I was charging up a blind alley was when I read Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. I didn't see a blinding light or hear a thunder clap or cry 'Eureka!' If I was going to cry anything it would have been 'Oh bloody hell!' He convinced me I'd wasted a great deal of time looking through the wrong end of the telescope. I was going to have to turn it round and see the world afresh. The Labour would involve reconsidering everything I'd written since 11 September, arguing with people I took to be friends and finding myself on the same side as people I took to be enemies. All because of Berman.

Now the date isn’t given, but since that date Nick left active politics as we know it and entered theology. It’s as if an old friend suddenly discovered evangelical Christianity. He seems nice enough, but he’s convinced you’re going to hell. Before he had a framework of beliefs within which he interpreted facts, and these interpretations helped in turn to develop his framework of beliefs. But now it’s all been explained. Berman says…and the rest is simply doctrine. Hence paragraphs like this:

Wars are usually worth opposing, especially capricious wars advocated by a slippery Prime Minister in alliance with a repellent US President. But arguments have their own dynamic. If you start by refusing to look Baathism or Islamism in the face, the logic of blaming everything on Tony Blair and George W Bush pushes you into making ever more excuses for the extreme right.

I don’t think anyone who went on or sympathized with the big antiwar march would be capable of refuting this, but only because they wouldn’t be in a position to understand as a description of their motives and beliefs. They may have thought that an aggressive war was a bad idea that would lead to lousy unintended consequences and that the people who proposed to conduct it merited a certain degree of suspicion, even hostility. But the Bermanite theology has a different explanation into which the facts must be made to fit. It’s a position that also tempts our Nick into certain dishonesties:

Who is going to help the victims of religious intolerance in Britain's immigrant communities? Not the Liberal Democrats, who have never once offered support to liberal and democrats in Iraq.

Well, what have the Labour party done, whose government conducted the war, or the Conservatives, who supported it? What are their motives? What saeth the Great Berman?

One major problem in propagating orthodoxy is that you inevitably lose touch with the general give and take of mainstream opinion. Take the issue of the link between the Iraq war and the recent bombings. You have the SWP, 85% of the population and every single reputable defense and security analyst in the world more or less in the same area…and the pro-war left and the American far right in the other. Politics has surely taken some strange twists in recent years, but the re-birth of supposedly mainstream liberals and social democrats as bitter fringe sectarians has to be one of the strangest.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Straight down the middle

Late again, I know, sorry, but it’s taken me a few days to work out what the angle (there’s always an angle) was from Dave’s little travelogue. Most of it is just how-jolly-it-is-to-be-me-ha-ha stuff, plus the little whimsy of “Norwegian terrorists! Imagine!” (actually this is a bit misleading; because of its generous political asylum laws, Norway plays host to quite a few Muslim terrorists; the founder of Ansar-al-Islam, Mullah Krekar is currently under house arrest in Oslo). The rest of it, on the surface, looks like a quite enlightened plea for tolerance and I was mentally preparing a “well done fella” award for Dave and wondering whether it wasn’t time to give up on this watching lark and leave it to the Furediites (btw, we wrote ourselves last week that Decent Dave’s Srebenica analogy is very misleading indeed but the fucking Revolutionary Communist Party are the absolute last people we would expect to be making a big deal of it).

But there is an angle after all; again, this is the purpose of this site – Aaro is very good and very subtle and you need to be as cynical as a thrice-married showgirl to spot what he’s up to. It seems to me that what this col is all about is preparing the ground for future, less harmless columns, via the old strategy of the via media.

If you’re trying to sell an unpopular product like toytown authoritarianism then you can’t sell it on its own merits. What you need to do is to propose it as a sensible solution to a problem; the considered, careful middle path. So that’s the purpose of this column. On the one hand, you have the mad mullahs who want us all to fall under the iron heel of sharia. On the other, you have crypto-BNP members who want to send all the brown people back home and have a completely white country. In the middle, you have David Aaronovitch with a fistful of identity cards. He’s working the frame.

Update: And here's the double tap. Banned political parties, banned nonviolent speech, deportation to regimes which torture. The frame has been set up, so all we need to wait for is next week's Aaro column painting a picture to hang in it. I even have the opening sentence: "There are two kinds of fascist who have been making hay in the month since the London bombings ..."

Update Update: And the closing one: "The trouble with the left [if it's Cohen, the "liberal-left"] is that while concentrating on 'fascism' which is nothing of the sort, they have missed the real fascists who they are now allied with".

Update Update Update: "What he and a large part of the mainstream liberal-left don't and won't confront is that they have become the fellow travellers of the psychopathic far-right.", from Nick Cohen. Oh yeh baby. I think that this "Friday Forecast" might become a regular feature.

Currently listening to:

Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song "Ah, ah, We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Nick Cohen Watch - Heisenberg Principle Edition

The Heisenberg Principle of "Watch" sites is that the minute you start watching someone, they start talking sense. Cohen's column (actually a blog in print form; it's nine parts "and another thing" to one part mindless populism of the "why don't they bring back Routemasters?[1]" form) is really quite good this week, though I am distressed to find out from a squib at the Atkins Diet that he considers himself a "fatty" these days; he must have put it on quite recently as he used to be quite vulpine of build. Best bit[2] (in relation to racial profiling of Asians as potential suicide bombers):

"Sir William McPherson's inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence ought to have given the Met the perfect reply to accusations of racism. One of the McPherson report's main recommendations was for police to formalise and generally clean up the way they used stop and search. Had they followed McPherson's recommendations, the Met could now have answered 'Obviously, a search for Muslim fanatics is going to spend most of its time looking at Muslims. But we have taken on board the findings of Sir William and all searches will be conducted courteously. Reasons will be given and senior officers will monitor operations'

"Unfortunately the Met can say no such thing. A dunderheaded campaign by the Police Federation, the Tory Party and the press and that unteachable opportunist David Blunkett led to Sir William's sensible recommendation being treated as the ravings of a demented bleeding heart, determined to tie officers' hands behind their backs. The number of searches shot up.

"The fact that Sir William was a keen golfer[3], former member of the SAS and, all in all, the world's least likely Hampstead liberal in no way restricted the venom which was spat at him.

"Yet for all the abuse he was right. It's not who you stop and search but how you stop and search that matters. If accountable officers treat the public with respect then there will be few problems. If they don't, there we're in for more trouble."

Well done fella. Signed, your man on the top deck of the 43, fighting chips with bruschetta. Still watching though.

[1]Non-Londoners; asking "what was wrong with Routemasters" in a column in the Standard is the rough equivalent of standing up in front of a club audience in Bolton and singing "Is this the way to Amarillo?". In actual fact, Cohen's invocation of this surefire crowd-pleaser is actually a little bit suspect, as he's still pushing the agenda of "the ordinary folks, god bless 'em, know a lot better than yer eggheads in yer ivory towers, they want bobbies on the beat", which is an agenda that is mindless but not harmless. But the rest of the column is not bad and I also live on the 43 bus route where someone got stabbed (and I always ride on the top deck and I am just the kind of headstrong type to cut up rough with someone throwing chips at my head) so there you go.

[2] Not on the web so I am typing it out longhand; I hope you lot are suitably grateful. If Associated Newspapers give it some about their copyright I will not only delete this but deny I ever typed it.

[3]The implication that "Hampstead liberals" don't play golf is so weird that I can only think that there must be a Jewish reference flying over my head here. Also not wonderfully happy about the implied SAS-worship since this is often an early sign of right-wing dementia but it's a borderline case at worst.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Brief mention of Aaro in the Furediites' version of The Watchtower.

and a tribute from Amanda Platell, the unthinking man's Julie Burchill:

Now I know I'm in a minority, but I like David Aaronovitch, and I like him even more for having had the guts to bare all on the cover of the Guardian's Weekend magazine. The headline, "How fat camp saved my life", sat on top of his naked, Santa-like stomach and butted his breasts. His critics say it takes a great ego to expose oneself in this way. I think it takes great courage, at more than 18 stone.

Minor factual courtesy of AW: actually he kept his pants on.
Update And thinking about it, unless the photo was taken a long time ago (pre fat-camp), Aaro actually weighed about 17 stone.

Nick Cohen Watch - Grammer Skools Rool

Good gravy. Long time connoisseurs of this sort of thing will remember that Melanie Phillips' long strange journey to wherever she is now started off in fulmination about the "liberal left" and how they have ruined education. Nasty Nick appears to be off on the same journey, in this case presenting evidence that 25-year olds born in 1970 are showing more income correlation to parental wealth than they did a while ago. Apparently this is evidence that Sure Start (introduced in 1999) doesn't work. Meanwhile, IQs continue to rise, standardised test scores continue to improve (despite what Mel sez) and increasing inequality in society continues to be the fault of wider social policies and not the schools. Oh yeh, and "rich parents choosing education while the working class blah blah" remains an almost purely London-specific problem. Grammar schools feh.

It's not that NC is definitely wrong about grammar schools, it's just that he so blatantly doesn't know what he's talking about and the Observer doesn't seem to care. This has got nothing to do with education; it's just Nick Cohen randomly having a pop at "the liberal left" (which lower down the col he identifies as the natural constituency of RESPECT, so there are fewer of us than I thought). He was going on about tower blocks in the Standard a couple of weeks ago ("see what yer working clarss want is a nice semi wiv a gahden") and got given his head in his hands by town planners pointing out that under his model for postwar redevelopment, the last people made homeless by Hitler's bombs would be moving into their little brick semi a) now and b) it would be in the London Borough of Warwickshire. Drivel.

PS: I notice that everyone mentioned in Cohen's article has their school and university in brackets after their name except one - Cohen himself. Anyone know? Wouldn't it be just the shit if it was Eton and Sandhurst?

Update: "Altrincham Grammar School For Boys and Keble College Oxford", apparently.