Friday, November 24, 2006


ooooOOOOOOHHH! scoopy doopy doo!!

Not a "scoop" in the real sense but I feel like a proper journalist right now. You see, it appears that one of the people who got an advance copy of Nick's Book treated this privilege with slightly less than the wholehearted sense of responsibility and respect that they should have done. In other words, a proof copy showed up in a second hand bookshop. I am not saying where or which bookshop because I am not giving away clues. And who should have been passing through that bookshop with a spare £3.50 but me? Hey hey.

At first glance it looks like there is some new material in there, although the bits about Iraq are very familiar. I haven't found the bit where Nick deals with the dicky issue of his own behaviour post 9/11 yet. Full review and highlights to come as soon as I get completely clear about the legal situation - I am 99% sure that there is no restriction on me but I want to be 100%. Hoo hoo hoo.

Update: It has just struck me that I didn't get the Standard this week (this is also not a clue). Did anyone see what Nick wrote?


Blogger Matthew said...

Bloody hell...well done.

Here's Nick's column - traffic wardens, theatre reviews, an incomprehensible (and made up - he's had a go at Rory Bremner for calling Blair a 'moral imperialist' before) piece on Iraq and I've already forgotten the last bit.

Beware the bossy greens who blight a good cause
Evening Standard (London); Nov 22, 2006; NICK COHEN; p. 12
Full Text:
(Copyright Associated Newspapers Ltd. Nov 22, 2006)

THE threatened Islington bin strike of 2006 will be the strangest in the history of London's local government. The boys are not threatening to walk out because they want more money or the boss class off their backs - but because of the traffic wardens.

They are getting tickets almost every day. "One of my members was picking up leaves from a park," Gary Doolan, the secretary of the local GMB branch, told me. "And while his back was turned, they put a ticket on his van. He has to pay himself. That can't be right."

Islington Council says all it is trying to do is turn its corner of London into a green and sustainable environment. Most of the penalised binmen are being punished for driving their vans down narrow roads with a 7.5 tonne weight limit, the council explains. Not when they're collecting rubbish, they're allowed to drive down them to do that, but for using side streets as short cuts when they want to move on to the next job.

To which the obvious answer is that an exception should be made for binmen and indeed fire officers, whose engines are just as heavy as rubbish lorries.

Both need to move quickly because if they are caught in traffic, streets aren't cleaned and the danger of fires catching hold increases.

There lies the rub, which I think is going to spoil the rather cosy assumption of politicians and pundits that green taxes will be easy to collect and popular with the public.

London's experience of anti-congestion measures is that the authorities don't make exceptions; not for binmen nor for anyone else breaking the strict letter of the law.

A heavily pregnant woman who parks her car outside a chemist's because she can't walk more than a few steps or a hearse picking up a corpse can be and have been ticketed by councils and privatetraffic enforcement companies desperate to squeeze out every last penny of additional revenue.

The result has been a collapse in public confidence which ought to worry the supporters of green taxes.

If they can think back 10 years, they will remember that cutting congestion was once the great green cause in London. No one was against tougher traffic controls apart from die-hard car lovers, and even they wanted other people's cars off the roads.

Now all I hear are stories of shakedowns and petty injustices. Everyone from west Londoners complaining about Ken Livingstone expanding the congestion charge zone to small shopkeepers complaining about the wardens putting them out of business is convinced that green rhetoric has become a canting camouflage-for a moneymaking racket.

If the same thing happens with the new green taxes, then the good cause of cutting carbon emissions will become as discredited as the equally good cause of reducing congestion on London's roads.

Bond girl fails to save the day

THE EARLY closure of Adrian Noble's magnificent version of Tennessee Williams's Summer and Smoke at the Apollo is grim news for all who want serious theatre to prosper in the West End.

Conventional wisdom holds that a play can't prosper unless it has a celeb from television or the cinema to bring in the punters. Summer and Smoke did have a celeb, Rosamund Pike, a former Bond girl who was nonetheless excellent as the female lead, but even her presence wasn't enough to save it.

The bitter truth may be that even when the stars are lined up and all the marketing tricks are pulled, London simply doesn't have a large enough audience to sustain intelligent theatre.

Nanny Hodge is so confused

TONY Blair's critics have accused him of many things, but even the battered PM must have blinked when Margaret Hodge accused him of being a "moral imperialist".

Eh? A moral imperialist is as great an oxymoron as a pacifist fascist or a non-judgmental racist. Imperialism is the immoral subjugation of a conquered people by a foreign invader. Say what you like about the disasters of the second war against Saddam, but you can't deny that Blair was sincere in his desire to allow Iraqis to have free elections after almost 40 years of being subjugated by the Ba'ath Party.

If interfering in the affairs of other people's countries is illicit, then so must be interfering in the affairs of other people's families. In the past, Ms Hodge's conservative critics accused her of being a busybody feminist "nanny". In the future, they will be able to go one better and condemn her as an "imperialist".

LAST month, Jack Lemley, project chairman of the London Olympics, resigned, returned to his native America and predicted that costs would rise "exponentially". Last week appalled members of the London Assembly asked Ken Livingstone how high was high.

"I may not be here in 18 months," he replied. "Any guarantee I give about what happens in 2012 is not worth the paper it is written on."

Yesterday, Tessa Jowell appeared to take it as read that Londoners would have to pay more.

"Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is a motherless child," runs the old saying. With the politicians and bureaucrats who promoted the games washing their hands and shrugging their shoulders, the London Olympics is already getting an orphaned feel to it.

11/24/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bitter truth may be that even when the stars are lined up and all the marketing tricks are pulled, London simply doesn't have a large enough audience to sustain intelligent theatre.

and yet "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" played to packed houses, David Hare continues to rake it in and so on ...

by the way "a Bond girl from the 1970s" is a celebrity that even Ant and Dec would be disappointed with. Presumably she's a mate of Nick's

11/24/2006 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Rosamund Pike was the villainess in Die Another Day (2002). So a bit more recent than the 1970s.

Still, the comment about population is bizarre. There are, IIRC, 10m people in London. The failure of one play hardly demonstrates that isn't enough to sustain intelligent theatre (how many people lived in London in Shakespeare's day, btw?). A further sign that Nick ought to stay away from commenting on the dramatic arts, I fear.

Anyway enough of that. What was Bruschetta Boy doing in a second hand book shop in Hove, anyway? ;)

11/24/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I am not going to get into a game of Twenty Questions here, I will confirm that the shop was within metropolitan London.

11/24/2006 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Nick's got a soft spot for Rosamund Pike - when the play came out he was gushing about her. I was unable to ascertain her views on the Iraq war and Islam, but I assume Nick must have before praising her. Or is it possible he is getting the Bond film confused with real life and thinks she is battling the North Koreans as we speak?

11/24/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm, Jon Pike is a second tier Decentist so maybe there is a friend-of-friend connection? Although it says on Wikipedia that she's an only child so if there is it's a tenuous one.

11/24/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick's drivel on Blair and "moral imperialism" is especially drivelly. I liked his assertion that imperialists don't think of themselves as moral because "Imperialism is the immoral subjugation of a conquered people by a foreign invader" -as if all the Victorian (and later) empire builders had black capes and twirly moustaches, and didn't think they were doing a decent , moral thing, bringing the benefits of civilisation to natives under the yoke of superstition and backward rulers. Also his assertion "Say what you like about the disasters of the second war against Saddam, but you can't deny that Blair was sincere in his desire to allow Iraqis to have free elections after almost 40 years of being subjugated by the Ba'ath Party." - err , if Blair was so keen on elections for Iraq, why did he say Saddam could stay in power if he obeyed the west before the war, why did he refuse to promise elections during the war, and why did he not complain when Bush announced Iraq was under occupation and would be ruled by a "coalition provisional authority", and why did Blair only back elections when Bush, terrified by a twin insurgency, finally allowed a vote , a couple of years after the invasion ?

11/24/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Mulholland said...

The British imperial mission, of course, allowed for free elections in the white dominions. Canada, Australia, etc were, of course, still very much part of Empire.

Indeed, the concept of Protectorates / Trusteeships etc meant that built into the justification of imperialism was preparation for constitutional self-determination. (Very like Iraq, as long as we allow that elections of themselves do not sovereign self-determination make).

Nick should really make an effort rather than relying upon dimly remembered Orwell essays for his confident dissections of the historical imperial mind-set.

11/24/2006 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IIRC, Islington responded to Tory rate-capping in the 80s (when it was one of the highest spending councils) with some bizarre financial measures - which included mortgaging lamp-posts. If I understand the situation now, Islington Council still has debts, and traffic wardens are probably privatised; parking tickets are a way of raising money. The situation Nick describes may be real, but it's a product of a) financial crisis and b) lack of joined-up government. The first is a legacy, and can't be helped, and the second is the absence of something which doesn't work anyway. (New Labour's joined-up government isn't an improvement on the other sort. It's still politics as office politics.) I think green politics has always acted as a "canting camouflage-for a moneymaking racket".

King hell - 'Summer and Smoke' isn't a Williams I've heard of; anyway, he's been filmed with better actors. Cardiff is a lot smaller than London, yet the one production I want to see has sold out. Not that Nick would consider a silly story about Dwarves and magic rings intelligent, even if it is in German.

"Imperialism is the immoral subjugation of a conquered people by a foreign invader." Ergo there is a non-immoral (is non-immoral necessarily moral? Discuss) "subjugation ... etc" Who supported the Iraq invasion, Nick? Nick is using 'immoral' as an alternative for 'cruel', when the important words are 'subjugation' and 'conquered' - as I'm sure he knows.

11/25/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Norman Geras doing a blog-post not long ago in which he also irritatedly rejected the idea that the Decent Left/neocon approach to Iraq and associated conflicts was imperialist. This is in stark contrast with e.g. Niall Ferguson who (though he's backtracked now) was one of the earliest proponents of invading Iraq and installing a democracy, a project he endorsed as part of a new programme of liberal western imperialism.

11/26/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just read the Islington traffic wardens piece. It's very odd. The sentence beginning "Everyone from West Londoners complaining..." is another of those where he distances himself from his own argument by voicing it as the argument of the common-sense Everyman (in this case, a resident of Kensington and Chelsea). Is the cause of reducing congestion on London's roads 'discredited'? IIRC there was a lot of hostility to the congestion charge from certain quarters on its introduction which mostly evaporated when it took effect, which suggests the argument has swung the other way.

11/26/2006 09:14:00 PM  

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