Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Identity crisis

Nick Cohen, at some Evening Standard debate or other:

"Mr Cohen claimed that many black and Asian middle-class people actually benefited from their ethnicity in the workplace. He remarked: "The only affirmative action no one ever talks about is affirmative action on behalf of the working classes."

Aside from a) apparently having confused the USA with here and b) providing yet another data point on his transformation into the worst kind of pub bore, Nick is once more trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Most of the time he is a tribune of the middle class (by which he means households with an income of £100,000) and is largely concerned with grammar schools as a means for teenagers to get into Oxford and Cambridge universities. But from time to time he decides to portray himself as being a scion of the working class. Which is it, Nick? Usually, it is the Observer readers who get the class warrior from Altrincham, and the Standard readers who get the Islingtonian Everyman. But not always, as this comment shows.

I don't know why, but I find it strangely reminiscent of this sort of thing from Aaro - this column would not be particularly odd if written by a Jewish humorist like Howard Jacobson or someone, but David Aaronovitch is not Jewish and has quite regularly made quite important political points based on this fact (I most clearly remember him writing about it in the context of him being asked to sign a "Jews for Justice For Palestinians" petition or some such). To be honest (and I think I've said this before), if Aaro does want to get closer to the Jewish part of his heritage, more power to him - my only axe to grind here is that I think his half-in, half-out status with respect to his gig at the JC does have an effect on some of his other views - particularly, I think it tends him toward taking more militant and less defensible positions with respect to Israel when it does something nasty than his actual politics would mandate. But that's just a pat hypothesis based on no real evidence.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Altrincham? Fergus Montgomery's old constituency? Being a class warrior in Alti would be a very unrewarding way to spend your time, not to mention lonely. (Timperley, now...)

1/23/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Nick Cohen went to Altrincham Grammar School - maybe he lived in Timperley or somewhere

1/24/2008 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's surprising how many people - I assume from reading right-wing American journals - are under the impression that Britain has a large system of Affirmative Action, and has had so for many years.

1/24/2008 08:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The panellists had a lively debate on "affirmative action" - a policy proposed by Bevan Powell, deputy chairman of the Met's Black Pol ice Association - to increase the number of black people recruited to the police.


Mr Johnson said he was in favour of the policy but claimed targets and quotas were unnecessary as they were "too prescriptive".

So Boris is in favour of this. And Nick isn't. But Nick is voting for Boris. How does all of that work again?

Also, there are a lot of initiatives designed to get working-class people to apply for, and to get into, Oxbridge for example. And are no policemen working-class? the attitude makes no sense.

Affirmitave action debates are truly tedious and not really that applicable to Britain, as anyone who managed to finish 'On Beauty' by Zadie Smith will attest.

1/24/2008 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Decent cogdis detected over at James Graham's; so if it's so evil to be pals with Hugo Chavez according to the Staggers, why is said journal's merchandising donating money to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign?

1/24/2008 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I could take his mock outrage over people assuming he was Jewish just because of his political positions (Israel, war on terror, etc) a bit more seriously if he didn't write his strange little columns for the JC. You can't act Jewish, write for a Jewish paper, have a Jewish name - and then act surprised that people assume you are Jewish.

1/24/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't "act" Jewish, Cian? What does "acting" Jewish mean?

1/24/2008 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

"Acting Jewish" would be writing articles like the one linked to. Its a pretty weird thing for a non Jew to write. That's not to say he can't write it, but...

1/24/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does "acting" Jewish mean?

give over, anonymous. There might not be many things that could legitimately be described as "acting Jewish", but writing a column for the Jewish Chronicle about the Jewish community in Britain, which you regularly refer to in the first person plural, surely has to be one of them.

1/24/2008 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The panellists had a lively debate on "affirmative action" - a policy proposed by Bevan Powell, deputy chairman of the Met's Black Pol ice Association - to increase the number of black people recruited to the police.

and that's the context in which Nick decided that nobody was interested in recruiting working class whites? He's not even doing his audience the courtesy of a second's thought before trotting out the canned talking points.

1/24/2008 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger roGER said...

Howard Jacobson humorous?!?



2/01/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Howard Jacobson is a genuinely humourous writer as shown by his hilarious column in the Independent. I particularly like it when he introduces a couple of funny-sounding Yiddish words like "schnozzle" or "nebbish" into an otherwise unrelated article, to remind us how actual Jewish people really talk. It's such a good joke that I'm really disappointed on the rare occasions that he doesn't do it.

2/04/2008 02:02:00 AM  

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