Monday, April 26, 2010

In the middle of the Earth...

For Splintered Sunrise

Thanks to SS for his comment on an earlier post, which I shall quote in its entirety, because I cannot improve on it. I believe he likes that sort of thing, so the song above is for him.

Holy piss, have you seen Nick's latest? Clegg is Frodo Baggins? I'll have what he's having.

Indeed, Nick comes out with a very bizarre column, which some readers (SS and Flying Rodent almost certainly) will recognise as much of the election gossip which has been passed around via Twitter repackaged in Nick's own words. Nick doesn't like the Liberal Democrats and he says every nasty thing he can think of, barring accusing their leader of making Heather Mills fall over.

Since SS made me read Nick (I managed to forget; I should do that more often), here are couple of things I think he'll like rather more than the 'Ballad of Bilbo Baggins'. (Don't assume that I listened to it. I just grabbed the embed code and fled.) Nick appears in Crispian Jago's Skeptic Trumps series which lists his 'Nemesis' [sic] as 'The New Statesman, Peter Hitchens.' I love it when a post comes together, and as it happens Peter Hitchens has written a very similar piece: Oh dear, the Tories now face an even better Blair imitator than Cameron. Hitchens at least remembered to be funny. He attributes the following to what an honest Tory would have said:

Having stressed that youth, good looks, a cool spouse and a relaxed manner were what really mattered in a would-be Premier, we have accidentally made the case for the Liberal Democrat leader.

Their columns are not dissimilar, but I find Hitchens a lot more convincing. Not only that but he manages to describe Nick's column before it was even published:

So the only way we can hope to win this Election is by smearing and denigrating our opponents,or by avoiding politics and concentrating on personality and Mrs Cameron’s dress sense.

OK, Nick doesn't actually bring Samantha Cameron into his column, but I defy any reader to find a policy discussed. I grant you, he mentions some second hand policies, such as immigration:

The Express meanwhile stuck to its favourite theme and claimed Clegg wanted to flood Britain with immigrants. Corrupt, foolish, a traitor to his nation – no punch was too wild for the press to throw.

Yes, but what is the LD immigration policy, and how does it differ from, say, Labour's? The Express didn't say, so Nick doesn't seem to know, or care.

At their behest, Tony Blair was tougher on crime than any prime minister since the abolition of the death penalty and Gordon Brown – thankfully – kept Britain out of the euro. Nor is their journalism always wrong. Liberals who complained that last week's assault on Clegg was "propaganda" played the old trick of confusing the motives of writers with the accuracy of their reporting. Just because a story is in the Telegraph does not mean it is not true and Clegg did indeed work for a ruthless lobbying firm that defended Fred the Shred's Royal Bank of Scotland and a logging company accused of hacking down the rainforests.

Isn't this straight back to "Cruel Britannia" territory? Blair the unprincipled? The 'and' in the first sentence puzzles me: I think he means. "At their behest, Tony Blair was tough on crime. Also, Gordon Brown kept Britain out of the Euro." Certainly, it was my understanding that Gordon Brown really did believe that entering the Euro would be a bad thing, and whatever else one might wish to say against him, did not do stay with the pound because of lobbying from press barons. If Nick means "At their behest... Gordon Brown..." then he's simply talking crap. Does Nick still write for the Standard, BTW? Hurrah for the Blackshirts, old boy. Know what I mean, know what I mean...

In summary then, while Nick seems to have read quite a few papers and blogs this week, he's quite stunningly uninformed about what any of the parties think. Of course, since he tried to call the election when he wrote "Waiting for the Etonians", he might just be a little pissed off if the Etonian party doesn't win.


Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ooh, just found this comment by 'flayman' here:

Yes, Evan Harris IS a well liked politician. So much so in fact that Nick Cohen, New Labour cheerleader and Guardian columnist, remarked at the Westminster Skeptics libel reform rally and celebration for Simon Singh that he found himself being seduced away from the Labour Party by the Lib Dem MP. I heard them both speak at that event, along with conservative Joanne Cash. All very good.

If true, it doesn't show. I was wrong in the post, BTW. Nick does mention a policy: withdrawal from Afghanistan. Apparently, we should stay and fight the Taliban indefinitely, on behalf of the women. It's a shame that this isn't the actual policy of any of the parties. Does any reader know of any reliably sourced information on whether (or not) UK Forces play any role at all in defending women from the Taliban?

4/26/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

At their behest, Tony Blair was tougher on crime than any prime minister since the abolition of the death penalty and Gordon Brown – thankfully – kept Britain out of the euro.

Yes, I can't work that out, either; imagine what it was like before it was subbed.

Am I the only one who can't find out what Nick is alluding to with the Letwin/LOTR thing? The only newspaper reference I can find is a Hadley Freeman piece from the 15th April (so cutting edge, is Nick) which says that a writer at the times came up with the idea, not Letwin, he just happened to be an example they used.

I am not going to be so stupid as to try to call this election

'Waiting for the Etonians'?

It's a shamefully lazy piece, I think. He seems to have more or less copied the 'argument' of Etonians, such as it was (Labour complacency and general liberal nastiness that i disapprove of have led directly to an inevitable tory landslide), and has just pasted it in unconvincing fashion onto the Tories who are now waiting for the Westminsterians or something, based on, er, how much Nick can smear the Lib Dems. The piece is totally at odds with its billing.

as you say, this bit really grates:

you do not have to be a deranged militarist to look at the Liberal Democrat front bench and suspect that they would, if they could, leave Afghan women to the mercy of the Taliban and feel very pleased with themselves as they did it.

This bears no relation to policy or fact. In a piece which elsewhere seems to beamoan right-wing media smears (and I can only really say 'seems' as I can't work out the overall message at all), this sits especially oddly. As you say, does Nick think that Labour policy is to be in Afghanistan indefinitely? Equally, that 'please with themeslves' thing is odd given how pleased Nick et al are with themselves for supporting the barbarities of the Iraq war.

Overall though I'd go even further than CC. It's not just staggeringly uninformed about policy, it's also woefully uninformed about both public opinion and, I'd argue, conservative thinking. It's not only Nick's imaginary Tories who are saying the following, is it:

We know you are disgusted with politics. We have spent the past 20 years giving you reasons to be disgusted. But please, no, not this, not the Liberal Democrats

From Nick's tone (at the end at least, and in the smeary bits) these are his thoughts exactly. But like so many cosy journos who exist in a bubble of people they're friends with based on political prejudices, he doesn't really know what to think about this spike in the polls.

the above - about Evan Harris - rings true, Nick seems to oscillate between parties depending on which politician has most recently told him that they're with him on libel.

4/26/2010 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Nick Cohen does bear a remarkable resemblance to one of the characters in Tolkein's saga.

4/26/2010 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Nick seems to have wobbled over to the Lib Dems in his Standpoint blog.

I asked an obvious question: Why shouldn't centre-left voters support Clegg rather than Brown?

Didn't he provide an answer on Sunday - because the Lib Dems would run from Afghanistan. But that's not an answer, because Labour policy says nothing about staying to protect women. I really get the impression that Nick hasn't read any of the parties manifestoes, and I thought this would be a requirement of going to their press conferences and asking questions. I'm not with this kind of journalism, obviously.

4/26/2010 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Nick's method of filtering out the good politicians from the bad is a curious one. I mean, Ian Paisley voted against the Digital Economy Bill, but I didn't notice a rush of posts on Liberal Conspiracy bigging up the DUP. And incidentally, while I don't mind Joanne Cash - she's from my neck of the woods - I don't think her stance on libel reform would tempt me to back the Tories. Isn't David Davis a big name in the libel reform campaign too?

Nice clip. Leonard's later folk albums were actually rather good. Somewhere I have him singing "I Walk The Line".

4/26/2010 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I can't even work out from that piece if he's with the Lib Dems. He doesn't seem to have done any research on the election whatsoever; everything seems so depressingly behind the game. I think that nick, along with a lot of other journos whio have previously been ultra-confident in predicting a tory landslide, is he's hedging his bests so that he can claim to have been right whatever happens.

I asked him directly on that same blog a while back why he wouldn't vote Lib Dem and he said that he's voting Labour 'because of Iraq'; I still think he will, he just doesn't know what to write in the meantime. Incidentally, where have these 'good resaons' that the Lib Dems opposed Iraq with come from? Anyone got a copy of What's Left to hand?

I'd take that entire piece with a pinch of sat because if there's one thing Nick hates more than the NS it's Gordon Brown, and Ed 'Gordon's best mate' Balls was conducting the press conference.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if that 'brief mumble about social justice' was rather more than that, given that it's the exact same argument Cohne uses later on (about Lib Dems are the party of the middle classes).

4/26/2010 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

From another Torygraph blog comment:

Don’t you think it looks a bit suspicious when 20 out of the last 24 blogs topics are smear attacks on Clegg and the new Dems?

Nick: Nor is their journalism always wrong. Liberals who complained that last week's assault on Clegg was "propaganda" played the old trick of confusing the motives of writers with the accuracy of their reporting. Yes, I'm sure the Torygraph is out to be accurate in this. Cristina Odone's entire argument, if it can be called that, seemed to be that Evan Harris (who impressed Nick) is known by some people as "Dr Death." Pretty hard to disprove, so we'll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's factually accurate. I won't share what Ms Odone is known as chez Weeden as there may be children reading.

4/26/2010 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Cristina Odone a lot more than I like Evan Harris, and anyone who knows about Cristina's family knows she has very good reason to feel strongly about euthanasia. It was still a pretty slapdash piece of writing on her part.

There are plenty of wacky positions in the Lib Dem closet for anyone who wants to really get stuck into them. But it helps if you can use sophisticated journalistic techniques, like Google.

4/26/2010 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Were I a more tasteful individual, I would pass on the following joke. Is Ms Odone concerned about euthanasia because her journalistic output suggests she's in a persistent vegetative state? Evan Harris seems OK - for precisely the reasons Nick gives.

4/26/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

He's not Gollum. He's Grima Wormtongue.

4/26/2010 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Odone is a little shit whose sole virtue is that she doesn't like the Blairite clique. I quite like Evan Harris, as it goes, Lib Dem though he be.

4/26/2010 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Tolkien refs here and in the linked NS article (from 2005, when LotR was topical though).

Nick's sentence about Brown and Euro doesn't seem at all ambiguous to me. The principle of charity can't mean that no-one ever writes anything that's just plain wrong, shurely?

Hitchens is reasonably funny, but this business about Clegg following Cameron as a Blair imitator was pretty well done to death at the time he (and before that Cameron) was selected, wasn't it?

I'd have a bit more sympathy for him if he remembered his concern about the railways, which was a good chapter in his cringily-titled The Broken Compass (could be worse, could be the Pregnant Widow). He's a bit confused about Markets (and pseudo-market privatisations), is Peter - esp. since he considers Thatcherism to have been so inimical to his RC social-conservative agenda.

(More Tolkien parallels, please - surely there must be some belly laughs to be had there.)

4/26/2010 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Andy: who?

4/26/2010 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Next some sod will tell me that there isn't a bit in LOTR where "In the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum! and the evil one/crept up and slipped away with her/Yeah, yeah". That MUST be in there somewhere. I have read the book; I've even seen the cartoon film which came out in the 70s, though I haven't seen the recent efforts. So I'm afraid my knowledge of the characters depends on Leonard Nimoy and Messrs Page and Plant.

4/26/2010 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She's concerned about euthanasia because of the trouble her brother had with the medical profession.

In any case, and passing on Dr Harris for the time being, I can't stand the bloody Lib Dems, although for different reasons than Nick. If I were to pick out a reason, it would be the noxious combination of incredible opportunism with incredible sanctimoniousness. Plus those bloody bar charts.

Nick, on the other hand, is all about his hobbyhorse of the moment. Had he got talking to David Davis at a libel reform gig, would he now be puffing up Tory libertarianism?

And yeah, the Tolkien seam must be rich for mining.

4/26/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

"...incredible sanctimoniousness..." Damn them, damn them to hell for crowding Odone's territory.

4/26/2010 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

She's concerned about euthanasia because of the trouble her brother had with the medical profession.

Could you elaborate on that? First, I can't find any record of trouble with the medical profession. Though, IMO, keeping her half-brother alive seems incredibly selfish and cruel given that, according to the Daily Telegraph, Occasionally it was possible to discern a nuance in Lorenzo's largely unchanging expression that seemed to signal a response to what was going on around him ... Basically, he was dead. I'd certainly rather be in that condition.

But, given that Odone really revolts me, I can't refrain from being tasteless.

He was dressed for the day and undressed at night, his parents striving to replicate the normal rounds and routines of a growing boy.

Bloody hell!

4/26/2010 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

It seems the relentlessly humourless nature of LOTR infects any attempt to get a rise out of it. That and the fact that there isn't really any characterisation to speak of.

Got a chortle out of the reminder of those Led Zep lyrics, though.

(But hang on a minute - sanctimoniousness? HTF did that make it into the top 50 political sins?)

4/26/2010 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous hellblazer said...

Back when Odone used to have an Observer column and I could still read it without feeling an incipient aneurysm, I remember her mentioning her family's experiences with the plight of her half-brother. (Nick Nolte was Pater Odone in the film version, I seem to recall?)

While this may explain (or justify, depending on your POV) her "concerns regarding euthanasia", I don't see how it explains her grating writing style, her breathtaking extrapolation from her circle of acquaintances and personal connaissances to Obvious Truths, and her seeming belief (in those columns) that Someone Must Stand Up For The Rich and Conservative People, Dagnabit.

(I seem to remember her invoking FSFitzgerald approvingly while claiming that hoi aristoi did exist, were richer, and were better. She presumably was on Tom Buchanan's side; don't know if she thought Fitzgerald was too.)

4/26/2010 09:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps lebensunwertes Leben would be the correct phrase. Strange, that those who are so down on judgementalism are quick to judge a family for not having one of their own put down.

Actually, Harris really revolts me, so on this we'll just have to agree to disagree.

4/26/2010 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...


I was comparing Nick to Grima.

4/26/2010 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Ah, OK. Probably obvious - just that I'd mentioned Gollum Brown on the previous thread.

I see some resemblance, but to continue the theme of insisting on strict parallelism, Nick Wormtongue doesn't really have anyone's ear, does he. Nor much of an agenda, sinister or otherwise, so far as is discernible.

General Q: this libel reform campaign - do they have specific demands? I'd be interested to know what they are since the matter is far from clear cut.

4/26/2010 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Er, no agenda apart from the usual Decent stuff, that is.

4/26/2010 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Oh yeah, and the stuff about defending women from the Taliban is bollocks, but I assume the idea is that the war will be won and a feminist government installed. Obviously when this happy day comes, the death and misery involved will have a line drawn under it, forward not back, etc.

4/26/2010 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

The specific thing I've always loathed Odone for is writing about how she is obviously morally superior to other people who don't believe in God, because she does. I think that spirit infects pretty much everything she writes. She also likes very much to play the everybody's-picking-on-the-Church routine.

It's not just that she's sanctimonious, it's that she's pious, with all the negative connotations that that term possesses. Same sort of piety that Tony Blair possesses.

4/27/2010 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oh, Tony Blair = Saruman.

A certain website = Shelob's Lair.

4/27/2010 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...


4/27/2010 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Bloody hell, Matthew, that comes with a video which looks like a Tory PPB. (And it's no worse than the 'hung parliament party' one.) I have nothing good to say about Pollard.

SS, we can agree to disagree, but could you share your reasons for not liking Evan Harris? Justin's been eloquent on the shortcomings on Ms Odone. (I realise that I meant to describe Nick's Observer piece as "unsullied by personal observation or original thought" - a description which can be applied to everything Odone has ever typed, IMO. I wanted to subject myself to Catholic snobbery, I'd read any of Waughs, a least they have some idea of prose composition.)

4/27/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Oh, on the subjects of Catholics, families, snobbery, and death I read the following today and it's so good that I have to share it. (I need to start blogging again.)

One bright morning in 1961 at Hyannis beside the cold sea, after a vigorous game of backgammon, which I won, John F. Kennedy sat back, lit a cigar in the respite before his brother Bobby's arrival from his house within the Kennedy compound.
"Your uncle Lefty Lewis..." Jack began.
"Not my uncle..."
"But he's Jackie's uncle..."
"He's not her uncle either. He was married to our stepfather's sister, where he got the money to collect Walpole."
...."Anyway," he went on, "somebody's uncle, Wilmarth Lewis, spent his life collecting Horace Walpole, said to me, the other day, about the eighteenth century, his speciality, that, uh, how do you explain how a sort of backwoods country like this, with only three million people, could have produced the three great geniuses of the eighteenth century - Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton?"
"Time. They had more of it," I said. "They stayed home on the farm in winter. They read. Wrote letters. Apparently, thought, something no longer done - in public life."
Jack's mind skipped about. "You know in this, uh, job... I get to meet everybody - all these great movers and shakers and the thing I'm most struck by the lot of them is how second-rate they are. Then you read all those debates over the Constitution... nothing like that now. Nothing." I would be nice if he or I had come to a conclusion that morning but we did not. I did note, like John Adams, that our Constitution and laws were deeply grounded in England: "Anglo-Saxon attitudes," I said.
Jack grunted. Although something of an anglophile, he was still an Irish Catholic.

Clearly, I chose the wrong uncles. Anglo-Saxon or otherwise, we don't have debates like that here now, either. (I assume JFK meant political geniuses. There were many genii in the 18th century. Carl Linnaeus, Edward Jenner, David Hume, Voltaire, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and so on and indeed so forth.)

4/27/2010 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Werner Lotze said...

"The right has only itself to blame...."

I don't understand. I thought the liberal left were to blame for everything

4/27/2010 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Courtesy of Twitter, here's a useful guide to Evan Harris. Not, incredibly, a parody. We can has new leader now?

4/28/2010 06:31:00 AM  

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