Monday, May 17, 2010

Good god, what happened?

I'm thinking of returning to blogging under my own name again, and I occasionally scan the referer files of my site. (Oh OK, that's the home page I use on Safari.) And so I came across Curse Those Islingtonistas! pre Aaro Watch Nick Cohen blogging, by me. I was going to call this, 'Nothing Changes' because back in July 2005 Nick was banging on about the abysmal state [school] system and why religious education is better. But what strikes me as really odd now is just how much I agreed with the first half of his column from January that year.

I live in an area which isn't so much a place made up of streets on the map and people on the electoral register as a curse on and shorthand for all that is wrong with Britain. I live in Islington. If you believe most of the politicians and journalists you will hear in the run-up to the general election, 'Islington' and the 'liberal elite' who slurp their lattes in its cafes are responsible for depraving the morals of the public and sapping the strength of the nation.
The limp-wristed are surprisingly strong. In the past few months, Robert Kilroy-Silk reported with rage a survey of the 'metropolitan media elite' which found that they are 'invariably left-wing, live in north London - Camden and Islington - [and] read the Guardian.' The Daily Telegraph described the decision of Islington council to change the name of St Mary Magdalene School because the 'saint' was divisive as a 'symptom of something very sick'. Other cuttings show that the liberal elite is responsible for drug addiction, crime, yobbishness, sluttishness, incivility, insolence and ignorance.

Tony Blair asserts that 'people have had enough of this part of the 1960s consensus'. New Labour will appeal to 'hard-working families' in the election campaign with some good promises on childcare and the usual 'eye-catching initiatives' on ID cards, asylum seekers and the rest. Launching the Conservative pre-election push on Tuesday, Michael Howard said that he wanted to talk to the abandoned Britain, the slighted Britain, the hard-working, law-abiding Britain of the 'forgotten majority'.

I've been dissecting this humbug for so long I can do it in my sleep now.

All excellent stuff. What's odd is that he went on -

The few gentrified streets did once house members of the leftish intelligentsia.

But since the property bubble inflated, the old Islington middle class is being steadily replaced by partners in City law firms, venture capitalists and Spectator journalists with their harems of mistresses.

(He then moved to attacking the anti-war left, yada, yada, yada.) But in July, he wrote:

Surrounded as I am by New Labour's Islington supporters, ...

It seems unlikely to me that "venture capitalists and Spectator journalists" are "New Labour's Islington supporters" so something must have changed. Also in January, most of Islington was "miserable". In July, it was "a far cry from Islington to the slums of the north."

It's like he was abducted and replaced by a pod person who just repeated the usual received wisdom about North London sometime in between. Also, it's interesting that Michael Howard talked about the 'forgotten majority' - a group which Ed Miliband seems to have just discovered. Tory Manifesto 2005 = Next Labour Manifesto 2015?


Blogger flyingrodent said...

I've said this before to tumbleweeds, but Nick acts like this because he is for real steeped in Yankee Wingnuttery and culture war.

Conjuring forth great armies of posh, up-their-own-arse liberals then rattling on about their hilariously ethnic foodstuffs and contempt for the working man is Ye Oldest Trick in Ye Wingnutte Booke. It allows the speaker to claim for himself the mantle of defender of the put-upon, against the delusions of the very wealthy, who naturally agree with whatever the speaker is saying.

Whether these awful liberals exist or the man in the street gives a damn about Nick's schtick is 100% irrelevant. No doubt there's plenty of this awful, transparently fake class hostility bullshit in left-wing prattle, but it's primarily the domain of the world's Sarah Palins now. Hence, Nick too.

5/18/2010 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/18/2010 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick was banging on about the abysmal state [school] system and why religious education is better

Presumably Nick's failure to notice that Tory plans for 'free schools' (vociferously supported by HP Sauce, kerching) will directly lead to more 'faith schools' is unrelated to the fact that one of Nick's closest political 'friends' is Michael Gove.

I've said this a few times on here, but I don't understand Nick's relationship with Islington. He seems to genuinely despise the place, whether it's full (in his head) of tories or anti-war liberals.

This is a classics wingnut trick, as flying rodent says, but it's a classic trick from all sides of the political map - invent a caricature to argue with, because it's easier to do that than genuinely engage with one's politicla opponents. What's sadest is that Nick used to be able - and willing to recognise this in others and also himself. Now he's most definitely part of the problem.

See the link to Jenny Diski I put on the other thread for similar stuff as the good half of Nick's column above. Weirdly, Nick (from 'Etonians' above all, but also what's left) seems to agree now that 'the limp-wristed are surprisingly strong'.

5/19/2010 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why does Islington have 2xLabour MPs and a council with 35 Labour councillors and 13 Liberals if everyone here's so right-wing?

I would guess that NC's beef probably has something to do with Jeremy Corbyn, and a hypothetical slight shown him in the context of 1980s London Labour politics. I say hypothetical because we can't see it or derive direct evidence for it, but it's the most parsimonious theory that explains the anomalous wobble in the orbit of Planet Cohen, which we can observe.

5/19/2010 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was there a misprint?

Shouldn't Nick's book have been titled 'Waiting for the Eustonians'?

5/19/2010 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I live in Camden in a council flat <(but in a nice area as I've said before). LB of Islington is about 50 yards from me front door.

The thing about Camden & Islington is million pound houses exist in very close proximity to big council estates with bad social problems.

Martin Amis lives in huge house a quarter of a mile from the council estate where the "Camden Ripper" plied his trade. Across the road from where Alastair Campbell and Fiona Miller live is the start of the Gospel Oak and West Kentish Town estates, the biggest council estates in Camden. A quarter of a mile from Patricia Hewitt's million pound house are estates dating back to the '30s

As yorkranter says Islington and Camden are overwhelmingly Labour boroughs (in the '80s Islington was known as "the people's republic of Islington"). Since it was formed Camden in 1971 has always had a Labour council, only in 2005 did we have a Lib-Con coaltion voted in cos of disgust with New Labour and they got chucked out earlier this month.

I drink in a, ahem, "working mans" pub in Islington. (I don't particularly want to drink in this pub but every other pub round here has been converted into a gastro pub and I can't afford beer that is nearly four quid a pint)

Politics rarely features in conversations in the pub, Arsenal and the gee-gees are the principal interest. But when Iraq or Afghanistan come up the overwhelming opinion is "we should bring our boys home". These are not the latte slurping, bruschetta munching middle class, these are the Guiness drinking, chippy customer proles speaking.

Incidentally, I see the Labour leadership candidates have gone big on "re-connecting with our core vote" and propose to do this via immigrant and benefit claimant bashing.

I won't pretend that immigration is not a subject that sometimes generates anger and, occasionally racism. But this is largely due to migrant labour undercutting the jobs and wages of ordinary working people.

(The pub has a large number of Irish punters and for a while they had a catchphrase they'd use when anyone was moaning about anything: "A Pole has nicked me job! A Pole has nicked me job!")

As for benefits, I hardly ever here them mentioned. There is a black economy, a grey economy and a straight economy and you work the system whatever way you can. If you are fiddling the attitude is 'why not screw a system that is always trying to screw you?'

Anyways that's me vox pop.

This has been a long and rather inchoate post. Sorry about that.

Bascially what Mr Flying MacRodent, what he said.

5/20/2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

God knows which pigeonhole I'd get stuffed into if I met Nick in person. My politics fall firmly into the OMG latte-sucking bruschetta-munchers category, yet I come from a family of mechanics, bus drivers, builders, repair men etc.

I rent a (very cheap) flat with Mrs. Rodent - daughter of four generations of coalminers - in one of the swankiest bits of Edinburgh, yet I've lived in some of the grimmest parts of dundee and I grew up in a council house. I went to a state school where kids were regularly suspended for being drunk in class and shagging in the toilets and battering each other, but made it onto one of those awful arts courses... And all it's got me is a some smart-mouth book-larnin' and a salary below the national average.

So what's that, working class lad made good through education or bien-pensant Middle Class Liberal Whose Tendency To Pay Lip Service To Human Rights For blah blah blah Is So Common In Our Times? Feel free to think up worse.

BTW, if any of you ever read the NME or the Melody Maker in the 90's, I recall the letters page being basically a bunch of well-educated middle class people denouncing each other for being well-educated and middle class. I think there's more than a touch of that with Nick's patter.

5/20/2010 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

FlyingRodent - it's quite obvious that you are someone who has lost touch with their roots. In contrast, other people from working class backgrounds, even if they have gone on to be ludricously rich or powerful, have kept their love of jellied eels and capital punishment (or their regional equivalents) and are therefore still the salt of the earth etc.

5/21/2010 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Nick was banging on about the abysmal state [school] system"

Camden state schoolgraduates:

William Ellis School: ahem, David Aaronovitch.

and,I mean,just look at them all...

Camden School for Girls:

Haverstock School:

(we all know how bad Haverstock School is from Andrew Anthony don't we?)

David Miliband, Ed Miliband,
Oona King, Joe Cole, Ben Wheatley
Julian Doyle, Tulisa Contostavlos,
Dino Contostavlos, Richard Rawson

5/21/2010 09:05:00 AM  

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