Friday, May 07, 2010

Time to chuck our toys out of our prams

What Malky Muscular said of Oliver Kamm.

This is a time not for calm reflection and for taking stock, but for recrimination and bitterness. The first thing that Gordon Brown should do is step down. He is unlikely to do so, I fear, and will instead waste time trying to form a government. Partly this is because of Labour's baroque constitutional procedures, but mainly it's because he can't grasp what's in the party's best interests. Being a failure, he will be embraced by Labour with sentimentality and gratitude. It's the successes, notably Brown's immediate predecessor, whom the party can't forgive.

The thing I like about that paragraph is that I disagree with every sentence. Yes, even the bit about GB standing down. While there's hope for a Lib-Lab pact or progressive partnership, Labour needs a leader. (If Brown resigned, who would deal with Clegg? Probably Mandelson, and I definitely don't want that.) Brown is entitled to form a government, no possible combination looks workable, but Lib-Lab might at least deliver PR and keep Osbourne out of Number 11 - it's not a waste of time. Although the Labour Party's constitutional procedures are baroque, that's not a reason to stop Brown resigning: it didn't stop Blair, Kinnock, Foot, Callaghan, and Wilson from doing so (Wilson also resigned as PM mid-term). What seems to be in the best interests of the party to me is trying to form a government, but Oliver thinks that's a waste of time. (Which it may ultimately be because the looming debt crisis probably will make the incumbent party unelectable in future. I wouldn't like to sell that reason to backbench MPs or activists though.) I think Brown's deeply flawed, and not at all a good leader, but if I could arrange for Brown to debate the best interests of the party with Oliver Kamm, my money would be on the PM.

Of course it's the last sentence I really disagree with. People like Atlee, Bevan, Bevin, Michael Young, and more controversially to most of you, Roy Jenkins seem to have been not only forgiven, but embraced, by the people's party. Damn them for winning in 1945, setting up the Health Service, and so on. I consider Roy Jenkins to have been a huge success.

Jenkins refused to authorise the birching of prisoners and was responsible for the relaxation of the laws relating to divorce, abolition of theatre censorship and gave government support to David Steel's Private Member's Bill for the legalisation of abortion and Leo Abse's bill for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Wilson, with his puritan background, was not especially sympathetic to these developments, however. Jenkins replied to public criticism by asserting that the so called permissive society was in reality the civilised society.

There are past leaders the party can't forgive. At least one anyway. Oliver likes him; I do not. I think that's for reasons quite other than success or failure and a lot more to do with political orientation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other Jenkinswin: abolition of the death penalty, and issuing every cop with a radio.

5/07/2010 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

BTW, I'm entirely sure that Oliver Kamm's published opinions are his alone, and to suggest otherwise would no doubt be defamatory, but here by strange coincidence is the view of a Mr Rupert Murdoch from Australia. Both think Brown should resign. Of course, Brown is only, as the Sun points out, a Scot, so practically a foreigner, no better than swan-eating Eastern Europeans, or 'pikeys' as former Sun columnist and friend of Nick Cohen refers to some of them, and refusing to leave Number 10 is quite unprecedented by stout yeomen of pure English blood.

5/08/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

(Of course, *swan* eating is barbaric and completely different from duck-eating.)

(Yes, I'm vegetarian.)

5/08/2010 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Couscous Kid said...

Over at CiF, Nick has just called for a Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

5/08/2010 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

No, fuck it, I read Nick's first sentence and bugger the rest. "Liberal Democrats are facing an awful choice today, and the temptation to duck it will be enormous." Charlotte Gore also makes the case for LD-Con, no more convincingly, and I rather like her though in a she-often-annoys-me way. Despite Charlotte Gore, I think voting reform really is a precondition. And I read a bit more of NC: to me the minimum Clegg should want is Cable, not Osbourne, as Chancellor. (Mind you, I think Cameron should want the same; wouldn't you want the best possible cabinet?) As I see Cameron's offer, it's hardly 'moving the Lib Dems into office'.

5/08/2010 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The results of the local elections suggest that Labour is not quite as unpopular as it was in 2006. The facts don't necessarily support the idea that Blair was a wonderful success the failures are all Brown's fault.


5/08/2010 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Cohen appears to be saying that the Tories are a bunch of dreadful reactionaries, but the Lib Dems should still go into coalition with them because (a) Gordon Brown's got a nasty temper and (b) it would be Doing Something, which is invariably mature, responsible, realistic and generally a good thing, regardless of what the Something actually is. He's becoming a prize twit.

(Just realised that I'd unconsciously demoted him to surname terms.)

5/08/2010 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

anyone else think this might have soemthing to do with his last book? I mean, reprints of a book entitled 'waitign for the etonians' are rather unlikely if Labour say in number 10.

also the events of the last 12 months have proven that his thesis - labour are doomed to a crushing tory defeat because some liberals opposed iraq - is pretty much entirely wrong.

5/09/2010 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Phil, excellent analysis. Nick really does seem to favour "doing something" as if this were an insight which has escaped the rest of the world.

OC: yep. I think I've said it before too. Interesting that Nick has no policy on Iraq or Afghanistan, other than sticking to the status quo. Both countries need something radical, but I imagine that it's our job, as critics of going in in the first place to suggest a fix now.

5/09/2010 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I think you have mentioned that 'Etonians' thing before, now i come to think of it... On Iraq, I think the idea is that even suggesting anything about exits = appeasement of misogyny, or something.

Incidentally I thought Emma Brockes, she of the Chomsky-fabricating interview, did pretty well with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Guardian yesterday. I still can't quite work out why people take Hirsi Ali seriously as an 'intelligent critic of Islam' - she's been through an awful lot, and her bravery should be applauded, but that doesn't make her any less of a narrow-minded gobshite who bases her 'rational, enlightenment-based opinions' purely on, er, her individual experiences.

5/09/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

swan-eating is a Bad Thing?

5/09/2010 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

she's been through an awful lot, and her bravery should be applauded, but that doesn't make her any less of a narrow-minded gobshite who bases her 'rational, enlightenment-based opinions' purely on, er, her individual experiences.

indeed - if personal fortitude in the face of horrific intimidation were an indicator of a sensible or worthwhile commentator, we'd all be McCain voters, instead of just Nick.

5/09/2010 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

This part of the Ali interview is pretty chucklesome - about Oriana Fallaci...

"I don't feel that there is guilt by association. And I don't think that human beings are perfect. If Oriana Fallaci wrote – and I have to confess she gave me her books in Italian and I don't read Italian – but if she made these remarks that Christopher says cross the line, it still doesn't mean that she was wrong in her analysis of Islam. OK, she did make mistakes, but she is more of an ally than an enemy." She continues: "If I say, OK, from now I am only going to associate with people who I agree with 100%, that's a very small group of people."

Which is a pretty hilarious way of saying "It's fine when I hang around with a gaggle of mad, race-fixated conspiracy theorists", more or less the Decent line on yer Douglas Murrays and Martin Amises. We are allowed to hang out with race-baiting lunatics and religious bigots, but Will You Condemn Tariq Ramadan etc. etc. ad infinitum.

After all, Fallaci was right at the forefront of the "OMG is this a ravening horde of scimitar-waving Muslamian hive-mind mentalists coming to eat the children of Eurabia I see before me" movement. How exactly this kind of thing is compatible with those Enlightenment values of reason and rational thought is beyond me...

Unless, of course, "Enlightenment values", "reason" and "rationality" are used by certain noteworthy individuals with deranged opinions as slang for "My opinions". Blow me down, I think it is!

n.b. Note here a perfect example of the Decent use of "western feminists", as in "western feminists reckon genital mutilation is brilliant", actually being code for "Germaine Greer". See also Clive James and Nick Cohen, who have both written epic screeds attacking "western feminists" despite clearly meaning "Germaine Greer".

5/10/2010 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

indeed - if personal fortitude in the face of horrific intimidation were an indicator of a sensible or worthwhile commentator, we'd all be McCain voters, instead of just Nick.

And of course with both you have to take their account on faith, despite conflicting accounts.

5/10/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Have Clive and Germaine fallen out then? I thought they were still old friends. Mind you I might be a bit out of touch at my end of Islington.

5/10/2010 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

We've had this about Clive James and Germaine Greer before. Certainly as late as 2005 they were described as still life-long friends and accomplices. Clothes for Chaps has had a dig at Dr Greer, discussed here. And we discussed feminism with respect to Decency here.

OK, looking at the Andrew Anthony piece, apparently, according to Decent mythology (I'll check it out in a bit) Germain Greer has defended female circumcision as a 'cultural' thing. So it is possible that the attacks on 'Western Feminists' are coded references to Dr Greer. However, I'm more inclined to believe that they're - ahem - straw women. (See the Martin Amis thread where we have: Amis said he had been told it would get him "in trouble with the feminists", but he insisted that it was actually "a very feminist book" and that "they haven't got a case". Which I still find bizarre.)

Oh gorsh, her new book is called Nomad. Will she find that she's as as imperfect as all the other. biological units?

This is odd: The people who believe themselves to be on the left, and who defend the agents of Islam in the name of tolerance and culture, are being rightwing. Not just rightwing. Extreme rightwing.

5/10/2010 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Here's Dr Greer via the BBC:

She said that women should have the right to undergo genital mutilation as a form of "self-decoration" and posed the question: "If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?"

Now, I think she's got her 'freedom to' and 'freedom from' mixed up. I support the case she presents in so far as it resembles the Spanner case.

"Equating the forcible clitoridectomy of an eight-year-old girl with the voluntary body-piercing of an American teenager is absurd. ["] Unnamed member of the Commons International Development Select Committee. I think they're right, of course.

A resolution against female genital mutilation was passed by the World Health Organisation in 1994, and charities including Womankind Worldwide say that the practice contravenes UNICEF's convention on the rights of the child.

In her recent book, The Whole Woman, Ms Greer argued that attempts to outlaw the practice amounted to "an attack on cultural identity", adding: "One man's beautification is another man's mutilation."

Well, of course, Greer is partly being a controversialist, and is partly talking about how women may mutilate themselves to meet some abstract ideal of Western society. It seems absurd to me to get upset about this. Hirsi Ali seems to be arguing that no one in the West cares -- which seems very hard to justify when there's an international movement to outlaw genital mutilation.

Besides as her Wikipedia page notes: As UN workers in East Uganda found, women would not abandon female circumcision until some similarly significant procedure could take its place. Eight seems young for a rite of passage, but we still raise children on rituals.

Hirsi Ali draws a line from her grandmother, a nomad who followed the tribal religious code, to her mother, caught between tribalism and modernity, to what she hopes would be her daughter's uncomplicated relationship with the west. "She would," she says, "not have to deal with the identity crisis that I and my mother had to deal with."

I think that show almost total lack of comprehension of being 'Western'. If you can raise a child without any identity crises, good luck to you...

5/10/2010 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

I'm more inclined to believe that they're - ahem - straw women.

Yes, that's what I was getting at. Scan the articles I'm talking about and count the "western feminists" who are named, and you end up with "Germaine Greer" and, well, that's it.

Perhaps these authors couldn't be bothered to search for all these ringing endorsements of genital mutilation. Given that they're generally condemning these western feminists for the things they don't say, I'm suspicious that they're not named because they don't exist.

5/10/2010 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yeah. I'm not quite sure what GG's point is, but it's a bit of "don't go telling women what to do" and "don't go around banning things when you don't know why they're there" both of which make sense to me. AHA's case seems a bit like saying, "Well, I don't like prostitutes and I think men shouldn't use them, so let's ban prostitution and all will be well." But there is, of course, a demand for prostitution, and there may well be a demand for some kind of brutal rite - especially as FGM seems to be practiced largely among peoples living brutal lives.

I had my own disagreement with Germaine Greer once. But at least I've never confused 'I disagree with Germaine Greer' with 'I think all feminists are feeble-minded traitors.' And what was that crap about intellectuals having responsibilities?

5/10/2010 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

i can't help thinking of the name 'Gita Saghal' wne seeing Decents line up to denounce 'Western feminists'.

GG's point is a petty, controversialist one - we shouldn't ban this because there's a chance someone might actively want it, and stopping women from having things isn't what feminism is about'. That, for me, is different from cultural relativism - it's pointless nitpicking for the sake of argument. Something that Nick Cohen in particular knows a fair bit about.

I can't help thinking that AHA doesn't do much research at all. Brockes might not have done too much either, but she, almost uniquely for someone interviewing AHA, at least half-mentioned that AHA's take on Greer is very one-sided and not particularly fair. So much for enlightenment reason. the people who most vociferously champion it seem to overwhelmingly write polemic and untrustworthy memoirs...

That Cohen link is priceless with this thread in mind:

this very night I am sending a book to the publishers which is based on the notion that the Tories will win the next election.

5/10/2010 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

These are sound points, but I think they miss the more important question of "Who gives a shit what Germaine Greer thinks about anything"?

I mean, they're accusing "western feminists" - which encompasses a huge number of people who couldn't stand to share the same room - of supporting oppression and mutilation, and when pressed they can only offer "Her off Newsnight Review" as an example? And they've got the brass balls to invoke the Enlightenment while they're doing it?

It's hilarious - like extrapolating the opinions of all black people from the sayings of Mr. T.

5/10/2010 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

Bravo FR - that's the best rant I've heard today (and that's up against some very stiff competition). For myself, I've never forgiven 'Prof' Greer for giving such a piss-poor appreciation of Frank Zappa a while back on the tranny. Zappa was only (briefly?) impressed with Greer because she had crabs. FZ (who pretty much hated TV) would be rather less impressed that the august Prof now eulogises media students "progressing" on to become screen writers for shite like East Enders.


By the way, the Saucers are, of course, in a lather over Brown's confounding of the much expected pact. But all Hell will break loose when they alight on this threat to Israel:

5/10/2010 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

"By the way, the Saucers are, of course, in a lather over Brown's confounding of the much expected pact. But all Hell will break loose when they alight on this threat to Israel"

I think this might be cause for an all out war.


frunobulax, now I get it, what with the Frank Zappa conextion.

5/11/2010 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

THe bbc link doesn't work.
Was it to this?

5/11/2010 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

Indeed it was, ta.

Dunno how it got truncated. Funny thing, when I select the line with multiple clicks, it has the trailing 'stm' characters. Doesn't work that way when when you try to select by click/drag of the cursor.

5/11/2010 07:13:00 PM  

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