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The New Moral Army (and Colonel Clegg)

I have nicked the title for today’s outburst from Daftbugger’s comment yesterday.

He makes the point that it is all Labour’s fault and it’s true that in just a year in charge not even David Cameron and George Osborne can be blamed for everything that’s gone on: Hackgate, England riots and the state of the weather. The world we live in has been changed by the government, but so far it is more in the order of a vicious pruning of the shrubbery than a total re-landscaping of the back garden. And of course it is true to say that people that smash shop windows and nick tvs are probably not overly-concerned with the finer detail of what the government cuts mean.

That’s not to say the wind has not blown cold and hard through society though since Cameron moved in. I think things have changed and even without a grasp of the finer detail of the political backdrop you can sense the change in mood on the street. Morals are tough taskmasters; I wonder what happened Cameron’s pre-election plea to ‘hug a hoodie’…

Yesterday Cameron continued with the rhetoric wherein we were assured that he knew what he was about: fighting back against those people, the immoral, protecting us ordinary people from the sick people in society. ‘Sick’ was an interesting phrase. For a start young people use it to mean good, better than good. Secondly, there is the mental health connotation. Thirdly, don’t sick people need treatment?

In trying to impress meaning and his own values on what appears to be a largely meaningless, inner-city existence, Cameron has shown that he cannot start a dialogue with those that should demand it but don’t know how, and has nothing useful to add beyond the reactionary: more police, swift justice, 24 hour court sessions, send them to jail. It’s a short trip from Hug a Hoodie to Off with their Heads.

Everything David Cameron says gets on my nerves. Of course his role is one of authority, so how can he not sound authoritarian when he is talking about the need to deal with sections of the community who are clearly damaging property and lives and, in some horrific cases, killing people. But the broad brush approach of lumping everybody in to the ‘sick’ category shows a real lack of understanding of what it is to exist as, say, a young person on an estate like the Pembury in Hackney.

I lived in Hackney for 15 years. I lived in 7 flats, 3 of them were council estates and one of those was a squat on the 15th floor. I had removed to the squat with the then boyfriend because there was an ongoing situation with the neighbour that defied logic, reason or resolution, despite there being injunctions issued against the neighbours to protect life, limb and property. This didn’t stop my car having its front and rear windscreens stoved in, myself being confronted and attacked in the stairwell (the lift never worked), and the front door being defaced and kicked on a weekly basis.

My boyfriend was on the transfer list because of the neighbour. He was offered a flat in the Pembury Estate, Hackney Downs. We visited it, it was in a 1930s block, freshly decorated and clean and on the ground floor. He turned it down.

‘It’s on the Pembury innit’.

The Pembury - abandon hope... etc?

No-one, not even someone driven away from their own flat by violence and assault on property wanted to live on the Pembury. That was nearly 20 years ago. But some people do live on the Pembury, they have no choice. And there are worse places to live in London. These flats, that the councils now say they may evict troublemakers from, are not fit for human dwelling sometimes. Many of them are badly designed with flat roofs and pernicious mould (not just a bit of damp) is endemic. The contractors who work in these flats, nominally as decorators, are in fact now reduced to mould operatives who have to return time and time again to re-treat areas of mould.

One mother’s flat was visited to treat mould about two years ago, her flat was full of mould. There was an empty cot: her baby had just died from asthma-related complications. The operative returned this year: new baby, same cot, new mould.

This is not an excuse for bad behaviour, one hardly imagine that mother was out on the streets of Hackney looting on Monday night, but you can get a picture of the general hopelessness of some people’s existences on some of these estates. Imagine growing up there?

I’ve nearly forgotten to mention Nick Clegg. He was on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning. His conversation with the presenter, in sharp contrast to Cameron’s haughty rhetoric, was more measured. His words offered hope for a dialogue, albeit a future one, about the why of it all.

I have my own ideas about what’s needed, and it’s not a political position borne out of a rant about cuts. That being so, it will have to keep until another day.

Shrinking the State Whilst Telling Us What To Do

One of my come-to-in-the-morning devices, along with tea and biscuit(s), is to listen to the Today Programme. Today I had to turn it over and suffer Aled Jones and then RICHARD MADELEY. My God he is awful. But he is not as awful as listening to any more rhetoric and rot from the Tories. Bring back Chris Evans from holiday now to save what remains of my sanity.  And I am aware that is a bit of a contradiction in terms, but I am desperate not to wake up quivering with rage and shaking my fist.

At least with the radio I am not running the risk of having to look at Gideon “George” Osborne. I can’t bear the sight of him, he looks like a Dickens’ villain. They can’t help themselves these Tory Boy Know-Alls can they? They say they are shrinking the State because there’s too much interference in our lives because of Labour but, you know what, in 13 years I don’t really remember any Labour politician telling me what to read, how many kids to have and what to bloody be like in my own free time.

Meddlesome creatures one and all. Give me some New/Old/Red Ed version of Labour any day over Michael Gove’s book list.

In ONE week they have come out with the following nuggets:

Cameron’s contribution was that we’ve all got to be “doers and go-getters” to make his concept called The Big Society work. This is going to be delivered by people who are on their knees already licking the pavements to survive.

G. Osborne got Jeremy Hunt and a spokesperson to remind us that it is “unfair” that unemployed families are living in Central London on benefits. Yeah right, Kensington & Chelsea has a preponderance of welfare scroungers in residence?  And additionally, that having children was a choice.  The sub-text I take from that is that it is a choice you don’t deserve to make if you don’t have a job.  And if you are single parent the State will somehow sort out the desolate widow from the baby mothers, or the deserted yummy mummy from the feckless Vicky Pollards.

Then, not to be outdone on the Tory prescription for life, the Education Secretary Michael Gove opined “the great tradition of our literature – Dryden, Pope, Swift, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Dickens and Hardy – should be at the heart of school life”.  Ye Gods – where is Richard Madeley when you need him.  People are only going to read these books if they want to.  It is impossible to force someone to read, and a teacher banging on about it is hardly going to help.  I had to read Jane Austen for O’ Level and I am sure she  is most interesting, what with her witty observations of the time, but I can truly say listening to my headteacher drone on and on out of Pride and Prejudice or somesuch has meant I have avoided all contact with her work since.  Even the films of the books make me want throw a brick at the screen.  Anyway Gove’s speech is in full here, but as was helpfully pointed out by a blog commenter at the Guardian:

Just in case Mr Gove never actually finds his way to an actual copy of the English National Curriculum, he would have found this on pg 71:

The range of literature studied should include: texts that enable pupils to understand the appeal and importance over time of texts from the English literary heritage. This should include works selected from the following pre-twentieth-century writers: Jane Austen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Blake, Charlotte Brontë, Robert Burns, Geoffrey Chaucer, Kate Chopin, John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Thomas Gray, Thomas Hardy, John Keats, John Masefield, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare (sonnets), Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jonathan Swift, Alfred Lord Tennyson, HG Wells, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Wordsworth and William Wordsworth

These new Tory values have hardly changed a jot from the Victorian times when “the poor” were divvied up into the “deserving” and the “undeserving”. And Nick Clegg.

*Head in hands*

Osborne & Little wallpaper - I can't

Have it in

The House

21st Century’s Yesterday

That’s the lyric that was humming round in my head when I read about the exchange of gifts between Obama and Cameron yesterday. The song is actually I Need You Tonight, by INXS. I wonder if Dave warbled that before he handed over the eponymous art work by his wife’s fave artist Ben Eine. On inspection the work looks like those letters women with an eye for a trend snap up in overpriced homeware catalogues. No wonder he is a hit with Sam Cam.

I rather prefer the sound of Obama’s reciprocal gift: Ed Ruscha’s Speed Column with Lines.

This is not it.

I probably need to stop picking on David Cameron for a day or so now; even though he can be a bit of a dick, can’t we all? And if I keep that in mind, he can hardly disappoint me. Unlike Obama who has very great potential so to do.

*I wrote this last night and in bed I was thinking “Ben Eine – is that a made up name: Benign, Ben One?”. Now I’ve got Things that make you go hmmmm going round in my head.

Gone Racing

Like nowhere else, the Rowley Mile is a right tonic. I’ve had my losing days on there too, so it’s not just about winners.

I can report that Daryl the Dazzler Holland drives a really swanky Jaguar XK, Henry Cecil looks fantastic, Sir Michael Stoute still looks like he’s sucking a lemon when he loses, Mick Channon can swear like a football player and John Dunlop’s bins would not look out of place if he were Field Marshal Montgomery. Oh, and Jeremy Noseda turned up too late to remind me I really should have backed his filly Dance East each way.

She’s a surefire winner soon enough as is Clive Brittain’s Yarooh. Wigmore Hall is well ahead of the handicapper and don’t worry if Sri Putra sweats up as it makes little difference to his winning. As for Elusive Pimpernel, if we are to believe the evidence of our own eyes, he goes to the Guineas with a good shout.

The current no fly zone over the UK did not apply to two little planes I saw taking off as the car-park was emptying. I wonder who was in them?

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As an aside I managed to watch some of what the Liberals will now be dubbing the Three Horse Race on the tv. I was amused by Beefy Brown’s persistent attempts to turn Clegg into his ho and his insistence on getting out the clearly Campbellesque crafted phrases like “It’s answer time now” (David).

Clegg himself upset me by referring to the two “Old Parties” tut, tut, but other than that I gave him two clear points on the card before we switched over to watch Welcome to Lagos. One of those points was because of his witty football answer about the Tories proposed cap on immigration e.g. if the cap is reached mid-summer and Man City want to get an expensive overseas player on transfer then what? Then what indeed!

Cameron just seemed a bit thin-lipped and old-fashioned in his policy ideas. Drug rehab for criminals David, but short-term sentences galore for smasher uppers of bus stops.

Oh dear.