Proud to be British Broadcasted

BBC Radio 4 was magnificent this evening. I switched on to The World Tonight and was substantially informed about the response to rape by the Indian authorities, British attitudes to immigration, and corruption in Turkey, among other things. Of personal interest was some lucid analysis of the Jew-baiting French comic Dieudonne which I may try and transcribe.

That was followed by Book at Bedtime, The Lonely Londoners by Trinidadian London sojourner Sam Selvon. It’s about the experience of Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s – the pallid sunshine, smog, gas fires, job-seeking, cold, reserved racism.

Then the piece de resistance. Tonight’s Andrew Maxwell’s Public Enemies was nationalism, starting with the delicate subject of Scotland, taking in Cornwall, and wondering whether we should consider New Zealand or Turkey more European.

All this at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment among the UK general public is apparently running at 8 out of 10 (and based on local knowledge a good proportion of those will be first, second, third generation immigrants themselves. Misunderstandings and disinformation are ripe for exploitation.

This is why we treasure the BBC – not least its controller Gwynneth Williams. Continue reading


Barkingside is a place for all seasons. Here’s what’s going on in Claybury Park today. When you think of Essex you don’t think of hills  but this one (Hospital Hill, I think it’s called but B21 may correct me) gives views across the West End, City, Docklands and even to the Dartford Crossing. Oh, and you can also see all the slummy bits of board and plastic discarded by badly-reared children.

Despite the bloodcurdling screeches and near-collision with me at the end, nobody was hurt in the making of this video.

To my sorrow, I have never tobogganed – or even bumboarded.

Mehdi Hasan fits in at the New Statesman. Richard Herring is no racist.

Aka: the decline of British left papers and mags.

Taking a break from collecting reasons to back Vestas, I see that the knives are out for Harry’s Place again, this time with the New Statesman’s new senior political editor Mehdi Hasan as the pretext.

Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics, iEngage, the SWP are pushing the view that Harry’s Place is virulently racist. Harry’s Place bloggers aren’t racist. Racists are, nevertheless, attracted to comment there. I think I see a relative of mine who is Islamophobic constructing careful arguments under the posts. For some time, Harry’s Place hosted overtly racist comments in the name of free speech. They hoped to that other commenters would refute them. These days they are moderating, for the reasons Marko outlined, and making welcome and, I think, successful efforts to distinguish their political antipathy to political Islam from anti-Muslim bigotry. Harry’s Place is a basically responsible blog.

Next, defend the winningly revolting comedian Richard Herring, whose podcast with Andrew Collings the Guardian lists as number 7 in its top ten comedy podcasts (update – and to which I’m a not-infrequent listener) from what amount to allegations of racism by Guardian writer Brian Logan. Herring pulls stunts like telling his audience that anybody who votes BNP should have their vote withdrawn – and when they whoop and clap, asks them whether they aren’t being just a bit fascist themselves. Herring takes apart the opinions of racists by asking his audience whether they might have a point and proceeding to creatively communicate that they do not. He sails close to the wind, but Richard Herring leaves nothing open to racist interpretation. Richard Herring is a responsible comedian. Leave him alone. Defend him. Here he is defending himself. Guardian readers and writers rally. Dave Gorman. Andrew Collings. Charlie Brooker. And more.

The Guardian has been nurturing the form of anti-Jewish racism which hides under anti-Zionism for some years. Seven Jewish Children, for example, was viewed by a number of credible people as an exercise in pathologising and discrediting Jewish (explicitly Jewish, rather than Israeli, which would have been bad enough) parents. And now here’s The Guardian allowing a columnist to stick the knife into an anti-racist like Herring in this way. It’s a topsy turvy world. Sometimes I feel a bit queasy.

Wanted: digital engagement director with knowledge of “jams”

This Cabinet Office job ad for a Director of Digital Engagement had us scratching our heads in the office.

“The successful applicant will

  • Introduce new techniques and software for digital engagement, such as ‘jams’ into Government”

Our crests fell – nary a one of us had ever heard of ‘jams’. Harakiri beckoned.

Then we discovered that The Register was similarly baffled.

“Er, such as… what? After asking around Shoreditch, this morning, I’m none the wiser. “Jams” doesn’t even seem to be in the Web 2.0 lexicon. But Kick In The Jams, it is, though.”

Is it an initiative test? Is one of those psychological experiments to see who has the confidence and/or integrity to request clarification on ‘jams’?

Yes, Tory papers, it’s overpaid. But only in the usual uninspired way employers communicate with prospective employees that their role is extremely important. Here, we love you, have some extra money. This is a fucking big job, not one to be derided with the sneery epithet ‘twittercrat’:

“This is not a role for a generalist. The professional skills required are formidable. Engagement in the digital space is a young ‘profession’ and the job requires someone who would be acknowledged by their peer group to be a leader in this field. The successful candidate will have a CV that creates instant credibility and confidence with Ministers, senior officials and digital communicators in Whitehall.”

Clay Shirky could do it. Somebody from MySociety?

Depressingly (and this is really beginning to make me sad) I think the Register is right when they say it’s going to be “jobs for the boys”.

Fragments of my condition

Matt and I have a satirical friend who sometimes calls me a nickname based on Desmond Dekker and the Aces. The other day I received from him a white and blue plastic crumple which turned out to be a fairly large inflatable hammer with a squeak and a blue star on it. This was certainly a wind-up, but it was also a genuine Israeli souvenir. I put it on my taboo shelf, look at it fairly often and occasionally wonder what a Gazan family would think, or a member of the Socialist Worker Party or the BNP, if they were to drop by. The other day Matt got hold of it and hit me repeatedly round the head, which I found quite allegorical.

A new cocktail, Barkingside Bovril, has been discovered – in my home. (Any clues about what was in it, Callaghan?)

The night before last I climbed into bed, Matt, who was asleep already, flopped his arm over me and we settled down. About half an hour later (I was listening to a podcast) I felt his body shuddering. I immediately (for no apparent reason) imagined it was a seizure, but it stopped so I went on listening to Laurence Freedman, Martin Linton, Oliver Kamm and Abdel Bari Atwan (berk) talking about Gaza at the RSA. Another brief but violent shudder. This time I was so worried that he was having a seizure that I took out an earphone and peered round at him in the dark. Again, and this time I could hear that the quivering was accompanied by a choking noise. And again. “What is it!?” I shouted in alarm. Then I realised that he was laughing – chortling in his sleep. It happens from time to time that Matt has amusing dreams and lets out the odd snort of mirth but I’ve never managed to get it out of him what they were about. He continued to find something funny and I badly wanted to share the joke so I whispered this question into his ear and only half conscious he replied, “Oh no, no, no. Reversing”, and then laughed some more – I did too.

The next morning I asked him about it. A triangle with ball-bearings, he said smiling broadly and sheepishly, and he had to move the ball-bearings. An anxiety dream, then? Only my Matt…

Safe bedside table

When I lived at my parents’ place I had a length of plumbing pipe down the side of the bed. This is because there was a lot of robbery, a sprinkling of murders and plenty of other nefarious goings-on in our neighbourhood. In fact the most recent break-in at my parents’ the other year was in the middle of the day while they were in. It’s the drugs. Suffice to say any intruder would have wrapped that pipe round my neck twice.

But who knows, with a shield we might have got somewhere.

It’s James McAdam’s safe bedside table.

Via BoD.

The evening

A very cheerful evening.

A disappointing and overpriced meal at Caribbean Scene in St Ratford. A dull and somewhat dessicated salad. A lonely roti on its own on a big white plate (it was pretty nice). Matt paid a full six pounds for a flat beanburger which came with too much sauce and nothing else at all.

Then we went to the Picture House. These days I seem not to be watching films unless they’re comedies, and  Matt, Mitch and I saw Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading. I was glad I hadn’t eaten much because I laughed throughout and managed to whip off my glasses in time for the violent bits (which were also funny – I know this because I could see Mitch groaning, wincing and laughing). I particularly like the hurried ending (whether they ran out of money or interest who knows) when as I interpret it, via their cipher the spook chief, the Coen brothers ask themselves what they have learnt from the film, conclude “Not to do it again”, but are left wondering what they did wrong.

Then to round it all off I nearly peed myself on the train at the beginning of this letter in Matt’s Prospect:

“Dear Sirs – I wish to attack myself for something I wrote in the October issue. Towards the end of my short essay on David Foster Wallace, I took a wild swipe out of nowhere at James Wood, one of the finest literary critics of the age.”

It goes on quite poignantly. Bless him. Bless. him.