A note on Nick, free press and politics

Last week Nick Cohen wrote an important column about the scandal of blacklisting in the building trade, whereby casual workers identified as being union members or having made complaints about on-site working conditions were spied on, monitored and barred from employment by building firms. It’s a horrendous, troubling and under-reported story.

Which for some reason Cohen decided to put into an awful-a-thon contest with the Leveson inquiry: Continue reading

It’s (unexpectedly) not shite being British: on the Olympic opening ceremony

You love a failure. I know you do, because I do too. I’m keen on both the Olympics and Danny Boyle, and even so I was screwing up my eyes into mean little slits of delight at headlines such as “Danny Boyle urged to drop live animals from Olympics opening ceremony: Animal rights groups say organising committee may face prosecution if it uses farmyard animals in three-hour spectacular“, and “Olympic opening ceremony: a feast of drama … and that’s just the rehearsals: Source says relations between Danny Boyle and broadcasting firm now so strained that director’s trailer has extra security“. You can’t be sure of success, but a humiliating, unmitigated shambles? Now that’s something to tell your grandchildren about.

Continue reading

Lansley’s attack on abortion: expensive, disruptive and unjustified

Almost 600 routine inspections of hospitals and care homes have been cancelled by the Care Quality Commission in order to pursue a direct order from health secretary Andrew Lansley to make the investigation of abortion clinics “a priority”, according to a report by the BBC. In a letter from the CQC to the Department Of Health, obtained through a Freedom Of Information request, the CQC also said that the interruption to its scheduled activities had cost £1 million and required the equivalent of 1,100 working days. Continue reading

Made-up babies

I have a friend. (I don’t really have a friend – this is a thought experiment, and who wants to be friends with the kind of bore who runs around making up thought experiments?) Anyway, this friend (who doesn’t exist) has a baby. A tiny, squirmy, scrunch-faced, made-up baby. My friend does not want the baby. She is so serious about not wanting the baby, that she decides she is going to kill the baby. She says this quite directly: “I am going to kill this baby.”  Continue reading

A death in Bideford

Christianity is over. Finished. Done for. Born in Bethlehem, died in Bideford. It seems strange that a belief system can survive the shocks of knowledge and philosophy over several centuries, only to choke at a small harbour town’s county council, but that is the awesome power of local government for you. Turns out, it’s not legal to formally summon councilors to prayer – and a faith that can’t be forced on someone else is no faith at all.

Continue reading

Scapegoating disabled people to justify cuts

When charities warn that abuse of disabled people is getting worse, it’s worth remembering how low the starting point was. In 2007, Fiona Pilkington killed herself and her severely disabled 18-year-old daughter Francesca Hardwick: it was the end of seven years of harassment, inflicted on a vulnerable family and never adequately addressed by the police or social services. Flour, eggs and stones were thrown at their house. Insults were yelled at them. The family didn’t dare to use their own garden.

Continue reading

Keep it buttoned, ladies

Ladies! Check your frontages! We’ve been searching for decades to discover just why it’s so damn hard for woman to advance in parliament or the media. Why are there just five women in the cabinet? Still, with 21% of posts, female politicians are only doing slightly worse that female journalists, who racked up 22% of articles; compared to the Today programme (where a measly 16% of reporters and guests were women), the House of Commons is a full-skirted matriarchy. The good news, though, is that Anne McElvoy has figured it out, and the answer is right under your nose. The answer is boobs. Continue reading