The Cohen Evening Standard column trundles on … has anyone noticed that Sir Paul McCartney is a bit past it these days? Crikey some people have funny ideas about bringing up babies! Isn’t it murder when you’ve finished writing your column and have only done half the number of words commissioned? Sorry I made that last one up. Btw, message to Aaro and Cohen both; if you like the “Harry’s Place” blog so much, why not give the guy a job already rather than just repeatedly rubbing your readers’ noses in the fact that half your respective columns have usually appeared there a week earlier?
The substantial bit of Cohen’s column is a dicey bit of triangulation; if you’ve decided to brand your little corner of “Decent” left-liberal politics the “anti-fascist left”, then it’s a bit embarrassing to also be committed to supporting as “basically sensible” the policies of a government that is going around passing broadly drafted anti-sedition laws, banning political parties and detaining people without trial. Cohen correctly notes that Charles Clark has had less of a kneejerk reaction than one might have expected from his predecessor (Charlie the Safety Elephant is like the Gary Neville of Home Secretaries; he’s shit, but in tough conditions he doesn’t get any worse and can sometimes therefore be made to look good).
The trouble is that the latest bout of Toytown authoritarianism is coming direct from the Maximum Leader Tony, and not even his wife supports it. So Aaro and Nick are both left in the uncomfortable position of loudly belting out “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” on foreign policy while simultaneously whispering “now do you think you can control them?” on domestic policy. There is a bit of a wedge between Tweedledum and Tweedledangerous here by the way; Aaro has always been much more of a party-line guy with authoritarian tendencies while Cohen has much, much more baggage in the form of fiery past pronouncements on civil liberties issues. Expect a lot more of this in coming weeks; I suspect that the next cols from both Nick and Dave are going to be on the “Our Precious Civil Liberties: A Luxury We Can’t Afford” theme, although obviously I will have to read the next few days of “Harry’s Place” before I can make a definitive Friday forecast.
The really interesting bit of Cohen’s Standard col, though, is one of the joke items; he’s still on (and on) about the “parents moving house to places with good schools” theme. I have a lot to write about this minor obsession of Nick’s, because I think it holds the key to understanding a lot of DecentLeft politics. But I’m going to wait until he mentions it in something I can link to on the web (there is nothing in this week’s Standard col that is worth the effort of typing out. For the time being I note that Putney, Kingston and a number of southwestern suburbs all have local schools which are at least the equal of those in Barnet and Stamford Hill. But, crucially, they are not on the Northern Line and thus are not attractive to well-paid parents who believe themselves to still be Billy Big-Biscuits media in-crowd types. It’s not really about the kids, Nick.
Update: I forgot to mention one insanely annoying piece of sloppy writing (which thinking about it is another of the early symptoms of whatever it is Melanie Phillips has got) – the reflexive inability to write the word “journalists” without the prefix “BBC”. Either Nick Cohen has seen loads of examples of Hizb’ut Tahrir getting a hard time from ITV, Channel 4, Sky News and the print media, or he just means “journalists” and ought to consider what kind of people he is allying himself when singling out the BBC for criticism. Like the State of Israel and the Socialist Workers’ Party, the BBC is an intrinsically rather unlovable entity which becomes worthy of support simply because of the calibre of creep that keeps harping on about it.