2007 - 2020

Studio Selfies, Andrew Neil and the Swinzone

This election continues to be an endurance test, wading through the steady stream of disinformation, and the hyper-banal as we stagger towards some kind of endgame and the Turkey.

Jo Swinson continues to bomb at every opportunity. Interviewed by Emma Barnett on Women’s Hour she spluttered and faffed and missed an open goal by being hopelessly prepared and dribblingly incoherent (listen here).

There’s a certain schadenfreude in watching her campaign collapse under the weight of her own unlikeability, given her role in the Tory coalition and her consumate opportunism. She has the echo of Baldwin: “He did not care in which direction the car was traveling, as long as he sat in the drivers seat.” Her only consistent trait seems to be a deeply held insincerity.

The Lib Dems have gambled badly on the vision of a young female leader being enough in and of itself. It was a terrible shallow idea from the start, but it follows a pattern of politicians being over-promoted before their time (think Kezia) and the effect is to put these individuals in an invidious position. It’s like the Lib Dems hought that they could install an identikit candidate that was 80% Kirstie Allsopp and 20% Cath Kidston and it would somehow just work out. Like Ruth Davidson but with fewer principles.

Her shambling dishonesty is like some new Centrist Hell, posturing liberalism whilst colluding with the Tories, and it’s all desperately transparent. She “will never” let Jeremy Corbyn into office but won’t say the same about Johnson. She calls herself a “democrat” but will “always” oppose a referendum for Scottish independence. She started off her campaign suggesting she’d become Prime Minister and is now circling back as that seems ridiculous. She started claiming she’d cancel Brexit then realised that was profoundly undemocratic.

Occasionally reality seeps though the 24 News cycle. The think-tank the Resolution Foundation projecting: “Fears child poverty may rise to record 60-year high under Boris Johnson (a 34.5% by 2023-24)” and the Dispatches programme being about the only media moment that cut through the spin-rooms and the spads and wonks to the brutality of today [Growing Up Poor: Britain’s Breadline Kids. “In Britain, 4.1 million children are growing up in poverty. Dispatches follows three families to show what life is like if there’s not enough money for life’s essentials”.]

Between Swinson’s simpering and the Tories cloven-hoofed cabinet it’s a grim picture, and getting worse:

“It’s only when you look at the hideous Tarot formed by his cabinet that you get a true picture of the depravity into which we are sinking. Take Michael Gove, a revanchist endorsement of the science of physiognomy. In any other era Gove would be seen as a uniquely unctuous, unlikable and profoundly talentless figure. Now he’s hardly even remarkable. Gove – looking like someone took all the flesh out of a serial killer’s drains and forced it into some brogues; like Davros fell out of his Dalek; like a rushed cartoon of a horny snail – is somehow not the worst person in cabinet, or even his own marriage.”

In this unseasonal dystopia the sheer banality of the media is gripping.  Things are so bad that Andrew Neil has somehow emerged as the Great White Hope, the Peoples Champion.

As we have pointed out before Neil is at the heart of a nexus of right-wing think-tanks and media. As the former UK Editor of the Economist, the Sunday Times, Executive Chairman of Sky Television, publisher of the Scotsman and poster boy for the Adam Smith Institute, he last November joined an interesting melange of the Russian Embassy, Arron Banks, Guido Fawkes and Julian Assange in smearing award-winning investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr – for exposing many of the networks he is intimately connected to. Neil tweeted calling Cadwalladr a ‘mad cat woman’ before being forced to delete the tweet.

He retains a vast BBC salary – and as Chairman has re-positioned The Spectator with editor Fraser Nelson into a force for the right. The Spectator used to be a sort of fetid conservative snoozepaper for ageing reactionaries – is morphing into a clickbait for the Brit new right who are high on the triumphalism of the Brexit fiasco and titillated by the far-right’s populism.

In 2018 he claimed one in five Scottish children were illiterate. The BBC executive complaints unit said the figure had originally been put forward by a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives as being based on the 2009 Scottish Survey for Literacy and Numeracy. But the unit said the survey “contained no reference to ‘functional illiteracy’, and added that there was”no data which would have justified the claim in question”. The unit said: “The Sunday Politics team has been reminded of the need to establish the evidential basis of claims that are quoted in its questions.”

Not long after becoming a high-profile BBC presenter, Neil made a speech in homage to the rightwing radical Friedrich Hayek. In it he called for a “radical programme to liberalise the British economy; a radical reduction in tax and public spending as a share of the economy” as well as a flat tax “and the injection of choice and competition into the public sector on a scale not yet contemplated”.

Recently, in an act of comic genius, he had the temerity of accusing the BBC of “left-wing bias’.

Anyway, he’s the man you’ve to put your faith in, apparently. Except it didn’t happen at all. Instead Neil did a piece to camera shared by over five million people. Because Boris Johnson now picks and chooses his own interviews. Like Ceaușescu.

Britain festers in a state of bitter disrepair, its media broken and untrusted and its politicians acting like they’re in a Bad Panto.

Only five sleeps till a big roll-polly figure appears in your house full of promises.

 

 

Comments (19)

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  1. Jo says:

    Peston interviewed Johnson on Wednesday and showed the footage on his show on Wednesday night. The link to it is within the following link to Peston’s piece for ITV news the next day.

    I don’t like Peston much personally but he did the job for once here and Johnson was exposed for his lack of any plans whatsoever. Have a look.

    The shocking thing is that so little of the interview made headlines the next day! In addition, Peston’s show was on later than usual to accommodate I’m A Celebrity. Priorities and all that!

    https://www.itv.com/news/2019-12-05/johnson-s-brexit-election-is-all-about-trust/

    1. MBC says:

      Thanks Jo. I’ll have a look at that. I remember Peston did a programme in 2014 on Scottish independence in which he concluded that independence was not without challenges but was economically viable and that we’d be neither worse off nor better off in the short term and immediate aftermath but it would depend on policy decisions for the long term, which I thought was pretty fair. Since then his programme tends to ignore things Scottish and has often misrepresented data on support for independence. Though that was in the section presented by his assistant, so might not have been his view or research. Of late he seems to be a mouthpiece for the Tory party, or at least, these are the people he seems to have a lead into.

  2. Bruce McQuillan says:

    Michael Gove: “Like Davros fell out of his dalek” harsh but fair.

    1. Richard Easson says:

      Not fair on Davros.

      1. Bruce McQuillan says:

        True. At least he made it to the top job if not the top of the stairs.

  3. MBC says:

    This was a great piece Mike and I marvel that you can manage to face this stuff because I have taken to switching off for the sake of my mental health. It’s like watching a cataclysm in slow motion and I can hardly credit what is happening to the country.

    I too thought Jo Swinson was awful and a total mistake for the Lib Dems to choose her as leader. It is sadly gratifying to see her hubris pierced as the popularity of the Lib Dems seems to be collapsing.

    It will be Friday 13th when we wake up to a new nightmare world, unless Craig Murray is right in his assessment that despite being on 42% in the polls (that’s almost 1 in ever 2 voters!!!) the Tory vote may be scattered too widely to make conclusive headway in the FPTP system to deliver a stonking majority.

    1. Thanks MBC – I hadnt seen Craig Murrays 42% take, will check it out

  4. Wul says:

    We used to fear unemployment, because it could lead to poverty. ( “Labour isn’t Working”)

    Boris Johnson’s Tories have fixed that for us by making full employment also lead to poverty. Hurrah!

  5. Wul says:

    I get the feeling Jo Swinson doesn’t really like her own self that much either.

    When someone is able to induce those levels of revulsion in other people it often comes from within. She is a walking, talking “False Self”. I hope she takes some time out after all this and finds meaning in something more true to her own heart.

    Johnson, on the other hand, should be repelled by what he sees in the mirror, however his soul probably died pre-puberty in that awful, monstrous boarding school he was sent to.

    1. Bruce McQuillan says:

      I think it’s more simple than that. In general, anyone who actually wants to be a politician should be automatically excluded from ever becoming one on the basis that they have the wrong character traits for the job.

      1. Wul says:

        That’s an interesting observation.

        I can’t quite work out why Corbyn gets such pelters for saying he would “listen to the nation” on Brexit rather than declare ” which side he would campaign on”. Boris bashes him non-stop about this.

        Is a “leader” today just someone who does what the fukc they want?

  6. Helen says:

    Your description of Michael Gove is inspired. A great article.

    1. Wayne Broon says:

      It’s a quote, as acknowledged in the article, but without direct thanks to Mr Boyle.

      https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/07/frankie-boyle-election-countdown-praying-prorogue-next-parliament

      1. Wayne Broon says:

        But a great article anyway. And spot on about oor Andry, born in a stable in Paisley allegedly.

    2. Its not mine – its Frankie Boyles (!)

  7. Nicky Hayes says:

    Thank you for a truly virtuoso piece of writing, the like of which you will never see in the mainstream media.

  8. Wayne Brown says:

    It’s a quote, as acknowledged in the article, but without direct thanks to Mr Boyle. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/07/frankie-boyle-election-countdown-praying-prorogue-next-parliament

    Great article though, and spot on about oor Andry, born in a stable in Paisley – allegedly.

    1. Jo says:

      Wayne
      I read Frankie’s article yesterday. I didn’t know whether to laugh or greet. It’s all so accurate it’s terrifying.

  9. Jo says:

    Re Jo Swinson, I have found myself thinking of Charlie Kennedy a lot lately. Somewhere, he must be spinning every time Ms Swinson speaks in that fake accent she’s put together. What is that about?

    Kennedy had his problems later in life but, at his peak, he was a very capable and highly respected politician. He led the Party Swinson now leads to its best ever election results. And he didn’t feel it was necessary to bury his Scottish accent in order to do it.

    I think Ms Swinson makes life harder for herself by, every time she speaks, having to remember to get the voice right and not to speak too quickly lest a wee bit of Scots sneaks through and frightens folk. I wonder if she realises how many English observers are commenting on the voice… even they’ve rumbled her too. It’s really quite sad.

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