Papism and Politics
This Pope's got a fucking cheek. He comes here for a 'State' visit and then immediately 'beatifies' Cardinal Newman - a murky character who's best remembered for leaving the C of E and going Catholic. And if that isn't a recruitment ploy, and also cocking a snook at the Anglican church, then I don't know what is.
There was a photo in the paper yesterday of His Popeness meeting and greeting a long line of VIP divs at Westminster Hall - Willie-waggler Hague, John & Norma Major, Tony and Cherie, Mad Thatch, Gordo . . . And Nick Clegg. (Was there anyone who was invited but decided not to go, I wonder?)
They all came running to honour our Very Important Guest. You have to wonder who the fuck proposed a State Visit for the Head of State of . . . The Vatican. Which genius was that? What's that all about? Who needs it? Who's paying for it? (Us) And the Vatican isn't even a city, or a town - let alone a fucking state. This is all bollocks.
It has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of just over 800.
Benedict XVI, nee Ratzinger - or XVI as he likes to be known - is a comic-book Pope with a comic-book German accent who was a member of the Hitler Youth - which some think is an excellent qualification to become the head of another monolithic organisation with a desire to infect the entire planet with its bizarre, dangerous and reactionary ideology, and its habit of issuing instructions on how to live your life. "You vill obey!!" "Vimmen - stay at home!" "No condoms!" "Homos - go avay!"
And yet, as he made his stealthy way up the Vatikan, or Watikan, or Whatdickan, hierarchy, he was a man who was personally and directly involved in not only covering up child abuse but also making sure the perpetrators were never brought to civil and criminal justice, whenever possible. And in spite of accepting recommendations to do so, the RCs have yet to expel from their ranks most of those who have been identified as child abusers.
Clegg, Fairness, and Education
Speaking of Nick Clegg - he was on the Andy Marr prog this morning. Very good he was too. Personable, relaxed, human, quick, clever . . . And I'm not going to put him down. Clegg and Cameron are both impressive. Cameron was very gracious, very warm and generous towards Harriet Harman last week during PM's questions, as she made her final appearance as acting Labour leader. He's clearly a decent man, and he's had a lot of personal tragedy to cope with.
Compared with the New Labour freaks vying for the leadership - Milibands, Balls, and the other one - Clegg & Cameron look and sound reasonable, personable and human - not fucking political robots. (Abbott's also a wierdo, but at least she's not New Labour.)
The toughest question Clegg had to deal with today was the charge that the coalition is not carrying out its pledge to make everyone suffer equally from its slashing and burning - and that the richest people haven't suffered at all. Clegg rightly said that the current analysis from those who claim unfairness assumes that the current conditions will remain the same. Whereas - according to him - the coalition plans to create budgetary changes to tax and benefits which will ensure that the rich pay more and the poor pay less. Which is something that New Labour clearly failed to do. We shall see.
To his credit he sounded as though he really meant it. All politicians are actors, but this doesn't mean they never have a core of honesty or decency. I'd rather trust Clegg and Cameron than the New Labour Continuity candidates, and I say this as a lifelong socialist to whom fairness and social justice is all. I suspect I'd also enjoy a conversation in the pub with them more than with the NuLab gits, even if we never agreed about a single policy or principle. C & C may both be conservatives, but they say, at least, they believe in progressive conservatism. And they don't, as far as one can see, have a track record of being lying slimeballs who collaborated with the likes of Blair and Bush and the whole of the neo-conservative/New Labour 'project'.
The other thing, and the most important thing, I really liked about Clegg's statements today was on the subject of education. He rightly said that New Labour's approach had been all about central direction and dictation, combined with divide and rule - one rule for the Academies and another for the rest. He said he'd visited many 'free' schools in Holland and Scandinavia and was impressed with how they were run and what they offered. He said he wants freedom for all teachers and heads in this country to do whatever's right for their school, supported by a more progressive and fairer allocation of resources to schools. And you can't say fairer than that.
It's a fact that every school is different, faces different sets of problems according to its pupil and staffing needs, will therefore have different priorities and constraints, and requires different approaches to its curriculum, pedagogy and organisation as it proceeds along a time line towards whatever 'ideal' state is decided upon by its governors, staff, parents and pupils. Some schools, for example, have yet to realise that the wellbeing of pupils and their enjoyment of school is the key to everything. Being motivated to learn drives all achievement. Hating and resenting school ruins everything - even for the staff. Having a real and lifelong love of learning for its own sake is the greatest good. Being constantly beaten over the head to jack up exam scores is not guaranteed to produce high achieving pupils or teachers, let alone rounded individuals who embrace school life and look forward to each day.
More power to Clegg's elbow, say I, and I wonder whether he's spoken with Gove about his thoughts on education policy?
Football, Flintoff and Rooney
Two excellent pieces in yesterday's Guardian, ostensibly on the subject of sport.
"Assailed on all sides by spin and vested interest it is more important than ever to make a clear distinction between things that are actually, properly over – albeit still hanging about the place making comebacks and doing interviews – and those that are simply in recess, but still worthy of our urgent interest.
David Beckham, for example, is over. Famous but over. Talented but over. Over with an agent. Andy Murray is not over, but perhaps repeatedly attempting to bully him into winning a grand slam is over. The Lampard-Gerrard "conundrum" is over. The England football team are over. England, generally, is over. Cars are over. Small, very expensive organic chickens with pretend-homemade plastic packaging are over. The phrase "properties of this quality very rarely come on to the market" is over. Twenty20 cricket is over. Opening up a pretentious high-end coffee cart in the East End of London, growing a straggly beard and talking in a sniffy voice about the quality of your roast is over. Telephones with wires are over. In fact, pretty much everything is over apart from China, pornography and multiplying legions of sub-KFC fried chicken outlets called Chicken Shed and Chicken Bungalow and Chicken Loft.
Plus of course Rooney: Rooney is not over. Flintoff's retirement may have come with an earned sense of relief from his creaking knees, those unreliable hinges and cranks. But Rooney still pulses with angry vitality, still carrying with him the imprint of his career high with England at Euro 2004, the Croatia defence scattered like late-night kebab salad brushed angrily to the pavement, tongue lolling like a length of prime luncheon meat, seeing in front of him only the engorged and pulsing flower of the goal between its vulvic posts and demonstrating, in effect . . . tremendous quality from the young lad.
For Rooney, the enemies of promise are more diffuse, and not solely confined to tabloid entities known as Rooney Hooker and Rooney Threesome Girl and even Rooney Hooker Dad. There is also expectation: the fact that we now look for, and expect to find, inveterate decline beneath the star-burnish."
- Barney Ronay
What Won't Happen This Week.
Sir Alex Ferguson announces that Wayne Rooney will not be playing against Liverpool as he feels the striker needs to be "protected from football". "It's appalling what goes on. It sickens me. It's totally unnecessary - 22 men in shorts chasing a piece of leather around. It's nonsense. Nobody should be subjected to that." Fears are raised that Sir Alex's move may set a precedent with dozens of top-class celebrities being withdrawn from matches to protect them from penalty misses, falling over, or just standing with their mouths open making uncomprehending gestures, leading to them being laughed at by luxury call girls in night spots. PFA chief Gordon Taylor observes, "The level of abuse these young men suffer as a result of football is appalling. The sooner the FA moves in and clamps down on the game, possibly even bans it altogether, the sooner these lads will be able to get on with their lives."
- Harry Pearson