Saturday, 28 March 2009

Brown; Queen; world war; horses

As the country steams on oblivious, while the lookouts shout “many icebergs, dead ahead”, it’s quite fun to get up in the morning and see what fresh madness the government is proposing. It excelled itself this morning – Brown’s gone up to Buck House to bully the Queen about gender equality and religious discrimination in the monarchical line of descent. I like to try and avoid sarcasm, but the only thing to say here is: How very useful, Gordon!

As has become customary, the Labour Party finds it necessary to pander to the forces of reaction – in this case the Church of Rome (makes a change from you-know-what) – in order to carry on attempting to destroy English culture. It is what one wearily expects from them. However, to attempt it in the current grave situation is foolish and arrogant. It is clear evidence that the government has become an ancien regime and Brown its megalomaniac – and I use that word advisedly – leader.

I suspect this could be the beginning of a scorched earth policy for the Prime Minister’s last period in office. Sir Jim Rose’s folly-packed education reforms (puppet master: Ed Balls) also suggest this.

The Queen* who clearly has more regard for this country in her little finger than the Labour Party has within its entire rank-and-file, will have something colourful to say in private about Brown’s sense of timing and priorities. The recurring Westminster whisper, which says our Prime Minister is quite seriously autistic, seems truer than ever.

*I have always respected the Queen; as a teen Marxist I imagined what a revolution would be like – and decided that the Queen and “Charlie” would, if I was in charge, be allowed to live in exile, possibly training racehorses on the Isle of Wight),

While Brown is tinkering with the Monarchy’s diversity policy, this is happening in northern Pakistan, just 110 miles from Islamabad:

I’m starting to think that, all global problems considered, we’re heading for a world war. You read it here first.

Now, for a bit of racing talk: Paul Haigh, a fine two-fisted racing journalist, has resigned from the Racing Post. The Guardian covers the fall-out here.

Although Haigh is a bit of a contrarian, his column was a refreshing dose of reality in the paper. His points about the paper’s shortcomings are all too true. They are running scared from the issue of corruption and even “gamesmanship” in the sport. The reason is obvious: the editorial team is paranoid about libel. However, when I used to work there I rapidly discovered that quite a few people had little working knowledge of libel laws. I did and saw straight away that they were being way too conservative in censoring criticism of jockeys and trainers. They simply did not understand the law of fair comment and its elasticity. The other reason that more trenchant criticism of riders and trainers does not appear is because of fear that friendly relationships built up with yards for the purposes of news and features will be compromised. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the paper’s relationship with bookies.

Haigh put the poor punter – skinned alive between the players and the layers – first. The paper is good at being enthusiastic and poetic about racing – and you need that, because at its best it is an exciting and worderful sport – but utterly hopeless at wading into shit and dubious bread-and-butter bookies’ racing. I soon realised that there is a great hostility at the Post to taking the piss out of racing and pointing out, in broad, non-actionable terms, how corrupt it can be.

And it can be corrupt. At some point during most weeks of the Flat or National Hunt season I will find myself in a betting shop watching a horse at a very large price with no form or some poor form from way back suddenly come steaming home to win or make the frame. You know it stinks. You know there’s a huge chance that the horse has been ridden in an illegal fashion many times to manipulate its handicap rating and its price/odds. Some pointers: the betting shop commentary goes very quiet (libel), the racecourse goes very quiet and the punters in the betting shop get angry and hurl their slips at the screen. Sometimes questions are asked by the stewards, sometimes not. A colourless report will appear in the racing press the next day. Someone’s had a killing. Haigh is right, the Post’s circulation is in precipitous decline, its tipsters are pretty useless (Pricewise’s jumps season record has been pisspoor and I did better than him for Cheltenham) and its sycophantic attitude alienates potential readers. If it doesn’t become disputatious, essential and feared, it will perish, and that will be a sad thing.

1 comment:

Ayrdale said...

Mmmm. I think I get the drift.
Cranmer suggests a gay couple on the throne might be acceptable.
Arise Sir Julian...