Nick Cohen’s boozed-up rant at the Orwell debate provoked a few thoughts. He gives the impression the prize is a kind of repository of Orwelline writing virtue. It isn’t. If it was they would never have awarded it to our old pal David Aaronovitch, who was and is one of the greatest new Labour sycophants; a man who, by propagandizing the new Labour project, gave his energy and approval to the corruption of language via a partnership of government spin doctors and "client journalists", which was one of the most troubling features of the Blair years. As Orwell and Auden pointed out, when language gets corrupted thought gets corrupted; and corrupt language and thinking has been in great evidence in the past 11 years and beyond. Auden, in September 1, 1939, called the 30s a low, dishonest decade. Well, the past decade can easily be so described. Cohen's points about a de facto conspiracy among the BBC and the Guardian to do down Euston Manifesto type journalists who won't swallow the Left's take on Islamism and related matters is worth serious consideration.
However, if you, like me, revere Orwell, you will be slightly surprised to find that not only has David Aaronovitch won the award in the past; but so have Polly Toynbee, Johann Hari and, last and least, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I either didn't notice at the time or I have erased it from my mind because it is too painful to be held there. Toynbee and Hari have never written a word I have found 'original, beautiful', or 'showing steely analysis and courageous independence of mind'. They simply parrot Islington dinner party socialism/big government solutions, even when big government solutions have been found as wanting as small government sink-or-swim. I would re-award the prize to Toynbee myself if she had the 'courageous independence of mind' to admit that her - and Labour's - big ideas for the poor have caused more harm - to the poor and everyone else - than good. I can't help thinking George Orwell would have noticed by now.
As for Alibhai-Brown, she is an incompetent writer who, I suspect, prospers in the London media scene because she is a Pakistani Muslim who, like so many of her demographic, can exploit an imagined slight or deploy a greivance faster than you can say 'institutional racism'. I once made a study of her Evening Standard columns. They were like the extended and ever so slightly loopy letters you see in local newspapers. I dare say the editor found it easier to run them than to ask Alibhai-Brown to write coherently. I know for a fact the sub-editors at the Independent, where she also plies a trade, thought she was a moron. See her "interview" Nick Cohen here about a book he wrote and she, unbelieveably, hadn't bothered to read.
Cohen says Gordon Brown connived at Martin Bright's removal from the New Statesman, on account of Bright's attacks on Ken Livingstone at a time when Gilligan was uncovering the excesses of Chairman Ken's fiefdom and making the first big cracks in the Livingstone and therefore Labour power base. This I can well believe. Brown is a vengeful control freak. But Cohen goes too far in calling Oborne and Hitchens 'utterly mediocre men'. Hitchens is pompous and priggish, but he's no client journalist for the Tories - who he hopes will be destroyed - in the way that Aaronovitch and Toynbee have been for Labour. He's written two interesting and compelling books that, while badly flawed, ask some very powerful and awkward questions of the ruling class and has been prepared for the public ridicule and opprobrium that it caused him. He has also visited countries such as Pakistan and South Africa and exposed terrible truths about them. That's quite Orwelline, I think. Oborne's book, The Triumph of the Political Class, is a work that the author of Animal Farm would have positively relished, notwithstanding Oborne's conservatism. Cohen decries both Hitchens and Oborne because 'they are on a hundred grand a year'. Well, I don't suppose Cohen has felt that nothing-but-fluff-in-your-pocket feeling for quite some time either.
Also, both Hitchens and Oborne have exposed more Doublethink, Goodthink and Crimethink, in other words the many ugly truths behind the new Labour media mirage than Martin Bright and many another centre-left writer have (and it is important to remember that the literary prize circuit is mainly a liberal\left-wing talking shop - note the judges, Comrade Ian Jack and Left-Wing BBC Millionaire Pensioner Jennie Abramsky). They reckon Ms Abramsky, a Holland Park Comprehensive aristocrat, has the biggest pension in the public sector. That'll keep Mandelson awake at night). Bright admitted in his Despatches programme, if memory serves me right, that he kept quiet for a long time about Livingstone and his various abuses for the sake of not handing any advantage to the Right. Almost every centre left journalist in London did, didn't they?
Saw Jacqui Smith's "difficult" interview on Channel 4 tonight. Shameless and arrogant (very much giving the impression she was doing us a favour by even deigning to discuss it - a typically baby boomer political class stance) - and the cockney accent's getting stronger by the day. Does she think that will help her in Redditch? Start packing yer bags, Jacqui, your seat's already lost. She's insisting she's done nothing wrong. Channel 4 News' fact list is useful in reaching a conclusion.
Best news item was this list, going back four years, of MPs' receipts and expenses that is due to make an appearance in full by July. Panic is spreading in Westminster. According to the news report, some MPs are considering going to law to stop the public seeing them. Squeal, piggies, squeal!
I hope the policeman who deliberately shoved Ian Tomlinson to the ground moments before he died will be punished appropriately and not allowed, as so often happens, to effectively get away with it.