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The Friday Blog: Chicken Yoghurt
4 October 2005
Welcome to the first of a new regular TFT strand wherein we trawl the internet for the best it has to offer in the way of blog insight. Sifting through the spam, the angst and the mind-numbingly nerdy, we aim to extrapolate the pearls from the poopy. This week's post from the ever-excellent 'Chicken Yoghurt':
POETRY AND FLOWERS, PRETTY WORDS AND THREATS
I missed Blair's speech at the Labour Party conference so, steeling myself, I sat down and attempted to read the transcript.
Blair's avoidance of verbs is something of a cliché these days; those punchy verbal bullet points. His diction is like that of an IT recruitment consultant with ideas above his adequacy. Really, I'm the last to call anybody on their English, spoken or written, but *Jesus*.
'Look at Britain's cities. A decade ago in decline.
Muslims, like all of us, abhor terrorism. Like all of us, are its victims.
If people have a grievance, politics is the answer. Not terror.
Street fighters in local politics. Utterly unserious on the national stage.'
What. Is. It. With. Those. Interminable. Bloody. Pauses. Between. Half. Sentences. Like. A. Policeman. Shooting. A. Brazilian. In. The. Head?
(Having recently studied shorthand, I have a theory as to why he. Talks. Like. That. It's so all the listening journalists who generally have a shorthand speed of around 120 words per minute can. Record. Every. Word. Blair. Says. And accurately consign them to the history books.)
Are these speeches supposed to be picked over? I'm genuinely intrigued. (As Marina Hyde says in today's Guardian, they're certainly not designed to be memorable.) What about the factual errors and the bending of the truth? Yes, yes, I know all politicians lie and none more than Blair, but if these speeches are just to engender a sense of well-being in the party faithful, why doesn't he do away with the ball-ache of preparing the speech and just buy a bloody big round of drinks instead?
I mean how about this: 'I will never return us to selection aged 11 in our schools.'
In response, given the opportunity, I'd say: "What the Hell are you talking about? Look at this huge list of grammar schools. Selection at 11 never went away."
Practically every delegate in the hall must have known that, even that old dear with the fizzy knickers they interviewed on BBC News 24 after the speech. Like I said, if the speech was designed to rally the faithful in a general sense, why go to all the trouble of putting in misleading specifics?
'I will never allow the NHS to charge for treatment.' What if you're a, to pick an example completely at random, a victim of the London bombing needing specialist prostethic legs not available on the NHS? You've got no choice but to pay, if not the NHS, then somebody else for your treatment. His half of the story and my half come together to tell a tale that wouldn't do on the floor of the rally. It's a rally. If you thought it was a conference, as in 'the party high command conferred with the rank and file', then you are either dumber than you look or Alan Milburn.
The section of the speech on crime should have put the wind up anyone with even the smallest affection for civil liberties, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
'The whole of our system starts from the proposition that its duty is to protect the innocent from being wrongly convicted.
Don't misunderstand me. That must be the duty of any criminal justice system.
But surely our primary duty should be to allow law-abiding people to live in safety.
It means a complete change of thinking.
It doesn't mean abandoning human rights.
It means deciding whose come first.'
The significant word in the passage is the 'but'. 'Complete change of thinking' is also unsettlingly pertinent. Who comes first? Not, it would seem, the innocent suspects facing miscarriages of justice. They're a bit like dead Brazilians - you've got to expect a few in this age of modern policing.
No, it's the Daily Mail reader with his or her overinflated fear of crime that Blair has in mind. I say overinflated, as Blair says himself in the speech, "crime overall is down, burglary and car crime by big numbers." To protect the innocent, we must increase the risk of banging up the innocent.
He also wants "a radical extension of summary powers to police and local authorities to take on the wrong doers". Looks like Sir Ian Blair is going to get at least one thing from his wish list...