As you may have assumed already, I’m formally retiring this blog. It’s been good, helpful and cathartic to write, and my thanks to you if you’ve ever read, shared, commented or supported it.
Further updates on my writing, articles not available elsewhere, plans for future projects, and the usual enthusing over old weird history, politics and pop culture will now be available here, if you want ’em:
(“Vicisti, O aspidistra!”)
I’ve not properly been out in Soho for a while. So much of it is now being knocked down and replaced with offices and/or extortionately-priced apartments – sorry, “regenerated” – that it’s disorientating. The landmarks of my past decade here – “I’m in this pub; I’ll meet you outside so-and-so” – are vanishing. Even the handful of harmless off-licences and newsagents are closed up, shuttered and rotting. To add insult to injury, the block where Madame JoJos et al were is now scaffolded and shrinkwrapped with glossy pictures of what used to be there, the area’s legacy presented as a reason why you should patronise its upcoming unaffordable incarnation. “Here’s an appropriated snap of a legendary Soho character [who we evicted and are currently concreting over all trace of], please make a note to spend your money on this site soon.” Been coming for several years of course, but confronting it is still something.
(signed, an acutely self-aware has-been)
I wouldn’t say ‘mistake’ or even ‘tragedy’ (since that seems to imply an absence of responsibility), but this is excellent: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-150d11df-c541-44a9-9332-560a19828c47
One of the most frustrating aspects of Owen Smith’s media presentation is that it’s a painfully transparent attempt to position him as representative of a particular cultural demographic – working-class regional male – which is perceived as outsider in a politics dominated by public-schoolboys and metropolitan liberal elites. And, you know, that perception isn’t incorrect – we’re highly unlikely to ever get another Aneurin Bevan. But this attempt comes across as excruciating because it’s a demographic that Smith a) doesn’t quite occupy and consequently b) ends up insulting by presenting it as characterised by unreconstructed testosterone-addled pre-60s machismo. I see this happen again and again in attempts to appeal to some… not even romanticised, but some condescending lowest-common-denominator idea of those apparently exotic unknown creatures, working-class men, and it’s both unhelpful and embarrassing.
This is old news by now of course, but one thing I found striking about Andrea Leadsom’s inane “Let’s banish pessimism!” line was how worryingly neatly it tied into the amount of magical thinking there was around the referendum. I am now seeing a notable amount of responses from Leave voters – exclusively on the right, NB – along the barely paraphrased lines of “accept you lost, stop sulking, start talking up this great country of ours unless you want to drive us into recession”.
This is how (one aspect of all) this is going to play out, isn’t it? Rather than accept that there were justified economic and social anxieties around leaving, when things go down the pan post-Brexit it’s going to be rationalised as the fault of opponents of Leave for not throwing themselves into national promotion wholeheartedly enough. This will be spun as an opportunity that could have been amazing if only ~self-loathing elitist refuseniks~ had had a bit more gumption and been a bit more forward-thinking.
So, we reach one logical conclusion of the 90s focus on individual drive, rather than anything political or economic, as the root cause of one’s personal circumstances. As well as a response to a thirty-year slide into the abyss that now seems unfixable other than by, you know, really wishing really hard.
Obviously I’m pleased for the residents of New Era estate that this has happened, but it’s unsettling to see yet another instance of socio-economic injustice resolved by the intervention of what is essentially paternalist philanthropy. As if politicians are wholly powerless to impose a rent cap on landlords or to commission the building of affordable housing, rather than just being disinclined to do so. See also food banks run by charities and churches as a response to impoverishment, rather than eg a living wage.
Still, Merry Christmas, eh.
This is a recording of the big meeting I took part in this month in Manchester on how current media and politics are warping ideas around welfare. More of the debate is here.