Kick Up The Tabloids


The next General Election is just around the corner and already the press are sharpening their teeth in anticipation. And, fair play to our elected representatives, they are not shying away from the cut-and-thrust of intellectual debate.

For example, before his appearance in front of the Iraq inquiry, Tony Blair, doubtless mindful of the gravity of the situation chose not to be interviewed by some lightweight such as Andrew Marr or Jeremy Paxman, but to be subjected to the rigorous grilling which can only be received from Fern Britton on the lunchtime sofa. Trivia such as the dodgy dossier, David Kelly’s suicide and the WMD nonsense were rightly ignored. Instead, Fern focussed on the important issues of the day, such as Cherie’s spring fashion tips and ideas for quick light meals that can be rustled up in 45 minutes. And, naturally, Tony was able to crowbar in a few mentions of God.

Likewise, Gordon Brown before his appearance at the Iraq Enquiry opted to go in front of the nation under the intense forensic scrutiny of one of the country’s most respected journalists. It really is no surprise he ended up in tears. In fact, if I’d found myself trapped in a TV studio with a smug self-satisfied oleaginous prick like Piers Morgan, I’d have started greeting a bloody sight earlier. Also, if I was Gordon Brown and realised to what extent I’d fucked up on my lifetime’s ambition to run the country, I probably wouldn’t stop crying from the moment I got up in the morning until I got the chance to take it out on some poor employee at Number 10.

Because it would appear that the soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister has another side to him, according to the National Bullying Helpline, which sounds as if it is a very worthy charity but is really in effect a front for the Conservative Party. It seems strange that the Tories, the Tribe of Thatcher, the party of privilege, now headed up by the likes of David Cameron and George Osbourne, should be so against bullying. Until, of course, you realise that most of them went to Eton and other similar boarding schools where doubtless the systematic child abuse doled out by teachers and older pupils alike may well have had a traumatising effect.

Anyway, the rather bizarre woman who runs the National Bullying Helpline claims that she has been inundated with calls from 10 Downing Street. Obviously, when faced with such claims, most governments would employ their most caring, sensitive spokesperson to deal with the media, someone the public trust and are reassured by. So Downing Street wheeled out Peter Mandelson to give the official statement that “this government does not support bullying, does not condone bullying, does not indulge in bullying. That’s it, end of story. Got that, you shits? Anyone saying we do is going to get a fucking kicking which they won’t forget. “

If Brown is indeed a bully, it strikes me he probably became one fairly late in life. Let’s face it, he was hardly likely to have one at school. I reckon that a vaguely autistic boss-eyed son of a Church of Scotland minister with limited social skills is always likely to be on the receiving end of a Chinese burn. And anyone talking about having a moral compass is much more likely to get stabbed in the arse with a geometry compass, a much-underestimated weapon in the arsenal of the average 12-year-old playground tyrant.

Meanwhile, up here in Scotland, the Leader of Glasgow City Council Steven Purcell has quit politics on the basis of some habits he developed that he probably shouldn’t have. His PR agent said he was suffering from exhaustion, while sources within the council claimed he was being treated for chemical dependency. Right up until everyone admitted what was really going on, the press had to write as if this was some kind of mystery that needs to be unravelled. However, the idea that the two statements were in some way contradictory is predicated on the bizarre assumption that the two states are mutually exclusive. Many people are both chemically-dependent and exhausted at the same time; it’s known as cause and effect. One of the commonest side effects of a coke-fuelled weekend on the lash is a sense of acute exhaustion and depression in its aftermath. In fact, who has ever considered entering rehab when they are pissed? Quite the opposite, in fact, as the world normally seems quite a nice place under the protective blanket of booze…. Indeed, the idea of voluntarily checking into an institution where you can’t get a drink would be the one thing to cause anxiety. However, when the morning (or much worse, the afternoon) hangover kicks in, all of a sudden the option of booking in to Castle Craig or the Priory suddenly seems very appealing.

I must admit I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for Steven Purcell. We frequently talk these days about our political leaders being out of touch with the voters, and the issues that most affect them. If Steven Purcell really does have a problem with drink and drugs, then surely he has tapped into the zeitgeist of the city he once led.