Friday, October 17, 2014

Sexy women; Cataluña; The EU; Spanish/English; Grammar rules; & Politicians.

Readers of Esquire magazine have voted Penelope Cruz the sexiest woman on the planet, which I consider to be an insult to hundreds, if not thousands, of other Spanish women. And quite a few British women too. Not that she isn't attractive, of course.

Cataluña: Who the hell really knows what's going on but it seems some sort of pro-independence jamboree will certainly take place on Nov 9. Possibly involving 'informal but legal' voting for something or other. Perhaps motherhood and apple pie.

Talking of oddities . . . I can't resist quoting this view from another Times columnist, Tim Mongomerie, on the EU: The laboratory case of a project run by elites. Whenever voters use referendums to object to ever closer union they are ordered to reconsider. After Denmark and Ireland had the audacity to question the European project they were sent back to the ballot box. And what is the result of an EU run as much by bureaucrats, central bankers and judges as by heads of government? The eurozone and mass youth unemployment; a climate change regime that has diminished manufacturing without cutting global emissions; and a system of agricultural subsidies that transfers wealth from families struggling to afford the grocery bill to rich hobby farmers in rural France and Bavaria. As I frequently say - Welcome to the Age of the Bureaucrats.

Spanish/English: In a film I saw last night, "For fuck's sake!" was translated in the subtitles as Por el amor de Diós. Or 'For the love of God'. A tad ironic, I thought.

This is a fascinating article on on the validity of certain rules of English grammar and syntax. It confirms that the less/fewer battle has been lost. By the way - Guardian comment-makers must be the politest in the world. One of them provided this gem: "The record for ending a sentence with prepositions is 5, by a small child whose parent had brought the wrong story book up at bedtime. She said 'What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of up for?'

Talking of English . . . I wonder who the genius was who said "I can't be arsed with all the genders, noun-adjective agreements and verb changes in our Teutonic language. Let's do without them. Life will be a helluva lot easier." We owe him/her an awful lot.

Finally . . . Politics: Everything's relative: Here's a (justifiable) moan from David Aaronavitch of The Times about British politicians: He should be happy he doesn't live here, where politicians are equally useless but corrupt as well. Roll on the revolution. Stop that useless pan-clanging and wheel out the tumbrils!

Instead of facing up to real challenges, our shabby, short-sighted politicians fail to offer us any sort of leadership

When I was a teenager there was a fashion for something called primal therapy. The main book espousing this, by a man called Arthur Janov, was entitled The Primal Scream and had the painting by Edvard Munch on the cover. After this last few months of politics in Britain I want to let out a primal scream. I need to go down to the woods, roll around in mud, murder squirrels and yell at the Moon. Instead I have this column and it will have to do. As you read it, imagine my byline picture is in Harry Potter’s Daily Prophet and watch it shrieking and holding its face.

Our main political parties are so broken and so unable to fix themselves that you must either weep for them and all the good people in them, or you must hate them. Perhaps you can do both.

The world has changed and they have been unable to. The world needs long-term solutions and proper arguments, and they offer us nothing but bickering and sticking plasters. Little sticking plasters for big wounds. The country needs reform and they act, in effect, to block it or to enact only those changes that have least impact on them.

It is less than a month since we nearly lost the country we live in, but this week the issue of how to deal with additional devolved powers for Scotland, as promised before the referendum, turned into a jostling for advantage over the implications for England. The Conservative party has been advised by its election supremo, Lynton Crosby, that it can make English resentment of Scottish MPs voting on English questions into an election issue. So where the obvious need is for a constitutional settlement based on a debate about the nation’s governance, the Tories want to get a row going for their election manifesto.

Labour’s call for a constitutional convention is sensible but can also be read as a self-interested attempt to delay the moment its Scottish MPs have to give up influencing English decisions.

Why did we not tackle our out-of-date and unrepresentative constituency boundaries? Because backbench Tories blocked reform of the Lords that would have depleted their own powers and the Lib Dems retaliated by taking the Conservatives’ candy from them. When the referendum on the alternative vote was held the Conservatives opposed it and more Labour people campaigned against than for it. Why? As I wrote at the time, “to use the old electoral system to shoehorn voters into propping up a Lab-Con duopoly, which an increasing number simply don’t want”. Watch that one come home to roost as Ukip candidates threaten to win on 30-40 per cent of constituency votes, often despite belonging to the party that most people least want to win.

For months now political correspondents have been coming back from their whisperings on the Capitol with tales of how there will be no televised debates — whatever anyone says in public — before the next election. Never mind that such debates helped to draw voters into the discussion in 2010 — Labour and the Tories regard the involvement of third and fourth parties as threatening and will find an excuse for getting out of them.

Tearing your hair out? Are politicians such box office, is politics so popular, is the public so engaged that we can easily dispense with what few tools we have? If they took any kind of a longer view the parties would be banging on broadcasters’ doors demanding more debates.

Voters instinctively understand, I think, that politicians are terrified of them, too terrified to tell them the truth. They watch as some of the politicos flatter the obsessives among us with their attention to prejudices. More Tory MPs asked about Europe yesterday in prime minister’s questions (which was the usual embarrassing bear garden) than about anything else.

So everything is easily sorted and easily divided. Labour created the economic crisis (so what was sub-prime?), the Tories are privatising the NHS (so who will have to pay?), Lord Freud wants to murder the disabled, Ed Miliband is a closet Chávista.

The voters can see the electoral percentages being calculated by people who make a pretence of caring about good government. What problem in the United Kingdom today is, for example, solved by a further cut in inheritance tax for the children of the relatively wealthy? Yet David Cameron advances the idea as the election approaches and Labour dare not say that it’s wrong. Why call something a mansion tax when it mostly will not be levied on anything that looks remotely like a mansion?

On immigration neither the Tories nor Labour dare to say what was in the Times editorial yesterday, that immigration has been a solid benefit to Britain — although voters know very well that they think it and also believe that they can’t do anything much about it. Not without leaving the EU.

In foreign policy the parties are so spooked by possible reaction to military involvement in the war against Islamic State that they spend more time talking about what they won’t do than what they will. Is that leadership? Shall we devolve foreign policy to local neighbourhood watch groups?

Despite the growth of Ukip and the SNP and the ever-more purposeful bumblings of Boris, people know that the future does not lie in anti-politics or celeb-politics. As the Lib Dems have discovered (and in their hearts secretly knew) when you are always going to be in opposition you can promise a wish with every rub of anyone’s lamp. But who wants Nigel Farage running our policies on ebola or deciding how to deal with Vladimir Putin? Or even Boris?

Again, things have changed. In an ultra-sophisticated media-saturated society like ours, people know better how to read the claims and characters of those appealing for their support. What a bizarre misreading of his listeners was it for Ed Miliband to risk his pre-election conference speech for the gimmick of reading without notes. He confused form with content, which is what they do not do.

Lead. Tell people the truth. Listen, but always argue. No false reassurances. Offer the voters a vision of the long-term. Cut out the hack phrases and the alienating point-scoring. And if, after that, they don’t like you and vote you out, well at least you won’t have done any bloody harm. Owoooowww!


Alfred B. Mittington said...

The link to the fascinating article does not work, I fear.

As for the prepositional phrase of the little girl: it seems to me the 'to' is superfluous and goes nowhere. Other than that, the sentence makes perfect sense.

And let us not forget that the dumb 'rule' which says you cannot end an English sentence with a preposition, was never more than a needless intrusion, taking from Latin and imposed upon the English language by haughty academics in love with their own superior knowledge.

Compares, by the by, with the activities of our EU masters…


Colin Davies said...

1. Link: Fixed. Ta-
2. 'To be read to' is a phrasal verb, distinct from to be read. "I would like to be read to tonight, Dad", for example.
3. Prepositions: Agreed. I think Pinker points out that prepositions don't exist in Latin. It's all in the inflections.

Anthea said...

Although the dative and ablative cases do obviate the need for some prepositions, there is really no shortage of prepositions in Latin; for instance "IN vino veritas"!!

Perry said...

Talking of English, Swedish is simpler. Take "I am" etc.

Jag är
Du är (informal address to child)
Han är He
Hon är She
Det är It
Vi är
Ni är You all (formal address to adults)
De är

Owen Paterson is someone whom I could support as PM.

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