Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Cant

NBC have helpfully looked through Trump's masterly pronouncements on the coronavirus crisis. Or not crisis, depending on what Fox News told him five minutes previously.
Jan 22: "It’s going to be just fine. We have it totally under control."

Jan 24 (tweet): "It will all work out well."

Jan 30: "We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment"

Feb 7 (tweet): "… as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone."

Feb 10: "I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine."

Feb 14: "We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape."

Feb 19: "I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine."

Feb 24 (tweet): "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

Feb 25: "You may ask about the coronavirus which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it & the people that have it are getting better. Theyre all getting better. As far as what we’re doing with the new virus I think that we’re doing a great job"

Feb 26: "Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low. … When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done."

Feb 28: "I think it’s really going well. … We’re prepared for the worst, but we think we’re going to be very fortunate."

Feb 28: "It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear."

Feb 28: "This is their new hoax."

Mar 4: "Some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or hospital, and they’ll get better. There are many people like that."

Mar 9 (tweet): "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

Mar 10: "And it hit the world. And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away."

Mar 11: "I think we’re going to get through it very well."

Mar 12: "It’s going to go away. The US, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it."

Mar 15: "This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over."

Mar 16: "If you’re talking about the virus, no, that’s not under control for any place in the world."

Mar 17: "I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic … I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

The Four Streets by Nadine Dorries, reviewed by Christopher Howse.

If you enjoy advertisements for the NSPCC this is the novel for you. The Cinderella Law might have been made for little Nellie, the heroine of Tory MP Nadine Dorries's first novel The Four Streets, who is mistreated by her emotionally stunted stepmother. Little Kitty, her friend, is abused, by a priest of course. If she told on him, they'd call her "mad Kitty".

The setting is a block of streets of Irish dockers' families in Liverpool in the Fifties. The author's axiom is that, though poor, they "had everything of any real value: family, good neighbourliness and friendship". So the evil necessary to make the saga suitably miserable must come from without: the stepmother is English and the priest is in league with paedophile NHS hospital porters, Stanley and Austin, token characters, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

This makes the novel sound more interesting than it is. "Heartbreaking, gripping, life-affirming" are the qualities promised on the back cover. But these uneasy bedfellows are strangers to The Four Streets. Perhaps, if the story had begun at page 289, on which something happens, it might have stood a chance. As it is, the action repeatedly falls from the author's grip, like a sticky dummy from the lips of a fractious, sickly child in an old pram.

Even a car ploughing into a crocodile of children fails to liven things up. The wicked stepmother falls into the background, comforted by Valium, when a dea ex machina blows in from the Ould Country in the form of Nana Kathleen , a sort of Mrs Brown from the telly, only wiser and warmer. Oddly, since secrecy made the horrors for the kiddies in the novel possible, she is called approvingly "the keeper of all secrets".

The author, who boasts of a background similar to her characters', though now a Bedfordshire MP, seems curiously ignorant of Catholic practice. The Pope certainly did not favour coitus interruptus.

She tells the halting story in often vacuous language. A father's patience with his children "bore testament to his temperament", though he saw his twin boys as "testament to his virility". When Nellie's father protects her, "like a lion, he roared". Anyone surprised is "in shock", which happens "on a regular basis".

If all this weren't bad enough, flame-haired Bernadette, Nellie's mother who died in childbirth, makes periodic ghostly interventions. This is the worst novel I've read in 10 years. Only with imaginative effort might some readers of a mawkish disposition like The Four Streets. A sequel, may the Holy Mother protect us, is due in the autumn.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Tories would be mad not to choose Boris for leader – no one else comes close

Unlike the Maybot, he can lift your heart: this was Boris, prime minister in waiting

The Daily Telegraph 13 Jun 2019 Allison Pearson

Not a parody, apparently.


Oh, thank God, the overwhelming sense of relief! After three years of being led (and misled) by a stooping, scuttling wraith of a Prime Minister, after the misery of constipation with no laxatives, after abject humiliation and Nervous Nellies and national shame and speak-your-weight sound bites and Project Fear and oh dear, oh dear, we have forgotten what optimism feels like, here comes Boris.

"Good morning, everybody!" he began his launch at Carlton Gardens… and people started smiling. Even the ones who hate his guts find their lips twitching at the corners. They can’t help it. When Boris Johnson enters a room, the molecules rearrange themselves to make room for the sheer force of personality. There is a palpable frisson of expectation. It’s hard to define chemistry, but, boy, do we know it when we see it.

The Boris of old might have tried to wing it. But this was Prime-ministerin-waiting Boris. His boring, jealous rivals snark that "serious times need serious leaders". Well, he’d give them serious. No more faux-hapless ruffling of that haystack mop which, like its owner, has been trimmed and tamed.

For the most part he stuck to his speech, and jolly good it was too, masterly at times. Fervent, yet artful, it promised to restore confidence in democracy by honouring the promise to leave the EU. Rallying cries for national unity were matched by metaphors that were clever yet easily understood by all. Our football clubs, he pointed out gleefully, had won two major European tournaments "by beating other English teams" (big laugh). Despite the Brexit "morass", the economy had grown "much faster than the rest of Europe". (Stick that up your Juncker, defeatist Remainers!) Again and again, Boris praised the British people. For their "resilience", their "dynamism". He called the countries in the Union "the Awesome Foursome". Lovely. Unlike the metallic Maybot, Boris can lift your heart.

The paralysis in our disillusioned country must urgently be lifted because "delay means defeat". (Boris beat that message out with karate chops to the lectern.) He didn’t want to leave with no deal, but we must prepare "vigorously and seriously" for that outcome.

If the Conservative government kicked the can again, he warned, it would be "kicking the bucket" – and that means Corbyn. Boris will never be Passion’s Slave – far too calculating for that – but there was real venom in his attack on a Labour leader who has "contempt" for normal people’s aspirations to do better for themselves. (We haven’t heard such an excoriation of socialism since Margaret Thatcher.) The people of Britain "deserve better from their leaders" who needed courage and clarity.

Funnily enough, Boris knew just the chap. He’d worked wonders as the Mayor of London and was now available to pull off the same trick for the entire nation.

Introducing Boris Johnson yesterday, Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, said that our next prime minister would need "certain indispensable requirements".

"These are extraordinary times and we need a personality big enough, strong enough and with the political imagination to rise to the historic challenges our country is now confronted with. A managerial and bureaucratic approach will not suffice." No, it really won’t. But, hang on a minute. What about the multiple charges against Boris – dreadful reputation, cavalier with detail – that were made during the questions at the end by Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’S political editor, speaking with clear distaste on behalf of the Chattering Classes? Just in time, the playful Boris millions know and love emerged from solemn statesman mode to gently rib the sanctimonious Ms Kuenssberg.

Out of "that great minestrone of observations", he told her helpfully, he had picked up "one crouton, that I have been inconsistent".

It was funny, yet at the same time it could not have been more serious. Boris was signalling that he won’t modify either his language, or his behaviour, to please a politically correct, censorious liberal minority.

He will express, in language most people understand, the ideas they hold dear. The metropolitan elite will damn him as a populist, which is another word for a persuader and a winner. We like winners.

"Hope is the thing with feathers," wrote the poet Emily Dickinson, capturing perfectly that fluttery, airborne sense you experience when you allow yourself to believe that things might come right again. People need optimism and, after three hopeless years, they are desperate to be led (even if that leader is flawed, they will follow him if he makes them believe they can do it). Boris Johnson gave us that feeling yesterday.

Evoking a powerful yet simple idea of one nation where a thriving free market enables "superb public services", where bankers support nurses and the South links hands with its friends in the North, his words took flight. Hope. Conservatives haven’t had hope for a very long time.

Honestly, they would be mad not to choose Boris. No one else comes close. Can he start tomorrow, please?