Thursday, November 10, 2016

So Trump’s next for the White House: did the birds fall out of the sky where you live? No, not here, either. And as Leonard Cohen has finally played his last gig, I give you one of his - co-written - songs, though mercifully not his version, but one by Holly Figuera O’Reilly

The dust has settled neither on the Brexit vote held almost five months ago, nor the US presidential vote last Tuesday which say Trump take the top prize and it won’t settle for some time. A colleague won £235 betting on a Trump victory, although as she placed her bet rather late in the day when they odds had considerably shortened, her winnings were not as great as they mighty have been; and rather more exciting is that a John Mappin, who owns the Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel, North Cornwall, is now £110,000 better off after placing ‘a small bet’ (his words) at 20/1 last year. When I heard about Libby’s win, I could have kicked myself - I would have put a pound or ten on Trump (as the apparent underdog) but is just didn’t occur to me. Memo to self...

The reaction has been predictable: all the bien pensant folk are screaming ‘it’s just too, too awful, my dear’ and the bloody Guardian, never a slouch when it comes to trying to win Tit of The Week, even published a very silly piece that ‘Electing Trump: the moment America laid waste to democracy as we know it’ which for bloody stupid hyperbole takes some beating.

A certain Giles Fraser came out with the so far most outré feature I have seen on the matter of Trump’s election. Fraser is an egregious example of a peculiarly British phenomenon the ‘left-wing Anglican clergyman’, public school educated naturally - Uppingham - and who can always be relied upon by whichever newspaper employs the type to broaden an argument sufficiently to be acceptable to as many as possible (and, not to put too fine a point, to maximise sales).

He insists that ‘This election result is a terrific argument for monarchy’. This being the Guardian, which doesn’t want too many readers choking on their cornflakes, he does go on to slightly modify his contrarian position by insisting that he wouldn’t of course - well, of course not! - want our queen or anyone’s monarch to have more than zero executive authority, but the claim is left standing on the grounds that a monarch, ‘anointed’ by God (he is a sky pilot, after all) is a unifying force. Well, possibly. And possibly not. But making the claim does help the Guardian fill the acres of newsprint it is obliged to fill each day to keep the advertisers happy.

The Independent, the ‘paper’ chosen by bien pensant folk who find the Guardian just a teensy bit too leftie and who are, anyway, those kinds of snobs who very much enjoy being in a minority (the ‘Indy’ is now no longer a newspaper ever since circulation slipped inexorably slipped into minus figures and is only available online) was rather quieter on the hyperbole front, though it has done its damnedest to remain contrarian by insisting that Trump’s support came largely from disaffected blue-collar workers who felt neglected by the political establishment.

Trump voters jobless blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt? Not so, says a piece headlined ‘The biggest myths behind Trump’s win debunked’ and it goes on to quote ‘research’ - newspapers love research which gives their bullshit a patina of respectability - by Professor Eric Kaufman, of Birkbeck University, London. It all makes very convincing reading if you glance through it, but my very first thought was just how much care and effort can have gone into a piece of research conceived, carried out and evaluated within 36 hours of the polls closing? I rather think I would be inclined to take more seriously research conducted over a matter of months and then thoughtfully evaluated.

But then this is the world of newspapers. (I well remember as a reporter for almost six years the ease with which one could ‘get to know’ a subject for the purposes of writing a news story, only to forget everything within days. It was just a question of tracking down the right ‘experts’ whose knowledge of a certain matter - and a few pertinent ‘quotes’ - was sufficient to stand up the story the news editor had asked you to stand up. The trick was simply to ignore the expertise of the first few experts you contacted if they didn’t say what you wanted them to say. It wasn’t rocket science.)

The Daily Telegraph - yes, it does still exist - takes a pretty much sober line which reflects pretty much what it would like to happen. So one piece by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet (no, I’ve never heard of her, either, but then I rarely read the DT) spells out (I imagine rather to the DT’s glee) that ‘Donald Trump’s message is spreading across Europe - and France could be the next domino to fall’. Could Marine Le Pen win the presidency of France next year? it wonders.

I would very much like to answer that question with a resounding ‘No’, but as I have been wrong twice - on Brexit and Trump winning - perhaps I should keep my trap shut. Moutet’s piece sounded the usual dog whistle’s for Telegraph readers and had remarkably little to do with Trump’s electoral victory. Pope Francis, it assured its readers who crave such assurances daily, is becoming a realist on the matter of immigration: just last week he had declared that ‘ “setting limits” on immigration “is not selfish” ’. And this from a man who had the cheek two years ago to celebrate requiem masses for drowned migrants. Fancy!

‘Queen Europe herself, Angela Merkel,’ Moutet declared, ‘has spectacularly backtracked on immigration, declaring Germany’s borders closed again to to the refugees immigration she vowed to welcome only a year ago.’ The Telegraph also makes strong play of the fact that our British Prime Minister Theresa May was only
the tenth ‘world leader’ Trump spoke to after he was declared president elect. But then I don’t think the Telegraph much likes May, so that might explain that story (though as usual its cartoonist Matt produced a good cartoon to put the matter of a potential ‘snub’ in context).

This is all intended to convey to the toffs and wealthy pensioners the Telegraph likes to think read the rag it produces that ‘not to worry, things are becoming saner again’. Up and down the country in golf club bars the word is going out that ‘that man Trump, well, he might be a bit of an oik but he does seem to be what we need just now’. What to make of it all? Well, nothing, really. It struck me as remarkably foolish to pass judgment on Brexit - as both sides did - within hours, then days of the referendum result being declared before much dust had settled, and the same is true of Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States.

About the sanest piece I have so far come across and which pretty much sums up what I feel was by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian. Jenkins, who seems inclined to the Tory side of things, but usually strikes me as his own man, was editor of the London Evening Standard for two years and later editor of The Times for two years in the early Nineties.

I have to admit that two years is not long for anyone to edit a paper and the suspicion is that he didn’t really suit the proprietors. But that might well count in his favour - they all love a Yes man and are never to chuffed with someone who refuses to be a Yes man. I really don’t know what the score is either way, but I find I often agree with Jenkins’s views and he seems most often to strike a sober, down-to-earth tone. He most certainly does so here when he declares that ‘Trump is not the worst and won’t go unchallenged’.

. . .

In view of Lenny Cohen popping his clogs, here is one of his songs. I can’t say it is a tribute for the simple reason that it isn’t. Apart from the years of my late teens and early twenties when I was apt to feel sorry for myself and played his first album to death, Cohen’s music does less for me than a bowl of cold porridge. And this song is not all his own work, but was written by Sharon Robinson, one of his occasional backing singers, who also does a great, rather jazzy version.

Cohen’s own version is crap (in my humble view - I understand convention insists we much add such disclaimers however insincere they are). This version is by a Holly Figuera O’Reilly, and I particularly like the jaunty, upbeat delivery which underlines the cynical pessimism of it all.

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