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6 June, 2008  
London Calling

Leverhulme is beside himself about the crazy onslaught of political correctness. He’s disturbed by developments Down Under and in the Old Dart. And Viscount Norwich bemoans the loss of important freedoms, like drink driving

imageI have just returned from Australia, the land of my fathers (sorry, and mothers), to find the UK twitching with another paroxysm of political correctness.

Political correctness is all about control and jealousy: one is not allowed to speak freely or have too much fun. But what is an embedded culture here looks like blossoming in Girt by Sea.

In Kevin’s Heaven there seem to be even more apertures in the street bins. They made me nervous. I thought my collar would be felt if I accidentally slipped an apple core into the non-toxic textiles hole. Even the shop assistants started to frighten me.

After a night on the turps in Melbourne, I went to one of those “We Squash While You Watch” fruit juice shops kidding myself that the “Immunity Juice” would trick my body into thinking I was looking after it.

The young lass (oops, woman) with purple hair who took my money demanded to know my name. I ventured to ask “why”? – wondering whether, in my absence, the Dentist had brought in a new law governing safe, stakeholder shopping which reverses the onus of proof.

She looked at me as if I was barmy. “So I’ll know who to serve,” she snapped.

“But,” I protested, “I’m the only person in the shop!”

She glared at me: “Name?”

In Sydney, I also saw a lot of people walking around muttering to themselves. Was this the only way they could express an opinion out loud without being arrested?

* * *

imageIn England things are very grim. Even the poor old Queen is in strife at the moment because she’s been accused of plonking the Royal Warrant on too many sugary foods.

Royal Warrants are a valuable marketing tool but it seems her Maj has been sticking her seal of approval on chocolate, margarine and, God help us, fizzy drinks.

The Food Commission, through its strident organ, Food Magazine, says it’s questionable whether the Queen should be granting her warrant, and the status associated with royalty, to such products.

“This is especially relevant when her own (sic) government is actively seeking to reduce consumption of such foods.”

The Palace pointed out that the Royal Warrant applies to companies who provide good service not products.

* * *

imageFrom York, comes a wonderful new application of the Data Protection laws. (Forgive my feverish italics.)

Happy newly weds posing for those blissful photos no-one really ever wants to see, are being forced to sign a blank page in the register.

Guidelines say that pictures of couples signing the register could invade the privacy of others whose signatures are on the same page, and that fraudsters might use details gleaned from them.

The York City Council spokeswoman was firm.

“If couples want a picture, our standard procedure (don’t you just love that expression?), which has been in place (and that?) for some time, is that we are perfectly happy to allow this by turning on to a blank page in the register to allow this.” (Note the fondness for the word “allow”.)

The Home Office spokesperson was even more emphatic.

“There are data protection issues (a lovely phrase) which we raise when somebody else’s details are put in the public domain. This is about being aware of people’s identity information – if it’s there in the register, then it’s problematic. Taking a photo could be construed as a copy of the entry and a breach of Crown Copyright.” (Oh no, not another possible offence!)

It doesn’t say much for the meaning of the word, “Register.” What hope is there for the banns?

* * *

imageThere’s a new book out this week by the grandly-named John Julius Norwich.

The 78-year old peer is the only son of the beautiful Lady Diana Cooper (pic) and her affectionate husband, Duff.

Interviewed in The Daily Telegraph JJ, as the 2nd Viscount Norwich is known, speaks frankly of his father’s philandering.

Duff Cooper, a cabinet minister and diplomat, who was very influential in British politics, was a serial skirt chaser. He made, says JJ, the current leader of the Liberal democrats, Nick Clegg (who claimed recently to have slept with about 30 women), “look like a beginner”.

imageIt’s pretty risky stuff these days to be talking in a newspaper like this, but JJ (pic) goes further. He is forced to take the Tube most days to the British Library, which must, as it turns out, be a euphemism.

“I loathe this political correctness. I miss the days when one could drive to dinner and not worry about being picked up for drink driving on the way back. I drove home over the limit every night for decades and don’t believe I was a danger to anybody.”

The very thought makes you shudder. Get this man an Immunity Juice at once.