David Cameron

Elvis Presley Challenge No. 34 – Polly Toynbee

If her Guardian column on Monday 14th May is an indication, Polly Toynbee is becoming the Joe Louis of the left.   There is Joe Louissomething inspiring about a tough two fisted heroine.  And since the Coalition Government, Polly Toynbee has been slinging punches faster than we thought possible.    Meanwhile, Ed Milliband is a different kind of fighter, the kind who prefers the monotonous jab.   We have to be hesitant about being convinced by Milliband but if he does eventually triumph and claim a place in history he will not be the first defensive jabber to be underestimated.    The rest of us scream from the other side of the ropes and demand a punch that will knockout Cameron.    But we are impatient spectators.   The trainers at the side of the ring understand the rigours of a championship fight.   Jab and keep your guard high and do not let the opponent get close.

‘What about hitting him with some policies, coach, you know, show him we have ideas?’

‘Just keep jabbing, son.  You’ll be all right.  His nose is bleeding and his eye is opening.’

There was a time when Polly was a jabber.   She always had compassion which she proved by taking routine and unpleasant jobs but she believed pragmatism rather than idealism had to prevail.    Thatcher had that effect on many of us.   When a leader preaches hatred and contempt for half the population and the other half respond by cheering then your ideals suffer.    In an odd way, Thatcher did shift the political opinions of almost everyone to the right.   Much has been made of the massive majority Labour had in 1997 but many people voted Labour back then without any real expectation of reform.     There is an Blair and Thatcherirony.   Blair and New Labour deserve all the condemnation that they have received because they continued with Thatcherism.  But if their initiatives did nothing about the gap between rich and poor, the progress made in the NHS and the impact of tax credits was more significant than most thought possible in 1997.   The problem for New Labour was that Thatcherism did not work.   Industries vanished and Brown felt that he had no choice but to support an economic system based on finance and debt.   He was clever enough to know it was flimsy but lacked the one virtue he admired, courage.  His remark about abolishing boom and bust was misunderstood.   He had abolished it, his policies were designed to maintain spending and growth at a steady rate and they were feasible providing that there was no wholesale financial collapse.   Unfortunately, greed was not quite as good or as beneficial as some had promised.

The plates stopped spinning but long before the crash Toynbee had re-invented herself as a malcontent.   She wanted to do more than jab.    Note that the word radical has been avoided.   Her social democracy values demanded efficient management from left wing governments and when Labour returns to power she will no doubt repeat her pleas for responsibility and efficiency.    Somewhere and at some point, though, Toynbee became disgusted by what she saw in the elite of Britain.   She acquired a quality Polly Toynbeethat is hard to resist when it spills out on to the keyboard.   Toynbee discovered the joy of loathing.  This has been missed by her left wing critics.  The lady who back in the eighties deserted Labour for the SDP has never been forgiven.  Yet the world and people change.   Toynbee who campaigns in The Guardian today on behalf of the poor and who exposes the callous greed of the rich is unrecognisable when compared to her predecessor, except the previous incarnation was also a battler.

She must be doing something well because the right wing hates her so much.   This is how motor mouth Boris Johnson describes her; she “incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair’s Britain. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and ‘elf ‘n’ safety fascism.’     In other words, she is concerned about social justice.   Boris who managed to be re-elected as Mayor of London without promising any reforms that might improve the lives of ordinary Londoners presumably thought that thinking about the human hardships within his city constituted ‘elf ‘n safety fascism’.

Polly Toynbee angers the rich and powerful because her background means that she knows and understands them.   In the British Elvis in Vegasclass system that pretends to be a society the word background is sometimes changed for pedigree.   Because she knows them she can spot stupidity with the precise eye of an expert rifleman.   And on Tuesday in The Guardian the repeater rifle was loaded and she took aim.  I know she will not be flattered by the comparison but it reminded me of Elvis in Vegas when he used to do impressions of his rivals and then sing the song in his own voice.   ‘And this is the real thing,’ he would say.    He was right if arrogant.  Like Elvis, Toynbee understands that the grinning upstarts who think they can brush aside others and avoid scrutiny and accountability will always justify contempt.

This Tuesday, she described the Government as ‘unwise’ which she soon demonstrated was sarcastic understatement.   If that sounds oxymoronic read the article.   Admittedly it has been a week when her opponents have stood like imbeciles next to the shooting targets but nothing defines present day economic absurdity better than her sentence, ‘iron laws set by bankers whose grotesque pay flows from bailouts by states they impoverished’.   While the rest of us were still gobsmacked by cabinet ministers, William Hague, Phillip Hammond and Eric Pickles, arguing that economic growth would only be achieved if And in the red corner...everybody worked harder she quickly held them all to account.  She soon found opinion within the Chambers of Commerce and the CBI to remind the three not so wise men that economic growth requires a strategy from government.   Swatting three ministers would be enough for anyone and any article, but Toynbee also battered Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Gove and Duncan Smith.   This is impressive even though she is correct, ‘the bungling and dogmatism are unrivalled in post war Britain.’   1500 words and seven victims later she sneers at the end of the column.   ‘You Gov yesterday reported Ed Milliband polling higher than David Cameron who with every passing day looks increasingly like the prime minister of a one term government.’   The reader can almost hear Cameron splutter his breakfast over the kitchen table.  We cheer, hope and wait.   Loathing and contempt have to be managed but when Duncan Smith talks about disabled people ‘festering’ he actually means eating and surviving.  He deserves every blow that two fisted Polly lands.  So does Michael Gove whose empty head supposedly yearns for a working class for whom ‘deprivation need not be destiny.’   Presumably the deprivation is fine; it is just the destiny that is embarrassing.   Gove does not last long and is soon felled by blows from Toynbee to the head and the body.  Clegg is the easiest target; he is knocked out with a direct upper cut.

Not everybody approves of the detours that this blog takes into politics.  But rock and roll and Elvis grabbed me at an early age and insisted that I was entitled to heroes and fighters, especially those like Elvis who know a life that values consistency over growth is mistaken.   The two fists make a difference.

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Elvis Presley Challenge 24 – Raisa, the lady from petty cash

These new style recessions are confusing everyone.  Ordinary people either lose their jobs or watch their wages lose value.   Meanwhile, an out of town currency speculator visits Liverpool to watch Arsenal and spends £205,000 on a drinks bill in one of itsRaising Ayn Rand's spirit bars.   The residents of Liverpool are shocked.   ‘There isn’t £205,000 worth of booze in the whole city,’ said someone interviewed by the local radio.  Well, there is and we now have an idea of the kind of throats it goes down.  Admittedly, the beer is better in the North but this is excessive.  ‘Where is this bar?  I think I’ll rob it,’ says another.   Those prone to conspiracy theory suspect something sinister was happening.  Perhaps a couple of billionaires were raising Ayn Rand from the dead.

Similarly, whatever happened to our landed gentry and its affinity to horses, and what kind of world do they live in?   Everybody makes mistakes but few men have been as disloyal to the opposite sex as Cameron has been to Raisa, the lady loaned by the Met to Rebekah Brooks.   And while we are talking about confusion where did the k come from in Rebekah?   The girl is from Warrington.   Nobody spells Rebekah with a k in Warrington.   In fact, Rebekahs, even those with two cs in the middle, are about as rare in Warrington as currency speculators are in Liverpool.

Cameron and horsegateWhatever happened to our honest Prime Minister? You know, the man who calls people chum and who so believed in his ‘proper and upright’ friend Andy Coulson.   David Cameron, he rolls up his sleeves, shouts a lot and is somewhat overweight.  If he had been more careful about his backside he would never have got in this mess.   First, David denies ever riding with Rebekah, maybe he thought it was two cs and a different girl but then he says he did ride a horse with Rebekah but nothing as common as a girl from petty cash.  Later, Cameron, not in shirt sleeves but as grim faced as ever, stated he probably could have ridden the horse and finally, yes he did.   He remembers it now.  He sat on it and it moved forward.  The horse was called Raisa, that’s right, the name of the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev.  The easiest thing in the world, forgetting a horse named after the wife of a leader of a once evil empire.  According to a locked up Russian punk band member, ‘It’s not too pleasant at the moment, either.’   We best not mention the famous beefcake pose of Putin on horseback naked from the waist up, Putin not the horse.  Actually, they are easily distinguishable.   Putin is the one with the face lift and the watery eyes.

Thank God the Met are in the clear.   Rehoming horses is something they do after the poor creatures have been traumatised from confronting the lower classes in street riots and outside football games.   What else can they do?   Horses cannot recover from visiting Anfield football stadium by popping into a bar and spending £205,000 on booze.  Horses don’t like bars.   In Anfield, a neighbourhood in Liverpool where Joe Fagan ex-manager of Liverpool football club was happy to spend all his life, houses can be bought for under £30,000.   Sell a street and you would still be unable to get a round in.   But, just in case Plato is turning in his grave at what is happening to his vison of the elite, we have a rescuer.   The Ferrarri revs into view from a distance and from it emerges a self-effacing gentleman to calm us all.   ‘I can categorically state that he never rode that horse.   I do actually live there.  It’s all rubbish.’   Well, Mr Clarkson, we all make mistakes and the next time you overtake a not so clapped out police horse in your Ferrarri perhaps you should slow down and take a proper look.

In the great movie, ‘Notorious’, by Alfred Hitchcock there are two scenes that involve horses.  Both have glamour but they are dark Notoriousand sinister.   Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergmann are out riding at a stable in Rio de Janeiro.  They make a gorgeous couple.  Cary has an open necked shirt and has never looked more handsome.  Bergmann does what she does better than anyone else.  She wears a trilby.  What makes the scene sinister is the intention of Devlin (Grant) to lend Alicia (Bergmann) to Nazi agent Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains).   Devlin stampedes Alicia and her horse, and Sebastian rides to the rescue.  He collects not just the horse but Alicia.   Sebastian claims his woman through masculine assertion.  The movie, ‘Notorious’, is full of men too vain to have real compassion.   The boss of Devlin is easily flattered when he hears he has been described as handsome and Sebastian is as impressed as Alicia by the good looks of Grant.

According to the Met, Raisa was returned to them in poor condition.   She died in pasture not long afterwards.  Alicia also suffered whilst she was on loan to Sebastian but like Raisa was rescued in the only way possible.  Devlin claimed her back.  He walked in and took her away.   This is what the powerful do with people and their animals.  The other scene in the movie that has horses also has a romantic and exotic setting.   Devlin and Alicia are at a ractrack that faces the Copacabana beach.  They have no interest, though, in the racing.  Devlin learns that the plan is working.  Unfortunately, Sebastian has had sex with Alicia, the girl that Devlin loves.    If the world of ‘Notorious’ is cruel, the villains within the film all have elegant manners.  They sip brandy, smoke cigars and wear bow ties while they arrange a murder.   Hitchcock makes clear that he has no illusions about the rich and, of course, in his later movie ‘Marnie’ his fragile heroine falls over the edge into craziness whilst out riding amongst them.   As the Americans almost said about Hitch, ‘You can take the boy out of the East End but you can’t take the East End out of the boy.’

Elvis at the ranchElvis also had affection for horse riding.  Often, he would return from a ride around the grounds of Graceland and without leaving his saddle sign autographs for waiting fans.   He became so obsessed with the freedom horse riding offered him that he tried to create his own ranch where he and his friends would escape the world.   He probably believed that the man who sat on top of the horse was worthwhile and likeable.   Fresh air and motion does that to people.  The ranch plus essential accessories like not too far apart barbecue stands led Elvis to spend over a million dollars on the venture.  Parker finally intervened although by then Elvis was already becoming bored.   There are only so many times you can ride around the outskirts of Memphis.  I am no fan of the Dutchman but this may have been one of his better moments.    Parker said that Elvis needed to regain focus and, just as important, stop spending so much money.    The irony is that Parker had a father who trained horses and Parker was an animal lover.    Indeed, there is nothing wrong with liking horses and nobody should be begrudged the pleasure of the saddle, I suppose.   Horses trample the countryside and ruin the bridle paths but they do make a lovely sight or they would if only some of the people on top of them could behave a little more honestly and, like currency speculators, not get carried away with themselves.


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