At least half an hour before turning to the Comment section of The Observer, I take 10mg of diazepam, and whilst waiting for it to kick in, carry out a series of deep breathing exercises to bring down my heart rate.
Only then am I able to turn, tentatively, to Nick Cohen's column. Usually, whatever its apparent subject, I can read through to the end with its gratuitous and irrelevant slur against Corbyn without too much difficulty. After all, I’ve been doing it for years. With the appropriate preparation and medication, it is possible to complete the entire piece without serious risk to one’s long-term health.
Not this morning.
Even by Cohen’s standards, the attack on Jennie Formby is appalling. Take a deep breath, hold your nose, and read this:
“Unite is trying to force through the appointment of its official Jennie Formby as labour’s new general secretary on the grounds that she is the feminist candidate who will challenge the patriarchy. Its egalitarian argument would carry greater force were she not McCluskey’s former mistress. Was it for this Emily Davison died?”
Where to start? Unite is not trying to ‘force’ anything through; it is backing her in an appointment process. Yes, she is a feminist candidate and I hope she will challenge the patriarchy. But she has a great many other credentials for the role as well. Not least 30 years as a union official, working as a Regional Officer, National Officer, Political Director and Regional Secretary. None of which has any bearing as far as Cohen is concerned, because her entire career is reduced to one thing.
She is “McCluskey’s former mistress”.
For fuck’s sake. Of what conceivable relevance is this? And who uses the word ‘mistress’ these days? Emily Davison and Emily Dickinson would both be turning in their graves. If this is the kind of language used in 2018 by an Oxford-educated writer, then yes, they did die in vain.
So with stomach churning and heart racing, I ask what the hell The Observer is doing providing a platform for this offensive nonsense?
At a push, I can accept that Cohen has a right to think this kind of misogyny, and even express it. But I don’t want to see it in my Sunday newspaper.
Equally, if Mohammed bin Salman wants to spend a million or so on charm offensive advertisements, there is nothing to prevent him doing so. But I don’t want to see them in my copy of The Guardian. And while we’re on the subject, the editor of The Guardian may believe that Leveson 2 should not be progressed, but this is not a view I expect from my daily paper.
These examples are, I’m afraid, indicative of a conscious move by The Guardian and The Observer away from their once proud tradition and important role within a responsible and free press.
They have taken their new format too literally. They are, increasingly, tabloid tat. And although I have threatened it before, I really think that the subscription they took from my account on the 1st of March, will be the last.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter from the Boar’s Head Coffee House in 1961. Historically fascinating. Musically great.