'Unruly Slavic eyebrows'

Mocha chocca libraries

Many were terrified by the picture of new "21st century libraries" painted by the Secretary of State for Culture, Andy Burnham, this week: libraries modelled on Waterstones and Virgin Megastores, filled with mobile-phone-talkers, McDonalds-eaters, Wii-players and Youtube-watchers, with books featuring low down on the list of priorities.

More terrifying still, however, is the fact that this sort of thing seems to work: in Hillingdon, West London, book borrowing increased by 32 per cent when a Starbucks was built in one of the libraries, and there is now a formidable seventeen more Starbucks on the way to the seventeen other libraries in the area.

Burnham’s announcement that libraries should "offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home" and be places "for families and joy and chatter" has been met less than joyfully. Tim Coates, ex-Managing Director of Waterstones and now a libraries campaigner, argues: "This ought to be about getting more books, particularly for children, not turning libraries into fish and chip shops."

In Camden, the ban on mobile phones and food in libraries will be lifted this month. There has already been a stream of complaints from residents: "I only foresee bedlam," one darkly proclaimed.

Unruly Slavic eyebrows

Poets are not usually inspired by both experimental dance music and Elizabethan verse, but this year’s winner of the Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem suggests that perhaps more should be. Scottish artist and musician Don Paterson’s tremendous "Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja’ Beridze" is an address to an obscure Georgian electronica artist with ‘unruly Slavic eyebrows’, spoken by an obsessive, love-struck Googler who promises that he is "not like those other IDM [Intelligent Dance Music] enthusiasts in early middle age". In Paterson’s poem, the traditional turret window of courtly lovers becomes the stage at the Manöver Elektronische Festival in Wien, and it is not his mistress’s body that is uncorrupted, but the music software on her laptop – "which makes me love you all the more, demonstrating as it does an / excess of virtue given your country’s well-known talent for / software piracy." And who said romance was dead?

Free musicals for bankers

If you’re freshly plunged into financial chaos and busy reassessing everything you thought you could rely on, being confronted with an all-singing all-dancing reality TV star in a colourful coat may not be quite what you want. Andrew Lloyd Webber disagrees, however, and is attempting to cheer up newly unemployed bankers with free tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The composer said he hoped his "feel-good shows" would cheer up those affected by the credit crunch, "albeit for a couple of hours".

Dog chews and sinister pensioners

Fake excrement, European monuments made from dog chews and pensioners eerily circling in wheelchairs await visitors to the Saatchi Gallery, which has reopened in a new Chelsea location with an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. Meanwhile, in a one-metre-square space in the window of a Baker Street [bathroom shop], an Argentinian dancer will be [performing a ten-minute tango] four times a day.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.