If I were Tory leader and other matters

Goldsmith, the Greens, Miss World, Water Wars plus if one was given the opportunity to rule...

What do you think of Miss World? Is it a bit of a joke? A relic from the sexist past? Or something that enforces a negative stereotype of women? With contestants due to don their bikinis in China this weekend we asked Bea Campbell and Ruth Lea to debate Miss World. Have a read and then why not add your thoughts?

This week we've also had an article on British citizenship. Lord Goldsmith has been asked by Gordon Brown to conduct a review of the issue which will report next March. Writing exclusively for newstatesman.com the ex-attorney general argued diversity needs to combine with a shared sense of belonging.

The Green Party's Caroline Lucas meanwhile hailed a UN report and issued a warning that when it comes to climate change we've got just 10 years.

Professor Liz Kelly revealed some horrific truths about the postcode lottery women face when they seek support in the wake of rape or domestic violence.

Have a look at her article to find the link to the Map of the Gaps.

And Fred Pearce, in association with the World Development Movement (WDM), provided us with a fascinating article on the danger posed to humanity by Water Wars.

Incidentally, look out next week as we work with the WDM to bring you coverage of the Bali conference.

And don't forget Martin Bright's blog for regular updates about the Labour donor crisis

Now turning to other matters...

The other day my wife woke and told me she'd dreamt I'd just been elected Tory leader and, I can't lie, it got me thinking...

Like my predecessors, I would take election as a given - the Conservatives are, after all, the natural party of government and it is a right, not a privilege, to serve.

I'd re-open all the mines just to shut them down again, destroying whole communities then abandoning them to their fate. There's nothing like a little adversity to bring out the spirit of the Blitz.

The nation could indulge in an expensive but unnecessary round of arms buying bolstering our existing reputation as a great country: Falklands + Gibraltar = an empire, as I always say.

Incentives would be put back into some workplaces - I'm particularly thinking of the Square Mile - including the legalisation of tax evasion for those earning more than £120,000 a year - they work hard, so why should the state steal from them?

I'd ban Ken Livingstone, again.

When things begin to pear-shaped with the economy, as they surely will, I'd embark on a round of tax cuts the country can ill afford.

Obviously interest rates would be ratchetted up to 15% in a bid to tackle the aforementioned the effects of my reckless tax cuts and to punish people who have bought property with a mortgage rather than inherited it. Here there would be the additional benefit of rewarding savers or 'legatees'.

Introduce systemic unemployment of no less than 3 million helping to drive down the wages of the wider workforce. All the evidence I'm prepared to listen to suggests poverty pay drives up productivity.

Privatise social services, abolish the NHS, increase illiteracy and ban Scottish and Welsh MPs from voting. At all.

Bring back hanging.

Now there's a programme all Tories can really get behind. You wouldn't catch me hugging a husky, cycling in front of a large Lexus 4x4 or walking unsteadily on the moral high ground. Oh no.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
Getty
Show Hide image

The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism