Trouble at the Home Office

This week John Reid struggles with prison overcrowding and the debate on adoption by gay couples con

It was never going to be a quiet week for the Home Secretary, John Reid, after his announcement that the Home Office may have to be split into two separate departments. Three days later Mr Reid issued a plea to Britain’s legal chiefs to jail only the most serious offenders as Ellee Seymour detailed.

With news of a Judge in Wales giving only a suspended sentence to a man who downloaded child pornography to his computer, people are questioning just where the line can be drawn with the most dangerous and persistent criminals under Mr Reid’s new recommendations. Mr Eugenides says this is a case of the “government's monumental, almost unbelievable, incompetence.” Prisons are crowded – true. But too crowded for such a criminal? Answers on a postcard please (the comments link below will do).

Bloggers will never again be thought of in the same way after one was paid by Microsoft this week to “correct” their entry on Wikipedia, according to Dizzy. Microsoft said it had approached Rick Jelliffe and agreed to pay him but they had never paid anyone before to do this.

Credit also has to be given to Guido for publishing a story from David Cameron’s website two days before most of the Sunday papers caught up with it. Mr Cameron gave an unequivocal “no” to a general legalisation of cannabis but left the way open for it to be legalised for medical purposes.

Certainly little credit can go to Harriet Harman’s blog as she doesn’t seem to understand the need for regular posting. Two posts in a week just isn’t up to the job.

Regular as usual was Iain Dale who is drawing many similarities between Labour’s current cash for honours scandal and Nixon’s Watergate scandal. This comes as it is alleged that Labour officials have secretly deleted emails from a hidden computer system in an effort to try and destroy evidence. No doubt this will continue to rustle the feathers of many-a-blogger in the coming week.

And I leave you with some of the best blogs on the debate over gay couples and adoption. The Catholic church have been very explicit this week where they stand on this drawing in criticism from across the board. The Istanbul Tory said: “In truth, the Cabinet is hopelessly split over the issue of new equality laws.” And at Love and Liberty there was no beating around the bush. Alex Wilcock said: “after centuries of taking pot-shots at each other (often literally), the Catholic Church and the Church of England have found common ground: persecuting gay people and children.”

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
Getty
Show Hide image

Over a Martini with my mother, I decide I'd rather not talk Brexit

A drink with her reduces me to a nine-year-old boy recounting his cricketing triumphs.

To the Royal Academy with my mother. As well as being a very competent (ex-professional, on Broadway) singer, she is a talented artist, and has a good critical eye, albeit one more tolerant of the brighter shades of the spectrum than mine. I love the RA’s summer exhibition: it offers one the chance to be effortlessly superior about three times a minute.

“Goddammit,” she says, in her finest New York accent, after standing in front of a particularly wretched daub. The tone is one of some vexation: not quite locking-yourself-out-of-the-house vexed, but remembering-you’ve-left-your-wallet-behind-a-hundred-yards-from-the-house vexed. This helps us sort out at least one of the problems she has been facing since widowhood: she is going to get cracking with the painting again, and I am going to supply the titles.

I am not sure I have the satirical chops or shamelessness to come up with anything as dreadful as Dancing With the Dead in My Dreams (artwork number 688, something that would have shown a disturbing kind of promise if executed by an eight-year-old), or The End From: One Day This Glass Will Break (number 521; not too bad, actually), but we work out that if she does reasonably OK prints and charges £500 a pop for each plus £1,000 for the original – this being at the lower end of the price scale – then she’ll be able to come out well up on the deal. (The other solution to her loneliness: get a cat, and perhaps we are nudged in this direction by an amusing video installation of a cat drinking milk from a saucer which attracts an indulgent, medium-sized crowd.)

We wonder where to go for lunch. As a sizeable quantity of the art there seems to hark back to the 1960s in general, and the style of the film Yellow Submarine in particular, I suggest Langan’s Brasserie, which neither of us has been to for years. We order our customary Martinis. Well, she does, while I go through a silly monologue that runs: “I don’t think I’ll have a Martini, I have to write my column this afternoon, oh sod it, I’ll have a Martini.”

“So,” she says as they arrive, “how has life been treating you?”

Good question. How, indeed, has life been treating me? Most oddly, I have to say. These are strange times we live in, a bit strange even for me, and if we wake up on 24 June to find ourselves no longer in Europe and with Nigel Farage’s toadlike mug gurning at us from every newspaper in the land, then I’m off to Scotland, or the US, or at least strongly thinking about it. Not even Hunter S Thompson’s mantra – “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” – will be enough to arm myself with, I fear.

The heart has been taking something of a pummelling, as close readers of this column may have gathered, but there is nothing like finding out that the person you fear you might be losing it to is probably going to vote Brexit to clear up that potential mess in a hurry. The heart may be stupid, but there are some things that will shake even that organ from its reverie. However, operating on a need-to-know basis, I feel my mother can do without this information, and I find myself talking about the cricket match I played on Sunday, the first half of which was spent standing watching our team get clouted out of the park, in rain not quite strong enough to take us off the field, but certainly strong enough to make us wet.

“Show me the way to go home,” I sang quietly to myself, “I’m tired and I want to go to bed,” etc. The second half of it, though, was spent first watching an astonishing, even by our standards, batting collapse, then going in at number seven . . . and making the top score for our team. OK, that score was 12, but still, it was the top score for our team, dammit.

The inner glow and sense of bien-être that this imparted on Sunday persists three days later as I write. And as I tell my mother the story – she has now lived long enough in this country, and absorbed enough of the game by osmosis, to know that 17 for five is a pretty piss-poor score – I realise I might as well be nine years old, and telling her of my successes on the pitch. Only, when I was nine, I had no such successes under my belt.

With age comes fearlessness: I don’t worry about the hard ball coming at me. Why should I? I’ve got a bloody bat, gloves, pads, the lot. The only things that scare me now are, as usual, dying alone, that jackanapes Farage, and bad art. 

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 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain