Not Bright's blog

Martin hands over his blog to a guest writer - the author of the blog

Whose riding who? The bloggers and the mainstream take turns.

I laud myself as independent journalist and blogger. I'm quieter about that fact that I'll also shag anyone for mainstream attention.

Here's my riveting story: I launched my half-assed journo's careers as a mainstream columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald about ten years ago. I was selected for that lofty office because of my gender and youth credentials (this was the mid-1990s, when young, and so-called stroppy, women were all the thing for some reason. I think the emphasis was on the 'young.'). I followed the well-worn road of the wannabe-edgy-but-wannabe-mainstream media slag – ie, did a turn as a hooker and wrote about it, pissed away a book advance, stormed out of the Herald, sloped off into PR for the money, etc, etc. Yawn.

Time to move countries, I thought.

Life in the UK has been all a media fiend could have hoped. The bloggers loathe the mainstream, and base their days around the stories that the mainstream generates to kick-start long discussions about the mainstream's uselessness. The mainstream hates bloggers, because they say what they like about the crap that others write, and have cool fans. I knew there'd be a place in this excellent structure for me.

I decided I wouldn't make much of a blogger, because I'm not so brilliant at taking a stance, or sticking to it - especially if there's power and/or money involved, as you'll see. I thought it was time to get back to honest old reporting. I kicked this about it a bit, and decided to elect myself as reporter for the passionate citizens of the Left.

First, I set up a website for the United Left in Unison – an uplifting experiment in collective publishing that lasted a record six months before the heinous implosion - I was chucked out of Unison conference for publishing to the site on a union computer, and then sort of chucked out of the United Left for hating the SWP.

I set up a website at and started covering the union and industrial action scene, and John McDonnell's campaign for the Labour Party leadership.

There were two big pluses to covering this campaign. The first was that it was unexpectedly interesting. People at McDonnell meetings were talking about the NHS, adequate pensions, and decent terms and conditions at work. The second plus was that nobody else was doing it. That's when I decided that the time might be right for a journalist such as myself - a person with nothing but exclusives, if you will - to stand out in her empty field.

In other words, I thought it was time to start sniffing round the mainstream.

I found Martin Bright's blog via another blog and left my website address in his comments section with a half-witted comment about debate on the Left around it. He followed that link to my site and emailed me from it. I sent a cute little email back.

Pretty soon, we were parked around a couple of wines in a bar in Victoria, trying to work out who best could use who. He agreed to feature my website on his, and I agreed to submit a story about the future of the Labour party based on interviews with its young members. I only told my partner, my parents and 8,000 of my closest friends. And so the thing has grown. The young Labour members I've interviewed have written about being interviewed on their blogs. A story turned up on the indymedia site, asking if the New Statesman's link to the hangbitch site meant the New Statesman had taken a turn to the kooky Left. People went from there to the New Statesman to find out for themselves, and then came to my site to confirm. The number of visitors to my site has quadrupled. The story's not even finished, yet I feel like it's been out for years. As Clive James would have said, it's the best story I never wrote. Weird.

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Anxiety is not cool, funny or fashionable

A charitable initative to encourage sufferers to knit a Christmas jumper signalling their condition is well-intentioned but way off the mark.

The other night, I had one of those teeth-falling-out dreams. I dreamt I was on a bus, and every time it stopped one of my teeth plunked effortlessly out of my skull. “Shit,” I said to myself, in the dream, “this is like one of those teeth-falling out dreams”. Because – without getting too Inception – even in its midst, I realised this style of anxiety dream is a huge cliché.

Were my subconscious a little more creative, maybe it would’ve concocted a situation where I was on a bus (sure, bus, why not?), feeling anxious (because I nearly always feel anxious) and I’m wearing a jumper with the word “ANXIOUS” scrawled across my tits, so I can no longer hyperventilate – in private — about having made a bad impression with the woman who just served me in Tesco. What if, in this jumper, those same men who tell women to “smile, love” start telling me to relax. What if I have to start explaining panic attacks, mid-panic attack? Thanks to mental health charity Anxiety UK, this more original take on the classic teeth-falling-out dream could become a reality. Last week, they introduced an awareness-raising Christmas “anxiety” jumper.

It’s difficult to slate anyone for doing something as objectively important as tackling the stigma around mental health problems. Then again, right now, I’m struggling to think of anything more anxiety-inducing than wearing any item of clothing that advertises my anxiety. Although I’m fully prepared to accept that I’m just not badass enough to wear such a thing. As someone whose personal style is “background lesbian”, the only words I want anywhere near my chest are “north” and “face”.  

It should probably be acknowledged that the anxiety jumper isn’t actually being sold ready to wear, but as a knitting pattern. The idea being that you make your own anxiety jumper, in whichever colours you find least/most stressful. I’m not going to go on about feeling “excluded” – as a non-knitter – from this campaign. At the same time, the “anxiety jumper” demographic is almost definitely twee middle class millennials who can/will knit.

Photo: Anxiety UK

Unintentionally, I’m sure, a jumper embellished with the word “anxious” touts an utterly debilitating condition as a trend. Much like, actually, the “anxiety club” jumper that was unanimously deemed awful earlier this year. Granted, the original anxiety jumper — we now live in a world with at least two anxiety jumpers — wasn’t charitable or ostensibly well intentioned. It had a rainbow on it. Which was either an astute, ironic comment on how un-rainbow-like  anxiety is or, more likely, a poorly judged non sequitur farted into existence by a bored designer. Maybe the same one who thought up the Urban Outfitters “depression” t-shirt of 2014.

From Zayn Malik to Oprah Winfrey, a growing number of celebrities are opening up about what may seem, to someone who has never struggled with anxiety, like the trendiest disorder of the decade. Anxiety, of course, isn’t trendy; it’s just incredibly common. As someone constantly reassured by the fact that, yes, millions of other people have (real life) panic meltdowns on public transport, I could hardly argue that we shouldn’t be discussing our personal experiences of anxiety. But you have to ask whether anyone would be comfortable wearing a jumper that said “schizophrenic” or “bulimic”. Anxiety, it has to be said, has a tendency – as one of the more “socially acceptable” mental illnesses — to steal the limelight.

But I hope we carry on talking anxiety. I’m not sure Movember actually gets us talking about prostates, but it puts them out there at least. If Christmas jumpers can do the same for the range of mental health issues under the “anxiety” umbrella, then move over, Rudolph.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.