CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The Pope, the Prophet and the religious support for evil (Independent)

Johann Hari discusses the Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoons and the revelations about the Catholic Church's cover-up of paedophilia -- religion should not be above the law, or protected from uncomfortable debate or scrutiny.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Darling's Budget could point the way for Britain's renewal (Guardian)

A vision for post-banking-crisis capitalism should be at the top of the agenda, says Martin Kettle, but no party has yet created one. Next week the Chancellor, now his own master, can do so.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Lawyers have no place on the battlefield (Times)

The Court of Appeal's judgment shows no understanding of what soldiers do, says Richard Kemp. In the heat of battle, a commander can't worry about the Human Rights Act -- it would make war impossible.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. It really won't be the internet that wins it (Independent)

Talk of the e-election, the Twitter election, or the Facebook election proliferates. But, Mary Dejevsky argues, e-editors are mirrors, not creators, of the negative political climate.

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5. The Lib Dems are talking tough on debt -- but where's the beef? (Daily Telegraph)

Where are the details of the Lib Dems' planned tax cuts, asks Jeff Randall. Politicians won't tell the truth because voters have been infantilised by Labour to believe that it can keep demanding more and more.

6. Like all drugs, miaow-miaow should be legal (Times)

All drugs should be legally available to anyone over the age of 21, says Antonia Senior. Attempting to scare teenagers about the dangers is pointless because their brains are wired to take risks.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Obama should table a Middle East peace plan (Financial Times)

Binyamin Netanyahu is not interested in two-state solutions, says Philip Stephens. What is needed is open recognition in Washington that US interests -- and in the long term those of peace in the region -- would be better served by an even-handed approach.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Europe should rethink its aid to Palestine (Financial Times)

In the same paper, Richard Youngs argues that it is time to stop funding feckless elites -- the way in which such funds have been delivered has deepened the debilitating lack of Palestinian unity.

8. Therapeutic retribution (Guardian)

Libby Brooks looks at a model of restorative justice that holds the offender directly accountable to the people he has harmed. Justice is a public health concern, too: offenders meeting victims can cut the trauma that crime causes.

10. Living and dying (Times)

The leading article applauds Debbie Purdy for bringing courage and optimism to the assisted suicide debate with her struggle to clarify the law, and her articulation of the case for changing it.

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For the Ukip press officer I slept with, the European Union was Daddy

My Ukip lover just wanted to kick against authority. I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit.

I was a journalist for a progressive newspaper.

He was the press officer for the UK Independence Party.

He was smoking a cigarette on the pavement outside the Ukip conference in Bristol.

I sat beside him. It was a scene from a terrible film. 

He wore a tweed Sherlock Holmes coat. The general impression was of a seedy-posh bat who had learned to talk like Shere Khan. He was a construct: a press officer so ridiculous that, by comparison, Ukip supporters seemed almost normal. He could have impersonated the Queen Mother, or a morris dancer, or a British bulldog. It was all bravado and I loved him for that.

He slept in my hotel room, and the next day we held hands in the public gallery while people wearing Union Jack badges ranted about the pound. This was before I learned not to choose men with my neurosis alone. If I was literally embedded in Ukip, I was oblivious, and I was no kinder to the party in print than I would have been had I not slept with its bat-like press officer. How could I be? On the last day of the conference, a young, black, female supporter was introduced to the audience with the words – after a white male had rubbed the skin on her hand – “It doesn’t come off.” Another announcement was: “The Ukip Mondeo is about to be towed away.” I didn’t take these people seriously. He laughed at me for that.

After conference, I moved into his seedy-posh 18th-century house in Totnes, which is the counterculture capital of Devon. It was filled with crystal healers and water diviners. I suspect now that his dedication to Ukip was part of his desire to thwart authority, although this may be my denial about lusting after a Brexiteer who dressed like Sherlock Holmes. But I prefer to believe that, for him, the European Union was Daddy, and this compulsion leaked into his work for Ukip – the nearest form of authority and the smaller Daddy.

He used to telephone someone called Roger from in front of a computer with a screen saver of two naked women kissing, lying about what he had done to promote Ukip. He also told me, a journalist, disgusting stories about Nigel Farage that I cannot publish because they are libellous.

When I complained about the pornographic screen saver and said it was damaging to his small son, he apologised with damp eyes and replaced it with a photo of a topless woman with her hand down her pants.

It was sex, not politics, that broke us. I arrived on Christmas Eve to find a photograph of a woman lying on our bed, on sheets I had bought for him. That was my Christmas present. He died last year and I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit, of Daddy dying, too – for what would be left to desire?

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era