Pick of the week

Best of NS in print and online.

From the magazine

1. Strictly come learning

Samira Shackle meets the new head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw.

2. Cameron has outsourced worrying about compassion. He'll regret it

Iain Duncan Smith's fretting about poverty is no replacement for an empathetic prime minister, writes Rafael Behr.

3. Don't be deceived by the myth of Mitt Romney's moderation

The former Massachusetts governor defends the interests of the rich and powerful at all costs, writes Mehdi Hasan.

4. Why aren't women funny on TV?

All-male panel show line-ups are making me lose my sense of humour, says Helen Lewis-Hasteley.

5. The NS Profile -- Claire Tomalin

The award-winning writer and former New Statesman literary editor hangs up her biographer's coat with a life of Dickens . . . and contemplates one of her own. By Sophie Elmhirst.

 

From the web

1. There was too much mystery for Downing Street to bear

Rafael Behr on Liam Fox's protracted departure.

2. Obama: Mr 99%?

Gavin Kelly says the US president needs to recognise the resentments that have sparked the 99% movement.

3. The world according to Paul Dacre

The Daily Mail editor on corrections, self-regulation and liberals who loathe the tabloids. By Steven Baxter.

4. NHS reform is a never-ending nightmare for Cameron

The Prime Minister could end up with a reputation as the man who broke the NHS, writes Rafael Behr.

5. Hitchens: "I'm not going to quit until I absolutely have to"

Writer makes first public appearance for months in Texas, notes George Eaton.

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Would you jump off a cliff if someone told you to? One time, I did

I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain.

Ever heard the phrase, “Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?” It was the perpetual motif of my young teenage years: my daily escapades, all of which sprang from a need to impress a peer, were distressing and disgusting my parents.

At 13, this tomboyish streak developed further. I wrote urgent, angry poems containing lines like: “Who has desire for something higher than jumping for joy and smashing a light?” I wanted to push everything to its limits, to burst up through the ceiling of the small town I lived in and land in America, or London, or at least Derby. This was coupled with a potent and thumping appetite for attention.

At the height of these feelings, I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain. One of the cool girls started saying that her cousin had jumped off the bridge into the river and had just swum away – and that one of us should do it.

Then someone said that I should do it, because I always did that stuff. More people started saying I should. The group drew to a halt. Someone offered me a pound, which was the clincher. “I’m going to jump!” I yelled, and clambered on to the railing.

There wasn’t a complete hush, which annoyed me. I looked down. It was raining very hard and I couldn’t see the bottom of the riverbed. “It looks really deep because of the rain,” someone said. I told myself it would just be like jumping into a swimming pool. It would be over in a few minutes, and then everyone would know I’d done it. No one could ever take it away from me. Also, somebody would probably buy me some Embassy Filter, and maybe a Chomp.

So, surprising even myself, I jumped.

I was about three seconds in the air. I kept my eyes wide open, and saw the blur of trees, the white sky and my dyed red hair. I landed with my left foot at a 90-degree angle to my left ankle, and all I could see was red. “I’ve gone blind!” I thought, then realised it was my hair, which was plastered on to my eyes with rain.

When I pushed it out of the way and looked around, there was no one to be seen. They must have started running as I jumped. Then I heard a voice from the riverbank – a girl called Erin Condron, who I didn’t know very well. She pushed me home on someone’s skateboard, because my ankle was broken.

When we got to my house, I waited for Mum to say, “Would you jump off another cliff if they told you to?” but she was ashen. I had to lie that Dave McDonald’s brother had pushed me in the duck pond. And that’s when my ankle started to throb. I never got the pound, but I will always be grateful to Erin Condron. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser