It's a washout

Daniel Trilling tunes in to some groundbreaking stuff and nonsense.

Rinse FM

On Rinse, DJ Scratcha was feeling the effects of the recent heatwave. "Overly sweatin' . . . gosh, cannot co-operate in this . . ." There was a pause as he cued up a record, or perhaps reached for a swiftly melting Calippo. Moments later, Scratcha was back and sounding refreshed. "Where you going for holiday and who with?" (It was a rhetorical question.) "One of my friends is in Turkey right now but with her mum, that is a par. You know when you're going on holiday with your mum and your mum don't want to rave? Not my mum though, my mum gets me drunk and everything."

A few facts. One, "par" is slang for insult or mishap. Two, Rinse is a groundbreaking London music station, having launched the careers of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder and many others. Since 1994 it has broadcast as a pirate station (one of its DJs has an Asbo banning him from venturing on to any rooftop higher than four storeys in the Tower Hamlets area) but has recently been granted an FM licence. If you don't live in the capital, you can listen online.

Heading Rinse's campaign for legit status is Scratcha, who hosts the breakfast show (weekdays, 8am to 11am). Scratcha knows his music - on a typical morning you'll hear a choice selection of grime, dubstep, UK funky and the delightful tones of the potty-mouthed American rapper Nicki Minaj - but he also knows how to give good chat. That might include astute political comment ("North Korea, that's some nex' regime ting, innit?"), engaging with the audience ("This one goes out to those people who had a bit too much over the weekend, you know them mad benders where you go out in your work clothes on Friday night and you're still in them on Sunday") or simply shooting the breeze ("Oi, if you actually look atBournemouth sometimes in the summer it looks like flippin' Barbados, the only thing that's different is the people, if they just put a whole load of black people there you'd be like, rah, I'm in Jamaica...").

Let's face it, you're likely to get more sense out of Scratcha than you do out of Radio 4's breakfast chat. Recently, the Today programme has turned into a parade of ministers spouting garbage as they try to deflect attention from the coming dismemberment of Britain's public sector. Last Monday, it was Michael Gove's turn, accusing the BBC of "processology" for daring to ask details of his school reforms.

Tory MPs may cry foul at the Beeb's perceived left-wing bias, but on Monday it fell to the veteran conservative commentator Peter Hitch­ens, talking to Wendy Robbins in The House I Grew Up In (19 July, 9am, Radio 4), to rail against the Cameronistas. "The Prime Minister has referred to you as a maniac," Robbins said. "How do you react to that?"

“Well, it's high praise, isn't it?" growled the old battlecruiser as they stood on Portsmouth Dockyard, reminiscing about Peter's childhood. But Hitchens wasn't here to talk politics; ra­ther, he was on a "personal journey". The pair moved on to the Hitchens family home, Cedarwood, where Peter recalled a fractious relationship with his elder brother, Christopher. It was dreadful, he said.

“My father made us sign a treaty, called the Treaty of Cedarwood, and he displayed it on the kitchen wall until I took it down and scrubbed my name out." Now that, Christopher, is what they call a par.

Antonia Quirke is away

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 July 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: leader of the Labour party