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Competition No 3685 Set by Keith Norman 11 June

According to Andrew Collins in the Radio Times, there is a medically recognised vowel disorder called Bogart-Bacall Syndrome. We asked for other celebrity diseases.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Ahhh! That was a sigh of pure pleasure. £20 to the winners, a tenner to Alanna Blake, and the singletons get £5 tokens. The vouchers go to R Ewing.

Burchill's Dementia: patient exhibits a contrary response to any stimulus.

Flett's Dementia: patient composes a written response to any stimulus.

De Meaner's Dementia: an irrational fascination with campanology. (Also known as Bell-enge(r)ndered Predilection.)

Prince Philip Syndrome: a mild form of Tourette's Syndrome where the sufferer, instead of making a universal outburst, directs an irrational and sometimes offensive (but seldom obscene) vocalisation to an individual during the course of normal conversation.

Widdecombe Strain: pectoral muscle injury caused by the weight of large, natural breasts.

Robert Ireland

Bellenger's Syndrome: a disabling acquired mental pathology characterised by an inability to produce written language without irony. Once the sufferer takes to literary competitions, the prognosis is particularly poor. Sometimes accompanied by high verbal ability. qv, idiot savant, Silverman's Colic.

Bush's Aphasia: there is controversy among researchers as to whether this is an aphasia proper, ie, a language-specific disorder, or merely symptomatic of a general cognitive deficit.

Cookism: a chronic hyperactive state. The patient stares wildly and talks at >1.5 decibels above mean intensity for age, gender, environment and occupation. Male patients may be subjectively too busy to shave.

Portillo's Psychosis: the consistent presenting symptom is a delusion that it would be agreeable to be leader of the Conservative Party. Accompanying psychopathology invariably present.

Andrew Wilcox

Clinton's Uvula: malformation, creating a duct leading directly from the mouth to the brain, making it possible to get stoned without inhaling.

Mandelson's "Inner Steel": hard, brittle formation in the gall bladder, produced by excessive self-indulgence.

Thatcher's Heart: microscopic organ with no discoverable function, frequently excreted through the anus without discernable ill-effects.

Widdecombe's Stigmata: psychosomatic disorder, opening threaded holes in the palms of the hand, induced by devotional contemplation of the prospect of screwing one's colleagues.

Ian Birchall

Dermotisis: an allergy to ITN news.

The Humphs: any of the range of illnesses that prevent politicians from appearing on the Today programme.

Mandelsomnia: lack of sleep leading to mad speeches.

Geri-geri: celebrity eating disorder.

Blairobic Wrist: injury caused by excessive Blairobics (exercise regime that involves pointing and waving at nothing in particular).

Hefferlepsy: fits of right-wing pique.

Bilhaguia: bladder infection caused by drinking 14 pints.

Frostbite: harmless infection that thrives in a cosy atmosphere. Causes smugness to spread, especially in politicians with weak backbones.

Flettulance: bilious disorder thought to be related to beard growth.

R Ewing

Humphry's Hearing Loss: a partial deafness affecting journalists and other interviewers, becoming more severe with seniority. Sufferers hear clearly only the first part of the answer to any question they pose and consequently interrupt their interviewees with increasing frequency.

The Vaz Virus: a recurring ailment, probably of psychosomatic origin, brought on by repeated interrogation about personal finances. The symptoms vary, but usually require a period of hospitalisation.

Alanna Blake

Lilley Liver Failure: a severe psychosomatic reaction to stress, in which all the body's vital signs give the impression of having shut down.

David Silverman

Thatcher's Tongue: frequent involuntary utterance of the first-person plural.

Stephen Bibby

Balairia: a deformity of speech that involves abstract nouns, stale images and elimination of active verbs.

Paul Francis

Paxmania: an obsessional neurosis; a compulsion to keep repeating the same question.

Watson Weeks

Prescott's Chorea (aka St John's Dance): first identified May 2001. An antisocial condition characterised by wild and uncontrollable flailing of the upper limbs. Afflicts those particularly allergic to eggs.

Ian Blake

Joyce Syndrome: the inability to finish a sentence.

Will Bellenger

No 3688 Set by Lew Bellringle

The Guardian TV Guide refers to the Tooth Fairy as "a potentially damaging myth". Could we have a learned piece on the potential damage of this or any other childhood myth.

Max 200 words and in by 12 July.


This article first appeared in the 02 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Best of young British

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.