There is a certain irony here

A model of the biographer’s art”, which pulls back the curtain on one of the most significant but least recognised political figures of the last century, has won Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. John Bew’s Citizen Clem, about Clement Attlee, the founder of the NHS, was named winner of the £3,000 2017 Orwell prize for books at a ceremony in London on Thursday night.

Because 1984 was, in large part, about 1948 when Clem was PM. No, not the political side of it, but the descriptions of shortages, the utter, utter dreariness. And as we know, that was all prolonged by the idiot decision to try to plan everything. We know this, because when Adenauer said “Sod the planning” that’s when the German economy took off.

At some point I’ll write another book and this point will be in it

We should change the inflation basket as tastes and incomes and spending change. But we must understand what we’re doing when we do so. What we’re not doing, by definition, is measuring the change in the price of the same lifestyle over time.

It’s the answer to those people who say that 50 years ago one wage could support a family. Sure, but the basket of goods, the standard of living being supported, was very different from what is the average we’re measuring today.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if olive oil was in the CPI basket in the UK today. Back then it was sold in pharmacies, in dropper bottles, to cure earache.

There’s actually a project in that. If anyone would like to bung me a decent advance, say £30k, I’ll get right on it. How much would it cost today to live as the average in 1980, 1970, 1960…..we’ve got the CPI basket going back to 1945 I think and I’m sure someone has the weights around as well. I think people would be astonished at how cheaply, today, you could live as our grandparents did when they were bringing up their children.

Just think of the housing costs savings of shared bedrooms and no central heating…..


There is a very funny riff in the hilarious new play Raising Martha, on at the little Park Theatre in north London, that revolves around the name Linda. In the play, a middle-aged character called Gerry is trying to write a song about his true love but falters because, as he sings: “Nothing really rhymes with Linda…”

There’s the basic structure of a limerick there.

Markets are markets, eh?

A week after “alt-right” figurehead and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos landed a lucrative $250,000 (£203,000) book deal with publisher Simon & Schuster in the US, the UK division of the publisher has walked away from the opportunity, confirming it will not publish his controversial book.

A Simon & Schuster UK spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that it would not be publishing Yiannopoulos’s memoir, titled Dangerous, which is due out in the US in March.

Senior editors at many of the UK’s biggest publishing houses told the Guardian they were unlikely to offer for the book should it come on to the market. “It will be a toxic book to try and sell here,” one publishing insider said.

A publishing director at a nonfiction imprint, who also asked not to be named, said: “A lot of semi-toxic books do go to large publishers, but I wouldn’t touch this if it was offered to me and don’t think anyone else will.”

You can see where The Guardian is going with this, can’t you? Toxic! We Brits won’t touch it! Hurrah!

And then we get to the nub of the matter:

Major publishers insisted their reluctance to take on Yiannopoulos had less to do with his opinions than that, outside media and rightwing circles, he was relatively unknown in the UK. “He doesn’t have a platform in Britain,” said one. “We have a history of publishing toxic books here that have done well, but this won’t be one of them, he’s just not that well known.”

The book sales are to come from the fame, the Twitter account (perhaps the fame from not having one of those any more) etc. That is, this is a celebrity book not a political one. Milo’s Greek Jewish cookbook would have done as well.

At which point, so, how well did Owen Jones’ latest do in the US? Sure, we know it did well here, national column, turns up at all the right demos, large Twitter following. And in the US?

How amusing

A book review magazine decides to boycott an entire publisher for an as yet unannounced deal with a specific author:

Yiannopoulos told the Hollywood Reporter that negative publicity had only boosted his profile, likening it to MTV banning the video for Madonna’s Justify My Love in 1990 and coverage of Trump in the lead-up to the US election.

“They said banning me from Twitter would finish me off,” Yiannopoulos said. “Just as I predicted, the opposite has happened.”

He did not confirm the precise amount paid for his book, but claimed he was offered “a wheelbarrow full of money”.

“I met with top execs at Simon & Schuster earlier in the year and spent half an hour trying to shock them with lewd jokes and outrageous opinions. I thought they were going to have me escorted from the building – but instead they offered me a wheelbarrow full of money.”

Threshold Editions was founded in 2006 “to provide a forum for … innovative ideas of contemporary conservativism”. According to its mission statement, it is “celebrating 10 years of being right!”

Its recent bestsellers include works by the president-elect Trump, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Dick and Liz Cheney.

The Chicago Review of Books described Yiannopoulos’ book deal as a “disgusting validation of hate” and said it would boycott books published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 in protest.

My, aren’t we all about promoting a diversity of views here.

I dunno here, I just don’t know

A Dutch backpacker was one of two men rescued from a capsized yacht off North Stradbroke Island, but the drama hasn’t dented his sense of humour.

“Australia wants to kill me! Drop bears, everything, now a rock,” Max, 23, joked to reporters.

Drop bears. Wiki tells me that it’s quite a modern Oz joke. And The Last Continent was published in 1998.

So which came first? Was Sir Pterry playing off an extant joke? Or did he create it?

Err, yes Pippa

She was widely ridiculed for her debut book – a collection of painfully obvious top tips for party-planning.

Now Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has risked further mockery by admitting she has not tested all the recipes in her new healthy cookery book herself.

Still, at least she appears to have read it, which is more than Naomi Campbell did with her novel (s?)

This is not a book about advertising

So start buying. Its a great book, well worth buying for wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, mistresses, mother-in-laws, toy-boys, family, friends, pets, total strangers you meet in the street, or any combinations of the above. Its great for Christmas, holiday reading, birthdays, Mother’s day, Father’s day, any day.

Honestly I don’t really care why you buy it, what’s important is that you do buy it, preferably multiple copies, often!

Fortunate really, as the advertising campaign could do with a touch of work…..

I wish Alan Coren were alive

His essays, especially those Punch ones, would start off with some little observation about an oddity. And then launch out into fabulous fantasies of why, why the oddity?

Driving across Europe over the weekend, as I did, I noted that today is the Swiss National Holiday. As a result of which, the border crossings (or at least one of them) are closed. Signs near Mulhouse stating that the crossing to Basel will be closed (think that’s the two places).

OK, but why?

Sure, the simple answer is that the border guards get the day off. That would not have done for Coren.

Instead we would have had the tale of the grizzled veteran of the guards talking to the new recruit the night before. Why do we get tomorrow off boss? The explanation being that the Swiss Day is of course the day when we both celebrate and explain being Swiss, teach it to the new generation. And we don’t want the foreigners to see that, do we? Not the celebration, that’s fine, but the explanation. Who wants foreigners to know how to use a cuckoo clock to charm the Swatch down off the alpine pastures as they hatch from their crysalis (crysalises?) so they can be captured? Think of the horror of some German learning how to use the alpentuba to set Toblerone! William Tell as a fertility dance.

What bugs is that he could do this without apparent effort (so I was told by someone who worked with him for years). It’s trivially easy to note the oddity, not very much more difficult to sketch out odd explanations for the oddity. But to turn that into 1200 words of whimsical logic is near impossible without that special something. The rules are very like farce – or even tragedy. It’s the one point, the mistake, right at the beginning that determines everything else. All must flow logically from that first point. But if you can just tweak that first point 5 degrees off reality then you can have the most wondrous fun.

The problem is that it’s fucking difficult to do. And Coren could do it.

He’s one of those (few) writers who turn me absolutely green with envy. I can recognise the genius and also know that I simply cannot do it myself. Bugger.

Wish he’d stuck around rather longer so there was more of it that I could read….

BTW, if you’ve not read him the very best piece for me is in the Alan Coren Omnibus, a collection of the Punch pieces. The one about Moses and Aaron having to write the book…..starts with a clipping from the Mail ( I think) saying scientists now have orthographical proof that the first five books of the Bible were written by one person……ends with a very fine joke indeed.

So why not?

Currently reading a kid’s history book about the Red Indians. Published in US in late 19th cent. On the basis that why not really, there’s some fun stuff to be found in the freebies on Kindle.

And I find out that wampum really was a thing, not just a movie line (“Heap big wampum!”). Sort of a worked sea shell, a little but not very like cowrie and used as money like cowrie. Also that everyone was very well aware that the Plains Indian lifestyle had been massively changed by the arrival of the horse, also that there was constant internal migration. Those claims of having been in a place forever are bunkum.

Finally, that there was a tribe called the Winnebagoes. I like that, out on the plains they were, following the buffalo in their RVs.

Allow me to translate that for you

Channel 4 News economics editor Paul Mason is leaving for a freelance career to escape the constraints of impartiality rules governing broadcasters.

Mason told the Guardian he had been delighted with his time at Channel 4, but wanted to use journalism to explore the themes he has written about in his book PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.

He said: “I don’t disagree with the impartiality rules as, without them, TV as well as the press would be completely Tory. But I think that I have been working under those rules for 15 years now and, with my book becoming fairly influential in a space that I would describe as the left of social democracy, I feel the time has come.”

My book’s selling and a TV contract won’t allow me to peddle this shite. On the unacceptable grounds that they demand that my economics, as economics editor, make some contact with reality. So, I’m off.