« | Home | »

Chuck it

It is all rather much. The press – from Alpha Argus to Epsilon Echo, Guardian to Sport – has engaged all these months in the hurly-burly of backbench peculation only to be rewarded with the deep, deep peace of John Terry’s adultery. Flipped second house succeeds pornographic video, succeeds duck house, all finally garlanded by the invocation of parliamentary privilege. ‘Too much’ hardly says it.

Headline-subs have lived like the bees in Keats’s autumn ‘until they think warm days will never cease’. SHAME, SHAMED, SHAME! the 80 point proclaims. BBC icons turn to the camera with a touch of the Fouquier-Tinvilles. Now, thanks to a Chelsea midfielder or ‘love rat’ doing the usual with a friend’s wife – correction, colleague’s ex-girlfriend – narrow pre-occupation is met by best business practice: diversification. So an Independent leader on 6 February, though trying to distance itself from red-top sexual piety, salutes ‘a sudden outbreak of decency’. Unsigned, it radiates the Christian housemasterly style of their sport correspondent, James Lawton. ‘Terry took his demotion like a man and promised to do his best for England.’ Finally, a little anthem to Fabio Capello, the manager bowing to the virtue lobby, proclaims ‘his sheer incomparable class’.

And yet, as ‘national regeneration’ slips down like a milk drink, one wonders. Financial probity? Sexual continence? Journalists? G.K. Chesterton, in the days of initials, clattered F.E. Smith, resourceful sinner, for invoking ‘the souls of Christian people’ with the crisp conclusion: ‘Chuck it, Smith.’

Take money – and they do. Many MPs have abused expenses, partly because unlike most legislators and holders of heavy public responsibilities, head teachers, GPs, senior policemen, MPs are poorly paid (Margaret Thatcher’s failure of nerve, 20 years back, the Irresolute Approach). MPs were told (deniably – by whips), in lieu of parity, to ‘take it out of exes’. National journalists are not poorly paid, but their understanding of expenses potential has a virtuoso quality.

When I worked for Express, Telegraph and Guardian, from the 1970s to the 1990s, the auxiliary currency was the unclaimed restaurant receipt, bought for a tenner from a complicit waiter and submitted – ‘Lunch with Lord Fortinbras, Wilton’s’ – to an understanding editor, countersigned and cashed. There were other dodges. The most dishonest man I ever knew, the late Alfred Sherman, once demanded money for the Reform Club cloakroom – which is free. It was Sherman who observed of trade unionists seeking a rise:  ‘They are scum.’

Even so, the unclaimed receipt was the prime dodge. A colleague, owing me the modest price of something, opened an office drawer (‘Here’yar boy. I’ll see ya right’), took out a sheaf an inch and half thick and stripped off a couple. As for sex with other people’s girlfriends, Dorothy Parker nearly said it. ‘If every reporter was laid end to end . . . I shouldn’t be at all surprised.’ MPs too. There was a bunch of double-barrelled brigadier types known in the Tory Whips’ Office as ‘The Four O’Clock Fuckers’ for their sharpish departure St John’s Wood-wards after PMQs.

Not that we are all sinners. James Lawton assuredly lives by every moral injunction with which goalmouth and slipfield are flecked in his copy. But broadly, pots are being denounced by kettles in good working order. Let’s leave conclusion Chesterton, or to Johnson: ‘Clear your mind of cant.’

Comments on “Chuck it”

  1. fernanda says:

    what is this style?

  2. A.J.P. Crown says:

    No MP’s mistress has been able to afford to live in St. John’s Wood since Galsworthy wrote The Forsyte Saga.

  3. Dunnock says:

    If only John Terry had taken Dr Johnson’s advice.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • pgillott on Wishful Thinking about Climate Change: Phrases like “monumental triumph” and (particularly) “renaissance for humankind” are overdoing it, but to suggest that there is no chance of ...
    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement