So I was saying how I like nice synergy in my life… how pleasing, therefore, to learn that every time the New European has sponsored The Rest Is Politics, your favourite paper has seen a steady rise in subscriptions. How even more synergetic that the rise has been greatest whenever, in announcing the sponsorship, we have pointed out that reading a paper like this one represents a powerful rejection of the nasty, nationalist, dishonest journalism of papers like the (Hate) Mail, so splendidly exposed in a recent cover piece by Liz Gerard.
And the synergy keeps rolling… the paper sponsored the emergency podcast episode in which Rory Stewart and I dissected the local election results, which I recorded at the New European’s office, in between signing 1,000 copies of my new book, But What Can I Do?, which will be given to the next batch of new subscribers.
Let’s complete the synergetic circle … if you’re already a reader, think about becoming a subscriber; if you’re already a subscriber, sign up a friend or a relative, and get a free book thrown in. Paper, podcast, book, Burnley promoted as champions, Tories smashed in the local elections… Synergy, synergy, synergy.
Might the Mail and the other propaganda rags of the right have been part of the reason for the Tories’ dreadful performance in the local elections? You would think that the sheer weight of pro-Tory and anti-Labour propaganda they churned out day after day would have helped them. But I wonder whether the dissonance between their version of politics, and what is actually happening in the lives of their readers, is now so vast that it just makes people even angrier.
Added to which, the Tories’ tone-deaf response to their shellacking merely underlined how out of touch they really are. Tory chairman Greg Hands’ main point seemed to be that Rishi Sunak was “going down really well on the doorstep”. Mmm, yeah. Sunak’s response was to say the message of the elections was that voters wanted them to focus on the people’s priorities, which he needless to say identified as his five pledges, ending of course with “stop the boats”.
I have always been a believer in strong message discipline, but if the message is failing as badly as theirs seems to be, there might be a case for, at the least, recalibration. As Sunak recited his failing pledges, I received a message with a photo attached of a huge queue outside the surgery of a dentist who had announced he was taking on new NHS patients.
“Maybe if they focused less on stopping the boats, and more on stopping our teeth from falling out, we wouldn’t be so desperate to kick the Tories out,” commented the friend who sent it. She has a point. But I am unconvinced Sunak or Hands will get it.
Three very different speaking engagements this week – first, at the Liberal Party conference in Ottawa (sadly, virtually); a speech at Europe House on how we get out of the Brexit mess the lying charlatans and their media cheerleaders have created; and a speech to a conference on the importance of learning languages.
At the last of these, I was able to boast of my non-bagpiping musical party trick, which is to sing ABBA songs simultaneously in three languages. I also admitted – rarely for me – a New Labour mistake, namely our downgrading of the importance of learning foreign languages.
Perhaps because I am obsessed with football, when I was researching the issue the algorithm sent me a discussion on languages between Arsène Wenger and London schoolchildren some years ago. The guy is so impressive: not only in his mastery of languages, but in his understanding of their broader significance to us as individuals and to the world we live in.
Born in France, but living near Germany, he felt he needed to learn German. Being obsessed with football, as it was invented in England made him determined to learn English. He also speaks Spanish and Italian, and a bit of Japanese from his pre-Arsenal days as a manager there.
What is wonderful about his message to those children is that he linked his interest in languages growing up, and their influences on him, to what he eventually did with his life, and what sort of adult he became. “When I learned English I never imagined I would become a coach here. It shows how the choices you make as a young boy can dictate the rest of your life.”
And if you think Wenger is impressive, what to make of Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker currently with Inter Milan? When a team is in the Champions League, to assist the world’s media, all clubs are asked to fill in a form listing squad members alongside the languages they speak. When Lukaku was playing for Chelsea, every English member of the squad had only English against their name. Most of the foreign players had two or three. Lukaku had EIGHT – French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Flemish and Italian.
In fact, he could have had NINE, but Uefa presumably assumed not many live broadcasters would want him in the Bantu language of Lingala, which Lukaku also speaks, due to his Congolese roots.
If ever anyone tells you footballers are thick, ask them how many languages they speak, and then tell them about Lukaku.
I fear the timing of the Canadian Liberal Party conference was not taken into account when the date of the Coronation was planned. So the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, for whom the annual conference represents an important and busy few days in the calendar, had to deliver his speech early in proceedings, then get on a plane and head over to London to see Canada’s new King being crowned.
Despite pretty low ratings right now, he left behind a party buoyed up by a speech in which he really went for Pierre Poilievre, the populist Conservative Party leader who, in common with populists elsewhere, seems to think the bastardisation of the word “woke” is the key to power:
“Too woke? Hey, Pierre Poilievre, it’s time for you to wake up! Wake up to the fact that a gender-balanced cabinet is a good thing, that women fully participating in the workplace is a good thing, not something to snub when it gets a shoutout from the president of the United States in the House of Commons.
“Wake up to the fact that under our government, fewer persons with disabilities are facing poverty. And in fact, Canada’s poverty rate has been cut in half since 2015. Wake up to the fact that more moms are building careers because we’ve made childcare more affordable.
“By the way, when we see that women’s participation in the economy has reached an all-time high, let me tell you something – $10-a-day childcare is not woke policy, it’s economic policy.”
In my contribution, I reminded the Liberals, as they seek a fourth successive election win, how we framed second- and third-term victories under Tony Blair: “Lots done; lots to do; lots to lose.” Trudeau has a decent record, a proper focus on the new challenges for the future; and an opponent that can be taken apart, by exposing populism and woke obsession for what they are – a politics in which people are deliberately divided rather than brought together; and in which problems are there to be exploited rather than solved. You know: Trump, Johnson, Brexit, that kind of thing.
It’s all in the book. The one you get free if you subscribe now… as advertised on the podcast, as sponsored by the New European. Synergy, synergy, synergy