Super Thursday: when democracy, New Day and French pride died


There’s good news, and there’s bad news, and there’s just news. It’s been a funny old week, perhaps because as a nation we’ve been holding our breath awaiting today’s local elections, our annual exercise of democracy.

How underwhelming a prospect they are! All I had to vote for today was a Police Commissioner and one local councillor. Others were voting for mayors, those powerful executive posts that perhaps generate more excitement than most local elections.

Excitement? I suspect that’s one emotion missing from Londoners as they choose between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith. It’s been a dirty campaign and neither candidate has captured either the mood of London or the enthusiasm of voters.

Small wonder. These candidates entirely conform to party stereotypes: Goldsmith is a zillionaire through inheritance, and Khan the ethnic-minority son of a bus driver.

If only that were the simple choice! But it isn’t. Both represent parties that aren’t just divided, but riven. Where is Labour now, amid the strife of anti-Semitism, the Corbynist lurch to the left and open rebellion within MPs?

Meanwhile David Cameron has allowed his party to tear itself almost literally in two over the EU referendum, and it’s not been a civilised debate over a point of principle. On the contrary, it’s become vicious and deeply personal.

Believing passionately in democracy, and doing my duty, I had to cast my vote for a Police Commissioner. I was given a choice of four candidates, one from each of the major parties. I don’t want to choose between party apparatchiks! But parties rule all – no matter the disarray in which they find themselves, all of their own making.

None of this is news, merely the world in which I exercise my democratic right and duty, nowadays with a heavy heart.

One shouldn’t indulge in Schadenfreude, but there was a certain pleasure in learning that Trinity Mirror’s new paper, The New Day, is to close after only 10 weeks. Eminent journalist/editor Roy Greenslade wrote in the Guardian that it was inevitable. The paper was produced on the cheap, piggybacking on the Mirror, and based on a model so bland that it never had a hope of taking off.

Greenslade observed that Trinity Mirror’s chief executive, Simon Fox (reported salary £1.8m), will claim little loss was made, because of the symbiosis with the Mirror. Certainly they won’t have been spending much on journalist’s fees: that’s not their way.

This blog site, Voice of the North, grew out of Fox’s determination no longer to pay columnists in local papers. You get what you pay for – or don’t.

I was cheered by one other piece of negative news this week. But it was amusing to see another country get itself in a mess over a small matter. The French government is furious because the French football team has chosen for its European Cup anthem an American song, in English. Originally by the veteran American group Kiss,  I was made for lovin’ you has been cunningly renamed and recorded by the French group, Skip the Use, as I was made for lovin’ you (My Team).

IMG_3595It’s both an inappropriate choice and a truly poor song: though the lead singer, one Mat Bastard, hopes it’s kind of song that the team and the nation can rally behind. No, I don’t get it either.

What’s infuriated French politicians, though, is that the song isn’t in French. They have a point. I seem to remember an equally inappropriate song, Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir? (Do you want to sleep with me tonight?) hitting the charts some 30 years ago. Though bad enough,  it wasn’t claiming to represent any English activity (the French would say we Brits are hopeless at it, compared to them!)

France has an institution, the Académie Française, which exists to protect the French language from foreign imports. It’s not a bad idea.

We Brits are so hopeless at languages that we import few foreign phrases and then mispronounce them: how many people pronounce Vorsprung durch Technik correctly? Not many, I suspect.

We shamelessly adopt Americanisms but we haven’t yet gone as far as the French football team. I wish the French joy of their fury.

Have a nice day. A bientôt.


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