Alliterative animosity exacerbates acrimony

Where the hell did he come from? We'd written him off!

Bombastic blundering buffoon demonises muddleheaded mugwump

I frequently marvel at how politicians reached their high office – particularly those who are cabinet members, not to mention Foreign Secretary. What did the ebullient Boris Johnson think he was doing when he described the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, as “a muddleheaded mugwump”? Not just in an off-the-cuff interview, either, but in print, in an article he’d penned.

Boris loves to shock, and has a penchant for choosing curious and even archaic (occasionally classical) vocabulary. But this was just rubbish. If the electorate is being regarded as an intelligent entity competent to choose its government, surely our intelligence should not be insulted by politicians trading childish insults?

What kind of idiot uses a phrase like “muddleheaded mugwump?” In my book only a bombastic blundering buffoon.

Many commentators have entertained themselves identifying the meaning of the word mugwump. I decline to do so. But I thought I might describe the busy week I’ve just finished in similarly alliterative terms. If Boris can exacerbate the acrimony of the election campaign with alliterative animosity, then I can describe my week through alliterative headlines. Here goes.

School’s symbolic seahorse sculpture

School’s symbolic seahorse sculpture

On Friday I visited my educational neighbour, Newcastle High School for Girls, to witness the unveiling of a beautiful sculpture of a seahorse. That newly-constituted school (from the merger of the old Newcastle Church High and Central High Schools) has chosen as its symbol the seahorse from Newcastle’s coat of arms in order to emphasise its place in, and link with, the City, something I do in my own institution.

The beautiful bronze can be seen from Tankerville Terrace: do have a look if you’re passing. It was designed by the school’s head of art, Zoe Robinson, who won the commission in a national competition, and had the privilege of seeing her work cast in bronze in Edinburgh. It’s a wonderful thing to see a new work as good as this piece, and the school taking the trouble to commission it.

Collegial conference on cooperation and collective commitment

Wednesday saw me on an early train to London, where HMC – the organisation of heads of leading independent schools to which I belong and of which, indeed, I was once Chairman – was spending a day at the British Library considering how we can work more closely with parents. I am a conference addict, and love getting together with my colleagues. We had a good day, and enjoyed an unusually high standard of speakers across the board. But I mention it here really to enable me to prove that I can think up yet another alliterative heading.

Seduced by suspect seaside situation

Nowadays the newspapers are full of “listicles”, articles that are no more than lists of the 20 best this, or 50 most desirable that. Yesterday’s Times, for example, identified Europe’s 50 best secret beaches. Secret? How are they secret after they’ve been named in a national newspaper?

Earlier I was amused to see, again in The Times, a catalogue of attractive seaside locations for buying your dream house. In the North East section, Bamburgh was mentioned, with a detached family house priced at some £750,000.

It wasn’t the price that shocked me, however, but the assertion that it would be on “Bamburgh’s seafront”. Many seaside places have seafronts: think of Southwold in Suffolk: Brighton; Salcombe in Devon; and countless others.

But I’m blessed if I can picture any kind of seafront at Bamburgh. There isn’t one. It boasts a glorious beach – the best – and a wonderful castle: but there’s no seafront as such. Even those quaint wooden Armstrong cottages on the road towards Seahouses have a row of dunes between them and the sea.

I just hope that hordes of Southerners don’t embark on the seven-hour drive to Bamburgh to source their perfect family house by the marina (they must have somewhere to park their yacht, after all!). Come to think of it, I might derive some savage pleasure from such people driving that far only to have their hopes dashed.

A final flippant footnote

I may be reproved for the pomposity of my prose: lambasted for my lacklustre literary labours; criticized and even corrected for the contrived crassness of my construction: but I’ve done better, I think, than Boris’s “muddleheaded mugwump”, which may be alliterative, but is essentially pathetic and insulting.

Still, I like to think that I am neither bombastic nor blundering, nor even a buffoon. Sadly, someone who is all of those things appears to be on the point of gaining still more power as part of the cabal who’ll be running the country for the next five years: that’s a positively petrifying prospect!



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