Leaning in at the swimming pool: thoughts on Sandberg, Peterson and men being annoying

So I was in the swimming baths – Beckenham Spa if you want to know, which you do, nosy – and I was doing a few lengths of my pretty average breast stroke in the medium lane, and there’s a guy doing his pretty average front crawl, about the same pace as me, but after a while he decides

I’m in the wrong lane. My front crawl is so superior and stellar that, by rights, I should be in with the champions, in the fast lane.

So off he goes, to the fast lane, where he continues his sub-par thrashing about, where there is a woman doing what I would describe as proper swimming: front crawl, high elbow, easy breathing, not too much splash, cutting through the water with the smooth efficiency of a German stereotype

and she finds herself being obstacled by Mr Sub-Par Thrasher, who absolutely refuses to cede any lane space to her because, well, he’s got some balls, and she hasn’t, and that’s that.

All the other men in the fast lane were also:

  1. Not very good at swimming
  2. Not going very fast, and
  3. Not letting her go by.

So, after a while, she decides to sack it off and goes to the middle lane with a float to do some still-pretty-nifty legs-only lengths.

Which brings me to Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, which is basically 200-odd pages of gentle encouragement for women to, politely, not put up with men in the fast lane who want you to drop down a lane or, better, get out of the pool altogether.

Lean_in.JPG
Sheryl Sandberg: she’s probably doing an email with the other hand while posing for this photo

Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook, and probably up there with Stakhanov, Sisyphus and Sonic the Hedgehog as one of the hardest working S’s in the world, ever. Her idea of flexitime is taking a couple of hours off to have dinner with her kids, before working until the wrong side of midnight.

She thinks that if women were better at advancing their own and other women’s causes in the workplace, and men were prepared to do half the housework, you would soon be close to getting 50% of top jobs held by women. She thinks that would be desirable for both women and men.

It is fair to say that Jordan B Peterson doesn’t agree.

In his book, 12 Rules for Life, he takes the view that most women in really high-powered jobs back away from the demands of a career at the very top when they start having a family, because their priorities change.

peterson
Apart from him getting intense on Marxist postmodernists (by which I think he means the kind of spoken word poet types I hang out with) this is a really good book.

Peterson takes the long view that this is how men and women have always been, and it won’t change, so there.

Without wanting to align myself as a wishy-washy centrist, I’d say that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Sandberg outlines, with devastating honesty, the toll her work has taken on her family life. She talks about her daughter holding onto her leg at the airport telling her not to get on a flight (to do a talk about women in the workplace).

She admits, “The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or vacation are long gone.”

Obviously, most people aren’t up for that level of work devotion when there’s telly to watch and stuff. But perhaps more men are, as Peterson suggests, by their very nature, driven towards that kind of lifestyle, and to make those kind of choices.

Which brings me back to the swimming baths, and some questions:

Why didn’t the female swimmer simply swim more aggressively so that she asserted her rightful dominance as the best swimmer in the pool?

Is it simply human nature for men to want to dominate literally every situation except childbirth and the washing-up?

Clearly, I don’t know.

But it would be nice if just one geezer doing his bog-standard Sunday morning lengths could notice a woman who is better than him and, if he can’t admit she is better, at least revert to chivalry, and doff his swimming cap, and let her pass.

beckenham spa
A nice head and shoulders of Beckenham Spa. There’s a recycling centre in the car park as well.

The fundamentals are looking good

The fundamentals are still quite good.

Cornish pasties are still being eaten
Office workers still having heavy weekends

Painters and decorators still being paid cash in hand
Ageing Prodigy members still living off the fat of the land

Dad’s still drinking whiskey, talking about fiscal instability
Mum’s still like when he’s like that I make myself a tea and go and watch the telly

Charity workers still doing their bit
South eastern trains still running like shit

Indie kids still wearing skinny ribs and smoking spliffs
England midfielders still got good engines, still lacking width

Renters still paying over the odds for poky digs
Quitters still nipping off for cheeky cigs

Yes, the fundamentals are still quite good.
The fundamentals are looking good.

Sadiq Khan is an extremist and always will be, whatever the evidence suggests

 

Sadiq_Khan_MP_3551269b
Despite a life of complete moderation, Khan is a dangerous extremist

Having read the national newspapers and listened to the comments of the Prime Minister over the past few weeks, I have become convinced that Sadiq Khan is, and always will be, a dangerous extremist.

I have noted with horror that, as a lawyer, he sometimes interacted with people accused of crimes. I have been left open mouthed by his willingness, as a Muslim, to talk with other Muslims – some of whom don’t preface every remark they make with a full-throated rendition of Land of Hope and Glory and a sizeable donation to Help for Heroes.

Needless to say, I was not expecting such a man to win the London Mayor election. I expected the noted beer-drinking, tube-travelling, Bollywood-loving man of the people Zac Goldsmith to canter to a comfortable victory.

Aghast at such a turn of events, I read, in my Daily Telegraph, remarks made by Mr Khan in his victory speech – and after contorting his words out of all context I realised my views about this man’s unsuitability for office were confirmed.

You have probably already realised that I am referring to Mr Khan’s incendiary assertion that he will run London “for all Londoners.”

This shocking statement means the man now in charge of our capital is not just running London on behalf of decent, hard working people who pay their taxes and want to get on.

Khan is running London, brazenly and unashamedly, on behalf of pimps, vagabonds, litterers, terrorists, fakers, wake and bakers, narcissistic selfie takers, doggers, diggers, liggers, laggers, taggers, newly-returned backpackers, members of the campaign for real ale, people who eat crisps made out of kale, traitors, idiots standing on the wrong side of escalators, thieves, northerners who talk constantly about how bad London is but somehow never leave, looters, Gooners, those smug posh people out after the riots waving their brooms, thugs, people who reserve tables in pubs, arrive late and don’t even have the decency to get drunk, retards in moustaches, members of ISIS, people who think they are saving the planet by driving a Prius, and, finally, people who act all polite and nice but are quite the opposite.

Khan, with his being the avowed Mayor for all Londoners, brings the above under his banner of seeming moderation.

Yes, this even-handed approach by Khan might not seem like much of a reason to criticise him. Yes, Mr Khan may, on the face of it, be the blandest of bland politicians. Yes, he might have an entirely modest agenda of restraining transport costs and doing a bit to make the housing system fairer. Yes, it might be quite good the way his dad was a bus driver and he grew up on a council estate.

But I am not going to sit back and accept that the Daily Telegraph, The Mail, the Prime Minister and all the rest didn’t have a fair point when they suggested that Sadiq Khan is a dangerous extremist.

I, for one, will continue to believe these trusted servants of the public interest – whatever the facts suggest.

I am not for ducking

Despite there being no evidence for this whatsoever, my predictive text seems to think that I constantly want to use the word ducking.

Perhaps I should write a formal letter,

Dear Android/Apple,

I am writing to you, very politely, to say that as a small man and I am rarely, if ever, ducking.

Did napoleon duck the big issues?

No. And nor do I.

I do, however, occasionally get slightly irritated by some things (humans, etc) which occasionally gives me cause to colour my language. So when I hit the f, and follow it with, ucking, there is no mistake.

I am definitely not fucking ducking.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Purnell

Napoleon-aux-tuileries

In defence of the Queen’s innocent Nazi salute

Harmless fun...the royal zieg heil
Harmless fun…the royal zieg heil

As a staunch royalist, I would like to express my own personal disappointment that footage of the Queen and Queen Mother innocently zieg heiling has been published by The Sun.

My own personal take is that it was harmless fun. My grandmother often spoke of how our family did the same in the 1930s before going to synagogue. It was just what you did in those days, and people lacking historical perspective should not think otherwise.

The Royal Family’s record on diversity and equality speaks for itself. You only have to look at the long line of royals marrying people of different races – and indeed social classes – to see that quite clearly.

Similarly, we should not take offence that Prince Charles gave an Asian friend the nickname Sooty, nor that Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi at a party, or called a colleague a “Paki”.

None of these innocent and harmless incidents should in any way damage the credibility of the Royal Family, and its divine right to rule over us.

On a day like today, the Queen and the Royal Family need our support more than ever. I for one will not be shirking my duty.
To this end, I shall be spending the day outside Buckingham Palace, singing God Save The Queen, goose-stepping and Zieg Heiling as I do so.

Harmless fun
Harmless fun… Prince Harry
Harmless fun...Prince Charles
Harmless fun…Prince Charles
Harmless fun... Prince Harry
Harmless fun… Prince Harry

My Christmas present failures (and a solution to this misery)

Billy Bob Thornton enjoying Christmas
Billy Bob Thornton enjoying Christmas

If Christmas is about anything it is about unrealistic expectations.

It is a time when we try to turn something immaterial – love – into something material: presents. We are setting ourselves up for a tumble. And rather than increasing the sum total of love, this anxious gift-giving is more likely to turn that love into hate, or perhaps a kind of woollen resentment.

My strike rate for Christmas present success is no more than one in three (by which I mean about one in five). In football striker terms, I am Emile Heskey – capable of the occasional exquisite show of class, but more often a hapless chancer, failing when it is easier to succeed.

People often ask me if I get nervous before I perform on stage. I say, yes, you need to. The nerves don’t get the better of me because I am prepared. I know what I’m doing (more or less). When it comes to the giving and receiving of Christmas presents it is quite the opposite. I am a fearful wreck, seeing danger at every turn. And for good reason, because my catalogue of Christmas present failures is as long as it is confidence-crushing.

Here are some edited lowlights.

A compact disc
Last Christmas, I bought a compact disc for my cousin, Simon. He unwrapped it and gave a look as if to say, “What on earth am I supposed to do with this?” See, Simon lives in the modern age and hasn’t used CDs for the past decade. To him, a CD comes from a bygone era, like the horse and cart, without the anachronistic charm. I might as well have given him a VHS cassette. Or a mangle.

A compact disc, probably with Dire Straits on it
A compact disc, probably with Dire Straits on it

A steamer
I fall in love every day, in a skittish flitting flirting way, with people in elevators and on escalators, indeed with elevators and escalators, if their lines are elegant enough. But one time I was properly in love. Love love. That love which is all doomed devotion and Saturday nights indoors watching Ant and Dec.

In this context, you might have thought that I would have extended myself when it came to presents.

Not me. Where I should have tremulously rustled up a cliched combination of roses, chocolates and trips up the Eiffel Tower, I bought a steamer.

A steamer.

A household appliance which cooks vegetables whilst allowing said vegetables to retain more of their nutritional content. I was essentially saying: “I love you, but you could really do with eating more curly kale.”

"A healthier, lonelier life."
“A healthier, lonelier life.”

Dina Carroll’s Greatest Hits
Back in the mid-90s, back when singers like Toni Braxton and Celine Dion ruled the earth like brutal, multi-octave velociraptors, there was Dina Carroll.

I liked Dina Carroll.

Not in a big way. Not the way I liked Guns N Roses. But as an English Whitney, she was pretty great.

I once said to my sister that I liked Dina Carroll. She said she really liked Dina Carroll too. It became a thing between us. Don’t Be A Stranger would come on Capital and she’d say, “Classic!” and I would fervently agree.

This went on for some months and so, when it came to the annual trip to HMV to selflessly buy music for people who aren’t me, I bought her Dina Carroll’s Greatest Hits, thinking it the safest of safe bets.

On Christmas day, when she unwrapped the CD, she laughed and said that she didn’t really like Dina Carroll. She was only taking the piss.

In my quiet devastation I resolved to never, ever trust blood relatives again. And always to be the most sarcastic person in the room.

Junichiro Tanizaki – Some Prefer Nettles
This is an elegantly written, yet very saucy tale of marital infidelity and lust. An ideal present for a new girlfriend with a love of literature. Me? Let’s just say relations between me and my aunt haven’t been quite the same since I chose this as her Christmas gift.

Henry Miller was a big fan of Tanizaki, which says it all, really.
Henry Miller was a big fan of Tanizaki, which says it all, really.

Original Source XXX Black Mint Shower Gel For Men
I am a devotee of this brilliant product. It is minty and manly, and when you use it to wash your privates, it makes your balls tingle.

Three years ago I bulk bought this as a side-gift to the men-folk in my family (to lessen my sense of mortification when my main gifts failed).

A few weeks later, I went to see my mum and dad, and noticed that while the shower gel was on display near the bath tub, it had barely been used. When I enquired to my father what the matter was, he said he “didn’t know how to use it.”

My father has two master’s degrees. He is, whenever possible, intellectually sneering. Yet he couldn’t work out how to use shower gel.

Since then, I have had to adjust my view of my father as an all-knowing Yorkshireman with a heroic gambling habit, to a sort of flawed autodidact who, without the presence of my mother, would have long since died in a bizarre hoovering mishap.

A genius product from Original Source
A genius product from Original Source

One that succeeded

A penguin
When my neice, Amelia, was four, I got Santa to get her a stuffed penguin, and when she opened it she said, “A penguin!” She was really happy with that penguin, and so was I.

My Christmas appeal
Amelia told me the other day that while she had over thirty items on her Christmas list last year, this year she only has eleven. She explained to me that she basically had a lot of stuff. She is eight years old yet is already scratching around for material things she actually wants.

This, combined with my lifetime of present-buying torment, suggests it might be better to cut back on the buying and enjoy each other’s company instead.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? #BandAid30 Official Artist Q&A

Spreading joy. Band Aid 30
Spreading joy. Band Aid 30

Who are “they”?
Africans.

What is Africa?
A place where bad things happen.

Do they know it’s Christmas time, at all?
No.

Why not?
It’s not Christmas. It’s mid-November.

Yeah, but if it was Christmas, would they know it was Christmas?
Probably. This song gets wheeled out every few years, which has made a big difference. And, in any case, Christ is pretty popular in Africa. Particularly the countries the British invented/named/colonised.

Which ones are those?
Most of them.

So, if it was Christmas, who wouldn’t know it was Christmas?
The Muslims, probably. They don’t celebrate Christmas.

What do they celebrate?
That’s for them to know and us to find out.

Could we drop leaflets from drones over the Muslims on December the 25th to let them know that it is Christmas?
No.

Why not?
Because letting them know it’s Christmas, at all, is not the point. We are trying to stop Ebola.

What’s Ebola?
Bad.

How bad?
Very bad.

Have they all got it over there?
Not really. In fact, Nigeria contained the virus quickly and easily on their own, without any assistance from white people. But we don’t talk about that because it doesn’t help the “White Man as Saviour” narrative.

Right. So who are we helping again?
Bob.

Dylan?
That’s just the problem. It’s Bob Geldof. And if he doesn’t get on the telly a lot every five to ten years to remake this song, he wouldn’t have a purpose in life. You could say you are making a grumpy old man a bit less grumpy.

What’s in it for me?
You get to do something good for a change. And you get a lot of publicity. It aids your career, basically.

Do I get to meet any real-life Africans?
No! Oh, actually I mean yes. We have got a token African artist for you to meet. Bob Geldof doesn’t like African music or culture, but some fusspots reckon it is important that African musicians should get the chance to meet Chris Martin – to show that we have problems over here as well.

This sounds like a load of bollocks, yet something I can’t really get out of. How much of my time will it take?
About three hours. And your conscience will be salved for the rest of your life.

What does salved mean?
Just get in the recording booth, do your thing and make Bob Geldof happy.

Don't look directly into his eyes - Bob Geldof
Don’t look directly into his eyes – Bob Geldof

Who is Bob Geldof again?
He’s like a sweary Irish Medusa. And before you ask, sweary is when you say bad things to people, Irish is a term used to refer to the people of Ireland, who are similar to the English except they have more boybands and sanctimonious middle-aged rock stars, and Medusa is a less attention-seeking version of Bob Geldof, with better hair.

I’m scared now.
Don’t be. Ellie Goulding is in there. Just hold her hand and everything will be okay. Probably.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Note to reader. Two tips for doing something, whilst avoiding Geldof’s circus. Donate to Medecins Sans Frontieres and listen to some cool African music. Some of my favourites are Konono No.1 and also The Ethiopiques albums. Probably you have your favourites too, so feel free to let me know the stuff you like to listen to, when you aren’t listening to the Boomtown Rats.

One game of football Sainsbury’s prefer you don’t think about this Christmas

Sainsbury's saccharine Christmas ad
Sainsbury’s saccharine Christmas ad

It was with some interest that I watched Sainsbury’s much-hailed Christmas ad.

Depicting the game of football between German and British troops on 25 December 1914, it shows soldiers acting in a conciliatory, noble, sporting fashion during a time of war. It shows that our similarities are greater than our differences. It shows that the great game of football can bring even the most implacable foes together.

Sainsbury’s, of course, would not be so crass as to use that most poignant moment to sell spuds or cut-price bevy. It isn’t doing that. (In fact, I am not going to use ‘it’ to describe Sainsbury’s, even though it is grammatically correct; I am going to use ‘they’ to humanise this multi-billion pound company. Make Sainsbury’s more cuddly for you.)

Kind and caring Sainsbury’s, as the main plank of their corporate social responsibility strategy, are using the advert to get you to go into their stores to buy a bar of chocolate, the profits from which will go to the Royal British Legion.

Sainsbury’s have been roundly praised for their ad. Why? Well, it gives the viewer a warm glow about Our Boys. It also, in turn, softens Sainsbury’s image, and puts them on the moral high ground.

You come away thinking – Sainsbury’s: they really are there for the lads fighting in World War One. What, on the other hand, are Lidl doing for the boys in the trenches? Fuck all, that’s what. On that basis, I shall never shop in Lidl again – despite their chocolate being rather tasty and reasonably priced.

(You’ve guessed it, people. I shop at Lidl. The customer service is dreadful but the cheese-crusted rolls are DAYYYUUMMM! And 25p a pop. On the other hand, their broccoli never seems to go off, which is inexplicable and not a little troubling. But very cost effective.)

Typical fun-loving Lidl customers
Typical fun-loving Lidl customers

Where was I? Oh yes. Sainsbury’s Xmas ad. What did I think?

I thought it was too long, I thought it sugar-coated war (literally) and it made me feel a bit sick. But on the credit side, you have to admit that Sainsbury’s have adroitly chosen which game of football to tickle the British public in its emotional G-spot.

Because they didn’t choose QPR’s stirring comeback to salvage a 2-2 draw at Stoke City earlier this season – magnificent though the Super Hoops were that day under the inspirational and saggy-faced leadership of Harry Redknapp. They didn’t even choose John Terry crying in the rain after the 2008 Champions League final (an image that, six year later, still gladdens my heart and prompts me into prolonged bouts of hedonistic consumerism).

John Terry crying in the rain
John Terry crying in the rain

But there was one game of football which could have made the cut. And no doubt it was a close-run thing.

This game of football was also well-publicised.

It was also informal – no one really cared about a winner.

It was also during a time of war. But the players were not participants in the war. They were children, having a kickabout. On a beach.

Remember those boys? The Palestinian boys on the beach? They got killed by Israelis who mistook children having a kickabout for murderous, foaming-at-the-mouth jihadis. An easy mistake to make and one I’m sure we have all made on the beach in Torremolinos.

“Look – there are some boys playing football.”
“Yes, but are those boys also vicious jihadis intent on annihilating me, my mum and all of civilisation?”
“KEERRRISST! Probably they are – let’s bomb them now and sup freedom cocktails later!”

Of course, Sainsbury’s don’t want small children murdered while playing football. It is unpleasant, and puts people off their shopping.

But they do rather like Israel. They buy and supply Israeli products – products which, depending on if you share the UN’s view on the matter, are often made on stolen Palestinian land. They help prop up a country which is in perpetual war against people living in what has been described as the world’s biggest prison camp.

Sainsbury’s might think that the Israeli state should be supported. That’s their call. But they are a big company. They could continue trading, and also say:

“Hey, Israel. Would you mind, if it’s not too much bother, trying a teensy bit harder to not kill children? You know, by not firing missiles at them and stuff. Lovely houmous, by the way.”

Sainsbury’s could support charities that help the people of Palestine, or indeed charities which support people in countries where our troops so often go to liberate the natives. They could, without a snazzy ad campaign, speak out to steer Israel towards a more humane approach when dealing with human beings living in the Gaza Strip.

If they did try to make a difference, not by romanticising a century-old conflict, but by taking practical action to improve the countries with which they so profitably trade, in places such as Israel, then that would truly be corporate social responsibility. And that would give me a warm glow this Christmas.

In the meantime, however, I’m off down Lidls to buy some of their no doubt questionably sourced chocolate instead.

Pete The Temp’s amusing video on Sainsbury’s and Israel.

A completely unnecessary but lovely image of a bowl of houmous.
A completely unnecessary but lovely image of a bowl of houmous.

The BBC and UKIP: the best of friends

The BBC might claim its news coverage is fair and balanced, but what exactly is fair and balanced about this headline on its front page?

ukip

The headline – UKIP’s Farage back on campaign trail – is almost propaganda. Of course Farage is campaigning for the up-coming by-election in Rochester and Strood. But then so are all the other political parties.

The other associated stories develop this uncritical pro-UKIP perspective:

The first gives Farage free rein to say that he could be in government next May. This is preposterous given that UKIP has only one MP. But the claim is made less preposterous by this blanket coverage.

The second, a piece by political editor Nick Robinson, is typically nuanced, but ends essentially confirming the pro-UKIP stance:

“Maybe but maybe the seemingly ever onward rise of Mr Farage will, as he’s long predicted, continue ever onward.”

The third is a long profile of the rise of UKIP, again reiterating how they “defy the odds.” It is complete with the standard and necessary picture of Farage in the boozer. (Message: do you drink beer? Here’s a politician who also drinks beer. See how much you two have in common?!)

farage beer

To my dismay, they print a picture of the UKIP billboard advert which uses Winston Churchill to push its anti-immigration message. Having read Roy Jenkins’ 900-page biography of Churchill, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been appalled by the small-minded, insular attitude of UKIP.

Churchill UKIP

The fourth article is Ed Miliband’s response to UKIP. The FOURTH article in this UKIP bonanza, and the first in which the Labour leader – the party which has won three of the last four General Elections, is quoted at any length. Miliband says that a party which wants to cut the taxes of rich people (such as Carswell and Farage) could not genuinely represent the interests of the working class. Which makes sense, and exposes the contradiction of UKIP’s public face and private ideology.

Having let Red Ed and his band of radical left-wingers have their say in the previous article, the BBC leaves any semblance of criticism of UKIP to one side in its fifth story, “By-elections leave biggest parties with plenty to ponder.” Again, the rise of this extremist party is talked of in excitable terms. While UKIP has had “hype, attention and victories of recent years” it has “never had a night like it.”

It goes on to quote the new, and old, Clacton MP, Douglas Carswell: “We must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other.” This is plainly untrue. No political party can be for all Britons, particularly not UKIP, which is directly offensive to a large proportion of the country.  This minor quibble is not addressed by the BBC.

Let us imagine that in, let’s say, a northern mill town, a militant Islamist party rose up and gained enough popular support to get an MP into Parliament. Would the BBC be talking in upbeat terms about such a party, and quote its leader extensively and uncritically? More likely, it would talk of the troubling rise of Islamism, and would ask Farage, in the pub over a pint of Spitfire, about his concerns.

Finally, there is a glowing profile of Douglas Carswell MP, in which he is described – not in quotes, but as stated fact – as a “free thinker” a “maverick” and a “moderniser.” These adjectives don’t tally even remotely with the reality: an ex-City worker who has dedicated his life to keeping himself in Parliament and immigrants out of the UK.

To add to the cosy image of Mr Carswell, it is noted that he likes swimming, gardening and making quince jelly.

The profile ends with a quote from Carswell’s victory speech: “If we always speak with passion, let it be tempered by compassion.” The reader is not asked whether a politician whose leader does not want people with HIV entering the country could be considered to be compassionate.

This bumper batch of stories from the Beeb would lead any reader without detailed political awareness to make several conclusions:

1. UKIP is a major political force
2. UKIP is a mainstream political party, which does not hold extreme views
3. UKIP has a good chance of being in Government at the next General Election
4. Douglas Carswell is a brave and noble politician, and a family man, standing up for what he believes
5. Immigration is the major issue facing the UK, not housing, jobs or inequality
6. The Green Party, and the Lib Dems, are irrelevant.

There is no doubt that the coverage from some of the national newspapers, and Sky News, has been even more triumphalist. However, the newspapers are explicitly partisan. The BBC, known as being fair and balanced, is at present covering UKIP as if it was the party of government rather than one with a single MP.

We should remember that David Cameron described UKIP members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.” Michael Heseltine said that UKIP is racist.

If these two right-wing politicians regard UKIP with such horror, why does the BBC give them so much publicity and uncritical commentary? I do not think that the BBC is managed by UKIP supporters. It is, like all news organisations, enamoured by a good narrative, which UKIP provides: the rise of the underdog, triumphing against the odds; the man with charisma who likes a beer; the fight against the existential threat to our cosy, nostalgic way of life.

It is this narrative that gets UKIP its extensive coverage. But if the BBC doesn’t try harder to provide balance, then it won’t be only the Tories or Labour who are under threat. It will be the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy news organisation.

Two privately educated men whose only wish is to help the people of Clacton. Carswell and Farage share a joke.
Two privately educated men whose only wish is to help the people of Clacton. Carswell and Farage share a joke.

Stop The War march for the people of Gaza: 9th August 2014

Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street
Protest for Gaza on Oxford Street.

I don’t go on a lot of protest marches. In fact, the only big, proper protest march I have been on was the one in favour of fox hunting, when I reported on it for the Hastings Observer.

Today’s march was similar, yet different. It featured the same good-natured canter through London’s beauty spots, adorned with placards, whistles and slogans. But while that rally was defending human’s right to kill foxes for fun; this protest, in contrast, defended human’s right not to be killed (for fun, or otherwise).

I attended for several reasons:

a. Seeing those boys killed on the beach when they were having a kickabout was horrific
b. Our government has not condemned the killing of children, even those in UN shelters. We have been less critical of Israel than any other nation on earth, including the US. I wished to show that this “do nothing” approach is not a vote-winner
c. I was interested to see who was on the march, and why they were there.

When I pottered down to Portland Place, I was pleased to see that there was a significant crowd gathered. Not nearly as many as pitched up against the foxes, but still tens of thousands.

Almost the first person I saw was a young man pulling out a placard which conflated Israel’s actions with the Nazis. I asked for a photo, then explained that I found his sign insulting (idiotic, would have been nearer the mark). I was soon joined by a Jewish man who said much of his family was killed in the holocaust, and he found the sign offensive and insensitive.

We got tangled up in an extremely polite argument, in which it became obvious that the man had a very loose grasp of history, and was beginning to regret bringing the banner out. I slipped away as they carried on their debate, and am glad to say, I did not see another banner of that kind for the rest of the afternoon.

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The people gathered outside Broadcasting House, in criticism of the BBC’s reporting of the conflict. I don’t think its reporting has been as bad as people have suggested. However, the BBC’s problem stems from two factors: a timidity in asking hard questions of Israel; and editorial guidelines which demand balance. That approach doesn’t work when the conflict itself is so desperately unbalanced.

(The BBC did bother to report on this protest, while neglecting to mention that it was the object of part of it.)

I bumped into a fellow QPR fan, who acted as a timely restorative after my previous encounter. We discussed another grave, internecine conflict: between Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt, before he handed me a socialist leaflet and tottered off. To my surprise, and pleasure, I noticed West Ham and Chelsea fans carrying banners in support of the people of Gaza. This is good not only because it shows football supporters standing for something more than their team, it shows how many different types of people feel strongly about this issue.

Chelsea fans supporting Palestinians
Chelsea fans supporting Palestinians

I next got talking to a mother of three from south London, who was pushing two children in a buggy, and carrying a tiny baby in a sling. She said, simply: “I hope we can make a difference. I hope we will be listened to.” We had a lovely chat where she explained her determination to come out and show her support, despite having three children. “You have got to do something,” she said.

We strolled down Oxford Street, when I noticed people were directing their ire towards Marks & Spencer. I asked a man chanting what the issue was, and he said: “They are Jewish. They support Israel.”

An elderly lady, who was marching with a friend, timidly said: “I’m a bit concerned they are just attacking Jewish businesses.”

We walked around the US embassy, which saw people shouting: “USA, shame on you” to a large, unimpressed building, with a bored-looking security guard stood outside.

As the march progressed towards Hyde Park, I found myself alongside a man who was enjoying using his loudhailer to start chants, a bit croakily by then, along the lines of: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

To which I didn’t reply: “No, I am not a Palestinian. I am Richard Purnell, a one-half Jewish, one-half Yorkshire, one-half Essex man who is putting aside his great and ongoing need for attention and applause to spend a few hours cantering about the streets of London to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinians, not to you, you mindless sloganeer.”

Which is perhaps why I don’t go on many marches.

That said, I am glad I went on this one. I saw mums, dads, teenagers, old people, business people, tourists, from just about every walk of life, walking through the streets to show support for fellow humans suffering a very obvious injustice.

I am not presuming that much will come of this protest. After all, the protest to defend an Englishman’s right to frighten the life out of foxes came to nothing.

However, simply to see that there is a groundswell of support for the Palestinians, which today is less easily ignored by our Prime Minister, made it worth it.

Del boy would be proud - chaps selling Palestine merch
Del boy would be proud – chaps selling Palestine merch
What is boils down to
What it boils down to
Orthodox Jews on the protest
Orthodox Jews on the protest