Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Perils of Speaking Your Mind

Sometimes I think it was probably a good thing I never became an MP. The discipline of keeping my gob shut would probably have been too much. Last week Labour Minister Tom Harris got into trouble for speaking his mind when he asked in a very thoughtful blogpost why people were so 'bloody miserable'. Today it is the turn of Shadow Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt (who's recently started a blog). He had the temerity to say what most of us probably think...
Sometimes graffiti - however objectionable and anti-social it is in principle - can be very thought provoking. There's a wonderful slogan daubed on a fence alongside the M40 coming into London that says, 'Why do I do this every day?'

The Sun have headlined this TOP TORY: GRAFFITI IS SO GREAT. Other papers have done him over too. What a pity it is that it is now virtually impossible for a politician to give their true views on something without the nation's media descending on them like a ton of bricks. All they achieve is to put other politicians off saying anything remotely interesting at all.

FWIW I agree with Jeremy. Although I strongly object to most graffiti - sometimes it is highly artistic and often very amusing. However, if it is your building thatr has been sprayed on, i's clear you won't find it amusing. At all.


Spartan said...

lt seems that the 'Marc Wadsworth' type of 'journalism' is now the norm.

To turn "Sometimes graffiti - however objectionable and anti-social it is in principle - can be very thought provoking" into "TOP TORY ... GRAFFITI IS GREAT" one has to believe your readers are not very intelligent and easily duped.

Unfortunately they are probably correct in their belief.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that a lot of billboard advertising is a form of graffiti anyway - it is certainly an eyesore.

So if people like Adbusters want to try and make it amusing as well - good on them...

Brian said...

"In Images Of Elsewhere, Far Away Is Close At Hand" was the graffito cherished by Michael Wharton of the Telegraph's Peterborough Column. I gather that the original existed until fairly recently.
Reminds me of the British Rail campaign "This Is The Age Of The Train". Nearly every poster I saw had 108 written on it. How very true.
And who remembers the notorious "George Davis Is Innocent"? At least he wasn't accused of doing those crimes since he was in chokey at the time.

Letters From A Tory said...

Why don't news organisation stick to reporting news instead of wetting their pants at these non-stories?

Newmania said...

Thats brilliant ,its art Its the sense of a message in a bottle from someone you will never meet. Its funny but silvered with sadness the plangent note that ornaments English humour from ‘youths a stuff will not endure’ Eeyore . .

I once walked into a video shop and someone had moved “Free Willy “ into the Gay Porn section , don’t ask why I was looking ,the point is I thought , someone , somewhere who I shall never meet is like me . ......In a sacrament of camaraderie I moved Free Willy Two’ by its side .There they sat, nestled with ‘Grinding Nemo’ and ‘Charlies Anals’ .A beautiful moment .

Salutations my kindred spirit wherever you are.....

Old BE said...

Unless it's a Banksy and then you would be very pleased to have been sprayed, unless you are an officious council worker.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some politicians could do with an elephant gun to bag those in the room they usually have to ignore?

Anonymous said...

Although the trash press likes playing this game, I wonder how many readers are actually bothered about it?

Anonymous said...

The other day this graffiti appeared near london bridge;

"Oranges are orange,
As orange as orange can be.
And if I was [sic] an orange,
Then they'd all look like me"

Love that.

Unsworth said...

Well some of those living in Brighton might well agree with him. Frankly many of the pieces on display are superb.

Anonymous said...

The press have adopted the same methods as the Taliban. They believe theirs is the right and only way to think and all alternative thoughts that stray out of the narrow band of their choosing must be outlawed, ridiculed and denounced. They haven't actually kill anyone yet but they wouldn't complain if the hysteria they generate led to crazed zealots going one step further.
And its not just print journalists. Last night I watched Newsnight in the expectation of hearing Andrew Landsley's proposals for the NHS. Instead I heard Paxman's spluttering contempt for anyone thinks the NHS, or its sacred targets, have any need for reform. Andrew Landsley wasn't allowed to voice his views bcause Paxman/the BBC didn't agree with them.

Anonymous said...

Maddeningly it's not a case of us getting the politicians we deserve but of us getting the politicians the press deserve.

Alan Douglas said...

My favourite, on a railway arch in N W London, it's heen there many years :

Socialism = Idolatry of the Superfluous

Brilliant !

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

Gallimaufry said... And who remembers the notorious "George Davis Is Innocent"?

Who remembers that when George Davis was subsequently jailed for an armed robbery that he really did commit (he pleaded guilty) some of his erstwhile supporters went round painting out the "George Davis is Innocent" slogans?

Anonymous said...

letters from..

Because they may, like Judith Chalmers, be going commando, and have no pants to wet...

Anonymous said...

it's poor journalism, and i really can't understand The Sun. i'm genuinely shocked it's still in Brown's pocket...contrary to the great British public, which is normally how they sway their editorial opinion.

Anonymous said...

I can fully understand why his remarks have been criticised, despite the weasly "in principle" phrase. Graffiti is vandalism of private property - it disfigures the environment, helps to lower the tone of the area and is a real pain for homeowners like me who have their walls daubed with childish scribbles several times a year. It may be OK for Jeremy Hunt in his posh area to condone graffiti, but for ordinary hard-working people in less privileged areas, his comments come across as complacent and uncaring. If the graffiti-scrawlers want to say something, why don't they buy a sketch pad from WHSmith (why do they arrogantly assume that anyone else wants to read what they have to say?) or publish it on the internet?

Anonymous said...

You agree with Polly then that the press misrepresent and is utterly toxic?

Anonymous said...

You beat me to it. I was going to mention that line, which was on the way in to Paddington station. But I remember it in reverse - "Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere"
Apparently the wall was knocked down in the 1980s. If you Google "far away close hand" you'll find an illuminating essay by Nigel Rees on Ruth Padel's website

Anonymous said...

And some of the best graffiti are those where someone else has added to it - usually underneath (eg 'Jesus made me a homosexual - (then added) If I bought him some wool would he make me one too?'). My prize went to one the other way round, ie addition above - there was a much repeated slogan on walls in Belfast 15 or so years ago saying 'Ulster has suffered enough'. One such was on a large red brick wall behind the Belfast Telagraph building. After some time, above it appeared 'No topless sunbathing' - at least we hadn't lost our sense of humour!

Anonymous said...

ID... "Sometimes I think it was probably a good thing I never became an MP. The discipline of keeping my gob shut would probably have been too much."

That's exactly why your not A list , even though you went to Rwanda to show your "commitment"

You really should keep it zipped in certain situations.

Iain Dale said...

Tankus, a couple of corrections. I am/was on the A List. I went to Rwanda for 18 Doughty Street, not with the Tory crew. I was there for work. It was nothing to do with "showing commitment". Apart from that, you're bang on!

Anonymous said...

There's a stencil on the pavement in Kennington that reads:

"Why look at the ground?"

"Look at the city"

It automatically makes you look up, and you see a beautiful view down a lovely old street, Big Ben in the distance, and the sunlight fading in a wide open sky.

Makes me smile every time.

Anonymous said...

personally, I quite enjoy seeing skillfully executed graffiti (according to my standards) that's not on private property. Tags, on the other hand, are a pain in the a**e and generally little more than the equivalent of a dog p*****g on a lamppost. (Although sometimes you see them in an extremely inaccessible place and think "well, fair play for getting up there". Of course, the thought that immediately follows is "though I'd be really angry if you fell off and thus delayed my train journey / had to get rescued at large expense / etc...")

with anonymous 9.56 on subvertising. The more the better.

Scipio said...

That's tabloid journalism for you.

Very often it isn't the journalists - but the sub editors and the morons who write the headline! I know lobby journos often get really annoyed when their decent copy gets butchered by the sub eds!

Scipio said...

BTW - I know that bit of graffiti, and Jeremt is correct, it is thought provoking!

Anonymous said...

The point is not whether graffiti is good or bad, the point is - as you belatedly admit - that it should not be sprayed on the property of people who do not want it. Period.

strapworld said...

When I started working in London in 1963, I lived in Highgate N6. Just over the Highgate Bridge (Suicide Bridge) towards Hornsey was a brick wall with six foot letters declaring :

I have always considered that thought provoking!

Why anyone, Iain, should worry what the Brown supporting Murdoch controlled rag prints anymore is of no concern to thinking people.

I am amused by good graffiti and someone made a fortune from writing a few books on the subject - so many people obviously enjoy good graffiti!

Here am I broken hearted paid a penny but only f.r.t.d! was the earliest I can recall on a railway station toilet in Bury, Lancashire in the 50's!

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Hunt's right, some graffiti is brilliant folk art and part of our culture: look at Banksy's stuff,it sells for thousands.

So hands off Jeremy Hunt, Sun, please, he's one of our best MPs and what he said is true. Please focus on the mountainous absurdity and outrage that spews out of this government daily.

Anonymous said...

There used to be one on a major traffic roundabout in Reading which read;

"fat nobodies in company cars".

He should team up with the M40 graffiti crew.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Hunt has also worked to persuade BT to keep red telephone boxes in iconic areas.

And he blogs.

Well done Jeremy Hunt!

Anonymous said...

I came across this graffiti in Oxford:

Tapestry said...

John Redwood manages to write a good blog without advocating vandalism.

Power blogs should not be play blogs.

Spartan said...

babapapa said "It may be OK for Jeremy Hunt in his posh area to condone graffiti ..."

Thank you for adding more substance to my previous post.

Anonymous said...

While visiting the Sydney Harbour bridge many years ago:
Someone had sprayed "Jesus lives!" on one of the abutments. A wag had added "Does that mean we don't get an Easter holiday?"

Anonymous said...

“So why is everyone so bloody miserable?”, Tom Harris asked.

Tom Harris MP.

However, it seems Tom doesn't believe everyone is quite as miserable as the people of England, Ireland and Wales as he states elsewhere:

“Scots, and Glaswegians in particular, have a great resilient spirit, matched only by their sense of humour.”

Tom Harris’s maiden speech

Anonymous said...

The message by the side of the M40 was painted over by a new gang about a year ago. So the blog is out of date. It was quite striking though - about 100 yards long.

Anonymous said...

In the late sixties on the side of a toilet block on Wandsworth Common, in 2 ft high letters, was "ALICE TROUT MOVES MYSTERIOUSLY".

Does anyone know what all that was about?

Unknown said...

It's the same reason why MPs don't give straight answers to questions. We truly get the politicians we deserve.

Anonymous said...

Cheered me up a bit as we patrolled some Loyalist hole in Belfast all those years ago:

"We'll never forget you, Jimmy Sands"

Anonymous said...

My favourite graffito was another one quoted by Nigel Rees in his book.

Written above the toilet paper dispenser in some university library somewhere, it simply said "Sociology degrees - please take one".

Anonymous said...

Graffiti dates back well beyond Roman times, but an appropriate Latin scribbling for all politicians was found in Pompeii: Mendacem oportet esse memorem

"A liar must be good at remembering" for those whose classical education has faded with the years.

Jeff said...

I thoroughly, thoroughly agree.

A Sun boycott by the intelligista is surely long overdue.

strapworld said...

Tapestry. I have mostly respected your blog and views. Today's was, I am sad to say, sad!

Get a life!

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of press that stops real debate on so many issues
and keeps MPs so guarded

we want MPs left and right who believe and say what they mean

having been on the other end of the looney left stuff (90% made up blag bags, bar bar black sheep etc etc)

I have to say ....I told you so

Anonymous said...

Seen on a rockface in Wales:

Jesus Saves.

...........after which was appended:

Not on my wages He doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I had been of the view that new media (with people speaking their minds on blogs and people living their lives more openly) will force people to be more grown up in how they judge politicians. In other words, they will have to stop being hypocritical and so judgemental about them. Having read this, I am not so sure, the old media seems determined to continue to spin and distort.

Tapestry said...

strapworld - thanks for the advice, the compliment and the crushing put-down. I'm now all in favour of creative graffiti, but not the trash.

Who will be the judge as to which is which?

Better to be dull I'm afraid, and seek out more profitable thoughts and topics for serious politicians.

Dale's being unrealistic imagining a blog permits a change of message. It's like Gerald Ratner who had great comic thoughts but chose the wrong audience to receive them.

I stand by my earlier sad, so sad opinion.

Malcolm said...

That graffitti has been painted over quite a while ago. At least it was when I drove past last April.

never in that carriage said...

Why go as far as boycotting the Sun?

Rush-is-Right said...

Whenever I walk through Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and see some scrawl that an a*hole has left on an attractive building I think to myself that "the scum who perpetrated that should have his hands cut off".

Anonymous said...

Although it's not graffiti in the real sense, I did have a laugh when things started to go missing from the communal fridge in the office.

A certain attractive young lady wrote on her jar of mayonnaise "This belongs to Charlotte and I've spat in it"

It was only 24 hours before some wag wrote underneath "So Have I"

Would you eat it afterwards without a slight nagging doubt?

Anonymous said...

In the 1980's slung below the direction sign Bicester Sewage Works was a carefully made addtion 'No It Doesn't'

Anonymous said...

There's a stencil on the pavement
in Kennington that reads:

"Why look at the ground?"

"Look at the city"

It automatically makes you look up,
and you see a beautiful view ...'

For a few months after the M3 was
cut through Twyford Down, a graffito
on the bridge linking the now-divided
parts of the Down read something like

'Shut your eyes, breathe deeply, and
think of the countryside.'

I trust no drivers followed this
advice ...

Anonymous said...

And what about that golden oldie:


............and Moses invests!

Boom, boom.

Anonymous said...

Talking of graffiti, there used to be a great one on a bridge near Kidderminster which read:

"Beutiful, I love you, but only a lot"

John M Ward said...

Been there myself, had the 'rat pack' hounding me (over eighty calls from the media during just a few days), so I know what happens once something like this happens in the media.

I'm with Iain on this, and am just pleased to be out of the game. I went grey-haired during those eight years and developed what seems to be a permanent illness, almost certainly related to the stresses incurred.

Hardly worth it for an £8,000 or so allowance (taxed!) for typically 60 hours or more a week of work...

Anonymous said...

was still there in the 1980's.

My favorite was when coming off the M4 onto the north circular sliproad; on three successive concrete supports for the now overhead motoway read the words ( visible only one at a time )




btw, how do I boycott a paper that I have never bought ?

Anonymous said...

Surely the solution is for more MPs to blog and do so off message. After a while, even The Sun couldn't get outraged.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

1. Jesus saves, Moses saves, Francis scores from the rebound.... South London Church circa 1975

2. In the gents of well-known Hampstead wine-bar some years ago. " One would think with all this wit that Shakespeare himself came here to ****

and finally, this on a poster at Liverpool Street Station many years ago:

"Harwich for the Continent" and scribbled underneath

"and Folkestone for the rest of us"

Anonymous said...

Geoff 25/6 2.00

Spotted on a wall in Pompeii by the classicist, Peter Jones:

"I came here, I had a shag then I went home," - wrote one of the last great romantics.

Anonymous said...

"We feel it's not working out...", is graffitied on my street. It touches me.

Anonymous said...

We're British, we are miserable by nature (when we're not drunk that is, people who think binge drinking is a modern phenomonon should read what Julius Caesar had to say on the topic)

I remember my grandad singing an old Music Hall ballad. It wen't something like this:

...isn't it grand boys to be bloody well dead,
Let's not have a sniffle, let's have a bloody good cry,
And always remember the longer you live,
The sooner you'll bloody well die.

Says it all really :-)