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by Harry on January 17, 2019

For decades I have bought the New Statesman only occasionally, always feeling rather like Charlie Brown does when Lucy puts the football in front of him. I loved it when I was a kid, but certainly since I was 25 it has always seemed utterly dull when I actually have it in front of me. But, I recently discovered, and love, the New Statesman podcast—Helen Lewis is clever, funny, well-informed and a bit gossipy, genuinely likes Stephen Bush (who is not funny, but is clever, well-informed and very gossipy), and knows how to run a conversation. So, I recently thought I’d kick the ball again and…. same as ever. Except, to my horror, the one lasting saving grace of the NS, the competition, was missing. (Nor was there a letter from Keith Flett whom, to my regret, I have never met despite once being the head of a department in which he was, reputedly, a PhD student).

Still…. CT can have a competition.* Occasional commenter, dob, send me a link to yesterday’s Marina Hyde which contains these marvelous descriptions of Johnson and Mogg:

Here comes voluminously overcoated Jacob Rees-Mogg, who still resembles an 11-year-old Jacob Rees-Mogg sitting on Nanny’s shoulders for a nursery game called Disaster Capitalist’s Bluff.

And here comes the affectedly shambling figure of Boris Johnson – not so much a statesman as an Oxfam donation bag torn open by a fox – who could conceivably still end up prime minister of no-deal Britain.

One sentence descriptions, please, of politicians who are unsuited to office, in the style of Marina Hyde. (Johnson and JR-M are not off-limits)

  • I’m hoping that Richard Osman hasn’t copyrighted the idea of a competition—if he has, that might explain its disappearance from the NS. If his lawyers approach us, I’ll take this down forthwith. (Oh, and, the prize is as valuable as the prize for winning I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue, so don’t get excited).

{ 40 comments }

1

Chris Bertram 01.17.19 at 2:11 pm

Not an entry, obv, but Frankie Boyle (whom I usually deplore) had this as a description for the then larger deputy leader of the Labour Party:

Tom Watson, who could be mistaken, in a low light, for a chest of drawers with a telly on top.

2

Thomas 01.17.19 at 2:53 pm

Seconded on the New Statesman podcast. But what other podcasts do Timberites recommend to fans of it? Apart from the maddening Talking Politics which sounds like a RCP entryists’ cell meet-up, of course.

3

casmilus 01.17.19 at 4:27 pm

Boris Johnson is a 12-year old trying to be Winston Churchill in a school play.

4

Francis Spufford 01.17.19 at 5:11 pm

The Boris Johnson one is genius.

Also not an entry, but Caitlin Moran’s description of David Cameron as ‘a camp android made of ham’ is very fine.

5

David 01.17.19 at 6:03 pm

@Thomas FT Politics? But if you don’t like Talking Politics you probably won’t like that either. Times Red Box has been great recently.

6

TheSophist 01.17.19 at 6:41 pm

WRM – the spawn of a housemaster and a nazgul.

7

James Wimberley 01.17.19 at 7:47 pm

Jair Bolsonaro is the colonel the other coup plotters entrust with the vital task of seizing the main brewery.

8

bos 01.17.19 at 8:26 pm

Like Dolores Umbridge being carried away into the Dark Forest by a herd of centaurs, Theresa May has been carried away by the idea that talking down to foreigners, slowly and clearly, will get her what she wants.

9

TheSophist 01.17.19 at 8:27 pm

Ugh… wrong Rees Mogg. I meant Jacob, not William, at #6 above.

10

john v burke 01.17.19 at 9:40 pm

Mitch McConnell, a man with the courage of a hen and the face of a hen’s ovipositor.

11

BruceJ 01.17.19 at 9:53 pm

The line “Teresa May, who rose to the occasion like a replicant Aeropoise Lamp. Basic shambles model.” was pure gold.

12

Chris Bertram 01.17.19 at 10:42 pm

Barry Gardiner rather resembled a random contestant from Bargain Hunt (the red team, of course), surprised and alarmed to find himself quizzed about matters of state.

13

Helen 01.17.19 at 10:55 pm

Critic Kerryn Goldsworthy on our current, semi-accidental, Pentecostal Prime Minister Scott Morrison (‘Scummo’)

“Fourth-rate know-nothing tongues-speaking serpent-handling excuse for a base-grade public servant on probation while you count your ill-gotten money, most of it garnered from The Taxpayer, ie us”

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Faustusnotes 01.17.19 at 11:21 pm

Marina Hyde is a highlight of the guardian for me. Her football commenting was excellent and her dry sarcasm about celebrities is great. She has another one today about the trend for celebrities to use young people’s blood for rejuvenation.

I don’t have an entry for the contest unfortunately. I like the description of Cameron but I just think of him as the pig-fucker general.

15

Phil Koop 01.17.19 at 11:51 pm

@john v burke

It’s not Hyde’s style, but I’ve always thought of Mitch McConnell as Grand Vizier to Yertle the Turtle. Hyde would probably call him an ambulatory sack of sausage rolls. And not those posh sausage rolls from Waitrose either, those nasty Tesco ones.

16

Gareth Wilson 01.18.19 at 12:42 am

I can’t think of one myself, but Rafael Behr on Twitter said: “Yet again, Corbyn’s presence at this great moment of national history is as that of the wife’s hitherto unknown brother on a stag do.”

17

Chris Marcil 01.18.19 at 3:52 am

The Trump Administration, governing as if to prove that “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce” is in the wrong order.

18

bad Jim 01.18.19 at 4:54 am

Two species named after Donald Trump:

Moth with small genitalia and distinctive yellowish-white scales covering the head

Blind, wormlike amphibian that burrows underground

19

bad Jim 01.18.19 at 5:54 am

The rat’s nest atop Rand Paul’s head is a reflection of the rat’s nest within: as above, so below.

Chris Christie weighs several tons less than the average pachyderm.

Joni Ernst, the hog-castrating senator from Iowa, has just now realized that a congressman from her state is kind of a pig.

20

bad Jim 01.18.19 at 6:27 am

Beto O’Rourke: a campaign with teeth!
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez dances around her loose grip of the facts.
Elizabeth Warren has hit the warpath.
Biden is biding his time but not biting his tongue.
Come all ye Kamala Kumbaya, you kidding?
Booker, Dano.

21

dbk 01.18.19 at 7:19 am

OT but not entirely so:

“… resembles nothing so much as a medieval carnival of disunity.”

Random observation by a BBC commentator re: the motley crew assembled outside Parliament on Jan. 15.

Short but sweet.

22

bad Jim 01.18.19 at 8:16 am

A previous president’s downtime pastime was chainsawing other bushes.
Romney loves the little guys, wiping their remains from his lips.
He goddam mad dog eh? (Not enough for this crew, apparently)
When Senator Collins opens her coat closet, she exchanges her spine for something more appealing.
What’s the proper reaction when the newly inaugurated, properly progressive, governor of your state looks like a movie villain?

23

SusanC 01.18.19 at 10:44 am

Trump is in the wrong genre of movie: he would be plausible as Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but has been ludicrously miscast in The Manchurian Candidate.

24

Trader Joe 01.18.19 at 12:31 pm

Look there’s Nancy Pelosi forced to take the limo with her plane grounded, her cruella de ville stripe barely visible even though she remains confident that the Dalmatians can be contained without a wall.

Beside her the ever affable Chuck Schumer who can’t decide if he’s George Milton or Lennie Small even if he didn’t do a bad thing.

Neither of them have yet met with Mitch McConnell who continues to glide ghostlike through the halls of congress only slightly visible when the death rattles of his party’s chains cause you to notice the low wattage light in the hollows of his eyes.

25

Tom Hurka 01.18.19 at 3:14 pm

Read the Marina Hyde, and it’s way over-written, she’s way too in love with her own prose. Reminds me of what Harold Nicolson said about Stanley Baldwin …

26

oldster 01.18.19 at 4:00 pm

Marina Hyde is very funny! I have never read her stuff before, but it’s excellent.

27

Alan White 01.19.19 at 12:41 am

What a delightful column!

And speaking of columns, here comes Lindsay Graham, co-producer of his own ongoing Bond come-back movie “Never Say Never Again”, where he Bonds with the very Agent Orange he once detested, attesting to his lack of a spinal one.

28

bad Jim 01.19.19 at 5:22 am

Pious Pence, whose pursed lips and puckered butt were sewn tight by the same thread.

Jealous of Nebraska’s status as the Cornhusker State, Brownback cornholed Kansas.

The rancorous cackling of Ann Coulter which can make the presidential willy wilt.

Dealing with American politicians is hard, since Charles Pierce has ritually bequeathed the most egregious offenders with mock-heroic sobriquets like goggle-eyed homunculus, zombie-eyed granny-starver, and Huckleberry Butchmeup, and Dan Savage famously google-bombed a notoriously sanctimonious senator.

I loathe Mitch McConnell, but I can’t join Trump in mocking his physical awkwardness, the result of a childhood bout with polio. Fashion choices are fair game, like Steve Bannon’s shirt layering, but they don’t go far; the best have all the comfort and the worst dress so conservatively.

29

bad Jim 01.19.19 at 5:58 am

There are allegations that prayer rugs have been found on the Mexican border, raising suspicions of Islamic terrorist infiltration. What has not been considered is the possibility that they were magic carpets, used to fly above the wall.

30

bad Jim 01.19.19 at 7:10 am

Macron, immaculately attired, photogenically attractive, invested with all the powers of state, divested of community by a swarm of yellow jackets.

Stately plump Angela Merkel lurches from catastrophe to debacle. The center cannot hold.

The Scots have run out of anandromous fish: the only successor to a Salmond and a Sturgeon would be a trout.

31

nick m 01.19.19 at 7:31 am

Something essential about Theresa May is captured in the single telling image of her rising to the occasion like a replicant Anglepoise lamp. Basic shambles model.

Several essential things about Boris Johnson are captured in the more compound surrealistic image of him affectedly shambling in while resembling an Oxfam donation bag torn open by a fox.

But I think this image of Arlene Foster is all the more effective for being so realistic – almost to the point of plausibility. (It’s also so economical that nobody could accuse it of being overwritten.)

32

bad Jim 01.19.19 at 8:13 am

The palm, I think, goes to this pieceby Paul Campos at LGM, which is a hilarious parody of the Washington Post originalby Sally Quinn, even though the texts are identical, something to amuse both Borges and Marx.

33

Chetan Murthy 01.19.19 at 9:22 am

bad Jim@28: Oh but you forgot Charlie’s sobriquet for Shitler: “The Insult Comedian.” Good times, good times. When we thought he was just a passing tempest, not the wrecker of everything we hold dear.

34

bad Jim 01.19.19 at 9:39 am

I feel as though I ought to apologize for the frequency of my posts, and acknowledge that I’m substituting quantity for quality, but I don’t understand why so few want to play this game.

One of my Christmas presents was a box of Shakespearean Insult Bandages (15 Large Assorted Plasters):

“Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in my elbows.”
“Beg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself.”
“Thou art a beetle-headed, flap-eared knave.”
“Thy wit’s as thick as Tewskbury mustard.”

35

James Wimberley 01.19.19 at 2:20 pm

The Crooked Timber commentariat, forever debating how many optionally gendered angels can group hug on the point of a pin.

(Come on, lads, lasses, and others, join in)

36

nick m 01.19.19 at 3:57 pm

Arlene Foster, who still has all the warmth of a matriarch of a remote farm who retains the passports of her labourers.

(I don’t know why, but this blockquote was lost from my comment above.)

37

Bartholomew 01.19.19 at 5:28 pm

Frankie Boyle’s review of 2018 was a masterpiece of the genre. Examples:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who has all the authenticity of a character at a murder-mystery weekend….

Brexit has many downsides, but I think it will be nice for the Irish to watch a British famine….

Raab didn’t want to be Brexit secretary, but he didn’t have the negotiating skills to decline the job….

Much of the Brexit discourse has revolved around people who seem inbred telling us that diversity is bad….

Like me, Liam Fox was raised on an Irish Catholic council estate in Scotland. It’s these sliding-doors moments where I have to thank alcoholism for denying me the focus to become a genocidal sociopath….

Our government was angry about Khashoggi and sent the Saudis a strongly worded arms invoice….

Donald Trump trundled out in front of the cameras like a corpse on a Segway…

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/22/frankie-boyle-review-2018-forget-brexit

38

Sentinel 01.20.19 at 3:14 am

Liam Fox: Always looks guilty about something. Getting fatter and fatter, perhaps hoping to expire before Brexit explodes.

Michael Gove: Desperately suppressing his inner rage with a front of faux sincerity and feigned manners but all the while plotting and spreading poison.

Boris Johnson: Chequers dissolved his leadership hopes; one might say he missed the bus.

Theresa May: After a failed restoration to a previously known good configuration, now sadly in an endless loop: “I am clear … Brexit means Brexit …”

David Davis: Team GB’s gold medal hope at Tokyo 2020 for blustering +++.

Nigel Farage: Like a Russian roulette player whose former confidence has given way to a nervy manner, perhaps betraying thoughts his luck is about to run out.

39

bad Jim 01.21.19 at 5:16 am

The diminutive Putin, feigning the sort of clean-limbed youth Virgil adored, more closely resembles a kept boy than a world-bestriding colossus.

40

James Wimberley 01.21.19 at 1:48 pm

Putin bestrides the world indeed, but only to better aim his piss.

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