Tuesday 7 August 2007

Seeing conspiracies everywhere

Only three things upset me on Saturday, making it a pretty good day by my standards. The first was the discovery that Powburn Show had been cancelled owing to the foot and mouth scare. I drove home wondering whether this could be yet another wicked Labour conspiracy against the persecuted farming sector, designed to show Gordon in a good light (concerned, decisive and able to return swiftly to return to London to take personal charge of the crisis, since he wasn’t holed up in some superannuated pop star’s villa on the other side of the Atlantic). The subsequent revelation that the virus probably came from a nearby Government laboratory did nothing to lessen this suspicion.

Forced to spend the afternoon reading the press rather than inspecting giant leeks, scrumptious scones and lovingly coiffed sheep, I was then thoroughly upset by a letter in this newspaper from Mr Dave Pascoe, who billed himself as Press Secretary of the Hartlepool Branch of the UK Independence Party. This contained an intemperate attack on the “slavish” pro-New Labour line of columnist Paul Linford, and on The Journal’s editorial policy for failing to reflect the fact that “not everyone follows the liberal-leftist-Guardianista agenda” and ruthlessly confining any such views to the letters columns.

Oh dear. I’ve been called many things in my time (though “rude” and “fat” have tended to predominate, if I’m honest). But “leftist” has never featured on the list before. I pride myself on making this column at least as barking in its Tory anarchism as anything in “Voice of the North”. And then there’s my Thursday counterpart Willy Poole. He used to be almost a neighbour of mine, and it is true that the word “red” often features in local conversations about him. However, this is most definitely a reference to the impressive colour of his face, rather than to any political bias.

I could only conclude that Mr Pascoe does not read our columns, or does not understand them. I agonised for a bit about this. Does anyone actually read this stuff, apart from my loyal auntie in Morpeth? Philosophically speaking, if no-one reads it, does it still exist? Is it pitched on such a high intellectual plane that it eludes normal human comprehension? Why would anyone continue to read a weekly column guaranteed to annoy him, and ignore ones with which he would almost certainly agree wholeheartedly? It’s a puzzle, but at least it’s probably not a conspiracy, which makes a pleasant change.

Funnily enough, I received precisely one response to my column two weeks ago, which concluded with the rhetorical question: “Where should we look for a Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela with the vision and determination to lead England on its own long walk to freedom?” The answer I received (not from Mr Pascoe, who clearly does not know that I exist) was “Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party”. I’ve done a bit of research on Mr Farage, and he certainly appears to have some Churchillian qualities, although in his professed enthusiasm for real ale he seems to have picked the one form of alcohol of which Sir Winston was not an epic consumer.

However, while I agree with nearly all UKIP’s political philosophy, somehow I don’t think I shall ever bring myself to vote for it. It seems to have a track record of spirited infighting far exceeding that of the various Palestinian communist factions so deftly satirised in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Then there’s all that unfortunate PR about illegal donations and current and former MEPs facing charges of fraud. It could be another establishment conspiracy, I suppose. But then again …

The third thing that upset me was an uninvited caller on Saturday afternoon. You move to the middle of nowhere, disconnect your doorbell, unplug the telephone, and still they come. Now surely that’s got to be some sort of conspiracy?

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

No comments: