Sunday, October 15, 2006
From Eye 1169
The original version of this one, which I prefer to the edit that appeared:
Several commentators noted the speed with which Nick Hornby rushed to condemn shadow chancellor George Osbourne for suggesting Gordon Brown suffered from autism, while ignoring the same charge when it was laid by his brother-in-law Robert Harris in the Sunday Times last month – but few of them noticed that neither man was the originator of the supposed insult.
He “was accused of mocking hundreds of thousands of people with learning difficulties” and “risked stigmatising the 535,000 people in Britain on the autistic spectrum,” frothed the Times, presumably forgetting that a mere month ago columnist Anatole Kaletsky referred to the chancellor’s “brooding, almost autistic personality” – and, indeed, that the only person actually to use the word during the fringe discussion which ignited the row was their very own Mary Anne Sieghart. “He should apologise to the thousands of people affected by autism for trying to turn their condition into a term of abuse,” a “source” told the Independent, whose Simon Carr noted in May that “Mr Brown answers questions in that autistic way he has”, and has yet to show any contrition. But who was the first man to publicly insult Brown thus? None other than ginger whinger Simon Heffer, who in his Telegraph column of 19 November 2005 indulged one of his own repetitive behaviour patterns in yet another piece about the importance of proper dress. “Gordon Brown of course refuses arrogantly and ignorantly even to put on a black tie when he goes to official dinners,” he fumed, “for reasons that I have never heard satisfactorily explained, but are, I presume, down to his almost autistic rudeness.”
Heffer, of course, has form on letting Tory front-benchers take the rap for his tasteless remarks – he was the author of the infamous 2004 Spectator editorial on Liverpool for which editor Boris Johnson was forced to make a personal journey of apology.
“OVER THE COUNTER KILLER” shrieked a headline in the News of the World on September 10, over the news that “terrorists hell-bent on mid-air murder can track EVERY aeroplane in the sky armed with a ‘virtual computer radar’ readily available on the internet.”
“Hooked up to a laptop or PC the British-made gadget replicates exactly what flight controllers see on their monitors. And chillingly, all the information is relayed LIVE,” the paper revealed. “It could have potentially horrendous implications. A News of the World reporter was able to easily buy the £499 scanner from a leading specialist shop. Staff did not inquire why we wanted it or what we intended to use it for.”
And what did the intrepid hacks do with this deadly piece of kit when they had finished with it? Flogged it off on eBay, of course. “press_snapper” put the gadget – “used for demonstration purposes (News of the World story) but like new” – up for sale on the auction site, where it fetched a handsome £440 (plus £5p&p) on 23 September. The new proud owner? One “warbird-nl”.
September 2006: John Prescott tells the Labour Party Conference that “The canals of Manchester and many cities were symbols of urban decline. When we came to office we changed the Treasury borrowing rules to allow publicly owned bodies like British Waterways to be more enterprising, using public private partnerships to unleash their full potential. They have become major engines of urban regeneration. As a result, we transformed derelict canals into flourishing urban centres: profitable assets instead of the decaying liabilities the Tories left behind.”
September 2006: British Waterways has its grant from government slashed for the third time this year, resulting in the scaling-back of future restoration projects and the abandonment of a number of canals.