May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
For a fuller account of the surprise Tory victory in Britain’s general election last week, you’ll want to read Ted Bromund’s piece elsewhere in this issue. The Scrapbook, for its part, chooses to believe, eccentrically, that the polls were basically correct until a massive last-minute swing against Labour’s Ed Miliband, too late to be measured by pollsters. And what caused that swing? Well-deserved ridicule of Miliband’s hubris in engraving his platform on a mammoth stone tablet.
In Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, newly elected Conservative MP, and peerless polemicist, Miliband met his nemesis. Johnson posted this rhetorical masterpiece on his Facebook page on May 4, and the rest is history:
“It’s the smugness that gets me. It’s the brass-necked complacency. As a piece of premature chicken-counting combined with insolent disrespect to the will of the electorate, this Labour stunt is frankly unbeatable.
“Never mind measuring the curtains for Downing Street, Ed Miliband is so confident of victory this Thursday that he has already commissioned a vast monument to himself. He has caused a stonemason to engrave an 8ft 6in slab of limestone with a series of fine-sounding but essentially vacuous slogans, as if this were East Germany circa 1973, and he has promised—nay, sworn—that on the very first day of his regime the work will be religiously installed in the garden of the prime minister’s offices.
“In true totalitarian fashion, he has signed it himself, and appended the red-rose Socialist logo of the Labour Party.
“When someone showed me a pic of Ed in front of this absurdity, I thought it was a joke, some photoshopped wheeze.
“It is no joke, my friends. This thing exists, and Ed fully intends that this tasteless, verbless, truthless stele should loom over No. 10 like some kitsch version of the laws of Hammurabi, or some new Decalogue—except that he couldn’t think of 10 things to say.
“What was he drinking? What was he smoking? What was he on when he came up with this one? Keep taking the tablets, Ed—don’t erect them in government offices. There are all sorts of people who are capable of putting a stop to this vandalism. If (heaven forfend) Ed Miliband were indeed to find himself in Downing Street this week, then the head of the Civil Service would quietly tell him not to be such a confounded idiot. No. 10 is a department of state; you can’t use it for party-political propaganda. Imagine the hoo-ha if I had festooned City Hall with the Conservative logo, after we kicked out the Labour administration in 2008.
“Then there is Westminster Council, for whose punctilious planning department I have deep respect. No. 10 is a Grade I-listed building. Would they allow it to be desecrated with some weird commie slab? No way.
“But there is another far more important person who can kibosh the whole thing—and that, of course, is you: you, the dear, the gentle, the reader who has already put up with so much election coverage and who is now about to take centre stage.
“You can stop Ed and his monument; you can stop him stone dead. After all the yarping and the carping from the media and the politicos, it is time for you to have your say; and on Thursday you have a decision-making tool more powerful than 100 TV studios or a million barrels of newspaper ink. You have the stubby pencil and the bit of paper, and you hold the destiny of the country in your hands.
“It will take only 23 more seats to give the Conservatives the stability of an absolute majority—something that is now completely beyond the reach of the Labour Party. So wherever you are voting, I hope you will consider why Ed Miliband reached for this preposterous gimmick. Why carve slogans in stone? Why pretend that there is something imperishable about his words? Why go to these lengths to tell us there is something fixed and rocklike about his agenda? Why? Because he knows—and he knows that we know—that the opposite is the case.
“If this country were to make the tragic mistake of electing Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, we would usher in perhaps the most intrinsically weak government of modern times. Far from being graven in stone, his words would not be worth the paper they were written on. Miliband knows that his intentions would count for nothing—that he could not get a single bill through the Commons—without the approval of the Scottish Nationalists. He wouldn’t be Moses or Hammurabi; he would be rapidly transformed into the obsequious butler of Downing Street, constantly tending to the demands of fiery Aunt Nicola, always making sure that Alec Salmond was topped up with pink champagne—and at the expense of the English taxpayer.
May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
‘Skip the Bag, Save the River.” No, it’s not a line from The Godfather (that would be “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”). Rather, it was the District of Columbia’s motto for a 2009 initiative to clean up the Anacostia River by charging five cents for every plastic bag used by consumers in D.C. shops and supermarkets (anywhere food is sold). The idea was twofold—reduce the number of bags that end up in the Anacostia and generate revenue to clean up the river from folks who persist in using plastic instead of reusable totes.
May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
"For months I’d been seeking a way into my first book, a memoir about returning to New York City after a six-month stay alone in a cabin in the woods of Canada. And there . . . ” (Charles Siebert, New York Times Magazine, May 13).
May 4, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 32 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Police and city officials in the District of Columbia must be downright giddy these days. Over the past year, D.C. drivers exceeded the speed limit on fewer occasions than the year before, meaning they were less likely to get into serious accidents. At least this is what we can extrapolate from the decrease in the number of speeding tickets issued by the 127 or so cameras planted throughout the District.
Mar 30, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 28 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The remains of Miguel de Cervantes were discovered this past week, having reposed under the crypt of the Convent for the Barefoot Trinitarians since 1616. While The Scrapbook is inclined to celebrate—if that is the word—the identification of literary remains, our excitement was tempered when we began to (ahem) scratch the surface of the news from Madrid.
Feb 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 23 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Supreme Court won’t hear arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit challenging the legality of subsidies in the federal Obamacare exchange, until early March, but The Scrapbook is already eagerly anticipating the suit for no other reason than that it is shaping up as a case study in the lawyerly contortions required to defend the indefensible.
Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook was recently witness to a harmonic convergence. It began the other evening as we set out, on foot, from The Weekly Standard offices to dinner at a restaurant two blocks east of the White House. It was a cold night and, wrapped securely against the wind in overcoat, scarf, gloves, and tweed cap, The Scrapbook strode confidently across the infamous K Street, along nearby Farragut Square, and then turned left at H Street to cut through Lafayette Park.
Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
"This is my last column for this newspaper. I am joining Jason Whitlock’s new Web site at ESPN intersecting sports, culture and race, to be launched sometime next year. I plan to continue the work my editors at The Post have generously supported, especially now that many of society’s most substantive conversations about race, class, money, power, cultural identity—a social-conscience renaissance—are suddenly mushrooming out of America’s locker rooms. For the first time in my career . . . ” (Mike Wise, Washington Post, Dec. 14).
Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
It's heartening these days to see an outbreak of bipartisan seriousness, given how rare those instances have become. Herewith some excerpts from a statement delivered by Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the committee’s December 3 hearing on “Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” which The Scrapbook enthusiastically cosigns:
Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week Reuters ran a story about the movement to do away with the ban on blood donation from gay men in America. In 1983, with the AIDS epidemic raging, the FDA prohibited gay men from giving blood because of fears of increasing transmission of the virus. But the American Medical Association and American Red Cross now say the ban is “discriminatory” and “not based on sound science.”
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In 2011, James Ceaser reviewed in these pages a posthumous collection of Irving Kristol’s essays, The Neoconservative Persuasion. Ceaser was particularly struck by how interested Irving Kristol had been in religion:
Sep 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 02 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement is upon us, and we’re willing to concede that the founders of the movement had a good slogan—even if it pains The Scrapbook to contemplate the damage done by “campus activists” since then. Whether the social and political change it foments is good or bad, free speech is obviously preferable to any censorious alternative.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook notes, with sadness, the death last week in London of 91-year-old Mary Soames, the youngest and last surviving child of Sir Winston Churchill. From her time as a very young woman in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the British equivalent of the WAC), where she assisted her father at his various wartime conferences, through her career as the wife of a prominent politician, mother, biographer, benefactor, and resource for historians, Lady Soames led a long and productive life. And by all accounts, a happy one as well.
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