Reaction Weekend

Diary: Bercow makes a mess of things, trouble on Twitter and World Cup apathy

BY Stephen Pollard   /  18 May 2018

I’ve come off Twitter, at least for a while. Like almost every hack I know, I spend far too long staring at it on my phone, justifying it to myself on the basis that I need it for work. Well, we’ll see if that’s true because I’m walking away – it’s just too poisonous.

As editor of the Jewish Chronicle, I’m used to the anti-Semites. It shouldn’t be the case, but it is, that they go with the territory and I’ve now blocked around 700 of them. But in the past few months I’ve noticed that the real vitriol has been coming from fellow Jews, some over Corbyn – denying that there is any problem with Labour antisemitism, move along please, nothing to see here – and some over Israel. The accusations are from both ends of the spectrum, that I am both a craven naive peacenik doing Hamas’s work for them and yet at the same time a hard-Right Likudnik.

The final straw for me came this week when someone sent me a tweet that was so vicious and so utterly ridiculous that I realised that I was letting something into my life that I really didn’t need. She told me that, because of one single tweet I had posted on Tuesday after the Gaza protests, criticising the IFD’s tactics, that I had done more harm to the Jewish community in Britain, and to Israel, than any Hamas terrorist ever could. As I say, barking. And it really is water off a duck’s back.

But when it’s on top of death threats (two in recent weeks serious enough for the police to get involved) I just asked myself: why do I need this? And I don’t.

There’s much to Twitter I love, and I’ve ‘met’ some fabulous people on it. But the mechanism it gives to total strangers to infect your life with poison is too great a downside for me.

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I have two great sporting loves: football and racing. Which is just one reason why summer for me is simply a series of dull months between spring and autumn.

I realise that there is the World Cup and racing over the summer, but my tastes are quite specific. I’ll certainly get dragged into what we will soon be told is World Cup fever but if no more internationals were ever played I couldn’t care less. Every fellow fan I know feels roughly the same and now cares only about club football (Come On You Spurs!). I don’t remember it being like this twenty years ago. What has changed?

But the difference is at its most stark over racing. The flat is all very well, but as far as I am concerned it’s just a diversion to keep me vaguely involved in racing until the National Hunt season proper starts again in October. The best flat horses can certainly thrill but they’re packed off to stud before they’re metaphorically out of nappies, whereas jumping is not only more of a sport, the horses build careers over many seasons. Roll on autumn…

***

Each of the late Robert Conquest’s three laws of politics is brilliant and true. If you’ve not heard them before:

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

3. The simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

There are so many examples of the third law that it should be on the school curriculum.

How else to explain the decision of the Commons Standards Committee to veto an investigation into alleged bullying by John Bercow, the Speaker? The only rational explanation for the behaviour of Sir Christopher Chope, John Stevenson and Kate Green is that they are secretly working to make sure people hold politics and politicians in even greater contempt.

***

Whatever your plans for 28th July, change them.

Go, instead, to the Royal Albert Hall to hear the Russian period instrument orchestra MusicAeterna under its founder conductor Teodor Currentzis play Beethoven’s 2nd and 5th Symphonies, at the BBC Proms.

I’ve yet to hear a concert or recording by the incredible bunch of musicians that hasn’t been viscerally thrilling. It’s one of the greatest clichés of music criticism that so and so performer made such and such a piece sound fresh and newly discovered. But, by God, it’s true with MusicAeterna. I am counting down the days already.

Stephen Pollard is editor of The Jewish Chronicle