by Bryan Hemming
The slightest glimpse of Jonathan Freedland’s photo gets me smirking these days. It all started when he didn’t make the shortlist in the Guardian ballot for new editor earlier this year. It must be his nerdish glasses. Call me superficial, but nobody gets elected for anything important looking like he does. He doesn’t even dress like a proper editor.
Schadenfreude is a very nasty characteristic best savoured hidden from public scrutiny. But I can’t help myself. Where did he get that shirt? And how old is he, anyway?
For all his haughty pretentions, Freedland has become little more than an establishment rag’s hitman. His eagerness to line up the crosshairs undimmed by the sort of abject failure that has real hitmen fitted for concrete overcoats, he took another pop at Jeremy Corbyn last Friday. But it was the mean-spirited shot of a loser with a misplaced sense of entitlement.
Slimy enough to slip under a closed door wearing a top hat; the Guardian’s idea of a trendy intellectual can’t bring himself to admit defeat with dignity. His latest slurfest was more suited to the Daily Mail than Britain’s self-appointed voice of truth. We lesser mortals can only wonder what was floating through his spiteful little mind when he penned the little piece of pompous balderdash.
Most likely spawned from the type of snivelling schoolboy toad even teachers recoil from; Freedland spits venom leftwards at every opportunity. Among his opening shots at Corbyn he managed to slip in a snidey dig at Tony Benn’s slight speech impediment with: “…what Tony Benn used to call ‘the ishoos’”. I bet that raised a snort or two among the craven underlings bunched round the Guardian coffee machine.
On the new Labour leader’s failure to ‘bleat’ (his word, not mine) the national anthem along with the rest of the flock, he achieved the seemingly impossible feat of reaching new heights in lowness. I can picture him now, wetting his pants from a fit of the giggles, as he wriggled with delight, perched on the saddle of his high hobbyhorse:
Such individual purity is an impossible luxury for a leader. Suddenly you have to speak for everyone, not just yourself. You may hate the national anthem – I once described it as “less a song than the bleat of a subject people, begging to be dominated” – but there are plenty of Labour voters for whom it’s important and, if you’re the party leader, your job is to represent them, not just your own pristine conscience. Some will admire Corbyn’s gesture, seeing it as a stand against monarchism. But this wasn’t Royal Ascot. It was a commemoration of the fight against fascism – and no leftist should want to distract from that.
How loyal, how imperious, how patriotic and how noble. Royal Ascot it certainly is not. Don’cha know, Corby, old boy? However, that load of old codswallop is not helped by the bit:
I once described it as “less a song than the bleat of a subject people, begging to be dominated.
And they tell me Brian Sewell is dead. Who are these subject people ‘begging to be dominated’? The sneering, superior tone is far from endearing, especially when it’s doubtful Freedland sees himself as one of the subject people. This is exactly the kind of snotty sixth form humour he revels in. His annoying habit of continually letting everyone what a clever dick he is could empty a pole-dancing bar serving free cocktails by the bucket. Dick, certainly.
Given that bleating the national anthem pleases some people at the same time as displeasing others, how can bleating it please everyone, Jonathan? Maybe Corbyn should bleat alternate verses; keeping shtum every other one.
Doesn’t take much to get these stuffed shirts in a tizz. From the huffs and puffs of righteous indignation you’d think Freedland had brought the entire Luftwaffe down single-handed, armed with nothing more than a jam sandwich, a homemade catapult and a pointy stick. Someone with a little more nous might consider the muted bleating against fascism, a good section of the British establishment and press practised up until 1939, worth a mention.
A concerned journalist could even have used the occasion to bring up the spectre fascism creeping across Europe and the United States today, and talked about fighting that. But not Freedland, this was the ideal time to make it very clear that patriotism is not only something we should all sing along to, but something we should all be seen singing along to. Thank the Lord there’s someone like Freedland about to help prospective prime ministers get their priorities in order. What was that thing about patriotism and scoundrels Samuel Johnson wrote, again?
It isn’t Corbyn being hypocritical and cynical about the national anthem, it’s Freedland, with his condescending mention of ‘plenty of Labour voters for whom it’s important’. That implies it is of no particular importance to brainy chaps like Freedland and his Lord Snooty pals at the Guardian; nevertheless, they are decent enough fellows to sing along for the sake of the great unwashed.
Seen in that light, it’d take an awful lot of chutzpah to cherry pick a George Orwell quote on the subject of the national anthem in such a third-rate trash piece. Then again, chutzpah could be Freedland’s middle name.
It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. George Orwell 1941
You can almost hear the schoolboy sniggers at the intended irony in using the words of one democratic socialist against another democratic socialist. The words are from Orwell’s essay ‘England Your England’ written in 1941 during the Blitz. Orwell declared himself to be a democratic socialist, as has Corbyn. Can there be anything more nauseous than the thought of a smug journalist chortling at his own pathetic in-joke? He’s taking the piss. Even worse, he’s taking it out of Guardian readers. Freedland purposely chooses Orwell to sideswipe Corbyn with the word ‘intellectual’, as he turns the generalisation into a personal smear.
And while we’re all at commemorating those who lost their lives in the Blitz, perhaps we should spare a thought for the reigning monarch’s Uncle Ted; the king nobody mentions when she’s about. Our forebears were expected to bleat for God to save him for a short while in the 1930s. Turns out he and his missus were such keen fans of Mr Hitler’s they wanted to surrender the entire nation without so much as a squeak. Makes you wonder if the national anthem is quite the right ditty for a Battle of Britain service, honouring the monarch, as it so blatantly does, rather than the blokes who did the actual fighting and dying. The United Kingdom is not North Korea.
At most, Orwell was ambiguous about monarchism in general to the point of appearing contradictory. He was certainly was never the out and out supporter of British royalty, as Freedland attempts to suggest by using the quote. And whatever misgivings Orwell felt about English intellectuals during the Blitz, he didn’t reserve them for left wing intellectuals. He was referring to all intellectuals, and almost certainly meant supercilious nobs like Freedland, who only pretends to take Orwell’s words seriously in order to serve his grubby ends. Otherwise it would make no sense to use them.
Freedland employs the quote to coat Corbyn with the slightest veneer of dishonesty and treason in full clever dick mode. It’s a measure of his arrogance that he thinks we’re too stupid to see. With his patronising manner of continually insulting the intelligence of his readers it’s almost as though his column is aimed a small clique of pals in on the wheeze.
To judge by his work, he considers himself more than a bit of a brainbox, and even – dare I say – an intellectual. From his lofty height, perhaps he could inform we plebs whether it really is, unquestionably true that ‘almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box’? Indeed, if he does have evidence of treacherous sandal-sporting boffins, with soup stains down their hand knits, pilfering loose change from the poor box, I suggest he report the miscreants to the police. And he might as well do the honourable thing and turn himself in at the same time. By his own admission he has snubbed the Queen by referring to the national anthem as “less a song than the bleat of a subject people, begging to be dominated” so we can only suspect he might also be guilty of dipping his own sticky little fingers in the poor box as ‘almost any English intellectual’ would.
Hm, ‘subjects begging to be dominated’ now there’s somewhere I wouldn’t go if I was as creepy as Freedland. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.