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LAKSHMAN MENON
LONDON CALLING

Vacuity & Envy

The Parliamentary recess is over and the politicians have returned to the fray. Nick Clegg's vacation seems not to have cooled his inflamed brain. He has aired yet another febrile idea; to impose an "emergency tax on Britain's richest people" to "really hard-wire fairness into the next phases of fiscal restraint." Usually such ravings could be forgiven. Mr Clegg, after all, heads a ragtag bagatelle of a political party, composed of whingers, loonies and dropouts. His leadership of this sorry crew is under threat; he is, possibly, throwing them a bone. But his party is in government and Mr Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister. One is obliged, therefore, to examine his proposals more seriously than one would otherwise. So here's what Americans call a reality check. Even as public spending soars, the government keeps raising the tax threshold, liberating millions from tax altogether. The result is a tax system so skewed, the highest earning 5% contribute 45% of all income tax revenue. In short, the "richest" already suffer a wholly disproportionate tax burden. If Mr Clegg's idea makes no economic sense, it exhibits even less nous. The words "goose" and "golden egg" spring to mind. We must cut public expenditure. And we must accelerate economic growth. For this we need businessmen here, in Britain, creating jobs and wealth, for themselves and for us all, not taxing them away from our shores. Mr Clegg is a fool, a peddler of the politics of vacuity and envy. It is Britain's profound misfortune to have this economically illiterate and unedifying man at the heart of government.

Political Wittery

David Cameron has been traduced by one of his MPs, Tim Yeo, who said: "The Prime Minister should ask himself whether he is a man or a mouse". Mr Yeo is undistinguished both at the craft of politics and the art of political insult. No weapon is more lethal than ridicule, as Lloyd George knew when he said of Lord Derby: "Like a cushion he always bore the impress of the last man who had sat on him". Or Disraeli on the Irish agitator, Daniel O'Connell; "He has committed every crime that does not require courage". And Noel Coward on Winston Churchill's abjectly disappointing son; "Dear Randolph; utterly unspoiled by failure". Nearer our time, Tony Banks skewered John Major with "[he's] so unpopular, if he became a funeral director, people would stop dying", while Lord St John lampooned Margaret Thatcher as "the Immaculate Misconception". Are Indian MPs equally skilled at political insults? Or is their very presence in Parliament insult enough?

Imagined Racists

From politicians to political commentators. Britain has some of the sharpest, wittiest and most readable columnists. And then there's Yasmin Alibhai Brown. Mrs Brown describes herself as an anti-racist and from this lofty position, she once proclaimed that Princess Diana was probably killed by the Establishment for her relationship with Dodi Fayed: "She even fell in love with one of ours. And that was another reason she had to die". In March 2010, she offered another lamentably inflammatory and hysterical rant: "...even I, even I, can see that for the British Establishment Muslims are contemptible creatures, devalued humans". Recently, Mrs Brown participated in a radio programme on Idi Amin's expulsion of the Asians. Remembering Uganda as "a paradise" for Indians, she continued: "We loathed; most of us, not all of us; there was a loathing of black-skinned people. Kampala in the evening became an Indian city. It belonged to us". Does Mrs Brown see racism where none exists and wink at it where it does? No, she sees racism everywhere; here a shadowy "establishment" commits racist murders, there "most" Indians "loathe" darker skinned people, delighting only when they are safely out of sight. What a grotesque, sad, unhinged world she inhabits.

Climax Classes

And so to the world of sexual politics. Are you a woman who is anxious "to experience the sense of heightened interconnectedness, which Romantic poets and painters called 'the Sublime'?" If so, you need the kind of orgasms the feminist writer, Naomi Wolf, recommends in her unpromisingly titled new book, Vagina. Throw away your whirring toys, ladies. All you require is a "patient, tactile and time-invested" man with a penchant for giving yoni massages with "a slow hand". Heavens, what an astonishing revelation. Now, of course, to find this paragon.

 
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