In 1938 Time Magazine chose Adolph Hitler as its Man of the Year, with Heinrich Himmler and Lavrenti Beria narrowly missing out.
In 2013 the cognate of that publication, our own The Times awarded the same honour to KGB Col. Putin. This doesn’t quite match the bold step of 75 years ago, but comes close enough to deserve a separate comment, which will come in due course.
Meanwhile I’d like to nominate a few worthy individuals for similar honours to be awarded on this blog later this year. These still being early days, additions to the list are possible, and I’ll welcome your suggestions.
Bringing Society Together in Two Words. The front runner is my friend Dave, aka the Right Honourable David Cameron.
Ever since Mr John Major, as he then was, spoke of the coming delights of classless society, every subsequent PM has pledged allegiance to the same goal.
The usual stratagem is levelling downwards, which in all honesty is the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level. To that end our PMs introduced economic measures designed to pull the upper class down to the middle level, the middle class down into the deserving poor territory, and the deserving poor down to the undeserving bottom.
However, Tony Blair was the first to realise that the real divide isn’t just economic but also cultural. And the most visible (audible?) sign of it is the way people speak.
So Tony set out to bridge that gap within his own highly elastic person. To that end he mastered the art of producing the glottal stop and dropping his aitches. A man of a strictly compartmentalised mind, he’d use the newly acquired diction when talking to a TUC audience and only reverted to his normal speech when delivering Pall Mall addresses.
Now Dave, the self-acclaimed Heir to Blair, has shown it doesn’t take two separate audiences to make everyone feel at home. This morning he made a passionate TV plea to Scotland not to get out of the UK.
What places Dave at the top of the queue for my prestigious accolade is that he produced a highly creditable glottal stop in the middle of ‘Sco’land’, while narrowing the diphthong in ‘out’ to make it sound like his normal superposh ‘ite’. If this isn’t bringing society together, I don’t know what is. Eat your ‘eart ite, Tone, old boy, djamean?
Fair’s Fair award also has a frontrunner: Daily Mail’s Sarah Vine. You’ve heard me mourn the demise of masculine singular pronouns, which makes English the first hermaphroditic language in history. Yet, while banging on about this development I have, to my shame, ignored the iniquity of it all: after all the feminine singular pronouns are thriving.
Well, Sarah not only spotted this outrage but effectively corrected it with one sentence: “As someone who lived on their own from the age of 17 in a not terribly salubrious part of Brighton, I…” Old and embittered sticks-in-the-mud like me would moan that the singular antecedent ‘someone’ would call for a singular, in this instance feminine, possessive pronoun ‘her’. But Sarah is right: ‘their’ is better not only linguistically, but also morally. Aren’t you proud of our wordsmiths?
Truth in Politics At Last has a dead cert already, and the year has barely started. Explaining his unpopular decision to shun the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia, the Ukraine’s president Yanhukovych has cited the true reason: footie in general and John Terry specifically.
In Yanukovych’s view, the ball Terry cleared off the goal line in England’s 2012 Euro Championship match against the Ukraine was in fact over the line. England went on to win 1:0, thereby knocking Yanukovych’s fiefdom out of the Championship.
Even though the UEFA doesn’t fall under the aegis of the EU, the President got so disillusioned with European federalism that he chose Russian federalism instead. And if you as much as hint that the $15-billion bribe Yanukovych received from Russia had anything to do with the decision, he’ll ‘whack you in the shithouse’, to use his friend Putin’s phrase.
It’s to Putin that my Right Man in the Right Place award will probably go at the end of the year. The good colonel has taken an early lead by choosing to hold the Winter Olympics at a Black Sea resort with a subtropical climate.
Sochi is also close enough to the epicentre of terrorist activities in Russia, and those suicide bombers are capable of striking even farther afield, in places like Volgograd, never mind their own backyard.
But then those athletes who suffer grievous injuries in the likely bombings will be able to make an instant switch to the Special Olympics category, and Col. Putin must be commended for anticipating such a development.
The Sale of the Year award won’t go to Harrod’s or Selfridges – these emporia are likely to be edged out by our government’s promotion ‘Buy a Romanian and a Bulgarian, get a Ukrainian, Serb, Moldavian and Macedonian free!’.
The governments of Romania and Bulgaria are peddling their passports to their neighbours who aren’t blessed by membership in the EU. This is what Christian charity is all about: their new citizens can then become new recipients of our largesse – share and share alike. Isn’t that wonderful?
Nelson Mandela will be hard to beat for my posthumous Proving that God Doesn’t Exist award. The late leader was the only candidate for the slot of Christ on earth. But Christ was supposed to have risen after death, which Mandela hasn’t done. This proves he isn’t Christ, and we already knew that no one else was. This means there’s no God, and if you dispute this unassailable logic I’ll have to tell Richard Dawkins where you live.
Happy New Year!