Friday, June 02, 2006

in praise of catherine bennett

The advent of Comment is Free, and blogging in general, actually, has made it very easy to criticise journalists, especially those who specialise in opinion pieces; while the talents of Laura Barton or Lucy Mangan are much praised online, the likes of Jackie Ashley or Madeline Bunting seem to get it in the neck constantly. For that reason it's really not all that surprising to find the odd journalist taking a potshot back, and quite understandable in the case of some critics, who really have to put with up the most tremendous abuse. But the only re-dress of balance which I am intrested in is the appreciation, when deserved, of truly superb writing and in the world of comment writers by far the most luminous in recent months has been the wonderful Catherine Bennett, whose writing is dense, unpredictable and brilliant. She's been on hilarious, unstoppable form recently.

Take her brilliant, acerbic skewering of Prescott a couple of weeks back, for instance.

"Luminaries of New Labour, that most enlightened hammer of sexual and all other forms of discrimination, are defending a man whose lewd approaches to a junior colleague - it will be obvious to almost any other employer or employee in the land - should make him a candidate for immediate suspension. Not to mention an enormous compensation claim on the part of his secretary. A private matter? In a lap-dancing club, perhaps. But this was the civil service. Aside from the choice of locations, a sexual connection this rudimentary, bereft of any romantic trimmings, so closely resembles unpaid prostitution that, given Prescott's public position, the abuse of power more than justifies the public interest. At what point, during this administration, was the propositioning, at work, of subordinates, redefined as an irrelevant and entirely personal peccadillo?"

On macho-blogging, where she (rather unfairly) picks out the Euston Manifesto lot en masse for particular criticism, she is similarly brilliant. Again, her eye for detail and style is unmistakable. Wonderful.

"Today, it is one of the more useful services - some might argue, the single valuable service of the political blogosphere - to afford interested women a similar glimpse of what respectable middle-aged men do when they think themselves unobserved. For although their ranks are penetrable by women, it is obvious, from the prevailing tone of the entries to political weblogs, that most members of the Grand Order of Bloggers believe themselves, no less than any freemason, or member of the Garrick Club, to be addressing male members of a male-dominated community, in which female partners are comedy figures known as "the wife" (or "Mrs Fawkes", or "Mrs Ablution"), breasts are "mammaries", and fellow members can be depended on for companionable chit-chat about music, fallen arches, barbecues, rambling, weights, wanking and all the other subjects that exercise Gary, Steve, John, Dave, Eddie, et al, in the watches of the night."

Week in, week out, her writing is brilliant. Bravo.

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