“One thing that seems to have been lost in the media blizzard surrounding the Home Secretary’s dodgy expenses claims is the nature of the ‘entertainment’ that was charged by Richard Timney – Jacqui Smith’s husband – to the taxpayers’ account. A whole slew of commentators – including feminists one might have expected to be in the van – have backed off from outright accusations of sexual immorality. There seems to be a large dose of ‘what you do in the privacy of your own home’ in circulation.
“If Google’s aim is to be master of all it surveys, then the launch of Google Street View in the UK brings it that much closer to surveying, well, everything.
“Privacy campaigners have made a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner about the service, saying that blurring of number plates and faces is insufficient to protect individual anonymity.
“Personally, I can’t imagine for a nanosecond what use anyone could conceivably make of Street View, unless it was something nefarious or criminal. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, assures us that the service’s success proves that people ‘love to see what is going on in their local community’. Can he really believe that it’s better to do this online, rather than simply walk out the front door? Because that’s what I, in my hokey old way, call a street view.”
“Sir Paul Stephenson has chosen a good issue with which to make his mark on London’s policing, saying that he wants his officers patrolling on foot and alone.
“He’s called for a renewal of the ‘uniformed governance’ of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, when the presence of individual officers walking the beat was the sine qua non of an ordered society.
“Personally, I’m all for Sir Paul’s proposal — but only so long as London doesn’t find itself going back to the future. I agree that the individual police officer, doing the rounds, chatting with the people on his patch, is the key to good policing.”
“The splendidly named Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas is at it again, using her New West End Company — basically a shopkeepers’ association — to campaign for fewer buses on Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street. True, her stated aim is to make the area more pedestrian-friendly but, I wonder, what sort of pedestrians does she have in mind?
“Not, you understand that we omnibus-lovers have anything to be ashamed of. After the dark days of the Eighties, when Thatcher proclaimed that anyone over 30 who was still riding the bus was, ipso facto, a failure, these red clippers on the tarmac ocean have enjoyed a surprising comeback. Now, thanks in no small measure to Ken Livingstone, the service in London is both frequent and — more importantly — used by the very acmes of success, such as myself.”
“I was once on a panel that gave a prestigious award to Julie Myerson for her first novel, Sleepwalking, an elegantly overwrought account of an abused woman who begins a passionate affair. Myerson has said there are autobiographical elements to it, but if so they were properly obfuscated by the routine devices of fiction. She since seems to have forgotten that all good fiction is a form of psychic autobiography: there’s no need to give such revelations the seeming authority of fact, when fiction speaks with greater authenticity.
“Now that Binyam Mohamed has returned to the UK from detention at Guantanamo Bay, there must be quite a few Whitehall mandarins — not to mention some ex-ministers — who are wandering Westminster frantically trying to clean the blood from their hands. For make no mistake: Mr Mohamed is only one among a number of British residents and citizens who claim they were tortured with the tacit support — and even connivance — of their own government.”
Read the rest of Will Self’s Evening Standard column here.
“Ken Stott may be starring in A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s but it’s what he can hear in the auditorium that’s bothering him. Apparently, Stott was distracted by the sound of a mobile phone during a recent performance, so broke off to admonish the incontinently talkative playgoer thus: ‘Have you finished yet?'”
Mobile phones, Gerry Rafferty and Withnail and I’s London heritage all feature in this week’s Standard column, which you can read here.
Will Self on the ****ing London mayor, Boris Johnson.
“The tragic death of baby Jadon Smith after being attacked by family pets should be taken to heart by all dog owners. While it’s also tempting to demonise certain breeds — such as the Staffordshire bull terrier, one of which was involved in this killing — we need to acknowledge that the most lethal canine is actually a weird inter-species chimera: the aggressive dog and his irresponsible owner.”
To read the rest of Will’s Evening Standard column from February 11, click here.
“Monday was Boris’s proverbial ‘good day to bury bad news’, for while he reassured Londoners of what a splendid job Transport for London had done responding to the Siberian conditions, a far more important mayoral statement was being slipped out. This was Boris’s decision to delay the third phase of the low emissions zone, due to come into force in October 2010.”
You can read the rest of Will’s latest Standard column here.