Zoe Williams’s diary: The return of the Tories means tears in the playground

Plus: an election too serious for cheesecake; and the amazing jumping rabbits

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

For the 2005 general election, I had a party featuring a gigantic cheesecake with differentiated segments by allegiance. It contained no purple, which you could call leftie bias, but it genuinely didn’t seem necessary. It certainly wasn’t because I couldn’t think of a purple fruit. The Lib Dems did badly out of that, but mainly because you should never put banana on a cheesecake; they did fine in 2010, when I represented them with lemon macaroons. No colourful theming for 2015; the stakes were too high, and I decided that it was a waste of soft fruit. Just booze and crisps and, by 10.15, depressed people; exactly like 1992, in fact, before we discovered finger food.

At 1 a.m., I went into Adam Boulton’s programme on Sky News to talk results with Harry Cole. He looked preternaturally young and pretty, and caked in make-up, so that momentarily everything seemed fun and reckless, like in the musical Cabaret. Then the seismic Scottish result came in, Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Douglas Alexander beaten by Mhairi Black. After that, the SNP juggernaut would pause for no one, least of all me and Harry. We went home without appearing, and I found my Mr alone on the sofa, surrounded by Doritos. ‘It’s probably good that you were bumped,’ he said, kindly. ‘You were too drunk to go on telly.’ Thank God for the SNP. Sort of.

I have never seen the school playground as depressed as it looked the next morning. My local primary is also the school nearest the Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, who told me that he couldn’t send his children there because, when he’d asked about sports, the head teacher had said, ‘We don’t really do sport, only half an hour of street dance.’ That always seemed hilarious, until it transpired that we had five more years of a culture in which it is totally routine to denigrate state schooling for fabricated reasons. In reality, the children do far too much sport and their street dancing is pretty rudimentary. The Hungarian teaching assistant and I started crying, and a Greek friend outlined a detailed plan for an independent London. The main beef I have with bloody immigrants is that they don’t have a vote.

From there, I went to Excel, to interview the owners of the world’s most accomplished show-jumping rabbits. A truly gifted and, of course, trained rabbit show-jumper can clear a hurdle half a metre in height and 80cm long. ‘A new rabbit doesn’t have a hope,’ champion Karin Molin said, mordantly. ‘Do you think he’ll do that right now?’ I asked each owner in turn, inevitably getting the rabbit’s gender wrong most of the time. ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ each replied, ‘rabbits only jump when they want to jump.’ Sweden is the world leader and inventor of this sport, in which totally unbiddable creatures may or may not do what they’re told. It delights me to think what the Sun would make of it.

That evening, I went to the Dulwich literary festival, to talk politics with the equality colossus Professor Danny Dorling. I know. You cannot have a colossus of equality. Let’s just say he is no better at talking about equality than I am (he is better). We plan to do a two-handed stand-up, where I’m Ayn Rand and he’s Howard Roark, and we expostulate through comical argumentation how ridiculous is their worldview. I think we might both have to lose a bit of weight before we embark on this.

Saturday I went to a discussion that I thought was called Radical Hope but was actually called Days of Hope (Radical Hope is next week). We talked about the history of the labour movement and the success of Syriza, the progressive set against the nationalist motivations of the SNP and the 1945 rallying cry to ‘vote as red as you can’. David Edgar — looking authentically hopeful — talked about the ‘melon’ vote, where you vote Green but are really a red, and the ‘fig’ vote, where you vote purple but get a Green (this seems radically unlikely both as a hope and as an outcome; also, figs are brown, to my mind). He raised the Lib Dems, and whether there would ever again be people who’d vote for them in the hope of co-operation with Labour. ‘What fruit is that?’ someone asked. ‘Stop oppressing me with my own fruit metaphor!’ Edgar replied. Papaya. It’s a papaya.

Still at the Day of Hope, Neal Lawson, head of the pressure group Compass, said: ‘The problem with the Labour party is that they were all surfer and no wave. There was Ed Miliband, with his little boogie board, wondering why it wouldn’t take off. There was nothing underneath it.’ ‘I like that,’ I said, ‘can I steal it?’ ‘It’s not stealing, it’s sharing.’ That’s movement-building, that is: never stealing, always sharing.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Zoe Williams writes for the Guardian. She is the author of Get It Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics.

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Show comments
  • AndyB

    Made it to the end. Good writing, but glad I don’t have to buy the Grauniad to read it…

  • JonBW

    Good to see Zoe Williams writing here: one of the very few original, witty and insightful writers on the Graun these days.
    However, as ever, a Left of Centre commentator ignores the fact that Syriza’s choice of coalition ally was a Right of Centre Eurosceptic Party.
    To support membership of the EU is to be complicit in the economic brutalisation of Southern Europe.

    • Lukas Mikelionis

      Not to mention that Syriza’s ally is notoriously anti-semitic.

  • Patricia

    “It contained no purple, which you could call leftie bias, but it genuinely didn’t seem necessary. ”
    In which case, it was leftie bias.

    • whs1954

      In 2005 UKIP were barely ‘a thing’ and got 2% of the vote in the general election.

  • Flintshire Ian

    What was the point of this drivel?

    • davidofkent

      I have absolutely no idea. I think she was reviewing the newspapers on Andrew Marr on Sunday. She spent a lot of time giggling.

      • whs1954

        Must have been her haze of dope… sorry, “Days of Hope”.

    • Damaris Tighe

      To wind us up.

      • Flintshire Ian

        It worked!

        • styants64

          Not for me it didn’t read the first few lines and then packed it in what a load of tripe .

  • misomiso

    First off Zoe, the Left aren’t as down as the commentators think. Demographic change favours them, we’re likely to stay in the EU and under the ECHR (unfortunately), and in the UK political parties come back much quicker than the commentariat generally think…

    But of all the things that you write about, nothing is so outrageous or causes so much moral pain than your denigration of Gove and his School reforms. Anyone who is serious about improving the lives of the poor and disadvantaged know that Gove has been the greatest thing to happen for children’s life chances in almost thirty years.

    The real problem of the Left is that you take the side of teachers over pupils. The insanity of the guardianista mob is that you can commit a kind of ‘mental self deception’ where by you choose to avoid hard discussions with yourselves by ignoring the reality of the state system, and so instead claim that money is the problem and not institutional reform so that you don’t have to confront the reality of what the Teacher’s Unions have become.

    Never mind the private sector is revolutionising schooling in developing countries, never mind that parents in India will spend a huge amount of their weekly income to send their children to a private school instead of the institutionally corrupt state run ones. Never mind that a Voucher system would do more for social mobility than any amount of column inches in the Guardian.

    No policy marks a person’s soul out better than their attitude to Schools, and that is where you, Ed Miliband and other people who profess to be on the side of progressiveness are exposed as utterly morally corrupt and ethically vacuous. I would ask you to have a good long think about school reform, and whether you should keep sucking up to the Unions or put children’s interests first, but we both know you’ll never change your mind as it would cause you too much mental pain, and it just gets so tiring having to argue against people who won’t be persuaded by reason.

    But as I said, chin up. We’re likely to stay in the EU and under the ECHR so nothing meaningful will change, and demographics favour the Left across Europe so if you can put up with the next five years you’ll have a great time in the next 30.

    Such a shame we can’t say the same for the pupils of this country when your lot next get in power.

    • milford

      Quite Zoe went to private school.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      Very well said, I think she should hand over her Spectator fee to you. The mess above by her pen was pure drivel.

    • Damon

      One of the best comments I’ve read on this website for some time. Pace Ms Williams, it would be nice, occasionally, to hear a critique of state education by someone who had actually attended a state school. Naturally, this would exclude most Guardian columnists. From Wikipedia: “[Zoe] Williams attended the independent Godolphin and Latymer school.” Well, what a surprise. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

    • Ian Walker

      Please don’t lump all teachers together. They are not all student-level trots (although many are) and some are even big-C Conservatives.

      Also remember that to the left, ‘progressive’ means ‘taking money through high income taxes to spend on welfare’ and nothing else.

  • Richard Eldritch

    It was your fault to a large degree Zoe. You, Owen Jones and the rest buried Labour with your constant mealy mouthed virtue broadcasting and what can only really be described as anti conservative hate speech-Tory Scum etc etc.

    • Kennybhoy

      Shhh! 🙂

  • Leo McKinstry

    “The main beef I have with bloody immigrants is that they don’t have the vote,” writes Zoe Williams.
    But huge numbers of them do have the vote, both because the franchise is extended to Commonwealth citizens and because British passports are dished out at the rate of over 200,000-a-year. According to the Migrants Rights Network, 4 million foreign-born people were entitled to vote in the 2015 Election. Incredibly, in two constituencies in the capital, Brent North and East Ham, foreign-born voters made up the majority of the local electorates.

    • Richard

      That is why Labour was so keen to bring in as many Pakistani and African Commonwealth citizens as possible, to vote for them.

    • Maureen Fisher

      Lefties don’t do facts,Leo.

    • Dion Trotsky

      Your point being?

  • MikeH

    A day in the life.

    It sounds like somebody’s nightmare.

  • Richard

    Funny, I thought the tears were more from Islamic raping of indigenous schoolgirls and Trojan Horses that LABOUR refused to deal with. And the bullying of non-Muslims by Muslims in playgrounds, and the targeting of homosexuals thanks to Labour’s imports and multiculturalism. How silly I am not to understand.

  • kazdix

    Did I wander onto the guardian website by mistake??

  • milford

    Having read Zoe’s column occasionally over the years, I always thought she was in her twenties because of the immature content. Imagine my surprise when I finally saw her on telly recently in all her middle-aged glory. Grow up Zoe for Chrissakes, we deserve better political comment than this. I can’t believe you get paid for it.

  • Kennybhoy

    This and the Toby Young caca over by. Nelson is taking the p*ss! 🙂

  • defective unit

    I’m enjoying your misery.

  • pp22pp

    Written by an eleven-year-old who thinks she’s very grown up.

  • anotherjoeblogs

    The article has some weird punctuation, for example – Plus: an election too serious for cheesecake; and the amazing jumping rabbits. Anyone else noticed owt odd ?

  • Maureen Fisher

    I’m sure there were many soya lattes cried into in Zoe’s part of London that morning. I also heard her denigrating aspiring people as those who “just want to acquire stuff” on Andrew Marr’s show. She’s above all that obviously.

  • Hilary

    This is garbage.

    Zoe Williams has always been a sub-par writer, but somehow she’s getting worse.

  • ablanche

    Blissfully hilarious. Snobbish, boastful, witless self-centred and above all purblind. I thought the cringe-making evocation of the “comical argumentation” with the colossus of equality could not be beaten but then there was the “fruit metaphor” oppression with David Hare.

    What is sad is that Ms Williams perfectly illustrates the ghastly people who have colonised progressive politics and will ensure that it is out of real political power for several generations. If you really cared about all the little people you patronise in the playground you would shut up and stick to reviewing restaurants. Still its the funniest thing I’ve ever read by you