Wool coat journalism

“Hampstead became not so much a collection of streets as a Labour-themed game of Monopoly. Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, lived in Frognal, where, despite the name I have never seen a frog – a gold Rolls Royce, yes, a frog, no.        Sunday Times, 10/01/11”

Reading a latte-stained Sunday Times

YOU will never ever guess… Ed Miliband lives in north London. It said as much in Tanya Gold’s never-ending sketch on life in Hampstead in the Sunday Times mag.

And you will never guess some more.. so do lots of other Labour people. And celebrities. And they all drink lattes and do things that people do, like buy a pair of glasses from an opticians or go for a walk.

And Michael Foot lived there in a cavern of books. He’s represented on a front cover illustration as a Willo The Wisp looking out onto Hampstead Heath. In fact, Tanya tells how she went to his door almost as if she could interview his ghost, but encountered only a security guard looking over the library in Pilgrim’s Lane left empty after he passed away last year.

There she stood contemplating how socialists could live in such a beautiful part of London, before answering her own wonder in print by remembering that Hampstead, certainly when Foot first rocked up, wasn’t always portrayed as the leafy enclave as drawn in her own epic essay.

It’s a curious collage, mainly because of the times this exercise has been done before by other nationals, by the locals, and a collection of blogs. The Times did it a couple of months ago. Anne McElvoy did something similar in The Standard. It’s a fun but easy fable to follow on from David Cameron’s Notting Hill Set and Blair’s Granita gambling in Islington. Tanya won’t be the last to take this course across the Heath.

If you didn’t get to the end at this latest bite at it, Tanya’s observations conclude at the Kentish Town by-election count last year, around about the Milimoon period when he had just become leader.

We bumped into Tanya up at the Town Hall that night and consequently she reports that there was a “large representation from the Camden New Journal in long wool coats” at the count. There were two of us there. In coats. There was also a journalist working for the Sunday Times there in a coat. I can’t remember if it was made of wool or not. That was Tanya.

I remember somebody asked her whether the piece she was researching would follow the familair line of whimsioco sneers at left wingers who dared to live in affluent areas. She shrugged that off. If it wasn’t tucked behind a firewall over at the ST then I’d post a link and then if you haven’t seen it you could judge for yourself, the headline Marx and Spenders might give you a flavour.

There’s a hidden disclaimer, though. Tanya explains in the piece that she herself was “canvassing for [Glenda] Jackson”  one day during the general election campaign and that ‘she’d hate to be a Tory here’. That reads like a mesage to NW3 Labour supporters: don’t be offended by yet another round of mockery at your latteland socialism; we can still be friends. As if to mitigate any ill-feeling but maybe just by coincidence, the day before this appeared she had a right-on comment piece in The Guardian about equality between the sexes. Perfect atonement for pulling the tail of her neighbours.

PS Dear old frightening Ellen Luby is described by TG as a “Labour activist”. Well, we know she wasn’t a Conservative supporter, but Labour councillors in Camden with throbbing, lasting headaches from her rants from the public gallery might question whether she was ever on their side.

4 Comments on Wool coat journalism

  1. South Hampstead Observer // January 12, 2011 at 10:26 am //

    Stranger than all that is how she equates nearly losing Hampstead & Kilburn (had it not been for Kilburn) and having no councillors in Hampstead to a resurgence of Labour support there. I’m told she was at the Frognal count in July to witness that too…

  2. David Douglas // January 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm //

    Ruins her story to say most of Hampstead & Frognal not elected a Labour Cllr ever and Belsize Park last saw a lefty elected in 1998. In May this year it was Con 10 LD 2 in the NW3 wards….

    Maybe she missed those results

  3. Local Tory // January 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm //

    I disagree that Mrs Luby was not a Conservative. She was always shouting at the Labour benches that they were worse than the Conservatives, (she was right, of course) which I took to mean she was a secret supporter. *

    *Ellen, if you are reading this from the great public gallery in the sky, its a joke, please don’t come and haunt me…

  4. Phil Jones // January 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm //

    We explained to TG at the Kentish Town by-election count:

    – Hampstead has never had Labour cllrs (she was surprised)
    – Kentish Town and Dartmouth Park aren’t really considered to be the same place as Hampstead
    – Even the north of the Borough has social housing and deprivation

    But alas the piece had already been written in her head

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