Magazine article The Spectator

Do They Know What Is Is?

Magazine article The Spectator

Do They Know What Is Is?

Article excerpt

EVERY night, at eight sharp, we sit down at our stripped-pine table, devour a plate of seared tuna, and give praise to Cherie Blair and the Human Rights Act. Then we plan our next holiday in a villa outside San Gimigniano, breaking only for a brief chat about natural childbirth and the pressing need for electoral reform, before we retire to bed with a Nick Hornby novel each.

I know that this is how it must be because I am centre-leftish, live in Islington and am thus an abject figure of untrammelled scorn. Fine, I can take it. But what has my kitchen table done to annoy?

With monotonous regularity, journalists nominate the `stripped-pine table of Islington' as the item of furniture owned by people with whom they don't agree. Even the judicious Stephen Glover was at it two weeks ago in these pages: `We may be sure,' writes Mr Glover, deliberating on Rebekah Wade and the paedophiles, `that around the stripped-pine tables of Islington . . . her campaign has engendered nothing but consternation and contempt.'

If you live in Islington, the world has a window not just on your kitchen, but on your soul. The funny thing is that stripped pine is pas du tout Ni. It went out with glam rock, and we're very particular about our interiors, since you ask. Sisal flooring we have a weakness for, ant chairs ditto. Stripped pine: Just Say No.

All right, so our own kitchen table is, well, you know . . . but in mitigation, m'lud, it is a very modestly dressed pine, stained to a honey-brown, decorated with a few decades of wine-spillages and infant spoon-bashing. It would not dream of being seen stripped. It is the sort of decorous nuclear-family object that I thought Conservatives were supposed to approve of - for was it not William Hague who invented kitchen-table conservatism? What sort of object did he have in mind, if not a pine one?

The only word in Rightspeak more insulting than Islington is Tuscany; use them together for added invective impact, like Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Daily Telegraph: `It's only because of the thought-police and health-fascists that the drinking norm is what pertains in Islington/Tuscany circles.' She forgot to mention the `nanny state', which is usually our fault too. Keith Waterhouse concludes of the Blairs' family holiday, `There is something so very Islington about Tuscany.'

Ah, there we have it: the reason why Islingtonphobia has taken off recently is that the Blairs lived there: Richmond Crescent, to be precise. The Granita restaurant on Upper Street is where Tony Blair gave Gordon Brown dinner to make up for shafting him for the leadership. They ate polenta, tuna and wilted greens. At least that is what I keep reading, because these are invariably described as the subsistence diet of the Ni hunter-gatherers.

Boris Johnson's columns have had a downer on searing and wilting for some time now. It's what `achingly trendy' people eat. Islingtonians are by definition achingly trendy, when we are not being bien-pensant, thought-fascistic, healthpolicing, bleeding-heart, champagne socialists, or stripping our pine.

But hang on: if it's such an appalling, cloying place, how come so many Conservatives choose to live there? Boris resides at the Highbury end, Charles and Caroline Moore graced Thornhill Square for years, before the country got them, Ferdinand Mount and Paul Dacre (editor of the Main live there, and Peter and Gail Lilley have only just moved out of Canonbury Road. …

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