Posts Tagged ‘Frank Johnson’

Bold predictions in the internet age, by Siôn Simon

21/09/2010, 01:49:35 PM

Dan Hodges announced this morning that David Miliband has won the Labour leadership. Which is not literally true; it is a bold prediction, presented in the form of what Frank Johnson used to call a conceit.

My father – perhaps anticipating a theme – used to warn me that “there is a thin line between brave and stupid”. Dan Hodges is not stupid. Far from it. This is a brave piece.

Frank Johnson, when teaching me how to write newspaper columns, used to enjoin: “Make bold predictions. If you are wrong, nobody will remember. But if you are right you can always remind them.”

I passed this reassurance on to Dan Hodges yesterday.

James Macintyre employs the technique in the New Statesman today. I take the opportunity to do it myself here: on 2 August, before the bookies’ odds had narrowed, I said in Uncut that Ed Miliband was an evens bet:

“Ed Miliband, like his brother, has succeeded in converting his patronage-momentum into real political capital which should have made him an evens bet to be the next leader. It hasn’t – the bookies put David well in front – but Ed is the better value brother, because evens is the political reality.”

I still think this is accurate. It’s close. Lots of people have written how close it is. Not many, especially of those who are paid to call these kind of things, have been brave enough to make the call.

Frank Johnson was the great newspaper prose stylist of his generation and an underestimated editor of the Spectator. He was a deep mine of wise and idiosyncratic advice about writing. “Be counter-intuitive” was at the centre. The word “albeit” and the phrase “the fact that” were banned at the periphery. As they are on Uncut.

And he was right, in his time, about making predictions. But he is wrong in the age, which he largely pre-dated, of the internet.

Rather than test the benevolence of the blogosphere, in which case, I also offer this prediction of mine, written at the 2007 Labour conference.

It turned out to be wrong. As I have often been reminded.

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The Week Uncut

22/08/2010, 03:18:59 PM

That most exuberantly brilliant of newspaper prose stylists, Frank Johnson, used to write an annual column arguing that it is not true that nothing ever happens in August.

Well it is certainly not true on Uncut. We have had one of the best weeks of our three month life under the guest editorship of blogger extraordinaire and MP par excellence, Tom Watson.

He attracted such a dizzying array of beltway bigshots and blogosphere behemoths that the acute contributions of star political writers such as John Kampfner and Vincent Moss are not even reproduced below.

We can scarcely thank Bro. Watson enough. He ran the Uncut team ragged, for responding so admirably to which they also deserve appreciative recognition.

More, he broadened and enlivened our offering. For which we restate, one last time, our gratitude on behalf of our readers: thanks Tommy.

Below is a bigger than usual selection of the better-read contributions to an outstanding week on Uncut.

Tom Harris tells it predictably straight

John Underwood on a one-off wealth tax

Pat Kane on playgrounds

Eric Joyce on a new defence review

Aaron Porter on higher education

Billy Bragg on tactical voting

Dan Hodges on immigration

Sally Bercow on fessing up

Paul Bower on his difficult relationship with Labour

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