Ministerial hot air

Sometimes you get one of those little periods where you feel that everything in the world is – well, not quite as it should be, but more or less as you might expect. Where dogs bite men and not vice versa, and everything in the news makes sense.

This, I feel, is one of those times. England have suffered a humiliating batting collapse in Jamaica, and somehow it feels comforting after a period of relative success. A bunch of middle-aged blokes at the Bafta have given an acting award to Kate Winslet’s naked arse, and that also makes sense, at least compared to some Bafta picks down the years. And then you’ve got that classic dog-bites-man standby, Sammy Wilson talking cobblers.

Last Friday, Sammy streaked into the headlines with this gem:

Angry teachers today hit back after Environment Minister Sammy Wilson accused schools of “mollycoddling” children after many closed due to the snow.

More than 30 schools closed their doors yesterday following heavy snowfall and another 15-20 have followed suit today, citing health and safety reasons for the decision.

Mr Wilson, a former teacher himself and the minister with responsibility for promoting road safety, said many people used the weather as an excuse to take the day off.

“Personally, I think it’s a lot of nonsense. It’s no more dangerous to go out in the snow than it is to go out in very wet weather, windy weather or in conditions of poor visibility like mist or fog,” he said.

“I know there are a lot of health and safety nuts out there who are trying to make people take no risks at all. If they had their way, we would all sit in the house all day tied to a chair and never move.”

This is straight out of one of those Richard Littlejohn columns in the Daily Mail about how “decent folk can’t hang paedo’s cos of elf ‘n’ safety”. But as a former teacher, Sammy, one would think, would be aware of the possibility of schools being sued the moment a child slips on some ice and splits its head open. This, I think is more plausible than a reference to unnamed “health and safety nuts” who, if they even exist, are under his aegis at the Roads Service – you know, the guys who advise against unnecessary journeys in extreme weather, only to find their own minister contradicting them. Still, anything for a cheap headline.

Then today Ulster’s answer to Jeremy Clarkson was back with this:

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has banned government television adverts in Northern Ireland warning of the effects of climate change, it emerged today.

The DUP man said he was not prepared to allow “insidious New Labour propaganda” about the impact of climate change which would have been screened on UTV.

These were, as far as can be seen, ads promoting energy efficiency, something the Stormont Executive (and the DUP) are theoretically all in favour of. Sammy is, of course, on record as saying that man-made climate change is a big giant hoax, which is at least a distinctive position for an environment minister. Taken together with his culture of fear stuff, I wonder if Sammy spent too much of his youth reading Living Marxism. Or, perhaps more likely, as a middle-aged man he’s just spent too much time chilling out in front of Top Gear.

Anyway, I fear Sammy may be making trouble for himself with his claims that the climate change we’re currently experiencing is just a manifestation of long-term climatic cycles that work themselves out over millions of years. This won’t endear him to the Young Earth creationists in the DUP, who know perfectly well that the world is only 6000 years old. Memo to Sammy: if you’re going to do pseudo-science, it’s safer to go with the biblical option.


  1. Garibaldy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Loved the last paragraph. Isn’t Sammy a motorcyclist? When not nature walking that is.

  2. james said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Spiked Online fucking hate Jeremy Clarkson, presumably because he’s just a low-brow, more obviously futurist, version of them that they envy the success of.

  3. Newton Emerson said,

    February 10, 2009 at 12:53 am

    A pox on you, I was going to use the Daily Mail thing for Thursday’s column (Sammy actually seems to have lifted his snow-related remarks directly off that day’s front page).
    If I go ahead regardless, may this posting pre-empt any accusations of plagiarism.

  4. Phil said,

    February 10, 2009 at 8:34 am

    given an acting award to Kate Winslet’s naked arse

    This is an outrageous slur on the BAFTA judges. Can you provide any evidence? Or am I going to have to go and see the film like everyone else?

  5. Andy newman said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

    As I have said before, having read the book when it frst came out, I simply cannot see kate Winslet in this role, as she just doesn’t have the emotionally shut down, coldness of this particular character.

    But quite apart from the particular character, I just can’t beleive in kate Winslett as being German.

  6. February 10, 2009 at 9:28 am

    probably neither Living Marxism or Top Gear but a defender of his true belief against a new religion: “belief in man-made climate change is a “hysterical pseudo-religion”” … or a mixture of all three

  7. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Newt, great minds think alike. Or else the target’s just too tempting.

    What annoyed me most about The Reader was the ‘Allo ‘Allo German accents. I thought that either you should do it in German or in unaccented English.

  8. D. J. P. O'Kane said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Hi Newt! My book on Eritrea’s coming out next month. Any chance of a plug? 😉

  9. D. J. P. O'Kane said,

    February 10, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Also, the Winslet girl is far too ‘English Rose’-y to be a convincing Nazi beast.

  10. February 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

    […] Mehr Erhellendes zu Wilson (nebst einem weiteren lustigem Foto) findet mensch bei Splitered Sunrise […]

  11. Andy newman said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Nicole Kidman would have been perfect, for the Reader.

    I didn’t know about the comedy German accents, Splinty, I though Hollywodd had grown out of that.

  12. Mordaunt said,

    February 10, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    What annoyed me most about The Reader was the ‘Allo ‘Allo German accents. I thought that either you should do it in German or in unaccented English.”

    Donner und blitzen! I would haf thought that ze cod German accents were a thing of ze past. Do ze Britischer film industry/ Hollywood still do zis?

    No, really, I haven’t seen it but how stupid. It reminds me of Quentin Crisp’s gag about Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. Brando, inevitably, spoke with an American accent which caused some of the more conservative critics to complain that this was unsuitable. Crisp remarked that as none of the characters were speaking Roman he could hardly see how it mattered.

  13. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Yeah, you never see ancient Romans talking with Italian accents, do you?

  14. Garibaldy said,

    February 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I’ve quite liked the recent use of working class English accents to represent the Roman proletariat and ordinary soldiers in things like Rome. I think it has worked.

  15. anglonoel said,

    February 10, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Is that a Crystal Palace FC rosette The Rev is wearing is the photo?

  16. anglonoel said,

    February 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    ‘in the photo’ even!

  17. February 10, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Now be fair boys, oor Sammy has bin spendin’ a wile lat o’ time up his oan ring this last wee while, an hasnae hid time til’ luk at the hole picture.

  18. Martin Wisse said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Hey, even Top Gear has embracec climate change and alternative energy and such, if only so they can keep enough petrol going for their cool cars.

  19. Phil said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Off-topic, but someone reading this may know – is “Ulster Scots” changing? I mean, c changing really, really quickly, with major year-on-year changes to the agreed corpus of syntax and vocabulary?

    I ask because I remember running into official Ulster Scots for the first time, in the form of the guidance for the 2001 Census, and thinking it was basically just Rab C Nesbitt with a pint of Guinness – “Hae a look at this afore ye fill yur census foarm in”, that kind of thing. But I read a document on the PSNI Ombudsman’s site the other day that purported to be in Ulster Scots, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it – half the time I couldn’t even parse the sentences, let alone recognise the words. (I remember the word ‘quhaniver’; that was one of the easier ones.) I was also rather struck to find that the sexes in Ulster Scots are apparently ‘fear’ and ‘bean’, but I dare say that’s just an oversight.

  20. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Generally speaking, the broadness of Braid Scotch varies from individual to individual. Will you have a light dusting of localisms, or some serious Hugh MacDiarmid stuff?

    There are also a couple of different orthographies doing the rounds, so that brings in another level of abstand. Think of it like Occitan. If I see a passage of Occitan in the traditional Catalan-style orthography, I can at least get a vague gist. But Mistralian spelling does my nut.

  21. R Wolfe said,

    February 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm


  22. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve seen him. There may be more forthcoming on this later.

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