Finkelstein, Finkelstein, Finkelstein: The Jolly Daniel Finkelstein

Posted on May 14, 2011


It’s rare that I’ll have a dig at other journalists.

Nine and three quarters of Daniel Finkelstein

Danny Finkelstein, ex-SDP-turned-Tory; now Executive Editor and political columnist at The Times, and – judging by his headshot – jolly all-round guy in a silk-polyester tie, wrote a really good column last week: ‘And cheerio to those of you in Yesminster.’

This was a round-up of the “genuinely staggering” council results from the previous Thursday, along with some insightful commentary into the AV referendum results. It combined irreverence, some implicit remarks on class and importantly, balance – which is everything you’d expect from The Times really. You can’t be a journalist without balance, you know.

No forget that, the most important thing is jolliness. Jolliness and balance.

I need your assistance. I am looking for a word, or a phrase, something that will stick. I want to describe those few places in the country where they actually voted Yes to the alternative vote in last week’s referendum.

They were deliciously distinctive: Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Camden, Southwark in London; Oxford and Cambridge; Glasgow Kelvin and Edinburgh Central. What should we call them? Yes Country? Yo-Ville? Yesminster? Yessex?

So far, so jolly.

Finkelstein eventually rests with “Alternative Britain”. From there, he continues:

I don’t share the frequently expressed contempt for these places. They have some wonderful houses in them, enticing restaurants and parks and a sophisticated air.

Jolliness again, or is he actually being serious? He is okay with Hackney, he’s okay with Oxbridge and he’s okay with two places in Scotland. Right on, Finkelstein!

“They have some wonderful houses in them”? I know this is The Times, but since when did their columnists start writing like William-bloody-Congreve. It seems like the kind of dry line that someone says to “support” something they actually dislike, or just aren’t that arsed about – usually at the end of a tricolon by the way (the list of three of rhetorical argument). But this starts the tricolon. It can’t be that the “sophisticated air” is the real joke here, can it? Is Finkelstein reinventing language? But hold your horses, there’s more:

It would be rather nice to be described as a “Hampstead intellectual” since it would indicate both that I was accepted as an intellectual (a good, not a bad, thing) and that I could afford to live in Hampstead.

Good self-deprecation. I like it. He’s kept his feet on the ground has Finkelstein, no millionaire-mansion for our Finkelstein, he prefers sophistication – and air – not the marble-embossed pretensions of the upper-classes of heady Hampstead. Hats off to you, sir. Denim peaked hats off to you.

Daniel Finkelstein: Just one Finkelstein is more than a match for "Alternative Britain". Un-Alternative Britain salutes he

D. Finkelstein (OBE), A Defenfe of Intellectulifme. Why? His brackets suggest this is a debate of eminent national importance, as if everyone’s been shouting down the intellectuals of late, debating the big question: “Is it good or bad to be an intellectual?” Who’s asking? Well, nobody. Nobody apart from the guests who entertain such isolated conversations at dinner-parties at the Finkelsteins.

To be fair, Finkelstein isn’t afraid to right wrongs, and I respect that. It’s reassuring to see in our age of cuts to libraries, to the humanities and to non-pragmatic learning, that one man – just one man, and Finkelstein is his name – will not stop until he has seen the intellectual (be they Hampstead or Hackney), the man of letters, the polymath, the Renaissance Man, whatever you want to call it; returned to his rightful place on high.

But do they even have dinner-parties outside Hampstead? Apparently the people of Hackney and Lambeth do, because they – the “progressive majority” (dig the irony) – are “among people who didn’t need the subtitles when they went to see Jean de Florette at the screen on Islington Green”.

I’m with you on everything else Finkelstein, but are you sure?

Finkelstein says YES: But not to AV, to the question I just asked him

Posted in: Politics