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Defending Lunchtime O’Booze

A week ago, a friend of mine, a retired journalist now living in France, stayed with me for a couple of nights, kipping down on my living room sofa-bed. He arrived on Sunday, and on Monday he journeyed forth at midday, to have lunch, with a big gaggle of his old journo pals. The lunch was quite liquid and very prolonged. Although I should add that when he got back to my place around midnight he behaved impeccably, his only slight infringement of good manners being a tendency toward repetition.

All of which got me a-googling the phenomenon of Lunchtime O’Booze, that being the soubriquet that was bestowed upon journalists of a certain vintage by Private Eye. The words explain themselves.

This caused me to encounter some bang-up-to-date observations about the Lunchtime O’Booze generation of journos, and the disdain with which they are now often treated, in a piece entitled In Defence of Lunchtime O’Booze, by John Dale.

In characteristic journo style (from which I dare say I could learn) Dale gets straight to his point:

Alcohol is a truth drug. Reporters use it as the weapon of choice to breach the carapace of lies erected by prime ministers, politicians, police and anyone else tempted to become tinpot Hitlers.

With drink you don’t hack with a keyboard. You hack with the clink of a glass and then download your personal malware and intellectual trojans directly into someone else’s brain.

Occasionally you get inside their heart as well, which is a cruel bonus. Alcohol, when applied by good reporters, brings the powerful and the pompous crashing to earth, face down in the gutter right in front of the paps shooting for posterity at 40 frames a second.

Next morning the prototype tyrant wakes up a nicer, gentler human being. …

And now for the bang-up-to-date bit:

… So, for me, the most alarming feature of the Leveson Inquiry was that it turned anti-alcohol, as if coveting the pulpit at a temperance meeting.

Any moment I expected Leveson to raise a placard saying: ‘Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.’

Leveson’s point is that the Police should beware getting too pally with journos, and especially of drinking with them too much. But Dale’s point is that although the Police would be wise to shun alcohol, journos who do the same are missing a big trick. Journos taking it in turns to tell Leveson that they abjure the demon drink should instead, says Dale, be willing to stand up, as best they can, and defend alcohol as a vital tool of their trade.

Dale follows with a character sketch of one Noel Botham, with a photo of Botham holding a drink and involving a drink-lubricated interview:

He raises his glass, giving it a tilt as if it were a journalistic rapier. …

A youthful 72, Botham is relevant because he is a lifelong bon viveur who has used his taste for the high life to pursue a form of free-range journalism which is the antithesis of that promoted by most Leveson witnesses, the reborn PCC and various journo professors. He’s the last cavalier in a world of roundheads. He symbolises free range against the battery farms of Canary Wharf and other media plantations.

But drink has not now stopped working its truthful magic, despite what Dale says. Botham is not actually the “last cavalier” by any means.

Guido Fawkes is often talked about as a challenge to traditional journalism. But when it comes to drinking and as a result learning stuff, Guido is no challenge to regular journalistic ways. He is booze and business as usual.

13 comments to Defending Lunchtime O’Booze

  • joel

    Stalin held late night parties at his place to which he invited people he wanted to watch and assess. He always insisted they drink a lot.

  • Stonyground

    Sorry to be OT but I know that this blog often has a quote of the day. Could I be so bold as to nominate this one from a comment by Rab on a thread at Counting Cats about taxation.

    “Nobody asks “why taxes? what do they want my hard earned money for? Why are they so useless at spending it and piss most of it wastefully up the wall? Why not leave the money in my pocket then I can spend it on what I want, not what the Govt thinks I should have?”

  • Pardone

    Politicians should not be drinking while working. The fact Parliament has bars is ridiculous. If MPs want food and drink they should either bring some with them or sod off down to a takeaway like the rest of us.

    Tis not surprising that journos and politicians drink together, given they are both known for being lazy and workshy.

  • Sean

    Like much else, it sounds better in Latin: “In vino veritas”!

  • James Hargrave

    Though never a journalist, I attend a monthly lunch dominated by retired members of that fraternity, many of them old enough to be my father. And, boy, is it liquid: the beer before (not me), the bottle with, and several of them retiring to a nearby hostelry afterwards. Their years of training win through: perfectly coherent and entertaining, if occasionally scabrous, conversation.

  • Dale Amon

    Yep, and that is why Journos of a certain flavour and people in the music business get on famously 😉

  • Politicians should not be drinking while working. The fact Parliament has bars is ridiculous. If MPs want food and drink they should either bring some with them or sod off down to a takeaway like the rest of us. Tis not surprising that journos and politicians drink together, given they are both known for being lazy and workshy.

    Wrong on every level. Each minute spent drinking is a minute less spent legislating… and that is a GOOD thing.

    And I wish politicians were a great deal lazier and more workshy than they are.

  • Pardone

    So, you are fine with MPs living the life of Riley at your expense? Deary me you are a sucker.

    MP’s should be paid £4 an hour and live in cheap pre-fab housing, they certainly should not be able to claim expenses. Government ministers should be paid no more than £10,000 a year, ideally half that; they should not be in the job for the money, so they should live a spartan life. This would weed out the corrupt types in a stroke.

    Oh, and on the subject of the police, any policeman who gets drunk should be immediately sacked.

  • Paul Marks

    “There is truth in wine” – people talk.

  • So, you are fine with MPs living the life of Riley at your expense? Deary me you are a sucker.

    You think Spartan living would make for better politics? So Khmer Rouge Cambodia must have been your ideal then. It would just motivate them to ensure we all live as they do. I would much rather have corrupt politicians than true believers who want to redistribute my wealth and make me a slave. But then you are obviously some sort of puritan who thinks politics is fine as long as the people doing it are virtuous, as if that has ever been the case in human history.

  • RAB

    Well pardone, once upon a time our MP’s were not paid at all. They considered it a privilege and a duty to serve their country in a part time capacity while earning their living elsewhere, and financed their public duties out of their own pockets. It was only since the Socialists got in and considered it a “Profession” that should be lavishly renumerated, plus expenses, that the rot set in.

    Politicians see their job as to eternally Legislate. A problem comes up, or there is a hew and cry for something to be done about something, and they rush to pass a Law. Then they think the job is somehow magically done. It’s like a fire and forget smart missile to them. But they never take into account the unintended consequences or the difficulties, nay sometimes immpossibility, of enforcing such Laws, and the mess they inevitably end up making, by making things worse rather than better.

    So I’m with Perry, let them get pissed if it prevents them from forever legislating about everything and nothing. And remember there is nothing wrong with a drop or two. Churchill had Champagne with his cornflakes and a big cigar, while Hitler had meusli and distilled water. Who won the war again?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes RAB – till 1911 ordinary Members of Parliament were not paid.

    Not unreasonable – as how can someone be a watchdog on govenrment (out to defend the taxpayers) if they are, at the same time, a government EMPLOYEE (dependent on the government for their income)?

    As for the idea of a “legislature” it is a funedmentall bad idea.

    Parliament should be there to act as a watchdog for the taxpayers on government spending – not to “make laws” (as if laws were tins of baked beans). Still less to pass vague “Enabling Acts” (“Deleated Legislation” leading to…)that allow Civil Servants to created edicts with the force of law.

    The law is (or should be) an effort to apply the principle of justice (to-each-their-own) in the circumstances of time and place.

    Instead law has been turned (by writers like Maitland) into any ravings “for the good of the community” the state comes out with.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Perry, the Khmer Rouge luxuriated in blood, death and terror, not money, and they rewarded themselves far better than our ‘amateurs’. Valuations are subjective.