Peter Rhodes on inner-city voting, poetry for the environment and an encounter with a high priest of computers.

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage

God rot this new computer. The problem with computers is that they are installed by people who know everything about computers but operated by people who understand tiddly-squit about computers.

The gulf between us is as vast as the gulf in the Middle Ages between learned priests who could speak Latin and Greek fluently while illuminating sacred books in gold leaf, and their congregations of hungry, ergot-crazed peasants who could barely remember the right word for pig.

So why, I asked the computer priest over the phone, has this new PC suddenly converted all my files from Open Office into Word and locked me out? I will not bore you with the answer but putting it right involved endless key-strokes under the guidance of the computer priest. He dictated the litany of Windows repair and I performed the rites. And now the computer is restored and works. Allelujah. The computer priest in his workshop resumed the 21st century equivalent of gold-leafing Genesis in ancient Greek and I resumed the daily task of counting those agreeable pink thingies with curly tails whose name escapes me for the moment.

As this wretched General Election approaches, there are the usual dark mutterings of inner-city practices, vast quantities of postal votes and “community leaders” telling their people how to vote. White commentators risk being denounced as racist, so look instead at a recent column by an Asian pundit, Sonia Sodha, chief leader writer with the Observer and an adviser to former Labour leader Ed Miliband. She describes how “biraderi” (clan politics) have historically dominated some south Asian communities in Britain. She says Labour councils became increasingly dependent on community leaders for electoral support, relying on kinship bloc voting, in which older men ensured everyone in their extended network voted the same way. The effect, she says, has been to give huge power to those men while marginalising women and young people. So it could well be that dodgy practices will eventually be stamped out not by police, magistrates or election courts but by that great driver of modern life, angry women.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has launched a £5,000 award for poetry about the environment. Here goes: Climate collapse will kill us, perhaps / But if we listen to Greta, things can only get better.

And how about Mr Armitage giving us a few stanzas on Prince Andrew's current difficulties? My own offering: That girl? I never met her / Here's my resignation letter.

It had to happen. Having accepted that people can self-identify as male, female or some other gender as they wish, lecturers in The Universities and Colleges Union have suggested that anyone should be allowed to identify as black, white or any other race, no matter what their skin colour or background. I shall be spending this weekend as a transgender Rastafarian lesbian. Only good can come of this.

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