There is a sort of commentary that the fourth estate calls by the unusually generous title of polemic. What this really means is that the reader is to be treated to a stream of ranting, usually right wing, often incoherent, and factually dubious writing. The national papers have a variety of regulars who indulge in this sort of thing, but for those of us who have lived and worked in Yorkshire, one local and particularly odious exponent of the craft stands out, if only for sheer brass neck.
Retiring in May after spewing out a weekly rant of occasional veracity, the Yorkshire Post’s Bernard Dineen was, back in the 1980s, well known even for the larger part of the population who would not have touched the YP – a solidly, and sometimes even rabidly Conservative publication – with the proverbial barge pole. Whatever the Thatcher Government did, whether good, bad, or indifferent, Barmy Bernard would be unequivocally in favour. Moreover, those who stood against Mrs T instantly incurred his wrath.
This wrath would usually involve being labelled as “hard left” or “Trotskyite”. On one memorable occasion, Dineen denounced Labour members of the soon to be disbanded West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council as the “floorsweepings of Marxist classrooms”, but, alas, was of less than perfect courage, so could not bring himself to name one of them.
More recently, the Dineen ranting has included the kinds of targets that papers like the Daily Mail enjoys bashing: the BBC has been a particular favourite. Any Labour politician putting head above parapet was also fair game, and in a superb example of his craft, Dineen denounced David Miliband when the latter called for a cease fire in the conflict in Sri Lanka: this, he frothed, showed that the former Foreign Secretary was supporting the Tamil Tigers (as was the Beeb).
And the Royals can count on Dineen’s loyalty: he railed against those making adverse comment after Prince Harry had been caught referring to a fellow soldier as a “Paki”. There was, told Dineen, a “nice” way to use the word. There isn’t, of course: that term, like Billy Connolly’s F-word, is loaded, and only someone wilful, stupid, or totally out of touch with the world (I suspect Dineen falls into the third category) would even consider such an argument.
Which may be why Barmy Bernard has finally been put out to grass. It’s not come a moment too soon.