and thus, inevitably, a column in which mark steel gamely ploughs his way through a crit of THIS KIND OF THING (viz: Live8 in particular, charity protest in general). Fraid you have to subscribe for the complete “764 words approx” but here as a taster is the BIG JOKE COMPLETE WITH SET-UP: “Bob Geldof is at his most potent when he speaks with fury at the inertia of world leaders on such issues. But the message is weakened when the corporate bodies are involved, as their participation depends on diluting the demands made on them. Similarly, it’s harder to take the campaign seriously when one of the performers will be Mariah Cary. She probably wonders why Africa doesn’t simply sack its manager, and get one who demands better caterers and a champagne well in the dressing room.”

Obviously it’s easier to “win” arguments if you get to i. make up your opponents’ answers yourself, and ii. make these answers very silly. I wish I imagined that Steel wd do as well in real-time cut-and-thrust political argument w.Mariah C.: sadly I’ve actually seen him as a commentator in grown-up news-studios up against unfolding events and brassy announcer-bimbos. the day ken livingstone beat frank dobson, steel was on the couch to shill for the (since binned) socialist alliance – asked for his reactions he sidestepped the invitation to say anything pointed and/or funny (MAYBE EVEN BOTH EH??!!) about the victor – in other words, about the political situation as it actually existed – in favour of his pre-prepared dobson gag. in his good-natured dim-carthorse way, he insisted on ploughing wordily through this. the shiny-haired newslady waited till he finished, “well, that was a big load of nothing,” the gist of her assessment. PWNED!!

Even on his own time – with writing, unlike improv, you have every chance to hone your words to best effect – he blunders his way uneasily through the paragraphs. When it comes to political substance and stance you feel he spent he spent the last few days desperately reading up what he should know and needs say – handy talk-point anecdotes; shorthand big-sweep outrage-punctuation graf-closers; all nervously cobbled into something that he hopes doesn’t contradict itself – only (as per his contract-w.-the-big-media-devil) to tumble it all away for the sake of the kind of knee-jerk alt.cult scorn which will at least ensure he can hold his head up on never mind the buzzcocks. “similarly, it’s hard to take the column seriously when… ” he “probably thinks” that mark lamarr is the new trotsky arf sigh