Oliver Cross: Never mind the politics

SO, another year begins tomorrow (wake up, you at the back), and I suppose you might expect me to tell you about my hopes and fears for 2011.

But I can't be bothered. The great thing about the world is that it isn't predictable, I've no more of a clue about 2011 than the Treasury has, or the Meteorological Office or Mystic Meg.

(Or indeed my former dentist, who has a side-interest in American politics. We were discussing prospects for the 2008 US election and my dentist mentioned that there was a new chap on the scene called Barack Obama. 'Do you think he stands a chance?' he asked. 'Fpogwingwo,' I replied, being a bit restricted as to mouth movement, 'Thought so', said he and I don't know to this day who got it right).

Anyway, to return to now, it does seem unlikely that it will be a pleasant year for most of us; even if the weather improves, the rich will probably get richer and the poor will get poorer and as the welfare state disintegrates, we'll all, even those who keep their jobs, be assailed by the problems of living in a poorly-balanced economy.

This will mean more beggars and thieves, more reliance on charity, fewer public services and a loss, most probably, of the gentleness and urbanity which Britain can generally manage if not stretched to breaking-point.

On the other hand, I quite enjoyed the terrible Thatcherite 1980s, when industry got smashed, the financial sector was promoted to become the ruination of us all and unemployment, in a sneakily Orwellian way, was, as it is now, blamed on the unemployed.

Still, during that time, I had a job and was building a family and reading good books and trying to learn about gardening; most people still have a life worth living and births, marriages and good people, the things which feed our private lives, are really more important than misguided politicians trying to muck things up for us.

Or, in other words and despite it all, Happy New Year.

A graphic view of the world

GRAPHIC designers: All right in their place, but you wouldn't want them taking over the world.

Which, in several posh papers they have done. These papers, supposedly designed for the more informed reader, have taken to illustrating their world news pages with a map of the world.

The idea is that this helps people to keep up with the fast-moving (about one revolution every 24 hours) world of international affairs, so that if the story is, say, about America the reader is aided by an arrow pointing from the story to America, which you might not have been able to locate all by yourself.

In fact, most serious foreign despatches cover places which, if you don't know where they are, you shouldn't have invested in an expensive posh paper to begin with – Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Germany or Brazil, for example, and thank you, posh paper, for pointing out that that big shape at the bottom is Australia because otherwise I might have got it mixed up with Portugal.

On the other hand if you want to find something you didn't know already, such as the location of South Ossetia or Ngoro Karaback, the newspaper World Page map won't help you at all because, being a design feature rather than an attempt to inform, it is totally inadequate in terms of scale and detail.

And while I'm picking on graphic designers, which I shouldn't be because I've never met a graphic designer I didn't like very much, can I repeat my complaint that graphic designers are in part responsible for the rise of the far right in British politics?

The point is that, for visual reasons, graphic artists and designers, when producing public service leaflets and posters meant to display modern Britons, like to portray Asian or African women in colourful ethnic costumes, or, the white complexion being too wan to provide suitable contrast, to show far more black or brown men in their visions of modern life than, proportionately, actually exist.

In fact, the big majority of people in Britain, even in very mixed cities such as Leeds, are white and tend to avoid bright garments such as saris. They are also, excluding kiddies with curls or bright hair, not very cute or noticeable.

The result is that white British people, and particularly men, have been largely ignored at pamphlet and poster-level and that's why, when far-right politicians complain that ordinary Brits have been written out of the national story, they appear to have a point.

Mind you, given the collapse of the neo-fascist vote at the last election, it may be that the graphic designers have one saving grace; nobody takes much notice of them.


Councillors Pat and Graham Latty.

Here come the Lattys! Veteran councillor couple will be new Leeds Lord Mayor and Mayoress