John Walsh: Time to throw the book at Ed Vaizey

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The year of library closures rumbles on. Despite local protests, five libraries in Lewisham, south London, closed down in May. Residents had been graciously allowed to meet chaps from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for discussions, but they might as well have talked to themselves. Last Friday, Gloucestershire locals won a High Court injunction to halt the closure of their libraries, but 393 more are still under threat.

Ed Vaizey, MP for Wantage and Didcot, the Coalition's Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, is emerging from the affray, not quite as the villain, but stained with an ineradicable blot on his reputation. Not because he hates libraries – on the contrary, he thinks highly of them – nor for what he did about them. He'll be reviled because he did nothing.

He used to be passionate about the resource of books in a community. When in Opposition, he made speeches about the importance of adapting libraries to the 21 st century. When the Daily Telegraph published a claim that Labour planned to abolish the legal requirement, in the 1964 Public Libraries Act, that local councils run a "comprehensive and efficient" library service, he fumed: "This puts the future of every public library in the country under threat. I think this is outrageous and offensive to everyone who every cared about books and reading."

In February 2009, as Shadow Minister for Libraries, he wrote to Andy Burnham, the then Culture Secretary, asking him to "call in" (that is, reverse) the local borough's decision to close libraries in the Wirral. "The Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the Culture Secretary's door," he wrote. "If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral...he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state." It worked. What a hero. What a star. Blazey Vaizey. Scroll forward to 14 June, 2010, and his blog, www.vaizey.com, explained his plans: "Libraries are very important to local communities, but as money becomes tighter, they may suffer. I will use my position to try to ensure we can make responsible savings..." You can detect a certain cooling in his passion for the things, can't you? And as the cuts came in, and public opposition grew, the minister became decreasingly enthusiastic. He wouldn't speak to lobby groups. He shied away from speaking about libraries in public. He stayed home. He seemed unwilling to rock any boats.

This week, after the Lewisham closures, he was asked by The Bookseller why he'd done nothing to "call in" the decision. I'd do it, he said, "where there is a prima facie case that they [the local authority] have breached their library duties. I haven't been given that advice yet." And why hasn't he been given that advice? Because the Advisory Council on Libraries, which existed to give advice, was abolished last year, by Mr Vaizey and his colleagues, as part of a cull of quangos. He also told The Bookseller , it's "better to discuss with local authorities before we press the nuclear button of intervening". Nuclear button? Is he mad? Does he think he's running the Pentagon? To "intervene" means to pick up a telephone and speak directly to the council – as Mr Cameron did when libraries in his Oxfordshire constituency were threatened this year.

It's a shame. Ed Vaizey could easily have been the champion of library users. If only he had grown some bollocks at the Culture ministry, spoken out and not been stifled by civil servants. Instead he is ineffectual and impotent in office, a former can-do idealist, a man who body-swerves confrontations and decisions: Mr Evazey.

Shouts, screams and yells of SW19

All over the nation, this week, concerned parents are knocking on their teenage children's doors and saying: "Are you watching porn in there? I can hear it in the kitchen, you know," only to be told, "No, Mum – it's Wimbledon tennis." Really, the grunting of the lady players has reached coloratura levels.

Once, in days gone by, there used to be tut-tuttings about Jimmy Connors' sweaty yells when he served a 95mph smasher; today it's the ladies making the running – and making the terrible noises on every shot.

Venus Williams's famous shriek is fabulously feral and tigerish. Maria Sharapova's 110-decibel "Arrrggh!" is, let us not be coy about this, fabulously orgasmic. But it's the stunning Michelle Larcher de Brito who eclipses them all this year, with her long-drawn-out screech of pain, as though a nervous ostrich is being repeatedly defiled from the rear with a large cactus.

Isn't it time the men fought back with this brilliantly off-putting tactic – but with some new noises? I suggest Andy Murray tries a yell of "Boy-oyying!" every time he hits a good backhand. Or he could accompany a screeching power serve with a cry of "Thwack!" or "Wall-lop!" It worked for Batman.

50 Cent meets Little Red Rapping Hood

Oh, that's nice. The rapper 50 Cent, né Curtis Jackson, whose songs reveal his connoisseurship of gangs, guns, drugs and vainglorious boasting, has written a children's book entitled Playground, an autobiographical work about a school bully who mends his ways.

I am sure Mr Cent has done a fine job, but couldn't he have strayed a little further from his comfort zone?

I think we'd have preferred a 50 Cent re-telling of a fairy tale. Like In Da Red Riding Hood: "All da chicks in da forest wanna ball me/ Da Big Bad Wolf is what dey call me/ Wid ma Merc an' ma Crystal and ma Uzi I'm hot/ Dey say, Bro, wot big dazzling teef you got/ One day I see dis chick, she so fit I blow a gasket/ She on her way to Granma's wid a pork pie in a basket/ I drive on ahead, make the old bitch croak/ And jump into bed wid her nightie and her cloak..."





j.walsh@independent.co.uk

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