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  • Jake Wallis Simons

    Jake Wallis Simons

    Journalist. Digital, print, radio, TV. Author of four novels

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  • Digital

    Digital

    "Meet the Settlers: A journey through the West Bank"

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  • Fiction

    Fiction

    Jake's fourth novel, "Jam", is out now. "A skilful road rage novel" – The Telegraph

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  • Broadcasting

    Broadcasting

    Jake presents radio and television for the BBC and others.

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  • Cartoons

    Cartoons

    Has been known to put pen to paper.

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Blog

Should parents be banned from giving their children ‘silly’ names? (Telegraph)

Naming a child ‘Nutella’ may be nuts, but governments should stay away from matters of taste, says Jake Wallis Simons

As the gentle Bard asked, what’s in a name?

Well, if recent events in France are anything to go by, the answer is simple: sugar, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, skimmed milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin) and flavouring (vanillin). Oh, and 52 hazelnuts.

I’m referring to Nutella, the iconic chocolate spread brought to you by the Italian confectionary company Ferrero.

A judge in France has ruled that parents could not name their baby girl Nutella, as it would “make her the target of derision”.

“It is contrary to the child’s interest to have a name that can only lead to mockery and disobliging remarks,” he said.

The parents reportedly argued that they wished their daughters to emulate the qualities of the chocolate spread, in terms of sweetness and popularity. But they must have had a hunch that their cause was doomed, as they did not turn up to the final hearing.

In their absence, it was ruled that the baby should be forcibly renamed Ella, fully testing Shakespeare’s assertion that “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. But no prizes for guessing what her nickname will be.

This news follows the revelation that a French judge has also blocked the use of the name Strawberry, or Fraise, on the grounds that it would cause the child to be continuously subjected to the taunt, “ramène ta fraise”, which means, approximately, “get your bottom over here”.

These cases have shone the spotlight on a debate in France over the extent to which the state should interfere with the names parents give their children. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

The demise of Page 3 is a victory for men (Telegraph)

The Sun’s apparent decision to cease publishing pictures of topless women on page 3 of its newspaper shouldn’t be painted as a black and white gender issue, writes Jake Wallis Simons

Well, it’s bad news for the chaps: according to the Times, Page 3 is on its way out. Yah, boo, sucks. Round one to the chicks. Men will have to get their dirty little thrills elsewhere.

At least, that has been the tone of things so far. The toppling of the topless babes in The Sun newspaper is being figured as a resounding victory for the sisterhood against the oppressive misogyny of men.

The truth, however, is far more complex – and, if viewed in a certain light, far more encouraging.

It would be unfair to suggest that this was not a victory for feminism. The No More Page 3 campaign was feminist at its core, and it deserves credit for that. But was it really driven only by women (clue: no)? And was it only men who resisted?

This morning, I popped into my local greasy spoon café – a place where the Sun is as integral as the (very fine) ham-egg-n-chips – and chatted to a few customers about Page 3’s apparent demise.

There were, of course, blokes who thought that Page 3 was “just a bit of fun”, and the furore was all “a storm in a teacup”. But if anything, they were in the minority. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Even the Government can’t force boys to play with girls’ toys (Telegraph)

Jo Swinson is wrong, we can’t expect boys to play with dolls when they have little natural impulse to do so, says Jake Wallis Simons

Ask any parent and the answer will be the same: it is nigh on impossible to make your children play with anything.

The more you encourage them to play with wooden building blocks, science kits or gender-neutral dolls, the more they will hanker after Barbies, princess dresses, video games and toy guns.

When I was a boy, for instance, my mother banned toy weapons in the house. But she relented when she realised that I was using sticks and other everyday objects to gun down baddies instead.

So it goes. But there is one type of parent who does not see things this way.

That’s right: the politician.

Yesterday, Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat business minister, said that boys should “get into the habit of care and nurture” by playing with dolls, so that they are more likely to work in the “adult care sector” when they grow up.

“That being seen as something that is just as appropriate for boys as for girls and men and women to be involved in is, I think, important,” she told the House of Commons during a debate about the potential shortages of professional carers.

It seems that in the Swinson household, children will play with what they are told to play with by central government.

It is worth noting that the MP’s son, Andrew, is just one year old; maybe she’ll realise her folly when he gets a little older.

Either way, the impracticality of her proposal is just the most obvious of its flaws. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Man-slamming: another reason to slam men (Telegraph)

First it was the way we sit, now it’s the way we walk. Radical feminists really don’t like men very much, says Jake Wallis Simons

Let’s start with a self-evident truth: men can be annoying.

It’s not exactly a controversial statement. In fact, it is constantly reiterated by many women, with comments like “don’t be such a man”, and “men just don’t get it”.

To be honest, they’re probably right. I find many men irritating, and I’m a man.

One way in which men can be annoying, for example, is “man-slamming”, which, according to New York magazine, happens when a woman doesn’t get out of a man’s way in the street.

Women can be annoying, too. Due to centuries of patriarchy, it is not acceptable for a man to say “don’t be such a women” or “women just don’t get it”. But what is true for one sex is true for the other: men and women are bound to annoy each other, because they are fundamentally different.

But a growing idea called “micro-aggression” seeks to take all the ways in which men can be annoying (such as “man-slamming”), and use them as ammunition in a feminist – or rather, an anti-man – struggle. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Fatherhood lessons won’t stop families breaking up (Telegraph)

The Government is rolling out special fatherhood lessons in areas with high rates of family breakdown. Jake Wallis Simons thinks the scheme is doomed to fail

It’s official: Britain’s teenagers are more likely to own a smartphone than have a father living at home.

This is the headline-grabbing discovery produced by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the think tank set up by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, the coalition Government’s staunchest supporter of marriage.

It found that 62 per cent of teenagers sitting their GCSEs own a smartphone, compared to only 57 per cent who are still living with both parents.

“This is a shocking reality, and I believe it cannot but have a negative impact on our society,” Mr Duncan Smith said.

“As a society, we must do more to nurture loving family relationships and encourage parental attachment.”

As surely as night follows day, a central-Government solution was proposed: Mr Duncan Smith has announced that a new crash course in fatherhood will be introduced nationwide.

Pilot projects will begin this year in Cheshire and Merseyside, the North East, London, East England and the Midlands, all areas with high rates of family breakdown.

From one point of view, this seems like a reasonable idea. The fact that two million children are growing up without a father living at home is worrying; if a series of lessons in fatherhood will help to reverse this trend, then surely that would be a good thing.

Sadly, however, it is unlikely to do so. The detail of the policy is so confused and poorly-conceived that it seems to be just another example of expensive gesture politics, and is unlikely to make any positive difference. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

It’s time to tell it like it is: the Serial podcast was rubbish (Telegraph)

Smug, petty, low-brow, plodding, voyeuristic and self-indulgent, the much-hyped Serial podcast doesn’t deserve the plaudits, says Jake Wallis Simons

I used to be a fan of This American Life.

For years, I would recommend the iconic NPR radio programme to my British friends, waxing lyrical about its innovative combination of everyday stories, off-the-cuff delivery, and knack for finding extraordinary narrative threads.

Recently, however, it has all changed. Legendary episodes like Parent Trap – which included an extraordinary segment about a chimpanzee who was raised as a human – have been replaced with pieces of petty whimsy in which painfully middle class Americans naval-gaze about An Experience I Once Had And What It May Have Meant.

The programme has become a parody of itself, with an absurdly stylisedIra Glass (the presenter) cooing in his nerdish, nasal way about such irrelevances as poultry. Seriously. Poultry.

Not only have I stopped evangelising about the show, I have even stopped listening to it, sticking instead to Radiolab, which – if you haven’t heard it – remains the best radio programme in the world, ever.

Then came Serial. Presented by Ira Glass’ second-in-command, Sarah Koenig, under the This American Life umbrella, it was a 12-part re-examination of a murder that occurred in 1999. Yes, 12 parts. So much so meh, right?

Wrong. The series rapidly clocked up a record-breaking five million downloads on iTunes, and was quickly hailed as the world’s most popular podcast. Even Radio 4 jumped on the bandwagon, gaining the rights to broadcast it simultaneously.

The Guardian called it “a truly remarkable piece of journalism”. The New York Times said it made “plenty of us drive a bit wobblier” and “feel the occasional tingle of campfire-narration awe”.

So, a week or two behind everybody else, I began to listen, allowing myself to expect great things. I even endured the juvenile tedium of the first few episodes, in the hope that something would “click” and I would see what all the fuss was about.

But I was sorely disappointed. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Parents: Stop lying to your kids about Santa (CNN)

It’s all very well to have Santa as a make-believe tradition, but many parents now go too far in fooling their kids into believing in him, says Jake Wallis Simons

Let’s play spot the villain.

On Monday, a group of children from Stalham Academy in Norfolk, UK, received an unexpected message in their Christmas sermon.

The Reverend Margaret McPhee, a trainee vicar, shared with them the simple truth that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

The real meaning of Christmas, she said, wasn’t Santa, Barbie and Xboxes. It was about the birth of the baby Jesus and the light that he brought to the world.

Parents were hyperbolically outraged. One posted on Facebook that McPhee had “put me off taking my children to church just in case something else gets said.”

This was the second such incident this month. A few weeks ago, when Father Dennis Higgins, a devoted, octogenarian Catholic priest, dared to — shock horror –tell children the truth at church, a local headmaster by the name of Brendan Hickey intervened.

“I want to reassure all Year Three pupils at St. Anne’s, and their parents, that I have personally spoken to Father Christmas and told him about what has happened,” he lied.

“He was sorry to hear about the confusion and has promised me that he will arrange for his elves to write to each of the children and reassure them that he will definitely be coming to visit them this Christmas.

So who are the real villains here? Father Dennis, Rev. McPhee and their inconvenient truth-telling? Or Hickey and the disgruntled parents?

In my view, anybody in their right mind will side with the clergy. Continue reading on the CNN website

Sky News: JWS and a parenting expert debate the “pinkification” of toys

Russell Brand and the politics of the male flesh flash (Telegraph Men)

The increasing trend for men to bare their skin sounds a death knell for the integrity of modern masculinity, writes Jake Wallis Simons

When it comes to offences against decency, Russell Brand does pretty well.

He published a book promoting Socialist revolution through the corporate giant Random House. He rails against millionaires making profit despite himself being one.

And, most recently, he accused the United States of being “the people who do ‘terror’ best” – just as Taliban gunmen murdered more than 100 children in Pakistan.

But his brazenness doesn’t stop there. Yes, reader, I’m talking about the effrontery that is his chest hair.

That awful open shirt is a sartorial reflection of everything that is wrong with masculinity today.

There it was on Question time, winking suggestively at the viewer like a triangle of boiled halibut that had been dropped on the floor of a barber’s shop.

Here I am, it said: you can’t look at me without looking at my bare chest. I’m imposing my chest upon you, just as I am imposing my half-baked opinions and nonsensical flights of metaphorical fancy.

It was, quite frankly, obscene. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg; Mr Brand is at the vanguard of a trend for male flesh flashing that all right-thinking people must oppose.

Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Sydney siege reveals the hidden face of Islamic extremism down under: Disturbing rise of plots in ‘soft target’ Australia (from MailOnline)

  • A beheading plot foiled by police in September was planned to take place just yards from the Lindt cafe, where hostages are now being held
  • 800 police raided homes across Australia in September – arresting 15 people linked to a plot to behead a member of the public in Sydney
  • At least 70 from Australia fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq
  • 185 Australians now thought to have links with fanatics in the Middle East 

The Sydney siege has thrown a spotlight on the disturbing growth of terror threats in Australia in recent months, with one expert claiming that the country is being targeted because it is a ‘soft target’.

‘I suspect that cities in Australia or Canada are seen as relatively soft targets, compared with London where you can’t turn a corner without seeing a heavily armed policeman nowadays,’ said historian Michael Burleigh.

In September, Australian police carried out the largest counter-terrorism raids in the country’s history, after uncovering an alleged plot to behead a member of the public just yards away from the Lindt cafe that is currently under siege… Continue reading on the MailOnline website