The dinner party is in decline, but where will we get our gossip?

Comment

Opinion digest: the decline of the dinner party, economic incompetence, and demonising welfare

LAST UPDATED AT 11:09 ON Fri 18 May 2012

EVERY weekday morning from The Week online - a daily wrap-up of the best comment and opinion articles from the morning papers and the top political bloggers. If you think we've missed a good one, please let us know. Contact us via Twitter @TheWeekUK.
 
THANK GOD THE AGONISING DINNER RITUAL IS DYING
TOM UTLEY AGAINST DINNER PARTIES 
Let's cheer the decline of the British Middle-Class Dinner Party, says Tom Utley in the Daily Mail. A YouGov survey this week finds that 40 per cent of Britons have stopped hosting these gruesome ceremonies because of their crippling expense in this age of austerity. Good riddance to the studiedly casual phone call to invite people over, the panic over what to wear and the inevitable culinary mishap because you have to cook something fancy. Goodbye to that "smart Alec at the table, who says something risqué or crass and then smiles smugly as if he's the reincarnation of Oscar Wilde". I'm not blaming the smart Alec. "The fault lies with the elaborate, unwritten rules which insist that everyone should behave in a wholly artificial way and make pronouncements on the great issues of the day". How about a nice, relaxed drink or two in the pub instead?
 
IT'S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD, IT'S ABOUT THE CONVERSATION
LISA MARKWELL DEFENDS DINNER PARTIES 
Looking at the dirty dishes after a mid-week dinner party, I'm inclined to agree with the YouGov survey that says we're abandoning the ritual because we can't face the hassle or expense, says Lisa Markwell in The Independent. Yes they can be costly, and there's the performance anxiety of trying to compete with cooking shows. But "there's something dispiriting about the idea of people across Britain sitting quietly in their kitchens, eating alone, as the age of the dinner party passes into history". Dinner parties, whether formal affairs or casual kitchen suppers, "are part of the fabric of society". They're not even really about the food. Yes, we can follow our friends on Twitter to catch their witty verdict on The Bridge, "but there's no satisfactory replacement for actual conversation" - the type that meanders from politics to gossip. Without dinner parties "the social discourse disappears."
 
OBVIOUSLY, THE ECONOMICS EXPERTS KNOW NOTHING
HUGO RIFKIND ON THE EURO CRISIS 
Somewhere among the voices screaming for our attention about the euro crisis, somebody may well be right, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. But how are we supposed to distinguish between the people who say Greece should leave the euro and the people who say it should not? The political crisis embedded in the eurozone meltdown is not merely one of sovereignty, of democratically elected governments having no control over their currencies. It's also one of competence. Crises can be educational. I've learnt a lot about how the eurozone and global finance actually works, but "it's only served to make me a slightly better informed class of idiot". Many of us have ignored economics while the technocrats in back rooms were shaping the world. But now we're paying attention we've discovered that these secret rules of everything "are just as flawed and full of it as everybody else".
 
HATRED OF THOSE ON BENEFITS IS OUT OF CONTROL
OWEN JONES ON WELFARE  
Hatred against those receiving benefits is out of control in Cameron's Britain, says Owen Jones in The Independent. The killing of the six Philpott children in a house fire was described by right-wing shock-jock Carole Malone as "an accident waiting to happen" on national television because they came from a family of 17 on benefits. The implication is that they were unpopular because they received welfare. As contemptible as Malone's attitude is, it merely reflects prejudice that is increasingly rampant in austerity Britain. "The Tories transformed a crisis of capitalism into a crisis of public spending." But taking away support from the disabled, the unemployed and the working poor is not straightforward. "It can only be achieved by a campaign of demonisation." The Government and much of the media divert anger from those who caused the crisis to your "scrounging" neighbour. It's shameful and must be challenged. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.