Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Spiked-on-Line and Stephen Potter: The Praxis of Lifemanship.

with 10 comments

Image result for Lifemanship potter

Spiked-on-Line’s Manual.

“Soros does not believe in the legitimacy of borders nor in the authority of national electorates. Consequently he feels entitled to influence and if possible direct the political destiny of societies all over the world. “

The Telegraph  Living Marxism (LM).

They claim that the headline of the Telegraph piece is an anti-Semitic trope: it says Soros is ‘backing secret plot to thwart Brexit.’ That’s anti-Semitic? That would be a more convincing argument if the Telegraph and others hadn’t also regularly written about other plots – of which there are many! – to overthrow the democratic vote for Brexit, including those that do not involve donations from billionaires who happen to be Jewish.

Brendan O’Neill. Spiked on Line.

Nick Timothy liked the story so much he re-tweeted it.



The role of Spiked-on-Line in the hate campaign against Soros has received attention on the left for the simple reason that this group, with origins on the far-left, is now popping up all over the right wing (not to say far-right)  British press.

They are above all celebrated as “contrarians”.

Brendan O’Neill in particular.

Having left behind Marxism, Socialism and indeed any form of the left, the crew have found a new ‘look me up to’ in the works of Stephen Potter.

Potter (whose books, it goes without saying are on all serious leftists’ shelves) is best known for this,

It was the first of his series of books purporting to teach ploys for manipulating one’s associates, making them feel inferior and thus gaining the status of being one-up on them. From this book, the term “Gamesmanship” entered the English language. Potter said that he was introduced to the technique by C. E. M. Joad during a game of tennis in which Joad and Potter were struggling against two fit young students. Joad politely requested the students to state clearly whether a ball had landed in or out (when in truth it was so obviously out that they had not thought it necessary to say so). This nonplussed the students, who wondered if their sportsmanship was in question; they became so edgy that they lost the match.

But that is not the end of the method.

Sport is only one case of always being “one up” on your opponents.

The Master defined the objective, “How to be one up – how to make the other man feel that something has gone wrong, however slightly.” Or, if you “are not one up, you are one down”.

Rosie Bell once outlined a key aspect of  the Potter praxis:

In his series Lifemanship (1950)  Stephen Potter invented a reviewer called Hope-Tipping who, in order to make a splash, would take a writer to task for not doing something he was famous for,  e.g. accuse D H Lawrence of showing  a neglect of “the consciousness of sexual relationship, the male and female element in life”.   So Hope-Tipping would be severely disappointed with Irving Welsh’s lack of interest in Edinburgh’s low life and he would castigate Dick Francis for not drawing on his knowledge of horses and horse-racing

The advice for what Potter called “Newstatesmaning”, that is reviewing, is at the centre of Spiked on Line’s approach. Sitting down with a dog-eared copy of the book and its sequel, One-Upmanship: Being Some Account of the Activities and Teachings of the Lifemanship Correspondence College of One-Upness and Games Lifemastery (1952) the team can write any number of articles.

The New Statesman writer Jonn Elledge recently found a few, or rescued them from the waste bin,

The campaign against the so-called “Black Death” has exposed the liberals’ true agenda.

The misogyny of the Suffragettes.

The witch-hunting of Jack the Ripper

There is are tired and trusted techniques. A master stroke is “Yes, but not in the South”, which “with slight adjustments, will do for any argument about any place, if not about any person and render any of your opponents’ assertions suspect.

There has been much justified celebration this week of that historic enfranchisement of around 8.4million mainly middle-class women. Far less attention has been paid to the other victory for democracy in the 1918 Act – the granting of the vote to virtually all males aged over 21, which enfranchised some 5.6million working-class men for the first time.

That side of the Act does not fit the fashionable script, which depicts the democratic victory of February 1918 as a triumph for modern feminism.

Mick Hume Spiked on Line 7th of February 2018

Or to imply that you are somehow in the highest realm of intellectual debate, but that you are also in touch with the common taste – lowbrowmanship.

2018 heralds the 80th anniversary of the longest running comic book in history – the Beano. For generations, working-class kids have grown up with the characters in the Beano. And supreme among them is the eternally naughty 10-year-old, Dennis the Menace, who first appeared on 12 March 1951.

Denis Hayes. Spiked on Line.  4th of January 2018.

Unfortunately if we thought that the professional contrarians were a joke they have their admirers, from Sky News, to here:





10 Responses

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  1. Thinking about my days as an RCP supporter, I’d go so far as to say that this ‘one-upmanship’ was the leitmotif of the party’s way of working, which is why so many of the party’s cadres, irrespective of their social background, behaved like pushy head-girls and bossy prefects from posh schools. We were pretty much into contrarianism back then, trying to be different, having a unique selling-point, although once or twice we actually got it right, although whether more by luck than judgement I’d not like to guess.

    Funny, isn’t it, that the content has changed, but the form remains constant. A neat trick of the dialectic, nicely performed by the English royal family over 300 years back.

    Dr Paul

    February 10, 2018 at 2:18 pm

  2. very important piece. thank you for sharing. There is a Calvinistic trope in modern society which seeks to deny free speech by labeling . We must try to stop this lurch to a fascist society, where everyone’s views can be undermined by a slogan.


    February 10, 2018 at 2:23 pm

  3. What’s sick about the whole thing is that the Fidesz government’s campaign against Soros in Hungary is blatantly anti-Semitic — and Frank F, being Hungarian, would know this.

    I’m not saying that Timothy Nick’s intervention in the debate here is based upon specifically anti-Jewish conspiracy notions; after all, anti-Jewish conspiracy arguments have the same methodology as ones that don’t blame ‘The Jews’ for the evils of the world (the methodology of the Learned Protocols is much the same as conservative anti-left theories of radicals stirring up the thick masses for their own evil ends), but there are nudge-nudge, wink-wink ‘Rothschilds’-style undercurrents to the campaign against Soros’ intervention in the EU debate.

    It is most ironic that Spiked, having bitten deeply into the rotten ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’ canard, either won’t or can’t recognise genuine anti-Semitism when it oozes out of the woodwork.

    Dr Paul

    February 10, 2018 at 2:39 pm

  4. Andrew Coates

    February 10, 2018 at 5:17 pm

  5. I read the two article in The Sun that your gave references to and can’t see anything wrong with either. Mind you I,m not and have never been politically correct. The interview with Afua Hirsh in The Sunday Times today is interesting. She’s more or less admitted she’s made the whole oppressed bit up. Well she has to otherwise she’d be out of a job! I use the word job in its loosest possible context here of course.

    Dave Roberts

    February 11, 2018 at 12:25 pm

  6. Spiked await your contribution!

    Andrew Coates

    February 11, 2018 at 1:33 pm

  7. Potter’s “Gamesmanship” series inspired the movie “School for Scoundrels” where there was indeed a tennis match played.

    John Rogan

    February 11, 2018 at 5:45 pm

  8. Why would Spiked want a contribution from me? Because I am opposed political correctness and snowflakes doesn’t mean I agree with Spiked. They could be accused of agreeing with me! By and large the are a bunch of loony Trots who, once in a while, get something right! Their position on Bosnia was, and I suspect still is, disgusting. I hope you aren’t offended by this and that I haven’t invaded your personal space!

    Dave Roberts

    February 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm

  9. To Dave: hard cheese, old man!

    Jim Denham

    February 12, 2018 at 10:34 am

  10. There is a learned debate on Facebook as to the origins of the Spiked ‘dialectic’, some (the Coatesites) say it comes from the unjustly neglected oeuvre of Stephen Potter’s problématique of ‘Oneupmanship”.

    Jim, having delved into Judith Butler, and gender performative acts, reckon they are “petty bourgeois wankers”.

    I believe that Shiraz’s latest analysis then adds a richly researched paper axed in the syntagmatic striations of ” band sluts”.

    Spiked Online: a bunch of petty bourgeois wankers.


    Andrew Coates

    February 12, 2018 at 1:03 pm

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