‘Unprecedented’ is the ultimate hard-on word that overexcited political reporters are fond of using whenever they want to up the dramatic ante; but in this particular case it really is unavoidable. Yes, these are elections to the European Parliament and, let’s be honest: many don’t normally even bother to register their vote, and MEPs (bar Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan) are usually the most anonymous politicians in the country. But it’s worth remembering this has been the first occasion since the 2017 General Election that the British electorate have had clear Leave and Remain choices on the ballot paper, and the electorate have responded accordingly. The Brexit Party won in all the English regions bar London and also won Wales, even finishing runners-up to the SNP north of the border. When one takes into account the fact that the Brexit Party is only six weeks old, the comprehensive victory it has achieved is genuinely…well…unprecedented. 38% of the vote, 29 MEPs – remarkable.

The rapid rise of the Brexit Party and the resurgence of the Lib Dems – the only political parties (in England, at least) whose intentions are blatantly honest – can be seen as both a rejection of doublethink spin and as further evidence of electoral dissatisfaction with Labour and the Tories. The 2016 ballot paper provided the visitor to the polling booth with a straightforward in/out choice, and the public mood is still one that sees the most divisive issue of our times in simple black & white terms; despite ongoing attempts by the two main parties to wrap it in endless complexities as an example of how they’re clever and we’re not, voters in the European Elections have kept it simple, and who they chose to vote for reflects this. They either want to leave or they want to remain – just like they did three years ago. The fact the majority opted for the former in 2016 and yet we still haven’t left means a degree in rocket science isn’t necessary when wondering why a party that didn’t even exist a couple of months ago has swept the Brussels board.

Political divisions in Britain for a hundred years or more have been between left and right or Labour and Conservative – ideological and party allegiances that have shaped the landscape. Yet we now appear to have returned to the factions and groupings of the 18th century, whereas instead of being a Whig or a Tory, you’re now a Brexiteer or a Remainer – and whether you happen to lean to the left or dress to the right has no bearing on that. Granted, old habits find dying harder come a General Election, but the outcome of this Euro vote we shouldn’t even have taken part in has demonstrated – far more than the recent local results – just how much tradition has gone for a Burton. Yes, protest votes have always been a way of venting a grievance with one’s preferred party in a local or by-election; but to have so many prominent mouthpieces for both Labour and the Conservatives openly declaring they would vote against their own parties has been a notable departure from the script, especially considering how both are in such dire need of a cuddle from old friends.

It has to be said, the Lib Dems deserve credit for the way in which they have capitalised on the mixed messages coming from the big two and have essentially reinvented and rebranded themselves as the Remain Party. ‘Stop Brexit’ (if you live in a home-owning neighbourhood) and ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ (if you emanate from a council estate) have been their short, snappy slogans in a campaign they have managed with unexpectedly canny genius. They picked up on the fact that the public wanted straight-talking and, seeing how Leavers suddenly had a focus with the swift formation of Farage’s colourful coalition, they gave Remainers a party of their own too.

Even the anticipated splitting of the Remain vote via the conceited deserters formerly known as TIG failed to materialise; the spectacular failure of the vanity project that is Change UK (and is it mere coincidence that their name when abbreviated reads as ‘CHUK’?) has been the sole crumb of comfort for the Conservatives as this pitiful party, along with the obliterated UKIP, has at least given Tories someone to look down on from the depths of the relegation zone they now languish in. Were any of the Change UK MPs to give their constituents the chance to comment on their defection from the parties they stood for in 2017, I wonder how many would be returned to Parliament? The likelihood of any by-elections in those constituencies seems more remote than ever today.

Not that anyone was expecting unbiased reporting, but the BBC coverage of the election results not only saw amusing straw-clutching when desperately combining all non-Brexit Party votes as evidence that the country now favours Remain; there was also the persistent and irritating inference that all Brexit Party votes were gained via a simple transfusion from UKIP – as though the party was Milton Keynes Dons inheriting the history and club records of Wimbledon FC and it was all down to mere rebranding. Well, to use the language of the Lib Dems, bollocks. The Brexit Party isn’t simply UKIP under another name. It may well have sucked-up the share of the vote that went to Farage’s former vehicle five years ago, but by presenting itself as the only unambiguous option available to Leavers, the party has attracted thousands of disillusioned Labour and Tory voters who have simmered and seethed when watching the MPs they voted into office two years ago either dither or deliberately obstruct the implementation of something they swore they would honour.

With 11 of the UK’s 12 regions declared at the time of writing, the only areas in which the Brexit Party failed to win the most votes were Scotland and London – yet, even in the Labour-centric capital, it was the Lib Dems rather than Corbyn’s crew that topped the table, amusingly hitting No.1 in the Islington charts as well. It was a disastrous night for Labour – pushed into third place in Wales and falling behind the Greens in the East of England as well as the South East and the South West. The piss-poor showing by Labour will heap further pressure on beleaguered Jezza by the Watson/Starmer/Thornberry Remainer triumvirate to go all-out for a second referendum strategy, which should play out well in the party’s old northern strongholds. But maybe it’s already too late; Labour have spent so long sitting on that fence that the Lib Dems have steamed ahead as the party of Remain and look set to…erm…remain.

As for the Tories, well, was anyone really surprised? The Conservatives didn’t win a single area and cannot finish any higher than fifth place when all the nationwide votes are tallied; the party can now boast a paltry four MEPs following a record low of 9.1% share of the vote; it’s the worst result in the party’s history – ever; and the Tories have a longer history than any other political party. Whoever succeeds Theresa May not only has to contend with the ever-present albeit largely imaginary threat of Corbyn; he/she also has to contend with the far more realistic threat of Nigel Farage…again – and look what that threat did to the Tories three years ago.

© The Editor


Okay, I don’t doubt our favourite pocket Trotsky Owen Jones has already expressed the same sentiments; but it’s pretty hard to avoid remembering there were no public tears for the 72 lives lost in the Grenfell Tower inferno, no public tears for the pensioners deported to the West Indies after half-a-century as British residents, and no public tears for the sick pushed to the brink by benefits sanctions. Instead, Theresa saved her public tears for Theresa. I don’t believe public tears have a place in public life, anyway; but if you’re going to cry on camera, at least do it for something other than self-pity. Perhaps the soon-to-be ex-Prime Minster belatedly realised her own limitations and the shocking realisation overwhelmed her. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

As was confirmed by a scientific study earlier in the week, those cursed with overconfidence severely overestimate their own abilities. Not only that; they are also incapable of recognising incompetence in themselves and instinctively blame their own failings on those around them. Theresa May’s tunnel-vision persistence in repeatedly pushing her Brexit bill through Parliament and paying no heed to the fact that the majority of MPs kept rejecting it was an action characteristic of an individual afflicted with this syndrome, one so prevalent in her profession.

May’s bunker mentality the day before finally putting the country (and her career) out of its misery also spoke volumes; the prospect of being confronted by colleagues telling her what she couldn’t even admit to herself was something she evidently couldn’t handle; and so she shut up shop until eventually emerging before the machinegun-fire of the flashbulbs yesterday to announce she was resigning. It was a bit like someone rushing up to you and excitedly telling you the final score of a football match you’d watched on TV months ago. We were all there long before she was.

Theresa May is now poised to take her place on numerous unenviable lists. She joins the likes of Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, Alec Douglas-Home, Jim Callaghan and Gordon Brown as being a Prime Minister whose tenure at No.10 numbered three years or less. She also joins the likes of Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and Iain Duncan Smith as a Tory leader forced to fall on her sword by her own party. And, of course, she joins several names featuring on both lists as arguably the worst holder of her office in recent history. Even Prime Ministers whose most notable legacies are extremely contentious ones – Heath taking us into Europe and Cameron kick-starting the process of taking us out, to name but two – still managed to achieve something, regardless of how divisive those achievements remain. Theresa May has achieved nothing other than making a bad situation even worse than it was when she began.

There’s been much talk of ‘pressure’ via the media post-mortems over the last 24 hours – and when one thinks of Mrs May’s haggard appearance and borderline Bonnie Tyler rasp, it’s undeniable the stress of the job has left its mark on her. But we shouldn’t forget Theresa May didn’t become Prime Minister by accident; she went for it; she wanted it. It was her choice to run for the Tory leadership, knowing she would be PM if she won it and that the chalice passed on by her predecessor was so poisoned it was practically radioactive. Sympathy should be reserved for those who have no part to play in their misfortunes, not those who actively put themselves in a position that serves as an invitation to misfortune. One can only really pity Theresa May to any extent if one believes her delusional faith in her capabilities to do the job she grabbed with both hands is a character trait worthy of pity.

The limitations of this personality-free zone lacking the charisma and communication skills so crucial to leading both a political party and the nation were never better exposed than during the memorable car-crash of the 2017 General Election campaign. It was clear then that here was a person incurably shy, awkward and uncomfortable when under the unforgiving media spotlight; fair enough – not everybody is suited for that spotlight. But, as with a member of the public voluntarily standing before the Cowell panel, Theresa May knew the rules when she entered the game; she can’t then court sympathy when she’s caught out. An unimaginative box-ticking book-keeper happier maintaining mystique and avoiding public scrutiny can function fine in the Westminster shadows, but you can’t switch on the lights and expect them to suddenly transform into a showman like Tony Blair. You might have been able to get away with it a century ago, but in this day and age?

For a vicar’s daughter who once stood before her own party members and belatedly informed them that everyone outside Conservative circles viewed them as ‘nasty’, Theresa May’s six years as Home Secretary didn’t demonstrate much in the way of Christian charity. In 2013, lest we forget, she sanctioned those infamous vans bearing advertising hoardings ordering illegal immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest’, touring London boroughs with a high ethnic population in the same way the National Front used to target specific neighbourhoods to march through. This was scaremongering on a scale even Nigel Farage has never managed; we should remember Theresa May has played her own not-insignificant part in fostering the current hostile climate politicians are now so prone to decrying as if they were entirely blameless. Her disastrous three years as PM and her humiliating, undignified exit could be seen as a form of payback; and the supply of sympathy for her is probably as short in clubs that cater for golfers as much as clubs that cater for working-men.

One could try to be magnanimous in the face of an individual’s evident anguish as her failings finally catch up with her – especially when those loathsome members of the Cabinet issuing hollow tributes to the boss whose dwindling authority they undermined at every opportunity have been openly (and shamelessly) jostling for her job for months. But the closing chapter of this sorry saga was written the same day as its author proclaimed ‘Once upon a time’. Watching a Remainer like May pretending to implement something so opposed to her ideology was akin to watching a match-fixing goalkeeper trying to make the goals he throws in the back of the net look like accidents. She’s got another month-and-a-bit as our alleged PM, but the reign is over; and in the event of the favourite winning the race to step into her kitten heels, we have the prospect of a tenant at No.10 from whom no one in their right mind would buy a used car. To paraphrase a far more distinguished predecessor, this ain’t the beginning of the end – more like the end of the beginning.

© The Editor


I suppose a turd can only be polished so many times before it’s worn down into nothing, even if the turd that Theresa May has been polishing for what feels like a lifetime wasn’t exactly a prize-winning stool to begin with. You have to hand it to the Prime Minister, though; she keeps polishing away with her duster and can of Mr Sheen, determined the whole country will see its reflection in it sooner or later; trouble is, that turd has only ever shown her reflection, which is apt for a woman who is undoubtedly the shittest holder of her office in living memory. Well, if you can’t be blunt now, eh?

On Tuesday, just 48 hours away from another anticipated annihilation at the polling station, the chronically deluded Mrs May unveiled her revised strategy for finally getting her useless EU withdrawal deal through Parliament; and she’s surpassed herself yet again, alienating everybody she desperately tried to woo with another series of opportunistic promises that will never be delivered and everyone can see through. At times, her behaviour reminds me of a doomed gambler owing a fortune to a mobster that the debt collector knows cannot be paid, offering everything but the kitchen sink in the absence of cash. ‘Take the HD TV set – I’ve only had it six months and it cost a fortune; take my car – it’s worth five grand, easily; take my watch, my mother’s engagement ring, the shirt off my back…’ BANG!

Ironically, Theresa May has at last achieved something that has seemed impossible for the past couple of years: she’s actually united the Commons. Unfortunately for her, she’s united it in opposition. Labour, the SNP, the DUP, the Lib Dems, the Greens, and the majority of her own party – all united against what must surely be the final despairing throw of the dice for this embarrassingly hapless and hopeless Prime Minister. Brexiteers and Remainers alike have turned their noses up at the latest add-ons to the same old deal, the deal that has been rejected so many times that it’s hard to remember which occasions promised which bribes. On one of them, she said she’d quit if it got through; on another, she said the magic money tree in the Downing Street garden would sprout a few notes for deprived communities Oop North if it got through; now, she’s even stooped so low as offer a vote on a second referendum if it gets through, one more U-turn for the book. And nobody is buying it.

After six futile weeks of beer & sandwiches chinwags with Labour that resulted in bugger all, May has publicly announced Corbyn-flavoured compromises I suspect she tried out behind closed doors – workers’ rights, environmental protection, customs union, and (of course) second referendum – yet the response from the Opposition is the same. John McDonnell had a valid point when he compared entering into an agreement with this Government to signing a contract with a company poised to go into administration. Their word is no bond at all because they are on the verge of collapse, and any agreement would be null and void before the ink had even dried. Everyone bar our lame duck leader can see it. She has changed nobody’s mind with this week’s model; by the evening following yesterday’s announcement, not one MP who was opposed to the deal last time round had declared their conversion to the PM’s way of thinking and promised to vote differently.

All of this was pretty inevitable, however. The disastrous gamble of the 2017 General Election was evidence enough that Mrs May was out of her depth on a scale unseen since old Turnip Taylor’s memorably woeful stint as England manager in the early 90s. The Tories did not like that, but when they had their opportunity to oust May last December, they bottled it; the absence of an outstanding candidate to replace her and perennial fear of Jezza grabbing the keys to No.10 persuaded the party to retain a leader too obstinate and perhaps too stupid to realise its decision was not motivated by any faith in her ability to get the job done. Most of this could have been prevented, but the Conservative Party is now paying the price for its failure to show May the door.

The Ghost of Referendums Past in the shape of Mr Milkshake himself has returned to haunt the Tories and send them plummeting to the bottom of virtually every poll published over the last month or so; May had already alienated the party’s blue-rinsed backbone with certain polices outlined in the 2017 manifesto, but diehard Tory voters are now abandoning their traditional voting preferences handed down like family heirlooms and are flocking in their droves to a party that wouldn’t need to exist had Mrs May and her unruly underlings honoured the Referendum result as they told us they would two years ago. Should Theresa May’s pitiful premiership ever lay claim to a ‘legacy’ once it’s put out of its misery, chances are that legacy will be the Brexit Party.

Right now, there appear to be just two parties unashamedly honest in their intentions – Farage’s lot and Old Mother Cable’s wet blankets. The Lib Dem’s ‘Stop Brexit’ posts dotted around suburban grass verges – or indeed their attempt at wooing the proles, ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ – is a rare example of plain-speaking in a political culture wracked with doublethink rhetoric. At least the Lib Dems aren’t masking their Remoaner agenda in unconvincing pretensions to a ‘Brexit for all’ fantasy; that’s been half the problem with May, not to mention Corbyn’s crowd, which is why both are being deserted by once-loyal constituencies that voted Leave in 2016. This is a mess entirely of the political class’s making, and the fact so many members of it still don’t understand – either by demanding a second referendum or simply pretending nobody can discern the fact they’re Remainers in Leave clothing – not only shows they have learnt nothing but that they are utterly incapable of learning anything.

The political class and their ideological allies, the media class, can see the writing on the wall, but they don’t want to read it; so, they resort to clutching at any straw they can magic-up. Indulging in daily smears against their opponents or ordering an investigation into the Brexit Party’s funding that has found no evidence of wrongdoing any different from the far-from saintly way most political parties are funded – none of these tired tactics are working for anyone other than Farage. Every dairy-based beverage aimed in his direction only serves to guarantee another dozen votes for his party come tomorrow; the political and media classes are pouring petrol on the bonfire and can’t figure out why their actions aren’t putting out the flames.

Presiding over the longest unbroken parliament since the English Civil War, Theresa May and her rump rabble will one day give us a cracking six-part Sunday night serial, for the Watergate factor of government-in-meltdown makes for a far more engrossing drama than one about an administration winning landslides. There’s never been a shortage of dramatisations of Thatcher’s fall from power, for example; but who would want to watch one based around the 1987 General Election? At this moment in time, however, we aren’t watching the meltdown of May from the distance of decades and wondering if they picked the right cast to play her motley crew; it’s happening for real right in front of us – and the only definite outcome of this drama is that Theresa is toast.

© The Editor


No wonder no one knows where we stand with Europe. Two European club competitions and the finals of both are being contested between English teams – Liverpool Vs Spurs in the Champions League (formerly known as the European Cup) and Arsenal Vs Chelsea in the Europa League (formerly known as the UEFA Cup), the first time four teams from the same nation have filled the two European finals of what those nice people at the BBC and the Grauniad insist we refer to as ‘the men’s game’; and yet none of the four teams in question are our peerless domestic treble victors, Manchester City. On the same day City thrashed Watford 6-0 – registering the largest winning margin in an FA Cup Final for over a century – the man flying the flag for the UK on the Continent crashed and burned all the way to the bottom of the heap in Tel Aviv.

Earlier in the day (maybe as a means of subconscious preparation), I watched the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in full on YouTube – yes, and I have indeed lived to tell the tale. Held at the Brighton Dome, 1974 was the year four Swedes famously captured the crown; but over-exposure to Abba’s win with ‘Waterloo’ had made me ignorant of other entries that would perhaps have won in any other year, such as the exquisite ‘Si’ by Italy’s Gigliola Cinquetti, up there with ‘L’amour est bleu’ by Vicky Leandros in 1967 as arguably the best Eurovision song never to have won the Eurovision.

1974 was a time when the Eurovision was still an MOR showbiz showcase for all the family, held in theatres in which evening dress appeared to be compulsory, and presented by a middle-aged lady looking like a Home Counties hostess at a W.I. Tory Party fundraiser. But the tournament was very much in transitional mode 45 years ago – trapped between the post-‘Puppet on a String’ oompah formula whilst simultaneously trying to capture the Glam Rock spirit of the moment, falling into a strange limbo with one foot in both camps yet being at home in neither. Despite this uneasy mix, the 1974 contest when viewed in its entirety remains a relentlessly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

At some point in the 90s, the Eurovision finally surrendered its last lingering pretensions to be taken seriously, with the rather stiff commentary of David Vine in 1974 superseded by the increasingly arch observations of Terry Wogan. But in losing its terminally unfashionable image, it was gradually reinvented as a camp, kitsch (and rather gay) carnival. The 1998 transgender triumph of Israel’s Dana International, paving the way for the 2014 win of Austria’s ‘bearded lady’ Conchita Wurst, was a landmark example of the event’s repositioning as a celebration of pan-European ‘diversity’. Those whose previous platform could have been the likes of the Alternative Miss World drag-fest or Channel 4’s late-night 90s cult hit, ‘Euro Trash’, now had a near-global outlet in which a style of outré entertainment that had always inhabited the fringes could be belatedly normalised.

Regardless of the contest’s eternal irrelevance in the USA, the huge viewing figures it can command across Europe (and, lest we forget, Australasia) were tempting enough to persuade long-time Dorothy acquaintance Madonna to take part as an interval act last night. Having lost touch with the career of an artist I once kept tabs on for decades, I watched Madonna’s somewhat shaky performance of ‘Like A Prayer’ with interest, and despite the dodgy ‘Sunday Night at the Palladium’ effect of a once-important act reduced to reliving past glories at a glitzy variety show, Madonna actually appeared to have found her natural (rest) home, like Elvis settling in Vegas when the 60s were at their revolutionary height.

The voting section of the programme used to be my favourite part, but the sheer volume of participating nations today has cut short requests for the results of the respective juries; the show seemed to quickly zoom through presenter banter with satellite-linked announcers standing in front of a superimposed capital city backdrop and headed straight onto the outcome of ‘The People’s Vote’. This new innovation saw the pattern of the ‘professional’ juries turned upside down as the viewer’s voting significantly altered the scoreboard when it was added to those votes already counted at the climax of the programme. North Macedonia had built up a good lead that was then completely overturned while the UK’s representative, Michael Rice, stopped hovering hopefully above the relegation zone and sank to rock bottom. At least Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran finished runners-up with an entry of that name in 1977 rather than 26th out of 26.

One would imagine Europe had learnt not to sanction any form of ‘people’s vote’, as such gifts bestowed by rulers upon ruled have a habit of deviating from the script; but the outcome of Eurovision 2019 was very much decided by ‘The People’ – and they chose the Netherlands for the first time since 1975. Bar the traditional Greece/Cyprus love-in, there didn’t appear to be much of the political bias that has marred the voting procedure in recent years; even Russia received a cheer this time round, but it paid to remember the precise location of this year’s Contest and the contentious issues outside of the Eurovision bubble. Perhaps everyone was more than a little sensitive to these issues to resist using the event for making a point – with the exception of Iceland’s bizarre entry flashing a few Palestinian scarves in the green-room.

Another interesting difference between the Eurovision of 45 years ago and today was the way in which every measly point tossed in the direction of the UK last night was received with somewhat pathetic gratitude. The British entry in 1974 – Olivia Newton-John – finished fourth with the dismally plodding ‘Long Live Love’, yet this result was no doubt greeted at the time as a national humiliation for a country accustomed to at least managing second place (as we have on fifteen separate occasions). In 2019, the ‘plucky Brit’ bollocks that has its roots in Eddie the Eagle means we settle for finishing in last place with a shrug of the shoulders; we expected no better even before the latest ‘X-Factor’ leftover delivered his forgettable ditty like a shy child hoping for relieved parental applause when overcoming nerves to mumble his one line at the school nativity play.

So, we are simultaneously the masters of Europe (in football) and its laughing stock (in pop). There’s a point to be made somewhere in there when it comes to this country’s attitude towards the Continent and Europe’s attitude towards us, but I fear it could be lost in translation; perhaps Massiel, the Spanish entry of 1968 – whose controversial win over Cliff’s ‘Congratulations’ was allegedly aided by General Franco – got it right when she kept it simple. La, la, la…

© The Editor


‘Community’, like many words, has changed its meaning somewhat over the last few decades. At one time, community used to be a geographical term, one generally applied to describe the mixed residents of a neighbourhood, town, city or county. By contrast, today it seems every niche interest or lifestyle can lay claim to the word, and everyone who subscribes to an approved social demographic has its own community on the 21st century bus-route. Over-familiar phrases such as ‘The LGBT Community’ or ‘The Muslim Community’ to some appear a tad patronising, assuming anyone who happens to fall into one of these categories is somehow the member of an exclusive tribe; and each tribe appears to regard mere membership itself as the defining characteristic of its members. The proliferation of self-contained groups that refer to themselves as communities may give comfort to those who seek like-minds, but it often feels like the definition of the word has been narrowed in the process.

Forty-five years ago, when community still retained its earlier, far broader meaning, the prevalent distinctions between different parts of the country were perceived to be at risk from the threat of nationwide homogenisation; the Wilson Government had already ring-fenced the Welsh language at a time when it was verging on extinction, and moves were afoot to consciously reinforce regional identity throughout the UK via a revived medium. With the challenge of the pirates still fresh in the ears of listeners, the broadcasting stranglehold of the BBC was belatedly broken in government-sanctioned fashion by the arrival of Independent Local Radio. This was commercial television’s audio offshoot, one that transformed the ITA into the IBA and began to spread like a wireless virus across the country following the 1973 debut of LBC and Capital Radio in London.

BBC local radio had arrived in the aftermath of the network station reorganisation in 1967, but had largely been a rather conservative enterprise, appealing mainly to pensioners and followers of local football teams. Here was a more dynamic, perhaps more American notion of a radio station, however – built around a top 40 playlist peppered with programmes designed with the locality in mind and ads unique to the area covered by the transmitter. As with the individual ITV franchise holders of the era, loyalty to the region in question was fostered with these ILR stations; indeed, it was partly their raison d’être. Their very names reflected the regions they broadcasted to, usually named after a geographical feature, such as a river – Radio Clyde (Glasgow), Radio Orwell (Ipswich), Radio Trent (Nottingham), Radio Tees (Stockton), and Radio Aire (Leeds) being notable examples.

There was a deliberate effort on the part of these new additions to the local landscape to represent the areas they transmitted to with pride, appealing to the community spirit in listeners to keep them from turning to the national BBC stations. At times, the aping of the Radio 1 style with a regional twist could be hopelessly naff; promotional material featuring DJs looking like Tony Blackburn tribute acts were abundant in the pages of the IBA’s annual ‘Television and Radio’ guidebook, and the mid-Atlantic accent often sat uncomfortably alongside regional dialect on the airwaves – a factor that was fictionalised with shrewd accuracy in the shape of Bristol-based Radio West on BBC TV’s ‘Shoestring’. But the ILR operation nonetheless gave every impression of being a success by the sheer number of stations that began to appear.

Between 1974 and 1976, no less than sixteen ILR stations opened; there was then a four-year sabbatical before further expansion from 1980 onwards. Over the next seven years, a staggering 38 more ILR stations were added to the roll-call, so that by the end of the 80s, virtually every old-school ‘community’ was commercially catered for. And then it all came to a shuddering halt with Margaret Thatcher’s final fixing of an unbroken system before the Poll Tax called time on the Thatcherite project, the 1990 Broadcasting Act.

In television terms, the Broadcasting Act enabled the BBC to fall into the fatal hands of John Birt and for ITV to self-destruct into the corporate car-crash that eventually brought us Cowell and Kyle. With radio, the damage was arguably even more profound and was further exacerbated by the deregulation of the Communications Act 13 years later. The dissolution of the IBA and the establishment of a new regulatory body with a remit to issue new licences to the highest bidder were reflective of a different approach to commercial radio. A series of mergers and buyouts and the replacement of specialised regional broadcasting with networked generic programming after-dark altered the ILR template so their stations became less a hallmark of regional identity and more an amateurish alternative to slick new national stations such as Virgin, without being especially distinguishable from them. Indeed, what was the point in tuning-in to the poor relation country-cousin if there was no distinction between a local station and a national one?

The old definition of community was dispensed with as the 20th century drew to a close; it was no longer about where you are, but what you are. The sudden rash of new stations saw a cluttered diversification that effectively created radio ghettos in which community was redesigned along genre lines when it came to the playlist; the fictitious oldies stations often heard playing in the background of Peter Kay’s comedy series such as ‘Car Share’ are uncannily accurate parodies of how unlistenable the real thing can be. Another example was coverage of, and commentary on, local football teams – always a big draw for the ILR stations; in many cases, copyright transferred to the clubs themselves (especially if they dined at the Premier League table); this symbolic shaving-off of key elements of the old-school ILR station has continued so that every community today has its radio voice and preaches solely to the converted.

Now splintered into hundreds of little communities, the fragmented airwaves undoubtedly possess a greater range of that arch-Thatcherite word, ‘choice’, than ever before. But the original aim behind the formation of Independent Local Radio is essentially as dead a concept as the past contrasts between different parts of the country, and Independent Local Radio as a label itself is a complete misnomer today. Have we lost something? Perhaps community as a broader term and this then being mirrored by broadcasters has been a notable casualty. The differences between us have always been abundant, but during the ILR’s heyday, these differences seemed to unite us under one genuinely ‘diverse’ umbrella. The differences now are so myriad that they seem more prone to division – and in some cases, voluntary segregation. But at least, to paraphrase Peter Kay’s Chorley FM, there’s always a radio station ‘coming in your ear’.

© The Editor


It pays to flick through past posts if approaching a topic I’ve written about on previous occasions, if only to avoid repetition. Past posts can also be handy ways of assessing not necessarily predictions, but attempts at guessing where we might go next. Well, few knew before and fewer still know now – that much is true today. The talk at the end of last year and the start of this was anticipating a move by restless centrist politicians from both left and right meeting in the middle to form their own SDP-like breakaway party that would allegedly appeal to moderates alienated by the warring factions on either side of the Brexit barricade. That appeared to be the only change on the cards; and though it eventually happened, any new party dependent on oily Umunna and sour-faced Soubry is facing far more of an uphill challenge than the one formed by Jenkins, Owens, Williams and Rodgers almost 40 years ago.

What began as ‘TIG’ and has now been rebranded Change UK isn’t exactly taking the country by storm. Whereas the SDP peaked at a 50% poll rating in the autumn of 1981 (less than a year after its formation), the apathy greeting Change UK is a consequence of the conceit of its founders. All are second division strikers, with not one of them having scored one of the great offices of state; but their high opinion of themselves and belief that their outdated approach remains relevant has blinded them to a sea-change in the public mood that is seeing an even newer party steal the headlines and soar way ahead of them in the polls. The Change UK attitude is to dismiss Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party as a right-wing rest-home for bonkers old Tories and ex-UKIP fruitcakes; their smug arrogance in dismissing something they should be taking very seriously will be their undoing, but will they listen? What do you think?

The BBC’s archaic attempts at impartiality saw last Friday’s scheduled edition of ‘Have I Got News For You’ pulled at the last minute because one of the guest panellists was Change UK’s Heidi Allen. The reason given for this abrupt, eleventh hour cancellation was Allen representing a party intending to participate in the upcoming European Elections, which seems strange; Britain’s late entry into the contest was already known on the day the programme was recorded; could not another guest have been chosen? After all, a tub of lard once famously deputised for Roy Hattersley on the show a few years ago. The BBC has a history of panicking when politics risks being treated lightly – infamously axing ‘That Was The Week That Was’ at the end of 1963, when a General Election was imminent – and is terrified of being seen as favouring one political party over the other, despite its pro-Remain stance being pretty indisputable.

Then again, the BBC (as with all London-centric mainstream media outlets) belongs to the same exclusive gentleman’s club as the Westminster set, burying its head in the same sand and pissing in the same pot. Ignoring something in the hope it will simply go away is not good enough at this moment in history. That’s precisely what the two major parties have been guilty of for far too long. In 2017, the Conservatives and Labour enjoyed the largest share of the vote the two major parties had managed since 1970, seemingly ending the fragmented era of fringe parties stealing their seats. Now, less than two years on from the last General Election, their failure to honour the 2016 Referendum result (not to mention deliberate efforts at outright prevention) has seen their hard-fought recovery utterly trashed; they’ve blown it, quite possibly for good.

A new poll published in the Sunday Telegraph puts the Brexit Party one point ahead of the Tories; the poll, by ComRes, is taking a hypothetical survey in the event of a snap General Election, but the findings should shake even the most blinkered, deluded Tories who still cling to the fallacy that Theresa May’s repeatedly rejected deal is the only way out of this impasse. The PM herself has told the 1922 Committee she’ll finally walk the plank if her deal passes when she drags it before the Commons one more time – the same promise she made last time it faced the firing squad; it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

The catastrophic recent local election results from the Conservative perspective – losing over a thousand councillors – saw most of those seats go to the Lib Dems and the Greens; those two claimed they were on the side of the electoral angels in the wake of the results, but there were a record number of spoiled ballot papers in the absence of any Leave candidates. It’s a bit like justifying the questionable appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as permanent Manchester Utd manager on the strength of his results as caretaker, when the team had an easy run of winnable fixtures against lower opposition. They ended the season by losing at home to relegated Cardiff.

If the Tories should be on red alert following the findings of the poll in the Sunday Telegraph – and those of a similar poll by Opinium – Labour have no cause for complacency either. The pressure by the membership to adopt the Second Referendum route whilst traditional Labour voters in the diehard northern and midlands heartlands remain Leave-inclined has left poor old Jezza looking more at sea and less in control of the party’s destiny than ever before. And if the future looks bleak when one contemplates the likely contenders to succeed Mrs May, there’s no less despair when one thinks of Tom Watson or Keir Starmer seizing the Corbyn crown. Take two weak leaders surrounded by mediocre wannabes, add a shameful determination to overturn a democratic mandate, throw in dismissive contempt for the concerns of the plebs – and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

If one at least tries to take the long view, it’s possible to conclude that a single-issue party run by a man adept at generating publicity and more than capable of exploiting widespread disaffection with the political process is one it’s difficult to see being relevant beyond its moment, like a particular pair of trousers fashionable for a solitary season. Closer examination would no doubt uncover not much substance beneath the surface and one could argue Farage’s response to an admittedly piss-poor grilling from Andrew Marr was to resort to tried-and-trusted Trump-like tactics, crying media bias and avoiding awkward questions. Yet, the Brexit Party has timed its moment to absolute perfection, and as long the big two keep their fingers in their ears, that moment will retain its relevance.

The need for a new party that can – to paraphrase Roy Jenkins – ‘break the mould of British politics’ and end the century-old Tory and Labour stranglehold has been pressing for a long time; and though Change UK are (in their minds) attempting to do just that in the old-fashioned way, nobody is interested. It’s hard not to feel we’ve moved on from that now. God knows where we’ve moved on to or where we’re going; but I can’t help thinking the old-fashioned way is over. And it’s over because those who prospered from it fatally failed to detect the people had had enough. You can only push them so far, and then who knows what they’ll do? Just ask Monsieur Macron – or maybe one of his distant predecessors, Louis XVI.

© The Editor


Some interesting stats for social media-savvy types appeared in the most recent edition of ‘Private Eye’; they related to the disproportionate nature of online outrage generally arising from the latest one-day wonder on Twitter. According to these stats, the best Twitter can manage in terms of active daily users is around 134 million; compare this to Facebook, boasting an estimated 1.5 billion, and it’s blatantly obvious that Twitter isn’t quite the be-all-and-end-all arbiter of social mores its most prominent users – ‘young, highly educated and having higher incomes than average’ – give the impression of it being. The same quoted study claimed that 80% of Twitter’s tweets emanate from just 10% of its most prolific practitioners. Twitter’s high proportion of usage amongst mainstream media figureheads and zero-hour intern journos (for whom Twitter is the contemporary cyber equivalent of the old-school snout) is undeniably disproportionate, but Fleet Street’s desperate reliance on Twitter as a source of non-serious news has undeniably amplified its importance.

As with all other online platform pies I personally have a finger in – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Amazon, Vimeo and a couple of blogs – Twitter for me is merely a promotional tool; others randomly air their thoughts and they’re welcome to do so; that’s not my bag, but I don’t dispute the right of anyone else to use Twitter as a vehicle for railing against The Man if that’s what they regard Twitter as. When it comes to prominent names on Twitter, a guaranteed million-plus ‘likes’ is a given, whether their tweet is a response to a headline or a personal portrayal of domestic dullness. The medium’s isolation from traditional print propaganda or terrestrial TV means relenting from the customary fawning over the House of Windsor – which those arcane outlets pretend is a reflection of public feeling – can easily provoke the mortification of the Ancien Régime if an individual user doesn’t play ball.

Danny Baker’s ‘controversial’ tweet of a fully-clothed chimpanzee in the style of the PG Tips commercials that featured on British TV ad breaks for a good thirty years or more is the latest missive to spark outrage of a duration that has probably been and gone by the time this post appears. So be it. That perhaps says more about the here today/gone tomorrow timespan of social media than it does about my own motivation to respond to the current hysteria with an allegedly measured perspective. Such is the sensitivity surrounding the mixed-race parentage of yet another sprog to pop out of the regal vagina that an additional layer of tiptoeing has been grafted onto the archaic deference reserved for Her Majesty’s descendents, making it even more impossible to issue an observation that doesn’t adhere to the Nicholas Witchell manual without the anticipated ‘off with his head’ cries echoing in the ears of the treasonous.

On one hand, it’s possible to regard Danny Baker’s tweet as a disgruntled reaction to the current flood of OTT middle-class brownnosing from that rarity in British media these days, the working-class; no doubt many who aren’t employed to set aside twenty-odd pages of the Mail for this ‘story’ expressed little more than a shoulder-shrugging ‘meh’ to the latest rush of Diana-esque coverage where an oblivious babe-in-arms is concerned. An inversion of this blanket exposure was given a few months ago to the birth of Shamima Begum’s third child, an unfortunate cherub whose future was less secure and whose life has already been sadly extinguished.

The naive idea that the birth of a blue-blood baby would somehow ‘bring the nation together’ at a time when the nation has never been more fragmented along lines of class, region and religion is, of course, quite daft – and maybe one more indication of just how out of touch our media masters truly are. Around three or four years back, I was exposed to a genuine voice when scanning the newspaper rack in Sainsbury’s as an old lady turned to me when confronted by front pages declaring how William & Kate would struggle to deal with a newborn and growled – ‘As if either of them will have to change a bloody nappy in the middle of the night.’ Funny how neither the Mail nor Express nor BBC1, ITV or Sky ever seem to point their microphones in the direction of a member of the public expressing such an opinion; much easier to stick to the jolly groupies camped outside London hospitals for days when looking for pliable plebs.

Prior to Danny Baker’s intervention, my own gut reaction was ‘Ah, another privileged parasite sucking on the taxpayer’s tit’, and then – realising that made me sound like some demented old communist – I reverted to ‘meh’. My reaction was the same as any to a photograph depicting an aged couple I’m not related to being officially introduced to another great-grandchild: yeah, great for them, but who’s really bothered other than them?

One difference between me and Danny Baker is that he is accustomed to tweeting thoughts, opinions and reactions in a jokey manner whenever news of this nature breaks; and he did so again when being bombarded with excessive media ejaculations over the addition of another name to the Civil List (or whatever they call it these days). I don’t blame him for that, but the ill-advised choice of photograph to illustrate his indifference was bound to provoke outrage from those who see racism in everything in the same way Mary Whitehouse used to see sex in everything. And in an era in which the BBC responds to any threat to its ‘diversity’ agenda by instantly taking the positive discrimination axe to any employee who risks tarnishing the brand, it was inevitable Baker would be dismissed.

I’ve no idea if Danny Baker tweeted the same image to accompany the last (non-mixed race) royal birth, but maybe this particular immaculate conception pushed him into a ‘God, not this again’ mindset and he opted for said photo without considering the racial connotations that were bound to be evoked. I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I’ve never detected any BNP-like leanings in anything he’s been involved in – and I’ve read the first two volumes of his entertaining autobiography as well as watching the fictional TV depiction of his 1970s youth, ‘Cradle to Grave’. But it’s all-too easy today for any tongue-in-cheek critique of the establishment to be labelled as beyond-the-pale, and Danny Baker’s track record of not giving a shit when confronted by the weight of that establishment was reflected in his casual employment of an image that the more cautious would have baulked at posting. It was silly and misplaced, yes; but where we are now means it was destined to result in an instant P45 as much as if he’d posted a Photoshopped snapshot of Oswald Mosley fronting the Black & White Minstrels. He should have second-guessed that, really.

© The Editor


One of the many highlights on the landmark 1968 Kinks album, ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ is a song called ‘Do You Remember Walter?’ The narrator fondly recalls a childhood sidekick in a series of anecdotal reminiscences that celebrate Walter’s semi-heroic status – ‘Do you remember Walter playing cricket in the thunder and the rain?/Do you remember Walter smoking cigarettes behind your garden gate?’ Gradually, the tone of the lyrics alters as the narrator acknowledges his wistful curiosity over what became of his old mate will no doubt be dampened by the inevitable and humbling reality of time passing – ‘I bet you’re fat and married/and you’re always home in bed by half-past eight’. The singer of the song concludes with detectable melancholy, ‘Walter, you are just an echo of a world I knew so long ago/Walter, if you saw me now, you wouldn’t even know my name.’ The song speaks volumes because we all have a Walter and we’ve all wondered ‘Whatever happened to..?’

Take Joey. Joey was my first ‘best mate’ when I started school, the first kid who joined me in a playground re-enactment of a ‘Top of the Pops’ performance from the night before (‘Blockbuster’ by The Sweet, in case you were wondering); barely six months after I started school, however, my parents relocated us all to another part of town and the friendship ceased to exist overnight. The last time I saw Joey was the summer of 1973, and that’s where he remains in my head. As children have a slim grasp of a past too brief to linger in, their permanent presence in the present means they can shrug off the loss of one friendship and quickly move on to the next without dwelling on it; I did just that several times over the next couple of years, when my family imposed nomadic social mobility on my education. I thus became accustomed to the idea of friendship as a short-term arrangement; but as the casualties began piling up, I eventually started to wonder where those fading faces had faded to.

What just one standout vignette in an entire LP of them says about absent friends is both touching and potent – how the flesh-and-blood of the here and now invariably dissolves into the ether of memory as tomorrow supersedes today. People it can be impossible to imagine our lives without will all vacate the present tense and find their way to the cemetery of friendship in the end; and the longer we live, the more crowded that cemetery becomes. When a resident of it gatecrashes our thoughts without warning – an unexpected intrusion often triggered by stumbling upon something they were associated with – we pause, attempting to picture their face. We try to reconstruct that countenance as it might have aged when we were no longer looking at it; it’s a mental equivalent of those strange imagined impressions of the adult that a missing child could have morphed into, ones the police produce to complete cold cases. We can’t quite do it, though, for lost friends are indeed the living dead, frozen phantoms preserved in our internal graveyard that never grow old.

Yes, it is true that we can disentangle ourselves from family if we so wish, though the intricate web of emotional blackmail many families survive by can make such a move a minefield; with friends, it’s different. Friends were our choice, those we instinctively gravitated towards because there was a connection we discerned that meant more than a mere shared surname. As the old saying goes, you can judge a man by the company he keeps – and the choice of our friends is an expression of us as individuals. This is especially important when we are children.

As a child kicks and pushes its way out of the infant egg, part of the hatching process is establishing a life beyond the confines of mum and dad; forming friendships is a crucial aspect of that process, enabling the child to make its first independent mark in the world free from the parental CCTV. We therefore naturally develop a possessive bond with our chosen companions that can sometimes manifest itself as loyalty blinding us to faults and failings we prefer to believe are the exclusive province of those we didn’t pick for our private football team, i.e. family. What, indeed, does it say about us or our judgement should our cherished friends be exposed as owning feet composed of clay? When they betray or abandon us, it hurts because we expected better from them; we anticipate being let down by family, but not by friends. Forgiving is hard enough; forgetting can be even harder.

Social media can put people back in touch, this is true; but is that such a wise endeavour? I know one friend who has done just that more than once and the outcomes have not always been happy; sometimes it’s best to leave well alone and keep the recollection intact and unsullied by the passage of time. Charles Dickens carried a torch for adolescent sweetheart Maria Beadnell, his first love; but the torch was abruptly snuffed out after years of burning bright in his heart when he met up with her in middle age, long after she had roused his nascent passions; he imagined she would still be as he remembered her. She wasn’t. Indeed, any form of high school reunion can be fraught with dangers that stretch back decades. We never forget the friends who let us down, but do we recall the ones we let down? Who knows what bitter resentments we may have inadvertently fostered in the memories of others? We may be disappointed to see our own Walter ‘fat and married’, but what of those to whom we are Walter? Memory has the capacity to be a uniquely selective tonic.

Each act of my existence has come with its own repertory company of players, and very few have remained with the company for long. There is rarely any crossover between productions either; there tends to be a fresh crop of actors for every new script. Such a scenario often imbues the leader of the company with a rootless insecurity and a feeling of belonging nowhere; this is a direct outcome of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em blood brothers of childhood. There are times when I envy those who have stayed in touch with most of the friends they’ve made in their lives; there are other times when I wonder if such a network can be as much of an impediment to personal progress as family can be. Granted, some friends had a sole role, that of facilitating the next phase; once the next phase was here, they had gone; others should have stuck around a little longer. Some I don’t miss and have no desire to reunite with whatsoever; others were worthy of eternity and their disappearance left behind a black hole that still radiates the sense of something missing, something that would have continued to enrich my life had it remained.

One of the trickier elements of this constant changing of characters is that there can be gaps between an outgoing cast and an incoming one – and these gaps have a habit of gradually widening on each occasion they come around. At the moment, I’m reduced to monologues; I recently staged a one-man show that spanned seven days, playing to an empty theatre every night. But, hell, I’ve been here before and I’ve always managed to recruit an audience eventually. I ain’t panicking. I guess at times it can be hard not to envy the child’s lack of a past and stoic ability to forge ahead free from being haunted by the lost; the only thing a child can glimpse when he looks back over his shoulder is a void – and it’s far better to have the void behind than in front, for sure.

So, yes, to answer the question posed by Ray Davies fifty years ago, I do remember Walter – lots of Walters. But where are they now, those collective Walters that contributed so much to the weaving of this tatty tapestry now looking distinctly frayed at the edges? No idea, but thanks for the memories, wherever you are – hopefully healthy, wealthy and wise, passing through the lives of others like you passed through mine.

© The Editor


I must admit, it is hard to attribute anything approaching a heroic act to a member of Theresa May’s Cabinet; one cannot avoid being suspicious and seeing self-promotion as the motivation behind every move made in public. ‘Will it help make me look good before the electorate and boost my impending leadership bid if I’m photographed alongside an autistic adolescent in pigtails who has somehow become the poster-girl for climate change?’ and so on. It’s so difficult not to be cynical about politicians today that even when one of them might actually have done something for purely selfless reasons, crediting them with it is a tough call tinged with suspicious reservations.

The sacking of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been officially justified because he was named as the source of the leak surrounding the National Security Council’s discussion over the Chinese Government’s telecommunications wing, Huawei, being invited to get its feet under the UK’s online table. Williamson denies this rather serious allegation whilst Jeremy Hunt has become the latest Minister to undermine the PM’s (non)authority by suggesting a police investigation wouldn’t be out of the question, contradicting Mrs May’s own decision not to pursue the matter beyond firing Williamson. If the ex-Defence Secretary is guilty, why did he do it when he must have realised the potential damage it could do to his political ambitions? Could it actually have been that extremely rare Westminster beast, a case of conscience over career?

Let’s face it, Gavin Williamson is not an easy man to warm to; then again, name me a member of the Cabinet who is. I know we’re all born with the face God gave us, but Williamson’s ego does seem to be etched on his smug countenance; I may be doing him a disservice, but to me he has the arrogant air of an office-worker celebrating promotion with a trip to a lap-dancing bar, where he probably waves a wad in a young lady’s face in expectation of a blowjob. His attempts to cultivate a Mandelson-like ‘Dark Arts’ image have been cringeworthy from the off. From his pet tarantula to his ‘ooh, you’re hard’ boast that he had ‘made’ Theresa May and could therefore just as easily ‘break’ her, Williamson’s role as the mastermind behind May’s leadership election and then organising the bribery of the DUP gave rise to his reputation as Kingmaker, and he appeared to be a man May couldn’t manage without – until now.

The Tory Chair of the Defence Select Committee, Dr Julian Lewis, was one Williamson ally speaking up for the deposed Minister last night. Dr Lewis pointed out that Williamson wasn’t the only member of the Cabinet to express reservations over the wisdom of awarding contracts to corporations answerable to a Communist regime not averse to keeping tabs on its citizens. Unsurprisingly for someone who has enthusiastically embraced any form of internet snooping since her days as Home Secretary, the PM was in favour of allowing Huawei to play a part in this country’s 5G network – something no other western leader has even contemplated; by all accounts, Williamson was appalled by this development and appears to have risked his role in Government (and possible rise all the way to the top job) by passing on his concerns to Fleet Street.

I would hesitate to call the information leaked a ‘sensitive state secret’; it appears to be more a case of where the information was leaked from – a body established during Cameron’s tenure, somewhere Ministers and officials could discuss clandestine topics free from the public gaze; and what could be more clandestine than offering the Chinese a chance to buy into Britain’s internet system? No wonder they wanted that one kept under wraps. But, as Julian Lewis rightly stated, the nature of the information Gavin Williamson is alleged to have leaked hardly places him in the same treasonous league as Kim Philby or George Blake. What Williamson has done – if indeed, he has done it – is to spill the beans on just how shamelessly willing our senior elected representatives are to flog anything to the highest bidder, free from any principles or sense of scruples; as long as they can make a mint from outsourcing, they’ll do it. Just look at who replaced ATOS with the contract for the notorious DWP disability assessments – an equally loathsome US corporation short on sympathy for the ill and infirm called Maximus; and the less said about Grayling’s ferry fiasco, the better. Should ISIS put in a bid to run all primary schools in England and Wales, they’d probably be in with a shot if their bid was juicy enough.

Williamson’s promotion from Chief Whip to Defence Secretary seemed to begin the process of his gradual detachment from the PM’s inner circle, especially when he became a tad prone to the odd gaffe and earned the nickname of ‘Private Pike’ among some of his less generous colleagues. If he was responsible for the NSC leak, it’s hard to see what he had to gain from his actions being uncovered other than alerting the rest of us to the seriously worrying shit that goes on behind closed doors at Downing Street, as opposed to the silly in-fighting and backstabbing we’re used to hearing about. And, if that was what happened, he deserves credit – however begrudgingly we give it him.

Another Tory MP, Adam Holloway, made a wider point in relation to Williamson last night, stating how he believed contemporary politicians just aren’t up to it, whatever the challenge presented to them might be. Ministers find themselves in positions of power they simply aren’t qualified to do justice to, lacking both leadership skills and any talent beyond generating sufficient hype around them in the manner of a band desperate for a record deal; how else can we explain so many ‘name’ MPs who have risen without a trace in the past decade? A former military man, Adam Holloway said most of the current Cabinet would be ‘very unlikely to rise to the rank of General’; it’s certainly hard looking across both benches in the Commons and seeing anyone with the heavyweight clout of a Benn or a Thatcher. Or perhaps past politicians were forged in different ages that deserved different leaders; despite the grimly serious issues facing the country, we appear to have reaped the harvest of the 90s, when style triumphed over substance in all facets of public life.

The fact a figure as friendless as Theresa May can fire someone who was once such a vital ally suggests the embarrassment of this particular leak must have been acute for the Prime Minister, even when one considers the Cabinet Office has shown itself to have the consistency of a sieve over the last couple of years. Williamson’s dramatic dismissal and possible breach of the Official Secrets Act may well be as ‘unprecedented’ as media folk kept claiming yesterday, but the leak is merely emblematic of a chaotic Cabinet environment with a grasp of authority reminiscent of St Trinian’s. The timing of this latest unwelcome headline from the PM’s perspective, on the very eve of possible obliteration in the local elections, suggests Williamson’s alleged crime is a little more serious than some that have resulted in sackings of late; but yet another enemy on the backbenches could be just one more nail in the Maybot coffin. Not all bad news, then.

© The Editor