‘…since the war’ was once the most overused barometer for measuring a crisis; you couldn’t avoid it when I was a kid in the 1970s – though considering anyone older than, say, 35 back then would have had a first-hand memory of some aspect of the conflict, perhaps it’s no surprise it was the suffix of choice. Watch archive BBC coverage of the February 1974 General Election and the phrase peppers the programme; but one has a real sense of what prompted its recurrence when even revellers in Trafalgar Square watching the results come in are forced to do so in the dark. ‘The gravest economic crisis since the war’ is the context, though one wonders how many times that particular expression had been uttered by opportunistic politicians in the 29 years following VE Day.

The winter of 1946/47 produced literally the gravest economic crisis since the war – or at least the first such one experienced. Retrospectively relegated to a footnote when the far more celebrated 1962/63 cold spell is recalled, the chill that descended upon the British Isles in January 1947 was equally devastating. In some respects, its impact was even greater than the winter of 16 years later in that it stretched the limited resources of a country already struggling through a protracted recovery from the battering it had taken on the home front. The Arctic temperatures wiped out a quarter of the nation’s sheep, decimated up to 20% of crops and were responsible for industrial production falling 10%. The standing of Attlee’s Labour Government plummeted as fuel stocks and food supplies dwindled in the big freeze, with imposed emergency measures having a seismic effect on morale; the floods that came with the March thaw were an additional blow to a beleaguered Britain.

When another Labour Government 20 years later dithered and delayed before belatedly devaluing the pound – at a time when such an action was viewed as a national humiliation – the chaos that cost Jim Callaghan his tenancy of No.11 Downing Street and fatally damaged the Wilson administration was regarded as…’the gravest economic crisis since the war’. Yet Wilson’s immediate Conservative successor came a cropper within three-and-a-half years of redecorating No.10, as quadrupling oil prices exploited by the key-holders of the country’s prime fuel supply – the miners – panicked Ted Heath into switching out the lights and passing round the candles. At the time, I remember asking my dad why the Germans were richer than us when they’d lost the war. This was when I found out parents don’t have all the answers.

Where Heath’s Tories had failed, Labour – under Wilson and then Callaghan – soldiered on in impossible circumstances, but still had to suffer the shame of crawling cap-in-hand to the IMF in 1976. Less than three years later, the unions ‘Sunny Jim’ had always been able to depend upon bit the hand that fed them because they had acquired the appetite of Oliver Twist. Another terrible winter – this time of Discontent – handed electoral victory to Margaret Thatcher as we once again endured ‘the gravest economic crisis since the war’. I have vivid memories of that winter, and as even the all-powerful omnipotence of television joined the catalogue of public services falling into stasis like donkey-jacketed dominos, the palpable feeling of imminent collapse made an impression that I’ve tended to view subsequent crises through the prism of. As a consequence, they rarely measure up and I tend to take Lance Corporal Jones’s advice.

It was almost 30 years before we encountered a comparable crisis – though even the Credit Crunch and the severe Austerity measures introduced by the Coalition in 2010 didn’t induce the same sense of being on the brink as 1978/79 did. The situation may have claimed the scalp of yet another Labour Government and exacerbated the schism between the haves and the have-nots, but the 2010-2015 Con-Dem regime acted like a ruthless receiver dividing the assets of an insolvent company. The climate was not one of the country being ungovernable or out of control. It took the unexpected outcome of a certain unnecessary referendum to finally return us to the state of existential emergency that provoked the return of ‘…since the war’.

It’s interesting that the most hysterical reactions to the result of the 2016 EU Referendum emanated largely from those born and raised in the 1990s and early 2000s, a period now regarded as a rare oasis of economic calm – strong and stable, one might say. And that’s not merely the general public; many children of Blair whose degrees in Media Studies facilitated their rises through the broadcasting and print medium ranks were similarly green when it came to a crisis and responded to a scenario for which they hadn’t been prepared in a fittingly OTT manner that has spiralled out of all proportion over the last three years. ‘Crashing out of the EU’, ‘stolen my future’ and ‘staring into the abyss’ have joined ‘…since the war’ in the Remainer lexicon; but WWII has also been revived as an unlikely yardstick by the other side, with ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ and misplaced allusions to Churchill making a comeback, even though (unlike the 1970s) they are being evoked by those who may as well talk of Trafalgar or Waterloo for all the relevance they have to their own experience.

Maybe a generation or two subconsciously yearned to have their malnourished mettle tested by a crisis. There’s an almost masochistic relish in fantasising about apocalyptic scenarios of the kind George Osborne forecasted on the eve of the Referendum, and the prospect of No Deal seems to have ‘turbo-charged’ (© every f***ing Boris Minister) the nightmarish imagery, fetishising the vision of empty supermarket shelves, bare chemist’s cupboards, martial law and primeval anarchy. Perhaps sitting through more zombie movies and games than is advisable has convinced some too young to know any better that a crisis only has the one outcome.

However, if history has taught us anything it is that crises are no more permanent than their polar opposite; no boom without bust and vice-versa. The wars Brits have been engaged in since 1945 have all taken place in far-flung locations, giving non-combatants an abstract perspective on conflict that doctored news reports from distant war-zones seem to have played their part in. Domestic economic crises, on the other hand, impinge upon our lives in ways that personalise their offensiveness and amplify their impact. But the genuine crisis in so many of our public services, for example, has bugger-all to do with Brexit; they’re in a bad way because they’ve been under-funded for decades, and the blame is with the Remainer village of Westminster, not the rest of Brexit Britain.

When it comes to a crisis, it’s probably best not to hang on every word of that metropolitan Mother Shipton, Emily Maitlis – the Remoaner Lord Haw-Haw issuing proclamations of doom ‘n’ gloom on a nightly basis. Many of us have experienced personal crises that have hit us at times when the nation had allegedly never had it so good, and the state of the nation has had no bearing on mine at all; the damage was restricted to the smallest of circles rather than the widest of canvasses. External events might occasionally contribute to the picture, but whether we find ourselves in the Promised Land or downtown Dystopia on 1 November, the nation will keep buggering on and so will we. However bad it gets, it then gets better – always.

© The Editor


It’s funny, but 2016 already seems like a long time ago – much further back in time than a mere three years, anyway. Yesterday, I skimmed through a few posts on here from the moment at which Theresa May moved into Downing Street and there was mention of her mini-‘Night of The Long Knives’ reshuffle. I can barely even remember that now, but there it was in black-and-white, describing how the post-Cameron clear-out of the Cabinet saw P45s handed to the likes of Dave stalwarts Osborne, Gove, Morgan and Whittingdale; yes, the last name has all-but vanished from memory, though I seem to recall talk of liaisons with an ‘escort’ making the headlines at some point. Perhaps the fact that Mrs May fired a few Ministers when she grabbed the poisoned chalice has been utterly forgotten due to the record number that left of their own volition during her brief tenure in office; some of them have now come in from the cold at the behest of Boris.

Following the now-customary exercise in sentimental insincerity that accompanies the farewell performance of a Prime Minister at the dispatch-box, Mrs May was swiftly dispatched to the past tense by her successor – as were most of her Ministers. The speed that the new PM employed was undoubtedly necessary; after all, he only has 99 days to keep his most important promise; but the scale of the ‘massacre’ perhaps reflected the urgency he exhibited during his rapid-fire inaugural address before the press yesterday afternoon. He doesn’t have the luxury of test-driving Ministers with L-plates; it makes much more sense to assemble essentially the same ‘Team Boris’ he would have put together three years ago had his anticipated coronation not been postponed and he’d had a little more breathing space than he has now.

Some of the most inflexible Remainers – Hammond, Stewart, Lidington, Gauke – walked the plank voluntarily, whereas Jeremy (he’s an entrepreneur) Hunt decided to jump rather than face demotion. All would have been obstructive obstacles to Johnson’s intentions, yet a notable Brexiteer such as Penny Mordaunt has also been shown the door, presumably because she supported Hunt in the leadership contest. One of the first to sign-up to the Leave side in 2016, the incomparably incompetent Chris Grayling, has gone too – though I was quite looking forward to seeing which Ministry he’d be let loose on next. Plenty of Ministers whose names are so forgettable that their faces are impossible to evoke have been axed as well, the kind like Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley or Culture and Digital Minister Jeremy Wright (no, me neither), whose lack of interest in (or qualification for) the posts they were awarded mirrored the cluelessness of the woman who awarded them.

Back in March, the avalanche of resignations left 15 ministerial posts vacant; it began to look like either nobody wanted them or the dearth of talent within the Conservative Party meant there was nobody to fill them. The return of Amber Rudd to the Cabinet, a year after the former Home Secretary had been forced to carry the can for Windrush policies instigated by Mrs May, highlighted the PM’s desperation. Now Rudd is one of the few survivors of the cull, having shrewdly amended her opposition to the No Deal option. She breathes a sigh of relief alongside Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Matt Hancock. Amongst the notable returning ex-Ministers are Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, Nicky Morgan, Theresa Villiers, and that crafty Gavin Williamson, creeping back in with the stealth of a certain tarantula after a mere 84 days in the sin bin. Brother Jo is back too.

Swapping the Home Office for the Treasury is not the most optimistic of moves when one is made aware of Sajid Javid’s somewhat questionable grasp of figures. In his senior managerial role at Deutsche Bank before he entered Parliament, Javid enthusiastically embraced a tax-avoidance scheme that resulted in a courtroom defeat when it was exposed; as Business Secretary, he ended the Business Growth Service, a much-needed and profitable sponsor of small businesses; and he also gave the green light to the sale of Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe branch to a company with a disastrous track record, a company which upheld its reputation with the swift slide of British Steel into administration. Let’s hope he remembers to pack his calculator when he moves in to No.11. Like the resurfacing of Priti Patel’s previous (?) views on capital punishment now that she has been promoted to Home Secretary, Javid’s present will inevitably be viewed through the prism of his past if he buggers it up.

Ironically, for all the talk of the hard right and its rigid racial/social elitism having seized control, some have pointed out the accidental ‘multicultural mix’ at the very tip of the Tory iceberg. On Twitter, journalist Tom Harwood asked if this was the most ‘Woke’ the four great offices of state have ever been – ‘The grandson of a Turkish Muslim, the daughter of Indian-Ugandan Hindus, the son of Pakistani Muslims, and the son of a Jewish Czech refugee.’ Or is this backdoor diversity, achieved organically and without any inclusivity committees, shortlists and affirmative-action initiatives? Of course, the ethnic origins of those mentioned should be irrelevant to the skills required for the job, but it’s not difficult to imagine how the Labour Party would have made something of a song-and-dance about having a ‘Diversity Cabinet’ and milked it to the max.

The Ministers May fired in 2016 were expected to be troublesome from the backbenches, though Mrs May found those actually in the Cabinet (certainly after 2017) far more troublesome than the odd Rees-Mogg outside the tent pissing-in. But May’s concerns were initially eased by the fact she inherited a working majority from her predecessor; the same does not apply for Boris. If the Tories lose the upcoming Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to the Lib Dems, Johnson’s majority will be reduced to two. There’s no doubt the absence of time before a certain deadline has prompted the new PM into acting with such ruthless swiftness, but I suspect a motion of no confidence emanating from a Labour-Lib Dem alliance will only come when/if a package from Brussels sprouts before the Commons. However, if the Tory ‘rebels’ will be sufficiently irked at losing their jobs and sufficiently dedicated to the Remain agenda to vote down their own Government, the General Election to follow could well make real their recurring nightmare of a Corbyn administration. We shall see.

This week’s heat-wave may not last as long as the dry spell that made last summer so uncomfortable for those of us averse to a tropical climate, but I’ve a feeling the temperature will remain extremely high in Westminster until the autumn. Boris knows he has to deliver and deliver fast. If he’s to avoid presiding over the shortest tenure at No.10 in history, he needs to keep the knotted hanky mothballed and work through the holiday season. He’s made a start.

© The Editor


I’ve still never set foot in a betting-shop. Even though I know the old image of the grubby dive inhabited by seedy, dirty old men smoking dog-ends has received a facelift in recent years, I remain resistant to the premises’ questionable charms. The only time I ever considered it was during the Blur Vs Oasis chart battle of 1995. For those too young or too indifferent, this was the moment when the nation’s two rival Britpop bands rearranged their release schedules for an ingenious PR exercise that saw their new singles simultaneously hit the record-racks. I would have put money on Blur reaching the top spot because I figured your average pop fan would buy ‘Country House’ as well as hardcore Blur fans, whereas I correctly guessed only Oasis devotees would invest in ‘Roll With It’. What this odd example is supposed to represent is the fact that you can’t get to No.1 on the strength of your fan-base alone; you need the support of the masses too.

It’s something Hillary Clinton failed to appreciate during the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign; dismissing a vast section of blue-collar, working-class voters as essentially illiterate idiots and then expecting to be elected without their votes was a measure of her delusional arrogance. She drove them into the arms of Trump and then couldn’t understand why she didn’t win. It’s fine to be seen signalling your virtue by standing next to Beyoncé on a podium, but you can’t get elected unless you cultivate an appeal that cuts across all the divides that Mrs Clinton’s attitude exacerbated. Even if you think great swathes of the electorate are morons, you don’t say it out loud; you pretend to be their friend. Once you’re in office, f**k ‘em; but not before. Trump laid a trap for Hillary and she walked right into it; I can’t help but feel he’s playing the same game at the moment as well.

His typical Twitter baiting of the so-called ‘squad’ of four Democrat Congresswomen last week resulted in the unedifying spectacle of a crowd chanting ‘Send her back’, displaying openly racist rhetoric in a political context like we haven’t seen in the States (outside of a KKK rally, anyway) for half-a-century. The worldwide condemnation of the shit Trump stirred even caused the President to backtrack a little; but not much. As has been pointed out by various commentators, in choosing to take on a quartet of Democrats not necessarily representative of Democrats as a whole (one of the four has apparently expressed distinctly anti-Semitic sentiments in the past), he is cunningly re-branding the Democratic Party as a kind of Identity Politics pressure group, something that will alienate floating voters come 2020 and could well contribute towards a second term for the Donald.

Trump’s new counterpart on this side of the Atlantic didn’t require the electorate to be promoted to the top job, but he’ll need to court their favour before long. Boris Johnson’s inaugural lectern speech will probably be delivered in a way we can predict in advance, crammed with the standard vapid platitudes – just as Mrs May’s was three short years ago. He will no doubt declare his intention to ‘unite the nation’, for the tiny majority he inherits from his predecessor will necessitate a General Election sooner rather than later and he will still have an appetite for electioneering after the interminably prolonged Tory leadership contest. He may also imagine relocating to Downing Street wipes his previous pitiful ministerial slate clean; after all, the main focus during the leadership campaign was on his stint as London Mayor – though claiming Boris delivered the 2012 Olympics is a bit like saying Harold Wilson delivered the 1966 World Cup.

The outcome of the Tory leadership contest was the most foregone of foregone conclusions, akin to being bloated by a hearty meal and knowing the following day will inevitably open with a lengthy stint on the throne. We all knew Boris Johnson would become Prime Minister, and now he is. Just think of what that says about where we are. Anyway, the understandable outrage over the fact that the new tenant of No.10 was elected by a miniscule section of the electorate isn’t that big a deal if your political memory predates Brexit. Boris got the gig like Theresa May did in 2016; and Gordon Brown in 2007; and John Major in 1990; Jim Callaghan in 1976; Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1963…and so on. It’s hardly unprecedented. The only unique aspect to this contentious succession was how desperately Mrs May dragged it out, stretching her lame duck status simply because she wanted to be PM for a few days more than Gordon Brown managed.

Other than Brexit, Boris’s in-tray is interesting. The rather shameful state of the nation’s maritime traditions has been highlighted by a certain incident involving Iran’s piratical Revolutionary Guard; memories of how similarly swingeing cuts intended for Jolly Jack Tar’s fleet were only prevented by the actions of some Argentine opportunists planting their flag on Falklands soil back in 1982 probably don’t help in that this time round the cuts have already happened. And now we’re paying the price. As Boris doesn’t appear to believe in bugger-all but Boris, it will be fascinating to see how he responds to external events that are part-and-parcel of what a PM has to deal with. He has enough internal events on his hands with the odd ‘look at me’ resignation on the eve of his coronation, suggesting we should expect a Cabinet of yes-men and women. However, perhaps it’s no surprise when one thinks of the collective irresponsibility of the unruly rabble his predecessor was surrounded by.

Somewhat under the radar, there’s been further changing of the guard with the election of Jo Swinson as leader of the Liberal Democrats. A casualty of the electoral cull of Coalition Lib Dems in 2015, Swinson bounced back in 2017 in the same way the man she replaces did. The most striking contrast between the Party’s first female leader and the guy she’s succeeded comes with their respective birth certificates, however: Old Mother Cable is 76, whereas his successor is 39. Swinson seizes power at an opportune moment for the Lib Dems, fresh from their repositioning as The Remain Party and conscious that Tory voters on the left and Labour voters on the right are reasonably in their sights; Swinson’s intention to ‘stop Brexit’ may be refreshingly honest – most politicians hide behind the Second Referendum smokescreen – but the leader of a party with ‘Democratic’ in its name declaring her determination to overturn a democratic mandate has all the undemocratic irony of the world’s most totalitarian regimes ruling countries that also boast ‘Democratic’ as part of their title.

At least Remoaners have a Party leader they can flock to now, anyway; threats of a ‘No Deal’ Halloween are causing a fair few sleepless nights, I should imagine. Yes, it goes without saying that much amusement has been had via the Woke brigade’s tearful tantrums in response to Boris’s upgrade; it’s always entertaining to see them sob. But it’s as much a depressing sign of the times that a dick like Boris Johnson is the best the other side can rally round simply because he winds up the enemy as it is to have Katie Hopkins sold as a champion of free speech. We should be able to do better, but we can’t. Oh, well. At least it won’t be boring.

© The Editor


Veteran devotees of my oeuvre may recall a spoof documentary series that once garnered me handsome viewing figures on YouTube; titled ‘Exposure’, it was the beneficiary of a people’s platform now gone, appearing long before Google flexed its monopolising muscles and clamped down on dissent and mischief simply because it can. Satirising the Savile-inspired paedo panic of Operation Yewtree and its very own Matthew Hopkins – i.e. failed police gargoyle Mark Williams-Thomas – the series eventually struggled to encompass the ever-expanding roll-call of opportunistic ‘victims’ coming forward with suspect sob stories. So many compensation claims and imaginative misery memoirs were weighing down the bandwagon by the final episode of ‘Exposure’ that some characters’ sizeable contribution to the hysteria didn’t grab centre stage until after it was all over.

‘Nick’ gains one or two mentions in the later ‘Exposure’ instalments, but he emerged too late to receive the full treatment, despite being the prime mover behind the Dolphin Square and Elm Guest House fables. He was the shady figure whose litany of personal suffering at the grubby hands of establishment abusers knew no bounds – at least according to the testimony documented with slavering relish by Exaro, a deservedly-discredited online outlet with an appetite for lurid sensationalistic scandal that made the News of the World resemble the Financial Times. A few in the know were aware ‘Nick’ was called Carl Beech, but Beech exploited his legal anonymity to the full, safe in the knowledge that the targets of his retrospective allegations wouldn’t be afforded the same courtesy.

Those who had supposedly played pivotal parts in Beech’s lengthy catalogue of abuse included the obligatory Sir Jim, the former Prime Minister Edward Heath, Normandy veteran Lord Bramall, ageing ex-MPs Harvey Proctor, Leon Brittan and Lord Janner, and the former heads of MI5 and MI6 respectively, Sir Michael Hanley and Sir Maurice Oldfield. Indeed, it was remarkable how many household names and prominent figures entered Beech’s childhood orbit; he was apparently never abused by nonentities. But I suppose the scenario is similar to that of the medium whose séances always seem to feature guest appearances from significant historical personalities rather than nondescript agricultural labourers. Beech’s presence at incidents of abuse, torture and murder undertaken by notable public servants was apparently down to his late stepfather, an army major who passed Beech around like the proverbial parcel amongst celebrity sex-offenders at clandestine military bases. Sounds very plausible, doesn’t it.

Most of us who were made aware of Beech’s allegations at the time found them pretty fantastical, to say the least; some even said so and were shot down as ‘paedo apologists’ – though to their tenacious credit, the majority of them tirelessly carried on saying out loud what many were thinking. That their sterling efforts could be so viciously dismissed for fear they might disrupt the narrative speaks volumes, however; such was the climate. After all, Titus Oates could only have provoked the panic he managed during the reign of Charles II because anti-Catholic paranoia was so rampant; and Carl Beech was fortunate to find himself in a culture that enabled his fantasies to expand into evermore audacious areas because it wasn’t just the usual conspiracy theory Icke cultists backing him up; people in positions of power were inexplicably prepared to believe too.

‘Believe’ was the buzzword that fuelled the false allegation industry, endorsed by the police and given the seal of approval by politicians. Keir Starmer in his DPP guise and Tom Watson in his backbench moral crusader mode are as responsible for the climate that facilitated Beech’s flights of fancy as anyone and both should be hung out to dry before either gets anywhere near the leadership of the Labour Party. Watson is at it again right now, this time honing in on anti-Semites in a further bid to bolster his eventual and inevitable bid for Jezza’s office; yet, even if there is an undeniable problem in Labour ranks re this issue, one can never entirely trust Bunter’s motives because of the appalling role he played in the Beech-inspired ‘Popish Plot’ concerning a nonexistent Westminster VIP Paedophile Ring. And it was down to Watson’s tedious persistence that the Metropolitan Police Force then stumbled onto the stage with fishing rods at the ready.

Operation Midland, the Met Inquisition that saw a posse of blundering Bobbies gate-crash the homes of the aged and the ailing in the full glare of the Scotland Yard PR spotlight not only besmirched and blemished the reputations of several public figures; it also caused undue distress to the families and loved ones of those they saw pass away with a stain on their names that was neither warranted nor vindicated. The rightly-notorious ‘credible and true’ response by the police to Carl Beech’s tall tales was a characteristic reaction by those of low IQs who were entrusted to enact the letter of the law as laid out by the far smarter and utterly despicable Starmer, whose hands are probably wrapped in tight black gloves to obscure the blood on them; his Met storm-troopers vos only obeying orders, of course. For two years. At a cost of £2 million to the taxpayer. Without a single arrest.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone so evidently obsessed with paedos in a manner reminiscent of anti-communist witch-finders in McCarthyite America (who couldn’t look under their beds without finding a Red), Carl Beech is himself a paedophile; he was found guilty earlier this year of possessing hundreds of indecent images. Fancy that. And this is someone who at one time used to visit schools on behalf of the NSPCC to lecture kiddies on how to recognise a fiddler; maybe he just walked into the classroom, pointed to himself, and then walked out. Well, he won’t be an ill-advised ambassador for the charity again. As of today, Beech is a convicted fraudster as well as a paedophile, having been found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud following a 10-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court. Northumbria may have made the loathsome Vera Baird its Crime Commissioner, but its police force has at least redeemed the county’s reputation with this thorough investigation into a man who had outfoxed and fooled its cousins in the capital.

The law finally caught up with Carl Beech when he was arrested on the run in Sweden last year, and the verdict in Newcastle was a long time coming; but the damage done by the former NHS manager and school governor will take far longer to repair than it’ll take him to serve the sentence he’ll receive for his crimes. And, lest we forget, this repulsive character is merely the tip of an almighty iceberg, the vast body of which remains submerged with a thousand tragic tales to tell – tales of fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, wives, daughters, sisters and mothers, the real victims of this insidious cancer on contemporary society.

© The Editor


A recent silly little video of mine (yes, I still make them, albeit not for YouTube) recalled those ‘occasional day’s holidays’ schools sparingly dished out to their grateful pupils; unlike the Bank Holidays or General Elections that closed the school gates, these rare gifts weren’t dictated by government, but by the schools themselves – ‘teacher training day’ being one of the mysterious euphemisms regularly employed as an excuse to give us all a 24-hour break from the grind. Back then, those of us whose parents were both in work were left to our own devices without fear of legal reprisals; but should the occasional day’s holiday unfortunately coincide with a day in which one parent happened to be at home, the sense of elation would be somewhat muted.

A day with mum, for example, would usually include being dragged to the shops – the shops in question being all the boring ones, of course; M&S, BHS and C&A were the dreaded triumvirate of tedium for a child, especially if mother’s intention was to procure an ‘outfit’ for said offspring with birthday parties, weddings, christenings and Christmas in mind; being transformed into a minor member of The Partridge Family was not necessarily high on the wish-list of many little boys in the 1970s, but it had a habit of happening whenever mother and son were left together.

A day with dad had its own horrors, mind. If father was feeling particularly restless, this could involve a trip to that dismal temple of misplaced masculine aspirations, the DIY store; this in turn might be followed by a ‘lunchtime pint’, which meant yours truly being handed a glass of lemonade in an empty beer garden whilst dad’s drink was consumed indoors at a strangely sedate pace. Therefore, the lesser of the available evils consisted of father strapping himself into the armchair and watching a continuous stream of live cricket. And to me at the time, cricket seemed to be a sport that spanned the entire day.

It appeared to start around 11 o’clock in the morning and would, in many cases, still be on around 7.30 in the evening – yet whenever I caught a glimpse of the screen it never looked like anything was happening. A vast expanse of green with most of it going to waste as lots of static men in white (who apparently shared a barber with either David Coleman or David Soul) stood around and occasionally broke into a brief sprint. The appeal was beyond me, especially when its marathon monopoly of the box meant I missed ‘Scooby Doo’ on the other side. Yes, the soporific ambience might be enlivened by the sudden apparition of a pissed naked man dashing across the pitch and attempting to leapfrog the wickets; otherwise, I couldn’t understand how it could hold my father’s attention, for this was the original ‘Slow TV’. At least football moved.

Yet, the names stuck; a child’s head has plenty of space for storage, and the roll-call of cricketers from the era claimed a good deal of that space through extensive exposure, so much so that even now – all these endless decades later – the mere mention of Tony Grieg or Geoff Boycott or Jeff Thomson or Dennis Lillee or Clive Lloyd is enough to evoke the moment as effectively as a few bars of anything by 10cc or ELO; ditto the distinctive tones of the men who described events to the viewer or listener – Laker, Benaud, Arlott, Trueman, Johnners – poets of the airwaves who imbued the sport and its numerous beguiling terms with a mellifluous, mystical resonance as potent as the locations on the shipping forecast. I didn’t get any of it as a child, but it makes more sense now – well, almost.

Looking back, it’s astonishing to realise this all-day, ad-free cricket coverage once shared the schedules with the Wimbledon fortnight and the two-year alternating of the World Cup and the Olympics; throw in a bit of golf or Formula One and it’s a wonder how a paltry pair of BBC TV channels managed to squeeze it all in without a red button or an iPlayer. But they did. And the only cost to the viewer was the licence fee. Yesterday, we had a trio of major sporting occasions going out live on free-to-air TV for the first time in a long time; aside from the frustrating failure of the respective governing bodies in ensuring their showcase events generated maximum viewing figures by not being staged simultaneously, it was still a refreshing change, if a tantalising one.

Boxing was the first sport I recall taking the bait of the satellite groomers around 30 years ago; I’d tuned-in to the big fights ever since the classic Ali events of the 70s, but the disappearance of pugilistic pursuits from the mainstream took my interest with it; I couldn’t name you a single world champion of any weight today. Football had been the initial beneficiary of the breaking of the BBC/ITV cartel, of course; but the reassuring presence of the traditional Saturday night highlights package as well as FA Cup coverage meant the loss of live league games didn’t have a negative impact on the popularity of the sport – if anything, the opposite applied. Yet, the national game was always going to do alright; not so its summer replacement.

It was a while before cricket followed suit, but the unforgettable Ashes series of 2005 was the last time live cricket graced the screens of non-subscribers. Whilst it’s understandable a sport that struggles to pay its way at county level went for the big bucks in the hope the money would filter down from the one-day glamour competitions, half-empty grounds with few faces under 40 isn’t exactly promising for tomorrow’s prospects. The selling-off of so many school playing fields has combined with a generation of casual viewers being denied stumbling onto the game during the same period to put cricket’s future in a precarious position. Yesterday’s staggering spectacle at Lord’s was surely the most encouraging advert for the sport that the ICC could have wished for; it would be foolhardy to let the opportunity to capitalise on it slip away from terrestrial broadcasters again, as happened in 2005. Cricket once more has the chance to benefit that desirable demographic so beloved of the Labour Party, ‘the many, not the few’.

There’s no doubt – as has recently been proven with the Women’s World Cup – that daily exposure on free-to-air TV enables a sporting tournament to capture the attention of the nation. For all the choice now available, terrestrial television remains the main recruitment tool for sport when it comes to ensnaring novices; subscribers are already converts. Indeed, would the annual Great British love affair with events in SW19 continue to fill the tennis courts of the country’s municipal parks every summer had Wimbledon gone the way cricket went? Yes, it could be argued that the game’s lengthy absence from free-to-air TV screens has further enhanced radio coverage and the legend of ‘Test Match Special’; and those who do subscribe would probably agree the likes of Sky and BT have successfully rebranded certain unlikely sports as ‘sexy’. But to give any sport exclusive coverage on a channel requiring subscription threatens to turn it into a minority interest that permanently excludes the majority – both today’s and tomorrow’s.

© The Editor


For the Tories, one could opt for 1945, 1966 or 1974 – and especially that 13-year period from 1997-2010 when a succession of pitiful team captains were dispatched to the crease to chase an impossible target. For Labour, the options are myriad: 1959, 1970, 1979, 1983 etc….all the way up to 2015. Yes, the two political parties that have dictated the destiny of the nation over the last century have each known their fallow periods; the scales have risen and fallen in favour of one or the other throughout the past 100 years, sometimes the victor dependent on alliances with third parties, sometimes going it alone with the cushion of a landslide – though one could argue only Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher really took advantage of the numbers and went for it.

What makes the here and now so strangely incompatible with the manual is that the traditional narrative of one party soaring in strength whilst the other struggles in shambolic disarray isn’t happening. Instead, the twin titans that have bestrode the British political landscape for longer than any of us has been alive are crammed into the one canoe, zooming up shit creek, having misplaced the proverbial paddle. It’s quite a spectacle. We’re used to the usual internal evisceration that occurs in the wake of a party crashing at the ballot-box; it generally takes half-a-decade before the right man or woman emerges to put the house in order and make the losers electable again; by the time this happens, the cracks that the party in office papered-over with victory are beginning to be exposed to the light, and defeat awaits before the game of pass-the-parcel resumes. That’s what we’re used to.

To see both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party going through their crises in-synch is bizarre because it’s so unprecedented. The Tories’ travails stretch back further than Brexit – Cameron’s Blaire-lite approach to social issues (usually involving the word ‘gay’) didn’t play well with the retired admirals and blue-rinsed battleaxes out in the Shires – but any grumblings were subdued by the sight of ‘Red’ Ed sitting on the opposition benches. The spectre of Europe, however – the bad smell that just won’t leave the golf-club – was bound to resurface as an open fire for dissidents to cluster around, and Dave appeased them with a bright idea largely devised to stem the flow in the direction of UKIP. It not only cost Cameron his job; it may well yet obliterate his party.

As for Labour, the lurch to the left that came with Corbyn and his Marxist groupies was accompanied by a successful recruitment drive that his acolytes were fond of quoting whenever Jezza’s unpopularity beyond the student debating society was mentioned. The problem with marketing Jeremy Corbyn as a fashion accessory was that fashion has a habit of dating quickly, and it seems Jezza-mania is already ‘so last year’ – or, to be more accurate, the year before. It probably peaked with the defeat that was almost sold as a victory in the 2017 General Election; the party performed far better than the polls suggested, but not good enough.

For a career backbencher like Corbyn, opposition is his comfort zone; it was even when Labour were in power, as his voting record testifies; and he has constantly struggled to balance the entrenched backbench mindset with the necessary compromise of leadership. When the impetus appeared to be with Remain during the 2016 Referendum campaign, Jezza’s invisibility underlined his difficulty in marrying his strong anti-Brussels stance to the pro-EU sentiments of his disciples. Stick with the latter and No.10 could beckon; but doing so would be a betrayal of the principles studied at the feet of that late, great guru and Leave sage Tony Benn.

This perennial conflict has arisen once again as the Brexit saga has grown more polarising over the past twelve months, and the humiliating ineptitude of Labour to capitalise on the Tories’ civil war by failing to shoot ahead in the polls again suggests we’ve passed peak Jezza-mania. The rapacious appetite for power so shamelessly embodied in the loathsome person of Tom Watson has focused on the Remain cause as a means of taking back control – but from whom? The Lib Dems? That’s who Labour’s U-turn on backing a second referendum has been really prompted by, not the Government.

Anti-Semitism seems to be to Labour what Europe is to the Tories, albeit something that’s arguably even more difficult to deal with considering the inability of so many in the party to distinguish between the Jewish people and the Jewish State. In this respect, Europe for Labour could be viewed as a convenient smokescreen that also enables the likes of Watson, Starmer and Thornberry to exploit the issue as the best way to reconnect with the electorate when the messiah appears incapable of progressing beyond his core fan-base. The main drawback to this master-plan – endorsed by the unions (did their potentate McCluskey even sanction a ballot?) – is that it makes the same mistake as that opportunistic, clueless chameleon Umunna in assuming just because Londoners with the loudest voices wave the EU flag, they somehow represent the entire electorate.

How, one wonders, can Labour ever reconcile their metropolitan mindset with those loyal provincial supporters whose patience has been so severely tested over the last three years by allowing Bunter to hog the headlines and lead the party towards oblivion even quicker than the man whose job he’s clearly after? The delusional belief of Labour’s centrists that there is a vast pool of floating voters just waiting for the chance to flock around their wing of the party was embarrassingly exposed as a fallacy when that egotistical coalition of Labour and Tory defectors (what were they called again?) were utterly crushed in the European Elections. At a moment when Labour needs all the friends it can get as the Tories are imploding before our very eyes, the party is losing those whose loyalty saw Labour through many a lean decade. The Government must be watching events on the other side of the House barely able to believe their good fortune.

Of course, Brexit is a symptom of so much more, so much remaining unaddressed and unattended to by either party as each exhibits its own self-absorbed conceit at the expense of a people who have had enough. June 23 2016 was a storm long time coming, but neither party prepared by bringing a brolly. And they’re still stocking-up on sunscreen rather than purchasing parkas.

© The Editor


My one previous post dedicated to a solitary song (the song in question being ‘Venus in Furs’) went down rather well, and as the recent tone of these here telegrams has reflected the combative, heated nature of the subjects under discussion, I thought it an opportune moment to take another musical break, if only to prove I’m not a one-trick pony with a one-track mind. This time round, I’ve gone from the extremes of The Velvet Underground’s sinister ode to kinky sex and immersed myself in one of the 1970s’ most underrated and overlooked chart-topping love songs, Art Garfunkel’s gorgeous 1975 version of ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’.

I definitely think a crucial ingredient of Art’s interpretation is the point in pop’s evolution at which it was recorded. There’s a deliciously dreamy sense of invocation to this luscious resurrection of an archaic crooner’s standard, one that works so well at summoning an especially hazy afterglow ambience in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade later; by then, the tedious thunder of programmed percussion and the chilly indifference of synthesized ivories would have swamped its sentiment in a cynical tsunami of faux-emotion determined to jerk a tear with a sledgehammer. Aural innocence was the victim of the sonic revolution to come, so Art’s intervention in the revival trend already mined by Lennon, Bowie and Ferry was timed to perfection.

It emerged in the autumnal tide of a year in which an earlier season had been enchantingly evoked in (bird) song by Minnie Riperton, and drifted across the airwaves with effortless languor, seducing the listener into romantic repose by sprinkling a love potion in his and her ears. It’s an exquisitely embroidered tapestry, though one possessing a shrewd economy of instrumentation, most of which was provided by Soft Rock artisan Andrew Gold. The slick keyboard shimmers in synch with the gentle reverberation of the guitar and a modest piano as an unobtrusive drumbeat shares this deceptively simplistic soundscape with soothingly soporific strings; and the final layer to be woven into the pattern is the superlative Garfunkel vocal.

Owing more to the celebrated 1959 doo-wop interpretation by The Flamingos – and its innovative use of reverb to manufacture a dreamlike effect – than the more traditional jazzy takes that had been included in the set-lists of all-round entertainers for decades, Garfunkel takes a number the listener has known forever and turns it into something a cut above other ‘couple’s songs’ doing the rounds in the mid-70s. The likes of Charles Aznavour and Demis Roussos were tailor-made to soundtrack suburban parties, where swapped wives controlled the turntable; Art Garfunkel, on the other hand, was never restricted to singing songs for swooning ladies; he appealed to guys as much as gals thanks to his former partnership – and guys are allowed to wear their hearts on their sleeves too. On ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’, he shows that half-a-decade’s separation from the man who had provided him with so many memorable melodies has not blunted his voice’s instinct for striking an emotional chord, able to breathe intimate new life into a cheesy old hat as effectively as he shook the walls of the musical cathedral in ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’.

Inviting newfound partners to joyfully kick their way through the leaves crackling in a misty sunset before pausing beneath the branches, Simon’s ex serenades the ultimate objects of desire with sublimely breathy grace until his voice soars into the ether on the final verse. It is a shared sonnet for lovers, not a solo for stalkers, and one for lovers yet to be jaded or rendered disillusioned by the inevitable failure of their feelings to outlast this moment. It is the soundtrack to accompany the catching of breath following the first shared intimacy between the sheets.

What the performance and production manage to crystallise with this gloriously ethereal recording is not so much the sensation of falling in love as the mutual awareness that love has been fallen into. The frenzied, hormonal hysteria and heart-skipping excitement of falling is better expressed in numbers infused with the kind of adrenalin rush this song doesn’t require. What Art Garfunkel’s interpretation does is not to capture the thrill and confusion that gatecrashes life when love unexpectedly strikes, but the ecstatic realisation it has arrived and is staying around. Even if that stay is only for the moment, the mystique of the moment is peerlessly preserved in vinyl amber for eternity, for this definitive version of a timeless classic never fails to return you to the realm where every dream seems plausible and possible because another’s hand has slipped into your own.

This is a song that paints a picture of love when it is at its most deliriously delightful, when lovers are overwhelmed by joy at having found each other; fortune is good and the future is glowing with anticipatory ambition. It’s difficult to depict true happiness in song without either saccharine soppiness or a certain trite triviality, demeaning the depth of feeling to upbeat banality, where all emotion exists on a superficial surface. Just as it’s much easier to convey angst and anxiety in relation to love, it’s easier for the songwriter to dwell in the dark recesses of despair and heartbreak that represent the death of a dream, even if the emotions enjoyed at the beginning are no less intense than those endured at the end.

Scaling the summit of the UK charts right at the very moment when four oiks in shredded threads were setting up their amps at St Martin’s College of Art to shatter the notion of love as a viable vehicle for the pop song, ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ stands as one of the last credible missives from an old generation before a new one seizes the day. If the aim of the latter was to consign the former’s sensibilities to the cultural trashcan, it failed. Art Garfunkel’s rendition of this most evergreen homage to magic has yet to be surpassed as a melodic portrait of one of life’s most unfathomable mysteries at the peak of its potency.

© The Editor


It’s a toss-up as to which is the most undignified gesture, really – gate-crashing Europe’s leading gentleman’s club with a choreographed stunt during the playing of ‘Ode to Joy’, or wearing T-shirts bearing the legend ‘Bollocks to Brexit’. It’d be comforting to think the former was a protest at Ludwig Van’s masterpiece being purloined for political purposes, but alas, no, for these are our representatives on the European stage in 2019; it’s enough to make one hanker for Brotherhood of Man and Buck’s Fizz. Then again, representatives for both sides of the divide advertised their intentions in advance, or at least the respective stances they would take once in a) The Lion’s Den or b) The Garden of Eden (tick where applicable).

The Brexit Party certainly made it clear they planned to descend upon the European Parliament determined to disrupt proceedings in the manner of Paisleyite Unionists striding into 1970s Westminster; similarly, the servile sucking-up to the same institution by their Lib Dem opponents whilst wearing their contempt for democracy as a literal T-shirt (just in case anybody missed it) shouldn’t have come as a surprise either. Of course, three years ago 17 million members of the Great British electorate decided we wouldn’t be sending any MEPs to Brussels in 2019; but the fact we are means it was almost inevitable the conflicting responses of the British intake would be akin to children being let loose in an adventure playground without parental supervision. That’s where we are now.

Whether ‘Carry On Up The EU’, milkshakes as missiles, baby blimps hovering over London, or every Grauniad reader’s favourite ‘Urban’ person Stormzy leading a white woke audience in a chant of ‘Fuck Boris’ at the rock & pop Glyndebourne known as Glastonbury, it would appear the nation is experiencing its second childhood. The default panic room when faced with the intractable series of crises confronting the country seems to be the nursery. People are worried about the future, impoverished by Austerity, browbeaten by Brexit and powerless in the face of Parliament discarding its democratic duty, so they retreat to the sole surviving safe-space available to them – sticking their tongues out at the powers-that-be en route, and shouting ‘Fascist’, ‘Nazi’ or ‘Racist’ for good measure.

Reduced to hurling an aforementioned dairy-based beverage at a pantomime villain when the ability to articulate frustration any other way appears a lost art – that’s 2019; the argument has exhausted the nation, even though most of us ironically do now know a great deal more about the EU than when presented with a choice in 2016. Unfortunately, those of a Second Referendum bent have failed to realise that possession of this knowledge doesn’t necessarily serve as the ideal recruitment weapon for the Remainer narrative; if anything, the more we learn the more likely we are to be drawn to the Leave cause. They really should’ve retained the beguiling mystique of the EU and not exposed the grotesque bureaucratic behemoth to the light.

At least we all had a say in 2016 (even if it appears to have counted for nothing in the end) – unlike the race to No.10, the latest offshoot from Cameron’s can of worms. Yet, if eras are given leaders most pertinent to those eras, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that Boris Johnson is still the odds-on favourite to be the next Prime Minister. He is the ideal candidate for our times – immature, immoral, avaricious, frivolous, reckless, devious, dishonest – and so say all of us. Maybe the most significant example to date of Boris’s inability to cope in a crisis came via his infamously sloppy response to the detainment and imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; the potential damage the then-Foreign Secretary’s casual comments did to the British-Iranian citizen held on dubious spying charges in Tehran contrast sharply with Jim Callaghan’s response to the threatened execution of Ugandan-based British author and lecturer Denis Hills in 1975. Hills was sentenced to death by firing squad on charges of espionage and sedition; but Callaghan as Foreign Secretary made a personal approach to Idi Amin, flying out to Kampala and bringing Hills home. That’s the kind of thing grownups do – or used to.

An elderly, ailing Churchill returning to power in 1951 was the perfect personification of the early 50s malaise, playing the nation’s grandfather in the manner of an aged stationmaster from the Rev. W. Awdry’s Railway Series; Harold Wilson was the right man for the job in 1964, surfing the wave of the nation’s dynamic go-getting attitude via his utilisation of both the pre-eminent pop culture and the white heat of the new technology; he performed his own late Churchill role ten years later, holding both party and country together as one last duty before collecting his carriage clock; in contrast, the big hair & big shoulder pad ensemble of Mrs Thatcher was the stylistic embodiment of mid-80s excess in all its ‘greed-is-good’ vulgarity as the free-market hounds were released for round one of casino capitalism’s ascendancy; the middle-management, superficial blandness of Blair and his heir, Cameron, equally made them men of their times. We’ve got Boris.

Yes, like Trump, he may piss-off the right-on chattering classes – which is undeniably entertaining; but that’s not a good enough reason on its own to hand him the keys to No.10. We should be able to do better. But take a look at the opposing frontbenches and nominate a great man or woman who would make a great leader. No, me neither. This is an age of unprecedented parliamentary mediocrities. Boris has always caught the eye because of the amusing comic character he plays in public; surrounded by such nonentities, he was bound to stand out. But the Enoch Powell-like ‘voice in the wilderness’ aura he has generated from the backbenches ever since his exit from government should have kept him as a perennial beacon for mischief-makers to congregate around, not propel him all the way to Downing Street.

Boris wants to be Prime Minister, whereas Nigel Farage claims he doesn’t want to be an MEP; his presence in Brussels inevitably provokes cries of hypocrisy from his enemies. ‘But you still collect your Brussels salary!’ Yes, just like all those SNP MPs whose avowed aim is to detach their country from the UK and its parliament, yet still receive their Westminster paycheque – or all the members of the Northern Ireland Executive who continue to be paid, despite the fact it hasn’t sat at Stormont for over two years. Nice work if you can get it, eh? All adult avenues are sealed-off now, so while you arm yourself with a milkshake, I shall continue to exercise my own puerile prodding with the occasional silly, satirical video as I proceed towards my destiny as Miss Havisham. Or maybe not…

© The Editor