MasksSo, I guess we’re all Spinal Tap now – furtively looking for the door leading to the stage and always ending up back where we started in some anonymous concrete corridor. The perennial state of déjà vu we’ve been living through ever since the very first lockdown is one upon which many words have been lavished, not least on here; yet one reaches a point where it feels as though there’s little new left to say on a subject that has reshaped all our lives to varying degrees over the last couple of years, simply because there isn’t; it’s like watching a recording of the same football match every day and having to write a completely new review of it after every viewing. As we take one step forward and then two back over and over again, the sense of fatigue and utter exhaustion with this never-ending cycle can either push one into resigned compliance whereby there’s no energy remaining to resist, or it can equally intensify one’s anger with the authorities constantly imposing a lifeless design for life mandated by those exempt from living it; but any such anger of this nature generates its own despair, for it has nowhere to go and is ultimately doomed.

In order to maintain any kind of facsimile lifestyle that bears a passing resemblance to life as it used to be, compliance is compulsory – otherwise, you’re out in the cold. The examples of Australia, Austria and Germany are ones that until very recently most would have decried as characteristic of regimes in North Korea or China, certainly not allegedly free democratic societies in Western Europe or the Anglosphere – yet so few critical voices are raised to denounce these outrageous abuses of human rights and civil liberties, least of all from elected leaders of nations founded on the kind of principles that separated the free from the enslaved. The ambivalence of shrugged shoulders at best and the hysterical demand to go even further at worst have provided a real-time history lesson as to how all those distant purveyors of totalitarianism managed to get away with what they did to their people. Anyone who has read books or watched documentaries on the Nazis or the Soviet Union over the last half-century has always been able to do so with a smug detachment that made the crimes committed under those systems typical of a less civilised culture in which the public were somehow not as sophisticated as they are now, because (of course) we’d never fall for any of that.

Stoke fear and panic, introduce emergency measures, ensure the co-operation of media, generate an Us and Them mindset to quell opposition, saturate the population with an advertising campaign to normalise the abnormal, rebrand the meaning of ‘freedom’ so that it comes with oppressive accessories contradicting the former meaning of the word, grind people down to the point where they have no option but to obey and accept the unacceptable, and before you know it we have witnessed a first-hand demonstration of how it’s done. And still there will be millions who cannot see it – just as millions couldn’t see it in the 1930s. Yes, that is how it’s done – and that’s how it was done by all those far away regimes we read and watch documentaries about, all the ones we used to think we would never fall for because we’re so much more sophisticated now.

Perhaps the further time travels from the moment when Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini were present tense, when those to whom such figures existed in living memory are surrendering to mortality, perhaps that’s where the real danger resides. We maintain respectful remembrance by placing wreaths at the foot of monuments every November, yet we cannot recognise those same forces of evil in our own time because they’re nothing like those strange characters our forefathers sacrificed their lives to vanquish; they don’t have comedy moustaches or dress in pseudo-militaristic outfits, for one thing. No, how can one compare Boris or Biden or Macron or Merkel or Trudeau or Arden to Adolph or Uncle Joe or Benito? What they’re doing they’re doing for our own good, with our best interests at heart – they’re not invading other countries or dropping bombs on each other, are they? Of course not; they don’t need to. Their weapons of war are psychological, for what they really share with the old-school dictators is absolute moral certainty, an unshakable conviction that they are right and anyone resistant to their worldview is wrong. There is no middle ground, no myriad grey shades. And only psychopaths have absolute moral certainty; that’s why they’re so dangerous.

Any lingering pretence that either Left or Right is somehow ideologically superior to the other and has exclusive ownership of the moral high ground has been rendered utterly redundant by events since the spring of 2020. In Blighty we supposedly have a Government of the Right, yet an opposition supposedly of the Left has been clamouring for even more repressive measures throughout this period, ones that are utterly at odds with the beliefs the Left has traditionally stood for and extolled. When those beliefs are expressed now, they are shouted down by the Left even louder than the Right – in fact they are reclassified as ‘Right-Wing’. Any critique, however reasoned, is immediately consigned to the flat-earth basket case department housing the rabid anti-vaxxer, the 5G conspiracy theorist, and the Mr Icke range of exceedingly good fruitcakes. One cannot acknowledge the seriousness of Covid to the most vulnerable in society, accept the necessity of vaccinations in keeping the coronavirus to a more manageable level, and yet simultaneously air concerns over the anti-democratic tactics of democratically-elected governments. If you go along with the first two, you have no place going along with the last.

It increasingly appears that those who have profited – not in a financial sense (though many have) – from the situation since the first lockdown are reluctant to relinquish the source of that profit. Why, though, would governments that now have previously-unimaginable control of their people want to let go of it? Why indeed would media outlets that have thrived on the drama of the pandemic saga want to see the final credits roll on a franchise that they’ve done so well out of? Like a lover incapable of accepting a relationship is over desperately struggling to rekindle the romance of its beginnings, the beneficiaries of pandemic Britain see no reason why we cannot carry on instead of moving on; what we wake up to find ourselves confronted by today is effectively the second honeymoon, the lamentable attempt to recapture the halcyon days that are beyond salvaging. Both parties are no longer the same people they were at the start.

Anyone with half-a-brain could foresee that where we are now was inevitable. A new variant pulled out of the hat like the proverbial magician’s rabbit was the most predictable of plotlines, as was the sudden reversal of restrictions being lifted and a kind-of normal life being lived again. So, we’re back to bloody masks and the double-jabbed are being emotionally blackmailed into endless boosters that this new variant is apparently immune to, and the few current exceptions from the resurrected rules will no doubt be added to the list within a matter of weeks. And then maybe Christmas will be cancelled again and we’ll be back to having no more than six people in our homes and then it’ll be one more lockdown and we won’t know if we’re living in 2020, 2021 or 2022. And anyone who points this out will be demonised as some sort of unpatriotic fifth columnist with the same lazy ease with which a critic of Identity Politics is labelled a racist or a Transphobe or a homophobe or an Islamophobe or a Fascist or a Nazi. And however hard we search for that elusive stage, we’ll only get so far before we find we’re back at the same point we started at – and all we want to do is shout ‘Hello, Cleveland!’

© The Editor




Barbed WireIt’s often been suggested that the game-changing impact of the original ‘Star Wars’ film ushered in a more juvenile strain of cinema that we’re still living with to this very day – and what it inadvertently swept away was quite a loss. Aided by the end of the Hays Code and influenced by European film-makers of the era (as well as a necessary injection of fresh counter-cultural blood), Hollywood had grown up a bit in the decade immediately preceding the 1977 release of George Lucas’ first take on the franchise, and in the process enjoyed something of a second Golden Age. A fun comic strip of a film like ‘Star Wars’ shouldn’t have really threatened that, yet the success that caught Hollywood by surprise was quickly picked up by studios already in the hands of accountants; why go to the trouble of making another ‘Taxi Driver’ and limiting the bums-on-seats due to an X certificate when you can make another ‘Star Wars’ for all the family and make far more money than you ever would with the further trials and tribulations of Travis Bickle?

40-odd years later, dumb and dumber blockbusters with a lineage that can be traced all the way back to the phenomenal success of ‘Star Wars’ utterly dominate the movie industry – and terrestrial TV seems to have suffered a similar fate in terms of lowering the intelligence quota. I don’t believe television had an equivalent game-changer in terms of the pop cultural impact that ‘Star Wars’ had on cinema – though perhaps, at least in the UK, the unprecedented response to the question ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ affected the way in which dramatic output was marketed to media and public alike so that a sensationalist plotline guaranteed to attract hysterical headlines and in turn big audiences became the way forward. The Ken/Deirdre/Mike love triangle on ‘Coronation Street’ in 1983 was one of the first such examples to learn the lesson of the ‘Dallas’ cliff-hanger, with the news that the Barlows decided to stay together being flashed on the Old Trafford scoreboard in the middle of a match. The launch of ‘Eastenders’ a couple of years later saw these tactics hyped-up to the max – and it paid off for the Beeb with the kind of viewing figures unimaginable today.

The first few years of Channel 4’s ‘Brookside’ had offered an alternative to the increasingly melodramatic nature of its mainstream rivals, yet by the early 90s that too had taken a similar detour as storylines began to drift away from at least heightened reality and more towards the headline-grabbing. Phil Redmond’s Scouse soap had initially been rooted in the grittier ‘Play for Today’ tradition, perhaps the last refuge for that strain of television writing following the gradual disappearance of the single play from the schedules as the 80s progressed. The single play had once been the writers’ university for so many of British television’s seminal scribes, yet within a generation the soap opera had superseded it; and with the soap having taken on such fantastical and unbelievable qualities, it was unsurprising that once TV writers graduated from the genre and moved on to developing projects of their own they’d carry the sensationalist sensibility into the post-watershed mini-series.

I’ve seen a lot of these 9pm dramas on BBC1 and ITV over the past 10-15 years; some of them are quite enjoyable (if utterly humourless), but very much in a fast-food fashion; the sensation is momentary and the majority I’ve already forgotten by the time the credits roll. Wasn’t there one with Christopher Ecclestone in it – or was it John Simm – or Suranne Jones – or…oh, I can’t remember now; forgettable storylines, forgettable characters, forgettable dialogue, and forgettable resolutions so over-the-top they’d be rejected at an ‘Emmerdale’ script meeting. They’re the TV equivalent of a quick one off the wrist. For me, the best way to discern an undeniable dumbing down in the dramatic output of terrestrial TV is always to take time out and invest in a vintage series, generally from the 70s, and make the comparisons. The juvenile nature of the melodrama that passes for ‘adult’ television today is so apparent when one revisits a series such as ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ (1976), for example, which I have been during the last couple of weeks. It’s so ‘grown-up’ and intelligent in the way it presents characters and storyline to the audience it makes you realise just how condescending and lowest-common-denominator most of today’s equivalent offerings truly are. That was what really struck me when I got sucked into the show, which I hadn’t properly seen in full before.

Andrea Newman’s steamy drama based on her own novel caused quite a stir at the time of its original transmission, even if the fuss was swiftly eclipsed by the controversy generated by another (even more dysfunctional) family saga a few months later in the shape of ‘I, Claudius’. The story of an unhealthily obsessive father, Peter Manson (played by the ever-watchable Frank Finlay), manipulated by his spoilt, narcissistic daughter, Prue (the irresistibly pouty Susan Penhaligon) was complicated by the seething jealousy of Frank Finlay’s character towards the usurper of his daughter’s affections in the shape of his American son-in-law, Gavin, not to mention the eventual affair between said son-in-law and Finlay’s wife, Cassie – oh, and Finlay’s affair with his young-enough-to-be-his-daughter secretary, Sarah (an affair symbolically carried out in the vacated bed of his actual daughter’s apartment in her absence). It’s an almightily sultry stew of repressed incestuous longing and taboo-breaking assignations. And it was a runaway critical (and commercial) success for London Weekend Television.

Maybe one of the toughest aspects of the series for a contemporary audience would be the way in which it fails to take sides and paints the family portrait in myriad shades. Prue’s husband Gavin at times responds to his wife’s petulant appetite for stirring it by giving her a slap, something that is dealt with in a manner that neither overtly condones nor condemns his violent streak. The action is portrayed as a sad symptom of an emotionally draining relationship with Prue, the weaver of a self-destructive web who is said to have a touch of the masochist about her; and Gavin is seen as a victim as much as his wife is. There is nuance a plenty in this acknowledgement of flawed human beings capable of simultaneous good and evil; in this world, all are saints and all are sinners – just like our own; it takes place in a complex moral maze TV drama now shies away from. Any character exhibiting the domestic abuse traits of Gavin in a TV drama today would have all that nuance ejected from the profile and would be reincarnated as a pantomime villain bordering on fully paid-up member of the Nazi Party. The character would not be allowed to be presented with the prospect of redemption and forgiveness – he would simply have to be an incurable bastard.

But, again, it is simply the ‘grown-up’ – and there’s no more apt phrase – attitude of the series when approaching these ambiguous emotions within the family dynamic that strikes the modern viewer accustomed to relentlessly black-and-white, childish impressions of the way people behave towards each other and the stupidly simplistic explanations for their behaviour. The style of Scandi Noir and some of the epic US series of recent years are on display in contemporary terrestrial TV drama, yet substance is conspicuous by its absence. Some scenes in ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ unfold at the pace of a well-written novel, in a delicately sedate and intensely subtle manner that contrasts with the cartoonish characterisations and OTT treatment that have become the retarded hallmarks of post-watershed dramas today. That a 45-year-old example of how it could be done seems more recognisably real than a present day idea – one which appears to have been scripted by a 13-year-old boy with no notion of how adults actually speak or deal with crises – is telling, but – alas – not surprising.

© The Editor




Peng ShuaiIt must be great being China; I mean, you can literally get away with anything and nobody’s going to stop you. Perhaps only Vladimir Putin alone also knows how good that feels. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough – only, no one will and no one does. You create a deadly virus, you somehow let it slip out of the lab and spread across the globe, and then – as a totalitarian state – you devise an inhumane method of placing your citizens under constant surveillance and/or house-arrest and every free, democratic nation around the world follows your lead. What’s not to like? And now China has flexed its muscles even further on the international stage by removing one of its leading sportswomen from public view, just like that – because it can. Why, all she did was make online sexual assault allegations against a former vice-premier.

35-year-old Peng Shuai, one-time women’s doubles world number one and a Wimbledon winner in that category alongside Hsieh Su-wei in 2013, has effectively vanished following the allegations made on the Weibo social media site. They were made against Zhang Gaoli, alleging the senior CCP official tried to force her into having sex after playing tennis at his home. The allegations, which have subsequently been removed from the site, appeared on 2 November; and Shuai hasn’t been seen since – unless one believes the email (credited to her) that was released last week in which ‘she’ retracts the allegations and claims she’s not missing but is merely keeping out of the public eye by relaxing at home, a claim supported by some unconvincing photos that accompanied the missive. A few days later, Chinese state media released a clip apparently featuring the reclusive star having an evening out at a restaurant, which is certainly a new twist on the traditional hostage video.

So, the official line from the CCP is that there is no story, Peng Shuai is not missing, and serious allegations against one of the party’s highest-ranking figures are not worthy of comment. Across-the-board denial has been the response whenever questions have been asked by outsiders, with a blanket ban in effect on Chinese media outlets. ‘I have not heard of the issue you raised,’ said China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. ‘This is not a diplomatic question.’ His response has been deleted from the Chinese Government’s official website, so it therefore never happened. A similar bout of feigned ignorance afflicted the pages of the CCP’s Global Times. ‘As a person who is familiar with the Chinese system,’ wrote editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, ‘I don’t believe Peng Shuai has received retaliation and repression speculated by foreign media for the thing people talked about.’ ‘The thing people talked about’ – interesting wording; no surprise about the wording, however, when one considers this story doesn’t exist in the Chinese media landscape.

The Women’s Tennis Association is not exactly satisfied with these excuses for explanations, threatening to withdraw from the Chinese tournaments that constitute a money-spinning section of next season’s tour unless Shuai resurfaces soon; the WTA’s male equivalent – along with some of its most notable members – has also voiced concerns as to her whereabouts after airing the allegations. Both the UN and the White House have issued statements condemning the situation, whilst over here there have been calls for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics – probably unlikely, but China does like to contradict the critical narrative via grand gestures that paint it in a positive light, like its spectacular staging of the Olympic Games in Beijing back in 2008. Any such boycott could potentially damage the global brand, though it’ll most likely end up little more than a dent on account of the few who I imagine will follow through on their threat.

After all, how many of the virtuous footballers taking the knee and wrapping themselves around the rainbow flag will extend their stunning and brave solidarity with the oppressed people of the planet into the next World Cup, where they’ll be guaranteed a global platform? In case you’ve forgotten, FIFA received enough weighty brown packages under the table during the bidding process to award the competition to that renowned haven for LGBTXYZ (and women’s) rights, Qatar – y’know the Middle Eastern kingdom whereby effective slave labour has been busily building the required stadia whilst the authorities have been sweeping a fair few insignificant workforce fatalities under the carpet. Hmm, difficult dilemma facing yer average international footballer, that one.

Maybe it’s just easier indulging in your vacuous gesture before kick-off at every game in the Premier League rather than risking losing your place in the national side should you question the narrative. Moreover, why take the chance of your face being removed from all the products you sponsor when they’re being sold in some of the world’s most profitable marketplaces – ones that unfortunately happen to be the kind of places that have no respect whatsoever for the personal freedoms you’re so keen to promote unless doing so threatens your own luxury livelihood? At least you’re being seen doing the accepted ‘right thing’ week in-week out and that’s enough – even if it makes not the slightest bit of difference to a serf baking beneath the Qatari sun as he installs another executive box for FIFA officials.

Sport being such a huge generator of huge wealth for its highest-paid practitioners is always the sting in the tail of a sportsman or woman acquiring a conscience, where blind eyes are turned to genuine suffering if it jeopardises the career to raise the subject. Some do have the balls to go out on a limb and make a stance, but most prefer to merely make the token gestures and not offend the goose laying their golden eggs. On a positive note in this particular case, some of the leading names in tennis have at least nailed their colours to the mast where Peng Shuai is concerned – everyone from Billie Jean King to Novak Djokovic; but we shall have to wait and see what happens next if she fails to appear in public again. Not that Shuai is the first notable athlete to disappear from view, mind.

Ugandan hurdler John Akii-Bua won his country’s first ever gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, yet was discovered in a Kenyan refugee camp eight years later; despite receiving a hero’s welcome following his Olympic success, the collapse of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979 forced him to flee Uganda, and it took the intervention of his shoe manufacturer Puma to intervene upon his discovery before he was released to work for the firm in Germany. Ironically, considering his nation was ruled by such a bonkers and dangerous despot at the time of his triumph, Akii-Bua received the patronage of Amin and his disappearance, for once, wasn’t down to Mr President. If only the same could be said for Peng Shuai.

An interesting non-critical voice has come from the International Olympic Committee, though perhaps it’s no great surprise considering it could give FIFA a run for its money in the honesty stakes. An IOC statement said they had ‘seen the latest reports and are encouraged by assurances that she is safe.’ There you go. But Peng Shuai remains out of sight for the moment and the serious sexual assault allegations have yet to be investigated. It’ll be interesting to see how far China tries to take this or if it has actually underestimated the international response it has provoked and the whole business has been a step too far for a country that has grown used to doing whatever the hell it wants without having to face any real consequences.

© The Editor




VicarPhase One: The Pandemic; Phase Two: Climate Change; and now, Phase Three: Our old friend, Terrorism. There’s plenty out there to maintain a state of panic, and the Islamist branch of the terrorist business has never gone away; it’s merely been marginalised by the musical chairs of Project Fear. But its turn has come again – first with the murder of MP Sir David Amess and then last weekend with an intended attack that was aborted outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Mind you, you wouldn’t necessarily know this was an Islamist attack if you’ve followed the story on the MSM. ‘Don’t mention Islam’ has become the contemporary version of ‘Don’t mention the War’; Islam appears to be the most offensive swear word of all in the aftermath of every incident of this nature now – the word that patently ought to be said, yet won’t be by police or media.

The linguistic gymnastics performed when it comes to statements made following each such assault on home soil is laughable when the missing word is the most conspicuous elephant in the room. This ludicrous avoidance also stretches into Parliament, where the entire horrific event wasn’t considered a significant enough issue for MPs to raise during PMQ’s, apparently; perhaps the ‘I’ word might have had to be mentioned. Imagine if, during the IRA’s mainland bombing campaign of the mid-70s, mainstream news reports had focused on the ‘mental health issues’ of the Republicans perpetrating the atrocities in Birmingham and Guildford, and neither police, press, television or radio mentioned the word ‘Irish’. It would’ve been utterly ridiculous, yet this is essentially the manner of the reportage that has accompanied the last couple of high profile incidents both caused by asylum seekers who came to this country from overseas war zones rooted in Jihadi rhetoric and were sufficiently enamoured of their adopted country to slaughter its citizens.

The fact a man trying to gain asylum in England for seven years was apparently attempting to detonate a bomb at Liverpool Cathedral on Remembrance Sunday suggests someone not entirely converted to the British way of life. Thanks to the quick thinking courage of the cabbie whose taxi the wannabe bomber was travelling in, a bloodbath was averted – though the failed Jihadist blew himself to smithereens right outside a maternity hospital, which is a gruesome enough spectacle, if not quite the spectacle the bomber anticipated. But, however much the reality seems to have been twisted into a less incendiary narrative, the terror alert has still been raised as a consequence of last weekend’s events; and now we have to be ‘vigilant’ (the PM’s word) when it comes to mentally-ill Christians. That’s what Emad al-Swealmeen was, of course.

Anyone still desperate enough to claim asylum in the wake of rejection will grab at anything offering the promise of such a decision being reversed. Step forward the Church of England. In a move that is hopelessly naive at best and downright dangerous at worst, the state religion has been converting Muslims that the Home Office doesn’t regard as a safe bet for residency in the hope that the conversion will convince the authorities to let them stay – regardless of the reservations that prompted the application being turned down, as was the case with the Liverpool bomber in 2014. This practice, which has been taking place largely under the radar for several years, has seen hundreds of asylum seekers signing up to the faith in the belief it will secure British citizenship. Sorry, but I can’t help thinking of the Python sketch in which Adolph (AKA Mr ‘Hilter’) and his inner circle are hiding out in a seaside B&B, plotting their comeback at the Minehead by-election whilst posing as Brits – ‘Ah, yes! Bobby Charlton! Chip and fish on the Piccadilly Line!’

Emad al-Swealmeen’s 2017 conversion to Christianity took place at the very same seat of worship that seems to have been his intended target last Sunday. At least this enabled security forces investigating the incident to claim the motive for the attack ‘remained unclear’; yeah, why would a ‘Christian’ be en route to a Christian church on a Sunday carrying an explosive device? It’s one hell of a mystery. The Church of England interfering in the asylum process seems to be an extension of the Left’s ring-fencing of Muslims as their favourite oppressed pets, and whenever one of their pets lets the side down by attempting the occasional massacre it f***s up the narrative to such an extent that we end up with the frankly mind-boggling kind of retarded reporting we’ve received over this particular case, which is akin to the turning-a-blind-eye excuses aired in the midst of Stalin’s purges during the 30s.

Not unlike the way in which members of the SS tried to avoid capture by disguising themselves as prisoners when the death camps were liberated at the end of WWII, the more extremist factions of Islam make allowances for the ambitious Jihadist to blend in with the enemy by adopting his faith and convincing him all thoughts of Jihad have been expunged by Jesus. Emad al-Swealmeen had arrived here without a passport and posed as a Syrian refugee before it was discovered he was actually from Iraq; in order to bolster his appeal following asylum rejection, he embarked upon the Alpha Course, a five-week induction into the Christian faith that the asylum seeker evidently reckons looks better on their file. Well-meaning do-gooders working to assist asylum seekers – some, though not all, connected to the Church – are undoubtedly helpful to genuine applicants with genuine grounds for asylum, but it’s inevitable that their best intentions and naivety are going to be exploited by charlatans and those with a less benign aim in mind. The shocked and surprised reactions of those who’d assisted al-Swealmeen in his ‘conversion’ spoke volumes as to just how wilfully in denial these people are.

The ‘lone wolf’ storyline seems to be the familiar plot we’re being fed, portraying the bomber as a mentally disturbed individual operating in a vacuum, placing emphasis on his spell being sectioned after an incident involving a knife. Yet, one wonders if he really was a solo artist; someone permanently appealing against the decision to reject an asylum application and presumably claiming some form of state benefit is hardly in a strong financial position, which makes one wonder how he could afford to rent a second flat that appears to have been used as his secret bomb factory. Hard to believe he didn’t have some assistance, really – but don’t expect any great revelation. The ‘open borders’ mantra, one that doesn’t distinguish between economic migrants, refugees fleeing persecution or wannabe Jihadists, remains the main jingle when it comes to the majority of Westminster, and it’s a policy that can never weed out the bad apples and ensure only those with a genuine case get through. It seems like a recipe for disaster on paper, and in practice it’s pretty much proven to be so.

However, you probably won’t hear many air that opinion in the MSM; and the problem with a ‘don’t go there’ taboo is that no proper discussion or debate can then take place, leaving it to fall into the laps of extremists from the other side whilst those who have manipulated the scheme can plot away undisturbed. The abuse of the system has not gone unnoticed, but it takes two to abuse it. Priti Patel herself railed against it earlier this week. ‘It’s a complete merry-go-round,’ she said. ‘And it’s been exploited. It has been exploited quite frankly by a whole professional legal services industry that has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day in, day out at the expense of the tax-payer through legal aid.’ When it comes to blood on hands, it seems there’s plenty to go round. Amen.

© The Editor




AliceIn case you missed it, last week saw the long-awaited announcement that M&S staff members will henceforth be wearing their preferred gender pronouns on badges (which has no doubt been demanded by all the old ladies who purchase their bloomers at the company’s branches); but at least the relentless imposition of a particular agenda on the public by corporations and institutions without prior consultation has momentarily paused at one of its main offenders. It may still be tediously ticking the diversity boxes with regards to its programming, but the BBC has belatedly pulled out of a questionable commitment to the dubious aims of the increasingly unhinged LGBTXYZ charity Stonewall. Yet should the national broadcaster have even signed-up for a programme run by an organisation which has become a platform for the most fanatical, zealous and nasty of Trans-activists, thus negating any reasoned debate on the issue across the allegedly impartial BBC?

Being a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme may have won plenty Woke Brownie points in the social justice citadel of Broadcasting House, but the objectives of Stonewall can hardly be said to be reflective of the BBC’s dwindling (not to say ageing) audience. The appalling report that recently appeared on the BBC News website on how some young lesbians are being pressurised and bullied into having sexual relations with Trans-women for fear of being ostracised by pro-Trans social media hounds was a shocking eye-opener, not to say a surprising story to emerge from a news outlet so seemingly in thrall to the LGBTXYZ agenda over the past few years. Yet, perhaps its mere appearance was a positive sign, an indication of a conscious step back from a wholly biased campaigning role which isn’t something a publicly-funded broadcaster should be committing itself to.

The Diversity Champions programme is one of the many ways in which Stonewall has bought itself a foothold in several public institutions, influencing policy and effectively ring-fencing itself from criticism. By signing up to the scheme, the Beeb was required to pay the charity for ‘advice on creating inclusive workplaces’, a line straight out of the satirical BBC comedy series of a few years back, ‘W1A’. The fact that Ofcom and several government departments have already withdrawn from promoting this scheme perhaps made it easier for the BBC to pull out; naturally, however, this hasn’t prevented the predictable backlash from the usual suspects. The industry union, BECTU, reacted to the announcement by saying the decision would be ‘incredibly damaging to the morale of the LGBT workforce and will negatively impact the BBC’s ability to attract talent in the future.’ A strange choice of wording, there; surely talent is secondary when it comes to hiring new faces at the BBC?

What counts over talent at the BBC is the colour of one’s skin or one’s sexual preference or one’s gender, even though none should have the slightest bearing on one’s ability to do the job. If only talent were the main priority when it came to recruitment, perhaps more of the Corporation’s output would be worth watching because hiring would have been done on the basis of merit rather than any tokenistic quotas that require fulfilling. Mind you, the Beeb isn’t unique; English Touring Opera’s decision to make half of its orchestral players redundant solely because they’re not ‘ethnic’ enough is a case in point. Being denied employment due to the colour of one’s skin – didn’t that used to be called racial discrimination? And here’s me thinking all that had long since been outlawed.

Imagine a football team being put together based not on the abilities of the players, but because they ticked boxes unconnected to that ability; an insane proposition, but no more insane than an orchestra recruiting musicians on the same grounds. Perhaps even without throwing its lot in with Stonewall, the BBC remains entirely at home in an entertainment industry that can essentially draw-up a McCarthy-like blacklist of writers, directors, performers and artists with the ‘wrong opinions’ and/or ‘identity’ and continue to hire and promote mediocrities whose qualification for their positions is utterly unrelated to ability.

Still, the BBC would do well to be a tad more selective when it comes to ideological bedfellows. Stonewall has hardly covered itself in glory of late, losing many of its long-time supporters to newer organisations formed out of frustration with the direction Stonewall has been moving in – organisations such as the LGB Alliance, which Stonewall (and the Labour Party) has all-but labelled a far-right extremist anti-Trans ‘hate’ group. But charities need to be careful in adopting holier-than-thou stances. Recent exposés of the way some major charities are run – from Kids Company to the sexual exploitation of the natives by Oxfam employees to the revelation of the Aspinall Foundation (the wildlife conservation charity of which the PM’s missus is an employee) paying £150,000 in ‘interior design services’ to its chairman’s wife in 2020, has shown that many groups beginning with good intentions have morphed into organisations extolling all the immoral virtues of big business.

Perhaps it’s no surprise Stonewall has deviated so far from its original intention; when men can marry men and women can marry women and the age of consent is the same whichever way you bend, an organisation built to fight battles that have all been won has had to seek out – or invent – new battles to validate its existence. However, throwing its lot in with the Trans lobby – and its most bonkers fringes – has undoubtedly damaged the brand. Lest we forget, this is a charity that in prioritising one tiny minority provoked the split that led to the formulation of the LGB Alliance, which has provided a refuge for those now-marginalised within gay circles, especially lesbians. Whilst there is undoubtedly a touch of the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea about this on the surface, some of the LGB Alliance’s statements on the kind of extreme policies pursued by Stonewall – the kind that alienate outsiders and can foster latent homophobia – sound pretty sensible and are far closer to what Stonewall used to represent before it went a bit mad.

The LGB Alliance is more in line with majority thinking in that it opposes some of the more fruitcake theories that are being bedded into the workplace environment and (more worryingly) in that gender identity social engineering lab, the classroom. The Scottish Government thinks it’s okay for children to decide what gender they are and parents don’t have to be consulted at all; similarly, they believe a biological man suddenly declaring he’s a woman without going through all that troublesome, time-consuming surgery (a process that indicates genuine commitment to the cause) has to now be recognised as a woman in law, giving him a free pass into the private spaces of actual women – and young girls, in the case of changing rooms. There’s now even a small movement emanating from (perhaps inevitably) California which demands the ‘negative’ term paedophilia be replaced with MAPs – Minor-Attracted People. ‘South Park’ beat them to it 20 years ago in an episode featuring NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Whenever ‘liberalism’ gets to the point it’s at right now, it always ends up back at the Paedophile Information Exchange.

At the moment, one could very easily conclude the West is a society sliding into decadence as its achievements are fashionably trashed and its institutions infiltrated by an Alice in Wonderland design for life in which (as someone once famously said) 2+2=5. Logic be damned as we reach the point that historically characterises the death throes of that society. When female crime figures soar because male villains in drag are listed as women and the further education system is so f***ed-up that female students struggling to cope with the financial demands of university are being offered courses in ‘sex work’ to make ends meet, we say no more because to do so is to be denounced as a bigot. But this isn’t just madness – this is M&S madness.

© The Editor




CenotaphIt shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Am I the only person whose regular Sunday morning listening habits are modified on Remembrance Day by keeping the radio on and merging the audio-only build-up to the two-minute silence with sound and vision from the TV screen? It’s oddly effective when the delay between the respective live feeds of radio and television combine to create a rather haunting echo, particularly when Big Ben chimes or the Last Post is played – as though the whole ceremony is being respectfully remixed into a ghostly, Spector-esque Wall of Sound before our ears. Anyway, it always seems to enhance the atmosphere for me. Like most, I’ve been exposed to images from this annual tradition all my life and if anything makes one acutely aware of mortality, it’s events at the Cenotaph every November. For example, this year, for the first time I can ever remember, Her Majesty was not in attendance.

Brenda hasn’t been her usual remarkably robust 95-year-old self for the past month or so, but it’s perhaps an indication of how she’s had to ease up on her work-rate that she should have to forego a ceremony she’s been such a key fixture of for longer than most of us have been alive. Mind you, no Duke of Edinburgh this year, and it’s still quite strange to see it without his presence too. Yet, it really doesn’t seem that long since all those wheelchair-bound veterans of the First World War were part of the Remembrance furniture, and now they’re all gone as well. I remember their numbers dwindling year-after-year; every time the Sunday in question came around, there’d be fewer of them than there had been twelve months before. In the end, it got to the point when there were just two or three clinging on as the last surviving link to a conflict the society we were born into was raised in the long shadow of. And then they were no more. The ceremony had to carry on without them – and it has, as WWI ceased to be within living memory and receded over the horizon into its final resting place of the history book.

One used to be able to guess the conflict each ex-serviceman or woman present had participated in by how lined their faces were, though again, using Remembrance Day as a yardstick for measuring the passage of time is a poignant pointer to the gradual moving of the goalposts. Today the grey and white hairs sit atop the heads of those who fought in the Falklands or the Gulf War – even those who fought in more recent conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq; and the remaining old soldiers in the wheelchairs are the ones whose World War was the Second. They have replaced the likes of Harry Patch as the veterans’ veteran; but their numbers are also diminishing every time this day is with us once more. For me personally, that living connection to the War was finally severed when my grandfather passed away almost a decade ago, but until the last survivor who lifted a rifle in anger against the Nazis or Japanese lays it down for good, there is still a link there that we need to cherish while we can.

When I was a child, the ceremonial occasion on the Sunday nearest to 11 November felt like a parade of old men whose relevance to the here and now seemed slight. Yes, my granddad had been there – in Egypt and South Africa and a PoW in East Germany (that much I do know) – but he never talked about it. We were encouraged to remember something we were too young to remember; the ceremony could just as easily have been marking Waterloo, Trafalgar or Agincourt. However, the number of conflicts the British armed forces have been engaged in over the last few decades have given it a newfound relevance for those far younger than me – the widows and orphans of all the overseas wars we have been committed to without prior consultation. I would imagine there are innumerable lives redirected by the ramifications of these conflicts – lives amongst the generations that came after mine as opposed to my own generation, and for them today probably means more than it does to me.

The cultural, emotional and spiritual significance of this event every November – not just the televised ceremony in the capital, but every small service in every metropolis and hamlet the length and breadth of these islands – is one of the reasons why people are so appalled when a protest group hijack it to make a petty point, or why last year’s heavy-handed lockdown policing of the nationwide gatherings around the nearest war memorial was greeted with such outrage. If anything highlighted just how much the police and their taskmasters had overstepped the mark in interpreting pandemic restrictions, it was the images of masked Bobbies surrounding memorials and issuing fines to people who simply wanted to pay their respects and were actually adhering to social distancing rules in the process. Mercifully, the restrictions have been relaxed this year, though watching the broadcast from the Cenotaph and not seeing the Queen on the balcony is a reminder that it’s not simply ‘business as usual’ after last year’s blip. At her advanced age, one wonders if she’ll be back next year or if that’s it now and we’ll have to get used to Prince Charles as effective Regent from hereon.

Considering how Remembrance Day is a fairly rare opportunity to see the most powerful people in the country in the same place at the same time, it’s unavoidable that the ageing process is brought home; even Her Majesty’s individual children (bar one notable absentee who would be sweating it out elsewhere were he capable of sweating) look so bloody old now; for many, it’s the only opportunity to study them close-up one after the other, and the realisation they’re getting on is glaring. Aside from the more moving moments, it’s hard to avoid these little observations, for there are so many tropes to the ceremony that remain fascinating to observe with each passing year, highlights one can’t help but look forward to. What I always find interesting is when one sees the ex-Prime Ministers stood side-by-side and noticing how much more ancient they look than when they were resident at No.10.

The swift turnover of PMs in recent years means there are currently five former leaders standing behind Boris in the line-up, and though the unique sight of them gathered together inevitably makes me think of those Doctor Who stories when the incumbent Doc has to call on his former selves for backup, it’s the nearest thing we have over here to when all the old Presidents attend the inauguration of the latest tenant of the White House; the fun part of that tends to be spotting the increasingly-cadaverous Jimmy Carter and wondering if he’s determined to live forever. Having said that, there’s still a slightly glitzy quality to that occasion utterly absent from the natural sobriety of Remembrance Day.

There’s a genuine democratic aspect to Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph; from the sovereign on down, everyone who played their part on a foreign field or the home front is represented with the laying of a wreath. The lengthy parade of Commonwealth representatives I always find a quite moving reminder of how many nations were absorbed into Britannia’s bosom and fought on her behalf; the dignity of the ceremony and honouring the sacrifice they made is an effective and powerful contradiction of the current revisionist narrative of the Empire and our colonial history as is possible to imagine. Even the presence of a British Asian woman as Home Secretary seems to make that same subtle point. Indeed, it’s when one witnesses just how many former colonies are represented at the ceremony that one remembers – or should – that their ancestors were fighting for an ideal rather than one little offshore island, an ideal that stretched across the Anglosphere and into Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Far East. The forces of totalitarianism in their numerous ideological guises were up against a formidable foe and rightly received their comeuppance. Whether the British Isles or the British Empire, the whole was always greater than the sum of its parts, and what we shared in terms of values trumped whatever divided us. That’s always worth remembering.

© The Editor




NightingalesThe senile old man, the young idiot, and the pompous fool – that was the template Jimmy Perry confessed he seized upon when putting together the genesis of ‘Dad’s Army’ in his head over 50 years ago. He’d drawn inspiration from an old Will Hay movie, the kind that was once a staple diet of Saturday afternoon cinematic interludes on BBC2, and the kind that has now sadly been largely forgotten. Will Hay was one of Britain’s most popular comic actors between the wars and his 1937 film, ‘Oh! Mr Porter’, set in a rural railway station, established the three-way dynamic of the archetypes mentioned in the opening sentence that proved so influential on the formulation of the nation’s favourite TV sitcom. Hay had played the pompous fool that could be seen as a prototype for Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring, and it was the amusing interaction between his character and his old and young subordinates respectively that has continued to echo down the years as comedy alchemy, perhaps reaching its comic peak with ‘Father Ted’ in the 1990s.

However, five years before the priests of Craggy Island debuted on the one-time risk-taking innovator known as Channel 4 in 1995, the same station had aired a sitcom that utilised the same basic formula of the archetypal trio in a completely different (albeit similarly restrictive) setting – and one that remained far more under the radar than Ted, Dougal and Jack. ‘Nightingales’ first appeared at the beginning of 1990, hidden away well after the watershed, which was apt scheduling for a series based around the activities of three nocturnal security guards stationed at a dreary city centre office block. Entirely studio-based, ‘Nightingales’ never saw daylight and was perhaps the last TV sitcom to have the look and feel of a stage-play, eschewing location filming and relying instead upon the inventively funny storylines, the well-drawn characters, and the comic charisma of the small cast to deliver the laughs in the same way ‘Steptoe and Son’ often did in the 60s and 70s. As with Galton & Simpson’s creation, the simple premise of characters trapped in a depressive, claustrophobic environment with no escape is a classic trope of the best British sitcoms, and ‘Nightingales’ is no exception.

The titular head of the ‘Nightingales’ trio was the old man character known only as ‘Sarge’; he was played by ‘Z Cars’ veteran and acclaimed dramatic actor James Ellis. The young idiot character was ‘Ding Dong’ Bell, played by David Threlfall, who later went on to achieve cult status as Frank Gallagher in ‘Shameless’; and the pompous fool was Carter, played by Robert Lindsay, whose sitcom CV stretched back to the 70s with ‘Citizen Smith’. Although there were a handful of minor characters that appeared periodically, the main focus of the series was this three-headed acting powerhouse. Given the soul-destroying boredom of the setting, it was perhaps no surprise that the series routinely ventured into the surreal and the strange, almost as though it was accessing the imaginations of the characters by blurring the lines between the uninspired reality of such a workplace and the fantasy reality its workforce must regularly inhabit simply to endure working there.

James Ellis’s Sarge is a passive, pliable and rather naive avuncular figure, the kind that sees the good in everyone and consciously evokes ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ characteristics when delivering the occasional end-of-show summary, even concluding with an ‘evenin’ all’; it seems too coincidental that the writers didn’t play upon this even further once the former Sgt Bert Lynch from rival cop drama ‘Z Cars’ had been cast in the part. David Threlfall’s Ding Dong is an aggressively childish, thuggish dimwit whose stupidity forms the basis of numerous gags throughout the series, and though he enjoys winding-up and mocking the pretensions of his colleague Carter, Ding Dong simultaneously admires Robert Lindsay’s character in the same way a relentlessly teasing little brother sees in his elder sibling everything he himself secretly wishes he could be. Carter has echoes of Hancock or Harold Steptoe in that he evidently regards himself as far superior to both his surroundings and those surrounding him, forever hankering after a higher aesthetic existence – ‘I wonder what Harold Pinter’s doing tonight?’ is the kind of yearning question he has a habit of posing without receiving a reply. At the same time, his awareness of his actual limitations is exposed whenever promotion within the security business presents itself to him. In fact, Carter’s real dream job is to be a security guard at Heathrow Airport, which he regards as the pinnacle of the profession.

Although it has the conventional look of all the old sitcoms played before a live audience that would be rendered antiquated overnight once the likes of ‘The Royle Family’ and ‘The Office’ changed the game, the magic-realism elements of ‘Nightingales’ don’t take long to show themselves. In the very first episode, a medical student joins the team for one night only, failing to last the course on account of it being a full moon and him being a werewolf. He returns a few episodes later to perform a heart bypass operation on Sarge in the workplace, with Carter and Ding Dong vying for the honour of being able to pass instruments to the amateur surgeon during the procedure. The surreal boat is pushed out even further in an episode in which another addition to the workforce turns out to be a gorilla who wins over the initially hostile team to the point whereby they christen him Terence and are crestfallen when he leaves to accept a position as a security guard at Heathrow.

The Heathrow factor resurfaces again in an episode that sees Carter and Ding Dong competing against each other in the hope of winning a prestigious post at the airport; in order to scoop the prize, they first have to undergo a written examination of the kind we all endured at school (which Carter smugly sails through), followed by the building of a dry stone wall, which the far more hands-on Ding Dong has no problem with. The writing and staging of a one-act play completes the test – and all three sections of the exam are completed in one evening. My own personal favourite episode is one in which Sarge and Carter discover Ding Dong has been up in court for having sex with a horse; a shrink visits the premises as part of his psychiatric assessment and proceeds to hypnotise all three members of the workforce, uncovering several buried secrets along the way. Another classic is an episode in which Peter Vaughan guest stars as a sadistic inspector whose persona is so Captain Bligh-like that the story mutates into a pastiche of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. If that sounds weird, by the time the episode comes around such flights of fancy are well-established.

In the best sitcom tradition, there’s even a Christmas-themed episode. A pregnant woman by the name of Mary turns up and begs to have her baby on the premises; despite signing a contract drawn up by the suspicious team to swear she’s not an allegory, she then proceeds to give birth to a succession of consumer goods. It’s quite unlike any other Christmas episode of any other sitcom you’ve ever seen. I did actually catch a small handful of ‘Nightingales’ episodes in the early 90s (it only ran for two series), and though I found it funny I’d all-but forgotten about it until a friend bought me it on DVD three or four years back. Not having any idea of my past acquaintance with the series, she figured it might be something I’d like. Revisiting it 30 years after the event, I was pleasantly surprised at how much funnier and innovative it seemed than first time round. I now place it high in my own personal list of favourite sitcoms, even though so few are aware of it. If you’ve never seen it, check it out and join a very small albeit passionate fan-club for an overlooked and underrated gem capable of brightening-up the kind of nights that can make anyone feel as trapped as a nocturnal security guard in a dreary city centre office block.

© The Editor




Boris MajorThe televising of Parliament is something it’s so easy to take for granted now that it’s hard to remember a day when it wasn’t the norm. Yet, in terms of the centuries-old timeline of the British Parliamentary system, it is a remarkably recent innovation; the Palace of Westminster was very much a closed shop to the electorate for most of its existence, with debates in the chamber only accessible through written accounts in newspapers 24 hours after the event; for generations, every Commons utterance accessed by the public was relayed via the Parliamentary reporter, a post once famously held by Charles Dickens in his early working life as a journalist. No doubt some of his uniquely rich characterisations in fiction received an inspirational boost as he observed some of those rotten borough rogues in action.

After a trial broadcast on BBC radio in the mid-70s – one that was met with strong opposition from many quarters keen to retain the ‘mystique’ of the process – the go-ahead was finally given for regular sound-only transmissions from Parliament in 1978. For the first time, the people could actually hear their elected representatives squaring up to one another on a daily basis. Previously, televised debates at locations such as the Oxford Union were the only opportunity to experience political jousting outside of the conference season or campaign trail, and even just hearing the debating chamber of the Commons was an ear-opening revelation. If anything, many listeners quickly realised why politicians were so eager to keep Parliament hidden behind closed doors; the behaviour of MPs was far from gentlemanly and the lid being lifted on their rowdy gatherings didn’t exactly raise their esteem amongst voters.

When television cameras finally made it inside Parliament in the mid-80s, caution over actually seeing MPs carrying on this way, and how it might negatively affect the public’s perception of them even further, led to the safer option of the Lords serving as the guinea pig. What MPs didn’t anticipate was that the retirement home for yesterday’s men would provide a platform for canny old campaigners to stage one last defiant dig at their successors. Harold Macmillan had stepped down as Prime Minister as far back as 1963, yet in 1984 the then-90 year-old elder statesman made his maiden speech in the House of Lords by delivering a damning critique of the Thatcher Government’s handling of the Miners’ Strike. Supermac had previously enjoyed relatively good relations with Mrs T, but as someone who had represented a North-East mining constituency in the Commons – and had indeed taken his title, Earl of Stockton, from the region – Macmillan seized his chance and let rip.

‘It breaks my heart to see…what is happening in our country today,’ he said. ‘This terrible strike, by the best men in the world, who beat the Kaiser’s and Hitler’s armies and never gave in…there is the growing division of comparative prosperity in the south and an ailing north and Midlands. We used to have battles and rows but they were quarrels. Now there is a new kind of wicked hatred that has been brought in by different types of people.’ Greeted with a standing ovation (no mean feat in the Lords) and widely reported, Macmillan’s missive came hot on the heels of the long-standing digs at Mrs Thatcher by her immediate predecessor Ted Heath; it was a timely reminder for all Prime Ministers that previous tenants of No.10 (especially those from their own party) are always lurking somewhere in the background, keeping a keen eye on the progress of those who superseded them and forever ready to pass withering judgement. So, should it come as a great surprise that the most damning criticism of Boris Johnson this past week has come from Sir John Major?

As far as I’m aware, the word ‘sleaze’ didn’t constitute part of Major’s criticism of Bo-Jo’s administration in the wake of the Owen Paterson affair, though perhaps that’s just as well. His own government was so mired in sleaze by its dying days that for a man who himself had been giving Edwina Currie one on the side to target Johnson’s infamous philandering would have been a tad hypocritical. However, the fact that the current controversy surrounding the Government centres around lobbying means that a man who’d led an administration bogged-down by ‘cash for questions’ has to tread carefully if his criticism can avoid the inevitable title of this post being evoked. Boris seeking to move the goalposts in order to prevent the 30 day suspension of the MP for what the Commons Standards Committee called ‘an egregious case of paid advocacy’ has been roundly condemned by opposition parties, though critics at Westminster should be careful what they do with those stones in their palms when hanging around this particular glass house. The practice of which Owen Paterson stands accused is far from exclusive to the Tories and can often appear endemic in Parliament.

The end result of the Conservative Party’s shabby efforts to block the recommendation of the Standards Committee to suspend Paterson – followed by a call for an overhaul of the MPs’ watchdog – is an imminent by-election, with Paterson choosing to quit his North Shropshire seat over the mess. In some respects, Paterson had a fair point when he bemoaned the right of MPs to appeal against judgements arising from the internal investigatory process, but the handling of such criticism seemingly on his behalf was done badly. Boris might have embarked upon yet one more U-turn in the wake of the affair, but further damage has been done to an already fairly damaged brand. John Major weighed into the debate on the ‘Today’ programme, adding another layer to a long-standing enmity that stretches back at least as far as Brexit. As a staunch Europhile and Remainer campaigner five years ago, the former PM (whose vote for Theresa May’s successor went to Jeremy Hunt) called Johnson’s Government ‘politically corrupt’; he went on to say that ‘this government has done a number of things that have concerned me deeply. They have broken the law, the prorogation of Parliament, they have broken treaties…they have broken their word on many occasions.’

When comparisons with the sleaze of his own administration were invariably raised, Major responded by admitting it was ‘immensely damaging’, yet covered his back by reminding the interviewer he’d set up a committee to investigate and prevent any recurrence of the ‘cash for questions’ scandal. He sees a stark difference with the way in which Boris & Co have reacted to their own scandal. ‘Over the last few days,’ he said, ‘we have seen today’s government trying to defend this sort of behaviour…there’s a general whiff of “We are the masters now” about their behaviour. It has to stop, it has to stop soon. I have been a Conservative all my life, and I am concerned at how this government is behaving. I suspect lots of other people are as well. It seems to me, as a lifelong Conservative, that much of what they are doing is un-Conservative in its behaviour.’

Like Boris Johnson, John Major succeeded to the post of Prime Minister following the forced removal of his predecessor – in both cases a woman, oddly enough – and then went on to win a General Election in his own right. It’s fair to say that Major was a largely unknown entity outside Westminster when he became PM, something of a blank slate after a decade of Mrs Thatcher dominating everybody’s lives; Boris, on the other hand, had been around as a household name for a long time when he grabbed the premiership, and the majority of his flaws and failings were already well-established. An attack from a former PM of Boris’ own party probably stings more than if, say, Tony Blair had launched a similar tirade; but at the same time Major hasn’t really said anything about Johnson and his administration that most of us didn’t think anyway. TV cameras had crept into the Commons merely a year before John Major became PM, whereas Boris Johnson has grown up in public before the full glare of the 24-hour media. His career is a political ‘Truman Show’ and just as we have watched his rise live on TV, we will also watch his fall when it happens. Given the state of the opposition, however, I’m not programming a series link into my telly just yet.

© The Editor




Humours of an ElectionDepending on the number of spares after the heir, the one-time tradition amongst the aristocracy was that the son lowest in the pecking order went into the Church; it was seen as a safe, comfortable option for the one with little or no hope of inheriting the family title – a bit of a booby prize, but better than nothing. With the clout of the Church in British society now even more diminished than that of the aristocracy, one wonders if the preferred profession of the second or third son of the nouveau riche dynasties in the 21st century is politics. Very few new arrivals in Westminster Village appear to be particularly intelligent individuals, so perhaps the smart sons (or daughters) are earmarked for the same big business daddy made his fortune in whilst politics is reserved for the idiot offspring. It would certainly explain the deterioration in the quality of our political leaders over the past couple of decades; indeed, if one goes to the very top, has there ever been a worse run of Prime Ministers than Brown, Cameron, May and Johnson? Sure, history has had its fair share of Downing Street disasters, but four in a row seems a bit extreme.

Perhaps it’s no real surprise that politicians tend to quit earlier nowadays; few betting men would put their life savings on any of the current crop possessing the staying power of a Dennis Skinner or a Ken Clarke, for sure; and when they prematurely bow out, where do most go? Big business seems to be the career of choice – on the boards of all the companies, corporations, banks and financial institutions that donated to their party whilst they were in office; this suggests the business world was the desired destination all along and politics was merely a stepping stone to a place where political fame is a free pass to a directorship in the absence of business nous. So much for public service. In a way, this perhaps explains why so many of Westminster’s bright young things who not much more than a decade ago were singled out as ones to watch (in terms of potential future leaders) are no longer in politics and why the long-serving Parliamentarian could well be an endangered species.

The advent of the career politician travelling along the smooth conveyor belt has been discussed many times before, entering politics with no life experience beyond their social bubble and then quitting for big business, the kind that is equally detached from the majority of the electorate. Previously, most politicians made their journeys the other way round, beginning by earning a recognisable living and then politics being seen as the end goal, arriving with a wealth of life experience to bring to the table. For some, there was a vocational calling to politics, though it would be naive to suggest all past politicians were motivated by purely selfless good intentions; politics has always been a handy haven for crooks and charlatans, and though some of the more honest Honourable Members who avoid losing their seats gradually lapse into the geriatric irrelevance of an old retainer, many of the good men and women remain hard at it until age eventually catches up with them.

Still, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that the overall standard of politician and political leader has definitely declined in recent years. One could possibly argue the rot set in with New Labour and its emphasis on style over substance, a factor embodied by Tony Blair and subsequent Blair copyists like David Cameron. At the same time, watching the current BBC2 series analysing the New Labour era as told by its key players, some of that period’s big beasts now seem positively heavyweight compared to those who have succeeded them. One wonders how much worse things have to get before today’s gravitas-free intellectual lightweights are looked back on as political giants – and few voters these days would invest much faith in the sentiments of the 1997 New Labour Election theme song; who in 2021 could possibly believe things can only get better?

When the average IQs of most leading politicians were considerably higher than the same average today, the more nefarious amongst them were naturally dangerous characters to hold power; yet I’d much rather have a clever villain in charge than an idiot – the latter being characterised by its own unique dangers in the same way a blunt instrument is potentially more lethal than a sharp one. The events of the past couple of years have seen so much power ceded to the stupid that the world is far less safe than it would be if controlled by highly intelligent bastards. Not even this lot initially imagined they could get away with transplanting a totalitarian tool like lockdown from Communist China to Western Europe and across the global Anglosphere, yet they did it…and the people let them. When Jacindra Arden can shamelessly admit she’s deliberately creating an effective apartheid system in New Zealand based around vaccine status, and cannot resist flashing her equine incisors as her eyes glint at the prospect, it’s undeniable these fools can’t believe their luck.

Having realised how successful the politics of fear have worked in the absence of intelligence, the salesmen that terrified us into obedience during the pandemic have switched gear to the next alarmist crisis that will maintain the fear factor and keep them in power – Climate Change. It might appear that COP26 is brought to you in association with the BBC (on account of it being shoehorned into every f***ing programme being broadcast this week), but the Global Warming shindig in Glasgow is another example of these leaders’ idiocy. This idiocy blinds them into believing we actually can’t see through what they’re doing, that we somehow can’t discern the double standards as they fly into Scotland aboard gas-guzzling private jets that burn sinkholes in the Ozone Layer before proposing a series of expensive eco-policies that we have to live by whilst they continue jetting around the world unaffected. And, of course, they still insist we should wear masks mass-produced in China (a nation not in attendance at COP26, despite being responsible for a quarter of the emissions poisoning the planet); these masks will add considerably to the plastic pollution of the oceans, an issue they wouldn’t shut up about not so long ago and now tend not to mention.

There is so much hypocritical cant in the condescending proclamations of these idiots it often beggars belief. They broke lockdown and social distancing rules when everyone else faced fines for breaking them, and they remain exempt from a ‘green’ regime they’re determined to impose upon the rest of us whether we can afford it or not – an agenda outlined by leaders whose pit-stop visit to the UK sidesteps all the restrictions and limitations that apply to us when travelling from one country to another. Meanwhile, that prominent sufferer of Bonaparte-Bercow Syndrome, Lil’ Sadiq Khan of London Town, has recently extended the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’, a green measure aimed at drivers of older vehicles in the capital (i.e. basically everyone with a car bar those who can shell out a fortune for an electric one). This eco twist on the Congestion Charge places tolls upon the owners of pre-2005 petrol cars and pre-2015 diesel ones that could amount to £400 per month; yet again, genuine concerns about air pollution are exploited by penalising those who can least afford the sacrifice.

But, let’s be fair – it’s not just politicians who are at it. One of the biggest anchors on TV in recent years, former Channel 4 News frontman Jon Snow tweeted the other day that a tree which had blown over onto the railway line, thus disrupting his train journey to COP26, was yet one more indication of the climate catastrophe. Nothing to do with it being autumn, then? At the same time, Joanna Lumley thinks we should introduce eco-austerity to help the environment; she wants to bring back the Blitz Spirit via rationing. Yeah, great idea after all the privations the public have endured since Lockdown Mk I. Whatever planet these planks are on, one wonders if it’s really worth saving.

© The Editor