DOG WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK

Trojan HorseBack when Fleet Street still had some clout in dictating the mood of the nation, a regular tactic employed to garner headlines during a quiet week was the journalistic ‘sting’, whereby the likes of an avaricious individual such as, say, Prince Andrew or his estranged missus could be set up for an encounter with a hack disguised as an African prince or Middle Eastern potentate and thus expose themselves as self-aggrandising parasites prepared to sell their inherited prestige down the river for a few tax-free quid. At the time of these kind of manufactured meetings, there would be a palpable reaction from the public bordering on shock, whereas we’re all now so used to our public servants being bent bastards that we barely batter the proverbial eyelid when they’re caught out. It’s symptomatic of how low we’ve plummeted since more innocent times, I guess; we expect nothing less these days. The contemporary redeployment of these techniques by self-identified ‘activists’ can therefore be counterproductive due to the fact that the plebs have wised-up.

While it goes without saying that anyone who includes gender pronouns in their Twitter account is deserving of every ounce of contempt we can muster, anyone describing themselves as an ‘activist’ is equally asking for it; and when the latter attempt a sting of their own we no longer respond with shock and awe; we see it for what it is and reserve our contempt for the instigators of such stunts. Step forward Ngozi Fulani, a BLM-sponsored, Marxist ‘activist’ with an adopted ethnic moniker and culturally-appropriated wardrobe; over the past couple of days, she has maximised her fifteen minutes by doing the daytime TV chat-show circuit and milking every ounce of her encounter with one of Brenda’s former ladies-in-waiting at Buck House. In case you missed it, Fulani is the ‘activist’ who managed to add her name to a Royal guest-list on the pretext of representing a charity, though to many it seems she accepted the invite with the intention of locating racism at the heart of the British establishment. I often wonder if such characters have a tool-box akin to Batman’s utility belt, crammed with hi-tech gadgets designed to detect racism whether it’s there or not.

It would appear Ms Fulani certainly came prepared, primed with a prearranged agenda to lift the lid on the enemy and build a career on the back of it; to ensure success, she opted for native dress – native, that is, to various African countries. I’d imagine she knew full well that an elderly employee of the House of Windsor accustomed to meeting and greeting Commonwealth dignitaries would probably mistake her for an African ambassador of some sort; and she apparently arrived armed with a hidden tape recorder just to be on the safe side. It’s hard not to conclude that Ngozi Fulani went to this reception with a mission in mind; she may as well have been an agent programmed by some race-baiting branch of the SIS to carry out a task guaranteed to generate fevered discourse on social media and in broadsheet columns, thus further exacerbating an imaginary, unbridgeable gulf between black and white that is essential to dividing and ruling, not to mention upholding the myth of Britain as a racist hellhole obsessed with a long-gone Empire which only the over-60s can even remember the tail end of.

Since Ms Fulani’s version of events went viral, she has displayed the customary victimhood hallmarks, claiming she’d been ‘traumatised’ and ‘violated’ by her meeting with 82-year-old Lady Susan Hussey, who had slipped into a default polite conversation mode with this exotic-looking Woman of Colour; Lady Hussey understandably assumed – given the context – Ms Fulani was a visitor to our fair shores due to wearing the kind of garb commonplace amongst overseas invitees to such events. The dressed-to-kill Fulani honed in on an aged official, sniffing-out an easy ‘toxic’ target in a career move possessing all the premeditated intent of a grandchild mischievously coaxing a mildly right-wing opinion out of a grandparent around the Christmas dinner table. And we only have Fulani’s version of events due to the fact her version has provoked the inevitable cancellation of the only other person witness to it. That’s convenient, for it means the familiar, unquestioned narrative can be maintained free from contradiction.

As has subsequently emerged from the routine root through her social media history, Ngozi Fulani is a committed race-baiter who believes Meghan Markle was a victim of ‘domestic violence’ at the hands of her now-deceased in-laws; gaining access to the lion’s den behind enemy lines must have been like all her Christmases coming at once for said ‘activist’, and she clearly didn’t waste the opportunity when it was presented to her. The ensuing media storm in a chipped teacup has certainly given her the spotlight she evidently craved and has resulted in a demonised servant of more than half-a-century stepping down from her post with the compulsory grovelling apology and a notable absence of support from former gutless associates like that dim Woke marionette Prince William. Ms Fulani has apparently declared Lady Hussey’s forced retirement is ‘not enough’ – what precisely, one wonders, does this ‘activist’ want? A public procession along the length of the Mall in which Lady Hussey receives a hundred lashes? After all, Identity Politics is a religion that doesn’t countenance forgiveness and redemption. Even if Lady Hussey was strung-up for her heinous crimes and her severed head was displayed on a pike for all eternity at the entrance to London Bridge, it still wouldn’t suffice as punishment.

If any punishment needs dishing out, it should be directed towards Identitarian opportunists who promote sectarian dogma that will callously toss irrelevant octogenarians onto the landfill site of public opinion in pursuit of its nihilistic aim. I can do no more than defer to the wise words of Jonathan Meades before changing the subject: ‘To emphasise differences merely consigns people to their background, to where they’ve come from, to their tribe, their caste, their religion. It creates ghettos.’ Everything Ngozi Fulani accuses Lady Hussey of is everything Ngozi Fulani embraces; it is her raison d’être and has provided her with all the invaluable attention she’s received in the past 48 hours. She owes Lady Hussey big time.

CHRISTINE McVIE (1943-2022)

The two threads that run through both distinct incarnations of Fleetwood Mac are the drummer and bassist that gave this long-running transatlantic soapChristine McVie opera its brand name, but of equal importance is the unsung singer-songwriter who replaced the band’s original creative force Peter Green when he succumbed to post-LSD delusions in 1970. The Blues revivalists who morphed into a proto-Hard Rock powerhouse at the end of the 60s suddenly found themselves in a similar situation to contemporaries Pink Floyd upon the loss of Syd Barrett – who was going to write the hits? In the case of Fleetwood Mac, the moment Green departed the hits dried up, despite the handy fact that John McVie’s missus was a proven hit-maker with the band Chicken Shack. Christine McVie joined her hubby’s band at a point when their commercial fortunes nosedived, yet she stuck with them throughout the tricky early 70s; by the time they relocated to a more receptive California in 1974, the recruitment of two new members to a band with the kind of personnel changes that would put Spinal Tap to shame revitalised the enterprise and gave Fleetwood Mac a facelift that turned them into one of the best-selling acts of the decade.

Overshadowed by the dramatic theatrics of the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks love/hate saga, McVie quietly churned-out some of the most memorable tracks on the landmark 1977 LP ‘Rumours’, such as ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’ and the immortal ‘Songbird’; lacking the photogenic flamboyance of Nicks, McVie got on with her job from behind the keyboard comfort zone and delivered the goods on the band’s succeeding albums, maintaining a low profile that perhaps robbed her of the recognition that has now belatedly come with her untimely passing at the age of 79. But, as with anyone capable of penning songs of such enduring quality, McVie is survived by her art.

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BLINDED BY THE LIGHTWEIGHT

WestminsterI know it feels like 100 years ago now, but if you can possibly cast your mind back to the eve of the 2019 General Election, you might recall there was an unprecedented rash of preemptive exits as a wipe-out of the Westminster Remoaners beckoned following months of undemocratic chaos when they tried their damndest to reverse the 2016 mandate delivered by the people. The fragile majority Boris Johnson had inherited from Theresa May was whittled down to a minority as numerous Tory Members crossed the floor of the House and the PM removed the whip from 21 rebels; some even formed their own Party in conjunction with Labour MPs dismayed at the Momentum dominance within Corbyn’s Labour – anyone recall Change UK? – and some relocated to the Lib Dems; but all were desperate to prevent the General Election Boris was eager to call in order to sort out the problem once and for all, preferring the red herring of a Second Referendum. When it became clear this wasn’t feasible, there were even characteristically bonkers suggestions such as the one proposed by the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, which suggested an unelected emergency administration should be formed with her (naturally) at the centre of it. All of these moves served as a blatant indication as to just how much the Remainer elite within Parliament mistrusted the British public to do the right thing.

When those parties with the loudest Remoaner voices were summarily rejected at the ballot-box in the May 2019 European elections – obliterated by Nigel Farage’s newly-formed Brexit Party – many of them belatedly realised the electorate were not going to look warmly upon them come the next national vote. No wonder they were against it. However, when Boris finally managed to call his General Election in the wake of the proroguing of Parliament, and Brits found themselves confronted by a welcome democratic disruption to the annual assault of Christmas, the most blinkered and diehard still imagined the British people would come round to their way of thinking; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson was unashamedly candid in her promise that her party would do its utmost to scrap Brexit if it found itself holding the balance of power. In the end, Swinson lost her seat. But there were others who never even got to that stage; eager to avoid a ‘Portillo Moment’, these were the ones who bottled it before their constituents had the opportunity to have their say.

Once the December Election was given the go-ahead, you suddenly couldn’t move for MPs voluntarily walking the plank in anticipation of the public shoving them off it. Sure, it’s not uncommon for veterans to announce their intention to stand down on the eve of an Election, but never before had so many Bright Young Things done likewise; a fair few had been earmarked as ones-to-watch, with some (in the case of the governing Conservatives) rising through the ranks to Cabinet posts with such speed that they were seen as potential future leaders. Amber Rudd, Justin Greening, Rory Stewart and Jo Johnson were some of the younger quitters from the Tories who jumped before the electorate pushed, whilst Jezza’s 15-minute challenger Owen Smith did likewise from Labour ranks. Some, such as the Scottish Conservative saviour Ruth Davidson, had quit upon Boris Johnson gaining the keys to No.10, whereas Tom ‘Bunter’ Watson got out because his embarrassing association with serial paedophile liar Carl Beech had ended his hopes of the Labour leadership; incidentally, both Davidson and Watson now sit in the Lords, having a hand in the passing of legislation without being answerable to the electorate. Nice work if you can get it.

Although some of the most prominent Remoaners did indeed have their Portillo Moments come the General Election – Jo Swinson, Chuck Umunna, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen being the most notable – most had gone before the public had their say. And whilst their decision to stand down at a relatively young age (for an MP) was undeniably influenced by the humiliating drubbing they anticipated, it also highlighted just how much being a people’s representative is little more than another impressive notch on a CV for many of today’s intake into Parliament. It’ll look good when fishing for the directorship of a hedge fund company, I guess. Whatever happened to public service? Dennis Skinner may have lost his seat in 2019, but he’d put in almost half-a-century at Westminster; Tony Benn had surrendered a peerage and gone all the way to changing the law in order for him to continue as an MP, so committed was he to the cause of public service; these guys put the hours in and were there for more than a chance to appear on ‘Strictly’ or join Matt Hancock in the jungle one day. Indeed, as even Russell Brand pointed out on a recent YT video, how low have we sunk that the only place in which the opportunity to confront the former Health Secretary with the consequences of his pandemic actions is not in the Commons or on ‘Question Time’, but on an ITV reality show, where he’s grilled not by Andrew Neil but by Boy George?

Apparently, there was even a recent reality show in which two past political figures who’ve never stood for election in their lives – Alastair Campbell and Baroness Warsi – acted as the expert judges overseeing a bunch of ‘Apprentice’-style wannabes competing to become an imaginary Prime Minister; as far as I’m aware, Liz Truss was not amongst the contenders. Although I didn’t see the programme, I’ve a pretty good idea of the kind of show it was – after all, most TV produced in the name of ‘entertainment’ today follows a formula based on one hit show that is then reproduced endlessly; but maybe a public utterly exhausted with mendacious MPs evading every question put to them on a serious political programme see this route as the way forward for our elected representatives? And maybe our elected representatives are thinking along similar lines. It could perhaps offer one explanation as to why the public respond more to voting a celebrity out of the jungle than they do to voting candidates in or out of office; and it could also explain why those candidates view their political careers as merely another job they do for a bit before looking for something else.

Moreover, this situation could equally explain why so many recent recruits to the Commons Chamber come across as so lightweight and uninspiring compared to most of yesteryear’s big beasts. The intense level of commitment and the hunger to change society for the better is simply not there anymore, nor is the unswerving conviction that they actually have it in them to do so. Last time round, those that abandoned ship before the 2019 iceberg hit did so because they knew nobody would offer them a lifeboat; this time round, with polls pointing towards a similar catastrophe for the Conservative Party as a whole (rather than just its Remainer rebels), some have already revealed their indifference to public service by announcing their intentions to stand down before the date of the next General Election has even been decided.

The most invigorating incident of the 2019 Election from a Tory perspective was the collapse of Labour’s Red Wall and the once-unimaginable capture of eternal Labour strongholds by young Conservative upstarts; yet, the casual approach to commitment so prevalent in careerist politicians who seem to view their Honourable Member status as no different from being on the board of a financial institution or some soulless corporation surfaced again when 29-year-old Dehenna Davison, who won Bishop Auckland for the Tories in 2019, announced she’d be standing down next time round. One could argue Boris blew all the advantages that came with the Red Wall seats and that the chances of Davison’s re-election may have been rendered slim as a result, but it still seems to suggest Parliament is no more than ‘work experience’ for the young MP passing through en route to a more profitable position, as though it were some gap-year assignment in an African village; if that is indeed the case, the electorate will be better off without any of them; but one suspects whoever succeeds them will be cut from the same transient cloth.

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WOMAN’S WORLD

Wolf‘Hard Times’, the often-overlooked 1854 novel by Charles Dickens set in a fictitious Northern Powerhouse named Coketown, features the character of Thomas Gradgrind, a school board superintendent whose rigid adherence to cold, hard facts at the expense of imagination is drilled into the children in his charge; one of his star pupils is known as Bitzer, a humourless product of Gradgrind’s educational model. Towards the end of the book, Bitzer – who has matured into an emotionless bank clerk allergic to any appeal to humanity against which his education has immunised him – appears unmoved by Gradgrind’s change of heart, and Gradgrind belatedly realises the error of his ways. In many ways, the story is a morality tale based upon the ‘you reap what you sow’ maxim, but it could also be interpreted as a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. The character of Bitzer is a warning of what can happen when a malleable individual is exposed to an immovable ideology at an impressionable age by those too full of their own righteousness to countenance the possibility that their utterly inflexible dogma might not be the be-all and end-all after all. But it is too late.

For some reason, ‘Hard Times’ sprang to mind when I was watching an interview on the ‘Triggernometry’ YT channel with Kelly-Jay Keen-Minshull, better known by her user-name of Posie Parker, the so-called ‘anti-Trans activist’ (© Wikipedia) who has endured a campaign by the MSM and social media over the past three or four years demonising her as a (Shock! Horror!) free speech advocate and campaigner for women’s rights. The interview included graphic descriptions of the kind of state-sponsored butchery which even Nazi surgeons would’ve regarded as a bit much, but brainwashed ‘Trans-teens’ are subjected to in pursuit of their perceived human rights, and was an eye-opener as well as further sad confirmation of the sorry state we’re in. But it also made me think of the long-term feminisation of the western world, something which is all around us (often in the most innocuous places), and something that has perhaps led us to where we are now, including the brand of insanity Posie Parker has based her public career in opposition to.

It made me wonder if the way in which traditional masculine virtues have been repeatedly rebranded in a negative light over the past two or three decades – AKA ‘toxic masculinity’ – could be indirectly responsible for the extremities of the Trans movement that Posie Parker is such a virulent opponent of. Whilst some men have been driven towards suicide by a society that regards their once-prized qualities as poison, others – specifically on the far fringes of the Trans cult – have dealt with the negativity by aping ‘feminine’ characteristics to the point whereby they come across as female caricatures, straight out of a sensationalistic 90s ‘Jerry Springer Show’ dealing with drag queens. But their freak-show personas make sense in some respects; it is almost as though they’ve realised the only way in which they can be validated as human beings in an increasingly feminised society is to transform themselves into women – even if that transformation neatly sidesteps all the awkward and uncomfortable biological factors that separate natural-born men from natural-born women.

As part of the illusion, they simply pretend to be in possession of these factors, such as pregnancy and menstruation – just witness the revamped unisex marketing of female-exclusive products like tampons in recent years – and their successful monopolisation of the victim narrative so prevalent within mainstream culture has guaranteed them the co-operation of a corporate world eager to signal its virtue; the near-religious worship of the Stonewall interpretation of LGBTXYZ values before which all have to bow down has enabled them to implement their non-binary fantasy into every strata of society and to indoctrinate another gullible generation in the process. But we already have one generation that has been taught the only way to get on and get ahead is to be a woman rather than a man. Over-representation within the MSM as a hackneyed method of compensating for past discrepancies has its undoubted drawbacks – even my mother has complained she’s sick of women presenting everything on television, particularly sports programmes; but this is one of the more noticeable results of submitting to the demands of radical feminism. There are no contemporary Des Lynam or Dickie Davies figures for granny to drool over anymore; they have to make do with the likes of Alex Scott because women obviously only want to see other women on their TV screens. A younger female friend of mine made a similar complaint that all the male presenters today seem to be gay, but that’s what diversity and inclusivity’s all about innit. TV executives used to make the same mistake when producing kids shows presented by kids; they didn’t twig that kids didn’t want to see other kids on the telly; kids actually want to see grownups instead of nauseating little brats they fantasise about punching.

There are far more serious unforeseen side-effects when one chooses to use radical feminism as a blueprint for society, however; is it any wonder some men conclude that avoiding the dreaded masculinity and embracing what they believe to be feminine traits is the way forward if social mores have been reorganised to fit the Rad Fem agenda? The ‘fashion acccessory’ Trans-fanatics that aren’t prepared to commit to the time-consuming surgical processes of actual transition but imagine wearing a dress and donning makeup is enough are the monsters that radical feminists have created. And this is the monster that has come back to bite them, for now we have men in drag encroaching into women’s spaces that legislation provoked by radical feminist doctrines has facilitated. So, we end up with a sadly ironic situation that has diminished hard-won women’s rights and has marginalised biological women to a reduced status within society once again – a place where they’re described as ‘bleeders’ or ‘birthing people’ in official literature produced by the likes of the NHS so as not to offend the Trans lobby, where the actual word ‘women’ itself has become so loaded that even a darling of the Left such as JK Rowling can be cast out, ostracised and blacklisted from polite society for daring to say it.

Posie Parker claims that the ultimate manifestation of ‘toxic masculinity’ is the adoption by some men of female trademarks in order to pass themselves off as women and to therefore be accepted by a western world that has remodelled itself along feminine lines – and she may well have a point. When we think of toxic masculinity we usually picture a pea-brained macho idiot who talks of women solely based on their physical attributes; but some of the unhinged Trans activists who turned up to protest outside the venues comprising Posie Parker’s recent US visit were – for all their superficial co-opting of visual female tropes – far more vociferous and vicious in their aggressive misogyny towards the actual women attending than a mob of MAGA hat-wearing rednecks. By exposing their surgically-manufactured breasts in a show of narcissistic exhibitionism and haranguing attendees, they did far more damage to their own cause than someone like Posie Parker could ever do; but it does make one wonder why such evidently mentally-ill individuals are so indulged in their imaginary worldview. Or is this the actual patriarchy in action, not the old-school, testosterone-fuelled male stereotype, but reborn as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing of imitation women – the worst kind of toxic masculinity?

The pendulum which once swung in a very masculine direction appears today to have swung to the absolute opposite, yet the one place it would work for both sexes is somewhere in the middle, a place where there is room for the old-style male and female archetypes as well as those that borrow a bit from both and blur the lines in a healthy fashion. But that’s not where we’re at right now, unfortunately; like Thomas Gradgrind, we’re confronted by a poisonous harvest of our own making.

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BACKSIDE OF THE NET

World CupAlas poor Mick – the former Southampton centre forward named Channon was one of the few permanent fixtures of the unstable era in English international football that constituted the sad decline and fall of Sir Alf Ramsey as well as the inconsistent tenure of Don Revie. Mick Channon made his England debut in 1972 and played his final game for his country in 1977. At a time when England were incapable of finding a settled side and rarely played the same line-up two games running, Channon’s name was one of the few automatic choices on the team-sheet, and he collected a total of 46 caps, scoring 21 goals over five years. Yet he remains the most-capped Englishman never to have played in a World Cup or European Championships tournament, for he was prominent amongst a generation of great English footballers that also included the likes of Tony Currie, Gerry Francis, Roy McFarland and Malcolm Macdonald – men who unfortunately missed out on the kind of international competition today’s players take for granted because they were playing at the wrong time.

The 1970s was a curious period, almost reminiscent of that pre-war era of international football, when the England team effectively opted-out of the World Cup, regarding the newfangled tournament as being somehow beneath them; at least the team tried to qualify during the 70s rather than declining to participate, but they still failed to do so. The blow to national morale that came with the fatal draw against Poland at Wembley in October 1973 meant that, for the first time since their inaugural entry in 1950, England wouldn’t be going to the World Cup Finals. To add insult to injury, Scotland had qualified, and the tournament would be held in the backyard of another old enemy, West Germany; oh, and the Germans ended up winning it as well. 1974 could have been written off as an unpleasant blip for English football, but it happened again four years later.

After having to pretend to support Scotland at the 1978 World Cup (something that didn’t stretch much beyond the lacklustre draw with Iran), it was a relief that England finally qualified for the 1982 tournament; for my generation, it was the first time we’d been able to cheer on our own country in the contest, and the excitement in the build-up – along with familiar, misplaced optimism – was something that has become mandatory ever since; well, until this year. Indeed, given the uniquely low-key overture to the 2022 World Cup, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it kicks-off this coming Sunday. I’ve never previously experienced such muted hyperbole preceding the World Cup before, especially with England participating; and, for once, England go into a tournament having performed exceptionally well at the previous two – semi-finalists in the 2018 World Cup and runners-up at Euro 2020. However, there are reasons for this noticeable dearth of enthusiasm, and it says a great deal about the multi-million dollar business the beautiful game has become in recent years.

Qatar is a country that has never qualified for the World Cup and has no footballing pedigree whatsoever. It had no notable stadia when winning the right to host the tournament, so embarked upon an intensive building programme thereafter, undertaken by cheap migrant labour; many of the exploited labourers died during the construction of this stadia, though estimates vary as to the numbers. Mind you, considering summer temperatures in the country can reach up to 113º Fahrenheit, it’s probably fair to say hard labour in such conditions isn’t recommended. The searing heat is utterly unsuitable for running around a football pitch for 90 minutes, which is why a sacred tradition has been broken to accommodate the fact and this World Cup has been put back to the end of the year. Of course, this has meant the suspension of domestic league programmes, smack bang in the middle of the season; league football is the weekly bread-and-butter of the football fan, and the majority would rather see their own club win the title or the cup than have their international team do well instead. World Cups and Euros have increasingly become a summer side-dish to the main course of club football – the snack between meals you can eat without ruining your appetite; the prospect of a season being interrupted just so the World Cup can be held in an appalling autocracy where being gay means a prison sentence and women are second-class citizens frankly stinks. Sure, countries with dubious human rights records have held global sporting events before – the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the 1978 Argentina World Cup, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and indeed the very last World Cup, which was held in bloody Russia. But this feels even worse.

The awarding of the World Cup to Qatar back in 2010 embodies everything that is ugly, obscene and unedifying about football today. 11 of the 22 members of FIFA’s Executive Committee who gave the vote to Qatar twelve years ago have subsequently been suspended, indicted, banned or fined; two were excluded from the decision-making process even before it took place due to allegations they’d offered to sell their votes; a year after the right to host was won by Qatar, the Sunday Times alleged two other committee members had each been paid one and-a-half million dollars to vote the right way. The stench of bribery, corruption and brown paper bags has not cleared since the disgraced voting of 2010; anybody with half-a-brain knows the sole reason the World Cup went to a footballing backwater like Qatar was that Qatar bought the tournament. And this blatant truism has definitely filtered through to the TV stations, presenters and pundits, who are conspicuously quieter than usual. One gets the feeling that even the overenthusiastic cheerleaders for the competition are ashamed, toning down their normal giddiness at the prospect of the World Cup being just days away.

Unsurprisingly, some in the game have echoed FIFA’a scruples by taking the money and running with it, struggling to uphold their routine Woke posturing in the face of hilarious hypocrisy. Just a couple of months on from winning plaudits after choosing to queue-up to see Her Majesty’s coffin at Westminster Hall rather than using his celebrity status to jump that queue, David Beckham’s reputation is in the gutter following revelations of a handsome gratuity from his Qatari paymasters; similarly, infuriatingly right-on pundit Gary Neville – the arch-advocate of taking the knee – has decided not to boycott the World Cup and will instead be covering the contest on site, for a mouth-watering fee. It was almost a throwback to the glory days of ‘Have I Got News for You’ when Ian Hislop ripped into Neville a couple of weeks back, and he was as deserving of it as Matt Hancock is of being showered in koala crap on his own primetime reality show. But the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. After two years of bombarding football fans with nothing but political issues and slogans, the football authorities are now claiming politics has no place in the sport and supporters should concentrate on the games instead of questioning the ethics of holding the World Cup in a country like Qatar. You couldn’t make it up.

When the MSM has cautiously touched upon those ethics, the focus has predictably been the threat to travelling members of the ‘LGBTXYZ Community’, something a Qatari World Cup Ambassador provided ammunition for by stating, ‘Homosexuality is damage in the mind’. But as football isn’t primarily regarded as a particularly ‘gay’ sport, the impact of such prejudice is probably more minimal than some of the other unsavoury elements surrounding the whole atrocious circus. Like most, I’ll no doubt tune in to see how England fare, but I won’t be especially annoyed if they fail to make it out of the group stages this time round. The sooner the team are jetting home to prepare for the recommencement of the domestic season, the better. Qatar bought the tournament, so Qatar may as well buy the bloody trophy; let them have it. Any other winner would only be tainted by association.

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UP THE HILL BACKWARDS

TrumpEven the most fanatically slavish supporter of the EU view of Europe must be able to see by now that Britain’s commitment to the great European adventure was always half-hearted at best. Throughout the on-off negotiations of the 60s and old big nose’s repeated ‘Non’, the UK’s emotional and sentimental connections to anywhere beyond these islands were largely restricted to the Commonwealth, with the cultural exports of another English-speaking ex-colony (the USA) running a close second. Europe to the British wasn’t some shiny new experiment in democratic brotherhood, but something mired in monochrome memories of the War, or typified by the nonsensical nursery rhymes of funny foreigners at the Eurovision or giant foam creatures on ‘Jeux Sans Frontières’, or associated with cheap continental holidays in which the Great British tradition of bacchanalian Blackpool debauchery was re-enacted on a foreign field. For all of Ted Heath’s enthusiasm, the Brit masses never really embraced Europe in the way their political overlords did, so should the events of 2016 have really come as a great surprise? And, despite the ongoing pro-Euro stance of the MSM and the hackneyed game of blaming everything on Brexit whilst pandemic policies are rewarded with an ‘amnesty’, one only need take note of the disproportionate coverage last week’s midterm American elections received over here.

An actual Presidential Election of the kind we only get every four years is, to a degree, understandable; but midterm? It’s been bad enough this year having to endure two Tory leadership contests in which a miniscule proportion of the electorate got to choose this country’s Prime Minister, but at least their decision had a direct impact on the lives of the rest of us. Who really cares in Blighty if the Democrats or Republicans capture a State most Americans, let alone Brits, would struggle to locate on the map? A week ago last Tuesday, Radio 4 cancelled its usual late night schedule and devoted no less than 6 hours 20 minutes to live coverage of the US midterm elections. For all the supposed unity we’re repeatedly told we naturally share with our continental cousins on the European mainland, I can’t recall the last time France or Germany were the recipients of such generous reportage when their people visited the local polling station. The fact is we’re still in thrall to the American Dream, however hard the mainstream media’s EU cheerleaders try to persuade us otherwise.

I admit I didn’t personally pay much attention to last week’s midterm US elections, despite the blanket coverage it was difficult to avoid. That said, the predictable announcement by Donald Trump that he intends to run for the Republican candidacy again in 2024 is something guaranteed to prick up the ears of even the most disinterested overseas observer bereft of the vote. Sleepy Joe has yet to confirm his intentions to run in 1974…sorry, 2024 – had a bit of a Biden moment there; but the prospect of two befuddled geriatrics squaring up to each other again as though fighting for their place in the post office queue to cash their pensions doesn’t exactly fill one with optimism for the future of the West’s solitary superpower at a moment when the West is at its most vulnerable in living memory. The Republicans’ underwhelming performance in the midterms was something many attributed to Trump’s unwelcome intervention, with the chances of the Party taking power in the House of Representatives remaining in the balance whilst the Democrats have retained the Senate.

As though proving once and for all that the Donald is effectively a one-man party with no sense of loyalty to the Republican cause beyond the fruitcake fringes he appeals to, this announcement is probably music to the ears of most Democrats and the last thing most moderate Republicans needed to hear. The candidates Trump gave his blessing to last week, in the likes of Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all failed to win; their attempts to ape Trump’s more extreme claims – such as his conviction of being robbed of the 2020 Presidential Election – didn’t connect with voters, though one Republican who managed to achieve a considerable success by eschewing fanciful and discredited conspiracy theories was summarily dismissed by the Donald – Ron DeSantis. The Florida Governor achieved over 1.5 million votes, despite a political CV stretching back barely a decade; and whilst Trump conveniently avoided being drafted to Vietnam, DeSantis served a tour of duty in Iraq when a member of the US Navy. His popularity in Florida may have irked Trump into nicknaming him ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’, but some Republicans are looking to DeSantis as a more credible alternative to another journey into the absurd with Trump, a journey that threatens to scupper any hopes the Republicans have of recapturing the White House two years from now.

DeSantis was the man who infamously staged the headline-grabbing stunt that saw him chartering a plane to deliver a bunch of migrants to the rich-man’s playground of Martha’s Vineyard to see how immigration appeasers coped with migrants in their manicured backyard; he’s publicly opposed Critical Race Theory and Trans propaganda indoctrination in schools; he was vocal about his disapproval of OTT restrictions during the pandemic; he put his signature to anti-riot legislation when Democrat politicians were giving BLM and their affiliated anarchists free rein to burn down American communities; and he’s made his feelings on the Culture Wars crystal clear with statements such as, ‘We’re not gonna let this State descend into some sort of Woke dumpster-fire’. In short, he’s saying the kind of things that appeal to a huge swathe of the American electorate who feel left out in the cold by the progressive agenda of the Biden administration, and he’s doing so without attaching himself to the kind of redneck yahoos that venerate Trump – the very tribe that could cost the Republicans in 2024 if Trump’s candidacy is approved.

Certainly, if anyone’s star is rising in the Republican Party right now it’s that of Ron DeSantis, making him the only real contender capable of taking on Trump and crushing the prospect of the Second Coming – should he choose to run. Other hats thrown into the ring by commentators include the one belonging to the Vice President Mike Pence, the Born-Again Christian with former connections to the noughties loony tunes movement known as the Tea Party; Trumps’ former Secretary of State and CIA director Mike Pompeo is another name being tossed around, as is Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz – even though she’s a considerable rank outsider, having voted for Trump to be impeached and losing her Wyoming seat as a consequence; but Republicans dreading the Donald’s return are desperate for someone to come along to neuter the possibility of the Party being forever tarnished as a refuge for the more deranged members of America’s electorate.

Comebacks, particularly political ones, rarely work; even Boris Johnson found that out just a few weeks ago when he realised he lacked the numbers needed to be able to stroll back into Downing Street. Perhaps the most notable comeback in US history was that of Richard Nixon in 1968; after losing to JFK in the Presidential Election eight years previously, Eisenhower’s Vice President had a long spell in the wilderness, failing in his 1962 bid to become Governor of California and being written off as a has-been. His surprise winning of the Republican candidacy in 1968 was aided by Lyndon Johnson dramatically pulling out and by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy leaving the Democrats without a suitably charismatic candidate; Tricky Dicky’s remarkable triumph was achieved without him having previously served as President, however, and the likelihood of a man like Trump, whose tenure in the White House still reads like a surrealist soap opera, regaining the keys to the Oval Office is something of a long-shot. His slate is far from clean now – if it ever was – and backward steps are not the way forward.

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CLOSE YOUR EYES AND COUNT TO ZERO

vlcsnap-2022-11-12-16h54m29s679Who says satire is dead? Well, I’ve said it plenty of times – an opinion based largely on the dearth of satire on TV & radio (or the pitiful post-Brexit/Trump excuse that passes for satire in the 2020s). But I stand corrected as, like many, I saw one of the best satirical sketches since the heyday of Chris Morris the other day, featuring a genius new comic character – a parody of a posh activist on a par with past creations satirising pop culture archetypes, such as Ali G. This character went by the name of Indigo Rumbelow, and whilst on the surface she owes an undoubted debt to Andrew Doyle’s well-established intersectional feminist icon Titania McGrath, by making Rumbelow part of the climate change death cult, whoever created her hit on a canny contemporary angle to distinguish her from Doyle’s brilliantly accurate trust-funded SJW. Another factor that gave Indigo Rumbelow a distinctive gimmick was the presence of a straight man; he went by the name of Mark Austin, and his suit-and-tie newsreader style provided the perfect foil for Rumbelow’s studied scruffiness characteristic of the young middle-classes slumming it as faux-Bohemians. The whole performance was so well-observed you’d almost believe it was for real.

The sketch took the form of an interview, with straight man Austin grilling Rumbelow on the protest tactics of Just Stop Oil, the imaginary fruitcake fringe outfit to which she was supposed to belong. What made it so funny was that every time Austin tried to ask her what she thought the organisation’s infantile acts of civil disobedience achieved for her cause, Rumbelow had no answer and replied by reciting her apocalyptic mantra, screeching it over the top of Austin like some wild-eyed, possessed banshee whose voice increased several shaky octaves as she became more animated in the face of her inability to justify her counterproductive activism. It was a spot-on pastiche of the kind of privileged, attention-seeking narcissists with daddy issues that the real-life equivalent of these cults tend to attract; at one point she dismissed the concerns Austin voiced about the economy during a cost-of-living crisis and how Rumbelow’s simplistic solution to the world’s ills would make life even worse for anyone beyond her cosseted bubble – and it was easily the funniest thing I’ve seen on mainstream TV in years. Mark my words: one day, they’ll include this scene in a comedy compilation along with Basil Fawlty’s goosestep, David Brent’s dance, and Del Boy falling over at the bar.

I think this new satirical comedy series featuring the hilarious character Indigo Rumbelow was called ‘Sky News’; I’ve not heard of it before, but I’ll be keeping an eye open for the next time it’s on – certainly if the one sketch I saw was an indication of the quality comedy it intends to provide. Ah…hold on a minute…I’ve just been belatedly informed this ‘Sky News’ show is actually a genuine news channel, and Indigo Rumbelow wasn’t the inspired caricature of a posh activist I assumed, but is unfortunately the real thing, an utter car-crash of a saleswoman for her movement. Well, in my defence, it’s an easy mistake to make when one watches her performance. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so spectacularly fail to convert viewers to their cause and in the process expertly confirm (if not strengthen) the existing opinion of Just Stop Oil as a creepy coalition of bored rich-kids and yoghurt-knitting hippies whose fanatical, tunnel-vision obsession borders on a religious cult that cannot handle the challenging voices of non-believers.

If one tots-up the cheap stunts Just Stop Oil and its affiliated loony tunes have inflicted on precious works of art, monuments to national heroes and the Queen’s (King’s?) Highway of late, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that this cult is one with nihilism at its core. If you deconstruct anything and strip it of all meaning, there is no longer any barrier to destroying it because it’s without value, utterly worthless; everything becomes a housefly to be whacked with a rolled-up newspaper, an action entered into bereft of guilt or conscience because the dying fly means nothing. If you don’t care about something, you don’t care about its continued existence; indeed, you’d prefer it to end – if not actively attempting to accelerate that end, which is precisely the real motivation of such ‘activists’, emphasising the comparisons with brainwashed evangelicals praying for the Rapture with a copy of the Good Book in one hand and a can of Kool-Aid in the other, counting down the days to the end of days. And they want to take all of us with them, desperately determined to convert us to their deranged, demented death-wish, like coke-addled Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion don’t want to save the world; they want to end it. And the few survivors in the ashes, scrabbling around for bugs to feast on, will need a privately-educated, elite class to rule over them – which is when the instigators of the cult will emerge from their bunkers to initiate the planet’s second ‘Golden Age’ as we resume the feudal order of olde.

The countless Doomsday predictions from the special-needs wing of the climate change lobby could rival Neil Ferguson in terms of plucking worst-case-scenario imaginary stats out of the air; over the past quarter-century we’ve been bombarded with such predictions, most of which have pencilled-in future dates at which we were scheduled to pass the point of no return. Having subsequently survived all of these dates intact, the goalposts are simply (and quietly) moved so that ecological Armageddon remains safely ten years hence. Some of the most mind-bogglingly cuckoo statements yet heard dripped from the lips of Indigo Rumbelow during her Sky News appearance; talk of ‘birds falling from the sky’ during last summer’s heat-wave or attributing floods in Pakistan to climate change when long-term deforestation of the country has more to answer for were dispatched as though they were facts in the same way a head-shaking resident of the US Bible Belt will repeatedly declare ‘God created Adam and Eve’ when presented with evidence of the origins of our species. The sudden upsurge in public protests has been the petulant, foot-stamping response to the increasing proof contradicting their faith, the cries of Kidults to whom nobody has ever said the word ‘no’, like some latter-day Violet Elizabeth Bott from ‘Just William’.

It matters not to them that sitting down in the middle of the road prevents a mother collecting her children from school, a son missing his father’s funeral or a cancer patient being unable to make it to hospital for life-saving treatment; it matters not to them that the Chief Constable of Essex Police has been moved to state, ‘I think it is only a matter of time before somebody gets killed. The only way this is going to stop is if Just Stop Oil frankly grow-up and realise they are putting lives at risk.’ The fact a Chief Constable has come out with such a statement suggests the widespread exhaustion with stunts like weeping me-me-me activists ascending gantries on the M25, forcing road closures and more commuter chaos, has finally breached the ideological walls of our police forces. So far, the police’s pathetic response to Just Stop Oil – idly standing by, failing to move them on, and presenting us with yet another example of today’s two-tier policing – has forced members of the public to adopt vigilante tactics; perhaps now that the angry mood of the plebs with these deluded, hysterical extroverts has prompted a Chief Constable to issue an unusually stark warning, our alleged law-enforcers will actually intervene.

Virtually everything the likes of Just Stop Oil indulge in deters Joe Public from any semblance of sympathy with their cause. They also provide the opposing extreme – the lunatic fringes of climate change deniers to whom everything is a conspiracy theory (probably due to the Jews) – with additional ammunition, as well as risking the further extension of legislation to limit any form of public demonstration and thus curb civil liberties even more than the pandemic managed. But at least they can write a good comedy sketch, eh?

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THE RESIGNING SPIDER-MAN

Gavin WilliamsonPolitical stars seem to rise and fall in such a quick blink of an eye these days that I can type-in a politician’s name on the Winegum archive and all past posts in which they figure will appear before me, effectively chronicling their entire duration in the public eye. In just under a month’s time, the Winegum Telegram will have been with us for seven years – a timescale which doesn’t feel long in the great scheme of things, yet the amount of faces that have come and gone in that relatively brief period is innumerable to the point where seven years bears more of a resemblance to seventy. For example, by skimming through past posts I can trace the key developments in the career of Gavin Williamson, reported upon as and when they happened. And it’s perhaps fitting than the man who once courted a Mandelson-like Dark Lord persona via his pet tarantula now stands to rival the architect of New Labour with the amount of times he has been hired and fired by the Prime Minister of the day – and there’ve been quite a few Prime Ministers in the lifespan of the Winegum Telegram.

The first entry on Williamson I came across was dated 2 November 2017 – five years ago; titled ‘The First Line of Defence’, it dealt with the end of Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary, following revelations of Fallon’s hand coming into contact with journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee a decade before; in the wake of hardcore porn being discovered on the office computer of Cabinet member Damian Green, a list of illicit dalliances between MPs and their acquaintances had briefly circulated online and Westminster was awash with talk of ‘sex scandal’. The fact this event is barely remembered now, whereas the far more distant Profumo Affair remains the touchstone for all sex scandals involving Honourable Members, again demonstrates the here today/gone tomorrow nature of the social media age, where one day’s shock-horror headline is all-but forgotten the next. Anyway, this was the climate that enabled then-Chief Whip Gavin Williamson to step into a top job. Having revelled in his role as a faux-Kingmaker during the dodgy deal that secured DUP support for Theresa May’s tiny majority following the disastrous 2017 General Election, Williamson was rewarded with the post of Defence Secretary. Some were even touting him as a future PM.

May also felt indebted to Williamson for organising her leadership campaign in 2016, so he was bound to ascend the greasy pole thereafter; however, within barely a year-and-a-half, Williamson was sacked as Defence Secretary by the woman he’d apparently boasted he’d ‘made’ and could therefore ‘break’. His crime was to allegedly leak news to the press that secret discussions had been taking place between May’s inner circle and the Chinese Government’s telecommunications wing Huawei, with a view to the latter winning the contract to run Britain’s 5G network. If Williamson was responsible for passing this worrying revelation to Fleet Street, good on him; I gave him the benefit of the doubt at the time in a post titled ‘Gavin in Stasis’ (Dated 2 May 2019). But this was a period in which leaks from May’s Cabinet were happening on a virtual daily basis, something that in retrospect can be seen as a sign that her runaway train of an administration was destined to shortly hit the buffers.

Once May was out, Williamson was back in again. A little over two months after May had fired him from the Cabinet, Boris brought him back – this time as Education Secretary, a post he didn’t exactly sparkle in; to be fair, though, as with all of Boris’s appointments, Williamson hardly had the chance to make his mark in the post before the coronavirus brought everything to a grinding halt. The pandemic certainly sorted the men from the boys, and most of the men were found wanting; Williamson presided over the mass exclusion of schoolchildren from their seats of learning, the cancellation of exams, and then the whole cock-up of the ‘algorithm A-levels’, a farce which contributed to his eventual dismissal as Education Secretary in September 2021. Part of his golden handshake from Boris was the awarding of a knighthood; well, he was probably too young (and not quite corrupt enough) for a peerage, so being a ‘Sir’ – even on the backbenches – was a nice going away present. Williamson only really re-emerged last summer when he whipped up support for Rishi Sunak’s first leadership campaign, a tactic he was poised to repeat before Sunak swiftly replaced Liz Truss at No.10 effectively unopposed. Just as Theresa May had rewarded Williamson with a Cabinet post in 2017, Rishi did likewise last month by promoting him to Minister of State without Portfolio. Now, merely a few weeks later, Williamson is back to being MP without Portfolio, following his resignation as he seeks to clear his name over allegations of bullying.

As with similar allegations levelled against Priti Patel when she was Home Secretary, Williamson has been accused by an ex-civil servant of behaviour in the workplace that we’re currently only seeing from one perspective. Nobody likes a bully, and a bully being brought down is something to be celebrated; but there’s always the possibility the underling in question may have been deserving of a bollocking from a Minister exercising his authority, and we’re unaware of the context that provoked outbursts from Williamson advising the civil servant to ‘slit their throat’ and ‘jump out of the window’. It would appear the anonymous civil servant has played the mental health card to strengthen his complaint to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, so we don’t know if his is a genuine case of Gavin Williamson overstepping the mark and inflicting unwarranted suffering on an innocent party, or if it’s a Government employee incapable of taking a necessary dressing-down.

From the perspective of Gavin Williamson, the timing of this particular complaint is unfortunate in that it comes hot on the heels of another complaint in a similar vein, this time from the former Conservative Chief Whip Wendy Morton; she’s also gone to the ICGS, claiming Williamson sent her abusive texts, the alleged content of which blamed her for his exclusion from the guest-list at the Queen’s funeral. If both allegations are rooted in fact, the unflattering portrait they paint of him as an arrogant and unpleasant individual suggest he’s worthy of everything the ICGS can throw at him; but we don’t yet know. Either way, his continued presence in Cabinet was what news outlets usually refer to as ‘untenable’, and Williamson has now left Government for a third time, adding to the questioning of Rishi Sunak’s judgement in light of the ongoing Suella Braverman controversy. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

LESLIE PHILLIPS (1924-2022)

Leslie PhillipsNot every actor has a catchphrase, but Leslie Phillips – whose death at the grand old age of 98 was announced yesterday – had two, both of which were repeatedly evoked in his obituaries across the media. As the last survivor of an era of British comic cinema that lives on in the collective consciousness of Brits over a certain age, Phillips was regarded with the same kind of affection that greeted the death of Bernard Cribbins a few months ago. We don’t make ‘em like them anymore, and Leslie Phillips specialised in playing a now-redundant archetype recalled with undeniable fondness, the cad. His portrayal of this shameless, upper-middle-class philanderer with an irresistible twinkle in his eye was something he cornered the market in for decades, even taking it to TV screens in the early 70s with one of those sitcoms no broadcaster would countenance today, ‘Casanova ‘73’. Not unlike David Niven, Leslie Phillips represented a vanished world of well-spoken, well-turned-out English gentlemen whose effortless charm and sophistication could make those around them feel sartorially and socially inept, yet inspired not resentment but admiration. Impossible to dislike and incapable of not provoking a smile, Leslie Phillips will be much-missed, though while ever his celluloid legacy remains, there’ll always be an England.

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COCK OF THE JUNGLE

Jungle CockAnyone looking for proof of Peter Capaldi’s gifts as an actor need not only recall the fact he continued to exude the necessary charisma and gravitas as Doctor Who despite the diminishing quality of the scripts and the Doctor’s impending exile on Planet Woke, but that he also gave us the memorably visceral Whitehall spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in ‘The Thick of It’. There were dozens of scenes from the series in which Tucker’s hyperactive potty mouth scaled heights of genius linguistic obscenity, but Capaldi’s character was much more than just a viciously funny caricature of Alastair Campbell at his worst. I remember one episode in which Tucker had been toppled from his position of power and, suddenly deprived of his raison d’être, cut a lost, pathetic figure, realising he had little else to occupy his time; contacted by the producers of a reality TV show of the kind that seeks out has-beens and down-at-heel celebrities, Tucker swallows his pride and meets the producers. As the format of the programme is explained to him, Tucker’s despair at how low he’s sunk is writ large on his despondent countenance, and sympathy for a character who had previously elicited anything but is brilliantly coaxed out of the viewer. In the end, Malcolm Tucker walks out of the interview and shows his true grit by staging a successful comeback without recourse to reality television; perhaps Matt Hancock should have been taking notes.

The former Health Secretary, who presided over one of the most disastrous policy decisions in the history of the post, was fortunate to escape the post-Covid fallout with just the loss of his job; but at least the public received some consolation via the humiliating nature of his exit – caught on camera breaking social distancing rules in the most toe-curling manner by snogging and groping a female aide in a corridor like some geeky adolescent indulging in his first kiss at the High School Prom. Once exposed as a ‘love rat’ (as the tabloids used to say), Hancock left his wife and family for said aide and then embarked upon a fittingly embarrassing online ‘comeback’, responsible for soaring sales of sick buckets as he declared his love for his former bit on the side. Perhaps it’s therefore no surprise that Hancock has now succumbed to the lure of reality TV, recently announced as a contestant in the upcoming series of the show that seems destined to run until the bomb drops, ‘Help! I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’. The reported fee of £400,000 probably helped too – that’s if he could read the cheque on account of his ‘dyslexia’, the convenient cause he claims his appearance on the programme will highlight.

When the subject of Hancock’s participation in the annual kangaroo-knackers banquet cropped-up on this weekend’s ‘The Week in Westminster’, columnist and broadcaster Matthew Parris attempted to defend Hancock, deflecting criticism of Hancock’s decision by dismissing it as snobbishness, citing past appearances by the likes of Nadine Dorries on reality TV whilst a serving MP. However, Parris eventually declared an interest by admitting ‘Cockers’ was a friend of his. Lest we forget, Matthew Parris first sprang to national prominence when, as a Conservative MP himself, he took part in a 1984 edition of ‘World in Action’. This famous experiment, which Mrs Thatcher advised him not to do, was a test to see if the promising young MP could live on the weekly social security benefit his Government said was perfectly adequate. Dispatched to a neighbourhood of Newcastle with a high rate of unemployment, Parris struggled to make it through the week on the dole and ended up running out of money for the meter before the seven days was over.

Parris stood down as an MP a couple of years after his first foray into television and took over from Brian Walden as host of ITV’s Sunday lunchtime institution, ‘Weekend World’; but he has often hinted his experience on ‘World in Action’ opened his eyes to not simply the world of broadcasting – he also received first-hand knowledge of how the other half live. Parris returned to Newcastle twenty years after his sobering education on the dole for a follow-up programme and discovered little improvement in the lives of the residents there; he found the legacy of the early 80s economic decimation of the city was that many in the community were now dependent on antidepressants. Both programmes validated Parris’s appearance in them, but particularly the first one; it was a serious, worthy attempt to test an advocate of Government policy by inviting him to try living under it himself – something that should actually be a compulsory course for anyone attempting to stand for Parliament. There’s a huge difference between the motivation behind ‘World in Action’ and the Ant & Dec circus, so I don’t really think Matt Hancock signing-up for that is any way comparable to Matthew Parris’s 80s venture into the North East.

Regardless of Hancock’s unconvincing attempts to justify his participation in the programme, the now-backbencher has had the whip suspended as a result, and though still a member of the Conservative Party, he now sits as an independent in the Commons. The fact Hancock chose to take part in the show with Parliament in session understandably didn’t go down well with his West Suffolk constituents either; I often think gaining an audience with a member of the Cabinet at their constituency surgery must be considerably harder than it would be with any ‘normal’ MP, but when that MP is no longer running a department there should be no excuses for their non-appearance. Not that the loss of power seems to make much difference to their accessibility within their constituencies, mind; after all, imagine if your local MP was Boris Johnson, needing to discuss a pressing problem with him in that capacity, yet being told he’s sunning his considerable bulk on some distant exotic shore. And now there’s the disgraced ex-Health Secretary to be found Down Under, hanging out with the usual leftovers from all the other reality shows when his constituents might actually require his assistance for the job he’s being paid to do on their behalf.

Ah, but he’s got estranged children to support as well as financing his love-nest with Gina Coladangelo, and the wages of a backbencher don’t quite match up to the ministerial salary. Overly-optimistic rumours of a return to Government under Rishi Sunak came to nothing, so Hancock has clearly chosen an option he seems to imagine will somehow rehabilitate his trashed reputation amongst the general public. And a man referred to as a ‘showbiz guru’ by the name of Jonathan Shalit reckons Hancock has a profitable celebrity career ahead of him, claiming ‘Cockers’ could earn up to £1 million a year if he plays his cards right. ‘I’m A Celebrity provides an opportunity to go on a new journey,’ says Shalit, foreseeing an increase in Hancock’s income if he performs well on the programme. ‘Someone like Matt can probably make about £1 million a year, quite often on weekends. For example, he could probably do three or four appearances for £10-15,000 each, minimum, if not up to £60-70,000.’ Yes, these guys do like to talk in numbers, but showbiz types share that with greedy Honourable Members, and someone did once say that politics is showbiz for ugly people, so there you go.

Matt Hancock’s deserved political downfall was a consequence of the double standards at play in Boris’s administration during the pandemic; this is the man who threatened to outlaw outdoor exercise if the plebs didn’t adhere to the social distancing rules he himself evidently regarded as unnecessary when indulging in a spot of buttock-clutching, who was photographed sans-mask when he told the rest of us to wear them at all times, and who handed out PPE contracts to his buddies – typical corruption of the kind we expect from our MPs, I guess. But the buck stopped with him when Covid-infected pensioners were returned from hospital to care home; if anyone killed granny, it was Matt Hancock. And no amount of Barrymore-esque efforts to court forgiveness via light entertainment will change that.

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WAKING FROM HOME

DroneA lockdown legacy one suspects those spellbound by the Chinese model didn’t anticipate was the fact many workers whose school-university-workplace conveyor belt hadn’t prepared them for an unscheduled interlude became converted to the unexpected absence of orders. After a lifetime of being told what to do and what to think by parents, teachers, lecturers and bosses, the drones were abruptly left to their own devices and abandoned by the authority figures they’d been meticulously taught to be subservient to from day one; they were initially as dazed and confused as North Koreans would be if deprived of the image of their glorious leader beaming down at them from every skyscraper. Big Brother was dead – or at the very least had been reincarnated as a scaremongering presence on TV and online informing us that any deviation from lockdown regulations would mean the blood of a thousand dying grannies would be on everyone’s hands. We now took our orders from medical experts on the Government payroll. Yet, at the same time, there were still all those scarily empty hours stretching ahead without edicts from Boris, Chris Whitty or…ahem…Neil Ferguson.

Bewildered wonderment at the familiar soundtrack of traffic congestion being replaced by birdsong overnight was routinely remarked upon, though this was swiftly usurped by a discernible panic on social media. Endless Facebook groups sprang up as those who had never experienced a sustained break from the norm were confronted by the sudden shock of having time on their hands that didn’t involve a foreign holiday or airport delays; they’d been taught a break from the 9-to-5 grind was restricted to the well-trodden path of the annual migration to overseas destinations for a fortnight; actual unlimited time in the home environment wasn’t in the script, so what to do? The wake-up call this imposed exile from the traditional workplace routine provoked was longer-lasting than that anticipated by those who masterminded it; when they gradually got a grip on the pandemic and the powers-that-be encouraged everyone to resume commuting, the reluctant embrace of this return to the previous pattern left the overlords in a state of panic, resorting to threatening fines and promises of an economic apocalypse if advice were spurned.

Of course, transferring responsibility from employers to employees was a good buck-passing tactic that was endorsed by our incumbent PM when in his role as Chancellor, but the arrogant assumption that the workforce would simply revert to type following an unplanned taster of an alternative to the preordained programme was naive and short-sighted. Sure, the plebs on the bottom rung of the social ladder were expected to carry on regardless – those who had kept the economy functioning as ‘key workers’; but Amazon delivery-men and NHS staff dependent upon weekly rounds of applause as recognition of their service were not necessarily guaranteed to switch to default mode once the official tributes had been paid by those whose virtue had been signalled. The expectation that such a cataclysmic interruption to working lives upon which so much of society’s structure and functioning is reliant would prove to be a mere blip and all would magically resume once it was safe to step back outdoors was as short-sighted as expressing surprise that the cost of food – especially dairy produce and pasta – has risen astronomically post-lockdown. The disruption to the social ecosystem was bound to leave ruptures in the foundations, and they’re everywhere.

It’s noticeable at the moment there are numerous employers bemoaning the lack of a ready workforce to fill gaping vacancies in the hospitality industry; if they happen to be in possession of a particular political viewpoint – and many are – the blame is invariably apportioned to Brexit. A fair few of those in media circles promoting and supporting this theory were amongst the most vocally rabid advocates of constant lockdowns whenever infections rose above a certain level in the wake of restriction easing. Such figures whose jobs were easily adapted to the Zoom model didn’t give a flying f*** about the destruction of the hospitality industry or the effect of lockdown on the workforce back then; and now the wider ramifications of cafés, restaurants and hotels being mothballed for months on end are becoming evident, they’re bleating on about bloody Brexit again. Yes, the reason why there are 200,000 jobs waiting to be filled in hospitality is all because we can no longer depend on cheap migrant labour due to our departure from the EU. Simple. However, the hospitality industries of Spain, France and Germany are curiously experiencing similar staffing shortages at the moment, yet as far as I’m aware all three remain signed-up to the great European project; even the US is facing the same problems, and Brexit as a cause has even less relevance there than here.

Coincidentally, the one thing all four nations mentioned shared with the UK was the enforced closure of industry during lockdown – especially hospitality. In Blightly, the furlough scheme covered some (albeit not all) of the wages hospitality workers were earning pre-lockdown, and the time on their hands the workforce received courtesy of the Covid master-plan enabled many members of it to wonder whether the pittances they were working long, exhausting hours for were worth returning to once it was all over. Unsurprisingly, a huge number of them came to the conclusion that they weren’t. But they came to that conclusion when they had time to catch their breaths for the first time since beginning their working lives, the moment their bosses closed the doors of their workplace; and that was a factor of lockdown, not Brexit. Whilst Brexit remains the ultimate blame-game bogeyman for all of Britain’s ills, lockdown is almost given a royal pardon, particularly by those who were its loyalist cheerleaders. Indeed, some are even belatedly admitting it went too far – even Rishi Sunak.

The stigmatising of anyone who questioned or queried the wisdom of lockdown regulations as a pariah-cum-traitor during the bleakest periods of the pandemic has now been quietly glossed over by many of those who were doing the stigmatising. There has even been talk of a ‘pandemic amnesty’ by some, and that naturally means we skip over the necessary public inquiry into the damage done and everyone with genuine blood on their hands is first in the queue for the hand sanitizer, the brand known as ‘whitewash’. The over-zealous enforcement of social distancing we all saw at the time, which was a gift to society’s plentiful supply of Jobsworths and straightforward sadistic bastards, was nothing short of a disgrace at its most extreme and unnecessary – from police dispatching drones to name and shame dog-walkers in the wide open spaces of the Peak District to the insensitive officiousness of preventing distressed mourners embracing at funerals to the ‘Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition’ gate-crashing of religious services to the utterly unforgivable barring of family members from the deathbeds of loved ones. None of these outrages should be swept under the collective carpet as the guilty seek to cover their backs with the get-out-of-jail card of an amnesty, anymore than the seismic impact of lockdown on both industry and the workforce can be seamlessly transferred to Brexit.

Anyway, an amnesty won’t return us to where we were before; we’re already well on the road to the next fun-packed episode, currently being bombarded with promises of a new Age of Austerity, one that will make the Austerity ushered in by the Con-Dem Coalition a decade ago resemble the Bacchanalian excess of a Freddie Mercury birthday party from the 80s. The kamikaze rush for ‘growth’ attempted by Liz Truss, the woman Private Eye has referred to as ‘the Lady Jane Grey of Prime Ministers’, perhaps demonstrated just how devoid of solutions those who created this absolute bloody mess in the first place truly are. And even if we spurn the industries they destroyed, our lives are still in their hands.

© The Editor

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A BOY NAMED SUNAK

Brian and Rishi III guess I could muse on the least-taxing passage to No.10 for 15 years, ever since Tony Blair passed the poisoned parcel to Gordon Brown. Indeed, I could wax lyrically on the smashing of Labour’s Identitarian narrative of poor little oppressed minorities needing university-educated white folk rushing to their ignorant aid now that a practising Hindu has reached the pinnacle of political power without a contest even being staged. I could also ponder on the fact Sunak’s rise to the top contradicts the Left’s conviction that Britain today is a rampantly racist society on a par with Apartheid-era South Africa, due to the fact that most people couldn’t give a flying f*** about the new Prime Minister’s ethnicity; that’s the last thing that concerns the majority at this moment in time, no more than Disraeli’s Jewish identity bothered Victorian voters. The former Chancellor’s financial affairs – particularly his marriage to a billionaire’s daughter who enjoyed tax-free non-dom status until exposed – appear to be more of a pointer to his detachment from ‘the man in the street’ than his racial background; at the same time, it’s worth recalling the eloquent reply of Sid Vicious when asked if he sang for ‘the man in the street’. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ve met the man in the street, and he’s a c***.’

The controversial rewriting of the rulebook when it comes to selecting a new Tory leader – in order to accommodate the unique circumstances of the moment – has undoubtedly facilitated Rishi Sunak’s speedy relocation from backbench to Downing Street; but disgruntled Conservative Party members cancelling their memberships in protest at being denied a say need to remember they had their say in the summer – and look what they lumbered us with. Sure, none of the process that enabled Sunak to become an overnight Prime Minister smacks of anything remotely democratic; but another drawn-out interregnum of the kind we endured between Boris and Truss just wouldn’t have been appropriate right now. Sunak was fortunate that he acquired the necessary 100 backers in 24 hours and the only other candidate – Penny Mordaunt – came nowhere near; we were informed in advance that if only one candidate had the required 100 nominations come the Monday deadline, he or she would be the winner. Sunak duly achieved this and therefore, he’s straight in at No.10 with a bullet.

Along with Penny Mordaunt’s failure to reach the threshold of 100, Boris Johnson’s decision to pull out – a first for Boris; Boom! Boom! – presented Rishi with a clear path to power, and it’s been hilarious to watch prominent Tory creeps and crawlers chopping and changing their allegiances in the hope of keeping their Cabinet posts. Over the weekend, Nadhim Zahawi – the five-minute Chancellor who publicly called for Boris to quit a couple of days after Johnson had appointed him – was suddenly a born-again Boris groupie, tweeting his support for the ex-PM to return to office; and then, when it became apparent Boris couldn’t secure the numbers – or lost his bottle – Rishi was immediately installed as the man to unite the Party and save the country in the eyes of such desperate, fair-weather careerists. Here was the most blatant example yet of how these self-serving cretins shamelessly put personal interests ahead of Party (let alone country), and gave us official confirmation that all should forevermore be treated with the utter contempt they’ve earned.

It’s worth remembering there was a time – brief, granted – that Rishi Sunak was seen as the golden boy of British politics. Mid-pandemic, there was no escaping the fact that he radiated a confident, healthy glow that made him resemble a male model when stood beside shabby, flabby Boris; I seem to remember comparing them to the before-and-after images in an ad for a slimming aid. And, even though wise men recognised the Government paying the idle workforce what amounted to lockdown benefits meant a costly day of reckoning would strike sooner rather than later, the furlough scheme Rishi acted as salesman for came as a welcome financial injection to millions struggling because earning a living had been put on ice. Yet by last spring, when a damp squib of a budget combined with revelations of his missus’s tax affairs and a fine for lockdown-breaking, Sunak’s star was descending rapidly; swept up in the whole ‘Partygate’ scandal that engulfed Boris’s administration, it seemed Rishi Sunak was destined to join George Osborne as a Chancellor earmarked for an eventual move next-door that never arrived. And then he was portrayed by Boris disciples as the reincarnation of Michael Heseltine in the reboot of the Thatcher drama, masterminding the PM’s downfall to seize the crown for himself. Boris was dragged from No.10 and Rishi battled it out with Liz Truss, the Johnson-ite choice seemingly selected to fail once installed in Downing Street so that the Messiah could stroll back in again. Well, these are bad times for a betting man, for nothing lately has gone according to the form book; Boris is not returning, and Rishi Sunak has grabbed the top job without even breaking sweat beneath the bright lights of a leadership debate.

As the grandson of Indian immigrants from the pre-partition Punjab, Rishi Sunak’s effortless entrance into 10 Downing Street has naturally been received well in ‘the old country’. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered congratulations and tweeted ‘As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues…special Diwali wishes to the living bridge of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.’ Back home, whilst reluctantly paying tribute to Sunak’s achievement through gritted teeth, uniformly white opposition politicians have instead focused on the new PM’s immense wealth as the stick with which to beat him; the usual social media suspects may already be implying Sunak is ‘the wrong kind of brown person’ due to the fact he doesn’t adhere to the rule that all non-whites have to be left-leaning, but in the rush to counteract the characteristic racism of ‘anti-racism’, ignorance still abounds on the other side. Wee Nicola Sturgeon deleted a tweet describing Sunak as the UK’s first ‘ethnic minority PM’ when the origins of Benjamin Disraeli were pointed out to her.

Mind you, a lack of research is hardly restricted to Sunak’s ethnic background; claims he could be the first Prime Minister not to live ‘above the shop’ are contradicted by the fact Harold Wilson neglected to move back into No.10 during his second stint as PM from 1974 to 1976. But why let facts get in the way of a headline? Anyway, whether or not Sunak decides to call upon Pickfords, there was still the matter of the current tenant moving out. Before her farewell audience with Brian, Liz Truss indulged in a brief final lectern speech; as she struggled to think of her administration’s ‘achievements’, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an early exit from a reality TV show as a contestant’s ‘best bits’ montage set to a dreary Dad Rock dirge take up all of a minute’s screen-time. The speed of the handover from Truss to Sunak was necessary given the circumstances, yet it also seemed to emphasise the staggering failure of Rishi’s immediate predecessor; even the embarrassingly small removal van parked outside Downing Street suggested Truss’s chattels could’ve been packed into an overnight bag, so brief was her tenancy of No.10.

However, the fact the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 200 years is the first since Clement Attlee not to have served under Queen Elizabeth II in a way says more about where we are now than Sunak’s ethnicity. His rise to power is not so much a comment on how things have changed over the past half-century, but how they’ve changed over the past couple of months. This has been a remarkable period to live through in terms of history happening before one’s eyes, and even the breathing space of two years before the next General Election – and it will be two years – doesn’t mean the fat lady has started singing yet.

© The Editor

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