Having known a succession of non-bedroom flats as home during the past 15-20 years, I’ve been deprived of one conundrum that those with a ‘spare’ are occasionally faced with – the visitor who stops overnight and then extends his stay to several days. I’m sure the majority of these are welcome guests who are sincerely invited to treat the place like their own; and I’m equally sure this majority are courteous visitors who volunteer to do the washing-up. Surely not all take the piss – emptying the fridge of its contents and leaving the bathroom a bombsite of wet towels and poo balls, for example.

Uncle Donald’s long-trumpeted state visit is, I suppose, the dreaded scenario of the embarrassing overseas relative whose brief return to the mother country has been made easier (for him) by the emotional blackmail he employed to secure the spare room for three days. Families, eh? He’ll probably want to be introduced to your circle, even though you’ll spend the whole excruciating meeting hoping he doesn’t say something racist or grope your girlfriend; and after just one night of being bombarded by his braggadocio bluster, your pounding head will be pleading with you to concoct an excuse that will force him into finding a hotel ASAP. ‘I know, it’s dreadful; but the bloody landlord says he needs to hire out the premises for an Icelandic jazz festival tomorrow. There’s nothing I can do about it.’

No, I’m not keen on Donald Trump; I never have been. I think he’s a boorish, charmless, combative, coarse vulgarian. But I will say the fact he pisses off a lot of people who piss me off tickles my funny bone – far more than the puerile playground response of some to his presence on these shores. Hell, I’m no stranger to the puerile playground, as the video accompanying this post once again demonstrates; but when Dubya flew-in and raised similar hackles a few years back, the protests against his visit – at a time when war in Iraq was ongoing – were grounded in something substantial and seemed to have a genuinely valid politicised edge to them. I mean, a baby blimp? Come on – is this the best we can manage now? I suppose a giant cock only visible from the air could be said to be in the vein of traditional English humour; but it still feels like the nation is dropping its trousers and desperately mooning Air Force One because it can’t articulate its objections better than a five-year-old.

Despite Sadiq Khan’s attempts to promote the capital as though it’s one long Pride parade, the appalling roll-call of murders on the streets of London during his mayoral tenure – let alone in the six months of 2019 so far – really should focus his attention away from Twitter spats with a man who does this for a living. The public petulance of the London Mayor – not to mention the Leader of HM Opposition – is also counterproductive; Mr President draws most of his political strength and support from playing the outsider up against the establishment, and were leading Labour figures not so preoccupied with signalling their collective virtue, they’d realise their attitude is playing right into the Donald’s tiny hands.

Worse still, building up Trump to be the towering monster he likes to see himself portrayed as serves to make his predecessor in the White House look better than he actually was, conveniently airbrushing his less attractive legacies from the record books. The former drone-happy President was also guilty of sticking his nose into Brexit business last time he was here, but all has been forgotten during the wistful longing for the nauseating hero-worship that followed Obama around the UK like a gaggle of weak-kneed teenyboppers. I’m pretty sure Theresa May would love her final moment as PM to be flipping burgers in the back garden at No.10 with the ‘cool President’, but it ain’t gonna happen. She’d probably burn them to an inedible frazzle, anyway.

Mrs May can leave the wining and dining this time round to Her Majesty, and Brenda certainly has the experience, playing hostess to some exceedingly dodgy characters over the decades – everyone from Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe to the Shah of Iran and Nicolae Ceauseşcu; and let’s not forget Brian’s buddies in the Saudi royal family. Compared to that notable rogue’s gallery, Trump is Nelson Mandela. We really should put him into perspective, but the febrile climate in Blighty at the moment isn’t very conducive to perspective, alas – witness the casual dispensing of meaningful historical terms like ‘Nazi’ and ‘Fascist’ so they are reduced to meaningless insults on a par with ‘knob-head’ or ‘wanker’.

Trump’s behaviour so far – including his retort to Sadiq Khan before he even set foot on British soil – is entirely in keeping with the man, so nobody should feign surprise or outrage. Boris Johnson’s uncharacteristically low profile at the moment – a deliberate tactic to avoid the fate that always befalls the early favourite in a Tory leadership contest, one suspects – could probably do without the endorsement of the President, mind. Nigel Farage has less to lose, though being seen in the same light as Piers Morgan when it comes to one’s choice of friends isn’t the best boost either man’s aspirations could wish for at such a crucial juncture.

One of Trump’s duties before he departs is to be present at a commemorative ceremony in Portsmouth, marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. The last time D-Day was marked on such a grand scale ten years ago, Gordon Brown as PM practically had to invite himself to Normandy when Nicolas Sarkozy’s ego and eagerness to be photographed alongside Obama implied the British RSVP had got lost in the post. The former Co-Prince of Andorra might have neglected to remember, but the opening shot of liberating Nazi-occupied Europe was pretty much an Anglo-American operation at the western end; it’s therefore only right and proper that whoever happens to be the incumbent US President should be present on such a significant occasion, and the event being marked should override any personal gripes with the man occupying the office. If anything is capable of really putting 2019 into perspective, remembering 1944 should be – shouldn’t it?

© The Editor


All too often, that celebrated US sitcom known as ‘The Trump Presidency’ hits heights worthy of a script penned by Larry David. With the disappointing departure of wacky White House Spokesman Sean Spicer, it seemed the loss of such a colourful cast-member risked the show never being the same again; lo and behold, however, the Donald hired his replacement on the same day, and Anthony Scaramucci has quickly settled into Spicer’s shoes by proving to be instantly popular with viewers. Mr Scaramucci made an immediate impact in a classic episode that saw him interviewed by Emily Maitlis, and has also maintained the tradition of washing dirty linen in public by launching a personal attack on White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – with hilarious, as they say, consequences.

Beyond the fourth wall, the serious business of running the USA hasn’t been quite so side-splitting. Over on Capitol Hill last night, it was drama rather than comedy that dominated proceedings as the Senate debated the President’s repeal of ‘Obamacare’. This was the third attempt to repeal the healthcare act of Trump’s predecessor, and the third failure. The bill became known as the ‘Skinny’ repeal, due to it being a scaled-down version of a total repeal that it was reckoned all Senate Republicans could agree to. Had the bill succeeded, it would still have left an estimated 16 million Americans losing their health insurance within a decade as well as a 20% increase in insurance premiums for those fortunate enough to keep it.

What made the defeat an especially bitter pill for the Trump administration to swallow is that three prominent Republican Senators – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and former Presidential candidate John McCain – voted against the bill and contributed significantly to its defeat in the process; the latter member of the trio was apparently badgered by Vice President Mike Pence for the best part of 20 minutes in a desperate attempt to get the veteran Republican to vote according to the President’s wishes, before taking his place alongside a group of enthusiastic Democrats as the bill was voted down by the tantalisingly tight margin of 51 votes to 49. Trump’s response was to claim all three Republican turncoats ‘let America down’; but for McCain in particular it was an opportunity for revenge.

During his run for the Presidency in 2008, much was made of John McCain’s Vietnam War record. After being shot down on a bombing raid over Hanoi in 1967, McCain was a Prisoner of War for six years and suffered appalling torture at the hands of his captors that has left him with lifelong physical disabilities, most famously the fact he cannot raise his hands fully above his head. McCain entered politics a decade after his return from Vietnam, but has long had something of a reputation as a ‘maverick’, not always prone to toeing the party line. His run for the Presidency in 2008 saw him lose to Barack Obama, though his cause probably wasn’t helped by the selection of the execrable Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Nevertheless, he has remained one of the most recognisable and respected Washington veterans – not that this counted for much where Donald Trump was concerned.

During the embryonic stages of his efforts to gain the Republican nomination for 2016, Trump mocked McCain’s record in Vietnam by saying he preferred ‘heroes who weren’t captured’. It should be noted that, though of an eligible age, Trump himself conveniently avoided the Vietnam draft like one of his White House predecessors, Dubya; he also didn’t enlist as a volunteer or consider joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps; as a student, he obtained four deferments and was given a further medical deferment when threatened with the draft in 1968 on the grounds of ‘heel spurs’, which was nice.

A man such as McCain, with over thirty years in politics, will have developed an extremely thick skin by now, but a crass comment along the lines of the one Trump made was bound to rankle; last night, he had the chance to give the President the finger and he took it. Trump’s avowed intention to get rid of Obamacare now seemingly stands in tatters, largely thanks to a man whose recent diagnosis with a serious brain tumour means he really doesn’t have anything to lose. That he returned to active politics just a couple of weeks after brain surgery shows he’s quite a tough cookie.

Ironically, McCain had spoken out against Obamacare and the need for it to be replaced during his re-election campaign in 2016, though by the time he came to cast a decisive vote yesterday evening, his opposition to the proposals on the table appeared to stem more from his disapproval of the clandestine manner in which the bill was prepared. McCain made a speech a couple of days before last night’s vote calling for a ‘return to regular order’ when it comes to lawmaking, so it was perhaps no surprise that – coupled with the urge to get one over the President – McCain should side with Democrats at the eleventh hour.

The ‘Skinny’ repeal compromise was regarded as the only version Republicans might be able to get through Congress; its defeat means there are no other prospective bills on the cards to repeal Obamacare; despite this, Trump tweeted in the aftermath of the vote ‘As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal.’ At the same time, one of Trump’s early rivals for last year’s Republican nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, declared ‘Mark my words, this journey is not yet done.’ It probably won’t be in the long-term, but for now it is; and the Republicans have one of their own to thank for it.

© The Editor


trumpOn paper, it’s already beginning to resemble a bizarre social experiment – replace the time-honoured tradition of a country being run by career politicians schooled in years of public office and hand over the reins of power to a man whose sole working experience has been within the field of big business and entertainment. Light the blue-touch paper, stand at a safe distance and watch the fireworks.

It won’t be until next Monday that Donald Trump marks just one month as resident of the White House, yet so much has been crammed into the last four strange weeks that it feels much longer. Just this week has seen the first resignation from his administration – his National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, over allegations of uncomfortably close associations with the Russian Ambassador to the US; the FBI are currently investigating Flynn and perceiving his relationship with Sergey Kislyak as part of the ongoing suspicions over the Kremlin’s involvement in the Trump Presidency.

Trump has already set himself against the judiciary following the ramifications and legal challenges to his 90-day ban on visitors from seven selected Islamic countries, not to mention invoking the ire of those who were opposed to his Presidency from day one. Ordinarily, Americans will display inbred respect towards their President, whichever side of the political divide he stands on; all of this has been turned on its head by Trump; displaying that inbred respect in 2017 is the aberration, not the norm. Every policy so far announced has been a red rag to the liberal bull, yet every policy also appears to have reinforced the majority of his campaign promises – something most imagined would be quietly swept under the carpet once he took the oath of office. Even that bloody wall has been threatened. This isn’t what usually happens when people are elected.

Then again, under normal circumstances, when people are elected they’ve usually become so skilled in the art of saying one thing when in opposition and then doing another when in government that the public are accustomed to being let down. Lest we forget, however, these are not normal circumstances. Donald Trump is not a normal politician. In fact, I’d question whether or not he’d even find that job description as applicable to him, despite the lofty position he now finds himself in.

Previously, outsider was a term political observers had used to describe the likes of Jimmy Carter or Margaret Thatcher. In the case of Carter, he was a State Governor barely known outside of that State, but a country decimated by the fallout of Watergate turned to him as a break with the established Washington elite that had let the nation down; in the case of Thatcher, she may have had prior government experience, but she too was seen as a break with the recent past of continuous industrial turmoil that had characterised the British 70s; and, of course, she was a woman. Both were outsiders, albeit outsiders on the inside. The same could be said of Barack Obama, who was at least a State Senator before running for President. Trump has never been on the inside and that was his genuine outsider’s sales pitch; it worked.

Disillusionment with the old order has been gathering speed for the last decade, with the 2008 economic meltdown cited by many as the moment when the public realised things were not going to get better and the powers-that-be had no interest in making any country great again. The ground had been laid for a figure like Trump to come along a long time before he actually emerged as a candidate, yet a media machine in bed with those powers-that-be was not going to benefit from them being deposed; therefore, Trump’s campaign was understandably mocked and ridiculed from day one – an eventuality he himself aided and abetted with his behaviour. Even some of us not belonging to that media machine couldn’t really foresee Trump actually going all the way because it was such a dramatic severance of the world order as we had always known it that it seemed impossible to imagine that kind of surreal scenario. But it happened.

I often doubt the sanity of those who hanker after the highest office in the land, whether President or Prime Minister; we can all cite examples of past Presidents or PMs who were either chronically stupid or criminally devious – or both; the aphrodisiac of power has always eluded me, but there’s no doubt it serves as an irresistible element for the men or women in public office who crave it like a drug. That in itself suggests to me symptoms of mental disorder and potential demagoguery, so amateur diagnoses of Trump’s state of mind shouldn’t be restricted to him alone; they should be applied across the board.

Former Labour Foreign Secretary and founding member of the SDP, Dr David Owen combined his medical knowledge with his political experience by covering the subject in a couple of books, ‘The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power’ and ‘In Sickness and In Power: Illness in Heads of Government during the last 100 Years’; and I reckon the connections are entirely relevant. You’d have to be mad to want to run a country, and I guess that’s why so many world leaders are.

As for the Donald, what happens next is anyone’s guess. 2020 seems a hell of a long way off at the moment and right now it’s difficult to picture him reaching the end of four years, let alone contemplating a second term. But for all the wishful thinking by the left of impeachment, we shouldn’t forget his Vice President Mike Pence. Trump may be an outsider, but he’s chosen to surround himself with some Republican stalwarts whose narrow minds make Trump’s stated vision of America seem radically liberal. Many may not be comfortable with the thought of Trump’s finger hovering above the button, but the prospect of President Pence is considerably more concerning; Pence is an insider, the kind of establishment figure Trump was supposed to be a break with. So, be careful what you wish for, you Twitter Oswald’s.

© The Editor


avengersBack in 2011, David Cameron’s desperation to be Barack Obama’s Bezzy Mate was a predictable move from an unpopular Prime Minister in relation to a popular President, serving burgers in the back garden of No.10 in the hope that some of Obama’s movie star sheen would rub off on him. By contrast, Theresa May’s quick-off-the-mark dash to get to Donald Trump before any other world leader made sense in the context of an uncertain post-Brexit future, though both actions tell a familiar story where the Special Relationship is concerned. With the odd rare exception, the wartime scenario of the gum-chewing GIs that swept a generation of British girls off their feet seems to have been the blueprint for summit meetings between UK PMs and US Presidents ever since. Culturally, the same pattern has been replicated in recent years, though it hasn’t always been the case.

Take Gerry Anderson. ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons’ may well be the notable Supermarionation series that spring to mind whenever the name of Gerry Anderson is evoked, but how many of you remember ‘The Secret Service’?

‘The Secret Service’ was commonly regarded as Gerry Anderson’s first flop. It was the last series he made with puppets in the 1960s and was only seen on Southern and ATV back in the days when ITV was a collection of competing regional broadcasters that often went their own obstinate ways when it came to scheduling. If you don’t know much, or anything, about this near-forgotten series, ‘The Secret Service’ was a bizarre mix of puppetry and live action; the close-ups are puppets whereas the long shots, including a character stepping out of a car and walking up to a door, are all live action. The master of gobbledygook, Professor Stanley Unwin, plays himself as a country vicar who also happens to be a secret agent – yes, that’s right! It was the 60s, after all.

‘The Secret Service’ taps into that strange, brief period in the 60s when a very English eccentricity was given a kitsch Technicolor makeover and was actually chic for a while. It’s also there in ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Prisoner’ as well as hit records of the era, from Syd Barrett’s Psychedelic nursery rhymes on the first Pink Floyd LP to the story of Grocer Jack in Keith West’s ‘Excerpt from a Teenage Opera’ – quirky, whimsical, nostalgic and childlike. It was even reflected in British comics produced during this period, with surreal characters of the calibre of Robot Archie, Adam Eterno, and The Spyder, all of whom illuminated drizzly childhood Saturday afternoons as they appeared in the pages of ‘Lion’ and ‘Valiant’. A decade ago, when some of these characters were revived in the comic miniseries and graphic novel, ‘Albion’, penned by Alan Moore’s daughter Leah, she made a valid point justifying their resurrection.

‘The British sensibility from those times has been imprisoned’, she said when ‘Albion’ was published in 2006. ‘The anarchic silliness and weirdness of the comics was just part of the way we saw the world back then. Sadly, we’ve lost that, along with some of our civil liberties.’

Speaking at a moment when Tony Blair was still extending his insidious reach into so many facets of British society, on one hand Leah Moore’s statement expresses a subliminal longing for an irretrievable Golden Age – a common thread in English art and literature stretching all the way back to ‘Paradise Lost’ and even evident in the soothingly melancholic Oliver Postgate series such as ‘Noggin the Nog’ and ‘Bagpuss’; but in reviving comic characters she was probably too young to recall from her own childhood, she demonstrated a refreshing awareness of a once singularly English identity within home-grown pop culture that has been gradually eroded by an unstoppable tidal wave of American cultural colonialism. It has to be said, however, that we have been complicit in this.

In the immediate post-war era, the juvenile crime-wave that saw young men who had been raised in the absence of fathers imitating stars of US gangster flicks like Cagney, Bogart, Raft and Robinson was portrayed on-screen in ‘The Blue Lamp’, the movie that introduced Sgt Dixon to popular culture; it also set the scene for one of the great miscarriages of justice in British legal history, the hanging of Derek Bentley after his pal Christopher Craig shot dead a policeman in an early example of ‘Gun Crime’. After the gangsters came Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis Presley and rock ‘n’ roll as well as every iconic American television series from ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Batman’ and ‘Starsky and Hutch’ – all entertaining, all worthwhile in their own right. They competed for our attention along with The Beatles, Monty Python, James Bond and Doctor Who; we were still capable of holding our own.

Over the past twenty-five to thirty years, though, we seem to have conceded defeat. Yes, there have been small-scale and determined revivals, whether the self-conscious Englishness of Britpop or even the short-lived vogue for cock-er-nee gangster movies shot by Guy Richie; but the subtle and stealthy immersion of purely American cultural traditions into the British way of life, especially for anyone born after around 1980, has been steady and consistent.

Okay, so McDonald’s is an obvious conquering invader; but what of high-school proms or sleep-overs or baby showers? None of these have any connection to this country other than their persistent appearance in the US movies that constituted video rental shop viewing in the 80s and 90s and the US TV shows that have filled-up the schedules of 24-hour television since the same period. So pervasive have they become in the lives of anyone under 35 that many cannot imagine Britain without them. This is equally applicable to the dolt whose call to the emergency services resulted in him dialling 911 as it is to the sudden pronunciation of the letter ‘a’ in ‘patriotism’ switching from lower case to upper case.

All Hallows Eve is a classic example; as a festival, it predates any American element and yet one could imagine it was invented by the US sometime in the 80s, almost in the same way Christmas has been refashioned by Disney and Coca-Cola, whereby rosy-cheeked Santa Claus has usurped the druid-like spectre of Pagan Father Christmas. I was exposed to ‘trick or treat’ as a kid in a memorable ‘Charlie Brown’ cartoon, where poor Linus sits out all night in the pumpkin patch, awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin; but nothing of that kind happened here on Halloween then. Lo and behold, by the time I’d progressed from ‘Peanuts’ to subtitled French movies on BBC2 in the hope (usually realised) of seeing some naked mademoiselle, the younger residents of the street had suddenly taken up trick or treat as an annual tradition.

I’m not necessarily advocating a Morris Dancing tournament to replace the OTT Americanisation of Halloween as it’s been here for the last quarter-of-a-century, but there are enough weird and wonderful native traditions without importing another cynical retail shindig to these shores. Mind you, Brits seem so permanently in awe of anything American (as long as it’s not Donald Trump) that this has even extended to a UK TV series such as ‘Peaky Blinders’, which owes so much to HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ that it borders on embarrassing.

With some of the best non-Scandinavian TV shows I’ve seen in recent years emanating from the States, I’m not opposed to US culture at all; but I do resent the way in which it has served to obliterate so much of what once made us so distinctive from our old colony. As far as the Special Relationship stands, Britain seems to have become the nation equivalent of a 1970s TOTP covers LP. Do we still possess the ability to stem the tide or have we surrendered as shamefully as Theresa May?

© The Editor


mooreThe regressive left must think all of its Christmases have come at once. How tedious it would have been had Britain voted to remain in the EU and Hillary Clinton had won the keys to the White House. There was precious little opportunity to raise a placard and embark upon a march when Martin Luther Mandela-Obama was President. Mr Charming could slaughter as many innocents as he liked with the odd drone, promise to close Guantanamo Bay without doing so, and bar citizens of certain Islamic nations from entering the US; but all of that could slip under the left’s radar because he was cool – a finger-snapping Jazz Dude President. Plenty of style on the surface and plenty of unpleasantness beneath it that goes with the office, whoever holds it; as long as the latter is carefully obscured by celebrity sheen, all is well with the world – though wasn’t that kind of superficial salesman-like take on politics the very thing we wanted an end to?

Twitterati who know no better (and plenty others who should) have been proclaiming the Apocalypse for the past seven days, having the time of their lives whilst doing so. Helium-inhaler Laurie Penny Dreadful blamed the resumption of her menstrual cycle on Trump’s inauguration; another woman claimed she was going to abort the baby she discovered she was carrying on the very same day because associations with the Donald would damn the child forevermore – though with a potential mother of that mentality, the unborn baby was at least spared a lifetime of being saddled with a new twist on the old Original Sin concept.

In case you missed it, Donald Trump isn’t merely a charmless, boorish bruiser who views his country as a failing business he intends to turn around and make a handsome profit from; no, he’s Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Lex Luthor, Ming the Merciless and Doctor Doom all rolled into one unappetising package – and he must be exterminated! Posing as those who care for their fellow-man, some openly advocate his assassination while a cowardly punch delivered by a masked thug to the head of an admittedly repugnant white supremacist on the streets of Washington is apparently something we are supposed to admire. Not for the weekend anarchist the Christopher Hitchens approach of destroying your enemies by destroying their argument, of course; that would require brains rather than brawn. Lest we forget, however, Black Panther H. Rap Brown once said ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie’, so I guess the current method of dealing with the problem makes sense.

‘We will repel bullies!’ cried actor David Harbour (who he?) at the Screen Actors Guild awards, the latest in the ongoing round of ceremonial self-indulgent back-slapping Hollywood vomit-fests leading up to the ultimate golden bucket of puke, the Oscars. ‘We will punch some people in the face!’ he screamed with characteristic humanity as the rest of his rant was submerged by a tsunami of rapturous applause. Peace ‘n’ love, eh? Violence is okay as long as it’s directed towards individuals the consensus has decreed worthy targets. Funnily enough, ISIS regards anyone who doesn’t subscribe to its nihilistic dogma in similar terms. There used to be a word for that, along with imposing views upon a populace and silencing dissenting voices. Oh, yeah – Fascism.

On this side of the pond, double-barrelled activists have been creaming their jeans at the prospect of a state visit by the Donald; it goes without saying there’s already a petition. Minor invites of the same nature to the leaders of Saudi Arabia or China don’t quite provoke the storm this one has, despite their abysmal human rights records surpassing America’s; and who was our PM cosying-up to after holding (little) hands with Trump? President Erdogan of Turkey, a man who has overseen a ruthless purge of anybody brave enough to question his regime; I haven’t heard many protests about that summit meeting from the usual suspects.

UKIP’s Raheem Kassam isn’t exactly the shy retiring type; his regular Twitter pronouncements appear to delight in provoking a vociferous response, yet his gleeful rejection of the perceived wisdom on Trump has inadvertently laid bare one important aspect of the regressive left’s attitude to multiculturalism. Yesterday he was accused of ‘betraying his culture’ by not frothing at the mouth over the news of Mr President’s ban on selected Islamic nationals entering the US; a lapsed Muslim, Kassam is a brown gentleman who refuses to submit to the nice little stereotype of a British Asian, and this upsets the multicultural model somewhat.

By spurning a Holy Book that, as with many, condemns the kind of personal practices the regressive left demands as a right, Raheem Kassam is a Bad Man rather than a mildly entertaining, attention-seeking contrarian. The left may imagine white guilt over our colonial history is eased by advertising its tolerance towards Islam whilst simultaneously overlooking hardline Islamic countries’ far-from tolerant suppression of women, gays and dissidents; but the toe-curling and patronising approach to Muslims who adhere to the victimised minority mindset, unable to defend themselves and therefore in need of kindly middle-class white Brits to come to their rescue and speak up on their behalf (their mastery of the English language is quite basic, you understand), is a head-patting exercise of a kind even our imperial forefathers would find appallingly condescending.

The marches and protests we’ve already been treated to, and will continue to be for the next few months, are the regressive left’s World Cup; they love ‘em, that’s why they’re so quick to take to the streets and chant as though they were in a stadium, announcing to a global TV audience that the referee likes playing with himself. It’s a wonder the whole spectacle isn’t presented live on BBC1 by Gary Lineker, ably assisted by Simon Schama and Lily Allen as pundits.

It’s time to get a grip and put things in perspective; and look at it this way – if Hillary had been elected, we’d have more U2 albums to endure. As it is, Saint Bono has threatened to release no new material until Trump is out of office. Here’s to two full terms, then. I say that not because I especially want it, but because the entertainment quota is virtually guaranteed from both camps on account of them being as unpleasant as each other.

© The Editor


trumpWell, what can I say? Donald Trump is now officially President Trump; no great surprise, as his inauguration was advertised well in advance of the event. The talking point in the week leading up to it was the paucity of performers willing to participate, though I was relieved to be spared all that as a viewer. A Presidential inauguration ceremony isn’t half-time at the Superbowl, and I don’t recall entertainers being an intrinsic element of the ritual on the steps of the Capitol Building before the ‘Rumours’ Fleetwood Mac line-up reunited for Bill Clinton’s first bash in 1993 – or perhaps the Glenn Miller Band played at one of FDR’s numerous inaugurations and I was unaware of it.

The anticipated protests took place on the streets of Washington, but didn’t get anywhere near the parade route; as far as I can tell, the activities of the masked men were limited to smashing a few windows and – Shock! Horror! – pushing a few bins over. That should send out one hell of a message to the Donald that he’s up against a formidable enemy; ditto that chinless cinematic faux-anarchist Michael Moore, a man who pleaded on camera for Hillary Clinton not to become the Democratic nominee as he listed her failings and then pleaded on camera for the American electorate to vote for her when she did become the Democratic nominee, failings still intact.

The initial entertainment factor at Trump’s inauguration, rather than coming from pop stars, largely emanated from spotting ancient ex-Presidents arriving, none more so than Jimmy Carter, 92 years young; the only living post-Carter President absent was George Bush Senior, currently in hospital. Seeing Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama sharing the same podium did have the look of a ‘Doctor Who’ story when the Timelord’s previous incarnations get together; but it is strange when one considers Trump was sworn-in for the first time when he’s already the same age as his distant predecessors Bush Jr and Clinton are today. After eight years of a President born during JFK’s era, we’re back to the Truman generation.

Watching Trump hold up his little hand and repeat those famous lines certainly had more than a touch of parallel universe unreality about it; everyone knew it was coming, but it needed to be seen to be believed, to finally confirm it had really happened. When rain began to fall as soon as Trump had taken the oath of office and prepared to make his speech, no doubt some would melodramatically claim the Washington skies were symbolically weeping, though watching on TV, all I could think of was wondering what shape his hair might take when exposed to the elements.

Trump’s speech stuck to the core rhetoric at the heart of his campaign when going head-to-head with Hillary – the promise to revitalise the dead industries of America’s rustbelt, to end inner-city gang warfare and to give the country back to the people; what Obama must have thought when the inaugural address of his successor implied his Presidency had achieved very little on the home front probably won’t be known till the 44th President gets round to writing his memoirs; but I doubt Obama was reflecting on all the innocent lives his drones had extinguished during his two terms.

The headline-grabbing statements and choreographed controversies Trump specialised in during both his run for the Republican nomination and his clash with Hillary was akin to the chest-beating bravado that boxers exhibit at the weigh-in before their bout; come the moment he finally achieved the impossible by ascending to the White House, it was expected he no longer had any need to employ such contentious and divisive tactics, something that his unexpected conciliatory attitude towards his opponent re the fate he threatened her with during the Presidential Election seemed to point towards once he won the Presidency. However, Trump’s ongoing Twitter spats suggest it’s simply not in him to tone down his naturally combative nature, even when installed in the Oval Office.

How this nature will play out on the world stage, let alone domestic politics, remains to be seen; and I suppose it is the unpredictability of such an erratic character attaining the ultimate seat of power that is the main cause for concern when it comes to his detractors. At the same time, after years of persistent accusations that politicians are a bland breed straight off the android conveyor belt, having someone as the western world’s unofficial leader who bucks that trend with such brash vulgarity is part of Trump’s appeal, not dissimilar to the way in which many people find the eccentric persona Boris Johnson has cultivated a refreshing alternative to his fellow Parliamentarians.

The curious traditions of the US Presidency, whereby the new man at the top doesn’t take charge till two months after winning the Election, present the incoming holder of the office with customary American theatrically on the day he can actually be addressed as Mr President. As someone who has become a household name as the star of a reality TV show, it seemed fitting for Donald Trump to begin his reign in such settings, though what comes next is something that even Trump has never experienced before – the genuine power to affect the lives of millions who’ve never even seen his crappy television programme. So, strap yourselves in; it’s going to be a very interesting ride.

© The Editor


trumpEver since Gettysburg, the Great American Speech has not only been the aim of every US politician seeking to define their time and enshrine their place in it; the moment talking pictures appeared, the movie industry realised few tactics served better as the denouement of a drama than the lead character pausing to passionately speak his mind to an assembled group of characters (and the audience) in a highly theatrical manner, as though he too was on a podium addressing the nation. This week has seen two examples of this enduring gesture – one coming from an outgoing President and the other coming from an ageing actress.

Like Barack Obama and his predecessors, Meryl Streep’s field of expertise is speaking lines written for her by somebody else. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley sang lines written for them by somebody else; they were aware they didn’t possess the talent to write their own, so they focused on what they did best and didn’t lose any sleep over it. But professional actors are a different breed of entertainer and they often make the mistake of believing the adulation and awards that shower down on them for doing their job is somehow a reflection of them as individuals rather than the characters they’ve portrayed. When they sever the strings of the scriptwriter and, like Pinocchio, imagine they’re flesh-and-blood instead of wood, the illusion is shattered and the audience winces.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Charlton Heston cheerleading for the NRA, Clint Eastwood interviewing an invisible Obama, Michael Caine endorsing Cameron, Sean Penn intervening in the Falklands or the conveniently-distanced George Clooney lecturing Europe on its refugee crisis, the impact is the same. We belatedly (not to say disappointingly) realise they’re not who we thought they were when we watched them on the big screen. Tell an actor he’s wonderful and he’ll do anything for you – something those who benefit from a celebrity endorsement know all too well.

With last year’s PC Nuremberg Rally masquerading as the Oscars ceremony still sending a lingering shudder down the spine, 2017 hasn’t even got as far as the Academy Awards before the same narcissistic urges have claimed centre-stage again. The Golden Globes is the Song for Europe to the Oscars’ Eurovision, but the woman one US critic referred to as ‘America’s Judi Dench’ decided to pre-empt the biggest bash in cinema’s calendar by using the Golden Globes as her own personal platform, knowing full well she was playing to the adoring converted.

Actors will become increasingly dispensable in the next few years; the CGI ‘reanimations’ of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher in the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie are probably the shape of things to come, and as the technology advances more and more thespians will have to specify beforehand whether or not they consent to their image being resurrected in the event of their death. Therefore, Streep, as the reigning grande dame of Hollywood, grabbed the headlines with her own words in a way a CGI version of herself from twenty years hence would be incapable of; she never said the words ‘President-Elect’ or ‘Donald Trump’, but her target was implicit in the speech. She delivered it with the kind of faux-earnestness she’s called upon in a hundred movies – the final scene in which a solitary piano accompaniment gradually builds up into a rousing, swooping crescendo of soupy strings cynically engineered to provoke tears and applause. She may have had a salient point hidden behind the hammy window-dressing, but it was buried beneath a landslide of emotional apple pie.

As a man who has yet to come to terms with at least the pretence of dignity that is supposed to compliment his office, Donald Trump responded to Streep’s speech in the style of a petulant Twitter troll, oblivious to the fact he should be above all that by now. He’s no longer merely a reality TV star anymore, lest we forget. But Trump is at war with anyone who mocks or criticises him; he’s Richard Nixon taken to an online level, not simply dismissing his knockers with foul-mouthed vitriol behind closed doors, but engaging with them in unedifying internet fisticuffs in full view of the world.

He could have made Meryl Streep look even more foolishly self-indulgent had he just ignored her; but what he shares with Hollywood royalty is his inability to relent from imposing his opinions upon a populace he genuinely believes is enamoured with everything he says or does. In this respect, Trump and the red carpet A-listers should be natural allies, for their conceit and vanity is their dominant mutual personality trait.

As with the pyjama-clad slovenly shoppers captured on camera last weekend, who responded to being rightly shamed by crying racism, the majority of Trump’s most vociferous critics fall back on wearisome buzzwords that ironically mirror the similarly simplistic and crude playground taunts of the man himself. By contrast, Hollywood’s pampered starlets, labouring under the misapprehension that their public edicts carry the kind of weight ordinary Americans lack the intellectual capacity to articulate, clearly imagine that the audiences who pay good money to watch their overhyped brain-dead blockbusters will instinctively agree with their anti-Trump rhetoric just because they have achieved the wealth and privilege every US citizen is duped into believing they too can attain.

But perhaps there is one saving grace to emerge from this sad little war of words between America’s ultimate showbiz elite and a President-Elect who himself is more showbiz than political: George Clooney has hinted Hollywood will go ‘on strike’ until the President-Elect is booted out of office. Just think about it – no mainstream Tinsel Town popcorn slopping around the multiplex aircraft hangers like a celluloid slick for four years! Go for it, George!

Everyone is acting out their preordained parts because none of the participants are smart or shrewd enough to see that they’re doing so; their egos are too immense to discern anything beyond the shadows they cast to recognise the clichés. Like two competing B-movies at the local fleapit, the right-on left and the rabid right are back where they belong, engaged in a tired battle neither will concede and neither will win. They both deserve to drown in a perpetual golden shower.

© The Editor


obama-and-trumpOut walking with a friend the day after the US Presidential Election, a huge boom could be heard in the distance, probably from some industrial machinery. ‘Sounds like Trump’s already pressed the red button,’ I quipped. Had I been in company less prone to laughing at the world and prone to taking every external event as a personal insult, my friend could well have burst into tears. Thankfully, I tend not to have friends like that, though there’s no shortage of such reactions at the moment. It’s fair to say the response both online and on streets to Donald Trump’s triumph in the early hours of Wednesday morning has bordered on hysteria. For those who have a different cause to promote on social media with their customary blend of bullying and blackmail every week, the result was a Godsend.

Oblivious to the climate they created that has facilitated the rise of a Trump figure, the humourless, sanctimonious and self-righteous elements within the left have expressed their outrage in numerous predictable ways. The teenybopper worship of Obama that conveniently overlooks his role as a sponsor of random drone slaughter has resurfaced on both sides of the Atlantic in the last 48 hours as means of coping with events, though some have gone a little further. Reminiscent of the Guardian’s condescending ‘Letter to America’ that lectured the US electorate on why they shouldn’t vote for George Bush in 2004, someone has even apparently petitioned Parliament here to rerun the whole horror show until ‘we’ get the result ‘we’ want. Perhaps they’ve given up on demanding a second EU Referendum now that something even more contrary to their immovable worldview has grabbed centre-stage?

From the unbalanced screeching on this week’s ‘Question Time’, which implied Clinton lost because she has a vagina, to the Millennials waving placards outside Trump Tower, the apocalyptic outcome was precisely what the doctor ordered – just as fundamentalist Christians in the US Bible Belt actively pray for Armageddon, the Day of Judgement that can’t come soon enough. Not only does it demonstrate a frightening inflexibility and absolute refusal to accept that people without a university education and wealthy parents to fund it are capable of putting a cross on a ballot paper, but it imbues the office of the Presidency with the kind of assumed clout it hasn’t had for decades.

For all Donald Trump’s mad crowd-pleasing promises during the campaign, having won the keys to power he will probably struggle to implement even the most modest of improvements to the lives of US citizens. When America chose to make Head of State and Head of Government the same person, the aim was to distinguish between the British system of King on one hand and Prime Minister on the other; but the role of the President appears to have leaned more and more towards being a constitutional monarch in all-but name in recent years. The well-oiled corporate security machine that runs the USA requires a face to front it, whether black, white or orange, so the changing of the guard every four years is solely staged because people like the comfortable familiarity of a personality nominally in charge of a system that doesn’t actually need him.

The divisive bitterness that characterised the campaign, both between the opposing candidates and within the two parties over the far-from overwhelming endorsement the eventual nominees received, will not now suddenly evaporate just because all votes have been counted. As we have seen here in the months following Brexit, losers don’t always accept defeat with good grace; and one only has to cast one’s mind back to the 2000 Presidential Election and the ‘hanging chads’ controversy to remember how these things can drag on. It’s a sad fact, but the reaction of certain sections of the left to this result serves to highlight their inability to come up with a plausible alternative; in a sense, stamping their feet and screaming ‘Not my President’ is a wilful denial of their own failure. If Trump’s not your President, who is?

As was pointed out in the comments that accompanied the previous post, the conscious neglect of so many sections of society over the last 20-25 years and singling out ‘prioritised minorities’ as special cases rather than bracketing them in the economic demographic most actually share with the supposed white working-class heterosexual enemy has played directly into the hands of the divide-and-rule right, who are secure in their position as long as plebs of all colour, creed, gender and sexuality are busy fighting each other rather than joining forces to channel their anger in the direction of the real powers-that-be in either Washington or Westminster. The more the left blame the ills of the world on a catalogue of ‘isms’ instead of getting their act together and genuinely speaking to everyone who has suffered from the policies of governments, regardless of skin colour or bedtime choices, the more actual change for the benefit of everybody will remain an idealistic and unrealisable pipedream.

LEONARD COHEN (1934-2016)

cohenA week wouldn’t be a proper week this year without yet another notable name to add to 2016’s roll-call of the deceased. Today it’s the turn of Leonard Cohen, a poet who turned to music because he was fortunate to find himself in an age when the poetic arsenal acquired an acoustic guitar. However critically and, at times, commercially successful he became as a singer (and at a relatively late age compared to the other bedsit troubadours at the end of the 60s), it was the strength of his songs, and often what other musicians went on to do with them, that will remain his real legacy.

Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is one of the outstanding performances on record of the last thirty years, yet Cohen himself was shrewd enough to progress from the minimalist simplicity of his breakthrough albums and embrace numerous varied musical genres that continued to mark him out as a refreshingly restless spirit in the same vein as his fellow Canadians, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. His fairly limited vocal range wasn’t to everyone’s taste, yet he seems to have stayed on the ‘cool’ cult list throughout his fifty years as a recording artist, which can’t be said of many of his contemporaries.

Cohen’s grounding in an artistic landscape that encompassed far more than merely rifling through ‘Classic Rock Albums You Have to Hear before You Die’ for inspiration gave him a wider breadth and depth of vision as an artist than is commonly the case today. The level of literary and religious references that pepper his lyrics show he was an erudite individual of intelligence and substance, something that would disqualify him from entering the musical arena in the twenty-first century, let alone finding an audience willing to delve deeper for their entertainment. He came from an altogether different era, but even an era devoid of his kind of talent can still access it now he’s gone; and that’s something, I guess.

© The Editor


libertyThe famous still from ‘Planet of the Apes’ that accompanied yesterday’s post should really have been reserved for today. Confronted by the sight of the decaying Statue of Liberty rotting away on a beach, Charlton Heston’s astronaut character Taylor realises he hasn’t landed on some alien planet where man’s evolution occurred in reverse, but has been flung into the far future and is home – albeit a post-nuclear apocalypse home. Falling to his knees, he pounds away at the sand in despairing rage. ‘You finally really did it!’ he cries; ‘You maniacs! God damn you all to Hell!’ He didn’t add ‘You put Donald Trump in the White House!’ Who would? Who can even really believe this has happened? Donald Trump? Donald f***ing Trump? Yup.

Let me make it clear that I didn’t think Hillary Clinton was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, her absence of perfection on so many levels enabled Donald Trump to inflict a humiliating defeat upon the most qualified candidate for the Presidency America has probably ever seen. Had she won, however, it would have been an achievement solely based on her gender. History would have been made, though we shouldn’t forget that history was also made in 2008. Being America’s first female President would have been a big deal, as being America’s first black President was eight years ago. But had Hillary Clinton cruised along on that achievement alone – as Obama has often seemed to cruise along on his – the achievement would have paled very quickly.

When Obama came to office, the western world had just experienced its most severe economic collapse since 1929; though the climate has improved slightly since then, there remain vast areas of America that have yet to receive any signs of an upturn in their fortunes, and this was the climate prime for exploitation by Trump. Frustration with this state of affairs has manifested itself in many ugly ways in the US over the last twelve months, and having a black man in the White House doesn’t appear to have made a bit of difference to racial tensions whatsoever; if anything, they’re worse now than at any time since the Civil Rights movement half-a-century ago.

Barack Obama was swept into power on a tide of unrealisable optimism; hopes rested heavily on his shoulders after eight years of George II and the two unpopular wars he dragged the nation into, and Obama’s colour – coming from a country with such troubled history in that department – was an undoubted selling point that suggested America could finally shake off the toxic legacy of slavery and segregation. There was faith in the future again. When Americans got there, however, the limited extent of the President’s ability to enact the changes he and the country desired when confronted by a Republican-dominated Congress determined to thwart him at every opportunity seemed to highlight the impotence of the American political system. And that should serve as a timely warning to his successor and his myriad mad ideas. The Republicans may have retained control of Congress, but most of them don’t even regard Trump as a genuine Republican; one could argue that has been his ace.

Bernie Sanders was the anti-Trump candidate far more than Hillary Clinton was; the bullish billionaire tapped into the same blue-collar discontent Sanders could have appealed to. Two outsiders versus each other instead of one outsider versus the advocate of the system so detested by great swathes of the electorate would have been a far superior contest, and one I have a feeling Sanders could have won. A proud socialist against a shameless capitalist, both latecomers to the parties they represented – that would have dealt a fatal blow to the professional party machine more than a thousand Brexit’s.

Instead, we now have a President loathed by all but his fanatical supporters, a man whose very presence in the White House is the most telling example of an American political system that can be bought if you have enough bucks in the bank. The old cliché that every American child can grow up to be President in a way that every child can’t grow up to be a king has belatedly been exposed as the myth it always was. If your father is an extremely wealthy man, you’re certainly in with a shout. And JFK would have concurred with that truism.

Kennedy represented more than he ever delivered, and that probably would have been the case even if he had never travelled to Dallas in November 1963; he represented something so positive in the collective imagination, something youthful, regenerative, glamorous, new – a break with the grey old men who governed the nations of the western world, a man who appeared to be in tune with the spirit of the fresh decade he came to power in; and despite the unsavoury stories that have emerged in the fifty-plus years since his murder, that image continues to possess an irresistible allure. By contrast, it’s hard to think of any President in US political history – and I include Nixon and Dubya – who radiates so much negativity as Donald Trump. And yet, conversely, he represents a similarly radical break. This is a rejection of the American party system as well as the final rejection of the Obama era. Yet for all the expected talk of ‘uniting America’, it’s hard to see how somebody so divisive can unite after having alienated so many members of the electorate before even being declared the winner.

Trump’s combative personality and arrogant, unapologetic coarseness is seen by many Americans as a sign of his unvarnished honesty; what you see is what you get. He’s viewed as ‘one of the guys’, somebody you could share a few cans with as you watch the ball-game. He’d be the kind of guy you could go hunting with. Alien as that may seem to European sensibilities, in America it counts for a lot. But Trump’s tasteless braggadocio could be regarded as the same spiel a prize-fighter spews forth during the weigh-in alongside his opponent; having won the fight, his acceptance speech after Clinton conceded was remarkably subdued.

If the election of Donald Trump is the end of the world as we know it, I doubt many would dispute the world as we know it is a pretty bloody awful place, anyway. But it’s the world as we don’t know it that we now face; and God only knows what that’s going to be like.

© The Editor


Stars and StripesEver get the feeling life is on a loop? Two grim stories dominated the weekend news, and both are so horribly familiar that one’s immediate response could almost border on the jaded. Firstly, across the Channel, English football’s flabbiest fans drank too much again, wrecked a corner of a foreign field again, and the team they purport to support are threatened with disqualification from a major tournament again. Secondly, across the pond, a crazed gunman slaughtered dozens of innocent people again; he seemingly carried out this atrocity because he disagrees with the sexual choices of those he targeted, though his apparent hardline Islamic beliefs mean that this massacre can be added to the ‘Muslim problem’ again, despite the fact that the Orlando incident was the 173rd mass shooting in America this year, most of which were bereft of an Islam element. So, yes, we have been here before.

A website called states that the killing of four or more people by a gun in the US (including the assassin himself – and they are almost uniformly male) counts as a mass shooting; the fact that this qualification has been achieved 173 times already in a year that is only at its halfway point suggests America has something of a gun crime problem, though this has been evident for several decades. The Islamic angle attached to Saturday’s slaughter may have presented Donald Trump with gift-wrapped verbal ammunition, yet his call for President Obama to resign over his failure to tackle ‘the Muslim problem’ has an inherent irony he is clearly too dumb to appreciate.

For all his faults, Obama has at least tried to do something about America’s gun laws, yet every attempt has been blocked by the NRA lobbyists in the Republican-dominated Congress. For many Americans – including the majority of Trump supporters – the right to bear arms is as obsessive an issue as membership of the European Union is to some Brits. It is therefore convenient for them that the man responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 apparently took 50 innocent lives in the name of Allah. Clearly, he did it because he was a Muslim, not because he resides in a country where private gun ownership actually outnumbers the adult population, a country where it’s harder to buy a decent cup of tea than a firearm.

‘I’ve got people who we know have been on Isil websites living here in the United States,’ said Obama last week (before the Orlando incident), ‘but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit these people from buying a gun.’ Yet, every time the President attempts to curb the easy availability of weapons in the US, Republican NRA cheerleaders start carping on about the sanctity of the Second Amendment. There are, of course, many other countries where firearms can also be purchased with relative ease, yet none in the developed world can boast the body-count of the US. It would seem the right to bear arms simply facilitates a deeper craving in the American psyche. After all, for a country that was lauded as a break with Old World bloodshed and praised as a fresh start for civilisation when it finally achieved recognition as an independent nation in the 1780s, America has enjoyed a mere 21 years of peace since the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Founding Fathers.

There is undoubtedly a pattern where the perpetrators of mass shootings in the US are concerned. Most tend to be outsiders of some sort, rejected by their peers and harbouring a grudge over their inability to interact with or assimilate into a peer group. At one time, they would have retreated into a parallel universe manufactured by literature or cinema and would have honed in on one particular individual as symbolic of all they held responsible for their social isolation, whether John Lennon or Ronald Reagan; today, the internet is the comfort zone and the single assassination appears to have fallen out of favour.

In fact, Reagan was the last US President to be targeted by a gunman; these days, it is the mass rather than the individual that provides the bloody culmination of gradual withdrawal from society. One could argue this possibly reflects the democratisation of fame, that the rise of reality television, social media and citizen journalism have all served to elevate the ordinary Joe above the genuine achiever and therefore render him a more relevant target. Add the inbred American eye-for-an-eye mentality and it’s a combustible mix.

The alienation of the outsider does not necessarily equate with a desire to wipe out innocent lives by pulling a trigger, of course; many simply accept they will never belong and don’t automatically attribute responsibility for this to their peers or a particular social, sexual, racial or religious demographic. But when those that do have access to guns, it’s a disaster waiting to happen – though one doesn’t have to wait long in America. 173 and counting.

© The Editor