THEY FEEL FINE

Boris and RishiAlas, poor Rishi! Remember that period, not so long ago, when the Chancellor would stand beside the PM and the pair together would look like a ‘before and after’ photo from one of those diet ads you often see on the backside of buses? Shagged-out, shabby, flabby Boris struggling to compete with the glowing picture of slim-line, male-model health that was Mr Sunak in his popular prime – the time when Rishi was dishing out the reddies to the furloughed workforce and soaring up the popularity polls as the heir apparent; seems like an aeon ago now, doesn’t it. Rarely can a contender have been so downgraded in so short a space of time as Rishi Sunak. From his badly-received budget to revelations of his wife’s tax avoidance to his fine for breaking lockdown restrictions, the Chancellor has had a terrible few weeks that appear to have left his alleged leadership ambitions in tatters. Obviously, the PM won’t be complaining; even though he himself is carrying the can for Partygate and has also been fined, the electorate expects nothing less from Boris after two and-a-half years. Rishi, on the other hand, offered hope (for some, at least) and is now fighting for Premier League survival in the relegation zone.

Considering some of the plebs who broke the restrictions suffered fines totalling £10,000, the fact Boris, Rishi and the rest of the Downing Street rabble have been punished with a £50 penalty is a bit like me and three receiving a fine of half-a-sixpence if Covid penalties were flexible enough to reflect salaries. Adding to Rishi’s woes (according to some reports, anyway), the Chancellor’s presence at the PM’s No.10 birthday bash in June 2020 was entirely accidental; the unfortunate Sunak was apparently en route to a Covid strategy summit in the Cabinet Room when he stumbled upon the cake being cut – or perhaps Boris deliberately (and craftily) invited him to sample a slice in anticipation of it all eventually coming out, thus ensuring his rival would be beside him on the deck of the sinking ship once the iceberg appeared.

Some say Sunak considered resigning as a result of being fined for breaking rules that a Cabinet he was a prominent member of had formulated without actually following – and there have been the inevitable calls to walk the plank from point-scoring Honourable Members on the Opposition benches. To quit over this might win back a semblance of respect from those outside the Party (the Conservative one, that is), but whether or not it could curtail Rishi’s hopes of one day moving next-door remains debatable. One ‘insider’ has claimed such a move on Sunak’s part would be received as ‘an act of regicide against Johnson’ that wouldn’t go down well with the Party faithful, yet the kind of honour-among-thieves mentality that enables the Tories to project a united front means little behind the scenes; after all, Boris himself was actively building his challenger fan-base when both David Cameron and Theresa May were in peril. Then again, that’s Boris; when it comes to a moral code, he’s perhaps the most shamelessly immoral Prime Minister we’ve had for the best part of 200 years.

The latest apology from the PM walks a familiar path when those caught-out are forced to own up to something they’d have otherwise kept quiet about – unconvincing and trite. It didn’t occur to him at the time that he was breaking the rules the rest of us had no choice but to abide by; well, he was only the head of the Government that introduced them, after all. He also denies lying to the Commons about the Downing Street ‘bring your own booze’ work events, which is a brazen denial in the face of overwhelming evidence; yet this is an age whereby 2+2=5 in so many areas, and we shouldn’t be surprised that a natural born liar should be as adept at contradicting fact as any online male activist who thinks merely self-identifying as the opposite sex means the rest of the world has to regard them as a woman. ‘There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting or less than ten minutes,’ said Boris of his 56th birthday party. According to the PM, ‘people I work with passed on their good wishes. And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. I now humbly accept that it was.’ Oh, well – job done, then.

Whereas the dependable toadies have sprung to the PM’s defence – Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, to name but two – it’s telling that some of the PM’s biggest internal critics have toed the Party line in the face of the latest crisis. Critics like Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who has previously called for Boris to go. Yes, he even played the Ukraine card. ‘I understand why they (the public) are angry and I share their fury,’ he said. ‘The behaviour was unacceptable. The Prime Minister needs to respond to these fines being issued. However, as I’ve made very clear, in the middle of a war in Europe, when Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and the UK is Ukraine’s biggest ally, as President Zelensky said at the weekend, it wouldn’t be right to remove the Prime Minister at this time. It would destabilise the UK Government at a time when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression and the murdering of innocent Ukrainians.’

Of course, it goes without saying that events in Ukraine are a tad more serious; but to evoke them in a statement on this particular subject seems especially reprehensible; it doesn’t excuse one single drop of plonk from No.10’s wine cellar being spilled at the very moment when police drones were encircling innocent dog-walkers or Her Majesty was burying her husband. Boris and his pissed-up posse were mooning the general public at a time when rules devised by them were making the lives of the general public a misery; and it’s only right this needs to be addressed, regardless of whatever is currently happening in Eastern Europe. Over 50 fixed penalty notices have been issued by the Met as a delayed reaction to shindigs in Whitehall at the height of Covid restrictions, and the investigation isn’t over yet. A serving Prime Minister – and his missus – being charged with breaking the law by the police and having to pay a fine is pretty unprecedented territory in recent history, yet the thick skin of the PM remains intact for the moment as the power of his suspected challenger suddenly seems rather diminished.

The Chancellor has been as apologetic as Boris in the light of the fines being issued. ‘I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence,’ he said. ‘I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine. I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the anger and frustration caused and I am sorry.’ Whether the electorate will show any sympathy for Sunak when they clearly have little left for Boris remains to be seen. The findings of a snap YouGov poll asking whether or not the PM should resign revealed 57% of those asked responded in the affirmative, as did the same numbers when asked if the Chancellor should follow suit. 75% also agreed the Prime Minister knowingly lied to Parliament about breaking the restrictions.

The usual suspects have lined-up to exploit the situation, including the ever-reliable Keir Starmer and Nicola Sturgeon. But so entrenched is the public’s cynicism towards the utterance of every politician – a state of affairs the politicians themselves are wholly responsible for – that the predictable calls for Boris to quit from the Labour and SNP leaders just feels like further desperate point-scoring. We don’t need them seeking to boost their popularity by saying out loud something we all already know. We’re not as stupid as they think we are.

© The Editor

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IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

Kid in MaskNostalgia can be a curious beast; after a suitable distance, even the most ghastly fashions or hairstyles or pop groups can be reclaimed following decades of mockery from those who were there and resurrected as ironic, post-modern icons of kitsch hailing from a more ‘innocent’ era that suddenly seems refreshing to a generation too young to remember it. We’ve come to anticipate this trend in the absence of contemporary cultural earthquakes that would render an ongoing fascination with such fluff irrelevant; in a way, it’s perhaps a comment on the creative vacuum of this uninspiring century that the unceasing recycling of the recent past, no matter how awful, shows no sign of slowing down. Ten years is usually the shortest gap between ridicule and reappraisal, though sometimes it can be a little less; two years seems a bit extreme, however – even taking into account the gradual reduction of attention spans that is another present day trend.

I stumbled into what amounted to a lockdown theme-park a few days ago when visiting my local branch of Specsavers. Even after two years, customers can still no longer stroll into the shop at will, forced to stand at the fenced-off entrance and wait for a masked member of staff to attend to them on the doorstep. The queues are a strange throwback to how it once was outside every shop, supermarket and post office in 2020; but maybe the fact it already seems like a surreal lifetime ago that shopping was akin to lining-up to enter an exclusive nightclub has generated this reluctance in some to relinquish the restrictions. It’s as though Specsavers is trapped in a lockdown loop, clinging to a pandemic policy when a Government whose Ministers didn’t even adhere to it at the time has deemed it to no longer be a necessity. NHS posters in the windows of the shop seem like an attempt to forge a tenuous link between the business and the state religion, as though the presence of healthcare literature somehow justifies nostalgia for the days when Boris told us to stay at home. Mind you, I have noticed Specsavers isn’t an isolated example of this overcautious continuation of something that many now regard as a disastrous experiment that had little bearing on the diminishing of Covid as a universally lethal virus.

During the time when the pandemic restrictions were being enforced with ruthless efficiency – at least outside of 10 Downing Street, anyway – mandatory mask-wearing was one of the most visually notable elements of the day-to-day Covid experience when venturing outdoors. It was normalised with remarkable rapidity and has remained the hallmark of the paranoid and terrified even though government guidelines have stated the wearing of them is now optional again. Whilst those members of the public who didn’t buy into Project Fear were being held hostage by the neuroses of those who did, spreading that fear into a generation unable to oppose it has been one of the most disturbing aftershocks of the whole pandemic.

A report published over the weekend stated that some babies and toddlers are showing signs of difficulties when it comes to the kind of social interacting so crucial to their development – a direct consequence of being sealed in the parental panic room for the duration; a demographic no more likely to be afflicted by Covid than by Alzheimer’s are apparently also struggling with facial recognition of their nearest and dearest now that the masks have been removed, so great has their embryonic view of the world been warped by the fanatical submission to the restrictions by their parents. It’s an appalling situation that will probably spawn a lifetime of repercussions for the unfortunate infants, one that could and should have been avoided.

The other week I watched an episode of ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ where the man himself was plagued by a cold he milked to extremes of melodramatic hypochondria; nevertheless, his sidekick Sid James was wary enough to join Anthony Aloysius at the dining table wearing a surgical mask and attempted to slip morsels of his meal into his mouth without removing the cloth. The studio audience laughed at this ludicrous spectacle, safely shielded by sixty years from an unimaginable scenario when such behaviour would be regarded as perfectly acceptable and unworthy of laughter – by some, anyway. A sitcom from as far away as the turn-of-the-60s is inevitably peppered with antiquated cultural references, yet many of the situations that form the basis of the comedy remain commonplace, and it now appears even something that wouldn’t have been the norm at the time has given this particular episode a poignant relevance. Indeed, it’s impossible to hear the laughter without experiencing that knowing, after-the-event feeling and thinking ‘Ah, if only they knew…’

When shoppers had no choice but to hinder their ability to breathe during their retail expeditions, I don’t recall seeing any signs in shop doorways that informed customers it was okay to not wear a mask if they felt like it. Everyone from shopkeeper to shopper did as they were told. And many shops or businesses that did approach the restrictions with a more casual attitude were often vulnerable to punitive fines brought upon them by the widespread encouragement of restriction-watchers to grass them up. Nobody dared go against Government rules and regulations. However, now that mask-wearing is no longer mandatory, I’ve noticed some shops have signs in the doorways informing customers they must still wear a mask, even though the Government has once more placed the right to choose in the hands of the individual. If we had to do as we were told when restrictions were in place, why are some businesses now imposing them when Boris says it’s okay to go mask-free? It’s as if they’ve been so affected by the past couple of years that they’re scared to return to where we were before.

Even Scotland – yes, even Scotland – is now tentatively lifting restrictions. From the 18th of this month, face coverings indoors and on public transport will no longer be mandatory; the rules regarding the compulsory wearing of masks at weddings and funerals, as well as any places of worship, are also being lifted; as of May, those with symptoms won’t be required to test anymore and physical test sites will be closed along with the end of contact tracing. The People’s Republic of Wales will continue with contact tracing and free lateral flow tests until the end of June, whilst Northern Ireland now only recommends the wearing of masks in certain enclosed public spaces rather than demanding it everywhere. In England, you now don’t have to legally self-isolate if testing positive and lateral flow tests are only free for the over-75s. Amidst all this, nine further symptoms of Covid have just been added to the official list of three, most of which are ones anybody would associate with an especially unpleasant cold or bout of flu.

The advice now dispensed to those who imagine they might have contracted Covid or have tested positive encompasses what one would like to think of as basic common sense. After all, who wouldn’t stay at home and isolate if full of cold when going out and socialising is the last thing you feel like doing? The latest stats for the UK state that around one in every 13 people in the country has the coronavirus, though the Government’s ‘living with Covid’ policy, which sounds like the original plan for herd immunity in all-but name, seems to be working, as the number of those hospitalised for the more severe Covid infections in intensive care are low. It looks like we’re finally learning to live with a virus that we couldn’t kill, which many suspected we’d have to end up doing all along. Vaccines have undoubtedly played their part, but lockdown as a tool of containing the uncontainable was something to which we must never be submitted again – and that includes extending some of its elements way beyond the time when it was still imagined they’d be effective.

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OPEN DOOR

Old WomanIt wasn’t so long ago – barely a year – that the British people were barred from allowing more than six people into their abodes. They couldn’t visit ailing family members in hospitals or care homes; they could only attend funerals in small, specified numbers – and heavy-handed Jobsworths were on hand to gleefully ensure there was no physical contact between the grievers; they couldn’t gather in the open to mark Remembrance Sunday; they couldn’t celebrate Christmas together; they couldn’t hold a vigil for a murdered woman in an outdoor environment without the police treating them like violent protestors; they couldn’t stage a demonstration unless their cause was one approved by the authorities – climate change or BLM, yes/anti-lockdown or anti-vax, no; they couldn’t even worship in churches whose doors were bolted. Small businesses went to the wall, crippled by both enforced closure and then uneconomic restrictions when tentatively reopening (if they’d managed to survive).

The damaging legacy of the past couple of years remains blatantly evident in the rising unemployment figures and the breathtaking level of national debt, not to mention the amount of folk continuing to wear masks in safe environments such as on the street or in the privacy of their own bloody cars, their brains fried by the pandemic propaganda of Project Fear. One wonders if they mask-up on the loo, in the bath or in bed. Probably. Yet, while it would be natural to imagine the unsurprising and hypocritical revelations of what those lying bastards who imposed such rules on the populace were getting up to behind closed doors at the height of the pandemic had served as a wake-up call on how conned the people were, so deep is the psychological damage done by lockdown and its affiliated curbs on civil liberties that the illogical neurosis of millions remains something that will probably take years to heal.

So, how strange that the same people who had to conduct conversations with family and friends from ridiculous distances – and out of doors, at that – are now being battered anew with fresh emotional blackmail that encourages them to open their previously hermetically-sealed homes to complete strangers, as though 2020 and ’21 never happened. Memories of the Syrian ‘children’ with their remarkably advanced examples of male grooming have been smoothly erased as the request for impromptu landlords goes out again. Of course, the awful humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine naturally stirs deep feelings in anyone who has a heart; for some, this provokes a desire to tackle the forces of oppression head-on by signing-up for an International Brigades-like foreign legion of fighters to repel the Russian invasion; for others, it’s marked via a boycott of Russian goods or cultural exports; and for others again, it manifests itself as a craving to offer a safe roof over the heads of those faced with no option but to flee their own homes thousands of miles away. Yesterday, the British Government announced it would offer UK homeowners £350 a month to take in Ukrainian refugees, with Housing Secretary Michael Gove unveiling the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

After so many recent exposés of precisely how untrustworthy and slippery our elected leaders are, people can be forgiven for greeting this announcement with cynicism and discerning something more than motives emanating from the goodness of politicians’ hearts; one now finds it difficult to take any such move at face value and not detect an ulterior motive. In the case of the current administration – and, it has to be said, its predecessors over the last couple of decades – this kind of response to an appalling situation cannot entirely eradicate the lax attitude towards the dirty money fuelling the Russian war machine which has been a hallmark of British governments for a long time. The amount of desirable British properties in the hands of offshore shell companies engaged in money laundering both in the UK and its more luxurious overseas territories has been mirrored in the close ties forged between British politicians and institutions and those Russians who have taken advantage of the so-called ‘golden visa’ scheme. Perish the thought, but could certain members of the Government and the Conservative Party be covering their own corrupt backs by utilising the same emotional blackmail tactics employed during Covid to persuade the people to open hearts and doors to Ukrainian refugees as they themselves gloss over their cosiness with representatives of the regime responsible for the crisis?

Just how deeply governing bodies with pound signs for pupils have allowed countries with dubious reputations to become embedded in the fabric of British life was highlighted when Chelsea played Newcastle Utd at Stamford Bridge on Sunday; the home fans chanted the name of the now-toxic Putin bitch Roman Abramovich, whereas the away fans cheered their own suddenly-wealthy club’s Saudi owners, emanating as they do from a regime that executed a staggering 81 individuals the day before the match in a ruthless display of despotic inhumanity. What a glorious advert for the beautiful game, one that no token knee-taking will ease the grubby stain of. Football fans desperate for success will seemingly overlook the source of the financial fuel filling their trophy cabinets, though they’ve hardly been set a good example by their social ‘betters’. The filthy lucre floating around the national sport at the highest level is one more noticeable consequence of the golden visa rule introduced by a Labour Government in the wake of Peter Mandelson quaffing champers on the yacht of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one that has allowed Russia to get its feet under the establishment table with very little in the way of opposition.

According to stats in the most recent issue of Private Eye, since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, 406 wealthy Russians have bought their way into Britain via the required £2 million, with a mere 20 refusals; following the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, 92 golden visas have been issued, with just six refusals; eight were even issued at the back end of last year, a time when Vlad’s intentions re Ukraine were well-known. At times, the Russian infiltration of British politics and all its interconnected entrails are reminiscent of the way in which Nigel Kneale’s 1950s TV series ‘Quatermass’ featured collaborators with the alien invaders in the upper echelons of British society as a knowing nod to the pre-war ruling class’s flirtation with fascism. The abrupt about-turn on oligarchs by this government as everyone with Russian skeletons in their closet seeks to distance themselves from Uncle Vlad’s activities is something that understandably provokes cynicism, though being offered cash incentives to house those who have suffered most from these activities seems another cynical move by an administration that inspires little else but cynicism.

Local councils who have spent the past two years pleading poverty, cutting public services to the bone and yet simultaneously feathering their own personal nests are also having a tempting carrot dangled in their direction re refugees. One cannot help but wonder if they will spend the money wisely. Considering how well GPs’ surgeries have managed to avoid doing their jobs and yet have continued to bleat about being overwhelmed during the coronavirus, how will a sudden influx of immigrants with obvious ailments affect the dereliction of duties the medical profession has achieved since Lockdown Mk I? It goes without saying that those whose needs are attended to on Harley Street won’t be affected, though the calamitous disappearance of the cheap household labour that Brexit brought about may at least be solved.

Materially comfortable individuals with the spare rooms to welcome refugees should be in a position to carry out their intentions without their kindness necessitating a financial reward, and those whose sadness with the situation in Ukraine doesn’t stretch that far shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for choosing not to do so, despite the lure of being paid in a scheme that will undoubtedly be open to abuse. One can’t blame many for being reluctant to invite strangers into their homes when they were faced with heavy fines and possible prison sentences for extending a similar invitation to people they actually know not so long ago. Funny old world innit.

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FOUL LANGUAGE

TrudeauDoctor Johnson may have had a hell of a task on his hands in attempting to chronicle the multitude of words comprising the English language over 200 years ago, but even he would’ve baulked at the task of defining words in the dictionaries of the 21st century. After all, the lexicon has been so twisted and skewered by (amongst others) politicians providing their own unique, upside-down interpretations to cover their corrupt backs that nobody is quite sure what certain words officially mean anymore. The dictionary entry for the word woman may well now provide the 4+4=5 description of a chick with a dick, whereas an actual woman might be found under ‘birthing person’, ‘chest-feeder’, ‘person who bleeds’ and so on. Likewise, the word racist has become obligatory to describe anybody who challenges the consensus, almost ceasing to have anything to do with someone who can’t see beyond the colour of another’s skin – and, of course, the inability to do so has now been reinstated as the legitimate mainstream policy on race, anyway.

Similarly, the old-school trend of nicknames that describe the opposite of a person’s most distinctive characteristics would seem to be in the doldrums today bar one notable exception. In the grand tradition of an outlaw built like a brick shithouse being known as Little John, the word ‘liberal’ has been so subverted over the past decade that it’s now attached to the most illiberal, intolerant and authoritarian people one could ever wish to avoid. Unfortunately, many ‘liberals’ are hard to avoid because the worst of them tend to be in positions of power. Abusing the meaning of a word that used to embody an ideology today’s so-called liberals are sorely lacking, the wolves who wrap themselves in liberal clothing have had their true colours and their true intentions exposed like never before during the pandemic; and what’s been especially interesting is that they’ve not made any attempt to hide their illiberal natures once laid bare before the global glare because they’ve simply shifted the goalposts. Sure, the justification has been that each fresh curb of civil liberties is being done for the public’s own good, yet they’ve overstretched their authority with the kind of enthusiastic relish that would shame the most dictatorial despot whose regime is of the sort Western powers were once fond of changing.

At the height of the coronavirus panic in the UK, it was the ‘liberal’ Labour Party that was screaming for far more draconian laws and restrictions on the public than even the less-than liberal Tory Government was prepared to introduce; and over in the colonies, the incursion of the state into the private sphere via the sham of ‘saving lives’ has highlighted the illiberal reality of two world leaders who were once celebrated in liberal circles for their anti-Trump, touchy-feely brand of politics – New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. The hideous Ardern has been discussed on here many times before, but the smarmy creep who seems to use the American Psycho of Brett Easton Ellis’s controversial 80s novel dealing with a yuppie serial killer as his style model has exceeded his sinister smiling soulmate of late by taking the North Korean form of governance imposed with such glee during the pandemic and extending it into crushing any opposition to his rule – particularly if it emerges from the proles.

The hypocrisy at the heart of the metropolitan political class in its ‘liberal’ guise is never better exposed than when challenged; name-calling via the same old lazy insults is the default response for an elite that have no capacity for debate because they are ideologically bankrupt. They’ll just stick their fingers in their ears and scream ‘racist’. Trudeau himself fell back on precisely that kind of dangerous rhetoric in the Canadian Parliament this week. Confronted by enraged MPs appalled at his state-of-emergency response to the ongoing truckers’ protests, Trudeau had nothing in his arsenal but the usual tired weapons. ‘Conservative Party members can stand with people who wear swastikas,’ he whined. ‘They can stand with people who wave the Confederate flag.’ In other words, if you disagree with the actions of your government and oppose the policies of the Prime Minister in suppressing dissent, you are not entitled to that opinion unless you’re prepared to accept that such an opinion means you’re a fifth columnist.

Like the truckers, Extinction Rebellion can prevent people from getting to their jobs, yet the SJWs masquerading as police will dance with the latter on the pavement rather than batter them; BLM/Antifa can torch a city centre and inflict anarchy and mayhem on the lives of law-abiding citizens, only to have the MSM portray the carnage as a ‘mostly peaceful protest’ as they take the knee in solidarity; and 17 million people can vote in a democratic referendum against the advice of their political overlords and they are denounced as bigoted white supremacists, twisting the actual meaning of those words and making it impossible to distinguish between the genuine article and the simple protestor because the descriptions have been rendered meaningless. Basically, if you have the right opinions you have carte-blanche to do as you please; if you have the wrong ones and – importantly – if you don’t obey the middle-class ruling class, then you’re the scum of the earth and it’s utterly legit to silence you with whatever undemocratic means the ruling class see fit to use.

Justin Trudeau has taken this approach into disturbing new areas this past week by proposing that anyone donating to the fund supporting the protesting truckers will have their bank accounts frozen; yes, you heard right. The kind of sanctions once reserved for Al-Qaeda terrorists – and usually with great reluctance at that – have been applied to those supporting a grass-roots opposition to Trudeau’s increasingly totalitarian attempts to keep pandemic policies going. This is a significant (and worrying) development because – however OTT and inhumane some of the restrictions introduced during the pandemic were – there are no sound grounds to use such powers in order to simply silence opposing voices once out of the Covid woods. This is an almighty abuse of authority entrusted by democratic means.

Any genuine liberal who might have voted for Trudeau because he wasn’t a Conservative should be able to see through this shit, realise what’s being done in their name, and be rightly outraged. But so relentless has the propaganda campaign been in demonising opposition and reinforcing power by smearing said opposition as ‘enemies of the people’ that the gut instinct in the genuine liberal now is to see all opposition as every racist, right-wing ‘phobe’ in the contemporary dictionary. How long before Trudeau’s desperate attempts to cling on are manifested as denying supporters of the protests access to supermarkets or healthcare or education or employment? Even Mrs Thatcher would’ve hesitated at introducing such legislation at the height of the Miners’ Strike, however much she might have fancied it.

I dunno. Maybe the word liberal and all the admirable aspects it is supposed to encompass was only ever a convenient smokescreen to hide the fact that many elements of the Left have always been as censorious, pious and zealous as the worst of the Right; it’s just when the Right is in the ascendency and has the power to exercise its most extreme tendencies, genuine liberals are in sore need of an opposition and the Left is understandably painted as the humane alternative. However, turn the tables by handing power to the Left and one sees the identical tendencies eventually emerge. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. One only has to look at what an unprecedented worldwide crisis lifted the lid on where liberal leaders are concerned. But perhaps power just does that to everyone who grabs it, whatever archaic label they see fit to claim.

© The Editor

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WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG

Neil YoungYou have to cut Neil Young a little slack; after all, he is 76. I know it’s easy to forget – or to not even want to accept – that those who rode the wave of a counter-cultural revolution fuelled by the uniquely strident spirit of youth half-a-century ago are all either approaching their 80s or are already octogenarians. And, like his contemporary Van Morrison, Young has always been prone to curmudgeonly behaviour, even before he reached middle-age, let alone old age. He once played a gig at the height of his creative powers in the mid-70s whereby he and his legendary backing band Crazy Horse opened the performance by playing their new album in its entirety before the expected crowd-pleasers would be exhumed; however, when the last song from the latest LP was done, rather than leading the band in ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ or ‘Southern Man’, Young then decided to play said album in full all over again; half the audience exited whilst those that remained united in a chorus of boos. One suspects Young both found it funny and didn’t give a f***. That’s the kind of artist he was and, to a degree, has remained.

In a way, it’s a miracle Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ever managed to record as much material together as they did; regardless of the sonic magic their combined voices produced, a band housing that number of combative egos could never maintain harmony beyond their harmonies for long. Even the in-house peacekeeper Graham Nash has recently had his patience exhausted by David Crosby, publicly announcing the friendship between him and his long-term collaborator has finally reached a terminal impasse. And while it’s possible to see many of these bust-ups as common occurrences that old gits who’ve known each other for decades routinely experience, Crosby, Stills and Young have been rubbing each other up the wrong way as far back as bloody Woodstock; however, unlike his three bandmates, Neil Young has always been viewed first and foremost as a solo artist, with his most critically-acclaimed work coming outside of the CSNY unit – and he has revelled in wrong-footing critics throughout. Whenever he’s had a commercially successful album, his next release has tended to be a stubbornly difficult listen that the masses have rejected; he’s only ever occasionally flirted with the mainstream as a consequence, never really being at home in it.

I remember in the mid-80s, when the post-punk dismissal of most pre-punk acts was eroding and certain vintage artists were coming back into critical vogue, Young seemed determined to sabotage his newly-established ‘cool’ credentials by voicing his support for Ronald Reagan. Ever the contrarian, he probably found it amusing that the singer revered for railing against Nixon’s war machine in a blistering protest song like ‘Ohio’ was now voting Republican. The reaction wasn’t unlike when Kate Bush was ‘outed’ as a Tory voter a few years back, though why every artist who isn’t Phil Collins has to lean to the left always seems irrelevant to their art unless they’re Paul Weller.

Covid-19 has given rock stars of Neil Young’s generation another opportunity to air their political preferences, and whilst the likes of Eric Clapton and Van Morrison have been condemned as anti-vax fanatics for their provocative opinions on the vaccine as a pandemic panacea, Young’s response to being in the most vulnerable age category when it comes to the coronavirus has resulted in him taking the opposite route. This past week has seen Neil Young reassert his stubborn streak by demanding his back catalogue be removed from Spotify, having raised his objections to the platform’s Joe Rogan podcast allegedly spreading ‘fake information about vaccines’. I’m not a viewer/listener of Rogan myself, but I know of him and I know that he took his massively successful podcast to Spotify, signing the kind of mind-boggling, multi-million dollar deal that was once the preserve of rock stars (like Neil Young) when they switched record labels.

During the height of the pandemic, it seems Joe Rogan was one of the few online celebrities publicly questioning some of the dubious decisions being made by governments in the name of saving lives, and his opposition to vaccination has become a challenge to those who advocate uncensored free speech yet struggle when someone publicises an opinion they themselves vehemently disagree with. Neil Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify that basically said ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’, and when Spotify made it clear they weren’t prepared to abandon the star they’d invested a huge amount of money in, Young took his ball back and refused to play with Spotify again. Considering the miserly royalties Spotify pays the artists whose music it streams, Young probably won’t suffer too much in financial terms by leaving the site; but it seems ironic that his renowned obstinacy now appears to be firmly in tune with the very establishment he’s always liked to position himself on the outside of.

James Blunt, a far younger singer-songwriter who has regularly exhibited a likeable self-deprecating sense of humour online that is much more enjoyable than his insipid music, responded to the spat between Spotify and Neil Young by tweeting ‘If Spotify doesn’t immediately remove Joe Rogan, I will release new music on to the platform’. Amusing, yes, but the fact that Young issued his ‘it’s him or me’ ultimatum and was cheered by the cancel culture mob for doing so suggests his decision was a misfire, advocating corporate censorship and standing alongside those whose aim in life is to silence everyone who doesn’t share their opinions. Does that really sound like the same artist who was fond of recycling the word ‘freedom’ in the lyrics and titles of his songs? Even if Young has always possessed a mischievous talent for sabotaging his own critical and commercial success, to throw his lot in with a crowd for whom freedom is the privilege of the few and not the entitlement of the many feels like stretching his contrariness too far.

Neil Young has been accompanied in his Spotify exodus by Joni Mitchell, Canadian contemporary and, to me, an even more gifted and significant songwriter to emerge from the same richly creative era. What’s worth noting, however – and this is a crucial point – is that both Young and Mitchell were afflicted by polio as children during an outbreak in the early 1950s; the intervention of vaccination was something that enabled them to recover and understandably left them favourable towards vaccines as a means of suppressing viruses. The fact that both are within a whisker of their 80s – and this is the age demographic most at risk from Covid – has also undoubtedly formulated their judgement on this particular issue. Their generation, to which Eric Clapton and Van Morrison also belong, is one of the most pro-jab, with Clapton and Morrison being in more of a minority than Neil Young and Joni Mitchell; the stance of the latter two is the majority one. And maybe that’s what seems odd to some when it comes to Neil Young, at least to those who always expect him to take the opposite stance to the prevailing consensus.

Yet, looking at his track record, there have been many times in his life when he and the orthodoxy have clicked in harmony; ‘Heart of Gold’ topped the US Hot 100 in 1972, after all – quite an achievement for a ‘cult’ artist. Just don’t expect to hear it on Spotify.

© The Editor

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PARTY FEARS ’22

Boris PartySo, it was all ‘technically within the rules’ – I wonder if that would’ve worked as an excuse for two pals sharing a packet of crisps on a park bench when confronted by an over-officious Officer of the Law and told they were engaged in an illegal picnic? Probably not; but then, as we all know, those who invent the rules and regulations don’t live by them while we are expected to. Yes, some of us suspected the pandemic’s Project Fear was little more than a smokescreen for rushing through draconian legislation that would remain on the statute books thereafter as an unprecedented means of a democratically-elected government acting out its totalitarian fantasies, but we were written off as conspiracy theorists, of course. Then again, many shrewd observations of events were received with similarly dismissive contempt as the masses followed the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra of the political class. Indeed, we ought not to forget that HM Opposition enthusiastically pushed for – and demanded even more of – the ridiculous restrictions that few could realistically expect to live under, ones Boris was hardly alone in breaking. But as the star salesman for them, he stands to lose more than anyone else – as HM Opposition knows only too well.

Naturally, we shouldn’t expect the Met to pursue this issue; they may have revelled in their role as storm-troopers for the cause – as did all the Jobsworths promoted to positions of ‘power’ when playing at law enforcers outside supermarkets or at family funerals; but their ultimate taskmasters are above the law and won’t be punished or prosecuted for such flagrant abuse of a law they promoted as a ‘do or die’ policy that they were evidently exempt from, a law that only applied to everyone outside their bubble. Hell, this was obvious extremely early on when Dominic Cummings journeyed Oop North for his impromptu eye-test at a time when even motorists were confined to ‘zones’. It was obvious a little later when Matt ‘goose’ Hancock was exposed as a hypocrite courtesy of some convenient CCTV. And now it’s obvious once again following a string of belated revelations that confirm Downing Street as the capital’s ‘bring your own booze’ Party Central.

In May 2020, a time when the plebs practically required a written excuse to leave their homes and were only allowed to meet one other individual out of doors whilst enduring sixty minutes of exercise, Boris and his gang were having a wine and cheese party – sorry, ‘work event’ – in the garden at No.10; that same month, with restrictions for the rest still being firmly enforced by coppers and Covid Marshals, 30-odd invited guests were enjoying some ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the same swinging location alongside Mr and Mrs Johnson; in November 2020, a gathering in the Downing Street flat hosted by Carrie allegedly took place (Lady Macbeth denies it), whilst a leaving do for a No.10 aide was also held there a fortnight later; but it was Christmas 2020 in Tier Two London that was the real party season for our lords, ladies and masters. The Department of Education had a staff shindig on the 10th; the Conservative Party hosted an ‘unauthorised event’ at their London HQ on the 14th; Boris drew on his past experience presenting ‘Have I Got News for You’ when chairing a ‘Christmas Quiz’ for Downing St staff on the 15th; and some sources also claim the infamous Xmas bash the Daily Mirror finally got round to exposing a year late was held on the 18th.

Under normal circumstances, office events in the weeks leading up to Christmas are par for the course, and there’s no reason to think government departments are any different from endless other businesses up and down the country. Let’s face it, who the hell would ordinarily care if Downing St staff and a few pug-ugly Ministers indulged in a festive tipple and the odd under-the-mistletoe grope? It’s not as if anybody feels aggrieved that they weren’t invited to such a gruesome get-together. But it’s all about context, innit. These were not normal circumstances. When the Downing St Xmas party marathon was in full swing, Tier Two rules stated it was illegal for two or more people emanating from different households to meet indoors. It goes without saying that many ignored these rules in the same way that many had little choice but to support the black-market economy during WWII by buying essential items from street-corner spivs; but taking such a risk when heavy fines and possible prison sentences were the trumpeted punishment was something entered into out of desperation after months of social isolation. What really grates is that not only those who aggressively demanded tougher restrictions and penalties via a media platform were caught out disregarding the rules (remember Kay Burley’s birthday conga across the capital?), but the very people responsible for drilling them into the petrified populace weren’t adhering to them either.

If our lawmakers genuinely believed lockdowns, social distancing, social bubbles, tracking, tracing and masks were the absolute difference between life and death – and repeatedly told us so during their doom-laden press conferences – then why didn’t they live by them in the same way they expected the rest of us to? If these extreme measures were the only life-saving solution, surely those who devised them must have figured they ought to abide by them too? But they didn’t – probably because they didn’t believe it; many didn’t believe it, but while the few partied on regardless the many were bombarded and browbeaten by ‘The Science’ and were threatened into submission by the prospect of astronomical fines and/or an agonising demise without family or friends entitled to gather round their deathbeds. Sadly, the latter fate came to pass for thousands, and it’s totally understandable that some of the most incensed responses to the truth of government double standards have come from those denied the right to be with their loved ones as they breathed their last.

In the Commons yesterday, Boris was faced with little choice but to admit he attended at least one of the Downing St shindigs but continued to deny he did anything wrong, still sticking to the ‘work event’ narrative. ‘With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside,’ he said. ‘I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that – even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way…I regret the way the event I have described was handled. I bitterly regret it and I wish we could have done things differently.’ Amidst the pathetic acceptance of this ‘apology’ by Tory toadies ascending the greasy poll, we need to note the distance between event and apology; had none of this come out over a year later, most of us would remain in the dark and Boris would hardly be likely to volunteer the information anymore than Richard Nixon would have voluntarily spoken about anything to do with Watergate had he not painted himself into a corner. There are few apologies as hollow and disingenuous than that of a politician caught out and forced to say sorry.

The notorious old rake Lord Boothby once said ‘the Tory Party is ruthless’ in relation to how it disposes of its leader, and when one thinks of how IDS was ousted before he’d even fought a General Election or, more infamously, how Mrs T was unceremoniously forced out, it’s hard to dispute Boothby’s claim. One wonders if this really is Boris’s ninth life, but there has always been a vocal section of the Party that has never warmed to him and never wanted him as leader, so a chorus of criticism from his own side isn’t exactly unprecedented. At the moment, the PM’s Ministers are publicly backing him, though the 1922 Committee only requires 54 backbenchers to register their complaints to trigger a challenge. At the same time, the internal machinations of the Conservative Party are secondary to the genuine anger felt way beyond the point-scoring circus of the Commons; millions of people made the sacrifices they were asked to make for the greater good, and Boris Johnson wasn’t one of them.

© The Editor

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ANYONE FOR TENNIS?

vlcsnap-2022-01-10-17h41m14s299On the surface, it’s difficult to discern what the Australian Government sought to gain from manufacturing a farcical soap opera starring the greatest tennis player of the past decade, a man who has been crowned Aussie Open champion nine times already (more than any other player in history) and has won it on the last three occasions it’s been staged. If the idea was to continue the doomed ‘Zero Covid’ policy by making an example of an international household name just to show no one is exempt from some of the strictest restrictions on the planet, it’s been something of a PR disaster – especially when one considers Novak Djokovic wasn’t exactly alone as an unvaccinated athlete whose entrance to Camp Oz was approved for the tournament. This fact suggests he didn’t receive any of the ‘special treatment’ that has been cited as a reason for the opposition to his participation, though having his visa revoked and all the legal shenanigans that have followed emits the scent of a prized scapegoat.

The un-vaccinated have been portrayed as Public Enemy Number One by Australia as much as any other country with a leader prepared to weaponise the pandemic for political gain. Monsieur Macron is a good example, forever engaged in discriminating against the un-vaxxed, and a man who will don a mask when sat alone for a Zoom conference whilst not considering such precautions necessary when hanging out in-person with other world leaders. And Aussie PM Scott Morrison has seen his popularity plummet over the last few months as the harsh policies of the past couple of years have proven unsuccessful in stemming the tide of each successive variant. As Sydney and Melbourne (the world’s longest locked-down city) tentatively reopen, a change of tack by Aussie politicians has seen a resigned acceptance emerge that everyone will succumb to the Omicron variant at some point, and no amount of lockdowns will alter that inevitability. What does that say about the sacrifices the Australian people have been faced with little choice but to accept?

Whereas the UK lockdowns were intended to slow the spread in order to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed, the Australian approach seemed to be a misguided attempt to stop the coronavirus altogether; no matter how long it took, they’d keep everyone behind closed doors until the nasty virus had gone away. Apparently, new kid on the block Omicron has been responsible for a swift upsurge in Aussie cases – more in the past couple of weeks than in the past couple of years – despite all the extreme policies in place since the spring of 2020; yet, Novak Djokovic, a man whose antibodies are presumably strong having already recovered from a bout of Covid in December, has been targeted as embodying everything evil about those portrayed as responsible for the wave of latest cases, the un-vaxxed. Australia’s Northern Territories have responded by locking the scum down whilst simultaneously allowing the merely double-vaxxed (who are more than capable of spreading the latest variant) to go about their business.

With Scott Morrison faced with having to call elections come the spring, it’s evident he requires something to justify the policies he’s pursued with such vigour, regardless of how the evidence implies they’ve ultimately failed. Smearing Novak Djokovic appeared to be the gift he was looking for, what with the current Aussie Open champ being so arrogant as to turn up ready to play jab-free. Battling deportation due to officials concluding he didn’t meet the criteria for vaccine exemption to enter the country, Djokovic has now successfully appealed against the decision to cancel his visa in the Federal Court of Australia. Under guard at a Melbourne hotel since last Thursday, he argued he had done all that was required of him to enter Australia and the judge agreed, ordering that his quarantine end ASAP. Djokovic claimed he had been grilled for six hours by immigration officials, sleep-deprived at his hotel, and placed under persistent pressure to submit to their decision that he pull out of the tournament, which begins in just seven days’ time. Djokovic felt he possessed proof that contradicted the authorities’ conviction he didn’t qualify for exemption, afterwards explaining ‘I had been recently infected with Covid in December 2021 and on this basis I was entitled to medical exemption in accordance with Australian government rules and guidance. I further explained that my medical exemption had been granted by the Independent Medical Review Panel’.

Djokovic added he had received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia which said he had medical exemption on the grounds of his recent recovery from the coronavirus; and medical authorities in Australia have recently ruled that a temporary exemption from vaccination can be issued to anyone who’s been infected within six months, something Djokovic has proved he is eligible for. It seems pretty clear that the Aussie authorities were determined to prevent Djokovic from participating in the Open, yet the Serb refused to play ball. His successful appeal isn’t the end of the story, however, as the Home Affairs Minister still has the powers to overrule the judge, able to cancel his visa all over again. The Government’s lawyer at the appeal hearing said that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs (now, there’s a job title) ‘will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation’.

In theory, Djokovic could be banned from Australia for up to three years, though how much such a decision would boost Scott Morrison’s re-election prospects remains debatable; it’d certainly damage the country’s international reputation even further. With the Ashes having successfully been staged – and benefitted from a piss-poor England performance – does Australia really want to reduce an equally prestigious sporting occasion to a farce by deporting the defending champion on such spurious grounds? In the wake of the Aussie Government response to the appeal hearing, Djokovic’s brother Djordje has argued the authorities will be even more determined to deport the player following their humiliating defeat, quoted as saying ‘they want to capture and lock up Novak again’. Considering the efforts so far made to prevent Djokovic’s participation at the Open, it’s difficult to believe the authorities will simply call it a day following the judge’s decision. To throw the towel in now would surely amount to an admission of failure not only in this particular case, but it tackling the coronavirus altogether.

According to stats, 92% of Aussies over-16 have been double-jabbed, though only 14% have had the booster; that stat has nothing to do with a Serbian tennis player and far more to do with the unsuccessful policies of politicians. Even in the Mother Country, more than half of the patients admitted to hospital here with Covid symptoms are vaccinated, despite the un-vaxxed continuing to carry the can; and when such a respected public figure as ‘Sir’ Tony Blair refers to them as ‘idiots’, queues are at vaccination centres are hardly likely to be boosted as a consequence. Confronted by the failure of lockdowns, social distancing, social bubbles and Covid passports as workable methods to keep an airborne virus at bay, the unvaccinated remain perfect scapegoats for struggling politicians, though one wonders if the Aussies have overreached themselves and sabotaged an event that, like the Ashes, could at least present a positive image to the rest of the world that life down under is finally beginning to recover.

© The Editor

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GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Steptoe and SonIt goes without saying that this time of year is notable for a gradual withdrawal from the usual duties, and whilst I haven’t consciously taken time out from here, inspiration has dwindled somewhat. I can’t necessarily lay the blame at the festive door, however; when one subject dominates every bleedin’ headline, it’s not so much fear of repeating one’s self – more a certain jaded fatigue with writing about the whole bloody business. Even comparing some of the increasingly bonkers rules and regulations to dystopian fiction can feel like a rather tiresome comparison now; and as for satire, a noticeable absence of compulsion on my part to even try via my sideline video platform reflects the fact that this situation has already satirised itself. When Mark ‘Diwali’ Drakeford, the elected dictator of the People’s Republic of Wales, can make going to work a crime and fine employees £60 for attempting to earn a living in the workplace (and even fine employers £1000 for enticing their workforce back), how can one satirise something so f***ing stupid or declare ‘Bloody hell, talk about Kafkaesque’?!

The fact that the television sitcom is perhaps the most redundant of all the dying TV genres means the traditional Xmas episode viewers looked forward to is now a purely nostalgic treat. ‘Steptoe and Son’, ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’, ‘Porridge’, ‘Rising Damp’, ‘The Good Life’ et al – all produced memorable seasonal specials that remain worthy of wheeling out every December because their collective narrative remains relevant, or at least did do up until last Christmas. In 2020 – and, no doubt, 2021 – there’s an additional nostalgia factor on top of the usual long-dead actors and vintage cultural tropes; the fact that these characters are indulging in a pre-pandemic world of family gatherings, parties and all the other hallmarks of what Christmas meant until this time last year coats them in an extra sentimental sheen that places them even further from the here and now than the mere fact they were produced over 40 years ago.

Even if there were such a thing as an unmissable sitcom today, how could any of the plotlines involving Yuletide scenarios that everyone watching would be familiar with actually be written now? With filming done months in advance of transmission, the first lockdown was characterised on television by characters going about their daily business without social distancing or donning masks or being confined to quarters; it seemed to expose the medium as more artificial than it had ever seemed to the casual viewer before, particularly in the heightened reality of the soap opera, when life in Weatherfield, Walford or Emmerdale suddenly seemed less realistic than it normally does when enacting its gruesome litany of murders, rapes, sieges and spectacular explosions. Any lingering pretence of reflecting real life – or a real life derived from the most sensational of tabloid headlines – was obliterated by the failure of such dramas to mirror the actual drama viewers were experiencing beyond the parallel universe confines of the small screen.

And whilst it could easily have been argued before the world had even heard the word Covid that there hadn’t been a decent Christmas song for over 30 years anyway, to compose such a ditty today would require the ejection of all the clichés that constitute the classic Christmas dirge. ‘Are you waiting for the family to arrive?’ asked Noddy Holder on Slade’s evergreen seasonal smash. Most outside of ivory Tory towers in 2020 would have replied, ‘No; they’re not allowed to visit’. When your granny always tells you that the old songs are the best, she can’t be up and rock ‘n’ rolling with the rest when she’s locked in her care-home and can’t receive any members of her family to dance with. And denied the luxury of driving home for Christmas, Chris Rea would probably have to settle for pulling a cracker on his own whilst he waved to the rest of the Rea clan on Zoom. If he were he still around, George Michael would have to sing about the Christmas before last. Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? Well, it isn’t Christmas time ‘cause it’s been cancelled. Not only can it not be Christmas every day, Roy; it isn’t even Christmas on 25 December anymore.

Nostalgia has always been a crucial element of the Christmas experience as the TV shows, songs and movies that take us back to our formative festive memories are recycled annually for a reason. When exposed to the Christmas hit mix on the supermarket loop, one can almost play a game in one’s head as to who’ll pop up next once one over-familiar standard finishes. Will it be Greg Lake or Mud or Mariah Carey or The Wombles or Wizzard or Boney M or Band Aid or Bing Crosby? Place your bets now. Either way, it’s doubtful any song penned on the subject issued this century will figure on the unavoidable Xmas mix-tape because, as Noddy’s granny reminded us, the old songs are the best – as are the TV shows and the movies when it comes to Christmas. Whether the sitcom seasonal specials or ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, schedulers know what their audiences want and it sure as hell ain’t anything that bears even a passing resemblance to today.

In many respects, with Christmas now reduced to a shadow of its former self, the power of nostalgia is more poignant than ever as the old spirit of the season once intended to be jolly becomes almost wholly past tense. Watching or listening to any pop culture artefact highlighting the peculiar customs traditionally associated with the last couple of weeks of December – as was – is now the same as viewing or hearing any art produced before 2020 which attempts to mirror real life. It no longer mirrors anything resembling the new normal and is therefore instantly as archaic and charming as steam trains or a Jane Austen adaptation or any other reflection of a world that has been transformed into otherworldly not by the passing of time but by the passing of legislation. Look at that grainy old footage all the way back from 2019 – a restaurant or a pub or a concert; punters are packed in like sardines, and some are shaking hands, some are hugging, and none are wearing surgical masks. Like I said, otherworldly.

The 21st century was already a pretty joyless place before Covid came along, but I guess the pandemic is the icing on an especially unappetising cake, albeit one that Mary Berry and all the rest are no doubt currently baking on their numerous festive-themed cookery specials. Boris has had to put his rebooted lockdown plans on ice in order to stave off further backbench rebellions and cling to the remaining vestiges of his lifelong mission to be loved as opposed to loathed by graciously giving the electorate the opportunity to pretend this Christmas can be just like Christmas used to be. And then he’ll probably complement the moves of his devolved despots across the Caledonian and Cymru borders by attempting to impose the same tried, trusted and ultimately failed formulas for combating the coronavirus variants that he’s been imposing for what feels like forever with no discernible success.

I remember the last post on here last year was called ‘Slippery Slopes and Silver Linings’, in which I closed the piece by referencing some of the positive voices of sanity and reason that had gradually emerged as obedience and exhaustion were superseded by exasperation and anger. Neil Oliver, one of those mentioned, has continued to deliver eloquent and incisive observations on where we are throughout 2021, and I ended on a hopeful note by writing ‘And, as long as those voices can continue to be heard in 2021, there is hope that twelve months from now we won’t find ourselves living in an offshore suburb of Riyadh or Beijing, bereft of any proof of who we used to be or who we really are.’ Well, we’re not quite there yet, though it’s not through want of trying on the part of our beloved leaders. Merry Xmas, everybody.

© The Editor

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PARTY LIKE IT’S 1939

Telegraph CartoonStrange days produce strange heroes. Amongst the unlikely few standing up to be counted today include such left-wing Labour luminaries as Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Clive Lewis and Rebecca Long Bailey; and even though he’s now technically an independent, even old Jezza himself can be added to the list of those who rejected the latest hysterically authoritarian response to a variant more infectious yet less dangerous than all the other convenient variants that have conspired to extend restrictions till the end of time. Of course, their rebellion alongside the 99 Tories who voted against the Conservative Government’s introduction of draconian measures dismissed as conspiracy theorist hyperbole just a few months ago ultimately counted for nothing in terms of preventing legislation; but their stance marks them out as being in possession of a pair of bodily articles Keir Starmer sorely lacks. The Labour leader’s terminal inability to grow said articles is no great surprise; he’s the Deputy PM in all-but name, having enthusiastically supported every pandemic proposal like an even more supine Nick Clegg.

Last week, Sir Keir declared it was the public’s ‘patriotic duty’ to support ‘Plan B’ and the mandatory booster, so I guess those who weren’t prepared to queue up for hours at the crack of dawn like lemmings are guilty of treason – ditto those in Parliament who refused to sign-up to the strengthening of restrictions. These new rules make it compulsory for the vaccinated to produce papers and passes in order to gain access to specified venues, whilst those without are excluded. Yet, according to far more reliable medical testimony than can be found emanating from the likes of SAGE and their Communist manifesto, any vaccine is effectively ineffective against the Omnishambles Variant – which means the treble or quadruple-vaccinated who can mix and mingle at will are more likely to pass on the virus than the un-vaxxed looking in from the outside. Makes sense dunnit.

A majority of 243 – MPs voting 369 to 126 – was more than enough to give the Government a comfortable margin of victory to go ahead with everything they once swore they’d never introduce; but when one takes into account the sizeable number of backbenchers who chose to go with their conscience rather than opt for party loyalty, the humiliating scale of the rejection of their leader’s policy is telling – as is the fact none of this would have been possible without Boris’s lousy administration being propped-up by the so-called opposition. Other notable non-Tory MPs such as Caroline Lucas, Tim Farron, Layla Moran and Ian Paisley Jr combined to form the most surreal of coalitions, yet it is the party that is supposed to provide the main alternative to this lying, cheating, corrupt and thoroughly immoral Government that has missed every open goal presented to it, open goals that would have earned the electorate’s respect and – more crucially – their vote come the next General Election. But what else can Labour expect when led by such a contemptible cuck as Keir Starmer?

It goes without saying that the traditional way to assert one’s unhappiness with the leadership of one’s party is to register one’s disapproval during a crucial Commons vote, and it’s perhaps true to say the likes of Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Damian Green, David Davis, Esther McVey, Theresa Villiers and Andrea Leadsom were motivated by more than merely a sense of injustice when confronted by the further removal of civil liberties; there were undoubtedly old and long-standing axes hungry for grinding. At the same time, their votes need to be counted and remembered. None of those mentioned would have received an invite to last year’s Christmas non-party at Downing Street, yet their separate stances add up to a greater whole than just sour grapes at being excluded from airing their specialist subject whilst Boris got to play Magnus Magnusson.

As further evidence emerges of the abuse of restrictions the Government imposed on the rest of us in 2020 whilst they carried on regardless, the fact that prominent members of the governing party voted against even more punitive measures when confronted by one more variant while the majority of the main opposition party – bar a mere EIGHT opponents – saved Boris’s skin is a damning indictment of this nation’s political class. As if we needed another reminder. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting – yes, the famous Wes Streeting – crowed at the PM’s loss of face within Conservative circles by claiming Boris’s authority is ‘shattered’ and went on to add, ‘This is an extraordinary, extraordinary rebellion. The Government has lost its majority. I think the size of that vote is a reflection of the shattered authority of Boris Johnson.’ Just in case you were wondering, the Wes Streeting voted with the Government. No alternate agenda there, then.

I saw a headline on the eve of yesterday’s Commons vote in which the ‘official’ Deputy Prime Minister (i.e. not Starmer) Dominic Raab was quoted as saying families could meet up at Christmas; I don’t know precisely when it was decided that the festive arrangements of people were dependent upon the say so of a Government Minister, but I think we all ought to raise a toast to Mr Raab after the Queen’s Speech on Xmas Day to thank him for his graciousness in allowing us all to gather together – even those who’ll be on their own. We are truly ‘umble. Of course, it’s thanks to the likes of the gracious Mr Raab that the quadruple-vaccinated will be spared the privations of last year; lest we forget, last Christmas I gave you my heart (even if the very next day, you gave it away) – not to mention the fact that last Christmas was also a time when most of us were subjected to the tiers of a clown and the instigators of the tiers were partying on behind closed doors; back then there was much talk of ‘social bubbles’.

In case you’ve forgotten, the bubble system was based upon limiting the number of folk one was allowed to come into contact with and mix amongst in one’s home. Conservative Party workers and MPs weren’t included in this system, naturally, even if we weren’t aware of that at the time, but many went along with the bubbles and rarely ventured beyond them. Some were already in them and had been long before any Chinese scientist ‘accidentally’ dropped a test tube, and the increasing unpleasantness of the wider world as this lamentable century progresses will probably see an ongoing reliance on the perceived safety of such bubbles. Speaking personally, mine is the sole source of comfort I can depend upon, and I guess I’m not alone.

The world beyond the bubble appears to be careering towards a very dark place indeed, resembling a runaway train on which the brakes aren’t working, with the pandemic being the oil on the wheels contributing towards its ultimate crash. I can’t look forward five, let alone ten years because all I can see is the once-free world reborn as the Soviet Union or North Korea. The seeds have already been sown in Australia and New Zealand as well as past offenders like Austria and Germany, and it’s creeping closer to England via Wales and Scotland. People are resisting in small doses, but they’re up against the weight of the State, the mainstream media and every imaginable corporation – none more so than big tech and big pharma. Right now, it seems as though we’re living through our very own 1939, and we all know what comes next. I’m just thankful I’ve only got about 25 years left at best. I think the worst thing in 2021 would be to be 18, knowing you’ve got perhaps 75 to go. No wonder I’m forever blowing bubbles.

© The Editor

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WHEN IS A PARTY NOT A PARTY?

BorisThe first ‘Christmas song’ hovered into my hearing range before we’d even reached December this year; November had yet to enter its dying days when my ears detected the familiar seasonal strains of a festive dirge in my local branch of Wilkos – though who can blame folk for wishing it into existence earlier than usual? To be honest, people are that desperate to have something to look forward to after the last eighteen months that it’s a wonder ‘Fairytale of New York’ or ‘Stop the Cavalry’ weren’t providing shoppers with a supermarket soundtrack when the initial restrictions were lifted back in the summer. Mind you, one of those tweeted online headlines did catch my eye the other day, one about Boris consulting with the Cabinet over whether or not to cancel Christmas 2021. Who does the fat f**k think he is – God? Or at least Oliver Cromwell? Our PM is evidently so drunk on unlimited powers that he seems to believe he has the authority or right to make such a decision. The ramifications of it would only affect me and thee, mind – lest we forget, it has recently emerged that the one place last Christmas wasn’t actually cancelled was 10 Downing Street. Fancy that!

The official Government line when the Daily Mirror revealed an illegal party was held at No.10 on 18 December last year was that there was no party; yes, people were gathered in the same way people would gather for a party, but it wasn’t a party – oh, and all guidance was carefully followed at the party that most definitely wasn’t a party. In case you’ve forgotten, this was the time of tiers; last Christmas, London was in Tier 3, and the guidance in December 2020 read as follows – ‘No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in any indoor space’. Those were the Health Protection Regulations we were all supposed to abide by at the time, the rules we were constantly being reminded of and were advised not to break because to do so would result in police raids, extortionate fines and the wholesale collapse of the NHS. Government guidance made it even clearer – ‘You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity.’ These edicts were issued from on-high and those who delivered them were insistent that we were all in it together.

An anonymous source has told the BBC that at this non-party ‘food and drink was laid on for staff including those from the press office and the Number 10 events team and party games were played.’ Sounds a bit like a party, doesn’t it – even though it wasn’t, of course. The non-party allegedly took place two days after the capital entered Tier 3; earlier that day, the PM had tweeted further warning advice to the general public in reference to a ‘Christmas bubble’, reminding everyone that the day in question marked the start of minimising contact with people from outside one’s own household. And if one happened to live alone, it basically meant no contact with anybody else at all – with any sort of party most certainly verboten. But, as we must constantly emphasise, what took place in Downing Street on 18 December 2020 wasn’t a party, and Boris keeps insisting that no restrictions were contravened despite the fact that restrictions were contravened.

The impression given is that No.10 was this country’s very own Versailles during the depths of the most oppressive lockdowns, with life carrying on along the lines of the old normal rather than the new one. Whilst less fortunate individuals beyond the hedonistic enclave of the PM’s residence were forcibly isolated and many breathed their last without the privilege of family and friends gathered around their deathbed, Downing Street was Studio Fifty-f***ing Four by comparison. Nobody has been reported as recommending the peasants eat cake whilst the political aristocrats partied on, though perhaps Michael Gove might have said ‘Let them snort coke’. The day after the non-party, Boris delivered – with a ‘heavy heart’ (his own words) – the announcement that we couldn’t continue with ‘Christmas as planned’; he was castigated for leaving such a speech till the eleventh hour, throwing the best-laid plans of millions into disarray and provoking a flight from London that resembled the evacuation of Saigon – yet he apparently didn’t consider the rules applied to him and his team. Granted, like most, it’s hard to think of anything less appealing than a party for Tory MPs and their staff; but that’s not really the point.

December 2020 was also the moment at which the police were in their most Jobsworth killjoy mode, actively on the hunt for outlawed social gatherings and relishing breaking up wedding parties or gate-crashing religious services. That very month, Leicestershire Police circulated a video of a raid on a party containing more than 60 people at a house in Leicester and proudly announced the two organisers of it were fined £10,000 each. Meanwhile, the Met had specified that ‘holding large gatherings could be the difference between life and death for someone else’, going on to say that ‘you must not mix inside with anyone who is not in your household or support bubble’. Pretty clear-cut statement from an organisation that now declares it does not ‘routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations’ whilst simultaneously prosecuting an alleged illegal gathering that took place on 18 December last year…at a house in Ilford.

The quartermaster’s stores of American air bases during WWII were notoriously crammed with goods the rationed natives had no access to – with the exception of spivs who did a healthy black market trade through having contacts on the inside. Although US forces were invited guests as opposed to an elite group of British citizens living in luxury, knowledge of how GIs were being spared the privations that the public were suffering must have stoked a degree of resentment at the time. But can that be anything like the resentment so many feel today towards our elected representatives and their shameless hypocrisy? Only a few weeks ago Comrade Mark Drakeford, the Labour leader of the People’s Republic of Wales and one of the most rigid advocates of the toughest pandemic restrictions, was caught on camera doing his bit for diversity by dancing around at a packed Diwali gathering sans mask. Another Labour MP, Zarah Sultana recently declared ‘I feel incredibly unsafe in the chamber…I see most of the Tories not wearing masks’, and then tweeted images of herself having a good time at the MOBO awards, surrounded by people and – you guessed it – sans mask.

It goes without saying that most of these cretins are incredibly stupid people, and were their stupidity restricted to themselves we could all have a good laugh at their expense. But when powers reside in the hands of such idiots, powers that can affect the lives of millions, the joke isn’t quite so funny anymore. The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rhetoric of preaching without practising is especially grating to those who suffered the most during lockdowns and who are dreading the reintroduction of measures that were responsible for that suffering – measures promoted and policed by political figures not prepared to abide by rules the rest of us were no more keen to abide by but had no say in the matter. Yes, we’re so accustomed to double standards on the part of the political class of all colours that we expect nothing less now, though the whole story of the Downing Street Christmas party-that-never-was is particularly poignant considering just how hard it was for so many in this country when Boris and chums were playing pass-the-parcel. If the PM is seriously contemplating cancelling Christmas again (thanks to the latest convenient variant), I suspect few will – or indeed should – practise what Boris preaches.

© The Editor

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