Yes, it’s the book they’re all talking about! It’s the book they’ve all been waiting for! It’s the book that definitely won’t be going for 99p in the Great British charity shop within a matter of months, no sir! The book in question is, of course, ‘Winegums from The Telegram’, the first volume of collected posts from this here blog in paperback form. Had you fooled for a minute there, didn’t I. Apparently, some posh-boy pig-f**ker who used to run the country or something has got a memoir out that he’s desperately plugging across the media, but nobody really gives a shit about that.

Anyway, as the Telegram is coming up for four years-old, I thought it long overdue that I gather together its finest moments in one volume, just like the columnists of old used to do. Then I began trying. I realised four years means a lot of posts – a hell of a lot. At one time, I’d be posting something on an almost-daily basis, and years inconveniently having over 300 days has meant I’ve had to be scrupulous in deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Gradually, I realised if I wanted to do the blog justice as a document of what has been pretty much a ‘Golden Age’ in terms of having big events to write about, I had to make the book version a series. Therefore, I’ve put together three so far, and there’s still enough material to easily make four.

Each essay is reproduced exactly as it appeared – and still exists online – for it would have seemed dishonest to edit any simply because my opinion might have changed from the one expressed within the individual article. As I began to read through them, it dawned on me that these little time capsules were virtual diary entries, accurately reflecting how I felt at the precise moment I pressed the ‘publish’ button (which is what happens when you’ve finished writing and you’re ready for the readership to sample it). These aren’t after-the-event retrospectives, but subjective reportage ‘as it happened’, so it felt important to reproduce them properly on the printed page, warts and all.

Although each post is in chronological order of publication, collected posts on the same subjects are divided into separate chapters to try and establish some sort of narrative. In volume one, for example, the first chapter features all the posts covering UK politics this year, right from the very first post in January (‘Divide and Misrule’) and up to the one that appeared on 10 September (‘Prorogue State’); a shame 2019 couldn’t have been more eventful in Westminster, but you can’t have everything. Chapter two is devoted to pop cultural posts, whereas the third features my more personal chronicle of 2018, which was a unique year for all the wrong reasons. Naturally, the scope widens for volumes two and three so that the USA, Europe and the rest of the world get a look in. Indeed, it was only when I started working my way through the Winegum back catalogue that I realised just how many different topics I’ve covered since December 2015 – even if a few have tended to dominate. It is true however, that some subjects have proven to be more inexhaustible than others.

Thankfully – well, depending how you look at it – this blog got off the ground just in time to catch the beginning of Brexit; the date of the game-changing Referendum was announced barely two months into the Winegum’s existence. I’ve therefore been able to chronicle the whole messy business from day one, and I’ve no doubt Dave imagined that by the time his own masterly contribution to the libraries of the nation appeared on the shelves the chaos he unleashed would have settled, thus saving him from any unpleasant revivals of the blame game. Instead, it rather fortuitously happens to fall smack bang in the middle of the latest attempt by the arrogant and entitled (led, of course, by Ms Miller) to not so much ‘take back’ control as hold onto it for dear life.

The English judiciary is now in the proroguing spotlight, hot on the heels of its Scottish equivalent giving the thumbs-down last week; a nation governed by rampant pro-EU Nationalists was hardly going to judge the PM’s decision favourably, though. Following a slickly-staged stunt intended to humiliate beleaguered Boris in Luxembourg, the ‘other side’ are turning up the heat on the Prime Minister in the hope Parliament will be recalled. What exactly they hope to actually do in Parliament if the Supreme Court bows to the Remainer mafia remains to be seen, however, for all they’ve done for the last three-and-a-half years is to try and thwart a democratic mandate at the expense of implementing any important legislation. So, I guess we’re talking more of the same.

Good old dependable Jo Swinson has at least dropped any pretences of a phony ‘People’s Vote’ this week, so that’s been a refreshing confirmation of everything we already knew about the Lib Dem approach to the issue. Most amusingly of all, Swinson’s brazen honesty has irked ideological allies such as Caroline Lucas, who still prefers to mask her true intentions in the Second Referendum smokescreen. But Swinson is oozing self (or over) confidence at the moment.

Buoyed by the addition of another lacklustre Tory reject to the ranks, the Lib Dem leader roused the faithful at the Party Conference with an echo of David Steel’s infamous ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ call. Liberals do have a habit of getting carried away with what passes for popularity between General Elections. But perhaps Swinson’s belief that her party can win a majority is merely another reflection of Remainer righteousness – or perhaps the righteousness of the political class as a whole. Swinson herself is, like Dave before her, another product of the smooth conveyor belt that took her from university to Westminster at a tender age with a brief pause en route for a short sample of what ‘real life’ feels like. Therefore, she’s expertly qualified to lecture 17 million members of the unwashed electorate on where they went wrong.

One benefit of going through old posts with a fine tooth comb has been to remind myself just how Cameron and his rotten administration (both with and without their Lib Dem whipping-boys) really were the embodiment of the Nasty Party ideal. No posthumous whitewash in attempting to reclassify himself as a ‘compassionate Conservative’ simply by standing next to his successors holds water when one re-reads instant gut reactions to his appalling policies at the point they were unveiled. In a way, the serendipitous timing of my decision to reacquaint myself with what I thought in 2016 has rekindled my contempt for a man who hoped sufficient distance would soften opinion towards him. No chance – especially not when the consequences of his irresponsible actions continue to dictate our increasingly fractious political discourse.

Anyway, the first volume of my book will be in direct competition with Dave’s in a matter of days. One will apparently retail at £25, and one will definitely be on sale at £4.99. Spend your hard-earned pennies wisely, boys and girls.

© The Editor


What a voice. The rich, booming baritone of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox resonated in every crumbling crevice of the Commons this week, conveying the kind of old-school aural authority our ears have rarely been massaged by since it was rendered unfashionable. At one time, a voice like that would have read the news headlines on Radio 4 or at the very least delivered the football results with sonorous sonic expertise. Quite a contrast with the fingernails-on-a-blackboard croak of Our Glorious Leader; even before she lost it, Theresa May’s voice was always a reedy, hectoring whine of a sort that conveys no authority at all – which is pretty fitting because she has none.

The members of her Cabinet piss all over the naughty step on a daily basis; they’re like kids running riot in some grotty family featured on a Channel 4 documentary probably called ‘Unruly Britain’ or something of that nature. And like children with a weak, compliant parent incapable of administering any form of discipline, they know they can get away with murder. They can vote against their own government or publicly abstain from voting at all, despite the neutered entreaties of the whips. It must be great being a member of the Cabinet at the moment. Mind you, you don’t need to be in the Cabinet to take the piss out of the PM to her face.

When the Maybot tried to serve up her already-rejected motorway service-station meal to Parliament for a second time, adding a sprig of Irish parsley fooled nobody and she received another chorus-line of moonies for her efforts. Undeterred, she’ll probably emerge from the kitchen with the same dish next week and plonk it back on the table. It may give her diners indigestion, but she’ll remind them it’s better than no dinner at all, which is the only other option available to them.

Delaying D-Day may have been voted for this week, but apparently this typical tactic of a Parliament overwhelmingly opposed to the Referendum result is still dependent on the approval of all EU colonies – sorry, member states – so actual Brexit remains the default outcome on March 29. It would seem, however, that the PM will snatch a sorry victory from the jaws of defeat with such a sword hanging over Westminster. A rotten deal twice rejected by massive majorities could well pass third time round because May has consistently stuck her fingers in her ears when anyone has suggested anything else. She has ground down dissenting voices by refusing to budge as the minutes have continued to tick away.

In some respects, it’s a remarkable achievement on her part, though hardly one worthy of celebration. She’ll finally persuade all the knockers within her shambles of a party to vote her way even though they know her offer is shit; but the persistent propaganda of Project Fear has scared so many that they’ll no doubt fall into line in the end; and she’ll genuinely believe she’s led the nation out of the dark. It’s like settling for a loveless marriage because it’s preferable to being a sad singleton. Promoters of the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ have advocated a similar absence of choice with the proposed Second Referendum options of a) Remain or b) May’s deal, AKA a) Remain or b) Diet Remain.

As the PM offers a fresh pair of Brussels handcuffs rather than the key to the ones we’re already wearing, one of her more notorious predecessors cosies up with Macron behind closed doors, and the Remain righteousness of the media mafia mirrors the smug smile of a Guardian columnist’s profile picture; social media sneering and jeering at a pro-Leave protest march setting off on the long road from Sunderland to Westminster sums up a kind of despondent capitulation to the way we were and will always be. Everything appears to have changed, but when the dust eventually settles, maybe nothing will have after all.

Two and-a-half years ago, I guess I was one of them, but it still amazes me how many smart, intelligent people who rarely suffer fools gladly are content to defend a privileged coalition whose policies were responsible for the 2008 crash and who have imposed a decade of austerity upon everyone outside of their cosseted bubble whilst either outsourcing or effectively abolishing public services the majority depend on. But when the alternative is portrayed as some post-apocalyptic far-right racist state run by Old Etonians and policed by gammons, I suppose it’s no wonder, really. And those whose laurels must stink due to being sat on for so long continue to pedal the favoured narrative as long as they’re listened to; I don’t imagine comfortable comedians whose last funny joke was laughed at sometime in the mid-90s are that concerned with towns in the North East or Midlands that mean no more to them than obscure names on a pools coupon.

There are probably still a few out there who would like to see Mr Blair tried as a war criminal; but if any former PM deserves a public flogging, it’s that absentee ex-resident of No.10 who plunged us into this bloody mess, Mr Cameron. I heard his swift resignation described as ‘honourable’ this week, in the context of his successor’s refusal to fall on her sword; but heading for his caravan barely a year after winning a General Election and leaving the nation to fend for itself like an abandoned puppy seems pretty criminal to me. Maybe he sees us as leftover volunteers for his Big Society project and figured we all had unused brooms knocking about.

Gallows humour, satire and sarcasm serve as a way of enduring this daily grind. I used to be an optimistic romantic, whereas now I’m a hard, cynical c*** without an iota of love left in me, so I need to employ some coping mechanism. I always thought I was a man out of time, but it would appear I’m very much a man of my time. Life is full of surprises, but it could be a hell of a lot worse; we realised that on Friday. Back for more next week, no doubt.

© The Editor


The Year Without Summer – that’s what they called 1816. Pre-Industrial Europe was in the middle of recovering from the long, lingering impact of the Napoleonic Wars and was then hit by an agricultural disaster, one that was mirrored across parts of North America and China. In Ireland, failed crops sparked famine; in Germany, they sparked riots. Switzerland slid into a deep-freeze whilst India was plunged into an outbreak of cholera as the period known retrospectively as ‘The Little Ice Age’ climaxed in catastrophic fashion. Most of the blame was laid at the door of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, a dormant volcano that had suddenly sprung into life after a thousand years with the largest observed eruption in recorded history. Lava continued to sport forth for more than eighteen months, dispersing ash into the atmosphere that caused severe climate change, reducing global temperatures and resulting in upwards of an estimated 10,000 deaths worldwide.

The distorted colours of the sulphuric skies that Tambora’s eruption caused are believed to have inspired the distinctive smudgy shades of JMW Turner’s paintings as well as creating the apocalyptic ambience that provoked 18-year-old Mary Shelley into penning ‘Frankenstein’ when holidaying with Percy Bysshe and Lord Byron on the gloomy fringes of Lake Geneva that non-summer. Whilst such a baleful location may have suited Gothic sensibilities, no doubt there were many who perceived the dramatic alteration in the climate as a sign of God’s displeasure with mankind. Mind you, God generally lets mankind get away with a hell of a lot before he can be arsed intervening.

200 years on from that remarkable climatic event, humble little me wrote a post called ‘Something in the Air’; take a look – it’s still there. In it, I commented on a pessimistic malaise that seemed to have settled upon the world, something that was manifested via a variety of dismal news stories, the impact of which was possibly exacerbated by the instant ping of social media. Coupled with very personal crises friends of mine were simultaneously undergoing at the time of writing, it felt as though the external and internal were bleeding into one overwhelming weight on the shoulders of numerous generations inhabiting the here and now. A year or so on from that particular post, it would be nice to come to the conclusion that this was a piece of reportage chronicling a moment of madness, a missive from the dark that preceded a dawn we happily reside in as 2017 careers towards its climax. Oops!

In a couple of days, this blog will have been in existence for two years. As a writer, I couldn’t have wished for more eventful times to have been documenting on a near-daily basis. Since the inaugural post on 6 December 2015, I’ve been able to comment upon the rise of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right as well as his loud opponents on the left and those in North Korea. When I began, we were barely six months into a Conservative Government released from the constricting shackles of Coalition, yet six months into the blog David Cameron had lost an ill-advised gamble (and his job) by leading the country into a chaotic state of uncertainty it has yet to recover from. One more indecisive General Election and one more ineffective Prime Minister later, Brexit remains the ultimate barometer of division as neither Remainer/Remoaner nor Brexiteer are happy with what Government is doing in their name. And this Whitehall farce seems set to run and run well into 2018.

Of course, it is the raison d’être of online news outlets to focus on the horrible with sensationalistic relish, just as it remains so for the traditional print and cathode-ray mediums that predate them, regardless of the ‘and finally’ solace at the end of the carnage. The public wants what the public gets, as Paul Weller said almost 40 years ago (I know; it’s scary); a YT video I produced in 2014 took that line as its title whilst a catalogue of contemporary images accompanied the theme tune from the distant childhood adventures of Teddy Edward.

One of these images was of a couple kissing, under which a caption announced ‘This is Rape’. Far be it from me to adopt the guise of a twenty-first century Nostradamus, but this particular statement is suddenly relevant courtesy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, whose latest Tweet is as good a reason as any why law-enforcers should steer clear of social media and concentrate on solving genuine bloody crimes. According to a now-deleted Tweet that has nevertheless been posthumously seized upon by the Daily Telegraph, kissing a lady under the mistletoe (something that apparently still occurs) is classified as ‘rape’ unless consent is first acquired. Say no more, twenty-seven-f**king-teen.

I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do. It’s insane, and I don’t know how we got here, let alone how we get out of it. I poke fun at it with a sardonic eye, but I’m well aware I’m just pissing in the wind, satirically fiddling as our rotten Rome burns. Over a year on from ‘Something in the Air’, the fog hasn’t cleared and people who matter to me – good people who don’t deserve the shit they’re having to deal with – are even worse off now than they were then. I try to be a tower of strength to them, but I often feel a bit of a hypocrite ‘cause I know deep down I’m as f**ked-up as they are. I could be bold and declare I start most days struggling to come up with a reason to keep buggering on and end most days unconvinced that I found one; but my ego likes to think I make a difference, so I stick around.

Simon le Bon was once ripped to shreds for carelessly describing Duran Duran as the band to dance to when the bomb drops, but part of me knows what he meant. We may be almost four decades on from a throwaway comment made in the heat of early 80s Cold War paranoia; but if this is the blog that people read before they take a leap into the unknown from Beachy Head, so be it. As long as I’m here, I’ll KBO and I’ll love a select few as I do so because they make life worth living. And I’ll still be here when you switch on tomorrow, for good or ill.

© 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


davrosPerhaps the most extreme example of the Nasty Party tag as well as proof that the Cameron coalition’s contempt for anyone who didn’t vote Tory was no hissy fit slur on the part of IDS came via the punitive persecution of the sick and disabled on the bottom rung of society’s ladder throughout the six-year reign of the Old Etonians. In their attempt to balance the books and knock a few quid off the deficit in the wake of the 2008 crash, Dave and his team didn’t have the balls (nor, one suspects, the inclination) to stand up to either the banking industry or the tax-dodging corporations, so they played a classic Conservative game by honing in on those they knew couldn’t fight back. The Flashman bully in Cameron and Osborne showed its true colours during this, one of the most shameful sustained assaults of any modern British government.

Out-sourcing the task of reorganising the benefits system – particularly that corner of it occupied by the ill – was something already in place before the 2010 General Election. Gordon Brown had introduced the Work Capability Assessment in 2008, and hiring the controversial French firm Atos to tackle this was yet one more toxic legacy of the Blair era, another private-public initiative pursuing profit at the expense of the individual (or patient) that was destined to end in tears. Not that Gordon Brown gave a toss anymore than his successors. The propaganda machine had succeeded in painting every disability claimant as a scrounging shirker through its media mouthpieces, particularly in the press; stories exposing those claiming they were incapable of walking unaided as they then turned up for their local Sunday League football team had become such a regular element of tabloid reportage that the public were already convinced.

The sponsorship of the 2012 Paralympics by Atos was akin to Nick Griffin opening the Notting Hill Carnival; the boos that rang around the Olympic Stadium when none other than Gideon himself stepped up to present athletes with their medals was a landmark showcase for the protests against the Work Capability Assessment programme, though it continued regardless. Eventually, news began to circulate from former Atos employees of the pressures that the DWP had put them under, commanded to reduce the employment figures at any cost – including disregarding the conclusions of medically-trained fitness-for-work testers should their conclusions contradict the belief that everyone claiming disability benefits was more than capable of earning a living.

The unsentimental and common sense-free approach of Atos as directed by the DWP was blamed on the 2,380 deaths of disability benefits claimants within two months of their claims being rejected that occurred from 2011-14, many of them suicides. There was a great deal of buck-passing taking place when Atos was forced to carry the can for these cruel practices, with only the premature severance of the company’s contract with the British Government in 2015 releasing Atos from the pretence of being wholly responsible for the tragedies associated with their regime. The Atos website made it clear that they were following in time-honoured SS traditions by ‘only obeying orders’.

The resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in March sent Cameron’s administration into unprecedented back-tracking when they were already staring oblivion in the face courtesy of the upcoming EU Referendum. George Osborne had announced a fresh assault on the disabled in his spring budget, measures that even IDS – a man who had given every impression of being the apostle of such measures – found too much.

Quitting the Cabinet within days of Gideon’s announcement forced the swift cancellation (or denial) of these plans, with the likes of the now-unemployed Nicky Morgan declaring the Chancellor’s proposals were ‘just a suggestion’. Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation could be cynically translated as the actions of a man bound to bear the brunt of opposition to such measures absolving himself of the responsibility; but the dropping of the proposals as soon as IDS quit seemed indicative of a sea-change in the approach that had characterised Tory policy towards the sick and disabled from day one of the coalition.

Now, of course, we have a new leader at the helm; and is it mere coincidence that a conscious rejection of the previous policy has been announced on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham? This weekend, Theresa May’s Secretary for Work and Pensions Damian Green declared that those afflicted with life-threatening illnesses will no longer be subjected to six-monthly assessments re their capability for work. Even IDS has given the announcement the thumbs-up. This is undoubtedly welcome news and another sign that David Cameron’s successor is cut from a different cloth; but there has been no mention yet of that invisible affliction, mental health.

Nevertheless, there is small cause for celebration at the news that one of the most reprehensible policies enacted by a British Government in recent years has at least been belatedly recognised as the appallingly cruel injustice it always was by those who instigated it in the first place; we can only hope this is the start of a long-overdue phase of realisation that will eventually extend to all those deserving cases who fall under the shadow of a system that has punished them for circumstances beyond their control for far too long.

© The Editor


mayAs tradition decrees, the incumbent Government bring the curtain down on the conference season; yes, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are being customarily contrary by holding theirs later in October, but the current run of party conferences that began with the Greens at the start of September ends next week with the Tories, who take to the stage for the first time with their new leader and our new PM. The Conservatives are less than a year-and-a-half into their latest bout of running the country, though so much has happened since May 2015 that it would be foolish to assume just because Her Majesty’s Opposition has been tearing itself apart, the Government have cause to be smug and secure in their position. As Times journalist Matthew Parris pointed out whilst observing the post-leadership challenge Labour shindig in Liverpool, the Tories are far from unified at the moment and could well be there for the taking if their opponents weren’t so divided.

David Cameron’s decision to step down as an MP not much more than twelve months on from the point when he was looking forward to five more years at the helm has been interpreted as a generous nod to his replacement, perhaps mindful of what a persistent backbench thorn in Thatcher’s side Ted Heath was throughout her premiership. His resignation as PM was a foregone conclusion when he’d so vigorously backed the wrong Referendum horse, but few anticipated him retiring from frontline politics completely. Of course, Theresa May had already instigated a clear-out of Dave’s closest confidantes within the Cabinet, even going so far as to rub salt in the Notting Hill Tory wounds by inviting Boris and David Davis back in from the Westminster wilderness. However, the ultimate Brexit baddie, Michael Gove, remains in the Commons and it will be interesting to see how his response to May’s administration shapes the Conservative Party over the next three or four years.

It’s difficult to get a grip on Theresa May, to be honest – and I don’t mean that in a remotely sexual sense. Whereas Dave was a gift to satirists, impressionists and cartoonists with the always-amusing concept of a posh boy desperately trying his damndest not to be posh generating endless jokes at his expense, May is more of an unknown quantity. She may have been Home Secretary for six years, but Gordon Brown had been Chancellor for ten when he finally got his hands on the key to No.10, and nobody really knew how he’d shape up in the top job – not very well, as it turned out; yet I don’t think Mrs May has really had the chance to show what she can or can’t do. Her first opportunity to address her party as leader will come next week, and the hard work starts thereafter.

Though doing her best to exude an air of authority, Theresa May is not in the easiest of positions; she grabbed the leadership of both her party and country in the middle of an unprecedented crisis and attempted to portray herself as a ‘safe pair of hands’, promoting fellow dullards such as Philip Hammond, as though that somehow represented stability whilst the rest of the political establishment was engaged in the headless chicken dance.

Though she herself was a Remainer (albeit along Jeremy Corbyn lines, virtually invisible during the great debates), she has inherited a democratic decision she didn’t vote for and is obliged to carry it out, despite the mind-boggling complexities of the process. She also has to deal with two other constituent countries of the UK that voted differently to England and Wales, not to mention the opportunities for exploitation that presents at Holyrood and Stormont.

The fault-lines within the Tory Party that the Referendum exposed won’t be healed overnight; they had decades to ferment, after all, and Europe has been at the root of virtually every schism in Conservative ranks since 1975. Brexit may mean Brexit, but the drawn-out duty of extricating the UK from the EU has fallen to a PM who wanted to stay part of the Brussels club. Any dithering or deviating from the mission will inevitably stoke the ire of the prominent Leave rump on the Tory backbenches, of whom Gove is destined to be the most vocal. Yes, giving Boris, Davis and Dr Fox (no, not that one) responsibility to deal with the unenviable task ahead is probably a shrewd move on May’s part, though the buck will ultimately stop with her, and it could define her premiership if she’s not careful.

There is also the perennial subject of a possible Snap Election, which if it comes at all seems more likely to come in the spring than the autumn we’ve now entered. From all that was said during their own conference, Labour are certainly banking on it, though the insistence of Jezza and McDonnell that this may be a likelihood does feel a bit like a Kamikaze pilot hoping a US warship appears on the horizon. However, May’s hands are essentially tied by the rules laid down by the Coalition of 2010-15 and the fixed-term Parliament law; apparently, Nick Clegg is now criticising the Tories for carrying on under a different leader without first going to the country, yet he was as responsible as anyone for limiting the powers of the PM to call a General Election when the climate is at is most opportune for a serving Prime Minister to do so.

The fact remains that we have a political figurehead the electorate didn’t vote for, inheriting office from a man they did; and whilst this is hardly a unique situation, one would imagine Theresa May would prefer a mandate of her own rather than one given to her predecessor; maybe only the law introduced by that predecessor is preventing her from acting on her instincts.

It’s still too early to predict what kind of leader only our second female Prime Minister will turn out to be, but her first real platform for setting out her plans will come next week in Birmingham. Expect a token show of support to contrast with Labour’s bitter divisions; but behind the contrived PR sheen there’s a long and potentially very difficult road ahead that could well reveal the mettle May is made of.

© The Editor


MinderWhen Napoleon Bonaparte achieved what no self-made man in history had previously managed by usurping the old order and crowning himself Emperor of the French in 1804, he didn’t forget his family and friends now that he had ascended an unprecedented pinnacle. It had been common practice for centuries for Kings to reward their favourites with titles, but Bonaparte took this onto a new level. The numerous territories he had already conquered across Europe had all been monarchies and he therefore required them to be ruled in his name by puppet sovereigns of his own choosing; with this in mind, he solved the problem by dishing out the vacant crowns to his siblings and most trusted marshals, creating a concept of cronyism that has subsequently become more closely associated with political rather than imperial demagogues.

Harold Wilson’s so-called ‘Lavender List’, which appeared following his 1976 resignation as Prime Minister, caused controversy at the time due to the fact that many prominent businessmen who had little or no connection with either the Labour Party or traditional Labour values were handsomely rewarded – including the hardly universally-beloved James Goldsmith; and now fresh controversy has broken out with the news that David Cameron’s Resignation Honours List appears to consist of a series of gold stars for his chums and colleagues. Notable absentees from the roll-call of recipients include Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, though even Dodgy Dave probably figured he’d never get away with that one. That the Tories desperately need an injection of peerages to prop up their dwindling numbers in the Lords also adds to the general air of dubiousness surrounding the necessity of such a questionable system.

In an age when even Her Majesty’s Birthday and New Year’s Honours respectively can rarely expect to be published without considerable criticism, it does seem something of an anachronism that the retiring Prime Minister also has the opportunity to dish out gongs and awards to people whose service to the nation was secondary to their service to the PM in question. Whereas the monarch’s Birthday Honours were only officially introduced in 1885 to mark the birthday of Queen Victoria, the Downing Street equivalent doesn’t even stretch back that far in historical terms, the practice being inaugurated upon Churchill’s eviction from No.10 in 1945, presumably as a means of marking his contribution to the War effort following his unceremonious dumping by the electorate.

Clement Attlee, a man whose great achievements in post-war office had been preceded by sterling service in the Coalition Government during the Second World War, was granted the same privilege as his predecessor (and consequent successor) in 1951, and thereafter the pattern has only been broken on five occasions. Churchill opted out of a second list upon his final retirement as PM in 1955, whereas the nature of Eden’s 1957 exit negated it; perhaps mindful of the controversy surrounding Wilson’s list, Jim Callaghan decided not to uphold the tradition in 1979, and both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown declined as well – although Blair’s decision came in the wake of the Cash for Honours scandal, so it was perhaps understandable.

The House of Lords Appointments Commission (as well as the Cabinet Office) has apparently raised ‘ethical concerns’ over Cameron’s proposed list of recipients, and though the list won’t be officially published for another few weeks, the leaks that have reached the media suggest Dave’s prime motivation was to thank those on the private payroll by placing them on the public one. Former Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn was one of Cameron’s closest advisers from his election as PM in 2010 and is rumoured to be ordering his ermine in readiness; other insiders alleged to be up for a peerage include such household names as Chris Lockwood, Camilla Cavendish, Laura Trott and Gabby Bertin.

Knighthoods are also in the offing for some of Dave’s MP mates, as well as gongs for those who publicly supported the disastrous Remain campaign, including – inexplicably – Will Straw, son of ex-Labour Home and Foreign Secretary Jack; in case you didn’t know, Straw Junior was the man responsible for the appalling and toe-curling ‘Votin’ ad intended to persuade hedonistic youngsters to head for the polling booths, something they evidently struggled to sandwich between ‘ravin’, ‘surfin’ and ‘parachutin’ if the result of the Referendum was anything to go by.

All-in-all, the names on Cameron’s provisional list that have seeped out to the press suggest a lack of awards for people whose work has benefitted anyone other than Dave. Whilst hardly a shocking revelation, these leaks imply the moment has come to call time on an archaic and unnecessary tradition that has no place in a political world that already has its fair share of questionable honours systems. That said, Dave – if you’re reading – I wouldn’t mind an OBE if there’s any spare ones knocking about. Sorry I called you a posh twat, me old mucker.

© The Editor


CameronWhen Gordon Brown forgot his microphone was still switched on during the 2010 General Election campaign, it arguably cost him his job; when David Cameron forgot his was still switched on while making his way back to the front door of No.10 after naming his successor yesterday he didn’t have to worry about that. Heard humming some unidentified upbeat tune rather than referring to Theresa May as ‘a bigoted woman’ under his breath, Cameron’s chirpy disposition was indicative of a man relieved to be getting out earlier than he’d hoped. The damage, after all, is done; and an absence of notable war-crimes on his Prime Ministerial CV means he won’t have to worry about future impeachment proceedings.

When David Cameron became Tory Party leader in 2005, Tony Blair had just begun his third term as PM; and after the abysmal performances of William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, a moderately improved performance at the polls under the stewardship of Michael Howard was still not good enough for a party that had taken power for granted for so long that opposition was proving problematic. The Conservatives hadn’t even been able to capitalise on an unpopular war at the expense of the Labour Government, so a rethink was required. This rethink comprised reproducing the example set by their opponents across the dispatch box.

Theresa May’s belated 2002 acknowledgement of the Tories as the ‘Nasty Party’ has been replayed for understandable reasons over the past couple of days; but the solution to the public perception at the time was to manufacture their own Blair, and David Cameron was only too happy to step into Tony’s shoes. To use a pop music analogy, one could say Cameron was the Boyzone to Blair’s Take That, photocopying the hit formula and retaining the anodyne elements that had proven popular without adding any additional grit. That seems a more apt comparison than saying Cameron was the Monkees to Blair’s Beatles – an insult to both acts. Besides, bland 90s boy-bands, with their emphasis on style over substance and an utter absence of dirt under their manicured fingernails, is closer to the truth.

Cameron’s blatant modelling of himself on his hero was excruciating; like Tony, he wanted to appeal to everybody by embracing every fashionable fad of the moment. Early efforts at being ‘green’ were illustrated by a windswept Dave being pulled along an Arctic landscape by huskies; early efforts at reaching out to the plebs were illustrated by the ‘hug-a-hoodie’ policy, with Dave doing just that on one especially toe-curling photo-op. What Cameron failed to grasp was that, by the middle of the 2000s, the public had already become cynical of such tactics; and Dave just looked like exactly what he was – a pale imitation of something that had been done years before, something that the public were tired of. Cameron’s pursuit of a populist agenda at the expense of what had worked for his party in the distant past was viewed as a radical development in staid Tory circles, however, and some voiced their dissatisfaction from the off, most prominently Peter Hitchens. That Cameron was trying so hard to obscure his posh-boy roots was merely confirmed when that infamous Bullingdon Club team photo featuring him and Boris Johnson emerged, much to his eternal annoyance.

The biggest break Cameron received as Leader of the Opposition came in 2007, when Tony Blair resigned and handed over the reins of power to long-time rival Gordon Brown, getting out just before the western world experienced its greatest economic meltdown since 1929. Brown’s dithering in the autumn of that year, failing to call an Election when his ratings were higher than they’d ever subsequently be, condemned the ex-Iron Chancellor and his party to eventual electoral Armageddon, something that David Cameron still couldn’t exploit when his big chance finally came five years after his election as Tory leader.

Of course, Dave was saved by the intervention of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who accepted the invite to enter into Britain’s first post-war Coalition Government. In retrospect, there was no real alternative for either party, with the Tories not receiving the mandate they needed and the Liberal Democrats still boasting enough MPs to make up the numbers Labour couldn’t match. We were in uncharted waters, but the imposition of a fixed five-year term for the post-2010 Parliament secured the stability an often uneasy alliance required; just how uneasy that alliance actually was became apparent when the next local elections saw the Lib Dems decimated at the polls while their Coalition partners improved their standing. This was played out on an even more devastating scale come the 2015 General Election, when Clegg’s party suffered one of the most humiliating wipe-outs ever seen in modern politics, plummeting from 57 to 8 seats.

The old Nasty Party tag had been all-too evident in the way the Coalition Government had reserved their severest cuts not for the industry that had provoked the 2008 crash, but for those on the bottom rung of society’s ladder, who weren’t in a position to fight back. The Tories then cannily aimed their inherent ruthlessness at their junior partners when on the 2015 hustings; and the public bought the hype, holding the Lib Dems wholly responsible for unpopular policies, even though Clegg and Co certainly curbed their senior partners’ nastiest instincts, ones that were released from the need to compromise when Dave finally received a mandate from the electorate when up against yet another inept Labour leader.

A lucky Prime Minister who even survived the potential disaster of Hack-Gate and all the embarrassing social connections it exposed, David Cameron’s undoing was to promise a referendum on Britain’s EU membership that the Conservative Election Manifesto of 2015 bound him to. His last concession to the backbenchers who had never trusted him, Cameron’s referendum didn’t go to plan when the deep divisions within the country he had failed to unite were exposed in a manner that left him with no option but to fall on his sword barely a year after leading his party to their first outright Election victory since 1992. The bitchy Cabinet resignation letter of one of his predecessors in the Tory hot-seat, IDS, claimed that Cameron and his circle didn’t give a toss about the great swathes of the electorate who don’t vote Conservative, and the EU Referendum gave those silent voices (as well as plenty within his own party) the opportunity to deliver their verdict on his premiership. That verdict was unanimous in its condemnation, and I suspect history will deliver a similar one once the dust has settled from the current chaos Cameron is entirely to blame for.

Not that any of this will be apparent come his last appearance as Prime Minister in the Commons on Wednesday – cue fawning tributes and praise that he will nevertheless gratefully accept; as slick and smooth and devoid of authenticity as he always has been, the Bob Monkhouse of British politics will exit the frontbench with insincere cheers ringing in his ears, ones that will perfectly complement the utter ideological landfill that has constituted the last six years.

© The Editor


MayAs much as we all love it, rarely has the print media appeared more obsolete than in the past couple of weeks; it doesn’t need falling sales to put it out of business, merely a remarkably fast-moving political apocalypse of the kind this country is currently experiencing. ‘Breaking News’, a normally annoying phrase we’re accustomed to being a permanent fixture at the bottom of the screen of rolling news channels, has now become relevant to every bloody headline as the fallout from Brexit continues to claim scalps on what feels like an hourly basis. All of this would make a cracking edition of ‘The Rock n Roll Years’ if we had any contemporary Rock n Roll to serve as the soundtrack to events.

With Angela Eagle confirming she will mount a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn over the weekend, this morning’s official announcement of that kamikaze gamble has already been usurped by the far more unexpected announcement by Andrea Leadsom that she has withdrawn from the race to become the next Tory Party leader and, consequently, Prime Minister. Apparently, off-the-record she hinted that press intrusion into both her private life and past working life motivated her decision, yet perhaps this itself is reflective of her lack of experience in the public eye. It does, as they say, come with the territory; and she simply wasn’t up to the job if her silly ‘mother’ comment was anything to go by.

So, this means there is no longer a contest. The prospect of May and Leadsom dragging all of this out for another couple of months while the nation is doing a good impression of the archetypal headless chicken sounded ridiculous on paper, and we must at least be grateful to Leadsom for bowing out even before she and her rival have embarked upon a tour of the Shires. One can only assume Dave’s summer as a lame-duck PM will be considerably shorter than he anticipated in the wake of this development, and I guess he and Sam will have to begin packing their belongings long before September; mind you, going by his past absent-mindedness, Theresa May could well move in and find she’s got a child after all.

Much has been made by May’s supporters that her six years at the Home Office somehow represent success, though how many years did ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ run on TV, masquerading as a sitcom despite the notable absence of laugh-out loud moments? Longevity does not necessarily equate with achievement; and Theresa May’s achievements as Home Secretary are fairly threadbare. Whereas Andrea Leadsom appeals to many of that dying breed of old-school, golf-club, Nimby ‘Margot and Jerry’ Tories, Theresa May is regarded as dangerously liberal within such circles; but, as with Labour’s hardcore lefty Corbynistas, they are a small cult faction forming a minor part of a far broader network, and can never truly represent their party as a whole, never mind the nation. Like it or not, Theresa May is more in tune with the wider electorate than Andrea Leadsom would have been on subjects other than Brexit; and it is the wider electorate beyond partisan party activists that win General Elections.

As if to underline the ultimate powerlessness of party memberships, Leadsom’s withdrawal means that the new Prime Minister has been elected by a few hundred Conservative MPs as opposed to the similarly limited albeit slightly higher 150,000 Conservative Party Members. Theresa May indicated from the moment she announced she was standing to be Tory leader that she had no plans to call an Election in the autumn; but history rarely favours Prime Ministers who supersede retiring PMs without the electorate being involved. Neville Chamberlain, Alec Douglas-Home, Jim Callaghan and Gordon Brown all came to power this way and all failed to win a General Election; poor old Chamberlain actually never got the chance to do so. Yes, both Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan did gain a mandate from the public – the former called an Election only a month after succeeding Churchill in 1955, whereas the latter waited just over two-and-a-half years before going to the country; but both were fortunate to be competing against a deeply divided Labour Party. Theresa May take note.

It is ironic in a week that has seen several MPs on both sides of the House calling for the head of Tony Blair on a plate that the soon-to-be ex-Prime Minister David Cameron is facing no such demands. Watching him perform at his first post-Referendum PMQs, one would imagine he was a stand-up comic ala Michael McIntyre. There was nothing in his demeanour to suggest shame or regret at the absolute bloody mess he’s left the country in. If anyone should be held responsible for the current chaos, Dave is the man. All the fawning guff spewing forth from the mouths of Tory MPs concerning his six years at No.10 obscures the facts in a virtual whitewash of sanctimonious hyperbolic bullshit. Cameron has been an unmitigated disaster. From food banks and tax evasion to the EU Referendum and the impending, unavoidable split with Scotland, Dave hasn’t merely been managing decline; he has done his utmost to accelerate it. Theresa may not be the solution; but she surely couldn’t do any worse.

© The Editor


CameronWell, the fallout is proving to be somewhat chaotic, if predictable. The overindulged generation to whom nobody (least of all their helicopter parents) has ever said ‘no’ have already started up another of their tedious petitions to demand a second Referendum because they find it impossible to accept the majority disagreed with them; Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed she’s preparing the ground for a second Independence campaign; Jeremy Corbyn has declared he will fight any challenge from within his own party, seemingly oblivious to the impending catastrophe awaiting Labour should the autumn see a General Election with him in charge; the metropolitan politicians who have received a resounding kick in the goolies still can’t understand why their groins are smarting as they continue to sneer at the voters who abandoned them; the Brexit frontrunners are keen to keep the celebratory festivities going because it serves as a convenient distraction from the fact that they have no idea what they’re supposed to do next; promises of billions raining down on the NHS have quietly been removed from the winning speeches; and furious Remain Conservatives are planning to spike the Tory leadership race by casting Boris Johnson in the Michael Heseltine role, wielding the dagger without a cast-iron guarantee of the crown.

David Cameron’s swift announcement of his resignation ironically mirrored that of Gordon Brown’s in 2010, staged exactly the same way – from the same podium in the same location to the simpering countenance of the missus by his side. It was deliberately timed to catch Boris off-guard, and Dave’s intention to see out the summer at No.10 in the manner of an impotent US President at the end of his second term gives him the opportunity to plot against his expected successor before the 1922 Committee kick-starts proceedings. With the SNP intending to exploit the chaos just as we all knew they would, Cameron could well go down in history as the PM who lost both Europe and Scotland, ranked alongside Lord North (the predecessor who presided over the loss of America in 1783) in an unenviable pantheon of failure. If he can salvage anything from the wreckage, it is to sabotage the succession of the man who has dogged his political career.

One notable absentee from the spotlight since Thursday is the man who could also take some blame for Dave’s downfall, his campaign co-ordinator and ill-advised adviser on tactics, George Osborne. If Cameron is toast, then Gideon is charcoal. The Chancellor’s rightly-derided threat of an austerity budget as punishment for a Leave vote was the last desperate bullet of a man whose barrel is now well and truly empty. If he had any semblance of a conscience, he would go immediately; but, of course, he doesn’t and he won’t. He knows now that the slim hopes of him moving in next-door are completely trashed, so he seems determined to hang on as a caretaker Chancellor in an act of petulant revenge on the party – and country – that rejected his vision.

In normal circumstances, a Prime Minister resigning barely a year into winning a General Election would be the lead story on everybody’s lips; but so dramatic have the last 48 hours been that even this ordinarily top-of-the-bill development seems to have been relegated to B-picture status in the overall scheme of things. I guessed this would happen if the vote went against Cameron, but it still seems surreal that it actually is happening, perhaps because I didn’t really believe we would take the Brexit route. Even on social media, news of Cameron’s imminent departure has been received with a surprising lack of euphoria, particularly by those who have spent the past six years demanding it. Indeed, it must be difficult for the left-leaning anti-Cameron networkers to know how to react, finally getting what they wanted but getting it as a side-effect of everything they didn’t want.

Giles Coren, a man who got where he is not through his own endeavours but through the name and standing of his late father Alan, takes an astonishingly vicious swipe at ‘old people’ in his Times column today, one that smacks of a sullen adolescent blaming his parents for his own failings. ‘The wrinkly bastards stitched us young ‘uns up good and proper on Thursday,’ he writes. ‘From their stairlifts and their zimmer frames, their electric recliner beds and their walk-in baths, they reached out with their wizened old writing hands to make their wobbly crosses and screwed their children’s and their children’s children for a thousand generations.’ The sour grapes whining of a wealthy London-centric celebrity whose presence in Fleet Street is due entirely to nepotism via one of those ‘wrinkly bastards’ is indicative of the Remain cheerleaders’ narcissistic inability to fathom why their fame didn’t swing it.

There are a lot of angry people in Britain right now, not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but England too. The yoof are especially incensed because their experience of the democratic process is limited. The fact that voting in any form won’t necessarily ensure the outcome one voted for is something that doesn’t appear to have registered with them and they’re looking for someone to blame. If that means blaming all ‘old people’ or labelling everyone who opted for the contrary position to them as racists, we shouldn’t really be surprised. What makes this remarkable moment in the country’s history equally compelling and frightening is the absence of precedence and the lack of a roadmap laying down the destination of the nation; but the Millennials like everything neatly pre-prepared and packaged, like an app that will tell them what to do. All is up in the air and all is uncertain; and nobody knows what comes next.

© The Editor