TwatzThis is one of those stories that writing about without the breathing space necessary to avoid irrelevance makes all the more harder. The Winegum not being a rolling news channel means I’m often hoping some major development fails to occur before publication; never have the delayed limitations of ye olde Fleet Street printing press seemed more applicable to penning a post on a blog like this than when the main headline of the day keeps shifting shape before one has the chance to complete a paragraph. Michael bloody Gove has f**ked-up what I’d already written by abruptly advising the PM to step down, though I should’ve known by now that what Gove says one day is not necessarily what Gove says the next. At the time I began writing this, the Secretary of State for Buggering Up, Housing and Communities was backing Boris; by the time I was careering towards the arse-end of the post, he’d adopted the opposite stance. Actually, the intended opening line of this post still makes sense, if only due to the fact it highlights the untrustworthy unreliability of Michael Gove.

Before I was rudely interrupted, I was poised to say that when you’ve got Michael Gove watching your back, you know you’re in trouble (which at least remains a potent observation). Boris’s back still bears the scars of the moment six years ago when the poisoned dwarf switched from supporting the leadership campaign of David Cameron’s wannabe successor to launching his own failed bid for No.10. And yet, in the turbulent hours following yesterday’s cataclysmic events, Gove was lining up alongside the likes of Patel, Truss, Raab and Dorries to back Boris. By contrast, a nondescript Minister, a Parliamentary Private Secretary, a trade envoy, and the Conservative Party Vice-Chairman have all quit in the last 24 hours, following on from two rather more high profile resignations and succeeded by the best part of 25 other minor walkouts as the rats belatedly gain the confidence to jump the sinking ship. All are now united in their demand that the PM goes, and one imagines a vote of no confidence might well give them the opportunity to marshal the troops and oust Johnson.

If only that could…oh, hang on a minute – hasn’t that already happened and didn’t all bar 148 of them support Boris and keep him in a job? I wonder what they thought Boris would possibly achieve in the month since then to warrant their backing – something he hasn’t managed in the past three years, perhaps, to mend his crooked ways and emerge as a strong and stable leader with integrity and a vision for Britain. Well, there was the gift horse; they strolled over, looked in its mouth, and moved on – oh, and then yesterday happened. Whilst maybe lacking the drama of quitting in the middle of a Cabinet meeting ala Michael Heseltine, the twin resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid nevertheless represented one of those moments when a path is set in motion that history tells us usually only ever ends one way. All those opportunists sticking with the status quo on the surface are publicly echoing the words uttered merely days ago by those just gone, yet it seems pretty clear that all of them are saying one thing both to the media and to each another whilst privately contemplating what doors this shaky state of affairs will open for them.

The voluntary exits of the Chancellor and the Health Secretary have narrowed Boris’s options even further, pushing their replacements into posts many reckon they’ll only occupy for a short space of time, like football coaches who step in as caretaker till the end of the season as the board searches for a permanent manager. I can’t help but think of Lord Carrington, recalling his role as Energy Secretary during the Three Day Week, stating he was in the job ‘for five minutes’ before the watershed General Election of February 1974. Aside from Priti Patel, who seems secure at the Home Office, it’s hard to think of any other Minister who has the room to breathe and implement any policies before they’re reshuffled elsewhere. Had details of Sunak’s tax-dodging family business not emerged a few months back, chances are he’d be odds-on to mount a leadership challenge and gather enough support to succeed; but golden Rishi’s star has become somewhat tarnished in the eyes of the electorate since his glory days as the guarantor of the furlough chequebook, and it’s more of a gamble now to place a bet on him being Boris’s definite successor than it was until relatively recently.

Mind you, both he and Sajid Javid have a history of association with banks and hedge funds that are hardly likely to endear either of them to the man in the street, who still credits the ruthless avarice of financial institutions with the fact he’s struggling to pay his bills. Sunak and Javid – like the Home Secretary – may have successfully contradicted the narrative of the Left by being children of immigrants who spurned the oppressed ethnic victim storyline so beloved by the Labour Party and have risen to high office regardless; but, unlike members of the Labour Party, their racial profile has never defined them and their reputation rests entirely on their deeds, none of which are particularly impressive.

Again, as has been stated on here many times before, Boris Johnson’s saving grace during his shambolic premiership has been the lack of a strong challenger waiting in the wings, the kind that Heseltine became to Thatcher; in some respects, he shares his good fortune with Gordon Brown. By the time the Iron Chancellor had the keys to No.10 handed to him in one of the smoothest transferences of power in British political history, all of the New Labour big guns of the 90s were effectively played out and past it, and the up-and-coming young guns were led by the Miliband brothers.

The fact Brown couldn’t capitalise on this was mainly due to his out-of-his-depth ineptitude, as has been the case with Boris. Both also found themselves confronted by unexpected crises merely months into their Downing Street tenure – Brown the financial crash of 2008 and Boris the pandemic – and whilst both emerged from their respective crises with a degree of credit in the eyes of the international community, their efforts registered less on home soil, where the aftermath was felt most keenly by the general public rather than the corporations that always appear to survive and thrive whatever the crisis.

Boris’s admittedly skilful manner of neutralising the Remoaner mafia within the Commons and the MSM won him plaudits amongst genuine democrats at the time and undoubtedly aided the Tories’ landslide victory of 2019, though the onset of Covid and all the double standards surrounding its numerous issues – many of which were only exposed after the event – have done irreparable damage to the Boris brand this year so far. The no confidence vote of June was intended to be the judgement by the Conservative Party on their leader’s pandemic performance, yet it turned out to be something of a damp squib for the wider public. Despite the endless tabloid revelations of what Boris and his cronies had been getting up to during a period in which the rest of us stood to be fined for indulging in perfectly normal social activities, Boris has clung on with the tacit support of the majority of his Party. Now, however, that support seems to be ebbing away.

I’ve no doubt that by the time I press the publish button on this post, Boris will probably have resigned and Putin will have launched nuclear missiles at the Isle of Wight; but I’ve no option but to try and comment on events as best I can, regardless of how fast-moving those events happen to be. The last time I can recall the speed of events overtaking my ability to chronicle them and comment on them was during the Tory leadership race of 2016, especially that two or three days when the contenders had been narrowed down to Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom and the latter suddenly withdrew her candidacy, leaving the field clear for the former. Stay tuned – I’ve a feeling I’ll probably be back tomorrow at this rate…

© The Editor

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Liz Truss DiscoIt’s an interesting dilemma few outside of politics are ever confronted by – you’re sacked, fired from your job, your very important job, a job that came with a great deal of prestige; and yet your redundancy package doesn’t contain a P45 form, but a nice booby prize of three new high-profile jobs you’ll be doing simultaneously. That’s what happened to Alpha Plank Dominic Raab yesterday. Okay, so he’s no longer Foreign Secretary, but he’s now the Lord Chancellor, the Justice Secretary, and the Deputy Prime Minister. Welcome to the strange world of political dismissal, where a demotion is hardly akin to relegation from the Premier League to League Two or a fast-track to the nearest food bank. Yeah, okay – the Cabinet’s very own Chuck Norris no longer holds one of the four Great Offices of State; but stubbornly refusing to whip off the knotted hanky from your head at a moment of international crisis centred on a disintegrating nation thousands of your fellow countrymen sacrificed their lives to democratise doesn’t exactly embody commitment to the post. As Foreign Secretaries go, Raab may have approached the job by following in the proud traditions of Boris himself, but how much has Dominic Raab really lost?

I guess the tired old analogy of rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic has probably already been exhumed to describe the PM’s Cabinet reshuffle, so I won’t recycle it again; but in truth, I can’t really see many of those promoted being quite as bad as those they replaced. Raab was a useless Foreign Secretary as Gavin Williamson was a useless Education Secretary and Robert Buckland a useless Justice Secretary. Nadhim Zahawi’s U-turn on the topic of vaccine passports may have been rightly highlighted of late via the resurrection of his past refuting of their introduction on social media, but many perceive his handling of the vaccine rollout as a relative success; his promotion to Education Secretary, heading a department that arguably failed to tackle the ramifications of lockdown more than any other in government, can only be viewed as an improvement. Ironically, considering the subject of the previous post on here, Michael Gove has indeed lost his job as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, albeit not for something nasty he said as a Tory Boy in the early 90s; besides, becoming the new Housing Secretary doesn’t mean he’ll be signing-on in the near future.

Much will probably be made of Liz Truss replacing Raab, no doubt; only the second woman to be elevated to the post – after Margaret Beckett’s brief stint during Tony Blair’s last year in Downing Street – Truss has often played upon her non-privileged roots ala Sajid Javid. But her roots are only non-privileged in comparison to many of the men surrounding her in government. I remember once reading a Fleet St profile of Truss pointing out she attended a comprehensive school in Leeds as though she’d been running around cobbled streets minus shoes on her feet; the school was in Roundhay, which for those who don’t know is a tad closer to Hampstead than Hackney. Nevertheless, hers is an interesting back-story in that she emanated from middle-class intellectual Socialist stock ala Ed Miliband, and even if she chose the wrong party from her parents’ perspective, Truss occupies a position in that party which appeals to many Red Wall voters disillusioned with Labour; her publicised criticism of Identity Politics certainly struck a chord with those alienated by the opposition’s vigorous embrace of it.

The most recognisable female face around the Cabinet table after Liz Truss will be Nadine Dorries, a Ministerial virgin; the novelist and former contestant on ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ is now Secretary of State for that mixed bag of miscellany known as Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. To me, it always sounds like a department that those without hardcore political ambitions would probably enjoy being handed, the antithesis of the surrogate Siberia that the Northern Ireland job represented on ‘Yes, Minister’. But, in the same way the progression of Liz Truss from Secretary of State for International Trade to Foreign Secretary feels a logical one, appointing someone with ‘broadcasting experience’ and a fairly successful sideline career as an author to Digital, Culture, Media & Sport seems pretty sensible promotion. Like Truss, Nadine Dorries can also serve as a counterbalance to the privately-educated majority in the Cabinet, and she even has a ‘Working-Class Tory’ story to fall back on, being a born-and-bred council estate Scouser. Both women’s promotions appear a shrewd move on the part of the PM.

Overall, this reshuffle appears to have been relatively well-received after what has been another difficult couple of weeks for Boris. Not only has he suffered the death of his mother, but the most recent YouGov poll concerning voting intentions saw Labour overtake the Tories for the first time since the beginning of the year – 35% to 33%; this came in the wake of the tax increases via National Insurance contributions being announced, supposedly to be invested in social care and the NHS. Why anyone imagined taxes wouldn’t be raised at some point soon after well over a year of the ‘magic money tree’ furlough scheme is a mystery, but no governing party with a reputation for low taxation was going to be able to dig its way out of this one. Sure, there were the usual backbench grumblings, but the Government won the vote to approve the move fairly painlessly. Therefore, the timing of the reshuffle was convenient in terms of taking attention away from an unpopular (if inevitable) manifesto-breaker, but it also has the feel of assembling a fresh team with one eye on the next General Election, which many reckon will only be a couple of years away. However, there’s always the argument that Cabinet reshuffles are little more than superficial short-term fixes, a temporary shot of Botox rather than a full-on facelift.

In an increasingly-rare appearance on GB News – the station he has now officially walked away from as its main anchor – Andrew Neil yesterday made the point that reshuffles are often detrimental to government in that Ministers routinely fail to achieve anything in their jobs because they’re not given enough time to turn around the fortunes of their departments. Perhaps only football managers are expected to perform miracles in a shorter time span than someone bussed into a Ministerial post that has been failing to deliver under its previous stewardship. It’s a valid point, but so much of politics today is dependent on instant results, and if the same tired old faces don’t appear to be doing the business after several years in office the electorate associates them and the administration as a whole with failure; bringing in fresh faces may well be applying a plaster to a wound in need of surgery, but change tends to generate the impression of improvement overnight; and if the new face fails as well, just bring in another.

If Boris Johnson’s first phase at No.10 was defined by Brexit and the Parliamentary turmoil that accompanied its final stages in 2019, the second has undoubtedly been defined by Covid; with both Brexit and the pandemic having claimed the lion’s share of attention at the expense of other pressing issues over the past couple of years, it could be said this is the moment at which Boris is preparing for both the ‘post-war’ era and the next opportunity to give the country a say. Right now, I don’t think even a crystal ball is capable of showing where we’ll be in 2023 or ’24, so it’s impossible to predict if this reshuffle will play its part in deciding whether or not the Tories will be in a fit enough state to pull it off yet again. I suspect a great deal will remain dependent upon the condition of the Opposition as much as anything else. And that’s another piece of challenging guesswork that will make the brain hurt.

© The Editor

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Young Gove‘I awoke one morning and found myself famous.’ So wrote Lord Byron in response to the success of his sprawling narrative poem, ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’; this work, which caught the weary, post-Napoleonic Wars mood of the nation upon its publication, turned Byron into a cult hero for the Romantic generation; and though one cannot dispute his inherited title was probably a fast-track launch-pad that lower-born artists of the era were denied, he still had to deliver the goods to maintain his legend. Had he been a lousy poet, his works wouldn’t have survived his mortality in the way they have. And he lived at a time, as did all artists did up until the growth of mass communication in the 20th century, when at least a modicum of genuine talent was required in order to achieve that by-product known as fame. The concept of people ‘famous for being famous’ was limited during Byron’s lifetime to a small handful of social climbers, debauched aristocrats and their rascally hangers-on, most of whom were unknown beyond their elitist, hedonistic circles. It would take at least another hundred years before such fame (or infamy) would become an international currency.

I only really evoke the ‘famous for being famous’ line because it struck me that the viral spread of this pop cultural cancer, in which we have an abundance of celebrities whose careers seem to consist of simply appearing on TV shows with ‘celebrity’ in the title, is not a million miles away in its aims and aspirations from contemporary politics. The wannabe has an inbuilt craving for fame, whether or not they possess a unique and original talent to achieve it, and if they should become famous regardless of an absence of said talent, the instinctive desire to retain fame at all costs is their sole raison d’être thereafter. The desperate clinging-on of has-beens whose need to remain famous – even if it means being reduced to a laughing stock via whatever humiliations they’re prepared to submit to on television – is testament to how pivotal fame is to their very existence. ‘Famous for being famous’ isn’t really that dissimilar to ‘being in power to be in power’, in that we seem today to have governments whose only real reason to get elected is to recline in the trappings of office.

I suppose at one time we must have had ruling administrations peppered with people who were in politics to improve the lives of others. It just feels like such a quaint idea now that it’s hard to remember if that was ever the case. Certainly in more recent years, and especially with this current shower, we are perpetually lumbered with those whose driving force is merely getting power and then keeping it without doing anything to warrant having it. Perhaps the rise of the career politician has played its part. Travelling along a seamless trajectory that begins with a private education, onto university, into the enclosed bubble of the SPAD, and then election to Westminster, the path of the career politician is a relatively recent phenomenon that prevents its practitioners from coming into contact with ‘real people’ from childhood onwards – and even when they’re pressing the flesh on the campaign trail, it’s still an ‘Us and Them’ scenario in which anyone who isn’t a member of the candidate’s team is an ‘other’, living lives plagued with problems as alien to the politician as someone belonging to a primitive tribe along the Amazon.

This gulf between elected and electorate, the kind that simply wasn’t so vast back when the majority of MPs (on both sides of the House) often went through a series of ordinary jobs unrelated to politics before entering Parliament, inevitably leaves the life experience of yer average Parliamentarian restricted to the insular cocoon of politics, with an inability to understand anything on the outside. It’s perhaps no wonder that, when there’s nothing other than the fatuous greasy pole to relate to as a yardstick, the Holy Grail is just power itself rather than power being seen as the facilitator of the policies that can change millions of lives for the better, power as the necessary tool that is required in order to achieve admirable aims. Today, power for many in politics is the ultimate object of desire, and those that grab it have a habit of forgetting it’s only on loan like, say, the FA Cup is to each different team that wins it. The pull of modern-day political power is almost akin to what the crown represented in ye olde days of rival claimants to the throne waging wars to get their hands on it. Sure, there’s the pretence of old-fashioned altruism as laudable plans for improving the nation are trotted out – usually at party conferences or (particularly) when seeking re-election – but the prime intent appears to be staying in power regardless. The idea of a party wanting a second term in office because it still has good work left to do instead of wanting it merely because it enjoys the prestige of power has become a redundant one.

David Cameron to me never appeared to be anything other than someone who simply wanted to be Prime Minister, end-of; that was the extent of his ambition. His utter detachment from (and disregard of) anyone not like himself or those constituting his social circle was reflected in the way he ran the country, dismissing the concerns of people whose concerns he couldn’t comprehend and didn’t remotely care about; his subsequent activities since leaving office shouldn’t therefore come as much of a surprise. And in Boris Johnson we now have an ideologically, morally and spiritually bankrupt Prime Minister who doesn’t even bother to pretend he’s anything other than a vain, arrogant, avaricious liar. Power to him is a means of elevating his public profile, adding to his already-substantial fortune, and giving him the kind of facile kudos that attracts women who will satisfy the carnal cravings of any pug-ugly doughnut if it gains them a backstage pass to power. For someone like Boris, power is a trophy, and you don’t do anything with it for anybody’s benefit other than your own.

Shame is not a factor of this mindset. Maybe it’s part of the qualification for membership of the political class, though, to know no shame. Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs are routinely exposed as hypocrites, charlatans and crooks and hardly ever exhibit any sign of genuine regret at their actions other than the trite public apology wheeled out on the rare occasions they pay for those actions with the loss of power. And it’s possible this ‘so what?’ shrug of the shoulders is in part bound up with the sense of entitlement and special status they feel they have compared to the man in the street, factors that seem to spare them from the feelings most would be tormented by if caught out behaving badly. Besides, what is the extent of their punishment, anyway? A few months out of the public eye and then an eventual return to government as though nothing ever happened; mind you, memories are so short now that it works in their favour – even when the current method of ‘liquidation’ targets them.

It’s not so long since cricketer Ollie Robinson had the brakes placed on his international career when, just days into his first test series, he was ‘outed’ for apparently offensive tweets from his adolescence. This week, a recording emerged of an obnoxiously precocious Michael Gove as he expressed opinions not uncommon amongst Young Conservatives in the late 80s/early 90s, using several unflattering words to describe homosexuals, women and foreigners of a dark-skinned persuasion in a series of hilarious turns at the Cambridge Union. Considering the first time I became aware of the goblin was when he co-presented a short-lived satirical talk show with David Baddiel on Channel 4 not long after that, it wasn’t surprising to hear he’d been at it earlier. There have been predictable calls for his Cabinet post as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to be taken away, but as I don’t approve of cancel culture – especially for the exhumation of vintage comments from a distant youth – I personally think he should stay where he is. But he won’t be sacked, anyway; unlike everyone else who has been for those very reasons, he will be spared it because of who he is – a person with power surrounded by other people with power. And he wants to keep it for no other reason than he likes it. That’s apparently what it’s for.

© The Editor

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Whilst the majority of last week’s D-Day anniversaries were fitting tributes to those who fought them on the beaches, it was inevitable a degree of nostalgia – even for such dark days – would creep into the commemorations. In the case of the Second World War, we have the comforting hindsight of a happy ending, which participants were denied at the time; but nostalgia – whether for the War via ‘Dad’s Army’ or talking-heads TV celebrating more recent cultural epochs – is a romantic electric blanket that is at its warmest when the chilly present seems to lack certainties. There don’t appear to be any certainties at all right now, and nobody has any idea what comes next other than predicting the worst. By contrast, the past is a benevolent piece of furniture we can curl up in and know where we are.

That said, distance sometimes enables us to discern jewels that were hidden when we were busy living in the past – as Jethro Tull once perhaps pointed out. For example, I’d only have to glance at a handful of posts on here from 2016 to come to the conclusion that 2016 was a terrible year – yet, from my own personal 2019 perspective, I can now see it was one of the happiest times of my life. If anything, this serves as a salient lesson to enjoy what one has whilst one has it instead of waiting for it to be claimed by nostalgia and the belated appreciation that is tinged with wistful regret. But I digress.

When watching the 60s/70s drama ‘Public Eye’ recently, it was telling that, amidst the inevitable presence of so many elements of British life long since gone, a particular plotline caught my eye: Lead character Frank Marker moves from one town to another and has to make an appointment to meet the man who is now his bank manager in order that his account can be transferred from his old branch to his new one. Despite Reg Varney making history with his inaugural withdrawal in 1967, hole-in-the-wall cash machines were hardly a fixture on every street corner through the 1970s, if at all. Alfred Burke’s character couldn’t simply relocate elsewhere and continue to withdraw money from anywhere he happened to be – neither could he manage his financial affairs himself online; all of his payments were physical and if he wanted to invest or withdraw, he needed to go to an actual building and make the exchange over the counter by engaging with a fellow human being.

In a week in which I witnessed the doors of yet another neighbourhood bank branch close for good, this scene from ‘Public Eye’ also reminded me how that mainstay of 70s sitcom jokes, the bank manager, was once an office almost on a par with the local vicar, GP or police constable in terms of ‘civic dignitaries’; they no doubt still count for something in Ambridge, but in urban areas the bank manager is virtually an extinct species. If you, like me, reside in an urban area, you won’t have a bank manager either – nor do you probably know a vicar, a copper or even a GP, at least if your experience of the impersonal surgeries in which a different doctor dispenses medication every time you visit is anything like mine.

In most cases, the clout such professions carried has gone because the environment that elevated them has gone. The absence of belonging that many in an alienating metropolis feel can partly be traced back to the point where the strands of benign authority that helped bind communities together became frayed and then snapped; from village elder to local squire to Sgt Dixon, the people required at least one go-to figure to resolve their disputes. Even if they still do, those figures aren’t around anymore; and, anyway, if authority equates with age, the village elder is most likely now rotting away in a care home. We can’t rely on the police to come running when we dial 999, we can’t get an appointment to see a GP, and our bank no longer has a branch on the high-street. Even if you favour collectivism, you’d be hard pushed to generate it in such a fragmented landscape.

The old concept of community, in which everyone had a part to play and a function to perform, had developed from the village roots of towns and had in turn arisen from ancient tribal divisions of labour; in those parts of the world where the literal meaning of ‘tribe’ still applies, one tends to find these roles remain intact and crucial to the community’s survival. In the west, where communities had grown through being supported and sustained by one specific industry, a sense of place was strong in a way that – following the subsequent black hole of underinvestment since the industry’s collapse – has been rendered utterly redundant. A town’s residents can connect with someone on the other side of the world but might not necessarily know a single person living on their street.

Today, community can be more of abstract concept, often equating with identity; the general trend is for the rejection of shared common ground in favour of individual separateness. Even when people defined by their differences or ‘diversity’ are quick to gather in a facsimile of community, their emphasis on individuality precludes genuine community, hence the endless splitting into endless subdivisions of every community based around identity, underlining how diversity can diversify to the point whereby nobody has anything in common anymore. The 21st century incarnations of the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front are permanently engaged in social media spats that make unity seem like something people only did in the old days. We receive a tantalising taste of it when we pause to commemorate lives lost in conflicts that required unity to succeed; but the fact that WWII will soon cease inhabiting living memory to join the Napoleonic Wars as mere history keeps it firmly in the context of the past.

Politicians being, of course, the cynical old manipulators of the public mood that they instinctively are, sell themselves to the electorate by appealing to the craving for community as it used to be. The pitches of the wretched hopefuls vying to become the new Tory leader (and, unfortunately, Prime Minister) are crammed with fatuous references to ‘bringing the nation together’ as they line-up like a bunch of vacuous suits to be sneered at by Alan Sugar. The fact that they all appear to be falling over each other to see who can produce the best drug-taking anecdote is a bizarre development that could be viewed as either an attempt to appear human (not easy for a Conservative MP) or to pre-empt any dirty digging on the part of their opponents. Personally, my opinion of Michael Gove has not changed one iota now that I know he snorted coke 20 years ago; and to be honest, if I was married to Sarah Vine I’d probably be permanently off my tits on mushrooms, seeing that as the only viable means of achieving domestic bliss.

Understandably, one response to this strange rash of substance abuse confessions from the kind of people you really don’t want to picture snorting or skinning-up has been accusations of hypocrisy. For decades, the Conservative Party has repeatedly opposed any grownup discussions on the antiquated drugs laws and has constantly played the finger-wagging nanny against anyone daring to recreationally indulge. Then again, this ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach that the current confessions appear to emphasise is perhaps especially grating because it sounds so parental, albeit emanating from the most uncaring and irresponsible parents imaginable. If we need our village elders today, Westminster is not the village where we’ll find them.

© The Editor


home-aloneAs if Michael Gove’s copybook wasn’t blotted enough via his perennial blunders as a Minister, not to mention his shameful, backstabbing bid for power in the aftermath of Cameron’s Brexit exit, he’s excelled himself now; he and his wife Sarah Vine – one of many Fleet Street columnists whose profile picture tells a thousand stories about the wonders of airbrushing – have committed a social and moral crime that conjures up horrific images in the minds of millions, images that will be hard to extinguish once they’ve appeared. I know it’s a gruesome thought, but it has to be said: Mr and Mrs Gove are party animals.

The one-time Prime Ministerial hopeful and his missus attended a function for SIX hours, one that would have involved drinking and dancing. If you can, just picture the scene. Not nice, is it? Oh, and while they were doing this, they left their 11-year-old son at the hotel they happened to be stopping at. I don’t know about you, but I think the 11-year-old being spared the sight of his mum and dad gettin’ jiggy to the strains of ‘Blurred Lines’ shows remarkably benign concern on the part of his parents.

The Goves apparently informed hotel staff they’d be back by 9.30pm and didn’t return till 1.30am; according to the Sunday Mirror, which broke the story, a concerned night porter found Gove Junior ‘wandering the corridors, asking where his parents were’. The image of the borderline-teenage son of a former Cabinet Minister checking with a porter at a £250-a-night Cheltenham hotel in order that he could delete his evening’s browsing history before his parents got back is one that evokes the worst kind of Dickensian poverty and is indeed a damning indictment on modern society. No wonder the country is up in arms at this latest act of despicable behaviour by the intellectual darling of the Notting Hill Tories.

As I suspect most reading this were, like me, raised by parents who regarded helicopters as necessary tools of air forces and rescue services as well as the playboy playthings of 70s Radio 1 DJs, the ‘shocking revelations’ courtesy of the Sunday Mirror will probably provoke little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

On my one and only trip to Spain when I was a few months away from making it to the age of eleven, my own parents ‘deserted’ my six-year-old brother and me for probably the same number of hours as the Goves abandoned their son in order that they could attend one of those do’s that came with the obligatory monochrome photo of a Spanish waiter pouring cheap plonk into said parents’ mouths from odd-shaped bottles.

I recall we relished the freedom to roam a hotel free from parental eyes; we only wandered the corridors in the sense that we enacted scenes from ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and ‘The Professionals’. We were left a bit of cash so we could scoff crisps, drink pop and play on the pinball machines. I remember it as the highlight of the holiday.

Post-McCann, of course, parents leaving their children alone for more than a minute means they are failing in their duties and breaking the sacred code of modern parenting. That Gove Junior had been left behind to look after the family pooches actually shows his mater and pater to be responsible dog-owners, but even that admirable gesture will be swept aside in the chorus of condemnation by professional parents within media circles as their avowed aim to infantilise their offspring even when they’re on the cusp of adolescence is challenged. Again, I cannot help but think back to my own formative years and how many times I found myself home alone.

‘Don’t open the door to anyone while I’m gone’ was the extent of the advice issued by my grandma as she prepared to depart for her bingo night with her friend Jean. My granddad was at the pub, but even at the age of eight, I was deemed sensible enough to be left in their house for a few hours on my own during my regular school holiday stays there. My grandma wasn’t going to surrender her weekly outing just because I happened to be present, and my granddad wasn’t going to do likewise re the local hostelry. I had complete control of the TV set in their absence, which itself was a rare treat when I’d become accustomed to my father strolling into our living room at home and abruptly switching off whatever children’s programme I’d been watching so that he could catch the end of the cricket.

I wasn’t ‘abandoned’ or ‘neglected’ by my grandparents; they didn’t chain me to a piss-soaked bed in the cellar while they pursued their usual socialising. They saw nothing wrong in trusting an eight-year-old to be left in their house of an evening, confident he wouldn’t scream the place down or phone the police, and they were right to do so. I loved it. It made me feel grown-up.

A couple of years later, when my parents were both working well beyond the time school closed for the day, it would be my responsibility to collect my younger brother from the infants school opposite my own and take him home (a spare key was obviously required for me to enter the premises); it would probably be an hour or so before my mother was the first parent to arrive back, and neither she nor I thought the arrangement a sign of parental neglect because it wasn’t.

Three or four years before that arrangement was established, my parents would occasionally pop over to another house on the street and spend a few hours with neighbours whilst my brother slept on oblivious and I was allowed to read in bed; they saw this as perfectly reasonable parenting, and I can see now that being given a small sense of self-sufficient independence at a young age helps to stretch the apron strings so that they eventually snap of their own accord at the correct time.

Deeply unfashionable opinion it may well be in this age of cotton wool mollycoddling, but continue to treat children as though they were three or four-years-old when they’re into double figures by denying them both time to themselves and some form of responsibility will leave them utterly unprepared for standing on their own two feet, not to mention being utterly incapable of being able to cope with their own company. But if adolescence has now been expanded well into one’s 20s, I suppose it is logical that childhood is expanded well into one’s adolescence. Yet again, it would seem Michael Gove is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

© The Editor


TexasSo, another back is stabbed, the latest in a frenzy of dagger-wielding to put Norman Bates to shame. Dave stabs Gove; Gove stabs Dave; Boris stabs Dave; Gove stabs Boris. While Jeremy Corbyn seems as bafflingly bewildered by the exodus of his Shadow Cabinet as his wide-eyed disciples, his bemusement with the viciousness of his fellow MPs underlines how his decades on the backbenches didn’t prepare him for the cruel cut-and-thrust of the frontbenches. Oh, politics is a dirty little business; and anybody unaware of this should either not get involved in it or (better still) know their bloody history.

The taste of power must be intoxicating, judging by the way in which it brings out the worst in everyone who comes within a whisker of it. Political history is littered with the corpses of those who blocked the route to power, so numerous that it would take a thousand posts on here to list the fallen. Deals are discarded, promises are broken, friendships are curtailed, alliances are severed – when power’s irresistible scent infects the nostrils, those under its spell will step over anybody to get their grubby paws on the prize

In the current brutal struggle for the future of the Tory Party, one could cite David Cameron’s justified demotion of Michael Gove following his disastrous spell as Education Secretary as the first blow struck. It incensed Mrs Gove – AKA Mail columnist Sarah Vine (she of the ‘It’s all about me’ Private Eye parody) – who has now been portrayed as the Lady Macbeth figure in this melodrama. Losing a household income of £36,000 overnight was evidently regarded by her as an unforgivable action on the part of the PM, and when hubby publicly opposed Dave’s stance by coming out as a Brexiteer Mrs Gove then apparently provoked the ire of Sam Cam following a series of sly tweets on the subject. Siding with Boris, Gove denied he wanted to be PM. A week on from the Referendum result, and a day on from an ‘accidentally leaked’ email by The Wife to the press, the Lord Chancellor has abruptly performed a U-turn, throwing his hat in the ring for the keys to No.10 and bringing about Boris’ shock withdrawal from the contest.

Corbyn’s refusal to budge as the Labour membership continues to venerate him as the second coming of Ghandi has been reinforced both by the decision of Angela Eagle not to stand against him in a leadership contest and the utter dearth of strong contenders to usurp the invisible man. What this challenge to Jezza has exposed is the threadbare talent Labour can boast in Parliament, something that will drag out the crisis and diminish the party’s standing even further. By contrast, while the Opposition commits hara-kiri, the Tories are simply getting on with it as the unsentimental Tories always do.

There’s the anonymous Stephen Crabb, replacement for IDS as Work and Pensions Secretary, a man who once said homosexuality was a disease that can be cured, and a man who evidently hasn’t quite worked out how to properly grow a beard; he’s making a meal of his non-toff background by referencing his one-parent family council house upbringing – just as David Davis did when he ran for the Tory leadership a decade ago; there’s Andrea Leadsom, another virtual unknown who only became a moderately familiar face when she shared some of the platforms during the Referendum TV debates; and, of course, there’s the token old man/making-up-the-numbers Ken Clarke-type candidate in the shape of ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

There’s no denying, however, that the two front-runners will be the Snooper’s Charter Master Theresa May and the dour little goblin himself. May has played the whole Referendum saga cleverly, keeping out of the limelight and allowing others to exhaust the public’s attention; and the exit of Boris from the stage has adhered to the Tory tradition of the favourite falling at the first hurdle, enabling her to emerge from the traps at the eleventh hour. When announcing her intention to run, May declared there won’t be the anticipated autumn or spring election, giving herself plenty of breathing space as an unelected Prime Minister for almost four years – something that seems fittingly ironic when the country has just voted against being ruled by an elite that the electorate never voted for.

So, the choice for the nation’s next PM will be May – with her humourless headmistress ambience and whiny Mavis from ‘Coronation Street’ vocal inflections – or Gove, with his sixty-year-old man trapped in a twelve-year-old boy’s body/Brains from ‘Thunderbirds’ demeanour. A choice between a matron in kitten heels and another Murdoch crony with a missus spreading the word via the Daily Dacre; and unless you’re a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, it’s a choice you have no say in at all. Yes, it’s good to be back in the bosom of democracy now we’re free from Brussels bureaucrats, isn’t it?

GORDON MURRAY (1921-2016)

MurrayThe death at the age of 95 of Gordon Murray, creator of the ‘Trumptonshire Trilogy’ of ‘Camberwick Green’, ‘Trumpton’ and ‘Chigley’, was announced today. The first of the trio was initially broadcast in the monochrome days of 1966, though he had the foresight to produce it in colour, which gave the series and its two sequels a longevity that carried it from the late 1960s all the way into the early 1990s as a perennial pre-school treat on lunchtime BBC1. The gentle portrayal of idyllic English village life probably seemed anachronistic even in 1966, yet the charm it effortlessly exuded and the sense of easing the viewer back into a womb-like state of blissful childhood comfort never waned and no doubt accounts for its lengthy shelf-life as a TV fixture.

Although interconnected and often confused with one another, each instalment in the Trumptonshire saga had its own distinctive qualities. ‘Trumpton’ opened every episode with the town hall clock and the two figures striking the bell, whereas ‘Camberwick Green’ opened every episode with the musical box from which that week’s profiled character would emerge. The musical accompaniment – each lead personality in Trumptonshire had their own theme song – featured the vocal talents of ‘Play School’ legend Brian Cant, and everyone for whom these songs constituted the aural backdrop to infancy can remember them.

From the Trumpton Fire Brigade to the troops of Pippin Fort, from Windy Miller to Lord Belborough, and from the drone-like workers at the biscuit factory to PC McGarry, it’s a wonder Gordon Murray’s Little England wasn’t evoked at some point during the recent EU Referendum, so exquisitely does it paint a picture of a nation that never was for a nation that always wanted it. The man who gifted more than one generation of children the kind of children’s programme that, as with the finest works of Oliver Postgate, defied the contemporary view that kids need to be slapped around the head with loud and fast images to prevent their allegedly short attention spans from wandering has left us a legacy that is as rich as any that the written word gave us in the centuries before the medium of television entered the arena. It may have been a product of an era that has now sadly receded into history, but it’s preserved forever – not just on digital disc, but in our heads. God bless, Gordon.

© The Editor