THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT

There have been a lot of Twitter knickers in a twist over the past 48 hours; then again, it’s hard to think of a time when there aren’t. The globe’s favourite social media platform for the outraged and offended has rarely observed such a thing as a Sabbath, and the polarising political climate in Britain since June 2016 has seen Twitter established as the battleground that never sleeps. Every development instigated by one side of the Brexit divide is fought at its most furious by the other not in the Commons, but in cyberspace; and after Tuesday’s coming together of Remainer MPs – despite the amusingly delusional Jo Swinson’s refusal to accept the candidacy of the Leader of the Opposition in the event of one unelected PM usurping another – the bursting of their bubble by Boris 24 hours later sent melodramatic hysteria into unmissable overdrive.

First of all, there was Brexiteer outrage at Remainer attempts to sabotage democracy as an effective Second Referendum/Revoke Article 50/Scrap Brexit coalition belatedly emerged; then there was Remainer outrage at Brexiteer attempts to sabotage democracy by proroguing Parliament and denying debate on the issue until there’s not enough time left to stop the No Deal Apocalypse. Both opposing parties are claiming ‘The People’ as their own, even though the people in question are merely those on their respective sides of the barricades; those who voted the wrong way can go whistle or at least submit to a course of re-education to understand why they’re in the wrong and the other side is in the right. Over three years on, and Cameron’s toxic legacy is more divisive than ever; indeed, it’s hard to see any potential resolution between the warring factions at all. A shame Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are no longer around to bring everyone together.

However, thank God so many of the entitled egomaniacs fuelling the divisions remain oblivious to how stupid (and inadvertently entertaining) they are. Paul Mason played a manic street preacher preaching to the converted in a video aired on ‘Newsnight’ before appearing in the studio, predicting Poll Tax Riots-style civil unrest as the inevitable outcome if his side don’t get their way; and this after his side have constantly decried the other side for intimidating Remainer MPs outside Parliament, as though the other side’s notion of expressing their democratic right to protest somehow lacks the ‘purity’ of his side’s right to do likewise. To emphasise his working-class credentials, Mason invoked the fighting spirit of his hometown Leigh, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan (to which Leigh belongs) voted 63.9 % Leave in 2016; but maybe Leigh has suffered the same post-industrial dismissal by the political class – the one that Mason’s attitude upholds – as neighbouring Bury; no wonder such places remain defined by what little they have left, like their football clubs…

John McDonnell, a man whose approach to taking on his opponents is juvenile at best, was also on hand with the microphone at the impromptu alfresco shindig in the wake of yesterday’s Downing Street announcement, as was Diane ‘abacus’ Abbott and Keir ‘Plastic Man’ Starmer. Nobody present could be left in any doubt that those who have facilitated the longest unbroken Parliamentary session since the Civil War are outraged. Such outrage was noticeably absent from the Remoaner camp when an electronically-tagged convicted criminal who just happened to be a Labour MP played her part in disrupting democracy by casting the decisive vote a few months ago, of course, and what of Mr Speaker himself? Little John has hardly been a bastion of impartiality, has he? But it’s okay ‘cause he’s one of us. The hypocrisy is hilarious.

I should imagine the PM probably had the proroguing plan ready and waiting for the right moment and he certainly seems to have timed it to perfection, ensuring Brenda’s seal of approval just one day after the parade of smug, holier-than-thou signatories to Jezza’s proposal queued-up on camera to sing from a shared hymn sheet at last, united in their righteous conviction. When the other side try to enact the will of the majority, that other side divides; when they try to enact the will of the minority, they unify; when the other side tries to prevent those responsible for blocking a democratic decision for three years from continuing to do so, it’s a coup; when they attempt to put together a fantasy ‘Caretaker Government’ of hand-picked losers for the purpose of reversing that democratic decision, they’re saving the nation.

It’s handy that we’re on the eve of the 80th anniversary of Mr Chamberlain’s declaration of war, for the tireless and tedious evocation of ‘fighting them on the beaches’ by Brexiteers not even old enough to have been Mods or Rockers in the 60s is a baton that has now been grabbed by the other side. After rightly ridiculing the irrelevant summoning of the Dunkirk Spirit by their opponents, some prominent Remoaners have once again decided when they do the same thing it’s not the same at all. ‘You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend’ tweeted Hugh Grant – not from beaches littered with bodies; ‘Weep for Britain. A sick, cynical and brutal and horribly dangerous coup d’état’ added Stephen Fry – not from a dead and long-abandoned Lancashire mill-town.

Perish the thought that politicians might be motivated by cynical self-interest, of course; the possibility Boris Johnson could be seeking to hold onto his job via his recent actions is as appalling as the possibility Jeremy Corbyn could be seeking to steal it via his recent actions. No, as ever, the moral high-ground is always with whichever guys you have decided are the good ones.

A three-week suspension of Parliament by the PM is standard procedure in the early autumn, allowing the party conference season to progress free from its star performers being recalled to Westminster for an emergency vote; adding a couple of weeks to the usual break is not really surprising considering the circumstances. Neither is the fact that by doing so, all those who endorse the decision are going back on what they’d said on the subject just a few weeks or tweets ago. They’re being led by Boris Johnson, don’t forget. After imagining they’d pulled a master-stroke in managing to temporarily gather all No Deal opponents under one united umbrella, the Remainer brigade are now confronted by the inevitable fact they have even less time to finally kill a democratic mandate than they thought. No wonder they’re upset. They’re going to take it to the streets, apparently; I wonder if Jon Snow will be on hand to count the number of non-white faces when they do.

© The Editor

THE FEAR

I remember a first date once, which – though an encouraging start – turned out to be merely the prologue to another example of why my being one half of ‘a lovely couple’ is the relationship equivalent of a coalition government, i.e. an exceedingly rare aberration destined to end in tears. But I was younger at the time, so can be excused. And, anyway, she was a fascinating woman who worked for a charity and was about to jet off on a related business trip to New York. A second date was definitely on the cards, but the Manhattan outing would put it back a week or two. I resolved to pick up some kind of quirky guide to the Big Apple for her and pass it on before she packed her suitcase.

One topic of conversation that came up during the evening was a shared recollection of early 80s nuclear paranoia. She and I recalled the collective fear of those years, when pre-apocalypse tension infected the culture and seemed doomed to become a self-fulfilling prophesy; it was the age of Greenham Common, ‘Threads’ and ‘Two Tribes’. My date and I agreed such a bleak atmosphere genuinely (and thankfully) appeared to be a thing of the past – at least where the west was concerned. And when, you may ask, did this rather pleasant exchange take place? Why, to be exact, September 10 2001.

I was in a second-hand bookshop the following day when, having located just the kind of offbeat volume I’d intended, I heard something strange was happening at the World Trade Centre; the shopkeeper shrewdly informed me a fire in one of the twin towers had sent it crashing to the ground only after I’d bought the bloody book. Of course, it was no use to its recipient, as the trip to New York was cancelled and the state of global emergency she and I had perhaps unwisely relegated to the past tense suddenly re-emerged uglier than ever in the here and now. And, although the panic 9/11 unleashed unsurprisingly lasted longer than my dalliance with this particular lady, the numerous offshoots of the September 11 attacks that are still with us have sadly become part of the cultural wallpaper.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that those of us who were transfixed by the grotesque sights on our TV screens 18 years ago have gradually become immune to the horrors embodied in the events of 9/11 since. But exposure to subsequent wars and terrorist atrocities with their roots in that day could possibly have engendered a subliminal immunity so that what initially provoked genuine fear of a potential WWIII scenario is now met with shoulder-shrugging weariness. During the recent blanket coverage of the first Moon Landing’s 50th anniversary, one overlooked fact left out of the celebrations was that the viewing public of the time became bored with the great adventure so quickly that the only other Apollo mission anyone ever recalls is 13 – and that crew never even made it to their destination. When an achievement as immense as men on the moon can induce a jaded response as one lunar landing rapidly follows another, perhaps the repeated detonation of bombs in a crowded environment fails to maintain the level of shock such an appalling act warrants simply because it’s just one more atrocity in a very long line of them.

The world is far more intricately connected today than it was in 2001 – a period when social media was in its infancy and traditional mediums still had a monopoly on the way we consumed news. Indeed, the only occasion in which I can ever remember the newspaper racks being emptied in my local supermarket was the day after 9/11; everybody had clearly purchased a paper as a souvenir, just as their fathers (or grandfathers) had when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It’s hard to imagine that happening with an equivalent incident today. I suspect many a website or search engine would crash, but there’d still be plenty of Fleet Street’s finest waiting to find a home. Then again, how long would shock linger now? Long enough for that interminable 24 hours between a story breaking and it making the physical front page? Probably not. The nature of how news is transmitted to the masses has changed so much since 2001 that the manner of its digestion has changed too – as has its presentation, presumably in order to hold the diminishing attention span of the reader. Often it seems that stories which don’t really deserve the dramatic headline ape the major event so that each and every item battling for space has to be given the full (to use a quaint old phrase) ‘stop press’ treatment.

It could be a result of living through two traumatic post-9/11 decades or it could simply be my age, but I find I don’t lose sleep over any of the news stories designed to provoke panic nowadays. I feel almost ashamed to admit it, for I realise I’m supposed to be in a perpetual state of fear – fear of climate change or Brexit or knife-crime or the far-right or the far-left or Boris or Corbyn or Trump or Putin or China or North Korea or No Deal…and yet, I’m not. However, that’s not to say I don’t care; caring about an important issue and (on occasion) being passionate about a few is listed on my membership card of the human race – and I hope that’s been evident in some of the things I’ve written here. But I don’t worry about today’s shock-horror stories, certainly not the level of worry I’m constantly told I should feel. Then again, being told how I should feel is something that media in all its current incarnations has come to specialise in.

Media of the social variety is regularly – and often rightly – castigated for its ‘echo chamber’ tendencies, and (should I wish to do so) I can certainly think of an easy way in which I could severely deplete my friends list on Facebook overnight, simply by expressing an opinion I’m not supposed to possess, let alone express. But hasn’t the new media merely learnt the lessons of the old media? Yes, Facebook and Twitter reflect users’ already established opinions back at them, confirming biases and upholding prejudices whilst discouraging discovering different perspectives; but then again, so do the Daily Mail and the Guardian. This trend could also be responsible for the current vogue in looking at an unfavourable event from a favourable angle in order to make it more palatable to those it upsets.

The remarkable success of the Brexit Party in the recent European Elections was countered by its opponents combining the split Remain vote as spurious evidence that Nigel’s barmy army didn’t actually win after all. The same tactic was applied in the wake of the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election by the other side, showing how putting the Tory and Brexit Party votes together somehow proved the Lib Dems were actually the losers. The fact that none of these combinations actually appeared as such on the ballot paper is regarded as almost immaterial when it comes to a ‘moral victory’ – or it could just be that this curious development proves how the Remainer/Leaver divide now counts for more than traditional party allegiances.

I considered using Nick Ross’s sage advice as the title for this post, and then remembered I’d used it as the title of an obituary for ‘Crimewatch’ I penned on here whenever it was that the show ended its lengthy run. As a matter of fact, I do have nightmares – constantly; and they’re horrible, far worse than any I had as a kid. But they’re all of a domestic nature, nocturnal kitchen-sink dramas featuring those I have loved and those I have lost; they don’t contain any bogeymen that dominate national or international headlines at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m in a strange place that I don’t scare easily anymore – at least when I’m awake.

© The Editor

ONE OF THOSE WEEKS IN ENGLAND

‘We’re becoming a very petty nation!’ So declared the officious Inspector Pratt on a 1972 episode of ‘Z-Cars’; he was incensed by the attitude of two long-haired scruffs in custody after they refused to co-operate and sign statements on the subject of their arrest. They’d been nicked driving a digger away from a building site, having missed the last train home; and they’d missed said train due to being held up during a pub raid conducted by Inspector Pratt barely a minute after the towels had been draped over the pumps. It was a quiet evening on the night-shift (not so much knife-crime in early 70s Newtown) and Inspector Pratt decided to undertake an operation that ironically echoed his own sentiments in all its intransigent pettiness. Clever writing in a TV series from almost half-a-century ago nevertheless makes a still-relevant point about hypocrisy and double standards, how one side can see pettiness in the other whilst simultaneously being blind to its own.

He’s been labelled an arrogant narcissist more than once, and Julian Assange resembling the rediscovered Radovan Karadžić with his big white beard as he was dragged kicking and screaming back onto British soil by the Met at their most camera-conscious could be seen as a sign of where we are on so many levels. The dramatic end of Assange’s unique Ecuadorian experience was a piece of Performance Art entirely in keeping with his seven-year tenancy of that distant nation’s London embassy. I would imagine conditions for Assange during his self-imposed incarceration probably resembled your average Daily Mail-reader’s fantasy of the conditions enjoyed by everyone detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure; but it was a prison, all the same – and Assange knew his sentence wouldn’t be indefinite.

The Aussie shit-stirrer took up residency at 3 Hans Crescent in Knightsbridge in June 2012, ostensibly to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault; whether grounded in fact or fiction, these allegations conveniently appeared in the wake of the whistle-blowing of the web-based organisation Assange is credited with founding, WikiLeaks. A sequence of clandestine classified documents were let loose in the public arena by WikiLeaks in 2010/11, most of which related to unpleasant American activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Assange’s appetite for self-publicity, it didn’t take a genius to calculate that the US Government wasn’t going to let him get away with exposing their misdeeds, so the Swedish allegations could be seen as a marvellous stroke of serendipity.

There’s no doubt WikiLeaks have released information that certain injured parties would rather wasn’t made public; the catch-all ‘National Security’ excuse works wonders in keeping such unflattering information under wraps, though there has been criticism over WikiLeaks’ reluctance to probe Russian documents in a similarly forensic manner to that which they’ve probed American ones. To most folk worn down by revelations of all powers-that-be being rotten, corrupt and generally pretty horrible, however, it’s hard to see how anything they might uncover on Putin’s regime could shock anyone in 2019. And whilst Donald Trump certainly wasn’t complaining when the organisation helped derail the Clinton campaign during the 2016 US Presidential Election, Mr President now professes ignorance over WikiLeaks. Regardless of a change in administration, the American Government as an institution finally has its opportunity to attempt extradition of Assange, something many have long predicted – including Assange confidant Pamela Anderson, who claimed the UK is ‘America’s Bitch’.

The former ‘Baywatch’ pin-up made an observation that has regularly been expressed with varying degrees of terminology since the humiliating forced withdrawal from Suez in 1956; but this week has also seen embarrassing events exceeding our poodle status to Uncle Sam. No longer a purchaser of a physical paper, I’m not aware if any of Fleet Street’s cartoonists have depicted Theresa May in the role of Oliver Twist holding out a begging bowl to the Brussels mandarins, asking for more; but it seems such an obvious open goal that I’d be surprised if any of them passed up the chance to hit the back of the net. After all, the last day of this working week was the second of the meaningless Brexit D-Days, following the no-show of March 29. Now we’ve had to pencil-in Halloween for third time lucky.

There shouldn’t really be anything left to say about Mrs May’s atrocious performance as PM; the lady’s for turning, lest we forget – and she’s done little but go back on every public statement on the subject of Brexit she’s made since 2016. Whether simple obstinacy from an unimaginative plodder or a deliberate delaying tactic of a Remainer representing a Parliament of Remainers in order to prevent the votes of 17 million from being enacted, who knows? Almost three years on from the decision of the majority, the UK now faces the bizarre prospect of selecting candidates to stand for the European Parliament when we shouldn’t even be there. Never a man to shy away from the spotlight, Nigel Farage unsurprisingly chose April 12 to launch his Brexit Party, which will probably compete with TIG under their new ‘Change UK’ title to exploit the most headlines from the Elections the UK was never supposed to contest. Short-term gain may be the aim, but if Farage’s latest venture can drain votes away from the BNP-lite that UKIP has finally descended into via the recruitment of Tommy Robinson as its mascot, good luck to him. He won’t be getting my vote, but neither will anyone else.

Anything more to report this week? Well, the philosopher Roger Scruton suffered a stitch-up at the hands of the New Statesman, whose interviewer rearranged Scruton’s statements to portray the former Tory Government adviser as a racist anti-Semite – though anyone to the right of Dave Spart is Hitler to the New Statesman; and the knee-jerk vigilante justice of social media is so entrenched as a legitimate judge and jury by now that Scruton was destined to be executed online the moment he agreed to the interview. At least Scruton had the balls to stand up for himself during the engineered outrage and not kowtow to the consensus.

At the other end of the scale, a young actress on ‘Emmerdale’ also received the chop and was forced into the obligatory online apology for tweets she apparently issued as a teenager. She was sacked for the crime of ‘Historical Offensive Tweets’ – yes, this actual term was used as a reason for her dismissal; Twitter has now been with us long enough for tweets from six years ago to be regarded as ‘historical’. One could say let this be a lesson to the Kids not to share their every intimate thought with their followers; but in a world in which an online footprint is now part of the fabric of life from the moment one emerges from the womb, how can it be avoided in future – even if one wonders how much an adult can be held responsible for what they said as a child or adolescent. Isn’t it all a bit…oh, I dunno…North Korea?

The same year the aforementioned ‘Z-Cars’ episode aired, I caused minor consternation amongst teaching staff at my first school when I drew a picture of Pinky & Perky at Christ’s crucifixion; if it had been preserved online had online existed at the time, would I now be regarded as anti-Semitic? Pork! Jesus! Call the cops! Oh, well – at least there’s a spare room at the Ecuadorian Embassy if I need it. Hmmm, if we weren’t a petty nation in 1972, we appear to be one today.

© The Editor

THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

And there was me expecting Friday’s ‘Newsnight’ to come live from the white cliffs of Dover, whereupon Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris, Nigel and Tommy Robinson were scheduled to link arms at 11.00pm and treat us all to a rousing chorus of ‘Jerusalem’. It didn’t happen. I should imagine our lords and masters across the Channel were poised to give us nul points in the event, but there’s always 12 April. Don’t bank on it. Not tweaked quite enough and still not convincing enough for 344 dishonourable members, it was third time unlucky for Mrs May’s deal earlier in the day and, after a week in which Parliament ‘took control’ from the executive only to prove itself just as inept, the day that should have been the day ended in one more damp squib.

Theresa May’s tactic of dragging this out till the last minute so that the only alternative to her deal is no deal has proven to be as disastrous as all her other tactics. But is anyone really surprised anymore? Few fell for her crass offer of throwing money at deprived communities ‘oop north’; few fell for the carrot of knighthoods and peerages; and few fell for her announcement that she’d quit if her withdrawal agreement passed. Yes, even the ultimate sacrifice that most in her party crave failed to bring in the required numbers. The PM has tried to wheel and deal, but she’s no Harold Wilson.

According to some reports, May is going to try again next week; if it fails, she’ll probably give it another go the week after…and the week after that…and on and on and on until we all take the route recommended by the Reverend Jim Jones. Our Glorious Leader doesn’t yet seem to have realised she’s not running an administration with a vast majority, one that gives her cart-blanche to do what the hell she likes without having to acknowledge any other views in her divided house. I suspect some have attempted to point that out to her, but I’ve a feeling she probably stuck her fingers in her ears and went ‘Blaah blaah blaah blaah.’ I don’t believe a second referendum will resolve this bloody mess, nor do I believe a General Election will; but at the moment, the latter option seems absolutely essential, if only as a political laxative to end Westminster’s constipation and prompt a much-needed evacuation.

I became conscious and aware of the institution of Parliament and the office of Prime Minister perhaps around the time of the two 1974 Elections; kids ask questions, especially when they get a day off school and it’s not a Bank Holiday. Therefore, I’ve lived through quite a few different Governments of different colours over the last 40-odd years and I’ve occasionally done my bit at the polling station. But I can honestly say this staggering shambles that keeps defying the odds by outdoing itself is unprecedented in my lifetime. It simply cannot go on for much longer in its current incarnation, and neither can the Conservative Party with a leader capable of giving IDS a run for his money as its worst ever.

But then what? Looking at the prospective replacements for May feels like swiping through the world’s worst dating app, whereas Corbyn’s frontbench is about as appetising as the ‘reduced’ goods past their sell-by date on a supermarket shelf. Could any of them really do any better? And even if one takes the egos of the worst offenders into account, what madman or woman would really relish stepping into May’s hideous shoes right now? Theresa May won’t be packing up the nation’s troubles in an old kit bag when she exits Downing Street; they’ll all still be here when she’s gone. A General Election won’t magically wave them away, but I suppose it might possibly serve as a de facto referendum in terms of the electorate having their say on how their elected representatives have handled things since the last time the hustings were active. It’s hard to see an imminent General Election as anything else at this moment in time, despite the backlog of other pressing issues that are gathering dust and languishing in a criminal state of neglect.

A friend of mine recently spoke of how he had gradually reduced the amount of time he spends inhabiting the parallel universe of social media and feels all the better for it. Indeed, the more hours in a day one spends within the realms of that facsimile reality, the more one loses touch with the fact that its daily howl barely registers beyond the borders of cyberspace. ‘Are trans-women real women?’ isn’t necessarily the question on the lips of people juggling limited finances and deciding which bill takes priority this month; perhaps those with the luxury of debating trivialities regard them with such importance because they’re not plagued with moribund concerns. The thought that identity politics mean anything to those outside of the context social media junkies operate in is laughable. If one were to take Twitter as a microcosm of the real world then Titania McGrath would be Prime Minister.

While the brilliant spoof account of Titania McGrath satirises detachment via inherited privilege and/or bourgeois metropolitan comfort, one cannot help but see Westminster as a similarly detached bubble – with the significant difference being these living, breathing caricatures are affecting the lives of real people. The actual issues that have had a traumatic impact on the lives of those on the other side of that bubble have barely touched those inside it, hence the absence of empathy and absence of conscience when continuing to inflict them upon the rest of the populace or outsourcing them to some useless private company only in it for the profit. Perhaps empathy would be rated a little higher if the eye-opening experiment Matthew Parris took part in for ‘World in Action’ in the early 80s, living off the minimum benefits his government declared sufficient for living off, was compulsory training for every prospective MP.

The disconnect between elected and electorate that probably dates from the Expenses’ Scandal and Hackgate has only been intensified by Brexit, but the deliberate policy of delaying tactics which all colours have been guilty of seems to demonstrate the political class has learnt nothing from the last ten years. Events of the past week-and-a-bit have done little to alter my opinion of our elected representatives or their celebrity cheerleaders. Much is made of the ERG school of rich Brexiteer; but what of the loudest voices from the other side? Whether residing in the nicer parts of London, the nicer parts of the Home Counties, or simply wealthy ex-pats, these voices are not unlike those of the Hollywood-based Scots that the SNP flew over for the 2014 Independence Referendum, before swiftly depositing them back on Californian soil after the vote so they could avoid paying backdated UK tax. Weariness with endless lectures from wealthy chaps is something both sides of this divide share; but at least it means we’ve got something in common. Maybe we should use it to our advantage.

© The Editor

MAD AS HELL

Anger – there’s a lot of it about. In a young man behaving badly, it allegedly constitutes part of his kicking-against-the-pricks obnoxious charisma; over-40, however, and you’re in Victor Meldrew territory. Perhaps by then you’re supposed to have settled down and accepted your miserable lot because you can’t beat the system; any sign of continued exasperation with The Man is merely the mark of a grumpy old git. And as grumpy old gits outnumber the young today, they’re not the most popular members of society; after all, weren’t they supposed to have delivered Brexit (or so the story goes)?

Yet, take a detour into social media, supposedly the chosen forum for The Kids, and you’ll find anger appears to be the prime vehicle for expression, whatever your age or even sex. Whether you’re a snowflake student seeking to no-platform someone you disagree with, a yummy mummy infuriated by your rival at the school gates, a sci-fi nerd incensed by the latest entry in your favourite movie franchise, or an Instagram pouter compelled to ‘fat-shame’ the It Girl of the moment, anger is in abundance. And even if you refrained from commenting, just ask yourself if any tweet or post made you angry today. It must have been a rare day indeed if none did. So much of what we encounter online appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect, a fast-track to a gut reaction which is perhaps a defining characteristic of our response to today’s numerous issues.

Step back out of cyberspace, though, and anger is just as prevalent. Ethnic adolescents being stopped and searched by the police; redundant white males navigating the benefits trap; distraught parents confronted by the PC intransigence of social services; touchline fathers convinced that goal was offside; whining Remoaners/foaming-at-the-mouth Brexiteers; motorists, pedestrians, supermarket shoppers – it’s as though modern society, which is supposed to be such an improvement on the days when we were primitive savages living in huts and dying from the Plague (i.e. the 1970s), has oddly exacerbated anger rather than sedated it, spawning a strain of tourette’s that afflicts the collective population of the western world. The great panaceas that corporations have developed to make life easier than it apparently used to be has instead created endless sources of frustration; our seeming inability to resolve them can make veritable mountains out of trivial molehills.

Whenever the issue of widespread drug abuse surfaces as a topic, the ‘why do people do it’ question always seems to me a no-brainer; if our wonderful system provided the same kind of blissful release that comes from a spliff or a syringe, there’d be no need to turn to an illegal alternative. Yes, millions switch on the bloody ‘X-Factor’ for an escape into voluntary mental paralysis; but for just as many that toxic breed of contrived gladiatorial entertainment is as much a part of the problem as the fastidious speed camera or the pensioner plodding in the middle of the pavement or the letter from British Gas claiming you owe them money when you don’t or the computer crashing without warning. Sometimes, these little annoyances group together and conspire to do their stuff simultaneously; when this happens, it can seem like the whole world is against us. And we get angry.

One only has to scroll down three or four comments on yer average YouTube video for discourse to descend into racist name-calling. A typical example would be some archive and utterly innocuous footage of a London street from half-a-century ago; most marvel at the minimal amount of traffic or the fascinating fashions, then somebody comments on the absence of ‘coloured’ faces and all hell breaks loose. Anger again. Same goes for the response to spoof Twitter accounts such as the brilliantly satirical Titania McGrath, following on from similar spoof accounts of posh SJWs that were taken seriously – and literally – by those bereft of a sense of humour and ended up being deleted by the powers-that-be as a consequence. People are becoming so accustomed to taking things at face value that shades of grey don’t compute. I guess the easy default button today is simply to get angry, even when it’s blatantly obvious someone’s just taking the piss.

Granted, there are undoubtedly moments concerning more important issues where anger is understandable. Anyone who has the stomach for merely a cursory glance at the PM’s draft Brexit withdrawal ‘deal’, which leaves this country more subservient to the EU than it was under actual membership, cannot help but feel angry. Regardless of which side of the great divide one resides on, it’s hard not to come away from such a pitiful (not to say cynical) white flag feeling as though calls for a second referendum are meaningless when we’re essentially remaining anyway. It certainly gives every appearance of being a betrayal of a democratic mandate on an unprecedented scale (and final confirmation that our voice counts for sod all in the corridors of power), but what can any of us do about it? Sweet FA, mate. How many marched to stop the invasion of Iraq way back when? It doesn’t matter because it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference. So, what’s left for us but anger? Unfortunately, anger is bloody exhausting.

The recent upsurge of interest in old-school hobbies like knitting or sewing – ones still negatively associated by more than one generation with blue-rinsed nanas – suggests the novelty of an archaic pastime and its defiantly non-twenty-first century ability to reduce blood pressure has a Zen-like appeal for some. And, while such a sedate interlude might be a little too twee for everyone, the allure of something so alien to the instant nature of contemporary click-bait culture is unarguable. If hi-tech creature-comforts can often increase our tendency towards anger, perhaps it’s no surprise their simpler predecessors are attractive as a means of calming us down.

This has happened before, though; think of the 60s Rock Gods who, having purchased the recognisable symbols of success that the consumerist conveyor belt had prepared earlier, suddenly realised mansions and Rolls Royce’s didn’t actually make their lives that much more fulfilled. They then rejected these flashy trappings and began dressing like hirsute hobos as they got back to the garden. Yes, they had the luxury of being able to afford an approximation of rustic simplicity, but this abrupt embrace of nature then bled into the wider movement for self-sufficiency that has proved enduring as a rat-race opt-out, despite Margot and Jerry’s objections.

Of course, reclining in the arms of a beautiful woman (or non-binary individual of your choice) could suffice as a preferable approach to anger management. The causes of anger can be rendered irrelevant when mankind’s oldest notion of escapism intervenes, and whilst there may still be plenty to be angry about beyond the bedroom, none of it seems that significant in the heat of passion. So, is that really the reason for the abundance of anger in 2018 – not enough people are getting laid? Well, I guess that depends on how much you value the purely physical over potentially spiritual. Add love to the sex mix and you’re elevated to a much higher level, one that outlasts the momentary gratification of base lust. Base lust is a much more accurate metaphor for the present day, however. We want the world and we want it now, as someone once said a long time ago. Maybe that’s the problem.

© The Editor

AM I BOVVERED?

‘Meh’ was once the term particularly prevalent on social media five or six years back (could be more – who cares?) that was intended to verbalise a shrug of the shoulders and condense ‘I couldn’t give a f**k’ into one short, sharp shock of a statement. I never thought I’d miss a word so characteristic of this rotten century’s habit of shortening the English language into an endless sequence of edited sound-bites; but ‘meh’ seems so apt when it comes to the last 48 hours. Prince Harry getting engaged – meh; Donald Trump tweeting Britain First videos – meh. There are people I know who are having to deal with serious issues considerably more significant than ‘the spare’ getting hitched to the whitest mixed-race divorcee on the market or the President of the USA presenting virtue-signalling MPs with another opportunity to denounce him as the reincarnation of Hitler.

Prince Harry, the Hooray Henry of disputable parentage and the Margaret to William’s Elizabeth, spent his youth cutting a ginger swathe through the tabloids either in the altogether or wearing a Swastika, and then redeemed his reputation in the eyes of those who give a shit by playing the soldier for Granny & Country before embarking upon the tried-and-tested route of doing something charitable for ‘Our Boys’ to show he wasn’t just another upgrade of self-indulgent Hanoverian excess in the absence of something to do. By announcing his engagement to a glorified Kardashian, Harry has gifted Fleet Street with one more reason to recycle the same tired old clichés anew in its never-ending Windsor propaganda programme for a nation that wouldn’t be remotely interested were it not for BBC1 and ITV plugging this nauseating shit on a loop as some form of superficial panacea for the people while they struggle to make ends meet.

With Meghan Markle being American, it was only a matter of excruciating seconds before the spectre of Wallis Simpson infiltrated the coverage, though it should be noted that Mrs Simpson was having it off with a man poised to become King and Emperor in an age in which both Catholics and divorcees were barred from ascending to consort status. Harry is currently fifth in line to the throne and will drop another place come the birth of the third sprog to emerge from the marriage of William and Kate, scheduled to be born on the front page of the Daily Express next spring. It’s not exactly a constitutional crisis, is it?

As for Meghan Markle’s countryman ensconced in the White House, this has been a week in which Mr President has given the left in this country one more open goal they’ve made the most of. His ill-advised re-tweets of gruesome videos posted by Britain First have led to renewed calls to withdraw the invite for a state visit that Theresa May made with uncomfortable haste in the wake of his victory in the US Presidential Election last year. The Donald’s Twitter adventures were a source of both entertainment and outrage even before he ascended to the pinnacle of power, but the hounds unleashed by his latest social media faux-pas have certainly sparked some delicious holier-than-thou hypocrisy in the Commons this week.

A few Tories such as Sajid Javid have broadcast their reactions, whereas Labour MP Naz Shah – a woman so thick and quick to virtue-signal that she re-tweeted a mischievous comment by the fake Owen Jones without pausing to notice his surname was spelt differently – has added her voice to the Trump condemnation by agreeing with a veteran backbencher from her own party that the President should be charged with ‘Hate Crime’. The usual Labour suspects such as ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ dummy David Lammy and Emily ‘Lady Nugee’ Thornberry have lined-up to wear their mortification as T-shirts, and Chris Bryant reminded the electorate he’s still alive by accusing Trump of ‘inciting religious hatred’ – sorry, but are we living in Cromwell’s Commonwealth? Blasphemy laws should have been blown to smithereens with the Gunpowder Plot. They have no place in the twenty-first century, regardless of how Islam has been ring-fenced as a special case above and beyond any criticism, thus sending those unable to express reservations into the arms of illiterate rabble-rousers like Britain First.

Theresa May has added her voice to the condemnation and provoked a defensive response from Trump himself; the PM’s scripted stance has earned her support amongst Trump’s opponents in the US, including a rather worrying Tweet from Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (no, me neither), who declared the PM was ‘one of the great world leaders’ and proclaimed he has ‘incredible love and respect for her and the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence’. Is that the turbulence of Brexit, the turbulence caused by her own unruly Cabinet, or ‘the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom’ that the President spoke of following Mrs May’s criticism of him, I wonder?

Donald Trump is too dim and full of himself to avoid walking into these PR disasters, yet those who are on a permanent vigil to rip him to shreds whenever he puts his foot in it again, and are anticipating being showered in plaudits for doing so, are no better – the same self-serving, egotistical wankers whose desperate cries for attention mean no more to me than Prince Harry’s nuptials. F**k the lot of ‘em.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

THE F**K-IT LIST

You may recall a post on here last year titled ‘Tumbleweed Injunction’, all about a story involving a certain Grande Dame of British pop music who couldn’t be named by the mainstream media on account of a super-injunction and accompanying threat of legal proceedings should a TV programme or newspaper dare to say his moniker out loud when reporting his alleged threesome. This particular case was as good an example as any of how the senior mediums have been rendered redundant by cyberspace when it comes to free speech. Although my piece didn’t once say the stage name said musician adopted almost fifty years ago, one would have to be a bit dim not to guess to whom I was referring. Besides, everybody bloody knew who it was, with or without the trademark platform boot I illustrated the article with.

We now have one more example of how the info is out there and the MSM is powerless to use it whilst the rest of us can choose to access it if we want, finally liberated from having that choice dictated to us by the press or TV. Westminster’s uncut ‘dodgy dossier’ is available via Twitter and the version I’ve seen is a straightforward photocopy sourced from God-knows-where, with the contents laid bare and not needing a running commentary. My job today is not to repeat that list verbatim; for one thing, there’s no point, what with it already having been seen by a potential audience of thousands; for another, it’s not my role to be a ‘rogue journalist’. A bit of rogue I might be, but I’d never presume to label myself a journalist. Besides, if I were, I’d be even more restricted in what I can or can’t say re the names on the list.

It’s an odd combination of personal kinkiness, innocuous (and hardly illegal) activities between consenting adults, and genuinely unpleasant lechery. Whoever compiled it clearly collected every snippet of gossip from the frivolous to the serious that had been overheard in the corridors of power and cobbled the lot together in one unsavoury package – not unlike the way in which such behaviour outside of Parliament has been cobbled together in law by a poisonous moral crusade that politicians have endorsed in the belief it would never pierce their sanctimonious bubble. Now it has belatedly encroached upon their own sexual misadventures they’re suddenly screaming ‘Witch Hunt’! Tough Titty – or should that be Sugar Titty?

Like most, I should imagine, there are a great deal of names on the list I’ve never heard of, but that’s no surprise when one considers the sheer volume of parasites sucking on the breast of our democracy. It’s a bit like whenever I casually switch on BBC Parliament and catch some moribund late afternoon debate as opposed to the all-star parade that is PMQs. I struggle to recognise the majority of MPs lounging around on the half-empty benches as some anonymous nonentity drones on, and many of them could well be included on this list for all I know. It goes without saying that my eyes took note of names I did recognise when perusing it, and there are around a dozen of them. Some have already been safely ‘outed’, whilst others raised the odd eyebrow. Good Lord, there are even some women on there! And here’s me thinking this sexual predator thing was a purely male pastime.

One of the women on the list has a very high-profile post indeed, though her crime was having had ‘a workplace relationship’; that hardly makes her Rose West. Another female member of the Government with an important day-job is accused of fornicating with a male researcher while a backbench MP – and, yes, fornicating is the somewhat quaint word the compiler of the list uses. One of the mostly male MPs listed is described as being ‘handy at parties’; another is ‘handy in taxis’. One ‘asked a female researcher to do odd things’, but we’re not told what they were (or what constitutes ‘odd’ in this context); another ‘likes to have intercourse with men who are wearing women’s perfume’. One has ‘odd sexual penchants’ (again – how odd?) and is also ‘sexual with a fellow MP’, who happens to be described as ‘a drunk’; another takes the starring role in a video that features him being urinated on by not one, not two, but ‘three males’! Whatever turns you on, eh?

However, also included are the likes of one male MP who allegedly impregnated a former researcher and made her have an abortion; another ‘paid a female to be quiet’ – a right pair of charmers by the sounds of it. At the same time, one MP is damned for taking his personal trainer to the cinema and then to ‘private rooms at the Carlton’! I’m sure the personal trainer appreciated the gesture more than the researcher who was cajoled into having an abortion, which makes one wonder why the two actions share the same list. I suppose both are demonstrations of how politicians exercise power over those that work for them – benignly and malignantly; and isn’t that what this hoo-hah is really about?

As we have seen, some of the descriptions of behaviour read like stage directions from a sketch on ‘The Benny Hill Show’, which again underlines the error in throwing the trivial in with the far more worrying allegations; it elevates one to a level it doesn’t warrant and diminishes the seriousness of the other. But, as the minor incidents outnumber the major ones on the list, maybe jumbling them all up was the idea; maybe this is a means of enabling those under threat from the list to dismiss it and survive the scandal because the entire dodgy dossier could be discredited as having blown everything out of all proportion. In fact, the leaking of the list could even be viewed as a pre-emptive red herring to derail a proper investigation into the few allegations present that are a bit extreme for your average ‘Carry On’ movie. But it might just be too late now.

© The Editor

FRIENDS AND COMRADES

Anyone who happens to be a member of that facsimile family known as Facebook will be aware it has a multitude of purposes depending who’s using it; for me, its use is almost exclusively as a method of communication in the form of messaging friends and acquaintances who not only live in different parts of the country, but (in some cases) different parts of the world. It’s quicker than a letter and cheaper than a phone-call, so I can’t complain. Some people I know use it as a virtual speakerphone, asking a question out loud and provoking replies from others who are also seemingly on permanent standby to receive incoming messages at any hour of the day. Then there are others I know who – bereft of a shit-filter – employ it as a platform for their nauseating narcissism, announcing to anyone in the area that their period has begun or that their children are the greatest gift ever to be bestowed upon the planet. Then again, being a little more generous, one might conclude some users are simply lonely and need someone to talk to or require an endorsement that they’re important – something they maybe don’t get in the real world.

There’s a certain mindset where FB posts are concerned too; anything that challenges the narrow consensus the medium has established will be met with stony silence and an absent of ‘likes’. There’s very much a typical FB post guaranteed a predictably euphoric response, usually one that taps into whatever is trending and picks the ‘right’ (i.e. communally agreed) side in an argument. The newsfeed section, which contains the posts of those listed as one’s FB friends, is chock-full of crap most of the time and informs you – in case you weren’t paying attention – that one of your FB sisters has made ‘100 friends’ in 2017 so far! Friend, like love, is a word I myself use sparingly; its overuse on Facebook tends to devalue it somewhat, but it’s all part of the community conspiracy to make users believe we’re all in it together.

The newsfeed section also contains endless sponsored posts, which are either ads cynically capitalising on a ‘like’ from some point in the past (dressed-up to look deceptively chummy) or petitions similarly geared towards previous tastes. Most of these I personally scroll past in the same way I don’t pay attention to billboards on the street; you can’t avoid them, so you ignore them. It would appear the Facebook overlords do too.

Before, during and after last year’s US Presidential Election campaign, it has been claimed 80,000 of these sponsored posts infiltrated the newsfeed of FB users who were eligible to vote; some posed as genuine accounts and were supposedly designed to influence floating voters. 126 million American FB users were exposed to them, and it’s alleged they emanated from a company linked to the Kremlin. Did they seriously influence voting, though? Only if the trolls aimed their sneaky missives at the same kind of uneducated people who voted Leave in the EU Referendum, as helpfully pointed out by Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, perhaps.

This information has been released by the Dark Lord Zuckerberg’s corporation ahead of a Senate hearing into possible Russian interference in the 2016 campaign as Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, sends its lawyers to Washington. As for the two other online big-guns, Google says Russian trolls uploaded over a thousand ‘political videos’ to YouTube via 18 different channels; meanwhile, Twitter suspended 2,752 accounts it claims were traced to the Internet Research Agency in Russia, responsible for over 130,000 tweets between September and November last year. However, I think a little scepticism is required where the claims of both are concerned.

In many cases, Twitter accounts can be suspended for the most innocuous of reasons – usually if they don’t tow a certain premeditated line, particularly on specific issues of a political, religious or ‘social justice’ bent – and there are glaring inconsistencies as to what one can and can’t get away with saying that support this truism. Similarly, recent clampdowns on YT videos that don’t adhere to unwritten rules on the same sort of subjects suggest dubious, unnecessary censorship if the poster expresses opinions that don’t chime with the online consensus. When it comes to Facebook, the guilty accounts named and shamed undoubtedly had an agenda, but if that agenda was pro-Trump, how was it any different from traditional Republican media mouthpieces that have been broadcasting such an agenda for years?

The occasionally…er…unrestrained nature of social media in comparison to television or the press distinguishes it from both and means opinions are more raw and less polished than the established outlets of an older vintage. Therefore, Fox News aside, any FB account leaning towards the right will inevitably play upon the beliefs that fuel the right and will do so in a visceral manner that TV, mindful of its sponsors and advertisers, will shy away from. As when MPs over here momentarily exit their cocoons during a campaign and are shocked to find the hustings contain angry members of the public that Westminster keeps them away from, some of the voices that speak on social media are loud, uncompromising and often ugly; but as politicians now avoid public meetings that haven’t been choreographed and crammed with the party faithful, where else can the electorate make themselves heard?

Some of the FB accounts alleged to have stemmed from Russian trolls were in the guise of beloved left causes like Black Lives Matter, whereas another that purported to promote Women’s History Month was widely retweeted before its platform was large enough to begin spinning yarns that the Clinton campaign had received KKK money. This was the point when it began to look a little suspect; and while I’ve no doubt that many of the accused accounts were probably the work of mischievous trolls, we need to be careful lumping the authentic in with the fake just because the authentic might come from a political perspective that contradicts the given one online.

© The Editor

THE TWITS

Twitter does have something of a reputation as an online asylum for the angry, unhinged and immature, and on occasions this reputation is undoubtedly deserved; whilst some may derive enjoyment from petty playground name-calling, I had enough of that at school. The ‘evils’ of Cyberspace discourse are never far from tabloid headlines, and the kind of moral panic once reserved for musical movements such as Punk Rock or Acid House is today more likely to be aimed at social media; the powers-that-be rarely miss a chance to sweep their own failings under the carpet by attributing society’s ills to the internet. Google is already policing YouTube now, having bowed to pressure from government under the dubious pretext that the video forum is a refuge for Jihadi vloggers; and every teary-eyed second-division celebrity to share a daytime TV sofa with a simpering host doesn’t take long before she wails about being a target of trolls during her fifteen minutes in the spotlight.

As with every medium, however, it often takes a patient sift through the surface slurry to discover the gems that make it worth investing in. Spoof Twitter accounts of household names, if done well, are one of the narrow channels in which satire staggers on in the face of increased censorship and a rush to take offence with more traditional media (which has responded by waving the white flag at pressure groups). They serve a purpose in puncturing the pomposity and self-righteous proclamations of annoyingly ubiquitous talking heads whose omnipotence on TV discussion shows and in the pages of broadsheets sometimes make one wonder what their job descriptions actually are.

It’s tempting to wonder if Twitter had existed in the twentieth century what form spoof accounts of the equivalent irritants would have taken; imagine a Malcolm Muggeridge spoof account, or a Sir Gerald Nabarro one. This thought occurred to me a couple of days ago when I was directed to a 1971 edition of Radio 4’s evergreen debating society, ‘Any Questions?’; the subject under discussion was commercial radio and whether or not the BBC’s monopoly of the airwaves should end. One of the guests who was vehemently opposed to the idea was described as a journalist, and though the programme was transmitted at the height of the ‘Permissive’ era, this snooty unknown sounded as if she’d been transplanted from the 1920s – pure Nancy Mitford. What a wonderful spoof Twitter account she could have inspired.

But it’s not as though we’re short of condescending, self-appointed experts when it comes to making up the numbers on the ‘Any Questions?’ panel in 2017, and these are sitting ducks for the spoof Twitter account. One such account goes by the name of ‘Owen Joans’, which accurately parodies the Gerry Anderson puppet socialist and Grauniad columnist who pops up with tiresome regularity on the telly. Owen Joans describes himself as ‘Working class hero, intellectual lightweight, Oxbridge, Faux Northern accent and #religionofpeace advocate. Retweets all sycophants.’ There’s one final – and fairly crucial – word at the end of Owen Joans’ brief biog, and that’s ‘Parody’. A pity Bradford West MP Naz Shah didn’t notice that earlier this week.

You may recall Ms Shah was briefly suspended from the Labour Party last year for making anti-Semitic comments online and had to make a grovelling apology in the Commons that was reminiscent in its absence of sincerity of a child being forced by its mother to say sorry for kicking a football at a neighbour’s window. Having already criticised her ‘disgraced’ Labour sister Sarah Champion for saying out loud what many felt on the subject of the Rotherham grooming scandal, Shah’s scramble to be seen as the biggest box-ticker on the backbenches saw her retweet and ‘like’ a comment from the Owen Joans account that placed her hot on the heels of Jess Phillips in the race to decide who is the thickest Labour MP.

The comment in question was ‘Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of #diversity!’ One hardly needs to be a regular reader of the middle section of Private Eye to recognise a piss-take when one sees it, but a far-from bright button like Naz Shah can’t be expected to distinguish between pastiche and the genuine article. And she didn’t. Only when her embarrassing error was pointed out did Shah delete the retweet and unlike the post, but by then it was too late. The whole thing had been endlessly retweeted and Shah’s spokeswoman was furiously attempting to emphasise the retweet had been a genuine mistake that was rectified in a matter of minutes.

The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath stated the bleedin’ obvious by saying Naz Shah ‘should know better’ and added ‘We need to keep the victims of these horrific crimes at the heart of the debate and always remember that diversity is not served by silence.’ To be honest, though, I wouldn’t have expected anything else from such a vacuum of intelligence as Naz Shah; and Owen Joans, whoever he – or she – may be, has been thrust onto the front pages as a result of one dim MP’s desperate desire to cling onto the diversity bandwagon as her ticket to the frontbench.

The actual Owen Jones, along with his fellow humourless online narcissists JK Rowling, Lily Allen, Gary Lineker and dozens of others, set themselves up for a Twitter fall with every tweet; they provide endless open goals for those that are quite tired of being lectured at by people who regard their fame and fortune as some form of degree in human rights that gives them the authority to tell the rest of us why they’re right and we’re wrong. They need a good satirical kicking, and if every other medium is too scared to put the boot in, at least Twitter when in the hands of the wittily mischievous can provide that function. For now, anyway.

© The Editor

GROWING-UP IN PUBLIC

One of the many dreaded factors in introducing one’s boy/girlfriend to one’s mother has always been ‘the potty picture’. The best tea-set being dusted down and mum bizarrely transforming into an air hostess when serving it is an uncomfortable enough experience; but if the new other half passes muster, chances are the childhood photo album will then be excavated. And, naturally, every childhood photo album opens with a baby sat on a potty. Why do mothers feel the need to a) capture a crap on camera and b) show it to one’s partner decades later? It remains a perplexing aspect of parenting that non-parents like me will always be mystified by. Perhaps it’s a symbolic surrender of emotional ownership and an acknowledgement that the other half will at some point in the relationship see said partner on the loo too. As a portrait of man and woman’s mutual vulnerability, sitting on the loo is probably a greater leveller than death.

As horrific as this handover ceremony has been for generations, the one saving grace of it has been that the ritual takes place behind closed doors, only endured by those present in the room. Not for the first time, be thankful the visual documentation of your formative years was restricted to the Kodak Brownie or (at a push) the Super-8 cine-camera. Imagine you’d been born on the cusp of the millennium or immediately thereafter. The potty picture would be the opening image in your online gallery of embarrassment, shared with, if not necessarily the world, then your mother’s circle of family and friends and – as a consequence – their offspring and their family and friends.

Eight out of ten mothers (probably) think their little angel is inherently superior to any other child on the planet, so are instinctively compelled to broadcast this information to anyone within earshot; backstage at the Miss World contest must seem like a veritable picture of communal harmony compared to the level of competitiveness at the school-gates. The Yummy Mummy movement, bolstered by the celebrity mother industry, daytime TV, dozens of websites, and a plethora of ‘How To…’ guidebooks, has turned this traditional rivalry between mums into a deadly game of one-upmanship that now has an additional dimension that takes it above and beyond the parochial battlefield – social media.

Twenty-first century boys and girls are the first generation to have their entire lives so far uploaded to a worldwide database, using the lead character in ‘The Truman Show’ as a blueprint for growing-up. It’s not a pleasant thought, especially when one considers they’ve had no say in the matter. From the initial ‘aaah’ shot to appear on Facebook barely days (or in some cases, hours) after the sprog’s arrival all the way to the ‘first day at school’ shot, the internet has been utilised as cyber apron-strings by mothers too blinded by their perfect child to appreciate the future ramifications of their actions.

Another element of crass Americanisation to pollute British culture, the aforementioned ‘first day at school’ shot takes its place alongside even greater demands on the parental coffers such as the insidious establishing of ‘the prom’ as an end-of-term beauty contest; not only does the latter introduce a new financial burden previously reserved for Catholic parents and their communion dresses, it also places pressure upon the children themselves. It was bad enough when this alien tradition infiltrated high schools; the fact it has now seeped into the primary school social calendar means mothers now have yet more opportunities to earn online bragging points whilst bankrupting themselves in the process.

The generation who welcomed the internet into their lives from adolescence onwards have already become accustomed to documenting every aspect of their existence online, but the generation coming up behind them, who will have never known a time without it, have had it thrust upon them as a normal state of affairs. It’s too early to say how this will shape their self-perception in years to come, but the threat of these images remaining accessible for eternity was something as worrying as Facebook’s refusal to allow the accounts of the deceased to be deleted – until, it would appear, now.

Yesterday it was announced by Matt Hancock, Digital Minister (yes, that’s a real job title), that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation laws are to be transferred onto the UK statute book in an overhaul of Britain’s own data protection laws. The most encouraging upshot of the proposals is that it should not only be easier for people to withdraw their consent for personal data to be shared online, but it should enable people to request the removal of childhood photographs uploaded by parents years before. In theory, this could spell the end of the potty photo’s online life.

Anyone well-versed enough in cyber practices will of course be aware that it’s hardly rocket-science to copy and paste an image from the internet, so the chances are some images can be uploaded over and over again in perpetuity; but at least the proposals in this new bill might provide the unfortunate cyber star with some legal clout to get his or her own back on Mommie Dearest. The right of the individual in question to upload childhood photos of their own choice is something those of us who grew up in private already have – as the image illustrating this post demonstrates. And I will always defend that seven-year-old’s right to have worn those trousers.

© The Editor