The Curmudgeon


Monday, May 31, 2010

Regretful Expressions

The Venerable Tony, Ascended Incarnation of the Vicar of Downing Street, chum of the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak, personal confidant of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, Ariel Sharon and the Pharisees, and Representative of the Middle East Quartet of (in descending order of importance) the USA, European Union, Russia and the United Nations, has expressed deep regret and shock at the tragic loss of life resulting from Israel's latest vanquishment of an existential threat (which, incidentally, appears also to have been an act of war by a nuclear power against a member of NATO with no suspected weapons of mass destruction). "I express deep regret and shock at the tragic loss of life," expressed the Venerable Tony, whose inner states are evidently too exalted to discuss these days. "There obviously has to be a full investigation into what has happened," said the Venerable Tony, without expressing whether the investigation should be held by Turkey, whose vessels were boarded in international waters, or by Israel, which was, as always, battling an existential threat. The Venerable Tony once again expressed his view that we need a better way of helping the people of Gaza than starving and bombing them, but again showed uncharacteristic reticence in expressing what that way might be. Perhaps, if someone were to throw money at him, the Venerable Tony might be persuaded to open up a little and express a clue or two?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Horror at Euro Human Rights Prison Vote Horror

Horror stalked Whitehall today as huge fanged human rights activists threatened to persecute the Government in court over its denial of the vote to sentenced prisoners.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2004 that the disenfranchisement of prisoners is unlawful, prompting immediate condemnation from Eurosceptics who believe that Britishness supersedes legality.

The Liberal Democrats criticised the previous government for its refusal to lift the blanket ban on prisoners voting, while the Conservatives have evaded the issue until it can be determined what proportion of the prison population is likely to vote Conservative.

Ministers are thought to be worried that, as with proportional representation and Lords reform, any attempt to tamper with the sacred traditions of Westminster democracy could risk severing the precious connection between MPs and their constituents, letting the BNP in and causing more immigration and other violent crimes.

There are also fears that giving prisoners the vote might lead to a conflict of interest, resulting in prisoners voting against the privatisation of the penal system.

Some experts have speculated that Britain might even end up being governed by people with no regard for the law.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Laws and the Profit

Given that David Laws stood shoulder to shoulder with George the Progressively Osborne a few days ago and announced the bare beginnings of a programme of public sector wreckage which even the IMF finds a bit imprudent, the revelations about his expenses may perhaps best be termed ill-timed. Possibly this is why Laws has been talking so much about his sex life instead, and even wheeling out the likes of Jeremy Browne to tell the world what a splendid chap David Laws really is. "I think it should be possible to be in politics and serve your country and still maintain a private life at the same time," thundered Browne, apparently under the delusion that anyone but Laws and the occasional Christian bed-and-breakfast entrepreneur has a problem with Laws' private life. Laws, it transpires, is a paragon of ascetic frugality who has given up a career in banking to go into politics; in the estimation of Jeremy Browne this qualifies as a lifetime devoted to public service and any concern we may have about millionaires with their snouts in the trough is a symptom of a collective suicidal psychosis which damages the national interest. Laws is also "one of the most talented, brilliant politicians of his generation" which, in the generation of Daveybloke, Osborne, the Milibands and Ed Balls, is certainly saying a good deal.

Update Laws has now resigned, which is more than most of the snouts in the trough ever thought of doing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Desperate Housewives

Daveybloke's new, clean, cuddly politics appears to have wandered off temporarily, leaving a foetid little memento on the carpet. Fouad Makhzoumi, the arms dealer who bought Jonathan Aitken, and Wafic Said, a "fixer" in the al-Yamamah arms deal which was so innocent that Tony Blair ordered the Serious Fraud Office not to investigate it, seem to have nearly as little acquaintance with their wives' financial affairs as Tessa Jowell had with those of David Mills and his chum Silvio, with the result that several large lumps of cash have somehow ended up in the coffers of the Conservative Party. It is illegal for a British political party, even one so cosmopolitan and internationalist as the Conservatives, to receive financial backing from foreign firms, unless the said foreign firms trade in Britain or have bought the necessary ministers. The Conservatives' financial watchdog, apparently exhausted by the effort of ensuring that the affairs of Lord Ashcroft and his chum, Willem den Haag, were all above board, decided not to investigate the wives' donations, even though Said's teenage daughter was the victim of a clerical error two years ago which recorded her as donating £47,000 which she didn't have - the sort of thing that could happen to anyone, obviously. The reward for donations of more than £50,000 a year is the opportunity of a private dinner, as opposed to a business dinner, in the scintillating company of Daveybloke. The ladies' emotions must simply have got the better of them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where Facts Are Sacred

The literary correspondent at the Guardian, Alison Flood, reports that the estate of Ian Fleming has commissioned an American author to write a new James Bond cash-in. The author, Jeffery Deaver, is pledged to retain "the persona of James Bond as Fleming created him", so fans of Fleming will have to hope that Jeffery Deaver knows his subject a little better than Alison Flood. Her report refers to "Fleming's 14 James Bond novels"; in fact Fleming wrote twelve James Bond novels, one of which (The Spy Who Loved Me) is arguably short enough to count as a novella, and two James Bond story collections called For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and The Living Daylights. Flood also refers to Bond as "the quintessential English spy, suave, laconic and comfortable in a dinner jacket", although a slightly better case might be made for Bond's Englishness on the grounds that he's a sexually incontinent thug with a low boredom threshold and a drinking problem. However, Bond as Fleming created him refers to himself in The Man With the Golden Gun as a "Scottish peasant", and his first and most popular film incarnation was in the person of the quintessentially English Sean Connery.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Romantic Dialogue

"Why did you do it? Tell me why,
For I must know your heart, or die!"
"My dear, 'tis done. Why ask? Why sigh?"

"I am betrayed; can you not see
What wreckage you have made of me?"
"My dear, why grieve? We both are free."

"Tell me at once, for know I must:
Why did you grind my faith to dust?"
"And why, my dear fool, did you trust?"

Valmondo Cropper

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Fine Educational Tradition

A brief squib from the Associated Press reports that the forces of political correctness are attempting to deprive modern juvenile resources of one of childhood's most incentivising educational experiences. A campaign against bullying, of all things, is to be launched on the Cartoon Network (probably one of the few places in the world where bullies are defeated by their victims on anything like a regular basis) and on CNN. Both of these organisations, of course, are based in a country whose foreign policy consists of attacking those weaker than itself, and whose domestic policy consists of attacking those poorer than Christian conscience can stand; so American school bullies may soon be learning, if they haven't already, to claim that the pain they inflict is part of an agenda for democratic change. The campaign will include "a series of new public service ads, as well as online materials on tactics that kids can use when they witness bullying", doubtless with the traditional and prudent tactic of joining in on the side of the stronger party being near the top of the list. It is not at all clear how a childhood free from bullying is supposed to prepare anyone for life as an adult in a world where the only viable career choices for ninety per cent of the population will be in call centres, fast food outlets and the armed forces; but the Cartoon Network in its infinite wisdom is presumably working on the matter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Retaining Essential Services

George the Progressively Osborne's first stab at driving the economy into a double-dip recession has been greeted with laughter and joy by the people who really matter. "If you think this is jolly, wait until the real fun starts," said Miles Templeman, the director general of the Institute of Bonuses. His counterpart at the Confabulation of Bonus Increases, Richard Lambert, said: "Private sector firms had to lay off hundreds of thousands during the recession so that executive pay and share prices could remain in holy harmony, so it's only fair that the public sector should suffer now." (While not literally correct in every case, all quotes are at least as true in spirit as Lord Ashcroft's tax promises.) Lambert continued: "We believe there is still considerable scope to make even greater savings by re-engineering public service delivery" or, in Oldspeak, abolishing public service delivery. Without harming front-line services, of course. "This is really the tip of the iceberg," rejoiced Philip Shaw, a member of Alistair Darling's favourite class of benefits claimants. "There is a saying that the first cut is the deepest, but this is certainly not the case in fiscal consolidation". The British Chamber of Commerce urged the government to freeze public sector wages across the board and come up with "a clear plan to reform public sector pensions" or, in Oldspeak, abolish public sector pensions. The BCC's director general did offer the comforting news that he would ruthlessly scrutinise all the forthcoming cuts to ensure that "investment that supports business growth" or, in Oldspeak, the continuation of taxpayer-funded benefits for the people who got us into this mess, "is not a casualty of the spending squeeze". So that's all right.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Britain Basks in Heatwave Panic

Britain basked in record temperatures and water shortage panic this weekend as temperatures rose to record levels amid panic about potential water shortages.

Some of the hottest temperatures yet known to man drew joyful Britons into their streets and gardens in order to indulge in the traditional British summer pastimes of making noise and turning purple.

But there was a darker undertaste to the brightness of the springtime as officials warned that the country's moisture resources could soon be dangerously depleted.

"As so often we are being forced to clear up the mess left by the previous government," foamed Conservative spokesbeing Todhunter Quaff.

"Frozen moisture has caused difficulties during the winter months owing to excessive amounts on railway tracks and pavements, but thanks to our bloated public sector we now have tons of grit and the potential for a hosepipe ban in three days."

The potentially catastrophic heatwave has also raised temperatures in the ongoing controversy over climate change, as global warming revisionists claimed it as proof that the planet is actually cooling down and warned environmentalists not to confuse climate with weather.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Principled Opposition from Eds Miliballs

There are few things more repellent than the sanctimony of politicians; but the nuanced regret of politicians is surely part of that august company. In the renowned moral spirit of those repentant Nazis who felt the Holocaust was wrong because it gave propaganda points to the Jews, two of the contenders for the Labour leadership have suddenly discovered the political inadvisability of the Iraq war. Brown's Balls, a former fan of the war, now refers to it as "a mistake" and notes that "we as a country paid a heavy price, and ... many people paid with their lives"; although it is not clear what, other than the regrettable disinclination of Daveybloke's Cuddlies to form a NuLabCon coalition, has caused this abrupt change of opinion.

The Lower Miliband observes that the war was prosecuted on a false basis, which caused "a big loss of trust" in the government; this of course is about the most regrettable outcome a war could possibly have. Then again, the Lower Miliband does not believe that Britain went to war for the wrong reasons just because Britain's reasons for going to war happened to be false. The Lower Miliband believes that "liberal interventionism" - in Oldspeak, robbing and killing brown people in the name of human rights - does have its place; and, like the Venerable Tony, he also believes that "history", rather than anyone Muslim or otherwise biased, "will judge the outcomes for Iraq", and that therefore "we do need to draw a line under it" so that history can get on with its job. The Lower Miliband is also in favour of "fantastic women ministers", and claims that he considered resigning over the metastasis of Heathrow Airport, though he decided in the end that "it was better to fight on the climate change issue from inside the cabinet", much as the Venerable Tony once decided that it was better to fight the Conservatives by becoming them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Unworthy Investments

A survey by a children's charity has discovered that a fifth of seven-to-fourteen-year-olds in Britain have never received a handwritten letter and a tenth have never written one, although emails and internet messages are common. "By going to the trouble of physically committing words to paper, the writer shows their investment of time and effort in a relationship", said a child education expert, who appears to believe that this is some sort of reason why more letters should be written, despite the imminent modernisation of the Royal Mail which will doubtless end the practice once and for all. "Painstakingly manoeuvring the pencil across the page, thinking of the best words to convey a message, struggling with spelling and punctuation" all constitute an effort worth making, because "it's only through practice that we become truly literate - and literacy is the hallmark of human civilisation." As a matter of fact, until very recently human civilisation was composed almost entirely of illiterates, the skills of reading and writing being largely confined to the élite and their servants; a state of affairs to which mediaevalists like Daveybloke's sub-Chestertonian court philosopher Phillip Blond would probably like to return us. "If we care about real relationships, we should invest in real communication, not just the quick fix of a greetings card, text or email. What's more, if we care about civilised human thought, we should encourage our children to invest time and energy in sitting down to write." On the other hand, a civilisation which relies on labour mobility and the infinitely flexible human resources which that entails - a civilisation, in other words, which rests on worker-consumers exchanging McJobs with ever greater frequency - is not the most favourable environment for investing time and effort in relationships with persons who are not even physically present. By contrast, those who have been brought up with the attention span of a goldfish, the emotional fidelity of a jackrabbit and the cultural sensitivity of a baboon might just squeak by.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Flexible All-Purpose Do-It-Yourself Labour Leadership Candidacy Kit

Perfectly designed and specially fine-tuned to enhance and engorge your natural aptitude for that big conversation with your party. Copy and paste into an email, or get your speech-writer to do it for you, and then just follow the instructions for a radically new yet respectably traditional bid that will almost certainly gain you the esteem of your colleagues even in the unlikely event of your losing provided instructions are followed as directed!

Dear Colleague

I do hope you are well. If elected as leader of the Labour Party, I, (insert name here, surname last, friendly diminutive first), will

do my best to
strive to
pull out all the stops to
emplace appropriate mechanisms to
(choose one or more)

learn the lessons of the past
secure Britain's present position in world leadership
prepare Britain for the future
do the right thing
(choose one)

and therefore I

will aspire to
will probably get around to
will almost certainly consider moving towards
(choose one)

a radical new policy
a tried and trustworthy policy
(choose one)


doing the right thing
(choose one)

where appropriate and

ensuring that the public understands more about
doing the right thing about
(choose one)


record in the past
plans for the future
war on immigration and other crimes
common Britishness
(choose one)

through the measured and responsible implementation of

more controls over
more choice in
more public control over choice in
more public choice about controls over
(choose one)

immigrants and other criminals.
(choose one)

I will
I will also
(choose one and repeat steps 1 to 9)


Thank you very much. Yours most sincerely and with my utmost personal regard,

(insert friendly diminutive)

NB If step 10 is taken it is recommended that different options be chosen the next time around, and that step 10 be taken a maximum of three times, in the interests of audience attention maintenance maximalisation. Results not guaranteed. No money returned.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Front-Line Services

An independent security think tank has threatened the Freedom of the Seas by implying that eleven thousand million pounds' worth of cuts in Britain's independent, part-privatised, US-owned nuclear deterrent would not result in our immediate subjection to a Shock and Awe campaign by the Mad Mullahs of Tehran. At present the policy is to keep one submarine always on patrol, which has helped to maintain peace in Europe for the past sixty years and was instrumental in the removal of the Berlin Wall; nevertheless, the think tank's report recommends ending this practice and simply keeping a submarine ready to sail at short notice should it happen that intelligence can be sexed up sufficiently to suggest an imminent threat to somewhere more important than Scotland.

The think tank's name, Royal United Services Institute, forms the acronym RUSI, which has a telltale whiff of Sovietism about it. Daveybloke's cuddly backbench blimps, not to mention his barking Minister for Manly Pursuits, are unlikely to be mollified by the mere fact that the Soviet Union ceased to exist a decade or two ago.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Holy Innocents

We all know, of course, because the Vicar of Downing Street and others have assured us of it, that religious belief is entirely compatible with science and sanity; hence, no doubt, the decision by Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham to respect the delusions of a fifteen-year-old Jehovah's Witness who refused a blood transfusion after a car accident and died as a result. "It is a very complex area that has to be approached on a case-by-case basis," said a spokesbeing, who regrettably was unable to make clear why the Hippocratic Oath was held in this case to be subordinate to a vulgar misreading of some antiquated dietary fads. Doubtless, like everything else, it is a matter of market forces. Humouring a child to death is almost certainly a more economical option than imposing an unwanted treatment, particularly when his family or the cult to which they belong might well have sued the hospital for the sin of keeping him alive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Light of the World

We all know, of course, that faith schools promote truth, tolerance, independence of mind and a generally civilised outlook on life. We know this because the Vicar of Downing Street has said so, and because those brave warriors of truth, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, agree with him. Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative probably does not quite believe exactly the same, because Daveybloke probably does not quite believe anything very much except that he ought to be Prime Minister with an overall majority in the House of Commons. Daveybloke's chum Michael Gove believes that patriotism should be taught instead of history, which might lead to some squabbles in Cabinet if Daveybloke's ambassador to Belize and Minister for Wogs, Frogs and Huns, Willem den Haag, should decide that solidity and slavishness are two sides of the same delightfully non-Euro Atlanticist coin.

For it appears that certain followers of Jesus, that eloquent advocate of the profit motive and the right to bear arms, are attempting to take control of schools in Texas and expunge from their children's education the notorious liberal bias which has made the Lone Star State such a byword for nigger-loving crypto-Marxist peacenikkery the world over. Among other things, they hope to sideline the secularist Thomas Jefferson in favour of some pious Confederates, to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy and, rather oddly, to adopt a mealy-mouthed and politically correct attitude towards the slave trade. Slavery, of course, is implicitly condoned by Jesus throughout his raving and boasting in the Gospels, and is expressly endorsed by whatever proto-Texan penned the Epistle to the Ephesians in the name of the Tarsus Inquisitor. It is therefore difficult to see why the good folk of Texas have decided to refer to the American slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade", almost as though they did not wish the left side of their mouth to know what the right side was saying.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Akin to Poetry

Now available from Gothic Press. Buy now and beat the rush.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Liberals to Protest Pain of Power

Thousands of disillusioned liberals are expected to demonstrate this weekend in protest at being thrust into a power-sharing arrangement with the Conservative Party.

The British Liberal party and its successor, the Liberal Democrat party, have not had members in Cabinet posts in over sixty years.

Many lifelong supporters will gather in London this Saturday to register their dismay at losing the irresponsibility that goes with unelectability and to beg the coalition government not to introduce the single transferable vote which could shatter forever their dreams of insouciant impotence.

"I've voted Liberal all my life with never the slightest risk of their manifesto being adopted," said Hubert de Caffeinated-Muesli, fortysomething, of Norwich.

"If reform does take place along the lines we've always advocated, it will be the end of a dream for millions."

"The realisation that being in charge means taking responsibility has been forced upon us by the hideous prospect of having some of the policies we favour actually enacted," gibbered thirtysomething Sandahl Thong of Yeovil.

"We didn't vote Lib Dem just to be saddled with the cares of office," Ms Thong continued. "Power can be a painful and inconvenient thing - just look at they way people like Lord Ashcroft and all those bankers have been suffering."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coming Soon

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Dear Gordon: thank you and god bless;
We'll miss your economic sense
Which got us in our present mess;
We'll miss your fat arse on the fence.

Thanks for the torture and dawn raids,
And chucking all those kids in jail;
While reputation sometimes fades,
May this your glamour never fail.

Thanks for the wars for which we paid,
And thanks for paying us the less;
And thanks for never being afraid
To grovel to the Murdoch press.

At last you've drunk the bitter cup
And stopped with that godawful grin;
Your thirteen years of fucking up
Have let - why, thank you - Davey in.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ruthlessly Scuppered

The London Haystack has taken advantage of this delicate moment in our great nation's glorious political history to remind Daveybloke that London is an awfully big and important city with an awfully big and important mayor squatting on it, and to intimate that it would really be awfully jolly if Daveybloke could do his dashedest to keep the London Haystack's job reasonably safe by imposing the worst of his planned cuts on Liverpudlians and other unworthy sorts, rather than on the capital.

Somehow or other it has also dawned on the London Haystack that part-privatisation of the Underground has been at least as expensive a fiasco as water privatisation, rail privatisation, electricity privatisation, the part-privatisation of the NHS and all those other little fiddles to which the party of Daveybloke and the London Haystack has given its enthusiastic and occasionally profitable support. Accordingly, the Tube has now been placed back in the public domain, with the travelling public coming out as "big winners" although the London Haystack inadvertently omitted to specify how much fares would be lowered this year.

Since it was not a Conservative policy but a New Labour imitation of a Conservative policy, the London Haystack felt safe in referring to the part-privatisation of the Tube as a colossal waste of money; to observe that it takes one to know one would of course be gratuitously obnoxious and witlessly juvenile.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Victory in Europe

I am sure we all remember William Hague, Daveybloke's nuncio to Belize who took such a firm but fair stance with regard to Lord Ashcroft's tax status while they were jetting romantically around the world together in search of new and interesting ways to make people happy. Hague's performance in that role was so exemplary that it is still not clear whether he is a fool or a crook; so he has been permitted to remain as Daveybloke's Minister for Frogs, Wogs and Huns in order to prove himself one way or the other. A draft letter written in the throes of a premature electoral ejaculation may not exactly settle the question, and certainly says nothing we didn't know before about Conservative policy towards the EU; but it does hint that the Liberal Democrats might not have quite so many oodles of things in common with the cuddlies as Daveybloke simperingly hinted the other day. Amid a flurry of Boy Scout clichés - firm but fair, playing a leading role, fighting our corner and, of all things, practical and straight-talking - Hague puts Brussels in its place, demands the inalienable British right to opt the country out of any bits of any treaty Norman Tebbit doesn't happen to care for, and under the rubric of "engagement not confrontation" informs our partners in Europe that they have five years to agree; less if Daveybloke should find it expedient to call an election before then; Or Else. Of course the letter was drafted by civil servants and of course, despite its remarkable similarity to the xenophobic cant which passes among the cuddlies for a foreign policy (not to mention a domestic policy), the Conservatives have no knowledge of it at all. Imagine that.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Daveybloke Endorsed

The new, capital-cuddly KGB has taken the opportunity of Remember Who Won Day to give its endorsement to a Daveybloke administration in Britain. American, French and British troops will be taking part in the Red Square parade for the first time, in memory of the countries' wartime alliance with the USSR, although the headline writer at Britain's leading liberal newspaper appears to believe that Russia was not part of that alliance. Vladimir Putin, an even greater champion of democracy and press freedom than Daveybloke's master Rupert Murdoch, has refused to allow the Prince of Wales to attend, apparently because of hurt feelings over New Labour's refusal to extradite Boris Berezovsky, who is a "Kremlin critic and former oligarch", and thus a good deal less kickoutable than a cancer victim, a sexual deviant or a child. It is not clear where the new, capital-cuddly KGB has gained its impression that Daveybloke will be tougher on foreign oligarchs than New Labour has been.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hanging About

Well, this could be interesting. An ambiguous night has yielded a few bits of unmitigated good news. The Greens have a seat in Parliament for the first time; two former Home Secretaries, the loathsome incompetent Agent Smith and the loathsome human turnip Charles Clarke, both lost their seats; as did the sanctimonious crank Philippa Stroud. On the other hand, it appears that the system whereby Daveybloke wished to accomplish his programme of change without really changing very much has failed to deliver him the elective dictatorship which he has considered to be his birthright ever since he and George the Progressively Osborne were belching Rule Britannia in the Bullingdon together and for which, until the expenses scandal and the financial crisis, he never even thought he would have to fight. As a result, the Glorious Successor is making noises to the effect that it will take a squadron of mechanical diggers and possibly a dose of high explosive to get him out of Downing Street before he is ready to give up on the values his father taught him, among which blind obstinacy is outpolled only by meanness of spirit and abject cowardice. Both Daveybloke and the Glorious Successor want Britain to have a government that is strong and stable; the Glorious Successor, with his characteristic puckishness, added principled to the rhetorical pile, which may or may not be a coded intimation of preparedness to do a deal with whoever will keep him from being ejected for a week, a day, or an hour longer than otherwise. If the Liberal Democrats fail to gain enough seats to outvote Daveybloke's doubtless rather irritated cuddlies, we may presumably look forward to a crowd-pleasing Queen's Speech in which Muslim-baiting, refugee-bashing and hard-working families are prominently displayed, before going through the whole jolly business of the past four weeks all over again in a few months' time.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Two Literary Notices

I am informed by Gary Crawford at Gothic Press that my collection of articles on the work of Robert Aickman, Akin to Poetry, has been sent to the printer and should be available a week from today.

In the last few days I have also completed a short novel, inspired by this delightful piece by Bruce Anderson. I have forwarded the manuscript to some generous volunteers for their hopefully generous opinions, and I will most likely publish it using Lulu before too long.

The general election will be over by the end of the week, of course, so there shouldn't be undue risk of the political situation pushing either of these literary events off the front pages.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Desperate Measures

Well, here's a thing: the Conservatives in Blackburn, the constituency of Jack Straw, have withdrawn a leaflet claiming that the Government has been "a whole saga of atrocities committed in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine and as if this was not enough, the Labour government allowed the Israeli government to create havoc in Lebanon and Gaza in Palestine, destroying their infrastructure and killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians", and that during the last Israeli rampage in Lebanon "the Labour government did nothing, absolutely nothing, for a number of days while Israelis carried on their inhuman killing of innocent men, women and children". It is not clear at the moment whether the Conservatives withdrew the leaflet because their party has given enthusiastic support to the atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon, or because they do not care to be seen courting the Muslim vote, or merely because the allegations happened to be true.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

By Their Fruits

Daveybloke's flagship family policy of petty bribes for married couples to stay together combines several pious traits - sanctimony, stupidity, tokenism - which show that the modern Conservative party, for all the glutinous cuddliness of its present veneer, is still very much the Church of England at prayer. Much as the Anglican civil war has been raging ever so politely between the Gafcon bigots and the Canterbury hypocrites, so the modern Conservative party, trying desperately to hold itself together for one final week before polling day, is divided between compromisers like Chris Graybeing, who believes that homosexuals have certain rights provided the accommodation is roomy enough, and holy rollers like Philippa Stroud, who believes that people of whose habits she disapproves are demonically possessed. Stroud is head of the Centre for Social Justice, the hilariously named Conservative brain drain which was set up by the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith and which has "heavily influenced David Cameron's beliefs", or, in Standard English, David Cameron's pronouncements, "on subjects such as the family". Stroud, who founded a church and hostel in Bedford for the re-education of sinners, "has spoken of how her Christian faith has motivated her to help the poor"; certainly her compassion for others seems to be of the same order as the Saviour's, who shrugged off the idea of helping the needy on the grounds that they were less important than himself and would be around for longer. "One girl lived in the hostel for some time, became a Christian, then choked to death on her own vomit after a drinking bout," Stroud relates in her gospel. "Her life had changed to some extent, but we wondered whether God knew that she hadn't the will to stick with it and was calling her home." Blessed are the backsliders, for they shall be summoned before the Throne on a tide of vomit. Stroud is apparently popular, at least by the standards of present-day right-wing evangelical British politicians, and energetic enough to be credited, if that is the word, with shaping many of Daveybloke's cuddlier social policies. It remains to be seen whether she will turn out to be the guardian angel who drags Daveybloke's inner Dubya blathering through those already gaping cracks in the surface varnish, or just another Ruth Kelly to Daveybloke's just another Tony Blair.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Very Angry of Tel Aviv

The BBC has followed up last year's refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal on behalf of the people of Gaza with another fine bit of abjection. The comedian Frankie Boyle proclaimed on a radio programme that "I've been studying Israeli army martial arts. I now know sixteen ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well … that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew." Apparently a complaint flooded in and the BBC Trust duly rolled over and sprayed itself with urine. The Trust was particularly exercised over the use of the word "Jew", which implied that Israel was some sort of Jewish state. Of course this misses the point entirely. The real problem with Boyle's joke is the words "very angry", which imply that the occupation of Palestine is essentially the result of genuine human feeling, rather than of military and political calculation hiding behind six million corpses and some estate agent's drivel from the Old Testament.