The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Principled Stance

There was an old charmer named Vince,
Who said of his orangey tints:
"Here is something quite new:
They are all turning blue!
I wonder if they need a rinse."

His promises, so fine and true,
So wondrous and sparkly in hue,
Were gaining the label
Of fib and of fable;
And mutiny started to brew.

There was an old swindler named Cable
Whose pledges verged on the unstable.
"Though it causes me pain,"
Said he, "I'll abstain,
Or not, insofar as I'm able."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Met Prepares For Healing, Cleansing Whitewash

Rotten apple could face life as bailiff after non-criminal charge

The police officer who was caught on film attacking Ian Tomlinson from behind is to be subjected to a misconduct hearing.

PC Simon Harwood will be accused of "inadvertently causing or contributing to" Tomlinson's death, and thereby forcing the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club management into a series of falsehoods the exposure of which caused undue and avoidable embarrassment.

It has even been speculated that, in a less democratically accountable society, the embarrassment caused might have led to resignations or criminal prosecutions.

The charges faced by PC Harwood will be different from the charge of manslaughter, which means inadvertently causing or contributing to the death of a human being while out of police uniform.

Although the officer had concealed his badge number, the director of public prosecutions decided that PC Harwood should not be charged with manslaughter or assault, on the grounds that a jury of ordinary people would not be able to decide that the correct pathologist's report was correct.

If found guilty of pomaceous putrefactivity, Harwood faces the penalty of being treated like a public sector employee, most likely followed by the ignominy of employment as a bailiff or by the UK Border Agency.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We Didn't Break A Promise

Here is how the Liberal Democrats have mitigated what Nick Clegg called the "moral outrage" and "state-sponsored cruelty" of child imprisonment: they haven't. Yarl's Wood has been closed, but a new centre in Croydon is about to replace it; children will be held there for up to a month at a time, so naturally no plans to monitor their welfare have been made. Families imprisoned in the place will have no financial support, no access to legal representation and, instead of a school (which Yarl's Wood did provide), there will be a charmingly New Labour-sounding substitute called "age-related work packs". This is the sort of system which the Home Office calls an "open accommodation scheme".

Meanwhile, that famously humanitarian institution, the UK Border Agency, has started a scheme to deport people without informing them of their date of departure. Families will be given seventy-two hours' notice that they can be socially cleansed at any point in the next three weeks, apparently so that they will not cause unnecessary trouble by getting legal advice.

Since Nick Clegg became deputy Prime Minister, more than a hundred children have been incarcerated. Inexplicably, moral outrage is no longer much in evidence.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Held and Charged

The Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club, bless them, still haven't quite got the hang of this "lying in an age of citizen journalism" business. Twenty-four hours after they denied charging a student demonstration with horses, a video emerged from a student demonstration showing members of the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club utilising equine resources in vigorous pacification-oriented activities - activities which the mainstream TV cameras unaccountably failed to record. The Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, responded to a query about the matter in his usual forthright fashion, saying he would look into it but "in doing that I don't want to then create a headline saying I'm acknowledging something's happened". Evidently the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club has learned one or two things from the Ian Tomlinson affair after all.

In other news, the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband said that he was "quite tempted" to exercise his rhetorical skills on the protesters. Evidently he was held back by thoughts of Daily Mail headlines comparing him to Lenin. We can but wonder what might have been.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weird Fiction Review

S T Joshi has started another journal for weird fiction; his last one, Studies in the Fantastic, folded after two issues because the publisher couldn't afford to keep it going. This new spawn of indefatigability, the annual Weird Fiction Review, is being published by the specialty house Centipede Press, which puts out handsome editions of classics old, modern and debatable, and they certainly don't seem to have cut any corners here. I am privileged to be able to say that this issue contains an article of mine, examining Algernon Blackwood's novella "A Descent into Egypt".

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rich in References

In our postmodern politics, where election pledges are merely an ephemeral cultural construction compounded from the limitations of natural language and the electorate's naïve attachment to passé standards of "truth", and where the party that calls itself Conservative is run by wannabe Blairites while the one that calls itself Democrat has hitched itself to a gang of swivel-eyed right-wingers whose manifesto was rejected by a clear majority, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the dubious pleasures of the intertext made themselves manifest. Thus Brian Coleman, the Conservative councillor and London Assembly member charged with dismantling and privatising London's emergency services, has become involved in an entertaining bit of bricolage thanks to some comments he made about the Fire Brigades Union in a local newspaper.

Taking a leaf from the Howard Flight book of tact and charm, Coleman described the union as "thugs and bullies" who couldn't "string a sentence together" and were a "thoroughly unpleasant and nasty lot", like the teenagers who held all those riot police against their will yesterday evening. Coleman did concede, as Howard Flight might possibly concede if faced with a particularly clean-living specimen of the breeding classes, or as a Conservative candidate in a previous decade might have said about a nigger who wasn't his neighbour, that firefighters can be decent enough on a "one-to-one level". As with students and other undesirables, it's just when they start acting collectively that things become unpleasant. Coleman stated that he intended to "break" the union, as opposed to solving the dispute, thus calling to mind the recent attempts by Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to inaugurate a return to the golden days of Thatcherite handbagging; and he even dropped a subtle reference to the state of Britain's railways, where officials are always careful to distinguish between fare-payers and taxpayers, by drawing a similarly bizarre distinction between taxpayers and union members.

Finally, Coleman emphasised the indeterminacy of other people's ideas of reality by undercutting the London Haystack's assurances that frontline services would not suffer. The London Haystack, whose own ability to string a sentence together has occasionally been in some doubt, responded by extruding a spokesbeing to proclaim that "abusive and provocative language from either side of the dispute is inappropriate and unhelpful", in the manner of China's determinedly impartial response to the latest enormity by Sarah Palin's allies in North Korea.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Michael Does A Maggie

Education Secretary requests media discretion over vandalism of university industry

The Secretary of State for Private Education, Michael Gove, has responded to the student protests over university cuts by implicitly comparing people who break windows and frighten horses to IRA terrorists who blow people up.

Gove echoed Margaret Thatcher's pronunciamento that the media should self-censor in order to deny the "oxygen of publicity" to the enemies of property.

Gove is the first minister to quote Thatcher directly. Iain Duncan Smith, in his get on your bike moment a month ago, hastily denied that he was echoing Norman Tebbit. Experts say his denial is borne out by the fact that he used more words.

Gove denied that the government was trying to dictate media coverage, but he said people should reflect on whether policy decisions should be dictated by those committing violence.

Gove said that it was wrong to give airtime to those who engage in any sort of violence. The Conservative Party, of which Gove is a member, is noted for its long history of opposition to war, police brutality, corporal punishment and hanging.

British governments have a long democratic tradition of paying attention to peaceful expressions of discontent. Widespread peaceful protests in February 2003 were instrumental in motivating the Conservative Party to oppose certain aspects of the Iraq war, eventually.

But there was a big difference between listening with respect to people who "disagree with you" and those who reinforce their arguments by acting like members of the Bullingdon Club, Gove said.

It is thought that the violence which the Government's policies are doing to the educational system would benefit greatly from increased discretion by the media.

Nick Clegg said he hoped that, over time, people would realise how difficult the whole thing had been for the Liberal Democrats.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dearly Beloved

A sublieutenant in the Anglican Civil War has been suspended for disparaging the recently announced Windsor-Middleton business merger. Pete Broadbent, a Willesden bishop, made remarks on Facebook which, by implication, belittled the lifelong marital fidelity of the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and their respective heifers, and even said that the great day itself would be surrounded by "nauseating tosh", rather than by tabloid sentiment, saccharine commercialism and drooling anticipation of the downfalls to come. Broadbent also made some deeply offensive remarks about a "corrupt and sexist" hereditary principle, and about the royal family being persecuted by the gutter press, which was certainly rather indiscreet of him with Andy Coulson still working for one of the royal family's less reputable heirs to power. Broadbent's line manager, the bishop of London, was prompted to "ask" him to withdraw from public chats with the Deity until further notice, and Britain's leading liberal newspaper was moved to redefine public outcry as an outcry in public - by "clergy and politicians alike", no less.

Monday, November 22, 2010

You Can Whistle For It

Well, lookee here. Those coalition pledges are dropping faster than Clegg's knickers during the second week in May. They're dropping like the collective IQ of the Commons chamber when the Conservative members walk in. They're going down like the Venerable Tony on his favourite chimpanzee, like Daveybloke on his sugar-daddy in Belize, like Willem den Haag on the Euro-fascists.

Today's price worth paying for our bankers' future is the pledge to protect public-sector whistleblowers, to which Daveybloke presumably signed up on the grounds that the public sector is such a wastrel's paradise that it would be a good idea to have it stabbed in the back from the inside as well as cut to pieces from the outside. However, it has now been borne in upon Daveybloke that the various applications of George's little chainsaw over the next five years will probably result in a lot of nasty, uncouth whistles being blown about the wrong sort of problem, i.e. the sort of problem which has been caused by the various applications of George's little chainsaw. Also, as George's little chainsaw continues to sculpt British society into Lord Ashcroft's vision of a smaller, cheaper and meaner United States, and as Daveybloke's Big Society thingy comes parachuting in like Mary Poppins to magic away the gaping wounds and clean the bloodstains off the ceiling, there will no longer be any need for whistleblowers because we'll all be Doing It For Ourselves. If anyone in the local volunteer militia puts a foot wrong, for example, the friendly persuasion of his vigilant neighbours will be enough to get him back on the right path again; and if that doesn't work, I suppose we can always add some overtime to our overtime and take up a collection to pay a man from Serco to put the case a bit more emphatically.

Hence, the pledge to protect whistleblowers has been put on indefinite hold, much as the Venerable Tony once did with electoral reform, and much as Daveybloke and his orange muffler will presumably do with the alternative vote system should the public favour it in the referendum. The Government has attempted to bury the bad news behind the announcement that plans for Daveybloke's Big Society Thingy Day (some kind of Stakhanovite celebration of the wonders of running your own fire brigade) have also been cancelled; but the whole business still puts rather an unfavourable spin on the phrase transparency in government.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good Enough for Some

Someone must have acquainted the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak with the antics of his merrier servants, as he has used an interview with a German journalist to issue a dispensation on condom use by male prostitutes. Using contraception to reduce the risk of HIV infection can, it now appears, be "a first step in the direction of moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants", rather as if a burglar were to steal one's property while refraining from defecating on the carpet.

As might be expected, Catholic journalists have leapt to provide the literal-minded with an appropriate exegesis. The senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter has proclaimed that the Vatican's opposition to condoms was "a PR problem" and that the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak underwent a conversion on the question of male prostitutes as early as 2006. "This is a not a church that condemns people to Aids and ... this is not a church that wilfully ignores the consequences of having unprotected sex," gushed Christina Odone, who apparently thinks global overpopulation is the fault of over-zealous storks.

In fact, the Pope merely stated that contraception can be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality"; in other words that it is occasionally a fitting practice for sub-humans who would like to improve themselves, and that there are other practices, like consensual homosexuality or ordaining women, which are even less excusable. Since he proclaimed last year that the distribution of condoms could make the HIV epidemic worse, it seems quite possible that the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak has decided that contraception is a potential final solution to the problem of male prostitution, much as HIV was once thought to be God's answer to gays.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

With A Little Help From Their Friends

The Government has shown its commitment to electoral reform by compensating for the proposed cuts of fifty MPs from the House of Commons with fifty-four appointments to the House of Lords. The Lords were an occasional source of welcome restraint on some of New Labour's more lunatic whims; but there is room for doubt as to whether this is the reason for their present engorgement. As might be expected from the new cleaned-up politics, party donors and campaign managers are prominent among the beneficiaries, along with the likes of Oona King, who lost Bethnal Green and Bow to George Galloway and the candidacy for mayor of London to Ken Livingstone, but has evidently done something or other to deserve a seat in Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats also opposed a good many of New Labour's idiocies, and used to be in favour of reforming the Lords; but, as Vince Cable might say when signing a pledge, that was before the election.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Young Blood

Entrepreneuriality adviser quits over having made Conservatives look like Tories

The right-wing multi-millionaire Lord Young has resigned over a gaffe which threatened to portray the coalition government of right-wing multi-millionaires in an unduly Conservative light.

Young, a former trade minister under the sainted Thatcher, was appointed by the Prime Minister as an "enterprise adviser", which is thought to have had something to do with distinguishing the deserving from the undeserving poor.

The Prime Minister initially declined to sack Young, but was said to be "deeply unimpressed" by his comments, which constituted a serious instance of bad public relations.

The Prime Minister is known for his leniency regarding right-wing gaffes, such as that made by the three hundred Conservative MPs who cheered and waved their order papers when the Chancellor announced measures that would deprive half a million people of their livelihood.

Young proclaimed that "the vast majority of people in the country today ... have never had it so good ever since this recession - this so-called recession - started", on the grounds that some people with mortgages were paying less each month.

Lord Digby Jones, the ex-chief of the Confabulation of Business Interests, defended Young on the grounds that some people who had a certain type of mortgage three years ago "had a good recession".

Lord Young's statement that this applied to the vast majority of Britons was the result of malignant media distortion by the left-wing Daily Telegraph, Jones said.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When I Hear the Word Culture, I Abolish a Quango

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Cinema Critic, has been doing his bit to counter the left-wing slur that all Thatcherites are cheery philistines. Admittedly, the stereotype does have some evidence in its favour, from the old bag herself (whose idea of literature began with Kipling and ended with Frederick Forsyth) through the Venerable Tony (whose aesthetic preferences were dictated by the public-relations requirements of the moment) to the likes of Liam Fox and Michael Gove, whose respective tastes probably run to Bulldog Drummond and Malory Towers.

Daveybloke was speaking of the cinema, since there is relatively little money in mere books in and of themselves. He was responding to a does-my-right-honourable-master-not-agree query by his cuddly MP for Watford, where Warner Brothers have just bought some studios which the Government does not consider worth bothering about. "There is a great tip and key for film-makers here," Daveybloke profundified. "That is, we have got to make films that people want to watch and films which will benefit beyond themselves as they will also encourage people to come and visit our country." Away with the dreaded UK Film Council; away with state funding for self-indulgent losers past and present - such art-house bores as Peter Greenaway, Terence Davies, Derek Jarman, Sally Potter, Kevin Macdonald, Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell. What we need is, as always, to do what the Americans are already doing, only with less enthusiasm. We need large-scale, mega-budget, effects-laden sequel-fests, funded by corporations in return for product placements and aimed at children and not-very-bright adolescents and George Osborne - and also, apparently, at people who will come and visit our country in order to go to the cinema. We need lots of British script doctors who can think further inside the box. We need more Michael Winners and Tony Scotts and Adrian Lynes and Hugh Hudsons and a British Ron Howard and a British Chris Columbus and perhaps a British Uwe Boll - a film-maker whose entire career is based on tax write-offs for businesses. We need a British Hollywood.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Painless Process

The Director of Public Prosecutions, whose liberal attitude to certain types of anti-social behaviour is well known, has once more surprised the nation by deciding not to prosecute an MI5 officer accused of conniving at the torture of a bearded person of limited Britishness.

The bearded person was arrested in Pakistan and interrogated there by the officer, who claimed to be acting under the rigorous guidelines drawn up by New Labour apparatchiki to whom the very word torture was a horror and an anathema.

The officer later visited Morocco, but unnamed sources have informed the Director of Public Prosecutions that MI5 did not know the bearded person was in Morocco at the time, did not know bearded people were being kidnapped and held at Guantánamo Bay, did not know the Pakistani secret services' reputation for sharp practices, did not know where Morocco was at the time, etc., etc.

MI5 in general is so innocent of wrongdoing that other ex-Guantánamo residents have been paid off so that they will not pursue their case any further and risk forcing ministers and the security services to make some sort of show at democratic accountability.

"Jack Straw's genitals are safe for the moment," a legal expert said.

The MI5 officer in question has been found to be a dedicated, skillful and courageous guardian of the public against the terrorist menace. Like many MI5 officers, he is an exemplary husband and father, a keen gardener and the author of several volumes of poetry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unless Ye Become As Little Volunteers

A brave and bright young army of British youth has dug the first pioneering holes for the entrenchment of Daveybloke's Big Society thingy. A survey has found that about seven hundred thousand children - perhaps eight per cent of the country's juvenile resources - are acting as carers for relatives, without claiming wages or benefits or tax breaks or London weighting or legal aid or anything. Doubtless, when the research is published tomorrow, Daveybloke and his Cuddly Cabinet will have much to say about this noble example, by which everyone from nurses to firefighters to ordinary commuters would do well to learn. Daveybloke does not appear to have found time to comment on the figures today, having presumably been occupied oozing egalitarian felicitations at his kinsperson, William Windsor, whose approaching eugenic partnership can be relied upon to bury at least some of the bad news for the next few months. However, academics and other unmutuals have been lining up to snipe at Daveybloke's Big Society thingy, and a spokesbeing for the National Young Carers Coalition even went so far as to claim that Daveybloke's cuddlies are plotting a significant decrease in support services. Of course, this is quite untrue. Once malingering is no longer a viable lifestyle choice, all those relatives will bound out of bed and into private sector employment, whereupon the children will be able to swap their role as carers for the more appropriate role of juvenile worker-consumers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pride in Our Tory Island

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, will be having a bit of a blather this evening about how broken Britain has miraculously healed itself on his watch. Daveybloke will concede that Britain has lost respect, but not because of any lunatic wars which the Conservatives may unwittingly have supported or any lunatic fringes which the Conservatives may unwittingly have joined. Oh dear me, no. Britain has lost respect because of the state of the national finances: Johnny Foreigner is laughing at us, dash him, because we don't kick our poor people hard enough.

Daveybloke will deny that Britain is "shuffling apologetically off the world stage"; which is accurate enough. Britain would have been dragged kicking and screaming off the world stage decades ago, had it not had the foresight to crawl into America's pocket and stay there for sixty years; but it is unlikely that Daveybloke appreciates this, fresh as he is from laying down the law to the Heathen Chinee from his best missionary position. Daveybloke will note, again quite accurately, that Britain has a massively bloated military budget and is the second biggest contributor of forces in Afghanistan; from which he will then draw the peculiar conclusion that, "In terms of our role in the world, the truth is that many other countries would envy the cards we hold". That must be why they're all racing to have a go in Helmand.

Daveybloke will provide his doubtless nearly wakeful audience with a "unique inventory" of British assets, including the English language (a uniquely British asset in that it is spoken in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Belize etc.); the BBC (soon to be destroyed in order to pacify an Australian with an American passport); "world-class" universities (soon to be closed, or else turned into upper-class universities); a "vibrant and tolerant society" of dawn raids and forced labour; and, perhaps most bizarrely, the "buccaneering spirit" of expatriate communities. I have no idea what Daveybloke's speechwriters intend him to mean by this, unless it be some sort of simpering compliment to the Caribbean pirate who owns the Conservative Party.

Daveybloke will hail Britain's "deep and close relationship with America", which has earned us so much of the respect we would have had if only we gave our bankers bigger bonuses; and our "strong and active" membership of the right-wing flat-earth society in the European Union. Daveybloke will end on a note of "hard-headed internationalism", promising to be more commercial in his strategy and more strategic in his commerciality and to uphold moral values and to defend Britain's moral authority "even in the most difficult of circumstances", including, presumably, those all too frequent circumstances when it hasn't got any.

In short, Daveybloke will be demonstrating, for the benefit of anyone who hadn't realised it already, that his grasp of Britain's place in the world is approximately what one would expect of a bloke unfortunate enough to be lumbered with Willem den Haag as Foreign Secretary and Liam Fox as Minister for Blowing Up Wogs.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Instant and Utter Deficit Reduction Suddenly A Slightly Lower Priority

George the Progressively Regressive is set to demonstrate once more just what we're all in together and just who among us are more in it than others. Aside from such necessary and compassionate measures as fining poor people and depriving schoolchildren, the Treasury had considered imposing a levy on City banks. The proposed figures were slightly less than one twentieth of one per cent of the balance sheet in the first year, rising to slightly less than one tenth of one per cent later on, in order to raise a little under six thousand million pounds - slightly less than the seven thousand million which will be paid out in bonuses this year alone. However, George the Progressively Regressive and his little orange chums have discovered that this could raise more than expected - almost four thousand million a year - and are thinking, if that is the word I want, about lowering the rate in order to appease bankers who might otherwise throw their fire extinguishers at the economic recovery. The Treasury is anxious that the levy should "deliver the expected yield" and not a penny more, thus averting the moral and economic calamity which would inevitably result should bankers be obliged to contribute too much to repairing the situation which their actions brought about.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Cautionary Tale of Wee Nicky

Who Broke His Promise, And Was Butchered Accordingly

Wee Nicky told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes.
The Voters, who were Quite Uncouth,
But Held an Odd Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Wee Nicky;
Alas, the Lad was Very Tricky
And, once in Office, Tore up Pledges
As if they were the Neighbours' Hedges,
And Caused such Damage to the State
That Many wished to Emigrate.

His Horrid Doom came in this Way:
Upon a Bleak and Dreary Day
Some Students who had Missed their Schooling
Because of Nicky's Clever Fooling
Waylaid him in a Darkened Street.
Alas, they Knew Not how to Treat
A Personage of Nicky's Fame
(For which he had Himself to Blame,
Through Leaving Not a Coat Unturned,
Thus Limiting what they had Learned).

And, Caring Not for Gold nor Groats,
Nor Single Transferable Votes,
Nor British Values, Social Size,
Nor Adam Smith the Ever-Wise,
They took Wee Nicky by his Lip,
And Yanked it with a Mighty Grip,
Till, with a Ghastly Squelch and Spray,
They Pulled his Frontal Parts Away.
Let Honest Children Heed his Case:
He Broke his Word, and Lost some Face.

with apologies to Hilaire Belloc and thanks to Broken Biro

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cleaning Up Sports

Amazingly, Gordon's bank bailout (or the bloated public sector, as it is commonly known) is not the only New Labour legacy which is costing more than anticipated. The site for the Venerable Tony's Blanched Sporty Pachyderm has been contaminated with toxic waste even before the medal-counters move in, and according to the Environmental Agency it will not be possible to clear up the mess before, or even soon after, the quadrennial farce has finished; although the fact of the Olympics taking place is, of course, the only reason why anyone is even trying. So far, nearly thirteen million pounds has been spent, and the chair of the London Assembly's environment committee has threatened to raise the matter formally with the London Haystack, for all the good that might do. On the bright side, it turns out that the site has been occupied by a succession of private chemical companies, so - although the London Haystack will doubtless blame it on Ken Livingstone, striking firemen, bendy buses and inner-city residents - the pollution is really nobody's fault.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Soldier

Now I have died, think only this of me:
That bank accounts are swollen in my wake.
'Neath freedom's flag the terrorists make free
As bombs go off for oil's or Allah's sake.
I was a dupe, but others close to me
Joined up to throw me to the desert storm:
Ere I was mangled by that IED,
Mum thought I looked so fine in uniform.

From living memory the war to end
All war is gone; poppies are slickly sold,
For which our High Command are glad to pay.
Two minutes' thought - on that I may depend
While this year's crop of babes in arms are told:
Grey suits may likewise honour you one day.

Trouper Broke

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Showing Them How It's Done

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, being a relative of the Royal Family, a millionaire by accident of birth and leader of his country by the grace of Lord Ashcroft and the Murdoch press, has been lecturing the Heathen Chinee on the virtues of democracy. Daveybloke informed some students - presumably genuine, hard-working students and not the nasty, disorderly kind of students who disapprove of the march of progress - that "the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together". In other words, when very rich people such as Daveybloke and his chums hold power (political progress), this empowers very rich people such as Daveybloke and his chums to make themselves and other very rich people very much richer (economic progress). It is to be hoped that the Chinese Communist Party is now sufficiently reconstructed to appreciate these subtleties.

Daveybloke noted that the government in Britain is subject to the rule of law, which explains why serial malefactors like Michael Howard, Jack Straw and Tony Blair are likely to spend their remaining years doing useful community work in orange jackets. Daveybloke said that it could be frustrating when courts and government differ in their views, because this can compel the government to ignore the courts and cause the uncharitable to gain an impression of inconsistency the next time the Home Secretary extols the wonders of law and order. Daveybloke paid tribute to the British media, whereby "the public get to hear from people who hold different views from the government", such as Rupert Murdoch, who doesn't think the government is right-wing enough, and Paul Dacre, who doesn't think the government is right-wing enough. It is not recorded whether Daveybloke graced this section of his speech with any remarks about his party's long and cordial relationship with the BBC.

In a calculated gesture of politeness to their hosts, Daveybloke and his minions insisted on ignoring Heathen Chinee sensitivities about the opium wars and wearing poppies at the reception last night, because the poppies "meant a great deal"; namely a convenient lack of headlines at home about bowing to the whims of foreign barbarians. It is not clear whether Daveybloke, whose party voted for the Iraq war with even less dissent than did the parliamentary Labour party, also chose to lecture the liberators of Tibet on the evils of occupying other people's countries against their will; possibly one or two of the forty-three business leaders whom he took along for company managed to put things in perspective for him.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sound Distinctions

In an unusual move for a government which believes in nuclear power, privatisation, the first past the post electoral system and Michael Gove, the Department for Doing Away with Jobs and Pensions has decided to do away with something because it isn't very good. One of the more esoteric threats cooked up for Gordon Brown's snooper state was the introduction of lie detector tests for benefit claimants. An Israeli company called Nemesysco (geddit?) manufactures "voice risk analysis" software, which ministers claimed (or "hoped", as the Guardian's science correspondent and resident psychic hath it) would make the benefits system cheaper and more efficient. Nobody thought of applying the same technology to the vocal emissions of bankers, business executives or (perish the thought) Liberal Democrats; but as it turns out this was just as well. Researchers in Sweden analysed the technology in 2007 and said it was "at the astrology end of the validity spectrum", to which Nemesysco responded with threats of legal action; and the company has responded to the Government's decision by observing that a couple of scientists here and there do not constitute a whole host of people. Besides the scientists, nine local authorities in Britain have now tested the software on calls about new benefit claims, and twelve have tried using it to detect cheats during reviews. It was not a roaring success, and the Minister for Welfare Removal has confirmed that his department "has now discontinued interest in VRA". All of which goes to show that, contrary to the claims of certain cynical voices, there is at least one very nearly substantive difference between Labour and the Conservatives: namely that only Labour were prepared to spend just over two million pounds on the pretence that they saw benefit claimants and benefit fraudsters as two distinct categories of human waste.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Asylum Fun

Well, here's a thing: despite all those Liberal Democrat protests which have been so vociferous these past few months that nobody has heard them, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are dragging their feet over ending the incarceration of children. In July, Daveybloke's orange muffler called the practice of imprisoning infant resources, even immigrant infant resources, a "moral outrage", and last month the new Phil Woolas promised to end it by December, in favour of the more humane and civilised practice of upping the dawn raids and making a bit more haste over kicking the families out of the country; but the Government has now decided that it can in good conscience wait until next spring before doing anything much. Britain's leading liberal newspaper states optimistically that Daveybloke's orange muffler will suffer "embarrassment" over the delay.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has produced a business plan (sic) confirming its intention "to explore alternative forms of residential treatment for thousands of drug and mentally ill offenders who are currently being jailed". Asylum space for these expendables should become available by December next year, "subject to the important proviso of Department of Health funding being available" after a year's worth of redundancies have had their vitalising effect upon the nation's wellbeing. The idea seems to be that the NHS should use whatever savings it can make from rota adjustments over the next twelve months to take Yarl's Wood off the UK Border Agency's hands, and then re-train some nice, stout Serco chaps in the finer points of making death by state-sponsored mugging look like death from a drug overdose. We must hope, in the meantime, that there is no pandemic of headlines sexing up some new disease and asking why addicts and loonies are being treated while the white working class is left at the mercy of Dacre's colic.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Woolas: No Future in Labour Despite Record

Former Minister of Mature Debate Phil Woolas has no future as a Labour MP despite being a race-baiter, an immigrant-basher, a dawn raid and deportation fanatic and an all-around nasty little cockroach, deputy leader Harriet Harman has suggested.

Woolas' campaign team set out to "make the white folk angry" by defaming his Liberal Democrat opponent as the sort of person who would stir up Islamic militancy.

Labour policy has been to stir up Islamic militancy only when it benefits oil barons, arms companies and American geopolitical interests.

Speaking on Andrew Marr's We're All Cretans Here show, Harman said that it was no part of Labour's politics for someone to tell lies in order to get themselves elected.

It is thought that politicians telling lies about fellow politicians could have a damaging effect on British politics, and might even provoke a backlash in favour of major policy differences between parties.

"With political differences growing ever more subtle and often reduced to relative degrees of personal shiftiness, telling fibs about opponents could be the last straw that would open the floodgates in the last chance saloon," an expert said.

The effect could be particularly dangerous now that so many British politicians have opted for radical uniformity under the "big burqa" of neoliberalism.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Protecting Frontline Services

As his government gears up to kicking half a million people out of work, and as the nation celebrates the hanging, drawing and quartering of one of the few men of principle ever to enter Parliament, another radical difference has emerged between Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative and his predecessor, the Venerable Tony. Daveybloke has placed his personal image consultants on the public payroll because, unlike the Venerable Tony, Daveybloke believes that political advertising is always good value for money when the taxpayer foots the bill; and Daveybloke has waved these public servants into their jobs with no formal recruitment process because, unlike the Venerable Tony, Daveybloke believes in competition and a level playing field except where his own little whims are at stake. Even more unlike the Venerable Tony, Daveybloke has issued a spokesbeing to say that, much as he would have liked to have the appointments paid for by Lord Ashcroft, he received intelligence that civil service posts would be a more appropriate token of his commitment to fair play. In this case, perhaps the intelligence was right. Though both have their different reasons for being a little disappointed in Daveybloke and his Cuddly Conservatives, Lord Ashcroft can influence those whose salary he pays, while the taxpayer cannot.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Up Before the Beak

George the Progressively Regressive has been charged with, of all things, exaggerating the parlous state of Britain's finances for his own political advantage. The chair of the Treasury select committee, Andrew Tyrie, called Osborne's claim that Britain was on the brink of bankruptcy "a bit over the top", and even had the Trotskyite gall to state that Osborne's claims of progressivity were a bit over-egged. "Maybe the tough measures on the deficit and also the effort to make the budget fair (sic) would have come across more clearly if they hadn't been obscured in debate of claim and counter-claim," Tyrie said. "I think there is something there to look at when making these remarks, which do look to me more like the language of opposition than government." Apparently Tyrie has failed to catch up with present-day political realities, whereby the process of government consists mainly of determined opposition to the election pledges on which one was voted into office. Tyrie, a Conservative, then further betrayed his inability to share Daveybloke's Blairite vision by implying that the language of government should have something to do with "telling it as it is". Osborne defended himself by saying that Britain was involved in some unflattering acronyms with foreigners, which made for an "incredibly serious" situation, and showed his own grasp of the Blairite vision by demonstrating the argument modus Tonens, namely that a falsehood becomes true if repeated often enough and affixed to the words "I believe".

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Available Now

This article by the Independent's Bruce Anderson deserves to be remembered, and earlier this year I produced a short novel in tribute. Buy now for a day-in-the-life, present-tense reading experience that isn't Ian McEwan's Saturday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Criminal Representation

Fury at Euro-plot to villainise British politics

The Prime Minister is reported to be "exasperated" by the latest European attempt to impose human rights on the mainland.

Britain currently denies criminals the vote unless their crimes are against the Geneva Convention or the UN Charter. The European Court of Human Rights ruled five years ago that Britain's policy was illegal.

New Labour showed its usual regard for the niceties of international law, and the Conservatives disagreed only to the extent that they would have preferred an immediate nuclear attack on Brussels.

However, the Government's lawyers have warned that further delay in complying with the ECHR's ruling could cost hundreds of millions which might be better spent on bankers and bottom-scraping submarines.

It is feared that giving prisoners the vote may incentivise a culture of dishonesty, corruption and pledge-breaking among British politicians.

The European Union is one of a select number of communities in which successive British governments have believed that rights should not be balanced by obligations.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Private Misgivings

The private sector, as we all know by now, is the answer to all our woes, and particularly to any woes having to do with our Sisyphean burden of having a public sector. Whatever problems arise in the public sector, the solution is to privatise it good and fast. If, as a result, your health care declines in quality, your local post office is closed, your railway journey is late, overcrowded and potentially fatal, or your favourite TV programme gets replaced with wall-to-wall reality shows and Murdochiana, this is simply because the privatisation has not proceeded far or fast enough, or because the public has been stingy with the money which rightly belongs to the corporations involved, or because there are too few ex-ministers of state on the Board of Directors.

It is natural, therefore, that Daveybloke and his Cuddly Conservatives should consider the private sector an ideal garbage dump for all the waste human resources which will be swept out of the public sector during the four years of George the Progressively Regressive's scorched-prole programme. Since the public sector is merely a sort of vermiform appendix to the Big Society thingy, a supernumerary appendage unworthy of notice except when it becomes bloated enough to cause pangs of agony to innocent right-wing guts, it is self-evident that the private sector, and hence Daveybloke's Big Society thingy as a whole, can only emerge cleaner, stronger and sexier from Osborne's slashing and bludgeoning. Here, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is how the thing will work: it won't. Besides claiming that the prediction of half a million public sector job losses is too low (something that could have been inferred by almost anyone who happened not to be Daveybloke or Phillip Blond), the CIPD predicts that an additional six hundred and fifty thousand expendables will be discovered in the private sector. New jobs may be created, but only if the economy grows faster than anticipated.

The CIPD's claims elicited a measured and rational response from Daveybloke's cuddly chap in Sevenoaks, who dismissed the figures on the grounds that they were partly based on conversations with people from the public sector, who are intrinsically unreliable in much the same way as bankers, expatriate multi-millionaires and Rupert Murdoch aren't. The Institute of Directors agreed, calling the figures "alarmist" and making absolutely clear that, if a double-dip recession should now occur, it will be because the CIPD went and said nasty things and not because of anything that might have been done by anyone claiming a very big bonus.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Observations Observed

Wormwoodiana, the website of the elegant literary journal published by Tartarus Press and edited by Mark Valentine, has a very kind review by Jim Rockhill of my collection of essays on Robert Aickman.