The Curmudgeon


Friday, September 30, 2011

Mere Legality

Part of the price of being visionary and radical and all those other jolly things is, of course, that one may be misunderstood and even hindered by persons who are rigid in their thinking, or who have a vested interest in the status quo, or who are simply too stupid or superannuated to know any better. Doubtless this explains why the House of Donors has joined with the health service bureaucracy, medical professionals, non-private patients and other inflexibly small-societal elements to suggest yet further alterations to Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS bill. The Lords are worried that the Twizzler may be trying to squirm out of his constitutional responsibility for ensuring the provision of key services to NHS patients, despite the issue having been addressed, oh, ages ago: "While we respect the view of the committee," oozed a Department of Twizzlerisation spokesbeing, "things have moved on since it did its research and we have already addressed the issue raised." The Government has, in fact, promised to amend the bill, but the Lords committee's report shrewdly suggests that "it may well be necessary to amend the bill" in the actual universe as well as on the Cleggeron Pledge Planet, just in case of a misunderstanding.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

That Environment Thingy Again

Britain's Head Boy has issued a stark warning that the juniors need to start taking better care of the playground. The environment, of course, is one of those matters on which Daveybloke likes to huff and puff now and then in the interests of keeping up his cuddliness quota, as when he tut-tuts over bankers' bonuses or implies that he's letting Twizzler Lansley demolish the NHS because that's what little Ivan would have wanted. Presumably, therefore, he wasn't thinking of plastic bags merely because the likes of Yvette Cooper and Caroline Flint were plastered across the news. The number of plastic bags used by shoppers has in fact gone down significantly in the last five years, since environmental campaigners publicised the damage they do; although their use rose again in 2010 with the advent of the greenest government ever. As one would expect, therefore, Daveybloke singled out major retailers and the Daily Mail for particular praise, but noted with the Brownite fluency characteristic of the properly educated that "progress overall went backwards last year". Daveybloke then warned that unless progress stops going backwards he may well become cross enough to ask somebody for an explanation.

Me at Poetry-24
Why We Fight

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There's Got to Be a Fairer Way to Treat Asylum Seekers

Well, here's a thing: despite the famous restraining and civilising influence exerted in Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition by Wee Nicky and his Deputy Conservatives, the Government is still happily deporting people to countries which hold staunchly to New Labour values on matters such as detention without trial, torture and accidental death in custody. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom from Torture all say there is evidence that Tamils who are forced to return to Sri Lanka are undergoing the local variety of extraordinary rendition; naturally, from the viewpoint of the Foreign Office and the UK Border Agency this constitutes an eminently satisfactory situation. The Border Agency has even taken the trouble to ask Sri Lanka's secret police chiefs whether there was any truth in the allegations of torture; naturally, any minds the Border Agency may have were quickly set at rest: "They denied this was the case and added that many Sri Lankans who had claimed asylum abroad had inflicted wounds on themselves in order to create scars to support their stories." Asylum seekers are cunning fiends, as we know; certainly they must run rings around the Border Agency, whose incompetence in lying about its own humanitarian arrangements appears to rival that of the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club. Lawyers acting for deportees were told that the responsibility for monitoring the welfare of Britain's ejected had been subcontracted to an organisation called the International Organisation for Migration; the lawyers, with fiendish cunning, then went and asked the International Organisation for Migration whether the Border Agency had spoken true. The Border Agency then admitted the actual extent of its interest in whether the people it deports are in genuine need of asylum: "Individuals are provided with the contact details of the high commission in Colombo and may contact them if they require any assistance." We must hope that the high commission in Colombo isn't too soft a touch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We're Not the NHS, You Know

A report by a quango of five retired military personnel has held out some hope that Daveybloke and his Cuddly Conservatives may yet win the next election even if the constituency reform scam fails to come off. The Government need only continue its present policy (which may yet include the sacking of some of Hague's Heroes from the Libyan campaign) to ensure that the Falkland Islands will be a "plum ripe for the picking" now that the Argies have aligned themselves with the Heathen Chinee and are beginning to demonstrate a certain insolence. The quingo also claims that Britain is in a weak position to defend its interests around the globe, despite seven years' enthusiastic participation in the War on the Abstract Noun, and that threats might be forthcoming from Afghanistan despite our extensive attempts at pacification. Further threats are brewing from North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and China; and even our senior partners in the Battle of Britain are beginning to express scepticism as to the size and power of Liam Fox's battle organ; if one did not know better, one might almost think that Trident could fail to deter. And yet all could be made peaceful by a piddling increase of fifty per cent in the national warmongering budget. "To pretend a further 1% is not affordable is absurd," spluttered the vice-president of the United Kingdom National Defence Association, which commissioned the report, on the grounds that fifty per cent of the present national warmongering budget equals one per cent of GDP and makes for a less absurd and more affordable soundbite.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Imago Dei

An extract

Outside, the city was suffering one of its neglected days. Such days were far more frequent now. There had always been periods of decay, but they had been brief and transient, the rotted buildings and polluted air yielding to blue skies and new constructions after a night or two at most. Indeed, Paterson was sure he could remember a time when the depressions had lasted no more than a few hours; though that must have been many years ago, long before he had set out to search.

The air was damp and chilly; he paused to shrug on his coat, glancing across the street at the dead houses. Yesterday a few people had still been living in the terrace, scattered through the leaky rooms; this morning the last of them had obviously fled. Without any overt sign, without a broken window or a missing roof-tile, the houses had become the corpses of houses; by tomorrow, perhaps by this evening, the terrace would be deep in decay, the haunt of ants and white rats.

Fastening his coat, and sighing at the loose threads protruding from the cuffs, Paterson turned in the direction of the river, where it had become his habit to walk in the mornings. A movement of some sort, pale and vague, caught at the corner of his eye; he looked back at the dead houses but saw nothing further. He could not even be certain that the movement had originated there.

He turned again and walked towards the river. He kept a slow pace, inhaling the damp air and enjoying the early-morning lack of other melancholy human presences. The remains of the night’s rain lay in large tentacled patches around the cracks and depressions in the paving. The road, still empty of traffic, was in slightly better condition, but covered in long scars where pipes had been dug up. Weeds were sprouting in the gutter, and there was a miniature lake where a drain had overflowed. Paterson stood at the kerb for a moment, staring down at the water and trying to determine whether the blockage could be reached; but all he could see was his own black shape against the reflected sky.

As he approached the river a vague mutter of traffic became audible and the general aura of dereliction took on a more forbidding shade. The buildings were larger, with less glass and more rust. Large scorbutic notices denied access to warehouses, docks and boats.

Paterson changed direction, taking a path which ran parallel to the still invisible river. Some distance away, it seemed, something dodged behind one of the buildings he had recently passed. He could not be sure which building, any more than he could have described the source of the movement; but he thought whatever it was had gone between two dark, hulking piles which might once have been shops or large houses. On the front of the nearer one, just under the roof, a relief inscription was visible in the brickwork; Paterson squinted, trying to decipher it. Given the constant changes in the city’s features, any historical information was necessarily suspect; but it was also too rare to waste. The inscription blurred and flowed; he could not even be sure whether it consisted of letters or numbers. After a few qualms, which he dismissed - surely any danger from a human pursuer would have manifested itself by now - Paterson retraced his steps down the street and surveyed the building from directly opposite. The inscription had suffered extensive but uneven damage, with letters that were nearly intact followed by others nearly effaced; he could not begin to make sense of them, even to determine what language they were in.

There was no sign of his pursuer. On impulse Paterson crossed the road and looked down the narrow opening where he thought someone had dodged. It was a paved alley, clotted with chunks of wet paper and ending in a snaggle-toothed fence of upright planks which Paterson supposed could have been scrambled over in an emergency. But what sort of stalker would flee behind a barricade at the first possibility of being seen? It seemed more likely that the movement he saw had been that of the papers littering the ground. They were mostly sheets of newsprint; perhaps they were all pages from a single dismembered issue. VIGILANCE, a blurred headline enjoined. Paterson decided he would resist the temptation to try looking over the fence, particularly as the traffic was now beginning to stir. It was conceivable that he was trespassing.

He made his way back to the Café Saturn, slowing his leisurely pace yet further by pausing to gaze into the few shop windows whose metal portcullises had been raised. He came to a window full of ornaments, which he could not remember passing on previous excursions. Ownership changed quickly these days, except apparently for people like Mrs Carlos, who since Paterson’s arrival had outlasted perhaps half a dozen neighbours.

A menagerie in brass and porcelain stared stolidly back at him. Among the dogs and elephants were occasional human figures: shepherds, milkmaids, horsemen, a gun crew with a cannon. In the centre of the display was a metallic cylindrical object like a squat tower, around which all the rest had been placed at a respectful distance. Unlike the shop’s other metal wares, which were polished to a gold or silver sheen, the tower was almost dirty-looking. Paterson could not imagine what sort of decoration it was meant to provide; it seemed not to belong in the display at all. He peered at it for a while, trying to see whether the other side held any features that would make sense of its presence; but he only came face to face with his reflection in the window.

Moving on, he did his best to avoid his reflection’s eyes, both while staring at a newsagent’s headlines - HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?, payment required to see whose face was below the fold - and further along the street, while inspecting a sad display of electrical goods, where half a dozen rival channels competed silently for his attention.

By the time he got back to Mrs Carlos’ café, the usual notices had gone up on the dead houses: entry forbidden at the gate, warnings of danger at the front door, threats of prosecution at the windows. Two of the windows were broken, but it was impossible to tell whether this had happened before or after the notices had appeared.

Buy the book

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coming Early

It seems that Daveybloke and his Cuddly Coalition have managed to spray a little cheer across our high streets after all. Desperate retailers are trying to stimulate consumer demand by bringing the Christmas corporate orgasm to a premature ejaculation, even as certain underpaid voices hinted nearly a decade and a half ago. Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street are pushing mince pies which will pass their sell-by date about six weeks before Christmas usually starts, and some chains are even rolling out the Christmas puddings. The likely result, according to at least one analyst, is that consumers will simply wait for the last-minute bargains which will presumably start emerging around the third week in November, as the shops try to clear their shelves for the Easter eggs.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Different Sort

Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor, George the Progressively Regressive, has echoed his Bullingdon chum and given the euro-wogs their marching orders. Speaking in Washington, presumably in order to avoid being pelted with the remains of yesterday's Continental breakfast, Osborne personally gave Europe six weeks to sort itself out: "The break-up of Europe would be bad for Britain," he said. It is open to question whether Angela Merkel or Nicolas de Racaille will find this an overwhelming incentive to pull out their fingers; but it is certainly reassuring that Nick Clegg's Deputy Conservatives managed to sneak such a post-imperial, one-worldy sentiment into the speech without the Little Englanders noticing.

As so often with persons whose hobby is inflicting good advice, Osborne had nothing much to say about his own doings, largely on the grounds that he had only been briefed about the euro-wogs: "These discussions in Washington are about the eurozone and the challenges there not about market pressures on the UK." Evidently what happens in the eurozone doesn't matter so much to Britain after all. Still, it was considerate of him to point out that the discussions were in Washington, especially as he and his audience were in Washington at the time; and he did manage to trot out most of the phrases he has learned by heart over the past few months: appropriate action, sticking to the plan and so on; and he also came up with a worthy successor to his comedy bit about the weather being responsible for our ills. It seems we are not, as Daveybloke himself put it so elegantly, kicking the can down the barrel of a double-dip recession; what is actually happening is "a different sort of recovery".

I suppose there is a certain consistency in this. The Big Society is a different sort of society (one where both the rich and the vulnerable take care of themselves); workfare is a different sort of unemployment (one in which the unemployed have to work); Twizzler Lansley is plotting a different sort of National Health Service (one that isn't national or a service, and is only marginally concerned with health); Nick Clegg's Deputy Conservatives are a different sort of liberal democrat (enough said); and whatever else one may say about it, a recovery in which the economy flatlines, inflation rises, employment falls and banks are afraid to lend is certainly different too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Serving Our Communities, Protecting Them From Harm

Further glorious victories in the war against red tape and political correctness have emerged thanks to the brave pioneering of some of Britain's more rampant police forces. Almost half the police forces in England and Wales, including five of the ones most resolutely dedicated to removing the institutional bias against indigenous Britons, have decided to stop recording the ethnicity of those whom their officers stop on the street. The power, known as "stop and account", does not require any reasonable suspicion of criminality, and is therefore ideal for monitoring and controlling those suspected of subtler offences such as publicly deploying an excess of melanin. Dismissing objections by lawyers, civil liberties campaigners, the United Nations and other obstructions to progress, the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesbeing on stop-and-search issues said there was no evidence whatever that police forces were "hiding some sort of practice"; which certainly ought to set somebody's mind at rest. The spokesbeing added that stop and account was not really a police power and that people could always ignore requests for information until it was beaten out of them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scandalous Acceptance

Among the historic achievements of Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition is the provocation of a strike ballot by the National Association of Head Teachers: a thing unprecedented in the association's 114-year history. Not even the sainted Thatcher's war on education or New Labour's authoritarian meddling, let alone Callaghan's puny winter of discontent, were able to arouse the head teachers' ire to the extent that Daveybloke and his pet educational underclass, Michael Gove, have managed in a year and a half.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has been giving back a bit of the finger-wagging that the Government is so fond of doling out. Pointing to such helpful interventions as Daveybloke's recent burble that "for a long time in this country, there has been a scandalous acceptance of under-performing schools" and Gove's airy dismissal of his own inspectors' favourable reports, Brian Lightman accused the Government of giving children a "cast-iron excuse to have low aspirations". Of course, low aspirations are the last thing Daveybloke and his cuddly chums intend for the soldiers, stockbrokers and shelf-stackers of tomorrow; so a spokesbeing from the Department for Training and Control duly presented itself and shuffled its feet a bit. "We already have the best generation of teachers we've ever had," the spokesbeing proclaimed; by which it presumably meant that we have the cheapest and least pensionable generation of teachers we've had in some little time. "We are going further," the spokesbeing rejoiced; "giving teachers better training throughout their careers, making sure they have the powers they want to keep order in the classroom, and trusting them with the freedom to innovate", which doubtless explains why the best generation of teachers we've ever had is getting ready to go on strike.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One Day You'll Thank Us

Daveybloke's Welfare Police have been showing what compassionate Conservatism is all about by warning terminally ill people that their benefits may be cut. The Government intends to impose a time limit of one year on one particular benefit, which will mean that those receiving it could lose it in six months should the Lords prove as compassionate as the coalition. Faced with a remarkably small-societal reaction from the Disability Alliance, the DWP quickly extruded a spokesbeing to explain matters. "Speaking of terminal illness is clearly emotive," which handily explains and dismisses any objections in the name of humanity, civilisation and so forth; "and if they are on their deathbed they will clearly not be going back to work", not this year anyway. "They may be able to lead a normal life which could involve work", so the benefit cut is intended purely as an incentive for the genuinely idle terminally ill to get off their backsides and start making a contribution. Actually, it's all for their own good: "the process of working may even be helpful in giving them a sense of being useful and prolonging their lives." Indeed, like so many of the coalition's little economies, the cut is not intended as a cut but as an efficiency: "It is not some arbitrary target ... We must ensure that the benefit system has to be fair to taxpayers as well as disabled people." In order that this laudable goal may be attained, it has been necessary to sort one particular claimaint group into (a) terminally ill people who can prove they are on their deathbeds, and (b) terminally ill people who can still stack a shelf or flip a burger. Now, what could be wrong with that?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wisdom, Justice, Moderation

The Christian state of Georgia is gearing up to keep its place in that exalted league of judicial paragons which includes the likes of China, Iran, North Korea and Texas. Troy Davis, who possesses the racial handicap normal in these cases, was convicted of the murder of a police officer and placed on Death Row twenty years ago. Since then, seven out of the nine key witnesses against him have recanted their testimony; ten more witnesses have come forward to implicate somebody else; one of the jurors who recommended the death penalty has changed her mind; and nobody has discovered the murder weapon or any forensic or genetic evidence linking Davis to the crime. On the other hand, there have been several court hearings which have dismissed the evidence against Davis' conviction as "inconclusive", apparently without pausing to consider whether the evidence in favour of Davis' conviction is conclusive; and the victim's family are in favour of executing him, which clearly counts for a good deal more in the Christian state of Georgia than the legal technicality of whether or not Davis is guilty as charged.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Theirs Not to Reason Why

Now, I am sure we have all been following the Deputy Conservative Conference with almost every bit of the alacrity due its significance. In solidarity with those suffering under the Government's austerity measures, there have been comparatively few balloons, but a thin yellowish skin stretched over a lot of hot air popped up in front of the delegates today and started mouthing some second-hand platitudes left over from Daveybloke's pre-election No Longer the Nasty Party phase: transparency, responsible capitalism, shared society and everybody's favourite, not ideological or right-wing.

True to its non-ideological word, the Deputy Conservative leadership has gone out of its way to make the affair as much like the proper Conservative conference as possible: firstly by refusing its remaining dupes any opportunity to bring Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS bill closer to the coalition agreement and further from what the proper Conservatives want; and secondly by describing the country's situation with the magic word war. Certainly there are parallels to be noted: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact last year between a self-proclaimed revolutionary people's party and some right-wing lunatics; the Sudetenland of the tuition fees, in which certain pledges were casually and contemptuously torn up while the electorate looked helplessly on; the Deputy Conservatives' little Passchendaele in May this year; and of course the continuing Charge of the Right Brigade into the shadow of the double-dip valley. It is not entirely clear which of these glorious military adventures was actually being evoked; but doubtless a good rah-rah was had by all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thriving Communities

Market forces have intervened at last to bring the Big Society to some of Britain's least likely Conservative voters. Various independent entrepreneurs have organised themselves into squads of idleness police and, without turning into blood-sucking quangos like Booktrust or the Forensic Science Service, have begun lifting the scourge of dependency from those who have failed to do their bit for the housing market. It is true that many of the beneficiaries and providers are foreign, which could conjure up the spectre of illegal immigrants jumping the queue ahead of indigenous resources; but the scheme is largely confined to inner cities and can therefore be considered still at the pilot stage. It is not thought that there will be much difficulty in formalising the arrangement legally, although some Liberal Democrats may possibly table an amendment requiring a tax on the use of corporal punishment.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Setting an Example

Is there such a creature as a Conservative MP who thinks he's rich enough already, thank you? Jonathan Djanogly is one of the ten wealthiest members of the House of Claimants, despite having had to pay back £25,000 in stolen taxpayers' money: he owns real estate and some Scottish trees, is a successful gambler on the stock market and gets a sixth of the profits from a Lloyds insurance underwriting partnership. Djanogly's payouts from this partnership average £41,000 a year, and two years ago he received almost £97,000, which exceeds his present ministerial salary by approximately the price of a cheap place at university. Djanogly does not even have to work very hard to keep his parliamentary seat: he represents Huntingdon, where they would elect a sheep's rectum if it wore a blue rosette, and indeed recently did so in the form of John Major.

Clearly, then, Djanogly is fairly well off, and perfectly capable of setting an example to the proles by utilising his wealth, and the considerable natural ability that comes from having a rich father, in the interests of the Big Society. His response to the expenses scandal was typically selfless: he hired private detectives to spy on local party underlings in the hope of finding out who had been telling tales. No doubt he was only too pleased to pay the snoopers out of his own pocket, rather than the taxpayer's or Lord Ashcroft's. At the moment Djanogly is legal services minister; or, in Standard English, the minister in charge of withdrawing legal services. He is personally responsible for a parliamentary bill which will cut the legal aid budget by three hundred and fifty million, and place the burden for paying legal fees, court costs and insurance policies on the claimant. Multinational corporations will be protected from poor people; the insurance industry will benefit by hundreds of millions; and Jonathan Djanogly's £41,000 a year from Lloyds may well undergo a certain comfortable expansion. We must hope that his disinterested philanthropy can stand the strain.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Total Policing

Since the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club was one of the three main embarrassees in the phone-hacking scandal, and since the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club has already failed once to investigate the phone-hacking scandal properly, and since their fellow embarrassee Daveybloke believes in second chances for Murdoch employees, it is only natural that the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club should be allowed to make due amends by investigating its own previous failure to investigate, and thus ensure that the truth comes out. Accordingly, the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club has turned its laser-like moral focus upon the main culprits in the case, namely the journalists and sources whose lapse into investigative reporting has caused all this trouble. The Met is using an obscure clause in the Official Secrets Act, which was no doubt discreetly pointed out to the new Commissioner when Daveybloke gave him his prefect's badge, as the basis for a demand that the Guardian reveal its sources so that appropriate expressions of gratitude can be made. As usual, the excuse is that the investigation will be impeded unless it is given due privacy: one only has to look at the way public confidence has been eroded by the mean-spirited publication of evidence undermining the Met's press releases about the humanitarian interventions at Stockwell and Forest Gate and the anarchists who hindered the saving of Ian Tomlinson.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Competitive Pricing

The chief executive of EDF Energy, Vincent de Rivaz, has called upon the public to trust the energy industry more, and as a sign of good faith the company has raised its electricity and gas prices just in time for the winter. As the country's most complained-about power company, EDF took the sensible precaution of waiting for the other five major fuel poverty profiteers to raise their own prices in order to gain a better idea of what it could get away with, in accordance with the law of competition. "We have absorbed rising wholesale energy, network and other costs as long as possible," proclaimed de Rivaz, the term possible being used in the corporate sense of compatible with the level of dividend payouts and executive bonuses to which we have become accustomed; "but must reluctantly now pass some of these through to consumers." It is as yet unclear how many proles will be able to keep themselves warm on the reluctance of Vincent de Rivaz, but no doubt it's the thought that counts.

Me at Poetry-24
Davey's Not For Turning

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Keeping Out of the Way

The Cultchah Secretary, Jeremy C Hunt, has emerged from whatever rock he's been hiding under since the phone-hacking scandal broke in order to share his thoughts with the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge. He had a bit of a snivel about the invidious unfairness of his position over Murdoch's bid for BSkyB: "however fairly I ran the process, people were always going to question my motives", despite Murdoch and his hoods repeatedly informing Hunt over dinner about the need for impartiality. Hunt wishes to spare future ministers this sort of agony in the usual Conservative fashion, by removing the Government from the process altogether. Since the Government has already proclaimed its complete lack of interest in public health, public transport, or any sort of infrastructure that market forces can't knock up on their ownsome, it is no more than consistent for the Cultchah Secretary to wish to abdicate any responsibility for the infotainosphere; and of course his opposite irrational number, the New New Labour clown Ivan Lewis, entirely agrees with the principle. No doubt sufficient freedom of speech will be retained to keep crusaders for truth such as Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond in business; while sufficient regulation will be imposed to ensure that the humble and repentant Murdoch is protected from harassment by the BBC.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Female Trouble

Quite apart from the embarrassing limpness of the Liberal Democrats, it appears that certain elements of Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition are developing a vague sense of worry about the British Wife and Mother vote. Daveybloke's chief strategist has spent the whole summer thinking about women and has even scheduled a meeting with some of Theresa May's staff to gain insight into the feminine mindset. Daveybloke's chum Steve Hilton, who was last heard of proposing the abolition of maternity rights, has been either shouted down or kicked into shape, and now proposes various measures to make the Government look as if it gives a damn about women whose income bracket is below Theresa May's. As usually happens in such matters, the document emphasises the need for a better public-relations strategy and gently rebukes the most family-friendly government ever for failing to make sufficient allowance for the limited mental development of those lying frigid beneath its rampant benignity. There is even a popular narrative going around which implies that the cuts in public sector pay and pensions have left some people worse off, and that bankers are mostly male. I wonder who's going to break the news to the Bullingdon Club that it may no longer be so easy to sweep the ladies into the back seat with bullying, personal wealth, chronic untruthfulness and all the other traditional methods.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Horror as Thieves Walk Free

Fury muted as benefits cheats released early

Squeals of righteous fury erupted with unusual quietude today as two criminals walked free from jail after defrauding the taxpayer of more than £25,000.

John Taylor and Paul White were released after serving only a quarter of their sentences for benefit fraud.

White, who is also known by the alias Hanningfield, gave a brazen interview to the Colchester Gazette in which he favourably compared prisoners with law-abiding taxpayers.

"Some of the people who were in prison were better than some of the people I have met on the outside," he said.

It is not known whether White was referring to the Prime Minister or Andy Coulson, although as a former front-bench spokesbeing and pig farmer he has almost certainly been in contact with one or both of them.

The Ministry of Second Chances said it did not comment on individual cases, although the Conservative Party in opposition was vocal in its opposition to the early release of offenders.

Today, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were so vocal in their concern for the nation's morals that journalists in need of a soundbite were forced to resort to the chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Improving Vladimir

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, is being urged to exert Britain's famous moral authority and wag the finger at Vladimir Putin over the fairly accidental death in police custody of a lawyer who blew the whistle on the biggest tax fraud in Russian history. The Americans have imposed a travel ban and frozen the assets of those implicated; but the Daveybloke administration, purified as it is, has so far not even bothered to belch forth the usual token eructations of moral indigestion. Possibly Daveybloke is concerned about the profits of his chums in the oil and gas industry; or perhaps, given the Murdoch affair, George the Progressively Osborne's helping hand for tax dodgers, the Foreign Secretary's beautiful friendship with the Conservative Party's owner in Belize and the continuing blamelessness of the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club, it was thought that the British Government's attitude to corruption and police brutality was sufficiently clear already.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thirty Years' War

The Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Tony has been touting his major legacy to the world, proclaiming that the crusade which he helped to launch by yapping at George W Bush's heels will take a generation to consummate. His reverence gave us the benefit of his insight into the Islamist mentality: "They believe in what they believe in because they believe their religion compels them to believe in it." Naturally, this is anathema to the Reverend Tony, who believes in what he believes in because he believes that expediency compels him to look as if he believes in it, for the moment at least.

Anyway, it appears that Muslim extremists do not hate us because of anything we have done and that all sensible and moderate Muslims must inevitably recognise that we've been bombing them for their own good: "the way to defeat this ideology ultimately is by a better idea, and we have it, which is a way of life based on openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law". Indeed, since leaving office the Reverend Tony has tried to introduce comparatively few ID card schemes and has connived only at the breaking of those laws with which the Righteous State considers it reasonable to dispense. His reverence is prepared to lend his moral authority to the bombing of yet more Muslims should the ideological fanatics in Iran decide to emulate those in Westminster by accruing unto themselves an independent nuclear deterrent; however, the strategist who led the forces of Christendom to their ongoing glorious victories in Iraq and Afghanistan does advise against invasion, so evidently the past dreary decade has taught him something after all.

As a gesture of respect to the victims of 9/11, and of the bombings and torture chambers in the Middle East, this is all very touching, no doubt; but it is difficult to resist the feeling that it falls a little short of the necessary. Suicide in a cell at the Hague would be in far better taste, and quieter into the bargain.

Friday, September 09, 2011

But Some Are More Rightful Than Others

One of the fundamental causes of our present difficulty, as everyone knows, is the European Court of Human Rights. The idea that poor people and rich people, expenses claimants and asylum seekers, tenants and landlords, Muslims and Anglicans and atheists are all in some way fundamentally entitled to things has perverted the course of economic justice more even than bad weather, feral underclasses or the existence of the National Health Service. Accordingly, the Government has ordered some of its little men to work out how ministers can conveniently decide which bits of the law they would like to obey while treating the rest with due ignorification. Of course, this is mostly what ministers do in any case, but it seems that Daveybloke and his chums would like to formalise the relationship. However, there may be trouble ahead. The little man in charge of the commission for Daveybloke's Bill of Conditionally Qualified Rights for Nice People has already warned of troublemakers who argue that the rule of law might be seen as ever so slightly inconsistent with allowing ministers to override it, and implies that the problems with the proposal are such that the Government may not be able to adopt it immediately even though it has not yet been fully considered.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Indignation Thingy

The inquiry into the killing of Baha Mousa has elicited the expected degree of moral fervour, together with the obligatory vows that such things shall never happen again save where the torture has been properly outsourced. Daveybloke did the indignation thingy so well that he lapsed into the kind of gibbering incoherence more generally associated with Gordon Brown: "The British Army, as it does", except in cases such as the one he was talking about at the time, "should uphold the highest standards". Mousa was killed in 2003, under the complaisant gaze of a Catholic chaplain, by soldiers whom nobody, least of all the Blair government, had bothered to inform about their obligations under international law. It took a mere six years to set up the inquiry, and a further two years for the verdict to be delivered. "Britain does not cover these things up, we do not sweep them under the carpet," Daveybloke burbled. "We deal with it", for example by appointing Sir Peter Gibson to head an inquiry into torture. Tragically, the comments of Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon, Adam Ingram and the Reverend Tony himself do not appear to have been recorded.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Punch and Judy Politics

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been turning on the old Bullingdon charm again, much to the amusement of the poodles and pond-life in the Westminster wendy-house. This time the target was the haplessly ridiculous Nadine Dorries, whose anti-abortion amendment to Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS bill Daveybloke apparently supported for a while before deciding not to support it after all. Dorries, with her characteristic combination of charm and political subtlety, accused him of being in thrall to the notorious left-wing Svengali, Nick Clegg; Daveybloke, with his characteristic combination of patronising evasiveness and schoolboy inanity, brushed her off with a double entendre and gave Wee Nicky an affectionate pat as he sat down. Dorries' idiocies served as a useful distraction from the considerably more wide-ranging disaster that is Twizzler Lansley's bill; but it does not seem that Daveybloke has yet internalised the important political lesson which might have dragged itself above some people's mental horizon after the Liberal Democrats' humiliation over the alternative vote, and which should have been rammed securely home after his recent dealings with the police: You shouldn't kick the ones you're using.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Civilising Influence

Some of the nice people at NATO have suddenly discovered that people are being tortured in Afghanistan. It appears that certain elements of the Afghan police operate a private prison system which might well appeal to certain elements of Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition: on entering their new accommodation the feral underclasses are asked to make a contribution towards the prison's running costs, and if they make difficulties their attitude is adjusted by security personnel wielding pieces of wood in an appropriately incentivising fashion. The guilty are then permitted to see their families, who naturally receive due instruction in the methods of thrift and social responsibility which will bring about their release until next time.

Conveniently enough, the discovery comes just in time to allow the nice people at NATO to pre-empt a UN report on the subject by suspending transfer of the guilty to certain locations until after the fuss dies down.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Holy Mother

Tony Blair has borne Murdoch's children

Former prime minister Tony Blair is not only the godfather of one of Rupert Murdoch's children but the mother of two more, it has emerged.

Blair's godfather status was revealed by Murdoch's latest wife, Windi Dengue, in a hurriedly scheduled we're-human-too interview for Vogue.

The baptism took place on the banks of the Jordan, where Blair's other best chum Jesus had a similar experience some years ago.

Several witnesses claimed to see a white bird fluttering around Blair's head, but opinion is divided as to whether the species was legal eagle (Cheri sanctimonius) or red-topped vulture (Hackette toxica).

Soon after the ceremony, Blair developed what were at first believed to be rectal polyps, but instead he was eventually delivered of two malodorous bald wrinkled things whose paternity Murdoch is believed to have admitted.

"Tony just dotes on them," said a source close to the family. "They share his kennel and everything. Cherie was a bit uppity at first, but Rupert threw some money at her and everything was fine."

It is believed that there was some debate at first as to whether the father might instead have been Blair's other best chum, George W Bush.

"The implausibility of that scenario became obvious pretty quickly," said a spokesbeing. "Even if Bush could have found Tony's anus with both hands and a flashlight, he still wouldn't have known what to do with it."

The matter was rapidly settled thanks to the considerable degree of moral resemblance which other members of the Murdoch family bear to rectal polyps.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The All-New Wee Free Quarter Pounder Flounder

The horror of potential Scottish independence took on a new sense of horror today as the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives threatened to secede from the British Empire. Murdo Fraser, who is running for the party leadership, argues that Lord Ashcroft's British national party is so discredited in the eyes of Scottish voters that only a new and re-branded club of tax-cutting right-wingers can hope to make any headway. The Scottish Conservatives have pointed out in the past that they are constitutionally separate from the party on the mainland; but the voters persist in seeing this as a purely technical issue, as in the case of Nick Clegg.

Fraser envisions the new party as allied to, but independent of, Daveybloke's Cuddlies, much as Daveybloke's Cuddlies are allied to, but independent of, the far-right lunatics and climate change deniers in Europe. Certainly Fraser is a veritable meat machine-gun of Blairite verblessness: "A new party. A winning party with new supporters from all walks of life. A new belief in devolution. A new approach to policy-making. A new name. But most importantly, a new positive message about the benefits of staying in and strengthening our United Kingdom. A new party. A new unionism. A new dawn." A New Labour. Another one.

Daveybloke's own view of the matter is not clear. Liam Fox is against it, but Liam Fox probably still has to struggle a bit in dealing with concepts like Indian independence and the Irish Republic. Doubtless Daveybloke would not particularly mind if Scotland were governed by a cabal of neoliberal thugs spouting God Save the Queen; but on the other hand a war to keep the kingdom together might be just the thing to secure him a majority at Westminster if George keeps on getting his sums wrong.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Ludlum Eponym

As all the literary world is aware, the first two hundred and twenty-seven pages of the manuscript (comprising the title page, a much-scribbled and totally illegible dedication, the Prologue and the first fifteen chapters) were found in the spring of 2002 in the attic of Robert Ludlum's house by a pest exterminator who was checking for rats.1 Pages 228-403 (chapters sixteen to twenty-four and the first seven and a half paragraphs of chapter twenty-five) were discovered in a safety deposit box in 2007 by lawyers for Orion Publishing Group who were searching for traces of Ludlum's supposed final work, The Cognomen Placement.2 Pages 429-561 (chapters twenty-seven to sixty and the Epilogue) were found in late 2010 by a long-time friend of Ludlum's in Naples, Florida when she was clearing out her shed.

The Ludlum Eponym takes a metafictional and semi-autobiographical approach, weaving real events from the author's life and career into an arguably parodic fictional narrative of great complexity. Ludlum collaborators such as Gayle Lynds and Patrick Larkin are name-checked or appear as minor characters, and there are many references to characters from previous Ludlum novels. The narrator's hilarious claim that his garage was designed by Noel Holcroft and that he has a weekend place in Tanner, Alabama is surely one of the high points of modern literature. The novel also incorporates references to astrophysics; aeronautics; Egyptology; the writings of Fulcanelli, Lautréamont, Tom Clancy and Neale Donald Walsch; and to the Apollo programme, revisionist theories of history, and gardening.

Critical reaction to the manuscript's discovery was strongly positive for the most part. Slavoj Zizek acclaimed the discovery as the most important occurrence in American letters since Fred Saberhagen's novelisation of Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, and stated with characteristic irony that "were a film version ever to appear, particularly a version which conferred on the non-available components of the textual presence an appropriately phallo-extrusive virtuality, it would almost inevitably combine most of the best (or worst) elements of Hitchcock and Kieslowski as well as Ludlum (in various senses) himself, almost especially if it did not."3 In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani speculated that Ludlum may have been trying to branch out from the generic spy novels and thrillers for which he was mainly noted, and wrote that The Ludlum Eponym could bear comparison to the late work of Roberto Bolaño and "many other large, incomplete books".4

Negative reactions have focused on the length and apparent incompleteness of the manuscript, with Harold Bloom expressing doubt that it would ever be published even if the missing pages were discovered, and comparing the novel to "Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow without the rainbow, the gravity, the possessive particle, the Pynchon or the Thomas."5 Ludlum's own fans are reportedly divided over the issue, with many of the opinion that a new Ludlum novel would be a good thing however atypical; while others worry about the possible presence of unreliable narrators and obscure items of vocabulary, the continuing and possibly deliberate enigma of the dedication, and the alleged likelihood that the discovery of this manuscript has distracted Orion's lawyers from their search for The Cognomen Placement.6

Scholars are still hopeful that pages 404-428 will turn up, although at least one expert has said that the missing material never in fact existed and the numbering in the manuscript is a "typographical joke" after the manner of Lawrence Sterne or Alasdair Gray, neither of whom is generally thought to be a Ludlum fan.7 Nevertheless, both Eoin Colfer and Sebastian Faulks have expressed an interest in completing the novel for publication.8

1 "New Ludlum Manuscript Found". Literary Review, 6 June 2002.
2 "Unexpected Title Found in Deposit Box". New York Review of Books, 20 February 2007.
3 Slavoj Zizek, "Ludlum: Ludlum? Ludlum; Ludlum!", Between the New Postmodernisms, ch. 4.
4 Michiko Kakutani, "Name of the Risen: Ludlum the Posthumous Postmodernist". New York Times, 1 February 2011.
5 "Name-calling over Ludlum's Eponym". New York Review of Books, 20 January 2011.
6 "Fans blow hot and cold over new Ludlum". Guardian, 23 January 2011.
7 "New Ludlum incomplete". Literary Review, 19 January 2011.
8 "Sebastian Faulks and Eoin Colfer Express Interest in Completing Ludlum Novel for Publication". Graverobbers Monthly, 13 January 2011.

Me at Poetry-24
A Moral Difference

Friday, September 02, 2011

Carrion Men

Rah rah, we have won once again,
With lots of clean fun and no pain!
We've no boots on their soil,
But we've got all their oil -
We are punching quite well, it is plain!

Pay attention in Terroristan!
If you want a war, Davey's your man!
That Bashar Assad
Is really quite bad;
And after him, next stop Iran!

Cry Daveybloke, let slip the dogs
Of war! Pay no mind to those hogs
Who talk down our boys
And snort at their toys;
For we've bombed simply oodles of wogs!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Educational Underclass

Now that Libya has been freed from the evil grip of Tony Blair's ex-chum, the Secretary of State for Taming and Training has been having a bit of a burble about the Government's spiffing plan for all those armed forces personnel whose unparalleled bravery and dedication Daveybloke is rewarding with a redundancy notice. As is fashionable these days, Michael Gove dragged his own background into the discussion: Daveybloke's pet educational underclass was born to a single mother and adopted at the age of four months into a family whose ethical values were so rock-solid that he grew up into a leader-writer for the Murdoch Times and, by sheer hard work, intelligence and moral force, penetrated to the upper echelons of that Juggernaut of social responsibility which is the modern Conservative Party. Apparently there are those who consider this a success story. Fortunately, in the case of children who are not Michael Gove and thus may grow up to be rioters instead, the solution to the problem of providing an appropriate fate is a little simpler. Former members of the armed forces will be "encouraged" to take up teaching, though it is as yet unclear whether the encouragement will be virtuous and bigsocietal or grubby and financial; since yes-men with guns are ipso facto virtuous, this will present children with positive male role models who will be, if not encouraged, then at least permitted to resort to physical violence should any of their charges show signs of joining any "vicious, lawless, immoral minority" which is not affiliated to News International or the modern Conservative Party.