The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Help for the Deserving

A public information video about appealing against decisions to remove disability and sickness benefit has elicited the whining disapprobation of the Assistant Supreme Commander of the Idleness Police. Chris Graybeing's dislike of the video rests partly on the understandable grounds that at least some of it was factually true, and partly on the fact that its tone apparently lacked the sort of jovial barrack-room bullying which the DWP likes to adopt when dealing with fraudulent benefits claims, viz. all benefits claims. Clearly this would never do, especially in a welfare culture where some fraudsters are prepared to die of disease just so they can continue to live at the taxpayers' expense. The fragrant Jonathan Djanogly wrote in April that he would instruct his minions to edit the inconvenient truths out of the video since, in the words of the welfare rights adviser who brought the matter to light, the parts to which Graybeing objected "were all parts which claimants would find helpful."

It is heartening to see that Graybeing, who shot to fame a couple of years ago through his attempts to protect Christian hoteliers from the taint of homosexual money, has not given up his philanthropic enterprises. Atos, the private company in charge of kicking people off benefits, has been subjected to two separate television documentaries which portray its assessment procedures as arbitrary, callous and concerned more with numerical targets than with claimants' needs. Since Atos is sponsoring the London Paralympics, at which it is hoped that much of Team GB will be detected and arrested en masse, Graybeing has generously resumed his natural aspect - that of a middling malignant dingbat - in order to distract public attention and spare the company further embarrassment.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Private Apocalypse

Through G4S, Serco and Network Rail,
Outsourcing has done wonders, as we know;
Now let the AWE shock-troopers help you feel
That reassuring, radioactive glow.

Werritty Garble

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Deceitfulness of Riches

A Swiss bank owned by HSBC has apparently been used for tax evasion in a manner most unseemly, which almost certainly exceeds the civilised and legal robbery of the British taxpayer which is practised by the likes of Daveybloke's pater. HSBC says that it does not condone tax evasion and that it is the responsibility of clients to make sure they don't get caught. As a result of these latest allegations, the former chair of HSBC, Lord Green, is likely to face further questions about how innocent he was of the whole sordid business and what lessons are likely to be learned, etc. Lord Green is a lay preacher with the religious arm of the Corporation of London; so other, more penetrating questions from MPs, such as How do you plan to keep me out of this?, will doubtless be asked somewhere conveniently cloistered from the public's prurient eye.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anyone Can Do It

Not content with telling pupils that their exam results are worthless, the Ministry of Gove has decided to devalue teaching qualifications as well. This will bring academies in line with the sort of establishments that produced the likes of Daveybloke and his double-dip Chancellor, which will obviously be all to the good. A spokesbeing proclaimed that allowing children to be taught by unqualified teachers was a "minor change", and that the Ministry, in the wisdom of its Goveness, expected that qualified teachers would continue to have some sort of place in Britain's schools. Unfortunately, there have been previous instances of flexibilitisation which turned out less flexible than anticipated; notably the tuition fees fiasco, when ministers did not anticipate that raising the maximum to £9000, while cutting everything else, would result in all the universities increasing their fees to £9000.

It's unlikely that anyone would have been surprised, let alone shocked - this is, after all, the government that took its advice on health reform from junk food merchants - but, in a rare fit of tact, the Ministry of Gove chose the day of the Olympic opening ceremony to make its announcement. This vintage bit of New Labour media management was the only aspect of the policy to be roundly criticised by Labour's education spokesbeing, Stephen Twigg, whose own idea of a teaching qualification is a uniform, some shouting and a willingness to kill people for money. The Ministry of Gove responded that it was absurd to suggest that announcements were made "at the convenience of the global news agenda", which is, of course, the diametric opposite of what Twigg actually suggested, namely that the global news agenda had been used as a convenient source of static in which to dump announcements having to do with Michael Gove.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Normal Service

Well, that was fun. Late on Wednesday 18 July, or early on Thursday 19 July, my broadband gave out, and when I picked up the phone to inquire there was no dialling tone. On Thursday at work I logged onto BT's website, registered the fault and my preference for email communication, and was informed of BT's pious hope to get back to me within twenty-four hours. Twenty-five hours later, having received no email, I telephoned BT from work and asked what was being done. Someone in a call centre said they would find out. A few minutes after hanging up, I received an email to the effect that BT had glanced over the problem and thought something might be done about it by close of business on Wednesday 25 July. They also apologised if this was more than the three days which constitute BT's ideal of telecommunicative promptitude. The email also said that BT would continue to update me by email. On Monday, having received no updates by email, I logged onto the website again and discovered that the cheery "we think we can fix it" had been another pious hope: BT now intended to send an engineer to my home on Thursday 26 July. They also apologised if this was more than the three days which constitute BT's ideal of telecommunicative promptitude. Thursday was a work day, so I used the website to reschedule the appointment to this morning, which in BT Standard Time means anything between 8:00am and 1:00pm. Rather to my surprise, the engineer did arrive, and had to ring all the bells at the front door because BT had failed to supply him with the flat number, despite the fact that they require that very same flat number as part of the identification process when I telephone them. The telephone fault has now been fixed (naturally, it was in the exchange, not in my home at all), but my broadband service remains intermittent and unpredictable; although, predictably enough, my ISP says it is BT's problem. BT, I am told, are working on it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Since last Thursday, I have had no telephone or broadband at home. I am informed that BT may possibly bestir themselves to attend to the matter by Friday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Mendicant

It is a sprightly grinning man,
Who simply cannot say goodbye:
Encased in crispy perma-tan,
All glib mouth and demented eye.

In countries where they torture you,
He gives advice and takes the alms.
Believing what he thinks is true,
He trusts in God and greasy palms.

He will not leave us to our fate;
A saint must suffer for his lands.
He prays the storms which drown our state
May wash the blood from off his hands.

Glubby Flobrot

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Still Good for Something

The Crown Prosecution Service has used the Olympics fiasco as an opportunity to send a clear and unequivocal message to G4S; namely that however much corporate humiliation may be necessary if the Home Secretary is embarrassed, the occasional killing of deportees is a very different matter. Although no-one would accuse G4S of failing to provide enough personnel in the case of Jimmy Mubenga, it seems their attitude to proper training was as relaxed as ever. Since the care and welfare of its human cargo is naturally a top priority for G4S, the company worked together in exemplary harmony with the Home Office and the Metropolitan Firearms and Headbangers' Club to promote the story that Mubenga had "become unwell", and it was left to the Guardian newspaper to interview witnesses who said that Mubenga had complained of breathing difficulties while the G4S custodians were incentivising his co-operation. Whistleblowers inside G4S later testified that the company's own staff had repeatedly warned that the level of force used in such cases was potentially lethal; but it appears the company didn't care. In that, at least, the Crown Prosecution Service has certainly borne them out.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Home Secretary in Arse Horror

Red cheeks in Commons as May continues buttockless

Embarrassment continues for the Government today as personnel shortages at the security firm G4S mean that the Home Secretary's arse remains lost.

The arse is thought to have been hanging in the wind for some months prior to last week's discovery of its total disappearance from the haunts of Westminster.

It is thought that the delay in noticing the loss was due to the presence of so many other arses in the district. Westminster has one of the highest arse-to-person ratios in the Western world, rivalled only by Hollywood and Washington DC.

Not only do many sitting members possess an extra gluteus or two for making speeches, but at least a third of the population of the House of Claimants is thought to consist of arses on which the vestigial human has almost completely atrophied.

The loss of the Home Secretary's arse has made it difficult for her to maintain a dignified stance, although Downing Street extruded a spokesbeing to stick the customary "expression of complete confidence" between the places where Ms May's shoulder blades used to be.

"This is nothing less the Big Society in action," the spokesbeing said. "The Home Secretary has displayed the British entrepreneurial spirit at its best. If you need an arse, go out and be one."

It emerged yesterday that G4S had claimed they could find the Home Secretary's arse, but overshot the target due to being unable to muster more than two hands and a flashlight.

Me at Poetry-24
The Supreme Sacrifice

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back on the Rails

In an attempt to distract from the fiascos of the last - oh, how long has it been now? two months? twelve? twenty-six? - anyway, in an attempt to distract from everything he has achieved so far, Daveybloke has decided to start taking some vague interest in the country's infrastructure. Next week, Daveybloke and his little yellow chum will announce a new programme of investment in Britain's railways, involving the electrification of several lines, the re-opening of some which were closed in the sixties and, no doubt, some healthy profiteering by Network Rail. The programme will begin in about two years' time, which will not, of course, guarantee that anything will be done properly, or even done at all; we've had seven years to prepare for the Olympics, and just look at us now. But the time-scale does mean that, during the year before the next general election, both Daveybloke and his little yellow chum will have something to talk about other than the nation's ruin, the incompetence of the last Labour government and the unspeakable depredations of the Euro-wogs. Nevertheless, no initiative by the present administration would be complete without its pasty-tax aspect: that apparently obligatory feature which can be interpreted either as a gratuitous, galumphing cock-up or as a deliberate and calculated gesture of Bullingdon contempt for the proles. In the present case, the pasty-tax aspect is the opening of a line between Oxford and Bletchley, known to tuition-fee fans as the Varsity Line, and to members of the Not Particularly Bright Party as the Brain Line.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Olympic Marching Song

A Simple and Fun Way for Everyone to be Part of Something Special

Gee Four Ess! Secure in your world!
Gee Four Ess! Let your dreams unfurl!
We're guarding you with all our might,
Keeping watch throughout the night.

You need someone to guard your Games,
And scrape a bit of knuckle,
Who scans and tackles, smacks and maims?
Just call on Nicky Buckle.

Gee Four Ess! Secure in your world!
Gee Four Ess! Let your dreams unfurl!
We're guarding you for lots of dosh,
Terrorists, come feel our cosh.

His style is "no excuses, please";
He leads us well and boldly.
When things go wrong, he'll pocket fees
And bleat "Nobody told me!"

Gee Four Ess! Secure in your world!
Gee Four Ess! Let your dreams unfurl!
Although our bosses cannot count,
We profit by a fair amount.

Of course there will be slips of gears,
While we so lusty sing.
We've only known for seven years
About this contest thing.

Gee Four Ess! Secure in your world!
Gee Four Ess! Let your dreams unfurl!
Inspiring the value creation
Meriting a Tory nation.

So now that we have more or less
Preserved the public peace,
We think it's time, we must confess,
To let us run the police.

Gee Four Ess! Secure in your world!
Gee Four Ess! Let your dreams unfurl!
We've got the truncheons and the guns;
Now see how smooth the cash-flow runs.

Terry & the Texans

Friday, July 13, 2012

Soft Power

Now, the ignorant and backsliding among you are doubtless of the belief that the British government's efforts at global peacekeeping are confined to selling weapons to friendly butchers and making belligerent noises at Argentina. Nothing could be further from the truth. A fund was set up, as early as the beginning of the War on the Abstract Noun, to "support conflict prevention", and by 2011-12 had a budget only slightly smaller than the amount paid to G4S for helping the Home Office with its military arrangements. The money for conflict prevention was shared between the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence; nevertheless, some people are still trying to work out why the awesome nobility of our intentions has largely failed to translate into satisfactory results.

A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact says that, despite a couple of sticking-plasters applied to various gaping, spurting wounds in Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fund lacks a clear strategic framework (in Standard English, nobody knew what they were doing); lacks a robust funding model (nobody knew when the plug might be pulled) and has little capacity for measuring results (nobody knew how the money was spent, much less cared). Additionally, the three ministries involved were supposed to take a "joined-up" approach; a particularly difficult demand in the case of Adam Werritty's Ministry of War, which can barely manage joined-up writing. Instead, by the time Labour lost the election, the Foreign Office was absorbing more than half the money, presumably thanks to the dedication of Jack Straw and the Lower (then Upper) Miliband in avoiding conflict with torturers.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It'll Do Until A Shambles Comes Along

Britain's largest ever peacetime logistical operation received resounding confirmation of its Britishness today, as the latest in a long sequence of bizarre nasties to occupy the Home Office stood up in the House of Claimants and denied that the G4S shambles was a shambles. Being the minister ultimately responsible for security at the Games, Daveybloke's mad old cat lady denied that she had any responsibility for security at the Games. This may explain why she did not consider it necessary to attend the meeting where it was decided to make up the private contractor's shortfall by cancelling the leave of men recently returned from Afghanistan - doubtless a preliminary in many cases to handing our brave boys their redundancy notices and placing them on workfare. Possibly the Home Secretary was too busy reading about asylum seekers in the Daily Mail; or possibly she had a touch of Osborne-Smith syndrome and decided that a junior minister-shaped shield was an acceptable substitute for a human one. Nor could the Home Secretary say whether she knew anything about the G4S recruitment schedule, or whether she had simply trusted to the infallibility of the private sector in accordance with the religious doctrines prevalent at Westminster. She also refused to specify what penalties, if any, will be imposed on the security firm for making such an exemplary non-shambles of the affair. Most likely she is waiting for the head of G4S to tell her.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Simple Bloke

One of the rather jolly aspects of leading the Not Particularly Bright Party is how simple it makes many things. Of course, when one has the entrepreneurial drive and moral fibre to be born the son of a successful tax-dodger, many of life's little problems are simplified considerably in any case; but the business of leading a government which includes the likes of Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa May and Chris Graybeing must be among the quickest of all routes away from intellectual complexity. Daveybloke has taken due advantage of this fact while doing a bit of charity work among the wogs, pledging just under one and a half thousand million pounds to help twenty-four million wogettes improve their lives. Assuming the pledge is worth any more than the ones Daveybloke gives his own natives, we can only hope that the recipients are slightly better at handling money than Daveybloke's chums in the banks and the House of Claimants.

Be that as it may, Britain's Head Boy was in full school-assembly mode, happily advising the little ones how best to spend their pocket money. "Women should be able to decide freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they have," burbled Daveybloke, whose robust feminist instincts have led to the closure of all those clinics and shelters while bestowing tithes on all those faith schools. "In a way it is so simple," burbled Daveybloke. "Healthy empowered women mean healthy strong families mean healthy strong children mean healthy strong countries. It is as simple and straightforward as that." So simple and straightforward, in fact, that the wogs needed Britain's Head Boy to come along and explain it to them. "It is absolutely fundamental to any hope to tackling poverty in our world," burbled Daveybloke, although the location of a world in which Daveybloke has the slightest interest in tackling poverty is as yet unknown to science; presumably because science is just not simple enough.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Useful Advice

In Daveybloke's Big Society thingy, social mobility is a rather simple matter. Nice people, like Daveybloke and his chums, either stay where they are or else get richer; the rest of us pay for it, and if in the process a few million go down and out, the resulting healthy competition will ensure that there are always more proles to spare. Presumably this epic simplicity, which rivals Michael Gove for efficiency and Eric Pickles for finesse, is the reason why Daveybloke has been able to get away with having Alan Milburn as an adviser on the subject.

Milburn has been informing the education select committee of the coalition's various achievements: plunging children into poverty, keeping the best jobs for the right people, and setting the poorer classes against each other. This last is, of course, the principle of divide and rule, although from the way Milburn talked one would think it some sort of regrettable side-effect: he described the Conservatives' traditional and thoroughly rational policy of "pitting the interests of the kids at the bottom against the kids in the middle" as a risk to be avoided rather than a defence to be maintained. Milburn even claimed that the Government would "need permission from the majority" to address the issue, as demonstrated by the noted democratic triumph which was Twizzler Lansley's furtherance of Milburn's own party's assault on the NHS.

Milburn also provided useful advice on child poverty targets, arguing that they could be met if their deadlines were postponed and if the Government suddenly decided to take an interest in doing the exact opposite of what it has been doing since it came into office. Doubtless the Bullingdon Club will be duly impressed, and will listen with bated breath when Milburn gets around to warning them that cutting rich people's taxes will make the rich people richer still.

Me at Poetry-24
The Road to Serfdom

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bringing the War on Idleness Within Measurable Distance of its End

Daveybloke's Minister for Unemployment, who in present circumstances would presumably wish to stay hidden as much as possible even were he not Chris Graybeing, has taken advantage of the cover afforded by the Lords reform debate and the Chancellor's demeaning of his office to crawl out and make the obligatory token defence of his department's latest flop. Of course, like so many government initiatives over the past thirty years, Graybeing's employment scheme only appears a flop if you look at it from the wrong perspective, viz. as a scheme for increasing employment, rather than as a pretext for throwing taxpayers' money at private companies. Nevertheless, Graybeing did his best to keep up appearances, clunking out the minspeak ("continuous 13-week break in claim ... job outcomes is a lagging indicator") and telling us all about how wonderful it was that only seventy-five per cent of beneficiaries had failed to stay off benefits, while dismissing with a light laugh the idea that anyone should know or care how many on the chain-gang actually got jobs. Graybeing also said that officials were evaluating a scheme whereby those who were failed by the programme would receive six-month sentences of "community service", though it is as yet unclear whether this will mean picking up litter, stacking shelves, or participating in the sexual cleansing of Christian bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

We Will Always Look After You

Since Twizzler Lansley's mugging of the NHS has yet to make its attrition truly felt among the undeserving vulnerable, it is anticipated that, for the foreseeable future, proles will continue to indulge in the inconsiderate longevity which has done so much damage to our market forces. Given the urgency of the situation, it was perhaps inevitable that the Government would put off doing anything about it until next year, when optimists hope that the Chancellor will have got a few sums right at last, or that in any event the problem will have been reduced by the value of a few hypothermia cases and self-immolations. There are rumours that the Government has "agreed in principle to" (in Standard English, proclaimed the regrettable impossibility of) raising the limit of money people are allowed to have before they are forced to rely on their offspring or the private sector; the New Labour drone Randy Burnham has dismissed this as an empty gesture, and he ought to know. Meanwhile, the Treasury has extruded a spokesbeing to deny that the empty gesture has been vetoed by the Chancellor: "It is completely untrue that we have blocked anything," said the spokesbeing indignantly. "We have not even been in the talks." At the moment, it would appear, George the Progressively Regressive is not even trusted sufficiently to be included in the negotiations about how to prevent care of the elderly from gobbling up too much of the next round of tax cuts.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Submarine Sunk

Fury at Osborne horror provokes succession crisis horror

Senior Conservatives are so dissatisfied with the Government that they are briefing in favour of pushing David Cameron under a bus.

Well-placed Tories have sought to reassure the public that, in the event of the Prime Minister's sudden demise, George Osborne would not be the chosen successor.

Despite Osborne's slimy demeanour, constant attacks on the poor and vulnerable, and general air of incompetence, his credit in the Conservative party has been dropping steadily.

As a shadowy psychopath living next door to a smarmy sociopath, Osborne was widely regarded as the Brown to Cameron's Blair.

For few months in opposition, Cameron did succeed at imitating Blair's appearance of sincerity, but Osborne has had difficulty imitating Brown's corresponding appearance of substance.

Osborne has also made a number of policy blunders and U-turns, and recently made an accusation against the shadow chancellor which he was unable to substantiate.

Both wings and the tail of the British Neoliberal Party regard it as unacceptable to make evidence-free accusations against people who can fight back.

Meanwhile, Cameron has lost credibility among his party by not definitively vetoing the Euro-wogs, by failing to provoke enough welfare suicides and by not starting enough wars.

"If Dave fell under a bus tomorrow, George would not be prime minister," said a self-described loyalist MP. "The same would apply if Dave were pulled apart by thoroughbred horses, or tinned to be eaten by poor people. There are all sorts of ways it could be done."

Friday, July 06, 2012

Betrayal Not Always Best Shock

One of Nick Clegg's most senior advisers outside the Daveybloke dog-handling pool has taken advantage of his impending retirement to hint that throwing the manifesto overboard may not necessarily be the optimum course of action every time a conflict arises. Richard Reeves claims that, after the bloody nose of the tuition fees, the broken arm of electoral reform and the amputated guts over the Health and Social Care Act, the Deputy Conservatives may decide to retaliate against the Conservatives if Lords reform is blocked. The plotted Great Daveymander, whereby the Conservatives hope to reduce the number of Commons seats while awarding themselves an extra couple of dozen, would then suffer defeat, unless the winds of opportunism on that particular day decreed that Labour should support it.

Update The Deputy Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Hughes, has now proclaimed that Reeves is "completely overstating the case" and has made clear that, in fact, treachery may well be the best option here too. In any case, it appears that, on this issue as on so many others, the Deputy Conservatives will be pleased to accommodate Britain's Head Boy and his chums in any and every possible orifice. In a superb outburst of sycophancy, reminiscent of poodles on the White House lawn or Louise Mensch twittering the innocence of Murdoch, Hughes even appealed to the party of tax havens and Daddy's money as "anybody who is in favour of a modern parliament and a modern democracy ... where parliament is principally elected in a second chamber by the people rather than being there by patronage or by heredity".

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Another Round

Rah rah! Let's have another round of quantitative easing,
To stop the markets seizing up when they should just be seizing,
And compensate them for their pains, because they need appeasing
For all the trouble they have had in fiddling and fleecing,
And all the money which the poor are somehow not releasing;
Let's give them stimulation in a manner sweet and pleasing,
Until some market force decides that they have just been teasing -
And then - rah rah! Another round of quantitative easing.

Gideon Fatwick

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Certain Something

Now that the Budget has proven such a success, George the Progressively Regressive has leapt into the Libor scandal with his usual hobnailed sebacity. As with everything else that isn't the fault of Euro-wogs, the poor or the weather, the last Labour government was to blame, and self-evidently has many more questions to answer than any Conservative donor. Of course it is hardly an implausible supposition that Gordon Brown's ragbag of liars, torturers, creeps and incompetents might also have included a crook or two, just like Daveybloke's own rabble of thieves, bullies, psychopaths and half-wits; and of course we are all now aware that when the Conservatives agitated in opposition for less regulation of the banking sector, they were not referring to the banking sector as a whole but only to Conservative donors with honourable intentions. Still, it must have taken a certain something for the double-dip chancellor himself to poke his dewlap out of doors at this point, though it is doubtful whether that something is a thing many human beings would particularly care to have.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Proactive Bulwarks

A pledge by the directors of Network Rail to waive their annual bonuses has acquired a definite whiff of cleggery. The chair of the remuneration committee has sent a letter to the consumers' watchdog, urging them to endorse a salary rise, a long-term bonus scheme and a £300,000-apiece "proactive bulwark" to prevent desertions. There is, it appears, "a still very active international market" among people who want their trains delayed, their staff disgruntled and their networks run into the ground. The urging has apparently come about because everybody involved believes in performance-related pay: "For too long we've seen rewards paid out for failure, and we're not in that business," said a spokesbeing. "Unlike the banks, you don't have massive, perverse incentives for short-term gain." Instead, rail directors are proactively bulwarked for no gain at all, presumably in the hope that market forces and the goodness of their hearts may result in some show of efficiency a few years hence.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Lots of Love

Daveybloke's ex-cuddly communications director, Honest Andy Coulson, may just possibly have proven that giving a scumbag another chance can have unexpectedly redemptive consequences. Daveybloke, his heifer, Coulson and their mutual chum Rebekah Brooks have all been attending a music festival in Oxfordshire, since it's a highlight of the local social calendar and Daveybloke has nothing more important to do this week. Britain's leading liberal newspaper noted what Brooks was wearing, and a couple of paparazzi say that Daveybloke and Coulson met for a brief exchange of words. Downing Street has corroborated the photographers' story with a categorical denial; but the photographers rather suspiciously failed to capture on film what could have been an embarrassing encounter. There is no particular reason to believe that Daveybloke is anxious to meet his former chums in person, when he can talk to them any time he likes by untapped telephone or email, and invite them back into the Government as soon as some obscure clause in Theresa May's National Snoopery Bill makes News Corporation's activities not only legal but laudable. Sentimental fool that I am, I prefer to believe that Honest Andy's recent vicissitudes have left him with some vestige of pride, and that he took whatever measures were necessary to avoid any suspicion of physical proximity to the Prime Minister.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo

and Other Conflicts I Have Known

Before his spot of bother in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray was employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in western Africa. This account of Murray's adventures in Ghana, Togo and Nigeria clearly shows that, even at that early stage of his career, he had the makings of an enemy of democracy.

For one thing, he appears to have been genuinely concerned for the welfare of Africans, rather than the profit of British corporations and their New Labour chums; for another, the Africans whose welfare most concerned him appear to have been, not hard-working dictators or enterprising politicians, but common everyday wogs whose villages could often be reached only after much hard driving in an off-road vehicle, much to the inconvenience of certain saloon-bound security personnel.

Indeed, it is tempting to regard the very structure of Murray's book as a slap in the face to the slick self-exculpation of Blairism. The Catholic Orangemen of Togo opens and closes with discreditable episodes from Murray's complicated and, as he himself admits, unfair love-life, which is not at all the Reverend Tony's sort of thing. Murray's book is about a third of the length of A Journey and, fortunately for the forces of righteousness, isn't nearly so well packaged. The dust jacket illustration swamps the title; and the text itself, though charmingly written, could have done with the attention of a professional proof-reader.

Murray's lack of an appropriate perspective has led him into trouble time and again, whether from want of Blairite moral absolutism in dealing with the perpetrators of illiberal atrocities, or from inability to match the fierce indignation of Clare Short in a presumably well-meant but hopelessly maladroit blather about the sins of the British Empire. For many beneficiaries of a British education, Africans divide fairly neatly into cartoon-monster dictators, machete-wielding barbarians, and dusky, mildly retarded children. His perceptions handicapped by chronic lower-class Scottishness, Murray sees only human beings.