The Curmudgeon


Friday, November 30, 2012

Go Back to Your Constituencies and Prepare for Government

Fury at Europe horror

Pro-Europeans and other members of the reality-based community were breathing sighs of relief today as Nigel Farage proclaimed UKIP the new third force in British politics.

The United Kingdom Independence Party is well known as a haven for people not intelligent enough for the party of Iain Duncan Smith, not nice enough for the party of Eric Pickles, or too sebaceous for the party of George Osborne.

Farage's remarks came after three by-elections this Thursday, when UKIP performed well against the Conservatives and Deputy Conservatives despite the near-universal esteem in which both coalition parties are held.

"It's a rare positive result for Britain in Europe," said one fairly normal person this morning.

"It's difficult to express our joy at Mr Farage's pronouncement. The feelings of a mad mullah on hearing Tony Blair declare peace in the Middle East, the feelings of a millionaire banker on hearing Vince Cable promising tough measures.

"Or even the feelings of a thuggish press baron on hearing David Cameron say he would implement Lord Leveson's recommendations - I suppose that would come close."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mature Debate

Dave: Leveson's gone and reported,
And thinks the Press ought to be sorted!
I must take my stand
Pending Rupert's command
On how this can best be aborted.

Ed: Leveson's briefing is such
As to put party points in my clutch!
I'll just sit about,
See how things pan out,
And then do my best nothing much.

Nick: Leveson's thingy may save
My name as the Deputy Dave!
I'll make my own speech
Without causing a breach,
And get a few crumbs and then cave.

The Press: Now the snake has uncurled!
Dictatorship's banner's unfurled!
We told Hillsborough's Truth,
And we hacked a dead youth!
When we can't, that's the end of the world!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thick as Thieves

The ridiculous Nadine Dorries' recent ridiculous escapade on a reality show has gained the admiration of the ridiculous Jeremy C Hunt, who proclaimed on a radio programme that Parliament should be more for entertainment purposes and not for anything silly like representation of the people. Dorries, who famously said that her website blatherings were seventy per cent false, is a natural candidate for the approval of the fatuous Hunt; although what with his own record as Minister for NewsCorp and Cultchah, and then Minister for NewsCorp and Health, a vote of confidence from that direction may yet prove of dubious advantage. Hunt, of course, was appointed to his present position almost entirely as a Bullingdon jape against the proles; the only clearer signals of Daveybloke's plans for the NHS would have been to keep Twizzler Lansley in post or else replace him with a Liberal Democrat. Since Daveybloke's reshuffle was nothing if not a purging of the Cabinet's excess oestrogen, presumably a ministerial post is beyond Dorries' grasp for the moment, no matter how big a fool she makes of herself; but given her now televised anus-eating qualifications a happy announcement is surely just a matter of time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Working and Hurting

Well, here's a thing: despite the eructations of Lord Freud, who doubtless works hard and plays by the rules as much as any investment banker ever does, it appears that poverty is quite often not a lifestyle choice and can on occasion affect even potential Guardian readers. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation claims that higher employment figures, even when not particularly fiddled, have failed to solve the problem of poverty thanks to an arcane economic mechanism whereby people become poorer the less they are paid. Fortunately, however, a spokesbeing for the Department of Workfare and Privation has asked around and discovered that four-fifths of those working part-time do so for purely selfish reasons, despite all the full-time jobs famously created by Triple-Dip George and his chums in the private sector. In addition, it transpires that any remaining difficulties will be resolved by Universal Credit, which will not only procure fairer wages and better conditions and lift hundreds of thousands out of the Slough of Despond, but will also guarantee better summers, eliminate garden pests, win England the World Cup and gain Iain Duncan Smith a third-class diploma from the Emerald City Vocational College; so that's all right.

Monday, November 26, 2012

26 November 1120

It was near the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. In their enigmatic corner, Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett had concluded some enigmatic transaction, and were exchanging satisfied sibilants of mutual esteem. At the card-players' table, a less civilised exchange was taking place because Limbless Fred had bitten a piece out of somebody without giving them a chance to win it back first. The mutilated party was threatening Limbless Fred with a haircut, because when it came to bodily curtailment there was very little else with which to threaten Limbless Fred; and Hooligan Motts was just about to announce, "Twenty-sixth of November, eleven twenty. Nearly closing time," when a young man and lady in noble attire came in through the front door. They had been arguing vehemently, but halted at the sight of Granny Forbus and stood staring around the clientele.

"What's the matter with you two?" demanded Granny Forbus.
"Have you not yet heard?" said the young man. "The White Ship has foundered."
"The king's only son, William Adelin, is drowned," said the lady.
"Good thing we came when we did, then," grunted Granny Forbus. "If we'd arrived a day later, you wouldn't be able to budge for floral tributes."
"It will mean great trouble for the kingdom, unless a new heir is found," said the man. "By a miracle, Stephen of Blois was spared the catastrophe."
"Stephen of Blois," said the lady, in the projectile tone which Granny Forbus used when expelling olive stones, "was spared the catastrophe because of an attack of the flux. I never heard the trots called a miracle before."
"The bowel moves in mysterious ways," interposed one of the card-players, who had been eavesdropping from the bar. Melon Head Myrtle gave him one of her piercing glares, which were not quite as sharp as Constable Pring and even less difficult to ignore.

The man ordered ale and the lady ordered wine, and they continued their argument. Melon Head Myrtle listened in, along with a couple of others who enjoyed a royal tragedy with their tipple.

"There is no need for Stephen of Blois," the lady said, "while the Empress Matilda enjoys good health and the esteem of her countrymen."
"Precisely so," said the man; "and it is because she has the first and not the second that a strong and worthy successor is required. We need no more wars, such as the king himself had to fight at the beginning of his reign against the rebellion of Robert Littlesocks. What the kingdom needs is someone who can keep order - "
"Like the late Prince William, I suppose," said the lady. She addressed Melon Head Myrtle, who was observing the conversation over a banana daiquiri with all the trimmings. "Do you know the precious Prince may have caused the ship to founder? They say he gave the crew too much drink, that the priests were not allowed on board to give their blessing, and that they tried to race the king's own ship."
"I'm sure you're right, dearie," agreed Melon Head Myrtle, partly from politeness and partly because the man was wearing bright yellow tights. "And I'm sure you're well rid of this Stephen of Blooey, too. The last thing you need is a king with a delicate stomach."
"The Empress Matilda," said the man, "has the stomach and the heart of a weak and feeble woman." He started suddenly and clapped a hand to his ear as an olive stone bounced off it. "The Empress Matilda has not seen twenty summers," he said, glaring over at Granny Forbus who ignored him and gurgled her gin.
"She is still older than that wastrel Prince," argued the lady. "Come now, dear Eustace - " the gurgles of Granny Forbus grew momentarily louder and less controlled - "is there no circumstance under which the Empress might gain your favour?"
"If she were twenty years older and wiser, and promised to cut taxes by half, I might be moved to give her my consideration," said Eustace.

There was a murmur of disapproval among the card-players. "Bad idea, mate," one of them called over. "Stick with the male line, that's my advice. A queen in this period would be culturally unsound."
"It'd undermine the Salic law," said someone else.
"You'd have anarchy, pure anarchy," said a third, but he was lying under the table and nobody heard him except Limbless Fred, who wasn't interested.

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bag a Burglar for Chris

As the role of the police evolves more and more into that of a mercenary enforcer of purely corporate interests, the Conservative Party will require one or two new dog-whistles to persuade the little folk that it is on their side. That is perhaps the most rational of the various possible pretexts for Chris Graybeing's intention to modify the law, which already permits the use of force against intruders, so that use of force will be permitted against intruders. Graybeing, of course, was shuffled into the Ministry of Justice on the same grounds as Jeremy C Hunt was shuffled into the health ministry: Graybeing knows nearly as much about the law as Hunt, a fan of coathangers and other homeopathic remedies, knows about public health. Even more humiliating, Graybeing was Daveybloke's second choice, after his intellectual equal Iain Duncan Smith insisted on remaining as Supreme High Commissioner of the Idleness Police. Much like Duncan Smith with his benefit-fraud obsession, Graybeing evidently prefers to focus on the narrower picture: in the fifteen years to 2005, there were eleven prosecutions of people who attacked intruders, including seven who attacked domestic burglars. Perhaps, like so many in the present Cabinet, Graybeing is confused by large numbers.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Impotence Rampant

In accordance with the husky-hugging principles of the greenest government ever, George the Progressively Osborne has vetoed a Deputy Conservative plan to introduce a de-carbonisation target for later administrations to ignore; hence the Deputy Conservative energy secretary is proclaiming a famous victory. Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey) has also been snubbed by Britain's Head Boy himself, whom he petitioned to remove the ridiculous John Hayes for making statements against coalition policy. Since the Deputy Conservatives themselves have been happy to tear up those parts of the original coalition agreement which did not agree with the Real Conservatives, Daveybloke has saved his condescension for the Euro-wogs and has not even bothered to reply. It is just possible that Davey's panic about the possibility of judicial reviews had some influence on Daveybloke's rant to the CBI last week, during which he promised to abolish judicial reviews if they didn't start doing as they were told; but the Bullingdon Club has never really needed any help from the Deputy Conservatives when it comes to circumventing the law. Still, as a measure of compensation Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey) has now been granted permission to write letters to the National Grid, which is certainly a triumph.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Lifestyle Choice We Can't Afford

We all know it's hard being a member of the Conservative Party. The social stigma alone is considerable, and variously approaches the stigma attached to being a member of UKIP, the BNP or the Liberal Democrats. But is this an acceptable excuse?

It has become fashionable to believe that membership of the Conservative Party is a calamity that could happen to anyone - that the cretinous posturing of a Michael Gove or Boris Johnson, the thick-headed bullying of an Eric Pickles, the witless obduracy of a Theresa May are not, after all, personality traits which anyone would choose to have, and that people should not be held personally culpable for undesirable traits which were beaten into them at school, or which perhaps were inherited from Daddy along with all that purely spiritual poverty.

Nowadays, with the country in perpetual and unending crisis, we can no longer afford such a sentimental outlook. Faults may indeed be inherited or involuntary, but once they have become both obvious and destructive there can be no excuse for not attempting to repair them. True, the Conservative Party did once try to paper over its instinctive racism and sexism by appointing a token female Muslim as its co-chair; unfortunately the gesture was somewhat undercut by the fact that the token female Muslim it appointed happened to be Sayeeda Warsi.

On the unredeemed side, the party continues to allow into high office people such as the sociopathic fop David Cameron; the sniggering schoolboy George Osborne; the fatuous flunkey Jeremy Hunt; the empty barrel William Hague; the witless Chris Grayling; the pointless Philip Hammond; Iain Duncan Smith; and a vast bumbling array of psychological freaks and moral vegetables the like of which has rarely been seen in such concentrated form since the previous Labour government.

Liberal tolerance is all very well, but it is out of date and dangerously out of place when dealing with those who endanger the public, whether by endangering its safety through squabbling with the police, or by endangering its health through being Andrew Lansley. It is time for the taxpayer to stop giving these people a license to waste money and steal resources while at the same time incessantly fouling the media with ignorant complaints about how it's all someone else's fault. It is time to consider what might be a reasonable scale of sanctions for membership of the Conservative Party, and I suggest we start with something slightly harsher than a vote for a barely distinguishable opposition every five years or an occasional splatter of paint.

Perhaps, like the undeserving poor, they need humiliation, poverty and exile. Since so few of them have friends or communities, perhaps they need cutting off from their allies and conspiracies. Perhaps we might even consider bringing back the birch. Whatever it takes, this Party needs to be over.

Mel Rantsplatter

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How Blesséd, Doctor Williams

How blesséd, Doctor Williams, are those,
Who love their enemies to bitter ends;
Whose faith so far forbids them to impose
A principle, that they will wrong their friends.

How blesséd, Doctor Williams, is one
Who won't take one side, though debate be ripe;
But, always taking both or taking none,
Pontificates the issue into tripe.

How blesséd, Doctor Williams, is he,
Who sees an error only to compound it,
And leaves his church, my dear old Pharisee,
A greater laughing-stock than when he found it.

Rev. Sorbus Malbarb

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

21 November 869

It was virtually the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Hooligan Motts was behind the bar, watering down the Plugguggly in case of emergencies, and was just about to announce, "November the twenty-first, eight sixty-nine. Nearly closing time," when the door sneaked open and admitted a large bearded head in a large hornless helmet. "Are we too late?" asked the head. "I was hoping for a quick one before starting back to Thetford."

Meeting no objections, the door sneaked open further and admitted the large leather-clad body to which the head was apologetically attached. After the body came another body, bearing on its back a large tub which emitted liquescent protests at every sudden movement. The card-players, several of whom had bet their teeth and lost, looked up curiously.

"You must excuse us," said the man in the helmet. "Battles cropping up at the last minute, and blood-eagles and what have you, and this thing," he aimed a kick at the carrier of the tub, who gratefully positioned himself at an appropriately painful angle, "this Edmund here, nearly spilled Ivar twice. Just put him down gently," he ordered the conveyancer, "and then be off to a dark corner and stay out of my sight for a while. Honestly," the customer resumed to Hooligan Motts, while Edmund reverently deposited the tub as directed, "honestly, it's been an awful day. Beer, please."

By way of improving matters, he kicked out again at Edmund, propelling him in the direction of Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett, whose corner was as dark as most people could wish, and darker than many would care for.
"Battles?" said Mr Boggust, or possibly Mr Blodgett.
"Blood-eagles?" said Mr Blodgett, or possibly Mr Boggust.
"Both," stammered Edmund, trying not to look at either of them in case he saw the other. "Yesterday. A dreadful defeat by our pagan persecutors." He pointed at the bar. "Ubbe Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless."
"Mr Ragnarsson to you," the large man called over, "your majesty."

Edmund, who was still hunched over as though carrying the tub, flinched so badly that he nearly straightened out. While the large man wasn't looking, one of the card-players - not Constable Pring - sneaked up to the tub for a look inside and then had to visit the bathroom rather suddenly.

"You can't get the staff these days," Mr Ragnarsson confided to the bar in general. "The bowmen wanted to use him for target practice, and I'd just as soon have let them, but then Ivar had to have his way." He prodded the tub with his foot. "Had a perfectly adequate slave to carry him around: strong as an ox, good upholstery, nice and smooth over the bumps. But that wasn't good enough for Ivar, was it?" He prodded again, and the tub spluttered indignantly. "Oh, no," Mr Ragnarsson said. "Ivar gets it into his head, or into his brain anyway, that he needs better quality transport, something in the luxury line. A king, no less."

At the mention of the word king, Edmund squeaked slightly. It may have been a squeak of reverence, or it may have been a squeak of fear; then again, it may merely have been the sort of squeak people often emitted in the company of Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust. Edmund did not elaborate upon the squeak, and nobody asked him.

"So we had to spare the cowardly little squit," Mr Ragnarsson complained, "and do the blood-eagle thing on one of his vassals, which isn't half so much fun. You've tried the blood-eagle thing yourself, I suppose? Cutting the ribs away from the backbone and pulling out the lungs?"
"Not recently," said Hooligan Motts, who kept a tidy house. "Used to do pies a while ago."
"Ah," said Mr Ragnarsson sympathetically. "Anyway, we offered the usual terms: do as you're told or suffer horribly for a very long time, which are more or less the terms they get from their god. I don't suppose you're acquainted with their god, are you - the Jewish chap with the sense of humour?"
"Not personally acquainted, no," said Hooligan Motts.
"You're not missing much, from what I understand," said Mr Ragnarsson. "But they're a stubborn lot, some of them. You'd think it would be easy for them to leave this church of theirs, since all you have to do in order to join is tell lies and get your head washed. But not a bit of it. That vassal kept on and on and on about this heavenly father of his who likes to nail his children to crosses; kept on about it right up until someone chopped his head off. It was quite distracting."

Mr Ragnarsson drained his beer, slammed the glass down on the bar, handed Hooligan Motts a coin and looked around for Edmund, who had sidled away to look for a dark corner which he wouldn't have to share with Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett. "Come on, you," Mr Ragnarsson yelled, while the barman unobtrusively swept away the cracked glass. Edmund did his best to bow and scrape his way over to his master, but found himself unable to do so very effectively because his posture was already so obsequious. He banged his nose on the floorboards a few times, then scuttled to shoulder his burden. From inside the tub came gurgles in an imperious tone, and Edmund preceded Mr Ragnarsson through the door.

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Free Fire

Given what the self-regulating minions of Murdoch achieved with nothing more than money, mobile telephones and a fundamental lack of decency, it should come as no surprise that the Government believes companies whose personnel carry guns and tasers should be allowed to self-regulate also. In addition, the watchdog for the security industry is to be moved into the profiteering sector, thus freeing it from any taint of accountability to Parliament or the public, or "red tape" in Modern English. As theology dictates, transparency will be improved, accountability enhanced, standards raised and the undeserving punished; and once the taxpayer has picked up the tab for the inevitable cock-ups, "savings can be passed on to customers", such as failed asylum seekers and utilisers of law enforcement emporia. As with the press, it appears the Government likes its mercenaries raucous.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Business Is War

In 2010, Britain's soon-to-be Head Boy campaigned on a sort of damp proto-Milibeing One Nation burble, which was abandoned the moment it became clear that the Liberal Democrats had no particular interest in their own manifesto provided they could keep their little red boxes. Then George Osborne attempted to revive confidence in the economy by saying we were half-way to Greece; Daveybloke tried to steer a moderate course on Europe by vetoing the Continent; and it has all been sharp right ever since.

One of the problems with political extremism is that once you start squeaking there is usually nowhere to go but higher. Hence, presumably, today's demented rant by the Head Boy himself when up before the beaks at the Confabulation of Business Interests. Four years into a global economic crisis which was caused by profiteers taking bad risks, Britain's Head Boy castigated Whitehall for destroying livelihoods by being too risk-averse. The jumped-up PR junior whose administration stole the NHS for Serco, said rah-rah for G4S and is selling schools to the highest bidders mourned that civil servants are too willing to say "no" instead of "yes". Daveybloke blamed the civil service for interfering with the Government's mistakes, implied that EU procurement rules and stakeholder management were somehow responsible for holding back the British Empire and, barely a week after Remembrance Day, compared the Bullingdon Club's urge to look after its chums with the "overriding purpose" of winning the Second World War. Of course, all Conservative leaders like to think of themselves as the reincarnation of Winston Churchill, and Daveybloke is looking increasingly qualified thanks to his healthily expanding rear dewlap and collar overflow factor; but it seems ever more doubtful whether these alone will suffice.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

18 November 1477

It was past the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel, and once again the card-players were using Limbless Fred to shuffle. The sound was moistly repulsive like idiots giggling, and every now and then the ace of spades would go flying across the room and as often as not land somewhere inconvenient, such as the gin of Granny Forbus or a random eye socket. Just as Hooligan Motts announced, "Eighteenth of November fourteen seventy-seven. Past closing time," a man in monkish apparel entered bearing a large leather case, and marched straight to the bar. The ace of spades hit him twice in the same ear before he got there, but he neither weaved nor wavered.

"Wine," he barked at Hooligan Motts.
"Past closing time," said Hooligan Motts.
"Wine," the man insisted, "and water it not." He slammed the leather case onto the bar and stood watching it for unauthorised activity.
"Nothing watered down here, sir," said Hooligan Motts with dignity; "the water's got fluoride in it or some such, but not chlorine as I understand, which means you can drink it but you can't use it for a swimming pool." As the man boggled, Hooligan Motts produced a bottle of Western Australia Tant Pis Rosé pilfered from one of the drier decades of the twenty-second century, and unscrewed the cap. He filled a glass and set it down on the bar beneath the man's thicketed nose.

The man glared at it. "What French trickery is this? Serve your witches' brew in honest cups, fellow, else be harried by the Guild." Hooligan Motts pointed at the blackboard behind him, where the available fare at the Gallows and Glockenspiel was listed by price and potency, though without the burden of apostrophes. The customer squinted, briefly but beadily, and shrugged. "Your scrawl is French to me," he said. "In these days all is French and devilry. Look here."

He reached for the leather case and fiddled with the clasp. When it was open Hooligan Motts observed that the case was not a case at all, for it was full of stiff pages covered in print.
"Have you ever seen the like?" the man complained. "It is a printed Boke, they say."
"Looks very nice," said Hooligan Motts.
"Bah!" The man glared around the Gallows and Glockenspiel, with such deadly scorn that one of the card-players had to scratch the back of Limbless Fred's neck. "It is a printed Boke," spat the man. "No human hand wrote these letters. 'Twas done with a machine, an engine of Satan, after the manner of the Frenchman Gutenberg."

While speaking, the man had gathered up his courage so far as to touch the glass of wine, prodding and poking it from all sides and smudging it with his fingers. Now he felt able to pick it up, perhaps because the mottled marks imparted a comforting resemblance to his accustomed drinking-vessels.

"What's it about, then?" said Hooligan Motts, turning the pages of the Boke.
His customer scowled. "Philosophers and the like. It hardly signifies. Have you not heard? It is a printed Boke!" The strain of imparting this revelation a third time impelled him to gulp down the contents of the glass. His subsequent grimace was empurpled by a maroon vista of gums. "Think of it," he cried; "a Boke in a script set down without clerks, without quills, without God's sweet cramping of the wrist! A Boke which can be produced in dozens of copies, which would take the most diligent friars a lifetime to complete!"
"Sounds very handy," said Hooligan Motts.
"A Boke," the man continued, "composed by mere artisans, whose errors and ugliness of grammar and syntax must now be reproduced dozens and dozens of times, for anyone to read who can! It will destroy our language, rip the soul from thought itself!"
Hooligan Motts nodded sagely. For a work on philosophy, the Boke did appear to contain very few apostrophes.
"And who is to say," said the man, "when so many copies are about, that they may not fall into the wrong hands? How shall we know that the day may not come, when all may read even the Bible and interpret it as they please? It will mean the dawn of the Antichrist."
"I think that's a bit far-fetched, myself," said Hooligan Motts. "You can have as many of these things floating about as you like, but it won't matter much if nobody can read them. You can't have the Antichrist dawning unless there's schools and things."

The man snorted, and grabbed the Boke from the barman's hands. He set it on the bar and turned a few pages, scowling down at them as though from a pulpit, with the foul philosophers themselves cowering beneath him. Then, with a sigh, he closed the cover, fastened the clasp and replaced the Boke under his arm. "Farewell," he said to Hooligan Motts. "Improve this French fare of yours, lest the wrath of the Almighty fall upon you."
He turned to leave. "French or not," said Hooligan Motts, "you still have to pay."
The man halted in the doorway and turned. "Blessings be upon this house," he said, in a voice so loud and sonorous that Limbless Fred was able to conceal three cards while the others weren't looking; "blessings be upon those within, and may Heaven protect them from the Guild, the French and," his gaze lit upon Granny Forbus, and he shuddered, "the perils of fornication."

He turned on his heel and fled through the doors. Ruefully Hooligan Motts picked up the wine-glass, decided that its days of transparency were at an end, and threw it in the recycling bin.

"Eh?" said Granny Forbus, who had never been much of a reader.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Not Guilty By Association

Rubbing in the latest humiliation at Corby, a member of the Deputy Conservatives has managed to get himself elected police and crime commissioner for North Wales by passing himself off as an independent and declining to take the party whip. The Deputy Conservative leader in Wales backed him publicly "because, as an independent candidate, he is free from party political pressure" from what is left of his and her political party. In a manner of speaking, I suppose this is true. The Deputy Conservatives now have no policies of their own, and beyond occasional grumbles from Vince Cable and hissy-fits from Wee Nicky they are incapable of exerting political pressure on anything more vertebrate than their creatures in the House of Claimants.

Me at Poetry-24
Political Police

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wobbly Seats

A London council run, if that is the word I want, by the Not Awfully Bright Party, is facing difficulties over its attempts to outsource its responsibilities to the profitable sector. The charming and law-abiding Brian Coleman turned against the plan when the party withdrew the whip because of some problems with the non-democratic police. The chief executive, who devised the whole devastatingly sane scheme, was so taken with the thought of pushing it through that he resigned and joined a neighbouring council which is controlled by a slightly different wing of the British Neoliberal Party. A man and his disabled daughter are trying for a judicial review, on the grounds that the council has treated disabled people in the borough with the Conservative Party's standard degree of contempt; and now some unscrupulous person has leaked an email exchange in which one councillor complains that the party has no more mandate for its assault than the Government had for putting the boot into the NHS. It may be a belated attack of conscience, or it may be a loosening sphincter; where our political masters are concerned, of course, the distinction is largely a matter for the trained anatomist.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Diplomatic Note

Well, mazel tov, dear President,
Upon your re-election!
We've bombed an Arab resident
To show you our affection.
The existential threat to us
Is really rather large:
Iran will surely better us
Unless we up and charge.
Your servant, Tony What's-his-face,
Has envoyed with the best:
Let Gaza be the peaceful place
Where Untermenschen rest.

Official communiqué

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


For the past couple of years the Irish government has "struggled to respond" to a ruling by the European court of human rights, which found that although Irish law permits abortion in cases where the woman's life is in danger, the relevant laws were not being implemented. Since Jesus can never have enough sunbeams, it seems that a woman has now died of septicaemia after being denied a medical termination of her miscarrying pregnancy. The tragedy appears to have provoked an unwonted silence from those nominally celibate males in skirts, such as the recent Bigot of the Year laureate Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who usually have so much to say about God's law concerning the rights of the non-ordained. Presumably they are busy praying for the foetus or scattering holy water, or doing something equally helpful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Human Resources

Despite the impressive progress Atos has made in getting terminally ill people back to work, an apparently pathological liar has been fraudulently obtaining benefits money by forging documents and pretending her young son was seriously ill. The woman cannot be identified for legal reasons, although I am sure the scumbag press would be happy to name and shame were it not already busy pre-trashing the Leveson report and witch-hunting the BBC.

Since family values appear to have let the side down a little, as often happens in the taxpayer-leeching classes, the boy and his siblings have been taken into care. Rather than being invited to the House of Commons, or some other institution where personality disorders are in high demand, the enterprising lady has been put in prison. Doubtless the company will do her morals a lot of good; and doubtless, when she comes out again, she can get back to breeding.

Monday, November 12, 2012

12 November 1918

Hooligan Motts had barely announced the time, "November the twelfth, nineteen eighteen. Nearly closing time," when a surging mass of joyous persons burst like a tidal wave through the door of the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Granny Forbus was brushed against several times, and once she was positively knocked. The middle-aged culprit, whose moustache seemed to be dragging him off-balance, apologised for his clumsiness and waved a newspaper at her, but Granny Forbus was not susceptible to newspapers, or to men, or to their moustaches. She had seen them all before, and knew their tricks.

At the bar Hooligan Motts was hard pressed, yanking the taps of Old Groveller's and Cropper Coaltar Misery and shoving the foaming pints at the frenzied, grabbing hands. Undoubtedly, by the law of averages, some would get what they asked for. Near the corner table where Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett were about their enigmatic business, a person sat down heavily and stared, gleaming slightly. "It's over at last," he said.

Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett looked up politely. The gleaming person gleamed a little more, then drained his Cropper Coaltar and waved his glass at them. "Don't you know?" the gleaming person cried. "Haven't you read the papers? Or are you sausage-eaters, the pair of you?"

But before Mr Blodgett, or possibly Mr Boggust, could discuss their dietary predilections, the gleaming person rose to his unsteady feet and made his way back to the bar, where several newspapers were in evidence among the grabbing hands and pointing fingers. "The war," they said. "The war to end war. It's over at last."
"What war's that, then?" asked Melon Head Myrtle, who was partial to a uniform here and there.
Incredulous eyeballs weaved and stared. "The war with Germany," said somebody. "There's an armistice. Hostilities over as of yesterday morning. Plucky little Belgium saved at last." Someone shook a newspaper under Melon Head Myrtle's nose, since it was obvious he could get away with it.
"That's nice," said Melon Head Myrtle. "Now you can build a country fit for heroes to live in, and squeeze Germany till the pips squeak."
"That's what we were thinking, more or less," said a plump young man with a red flower in his lapel.
"And be sure to keep on starving them until they surrender proper," said Melon Head Myrtle, whose acquaintance with uniforms here and there had resulted in one or two delusions of strategy.
"That's good thinking, that is," said the one with the moustache. He was propping up the gleaming one who looked slightly the worse for wear. "Can't let them get away with it, not after all we've been through. That isn't what our boys would want of us."

The plump young man leaned confidentially across the bar and breathed essence of Murgatroyd's on Hooligan Motts. "Are you by any chance," the young man said, "the landlord of these premises?"
"The landlord's away," said Hooligan Motts.
"Serving abroad?"
"Maybe, I suppose," said Hooligan Motts. "Hasn't caught up to us yet."
"Perhaps," said the young man, "perhaps that's the reason you haven't yet changed the name."
"The name?" asked Hooligan Motts.
"The name of this establishment," said the young man. "I wonder you've survived all this time, with a name like that. Now that we've got an armistice it may be all right, but you can't be too careful. Officially we're still at war."
"Still at war, that's right," said Melon Head Myrtle helpfully. "No stopping till they surrender proper. Starve them till they do, that's what I say. Starve them and bomb them good and peaceful."
"What I mean to say," the young man said, fingering the flower in his lapel, "is that you might want to consider dropping the glockenspiel."
"Dropping the glockenspiel?" said Hooligan Motts.
"Dropping it," said the young man. "It has, to be frank, some very unfortunate Teutonic connotations. Perhaps, for the time being, until the international situation has been rectified, something like the Hangman and Harpsichord might - "
"I don't think so," said Hooligan Motts.
"Well, at least change the word to something English, like xylophone," said the young man. "There's a war on, you know. People are angry."

Indeed, a smallish mob had already formed around the card-players' table, and several men were waving sticks in the air and giving vent to patriotic sentiments. One of them, who had a moustache like a standoff between two grubby Arctic chinchillas, tied a scarf around the end of his walking cane and, having doused it liberally with someone else's Cropper Coaltar, set it alight with his pipe. "Hang the Kaiser," he shouted, rushing for the door.
"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts diplomatically, as the crowd streamed out, yelling and repeatedly jogging the elbow of Granny Forbus.

The last to leave was the plump young man with the flower in his lapel. He tapped the side of his nose and threw a credit note on the bar. "Hangman and Harpsichord," he said. "Just think about it. Listen to the cadence."
He walked out, tipping his hat to Melon Head Myrtle.
The door closed behind him. "Peace at last," said Granny Forbus.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patricii Mori

Once more remembering our fallen best,
We gather round this solemn cenotaph.
They knew their place; unlike today's riff-raff,
Those sterling chaps obeyed without protest.
In Flanders fields they take their well-earned rest,
Unchivvied by the pension bureau's staff;
God grant their spirits peace, until they have
To be exhumed each year at our behest.

With discipline so lacking here today
Among our pampered plebs and noisy proles,
Two minutes out of this November morn
Seems quite a reasonable price to pay
For these fine fleshly drones, whose brave young souls
Are modelling for our nostalgia porn.

Bungo Blighty

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Up There

Speaking of endangered species, one of the Deputy Conservatives has been doing its best to adapt to the new, hostile environmental conditions of contempt from the Bullingdon Club and loathing from human beings. Sports fans will recall George Osborne's booing at the Olympics and his rather dismal effort to twist his habitual smirk into the pose of a Good Sport; now Osborne's fag Danny Alexander has had a try at emulating the master by squeezing a photo-opportunity from the launch of a beer called Ginger Rodent. Harriet Harman called Alexander a ginger rodent in a speech in 2010, to which Alexander responded: "I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind." Pride in one's unchosen genetic endowment is necessary but, alas, not quite sufficient for full membership of the Bullingdon Club. As to the rest, it is certainly true that some rodents do valuable work; others live in cages and spend their lives running on the spot inside hollow wheels, and still others facilitate the spread of disease by conniving to privatise the National Health Service.

Elsewhere in Scotland, the latest of Michael Greenwell's excellent Scottish Independence Podcasts featured Doug Daniel, an SNP activist who had some forthright words to counter objections to Scottish independence on the grounds that it would leave England permanently in the position of Danny Alexander. The argument that democracy in England is a problem for the English will butter few parsnips with the sort of people who believe that democracy is best imposed from a distance by NATO or the IMF; but it did inspire a brief brainstorm from me. Michael has kindly posted this on his own site, along with some useful advice concerning a minor but rewarding outpost of English literature.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Magic Word

It appears that trafficking in animal parts is not a mere environmental issue after all; hence the US State Department has been spurred into action against poachers in Africa and Asia. Besides tusks, horns and other bits and pieces, the more sophisticated poachers are also smuggling more up-to-date American aphrodisiacs such as drugs and guns; and to add insult to injury they are crossing national borders at will: an activity which in a well-ordered world should be the exclusive privilege of drone missiles, CIA torturers and cheap labour. Still, now that the magic word security has been invoked, the State Department has undergone a revelation about the undesirability of trafficking in body parts taken from endangered species. This opens up some potentially fruitful avenues for the environmental movement; although it remains to be seen whether a six-degree rise in global temperatures, with all the emergency provision opportunities afforded thereby, is a sufficiently marketable threat. Certainly, in comparison to the abolition of Christmas or Iran's weapons of mass nearlification, the Anthropogene Extinction Event has some catching up to do.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Now It's Getting Serious

Now that his chums in the self-regulating press have had their fun blaming the peccadilloes of Jimmy Savile on the BBC, Britain's Head Boy has been having a bit of a posture about the issue on a rival channel. Doubtless the recent allegations of involvement by Conservative politicians in child sex abuse have concentrated Daveybloke's mind: paedophilia makes for bad public relations and may on occasion interfere with sales. The prospect of a witch-hunt is even more serious, particularly if it should happen to be directed against real people instead of the workshy, the disabled or the dusky.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

You're Doing Fine, Oklahoma

The Christian state of Oklahoma has brought justice upon one of its wayward children who, in addition to the racial handicap so frequent on Death Row, may also have been incapable of understanding what was happening to him. His attorneys argued that he was mentally impaired when he committed the killing for which he was condemned, and that his subsequent accommodation at the taxpayers' expense had somehow made his condition worse. For all the country's recent leanings towards socialism, not even the American constitution permits the execution of insane or mentally incompetent people, and a psychiatric examination seven years ago resulted in a stay of execution. A recommendation for clemency was put in by the state's Pardon and Parole Board at about the same time, but what with one thing and another the governor failed to get around to denying it until this year. The execution took place an hour before polls closed in the presidential election, and we must hope for compassion's sake that it brought to the local Republicans a little spiritual comfort, and perhaps some quiet laughter.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Helping British Business

Daveybloke's latest trip to the Middle East on behalf of Britain's arms dealers has been rather tactlessly supplemented with the release of Government figures demonstrating Britain's long record of friendly and obliging salesmanship. When it comes to what Britain's leading liberal newspaper politely terms "autocratic régimes" (they don't become dictatorships until they have the temerity to disobey orders), British governments have shown far more generosity over debts than the present administration has ever shown its native proles over the country's maxed-out credit card.

Britain lent money to Robert Mugabe so that he could buy Land Rovers; he said the vehicles would be used "with due respect for human rights", but by some unfortunate oversight they were used in crushing demonstrations. Britain lent Suharto money to buy armoured cars and jets which, despite Robin Cook's ethical dimensions, somehow ended up being used to massacre Timorese civilians. In a particularly delightful coup before the Falklands war, Britain lent Galtieri's junta the money to buy aircraft which were then used to invade the islands; and Britain also lent money to Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak before the unfortunate transformations of those gentlemen from favoured trading partners into ravening ogres. Now that Mubarak has been removed, however, the Daveybloke administration has shown its sympathy for the Arab spring by demanding repayment of the debt which Mubarak incurred in acquiring the weapons to suppress it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

5 November 1605

It was nearly the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Hooligan Motts stood behind the bar with a napkin, polishing his lilac jowls. "Fifth of November sixteen oh five," he said. "Nearly closing time." In the darkened corner where Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett pursued their engimatic interests, an enigmatic nod was just about detectable. From elsewhere came splutters as the card-players tried to shuffle with Limbless Fred.

Nearest the door, Granny Forbus glowered and sucked her teeth, though not too hard in case she aspirated another of the real ones. The last time that had happened, Granny Forbus had ingested a premolar, not her cleanest by a long way, and from that day forth had complained incessantly of being eaten away from the inside. It was in vain that Limbless Fred pointed out that one tooth chewing was like one hand clapping, paradoxical; it was in vain that Mr Blodgett, or possibly Mr Boggust, offered the use of twenty feet of rubber tubing and a good quality cork. The complaining only stopped when they landed by chance in the twenty-first century and Hooligan Motts was able to pilfer enough SweetiFizz™ to de-fang the population of a small city. After several not altogether voluntary gallons, Granny Forbus had pronounced the pain dissolved.

Now she glared dyspeptically at the desperate stranger who rushed in through the open door. He was wild-eyed, ruffed and bearded, and as soon as he had stumbled into the bar he turned and tried to force the door closed behind him. Observing his efforts from each of her bilious orbits in turn, Granny Forbus slurped a mean little cackle into her drink.

The man turned and stared at her. "They're after me," he cried. "Sanctuary, in God's name!" He fell to his knees and clawed at the skirts of Granny Forbus.
"What's that?" she said.
"Sanctuary," said the man. "From the servants of the tyrant. At least close the door and let me hide."

He was clawing smudges of black powder all over the slightly off-black skirts of Granny Forbus. "Smutty-fingers," she said, knocking out her pipe on his knuckle-bones; whereupon a series of small explosions added their contribution to her wardrobe's general disrepute. "Oh, get off with you," she said.

The stranger had recovered from his initial desperation long enough to look about him. "What is this place?" he inquired. "I have been many times on this street, yet I never saw this house before. Is it sorcery, or a miracle?"
"It's nearly closing time," said Hooligan Motts. "What shall we do?"
"Sling him out," said Granny Forbus. From the darkened corner of Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett, there were sounds of affirmation.
"Bugger him," said one of the card-players.
Draping the napkin over the tap of Old Groveller's, Hooligan Motts came out from behind the bar and took the stranger by the neck. The stranger was wearing a cloak, but Hooligan Motts preferred the neck because people rarely flee leaving their necks in a captor's hand.
"Mercy!" choked the stranger. "In the name of the Blessed Virgin - "
"Get off with you," said Granny Forbus coquettishly.

Hooligan Motts flung the stranger into the night, where several beweaponed friends greeted him warmly, and the door of the Gallows and Glockenspiel closed upon the scene. There was an ominous rumble as they left, but Granny Forbus said it was just gas.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Why We Fight

In a telling indication of his hokey-cokey commitment to the European Union, Britain's Head Boy has delegated the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith to stir up a bit of patriotism among the proles. Given his long record of quiet good sense and his position as minister of forced labour, in a sane world Duncan Smith would be one of those few who command slightly less respect than Nick Clegg; and of course we cannot discount the possibility that his appearance was another of those delightful Bullingdon japes, like appointing Jeremy C Hunt to the Ministry of Health.

Anyway, Duncan Smith proclaimed his loyalty to his Leader, on the grounds that among all his other positive achievements Daveybloke is "the first man to veto a European treaty". Duncan Smith stated that "we have to figure out where [Britain's relationship with the EU] is going" before cockadoodling that it doesn't have to go anywhere because Britain can have it any which way we want. Duncan Smith complimented his interlocutor, Andrew Marr, on his book A Television Presenter's History of the World, which apparently shows what a jolly place the world was when Britain, "as a remarkable country for good and trade", was in charge of it all. Then, with a poppy in his lapel, Duncan Smith cuckooed that nothing has changed in that regard since the eve of the First World War.

Duncan Smith denied that Britain would stop trading with Europe, which doubtless brought forth sighs of relief in Paris and Berlin; and Duncan Smith also noted that in our spare time we're propping up the United States: "we invest more in the US than any other country in the world". It is to be hoped that the presidential candidates took a moment away from their own little affairs in order to absorb Duncan Smith's profundities.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Social Storm

A Robust Libertarian, who had spent the past fifty-seven years demanding greater financial incentives for legal tax evasion, awoke to find a Hurricane pulling the roof from his house.

"What do you think you are doing?" demanded the Robust Libertarian. "This house was built in accordance with universal moral values, and entirely free of government regulation. Cease and desist this moment, lest I set one of my tame Climate Scientists upon you."
"You and your tame Climate Scientists," replied the Hurricane, juggling tiles, "have contributed much to my strength and ferocity, and I am duly obliged; but I cannot show any favouritism on that account. I am not a politician, you know."

Morally indignant at the Hurricane's lack of respect for basic values, the Robust Libertarian ordered a passing Market Force to allow itself to be manipulated for the protection of the deserving.
"I fear I cannot help you," said the Market Force; "for I am the product of a Thoroughly Financialised Economy, and must labour day and night herding the manufacturing sector towards oblivion."

As the Hurricane lifted the roof entirely away, dropping dormer windows among the flower-beds and not caring a bit, the Robust Libertarian fled to the cellar, which he had hitherto eschewed as a location unnaturally restrictive to his freedom of action. There he appealed to God, promising to do all he could to ensure the prosperity of the church and the frugality of the poor, if only his life were saved.

There he remained, quavering piously, until government agents dug him out from beneath the ruins; whereupon he berated them for their interference with the workings of the private sector, which would certainly have rescued him faster had its profit margins permitted.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Coming Soon

The latest Bond film begins in rip-roaring fashion with a pre-credits sequence ending in a stunt. This is followed by the opening titles and a pop song, which shows that the makers respect tradition. Bond has a
briefing in which he is told about the bad guys. He gets on their trail, meeting Miss Expendable and some ethnic types. Having screwed Miss Expendable he makes direct contact with the bad guys and meets the Bond Girl. The bad guys kill Miss Expendable and it becomes apparent that a nefarious plan is in the offing. After an interlude for drinks and wisecracks, the bad guys capture Bond thanks to the treachery or incompetence of the ethnic types, and introduce him to the Villain. The Villain places Bond in a position so uncomfortable that it really becomes almost quite uncertain whether or not he will emerge as undamaged as he has in the previous twenty-something films. There are lots of stunts and explosions and amusing one-liners. So-and-so from the telly has a memorable comic turn. With an international cast and a director who made something fairly good a decade or so ago, at last we have a Bond who verges on the tragic, a Bond worthy of the harsh realism and fierce intelligence of the novelist who wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It is clear that the franchise has been reinvigorated, that Britain can do something right now and then and that somebody or other has more range than we thought. Next, please.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Whatsoever is Right, That Ye Shall Receive

Faced with a possible investigation into breaches of the national minimum wage law, the angels of the Reverend Blair have hurriedly decided to pay some of Tony's humblest servants the minimum wage that Blair's first ministry introduced some little time ago. Although Tony has never been one to allow petty legalities to interfere with his holy mission for Mammon, it seems he will condescend to obey his own laws now and then; we are not, after all, discussing anything so quaint and outdated as the Geneva Conventions or the United Nations charter. It is just possible that Tony thought his chances of being the next Archbishop of Canterbury would be improved either by not paying people or by paying them; in any case, he or his angels appear to have compromised by agreeing to pay as few as they can get away with. Some cavilling imp from Intern Aware pointed out that even the new arrangement "isn't just unfair on interns who are asked to work for free, it excludes those who can't afford to"; but this is almost certainly not the whole story. This is a Reverend Blair enterprise, so undoubtedly there must be financial advantages as well as social ones.

Me at Poetry-24
Safe In His Hands