The Curmudgeon


Thursday, January 31, 2013

In, Out, Opt It All About

For the last three months George Osborne's fag has been locked in mortal combat over the à la carte menu of European police and criminal justice measures, which Theresa May intends to vomit up for Britain before gobbling selected carrots back down again. The Deputy Conservatives want to know exactly how far in and out of the European arrest warrant the Daveyblokey-cokey is going to take us. Unfortunately for them, they are talking to Oliver Letwin.

Considering how treacherous, unprincipled, shallow and deceitful they have proved themselves to be, the Deputy Conservatives are staggeringly inept politicians. Their contemptuous betrayal of the students at the very beginning of this fiasco could, with a little charity, be put down to inexperience; but since then they have sold out on proportional representation; been outflanked and stabbed in the back over the alternative vote; driven a coach and horses through the coalition agreement in order to help Twizzler Lansley destroy the NHS; sat passively by while Daveybloke vetoed the Continent and marched off to North Africa for the War on Terror reboot; failed to reform the Lords; and lost many of their members and most of their local representation. It rather begins to look like carelessness, does it not?

Alarm bells have obviously started jangling; but having finally decided to try and distinguish themselves from the Real Conservatives they have chosen, of all issues, Europe to fight over. The public's interest in Europe is hardly such that it will forgive the mishandling of the economy and the abolition of the National Health Service should Wee Nicky happen to come out of these arcane negotiations with forty-nine per cent of the European arrest warrant still intact. On the bright side, however, there has been some progress: the Real Conservatives and the Deputy Conservatives are in agreement over the issue of the European public prosecutor. There is no European public prosecutor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

Britain's Head Boy has discovered the joy of food banks, and is planning to toddle along for a look at one in his own constituency, presumably because the ones further north are unlikely to stretch to a Bullingdon-friendly menu. Under what passes these days for pressure from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Daveybloke has been burbling incoherently about food banks for quite some time, mostly in order to rah-rah them as the latest manifestation of the Big Society thingy and then, in virtually the same breath, to damn the previous administration for causing so much of the Big Society thingy to manifest itself in the first place. Clarifying matters yet further, Daveybloke has now extruded a spokesbeing to proclaim that, as a matter of fact, food banks are not really necessary at all, and that a food bank is a sort of luxury emporium where the proles can go when "they feel they need a bit of extra food", perhaps because the latest dinner party has gone on a few days longer than anticipated. "Benefit levels are set at a level where people can afford to eat", even if doing so means people must forego such extravagances as heating; which, as Barclays and other criminal enterprises prepare to hand out their executive bonuses, doubtless explains why benefit levels have to be cut further still.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Whereas on the 27th inst. the Sunday Murdoch did willfully publish a Gerald Scarfe cartoon depicting the Prince of Peace, Binyamin Netanyahu, as a blood-spattered architect of national security, bricking Palestinians into a wall which was intended as a malicious representation of Israel's Fence of Friendship;

Whereas Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of News International and various ministers and agents of the British Government, has deplored the said cartoon as grotesque and offensive;

Being mindful of his status as acting editor of the Sunday Murdoch and the career implications following from the inherent stability of such a role;

Martin Ivens

Notes the identity of the political interests and regional ambitions of the State of Israel with the rights and well-being of Jews everywhere;

Notes the indignation of non-self-hating Jews the world over at the grotesque offensiveness of a grotesque, offensive cartoon;

Acknowledges that the timing of the publication for Holocaust Memoral Day was an act of tactlessness approaching the genocidal, as when supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida defile 9/11 Day with mentions of the 1973 coup d'état in Chile;

Admits that any reference to blood, by any person soever and in any context having to do with the activities of the State of Israel and the squashing of Palestinians, is necessarily and perforce a repetition of the Blood Libel as used by the Nazis and other Christians;

Pleads a long and robust record of defending the political interests and regional ambitions of the State of Israel under the internationally recognised and accepted guise of a concern for peace, democracy and fair play to all;

Panders to the noisy self-righteousness of various pressure groups and media outlets;

Repents unequivocally in sackcloth and ashes, and

Requests that the harshest permissible penalties should be enacted upon all parties responsible, with due mitigation for the heavy and distracting burdens of the editor's office as eloquently noted by various other employees of News International in connection with phone hacking and other dark arts.


Monday, January 28, 2013

28 January 1896

It was almost closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. In their enigmatic corner, Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust were doing enigmatic things with wheels and spiders; at the card-players' table, Limbless Fred was employing gratuitous violence in his performance of the function of dealer. Melon Head Myrtle stood nearby looking unimpressed, in case Limbless Fred intended to impress her, and Hooligan Motts stood behind the bar polishing his knuckles.

The doors opened. "Damnation," boomed a voice.
"Twenty-eighth of January, eighteen ninety-six," clarified Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."
"Damnation," boomed the voice again, "and doom."

The gentleman who entered possessed a preternatural bulk, which was covered almost in its entirety by protective layers of tweed and leather. Beneath his tweed cape he wore a leather overcoat, and beneath his leather overcoat he wore a tweed jacket, and above his leather boots he wore tweed trousers with leather gaiters. Upon his head was a leather cap, and leather gloves were upon his hands. His eyes were shielded by goggles, his chin was invisible behind a woollen scarf, and the rest of his face was obscured by a moustache. Granny Forbus detected the tip of his nose and tried to stare it down, but the gentleman clumped past her in his leather boots, all unawares.

Reaching the bar, the gentleman tugged the leather gloves from his hands and removed the leather cap from his head. He put the gloves inside the cap and the cap on the bar. He unravelled his woollen scarf and folded it into a pocket of his leather overcoat; he removed his tweed cape and hung it over a bar-stool. He removed his leather overcoat and hung it over the tweed cape. He pulled his goggles away from his eyes and let them hang around his neck, which was a good deal thinner than most observers would have anticipated, even at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Indeed, the gentleman as a whole was now considerably less bulky than before in virtually every aspect of his being, except for the moustache.

"Doom and damnation," proclaimed a squeaky voice from behind the moustache. "A shilling, sir, a shilling."
"We don't serve them here," said Hooligan Motts.
"What?" The moustache underwent a brief contraction, and Pippa Twelve Toes had to resist an urge to swat it. "Don't be fatuous, fellow," squeaked the gentleman at Hooligan Motts. "Be so good as to serve me a whisky and soda. A shilling, indeed."
"A shilling?" said Pippa Twelve Toes.
"The price of being ahead of one's time," said the gentleman. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mr Walter Arnold, of East Peckham."
"Very nice, I'm sure," agreed Pippa Twelve Toes.

Hooligan Motts served Mr Walter Arnold a single measure of Flotsam's Old Blend with soda, and Mr Walter Arnold emptied the glass into a small opening beneath his moustache, whereupon his forehead turned purple, after the usual manner of foreheads attached to persons who drank Flotsam's Old Blend without due precaution.

"What was that about a shilling?" asked Pippa Twelve Toes, when Mr Walter Arnold looked as if he might be able to squeak again.
"A shilling, my dear lady," said Mr Walter Arnold, "is the sum and total of the fine which has been imposed upon me this very day, by a hidebound legalistic poltroon at the Magistrates' Court." Hooligan Motts refilled Mr Walter Arnold's glass, and he sipped at it cautiously. The purple returned fleetingly to his forehead, but this time it faded away without his having to cough or dig his fingernails into anything.

"Not that the money is important, of course," went on Mr Walter Arnold; "it is the principle of the matter. It is the fact that one may be dragged into court and suffer such a stain upon one's honour, such a blot on one's escutcheon, all for the so-called crime of risking one's safety in the cause of science."
"Science, was it?" said Pippa Twelve Toes. "Well, I can understand how that might blot an escutcheon or so. All those test tubes and things."
"This was a practical experiment," said Mr Walter Arnold; "the public demonstration of a remarkable feat of mechanised transport, in defiance of all considerations of personal safety and petty legality."
"In laymen's terms, then," said Malvolio Quabbage, "you exceeded the speed limit."
"Exceeded, sir?" The squeak rose to a squawk, while the moustache bristled forth indignantly. "I quadrupled the speed limit, sir. I drove my horseless carriage, sir, at eight miles an hour through the village of Paddock Wood, despite the constraints of meddling officialdom which would have limited me to two."
"You were travelling at four times the legal limit," said Malvolio Quabbage, "in the interests of science?"
"Precisely," said Mr Walter Arnold; "and science would have benefited immensely, had I not been pursued for five miles and ultimately overtaken by a meddling policeman."
"Quite a fast runner then, that policeman," consoled Pippa Twelve Toes.
"He had a bicycle," snapped Mr Walter Arnold, "which I really think unnecessary, what with there being so much poverty in the world. Surely, if policemen are paid to patrol our streets, they can do so much more thoroughly on foot, as their faculties of observation and apprehension will not be impeded by excessive velocity and physical indolence. In any case, I was summoned to court at Tonbridge this very day, where a magistrate blotted my escutcheon by relieving me of a shilling."

Mr Walter Arnold drained the last of his Flotsam's Old Blend, placed a banknote in the hand of Hooligan Motts and began to resume his driving clothes. He put on his leather overcoat and threw his tweed cape across his suddenly expanded shoulders; he took his woollen scarf from its pocket and wrapped it around his newly substantial neck. He took his leather cap from the bar, took his leather gloves from the cap, and pulled the cap over his head and the gloves over his hands. He put his goggles back over his eyes, inclined his head briefly and effortfully in the direction of Pippa Twelve Toes, and clumped his way out. A few moments later, an engine rattled to life, died and was boomily consigned to damnation and doom.

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tough and Meaningful and Proportionate and Illegal

As with the issue of prisoners' voting rights, which famously interferes with Daveybloke's Bullingdon digestion, when it comes to the treatment of female inmates the Government is living up to its international obligations after the usual fashion. Having signed up to UN standards, Daveybloke and the boys have been happily ignoring them for two years, imprisoning women who pose no threat to society and taking no account of the rights of inmates' children. The first report on the Government's lack of progress also criticises the approach to mental health and says that there needs to be discussion of "patriarchy, identity, shame, love, attachment, feminism, loss, abuse and equality of opportunity", which for some reason are not yet subjects of daily conversation at Chris Graybeing's Ministry for Justice and Heterosexual Hostelries.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Private Function

True to his dislike of hair shirts and Stafford Cripps (who was chancellor at the founding of the hated NHS), the London Haystack has been doing his bit for Britain by allowing Rupert Murdoch to buy him dinner. A spokesbeing for the London Haystack declined to confirm the tryst, as it is not policy to comment on "private arrangements", and it seems nobody had the forethought to hack the necessary telephones. Anyway, the London Haystack, coincidentally enough, is ultimately responsible for the Metropolitan Firearms, Headbangers' and Shaggers' Club, which is now investigating the doings of various journalistic paragons at the Sun and the News of the World. The London Haystack has even gone so far as to dismiss the allegations of phone hacking as "politically motivated codswallop" and to have a burble in the Sun urging the Government to do nothing about them; which is certainly a tribute to his famous independence of mind.

Friday, January 25, 2013

When You Can't Nostalgify, Infantilise

A spokesbeing at the Environment Agency has done its bit to keep the country going with the announcement of a massive public works programme to lessen the risk of flooding when the snow melts. Rather than just keeping calm and carrying swimmingly on, the spokesbeing suggested people should come out from behind their blinds and build snowmen to slow the thaw. "If you notice, when people clear their drive the snow thaws away but the compacted piles stay," the spokesbeing proclaimed, conveying the complex via the homely in the best Ministry of Public Information spirit. However, in the great tradition of the Department for the Environment during the greenest government ever, this spokesbeing was then overruled by another spokesbeing who said that it wouldn't make much difference after all. Fortunately for Triple-Dip George's ongoing economic recovery, few resources were wasted as the private sector had not yet leapt into the breach.

Me at Poetry-24
Royal Pardon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Immortal Bard

Shall I encode thee in some DNA,
And save thee from an obscure poet's fate?
Of course, we know thou wrotest the odd play -
But tedious, and too soon out of date.
Though nowadays thy reputation shines,
We cannot say it never shall be dimmed
When in postmodern England all declines,
And culture's budget year on year is trimmed.
But our eternal storage shall not fade:
Millennia shall echo with our boast
Of literary life that we have made.
Of thine organic lines we'll make the most:
So long as men may live for gimmickry,
So long lives this, and borrows life from thee.

Samuel Grimsnipe

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pearls Before Proles

The parliamentary select committee on education seems to have rather missed the point of the Government's reform (demolition, in Standard English) of careers advice for schoolchildren. Careers advice used to be the responsibility of local authorities, but Michael Gove's Department for Consumer Training has foisted it on schools instead, while simultaneously cutting back on the resources available to deliver it. This means, of course, that the deserving schools, i.e. the ones whose pupils pay the most, will give the best careers advice, just as market forces decree.

Now, as everyone knows, a career is quite different from a job. A job is essentially something a prole does in order to avoid the attentions of the Idleness Police. A job, in the ineffable vision of Triple-Dip George and his chums, is something from which one may be sacked at any moment, without recourse or compensation; it is by nature makeshift, insecure and temporary, like the proles themselves. A career, by contrast, is a lifetime's planned ascent from the humble but hard-working to the fulfilled and exalted. The trust fund leads to the political appointment, which leads to the chancellor's office which leads to a happy retirement with some juicy directorships; that is a career. The long, dedicated years as a wealth creator lead to the opportunity for rigging interest rates and thence to the undying gratitude of one's fellow beings; that is a career. The tax-dodging father leads to the brief stint as an office boy which leads to 10 Downing Street and a glorious coalition with statesmen of the calibre of Nick Clegg; that is a career, or very nearly. The years spent spouting tripe for Rupert Murdoch lead, somehow or other, to the Department of Education; that, I suppose, might in certain circles be considered an achievement of sorts.

In any case, it should be obvious that on the vast majority of education industry consumers, careers advice is simply wasted. Worthy proles will move merrily from job to job and breed hard-working families with or without interference from meddling bureaucrats; unworthy proles will be subject to the ministrations of the Idleness Police and the manifold deterrents of Universal Credit. Since this is simple enough to be understood by the likes of Triple-Dip George and Britain's best argument in favour of entomophagy, it is rather difficult to understand how the parliamentary select committee on education has failed to grasp the idea.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Assisted Suicides

Suicides have risen significantly, with the rate among males between forty-five and fifty-nine at its highest since the depths of the last Conservative government. A report commissioned by the Samaritans suggested that "men from low socioeconomic backgrounds living in deprived areas were 10 times more likely to die by suicide than were men from high socioeconomic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas". In other words, the rate is ten times greater among the poor than the rich, doubtless owing to some disease of the consciousness caused by too much time lurking behind closed blinds watching daytime television. Norman Lamb, the Deputy Conservative care services minister, said the figures caused somebody or other very real concern and needed to be tackled "head on". Given that the Government's policy is to continue depriving the deprived and making the most affluent more affluent, we can only assume he meant that the welfare parasites aren't yet killing themselves fast enough.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dread and Envy of Them All

Daveybloke's Chinese Democracy burble - much-touted, long-anticipated, probably noisy and not awfully refined, and almost certainly not worth the wait - is now to be delivered on Wednesday, and on the mainland rather than in Europe. Partly, no doubt, the new delay is a considerate diplomatic measure designed to avoid any risk of stealing Barack Obama's thunder on the occasion of his second swearing-in. Daveybloke will also wish to milk the North African situation for all it is worth, since no Conservative prime minister is complete without a good war, and certainly no heir to Blair can be legitimate without the promise of a decades-long crusade against a dubiously existential threat. On the minor matter of shoving Nick Clegg's head down the U-bend yet again, Daveybloke is expected to threaten a "drift towards the exit" unless he is permitted to re-write the Treaty of Lisbon for the convenience of his chums; it is not as yet clear whether the Franco-German axis will attempt its unconditional surrender immediately or in a month or two.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Not Just A Few Rotten Apples

Daveybloke's minister for health and News Corporation, Jeremy C Hunt, is continuing the fightback against the unfortunate legacy of the Olympic opening ceremony last summer, which implied that the National Health Service is somehow a Good Thing. Hunt has dipped into a report on Stafford hospital, where two departments and two wards were operating standards of patient care which one would expect from Iain Duncan Smith's henchmen at ATOS. In the wake of Plebgate and lesser scandals, isolated and sporadic cases of bad practice are now strictly the province of the armed forces and the Conservative Party; so Hunt has decided that "there are little bits of Stafford" dotted all around the health service. Hunt made noises about returning "all parts of the NHS to its core values of care and compassion", and then proclaimed "a big debate about values" in which care and compassion for anyone but private corporations and other worthies will doubtless be almost at the top of the agenda. Fortunately, the essentials of the matter are already settled, since the right sort of care, compassion and efficiency will be enforced from April under the provisions of Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS act.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

All Cosy

Our economy's fixers insist
That no chance at a profit be missed;
But a distance too great
From their Whitehall bed-mate
Could give them a pain in the wrist.

Our dear corporations, poor things,
Cannot hang about in the wings.
Up close they'll be let,
So they no longer get
Fatigue from the pulling of strings.

The glorious day may soon come
When the world is no longer so glum:
No ministers fear
For their future career
With a corporate hand up their bum!

Lobyer Shilley

Friday, January 18, 2013

Staggeringly Relevant

It appears that the ban on female bishops remains fully in accord with the will of God. The Church of England's house of laity has rejected a motion of no confidence in its head, Dr Philip Giddings, by a somewhat larger margin than it rejected the notion of women holding episcopal authority last November. Giddings is the convenor of the Anglican Mainstream network, which was founded to oppose the appointment of Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading; the group's objections duly swayed the invertebrate Rowan Williams to make haste and sack his appointee, as doubtless Christ himself would have done. At the debate over female bishops, Giddings threw his weight behind the conservative faction, proclaiming that the church "can ill-afford to alienate those who are opposed on grounds which have a long and honourable tradition within our own church and the church more widely". The use of long and honourable as virtual synonyms is, of course, traditional for conservatives in the church as in society more widely; while the implication that the church is better off keeping its bigots and alienating those who think women are fully-paid-up members of the human race was apparently prompted solely by the Christian urge to be fair and courteous to all sides.

Giddings responded to today's vote by dropping a few coals on his enemies' heads, calling for one of those convenient Blairite lines to be drawn under the matter and expressing the hope that, what with a hundred and fifty members having braved the snow to attend, the temperature might now be lowered. Whether he would have expressed similar hopes in the event of a vote in favour of female bishops, or whether he would have joined Lord Carey of Blathering-in-the-Dotage and his ilk in their overheated mire of scaremongering fatuity, is known only to Dr Giddings and the Deity who arranged it all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Peace in Our Time

Europe gives thanks

Sighs of relief echoed through the totalitarian halls of Brussels and Strasbourg today as the Euro-wogs escaped a dressing-down from Britain's Head Boy thanks to the crisis in Algeria.

Billions of faceless bureaucrats and foreign potentates whispered secretive foreign thanks to their over-regulated deities as the British prime minister postponed yet again his scheduled lecture on their shortcomings.

"Traditionally, there are very few events which are capable of stopping a Conservative prime minister telling Europe its business," said a spokesbeing.

"One such event is the prospect of a good war, and the other is interference in the business affairs of his chums."

The Algerian crisis blew up on Wednesday, when various BP profitability resources, including British citizens and a few nonentities, were interfered with by terrorists.

The Minister for Wogs, Frogs and Huns, Willem den Haag, is understood to be "in a bit of a strop" after the Algerian government attacked the hostage-takers without permission from Whitehall.

Algeria consists almost entirely of North Africans and Arabs, many of whom also speak French. This may have led to cultural misunderstandings, although it is not as yet clear whether Mr den Haag has threatened to invade any embassies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Pete Travis 2012

As we all know by now, Dredd has the same premise as the Indonesian martial-arts epic The Raid: law enforcement officers are trapped in a very large and grubby apartment block with something nasty in the penthouse, and spend most of the running time being noisily pestered by members of the criminal fraternity. The Raid has a brief prologue, which courts our sympathy for one of the policemen by establishing him as a breeder, and a family-values twist at the end which looks like a vestigial graft from the early John Woo with all the emotion taken out; but the near-total lack of characterisation and the sheer monotony of the fighting ("Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! and da capo) meant that I found most of the intervening eighty minutes a frenetic bore.

Dredd labours under the disadvantage of a script by Alex Garland, not the most talented screenwriter in the world; and sure enough, even with a plot that isn't exactly LA Confidential he manages to insert the inevitable unnecessary voiceover, a monologuing bad guy (a quarter of a million should have bought better) and at least one annoying inconsistency: a fairly important execution is left to a character who has not only shown himself incompetent and been designated as such by the boss, but who doesn't even know that the judges' side-arms are booby-trapped, a fact which would surely be difficult (and pointless) to keep secret for long. The special effects are variable, and the payoff is something of an anticlimax, although (thanks to some better-than-usually justified slow-motion) not altogether a washout.

Nevertheless, Dredd does have what The Raid conspicuously lacks, namely characters. Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) is assigned to Dredd (Karl Urban) for a last-chance training day, and their sojourn in the Peach Trees slum-block means that Anderson develops from rookie to judge while Dredd's attitude towards her progresses from surly disdain to surly respect. This is neither subtle nor sophisticated, but it is a good deal better at holding the interest than a token foetus and a lot of men kicking each other. Dredd is also refreshing in its refusal to settle for the usual standby of comic-book adaptations, the Origin Story, and for its refusal to psychologise: the psychic Anderson has a poke under Dredd's consciousness during their first encounter, but is promptly warned off. The film-makers exercise similar tact: unlike the Sylvester Stallone vehicle of radioactive memory, Dredd's helmet does not come off and Dredd does not get in touch with his softer side, let alone get kissed by anyone.

In addition, there are laser mitrailleuses, a genuinely creepy villain played by Lena Headey, and a delightfully gruesome field-dressing. Certainly, Dredd should be nobody's idea of a masterpiece, but it is commendably small-scale and unpretentious in an age of high concept and epic bloat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Honest Brokers

A group of exiled Eritreans has written to the Minister for Wogs, Frogs and Huns, Willem den Haag. Eritreans for Action are asking the scourge of Ecuadorean diplomatic rights what he is doing to ensure that funds from British companies are not being used by the Eritrean government in support of repression and terrorism, rather like the weapons shilled by Daveybloke and his chums to Bahrain and other defenders of democracy. Den Haag's little men have been facilitating talks between various mining and investment companies and the Eritrean government, which has ideas about forced labour that even Iain Duncan Smith might prefer to keep under wraps until after the next election. There is no suggestion that any of the companies has yet been involved in exploiting forced labour; but Daveybloke could hardly qualify as Thatcher's spiritual grandson if he didn't care to kick a few miners here and there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Levelling Down

Monitor, the body set up under Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS law to ensure that competition trumps co-operation, has been getting complaints from the profiteers already. Public sector hospitals, which are not run for profit, don't have to pay corporation tax; private corporations, which are run for profit, do have to pay corporation tax; and the result is an "unfair playing field" whereby the profiteers have to pay tax on the profits they make while non-profiteers don't pay any tax at all on the profits they don't make. This makes for a "significant economic distortion" which is getting in the way of patient choice and, no doubt, preventing more than a few cancer patients from finding the job that is right for them during their last few months on this earthly plane.

In its unique lansleyish way, the idea of giving health profiteers tax breaks as a reward for carving up the NHS is so brilliant that even New Labour balked at trying it: "This looks like pandering to special interests to me," said one uncharitable academic, who reported on the issue for the Department of Health four years ago. "If companies wanted to provide NHS hospital services and not pay tax then they could do so by becoming charities." Well, I wonder what Jeremy C Hunt's Department of Health and NewsCorp will make of that.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Plus ça change, plus c'est le même génocide

I am sure we all remember the sanctions régime in Iraq, which was imposed by the international community to protect the world from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass nonexistence by depriving the country of medicines, pencils and other potential bomb components. The results were described by at least one UN official as "genocidal" and, in a charming act of doublethink, were used by the international community (viz. George W Bush and the Reverend Poodle) as a pretext for the 2003 invasion, which did at least have the virtue of killing Iraqis faster than mere disease and starvation.

Well, with the tenth anniversary of Tony's greatest triumph only weeks away, guess what: it's all happening again. As before, there is no credible evidence that the supposed weapons programme exists; as before, it certainly isn't all about oil; and, as before, Britain's leading liberal newspaper takes the international community at its word when it claims the consequences for ordinary people are "unintended". Evidently, the lessons of history are being learned in the usual fashion.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

One Migrant-Free Nation of Hard-Working Families

The leader of the Tory wets is to give his sales pitch before the Fabian Society today. The Milibeing will burble about the wonders of private enterprise and state that New Labour "pioneered the idea of rights and responsibilities", unlike those nasty Old Labour types who invented the NHS. This is called giving an honest account of the party's past. But the Milibeing's ambition for its party does not end there; oh dear me no. A "governing framework for the economy, society and politics" is required; and, by golly, the Milibeing has hit on just that: "greater responsibility from top to bottom, with bankers expected to show restraint in remuneration and responsibility in lending, and welfare recipients expected to seek work". Well, we can at least be sure that under a Labour administration one of these conditions will be enforced to the full, with duncansmithian determination; certainly the Conservatives would never wag a friendly finger at the banks or imply that social security recipients are parasites who need a good kicking to motivate them. Perhaps in vague recognition of this, the Milibeing will condemn the Bullingdon Club's "attempt to divide the country between scroungers and strivers"; a division which his own workfare spokesbeing, Liam Byrne, accepts with minor modifications. The Milibeing also proposes to bring in the immigrant-bashers from the cold to which Gordon Brown, the well-known opponent of child detention, consigned them in the bad old days. Once more, the Conservatives must be cursing themselves for not having thought of so cunning a plan.

Friday, January 11, 2013

11 January 1569

It was approximately the hour of closing at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Hooligan Motts was re-clogging the tap of Hoocher's Bane, because if the tap was too clear the Hoocher's Bane would start eating it away from the inside, and Hooligan Motts believed in looking after one's equipment. Every few weeks, therefore, at about closing time, he would take the scrapings from all the other taps, carefully soaked and softened to maximise their adhesive qualities, and pound them with a pestle until they became a sort of rusty putty. This substance he would then mould carefully to the inside of the Hoocher's Bane barrel and its spigot, spreading it as evenly as possible to prevent leaks. The Hoocher's Bane itself, while this procedure was being carried out, resided in another barrel which Hooligan Motts kept specially and for no other purpose; it would be restored to its proper home when six hours had elapsed and the putty had attained the consistency of dry, superannuated porridge.

Just as Hooligan Motts fixed the tap and glanced at the cuckoo-clock over the card-players' table, a man came in. He wore a soiled doublet and a pointed beard, the sharp end of which was blunted from long ill-use; and a ruff of grey lace hung at his throat like a perfunctory hug from a parent who would really rather not.

"Eleventh of January, fifteen sixty-nine," announced Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

The man approached him and placed some coins on the bar. "Ale, if you please," he said, "and also, methinks, a ticket for the lotto."

Hooligan Motts took one of the coins and served him Punter's Ghastly Pale in a pewter mug. "Now, what was the rest of it again?" he said.
"A ticket, good sir," said the man, "a ticket for the lotto. I have been meaning to buy one these past several months, but have fallen on evil times through gaming and marriage and such. But now I am resolved to be virtuous, and help our good Queen with her public works."
"You propose to dash to the aid of your queen," pondered Malvolio Quabbage, "by purchasing a lottery ticket?"
"Indeed, sir," said the man. "Have you not seen the scrolls, posted throughout the kingdom, concerning the worthy causes which are to be helped and portraying the great prizes which are to be had?"
"No," said Malvolio Quabbage, unashamed.
"Why, there are many fine baubles to be won. A top prize of five thousand pounds, then silver plate, wine-cups, entrance to libraries without the need of payment, and freedom from arrest for a week, though on selected crimes only: public drunkenness and tax-dodging and the like, I presume."
"Sounds delightful," said Malvolio Quabbage.
"The people have been much enthused," said the man. "One can hardly walk the streets without hearing talk of it, and every man with ten shillings to spare has bought a ticket."
"Very public-spirited of them," said Malvolio Quabbage.
"The revenues raised from this lotto will be spent upon public works of the highest importance," said the man. "The Queen's charter provides for the reparation of the harbours and the strength of the realm."
"What does she want to do," asked Malvolio Quabbage; "build an armada?"

The man looked at him coldly. "The realm must be strengthened," he said; "I am of the race of King Henry the Fifth, and if I can augment the kingdom's strength for the price of ten shillings, without the evil of public taxation, then as an Englishman and a Christian I shall do so." He emptied his mug of Punter's Ghastly Pale and banged it repeatedly on the bar. From their enigmatic corner, Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust looked up with expressions of mild surprise.

Hooligan Motts, for whose attention the banging was designed and beneath whose nose it was largely occurring, said: "A ticket for the lotto, you said, sir?"
"I have said it twice already, fellow," said the man impatiently; "now kindly provide me with the same, else I shall be forced to subject you to an act of disapprobation." He pushed more coins across the bar. "Ten shillings."
"I do apologise for any misunderstanding, sir," said Hooligan Motts, "but lotto tickets are not available at this establishment. Everything available is written on the blackboard there."
The lace at the man's throat seemed to go even limper. Uncomprehending, he stared at the blackboard. "Not available?"
"That's right, sir," said Hooligan Motts. "We don't serve them here."
"But, but - " The man gibbered for a moment, then gestured wildly at the card-players. "But this is a house of gaming, is it not?"
"It is," said Hooligan Motts serenely.
"Tax free," added Malvolio Quabbage.
"But not for the strengthening of harbours and realms," said Hooligan Motts. "Our gambling has a purpose of its own, and now, if you please, sir, it's closing time."
"It is a disgrace," said the man. "I doubt the French and Genovese have to tolerate this sort of thing. Mark you, 'twill be the end of the kingdom one day." He gave a quick tug at his chin, attempting to marshal his beard into the sort of thing that made for the glory of Agincourt; but his beard refused to submit to the discipline. Taking back his ten shillings, the man turned on his heel and left.

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Unwanted Advice

Foreigners are lining up to lecture Britain's Head Boy on what passes for his European policy. Yesterday, with an amusing reminder of the famous special relationship, the American assistant secretary of state for European affairs ordered Daveybloke not to stage a referendum; which could result in a very interesting dilemma for those of the troglodytes who think "Atlanticist" is a prettier way of saying Little Englander. Today one of the Euro-wogs has weighed in, noting that "there is always a risk that the referendum becomes - as Charles de Gaulle put it - less about the question asked and more about the person who's asking it". Daveybloke of all people should understand this, since it was precisely that little psycho-psephological fact that helped him wreck Wee Nicky's referendum on voting reform. The Euro-wog also had the nerve to suggest that Britain would be weakened, rather than liberated and restored to former glory, if it continued to try and cherry-pick its treaty obligations. The Euro-wog in question was one Gunther Krichbaum, a close ally of the German Chancellor; as we all know, Angela Merkel is a bit too left-wing for Daveybloke and his fellow modernisers, who prefer the political company of climate cranks and racist freaks from the dynamic democracies of Eastern Europe. Anyway, Daveybloke is still working on a major thingy all about Europe, which he hopes to deliver quite soon. Wee Nicky, who has not yet been told to abandon his pro-European stance, apparently spent today playing at being a radio host.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Loyal Opposition

Daveybloke's little yellow chums must be feeling especially proud of themselves today. Their latest facilitation, of Iain Duncan Smith's new Poor Law, will result in households "further down the income distribution" suffering the greatest loss of income; this according to the Department for Workfare and Privation's own assessment. Wee Nicky made some noises about his masters' strivers-and-shirkers rhetoric before meekly voting along; a few Deputy Conservatives expressed disquiet, and a grand total of four rebelled. We can only await the inevitable manifesto claim, pilfered from the Reverend Blair's excuses for the slaughter and torture in Iraq: "It would have been worse without us."

Elsewhere, Duncan Smith's frère et semblable, Liam Byrne, has for some time countered the Conservative distinction between strivers and claimants with a Labour distinction between strivers and unemployed persons, but he did just about manage to mention the recent tax cut for those on seven-figure salaries; while the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband had a bit of a blather about acceptable envelopes, in an apparent effort to show that he is almost as different from Ed Balls as either of them are from the Conservatives.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Decisive Action

The hacking scandal has been rough,
And there is much that needs repair.
Upon the villains we'll be tough,
While to the victims we'll be fair.

So many folk have suffered much;
As decent folk we cannot fail
To sympathise with victims such
As Rupert and the Daily Mail.

It's wrong to think we'll swindle you
Because we're in cahoots with crooks:
No public service is more true
Than playing horsey with La Brooks.

It's wrong to say we hesitate,
But neither should we go too far:
We shall not shirk mature debate,
While keeping things much as they are.

Heythrop C. Hunt

Monday, January 07, 2013

Wood and Worm

Britain's Head Boy and his fag have been using the Conservative Party's fifty-page mid-term rah-rah as an opportunity to talk to the prole on the street in language he can understand, with predictably disastrous results. As one would expect of a jumped-up junior salesman with criminal associates, Daveybloke described the coalition agreement by plagiarising someone else's advertising slogan: "It is a Ronseal deal. It does what it says on the tin." Presumably, no-one informed Daveybloke that Ronseal is a brand of varnish, and thus a hideously appropriate make-over for a couple of splintery gimcrack woodentops like Wee Nicky and himself, even though it does not usually come in yellow or puce.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Industry Sweeteners

The Secretary of State for NewsCorp and the National Health Sell-off, Jeremy C Hunt, has been lecturing Labour about leaving the health of Britain's future share-holders and shelf-stackers in the hands of the free market. Hunt's shadow, Randy Burnham, has announced a consultation on capping sugar and fat levels in children's food; partly because childhood obesity is worse in Britain than almost anywhere else in Europe, but mostly because Randy Burnham is in opposition and not in government. Having criticised Burnham for doing nothing to tackle the problem when Labour was in power, Hunt announced that he is going to do nothing to tackle the problem; more precisely, he has informed the infant inflation industry that it had better get its house in order, otherwise legislation will be drafted for the consideration of the relevant lobbyists. This is, of course, the "Last Chance Saloon" approach which was adopted some time ago with regard to Hunt's chums in the popular press; and we all know how well that turned out.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

5 January 1066

It was nearly closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. In their enigmatic corner, Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett were engaged upon some enigmatic business involving rodents; nobody was watching very closely, but it was difficult to avoid hearing a squeak now and then. The card-players were all cheating with sullen obduracy, except for Limbless Fred who was cheating with cheerful persistence; but none of them were winning because somebody - not Constable Pring - had hidden the two of clubs and then forgotten where.

"Fifth of January, ten sixty-six," proclaimed Hooligan Motts from behind the bar. "Nearly closing time."

The proclamation did nothing to interrupt the group of men at table seventeen, who had spent the last couple of hours in hushed and intensive conference. Except for the youngest among them, they talked almost as quietly as Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust, and even the presence of Granny Forbus within spitting distance had barely distracted them.

They had entered the Gallows and Glockenspiel in a short yet ceremonial line, the most decrepit first and the youngest at the rear. Hooligan Motts, who was polishing up the barrel of Cadger's Muckle in case of emergencies, had greeted them with his customary imperturbability. Their leader's little eyes had glared at Hooligan Motts from under thick white eyebrows and over a thin white beard; then he had knocked on the floor with the staff he carried, and the procession broke up and sat down. The leader had remained upright, leaning on his staff and wheezing.

"We are ealdormen," he said finally, "of the Witangemot."
"Good for you," said Hooligan Motts.
"We are in conference," said the leader, and sat down with the rest. Hooligan Motts served them red wine and water at discreet intervals; the wine was made from a genetically-modified, highly carnivorous twenty-fourth-century grape and caused the leader's left eyebrow to twitch like a nervous rodent in the hands of Mr Blodgett, but nobody else seemed to mind.

"With King Edward's death, it is clear that the realm stands in peril of invasion," the leader began, while Granny Forbus muttered and slurped in regions beyond. "Whatever happens," the leader continued, "we shall face war within the year; it remains only for this committee to determine which is the best man to lead us through the danger."
"I agree," said the second most decrepit of the ealdormen; and the rest, in descending order of decrepitude, agreed also. The only man to remain silent was the youngest, who was not decrepit at all and was dressed like a warrior. As the committee came into the room, Melon Head Myrtle had gazed upon him with a certain approval; at least until she noticed his moustache.

One of the ealdormen now addressed the warrior. "Because of that Yorkshire episode, your brother bears you no good will," he said. "We hear that he is seeking support in Norway."
"Family values," endorsed Granny Forbus loudly, tipping her empty glass in the warrior's direction.

Under the collective glare of the ealdormen of the Witangemot, Hooligan Motts made haste to deploy the quieting gin. "What are they talking about?" demanded Granny Forbus in a stage whisper that would have disarranged coiffures in the dress circle. "Is there going to be a war?"
"Not in my pub there isn't," said Hooligan Motts.
"We've had them here before," said Granny Forbus.
"Not real ones we haven't," said Hooligan Motts; "not with weapons and such. We don't have the panelling for it."
"Well, I'd still like to know what they're talking about," said Granny Forbus firmly, and hauled her chair a few inches closer with a scrape that caused dentures to dislodge halfway across the bar.

"Harald and Tostig are not our only sources of difficulty," the most decrepit of the ealdormen was saying. "There is Duke William to be considered as well."
"The duke of Normandy is formidable, no doubt," said the younger man; "but he is not invincible."
"That's the spirit," yelled Granny Forbus. "What is he, after all? Just a Viking who's halfway to becoming a Frenchman."

The ealdormen of the Witangemot made noises among themselves, and looked as if they might be considering a punitive expedition against Granny Forbus; but the younger man rose from his seat and bowed his head briefly in her direction. Granny Forbus was so surprised that she lapsed into near-silence for the rest of the conference.

"It is settled, then." said the most decrepit of the ealdormen at last. "The thegns and the rest of the Witangemot will follow our recommendation. We shall have the coronation tomorrow, since having it this evening would show unseemly haste." The committee stood, and each of the ealdormen in turn shook the younger man's hand.

"I thank you for your confidence," the warrior said; "I fear not Harald of Norway, nor Duke William nor my brother, nor any combination thereof. Let them all attack at once, and still I shall sweep them from our shores. We will fight them on the beaches; we will fight them in the fields and in the hills."
"God save the king," muttered an ealdorman of intermediate decrepitude; but he muttered it very quietly and only Mr Boggust and a rodent heard him, and the rodent was a little distracted and didn't remember for long.

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts, and with due ceremony the ealdormen of the Witangemot filed out.

The warrior paused at the door and addressed Granny Forbus. "I thank you for your confidence also," he said.

Granny Forbus waved her glass. "To victory," she said. "Here's mud in your eye."

Friday, January 04, 2013

Credible Positionings

Britain's Head Boy has been having a bit of a burble over the vexed question of our relations with the Euro-wogs. The substance of Daveybloke's burble, if substance is the word I want, is that Euro-wogs and mainland alike will have to wait for a further burble later in the month. Daveybloke is inclined to give voters a "real choice", and also wishes to gain the Euro-wogs' co-operation in pandering to the troglodytes on his back benches; but Daveybloke also does not wish to be like Norway or Switzerland "where basically you have to obey all the rules of the single market but you don't have a say over what they are". This, of course, would be diametrically opposed to the preferred position of successive British governments, where basically you write all the rules yourself and then change them at the whim of Adam Werritty. For their own part, despite the Daveybloke veto thirteen months ago, the Euro-wogs still do not seem to have realised who's in charge; but Wee Nicky and his remnants are an altogether different proposition. Daveybloke noted that it is perfectly reasonable for the Deputy Conservatives to have different views, but proclaimed that in private they are knuckling under like the good little chaps they are. Daveybloke said that the Deputy Conservatives will do well when the coalition does well, which certainly must be encouraging for them.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Insulting Our Glorious Dead

Fury at Argie horror

An Argie with a German surname has taken out an advertisement insulting the memory of our boys with demands that the United Kingdom be broken up.

The unashamedly nationalist and populist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, demanded that Britain abide by a UN resolution from 1960, before the UN joined the international community under the auspices of Tony Blair.

Kirchner's nationalist and populist undercurrents are likely to have been stirred by the recent honour accorded a lump of frozen real estate, which was named Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of the monarch of the United Kingdom of Albion, Westminster and the Falklands.

Critics suggest that the populist, nationalist Kirchner is trying to distract attention from economic problems and corruption, neither of which could happen here.

The Argie president is an unashamed nationalist and populist, in contrast to Britain's Head Boy who is a proud patriot and salesman.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Strivers Drive

In keeping with Wee Nicky's new attitude towards the special relationship, the Deputy Conservative doormat at the Ministry of Motoring has thrown a perfunctory sop to rail passengers. Norman Baker noted that the present situation was "not ideal", but also that it was "hugely complicated"; which is to say that rail company executives want their bonuses like everyone else who matters. Baker also drew the usual baffling distinction between passengers and taxpayers, apparently under the impression that rail travel is some sort of Cayman Islands for the proles. In fact, ticket prices are rising above inflation and wages are falling below; this has something to do with minimising the risk of emptiness in off-peak trains, an obvious necessity in these troubled times.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Catch

The old year departs at a run;
Of grief or regret be there none.
Who would have believed
What has been achieved?
We've toddled once more round the sun!

So then, let us not be downhearted:
A foul year at last has departed.
It wasn't much fun,
But it's over and done -
A pity another's just started.