The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's Your Choice

The new Minister of Snoopery and Supersize Deluxe Bleached Pachyderms, Alan Johnson, has announced that the legacy of Agent Smith and her eminently fit-for-purpose predecessors will be carried forth, in practice if not in headline. The plan to issue compulsory identity cards to pilots and airport workers has been abandoned, and in its place there is to be a "voluntary" scheme to charge young people in north-west England thirty pounds for the dubious honour of carrying them. Doubtless, being young people in north-west England at a time of full employment and rising wages, they can well afford the privilege. Johnson reassured the country that identity cards would not be made compulsory unless a future Government chose to pass the necessary legislation; which is, of course, jolly reassuring. "Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens," he said; "just as it is now to obtain a passport". Applying for a passport is a matter of personal choice; when you apply for a passport, your details go on the National Identity Elephant; hence, having your details on the National Identity Elephant is a matter of personal choice.

Johnson admitted the regrettable fact that the Government had "allowed the perception to develop that the cards would be a 'panacea' that would stop terrorism". To the extent that the unthinking British public had evolved this dangerous delusion, quite outside the well-meaning but childishly innocent perceptions of Whitehall, it may have been because the Government kept implying that the cards would be a panacea that would stop terrorism, at least if they were permitted to take their place - shoulder to shoulder with ninety-day internment, faith schools and summary police powers of sentencing - on the parapet of traditional British values. Anyway, it now appears that identity cards are not such a panacea; they are only a panacea for "illegal working, people-trafficking and ID fraud", which presumably is why Johnson wants to palm them off on people who are over seventy-five.

The Conservative Minister of Civil Liberties, Chris "Boot Camp" Graybeing, who plans to dump the cards but keep the elephant, accused Johnson of being even more concerned with civil liberties than the Conservative Party: "the home secretary thinks [the scheme] has been a waste and wants to scrap it, but the prime minister won't let him." However, Johnson said he was an "instinctive", as opposed to a reasoning, supporter of the scheme; which is, I suppose, a tolerably plausible explanation for why he might wish to hustle it into more or less the sort of state which a New New Labour press secretary might possibly be able to describe as "operational" while keeping a straight face.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Remarkable Success

The Commons home affairs select committee in charge of the preliminary whitewash of the violence at the G20 protests has concluded that the rotten apples in the Metropolitan Police this time used "inappropriate force" because they were inexperienced and scared, and not at all because the Government objects to peaceful protest. Perish the thought. The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, called the operation, during which one man was killed and various other persons manhandled or confined without charge, "remarkably successful"; but noted that the all-important public-relations aspect could have done with improvement: "the ability of the public and the media to monitor every single action of the police through CCTV, mobile phones and video equipment means they have to take even greater care to ensure that all their actions are justifiable". The committee stated its belief (confirmed by the Guardian's Journalistic Telepathy Unit) that "there are no circumstances in which it is acceptable for police officers not to wear their identification numbers", but implied that non-conscious removal of said numbers might be treated leniently. The committee did not consider the death of Ian Tomlinson or the attack on Nicola Fisher, let alone the barrage of lies and distortions put out by the greatest police force in the world in the immediate aftermath of the public-relations blunder, to be worthy of comment; but it did note that the filming of such incidents could undermine trust in the police. And just when they were doing so well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Now Gordon Be Thanked Who Has Matched Us With His Hour

Yesterday was Britain's first-ever Armed Forces Day, decreed by the Glorious Successor in order to reward the sacrifices of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and presumably the Metropolitan Police in a more efficient and humane fashion than the bad old ways of giving them adequate training and equipment or hospital treatment or war pensions. Despite this typically effective action from General Gordon, a report by the National Security Commission has called for "boosting the armed forces from 98,000 to 120,000 personnel and the creation of a new stabilisation force to tackle situations like postwar Afghanistan and Iraq". Besides helping to keep unemployment down, such a measure would be consistent with the New New Labour principle which has yielded such magnificent results in all our other crises, from banking to political disaffection to such fripperies as health, education and public transport; namely that the answer to any given problem is to persist in the behaviour which caused the problem in the first place. The report also claims that Britain, in its role as moral arbiter to the lesser breeds and peacemaker-general for the World Cop, is still obliged to march hobnailed over the spirit of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty provided that it can do so cheaply. The Glorious Successor apparently spent the day in Kent, refusing to discuss spending cuts and denying that overstretch hampers Britain's defence capability. Since any overstretch in Britain's armed forces at the moment results from attacking others and not from defending ourselves, this is undoubtedly true.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


That Titan of probity, Gordon's little Darling, has announced his latest uncompromising measure to keep the banks on the path to virtue. Gordon's little Darling has scribbled a code of conduct on the back of a bailiff's bill. Since it is meant to deal with banks, rather than with strikers, protestors, whistleblowers or anyone else who might somehow damage the economy, the code of conduct will not be compulsory; but Gordon's little Darling has made it plain that he will become quite considerably annoyed at those who refuse to sign up. Apparently it is possible that those banks "in which the taxpayer has not taken (sic) a stake", such as Barclays, may not feel obliged to pay their taxes like everyone else, and Gordon's little Darling finds this fairly unacceptable, more or less. Such banks will be "subjected to heavier scrutiny from the tax authorities", and there will be, according to a Treasury spokesbeing, "a lot of embarrassment and public pressure and trips to the Treasury select committee to be humiliated by a lot of MPs", before whose fiscal competence and moral fragrancy the usurers will doubtless prostrate themselves, wailing to be accepted into the communion of the righteous.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mad, Bad or Misunderstood?

Some pop singer's death having made this a good day to bury bad news, Agent Smith has chosen to reveal to the world the singularly unpleasant fact that Agent Smith is still a public figure. A journalistic firebrand at the BBC World Service asked whether she had felt humiliated by her husband's televised apology for the claim of two porn films on Agent Smith's expenses. Agent Smith confirmed that it had, indeed, been horrible. I am sure we all sympathise deeply. Agent Smith, who has done so much to protect the little people's rights to privacy and security, found the presence of the paparazzi outside her humble home "a real intrusion", and also registered concern about the impact of the popular press on the relatives of those unfortunate enough to be called to the holy task of claiming a second home allowance. I am sure we all sympathise profoundly. Agent Smith was also somewhat exercised over the word stroppy, which she appears to believe has been reserved by the evil media solely for the nefarious purpose of persecuting female politicians. Hence, to the many interesting epithets which can be applied to Agent Smith (incompetent, blundering, authoritarian, greedy and obtuse, to name a handful of my own favourites, though inevitably they lose something when deprived of their accompanying Anglo-Saxon nouns and modifiers), we may now add petty and self-important. Nevertheless, and unfortunately for those of us who maintain a benevolent interest in at least one aspect of her brilliant career, Agent Smith appears to have forborne commenting on the Michael Savage case. I am sure we are all deeply, profoundly sorry about that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Straight is the Gay, and Narrow is the Way

exorcise, v.t. to call forth or drive away (a spirit)
Chambers Dictionary

An American church with the superbly humble name of Manifested Glory Ministries has let its elders loose on a teenager who seems to be suffering from uncertainty as to his sexual orientation. Even Exodus International, which believes that prayer and counselling can straighten what is gay into something that might qualify for an Anglican episcopacy, disagrees with the Manifestedly Glorious approach. MGM, you understand, has nothing against homosexuals; it's just that the Manifestedly Glorious and Reverend spokesbeing, Patricia McKinney, doesn't agree with their lifestyle. Hence the holy spectacle, posted on YouTube so that its light may not be bushelled, of the teenager driven to convulsions by the sacred catechism of "Rip it from his throat!" and "Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!" The Reverend McKinney also doesn't agree with the lifestyle of the English language; she "denied the ritual was an exorcism, describing it instead as a casting out of spirits".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Highwayman Came Riding, Riding, Riding

Market forces can be handy little things. Ever since a seven-year interregnum privatised the railways as a gesture of pre-emptive retaliation against New Labour for winning the 1997 election, there have been difficulties with the public transport system. For much of the time, the difficulties have been the sort that don't count; namely the ones that affect only those unlucky enough to be travellers on public transport. More recently, thanks to the collapse of one or two companies and the philanthropy of the Government, there have been difficulties of the almost equally insignificant sort which affect only those poor and powerless enough to settle their debts by necessity rather than personal choice. When the economy was bubbling, this did not matter so much, as the Government merrily signed contracts with railway companies which obliged the latter to accept taxpayers' money in return for hiking fares and committing occasional acts of criminal negligence and corporate manslaughter. Market forces can be handy little things.

Now, however, the bubble has burst and there is an economic recession, with a concomitant rise in the number of scroungers, benefit thieves and asylum seekers who refuse to take time off from basking in the ill-gotten paradise that is life on Jobseekers' Allowance in order to help prop up the profits of railway companies. Stagecoach, a rail company named for a famously rapid, comfortable, safe and efficient means of nearly modern transport, has reported a pre-tax profit of just under two hundred million pounds in the first four months of this year, which constitutes a twelve and a half per cent increase. The Department of Delays, Cancellations and Discomfort has responded to this dire situation by throwing more taxpayers' money at the railway companies in order to help the railway companies meet their commitments under the contracts which the Government agreed with the railway companies on the taxpayers' behalf.

Market forces can be handy little things; but Brian Souter, the chief executive of Stagecoach, is very annoyed about all this and has even gone so far as to suggest that there may be some doubt as to whether a New New Labour ministry is altogether to be trusted. Souter accuses the Government of failing to meet its obligations, and seems to have a very odd prejudice against the hundred-and-eighty-degree policy switches which were the hallmark of joined-up government under New Labour and remain the hallmark of strong and decisive government under New New Labour. However, he does not intend to cancel the contract, "whatever happens"; presumably because he believes the Daveybloke administration will show him a bit more consideration. Market forces can be handy little things.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Golden Thread That Runs Through Our History

In all, over the course of the emergency, 1090 Kikuyu would go to the gallows for Mau Mau crimes. In no other place, and at no other time in the history of British imperialism, was state execution used on such a scale as this. This was more than double the number of executions carried out against convicted terrorists in Algeria, and many more than in all the other British colonial emergencies of the post-war period - in Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus and Aden.
David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged

Some erstwhile opponents of the Empire For Which We Should Stop Apologising are claiming compensation for their alleged ill-treatment in British concentration camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. The Ministry for Little Brown Folk commented that "we expect to contest the cases on questions around liability and limitations", which decodes as I was in primary school at the time; and "without seeing the detail of this, it would not be right to comment further on the particular aspects of this case", an inhibition which might have benefited the Glorious Successor a couple of months ago when discussing a very big plot by some other darky types. The plaintiffs are two men who claim they were castrated, two women who say they were sexually assaulted, and one man who was imprisoned for nine years as a suspected enemy combatant. With its usual first-drafter's attitude to history, Britain's leading liberal newspaper observes that "the figure for the number of people detained during the Kenyan emergency period is disputed; the official estimate is 80,000". An official figure which Britain's leading liberal newspaper does not find worthy of mention is the number of people hanged during the Kenyan emergency. Perhaps, like the unofficial estimates of the numbers detained, it would have pushed some of the advertisements out of line.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The indefatigable S T Joshi has done me the honour of publishing another of my pieces on Robert Aickman in his sleek journal Studies in the Fantastic. This one explores "The Unsettled Dust" which, rather unusually for Aickman, is nearly a conventional ghost story. Nearly, but not quite. If you're in the United States (the only place the publishers will ship, unfortunately), avoid disappointment and buy now in vast quantities. Then help oil the creaking wheels of the global market by selling on your extra copies to people in the rest of the world.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It Was All A Long Time Ago

It appears that the Glorious Successor's decision, if that is the word I want, to hold the next Iraq whitewash in secret was taken on the urging of none other than his reverence, the Vicar of Downing Street. Unlike the sainted Thatcher, whose advice to the interregnum which came after her was often hilariously public, his reverence relayed his wishes through others, after the fashion of his Big Chum who is in Heaven. Tony, whose confidence in his own rectitude while smiting the helpless has always been a match for Jehovah's, apparently made his will known in this indirect fashion in case somebody found out about it and thought he was doing something underhand. Tony is also "believed to have been alarmed by the prospect of giving evidence in public and under oath". It is sad to think that the blithe flexibility of Tony's relationship with the truth might be compromised by an oath after so many profitable years.

The idea of an accused criminal, particularly a rich one, setting the conditions for an inquiry into his own crimes may pose few problems for Tony's conception of British justice; but others have different ideas. The Conservatives' righteous indignation has driven them almost as far as taking a policy decision: they "reserve the right" to widen the scope of the inquiry and increase its powers where this would not go against the interests of the Conservatives. Alastair Campbell observed sagaciously that "openness and transparency", being singular and capable of expressing a preference to Alastair Campbell, "favours a public inquiry"; but on the other hand, "it may well be that the inquiry will do a better job freed from the frenzy of 24-hour media". How can anyone suffering the glare of publicity be expected to put together a decent public-relations exercise?

Sir Christopher Meyer, Her Majesty's Ambassador to the arse of the White House when the conspiracy against peace was being hatched, implied that nobody need panic about any embarrassing revelations: "Things were very sensitive then, but this is 2009." Lines have been drawn, lessons have been learned, matters have moved on, the troops are leaving and everything's all right.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Only Thing Worse Than A Long Conversation In Downing Street

Some plucky folk at the Guardian have held an interview with the Glorious Successor, in which he claims to be above the trappings of the power for which he sulked and schemed for ten years. "To be honest, you could walk away from all of this tomorrow," he said. "I'm not interested in what accompanies being in power. I wouldn't worry if I never returned to all those places - Downing Street, Chequers ... And it would probably be good for my children"; though it is not clear whether the greater benefit to his offspring would be that of enjoying his presence for more hours in the day, or simply that of being sent to more expensive schools when the directorships start paying dividends. Apparently the Glorious Successor wants to move into teaching once he is finally ejected from office, but it seems likely that the directorships will be the more prudent option: he summarises his main teaching qualification as follows: "I'm not as great a presenter of information or communicator as I would like to be", and shows his up-to-the-minute grasp of modern technology with the proclamation that because of the internet, "you cannot have Rwanda again". Quite how the internet might prevent a repeat of the British government's interventions in favour of the Rwandan catastrophe is again unclear. Perhaps he has the Downing Street e-petitions in mind.

The Glorious Successor said that he wished he had regulated the banks more closely, but that he did not do so because nobody else was doing so, and he "didn't want Britain to be outside the mainstream". He also noted that, during his ten years of scheming and sulking, he "didn't know a lot about" the impending sub-prime mortgage calamity, and pleaded helplessness in the face of modern banking. The nature of modern banking is also to blame for the Glorious Successor's lack of interest in using the office of prime minister for any nobler purpose than remaining in office as prime minister, since it is difficult to focus on strategic planning "as you have to deal with immediate events, like if a bank's going to go under" owing to Britain being too far inside the mainstream. The Glorious Successor also said that the best way to run the country would be from a train; perhaps because that is where most of the Government's confidential data seems to end up.

According to the Guardian, this latest display of statesmanship is the result of "two long conversations in Downing Street". It is possible, of course, that they only seemed that way.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Legacy

All gentleness and wish for change;
The fantasy of truer life;
The fascination of the strange;
All civil uses for the knife;
Ideals of justice done or due;
All memory or hope of home;
All trust of others or of you;
All thought of what they might become -
Your children will forget. They'll fight
Beneath the unclean skies; and then
The lights will go out. From that night,
The lights will not go on again.

Fybrillator Hurligoot

Thursday, June 18, 2009

All the Difference

The shadow Minister for Snoopery, Chris Graybeing, has written to the five biggest market forces leeching taxpayers' money into the identity-card scheme, informing them that the Daveybloke administration will not undertake further contracts. However, the Daveybloke administration will continue with the present Ministry of Snoopery's plans to set up the biometric database which is, after all, merely the main problem with the whole idea. Anyone unfortunate enough to require a passport, and financially insecure enough to regard the law as legally binding rather than as a matter of personal choice, will be subject to exactly the same economical yet sophisticated safeguards that have made the present government's reputation in the field of data protection. So when the best police force in the world kicks in your door at three in the morning because of a computer error, or when you find youself unemployable because your name has been put on a corporate blacklist, you'll be able to thank your stars and Daveybloke the Cuddly Nationalist that you don't live in Germany.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peter Van Greenaway

My first encounter with the work of Peter Van Greenaway - and probably yours too, if you've heard of him at all - was via Jack Gold's fine film of The Medusa Touch. Released in 1978 and starring Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick and a superb array of British character actors from Harry Andrews through Michael Hordern to Philip Stone, the adaptation is commendably faithful despite changing the gender of Remick's character and the nationality of Ventura's at the command of its international backers. The story concerns a middle-aged English novelist, John Morlar, who has, in his publisher's words, a "convincing knack of dissecting evil genius and showing what it's capable of", and who "somehow knew too much about what goes on under stones, behind the wainscot, under the carpets of the corridors of power". But literature is not Morlar's only talent; he also has a powerful and highly destructive gift of telekinesis, which has left a trail of more or less deserving victims through his entire life.

In the book, this trail is uncovered by one Inspector Cherry of Scotland Yard, whose investigation of Morlar's near-murder leads him to a certain sneaking sympathy with the writer's generously targeted irritation. Inspector Cherry went on to become one of that largely unfortunate species, the series character; a particularly unfortunate decision in this case. My personal prejudice against series aside, given the development of Cherry's attitude in The Medusa Touch and the apocalyptic implications of the ending, his reappearance as the representative of law and order (I forget in which book) is thoroughly unconvincing, intervening nervous breakdown or none. In any case, owing to the aforesaid prejudice I have read no other books featuring the character, although I may get around to them one day. Happily, there are plenty of other Van Greenaway novels to be going on with.

Van Greenaway's first novel, which appeared in the early 1960s, was The Crucified City, a fable set in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war. The martyred city is London, where a motley collection of survivors undertakes a final pilgrimage to Aldermaston, dying one by one along the way. They are accompanied by a mysterious mute, and also by Richard Creston, the protagonist, whose eloquently expressed views on humanity and the world are fully as optimistic as John Morlar's. Van Greenaway returned to the theme of nuclear holocaust in his late novel Graffiti, another peculiar parable about a man who roams the devastated country writing his testament on those few walls which remain upright. Given what is known about the probable effects of a major nuclear war, the new society which emerges from the ruins may appear naïvely utopian; but there is, of course, a twist.

Some of Van Greenaway's books deal explicitly with political themes: Take the War to Washington is about renegade Vietnam War veterans, and the charmingly titled Suffer! Little Children is about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Still better titled is The Man Who Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing, in which a group of British army officers stage a coup and do exactly that. The book came out in 1968; the name of the deposed Prime Minister is Wrigley, presumably a snipe at Wilson. The speech by Captain Wyatt, the coup's leader, as he dismisses the House of Commons is about as dated as one would imagine:

"I'm not going to take up too much of your time - or mine. For many years it has been increasingly obvious to more people than you or the opinion polls seem aware of that this country's affairs have been passed from one set of incompetents to another. There's no doubt that the system has benefited property speculators, building tycoons, bookmakers and organised crime; there's no doubt that under the system both parties have succeeded in running the country into the ground with the gay abandon of two frustrated spinsters daring their all in a cosy game of Monopoly.

"That you act with a cynical disregard for those you represent is the measure of your dishonesty. That you assume public apathy to your actions is total shows a blindness to reality suggesting outright stupidity.

"I am here to tell you that the country refuses to be led by the nose from the Right, by the hand from the Left. It is prepared to march forward in step with the times with whoever is prepared to give effective leadership. The House is no longer an effective instrument of government. Consequently it is my pleasurable duty to inform you that from this moment you no longer exist. You are free to leave."

True to his anathema on Right and Left alike, Wyatt's policies during his brief period in power are not easy for doctrinaires to label (beyond Wrigley's inevitable cries of "treason!"). A murderer is sentenced to "public exposure" - three days on display naked in a cage, for deglamorisation purposes - followed by exile to a Scottish island with a number of other criminals. Building and educational facilities are to be supplied, according to Wyatt, and the exiles will be permitted to return to mainland society once they have shown themselves capable of social behaviour.

There is, as may be gathered from The Medusa Touch alone, a strong vein of satire in Van Greenaway. In the science fiction novel Manrissa Man scientists breed an ape which can think and speak, with predictably unflattering results for the dominant species; in the horror novel Mutants catastrophe strikes in the form of a highly intelligent, razor-toothed and murderous species of mouse. The satire is abetted by Van Greenaway's narrative voice: rich in wordplay, delightfully if sometimes obtrusively sarcastic, as distinctive in its own way as the style of Ramsey Campbell or Ambrose Bierce. He deserves a lot better than his present obscurity.

Update Michael Greenwell reviews The Man Who Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Various Papers

With the Government moribund and the Glorious Successor too safe a pair of hands to undertake any of the meaningful political reforms that might stop him, Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative has decided he can afford to show just how much he has matured since his days of burping Rule Britannia in the Bullingdon. Speaking at a blather-in at Norwich North, Daveybloke made a sophisticated witticism in which his principled objection to ID cards and his career-preserving objection to foreigners were seamlessly expressed in a single economically-responsible breath. Putting on a German accent, he said: "Where are your papers?" No doubt his chums in the Polish Gay-Bashers' League were rolling in the aisles, but inevitably someone in Norwich North had a Teutonic sense of humour: "I wonder about the wisdom of you adopting a German accent," she said; to which Daveybloke explained that "It was meant to be light-hearted". Well, so that's all right then. If there's one thing guaranteed to bury once and for all the Conservatives' reputation as an insular, reactionary and xenophobic bunch of upper-class imbeciles, a bit of light-hearted nationalist stereotyping based on a situation which has not existed for more than sixty years might just be it.

Elsewhere, along with some very flattering comments about a certain internet grumbler, the mighty Tiso has a collection of superb photomontages by John Heartfield, who in the middle of the Great War changed his name from Helmut Herzfeld as a calculated insult to the brand of patriotism favoured by the likes of Daveykerl der knuddlig Spießer und seinen kleinen Freunden. Giovanni also links to Lyndon Hood, like me a sometime follower of Ambrose Bierce, and unlike me a talented cartoonist whose epic Victory Parade for John Key deserves to be known far beyond its victim's natal-shores.

Finally, I have today received this month's royalties from Lulu. Many thanks to those of you who have contributed, but it still isn't exactly retirement money. I need you to dig deeper, folks. Dig deeper, spend, read, review and spread the word, and who knows - perhaps God may reward you. I don't for a moment believe that he will; but of course I could be wrong. It's happened before.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rights of Privacy

Now that British combat troops are about to return from the sovereign, independent Iraqi Free State, the Glorious Successor has decided that an inquiry into the war can take place without hurting anyone's feelings too much; provided, of course, that it takes place in secret and that the results are not announced until a month or so into the Daveybloke administration. Daveybloke himself is worried that "the timing of the inquiry will lead people to believe it was fixed to make sure the government does not have to face up to any difficult conclusions"; but any pledges he may have made to throw the whole thing open to the public during his first weeks in power do not appear to have gained the media attention they deserve. However, the Glorious Successor's famed mathematical ability was on proud display as he stated that the inquiry would bring home "the lessons of the complex and often controversial events of the last six years" from September 2001 to July 2009. According to the country's leading liberal newspaper, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, when America was attacked by terrorists, "transformed US and British foreign policy", which until that traumatic moment had shown no interest whatever in bombing, starving or torturing people, let alone Arabs, to the tune of pious rhetoric about democracy and human rights.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nuclear Fission

Researchers at Cornell University in the state of New York are attempting to undermine family values by claiming that children who grow up in stable single-parent households tend to be healthier than those who grow up in households which God has joined and which no man may put asunder. According to the survey, children whose parents remain together but frequently argue are more likely to do badly at school, use drugs and suffer psychological problems; in later life they are also more likely to have children early and to emulate their own parents in the matter of fouling up relationships. The data for the research came from interviews with about two thousand families, some of whose members clearly spent far too much time together; obviously, such families are simply not hard-working enough.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If You Haven't Got A Gunboat, A Telephone Will Do

Our glamorous Minister for Lesser Breeds, the Upper Miliband, has done his bit for the greatness of Britain by whining on the phone to the American Secretary of State about four erstwhile guests at the Guantánomaly whom the US transferred to Bermuda. As a beneficiary of the Empire For Which We Should Stop Apologising, Bermuda does not have the right to conduct foreign relations without asking the Upper Miliband first. Since the illicit relations in this case were with the US, the Bermudan government ought to have consulted the British government, which would then have asked the American government for permission to allow the Bermudan government to do what the American government wanted. The Americans' permission being summarily granted, the British government would then have informed the Bermudan government that four Chinese Muslim Uighurs did not, in the opinion of the British government, constitute an unacceptable threat to the Bermudan way of life, and the Bermudan government would have done exactly what it has now done; the difference being that the Special Relationship would be enhanced, the Upper Miliband would be at ease with itself, and the Bermudans would know their place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The English Progressive Tradition

We mustn't change the voting - FPTP is such fun,
And causes such hilarity concerning how we're run;
And any other system is a system we must shun:
It is not the way we do things, for it's not how things are done.

We must support our pressmen of the Mail, Express and Sun,
Who fearlessly expose the dreaded Mussulman and Hun.
We'll censure no poor hacks for putting crap out by the ton;
For it's not the way we do things as it's not how things are done.

We mustn't lose the Royals, for the Royals are such fun;
We mustn't stop the armed policeman playing with his gun;
We mustn't treat with Europe lest the wogs forget who won -
It is not the way we do things, so it's not how things are done.

Chunkie Flobber

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Firm But Fair

The Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose continues to safeguard the legacy of Agent Smith with this heartwarmingly humane demonstration of sympathy. The parents of a possibly terminal cancer patient have been denied permission to extend their temporary stay in Britain in order to care for her, on the grounds that there are plenty of charities which do that sort of thing and she has a husband anyway. A spokesbeing for the Border Agency said that people are allowed to remain in the UK to care for sick relatives, but that "this is only ever temporary and to allow for future care arrangements to be put in place"; in other words, those granted such leave are not supposed to spend it actually doing any caring themselves, but are meant to use the time to employ strangers in preparation for the day when, perhaps rather early in the morning, the Border Agency's boys come knocking at the door. The spokesbeing described this system as "firm but fair". The cancer patient in this case is scheduled for an operation in a few days during which a large chunk of her liver will be taken out. Let's hope the Home Office is quite sure that Britain can spare the anaesthetic.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Many Mansions

The Church of England is attempting to evict a vicar; or more precisely an ex-vicar, as the gentleman has been removed from his post for having an extra-marital affair. Despite being defrocked for "conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders", the Reverend Patrick Okechi is still living in the vicarage. Taking thought for the morrow, and taking a liberal view of Matthew 5 xl-xlii, a couple of bishops have asked Birmingham county court to cast their brother from the place; but did not bother to attend the hearing and were not able to show that the church had any right to the property. "We have been given some time to do more legal research and we will do that, and at the next hearing we'll hopefully get the possession," said a spokesbeing for the diocese, in the usual forgiving spirit.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No Pasarán

Some people who went to Spain almost three-quarters of a century ago, in order to participate in acts of terrorism against some staunchly Catholic law-and-order enthusiasts, have had their Britishness diluted at the Spanish embassy, where the ambassador has been handing out passports as if border controls were things of the past. The International Brigade veterans are all well into their nineties, so the Spanish government will have only itself to blame for whatever health tourism results. Apparently the Spaniards offered the passports some years ago, but on condition that the veterans gave up their Britishness - a somewhat mean-spirited gesture which, not being part of New Labour, the Spanish government has now retracted rather than making a meaner one still.

As holders of foreign passports, with a record of armed struggle against everything our own parliamentarians hold dear, we must hope that the veterans were not allowed back onto British territory once the ceremonies were concluded.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Hand of History

The most striking, and possibly the longest-lasting, political legacy of New Labour and New New Labour has emerged with the election to the European Parliament of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party. The Vicar of Downing Street, his Glorious Successor, and their loyal servants Jack Straw, Agent Smith, David Blunkett, John Reid, Phil Woolas and all the rest of their delightful crew - from the lowest Muslim-baiting Blearsy servodrone to the glossiest grinning immigrant-bashing Flintopath - can feel proud of themselves today. Griffin may even have hinted at a willingness to form a coalition with New New Labour with his claim that racism in this country is directed overwhelmingly against creepily smirking things in suits; certainly, given the Glorious Successor's past form, it is entirely possible that he will find this a plausible explanation for his own difficulties. Still, it is no small achievement to have deported children and cancer patients, to have broken down doors at three in the morning, to have regarded ludicrous contortions about "Britishness" as a matter for national policy, and still to be so ineffectual, crooked and cowardly as to make the BNP seem the better option.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Educational Assets

A deputy head-teacher and education policy adviser to Daveybloke the Cuddly Children's Friend has been accused of selling off valuable paintings which were donated to his school on condition that they should be available for the pupils to see. Dr Richard Evans, along with the school's head-teacher and the bursar, has already been suspended from his post pending an investigation into "financial irregularities", or incentives to public service as they are known in political circles. The website Conservative Home has touted Evans for a seat in the House of Donors, on the grounds that he would be a "huge asset" in implementing Daveybloke's non-policy on education. Evans is a member of Rotary International, whose mottoes are "Self above service" and "They serve best who profit most", or something of that kind. He is also "a major player in north London Conservative circles" with a long-standing interest in art. Like schools when they are set up in the right way, art can serve well in profiting some, but not if the artist chooses to waste it on mere education industry consumers. The way Evans' school is set up is self-evidently beyond reproach; it has been visited by the Vicar of Downing Street, by his Glorious Successor and by Daveybloke the People's Bloke himself. No wonder its incentives are so transparent.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

And Nobody Gets Hurt

The British army, to which Britain's leading liberal newspaper has devoted some advertising space disguised as a news story, is one of Britain's largest employers, with more than a hundred thousand trained staff. The salary for a graduate officer starts at £23,475, with final-salary pension scheme, subsidised food and accommodation and medical and dental care. Various training courses are available, including the all-important management training if you don't particularly feel like doing something useful when you leave; and there is a keep-fit scheme if you are into the outdoors. The army is also one of Britain's most efficient travel agents.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fall Out

The high court has ruled that military veterans can sue the Ministry for Punching Above Our Weight On The International Stage over claims that they were exposed to excessive radiation during nuclear tests in the 1950s. The veterans think that the radiation has given them cancer and chromosome damage. The high court judge said that the Ministry would be allowed to appeal the decision, rather than being put to the inconvenience of simply breaking the law; but he also "urged ministers to consider a settlement rather than drag out legal proceedings further". After all, the tests in question took place sixty years ago, so the veterans may be at risk of dying before the legal process has run its rapid and efficient course. The Ministry wouldn't want that.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Safe In Their Hands

A report by the Commons health committee claims that the remains of the National Health Service are failing to give due care and attention to keeping track of their expenses. Specifically, despite the roaring success of so many Whitehall database systems, there are no central records detailing the amounts spent on managament consultants. The National Health Service, which under the provisions of the Private Finance Initiative is maturing into a large bureaucratic machine for taking money away from taxpayers and giving it to the directors and shareholders of private corporations in return for defaulting on their contracts, spent three hundred million on management consultants last year, and perhaps double that in 2005-2006. The honourable members of the Commons health committee are worried that the management consultants may not be giving value for money; which appears to imply (no doubt inadvertently) that value for money is something you can get out of a management consultant.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Nice New Chums

In his effort to place Britain at the heart of Europe, Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative seems to be cuddling up to some rather less exalted bits of meat. Daveybloke has just spent a cosy weekend in Warsaw with denizens of the Law and Justice Party, whose Polish initials form the gratifying acronym PiS. The Law and Justice Party, of course, has about as much to do with law and justice as the Conservatives with conservation or Labour with working for a living. It is run by Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, a pair of identical twins so far enamoured of Popery that even the Guardian calls their party militant rather than staunch. In government, with Jaroslaw as Prime Minister and Lech as President, they managed the sublime feat of irritating both Germany and Russia at the same time, and Jaroslaw subsequently suffered an electoral defeat. The party and its friends believe that global warming is not happening (I am sure Daveybloke will be happy to consult with the oil companies on this issue), that homosexuality is a "pathology" (Daveybloke believes in family values) and that the EU is a "neo-totalitarian" regime (Daveybloke has waxed macho in the past on the advantages of a strong police force). As befits a moderniser, Daveybloke stood in a cinema alongside Jaroslaw and Mirek Topolánek, leader of another good acronym in the Czech Republic, and celebrated the new, dynamic, forward-looking right-wing alliance in true British fashion, by reminding the foreigners who won the war.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Evil Consumes Itself

Our brilliant and incorruptible Minister of Home Entertainment has decided to end her career in the same spirit of ignominy which has characterised her whole ID-carding, detention-without-trialling, protester-kettling tenure, by embarrassing her boss with a pre-emptive announcement of departure. Fortunately, this has failed to deter the equally adorable Michael Savage, whom Agent Smith utilised as a headline emollient last month by publicly announcing that she had barred him from entering the country. Savage, a self-proclaimed Anglophile who doesn't know the difference between England and the United Kingdom, is still going ahead with his threatened lawsuit for defamation, in which it seems the defendant will be Agent Smith personally rather than the Ministry of Unfitness for Purpose. It is doubtless too much to hope that Agent Smith rather than the taxpayer will cover any damages or costs awarded against her; but you can't have everything.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lama Sabachthani

The reincarnation of a certain Tibetan lama has not gone according to plan. When Osel Hita Torres was five months old, some lunatic saw his peaceful, meditative countenance and decided that he might be the latest remake of someone who had claimed to be a serially-produced spiritual leader. Nine months later Torres' parents took him to Dharamsala in India and waved him at a deposed feudal leader who makes a similar claim on his own behalf. As the immortal journalese hath it, "the toddler was chosen out of nine other candidates", placed on a throne and given an education suited to a mediaeval monk, with the hilarious exception of an Eddie Murphy film. (Why not Scorsese's hagiopic Kundun? Not enough special effects for a growing deity?) Alas, Torres failed to take the hint and did not identify with the magical Golden Child. He is now twenty-four and has escaped from the monastery in southern India and taken up film studies in Madrid; despite which "he is still known as Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche and revered by the Buddhist community". If Torres ever becomes a film-maker in his own right, the results may be interesting.