The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 28, 2010

They're Here Already! You're Next!

And, speaking of Caroline Flint and James Purnell and their like, our conquest by the pods from space is now so far advanced that the Ministry for Enlightened Planetary Conquest feels safe in announcing that all future reports of unidentified flying objects are to be destroyed so that they won't have to be published under the Freedom of Information Act. The Ministry recorded over six hundred UFO sightings last year, which is more than four times the average even in a country where the natives welcome aliens with private detention camps and where heavenly bodies like the Daily Star and the Sun are noted for their down-to-earth reporting; and all these close encounters are diverting staff from "more valuable" defence-related activities, like killing Asians and stoking Gordon's nuclear piles. It is not clear whether rendition flights or the London Haystack's public transport plans come under this useful directive - which, in a superbly self-reflexive example of our Hall of Mirrors style of democracy, appears itself to have been released, as a "previously secret memo", under the Freedom of Information Act. Still, it is reassuring that we now have a plausible explanation for the military misadventures of the past few years; and doubtless we may now hope for a swift and crushing Victory in Afghanistan, given that the relevant Government department is no longer being distracted by flying saucers.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Caroline Flint Has An Idea

Everyone's favourite inflatable Blairette, Caroline Flint, whose prior claim to fame was her suggestion, as Minister for Second Homes, that the long-term unemployed should be booted out of their council houses, has evidently been cudgelling whatever squalid mewling thing passes for her brain in search of a visionary new idea with which to give the all-important impression that there is some sort of policy difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Having discovered, presumably from the experience of her own two marriages, that married couples make more deserving parents than mere cohabitees, Flint "tackles head-on the argument made by many of her colleagues that cohabiting parents provide as secure a unit as married parents"; or, in Oldspeak, denies it. She precedes her denial with the words "I think we have to be honest", but the political correspondent of Britain's leading liberal newspaper appears immune even to this blatant signal of mendacity. Flint calls upon New New Labour to fight the Conservatives on their own ground in the best Blairite tradition, by emulating the Conservatives at their most thick-headed and reactionary. Unlike Daveybloke's Cuddlies, who simply intend to reward people for being married, Flint proposes reducing VAT just for "the biggest family occasions" such as weddings, civil partnerships and funerals, provided that the families in question are the legitimate sort whose loves and deaths are worthy of tax relief. It seems a little tactless, to say the least, for Flint to have published her great idea during the very week when the Glorious Successor and his two main adversaries are busily denying that the Government condones or encourages torture.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Mills of Justice Grind Slow

David Mills, husband of the Minister for Blanched Quadrennial Pachyderms who estranged him as soon as he got into trouble, has had his sentence quashed by Italy's highest appeals court and has presumably been released into the community until his next appearance in his other trial "involving the allegedly fraudulent trading of TV film rights". Mills was found guilty last year of being bribed by Silvio Berlusconi to perjure himself; he appealed and the conviction was upheld, but he will not serve his sentence because the charge is subject to a statute of limitations and the alleged payment was more than ten years ago. Berlusconi's own trial for "corrupting" this innocent flower of British manhood "looks highly likely to collapse before the final appeal stage".

The Glorious Successor, who gave Mills' wife the customary "ringing endorsement" by being too weak to sack her last year, must be looking with some envy at the workings of the Italian legal system, whereby anyone with the means to draw out the proceedings for a sufficient length of time can walk free from the court without a stain on his reputation. All Mills has to do is pay a quarter of a million euros to the Italian state (viz. Silvio Berlusconi) as compensation for "giving evasive evidence" - surely a more congenial penance than all those tedious inquiries and makeshift cover-ups with which the British state is often forced to concern itself.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lexical Cleansing

An American teenager has observed that swearing can take place in connection with "drug use, bullying and other harmful behaviour", and has implemented the usual eminently logical theory that banning the symptom treats the disease. Accordingly, California's state assembly, for lack of any larger problems to deal with, is considering the imposition of an annual state-wide profanity-free week at the beginning of March. There will, as yet, be no compulsion involved, but officials of the legislature will be "encouraged" to do financial penance should they let slip a nasty word. Doubtless the resulting emotional repression will be salutary. Let's hope not too many of them carry guns.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It Shouldn't Happen To A Brit

Recent accusations of bullying have induced the Glorious Successor's handlers to intimate that now might be a good time to apologise for the British policy, in operation between 1920 and 1967, of removing British children from British institutions and placing them in orphanages and labour farms in the colonies. The idea was to ease a burden on the British taxpayer while supplying the British Commonwealth with sufficient Britishness-rich livestock to keep back the alien hordes who might be tempted to trespass on the land; and in the interests of British decency, fair play and family values, the children were falsely informed that their British parents had died and were deprived of their British identities. Many of them suffered abuse and neglect on arrival, some at the ever-whited hands of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Britain's leading liberal newspaper refers to this as a "child migrant policy", as though the tiny human resources had been the sort who deserve locking up by Serco, the Glorious Successor had nothing to say about present-day policies of child imprisonment; presumably because of the limited if not downright inadequate Britishness of the units involved.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doing Us Proud

President Hamid Karzai, of the sovereign, liberated republic of Afghanistan, has continued applying the lessons he's learned from his country's democratificators. Having won last year's election in the manner of George W Bush, and been arbitrarily deprived of his victory thanks to foreign interference, Karzai has decreed that from now on the legitimacy of elections will be determined after the Hutton-Chilcot fashion. That is to say, investigations will be carried out by people who have been appointed by those they are meant to be investigating, thus ensuring that the investigators maintain an appropriately nuanced and charitable perspective. Our boys must be rejoicing. Quite apart from basking in the continued approbation of Tony and Gordon, this is just the sort of thing to make them feel it's all been worth their while.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Modern Conservative Party Waxes Lyrical

One of Britain's two main parties of right-wing philistinism has suddenly remembered the consolations of art. Daveybloke's Cuddly Cultchah spokesbeing said that George Osborne was "committed to the arts", and that Daveybloke himself has "reiterated his commitment to the arts", and that Daveybloke has reiterated Daveybloke's wife's commitment to the arts. Accordingly, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives plan to "recognise the critical importance of public funding" for the arts, even as they plan to cut the arts budget by the usual substantial if unspecified amounts. Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives intend to allow the National Lottery to take up the unspecified and substantial slack, since everybody will have so much more to gamble once the austerity really kicks in. Also, "the scheme under which works of art can be offered in lieu of inheritance tax would be extended to include life-time giving", in order to facilitate the rapid and easy movement of works of art from private collections into other private collections, with the Government acting as middleman. In order that these vast cultural riches may be properly appreciated, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives intend to "promote three aims", rather than being so avant-garde and facile as merely to set out policies. The three aims are "that every child will have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument; that every child has the chance to learn to sing; that every child is able to receive a solid cultural education"; although, given the progressive ideas which Daveybloke's spokesbeing for infant job training has about education, perhaps we should not hope for anything too solid. "Arts make us more civilised, emotionally literate, self-aware," said Daveybloke's Cuddly Cultchah spokesbeing; fortunately, they have a market justification too: "If I was going to wax lyrical - I would talk about how they make people better able to cope with the recession."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fearless Journalist

Once upon a time, in a small island country which had never quite recovered from being terrorised by an evil dragon thirty years before, a Fearless Journalist spent several decades carrying out a series of fearless interviews with various servants of the incumbent Prime Minister. This Prime Minister was known for having a Moral Compass which had undergone considerable readjustment thanks to the magnetism of high finance. He had also helped to involve the little island in several disastrous wars, and had presided over an economic crisis, a corruption scandal and various sporting failures. Accordingly, the Fearless Journalist boiled down his interviews into five hundred pages of anecdote about the Prime Minister's personal charmlessness and frequent defenestrations of minor aides. When asked why his book, The Party Pooper, said nothing about Government policy-making except insofar as it was a catalyst for amusingly violent personal relationships, the Fearless Journalist awoke, sweating with terror, under a pile of Personal Assistants.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Appropriate Climate

A minister in the Ministry of Snoopery has dismissed with a light laugh the thought that anyone should have any idea how many criminals are on the national DNA database, which was set up ostensibly in order to help police keep track of criminals.

Thanks to the Government's pro-active approach to creating new offences, and its fervent belief that criminals are best dealt with by allowing them to benefit from the company and experience of other criminals for long periods of time, nearly 84,000 people are currently in prison in England and Wales.

The minister stated that "there are good reasons for believing that a significant majority of the prison population" has a DNA profile on the database, which could mean that anything up to 49.9% of the prison population does not.

By contrast, more than 975,000 people who have been arrested but not charged or convicted have had their DNA collected and logged. An unknown number have also been arrested for terrorism offences such as unauthorised architectural depiction or making malicious optical contact with an officer of the law.

"We should make sure that anyone convicted of a serious crime has their DNA records kept, but not the innocent majority," said shadow home affairs spokesbeing Damian Green.

The minister responded that the opposition had "clearly no comprehension whatever of the needs of an efficient police state."

What mattered was not whether innocent or guilty people were monitored, the minister said, but that as many people as possible were monitored and that the system was as chaotic as possible within a reasonable profit margin for the private companies involved.

"This system and only this system will create an appropriate climate of public paranoia from which the jackboot of genuine democratic reform can be made to give birth to a fair future," he said.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another Squeak, Another Splash

The brilliant James Purnell, whose moderate centre-left ideology and neo-Italianate artistic sensibilities have exercised your correspondent before, has announced his departure from Parliament at the next election. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, this "suggests that promising young MPs (sic) see no immediate future for themselves in Westminster". Apparently Britain's leading liberal newspaper defines promising as having held a couple of positions in a feverishly incompetent cabinet; surely it cannot have in mind last summer's failed putsch, when Purnell and a couple of other fifth-raters flounced out of the Government expecting eminent fourth-raters like the Upper Miliband to rally to their soiled little flag? It is rather more likely that Purnell now considers the business of serving his constituents from the back benches a task unworthy of his capabilities; certainly it is unlikely to compare, either socially or philosophically, to the business of serving himself on the front benches. Then again, perhaps he merely wishes to avoid being the Michael Portillo of 2010; his majority is only just above eight thousand.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Your Friendly, All-New, Privatising, Euro-Nazi, First-Past-the-Post, Beer and Skittles Bloke Party

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has evidently been told by his Cuddly Coulson that it's about time he started looking like a statesbeing in the true Blairite mould rather than the greasy, posturing little opportunist he has hitherto been content to appear. Daveybloke claims that he turned down an interview with the Glorious Successor's emotiporn co-star, Piers Morgan, because Daveybloke would "rather try and do something a bit more substantial rather than that". Accordingly, Daveybloke has been strutting his substance in the common people's media, talking about Guinness, darts and Sky Plus because ordinary blokes and blokettes "want to know what makes you tick, what motivates you, and I think trying to explain a bit about your family, your background, your life, what it's like, just helps people to see what you're like", thus enabling ordinary blokes and blokettes to make an informed and reasoned judgement about which qualities Daveybloke and his publicity team imagine the common people wish to see in their leader.

Daveybloke is a family bloke who talks openly about his family; this bodes well for his government's likely degree of respect for the privacy of those whose dirty little secrets are less important than the Ashcroft variety. Daveybloke does his own shopping, cooks his own food and does all the things that one does as a family bloke; this obviously qualifies him to run the country, much as his loss of a child guarantees that his health policy will be determined in the interests of public health rather than those of the corporations whose directorships will help to keep him in the ordinary-bloke style to which he is so clearly accustomed. Daveybloke is against the commercialisation and sexualisation of children, provided such commercialisation and sexualisation are neither necessary nor appropriate; though, as we all know, he has nothing against the exploitation of children for the purpose of scoring cheap political points and does not seem to have anything against New New Labour's policy of banging them up except that the Conservatives can do it cheaper and tougher. Daveybloke is in favour of women MPs and Lark Rise to Candleford. So now we know.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not Necessarily Traumatic

The Government's proud and noble record of child imprisonment has been highlighted once more, this time in a report by the Children's Commissioner which indicates the extent to which taxpayers' money is not being wasted on luxuries for potentially failed asylum seekers. Children's psychological well-being is not assessed "even at an elementary level" once they and their parents have been dawn-raided, indefinitely jailed and sometimes separated, and toddlers with broken bones can expect to wait fifteen hours for examination and a further five for treatment. The UK Border Agency's chief bouncer does not believe that detention is "necessarily traumatic" for children, since asylum seekers are a tough lot and there has been some effort to turn some of the prisons into nicer prisons; but he did admit that arrest might not be altogether a wonderful experience, which doubtless explains why he does not consider it necessary for every child to receive psychological assessment after being arrested.

No singers, sportsbeings or other persons of cultural significance were involved. Accordingly, the Children's Minister had nothing to say; the shadow Children's Minister had nothing to say, even about how much tougher-but-fairer the system will be under Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives; and the Liberal Democrats agreed with both of them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Akin to Poetry

Those of you who have the stamina to follow these mudgeonries on a long-term basis, or who are shifty-eyed enough to glance at the sidebar now and then, may possibly be aware of my occasional forays into literary criticism. Over the past few years, eight articles of mine on stories by the remarkable English author Robert Aickman have appeared in various venues, and all eight have now been collected in a chapbook to be published by Gary Crawford's Gothic Press in May. I have revised all the pieces, in some cases quite extensively, and hopefully they now contain fewer errors than before. Although some of the publications in which the originals appeared had ISBNs, this will be the first book of mine to have an ISBN of its own, which is a somewhat thrilling prospect.

The chapbook's title, derived from Aickman's own expressed idea of what a weird tale ought to be, is Akin to Poetry: Observations on Some Strange Tales of Robert Aickman. Since it has not yet appeared, I have thus far managed to keep myself from googling it more than once every few minutes. Further news on the matter will be relayed promptly, and in all probability tiresomely, as it develops.

Monday, February 15, 2010

His Neighbour's Eye

What with the impending state visit of the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak, we shall doubtless be hearing a good deal from Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, much to our moral improvement. Nichols, whose response to a report of widespread and persistent sadism and paedophilia in Irish Catholic schools was to praise the courage of the criminals whose peccadilloes it exposed, has now taken it upon himself to lecture the NHS on compassion. He quoted the NHS constitution, whose "splendid sentiments" he pronounced fit for Roman Catholics, despite their church's noted consideration for the well-being of the human immunodeficiency virus, their Saviour's injunction to divine indifference and their deity's famously robust sense of humour; and he noted that some NHS hospitals fail to measure up to the pledge to "respond with humanity and kindness to each person's pain, distress, anxiety or need". For the benefit of these hospitals, the Archbishop proposes a "culture of true compassion and healing", which should be implemented as a matter of self-interest since "as with all true giving, the giver also receives" - something the Catholic church, like the Church of England, has presumably gathered from the experience of others. Such compassion "fosters a deep respect and attentive care of the whole person", rather than merely curing what is wrong with them; this, I take it, decodes as by all means have doctors and nurses, but don't cut the chaplains off the payroll. However, no such deep respect should be extended to the wishes of those who prefer to spare themselves the final stages of a terminal illness; let alone to any relatives or friends who might be tempted to help them do so, thus prematurely curtailing their chances of conversion, salvation and appropriately ecclesiastic choice of beneficiary in the will. As a believer in the pains of eternal damnation, the Archbishop also stated that in dealing with death "fear cannot be our guide".

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Ideas Behind Our Programme Do Not Oblige Us to Act Like Fools

A highly disciplined extraordinary general meeting of the British National Party has given the customary 99% approval to a constitutional change incorporating Gordon Brown's idea of Britishness. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has decreed that an assumption that only white people care about kicking immigrants out of Britain could be construed as racist, and has threatened the BNP with legal action. Asked whether the BNP had now put racism behind it, a party spokesbeing gave a note-perfect New New Labour reply, throwing aside the legalistic technicalities of mere affirmatives or negatives in favour of a steely and uncompromising focus on the public relations aspect: "Let's put it like this: If, as a result of this, a court rules that we are now a bonafide party, that's a great stamp of approval. If anyone says we are racist, we can say 'no we're not, it's been proved in court'." It remains to be seen whether the change is as sincere as Labour's conversion to neoliberalism or the Conservatives' conversion to Blairism.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Righteous Among the Cleggs

Update Giovanni tactfully points out, via the comments, that Jenny Tonge and I have made fools of ourselves. A posting on YouTube seems to be the only source for the story which started all this, and which the Palestine Telegraph seems to have removed from its website. An editorial mentions "charges aired in several media reports and a YouTube video that [organ harvesting] was occurring in Haiti", but regrettably fails to specify the several reports in question. Hence, the evidence for the charges appears to be nil; or, counting YouTube, less than nil. You shouldn't believe everything you read in the news, especially if it confirms your own suspicions.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick "Who?" Clegg, has shown himself an international statesbeing in waiting by sacking Jenny Tonge, his health spokeswoman in the House of Donors. While grovelling unreservedly on her behalf and delicately suggesting that she may not be irredeemably bigoted, Clegg said that some remarks of hers to the Jewish Chronicle were "wrong, distasteful and provocative" and that he recognised the "deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community". The Jewish community in this case appears to have been a few Liberal Democrats who pre-empted the inevitable squeals of outrage from the Righteous State by demanding Tonge's head.

Her crime was to call for an inquiry into allegations that members of the Israeli Defence Force have turned a challenge into an opportunity and harvested human organs from victims of the Haiti earthquake. Tonge said that "the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti". Clearly, this is inexcusable. I don't know about the Israeli Medical Association, but the IDF's passion for truth, justice and disinterested investigation is even more famous than that of New New Labour and the Metropolitan Police. In the circumstances, Tonge's suggestion that the clearing of the Haiti team's names would be a foregone conclusion is self-evidently a calculated and genocidal insult to Tel Aviv, the Six Million and all the seed of Abraham.

It isn't the first time, either. Tonge was fired from her post as spokeswoman on infant resources when she suggested that the feelings of Palestinians might be more or less comparable to those of actual parents.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Doing Good in a Naughty World

Some fans of the god of the Haiti earthquake and the Boxing Day tsunami have registered their concern about violent computer games. Tom Benyon, who lives surrounded by a "bubbling sewer of gratuitously violent and sexual pornography" and has spent a great deal of time watching images of women being sawn up, chainsaw murders, rape, torture and so on, displayed the respect for education and parental autonomy which one would expect from an erstwhile Conservative MP: "To control this material by expecting parents to control their children with warnings is like King Canute's performance with his waves". Despite the Saviour's casual attitude to property, the dean of Manchester Cathedral is still indignant over a breach of copyright three years ago by Sony, which used images of the building's interior without permission, evidently much to the detriment of public safety in Manchester. The Very Reverend Govender Rogers Govender, who expects eternal bliss as the personal gift of a failed apocalyptic preacher who rose from the dead during the reign of Tiberius, did his best to put Sony straight about the difference between fantasy and reality; but it is far from clear that the lesson has gone home.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

He Will Be Sorely Missed

New New Labour managed to maintain a façade of panic-as-usual today as one of the party's most outstanding areas of natural fatuity announced its retirement from Parliament at the next general election.

Geoff Hoon, one of the thickest of thick ends in the New Labour wedge, served the Vicar of Downing Street as Minister of Frogs and Huns, and at the Department of Delays, Cancellations and Cock-ups as the next best thing to Ruth Kelly.

However, his longest and best-known role was as Minister for War and the Colonies, a job which he performed with all the flair, competence and independence of mind one would expect from one of Tony's choirboys.

Although he apparently did not realise there might be anything wrong in going to war against Iraq, Hoon did once eructate a certain hope for the future of the cluster-bombed, stating that the mothers of detrimented infants might one day be ready to thank the Coalition of the Enlightened for its efforts at freedomisation.

Hoon announced his retirement ahead of a motion of no confidence which was to be debated by activists from his local party. Some remnants of the grass-roots Labour party are said to be annoyed with Hoon over his attempted putsch against the Glorious Successor, although it is not clear whether they are angry with him for disloyalty, for incompetence or for associating the constituency of Ashfield with the likes of Patricia Hewitt.

A creature of New Labour to the last, Hoon signed a letter equipped with all the usual abstract nouns - equality freedom tolerance compassion understanding people background views and, most endearingly of all for his many fans, principles.

He also blamed the press for being unfair and inaccurate, as when the Government's implication that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in forty-five minutes was misinterpreted as a warning that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in forty-five minutes.

Hoon is the second major area of natural fatuity to announce that British democracy will have to do without it in future, after Kim Howells in December.

Tributes and expressions of goodwill for Hoon's future are expected from somewhere or other eventually.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Small Indiscretion

The Binyam Mohamed torture case has taken an unpredictable turn, at least for those privileged souls who have been in a coma since 1997. It transpires that the Government's counsel, Jonathan Sumption QC, who once implied that people who objected to the Government's complicity in torture were motivated more by political considerations than by concern for human rights, tried to suppress a paragraph in the appeal court's judgement on the grounds that it would cause a political upset. The original judgement stated that MI5 did not respect human rights, did not renounce the more genitally reformative levels of interrogative assertiveness, and operated a "culture of suppression" to such a degree that nothing it said could be considered reliable. Sumption, despite being a lawyer in the pay of New New Labour, abused the drafting process by deceiving the master of the rolls, Lord Neuberger, into believing that the Government's draft had been agreed by all parties.

So it appears that we now have the explanation both for the Upper Miliband's initial hearty welcome of the court of appeal's verdict and for the Upper Miliband's posturing yesterday as a bigger and better death-bed democrat than the man he hopes will shortly be his respected and admired predecessor as Leader of the Opposition. The second was a bit of preliminary spadework to bury some bad news; the first was a squeak of joy at the smooth and merciful workings of the British legal system. Unfortunately, that was before the master of the rolls committed the indiscretion of letting slip what Sumption had been up to. Lawyers can be an awkward lot, especially when they start worrying about staying within the law.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Those With Nothing to Hide Have Nothing to Fear

I am sure we all remember Lord Hutton, the kindly old man whom the Vicar of Downing Street appointed to showcase the pristine whiteness of the angel Campbell's hands as regards the unfortunate business of Dr David Kelly, in the first and least tedious of our many Iraq-oriented inquiries to avoid shedding blame except upon the minions of that perennially legitimate target, the BBC. Via his Twitter account, of which he has none, Tiso the technomnemologist has directed my attention to Lord Hutton's latest bit of tact, which took the form of a seven-decade gagging order on records and photographs relating to Kelly's supposed suicide. Lord Hutton has since declared that he imposed the order purely to spare the feelings of Kelly's immediate family, which consists entirely of women for whom the prospect of further inconvenience to Lord Hutton's sponsors would evidently be one trauma too many. Doubtless the same spirit of chivalry also motivated Lord Falconer, the then lord chancellor, when he suspended the original inquest into Kelly's death and then failed to resume it once Lord Hutton's inquiry had come to its Government-friendly conclusion. Lord Hutton's concern for the unfortunate ladies extended so far as to omit all mention of the gagging order even on his inquiry's own website, and the whole business might have toddled off into the warm British haze of oblivion had it not been for five doctors who find the present official account of Kelly's death "so improbable as to demand a much more detailed investigation of what happened". Lawyers, too, have added their voices to Tony's continuing martyrdom, professing uncertainty as to the legal basis of the gagging order - as though the mere legal basis of anything had ever counted for much with Tony and his chums.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Playing at War

The No Longer Nasty Party's former spokesbeing for muscular Christianity has been bringing moral succour to the over-stretched and ill-equipped personnel of Britain's armed forces by likening the business of killing and/or being killed to a football game. "We need to decide if we want to stay in the first division or slide into the second division," he said, doubtless hoping to call to his listeners' minds the Conservative Party's Argie-bashing glory days of old. Anyway, Dr Fox gave the obligatory promise of tough decisions ruthlessly taken, and made generous provision for the deductive powers of the military mind by noting explicitly that there would be winners and losers at the end of the process. Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives intend to "look beyond defence in the traditional sense" of killing fuzzy-wuzzies by the cubic yard; possibly they still intend bringing back National Service and establishing a nice smooth pipeline to pump human resources from the faith schools of the Church Militant into the armed forces, or possibly Dr Fox was just blathering, as Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives so often seem to do. Then again, given Dr Fox's apparent idea that Britain should be the military equal, rather than the military vassal, of the United States, perhaps Daveybloke's Cuddly Conscripts merely intend putting the country in a time machine and taking it back to 1913 or thereabouts. Dr Fox dismissed Britain's international obligations with a wave of his hand: "We cannot accept the assumption ... that Britain will always operate as part of an alliance" because "we have unique national interests and have to maintain the capability to act unilaterally if required", in a way that lesser breeds self-evidently must not. It is not clear to me whether this means Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives plan to withdraw from NATO and either hook up with Latvia's Waffen-SS veterans or else Go It Alone; quite possibly it is not clear to Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives either. Dr Fox also promised a "clean break from the legacy and mindset of the cold war", now that the former USSR is being run by the sort of gangster an Englishman can do business with. Again, Dr Fox does not seem to have backed up this rhetoric with anything so un-British as an actual policy, such as doing away with the nuclear deterrent which has proven so tragically ineffective at deterring the mad mullahs of Mesopotamia; but then again, perhaps Dr Fox was just blathering, as Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives so often seem to do.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Don't Think of it as Decapitation, Think of it as a Challenge

Here is the magic whereby New New Labour intend to efficientise education spending without cutting frontline services (teachers, in Oldspeak): they have ordered head teachers to do the dirty work for them. The Department for Ignorance, Want and Family Values is planning to turn out a "document with examples of how to reduce costs", but the choice of whether to deprive classes of equipment or allow buildings to collapse will fall upon the head teachers; and so, the Government hopes, will the resulting public opprobrium. The Dickensianymous Minister for Human Resource Preparation, Vernon Coaker, trotted out the usual: real-terms funding, protecting the frontline, record numbers, record investment, tough and, inevitably, tougher. Daveybloke's Cuddly Secretary for Faith Schools, Charity Schools and Schools for Real People, Michael Gove, who believes that history should be taught as patriotic indoctrination, complained that "we cannot have a properly informed debate about the future of funding in schools" because "Ed Balls will not confirm which parts of his budget are protected and which face reductions" - quite unlike Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives, all of whose policies are such forthright models of luminous clarity. "The last thing we want is a return to the early 1990s, where schools had buckets catching water because they couldn't afford to repair things," said the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, apparently unaware that those sad conditions afflicted only non-private schools and were thus a price worth paying. "You cannot get more for less," he continued, confirming that standards of teaching in arithmetic have indeed changed considerably since Gordon and his little Darling were at school.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Here Lies

As your correspondent has pointed out on several previous occasions, Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative is not the sort of chap to let a dead child go to waste when it can be utilised for the greater good of the No Longer Nasty Party. Now someone in New New Labour's press office has reminded the Glorious Successor that he has just as many dead children as the Leader of the Opposition, and the Glorious Successor has duly reminded the Evening Standard of the fact. It appears that the death of the Browns' first child, ten days after her birth in 2002, changed the way in which the Glorious Successor deals with bereaved people, including the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Perhaps it made him feel a bit more lugubrious while he sent more troops to the butcher's block. Such worthy quiverings of the moral compass, and the odd human-interest sympathy-scraper in the Evening Standard, are doubtless the best epitaph a modern politician's offspring can hope for.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Witticistic Graphicality, Quirk-Oriented Tenebrosity

The Independent is plugging a new series about vampires and teenagers, which apparently occupies a middle ground between the graphic and witty and the dark and quirky. Since the economy has started growing again, albeit by only one-tenth of one per cent, this seems an appropriate point at which to remind you that there is at least one vampire opus which is not set in small-town America, does not feature teenagers, and does not seek to occupy a middle ground between anything and anything. It is reasonably priced, has a pleasingly unpretentious cover design and, since copies are printed on demand, is still rare enough to be a good potential investment for your dotage.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Mystery

Somebody with the tell-tale, wishy-washy surname of Scholar has accused Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives, of all the Blairite truth-warriors in the world, of making misleading use of official statistics. Daveybloke's Cuddly Minister for Boot Camps, Chris Graybeing, has issued leaflets to the Conservative Party's remaining activists claiming that violent crime has increased massively over the past decade. Of course, thanks to the Vicar of Downing Street's most famous non-regrettable foreign policy triumph, this is perfectly true. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or had their homes vandalised; none of the perpetrators have been brought to book, and no compensation seems likely to be forthcoming. However, most of the people in question are foreigners, and the Conservatives registered even less objection to Operation Iraqi Liberation than the Parliamentary Labour Party; so it is unlikely that Graybeing was referring to that. Nevertheless, as an indirect result of the war almost sixty people were killed and several hundred injured in suicide attacks here on the mainland, which led in turn to the Metropolitan Police being issued an unofficial license to kill. Could it be that Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives have a problem with this? No, perhaps not.

Britain's leading liberal newspaper has somehow failed to get an explanation from Cuddly Central Office, who are doubtless still rather busy trying to work out if they have a fiscal policy, and if so, what it is and whether Rupert would approve. New New Labour have shown their usual resplendent ineptitude by taking the cork out of Agent Smith and permitting her to hold forth on the Conservatives' being caught "bang to rights". This is rather like (to take a random example) getting the Pope to hold forth about religious freedom, since Smith was herself caught bang to rights two years ago, using "premature, irregular and selective" figures on something other than her expenses claim form.

Well, what could be the explanation? Surely Daveybloke's Cuddly Minister for Slapping Down and Banging Up can count - he is after all, Chris Graybeing and not George Osborne.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Powerful Message

A senior and experienced hired gambler has been fined and banned from working in the City for costing his employers four hundred thousand pounds which could not be claimed back from the taxpayer.

Simon Treacher treacherously inflated the value of trading positions and altered documents to justify his misvaluationisings, and later astounded the Financial Services Authority by giving misleading answers in two interviews.

The director of the FSA said: "Our actions in banning Simon Treacher and imposing a significant fine will send a powerful message of deterrence to others who might be tempted to behave in this way".

Heavy penalties are thought to deter crime because of the typical criminal's tendency to plan on being caught.

City workers, in particular, are known for their unusually considerable gifts of intelligence, forethought and cool-headedness, especially those who lack the financial probity of the average hedge fund manager.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Constitutionally Incapable

Since the Opposition cannot be relied upon to lose the next general election, the Glorious Successor has abruptly discovered electoral reform. The Glorious Successor, being a consensus politician whose ideal of policy-making is an acrimonious compromise between inaction and abjection, has taken a number of radical steps to ensure that - as with the private finance initiative, bankers' bonuses and the pay gap - there will be as little unpleasantness as possible for the people who really matter. Essentially, the Glorious Successor has dusted off the Jenkins report, which his predecessor commissioned and then decided that the present system was serving him quite well enough thank you, and has discovered something called the Alternative Vote system. The Glorious Successor plans to order the forthcoming Daveybloke administration to hold a referendum offering the public a choice between the present first past the post system and the Alternative Vote, which "offers little prospect of a move towards greater proportionality and in certain circumstances it has even less proportionality than first past the post" - clearly an ideal choice for any prime minister who offers little prospect of a move away from Blairism and in most circumstances has even less interest in what the public wants. The Glorious Successor has added a whiff of his own unique contribution to the history of statesmanship, the Vision of Britishness, whereby things are done not because they are a good idea but because the year ends in a particular digit which has some mythological significance in our glorious history. Thus the Glorious Successor would like us to have a written constitution by 2015, not because this constitutes a realistic timetable for the adoption of such a thing, but because that year will mark the eight hundredth anniversary of a noted assertion of aristocratic rights. Conveniently for the Glorious Successor and other people who really matter, the year 2015 will also probably mark either the end of the first Daveybloke administration to be first past the post, or the start of the second.

Monday, February 01, 2010

He Should Know

The leader of New New Labour, who played Igor to Tony's Frankenstein during the begetting of New Labour, has referred to Daveybloke and his Cuddly Chancellor as a "Laurel and Hardy duo" who do not inspire confidence. The leader of New New Labour, who may possibly have a reputation for straight dealing among those in whom consciousness is out of fashion, has been lecturing his godson, the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal and Cuddly Opposition, about hiding the truth for electoral reasons. The leader of New New Labour, who is the puppet-master of the Glorious Successor who ensured that Britain suffered a longer and more severe recession than most, believes he can teach his godson, the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal and Cuddly Opposition, a thing or two about fiscal responsibility and looking after the welfare of the British people. The leader of New New Labour, who has presided over governments in which the likes of Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon, Hazel Blears, James Purnell, Charles Clarke, Harriet Harman, John Reid, Patricia Hewitt, Alistair Darling, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have attained a certain prominence, claims that Her Majesty's Loyal and Cuddly Opposition are showing either "a dishonest rhetorical gloss to hide their true intentions or a remarkable intellectual collapse".