The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Available Now

More than fifty pages of morally improving fables and verse that actually rhymes.

It's all available free of charge on this weblog, but there must be some of you who know people other than via the internet. Give them this booklet and watch them improve almost before your very eyes. Buy now and beat the Christmas rush.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Innocent of Taste

A certain Ed Vaizey, who is something or other in the Department of Cultchah, Murdoch and Steroids, has been telling the Independent all about the Conservatives' ideas for funding the arts. Naturally, the Conservatives' ideas for funding the arts are much the same as the Conservatives' ideas for funding health, education, public transport and everything else that isn't a bank or a company in which a Conservative minister has a purely coincidental interest: that is to say, Government funding will be cut and eccentric millionaires will be expected to step into the breach; and if this means that half the contents of the National Gallery end up under armed guard in Miami or Belize, then so be it. However, it seems to have been apparent even to a Conservative minister for Cultchah that there isn't a great deal of public-relations mileage to be got out of this, so Vaizey went on to discuss the vicissitudes of decorating an office when one has at one's disposal only the resources of the Government Art Collection and the aesthetic discernment of a second-generation Thatcherite. "I got my Mark Wallinger before Jeremy Hunt got his," Vaizey burbled; well, tally bally ho for him. The Wallinger he got is quite a bargain: a screen print titled Mark Wallinger is Innocent, which appears to consist of the text "Mark Wallinger is innocent" printed in black on a white background in the sort of businesslike sans-serif font of which sensitive types like Ed Vaizey can never get enough. As one might expect from the artistic combination of whingeing self-importance and outstanding dullness, Wallinger is a lifelong Labour supporter; and, as one might expect from a second-generation Thatcherite, a lifelong Labour supporter in 2010 is Ed Vaizey's idea of someone who "might think he's a radical". However, Wallinger's sister once came up to Ed Vaizey and said "I love you in The Wright Stuff", which evidently just goes to show. Ed Vaizey allowed the Independent to photograph him grinning beneath the last three words of Wallinger's opus. Curiously enough, Ed Vaizey's levels of steely ambition are in some doubt.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Value For Money

Malicious and small-societal persons are insinuating that companies which have donated to the Conservative Party may benefit from the removal of the Audit Commission. Not only was the Commission abolished by Eric Pickles, the paragon of austerity who maintained a second home at the taxpayer's expense because he lived thirty miles from Parliament; but a spokesbeing has said that ministers hoped a hundred different companies would compete for contracts to do the Commission's work, thus driving down costs and offering better value for money, as with railway privatisation and PFI. In the unlikely event that this isn't good enough, the companies themselves have denied any possibility that political contributions may have influenced the Commission's demise. Many of the companies have also contributed to the Labour party, which was in office until a few months ago, and to the Liberal Democrat party, which is in office shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives; obviously, this removes any hint of suspicion that the companies' interests may be influencing policy. They merely seek to "develop and maintain constructive and balanced relationships with the main political parties", providing "limited non-cash assistance to those parties in areas where we have appropriate expertise", according to PWC, which contributed a paltry half-million in non-cash services, for which it doubtless expected no recompense whatever.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Blogosphere During the Middle Ages

Although in many ways considerably more advanced than the Stone Age version, the mediaeval blogosphere nevertheless lacked a number of features which today we take for granted, besides having several more that would appear quite strange to modern eyes.

In contrast to the male-dominated blogosphere of the present, weblogs in the Middle Ages were often set up entirely by females, who spent hours of each day painstakingly hand-pixelating the design templates. Since most people were illiterate, postings usually took the form of pictures, often with a pious or propagandistic intent, which had to be cut out of tapestries and uploaded by peasant labour. In rare cases such as the Bayeux Blog commemorating William the Commenter's victory over the massed trolls of Hastings, resolution could be surprisingly high; but for the most part the pictures were simple and stylised, while the Latin text accompanying them was often so primitive as to be for the most part properly spelled and inclusive of at least one vowel per word.

While the prevalence of chain mail meant that links were abundant, the oppressive grip of the Church meant that one-tenth of every weblog had to be given in tithe to the priests, while yearly military campaigns frequently threw ISPs into chaos. For this reason weblogs were designed to be easily taken down and moved to safety, so that comments boxes were generally little more than cloth pouches lined with salt to repel trolls. Updating was a communal affair, and took place with much ceremony at the local church, typically with uploading done by the priest and downloading by the altar-boys: a Catholic tradition which persisted even in the face of Luther's denunciations.

Recently, doubts have emerged as to whether the mediaeval blogosphere was so exclusively aristocratic as has been assumed, and some historians have raised the possibility of peasant weblogs. If such things existed, they can scarcely have comprised more than two or three entries, worked up over several generations from whatever could be put by, and were probably somewhat earthy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Coming Soon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Men of Goodwill

Just as the Saviour declared that he had come to heal the healthy and not the sick, so the minions of the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak have been busy ensuring that his visit to the land of John Henry Newman, Mary Tudor and Tony Blair will not be unduly encumbered with sinners. The Birmingham Oratory has exiled three of its clergymen who asked for help over an "intense but physically chaste" relationshop between the head of the Oratory and a young man. A charitable spokesbeing has lovingly accused them of "pride, anger, disobedience, disunity, nastiness, dissension, the breakdown of charity", which it would be wholly uncharitable to suggest is the Vatican equivalent of the Metropolitan Police's he was an alcoholic who downloaded child porn and ordained women priests and he died in a hail of anarchist bottles without having been in contact with officers. The Birmingham Oratory was founded by Newman, and the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak intends to petition his invisible friend there after authorising the somewhat dead cardinal to intercede with the Almighty on behalf of those who ask nicely.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Risus Sardonicus

McDonald's has had to defend itself against a Sardinian gangster who violated its intellectual property rights by adding the prefix Mc to the name of his establishment. Fiendishly, he wanted to give the place "a fast-food feel" without democratically enfranchising it into the kind of crap-and-plastic emporium for alimentary abuse to which we are accustomed in the developed world. The so-called snack bar specialises in "a Sardinian form of stuffed pasta filled with local sheep's cheese, potato and mint", evidently with little or nothing in the way of McSteroids, McOffal, McColouring, McFlavouring, or battery-farmed, genetically mutated McCowpat, thus forcing the American nutrotainment chain to intervene and protect its good name. The gangster, who despite his vicious traffic in cheese and potatoes claims to lack the funds for a McLawsuit, has concealed the prefix with a plank and put the word censored over his shop door. Doubtless the McLawyers will be keeping a benevolent eye on him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Happy Event

Let joyous rejoicing be loosed:
There's a new chick in Daveybloke's roost!
Give thanks, for this means
Precious Daveybloke genes
Continue to be reproduced.

Oh, Daveybloke has a new brat -
Rah rah and well how about that?
But will there be space
For both Daveybloke's face
And all of this new puppy-fat?

So Daveybloke has a new daughter:
How fine he and Sam-Cam have wrought her,
And flourished the sprog
In the hundred-day fog
As Gideon readies the slaughter.

The infant resource has been fed;
Daveybloke and his nice PR head
Now ponder her goals:
In wooing the proles,
Can she rival a son who is dead?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Taliban Fury at "Tasteless" Computer Game

The Taliban has expressed disgust at a computer game where players can act as arms dealers feeding British ministers expensive meals.

Speaking from a compound Somewhere in Helmand, a spokesbeing urged British shops to ban the popular game "for humanitarian reasons".

Contract Killing 2: Peristalsis of Honour is based on the relationship between the British government and its intimate friend BAE Systems, the arms company responsible for much of the upper echelons' austerity diet.

Players must buy senior MoD staff meals of increasing size and quality in order to win enough contracts to enable their company to afford the minister's services as a consultant on his retirement from politics.

If the minister resigns or explodes, gamers are forced to start again from scratch, unless they have built up sufficient ingratiation points with potential successors.

"It's shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of BAE Systems on British ministers," said the Taliban in an official statement. "At the hands of British forces armed with BAE products, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands.

"We are disgusted and angry. It's hard to believe any citizen of Britain would wish to buy a game so saturated in non-Saudi values. We would urge retailers to show their support for honest government and ban this tasteless product."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prison Works

The rod of justice may be beaten into a ploughshare for the back of taxpayers under a new scheme to offer shelter and "dignifying labour" to the unemployed which was unveiled today by the Home Office.

Under the initiative, accommodation in Britain's prisons will be offered free of charge to those willing to undertake appropriately big-societal tasks by day and observe a modest 23-hour-per-day lockdown, said coalition ministers Humphrey Hardy-Honeydew.

Conservative back-benchers have registered concern at the possibility that prison may become "the new council house for life", but Mr Hardy-Honeydew said that the Prime Minister and his deputy had anticipated the difficulty with all the power and sagacity of their preternaturally attuned brains.

"Nobody is suggesting these people should have homes for life," Mr Hardy-Honeydew chorused.

Speaking from his blue face, Mr Hardy said: "This initiative will offer the unemployed a disciplined environment in which they can avoid the dangers of a wastrel lifestyle."

Speaking from his orange face, Mr Honeydew said: "As we reduce the overcrowding in our prisons caused by the policies of the last government, it is obvious that more and more convenient living space will become available, which it would be a tragic waste to leave empty."

As well as public sector cuts of up to forty per cent, the coalition intends to reduce housing benefit, resulting in potential negative accomodationalisation for several million of the undeserving vulnerable.

Fears have been expressed that even the voluntary sector will be hard pressed to find useful employment for so many human resources, even if plans to reintroduce child labour for the offspring of non-graduate parents are postponed to the next parliament.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Chance to Serve, That is All We Ask

Of course we all remember that nice Lord Ashcroft, the very special friend of Daveybloke's hapless Minister for Wogs, Frogs and Huns, Willem den Haag, who sold Ashcroft the Conservative Party during the late 1990s. A fervent patriot of Belize and its relaxed tax system, Ashcroft supposedly promised den Haag that he would start paying tax in the UK just as soon as it became convenient for him to do so, but he hasn't got around to it yet. Since he is both a member of the House of Lords and extremely rich, Ashcroft's honour is of course beyond reproach; so we can only suppose that he was distracted with grief over Daveybloke's inability to win the election outright despite Ashcroft's substantial lubrication of the wheels of British democracy. Daveybloke's abrupt metamorphosis, with the Liberal Democrats' help, from moist One Nation Tory to swivel-eyed Thatcherite, seems to have reassured Ashcroft sufficiently for him to give Daveybloke his latest orders directly, rather than conveying them through the aforementioned haplessness. It appears that Lord Ashcroft has now decided that another pledge of his - to resign any direct interest in politics and concentrate on yanking the Conservative party's strings by less overt means - no longer suits his convenience, and that Lord Ashcroft is having a bit of a chat with Daveybloke about how matters might proceed. Doubtless the Liberal Democrats will be thrilled at this latest signal of the new cleanliness in British politics, provided Nick "Who?" Clegg can swallow enough of the ordure to keep it from tainting his breath too much.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Those Who Cannot Pay at the Door Should Consider Our Society Not Quite Big Enough

The party which appointed Sir Philip Green as Minister of Austerity; the party which criticised profiteering by energy companies in opposition and now condones it in government; Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives, of all the Blairite political organisations in the world, have been accused of - one blushes even to report it - hypocrisy. Eric Pickles, the instrument of Dame Shirley Porter's revenge upon the Audit Commission, has criticised the use of taxpayers' money by public sector organisations for lobbying or publicity purposes; and only a couple of days ago the Minister for Cultchah ordered the staff of the Film Council to report to his artistic retreat and account for their temerity in defending themselves against closure. Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives, on the other hand, are merely charging public organisations a minimum of £293.75 to attend the party's annual grin-and-spin festival in Birmingham. A blatant product of broken Britain, who has descended so far as to become the managing director of a public-relations company, condemned this act of philanthropic democratisation as "rank hypocrisy", raising serious doubts as to the ability of certain people to be genuinely all together in Daveybloke's big society.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

If You Start Your Own Business, We'll Be Right Behind You

As we await the healing injection of consumer confidence that will accompany Daveybloke's cuddly removal from employment of some hundreds of thousands of people whose benefits will then be cut, the banks are still doing their bit for the double-dip recession by refusing to lend money. It appears that large businesses are paying back their loans, which means that the banks have so little ready cash on hand that they are unable to lend to smaller businesses except at exorbitant rates of interest. Unfortunately, smaller businesses tend to lack the necessary uxoral resources to save money by keeping wives in Monaco; otherwise, of course, they would be large businesses too. A Liberal Democrat treasury spokesbeing made the usual noises about the undesirability of the situation, and the usual lack of noise about what might be done. Compulsion, it seems, is still strictly for the little people.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blue and Orange Make Greenish, Sort Of

Here is how Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, is going to improve on New Labour's dismal record in stopping profiteering by energy companies: he isn't. New Labour's policy of letting energy companies charge what prices they liked, and thus allowing poor people to make a responsible choice between heating and eating, was criticised by both the Liberal Democrats and Daveybloke's Cuddlies while (and, it now appears, because) they were in opposition. Both the Liberal Democrats and Daveybloke's Cuddlies demanded an inquiry, for which there are now no plans. In compensation, Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition may decide to reduce winter fuel payments; so in the event of another unpredictable cold snap in January or February, there may well be a corresponding reduction in poor people, especially among the elderly ex-resources who are now doing little but contribute to the pensions crisis. By this means, no doubt, Daveybloke's Big Society will be purged of those selfish and backsliding types who hasten global warming by using electricity from coal-fired power stations, thus creating the demand for pollutive energy which has done so much to hinder market forces in their benevolent quest for future renewability.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slimming Down

Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor, whose consistent air of adipose shiftiness more and more makes him resemble a pubescent Nigel Lawson before, during or after an episode of bodily self-pollution, has been busy denying rumours of a "blazing, shouting, grade-A row" with the ever-regrettable Iain Duncan Smith; though given their not altogether incompatible priorities, it is nearly as hard to imagine what Osborne and Duncan Smith may have to fight about as it is to imagine Duncan Smith doing anything that can remotely be considered blazing. Duncan Smith wants to "simplify the benefits system" or, in Standard English, take welfare benefits away from poor people; and "create incentives to work" or, in Standard English, punish the people whom his Government is going to throw out of employment for failing to find the jobs which his Government refuses to help create. George the Sebaceously Osborne, on the other hand, wants to cut the welfare bill by at least twenty-five per cent. Not that money is an object, good heavens no: "It's not a question of the cost of the reform, it's a question of the reform leading to a fundamentally fairer society where people are taken off a lifetime of benefits" whether they need them or not. Not only will this be "fundamentally progressive and a fair thing to do", it will also be "massively cheaper for our country if we can achieve it", though of course money is not an object, good heavens no. Cuts to the public sector being an end in themselves, fairness and fundamental progressivity will trickle down automatically provided the slashes are deep enough.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Returns of the Prodigal Poodle

The Ascended Incarnation of the Vicar of Downing Street is to donate all profits from his testament, The Incredible Journey, to the Royal British Legion. The Legion plans to build a centre to provide rehabilitation resources for seriously injured troops, market forces having apparently got a bit behind-hand in conjuring up such things; and it is not yet clear whether Daveybloke's Cuddly Chancellor will consider treatment for soldiers, like healthcare for the proles, as being the proper concern of churches and eccentric millionaires rather than the Government. It is understood by the Guardian's Journalistic Passive Impersonal that his reverence has found it necessary to negotiate for several months with the beneficiaries of his largesse, presumably in order to protect his left hand from the knowledge of his right hand's almsgiving; doubtless both appendages will be happily surprised by whatever Ecclestonean kickbacks are included in the final settlement. Anti-war activists have taken a predictably uncharitable view of the matter, with one claiming that this abrupt discovery of a limit to Tony's avarice indicates, of all things, a guilty conscience. This is nonsense, of course. It is much more likely that the prospect of another session in Sir John Chilcot's comfy chair has called to mind the crown of thorns accorded his reverence by some bereaved families and other forces of conservatism the last time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No Pact, No Deal, No Loss

Tory relief as Hughes promises not to cling

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, has reassured his party's owners that the millions of negative votes gained by the Lib Dems through complicity in the final destruction of the welfare state will not be allowed to hamper a Conservative victory at the next election.

Yaps of joyous relief and cascades of best quality vomit surged from Conservative Central Office as Hughes said that the Liberal Democrats would not impose any deal or pact on their coalition partners that would allow the collapse in the Lib Dem vote to cramp the Conservatives' style.

The Liberal Democrats formed a five-year coalition with the Conservatives "because the electorate gave no party a majority", Hughes said.

Since the electorate failed to vote definitively for the über-Thatcherite assault on the public sector which was promised by all three main parties, the Liberal Democrats were obliged to connive at driving the economy into a double-dip recession so that people would feel better about the Alternative Vote system.

"We should have no preference at the next election between the Tories and Labour and other parties," he said. "We are going to stand on our own."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, had earlier urged the public not to judge the coalition on the gleeful vandalism of its first hundred days when the next five years would do much more to ensure the peace, prosperity and security of boardroom executives and hereditary millionaires.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Economy Cooking

From Daveybloke's Big Society Book of Recipes for Rah Rah

1 Bullingdon lapdog
1 orange sub-mandarin
1 handful of picked cherries
10 tons of best parliamentary Pickles
300 million pounds of tax-free Monégasque Greens

Marinade lapdog in champagne and honey for 43 years, then hang thoroughly with orange sub-mandarin and place in cabinet at high temperature until all cherries are popped. Stew for 100 days, watching carefully for press releases. (These may be discarded, or if preferred may be utilised in attempts to make a shit sandwich resemble a healthy diet.) Saturate Pickles in skimmed cream for as long as can be got away with and add Greens for a fair odour. Allow to settle until you are completely cooked.

Serving Suggestion
Just bend over and take it. This dish serves itself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Tradesmen's Entrance

I am sure we all remember the Private Finance Initiative which, by subjecting the nasty, wasteful and inefficient public sector to the rigours of commerce, was going to inaugurate a new era of efficiency and responsibility after the best traditions of the City of London, BP and Big Pharma. When PFI was introduced into the National Heath Service by the policy vacuum which followed the removal of Margaret Thatcher, Labour referred to it as "privatisation by the back door"; naturally, once Labour attained office, PFI was continued and the back door was widened a bit so that the private sector's public spirit could have a bit more elbow-room. As a result of these savings, some NHS trusts will have to make repayments totalling more than ten per cent of their turnover, because schemes valued at eleven thousand million pounds when begun are now going to cost the NHS six times that much. A member of the British Medical Association expressed that trade union's normal bias when he said: "Locking the NHS into long-term contracts with the private sector has made entire local health economies more vulnerable to changing conditions", as though mere public services should be immune from the sacred stabilising influence of market forces. A spokesbeing for the Department of Health Privatisation said that the department scrutinised all PFI schemes to make sure they delivered value for money when compared to an equivalent publicly funded scheme, although the spokesbeing does not seem to have specified whether the value for money is meant to benefit patients or corporations. Doubtless Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives will solve the problem once and for all, whether by introducing privatisation through the front door or by expanding the back door until the wall has disappeared and the whole unsightly edifice can collapse of its own accord.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christ on a Tandem

A theologian of the Catholic Church, which has done so much for the ethical and intellectual standing of Christianity during that peculiar faith's seventeen-hundred-year decline, has kindly undertaken to provide a bit of free publicity for Philip Pullman's amusing parable, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Pullman splits the Christian messiah into twin brothers: a simple, practical preacher and a tormented, bookish moralist who ends up betraying him. The miracles are given naturalistic explanations, as is the Resurrection; and Pullman also hits below the belt with his version of the Virgin Birth. Both the Good Man and the Scoundrel are far more human and appealing characters than the vindictive fanatic in the Gospels, and Pullman also recasts several of the parables (whose originals, as Aleister Crowley pointed out, are largely concerned with the wailing and gnashing of teeth which will commence when Daddy gets home) into more uplifting versions. In the Good Man's story of the ten virgins, for example, the girls share their oil out equally; and when some wicks burn faster than others, one whose lamp has not gone out asks the bridegroom to admit those who have been less lucky, since she will be unable to enjoy the festivities knowing that others have been excluded.

None of this has pleased Father Gerald O'Collins, who criticises Pullman for writing fiction that is not true, for writing a fantasy tale that does not match Father Gerald O'Collins' idea of a historical novel, for writing a book that expresses disagreement with something its author disagrees with, and for "distort[ing] the history of Jesus, in the interests of what he sees as higher truths", in the manner of the Tarsus Inquisitor, the Emperor Constantine, the compilers of the New Testament and various other heretics and blasphemers. Father O'Collins also says that Pullman "rewrote episodes rather than retelling the story" with added weather and psychology, the way it ought to be done. It is not clear whether Father O'Collins feels the same way about the Gospel of Matthew, which makes unwarranted additions to that of Mark; or about the Gospel of Luke, which distorts and sentimentalises the previous two; or about the Gospel of John, which must be one of the least satisfactory biographies ever penned, and hardly better as a historical novel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going Abroad

A Banker's Bonus, which had spent the past fifty-seven quarters riding a Tottering Economy and tapping it for funds whenever necessary, abruptly directed its host to pay its fare to Switzerland.

"Surely you don't intend leaving me like this?" pleaded the Tottering Economy.
"Why should I stay?" demanded the Banker's Bonus, as its great sweaty paws efficiently removed the shirt from the Tottering Economy's back. "It's been years since you were strong enough to manufacture anything, and I've been busy expanding all that time. It's a very taxing situation, which I must escape for the sake of my philanthropic enterprises."
"But what is to become of me?" the Tottering Economy whined. "What if I go into a depression?"
"Then you might lose some of that flab which makes you so unattractive," belched the Banker's Bonus.

At this the Tottering Economy suffered a sudden panic and nearly fell flat, causing the Banker's Bonus to wobble slightly.

"Careful!" the Banker's Bonus scolded, as its chins subsided gradually into their accustomed order; "you nearly unbalanced me. If I should go down, the consequences will be incalculable."
"If only I could support myself," mumbled the Tottering Economy, leaning on a nearby Smaller Economy until the latter deflated with a bang; "if only somebody could help a little - "
"You mean you'd allow the government to interfere in our relationship?" asked the Banker's Bonus coldly. "The bond between us two is a sacrament; a threesome with a minister of state would be most distasteful to me."
"Then take me with you!" the Tottering Economy begged, tanking dangerously to the right.
"I fear that would be fiscally unviable," said the Banker's Bonus; "however, I shall be happy to take those parts of you in which I have the most interest."

So the Banker's Bonus took a large axe and used it to accept a few keepsakes, which it devoured en route to its pleasant new home beneath the pavements of Geneva, next door to some charming Nazi gold.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Last Man and His Death

Once upon a time, the last man in the world set out to find his death, for he had eaten his last child and there was nobody else to find.

The road where he walked was all melted and scarred, and he asked it: "Can you lead me to my death?"
"No," said the road. "I can only lead people to other people, and now I lead nowhere. Find your own death; I cannot help you."

So the man stepped off the road and into the city. The rubble where he walked was all rusted and twisted, and he asked it: "Can you bring my death to me?"
"No," said the rubble. "Once I was a city, built for you and destroyed for you, and nobody asked what I thought of the matter. Find your own death; I will not help you."

So the man walked out of the city and into the desert. There the locusts came to him in a great cloud, and he asked them: "Can you give me my death?"
"No," said the locusts. "There are no more fields and no more crops; what death we have is our own."

And the man turned to the sun, which had become visible again because of the death of the roads and the cities and the locusts, and said: "For pity's sake, light my way to my death!"

But the sun, having other matters to attend to, said nothing at all.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Others

It appears that the private sector is a little less than totally poised to jump with its healing balm into the bloody gashes left in British society by George the Progressively Osborne and his pet Liberal Democrat (Nick who?) and make Everything All Right. According to a survey by left-wing extremists the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, abetted by revolutionary socialist accountants KPMG, job cuts in the private sector are increasing and are set to continue increasing. This despite the megatons of extra spending power which will be unleashed upon the economy when all those public-sector parasites get their marching orders and embark upon the carefree, luxurious extravagance which is life on welfare benefits - what can be going wrong? Has the private sector absorbed too many well-upholstered ex-Ministers to consider further expansion?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

An Area of Ingrained Waste

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has been on a week-long finger-wagging tour in order to make sure the little folk are ready to take their medicine. Daveybloke took the opportunity to diagnose benefit fraudsters (Whitehall English for benefit claimants) as the cause of UK plc's malaise, and passionately disagreed that they might be an ineluctable market force like white-collar fraud or City bonuses or Lord Ashcroft. Daveybloke sermonised that "simply shrugging our shoulders at benefit fraud" (as the party of James "We're Closing In" Purnell has evidently been inclined to do) "is a luxury we can no longer afford". Payouts to shirkers and slackers who are not Boris Johnson or Michael Gove is "the one area of ingrained waste that outranks all others"; apparently we waste more on fraudulent benefit claims each year than on - to take a random example - PFI schemes to bribe companies with ex-ministers on their payroll to kill a few less rail passengers. Daveybloke, who by dint of hard work, persistence and some obliging relatives once went on a business training scheme for a year or two before going into public relations for the Conservative Party, compared broken Britain to a failing commercial enterprise: "when spending is rising, sales are falling and debt is mounting - you need someone to come in with energy, ideas and vision and take a series of logical steps". Failing that, you can always kick a few proles out of their jobs, threaten them with eviction from their homes and suggest that anyone who feels matters could do with improvement should simply pitch in for free.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Threadbare Suit Fades Away

An empty suit is finding the opposition front benches a bit of a bore after the thrills associated with heading Gordon Brown's Ministry of Dawn Raids and Deportations, and is therefore standing down to facilitate a "fresh start"; or, in Standard English, to make room for more vigorous symptoms of the same disease. Britain's leading liberal newspaper refers to the suit as "one of the greatest survivors of postwar Labour politics", which is journalese for "one of the most colourless apparatchiki to just about warm a Ministry chair". Aside from playing assistant second fiddle to Blair while the Reverend postured and sermonised us into Iraq, and using terrorism as an excuse to remove civil liberties (or "putting the fight against terrorism ahead of civil liberties" as Britain's leading liberal newspaper hath it), the suit will most likely be remembered for its useful advice on female attire. The suit intends to write its memoirs at some point, possibly attempting to cash in on something written by Gerald Kaufman; although despite thirteen years in various undignified positions on the Blairite sofa the memoirs will not be "kiss and tell". Whatever it may have done to the families of asylum seekers, the lives of foreigners or the backs of camels, the suit does not believe in breaking confidences, which in view of its long and glorious career is entirely understandable; one does not tell where the bodies are buried when one's fingerprints are all over the spade.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Decency, Liberty, Morality

Those charming people at the UK Border Agency are bringing New Labour's policy of jailing children to the most New Labour end conceivable: they're going to give families two weeks in which to take appropriate measures for leaving the the country "voluntarily", and then they're going to kick them out within another two weeks. Some lucky families will be spared the stress and trauma of awaiting the day of doom, because the UK Border Agency considers itself free of any obligation to inform them when that day might be. Two pilot schemes are already in operation, although the UK Border Agency has made a small concession to anti-Britishness by informing participants of the honour granted them, when they report to their inquisitors at the sanctimonickered Reliance House. The briefing paper setting out the policy, drafted by the agency's head of humanitarian solutions, constitutes the fulfilment of a pledge to "restore a sense of decency and liberty to the way we conduct ourselves", made by the Vice-Prime-Minister, Nick Clegg, who called New Labour's child imprisonment policy a "moral outrage". Oddly enough, although the Refugee Council was able to scrape together a statement when the document was leaked to Socialist Worker, the Liberal Democrats appear to have been struck dumb again.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Few

The possible contradictions between standard historical Britishness and the Gove-Ferguson model were demonstrated today by a confrontation between Daveybloke and an irate pensioner. Daveybloke, while doing a bit of grovelling in America, said that Britain had been a "junior partner" against the Nazis in 1940; the pensioner, whose stepfather served in the Royal Navy, asked who the senior partner had been given that the US only joined the fun when the Nazis were considerate enough to declare war on it. Daveybloke "pointed out that his remark had actually been made in a television interview as he visited the US last month"; hence mere accuracy was rather less of a concern than is usual among our more exalted echelons. Daveybloke then burbled that in 1940, indeed, "we were completely on our own" on the whole, except for a few Polish immigrants and Frenchmen (and a few Czechs, but evidently too few to mention), which on the whole is about as completely alone as any nation with a few million Asian coolies working to support it could possibly wish to be. Britain's leading liberal newspaper points out that Germany brought the US in on our side in December 1941.

Significant casualties in the Second World War were about 450,000 British, or less than one per cent of the population; and about 420,000 American, or less than half of one per cent of the population. Casualties in the USSR, which Germany attacked five months before our senior partner got with the programme, were about twenty-six million, or thirteen and a half per cent of the population: again, hardly a big enough sacrifice for mention by either Britain's leading liberal newspaper or Michael Gove's keeper.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Domestic Economies

As the New New Labour project sputtered to its ignominious end, it appears that Alan Johnson grew bored with kidnapping asylum seekers and detaining Muslims without trial, and decided to apply his government's penchant for instant and utter policing to a more deserving target group. Naturally, the scheme to remove wife-beaters and child-beaters from family homes has been among the first to be shelved by the new Home Secretary, Theresa May. A spokesbeing claimed that May considered tackling violence against women a priority, provided that it was done on the cheap; any good housewife should realise that it won't be much fun outside the body-cast if the country's books don't balance. Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives believe in family values: if a woman is being beaten up, she should stay and take it. If she happens to be one of the deserving minority, she has only to get on her bike and return to the parental manor. Should her parents be away doing innocent things in Belize or somewhere, the lady should make use of her holdings in firms such as G4S, Serco and, soon enough, the local McPolice™, in order to ensure the safety of herself, her chattels and however many soldiers and stockbrokers of tomorrow she has been able to breed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Deep and Permanent

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has confirmed, for those who didn't know it, that the Government's slice-and-dice programme for the public sector is an ideological crusade and not a response to the economic crisis. Daveybloke noted that "we", which is to say anyone lacking sufficient entrepreneurial spirit to have been born rich, "are going to have to change the way we work" in order to "do things differently and better to give value for money" or, in Standard English, do more for less and, where possible, for free.

Daveybloke was responding to a question about cuts in a local fire brigade which have resulted, mirabile dictu, in more deaths from fire and more deaths among firefighters. Evidently the cuts have not been deep and radical enough to make the positive difference we all know cuts make in the end. Fortunately, the fire brigade to which the questioner was referring is in Birmingham, so the deaths are unlikely to have affected the kind of people who matter. Daveybloke said that "we should be trying to avoid" restoring any cuts which have been made because cuts, rather than services, are what ought to be sustainable. Daveybloke said that "we", which is to say anyone lacking sufficient get-up-and-go to have a private fire brigade at their disposal, should take some sort of interest in whether or not fire services are capable of doing their work, "but let's all open our minds and think how can we work in a different way". Volunteer bucket brigades are fairly cheap, I've heard; and once the Government has freed us of all that health-and-safety claptrap that's been slowing us up all this time we can start lining houses with asbestos.

Daveybloke also noted that "we", which is to say anyone lacking sufficient public spirit to have pocketed a bonus for running the economy into the ground recently, "are living beyond our means"; and trotted out the old Thatcherite lecture on home economics: "Every family knows that as a business you cannot go on living beyond your means indefinitely", since of course every deserving family is run as a profit-making enterprise. "At the end of this parliament we will be paying £17bn in interest just on the interest on debt, (which) is more than we spend on schools", the solution to which is apparently to spend less on schools and hand them over to profiteers or the God squad. This is what Daveybloke calls "being fair on future generations". I wonder what the Liberal Democrats call it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Faut-il brûler la terre?

"Those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War"
Peter Cook

"Hitler brings nothing to my mind"
Karl Kraus

Is it possible (and I am only wondering, not asserting) that the responsible artistic attitude to an imminent and overwhelming catastrophe is to leave it alone? While I was giving Cormac McCarthy the treatment a few days ago, and again when I read Buck Theorem's response justifying it as a fairy tale, I was put in mind of my initial, visceral reaction to The Road: beyond my intellectual and aesthetic objections, and even beyond my boundless personal prejudice against ordinary decent folks and their charming little children, I thought the book was irresponsible. It reminded me of my reaction to Nevil Shute's post-nuclear Harlequin romance, On the Beach, which I read during my teens, at a time when nuclear catastrophe appeared to me as inevitable as climate catastrophe now appears to mere scientists. I am also reminded of certain critics' objections to Holocaust films like Life is Beautiful and Schindler's List: that they reduce a vast and terrible human tragedy to light entertainment or Hollywood kitsch. Having ended the world a couple of times, and having also used the Holocaust as a literary device (in an alternate-historical horror story, to boot), I am open to similar charges myself.

There is a difference between a historical event, however appalling, and the global catastrophe towards which we are now so eagerly toddling. Historical events have already happened; they are part of our common heritage and we may use them as we please, though it is arguable that in certain cases we should wait a decent interval before doing so. The Beyond the Fringe company received a certain amount of criticism when they poked fun at the Blitz myth in the early sixties; even two decades later, there were letters of complaint about 'Allo 'Allo! - a BBC comedy series set in Nazi-occupied France, whose humour relied almost entirely on doubles entendres and funny foreign accents - from those who felt it trivialised the war itself rather than the BBC melodrama, Secret Army, of which it was a parody.

Historical events are digested, mythologised, simplified, re-assessed and recycled for each generation; in Britain this is generally known as "learning the lessons of the past" or as "pride in our island's story", or occasionally as fashionable denigration of the magnificent achievements of our island's various pirates, bigots, tyrants and slavers. In the end, historical events are forgotten. One day, even the Holocaust will be forgotten. We of today have learned the lesson that it is better to kill people for their oil than for their Jewishness, and of course we are much the better for it; but even if by chance the human species should survive beyond Hitler's two hundredth birthday, one day the Holocaust will be surpassed in human atrocity and eclipsed in human memory. When that happens, the victims of the camps and the Einsatzgruppen will not be any more dead than they are now, whereas at the moment most casualties of global warming have yet to occur and are thereby preventable, at least in theory. Therein lies the difference between trivialising past calamities and trivialising future ones.

When Threads was first broadcast, a critic or one of its makers was quoted as saying that films of that kind are inevitably over-optimistic in that they show survivors. When we are led to identify with characters who survive a disaster, we lead ourselves to believe that the disaster may not be so bad after all. No work of art or entertainment can instil the sense of urgency required by our present situation, because the ability to consume a work of art or entertainment implies a level of comfort, or at least security, which militates against that very sense of urgency. One does not watch a thriller to feel a thrill of real death. Works of art and entertainment induce emotions safely, at second hand; that is their whole purpose. The disadvantage is that, however one may feel about the pen being mightier than the sword, no satire can make quite the same impression as a truncheon, a bullet or a bomb, just as no horror story can quite rival a terminal diagnosis from a qualified physician, whether for oneself, one's family or one's everything. Even when we are led to identify with characters who die at the end, even when the world is destroyed before our eyes, we are still here. We still get to switch off the DVD player or close the book, and go merrily on about our business of scoffing up the planet and defecating out the means of our demise.

No work of art, let alone entertainment, can give anything approaching an adequate perspective on the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us. The democratic majority of today's audiences have approximately as much idea of what is going to hit their children and grandchildren, let alone of what to do about it, as Jewish Germans in 1903 or the good people of Pompeii in 49 CE or, for that matter, the average hard-working family of dinosaurs at the wrong end of the Mesozoic. All that a work of art can do is depict the calamity and its consequences from a necessarily limited perspective, whereby the very act of depiction becomes a means for the audience to digest, minimise, accept, forget and continue bringing about the calamity.

Assuming for the sake of argument (and against all the most basic tenets of capitalism and Christianity) that human misery is undesirable, what justification can there be for works that underestimate the misery to come? There is one, of course: namely that when irrevocably faced by the gates of Hell and with only one direction in which to move, it is more pleasant to see the gates painted with pretty pictures, or even with improving slogans about work and freedom, than with advice to abandon all hope.

Should one make entertainment out of the approaching climate catastrophe? Should one make art? The death and immiseration of millions, probably thousands of millions, is now virtually inevitable; the end of civilisation fairly likely; the reduction of the human species to a few tribes scattered around the poles a distinct possibility; the extinction of all or most of life on earth a not entirely unreasonable projection. Should one write fairy tales about it?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Use Found for Michael Gove

Saving the planet one plateful at a time does not mean cutting back on meat, according to new research: the trick may be to switch our diet to the British education secretary and other creepy-crawlies.

A Belgian ecologist, Professor Arnold Van Huis, has suggested that eating Michael Gove may have advantages when it comes to greenhouse gas pollution.

Breeding Michael Gove emits less methane than most livestock, and Michael Gove produces 300 times less nitrous oxide and far less ammonia than either pigs like Eric Pickles or poultry like New Labour. Also, being cold-blooded, Michael Gove converts plant matter into protein extremely efficiently, and the health risks attached to eating Michael Gove are far lower than those attached to not eating Michael Gove.

Van Huis points out that, besides being amusingly crunchy on the outside and pleasantly squishy further in, Michael Gove has a high level of protein, mineral and vitamin content.

Patrick Durst, a field officer for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, suggested that Michael Gove could be eased into western dietary habits by using him to feed farmed animals such as chickens and fish. Conservative plans to relieve food companies of any obligation to inform consumers of the more poisonous ingredients in their products could facilitate the acceptance process.

Once the throwing-up had been reduced to manageable levels, Michael Gove could then be used as an ingredient. Van Huis states: "We're looking at ways of grinding the meat into some sort of patty, which would be more recognisable to western palates."

However, Van Huis acknowledges that eating Michael Gove might be a hard sell in the UK: "Psychologically we have a problem with it. I don't know why, as we eat shrimps, which are very comparable." He notes that preparation is important: "you have to do it very nicely, to overcome the yuk factor".