The Curmudgeon


Monday, February 28, 2011

With Humility

The UK's largest bank has informed a grateful public that its profits more than doubled last year, and that more than two hundred and fifty of its staff were paid over a million pounds. About a third of these unfortunates were based in London, where so many are undergoing hardship because of the cuts. The bank's chief executive, for instance, has suffered a massive reduction in pay, from ten million down to just over six million, and has been joking about the time he spends contributing to global warming. Meanwhile the chairman said that the bank would enter 2011 "with humility", and demonstrated this by sniffling about the Dickensian harshness of George the Progressively Regressive's pitiful attempts to appear at least vaguely interested in stopping banks from sabotaging the economy again. The chairman's predecessor, Stephen Green (probably not that Stephen Green, though I wouldn't care to bet on it) found the Government's attitude towards the banking sector so unsympathetic that he resigned his post to become a trade minister. Thank goodness there's at least one man among the higher echelons who understands what all these poor innocents are going through.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Party Favours

Marriage is always better than cohabitation. Iain Duncan Smith says so, and we all know how intelligent he is. The Liberal Democrats are suffering a financial crisis because their shacking up with Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives has meant the withdrawal of the welfare payments they received as an opposition party. With the usual Cleggite insouciance, some MPs argued that they should have been given the money anyway, just as people in other useless and humiliating positions of employment - perhaps including those party staff who were downsized out as soon as the coalition deal had been signed - are given generous benefits for as long as they consider it convenient.

Since the City is pouring all its spare cash into bonuses and the Conservatives, Nick Clegg has had to launch a funding campaign, starting with a "voluntary" contribution from Liberal Democrat ministers which, it is hoped, will make a dent worth all of £40,000 in the party's deficit of one and a quarter million. The party also plans to raise an extra £679,000 in funds this year, presumably from the copious spare cash which their erstwhile left-wing supporters will wish to throw at them after they help to vote through George the Progressively Regressive's next paragon of financial fairness on 23 March.

It seems eminently possible that the only workable solution may be to do what Daveybloke believes all couples should do, and marry for money. There is little point in working flat out for the interests of Lord Ashcroft and Bob Diamond unless there is some sort of reciprocal favour involved; that is what the Big Society is supposed to be all about. A merger with the Conservatives would ensure that the Liberal Democrats had a decent standard of living, without forsaking any of the principles which they have shown they hold too dear to compromise. Otherwise, perhaps they might ask Francis Maude to knock on a few doors for them, if he isn't too busy running play groups or something.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robert Aickman

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Robert Aickman, the author of some of the best weird fiction of the twentieth century. During his lifetime he published forty-eight stories, mostly of long-story to novella length; a novel called The Late Breakfasters which is more or less unobtainable; and two volumes of autobiography. The first of these, The Attempted Rescue, gives a poignant account of his upbringing in a thoroughly unhappy home on the fringes of the British aristocracy. Of his forty-eight stories, at least ten or a dozen - a rather high percentage - are authentic masterpieces. Opinions will vary over which ten or a dozen, but a book which included "Ringing the Changes", "The Swords", "The Hospice", "Into the Woods", "The Same Dog", "Meeting Mr Millar" and "Ravissante" would rank among the greatest weird collections ever published.

His prose style is inimitable and unforgettable; as erudite and urbane as Nabokov's, without the verbal flashiness and the cheap in-jokes. Aickman also shared with Nabokov a wide culture and a pervasive nostalgia for a lost world: in Nabokov's case pre-revolutionary Russia, in Aickman's case the England of the Edwardians and late Victorians. Aickman's posthumously published short novel The Model is set in Tsarist Russia, and his story "The Houses of the Russians" features a caricatured Soviet sympathiser who would not have been out of place in some of Nabokov's more lamentable excursions into patriotic self-pity.

He has a reputation for being enigmatic and (to his detractors) unnecessarily obscure, but many of his tales have the clarity and simplicity of allegory. In "The Swords" (told uncharacteristically from the viewpoint of a relatively uneducated and uncultivated protagonist), the intentionally obvious sexual symbolism of the eponymous weapons makes the horror and perversity of the climax all the more shocking; in "Into the Woods" the wife of a well-to-do Manchester businessman is brought to an inner awakening by her encounters with the denizens of a Swedish sanatorium for insomniacs. The protagonist of "Never Visit Venice", whose fantasy of the city has been intolerably cheapened and coarsened by the mob of tourists, discovers in the end that great visions come at a price; while in "The Wine-Dark Sea" another traveller is granted a temporary reprieve from the modern world, although the modern world extends no reprieve to his haven.

Others of Aickman's stories are indeed difficult, at least on the level of surface plot; but in the best of them the superficial obscurity is allied to a lucid and thoroughly worked out poetic symbolism. The painter's narrative in "Ravissante", with its complex interweaving of colour (particularly the associations of red and gold) with sexuality and supernatural threat, is a superb example.

Ramsey Campbell, a friend of his later years, has noted Aickman's unexpected reactions to certain horror films: he preferred George Romero's Night of the Living Dead to Val Lewton's The Leopard Man, and he despised Don't Look Now. But several of Aickman's stories, though written with consummate refinement, portray thoroughly gruesome scenarios. "Your Tiny Hand is Frozen" works a nasty variation on the theme of the unknown telephone caller; "Ringing the Changes", deservedly his most anthologised story, has a premise worthy of Romero and a structure worthy of Lovecraft.

Aickman also published two books on Britain's inland waterways. He was an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, being a founder-member in the 1960s of the Inland Waterways Association, an institution dedicated to improving the then deplorable condition of Britain's canals. One of his colleagues, L T C Rolt, also published ghost stories; Rolt's slim volume Sleep No More contains several which make effective atmospheric use of ostensibly utilitarian industrial settings.

My chapbook on Aickman is available from Gothic Press

Friday, February 25, 2011

Economy Shrinks in Cold Weather

Meteorologically unsustainable resources to lose their place in the sun

Unmutual and unbigsocietal weather usage could be to blame for up to several bits of a per cent more of the damage to the UK economy than government cuts, a Treasury spokesbeing said today.

The economy shrank by 0.6% in the last quarter of 2010, a sharper fall than anticipated despite government plans to deprive half a million people of their jobs and then cut their social security payments.

Although several large banks paid heroic levels of boardroom bonus in order to retain the kind of talented staff who can secure a multi-billion-pound, taxpayer-funded bailout with no strings attached, ordinary members of the public failed to do their part in rescuing Britain's beleaguered economy.

The Office for National Statistics said that most of the decline was caused by harsh winter weather in December.

The government responded with plans for extensive meteorological reform, whereby immigrants and single mothers lose one or more of their homes if they are found to be using weather in ways that are bad for Britain.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he realised when his son died that it was time for the state to "stop playing God and allowing the weather to fall equally on everyone who is under it."

Britain could no longer afford to be soft on those who made a lifestyle choice to shelter themselves while arms dealers went hungry, he said.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Come Join With Us, Muammar

Come join with us, Muammar; take your ease
Among we men whose rule was long and low.
Thankless it is to govern, we all know;
Come where your speeches cannot help but please.
Come, share your tales of glory and of sleaze
With chaps who'll match you blow for jolly blow!
The pace of reminiscence won't be slow
In company with fellows fine as these.

For here's Karimov from Uzbekistan,
And there's Mubarak, there is Berlusconi.
As old campaigner - forty-two-year man! -
'Tis privilege to have you as a crony.
Come join, Muammar, in our merry clan:
The club of all the old, good chums of Tony.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Legalisticacitous Clarificatoriness, Clarificatilatory Legalisticality

Someone has finally told Daveybloke and his special nuncio to Belize that there are a few real people in Libya as well as all those wogs. Willem den Haag has promised to send "as many planes as necessary to bring home British nationals"; Libya is not, after all, Guantánamo Bay. Daveybloke took the opportunity to state that massacring one's own citizens was grounds for a strongly worded statement from the United Nations, provided this did not interfere with free trade. Daveybloke expressed his admiration for the Middle East peace envoy in absentia, who persuaded his chum Colonel Gaddafi to give up some fictitious weapons of mass destruction. Daveybloke expressed his disapproval of the possibility that this may have been done at the price of releasing a man who probably wasn't responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.

Daveybloke's enthusiasm for international law, of course, tends to be a bit on the lukewarm side when the law happens to be European; and, true to form, Daveybloke's rigorous and clarificatory inquiry into Britain's role as a willing accessory to US kidnap and torture is set to be about as effective as anything set up by the Reverend Blair. Several human rights groups, which were presumably brought on board so that the Liberal Democrats could make some sort of show at giving a toss about torture nowadays, have expressed concern because the security agencies which are being investigated insist on being allowed to divulge only such information as happens to suit them. The NGOs seem to think that letting the accused determine the evidence to be used against them may lower the credibility of the enterprise a tad; particularly in the jaded and cynical eyes of the Brussels bureaucrats from whose strangulating grasp Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives intend to rescue our few remaining rights.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arms and the Bloke

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, whose response to the recent crisis in South Ossetia was to demand that the aggressor be admitted to NATO in order to clear the path for World War III the next time Vladimir Putin threw a hissy-fit, has been defending Britain's poor unfortunate arms dealers. It appears that some nasty, uncharitable, small-societal folk have been intimating that Daveybloke's treating his chums in the weapons industry to a tour of the region where people are being shot and clubbed with guns and truncheons supplied by those very same chums might possibly be considered tactless; Daveybloke has responded in statesmanlike fashion by conjuring up the spectre of Saddam Hussein, the "thuggish bullying neighbour" who was armed by somebody or other during his nastiest years because he was doing such a spiffing job of being thuggish and bullying towards Iran. On the twentieth anniversary of Saddam Hussein doing what April Glaspie had told him he was allowed to do, Daveybloke was almost at pains to intimate that weapons sold by Britain were intended to protect the right of small countries to defend themselves against former allies, and not to deny ordinary citizens the right to demonstrate against the likes of Hosni Mubarak and the Reverend Blair's chum in Tripoli. Presumably Daveybloke had a word in a few chums' ears about marking the boxes more clearly. As a feverish climax to his attack of Realpolitik and Gove History, Daveybloke proclaimed the emirate of Kuwait a democracy.

Me at Poetry-24
To A Library Facing Withdrawal of Funding

Monday, February 21, 2011

A New Presumption

If there's one human resource in the country that is being utilised to the full, that human resource must be Daveybloke's dead child. Daveybloke's latest little job for this versatile infant is as an anecdotal excuse for privatising the entire public sector, apart perhaps from the judiciary, the Territorial Support Group and MI5. The Government claims (or "hopes", as the Guardian's resident psychic hath it) that charities which have suffered devastating budget cuts in the Government's ideological assault will see this new scam as an opportunity to get involved in running public services, which have suffered devastating budget cuts in the Government's ideological assault. It is just possible that this cunning plan may contain one small but fatal flaw. Anyway, Daveybloke's motivation for the attack is apparently that he never understood why local authorities had more control over his son's care budget than Daveybloke and his wife. Clearly, given his approval for Twizzler Lansley's plot to turn general practitioners into part-time accountants, Daveybloke cannot conceive why anyone involved in the human resource repair industry, whether as provider or as customer, might not want to do their own sums. Of course, nobody capable of prolonged personal contact with the likes of Andy Coulson and Nick Clegg can have much talent for embarrassment; but really, even so economical a resource as a dead child can only carry an argument so far, and if used too often it may even start to stink a bit.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Missing in Action

The Middle East erupts in violence
And everybody gets a scare;
The peace envoy is wreathed in silence:
Alas! our Tony isn't there!

As Libyans, Yemeni, Bahraini
Cause horrid drops in stock and share,
We need a statesman, strong and brainy;
Alas! our Tony isn't there!

We know he likes to smack dictators,
Despises those who do not dare.
Gaddafi's troubled with some traitors;
Alas! chum Tony isn't there!

We know he likes to fight with terror,
Kidnap and fly it through the air
To secret sites to cure its error;
But now our Tony isn't there!

It cannot be he feels not needed,
It cannot be he doesn't care.
By what can he have been impeded?
Alas! our Tony isn't there!

He may be off and counting money,
Or doing God, we know not where;
The situation isn't funny,
Because dear Tony isn't there!

Call on him, ye of faith and function!
Human resources everywhere!
Call on his holy healing unction!
Sing out the name of Tony Blair!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

News 1649

Crusade for tolerance as consequences of leaving Catholics alone become clear

Reactions have been pouring in after reports of Catholic atrocities against Protestant settlers and their property, including women and children, in Ireland.

Various reports, said to be nearly as reliable as the Bible, indicate religious cleansing through mass drownings and babies pulled from their incubators and dashed against walls during the terrorism blight of 1641.

Oliver Cromwell has called the atrocities a "calamitous failure of attempts at multiculturalism" and has pledged to learn the lessons of history and intervene militarily to restore peace.

Any peacekeeping force would certainly utilise the new EasiStick™ pike which can knock out a Papist's eye at five yards without undue collateral damage, said colonies minister Geoffrey Hoon.

Speaking from his lecture plantation in the American colonies, Middle England peace envoy Sir Anthony Blair said that both sides should "exert understanding" and not resort to force unless absolutely necessary for British business interests.

Sir Anthony also recommended that Mr Cromwell deal harshly with "those who would use religion as an excuse for violence", and said that violence generally was the result of too little religion and not too much.

The vacancy that is the present Archbishop of Canterbury said that everything was jolly regrettable and recommended compassion for British soldiers who would be fighting for tolerance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shock as British Weapons Used to Hurt People

The Government has registered surprise and dismay that people whom the United Kingdom has deigned to supply with weapons might use those weapons to provoke allegations of human rights abuses. Bahrain's record on human rights has been a matter of concern for some time, and British arms dealers are under strict instructions not to sell weapons to people who might use them to be nasty to other people. However, by some malign twist of multiculturalism, the shotguns, tear-gas canisters, stun grenades and other items of humane chastisement misused by the Bahraini riot police in their recent audition for the wet dreams of Britain's Territorial Support Group were precisely the kind of equipment approved for export by the Government last year. Another beneficiary of the Government's strict arms control policy is Libya, thanks in part to the Vicar of Downing Street's re-affirmation of chumminess with that country's leading thug.

A certain Denis MacShane tried to scrabble to the moral high ground by stealing Daveybloke's line about obeying the law on votes for prisoners: "The idea that British weapons could be used to fire on and injure children makes me feel ill", he said. Fortunately, this delicate state of health manifested itself only after he had completed his ministerial duties for the government that did so much to protect arms dealers from undue harassment.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sorry We Asked

The Minister for the Greenest-Talking Government In History Before the Election has disclaimed any adherence to the principle of collective responsibility by taking the sole blame for asking the public about the Conservatives' attempt to privatise England's forests. Instead of the proposed consultation, an "independent panel" will be set up, which will advise the Government in the autumn that certain public assets are best stolen on the quiet. Campaigners are claiming a victory for direct democracy, although it's just possible that the Conservatives were swayed less by popular anger than by the likes of the Countryside Alliance who did not wish to see their woodlands administered with the sort of efficiency that private enterprise has brought to the railways, the utilities and the NHS. "It is only humiliating if you are afraid to say sorry," the sacrificial cow said in response to a snipe from Gerald Kaufman. "We teach our children to say sorry." Given that the average mental age in the House of Commons is something under five years, and on the Conservative front benches something under eighteen months, this was probably the most pertinent remark to emerge from the entire debate.

Me at Poetry-24
Sex and the Duncan Smith
A Dose of Sanity

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It sometimes happens, now and then,
That someone with a broken pen,
And one with sunshine squared away,
And Blogger, may combine and may
Provide a handy forum where
A certain versifying flair
Might be applied, if whim should warrant,
To comment on the ghastly torrent
Of infotaining burblimation
In which the media drown our nation;
For, though it's true one cannot mix
Sublimity with politics,
One may perhaps allow the news
For verse, or worse, to be a Muse.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


An extract

For quite a long time, though not for quite so long as he imagines, Anderson is unable to sleep. Partly this is due to the physical discomfort of his position; his body is slightly longer than the space between the arm-rests, so either his ankles must be placed upon one of them or else he must bend his knees and lie in a hunched semi-foetal position which is alien to his habit and body mass index and which he knows will cause his back to complain later on. But the alternative of sleeping with his feet raised and protruding over the arm-rest is even less congenial and would probably also result in pins and needles or varicose veins or some such thing, because the corner of the arm-rest would interfere with the blood circulation.

Then there are the worries about his job, which have been nagging at him for some considerable time; in fact, Anderson would be hard put to remember a time when worries about his job did not nag at him, although he has never actually attempted such a remembrance and, if forced under threat of torture to express an opinion on the matter, would probably say that such worries are part and parcel of the job itself and perhaps of any job, an unavoidable feature of the labour experience with which one must live just as one must live with the necessity of commuting and the lack of adequate intellectual stimulation and all the other little inconveniences that go along with the business of avoiding the slightly larger inconveniences associated with being consigned to the scrap heap. The precise tone and tenor of Anderson’s worries depend upon his circumstances at the time: when Anderson feels relatively secure in his position, he worries that his confidence is misplaced, and when Anderson does not feel secure in his position, he worries that his anxiety is justified. Not that he considers himself lacking in the skills necessary for professional success; on the contrary, he attained his present post with no great effort and without even having thought seriously of applying for it until advised to do so by his manager and several colleagues. They all seemed to think of the new post as a promotion; it was within the same company, though the company’s name was different then, and certainly the new post was better paid than the old one; at the time Anderson worried that he would be forced into a managerial position, a fate for which he has never felt remotely suited; the idea of spending five or six days a week giving pep talks and yelling for results is nightmarish in itself, and the idea of Anderson as a leader and motivator of human resources would be a source of delicious and unparalleled mirth to anyone who knows him, particularly his wife and daughter. Anderson works to far greater advantage when he can deal with people as equals, or at least where the relationship is clear and the responsibility is distributed on an explicit and comfortable basis. This was the case before his promotion, when he served as a kind of health inspector, ensuring that sites and procedures conformed to relevant criteria: a glorified stock-taker, some might say, a box-ticker, a clipboard pilot; and indeed Anderson’s work since his promotion, which is to say the work he does at present, is in its day-to-day procedures not so very different from his previous work, although considerably more voluminous and, he supposes, a bit more important in the general scheme of things. He has met others in the same position as himself, fellow trainees at company training courses and fellow refreshmen at company refresher courses and fellow herd animals at the company health checks, some of whom seem to regard their common profession as the supreme end and justification of the company’s very existence, rather than merely the facilitation of a few of its policies. There is, thinks Anderson, the soles of his feet chafing against the arm-rest as his legs itch to straighten, there is a certain unpleasantness about such people, an unholy mix of ambition and evangelism: their work is the greatest, the finest, the most important work there is, a responsibility, a vocation, virtually a holy trust, and they all want to be promoted somewhere else as soon as possible. They live in a permanent job interview, where one’s zealously demonstrated all-consuming lust for the position being offered must be outweighed only by one’s madly thrusting urge to move beyond it; nor is this attitude by any means confined to the young. Anderson has met men his own age, and even a decade older, practically on the verge of forced retirement, who are simply ulcerated with get-go. Anderson himself has never been afflicted in this fashion and he supposes, toes flexing irritably, that his worries are part of the price one must pay for such a chronic lack of dynamism.

A noise outside, or somewhere, jumps his eyelids open. The ghost of the window hovers amid the dark hulks of furniture. Perhaps he has slept; he thinks vaguely of looking at his wrist watch which he habitually wears in bed, but since there were only three or four hours left of the night when he first lay down, any news from that quarter is certain to be bad. He tries to recall the sound that woke him; he listens in case it is repeated, but hears only the small unidentifiable murmurings and chunterings of the house asleep: the cistern or the boiler or the pipes or the electrics, that sort of thing, he presumes. There is a muffled creaking thump from above, which may or may not be somebody entering or leaving their bed, but Anderson suspects, rather fuzzily it is true, that the noise which disturbed him was a noise of a different order: something sharp and sudden even if not particularly loud. He does not explicitly visualise doors being forced, or window-panes being suckered and scalpelled and quietly removed, or bombs going off, since he is perfectly well aware that if anything like that had happened in the house he would almost certainly know more about the happening than he knows about this mysterious noise; nevertheless, those are the kind of disturbances one reads about in the news every day, and it is famously fatal to believe that such things will never happen to oneself.

The noise does not recur. Anderson turns over onto his other side, facing the backrest of the sofa, and the lower part of his spine gives a complaining twinge: not an ache or a spasm, merely a querulous warning that aches or spasms might well be on the way unless matters improve. Anderson closes his eyes.

Read the inspiration

Buy the book

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fox and His Friends

Our vole-brained Secretary for War and the Colonies, Liam Fox, is having a bit of bother with his fag. Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat doormat for the Ministry of Defence, is annoyed because no assessments have been drawn up about alternatives to the Trident nuclear weapons system which did such a wonderful job of deterring the American freedom fighter Mohammed Junaid Babar and his merry men in July 2005. The debate has been framed, according to Harvey, as a yes-or-no choice about whether Britain should maintain a single nuclear-armed U-boat patrol every day of the year. According to Fox, it is necessary to maintain such patrols in order to protect Britain from the sort of nuclear blackmail which the US and its vassals have so kindly refrained from exerting upon Iran; and also to "ensure that we make our role apparent in reductions in total nuclear armaments". Unless we accumulate these weapons, we cannot have an apparent role in reducing them, which would apparently be too bad. In the light of such wisdom it is tempting to suggest that Liam Fox's preference for the harsh either-or is a consequence of Liam Fox's intellect being unable to encompass more than two choices; however, that would be uncharitable. Although studies devoted to the subject are nearly as sparse as alternatives to Trident, it is virtually certain that almost all members of the Not Awfully Brainy Party can count on almost all the fingers of at least one hand if granted enough time to cogitate.

Faced with another limited defensive choice, in this case between the Only Obeying Orders defence and the I Didn't Know What Was Happening defence, the retired Blair apparatchik who now calls himself Lord Browne of Ladyton has plumped enthusiastically for the latter. It appears that when the case for replacing Trident was made shortly before the Reverend Tony's ascension to the US lecture circuit, the facts and figures presented to Browne were insufficient. As a Blairite minister of defence, with all the intellectual independence and moral force implied by such a position, Browne's own efforts to repair the shortcomings of his researchers were no doubt Herculean; we can only hope that, as Lord Browne of Ladyton, his exertions have been rewarded with a home fit for a hero.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tory Democracy

Having urged little people from all walks of life to get involved in politics and be listened to for as long as the cuddliness holds out, Daveybloke is being criticised by one of his own MPs for requiring absolute loyalty and unswerving adherence to the party line. Surprisingly enough, the source of the problem is Twizzler Lansley's bill for demolishing the NHS, which has the enthusiastic agreement of almost everyone except the medical profession and the general public. The MP in question, a former doctor who is presumably worried about losing her new seat in short order, raised various concerns about the bill, including the fact that many of those who are scrutinising it have little or no direct experience of the NHS; whereupon Daveybloke's cuddly enforcers told her that she was not there to make suggestions on her own account, but to act as a mouthpiece for the Government. It's a rather embarrassing testament to the extent to which Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition has left behind the bad old New Labour days when even some members of the Not Particularly Bright Party have begun to notice that Daveybloke's attempts to emulate Tony Blair's emulation of Margaret Thatcher may not altogether constitute what might reasonably be defined as a "new politics".

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Oh, Birmingham Council is skint
And brushing off workers like lint -
Yet grief would be silly
As Kate and her Willie
Are struck at the Birmingham Mint!

Eelie R Sprick

Friday, February 11, 2011

Schools of Hard Knocks

The courts, those enemies of reform and persecutors of the Vicar of Downing Street, Jack Straw and other crusaders, are at it again, it seems. A judge has proclaimed that Michael Gove's attempt to abolish millions of pounds' worth of school building projects with a wave of his insectoid tarsus was an "abuse of power" which had failed to cover itself in even the most perfunctory rationale or consultational figleaf. The Government responded with the sort of demented rhetoric that even the Reverend Blair never quite managed during his first term, let alone his first year: the decisions of Michael Gove are not open to legal challenge or discussions with those they affect, and building and repairing schools is wasteful, bureaucratic and no doubt multicultural as well. The judge in the case redeemed himself by requesting Gove to reconsider his decision "with an open mind", thus furnishing him with a handy clue as to the necessary phraseology when, after a few weeks' pause for the sake of public amnesia, he waves his insectoid tarsus once again.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Flexible Position

A Rigorous and Uncompromised Negotiating Position was employed in a technically legal transaction between the directors of the Royal Bank of Short-Sellers and some Small Government Fanatics who were in their pay.

The Rigorous and Uncompromised Negotiating Position was placed across a table between the two sides, both of whom then proceeded to pull in exactly the same direction. The Royal Bank of Short-Sellers was so heavy with debts to the taxpayer that several of its more enterprising directors had been forced to fill their pockets to overflowing in order to cope with the injury to their pride; while the Small Government Fanatics carried rather more weight than their diminutive significance and utter lack of substance proclaimed.

Thus, at the end of several months' arduous agreement, the Rigorous and Uncompromised Negotiating Position was so flexible that it was able to replace the elastic in the Royal Bank of Short-Sellers' Chief Executive Officer's second-best pair of underpants, thereby lifting a wearisome burden from the shoulders of several million hard-working families.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sex in Perspective

Copulation may need no defending
By me or by you; but, my friends,
It is merely a great many ends
Directed towards the same ending.

Kinsey Pinkwhistle

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Living in Sin

That mediocrity's mediocrity, Iain Duncan Smith, has put forward almost his very own solution to the social instability which results from a shallow celebrity culture in which awards and praise are undeservedly lavished on pop stars, actors and footballers, and sometimes even on libraries, hospitals and charitable institutions. The nation's children, it appears, can survive the damage Michael Gove plans to do to their education and cultural heritage; they can waltz happily through the lack of public play facilities; they will fall on their little knees in gratitude at their prospects for subsequent unemployment and demonisation in the press; but what imposes "incredibly high" financial and social costs on society as a whole is the fact that some of their parents (whisper it) aren't even married.

Launching something called Marriage Week UK with an appropriately Blairite wagging finger, and taking with owlish seriousness Daveybloke's pre-election joke about giving couples a few pounds a week extra to stay together, Duncan Smith defines marriage as "the commitment of two people to put selfish interest to one side for the sake of each other and the children they raise". That will come as a surprise to anyone who knows any non-psychopathic cohabitees, to say nothing of those who got married because they wanted to, without a thought for the welfare or otherwise of their as-yet-nonexistent children. Duncan Smith claimed that marriage is "the most basic institution, which nurtures each generation and from which so many of us draw our strength and purpose"; which will come as a surprise to anyone whose parents stayed together in the sort of mutual contempt and loathing that characterises so many coalitions of convenience. Duncan Smith diagnosed marriage as being "about understanding that our true value is lastingly expressed through the lives of others we commit to"; which explains the Conservative Party's much-noted understanding of the true value of education and health workers, as opposed to tax dodgers and purveyors of tits-and-racism for the masses. Duncan Smith said that the state should not "lecture or push" people into marrying, which explains why he used his lecture on the evils of celebrity-inspired singletonism to offer financial support to those who do.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Purge of Experts Continues

Clegg's reputation safe as clarification-monger sacked

The Government's crackdown on expertism has continued with the sacking of an independent adviser who maliciously questioned whether Nick Clegg had told the truth or not.

Clegg, whose word is his bond except when it isn't, announced £400m for improving access to psychological "talking therapies" last week.

Professor David Richards, of the University of Exeter, implied that the money would not be additional and might end up being used to plug whatever gaps in the NHS are causing the worst headlines.

Richards claimed to be "asking for clarification", on the transparently malignant grounds that he had been told at a meeting that the money would come from the existing NHS budget.

Richards' sacking is quite different from the sacking of Professor David Nutt, who was fired by the Labour home secretary, Alan Johnson, for allowing scientific evidence to contradict both Government policy and tabloid hysteria.

Unlike Nutt, Richards has not been sacked for questioning Government policy, but for implying that another of Nick Clegg's pledges might turn out to be just another Nick Clegg pledge.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Our Common Values

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, has further enhanced his New Labour credentials by throwing a sop to the far right. Daveybloke, who thinks a German accent is a jolly funny thing, informed a conference in Munich that multiculturalism had failed in Britain because of the deplorable fashion for "hands-off tolerance" of other people's ways of life. Daveybloke also pledged to cut funding for Muslim groups that failed to respect Lord Ashcroft's idea of basic British values; no doubt an extensive catalogue of such government-funded groups, with the price of their members' houses, can be found in the Daily Mail and other informed sources of similar rectitude. Daveybloke blamed Muslim radicalisation and domestic terrorism on the immigrants' sense of alienation, rather than anything the British state might have done to upset them. If only they could learn to be British first and Muslims after the style of Baroness Warsi, there wouldn't have been nearly so much trouble over the Reverend Tony's crusade for democracy in the Middle East, which Daveybloke's party supported even more uniformly than the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour, which spent much of its recent régime trying to find the courage for open agreement with the British National Party, responded with a very loud Nick Clegg moment in reverse, condemning in opposition what it embraced in office. Even Jack Straw, not the most wog-friendly ex-minister in the world, felt able to get away with calling Daveybloke's remarks ill-timed and ill-judged. Of course, Daveybloke's domestic staff have been quick to pour scorn on any hint that Daveybloke is reverting to traditional Tory wog-bashing. A spokesbeing said that Daveybloke's speech had been "in the diary for months" and hence could not possibly have anything in common with the English Defence League. Baroness Warsi blathered that Daveybloke could not be a right-wing extremist as "has made it clear that he wants to unite Britain around our common values", which clearly do not include the Islamic virtues of learning and compassion for the poor.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Respecting Tradition

Anxious as ever to show their New Labour credentials, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives have revived plans to do away with the May Day bank holiday, which has unfortunate working-class connotations, and replace it with a Britishness-oriented UK Rah Rah Day in the autumn, which would be a much better commercial proposition and hence morally acceptable despite the lower-class idleness involved. They have no plans to impose the change before 2013, however, as there are extra bank holidays this year and next because of the royal family, and it would never do to force employers to give their workers yet more days off when they ought to be thinking about how many they need to sack. Daveybloke's cuddly seat-warmer for Romford said that, while having a holiday for workers, pensioners or any other group (Christians and Windsors excluded) is self-evidently silly, it is "a very good idea to celebrate all things British", doubtless excluding such Stalinist impostures as the BBC, the National Health Service and the forests of England and Wales.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Old Bones

New Labour's predilection for back-of-the-envelope legislation has given an unexpected boost to the ignorance and cultural vandalism which will inevitably result from the practice of Gove History. A law introduced by the Ministry of Dawn Raids and Deportations in 2008 requires all human remains found in England and Wales to be re-buried within two years, be they recent, Roman or Neanderthal. The Ministry described the law as an "interim measure", presumably until it can be verified that permanent interment is not a soft option for any stray vertebrae or distal phalanges which may be asylum seekers in disguise; and there are no guidelines on where the re-burials should take place or what records should be kept. Evidently the loss of priceless archaeological evidence was one more thing about which New Labour was intensely relaxed. The Conservatives, whose main quarrel with New Labour is that the vandalism didn't go far enough, will no doubt extend the provisions of the law to allow the pre-mortem interment of state pension claimants.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Big Society Clarified Yet Further

Waves of Tory egalitarianism break against self-pity of benefit-claiming classes

Daveybloke's Big Society thingy has suffered further embarrassment thanks to the city of Liverpool.

City council leader Joe Anderson claimed (or "said", as the left-wing Guardian hath it) that the Government requirement (or "need" as the liberal Guardian hath it) to make £141 million of cuts in two years had put the future of hundreds of voluntary groups at risk.

The city is a well-known parallel vanguard in a substantial programme of activity into whicn it has put significant resources, according to the city council.

The city is an invaluable training ground which has demonstrated barriers and the wonders of deregulation and of the Government's localism bill, according to the Government.

Liverpool is well known for its comic regional accent and sense of self-pity, which has provoked the wrath of London mayor Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, Lord Wei of Shoreditch has sought to clarify reports that he did not have time for Daveybloke's Big Society thingy.

The truth, as it turns out after some hurried phone calls by Daveybloke's cuddly replacement for Daveybloke's Cuddly Coulson, is that Lord Wei has only a little less time for Daveybloke's Big Society thingy than he had last year.

It also turns out that Lord Wei's duty to Daveybloke's Big Society thingy comes third after his duty to his family and the various communities, such as the Conservative Party, of which he is a part.

Lord Wei is quite indignant at the thought that, as Daveybloke's Big Society thingy tsar, he should be thought to have anything to do with bringing Daveybloke's Big Society thingy into being, and wishes it to be clearly understood that he is only a very small and humble thingy in a much bigger thingy.

The extent of public relief at these revelations is yet to be reliably gauged.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gross Materialistic Urges

The man appointed to improve the public mind on the subject of Daveybloke's Big Society thingy has partially abdicated his tsardom, having decided that working for nothing three days a week is strictly for those who have fewer non-executive directorships to take care of than he does. Despite having the enviable task of determining "how to free ordinary people from the daily grind to give them more time to do voluntary work and involve themselves in their communities", there have been suggestions that Lord Wei of Shoreditch has failed to make sufficient impression on the public's notoriously self-centred and unmutual attitudes. These suggestions may possibly be related to the fact that virtually nothing had been heard of the creature until he made headlines by announcing his intention to do even less than he was doing already. According to a Whitehall spokesbeing, Daveybloke (or whichever of his servants deals with the part-time help) somehow failed to inform Lord Wei that his post would be unpaid until the night before he started; which certainly says a good deal about the value Daveybloke actually places on people who work for free.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Christian Democrats

Some adherents of a minority religious cult have declared their support for the Alternative Vote system in electing the House of Commons. "Voting systems are not value-free," proclaimed the Bishop of Exeter. "I am supporting a change on the grounds of justice and accountability"; which carries a less than intimidating moral charge coming from a member of a club with a free pass to vote in the House of Lords. "The bishops are frustrated that there is very little in the way of the moral, ethical dimension to this," said a spokesbeing for the Yes campaign, while a spokesbeing for the No campaign implicitly denied that "a sober, sensible analysis of the case for and against scrapping our current electoral system" could have any moral dimension at all. The Yes campaign does, after all, have the support of Nick Clegg, whose sense of moral outrage has proved so endearingly flexible.