The Curmudgeon


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell Then, Old Year

Farewell then, Old Year! Time ordains
You now must let go of the reins.
At last we have blundered
Through all your three hundred
And sixty-five point two five pains.

Farewell then, Old Year! Let us borrow
A moment to savour the sorrow:
As you fall by the way,
A new year with leap-day
Is lurking in wait for tomorrow.

Farewell then, Old Year! It's about
That time when we all raise a shout,
For we'll not see you more -
And now don't let the door
Hit your arse as you bugger off out.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Gadarene Swineherd

A Moral Tale

Contrary to legend, there were not thousands of swine but a couple of dozen at most; and there were not several swineherds but only one, who made his way home in fear and trembling to relate how his family's entire stock had been lost to the sea on the whim of an eccentric rabbi.

His father thrashed him soundly for his carelessness, and later the old man and some of the neighbours went out to see the rabbi and his disciples for themselves. They found nothing very impressive - a straggle of wandering Jews who claimed the end of the world was nigh - and politely requested them to depart. After a little thought, the rabbi proclaimed that the Canaanite dogs might, on this occasion, have their wish; and he and his disciples shook the dust of Gadara from their shoes, with that special consideration which a conquered and oppressed people always has for those whom its forefathers have conquered and oppressed in times gone by.

Yet none of this brought back the lost herd, which had been small enough to begin with; and despite the repeated thrashings and scoldings with which the culprit was tutored in the perils of negligence, matters did not improve. Eventually the swineherd's father was forced to give economic considerations priority over moral ones, and left off tutoring his son so that the boy could keep his looks and be sold into slavery at a reasonable price.

The slavers took the former swineherd to Jerusalem, where he grew to manhood under various masters, some kind and some severe; and where also he heard rumours of the one true God, who had begotten a son on earth for the redemption of the faithful and the consignment of everyone else to a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth. This instrument of divine mercy, it was said, had been a great teacher and miracle worker, and had been persecuted and eventually murdered at the behest of the Jewish authorities. The slave, who had learned to his cost about the attitudes of Jewish holy men toward the livelihood of others, felt a certain sympathy.

At last there came a time when he was sold into the household of one who followed the great man's teachings; and he heard from his master's own lips how the great man had been betrayed, arrested, scourged and crucified, how he had risen from the tomb and ascended to Heaven, and how he would return within the span of an earthly lifetime to proclaim the kingdom of God and to judge the living and the dead. The slave was so impressed by these truths that he allowed himself forthwith to be baptised into the new faith.

It quickly became clear that his conversion was genuine and lasting; and he was often employed in carrying messages around the city, between his master and other believers. It was in the course of one such errand that the slave who had been a swineherd was discreetly but messily hacked to death in an alley by a minion of one Saul, whose personal acquaintance the great teacher was still waiting to make, somewhere on the road to Damascus.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Limited Intelligence

Britain's constructive and co-operative relations with its European partners are continuing in the usual fashion as the Ministry of Wogs, Frogs and Huns puts the Boche in their place once again. This time the squabble is about some copies of files belonging to the East German ministry for homeland security, which were obtained by the CIA after the Berlin Wall came down and then handed over to MI5. With its customary efficiency, MI5 began investigating over a hundred Britons suspected of having been Stasi agents; to date, nobody has been prosecuted. Perhaps they were all in the Metropolitan Police.

Anyway, the original files having been hastily destroyed during the reunification process, Germany has asked for the copies to be returned so that they can be added to its archives on the Stasi and made available to scholars, historians and other disreputable persons. Given the fondness of British governments since 1989 for such Stasi-friendly activities as surveillance, torture and detention without trial, there is obvious potential for embarrassment even if one discounts the possibility of Jack Straw, Agent Smith or Liam Fox being on the employee list.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Head Boy Daveybloke Looked Out

Head Boy Daveybloke looked out,
On the mass of Childer.
Bullingdons were sprawled about,
Toasting Maggie Hilda.
Brightly gleamed the Bloke that night,
Of the Falklands dreaming,
When a rich man came in sight,
For a bonus screaming.

"Hither, Vincent, stand by me,
If thou know'st it, telling:
Yonder banker, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a square mile hence
In our holy City."
"Thank you; bugger off now, Vince."
For the Bloke was witty.

"Bugger off and halt thy whine.
Bring me tax cuts hither.
Hurry up, thou tubby swine,
Ere the markets wither."
Fag and Head Boy, right they went,
Right they went together,
Through the poor folk's loud lament
And the British weather.

"Sire, the chavs are round us now,
And are far from quiet.
Let us sneak off from this row,
Lest there be a riot."
"Strut as I do, craven scum;
Let them know who's paying.
And if thou shouldst fail to come,
Buttocks I'll be flaying."

In his Head Boy's steps he trod,
Spurned the people's ventures,
Noting how the little sod
Kicked them in the dentures.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
As the Bloke relaxes,
Ye who now do tax the poor
Shall be spared from taxes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tendring Out

Local councillors in the Essex district of Tendring, which includes the most deprived single ward in England, have registered annoyance at the Olympics organisers' decision to bypass the place during the relay to deliver the Torch of Tony to its luminous apotheosis. "Despite being less than 60 miles from Stratford, the home of London 2012," complained the councillors, "Tendring and its residents have yet to receive any benefit from the Olympic Games", while the rest of us have been prosperously basking in rah-rah since almost before Christmas started. "It is people living in areas like Tendring that have much more to gain from the hopes and dreams of London 2012 than elsewhere," the councillors added. No doubt it is true that areas with high unemployment have more person-hours to waste watching sports, and areas with high levels of general deprivation are more likely to be taken in by xenophobic charades; but it is difficult to see how a glimpse of the Torch of Tony would make much difference one way or the other. By golly, the councillors have an answer: "It would help to demonstrate that although we have residents living in the most deprived area in the country, they are not ignored and forgotten by the government." Given the meticulously targeted persecution which the Government has meted out to the unemployed and deprived over the past eighteen months, I should have thought a little ignoring and forgetting would come as a welcome relief. Nevertheless, Tendring's Conservative council has requested Britain's Head Boy to have a bit of a chat with Lord Coe, because getting Nanny State to make meaningless gestures is what the Big Society thingy is meant to be all about.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Epistle

Slaves, be content with what you earn;
Look not for earthly riches,
And marry so as not to burn,
Except for books and witches.

Rev. Sorbus Malbarb

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jerusalem Epitaph

Nailed up for giving money-changers squabble,
By god and followers left in the lurch,
Redacted, resurrected for the rabble,
And buried most securely in their church.

Rev. Sorbus Malbarb

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Law and the Profits

At the time of year when a few people still celebrate the humble birth of somebody in whose name churches have long preached the virtues of poverty for others, the City of London Corporation has run up against an irritating hindrance to its doing of St Paul's Cathedral's dirty work. The high court judge who is hearing the case has postponed his verdict until January, despite the fulminations of the City's counsel, who described the occupation of the cathedral's yard as "simply intolerable". The cathedral has had to be closed, people are losing money, worshippers and staff are having to rub shoulders with riffraff, people are losing money, services are being cancelled and people are losing money. "We do not," the City's lawyer pointed out, "live in a system under which even the most passionate protesters can decide what detriment others should be prepared to tolerate"; that privilege is reserved for bankers and their chums.

For his part, the protesters' counsel criticised the cathedral registrar for committing pious fraud in the name of passionate well-meaningness, and pointed to the absence of cathedral officials from the courtroom as evidence that, despite being Anglicans, they lack "confidence, inclination and courage", even when it comes to calling out the riot squad.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Private Army

Those nice people who wanted to sell off the forests are at it again. Among Daveybloke's Christmas reading is a report by Peter Luff, the civil servant in charge of defence procurement, recommending various options to reform the Ministry of Peace. Despite having been run, in the past, by such intellectual giants as Geoff Hoon and Adam Werritty, the Ministry's financial situation is so dire that its aircraft carriers lack luggage, its surveillance aircraft have been broken up for scrap and its most advanced submarines cannot detect Scotland. Naturally, expectably and inevitably, the solution is to privatise.

Three options are identified in the Luff report, and all of them boil down to increasing the kickbacks for the profiteering sector. The first option is the establishment of an independent body run by outside contractors as "as a semi-private operation, in a similar way to the Olympic Delivery Authority", which has apparently been a roaringly cheap success. Another option is for the contractors to run the procurement on their own "under ministerial scrutiny", much as our railway and energy systems have been simplified, efficientised and profitabilitated under the scrutiny of ministers in search of a directorship or two. The third way is to "keep the budget within the MoD but allow private sector expertise to be brought in", a practice which occurs at the moment but is known as arms industry lobbying, to the incalculable detriment and peril of our servicepersons.

Among the options which were not considered are practising what we preach to Iran on the subject of nuclear deterrence, and minimising annual defence expenditure by attacking fewer countries per year. Luff said on a BBC radio documentary that he was "open-minded on the options", and demonstrated his open-mindedness in the natural, expectable and inevitable manner by claiming that the only alternative to privatisation is an unacceptable status quo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Was a Teenage Oskar Schindler

We weren't in it together, says party man

France's state prosecutor has opened an investigation into the Nazi-themed stag party attended by the 33-year-old adolescent Conservative MP Adolf Hurley-Burley.

The Nazis established a racist police state whose answer to a world-wide economic crisis consisted of military adventurism and oppression of ethnic minorities and political opponents.

They are also notorious for having been extremist, mendacious, nationalistic, superstitious, corrupt and philistine.

Nevertheless, the Conservative Party is thought to disapprove of them by and large, as they claimed to be socialists and were mostly foreign.

The opposition has called for the Prime Minister to remove the Conservative whip from Mr Hurley-Burley while the investigation proceeds.

However, despite the warmongering, authoritarian, Muslim-baiting, BNP-courting, child-imprisoning, media-manipulating nature of their last government, it is as yet unclear whether Mr Hurley-Burley would be interested in joining Labour.

After the story broke, Mr Hurley-Burley hastened to distance himself from his former friends and acquaintances at the party and issued grovelling apologies to everyone he could think of.

"I have no sympathies whatsoever with Nazism, racism, or Fascism," he said, stating further that he did not participate in any toasts or chants, but merely sat off to the side sipping tonic water, protecting Jewish fugitives and being angelic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fury at Argie Boat Ban

Daveybloke's hopes of gaining a parliamentary majority from a second rah-rah over the Falklands have been jacked up another notch. The president of Argentina, who is already foreign and a woman and is afflicted with a German-sounding surname, has somehow induced Mercosur, a South American trading bloc, to ban boats with the Falkland Islands flag. "The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN security council yet they do not respect a single, not a single resolution," Kirchner said in Montevideo, clearly unaware that the United Kingdom respects every single resolution that suits the convenience of the United States. "Nor should they come at us with the excuse of the dictatorship or the war from 30 years ago," Kirchner foamed, "because they were the ones who would speak with the dictators", doubtless an uncharitable allusion to Thatcher's beautiful spiritual bond with the likes of Pinochet. Kirchner even urged the Government to "talk, talk, talk," for all the world as if Daveybloke were a public sector trade union to be invited round a table for the sake of appearances before one lets fly the grapeshot.

As soon as the Bullingdon hilarity wore off (the guffaws of "calm down, dear" must have been audible in Piccadilly), the Ministry for Wogs, Frogs and Huns found itself just about capable of responding: "We are discussing this urgently with countries in the region," said a spokesbeing. Presumably the countries in question are receiving extensive and much-needed advice about the perils of entering into trading blocs with foreigners, coupled with urgent exhortations to protect their sovereignty by joining a clapped-out colonial power on its carefree slide down the pecking order of Washington's client states. "But no one should doubt our determination to protect the Falkland Islanders' right to determine their own political future," perorated the spokesbeing; which, along with all the rest of it, is the part that Labour agrees with.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burning Everyone

Jim Bliss at The Quiet Road has posted a very kind review of my short novel Security, about twenty-four hours in the life of a defender of Western values. Since the writing of it was among the more splenetic periods in a generally ulcerated year, I'm paradoxically encouraged at the "dollop of resignation" which Jim detects in the book's tone. Although he brushes off my thanks in the comments, I stand by them and reiterate them here; the ultimate success of a work depends at least as much on sensitive reading as on competent execution, and the one is about as easy to come by as the other.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nick Clegg Promises

Just on the off-chance that anyone's still listening out there, Wee Nicky's latest appeal for re-admission to the human race includes a promise to reform the House of Lords, thus signalling that yet another plank of Deputy Conservative policy is to be torn up and fed to the worms. Wee Nicky's rhetoric was a disturbing mix of Hollywood slang and Brownite deadwood: "if you want change stuff, you sometimes have to take a risk and push stuff that might not be instantly popular," he proclaimed, like an expendable black character busy cutting cocaine with washing-up powder. "My kind of society is an open society and challenge vested interests whether they are in the media, the banking system or the political system," he proclaimed later on, apparently for the benefit of those who even now remain sceptical about the advantages of cuddling up to Lord Ashcroft's party. "It means social mobility and how we reorientate government policy to achieve the potential of young kids who are otherwise condemned by the circumstances of society," he proclaimed in addition, to clarify why he signed up to closing all those youth facilities and continuing child detention. Wee Nicky also criticised Labour for its lack of principle or consistency, which shows that the Brussels fiasco has not lessened his comic touch.

The Lords, it appears, is "a standing affront to everything a liberal democracy should be. It is nepotism and patronage rather than merit, it is closed rather than open. It hoards power", all of which no doubt explains why Wee Nicky thinks Lord Ashcroft's party are just the chaps to reform it. Wee Nicky mentioned the coalition agreement, which he was happy to tear up in order to grease Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS bill through Parliament; then as now, presumably, the reason was that "if you are too purist you deliver nothing", in contrast to the spectacular successes which Wee Nicky and his chums have delivered with their bargain-basement approach.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Durban Epitaph

Dear aliens, pause briefly in your flying;
Observe our tomb, if we do not impose.
We might have tried to keep our race from dying,
But sought instead to profit by its throes.

Orpod Spangle

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Standing Where He Ought Not

Some Anglican clergypersons have woken up to the possibility of the Authorised Version's four hundredth anniversary being mainly associated with the name of Michael Gove; and, in the time-honoured Anglican fashion, have resolved the threat to their Church's dignity by capping mediocre farce with bad farce. Britain's Head Boy has been invited up to Oxford for a bit of a burble about God and things, and seems to have come through with a performance that would grace almost any school assembly of less than outstanding quality. Daveybloke burbled about the summer riots, the financial crash, the expenses scandal and Islamist extremism, all of which apparently resulted from an unwillingness to distinguish right from wrong. It is certainly true that many outside the Conservative party have difficulty telling God from Mammon these days. Daveybloke burbled that religious faith is neither necessary nor sufficient to help people distinguish right from wrong, but that it could be a "helpful prod in the right direction" for those less enlightened than Daveybloke and less intelligent than Iain Duncan Smith; translated into Standard English, this means that faith schools are cheaper than a proper education. Daveybloke burbled that our language and culture and Britishness and all sorts of other nice things are steeped in the Bible, except for a few faith communities which aren't, but which still make us stronger as long as they aren't killing us. Daveybloke burbled that he knew and fully respected "that many people in this country do not have a religion", but that Britain was nonetheless a Christian country and that the Bible had "helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today" - namely, by Daveybloke's reckoning, a broken society riven by riots, financial crisis, political corruption and fear of Islamic militancy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Another Winner

Whether in moist pre-election mode or in his more recent swivel-eyed incarnation, Daveybloke has told us many times what a dreadful mess the previous administration made of British society; which no doubt explains why the latest debrokenising measures to be inflicted on a backsliding populace have been cannibalised wholesale from New Labour.

Having suddenly discovered a spare £448 million down the backs of various ministerial sofas, Britain's Head Boy has proclaimed that the solution to problem families lies in the "basic, practical things that are the building blocks of an orderly home and a responsible life" and that don't cost too much. Pluck, gumption, hard work, family values and knowing one's place are doubtless prominent among them. In order to attain these basic practicalities, a "family worker" will be appointed to open front doors, go into houses, see the family as a whole and rustle up a plan of action. This will involve different improvements depending on the proles at hand, but Daveybloke's idea of the family worker's function appears to be fending off intrusive strings of state officials who are as well-meaning and disconnected as Phillip Blond and, no doubt, overpaid by considerably more.

As one would expect from a New Labour idea, the scheme is "formally voluntary", with sanctions up to and including surveillance, homelessness and child detention for those deemed unbigsocietal in their volition. As one would expect from the present Government, local councils will be expected to manage the whole business while implementing cuts in social services which are exacerbating the problems the scheme is supposedly designed to ameliorate; and councils will receive no money until they have achieved the improvements that the money is supposedly intended to help achieve.

Me at Poetry-24
Then Conquer We Must

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mission Accomplished Reboot

Britain's leading liberal newspaper reports the latest official end of the Iraq war much as it reported the beginning, regurgitating the aggressors' press releases with an occasional coy hint that everything might not have gone quite so well as it could.

Despite two elections which were pronounced democratic by the likes of George W Bush and Tony Blair, and despite lots and lots of money in aid to Blackwater and Halliburton, and despite (most constructively of all) the "close diplomatic attention" of the oil profiteers and the cluster-bomb fans, Britain's leading liberal newspaper is regretfully obliged to note that "Iraq is still grappling with a range of issues. Basic services remain poor, the political class unaccountable, a rule of law absent" - and all this after nearly a decade of close attention from the kind of people who have made the US and Britain what they are today, to say nothing of abusing the sanctions régime to an extent which at least one administrator described as genocidal. Honestly, what can be the matter with the bloody place?

In fact, so apathetic are the natives that the president and prime minister of Iraq didn't even bother turning up to the farewell party, their seats being hurriedly filled by American military buttocks of the requisite cultural sensitivity. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, this makes the relationship between Iraq's government and its beloved occupiers "difficult to gauge". Britain's leading liberal newspaper quoted the US defence secretary and former CIA chief chapter and verse on the costs in blood and treasure to the United States (he thought it was worth it, in case you were wondering), but was apparently unable to find anyone willing to put their name to an estimate of Iraqi casualties. Fortunately, it turns out that most of these occurred "at the height of what became a vicious two-year sectarian war" and had nothing to do with the Coalition of the Willing at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Revenge of the Resurrection of the Return of the Thingy, Part II

With all that's been going on, be it Europe withdrawing from Britain or Christmas lasting four months instead of just two and a half, or even Werritty's War bubbling nicely on the horizon, I am sure we've all found time to be glad of the manifold life-oriented improvements which have come about thanks to Daveybloke's Big Society thingy, even if many of us are a little hard put to give a name to any of them. I'm grateful, therefore, to the little bird in the cheap seats who tweeted this to my attention today, since it shows precisely where the problem lies. As one would expect, the fault is with the civil service, charities and the public, all of whom are even now, after five separate launches with ever-increasing clarification, too foolish and materialistic to rejoice adequately at their thingy-bestowed advantages.

The public administration select committee has produced a report on the thingy which is disturbing in a number of respects; but mainly because it demonstrates, not for the first time, that parliamentary select committees constitute a slightly more effective opposition than the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband and his ever-descending Balls. It observes with pitiless clarity the blatherings of Francis Maude, the Minister of Ministerial Administrativity, and Nick Hurd, the Minister for Being the Son of a Former Minister, on whom the thingy has been dumped for lack of a proper minister to take it on. Hurd, says the report, claimed that the proles "fundamentally understand" the thingy. "On the evidence before us," states the report, missing the faith-based point as usual, "we must disagree".

The report also warns that "concerns about the role of private companies ... have not thus far been adequately addressed by ministers", and that "big contractors and the largest charities continue to dominate at the expense of small and local providers", for all the world as if Daveybloke's Big Society thingy had nothing at all to do with the private sector eating up the voluntary sector or with large private companies trampling all over local interests. With an intent that we can only hope is satirical, the committee concludes by recommending "the creation of a single big society minister", presumably in a small local laboratory and almost certainly by men in white coats.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Impulse Control

A report into neuroscience and the law has once again pointed up the dangers of mixing the moral and political with the merely scientific. Scientists have discovered that children and adolescents are less mature than adults, and some have reasoned from this that "the age of criminal responsibility in the UK is unreasonably low, and the evidence of individual differences suggests that an arbitrary cut-off age may not be justifiable", except perhaps from the viewpoint of lynch-mob ethics and prison profitability. As scientists, lawyers and pre-governmental Liberal Democrats we may, of course, deplore such things as moral outrages; but, politics being the art of the possible in a big society which has no very big interest in educating, amusing or employing its offspring, what else is one to do?

On the bright side, a former professor of law at King's College London claims that it is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty or accuracy whether a particular individual will re-offend on leaving prison; which is about as compelling an argument for harsher laws and longer sentences as any socially mature pension-plundering warmonger is likely to require.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Have to Tell You Now That No Such Undertaking Has Been Received

Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives are following up Friday's diplomatic coup with a brusque assertion of their rights as absentee landlords over buildings that don't belong to them. Since twenty-six members of the EU have cut themselves loose from the mainstream, Daveybloke and his chums see no reason why they should be allowed to use EU institutions or buildings to conduct their nefarious business. That could lead to "a potential conflict of interest", according to a spokesbeing for the bloke who claims ultimate sovereignty over City regulation and is bankrolled by City gamblers. As to what Daveybloke and his Cuddly Conservatives would do if the pathetic remnants of the EU chose to defy this latest ultimatum, and perhaps even occupy twenty-six twenty-sevenths of a building or worse - well, we do have the Tony Olympics to think about, followed in short order by the firing-up of Werritty's War against the mullahs in Iran. Our boys will need some sort of practice at distinguishing decent from non-decent wogs when they deploy their aircraftless carriers and sandbank-friendly submarines. Doubtless no option is off the table, except a negotiated peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Huffing and Puffing

Contrary to what one might expect, it seems quite possible that Wee Nicky does feel a certain genuine irritation at Daveybloke's bumbling arrogance in Brussels. Despite Wee Nicky's urgent need to be accepted as a true and paid-up member of the Bullingdon Club, there are one or two cultural obstacles. Daveybloke, for example, has little use for foreigners except as the stuff of stage comedy, rather like women. Wee Nicky admits to foreign blood and speaks several European languages, although it is not entirely clear how many of them he uses to tell the truth.

Hence, after comprehensively selling out on health and education, and being outmanoeuvred, outspent and outfibbed on electoral reform, it appears that Wee Nicky and his Deputy Conservatives have decided to take a stand on Europe; always provided, no doubt, that it isn't the sort of nasty, inconvenient, unpatriotic stand over which somebody might have to resign. Wee Nicky has had his chums out since yesterday morning, saying how shocking and stunning it is for Daveybloke to behave like a right-wing Conservative front-man with a lot of restive knuckles scraping the ground behind him, and how spectacularly awful Daveybloke has been to Wee Nicky after all he's done, and above all how important it is for the nation that despite the sheer hurtfulness of it all Wee Nicky and his chums courageously persist in their endurance of the moral agony that goes with retaining their ministerial chauffeurs.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mustn't Grumble

With a quarter of England and Wales at risk of fuel poverty, a twenty-six per cent rise in complaints over the last three months has led to much heartache among the Big Six energy cartel. EDF brought in a new billing system, failed to explain it properly to its customers, and then brought further opprobrium upon itself by economising on its call centre staff. EDF is one of only three members of the hypothermia profiteers' big society whose performance has got "notably worse" since they cheered everyone up with a comedy turn about rebuilding trust. Overall, the energy companies have introduced gas and electricity price rises of up to 19% in order to prevent valuable executives emigrating to Dubai; but Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF, complained in September that sympathetic comprehension had not been forthcoming from "the public, customers in general, politicians, regulators and others" - in short, that virtually everybody except the aforementioned executives was too stupid to understand how nice and convenient the whole arrangement was.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Bulldog Flaps its Jowls

Since Wee Nicky is apparently out emptying the bins or something (one dare not hope that he has retired to a small room with a bowl of muesli and a revolver), it has fallen to Daveybloke's cuddly Secretary of State for Belize, Willem den Haag, to give out the press release about the Deputy Conservatives' latest degradation. He got off to a rollicking start with, "This is a prime minister and a government that keeps its word"; this is a prime minister who promised to protect frontline NHS services, and this is a government that includes Nick Clegg. Daveybloke's European policy of going off in a sulk in order to protect a few unsuccessful gamblers and placate the Wogs Out brigade on his back-benches is, in den Haag's estimation, an act of statesmanship that "will increase the respect for the British government and the influence we have over future decisions", at least on Daveybloke's back-benches. Den Haag denied (or "quashed", as the Guardian in its optimism hath it) suggestions that the UK would be isolated as a result of Daveybloke's isolation of the UK, and made the delightfully off-planet assertion that Britain would "set the pace" thanks to Daveybloke's shiny new idea of yapping from the side of the track while everybody else moves to a different stadium. To do him justice, den Haag did provide one example of where the UK sets the pace and leads the way: "in foreign policy, issues of Iran and Syria and so on". In Standard English, the UK sets the pace in promoting American interests and nagging its European partners to help kill people.

Update It now turns out that, as with tuition fees and one or two other matters, Daveybloke's attitude to the Euro-wogs is actually just what Wee Nicky has been fighting for all this time, and represents a modestly triumphant and reasonable culmination of Deputy Conservative policy. So that's all right.

Me at Poetry-24
Well Fair

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Healthy Competition

We are all aware, because right-wing ideologues and other reliable sources have hinted at it now and then, that the private sector is much more efficient than the state sector at providing proper healthcare. This is because the private sector has competition, unlike the National Health Service which enjoys an unfair advantage because of people like Twizzler Lansley who are obsessed with saving it. Private healthcare companies are compelled by their competition to behave honestly and fairly towards their customers, because to behave otherwise would be inefficient. A private healthcare company which did not fully inform its customers about the costs of their treatment, for example, or which cooked up a cosy arrangement to steer consultants to a particular facility, would labour much and suffer mightily before finally falling prey to the cleansing potency of market forces. Presumably this explains why the Office of Fair Trading, a notorious appendage of Big Government, is threatening the health profiteering community with referral to the Competition Commission.

As with the energy business, a small number of providers have eaten or otherwise neutralised almost everybody else, and market forces have somehow failed to get around to compensating for the fact. Hence, the OFT has found that health insurance policy holders are not being properly informed about the fees they will have to pay, and some companies have resorted to bribing consultants in order that their decisions about where patients should undergo treatment may be taken with due surgical precision. As so often in such cases, at least one member of the health profiteering community has been crying out for more competition for some time. The chief executive of BMI Healthcare righteously regurgitated some corporate-speak about "cost-effective outcomes" (which under the NHS would be little more than mere treatments); but the managing director of Bupa has "welcomed" the OFT's findings, doubtless in much the same teeth-clenched spirit as a Murdoch minion being happy to testify about hacking, or Lord Bell being overjoyed at his recent chance to clear the air about political lobbying. It is reassuring to see how jolly pleased the private sector always is when Big Government catches on at last.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Loyal Opposition

Although Daveybloke has promised a touch of "bulldog spirit" when he toddles off to Brussels to teach the Frog and the Hun a thing or two about running an economy, and although various things starting with bull are certain to manifest themselves, this is clearly not enough for the intellectual giants of his party's Save the Pound, Keep Britain English, Two World Wars and One World Cup gang. The Northern Ireland Secretary, having nothing better to do, has given an interview to the Spectator in which he blathers about new countries appearing from nowhere and the consequent inevitability of a referendum; and the London Haystack, seeing his beloved leader in difficulties, has taken his foot out of his mouth long enough to put in the loyal Bullingdon boot.

It is rather sad, or rather amusing according to one's taste, that Daveybloke cannot command the same loyalty from his own party as he has received from the Liberal Democrats. Daveybloke's cuddly coalition partners have stood steadfastly by while the proles get the full Osborne treatment; they have thrown away millions of votes and hundreds of local councillors; and Nick Clegg recommended Twizzler Lansley's unreformed anti-NHS bill to his party without reservation. Later, in the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrat peer Lady Jolly pointed out that even in its public-relations version the bill "drove a coach and horses through" the coalition agreement, before merrily shrugging it off as a matter of little consequence. Given all this, and making all due allowance for the Conservative Party's intellectual eminence, it is somewhat difficult to gauge how much better the Europhobes think they will do if they achieve their aim and turn Daveybloke from the second Tony Blair into the third John Major. Assuming their dream came true and they deposed him in favour of someone brilliant like Adam Werritty or Nadine Dorries, and assuming several gold-plated coaches with leopard-skin accessories were immediately driven through the Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Conservative Party would still be stuck in a coalition; and it is quite possible that one or two Liberal Democrats might not be willing to turn their coats on Europe along with everything else.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pottinger Speaks

Relationship was "completely innocent waste of time"

The woman at the centre of the latest Tory sex scandal has spoken out defending the Prime Minister against allegations of wrongdoing.

Fashion icon Belle Pottinger, who famously advised former PM Margaret Thatcher that even a foaming right-wing harridan could win a general election if she lowered her voice once in a while, is accused of having improper relations with Government members.

Busty Belle, who also charmed New Labour into calling off the Serious Fraud Office over corruption allegations in the Al-Yamamah arms deal in 2006, said today that she hadn't done anything and it was all in the national interest anyway.

She was telephoned by a close friend named Dyson on a Friday afternoon with "a huge issue", pouted Pottinger. "On the Saturday, David Cameron raised it with the Chinese prime minister."

With her next delectable breath, Belle stated that it was "simply untrue" that she or anyone else had any influence on government, and that paying her to get a politician to bring something up would be a waste of time. Belle has advised the Iraqi government on democracy.

Thirty-six per cent of MPs questioned said that socialising with Belle and her crowd was "an important part of the week", and nearly sixty per cent said that Belle's activities did not imply any cleavage between public interest and private business.

Downing Street denied any "undue access", and requested that journalists "show proper respect to the Prime Minister's family at this difficult time".

Monday, December 05, 2011

Medical Experiments

Since everything has gone so well with Twizzler Lansley's anti-NHS bill, Britain's Head Boy has decided that it's time for us all to bustle on to the next phase of privatisation so that NHS patients can do something useful instead of lying around in bed all day. Daveybloke wants the NHS to give private firms access to patient records, apparently on the grounds that it'll be cheaper than buying actual guinea-pigs; and amid all those famous efficiency savings, mirabile dictu, a hundred and eighty million has somehow been discovered to invest in demolishing patient confidentiality until Big Pharma feels confident enough to scoff up the juicy bits. The New New Labour apparatchik Randy Burnham, whose ideas about confidentiality are understandably somewhat limited after his unfortunate indiscretion some years ago, said for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition that he was not opposed, but that he was "worried about the commercialisation of the NHS" now that he wasn't a member of the government that was doing it.

Me at Poetry-24
Positive Notes

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Not the Usual Dentist

A Tale

"You're not my usual dentist," observed Gumm as he walked in. "Where's Dr O'Cane?"

The stranger in the surgery was small, elderly and without a visible assistant. He bowed his grey head while ushering Gumm to the chair. "Something most unfortunate," he said. "Dr O'Cane has been called away at short notice. He hopes to be back very soon."
"I've never even seen you before," said Gumm, perching on the edge of the chair.
The little man smiled. It was an apologetic smile, though white and brilliant to a degree Gumm supposed he ought to find reassuring. "If you would prefer it," Dr O'Cane's replacement said, "you can make another appointment for twenty-eight days hence. He may possibly be back by then."

With a snort of impatience, Gumm swung up his legs and lay back in the chair. The elderly man switched on the searchlight and steered the beam straight into Gumm's eyes. "There we go," he murmured as Gumm tried to blink away the fireworks. "Open wide, please."

Gumm complied, and the dentist and his implements loomed and poked. The old man's eyes were blue and benign like an escaped war criminal's, and he murmured to himself while his probe and mirror rattled around Gumm's mouth.

"Hm, yes, yes indeed ... ah, yes ... hmm. Yes, I see. Hm, very good, yes." It was, Gumm thought, like listening to the wrong end of a very dull telephone conversation.

At last Gumm was permitted to sit up and rinse while the dentist scribbled in his notes. Then he turned and flashed his white smile again. "I see from your notes," he said, "that you were not due a routine check-up for another four months. Yet everything appears to be in reasonably good condition. What seems to be the problem?"
"I'm not sure," said Gumm. "It just doesn't feel right in there lately."
"Any discomfort?" asked the old man. "Pain?"
"No, there's no pain and there isn't exactly any discomfort. There's a taste..."
"What kind of taste?"
"I can't identify it," said Gumm, "but it isn't very pleasant. Not strong, but it's there all the time, as though my mouth were bleeding inside. It doesn't taste much like blood, though. And it isn't like anything I've ever eaten, either. It's more ... chemical."
"Like a mouthwash?"
"No, more as if I'd eaten something artificial, something not meant to be eaten. It's sort of synthetic and greasy, like soft plastic."
"Any other symptoms?" asked the dentist.
"I don't know if you could even call it a symptom," said Gumm. "The inside of my mouth feels - well, strange. As if the tongue's the wrong size or some of the teeth aren't in their proper places."
"But without any pain?"
"That's right."
"Well, we'd better have another look then, hadn't we?" As Gumm resignedly settled back again the old man patted him on the shoulder. "It's probably nothing to worry about. Open wide."

After what seemed like several minutes of prodding and mumbling, the dentist abruptly straightened and said, "Stay there a moment, please." He moved away somewhere Gumm couldn't see, particularly as the old man had knocked against the searchlight and beamed it into his eyes again. Gumm heard a rustle of papers and the sound of a drawer opening, then some quiet, steady sounds he was unable to identify.

He was about to sit up when he felt the old man's hand on his shoulder. "Open wide," the dentist said, and Gumm waited for the metal to probe his mouth once more.

Instead, he felt a sharp pain in the side of his left buttock. He resolved to sit up at once and protest the indignity, but the old man was already smiling his apologies. "Just the anaesthetic," he said. "It's often less difficult when the patient isn't expecting it."

"But why inject it there?" demanded Gumm, slurring a bit. The searchlight was very hot. "That isn't going to do my mouth any good, is it?"
"It was a general anaesthetic," said Dr O'Cane's replacement.
"A general anaesthetic?"
"Just leave everything to me," said the old man. "You have nothing at all to worry about. I've discovered the source of your problem. The reason your mouth is giving you trouble is because it is not your mouth at all. It's mine."
"But I've never even met you before," protested Gumm, though he was sure there must be better arguments. He just couldn't quite think of them at the moment.
"Nevertheless," the dentist said, "I assure you that it is so. No wonder your mouth feels uncomfortable; we're completely different sizes. It just doesn't fit you. All those teeth are mine, and possibly the tongue also. We'll see when we get them all out."

Gumm gurgled indignantly, but the light was like a scorching summer sun overhead, making him want to drop off to sleep; and the last thing he saw before his eyes drooped shut was the apologetic gleam of the dentist's white, plastic smile.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Chill and Wind

In Daveybloke's Big Society thingy, as we all know by now, the rich have rights and the poor have duties; accordingly, Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition looks set to fail with a clear conscience in its legal duty to eliminate fuel poverty in the next five years. That nice Mr Huhne has accused the major energy suppliers of malpractice, and has ordered those pensioners who haven't yet sold their homes for the profit of Southern Cross and its ilk to do something about it. The energy suppliers, for their part, blame the rising cost of oil and gas; which presumably explains the enthusiasm of Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition for alternative sources of energy. On the bright side, fuel poverty campaigners claim that the Government's own greenwashing measures "will be taken up by richer households but paid for in taxes on all households, in effect requiring the poor to subsidise the more affluent", as God and Saint George intended.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Evil Twins

Councillors in the Hertfordshire town of Bishop's Stortford have provided yet another example of the Conservative approach to community relations and international amity by sending "polite" letters to Villiers-sur-Marne and Friedberg, the town's twins among the Euro-wogs, formally breaking off the relationship. Town-twinning began more than a century ago in this country, but it took off after the Second World War as a means of "promoting reconciliation and healing wartime divisions", and the vice-chair of the twinning association claims that "you learn about the way people live"; so it is easy to see why the Conservatives might not care very much for the idea. The last survivor of the Liberal Democrats' filleting at the local elections opposed the Conservatives' only-child motion, for which one spiritual heir of Disraeli duly repaid him with expectable sledgehammer charm. "It's nice to see that they [the Lib Dems] have their finger on the pulse," said the council leader, a party colleague of Eric Pickles, Twizzler Lansley, George the Progressively Regressive and the rest of that awfully in-touch crowd at Westminster. "People are losing their jobs in this town and all they care about is twinning."

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Rerum Cognoscere Causas

Lord Woolf's inquiry into links between Libya and the London School of Economics has found a "disconcerting number of failures in communication and governance" over the question of whether the late lamented Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif was a statesman in waiting or the deadly foaming spawn of an irredeemably mad dog. A salesbeing from the peacekeeping company BAE gave Saif some help with his application to study at the LSE, and a helpful functionary at the Foreign Office pulled a string or two on the old-boy network at Oxford, but withdrew the request when it was pointed out that Saif had no training or qualifications to undertake the course. The LSE, which accepted Saif in 2002, thanks to one of those benign New Labour coincidences received a gift of one and a half million pounds from a charity run by Saif. At the time Colonel Gaddafi was considered a repentant lamb on his way back into the international fold, although it has since become deplorably evident that Colonel Gaddafi had been talking to the Reverend Blair.

Lord Woolf wags his finger at the LSE for accepting a bribe from so volatile a source, and worries about the three private companies which apparently put up the money to begin with. One of these companies specialises in "seeking commercial opportunity in Libya, especially in the military sphere", and is therefore Scottish rather than British. For its own part, BAE had no intention of selling arms to Libya, but was preparing to help it meet "civil requirements" of the kind which were being sorcerously transformed into weapons of mass nonexistence in Iraq at about the same time. The BAE salesbeing was formally seconded to Saif's charity, while still drawing a BAE salary, a couple of years later. Woolf concludes that "Saif's background meant he could procure a level of assistance which would not be open to the ordinary PhD student" and that "proper structures of governance are needed to protect academic integrity against influence from the interests of private donors", which will doubtless be good for a snigger or two in Lord Ashcroft's Whitehall.