The Curmudgeon


Monday, April 30, 2012

Ballroom Dancing and its Perils

There is something uniquely depressing about ministers trying to pose as regular folks: the assumption that we proles will take them to our hearts if they scoff a sausage roll or yap about their children or tell us what icons of contemporary pop their researchers have informed them it would be expedient to say they like. Daveybloke's Secretary for Cultchah and amateur Murdoch patsy, Jeremy C Hunt, has reliably taken the repellent process one step lower, by letting Michael Gove do the dirty work for him. Gove has been blathering on the radio about Hunt's addiction to Latin American dancing; which calls to the Guardian's mind Vincent Cable, but reminds me of a discourse by the noted philosopher and pundit E L Wisty concerning the career of Adolf Hitler. Hitler, we are told, was a dedicated ballroom dancer until someone cat-called, "Wie kurz du bist!" (how short you are); whereupon he became embittered, gave up ballroom dancing and turned to the seconday pleasures of wholesale war and pillage. Not that there is any real resemblance between an obsessive idealist like Hitler (or, for that matter, Wisty) and a bland flunkey like Hunt; but it just goes to show.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Going Up

It is gratifying to note that, despite the departure of Adam Werritty from the Ministry of Collateral Damage, the spirit of Liam Fox yet remains in all its vole-brained glory. The Ministry has teamed up with those other masters of smart warfare and pinpoint targeting, the Metropolitan Police, and the happy couple have informed residents of a gated estate in east London that surface-to-air missiles may be stationed on one of their roofs. Apparently British surface-to-air missiles are not much good unless they start from fairly high up; or possibly Daveybloke and his chums have sold the better models to the Sultan of Bahrain. We may safely discount any suspicion that the Ministry, let alone the Metropolitan Police, has much concern with keeping the local citizenry from being blown up; with the Government in its present state, a bit of Olympic devastation would undoubtedly be a welcome distraction for ministers and police commissioners alike, and a new 9/11 would be an ideal pretext for Daveybloke to indulge in some Churchillian posturing and to lecture the population about the advantages of private health insurance and policing for profit. Certainly, the leaflets informing residents of their privileged defensive status impressed one beneficiary as being a bit rah-rah: "The general tone of it all was: 'Great news, aren't we lucky,' but that's not normal," he said. For its own part, the Ministry of Collateral Damage said that it would only play with its toys as a last resort, presumably in order to ensure that any hijacked airliners or Argentine invasion forces fall on the proles rather than crashing into people of importance.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Trouble in Big School

As might be expected of a chap who believes so firmly in the responsibility of the individual, Britain's Head Boy has gone squeaking to the Beak and urged him to do something about the Sports Day sub-prefect with the rogue fag. Daveybloke's demands were backed in true-blue fashion by his personal gofer and toilet-seat warmer, Clegg Minor, who blabbed to all and sundry that an agreement was already in place. Shockingly, however, the old buzzard has refused to play the game, telling Daveybloke in effect to face his troubles like a prole. As Britain's Head Boy, Daveybloke does in fact have a special sort of sub-sub-prefect who is allowed to find chaps innocent of all misconduct, but thanks to the quality of the present form he hasn't had much to do, and it would be simply too awful if the affair were to be handled in the sort of butter-fingered fashion Daveybloke has come to expect from his minor minions. Why, one might just as well allow the Sports Day sub-prefect to investigate himself.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Illegal Traffic

The Department for Work and Pensions Withdrawal has decided not to renew the Government's contract with Addison Lee, a minicab firm which told its drivers to break the law by using bus lanes. Since the department is run by the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith, a spokesbeing was at pains to stress that the Government was not dispensing with the company's services because its management advocated criminal activity on the Queen's highways; oh, good heavens no. The contract has "come to its natural end", and minicab services are required less and less anyway because Government departments are being so fiscally virtuous these days. Doubtless coincidentally, the chair of this comparatively minor criminal enterprise has donated the price of a Daveybloke dinner to the Conservative party, and has lobbied Porker Hammond for use of the bus lanes before Hammond was called upon to replace Adam Werritty at the Ministry of War.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Arse in the Wind

A Prime Ministerial Arse was dangling in the wind, testing the air and meditating profoundly upon the advantages of low-tax democracy, when it heard a small, sad noise like a deflating chancellor. Searching for the source of the interruption, the Prime Ministerial Arse espied the limp form of its own Minister for Cultural Enforcement being propelled about the sky with uncomfortable rapidity. At this the Prime Ministerial Arse was somewhat surprised and not a little indignant, since some time before, in the interests of clean commercial practice, the Minister for Cultural Enforcement had taken up permanent residence in the arse of a Morally Engaged Media Empire.

"What are you playing at?" demanded the Prime Ministerial Arse. "Get back in your place immediately, for I have it on good authority that our friend the Morally Engaged Media Empire is about to engage in a number of major transactions. Your presence will be necessary to ensure that the dirt and slime are duly scraped off each one, and then made available to be hurled at our opponents when the chance presents itself."
"Alas!" exclaimed the Minister for Cultural Enforcement. "Nothing would delight me more than to obey, but I am at present engaged in being buffeted by this Gale of Public Indignation, which has inexplicably blown up around me thanks to the precipitate activities of my underlings."
"How dreadful for you," said the Prime Ministerial Arse, as the Gale of Public Indignation began to make delicate ripples across its ample buttocks; "by all means continue to fly about. I trust the fresh air will help you over your traumatic experience; and if you should happen to meet your master, the Morally Engaged Media Empire, be sure to inquire on my behalf whether its intestinal discomfort has abated."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Education Should Be A Casting Out, Not A Letting In

The Ratzinger Paedophile Club has been putting the British taxpayer's money to good and virtuous use, propagandising pupils at state-funded schools. The Catholic Education Service has contacted almost four hundred secondary schools in order to draw their attention to the ravings of two gentlemen in frocks who claimed that giving gay couples the same rights as heterosexual ones would cause "the true meaning of marriage [to be] lost for future generations". It is not clear whether the Church believes that the granting of equal rights to Catholic minorities in Protestant countries caused the true meaning of Christianity to be lost; presumably, since the implication is merely logical, the question has not had the temerity to broach the episcopal crania. At least one pupil at St Philomena's High School in south London has had the courage to make a public criticism of the indoctrination in both its moral and presentational aspects, which is more than Michael Gove's Department of Juvenile Opiates has managed to do. Some of her schoolmates have even gone so far as to buy Gay Pride badges, which will look remarkably well alongside those crosses and other paraphernalia which Britain's persecuted Christians are famously prohibited from wearing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


If you would be a shill or front,
Do keep your emails binned and boxed:
Poor Liam Fox fell to the hunt,
And now poor Jerry's looking foxed.

Cameron Wrigley

Monday, April 23, 2012

Restless Natives

A great British company is suffering harassment by pesky locals and the professional troublemakers at Amnesty International. Shell's difficulties with a leaky pipeline in Nigeria four years ago have been covered in slightly less detail than the notorious BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly because the victims are Africans rather than human interest. Amnesty has obtained a report by a consultancy firm which suggests that the spill was at least sixty times larger than Shell admits; for its own part, the great British company has blamed the natives for hindering its no doubt thoroughly efficient cleanup, which so far has taken only a little over three years to get started. "After years of trying to seek justice in Nigeria," said Amnesty's global affairs director, "the people of Bodo have now taken their claim to the UK courts", where Shell's public-relations campaign can benefit from the professional input of Daveybloke and his cuddly chums, and where any verdict unfavourable to the great British company can be quashed by the Home Secretary without too much fuss.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Twizzler Redux

Having successfully kept the service on the road to becoming a business, and having ensured thereby that concerns with health will take second place to profiteering, Twizzler Lansley is now going for the national aspect of the NHS with his usual mix of bureaucratic effervescence and hobnailed zeal. Responding to the Bullingdon Club's orders that people in the country's poorer regions should have their spending power cut in order to keep things tidy, the Twizzler has come up with the charming phrase "market-facing pay". The idea, as usual, is to make the situation more amenable to the private sector, since that is what a national health service should be all about; the only exceptions to the rule, as usual, will be the managers appointed to impose the measures on staff. Oh, I nearly forgot: a senior Deputy Conservative has said that regional pay in the NHS is a "red-line issue" for the party, which presumably means that capitulation is scheduled for twenty-four hours after the local elections rather than the expected week or two.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

On His Merits

When times are hard and money's short,
And ministers not cheaply bought,
We put our noses to the wheel
And grind away our lives for real.
Your Briton's a meritocrat:
The race is to the swiftest rat.
We bring our children up to be
Small globs of self-sufficiency;
So, slogging through your daily fun,
Just think how well you might have done
If you had been more wise, and had
A tax avoider for your Dad.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Vicarious Humility

A proposed advertisement by a Christian radio station has fallen foul of the national persecution, which seeks to prevent council meetings from importuning the Deity and may yet result in women and homosexuals being recognised as fully paid-up members of the human race. The advertisement urged believers who feel martyred at work to come forth and testify in the interests of a "fairer society"; which in this context doubtless translates as a society in which Christians can be unfair to whomever their invisible friend chooses to dislike. Since the 2003 Communications Act forbids political advertising on the radio, the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre banned the advertisement, and was duly taken to court by London Christian Radio, whose case was duly thrown out. "Nothing in this judgment is meant to preclude advertisements by bodies such as the claimant in, for example, newspapers," said the judge. This did little to mollify the righteous wrath of the station's chief executive, who apparently considers his listeners incapable of picking up a newspaper or looking on the internet. We must hope that his listeners are grateful for the modesty being exercised on their behalf. It is true that the Saviour never made much effort to appeal to the brightest and the best; but even vicarious humility can be taken too far.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Legitimate Proliferation

A tsunami of benign indifference blew up around India today as the former British possession test-fired a long-range, nuclear-capable missile to a deafening lack of righteous indignation from the non-pariah global community. The missile would be capable of reaching targets in China and Europe, and hence is not thought to pose a threat to the United States or Britain. This makes a stark contrast with North Korea, whose missiles have been known to fall into the Sea of Japan on their good days. Neither Daveybloke nor his new best chum, Barack Obama, had anything to say on this occasion about the perils of proliferation, possibly because India's nuclear capabilities have gained what Reuters describes as "de facto legitimacy", by virtue of being a US-sponsored fait accompli. The Heathen Chinee, on the other hand, noted that the free world had chosen to overlook India's "disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties". In fact, India has not signed the non-proliferation treaty, and therefore has a slightly better de jure case for disregarding it than certain other countries one could mention.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dogging Straw

A Libyan who was kidnapped and tortured by the Gaddafi régime, with the considerate help of British Intelligence, has begun legal proceedings against the empty suit which was the Reverend Blair's apostle to the nations at the time. The empty suit is accused of being complicit in "torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults", which makes things rather more complicated than if it were a terrorist. Had the empty suit been accused of deliberately endangering British troops, other than by the humane expedient of donating their services to George W Bush, it could have been tried by newspaper before its inevitable deportation; had the empty suit been accused of endangering American troops, it would by now have disappeared into a conveniently confidential processing centre where its co-operation could be incentivised by the CIA or the Pakistani secret police. Unfortunately, the empty suit is merely accused of aiding and abetting the ill-treatment of a couple of Muslims whose abduction even Gaddafi's chum the Reverend Blair cannot quite remember; so it is quite possible that a court may be involved. Surprisingly given the empty suit's share of responsibility for the War on the Abstract Noun and its dire consequences for national security, the empty suit has not as yet been electronically tagged, hooded or placed under house arrest; although given what may come out should the matter come to an open court, it is possible that the empty suit is one of the very few suspects in the War on the Abstract Noun to be hoping for a secret trial.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shaky Commitment

Since we have such meagre resources of wind and water, as one would expect of a group of islands in the north Atlantic, Britain's greenest government ever is expected to greenlight the resumption of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. The process involves drilling some hundreds of metres into the ground and then pumping things into the hole in order to release methane; it can cause minor earthquakes, with which the British nuclear industry will almost certainly be able to cope nearly as well as it copes in the absence of earthquakes. A study last year said that the impact on the climate would be worse than that of coal, but the study was done at Cornell University, and almost certainly by mere scientists rather than management consultants or other members of the priestly caste. The chief executive of a fracking company operating in Northern Ireland said that it was all perfectly safe if properly regulated, rather like banks or media monopolies or Francis Maude; so a research wallah at Policy Exchange was duly cranked out to blather up the benefits of a flexible energy market (fossil fuels and profiteering, in Standard English) and an emissions cap which is feeble enough to be credible, long-term enough to cause no more than minor irritation during the present parliament, and EU-wide so that we can all blame Brussels when it fails.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Charitable Assessments

Downing Street has re-announced its listen-and-ignore exercise (or "full consultation" in Modern English) over the caps on tax relief for charitable donations. Lady Warsi said she hoped it would strike a balance, presumably between something or other and something or other else; the specifics of the matter were discreetly passed over thanks to the general respect accorded Lady Warsi's capacity for having more than half a concept in her head at any one time. An Osborne flunkey with the encouragingly Dickensian name of Gauke said that the Treasury accepted there would be an impact on charities, but that the Government would consider how to ensure that the charities did not suffer too much. Doubtless, as with the public sector, widespread and enthusiastic culling is the favoured option. The Treasury has also published figures showing the extent of tax avoidance by Britain's millionaires and multi-millionaires, the intended moral apparently being that any self-respecting charity should prefer going under to accepting funds from such tainted hands.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Will He Do?

It looks as if Wee Nicky will soon be facing another of those moral dilemma things. The Government's bill to reform (or, in Standard English, demolish) legal aid has been pulled apart by the Lords and returns to the House of Claimants on Tuesday. The Government is insisting that the kind of people the Government considers to be in need will be protected, which naturally is setting off alarm bells all over the place, except possibly in Belize. The Law Society says that if the Government rejects the Lords' amendments, the bill will put severe limits on the legal aid entitlements of those who suffer from domestic violence or from the irresponsibility of their employers; the Children's Society says that six thousand children would be denied advice or representation in cases having to do with education, welfare and immigration; and Amnesty International has expressed concern that the bill might keep wogs from abusing British courts by using them against British corporations.

In all fairness, the welfare of employees and poor children has never exactly been a priority in Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition; and if domestic violence victims are too idle and unproductive to pay their own legal costs, perhaps it is time for incentivisation to begin at home. "To cut legal aid at a time of unprecedented changes to welfare support would mean disabled people who fall foul of poor decision-making, red tape or administrative error being pushed even further into poverty as they struggle to manoeuvre the complicated legal system without the necessary expert support they need," said the chief executive of the disability charity Scope, succinctly summing up the bill's advantages. Nevertheless, some celebrities and even one or two Liberal Democrats still in the Deputy Conservative party have joined the chorus of disapproval. What will Wee Nicky do this time?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rejoice and Be Glad

Lord Carey of Blathering-in-the-Dotage has been sending green-ink epistles to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that Christians are being persecuted. The court is dealing with the cases of various martyred lambs: a British Airways worker who refused to abide by the company's uniform policy, a nurse who refused to abide by safety regulations, and a registrar and a relationship councillor who refused to do their jobs. The airline worker lost her case, the nurse was transferred to duties in which dangling baubles mattered less, the registrar was disciplined and the counsellor was sacked. In the strange, holy-rolling, gay-bashing theocracy which is the inside of Lord Carey's head, this is the kind of thing that constitutes persecution. Faith schools, free seats in the Lords and the status of an established church have not prevented the faith being "driven underground" to an extent which, on Planet Carey, bears legitimate comparison to the security policies of a Nero. We may of course put aside the Saviour's explicit instructions to his followers that they should revel in whatever abuse and torture the world might choose to inflict; Lord Carey is only an Anglican, not an actual believer. Still, one would hope for a little more respect for the many whose faith has brought them into genuine danger; especially in a church with so few shreds of dignity left to throw away.

Friday, April 13, 2012


A Tale

The present delay had lasted several minutes, and there had been two apologies so far. The train was in a station, so the doors were open; the station was above ground, so it was cold and raining; and Pulver had worked late and missed the rush hour, so the train was in no particular hurry to get going again.

In the years Pulver had been using the metro, much had changed for the slicker. Standees on crowded trains now had brightly-painted bars to hold onto, instead of dangling truncheons with rubber balls at the end. There were advertisements that moved as well as grinned, and the announcements on the public address system were in comprehensible English rather than the barnyard squeals and cavernous echoes of a decade ago, or perhaps it was nearer two decades. There were still just as many delays, but more of them had apologies attached.

The passengers had changed, too. They didn’t smoke; they wore less clothing and more metal; and when they read newspapers instead of black boxes, the newspapers they read were all tabloid size. Almost invariably, the rhythmic rattle of a train’s progress now had a counterpoint in the rhythmic rattle of headphones; and the moment any train emerged from the tunnels conversation would break out on all sides, though naturally most of the talk would be between passenger and black box rather than passenger and fellow human being.

Occasionally one even saw women applying make-up: painting and powdering and grimacing away as though the public transport system were no more than an extension of their bathroom at home. Pulver sat facing one such at this moment; though this one, admittedly, was an unusual specimen. The only other occupant of the carriage was a young man slumped in the corner several seats away. His ears were plugged with rattling plastic and his eyes, though open, were exclusively for the black tablet at which his fingers tapped and scratched. He could have been answering messages, massacring aliens or merely keeping time with whatever rhythm was pounding itself into his head.

Values and standards changed, of course. Perhaps the advent of the mobile phone had habituated people to bringing chunks of their private lives into the outside world. Possibly the headphones undermined inhibition by helping individuals to blank out any surrounding crowds from their attention deficits. Doubtless the internet and post-modern anomie had played their parts. Pulver thought it likely that the world in general was going to the dogs.

Take, for example, the one sitting opposite. Pulver was uncertain how long she had been there; the warmth of the carriage when he first got on had made him dozy for one or two stops. But he had been watching her with a certain fascination since the station before last, and so absorbed was she in her facial doings that he had yet to see her features. At least, Pulver assumed it was a her: the lumpish clothing gave no clue, and he could hardly expect to tell from the length of the hair, which dangled down in clotted strands the colour of railway coffee and obscured everything above and between a pair of unattractively hunched shoulders. The hair’s ragged ends hung limp above two sets of stubby fingers, which bustled up and down between the hidden features and a make-up kit the size of a small briefcase.

Rather than putting on her face, it seemed to Pulver that she was removing it. Making up required visibility; no doubt one advantage of doing it on the metro was that the subtler touches were aided by the same harsh light that made their application so grotesque to watch. But Pulver had never yet seen anyone erasing the outlines from their eyes, damping the glow from their complexion and bringing forth their blemishes into the spotlight. Nor, strictly speaking, had he seen this one doing so, but he could not imagine what other reason she might have for such unfashionable shyness. The fleshy white hands moved with the silent precision of crab mandibles; Pulver’s eyes caught flashes of instruments conveyed from the case and then back again, with sometimes a brief glint of metal behind the weedy strands. He found himself trying to get a look at her nails, but the movements of the hands were so rapid and complex that he could not be entirely certain they possessed nails at all. The contents of the case were hidden by its lid, which was hinged and presumably had a mirror inside it; that might explain her peculiar posture, although it could hardly explain how she was able to see well enough to do properly whatever she was doing.

With a brief electronic jabber of warning and a final apology, the carriage doors slid shut. Her hands became still and then, as the train jerked into motion, they carefully closed the lid of the case. There was no alteration in the posture of the head. Pulver wondered whether the journey might be more comfortable if one of them were sitting somewhere else.

The hands reached up behind the curtain of hair and began scrubbing or scratching vigorously. White powder fell, first in dusty motes that floated down onto the case in her lap, then in small lumps and clots whose impact Pulver fancied he could hear above the noise of the train. The stuff did not look as if it were meant to smooth or decorate the skin. It sounded like large flies bumping against a window. Flecks of other colours appeared amid the white; and when the flecks turned into gobs, Pulver decided that it was past time to change his seat.

As he made to stand, the train’s interior lights went off and her head was silhouetted against the window. He saw her tensing, then felt a soft weight cold and damp in his lap. By the time the lights flickered on again, the train was in the tunnel and her face, assuming it was a her, had reached his own.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Medical Confidentiality

Atos Healthcare, the private company paid by the Government to help get more cancer patients back to work, has been ordering its medical staff to sign the Official Secrets Act. Britain's leading liberal newspaper considers it "highly unlikely" that medical personnel would be prosecuted under the Act if they blew the whistle on matters of patient safety, although the source of this estimate of probability is unclear. Certainly Britain's Head Boy, who thinks employees should be fined for seeking legal redress and who regards the nation's foreign policy mainly as a pretext for helping underprivileged arms dealers, might well take a jolly dim view of any unethical behaviour; and then, of course, there is Nick Clegg. For its own part, Atos claims that it has contracts with the Ministry of Defence, which is why staff working for the Department for Work and Pensions have to be treated like military personnel; evidently drawing up a separate security policy just because the work is different would have been contrary to market forces. A spokesbeing for the Department for Work and Pensions said that, despite being run by Iain Duncan Smith, the department was not aware.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

War and Remembrance

The Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair has taken a few moments from its ineffable communion with Mammon to say a few words about the practice of handing over Libyan dissidents to the Gaddafi régime. It would perhaps be uncharitable to assume that James Murdoch has donated some of his fabled mnemonic porousness to the Reverend Blair, in the spirit of any young master rewarding a faithful family retainer. Still, his reverence did his plausible deniability no favours by including his fellow prose stylist Gaddafi among "people in the Middle East [who] were also trying to fight terrorism and extremism", or by trotting out the old Abu Ghraib line about nice young men doing a difficult job under difficult circumstances. Nor did the empty suit who served his reverence as a Foreign Secretary prove much help, first contradicting the then-Upper Miliband's admission that Diego Garcia was used for kidnapping purposes and later taking refuge in Britain's still deplorably wide snoopery gap: "No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time."

Meanwhile, the Americans are showing their usual degree of respect for that special relationship whose true parameters the Reverend Blair did so much to clarify: a judge has ruled that the CIA need not hand over information to a British parliamentary committee because the said committee is part of a "foreign government entity". Fortunately, we may take comfort in Tony's moral certainty that everything will be investigated as it should be, now that Gordon Brown is no longer prime minister.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The PM Has Asked Me To Say How Jolly Interested He Almost Was

The founder of a women's centre in County Durham has written to Daveybloke asking for yet another explanation of his Big Society thingy. Linda Kirk has put £5000 of her own money into the centre, but thanks to the coalition's concern for front-line services it is now in danger of closure. We can only hope Kirk's letter was electronic; the price of a stamp would almost certainly mean throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, the centre has a number of disadvantages from the Cuddly Conservative point of view, quite aside from the obvious faux pas of being in the north of England. For one thing, Daveybloke does not believe in splitting up families, and his first response to Kirk's plea will most likely be to urge her to vote Conservative next time so he can push through his pet project to give couples who stay together an extra pound a week in tax breaks. For another thing, the centre shows little interest in maintaining an appropriate prole-incentivising workhouse atmosphere, and users occupy their time making rugs, cushions and jewellery rather than anything Daveybloke might be able to shill for Britain's arms dealers. And for a third and probably fatal thing, the centre is a non-profit enterprise; "the difficulty is getting that across to people", according to the founder. Since all three of Britain's neoliberal parties have some small difficulty countenancing a non-profit ethic in the utilities, the police, the Post Office or the National Health Service, it might take a bit of getting across to Daveybloke, too.

Doubtless for that reason, Kirk's letter has been "referred to the relevant department", which at the last relaunch consisted of Nick Hurd, the Minister for Being the Son of a Former Minister, and Francis Maude, who probably thinks Kirk should save the rent money by running the centre from her husband's garage.

Monday, April 09, 2012

When You Have Eliminated the Impossible

The artistic director of the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, has come up with a rather charitable explanation as to why Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition, which believes that what remains of the public sector ought to be run by charities and God-botherers, has imposed a cap on tax relief for charitable giving. The budget document includes a throwaway line about working with rich people (though not, you will observe, with the grubby little charities themselves) to "ensure that this measure will not impact significantly on charities that depend on large donations"; but Hytner is doubtless aware that the Government's idea of a significant impact may be slightly different from that of the people impacted. He said that forty million pounds' worth of money already committed to the National Theatre was under threat, and that in future it would probably be more productive to go cap in hand to the Americans.

Hytner has noted the eloquence of the Secretary for Cultchah, Murdoch and England Rah Rah, Jeremy C Hunt, on the benefits of charity, and has apparently concluded that, despite Hunt's handicaps as a minister from the Not Awfully Gifted Party in a boorishly right-wing administration that includes Nick Clegg, he really meant it. According to this rather outlandish hypothesis, Hunt has been "blindsided" into agreeing to "something that makes no sense according to [the Government's] own policies". Given the average level of intelligence and culture in the Cabinet, I suppose anything is possible, even that a News International drone like Hunt should have the slightest interest in what happens to the National Theatre; but I do wonder how exactly the blindsiding was accomplished. Was Jeremy C Hunt too busy reciting sonnets to keep up with what happened in the meetings? Or are we to assume that the robust charm of George Osborne and the honest passion of Danny Alexander, not to mention their occasionally applauded ability with sums and things, simply swept poor Jeremy away?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Crux

Two of the country's most senior clerics are commemorating Easter in their respective inimitable fashions. The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury has been wheedling for numbers, apparently in the hope that the Anglican church may even now, despite all his concessions to Mammon and the gay-baiters, preserve some of its hard-earned reputation for cosy lukewarmness. Meanwhile, the noted comedian Cardinal Keith O'Brien is to announce the official adoption of pride as a Christian virtue, and to remind his flock that it is the Roman instrument of torture, and not all that misguided Jewish preaching about giving up earthly wealth, which is central to the faith.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Cleaning Up in Government

A certain amusingly bipartisan Britishness is emerging with regard to the Topland bribery and corruption case, which was begun by Jack Straw in the Government's name during Labour's last month in office. Accusations of deceit, fraud by bribery, dishonest assistance, breach of confidence and unlawful conspiracy are rather delicious coming from such soiled New Labour goods as Straw; but it now turns out that the accused company donated £25,000 - the price of a chance for a bit of personal networking with some senior flunkeys - to the Conservatives a year after they took office. There is, as usual, no suggestion that the company or its owners sought to influence the Government in exchange for the donation, because party donors have no influence whatever on Government policy. The Conservatives believe that market forces and the profit motive are good enough for public health, education, the national infrastructure and the police; but when it comes to party policy it seems a Higher Power kicks in.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Britain's persecution of its Christian minority continues in crowd-pleasing fashion with the Calvary of the New Generation Church in Nottingham, whose pastor has been fined over the still, small voices which emanated from his establishment at such force and volume as to drown out the local traffic and breach the Environmental Protection Act. The local authority tempted the church with advice on reducing the noise levels, but the church held out over four years before being handed over to the secular arm. Any doubt as to the justice of the charges may be dispelled by a glance at the church's website, whose deafening logo appears to have been modelled on a title card from some deservedly forgotten 1970s sci-fi. The church's library, where "quiet reflection" is apparently the thing, offers access to such redemptive tomes as the Woman Thou Art Loosed Bible and The Message, Re-mix Bible (for Teens), as well as theological classics like The Lady, Her Lover, Her Lord and Reposition Yourself and He-Motions: a Deep Look at The Heart of a Man, all by the redoubtable exegete of the Woman Thou Art Loosed Bible, T D Jakes. The church also boasts an "Ushering Team", who show people to comfortable seats in the spirit of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, and a Sunday school called Kidz 4 Christ Ministry, which has apparently been named in the same spirit of glorious illiteracy that attributes The Pilgrims (sic) Progress to a relative of the Easter rabbit named Bunnyan.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

F-Type Words

Apart from the other three hundred and sixty-odd days of the year, there are few better occasions than Maundy Thursday for ministers and businessbeings to give the Queen's English a good trampling. What with the recession and austerity and all, Jaguar Land Rover have chosen to produce a new luxury two-seater car, presumably so that the Chinese politburo and other well-off types will not have to squire their girlfriends about in substandard vehicular conditions. The new model has been designed with an eye to "delivering a heightened level of dynamic driving reward", in the words of the company's linear vehicularity directability enforcer; and it will be built in Birmingham, prompting the business secretary to eructate forth a quote about the ongoing positivity of the UK's automotive story. Cable also professed his delight that the car will be made by "the highly skilled workforce at Castle Bromwich in the Midlands". No doubt his delight was quite genuine; Vincent Cable knows all too well what it's like to be part of a workforce where necessary skills are subject to a certain lack of altitudinal dynamicality.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

God is a Bullingdon

Daveybloke has been doing the Blair thingy again, with expectably salubrious results. Daveybloke had a bit of an Easter burble at Downing Street, during which he burbled about the Bible and Jesus and things. "The New Testament tells us so much about the character of Jesus; a man of incomparable compassion, generosity, grace, humility and love," Daveybloke burbled.

We must, of course, immediately put aside the cynical hypothesis that Daveybloke's transfiguration is just another Big Society thingy or Falklands 2.0, a bit of One Nation rah-rah designed to distract a gullible public from its fleecing. Christians are not like that, and certainly not Conservative Christians, let alone the kind of Conservative Christians who do this sort of thing with their children. That said, it does appear that Daveybloke has got his Biblical knowledge from Michael Gove, or some equally sophisticated and reliable source. The New Testament tells us that Jesus invoked the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah on those who ignored his ravings (compassion), refused to heal a Canaanite girl until her mother grovelled to him (generosity), blasted a fig tree for failing to bear fruit when figs were out of season (grace), proclaimed himself the Messiah (humility) and consigned all who disagreed with him to eternal torment (love). Such values, Daveybloke burbled, "are values people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire", which is perhaps why Daveybloke took care to burble in the name of "we Christians", thereby distinguishing himself from those who vote for the likes of Galloway and are not Some of Us.

Daveybloke burbled that "the values of the Bible, the values of Christianity, are the values that we need". Of the Bible's sixty-two books, only twenty-seven are Christian; and only the four gospels, their pulp-adventure sequel and the demented revenge fantasy at the end are actual books, the rest being fairly short items of largely spurious correspondence. Daveybloke burbled a quote from the Gospel of Luke: a good bland PR choice, relatively free of the barbarities of Mark and Matthew and handily removed from the theological convolutions of John. The chosen quote was "Do to others as you would have them do to you", a Christian value which had the misfortune to be articulated by Confucius, Gautama Buddha, Socrates and a few other persons of no consequence before Jesus (or those who cleaned him up after his death) came along to rescue it. Still, it is true that the values put forth in the Bible include slavery, absolute monarchy, genocide and keeping the little woman in her place; so it is fairly easy to see how the modern Conservative Party might find them largely acceptable.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

But What Would Jobseekers Want With A Book?

Councillors in Surrey will doubtless be scratching their heads today after the high court ruled that their attempt to staff ten libraries entirely with volunteers was unlawful on equality grounds. The court ruled that the council failed to comply with its duties towards the more vulnerable members of society, rather as Gloucestershire and Somerset councils did last year. Presumably there was some difficulty in conceiving of disabled people who are healthy enough to visit libraries yet not healthy enough to be at work during opening hours. Be that as it may, an equality assessment was not put before the council when it made the decision; and since Surrey is a Conservative council, it seems nobody bothered to ask. The council plans to remove all paid staff from the ten libraries, as part of what Britain's leading liberal newspaper describes as "a move aimed at keeping its 52 libraries open"; much as sacking twenty per cent of nurses and relying on unpaid carers instead could be described as a move aimed at maintaining public health.

Monday, April 02, 2012

We Are Liberal Democrats

We are Liberal Democrats. We are in a coalition with the Conservatives, but we are still terror Liberal Democrats. We have a long Liberal Democrat tradition terror with liberal, democratic roots stretching back as far as the dawn of liberal democracy GLADSTONE and we are justly and liberal-democratically proud of the democratic liberalism which informs and strengthens terror the liberalism of our democracy in the LLOYD GEORGE democratic liberal tradition terror of the Liberal Democrats.

In accordance with the coalition agreement which we, as Liberal Democrats, signed along with our GLADSTONE coalition partners, we as Liberal Democrats have obviously had to make a few compromises. In return, we have wrung from the terror crime Conservatives all sorts of concessions, such as not cutting taxes for the rich by more than 5p and not privatising more than nearly half of the NHS and not raising tuition fees more than absolutely terror crime necessary. This is a record in LLOYD GEORGE government of which we as Liberal Democrats can be proud and which is almost certainly better for Britain than what terror crime the Conservatives would have done if we as Liberal Democrats had not helped them do it.

The proposed terror crime paedophile update to Labour's surveillance state lies firmly within this Liberal Democrat tradition. We are not breaking a terror crime paedophile pledge and then GLADSTONE regretting that we made the pledge, as with tuition fees. We are not driving a coach and horses through our own coalition agreement just because the Conservatives tell us to, as with the terror crime paedophile Health and Social Care Bill. And we are not simply LLOYD GEORGE lying down and letting the Conservatives walk all over us, as with terror crime paedophile electoral reform. We are simply updating Labour's draconian and unwieldy legislation to make it sufficiently draconian and unwieldy to cope with changing circumstances.

As Liberal Democrats, we believe in freedom of speech GLADSTONE. But we also believe in national security and the rule of law. We never opposed the principle of maximum surveillance at all times, any more than we as Liberal Democrats opposed the free market or tax cuts for millionaires. What we as Liberal Democrats opposed was the expensive and inefficient way in which Labour was implementing these terror crime paedophile hoodie copyright necessary measures. The innocent JEREMY THORPE have nothing to fear. We are Liberal Democrats.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Space Cadet

"Labour leader comes out fighting," proclaims Britain's leading liberal newspaper, in the wake of an interview with that weird little man who seems to think that the Labour party, rather than the sort of people who get kicked off the steps of St Paul's, constitutes a genuine opposition to the Government. The Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband proclaimed that Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition will be a one-term affair, which given the Deputy Conservatives' likely fate is hardly a bold supposition; but the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband also ventured to suggest that its successor will be a Labour administration, which is rather more doubtful. The reason for this may be seen in one of the factors which the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband considers very exciting and potentially positive: namely that Labour is once again succeeding in poaching Conservative voters rather than anyone whose politics might be construed as dangerously left of centre. The Conservatives believe that the poor and vulnerable should pay for the greed and stupidity of the rich and powerful, and Labour agrees with them; the Conservatives believe that the National Health Service should be based in competition and run for profit, and Labour agrees with them; the Conservatives believe that the United Kingdom is one and indivisible for ever, and Labour agrees with them; the Conservatives believe that the poor need kicking and the rich need pampering, and Labour agrees with them; the Conservatives believe that Government policy should be available to the highest bidder, and Labour agrees with them. "Our job is to move into that space and that space is opening up," proclaimed the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband, yet again consigning the disenfranchised to the outer margins of Galloway, Green and Elsewhere. He thinks Labour has to engage better with the provincials, and that is very exciting for him. So, if only by the undemanding standards of the Upper (formerly Lower) Miliband, I suppose he did come out fighting, a bit.