The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

30 April 1803

It was almost closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. At the card-players' table, the losers were giving Limbless Fred some intimately detailed investment advice, while Granny Forbus sat nodding approval. Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett sat in their enigmatic corner, doing enigmatic things with three small spanners and a curlew; and Throaty Gubbins had been propped against a nearby wall in order to conceal a stain on the skirting board. Most likely Hooligan Motts had propped him there; it was certainly not Malvolio Quabbage, for Throaty Gubbins' mouth had been closed and his head considerately lowered, so that nobody could use him for an ashtray without a modicum of effort.

"Thirtieth of April, eighteen hundred and three," announced Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

He had barely finished speaking when the doors were thrown noisily open and three persons waddled in. They waddled in single file, for the doorway was only seven feet wide. The newcomers were all of imposing mien and impressive girth; their boot-buckles gleamed and their jowls shone like the shaven backsides of freshly polished pigs. Their lips were purple and blue, and curled down at the edges with a scorn that was automatic and universal; their eyes were flat and watchful and, according to physique and seniority, either small and sunken or bloodshot and boggling or, in the case of the second fattest, one of each.

The three waddled up to the bar, and the fattest addressed Hooligan Motts. "Wines, landlord," he said; "the finest wines you have stored in this benighted establishment, else we call in our bullies to smash up the place. We are bankers from Baring's, and we deserve only the best."
"Rah," said the second fattest, to nobody in particular; while the third fattest smirked sebaciously at Pippa Twelve Toes.

The fattest of the bankers from Baring's produced a piece of paper and threw it down on the bar. "That will serve to pay," he said.

Hooligan Motts unfolded the paper and read the few lines of copperplate writing which surmounted the scrawled X at the bottom; then he folded it again and pushed it back beneath the now alarming boggle of the candidate for customerhood.

"It is a promissory note from a respected tradesman," that worthy protested, his face beginning to blotch ultramarine; "if you but serve us well, his establishment and all the chattels and moveables within shall be yours, not excepting the virtue of his wife, daughters and mother."
"That may be so," said Hooligan Motts; "but it ain't legal tender."
"Legal?" spluttered the fattest of the bankers from Barings. "Tender? What has that to do with it? I tell you we are bankers."
"From Baring's," elaborated the second fattest.
"And we deserve only the best," said the third fattest.
"Why is that, then?" asked Melon Head Myrtle. "Not even Granny Forbus over there gets only the best, and she deserves it if anyone does, because she terrifies everybody."

At this implied aspersion upon his professional standards, it is possible that the imperturbability of Hooligan Motts may have undergone a small, anomalous blip, in the form of a momentary twitch in one eyelid; but reliable witnesses are lacking.

"We deserve only the best," explained the fattest of the bankers from Baring's, "because our esteemed colleague, Alexander Baring, is in Paris at this very moment, concluding a transaction of historical import between the Governments of France and the United States."
"It will be a master-stroke of wealth creation," said the second fattest of the bankers from Baring's, "and will benefit all of humanity."
"It will promote peace, freedom, family values and the Empire," said the third fattest of the bankers from Baring's, "and if we don't get what we deserve we shall call the bullies in."
"Not while Granny's sitting there, you won't," said Melon Head Myrtle.

The three bankers from Baring's looked across at Granny Forbus seated between them and the doors, as grim and spiky as the enchanted forest of a malignant mage, but somewhat more in need of fumigation. She leered at them all, displaying her lower teeth and lowering gums, and the third fattest waddled off rather quickly to the bathroom.

"Well, we can't break up the place ourselves," protested the second fattest of the bankers from Baring's. "Bodily exertion has been prohibited all of us, for decades of public service have made all our constitutions exceptionally delicate."
"Don't you have any real money?" said Melon Head Myrtle.
"Of course we have," snapped the fattest of the bankers from Baring's; "but we don't carry it about with us. We are not common loafers and shirkers, who acquire money only to spend it again."
"Why don't you buy us a drink?" the second fattest inquired of Melon Head Myrtle. "It seems the least you can do, given what we and our esteemed colleague, Alexander Baring, have done for you."
"And what might that be?" said Melon Head Myrtle.
"The purchase of Louisiana, of course," said the second fattest.
"That sounds very generous, dearie," said Melon Head Myrtle; "but I don't think I need one of those at the moment. Can't you get yourselves a refund?"
"Ignorant woman," fulminated the fattest of the bankers from Baring's; "we did not make the purchase ourselves. The government of the United States bought the territory from France, through the offices of our establishment."
"Precisely," said the second fattest; "and as a result the United States has doubled in size while France is richer by some fifty million francs. Given England's special relationship with both Napoleon and the rebels of '76, the service which we have done our country is doubtless self-evident."
"And we deserve nothing but the best," said the third fattest, returning from the bathroom and rejoicing to find that he hadn't lost the thread of the discussion.
"So why don't you buy us a drink?" inquired the second fattest again.
"Well, if you put it that way," said Melon Head Myrtle, and started rifling through her handbag in search of liquifiable assets.
"About time too," said the fattest of the bankers from Baring's; and his companions nodded agreement, causing their chins to bulge and squelch like mating blancmanges. Throaty Gubbins who, awake or asleep, could detect someone agreeing to buy a round of drinks at a distance of several hundred yards, stood up with a creaking of knees and ambled over to the bar.

"I'm ever so sorry, dearies," said Melon Head Myrtle at last; "but I'm a bit short of funds at the moment. I can't possibly afford to pay for what you deserve, and anyway it's nearly - "
"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts; whereupon Throaty Gubbins picked up and ate the promissory note from the respectable tradesman and, without having troubled to open his eyes, ambled back to where he had been sitting.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Decent Arabs

Three Londoners have been arrested in Dubai on drug charges and claim that they were beaten, tortured and made to sign documents at gunpoint. Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates: a group of corrupt, oil-rich hereditary dictatorships which bask in the sort of climate towards which the greenest government ever is working for the rest of the world. They use South Asians as indentured labour (the same variety of slavery about which Churchill didn't care to risk terminological exactitude) and Daveybloke's former Minister for Wog-Bombing, Adam Werritty, favoured Dubai as a location for his trysts with Liam Fox. On top of all these advantages, it is now alleged that police in Dubai torture people, including Britons; which one would imagine virtually qualifies them as honorary Americans, with all the relational specialness that implies. However, two of the arrestees have names that pass for white and one of them is surnamed in honour of Daveybloke's own wee clan; so naturally the president of the UAE will get a bit of a dressing-down when he drops in on Britain's Head Boy later this week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

All the Difference

In the face of the looming threat from UKIP, Daveybloke has wheeled out the nearest thing the Cabinet has to a human being in order to emphasise the differences between the modern Conservative Party and the Farage Falange. UKIP, for example, has created a "quite ridiculous scare" about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants; which is something Theresa May would never do, at least provided the Balkan hordes don't bring their cats along. Some UKIP members are "fruitcakes and loonies", whereas the Conservative Party includes all those paragons of sanity who think Ken Clarke is a crypto-Bolshevik quisling for not wanting to abolish Europe. One of UKIP's MEPs was sent to prison, unlike Jonathan Aitken or Jeffrey Archer; others had to give back a lot of money, while no member of the Conservative Party has ever fiddled expenses or taken backhanders in return for stealing public assets. UKIP is just a protest party, and protest parties are dangerous because people vote for them in protest against the political class, who know what ought to be done and need to be left to do their work in peace. Ordinary people, when they get angry about the political class, tend to vote for comedians and confidence tricksters, rather than for statesmen like Boris Johnson or Grant Shapps; which is clearly too bad of them.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Great Britons

In a singularly appropriate sign of the times, the outgoing governor of the Bank of England has recommended replacing the portrait of Elizabeth Fry on the five-pound note with that of a verbose, self-complacent blowhard, a sort of early-twentieth-century Michael Gove.

Elizabeth Fry, the only non-royal woman thus far to be depicted on British money, was a social reformer and a humanitarian; Winston Churchill was a social reactionary and an egomaniac. Fry was energetic, competent and compassionate; Churchill was energetic, hare-brained and self-serving. Fry campaigned for offenders to be more humanely treated; Churchill advocated concentration camps and forced sterilisation. Fry wrote a book about conditions in prisons; Churchill wrote lots of books about Winston Churchill. Fry was a Quaker who improved the lives of others; Churchill was an armchair general who contributed more than most to the bloody fiasco of the Dardanelles campaign.

Aside from his having given birth to Margaret Thatcher, who according to Conservative Party theology burst forth from some orifice of his like a milk-snatching Athene from an ambrosia-guzzling Zeus, Churchill's claim to greatness rests mainly on some speeches he made during the Second World War. In the early part of that war Britain did rather badly, thanks in large part to the pre-war policies of one Winston Churchill; but he evidently muddled us through in the end, with some small assistance from the USA, the USSR, the proles and the subject peoples of the British Empire, not necessarily in that order. It is true that Fry was from a banking family (which, rather than all that philanthropic nonsense, is doubtless how she got onto the currency in the first place), while Churchill was from a military one; but it should be fairly obvious which of them is the more fitting figure to adorn our currency in the present day.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Inner Dark Reviewed

Tim Stevens, whose concise and well-written spy stories are well worth your attention, has posted a very generous review of my 2011 collection, Inner Dark. If that and the preview aren't enough to get you contributing to our renewed economic growth, further extracts are available here and here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Green Shoots

Rah rah! Recession's had its day!
Recovery is on the way:
The dip, so bad from days of yore,
Is less abysmal than before!

By getting rid of human rights,
We've paid back Continental slights.
Our gimps and spastics we have fined,
And others of the Philpott kind.

We've done what's right and trimmed the flab,
And let the poor pick up the tab;
We stood our course, and up we went
By three whole tenths of one per cent!

Gideon Fatwick

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What A Little Rascal

The rampant id of the British Conservative Party has popped up for a blather about lap-dancing, largely because one of UKIP's MEPs has defected to the nearly distinguishable Real Conservatives and accused him of being anti-women into the bargain. Apparently he was dragged into a club "unwittingly", which isn't difficult to believe; when one thinks of Nigel Farage, witting is almost certainly not the adjective that springs most readily to mind. He wasn't appalled, in fact he quite liked it, and it doesn't mean he's anti-women, because had he been anti-women his life would have been less complicated than it is now. Well, that certainly settles that.

Four years ago, Farage said that he had been to more than one lap-dancing club, apparently not unwittingly but as a badge of his humanity: other party leaders were "living in this PC world and nobody must admit to being human". He went to one in Strasbourg and had the statesmanlike thought, "Bloody hell, this is really good", and he "might have been to one or two" back in the 1980s, as well. Now it turns out that, no doubt unwittingly, our downmarket Boris Johnson owns a lap-dancing club in the Midlands called Urban Tiger. It all sounds jolly salubrious.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Great Novelty Item

In another unfortunate demonstration of the British judicial system's lack of moral vision, a notable wealth creator has been found guilty of selling fake bomb detectors to Iraq and several other countries. The bomb detectors - essentially golf-ball finders with new labels - were marketed at trade fairs backed by the British government; which seems appropriate enough given the British government's role in attacking Iraq over some fake bombs. Nobody on this side of the war for democracy thought to test the devices, and Iraqi officialdom has been so efficiently cleansed of Ba'athist corruption that the entrepreneur had little difficulty bribing senior personnel to take them. Scientists have since concluded, as scientists will, that the workings of the detectors are more or less faith-based; although, remarkably enough, the Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair does not appear to have endorsed them.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Prison Doesn't Work

One of the less careful among the House of Claimants' high proportion of common criminals has been demonstrating the extent of his remorse and his wish to make amends. Chris Huhne, who dragged his case on for two years by lying about his guilt, has now informed Southwark crown court as to what he considers just and reasonable in the matter of remuneration. Given that his two-year attempt to pervert the course of justice has incurred legal costs of £108,000, Huhne has said he will condescend to pay something under a quarter of the amount, and leave the rest to the taxpayers whom his former colleagues are now conspiring to deprive of legal aid. He was kept in a glass dock as he said it, presumably to protect him from well-wishers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Be Good Little Chaps Or We'll Cut Off Your Pocket Money

The machinations of the fiend Salmond have been dealt a crippling blow by those economic Titans, George Osborne and his little orange fag. In an essay published under their joint names, the authors of the present economic depression take the Scottish government to task for not having a clue how to manage its finances. A vote for independence, it appears, would instantly create an apocalyptic fiscal dilemma: fiscal union with England, joining the euro or creating a new currency out of thin air. The first option would entail "very strict disciplines" to be imposed upon Scotland by the banana kleptarchy in Westminster in the name of the United Kingdom. The second and third options are, in the eyes of the Bullingdon Club and its lackeys, self-evidently absurd. The euro will remain forever in its present unworkable state, and no newly independent country has ever before managed to create its own currency; so QE bally-well D.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brown Hashed Over Again

Fury at teenage police horror

A teenager who posted some silly things on Twitter has been interrogated by police.

Paris Brown was appointed Britain's first youth crime commissioner, in a visionary gimmick whose next manifestation is expected to be the staffing of Childline exclusively by under-tens.

However, she had previously tweeted about hash brownies and referred to travellers as "pikeys", which made her unsuitable for police work in the eyes of some people.

Brown declined to take up the role when her tweets were made public, in defiance of recent precedent which requires that high-ranking officials who cause embarrassment must hang on until well into the post-ludicrous phase.

She was interviewed last weekend by Kent police, whose officers worked overtime to examine her mobile phone.

In a defiant intervention which will raise new questions about legal aid, Brown's solicitors have questioned whether the operation constitutes proper use of police time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Efficientised to Death

Here is how Daveybloke and his cuddly chums are protecting frontline staffing levels in the National Health Service: they aren't. According to a survey last month, almost seventy per cent of NHS nurses believe that staffing levels in their workplace are insufficient to provide adequate care; though presumably the lack of care falls with appropriate proportionality on the inefficient, non-private variety of consumer. "There is no excuse for hospitals that don't have enough staff on the wards," blustered Jeremy C Hunt's Department for Health and News Corporation. "There are now more clinical staff, including more midwives and more health visitors, in the NHS but we cannot sit in Whitehall and dictate exactly where these staff members should work." There is actually more of everything than ever before, but entrenched bureaucratic attitudes prevent anyone outside the Government from noticing. "Hospitals need the freedom and flexibility to decide on how many staff to employ, because they know the care their patients need," and the five thousand nursing posts lost since 2010 have made no difference to that freedom at all; while the twenty thousand million required in "efficiency savings" will merely enhance the hospitals' liberty in targeting care at the consumers who really matter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Loco Motives

As one would expect of a publicly-owned railway which the Government itches to re-privatise, the East Coast service requires a smaller subsidy than any of the fifteen profiteering franchises. The net subsidy for the East Coast line last year was one per cent of its income; the average net subsidy for the fifteen profiteer lines was thirty-two per cent. The Association of Train Operating Companies said it was "a vast oversimplification to benchmark the financial performance of one franchise with another", and we all know how politicians and other salesmen abhor vast oversimplifications. Accordingly, the Association's chief executive cranked out the usual script proclaiming passenger encouragement, real-terms reductions, playing their part and "a booming railway that is delivering better value for money" or, in Oldspeak, is a slightly less blatant ripoff than it used to be. He also drew the usual ethereal distinction between passengers and taxpayers, although if Standard-Class George announced any tax breaks for victims of railway company muggings in the last Budget I seem to have missed the moment.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Grief

To his best chum says Britain's Head Boy:
"All grief is political joy!
When crowds come and boo,
Just have a boo-hoo,
Like me with my dead baby boy!"

The cathedral is filled to capacity
As they plant the doyenne of rapacity.
Does George shed a tear,
Or is it a mere
Increase in his normal sebacity?

Whatever expedience forges
This weepy persona of George's,
It's all very moving
And jolly improving
And uplifts a good many gorges.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Humanitarian Intervention

Perhaps emboldened by the retirement from politics of his chum and fellow torture fan, the Other Miliband, the Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair has been sermonising upon the subject of British public opinion. The insights into the British public mind which Tony has gleaned from his years of lecturing rich Americans for large sums of money are much as one would expect: the British, like Tony and the Americans, are tired of disagreements at the top and are simply longing for a political culture composed of interchangeable managerial drones who just get on and fix things while remaining intensely relaxed about who may profit from the repairs. We live in a post-political age in which all the important questions have been satisfactorily settled, as may be seen from the Reverend Blair's own example. During his time in office, his reverence had no truck with abstruse ideological matters such as the need for a proper infrastructure, the power and corruption of financial institutions, the concentration of the media in the hands of foaming right-wing foreigners, or the rule of international law. He just got on and fixed things, and look at the progress we've made. Why, in the 1990s it was even possible for a fanatically Atlanticist, right-wing ex-prime minister to snipe from the sidelines at the bland mediocrity who had taken over as party leader. Thank goodness that doesn't happen any more.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Different Cast of Mind

Thanks no doubt to the evils of multiculturalism, many British Asians have so badly failed to assimilate into modern British culture that they plan to agitate in Parliament Square for legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of caste. There are between twenty and fifty thousand people in the country who are classed as lower-caste on the Asian system; and a report commissioned by the Government three years ago gave evidence of discrimination and harassment in schools, workplaces and services, doubtless eliciting much good-natured mirth from the Conservative Party. Since that time, of course, the Bullingdon Brahmins have assiduously gone about their self-appointed task of turning immigrants, the unemployed and the working poor into socially designated untouchables. Nevertheless, the idea that those who are born poor should stay poor, and should be despised by those luckier than themselves, is apparently still considered objectionable by certain people of the Hindu persuasion; which just goes to show how disturbingly alien and out-of-touch they are.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Good Opinions

Daveybloke's latest wheeze on curing Britain of the hated National Health Service has come a bit of a cropper. The basic idea was to outsource the Government's NHS-bashing to patients by carrying out satisfaction surveys, the results of which would be recorded as negative or neutral unless respondents said they were "extremely likely" to recommend a service. A report commissioned by the Department for Profitable Healthcare noted with commendable restraint that "if the public are to engage with this measure, the scoring mechanism does need to be simple, readily explainable and seen as credible". One would hardly think this sort of thing could be beyond a jumped-up PR junior like Daveybloke, particularly when he has the famously adroit Minister for Health and News Corporation, Jeremy C Hunt, to back him up, not to mention the Ghost of Little Ivan; but it seems that Bullingdon crudity has once again won out over soft-sell subtlety. Indeed, the whole process is so crassly manipulative that even the New Labour drone Randy Burnham, who once suggested turning public libraries into leisure centres with on-site GP surgeries, has registered awareness. A spokesbeing for the Government said that recording too many favourable results as favourable would have shown a majority of NHS trusts in a favourable light, which obviously could not be allowed.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Faith-Based Statistics

Well, here's a thing: the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith, of all the spouse-employing CV-cheats in the world, has been accused of misrepresenting government statistics. The Department of Workfare and Poverty released figures yesterday which showed that eight thousand likely victims of Duncan Smith's benefits cap had found work, and Duncan Smith immediately claimed that they had done so as a direct result of his financial mugging. Jonathan Portes, formerly a chief economist at the DWP and therefore hardly Duncan Smith's intellectual equal, has now said that there is no evidence either way, and that there is a "consistent pattern" whereby ministers try "to draw out of the statistics things which they simply don't show". Imagine that.

Friday, April 12, 2013

12 April 1606

It was nearly closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel. Melon Head Myrtle nodded over her banana daiquiri; Granny Forbus gulped gin and shook her head uncharitably. At the card-players' table, Limbless Fred had started an argument with Pippa Twelve Toes concerning some arcane matter of strategy requiring a poker face, perfect timing, the queen of spades and a strong set of dentures; while in their enigmatic corner, Mr Blodgett and Mr Boggust emitted mutters of enigmatic satisfaction.

"Twelfth of April, sixteen hundred and six," announced Hooligan Motts. "Nearly closing time."

Immediately a gentleman entered, with a long pole under one arm. He wore a finicky doublet, and the lace at his throat was lively starched; but his hat squatted low upon his brow, which as it turned out was just as well, for when he removed the hat everyone could see that his brow was as black and knitted as the second-best winter woollens of Granny Forbus. Before removing the hat, the gentleman put down the pole he was carrying; or rather he slammed it down on the bar in obvious ill-temper. Behind him, Mr Boggust and Mr Blodgett looked up with mild curiosity, causing the back of the gentleman's neck to develop a mild itch.

Hooligan Motts, who had seen enough of time and the world to recognise righteous irritation when he saw it, served the gentleman a pint of Pugh's Contaminant. Melon Head Myrtle, jolted out of her daiquiri daze, blinked about the room and eventually observed the pole. It was approximately the length of a man, and the top half was swathed in red and white.

"You a barber, dearie?" asked Melon Head Myrtle of the gentleman, who immediately placed his mug of Pugh's Contaminant on the bar with almost the same degree of force as he had used in depositing the pole.
"A barber?" he repeated with outrage. "I certainly am not."
"I thought you were," said Melon Head Myrtle, "because of your thingummy, you know, with the red and white stripes. Does it revolve?"
"I am an Englishman," the gentleman said, "and this is the English flag. It is the cross of Saint George, which has flown above the nation since time immemorial, and above more victorious battlefields than most Scots have had hot dinners."
"Is that so?" said Melon Head Myrtle.
"This flag," said the gentleman, "was the flag of the Crusaders. It is the flag under which Drake destroyed the Armada."
"Wasn't that the weather or something?" asked Melon Head Myrtle. "Though if it was all happening under a flag, I'm sure it would still be English weather, unless the Scots had a prior claim to it on other grounds."
"It was beneath this flag," continued the gentleman, without acknowledging her remarks, "that Edward Plantagenet, Hammer of the Scots, earned his great name; and now James Stuart, king of the Scots, is come to vandalise it."

The gentleman plucked morbidly at the flag lying furled on the bar. "Not that I have anything against the king personally, you understand," he said. "King James is a noble and godly monarch and, as I understand, the author of a very fine and noble work upon the necessity for witch-hunting. I condemn in the strongest terms the recent misguided attempt to remove him by extra-constitutional means, an inevitable though deplorable consequence of Popish recalcitrance in refusing to adapt to our culture. But King James, for all his virtues, is not the Virgin Queen; not our Elizabeth."
"Not Gloriana of the black teeth?" suggested Malvolio Quabbage tactfully.
"And this business of combining the flags of his nation and our own," continued the gentleman, "can only lead to grief. Imagine Saint George's cross adulterated with the blasphemous blue of that fiendish saltire - a scattering of triangles across that pure white background, makeshift and most disgusting. Can you imagine anyone wishing to fight, to die beneath something like that?"
"Frankly, dearie, I can't imagine why most people would want to die beneath anything," said Melon Head Myrtle; "but there's nothing wrong with a bit of colour, that's what I always say."
"Nothing wrong with saltier fiends, either," burbled one of the card-players, to whom Pippa Twelve Toes had conveyed the gist of the gentleman's complaints. "The saltier they are, the harder they fall. Helps defeat the devil if you put it on his tail."

"The next thing you know," mourned the gentleman obliviously, "they'll have the Irish saltire on there too, and something Welsh, I shouldn't be surprised; it's been four hundred years since King Edward, and they're probably getting ideas even as we speak. And when dying Englishmen look up at their flag, as all dying Englishmen are wont to do, and see it adulterated in such a manner, and wonder when the rot started, they'll know that it was on the twelfth day of April in this fourth year of the reign of Scottish Jimmy."

"Closing time," said Hooligan Motts.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fishy Business

A cross-party parliamentary committee has again been standing in for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, calling the greenest government ever to account over delays in setting up marine conservation zones. A hundred and twenty-seven such zones were originally proposed, with strong cross-party and public support, more than three years ago; but Daveybloke's badger-busting Ministry for Barely Greenrinsing has consulted on only thirty-one, and that without deigning to specify how they would be implemented or managed. Presumably Daveybloke and his chums became bored with the whole idea; there is limited appeal in fish and plankton, as anyone who has sat around a Cabinet table with Michael Gove and Jeremy C Hunt must inevitably realise, and it's rather difficult even for a junior salesman of Daveybloke's calibre to hug seaweed photogenically. The committee's report noted "changes to funding for marine science", which presumably translates as taking cash away from environmental scientists in order to throw it at multinational corporations; and the Government has also decided that it needs absolutely the best possible scientific evidence before doing anything at all. This certainly makes a refreshing change from the faith-based policies favoured in such trivial matters as education, public health and employment; but feasibility-based policies do have their advantages.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

God and Churchmen Reconciled

As the nation braces itself for the storm of saccharine and faeces which will inevitably choke the time between today and the funeral of that nasty old woman, another major participant in the ceremony has politely cleared its throat. The funeral will take place at St Paul's Cathedral, an apposite enough venue given the cathedral authorities' famously sympathetic attitude towards the City of London; and it will include a generous dollop of Falklands-oriented military kitsch which, among other things, will serve to remind the Church of its place. It was the old bag herself who, furious at Robert Runcie's call to remember the Argentine dead, foisted the ludicrous George Carey on the Anglican Communion as its spiritual leader beneath God, the Queen and Mammon, thereby accelerating if not precipitating the Church's descent into a laughing-stock. Since Carey's successor was the dithering hypocrite Rowan Williams, the Church of England at present is known mainly for warming a few free seats in the Lords and for its writhing sexual contortions, the latest example of which bulged forth today. The Church has announced once again that some forms of love are less equal than others: homosexual relationships "fall short of marriage" and are unworthy of the Church's blessing. It would be difficult to think of a more appropriate offering with which to propitiate the now divine perpetrator of Clause 28.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Small-Time Doesn't Pay

Chris Graybeing, the Minister for Private Prisons and Heterosexual Hostelry, has decided to bring the rehabilitation of offenders in line with education, public health and the right to dodge taxes: he's going to make it dependent on ability to pay. Chris Graybeing works in the House of Claimants, which notoriously includes a much larger proportion of criminals than the population at large; perhaps that explains why he is so worried about the one thousand million a year which is spent on criminal legal aid. Hundreds of times more money is lost to the Treasury through large-scale tax-dodging by chums of the Bullingdon Club; which doubtless means that Graybeing's idea will be nodded through by the Deputy Conservatives and criticised by Labour for not being harsh enough. Making offenders poorer is likely to be about as effective a means of keeping us safe from crime as running prisons for profit or selling off the state's forensics labs; but since the measure is being sold as a purely financial exercise, perhaps it is unfair to dwell on such trivialities as its probable effects beyond Planet Westminster.

Monday, April 08, 2013

In Memoriam: Baroness Thatcher

The bitch is dead, her glories not yet past:
The unions and the welfare state destroyed!
Riot and war, three million unemployed!
The Iron Lady's rusted out at last;
Yet it would be quite wrong to celebrate
The death of Britain's boorish Poujadette;
Instead we should express profound regret
That it has happened some decades too late.

She is not gone, alas; her ghost is there
To hector when the poor are being kicked,
Or nod approval at a migrant scare
While City rumps continue to be licked.
We have her yet; just look around and see
Her pitiless and ugly legacy.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Real Enemy

Now let us be clear, and let us not fear;
We know there's no cause for alarm.
This paranoid Kim, we can sure handle him
If we're clear and united and calm.

Though he may be barmy, we don't see his army
(I know that's not stopped us before);
But oil he has none, and our soldiers are gone,
And we haven't the cash for a war.

He's crazy, I grant, with his paranoid slant,
But he's no threat to me or to you.
Attack would be madness: the true founts of badness
Are poor people and the EU.

Billy Nilly

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Handy Disposable Afghans

An open letter from some prominent military and political figures and Lord Ashdown has called attention to the plight of Afghans who have collaborated with the British forces. As one would expect, given our spirited independence from foreign influence, Britain is the only NATO country which offers no asylum for interpreters; claims are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and the process is neither fast nor transparent.

We have been here before. New Labour initially responded to death threats against Iraqi collaborators by telling its embassy in Syria not to let in any Iraqi refugees. Iraqis who felt themselves at risk were advised to go to the United Nations, which had done so little to advance the case for destroying Iraq that the Reverend Blair and his chums presumably thought it only fair that it should pick up some of the pieces.

New Labour did eventually make some grudging and limited provision for Iraqis who had helped the British forces. Whether Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition will do as much for Afghans is quite another matter. The open letter points out that local interpreters "have risked their lives and made extraordinary sacrifices just like British soldiers", and we all know how concerned the Bullingdon Club is about the welfare of British soldiers.

There is, nevertheless, a petition.

Friday, April 05, 2013

No Dead Child Left Under-Utilised

Some slight unease has become apparent among the Deputy Conservatives following the Bullingdon Club's comments on the Mick Philpott case. It's rather reminiscent of the Foreign Office wagging a finger at Saudia Arabia for sentencing someone to a life of paralysis before nodding through the latest arms shipment; but it's unease nevertheless. Daveybloke has backed his best chum's speech implying that Philpott's major crime was not the death of his children or domestic violence, or even conducting a sex life that would do credit to a minister of state, but the fact that he was claiming social security benefits. Apparently this is done by significant numbers of persons as a lifestyle choice rather than as a necessity; let alone as the sort of necessity that might have resulted from anything the Bullingdon Club has done. Daveybloke, of course, is no novice at the employment of dead children in scoring cheap political points; his own late son Ivan was compulsorily recruited to back up the sweet nothings which Daveybloke burbled about the National Health Service before turning Twizzler Lansley loose on it. That sort of thing was tasteful enough for the Deputy Conservatives during the good old days; but a few more casual humiliations later, and with another local election massacre looming, a few of them have been making disgruntled noises. They haven't voted through the welfare cuts, the restriction of legal aid, the Spare Room Subsidy Reduction™ and all those other prole-bashing measures just so that George Osborne can come along and bring the whole enterprise into disrepute.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Better Together and Radioactive

The machinations of the fiend Salmond and the continuing need to humiliate Nick Clegg have prompted Daveybloke to have a bit of a blather in the Torygraph about the need to retain Britain's independent, US-controlled weapons of mass destruction. Daveybloke blathered about the threat from Iran's nuclear deterrent, the existence of which is not entirely clear; and proclaimed his absolute belief in the North Korean boast that it has a long-range ballistic missile which can reach the USA, despite the fact that North Korea's verifiable achievements in the apocalyptic line have so far consisted mainly in blowing up mineshafts and inconveniencing fish in the Sea of Japan. One of the Deputy Conservatives' crumbs in the coalition agreement was that alternatives to Trident would be looked into, and the decision will not be made officially until 2016; but Daveybloke is not the sort of gentleman to let a little thing like a gentlemen's agreement stand in his way, particularly when he goes into one of his periodic fits of concern about the prospect of Scots losing their jobs.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


The parliamentary committee on communities and local government is experiencing some vague inklings of unease about the ongoing simplification (abolition, in Standard English) of the welfare state. Given that the process is being mastermindlessed by the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith, and is opposed by his frère et semblable Liam Duncan Byrne on the sole grounds that it doesn't kick the poor efficiently enough, it is surprising that the committee has taken until now to suspect that something might go wrong.

A spokesbeing from the Department of Workfare and Poverty has proclaimed that the new, simplified Universal Credit system will cut benefit fraud by two hundred million a year, and has expressed confidence that the relevant IT systems simply would hold up. As one would expect, this indicates that the new Universal Credit system will have trouble distinguishing between genuine and fraudulent claims and that the relevant IT systems are still at the development stage. The committee expressed concern about the Government's simplification (decimation, in Standard English) of the public sector, which could result in a dearth of local authority staff with the necessary experience to manage the change-over to the simplified system. There was even a quibble or two about the lack of clarity in the Government's definition of "vulnerable", which at worst might require the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith simply to shove through another bit of retroactive emergency legislation defining it as having been perfectly clear all along.

It is unlikely that the Government considers any of this a problem, having long since decided to spare itself the effort of distinguishing between genuine and fraudulent claims by simply labelling all claimants as shirkers, scroungers and idlers. Since all claims are fraudulent one way or another, it scarcely matters whether the IT system can detect the miscreants or not, provided simply that the provider's contract yields all the necessary ministerial kickbacks. Universal Credit is now being piloted in some lucky boroughs and will simply be implemented over the next few years whether the pilot schemes work or not.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Awfully Civilised

A Labour peer has stated that the former head of MI6 in Belgian Congo claimed responsibility for the removal and assassination of that country's first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. As with those notorious conspiracy theories which insist that the Iraq crusade was mainly about oil, Lord Lea said that Daphne Park was concerned about the possibility of Lumumba treating his country's uranium, diamond and mineral resources as Congolese property. Convincing as this appears, a former intelligence official who was acquainted with Park has denied the whole business in the Murdoch Times: "It doesn't sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make. She was never indiscreet", even fifty years after the fact when she knew she'd got away with it. She was, after all, British. "Also MI6 never had a license to kill." Well, that would certainly have stopped them; particularly if they could collaborate with their European partners to get the dirty work done by Belgian troops instead of soiling their own lily-white hands.

Monday, April 01, 2013


Richard Bates, Jr. 2012

Pauline (Annalynne McCord) lives with her piously neurotic and domineering mother Phyllis, her paunchy and henpecked father and her sickly but beloved younger sister. As befits a teenager with medical ambitions, Pauline professes tentative disbelief in God while addressing Him as an equal and giving Him a piece of her mind on such matters as the emotional dynamics of family reunions in Heaven. Pauline's dreams take place in a blue-and-white-tiled surgico-erotic laboratory cum Sadean theatre cum fantasy bathroom, while her waking hours are blighted by her vapid classmates, irritating teachers and hapless family.

Some of Excision is quite disturbing, and some of it is quite hilarious; much of it is both. Pauline's sabotage of the cotillion class, Phyllis' encounter with a deaf tutor (Marlee Matlin), a whispered argument over how to spell the c-word, and a throwing-up scene worthy to stand with those in Heathers and Carnage are merely a handful among the highlights.

There is also some amusing mischief in the casting. The lugubrious local priest, to whom Phyllis sends Pauline in the hope of straightening her out ("you could at least have the decency to take me to an actual psychiatrist"), is portrayed by the cheerfully adolescent cinematic degenerate John Waters. The creepy school principal is played by a grinning Ray Wise, also known as the insane father of David Lynch's troubled teenager Laura Palmer. Pauline's mathematics teacher - the one person aside from her mother who can stand up to her - is played by Malcolm McDowell, a jaded grump forty years the wrong side of the creatively inspired teenage rebels in If... and A Clockwork Orange.

But the humour in Excision does not dilute the pain; as in the football jocks' funeral scene in Heathers, it merely allows the film to creep up on its audience. Splendidly acted by Traci Lords, Phyllis at first comes across as a comically sanctimonious gargoyle, and in truth she is never very likeable; but she does eventually emerge as an actual human being with real dilemmas and understandable reactions. This perspective, making clear Phyllis' pain and vulnerability and Pauline's need for her mother's love and admiration, is vital to the devastating horror of the ending.

Equally vital, Annalynne McCord puts in an outstanding turn as the heroine. Weirdly beautiful (facial blemishes, skinny figure and bad posture offset by brilliant eyes and teeth and a husky voice of paralysing articulacy) and almost certainly the most intelligent person in the film, Pauline variously spooks, intimidates and disgusts the mediocrities who surround her, though she doesn't always do it on purpose. As with her mother, Pauline's characterisation is far more subtle and complex than your everyday teen-movie misfit: one of Excision's cardinal virtues is its refusal to settle for easy answers in either its plot or its heroine's psyche. It is when Pauline accepts God, puts away childish things and starts trying to be helpful that she finally re-forms herself (as good girl, new-born and mad scientist), and thereby becomes truly dangerous.