Tuesday, 13 October 2015
If I ever needed another reason to want to get out of the European Union the 'Britain Stronger in Europe' campaign just gave me a beauty – Stuart Rose. The Daily Telegraph spoiler headline read “People backing Brexit are 'quitters' says 'patriotic' campaign chief Stuart Rose” the now typical breaking-the-speech-before-the-speech paradigm effectively rendering pointless his actually uttering the words. But utter the words he did and he declaimed in near accentless Newspeak that black was white, up was down and two plus two equals five. A smart heel snap, a salute and hearty Hi-Ho Hitler and we’re away... with the fairies.
I’m guessing ennoblement was the price of his endorsement despite his former objections to the EU’s heavy-handed impositions. Everybody can be bought and Rose comes oven-ready, trussed, stuffed and with an apple in his mouth. It’s probably all David Cameron can do to keep his cock in his trousers. Cameron, Mandelson, Blair... one after another they troop across the square, goose-stepping in lock-step to the leaden beat of inevitability; the anti-democratic, ever closer union’s show of strength to the watching world.
Of course the entire IN campaign boils down to one thing – we’re too scared to up-sticks; “Leaving Europe is taking a leap into the dark. It’s just not worth the risk.” The very same tactics deployed to maintain the forced status quo forty years ago – We’re in now, don’t rock the boat, don’t be selfish, play the game, reform from within... shut up, you nasty, racist Little Englander. Think of the children. Ah yes the children, the Grosseuropa Jugendbewegung the Greater European Youth Movement, a coming army of unquestioning Euro-drones, schooled from birth in the project and ready to denounce dissenters to the party. Scared enough yet?
For forty years we have seen not one power wrested back from the EU; not one concession given to our unique place in history. Various leaders have claimed triumphs only to accede to demands some way down the line, trusting to short memories and the disengagement of the general public in matters politic. ‘Whoever you vote for the government still gets in’ we joke, but every succession takes us one step closer to Ein Volk under a single, unelected supreme leader, the bad taste disguised by an apparently benign socialism-lite, the death draft of choice for suicidal nations over the last century and a half.
But the real argument comes down not to what form of relationship we have with Europe but to what form of relationship we have with ourselves. Our national self-esteem has been progressively eroded by the constant nagging from within by fifth columnists. Elements of the press and the privileged classes chipping away at the pillars of Britishness, trying to supplant settled, confident resilience with reliance on the state in return for a quiet acceptance of the dogma: Britain can’t go it alone. Britain will have no influence outside of Europe. We are all immigrants anyway. How dare we adopt a them-and-us attitude? We can’t pick and choose what rules to follow. We’re all Europeans now. “British Influence believes that British membership of the EU makes us a stronger, more secure, more influential and richer country”. And on and on it goes... chip, chip, chip.
This message of doom and disaster will play right up until polling day and given that this is likely to be two years away there is a good chance that, just as in 1975, the cancer of the pro-EU propaganda will grow and eat away at our resolve until enough people say fuck it, I’ll swim the sodding Euro Channel to vote yes if you just stop going on about it. If Rose and his cronies are the kind of leaders that await us on the other side of that once English moat I’d rather, like Churchill, take my chances with the open sea.
Monday, 12 October 2015
Christmas is just over ten weeks away and already I'm being chastised on Twitter for not welcoming it with open arms. But why would I? Christmas is like all the bad ideas you ever had made whole, amplified and embraced unthinkingly into a parody of religion, but just for a season; the adoration of the baby cheeses, a bit of good vicarious Samaritaning and fabling via the telly and an apocalypse, all done and dusted in a few short weeks and topped off with the rueful hangover of never-again apostasy as the credit card bills arrive, mid-January.
The approach of Christmas heralds the deepening gloom of months when you never see daylight (not that I generally see much anyway, working as I do in windowless, air-conditioned spaces), when doing anything outside is a matter of chance and you grit your teeth as you wait for the sun to return. And the event itself is a prolonged disappointment, like watching shares you bought ill-advisedly slip ever further away from returning a profit. Or seeing your pension pot disappear over the side of Robert Maxwell’s yacht.
Christmas it has been said is a time of year when you are forced into the company of people who you really don’t know as well as you ought... and if you are honest, people you don’t really like all that much. Like your investment, everybody loses except the recipient of all the money - the Christmas God. How is it, you have to wonder, that with the exception of the kids everybody puts far more into Christmas than they get out? Even the time honoured method of saving up a bit at a time to even out the strain has become sullied since the Park Group Christmas club went bust in 2008.
In the run-up to the season of bad will to all men, sincerity is disposed of in a shallow grave as promises turn to dust and everybody starts blaming everybody else for the fiasco. Families use Christmas as a time to inflict on those too young to flee for the holidays the horrible truths and distorted allegiances behind why they spend their weekends at daddy’s and although they shouldn’t really say this, daddy’s girlfriend is a bit of a slut, isn’t she, darlings?
This Christmas, once again, the NHS is in need of a bit of cheering up and although they really want to help and they understand how it got this way, it really is the fault of the Tories. Oh, they don’t mean to be nasty; they just can’t help it, you see. But like Saint Nick himself this is a story which comes around as regularly as the frosts. There has always been but a few days or hours to save the NHS and this tale of old has been gleefully told around Labour conference camp fires since the NHS began.
Ah, the old traditions die hard...
So this year, let’s ALL save the NHS. Cancel commercial Christmas and help the homeless instead. Drink less, eat less and lessen the load on A&E and stop falling for the bullshit, else your blood pressure may bring on a stroke. We claim to be sophisticated and intelligent celebrants, so let’s all wake up and realise that Christmas is sod-all to do with prophets and Christ and everything to do with profits and vice. Cheers!
Friday, 9 October 2015
I’ve had an unpleasant chest infection for a few weeks now and just as I was beginning to breathe again I’ve managed to contract a magnificent, full-on, streaming chesty cold. Honestly, there’s snot going everywhere and my deep, hacking and extremely productive cough is admired by diehard smokers, probably as far afield as Marlborough. It’s a sight to behold, what I can eject from my lungs just now... although you probably wouldn’t want to behold it.
But, between convulsions, I am reminded of Dave, an old friend of mine, who recently went for an over-50s medical MOT. As a lifelong indulger in the hedonistic arts and no stranger to social and chemical experimentation he had a bit of a scare a few months back when he woke up one morning with chest pains and subsequently spent the best part of twenty-four hours in A&E before being released back into the wild with an all-clear, for heart attack at least. He would welcome the latest new troponin test which might have cleared him in a fraction of the time. But suitably sobered he underwent something of a Damascene conversion and vowed to change his ways; most of his ways at least.
Anyway, last week he rocked up to undergo a comprehensive health check, which would otherwise have gone swimmingly had he been able to quit smoking. A hardened 40-a-day man, his lungs at least had a comprehensive daily workout and the day of the test was no exception. He entered the consulting room gasping for breath and wheezing heavily and collapsed into a chair as the doctor began his interrogation.
“Do you engage in recreational drug-taking?” asked the eminent quack to which my friend, in between bouts of painful coughing replied that although he had dabbled since his youth he had partaken of not one tablet, not one toke, for over five years and he had never been tempted to inject. The doctor, slightly alarmed at the ferocity of the coughing fit, duly made note and moved on. “What about alcohol?” he asked “How many units a week would you say you drank?” to which Dave quickly responded in a strangled gasp that he had quit the booze altogether and had been teetotal for almost seven months, before another spasm racked his body.
Bent double he wrenched out a few deep, chesty coughs, almost to the point of gagging. His face turned puce and tears sprang from his eyes. Sagging back into the chair he gasped as he brought his breathing under control, the doctor looking on with professional concern. He asked if Dave was feeling well enough to continue with the questionnaire and Dave indicated with a flap of his hand that he was. They moved on to the more intimate subject of his sexual health to which Dave responded that he had been without a partner for some years and was not in the habit of indulging in one-night stands.
“Now” said the doc, “do you smoke?” The patient’s eyes widened as he struggled to form a reply. From deep inside his chest a splutter sparked off a new wave of coughing that lasted for what seemed like several minutes, although the doctor was timing it and could attest that it lasted barely sixty seconds. Dave’s eyes bulged as he convulsed and fought for every breath. The heavy phlegm burbled in his pipes as he battled to bring it into control and he spat into his handkerchief. At last, weakened by the effort, he managed to inform the doctor that, yes, he smoked forty unfiltered Capstan full-strength a day, which he obtained from a specialist purveyor as they were not generally available in most shops.
What the doctor ordered!
The doctor watched as Dave launched into yet another horrible, hacking bout and picked his moment to ask the obvious question in the brief quiet interval between strangled barks. Dave stopped suddenly and sat himself up straight. He composed himself, hacked up a glob of mucous-flecked spittle and brought his breathing under control for just enough time to reply “What, quit smoking? You mean you want me to give up the only pleasure I have left in life?”
Thursday, 8 October 2015
David Cameron had a rapturous reception to his grandstanding closing speech at the party conference. Of course he did; everybody has one eye on keeping their job after all. But did his High Chaparral, sunlit uplands, aspiration-heavy schmoozing actually hold water? It would be nice to think so, but we’ve been here many times before. I have no doubt he is sincere – who wouldn’t want to make the world a better place? But words are cheap and plentiful; cheap because they are plentiful. The laws of supply and demand work just as well on oratory as they do on economy.
Nobody goes out shopping to buy something they don’t want or don’t need, but how often do we fill our lives with junk that just takes up space and needs dusting? How often does the marketing mislead? Better, faster, longer-lasting. New, improved, cutting edge. How many brands of cornflakes do you have to try before you realise they are just cornflakes after all? The same old stuff re-boxed and rebranded to look like something new. But who eats plain old cornflakes any more, now that there is a world of sugary alternative offerings? So what that they make you fat; we’ve got surgery or pills for that.
Instead of accepting the long and arduous cure for the cause we are ever looking to treat the symptoms. War? Send weapons. Poverty? Send money. Poor education? Send gadgets. NHS? Throw yet more money at it. It’s always somebody else’s problem, so when somebody else – anybody else – offers you what looks, from a distance, like a lifeboat it is tempting to take it rather than strike out for the distant shore on your own. But as everybody piles on board and the inevitable bailing out has to start, some cling to the few dry spots on deck and steadfastly refuse to get their feet wet.
Everybody cannot expect to be supported by the state. We can’t all look to the public purse to keep us healthy, wealthy or wise. For all the stuff that David Cameron was banging on about and for all that he was stealing some of Labour’s hippy clothes, at the end it comes down not to what your country can do for you, but what you can do for yourself. What some decry as cruel austerity we used to applaud as thrift; it was considered normal to do without what you could not afford. And that ‘less than 60% of median income equals poverty’ metric? Rubbish; if you’re fed and housed and dry and warm you are rich beyond the dreams of half the world.
All that government intervention in wider society generally achieves is to create another generation of parasites who learn the skills to take the taxpayers’ money. Experts, advisers, ‘thinkers’ and the army of hangers-on; like thirty-year old student union presidents or twenty-eight year old ‘welfare and diversity’ officers. Like eternally workless professional demonstrators, demanding more from those who have quietly got on and ‘done the right thing’. Governments always say they want to encourage self-determination, but then accede to the demands of others whose determination is that the nanny state must pay for them.
Do I want a world with less welfare? Of course I do, as long as those who need it get it. Do I think you shouldn’t produce children you are incapable of providing for? Absolutely. Do I want a country peopled with those who can largely do without the intervention of government? Who doesn’t? You get none of that by electing governments with incontinent pockets. So, let Cameron and the Conservatives bang on about the brighter world they want to bring for everybody, while you get on and quietly light up your own.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
They say a butterfly flapping its wings in an Amazon forest could possibly set off a chain of events that could culminate in a hurricane laying waste to a community some weeks later. This particular phenomenon has never been proved to have happened, but the butterfly effect is a well-known descriptor in the form of study of nonlinear dynamics known as Chaos Theory. One wonders why it is not more commonly employed in the study of politics to discover why perfectly predictable outcomes are rarely foreseen by those whose initial actions bring them into being.
I am fortunate enough to be on the road early enough most mornings that I regularly catch the end of Farming Today on Radio 4. As the Conservative conference continues there is talk of the EU referendum and naturally the farmers are frit. The debate yesterday was ‘in or out of the EU. Which is better for the UK?’ and in particular, what will become of the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP is of course one of the perverse incentives that now leads some dairy farmers to sell their milk for less than it costs to produce. Remember the butter mountains, the wine lakes and the cornflakes cast out to sea? (Now I’m a farmer – The Who, 1974)
In order to protect the relatively inefficient French agricultural industry of the times and promote food security the CAP was introduced in 1962 and since then it has ensnared ever more farmers in its web; paid for not growing, penalised for overproduction and generally fucking about with none of their bloody business. Want to keep the farm in the hands of those who have tended it for hundreds of years? Then grow as you’re told. Everybody agrees it’s a mess but nobody will tackle it. This is what happens when you do business under artificial incentives.
Then we heard Theresa May admitting that all immigration is not necessarily good immigration. No, really? You mean the thing that everybody has been called racist for daring to speak out about is now the government’s official stance? I expect Nigel Farage is merrily laughing his bits off down the old George & Dragon. What was it, Theresa that made you say openly what all parties except Ukip have been actively denying for years? Can it really be that you are changing your mind in the face of new evidence, or is it mere opportunism to pretend to democracy at the start of your leadership bid?
Of course we welcome the genuine ‘diversity’ (sociology for ‘They do WHAT?’) that immigration brings but is a Balti house on every street corner a fair exchange for the systematic rape and trafficking of thousands of teenage girls, the forced accommodation of muslim ghettoes in Britain’s large cities and wailing fucking muezzins, moaning monotonously from manky minarets with no planning consent at all times of the day? Who could possibly have predicted that allowing half the sub-continent to just walk in and set up souk could possibly have ended this way?
All actions have consequences and the actions of government spread their ripples wide. Financial incentives to behave in a particular way create rent-seeking professions as ‘making a living’ supplants performing a genuinely useful function. The complex web of interdependence allows armies of advisors, gurus, facilitators and plain old crooks to flourish and feed off the subsidies. Why turn your hand to an honest day’s tilling the soil when you can just mow the grass around your motionless wind turbines? Why seek better employment when tax credits and housing benefit top up your Saturday job wages to the equivalent of that of a full-time nurse?
So it is refreshing at first to hear government ministers and well-placed MPs airing their understanding of where we have gone wrong. Refreshing, that is, until you realise that being in Parliament these days is just another rent-seeking activity and rarely constitutes honest service to the country. As Boris begins to show his hand and others are busy rallying their own support you realise that conference is just another exercise in chaos and what we are seeing is one big butterfly spreading its meddlesome wings.