Monthly Archives: April 2017


Our dog eats shit. My wife and I were not pleased to discover, a few weeks ago, that our 21-month old Labrador has acquired a new habit of eating poo. It’s dog poo mainly, plus the occasional droppings from horses and cows. He seems to have really developed a liking for the stuff. We have asked friends and consulted the internet about what causes this new behaviour and what we can do to stop, or at least to discourage, it. The information and advice has been inconclusive and contradictory.

yellow labrador
Yellow Lab very like our own!

But a by-product of this research has been that we’ve found the technical term for such behaviour: coprophagia. The word comes from the Greek: kopros, meaning faeces and phagein, to eat. This led my mind to consider related words and, in particular, this one: coprocracy.

The Brave New World of Coprocracy

I was much struck by this thought, that this new (to me) word was just the right one for our times. Coprocracy, in its fullest sense, has clearly already arrived in the USA. The word can be used to describe the leader of the movement, in this case the Trump creature as kopros personified. Kopros can also be applied to the fake news or “alternative facts” that pour out from Trump and his acolytes. Closer to home, any number of coprocratic individuals spring immediately to mind. The more obvious would include the leaders of the EU Leave campaign: Johnson, Gove and Farage. But it can easily be applied to those wielding current power: Johnson (again!), Fox and their media cheerleaders in the “usual suspects” press. Theresa May, for reasons of internal party politics, is slowly turning into a coprocrat.

dog repulsed by Trump

Further symptoms of creeping coprocracy are seen regularly in press statements by government departments in response to some controversy. A good recent example was the (allegedly legally unsound) reason given for the Government’s further delay in publishing a proper plan to clean up the illegal, polluted air in our cities. It’s obvious the person who wrote the statement didn’t have their heart in it. I can imagine their mood swinging between the hope that that early retirement package may come through and the despairing wish that the ground might swallow them up. Shovelling shit wasn’t part of the career plan.

I feel nothing but sympathy for the long-serving civil servants who get posted to the press office of a government department. I can practically see their dead eyes staring into space as their fingers on the keyboard can barely get to the end of another flat, deadpan sentence “justifying” government policy. This phenomenon was particularly noticeable during Gove’s sojourn at the head of the Department for Education. But examples are seen almost daily in the press statements from other departments, including the Home Office, Cabinet Office and Department of Health.

Coprocracy and Corpocracy

I must give due acknowledgement to the QI Elves, who succinctly explained the difference between the easily-confused terms corpocracy and coprocracy. The former is “rule by corporations” and the latter “rule by shits”.

Corpocracy was, of course, the guiding principle of government policy in the years 2010 to 2016. But trends towards this state of affairs were evident during the Thatcher, Major, Blair and (to a lesser extent) Brown years. (There was, I believe, clear evidence that Brown was beginning to lead world political opinion away from the failed economic policies in the years following the 2007-8 global financial crash. One day, I must write my take on the tragedy of the failed opportunity for saner economic policy when Brown lost the 2010 election.) But there is a danger, too, that Britain is sliding towards coprocracy. A landslide win for May will only hasten the trend and must be avoided at all costs.

Let’s Hear It For Coprocracy!

But enough of this, and back, for a moment, to our shit-eating dog. The only solution in the short term is to keep him on a lead and to watch him like a hawk during his walks. Similarly, we can only hope that the famous “checks and balances” of the US Constitution, coupled with constant vigilance, will keep Trump on a “short lead” and curb his worst excesses until saner government can be restored.

In the meantime, let the rest of us call out shit policy and shit leaders every time they transgress normal moral decency – which is often. So let’s hear more about coprocracy. The word is derived from classical Greek, so lends the speaker an air of authority. It’s also a bit of a tongue-twister, so care is needed to get it right, aiding clear diction. And its similarity to corpocracy is a reminder of the close similarity of the two political systems.

So I want a lot more coprocracy: the word – as a warning to us all – and not the policy!! So, repeat after me: coprocracy, coprocracy, coprocracy…


Hatred and Humanity

My early-morning reading yesterday came from two very different sources. Firstly, I checked my Twitter feed, which included comments about the media coverage of Theresa May’s calling of a snap general election. Then, I continued my read through the latest volume of Alan Bennett’s diaries, entitled Keeping On Keeping On. It brought into start relief two very different aspects of human nature: hatred and humanity.


On Tuesday, May spoke a transparent lie that she called the election because Westminster was making things too difficult for her to lead EU exit negotiations. This lie encouraged the usual suspects in the media and morphed into something akin to fascism. Britain’s chief daily harbinger of hate, the Daily Mail, turned this into the headline “Crush the Saboteurs”. The saboteurs, in this case, are those who disagree with the Mail’s views favouring the most extreme and economically-damaging departure from the EU. Any dissent is treason.

Anyone who knows any history can see both historic and current resonances. “Stability”, a word much in vogue with May yesterday, is the last refuge of every tyrant, despot and tin-pot dictator down the ages. It’s easy to make a list of such autocrats, but a topical example is shown below. May’s words could (with a little adaptation) have been spoken by President Erdogan of Turkey as justification for his referendum to secure an autocratic power grab for himself.

Dialy Mail and Erdogan
Daily Mail and Erdogan

Let’s turn to the other main media suspect, the Sun. Those with attention spans longer than a gnat’s will recall that it’s only nine months since much-admired MP Jo Cox was murdered in the street by a right-wing fanatic. His barbaric act was no doubt spurred on, and legitimised in his own mind, by the vile xenophobic outpourings of many of those in the Leave camp during the referendum campaign. And yet now, a few months later, Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-rag is talking of “killing off” and “murdering” Labour MPs. And, in his bid to grab full control of Sky, Murdoch asserts he is a “fit and proper” person. Not in my book, sunshine.

Sun and Jo Cox MP
Sun and Jo Cox MP


So, anyway, I turned away from this Twitter-fed poison to read more of Alan Bennett’s diaries, covering the period 2005 to 2015. What surprised me was that they were more political than I expected. Several of his comments were remarkably prescient and he was plainly no fan of Tony Blair! But what strikes me above all – and is no surprise – is the sheer humanity of the man. His ear for a fine turn of phrase is legendary: the cadences, nuances and idiosyncrasies of the spoken language. But he also has a fine eye for character: moods, body language, real or suspected motives, strengths and human failings are all deftly portrayed, whether he’s writing about someone rich and famous or the lowliest of strangers he just happens to meet.

Bennett also displays a quiet, comfortable sense of place. He’s clearly very much a man of Britain in an unshowy, sort-of-patriotic way. There’s a sense of rootedness which is the antithesis of the hawkish, jingoistic variety espoused by the Mail and by the unhinged, irreconcilable EU-haters on the Tory back benches.

Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett

A Matter of Character

All of this brings us back to Theresa May and her character now on show. Check out both her speech in Downing Street on Tuesday and that in the House of Commons yesterday. It’s all “me”, “I” and such, displaying an autocratic nature that I’ve commented on in earlier posts. May is pushing the line that the election is about strengthening her negotiating position “in the national interest”. But the truth – that her decision to go to the country is all about cynical Tory Party advantage – easily belies that. Yvette Cooper got it exactly right when she called that out in the Commons debate.

Conventional wisdom is that the election result is a foregone conclusion: that may well turn out to be right. But I do have this to say to anyone who, like me, cares a lot about emphasising our common humanity. Firstly, whatever you do, vote – even though our first-past-the-post system may make it a wasted one: it’s moral authority we’re after here. Secondly, think very hard about what you can do to minimise the number of seats that the Conservatives win. I’m pleased to see that Gina Miller, the brave woman who forced May to act constitutionally with the Article 50 vote, is setting up a tactical voting unit to help those who want to avoid giving May even more hubris and the most damaging form of EU exit.

There’s too much hatred and not enough humanity afoot in the UK right now. And it’s not the fault of the “saboteurs”. On June 8th, think very carefully indeed about what you’re voting for.