Monthly Archives: July 2019

Mr Men 2019

A lot has happened since the last time we met the Mr Men!

The Big House

Little Miss I-Know-Best
Little Miss I-Know-Best

The Big House still has twenty-eight rooms. But the people in the room across the little bridge, room Number Nine, are getting crosser and crosser. They shout at each other a lot and can’t agree about anything. Little Miss I-Know-Best had come to an agreement with the people in the other 27 rooms. But she needed the people who met in the voting corner of Number Nine to agree. Everyone had agreed that these people’s views were “sovereign”, which means they get to choose on behalf of everyone else and that’s it.

The trouble was, the people in the voting corner said “NO!” to her plan. And then they said “NO!” and then “NO!” a third time. So the Nasties agreed they needed a new leader. Bye-bye, Little Miss I-Know-Best! It seems you didn’t know best, after all!

The Nasties Vote

The Nasties have a funny way of choosing a new leader. At first, everyone who wants to be leader throws their hat into the ring. Not a real ring. Just a pretend one. The hats aren’t real, either. But, anyway, ten people threw their not-real hats into the not-real ring. We have met two of these before: Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me. You may remember, Mr Mad stabbed Mr Look-At-Me in the back last time, saying Mr Look-At-Me was too naughty to run room Number Nine.

We shall be meeting four more Mr Men and Little Misses very soon: Mr Doormatt, Mr Jagged Savage, Little Miss Loathsome, and Mr Rabid. They also said they would like to lead the Nasties. Also in the race were Mr Harpic (who was round the bend), Mr Front-Bottom (of rhyming slang), Little Miss Runavay and Mr Roary-Lion. Mr Roary-Lion didn’t really roar like a lion. But his hair looked a little bit like a lion’s mane, and so his name suited him.

At first only the Nasties allowed in the voting corner have a say. Their job is to vote (or stab) until only two people are left. These were Mr Look-At-Me and Mr Front-Bottom. Then all the Nasties vote for the winner while everyone else looks on and cries helplessly.

Mr Look-At-Me Again

Mr Look-At-Me
Mr Look-At-Me

Mr Look-At-Me won, chosen by the Nasties to lead the people in room Number Nine out of the Big House. Some of Little Miss I-Know-Best’s helpers said they would try to stop Mr Look-At-Me burning down the little bridge to the other rooms. Mr Hammond-Organ said he would play mournful tunes on his Hammond organ. That would do the trick.

“Do or die!” said Mr Look-At-Me. But he needed to choose his helpers, just as Little Miss I-Know-Best had done three years earlier. Only this time, Mr Look-At-Me did something different. He only chose people who were mad or just changed their minds to stay as a helper. Let’s meet the new helpers.

Mr Jagged Savage

Mr Jagged Savage

Mr Jagged Savage was put in charge of all the pennies in room Number Nine. This was a Top Job. Mr Jagged Savage is made up of two parts. His head is a balloon. His body is very sharp and jagged: the jagged edges had been made very sharp when he was told by Little Miss I-Know-Best to be Hostile to everyone.

Mr Jagged Savage knew that, if his head touched his body, it would go BANG on the sharp jagged edges. So he learned how to nod his head carefully. But he could not shake it, in case it burst. But Mr Jagged Savage was happy. He was still a helper and had all the head movement he needed for when he met Mr Look-At-Me!

Mr Rabid

Mr Rabid

The second Top Job went to Mr Rabid. This was to talk to all the leaders outside room Number Nine. Mr Look-At-Me once had this job, but he did it so badly that he left.

Mr Rabid is a dog. A very fierce dog. He snarls all the time. Mr Look-At-Me thought that Mr Rabid might make his own time in this Top Job look not so bad. We shall see! To make himself more fierce, Mr Rabid sometimes adds extra letters “a” to his name, like “Raabid”. Once he got so carried away, he spelled it “Raaaaaaaaaabid!”

Mr Rabid is not bright. He spent months coming up with an agreement from the other 27 countries to help reduce the damage caused by smashing down the little bridge. He then voted against his own plan! Everybody knows that a Rabid dog is a mad dog! I don’t suppose the leaders in other countries will be keen to talk to Mr Rabid again.

Little Miss Pretty Petrifying

Little Miss Pretty Petrifying

Little Miss Pretty Petrifying has the third Top Job. The job is to ensure that all the people in room Number Nine behave and to keep foreigners from crossing the little bridge. She had only two jobs outside politics. Both were to make the companies look better, one in tobacco and the other in alcohol.

She helped to write a book called Britannia Unchained which said a lot of silly things, such as the workers in room Number Nine were “the worst idlers in the world”. Little Miss Pretty Petrifying is not looking to make new friends!

Mr Doormatt

Mr Doormatt

Mr Doormatt is another dog – a very submissive dog! He is in charge of making sick people better. He kept this job by letting everyone walk all over him. When he sees anyone with the name Big Pharma, he rolls over on his back and lets them take any part of him that they think will make them the most money.

Mr Doormatt should not be trusted to look after anyone – even himself!

Little Miss Don’t Trust

Little Miss Don’t Trust

Little Miss Don’t Trust also had a hand in the Britannia Unchained book. People have said the book is no good because the authors were too lazy to do any research before they wrote it. What a silly way to write a book!

She takes over her new job at International Trade from Mr Fox-Up, whom we’ve met before. Mr Fox-Up was very bad at his job, so Little Miss Don’t Trust doesn’t have to work very hard to do better!

Little Miss Loathsome

Little Miss Loathsome

Little Miss Loathsome has a job where she is supposed to look after business. Her new boss, Mr Look-At-Me, once famously said a very rude word about business. Now, Little Miss Loathsome is confused. What exactly is she supposed to do?

She has decided to do what she does best and just be loathsome. If she tries anything harder than this, her head will explode!

Little Miss Bilious

Little Miss Bilious

Little Miss Bilious has a bilious-looking face. She has a job looking after all the trees and the flowers and the rivers and to stop the world getting too hot. She plans to do this by being sick all over them.

She once had a job working for Mr Two-Face which she didn’t understand. The thought the “Good Friday Agreement” was just about which Easter eggs to buy. And she thought it would be good to burn down the little bridge connecting room Number Nine to the other 27 rooms. She didn’t care that most of the people she was supposed to be looking after didn’t agree.

Perhaps she will be better at being sick over things.

Mr Stupid-Boy-Pike

Mr Stupid-Boy-Pike

Mr Stupid-Boy-Pike once had a job selling fireplaces. When he was at school, he used to take his pet spider to school. He thought this would scare and impress the other children. Instead, they just kept away from him.

Little Miss I-Know-Best gave him a job standing in front of big toys like guns, warships and aeroplanes. He liked doing this. He also tried to sound frightening by showing people his spider and saying tough things like “shut up” and “go away”. Everyone thought he was a bit stupid.

This made him the obvious choice to be in charge of all the schools. When the teachers heard this, they all laughed and laughed. They thought it was a joke. Then they were told it was not a joke. So they all cried and started looking for new jobs. Who will teach the children in room Number Nine? Perhaps Mr Stupid-Boy-Pike can teach some spiders to do it!

Little Miss Rudderless

Little Miss Rudderless

Little Miss Rudderless used to be called Little Miss Traffic-Light. But now she has changed her mind about Mr Look-At-Me to keep her job. So she has a new name. Her job is to maintain the thumbscrews and manacles at the Department for Work and Pensions. Officially known as Sanctions, these and other instruments of torture are used under the “Hostile Inquisition” scheme. But only on people who are wicked enough to be poor or disabled.

Little Miss Rudderless is a Marxist and likes to quote from the great thinker. “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others” is her favourite.

Mr Mad (Again!)

Mr Mad
Mr Mad

After stabbing him in the back, Mr Mad is now once again best friends with Mr Look-At-Me. So Mr Look-At-Me has given him a new job in his team. His new job title is Chancer of the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side. This means he is free to do what he likes. What in practice will happen is this. Mr Mad will stab in the back anyone who disagrees with his new best friend and Great Leader. This includes stabbing himself or the Great Leader if that pesky little bridge isn’t burnt by Halloween.

The Mad House

The leaders of the other 27 rooms in the Big House have a new name for room Number Nine. They call it the Mad House. I think, children, (oh, and, by the way, sorry about your future…) that you now know why. Sweet dreams!

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A Coup for Unreason

For nearly the whole of my life, I never imagined it would come to this. I find myself today arriving at a stark conclusion: my government is now my enemy. The Age of Endarkenment is upon us.

The gang of zealots, far-right extremists, bigots, thugs and unthinking believers that we laughably call the Cabinet share not one reasoned thought among them. From everything we know about them so far, there is no reasoned argument to support their beliefs and ideas. The actions we can expect to flow from this will be unreasoned and unreasonable. Nothing reasoned or reasonable happened yesterday. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson first staged a purge and then a coup: a coup for unreason.

Let’s do a quick pen-picture of the mob now ruling our lives.

Johnson

Twat-in-Chief

Many words have been written about our new PM, so it’s very hard to find anything new to say. He’s known to be a serial liar (and the 92,000 Tory members who voted for him knew that already, were too stupid to notice or just didn’t care). Fantasist, racist, misogynist, et cetera et cetera: the list goes on. Most obvious characteristics: lazy, poor on detail, extremely narcissistic. Basically he’s a mini-Trump who speaks a bit of Latin. His social development skills stopped developing when he was four. Think four-year-old with a dagger (and now keys to the nuclear codes). (Trump, by contrast, is a three year old.)

Javid

The new Chancellor is a former investment banker. This makes him part of the gang who brought us the 2008 crash and subsequent austerity policy and the rise in inequality and poverty. He bangs on endlessly about his Pakistan-born bus driver dad and so represents 50% of the token BAME representation in the Cabinet. He has done little to lift the burden of Theresa May’s hostile environment while he was Home Secretary under May.

He’s untested at the Treasury and it’s hard to predict how he will interact with Johnson’s planned spending rises. There’s a fair-to-middling chance this “government” will do the same as all recent US Republic regimes and let the debt and deficit rise to unsustainable levels. Or we may get random “slash and burn” cuts to public services not on Johnson’s “wish list”. The inevitable devastating effects will mainly hit the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled.

Raab

The Leave extremists’ Leave extremist. Has never had an intelligent thought, as far as I can tell. He has made some amazingly stupid suggestions in the past, e.g. profit-making state schools, diluting workers’ rights still further and cutting support for green technology. He’s the archetypal free market fundamentalist “true believer” and probably actually believes the shit about the UK benefiting from leaving the EU. Oh, and he’s also said that feminists are “obnoxious bigots” and that men get a raw deal. So, just a regular guy, then.

There’s a distinct possibility that Johnson appointed him so that Raab can win the “worst Foreign Secretary ever” accolade which Johnson himself currently holds. Raab is in with a good chance for this.

Patel

“Pretty” – in her ideas and beliefs – she most certainly is not. The other 50% token BAME Cabinet minister and a woman to boot. She was sacked by May for a very serious ministerial misconduct offence for which (like Liam Fox under May) she should never again have been appointed to high office. She has spoken in favour of the death penalty as a “deterrent” and suggested diverting International Aid spending to military purposes.  Now presumably she’s busy looking for ways to make the Hostile Environment even more hostile – involuntary euthanasia for the disabled would be a logical end-point for her known views. About as nasty a person as you would never want to meet.

Gove

A wild card, in every sense of the word. Nobody really knows what he will do in his new role. When in charge of education, destroyed accountability in England and introduced reforms from which it will take at least 20 years to recover. He was hated by everyone I know in the field of education. He did do a better job at Justice, but that was simply by undoing Failing Grayling’s disastrous reforms. So maybe he’s there just to walk behind his new boss and pick up the shit he leaves everywhere.

Hancock

He survived yesterday’s purge to remain at Health. He appears to have been rewarded for his spineless support of Johnson and his “no deal” threat as an act of unprincipled, opportunist sycophancy. My regard for him has fallen as a result.

Leadsom

Loathsome can be guaranteed to bring zero intellectual content to her role as Business Secretary. Her only other distinction was to be stabbed in the back by the “men in grey suits” in the dying days of her leadership contest with May three years ago.

Truss

An extreme a believer in free markets and all that evidence-free stuff as you can find. I can only say I’m relieved she didn’t get the Chancellor’s job. Another “true believer” with no redeeming features.

Villiers

Now Environment Secretary, she failed to understand her brief when Northern Ireland Secretary, moving me to  write in 2016 that she should be sacked for supporting Leave, ignoring the delicacies in the Good Friday Agreement.

Williamson

Private Pike is an apt but flattering description of this waste of DNA. When Defence Secretary, he was fond of making threatening-sounding, but ultimately absurd, threats to foreign countries (e.g. telling Russia to “go away and shut up”). He always ended up sounding like a petulant schoolboy. He was sacked by May for “compelling evidence” of leaking information from a National Security Council meeting: a very serious offence.

Now, after just a few months, he’s rehabilitated and back to fuck up Education, about which it appears he knows nothing. He should stick to what he does best: posing in front of bits of military machinery trying to look tough. This sort of behaviour is usually associated with men with very small penises – in Williamson’s case, to go well with his even tinier brain.

Rudd

She’s one of the turncoats who has traded power under Johnson for principle. She keeps her role at Work and Pensions. In the far-right atmosphere of the nouvelle regime, presumably she will be encouraged to intensify the Hostile Regime for benefit claimants, including the disabled.

Wallace

At Defence there will be some photo opportunities posing in front of leaky aircraft carriers, our two warships and some penis-shaped missiles. Perhaps Private Pike can give him some tips. He has Home Office experience, so presumably knows how to look Hostile to foreigners.

Barclay

He keeps his masochist’s role as Exiting the EU Secretary. Despite the name, more of a wanker than a banker.

Morgan

Another resurrected minister sacked by May. Mostly harmless and in a minor role, but she did allow her Christian beliefs to distort her decision making when Education Secretary.

Jenrick

Our new Communities and Local Government Minister, apparently. Owns three homes, so should be right on top of the housing crisis. I’d never heard of him until yesterday.

A Right(-Wing) Shower

Given the potential for record-breaking temperatures today, we could all do with a cold shower. But not this lot.

We should take inspiration from Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental activist, who today encourages civil disobedience. Seems like a good idea. The rational and the civilised among us have to start the fight back from this insanity. Only 99 days to go until 31st October. Ideas?

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Two Islands

There are 136 inhabited islands in the British Isles, according to Wikipedia. In this post, I shall concentrate on the two biggest: Great Britain and Ireland, country by country.

Republic of Ireland

My first visit to the Republic of Ireland was in 1974 with my first wife-to-be (as she was then). We did a circuit of the south coast and returned for a couple of nights in Dublin at the end of our holiday.

My recollection was that Ireland was a poor country: the buildings were a little shabby and the rural parts were still very socially conservative. The country felt oppressed under the heavy, authoritarian fist of the Catholic Church. I saw the deference with which locals showed to their local priest, a god-like figure in the community. All in all and coming from London, we felt we had stepped back in time about twenty years or more. Dublin had some interesting historic sites and buildings – I particularly remember Trinity College – but was in many ways unremarkable. The Temple Bar area was quiet and semi-derelict, a far cry from the youthful and vibrant quarter of the city much favoured by British (and Irish) hen and stag parties in more recent times.

Temple Bar, Dublin

Two things that struck me have not changed. The first – and most commonly commented upon by visitors – was the friendliness of the people we encountered. The second was the mixing of people of all ages, at a Caleigh, in a pub, to have a good time. (The English, then and now, seem to me to socialise within their own age groups, especially so in London and the South East. It might also be more of a middle-class thing.)

Northern Ireland

My only visit to the six counties of Northern Ireland was for work, during the so-called “Troubles” in the 1970s. A more honest term might be Civil War. I can’t even remember now what the purpose of my trip was. What I do remember is sitting in the restaurant, alone, at a table beside a very large plate glass window which acted as the outside wall to the street below. I was staying at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, Europe’s most bombed hotel. It was bombed 36 times during this period, according to Wikipedia. I remember thinking “Is this wise?” Happily, nothing untoward happened during my stay, but I do remember the oppressive and unnerving security checks everywhere I went.

Europa Hotel in the Troubles

The Good Friday Agreement brought peace and reconciliation to the north of Ireland, contingent on the UK and the Irish Republic both being members of the EU. Let’s hope peace continues, despite the stupidity of the current batch of politicians. The DUP are now mad that the UK parliament has voted for equal marriage for same-sex couples and abortion rights for women to bring this corner of the UK into line with the rest of us. Who knows what will happen next?

Scotland

I’ve had several trips to Scotland, occasionally on business, but more often as a tourist. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. Scottish independence is certainly on the cards – I would certainly vote “yes” in the next independence referendum if I were fortunate enough to be Scottish – but I’m not. I have exactly as much say in Scotland’s independence as I do about who will be our next prime Minister: a hostage in my own land.

Independence Parade in Glasgow

My wife and I enjoyed our trip to Glasgow last autumn: a vibrant and interesting city. We’ll be travelling to one of the western isles later this year. We can check out the vibes in a beautiful part of our islands.

Scotland’s form of nationalism seems pretty progressive and social attitudes similarly so: much the same applies in Ireland, especially since Sinn Fein modernised its policies and adopted progressive attitudes to women’s rights and same-sex marriage. The English form of nationalism, by contrast, verges on fascism.

Wales

The Welsh are something of an enigma to me. We’ve recently returned from a week’s holiday in Snowdonia, a stunningly beautiful part of these lands. In the 30-35 years since my first visit, I notice an increase in the prominence of – and perhaps pride in – the Welsh language. Recent opinion polls show a clear lead for Remain, in contrast to the 2016 result in Wales. Perhaps the message about all that European Regional Development Fund money is finally breaking through there.

Harlech Castle

England

Which just leaves the fucking English – of which I am one. Ah… England, land of inequality and lack of opportunity for most. The near certainty of yet another old Etonian as Prime Minister. The near certainty that he will be the third person in a row to earn the distinction “Worst PM in my lifetime”. What on earth is the matter with us?

A Deprived Bit of England

A small consolation prize: the thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is in jail. Good! What’s this? His 12th criminal conviction, I think.

England v Ireland

All of this leaves me to ponder on one thought: the contrast between England and Ireland over the last 30-40 years. During this time, Ireland has progressed beyond all recognition: from a backward, relatively poor theocracy to a modern, inclusive forward-looking democracy. (Not perfect, by any means, but stupendous progress has been made in a relatively short time.)

England, by contrast, seems to be regressing into a divided, hateful, intolerant and bigoted place. Honourable exceptions are the cities: London, Cambridge and Oxford spring to mind – prompting accusations of elitism from me, of course. Sadiq Khan seems a breath of fresh air as Mayor of London after the embarrassment of his predecessor and his ludicrous vanity projects.

So why is there such a contrast between Ireland’s and England’s progress to modernity over the past three to four decades? Both countries joined the EU (EEC then) in the same year, 1973. I struggle to provide a convincing explanation.

Nostalgia and English Exceptionalism

A partial explanation lies in the phenomenon known as “English exceptionalism”. This seems to have been explicitly recognised and discussed only in the past few years – and especially as one of the explainers for the denialism and fantasies of many Leave supporters. A much longer-standing problem has been the whitewashing of our imperial past. It is only in the last decade or two that our education system has started to take a more critical and impartial view of the history of the British Empire. This means that anyone over the age of about forty was told by the state (i.e. at school) a wholly one-sided version of the imperial story.

The mix is made more toxic by a strange nostalgia for the second World War and “plucky Britain’s” survival of the blitz. Historian David Olugosa, writing in today’s Observer, makes an interesting, and much overlooked, point. Those old enough to have actually been alive during WWII and who saw the suffering first-hand, were “far more likely to oppose Brexit” than baby-boomers. (More details are available at this LSE British Politics and Policy blog post.) Olugosa describes my generation as “brought up watching war films rather than cowering in Anderson shelters”. One of my schooldays memories is that the climax of the school’s Film Club season one year was a showing of the film Dambusters – all stiff upper lips, bouncing bombs and militaristic music.

The Dam Busters

It seems that, unfortunately for those of us who voted remain, that 2016 was exactly the worst time to hold a simplistic “in/out” EU referendum. Yet this still does not fully explain why the English of a certain age are uniquely prone to this stuff. The Republic of Ireland, of course, was officially neutral during the war: does this sufficiently explain the difference? Or is it somehow bound up the English class system? Any ideas?

 

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