Category Archives: Satire and Silly

Stuff that’s just plain daft or just for fun

The Koalition of Kaos

Recent evidence has emerged about a forgotten civilisation during the second century CE in the eastern Mediterranean. Historians and Archaeologists have been engaged in a five-year study on the small island of Kaos (capital: Mayhem). The inhabitants of the island were mainly Greek speaking, although there was also wide use of the Latin tongue, as we shall see soon.

Map of Kaos and Antikos
Sketch map of Kaos and Antikos

A short distance to the north-east of Kaos was the even smaller island of Antikos (capital: Duplicity), so called because the ideas of the Antikossians seemed very old-fashioned to the Kaotics.

The Tribes of Kaos and Antikos

bull maskKaos at this time was a warlike place, with tribal rivalries and skirmishes all over the island. The largest and most warlike tribe was called the Tauries. This was because, when they went into battle (which was often), they wore masks in the shape of bulls’ heads on their faces, to make them look more ferocious.

Almost as large a tribe were the Lavories. They saw themselves as morally superior to the Tauries, partly because they weren’t quite as warlike in their approach. In battle, they demonstrated the purity of their thoughts by each wearing a soap-on-a-rope around their necks. This was less effective as a battle tactic, but the Lavories all agreed they felt better for doing it.

There were a few smaller tribes, too. No one was really sure what the Liberalies stood for, but everyone agreed they were very nice people. There is some sketchy evidence that an extremist, fringe breakaway group from the Tauries existed for a time. Called the Kippies, a combination of inbreeding and infighting led to their extinction almost as soon as they were formed.

Confined to the north of the island, the Peskies were so named as all their leaders were named after fish. Across the waters in Antikos, two arch-rival tribes occupied the north-east corner of the island: the Dupies and the Shinbonies. The Dupies were usually known by their nick-name: the Little Willies. This was because the Dupies worshipped an ancient, but tiny, god called William, who was only the size of an orange. The Dupies wanted to be considered part of Kaos, whilst the Shinbonies thought they should all join in with the larger tribe in the south of Antikos: the Begorrahs.  (Cultural note: lazy racial stereotyping was all the rage in the 2nd century, under the so-called Davidson Doctrine. This was named after Jacobus Filius Davidus, a first century CE troubadour who lived under the shadow of a bigger tree than anyone else. )

Although the Tauries constituted well under half the population of Kaos, they generally held the upper hand in ruling over the affairs of the island. Although all the other tribes, except the Dupies, broadly agreed on matters of policy, the Tauries successfully applied a game of “divide and rule” to get their own way.

Kaos Weaponry

Weapon of Moss Destruction
WMD

It has already been emphasised that the Kaotics were a warrior race. Their weapon of choice was the Three-Pronged Fork. This was originally developed as an ideal tool for scraping the fast-growing moss from the rocks and cliffs of the island. During the wet season, these mosses grew rapidly, blocking tracks and access around the island. During an early skirmish between rival clans, the Kaotics soon discovered that Three-Pronged Forks were also good for killing people, and their use as weapons quickly spread. They came to be known as the Weapons of Moss Destruction.

The Elders of the tribes often told of the times of the Great Manufacture of the Three-Pronged Forks. The Forks were made of iron, and there were no deposits of iron ore on Kaos itself. Instead, the ore needed to be imported from the island of Ferros, a two-day journey away by their primitive sailing boats. The Ferrotics were a hard-nosed people, always ready to strike a hard bargain. Their island was rocky and barren, and their crops often failed. The only commodity they would trade for their iron ore was food, and lots of it. Just before the Great Manufacture of the Three-Pronged Forks, the Kaotics had traded so much of their own food with the Ferrotics that there was widespread famine throughout the island. Many people, mainly women and children, died. The women, of course, didn’t matter. (Cultural note 2: misogyny at this time was, of course, de rigueur.) But the sorrow at the death of so many children stayed in the people’s memories for many generations.

The Dirk

dirk
Dirk

One tribe, the Peskies, had adopted a different weapon from the rest: the dirk. This was named after the legendary Thespian called Dirkus, an erstwhile leader of a troupe of travelling players, who was born in the north of the island. He was often known – particularly by the womenfolk – as Dirkus Beauregardus, on account of his legendary good looks.

His troupe, the Circus Dirkus, travelled widely in the Mediterranean, performing their plays. (Eat your heart out, Will Shakespeare! Dirkus had a “Theatre in the Round” a millennium and a half before you were strutting your stuff in the Globe.)A favourite play was Medicus et in Domo, in which the great actor played Hippocrates, the legendary First Doctor. (No, it wasn’t William Hartnell.)  For stage props, they had the surgical knives used by Hippocrates, which were soon nick-named “dirks” after the great actor.

Many a fair lady fainted at the sight as Beauregardus pulled out his dirk on stage and held it aloft, glinting in the evening Mediterranean sunlight. (Cultural note 3: It’s well known that, in Classical Greek theatre, gratuitous smutty jokes were hugely popular. Just ask Euripides. “Euripides, I rip-a yours!” Who could forget – or even remember – the classic line by Chico in the Marx Brothers’ tribute to Classical Greek Theatre, A Night at the Hippodrome?) But I digress… (Cultural note 4: Whilst performing a particularly tricky surgical procedure, Hippocrates once pricked his thumb on his surgical knife. This was the moment of creation of the world-famous Hippocratic Oath. Yes, yes, I know! What did you expect? Wit and sophistication? We are talking second century here!) Dirkus died whilst on tour in Venice. Meanwhile, back on Kaos…

On Land and Sea

At first, the inter-tribal battles took place on land. The various tribes fought and slew each other with their Three-Pronged Forks, trampling all over the crops as they fought. The women of the island, who did all the hard work in the fields, cooked all the meals and cleaned and tidied up after their menfolk, got extremely annoyed by this needless destruction. So, gradually over time, the battles took place more and more in the shallow waters all around the island. They found their Three-Pronged Forks were quite good for catching fish, too.

The Tauries, at great expense, commissioned two great galleons with giant oars and galleys filled with captured slaves from the other tribes. The galleons were to transport the weapons to different parts of the shoreline for battles. But they found they only had enough Three-Pronged Forks to fill one galleon. Worse still, prolonged use of the Three-Pronged Forks in the salty seawater had gradually corroded the iron. Bits started falling off the now-rusty Forks and they became less and less effective as weapons. The Tauries were strongly committed to replacing the Forks. The people of Kaos were fearful of this. The great famine following the last trading with Ferros was still strong in their memories. All the other tribes, apart from the Little Willies, were against the idea of renewing the Three-Pronged Forks.

The Vote

The Tauries called all the people together, to get them to vote on who was best to lead them, thinking that they would consolidate their position once and for all. Unfortunately for them, the vote was ambiguous and left them weaker than before. It’s here that the historical record gets patchy. It seems that there was some other momentous decision that the leaders of Kaos had to make. What is known is that the Tauries themselves split into two camps, known as Brexitus Maximus and Brexitus Minimus.

Some historians believe this was to do with some Alliance with other islands in the area. But no record has ever been found of any plan by the Tauries to deal with this issue. One dissenting historian also believes that the Tauries were so desperate that they were led for a period by a woman! An even more unlikely tale is that the woman tried to cling on to power by holding fast on to the Little Willies. But mainstream opinion is that such tales are simply too implausible to be true.

Whatever the cause of the split, the Tauries were fatally weakened. This created the opportunity for the other tribes (except the Dupies) to forge an alliance and take over the running of the island. This alliance was known as the Koalition of Kaos.

The Aftermath

Notwithstanding the lack of information about the true meaning of the mysterious “Brexitus”, archaeological records are clear as to what happened next. Under the rule of the Koalition of Kaos, the renewal of the Three-Pronged Forks was cancelled, famine was averted, and peace and tranquillity reigned over the Island of Kaos for the next two hundred years. Such a long period of peace was, of course, of absolutely no interest to historians. This probably explains why the history of this early civilisation had fallen into obscurity for well over 1500 years.

(Literacy SATs Question: Why is Koalition spelt with the letter K? The answer is because the people of Kaos were GreeK, but they did not actually live in GreeCe. I would have thought that was obvious. You clearly haven’t been paying attention! Please see me after school for a remedial session of “Spelling and Punctuation for Idiots”. )

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Mr Men 2017

It has been some time since we heard about the Mr Men. Lots of exciting things have been happening! But first, there are some new Mr Men and Little Misses to introduce.

Mr Custard

Mr CustardMr Custard lives in another land over the sea. His brain is made out of custard. You know, custard is sometimes a bit runny. Sometimes it’s thick. Mr Custard’s custard is thick. Very, very thick.

One day, when he was a little boy, his teacher wanted to teach him a new word. It was an adjective: a describing word. Mr Custard only knew five describing words: great, bad, fake, false and failing. When his teacher tried to teach him the new word, Mr Custard’s brain got hot. Very, very hot! Some of the custard boiled over out of his brain and flowed over the top of his head. Oops! Because it was so thick, it set very hard on his head. It has stayed there ever since!

The fright of the boiling custard made other changes, too. Mr Custard’s hands stopped growing and stayed very, very small. And Mr Custard could no longer say the word “cat”. From now on, he could only say the word “pussy” instead.

Apart from his brain and hands, the rest of Mr Custard’s body kept growing until he looked like a grown-up. He had a job building big buildings. He tried building them out of custard first, so that he looked better standing in front of them. But, slowly, slowly, the custard buildings sagged. They sagged more. Then, slowly, slowly, they fell down, until they were just gloopy puddles of custard on the ground! The people who lived in the buildings were not happy.

Then he had an idea. His daddy was very rich and had a lot of gold. So, Mr Custard made his buildings out of gold. Hurrah! He stood in front of the gold buildings. His custard head looked less silly. And the gold was all shiny too! Mr Custard smiled and waved his little hands in the air.

Mr Custard lives in a land called Merry-Ka. Which is a funny name, because it’s not really merry. Every 16 minutes, someone in Merry-Ka shoots someone else dead. No so merry!

Mr God

Mr God knew everything. He was so clever that sometimes he thought he was three people! Funny Mr God! But there was a problem. The people couldn’t agree what he looked like. Some people thought he looked like a cloud. Others thought he looked like a slice of burnt toast. Others even thought he looked like a dog’s bottom!

Weather, Bum and Holy Toast
Weather, Bum and Holy Toast

But they all agreed on two things. First, he must have long arms. Very, very long arms. Because he could hold the whole world in his arms! Clever Mr God! And they all agreed he was good. Very, very good. Even though, if he was so good and clever, he let bad things happen. Oh dear!

Little Miss I-Know-Best

Little Miss I-Know-Best had a daddy who was a vicar. Daddy’s best friend was Mr God. Daddy had told her that Mr God was born in a stable. When she was small, Little Miss I-Know-Best wondered about Mr God. When he was born, did he float down like a cloud from the sky? Or did he just pop up, like out of a toaster? She tried not to think about her third thought about how Mr God was born.

Daddy wanted to be more like Mr God. So he knocked down his house next to the church. In its place, he built a stable. He did not want it to fall down on their heads. So he built it strong. A strong stable. And he didn’t want it to be blown over by the wind. So he built it stable. A stable stable. Little Miss I-Know-Best lived in a strong and stable stable.

Daddy told Little Miss I-Know-Best about how clever Mr God was. As he was Daddy’s best friend, she listened to everything Daddy said, so that she knew best. Then she wouldn’t need to listen to what other people thought ever again! She would know best. And she wouldn’t have to keep meeting people. She hated that! Unless, of course, it was just to tell them what to do. She knew best!

Mr Fox-Up

Mr Fox-Up lived in a den. It was a special den where all the clocks were a hundred years slow! In Mr Fox-Up’s den, the people in Room Number Nine were still the rulers of the whole world. They had big ships, big guns and went around telling everyone else what to do. More often than not, they had told him where to go!

Mr Fox-Up had a special friend, Mr Ferrity, who was a ferret. Mr Ferrity followed Mr Fox-Up wherever he went. He also ran up drainpipes and up trouser-legs and went into all sorts of places he shouldn’t go. Mr Fox-Up didn’t seem to mind. He had an important job working for Mr Two-Face. He was in charge of one small rowing boat and a pop-gun. This was all that was left of the great armada in Mr Fox-Up’s den. But Mr Two-Face said Mr Fox-Up had broken all the rules. So Mr Fox-Up had to go. Nobody expected to hear from him again!

Mr Breaks-It

Mr Breaks-It is one of the Nasties. Most Nasties are Posh. Mr Breaks-It isn’t Posh. He grew up in a place called Cow-n-Silly State. The Nasties think is a wild and lawless swamp. A long time ago, Mr Breaks-It and Mr Two-Face fought to be leader of the Nasties. Mr Breaks-It lost. (Mr Fox-Up was, true to form, knocked out earlier in the fight.) Mr Breaks-It didn’t do much in our story for a long time. But we will meet him again soon.

Little Miss Traffic-Light

Little Miss Traffic-Light’s favourite colours are amber and red. Sometimes, but not very often, she pretends to like green, too. Some people who really like green said she had fibbed to people in the Voting House about liking green. Little Miss Traffic-Light is Posh, like most of the Nasties. She was given a present by her sister: a money-making tree. But this and some other money-making trees died while she was looking after them. Little Miss Traffic-Light is a bit like a mini version of Little Miss I-Know-Best, as you will see soon.

The Other Mr Men

You may be wondering by now: what happened to the other Mr Men from our earlier story? When we left them, Mr Two-Face had just sulked off as leader of the Nasties in Room Number Nine. At the end of the story, we asked the question: “Will there be more creeping and back-stabbing?” Oh yes, there was!

After Mr Two-Face sulked off, the Nasties needed a new leader. Mr Look-At-Me was the favourite, because he had been shouting “Look at me!” for so long. Mr Look-At-Me thought Mr Mad was his best friend. Everybody was very surprised when Mr Mad said he wasn’t, and stabbed Mr Look-At-Me in the back and said he wanted to be leader himself!

So, five people put their hands up to say “Choose me please!” Mr Mad, Mr Fox-Up, Little Miss I-Know-Best, who we’ve met before, all put up their hands. And there was Mr Crab, who nobody had heard of. So he walked sideways all the time so people would notice him. And finally, there was Little Miss Loathsome. All you need to know about Little Miss Loathsome is in her name. Yeugh! Enough said!

When the Nasties voted, nobody was surprised when Mr Fox-Up had hardly any friends and was told to go. Mr Crab and Mr Mad were nearly as unpopular, and off they went too! Mr Crab scuttled off sideways. And Mr Mad sneaked off in the middle of the night. This just left Little Miss Loathsome and Little Miss I-Know-Best. All the Nasties were very excited! There were now just two Little Misses left in the contest! Then Little Miss Loathsome said something loathsome about Little Miss I-Know-Best. So, she had to go. That just left Little Miss I-Know-Best to lead the Nasties.

What Little Miss I-Know-Best Did Next

First Little Miss I-Know-Best said “hurray!” Then she chose her team of helpers. She told Mr Pale-And-Thin and Mr Mad to go far, far away. Mr Mad went to work as a writer for Mr Monster. But Mr Pale-And-Thin set about getting lots of jobs. He didn’t mind what the job was, as long as it paid LOTS of money! Greedy Mr Pale-And-Thin! Just a few weeks ago, he got ANOTHER job as well! This one is writing for a newspaper. There he can say lots of nasty things about Little Miss I-Know-Best, because she sacked him. Nasty, spiteful Mr Pale-And-Thin!

The New Helpers

Little Miss I-Know-Best chose some new helpers. She chose Mr Hammond-Organ to replace Mr Pale-And-Thin. Mr Hammond-Organ spent all day playing sad songs about how we had no money. These songs were often in a different key from all the other Nasties. This made Little Miss I-Know-Best cross. She thought she would get rid of Mr Hammond-Organ soon.

Mr Hammond-Organ was a bit boring. Little Miss I-Know-Best wanted to make things a bit more exciting, like running through wheat. How exciting was that! So she had a thought. “I know”, she thought, “I’ll choose some helpers that no one could have guessed!” And so she did.

The people in the other 27 rooms of the Big House bought most of the things the people didn’t buy themselves. After she burns the bridge across the little stream – which hasn’t happened yet – the people would need to find some new people to buy them instead. She needed someone to help. “Ah!” thought Little Miss I-Know-Best. “I’ll choose someone that no one will ever trust again! That would be fun!” So she chose Mr Fox-It for the job! Funny Little Miss I-Know-Best!

But her fun didn’t stop there. Oh no! She needed someone to make sure the bridge across the little stream was well and truly broken. So she chose Mr Breaks-It! “He has the right name”, she thought. “And it would teach Mr Two-Face a lesson for leaving me with all this mess to clear up.” Funny, funny Little Miss I-Know-Best!

But her best fun was still to come. She needed someone to talk to all the other leaders in the other lands, so that we could still be the best of friends. So she chose Mr Look-At-Me! Funny Little Miss I-Know-Best! What a joke! All the people in the other lands saw the joke too! They laughed and laughed until their sides ached and their heads turned to jelly! What fun!

Little Miss I-Know-Best smiled. What could possibly go wrong?

Next Time…

Next time, we will find out how Little Miss I-Know-Best got on with her new plans. Will it all be easy, like Mr Fox-It and Mr Mad said? Would we still be friends with everyone? Will everyone think Little Miss I-Know-Best knows best? Watch out for the next topsy-turvy part of the story!

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Desert Island Discs

Exclusive to Human Eyes!

desert island discs

I can now reveal the eight records Theresa May has chosen for her appearance on Desert Island Discs. They are:

Should I Stay or Should I Go? – Clash
Go Now – Moody Blues
Sling Your Hook – Jez and Labour
Our Day Has Come (original 1688 mix) – DUPey and the Rome-antis
No Woman No Rights – Bob M’arlene and the Wailers
Unsteady As She Goes – The Saboteurs
Is There Anybody Out There? – Barnier and Juncker
Give Jez a Chance – John and Yo-go

(May was forced into a U-turn on one of her choices when the BBC Record Archive could find no trace of The Laughing Policeman.)

wheat field

Book chosen to take to a desert island: The Desert of Wheat by Zane Grey, “to bring back those happy memories”.

spadeLuxury item to take: a spade, to bury all her hopes and dreams, and ours, too.

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Forever Walk Alone

A song for Theresa “No Mates” May: no mates in the Tory Party, no mates in the right-wing press, no mates in Europe…

If you stir up a storm, build your hopes up high,
But show you’re afraid of the Mail
At the end of the storm, we all say “bye-bye”
And tweet that you’re wrong and will fail.
Plod on: you won’t win
Plod on, say again
Till our screams are crossed with groans
Limp on, limp on, no hope in your heart
You’ll forever walk alone
You’ll forever walk alone.
Limp on, limp on, you won’t tear us apart,
You’ll forever walk alone
You’ll forever walk alone.

For pity’s sake, May, just go.

 

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My Way

The scene: President’s Inaugural Ball, Washington DC, 20 January 2017. The new US president and first lady take to the dance floor.

Donald and Melania Trump dancingAnd now, the end is near
And so you face the final curtain
The world, it stands in fear
The civilized: well they’re just hurtin’
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I bullied all, in a tough-guy way
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regret’s not what I do
My past mistakes, I’ll never mention
Regret is just for you and those I screw without attention*
I lurched from boom to bust, from bust to boom, a do-or-die** way
It’s mostly luck, don’t give a fuck, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I would grope and I would screw
But through it all, when there was doubt
I shut them up and spat them out
To ease my itch, just grab a bitch and do it my way

I’ve loved; myself of course
It’s what you call self-adulation
And now that I’m the boss, I’m gonna fuck up every nation
I’ll build a wall, and that’s not all
The world will glow, that’s in a fry way
If I feel heat, another tweet, I’ll do it my way

America, I’ll make it great
I’ll show you all just how to hate
The weak, the poor, and millions more
If I feel sore, I’ll start a war
To darkest times – at least *that rhymes!
I said “unite”, that all was shite, just do it my way.

(**I do. You die.)

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The Magic Number: 37

Regular readers of this blog will have worked out by now that I’m essentially a rationalist. I approach the world using logic and reason, checking of facts (as far as it’s practicable), updating my views in the light of new information. I’ve no time for superstition, religious or otherwise, in forming my views of the world around me. Or so I say.

So, just for a change, let’s put that all to one side for the moment. Let’s talk about magic. Or, more specifically, magic numbers, and one magic number in particular.

Magic Numbers in History

Over the whole of recorded history, and probably before, numbers have held mystical powers for people. The most mystical number to the Pythagoreans was the number 10. Pythagoras (580 – 500 BCE) himself thought numbers had souls and magic powers.

The most magical numbers in religion are three, four, seven, ten and twelve.

In Christianity, we have the Holy Trinity, Jesus rising after three days, the latter borrowed from pagan moon-worshippers. (Have you ever wondered why Easter wanders all over the calendar: the phases of the moon are the answer.) We have four Gospels and four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The creation myth (also in Islam and Judaism) famously uses the number seven: hence the days of the week. Then we have the Ten Commandments and Twelve Apostles.

The hajj in Islam requires pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kabaa (a pre-existing pagan ritual adopted by early Muslims). And there are many examples in other faiths. In fairy tales, we have three wishes and seven dwarves, to name just a couple of examples. An interesting overview is available on the Mystical Numbers website.

number 37 repeated
It’s magic!

But I want to concentrate on a different number from all these. There’s a spoiler alert already in the title: it’s the number thirty seven.

2010 General Election

Most people know by now that, in 2010, David Cameron won a small majority of 12 in the Commons on 37% of the votes cast. Ever since the 1950s, winning parties in UK general elections have never commanded more than 50% of the vote. I think the lowest figure for majority rule was by Tony Blair’s New Labour in 2005. An attempt at a fairer electoral system, a favourite of the Lib Dems was, of course, scuppered by Cameron and co during the coalition government 2010-15.

EU Referendum

The magic number 37 crops up again in the EU referendum result. This can be summarized as follows:

37% Leave
34% Remain
29% Did not vote

One of the key requirements of government in a democracy is to defend minorities from “the tyranny of the majority”. May’s government seems to be doing a piss poor job of this right now, against the hysteria of the usual media suspects in particular.

UK Economy

As my earlier blog post Two Gamblers and a Pint of Lager explained, our magic number makes its appearance in one stark view of how lopsided the UK economy is. In round terms, the UK has:

1% of the world’s population
2.5% of the world’s income
37% of the world’s financial transactions.

Financial institutions around the world trade sums equal to the entire global annual output every 14 working days. In the UK, we trade our annual output every day and a quarter! I explained in my post The City: Paragon or Parasite? that this kind of trading is “socially useless”. (The then chairman of the Financial Services Authority used this phrase in 2009.) It’s a major source of financial instability and will inevitably lead to another large 2007-8 style crash one day. It leaves the UK uniquely vulnerable of the western democracies to an economic shock such as Britain leaving the EU or Donald Trump as President of the USA.

US Elections

Talking of which, I did analyse the US election result to see if our magic number 37 dropped out of the voting statistics. Sadly, it didn’t. But I did learn that the voters of America split as follows:

42% did not vote
28% voted for Clinton
27% voted for Trump
3% voted for other candidates

Hillary Clinton leads Trump by 2 million votes in the count. In the whole history of US presidential elections, five winning US Presidents have lost the popular vote, Trump by the third largest margin ever. (There were larger margins in 1824 and 1876.) Perhaps more shocking is that fact that Trump is not unusual in becoming President-elect with the endorsement of only about a quarter of voters.

So, no 37 here. But hang on… the share of the American voters who did not vote for Trump is (almost) exactly double the share of British voters (37%) who voted to leave the EU. Or, if you add the percentage of the UKIP vote in 2015 (10) to the percentage of Americans who supported Trump in 2016 (27), you get, yes, (hurrah!) our magic number 37.  Phew!

OK, the more observant of you (which is, of course, all of you!) will have spotted what I’ve just done here. I’ve scratched around and selected some arbitrary “facts” from a greater whole until I’ve got the answer I want.* Which is basically what evangelical religious apologists do when they’re trying to “prove” the will of God or Allah behind some natural phenomenon. Tsunamis, for example, being God’s wrath – that sort of thing.

And Finally

But here’s just one thing more I’ve remembered. What’s the body temperature of a normal, healthy human being? Why, yes! It’s 37 degrees! Spooky, or what? (What, probably…)

*and mixed “percentage of votes” with “percentage of electorate”.

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Match Fit Britain

Chancellor Philip Hammond recently spoke about making Britain’s economy “match fit” in preparation for the shock of leaving the EU in the near future. In the spirit of the recent decision of the American people and of Donald Trump’s suggestion for UK ambassador to the US, here are some predictions.

Trade Negotiations

bull in a china shop

The former popular figure of John Bull is to be revived. He will be responsible for trade negotiations with the People’s Republic of China, with the view to making our trade deficit with them even larger. To ease negotiations, Mr Bull’s office will be located in adapted retail premises in Beijing.

Christmas

turkeyRetailers were pleased when, in a recent poll, 37% of turkeys voted for Christmas, thereby ensuring their annual mass slaughter. The French Government has made an offer to take any of our turkeys wishing to escape this fate, in exchange for the remaining child refugees in Calais. The European Parliament voted to suspend – by the neck – any turkeys found within the EU “before Christmas”. A spokesbird for the turkeys complained: “We’re damned if we do and dinde if we don’t”.

Church of England

empty churchFollowing a recent decision by the C of E to remove the requirement for all churches to hold a weekly service, a further innovation will be introduced to make better use of these much underused buildings, especially in rural areas. British zoos will be required to transfer any lions they hold and relocate them to a convenient church. This will provide the lions with more space to roam around. A Church spokesman said he expected this to reduce the need to hold services in these little-used buildings almost completely.

Monarchy

charles windsor cartoonIn a shock move no one expected, the present Head of State is to be replaced by a Mr Charles Windsor, a 68 year-old pensioner and serial violator of the “no political interference by royalty” convention. As a result, all Government Ministries are to be amalgamated into a single Ministry of Black Spiders. All current civil servants will be made redundant and, in their place, a small group of keepers will be appointed to look after the arachnids. In addition, a secondee from the British Homeopathic Association will be deployed to formulate all Government policy based upon interpreting the shapes of the spiders’ webs.

As a result, the redundant Mr Liam Fox will be put in charge of the chicken run, egged on by a Mr Adam Werritty. One other deposed Minister said that this announcement had “certainly ruffled a few feathers” in Westminster.

Utilities

jack and jillIn a move designed to save millions of pounds, the entire water supply network – pipes, pumps, reservoirs and all – will be closed down. It will be replaced by a promising new enterprise consisting of two small children and a bucket. The boy and girl said in a statement: “Any help from the British public to find a hill with a well on top would be much appreciated”. Share prices in water companies took a tumble on the release of this announcement.

Prisons

dickesian jailFollowing recent staff unrest about prison overcrowding, new incentives are to be introduced to instil a more positive attitude from warders. Staff will be encouraged to profit from prisoners by selling them a variety of services and to charge rent at “affordable” (i.e. unaffordable) rates. Free prison meals are to be abolished to help in this enterprise. A City analyst said: “I’d put my money on Class A drugs. The prison warders and the City could really make a killing in this exciting new market.”

Education

old school classroomIn a bold initiative to raise standards further, new minimum standards of attainment will be adopted for school pupils. Entitlement for continuing state funded education will be dependent on achieving at least 2 good passes in A levels at the age of seven. Successful students will then complete the remaining years of education learning the history of Triumphs of the British Empire and in declension of irregular Latin verbs. They will be known as “Class A”. A City analyst forecast promising joint enterprises with the prison service.

Children who fail to meet this standard will be required to fill the empty pews in our little-used churches, developing their athletic prowess by avoiding getting eaten by the lions. A spokeswoman for Sport England enthused: “This presents a great opportunity for Team GB 2024. Although we do expect that, in those Olympic Games, we will field a bigger squad for the Paralympics than the main Olympic Games. I’m proud to be part of another world-beating initiative for Team GB!”

Meanwhile, the Conflict of Interest policy for School Governors is to be revised. In future, all Governors who do not profit personally from decisions at Governing Body meetings will be dismissed, for showing a lack of the new British entrepreneurial spirit. School rooms where Governors hold their meetings must be adapted to include a revolving door affording easy access to local and regional companies in whom they have an interest. An Education Department press statement said: “This change has been made following studies of Best Practice in the Ministry of Defence and in new policy initiatives in the White House”.

Child Protection

donald trump shockedIn a related area, the screening of jobseekers working with children and vulnerable adults, known as DBS checks, will be changed. The checks will be replaced by a short practical exam, known informally as the “grope test”. Candidates will be required to show dexterity and physical strength in sexually assaulting women and children. Oral examinations, including verbal abuse, will be necessary for the most sensitive appointments.

The focus of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will be repositioned to examine case studies to be used as role models and for training candidates lacking in these key skills.

Administration of Justice

scales of justiceIn a shake-up in the magistracy, the Ministry of Justice has announced the closure of all its Advisory Committees across the country. These are the bodies that interview and select candidates to be appointed as magistrates. In future, released prisoners serving a minimum of five years in gaol will be automatically placed on a shortlist for the magistracy. A simple written exam will be used to sift from the shortlist. Marks will be awarded for wrong answers. Bonus marks will be added for evidence of cheating. In the event that too many candidates reach the required standards, priority will be given to convicted fraudsters, sex offenders and child abusers. A Justice Ministry spokesperson said: “It takes a thief to catch a thief”.

Health

anthrax cellsIn a controversial move, NHS England has announced the resignation of its Chief Executive. He is to be replaced by a vial of anthrax. Under its new leadership, the NHS is planning a series of “breakout initiatives” right across the health service: hospitals, GP surgeries and drop-in centres (to be renamed “drop dead” centres). The vial announced: “This is doubly-good news for the NHS. We expect to eliminate all waiting lists and the massive budget overspends by NHS Trusts in a matter of weeks.” He added “will the last person standing please turn out the lights, pull up the drawbridge and close the door. Thank you.” The Prime Minister commented: “This is really excellent news. It will certainly trump our other recent policy announcements. Under my government, Britain is at last taking back control of our borders. By turning Britain into a toxic wasteland, uninhabitable for 10,000 years, I confidently expect that immigration will immediately fall to zero”.

UKIP protested that 10,000 years is far too short a time for this to be an effective deterrent against our “invasion by foreigners”. The Daily Mail agreed: “These selfish, so-called ‘death tourists’ should continue to go to Switzerland where they belong”, it said.

No one from the Labour Party was available for comment.

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Mr Men 2016

This is a story bringing you news of the antics of some of the Mr Men today.

Mr Monster

Mr Monster
Mr Monster

Mr Monster was an ogre. Mr Monster was the most evil man in the world. He owned lots of newspapers and made himself very rich. With all his money, he was able to tell politicians around the world to do what he wanted. How did Mr Monster do this? He used some of his money to pay policemen to reveal secrets about the politicians. Then he threatened the politicians he would tell unless they do what he wanted. What he wanted was new ways to make himself even richer. That way, he could afford to bully more politicians. Clever Mr Monster!

Mr Mad

Mr Mad
Mr Mad

Mr Mad was mad. Mr Mad was delusional. He once worked for Mr Monster, so he knew ways to please him. He dreamed many dreams. These seemed very clever to Mr Mad. So he set about trying to make those dreams come true.

Mr Mad was put in charge of all the teachers. He went to their meeting, and they all laughed at him. This made Mr Mad madder. Mr Mad dreamed about how to get his revenge. He introduced many crazy schemes into the schools. He allowed people who, like him, knew nothing about teaching run schools. Some crazy things happened. How Mr Mad laughed! After a while, Mr Mad found that people did not want to become teachers any more. He also found that the teachers were leaving their jobs. Mr Mad scratched his head. What had he done? Silly Mr Mad!

Mr Look-At-Me

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

Mr Look-At-Me liked to be the centre of attention. Mr Look-At-Me found a good way to do this. He would say silly things, the first thing that popped into his head. People laughed at his silly things, so he would say more. Sometimes he would contradict the last silly thing. People still laughed and nobody cared that nothing he said made any sense. Funny Mr Look-At-Me!

When he was a very small boy, Mr Look-At-Me had birthdays like other children. When he was four, he decided he did not want to get any older. So he stopped having birthdays. Despite being big and the size of a grown-up, Mr Look-At-Me is still four years old. His mummy even failed to get him to learn how to comb his hair. “Look at me! Look at me!! Me! Me!! Me!!!” he said. The people stilled laughed. Funny Mr Look-At-Me!

Mr Slime

Mr Slime
Mr Slime

Mr Slime was made completely out of slime. Dark, green, gooey slime! Yeugh! Mr Slime hated everybody who was not like him. He wanted them all to stay where they were and not come close to him. Mr Slime’s slime smelled, a slimy sort of smell. The smell made people hate other people after they had smelled it. Mr Slime smoked all the time, to try to disguise the smell. Mr Slime drank beer. A lot of beer! He drank the beer to try to forget about the smell. People kept away from Mr Slime because of the smoke and smell. Slimy, smelly Mr Slime!

Mr Slime wanted everyone to think like him. Seven times he asked the people to vote for him. Seven times they said “no”. Mr Slime thought he had better find another way.

Mr Two-Face

Mr Two-Face
Mr Two-Face

People thought Mr Two-Face had two faces. But it was not really like that. Mr Two-Face just wanted everybody to like him. So every time he spoke, he tried to tell the people he was with what they wanted to hear. So Mr Two-Face kept changing his appearance. He was a bit like a chameleon, except he didn’t change colour. Only he did a bit: his face went pink whenever someone told him he was wrong. Mr Two-Face thought he was never wrong. He was, after all the leader of all the people in his room.

Mr Pale-And-Thin

Mr Pale-And-Thin
Mr Pale-And-Thin

Mr Pale-And-Thin was pale and thin. He was thin because he ate only a special diet called austerity. He was pale because spent nearly all the time indoors. He spent some of his time in his counting house, where he counted all the money. But he spent most of his time in his plotting house, where he plotted clever schemes to outwit the other people. He only ventured outside to visit places where people made things. There were so few of them now that it was getting harder and harder to find one. He wore a yellow jacket on these visits, to make him easier to see, because he was so thin. He also wore a hard hat, in case any of the people he had plotted against crept up behind him and hit him on the head. Poor, worried Mr Pale-And-Thin!

Mr Slightly-Grumpy

Mr Slightly-Gumpy
Mr Slightly-Grumpy

Mr Slightly-Grumpy was slightly grumpy. When he was younger, he had been very grumpy, and shouted a lot at his friends. Now that he was older, he had grown slightly less grumpy. But his friends were still wary of him. He said sensible things. But because he was grumpy, people didn’t take much notice. This made him a bit more grumpy. Grumpy Mr Slightly-Grumpy!

All the Mr Men were the best of friends, except for Mr Slightly-Grumpy, who just sat in another corner of the room and looked slightly grumpy.

The Big House

All the Mr Men in this story lived in a Big House. A very Big House! It had twenty-eight rooms, all of them big. What a Big House! All the Mr Men lived in the same room, Number Nine.  This room had once been a tiny cottage on the other side of a little stream. A long time ago, a bridge had been built across the stream and Number Nine became part of the Big House. At this time, the Big House had only nine rooms and the people were happy. Over time, more rooms were added and the Big House grew bigger.

At first, all the rooms in the Big House had big, strong locks. They made the people feel safe, but the locks were big and clumsy and took a long time to open. The people grew cross waiting for the doors to be opened. The people in some of the rooms took the locks away, so they could move about the house more easily. The people in Number Nine kept their lock, which was big and strong.

To make the Big House work properly, the caretaker had set some rules. One of the rules was that anyone could move to another room as long as they had work to do there. Where there were locks, these had to be undone to let in the people with work. There were other house rules, too. The leaders in Number Nine didn’t like some of them and asked if they could be excused. The caretaker said yes to some of these.

Before The Big Vote

After Mr Two-Face became leader of a group of friends called the Nasties, he found that some of his friends were really very nasty rather than just nasty. Mr Slime had his own friends, The Stinkies, who were nastier even than the Very Nasties. His own friends kept arguing and some were saying they would leave the Nasties and join the Stinkies instead. The arguments covered many things but, above all, they argued about whether to take away the bridge over the little stream and make Number Nine a little cottage again.

Mr Two-Face had a very clever idea. He would ask all the people in room Number Nine whether to keep the bridge and that would settle it and they could all be friends again. Clever Mr Two-Face! But Mr Two-Face had a problem. He had been telling everyone in all the other rooms for so long just how wrong they were with everything. Very suddenly, he said that they were all really his good friends and that he wanted to keep the bridge over the little stream. Straight away, Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me crept up behind Mr Two-Face and stabbed him in the back! Mr Two-Face was very cross and went very pink in the face. Oh dear!

Over the next few weeks, Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me shouted at Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin. And Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin shouted back. Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin made up lots of scary stories and Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me told lots and lots of fibs. They all got crosser and crosser. All the people got very confused. Mr Slime joined in by showing a picture which made people feel very sick when they looked at it. The people were even more confused!

The Big Vote

In the end, the people were so confused that just over half of them said they wanted to tear down the bridge to the other rooms. “Hurrah!” they said, “We won!” and rushed off to tear down the bridge. Some people brought matches and tried to burn down the bridge. But, whoops! What’s this? The wind changed and the fire spread to room Number Nine. There was lots of damage. Everybody blamed everybody else! Mr Two-Face said he didn’t want to be leader any more. Mr Monster smiled quietly to himself. His monstrous master plan was working out very nicely…

Next Time…

What will happen next? Will the fire spread to the other rooms in the Big House? Will there be any bits of room Number Nine left to live in? Who will lead the Nasties? Will Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me still be friends? Or will there be more creeping and back-stabbing? Will Mr Slime crawl back into his slimy hole? Or has his oozy, stinky smell made too many people into Stinkies too? Watch out for the next exciting part of Mr Men 2016!

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This Blinkered Isle

Johnofgaunt
John of Gaunt

This royal throne of kings, this blinkered isle,
This earth of poverty, this seat of wealth,
This other Eton; O, and peasants else.
This fortress built by nature for her self
Against infection by the stranger’s touch.
This scrappy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in a sullen sea
Which minds it in the office of a wall
Now under-tunnelled by our neighbour France
To grant temptation to less happier lands.
Th’enfeebled leader “referendum” cedes
To backbench plotters, hatred in their hearts.
With forked tongues dissemblers do declaim
While radiant truth lies strangled in blood’s heat.
Prince Bullingdon did toss a coin to see
Which wind would bring the greater gain to he
Of power, no heed for consequence to us.
False Duncan, and fantastic Master Gove
Join Boris dancing on the grave of truth.
Like witches three, they bubble up a brew
Of false enchantment that wise heads rebuff.
Whilst from the rancid sewer of the mind
Crawls Nige of Dulwich, honour’s breaking point,
His poison brokered into every pore.
Meanwhile, there’s bread and circuses afoot
With England drawing to the second round.
And aged Queen, with ten and four-score years
Distracts the mob with sycophantic cheers.
The long-seen monarch, quizzical of gaze;
For, truth be spoke, she has seen better days.
The wider picture? Well, of nought be said
Spare not a thought for how our votes be cast
Affect upon those others, far and near.
The cursed stranger, crushed by tyrant’s yoke
Once looked this way for brave, inspiring hope.
His gaze averts, his countenance a-dark
Now finds no haven in fair Albion’s arc.
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Can raise no greater sentiments than: me.
And decades long of fouling Mail and Sun
Hath leached and bleached the greater self, for shame.
Oh, little isle! Thou canst do more than this!
That England that was wont to inspire others
Hath made a selfish conquest of itself.

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Fairy Tales of Syria

Tale One

Once upon a time, about 2000 years ago, a man from Palestine, occupied by the Roman Empire at the time, was born. He went around preaching pretty subversive stuff like “love your neighbour” and not to respond to violent aggression. He soon got quite a band of local followers. This upset the Roman authorities and local religious leaders, so they found him guilty of some trumped-up charges and crucified him. This pretty quickly damped down the problem, his followers dispersed and nothing was heard of him again. (Although I’m not sure if I’ve got the last bit right.)

Tale Two

Another time, about 600 years later another charismatic young man attracted a band of followers in an area by the Arabian Desert. At the age of 40, on a religious retreat in the mountains, he met the Angel Gabriel, who passed on to him the words of God, which he memorized and told his followers. Later on, some of his followers wrote these down in a book and called him a great prophet. Gabriel mentioned that God told him that he may have said some slightly different things in the past, but these were his final thoughts and he would never change his mind again. So Gabriel, who had acted as a messenger before (coincidentally, when he made a call to the mother of the man in Tale One), would now have to be made redundant.

About 100 years later, some of the followers started writing tales that had been told about the prophet. These took the form of the words he had said, or the things he had done, as heard or seen by someone who had told someone else who had told someone else, and so on, before the last person wrote it down. These were gathered into another book.

Nothing much happened for the next 1000 years, except for one thing that matters to our story. The followers of the prophet prospered and ruled over a vast empire. This, the Ottoman Empire, by the standards of its day, was ruled benevolently with toleration of all beliefs of the many different peoples of the empire. The followers of the man in Tale One, by contrast, broke into many rival, warring groups. These groups fought, persecuted and killed each other and were totally intolerant of the other groups and of people with different faiths to their own. The descendants of the people who had originally rejected the teachings of their great man were especially picked upon and persecuted and killed wherever they fled.

Tale Three

About 300 years ago, another man, this time from central Arabia, studied all the writings produced by the followers of the prophet in Tale Two. He also saw all the other customs and practices which had grown up over the previous 1000 years. He thought these were grave sins and condemned them. He started to spread his ideas about taking the teachings of the prophet and paring them back to an imagined pure form. Some of his ideas were very cruel: he taught people to hate all those who disagreed with him and to kill anyone who changed their minds away from his own ideas. He said some pretty nasty things about women too: this was in marked contrast to the practices of the prophet, who had women in senior roles amongst his followers.

This man’s fortunes changed when he moved to Diriyah and attracted the attention of the local tribal leader. They made a pact that they would help each other to bring the locals back to the “true” ways – or at least true in their own interpretations. These practices continued down the generations for about 100 years, but with little overall impact. All the neighbouring rulers thought their practices were a bit mad.

Tale Four

About 100 years ago, things had changed. The great empire of the followers of the prophet crumbled and new empires grew. The rival leaders of these new empires fought a great war, for reasons nobody is really sure. Leaders of two great empires on the winning side, Britain and France, used their power to carve up the land in the Arabian Peninsula by drawing straight lines on a map. This produced new countries such as Syria and Iraq, whose boundaries bore no relationship to the culture, history and traditions of the region. The remaining warring tribes in the region fought each other for supremacy and land. The Anglo-French Declaration of 1918 offered self-determination to the Arabs: this promise was broken. Britain, above all, made various promises to these tribal leaders, only to break all their promises when it suited them, which it always did. This led to Britain gaining a – justifiable – reputation for duplicity in the region.

Tale Five

The British discovered oil in Iraq in 1927. The British ensured they, and not the Iraqis, reaped nearly all the financial benefits of this discovery until the Iraq Petroleum Company was nationalized in 1972. Bigger reserves were found a few years later in Saudi Arabia. Westminster College and Cambridge educated Arabist and freelance spy, St John Philby, was at one time courted by the British establishment. They then turned their backs on him. In revenge, Philby manoeuvred the situation so that the Americans (Standard Oil), not the British, won the oil concession from the Saudi King. (Philby’s son, Kim, was to go on to greater notoriety as a Soviet spy.)

The Americans were pleased with their coup, but they were not that bothered as they had plenty of oil of their own for their needs. The Saudis continued to rule their land according to the cruel and weird ides of the man in Tale Three. But they had all this oil, so everyone else pretended not to see the corruption and human rights abuses. It only affected a few Arabs.

Tale Six

Another great war broke out about 75 years ago, this time for a good reason: to get rid of a great tyranny which had grown up in their midst. The Americans were able to make a great fortune from profiteering in war supplies to their allies. As a result, the average American was able to afford to buy a bigger and bigger car, which needed more and more oil to drive it. The Americans now needed to import oil from other countries and the Saudis had most of all. The oil producers formed a club whereby they could use their power to push up the price of oil six-fold. The Saudi princes (7000 of them) grew very fat on all this money and wondered what to do with it.

Because of the secrecy, oppression of dissidents and lack of democracy and of the rule of law in their country, the Saudis were able to channel increasing amounts of money to groups all around the world. These groups sought to convert vulnerable members of the followers of the prophet to their cruel, violent and intolerant ways. All the governments of the so-called free world pretended this wasn’t happening. They didn’t want to upset the Saudis because they needed their oil. Yet all the time, these evil teachings were spreading like a cancer throughout the world.

Tale Seven

Matters came to a head on 11th September 2001 when a group of violent, deluded extremists committed the most audacious and deadly series of criminal acts in a single day. Most of the attackers were Saudi nationals. The leader, Osama Bin Laden, of the group responsible, Al Qaida, had close family connections to the House of Saud. Over 3000 people, mostly Americans, died in what the Americans now call “9/11”.

By this time, a very silly person indeed, George W Bush (thanks to fraudulent vote-rigging in Florida aided by his brother Jeb) had become President of the USA, despite losing the popular vote. He decided to bomb and invade Iraq, whose tyrannical leader, Saddam Hussain, had embarrassed his father when he was president some years earlier. The pretext was a lie that Hussain had weapons capable of directly threatening the west. The coalition of the more-or-less willing who joined the Americans included Britain. The British Government, regardless of the party in power, had been under a long-standing delusion that there is a “special relationship” between the USA and Britain. In practice this delusion was maintained by the junior partner in the relationship promising to support whatever the senior partner did or told it to do.

The Americans had their own delusions. After the fall of Hussain, the Iraqis would clamour to set up a US-style liberal democracy and groups would somehow emerge to bring this about. For, after all, who wouldn’t want to be just like America? It didn’t quite work out like that. The errors included a total lack of a plan for the peace and a destruction of the components of Iraqi civil society. In the vacuum that followed, disorder and corruption were rife. Many of Bush’s best friends were linked to companies who made a killing from the enforced privatization and contracts awarded. Even if they didn’t need it, the Iraqis were given a wonderful model of a corrupt administration and, indeed, that continues to this day. Thousands of fighters and civilians died in the ensuing chaos. The result was a catastrophic failure. Iraq is still a less safe place than before the US-led invasion: whether its human rights record is any better is a matter of debate.

Tale Eight

The ideas of Salafism, promoted around the world by money mainly from Saudi individuals, had led to the formation of many groups, who split and mutated. Best known in the west are the Taliban, Al Qaeda and now Daesh (or Islamic State, Isil or Isis, depending on preference). Each seems to be a more extreme and violent mutation of its predecessor. Bin Laden was tracked down by the Americans to Pakistan (a supposed ally) and executed. Any Christians involved in the decision were presumably persuaded by the effectiveness of the crucifixion in Tale One to stamp out his ideas.

With each turn of the screw, as every new group exceeded the last in terms of brutality and inhumanity, some of the offspring spawned are now biting the hand that once fed them. In the eyes of the most swivel-eyed of the fanatics, the “repression with consumerism” approach of Saudi Arabia is seen as incorrigibly decadent. The House of Saud is finally wondering what evil it has unleashed on the world: the west stays silent.

Tale Nine

Western intervention in Libya turned another brutal dictatorship into a failed state. One consequence has been to make it much easier for criminal people-traffickers to use Libya as a base for exploiting desperate migrants trying to reach Europe and safety. An “Arab Spring” uprising and fledgling democracy in Egypt was brutally overturned. This led to complete U-turns in western diplomatic policy in the space of a year or two. Western duplicity rears its head again.

David Cameron proposed to the UK Parliament in 2013 a bombing campaign in Syria to overthrow Assad, but was defeated by opposition from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Tale Ten

Which brings us to the present day. Syria, led by another brutal dictator, and traditionally supported by Russia and Iran, is a total mess. Following the crushing of a pro-democracy uprising in 2011, Syrian people took to the streets to protest. Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war. Rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces. By August this year, a quarter of a million people had died. Six million refugees from war were attempting to find places of safety and shelter, four million of them have left Syria, mostly into Turkey. Around 6% have attempted to reach Europe.

Daesh have taken advantage of the situation to establish a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq, the border between them irrelevant. A US-led coalition has been bombing Daesh-controlled areas with some tactical advantages (such as disrupting the supply of oil to fund their operations), but with no significant overall success. Canada has announced its intention to withdraw their bombers. Russia started bombing in Syria, apparently targeting anyone opposed to the Assad regime – including Daesh.

Following the Daesh-linked attacks in Paris on 13th November, President Hollande has significantly stepped up the rhetoric against Daesh and also France’s military operations. We now have a complicated multi-dimensional civil war with various foreign countries bombing different targets and a messy ground war without any ground troops from outside the country. In this complex situation, David Cameron is now trying to persuade the UK Parliament to vote for Britain to join those bombing Syria, but this time on the other side.

Respected military figures and politicians from all main parties have doubted the wisdom of Britain joining the US-led bombing campaign. The proposals have many similarities with the situation in Iraq to rid the country of Saddam Hussain. Again, there is no strategy for dealing with the situation when, or if, Assad’s regime is toppled. In his address to the House of Commons, Cameron spoke of 70,000 “moderate” opposition groups who could somehow defeat Assad and bring a new, stable democratic future to Syria. These people live in a different part of Syria from that occupied by Daesh and are split into about 100 factions. This sounds horribly like a re-run of the 2003 mistakes. Only this time, the success of any military intervention seems even less assured as the current conflict is even messier than in Iraq.

Both Conservative and Labour parties are split on this issue – although the rebellion is much smaller on the Tory benches. Jeremy Corbyn has said he is personally unconvinced of the wisdom or effectiveness of Britain adding a few more bombers to the mix. Cameron’s argument seems to boil down to the old adage of sucking up to the Americans, to preserve our “special relationship” delusions. Corbyn has called for Labour MPs to return to their constituencies and consult the opinions of members there. I’m unsure whether this is a sign of a new, more democratic form of UK politics or a failure of leadership. The British media have already decided it is the latter.

My own take on this? Daesh is an unspeakably barbaric organisation that needs to be stopped somehow, ideally by starving it of funds. But, short of genocide, military intervention almost never brings lasting peace. The warring parties eventually have to sit down and talk through their differences.

Fairy Tales

Of course, none of the above is true. It’s all fairy tales, isn’t it? Surely no one in the real world could be this stupid.

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