Who rules Britain? Let’s all kill each other and find out.

Our democracy allows the voters to change the government every five years. This referendum decision is permanent; the signatures ineffaceable. Is democracy therefore the ideal operative principle, in context?

The Post penned the above in an open letter to Lord Hennessy, the constitutional historian, the day after the referendum. In an interesting Newsnight interview, the veteran Labour MP, Sir Tam Dalyell pointed out the other night that around 500 MPs had voted to Remain in the EU, a massive majority. They should, he growled, have the balls to stand up and tell the British electorate that Parliament is sovereign and no, they’re not going to Leave the EU, whatever anyone says.

There’s a precedent for it. Successive governments have known since 1965, when Parliament voted to abolish capital punishment, that if the British people were ever asked for their view in a referendum, we should have half the population swinging from the gallows at Tyburn before breakfast. (A new twist on Strictly Come Dancing?)

The British have certain atavistic tribal instincts that aren’t safe to be let out in the modern world. We need to be protected from ourselves; which is why we created Parliament in the first place: a room full of supposedly rational people who can make informed decisions we may not like, but we go along with. And if the decisions aren’t rational, there’s an even more rational upper house that can supposedly push them in the right direction before we need to reach for our pitchforks.

Sadly, the events of the past few days suggest that a zombie horde has occupied Parliament. MPs on all sides are staggering about groaning, covered in blood, eating each others’ faces. They have become slaves to the ‘electorate’ – a disparate body of semi-comatose ignoramuses.

It’s not a pretty sight, and it doesn’t bode well.




The Brexshits: can you tell one from another?

So it looks like I was wrong about Boris Johnson, the shambolic albino bear-man in the Conservative leadership race, who has pulled out. Pulling out being the cheapest method of not getting your mistresses pregnant.

It seems he is not the only Conservative politician willing to take any position in the EU debate, to tell any lie, shaft any colleague and even to change sides several times, if it will enable them to seize power from the shining booby, Mr Cameron.

Who knew?

As an oracle, I can occasionally be pushed off-track by events. Sorry, I hope you weren’t relying on my advice to improve your position vis-à-vis BetFred. But he has, and I missed the signs.

Having knifed his ‘friend’ Dave Cameron from behind, switchblading from pro- to anti- EU campaigner in the slash of an artery, ‘Justice secretary’ Michael Gove, staunch supporter of the Johnson leadership bid (what, did  you honestly believe the EU referendum was about Europe? Get off the Prozac!)  has sliced through his ‘friend’ Boris’s jugular too, pushing himself forward as the swottily bespectacled, chipmunk-lookalike, post-intellectual candidate ‘Captain Britain’, with a tearful speech ruefully regretting that, perhaps, dear sweet Boris wasn’t quite the man to cometh at this hour.

(Postscriptum: he has now spoken to the Nation to say that he woke up early that morning, and decided to become Prime Minister so that he can carry out the will of the people. Be careful what you wish for, is all I can say. He must have been dreadfully bullied at school.)

Recognising a master assassin at work, Mr Johnson has ruefully stepped from the ring to fight another day. Possibly. Maybe he’ll just retire to an agreeable villa in… oh, sorry, no more right of residence in the EU. Bournemouth, then. Barmouth. Brexhill-on-Sea.

Meanwhile, Boris’s colourful dad Stanley, surprisingly also called Johnson, has quoted Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Sc 1: et tu, Brute? (You again, Govey?)

Does this thrice-treacherous little shit, Gove, seriously imagine anyone in the Tory party will vote for him now, fearing that he might ‘befriend’ them too? Or that, if elected to the leadership, the bulk of the voters in Brexitville might not look on him as a dog looks on its own vomit,  loathing as they do a grasping, power-hungry Westminster elitist, and make a sensible choice for a change at the next election?

Britain did not vote in the referendum for a change of government (notice: ‘gove’ is the initial phoneme of ‘government’! He probably first thought of that when he was twelve). Or maybe it did. Whatever, whoever wins the internal contest will soon have to go to the country, and we can fuck the treacherous Tories over and vote for… oh.

Er… Farage?

Last Man Standing.

Has the whole thing been a deliberate ploy to bundle Johnson into touch and claim the throw-in for the spectral Theresa May, the Home Secretary who, until petitioned earlier in the year, came within an ace of having G4S goons wrestle a 92-year-old white South African woman with advanced glaucoma and other medical conditions onto a plane back to Jo’burg (where she has no family or anywhere to go) because her paperwork didn’t give her the right to live with her daughter, a qualified carer, in England?

Mrs May, doyenne of Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre (a Guantanamo for failed female asylum-seekers and their babies, pre-deportation to whatever flyblown rapists’ republic the Foreign Office deems safe)  has also made a speech, in which she demurely proposed herself as the only possible choice for Prime Minister. Yes, we need more would-be murderers in the job.

These politicians are not evil. They are ill, and need our help. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with mental health services in the NHS. Mrs May’s government can’t manage to fund any.

I don’t suppose the deluded boobies who voted for Brexit after years of being driven insane by Murdoch’s propaganda campaign could possibly have imagined that both our main political parties would end up disintegrating in  their own mini-civil wars, tearing themselves apart over who grabs a little power in a little island newly freed from the exaggerated interference of Brussels; even as England fails so dismally to qualify for the final 16 in the Euro 2016 championship, being, essentially, a disengaged rabble of expensive haircuts (I loved Gary Lineker’s description of the young England squad as ‘headphones’) 🙂 *

The two issues are intimately linked: do all these foreign players, foreign managers and foreign oligarchs owning the Premier League not keep out honest British footballers, driving down… er, up wages and sullying the purity of the national game?

I should perhaps just mention that the English Civil War (1642-8; 600,000 dead) was initiated by Parliament, led by a rigid disciplinarian with piles called Cromwell (shurely the man was Cromwell, not the piles? Ed.) over the issue of ‘who rules Britain?’.

Shit happens.

 *Something far, far worse has happened. At this point in the text , perhaps unwisely, I inserted an ironic typographic ‘smiley face’ by placing a colon followed by a close bracket , only to discover to my horror that it’s a WordPress keyboard shortcut to an actual orange imoji. I am so, so sorry. I intend to resign, probably in October. – UB


The naughty nineties

God knows, I’m no royalist.

I was very probably the first (but not the last) person ever to kick the Prince of Wales. I was only six, it was at school, but I knew whose side I was on when I aimed a boot at the trailing leg of the haughty royal personage.

There’s a difference, however, between the person and the position. I actually quite approve now of Charles, the man. And his mum, Queen Elizabeth. She’s done a great job. I regret she has that job to do, but someone has to and it’s been great; if a tad stuffy and angled towards dining with unacceptable dictators.

Besides, who would you vote-in to the role of ‘President’, if we abolished the monarchy but still needed a ceremonial head of state to supervise the remains of the UK: Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? Theresa May? Chris Martin?

So I’m with the BBC Board on this one.

‘Prince’ lookalike, Russell Kane is an ‘edgy’ comedian, of a kind. It’s fine in a club where he can make jokes about his own sexuality. Undersized and with a slightly sinister girlie demeanour, it’s fine when he camps it up and then tells us he’s not as gay as he seems. Or maybe not.

It’s not fine, however, when on a dreary late-night Radio 4 ‘comedy’ panel show chaired by the anodyne David Baddiel, one of those not-quite funny men we’re stuck with, who should stick to playing fantasy football, Kane kicks off on a cretinous riff about how many times the Queen has had sex in her life.

The edge, Russell (what is it about self-certified comedians called ‘Russell’, I wonder?), lies somewhere between the person and the position. Queens possibly don’t do sex, unless you’re watching Versailles; humans however do; especially married ones. The Queen is in her spare time also a human, and a very elderly lady who deserves to be treated with dignity, not with cheap gobby sleaze .

Sort it out.

Russell, your mum probably used to go down on sailors for a fiver behind the pub on a Saturday night, lol. If the entire Band of the Royal Marines  hadn’t passed out on parade, they’d have shagged your sister. Smiley face.

Howya doin’, Russell? And the rest of you purulent, self-congratulatory media turds in the world of edgy BBC ‘comedy’? Like it?

The episode recalls the infamous phone message Russell Brand, appearing live on Jonathon Ross, left on actor Andrew Sachs’ answering service, informing him that he had fucked his granddaughter. The 70-year-old Sachs’ only crime was to have played the ‘Manuel’ character in Fawlty Towers. Brand, a self-publicising narcissist of no discernible profession, with ideas above his intellectual pay grade, crossed the line unforgiveably between the actor and the private man.

The BBC Board has issued a lapidary judgement: the remarks were a serious breach of the guidelines. It would be a good idea to tell Citizen Kane he’s not wanted on air, and to not pay him for the episode. But he’ll have an even lower-life agent, he’s got a contract, there’s not a lot you can do; other than keep on insulting the little prick.

Or maybe respecting him as a person separate from his on-air persona?


Good day

It’s a good day. I have heard from both my readers, Sid and Doris Bonkers (formerly of Neasden, now retired to Boglington-on-Sea) (see below!). I might use the same headline again.




Forward with Boris in glory to the past; and a reminder of how you were warned….

Analysis of the referendum vote shows that the older and worse-educated you are, the whiter your neighbourhood is, with the least number of immigrants and young people, the more likely you were to vote to Leave the European Union. It may not have occurred to you, then, that you were taking part in a General Election to enable Boris Johnson to oust his hated rival, Cameron, and that your vote had nothing to do with the coloured people next door.

BogPo Chief Political Correspondent,  Laura Facebook went looking for someone to blame….



Hi from @Laura’sweeplace

Hope this will do? It’s a Mr Bogler, 66. I’ve got his address somewhere in Romford. That in Essex? Quotes follow:


“Okay, so. I’m 66. Sixty-seven in two months, my how time flies when your wedding tackle’s packed it in for the duration.

“No, I don’t have a university degree – just a vocational qualification from a technical college. (Excuse the teeth, they don’t fit too well. Polish dentist.) But I do own a flat cap and a pair of brown Dralon slippers, they’re very comfy.

“And I remember the 1970s, the Golden Age that my generation has voted Leave! to get back to, before gay rights and foreigners and that Damon All-Bran person. Silly name.

“When I matriculated in 1970 after two years of studying and training to be a film cameraman, I was good at it. Knew my stuff. So I was offered a job straight away working as a camera assistant on an actual feature film shooting in London. If you’re over forty you’ll probably even have heard of the stars. Of course they were proper stars in them days, not just celebrities like now.

“Then after two weeks I was ‘let go’ – sacked without pay – on the orders of the ACTT, the film technicians’ union. I wasn’t a member. But not having worked in the industry for at least six months, I wasn’t allowed to join either, which I would of if they’d let me. The union was threatening to have the film ‘blacked’ at the processing laboratory unless I went and they could put some bolshy, pre-war old studio hand into my job, someone who hadn’t progressed beyond Assistant grade in forty years, at ten times the wage.

“Career, basically, down the drain. Thank heavens for Maggie is all I can say. And you could just walk into another job, so I did. No foreigners, see. You hardly ever saw a black face, let alone these Muslims. You could talk to your doctor and he’d understand you.

“Ah, the 1970s… You’d proudly buy a British car for four pounds seven shillings and sixpence, then sit out in your front garden with a nice cup of PG Tips, you know, the chimpanzees, they were good, and watch it rusting to pieces. Morris Maestro, Austin Allegro, Vauxhall Victor, Triumph Herald – Hillman Minx. The Bond Equipe! Great names, all gone now. Of course, the windscreen-wipers never worked. Come off in yer ‘and.

“Cars, and most else we made then, before the Common Market got carried away with itself and brought in all these foreign laws, were, basically, crap. Hadn’t always been, but the war, austerity, rationing, foreign competition, antediluvian management, bolshy unions, foreign competition, underinvestment, terrible old infrastructure (did we still have steam trains? I used to go to school on a steam train. Just like Hogwarts!), foreign competition; well, it had all gone a bit downhill under Wilson, hadn’t it, really, truthfully?

“Best not dwell on that.

“Yes, the jolly days before that nasty commercial radio, when there were the three BBC national radio stations to listen to – three TV channels to, basically, go out rather than watch – no ‘time-shifting’ in those days, only time – homely local BBC stations; you stood up for the National Anthem last thing at night, before bed. If you wanted to hear the latest American pop hit tunes and you lived in Essex or bits of Kent you could tune-in to Radio Caroline and Radio London, until the Government forced the ‘pirates’ off the air.

“And the cinema! You could spend a rainy day at the flicks for 1s/9d, watch the main feature in Todd-AO, Doris Day, that Rock Hudson; a B-movie in black and white, two cartoons, a newsreel and a Look at Life. Butterkist popcorn, a leaky cardboard box of Kia-Ora orange juice… You need never go home! Now that was real value for money.

“Great days, when it was legal and right to discriminate against anyone you liked. You could sack a pouffe or, better still, not hire him in the first place. You may not have been anywhere but you knew where you were. You could decide on their age, nationality, whether they was a real man or perhaps a woman, the colour of their skin, if you wanted them in the office. And wonderful comedians on TV! Bernard Manning, that Jim Davidson, brilliant jokes about the colour coming off in the wash!

“Now there was proper entertainers, not your politically right-on ‘standups’ nowadays, all that swearing and sex stuff.

“Oh, we had high old times, when the most foreign food you could buy on the High Street was a Wimpey burger made from Belgian horse lips and anus and suchlike, and a thick strawberry milkshake with real chemical strawberry, some Fairy for the froth and a spoonful of Polyfilla. None of yer E-numbers then, we’d never heard of ’em. Before all them computers and unleaded petrol came in, that was. And what was wrong with a bit of lead? I could do with some in me pencil now! (Doris, ‘ow do you put in one of them smiley face things?)

“Of course, we wasn’t all ‘consumers’ then, was we? Proper customers, that’s what we was. We had rights! We hadn’t given ’em away to Brussels.

“Happy Sunday afternoons, when professional sport was banned except if it had rained at Wimbledon and the only shop was the Pakistani on the corner, and even he closed at lunchtime. When pubs chucked you out at 10 pm and opened again at noon…. and closed again at three, and opened again at half-past five… but it were real beer, Watneys Red Barrel, none of your continental lagers, and only 1s/9d a pint. A man could smoke wherever he liked, not outside in a pram shelter in the rain. You ‘ad a bit of dignity then. Men were men, not these transvestments. It’s all gone wrong.

“Oh, but how we laughed together as the lights went out, and our working hours was cut to three days a week!

“Mind you, you could still get a well-paid job down the pit, or falling into a blast furnace. And then that de Gaulle died, didn’t he, and they let us in the Common Market, and it all changed for the worse. And the price of everything.

“Eee, but Britain were great in them days, and you never needed an education, not like now.

“Glad to have ’em back, if you ask me.

“Which you did.

“Ah, that’s my mobile. Excuse me, it might be my estate agent…

“Up yours, Delors! Eh? Smiley face?”


I make no apology for re-Posting the following, from three years ago. But if you’re looking to employ someone who can tell you what’s going to happen in three years time, you can send me an email  via m’friends at WordPress. My fee is negotiable, sort-of.

Home » End of the world » Hating the British

Hating the British

I often wonder what the European Union would look like, better probably, if the British hadn’t spent the last forty years being easily convinced by the endless barrage of propaganda paid for by the global corporatist conglomerate, that Europe is some sort of evil conspiracy of inefficient garlic growers, best kept at arm’s length; when, in fact, the English Channel is but a shallow, water-filled depression formed only a few thousand years ago as a result of melting Norwegian ice, and you can walk across at low tide.
A few minutes in the air over France, gazing down at the obsessively neat rectilinearity of the farms, gives the lie to the belief that French farmers still need our taxes to feed their stumbling plough oxen. How efficient would British farmers be, if they had to cope with the same volume of unexploded ordnance and well rotted corpses on their land? Time Team is hardly the same thing.
No sooner had they voted themselves in, than the British put on their High & Mighty Gannex coats and began jumping up and down in the rain on the touchline of Europe, yelling like demented dads at a schools soccer tournament: ‘Up yours, Delors!’, and similar technical terms unrelated to the peaceful transition from perpetual warfare to universal cooperation between nations that everyone else was expecting.

It never seemed to occur to the British that the point of a Union is to join in; only they don’t like it whatever it is, and demand to change the rules with every game to suit themselves. As a result, we shall never know if British membership of the club might have made a difference. We’re still too busy taking a preliminary piss in the foyer.

Thanks to the corporatist proxies, the media owners Murdoch, Northcliffe and the sinister Barclay twins, Lords of Sark (where?), the British have finally spawned UKIP, a party of pub bores, taxi drivers and in some cases seriously swivel-eyed power-seekers, led by a perpetually grinning salesman (but with an underlying air of tragedy), a spaniel-eyed Pagliacci who is seldom seen without a pint of beer in his hand and a fag in his mouth, although he is not really Andy Capp. He is merely posing, as Harold Wilson did, as a Man o’ the People.

The People, by whom I mean the British, fall for this schtick in droves, so desperate are they to be led into the wilderness by a real British man and not some traitor called Cameron, who will let foreigners in. At such times we lose the capacity to recognise that the cheery chappy on the doorstep is busy nicking granny’s wallet.

This party miraculously secured the same percentage of the vote in recent local elections as the party of the rancorous TV comedian, Pepe Grillo, did at the last Italian general election: 25%. Not that spaghetti-chewing Italians can hold proper elections, like the British. Foreigners don’t get democracy, a British invention.

The result extrapolates to an awful lot of people who think, on the basis of the complete ignorance of the issues in which they have been kept by the dreadful British press for 40 years, that we should ‘get out’ of the EU, before British culture is ‘swamped’ by Eastern and possibly even Southern European migrants intent on straightening our bananas.

I am imagining the reaction of Tory MPs’ wives, when they wake up on the morning after the referendum, only to find they are no longer automatically entitled to own their agreeable third home (converted from a shepherd’s hut, how killing!) in Tuscany, having swept royally through the Green channel at Pisa airport; where instead, they will be forced henceforth to queue for five hours at the Aliens desk behind several boatloads of tired and hungry Somali asylum seekers before being put on a plane back to Luton.

How, I wonder, will Kentish publicans, or the less well-off fathers of brides-to-be, react when they can no longer hop on a cross-channel ferry to Boulogne and haul back crateloads of duty-free Cava and several thousand counterfeit fags, and find instead some officious bastard from HM Revenue and Customs poking suspiciously through their people-carriers demanding payment of 150 quid duty?

And will it be Auf Wiedersehen, Pet for the thousands of British workers entitled to travel freely and seek employment elsewhere in the Union, whose frontiers will clang shut behind them as they are promptly expelled, enabling the same Bulgarians and Romanians whom the British don’t want to fill British jobs in Britain to sweep instead into Germany and France, Spain and Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg, taking the British jobs British workers will have been compelled to leave behind?

Well, maybe. But at least loyal British employers will be at liberty once again to kill and maim hardworking British workers; corporation tax will be cut to 10%, we’ll all be allowed to inhale other people’s cigarette smoke and let’s have no more of that dangerous foreign nonsense about human rights, gay marriage and gender equality. We can subsidise our own, highly efficient farmers, thank you… oh, sorry, they’ve all gone bust. Never mind, thanks to HS2 we can create a land fit for stockbrokers, bankers and global commodity traders – plus, of course, those lovely corporations, that have all our interests at heart.

Envious, curtain-twitching, dog-in-the-manger, dismally ignorant, insular, xenophobic, gullible British, with their grotesquely inflated view of themselves, their overweening sense of entitlement, their baseless air of superiority, their bombastic yearning for the return of a vanished global empire that never really existed (that our American ‘allies’ have taken away from them), crawling about in the gutter having fumbling sex in puddles of puke, constantly complaining about everything, hating anyone marginally more successful or less privileged than themselves, hating everyone who isn’t themselves, are welcome to live in their own little bubble in their tiny corner of the globe, on the rest of which seven billion inferior foreigners are happily getting on with ignoring their existence and learning Chinese.

As you drift rudderless out into the Atlantic towards the growling icebergs, Hardworking British Families, goodbye and thanks for all the Difficult Decisions. I’m off to live in civilization while there still is one.

Posted 11th May, 2013.


Morning sickness, and an open letter to Peter Hennessy

“I didn’t know what would happen, it was just a protest vote really,  I never thought we might actually leave…” (Leave voter on Radio 5 Live, regretting the mess she’s caused.)

The English and Welsh working class has voted with its blinkers on.


24 June, 10.00 hrs:

I’ve just discovered why I didn’t want to get up this morning.

David Cameron will go down in history as the most disastrous Prime Minister this country has ever had.

Under pressure from the Thatcherite wing of his party, and as a sop to the UKIP mob, to secure the 2015 election he gambled on a referendum and lost. He has shown the most appalling lack of judgement throughout the six years of his premiership. But this was the worst.

And now Chris Grayling – the former Justice minister who made it virtually impossible to get justice in British courts unless you’ve stolen a very great deal of money –  is being touted as his replacement, along with Michael Gove, Nikki Morgan….; Boris Johnson, a politician who clearly has no party other than himself, at odds of 5-4 on will no doubt stand for the leadership; the Labour Party has disintegrated around Corbyn this morning and the Thatcherites are back in control; the triumphal donkey noises from Farage are growing ever louder and we shall never hear the last of him, trapped on this sinking island.

The old English and Welsh working class has voted with its blinkers on. Yes, indeed, it must be the foreigners who are responsible for all our economic woes, not the capitalists, not the banks, not the politicians, not the markets, not the corporate tax-dodgers. Let’s just believe anything we’re told.

And in the rest of Europe, the neo-fascists are dancing in the streets*.

I am truly lost for words. How can people be this stupid?

Please, someone, anyone, buy my house. Get me out of here while I can still go somewhere where sanity rules.

This morning I feel sick.


*In my last Post I made a point about losing Gibraltar, since only the EU was guaranteeing British sovereignty over the Rock. Tragically, 96% of Gibraltarians voted to Remain. So we’ve sold them down the river. Great.  In the last hour, Spain has already put in a request for joint sovereignty. (How would all those working-class Essex Tories feel about inviting Argentina to take over the Falklands, I wonder?)

Qui sont les necessaires pour obtenir le citoyenneté Français?


An open letter to our leading constitutional historian, regarding the right of the British people to take away my citizenship of Europe.

26 June, 2016

Professor, Lord Peter Hennessy

The Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield

c/o Queen Mary’s University of London

Mile End Road
London E1 4NS

Dear Prof. Hennessy

Our most eminent constitutional historian, while standing knee-deep in the ashes of the European dream you have written somewhat ruefully (BBC News website, today) of this referendum as a triumph of democracy. I’m sure as a confirmed Unionist you will now also rue the likelihood of a second Scottish referendum based on the democratic principle resulting from it? (Cheap shot!)

I have to question though, whether a people that has been lied to so consistently and subjected to decades of negative, relentless anti-European propaganda in certain sections of the popular press, is a demos capable of making an objective, rational decision on the issues presented to it?

Do democrats not have some obligation to inform themselves of what it is they are voting about? Are some matters not possibly more complex than the average voter is easily capable of assimilating, as when in a complicated fraud trial the judge may sometimes feel obliged to dispense with a jury? Does Parliament not have a say? Or is that an elitist view from a sore loser?

Are some issues not so serious, they require retuning the fundamentals of politics? I’m afraid I’ve lost my enthusiasm for democracy in this case.

If the votes of the majority have been obtained by deception, then what value does democracy have, other than to satisfy the requirement that the subsequent catastrophe was willed upon themselves by the people and history must just accept it? Can history not be prevented? (I think that question calls for one of those irritating smiley faces….)

I ask, too, with greater seriousness, what constitutional right HM Government and ‘democracy’ have to deprive me of my European citizenship and passport? I do not wish to be a second-class citizen in Europe, with lesser rights than the nearest Latvian or Bulgar. I have committed no offence. My nationality now condemns me.

I must also endeavour to point out that what has ensued is, in effect, a predictable coup d’état by the neo-Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party, that feels its privatising, free-market, monetarist view has been too long out of power. Gove, Grayling, Redwood, Duncan Smith, ‘Dr’ Fox….. I name no names.

You may feel that is putting it too strongly, but I have observed their well-plotted campaign against centrism in the Party unfolding over recent years and listened to their bogus claims exploiting the easy grab-bag of issues that is the EU as a vade mecum, with increasing concern over the legitimacy of their project.

It hinges perhaps on what the Leavers mean by ‘sovereignty’ – ours, or their own? They appear in fact to have no idea of how they propose to direct the UK economy going forward; what ‘trade deals’ may be done, that we do not benefit from already. They are like bungling  art thieves who steal a priceless painting so hot that no-one in the collecting world will touch it. The British people have mistakenly voted for a principle, not a policy.

You are a busy man, but if it is of interest I should like to expand a little on what I mean:

Hijacking the media

A long-ago BBC journalist, occasionally a news editor, but also for several years a PR practitioner, two weeks ago I wrote to the BBC in the strongest terms, pointing out the likely biasing effect of their coverage of the two campaigns. Inevitably, their reply was anodyne; defensive.

My intent was to get them to understand what I had observed: that too frequently, their editors ‘balanced’ overnight pronouncements by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, the Governor of the Bank of England, the IMF, the CBI and others only in reported speech, while allowing the many willing and available spokespersons of the Leave campaign ample studio time to issue their blanket rebuttals and denials of the views of experts in, shall we say, more demotic language, seemingly without benefit of any factual research. This, I suggested, was the wrong kind of balance!

Aided by the uninteresting focus of the few Remainers whom BBC researchers could dig up to expatiate on the hypothetical economic consequences of Brexit, the tactic used by the Leave campaign was simply to try to shut down, or otherwise shout down, any advice being given to voters about the possible effects of withdrawal that might give traction to the Remain argument. This intolerance, to me, bordered on fascism.

Their many lies and exaggerations about the costs of membership, immigration, loss of ‘control’, security, the NHS and so on, designed to play on the most visceral elements of voter mistrust, are already being shamelessly ‘fessed up to as perhaps having been not quite accurate: the ‘professional foul’ seems to have won the match.

Our democracy allows the voters to change the government every five years. This referendum decision is permanent; the signatures ineffaceable. Is democracy therefore the ideal operative principle, in context?

I had to question, too, the disproportionate amount of airtime which Leave campaigners – especially Farage – were accorded before the campaign officially began. A populist demagogue and (in my view) a plain fraud, Farage is a past-master at hijacking the news agenda in order to circumvent restrictions on political campaigning. The notorious ‘migrant’ poster published by UKIP, from which the Leave campaign had to distance itself, bought him hours of free airtime and was typical of his previous campaigning strategy of creating controversy purely in order to get on to the news schedules, from where he can freely peddle his noxious opinions.

Even the Leave campaign found Farage too toxic. He was not made an official spokesman and his UKIP party has only one seat in the House, but somehow he was never off the airwaves in the days leading up to the vote. Again, my criticism of, especially, the BBC in giving him so much oxygen hinges on their need for sensationalism as a driver of ratings. Simply put, because he has few constraints on what he says, he is considered better ‘value’ than any of the less colourful and more measured politicians whom voters have come to detest for their constant dissembling. To the public, however, the frequent presence of Farage (‘He’s one of us, isn’t he?’ is something I once heard) is tantamount to official acceptance of the legitimacy of his opinions.

Was the vote obtained fairly?

Reportedly, over half a million ‘new’ voters were registered in the last two days in which registration was allowed, additional time that was bought by users crashing the YouGov registrations website in the final hours of official time. Accident? Internet users are rather more ‘tech-savvy’ than that. Given that we’d had a General Election only 13 months earlier, and European, regional and local government elections barely five weeks before, this sudden massive surge of voter interest seemed surely rather unusual? Who were all these people, who had somehow previously forgotten they had a right to vote in elections? (I have seen the final figure put at two million late registrants.)

The time factor seems critical too: by pressing relentlessly for an early date, the Leave campaigners succeeded in compressing the time available for organisation; for instance, excluding the possibility of opening the vote to 16–17 year-olds, as in the Scottish referendum; a demographic who, with their obvious enthusiasm and educated interest in the future of their country, were seen as part of the Remain constituency and hence needed keeping out.

A large number of expatriates were also excluded, despite their obvious interest in retaining their right of residency abroad; EU citizens long-term resident in the UK but not actually British citizens also had no say, and there was a large postal vote, which is always open to suggestions of fraud. The claims of all such groups were dismissed under pressure from the Leave campaign, protesting unfairness. (They are very good at special pleading.)

Thus in my view there was an element of gerrymandering by the Leave side, planned and conducted well in advance of the actual campaign. There is no doubt about who was in the driving seat.

We might also enquire of the opinion pollsters why, after weeks of showing a small majority for the Leavers,  they detected a sudden (and untrue) rise on the Remain side in the four days leading up to the vote, giving a prediction of a close result that was in the event the mirror-image of the actual outcome. Was this to do with spread-betting or hedging in the financial markets? The pound rose on the news, only to collapse like a puffball on the Friday morning. Someone will have made a killing out of it. As they say in TV crime dramas, ‘follow the money’.

The timescales, too, make sense only in context of a planned coup.

Mr Cameron, whose judgement on so many matters has been suspect, surely gave a hostage to fortune in 2015 when promising his Eurosceptic backbenchers and the readers of the Daily Mail a referendum in 2017 in order to secure the General Election, which he won by a narrow margin. At the same time, having never read or seen King Lear, he foolishly announced that he would not run again; news which could only come as manna to the power-hungry traitors around him.

In buying off the UKIP vote and bringing his own right-wing back into line, Mr Cameron then allowed himself to be bounced into advancing the date of the referendum by a year; time in which the Remain campaign might have gained traction with the public. As it was, the invisible Sir Stuart Rose failed dismally within the short time available to find those ‘hooks’, what are now loosely termed ‘memes’, the basic ideas and slogans any good campaign needs in order to grab the popular imagination.

The referendum was won by the side with the better PR, the greater capability to shut-down debate, and the longer advanced planning; or should I say, plotting: not by ‘democracy’! (My view was cemented in place by a ‘vox pop’ interview conducted by BBC journalist Sima Kotecha in Hartlepool, where her first interviewee, a British lad, had no idea what the EU was, he had never heard of it.)

By forcing the Prime Minister’s hand, bringing the date of the referendum forward so close to the regional and local elections, the Leave campaign ensured that the Remain side barely had time to regroup; and in the meantime, were able to swamp the airwaves with their distorted version of our relationship with the EU, making dangerously vague forecasts of our likely economic success outside it; playing upon silly notions of British ‘greatness’ and (with the fortuitous refugee crisis unfolding in Europe) implanting the killer meme that we had ‘lost control of our borders’, which is patent nonsense.

I imagine, too, that the Prime Minister and those around him were not expecting the result they got, and showed the feeblest and most dilatory complacency; ultimately destroying their own careers, as well as Britain’s reputation in the world, and throwing away our power and influence in Europe. The tragedy was that Mr Cameron had no need to call a referendum at all. His desperate round of ‘negotiations’ to further promote British exceptionalism was a national embarrassment; tricked and bullied into it, whatever concessions he brought back – peace in our time – were likely to find no favour with his enemies.

The politicians to whom the government (and the British electorate) have handed power are no democrats.

The propaganda campaign

The confusing ‘pros and cons’ style of media coverage, with no clear water between the two arguments, and no exposition of Britain’s historic role in Europe, can only have led – in the very limited time available for voters (most of whom, I suspect, had previously given little consideration to the EU) to inform themselves – to what Peter Jay and John Birt termed a ‘bias against understanding’.

Prof. Greg Philo, of the Glasgow Media School, perhaps put it more succinctly when he complained that the principal function of the media was to create mass ignorance. The Leave campaign has its roots deep in the monopolistic corporate interests of media owners, the press barons; some of whom serve the interests of discreet global pressure groups as invited members of exclusive clubs for the very wealthy and influential, with their dislike of business regulation, consumer protection, type approvals, workers’ rights, equality legislation, environmental laws and the intolerable burden of taxation.

That the EU offered the people of Europe so many guarantees of that nature was lost on the voters, so easy was it to present lawmaking in Brussels (not, please note, ‘by’ Brussels! British interests were fully represented) as interference with British independence and ‘sovereignty’ – the ‘No taxation without representation’ myth; that we were somehow ruled from abroad and had no say whatever in our own affairs; that ‘foreigners’ were getting more favourable treatment than we were; that we were being ‘swamped’ – the same old lies perpetuated for centuries by demagogic, self-serving, soi-disant ‘patriots’.

And, as anyone might have expected, the neo-Thatcherites have already moved against the centre to seize control of the Party; we are being exhorted as a nation to ‘reconcile our differences’, as in any squalid third-world revolution; and their preposterous figurehead, the calculating Boris Johnson, a politician of no party other than his own, apparently a man without scruple, is already on the telephone to Pickfords.

This is not what I would call ‘democracy’, other than in the most forensic terms. Yes, it was a marginal vote to commit geopolitical suicide; the people, it appears, have spoken: but in ignorance of the matters upon which they were voting; and of whom they were letting into power. Britain’s sovereignty is vested in the Queen and our elected Parliament, guided by the Lords; not the mob. Before this referendum was called, Parliament should have voted on the issue first. They have not been allowed to do so. We do coups differently here.

By the time you receive this letter, I expect it will have been overtaken by events*: there are millions of unhappy voters who thought they were taking part in a genuine referendum, not a General Election by subterfuge. They have equally been conned: this was not about Europe, but a few ambitious men (and fewer women) seditiously plotting to change the government by any means short of actual violence.

The constitutional implications, as you have rightly said, are incalculable.

Yours sincerely, etc.


*Indeed, they have been. (Postscriptum, 14 September, 2016)

The nascent neo-Thatcherite coup of Grayling, Gove and J0hnson was immediately nipped in the bud by the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, by what means and authority only future historians may uncover. In an adroit counter-coup, without benefit of ‘democracy’ or even a visible party machine, as the booby Cameron made one final misjudgement and departed, she seized the Prime Ministership unopposed, sine die.

The ‘Brexit’ supporters were sidelined, other than the triumvirate of Johnson, Davis and Fox, who were given the impossible task of trying to negotiate our way out of the trap they had led us into. Other plotters including the egregious little swot, Gove have either been sent to the Gulag or put into punishing ministerial roles like Transport (Grayling) that no human being would tolerate.

I am still trying to understand how this happened, why the plotters ultimately funked it, but I expect that Prof. Mary Beard, the expert on ancient Roman affairs, would be able to cast some light on the mechanism by which this was accomplished.



Europe: Remain, the ‘Great Debate’ and Boris fucking Johnson. Let him take away your rights.


Vote Leave! If you prefer to have fewer rights in Europe than a Romanian, a Bulgarian or a Latvian citizen.

By: Laura Facebook, Chief Political Correspondent ©2016. @laurasweeplace

Boris Johnson turned into a rabid Eurosceptic only when it became clear that the leadership of the Conservative party hinged on the possibility of a referendum vote to leave the EU.

He is fully prepared to gamble your children’s future away to further his own ambitions to become Prime Minister. He has no interest whatever in the future of Britain’s historic role as a power in Europe. As Mayor of London for eight years, Boris Johnson encouraged foreign criminals and money-launderers to come in and push up property prices to obscene levels*. He has left much of London a ghost town.

You would be crazy to vote for him!

Mr Johnson and the others, the neo-Thatcherites on the right of the Conservative party, tell us we can survive perfectly well outside the EU – although as I remember we weren’t doing too well in the early 1970s, before we joined the EEC as it then was. (And I remember at the time, General de Gaulle saying Europe couldn’t trust us…) What they cannot say is why we should? Why run the risk? Regaining our – their – sovereignty may only mean handing it instead to powerful tax-dodging US corporations, making it easier to commit environmental crimes and encourage further privatisation of the NHS.

All they can do to persuade you is to lie about immigration. Playing the immigration card – ‘foreigners’ are responsible for all our ills –  is the oldest political deception in the book! Is it that easy to press your buttons?

Separated only by a shallow sea, connected by a tunnel, Britain is geographically a part of Europe; not the 51st State of America. But even America wants us to stay in the EU. For better or worse, the principal institution in Europe now is the EU. We have to remain a member or lose our rights to privileged citizenship of our own continent, where many of us live, holiday and work. Leaving the EU will give us lower social status than Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia. With France in decline, Germany will become the sole major power in Europe. Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Adolf Hitler – their expansionist dreams invariably coincided with periods when Britain had turned its back on Europe. We forget how close we came to losing those wars.

If leaving breaks up the EU, as could happen, smaller countries like Ireland and Malta will suffer most. Unless we are prepared for war with Spain, we could lose Gibraltar: our sovereignty over the Rock is guaranteed by the EU. EU migration is a red-herring: there are more jobs than ever available in Britain, lower unemployment and rising wages. Migration is driving what growth there is in the UK economy. We need those people, they are not scroungers, deadweight – they are keeping us going! Millions of British citizens have retired, live or work in the EU and may lose their right to remain. Who will look after them if they have to return? How much will that cost? Where will they go?

And do you think our struggling supermarkets won’t use a Leave vote as an excuse to push up food prices? They have already said that will happen. Business leaders too who say we should leave are speaking purely out of self-interest, not for the majority of businesses who will lose out. There has been too much special pleading on behalf of narrow interests.

EU business creates jobs in the UK where globally jobs are migrating to lower-wage economies. America and China will not welcome us as trading partners, they are erecting trade barriers. If we leave our businesses will still be subject to World Trade Organisation, TTIP and other countries’ rules and red-tape. We cannot avoid trading with Europe, too.  There is no free ride. We already trade with other countries, the EU does not stop us from doing that; nor does the EU stop us making our own laws; except maybe bad ones. Britain’s interests are fully represented in Brussels and Strasbourg by both the EU parliament – a democratic institution with elected members – and by the European Court; which, contrary to press propaganda, upholds most UK Supreme Court decisions. Even the master of PR spin, the ever-braying donkey Nigel Farage is an MEP, living on expenses counted in Euros.

Wake up, you are being lied to!

If we leave the EU, where we have been a member for over 40 years, no-one will ever trust our word again. We will never get back in. It may breakup the UK – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland do better in the EU. Even, it is being suggested, London could try to leave Britain, to become an independent state. London does very well in the EU too and the City is the major engine of economic growth not just in Britain but in Europe. That would change.

If we remain in the EU we have an opportunity to reform it. If we can’t reform it, we can always leave later. Now is not the time!

There really is no better option. Unless you want to put your sovereignty in the hands of ambitious men like Boris fucking Johnson, who has no Plan B. Or be trapped in HM Prison Ship Britain with the likes of Michael Gove in charge, or to suffer a massive swing to UKIP at the next election, never hearing the end of it from Farage, it’s a simple choice.

Vote Remain on June 23rd.



*This may have come back to bite him. Shares in Foxton’s, London’s leading quoted estate agent, that makes millions out of flogging property to foreign investors, have fallen 18% overnight. Apparently London post-Brexit may no longer be the best place to launder your ill-gotten gains.


(Football alert)

Slightly touched

Tiny Northern Ireland  lost today by only one goal to mighty Germany, the world champions, to come third in their Euro 2016 league. Had they had a striker of Gareth Bale’s capability, a Rolls Royce player, who knows?

What I found fascinating is that none of the commentators  thought it of interest to speculate – or even to comment on the fact – that the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, McGovern, who played an utterly brilliant and brave game in defence, might have prevented Germany’s Gomez from scoring, had he not been trapped beneath the body of one of his own defenders who had fallen on top of him and could not get up again. Did they not notice?

A 0-0 draw would have given Northern Ireland an extra point and made it virtually certain they would go through to the knockout round.

The commentators are always infuriating, refusing to criticize any player for cheating. Especially the former players, who invariably explain away the hideous ‘professional’ foul someone has just committed, that could have ended a player’s career with a broken leg, to prevent an attacking player from getting into a scoring or passing position by hacking his ankles, kicking him in the face, stamping on their knee or raking a leg with his boot studs: ‘Yes, well, maybe just a little nudge there’ … ‘perhaps he went in a bit high …’

Do they not understand how this lazy cynicism translates to the amateur leagues and schools divisions? Matches where players are continually hacking away at one another’s ankles, tugging at their shirts, pushing them in the back, elbowing them in the face, hoping no-one will notice;  putting on grotesque, childlike pantomimes of innocence and outrage to the referee when caught out, are sickening and boring to watch. If they want to play rugby there are plenty of clubs they can join.

It is also counter-productive: referees are often ultra-suspicious and give free kicks and penalties when they are not deserved, just because players have been fouling one another so frequently the assumption has to be that they were at it again!

TV is at the heart of popular culture. Do better, commentators. Let’s stamp out the ‘professional foul’ – a euphemism for blatant cheating.


Maintaining an air of discomfort

Casting male or female actor aged 41-50 for an online viral for Red Bull. The actor will need physical comedy experience and be able to speak English and do a Nordic accent. The actor needs to be able to look like they are slightly world worn and exhausted by life in business. They will need to show a rigid awkwardness and discomfort throughout and to express the character of a weak man who can’t control the situation he’s faced with. An important aspect of the demands of this job are (sic) that the actor be comfortable on a motorbike and be able to pull faces but also maintain an air of discomfort. Paid £400 flat rate.

-Angel Stages casting website

Now, tell me, pray. Who is comfortable on a motorbike? Comfort is not the point of a motorbike! While maintaining an air of discomfort? How would you tell? And how can one be comfortable while remaining rigid and awkward and pulling faces?

Resolving such nuanced ambiguities in a Nordic accent is the very essence of the actor’s art. As my old school chum, Kostya Stanislavsky once said, if you can’t get inside the head of the character, just speak the lines.

Who looks like they are slightly worldworn and exhausted by the business of life, while wearing a compulsory motorcycle helmet and a threadbare business suit? Who better expresses the character of a weak man who can’t control their situation than a man or woman hanging on for dear life to a set of handlebars at 90 mph?

Who has had physical comedy experience? As opposed, presumably, to mental comedy experience? Are they expected to fall off the bike, comically?

What female could express the character of a weak man? Meryl Streep, possibly. And who indeed is male or female? Nowadays, speciation is a thing of the past. Are we not all whatever we want to be? Unless of course we are unable to control the situation we are faced with.

Why, step forward, me!

There is of course the little matter of no longer being 41. That, and not having the faintest idea what a ‘viral’ is. But £400 can buy you a load of Botox.

I am ordering in the celebratory Red Bull.


Court order

Eastbourne, 23 June. Preliminary to Wimbledon. A grass-court tennis match is in progress. Radwanska against someone or other. 4-3, first set. As is wonted in Britain in June, it starts to rain. Someone or other looks anxious and, as if to make a point, caresses the turf speculatively. The camera cuts to a large close-up of her shoes.

The players consult the turf. Slippery. They consult the referee. The referee consults the turf. The players wander around anxiously. The referee calls a rain stoppage. The players come off court but remain in their seats. Ballgirls are deputed to stand over them with umbrellas. The players wrap themselves morosely in towels.

Groundsmen both senior and junior wander in through the players’ tunnel and stare at the sky. They consult the turf. Heads are shaken, teeth sucked. Umbrellas and rain hoods start going up in the crowd. The referee consults the groundsmen. Officials wander in, stare at the sky. The camera dwells on the clouds piling up over Eastbourne. There have been flash floods in South London, thirty miles away.

Officials consult the turf. The camera dwells speculatively on the rain covers, lying unused by the side of the court. Someone or other, a well-built Slovak, sits, legs wide apart, her racket suggestively propped handle upwards between muscular thighs against the front of her chair. She doesn’t care.

It occurs to me that if the turf was too slippery to play on before, it’s certainly going to be too slippery to play on now, no?

Ah, the British genius for doing nothing.

Oh look, it’s stopped raining!

And back on court they go.




The thin red, white, blue, yellow and/or green line: Why standing still is bad for you

(Football alert)


On top of a steep hill a mile from where I live, where cows now placidly graze, you can still see the concentric rings of the ancient earthworks of an impressively large Iron Age fort. It’s a well-defended strategic position, giving wide views over the bay and inland for several miles along the valley. Two millennia ago the inhabitants would have been showing their blue bottoms and heroically brandishing bronze daggers before being cut down by the well-drilled mobile mincing-machine of the Roman army.

Perhaps half a mile from there, next to the sea, the stub of a tower rises forlornly above ruined walls and battlements, the grassed-over keep of a once-mighty medieval castle, around which a bastide town grew and turned into a jolly destination for Victorian day-trippers. On the other side of the harbour, the sealed-off gun embrasure of an overgrown World War Two concrete pill-box points blindly out to sea, never having fired a shot in anger.

For centuries, generals and rulers have been constructing fixed defences in an attempt to deter, detain or repel invaders. Of course, we’re all familiar with the Great Wall of China; Hadrian’s Wall; Offa’s Dyke – Israel’s ‘wall of peace’ – Trump’s wall of Mexicans.  By the middle of the C17th, Britain’s medieval castles had become no match for Cromwell’s mobile artillery. After the Civil War many of them turned into, or inspired the building of, grand private houses, architectural whimsy for the nouveau riche in a nod to the ancestral world of chivalry; or were just allowed to decay into the landscape, to the delight of the poets and artists of the Romantic movement.

Nevertheless, the redundant strategic value and vast cost of fixed fortifications seems never to have troubled the notoriously rigid cast of mind of the military. During the Napoleonic Wars, the famous white cliffs of Dover were extensively tunnelled and fortified against an imagined invasion, that never came. Pressed into service again in the Second World War, the Dover fortress had limited effect as a long-range gun platform, able to shell fortifications on the French coast; as an observation post, and as an ammunition dump. It’s now a tourist attraction. It was the ever-moving sea, and the fluid war in the air that prevented the Wermacht from setting out in the invasion barges.

In the 1930s, seemingly oblivious to the recent butchery along a static Western front, literally deadlocked, with its thousands of miles of hasty fortifications linked by trenches, failing to note that the British invention of the ‘Land Ironclad’, the highly manoeuverable tank, had turned the ground war at Cambrai; but mindful only of two wars lost in the C19th against an expansionist, unifying Germany, French War Minister André Maginot ordered the building of a chain of massive bunkers and fortified artillery positions linked by a railway along the German border: the Maginot Line. In the event, in 1940 the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ just drove round and through it all, encircling the garrisons in their rear, before moving on to occupy France.

Never a master strategist, against the advice of probably his best general, Erwin Rommel, and heedless of the abject failure of Maginot’s grandiose project, Hitler then ordered the construction of an ‘Atlantic Wall’. Built by slave labour, using up every ounce of concrete and steel Germany had to spare, a chain of supposedly impregnable gun emplacements and forts was constructed along a 3,000 mile coastline from Norway to the Spanish border. Taking heavy casualties, as air and sea bombardment had made little impression, nevertheless the Allies simply drove through, round and over it, and on into occupied France; as Rommel, who advocated a mobile defence-in-depth, had predicted.

Built by master castle designer, James of St George, to subdue the Welsh and give his supply ships safe access from the sea, the C12th castles of Edward 1 were an obsessive project said to have cost more than ten times the amount of money in the royal exchequer, a staggering sum expressed in modern money of £33 million; which might in its time have roughly equated to the £60 billion cost of renewing Britain’s now strategically outmoded but nevertheless mobile Trident fleet of four nuclear submarines. It wasn’t enough; there was no money left for maintenance of the garrisons and the castles soon fell down, or being betrayed from within were easily overrun by rebellious local warlords.

The massive Crusader castle of Alamut, in Syria, was thought to be impregnable. Occupied as their main base by the feared Ismaili sect known as the Assassins, after an eight-year seige it fell to the Mongols on their versatile little ponies and the Fidai’in were put to the sword. These formidable-looking stone structures in reality proved to have little more than symbolic value and their (mostly – some have been restored) ruins are now UNESCO-listed tourist sites. In the ironic words of the Romantic poet, Shelley: ‘Look on my works ye mighty, and tremble!’

(Is there a point to all this, Bogler? Ed.)


Which is all but a mighty masonic preamble to the point I wanted to raise, about the ‘defensive wall’ that is ordered into place in football whenever a free kick is given in front of goal, just outside the penalty area; or whenever a ‘corner’ kick is given.

This human Maginot Line, a fixed fortification – players in the ‘wall’ are not allowed to move before the ball is kicked – seems to me, a complete non-expert who has been riveted to the Euro 2016 tournament for all of a week now,  eating up two entire games in a day, to be quite self-defeating on a number of fronts.

Firstly, the deepest and most mobile defender is the goalkeeper, whose view of the kicker is partially blocked by the line of players forming in front of him (or her); a comical sight as eight or nine young men stand there, nervously clutching their private parts in case they come into contact with a well-struck round of artillery. Twice in the past week, we have been treated to the lovesome sight of Britain’s most expensive export, the Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale (annual salary Eu 15 million), playing for his tiny home country of Wales, bend the ball skilfully over the heads of the ‘wall’ and curl it into the net; the goalie having no time to react.

Tying up all but two members of your team in the penalty area seems to me to be tactically unsound. Often, the free kick rebounds off a player in the wall, and the free positioning of the attacking team gives them options to make new plays, either a shot at goal or a pass to another player who can move into position, from where to shoot or to put the ball into play across the goal for another attacker to run through and score, while the players from the defensive wall are still trying to reposition themselves to ‘mark’ the attacking players. And sometimes the opportunity to counter-attack is lost by having not enough players ‘up front’, to receive a long pass from a defender.

This seemingly unshakeable faith in fixed fortifications still seems to infect all areas of the combative human psyche; it’s the limpet versus the crab, as history – and logic – suggest that mobility and defence-in-depth ultimately pay better dividends.

Anyway, I also wanted to comment on something that seems to happen far too often, when an attacking player receives a pass or a rebound on the edge of the penalty area, they seem to lose their heads and take a wild swing at the ball, sending it ballooning over the top of the goal into the crowd. It hasn’t caught my attention just once, it happens time and again that highly paid, highly trained professional players fail – unlike Mr Bale – to control the ball well enough when faced with an open invitation to score. Why they then look so bewildered and chapfallen, I have no idea: they’ve just behaved like an idiot.

(What are we to make of Senhor Ronaldo, the perfectly coiffed Portuguese matinee-idol and Real Madrid centre-forward, missing several open goals and a penalty kick against Austria, eh? Eu 17 million a year? Blimey, I’d offer to do it for half that.)

There has been a suggestion that the official ball has become too light, so that it is less easy to control in the air. Bale’s ability to curl the ball more than other players might be down to his recognising that: angling his foot to impart more spin to the side, striking lower on the ball, he can be more like a snooker player playing off an angle. (When I used to play at school, balls were still made from cow-hide with an inflatable inner ‘tube’ of rubber. In wet weather you could practically break your leg just kicking one.)

The tendency of young players to overshoot is more probably due to that rush of blood to the head that comes when they see an opportunity to show-off (and to put a few extra millions on their next contract). And, admittedly, with defenders hurtling at them from all sides they don’t have very much time on the ball in which to line-up their shot.

What I have noticed, however, is possibly a correctable error: players in that situation always seem to lean backwards slightly when they come to kick the ball. If they could be trained to position themselves over, rather than behind the ball, the shot would stay lower and be better controlled.

Just a thought.

(Yes, Bogler, now kindly get about your business. Ed.)


Okay, well…

Is it your impression too that things are going a bit, well, strange? It’s like the planet is passing through some sort of cloud of hysterical irrationality gas. Taylor Swift is really a person of very little importance in the scheme of things, okay? Jesus.

As Major Tim hurtles back to earth in a 3,000 deg. ball of fire (he rose into the sky originally on a column of the same stuff, you may recall), weirder things than the hysterically nationalistic British media coverage of our lone astronaut hero are happening everywhere.

Take sport: The Olympic Games. Not only are this August’s Games in Brazil threatened by the Zika virus, and there are the usual delays in getting everything built on time, but Rio de Janeiro municipal authority says it has run out of money to pay for any public services during the Games and is threatening to cancel them unless bailed out. Buses may stop running and garbage pile up.

In the background, the International Athletics Federation is having to investigate what its new President, the former medium-distance gold-medallist Lord Seb Coe ‘knew’ for years about the long-term concealment of drug abuse in the sport; having been recommended to the job by a top official who has since been found guilty of corruption.

At the same time, the IAAF is trying to ban Russia from competing in the Games because it has no faith in the Russian anti-doping agency. Two dozen Russian athletes have had their medals withdrawn from the London Olympics after their dope tests were recently reviewed; while the world’s ‘sexiest tennis player’, grunty ice-maiden Maria Sharapova has been hit with a two-year drugs ban. Mr Putin is reportedly entering a new Olympic event: madly hopping.

To France, and Euro 2016. Following a series of domestic terrorist attacks last year, the French riot police have totally lost it, attacking the usual rowdy but well-intentioned bunch of miscellaneous England fans with batons, teargas and pepper spray, goading them into acts of defiance and gaoling several of them in an absurd overreaction to a few chairs and bottles being thrown in a drunken spat that may, it transpires, have been provoked by Russian ‘fans’.

It seems no-one has told the French that the once-feared English football hooligan (known as ‘les fuke-offes‘) is now an overweight, perspiring, middle-class dad wearing a pair of inadvisable shorts.

It then became clear that a group of 150 specially trained and superfit Russian ‘ultras’ were also agitating in Lille, attacking British fans and throwing flares and firecrackers at the match between the two countries. The suspected leader of the Russian provocateurs has been deported. Mr Putin, despite having been photographed with Alexander Szprygin, a known neo-Nazi, has naturally cried Foul! But the Russian team has been warned by UEFA; any more trouble, and you’re out.

Thirty-five thousand NATO troops are meanwhile playing war games on the Russian border with Poland.

Just as the matches were getting underway, a lone knife attacker assassinated a French police commander and his wife at their home in Magnanville. The Guardian reported: ‘Larossi Abballa, a Frenchman previously convicted of taking part in a jihadi recruitment network and claiming allegiance to Islamic State, streamed a video of the fatal attack on Facebook Live.’ Perhaps the failure of the French judicial system to tackle home-grown terrorism has struck a raw nerve with the CRS, but somebody needed to tell them: English football fans are not the IS, and this heavy-handed persecution based on ancient prejudices is only going to compound British feeling that it’s time to get out of Europe.

Meanwhile, on Thursday more flares were thrown onto the pitch and a firework blew up a stadium official during the match between Croatia and the Czech Republic. Croatian fans then began fighting amongst themselves and the game had to be held up; following which, Croatia, having led 2-0 for 87 minutes of the match, conceded two goals to finish with a 1-point draw – if they’re not disqualified.

The problem was not Croatian animus towards the Czech opposition. It now appears the Croatian fans are evenly divided between those who like the national team as it is, and those ‘ultras’ who wish to protest that it (and Croatian football in general) has been hijacked by two crooked politicians in particular. The Balkanisation of the terraces had begun! Their domestic dispute is now manifesting itself as protest against their own team on the field, with several Croatian players suggesting in despair that they should just go home and forget it.

The question remains, how so many spectators are able to smuggle powerful fireworks into the grounds, despite the ‘tight security’.

Also on Thursday, as the bitter political infighting over the European referendum was rising to a climax, a widely-admired young British MP was gunned-down in the street by a lunatic armed with knives and a home-made pistol. 52-year-old Thomas Mair, a ‘quiet man’ spoken well of by his neighbours, gave his name as ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ when he appeared in court, charged with murdering 41-year-old mother-of-two and champion of Syrian refugees, Jo Cox.

Ms Cox joins the Venezuelan opposition leader Herman Navare and ‘at least six’ ANC campaigners in South Africa this year as victims of a rising tide of gratuitous ‘voter violence’ against politicians. The ultra-right-wing USApoliticstoday-dot-paranoid website reported that Russian security recently warned Donald Trump of a plot to assassinate him; the story was picked up by some even crazier sources, mostly promoting ethnic-cleansing of Muslims. Trump supporters and Trump himself have expressed considerable hostility towards anti-Trump demonstrators at rallies’ as well as towards Muslims.

(postscriptum: 21 June, a young British (non-Muslim) drifter has been charged with trying to steal a  security man’s gun with which to shoot Trump at a rally in Las Vegas. He’d been practising with a 9mm Glock at a public gun range in California. In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the worst gun crime in the USA since Wounded Knee, the Senate has rejected moves to prevent suspected terrorists buying assault rifles over the counter, on grounds of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing their right to bear arms.)

My own view, previously stated, that the senseless murder of Jo Cox seemed to cap a month of rising Chauvinist rhetoric by members of the Leave campaign and in the right-wing press, ought perhaps  to be tempered by the news today that Ms Cox was also vocal in her opposition to a neo-fascist organisation, Britain First, that advocates expelling Muslims. Perhaps the reasons for her death lay even further to the right than Nigel Farage is prepared to stand without holding his nose.

(There is no knowing what crazies will do. A doleful list on Wikipedia of US political assassination victims since 1800, for instance, includes the Mayor of Long Beach, Louie B Edwards, gunned down in 1939 by his own police security detail after switching his vote to oppose Governor Dooley; Ed King, Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, killed in 2013 by a fellow councillor in a row over a drain, and dozens more.)

Politics is a dangerous sport, racking up the nationalist rhetoric really doesn’t help. Nor I suspect will French Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, who warned today that Britain will be reduced to the status of Guernsey, a small offshore trading post and financial services provider on the fringe of Europe, if it votes to Leave the EU. I suspect not many Britons will recognise his picture of a return to the Iron Age – the Plastic Age, more like. But he is right, that is exactly how and what we used to be and there is no reason to think that in the 23rd century, virtual Phoenicians will not once again be trading in Cornish tin and Beakerware, while the rest of us paint our bottoms blue and shout at French people.

So, yes, you’re right, Emmanuel, but please shut up, tait-toi cheri, you’re not helping.

Meanwhile, in a standout gesture, Baldwin County, Alabama refused to lower the US flag to pay its respects to the victims of last week’s Orlando ‘gay club’ massacre, in which 49 young people were shot dead by Omar Mateen and another 53 seriously injured, arguing that it wasn’t a sufficiently serious event. Mateen, a failed former G4S security guard, has since been outed as a ‘closet gay’ who had no success at picking up partners at the Pulse nightclub, which he frequently visited. His attractive young wife has been charged with complicity.

Perhaps he thought IS stood for ‘I Suck’.

An Australian politician, Bob Katter, 71, was at the centre of a row after making an election video in which he is depicted shooting two of his opponents dead with a toy gun. Bob, leader of north Queensland’s Australia Party, described the video as ‘screamingly funny’. Media commentators shrugged: so, he’s an Australian politician! What did you expect?

And finally – In India, a man has died in a cinema, apparently from a heart attack, while watching a horror movie called The Conjuring 2. He was taken to a hospital mortuary in Tiruvannamalai, where later, the Times of India reported, it was discovered that his body had gone missing.

So, I thought that was spooky enough, until I read that the latest Internet craze sweeping America is for new dads to see how many Cheerios they can balance on their baby’s nose while the child is asleep.

There’s nothing like humiliating your kids before they do it to you.


That strikes a chord

Has composer Stevie Wonder (with Syreeta) ever thought of suing the Stock, Aitken, Waterman songwriting machine for several million bucks for ‘borrowing’ the chords from the Detroit Spinners’ 1970 hit, ‘It’s a Shame’, on Rick Astley’s celebrated 1987 Rickrolling single, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’? (Just noticed it… baritone, Astley’s new album hit the Number One spot on Friday. One in the eye for the girlie castrati tendency.)

We should be told.

Led Zeppelin, too, are in trouble for ‘borrowing’ the plagal cadence of chords used in the first six bars of a 1968 melody called Taurus, by someone called Spirit (now dead, portentously) in the famous acoustic guitar intro to their 1971 prog rock anthem Stairway to Heaven, generally considered by non-Spirit fans (teetotallers?) to be one of the great musical statements of the 1970s, if not of all time.

Page and Plant are being sued for $gazillions by a rotweiler working for the estate that owns the copyright. The prognosis is not good: US courts have previously ruled that even a three-note phrase is copyrightable; while Kraftwerk notoriously obtained a German court ruling that copyright on a sampled drumbeat can be infringed, even if it is virtually unrecognisable as the original. (And did the German court not realise that pretty well every drumbeat imaginable, including those electronically faked by Kraftwerk, had previously been played by the likes of Gene Krupa or Ginger Baker?) In Zep’s case, however, it’s the whole four chords.

Currently, lesser talents – let me put it another way, less successful talents – are suing Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake for a share of their huge royalties. But it’s not always that way round. The Stones mercilessly clobbered a barely known Wigan band, the Verve (see, I’m sampling some of this stuff from the ‘M’ website… sorry) for sampling The Last Time – when they had actually got permission, but used too many of the notes. All the royalties and a full writing credit were awarded to Messrs Jagger and Richards, whom I can now only think of as greedy rapacious bastards. Another recent win, the late Marvin Gaye’s family took Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for $5 million over a song, Blurred Lines, that sounded to me (I’m an amateur musician) nothing like the original Got to Give it Up, except in some echo of a similar production style the plaintiffs claimed was unique to Mr Gaye.

It seems everyone in the music business has always tried to get a little extra mansion tax from suing everyone else: Wikipedia carries a long and dispiriting (sorry!) account. And with sampling it gets very murky: sampling attribution has become a whole new branch of the legal industry. But needs must, as ‘illegal’ downloading and streaming and burning and Spotiwhatnot is making it ever harder for musos to scrape a living from selling their stuff; although it really all began with the cassette recorder.

Of course, there would be no point in suing the late Harry Carroll and Joseph McCarthy for ‘borrowing’ the melody for the Judy Garland song, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, wholesale from Frederick Chopin; they gave him full attribution. Anyway, it was already out of copyright. And who knew Mozart wrote Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?


A note on terminology

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who (sic) governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

*Official explanation on the BBC News website

From the Office of Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl, Boglheim am Rhein, 18 June (for it is he):

“In line with the BBC’s lazy and stupid policy of discriminating against foreigners in general (provided, of course, we are moving – the others are probably dead) by lumping us together under the single, arguably pejorative heading of ‘migrants’, thus enabling the Daily Mail to write pithier, more encapsulated headlines and Boris Johnson to tell bigger porky-pies, the Board of Trustees of the Boglington Post have decided to use the term ‘freeloading tossers’ to collectively refer to the BBC Board of Governors, Director-General Tony ‘Haw-Haw’ Hall, Head of News, Mr Jams ‘Brexit’ Harding and any or all of the serried ranks of smug, self-congratulatory unicorns at Broadcasting House helping themselves to salaries of £300,000 a year-plus out of our licence money just for shoaling around in glass and chrome fishtanks, sipping latte Macchiati and talking cleverly in their obscure foreign dialect, while the programmes endlessly recycle.”

  • Proprietor-at-large




Jo Cox – an Editorial

It seems their campaign may inadvertently have culminated in a horrid and stupid murder by someone deluded enough to confuse their Chauvinistic donkey-noises with a command to defend his country against the evils of Europe.

Jo Cox

The awful, as-yet motiveless shooting to death of Jo Cox MP this afternoon (16 June) on a street in Birstall, Yorkshire, has already concentrated media speculation around the abusive and threatening internet trolling of politicians. The attack has attracted an outpouring of anguish on both sides of the House and campaigning in the EU referendum has been suspended.

Elected only last year, Batley Labour MP and former aid worker, mother-of-two Ms Cox (41) was widely respected as a cross-bench campaigner for the rights of minorities and refugees, and supported with quite heroic actions as well as words what many would consider to be the ‘right side’ in the Syria war.

Apparently also a brilliant and caring constituency MP, she strongly supported the Remain side in the referendum, which one eyewitness account so far tells us this repugnant act might have been about. Until we know more about what lay behind the attack – a 53-year-old man is in custody – it would be inappropriate to comment further.  We are hearing of connections to white supremacists, home-made guns, who knows what.

On the matter of trolling, however, I would just like to say something.

Politicians have always been held in low regard as a species, while being admired and even loved as individuals for what they do for us. I vote time and again for my local MP, although as a Lib-Dem he’s on a hiding to nothing, because he’s the good guy. There’s a healthy tradition of satirising politicians: sometimes pretty viciously – the cartoons of Rowlandson, Hogarth and Gillray might seem abstruse today but in their time were the equivalent of Private Eye in its heyday, the Rory Bremner show or Spitting Image. Nonetheless, politicians queue up to be pilloried, realising that no publicity is bad publicity and that to be satirised, however pointedly, is a kind of recognition.

Internet trolling is different. It introduces an unwelcome element of private, direct threat. For the first time, there is a cheap and easy outlet for any sad little person to pour out their feelings of rage, imagining themselves to be powerfully invisible and without censure; yet to have a sympathetic audience. Trolling comes from positions of prejudice and ignorance, but may be a catharsis for the frustrated, the undereducated and the disempowered; provided it sticks to the message and doesn’t become the medium, no-one gets physically hurt. While the abuse may be shocking, taking a democratic right of access to a different and unpleasant level, while it remains online politicians will just have to get used to it.

Of more concern in my view is the relentless, slow-drip, poisonous propaganda of the rightwing press, directing and exploiting the popular animus against minorities and ‘foreigners’ merely to sell papers, advancing day-by-day the private corporate interests of the proprietors under the camouflage of the viler tropes of British exceptionalism.

Whatever anger I have expressed in this blog from time to time, whatever invective I have deployed against the actions of certain politicians, has been aimed entirely at those few who (in my hermetic view) have put personal ambition and self-interest before the national good or the dignity of office, pursuing hidden agendas and perpetuating cruel and unjust social policies. Often what leads them to the latter course is fear of vote-losing headlines in The Daily Mail, which today  is carrying a 3-line banner condemning the death of Jo Cox as ‘A Tragic Waste’.

They should know: theirs is the flagbearer of arrogant, superpatriotic myth-making; the last refuge, as Samuel Johnson so pithily put it, of the scoundrel. Now their cause has a blood-sacrifice to account for, perhaps we shall hear less of it. But I don’t imagine so.

The Post is, by and large, a humorous, humanitarian, Humanist exercise and while robust in its language, does not advocate violence of any kind towards anyone. It does not use SEO techniques to expand its readership, and has only a handful of readers, who say they appreciate the honesty of the content. A few of them are personally known to me. I have not heard from any of my small number of Followers, most of them overseas, for many months. I have in fact expressed on several occasions, the vague hope that the Post (the very title is ironic) will one day be seen as a substantial body of autobiographical writings interleaved with contemporary comment; I am less interested in what people think of it now.

I have been a working journalist in the past, and every word you read here, however seemingly offensive, has been carefully edited, weighed and balanced for legal acceptability. I never make threats. I have no Twitter account. I  spend hours going back and re-editing, which must be confusing for those who encounter early drafts. Passages that sometimes draw on the ugly phrasemaking of the online trolling community are deliberate, intended purely as ironic usage to set against the more thoughtful and coherent consideration of the arguments, however controversial. I avoid the very worst of it, perhaps I should try to stop doing it altogether.

But I am a polemicist, among other things. Irony is my middle-name. I am passionate about retaining Britain’s historic role and strength in Europe in the face of lies and deceit, and dismayed at the poor showing of the Remain campaign. I deplore in the strongest terms the bullying, yah-boo tactics of the Brexiters who, it seems to me, are interested only in gaining personal kudos regardless of the long-term consequences for the rest of us. Now it seems their campaign may inadvertently have culminated in a horrid and stupid murder by someone deluded enough to confuse their Chauvinistic donkey-noises with a command to defend his country against the evils of Europe. We shall see.

In sum, my blog is not to be taken as a signal that I encourage or approve for one moment the intemperate criminal actions of those dismal cretins and sociopaths who think their ‘patriotism’ gives them a licence to play God with good people’s lives.

I am; it is, not that important.

Now, back to work.

Burying goats at midnight

The only conclusion it is possible to come to, is that immigration is driving the current modest expansion of the British economy.

-Sterling Pound, Business Editor


Trending on BogPo:

OMG! Heart-Breaking NEWS from the Beeb>>>> Calvin Harris has just unfollowed @Taylor Swift! #sorrow

That’s nothing, writes BogPoSho’biz newshound, Sir Rod Bogler. I’ve been unfollowed by just about everyone. #whothey?


A colourful turnout

From: Our occasional soccer contributor and Portuguese midfield supremo, Boglinho (as told to Giles Hacke)

France 7, Albania 0. Not maybe the scoreline – their Euro 2016 match is still in progress as I write – but the number of black and North African footballers (including international stars Patrice Evra and Anthony Martial) who have started the game for either side.

And, mirabile dictu, they’re all French.

While UEFA deplores and national football associations penalise racism among the fans, the ‘elephant on the pitch’ is the squads. Not Russia, not Poland, not Ukraine, not Slovakia, not Albania, not the Czech Republic, not Croatia, not Hungary – no Eastern European country I’ve seen play so far, nor yet Iceland, Norway – seems to have a single black or ethnic minority footballer in its squad.

Perhaps they have more discriminating taste than to live there.


Q:  Why is there only one Albanian player in the free-kick wall?

A:  Because the others have all climbed over it and escaped.

*actually, plucky little Albania put up a decent show, holding an unconvincing French collection of ageing, overpaid celebrities at bay until the 89th minute. What they need now is a good striker. Call my agent, he’s not doing anything….



UK unemployment fell to 1.67 million in the February-to-April period, down 20,000 from the previous quarter.

The fall took the unemployment rate to 5%, the lowest since October 2005.

The number of people in work rose by 55,000, with the employment rate remaining at a record high of 74.2%.

Earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 2.3% compared with last year.

  • From the BBC News website, 15 June, 2016

Now, if these figures are to be believed, and we always do believe them because the National Audit Office is an independent authority, anything the Brexit campaign says about the evils of immigration must and can only be, complete bollocks.

You may want to stop your ears with wax, but what I am about to say is the obvious truth:

The only inference one can draw from these figures is that, even as all those immigrants arrive, ‘swamping’ our ‘culture’, etcetera, with their foreign faces and strong aroma of garlic, more jobs are being created at higher wages – totally contradicting the xenophobic nonsense-myth that ‘they’ are stealing our jobs so that there is no work for us poor Brits, and that ‘they’ are ‘driving down wages’. There are plenty of jobs all round, and to spare.

With the claimant count falling too (6,400 additional non-claimants were discounted, for some reason), it gives the lie to the lie that ‘they’ are only here to sponge off our ‘generous’ social benefits (GENEROUS? Writes the office teaboy. Have you ever tried living on benefits?)

You cannot statistically have record low unemployment, a record employment rate, more jobs and rising wages AND 300,000 more people arriving every year than are dying or getting the hell out of Britain, all at the same time, if you are going to try to claim that immigration is bad for jobs. It is simply not possible to draw that conclusion from the facts.

Can you, Andrew sodding Green? (Baron Green, of some little corner that is forever England – and sole Director of oft-quoted white supremacist wank-tank, MigrationWatch UK)

The only conclusion it is possible to come to, is that immigration is driving the current modest expansion of the British economy, and that without inworkers we would have continued to decline, with far greater austerity measures needed, since the banking crash of 2007/8.




Burying goats at midnight

I maintain that I have done, and continue to do, absolutely nothing valuable with my life.

I am listening on the radio to a guest on Libby Purves’ Midweek show, calmly recounting her extraordinarily adventurous life story. It’s not untypical of guests on this show, otherwise they wouldn’t be on it. They’ve almost always written books about themselves and their adventures; it’s how BBC programme researchers work, opening press handouts from publishers and going to lunch.

Brought up in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the west coast of… Canada, she subsequently moved to… New Zealand, and then somehow on to somewhere in… Africa, from where she drove a rally car and ended up in… London, where she worked for a diamond importer while getting a job at the… Foreign Office and having a diplomatic career.

Somehow on the way she acquired both… a light-aircraft AND a commercial pilot’s licence, and developed a passion for flying… pre-WW1 biplanes. So, as one does, she flew a biplane twelve thousand miles to… Australia, braving hostile deserts and shark-infested seas in the wake of… Amy Johnson. (And has mentioned Boeing several times, I imagine they sponsored her.)

Later, attempting to follow the routes of the flying postal delivery service across the… USA, she walked away from a terrible crash that destroyed the plane around her. Currently, having found a spare fuselage and commissioned some factory in… Hungary to build her a pair of wings and having tracked down a reconditioned 1943 engine in… Colorado, which is being delivered to…Vienna, she is constructing a new biplane hopefully in time to take part in the… Farnborough air show…

And she even sounded nice!

While I am sitting… here, frozen into immobility; contemplating with a sinking feeling the upcoming travel nightmare of a week in France in late July.

All I know of British Columbia is that my fellow alcoholic Malcolm Lowry wrote ‘Under the Volcano’, one of the greatest English novels of the 20th century, while drying-out romantically in a shack on the beach. All I know of me is that I write this stuff, drink coffee by the hour, wine by the night and go to choir once a week, before bed.

Were I, or anyone, able to somehow get hold of a cosmic vacuum-pump and suck out all the uneventful, blank bits of our lives: the longueurs, the ennuies, the do-nothing times, the frustrating going-nowhere periods, the thousand-and-one nights when you were asleep on your own, not even dreaming; the terrible, dreary office jobs, the driving to Norwich and back, the stuck-at-home marriages, the slow piling-up of rejection letters and unread bank statements; all the boring things you ever did or said; dreary hours of sitting politely in waiting rooms, not leaving the theatre in the interval of a stinker, queuing at the Post Office, doing the washing-up, fidgeting through trite sermons and Greek lessons, the agonising disability of piano practice – like evacuating all the air from a Bell jar in class; and heat the rest up over a Bunsen burner, how much of a brown powdery residue of achievements and adventures and excitements would be left in the bottom of the tube?

When I look back, all the interesting lumpy bits I can remember; which are vanishingly few, both good and shameful, glorious and embarrassing, might add up to what some people might think of as an unusual and colourful life. Not everyone gets to be a failed farmer, burying a goat in a field at midnight (I thought I’d struck oil but it was only the village water main); a newsreader, anchoring an election night special; a 17-year-old, eluding the drug squad in a Turkish graveyard.

Mostly, though, it’s the long, jangling hiatuses inbetween, decades wasted doing nothing, getting nowhere; the knowledge that one is gradually closing up, as I have written before, like a daisy in the dark, so much left undone; the half-glimpsed, never-taken opportunities, the lazy knack of thinking of nothing to do that might help anything or anyone to be better, that fill the Bell jar with stale exhaust fumes.

To cheer myself up, trapped as I seem to be without much money in this tiny cottage on a thundering main road in the urban outskirts of a provincial seaside town, listening to my new neighbour shrieking all day at her bemused little dog; unable to sell, not wanting to move, waiting for something and nothing to happen, fearful of being found wanting at the end and plunged into futile rage and despair over my seemingly lost ability to act or create or bring about any change; abandoned apparently by the Fates, pushed back in my seat by the G-force of inertia, yet curiously still alive, I like to think that a glass-half-empty is always going to be topped-up by the waiter who anticipates a large tip; while the destiny of someone else’s optimistic glass-half-full is to be drained to the dregs.


Victims lash out

I spent much of the latter part of my teenage and early 20-something years in the 1960s and early ’70s trying without much success to have sex with various female acquaintances, to whom I now deeply and humbly apologise for any fear and distress I may have caused.

Having perhaps studied too much early 20th-century English Literature, and after a cloistered upbringing in all-male boarding-schools where the subject was never discussed, only furtively pursued, I thought in that time of innocence that sex was something normal people did automatically; and, being a perfectly presentable prospect with a job and well-developed abs, was somewhat puzzled at the reactions I got.

For, indeed, it is unfortunately the case that urgently wanting to have sex with someone attractive is the default mode of just about every living thing on the planet, fauna and flora – except my female acquaintances at the time.

And so it was that, after two marriages and any number (try three) of brief affairs with disinterested parties, I became this elderly eunuch you see before you.

Looking at the internet scene now, not a lot seems to have changed since my youth. Finding an experience for the night on certain well-known websites is still a major preoccupation among the young, driven to spread their genes by surging hormones over which they have little or no control; as well as by selfish desire for transient pleasures.

Which is why I’m a little dismayed that so many elderly women are piping up now from their retirement-home armchairs to complain that Sir Clement Freud MP, the popular author, TV chef, quizshow panellist and lugubrious co-star of a long-running dogfood commercial, may have propositioned them sometime back in the 1940s.

Who wouldn’t have? There was a war on, you know.

Freud, grandson of the famous old Viennese sex-maniac, died in 2009. The absence of any evidence or a confession hasn’t stopped the erstwhile pornographer, Richard Desmond, from using his UKIP-sponsoring Daily Express vehicle to brand him a ‘paedophile’ on the basis of an allegation that he might have abused girls as young as ten.

(How many under-age girls might be featuring on Asian Babes right now, inadvertently of course, I wonder?)

The Daily Mail, too, has weighed in with a daringly tentative piece in Mail Online suggesting ‘prime suspect’ Freud might even have abducted 4-year-old Madeleine McCann and abused her at his ‘£1 million villa’ near the Portuguese resort from where she disappeared, Playa del Mar. You have to admit, it’s a strange coincidence that someone lives there.

After all, was he not a nodding acquaintance of one of the early suspects, Robert Murat, a local expat who was cleared of any involvement? Did he not know Rolf Harris, the other popular TV entertainer and royal portraitist, convicted of sex crimes against underage girls? Did he not invite the McCanns to dine at his luxury villa, presumably to pump them for information about the inquiry and not at all because he might have felt sorry for them and wanted to make a neighbourly gesture?

Probably. Once you’re dead, it’s open season. But the lengthy sidebar next to the story, with its shots of long-legged nano-celebrity lovelies on beaches and its speculative come-on headlines concerning their wayward sex lives, should make up for the horror.

Let’s crack another tin of Winalot (Shomething in that name, shurely? Ed.) and wonder at the perverse ambiguity of human nature.

Except that something unprintable, unsayable, unspeakably awful occurs to this warped and diseased brain of mine. He didn’t, did he?

He couldn’t have, could he?

The TV chef, I mean?





Why is the BBC supporting the Leave campaign?

By email, 13th June 2016

To the Management Board: bias, intended or otherwise, in BBC News coverage of the EU Referendum



I feel I must draw your attention once more to the concerns I have about your news coverage.

(Postscriptum Monday 20 June. Three days to go. Who’s the main interviewee following the 8 am news? Farage. Why? No idea – he’s not an official Leave spokesman. We already know what he thinks. It’s just that he’s issued a disgusting racist poster. Or rather, his UKIP party has… he will now disassociate himself from it while at the same time making party political advantage and lying about immigration.

This man is a past-master at hijacking the news agenda. I’ve just binned a very long reply from the BBC to my complaint about their unending bias and it is clear they simply don’t get it: Farage is never off the radio, gobbling up the ‘oxygen of publicity’ at a vertiginous rate, he’s made over two hundred appearances since the run-up to last year’s General Election, at which UKIP held on to only one seat, but that’s not bias, apparently, it’s balanced ‘news’. Cretins.)

10 o’clock news, Sunday night, 12 June. Clip of Cameron, dire warning about possible cuts to pensions. Cue alluring Brexit MP arguing (without benefit of research) that it’s just ‘scaremongering’. No factual counter-argument offered. Cut immediately to Nigel Farage, in a clip from the Marr show. (Why?  What does it add? Are we not totally familiar already with his point of view?) Go straight into soft piece on Michael Gove and his ‘Scottish fishing’ family roots being at the heart of his passionate conviction that special-interest pleading by a few gnarled seafarers must take priority over the future of Europe.…

This is far from the one time that, in my view, your services have shown such flagrant disregard for balance in the news, imagining that one side shouting yah-boo or making stuff up actually balances the reasoned argument and research of their opponents. Your bulletin coverage of the debate has fallen into a lazy acceptance of populist ‘memes’, and is clearly driving increasing public support for  the Leave campaign, which then in turn becomes the story itself.

To quote Greg Philo, of Glasgow University Media Group: ‘A key function of media is the mass production of ignorance’.

I cannot possibly cite every instance. You did it again at 08.00 today, Monday 13th: Gordon Brown makes a reasoned case to Remain, you insert about fifteen seconds of his longer speech then, in reported speech, quote a Leave spokesperson responding sarcastically that his intervention has been ‘cobbled together at the last minute’, making no attempt to respond to the actual points, and carry on to the next story.

Day after day, BBC News continues to report the Referendum in exactly those terms: someone says something, someone else rubbishes it. No attempt is made to determine which is right. It’s utter confusion, not balance. Which has more effect on the ill-informed public, do you imagine?, a technical argument from a possibly unpopular but authoritative source, or a blanket, jocular dismissal in the vernacular?

Your editors will argue that they can only work with the material they’re given. I could refer then to a bulletin of 01 June, in which an anti-immigration speech by Mr Boris Johnson was reported on uncritically in a lengthy package involving your Chief Political Correspondent, Ms Kuenssberg. With full control of the material, you gave us shots inside and outside of his impressive campaign bus, focussing on its discreditable slogan about ‘£50 million a day we could be spending on hospitals’ (Not replacing Trident would cover about 60 hospitals….); additional interview material with Johnson’s co-campaigner, Ms Priti Patel, all  ‘balanced’ only by an anodyne short clip of dowdy TUC chair Ms Stella McCarthy protesting unconvincingly about immigration being a good thing .

Ms Kuenssberg, and hence the BBC which she represents at a senior journalistic level, was then humiliated as she attempted to throw some feeble question at Johnson from out of the admiring crowd. He simply brushed her aside, as one might a wasp at Wimbledon. We were again shown at some length, Johnson’s more interesting, huge shiny bus, its huge, untruthful message lingered-on in close-up, departing for the next hustings.

(I heard no-one say that, actually, we have enough hospitals but not enough trained people to staff them, which is why we need more immigration. Nor would a new hospital ever now be built without private finance. And besides, the NHS is a separate budget. It took a comedy panel show, The News Quiz, to make such points.)

Sunday morning, 12 June, I switch on the Broadcasting House show to hear Paddy O’Connell introducing John Mann MP and a fellow Brexit supporter, with no apparent news peg other than that he has announced his support for the Leave campaign. (I switched off at that point, I’m finding it sickening.) Who is Mr Mann, apart from being the belligerent Labour loudmouth who recently assaulted Ken Livingstone in a toilet? What is his importance to the debate? Why is this worth five minutes’ airtime moderated only by a lightweight and irritatingly eccentric presenter?

And on the BBC News website on Friday, the lead story: Inventor ‘Sir James Dyson’ has come out in favour of Brexit! Yes, BBC ‘News’, he actually did that in 2014! Check his Wikipedia entry. Ten years earlier he was begging Blair to join the Euro…. More special pleading from a narrow business interest, treated as if it were news.

By contrast, you report today, Monday 13th, that, more significantly, BT’s board and communications union leaders have come out with a recommendation to Remain. This not-unimportant story is being run only as a footnote, a link beneath another story about a possible digital skills shortage. (Okay, the BT CEO turned up on the evening radio news, balanced by cries of ‘rubbish’.)  Is it because Dyson, a notoriously mercurial personality, is a billionaire national business maverick, hence more newsworthy than the boring old suits and workforce of Britain’s largest telecoms provider?  So the bias is just inadvertent, yes?

I accept that the Leave people are sexier (and easier to find) than the Remain camp, whose strategy is frankly a shambles. But you cannot say that BBC News is not, whether deliberately or accidentally, stoking the most outrageous and intolerable prejudice in favour of the Leave campaign, simply through massive overexposure and a failure to hold them to account. This stinks, frankly.

Farageism in Production

I’m sorry, I was a journalist, briefly with the BBC in 1974/5, and a news editor for a number of years, hence my interest in all this. Now, as a retired person I have no other platform on which to make these points. I finally cracked on Friday night and emailed BBC News to complain about your producers’ lazy, kneejerk use of Nigel Farage as an automatic studio invite, when he is not even an official spokesman for the Leave campaign. He had already appeared on several programme strands that day. And, yes, look, there he is again, yarping on about foreigners on Saturday 11th’s R4 repeat of Question Time.

How many times has Mr Farage been invited to appear on the Question Time panel alone in the past two years? Can you answer that? And say why? (Because he is ‘good value’? No, he is a consummate bore!) The trouble is, whatever the interlocutor may say to challenge them, these numerous appearances give his frankly unwanted views traction, reinforcing popular prejudices and stereotypes. Mr Farage is not what he claims, a genial popular mouthpiece: he is a ruthless, calculating demagogue who mirrors the worst instincts of the British public.

I referred also in my email to the unacceptable volume of news coverage you gave to  Farage before the General Election, at which his UKIP party managed to retain only one seat, that of the formerly popular local Conservative, Douglas Carswell. Despite the hours of free publicity you afforded him, Mr Farage himself failed to get elected. The poor man is thus forced to rely on his MEP’s salary, and generous Euro expenses.

My point is that Farage is a master at hijacking the news agenda, from which he makes free political capital even when election rules supposedly control the exposure of candidates in proportion to the size of their Parliamentary representation. And your people let him!

Farage makes cheap copy; but I believe that with his repeated lies about ‘foreigners’ swamping ‘our’ culture he is a threat to the stability of British society, a loose cannon, potentially encouraging violence against minorities at a time when stability is already under threat from more dangerous actors; and the BBC is his accomplice, wittingly or otherwise. Fostering social division and racial hatred is not part of your remit to educate, inform and entertain, is it? For God’s sake, we’ve all heard what Farage has to say, a hundred times. Give that mouth of his a rest!

You perhaps need too to consider the cumulative effect of your coverage when set against the relentless bombardment of the British public over the past four decades with flagrant anti-European propaganda in the redtop press.

This has created certain stereotypical impressions on which the Brexit campaign is skilfully playing, such as the idiotic notion that we have somehow ‘surrendered our sovereignty’ to Brussels and are ‘ruled’ by ‘unelected officials’ and cannot make our own law (Tony Blair made over three thousand!); while our courts are denied proper justice, making it impossible to deport terrorists and criminal migrants, and our businesses are not allowed to trade outside the EU, being ‘strangled’ by ‘red-tape’  – all totally untrue, but who cares if it plays in Southend?

The immigration issue, too, is subject to conflation of a number of different strands that seem to have become confused in the public mind. Based only on a cursory reading of the employment statistics, it’s obvious that inworkers are driving what little economic growth we have, and actually creating more jobs. I hear Remain supporters trying to say this, but no-one is apparently listening. I’ve read your DG’s rationale for branding anyone who arrives in Britain a ‘migrant’; but there are, as you must realise, substantive legal differences between EU citizens, illegal immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, overseas students, temporary staff and tourists, children trapped in the Calais ‘swamp’, etc. that you cannot and must not ignore. The catch-all term ‘migrant’ is demeaning; divisive; unhelpful. Maybe not to you, Lord Hall, but to the public.

(You may as well call me an ‘economic migrant’: born in London, in 2001 I moved my family to Wales because it’s cheaper and the air is fresh. Is everyone expected to stay exactly where they are?)

People are not interested in abstruse economic arguments. However, your constant unfiltered references to ‘the crisis in the Eurozone’ fails to mention that the Euro is currently at an all-time high against the pound, and indeed has remained remarkably stable over the past nine years, something that might benefit from a little exploration.

The blanket denials of expert testimony are also disturbing: dozens of Nobel laureates, actors and musicians, economists, historians, the CBI, all in turn have tried to voice their concerted support for Remain on the basis of their professional working knowledge, and simply been howled down by the Brexit camp and derided without recourse to a single fact on your programmes. It merely plays into the popular suspicion of elitism, which is again prejudicial to the Remain cause.

Then, you gave more prominent coverage to two former security chiefs’ pretty neutral view of the implications of Leaving (how good will they look in Chilcot?), than to the advice of current security chiefs that we should Remain for the safety of the public. Why? Because it was more controversial, hence more newsworthy! And that’s the problem: the Leave campaign has all the news angles. You must take account of it when balancing your reporting. (Is Lord Guthrie being truthful when he says the EU will have its own army? No-one else seems to think it will.)

I cannot for one moment believe BBC staff support the Leave campaign. British exit from the EU will be a blunder of historic proportions, and I’m sure you all know it. You are letting our membership – and hence, our ability to influence global affairs, to withstand global economic shocks, to maintain security and to work and travel about freely – go by default. The Americans, the Chinese, India, Australia will not welcome us with open arms. Who will ever trust our word again?

I personally do not wish to be a second-class citizen in Europe, hence my intense frustration with your output. Please, look again at what you are doing.

Nor do I ask you to reply to this appeal because, frankly, I don’t expect the BBC ever to accept criticism of this nature, it’s not in your DNA. I’m sure you can and will point to plenty of other non-News programming that has made concessions to Remain, or attempted to explain the issues (but in such a ‘balanced’ way it renders enlightenment almost impossible).

It’s just not something I’ve particularly noticed.



A well-modulated Brexit cunt

Still Monday 13th, and Radio 4’s flagship lunchtime news show The World at One has today as its studio guest answering calls on the special Strictly Come Brexiting! daily running slot, why, none other than Ian Duncan Smith, the formerly unpopular and unsuccessful election-losing leader of the Conservative party, now the Secretary of State for All Work and No Pensions, and one of the most prominent of the sinister power-hungry Thatcherite cabal of Leave campaigners.

Now, how did they manage to get hold of him, I wonder? It’s quite a coup!

Ian has coincidentally already been extensively clipped on the show during its ‘news’ segment, arguing that the only way to ‘control immigration’ is to leave the EU. (Passports are another.)

I don’t think I’ve yet heard him say why we want to ‘control immigration’ when it is obviously all that stands between us and the economic shoals, perhaps he just thinks we’ll like him more if he agrees with us that migrants are all thieves, rapists and murderers scrounging on the benefits hardworking families are paying for, and should be sent packing for the sake of our racial purity. He’s good on benefits, is Ian.

In that regard, he agrees with another so-called ‘research group’, Sir Andrew Green’s eccentric ‘MigrationWatch UK’, virtually a one-man crusade for racial purity, that has just been quoted in a ‘news’ report on, you guessed it, today’s The World at One, scaremongeringly prognosticating that (unless of course it doesn’t) ‘net migration’ will continue to increase at the rate of 250,000 a year for the next twenty years if we stay in the EU.*

Not if I can bloody well help it, I’m out of here as soon as the housing shortage gets so acute, somebody buys my house. You think I want to be trapped on a tiny floating island with these crazies in charge?

Mr Duncan Smith must spend hours sitting in his little room in front of a dictaphone machine, practising sounding superhumanly reasonable: calm, measured and well-modulated.

His is the most reasonable, soothing and well-modulated voice you could possibly listen to, like your favourite doctor! or psychotic mass killer, as he explains reasonably and carefully, in his over-controlled manner, why despite you being a blind, illiterate, chronically obese,  octogenarian Ghanaian quadruple amputee with severe learning difficulties and MS, living on the 14th floor of a condemned tower block with a broken elevator in Galashiels, it would be really, really helpful to the national economy and good for the soul if you would kindly haul your sorry ass down to the Jobcentre twice a week and take the first cleaning job they throw at you, or he will unfortunately be obliged to cut your disability living allowance, tax you on your carer’s bedroom and disembowel your cat with his little, pointy fangs.

He is, in short, a well-modulated Brexit cunt (Conservative and Unionist, Not in this Together).

But hush, darlings, let’s listen to what he has to say….


*The ghost of Thomas Malthus….

  • The company’s objectives as described in its articles of association are “to conduct research into migration issues and to educate the public in the relevant facts”. (Wikipedia entry on Migration Watch)

Since when did loose predictions supporting extreme political positions become facts?

Journalists have been criticised, especially by the Cardiff School, of being too readily scared into using Sir Andrew’s little research company to ‘balance’ out any favourable comments on migration. It seems clear that population control (eugenics) is the basis of MigrationWatch UK’s platform. Other researchers on population have pointed out that the underlying UK birthrate is well below replacement, while the contrary political view on migration is that, with the fastest-rising demographic that of the Over-80s, more immigration will be a necessity. Others believe that the predicted population peak of 70 million by 2030 is not an unmanageable number.

My ‘relevant fact’ is that when there are no more jobs to be filled, when their own national economies improve sufficiently, and with restrictions on supplementary in-work benefits making it impossible to rent accommodation, send money home or buy food,  the flow of inworkers – even of illegals – will dry up of its own accord.

Dire Malthusian predictions of populations rising forever to infinity have long been discredited, but it’s still a powerful myth.



EU vote: Blowing hot and cold on Europe

Why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money?

By: Sterling Pound – Business Editor (© 2016)

It hasn’t come as a shock, to be honest, that Sir James Dyson, the ludicrously overdesigned vacuum-cleaner salesman whose personal fortune has been estimated at some £3 billion, has made a lapidary statement about Britain leaving the EU, coming down firmly on the side of the Brexit campaign.

Of course we can trade with other countries when we leave the EU! he declares. The man who exported, what was it, six hundred British jobs to Malaysia? He ought to know.

And I’m not sure who it was who told us we couldn’t trade with other countries AND remain a member of the EU? The obvious fact is, we do! It seems to me like another one of those many Europhobic lies we have been bombarded with for decades in the rightwing press, whose overmighty barons would like to increase their monopoly hold over UK media, but whose plots are continually foiled by inconvenient diktats emanating from Brussels – where, of course, Britain and British interests and the finest traditions of British democracy, like illegal rendition and torture, have not been represented for the past forty years since we blundered into the trap set for us by garlic-chewing bureaucrats.

Dyson has been curiously inconsistent with his theme over the years, depending, it seems, on the economic weather.

From his Wikipedia entry:

Claiming that the strength of the pound was affecting his company’s profits on exports to France and Germany, in February 2000 Dyson threatened to shift focus from his Malmesbury plant to a new plant set up in Malaysia because the government would not join the euro.  … “We do around £40 million worth of export business with France and Germany each year but we aren’t making any money. If we joined the euro we would be on an even footing with our biggest trading partners.”

In 2014, Dyson said he would now be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being “dominated and bullied by the Germans”.

Who is to say next year it might not be in Dyson’s interest to rejoin the Union? Which, of course, we shan’t be able to do. Who will trust our word ever again? And has it not occurred to him, or indeed anyone, that by leaving the EU, we shall be leaving the field clear for the total domination of Europe by, er, the dominating and bullying Germans? So is he going to stop trading with Europe now?

There is of course no suggestion that the famously mercurial and much-lauded entrepreneur disapproves of attempts by Brussels to reinforce its Europe-wide carbon-emissions targets by setting caps on the maximum power ratings of domestic appliances. Or that the thinking of British businessmen who like to ‘engineer’ the perfect conditions for their companies that enable them to buy chateaux in France and superyachts (his is only the 36th biggest in the world) can sometimes be somewhat ahistorical: narrowly focussed and short-term. Or, selfish, as we might say.

The question I have to ask is, why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money? In all of these declarations in favour of Brexit, it’s like opening the fridge door and thinking something at the back’s gone off: they reek of self-interest.

So, have all those honours gone to his head? As part of his praiseworthy attempts to promote engineering in schools, the Wiki informs us, the Dyson company has produced a teaching aid that can be loaned free of charge (for a month) to pupils at Key Stage 4:

The Education Box enables students to take apart and examine a Dyson DC22 Telescope vacuum cleaner. In addition, a school is allowed to retain a James Dyson Foundation teacher pack, and a copy of Genius Of Britain, a Channel 4 TV series featuring Dyson, and design engineering posters. Other resources are also available.

At my posh public-school, we had an old Riley car we could take to bits and examine. No-one ever tried to sell me one….

Expert opinion

Speaking of the euro, the currency our media tells us is continuously ‘in crisis’ hit a new high yesterday against the pound, of 1.262 (80 pence), on news in two polls of an unexpected surge in favour of Brexit, which almost everyone other than Sir James and Michael Gove thinks will be a disaster. Knowledgeably perusing some highly technical jargon, I understand 1.26 is somewhat outside the range that should trigger Central Bank intervention.

The financial website for exchange traders, poundsterling.com, predicts the Bank of England will have to raise interest rates against further economic uncertainty if the slide continues next week. They point out that while a lower pound favours exports to Europe (!) it will push up the price of imported goods, widening the already alarming trade gap; and the types of goods that we can export more profitably to the rest of the world because of the lower pound tend to be those that generally encounter existing trade barriers in non-EU countries.

Shall I say it, Brexit spokes, or will you?

All together now…

“Rubbish! What do they know, wankers? They’re only financial experts!”


With a gong in my heart

So, hail then, and arise, Sir Rod Stewart.

Happily, you are not among this year’s sad crop of dead 1970s celebrities, but have instead received the highest honour in the land; a knighthood in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list. I expect you’ll be jetting in from your agreeable home in Los Angeles to receive it.

Strangely, only a few days ago while watching a late-night BBC compilation of your many TV concert appearances over the years (your career began in 1961, before colour revealed your strangely orange hair), when there wasn’t much on, I mused aloud to myself that you were one act about overdue for a top Brit rocker gong, up there with Sir Cliff and Sir Tom, Sir Elt, Sir Mick and Sir Macca.* I don’t appear to be the only prescient former editor on the scene, as flipping to your Wikipedia entry to find out more about you I find you are already listed there as Sir Roderick David Stewart, less than 24 hours after it was announced. Someone is clearly on the ball; and now booking a table has got easier.

I also discover that you have an enormous… er, model railway at your home, and have featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine. We have a slightly more pejorative meaning of ‘railroad’ in UK English, but we get the drift, no need to assume you’ve been railroading models, haha. I always hankered after a model railway as a boy, and indeed still do;  only when I finally got one it was about two minutes before I became excessively bored watching the little train going round and round.

And of course your collection of Ferraris should have put you in contention for a presenter’s role on the new Top Gear, but alas. You’re better off out of it, mate, is my view after two haunting episodes.

As it happens, we hear that Her Majesty is more a fan of George Formby, the cheeky Lancastrian ukelele-strumming comic whose smutty songs and double-entendres were considered hilarious in the 1940s and 50s. Apparently she ‘knows all the lyrics’ to songs such as ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’, and ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’, and can do a great impression.

I was more impressed to learn that, years before Mandela, Formby and his missus toured South Africa. Horrified by what he found there, he refused to perform in front of all-white segregated audiences, and instead went off to play in the townships. Shame you can’t give posthumous knighthoods.

Still, ‘You wear it well.’

*Why don’t Lady Brit rockers ever get gongs too? Dame Annie Lennox, possibly next?**

**BTW, how many leading British authors ever get ennobled? ‘Sir Professor Doktor’ sounds good, nein? (Enough plugs. Ed. Even if you are the boss.)


Drafting Uncle Nigel

Right when we’re about to sever our links with Europe, it’s reported, Marvel comics are planning to revive Captain Britain. I’m sure there can be no connection. We shall, of course, be needing a superhero to save us from the perils of rougher international waters: criminal masterminds, property speculators, ultraviolent Russian football hooligans, the evil supremo Trumpster and his trusty sidekick,  Boris.

As Batman has his butler, so I thought Captain Britain could have a supportive older uncle; a rich man, he lives in a castle but hangs out in the village pub, enjoying a warm beer and complaining endlessly in an adopted Essex twang about foreigners, political correctness, foreigners, the smoking ban, foreigners and the untrustworthiness of European institutions. Maybe he morphs at night back into the body of a Cane Toad, which he more than slightly resembles.

I see this quintessentially English widemouth character as being a bit dodgy; always dressed in a camel-coloured Crombie coat with a velvet tab collar and a copy of Sporting Life in the pocket, he reminds us perhaps of ‘Arthur Daley’, the comical if ever-so slightly sinister secondhand rustbucket car-dealing hero and backstreet entrepreneur of the hit 1970s TV series, ‘Minder’. A cashiered ex-Army stores adjutant and sometime ‘commodities broker’ (he’ll do you a nice line in knockoff TVs), Uncle Nigel (we’ll call him) always has a couple of cases of imitation Bulgarian champagne in the boot of his 1968 Mark-11 Jaguar and the phone number of a cute bit of totty lipsticked on the front of the glovebox.

Every so often, he might mysteriously disappear across the Channel, only to re-surface days later with a briefcase bulging with Euros, which when questioned he puts down to: ‘Expenses, mate. Now piss off or I’ll call my solicitor!’ He is a popular guest on panel shows; indeed, his colourful antics and questionable assertions about modern life, delivered with bulging-eyed conviction, ensure he is seldom out of the limelight.

Just an idea. Perhaps a bit far-fetched.


Work. Life. Balance.

“A key function of media is the mass production of ignorance.”

  • Prof Greg Philo, Glasgow University Media Group


Having locked myself in the loo, as it were, by signing a petition got up by cleaning workers demanding the £9/hr London Living Wage as opposed to the National Living Wage of £7.22, which any fule kno exceeds the Adult Minimum Wage by a pound and tuppence, or something like that, a ‘personal appeal’ on behalf of two suspended workers contracted to Top Shop women’s outfitters (via an agency called Britannia Services) that turns out to be part of a Union-sponsored campaign, and never being allowed to hear the last of it, I’ve been cautiously interested in the Parliamentary Business Committee’s investigation into working practices within Mr Mike Ashley’s gargantuan retail empire, Sports Direct, especially at its Shirebrook, Derbyshire warehouse.

Here, it appears, female employees terrified of losing contract hours have been giving birth in the toilets, heedless of rules that require them to have their pay docked if they spend too long on comfort breaks; and other, seemingly astonishing, punitive management practices amounting to corporate abuse, including a ‘points’ system (six points and you’re out) that penalises workers for clocking-off on time, as well as fining them for every minute they clock-in late, or day they take off sick; charging workers £10 a month for administering their payroll via free prepaid bank debit cards, and so on – mean-spirited little fiddles that are causing high levels of stress and anxiety. Acts of physical violence by managers have also been alleged; while workers are intensively searched for contraband at the end of their shift, sometimes taking hours for which they get no extra pay.

External union calculations suggest that taking all this into account, workers at Sports Direct are being paid a lot less than the minimum wage; a claim the taxman is investigating. (I wonder what they would have made of my job at the ‘stately home’, where I took no holiday for five years, was back at work the next morning after having surgery under general anaesthetic, and was on-call literally 24 hours a day – on a 37.5 hours contract at £14k a year!)

Grilled by the Committee, the controversial Mr Ashley has admitted that many of the practices seem to be wrong, but states that the company has grown too vast for him to be aware of everything that goes on. However, he feels that the very high number of ambulance call-outs recorded to his premises is probably just due to overreaction by concerned managers….

I wish MPs would take a wider remit than investigating this one company, as these Victorian management practices are absolutely endemic in our modern world of low-cost, high-intensity retail distribution.

A friend of mine, Simon (58) took what he expected to be a part-time job at our local branch of B&Q’s DIY stores empire, only to leave after just a few weeks because of the dreadful quality of management, the incompetence for which he frequently had to cover, the compulsory extra hours demanded of him on pain of being fired, and the bullying, which he was not prepared to put up with.

I could use some extra money too. Half-heartedly pursuing a notification I received from Indeed.com yesterday of a part-time opening at Curry’s electrical store, a branch of the Dixon’s Carphone Warehouse retail group, just across the carpark from B&Q (now closed), I read review after review – over 100 – posted online by former employees (none actually from this branch) who gave the employer the minimum single star-rating, testifying to management incompetence, exploitative hours, refusals of leave of absence or holidays, total non-delivery of promised ‘quality training’, high staff turnover, dishonest selling of inappropriate extras and insurances and, again, bullying.

Interspersed with these deeply disturbing and negative comments, however, were 4- and 5-star reviews, stating what a brilliant company Dixon’s is to work for, and how happy and well-trained the staff are. Now, as readers of this, muh bogl, are all-too aware, I’ve been a journalist and news editor, spent 15 years as a commercial copywriter, run my own advertising agency (as Creative Director) and worked for six years as an editor in publishing companies. It’s perfectly obvious to me from the style of those anomalous reviews that they’ve been professionally copywritten, many by the same hand, presumably deliberately in order to mislead prospective job applicants and counter negative impressions of the company.

Prove me wrong, Dixon’s.

Amazon, too, has come in for similar criticisms over recent years concerning abusive working practices and exploitation of casual workers at its distribution depots; while van drivers working for courier companies may be paid as little as 45 pence per drop, and are expected to run their own vehicles as self-employed workers, contrary to HMRC rules on self-employment.

A lot of people are paying dearly for our modern world of instant gratification, stuff picked and delivered to your door in impossibly short order. And a few billionaires are being created from it.

Killing the goose

I have trouble understanding the way pay grades and scales and ‘spines’ operate, and all the other, highly technical bollocks invented by the Human Resources conspiracy to cut the wages bills of large companies and institutions. I suspect I’m not alone.

I had it explained to me the other day, for instance, how the HR department of my son’s part-time employer is recalibrating all the contracts to compensate the company for having agreed to the Chancellor’s demand that employers should all pay, not the minimum wage but the higher  ‘living wage’. I still don’t fully understand, as it appears he is being compensated for working fewer hours by being paid a much more generous rate even than I am! Another recent petition was got up to castigate B&Q for also cutting back on contract hours and playing various dirty tricks such as abolishing the higher rates for antisocial hours and overtime  to ensure the living wage does not cut into their profits, at the expense of their workforce. Surely not what the Chancellor intended.

My own part-time employer first tried to pretend they had carried out a workflow study showing that we didn’t deserve to be paid £9 an hour – a figure that had remained unchanged since 2007. Challenged on that, they confessed that the person who they claimed had carried out the study no longer worked there. A contracts review in 2014 led to an increase in the basic pay of 76 pence an hour, and an admission that the employer ought to have been paying us holiday pay under the EU directive on contracted part-time employment, which they then started to do. The HR department is now desperately trying to work out a new formula by which our holiday pay (paid pro rata at 1/27th the annual salary) becomes part of the £9.76 an hour basic rate, so that can be cut to £7.20, in line with the ‘living wage’!

(I was amused to learn too, that my contract runs until 2099, in which year I confidently expect to celebrate my 150th birthday!)

In the meantime our duties and responsibilities have increased, but thanks to some cunning planning involving the use of a new computer system the number of hours we are required to work and the number of venues across which we are asked to work, hence the number of people required,  have been reduced by about a third.

There will come a time, I foresee, when these efficiencies are going to kill the goose that, as it were, does the work…. There is, after all, little point getting out of bed in the morning and slogging in for only a couple of hours’ work in a day, paid at £7.20 an hour, that barely covers the cost of your lunch.  I thank the Lord however that my managers are relatively efficient, appreciative, forgiving, intelligent, adaptable, kind and mild-mannered; and yet the work somehow still gets done, and done well.

See, Mr Ashley, it’s not impossible.


Work. Life. Balance.

I came across this next bit in my unpublished Drafts folder, from May 2014. It seems so utterly fresh and relevant today:

With which of the following propositions do you most agree?

I cannot get a job because:


all them foreigners are coming over here from Romania expecting to live on benefits and get a house and work for less than minimum wage, while our Kylie has been waiting on the council list for six years and she’s got two kids who can’t get a place in nursery school because of all them moslims and it’s all the fault of Camoron and Europe.


none of us is qualified to get a job and no-one will employ us because we are a bunch of useless, semi-literate sofa-dwellers who have rejected every opportunity we were given by the state to benefit from free education up to tertiary stage in favour of stupidly imagining we could become pop stars or well paid footballers without having to do a tap of work.


I cannot continue keeping up my skills in the race against new technology applications, automation and expert systems, and do work at the same time. I cannot guarantee maintaining my career trajectory in a culture of zero-hours contracts and interim placements; of ‘labour-market flexibility’ geared to the needs of CEOs under pressure to deliver excessive dividends to shareholders at a time of ultra-low interest rates.

Now, I wonder where that draft was going?


Hate me, kill me, but don’t ignore me

The 0ther day, I Posted two great Posts about the rapidly approaching referendum on whether Britain should stay in or leave the European Union. They took many hours to research and write.

I am greatly fearful we shall vote to leave, because the Great British public is too compromised to understand the real issues and too poorly educated to know what happens whenever we turn our backs on Europe.

Not only has nobody read the Posts, according to WordPress’ Suicide Watch nobody has read anything at all on this, muh li’l bogl, for the past two days. This, despite me discovering that you can put tags on your Posts that get people excited.

Each time anyone anywhere says they don’t believe in logical reason, another bogler dies.

Remember that.


Life’s lottery

The deadline for voter registration for the EU referendum expired at midnight last night.

So great was the demand for registrations that the website crashed about two hours before the deadline. Immediately, 38 Degrees got up a petition to extend the deadline. Eighty thousand signatures in five minutes flat produced a 48-hour extension, as if from a magic hat of Government grace.

I’m sanguine about it. I can’t understand why, every year, British holidaymakers wait practically until they’ve turned up at the airport before thinking to apply for a passport, and then make a scene when the passport office is snowed under with applications every summer and there’s a five-week delay. I’ve had a passport since I was 15, they’re valid for 16 years, the previous iteration would have run out this year so I sent off for a new one in March last year, not at the height of the holiday season. It took only three days to arrive. I  seldom go anywhere abroad, but if I have to, I’ve got a passport! Having a passport is just one of those things you do, a rite of passage. It’s unbelievable that so many dimwits can’t manage in time to arrange the documents they need to get around.

Now we have a situation where everyone was told days, weeks and months ago that they had until midnight last night to apply for voter registration and there’s a huge fuss because the pathetic boobies found they couldn’t all apply at eleven fifty-eight. Maybe they thought it was a party, or something. (Postscriptum: according to BBC News, nearly HALF A MILLION people have registered in the past two days…. wtf???)

I simply can’t understand, given that we had nationwide local council, Assembly government and European Parliamentary elections only a month ago, in May, and a General Election 13 months ago, what the dimwits have been doing all this time? You only need to register once wherever you live. I’ve been a registered voter at this address for four and a half years since I moved in. All it took was, they sent me a form, I didn’t even have to ask, and I agreed, yes, I live here, I’m over 18,  and that was that. I get a voting card through the post a month before every election, and an annual request to confirm that I’m still alive (they’ll be mounting up on the doormat when my mummified remains are found by social workers, gnawed by cats.)

And I thought I was the most administratively challenged person on the planet.

How are these barely sentient procrastinating baboons able to understand the complex issues surrounding our membership of the EU, if they can’t arrange the simplest things in good time, like being a voter or owning a passport? Democracy isn’t something you spoon-feed people on demand, you can’t get it on Amazon or via Instagram. The Electoral Reform Society ought to look into it, such a massive last-minute voter registration online sounds highly fishy and could seriously affect the result.

These people don’t deserve a vote, they’re bound to get it wrong.