Mid-January news round-up

 

Here at Blood and Porridge I like to think I have my finger on the pulse, offering opinions on the big news stories the moment they happen.  Alas, I’ve been up to my eyes in work this last fortnight and haven’t been able to post much.  And meanwhile, during the same fortnight, the big news stories have come thick and fast.

 

To make amends, here’s a quick round-up of those recent news items as Blood and Porridge sees them.

 

Knobhead of 2017 found already

Only two-and-a-half weeks ago I named Nigel Farage as the biggest knobhead of 2016.  The reason why Farage won that title despite stiff opposition from US president-elect Donald Trump was because: “Trump is the equivalent of the loud malevolent playground bully who blighted your childhood.  But there was always one kid who was more detestably obnoxious than that – the slimy little sneak who grovelled before and sucked up to the bully, hoping to attain a smidgeon of his aura of cruel power.  And since it became clear that Trump was going to be the most powerful man on the planet, Farage has been doing a good impersonation of the slimy little sneak, scurrying across the Atlantic to do some major sucking up to the gruesome orange-skinned tycoon.”

 

Well, if that’s the criteria for making yourself the most loathsome and pustulent human being of the year, it looks like we already have a winner for 2017.

 

© The Daily Mirror

 

Michael Gove recently scuttled over to Trump Tower in New York to sychophantically interview Trump on behalf of the Times newspaper.  The resulting article was shocking even before Gove started the interview.  Describing the ascent in the Trump Tower’s infamous gold-plated lift, he wrote, “It was as though the Great Glass Elevator from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been restyled by Donatella Versace, then staffed by the casting director for Gone with the Wind.”  Gove felt moved to insert that Gone with the Wind reference because the lift had an “African-American attendant kitted out in frock coat and white cotton gloves.”  I wonder if the Trump organisation had forced him to pick the cotton that his gloves were made of.

 

Is Trump a Russian plant?

Speaking of Donald Trump, there’s been a kerfuffle lately about an intelligence dossier accusing Trump of being a puppet of Russian president Vladimir Putin.  The dossier alleges that those pesky Russkies spent more than five years cultivating Trump as a US presidential candidate with the intention of getting him into the White House and letting him wreak havoc on the Western world.  It also warns that they have “potentially compromising personal and financial information about him”, including saucy stuff involving prostitutes and what’s euphemistically known as ‘golden showers’.  Cue a million jokes on Twitter about Trump being the next Pee-OTUS and about him talking pish.  Oh, and ‘urine for a shock’ when he becomes president.

 

From talkingpointsmemo.com

 

Just before Trump’s lawyers get in touch with Blood and Porridge, I should say the dossier’s claims are so far unverified and their accuracy has been questioned in many quarters, not just by Trump’s supporters.  And the Orange One himself has strenuously denounced them as ‘fake news’ and ‘phony stuff’.

 

Still, this malarkey calls to mind certain works of fiction and celluloid – for example, Richard Conlon’s conspiracy thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1959), filmed in 1962 and 2004, about the Chinese and Russians using a brainwashed Korean War veteran to carry out a political assassination in the USA; and Robert Harris’s The Ghost (2007), filmed three years later by Roman Polanski, in which a very Tony Blair-esque former British prime minister turns out to have been a CIA plant.

 

My favourite entry in this sub-genre, though, is the Don Siegel-directed movie Telefon (1977), based on a 1975 novel by William Wager, in which mad Russian scientist Donald Pleasance tries to start World War III by activating a network of brainwashed sleeper-agents across the USA.  These agents develop a glazed look and lumber off and attack American military installations as soon as Pleasance gives them a ‘trigger’, which is the recital of certain lines of verse by Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep…

 

© MGM

 

Not that I think Trump would become glazed-eyed and trudge off zombie-like to attack a military installation if you recited Robert Frost at him.  Somehow, I doubt if poetry has much effect on him.  In fact, he probably he thinks Robert Frost was the guy who interviewed Nixon.

 

May rejects Europe, except for Bulgaria

January 17th saw British prime minister Theresa May give a historic speech about the nature of Britain’s ‘Brexit’ from the European Union at Lancaster House.  Guess what?  It’s going to be hard!

 

If there was one thing ghastlier than Ms May’s pronouncements – she even warned that if the EU didn’t accommodate Britain’s demands, she would “change the basis of Britain’s economic model”, i.e. slash taxes to lure businesses away from the EU even though this would leave next-to-no-money to pay for Britain’s public services – it was the head-to-toe blue tartan outfit she wore that day.

 

© The Daily Telegraph

 

It makes me wonder if someone somewhere is making a movie of the old British TV children’s series The Wombles and May fancies her chances of landing the role of the Wombles’ venerable patriarch, Great Uncle Bulgaria.

 

From Wombles Wiki

 

Trump’s inauguration still short of talent

Back to Donald Trump.  His presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington DC on January 20th has been beset by problems.  At least 50 Democrat lawmakers have announced they’ll be staying away.  The demand for hotel rooms has been low compared to previous inaugurations, with some Washington DC hotels reporting they’re only half-full.  And scalpers are struggling to offload tickets for the event.

 

On top of all that, there’s been a noticeable reluctance among the musical community to perform at the thing.  Everyone from Elton John to Celine Dion, Kiss and even Vince Neil of Motley Crüe have turned down invitations to sing / play and the names booked for the inauguration concerts aren’t exactly household ones, at least not in the Blood and Porridge household: Jackie Evancho, Three Doors Down, The Piano Guys, Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, DJ Ravidrums and the Frontmen of Country.

 

Apparently, a group called the B Street Band, who do covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were on the line-up but recently cancelled.  They cited as their reason the ‘respect and gratitude we have for Bruce,’ who coincidentally hates Trump’s guts.  Maybe there’s another Springsteen tribute band that could be recruited?  The C Street Band?  The D Street Band?

 

But if Trump’s people are still hunting for a performer to enliven those inauguration day concerts, I could direct them to one famous artiste whom I’m sure would be only too happy to step in at the last minute.

 

He’s someone whose stomping, glitzy anthems capture both the brassy boldness that Donald Trump no doubt believes is one of his winning qualities and the shiny opulence of the Trump empire, gold-plated lifts and all.  Someone who was a legend in his time, but who’s been off the radar for a little while and would surely welcome the new exposure that playing the inauguration would bring.

 

Yes, I give you…

 

From blog.thecurrent.org

 

Caledonian culture war

 

© Channel Four Films / PolyGram Pictures

 

Many people may be puzzled by the title of this blog-entry.  After all, if you’re to believe the pronouncements of certain Scottish Labour Party heavyweights of yesteryear, there isn’t any culture in Scotland to have a war over.

 

George Galloway, one-time Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead and Glasgow Kelvin and now widely-known as a preening, egotistical jackanapes, once declared that no such thing as Scottish culture existed.  Supporting him in this assertion was George Robertson, former Labour MP for Hamilton South, former Secretary of State for Defence and now known by the socialistic, man-of-the-people title of Lord Robertson of Port Ellon, KT, GCMG, PC, FRSA, FRSE.  Comparing the campaign for Scottish independence unfavourably with similar campaigns in Flanders and Catalonia, he said that unlike the Flemish and Catalans the Scots have “no language or culture or any of that.”

 

Despite George and George applying their mighty intellects to the matter of Scottish culture and ascertaining once and for all that the very notion of it is as ridiculous and chimerical as the Loch Ness Monster, a few people have not yet seen reason.  For example, the Scottish National Party, which forms the current Scottish Government.  And Jackie Kay, the current Makar – i.e. Scottish poet laureate – for another.

 

Recently the SNP / Scottish government launched a scheme whereby the parents of every baby born in Scotland receive a ‘baby box’, a collection of items handy for those taking care of a bairn during its first few months of life: a blanket, bedding, play and changing mats, a towel, fleece, reusable nappy, sponge, thermometer and so on.  The boxes these come in can also double as cribs.  The idea originated in Finland, where the boxes / cribs are believed to have contributed to a fall in the number of cot deaths.

 

What has raised the ire of many a commentator – mostly, it must be said, of the same unionist / pro-British / anti-Scottish independence mindset as Messrs Galloway and Robertson – is the decision to include within these baby boxes a poem written by Kay called Welcome Wee One.

 

The poem begins, “O ma darlin wee one / At last you are here in the wurld / And wi’ aa your wisdom / Your een bricht as the stars…

 

That’s right.  The poem isn’t written in proper standard English, but in Scots – the Scottish dialect of English that some misguided souls believe to be a separate language, to constitute a separate Scottish linguistic culture.  No wonder people who agree with the two Georges are having seizures of rage just now.  The Scottish government is propagating Scottish culture, something that doesn’t, shouldn’t, can’t exist!

 

Okay, enough of the sarcasm.  From now on, I’m writing seriously.

 

Among the many tweeters and posters expressing their scorn at Kay’s poem was Ian Smart, self-styled ‘lefty lawyer’ and ‘Scottish Labour Party hack’, who dismissed her as “a woman from Bishopbriggs, writing doggerel.”  A reader posting below a report on the baby boxes in the Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, brought up the fact that Kay is of what used to be called ‘mixed parentage’ to question her right to pen the poem in the first place: “…Jackie Kay has produced Welcome Wee One in what is supposed to be local dialect…  according to her Wiki entry her father was Nigerian.  I wonder what she’s like at Igbo?”

 

© The Guardian

 

As far as this baby box / Welcome Wee One stushie is concerned, I find myself agreeing with the Scottish journalist Kenny Farquharson.  Writing in the Times a few days ago, he claimed the antipathy towards the poem and the Scottish government’s distribution of it in the baby boxes was down to the ‘Scottish cringe’.  This cringe is the commonly-held belief that any manifestation of Scottishness in Scottish people is something to be embarrassed by, something you need to shed and disown in order to get on in life.

 

In an article headlined SPEAK UP FOR SCOTTISHNESS AND BAN THE CRINGE, he observed how the cringe’s “symptoms were easy to spot: an involuntary shudder at the sound of a glottal stop; an onset of the vapours when confronted by a fluttering saltire; a pursing of the lips at any manifestation of Scottish working class culture.”

 

However, many Times readers didn’t share his opinion.  The comments thread below his article was soon ablaze with Farquharson-bashing (“really just a closet nationalist…” “he seems to have a chip on both shoulders…”) and with further Kay-bashing (“fake, rubbish art…” “the great majority of the recipients of the baby box will take one look at the poem and assign it to the recycle bin…”), Scots-language-bashing (“no one, in 21st century Scotland, would ever express themselves in this way…”), and Scottish-government-bashing (“the box and the poem are intent on branding babies Scottish the moment they gulp their first breath…”  “As a government, they are totally incompetent…”)  No wonder that a few days later Farquharson tweeted, “Have to say, I’m fair ferfochan at some of the responses to my Scottish cringe column.”  (‘Ferfochan’ is a northeast Scottish word meaning ‘tired’ or ‘troubled’.)

 

Well, I think the baby boxes are a good idea in any society that claims to be civilised and anyone railing against them is showing himself or herself up as a Grade-A mean-spirited numpty.  The people complaining about them containing a poem written in Scots seem ignorant of the fact that since the medieval era of Dunbar and Henryson, through Robert Burns to the present day, an awful lot of Scottish poetry has been written in Scots.  So what’s the big deal about this poem being written in it?

 

© The Herald

 

Regarding the argument that the Scottish government is playing identity politics, trying to ‘brand’ youngsters as Scottish so that, somehow, they’ll be more likely to vote for Scottish independence from the UK when they’re adults – I suspect that if the baby boxes had contained some Union-Jack-waving verse by the likes of Rudyard Kipling, the right-wing readers of the Times and Telegraph would have expressed less indignation.  It seems we’re now in the midst of a culture war, Scottish culture being aligned with the SNP and the Scottish independence movement at one end of the battlefield, and British culture aligned with unionism and the status quo at the other end.

 

Oh, and in response to one of Farquharson’s detractors at the Times – I’ve just spent the past fortnight in the Scottish Borders and I’ve heard plenty of people speak ‘in this way’.  (Although the word ‘een’, for ‘eyes’, does seem obsolete now.)

 

What I find astonishing about this is that Farquharson himself is a Unionist and often writes scathingly about the Scottish government and its long-term policy of achieving Scottish independence.  But the moment he attempts to show some reasonableness and writes favourably about a policy by that government, he’s torn apart by people who are supposedly on his own side.  (I should declare an interest here – I knew Kenny Farquharson, slightly, for a year or two when we were students at Aberdeen University in the early 1980s.  I don’t much agree with his politics, but I found him to be a decent bloke back then, full of Dundonian congeniality, and I’m sure he continues to be that way now.)

 

From youtube.com

 

With all this yelling about the SNP / Scottish government using Scottish culture to play identity politics and further their agenda, you’d expect them to have established the post of Makar too.  After all, giving Scotland its own poet laureate is another way of separating it from the United Kingdom, which has long had its own national poet laureate.  But in fact the post was created by the previous regime at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition – Unionist politicians to a man and woman.

 

And if you’re going to employ a Makar for Scotland and not have them write a short ode of welcome to its new-born citizens – why employ one at all?

 

Knobhead of the Year

 

If 2016 hadn’t been so stomach-churningly hideous, there would’ve been only one serious contender for the title of Knobhead of the Year.  Donald Trump, a man with the IQ of lichen, the charisma of diarrhoea and the moral compass of Beelzebub, was elected 45th president of the United States on November 8th.  He didn’t actually win the election, since he garnered 2.83 million fewer votes than his main opponent.  But fortunately for him the US electoral college system proved to be as demented and rotten as he was.

 

However, 2016 was also the year when a majority of Britons voted for Brexit, their brains apparently reduced to mush by the grisly Brexit cheerleading of people like Conservative MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and then-UKIP leader Nigel Farage.  And it’s the third of this venal triumvirate, Farage, whom I think out-Trumps even Trump in the 2016 knobhead stakes.

 

© Daily Mirror

 

Farage’s antics during the past year have included, a month before the Brexit vote, the launching of a campaign poster depicting hundreds of traumatised Syrian refugees queuing to get into Slovenia with the slogan BREAKING POINT emblazoned on it and the insinuation that all these scary brown-skinned people would soon be invading Britain if it remained in the EU.  The poster bore a chilling resemblance to a clip of old Nazi propaganda that ranted about undesirables flooding “Europe’s cities after the last war… parasites, undermining their host countries.”

 

The Monday after the Brexit vote he got up in the European Parliament – an institution he’s been a member of for the last 20 years without, it’s fair to say, doing much in the way of work – and told his fellow MEPs, “I know that virtually none of you have never (sic) done a proper job in your lives.”  Seen facepalming behind Farage was Lithuanian MEP Vytenis Andriukaitis, whose useless, proper-job-free life had seen him growing up during the Stalin era in exile in the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, overcoming such unpromising beginnings to qualify as a cardiac surgeon and eventually being a co-signatory of the act re-establishing Lithuania as an independent state.

 

From abc.net.au

 

Farage rounded off 2016 in similar classy style by attacking Brendan Cox – husband of Jo Cox, the late Labour Party MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, a pro-European and pro-refugee politician who was murdered shortly before the Brexit vote by a right-wing terrorist called Thomas Mair.  Referring to Hope Not Hate, an organisation campaigning against far-right militant groups that’s supported by Cox and funded by a foundation set up in his wife’s name, Farage said: “He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”  Hope Not Hate have demanded an apology from Farage for this slur, but I’m not holding my breath about them getting one.

 

But for me what clinches Farage’s status as a truly vile human being is his relationship with the US President-elect.  Trump is the equivalent of the loud malevolent playground bully who blighted your childhood.  But there was always one kid who was more detestably obnoxious than that – the slimy little sneak who grovelled before and sucked up to the bully, hoping to attain a smidgeon of his aura of cruel power.  And since it became clear that Trump was going to be the most powerful man on the planet, Farage has been doing a good impersonation of the slimy little sneak, scurrying across the Atlantic to do some major sucking up to the gruesome orange-skinned tycoon.

 

According to Farage, Trump is “full of good ideas”.  He’s confident he “will be a good president” – not like his White House predecessor, whom Farage has described as a “creature” and a “loathsome individual”.  Mind you, Farage also thought Trump was creature-like, though in a positive sense.  After one of Trump’s presidential debates with Hillary Clinton, he admiringly likened him to “a big silverback gorilla prowling the studio”.  Meanwhile, Trump managed to remember who Farage is long enough to tweet that many British people would like to see him “as their ambassador to the United States.  He would do a great job!”

 

Farage has raved about 2016 being the year that the “little people decided they could assert themselves and could actually beat the establishment.”  This utterance was made without irony, despite the allegedly anti-establishment Farage being a former pupil of Dulwich College, a former commodities trader in the City and the sort of guy who if there were ever little people in the vicinity of his house would probably set the dogs on them.  And I doubt if many little people are allowed in the same postal district as Farage’s new best friend, Mr Trump.  They certainly wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the golden lift-doors in Trump Tower, before which Trump and Farage posed for this nauseating and now-infamous photo.

 

© Daily Telegraph

 

Those little people will soon be feeling the pinch in Britain – a country where many folk are already dependent on foodbanks – when the 40 percent of their food that’s imported gets subjected to post-Brexit tariffs and its price gets jacked up further as the pound goes through the floor following the activation of Article 50.  No wonder Farage seems to be doing his best to get out of Blighty before the shit hits the fan.  I reckon 2016’s biggest knobhead is making plans to move to the USA permanently, where he’ll probably end up residing inside Donald Trump’s arse.

 

Tartanising Trump

 

© BBC

 

Almost immediately after the news that Donald Trump had won the US presidency, I had a depressing thought – admittedly, one of many depressing thoughts.  How long would it be before the scribes of Scotland’s unionist media and the orators of its unionist political parties started using Trump’s victory as a weapon against the Scottish National Party, and against SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and against everyone who voted for Scottish independence when there was a referendum about it in 2014?

 

Answer: not long.  Writing recently in the Scottish Daily Mail, journalist Paul Sinclair – once an advisor to former Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont, now a contributor to one of the most right-wing newspapers in Britain – compared Nicola Sturgeon to Hillary Clinton.  “The public don’t seem to like husband and wife – or indeed wife and husband – teams any more… Miss Sturgeon may turn out to be Scotland’s Hillary-plus – utterly defeated without the consolation of even Hillary’s plus points.”  Sinclair’s reasoning seems to be that Sturgeon is a woman, which is what Hillary Clinton is; and she’s married, which is also true of Hillary Clinton; and her husband is involved in politics like Hillary Clinton’s husband is (although Nicola’s hubby, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, is possibly a wee bit less in the public eye than Hillary’s one); so all that makes her a Scottish equivalent of Hillary Clinton, who has just lost an election and is a loser.

 

Therefore, Nicola = Loser.  Though the equation that the article suggests to me is Paul Sinclair = Tosser.  I’m not providing a link to the article, by the way, because it’s published by the Daily Mail and for me Daily Mail = Wankers.

 

A more popular narrative that’s surfaced among Scottish unionists over the past week, though, is one equating the independence movement not with Hillary Clinton, but with Donald Trump – and for that matter, with that previous example of extreme electoral nuttiness back in June, Britain voting for Brexit from the European Union.

 

The reliably and wilfully ignorant Scottish Labour commentator Ian Smart tweeted two days after the Trump victory that “it’s increasingly clear we resisted a worrying rising tide in September 2014.”  This was echoed in a tweet by Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament Murdo Fraser: “If it was mostly poorly-educated working-class males who voted Trump, wasn’t it the same demographic that largely voted yes in 2014?”

 

Actually, I will digress for a moment about Murdo Fraser, who only last month declared on Twitter, “I’m British and I’m staying that way.”  I remember him as a fellow student during my college days at Aberdeen in the 1980s, where he was a member of the FCS, the Federation of Conservative Students.  The FCS were an organisation so obnoxiously right-wing that they embarrassed even Norman Tebbit, who was then Conservative Party Chairman and not much left of Vlad the Impaler in his own political beliefs; and he had them disbanded in 1986.  When Murdo and his FCS mates weren’t strutting around the campus waving the Union Jack, they were behaving like pillocks towards gay students, singing “Hang Nelson Mandela!” at discos whenever the DJ played the Special AKA anthem Free Nelson Mandela, and making nuisances of themselves in pubs yelling “F*** the Pope!”  But I guess that for Murdo, white, Protestant British nationalism is all good; whereas Scottish nationalism is unspeakably bad.

 

© The National

 

The same theme was reiterated in a slightly subtler form by Scottish Daily Mail journalist Chris Deerin, who wrote on November 12th: “Trump’s triumphed, Britain’s Brexiting, Le Pen’s close enough to being La Presidente…  The three most powerful words in politics are Take Back Control.  The world is engaged in one of its cyclical bouts of disaggregation, having bumped up against the reality, yet again, that our species is intractably tribal, pre-dominantly self-interested and, when it comes down to it, pretty psychologically basic…  why, in 2014, did Scotland buck the trend?  Put another way, what’s wrong (or right) with us…?  How the SNP’s leaders must curse their luck that they were forced to go first.”

 

Again, I’m not providing a link to Deerin’s article because it’s in the Daily Mail.  And again, Daily Mail = Wankers.

 

Well, this may be news to the likes of Ian Smart, Murdo Fraser and Chris Deerin, but in 2014 Donald Trump was on their side.  He wanted Scots to vote against independence, not for it, and after the result was announced in favour of ‘no’ he hailed it as “a great decision”.  The ‘no’ side also enjoyed the backing of UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who since Trump’s victory seems to have become the orange-skinned ogre’s new British best pal and appointed himself as unofficial go-between for Trump Tower and Downing Street.  Also backing a Scottish ‘no’ was British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who’s recently claimed that there’s “a lot to be positive about” Trump’s presidency and berated Europeans for whingeing about him.  All the right-wing newspapers who backed Brexit and are now warming to the prospect of a Trump presidency, such as the Daily Telegraph and that odious scum-sheet the Daily Express, were vociferous ‘no’ supporters as well.  As were the UK’s equivalents of the Trump-endorsing Ku Klux Klan, like the National Front, British National Party and English and Scottish Defence Leagues.

 

Thanks to the rejection of independence in 2014, Scotland is now locked inside a Brexiting and increasing xenophobic Britain that looks set to carve out a new international role for itself as a loathsome wee sidekick to the big-mouthed, ignorant, bigoted, misogynistic Trump.  Incidentally, those who wanted Scotland to become independent in 2014 were also keen to remove the nuclear submarines and their cargoes of Trident missiles from their home at Clyde Naval Base, 25 miles from the city of Glasgow, and expel them from the country.  But because of the ‘no’ vote, these weapons of mass destruction will be based in Scotland for the foreseeable future and from next year their usage will depend on the whims of a belligerent ignoramus in Washington.  (Only a British nationalist as deluded as Murdo Fraser would believe that Britain’s supposed nuclear deterrent is actually controlled from London.)

 

Voting ‘no’ in September 2014 was the equivalent of voting ‘leave’ in June 2016 and voting for Trump in November 2016.  And if you can’t see that, you need your head examined.

 

Numpties and Trumpties

 

In my previous blog-entry, posted yesterday, I wondered if a majority of voters in the United States would be dumb enough to vote into power the environment-wrecking, Mexican-baiting, Muslim-hating, tax-avoiding, pussy-grabbing Donald Trump – just as a few months ago a majority of the British electorate stupidly chainsawed off their own noses to spite their faces by voting to leave the European Union.

 

Well, an emphatic answer to that question has just been delivered: yes.  Truly, 2016 will go down in the history books as the year when the Anglo-Saxon nations decided to commit political, economic and social hara-kiri.

 

So what do the next four years with President Donald Trump at the helm hold for the USA and for the rest of the world?  I suppose the best-case scenario is that the White House merely becomes an even crasser, more vulgar, more embarrassing and more grotesque version of this:

 

From www.theconversation.com

 

And as for the worst-case scenario?  Well, I guess that would probably be something like this:

 

© Lucasfilm Ltd / 20th Century Fox

 

Let’s just hope he keeps his stubby little fingers away from the controls of the Death Star.  Good luck, everybody.

 

Will the new moronism strike again?

 

From paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com

 

At one point in James Cameron’s masterly 1986 movie Aliens, an exasperated Sigourney Weaver demands, “Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?”  As someone who’s been out of the United Kingdom for a while, I often find myself asking the same question.

 

I’ve asked it during the last four-and-a-half months especially.  That’s since June 23rd, when a narrow majority of the UK electorate voted for Brexit, i.e. leaving the European Union.

 

It’s well-documented that many Brexit supporters came from areas and social classes that feel most disfranchised in modern-day Britain and feel most distant from the country’s centres of political, economic and cultural power (which are invariably in London).  So they followed the advice of the likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and used the Brexit referendum as a means to raise a middle finger at the establishment.

 

Of course, there’s no way that Farage, Gove or Johnson could be described as members of the British establishment.  Oh no.  Not Nigel Farage, who was educated at Dulwich College and once worked as a commodity trader in the City of London; not Michael Gove, who was educated at Oxford University and served as a president of the Oxford Union and worked as a journalist with the Times and Spectator; and certainly not Boris Johnson, who was educated at Eton College and Oxford University and worked as a journalist with the Times, Spectator and Daily Telegraph.  Wot, establishment?  Not us, guvnor.

 

Often, the areas most strongly in favour of Brexit were the ones most economically dependent on the EU.  According to the Financial Times, East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire sends a bigger proportion of its exports to the EU than anywhere else in Britain, yet in June 65% of its voters told the EU to go and get stuffed.  Similarly, many Brexit voters came from the poorer end of society, where food security is a constant worry.  With Britain having to import 40% of its food these days, and the pound weakening post-Brexit, and the likelihood of post-EU tariffs being added to many imports, the prices of things on the supermarket shelves can only rocket upwards.  So with Brexit likely to f**k up your local economy and f**k up your household budget, voting for it was probably, you know, stupid.

 

Still, I’m sure that such anti-establishment rebels as Nigel Farage (who’s worth about three million pounds according to www.the-net-worth.com) and Boris Johnson (who’s earned twice as much as the prime minister in the last two years according to the Daily Mail) will be sharing the pain with you.

 

From www.christopherfowler.co.uk

 

In another example of Brexit stupidity, Boris Johnson enthused at this year’s Conservative Party conference about Britain being a world leader in ‘soft’ power, i.e. diplomatic, cultural, economic and educational influence.  He spoke of “the vast and subtle and persuasive extension of British influence around the world that goes with having a language that was invented and perfected in this country, and now has more speakers than any other language on earth.”  He described the ‘gentle, kindly gunboats of British soft power’ going ‘up the creeks and inlets of every continent on earth’ captained by such British cultural icons as ‘Jeremy Clarkson’, ‘J.K. Rowling’ and ‘the BBC’.

 

Johnson got it wrong about English having the most speakers of any language – in 2015, 962 million people spoke English compared to the 1090 million who spoke Mandarin Chinese – but Britain has topped tables of countries ranked by their estimated soft power.  In July 2015, an article in the Economist cited as possible reasons for this Britain’s ‘chart-topping music albums’, the ‘foreign following of its football teams’, its universities ‘attracting vast numbers of foreign students’ and the country generally having a good ‘engagement’ with the world.

 

That was in 2015, mind you, a year before Brexit.  Now is it not just really, really, really stupid for Johnson to brag about Britain’s soft-power capacity when he’s championed the cause that’s f***ed that capacity up its arse?  The vote and the toxic shenanigans that followed – racists suddenly feeling entitled to verbally and physically assault foreigners on the streets, the obnoxious anti-European, anti-foreigner rhetoric displayed at the Tory Party conference – must have snookered Britain’s soft-power status.  No wonder that a fortnight ago it was reported that the number of European students applying to British universities has dropped by 9%.

 

Having soft power depends on people around the world liking and respecting you.  Brexit and its legacy have changed that for Britain, and not just in terms of how the rest of Europe views it – I can see attitudes changing too in southern Asia, where I live now.  Until very recently, Britain was regarded as being a bit starchy and old-fashioned, but cool – sort of like Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).  Now Britain is regarded as an international village idiot, gibbering and self-harming in its hovel somewhere beyond the outskirts of Europe.

 

Of course, just now, anyone daring to question the wisdom of Brexit is labelled a traitor by Brexit-crazy British politicians and Brexit-crazy British newspapers (shit-sheets like the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun and the increasingly crass Daily Telegraph).  Doubters, prevaricators and sceptics are accused of unpatriotically talking the country down.  Concerned economists are dismissed as untrustworthy ‘experts’ – as Michael Gove said memorably, the British “have had enough of experts.”  Fie on you, traitorous experts, for having the temerity to know stuff!

 

Meanwhile, any critic of Brexit with cultural leanings is damned as a ‘left-wing luvvie’.  This label has even been attached to the former England football-team captain Gary Lineker, who recently tweeted his discomfort at post-Brexit Britain and the hostility of attitudes towards children from the ‘Calais Jungle’ migrant camp in France.

 

Generally, being slightly less-than-enthusiastic about Brexit marks you out as a member of the ‘liberal metropolitan elite’ who voted to remain in the EU – a sneering minority accounting for a mere 48% of the votes cast.  That’s the derisive term used by Britain’s gloriously Brexiting Prime Minister Theresa May, who back in June had supported Britain remaining in the EU.

 

It feels like a new virus that turns people into morons is on the loose.  And it feels like Britain has succumbed to an epidemic of this new moronism.

 

From www.newscorpse.com

 

Alas, it seems that the same infection has taken hold in the United States too.  For today is when American voters go to the polls to elect the 45th president of the USA.  The choice ought to be simple.  They must decide between Hillary Clinton, an uninspiring, uncharismatic technocrat who carries too much political baggage for comfort, but who has plenty of government experience and who at least isn’t mad; and one Donald John Trump.

 

That’s the billionaire Donald Trump who’s suffered six bankruptcies (so far) in his hotel and casino businesses; who believes Mexicans to be rapists; who wants to ban Muslims from the USA; who’s endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan; who likes to grab women by the pussy; who dismisses climate change as a hoax; who’s flattened the environmentally-precious Balmedie Beach in Aberdeenshire in order to build a golf course that he promised would employ 6000 people (but by 2016 had employed only 200); who established an alleged educational institution that violated New York State law by calling itself a ‘university’; who managed to wangle his way out of paying taxes by claiming a loss of 916 million dollars in 1995; who’s hinted that gun-owners ought to shoot Clinton; who’s promised to lock Clinton up if he wins; who’s refused to accept the result if he loses; who has a man-crush on Vladimir Putin; who’s wondered aloud what the point is of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them.

 

Donald Trump is a garrulous gob-shite, a bigoted bell-end, a maggoty skidmark on the boxer shorts of American politics.  Oh, and his suntan looks like radioactive slurry.  And his hairdo’s so hideous it may as well be the pubes of Satan.

 

Clinton or Trump?  It should be a no-brainer.  However, Trump is in with a shout of winning the presidency – a 35% probability according to polling supremo Nate Silver – which suggests that an awful lot of Americans have developed ‘no-brain syndrome’.

 

Will the new moronism that’s afflicted Britain strike again?  I guess this time tomorrow we’ll know.

 

© 20th Century Fox

 

The other ‘N’ word

 

(c) Hat Trick Productions / Channel 4

 

When, near the end of last week’s Scottish National Party conference, party leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to open a new Scottish trade base in Berlin and so strengthen Scotland’s ties with the European Union, I had a depressing thought. 

 

“Who,” I wondered, “will be first to make a reference to the Nazis?”

 

You see, Berlin is the capital of Germany.  And Germany is where the Nazis used to live.  Meanwhile, many anti-Scottish independence, pro-United Kingdom posters on social media would have you believe that the Scottish National Party is where the Nazis live now.

 

That might seem a bit harsh on the SNP, considering that lately Nicola Sturgeon has gone out of her way to stress her party’s inclusiveness and promote a vision of Scotland that is welcoming to refugees and “progressive, open, outward-looking”.  This was in contrast to the recent Conservative Party conference, at which some shockingly xenophobic rhetoric was spouted – none worse than when UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised to get British firms to publish lists of their non-British employees.  (A promise, incidentally, that was dropped after the backlash it provoked.)

 

But the SNP, its detractors claim, wants Scotland to be independent of the United Kingdom, which means it doesn’t like English people, which makes it racist.  And if you’ve read your history books, you’ll know that racism was one of the Nazis’ main hobbies.

 

In fact, the first person I saw make that Nazi reference was Mike Elrick, who at various times was an advisor to the late Labour Party leader John Smith, to the former Labour cabinet minister Dr John Reid and to the former Scottish Labour Party leader Wendy Alexander.  “To think,” he tweeted two days ago, “75 years ago some Nats were looking forward to permanent trade representation in Berlin too.”

 

I was surprised to read this comment because only a week earlier Mike Elrick had lambasted the SNP MP Mhairi Black for making another Nazi analogy.  Black had described the mood of the aforementioned Conservative Party conference as being “reminiscent of early 1930s Germany.”  At the time Elrick tweeted indignantly: “MP Mhairi Black thinks Tory policies like Nazis.  Insulting, pathetic, juvenile and just plain wrong on every account.”  Obviously, getting one over on your political opponents overrides taking a principled stand on an issue.

 

(For the record, I should say that I knew Mike Elrick slightly, through a mutual acquaintance, while I lived in London in the early 1990s.  We had several furious arguments but overall I thought we were on reasonably friendly terms – at least, when we were talking about films and music and not talking about politics.  He may not have felt the same way about me, though.)

 

But then, in turn, Mhairi Black has had the ‘N’ word directed at her.  In February 2015, before she became an MP, she was described in a tweet as “the wee Nazi candidate in Paisley” by Ian Smart, a lawyer, blogger, political pundit and staunch supporter Labour Party supporter.  Smart has also called the SNP ‘racist’, ‘fascists’ and ‘fascist scum’ on Twitter.  A year-and-a-half before 2014’s referendum on Scottish independence he even tweeted: “Better 100 years of Tory rule than the turn on the Poles and the Pakis that would follow independence failing to deliver.”

 

Well, in 2014, the Scots voted to stay in the UK, which now looks like it will be ruled by the Tories for a hundred years, especially as Smart’s Labour Party is such a dire shambles.  So the Poles will be relieved about that.  It meant that nobody turned on them.  Oh…  Oh wait.

 

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/09/killing-polish-man-shook-town-harlow-could-more-trouble-be-coming

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/27/brexit-polish-centre-london-reeling-after-graffiti-attack

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/14/four-teenagers-arrested-attack-polish-man-leeds

 

(c) Scottish Political Archive

 

Fuelling much of Elrick and Smart’s SNP / Nazis invective is the historical case of Arthur Donaldson, who joined the Scottish National Party in 1934 and led it from 1960 to 1969.  In May 1941, Donaldson was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks for activities subversive to Britain’s war effort – he argued for Scottish neutrality and opposed conscription.  More seriously, an MI5 informant alleged that Donaldson had been earmarked by Nazi Germany to be head of a puppet Scottish government once it’d invaded and conquered the UK.  Also, MI5 claimed that it’d unearthed a cache of weapons at Donaldson’s home.

 

His Wikipedia entry notes that “Donaldson was never charged, and no evidence for the MI5 allegations has ever been produced.”  Nonetheless, many of the SNP’s detractors still cry: “Their former leader was in cahoots with the Nazis!  He was a Nazi!  So all SNP supporters are Nazis now!”

 

Well, I certainly think Donaldson was stupidly naïve in not, for the sake of the common good, setting aside his political principles and joining the struggle against Hitler.  But if Donaldson really had been conspiring with the Germans and hiding weapons at his house, wouldn’t the authorities have kept him banged up for an awful lot longer than six weeks?  Actually, wouldn’t they have hung him for treason?

 

The way Donaldson is still talked about contrasts with the case of Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, whom I’ve written about before on this blog.  He was MP for the Scottish town I’m from, Peebles, when it was part of the Peebles and Southern Midlothian constituency.  He stood for the Scottish Unionist Party, which was associated with but not properly a part of the Conservative Party in England and Wales.  (In 1965 it became a regional branch of the Britain-wide Conservative Party.)  During the late 1930s Ramsay was a leading light in various extreme right-wing, anti-Jewish organisations like the United Christian Front, the Nordic League and the Right Club.  In May 1940 he was arrested under an emergency statute and he spent the next four years in Brixton Prison alongside other potential pro-Nazi subversives like Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists.

 

http://bloodandporridge.co.uk/wp/?p=1452

 

You never hear much about Ramsay these days – certainly not in Peebles, where local historians seem to suffer collective amnesia regarding their town’s old wartime MP.  But if you’re going to formulate the equation Arthur Donaldson + Nazis = SNP are Nazis now, you could equally formulate the equation Archibald Maule Ramsay + Nazis = Tories are Nazis now.  Actually, you could do something similar with Ramsay’s fellow inmate at Brixton Prison, Oswald Mosley, who prior to leading Britain’s fascists was a Labour MP.  Indeed, by the late 1920s, he was a minister in Ramsay MacDonald’s cabinet.  So there you go: Oswald Mosley + Fascists = Labour Party are Fascists now.

 

I’m sure the SNP has attracted its share of bigots over the decades – Scots who genuinely do hate the English and fantasists who believe in the racial superiority of the Celts.  But then again, nutters occasionally find their way into the ranks of every political party.  And there are other things I could mention in response to the modern-day SNP being called Nazis.  Like the fact that extreme right-wing organisations such as the National Front, the British National Party and the English and Scottish Defence Leagues lined up against the SNP and alongside the Labour and Conservative Parties in their opposition to Scottish independence in 2014.

 

(c) Daily Mirror

 

Or the fact that the day after the Scottish-independence referendum, independence-supporters in Glasgow’s George Square were attacked by a crowd of ‘no’ supporters who, to quote the Guardian, were “draped in Union flags… chanting the words to Rule Britannia.  Some shouted loyalist slogans and racist abuse, and appeared to make Nazi salutes.”  Even the Daily Mail – the Daily Mail! – described them as “Nazi-saluting thugs.”

 

Or the fact that the modern-day Labour Party has been caught in a shit-storm of accusations about that most Nazi-ish of activities, anti-Semitism.  No doubt the likes of Mike Elrick and Ian Smart would retort angrily that this was due to crass remarks made by people on the left wing of the party, such as Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, who certainly don’t represent their Labour Party.  But hey, surely the distance between them and Livingstone and Walker is no greater than the distance between Nicola Sturgeon and Arthur Donaldson, who’d stepped down as SNP leader before Sturgeon was even born.

 

But maybe it’s simply worth recalling Godwin’s law, the observation made by US attorney and author Mike Godwin that “(a)s an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1”; i.e. in any argument, sooner or later, someone will liken his or her opponents to the gang running the Third Reich.  Which obviously demeans the memory of the millions of people who were victims of that Third Reich.

 

Political discourse in Scotland would be a lot saner and more edifying if commentators, politicians and social-media posters were just banned from using the ‘N’ word and from making ‘N’ analogies.  I say that not just about Mike Elrick and Ian Smart on the Labour Party side but also Mairi Black on the SNP side – I thought the Conservative Party conference was pretty revolting, but nobody there was proposing the Final Solution.

 

Mind you, if the people you’re arguing with really are wearing swastikas (and caps with skulls on them)…  By all means, go ahead and call them Nazis.

 

From matthewjamesbloggs.wordpress.com 

 

Make-your-mind-up time

 

From leftfootforward.org

 

“What is the basis for removing our EU citizenship?  Voting yes.”  So warned a tweet on September 2nd, 2014, a fortnight before the Scottish electorate voted on whether or not their country should become independent of the United Kingdom, sent by the anti-independence, pro-UK campaign group Better Together.

 

Better Together wasn’t the only entity to try to frighten Scots who might be thinking of voting for independence with the prospect of a newly-independent Scotland getting kicked out of the European Union.  Plenty of pro-British newspapers were happy to splash big scary headlines across their front pages every time a senior EU official – such as then European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso – hinted darkly about the Scots losing their EU membership if they opted to shed their UK one.

 

Well, the Scots duly did what the British establishment urged them to do.  They voted to stay in the UK by a majority of 55% to 45%.  Which also preserved their status as citizens of the European Union.  Right?  Wrong of course.  Less than two years later, by a narrow majority, the British electorate followed the advice of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and sundry other right-wing nincompoops and voted for Brexit, i.e. leaving the EU.

 

Actually, nearly two-thirds of the turn-out in Scotland was in favour of remaining.  But the Scots are heavily outnumbered by the more Brexit-enthused English and so they’ve ended up being dragged out of the EU against their will.  What they were told two years earlier about staying in the UK in order to stay in the EU too has proved to be so much flannel.

 

Predictably, the same right-wing newspapers who played up the threat of an independent Scotland getting booted out of the EU were among the noisiest campaigners for a ‘leave’ vote in the run-up to this June’s EU referendum.  And they’ve been in seventh heaven since their side pipped it, enraptured by a vision of a future Britain free of EU labour, environmental and financial regulations (and free of ghastly, smelly foreigners): a vision of Britain as Airstrip One, Sweatshop Two and Tax Haven Three.

 

For a telling insight into the mind of the British right-wing press regarding Brexit, you should look at a video released by the Daily Telegraph on September 30th called 100 Reasons Why Brexit was a Good Thing.  To the strains of William Blake and Sir Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem, that paean to England’s (not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland’s) ‘green and pleasant land’, it reels off such heart-warming reasons for leaving Europe as NO CLINICAL TRIALS RED TAPE, END WORKING TIME DIRECTIVE and NO EU HUMAN RIGHTS LAW.  Yes, Britons should give thanks that they’ve been freed from such horrible injustices as new drugs getting stringent safety checks, employers being restrained from working their employees into the ground and – shudder! – human rights.

 

Meanwhile, if the environment-related reasons for which the Telegraph is applauding Brexit come to pass – NO MORE WIND FARMS, NO EU LANDFILL RULES, PROPER WEEDKILLER, FEWER CHEMICALS RESTRICTIONS, OLD FASHIONED LIGHT BULBS and DROP GREEN TARGETS – it’s debatable for how much longer England’s, and indeed Britain’s, green and pleasant land will actually be green and pleasant.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/30/100-reasons-to-embrace-brexit/

 

This past weekend, at the beginning of the 2016 Conservative Party conference, those newspapers had a collective right-wing orgasm when Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to trigger Article 50, the clause necessary for starting the Brexit process, by the end of March 2017.  A typical reaction was that of Margaret Thatcher’s old hatchet-man Norman Tebbit (now looking more than ever like Mr Barlow, the chief vampire in the 1979 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot), who gushed about it in a Sunday Telegraph article headed REJOICE, FOR THERESA MAY HAS STARTED THE AVALANCHE WHICH WILL SET BRITAIN FREE.

 

From thesteepletimes.com

 

One of the first things May did on becoming prime minister after Brexit and the resignation of her predecessor, the pig-penetrating David Cameron, was to visit Scotland, meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and assure her that she wanted “the Scottish government to be fully engaged in our discussions and our considerations” and would “listen to any options that they bring forward.”  Her comments about the Scottish government at the Tory Party conference have been slightly different in tone: “There is no opt-out from Brexit and I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union of the four nations of our United Kingdom.”  Which is rich coming from someone heading a party of divisive British nationalists who’ve undermined the union of the 28 nations of the EU.

 

The past months have been uncomfortable for those Scots who voted ‘no’ to independence in 2014 but voted ‘remain’ in this year’s EU referendum.  “But,” they protest, “we want to be Scottish, and British, and European!”  For example, Scottish Labour Party leader Keiza Dugdale told the Guardian on July 11th: “We just don’t know whether Scotland can remain part of Europe and part of the United Kingdom.  I, like the vast majority of Scots, want to be part of both.  That’s what I want to fight for.”  To Dugdale, 55% apparently counts as a ‘vast majority’.

 

Then there’s the columnist, broadcaster and author Muriel Gray, who tweeted on June 29th: “So Scots who don’t want tribalism.  Want to remain part of everything: UK, EU, libertarian world, humanity in general.  Who’s their champion?”  Her fellow author Irvine Welsh nailed it when he tweeted back, “Santa Claus.”

 

Well, I sympathise with anyone wishing to be Scottish, British and European.  Even though I supported Scottish independence in 2014, I still feel British myself, at least in the way people in a politically independent Sweden or Norway can still have a cultural and geographical affinity with the larger entity of ‘Scandinavia’.  And I can understand their dismay at what happened on June 24th, even though they’d allowed themselves to be sold a pup about the EU two years earlier.

 

But now they can’t have it both ways.  With a second referendum on Scottish independence looking likely, they’ll soon have to decide between the ‘British’ bit and the ‘European’ bit.  This is especially so given the sympathetic noises Europe has made towards Scotland since the EU vote.  For instance, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, appointed as the European Parliament’s lead negotiator in the forthcoming Brexit talks, has said: “If Scotland decides to leave the UK, to be an independent state, and they decide to be part of the EU, I think there is no big obstacle to that.”  Incidentally, the odious and hysterical wee right-wing tabloid the Daily Express has dubbed Verhofstadt ‘the most dangerous man in the EU.’  Its odious and hysterical wee right-wing Siamese twin the Daily Mail had previously dubbed Nicola Sturgeon ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’, so it all has a nice symmetry.

 

Like it or not, Keiza Dugdale, Muriel Gray and co. will soon have to decide between sticking with an increasingly insular, increasingly stunted Britain where, with Jeremy Corbyn’s British Labour Party tearing itself to pieces, the Conservatives look likely to reign in perpetuity and the political and cultural agenda will be set by the likes of the Daily Telegraph, Express and Mail; and taking a deep breath, going for the Scottish independence option and being part of something new and hopefully better.

 

Yes, folks, it’s make-your-mind-up time.

 

(c) BBC

 

The Addams Cabinet

 

© BBC 

 

Theresa May has just been crowned Britain’s new Conservative Prime Minister and already she’s carried out the first of her prime ministerial duties, which is to organise a new cabinet.  Mind you, looking at some of the people she’s appointed to senior positions of state, I find it difficult to visualise a sharp-suited team of the UK’s brightest and best, exuding managerial calm and steadying the tiller after the trauma of the referendum vote to leave the European Union and the resignation of David Cameron.

 

Instead, I find myself picturing the characters in an American TV show from the 1960s: the much-loved, if ghoulish and morbid, Addams Family.

 

© Filmways / MGM Television

 

With Ms May at its head, this is a matriarchal cabinet.  And fittingly, the Addams Family were a matriarchal unit too.  So the new Prime Minister makes me think of the black-swathed Morticia Addams (and not, as some have suggested, Cruella De Ville from the 1961 Walt Disney cartoon 101 Dalmatians).

 

As for the tall, grey Philip Hammond, May’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer, I can’t help but think of the Addams household’s hulking and cadaverous butler Lurch.  Actually, I suspect Hammond would like to be compared to something cadaverous; for according to one of his old schoolmates – the TV presenter Richard Madeley – Hammond was “a Goth back then…  Used to arrive in class in a leather trench-coat with the Guardian under his arm.”  No doubt it’s the Guardian bit that Hammond feels embarrassed about now.

 

© Filmways / MGM Television

 

Also in the Addams Cabinet is Andrea Leadsom, who was Theresa May’s main rival in the contest to replace Cameron as Prime Minister and is now Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  She’s surely the equivalent of Wednesday Addams, Morticia’s pale-faced and twin-braided little daughter.  I say this because The Addams Family’s creator Charles Addams (who’d started drawing cartoons about them in the New Yorker magazine in the late 1930s) named Wednesday after a line in a nursery rhyme, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”; and in the 1991 movie spin-off she was shown strapping her brother Pugsley into an electric chair in preparation for playing a game called ‘Is there a God?’  That sounds like Andrea Leadsom to me.

 

Meanwhile, Liam Fox, the new Secretary of State for International Trade, seems to be the Uncle Fester of the team.  Maybe that’s because, thanks to Fox’s past improprieties, the names ‘Liam Fox’ and ‘Fester’ seem to go together nicely.

 

And then there’s Boris Johnson, who is – ahem! – Britain’s new Foreign Secretary.  Who else could he be but Cousin Itt?

 

© Filmways / MGM Television

 

But seriously, this is a nightmarish batch of appointments that, with awful appropriateness, rounds off what’s been a nightmarish few weeks for the country.  It’s as if May got drunk on vino the night before her announcement of the new cabinet, tried to decide whether she should piss everyone off by making it as right-wing as possible or as incompetent as possible, and in the end opted to do both.

 

Thus, we get Philip Hammond.  In 2015, when Michael Gove, then Justice Secretary, abandoned a controversial prisons project for the Saudi Arabian government on the grounds that the UK shouldn’t be helping a regime that uses ‘beheadings, stonings, crucifixions and lashings’ as punishments, Hammond berated him for his ‘naivety’.  It takes some doing to make Michael Gove seem humane and reasonable, but Hammond is clearly capable of it.

 

Then again, Hammond seems like a bleeding-heart liberal compared with Andrea Leadsom, who’s now responsible for all things rural and environmental in Britain.  One of Brexit’s more vociferous supporters, she wrote in a 2007 blog post that EU subsidies to farmers should be abolished; while more recently she suggested that the UK’s hill farms be given over to breeding ‘butterflies’.  Well, she must be delighted with the way the EU referendum vote turned out.  Losing those EU subsidies will be tough on small-scale British hill farmers – my Dad was one and, towards the end of his working life, I know how much he valued that cash from Brussels – but hey, if they go out of business, with a few of them committing suicide over the loss of farms their families had owned for generations, that’s just good old capitalism for you.

 

© The Daily Telegraph 

 

But even if under Ms Leadsom’s watch large tracts of the countryside get converted into butterfly-breeding areas or, more likely, into luxury housing developments or acreage for giant factory farms, I’m sure the traditional fox-hunting grounds will be kept green and leafy.  For yes, Ms Leadsom also wants to repeal the ban on fox-hunting on the dubious premise that this will improve ‘animal welfare’.

 

Indeed, there isn’t much about the new Secretary of State for the Environment that seems terribly environmental.  In 2011 she supported government plans (later abandoned) to sell off Britain’s forests; and in 2012 and 2016 she voted against setting targets for the limiting of Britain’s carbon emissions.  And as late as 2015, she was asking ministers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change if climate change actually ‘existed’.  (By the way, this Cameron-era ‘Department of Energy and Climate Change’ has now been replaced by the ‘Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’.  Which is a clue to the priority that the new regime gives to combatting climate change: none, probably.)

 

© The Daily Telegraph 

 

Then there’s Liam Fox.  Back in 2011, Fox had to resign from his job as David Cameron’s Defence Secretary when it became apparent that a businessman and lobbyist called Adam Werrity was accompanying him to Ministry of Defence meetings and on overseas trips.  Werrity had neither security clearance nor any ministerial responsibility.  But he was Fox’s friend; and Fox saw no reason why his old chum shouldn’t be allowed to exploit his position to network with politicians, diplomats, contractors and financiers.  One wonders how many spivs and chancers will be accompanying the newly-rehabilitated Fox on his travels as Secretary of State for International Trade.

 

Regarding Boris Johnson’s elevation to the role of Foreign Secretary…  Well, I feel I have already written far more on this blog about Boris Johnson than the brain-addled baboon actually warrants.  But really?  What was Theresa May thinking?  Did she believe that by making Johnson the voice of Britain on the international stage, foreign governments would find his bumbling, posh-idiot shtick amusing and forgive Britain for all the disruption it’s caused recently?

 

Well, here’s news for her.  Foreigners don’t find Johnson funny.  At best they think he’s a clown and at worst they hate his guts.  Two decades of slurs and gaffes about Africans being ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’, Hilary Clinton resembling a ‘sadistic nurse in a mental hospital’, Barack Obama being a ‘part-Kenyan’ with an ‘ancestral dislike’ of Britain, not to mention the lies he’s peddled about the European Union since the 1990s when he was the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, have seen to that.  Someone’s even compiled a map of the countries that Johnson has, over the years, managed to offend.  Here it is.  I think you’ll agree that the nations with good reason to despise Britain’s new Foreign Secretary cover an alarmingly large proportion of the world’s land mass.

 

From indy100.independent.co.uk 

 

Let’s return to being silly – I think I’ll need to be silly when I contemplate Britain over the next few years, because the alternative is to feel suicidally depressed about it.  When I was a kid, I remember clicking my fingers and singing along to The Addams Family theme song whenever the show came on TV.  How would the Theresa May version of The Addams Family song go?  Probably something like this:

 

Duh-duh-duh-duh…  Duh-duh!

Duh-duh-duh-duh…  Duh-duh!

They’re creepy and they’re spooky,

They can’t get any nooky,

They make me really pukey –

The Tory gov-ern-ment!

 

We’ve been Trumped

 

I haven’t posted anything on Blood and Porridge for a while.  Partly this is because I’ve been on holiday.  And partly it’s because I’m still trying to get my head around the result of the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.  In the referendum, held on June 23rd, a majority voted to leave the EU.  Hence, ‘Brexit’ has been instigated.

 

Brexit was achieved by an unholy alliance of buffoonish but ruthless Conservatives, i.e. Boris Johnson, boorish but ruthless Ukippers, i.e. Nigel Farage, and a quartet of millionaire / billionaire newspaper magnates whose main purpose in life is to avoid paying tax, i.e. Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, Richard Desmond and the Barclay Brothers.  (All right, that’s actually a quintet).  Channelling the hatred and pig-ignorance of Britain’s far-right organisations like the English Defence League and the British National Party, this lot managed to convince enough voters in the less well-off parts of England and Wales that their current financial and social insecurities weren’t caused by the winner-takes-all market forces that’ve been increasingly out-of-control since the days of Margaret Thatcher, but were caused by that reliable old scapegoat, Johnny Foreigner.

 

Untrustworthy Johnny Foreigner, as Boris, Nigel and co. would have you believe, comes in two guises.  One guise is those meddling bureaucrats of the EU that Britain’s right-wing press loves to wail about (though funnily enough, over the years, they’ve kept shtum about all the EU subsidies pouring into the parts of England and Wales who’ve just voted to quit).  The other guise is those beastly immigrants, ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’.

 

I’m afraid those folk who voted ‘leave’ in order to put an end to immigration are in for a nasty shock, very, very soon.  Because the only way you can abolish immigration is by abolishing capitalism, which I assume isn’t on the cards yet in the UK.

 

Since then, of course, the knives have been out as the instigators of Brexit have tried to get into pole position for leadership of the Conservative Party and the keys of Number 10, Downing Street.  Johnson, who by opting to spearhead the ‘leave’ campaign had already stabbed his supposed friends David Cameron and George Osborne in the backs, was in turn stabbed by his weasel-faced partner in crime, Michael Gove, who very publicly questioned Johnson’s abilities and announced he was standing for the leadership himself.  But it looks increasingly like Gove’s leadership bid will be squashed by the gimlet-eyed Theresa May, who’s cannily kept herself aloof from the political dogfighting and bloodletting until now.  I suppose it’s indicative of the culture gap that’s opened up between Britain and the rest of Europe that the best thing the British newspapers could find to compare this mayhem to was Game of Thrones; whereas the equivalent newspapers in continental Europe likened it to Shakespeare.

 

Still, there was at least one good consequence of the Brexit fiasco.  Amid the massive hee-haw going on during the day after the vote, June 24th, the potential-next-president-of-the-USA Donald Trump flew into Scotland to officially open his new golf course at Turnberry in Ayrshire.  And guess what?  Hardly anybody noticed.  The media’s attention was elsewhere.  Brexit left ‘the Donald’ gasping for the oxygen of publicity, probably for the first time ever.

 

Actually, Blood and Porridge can reveal something that the media failed to pick up at all.  On the evening of June 24th, after opening his new golf course in Ayrshire, Donald Trump was big-hearted enough to travel across to my Scottish hometown of Peebles; where, as part of the town’s annual summer Beltane Festival, he kindly offered to lead a Friday-evening parade of floats and fancy dress.

 

What’s that?  You don’t believe me?  Well, here’s some hard photographic evidence.  Yes, it’s Donald Trump leading the Peebles Beltane parade and possibly making the first factually-correct statement of his presidential campaign so far.

 

 

There were two people leading the Beltane parade, by the way.  The other person was Boris Johnson.  Well, he has a lot more free time on his hands now.