The absolute (Secretary of) State of this

 

© The Belfast Telegraph

 

At certain eras in history, for certain sections of humanity, there were places to which you really didn’t want to go – places whose very name filled you with dread.

 

For members of the British underworld in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was Sydney Cove, Norfolk Island, Port Arthur, Van Diemen’s Land and the other brutal penal colonies that’d been established in Australia, to which you could be transported if you were convicted of anything worse than pinching five shillings-worth of goods.  For criminals in the Second French Empire between 1852 and 1953, the place that was synonymous with hell was another penal colony, the pitiless one at Cayenne, or Devil’s Island as it was better known.  And for German soldiers in the Wehrmacht during World War II, there were surely frequent nightmares about the prospect of being sent to the freezing and carnage-filled Russian Front.

 

Meanwhile, for members of the British government over the past half-century, the equivalent of the worst penal colony devised by the British or French Empires, or of the Russian Front, is surely Northern Ireland.

 

Political satirists have long been aware of this.  A 1984 episode of the BBC political comedy Yes, Minister had the British Prime Minister resigning and two ruthless politicians competing to take over as PM.  Both men threatened hapless minister Jim Hacker that they’d make him Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if they ended up winning and he hadn’t publicly backed their campaigns.  A generation later, a 2012 episode of a more abrasive TV satire, The Thick of It, showed slow-witted politician Ben Swain responding warily when he was offered the job of Foreign Secretary: “And you mean Foreign Secretary?  That isn’t code for Northern Ireland?  I’m not f**king going there.”

 

The position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland came into being in 1972, when the old Northern Irish government at Stormont was suspended following the start of the long period of bloodshed and mayhem that became known as the Troubles, and when direct rule was imposed from London.  The first holder of the post was Conservative MP Willie Whitelaw, who set the template for many secretaries of state to come.  He was stiff and crusty, looked like he’d be more at home wearing tweeds and trudging around a grouse moor, and seemed perplexed that the half-dozen local Catholic and Protestant terrorist organisations and the mob of unruly local politicians wouldn’t play by Queensberry Rules.

 

Whitelaw wouldn’t be the first Secretary of State to look ill-at-ease in a province where though the two native communities were at each other’s throats, they had one thing in common, which was that they both hated his guts.  Nationalist Catholics saw him and his successors as stuck-up, patronising, untrustworthy English bastards who’d come to oppress them and keep them imprisoned in the United Kingdom.  Unionist Protestants saw them as stuck-up, patronising, untrustworthy English bastards who’d come to betray them and abandon them to a united Ireland.

 

From Polldaddy.com

 

Actually, I recall seeing, when I was a wee boy in Northern Ireland and just after Whitelaw’s appointment, satirical posters pasted everywhere depicting him as a grim-faced Wild West sheriff stalking nervously into an unsavoury-looking establishment called The Dead-End Saloon.  However, unlike many of his successors, Whitelaw’s political career didn’t come to a dead-end after Northern Ireland.  He served as British Home Secretary from 1979 to 1983 and became a favourite of Margaret Thatcher, who once said of him gruesomely, “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.”

 

I also remember from my boyhood some political satire involving another 1970s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – the Labour Party MP Roy Mason, who served there during James Callaghan’s three-year tenure as Prime Minister.  The Belfast Telegraph featured a cartoon caricaturing him as Henry II while the Reverend Ian Paisley loomed behind him caricatured as Thomas Beckett.  Mason lamented, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”  However, unlike Thomas Beckett, who was murdered by knights soon after Henry II made this plea, Paisley lived until 2014 and made life a misery for a further 14 secretaries of state.

 

After the Conservatives had returned to power under Margaret Thatcher, Northern Ireland had as its Secretary of State the luckless Jim Prior.  Prior was a leading member of the ‘wets’ – the moderates – in the Conservative Party and when he dared to question his boss’s economic policies, his fate was sealed.  Empress Thatcher had him banished to Devil’s Island.

 

I also remember – for the wrong reasons – Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.  One day in 1992, an IRA bomb slaughtered seven construction workers.  That evening, Brooke appeared on Raidió Teilifis Éireann’s chat show The Late Late Show and unwisely allowed its host, the twinkly-eyed shit-stirrer Gay Byrne, to talk him into singing Oh My Darling Clementine live on air.  And with that, Brooke’s political credibility was gone.  To quote the song: ‘lost and gone forever / Dreadful sorry, Clementine.’

 

When Tony Blair entered Number 10 Downing Street and 1998’s Good Friday Agreement was on the cards, Northern Ireland finally got a Secretary of State of some substance: Mo Mowlam, also the first woman in the role.  The down-to-earth and bluntly-spoken Mowlam helped to knock heads together in the run-up to the agreement, although she earned herself the displeasure of the Protestant politicians and was eventually side-lined by Blair.  When Bill Clinton flew in to grab a piece of the glory, she grumbled to him that her role had become that of ‘tea lady’.

 

© BBC

 

The Good Friday Agreement paved the way for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which came into being while Peter Mandelson was the province’s Secretary of State.  An operator best described as an oil-slick in a suit, Mandelson had been a key ally and advisor of Tony Blair but he’d fallen from grace thanks to a scandal involving a dodgy home loan.  To rehabilitate himself, he had to do the political equivalent of donning sackcloth and ashes and beating himself with a scourge, which meant taking the Northern Ireland portfolio.  I imagine that Mandelson, a gay man, had his patience stretched to the limit by having to deal with Ian Paisley, who in 1977 had launched the infamous Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign.

 

With the Assembly up and running and its members responsible for the province’s governance, Mandelson’s successors as Northern Irish Secretary of State had less to do.  However, the Assembly collapsed early in 2017 because of a spat between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein and since then London has had to administer things again.  The Secretary of State on whose watch this happened was James Brokenshire, who surely had the most appropriate surname of anyone ever to take on the job: broken shire.

 

Brokenshire stood down at the start of this year for health reasons – not, as you might expect, mental health reasons, but because he needed to have an operation on his lung.  And this brings me to his replacement, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.

 

Last week Bradley hit the headlines when she confessed in an interview that she accepted the Northern Irish brief whilst having a knowledge of Northern Irish politics that was less than encyclopaedic.  “I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland.  I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought… people who are Nationalists don’t vote for Unionist parties and vice-versa.  So, the parties fight for the election within their own community.  Actually, the Unionist parties fight the elections against each other in Unionist communities and Nationalists in Nationalist communities. That’s a very different world from the world I came from.”

 

Oh, come on.  Bradley was born in 1970, which means she grew up in a Britain where the Northern Irish Troubles raged continually in the background – and sometimes in the foreground, for the IRA also set off bombs in England, including the Brighton one in 1984 that killed five members of Bradley’s Conservative Party and nearly took out Margaret Thatcher.  And she makes a living as a politician.  You’d expect her to be aware of political arrangements in the UK’s four corners and have some inkling who the Alliance Party, DUP, Official Unionists, SDLP and Sinn Fein and their supporters are.  Especially as her party has been propped up in government by ten MPs from Ian Paisley’s old outfit the DUP (in return for a 1.5 billion-pound bribe) since the 2017 general election.

 

Are we really to believe she flew to Belfast to become Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ignorant of such facts as most Protestant households don’t have framed, signed photographs of Martin McGuinness sitting on their mantelpieces and Roman Catholic support for Arlene Foster’s DUP is somewhat on the scant side?

 

© The Irish Examiner

 

Then again, Bradley’s ignorance is no worse than that displayed by many members of the Conservative Party these days, especially Brexiters like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.  These are people whose attitudes towards the post-Brexit condition of the Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland border – all squiggly, wriggly 310 miles of it, crossing towns, farms, fields and loughs and crossed itself by more than 200 public roads – suggest I.Q.s that are at basement-level.  They proclaim that the border isn’t important enough to worry about, or it can be policed the way it was back in the days of the Troubles (and what happy days those were), or – Boris Johnson’s opinion – all the immigration and customs issues on the border arising from Brexit can be solved with technology.  Maybe Johnson is proposing using drones.   Or maybe he’s thinking about using toy airplanes with cameras fixed to them that can be piloted by leprechauns.  He’s probably heard that there are still a few leprechauns on the go in Ireland.  And what jolly little fellows they are too.

 

The selection of Karen Bradley to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must have been because she sings from the same hymnbook as many of her fellow Tories.  And that’s a hymnbook from the Church of Stupid.

 

Joke nation

 

© The Public Library Ltd / From the Daily Record

 

Tomorrow is April 1st, better known in the United Kingdom as April Fool’s Day.  Traditionally it’s a day when British people play jokes on one another – interior decorators send hapless apprentices off to the shops with instructions to buy ‘a tin of black and white paint’ or ‘straight hooks’, the BBC broadcasts a news report about a drought threatening this year’s spaghetti harvest in Italy, and so on.

 

This is because British people love jokes.  But that’s not to say Britain itself is a joke nation.  No, quite the reverse.  With just one year remaining until the UK Brexits from the European Union and takes on the world on its own again, it stands poised to show what a totally serious, formidable, non-ridiculous, non-joke place it is.

 

I know this because Jacob Rees Mogg, that undertaker-like darling of the Brexiting Conservative Party right, wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph on March 18th stating that Tory Prime Minister Theresa May would soon “lay out the facts to the EU: Britain isn’t a joke nation and Brexit will mean Brexit.”  Right on, Jacob.  I mean, look at what’s happened in the UK this past month of March 2018.  How could anyone conclude that Britain is anything other than a deadly serious nation?

 

Jacob himself proved this on March 21st when he was part of a protest at the UK government’s agreement to stay in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for an additional 21 months after Brexit officially happens next year.  The protest took the form of him and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage heading out onto the Thames in a trawler and bunging some dead haddock into the water as a symbol of their displeasure.  Well, Jacob would have headed out in the trawler and dumped the haddock, but it transpired that said trawler didn’t have a permit from the London transport authority to moor anywhere and was unable to pick him up from the quay.  So after a quick press conference by the river, Jacob had to leg it back to the Houses of Parliament while the trawler, dead haddock and Nigel Farage were left chugging about the Thames looking for a place to dock.

 

That was unfortunate.  But obviously, nothing resembling a joke.

 

Revelations this month about Jacob Rees Mogg’s Conservative colleague and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson weren’t remotely joke-like either.  Boris had condemned Vladimir Putin and the Russian authorities after the poisoning of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th.  Then it became public knowledge that Lubin Chernukhin, a Russian banker and the wife of Putin’s former deputy finance minister, had once paid the Tory party £160,000 for the honour of playing a game of tennis with Boris, supposed Scourge of the Russkies.

 

Yes, if a lesser politician had been embroiled in an episode like this, it would have looked like a giant, stupid joke.  But since a man of Boris’s stature and dignity was involved, it didn’t.

 

© Sky Sports / From the Daily Mirror

 

March 11th saw Conservative Party participation in another sporting event.  A bruising footballing encounter between bitter rivals Glasgow Celtic and the famously pro-British, famously Union Jack-waving, famously loyal-to-the-throne Glasgow Rangers took place at Rangers’ home ground of Ibrox Stadium.  Acting as one of the linesmen that day was Douglas Ross, the Tory MP for Moray, who’s a football official as well as a politician.  Dougie helped get Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic sent off after he allegedly elbowed Rangers’ Alfredo Morelos.  He was heard screaming “Red card!  Red card!” from the line, even though as a match official he could have communicated in quieter tones with the referee using their mics and earpieces.  Afterwards, many wags remarked on how despite playing at home, and having their opponents reduced to ten men, and having a Tory MP manning the line, Rangers still managed to lose.

 

Note how I said ‘remarked on’ there.  Not ‘joked about’.  Because Britain isn’t a joke nation.

 

What other non-joke things are there to report this month?  Well, there’s the dodgy affair of the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, who’ve played controversial roles in the Leave EU referendum campaign and Trump election campaign.  Cambridge Analytica were helped in their work by a data breach involving the personal details of about 50 million people, ‘inappropriately’ taken from Facebook.  Then, on March 19th, Channel 4 aired a secretly-filmed clip of the firm’s CEO Alexander Nix bragging to a potential client that during elections his company could compromise certain politicians by setting them up with prostitutes and filming the results with hidden cameras.

 

Nix saying this whilst being filmed with a hidden camera himself was ironic.  But not funny.  Because Cambridge Analytica is a British company and Britain, as we know, isn’t a joke nation.

 

Obviously, anti-Semitism is no joking matter.  So what should we make of the row about it that engulfed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in March?  Corbyn, we learned, had once defended a political mural on a London wall that’d been accused of demonising Jews.  Now Corbyn claims that he hadn’t looked at the mural closely enough at the time to realise it was Jew-bashing.  What’s that, Jeremy – a picture of disgusting rich capitalists playing Monopoly on top of the bodies of the bowed naked proletariat, capitalists with prominent noses, spectacles and bushy Fagin-like beards?  Why, sure.  Anyone could have missed suggestions of anti-Semitism in that.

 

© Mike Kemp via Getty Images / From the Guardian 

 

So no jokes please about Jeremy and his apparent myopia here.  He’s leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition in the not-a-joke nation of Britain.

 

Meanwhile, Britain’s newspapers have done nothing joke-like this month either.  Certainly not the Daily Mail, which reacted with apoplectic rage to the news that Britain’s post-Brexit, just-liberated-from-the-European-Union, patriotically-blue passports would be produced by a FrenchDutch company.  “Why,” it demanded of Britain’s ruling class on its front page, “DO you hate our country, its history, culture and the people’s sense of identity?”  And on March 29th, with precisely one year to go until Brexit, the Mail’s right-wing Siamese twin the Daily Express published on its front page a big picture of the White Cliffs of Dover.  Not to imply that one year from now the UK would be careering over a cliff, but to illustrate a stirring quote by Boris Johnson: “Our national journey out of the EU is almost over and a glorious view awaits.”  The photographer who’d originally taken that picture of the cliffs later pointed out on Twitter that the cliffs weren’t as white as they’d appeared in the Express.  Evidently the newspaper had photoshopped extra whiteness over their mossy green cliff-faces: “If anything sums up #Brexit – it’s the Daily Express making my pic of Britain look whiter than it is.”

 

That almost sounds like a joke, you know.  But it can’t be.  Because this is 2018 Britain: most definitely not a joke nation.

 

© From twitter.com

 

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming…

 

© The Mirisch Corporation / United Artists

 

For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts on the attempted murder of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4th – a crime which involved the use of the deadly nerve agent Novichok, which the British government blamed on its counterpart in Moscow, and which has dominated the British news for the last fortnight.

 

Was it carried out on the orders of Vladimir Putin?

I’m inclined to think ‘probably’, but I’m still waiting on the absolute proof that clinches it.  Novichok was developed by the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s and I suppose it’s conceivable that a quantity of it was procured by some private individual with an axe to grind against Skripal, who in Russia in 2006 was convicted of betraying undercover Russian agents to MI6.

 

And I suppose George Galloway has a point – there’s half-a-dozen words I never expected to write, seeing as I usually consider Galloway to be a festering furuncle of fedora-wearing foolishness – when he argued that, had he wanted to, Putin could easily have had both victims killed earlier; and it was illogical to attempt their murder on British soil now and run the risk of damaging Russia’s reputation just before it hosted the World Cup.

 

© The Belfast Telegraph

 

Galloway’s rebuttal makes sense…  But I can still imagine Putin giving orders to take Skripal out in Britain.  After all, he has past form in this sort of thing.  And there are additional reasons that are unflattering for the current UK government.  Putin probably regards modern-day Britain with such disdain that he figures it doesn’t matter if the British point an accusing finger at him.  Estranged from Europe post-Brexit vote, and with a gibbering half-wit (and Putin admirer) in the White House, Britain 2018 is an international Johnny No Mates.  Who cares what it says or thinks?  Also, vast quantities of Russian money are swilling around London these days in things like real estate and shell companies.  Such money talks, especially in an economy as fragile as Brexit Britain’s.  The beleaguered Theresa May might symbolically expel a few Russian diplomats, but she isn’t going to do anything really drastic, like freeze the London assets of Russian oligarchs.

 

A portion of that Russian money has even ended up funding May’s own Conservative party – declared donations of £826,100 since July 2016 and some £3,000,000 since 2010.  Laughably, Lubin Chernukhin, Russian banker and wife of Putin’s former deputy finance minister, once paid £160,000 at a Tory funding auction for the privilege of playing a game of tennis with Boris Johnson.  I’ll repeat that.  Somebody paid £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson.  I’d find it more intellectually and aesthetically stimulating to stand a piss-stained old mattress on its end and spend half-a-hour lobbing tennis balls at that.

 

© Anita Aguilar / From tennis.com

 

Is Jeremy Corbin a Putin apologist?

No.  Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has described the attempted murder of the Skripals as ‘appalling’, ‘barbaric’ and ‘horrific’ and demanded that the Russian authorities be ‘held to account on the basis of the evidence’.  He’s called out Putin’s Russia for ‘authoritarianism’, ‘abuse of human rights’ and ‘political and economic corruption’ too.  But Corbyn also, reasonably enough, asked for patience until conclusive proof incriminating the Putin regime had been amassed: “To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”

 

Obviously, Corbyn’s comments were never going to be fairly reported by Britain’s mostly right-wing mainstream media, who’ve been searching for a way to put the boot into him ever since his party performed better than expected in last year’s general election.  CORBYN IS UNWORTHY TO BE PRIME MINISTER thundered the headline above a March 16th editorial in the increasingly unhinged Daily Telegraph, for instance.  The Telegraph, though, is apparently happy to countenance as prime minister Ms. Chernukhin’s flaxen-haired tennis partner.

 

That said, I think Corbyn’s suggestion the other day that the Russians be sent a sample of the nerve agent “so that they can say categorically one way or the other” if it’s theirs was a bit glaikit.

 

Is there a BBC conspiracy to smear Jeremy Corbyn?

For a time, the Skripal affair was almost overshadowed by the row over ‘Hatgate’.  This erupted when the BBC news programme Newsnight took it upon itself to discuss Corbyn’s cautious approach against a studio backdrop that had projected onto it a mocked-up picture of the Labour Party leader standing before the Kremlin and wearing some suspiciously Russian-like headgear.  Enraged left-wingers like columnist Owen Jones accused the BBC of trying to make Corbyn look like a ‘Kremlin stooge’, though the BBC has strenuously denied that this was the case.  So: is this proof that the Beeb is the tool of the right-wing establishment, out to discredit and silence the left?

 

© BBC

 

Well, I think the Newsnight backdrop picture was stupid and irresponsible, but it hardly means the BBC is a cesspit of Breitbart-esque right-wing evil.  What I think has happened in the last few years is that the BBC’s news coverage has become rudderless and susceptible to drifting with certain tides – i.e. the narratives emanating from Britain’s right-wing press.  The newspaper reviews shown on the BBC in the mornings, for instance, lead to the airing of a lot of right-wing gunk because such gunk is on the front pages of the right-wing tabloids.  With the press setting the tone, no wonder its hostility towards Corbyn gets absorbed into the BBC news gestalt.  So the Sun and the Daily Mail call him a Putin-worshipping lickspittle and the BBC unwittingly echoes the accusation.

 

Which is all a bit crap, considering how the BBC is a public service paid for by citizens whose beliefs cover a political spectrum, left-wing as well as centre and right-wing.  The left end of that spectrum should be getting better value for its money.

 

How soon will this blow over?

It’ll blow over surprisingly fast, I suspect.  With all that Russian dough in London, I’d be surprised if Theresa May’s government doesn’t try as soon as possible to draw a line and get back to business as usual with Big Bad Vlad and his oligarchs.  Plus, with the British economy likely to be in a perilous state post-Brexit, I’m sure there’ll be pressure on them to let bygones be bygones and start signing some trade deals with Russia.  (After all, look at Britain’s recent eagerness to do business with a regime as oppressive, warmongering, terrorism-exporting and generally hideous as Saudi Arabia.)

 

And while we’re on the topic…

 

Is Putin running our elections now?

Well, I’m sure Putin is delighted to see Trump pooping all over the White House like one of the Yahoos in Gulliver’s Travels, and Brexit consigning Britain’s reputation, influence and dignity to the bin; and when he can, he’s happy to stick an oar in to help both processes along.  But I think it’s a mistake to blame everything on him.  And it’s also a mistake, by the way, to make too much of the recent revelations about the data-mining / Facebook-pilfering company Cambridge Analytica and its dodgy roles in the Trump election campaign and the Leave EU referendum campaign.

 

It must be comforting for American and British liberals to have bogeymen like Putin and Cambridge Analytica to blame for their countries’ woes.  But those bogeymen shouldn’t be allowed to obscure an unpalatable truth.  Even without their baleful influence, an awful lot of people would have voted for Trump and Brexit anyway.  Liberals in the US and UK need to come to terms with that unhappy fact – and then figure out what they’re going to do about it.

 

© Getty Images / From thetrumpet.com

 

Things I’ve learned from British politics in the last fortnight

 

© For Dummies

 

Once upon a time, I believed this blog would be able to keep up with all the crazy stuff happening in the world.  Whenever something crazy happened somewhere, I thought, I would publish timely, perceptive and erudite comment on it.

 

However, in the past year, I’ve come to realize this policy is untenable.  Thanks to the antics of Trump, Putin, Rajoy, Erdogan, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, etc., there’s an entire planet-load of craziness – bad craziness – going on 24/7.  And it isn’t humanly possible to keep abreast of it all.

 

Still, I thought I’d make a few comments about the craziness happening in British politics just now.  Here are a few things I’ve learnt from it over the past fortnight.

 

Harvey Weinstein is a butterfly

According to Wikipedia, Chaos Theory propounds the idea of “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state”.  Or to use a popular metaphor, a butterfly flapping its wings in Argentina may lead, a few weeks later, to a tornado occurring in Texas.

 

In British politics, however, an earthquake has been caused not by a butterfly, but by the blubbery, walrus-like form of Hollywood movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein flapping around in an ever-constricting net of allegations about him being a rapist, sex-pest, harasser, stalker and general monster towards the women who’ve had to endure his professional company over the decades.  This has encouraged women (and sometimes men) in other vocations and other places to speak out about how about they’ve been sexually exploited and mistreated too.  Including, eventually, in politics in Britain.

 

From North Yorks Enquirer

 

How distant and unimportant the Weinstein scandal must’ve seemed to certain male British parliamentarians a few weeks ago.  Most of them probably hadn’t even heard of Weinstein before.  Some of them probably hadn’t watched a Hollywood movie since, oh, Deep Throat with Linda Lovelace in 1972.  No, they must have thought, while they flicked through the pornographic images on their Westminster computer screens or groped the lower limbs of lady journalists trying to interview them or composed and fired off lewd text messages to whatever femme du jour had taken their fancy or shouted at their female assistants, “Oi, Sugar Tits, nip down to the sex shop and buy me a new vibrator, will you?”  Absolutely nothing to do with me.

 

Well, now, things are slightly different.  Inside Britain’s political doghouse these days, it’s standing room only. Among those implicated or accused: Michael Fallon, Stephen Crabbe, Mark Garnier, Damien Green, Christopher Pincher, Dan Poulter, Charlie Elphicke and Daniel Kawczynski, all Tories; Kelvin Hopkins, Jared O’Mara and Ivan Lewis, all Labour; and up in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP’s Mark McDonald.

 

Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that various male politicos saw themselves as irresistible, hot-and-funky sex-hunks, even if that view wasn’t shared by the unfortunate people who were the target of their amorous advances.  What does surprise me is the amount of victim-blaming that’s gone on in the Daily Mail since the scandal broke – it’s published a string of articles belittling the women who’ve made allegations, such as Kate Maltby and Andrea Leadsom.  Yes, I know, it’s the Daily Mail, which exists to be despicable.  But it’s the only national British newspaper where women form the majority of its readership.

 

It makes you wonder a bit, a teeny wee bit, if they’re worried that this exposure of sexual misconduct in the film and political worlds might be followed by more of the same in the journalistic one.

 

Priti Patel’s holiday sounds like a bundle of laughs

Meanwhile, there’s the saga of Priti Patel, who until yesterday was Minister for International Development.

 

It transpires that in August Priti went on holiday to Israel.  Evidently, she was keen to find a way of making her holiday less ghastly than holidays normally are, what with delayed flights, crowded terminals, rip-off taxi drivers, scam artists, pickpockets, crap hotels, jam-packed tourist attractions, overpriced tourist tat, screaming children, moaning teenagers, biting insects, sunburn, food poisoning, hangovers and fights with German holidaymakers over who got to the sun-loungers first.

 

So what did she do?  She decided to intersperse her holiday activities with clandestine meetings with Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli bigwigs, where the discussions included the possibility of channeling some of Britain’s foreign-aid money towards funding Israeli Army activities in the occupied Golan Heights.  Wow.  Binyamin Netanyahu.  That sounds like a brilliant way to spice up your holiday.

 

Unfortunately for Priti, the BBC decided to share some of her holiday snapshots with the nation on November 3rd.  And – surprise! – that was the first her boss Theresa May had heard about it.

 

From @ yairlapid

From paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com

 

If Boris Johnson rides to your rescue – hide!

On November 1st, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – I feel a chill run through me every time I type those five words – spoke up in defence of the British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who’s been imprisoned in Tehran since 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

 

She claims she’d only gone to Iran for a holiday and to visit relatives.  Yet the bold Boris announced to a parliamentary committee that she’d been there “teaching people journalism”.  Stirring stuff – until the Iranian authorities seized on his words as justification for keeping her in prison.  In fact, there’s now a real possibility that they might extend her sentence.

 

People have demanded that Johnson be sacked for his stupidity, but I’d go further and have him arrested – is being the world’s biggest gobshite a criminal offence?  Then Britain could approach Iran and ask if they’d like to swap prisoners.

 

David Davis can make things stop existing by the power of his will

Once, there were supposed to be 58 sectoral analyses looking at how the 58 most important parts of the British economy would fare after Brexit.  These ran from A to (almost) Z, from Advertising and Marketing to Wholesale Markets and Investment Banking.  According to a written ministerial statement, each one was “a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum.  It examines the nature of activity in the sectors, how trade is conducted with the EU currently in these sectors and, in many cases, considers the alternatives following the UK’s exit from the EU as well as considering existing precedents.”

 

Well, that sounds thorough, doesn’t it?  That sounds like someone had been doing their homework – conducting serious research about the challenges facing the UK economy once Brexit has been enacted.  Right?

 

Except that Brexit Secretary David Davis has just declared that no such things exist.  There “is not, nor there has ever been, a series of discreet impact assessments examining the quantitative impact of Brexit on those sectors,” he told MPs on November 7th, contradicting everything that’d been said before.

 

How odd that suddenly they don’t exist.  You might almost think they constituted such grim reading that they were made not to exist.

 

© RTE / BBC

 

Mrs Brown should be our queen

The leaked Paradise Papers have contained many revelations about where the rich and powerful have been stashing their cash – beyond the reaches of their countries’ taxmen, obviously.  Among those named are Britain’s Royal Family.  For example, we now know that millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate have ended up in a fund in the Cayman Islands.

 

You’d expect the British media to make hay about this.  Yet they’ve appeared more interested in another Paradise Papers revelation, i.e. that three stars of the bawdy Irishman-in-drag TV sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys – Patrick Houlihan, Martin Delany and Fiona Delany – have avoided paying tax on two million pounds by sneakily transferring the money to Mauritius and back.

 

This means either that Mrs Brown and her offspring are now more important to the British public than the Queen is; or that Britain’s brown-nosing journalists prefer to focus on some minor comedy actors to take the heat off the monarchy.  I believe the first reason to be true, obviously.

 

Mind you, say what you like about the Queen, but she usually has more gravitas than to accidentally skewer someone up the bum with a rectal thermometer or use a dildo to whisk cream while the priest’s visiting.

 

Theresa May is now a waxwork

Well, no surprise there.

 

© The Guardian

 

The world seemed a very different place seven months ago

Didn’t it just?

 

© The Guardian

 

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 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.

 

 

The Great British horror show

 

(c) International Business Times

 

I’m a big fan of horror movies but I can’t say I’ve been enjoying this new horror movie that stars the entire population of Britain and that’s been playing endlessly since last Thursday morning.  What’s it called again?  I Know What EU Did Last SummerThe BrexorcistHalloween 4: The Return of Michael Gove?

 

Actually, these past days of epic-scale tragedy and farce, which have followed Britain’s decision in the referendum-vote of June 23rd to leave the European Union, put me in mind of several horror films.  These are the films I’m reminded of and why.

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) British Lion Films

 

When I see Nigel Farage and his supporters in those rural provinces of the UK that voted to quit the EU despite them being heavily dependent on EU subsidies, I think of The Wicker Man (1973).  In this, a posh aristocrat convinces his simple-minded countryside followers that the bountifulness of their harvests and the richness of their coffers depends, not very logically, on them occasionally sacrificing a virgin.  In Farage’s case, he persuaded them to sacrifice their EU membership.  The film ends with the latest sacrifice, played by Edward Woodward, predicting that the next time the harvests fail and the coffers are empty, the countryside folk will be sticking the aristocrat himself into a wicker man and setting it alight.  So if this analogy holds, things may end unhappily for Nigel (but happily for the rest of us).

 

(c) Warner Brothers / Transatlantic Pictures

 

When I see Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, I think of Alfred’s Hitchcock’s dark psychological thriller Rope (1948).  This begins with two vain aesthetes, Brandon and Phillip, committing a murder to show their intellectual superiority.  Then they spend the rest of the film unravelling through guilt at what they’ve done and fear of being found out.  Since the referendum result, our very own Brandon and Philip have been looking increasingly sweaty and twitchy while, no doubt, the thought “Oh my God, what the f**k have we done?” grows ever shriller in their heads,

 

When I don’t see George Osbourne – he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth since the vote, despite the fact that he’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and despite the fact that the pound and markets generally have gone into freefall – I obviously think of The Invisible Man (1933).

 

(c) Universal Pictures

 

When I see the Labour Party currently tearing itself apart over the issue of the leadership, or non-leadership, of Jeremy Corbyn during the referendum campaign – the last time I’d checked, there’d been eleven resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet – I think of the virus in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) that instantly transforms its victims into red-eyed, slavering, vomiting, hyperactive and very bitey zombies.  Though if the somnolent Corbyn himself got infected he’d probably just dribble a little bit onto his cardigan.

 

When I see Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and the only leader in the past few days to actually display qualities of leadership, I think of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986).  From her base in Edinburgh, peering south towards the madness that’s engulfed Westminster, Sturgeon must feel like Weaver in her spaceship while it circles the space-colony planet where hideous and slimy things have happened.  (Though ‘nuking them from orbit’ isn’t an option here.)

 

When I see close-ups of Michael Gove’s face, I think of the baby in David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977).

 

(c) Daily Telegraph

(c) Libra Films International

 

Whereas when I see Boris Johnson, I think of the midget blonde monsters spawned by Samantha Eggar in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1980).

 

(c) Evening Standard

(c) New World Pictures

 

Mind you, that’s when I’m not thinking of the creepy kids in Village of the Damned (1960).

 

(c) MGM

 

And when I see the whole sorry mess, with the triumphant leaders of the Brexit campaign now admitting that – duh! – they didn’t actually have a plan about what to do in the event of them winning, I think of the Final Destination series.  In those movies, it’s never quite clear what the final destination is.  But you have a pretty good idea that everyone involved is going to die horribly.

 

Ken does (Klaus) Barbie

 

(c) Independent

 

Ken Livingstone, former London Mayor, former Labour MP and now presumably former key ally of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has dug holes for himself before.  But, somehow, he’s always managed to escape from them.  However, it’s difficult to see how Ken – or more precisely, Ken’s political career – can escape from the hole he dug for himself three days ago.  This time, Ken didn’t just dig a hole.  He dug a very deep hole; and then he used the shovel to commit ritual hara-kiri and dropped to the bottom of that hole; and then in his dying convulsions he dislodged the loose dirt above so much that it all fell in on top of him.

 

Ergo: politically, Ken is dead and buried.

 

If you’re in Britain – and unless this past week you’ve been living as far underground as Ken’s career is now – you’ll know what the furore is about.  Ken claimed that Adolf Hitler was “supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing 6,000,000 Jews”, a comment which got him suspended him from the Labour Party.  It also prompted the Jewish comedian David Baddiel to muse on twitter: “Is it just me, or is there a possibility Hitler was actually a tiny bit mental even in 1933?”

 

Ken has past form in this area.  In 2005, he told Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold, whom he knew to be Jewish, that he was behaving “like a concentration camp guard.  You’re just doing it because you’re paid to, aren’t you?”  He’s also once told the Iraqi-Jewish property developers the Reuben Brothers to “go back to Iran and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs”; and claimed that London’s Jewish community had started supporting Margaret Thatcher as it “got richer”.  That last comment was made in 2014 and must have brought joy to the heart of Labour’s then-leader Ed Miliband, the son of Polish Jews.

 

Ken spouted his Hitler / Zionism guff in defence of the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah.  Two days earlier, she’d been accused of antisemitism when it transpired that in 2014 she’d reposted a Facebook meme calling for Israelis to be re-located to the United States.  At the time she’d joked that this “might save them some pocket money.”

 

Needless to say, the British media is now filled with stories not just about Ken, Naz and antisemitism in the pro-Corbyn left wing of the Labour Party; but also about the furious reaction to this by figures on the party’s more Israel-friendly right wing, which has inspired headlines about civil war in the party and possible leadership coups.  None of this has helped Labour’s cause a week before parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales, council ones in England and mayoral ones in London.

 

(c) Swindon Advertiser

 

I’ve always been fairly left-wing in my outlook.  It’s always seemed the right (as opposed to right-wing) way to be.  You seek fairness for those whom society treats less well: women, the poor, ethnic minorities, etc.  And, as a logical extension of that, you believe everyone deserves equal respect.  However, during my youth I gradually realised that in some left-wing circles there were groups it was okay not to like – groups of people you could hiss and boo and actively malign.

 

These included Israelis, though here the antipathy was usually prefaced by: “I’m not anti-Jewish, I’m just anti-Israel”.  Also, white South Africans, who were supposed to be apartheid-loving gits, the lot of them, living lives of luxury whilst around them their black countrymen suffered; and those beastly boorish Protestants who spent their time oppressing Roman Catholics over in Northern Ireland.  This last assumption made things a wee bit problematic for me because I’d been born in Northern Ireland, a Protestant; and had lived there for 11 years before my family moved to Scotland.

 

The more I think about it now, the more uncomfortable it feels in retrospect.  For instance, shortly after starting college, I met some students who shared my politics and got into what seemed, for a few heartening minutes, like the first intelligent, adult political discussion I’d had in my life.  At last, I thought, I was among articulate kindred spirits.  But then the topic shifted to Northern Ireland and suddenly I felt less confident.  A few anti-Protestant things were said.  Then I piped up.  “Well,” I began apologetically, “I’m afraid I’m a Northern Irish Protestant…”  I felt furious with myself afterwards.  Why had I felt the need to use that regretful “I’m afraid”?  Why apologise to them for being what I was?  I should have said, “Piss off, we’re not all like that.”  It wasn’t as if I was the Reverend Ian Paisley – I’d never stood on a pulpit or a stage and damned Catholics to hell.  My politics were the antithesis of he and his ilk represented.  Yet I’d sensed the mood of group disapproval and I’d kowtowed to it.

 

Too often, that’s the way it works on the left.  Its more zealous believers have a crass tendency to group communities into good guy and bad guys – ignoring the truth that inside every community you’ll find good guys, and bad guys, and guys of countless shades of goodness and badness in between.  Northern Ireland’s Protestant community contained bigoted blowhards like the Reverend Ian Paisley; but it also contained liberal souls like Ivan Cooper, one-time politician and civil rights activist (who had the traumatic experience of organising the 1972 protest march that ended with 14 civilians being shot dead by troops on Bloody Sunday).

 

The left’s criticisms of Israel often come clothed in terms that show a similarly-offensive tendency to generalise.  The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu treats Palestinians horribly; therefore all Israelis approve of the Palestinians being treated horribly.  But that’s garbage.  Plenty of Israelis detest Netanyahu for what he’s doing.  I know – in my time I’ve met a few of them.

 

Netanyahu may be a malevolent old tosser, but to blame everyone who has the misfortune of being governed by him for what he’s doing?  That makes as much sense as blaming Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah, Jeremy Corbyn and every Labour supporter in Britain for what David Cameron’s Conservative government is doing at Westminster – attempting to cut disability benefits, refusing to give sanctuary to 3000 abandoned Syrian children, etc.  Politics is thankfully more sophisticated in Scotland nowadays, but on more than one occasion during the 1980s I heard people say that everyone in England was a wanker because “they all voted for Maggie Thatcher.”

 

Meanwhile, there’s a left-wing school of thought arguing that Israel’s creation in 1948 was a terrible mistake that brought untold suffering; and the mistake ought to be corrected by dismantling Israel.  But the creation of nation states has caused suffering throughout history.  Take Australia, for instance.  I haven’t heard anyone suggest that Australia, despite the near-extermination of the Aboriginal peoples who were originally there, should now have its non-indigenous inhabitants relocated to Europe or North America – which Naz Shah’s Facebook meme proposed for Israel.  Blaming millions of people just for being in a country, because their forefathers moved there, propelled by the machinations of history, is a cruel and futile policy.  It’s surely more sensible now to put efforts into promoting good government in such countries, government that treats all citizens with respect and decency.

 

Anyway, returning to Ken – I’m actually slightly sad to see him end up like this.  I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, but I thought Ken (whom I heard speak once, thoughtfully and eloquently, at the 2011 Green Fair in London’s Regent’s Park) was, in his prime, a bold, quick-witted and entertaining politician.  I’ve known a few Conservative-minded Londoners who expressed respect for him as Mayor because, at the end of the day, whatever the hue of his politics, he genuinely wanted the best for the city.  And only a total, bigoted thicko would object to his moving response to the London bombings in 2005.

 

Admittedly, as a Northern Irish Protestant, I did blanche when, in 1983, he invited Sinn Fein leader and Provisional IRA mouthpiece Gerry Adams to London as an honoured guest of the Greater London Council (which he was then leader of).  Still, a quarter-century later, in 2007, Ian ‘No surrender to the IRA’ Paisley did a deal with Sinn Fein that allowed him to become First Minister of Northern Ireland while ex-IRA man Martin McGuinness served as his deputy.  So at least Ken’s courting of Sinn Fein and the IRA was less hypocritical than ‘Big Ian’s’.

 

And generally he did a better job as Mayor of London than his successor, that old-Etonian, Latin-spouting, tousle-haired idiot man-child Boris Johnson.  Boris has form himself in saying offensive things about groups of people.  He once, for example, described Africans as “tribal warriors” who “break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”  But Boris-comments like those haven’t attracted the opprobrium in the British press that the Ken-comments have.  No doubt because most of Britain’s newspapers are right-wing and, while they’re happy to call Ken a racist arse, they think that Boris is the bees’ knees.

 

(c) The Guardian