Rant

I’ve not done one of these for a few weeks for two reasons (well, three if you count “can’t be bothered”).

Firstly, I strongly suspected that the next round of Covid-restrictions being lifted on June 21st probably wasn’t going to happen, and I didn’t want to be the miserable, gloomy sod explaining I thought it to be the case, like one of those beard and sandals nutters you see in disaster movies, wearing a sandwich-board with “The End is Nigh!” written on it, laughed at by the main character just moments before a meteor crashes into The White House.

And secondly, probably – no, definitely (note the spelling) – because I would have to write the following words: I agree with something the Conservative Government have done.

I know, right? Who do I think I am, Sir Kier Starmer?

A few months ago, the Government set out their plan, their roadmap if you must, to coming out of lockdown, where a number of dates were signposted as being significant, when certain restrictions would be lifted. And this plan came with a caveat, which many people chose to ignore: that plans were subject to change if the data indicated it might be sensible to delay matters.

Which, with that mid-June date getting ever nearer, so the rumbling reminders have emanated from Downing Street, when they’re not having weddings or using £50.00 notes to wallpaper the guest room, that is.

I’m writing this on Friday night and whilst a continuation of current restrictions has not yet been announced, I think it’s in offing, what with our new enemy the Delta variant coughing it’s way across the country. Daily cases are up 2,056 on last week, whilst daily deaths are at 11. Nowhere near where the figures have been, thankfully, but still on the increase. So, I think it’s sensible that we approach June 21st with caution and understanding that perhaps the time is not yet right for us to get back to normal (or, that hated phrase, “the new normal”).

See, what we don’t want a repeat of is what happened at Christmas. You remember what happened then, right? When the Government promised us it would be fine for us all to go home and spend Christmas with our families, before having to announce that what they actually meant was that you could pop home for a day, not stay overnight (so no getting drunk, which is the only purpose of Christmas in my book) and on the proviso that you ensured any older, more vulnerable members of your family spent the entire time sitting next to an open window.

Were the restrictions to remain, then the usual bunch of anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and anti-common-sensers will doubtless be up in arms. Some people still don’t seem to have got the fact that a return to normal is not going to be an overnight operation, it has to be a gradual, step-by-step process. And those people will wail about restrictions being an infringement of their civil liberties (yes, they are – that’s the fucking point of them) and how they want everything back to how it was before Covid, but for it to have happened, like, yesterday.

Queen – I Want It All

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want the restrictions to be kept in place, but faced with the choice of that or another six months under tighter lockdown restrictions – like we had to previously when we tried to come out of lockdown too quickly – then I’m afraid I go with erring on the side of caution every time.

Of course, an extension or tightening of restrictions became more likely when the Government reacted with all the speed of a cargo ship trying to turn in the Suez Canal when the news of the new variant arriving here began to become a concern. For just as the with the last times this happened, there was indecision, prevarication and a reluctance to shut down travel between the source of the new variant, and us.

If you’ve always thought that PM Johnson’s style of leadership was based on ex-President Trump, then I’ve got news for you. It’s not that bad. He clearly takes a leaf out of this numb-nut’s book:

I mean, this shouldn’t be difficult, should it? I mean – and I hate to sound like a broken record – but wasn’t control of our borders one of the main things that Brexit was about? So what exactly is the issue with shutting down travel from locations where the virus is more prevalent than it is here?

What we have got, of course, is the Government’s excellent and not at all open to mis-interpretation traffic light scheme, telling us which countries we can and cannot travel to. That seems quite a binary set of options we have there, right? And it would be, were it not for a third, sort of in between, neither one nor the other, option.

So to clarify matters, here’s what Michael Green Grant Shapps MP said in a written statement to Parliament, the full details of which you can read here: “As the virus is still spreading in many parts of the world, people should not be travelling to amber or red countries…Countries on the green list pose the lowest risk, therefore passengers who have only visited or transited through a green list country will not be required to quarantine on arrival in England.”

Which doesn’t exactly make it terribly clear what the difference between the red and amber lists are, does it?

We all understand what the traffic lights mean in their natural habitat, in the context of when we’re driving: red = stop, green = go, amber = (broadly) the lights are changing from one to the other so don’t do anything stupid. Unless you live in London, of course, where all three mean go, just at varying speeds (Green = at the speed you were already travelling at, amber = a bit faster, red = pedal to the metal).

But in this context of international travel, this seems to imply there is no difference between red and amber in which case….what’s the point of the amber list?

Add to this the fact that our lists do not take into consideration what restrictions other countries were placing on us. So, when international travel resumed on May 17th, we were given the following giddy list of places we could travel to:

  • Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira)
  • Israel and Jerusalem (oh, yeh, that seems a dream holiday destination right now…)
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland (not the scummy shop)
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • New Zealand
  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (wasn’t he one of Prince Archie’s godparents….?)
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

I can’t confess to have looked into all of these, but New Zealand’s borders remain closed to almost all travellers, while only Australian citizens and returning permanent residents and their immediate family members are permitted to enter Australia without an exemption until further notice. I mean, under normal circumstances these guys won’t let you in if you have dirt on your shoes, so this is hardly unexpected. So, we can fly there, get refused admission, and come home again. What a holiday!

Our traffic light list is, obviously, subject to change, and so it was that yesterday it was announced that Portugal was moving from green to amber list. Cue those that had booked two weeks on the Algarve throwing their arms up in the air and their toys out of the pram. Whilst I get they are disappointed, surely they knew this was a possibility?

It did, of course, lead to perhaps the most distressing headline of the week. Brace yourself:

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time.

Three things:

1 – if you can’t go on holiday to your choice of destination, that is not a disaster.

2 – After her appearance delivering the UK Judging panel’s scores on Eurovision the other week – saying hello in English and then in “forren”, before going on to claim she didn’t understand or even know which language she had just spoken – then frankly Holden gets everything she deserves. Sure, by that time of the night every other nation had already decided they weren’t going to give us any points, but c’mon….they hate us enough already, without some talentless airhead giggling vaguely xenophobic tropes at them to reinforce their opinion.

3 – Um, who exactly is Jacqueline Jossa?

The Boo Radleys – Stuck on Amber

Meanwhile Liz Truss is busy doing what she does best, striking up new trade deals to replace all of those that we lost when we left the EU:

And this week, the wonderful news that deals had been struck with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which included – for the first time – the introduction of caps on the charges mobile operators are allowed to charge each other (and, ultimately, pass on to us, the consumer) for international roaming, keeping costs low for holiday makers and business travellers. (When I say “for the first time”, I mean as part of a trade deal, and when I say “introduction” I actually mean “re-introduction”, because we already enjoyed these benefits when we were part of the EU).

But I don’t wish to seem ungrateful. Thanks Liz! At least this time you don’t appear to have killed off the UK’s lamb farming industry like you did with the deal you recently struck with Australia and New Zealand.

And now, we can all wait with baited breath for that day when we can all once again travel to that internationally renowned holiday destination for your average Brit in search of sun, sea and sangria: Liechtenstein.

Since I’ve mentioned Brexit, a story in five parts, starring the Worzel Gummidge of Brexiteers, Wetherspoons‘ boss Tim Martin:

The penny’s surely going to drop at some point, isn’t readers?

“Psst! Tim! Tim! We already had the power to control our borders when we were in the EU, we just couldn’t be bothered to finance or implement it properly.”

You asked for this, so suck it up.

And your pubs are shit.

The Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

******

And finally, one of these rants wouldn’t be complete without the mention of everyone’s least favourite smirking bully, Priti Patel.

On Thursday, she tweeted this:

There are three things to note about this tweet:

1 – a tweet can have a maximum of 280 characters, so the omission of the word “I’m” from the start of the tweet rather implies that Ms Patel is not really that pleased, she’s practically disowning it from the very start;

2 – “published” is not the same as “co-authored”

3 – this just happened to coincide with some more revelations about cronyism and corruption within the Conservative Party.

The release of the Electoral Commissions report on donations showed that in the quarter since October 2020 more than £600,000 has been donated to the Conservative Party by firms and individuals who have been awarded around £400 million in public contracts since the pandemic started.

First up, Oluwole Kolade, who has donated £884,342 to the Tories since 2011, £10,000 of which was to Secretary for Health Matt Hancock; Kolade is the managing partner of Livingbridge, a private equity firm which held a controlling stake in Efficio (which sounds like a team name on the Italian version of The Apprentice), and which has received £11 million from the Government since the Coronavirus kicked in. Kolade is a colleague of ‘Test and Trace’ boss Baroness Dido Harding. Just a coincidence, of course.

Then there’s Baron John Nash, who recently donated £90,000, and who is linked to IT Consultancy Softcat PLC, who, again coincidentally I’m sure, have been awarded contracts worth £16.2 million since February 2020.

Not forgetting Lord James Wharton, the sole director of GBMW Ltd, a consultancy firm he established after losing his seat of Stockton South in the 2017 General Election. Wharton/GBMW claimed up to £10,000 a month under the furlough scheme between from December 2020 to March 2021. But bless him, he donated £8000.00 of that back to the Conservative Party. Nothing to see here, of course.

And finally, thankfully, one which doesn’t relate to the award of Covid-related contracts: Peter Cruddas resigned as Conservative Party co-treasurer in 2012 after offering undercover reporters access to then Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for £250,000 in donations. He was subsequently nominated for a peerage by Boris Johnson despite the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. He is now Lord Peter Cruddas and he has donated more than £500,000 to the Tory party since he was elevated to his lofty position. Has this guy never heard of moonpig.com?

Seriously, if this doesn’t make you angry, then frankly you’re part of the problem.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard ft. Kelis – Got Your Money

More soon.

Rant

I’m not going to attempt to defend the actions of Martin Bashir in securing that infamous interview with Princess Diana twenty five years ago. He hasn’t, so I see no reason why I should.

What I would say is this: the idea that this interview led to her death two years later seems to me to be stretching a point a little too far. At the time, we all knew the marriage was an unhappy one. We also knew that Charles had continued his affair with Camilla for some time. There has always been doubt about the identity of Harry’s father. Frankly, it was only a matter of time before the marriage collapsed allowing both parties to hook up with whomever they chose to.

I understand and empathise with where Princes William and Harry (is he still a Prince now?) are coming from, with their statements and interviews about how the BBC are culpable. They’ve been fighting against press and media intrusion ever since their mother died, and rightly so.

The release of the Dyson report into the interview and how it was procured, along with the subsequent BBC Panorama programme which aired on Thursday night, gives them the scapegoat they so desperately need. Let them have their moment complaining about the way the BBC went about things back then: twenty five years have passed, none of the people involved are anywhere near the BBC anymore.

But what it also does is add more weight to the Government’s argument that Auntie needs reform, and by reform they mean never criticising them.

It always annoys me whenever I see some right-winger complain about left wing bias at the Beeb, for at the same time there is usually an opposing voice complaining about it being too right wing. And to my eyes, that means that the BBC must, generally, be getting the balance right: it simply isn’t possible for both viewpoints to be correct, so it must be the case that both left and right are getting equal coverage and criticism.

That said, the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, is generally perceived as a conduit to all things Tory. But for every Kuenssberg at the BBC there is at least one other journalist with the opposite political leaning; the problem is that the BBC are so scared of riling the Tories and being reformed they rarely dare let these voices bubble to the top.

What sticks in my throat is the way that the printed media has seized upon this, attacking the BBC, like they had absolutely nothing to do with Diana’s death. “It wasn’t us that chased her in cars and on motorcycles through Paris to her death, desperate for a snap with her and her current beau (not that any of them will mention this, of course), it was them bastards over at the BBC what done it.”

The Housemartins – Freedom (Janice Long 6/1/85)

(Purists: Yes, I know that version isn’t on the Live at the BBC album, it’s on the Deluxe Edition of London 0 Hull 4, but posting a BBC session version was too delicious a prospect for me to resist and I needed a cover pic.)

Of course, our glorious leader was quick off the mark to criticise the BBC (dressed in what appeared to be a costume at best, his pyjamas at worst, with the words Prime Minister sewn into the breast, like a weird boy scout badge he’d earned; it may as well have said “Done a big boy’s wee” for all the gravitas it afforded him), stating that he hoped there were lessons the corporation would learn from the report.

Which, if you know his history, is a bit rich. For this Boris lecturing the BBC on journalistic standards, is the same Boris who, in his pre-political career, was sacked from his job at The Times over allegations he fabricated a quote from the historian Colin Lucas, for a front-page article about the discovery of Edward II’s Rose Palace.

After being escorted from the building at The Times, Johnson moved to The Daily Telegraph, where he worked as the publication’s Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994. It was here that he penned many of the “Euromyths” which entered into common parlance, including plans to establish a “banana police force” to regulate the shape of the curved yellow fruit, and the introduction of a ban prawn cocktail crisps, since they contained neither prawn nor cocktail in their ingredients. None of which were true, of course.

What the Dyson report does is to allow the Government to indulge in a bit of deflection. I’ve written before about the dead cat scenario, where, in times of trouble, a government or ruling body will say or do something so utterly strange as to make that the talk of the tabloids rather then the thing they were (probably) about to write about. This, however, doesn’t qualify for such a description, it doesn’t even qualify for “what-about-ery”, where one acknowledges something bad has happened but asks you to look at something if not worse then equally controversial instead (Example: “Yes, Labour did very well in Wales in the latest by-elections, but have you seen what happened in Hartlepool?”*).

No, the Dyson report comes at an absolutely perfect moment to allow the Government to move attention away from another report which was due to be released this week, but was blocked by your friend and nobody else’s, Priti Patel.

This report took an independent body eight years to complete, and looked into the private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987, who was found dead in a south London car park with an axe embedded in his head, and the subsequent botched attempts to solve his murder. No one has ever been convicted of his murder, but interestingly key suspects are alleged to have close ties to News International, and police investigations are thought to have been deliberately ineffective.

In case you’re unaware, News International is the company owned by Rupert Murdoch, under which such luminaries as The Sun, The Times and, at one time News of the World were published. You will doubtless recall the Levison enquiry, which found evidence of links between the press, the police and the Government, and which was supposed to have a second leg of the report until that was also shelved by the Conservative government. A bit like the report into Russian collusion into our elections, which was finally released in July 2020, albeit redacted to within an inch of its life.

But this report was looking at something far more sinister than phone-tapping: it was considering whether News International and the Metropolitan Police were complicit in actual murder.

Now what on earth could cause Patel – who has read the report – and who is part of a Government for whom Murdoch and News International are established cheerleaders – to react in such a way?

Morrissey – Hold On To Your Friends

There’s also the small matter of the investigation into corruption and cronyism with the award of billions of pounds of contracts to companies with no experience or means to produce PPE items, which is going to happen, but not for another year, and even then Johnson will have the final say as to whether the findings should be made public or not.

It’s depressing, isn’t it? The way this Government is lining the pockets of their BFFs (and probably their own – there has to be something in it for them, right?) and yet certain pockets of our society see that and think: “Boris is funny and has funny hair. I’ll vote for his lot again”.

So perhaps we need a moment of levity, and thank the Lord, here to provide it is none other than oily snakeskin and pipedream salesman Nigel Farage.

For it emerged this week that good old honest pint drinking and self-proclaimed Fisherman’s Friend Nigel is currently touring America, giving talks to theatres he expected to be packed with Trump devotees, about how he is “Mr Brexit” – not exactly what I’d call him, to be honest – and how successful a politician he is *coughs*. It’s a self-congratulatory lap of honour of a slippery conman. Presumably his teleprompter at the speeches doesn’t scroll on as far as to mention the seven times he stood for election as an MP and was defeated, and definitely not far enough to reveal that on one of those occasions he was beaten by a man dressed as a dolphin.

And, thanks in no small part to national treasure and lead singer of The Charlatans Tim Burgess, the first night of Farage’s tour was a sell out. The problem was, that only 21 people actually turned up; it later transpired that of those, 6 were part of Farage’s group, and one was Farage himself, who had to deliver his speech to an auditorium designed for 3000 people but which actually contained just 14 people.

See, for once, Farage wasn’t looking to make money from the actual tickets – doubtless there was some merch available though: a pipe, a beer tankard with a frog’s face on it, a burning cross, you know the sort of thing – for he had made tickets free.

Cue Tim:

The Charlatans – Weirdo

And my, how the (mostly) British public reacted:

Just glorious.

Which seems to answer the question raised in this song:

Heart – Alone

More soon.

*What happened in Hartlepool was this: Labour lost their seat for the first time since it was created. General consensus though, obtained via vox pops and exit polls, was that the good people of Hartlepool voted Conservative because they wanted change, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the very people they were voting in to bring change, just happened to be the same people who have been in power for the past eleven years. No wonder they hung that monkey.

Rant

Just one week off, please, one week where nothing happens to get my goat, one week where I can post something nice and positive of a Saturday morning. That’s all I ask.

But no. Here I am, banging on yet again about the latest injustice and trying desperately to justify it by tagging a tune or two on at the end.

We’ll get on to the biggie soon enough, but let’s start with some good news for a change.

This week, taxi/private hire company Uber finally gave in to a recent Supreme Court ruling that their drivers were not, as Uber had previously contested, self-employed but were employees, and as such entitled to the normal “perks” other employees were entitled to: a minimum hourly wage, sick pay, pensions.

It comes to something when it takes a Supreme Court ruling before companies will give their workers what they are entitled to, and is indicative of how some companies will try and bend the rules, squirm through as many loop-holes as possible, to try to exploit their staff and maximise their own profits. (Take) That’s Capitalism, folks!

But this isn’t just about the exploitation of your working man (or woman): research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people in the UK could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions. That’s £314m which the Government could be passing on to their mates, so I’m struggling to see why the fight was so hard, the original ruling having been handed down in 2016, but then contested by Uber. Surely Johnson or Hancock or Raab could have waded in, insisting they accept the ruling, hand over the cash in a brown envelope to be swiftly popped into the pocket of old Spewy Dickson – seriously, he was such a laugh at college – who swears he knows how to rattle up a few Covid-compliant face masks or aprons or something?

Uber operates around the world, with the company valued at more than £50bn.

I often wonder: just how rich do you have to be, before you stop being a greedy arsehole?

And then I think of “Sir” Philip Green, his love of other people’s money, and yachts, and conclude: well, richer than him, apparently.

Some of the people I went to school with have ended up being far wealthier than me. And that’s fine, I’m comfortable with that. I rarely meet up with them these days, but on the occasions that I do, I always feel them looking down on me, wondering where things went wrong for me. I was a fairly bright, if lazy, pupil when at school, I could have made money like they did, why haven’t I?

Because I have no desire to be wealthy, that’s why. I’m quite happy, bobbing along in my moderately-paid job, paying my taxes, my rent, my bills, and enjoying whatever I have left after doing so; eking out my monthly salary until the next payday is part of the rollercoaster of life for me, safe in the knowledge that whilst I am certainly not as well off as some, I’m definitely better off than many.

Will I make it to the end of the month without resorting to beans on toast as a staple meal? Yes, usually. Will I have any money left over at the end of the month to pop away in a savings account? No, not usually, for I am far more likely, with a few days to go until payday, to splash out on a takeaway or a bottle or two of something to make my Friday night a go with a whizz.

I can’t think of much worse than being so wealthy the question of whether I can afford something or not never enters my head. How dull their lives must be! To misquote Joe Fagin’s 1984 hit and theme tune to Auf Weidersehen, Pet!: That’s Not Living, Alright?

But I digress: the action against Uber had originally been brought by the ADCU, the App Driver and Couriers Union, on behalf of two of its members, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, which leads me to the first tune of the morning.

As mentioned last weekend, I am a huge Billy Bragg fan, although generally I prefer his (unrequited) love songs to the political songs with which he’s most associated by those who don’t really know anything much about him.

This song first appeared on his “difficult third album”, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, but that’s not a version I’m fond of – it’s a bit too Billy-By-Numbers, if that makes sense. Somewhere I used to have a full band version, all fiddles and folk, but frustratingly I cannot lay my hands on it right now (it popped up on a B-side somewhere, I’m sure….I may be thinking of the instrumental version on Greetings to the New Brunette, but I don’t think so….), so instead here are two versions which I found on YouTube when frantically searching for the lost-Billy version.

The first is what YouTube insists is lifted from the closing credits of the wonderful movie Pride, although, whilst I recall the song being used, I don’t recall it having a choir and a brass band on it, as this does. I’ll have to revisit, which will be an absolute joy as Pride is one of my favourite films from the last twenty tears, telling the true story of a London based group of gays and lesbians (before they would have been called LBGT+) supporting a Welsh mining village during the strike of the mid-1980s. If you’ve never seen it, put that right as soon as possible.

The second version I found is a bluegrass version performed by a collective called Pickers’ Local 608. It’s rather good:

As a disclaimer, I’ve not had chance to do due diligence and look into Picker’s Local 608, so I do hope they don’t turn out to be of the redneck Confederate breed.

And so to the grim stuff.

*****

Remember last year, when we watched how Trump dealt with the BLM protests, how multiple examples of police brutality were caught on camera? And remember how, whilst we condemned it, we, privately, breathed a sigh of relief and thought: “Well, that could never happen here”…?

Well, last weekend, it did.

And here too, many disturbing photographs were taken, as the police waded in to break up what was, to all intents and purposes, a vigil, not a protest, in memory of Sarah Everard, the woman murdered as she walked home alone one night.

Around the world these images flowed, none more evocative and widely shared than this one:

Over the course of the day, mourners had left flowers around the bandstand of Clapham Common, close to where Everard vanished. One such mourner was Princess Cathy, the Duchess of Cambridge, who was seen paying her respects:

Not wearing a mask, I notice.

Funny how the police didn’t wade in when she was there, right? You’d think the Royal Family would have welcomed a change in focus after the couple of weeks they’ve had.

But no, it was much later that evening that the trouble started. And by trouble, from everything I’ve seen, I mean the actions of the police who suddenly decided that the crowd needed to be broken up.

Now, it would not be entirely truthful to say that this was simply a vigil, with no protest aspect attached. Placards were displayed, songs were sung. But what protest took place was, again from what I’ve seen, 100% peaceful, until PC Law decided enough was enough.

And, to my eyes, its important to note that both were going on at the same time, but neither vigil nor protest was worthy of the attention the police gave them. Peaceful protest, even in these times of Covid restrictions is permitted. Indeed, the activities of the day, whilst originally blocked by the Courts, were ultimately allowed to take place.

What followed was an upsurge in real life stories from women about occasions that they have felt scared, threatened, or, on far too many occasions, actually been assaulted by men as they made their way home after a night out.

The #MeToo movement over the past couple of years shocked many of us, but I still think a large amount of people considered the hashtag related exclusively to the famous, the celebrities who had been abused or forced to the euphemistically referred to “casting couch”. Referring to it as such allows you to escape the horror of what that actually means, in a way that the victim was unable to.

Personally, I know of at least two of my female friends who have been assaulted as they travelled home. Both in London, but that doesn’t mean it’s a London problem.

This is a male problem.

And I pray that, reading all of the stories women have posted on social media, men finally learn to change their behaviour.

We all need to reassess our actions. I’ve never assaulted anyone, never taken advantage of anyone when they were drunk or alone or vulnerable, but even I can look back at certain incidents in my life and think: “I could have behaved better there”.

The protest which ran parallel with the vigil was, largely, from the Reclaim The Night movement. Put very simply, all this movement asks is that women be allowed to travel safely at night in the same way as men do. It’s such a basic request, that it saddens me to my very core that they even have to exist. Here. Now. In 2021, when we’re all supposed to be equal, except we’re clearly not.

I pray, but I’m an atheist, so I’m not confident anything will happen as a result of my prayers.

I’m certain that the man who wrote this song didn’t do so in order that it might be included in a blogpost about how women should be able to walk the streets without fear of intimidation or assault, but at first blush it seems to fit. It’s the “Because the night belongs to us”, I’m thinking of here as making this appropriate.

I could have posted any number of versions of this song, but I’ve gone for my very favourite:

By way of a reaction, the Metropolitan Police have announced that once COVID lockdown measures are lifted, they plan to employ more plain clothes officers to frequent bars and clubs, in an effort to stamp down on offences of the nature mentioned.

Which rather overlooks the fact that the person arrested and charged with Sarah Everard’s murder is…a serving policeman from the Metropolitan Police.

Yeh, nice one. I’m sure that will put many people’s concerns to rest.

*****

Now, you know when something seismic has happened, where public opinion and sympathy lies in a particular way, because politicians suddenly leap into action and want to be seen to be doing the right thing.

And so it was that our Home Secretary, old Smirky McSmirkface herself, Priti Patel, criticised pictures of officers manhandling women at the vigil, rebuked the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, and ordered an inquiry.

Quite right too, until it emerged later in the week that Patel had sent a memo to all police chiefs making her position clear: she wanted them to stop people gathering at vigils. (She also promised she would personally urge people not to gather – but she never did.)

And this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to those who had followed a bill which passed it’s second reading at almost the same time Patel was feigning outrage, a bill which written by Patel, further restricts the ability to protest and increases police powers.

What is interesting is that in the debate about the bill on Monday she said this: “On Friday my views were know and they were based on the fact that people who wanted to pay tribute within the locality… laying flowers was the right thing to do.” Which rather implies the opposite of the leaked memo, that she encouraged the Met to let the vigil go ahead, but ho hum, lying to Parliament seems to be acceptable these days, just ask our PM.

Now, permission to protest is one of the cornerstones of democracy; remove it, as this bill seeks to do, and we are sleepwalking into a territory where dissenting voices can no longer be heard in public.

One of the problems with this Bill is that it allows Patel to change the meaning of the phrase “serious disruption” whenever she likes:

In other words, this Bill seeks, amongst other things, to limit the power and ability to protest, whilst also giving Patel the power to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. What the bill should do is lay down the terms, rather than leave it in the hands of someone who has a proven record of being a duplicitous bully to decide.

The Bill attacks, on a permanent basis the fundamental human right of peaceful assembly.

For example, under this Bill, the Home Secretary (Patel, as it stands) could decide that one person protesting in a vocal manner in public should be shut down and imprisoned.

Netpol analysis of BLM demos found that “black-led protests disproportionately faced excessive interventions by police”. This Bill radically increases police power and discretion to impose restrictions on protests. It allows them to impose them not for disruption, but for “impact”, and on the broadest, vaguest and lowest possible basis. It allows police to impose restrictions if they believe a single passer-by will experience “serious unease” from the noise.

These aren’t flashers we’re talking about, likely to cause offence by wanging their wongers in the general direction of some schoolgirls; they’re people exercising their democratic right to protest. Make no mistake about it, this is the most violent attack on our civil liberties we’ve seen since Thatcher blocked flying pickets during the miner’s strike.

I’ll end by quoting the words of Nadia Whittome, MP, as part of the debate on the bill: “There is so much wrong with this bill that three minutes couldn’t possibly cover it. We’re debating it today because the home secretary despised Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter…[The Bill] expands police powers to levels that should not be seen in a modern democracy. If we were debating this legislation in another country, I’m sure members of this House would be condemning that country as an authoritarian regime…We’re sick of male violence. We’re sick of male violence whether it’s at the hands of the state, our partners, our family members, or strangers. And we march because some people don’t survive that violence. The public realm belongs to women too…[The Bill] hands unaccountable power to the police. The same police that were forcing women to the ground on Saturday night.”

The same police which includes the man charged with the murder of Sarah Everard.

It’s cheesy, I know, but there’s only one song which can illustrate this properly:

Ayes: 359 Noes: 263 The bill passed it’s second reading.

There’s still the Committee stage, where the Bill is given a right good going over, so there’s hope.

And there’s still the House of Lords, who might well kick this back for further review and amendment.

Pray this bill doesn’t get passed in its current format, so your voice can still be heard.

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

And so the fug continues, lifting gradually.

I can’t be bothered with having a rant today, not even about the pitiful 1% pay rise given NHS workers in the budget this week, the same week as it was found that close to £37 billion has been wasted on the Track & Trace program, run by Tory peer Dido Harding (surely a coincidence, that) and it was also revealed that the Government had elected to settle the Priti Patel bullying case out of court, to the tune of £340,000.00 plus legal costs, all of which tells you everything you need to know about where governmental priorities lie.

Not that you’d know any of this from reading much of the press this week, who have been far more interested in trying to prove that Meghan Markle is a wrong ‘un. And it may well be the case that she is, in which case she married into the right family. I mean, it’s not like the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas Windsors are short of a few wrong ‘uns themselves, is it? Forgotten about Prince Andrew, have we?

But I’m not writing about any of that. For as the apathetic fug continues to refuse to completely leave me alone, I’ve had an appropriate song in my brain all week, a cover version, which I figured I’d post here this morning.

And then I realised I’d already written about it, albeit five years ago.

To simply repost what I wrote last time seems entirely in keeping with my lethargic state of mind, so, with absolutely no apologies whatsoever, here you go (and in case it’s clear from this, which it isn’t, this is a record I bought on 7″ single back in 1987):

*****

Some would argue that if you’re going to do a cover version, you need to do radically rework it, so that to the untrained ear it sounds like something you wrote yourself.

Substitute the acoustic guitar on the original for an electric one on your track.

Upgrade the soft folky lilt of the original for a rip-roaring rollicking rock riff.

Maybe even shorten the title by, say, one vowel.

Trim out some of those rather unnecessary verses.

And then get Rick Rubin to produce it and pop it out on the uber-cool Def Jam label:

Now, here’s the original, performed by the evil ones from The Detectorists (Yes, I am going to keep making that reference until someone gets it).

I’ll leave you to decide which you prefer:

More soon. And maybe it’ll be something vaguely original.

Rant

When politicians try to be funny, chances are they’re trying to distract you from something they’d rather you didn’t see. They’d much rather you cringe with embarrassment – or God help you, laugh – than ask serious questions of them.

So, with the number of Coronavirus casualties approaching the 120,00 mark, but with the roll-out of the vaccines seemingly beginning to have an effect, the last thing that the Government wants is for us to either remember how badly they have handled the virus for the past twelve months, or start focussing on the utterly shitty deal they agreed to Get Brexit Done.

Which led to this recent, particularly excruciating exchange in the House of Commons:

The question mentions Weetabix so many times, I did wonder if this was like that time Chris Packham tried to crowbar as many Smiths references into his Springwatch links:

…a trick he repeated with Cure songs:

But I digress. The asking of the Weetabix question in itself raised so many questions: for one, where has this apparently nationwide discussion, about whether baked beans should be eaten with Weetabix, been (pun not intended) taking place? Do you know anyone who has even considered eating the two together, let alone anyone who has decided to let their bizarre breakfast proclivities become known to anyone other than themselves?

To be clear, baked beans have no place in the same bowl as Weetabix. Fruit? Yoghurt? Milk? All fine. But baked beans: no. They belong in just two positions at breakfast time: either on toast, or as part of a great British full breakfast, preferably next to the sausages which are, of course, acting as a dam to keep them away from the eggs.

The second question that clip raises is why this MP is asking the question in the House of Commons at all. Well, the MP in question is Phillip Hollobone (stop sniggering at the back, please), Conservative Member of Parliament for Kettering since 2005. The Weetabix factory is within his constituency, and is a massive employer, so it’s good that he’s raising the profile of one of the businesses within the area he represents. Let’s have a look at some of the other things he has voted for and against.

In March 2015, following an expenses scandal relating to the former peer Lord Hanningfield (he was convicted of false accounting and sent to prison) Hollobone was one of just 4 MPs who voted against a Bill to increase the powers of the House of Lords to penalise peers who had broken the law and expel the worst offenders.

In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”. Hollobone was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment but who also – coincidentally, I’m sure – personally derived an income from renting out property.

The Conservative Government position was that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.

Heaven forbid they should introduce laws which might make a large section of the population’s life just a teensy bit more bearable, just in case it might cost them a few quid.

In March 2018, he joined three other Conservative backbench MPs in filibustering for three-and-a-half hours to prevent a bill by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, which aimed to reverse private sector involvement in the NHS, being heard. Lucas was left with just 17 minutes to present her bill, which was subsequently shelved without a vote.

Now, why would anyone wish to prevent a bill aimed at preventing the glorious NHS from falling into the hands of the private sector being heard….?

So don’t be fooled by Hollobone’s attempt at introducing a bit of levity to proceedings; he has nobody but his own best interests at heart. Which makes me wonder: why raise this utterly fatuous topic at all?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things haven’t exactly been going swimmingly since the Brexit deal was done. What many businesses are finding is that, contrary to PM Johnson et al‘s assurances that post-deal trading with the EU would continue almost exactly as it did when we were in the EU, what is actually happening is that many companies are now so bound up in red tape and paperwork that their businesses are grinding to a halt.

It’s very tempting to turn your back on the fishing community, tell them they got what they deserved by voting Leave, and that had they just dug a little deeper rather than accepting the bullshit, bluster and rhetoric, they perhaps would have voted differently. But not here. These people deserve our sympathy, not our chiding. Blame the people who lied, not those who believed the lies.

Unless we’re talking about that scarecrow that owns Wetherspoons, who can just suck it up (with apologies to his employees).

The other sector currently facing red-tape issues post-Brexit are musicians. The paperwork now involved in a UK band wishing to tour and perform in the EU has multiplied excessively, and needs to be completed for every border they wish to cross. It turns out that the EU offered exemptions to the UK for UK acts wishing to tour within the EU, but this offer was declined by the UK negotiating team, in favour of striking a deal for the fisheries, who they also, ultimately, sold down the river.

With the advent of streaming, many bands find that the most lucrative way for them to earn money these days is by touring and performing live. Obviously, with Covid-related travel restrictions in place it is hard to gauge the worth to the UK economy, but, as a marker, in 2018 the UK music industry was worth £5.2 billion to the UK economy. That would probably be even more if Take That paid their taxes.

Obviously, many of the losses the industry have incurred over the past twelve months are Covid-related – I have tickets for gigs which I’ve lost count of the amount of times have now been bumped or cancelled – but the prospect of their earnings being curbed post-Covid doesn’t bode well.

£5.2 billion to an already faltering economy is priceless. I mean, just think how much of that Dido Harding and the rest of the Tory cronies could be awarded by way of untendered contracts. I feel for them, I really do.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that many examples have emerged where businesses have been advised by the Government that the best way for them to continue to trade with the EU as they did pre-Brexit is to relocate their business to an EU country. This includes the financial industry, who we were so desperate to keep, above and beyond anything else.

I can’t help but wonder if similar advice has been given to Weetabix, and that a deal was struck that they wouldn’t go public with this on the condition that Hollobone raised the profile of the wheaty biscuit manufacturer by asking a question in Parliament. I have nothing to substantiate this, I’m just thinking out loud.

The third question is: is Jacob Rees Mogg so posh that he doesn’t even know that it’s Beans Means Heinz, not Heinz Means Beans? Whoever crafted, if that’s the right words, his response to the Weetabix question did, however, get the first part of the advertising slogan right by quoting this: “A million housewives every day pick up a can of beans and say…”

Which leads me to a record which I was reminded of when I first heard that exchange:

Any excuse, right?

The problem I have with Rees Mogg, apart from the obvious, is that he’s ruined a song for me. And it’s not even his fault. Well, it is, kind of, for being such a posh ghoul, but what I mean is that it’s not his fault that any appearance of his which crosses my radar makes me think of this description of him:

More soon.

Rant

The UK Compensation Act 2006 makes it clear that an apology is not equivalent to an admission of liability.

This means that if, heaven forbid, you are involved in a road traffic collision – not an accident, as that implies, as Howard Jones once said, no-one is to blame, and in road traffic collisions at least one person is to blame – you can say “I’m sorry” and it cannot be interpreted as you saying “I’m sorry for what has happened, it’s all my fault.”

In my line of work, I see this a lot. “Your driver admitted liability!”, solicitors and insurance companies will say in open correspondence. “No they didn’t, they said they were sorry, which is not the same thing,” is my usual response.

You’ll have noticed over the past ten, fifteen years, maybe longer, this has crossed over into the public realm, and specifically into politics. Ministers caught with their trousers down, or who have said something obviously heart-felt but off script, will usually issue one of those “I’m sorry if…” statements. “I’m sorry if my words caused offence” is how it goes, and we all know that if they could, they would add: “But I do really think that the working class are scum and I don’t see why we should feed their children whilst their parents are staying home during the lockdown we’ve finally implemented. It’s not my fault if they don’t have savings, or friends who work in finance, or land, or rich parents.”

On Tuesday, as the UK hit 100,000 Covid-related deaths (top of the league! Woo-hoo! Go Yoo-Kay! They told us that post-Brexit we’d be the best, and they were right!) we were treated to an early evening press conference from the Prime Minister.

This is how the red tops chose to report it the following day:

Aw, poor old man of the people Boris Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. So very very sorry, but none of this is his fault.

Did you spot it? That’s right: Johnson didn’t just say that he was sorry. He said that he was “deeply sorry for every life that has been lost”.

And then he continued, saying that “as Prime Minister I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done. What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could and continue to do everything that we can to minimise loss of life and minimise suffering.”

Which takes it out of the protection provided under the parameters set down under the UK Compensation Act 2006. He accepts responsibility: not the Government. Him.

Right there you have an unequivocal admission of liability. Get on the phone to those no win-no fee solicitors if you’ve lost a loved one as a result of Covid-19. Name Johnson, not the Government, as the Defendant. Just imagine: 100,000 law suits against him.

And if you need evidence of his ineptitude, feel free to use this rather handy chronology of the early days of the pandemic, courtesy of those chaps at Led by Donkeys:

For the sake of completeness and impartiality, there is mention in that clip of Johnson endeavouring to reach a divorce settlement with his estranged wife. It omits to mention that she was being treated for cancer when Johnson started being unfaithful to her, with his current partner and mother of at least one of his children, Carrie Symonds. You’re welcome.

That clip only goes up to May 2020, so here’s the edited highlights of the Government – and thus, by his own admission Johnson’s – decisions since then which haven’t exactly helped with “flattening the curve” either:

  • “Eat Out to Help Out”
  • Closing our borders a mere ten months after the pandemic started
  • Permitting families to mix over Christmas, and then
  • Allowing schools to re-open for one day

There’s probably more than that, isn’t there?

More soon.

Rant

I had hoped I’d last slightly longer than the second weekend of the year without having a rant, but events this week haven’t exactly worked out that way.

Let’s start with the events in America this week. I don’t think there can be many of us who weren’t shocked at the scenes from Washington DC, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to overthrow the legitimate result of the Presidential election in November, as it was being verified.

Shocked, yes, but surprised? Honestly, not really. This has been building up since before the election. You’ll doubtless recall this exchange in one of the Presidential debates, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, specifically The Proud Boys. This was his response:

No criticism of them, just “Stand back and stand by.”

Post-election, when he wasn’t playing golf, attempting to get the election result overturned by the Courts (and having each of the 60 attempts thrown out on the grounds that no evidence had been submitted to support his claims), or watching Rudy Giuliani’s paint-job run at a particularly hot press conference (presumably the heat coming from a nearby sex shop), he was sending out further dog-whistles via his now-suspended Twitter account:

Twitter was a fascinating place to be on Wednesday/Thursday, not only watching the whole thing as it happened, not for the righteous outrage and indignation that bubbled and boiled, but for the concerted effort from many to identify those who had participated in the storming of the buildings and to pass that information on to the law enforcement agencies (presumably not the same ones who assisted the mob with access to the building, that is).

At the same time, many right-wingers tried to claim the attack was totally spontaneous and not pre-planned and that Trump had nothing to do with it. Oh yeh? Then how comes they’d printed up their own merchandise?

And that’s not even the cheap, unofficial shite you usually find spread out on the pavements when you leave a gig (ah…gigs…remember them?). No, that is your bona fide, 100% authentic mail-order MAGA merch, right there.

And this one even turned up with what, in the hands of your average honest-as-the- day-is-long electrician is merely a bunch of cable ties, but in this scenario can only have been brought for one purpose: to restrain and tether people:

Spontaneous, my arse.

Luckily, identifying many of them did not prove too arduous a task since, for as one would perhaps expect from such a baying mob, many of them wunt too cleverest.

If I was running a course on how to start a revolution, then Day 1 Lesson 1 of Revolutionary School would go something like this:

1. Keep your identity secret when trying to over-throw the government, at least until you have gained power.

But no. For a start, as devout Trump-followers, and thus by definition the hard-of-thinking, most of them were also Covid-deniers, and so refused to wear face masks.

If that wasn’t dumb enough, many decided to take pictures of themselves in various poses within the Capitol Building, and then post the snaps on their own social media, which were of course, open to the public to view.

And have a look at this one man tribute to the film Deliverance:

This one is so smart that he’s wearing his work lanyard. Needless to say, his now former employers were none too impressed:

It would appear that this knuckle-dragger was part of The Proud Boys, the group that Trump told to “Stand back and stand by.” Here’s a group shot of some of the leading lights taken on the day:

I mean, if I’d paid good money to see a Village People tribute act, and this is what waltzed out on stage, I think I might suggest storming the parapets too. Just saying.

Incidentally, is it just me or doesn’t the name The Proud Boys sound just a little bit….camp? Like a dance troupe of buff but exceedingly gay male strippers, dripping in baby oil? No? Just me then.

And then there’s this chap, who provided perhaps one of the most famous images from the day:

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that Robbie Savage should be free to do whatever he likes with his down-time. In fact, anything that keeps him away from “commentating” or football punditry in general is to be encouraged and is absolutely fine by me.

He may have less than two weeks to go until he has to begrudgingly hand over power to Biden, but there has to be consequences to Trump for his part in all of this. Hopefully he’ll end up wearing a boiler suit the same colour as his skin, but I can see a scenario where he gets off scot-free, and it’s one floated by Television’s Richard Osman on The Late Leg a few weeks ago. And it runs like this: Vice President Mike Pence relieves Trump of his duties for the final stage of his presidency, and in that time issues a pardon to him, in the same way as we have seen Trump issue pardons to all of his imprisoned cohorts over the past few weeks.

Thankfully, Pence – presumably with one eye on the next election – does appear to be distancing himself from Trump over the past couple of days, so maybe I’m being a little pessimistic.

What’s absolutely stark here is the difference between Trump’s handling of the BLM protests – call in the National Guard and the armed forces, shoot them – and his refusal to do the same when his buddies were doing the same when democracy itself was under threat. Hmm. I wonder white that might be….

Anyway, time for a tune, and I’ll start off by making the same joke as I did when I last posted this tune back in 2017: I wish it had the letters “Im” at the start of the song title, and then this would be perfect:

But it doesn’t, so it’s not.

See, the problem with most of the songs I have about uprisings or revolutions is this: they’re generally performed from the perspective of those rising up, with whom we, the listener, have empathy. So, not especially appropriate to post now.

And then I thought of this, a record more angry than any other, which builds and builds into a furious explosion about the antics when in power of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. I’m not going to draw too many parallels, but….this is magnificent in it’s fury and outraged anger, which should, frankly, be our default position right now:

*****

What all of this does bring into question is the matter of freedom of speech, and the platforms afforded to those who invoke it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that – finally – various social media providers, such as Twitter, Facebook and their ilk have decided to ban Trump, The Proud Boys, QAnon and many others from their platforms in the wake of this week’s events.

However, it happened far too late. This should have been done years ago, in which case we may not have even had Trump as President. But the revenue streams brought to those providers were too great to resist, and so these people have been allowed a place to spew their bile in the name of balance.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the BBC. The problem the BBC has is that, publicly funded body as it is, it is obliged to appear impartial. So for every view point that they wish to give some airtime to, they have to provide an equivalent amount of airtime to somebody who wishes to present a counter argument.

It’s the reason why, say, during a by-election, they may focus on the main parties, but then have to list all of the other candidates from other parties, standing in the same constituency.

The problem is that where one position is sound, knowledgeable and appropriately given a platform, but where the opposite position is half-baked and usually wrong, both voices have to be allowed to be heard, no matter how ill-informed or – and I hate to use this term, but it has entered the common vernacular – Fake News it may be.

(NB: as a general rule of thumb, when somebody uses the phrase “Fake News” as an argument against something they disagree with, you can immediately discount them from the conversation, because they are clearly an idiot. It’s like when online arguments liken someone’s stance to Hitler.)

This topic reared its ugly head this week when YouTube removed from its platform all of the content from Talk Radio, on the grounds that many of the clips were promoting Covid as a hoax, or anti-lockdown/mask propaganda. The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, invited voices from either side of the fence on to the show to discuss the topic. This is how it went:

Twitter, as you would expect, was ablaze after that was broadcast. Many of those in my liberal bubble were bemoaning that Young had been given a platform at all, whilst you only have to read the comments on YouTube under that clip to see that many thought Young came out the better in that exchange, even though it was proven in that clip that his own position had changed from one previously expressed.

Here’s what I think: I don’t like or agree with what the likes of Young, Hartley-Brewer, Burchill and (God help us) Hopkins say, but if you refuse them the platform to talk their horse-shit, then this will only serve to feed the bottom-feeders, who simply seem incapable of rational thought and blindly seek out conspiracy theories.

Moreover, it adds fuel to the fire for those who claim they have been “cancelled”.

If “cancelled” isn’t the new word of the year according to the Oxford English Dictionary, then I’ll buy a hat and eat it*. It means ‘to be ignored’, or, more specifically, ‘to be prevented from airing your views’.

So the way forward is surely to allow these dunderheads one shot to present their argument and whatever evidence they have to support it. And then, to meticulously dissect everything they say so that their position is exposed as flawed. You then no longer have to invite them on to your show, or give them column inches, because their views have been discredited. End of story.

“We’ve listened to you once. You said nothing of any substance. We’re not listening to you again. Good bye”.

Take Suzanne Moore. I can’t profess that I followed her story all that closely, but I gather she is a former Guardian journalist, who was sacked quit her job because her views on trans matters did not chime with those of her employers.

The reason she came to my attention was because she was suddenly appeared everywhere, complaining that she had been “cancelled”.

Which she hadn’t been, because if she had, then I’d never have heard of her.

What had actually happened was that one platform listened, published, gave voice to her views, decided they thought she was talking utter codswallop, and decided not to be associated with her anymore.

And that’s what The Mail Online is there for: to hoover up all of the dislodged, jilted rhetoric, and publish it all in one place where we all know that everything that appears on its pages is bullshit, and that anyone who ever reads it or comments on it can be safely ignored.

I had a similar conversation with somebody at work recently. We get on very well, and often enjoy a good laugh and a conversation with each other. But in one conversation towards the end of last year, Trump’s name came up. I can’t remember precisely how, or why, the orange coloured one made an appearance, but he did and I made a disparaging comment about him. My colleague chastised me:

“Oi!”, he said (he literally did, I didn’t think anyone outside of The Beano said “Oi!” anymore). “Don’t go slagging Trump off!”

The schoolboy within me wanted to snigger at the proximity of the words ‘Trump’ and ‘off’, but I resisted. Composing myself, I retorted:

“What, you’re a fan are you?”

“Yes I am,” came the proud, chest-puffing reply.

“You’ll be telling me you think Brexit’s a good idea next”, I quipped, a comment which was met with a stony silence.

And so he was added to the list of people I know that there’s just no point in discussing politics with.

Here’s Stewart Lee, to further illustrate my point:

Stewart Lee – Cab Driver

On the matter of Covid, the Government has finally introduced some rules about people coming into the country. They come into force next week; basically anyone arriving on our shores now has to provide documentation to prove that they had a Covid test within 72 hours of travelling, and that the test was negative.

This is good news, right? Of course it is.

But it’s January 2021.Why wasn’t this done in March 2020? The UK is an island, and therefore is almost uniquely placed (apart from other islands) to control who comes in to our country, and thereby potentially reduce the risk of further Covid-carriers coming into the country.

I haven’t seen it yet, but if it hasn’t been already appeared then it’s only a matter of time before it is posited that EU Regulations prevented us from doing this earlier. And that, dear reader, is horse shit.

We’ve always had control of our borders, we have just chosen not to enforce it because it was too costly.

When the mutant strain of Covid was identified in the UK in December, several EU countries – but, crucially, not all of them – decided that they would not allow flights from the UK to land in their territories. Not all of the EU, some/most of them. A perfect illustration, if you will, that we had control of our borders when we were in the EU, and that anyone who says that we didn’t is flat out lying to you.

In unrelated news, here’s a picture of Nigel Farage having a pint.

Often, finding an appropriate picture is difficult. But go to Google Images, type in the words “Nigel Farage pint” and see how many results you get.

Lots, right?

He’s quite determined that you accept his image as an ordinary man who likes a pint, isn’t he? Odd that, isn’t it?

*****

Anyway, Brexit. I seem to have stumbled upon it, so I may as well finish off with it.

It’s happened now, hasn’t it? And contrary to everything I thought would happen, Boris managed to get a deal with the EU. And, much as I didn’t want to leave, getting a deal with the EU is much better than not getting a deal with the EU, and us crashing out with No Deal and having to trade under WTO terms. So I’m sort of happy – happy that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen, but still angry that the next “best” thing is.

The problem is that to get a deal with the EU, Boris pretty much had to agree to all of their stipulations, and give up ours. He didn’t negotiate a great deal, as promised, he capitulated rather than be branded the PM who forced us into a No Deal/WTO situation.

“We hold all the cards…”….”We’re not planning for No Deal because we’re going to get a good deal….”…”The deal is oven ready”…blah blah blah. Such was the rhetoric before and after the referendum and now them chickens are coming home to roost.

Chickens is probably not the best analogy here, maybe fish is more appropriate.

For this week, our proud UK fishermen have found that to export their daily catch to the EU is not as easy as promised. Indeed, many of them are finding that by the time they have completed all of the documentation required to allow them to export to the EU, then them fish ain’t as fresh as promised and nobody wants to buy them.

The flip side of this is that I have read many examples of companies within the EU who have seen the amount of red tape and bureaucracy now required to export goods to the UK, weighed that up against the amount of profit they will make, and decided: nah. Actually, they probably gave a Gallic shrug. They can export elsewhere and make more money with less form-filling in.

Still, as long as (Remainer) Liz Truss is opening those pork markets:

But then there’s the cheese problem:

What this fails to acknowledge is that many of those cheesy products she refers to had EU Protected Status. This meant that you could not, for example, make Stilton Cheese – the King of all Cheeses – and call it Stilton Cheese unless you were making it in the home of the Stilton Cheese, Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire (not Cambridgeshire where the village of Stilton is. Long story, which I’ll explain sometime. Maybe.)

Now, we are no longer in the EU, and so those EU Protected Status tags have been removed from our yummy products, meaning that anyone, anywhere can now make mouldy old delicious cheese and call it Stilton. And so now, they no longer need to import it from us.

The flipside is that we can now produce our equivalent of EU products, such as Brie. Hurrah! And then you taste Lymeswold and think…it’s not as good, is it?

Too late! Brie producers in the EU have no intention or need to sell to the UK, because their protected status market is too good, and the paperwork to do so is too time-consuming.

And nobody wants to buy our Brie-replicant, because they have a deal with France which means they can buy as much of the authentic runniness as they like, complete with its valuable EU protected status.

We’re nine days in, and already our supply and demand chains are being throttled by the deal Boris signed off.

It’s not Boris’ fault though. This was always and forever how it was going to be.

And we’re now signed into this for the long-haul: various aspects of the Trade Agreement will be reviewed every five years, at which point they may be removed but, on the balance of probabilities, will be extended. Meaning we’re just as tied in as we were before, only now we have no say whatsoever, no voice at the table, and with more red tape and bureaucracy – the very things Brexit was supposed to bring us escape from.

Well done, 52%. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you fricking legends.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when they have to announce that the Covid vaccine can no longer be imported. Which will be down to those pesky EU rules (which we’ve agreed to).

The other good thing, of course, is that for the past nine days, £350 million pounds per day has been pumped back into the NHS, just as was promised in the referendum. Right? No……?

Anyway, what I mean to say is this: everything is just fine. No need to worry.

More soon.

*No, I won’t.

Rant

Well, what a week. And not just because I took a day off from posting yesterday. This was purely intentional, and nothing to do with me writing a post then accidentally scheduling it for next Friday, nosireebob. Still, more time to write my usual on-brand leftie sludge to infect your eyes and ears this weekend, I guess.

And what a weekend, coming as it did at the end of a week when England came out of lockdown – Hoorah! – with most of the country being placed in either Tier 2 or 3 as they emerged, blinking into the sunlight. This is to be reviewed again on December 16th, a week before we all get 5 days off worrying about Covid so we can pretend we’re good Christians and go mix with our families for Christmas.

I can’t see, for the sake of 7 days, those rules being relaxed; in fact, I rather suspect that all currently in Tier 2 will be elevated to Tier 3 status, in the hope this will make the Christmas bubble as safe as possible. That makes sense to me, which probably means it’s the complete opposite of what the Goverment does.

Whilst I’ve been quick to point out the Government’s bumbling handling of the crisis from day one, it should perhaps be noted that not everyone within their ranks has agreed with their handling either. That’s pretty much where the Venn diagram of things me and some Conservatives think overlaps starts and ends, because it turns out we disagree for very different reasons.

My position, generally, is that the Government has been too slow to follow the science and put us into lockdown, and too quick to bring us out of it at the end of Lockdown #1, whilst some Tory MPs – and I’m looking at Brexit-barmy Steve Baker – feel the lockdown is an infringement of their civil liberties. It’s a frothing-mouthed argument you’ve doubtless heard from the other side of the pond many times, along with declarations that they’re perfectly entitled to threaten black people walking past their house with a 12 bore, and that “they” will never take away their right to bear arms, which is interesting, as I’d have thought having an extra digit on each hand might make it more difficult to fire a gun, but what do I know.

These are often the same people who subscribe to anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, and so I’ve been trying to think of a song which could be used as part of an advertising campaign – because you all know how much I love those – which might encourage those doubters that perhaps, just once, getting vaccinated against Covid might, just might, be a smart move. You know, if you want to live longer and stuff. And the best I could come up with – and yes, I’m really shoe-horning a song in here – along with a tag-line of “Take the cure, it will make you feel just like heaven”, is this:

What I’m saying is this: I am constantly amazed at how many people look across to America and to Trump’s followers, laugh and scoff at their actions but remain completely oblivious when the same arguments are raised over here.

The idea of being asked to wear a mask, or stay home, to prevent the spread of the virus, was met by many in the US, blindly following Trump, with exactly the same argument as Baker raised recently: it’s an infringement on my civil liberties. And if that’s what you think, then fine, go ahead, purify that gene pool. Don’t wear a mask, but don’t expect me to send flowers either.

But what made former Chairman of the ERG (the ironically-named pro-Brexit extremists European Research Group) Baker’s stance so unintentionally smirk-worthy (where’s Priti Patel when we need her? – oh, there she is, busy offending victims of the Windrush scandal by branding those calling for deportation flights to be stopped as “do-gooding celebrities”) was when he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“This is a major infringement on a right to a family life…I’m looking at the European Convention on Human Rights as I speak to you….”

That’s the same European Convention on Human Rights which is incorporated in UK domestic law under the Human Rights Act 1998, which Baker voted to repeal in 2016.

He may as well have said:

“Wah! Wah! I hate the EU and the dictatorial Convention of Human Rights! Abolish it!”

*Feels slightly wronged*

“Well, let’s just blimming well see what the European Convention of Human Rights has to say about this outrage!”

Oh, sweet, sweet, delicious irony.

Speaking of the UK Government – as you knew I almost certainly would – this week it approved and took ownership of a whole lotta Covid vaccines. Hoorah! And as Health Secretary and winner of the award for Most Consistently Awkward Person in the Public Eye 2020 – mostly based on this:

…(and every other time he appeared in public, when, to be fair, he was also competing for the coveted Most Out Of Their Depth Politician 2020 award (previously known as The Chris Grayling Award) Matt Hancock trumpeted on Twitter, this was quite the achievement:

That “Help is on its way” bit is quite telling. To me it says: “Look, we’ve winged it for the past ten months, but we’ve got lucky. You know those science guys we’ve studiously ignored advice from? You know, those expert types we told you we’d all had enough of during the Brexit campaign? Turns out they’re quite useful after all. Unlike us.”

But first country in the world, eh? That must make us the bestest out of all the countries. So, that’s the highest Covid-related death count in Europe, and the fastest to validate and purchase a vaccine in the world that we have to be proud of. Hoorah for us!

If it weren’t for those pesky Americans and their much more massive country and death rate, we’d be #1 in the world for both. Grrr.

(By the way, is it just me that wonders if the rest of the world is using us as their lab rats, their beagles being smeared with cosmetics? “Let’s see how the English get on before we commit”, the snigger up their sleeves, “There’s bound to be some lessons to be learned about how not to do it.”)

Hancock’s right, of course. This was quite the quick turnaround, the fastest in the world, certainly much faster than those bloody Europeans we’ll soon be shot of. This was a “fact” much trumpeted by many on the right. For example, here’s our old pals at Leave.EU, with an Accidental Partridge to be proud of:

It just needs a “Oh Matt, that is textbook”, and that reference would make sense, as opposed to me just trying to justify the inclusion of my favourite Partridge scene ever. Which I’m going to do anyway:

“That’s first class. That is superb. Ooh, there you go, it’s all happening….Ooooh Matt, you know your onions!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever I see that the Leave.EU lot have said something, I immediately assume it’s bollocks, and I want to investigate further: I want to metaphorically lift up the scrotum of Brexit and sniff around the perineum. And if you read a more unpleasant analogy than that this weekend, I want to know what it is.*

Here’s Jacob Rees-Moog saying much the same thing:

There’s a couple of problems with that, isn’t there?

Firstly: it’s not written in Latin to try and make him look clever, and what do you know, it’s proof that he isn’t;

Secondly: and this might come as a shock to some, but we haven’t actually left the EU yet. We’re still in the transition period, we’re still bound by the same EU rules as we have been for many years. Those negotiations that you keep seeing being mentioned on the news? They’re to see if we can agree a trade deal with the EU when we leave in January;

Thirdly: those same EU rules allow us, in certain circumstances, to make a unilateral decision on whether to accept, purchase and distribute the vaccine in question. And in case you don’t believe it, here’s an MHRA (that’s the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) representative clarifying it for you:

Time for a tune, and the inclusion of this song makes way more sense if you listen to it; also I swear I had no idea what the record sleeve looked like until I’d already decided to include the song:

Anyway, here’s to a smooth roll out of the vaccine – and don’t even get me started on the logistical problems of transporting an item which has to be kept at below -70 degrees celsius, or I might start to come across as a vaccine-denier myself, which I’m not. I’ll be having it as soon as I’m allowed to, I don’t care if it makes me transmit 5G, or lets Jeff Bezos know my every waking desire.

Let’s just say, given the short shelf life the vaccine has, I hope they don’t plan on bringing any in via Dover after January 1st 2021.

Give me it. Give all of us it, so we can start trying to get back to something approaching normal.

*****

I wanted to wrap things up this morning by extending a hand of friendship and sympathy to my friends back in Wales. Largely overlooked this side of the border as we focussed on such pressing matters as whether a Scotch egg constituted a ‘substantial meal’ – and if I have to see living Spitting Image puppet Michael Gove be asked about this one more time, I swear I might poke my own eyes out and use them as ear-plugs. If that’s what the Tories consider a “substantial meal” then it can be of no surprise at the contempt they show for those in poverty, having to resort to visiting food banks. “These people aren’t starving, not when they can afford a boiled egg, encased in pork then rolled in breadcrumbs.”

But I digress: following their “circuit-breaker” period, Wales are having to re-introduce stricter measures, one of which is that pubs and restaurants cannot serve alcohol.

I’m not sure I follow the logic of this rule, but I think it’s this: wishing to avoid a repeat of the scenes where those who have been for a few pints end up being turfed out at the same time as everyone else from every other pub in the locality, they have decided that none of them should be allowed to serve alcohol.

Which to my mind, no longer makes them a pub. A pub, unless you’re the designated driver, is a place you go to consume alcohol with friends and family.

This is going to massively hit the pub and restaurant trade in Wales because – and I speak as a resident for twenty years – coming up in the next couple of weeks is the biggest night out of the year: Black Friday.

In Cardiff, where I lived, the last Friday before Christmas was called Black Friday, because that was the day that everybody left their offices early, and went out on the lash. It was a night which was always great fun, as I remember it, but also one of absolute carnage. It was known as such long before any retailers got their greasy mitts on it and tried to flog us a discontinued microwave.

With many people working from home, Black Friday would have undoubtedly been more subdued than usual, but as it stands, it simply won’t be happening at all.

It’s an odd rule, this pub-can-open-but-can’t-serve-alcohol thing, and it put me in mind of this old song, which I’ll leave you all with for now:

More soon.

*No, I don’t.

Rant

It’s Saturday morning, and you know what that means around Dubious Towers: either I’ve written the next part of The Chain (spoiler alert: I haven’t) or I’m about to vent my spleen about something or other that has irritated me this week.

There’s been too much good news recently in my book, what with Biden winning the US election (Pah! So he says!), Dominic Cummings getting kicked out of No. 10 (I thought the news that he’s been offered the gig of turning on the Christmas lights at Barnham Castle was just too delicious to be true, but I hope it is), that a potential cure for Coronavirus has been found, and a new series of I’m a Celebrity…set not in the inhospitable Australian jungle but in what is apparently the UK equivalent: Wales, has started. Personally, I’m looking forward to week three, when the endurance test sees the remaining contestants have to sit through several hours of the Eistedfodd, politely applauding at yet another parade of children in national dress whilst placating someone’s Nana with platitudes about the quality of her home-baked Welsh cakes.

*Looks around for something to shout about*

How about Priti Patel? Nah, too easy. But just in case you’ve not followed the story: this week, a report was released at the conclusion of an inquiry into the conduct of the current Home Secretary, following the resignation of top civil servant at the Home Office Sir Philip Rutnam in March. Rutnam alleged staff felt Ms Patel had “created fear” within the governmental department through her bullying behaviour.

The inquiry was launched by PM “Shagger” Johnson, who placed trusted ally Sir Alex Allan at the helm of the investigation, and the results were, if not damning, then not flattering either.

The Ministerial Code says “…ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the civil service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect…harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code”.

Surprise, surprise, Allam’s report found that Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour. It says that: “…[she has] become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago...The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing...This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.”

(Let’s not forget, of course, that Patel has form when it comes to the Ministerial Code. I won’t go over it all again, but if you want to read something I wrote when these allegations first arose, you can do so here.)

Ah. “Not done intentionally”. There’s your get out clause, right there, which Patel seized upon. Cue a public apology which fooled nobody, where Patel, for once almost managing to contain that trademark smirk as she spoke, said that “…any upset I have caused was completely unintentional…” and that “…issues were not pointed out to her.”

Actually, Sir Philip Rutnam paints a different picture: “As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff…I advised her on a number of further occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect.”

The report, however, states that “…no evidence that [Patel] was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time”.

Sir Rutnam was not asked to give evidence to the inquiry, which might explain that.

What we have here, of course, is a classic example of the NMA – that’s a Not-Meant Apology – which usually includes the phrase “I’m sorry if my actions caused offence…”.

There’s no “if” about it here, is there? Her actions did cause offence, people complained, an inquiry found that she had caused offence, so the element of doubt introduced by the hypothetical “if” is removed.

What I find incomprehensible is that were the busted politician, or whoever, to offer a full apology, devoid of get-out clauses, then they would almost certainly earn the respect of the majority of the public. We’d probably be willing to cut them some slack: they’ve admitted what they did, they’ve apologised, let them get on with their apparently invaluable work drowning desperate immigrants in the English Channel, and we’ll check back in a while and see whether they’ve actually learned anything from the whole experience.

And of course, the outcome of this was PM “Spaffer” Johnson rejecting the findings of the inquiry and announcing he did not think Patel is a bully and he has “full confidence” in her – you know, like he did in Dominic Cummings after his drive-up North during lock-down.

What is the point of launching an inquiry into a set of allegations, putting your own man at the helm, and then dismissing the findings because they weren’t the ones you wanted? Bit Trumpian, isn’t it? The inquiry cost the tax-payer money, which would have been much better spent being handed over to an MP’s brother-in-law’s best mate, who runs a newsagent in Bristol Temple Meads, but reckons he can secure all the PPE the NHS needs for the next ten years.

It makes me wonder: was the term “bully” the term used for a member of The Bullingdon Club? In which case it’s no wonder Johnson doesn’t recognise Patel as being one: there’s no way a woman of colour would ever be allowed to enter The Club unless they were part of the catering team.

And of course, the person who loses their job as a result of this is…you got it: not Patel, but Sir Alex Allan, who quit after learning that Johnson was going to take absolutely no notice of the report’s findings. Of course it wasn’t Patel: we all now know that the only way to get Johnson to fire you is to say something unkind about his girlfriend.

So perhaps Patel’s behaviour should be encouraged: let her bully, shout and swear at as many people as she likes. The law of averages says that of every, say, 10,000 expletives, one is going to refer to the mother of one of his children, and so it’s only a matter of time before she gets to the current one (whoever that might be at the time).

But we’re not talking about Patel this morning. I have something much more worthwhile to rant about: adverts.

Regular readers will know this is a topic which grinds my gears a lot, but usually it’s because of them appropriating (read: being given permission to use) a song I love for some poxy campaign or other.

But that’s not what is getting right on my tits at the moment; for a start it’s the fake sincerity of some of the adverts, the ones where they pretend they’re not really after your money, they really care about you.

I’m thinking predominantly of the tag-line which appears on the advertisements or any of the many gambling websites which now exist: “When the fun stops, stop”. This slogan was introduced by the gambling industry-funded responsible betting body Senet Group in 2015, but seems to be more prevalent recently.

And it’s bullshit.

By which I mean, the advice is sound, but do those using it really mean it? Do you really think Paddy of Paddy Power fame really wants you to spend less money with them? Do they heck. They want you to think they care, but of course they just want your money:

Because if everyone who gambles stopped betting the moment “the fun” stops, the gambling sites and bookies’ profits would be drastically reduced. The fun stops the moment you lose money. But those with addiction issues find it near impossible to walk away: play one more hand, and I can win that money back, they convince themselves. And then they lose that, but carry on, now even more desperate, and so on, and so on, until they’re broke, sleeping in a bus shelter and shouting at pigeons (who probably deserve it).

And I say this from personal experience: in my first year at Polytechnic Uni, I became friends with a chap who loved playing quiz machines and fruit machines. I would often stand at his side when he played the quiz machine in the Students Union bar, chipping in with an answer every now and then. And then he would shift to the fruit machine, and a big crowd would gather, because they knew if he was playing it, it was probably going to pay out. And I would play the one next to him, with a considerably smaller crowd (i.e. none) as my pound coins rattled through at a speed that would make Usain Bolt blush, until my pockets were empty. I was so constantly skint during that first year -not to mention thin, my God, I was thin – my parents were convinced that I had taken up guzzling heroin. My mate, however, would finally win the £20 jackpot and walk away. “Are you up?” I would ask; “Broke even, in the end,” he would reply, which is gambler’s code for “No, I lost, but it could have been worse.”

Coming from a screaming leftie, this may sound odd, given the relaxing of the rules about advertising gambling sites and shops on television happened under the last (as opposed to The Last, I hope) Labour government, but they got it wrong and it needs to be redressed.

This idea that companies advertising care about you goes further. During Lockdown #1 you will have seen countless adverts which included webcam footage (not that sort, you mucky pup), of employees of firms, and most of these were banks, it seemed. Unsaid, the message was this: “Look at us. We’re working from home, just like you. We’re the same, you and I. Because we’re so similar, perhaps you should think about maybe giving me some more of your money to look after…?”

As restrictions eased, those same companies and banks changed tack: now it was all about how they were doing their best to help you maintain social distancing should you ever, y’know, fancy popping into one of our stores/banks. Because they understood us and our concerns, they alone know what we want, and wouldn’t you just know it, whatever it was, they had it to sell you at a terribly reasonable price.

The tipping point came, I felt, in an advert I saw recently. Where previously, the effort to sell had been subtle and empathetic, suddenly there was a gear change with an advert which said – much as I did recently (without trying to sell you anything) – that people will be judging where you live when you’re doing your Lockdown #2 Zoom calls, and your kitchen is, frankly, shit, but it’s okay because we’ll sell you another shinier, newer one.

I preferred it when they were trying to be subtle and devious, I think, rather than blatant and exploitative. The only people who should be cashing in on Covid are those companies who have something to contribute to the cause, by which I don’t mean all of those handed contracts by the Government, of course.

It’s around this time of year, of course, that we all moan about Christmas adverts appearing on TV way too early, but I’m not an idiot, I understand the economy needs a massive boost, and purchasing Christmas presents and food and drink and all the rest is probably going to be the shot in the arm needed.

That was until I saw the Tesco ad campaign this week.

The ad shows lots of different people, confessing to their lockdown sins. I wouldn’t normally do this, because it’s a tad contradictory to slag an advert off but then give them free advertising, but I think it’s important that you know what I’m talking about here. So, here you go:

On the face of it, it’s a great idea: 2020 has been an absolute shit-show, so this year Santa isn’t going to be compiling his usual list of people who’ve been naughty and those who’ve been good. No, this year, we’re all absolved of our failings (see Priti, Santa says you’re off the hook too!), so long as we go to Tesco’s to buy our Christmas indulgences.

And it’s has an absolute banger (I was going say pig in blanket, but somehow that seems insulting) of a tune:

So there’s Tesco, encouraging us to visit their stores, and telling us that no matter what we did wrong this year, we’re forgiven.

There’s a flaw in this logic, isn’t there?

Perhaps the soundtrack to the advert should have been this:

Remember folks: there’s no naughty list this year! Fill your boots at Tesco!!

To be honest, the Christmas campaigns could have started in July for all I care because I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry this year, and that’s not the outrage racist Sainsburys shoppers have displayed at the not-as-posh-as-Waitrose supermarket chains’ having the audacity to feature a black family in this year’s advertising campaign…oh wait, not seen this?

OK, well, here’s their advert:

And here’s some of the delightfully enlightened comments left on Sainsbury’s Twitter feed:

There were many, many more, most of which were deleted when the tide of responses, thankfully, turned against them. Still, pretty safe to say that Chris, Chez and Tom are all hoping for a White Christmas. Enjoy shopping at Aldi, who have a much more palatable family of carrots in their adverts.

Anyway, I mean the still unanswered question about where we’re all going to be for Christmas in 2020.

As it stands, Lockdown #2 is due to finish on December 2nd, but the data at the moment is not showing any great improvement. And then you see headlines like this:

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather our PM listened to the experts than battled them. We’ve been here before, of course, with the premature and contradictory easing of restrictions after Lockdown #1.

To me, if the experts say Lockdown #2 has to be extended, and that goes over Christmas, then so be it.

We’re not the most Christian of countries anyway, so Christmas is really just an excuse for families to get together. It can be done later, when things have got better.

I’ve never spent Christmas on my own, but if that’s what we’re told to do, then that’s what I’ll do. But don’t get me wrong: I love my family very much, and there’s nothing I would like more than to be able to go and visit my parents over Christmas. But if the choice is between doing that and possibly finishing them both off, or delaying seeing them for a few more weeks, then I, reluctantly, choose the latter.

Such a dramatic statement requires an equally dramatic soundtrack:

Now, I didn’t want to kick the weekend off with such a downer, so I had intended to include my favourite ever clip using that song. And it turns out it’s this, from Friends, when Joey and Chandler are trying to cope with living apart:

But what I wanted it to be was this, until I realised I had misremembered which song this auditionee was trying to perform: a different one to the one I’ve just posted:

I’m sorry if the mix-up has caused any offence.

More soon.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Parts 1-3

A week is a long time in politics, so the saying goes. And what a week we’ve just had.

First, Joe Biden was announced as the next President of the United States of America, having won control back from tantrum throwing Donald J Trump.

Secondly, in the news that I think we’ve all been waiting for more than anything: a potential vaccine for Covid-19 has been found. Of course, it has been developed by one of those massive pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, so we can expect to be charged an arm and a leg for it: Tim Berners-Lee they most definitely are not.

Now I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but as it happens, I have some experience of Pfizer products. Back in the mid-2000s they manufactured a course of tablets designed to assist people wishing to quit smoking, as I did. I’d heard about this magic pill, asked my GP about it, and he prescribed me some. I was instructed to continue smoking my normal amount everyday for two weeks, taking half of one of the tablets for that same period. Then, stop smoking and increase dosage to take a whole tablet each day. The pill would, so the bumph said, quash the desire to smoke.

I utterly failed to give up as a result, soon sliding back to my bad old ways. To be fair, I don’t think that Pfizer had reckoned with quite how dedicated to smoking I was back then.

One of the reasons I failed to quit on that occasion was because the tablets made me feel really nauseous. Ordinarily, when I’d had a few too many drinks and felt pukey, I rarely reached for a cigarette, so I did wonder if that was the masterplan all along: make the patient feel unwell so they don’t want to smoke.

Shortly after this latest of many falls off the wagon, I decided to give them another go, and returned to my GP to ask for a new prescription, only to be told that they no longer prescribed this course of tablets. He was a little evasive as to the reasons, but I was told by a friend who worked in the NHS that there had been reports of multiple people, almost exclusively men, who had been prescribed the same drugs as I, and who it later transpired were vulnerable in terms of their mental health. Placed on a course of these pills, the rumour went, they either had violent, psychotic episodes or they committed suicide, or both. Although (I hasten to add) no link was formally identified, I gather there sufficient concern to lead GPs to refrain from continuing to prescribe them to anyone.

Now, I am not for one second saying that the Covid vaccine is going to have the same effect, in fact it seems extremely unlikely that it would, given the (anecdotal) history I’ve just outlined. I’m sure we’ve all noticed a much greater focus on people’s mental health during lockdown than I can ever remember happening before, and that’s to be welcomed; but – as with any new drugs rushed on to the market – we need to make sure all testing is done to ensure that there are, if not none, then very limited side-effects.

I guess what I’m saying is we should be cautiously optimistic. Let’s not all go wild and drop our guard: we should continue as I hope you all currently are: wearing our masks, socially distancing, washing our hands, and only leaving our homes for essentials. In other words: don’t get carried away, or, if you prefer, just play it cool :

Speaking of getting Carried away (see what I did there? No? Ok, we’ll come back to this…), thirdly, this:

I wrote in my recent post about the American elections that suddenly both social and the mass media appeared to have developed spines, and this seems to have spread to the UK as on Friday night Prime Minister Honey Monster booted out his right hand man and architect of all things dastardly Dominic Cummings.

I’ll admit that when the kernel of this story first surfaced on Thursday, I assumed it was a No 10 tactic to divert attention away from the most unwelcome news that the UK was the first country in Europe to pass 50,000 Covid-related deaths.

Yey! Go Us! Number 1!! Whoo-hoo!

It seemed such a non-story, a bit of in-house cat-fighting as Lee Cain quit after having his promotion from head of communications to chief of staff was blocked by Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds (OK, now do you see what I did there??).

First things first: who the heck is Lee Cain, and why should we give a monkey’s about him quitting? Well, he was the former Vote Leave campaign official who started out as a tabloid journalist with The Sun. After a short period of employment with The Mirror where he was employed to dress as a chicken to taunt David Cameron (surely a pig would have been better…), he went on to work for the Vote Leave organisation in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum. He was the Head of Broadcast for the successful push to quit the EU, working closely with campaign director Dominic Cummings.

Let’s back up a moment here. I’m sure you noticed it. He worked for (right wing rag) The Sun and the (left wing rag) The Mirror. This is not a man whose CV screams “consistent political allegiance”.

Let’s back up a bit more and just remind ourselves that Vote Leave, under Cummings and Cain’s supervision, were fined £61,000 and referred to police for breaking electoral spending laws.

At this point, I have to say I’ve made my mind up about Cain: he’s a flim-flamming charlatan, a law-breaker, seemingly more interested in progressing his own career than, say, doing what is best for the country. To me, he is absolutely not someone that I would want to have anywhere near power.

Not a view shared by those in actual power, it seems.

Having made the switch into Conservative politics, he then found PR roles at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Spitting Image-puppet made flesh Michael Gove – presumably because he wasn’t one of those ‘experts1 Gove announced we were all so tired of – and very briefly at Downing Street under Dancing Queen Theresa May.  

In 2017 he left to join Johnson as his spokesperson at the Foreign Office. When “Boris” walked out of the cabinet – he’d run out of countries to offend, if memory serves – Cain walked out with him, even working without pay for a short period, telling journalists that “the boss would come good”. What a martyr.

Note: if you can afford to work for a period, no matter how short, without pay, you were probably being paid too much to do the job you left. Just saying.

When Johnson made it to No 10 last July, Cain landed a key job – Head of Communications – in the inner circle. He was identified as the “evil genius” who put his old mate Cummings forward to become the PM’s most senior adviser.

His exit from No 10 followed Allegra Stratton’s appointment as the government’s spokesperson for new White House-style TV briefings. Cain is said to have had a hissy-fit and flounced out several days ago, insisting that he must get the job of Chief of Staff since he would be side-lined on communications by the arrival of Ms Stratton.

In a bid to keep Cain in a job, it was rumoured that Cummings had threatened to go too. And here’s the problem: after Cummings’ infamous drive to Durham, followed by a further drive to check his eyesight when the rest of the country was in Lockdown 1, in the face of popular public opinion, Johnson decided to stand by him. Consequently, the man thought he was bullet-proof.

Much as I love the Poppies, it’s incredible to think that band member Clint Mansell is now one of the most respected film score composers.

But I digress. Now in the middle of Lockdown 2 (“Corona’s Back…and You’re Still Dead”) it all kicked off again on Friday, when Cummings and Cain were summoned to Downing Street to explain themselves, Johnson having evidence – in the form of text messages sent by unidentified whistle-blowers to his partner Carrie Symonds (you’ve got it by now, surely?) – that they were briefing against him.

Who could possibly have foreseen that a pair with histories the likes of Cummings and Cain carried with them would prove to be scheming, duplicitous shits? Budding Iago’s, the pair of them (there, that’s a cultural reference you weren’t expecting!).

Of course, Machiavellian mastermind that he is, Cummings spoke to the press on Thursday night/Friday morning, saying that that it had always been his plan to be become redundant by the end of 2020.

And to support this, he says that he says that he wrote about it on his blog back in January 2020.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we?

You’ll recall that after his little jaunt up to his illegally built farmhouse earlier this year, he gave an interview where he said this: “For years I’ve warned of the dangers of pandemics. Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning.”

But according to Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (which is a lot more credible than it sounds), sometime between 8 April 2020 and 15 April 2020 – just before his trip – Cummings’ 2019 blog on pandemics was updated to include a paragraph on SARS (which, along with Covid-19, is also caused by a coronavirus).

This is also confirmed by the website’s sitemap information. This shows that this particular blog post appears to have been edited on 14 April  2020. Prior to this, his blog made no mention of coronaviruses.

I wonder: has anyone checked whether his statement about wishing to be largely redundant by the end of the year made via his blog wasn’t added at a later date too?

And that’s where we are now: Cummings and Cain both booted out of Number 10 a month or so earlier than they say they intended to leave anyway. It’s like when you got dumped as a teenager, and were desperate to wrestle back control of the narrative: “No, I finished with her…”

Now: why would Cummings and Cain both want to extricate themselves from positions of power within the Government before the end of the year? You got it: because on January 1st 2021, we leave the EU and everything is pointing to that being an absolute shit-show. Nobody is going to buy the Covid excuse that will doubtless be rolled out, because that has been handled so ineptly too. Best you distance yourselves from it, eh lads, just as most of them did after the referendum.

Look, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad he’s finally gone. It’s the first thing Johnson has done in his feeble premiership that I’ve agreed with, as it goes. But I think it’s a case of too little, too late.

I have a nasty feeling that Cummings and Trump will be back, though.

But for now, cautious optimism is recommended.

And at the very least, a chorus of this:

I wish Ray had recorded a song called “Don’t Let The Door Hit Your Arse On The Way Out.”

More soon.