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.