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: