The Prince Is Dead

TV was a bit crap in the UK yesterday, wasn’t it?

Bruce Springsteen – 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

In the past, when a momentous occasion took place, a standard question as to where you were when you heard the news would circulate.

“Where were you when you heard that Kennedy had been assassinated?” they would ask of Vox-Poppers, or “Where were you when the moon landings happened?”. Folks would trip over themselves to try and outdo each other as to what flamboyant act they were engaged in when they heard the news, a bit like the competing Yorkshiremen in that old Monty Python sketch:

(And yes, before any of you get in touch, I’m perfectly aware that the sketch actually pre-dates Monty Python, having first been performed on At Last The 1948 Show.)

This is a question which I think we will see being asked less and less as time goes on, for the answer will almost always be: I was at home, same place as I’ve been for the last XX years.

For the record, I was at home, same place as I’ve been for the last 12 months, when I heard the news. I’d been in what we still feel obliged to refer to as a “virtual meeting” all morning which had, as is the norm, over-ran by an hour or so, and so I was already in a bit of a bad mood as this meant I had missed the TV show which has become my lunchtime staple viewing – Bargain Hunt – and I was pretty sure that meant that it would have inevitably been hosted on this occasion by my favourite presenter (and I suspect also the favourite of many other housebound gentlemen), the lovely posh-but-twinkly Christina Trevillian (*sighs*), as it almost always is when I manage to miss most/all of it (as opposed to the occasions when I catch it from the start and it’s hosted – always – by Anita bloody Manning, who, as with Julia Roberts and Keifer Sutherland, I simply cannot stand to watch. She reminds me of a particularly annoying Little Britain character:)

Anyway. My lunch break was at such a late hour that I realised it would actually correlate with my favourite afternoon TV quiz show, Impossible, which – and you read it here first – I’m pretty sure will one day replace Pointless in the prime, just before the news slot.

But no. There it was: all channels showing what appeared to be the longest news broadcast since Wills and Kate (but not Harry and Meghan, oh no) last dropped a sprog, with everything else for the rest of the day cancelled, unless you wanted to venture onto some of the more unpleasant reality/fly-on-the-wall TV shows, like Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!, which you can tell just from the name is a Channel 5 show. It follows bailiffs High Court Enforcement Officers as they go about their jolly day, catching up with people who haven’t been able to pay a debt, or evicting people from rented properties because the landlord has decided to put the rent up and they can no longer afford to live there.

I was stopped once by a shop assistant in my local supermarket and asked if I was one of said Court Enforcement Officers from the show; I said I wasn’t and had never seen the programme, but caught a bit of it one Sunday afternoon when there was nothing else on. Let’s just say I was not flattered.

But anyway, I digress. Prince Phillip, the Duke Of Edinburgh died yesterday, and we’re all supposed to be in mourning.

Although, the Prince’s favourite show, Babestation, aired as usual, only with the models wearing black armbands as a tribute, I noted when I checked for…er…research purposes.

And of course, whilst it’s very sad that a family has lost a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, it’s news which I think many of us had been expecting for a goodly while now. He was 99 years old, he’d just had an extended stay in hospital after some kind of heart surgery, and, let’s face it, he didn’t look well when he was taken home. This was not exactly a surprise.

Not that I think that knowing someone is likely to pass makes it any easier to deal with their actual passing. I know from my own recent, brutal, experience that no matter how prepared, how steeled you might think you are, when the news comes through it still hits you like a juggernaut and you’re still shattered. There is no escape from grief.

Now, I’m no Royalist, but were we to get a day off work for the funeral then I will happily dress in black and weep into a hanky for as long as it takes. But I imagine they’ll do what they did when Diana was murdered died: pop the funeral on a weekend so the national economy isn’t affected, but the Union Jack and florist industries flourish.

I was living in Cardiff back in 1997, when Diana died, still working in Boots The Chemist selling tights, tampons and panty-liners to the capital’s finest. The funeral was on a Saturday, and we were given the morning off to watch the ceremony and pay our respects. I didn’t watch it, I enjoyed a couple of extra hours in bed.

I actually had the opportunity to meet Diana several years earlier. At the time I was at college, and serving on the Student Union Executive, in my utterly non-political role as Social Secretary. Because my role was non-political, I gained a reputation for fence-sitting or abstaining when it came to votes of a political nature. As far as I saw it, I had not been elected on the basis of any political views I may or may not have held, I was elected on the basis of my ability to organise a good night out for the students. So, I didn’t think it right that my political views should have any bearing on matters.

And then one day the news came in: Diana was going to be visiting the college, to open the recently completed Princess of Wales Sports Centre. Truly the famous quote from Field of Dreams applies here: If you build it, they will come. The Executive were all invited and expected to attend and meet the Princess. And, much to my mother’s horror when I told her many years later, I declined. And I was the only one from the entire, predominantly left-wing, anti-monarchy Student Union Executive to do so. I gained more political traction from that act, as a man who stood by his principles, than I ever wanted, expected, or indeed anything else I did again. Suddenly, I was a hero. For the rest of their time in position, my Executive colleagues had to answer awkward questions about why they went when I didn’t, were they really in their jobs to work for the students, or to promote themselves and further their own careers? It was quite delicious for a while.

Anyway: on the day of Diana’s funeral, my route to work took me through the Roath and Cathays areas of Cardiff where I lived, traditionally quite a studenty area, and as this was late August/early September, there weren’t too many of those youngsters around. In fact, I remember thinking how quiet it was as I walked to work, and I assumed this was because everyone was at home, watching the TV coverage.

My route took me across the usually busy City Road, and then down an alleyway adjacent to a working men’s club. And I swear, no word of a lie, as I walked down that alleyway, I heard this record booming from an open window of the club:

Kool & The Gang – Celebration

A nation in mourning, my arse.

There will, of course, be a funeral. It will, of course, be paid for by you and I, the British taxpayer. It’s not a two-way deal, of course. Don’t expect Her Maj to break open the massive whiskey bottle containing one and two pence shrapnel so she can chip in for your funeral, because that simply won’t happen.

But who should organise it? Well, I think the Royal Family should take a leaf out of the British Government’s Covid-19 Handbook, and see if there are any posh toffs who could do it for them. A cursory look over Dido Harding’s CV shows she has absolutely no experience whatsoever of arranging funerals, so she seems ideally placed to do it, for just several billion pounds over the amount one could realistically expect to be spent on such a showcase event.

Needless to say, there is never a good time for any family to go through the pain and suffering that a bereavement inevitably brings. But it occurred to me that this one could have come at a worse time for the Windsors. For a start, Prince Andrew must be feeling strangely conflicted right now, sad that his father has died, but at the same time relieved there will be an extended period now where nobody accuses him of being a paedophile. I wonder if, since he was withdrawn from public appearances after his disastrous interview with Emily Maitlis, he’ll be allowed to attend the funeral?

But also, you’ll recall the recent Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan, where there was an allegation that a member of the royal family made racist comments about the likely skin colour of the couple’s offspring. From a PR point of view, Philip’s death presents an opportunity to the very least put some more distance between those allegations and any response – today’s newspapers are, after all, tomorrow’s fish’n’chips wrapping. But it also affords the Royals the chance to, for want of a better term, throw somebody under the bus, for many people felt the racist comment could probably be attributed to Philip, solely on the basis that, well, he had form for saying things which could be described as inappropriate at best.

As I mentioned when I wrote about the interview in a previous post, I don’t buy that it was Philip; sure he has a history of gaffes but – and I say this not to condone any of his comments, but to offer an explanation of them – generally when he said something wrong it was intended in jest, or as an “ice-breaker” intended to put a member of the public at rest. That doesn’t make it right, that makes it an old man getting it wrong and saying something inappropriate, and I think we all know someone like that.

The comment mentioned in the Oprah interview came from a much more savage, hurtful place, and my money remains where it did when I wrote that last piece.

*Pops tongue back in cheek*

But there is something racist, something with a whiff of cancel culture about the timing of Prince Philip’s death which will inevitably lead some of the more gullible to seek some kind of conspiracy. And it is this: forever more, when you type “Prince died April” into Google (other search engines are available), you will be faced with a screen or three full of references to Philip. You will need to scroll down quite some way to find any mention of The Greatest Prince, who also died in April – April 21st 2016, to be precise.

This Prince:

Prince & The Revolution – I Would Die 4 U

Equilibrium restored.

*****

Since I drew a comparison with the death of Diana earlier, I can’t resist posting this bit of comedy genius from Stewart Lee:

*****

To sum up: of course I feel empathy for the Royal Family as they mourn the loss of a beloved family member. But do you know who I empathise with more? The South Pacific tribe on the tiny island of Tanna in the Vanuatu archipelago, who saw Prince Philip as a living god. Who should they follow now?

I have a suggestion:

Faithless – God Is a DJ

In completely unrelated news, my latest Friday Night Music Club mix remains available to stream and download over at Soundcloud.

More soon.

Rant O’Clock

You may have missed this, but last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “…Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of Food and Drug Administration restriction.”

The thing is, Melton Mowbray pork pies are not sold in Thailand and Iceland, as confirmed by The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, who probably know what they’re talking about.

The pie currently holds EU protected status, which means that only 10 manufacturers can legitimately claim to produce the most famous of pork pies. Ironically, this protected status will, in all likelihood, be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, leaving the door open for any number of non-UK manufacturers to claim they are the real purveyors of pastry products whilst actually making piss poor parodies of the pork pie, and thereby increase the risk of job losses within our own proud ground pork industry.

“Why are you talking about pork pies, Jez?” I hear you ask. I bet you’re thinking it’s just an excuse to post this:

Well, you’d be wrong.

It’s because, deliciously, Johnson had been caught telling pork pies about pork pies.

Question: How can you tell when Boris Johnson is telling a lie?

Answer: His lips are moving.

As I write this, our undemocratically elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember when Brexit was all about standing up to those pesky, supposedly undemocratically elected EU ministers?) has stepped out of No 10 to make an annoucement, which had widely been expected to be that he was calling an election.

Of course, he said the opposite, and that he really, really doesn’t want to have an election. No: what he wants is to either be able to negotiate a new deal for Brexit with the EU, or failing that, to leave on October 31st without a deal.

That would be a different deal to the one which he voted in favour of at the third time of asking, by the way.

I think what he wants is a little more complicated than that, though.

What I don’t think he wants is to go down in the history books as the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU without a deal, because deep down he knows just how catastrophic that would be for our economy.

And how do we know that a No Deal Brexit is going to be catastrophic? Because today the Goverment launched its campaign to get us all ready to leave the EU at the end of October. It’s called Get Ready for Brexit and is reportedly costing the taxpayer around £100 million. That’s roughly double what the National Lottery spends on advertising in a whole year. Call me a cynic, but you don’t spend that kind of money on something which is going to be as great as leaving the EU was described to us as being in the build-up to the referendum.

The Housemartins – People Get Ready

For example: you’ll recall how former Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was derided for failing to understand the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing? Well, his replacement, Steve Barclay doesn’t seem to be that clued-up either: just last week he tweeted this:

Good idea Steve! Best to do it now, with two months left until the deadline, rather than, say, at any other time in the last three years!

It’s not just the Dover-Calais border which is going to be problematic post-Brexit, of course. The main bone of contention, of course, remains the Irish border, where the back-stop is written into the Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May failed to get through Parliament on three not-very-different-really occasions: Johnson wants it scrapped, but the EU insist that there must be something in place to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Ireland, who will not be leaving the EU anytime soon

The Sunshine Underground – Borders

Johnson insists that he has several viable alternatives up his sleeve – I actually saw one (not credited to Johnson, I must admit) which suggested that the Republic of Ireland should temporarily give up its EU status so that no border checks are required, like the problem was all their making – and he told EU leaders as much when he did a flying visit last week, along with his attendance at the G7 summit. Their unified response was: “Okay, let’s hear them then”. Given that most of these have already been suggested, and dismissed as unworkable, I think we can understand their scepticism.

Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.

So what we have here is the biggest game of chicken you can imagine; Boris doesn’t want us to leave on No Deal, but he believes that to have any kind of leverage with the EU, he has to make them think that we are prepared to walk away without a deal, and that as a result they will make concessions. It’s a case of who’s going to blink first.

But it isn’t simply a case of staring down the EU, for there is – at last – some cross-party unity in trying to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, and there can be little doubt that blocking them was the reason that Boris got the consent from Her Maj last week to close down (prorogue) Parliament in an effort to shut down any opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Don’t forget, that after the recent by-election in Brecon, the Conservative Party has a majority of just one, so he cannot afford any dissention amongst the ranks.

Obviously he didn’t say that was the reason for doing it (although he inadvertently alluded to it a day or so afterwards), because to openly admit it would be accepting that, having banged the drum in the build-up to the EU Referendum in 2016, citing “taking back control” of our sovereign Parliament as one of the main reasons for leaving, it would be rather inconsistent to then close Parliament to prevent it doing the job he claimed he wanted it to do.

It was interesting to note that certain Conservative MPs – Gove, Rudd, Javid, Hancock, Leadsom, Truss, Morgan – who, in the race to become leader of the Tory party, or since, had all been quite out-spoken against and critical about the idea of proroguing Parliament, now, satisfactorily bribed with positions within the Cabinet, were suddenly unavailable to do any press interviews.

I do love someone who uses pop records to make a point. It’ll never catch on though.

What I think Johnson massively underestimated was the outrage which prorogueing Parliament provoked across the country, and the determination of those MPs who wish to prevent No Deal are. For just because Parliament isn’t sitting, there is nothing preventing them from meeting elsewhere, which is exactly what I have read they are doing, the resourceful little scamps.

Over the weekend, there were whispers and rumours that any Conservative MP who rebelled against the Goverment by voting against them would have the whip withdrawn; in other words in the event of an election, they would not be permitted to stand as Conservative MPs. Instead, they would be replaced by a candidate who is fully on board with the party’s position.

And this tells us a lot. It reminds us that all of this has never really been about the EU, that’s just the backdrop against which all of this has been played. It’s never really been about curtailing immigration either, as there’s been nothing stopping us doing so for years had the inclination been there – certainly nothing the EU is insisting on anyway – our governments simply haven’t bothered to implement the rules which the EU have introduced. It hasn’t even been about dodging the EU laws to close tax-avoiding loop holes, although that’s certainly a benefit the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would enjoy.

No, all of this has been about the survival of the Conservative Party, firstly in the face of the challenge from UKIP which led to then-Prime Minister David Cameron (who, allegedly, also had a somewhat unsavoury relationship with pork), and now it is about the challenge from the party which has replaced UKIP, The Brexit Party, led by the same (self-appointed, undemocratically elected to the position of party leader) foe, Nigel Farage.

It’s not just the EU that Boris is trying to out-stare: it’s the whole of the British electorate, or, more specifically, those who are likely to switch from voting Tory to Brexit Party. He needs them to think that his position on the EU is the same if not stronger than theirs, which he hopes will nix any allegiance swapping ideas those pesky pensioners might be having.

And that’s why I think we’re probably going to have an election before the 31st October, whilst Johnson can still maintain the facade that he wants No Deal, and whilst he can point the finger elsewhere: he’s told us he doesn’t want an election and now, if the cross-party conglomerate are succesful in blocking No Deal before Parliament closes, then the finger can be pointed squarely at them.

Whatever happens next, the sad thing is that it’s too late to put all of the division, the hatred, the racism which Brexit has unquestionably stirred up back in the box.

Blondie – Island of Lost Souls

The Adventures – Broken Land

More soon. Undoubtedly.