• 1996-2015: New Statesman Competition Anthology

    Some years ago it was suggested to me that I might make a small book of my (successful and unsuccessful) New Statesman competition entries. Nothing came of the project, but I did prepare a first draft. Entries are arranged by year. Many events referred to are now deservedly forgotten. Adding footnotes to jokes is not a good idea, but I preceded each year with a brief reminder of some of the topics mentioned.


    The Labour Party issued a manifesto entitled ‘New Labour, New Life For Britain’. Labour leader Tony Blair published ‘New Britain : my vision of a youngcountry’. The New Statesman was bought by Geoffrey Robinson MP, who appointed Blairite Ian Hargreaves as editor.

    An update of Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man.

    The Seven Ages of a Labour MP

    At first the student,

    Posing and strutting in the NUS.

    Then the droning speaker, with his briefcase

    And shining Sunday suit, creeping to his

    Selection Committee. And then the loyalist,

    Lying like trooper, with a woeful tirade

    Made to his Leader’s buttocks. Then an MP,

    Full of strange terms, reading from autocue,

    Lacking all honour, shallow and slick in quarrel,

    Seeking the bubble reputation,

    Ever in the camera’s eye. And then the minister,

    In fair round belly with free dinners lined,

    Eyes insincere and clothes of formal cut,

    Full of cheap lies and dodgy evasions;

    And so he makes his pile. The sixth age shifts

    Into the mean and cliché’d veteran,

    With spectacles on nose and perks on side;

    His youthful hopes, long lost, are far too wide

    For his shrunk mind; and his big manly voice,

    Turning again toward childish platitudes,

    Repeats the old slogans. Last scene of all,

    That ends this uneventful history,

    Is Second Chamber, full of mere oblivion,

    Sans teeth, sans brain, sans guts, sans principles.

    * * * * *

    Misleading advice to the new editor of the New Statesman

    The key thing is youth. It’s no good getting new subscribers if they die in six months. NS has to show that it’s ‘with it’, that it’s ‘heard it through the grapevine’, as the song says.

    Songs are important. If you want young readers, we have to talk about pop groups – Showaddywaddy, the Bay City Rollers – the bobby-soxers just call them the Rollers.

    Drugs too; face the issues that Labour ducks. ‘Can reefers damage your sanity?’ Interview a junkie about what it’s like to snort LSD. And premarital sex, trial marriages – a real hot potato.

    You have to talk the right language if you want to be ‘where it’s at’. Be careful; it changes all the time. They aren’t saying ‘gear’ any more. Not this year. Now it’s ‘fantabulous’.

    The book pages are still back with Proust and Joyce. You have to plug into the voice of a generation, talk about cult books. Why not get JD Salinger to cover the US Presidential election – a really fresh perspective?


    * * * * *

    Excerpts from a ‘new’ Shakespeare play.


    The Tragedy of Charles the Third


    Chorus: For now sad Charles unto the throne is come.

    First his drunk grandam fell in a fit and died,

    And then a sennight later his Mother Queen

    Bit by a rabid corgi ran naked through the streets,

    Frothed at the mouth and breathed her last.

    So Charles was crowned; but now the angry mob

    Demand that he be brought to Tyburn tree -

    Such is the curse on all odd-numbered Charles.


    Scene I A heath. Thunder.


    Charles To rule or not to rule, that is the question.

    To suffer the slings and arrows of th’outraged mob,

    Or to take arms against the working class

    And reign as fascist Edward hoped to do.

    Now stray I lonely on the heath,

    Lonelier than Lear, for Lear had his fool;

    There’s none so foolish as to stand by me.

    A Fool! A Fool! My kingdom for a Fool!


    ENTER The Chief Minister, Blair


    Blair Hail Majesty! I humbly kiss your foot

    – Or any other body-part you may present.

    Though all desert, yet will I still stay true.

    Let voters flock to the Republic’s flag,

    None in my party shall of kingship doubt.


    * * * * *

    Assuming Jesus were living today, a modern parable.

    There was a certain rich man, clothed in flashy clothes, who ate sumptuously every day;

    And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who sat at his gate, with no home and no job,

    And sometimes the beggar washed the rich man’s windscreen, receiving crumbs from his table.

    And it came to pass that the rich man died and was carried by the angels into New Abraham’s Bosom; the beggar also died and was buried.

    In hell the beggar lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham afar off, and the rich man in his Bosom (which was like Tuscany all year round, only better).

    And he cried: ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send the rich man, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

    Abraham replied: ‘Son, if he gets the idea you want to increase his water tax, he won’t support the New Kingdom of Heaven at all – then where shall we all be?’

    And Abraham added: ‘By the way, Lazarus, keep the screams down, or you’ll be prosecuted under the Noisy Neighbours Act.’


    * * * * *

    A New Statesman editorial advised: ‘we also need to think in new ways.’ An example of a new way of thinking.

    Old Logic was based on the outdated, nineteenth-century doctrine of Syllogism. But Syllogism will not meet the needs of the modern world. Take an example:

    1. All human beings are fallible;
    2. Tony Blair is a human being;
    3. Therefore

    There is no need to go any further. It is time for Syllogism to be humanely phased out. Our slogan must be: New Labour, New Logic. Armed with New Logic, we can win the coming election. For example:

    1. 76% of the population believe there is a class struggle;
    2. Labour wants to win votes;
    3. Therefore Labour scrupulously avoids all mention of class.

    And New Logic will provide the dynamic for policy-making in government. Thus:

    1. All the evidence shows that putting more people in prison does not reduce crime;
    2. Labour wants to reduce crime;
    3. Therefore Labour will introduce tougher sentencing policy.

    Armed with new logic, our young country can become truly infantile.



    Labour won the general election with a landslide of 418 seats; Tony Blair became prime minister. William Hague became leader of the Conservative Party. After a ten-year libel case, the court ruled that some of the criticisms of McDonald’s made by the ‘McLibel Two’ were valid. At the Tory conference former minister Lord Tebbit claimed multiculturalism was a ‘divisive force in British society’. In October England football fans clashed with police in Rome.

    An example of ideas thrown up by a think tank.

    A Labour government offers the exciting opportunity of transforming public transport. For too long millions of people have travelled in slow, uncomfortable, unhygienic buses. We have to face the fact that the Tories got some things right – and the Tory minister who said that the trouble with buses was sitting next to unpleasant people had it absolutely correct.

    The age of collectivism is over. We need a revolutionary solution that gives every individual her own personal space. The old buses must give way to new, smaller, individually controlled vehicles – ‘microbuses’.

    No more dichotomy between driver and passengers – just another facet of the antiquated class mentality that has no place in twenty-first century thinking. In the microbus every passenger is her own driver.

    Of course, with strict controls on public spending we can’t build new roads (which in any case would be opposed by old-fashioned leftists with no dress sense). This provides an exciting possibility for new communitarian development. Microbuses may be stuck motionless for hours on end – but every driver will have a mobile phone, and be connected to the Internet. Thus a truly novel social practice – neither work nor leisure – can evolve.


    * * * * *

    After the McDonald’s trial, new plans by the company.


    McDonald’s must face the fact that the recent trial has led to considerable loss of public support which must be won back by radical measures.

    Firstly we recommend renaming the company ‘New McDonald’s.’

    But a name is valueless without new content. We carefully considered a switch to vegetarian products only. But that still leaves the firm open to attack for not having broken with its old ways.

    All connection with Food must be humanely phased out. As long as McDonald’s continues to market Food, it will be irrevocably associated with that section of society that is hungry and wants a cheap meal.

    New McDonald’s cannot be seen to be marginalising important social groups like anorexics. It must not forget the Porsche owners who’ve already had a large expense account lunch and don’t need to eat.

    The suggestion that by breaking all links with the hungry McDonald’s will lose its core support must be rejected. Where else would they go?

    Remember the judge said that the proportion of recycled paper used was ‘small’ but ‘significant’. Build on that strength. Packaging without Food is the future for McDonald’s.

    This radical approach worked wonders for another company we advised.

    Mandelson Image Consultancy plc.


    * * * * *

    A new version of a book, with the same title but different content, written in the style of the original.

    The Third Man by Graham Greene

    It was lonely out there on the boundary under the tropical sun. Sweat streamed from his balding scalp and down his podgy face. Two laconic vultures watched him; if he didn’t move soon, they would assume he was a carcass. But with Atherton at the crease there was little chance of movement in this area. In the half-empty stand a drunken member of the Barmy Army played a few notes on the zither. With a leg-break that leapt back like a cobra Warne dismissed Atherton. The stumps tumbled, a reminder of mortality. At least, he thought, in cricket you get two innings. His mind strayed to his mother, to the rosary, the crucifix on the wall, the long years of drunkenness and adultery. Meanwhile Warne took three more wickets. Then Gough swung his bat and the ball rose high in the air, hovering above him like a ripe grapefruit, but slipped through his damp hands, fell to earth and lay still, as though his own innocence had just died. Across the field he could hear Warne’s screamed obscenities, but his mind was filled with a phrase from Pascal, reminding him of the folly of all human endeavour without God.


    * * * * *

    Prose that makes sense with at least one homophone per sentence.

    Lachrymose Charles, known as Prince of wails, went to Greenwich to inspect work on the Dome and beheld a wonderful site. For lunch, he requested venison, but was told it was not meet for him; in fact after budget cuts they couldn’t afford it as it was deer. He insisted that since this was a royal ceremony, it was his rite. His favourite food was venison with fish, and he longed for dinner with hart and sole. But when they served jugged mammal, he tore his hare.

    In his speech he promised to be a sure support and a moral example, a true rock and role model. He denounced the left-wing press, whose criticisms were red. Asked if he intended to get his mistress pregnant, he admitted he dreamt of seeing her bear, but pledged that whatever the pressures he would not seed.

    Growing megalomaniac, he declared he could walk on water – remarkable feet! When he repeated the claim in Paris, it was visible that he was in Seine. He imagined that if he demanded loudly enough, he could obtain any drug, so that by shouting he would get horse.


    * * * * *

    A single acrostic praising a public figure, in which the word spelt out by the first letters directly contradicts what the poem is saying.


    My hero is a man who stands for Good,

    Unshaken by the storms that round him rage.

    Like Powell, TEBBIT too has understood

    The folly of the so-called modern age.


    In youth he was a pilot of the skies,

    Crusader for the kingdom of his birth;

    Up to the heavens did his body rise,

    Low lay his brain upon his native earth.


    The staunch defender of our island home,

    Upholder of a line that never stops;

    Role model for our football fans in Rome,

    As they prepare to maim and kill the wops.


    Like Thatcher’s, his ideals are never vague;

    In his own party’s fight he’ll shed his blood.

    Spurned by the Queen, and even by young Hague,

    My hero is a man who stands for Good.



    Londoners voted in favour of having an elected mayor; Ken Livingstone and Jeffrey Archer announced that they would seek to be candidates for their respective parties. The House of Lords blocked a proposal to reduce the age of consent for gay men to sixteen. The football World Cup was held in France and won by the home country.


    After Tony Blair addressed the French National Assembly in its native tongue, another British politician does likewise.


    Chers amis, cet été la tournoi de la Tasse du Monde aura lieu en France. Mais dans cette Tasse, il ne doit pas y avoir de thé. Le thé doit être interdit, il est très dangereux.

    Beaucoup d’Anglais vont venir en France pour se détendre, pour se mettre à leur aise (comme on dit en anglais, ‘to take their ‘E’s’). Il ne faut pas le leur permettre.

    Surtout, pendant la tournoi, nous ne voulons pas d’herbe. Pas d’herbe dans les stades. Nous voulons éviter la violence. S’il y a de l’herbe sur les terrains de football, les spectateurs seront lapidés.

    Mais il y a encore pire que l’herbe. Il y a le cheval. J’avertis tous ceux qui vont dans la campagne française cet été: si vous prenez l’herbe, vous arriverez bientôt au cheval.

    Nous devons dire: pas de cheval, nulle part en France! De Longchamp à Auteuil, pas un seul cheval en France! Alors vous serez bien obligés de manger le bœuf anglais.

    Finalement, je vous présente les meilleurs vœux de la part de ma collègue Harriet Harman. Elle est complètement d’accord avec moi sur cette question. Voilà pourquoi nous l’appelons notre héroïne.

    * * * * *

    A well-known biblical story retold in a secular style.

    The Ben Elton Show

    Sexual problems. We all have them, ladies and gentlemen, but they aren’t as bad as in the old days. Take Onan. You say Onan to most people, and they say: ‘What a wanker!’ Not a nice way to be remembered, unless you’re Jeffrey Archer. Now Onan wasn’t a wanker. Here’s the real story. Onan had a brother called Er. That was his name. Imagine his Mum: ‘Er, come here!’. Anyway, Er died, and the custom was in those days, the younger brother had to shag the elder brother’s wife. Nobody asked the lady, of course; maybe little brother wasn’t big enough.

    Onan wasn’t too happy, either. He’s shagging away; he thinks ‘No way do I want a baby with my sister-in-law.’ You know what that means. Coitusinterruptus. No coils, no pills, no caps in those days. You’re having a shag; you’re just getting to the bit you’ve been waiting for, and then suddenly – JUMP! OUT! You get your timing wrong, fellows,  there’s a new face for  breakfast. Makes taking a penalty look like a picnic. So whoosh, splash!, all over the carpet. Then just when Onan’s finished mopping up, God strikes him dead. Some people have no luck.

    (Genesis, 38: 1-10)

    * * * * *

    Some new oxymorons.

    Happy Christmas

    Police protection

    British justice

    Christian morality

    Priestly celibacy

    Honest Labour

    Working life

    Road safety

    Blairite principles

    Competent management

    University education

    Economic policy


    * * * * *

    A recipe from a top chef for what people today consider to be ‘cooking’. 


    Wipe bowl with damp sponge. Rip cornflake packet at end marked ‘OPEN OTHER END’. Pour flakes into bowl. Sweep surplus flakes from floor and replace in packet.

    Shake milk carton, holding thumb over aperture to prevent spillage. Estimate contents, then hold under cold tap to make up required volume. Pour on flakes.

    Fill kettle. Switch on electricity. Pour off surplus water to prevent automatic switch-off. Insert long knife into coffee jar and hack at congealed lump adhering to glass until thoroughly powdered. Pour into cup and add boiling water. Do not add milk (see above).

    Take pan. Use knife to remove remaining baked beans. Hold under tap and fill with water. Put on gas cooker. Bring to boil. Pour off excess water and relight gas.

    Take two eggs. Drop one on floor. Leave till later. Put other egg in pan of boiling water. When roughly ninety seconds are estimated to have passed, set watch timer for further two minutes. Remove egg. Detach solidified lump of egg white exuding from crack in shell and eat immediately. Place egg in egg-cup and remove top with unwiped knife, allowing liquid yolk to run onto tablecloth.


    * * * * *

    Business euphemisms for the coming year.

    Higher productivity

    Shut up and get on with your work.


    Dynamic management style

    Snort more cocaine.


    Modern labour relations

    No mass meetings.


    Good relations with the unions

    Whisky for the full-time official.


    Intelligent management

    She can do the Evening Standard junior crossword.


    Boardroom reshuffle

    Stab an old friend in the back.


    Health and safety is the first priority

    It’ll only be a fine.



    A good excuse for just about anything.


    Pursuit of legitimate interests

    Screw the bastards.


    Aggressive marketing strategy

    Nuisance phone calls.


    Facing new challenges

    Sell your shares now.


    A rapidly increasing market

    There’s one born every minute.


    Genuine concern for the environment

    Managers live a long way from the factory.


    Hands-off proprietor

    He’s in jail.


    * * * * *


    Recently the Times carried a piece about a driver cautioned by police after a routine check revealed that he was driving with wellington boots filled with baked beans. The police failed to find out why. A reasonable explanation for the man’s behaviour.

    These two coppers cautioned me; when they’d got the words right they asked me why I’d done it. I said I was a Buddhist; it was part of our Spring ritual. One said: ‘This is a Christian country. Get back where you come from!’

    My family come from Basildon, five generations; who the f*** wants to go back there? But I’d just driven from Thailand, so I was a bit sunburnt.

    Unfortunately they brought in the Inspector, graduate entrant, degree in multiculturalism. He’d looked it up in his book and there was nothing about beans in the Buddhist scriptures. ‘We didn’t introduce tinned beans to India till 1750,’ he smirked.

    I started sobbing. ‘Look, I’m gay. I cover my feet with beans and my friend Quentin licks them off. We got the idea from an Edwin Currie novel, adapted to our tastes.’

    How old’s Quentin?’ they asked. ‘Thirty-nine,’ I said.

    We’ll check. If he’s seventeen and 364 days we’ll have you both.’ They went out chanting: ‘House of Lords! House of Lords!’

    They didn’t spot the condoms full of heroin in my socks. With all these blacks and gays about the Old Bill don’t worry much about criminals.



    NATO intervened to support the Kosovo Liberation Army; this was justified as a ‘humanitarian war’. NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea defended the bombing of civilians in Serbia. In September an opinion poll found that 52% of people thought Tony Blair did not care enough about Labour’s traditional working class supporters. Education Secretary David Blunkett told Labour Party conference that there was a £1 billion programme for investment in linking all schools to the internet. Speculation about the business affairs of Tory Party treasurer Michael Ashcroft led to a libel action against The Times. The House of Lords Act excluded most hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Nick Griffin became leader of the British National Party. Conservative Republican Newt Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House of Representatives. Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones (no relation to actor Griff Rhys-Jones); a few weeks before the wedding The Sun published a topless photograph of Sophie. Andrew Morton published ‘Monica’s Story’, the authorised biography of Monica Lewinsky, who had a relationship with President Clinton.

    A revealing extract from the young life of a famous fictional character.  [NB This long predates the television series Endeavour].


    There was a loud thump on the bedroom door: ‘Turn that bloody noise down, Endeavour, and get on with your homework.’

    Grudgingly, young Morse slightly reduced the volume of Bill Haley. Stupid old sod, he thought. He hated his name. And he hoped he’d never grow old and crabby like his Dad, listening to nothing but tedious Wagner.

    He downed another pint of Tizer, comparing the taste favourably to the beer he had illicitly sampled from his father’s fridge.

    He looked at his watch. 6.52. Then how could it have been his father? At that hour he was always engrossed in the boring Archers. Perhaps his father had adjusted all the clocks and watches in the house. (That would explain why he had been late for school). Or maybe the voice came from one of those new-fangled tape-recorders.

    Another loud thump. He opened the door to see his father, who growled: ‘Turn it down!’ Another unnecessarily complex theory screwed.

    Young Morse turned to his Junior Crossword Book. C-T: domestic animal. He scowled, puzzling. He still had a lot to learn, but one thing was sorted. At this very moment Lewis was doing his homework for him.


    * * * * *

    Inspired by a report of a professor’s tips to parents looking for signs of drug use in their children (he included ‘excessive preoccupation with social issues, race relations, environmental issues etc.’) a letter from an anguished parent detailing symptoms and asking for advice.

    Amanda’s out of control, no respect for authority.

    It started when she claimed the headmaster had raped her. We told her it was all in the imagination, but she wouldn’t let it drop – I think pregnancy unbalanced her.

    Then the house was firebombed. The police explained there was no racial motive; just local youngsters getting carried away with a celebration. As the superintendent pointed out, they’d even painted BNP on the door – for ‘Boisterous New Year Party’. Amanda went on and on about setting up an Anti-Nazi League. I told her it just gave them the publicity they wanted. Did she listen?

    Last week the canal overflowed – we live downstream from a chemicals factory. It isn’t very nice having six inches of sludge over the living-room floor; but they’ve told us it’s just till work on the Jubilee Line is finished. Amanda’s going nagnagnag about demonstrations and suing the Council. She’s upsetting me, I think that’s why I’ve got rashes everywhere. The doctor’s doubled my Valium. I used to be able to get to sleep after half a bottle of whisky. Now I lie awake worrying if Amanda’s like this because she’s on drugs.


    * * * * *

    Dialogue between a marriage guidance counsellor and any figure, current or historical.

    A hospital. Mrs Gingrich is wheeled in unconscious. Enter Newt Gingrich, followed by marriage counsellor. He thrusts a sheaf of papers into her hand.

    Newt:  Hi honey; hope you’re feeling better. Could you sign there? Make it quick. I have a meeting in twenty minutes.

    Mrs G : Ugh. Ugh.

    Newt:  Honey, it’s the divorce. We discussed it.

    Mrs G Ugh. Er.

    Newt: D.I.V.O.R.C.E. Like in Tammy Wynette.

    Counsellor: She’s recovering from a major cancer operation. Give her time.

    Newt: Listen.. This country’s facing a major cancer, the cancer of liberalism and permissiveness. There’s no time to waste.

    Counsellor: Show some compassion.

    Newt: I’ve got to attend a Committee for the Reassertion of Christian Values. I’ve no time for compassion.

    Counsellor: Why is it so urgent?

    Newt: Do you realise the President of this country is a notorious adulterer? I have to defend family values. This lady makes all the difference between adultery and a bit of innocent fornication.

    Mrs G: (wakes) All right, I’ll sign. (She does so. Newt leaves.)

    Counsellor: That was an awful ordeal for you.

    Mrs G: No, I’m fine. I got rid of two noxious parasites in one day.

    (PS: This is – allegedly – a true story.)


    Counsellor:     Would you like some coffee?

    Jagger:            (nods) Brown Sugar.

    Counsellor:     What problem do you have with your wife?

    Jagger:            I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.

    Counsellor:     Have things always been like this?

    Jagger:            She Was Hot.

    Counsellor:     But things have deteriorated?

    Jagger:            She’s So Cold.

    Counsellor:     And do you think there’s any prospect of reconciliation?

    Jagger:            Come On!

    Hall:                Don’t put all the blame on me. Who was the last woman you slept with? And when?

    Jagger:            Ruby. Tuesday.

    Counsellor:     You do realise you are causing your wife great mental distress?

    Jagger:            (shrugs) Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown.

    Counsellor:     (to Hall) Perhaps other members of your family could help.

    Jagger:            Have You Seen Your Mother?

    Hall:                Let’s stop messing about. I want a lot of money out of you.

    Jagger:            Get Off Of My Cloud.

    Counsellor:     We really should make an effort to try and save this marriage. Don’t either of you think it has any future?

    Hall:                And don’t say ‘It’s all Over Now’. It’s so corny. (She walks out).

    Jagger:            (to Counsellor) Let’s Spend The Night Together.


    * * * * *

    Richard Ingrams wondered how long it will take before Internet Anonymous is founded to help addicts. A scene from a meeting of IA. 

    (An addict tells the meeting his story.) ‘I never had a proper childhood. I was only eight when I started. I should have said ‘No’, but the pushers were persuasive – and frightening. There was a vicious brute called Blunkett, with a dog that bit your ankles if you didn’t log on.

    His boss was Blair, who boasted he’d get the Internet into every primary school in the country. If Blair snapped his fingers, he’d roll over on his back – Blunkett, that is, not the dog.

    Kids should be getting healthy exercise – a brisk stroll  down the off-licence for a few cans of lager. Instead I was getting hooked on Internet shopping and home delivery. Teenagers should be developing social skills and finding out about the opposite sex. When I should have been lying my way into over-18 movies, I was downloading porn. When I could have been in a warm, smoky bar, putting back a few pints, I was in a bleak schoolroom, searching for a list of all the real-ale pubs in South Wales.

    They should bring back hanging for men like Blair and Blunkett.’


    * * * * *

    An extract from a Mills & Boon novel featuring a well-known member of the Labour Party. 

    The chauffeur-driven Jaguar drew to a halt. Toni contemplated the mansion, silhouetted against the deep blue evening sky. So this was Rupert’s home! Its sheer size, the magnificence of the architecture left her stunned. This would be  something to tell Clare and Harriet about.

    She couldn’t help remembering Peter’s shabby, cramped little house in Notting Hill. What a contrast! She was not a snob; deep down she believed that, in a peculiar way that had nothing to do with wealth or possessions, all human beings were equal. But now she knew that Peter was banished from her life for ever. Rupert would always be her one true love, and she would submit to his every demand.

    She cast an eye over the valuable Chinese treasures that adorned the entrance. But Rupert led her straight upstairs; this was the magic moment when she would become wholly his possession.

    Rupert preceded her up the magnificent staircase. He was a tall, powerfully built man, and she found directly in front of her face that part of his splendid anatomy that had always held the most attraction for her. As she followed him, her tongue quivered with a little frisson of delightful anticipation.


    * * * * *

    A poem on Sophie (bride of Prince Edward). 

    As Ted and Sophie marry,

    The nation’s hopes will rise,

    That this young couple could be

    The new Morecambe and Wise.


    Ted would be the straight man

    - He’s such a boring bloke;

    But surely sparkling Sophie

    Knows how to tell a joke.


    Alas! One ribald picture

    Has made her sulk and cry;

    She’s paid to entertain us,

    But she won’t even try.


    So if I were Prince Edward

    - And that’s a great big ‘if’-

    I wouldn’t marry Sophie;

    I’d sooner marry Griff.


    * * * * *

    With the benefit of hindsight these were alarming signs of a twisted mind at work’ (The Times). A twisted mind seen with hindsight.

    I know now I should have been suspicious from the start. I suppose I was flattered. She was a smart lass, good clothes, nicely spoken, way out of my class. But she did really talk as if she liked me. And she doted on my whippets and pigeons. When she said my cloth cap was chic I thought she was having a laugh; but she swore blind she meant it.

    Then  she was always asking funny questions. How about the  minimum wage – I only wished my boss would pay it. And the way she kept on about single mothers, I thought she must be up the stick.

    I should have seen what was coming. One night she kept trying to get me to drink French wine. I’ve drunk Tetley’s bitter all my life, and that foreign stuff goes to my head. I shudder now when I think how close I came to doing something I’d always regret. Luckily, I’d kept my wits about me and I spotted what was going on just in time.

    She wanted to sign me up to the Labour Party (winning back traditional core supporters, she called it). You can’t get more twisted than that.



    * * * * *

    Given his ability to empathise with his subjects, an extract from Andrew Morton’s biography of Prince Charles.

    When I say Charles came from a poor home the term should not be taken too literally. Yet there was much in his childhood that would have been unknown to one raised in the genteel end of Islington – the father who put sporting fixtures before family, the gin-sodden granny with mounting gambling debts, the visiting aunt with her raucous xenophobic tirades.

    At puberty, Charles developed opinions. This was a genetic freak, since on available evidence his mother did not have a single opinion in fifty years of marriage. At fourteen Charles was having multiple opinions. A middle-class youth would have gone to the pub and, as soon as he began speaking of architecture or Britain’s role in the world, would have been told ‘Shut yer bleeding mouth!’ Charles, surrounded by narrow-minded sycophants, got no such neighbourly guidance.

    As Charles began to realise he was not as other boys, his deprived home life became more repressive. He could not ‘come out’; his was the condition that dared not speak its name. Though the word was in everyone’s mind, nobody in that blinkered milieu breathed the word that could have enabled him to come to terms with his identity – ‘buffoon’.



    * * * * *

    Geoffrey Wheatcroft recently wrote: ‘Good writers have always been open to widely differing readings and interpretations.’ Two contrasting interpretations of a great writer.

    Mr Homer gives a splendid account of a just war, launched by the united Greek forces after outrageous human rights abuses by the Priam government. He shows clearly that deaths of Trojan civilians were accidents, whereas Trojan atrocities were intentional. Unfortunately he makes too much of the minor disagreement between Achilles and Agamemnon, instead of stressing the unity of the Greek forces. The war reached a successful conclusion with the straightforward and honest use of the wooden horse. Admittedly, Odysseus suffered minor delays on his homeward journey, but arrived safely to discover that subversive rumours about Penelope were entirely false.


    Homer gives an uncritical account of the war from the standpoint of the Greek apologists who have dominated our schools and universities for the last six hundred years. In fact the Greek war machine deliberately escalated a minor domestic quarrel. They promised victory within a few weeks, but the conflict dragged on for ten years. Homer glosses over the disgraceful deception of the wooden horse; it was to be centuries before Virgil gave us the full details. As for Odysseus’ disastrous journey home, Homer attributes it to mere misfortune, when it is clear he was using an out-of-date map.



    * * * * *

    A plausible-sounding character reference for a fictional villain.

    I have been a friend and business associate of Mr Macheath for thirty years and I must speak out against the campaign of lies launched against him.

    To begin with the much-discussed question of the knife, and the silly nickname foisted on him by the press. Mr Macheath does carry a small penknife, suitable for sharpening pencils. To suggest that this is an offensive weapon, a ‘jack-knife’, is political correctness run mad. Comparisons with shark’s teeth are pure fantasy.

    That ‘someone’ was seen ‘sneaking round the corner’ may well be true; but nobody has produced any proof that that person was Mr Macheath. As for the disappearance of Mr Louis Miller, this is a domestic matter and Mrs Miller will be making a statement shortly.

    The whole campaign, based on innuendo and rhetorical questions, has been launched by a Mr Brecht, a known Communist sympathiser, belonging to the theatrical profession. His associates in slander are also ‘entertainers’, notably the jazz musician Mr Louis Armstrong.

    There is not a stain on Mr Macheath’s character. In the – purely hypothetical – event of the post of treasurer of the Conservative Party becoming vacant, he would be an ideal candidate.


    * * * * *

    What is an oik? And how does an oik relate to a yobbo?

    In our vital task of regaining the core vote, we shall, unfortunately, have to encounter people of the sort one wouldn’t want to invite to a dinner party. However, it is crucial not to see these as an undifferentiated mass of scum, but to distinguish clearly between oiks and yobbos.

    1. Yobbos drive big cars and don’t care who they knock down.
    2. Oiks want to ‘reclaim the streets’ and might scratch your Porsche.
    3. Yobbos sit in McDonalds all day.
    4. Oiks vandalise scientific trials of GM crops.
    5. Yobbos shout their mouths off about asylum-seekers.
    6. Oiks join the Anti-Nazi League hoping to punch up a few fascists.
    7. Yobbos make grossly sexist remarks about women.
    8. Oiks think women have as much right to be violent as men. (A lot of oiks are women.)

    Remember John Prescott is a yobbo but Denis Skinner is an oik. (Tony Benn’s an oik too, but a nicely-spoken one.)

    Yobbos are our natural supporters; we take their prejudices seriously. You wouldn’t want them actually to attend a focus group, but their views should be constantly referred to. Oiks have no place in a modern Labour Party.


    * * * * *

    Some new GM foods.

    In-gene-ious Foods bring you their new catalogue, for your added pleasure and convenience:

    1* New trials with GM crops have produced the ideal cornflake – it goes soggy before you pour the milk on.

    Genetic engineering on our dairy herd allows us to produce milk with variable relative density for different purposes:

    2* Special light butter; if you drop buttered toast on your new carpet we guarantee it lands dry side down;

    3* New heavy yoghurt; nothing sticks to the foil top, so no time wasted licking.

    Last year we brought you news of how genetic material from pigs had been inserted into sheep so that when the lamb is slaughtered its liver is already topped with delicious slices of streaky bacon.

    4* Now there is a new refinement, based on the introduction of hedgehog genes. No need to pierce the film lid before you put it in the oven – the meat will do that automatically from inside.

    5* Finally we have succeeded in modifying livestock with genetic material from the notorious flesh-eating bug. No more laborious chewing – even the rarest steak will eat itself.

    So buy In-gene-ious Foods. Remember what the old song says: ‘Goodbye normal genes’.


    * * * * *

    Now that the class war is finally over (according to T Blair in 1999), the musings of a foot soldier returning home from the battlefield after the announcement of the ceasefire.

    I remember the dark days in the 1940s, when the Few stood alone. It was terrifying when they came over the top; with their gleaming false teeth and new spectacles, they were like supermen. And there was General Bevan taunting us and calling us ‘vermin’.

    But we held on. Years and years of bitter trench warfare. And slowly we gained ground, often fighting weeks for a few yards. Our strategy paid off when we went for the economic infrastructure. We regained control of the railways, the telephone system, the electricity supply; the coal-mines were destroyed. Of course some hospitals and schools were hit, but that was accidental – just collateral damage. .

    But it was still touch and go till the 1990s (they always had the advantage of numbers over us). It was only when General Blair and all his people defected and came over that they realised they were beaten. Admiral Prescott, who led the fleet against us back in ’66, said he was proud to be one of us.

    So now an old soldier can relax, sit back and watch the television … God! What’s that? Jubilee Line electricians on strike! Fords Dagenham balloting! Where’s my bloody rifle?


    * * * * *

    Ian Hargreaves wrote ‘journalists never know when to admit they don’t have the answer’. A piece of writing by a journalist who is obviously floundering.


    The disgraceful news that French livestock are being fed on sewage once again brings home the dangers of letting ourselves come under European control.

    You only have to look at a field full of decent, healthy, contented English cows to know they are being fed on … the proper diet.

    After all, everybody knows what cows ought to be fed on. There’s no need to spell it out. Cows have been eating it throughout our thousand-year history. So clearly it can’t be anything that does them any harm.

    We don’t need the so-called experts to tell us that bit of information. We don’t need them to tell us whether cows are vegetarians or not – as the case may be.

    Look at it this way; you wouldn’t put a load of ‘human and animal waste’ on your lawn and expect it to grow green and wholesome. The place for that sort of thing is the sea.

    Ask even the youngest children in an English village – the true heart of our rural heritage – and they’ll know what the right food for cows is, just as they know that if you want milk you have to pull their tails.


    * * * * *

    To commemorate the passing of the hereditary peers in the Lords, a reference for one of them seeking a new job.


    Dear Professor,

    I’ve known Lord Snooty many years and can recommend him as a thoroughly good chap. He should fit in well at the University of Mid-Wiltshire (isn’t that the old Tech? We used to send the farm-boys there on day release). Constitutional History is very much his thing; he’s been mugging it up for months, hoping to make his Great Farewell Speech (he didn’t give it; too many other chaps had the same idea). His real strength is in the earlier period; he feels things have never been the same since Cromwell.

    I gather he’s expected to lecture six hours a week. Old Snooty has only spoken three times in the last twenty years, so he might find the pace a bit tough. He may be lax about students sleeping in lectures; throwing bits of chalk at colleagues isn’t the done thing in the Lords.

    I observe the University has an Equal Opportunities policy. Snooty has felt very strongly about the rights of the disabled for at least the last fortnight.

    There are no health problems, apart from a spot of hereditary syphilis (from Agincourt, the same time as the title). He’ll make a splendid addition to your staff.


    * * * * *

    The desire to be a leader is nearly always a sign of psychological disturbance.’ Could we have an excerpt from Radio 4’s In the Psychiatrist’s Chair with a well-known leader revealing worrying signs of a hitherto unsuspected mental illness.


    Psychiatrist: Mr Hague, how do you view your leadership of the Conservative Party?

    Hague: I have a historic mission to fulfil.

    Psychiatrist: Don’t you worry about the opposition?

    Hague: A whiff of grapeshot will disperse them.

    Psychiatrist: Can you find a slogan to unite the party?

    Hague: Not in Europe but over Europe.

    Psychiatrist: People say your style is too imperious.

    Hague: Imperial is the word I’d use.

    Psychiatrist: Even in your childhood you were said to be bossy.

    Hague: True. Back home in Corsica…I mean Yorkshire, I was known as the ‘little corporal’.

    Psychiatrist: How does this work domestically? Who decides how you spend your evenings?

    Hague: Most nights it’s up to Josie… Ffion. But not tonight.

    Psychiatrist: Now for foreign affairs; what’s your policy towards Russia?

    Hague: Global warming has been a great help; there’ll be much less snow than last time.

    Psychiatrist: And what’s your favourite Abba song?

    Hague: Well, it’s not Waterloo, I promise you.

    Psychiatrist: To sum up, you’re confident you’re able to do the job?

    Hague: Able was I ere I saw Elba.

    Psychiatrist: You don’t think you’re suffering from any delusions?

    Hague: None at all. I’ve never imagined I’m Margaret Thatcher.



    BMW sold the bulk of the Rover Group to the Phoenix Consortium. Protesters blocked the entrances to oil refineries in protest against high fuel prices; panic buying by motorists led to nationwide petrol shortages. May Day demonstration in central London by anti-capitalist protestors. The Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act made available court-ordered electronically monitored curfews.


    An extract from a suspenseful thriller in which there are at least five pieces of boring information.  [NB – the five items are all taken from the New Statesman.]

    The small man sat inconspicuously in the public gallery of the Commons. Below, speaking, was Clive Soley, who, Paul Routledge claims, may soon be challenged as PLP chairman. From his pocket he took what looked like a large, ornate fountain-pen, but actually was a deadly laser gun. The Jackal – for it was he – consulted his watch. Four minutes! He gazed nervously around, seeing in the press gallery Jon Sopel, listed by Charlie Whelan at 10-1 for BBC political editor. A security guard stared at him for what seemed an eternity, then turned away. Blair was replying to Michael Ancram who, Simon Heffer believes, lacks the coolness and intellect to be party chairman. Twenty seconds to go … fifteen … ten. The doors at the back of the gallery opened. Two SAS men closed on the Jackal, but as they reached him Blair’s head exploded; blood and brains cascaded, covering Gordon Brown, who according to Steve Richards does not believe that recent weeks have seen a substantial mood change in favour of higher taxation. His lifeless corpse slumped along the front bench, falling across Mo Mowlam, who, Richards reports, would have much preferred the Department of Health.


    * * * * *

    Ken Livingstone said: ‘I’ve met serial killers and professional assassins and nobody scared me as much as Mrs Thatcher.’ A rewrite of a famous thriller in which this frightening figure makes an appearance.

    A long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. I thought it was a hound howling, till I deciphered the words: ‘Enemy within; enemy within’.

    Looking towards Grimpen Mire, we saw her. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.

    The howl became a vicious bark: ‘Argy! Argy!’ With staring eyes and flailing finger-nails she bounded towards us; I could smell the gin on her breath, when Holmes drew his revolver and emptied five barrels into her flank.

    She lay there, gaunt, savage, large as a lioness. Even in the stillness of death her cruel eyes were ringed with fire. Holmes touched her face and his own fingers gleamed. ‘Phosphorus,’ he said, ‘no wonder the ignorant folk of the countryside were taken in.’

    That evening Holmes was in sombre mood. ‘The monster is gone, but she whelped before she died. The son is a very different creature – he looks more like a young deer than a dog. But the same murder’s in the blood. There’s more deviltry to come.’


    * * * * *

    The first lines of a well-known novel changed to make the rest of the book unnecessary.

    D Dumaurier, Rebecca

    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again; I must stop eating cheese for supper.


    J Austen, Pride and Prejudice

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, unless, like Charles Bingley, he is a well-known gay activist.


    A Camus, The Outsider

    Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday. She’s left me half a million, so I’m moving somewhere cooler.


    J Joyce,  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and the moocow was a moobull which gored baby tuckoo…


    V Woolf, To the Lighthouse

    Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow,’ said Mrs Ramsay. ‘Don’t want go boring lighthouse,’ screamed James. ‘Want go Disneyland.’


    G Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen as the electronically tagged Winston Smith was arrested and instantly executed.


    L Carroll,  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: so she went home to play with her Pokémon cards.


    F Kafka, Metamorphosis

    As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic squashed insect.


    A Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

    Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table and greeted me with the news that Sir Charles Baskerville had been at the LSD again.


    The Book of Genesis

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and God said: ‘I can’t be arsed to fix the lighting.’


    C Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or whatever.


    J Joyce, Finnegans wake

    riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay (ohfucknotagain).


    FKafka, The Trial

    Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning, but fortunately he could afford a good lawyer.


    DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. Hence after two months on Viagra, Clifford Chatterley was quite his old self.


    * * * * *

    Shakespeare adapted by WS Gilbert.


    In his castle in Elsinore once a young Dane

    Said: ‘To be? Not to be? Tough question.

    It’s a tricky old problem that’s racking my brain;

    I ask: ‘To be? Not to be? Tough question.’

    Should I suffer the arrows that fate shoots at me,

    Or stand up against troubles as vast as the sea

    And then end them by putting an end to poor me?

    Oh to be? Not to be? Tough question.’


    So he pondered his choice as he paced round the room,

    Saying: ‘To be? Not to be? Tough question.

    Do you wonder that I’m lost in tragic deep gloom,

    Asking: “To be? Not to be? Tough question”?

    To be free of life’s torment is better, I deem;

    But the rub is that things may not be as they seem;

    In the sleep of the grave we may still chance to dream;

    Oh to be? Not to be? Tough question.’


    As his girl-friend Ophelia came in at the door,

    He said: ‘To be? Not to be? Tough question.

    I can’t handle Time’s whips and its scorns any more,

    So it’s: “To be? Not to be? Tough question”.

    I’d be glad to get rid of this sad mortal coil,

    But the afterlife threatens our prospects to spoil;

    So we have to put up with the sweat and the toil;

    Oh to be? Not to be? Tough question.’


    Titwillow/The Mikado/Hamlet




    King Henry    When a poor man’s not engaged in his employment -

    All                   His employment

    King Henry    He doesn’t find it hard to get to sleep -

    All                   Get to sleep;

    King Henry    But a king’s denied such innocent enjoyment -

    All                   -Cent enjoyment

    King Henry    It really is enough to make you weep -

    All                   Make you weep.

    King Henry    The head that wears the crown will lie uneasy -

    All                   Lie uneasy,

    King Henry    As he thinks about the ruling to be done -

    All                   To be done;

    King Henry    Responsibility will make him queasy -

    All                   Make him queasy,

    King Henry    For a monarch’s lot is not a happy one -

    All                   Happy one!

    King Henry    As he thinks about the ruling to be done -

    All                   To be done,

    King Henry    A monarch’s lot is not a happy one -

    All                   Happy one!


    King Henry    When the ship-boy’s perched high up amid the rigging -

    All                   - Mid the rigging,

    King Henry    He doesn’t find it hard a nap to take -

    All                   Nap to take,

    King Henry    Even though the captain may give him a wigging -

    All                   Him a wigging;

    King Henry    So why, oh why, am I still wide awake? -

    All                   Wide awake?

    King Henry    Now Falstaff down the brothel is a-drinking -

    All                   Is a-drinking,

    King Henry    And scrounging pints of ale from my royal son -

    All                   Royal son;

    King Henry    Meanwhile down into the grave I am a-sinking -

    All                   Am a-sinking;

    King Henry    For a monarch’s lot is not a happy one -

    All                   Happy one!

    King Henry    As he thinks about the ruling to be done -

    All                   To be done,

    King Henry    A monarch’s lot is not a happy one -

    All                   Happy one!


    Pirates of Penzance/Henry IV Part II


    * * * * *

    So gardening is the new rock ‘n roll, according to one TV critic. Well-known rock songs suitably altered.

    (Tune: Rock Around the Clock)

    When the clock strikes one,

    Join me hon,

    We’ll mow the lawn

    When the clock strokes one.

    We’re going to cultivate our plot tonight,

    We’re going to dig, hoe, weed both day and night,

    We’re going to dig, we’re going to weed around the clock tonight.


    When the clock strikes two,

    Three and four,

    We’ll be pulling up weeds

    Cos there’s always more.

    We’re going to cultivate etc.


    When the clock strikes five,

    Six and seven,

    Good manure

    Is the soil’s best leaven

    We’re going to cultivate etc.


    Eight, nine ten,

    Eleven too:

    Will this tedious toil

    Ever be through?

    We’re going to cultivate etc.


    When the clock strikes twelve,

    We’ll down tools then;

    Next week the same

    Damn job again.

    We’re going to cultivate etc.



    (Tune: Heartbreak Hotel)


    Now since my baby left me

    I’ve found a place to forget her;

    It’s down at the end of Laburnum Grove,

    It’s called the Garden Centre:

    Oh God! It’s so boring, baby,

    It’s so boring,

    It’s so boring, I could cry.


    Although your garden’s crowded,

    You still can find some room

    For some more hardy annuals

    Cos it’s a consumer boom:

    Oh God! It’s so boring, baby,

    It’s so boring,

    It’s so boring, I could cry.


    Some people buying mowers,

    So they can mow their lawn;

    Some people killing greenfly

    That should never have ever been born:

    Oh God! It’s so boring, baby,

    It’s so boring,

    It’s so boring, I could cry.


    Some people lie in hammocks,

    A very nice way to relax;

    Some people keep on weeding,

    They’ll damage, they’ll damage their backs:

    Oh God! It’s so boring, baby,

    It’s so boring,

    It’s so boring, I could cry.



    * * * * *

    The government wants schools to promote marriage as A Good Thing. A description of the wonderful institution.


    From: Jack Straw

    To: David Blunkett

    May I wholeheartedly urge you to maintain your insistence on the teaching of the positive values of marriage. Recent Home Office figures show that no less than seventy-six per cent of all murders take place between marriage partners, or involve the children of married parents. If marriage were to fall into disuse, then murder figures would fall to negligible proportions. Large numbers of police officers, judges and prison warders would become redundant. (By the way, the greatest number of murders occur at Christmas; Diwali and Hanukkah have nothing like the same impact; so go easy on multiculturalism). Moreover, a major element in British culture would be undermined. No more Ruth Rendell, no more Colin Dexter.

    Over half of all marriages end in divorce. Without marriage, no divorce, and unemployment for thousands of lawyers, court officials and marriage guidance counsellors. Add on inheritance disputes and child abuse and we’re looking at economic disaster. The closing-down of marriage would make Rover look like a vicar’s tea-party.



    * * * * *

    A contemporary Jonathan Swift visits Monomania, giving a description of the obsessions of its 21st century inhabitants.

    The inhabitants of Monomania make their various journeys, even the shortest and most trivial, in vehicles known in their language as mo-tors. The etymology of this word implies motion; yet the mo-tors are so many, and so big (prestige in this island requiring that a vehicle be as large as possible), that they move but little, for most of the day sitting motionless in the road, producing such vapours as have made the climate go utterly awry.

    There are vehicles known as bu-ses, scarcely bigger than three mo-tors, which can hold upwards of sixty persons. But only the poorest and most miserable travel upon them, and these are openly derided as ‘losers’.

    Recently many workshops which manufacture mo-tors have been closed – with much loss of employment – so that they may be made more cheaply, and hence in ever greater numbers, elsewhere.

    A great many labourers are employed painting yellow and red lines on the roadways; for according to a belief widely held, these have a magical power to make the mo-tors move more quickly. One sage recently proposed that bu-ses should admit passengers gratis, to encourage them to abandon their mo-tors. He has been committed to an asylum.


    * * * * *

    Due to a newspaper staff shortage, back-page (i.e. sports) reporters have to double up and write the front-page news stories.


    At last the final National Health Service League Tables have been published. What a cliff-hanger! Calculated according to the notorious Duckworth-Lewis formula, these show the ratio of deaths to admissions for each hospital. At the top of the table South Middlesex Hospital are leading St James Infirmary by just 0.01 per thousand!

    Both institutions are now making feverish preparations for the new season, when once again they expect to be fighting it out at the top of the table. South Middlesex manager Alex Clough is concentrating on plugging dangerous gaps in defence. Seven new life support machines are being purchased, at a cost of £14 million. After all, as he points out, if someone in a vegetative state is kept technically alive for just five minutes after the deadline, it can mean precious points.

    Meanwhile at St James, manager Jackie Ferguson is looking to strengthen his attack. Negotiations are currently in progress for the purchase of legendary oncologist Eric Gascoigne from Holby City, at a possible fee of £20 million. As Sir Jackie says, it’s successful operations that win the Championship. He has high hopes of combining triumph in the League with victory in the Worthington Waiting List Cup.


    * * * * *

    A weighty newspaper editorial, the more cliché-ridden the better.

    Drugs are a question on which it is easy to be high and mighty. But it will not do to say: Out of sight, out of mind. Marijuana may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will not simply go up in smoke. Some people are impressed by the Netherlands experience, but that may be a case of the grass being greener on the other side. As for those who say cannabis is less dangerous than coffee, that is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. What is needed is a joint response from the government and the private sector.

    This is a matter of some substance. As far as amphetamines are concerned we may be making good speed, but ignorance is bliss regarding ecstasy. The taking of cocaine is not something to be sneezed at; if we are not careful the crack of doom may be in sight. As for LSD, that will surely provide the acid test.

    Heroin is a horse of another colour. A false move on this could lead to a smack in the eye. But a new policy would be a real shot in the arm. It could be quite a hit.


    * * * * *

    Two well-known comedians are Prime Minister and Opposition leader. Cut and thrust from PM’s Questions please.

    Tony Hancock (leader of opposition): Well then Sid, my old friend, what plan have you got now to make us all rich?

    Sid James (prime minister): Listen to this one, Hancock, this will really set us up for life.

    Hancock: Let’s be hearing it then.

    James: Well, you know how rich all the frogs and Krauts are. You go down Monte Carlo and just have a look at them with their jewellery and their wads of notes. You don’t get nothing like that down Southend.

    Hancock: Indeed. We English are too honest for own good.

    James: Too bloody right. So all we need is to join in with them. Start using the same money as them and we’ll be as rich as they are.

    Hancock: And how exactly do we do that?

    James: Simple. We join the Single European Currency, give up the pound, and Bob’s your uncle!

    Hancock: Give up the pound! Give up the pound! Are you seriously suggesting we put our money in dinars and shekels and whatever those Johnny Foreigners use to buy a packet of fags with?

    James: Well, if you don’t want to be a millionaire.

    Hancock: Everything has its price. I, Antony Aloysius ’Ancock hereby pledge to the British people, that not within the lifetime of this parliament (strains of Land of Hope and Glory) shall we ever surrender the pound. It was not for this that we fought at Stalingrad and at Montreal. Britons never shall be slaves.



    In January Peter Mandelson resigned from the government for a second time, following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application. In the general election the Labour Party was returned with another landslide result, only suffering a net loss of five seats. Estelle Morris became Secretary of State for Education and Skills, resigning the following year. On 11 September airliners hijacked by Al-Qaeda flew into the World Trade Centre in New York, killing around 3000 people. In October the US and Britain invaded Afghanistan. The Enron scandal, revealed in October 2001, led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history to date.


    An extract from the diary of the partner of a famous person that posthumously alters our view of their character and role in history.

    Mamma mia! People think if you’re married to the Duce, it’s ravioli all the way. But when you see him at home, it’s not like he is in public. Today he got another new car. (My maid Carla tells me the partisans call him ‘two-Fiats’, but I daren’t repeat it to him.) He keeps asking how fast will she go, will she do 200 an hour. ‘I’ll show Hitler what his Autobahnen are for’, he shouts. Then he turns on poor old Giuseppe, his driver, and screams: ‘Will we be there by twelve? You’re in jail if we’re not.’ Of course, he pretends it’s all for me; he says he wants me to go by car because I’ve just had my hair done. But all he really cares about is his car, his chauffeur. He doesn’t give a f*** whether the trains run on time.


    * * * * *

    Updated warnings for the modern child in the style of Hilaire Belloc.




    Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,

    It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;

    And worse – which made her Auntie groan,

    She told them on her Mobile Phone.

    She showed a Scant Regard for Truth,

    When rabbiting to Jane and Ruth;

    There scarcely ever was a Fact,

    As on and on Matilda yacked.

    And if her mates weren’t on the line,

    She simply called up nine-nine-nine;

    For they were very Friendly Folks,

    And always suckers for a Hoax.


    Alas, she spread so many Rumours,

    Her head was soon choked up with Tumours.

    She was in quite Atrocious Pain;

    The silly girl had fried her Brain.

    But when she tried to call the Doc,

    Matilda got an Awful Shock;

    You should have heard her Screams and Bawls,

    The line was blocked with nuisance calls.

    Doc came at last to operate,

    But soon pronounced: ‘It is too late,

    I fear the child is mortally ill.’

    - She left her Aunt to pay the Bill.


    Henry Jebb



    The Chief Defect of Henry Jebb,

    Was surfing on the World Wide Web;

    He’d stay awake right through the nights,

    To visit ever more Websites.

    But soon his Infant Conformation

    Was all bunged up with Information;

    From Skull to Liver and to Lights

    Full up with Multimegabytes.

    The Doctors came and took their Fees,

    But found no Cure for his Disease.

    Then just before Untimely Death

    Young Henry, with his Latest Breath,

    Cried ‘Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,

    To read the Sun, and watch TV

    Is all the Human Brain requires…’

    With that, the Wretched Child expires.


    * * * * *

    An obituary of an imaginary person


    The death of Princess Ermintrude at the age of 87 deprives British royalty of its most colourful figure. ‘Princess’ was a courtesy title; her genealogy, including John Brown and Jack the Ripper, was complex. Until Sir Hubert Cholmondeley was beheaded by a hunt saboteur last month she was 893rd in succession to the throne.

    The Princess’s most passionate item of faith was opposition to ‘political correctness’; she was fighting it long before anyone else had noticed the phenomenon. Any conversation with her soon developed into a diatribe against ethnic minorities, unmarried mothers and employees of nationalised industries. She had a razor-sharp wit – her description of David Owen as ‘the Bolshevik sodomite’ was treasured by her friends.

    Relations with the Royal Family did not always run smooth. A skiing holiday with Goebbels in 1943 was, she later conceded, mistimed. And her remark that ‘unlike Diana, I wouldn’t be seen dead at an Elton John concert’ was felt by some to be tasteless.

    Her last years were marred by impaired vision as a result of an unfortunate attempt to pluck her eyebrows after seven bottles of gin. Leading royal watcher Jenny Bond commented on her passing: ‘One down, one to go.’


    Lord *** of Hartlepool, who died yesterday, cleared his name so often that the original letters were rubbed away. *** entered government in 1997, but resigned over accusations about a home-loan. He returned as Northern Ireland Secretary, resigning after allegations about a passport application. In 2002 he became Foreign Secretary, but resigned after claims (vigorously denied) about arms dealing. Three months later he was appointed Chancellor, but resigned when the press alleged insider dealing – something he stoutly denied. Under the Widdecombe government, he joined the Shadow Cabinet, but resigned, protesting innocence, following a ‘cash for questions’ scandal. Gordon Brown made him Home Secretary, but he resigned after claims – hotly denied – of involvement in an illegal immigration racket. When Brown died of anorexia, *** became Prime Minister – stepping down after the disclosure that he had borrowed money from Mohammed Al-Fayed to bid for Buckingham Palace. He became a European Commissioner just before the Commission was removed following a corruption scandal. He went to the Lords, but was stripped of his peerage after the publication of a letter (which he insisted was forged) showing he had been a KGB agent since 1976. He was re-ennobled eight months later.


    * * * * *

    Richard J Evans recently referred in the NS to these times being ‘the post-literate age’. A suitable piece of prose about this age.

    It is an aggravating if rarely annotated fact that the contemporaneous younger generation are frequently and indeed often alliterate. It is an ad hoc certainty that this results from the gay abandon of Latin teaching in schools. O tempora O more means worse. Between you and I, most of them have no knowledge of the case system, and wouldn’t know an ablation from an accusatory. As for, punctuation its a joke? isn’t it! Its clear nobody under sixty understands the apostrophe and it’s roll in spelling. And the inability to write a complete sentence, which should be a sine qua non.

    Talking of culture they are completely disinterested. Who now reads the novels of TE Lawrence, or listens to George Eliot’s Four Quartets,let alone more exoteric works like Joyce Cary’s Portrait of Dorian Gray as a Young Man? There is nothing now comparative to the noisome debate between TS Leavis and Jon Snow about the ‘Two Nations’.

    Qua the classics, young people have never heard of Odysseus Rex or Aristophanes’ Ethics. They’re only interested in soap stars like Kenneth Minogue and Robbie Fowler of EastEnders, or crooners like Bernard Williams. I blame the prevalence of txt massaging parlours.


    * * * * *

    A realistic set of rules for the royal family to live by.

    The English monarchy has the potential to last a thousand years. But to do so, it needs to develop ‘public relations’ skills which are currently lacking:

    • The British people do not wish to be ruled from Europe. It is therefore singularly inadvisable to inaugurate your reign by landing at Hastings with a large French army. You cannot expect the Sun to respond well to this.
    • The murderof children will arouse press hostility at any time; to do it in a well-known tourist attraction like the Tower of London is especially foolish.
    • To behead one wife may be considered deplorable; to behead two will provoke the wrath of the Daily Mail. (And changing religion to speed up your divorce doesn’t look too good either.)
    • To refuse to learn English during a reign of sixty-seven years will not go down well with the tabloids, who have difficulty with foreign languages, and would be unlikely to interview you.
    • To declare support for a Nazi dictator about to declare war on your own country is just about acceptable. But if you have an affair with a divorced woman at the same time, there might well be a scandal.


    To be a successful royal, just follow these simple rules:

    1. Start your career by marrying a German, a nationality for which the tabloid press feels deep affection;
    2. Your standard response to any form of joke should be to scowl and say: ‘We are not amused’. Journalists will soon recognise what a good sport you are.
    3. When your husband dies, hang a gigantic photograph of his corpse over your bed – this will look particularly good in Hello magazine;
    4. Develop a close friendship with the leader of the Conservative Party, while treating the opposing leader with contempt – this should keep you clear of political controversy;
    5. Wear ankle-length skirts and sombre clothing at all times;
    6. If asked about Lesbianism, pull a face and affect to believe that such a thing is physically impossible;
    7. If you suffer from period pains, do not see a doctor; rather resort to cannabis, in public if necessary;
    8. If you pick up a bit of rough – especially one who talks like Billy Connolly – make sure he accompanies you in public at all times.

    These simple rules will ensure that your name becomes a byword for solid respectability.


    * * * * *

    As a contribution to natural history the work is negligible’, said a 1908 Times review of The Wind in the Willows. A similar treatment for a book written in the past decade.

    Colin Dexter : The Remorseful Day

    Reviewed in Electric Telegraph Monthly

    Don’t believe the hype! This book has been promoted as describing the death of Morse. In fact, the account of this demise has been much exaggerated.

    Dexter rigs the evidence from the beginning. He sets his so-called adventure in cosy little Oxford. Now it’s doubtless true that if your punt capsizes on the Cherwell, all you need to do is shout ‘Help!’ How different if you’re out on the North Sea without a radio, or in the Scottish Highlands with only a signalling lamp. Such scenarios, beloved of true thriller writers, are too turbulent for Dexter.

    Throughout Morse is shown as old-fashioned, still in a world of traditional pubs and crossword puzzles. Bypassed, apparently, by new types of communications, of mobile phones and the Internet. But, as the more acute characters, especially Sergeant Lewis, are well aware: using Morse may seem to be going about things slowly, but it gets you the right answer in the end.

    For example, take that pathetic death-bed message: ‘Please thank Lewis for me…’. Spoken so softly that the nurse couldn’t hear it. How much better if it had been sent the obvious way.


    * * * * *

    The ‘potentially damaging’ effects on children of childhood myths.

    Estelle Morris writes:

    While the practice of pupils taking an apple for teacher is in decline, we must continue to be vigilant and insist it has no place whatsoever in the modern education system.

    Perhaps in the Victorian Age, back in the eighteenth century, an apple was just a minor gift. But measure the decline in teachers’ pay against the cost of living, and it becomes a more significant item, one which could seriously undermine the principle of Performance Related Pay. Moreover, the teachers most likely to receive apples are those whom Tony Blair has rightly labelled ‘conservatives’ – those who still, unbelievably, find time to talk to the children in their care instead of getting on with the real task of assessing them at every opportunity.

    Apples do little to help with transport and housing costs, the main causes of teacher shortage in problem areas. (My Department is still investigating the utilisation of cattle-trucks and disused barracks, and will report in due course.) Moreover, they cut across our long-term plans to combat social exclusion by introducing school fees.

    Let me repeat, apples have no place in twenty-first century education. Our policy remains unchanged. We shall continue to pay peanuts.


    * * * * *

    Roy Hattersley has talked of supporting a movement to ‘rescue Labour for democratic socialism’, to be called ‘Real Labour’ (after ‘Real Beer’). A suitably named pub for gatherings of ‘Real Labour’ people.

    Real Labour supporters are always welcome at the Maxwell House. On one wall of the saloon bar hangs a huge framed portrait of the great publisher himself, surrounded by smaller pictures of other figures from Labour’s rich tradition: T Dan Smith, Andy Cunningham, John Stonehouse, Harold Lever, etc. On the opposite wall is a superb set of twelve military prints showing ‘our boys’ in action against strikers – from dockers in 1945 to fire-fighters in 1977.

    Behind the bar stands a historic fridge, once used by Stafford Cripps and Denis Healey to freeze wages The ice is much in demand, as the open fire burns with the white heat of the technological revolution. Jukebox favourites are I Remember Hugh, by Frank Ifield, It’s My Party by Neil Kinnock, and Dressed for Success by Michael Foot.

    Thursday is quiz night; regulars gather in the bar to face such testing questions as:

    1. Who initiated Britain’s manufacture of nuclear weapons without informing the Cabinet?
    2. Who remained silent for a fortnight after Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech?
    3. Whose Social Contract produced ‘the most spectacular one-day leap in the stock market that most people can remember’?



    Euro coins and banknotes entered into circulation on 1 January. In September 400,000 people demonstrated in London in opposition to a ban on hunting with dogs. Former Tory MP Edwina Currie published diaries revealing that she had had an adulterous affair with John Major who later became Prime Minister.

    An extract from Orwell’s 2084. 

    It was a bright cold day in April and Winston Smith slipped quickly through the doors of Business Friendly Mansions, watched by the CCTV camera. There were now cameras in every room of every home, not only to keep a check on possible dissent, but to feed the insatiable demand for reality TV. Tonight, Winston reflected, thousands of proles would be gambling their meagre wages on the fortunes of Constipated Nick.

    Across the road stood a huge poster with the Party slogans:




    Below them  was a gigantic leering picture of Big Blair. Nobody had seen Big Blair in the flesh since the Last Election in 2005, but the computer-generated images of him and his smirking wife were eternally young.

    Winston walked to the end of the street on Harrow Hill and looked out to the rolling sea, where London had once stood. He thought gloomily of labour camps full of anti-capitalist protesters, of trials without jury, of derelict railways. But then a smile came to his face. Two and two were four; Big Blair was not omnipotent. His hand slid towards his pocket. At least we had kept the pound.



    * * * * *

    Wine writers always go over the top. A similar approach to a less fancy liquid.

    As the magical, sparkling liquid comes gushing and bubbling out of the tap, I remember just how recently this self-same water has flowed forth in the same way from a warm, sinuous living body. What a cornucopia of tastes! The fruity tang of urine, the ripe, creamy full-blooded flavour of diesel, an impudent hint of Harpic and the opulent, variegated, unpredictable mixture of industrial chemicals, from which the trusty dioxin is never absent.  Here in one extraordinarily intense brew is all the flamboyant vibrancy of urban life. For those of us fortunate enough to drink water from the sun-drenched north-eastern slopes of the Thames, there are enough drug-users contributing to the supply for every mouthful to bring the heady thrill of intoxication. Happily, ‘treatment’ is still of the traditional, artisanal kind, with none of the spurious purity offered by those modern methods so deplored by the Campaign for Real Tap Water.

    * * * * *

    We’re addressing the issue’, according to John Bird, is politicians’ code for ‘we can’t solve the problem ‘. Similar examples.


    We’re going to go the extra mile for peace.

    The goddam military aren’t ready yet.


    The party has gone through an important sea change.

    It was a like a bloody shipwreck.


    This changes the whole parameters of the debate.

    We’re losing, so we’ve changed the rules.


    Since 9/11 everything has changed.

    Warmongering’s respectable now.


    Independent experts tell us…

    These guys are on the CIA’s payroll, not the government’s.


    We are doing everything we can.

    We’re helpless.


    It would be quite inappropriate for me to comment at this stage.

    My pager’s broken.


    No decision has yet been made.

    Alastair’s off sick.


    Modernise or die.

    We’re brain-dead already.


    We live in the real world.

    Remember who finances the party nowadays.


    We are a compassionate party.

    Don’t kick beggars if you’re on camera.


    We are an inclusive party.

    There are some poor sods earning under £50,000 a year.


    I shall carry on until the work has been completed.

    I’ve had another job offer, but I’m still trying to push up the salary.


    Make no mistake about what I am saying.

    You know I’m lying; I know you’ll quote me out of context.


    * * * * *

    A sonnet which makes sense when read with the lines in reverse order.


    From the Gulf to 11 September


    The US bombers raped an Asian land,

    The corpses lay strewn out across the sand.

    Our holy scriptures say this war is just;

    We fight to save our precious way of life.

    The innocent may die – but die they must;

    Our God decrees this is the law of strife.’

    Fine words he spoke to rally all the brave -

    His father’s son, and from a wealthy line -

    The leader in a deep and secret cave,

    For harsh revenge he gave the fatal sign.

    Now thousands more must face their time to die,

    The city lived through cruel and bloody hours;

    The lethal planes erupted from the sky,

    Unleashing fury on the tall twin towers.



    From 11 September to Kabul


    Unleashing fury on the tall twin towers,

    The lethal planes erupted from the sky;

    The city lived through cruel and bloody hours,

    Now thousands more must face their time to die.

    For harsh revenge he gave the fatal sign -

    The leader in a deep and secret cave -

    His father’s son, and from a wealthy line,

    Fine words he spoke to rally all the brave.

    Our God decrees this is the law of strife,

    The innocent may die – but die they must;

    We fight to save our precious way of life,

    Our holy scriptures say this war is just.’

    The corpses lay strewn out across the sand,

    The US bombers raped an Asian land.


    * * * * *


    On 15 February two million marched through London in opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. On 20 March the United States, backed by the United Kingdom and other allies, launched a surprise attack on Iraq, justified by the claim that it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and posed an immediate threat to the United States and its allies. After the invasion, no substantial evidence was found to verify the initial claims about WMDs. The Scottish Socialist Party won six seats in the election for the Scottish Parliament. Pharos, one of the Queen’s corgis, was put down after being mauled by Princess Anne‘s English bull terrier Dottie.

    Denis MacShane wrote: ‘The art of reporting describing and telling the story [in newspapers] has been sacrificed on the altar of opinion and pontification.’ A historical example.


    Violence hit France yesterday as a mob of so-called  ‘anti-feudalist’ protesters attacked the Bastille jail in downtown Paris. Rioters chanted politically correct slogans like ‘Equality, fraternity, liberty’. Police blamed their demand for arms on the prevailing ‘gun culture’.

    Among prisoners released by the demonstrators was DAF de Sade (49), a notorious pornographer and widely believed to be a paedophile. Local residents are furious; one said: ‘It’s a disgrace; our children are not safe while he is at large.’

    Queen Marie Antoinette blasted the riots as ‘wicked beyond belief’. Antoinette recently made headlines for ‘I’m a Queen, Get Me Out of Here’, a survival programme in which she lived as a shepherdess in her own palace gardens.

    Some demonstrators blamed the riots on the Queen’s statement that those complaining of a bread shortage should eat cake. But in an undercover operation Mail reporters have discovered that bogus sans-culotte Georges Grosventre has eaten at least three cakes a day for the  last fortnight.

    Sources close to the King last night dismissed speculation that the riots could threaten the monarchy. Opinion polls show that the monarchy is highly popular and that only a tiny unrepresentative minority favour abolition.


    * * * * *

    Banal instructions in the style of a famous writer.

    The Samuel Beckett Cookbook


    First catch your egg. That is, if you’re Beeton, defeated, routed, vanquished, crushed. You can’t go on, you won’t go on,  you go on … and on.  Fill a pan with water and put it on the gas. In the good old days if you didn’t light the gas it would drag you into the welcome embrace of death. You light the gas. Wait for the  water to boil. You know it is boiling, because tiny bubbles form, rise to the surface and are lost, like the souls of aborted children passing into nothingness. Put two eggs into the pan. One will crack its shell – a reasonable proportion, for as Democritos the Abderite said, ‘the universe itself is like a cracked egg’. Leave to boil for three minutes. There are twenty time three minutes in an hour, four hundred and eighty in a day, 3360 in a week, 175,200 in a year – and so on to eternity. As it boils, think of the chicken that will never be, cast straight from conception into the burning heat of hell. When it’s finished, then eat your breakfast, if you can ….

    * * * * *

    John Gray, in the satirical spirit of Swift, defended the use of torture in liberal democracies. Another defence of an unacceptable practice.


    It is generally agreed that parliamentary procedures require modernisation, notably through the introduction of financial incentives. As Enron and London Underground show, high responsibility should lead to high income. Parliament recognises this in the so-called ‘payroll vote’, whereby MPs get administrative tasks with no power, but are rewarded for their unvarying support for the government in votes. Logically, this principle should be extended to backbenchers, who at present face only threats from the Whips and the dictates of ‘conscience’ – an archaic term redolent of the age of Pitt and Burke. Market principles would apply; supporting benefit cuts for asylum seekers might fetch as little as £25, but backing for war on Iraq could earn £1000. MPs would thus enjoy Performance Related Pay, which they have imposed elsewhere in the public sector, and higher incomes would remove the temptation to seek injudicious loans to buy accommodation. The waters have been muddied by the ‘cash for questions’ scandal, but in an entrepreneurial society we should welcome MPs selling their votes to the highest bidder. This ensures loyalty to the general interest (the government) rather than the purely sectional interests of the voters, and shows the world what Democracy really means.


    * * * * *

    An Observer poll revealed that 69 per cent of young people (11-21) do not trust politicians. Perhaps they just don’t understand politicians. We asked you to enlighten them.

    It’s vital that you young people don’t take politicians for granted. It’s all too easily done. After all, we assume buses and trains are part of the order of nature – till they go on strike. Suppose politicians went on strike? There’s really no need to say any more, is there?

    Politicians are there to represent the rest of us. They have focus groups, and if they find we have foibles or little prejudices, like hating foreigners or insisting on driving wherever we like, they sympathise and accommodate us. That’s called democracy.

    But if the majority of people are against war, privatisation or foundation hospitals, or think fire-fighters should get decent pay, politicians stand by their principles. That’s called courage.

    Politicians need us. That’s why they have to plead with us to vote. Their final knockdown argument is that if we don’t vote for them we might let the BNP in. What magnificent logic! Imagine it as an advertising slogan: if you wash with Sudso soap you’ll smell sweeter than if you roll in excrement.

    I hope I’ve convinced you. 69% of young people not trusting politicians is a truly terrible statistic. Who are the other 31%? What lame-brained suckers?


    * * * * *

    A very bad sex scene from a novel.


    Tenderly he ran his fingers through the silky fleece of her pubic hair. As she quivered ecstatically, his manhood swelled and he moved to penetrate and possess the being he desired above all others. The sheep bleated, defecated and ran away.


    David dislodged some mud between the studs of his boot, hurled it to the bedroom floor and began to caress Victoria’s ear. Aflame with love, she whispered: ‘David, what do you really, really want?’ ‘Kick Ferguson’s head in,’ he replied, ‘but since he’s not here, let’s get on with this.’


    * * * * *


    Lust, greed etc. aren’t so relevant any more. Up-to-date sins for the 21st century.


    Formerly most sins were sins of commission. In the new free-market, entrepreneurial world, we face sins of omission (as modern theologians say, non-consumption).

    Failure to Drive a Car: Everyone knows the sole causes of congestion are buses and pedestrian crossings; without them traffic would flow smoothly and rapidly. By refusing opportunities to die and kill, these sinners increase longevity, causing serious economic problems.

    Failure to Use a Mobile Phone: How dreary public places would be without the rich mix of melodies from all sources – true world music – and dramatic monologue. Just as masturbation produces blindness, those who do not constantly announce where they are often become psychologically disoriented.

    Failure to Use the Internet: This is the sloth of our epoch. These parasites and freeriders loaf in front of the television, while the rest of us do our social duty by spending three hours a day deleting spam and junk e-mails.

    Failure to Take Drugs: More sloth. These idlers seek out undemanding jobs which do not require them to snort cocaine to get through the day. Chemical deprivation leads to anti-social behaviour; they fall into extreme introversion, and are able to enjoy music and dancing without external assistance!.



    The Spectator, edited by Boris Johnson, published an editorial accusing citizens of Liverpool of wallowing in ‘their victim status’; he was reprimanded by Tory leader Michael Howard and told to go to Liverpool to apologise. Andrew Flintoff and other England cricketers did not take part in the tour of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

    A rejection letter to a famous historical character.

    Dear Ms Antoinette,

    Thank-you for your application for the job of Head of Publicity at the British Bread Marketing Board. Your royal connections would have been a valued asset on the international scene (though President Chirac might, understandably, have felt somewhat ambiguous). Your cosmopolitan background in Austria and France enhanced your credibility; clearly you are a lady who knows the difference between a baguette and a Vienna roll. We were somewhat anxious as to whether the salary we could offer would enable you to live in the style to which you are accustomed, especially shoe purchase.

    Regrettably we found that there was one major obstacle to your appointment. You recently acquired considerable prominence for a statement advocating the consumption of a rival product. We are aware that there is some legitimate doubt as to what was actually said. But in the public mind you are irredeemably associated with this statement. Our whole marketing strategy is based on the belief that bread should be eaten by all social classes. The idea that bread should be for ‘us’ but not for ‘them’ is wholly outdated.


    * * * * *

    One in three of us suffers from CWS (celebrity worship syndrome). A doctor’s case notes on a sufferer.

    Patient No 1649: Witchell, Nicholas.

    This is one of the worst cases I have seen  Ten years ago he was an intelligent, articulate young man who showed a lively interest in political and cultural matters at home and abroad. Now all these interests are blotted out by a clinical obsession with a single family.

    This family, living in publicly-funded housing, have an abnormally high divorce rate, and engage in grossly antisocial behaviour; there are rumours that a road accident some years ago was murder. Even the pets fight to the death.

    Yet for Witchell even their most banal actions exert a fascination. His intrusive conduct may lead him to infringe anti-stalking legislation. The family need seclusion. At present they are threatened by trespassers; private family parties are invaded by gate crashers. For their sake alone Witchell must be sectioned.

    He shows pronounced similarities with patient No  1789 (Bond, Jennie), who after years of voyeurism went sensationally berserk, walking around without underwear, and eventually subjecting herself to humiliating exhibitionism.

    The only cure is aversion therapy. Witchell must be exposed to constant viewings of the family’s mother slowly clubbing a game bird to death until residual decency is awakened within him.


    * * * * *

    An extract from the Case of the Missing Weapons of Mass Destruction by a famous detective-fiction writer.

    More tea, vicar?’ enquired Miss Marple.

    As she filled his cup he asked: ‘How is the investigation going?’

    Miss Marple looked puzzled. ‘Oh! You mean the weapons of mass destruction. Well, that was never a mystery. They didn’t exist, quite simply. They may think we’re sleepy down here in St. Mary Mead, but we were never fooled by that one. You were on the anti-war march yourself, were you not, vicar?’

    He nodded. She continued: ‘So was I. Next to a very rowdy bunch from the Socialist Workers Party, unfortunately. But a splendid day. Rounded off with a glorious cream tea at dear old Bertram’s Hotel.’

    Looking at her expensive Persian carpet with a self-satisfied gaze, she said: ‘WMD? Not enough mystery there for a short story, let alone a full-length novel with movie rights. But there is a real mystery.’

    As the vicar looked enquiringly, she went on: ‘Yes, the real mystery is how the arrogant young fellow ever imagined he could get away with it. You’d need a brain like a bacon-slicer to solve that one.’


    * * * * *


    The point of view of the fox, set to a well-known tune.

    D’ye ken John Peel,

    With his coat so red?

    He’s the hunt master,

    And he wants me dead.

    But if I could compete

    On a level playing-field,

    Then I’d bite off his bollocks in the morning.


    He prates and he spouts

    All about democracy;

    But it ain’t democratic,

    As far as I can see,

    When there’s two hundred dogs

    But there’s only one of me

    And they tear off my bollocks in the morning.


    He’s off on the demo

    To assert the people’s will,

    But while he’s away

    All his chickens I shall kill;

    For that’s my ‘Way of Life’

    And it gives me a thrill

    Just to chew off their bollocks in the morning.


    They whinge and they grumble

    And Tony Blair they blame,

    But if I don’t turn up

    Well – ain’t that a shame?

    For like Andy Flintoff

    I’ve withdrawn from the game,

    I’ll hang on to my bollocks in the morning.


    * * * * *

    An apology from a famous person for a mistake.

    Dearest, darling inhabitants of Tulsa,

    I wish to offer my most humble apologies to all of you, and above all to the Tourist Board of the City of Tulsa for any offence I may have given. There is, I am afraid, nothing to blame but my own self-indulgence. An experienced cyclist such as myself should not have needed to stop to rest for the  night when so close to home.

    I have grossly insulted the citizens of Tulsa, and undoubtedly discouraged many potential tourists. The people of Tulsa are warm, friendly and above all tolerant; to suggest that because  of one minor sexual indiscretion I should never dare to come home again is an utterly unfounded slander. Those intending to visit Tulsa should know that there are far more welcoming lights there than in any other city within a radius of one day’s travel.



    * * * * *

    A candid job ad along the lines of: ‘Bullshitting egomaniac sought for national arts admin post.’ 

    Applications sought for the post of Vice-Chancellor of a major university (former Polytechnic). The essential  quality for this post is total lack of interest in any academic discipline; graduates in business studies and gymnasium management particularly welcome. Ability to treat employees like scum also necessary; senior police or army officers very suitable. Candidates with teenage children discouraged, as they may have some slight sympathy for the  plight of students. (An exception is made for abusive parents.) Interest in big cars and mergers with other institutions particularly welcome. Salary equal to fifty student loans; knighthood at the end of ten years.

    * * * * *

    Extract from a cookbook by a 20th century literary giant.



    First get your rice. The toiling masses of Setzuan, good persons to a man, have laboured to bring in the harvest. What will you do with it?

    Put it in a bowl with two pints of milk. Check carefully that the milk is not the milk of human kindness, for kindness is one of the seven deadly sins of the bourgeoisie. Only harshness can deliver us from harshness.

    Remember that the dramatic cook has her eyes on the finish, but the epic cook has her eyes on the process. Boil for exactly forty-three minutes. As the great teacher Lenin reminded us, timing is central to the art of insurrection.

    Eventually it comes to the boil. Quantity, as Engels showed us in the Dialectics of Nature, is transformed into quality.

    Will there be a happy ending? That, good friends, is up to you. Remember that what matters is not the quality of the dish, but who owns the kitchen.


    * * * * *

    Verses to mark the 25th anniversary of Mrs Thatcher’s becoming Prime Minister in May 1979.


    When Thatcher cheered at news of Falklands dead,

    And smashed the miners’ strike from Number Ten;

    Although our hearts were filled with rage and dread,

    We knew her punishment must come — but when?


    Was it when rioters did loot and burn

    In anger at her arrogant Poll Tax,

    And Tory sycophants their coats did turn

    To give their once feared Leaderene the axe?


    Not yet. But did she scream and tear her hair,

    Her failing mind consumed with rage and worry,

    On seeing that she’d named as her true heir

    The sort of man who’d screw Edwina Currie?


    But no. Her humbling moment finally came

    When Blair waged war, and made her crimes look tame.


    * * * * *


    The mayor of Bedford is saving money by using filtered petrol from abandoned cars in his official vehicle. Some more creative suggestions.


    1. Make voters bring their own pencils on election day.
    2. Collect the dregs from discarded beer cans, and use them to provide a treat in old folks’ homes.
    3. Don’t clean up graffiti; simply announce an exhibition of street art.
    4. Collect used condoms and sell the contents to a sperm donor clinic.
    5. Sell off school playing fields and make pupils practise athletics on the public highway. That will quickly select the fastest runners.
    6. Turn off the street lighting, and give a private firm the franchise to sell torches.
    7. Collect up newspapers left on buses and trains and put them in public library reading rooms.
    8. Put nursery school children in treadmills to generate their own electricity.
    9. Don’t issue old people with free bus passes unless they are prepared to publicly admit they are past it sexually.
    10. Hire out-of-work actors to perform council meetings. Their fees will cost less than councillors’ expenses.



    Labour won a third election victory with a reduced majority. Joseph Ratzinger, from the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, became Pope Benedict VI. MG Rover went into administration and its key assets were purchased by Nanjing Automobile Group. New legislation meant that parents in England and Wales who smacked children hard enough to leave a mark could face up to five years in jail. Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles; the Queen announced that she would not be attending the civil marriage ceremony. Prince Charles said of Nicholas Witchell, BBC royal correspondent: ‘These bloody people. I can’t bear that man.’


    Verses to celebrate Charles and Camilla’s nuptials.


    The Prince’s Weddin’


    E was warned agin’ ’er –

    Mother just said No;

    Now they’re getting’ married

    The old girl won’t go.

    Says it’s much too common,

    Usin’ the Town-Hall;

    Can’t have royal weddin’s

    Free for one an’ all.


    Yawn at the Prince’s weddin’ –

    Give ’em one yawn more!

    Polo ponies in the lando

    An’ a clown is married to a bore.


    The ’ole nation’s watchin’ –

    It’s on the TV;

    Now Camilla’s like Di

    A ce-le-bri-ty!

    She’ll make such a good wife,

    No more on the shelf;

    Squeezin’ out ’is toothpaste –

    Can’t do it ’imself.


    Yawn etc.


    Arry’s got ’is armband

    Like great-uncle Ted;

    E may be a Nazi –

    Good job ’e ain’t Red!

    Others seem more tactful –

    Think of Charlie’s Dad;

    Soon she’ll find the ’ole gang

    Are all rotten bad.


    Yawn etc.


    (After Rudyard Kipling, The Sergeant’s Weddin’)


    * * * * *


    A Dylan Thomas version of a Bob Dylan song.


    Underground Milk Wood


    First Voice:                 Mr Pritchard is in the woodshed,

    Preparing a pipe of asthma mixture.


    Rev. Eli Jenkins:         I’m on the cobblestreets

    Thinking about the Eisteddfod.


    First Voice:                 Myfanwy comes fleet foot

    Face full of bible-black soot.


    Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard: Keep a clean nose,

    Watch out for P.C. Atilla Rees.

    You don’t need a weather forecast

    To know that the slow musical wind is blowing on Llareggub.


    Gossamer Beynon:    He was the brightest boy in school,

    Went to Cambridge University;

    Now they’ve put him on the day shift.


    Rev Eli Jenkins:          Light yourself a candle…


    Mrs Waldo:                …But don’t wear sandals,

    Or what’ll the neighbours say.


    First voice:                 The pump is as desert-dry as an old donkey’s dugs,

    For Nogood Boyo and his pals have stolen the handles.


    * * * * *

    Prophetic advice to today’s public figures.

    When Harry Truman was christened, a fairy appeared and pronounced: ‘Never fight a land war in Asia’. In 1953, when three years of destructive war in Korea had left the boundaries where they were at the start, the fairy reappeared and asked Truman why he had disregarded her advice. ‘That wasn’t a war,’ said Truman, ‘it was a United Nations operation.’

    The same fairy appeared at Lyndon Johnson’s baptism, with the same message. In 1968, with the USA humiliated in Vietnam and in turmoil at home, the fairy reappeared with the same question. Johnson replied: ‘That was meant to be an air war, but the devious bastards dug underground tunnels.’

    The fairy was at George W Bush’s christening too. In autumn 2005, as he faced isolation from the population, the fairy appeared and asked why he had ignored her message. ‘What!’ exclaimed Bush. ‘Nobody told me Iraq was in Asia’.


    * * * * *

    One swallow doesn’t make a relationship’. Amended versions of familiar phrases.

    A stitch in time saves the NHS having to give proper treatment.

    Shades of the prison-house begin to close about the person without an ID card.

    Look before you invade.

    There’s no fool like an old Tory.

    There’s no smoke without adverse effects on health.

    You can’t have your cake and avoid obesity.

    If wishes were horses, hunting would stay legal.

    It’s a wise child who knows who the Home Secretary is.

    It’s no good crying over spilt tear-gas.

    Still waters run nowhere.

    Out of the frying pan into the school dinner.

    Don’t look a gift horse in the urine sample.

    Separating the sheep from the clones.

    You can take a horse to water but it may prefer beer.

    Strike while the iron is unplugged.

    He who laughs last is trying to show he is one of us.

    One man’s meat is another man’s profit.

    A Miss is as good as a Mrs.

    It’s cutting off your nose to spite your therapist.

    He can’t make an omelette without breaking the microwave.

    Out of sight, out of money.

    Take care of the pence and the pounds will go to the fat cats.

    It never rains but it’s another proof of climate change.

    Spare the rod and spoil your chances of getting nicked under the smacking legislation.

    Give him enough rope and he’ll tie up the boss.

    He who lives by the sword shall perish by the ballot-box.


    * * * * *

    Updated seasonal proverbs and verse, given global warming.


    If February brings no rain,

    Your water rates go up again.


    February kill-pike (and other fish).


    March comes in like a Virgin train and goes out like a traffic jam.


    If April showers should come your way,

    They’ll bring the floods that sweep us away;

    So if you’re driving, feel deep regret

    Because it’s all the cars like yours to blame, and you know that, I bet.


    Beware of drought till May be out.


    If the first of July be rainy weather,

    Chaos theory predicts that tomorrow …. whatever.


    Oh, it’s a long, long while

    From May to December,

    But with rising floods

    You won’t reach September.


    November’s sky is chill and drear,

    But global warmth still grows, I fear.


    * * * * *

    Ageing comedians seem to gravitate towards presenting wildlife or travel programmes. An example.



    Those of you stupid enough to read The Times have seen the letters about the first cuckoo of the year. Now why is Rupert Murdoch so keen on these birds. Because they aren’t saying ‘Cuckoo’. They’re saying ‘F*** you!’ to all of us.

    Look at this CCTV footage. We nicked the camera from a supermarket where it was being used to intimidate impoverished shoplifters. Here’s a blackbird’s nest. Now here comes the cuckoo – we’ll call her Cherie, she likes freebies – and lays her egg. Someone else can look after it – Cherie’s off to get her name in The Times.

    Here’s Cherie again, asleep in a bush, after a hard day offloading children. Too idle to build a nest. And here I’ve got a bloody great sparrow hawk’s egg, due to hatch within twelve hours. I’m just going to slide it under Cherie’s wing …


    * * * * *

    Revision of a scene from a well-known play to reflect public disapproval of drinking.

    Macbeth Act II Scene III (The Sober Porter)

    Knocking within. Enter a Porter.

    Porter: Coming sir.

    Enter MACDUFF and LENNOX

    Macduff: Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed, that you do lie so late?

    Porter: Faith, sir, I’m sorry, but I just got back from Alcoholics Anonymous, where I learnt that drink is a great provoker of three things.

    Macduff: What three things does drink especially provoke?

    Porter: Marry sir, nose painting, sleep and urine. But the Labour council have closed all the public conveniences, we have the longest working hours in Europe, and Nicky Hambleton-Jones is doing a make-over on my face. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. That’s why I’ve switched to amphetamines.


    * * * * *

    A definition of ‘progress’.

    There is no better indication of progress in a society than the way it wages war. In 1914 many thousands of public school officers died in the trenches. Now members of the privileged classes carry on making money, while our fighting forces are composed entirely of the working classes. In World War II many MPs saw active service. Today we have greater respect for our legislators.

    In 1939 famous sportsmen joined the armed services. Now we know their true price. No premiership footballer would be allowed to risk life and especially limb in combat. Only fifty years ago Elvis Presley stopped performing for two years to do military service. Our more culturally sophisticated nation would not permit such an imposition on Robbie Williams.

    Remember, as late as 1963 a Minister of War resigned because he lied to the House of Commons? Young people today could not imagine something so old-fashioned.


    * * * * *

    A retraction of beliefs previously believed in passionately.

    Adam Smith

    All my life I’ve believed in the free market. Everybody should pursue their own interest. After all, it’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

    What a fool! To pursue your interest you have to be smart enough to know what it is. All this cretinous lot care about is accumulating more money than they could spend in five hundred years. They start wars, wreck the climate, leave millions to starve. They’d privatise their own grannies if they got the chance. They wouldn’t know ‘their own interest’ if it ran up their trouser legs.

    I thought the ‘invisible hand’ would sort it out. The Invisible Man couldn’t handle it, even if he had Batman to help him. Enron, Iraq, Rover… I’ll be voting for the Scottish Socialist Party this time.


    * * * * *

    The title song from the movie ‘Ratzinger’, based on Goldfinger.


    Ratzinger, he’s the pope, the pope with the ‘No Pill’ line,

    The ‘No thrill’ line;

    Such a mass singer, about condoms he will cheerfully lie,

    Then watch them die.


    Latin words he will pour in your ear,

    But you can’t be a priest if you’re ‘queer’;

    For if social reform you’d bring in, you’re

    Certain to be screwed by Signor


    Ratzinger: lefty priest, beware of this right-wing pope,

    Abandon hope.


    * * * * *

    A description of a major historical event from a parochial perspective.


    Assisi, 24 September 1209

    The shopping centre in Assisi, Italy, was today choked with hundreds of young men, all dressed in identical brown hoods making it impossible for them to be recognised. Apart from the fashionable hoods they wore ragged clothing. Many were accompanied by animals, often dogs on pieces of string, and there was an unconfirmed rumour that a ‘tamed’ wolf was on the streets. They made no secret of being on the scrounge, admitting that they intended to keep themselves by begging.

    The leader of these unruly elements appears to be a certain Francis, who rather implausibly claims to have the backing of the Pope. He is launching a new movement called the Friars Minor, but most observers think this is unlikely to last more than few months.

    Local trader Sylvia Berlusconi said: ‘We don’t want them here. Those hoods definitely frighten off the customers. As for the vow of poverty, that’s not going to sell many cabbages. They should slap ASBOs on the lot of them.’


    * * * * *

    A fair way to determine the salary packets of a top chief executive and his office cleaner.

    As Margaret Thatcher reminded us: ‘You can’t buck the market’. The market decides the price of human resources. There’s no room for sentimentality about the cost of food, rent or grouse-shooting.

    Start with supply and demand. Is there a shortage of people wanting to be chief executives? Why are cleaners so scarce we must employ those who, enterprisingly, travelled thousands of miles for the job, sometimes risking their lives?

    And the crucial test. If the chief executive is away for two weeks (as she often is), does production stop? No. Most workers do their job better than their boss could. But if the cleaner is missing, what client will stay after being brought to an office with a fortnight’s accumulated filth (especially the coagulated vomit after that celebration lunch)?

    We may be going ‘outside the box’, thinking the unthinkable, but the logic of our approach produces the unavoidable conclusion that…..


    * * * * *

    The Bible retold in limericks.

    There once was a very fat cat,

    And a poor man who at his gate sat;

    When he asked for some change,

    The fat cat acted strange:

    You’ll get nothing from me, and that’s flat.’


    Then one day the old fat cat died,

    And went straight to Hell to get fried.

    His surprise was quite mega,

    When he saw that the beggar

    Was lounging at Abraham’s side.


    He called out to God with a choke:

    Hey, Lord, can you tell that poor bloke

    That really he oughta

    Bring me down some water;

    The temperature here is no joke.’


    God laughed: ‘You fat cats never learn;

    You think you deserve what you earn.

    You won’t pay your tax;

    Now you’re all on the racks;

    So I’m sorry, it’s burn, baby, burn.’

    (Luke XVI 19-31)


    * * * * *


    An explanations of the abbreviations and terminology used in Heartsearch columns.

    WLTM Would like to manipulate// Won’t last three months

    N/S I have CCTV in the toilet

    Genuine woman You won’t object to a simple medical examination

    OHAC Overcrowded house, ancient car

    TLC Totally lubricious copulation

    30ish I might just get a toy-boy with poor eyesight

    Maybe more By the way, I have this rather unusual fetish…

    Bubbly Out of my head on amphetamines

    Good sense of humour Laughs at others’ misfortunes

    Mature Free bus pass

    Soulmate (sought by woman) He likes shopping

    Soulmate (sought by man) She likes football

    Tactile Oversexed

    Professional I’ve answered so many of these I could pass an exam in it

    For friendship I’m impotent

    Many interests I can’t actually remember any at the moment

    LTR If you want sex, you’ll have to wait till LaTeR



    In March more than one million public sector workers in Britain took strike action over planned changes to the local government pension scheme. There were widespread youth protests in France against measures making it easier to sack young workers. A European heat wave led to the UK’s most severe drought in a hundred years; drought orders in some areas banned non-essential use of water.

    A synopsis of a novel that would appeal to as broad a readership as possible.

    Garry Nutter, boy wizard, turns detective to foil an Opus Dei conspiracy. He flies to Africa in Birdie, the little green helicopter, with his lover Chantelle, a heroin addict from the Glasgow slums, leaving behind scatter-brained Bridget, who longs to marry him – or anyone. Garry survives in Somalia on ten dollars a day and takes 26 pictures of animals, each beginning with a different letter. On his return he gets an undercover job as cook in the glamorous Beckham household, producing 60 fat-losing recipes. Investigating the mysterious Michelangelo Code, he learns to solve sudokus with 50 examples. Studying the full revised text of the Highway Code, he realises truth lies in the past, using a time machine to go to the 1940s, the world of Issy Bonn and Geraldo, then to Jane Austen’s country estate. A programming mistake – caused by an outdated Windows handbook – means Garry arrives in New York on 11 September 2001. In a morally ambiguous conclusion he defeats the plotters and, after a lascivious sex-romp, marries faithful Bridget and lives happily ever after.


    * * * * *

    An example of what Peter Wilby called the ‘commentariat who express opinions that have no basis in knowledge’.

    Now it’s strikes everywhere. Strikes at home and across the North Sea in France. Here it’s civil servants working for local councils who want their pensions earlier. Don’t they understand economics? Milton and Keynes must be turning in their graves. In the past 50 years we’ve had amazing technological change; millions of jobs are now done by machines. Isn’t it obvious we’re all going to have to work longer?

    In France they seem to think they’re still back in the 17th century, when Robespierre went to the guillotine, with thousands of students in towns from Bordeaux to Sorbonne marching on the streets. I thought this was the land of reason, the homeland of Spinoza and Kant. Don’t they understand simple logic? If it’s easier to sack people, more people will be in work. But President Berlusconi backs off. Typical French – just like Napoleon at the Battle of Euston. What they all forget is that this is the age of globalisation. They must be laughing at us in Kyoto and all those other Chinese cities.


    * * * * *

    Follow-up verses for a well-known nursery rhyme.


    So then the Bill

    Hauled Jack and Jill

    Before the Court Recorder.

    One spilt pail

    Meant three months’ jail

    For breaching a Drought Order.


    * * * * *


    Unnecessary advice from manufacturers or supermarkets.

    Books : Not Recommended for the Illiterate.

    Guns : Keep Eyes Open During Use.

    Ice Cream : Warning – May Be Cold to the Touch.


    * * * * *


    A suggested title and opening paragraph for Tony Blair’s autobiography.

    The Great Brain Robbery

    People aren’t that stupid,’ said Charlie, as we quaffed champagne one evening. ‘On the contrary,’ I retorted. ‘I’ll bet you I could -

    • Take the country into a futile war on the basis of blatantly forged evidence;
    • Persuade people that the only way to improve public services is by allowing private companies to take huge profits out of them;
    • Increase the gap between rich and poor while still taking money off the trade unions;
    • Win three elections in a row and get over 25 per cent in the fourth;
    • And all that while constantly accompanied by a wife who smirks like a badly drawn cartoon character.’

    You’re on,’ said Charlie. ‘Ten grand. Though how you’ll pay up when you’re a failed lawyer working for the CPS I’ve no idea.’

    And that was how it all started.


    * * * * *

    Historians now claim that Marie-Antoinette never said ‘Let them eat cake’. Another famous quotation that was never said.


    Liberals quote it to prove God is on their side. Some have tried to use it to subvert the armed forces. Sophisticated theologians have recognised that (unlike the ban on homosexuality) it should not be taken literally. After all, God does have a sense of realpolitik. Now it seems the old boy never said: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ A prominent Hebrew scholar has shown that the verb translated as ‘kill’ was not used in Mosaic times. Later scribes confused it with a similar word meaning ‘increase taxes’. It will take time to get all the Bibles reprinted, and some Quakers still refuse to accept it. But at least God can hold his head high, no longer suspected of being a crypto-pink.



    Tony Blair resigned as prime minister and was replaced by Gordon Brown; he announced plans for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation which was launched in 2008. Nick Clegg defeated Chris Huhne in the election for leader of the Liberal Democrats. Novelist Martin Amis claimed to feel ‘morally superior’ to Muslim states which were not as ‘evolved’ as the Western world.

    New ideas from the Blair Foundation?

    Legalise LSD so that everyone can see non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

    Privatise the courts so the rich can buy judges as well as lawyers.

    Ban all types of headgear – hoodies, niqabs, cloth caps – which impede surveillance.

    Finance political parties from the National Lottery, with peerages given as prizes.

    Revise police regulations so: 1) tanks may be used against homes of suspected terrorists, and 2) leading Labour Party members can be questioned via video-link only.


    * * * * *

    After the claim that Little Red Riding Hood was a fantasist who made the whole story of the wolf up, the truth behind another children’s story.

    Cinderella never went to the ball. Her Fairy Godmother booked the coach for the wrong time. The Prince spent all evening dancing with Camilla, a close friend’s wife, with whom he was having a secret affair. She was in disguise, but was nearly recognised, and made a hurried exit; the Prince rapidly invented a story about a mystery woman and a lost slipper.

    When the Prince came touring the area, followed by paparazzi from Hello magazine, Cinderella realised this was her chance for the good life. She knew about Camilla, but reasoned: ‘Three’s a crowd, but two out of three ain’t bad.’


    * * * * *

    Rigorous literary critical analysis of a popular song.

    Middle of the Road’s alliterative line ‘Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep chirp’ combines repetition and variety in magisterial fashion. A tour de force.


    * * * * *

    A fifty-word version of a famous speech.

    Khrushchev’s Secret Speech 1956

    Listen, Stalin was evil; he was useless; he was a killer; he nearly lost the war. I don’t need fifty words – three will do. Trotsky was right.


    * * * * *

    Ancient Sparta had two kings at a time. A future historian’s account of how the British Constitution provided for two Prime Ministers simultaneously.

    The first use of the dual premiership came with the Clegg-Huhne government, formed on 1 April 2011. This was the result of rapid changes in the media. Over the previous years, newspaper circulation had collapsed dramatically. Then the BBC, in order to continue financing its management structure, decided to abolish all news and current affairs coverage. A communications gap had to be filled.

    On odd dates Premier A would make a statement of grave national importance; Premier B would film him on his mobile and post it on YouTube. On even dates the roles were reversed.

    This practice continued until the great floods of 2037.



    Oil prices hit record highs in July, but as the global economic crisis began to bite, fell sharply again. Barack Obama was elected US President, defeating John McCain and Sarah Palin. Silvio Berlusconi became Italian prime minister for the third time. Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London, defeating Ken Livingstone. Ruth Kelly, a member of Opus Dei, announced her resignation from the cabinet.

    A future historian looks back on the year 2008 (just beginning).

    The collapse of the Virgin Group early in 2008 meant that the government had to raise income tax to pay off its debts. The Daily Express published a photo of Madeleine McCann riding Shergar, but this failed to divert attention from revelations that the Labour Party had received donations from the Bin Laden family. Gordon Brown became the first British prime minister to commit suicide while in office. His successor, Ruth Kelly, broadened the base of her government by giving senior ministerial posts to Davina McCall and Jeremy Clarkson. She made contraception illegal and church attendance compulsory, but a major speech in which she declared that God would take care of climate change was overshadowed by the disappearance of Southampton beneath rising sea levels.


    * * * * *

    The Archbishop of York cut up his dog collar on TV, vowing not to get a new one till Robert Mugabe’s regime was replaced. Another flamboyant, empty gesture by a public figure.

    In a gesture reminiscent of Zola’s intervention in the Dreyfus case, Martin Amis yesterday showed that a literary artist can enter the political arena with courage and dignity. Amis announced that until al-Qaeda agreed to decommission its weapons, his novels would not contain any scenes where sexual activity was presented in an attractive light. Questioned as to the effectiveness of this move, Amis responded: ‘Most readers buy my books for titillation, so this could be a wake-up call to ordinary decent people. Many guerrilla fighters are into autoeroticism, and Bin Laden could find himself facing a rebellion in the ranks.’ The only criticism came from professor Terry Eagleton, who claimed that Amis’s ‘sex scenes had always been boring’.


    * * * * *


    A traditional bedtime story updated for the 21st century.

    Boris Whittington was very poor (compared to his schoolmates) and had to work as a comedian to supplement his income, So he decided to leave London and go to Liverpool, where people ‘wallowed in victimhood’ and would sympathise with him. But as he was cycling out of London he heard the Cameron bell saying: Turn again, Whittington, Lord mayor of London.’ So he jumped on a bendy bus and went back to London, where his pet cat Standard hunted down the multiculturalists who were infesting London. The people cheered and made Boris mayor. But when they saw his policies, there were strikes and riots, and Boris had to get on his bike and go to Liverpool. This time the Cameron bell was silent.


    * * * * *

    In an archive piece Graham Greene described how he and Claud Cockburn ‘were, for obscure reasons, pushing a barrel organ across Hertfordshire dressed as tramps’. An extract from a modern novelist describing an identical excursion.

    Martin Amis

    Christopher and I had come to the awful human colourlessness of Hertfordshire for the usual reasons – drugs, junk food, money, galvanic sex with strangers, and especially drink. These are stimulants that spur all human ambition. But when we strayed westwards to Luton we encountered a shoving, jabbing, jeering brotherhood of fanatic jihadis who hated all the humane values we held. You only had to look at their faces to realise they wished us disembowelled and castrated. Disguise was the only refuge; as tramps we would be protected by the sentimental puritanical leftists who infest the county; while a barrel organ symbolised the culture of Old England we loved so much. And if we stopped to masturbate, it would not seem out of character.


    * * * * *

    A flavoursome gastronomic novelty.


    Too much contemporary cooking relies on vegetable oils. In the new tough competitive economic climate you wouldn’t want anyone thinking you’re a veggie. Admittedly, fresh New Zealand strawberries and day-old bald eagle chicks are becoming a bit of a cliché. But give the recipe a whole new twist by boiling them in Saudi crude. It may not taste good but your guests will be astounded that you can afford it.


    * * * * *

    Advice’ from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown on how to win an election.


    Remember the speech I made about our ‘young country’, Gordon? Very popular and worth remembering. For example, post offices. You may as well shut the lot straight away. Nobody uses them except pensioners, and – as you might stress in your next speech – there’s a only a few million of them, and a good proportion will be dead or senile before the election. That’ll get the youngsters on your side. On the other hand go easy on knives. Remember what Jesus said (I talk to Him every day, so should you): ‘I bring not peace, but a sword.’ To a 16 year old, his knife is his sword. Offend him, and you’ve lost a voter for life.


    * * * * *

    How does one recognise a ‘chav’ so as to exclude them from the Royal Enclosure at Ascot?



    • have violent tendencies (for example, younger chavs often join the army)
    • have ambitions, not for real achievement, but for celebrity for celebrity’s sake
    • never get involved in politics or even vote but expect to have a comfortable life at the taxpayers’ expense
    • are generally accompanied by dogs but really enjoy sports involving cruelty to animals
    • have a lot of flashy bling (like the Crown Jewels)
    • come from a dysfunctional family characterised by marriage break-ups
    • are descended from (Hanoverian) immigrants.

    * * * * *

    A work song, along the lines of traditional cotton-picking and mining songs, for a new profession.


    The Spin Doctors’ Song

    (Tune: ‘Pick A Bale of Cotton)


    Me and my buddy gonna forge a dodgy dossier


    Me and my buddy gonna help to start a war

    I said

    Me and my buddy gonna tart up David Miliband


    Me and my buddy don’t back Gordon any more



    Gonna jump up

    Turn my coat

    Talk a load of bollocks

    Gonna jump up

    Turn my coat

    Tell more lies each day


    * * * * *

    A new sport for the Olympics, in which Britain might win medals in 2012.


    Mobile Cycle Racing

    Competitors follow the same route as the London stage of the Tour de France. However, the roads will not be closed to traffic and competitors are required to talk on their mobile phones throughout the event. Medals to all survivors.



    A major political scandal was caused by the publication of expense claims made by members of parliament over several years. The Atheist Bus Campaign paid for London buses to carry as an advertising slogan: ‘There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ This was partly financed by atheist biologist Richard Dawkins.

    Examples of ‘factoids’, things which are repeated so often that they are believed.

    There is no word in the Italian language for a corrupt, fascistic lecher.

    More people were killed making Saving Private Ryan than died in the Normandy landings.


    * * * * *

    A ‘politically correct’ version of a work by an unreconstructed male novelist.

    Pussy Galore stirred the martini vigorously. James winced inwardly but concealed his distress. Since Pussy had demonstrated her sexual prowess – what she called ‘tender loving care’ – he had come to understand that she generally knew best.

    I’ve invited Rosa to dinner,’ she said. ‘You can cook.’

    Rosa Klebb?’ said James. ‘But she tried to kill me with a poisoned knife in her shoe.’

    Come on,’ said Pussy. ‘You know it’s important for women to be assertive.’

    But she’s a red.’

    You mean SMERSH – Socially Motivated Environmental Reformers for Spiritual Harmony?’ She was defending social responsibility against the free market. Would you sooner have Rosa or Sarah Palin?’

    James sighed; as always Pussy was right.


    * * * * *

    Phrases from book reviews and their true meaning.

    A wonderfully innovative approach to the English language’ : Didn’t use spellcheck.

    Brilliantly authentic dialogue’. Uses fuck a lot.

    Powerfully aware of the plight of humanity in the 21st century.’ Full of gratuitous references to global warming.



    The general election produced a hung parliament, leading to the formation of a coalition government of Tories and Liberal Democrats. David Cameron became prime minister, and Nick Clegg was his deputy. Vince Cable became Business Secretary and Michael Gove became Secretary of State for Education. Ed Miliband was elected leader of the Labour Party. Tony Blair published his autobiography ‘A Journey’. In November a student demonstration against education cuts led to the invasion of Tory headquarters at Millbank.

    A bawdy poem attributed to John Milton has been discovered. Another newly discovered work by a famous poet that makes us revise our ideas of him.

    I wandered lonely as a cloud,
    And thought that it was such a shame
    I wasn’t standing in a crowd
    Where I could watch a football game.
    So I trudged on for hours and hours,
    And all I saw were dreary flowers. 

    It was enough to make me weep;
    My shoes were tight; my feet were sore;
    No company but bleating sheep,
    The countryside is such a bore.
    Drenched to the skin by frequent showers,
    I gladly trampled on the flowers. 

    And now, when on my couch I lie,
    In this dull vale where I was born,
    I seldom think of hills or sky
    - I’d sooner read a bit of porn,
    Or take a trip to Alton Towers;
    Oh how I hate all bloody flowers!

    William Wordsworth

    * * * * *

    In his latest book about wine, Jay McInerny claims Bordeaux is to Tolstoy as Burgundy is to Turgenev. A review of another beverage that compares its qualities to a well-known person.

    Medical experts tells us that drinking our own urine can be beneficial to health. Doubtless they are right – but can these benefits ever make up for the harsh acrid taste that fills one’s mouth and throat and the general feeling of nausea that accompanies any contact with the warm, repulsive yellow liquid? In short, urine is the Melvyn Bragg of beverages. Certainly, if one clenches one’s throat muscles tight enough, it might be possible to listen long enough to absorb some useful information about, say, the pre-Socratic philosophers. But as the smug, grating voice drones on, the sense of vertiginous ill-being grows and grows. Dettol straight from the bottle would be better than this.


    * * * * *

    The first paragraph of a book that would instantly secure a huge advance from a publisher.

    I became Peter Mandelson’s doctor in 1993, and for sixteen years I was in a unique position to observe his terrible sufferings, which were completely hidden from the public. I kept a detailed record of his physical and mental torments, the unbearable pain which often left him screaming in agony for hours on end – a condition that is extremely rare in the case of a non terminal illness. I have wrestled with my conscience as to whether I should publish these confidential diaries in full, but have at last decided that the world should have this material. Some will read it from a concern to advance medical knowledge, some from compassion and some – one hopes only a few – from schadenfreude.


    * * * * *

    An example of an unwelcome letter that would be unpleasing to receive.

    Dear Ian Birchall,

    My researchers have just discovered that you’re related to me. (I know the names are spelt differently, but working-class people can’t be bothered with spelling – why should we?) So I shall be taking steps to get to know you – I’m very keen on having an extended family. To start with, I’m having a big party at the Groucho Club. All my children and ex-husbands will be there. So will Cheryl Tweedy: we’re not related but I fancy her. You can’t refuse; if you do I’ll denounce you as a stinking middle-class intellectual snob in The Sun. And that’s just the beginning. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other in the near future.


    Julie Burchill.


    * * * * *

    An extract from a Dickensian novel based around the name of someone in political life.


    Miliband sat in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket. ‘Miliband and Son’, he said, in a tone of luxurious satisfaction. Those three words conveyed the one idea of Mr Miliband’s life. He had written a book on parliamentary democracy, showing that it was a fraud and a sham; he had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Labour Party were reactionary scoundrels, and he had thereby inspired a generation with the ideals of true socialism. But one thing had been missing. An heir to share his values, who would carry on the fight for the principles he held dear. Now he had that son …and perhaps one day he would have two.


    * * * * *

    News of a government-funded college course that teaches teenage girls how to walk in high heels appeared in the Daily Mirror last month, with Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers’ Alliance claiming that it was a waste of money. A programme outline for another ‘enriching’ college course.

    Many teenagers fail to impress employers or their social milieu because their speech is monotonous, punctuated with the same repeated expletives. Our twelve-week course ‘Creativity and Variety in Swearing’ makes young people more powerfully articulate. Taught to high academic standards, it builds on several GCSE disciplines:

    • Literature: students look at texts ranging from the Marquis de Sade and Joyce to the young Alastair Campbell, in order to extend their vocabulary and get a richer understanding of the concept of obscenity.
    • Religious studies: various doctrines are examined to enable students to cause maximum offence in the most concise form.
    • Biology: students examine the appropriateness of reference to anatomical implausibility and impossibility.

    One student who completed the course described it as ******* @!@!@!@ brilliant!’


    * * * * *

    Clerihews on contemporary politicians.

    Nick Clegg

    Had to grovel and beg

    For a government job

    That would bring in a few bob.


    Vince Cable

    Got his feet under the cabinet table

    By taking a post

    Implementing policies to which he was strongly opposed.


    Michael Gove

    Is an odd-looking cove,

    Who’d soon be exposed as a fool

    If he actually ever set foot in a school.


    David Cameron

    Likes to hammer on

    About the need for shared sacrifice

    While his own way of life is rather nice.


    * * * * *

    A new disease, with symptoms and possible cure.

    After bird flu and swine flu comes the new threat of grouse flu. It is estimated that ninety per cent of the birds on Britain’s grouse moors are affected. While dogs are happily immune, the disease is transmissible to human beings who pick up shot birds or eat them. The main symptoms are a bloated appearance and a loud braying voice; unfortunately among those at most risk these features are often hard to distinguish. Authorities do not fear a major epidemic as those most vulnerable have little contact with the rest of humanity. An NHS spokesperson said that they were looking for a cure, but because of financial cutbacks this could take some considerable time.

    * * * * *

    A famous person confesses about the first lie they ever told.

    [Nick Clegg] When I was a kid at school there were two gangs. The Toffs all had rich parents and were terribly posh. The Thugs were bossy, and were always starting fights with other schools. I wouldn’t have anything to do with either bunch, and lots of kids admired me for standing up to both gangs. Then the Toffs started taking dinner money off the disabled kids. I thought this was a terrible thing to do. But I said I agreed with it and that I was going to join the Toffs, because the disabled kids were idle and had it coming to them. I lost a lot of friends. But I got my cut and did quite nicely for myself.


    * * * * *

    To coincide with the repeat of Richard Dawkins’s ‘Enemies of Reason’ on More4, an extract from ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ by God .

    There’s probably no Dawkins; now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

    My reputation – such as it is – is based on a loyal hierarchy of obedient, sycophantic followers. What possible motive could I have for putting the cat among the pigeons by creating Dawkins?

    But as my invention Voltaire said: if Dawkins did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. Dawkins is an illusory nightmare in the minds of those who fear their abuse will be exposed and their cover-ups revealed. They imagine him as an avenging angel. [Though avenging angels are real enough, I assure you.]

    There’s worse. Some of those who believe in Dawkins think Christopher Hitchens really exists. That indicates a seriously unbalanced mind.

    * * * * *

    A review of a well-known books where the reviewer has misunderstood the category.

    Tony Blair : A Journey

    Mr. Blair’s novel is definitely not Booker material. The plot is decidedly weak. The hero launches a war by pretending that the enemy possesses weapons of mass destruction. It strains all credibility to ask us to believe that the venerable British House of Commons would be taken in by such an obvious deception. But the real weakness is the characterisation. Admittedly this is a book of satirical exaggeration. But the ghastly Cherie is such a crude caricature that she falls outside the bounds of parody. To make us laugh there would have to be some element of reality: here there is none. As for the token ‘working-class’ character, Prescott, we’ve all heard these tired old clichés too many times already.



    Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary, promoted the Health and Social Care Bill, which would enable GP consortia to take over management of the NHS from Primary Care Trusts. Mass demonstrations in Egypt led to the overthrow of President Mubarak. The Occupy Wall Street movement, with the slogan ‘We are the 99 per cent’ led to similar protests in 82 countries.Canadian film-maker Christos Sourligas directed a film Happy Slapping, about the practice of filming minor assaults on phones. Prince William married Kate Middleton.


    There are many poems about animals. The animals reply in verse.




    When I was a pup, I was owned by young Jim,

    Over hills and meadows we’d roam;

    Then back to the big house where Jim had his fun;

    A damp kennel was my only home.


    As the years fast did roll, I began to grow old,

    And one day I saw young Jim weep;

    For the doctor had told him that my time was up,

    And he knew that it wouldn’t be cheap.


    With hands that were trembling he reached for his gun.

    Did he aim it at me? Yes, you bet!

    Too stingy by far to pay to have me

    Put down painlessly by the vet.


    Now I have gone where the good doggies go,

    So things, after all, turned out well;

    No more boring walks – I just lie here and watch

    Young Jim as he’s frying in Hell.






    Poet, poet, not so bright,

    Stay out of the woods at night;

    For behind the nearest tree

    May lurk my fearful symmetry.


    Mashed potato? Mouldy grain?

    Were they used to make thy brain?

    You think I’m just a cheap thrill;

    Don’t forget that tygers kill.


    Too much poetry, too much art –

    You ‘Save the Tyger’ bleeding-heart.

    In the zoo I’m nice to see,

    But He who made the shark made me.


    Poet, poet, not so bright,

    Don’t forget that tygers bite;

    You’re the one I’d like to munch:

    William Blake, you’ll be my lunch.


    * * * * *

    A message of solace to someone for the hurts they labour under.

    Dearest Kate,

    When I heard the news – and who could miss it – I felt like weeping. What an ordeal you have ahead! The old phrase about a ‘fate worse than death’ kept coming into my mind.

    But I know what a patriotic lady you are. These are tough times for the old country: demonstrations and strikes, broken windows and kettled mobs. And the way this government is going, it will get a lot worse. Anything that distracts the populace from rioting will be a real service. What a brave young woman you are! When the dreaded night comes, I know you will lie back and think of David Cameron.


    * * * * *

    Verses glorifying asceticism.


    (Tune: Another Brick in the Wall)


    You don’t need no flashy motors

    You don’t need no mobile phones

    No plasma TV in the bathroom


    Bankers, leave that cash alone

    Hey! Bankers! Leave that cash alone!

    All that money’s just another pain in the arse,

    All that money’s just another pain in the arse.


    You don’t need to claim your bonus,

    You don’t need to fiddle tax,

    You don’t need to spit at beggars



    You don’t need no Château d’Yquem,

    You’re too thick to know the taste,

    Cheap wine gets you just as plastered



    * * * * *

    A poem on the subject of a well-known proverb.

    An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away


    Andrew Lansley had a dream;

    He thought up a crafty scheme:

    Eat More Apples’ was the theme

    Of clever Andrew Lansley.


    Very soon he reached his goal

    - Lots more doctors on the dole;

    The sick got apples in a bowl

    From clever Andrew Lansley.


    Nurses then raised the alarm;

    The NHS was done great harm.

    But he had shares in an apple farm;

    Clever Andrew Lansley!


    * * * * *

    New Labour talks about the ‘politics of happiness’. It may be just a matter of time before the study of happiness becomes a BA degree course. Extracts from the syllabus.

    BAH (BA Happiness)

    The second year course is more practically oriented, including the following items.

    1. Students examine the proposition ‘money doesn’t bring happiness’. In accordance with government policy they are deprived of all forms of income so they can investigate.

    2. Visiting Professor Captain Sensible will guide students in the practice of ‘talking talking happy talk’.

    3. Students will undertake work experience as sandboys. It is also hoped to have a lecture from Guest Fellow Larry, and visits to local farms to study pigs and excrement.

    4. Happy Slapping’. Again following government guidelines teaching staff will be publicly humiliated to stop them moaning about job cuts and pensions.

    5. An extended ‘happy hour’ of indeterminate length will merge imperceptibly with the summer vacation.

    * * * * *

    Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance’, as the Independent’s TV reviewer pointed out, ‘is a promising title.’ Real extreme parental guidance.

    In the economic crisis, it’s the children who suffer from cuts in education and welfare. So make sure your kids are fighting back – tooth and nail. Children have an innate capacity for aggression and disruption – if you don’t believe us, just get on a bus at home time. So make sure that energy isn’t wasted on school sports, but goes in the right direction; they could be trashing a bank or occupying the premises of a company that doesn’t pay its taxes. They don’t need to wait till they’re students to protest – even four- and five-year-olds can do an awful lot of damage if they’re put in the right place. Make sure that your offspring grow up as extremists.


    * * * * *

    Lyrics for ‘Occupy: the Musical’.

    (Tune: Oklahoma)


    Occupy them,

    For they suck our blood until we’re dry,

    They’re the one per cent,

    Corrupt and bent,

    And we’ll persecute them till they die.


    Occupy them,

    Like they did down in Tahrir Square;

    You know Mubarak,

    He ain’t coming back,

    And there’s more who’ll have us in their hair.


    We know we are owned by the banks

    And the banks grab our cash without thanks.


    So occupy them

    Till we get all that we shall demand

    Ninety-nine per cent

    We’ll pitch our tent

    And we’ll stay here till we run the land.


    * * * * *


    According to the newspapers we’re spending cannily this Christmas, watching for sales and doing it on the cheap. A thank-you letter for an unwanted gift.

    Dear Jack,

    Thank-you so much for your present. I was overjoyed to get the Selected Poems of Dryden. As Michael Gove has reminded us, he is part of our national tradition, and what made the edition you chose so delightful was the way it had been annotated by previous generations of scholars from the days when Dryden was on the syllabus instead of all this politically correct nonsense. What a wonderful mix of seventeenth-century wit and Restoration bawdiness – so fitting for Dryden. As for the young fellow who wrote ‘I fancy Miss Blenkinsop’ above The Chaste Nymph, he showed true poetic sensitivity. This is not a volume to moulder on the shelves; it has been, as Amazon so rightly put it, ‘used’.

    Aunt Millicent



    Barack Obama was re-elected US President, defeating Republican Mitt Romney. Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s budget cut the top rate of income tax and reduced corporation tax.TheOlympicandParalympic Games were held in London.

    An extract from a book of etiquette for the animal world.

    Unfortunately many pandas fail to realise that it is not just impolite, but deeply inconsiderate, to refuse to have sex in public. Look round at your fellow-creatures – they don’t have any inhibitions. The only ones who share your silly fetish of ‘privacy’ are the two-legged ones with the funny coverings – and you wouldn’t want them as a rôle model. So drop this antisocial coyness; you’re not in the jungle now. And show a bit of gratitude to the hand that feeds you; bamboo leaves don’t grow on trees. In the last resort, good manners is all about putting on a show to please others. So just drop this churlishness and get on with it.


    * * * * *

    A description of the first introduction of a style change to an item of clothing.


    The introduction of nebs on cloth caps came in the late nineteenth century at a time of rising trade-union militancy. The protrusion, directly above the nose, served to protect the wearer from sun, rain and snow. But it also greatly enhanced the self-confidence of the wearer. Clad in a cloth cap with a large neb, a trade unionist would have no difficulty in confronting a greedy, bullying employer and demanding high wages and better conditions. Sadly the decline in the use of cloth caps with large nebs has been paralleled by a loss of backbone in the labour movement. If Ed Miliband would wear a cloth cap with a neb, maybe he would give the Tories a bit of a fight.


    * * * * *

    Verses about the horrors of picnics.

    I wouldn’t mind the non-stop pouring rain,

    Or even thunder and a spot of hail,

    Not when my hosts serve up such fine champagne

    • And for our coarser friends, pints of real ale.

    I wouldn’t mind the ants that crawl and bite

    And make their way to my most private part;

    Not when the food is such a rare delight

    With luscious dishes served up à la carte.

    Though farmyard beasts are roaming everywhere

    The hospitality is far from cheap;

    So gross discomfort I would gladly bear

    If all the bleating only came from sheep.

    But spend a day with boring Tory scum

    - I’d sooner have a corkscrew up my bum.


    * * * * *

    Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, cites the novelist Ayn Rand as a political influence. A political manifesto inspired by another literary figure.


    In drawing up these radical proposals for the reform and modernisation of our public services, I have repeatedly found inspiration in the work of DH Lawrence, and especially in his most magnificent creation, Constance Chatterley. Her husband, Clifford, is disabled; but unlike our brave Paralympians, he does not overcome his disability, but relies on benefits and hand-outs. Under outdated and restrictive regulations, Clifford is Constance’s sole authorised supplier. But the courageous and enterprising Constance, a true heroine of the free market, becomes a pioneer of the vital principle of outsourcing. Totally free of snobbery and old-fashioned deference, Constance insists that whoever can supply the goods, whatever their social standing, must be embraced. Only when, like Constance, our public services are penetrated by a new and vigorous input, will we be able to offer genuine satisfaction.


    * * * * *

    David Cameron, on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’, failed a mock citizenship test. The PM did not know the English for ‘Magna Carta’ or recall who was the composer of ‘Rule Britannia’. Citizenship test questions for another political figure.


    Ed Miliband

    Who was the first leader of the Labour Party?

    Now I’m not sure of this. It must be in one of my Dad’s books I never read. I think it was Benjamin Disraeli.

    In what year was the General Strike?

    I think there’s a mistake here. It must have been some other country. We don’t have that sort of thing in Britain.

    What is a trade union?

    It’s a charitable organisation. It raises money for the Labour Party with no hope of anything in return.

    What was Clause Four of the Labour Party’s constitution?

    Sorry, I never read the small print.

    Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs?

    I’m not religious myself, but I have great respect for anyone who died for their faith.

    Who composed ‘The Red Flag’?

    Oh, that’s one of those wonderful Lennon-McCartney tunes I love so much.


    * * * * *

    Some people have claimed that the plants that gardeners grow and how they organise their gardens reflect their class and politics. A proposal for a garden for a well-known personage from a landscape designer who has considered his client’s preferences in this light.

    The garden that we are proposing for Mr Osborne will provide an original and striking environment, which will be a great asset in entertaining foreign dignitaries. (We think Ms Merkel, in particular, will be very impressed with it.)

    The whole of Mr Osborne’s seventeen-acre estate will be covered with a robust strain of Venus flytrap, a magnificent plant that embodies all the best traditional values of British conservatism. Scattered throughout the grounds will be specially equipped observation arbours, where Mr Osborne and his guests (potentates or old school chums) will be able to see at close hand how the plants consume their prey. The sight of wingless or legless creatures vainly striving to escape their fate will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration. The fact that the victims are all invertebrates will certainly resonate with Mr Osborne’s well-known contempt for the ‘spineless’.


    * * * * *

    The facts of life explained by an entirely inappropriate person.

    Jeremy Paxman

    When you go out onto the streets nowadays, you know what it’s like …

    (Film of city pavement, congested with prams and baby buggies…)

    .Babies, babies, everywhere. But where are they coming from? In this Newsnight Special, prepared in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Gynaecology, we show the surprising answer.

    (Film of a large gooseberry plantation. A young woman enters, bends down behind a bush and picks up a baby.)

    I wonder what she’s collecting in benefits. But what lies behind this flood of babies that may be damaging our economic recovery?

    (Film of flocks of storks flying across the sky.)

    Crossing our frontiers with total impunity. Nobody even seems to know the numbers. We approached the Home Office and the Department of Health but they refused to comment.



    The conference of the National Association of Head Teachers criticised Michael Gove for the climate of bullying, fear and intimidation they said he had created during his time as Education Secretary. The Church of England synod voted in favour of proposals to allow the ordination of women bishops. The UK Independence Party made big gains in the local elections. Right-wing Tory MP Nadine Dorries was readmitted to the parliamentary Conservative Party; she had been suspended for absenting herself from Parliament to take part in a reality television programme in Australia. Shortly afterwards she floated the idea of joint Conservative-UKIP candidates at the 2015 general election in, with herself as such a candidate.

    The next archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used to work in the oil business. Suggestions from the archbishop on how the Church could be run on more business-like lines.

    The Church of England has great commercial advantages in its royal connections and government support. Unfortunately its customer base is shrinking, and you can’t buck the market. Its main rival, based in Rome, appeals very effectively to authoritarian reactionary consumers, while smaller firms control the niche market in dogmatism and enthusiasm. There is evidence that the core product is becoming less appealing, and that the Church needs to radically rethink what it is selling. There is reason to believe that if the Church were to rebrand itself, it could make substantial gains in the agnostic/humanist sector of the market; while not abandoning its Christian values it should build on the pragmatism and vagueness that has always characterised the Church of England. We therefore propose a bold advertising campaign directed at this new potential market, using the slogan: ‘God probably doesn’t give a toss. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’


    * * * * *

    Writing from today’s teenagers as they look back with nostalgia from the latter end of the 21st century.


    Hi (as we used to say when people still had manners):

    Sorry for sending an old-fashioned megatweet, but I can’t get the hang of these new brain-implant things. I was just watching the Justin Bieber eightieth birthday concert and I remembered Mum and Dad going on about how Justin would soon be forgotten, and how I ought to take an interest in the really serious things going on. Like women bishops. I wonder how many people nowadays know what a bishop was.

    But what I really miss is London. What a great place it was – all those buildings and streets and parks. All gone. The Olympic stadium, vanished under the water even before they’d managed to sell it off. I hear they’re talking about making it into an underwater theme park. I may be living in the past, but Snowdonia just doesn’t feel like a capital to me.


    * * * * *

    In ancient times, a revered natural philosopher ponders why birds have two legs, mammals four, insects six, spiders eight, and so on.


    In the beginning Zeus created all creatures, but they had no legs and could not move. So Zeus said to the spiders: ‘What would you do if I gave you legs?’ They replied: ‘Spin wondrously fine silk and set traps to control pests.’ ‘Excellent,’ said Zeus: ‘You are model workers, not scroungers. You shall have eight legs.’ When he asked the insects they said: ‘Travel everywhere to pollinate, so that life may continue.’ And Zeus gave them six legs. And the beasts of the fields said: ‘Wander the land in search of grazing, to produce milk, wool and meat.’ ‘Factory farming soon,’ replied Zeus, ‘but in the meantime have four legs.’ Then he asked the human beings and they answered: ‘Running! Cycling! Synchronised swimming! Olympics!! Yay!!!’ And Zeus said: ‘Idiots! You don’t deserve any. But I’ll give you two – otherwise you’d just invent the Paralympics.’


    * * * * *

    An extract from the tale of a fictional detective who has swapped his domestic setting for that of another fictional detective.

    I was wearing my dark suit, with white shirt, tie and display handkerchief. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober. I was going to church. To church for the first time in thirty years. My instructions were explicit. Make friends with the vicar. He knows what’s going on in town.

    So here I was, walking the mean streets of St. Mary Mead. To be precise, there was only one street. But appearances were deceptive, as they usually are. There were more murders per head of population in this sleepy village than in LA. For years a dame called Jane Marple had kept the bad guys in line. But now Jane was sleeping the big sleep, and I had been sent to replace her. I was getting twenty-five dollars a day and expenses. Not a lot, but better than the pension poor old Jane used to get from her lousy government.


    * * * * *

    The opening of a book of memoirs that would discourage readers from continuing.


    The Memoirs of Nadine Dorries

    So very many dear friends have told me that they want to know more about me, both the parliamentarian and the human being, that I have overcome my natural modesty and written my memoirs. The 700-page limit imposed by the publishers means I can’t tell everything, but I have tried to include as much as possible. Here you can read the full text of many of my written parliamentary questions, which got little coverage from the biased BBC, but which deal with some very important aspects of the impact of EU regulations on British commerce. I’ve also included the full transcript of my conversations with Nigel Farage. And a few of you, I suppose, will want to know more about my sojourn in Australia. To satisfy your curiosity, I have included extensive extracts from my intimate diary, including a detailed record of my bowel movements.


    * * * * *

    An excerpt from an early MS by a current, well-known novelist.

    Once upon a time there was a policeman called Reg. He was a very kind man who helped children across the road. He never hit anyone, even if they were really, really bad, and he never pretended people had stolen things when they hadn’t. He had a wife who was very nice and two children who were a bit difficult.

    One day the teacher’s purse was missing. She thought Jim had taken it. Jim was rude and used bad language; people said he was ‘working class’. So teacher sent for Reg. Reg took weeks, because he liked to make a story last a long time, but one day he opened Susie’s desk and the purse was there. Susie was posh but a bit strange. Everyone said how clever Reg was, but Reg said it showed girls could be as naughty as boys, and sometimes worse.

    Ruth Rendell (aged five-and-a-half)


    * * * * *

    A letter of resignation from a minister to the prime minster, showing that these days it takes quite a lot to prompt such a step.

    Dear Prime Minister,

    After this morning’s appointment with my psychotherapist I must regretfully offer my resignation. When you made me Minister for Education, I recognised it was a huge challenge. I was determined to cleanse the Augean stables (Dictionary of Classical Quotes, p. 23). I would myself redraft the syllabus in each and every subject; following in the footsteps of that great libertarian George Orwell, I would decide what was and was not history, who was to be remembered and who was an ‘unperson’. Moreover, I would personally give tutorial instruction to every child in the country, reviving their sense of aspiration, which has been crushed and stifled by their vile Trotskyist teachers. Alas, it was not to be. But for me this is just a minor setback. I shall spurn Josephine’s advances, lead my armies across the snow and take Moscow…..


    * * * * *

    An updated version of a well-known poem on some aspect of contemporary life.

    E-Mail (after WH Auden’s ‘Night Mail’)

    This is the internet crossing all borders

    If you’ve got PayPal who needs postal orders?

    E-mail for the rich, e-mail for the poor,

    But if you’ve got broadband you’re sure to get more.

    E-mails of thanks, e-mails from banks,

    E-mails quite droll that end up with ‘LOL’.

    Offers from Amazon right up your street

    Take just a second to press and delete.

    Tweets from uncles, cousins and aunts,

    Tweets with cedillas from the South of France.

    Tweeting to followers in thousands worldwide

    Jesus only had twelve and got crucified.

    You’re not on-line? Hard luck, Mrs Brown,

    Your local Post Office has just been shut down.



    UKIP had the largest share of the vote of any party in the European elections. Two Tory MPs defected to UKIP and subsequently won by-elections as UKIP candidates.

    Delete one letter from the title of a famous book; a synopsis of the ‘new’ title.

    Thomas Hardy: Far from the Adding Crowd

    Gabriel Oak, though from a poor rural family, wins a scholarship to study mathematics at Christminster University. But he finds the other mathematics students arrogant and supercilious; several belong to the notorious Bullingdon club. He is not accepted into their clique. So he abandons his studies and returns to a simpler life in his native village, where he marries his childhood sweetheart Bathsheba. His friend Clym Yeobright also studies at Christminster; for a long time he has illusions, being credulous and believing all he is told. Eventually he becomes disillusioned and also returns to the village; Hardy describes this in the sequel The Return of the Naïve.



    The general election campaign was underway, with no clear favourite. UKIP leader Nigel Farage had high hopes of winning the South Thanet seat. Pope Francis, while upholding the ban on artificial contraception, stated that Catholics do not have to breed ‘like rabbits’.


    In a recent column in the New Statesman, Nicholas Lezard wrote: ‘When in doubt, ask yourself: what would Beckett do?’ Samuel Beckett’s response to a situation that can occur today.

    Vladimir lies bleeding under a huge pile of rubble.

    ESTRAGON (enters): What happened?

    VLADIMIR: The Accident and Emergency has been closed. That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth.

    ESTRAGON: Have you tried the GP’s surgery?

    VLADIMIR: Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.

    ESTRAGON: What happened to the rest of the hospital?

    VLADIMIR: They closed the maternity ward too.

    ESTRAGON: They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.

    VLADIMIR: It was closed because of Osborne’s cuts.

    ESTRAGON: Moron! Vermin! Abortion! Sewer-rat! Curate! Cretin!

    VLADIMIR: What will Clegg say?

    ESTRAGON: Nothing to be done.

    VLADIMIR: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Miliband comes.

    ESTRAGON: And if he comes?

    VLADIMIR: We’ll be saved. Perhaps.

    (They do not move.)


    * * * * *


    According to press reports, staff at HMP Ford in West Sussex have been fighting – and failing to deal with – an infestation of rabbits for years. They eat the vegetables grown on the prison farm and have ruined the prison football pitch. Yet just over a year ago, the governor wrote to inmates: ‘There have been incidents of offenders killing rabbits to consume them. This practice is unacceptable,’ she wrote, because it ‘upsets’ staff. Some imaginative ideas from the prisoners to solve the problem.

    Dear governor,

    The lads have asked me to reply to your letter. We guarantee there will be no more killings. We’re not criminals. (Well technically …..) But we must tell you that since the porn channels were blocked on our televisions, we’ve spent a lot of time watching the rabbits. It’s very stimulating.

    So we were shocked when the Pope made his speech about not breeding like rabbits. With respect, we feel the Holy Father may not be infallible on this point. He does rather lack practical experience. (Mickey, who’s with us for immoral earnings, was very keen on this point.)

    We’d like to suggest the Pope should be invited to come and spend some time with us. He’d feel at home here – there’s not a lot of difference between a monastery and a nick. And he could learn an awful lot from watching the rabbits with us.


    * * * * *

    Rowan Williams recently pointed out that, in writing ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare changed the happy ending of his source material to an unhappy one. The ‘original’ ending of another tragedy.

    Scholars are excited by a newly discovered manuscript of Shakespeare’s original version of Macbeth. The first four acts are identical with the familiar version, but Act V is completely different. Government spending cuts oblige Malcolm and MacDuff to abandon military operations after a Green Party protest prevents them chopping down Birnam Wood. Instead they organise a referendum. Lady Macbeth does not commit suicide and becomes first minister in the Scottish government. The witches promise Macbeth a glorious future in the English parliament (‘All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Westminster MP; hail to thee, coalition broker; hail to thee, saviour of Miliband!’). The porter endorses this, saying he has many drinking companions at Westminster. Particularly notable is the new version of Macbeth’s soliloquy from Scene V, which reads:

    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

    Brings ever more election leaflets,

    Until we scream with boredom and now start

    To long for dusty death


    * * * * *

    Following the announcements that Harper Lee wrote an unpublished novel about the later career of Scout, an excerpt from another unpublished novel about the later life of a child hero.

    William faced the assembled journalists.

    Mr Brown,’ asked one, ‘as newly elected leader of the Liberal Party, do you intend to enter a coalition?’

    William was puzzled. It had all seemed so easy when he read that life of Lloyd George. He had expected huge crowds and adoring women. Not difficult questions like this. He looked around for Ginger – but his faithful friend had lost his seat after a recount.

    Is it true,’ another asked, ‘that you have entered an alliance with the Conservatives?’ What could he say? He could hardly tell them that he had agreed, against his will, because Theresa May had threatened to ‘thcream and thcream till I’m sick’.

    I shall be following the policies of Lloyd George,’ he asserted defiantly. ‘That is what my party does.’

    A young woman at the back of the room smiled. William cheered up. Maybe it was working.


    * * * * *

    A misleading advert for luxury flats in Luton, aimed at investors in China and Malaysia, suggests that Luton is close to the centre of London. Another dubious estate agent’s blurb about an area and its environs.

    This delightful bijou residence in South Thanet will place you at the very hub of British political life. Just a few minutes’ walk will take you to an auditorium where you can hear the deathless oratory of the country’s most charismatic political leader, a man who can make and above all break governments. Every day you will have the opportunity of meeting the razor sharp intellects who make up his political entourage. And you will soon notice how many of your neighbours share his challenging and mould-breaking ideas. But the area is marked by diversity also. On the vibrant streets of South Thanet you will constantly encounter people demonstrating vigorously in favour of an alternative political philosophy. To understand the powerful passions at the very heart of UK politics, move to South Thanet.