Friday, 20 January 2017

Dog Day Afternoon

The day is come. You can feel the build-up. All around the world, lefties and democrats and snowflakes and gender-agenda-benders and political sheep and Lily Allen and Jon Snow and Alistair Campbell and Owen Jones and Nicola Sturgeon and the list just goes on and on and on... are rending their garments, tearing out their hair, self-harming  and generally melting down. It is truly glorious and it’s not going to stop today. Even after President Trump has taken his seat in the Oval Office they will not accept it. Sales of Valium are going to soar. (Top shares tip there.)

They say he’s a clown, they say his presidency will be a joke, they dearly wish him to fail. If only they could genuinely see what we see. And I’m not talking about Trump. There are millions of people who voted against him, just as with Brexit, who are going to quietly accept the result. There are millions of people the world over who are secretly thinking it’s going to be okay. But if the hundreds of thousands of screeching malcontents could only see themselves clearly, through the lens of normality, they might be embarrassed enough to shut up shop, go home and get lives.

Sadly, the intransigent socialist creed runs deep – borrow and spend, bankrupt the country, fail in your promises, get booted out of office then blame the wreckage on the rescuers. Every time. After which they ratchet up the rhetoric and wait for the booby traps they left to take effect. Societal sabotage is in their blood and I guess it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. But every now and then a dog will surprise you. And I am reminded of the story I heard from my butcher the other week...

A dog walked into his shop with £20 and a note in a shopping bag he held in his mouth. He dropped both on the counter. The note read “1 kilo of sausages and two pork chops, please.” The butcher was duly amazed, but packaged up the order and took the money. The dog waited, his head cocked to one side. The butcher looked at him inquiringly and the dog barked once, nodding towards the till. Suitably chastised, the butcher opened the till and gave the dog back £5 in change. The dog barked back his thanks and bounded from the shop.

The butcher was, naturally, curious and he quickly placed the closed sign, locked the shop door and followed the dog, which had carefully crossed the road and appeared to be perusing the timetable in the bus stop opposite. Two buses passed, both of which the dog ignored, finally boarding the third and showing a day pass to the driver who smiled in recognition. The butcher hastily hurried on board and observed as the dog watched the passing streets with interest. He finally trotted up to the front of the bus, pressed the request-stop button and hopped off, closely followed by the butcher.

What did I say about letting sleeping dogs lie?

The dog raced up a sides street, ran down a garden path, dropped the bag of meat on the step and reached up to knock the knocker. A few moments later the door opened and the man who answered started shouting. “You useless bloody hound!” he yelled and aimed a kick at the dog. “You stupid, stupid dog!” The butcher intervened at this point. “What the hell are you saying?” he asked “This dog is a genius!” The owner responds, “Genius, my arse,” he said “it's the second time this week he's forgotten his key!”

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Krautgate

Well, I say chaps; bit of a hoo-hah, what? Seems dear old Boris has been upsetting Johnny Foreigner. Good show! Why do you think Tess put him in post in the first place? You see, your average foreign fella lacks the sheer sense of fun to belong to the same club as we jolly ‘Englanders’, as I believe they like to call us, as if we’d be insulted. Actually, we love being referred to as Englanders because it upsets the Jocks and the Taffs and the Paddies so much. What larks!

It seems good old Boz said “If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War 2 movie, then I don't think that that is the way forward and I don't think it's in the interests of our friends and partners.” Bally well spot on, I think you’ll agree. And given that what he meant was – I saw his first draft – “If that jumped-up Vichy-Frog, Nazi collaborator, cheese-snaffling surrender gibbon thinks he’s man enough...” I’d say it was a pretty diplomatic response to the gibe. Still, it was enough to send the apologist fifth columnists into a spin.

Of course, that nasty piece of phlegm, Guy Verhofstadt, who, because he’s not English, pronounces his name the same way as the clarified butter that makes Paki cooking so greasy, waded in with the unhelpful tweet: “Yet more abhorrent & deeply unhelpful comments from @Boris Johnson which PM May should condemn.” To which Michael Gove cheerily replied “People "offended" by The Foreign Secretary's comments today are humourless, deliberately obtuse, snowflakes-it's a witty metaphor” hashtag-getalife” Sporty stuff all round.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman brushed off suggestions that the Foreign Secretary should apologise, describing his comments as a "theatrical comparison". This is entirely apt as we find ourselves in Panto season – another British tradition that the unwashed masses beyond our shores will never fully comprehend. They’re only jealous because they’re not us; as Flanders and Swann put it: “It’s knowing they’re foreign that makes them so mad.” But what is there to apologise for anyway?

If we can’t rub along without a bit of good-natured banter, what kind of an alliance do they think we have? I mean, your average Dago spends half the day asleep, the Eye-ties are more concerned with their shoes than with getting the job done and the Zorbas all grow moustaches in honour of their mothers. It’s all harmless fun, but you do need a sense of self-deprecating humour to understand. Which brings us to Jerry. Herr Merkel’s millions are so bloody earnest they wouldn’t know a pun from a palindrome and couldn’t acknowledge the craft in either. Life must be difficult, spending your every waking hour apologising for... well, you know.

Don't mention the war.

I suppose we ought to make allowances for the poor bastards, born without the benefits of being British. It’s not their fault they didn’t win the lottery of life; it must be tricky being from such indeterminate stock and so easily riled. All of the EU is in meltdown over Brexit so we maybe should cut them some slack. And most of all we shouldn’t upset the Hun; the sausage-eating, jack-booted, swastika toting, heel-clicking Bosch can be quite sensitive about that sort of thing. The least we should do is not mention the war.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Being British about it

I never knew the empire, but my grandfather did and having been a child in the First World War, served a brace of His Britannic Majesties before, during and after the Second great unpleasantness. Because of the efforts of his generation I grew up English; I remember being curious that my nationality was called 'British' and I was taught and understood who the other British peoples were, but I was and will remain an English man. It was and still ought to be something to be proud of. Of course, some of the less noble excesses of the British global adventure were known about, but we glossed over that and we knew, innately, that we were indeed a special breed.

One of the features of my very early years was the succession of countries being granted, or claiming their independence from British protection, while yet wishing to remain a part of the recently founded Commonwealth of Nations. Today, I suspect the citizens of some of these countries act and feel more British than we are allowed to do. Because, as I was growing into adolescence and then into adulthood, something peculiar was happening. My first stirring of political interest came when Ted heath appeared to give away our sovereignty even as he assured us he was doing no such thing.

Two years later I watched in some dismay as the 1975 Project Fear won the referendum on staying in The Common Market. The promise of holding that national referendum – the first in British history – was in no small part the reason a Labour government got into power the year before. Save British workers, save British independence, save everything British was the rallying cry. Were there riots? Were there underhand attempts to frustrate the outcome? No. We were assured we would remain every bit as British as we had always been, but we would be stronger, more prosperous as a result of joining hands with our European partners.

Well, we did get prosperous, but how much was a direct result of European partnership may never be known; the whole of the western world became wealthier as we paid down the war debts and looked to the future. But we didn’t stay British, not in the way that used to be recognisable the world over. New generations who had never known a world outside what became the EU were told of our abhorrent past; of how we only did harm wherever our expeditionary forces set foot. Newer generations still were told how it was the EU which had saved us from further conflicts. The latest generations have no notion of the Britishness I grew up with.

No wonder we can’t have a level conversation about Brexit. Those who have never known independence are understandably nervous about the future, but instead of facing up to that future they think they are staring into a black hole. What happened to cheerful Tommy Atkins? What happened to the phlegmatic, ‘mustn’t grumble’ attitude of the generations for whom making do and carrying on was Britishness to the core? We played the cards we were dealt; we didn’t demand the croupier deal again.

Which brings us to now. Had the 1975 generation any notion of where we would end up they would have voted to leave. Nobody voted for an emasculated and dependent nation, in thrall to foreign masters; nobody in the general electorate had any vision of us becoming a European administrative region. So, for me, you can forget all the economic talk – history has proved that no one knows what lies ahead – the most important part of Theresa May’s speech yesterday was about coming together, regaining our confidence and forging ahead as a proud, self-governing people.

Coffee? Are you some sort of fifth columnist?

If that means facing tough times, so be it; it likely won’t. But if the sore, tremble-lipped losers continue to do their damnedest to weep crocodile tears over spilled milk, it will take so much longer to achieve. Self-fulfilling doom prophecies are no help at all – I’m talking to Nick Clegg, Tim Farron, Emily Thornberry, Anna Soubry; the list goes on – the PM has spoken and the project is underway. Project Hope, Project Forward, call it what you like; we are where we are, for better or for worse and the only grown-up thing to do now is roll up our sleeves and crack on. Be British about it.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Common as

The very best way to assemble a conspiracy theory is by reverse engineering. Start with an observation, for example: today’s kids are dumb. Then examine what they are being taught; common core maths is incomprehensible to the older generations and is immediately suspect. Now, dig back in history to find some statements, some events, to ‘prove’ it. The 1909 Woodrow Wilson address to the New York City High School Teachers Association Fits the brief nicely:

“we want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

Hey presto, a one hundred-year long conspiracy to keep the low animals down, the pigs in power and restrict the potential of the majority of the human race in what are generally referred to as ‘developed’ countries. But, of course, Wilson was laying no such foundation. Read as part of the whole he was setting out, very eloquently as it happens, what we all know, or ought to be capable of understanding. And that is that not every student is capable of achieving high academic learning and even if they were, such learning is often of little practical use. We need a thousand people who can measure and cut and shape things, for every mathematician who can explain precisely what the numbers mean.

Another conjoined meme that regularly does the rounds is on the lines of “Governments don’t want an intelligent population because people who can think critically can’t be ruled. They want a public just smart enough to pay taxes and dumb enough to keep voting.” Variously attributed to H L Mencken, George Carlin and others, it is a popular expression of a deep-rooted mistrust of government that appears to seek the opinion of the masses but then does the exact opposite, or so frustrates that opinion that it amounts to the same thing. Such a shame I can’t quite put my finger on any topical examples just now...

Anyway, as much as common core maths seems ridiculous and intended to dumb ‘the kidz’ down I’m of a more generous inclination in assigning it to the category of ‘well-meaning idiocy’.  Just as Woodrow Wilson was talking about education preparing children for a useful life in the world, today’s educators are seeking to equip them, as efficiently as they believe possible, with the tools to negotiate an uncertain future. They’re just not as good at it as they would wish to be. Spoiling the child by sparing the rigour has long been a feature of ‘progressive’ education that strives to deliver a socio-political ethos as well as an education.

We don't need no...

But are they so very wrong, after all? We are in an age when one can make a living out of doing nothing very useful at all. The commentariat, the world of social justice, the equality and diversity industry and the new, burgeoning work for idle hands, exploring the myriad inventive gender identities which are multiplying by the day. Maybe, when the machines finally do take over all the grunt work, we will indeed need more products of a liberal education. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dreamers

You have to feel sorry for Jeremy Corbyn, really. This man of principles appears to have abandoned every one of them since he took the reins of what is left of the Labour Party. A career-long opponent of the EU, he now painfully claims to want to retain membership of the single market. A once proud defender of ‘British jobs for British people’ he now has to declare that freedom of movement for low-skilled workers, lowering wages and displacing Labour’s traditional voter base is a price he is willing to accept for said membership. A former red ‘firebrand’ he now meekly acquiesces to the EU’s impositions on its workers.

After a week which he began with his ‘yeah, but no, but, yeah, but...’ clarification of his multiple and varying stances on these policies he has taken the stage at the Fabians conference and left with yet more egg on his face. His latest policy response to the laughter and despair he aroused last week is to re-establish his commitment to the very worst, simplistic principles of Marxism and populist socialism. The answer, he really wants to say, is nationalise everything. Starting with the trains and moving on to care homes, if his heart isn’t in the right place then there goes the last possible excuse for indulging his fantasies.

The formula ‘make everybody better off’ as a starting point is nothing but a soundbite for the masses. The idea that you can achieve this by making some people worse off is pure cant. And the proposal that you can keep happy those on the lower rungs of the earnings ladder by propping them up with state charity is demeaning and preposterous. Anybody can stand on a stage and say they will ‘save’ the NHS, or improve the railways, or tackle Britain’s productivity shortfall, or make our schools the envy of the world. But without a credible means by which any of these things might be achieved you may as well say you will levitate or reveal god, or resurrect the dead.

Actually, Corbyn has already brought many policies back from the electoral graveyard and is somehow keeping them on artificial life support to no discernible purpose. Even failed communist plans deserve a decent burial and to be left to rest in peace. But listening to Comrade Jeremy, I can’t help but feel like Winston Smith; I’ve heard all this before, I remember it didn’t work the first time, or the next, or the next, but I am being asked to believe that, as under Common Core, three times four can equal eleven.


Children grow up dreaming and hoping and imagining bright futures where anything is possible. For a very fortunate few, success comes about by accidents; of birth, of opportunity, of flashes of inspiration, of being in the right place at exactly the right time, of sheer luck. But the majority will only succeed by applying themselves to acquire the skills and responsibilities that participation in our system of mostly benign capitalism requires. The high dreams fade and are tempered into realistic objectives as the reality hits home. Somebody should shake Jeremy gently by the shoulder and wake the poor old fucker up.