With Christmas a mere 10 days away, the UK is abuzz with the new party game to be enjoyed by all the family after the ritual demolishing of the turkey, which we Brits devour with much abandon just in case they suddenly join the EU. (Coming over here, basking in our cranberries…) It’s called What Does Brexit Mean, Auntie Sylvia? (And if Auntie Sylvia knows, she’s the only damn person in the entire country to have much of a clue).
Now, I know what you’re going to say: Brexit means Brexit! But if you express that in mathematical form, it’s:-
x = x
when x is a factor under consideration of knowledge knowable naturally only to worthless scholars, or FUCK KNOWS for short.
And as much as this is the official Government line, even Theresa May doesn’t understand it, which is why she decided to express it in colour as a Red, White and Blue Brexit. Which on reflection could denote a Cuban Brexit, a Bermudan Brexit, a Cambodian or North Korean Brexit, or, of course, a Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Brexit. Though I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.
But then it suddenly occurred to me: where, in this highly-sophisticated era of cutting-edge technology, do the ruling elite disseminate their political messages? That’s it! Though sadly, I have to report the only fact I gleaned from the side of a bus is Weetabix means Weetabix.
So it’s anyone’s guess as to what we’ll end up with. Hard, soft, medium, sunny side up (not available), over easy (definitely not available), drifting off alone into the North Sea kind of Brexit (likely). Transitional, edge-of-cliff Brexit, just a light trim or cost me an arm and a leg Brexit. Or perhaps a superciliousfragileexitexpeditingvoters Brexit. With knobs on. (Given that the knobs are driving this in the first place).
Thus, the only thing that’s a surety is a fact so simple, once you see it you wonder how you ever missed it. It is:-
_____________ = xpm
And now the shipping forecast. The general synopsis at five to midnight.
Squally, turbulent, outlook hysterical
Affluent, backing Tory
Dogger, Fisher, German Bite
Clapham Common, Grimsby, Sauerkraut, intermittently Merkel
Soggy, wind 5 or 6, decreasing later
Poor, veering Far Right
Turning Trump, becoming bonkers
The world awoke this morning to discover it had been turned into a cartoon, with Donald J. Duck having been elected as President of the United States of America.
Puffed-up in both appearance and behaviour, with a large beak, tiny wings, and extravagant plumage on top of his head, Mr Duck is known for his short-temper, bullying, and semi-intelligible speech. Typical of his kind, using his mouth for dredging, he is of the fresh variety, who is unafraid to play with cats without their owners’ permission.
He campaigned on a platform of Mickey Mouse policies and quackery.
In his victory speech he was generous in thanking his family, including Huey, Dewey and Ivanka (who’s married to Jewey).
Mr Duck’s cohorts are habitually found in swamps, amid large populations of loons.
HYMN TO XENOPHOBIC BRITAIN
And did those feet in modern time,
Walk upon Europe’s pastures green,
And was the holy lamb of God
With cumin, cooked in open air tureens.
And did the Far Right asinine
Shout ‘foul!’ upon on our crowded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded there,
In Calais’ tents, as trash in French landfills.
Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my gallows of desire;
Bring me my spear; O crowds unfold!
Bring me my bulldozers of fire!
I will not cease from mental Right,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem
Elsewhere from England’s dark and peasant Land.
PUBLIC SAFETY WARNING
Millions of people have been scared out of their wits in the latest incidence of scary clown sightings sweeping the US.
Reports of two particularly bloodcurdling specimens spotted on campus at Washington University, St Louis, on Sunday evening resulted in mass panic as each attacked the other, with the certain outcome that the victor would terrorise billions of people for the next four years, or until the end of time, whichever is the soonest.
Witnesses described how one of the perpetrators, large in stature with a grotesque mask, preposterous hair and tiny hands, jumped out from behind a lectern and alarmed the other clown – who was plainly suffering from delusions of grandeur – as he followed her around threatening to incarcerate her.
This phenomenon has also been noted in the UK, where the public have been similarly spooked by a whole host of unnerving figures, including a court jester – ironically, with no sense of humour – sporting ill-fitting clothes made of sackcloth, a grisly beard housing old lentils, and shoes far too big for him, who strikes terror even into his fellow clowns. Another goes under the guise of ‘Nigel, The Prize Fool’, never seen without a shiny red nose and a glass full of ale, who is forever retiring from the world stage before returning for never-ending curtain calls.
THESE FIGURES ARE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT APPROACH THEM
MORE TO THE POINT, DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT VOTING FOR THEM
aka A Midsummer Night’s Nightmare
Cameronius loves Junckerio and Junckerio loves Cameronius, although only in an ironic way. Govio loves Borisius Johnsonio – at least he does until the magic love drops wear off – while Borisius Johnsonio used to love Govio but now loves only Borisius Johnsonio, leading Govio to suddenly knife him in the back with a very expensive John Lewis silver stiletto 64 million people paid for without meaning to, which he keeps up his sleeve in case of emergencies.
Farragio, in love with Adolphio, prefers Ukipius to any of them, and in order to enforce his wishes upon the Royal Court, gives an ultimatum to all the subjects in the land to choose between Cameronius and life in Europea, or a long, lingering, lonely death with no friends adrift in the North Sea, by 23rd June.
Meanwhile, complications arise in the Forest of Light Relief, where a collection of talentless celebrity craftsmen, led by Bigginsio, King of the Fairies, who is always keen to play Bottom, are tasked with performing an entertainment to be watched by Biggius Brotheronium and 5 hapless plebiscites who plainly lost a bet. Bigginsio is, however, removed from the production after going off-script to make a very funny joke about a fellow craftswoman’s aversion to being carted off to the death camps and gassed to death. Which turns out not to be very funny after all. But then, he is an ass.
The good citizens of the land vote to stay in Europea, while the bad citizens of the land, who outnumber the good citizens, even though they have a collective IQ of 3, vote to leave. Cameronius, having stated he would remain Duke whatever happened, rescinds his title and tells Junckerio they can no longer be together.
The climax of the summer ensues: the race to become Duke of the Tories. Govio and Johnsonio, Liesander Foxglove (an idiot, named after his fondness for inscribing ridiculous proclamations on the sides of public wagons), Stefano Crabbe (a bearded idiot nobody’s ever heard of), Titania Leadsom (a tit) and Mayhem, Ice Queen of the Tories, notorious for her hand-stitched-by-artisans footwear, and her bespoke jewellery designed by the surprising accessories success story of the year, B&Q, all vie for the Dukedom. Govio and Foxglove lose in the first round, while Johnsonio removes himself from the contest before everyone else does. Stefano Crabbe, having run on a family ticket, catches crabs from sexting someone not in his family (though he thought she was just the ticket), and Titania Leadsom is revealed to be too much of a clotpole even for an Elizabethan comedy. This leaves Mayhem, Ice Queen of the Tories, as Duke of The Tories by default.
Thankfully, most nightmares come to an end, though this one just runs and runs. Junckerio promises to exact revenge on Mayhem for Cameronius’ betrayal, Govio is sent into exile, and Johnsonio, Liesander Foxglove and Davidius Davidius (a court jester), form an uneasy pact to ensure all the peace and considerable spoils of the past 40 years are totally and utterly reduced to pixie dust. Bigginsio attempts to revive his inexplicable popularity by playing the back end of a donkey in Christmastide entertainments, and the good citizens of the land pack up their possessions to make for the run-down castles of the Poitou-Charentes, leaving behind only a note addressed to 17.4 million bad citizens of the land:-
“All for your delight we are not here”
It can’t have escaped your notice that the UK has recently been rocked to its core by the shocking inadequacies of a number of high-profile elites, who – in their astounding arrogance and efforts to pursue their own selfish career advancement without even a passing consideration for millions of others – have brought this place to its knees. But that’s enough about Top Gear and the England football team, there’s also been a story brewing in British politics.
For, after more than 40 years, the British public have voted to leave its place in Europe. Which on the plus side, means we can now fulfil a long-standing manifesto pledge from the Monster Raving Looney Party and tow Britain to the position of the South of France. (And if you lived somewhere you only know it’s summer by looking at the calendar, you’d be cheering too).
On the slightly less plus side (you won’t find any negativity from me in this column), the country has not only shot itself in the foot, the backside, the other foot and the head, it’s also pulled the rug out from underneath it and driven itself into a brick wall with one of the last batch of imported red, white or blue Fiat 500s we’ll ever see. (Bloody Italian cars, coming over here and driving around in our colours…)
What swung the result? Turkeys. Turkey joining in the EU on 12th of Never 2099, turkeys leading the Leave campaign (who subsequently, on winning, have all disappeared, having stuffed their political careers with a result they didn’t want and didn’t expect), and 17m turkeys in the British electorate, who believed the gobbledegook the turkey elites painted on the side of a bus. (£350m a week to the NHS! Vote for Christmas!)
David Cameron (remember him?) has been roundly criticised for holding the referendum in the first place but, as he argues, it’s a matter of democracy, and who better to know about that than a Prime Minister who has been governing a country in which 75% of those who expressed a preference at the last General Election preferred to express their vote for anyone but the Tories. Thus his mandate (we’re shortly to have a womandate, but more about that in another post) is so small, it befits belonging to a man who has virtually nothing to offer any date, unless we’re talking column inches. On the other hand (not sure which hand that is, but it’s certainly not the one on the left), this paves the way for more questions to be posed to the British public in the name of demos, for instance:-
- Should Poles be repatriated because they’re magnetic?
2. Should magnets be expelled because they’re attractive?
3. Should hanging be mandatory for Guardian readers?
These are the questions consuming anyone who is concerned about sovereignty. Accordingly, we’ve taken our country back: straight back to the 1960s, where racism and sexism did a brisk trade, and xenophobia (the fear of Buddhists) was mandatory. (NB: It was Enoch Powell who inserted the ‘Tory’ into ‘mandatory’ with his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968, which almost seems as if it’s tomorrow).
Anyway, for those of you interested in the stats, but too afraid to ask as you’re packing your bags to emigrate, here’s a handy explanation:-
The turnout was 71.8%, with 53.4% voting to turnout, while 46.6% voted to turn in. 1.1 million people were subsequently found to regret their Leave vote, saying they didn’t realise their vote would count (true), they didn’t think Britain would vote to leave (true), and they hadn’t yet got up to X in the alphabet (likely). Cornwall, which voted decisively against staying in, neatly added a P.S. to the result, pleading to continue to receive the millions in EU funding it’s enjoyed for years. (I don’t know what they’re putting in the pasties, but I suspect it’s Pastis). Protests by the Remain camp were immediately convened to persuade those in power to disregard this non-binding referendum, with the call growing louder for a Brexit Exit. Which is hardly sporting at all, considering the pound is now the worst-performing currency in the world, billions of pounds of investment have disappeared overnight, global companies are fleeing the UK to pastures new, and science, sport and the arts are, without EU funding, withering on the British vine – all of which is ushering in a long, punishing recession. So what’s not to like?
Brexit Negatives: People are poorer, the British Isles is breaking up, we’ll still be paying enormous amounts to the EU – even though scientific research is dead, TV and film are dead – and the British passport is now a passport to nowhere.
Brexit Positives: We can now legally buy bananas by the pound, even though imports of bananas will be curtailed since they’re far too bendy, and anyway, the pound has gone bananas.*
* Shortly to be known as ‘the pound has gone Bramley apples’.
P.S. Don’t forget to order my new book on how the British political class reflects the people it serves: Dummies for Dummies, only £796.99 (that’s €4 to you).
In a somewhat odd turn of events, although it says Spring on my calendar, when I look out of the window I see flowers instead of snow. (There could be a simple explanation for this: in trying to decipher a letter from the hospital to my GP recently, depending on which scale they’re using, I’m either asymptomatic or dead. Though for the purposes of this post, let’s just assume it’s the former.) And with it being 2015 – so I’ve been led to believe, but you should never really trust anything governments tell you – it’s apparently time for a General Election.
Accordingly, without further ado, or writing to the The Times in the traditional manner (these days only the 1% can afford to subscribe to the thing), I am delighted to announce that I’ve just seen the first kitchens of spring.
What’s that, you ask? Am I a little cuckoo? (No, it’s just the way I’m standing. © Morecambe and Wise, 1976). Far from it, dear reader! Just peruse any national newspaper online (quite a few of them are still free, even ones with words in them) and hundreds of pictures of an array of culinary accessories, American refrigerators and counter tops (NB. Does the PM have counter terrorism tops?) leap out at you, with the motley leaders of the motley main political parties affecting to appear relaxed in the foreground of a room they’ve just this minute located since the photographer arrived, whilst clinging to a mug (no, not the Deputy Prime Minister, how dare you think such a thing), and smiling at his wife. Or smiling at the mug and clinging to his wife, depending on how attractive the tabloids have rated her. (Very Important Stat before a General Election, obviously.)
These ‘top politician at home’ photographs are accordingly pored over by journalists, with their John Lewis and Fortnum and Mason catalogues to hand, helpfully telling us how much the politicians’ appliances cost, and the name of the cow that produced the milk for the £186 a kilo Tibetan goats’ cheese, hand-crafted by sherpas for 8p a week, which can be spotted on the top shelf of every Tory MP’s shiny Smeg. Obviously, the message is that you can tell a lot about a professional politician from (one of) his kitchen(s), as the Labour leader, Ed Milisecond, discovered from the backlash which followed from his decision to be snapped in his servants’ kitchen – all bare walls, empty counter tops (which is counter to normal counter top behaviour) – instead of the family kitchen downstairs, in which he sits at the end of every day at his designer table, bacon sandwich on a collectable Liberty fine bone china plate, with his head in his hands.
And so, as I studied Politics, and thus am aware at degree level no less of how important kitchens are in the political arena, I’ve decided to share mine with you. But first…
…many people have expressed curiosity as to why I didn’t go into politics myself after university; they all receive the very same response: a cry of: “What kind of girl do you think I am???!!!” and a swift expunging from my list of Facebook friends. However, I do know it’s of interest as to what exactly one studies on a politics degree, so here’s a summary of what we were taught at my alma mater (objectively rated in the top 3000 universities in the country, a whole 3 places up from McDonalds Hamburger University in East Finchley, where you can supersize your degree for an extra thirty thousand quid to build a new research centre for acne).
WHAT YOU LEARN ON A POLITICS DEGREE
1. How to lie (obvious, but important)
2. How to claim expenses
3. Where the subsidised bars are in the House of Commons (to the nearest 25)
4. Advanced criminal accounting (crucial for home-switching to best effect)
5. Where to source the best floating duck house
6. How to obfuscate when asked the same question 900 times on a political programme (Paxman, You’re A Political Animal, Aren’t You? BBC, 1989 – 2014)
7. Body Language, with particular reference to not touching your nose every time you say something
8. How to rub people up the wrong way after a couple of cheap bottles of vintage claret in the subsided bars, with particular reference to police statements
Anyway, back to my kitchen. Well, working as a political satirist (didn’t you know? Tsk. It’s my day job), it’s obviously vital for me to have a politically neutral scullery. And so I have a blue kettle, a red clock, some yellow bananas (somehow appropriate, methinks), and a few green herbs. As for anything purple, well, you won’t find anything remotely reminiscent of UKIP, no matter how hard you look. (Although I have been known to have a couple of kippers for breakfast.)
Thus, you can rest assured that everything you read on this blog is 100% independently researched academically, and assiduously analysed with empirically-collected data. As for who I shall be placing my cross next to on the ballot paper, well, there’s something I learned in the third year of my politics degree, which I regard as the pinnacle of my education, and will carry with me until the day I die; it’s how to spell:-
NONE OF THE ABOVE
This past week, when terrible, almost unimaginable events have taken place in Paris, and millions of people around the world congregated to show solidarity with those who were murdered for no other reason than they took up a pencil, or happened to be born into a particular faith, my eyes have been opened to the ignorance and intolerance emanating from my own personal circles.
My background: I’m both Jewish, and a satirist. I’ve been one of those things for 30 years, the other for a sight longer. My experience of the latter has given me a varied CV in theatre and television, in print and in radio, where I was responsible for producing BBC Radio 4’s Week Ending during the first Gulf War, the only satirical show to be aired anywhere in the country during the conflict; broadcasters and networks usually panic at such times, generally preferring to replace anything potentially contentious with re-runs of Friends, so the series drew much interest from the media, and was acclaimed by both the public and the industry alike. Thus, I like to imagine I have something of an idea of what political satire is and what it’s meant to convey. Not to mention its importance in a democratic society.
My being Jewish, on the other hand, has afforded me lifelong membership of an exclusive group I never applied to join, closed to most people unless their names were put down before birth. A society from which it is impossible to resign, the tearing up of my Gold Star of David membership card and cancellation of my subscription are impossible to effect, and I’m on a hiding to nothing when it comes to resisting a strong urge to play the violin.
My politics? They’re my own, and totally unconnected with my being Jewish. In fact, largely, they’re the very opposite of what any common or garden anti-Semite would expect them to be. But hey, what does that matter? Accident of birth is enough to foment depraved hatred. Apparently.
Naturally, I wasn’t slow in declaring ‘Je Suis Charlie’, in company with millions of others, on social media; quite apart from anything else, I lived in Paris a few decades ago. But interesting accusations soon ensued…was I aware that satire “mocked people for the sake of mocking them”? That satirists “went out of their way to make people mad”? That, as one person put it, although she believed in “everyone’s right to free speech”, she didn’t agree with “how everyone *uses* that right, and [she doesn’t] support Charlie’s goals or modus operandi.”
Hmm. Tricky one. Since Charlie Hebdo’s goals and modus operandi are to exercise freedom of speech by publishing a satirical magazine, I’m not entirely sure how these things would come to pass without publishing a satirical magazine to exercise freedom of speech.
A lot more satire-bashing followed, much of it from those who were ‘whole-heartedly behind freedom of expression’, but who also somehow believe that Charlie Hebdo brought this bloody rampage upon itself. Would I, as a fellow satirist, have published some of the material that appears between its covers? No, I wouldn’t. But that’s a difference in style, in sensibility, in choosing to use a hammer to crack a nut, or otherwise. Though we all write about nuts.
And then, from another left field entirely, probably to the left of the last left field, one of my esteemed Twitter followers (I only have esteemed Twitter followers) chastised me for posting a very short line on the breaking news that a kosher supermarket was under attack. When I say ‘posting a very short line’, I mean purely a line of information; no humour or jokes or satire involved at all. So why the rap over the knuckles? My reporting of this terrorist atrocity was supposedly ‘helping the terrorists’.
Shall we get something straight, here? The non-reporting of a major atrocity is muzzling the press and diminishing democracy, and is bowing down to those terrorists who seek to abolish freedom of speech, even in countries where freedom of speech is enshrined in law. And I’d very much like to know how much the violent hatred of others by vicious madmen intent on inflicting the whole world with their repressive, medieval dogma would dissipate by a lack of reporting of breaking news and ongoing incidents. To the nearest 0%. (That should be a clue).
And isn’t it their right for citizens to be able to monitor the activities of the police, the military, the security services for which they pay, and which are supposed to keep them safe? Would it be right to sweep under the carpet the failures of the almost-simultaneous – almost by some 15 minutes – raids on the kosher store and the printing press, which were supposed to be simultaneously simultaneous? Do we trust governments WITH unrestricted reporting of the news, let alone without?
I was once at a talk given by Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, in which he pronounced satire as being “one of five things which has brought the UK to its knees”. I can’t quite remember what the other four were, such was the steam emanating from my ears, fogging up my brain, but when it was time for questions from the audience, I firstly thanked Sir Bernard for his contribution to my income for the past couple of decades (not sure he got the joke) and then offered to purchase a one-way ticket for him to fly to China or North Korea, where the trade in satire is non-existent, for some reason.
Much of the criticism of satirical material comes, of course, from those who are incapable of understanding it, be it for reasons of their aiming to be first off the mark to be offended by something, or simply their inability to discern irony. But this does not mean satire should be prohibited, just because there are those who don’t appreciate or get it. Do the easy-appeasers of groups who threaten violence against those who dare disagree with them actually care that they are according them the upper hand? Aren’t they a little too acquiescent, carrying out extremists bidding by passively tossing their pencil sharpeners into the bin? Or is it the done thing these days to agree with the people carrying the largest weapons? If so, best acquire an accurate tape measure the next time you venture outside. If we’ve learned anything during these past horrible days, isn’t it that in the end, la plume est plus puissante que le Kalashnikov? (And if you don’t believe me, count how many people took to the streets in peaceful protest yesterday).
It’s not enough to live in a society which merely declares it champions freedom of speech, if freedom of speech is not exercised on a regular basis – it’s crucial to the healthy functioning of a democracy. And if you don’t publish something because someone, somewhere, will be offended, you won’t be publishing anything, because jihadists, Neo-Nazis, ayatollahs, Kim Jong-Un, Princes Charles and Andrew, redheads, left-handed people, Leeds supporters, will all feel hard done by at some point. But that’s tough. Somebody asked me if we have the right to offend people. I’d rather say we have the right to freedom of expression, and that everyone has the right to be offended.
If you still don’t get it, here’s what not to be in 2015 so you don’t upset anyone:-
Jewish, a satirist, a Muslim, a non-Muslim, a Zionist, a non-Zionist…
As for satirists and journalists, I’ve compiled a list of the topics it seems we’re currently permitted to write about:-
Charlie Hebdo, for those who’d never heard of the paper prior to last week, but who are somehow experts on it now, has no time for religion of any flavour. They lambast all religions with equal fervour. They are appalled by incitement to hatred and violence, especially by those intent on imposing their own extremely narrow, idiosyncratically intolerant ideas on the rest of the world. Every religious group is lambasted with the same disdain, but they sacked a cartoonist in 2009 for being anti-Semitic. They speak out freely against anyone endeavouring to restrict or abolish the rights of those who reside in a free nation. They campaign on injustice, on poverty, on stupidity.
Pencils are not lethal weapons, and do not inflict mortal wounds. At least, not in any of the primary schools I attended. However, I don’t remember many Kalashnikovs being handed out in assembly.
The political framework of France is based on politics outranking religion; religion, of course, is tolerated, but only in a private capacity. French citizens have the right to follow whatever religion they like, but not expect the state to be swayed by the particular beliefs of a faith, especially if they go against the democratic rights prescribed in law for the population at large.
Those unwilling to think about satire, to consider ITS rights, or understand what it is or stands for, are missing the point that satirists are usually the most right-on members of society there are. They’re commenting on inequality, on the oppressed, the violated, the forgotten. Charlie Hebdo, with the plainly powerful weapon of satire, are on the side of the dispossessed, the marginalised, the abandoned dwellers of the banlieues. They’re standing up for equality, freedom from racism and bigotry. “They are the solution, not the problem”. (See link below). Yet they are the ones – and not the vile, Right Wing bigots, of which there are more than a few in France – who have paid a price for their socially-inclusive dreams of justice and morality.
Those who are quick off the draw to castigate them (see what I did there?), and what they do, may not realise the irony, but they’re having a laugh.
RIP all who died. If nothing else, let’s hope your death educates those who are all-too-willing to give up rights they don’t quite understand. *
* This article will give you an idea of what life becomes without freedom of speech. Read it while Raif Badawi weeps.
And here’s a link to a brilliant piece which contextualises the vile atrocities at Charlie Hebdo along with the other awful events of last week in Paris.
A Few Lines On Today’s Royal Tidings (where’s the Poet Laureate when you need them?)
The Duchess of Cambridge once more up the duff,
An heir and a spare, let’s hope that’s enough.
And once more the retching, the head down the pan,
It’s really not easy being a republican.