Plenty of things the jab won’t inoculate me against…

The Queen last night, encouraging people to have the jab

THE jab is booked for Monday, but I’m feeling worried. Not about anything going wrong, though.

No, I’m worried about the things I’ll never be inoculated against, such as hating Boris Johnson. Or the nasty suspicion that Matt Hancock will escape having been censured by a High Court judge for breaching the law by failing to publish the details of those hastily arranged Covid-19 PPE contracts.

Or a lingering doubt that Sir Keir Starmer will never hold Johnson properly to account, what with not criticising the government over the pandemic, and shoving Brexit under the carpet instead of pointing to the awful mess on the floor.

And, oh, I’m worried that it won’t inoculate me against feeling cross about things over which I have no control, or guard against becoming over-heated when thinking about politics.

So perhaps I should just enjoy the jab. Good for me and, as the Queen said last night in a Zoom meeting, good for society.

It’s certainly the talk of our WhatsApp group. Stories swapped about who’s had it and who hasn’t. In life’s long arc, teenage worries about who’s had it and who hasn’t are replaced by excited chatter about who’s had the jab.

As I’ve not yet been inoculated against worrying about the news, here is the not-news. That story about Matt Hancock disappeared under a dreary deluge of coverage devoted to a year-old story about Prince Harry not being allowed back in the Royal Family. He was in Windsor quarantine for a year, now he’s off (which he was already).

Down the noisy corridor in Twitter-land, people were ranting about how a non-story had hidden a real story. The BBC didn’t report the story at all, they grumbled – not quite true, but its coverage was subdued, and it seemed to slip off the main TV news altogether.

This government has nearly all the newspapers on side, and if the BBC doesn’t report stories embarrassing to the party in power, who will? Words can have two meanings, and this story was covered in the sense of having something put on top of it.

There followed a spot of Twitter ping-pong with a fellow journalist (if that’s what I still am).

That story’s been muted.

No it hasn’t because muted means an absence of sound, and the story was reported.

Having not yet been inoculated against looking up the meaning of words, I muttered to myself that muted means muffled in musical terms, or not expressed strongly or openly in general terms.

Perhaps after Monday’s encounter with the needle, I’ll be free of such concerns.

My parents, long since separated but united in peering over the fence at 90, were inoculated a while back, and now the jabs are being lined up for youngsters of 64.

Some are suspicious, but we have to put faith in inoculation, as it looks like the best way back to some sort of a life. And the best way back to a much-delayed pint in a pub, seeing live music again, watching a film in a cinema, and a walk with inoculated friends.

They’ll be plenty to talk about.


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A populist war designed to distract? Yes, that’s what it’s all about…

I see they’ve been doing the hokey-wokey again.

“You put your right arm out
Your right arm out,
In, out, in out
Knees as bent as your mind,
You hit imaginary enemies on the nose.
In, out, in out
You strike a silly pose…”

First up for a dance was Gavin Williamson, the education secretary whose stint has certainly been an education for the rest of us. He is now turning his attention to free speech in universities.

This is such a problem that Williamson is going to appoint a new “free speech and academic champion”. You might have thought he’d have weightier matters trundling through his narrow mind. Such as when schools might open. Or how universities are going to cope as the pandemic winds on.

But why sweat the big stuff when you can pander to one of the boss’s pet subjects. Yes, that old walnut again about the country being run into the ground by those devious lefties. You know, the ones who aren’t in power but take the blame for everything. In the Daily Mail, news of this initiative sees woke hate mobs summoned by professor Matthew Goodwin. Even academics can join in the hokey-wokey.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden is next in line for a dance round the Cabinet table, possibly taking home secretary Priti Patel for a twirl (“You put your leftie lawyers out…”). Dowden is to hold a heritage summit that will, according to the Telegraph, “be British culture’s last stand against woke zealotry”.

The heads of 25 cultural bodies are being summoned as “too many are possessed by a left-wing spirit”. I’ve swallowed a shot or two of that spirit in my time, but not enough for me to be hauled before Dowden.

Free speech is a fine thing, of course. But with this intolerant lot, you can’t help but suspect that free speech means you are free to speak as they want you to. Free speech is the freedom to tell history the way they want it told; free speech is telling historians what should be taught and the BBC what should be reported.

Thank heavens then for historians such as the estimable David Olusoga, who tells a version of history that departs from their well-trodden track of British magnificence.

Many facets of our history are magnificent; others are not. Cherry-picking the good while overlooking the bad and the ugly isn’t history. It’s propaganda in a union jack waistcoat.

There are always different stories to tell, different aspects to catch the eye. Future historians looking back at where we are now will be able to argue among themselves about whether Boris Johnson’s government handled the pandemic well or badly. If they consider only the vaccination programme, his efforts may end up being painted a success; if they include the shockingly high death toll, the verdict may be one of tragic failure. What’s certain is that Johnson will spin and splutter one of those for years to come.

As for the hokey-wokey, isn’t this is a tawdry dance turned against anyone who thinks differently to those in power, a vaguely sinister populist war designed to distract?

Yes, that’s what it’s all about.

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Anti-woke? Andrew Neil is just jumping in puddles to make a muddy splash…

I MUST say I’m very much looking forward to not watching Andrew Neil’s GB News channel. If this puts me among the righteous throng of “woke warriors” Neil seems to loathe, all the better.

Neil, ex-editor of the Sunday Times and onetime big hitter political interviewer for the BBC, left the corporation after 25 well-padded years because the “direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people”.

Still, setting up an anti-woke TV channel cannot be too taxing, as Neil seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter being rude about the woke.

Before we progress further, here is your reminder that in the lingo of cultural scorn, ‘woke’ is the new ‘political correctness gone mad’. And here is your refresher in how to play Woke Bingo: just shout ‘bollocks!’ every time someone uses the word.

It’s all a bit of a puzzle. To be ‘woke’ is basically to be against racism, so doesn’t being anti-woke suggest you favour at least a teeny bit of racism? Anyway, in the spirit of friendship, I’d like to thank Neil for reportedly hiring Nigel Farage and Julia Hartley-Brewer for his new station. It saves me the bother of tuning in.

Now there are those, including the fine editor of the Yorkshire Post, who have joined Neil’s side of the argument on Twitter, and that’s fair enough. Maybe we do need such a TV news station. But for all Neil’s protestations that GB News will be impartial, you can’t help but worry that this will lead to US-style TV ‘news’, where the likes of Fox News report politics with all the narrow and biased focus of our newspapers.

But perhaps we should let this tedious enterprise start before weighing in. Maybe it won’t be that terrible (you never know); perhaps no one will watch (here’s hoping).

It seems to me that Neil is drawing this TV news station from the same poisoned well that landed us with Brexit. He is defining the ‘enemy’ by disparaging the ‘woke warriors’, and somewhere I read that his station was for the over-looked 52 per cent, which is weird as they don’t seem that overlooked to me.

What a splendid case of political ball tampering, roughing the argument before tossing it at enemy wickets. It’s that liberal conspiracy all over again: if these fiendish liberals are scheming to undermine national life, how come they never end up in power?

The liberal establishment is frankly rubbish at its job.

Shouting ‘woke’ is the same shake of the cutlery drawer that sees Home Secretary Priti Patel attacking “leftie lawyers” – her party owns all the knives and forks but she can’t resist a rattle. As for Neil, he’s jumping in puddles to make a muddy splash.

Think I’ll be sticking with the BBC and Channel 4. Mind you, I do like the Berger & Wyse cartoon in my Saturday copy of the wide-awoke Guardian. Beneath the words “The News” a worried woman sits at a table listening to the radio. “Good morning, minister. You’ve done something awful, haven’t you?” “No” “Thanks for coming on.”

Says quite a lot in rather fewer words that I’ve just used.

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What does Handforth Parish Council say about us?

OF all the unlikely routes to overnight fame, agreeing to host a parish council meeting must be right up there. Yet that is what happened to Jackie Weaver.

It’s hard to say exactly why millions of people ended up watching the ensuing squabble at Handforth parish council in Cheshire. Perhaps it was an escape from the gloomy single-track of our claustrophobic lives; perhaps it was a change from that lockdown Netflix habit.

Or perhaps it was just that so many of us are denizens of Zoom-land, where the inhabitants have bloodshot eyes and where, or so I’ve been told, if meetings go on a bit, they sometimes mute their microphone, turn off the camera and pick up their guitar while continuing to pay full attention to that important meeting.

Whatever the reason, something gelled.

In case you’re not up to speed, the Handforth meeting descended into acrimony, with heated exchanges, loud objections to Weaver’s presence, and some of the objectors being locked out by her.

The chairman, Brian Tolver, was removed to a virtual waiting room after saying: “You have no authority here Jackie Weaver.”

Councillor Aled Brewerton screamed that as vice-chairman, he should take charge of the meeting – “Read the standing orders – read them and understand them!” His vice, it seemed, lay in loud interruption.

The clip that went viral was, according to Radio 1’s Newsbeat, circulated by 17-year-old Shaan Ali from East London. He explained his unusual behaviour like this: “I guess I’m just fascinated by what local authorities do and the role they play up and down the country.”

I’ll own up to having been fascinated and amused by the disparity between the size of the egos and the relative smallness of the task. After all, this has been the bedrock of many a sit-com, Arthur Lowe in Dad’s Army being a classic example.

The anger on display was supremely out of scale with the task at hand, but perhaps that’s the way on parish councils. Jackie Weaver appeared to enjoy herself, saying with admirable understatement on BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour that meetings were “often less exciting”.

After the amusement, came more sober observations about misogynistic meetings. This isn’t funny, women and some men complained. Too often women are abused like this in meetings, they said.

While that is true, something seems awry about that argument in this instance. It was a woman, the unflappable Jackie Weaver, who stayed coolly in charge; she was the grown up in the room, while most of the men were behaving badly.

Yes, women can be treated badly in meetings, and watching the footage may have upset women who’ve had that experience. But men too sometimes are the victim of other men in meetings; and men and women have surely sat there thinking ‘Good God, what am I doing here and shouldn’t there be more to life than this?’, while distracting themselves by idly wondering what’s for tea.

There is something else here, too. Such sudden notoriety says much about the random outcomes of modern life. All it took was a smart teenager to create a sensation by sharing something that normally nobody would see.

You can regard his handiwork in different lights. It certainly provided unlikely entertainment for the masses. Yet those men, however unpleasant, had no idea they were going to be paraded on social media (the modern equivalent of the stocks).

Mostly, though, that small island row blown large meshed with how many of us live. It wasn’t as funny as the second series of the BBC1 comedy Staged, in which David Tennant and Michael Sheen play heightened versions of themselves trapped in the corridors of Zoom with their bruised egos, but it comes from the same confined place.

This is us and it’s kind of weird.

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Will Houdini Johnson escape from this one too?

HARRY Houdini was visiting a friend on the night of the census in 1911 and listed his occupation as Mysteriarch. A pleasing little fact that finds a reflection in today’s politics.

When Boris Johnson fills in his census form next month, he will at a guess write “prime minister” under occupation. Unless he goes for “political escapologist”.

His now quite long political life has seen him wriggle out of assorted scandals and self-propelled mishaps. So will he now escape all blame for the UK’s shocking 100,000-plus deaths from the pandemic? You wouldn’t put it past him.

Most of the first year of this pandemic has been long, chaotic and marked by late decisions, poor decisions, wild inconsistency and needlessly blown billions. Leaving us with that tragic death toll and a shot economy; and reportedly leaving some of his chums very much richer thanks to PPE contracts handed out in haste.

This has now been followed by the successful roll-out of the vaccine – a great relief all round for most of us. The vaccine nationalism and the bragging are ridiculous and hard to swallow, but you have to admit that Britain has played this part well. Thanks mostly to the NHS, pharmacies, public-spirited volunteers, brilliant science.

So does the good second half erase all memory of the shocking first half? It shouldn’t but you can see the thought bubbles.

It’s common for Johnson to be found booming “Move along, nothing to be seen here.” All talk of an inquiry in his handling of the crisis is brushed off – the moment isn’t right. And, knowing Johnson’s track-record, the moment never will be right.

Should this upset us? Those of us who’ve never fallen for all the bumbling persona should have reason to be upset – but not as much reason as those who’ve lost loved ones. They really should be calling for an inquiry.

But Johnson has something in his favour: people prefer optimism to pessimism, even when it’s the cheery, deceptive boosterism flourished by a famously unreliable politician. Many people would rather look forward than back; they’d rather think that something brighter lies ahead.

None of this should excuse all the earlier mistakes, or the gaslighting – blaming us for not behaving properly, rather than blaming his own mistakes. But you can see the glint in Johnson’s bloodshot eye. He can spy a way out for us and for himself.

And don’t be surprised if Houdini Boris wriggles free from this one, as he has done many times before.

He’s often lucky, too; lucky in having had Jeremy Corbyn as an opponent; lucky with the slavish loyalty of our Conservative-backing press; lucky even in the pandemic headlines covering up the complicated, red-tape littered mess of Brexit (never have so many teeth been lost to teething troubles).

If we do ever have an inquiry, it should consider not just what went wrong in the past year, but before that too, in the undermining of the NHS and cruelly unnecessary austerity. Whoever’s in charge, whoever’s to blame, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And there are at least 100,000 reasons for that.

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Reporting back on the 31 long dry days of January…

SOME people give up alcohol because they have to. An old friend and reader of this blog hasn’t had a drink in more than twenty years, and is a better man for it.

I’ve not had a drink in 31 days and am the same man for it, only denied something nice to do at the weekends.

This was my first go at Dry January. I might abstain again or I might not. You see, the difference between drinking and not drinking strikes me as minimal. Perhaps I just wasn’t trying hard enough with the drinking.

According to the Dry January website, 6.5 million people took the alcohol-free ‘challenge’ this year. The official messages, although well meant, seem to over-promise the benefits of being dry. You will “get your fun back” and get “your YOU” back, according to the cheery bullying.

Let’s take those two. Fun has been scarce for everyone this month anyway, and seeing as my ‘fun’ – those little treats to myself – have been removed, fun has been lessened rather than increased. As for the other part, I fear “my ME” will always like to sit in a bar somewhere, drinking a couple of decent pints. That’s a key part of who I am; not the only or even the main part, but it’s there for sure.

Been there since sixth-form days in the 1970s and the Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme; been there through university and the early newspaper years in south-east London, when lunchtime drinking was still a thing (along with clattering typewriters and smoking in the office); been there ever since, although modified to a couple of pints a week in our local bar, when it’s allowed to be open.

Add two or three tins of craft beer and a whisky, and that’s my average weekly consumption. Sometimes there is wine instead of beer.

According to Alcohol Change, the backers of Dry January, by now my skin will feel brighter, my wallet fuller, my days busier, my step bouncier, my mind calmer, my “nights sleepier”. Oh, and something was whispered about losing weight.

I’ll leave others to judge my skin, but it looks the same as usual to me. I’ve saved perhaps £40 over the month, and lost a disappointing three pounds or so, even with breakfast having been skipped in the name of daily mini-fasts.

My mind is calm enough, thank you. My step is as bouncy as a sixtysomething step can be; my nights not one twitch sleepier. In fact my usually rotten nights have been even worse. I’ve slept like an insomniac spring, coiling back to wakefulness throughout the night, starting in one bed and ending in another. So no booze-free quietude there.

There have been benefits. Although the weekends have been flatter, I’ve not broken the booze-free pact with myself. It’s pleasing to know I can do without alcohol for a whole month.

Perhaps you need to drink more to get the full effect. I nearly always have four dry days a week anyway, and that seems to suit me. Levels of drinking differ widely, of course. I’d describe my habits as moderate but quietly determined; but to someone who confines themselves to a cheeky sherry at Christmas, they may appear dissolute.

In the spirit of being supportive, my wife, a trainee teetotaller, has been doing One-Gin-January; and she wouldn’t have missed that one gin much at all. Whereas I really missed those beers.

I won’t break the pact today and, as tomorrow is Monday, the dry spell will probably last until Friday. Then January will definitely be done with.

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Just how sorry is Boris Johnson really?

IT’S an old habit and old habits wear thin. I look every morning at the review of the newspapers on the BBC website, as if unable to start the day without a sniff of newsprint.

Those front pages are often the same, as if cut and pasted by a central committee, or put there after Boris Johnson’s minders twisted the editor’s arm. Or whispered in the proprietor’s ear, who then set about manipulating limbs.

Today’s front pages offered a fine example of this failing. Most went with the prime minister being sorry – nay, “deeply sorry” – that under his watch 100,000 people had died from Covid-19.

A number so shocking it’s hard to get your head around; and a political failing so immense, you might have thought the newspapers would raise at least an admonishing finger. Instead, there was Johnson looking sad but framed in a sympathetic manner.

Now I am sure he is deeply sad this has happened, but you can never escape the impression that he’s deeply sad this had to happen on his watch.

The trouble is most of those front pages made Johnson’s sorrow the main thrust of the story, rather than all those people who have died. The Sun even had Johnson, head bowed, above the headline: “We shall remember them.” I rather doubt that he will.

The Times, a newspaper often friendly to the Tories, was a noble exception, running with the sobering headline “100,000” deaths” above a mosaic of photographs of some of those who have died. A factual headline, rather than one designed to make us feel sorry for Boris Johnson.

Imagine for a moment that Jeremy Corbyn had won the election. An unlikely scenario, I know, but there he is at Number 10, rather than just having moved into a new allotment site (it was on Twitter).

And imagine that he’d handled everything as badly as Johnson has. The headlines would have been endlessly hostile; Labour would have been roundly condemned.

Instead, Johnson ricochets from one bad decision to another – too early, too late; too recklessly confident, too blunderingly cheery – and escapes censure. There is criticism, of course, but not much.

The newspapers have mostly always leaned to the right, and it’s one reason why we end up lumbered with governments like the one we’ve got now. Another reason lies on the shoulders of that man with a new allotment: he was never going to win an election, was he?

Sadly, Johnson did win and now he insists he did everything he could to avoid the situation we’re now in. And if you find that excuse hard to swallow, you clearly haven’t been swallowing the daily anti-vitamin pills known as the front pages.

THERE is something jarring about the way Boris Johnson uses language, too. It’s as if a teacher at Eton once mentioned he had a good turn of phrase, and he’s never stopped turning it since. Perhaps he’ll still be turning it in his grave.

It is tempting, when writing, to play with words, to chisel out a phrase. You can do this too often, as many columnists and bloggers do.

As an over-paid columnist, Johnson was a lively writer, although a one-trick pony. And it is just wrong to use such verbal flourishes in his present job. Saying, as he did, that he’d “exhaust the thesaurus of misery” talking about all those people who’ve died was just so jarringly wrong when addressing a topic so serious.

It’s as if he still wants a pat on the back, when what he needs is a kick up the arse. Sorry about that, but really.

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The perils of too much news… and one day we’ll be normal again

THE paintbrushes are out, the plastic lunch boxes sorted, drawers emptied. A wardrobe and a dressing table have swapped places to spacious effect in the spare room; clothes have been thrown away or sent for recycling.

If I sit too long on this sofa with my laptop listening to Ry Cooder, chances are I’ll be relocated too, or given a fresh coat of varnish. I’d better warn Ry he’s not safe, either.

“This is what you do when you can’t control the outside world,” I tell my wife. “You gain control of our small world inside this house.”

She hadn’t thought of it like that but tells me I am right. This isn’t always what happens when passing observations are made.

I am sitting down here because now the study is being tidied. That room is a shared space. One end is my nine-to-five berth; the other my wife’s studio. I claim further ownership by making sure to leave a guitar or two propped up there.

“I moved your guitar,” my wife says one day. “I was afraid I might knock it over.”

This is what our lives are like at the moment. Not only in this house, but everywhere. People are cooped up at home or heading nervously out to work. I’ve more or less lived in that study since March, doing four jobs at different times, plus spots of freelancing.

I have online meetings with people who are sitting in their study or their kitchen. Coffee or tea breaks are taken online, chatting to colleagues I am beginning to know quite well, even though we’ve never met.

Meetings are held with strangers. We peer into each other’s houses, intimate but distant. Intimate because you sit face to face while wondering about the books on their shelves or that picture on the wall behind them; distant because you are not there and they are not here.

“Is that a guitar?” they might say. Or they might if it hasn’t been tidied out of view. One time I spot a guitar in someone’s room and it turns out we’re both learning the same piece of music.

When life’s like this, does the news help or does watching and reading too much news boost anxiety and keep you awake at night? I’ve always been one to swallow large helpings of news, sometimes perhaps without chewing properly. My wife is usually more modest in her consumption; has a nibble to know what’s going on.

Lately though she’s been doom-scrolling about Covid-19, amassing more and more information, laying worry upon worry, until she wakes up at 4am in a fretful state.

“Perhaps you should stop reading so much news on your phone,” I say.

There is a point somewhere between knowing what you need to know and drowning yourself in depressing news. Little about the news is uplifting these days, aside from the orange stain being removed from the White House.

Worrying about why people believe conspiracy theories or whether life will ever again be normal is understandable, but it’s hard to find the off-switch some days; harder still some nights.

That’s why my wife tidies up and decorates. That’s why I tidy up with words, cheering the removal of that orange stain while worrying about the orange stain’s spiritual cousin in Downing Street.

The wood burner needs another log to settle its hot belly. Outside the late afternoon sunshine is slipping away. There is life in the garden, spring is uncurling its toes beneath the blanket of frost. One day the pubs will open again. Sport will be played again and lost again, or it will if you are me. Walks will be taken with friends. They’ll be no reason to wake up at silly-o’clock and the house will be tidied and decorated just because spring is on the way.

Life will be normal again.


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In Mr Jenrick’s history class, you will learn what you’re told to learn…

THE communities secretary Robert Jenrick has found time to write for the Telegraph an article headlined: “We will save our history from woke militants.”

There’s plenty to unwrap in that headline and the words that lie beneath. Such are the pleasing ambiguities of the English language that you can take that last sentence two ways. Those words sit underneath the headline; and they lie there too, in the sense of being misleading.

As you must surely know by now, woke is the new ‘it’s political correctness gone made’. Like its shabby predecessor, woke is dragged out as if to seal an argument by people who can think of nothing better to say. It is much favoured by right-wingers such as Jenrick.

Woke originates in the US where, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”.

In that form, woke is something admirable; later it became a self-conscious, slightly self-mocking label; and then it was wielded as a weapon by those who are proud of not being at all sensitive to issues of racial and social justice.

This reminds me to once again seek out an application for the liberal elite. I’m always hearing about this organisation and it sounds jolly fine.

Funny thing is, those who disparage the liberal elite tend to be members of that old club known as the Conservative Party. Thanks to the peculiarities of this country, they’re nearly always the ones in power; they pull all the levers and yet they moan on about the liberal elite ruining modern life.

Something here doesn’t add up. You’re nearly always in charge: so how can you blame those who rarely are?

What Robert Jenrick is doing here is waving an irrelevance as a distraction from all the bad things going on, all those wasted billions and untold deaths. Don’t look there, look over here instead.

He writes with unfettered pomposity, saying at one point: “We cannot – and should not – try to edit or censor our past.” Adding that he agrees with his boss that to tear down statues is “to lie about our history”.

There are plenty of stray threads to pull here, but let’s start with the statue that came down last year, when slave trader Edward Colston was dunked in the Bristol docks.

Colston transported into slavery some 84,000 Africans, around 19,000 of whom died, their bodies thrown to the sharks that followed slave ships. It had long been the wrong statue in the wrong place, and its presence affronted many in the multi-racial city.

But there is more to it that than. This statue was erected in 1895, more than 170 years after Colston’s death and more than 60 years after slavery was abolished in Britain.

It was hauled up by local businessmen who wished to paint over that shameful panel in their city’s history.

As such, you could easily say that statue was a lie that rewrote history.

The historian David Olusoga has argued that “this was not an attack on history. This is history. It is one of those rare historic moments whose arrival means things can never go back to how they were”.

Robert Jenrick seems to see history as something fixed and set in stone and marble. Perhaps there is a slogan lying around somewhere: “Get history done.”

Better, surely, to see history as an ever-evolving story, one that is constantly being rewritten thanks to new discoveries, fresh interpretations, and the different sensibilities of each age.

What Jenrick is really saying is that there is one version of history, and it’s the one that proclaims everything about Britain is and always has been marvellous and stain-free.

Trouble is, that’s not history. It’s propaganda fancy-dressed as history.

Jenrick says history should “be studied, not censored”. What does that even mean? Well, if it means anything, it means you will stick with the officially preferred version of history and not investigate the family’s grubby secrets.

Attempting to brush off slave trading or the cruelties of Empire as “just of those things than happened” – or trying not to mention those dark patches at all – is itself a form of censorship. Robert Jenrick doesn’t seem to understand that inherent contradiction.

Anyway, I’m off to discover how you go about becoming a woke militant. Sounds like it could be fun.



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Jacob Rees-Mogg and a spurious tale of fishy patriotism…

It’s been a trying week for everyone. So I was heartened to hear our fish are feeling perky about Brexit. How reassuring to know things are working out for one section of the community.

We know this because the leader of the House of Commons told us. Jacob Rees-Mogg stood up in the House and said: “The key is we’ve got our fish back. They’re now British fish and they are better and happier fish for it.”

Actually spoke those clearly deranged words out loud, while smirking at his own marvellousness. Then sat down triumphantly, having just kippered his opponents with the brilliance of his argument.

If that’s real life, no wonder satire is flapping about and gasping for air on the quayside.

Still, we can rest easy in the knowledge that Rees-Mogg will have done his research rather than having just fired off this bit of political stand-up. He’ll have been out there with snorkel and notebook, interviewing the fish and handing out union jack waistcoats by way of congratulation.

His little joke is perhaps spoilt by the fact that fish are famous for their swimming. This form of watery propulsion conveys them from one place to another, without even the need for a silly blue passport.

And I don’t wish to go all existential on you, but do you think a fish knows it’s a British fish at all? Perhaps it’s one of those mysteries, akin to whether Jacob Rees-Mog actually realises he’s a supercilious posh boy millionaire who would be better keeping his mouth in the shut position on almost all occasions.

And does the Britishness of fish apply also to birds? Much better to know that the herring gull that just shat on your head was a happy British gull and not some Frenchie interloper.

Although if any passing gulls, British or otherwise, happen to be heading to Somerset, here’s a helpful suggestion: the top of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s skull would make a splendid target.

The trouble with trying to be amusing about Jacob Rees-Mogg is that deep down, or even shallow up, there is nothing funny about him at all. What sort of a country wants a nasty right-wing millionaire crackpot representing us? But silly me. He doesn’t represent us: he represents himself and the interests of those like him.

Or so a passing fish just told me. This patriotic plaice was swimming away from our shores at the time.

To make his claptrap about proud British fish even worse, Rees-Mogg made that remark as Scottish seafood exporters discovered the not so good side to that Brexit deal Boris Johnson boasted about. Is it possible that the prime minister signed that deal without having read the small print; or even the big print?

With their catch caught up in Brexit red-tape, they face bankruptcy with only a warehouse full of rotten seafood as compensation. And as Brexit blows a hole in their livelihoods, all Rees-Mogg can do is make silly jokes about British fish.

Some minor government minister or other, and really life’s too short to find out who it was, pointed to teething troubles. As the dentist said while leaning over you in order to extract your last remaining molar.

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