A Crooked House for a Crocked Country… and Small Gloats Week…

Crooked House pub

WHAT a gift the demolished Crooked House pub has been to lovers of a convenient metaphor. To borrow from the tradition of letter writers to Private Eye, let me be the 94th scribbler to point to a perfect image of modern Britain.

You will recall that the infamously wonky pub in the Black Country, built in 1765, succumbed to fire and demolition shortly after being acquired by new owners.

Adam and Carly Taylor appear to have withdrawn from society since the sudden demise of the property.

While not wishing to stray into the legalities of this upsetting matter, a series of unfortunate events does seem to have occurred. A fire and demolition; how unlucky can one couple get.

The pub’s famed instability was down to mining subsidence, common in the area. A marble placed on the bar would appear to roll uphill, while bottles of beer rolled up tables. Drinkers could think themselves drunk before they’d supped a drop, as walking around the bar was said to induce giddiness.

Much as in the less charming way that merely trying to stay upright in modern Britain can be an endless struggle for many.

Of course, that name helps in the metaphor department – a Crooked House pub for a Crocked Country, or a Crooked One, if you prefer. And the undermining of the pub adds to the image: swap this subsidence for the endless privatisation undermining Britain, the never-ending chucking over of public money to richly incompetent private companies.

The present “owners” of the NHS prattle about its importance, while holding back funds and handing more of the health service to private companies who soon set about tunnelling.

There have been calls for the beloved pub to be rebuilt, wonky brick by wonky brick. Such restorations have been ordered before by local councils, as happened with the Carlton Tavern in West London after it was demolished without warning.

Whether a country can be rebuilt, brick by sold-off brick, is another matter.

Time to give Labour a go, is what this sometimes disillusioned old Labour voter thinks.

Labour is often seen as being less electable when it is “too left wing” ­– yet shouldn’t the same theory apply to Tories becoming “too right wing”? Especially now that they’ve morphed into a far-right sect so obsessed with culture wars on woke etc that they’ve more or less given up on governing. Inventing scraps and flinging lies around is so much easier, you see.

These political metaphors abound in the mud of British life. Once you start looking, you can’t stop – as happens to those silt-encased folk who go mud-larking in the Thames.

Take that Bibby Stockholm, a modern spin on a Dickensian prison ship moored off the south coast. What better image could there be for an unkind country than using a floating prison to contain asylum seekers, many fleeing war, terror and torture?

Barely had the first migrants arrived, than they had to be evacuated over fears of legionella bacteria in the water systems.

As with the Rwanda scheme, the modern prison hulk seems to be more about nasty performative politics than thinking of policies that might actually work or show an ounce of humanity.

The legionella scare came in the same dreadful week that more people died while attempting to cross the Channel.

But Rishi Sunak has the answers or thought he did. In case you missed it, last week was “small boats week” in which Rishi and his ministers intended to hail their successes in tackling Channel crossings.

Perhaps I misheard. Maybe it was “small gloats week”. To misappropriate the tile of the Bill Bryson book, Notes From A Small Gloats Island. Small gloats from a small man – and, standing a full inch taller than Sunak, I can say that.

Another handy image – Sunak saying he is going to blow the environment and “max out” on oil. As the country and the wider world begins to think that climate change must be tackled, the prime minister sticks his head in the sand and comes up with oil. Or, more tellingly, the promise of oil.

If the Tories really think that turning oil into election-winning holy water is going to work, they deserve to lose.

All of which has raised fears among some senior Tories that they risk being the “nasty party” again. Or the “even nastier party” if you prefer.

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