Who knows more… headline junkies or the news-free 22 per cent?

Perhaps I should have been one of the 22 per cent. They’ve got it sorted.

The 22 per cent don’t worry about President Trump gearing up to foul the US elections before they happen. They won’t fret about Trump rallying his supporters if he refuses to budge after losing in November.

They will be unconcerned by all the terrible things Trump says and does. Those sinister-looking federal security forces sent in to quell protests in Portland, Oregon, will not concern the 22 per cent.

The 22 per cent will not spit out their morning tea on learning of the dubious collection of people Boris Johnson has appointed to the House of Lords. Ian Botham should be remembered as a cricketer and the owner of a big mouth. He shouldn’t be in the Lords now or ever, but that’s where he’s headed, to the over-stuffed second chamber.

As for Johnson elevating his own brother, Jo, that surely is cronyism at its most nakedly outrageous. Or maybe not if you choose to ignore it.

None of this is to suggest that the 22 per cent don’t care. Perhaps they just find everything too distressing nowadays, and who can blame them. Even an addled old news junkie can sometimes pause to wonder where all this news leads us.

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, news avoidance is on the rise. The institute is releasing a series of reports as part of its Covid-19 news and information project.

The eighth report, released on July 28, found that the 22 per cent now say they “always or often actively avoid the news”. It adds that “levels of news avoidance grew sharply in April and May”.

I still read the news on inky sheets. I watch the news on television. And I skim like a tossed stone across the surface of the news on Twitter.

I have written the news sometimes. Penned endless headlines, edited endless stories. Written features and columns. And bashed out more blogs than a normal person would consider doing.

Are we well informed no-nothings…

According to that Reuters survey, most of those who avoid news about Covid-19 say this is because “it has a bad effect on my mood”.

News of all shades can badly affect my mood, and yet there I sit on an uncomfortable stool at the news bar, daily swallowing another line of shots. Sometimes this habit leads to a headache, a news hangover caused by a surfeit of half-understood news.

This can lead the avid news watcher to feel that they are well informed and yet at the same time know nothing. Is that what we’ve become… well informed no-nothings who soak up the news and then wonder what it is that we have absorbed? This isn’t to get away from the tremendous amount of hard work that goes into providing all that news for us.

There is just so much news nowadays. If you glance over history, this can’t be because more things are happening now. It’s just that the means of production is so much more efficient, the world is so much smaller, and we can sit at home and peer into distance places on our flat-screen TVs.

News now is an uninterrupted flow, an endless supply of happenings that are reported and commented in a breathless rush that then passes over our heads.

I won’t be giving up anytime soon, but wonder sometimes what it would be like to do the news equivalent of Dry January. No-News November perhaps.

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Fifty quid to mend a bike is an oily laugh…£100,000 to speak the PM’s words is ludicrous

Solipsism is one of those words that has to be looked up. It means, as a quick search confirms, “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist”.

A less philosophical meaning is “the quality of being self-centred or selfish”.

So how do we slip from solipsism to the government’s Fix Your Bike website crashing overnight due to high demand for £50 repair vouchers?

According to the BBC website, “the vouchers would typically cover the bill for a standard service and the replacement of a basic component such as an inner tube or cable”.

Whoever came up with those vouchers must last have been in a bicycle repair shop when they used to wobble off to primary school. Fifty quid doesn’t buy much oily-fingered expertise nowadays. My last service cost around £230, a surprising sum but one that performed a mechanical resurrection on an old but treasured bike that had become impossible to ride.

“It’s like a new bike but at about half the cost,” as the mechanic put it when he saw my face go white.

Solipsism comes into this because we have a prime minister who appears only to become interested in a thing after he has been affected by it. So Boris Johnson became a heartfelt supporter of the NHS after he was struck down with Covid-19; he became interested in fighting obesity because he discovered he was overweight; and he became interested in getting people on their bikes because he used to cycle to work when he was Mayor of London.

Oh, not forgetting how he looked at his own life and became interested in the state chasing down feckless men who father five or six children with different mothers (this one may not be quite right).

Worrying about obesity, loving the NHS and getting everyone cycling are all worthy aims, so long as new funds are genuinely involved rather than the shuffling around of existing money and the dusting off of old gimmicks.

Beyond this, though, it is possible to wonder if the Johnsonian solipsism suggests a deeper lack of empathy. After all, a leader should be able to see the size and shape of a problem without having encountered it personally. You shouldn’t need to have been treated by the NHS to appreciate its importance, although it probably does bring it home.

Perhaps we should ask him, although Johnson isn’t that keen on talking to journalists (even though, like Michael Gove, he used to be one).

According to Christopher Hope of the Daily Telegraph, Johnson is looking for someone to do the talking for him. Hope tweeted yesterday:

 “EXC Boris Johnson has launched the search for a new £100,000-plus a year spokesman to become the face of the Government in televised press conferences from this Autumn. A job ad asks for someone to ‘communicate with the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister’. Apply by Aug 21”.

Previous prime ministers used to speak for themselves but Boris Johnson wants us to stump up £100,000 or so he doesn’t have to. Why can’t he save money and do it himself?

Apparently the idea is that we should have a US-style daily political statement/show in which a TV personality speaks the government’s words.

How dispiriting, but I am under-employed at the moment. Perhaps that’s the job for me.

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Optimism and the limits of cheerfulness in difficult times…

I DON’T know about you, but I reckon Boris Johnson is a bad advert for optimism. This is not a political observation, or not exactly, more an opening thought about the uses of cheerfulness in difficult times.

Other ministers and friendly commentators are always keen to emphasise the power of optimism as contained in the shambling form of Boris Johnson, with his lame jokes, booming intonation and confected air of larkiness.

Told once too often that a man is an optimist, you might want to kick the tyres to make sure (or closely inspect his scuffed shoes). Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, is the latest minister to roll out this leaky old barrel, yesterday telling Sky presenter Sophie Ridge that Johnson’s “optimistic fizz” would keep the United Kingdom together.

I tend to be optimistic myself, apart from when I’m not. The shorthand summary would be that I am a foolish optimist; a foolish optimist married to a wise pessimist, although those characteristics leave room for each of us to step into the other’s small arena, as it were.

My own optimism is being tested by events (the already mentioned disappearance of two jobs). Wider than that, the general national optimism is being tested by Covid-19, in small and large ways. Levels of anxiety are high, with the Office for National Statistics reporting in June that high anxiety had more than doubled since before lockdown.

In a sense you don’t need a survey to tell you that, although it helps. Anxiety thrums in the air around us, causing a sense of ill ease, as if we are waiting for something to happen, or waiting for life to resume its old shape, which even an optimist must admit seems unlikely.

And a prime minister whose main setting is blathering optimism doesn’t exactly fit the sombre mood, especially when his government has performed so badly, and so many have died.

We all have different ways of coping at this time and my strategies include losing myself in baking bread (a top sourdough yesterday to replace all those dispiriting discs of flat plasticine-like dough); writing blogs to keep my brain ticking over; and being cutting about Boris Johnson whenever the mood takes me, which it does perhaps too often.

As for Raab’s “optimistic fizz”, that is just the latest draft of stale bubbly. What does it even mean?

Perhaps it was optimistic fizz that got the government so keen on “air bridges” (Johnson does like a bridge, even if he has to make do with one made of air).

You may recall that these ‘bridges’ to supposedly safe countries would allow everyone to fly on off holiday this summer. That is what hardier and less broke Brits than me did in the past few days – scooting off to Spain, only to find that they would have to spend two weeks in quarantine on their return.

This, you see, is where unguarded optimism gets you. You rush off on to Spain, on a tank-full of optimistic fizz, only to see everything fizzle out overnight, leaving you with two extra weeks to take off work on your return.

Optimism is all fine and well, and I really do try to swallow a spoonful each day, but in the hands of politicians it becomes something else, a distraction, a shield, a worthless reason to like a leader.

In truth, I have no idea if Boris Johnson truly is an optimist, so being told that he is quite so often is off-putting. Besides, it’s almost certainly not optimism as such, just a show-off version designed to fool us.

After all, and I hate to bring this up, putting faith in Brexit, as this country narrowly did, seems to have been a decision based on misty-eyed optimism and stale grandeur. As the final deadline for a deal looms, we are still armed with nothing more substantial than Johnson’s optimism. If that brings to mind the optimistic captain of a sinking ship telling everyone that everything will be all right, you won’t get any disagreement from this battered optimist.

 

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Catching up with the Russia Report and MPs voting down protection for our NHS

Take your pick today between the late-arriving Russia Report and Tory MPs voting down protections for our NHS. Oh, all right then, here’s how generous I am: you can have both.

The report from parliament’s intelligence and security committee eventually landed with parts redacted by persons unknown (any fingers pointing at Dominic Cummings surely won’t be far off the mark).

The shorthand summary is that Theresa May and Boris Johnson turned a blind eye to allegations of Russian interference in the Brexit vote. They just didn’t want to know, basically – fingers in the ears and humming la-la-la being about the size of it.

Committee member Kevan Jones said in reference to any possible compromise of the Brexit vote: “The outrage isn’t that there was interference. The outrage is that no one [in government] would want to know if there was interference.”

Jones also suggested that Johnson repeatedly lied over the reasons for not publishing the report before last year’s election.

Leave campaigner and backer Arron Banks has been shouting down theories of Russian interference for ages. Like his fellow malign nuisance Nigel Farage, he sees the report as an exoneration of his Leave.EU organisation. Not so hasty, those self-style Bad Boys of Brexit: the report doesn’t say there was no Russian attempt to influence the vote; it suggests no one in government could be arsed to discover if that had occurred.

The 42-page report is “supplemented with a substantial annex” that is not being published “in view of the current Russian threat”. So is the real meat of this being buried under the floorboards to moulder and sprout maggots? Sure looks that way.

We should know if Russian bots and trolls unleashed on social media affected the result of the referendum, but Johnson is declining to investigate further. And that leaves the Brexit question as unanswered as it was before, however loudly Banks and Farage bellow abuse.

The other big takeaway from the report is just how much Russian influence and money has been allowed/encouraged to flow into the UK – including illicit finance washed through what is known as the London “laundromat”. Russian money has also ended up in our political parties, notably in the Conservative coffers.

If none of this smells funny to you, it may be time to have your nostrils washed out.

Do you remember all those politicians, from Boris Johnson ‘downwards’, ostentatiously clapping for NHS workers? Now MPs have voted by 340 votes to 251 against supporting an amendment that would have legally protected the NHS from any form of outside control.

Among the ranks of Tory MPs voting down this protection from future trade deals were Cabinet members Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Grant Shapps, Alok Sharma, Chris Grayling and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Happy to clap one day, content the next to wave away protections that would have guarded the NHS against predatory foreign companies.

Johnson insists that the NHS “will never be on the table” in any future trade negotiations; sadly his words are but wonky legs to that table.

So take your pick. Do you want to be pissed off about the findings of the Russia Report or the lack of real protection for the NHS. Oh, why not go for both.

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Now Sir Brexit Beefy bowls into the House of Lords…

BREXIT isn’t the best blog opening word. There go my two normal readers already, leaving the door to slam.

As we know, Brexit got done or we got done, or something or other. On a wing and slogan, Boris Johnson got Brexit done. Got it done with help from Ian Botham apparently, as Sir Beefy is going to be made a peer in honour of all his Brexit batting.

It is well known that Johnson surrounds himself with Brexit toadies. Our government is comprised of Brexit lickspittles, rewarded for fealty to Johnson and Brexit.

Now Sir Beefy will join the nodding throng. I’ll explain why this is outrageous in a moment.

First, let’s admit that if you wish to hand out state baubles, it was fair enough to chuck a knighthood Ian Botham’s way in 2007. This was given for services to charity and cricket, including charity walks between Land’s End and John O’Groats.

God, just imagine if Botham spent the long tramping hours droning on about the evils of Europe. What an endless walk that must have been. Of many Botham’s Brexit speeches, let’s not forget the one where he said “England is an island”.

Perhaps being in his day one of the greatest all-rounders affected his sense of geography, as many of his pro-Brexit remarks reference England rather than Britain.

Later this month, apparently, Botham is set to become the ninth cricketer to knock the bails off a peer-hood – and all because of services to Brexit blathering.

What expertise does Botham have in politics and law-making? None at all, and this bit of popularism from Johnson has dodgy grass stains on its knees. What a strange sort of country where you are invited into the government without election and just because you were good at cricket and mouthing off about Brexit.

This sort of behaviour from prime ministers only adds muscle to those who say the House of Lords should be abolished. I’m not sure the second chamber has to go altogether, but Lords should be elected, not sent leaping there to do the prime minister’s bidding.

Brexit, the one that allegedly got done, is back in the headlines, partly thanks to the geopolitical scrapping between China and the US. Back in February the Financial Times reported that Donald Trump was ‘apoplectic’ with Johnson over allowing the Chinese company Huawei to play a part in out 5G network.

Johnson stood firm until as long as last week, when he changed his mind and, essentially, did Trump’s bidding. Now Huawei will be shown the door following security concerns and the harrumphing of certain Tory MPs.

So all our hopes of getting Brexit done with help from China are looking tricky now. Basically, we’re a tiny but proud mouse dodging between the thumping elephant feet of China and the US. If only there was, you know, some European organisation we could join for strength in numbers.

Never mind, at least we’ve got Sir Beefy on our side.

Let’s close with a squint at the headline in yesterday’s Sunday Express: “Don’t try to smear Brexit”. This refers to a fear that the Russia report, long delayed but due any day, might ‘spoil’ Brexit by showing how the Russians perhaps may have interfered in the vote.

I guess the obvious headline wouldn’t fit: “Don’t try to smear Brexit by telling the truth about how we ended up in the middle of this clearly not yet done shitstorm.”

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Man on Ledge earns a Twitter headache and a rough night’s sleep…

Here begins a cautionary tale about the man who went on Twitter to speak up for journalism.

An alarming number of journalists are losing work. Jobs are going at the BBC, the Guardian Media Group, Newsquest, and at Reach, owner of the Daily Mirror and many regionals, including the Manchester Evening News.

Against this gloomy background, Lewis Goodall, policy editor at BBC2’s Newsnight, used Twitter to criticise “all of those commenting with glee about those in media organisations losing their jobs,” adding: “Whether you approve of their organisations or not, these are people with families whose lives are being turned upside down. Maybe keep your bile to yourself, just for one day.”

I can report that they did not but instead tipped a putrid pint over my bald head, after roundly abusing Goodall.

Here is what I added to Goodall’s tweet…

“As a journalist and lecturer who is soon losing both roles, I agree. Most of my working life has been in regional newspapers, helping to inform and entertain those who share my city. This Trumpian insistence on the rottenness of journalism leads nowhere good.”

Rarely have I encountered such hostility. My reply received a ridiculous amount of attention and at the time of writing, has apparently been seen on Twitter nearly 14,000 times, while 816 people are marked as having interacted with the tweet.

‘Interacted’ is short-hand for calling me an idiot, saying that I don’t know how to write, telling me that, like all journalists, I am rotten to the core and produce left-wing political propaganda, as evidenced by one tweet and nothing else.

Further, I deserve to be losing these jobs as there is no market for what I do (based on no knowledge and one tweet). On a more cheerful note, 84 kind souls liked my tweet, some adding worthwhile thoughts.

One member of the braying throng read a few of my blogs and concluded that I can’t write. I’ve been writing for a long time; sometimes I write well and sometimes I write less well; it’s what happens to people who write many words.

The same critic added: “A worthwhile journalism lecturer (oxymoronic maybe) would tell his students to swim against the tide.” Ahem, how do you know I don’t do that? Anyway, my Twitter account has a picture of me and my name; yours has a jokey pseudonym and no name or photograph, so it’s hard to know who you are.

At a time when journalists are tumbling, we have a government seemingly controlled by Dominic Cummings, a man intent on overturning many aspects of the state, including the BBC if he gets his way. Robust journalism has never been more essential; robust journalism is more important than whether you dislike a certain columnist (or blogger down on his luck).

But, hey. Haters left and right won’t see it that way. Funnily enough, much of my journalism involves the writing of softer features, carefully thought out profiles and interviews that remain respectful of the subject. But, hey.

I regret that tweet in a way, as my phone went hot in my hand as I scrolled through the abuse. It gave me a Twitter headache and a rough night’s sleep.

Perhaps I also regret writing “Trumpian” as that seems to have been the trigger. Then again, it is surely relevant that one of the most powerful men in the world has spent four years telling everyone journalists are scum, pushers of fake news and members of the lamestream media (often because they just asked him an awkward question).

To conclude, I’d like to wish well to all those journalists losing their jobs. They won’t be the high-profile columnists that annoy the press-haters; they’ll be hard-working editors or producers or news reporters or photographers (that’s if any remain). They will be ordinary good people who deserve better. Good luck to every one of them.

I just checked and the hateful scroll continues, slowly now. How prominent Twitter people endure this bitter tirade is a mystery. Perhaps I’ll be sensible next time and keep my head down. Then again…

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The big cover-up, masked bandits and disconnection anxiety…

Pictures BBC/Reuters/Andrew Parsons Media

SEPARATION seeps into the everyday language of lockdown and its sorry sequel, Hey That’s Not What I Call Real Life.

We wear a facemask to separate ourselves from other people – and them from us. We work remotely, at a distance from others and from daily life. This remoteness may be blissful solitude if productive introversion is your thing; yet it also raises the possibility of sadness or loneliness, of disconnection.

Office work can be dull round of doing the same thing in the same place with the same people, having pointlessly travelled there in the mass waste of time known as commuting. Yet it is work and routine, and offers a prop for a life: this is what we do and why we are here. Even commuting is a sort of supportive routine, now a masked routine as masks are required on public transport.

Today we learn that facemasks or face coverings will have to be worn in shops by a week on Friday. It’s probably sensible and other countries have been requiring this for ages now. But if it is sensible, how come we’re arriving so late to the facemask party? This is so urgent that you’ll have to start doing it by a week on Friday, unless Boris Johnson is bored with facemasks by then.

Well, a week on Friday I fully expect to see Dominic Cummings slink into a shop without a facemask. And then to insist he isn’t breaking the new rules but going shopping uncovered to test whether or not his breath smells.

I too am late to the facemask party, having worn one once to the hairdressers. Not exactly pleasant, but now a required accessory in Hey That’s Not What I Call Real Life. We will all get used to wearing them I suppose, even though they fog glasses and hide smiles.

As always happens, there are inconsistencies here. You will have to wear a facemask to the shops but not to the pub as you can’t drink while wearing one, yet the risks of virus-laden interaction are surely the same as in the supermarket.

Watching how people behave with masks can be illuminating. My favourite passer-by was an overweight, tattooed man on a hot day wearing a facemask but not a shirt. Never mind the face, cover your body, mate. Or the man with his Sunday newspaper who lifted his facemask to smoke a cigarette. Or the young woman at a bus stop who tried to vape, forgetting her mouth was covered.

A while ago only tourists from China regularly wore facemasks. This almost seemed like an insult: your air is so awful we are covering our faces; but wasn’t it really a habit formed at home because their air wasn’t so good?

Whatever the case, the facemask is no longer a rarity. Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have been photographed wearing them; Johnson days after Cabinet colleague Michael Gove spoke against making them a requirement; and Trump after months of ridiculing facemasks and insisting they were a plot against him (along with absolutely everything else).

Still, at least those masked bandits can’t speak with masks on.

To deflect to the personal, I feel remote lately. Remote from the office job I have been doing at home for months; and doubly remote because that job is ending soon.

Remote from my lecturing job which is also petering out. I checked my university email the other day and the only relevant message was one from the IT department telling me I was being disconnected.

Well, yes, tell me about it. Disconnection seems to be where I am at but there will be a way through. Perhaps it will even be one that sees me mixing again with the outside world. Even if I do have to wear a facemask.

Hey That’s Not What I Call Real Life.

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A bald man at the hairdressers again; a visit to the bar; and the politics of the F*ck Boris loaf…

HERE is another episode of bald man at the hairdressers, along with other post-lockdown thoughts (are we really now ‘post’; who knows?).

Although sparsely distributed, my hair where it grows is thick, dark and now grey at the wings. I know, bald, thick, dark and grey – what a winner in the hair lottery. Although I could buy a razor, I enjoy the visits to the local hairdresser, and managed to bag an 8am slot earlier. This was much needed as the thick, dark and grey bits were shooting out all over the place, and the bald pate bore a thin but rising frizz that blew around like grass in the wind. A facemask was required and on entering the newly arranged hairdressers, my hair was washed, which doesn’t usually happen. Then I was shown to the chair, where skilled use of the razors – a number two and a number one grade – removed the mad professor hair. It all took perhaps ten minutes and cost £11. Never has so much attention been lavished on such a small amount of hair. Afterwards I went for a run and swear I went faster without that unruly weight of hair at the sides and back.

Now to the pub…

At our local bar on Sunday, we were greeted at the door and shown to a table for two. Drinks were ordered, a white wine for my wife and an accidental half for me (rectified later with a full pint: Northern Monk’s Faith, a hazy pale ale and a favourite beer). The bar was well ordered, pleasantly full but not rammed, and the experience was enjoyable, if a little odd. The bar staff were still getting used to the new ways, and some customers ignored the rule about not standing at the bar. As required, we gave our contact details for tracing purposes. Three pubs, including one in West Yorkshire, that opened at the weekend have now shut, after drinkers tested positive for the virus. So this new normal isn’t all that normal yet.

The F*uck Boris loaf…

Here’s another post-lockdown story, a favourite as it concerns good bread and a provoked baker. Phil Clayton is the baker behind the Haxby Bakehouse and highly regarded in York. Phil is also a Labour supporter and not at all a fan of the government or Boris Johnson. So unenamoured of Johnson is Phil that he produced a fine sourdough bearing the floured letters “F*ck Boris”. Imagine Phil’s disdain then when he discovered last weekend that a photograph of him at his bakery had been used in a government campaign without his knowledge. The story found its way into the Guardian, where north of England editor Helen Pidd spoke to Phil. Helen later reported that the government had agreed to remove the advert, tweeting: “Teatime update: gov says it has pulled its advert featuring the baker who sold  F**ck Boris bread during the general election. ‘We recognise that this particular business does not wish to be featured and the image has been removed from the campaign’.”

Don’t blame me says Boris

Phil Clayton may wish to revive that loaf when he hears that the prime minister is going about the place blaming care homes and their workers for the high death rates. Johnson said in a TV interview: “Too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures.” Of course, nothing in life is ever his fault. When Johnson urged us all to wash our hands, what he really meant that he was washing his of all responsibility for anything.

To close, let’s be fair-minded about something the government has done with its last-minute rescue passage for the arts. Much needed, so well done – so long as it’s delivered before the curtain falls.

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Travel and pub advice for all the men out there called Stanley and Nigel…

These are confusing times. So here is the Man on Ledge ten-point guide to understanding travel, pubs and other new normal mysteries…

1: If you wish to travel abroad, perhaps to Greece, it is worth finding out if you are related to the prime minister. Perhaps you might be his father. If that’s the case feel free to go wherever you desire. The rules don’t apply to you.

2: If you are Stanley Johnson, travel to Greece in breach of Foreign Office guidance. On arrival, if you are discovered by a local camera crew, just bumble, waffle and make upper-class hew-hawing, ahem noises as if you are coughing up a bit of octopus. Also talk in such a rambling manner that the TV crew might wonder if you are a little drunk. That’ll get you off the hook.

3: If anyone asks what you are doing in Greece, say you are Covid-proofing your holiday villa. Everyone’s Covid-proofing something or other right now, so that should do the trick.

4: Oh, and you’ll get away with it times two because you are wealthy and those rules were aimed at the hoi polloi. What would become of the world if the posh and the privileged had to obey the rules like everybody else?

5: If you are an Eton pudding of a prime minister and you are interviewed on the radio about your misbehaving father, make upper-class hew-hawing, ahem noises while smirking at your interrogator. That usually does the trick. If it isn’t smirking, it isn’t working.

6: If you advise the prime minister and are found to have broken the lockdown, just arrange a press conference in the Downing Street garden, look dodgy, refuse to admit any wrong and make robotic bleating noises about childcare. That should do the trick.

7: If you wish to travel to the United States in breach of foreign office advice, just pretend to be called Nigel Farage and say you’re a friend of Donald Trump. Sadly, this ruse does carry the burden of having to pretend Donald Trump is your friend. Donald Trump is nobody’s friend. He thinks as much of you as he does of those golf balls he inexpertly whacks.

8: When you arrive in the US, tweet a picture of your smug chops with a caption about being 24 hours from Tulsa. Then you won’t look at all like a loathsome twerp when nobody turns up to witness your Trump support act at the poorly attended rally, leaving you 24 hours from Tulse Hill.

9: On returning from your Trump tribute tour, don’t fret about quarantine rules as they are intended for normal people, not good honest right-wingers with mouldy old roast beef for brains.

10: When the pubs open, raise a pint to those smug chops and put the selfie on Twitter. Do this in the full knowledge that everyone who hates you on Twitter will point out that you should still be in quarantine. Congratulations – you have generated another storm in a pint pot. Better still, the police may become involved and you can act like a wounded unwoke knight in this cruel modern world all over again. It’s what you were made for, after all.

Sighing footnote one: We’re stuck with so-called Boris for four years, or until the Tory party realises he’s a hopeless liability. But why do we have to put up with Stanley Johnson as well? That’s at least one Johnson too many.

Sighing footnote two: One day Nigel Farage will be a footnote in the horrid history of British politics. If we ignore him – and it’s not easy, I know – he’ll become a footnote all the more quickly.

Happy travelling. Hope this advice helps.

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Half a billion for questionable satellites, a hasty push for pubs and nothing for theatres…

What links Dominic Cummings reportedly convincing Boris Johnson to chuck half a billion quid into a struggling American satellite company and pubs opening on Saturday while theatres and music venues stay dark?

Let’s swallow an imaginary pint and find out.

Thanks to Brexit, we can no longer be part of the EU’s Galileo navigation system. Instead of admitting that’s a loss, in other words a massive mistake, our Brexit-blinded government want to invest £500m of our money in OneWeb, a US-based company.

Two newspaper stories on this are telling. The Guardian of June 26 reports that tech experts say “we’ve bought the wrong satellites”. That’s because these are low-orbit satellites, whereas all other positioning systems use medium Earth orbit.

The other, in the Financial Times of June 25, reports that critics have “dismissed the low-earth technology as unproven and fraught with risk”. Yet the FT also adds, almost as a throwaway, that the US wants Britain to have a low-earth navigation service as it would “complement the US system and offer extra resilience to US allies”.

I don’t know enough about satellites to comment, but doesn’t that sound like chlorinated chickens in the sky? Something we don’t want over here but we’ll get because of our post-Brexit need to crawl to the Americans.

While Johnson and Cummings can find £500m for a risky investment in possibly the wrong satellites, there seems to be no money at all for our earthbound theatres and music venues.

Pubs are opening on Saturday with the blessing of UK Treasury online ads for us to “grab a drink and raise a glass”. I’m looking forward to sticking a nervous nose into our local bar, but those ads are outrageous.

Never mind close on 50,000 people dying of Covid-19, let’s get pissed and forget about the pandemic. It’s true that we’d all like to forget about the pandemic, but what’s happening here is that the government wants us to forget about it.

Boris Johnson is tired of having to be serious and gloomy. Instead he craves woolly optimism and vague, blustering hot-air speeches full of gaseous images that float off into the rhetorical stratosphere.

Not much optimism at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, which yesterday announced that 65% of its permanent staff face redundancy. That is one of our great theatres, a fantastic space and generally a credit to everyone involved.

That theatre was devastated by the IRA bombing on June 15 1996, and had to close for two years before reopening. We can only pray that Covid-19 won’t finish what the IRA failed to do.

At the other end of the country, the Plymouth Theatre Royal announced last month that 100 jobs were at risk because of Covid-19. Any theatre you care to name between these two will be facing similar cliff-edge decisions. As for music venues, they’ve been told they can open but without performances: how upside down is that?

Oliver Dowden, the deeply uninspiring culture secretary, tweets today that he understands “the deep anxiety of those working in music & the desire to see fixed dates for reopening”. He says he is “pushing hard” to “give you a clear roadmap back”.

What an inspirational man: they should put him on a stage so that an audience of theatre directors, actors, musicians, technicians and so on can show their appreciation via the medium of air-borne rotten vegetables.

The furlough scheme has helped prevent economic chaos, although what will happen when that ends is anybody’s gloomy guess.

But we should never forget the importance of culture and the chances offered to escape and learn about ourselves, to connect with humanity, to open eyes and hearts and to feed our brains.

And if that’s over the top, you can lock me in pseud’s corner and throw away the key.

We are good at culture in this country and the thought of our cultural institutions hitting the rocks should worry us all.

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