A blob is to blame for Johnson’s misfortunes, just not that woke one…

I think we can all agree that Boris Johnson has been undone by the blob. This is not the woke variety, more of which in a sentence or two, but the one that faces him in the mirror every morning.

Johnson is undermined by the many flaws in his character and the fact that he was, and remains, totally unsuitable for high office.

It was always going to end in an ungodly mess, and that disarray is still playing out, even as the mop-headed deceiver makes millions from having been a useless arse of a prime minister.

So, yes, when he eyes himself in the mirror, that’s the blob he should blame.

The other blob, the woke variety, is something you never used to hear about at all. And then of a sudden, there it was. Woke blobs wherever you looked. You can’t step outside the door without tripping over a woke blob, even though no-one can be sure what exactly one might be.

If your bus is running late; if the traffic is bad; if your custard is lumpy – just blame the woke blob. After all, those right-wing snowflake commentators can’t get enough of it.

Columnists on the Mail and Telegraph and deeply obsessed with woke blobs. Here is the reliably potty Allister Heath in the latter, worrying that, “The woke blob is about to achieve its greatest triumph: its final takeover of Britain.”

Wow – something made up and non-existent is taking over Britain. You might have thought the people ruining Britain were the right-wing politicians who are actually in power. But, no! It’s that woke blob, in a double act with “cultural Marxism” (actually a far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory, but never mind, it’ll do if you’re on deadline for a column in the Mail or Telegraph).

Heath even refers in his article to “followers of Gramsci” taking over the world. No idea, so I looked him up. Ah, old Antonio ­– an Italian Marxist philosopher who, get this, died in 1937.

Blame the dead Italian leftie. Those dead Italian lefties get everywhere… and are now clearly out to get the last Tory PM but two.

In a sorry new twist, Johnson has again been referred to the police over potential rule breaches during Covid. Hilariously, and with a side-serving of karma, the government lawyers we are stumping up for discovered the new findings, which civil servants were then duty bound to hand over the police.

If Johnson had paid for his own legal advice, as he should have done, this would probably not have occurred. You are permitted to emit a loud ‘ha!’ at this juncture.

We all know that Johnson broke the lockdown rules and then lied about it. That’s just what he does. So, it’s hardly surprising that he appears to have broken or bent even more rules.

As for all this worrying about the woke blob, you have to pay to read those angry-angsty columns in the Telegraph and the Mail, and I am not doing that when I can write my own biased rubbish for free.

But still, it’s very odd all this political scapegoating. Never mind saying anything remotely adjacent to the truth, just hunt out a handy conspiracy theory.

An especially useful tip if you have been in power for years, nothing in the country is better than it was – indeed, everything is palpably worse than it was – and need someone or something to blame.

It can’t be your fault because, come off it, it never is.

And that’s where the woke blob comes in so useful. It doesn’t exist, it’s about as real as the Loch Mess Monster – and yet Tory politicians and their favoured commentators can’t get enough of it, crowding around the Messy Loch of Politics and pointing at a supposed monster that isn’t there at all.

And there you have it… a woke blog about the woke blob.


j j j

Thanks for flying with We Must Do This Again Airways…

By the water in Assos

By the water in Assos

It was only a 15-minute drive from my mother’s house to Manchester airport. A short hop before a longer one to Greece, but the unruly gods of roadworks had other ideas.

A good job we left at 2.30am as the M56 was shut. Yes, that one ­– the one that goes to the airport. Round and round we looped, sucked into an inescapable diversion without so much as an “Airport This Way” sign.

My wife’s stress levels were driving that car more than the engine and my own anxiety nearly popped the glasses off my nose. A little light swearing was involved.

Eventually we arrived, parked up and dashed to the terminal, trailing suitcases and thoughts of how easily you could miss a flight.

A few hours later, as we prepared to land in Kefalonia, both of us had trouble catching the captain’s announcement thanks to the pressure in our ears.

“Welcome to Deaf-alonia,” I quipped.

Here’s what I think the captain said…

“It’s cloudy out there today and it is raining at the airport. And, yes, that was lightning that struck us a moment ago. Oh, look, there’s another flicker or two. We will have to circle the airport until the rain stops and those clouds clear. With luck we’ll be down before your holiday ends.

“So, this is what it’s going to be like. You’ll love Kefalonia, even if when you arrive the rain will be falling harder than on a bleak Sunday in the Yorkshire Dales. You’ll get soaked just dragging the suitcases from the taxi.

“Later the downpour will lessen enough for you to glimpse an outline of the panorama where you are staying, but at first the view will be hiding, a bit like the sun.

The pool where we swam

The pool where we stayed

“But the sun will shine and you’ll go out every day, up and down those hills, in and out of the pool. Take it from me, you’ll love Argostoli with its bay and harbour front and cafes where the coffee comes with freshly baked orange cake at no extra cost.

“One morning you’ll spot a turtle turning in the water, and snap a picture just before his agent muscles in.

“You’ll find an ice cream place so good it has to be visited twice, just to make sure. And there’ll be seriousness too in a small museum exhibition about the earthquakes of 1953 that flattened the island. Almost everything you see today was built after the earth shook so cruelly, three times in that one year.

“You’ll book a coach trip to a gigantic cavern where stalactites patiently wait out time like stone icicles, most stolid as, well, a rock, but some curiously unfurling like flags in a breeze, and then it’ll be on to an underground lake.

“You’ll catch a passing glimpse of the beach from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (great novel, dodgy film, as so many Nicolas Cage films are), after which the valiant driver will thread his giant coach down the zig-zag road that unzips the tiny waterside village of Assos. I’ll tell you this for nothing, getting that coach road those bends with the precipitous drops at either side is a damn sight trickier than flying this plane.

“In Assos, where the earthquake toppled almost everything, you will see grand-looking house fronts still standing, without roof or rooms, like ghosts on the set of a sad film. But many buildings are new, and it’s a lovely spot for lunch on the harbour.

“I’d recommend the griddled whole sea bass and something vegetarian for your wife.

“You’ll also get to also visit upmarket Fiskardo, haunt of the famous in the summer. You won’t spot Johnny Depp, but you will chat to a friendly couple from Eastbourne while having a coffee overlooking the yachts.

“You’ll read three or four books apiece and visit that taverna at the bottom of the hill three times.

“Oh, and your wife will discover that Argostoli has a botanical garden that must be visited. Take her anywhere in the world and that woman can sniff out a garden. If you went to the deepest desert, she’d soon be telling it was open garden weekend at the local mirage.

“Nice garden, though. Enjoy your first proper holiday in a while and thanks for flying with We Must Do This Again Airways…”

j j j

Oaths of allegiance and a very peculiar royal affair…

Headline from a usual suspect newspaper…

The words below come from a report in the Guardian, but other examples of very peculiar Britishness are available. Read on and try to tell yourself we live in an ordinary country…

“The king and the queen consort will be anointed behind a specially created screen of fine embroidery, held by poles hewn from an ancient windblown Windsor oak and mounted with eagles cast in bronze and gilded in gold leaf, Buckingham Palace has announced.”

Yes, this weekend’s coronation – and not, as you might suppose, some weird mash-up of Tolkien, CS Lewis and King Arthur.

The “specially created screen” will hide the king and his queen consort at a key point in Saturday’s service.

This anointing is “traditionally regarded as a moment between the sovereign and God, and the screen is to be used to give sanctity to this moment”, according again to the Guardian.

No television cameras or photographers’ lenses will be allowed to squeeze between Charles and his God.

I was playing badminton earlier, which has nothing much to do with anything, except that three of us sat out a game and discussed the coronation. None of us exactly young – and all expressing either no enthusiasm for the coronation, or downright hostility.

The story of how royalty are presented to us is a servile tale told endlessly by broadcasters, newspapers and their columnists, favour-currying politicians, and the toadying ranks of royal correspondents and experts.

So tight is their focus on royalty that it is easy to forget plenty of people are either indifferent to the monarchy or dislike the notion that we are still ruled over by kings and queens selected by birth – and, apparently, given the nod from God.

To be found at the bottom of the same page in the Guardian is a story reporting a survey by the National centre for Social Research. A recent poll conducted by the centre found that only 30% of Britons said the monarchy was “very important” to them.

Further, 45% of respondents said the monarchy should be abolished.

This was just one survey, it is true, and all surveys can be picked over to show the findings in a certain light. But it does suggest our purported love for the monarchy has been oversold.

Not only that but we are asked to swear an oath of allegiance to King Charles as follows: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law.  So help me God.”

Well, so help me God but I won’t be doing that, and I surely won’t be alone.

Such an oath is a solemn promise or statement calling on God to witness the truthfulness of the swearer’s testimony, according to Edward Vallance in a History Today essay from 2016.

But don’t go making that oath lightly…

“In the Tudor and Stuart period it was believed that those that swore falsely would be subject to divine punishment, not just in the next life but in this.”

Vallance mentions that in Dagon Demolished, a pamphlet published in 1660 by John Vicar, the grisly ends of those who broke their promise of allegiance to the king by swearing loyalty to the English republic in 1649 were detailed.

One Mr James Ashton of Oldham “became so full of Lice, continually, that all the shift and attendance that possible was used, could not cleanse him from this filthy Vermine”.

You have been warned.

More broadly, why are we all paying for this coronation at all? Its cost has been put at £100m, while Charles is estimated to be worth £2bn. He could easily have stumped up for the whole shindig himself.

Enjoy the long weekend; enjoy the coronation if it’s your thing; enjoy ignoring the musty, tradition-encrusted peculiar affair if it’s not. All options are fine, apart from the one that tells us what we feel when perhaps we don’t feel it at all.

j j j

Two court cases and two ways of regarding the environment…

If you ever consider the law to be an ass, then Charles Dickens is on your side.

Although the writer did not coin the phrase, he gave it prominence in Oliver Twist, published in 1838. Mr Bumble, the unhappy spouse of a domineering wife, is told in court that “…the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. To which Mr Bumble replies: “If the law supposes that the law is a ass – a idiot”.

He says this while “squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands”.

I wondered about doing that with my Peaky Blinders-style cap when reading about two court cases in the same copy of the Guardian.

In the first case, two Just Stop Oil protesters were jailed for more than two-and-half years each for scaling a bridge on the Dartford Crossing in October last year. Their protest forced police to close the bridge to traffic.

If you’d been stuck in those long queues, you may well appreciate the fate dealt to those who caused your delay. Marcus Decker and Morgan Trowland acted, according to an Extinction Rebellion spokesman, in the name of “urgent and fear-reaching action on the climate and ecological emergency”.

The judge in the case, possibly mistaking himself for the Home Secretary, said: “You have to be punished for the chaos you caused and to deter others from copying you.”

Shane Collery KC added of the two men that they “plainly believed you knew better than everyone else. In short, to hell with everyone else”.

And yet, in essence, what they were saying is that we’re all going to hell unless we do something to protect the environment.

A few pages further on comes this headline: “Farmer imprisoned for ‘wanton’ destruction of Herefordshire river.”

John Price was imprisoned for 12 months and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £600,000. His offence was the “wanton” destruction of what is considered to be – or was considered to be – one of the country’s most unspoiled rivers.

It’s certainly been spoiled now, after Price ripped up a mile-long stretch of the River Lugg, “wrecking the habitats of otters, kingfishers, trout and salmon”.

Using bulldozers and excavators, he dredged and “reprofiled” a stretch of the river that ran through his land. The environmental and ecological damage he caused could take decades to recover, according to the Environment Agency.

While it is foolish to compare one court case with another, it’s not half tempting sometimes.

Let’s place these two cases alongside each other…

Two environmental protesters who blocked a road are fined for two-and-half years, while a farmer who destroyed a treasured stretch of river gets 12 months.

Is the law saying that delaying commuters in the name of protecting the environment is a worse crime than actually taking a digger and ripping up a river? Is it saying that actively damaging the environment is less harmful than trying to protect it?

It’s not the first time in our history, of course, that protesters have ended up in prison after standing up for their cause.

In the years running up to the First World War One, almost 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned. Emmeline Pankhurst went to jail three times.

Like the Just Stop Oil protesters of today, they were angry at being treated as criminals for demanding their rights. The right to vote back then – the right to protest about how we’re screwing up the environment now.

Are those Just Stop Oil protesters really “twice as bad” as that destructive farmer, at least as measured by the sentences they received?

It is could surely be argued that their sentence was severe because the present government is intolerant of protest (and many other things, being tolerant only of its own uselessness, you might say).

But there we have it: trying to protect the environment is a worse crime than grievously damaging the environment.

Incidentally, there is a petition against John Price’s sentence. Don’t think I’ll be signing that one.


I have a new guitar piece to learn. Yes, I still have lessons. Who knows, one day I might even be good. Whatever the case, I enjoy playing.

But what interests me here is how the placing of words can render them interesting.

The new piece is an arrangement of the folk song Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair.

Those words are so finely ordered. Had the song been entitled “My True Love’s Hair Is Black”, the phrase wouldn’t be much cop at all. Too ordinary, too mundane ­– and putting the emphasis on the person doing the adoring rather than the subject of their devotion.

By escaping that dull fate, the words resonate with a melancholic sort of love. And they are just more interesting. Now I’d better start practising.

j j j

Beautiful distractions… Rishi Sunak doesn’t add up… seems I am wrong about shoes…

Rishi Sunak delivers a maths lesson

I was about to write something political the other day when a baby appeared on the doorstep. The bell rang and there she was, looking quizzical, warming up her smile.

This happens often. Our daughter leaves the granddaughter outside in her seat and goes back to her car for other baby-shaped accoutrements. And whatever I was going to write is put aside.

Instead I sit around watching the baby. She is remarkably all-consuming, but it a beautiful distraction, so I don’t mind at all.

After she has gone, I think about writing, and sometimes tap at the laptop.

There is famously stuffy saying from the writer and literary critic Cyril Connolly. It goes like this: “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”

Connolly died 50 years ago and seems mostly to be remembered for saying that dull thing.

For me having children, and then a grandchild, has been an inspiration rather than a constraint, although blogs have been pushed back, novels left unadvanced (not much “good art” there but I can’t stop, never mind a lack of recent success).

Below is what I was going to write the other day, and now just did. If you don’t like politics, skip to the end for a spot of domestic self-mockery regarding shoes…

I WAS glumly amused, if you can be in such a state, to hear Rishi Sunak say an “anti-maths mindset” was damaging the economy.

Apparently, an inability with figures is costing us untold billions, according to the prime minister – a curiously unexamined number for someone who wants us to sharpen our mathematical skills.

How many billions and just how does a lack of maths cause that apparent loss; and is “growing the economy”, as they all seem to say nowadays, the only remaining ambition in politics?

This is another of those occasions when a prime minister extrapolates an aspect of their own life, such as when Margaret Thatcher used to pretend that living above her father’s grocer’s shop in Grantham somehow taught her to run a country.

Now Sunak seems to be saying: hey, kids – being good at maths made be a multi-millionaire, so give it a go!

The Labour Party has recently been criticised for a digital attack ad smearing Sunak with the accusation that he didn’t believe adults convicted of sexually abusing children should go to prison.

While this may fit the viciously negative style of modern politics, it was unpleasant and didn’t really work.

For such a jibe to hit home, it has to sum up what people are thinking. The Tories scored in 1979 with “Labour isn’t working” and a poster showing a long cue of jobless people (actually Tory activists, as Andrew Rawnsley pointed out in his Observer column the other day). Whether true or not, this chimed with the times.

A later ad depicting Tony Blair with “demon eyes” was just silly and did not hinder his election in 1997. Labour’s attack ad on Sunak seems to fall into that category.

Perhaps Sir Keir Starmer should try some maths lines on his opponent.

“It just doesn’t add up” might be a good slogan. Here’s another: “He only knows about subtraction”.  Or, in the style of a headline, “Sum mistake, surely.”

Of course, when it comes to “growing the economy”, Sunak seems to have been very successful at growing his personal economy, while being a little hazy about the details.

The prime minister’s extreme wealth sets him aside from ordinary life, but also presents a problem for Labour: should they attack or ignore his wealth?

Sunak is so rich he will have many fingers in countless pies. And sometimes the policies/pies he pursues may benefit himself – or his even wealthier wife, Akshata.

A telling example arose recently.

Sunak faced questions over a potential conflict of interest after it emerged a childcare firm part-owned by his wife would benefit from major changes in the budget.

Do they have so much money, so many investments, they can’t possibly remember the details; or does the prime minister believe it’s no business of ours to know?

Here is a great tweet in which a maths expert disparages government efforts to co-op him into Rishi’s maths class…


WELL, that’ll teach me to air domestic politics in this blog.

My previous thoughts on the correct way to arrange shoes in the hall produced only support for my wife’s view on this matter. While it remains obvious to me that she and you are all “shoe barbarians”, I shall retreat, licking my wounds (but still lining shoes with the toes facing outwards, no matter what everyone else says).


j j j

What’s wrong with this picture?

Shoes lined up in the hall

Step away for a moment from the glum argy-bargy of news. Here is a picture of shoes lined up in our hallway. It is controversial in ways that may not immediately be apparent.

Look closely and you will see some shoes with the toes facing outwards, while others have the toes pushed up against the skirting board beneath the radiator.

What we learn from this is that someone in this house is a person of obvious good sense, while someone else is a shoe barbarian.

Whose shoes face out and who puts the heel to the fore; and who is right?

Here is the case for the defence.

The shoes with the toes facing outwards are as god intended shoes in the hall to be arranged, neatly mobilised as if their (invisible) wearers had their backs to the wall. Looks tidier and the shoes just seem right that way.

Here is the case for the prosecution.

Shoes are more useful with the toes facing the wall as that way they are ready to put on.

I know, I know – nobody puts their shoes on while standing up against the wall, slipping their feet into footwear so conveniently located that they bang their forehead on the wall. So that argument makes no sense at all, leastways not to the man who places his shoes with the toes to the front.

So, yes, the big reveal is that my shoes are like little ships with the prow out, ready to sail. And my wife’s shoes are docked back to front with the stern facing outwards, in no fit shape to sail.

Incidentally, the prow, from the French word ‘proue’, is the forward-most part of a ship’s bow above the waterline, although ‘prow’ and ‘bow’ can be used interchangeably.

Incidentally times two: the bore is the backwards-most partner who witters on about which way round the shoes in the hall should be arranged. And then, after many months of genial argument, decides to write about this important matter.

In short, we both insist we are right.

Such small disagreements are cogs in a long marriage, tiny disputes being better than big ones.

Or perhaps my wife knows nothing about shoes in the hallway, or I am just a teeny bit obsessed about something of absolutely no importance at all.

Another anniversary fell the other day: 36 years. An unfeasibly long time, and yet nothing but a flash in the universe’s pan. We spent the morning filling a skip with broken concrete from the garden. And nobody mentioned shoes at all. There was a meal with white wine in the evening, and a game of Scrabble (I lost, as usual).

To conclude this important discussion, here’s what happens when I tidy up the hall.

After the vacuum cleaner has a wheezy guzzle, the shoes are arranged so that they all toe the line. And then, one by one, my wife’s shoes end up facing the wall again.


What’s wrong with this picture of modern life?

According to a report on the BBC and elsewhere, one million smokers will be given a free vaping starter kit to encourage them to give up tobacco.

“Fake smoking” being better than actual smoking. Fair enough. Smoking is uncontestably bad for you, while vaping is – what exactly?

Better than smoking but probably not that good for you in ways that have yet to become fully apparent; perhaps. Better than smoking yet just as addictive in other ways – and horribly attractive to children and young people, thanks to the sweet-flavoured ‘smoke’; perhaps.

Then I spotted a TV advert that hinted at a collective social madness. A company that makes products to break your addiction to tobacco has now introduced a new line to break your addiction to vaping.

That was a head-scratching moment. Vaping is ‘good’ – but you may become addicted and will need this product to get you off the thing that’s stopped you smoking.

j j j

Ugly politics for ugly times… imagine if we had been kind instead…

Drawing of a Victorian prison hulk

Ugly politics for ugly times – that sums up the way things are.

Whenever you switch on the TV news, there is home secretary Suella Braverman or prime minister Rishi Sunak spouting vileness. It’s enough to make you reach for the antacid tablets – bring on the Gov-iscon, designed to soothe the unsettling effects of political bile.

Handy that Great Expectations is back on television. Never mind your personal feelings about Steven Knight’s version (seen one episode, didn’t mind it so far), just notice the parallels, not least the prison hulks.

As part of the government’s attempts to stir up the small boats crisis and use it as a political weapon, the Home Office is reported to be preparing an enormous barge to house asylum seekers offshore.

Dickens compared the prison ships, covered in chains, to a “wicked” version of Noah’s ark – containing prisoners the public often regarded as little better than animals or beasts.

A similar cruel distancing happens when asylum seekers are herded on to insanitary old army camps – or floated offshore in incommodious barges. Instead of being seen as fellow humans, they are distanced, othered, blamed for their fate.

Imagine an alternative scenario…

We’ve spent billions keeping out migrants and demonising disadvantaged people, whipping up hysteria and stooping to the far-right politics espoused by the likes of Britain First, and thus normalising hate.

Couldn’t we just have been human instead?

Imagine if all the effort, all the endless money, all the stale acres of harrowed political debate had been replaced by intelligent thought and kind action.

Imagine if instead of othering migrants by pushing them away and keeping them at a distance, we had risen to the challenge with swift efficiency (rather than sclerotic inefficiency). Been welcoming and kind, instead of hateful and cruel.

Many of those people we are spending so much time, money and effort repelling would almost certainly become good citizens who would add to the variety and strength of British life.

A migrant corralled in a camp or on a barge is kept apart and made to seem less human. A migrant in the workplace or down your road suddenly becomes more human, less of an “other”, a neighbour, a friend.

But no. We are trapped in a politics suggested by those Escher drawings – his impossible constructions, where somehow you ascend or descend only to end up exactly where you started.

Sunak and Braverman holler about a crisis they are only making worse; the knottier the crisis becomes, the louder they shout, hoping to capitalise on the fallout and assuming we will all forget just how long their party has had to sort everything out.

Ugly politics for ugly times (part two).

Sunak’s crackdown on grooming and sexual exploitation of young people seems to have more to do with political calculation than anything else.

When Braverman tweets that “evil grooming gangs must never be able to prey on vulnerable children”, she is saying something everyone can agree with. Yet she seems mostly concerned, with her talk of political correctness and blaming Labour-led councils, to make political capital out of a painful issue.

Ugly politics for ugly times (part three).

Sunak has announced a review into how sex education is taught in state schools – seemingly all to appease one Tory MP, Miriam Cates, whose belief that children were being exposed to sex education classes that were “age-inappropriate, extreme, sexualising and inaccurate” seems mostly to have been based on urban myth, exaggeration and half-truths turns on their head.

To quote from the misguided Miriam during prime minister’s questions: “Graphic lessons on oral sex, how to choke your partner safely, and 72 genders. This is what passes for relationships and sex education in British schools.”

Only, well, it doesn’t. Still, you can’t let the facts get in the way of a good culture wars scrap.

I kept typing “culture warts” in that last sentence, and there may be something in that.


j j j

Some antisocial behaviour is invisible… and Hancock the dupe…

Led By Donkeys picture of Matt Hancock

Led By Donkeys picture of former health secretary Matt Hancock

Rishi Sunak’s plan to crack down on antisocial behaviour is one of those moments when governments say, “Oh, we going to do something about those things you always say you don’t like…”

But in this case there is a footnote.

And it goes like this…

“We’re doing this because it makes a few good headlines and we haven’t got around to sorting out the things you really want sorting, like the struggling NHS, GP waiting times, the rubbish railways, schools falling apart, rampant inflation, and pot holes so deep you could lose a car down there. All the austerity we forced on you earlier made these problems worse, but we’re hoping you’ve forgotten about that.”

For his latest crusade, Sunak says he wants to tackle vandalism in public spaces. Or he wants us to think he’s doing that, which is almost the same.

Those who are caught in such acts will be “quickly and visibly punished”. That “visibly punished” refers to the wearing of shaming jumpsuits or high-vis jackets. Or maybe to the stocks and the chucking of rotten vegetables. Nothing would be a surprise.

On, and he also wants to tackle beggars causing a “nuisance” on Britain’s streets.

It’s possible he hasn’t thought through the optics on that one. Here is one of the richest men in Britain turning against people who have nothing. A modern spin on an old parable, you might say.

Yes, the sight of people begging on the streets can embarrass you into scurrying past while pretending not to look. That’s what I do sometimes, and it’s not a good trait, as public poverty should shame us all.

But it also raises another worry about crackdowns on antisocial behaviour. This isn’t just a party political point, as Keir Starmer got in first with Labour’s ideas on tackling antisocial behaviour – spurring Sunak to blurt out a few recycled ideas of his own.

The worry is this: what we are asked to regard as antisocial behaviour is confined to visible problems on the street, such as vandalism, graffiti, begging, and so forth.

Yet plenty of unseen aspects of life are antisocial. Rich people who dodge tax or employ accountants to bend the rules and avoid tax. That’s antisocial, as it denies society the means to operate.

MPs who have one well-paid job and can’t resist touting for another. That’s antisocial as they are deflected from doing their job.

We could look at any number of MPs here, but let’s consider former health secretary Matt Hancock. I know, sorry for bringing him up – and all this may want you to bring something up if you’ve just eaten.

Hancock has been claiming £13,000 a year in expenses to pay for a ‘love nest’ after he left the marital home. And after he earned £320,000 for appearing on I’m A Celebrity MP… Get Some Money In My Bank.

And that’s not even what I am talking about.

Hancock and Chancellor For A Day Kwasi Kwarteng were among MPs apparently caught out by the campaign group Led By Donkeys. In a clever stunt, the group set up a fake South Korean firm touting for business among MPs.

During an online meeting, Hancock was asked about his daily rate. A filmed clip released by the group shows him saying with shameless aplomb: “It’s 10,000 sterling.”

Ten grand a day for a side hustle. And isn’t that added “sterling” just so brattish.

Hancock’s spokesperson huffed about it having been a private conversation. Well, that’s the point.

If we are governed by politicians who have private conversations about earning ten grand a day for offering advice to foreign firms, something is wrong.

And it’s antisocial.

Also, with Sunak we have a prime minister so fantastically wealthy he has no need to use the education or health services most people rely on. Isn’t that antisocial?  Or anti the general run of society.

AS it happens, Rishi Sunak’s accountants finally released his tax statement, as long promised. The figures came out while his chaotic predecessor but one, Boris Johnson, was petulantly floundering before the privileges committee last week.

A sly move timed to go unnoticed.

Turns out Sunak made £5 million in the past three years, mostly through a US-based investments fund. As such investments are covered by capital gains tax, he paid around 22% in tax – much the same as a nurse, say.

In 2016, Sunak voted for a cut in capital gains tax – something which is estimated to have made him £300,000 in the past three years.

All of which sounds, well, antisocial.

j j j

Boris Johnson’s last stand? Braverman on tour, Brits losing out…


Boris Johnson’s official portrait when he became PM

The blustering blabber monster is back, not that he’s ever gone away, more’s the pity.

Tomorrow Boris Johnson will appear before the parliamentary inquiry into his actions during the Partygate scandal. Part of the investigation is to establish whether he lied to Parliament about the rule-breaking parties in Downing Street. Odd, as everybody knows he lied then, the lied before, and he will no doubt lie again.

The parties were held, they broke the rules – and Johnson attended them at a time when the rest of the country was in lockdown (and, incidentally, it has just been revealed that his government put pressure on the BBC to avoid using the world ‘lockdown’ in its early reports on, er, the lockdown).

Johnson’s defence seems to be that he believed he gave his honest opinions at the time. Slippery semantics, morally dubious ducking and diving – the usual Johnson swerve.  He will say that he relied on “trusted advisers” and did nothing reckless, or something.

The usual excuse: it wasn’t me.

And it’s costing us. His defence is being funded by the taxpayer to a reported cost of £220,000 – yet he is said to have earned £5 million in six months for public spouting and had enough space to buy a £4 million house. So how come we are paying for his defence, stumping up for lead counsel David Pannick and his team?

Johnson is going in lawyered up to his chin, and we’re paying for it. But then someone else always pays with that man. Richer men than himself pay for his gold wallpaper, provide homes and holidays. Newspaper owners and editors line up to back this disreputable man. And all for what, exactly? So much effort wasted on one worthless man.

In theory his appearance before the parliamentary committee could mark the end of his career as a politician, ruling out any ridiculous comeback. But the Trumps and Johnsons of this world have a way of wheedling through the moral murk they stir up. So don’t hold your breath.

HOME Secretary Suella Braverman has just returned from a curious vanity trip to Rwanda to promote her plan to send migrants to that country. Only right-wing journalists from the Mail, Telegraph, GB News etc were invited along for what it would be gruesome to call a ‘jolly’.

Yet Braverman seemed extremely jolly while she was there, releasing a picture of herself apparently laughing her head off while standing before what was said to be migrant accommodation in Rwanda. A photograph so odd and weird that it went viral on social media.

In the original picture, she is between two other people, who were then cropped out in social media posts, making Braverman seem demented (an appearance she gives with little apparent effort).

The Mail, having been invited along for the trip, hit out under the headline: “Suella’s anger over cropped picture spread by the Left on social media.”

Oh, yeah.

Two points here.

One, perhaps don’t give out publicity pictures that can be so easily turned against you.

Two, the Mail itself has a long history of cropping and altering pictures to suit its low purposes, including adding more burka to a woman’s face, as shown here (and shared by the New European).

Braverman’s trip was basically a political promo funded by us – and aimed to cause just the sort of aggravation that followed. Tediously, annoying “the Left” is the only actual policy she pursues.

All part of the morally dubious politicisation of migrants. The lives of the desperate and the disadvantaged cashed in for votes.

CHANCELLOR Jeremy Hunt, whose budget axed the pension cap to benefit the wealthiest 1% of the population, told the Commons last week: “The declinists are wrong and the optimists are right. We stick to the plan because the plan is working.”

Not according to the BBC’s Panorama programme, which showed this week how Britain is falling behind.

BBC news analysis editor Ros Atkins, quoting Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “This is an uneasy message to hear. A typical Brit is thousands of pounds poorer than the typical German, French, Australian and Canadian. The typical American is 60% richer than the typical Brit.”

The problems go deep, but the clip below shows how often our politicians blame global problems, Covid-19 or Putin for all our problems, all to mask our wider failures. And don’t forgot the way we shot off our own foot over Brexit.

Let’s just say that again ­– the average American is 60% richer than the average Brit. Those “declinists” are on to something.


j j j

Here’s what happens every time this so-called crisis isn’t sorted out…

Here’s your guide to what happens every time the government tries to sort out the so-called small boats crisis.

A fresh batch of morally suspect policies will be introduced to a drumbeat of headlines. These will turn out to be just as useless as the last batch of morally suspect policies.

There have already been endless initiatives and six new bills aimed at stopping people entering the UK – all since 2015.

The last one, the nationality and borders bill, pledged to end small boat crossings for ever, only for last year to see a record 45,000 arrivals.

You can also count on a tweet from Gary Lineker, the sports commentator and scourge of the government. This will earn him a fresh rebuke from the BBC, get right-wingers hot under their buttoned-up collars, and land the Daily Mail another lazy splash.

What Lineker said this time may well seem entirely sensible to you. It certainly does to me…

“There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

And if you think that Lineker was being over the top with his “Germany in the 30s line”, look at this government propaganda…

A “whole new level of UKIP Stalinist”, as the comedian David Baddiel put it on Twitter.

And again, look at this horrible and yet entirely mystifying bit of government PR.

What does that even mean?

The latest government plan after all the others that didn’t work effectively bans anyone who arrives in the UK ‘illegally’ from claiming asylum (it is already near impossible to arrive here legally). Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says in that droning tech-bro way he has that he is “ready to battle judges” through any legal challenges.

Now we come to whichever mean-spirited sprite happens to be Home Secretary.

Suella Braverman, the appalling present incumbent, went on the BBC this morning to condemn Lineker, saying: “I think it’s unhelpful to compare our measures, which are lawful, proportionate and indeed compassionate, to 1930s Germany. I also think that we are on the side of the British people here.”

Pondering this new spin on the word ‘compassionate’, I give Lineker a follow, adding to his tally of 8.7 million (Braverman has 120,000).

Here’s what also happens. The ins and outs, however cruel and unseemly, have to be seen alongside the reason why they are being proposed.

It’s nearly always the fault of Nigel Farage, that skid-mark on the underpants of British life.

Farage, you may recall, posted selfie videos as he stood on the shores of Dover, pointing at asylum seekers arriving in small boats – like some sort of misery pervert, a peeping tom getting off on the suffering of those less fortunate than himself.

Farage has a way of banging on about something for so long that the media takes note (see Brexit). Now everyone is doing a Nigel and pointing at the “small boats”.

Here’s what also happens. Our morally tacky government doesn’t mind at all that there is an endless racket about migrants. In fact, it loves all that noise.

If we exhaust ourselves pointing at small boats, we turn our eyes from the self-destructive Tory party and the unravelling chaos it has caused, at the failing state, the collapsing NHS, the non-existent trains in the north, or at all those friends of the government who enriched themselves from fast-track contracts during the Covid crisis.

Here’s what also happens. No one in government listens to those who know what’s really going on. Here is a telling statistic from the Refugee Council: “The UK is home to approx. 1% of the 27.1 million refugees who were forcibly displaced across the world.”

One per cent is hardly an invasion. Braverman, more bonkers by the day, claims that 100 million people could seek asylum here if her bill isn’t passed. That’s “think of a number” politics of the lowest kind.

All of which proves that the small boats crisis is a distraction – a political confection topped with the whipped cream of easy hate.

Here’s what also happens: you always end up thinking, we should be better than this.

j j j