Thursday, 17 April 2014

Damascene Ad Absurdum

The Prime Minister is a sweaty man who reeks of advertising. His one discernible quality is that he never seems quite comfortable in any situation he finds himself in. Suits don't fit him. Casual clothing looks ridiculous. His holiday pictures all look forced and unnatural. He is a scarcely credible leadership figure. The ghost of a moustache on his lip makes him look like nothing so much as a provincial bank manager, always worrying that someone will find out about the petty cash. His greatest fear is that he has gone through life assuming that he is the perfect man for the job he now occupies, but that the reverse is true. The reverse is true; he now simply hopes that nobody notices.

The Prime Minister wants to talk to you about Religion.

He wants to come across as sincere - sharing his faith, in a friendly, honest manner with you - but this is a problem for the Prime Minister. He cannot be sincere. He cannot even fake sincerity, like some of his predecessors. The Prime Minister's version of "sincere" consists of fixing you with an unsettling stare while lowering his head, like a charging bull, and hectoring you. He reduces himself to a shiny, sweat-slick forehead and shaking jowls. There is no invention in the words, no craft to what he does.

The Prime Minister always comes across as a crap advertising man, which is what he is.

He wants to talk to you about Religion because the man he is most afraid of in politics has been talking about Religion also. The man the Prime Minister is most afraid of went so far as to use the term "Judeo-Christian heritage", which is as sure a mark as exists that the opinion thus expressed may be safely ignored, for the speaker knows not the fuck of which he speaks. But the Prime Minister is concerned. He fears that the man he fears most has opened a Religion gap, and that members of his own party will continue to desert him if he doesn't close the distance.

So the Prime Minister talks about Religion. There are problems with this. As already noted, the Prime Minister cannot be sincere. His timing is all wrong. His delivery is poor. The message is muddled. Worst of all, in this case, the Prime Minister isn't very religious, and this is obvious. And having never before made an issue of his alleged faith - having serially played it down, even - he now looks like an opportunist, forever tugged around by whatever the zeitgeist seems to be that day - which is exactly what he is, and what he does. The reason he fears the man he fears most in politics so much is that the man he fears, despite exercising no real power and little direct political influence, is actually good at this game. The man he fears is good at politics, although his policies and positions are self-contradictory, idiotic and spiteful. He is forever stealing a march on the Prime Minister, dragging him around in his wake. He does this to make the Prime Minister look like a weak, silly nonentity, which he is.

The Prime Minister will keep talking about Religion until the man he fears most in politics decides that this has been jolly good fun, but that he'd like to make the Prime Minister twist in another direction, and go charging off after another talking point.

The Prime Minister will continue to tie himself in knots. Sweating, leering.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Expenses

The ship pitched and rolled in the roiling seas. Maria gulped as she was prodded down the gangplank at sword-point.

"It's not personal," said Gideon, one of her self-appointed executioners, "you've brought disrepute to the whole band, and we simply can't have that in these tough times."

Maria shuffled a little further along, whimpering, at a couple of too-enthusiastic jabs from the cutlass. She could see the edge, now. The sea was cold, cruel, churning - were those sharks?

"We told you, Maria! We can't have pirates in the band!" said Michael, absently loading and checking his brace of flintlock pistols. "I mean, honestly, Maria - piracy? What were you thinking?"

The crowd, gathered to watch the spectacle, agreed lustily.

"Yes, everyone hates pirates!" said the man who called himself Grant, feeding his parrot a biscuit, "and they especially hate conmen!"

"Piracy is immoral and wrong," said Jeremy, shifting his eyepatch from one eye to the other.

"So you have to walk the plank! The plank! A watery grave for you! A-ha!" yelled Wee Mad Iain, doing a cartwheel and soiling himself vigorously. The rest of the crowd shuffled aside from him.

Maria had reached the end of the plank, now. All that was left was the plunge. Frantic, she cast about for friendly faces in the crowd, but there were none. Never before had she seen such a rum band of coves, rogues and looters, she thought. But maybe there was a final chance. Maybe the captain...?

"I support you unreservedly!" called a voice from somewhere, far away from the thronging crowd. "Now be a dear and fuck off into the drink, won't you?"

Well, thanks a lot, thought Maria as she jumped.


The ship had sailed on. Maria was paddling comfortably. The water was lovely, as it happened, warm, calm, and not at all fatal. The boys had even been good enough to throw down a chest laden with drinks, sandwiches, and not a little cash after her. And any minute now...

"Wotcher!" said a friendly dolphin.

"Um, hello," replied Maria, "are you my ride?"

"I am!" said the dolphin, "hang on to my back and we'll have you at Paradise Island in a jiffy. The boys told me to tell you they'd probably swing by in a couple of months, and to enjoy the facilities as much as you like in the meantime."

"Yippee!" said Maria, who very much enjoyed using things provided for her as much as she liked, and grabbed on to the dolphin.

Monday, 7 April 2014

These Stern-Faced Men of Budget

The time to Budget is upon us, and gathered around this august Budgeting table are our heroes, the serious-minded Men of Budget. Long have they slaved through the night, stiff-necked and perspiration soaked, to produce the latest of our Great Nation's Budgets.

Budgeting is very important.

"Right," calls the Chief Budgeteer, "this is a fine Budget that we have made, but it is lacking in the Common Touch, in Eyecatching Initiatives to win the hearts of the Hardworking People, the People who Work so Hard, all day at their Work, Working - Hard - that we may Budget for them. What shall we do for the Hardworking People, who are not the Workshy Scroungers?"

There is silence. Time passes. Eventually, a hand is feebly raised. The Chief Budgeteer, master of this Budget, nods that the hand's owner may give voice.

"Well... we could give them something they like."

There are nods. More voices are raised.

"Yes. Something they like. They. Them."
"Them. Yes."
"Indeed, those. Them."

"But what do they like?"

The moment's enthusiasm passes as Great Minds bend to the answering of this question. What, indeed, do Hardworking People - neither Feckless nor Workshy, Indolent nor Scrounger - like to do?

"Um. They like drinking. Getting drunk. You know."


"But not, obviously, not on anything good. Beer. Yeah. Beer. They like beer."
"Yes, they like beer!"
"Those! Beer! Them, they!"

The Chief Budgeteer, the sternest and wisest of the Men of Budget, nods his head approvingly.

"So shall this be done. A reduction in the cost of beer. Not enough that anyone will notice - a penny per pint, say - but this is indeed an Eyecatching Initiative. What else?"

"Uh... gambling. They like gambling!"
"Beer and gambling! Yes!"
"They like beer! Those are people who gamble!"
"Drunks and gamblers! Drunks and gamblers!"
"But not all gambling. Good, honest, British gambling. Bingo. Yeah, Bingo. Good, demotic, salt-of-the-earth gambling. Like your nan does. Not that evil, wicked, modern gambling."

There are more nods and murmurs of assent. A small smile cracks the face of the Chief Budgeteer, the Master of Budget. These are wise men he has assembled.