I’d Do Anything for Boris (But I Won’t Do That)

People try to understand Boris but what I have found is that what you see is what you get.  He’s no man of steel – he’s where our rock and roll dreams come through. Replacing him then with Liz Truss though? Give me the future of a modern girl….

When he fell ill with COVID there was not a dry eye in the House. Now at the slight provocation one paper MP has fled like a bat out of Hell, into the arms of the demonic enemy. Is nothing scared? (Britain favourite backbencher, Lee Anderson had some choice words for his former colleague in private, which I will not repeat, but you took the words right out of my mouth, Lee: couldn’t have said it better.)

The thing is, you have to take Boris as you find him: achieving, forthright, reliable – well, two out of three ain’t bad.

The man and his qualities are the same, but now the party is going nowhere fast. The polling numbers are dire – read ’em and weep. He won’t want to look back at who’s approaching but objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.

I seriously doubted him once (did I say that? It’s all coming back to me now.) It’s not too late, Boris, but your future is on a razor’s edger. You can’t drive away forever, trying to find paradise by the dashboard light; it’s midnight at the lost and found, lost souls in the hunting ground.

Remember the good work you did for the Telegraph, in Europe ’82; you can do it, if you really want to.

 

2021: please tell me it’s over

Having to write a review of the year is painful as I have to relive it. Lockdowns and quasi-lockdowns reduce the year to a grey goo like an ill-cooked pudding with sudden bitter raisins.

Early in the year COBRA met to discuss what to do about the opinion poll crisis and selected more COVID measures as a fix. They also received a complaint that their name has neo-colonialist pretentions, so the committee was renamed ‘Grass-snake’.

Over in America, the year started with Q-Anoners staging a coo-ee, which was apparently the worst thing ever to happen in that city (and this of a small city which has more murders every year than the whole of Britain has), or at least the worst until the new President was inaugurated a few days later.

Here meanwhile after Grass-snake met we were told ‘Happy New Year – you are all under house arrest’. To be fair, the rule was only introduced on the understanding that it would be ignored, and I could claim a journalist’s exemption, which surely the rules imply if unsaid, but the schools were barred and bolted too, so no relief from loud children.

Members of SAGE complained that the restrictions were not harsh enough, and everyone should have their front door nailed shut, so they cannot go out and look for their wife after her meeting with the professor.

In March a Prince and Princess appeared on trailer-trash TV in America; the less said the better. In the meantime life went on as normal with new, exciting strains of SARS-COVID-19, riots, unsociallysdistanced protests at a school peacefully demanding the dismemberment of a teacher, and Belfast returned to normal, with rioting.

Rioting became quite a fashionable activity in places. Bristol was having another go after its statue-toppling time the previous summer and now any political cause is an excuse for a party with fire-bombs.

In all this, cancel culture went on, becoming the best satire in the house. Who said it is killing comedy when maddened ochlocracy is the funniest thing about?

A fundamentalist breakaway from SAGE was formed, called ‘THYME’.

In May, we were graciously permitted to vote in elections:  in Scotland and in Wales the most hated parties both won power again convincingly – well, we need someone to grumble about.  It has in fact been quite a year for elections: Hartlepool humiliating Labour; Airdrie and Shotts unnoticed; Chesham and Amersham humiliating Boris; Batley & Spen; Old Bexley and Sidcup humiliating the press; North Shropshire sounding a knell. It is a knell still sounding – from Boris flying higher in the polls than Icarus, to falling lower than Icarus. He may take a classical lesson – others of us may consider that Conservatives have been wildly popular, and Boris is no longer a Conservative.

There were some Extinction Rebellion things too, if anyone noticed, and some bizarre people gluing themselves to roads. THYME at least were delighted that blocked roads stopped people meetings or spending money in shops.

There was some sort of football tournament on too: the cheers and the weeping, overheard in every street, told how deeply the two sides in the COVID lockdown debate feel about crowds.

In October and November the jets and vehicle convoys piled into Glasgow. The wisest came by train, as the only way to stop their hubcaps being stolen. Greta flew in of course.  The city was delighted to host such a prestigious gathering – until the townsfolk realised the meeting wanted to stop global warming, when a warmer climate is exactly what Glasgow could do with.

The conference was then blamed for a surge in COVID according to the official government advice panel, now known as ‘HYSSOP’.

Oh, and there was a fuss over MPs objecting to the expulsion of one of their colleagues by a ‘commissioner’ whose academic qualification is a degree in women’s studies from a gym in the Midlands, and another over a post-work party that looked very tame compared with what most of us were doing. Still who am I to accuse?

Now New Year’s parties are legal for 90% of the nation – the tinpot premiers of Scotland and Wales have banned them, so now the pubs of Northumberland and Cumberland, of Cheshire, Gloucester and Hereford are booked solid, and signed have appeared on the Tweed and the Wye saying “Welcome to Free Britain”, and long may Scots celebrate in Nicola’s face. It’s Burns Night round ours soon enough.

Even after lockdowns, masks and madness, this cursed year is not over. The midnight chimes cannot come soon enough.

Matt Hancock book exclusive

Matt Hancock’s How I Won the COVID War, out soon: a thrilling read. Page after page of revelations: ‘If I were to get on top of this one, I’d have to work fast. I took lessons from Neil Ferguson’.

‘I was going to get down to it – if it took all-night sessions with staff, I was up for it.’ ‘It was a fearsome projection: I was facing a massive hump in the summer.’

‘It was vital that people stay at home unless needed: even my wife could no longer join me at the office in the evening, and I had police posted just in case.’

‘This is an international problem – I was discussing Uganda into the small hours. How I kept it up, I’ll never know.’

The book is not out for a few months, but the extracts are revealing. Getting through on tiny scraps of data, bearing a hunch and carrying it through, following tiny clues, hacking phones, bribing publishers and getting the ghost-writer drunk  – that’s how exclusives are made. What I found was less exciting than I thought: here was Matt, plain Matt Hancock, just as pointless and self-absorbed as he always seemed. If you want drama and fantasy, you have what he thought of himself.

Celebrate COP26

To celebrate the opening of COP26 we’re holding a big village bonfire: every family bring a  sack of coal and we’ll build it high and wide.

We’ve got burgers and a hog roast laid on, and to mark the internationalism of the event, food from all over the world.

There is so much to be done that everyone can see our commitment. I flew home from Provence for this, and friends and neighbours drove in from their holiday villas. We sent teams around the village to help neighbours to dig up their front gardens and lay down concrete so they have somewhere to charge an electric car, when they get one.

Glasgow holds the hopes of the world, and no one has ever said that before – so we have a festival of Glasgow culture in the local pubs, and sing-songs with the music familiar from the city – the children have learnt this week how ‘Ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus’, while the village choir have been practising their Glaswegian choruses concluding “Well the famine is over; why don’t you go home?

As we all roll home, no famine in sight after we’ve roasted a herd on the green, we can be satisfied that this one night we have signalled our virtue so high the fire could be seen from space.  Those meeting in Glasgow are our last best hope for peace (or is that Babylon 5?). I hold in my mind the motto which this village has always stood by: ‘Any excuse for a good nosh-up’.

Postscript

That you to all who took part, and who made it such a memorable night. We went away maybe not with a wider appreciation of issues but certainly wider personally. That is what it is all about.

Thank you also to the Fire Brigade for joining in the fun after you had finished putting out the trees and the grass, and The Lodge. Without you, we would have a less of a village this week, and would not have had the bass section of the singalong. The vigour of your singing will long be with us, and your enthusiasm notwithstanding that the song for Glasgow was not a familiar modern piece: it is old but it is beautiful.

See also

Books

Sir Keir Kneeler: speech in full

‘Conference, I look about me and ask the same thing you do: What am I doing here?

Never underestimate the challenges this party faces but also its successes: once we looked down at the Liberal Democrats as weirdoes but now we have bested them in that.

What I want to say to you is this: short sentences. Just a few words. Not even a verb.

I’ll start by some unconvincing populism by cheering the football results: Arsenal 3 – 1 Tottenham – and I know how you all hate Spurs fans.

We all have failings. I have a confession to make: after 14 years of marriage, I still don’t know what a woman is.

Now fill in random personal details here to make me sound human, with unnatural emphasis in places to sound angry.  It might be as interesting as your cousin’s slide-show last Christmas, but we have a long time slot to fill in and nothing to say. Then sound humble. Was I meant to say that out loud?

We will not always see eye-to-eye. I know I stand here as leader looking out over a different party:  I’m not a raging, hate-filled communist like most of you; I don’t beat up journalists in corridors like most of you; I don’t hate Jews like most of you. Even so, there are things that we in this movement share – we all agree our policies should target ordinary working people, and I am ready to pull the trigger.

We have all enjoyed the lettuce, gherkin, bacon and tomato sandwiches at lunch, the only sort we agreed.

I have worked in public service for most of my life. Baroness Scotland appointed me as DPP, and although I never prosecuted her, as head of the Crown Prosecution Service I learned the significance of those three those three words that appeared on my desk: ‘Complete’ emphasises that we must finish what we set out to do; ‘Utter’ shows the need to pursue things to the furthermost; ‘Pillock’ is me.

If we are who we say we are, we believe the government is magic, so we can blame Boris for everything from the weather to Tottenham’s fluke goal. If our party believes any principle, it is that the Tories are to blame. When we get power in our hands, we will ensure, as many of you have affirmed, there will be everything in the state, nothing outside the state, and nothing against the state – that is the Labour way.

So far I have not laid down any actual policy nor any practical way to achieve anything Conference has demanded. Let us keep it that way.  My watchwords will be Work, Care, Equality, Security – all values which we have done our utmost to extinguish.

I think of these values as my heirloom. The word ‘loom’, from which that idea comes, is another word for ‘tool’; and that is what I am.