Limit voting rights

The government’s report on limiting voting rights has now been published. Dr Richard O’Shea, the Chair of the commission which produced the report is confident that it provides ‘the widest democratic exercise, consistent with ensuring that a vigorous electorate’. He adds: “Voting is an important right, and with all rights come responsibilities. The right to vote will therefore belong to all those who are able to shoulder the responsibility.”

The report “Widening Democracy: Ensuring a Responsive Electorate Fit for the Twenty-First Century”, contains a summary of the recommendations:

The franchise shall be enjoyed by all British citizens and resident Empire and Irish citizens as at present unless specifically excluded.  Those excluded will include:

Those under the age of responsibility, namely 21 years

Psychological research has shown that the adolescent brain reaches maturity only around the age of 21 years old, and while the age varies from individual to individual, testing each potential voter would be impractical and so an age limit should be established on the scientific average age of maturity. In girls this may be 19 years old and in men about 39 years, but 21 is a compromise.

Habitual drunks

No one drunk should be permitted to enter a polling station to vote, which is widely accepted.  Those who habitually get drunk may permanently affect their brains and with it their powers of reasoning and therefore their choice at the vote.  For those not physically damaged, the inability to control themselves is itself evidence of incapacity to accept responsibility. We have not considered in depth the effect this will have on existing Members of Parliament, but we will certainly be urging the full adoption of this section if the behaviour exhibited to our researcher in the Strangers Bar is repeated.

Drug users

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Patients diagnosed with certain mental health conditions

A defect in the mind preventing a voter from exercising reason would make him or her a danger to the rest of the nation, and so those conditions will exclude a citizen from the franchise.

There is no suggestion that all mental health conditions should exclude a citizen from the right to vote or to engage in the political process: otherwise there would be no MPs.

Students

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Civil servants (Grades A to D) and quangocrats

As they already have a strong say in the government of the country through their positions, stronger than voters, so allowing a civil servant the franchise in his or her personal capacity would be to give two votes, which is inconsistent with the principle of equal voting rights.  In addition, civil servants are net consumers of tax money rather than contributors and so would have their participation in the franchise suspended as a cautionary provision in advance of the forthcoming study paper on the principle of “no representation without taxation”.

Dog owners (other than farmers)

This is not a criticism of people who own dogs, and members of all political parties have expressed support for dog-ownership. However those who own dogs do not receive election literature: studies have shown that political leaflets dropped through their doors are instantly devoured by their dogs. Therefore dog-owners, if they go to the polls, do so with no understanding of the issues. This cannot be right if democracy is to work. Therefore the presence of a dog in the household must suspend the right to vote, unless the householder can prove to the satisfaction of the local authority’s election officers that they have a cage or other protection for their post or their filthy mut is kept muzzled at all times even indoors.

People who have no obvious letterbox

For the same reason as dog-owners: they are incapable of receiving election literature. Those European-style bolt-on boxes on the wall with a faux Swiss post-horn motif are acceptable, if poor taste.

People whose letterbox is double-sprung or with a hard brush

This reform had cross-party support and was urged on the Commission by volunteer activists.  Such a letterbox ensures that all political leaflets arrive mangled and often illegible, which is a waste of all the effort put into presentation and frequently leaves the leaflet illegible.  Further, the installation of such a letterbox shows a callous disregard for the safety of volunteers posting leaflets and for postmen.

East Enders

Residents of the Borough of Tower Hamlets will see a severe restriction on their current position:  henceforth they will be limited to one vote each.

Environmental activists

Aren’t you meant to be out hugging a tree or something?  Leave voting to the grown-ups.

Socialists

Because you’ve just misunderstood something; in fact everything.

See also

Dordogne diary

Back from a land wracked with division and despair, namely France, helping a friend to redecorate their retirement bolthole in the Dordogne. I was hoping to meet an author there, to sign my mint-condition copy of David Saunders: Rail at the Air but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor were many: wisely fleeing election time.

It was my first visit he first time since our mission of mercy to them in June 2020. Same old decayed ex-pat community in exile: they are still supping beneath the vines and trying to ignore the neighbour who thinks he lives on a higher plane of existence, and the French. It is the same of France too, a world apart but leaning upon everything, and at the moment it leans heavily. At this time of utter Frenchness, the Britons living here know how very much they are the étrangers.

As I left, the presidential election had reached its long, dark teatime of the soul, between the two stages: the rejection and the election.

What have they done done to deserve those two candidate? Micron and La Le Pen?  All the actual, sensible ones were hurled out at the first round – rejected for showing sense and so not being French enough presumably. Of the two left, and I do mean left, they have one is called a ‘centrist’, presumably like the black hole at the centre of the galaxy; and the other is a socialist described universally as far-right. She may be ‘far right’ on the socialist spectrum perhaps (and I meet lots of politicians who are on the spectrum) and it is fair to say that she would not be welcome in the Carlton Club.

It seems that, as usual,  the voters will do as instructed and chose the establishment drone who was elected pretending to be a rebel.

I can only assume that the French nation are suffering an eternal divine torment as a punishment for the execution of Louis XVI. They have not really been happy since the English Plantagenets left.

The alternative is that they are still trying to learn from their neighbours: Britain and Germany have both raged destruction over France, sometimes at the same time, and since then the French have taken an imitative joy in wrecking their country themselves.

Monsieur μ will remain in his closeted palace like Ulysses, “By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match’d with an aged wife” and all that. Each French ruler spends his time looking over his shoulder for powerful foreign rulers as our philosopher reminders us “And the practise hereof hath been seen on divers occasions; as in the Deposing of Chilperique, King of France”, or Henry V, or Alexander I of Russia ordering Napoleon off the throne in April 1814. Can you imagine today a Russian ruler choosing who should rule France? Ah – perhaps we can.

Nevertheless, until the blade falls, we could sit in the evenings with the zephyr drifting from the vineyards.  We rejected the cuisine Anglo-Dordognaise of the ex-pats: menus that look as if they have come from a 1970s sitcom version for France. This year Chloé came out to help. She prepared andouillette: that takes guts. It is not local fare, but her mother is from Normandy, so she is almost civilised. She knows a good magret too, which washed away the taste.

Home again when we could: another lucky escape from the EU, back to the land of liberty (and other fashion shops). Pleasant as it is, I pity those who live in La Belle France all the time and especially those who pay taxes there.

Oscars round-one-up

Thrills, surprises, and now we know why that carpet is red – the biggest camp-fest in the world hit our screens again. America punches above its weight in showbiz, and the annual shindig always strikes a high note.

Never mind that it is less sophisticated than a provincial Edwardian musical hall, just with a bigger stage and fake diamonds: this year we saw one burst of unaccustomed honesty, which shocked the world.

The heavyweights of the industry all gathered in one room, filled with confidence and with whatever they  managed to smuggle into the cloakrooms, were all there to celebrate themselves, their bank balances, their escape from the Epstein probe and most of all to laugh at everyone else; the little people who gave them every dollar they own.

The stars hit red carpet early – the men dressed to the nines; the women undressed to them, and the lens-men knowing what the newspaper wants to see to sell papers to men pretending to be interested in the art. We have missed all this over the lockdowns – not having the Oscars ceremony left a hole in the social calendar that showed us more than anything how much we did not miss it.

I feel for the academicians, pounded into submission by studio bruisers and frightened by social justice warriors, and each of them with a future career in the balance attacked from both sides.

To the punchline though: the awards themselves.

The most coveted award, Best Picture, pulled off a shock – award-watchers were convinced that any film where the protagonist is a whoopsie would sweep the field, but Power of the Dog lost it at the punch to an outsider – a film about a disabled family, CODA walloped its rival – a brilliant entry to tug the wokestrings that astoundingly was actually well made, and that in itself is a shock for recent Oscar trends. Benedict Cumberbatch struck out, but we have to applaud him for carrying a western film alone without shooting any of the crew dead during filming.

Kenneth Branagh, a big-hitter for half a lifetime, at last won the ‘Being Kenneth Branagh’ Award that has eluded him for all these years – and no one mentioned that one his his past wives has effortlessly won two.

For best actor though – Will Smith beat them all (and on camera too) – he’s not caused a gasp like that since he lamped that genie. But best not give him any publicity, eh?

Viewers may have clocked the real winner of the night: Dune was awarded all the categories that indicate ‘Not woke enough to win but it’s the real best film’.

It was good too to see that actress who used to have bit-parts in Mitchell and Webb tapped with a Best-Actress  nomination, which she never got for the ‘Avocado Bathroom’ sketch.

A new award for the audience favourite curdled the purists of this fake-festival, but a thumping great action film should win recognition. Army of the Dead though? Appropriate I suppose for a ceremony that is becoming zombified.

At least no one talked about Bruno, except Frank Bruno for some reason.

We may be reaching the end of the road of the Oscars.  It was clobbered by COVID and has taken a body-blow from changes in the market.  Audiences are dropping and the world of glitter and painted-on dresses is ever further away from the audience, for most of whom the cinema is a quaint word for a place they have never been. Next year will it even be held? The whisper is that it will be combined with the WBA World Championship.

Books

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.