The majority of British people don’t know who their MP is – so how can they be expected to understand Brexit.

In the run up to the EU referendum I was out and about campaigning for Remain in the streets of Lewisham. It was a fairly brutal experience.

Lewisham is a diverse borough. The Remain vote was supposedly strong here and yet, as a novice campaigner, I became increasingly concerned at how little anyone knew about what membership of the EU actually meant.

Standing outside Brockley station one Saturday a group of young lads approached me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was campaigning for the UK to Remain in the EU to which one of them responded:

“Fuck that – I’m voting for Boris. We’re all voting Boris.”

On another occasion on Loampit Vale a woman in her twenties rounded on me and in words to the effect went off on one:

“No. No way am I voting to stay in!” She said, “the EU restricts our freedom – anyone can come here from anywhere and get benefits and a job and live here. We need to take back control of our borders – and it costs us billions and it’s undemocratic – they’re telling us what to do and we can’t do anything about it. It’s a joke.”

I asked her if she had voted in the EU elections. She said there were no EU elections. I took out my phone and showed her there had been EU elections. She said that we weren’t allowed to vote in them. I asked her what evidence she had for that and what she thought an MEP was. She didn’t know. I asked her as politely as I could if she knew what the Schengen area was – she didn’t care – she was voting out.

On another occasion a woman in her sixties told me: “I don’t want us to join the EU.”

When I explained that we already were in the EU she refused to believe me and as I impatiently set about proving otherwise – I realized that our cause was fucked. It was probably fucked anyway. Stronger IN ran a terrible, arrogant, metropolitan campaign. Having David Cameron backing it didn’t help either. The flyers were patronizing and seemed to be obsessed with mobile phone roaming tariffs in Europe. Nobody put the emotional case for staying in or even for the EU itself. Nobody combated the lies, the propaganda and the deceit. The BIG LIE that Leave would mean ‘taking back control’ was as we now know – deliberately obtuse. It could mean anything.

And ‘anything’ resonates.

See also ‘project fear’ which continues to be deployed with aplomb whenever rational thinking is introduced into the Brexit debate.

In the last two years new catchphrases have been added to the Brexit lexicon. My favourite of these is: “Are you saying I didn’t know what I was voting for?” To which the unapologetic and most truthful response is quite probably “yes.” For here’s a horribly inconvenient fact – most people don’t understand the slightest thing about British politics and a lot of British politicians are happy to keep things that way.

On the available evidence – most people don’t even know who their MP is – let alone what they do in parliament. Few have any idea of how FPTP works, or how laws are passed, or how our ‘unwritten constitution’ functions.

Asking the British public to vote on our relationship with the EU was like inviting a 9 year old to perform delicate brain surgery with a broken crayon. And that applies to both sides. Most Remainers voted emotionally.

In the past the UK sensibly avoided referendums because they were viewed as the tools of dictators and demagogues. They allow a largely ill-informed public to be manipulated – often against their own interests – by giving the impression of democratic choice not democracy itself. The turnout of the EU referendum was 70% – meaning that the 52% who voted Leave constitute just 37% of the voting age population in 2016. And yet nobody ever mentions the “37%” – it is the sacred ‘52%’ instead who are daily invoked – like some Messianic chorus.

The Leave leaders know how deeply dishonest this is – but they frankly don’t care. It’s effective. And the general ignorance of the populace and the willingness of many to latch on to meaningless slogans suits them down to the ground. Dare to call this bullshit out and those renowned anti-elitists led by the likes of the Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg (Eton, Oxford) shoot you down as an ‘enemy of the people.’

It’s dirty and it works.

If the UK is to climb out of this insufferable mire, we need to stop treating the British public like nine year olds. Square number one on that journey is to tell them the truth. Namely, that most of them on both sides of the referendum no more understood the complexities of it than they understand Heraclitus in the original Greek.

Someone tell them.

Tell you what.

You go first.


Brexit: our part in your downfall – key referendum figures talk exclusively to The Prick.

David Cameron

People often come up to me and say: “Come on Dave, why don’t you go back into politics and sort everything out because it really is a bit of a mess since you retired. Now where am I driving you to today sir?” And I am obliged to tell them that the truth – is – simply that I have never been happier and much as I might be needed I have far too much to do. Whether tending to my lawn or giving the occasional after dinner speech or pottering about in the kitchen while I listen to the latest Mumford and Sons EP I am just too busy. The vote that took place on June 23rd 2016 is a very insignificant part of my time in office. In 50 or 60 years I doubt people will be looking back and talking about that very short bit of my premiership. I will be remembered as the PM who jogged, the one who reduced the deficit, who left the country a better place than when I came to power and who wanted us all to reach out to young men in hoods – and hug them. Tight.

Jayda at home

Jayda Fransen

It’s disgusting right because the Police have had it in for me and I was saying to Maurice that’s my Nan’s third husband that I can’t even walk down the road because I got the Police on my back and them people at Number 12 look through the curtains and I’m convinced they’re laughing at me because of that time I got off with Robert the guy at the whasisname the Burger King in Brent Cross and he dropped his chips and the ketchup gone all down my front and then that Sheena who worked at the Post Office before she had the twins laughed at me in Gossips Disco in St Albans and said I looked like I didn’t wash. *Breathes* And Brexit yeah they told us we would get all the immigrants out and that but they’re still coming across the sea and if you say that or shout at the Pakistanis down the kebab shop and call them all rapsists and child whatsisnames the Old Bill come round and they arrest you because its illegal now to be a racist. We should definitely not join the European Onion. Give the money to vets and other people what looks after animals.

Dominic Cummings

First we needed to get hold of Stronger In’s machine – but that was the simple part. Encrypting their message made it so fiendishly hard to fathom that nobody could understand it at all – including the Remainers on their own side. So along with Matthew Elliott and young Darren Grimes I built a machine – a decoding device that I named: “Take back Control” after a child with whom I had had a sensitive friendship at school. If you fed literally anything into this machine it came out with the same message: “Take back control!” It said. And that is how we won the war.

vote leave team
Cummings and the Vote Leave team in 2016 – Darren Grimes in jumper on the right

Jeremy Corbyn

It is quite wrong to say that I did nothing for the Remain campaign. I fought passionately for the country to stay in a Reformed European Union. On the 12th of June – on my way to a conference on solidarity with the persecuted leaders of Socialist Republics in Latin America – I appeared (much against my better judgement) at a house in Darlington and had a conversation with a woman on the doorstep of her home. During a lull in the photo op she asked me if she should vote in or out. I told her that it was her decision but that on the balance of probability, despite the EU being controlled by the vested interests of billionaire bankers who probably wanted to eat her, she should vote to stay in – because that was Labour policy. Although not one I necessarily agreed with. But she should do that. If she wanted. Free country. Wouldn’t have been my choice.

David Davis

I was delighted when the British people voted overwhelmingly to leave the rotten old EU. Unfortunately since then we’ve been let down by politicians. People say to me: “But David – you’re a politician and you were even Brexit Secretary for two years – so don’t you bear some responsibility?” To which the answer is “No” followed by a big hearty disdainful laugh. “But seriously!” These annoyingly persistent people continue: “You were quite literally the Brexit Secretary! You had forty years to come up with a plan……. Yack … yack … yack.” The key to a good negotiation strategy is: ‘knowing what you want.’ Failing that use distraction. Never fails – hold on ….. what’s that? Behind you!

Sue left – at a major pro-Leave demo

Suzanne Evans

I never really wanted to go into politics. But I think I speak for most people around the world, when I say that I am very glad that I did. The UKIP manifesto of 2015 – which I wrote – is now considered a classic of the genre and the turning point in modern political history. The very model of what a great manifesto should be. My policy, which I came up with, of removing the Great Britain of United Kingdom from the European Union went on to make history. It was clear to me from a caravanning holiday in Normandy in 2003 that our relationship with the EU would never work out. Nobody could speak English properly and on one occasion – after I had momentarily forgotten to ‘drive on the right’ a Spanish man shouted “Cuidado!” at me very rudely, bringing back painful memories of the Falklands war which I had watched on the news in the early 1980s. Hundreds of countries are not in Europe. Japan does perfectly well. And Australia. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that in both cases – they drive on the left and don’t speak Spanish. When the British people voted to leave the horrid European project in 2016 I like to think that a lot of them were teaching that nasty little Spanish man a much needed lesson. “Cuidado!” indeed. To me!

NOTE: Satirical content – as told to Otto English

Brexit Spam: As the Un-civil War rumbles on the only growth industry is terrible Brexit analogies.

I was accused last week of coming up with too many shitty Brexit analogies and so on that basis and in keeping with my mission statement – here are a few more.

Brexit Britain increasingly resembles that Monty Python sketch where a couple go into a café and are offered spam with everything. People don’t want to hear about it. Many seek actively to avoid it – but short of sealing yourself in a bunker on Rockall and stuffing your ears with cement there’s no escaping it.

Brexit’s so ubiquitous, that you half expect to see it on the weather.

“Brexit will sweep in from the East this morning. A few backstops elsewhere but into the West mostly hard, while there’ll be a cold front of manufacturing heading out from the North and into the Continent.”

In the two years since the UK voted to quit the EU, the ‘B’ word has come to infuse everything – like a rancid cheese in your fridge or dog shit that you can’t get out of the treading of your shoes.

Brexit is like graffiti. It hangs around in bus shelters, it sullies up the place. It lurks in stairwells and commuter trains threatening to rob you of your sanity. It rubs off on your coat. It’s ugly and costly. Look up from your phone and it is there and with Theresa May’s deal set to fail there is no sight of escape any time soon.

For two and half years, the topic has dominated our politics, our friendships, our social interactions. I have Remain voting acquaintances who have blocked their own parents on Facebook because of it. I’ve fallen out with old mates. We long ago stopped talking to Grandad about it. Brexit has become less and less about politics and the pros and cons of membership of a trade bloc and more and more like a civil war.

Brexit – Naseby with tweets

Say that of course and you get accused of over-stating the current divisions and pushing your Brexit analogies too far – but I’m sorry that’s what it is. It is a civil war. If these events had unfolded in the 17th century, we would have spent the last two years firing musket shot at each other, shoving pikes up one another’s arses and hanging people from trees rather than tweeting angrily at Newsnight. It’s brother against brother, daughter against mother, neighbour against neighbour, region against region. It’s toxic, it’s acrimonious and at times it has spilled into actual violence.

In 2016, even the most die-hard Brexiter or Remainer couldn’t have predicted that we would be fighting this mêlée of madness two and a half years later. Yes, nobody ever promised that it would ‘all be over by Christmas’ but few could have guessed that the lines for the most part wouldn’t have broken. Far from it. If anything, as the ‘war’ has progressed the fronts have become far more entrenched. Both sides have dug in. Pyrrhic victories have been claimed as major breakthroughs that will end deadlock once and for all – but nothing really has changed….. apart from this one thing – most people in the country are sick to fucking death of it all and long for peace.

In war the biggest victims tend to be the civilian populations. In most conflicts they are the ones who are killed by rampaging armies shortly after their homes have been burnt to the ground. In this war they risk being bored to death.  As Westminster continues to wage its internecine battle aided and abetted by the news and commentariat there is a whole nation out there that is being ignored even as it is bombarded with raining tins of Brexit Spam. The all-encompassing fog of the battle has suffocated engagement on all the other stuff. Education, NHS funding, climate change, social mobility, the division between rich and poor.

Occasionally Jeremy Corbyn sticks his wizened old head out like a soporific tortoise and tries to talk about Venezuela – but that’s about it in terms of variety.

The Conservatives have now been in power for seven and a half years – half of which has been spent on Brexit. And here’s the rub – the topic itself is a wholly unnecessary project – of no benefit to woman, man or beast. It is a folly. A hunt for the Snark, a waste of time, of energy and money that could have been better expended on things of actual benefit to the people of Great Britain.

As we – and yes I include humble me in this – blab on and on about Brext – the silent majority are increasingly war-weary and tired of the very mention of the word. As MPs hold yet another debate and the whole omnishambolic cavalcade of shit rumbles into another year – most Britons just wish it would stop.

Still – at least the Brexit analogy sector is a growth industry huh.

shut up

The case for second chances – the only way out of the Brexit nightmare is to go back to the country

The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the ancient Persians made all decisions twice. In the first round they would get uproariously drunk, have a good old row and – while still heavily inebriated – vote. Then a few days later, having sobered up sufficiently, they would go through the whole process again – before acting on that final decision.

There’s something to be said for deliberating on important matters twice. Behavioural experts have long known that the frenzy of emotions aroused by heated debate can cause individuals to pursue choices that in more restrained circumstances they might not make. The concept of ‘sober reflection’ at the ballot box persists in the modern political age. In France and forty-one other countries Presidential elections are conducted on a two round system which is not so dissimilar to the Persian approach. In the first there is an almost intoxicated free for all in which anyone can stand and anything goes. Then a week or two later there’s a play-off where the candidates with the two biggest mandates go head to head. It’s an arrangement that endeavours to seek compromise but which critically allows time for serious reappraisal. By offering voters a pause for reflection the middle ground is reached.

In most big decision making processes, time for consideration is generally considered to be a good thing – particularly when the decision has financial or life changing implications. The rose clad cottage in a rural location on a sunny day may inspire the eager house-hunter to make an impulsive offer on the spot. But should the survey come back and the dream home turn out to be a rat infested dump with a leaky septic tank well, in Britain at least, you can simply walk away.

Herodotus having a good old think

Make any purchase of goods or services, outside of a store anywhere in the EU and you are granted a minimum 14 day cooling off period – by law. Switch off something as basic as your laptop and it takes more than one click.

And yet – when it comes to the biggest collective political and economic decision in modern British political history – we the British people are currently being offered less opportunity to reconsider our decision than when we choose to delete an app off our phones.

Yesterday in the Commons MPs passed an amendment obliging Theresa May to come up with a Plan B in three days if (or more likely when) her Brexit deal is voted down at the critical meaningful vote on Tuesday 15th. The amendment will allow MPs to come up with alternatives including a People’s Vote. Predictably the very mention of this has led to howls of outrage from hardline Brexiters and members of the ERG. These are the same people who told us that a trade deal with the EU would be the easiest in history and that everything would be absolutely fine. Now these very same individuals seem intent on driving the UK off a cliff in pursuit of their fantasy Brexit; an option that was never on the referendum ballot or even the side of their big red bus.

Whatever your views on Brexit – one thing is absolutely crystal clear. This is a crisis. It is a crisis that began with a referendum and a second referendum on the outcome of what Theresa May has negotiated seems like the logical, fair and democratic way forward.

There are those who say that a second plebiscite would betray the 17.4 million people who ‘have made the decision already.’ To which the only valid response can be: “well in that case why are you so afraid?” Do the Brexiteers no longer trust the people to deliver ‘their’ result? More democracy is never a bad thing. Asking the British people to confirm or reject the deal after nearly three years of negotiation and debate is not only reasonable – but required.

Others argue that perhaps Article 50 should simply be revoked. I think that’s a very bad idea indeed. Any attempt to ‘stop Brexit’ would throw us into even deeper political turmoil.

The public in 2018 are more informed than they were in 2016. They are also, for the most part, heartily sick of the whole thing. A People’s Vote offers a chance for the country to come together in sober reflection draw a line and move on – whatever the outcome. Either way, the people will have spoken.

Theresa May’s Brexit Christmas Carol

Brexit Britain was dead. There was no doubt about that. Doctor Fox had believed it would recover – but belief was not enough. Old May had signed Article 50.

As she trudged through the snow back to her lodgings, Mrs May passed men carrying gammons and others who were managing to walk by themselves. The rest of the Cabinet and parliament may have gone on holiday for two weeks at the height of the greatest political crisis in history – but there was no rest for Old May.

The fog and frost so hung about the old gateway that it seemed as if the genius of Brexit himself was haunting the door. But it was nearly midnight and David Davis would still be eating lunch. Gove – lurched out of the shadows – clutching at a bag of straws.

“A Merry Brexit Christmas Mrs May!” Young Michael yelled.

“What do you want?” May growled as she approached, “probably hoping for a day off tomorrow on account of it being……”

“Why yes Mrs May ….it’s just Tiny Tim Martin and some of the boys from the ERG are having a lunch in Wetherspoons – no brussels and chlorinated chicken – I was rather hoping I might go.”

“Bah Strasbourg!” Old May hated Christmas, “go but you won’t be getting any OBEs however much you smarm up to me. Anyway – we’ve run out of metal.”

The Old House at Number 10 was cold and dark and May had no appetite for gruel that evening. She climbed the winding stairway past the portraits of old Prime Ministers – glaring down at her. As she passed each by it seemed to come alive.

“Boooooo!” Atlee jeered.

“Where’s your Dunkirk spirit!” Churchill added.

“Don’t look at me for support – you’ve made a right pig’s ear of things!” Thatcher chipped in. “I’ll be confiscating your Christmas milk.”

Old May climbed into her nightgown and blew out the candle. But just then a cellar door burst open and there were creaking footsteps on the stairs. The bedroom door was pushed aside and into the room stepped John Major – dressed from head to toe in a suit of the purest grey.

May had often heard it said that Major had no balls – but now he was surrounded by them – clanking at the length of a long chain.

“You’ve been ignoring my many appearances on the Andrew Marr television programme and other similar news and current affairs outlets.” Major began – smelling distinctly of curry.

“Dreadful vision!” Old May screamed – falling to her knees.

“Well a bit unfair – I mean Marr does do his best!”

“No youuuuu. Yoooouuuu. Why do you haunt me so? And why are you fettered to that heap of balls?”

Major’s ghost and his Terry Major Balls

“I wear the chain I forged in office.” Major replied. “That pink one is Portillo fresh from another one of his train journeys, that lightweight one is Peter Lilley and the others are all Michael Howard. Beware the IDS of March the 29th……..”

“But isn’t that something else altogether….”

“Silence woman! In the course of this evening you will be visited by three ghosts – and now I must away…..”

May followed him to the window – desperate in her curiosity – but Major was gone – seeping seamlessly into a paving stone.

Presently she felt a cold wind behind her and turned. Standing alone in the midst of her bedroom was an odd figure – like a child yet not so like a child as an old man. Jacob Rees-Mogg looked about himself and muttered:

“A pity it is a terrace. Still I suppose it will do for Nanny.”

“Oh spirit of the night – what do you want of me?”

“I am the ghost of Christmas past!” Jacob intoned. “Come to show you how wonderful everything was before it was ruined by progress.”

He swept her in his top hat and soon they alighted by a Victorian workhouse. Inside children – some as young as five – worked away shoeless at metal lathes.

happy urchins
Christmas past – happy urchins working hard

“Can you see what socialized welfare, health and safety and education for ‘ordinary people’ has done?” Jacob implored softly as another child’s pals gathered round in a spirit of goodwill to carry his dismembered arm out of the workhouse and throw him out after it. “These children had purpose and jobs as chimney sweeps until such time as they died of diphtheria or bullet holes – but now their descendants sit about the place getting fat on hamburgers and not knowing one end of a rifle from another.”

“OH what happiness there is!” May agreed – taking in the scene.

She turned – but Rees Mogg had gone – spirited away in a Bentley and in his place was a hideous ogre of a man – so revolting that Old May let out a scream.

“Oh what monster is this?”

“My name is Rupert Murdoch.” The festering apparition managed – extending a withered hand. “Here to show you the Hard Brexit Christmas yet to come.”

“But I was promised three ghosts!” May yelled. “Where are the three ghosts I was promised?”

“It’s the Brexit dividend!” Murdoch shot back “we lied.”

Soon they were riding high above the clouds – until in the distance they saw white cliffs and blue birds and green hills and a ring of unicorns dancing in a circle while Boris Johnson sang Walking in the Air from the peak of a giant tin of Spam.

There were no queues at Dover – the roads were full – yes – but traffic was moving swiftly towards brightly coloured steam ships. And beneath them happy, smiling people – all driving Morris Oxfords waved gaily up at Mrs May while a formation of Spitfires flew overhead.

“God bless you Theresa May!” They cried as one. “Thank you for this wonderful hard Brexit and our blue passports and tins of racist jam!”

And there dotted about the countryside happy Grenadier Guardsmen sat drinking cups of piping hot tea and eating spoonfuls of marmalade – while girls in bright dresses danced about Maypoles.

Hard Brexit heaven

“You see!” Murdoch whispered in her ear. “It’s a kind of heaven.”

And the music played on and cartoon penguins were dancing and May danced among them. It was all so lovely – so marvelous so –

May awoke and blinked. She was lying in a bus shelter on the Catford gyratory being poked with a stick by a man in a yellow vest.

At the ERG luncheon Tiny Tim Martin and his chums agreed it had been the best Christmas lunch ever at that particular Wetherspoons on that day of that year.

“But next year!” Michael Gove piped up, “someone else can put acid in Theresa May’s tea.”

All the things we’ve lost.

The first time I remember you losing something – it was me. We were in France and I was seven or eight and turned one way and you turned the other and I was gone. I remember the primal fear – the strange faces bending down as I called for you in the street. You panicked. Ran the length of the road – frantically shouting my name – glimpsed me reflected in a shop window – and swept me up in your arms.

But that was long ago. You must have lost a million things since then. You were always losing things.

I only started to really worry when you lost the door key – I cut you another – and you lost that one too. Soon you were losing everything – in that house, in our home – where we four had lived – and then just you two – and finally – just you. Alone.

Then the hose got cut. Hacked off. It was weird. You thought it was ‘spooky’ that someone would cut the hose like that. Who after all – would cut the hose in such a way. Such a violent thing to do. Who cuts hoses? You blamed the gardener. He kept insisting you hadn’t paid him. Perhaps it was revenge.

You lost the gardener shortly after that.

Then you rang me one day out of the blue about the Shakespeare miniatures – the books your grandad had given you. The ones that sat in their little mahogany case outside the bedroom on the chest of drawers. Perhaps I’d taken them – or maybe given them to my daughter. Why would I have done that? Had I done that? Of course I hadn’t done that.

But you’d lost them. You were certain of it.

“Are you sure you don’t have them darling?”

“Why would I have them Mum?”

“Because someone has taken them. Will you check your house?”

“But I know I haven’t got them.”

“Are you saying I’m going mad?”

You hadn’t lost them. They weren’t in my house. They were where they’d always been. Where they’d been for forty years. On the chest of drawers outside your bedroom. In the meantime you’d lost another key – broken another phone. I tried to ring you to reassure you – but couldn’t get through and the fear rose in me. I couldn’t sleep – had such a pain in my gut. The home we had loved was devouring you.

“I think I’m losing my marbles” you said.

“No Mum. It happens to us all.”

“Don’t get old.” You said.

The next thing you lost was your appetite.

I tried to fill your fridge. Tried to teach you again to work the microwave. In vain.

Then you started to lose other things – slippers, shoes, your bank cards, your wedding ring, your purse, your knack for remembering people – your sense of humour, your sense of time. Your weight.

The car furred up inside under a shroud of autumn leaves.

“She’s so thin.” People said helpfully – it wasn’t helpful at all.

The woman came from “the society.” She gave you lists, forms, leaflets – you put them in the recycling. What could we do? This bomb – this devastating blow. This thing, slowly dragging the woman who had nurtured me – loved me – swept me up in the street – what was to be done? What could we do? This slow degeneration into living death. This loss of mind of this lost woman who had been my rock, my life, my Mummy.

That steadfast refusal to give in. You didn’t lose that. Nobody was going to boss you around, not me, not nurses, not Doctors, not friends, not time.

The next thing you lost was people – not all the people – but a lot of the people. The casual friends. The people from Church. The people who popped by for coffee. The people from the shops and tennis and where you’d once worked.

The people who loved you stood firm and resolute but we dwindled also. We tried with all the power of whatever it is that makes people love – to keep you going – to keep you alive – to keep you – you – Hannah – the task was pointless. There was nothing that could be done. You slipped slowly away. You lost your way. Lost your will.

The next thing you lost was your home.

I was complicit.

“You’re doing the right thing!” People told me – but I was stealing what was left of you away.

I found your past – tucked in tins and envelopes – lost love letters from long lost loves. Some scandalous. Some sad. Some naive and embarrassing. I burned and slashed and threw away – in the desperation of getting you out alive – I incinerated your memories – even as the ones you carried in your head turned to dust.

I edited you. Censored you. Took power. Scattered your possessions. Threw the rest of it in a skip.

The next thing you lost was the round table. Where we’d sat and laughed at our stupid in-jokes. Where you’d held those parties – those legendary lunches – where we’d drunk whisky the night Dad died and cried and mourned together.

“I could never let that table go,” you said to me – but it wouldn’t fit in the ‘new place’ the hated ‘new place’ where the other inmates viewed you – like encroaching cancer – as you smiled and forgot their names. We emptied the rooms. We burned the old beds. We auctioned the round table – it didn’t fetch much – and gave the records and books away to charity.

The next thing you lost was your balance.

Then your dignity.

But still you were you. You had yet to lose that and you were yet to lose me.

“It’s me Mum.”

“Hello my darling.”

“Do you know who I am Mum?”

“Of course darling how are my grandchildren? I’d love to see them.”

I couldn’t bring them any more.

‘She’ll never forget me!’ I said to myself. We comforted ourselves with that. ‘She still knows who we are.’ How could you forget us? Me? Your little boy who you’d lost and found – swept up in your arms. Any of us. All of those memories. How could it all just go?

You lost birthdays, Christmases, years – elections – all those things we used to celebrate and quarrel about and gossip about and share. You lost your taste for curry, your taste for wine, your wisdom, your courage, your love of crosswords, your nip of whisky, your love of talking, your second lunchtime sherry, cheese – numbers – poems – your teeth, your hair, your money down the sink hole of nurses and night care and driving the thirst from your lips. You lost your fears. Your dedication. Your funny superstitions. Your worries. Your cares. Your infectious laughter. Your sense of justice. Your magnificent steel. Your love of books, your singing – your clean silver – now tarnishing in the drawers.

Now you blink from the pillows, lost beneath the duvet, lost when you look at me – lost in limbo. And I put on a brave face but it’s one that means nothing to you any more. I’ve lost you Hannah. We’ve lost you. It’s our turn to lose now.

Sextus, Pugs, Baroque and Prole – the life and times of Jacob Rees-Mogg – an unofficial biography (part 1)

Lord Ashcroft has written an unauthorised biography of Jacob Rees-Mogg – but here is the only take you need

Jacob Rees-Mogg was born in Hammersmith on the 24th of May 1969. His father William, then Editor of The Times of London, was busy eating marmalade and could not be present; nor could his mother, who had decided on a whim to visit a maiden aunt in Weybridge. Jacob has no memory of his birth in Hammersmith but there can be few in Hammersmith who have never heard of Jacob Rees-Mogg – and those who haven’t are probably illegal immigrants.

Soon after his arrival Jacob was whisked out of London to the family home – Ston Easton Park – a modest forty-six bedroom Grade I listed mansion set in a postage stamp 210 acres of sculpted parkland. The Rees-Moggs struggled to get by on an Editor’s salary and a handful of trust funds. There were years when the staff was diminished to as few as eighteen and JRM and his siblings were obliged to muck out their own horses, oversee the cleaning of their own tack and put their clothes on by themselves. Despite these considerable hardships young Jacob – like any child of the nineteen seventies – was an eager venture capitalist. From his nursery wing at Ston Easton his team invested what little he could in share portfolios, farmland in Southern Argentina and the Cincinatti Reds – a baseball team who he inadvertently acquired whilst recovering from a bout of tonsillitis.

jake 2
Ston Easton Park – a modest home for a modest man

Formally introduced to his parents for the first time just prior to his tenth birthday, young Jacob was shocked to discover that his father was ‘in trade’ and worse ‘a journalist.’ The trauma would have killed most ordinary people – but young Jacob was no ordinary person. He was picked up by a valet, dusted down by Nanny and sent off into the world with just his first Bentley and twelve million pounds to his name.

Prep School was not an easy time for the young Rees-Mogg, who was now obliged to ‘mix’ with ‘children.’ Jacob is often portrayed as a man out of touch with the experiences of ordinary British people but it was here that he first came face to face with the real hardships of life – experiences that would shape him and mould his nascent political thinking. To his dismay Jacob found that a good number of his school fellows had just the one barrel to their surname. Reporting the matter to the Headmaster, Mogg was informed bluntly that nothing could be done and that his time could be better spent.

Many of the masters had already taken against Mogg and one in particular – an inexplicably popular French teacher called Monsieur Charpentier – had the spiteful habit of correcting his pronunciation and telling him he had ‘made mistakes’ in his declensions. The bullying meted out by Charpentier would have broken most grown men, let alone a 10 year old boy – but Jacob was made of sterner stuff. He was not about to be told he was ‘making mistakes’ by a musk wearing continental with slip on shoes.

Jacob sold The Reds, bought the school and summarily fired the jumped up frog eating Charpentier before inviting the local constabulary to arrest him on suspicion of being a Napoleonic spy. Lifted high on the shoulders of his fellow pupils he was marched about town for an hour before being thrown from a bridge into a river.

From Prep School he progressed to Eton where Nanny and he both agreed that he did superbly. Tall, neat and arrogant he breezed through the establishment with all the confidence of a young scholar with eight figures in the piggy bank and the gait of a giraffe on roller skates. His habit of changing records at the school disco for Gregorian chants won him many friend (sic) but his genius naturally upset the very many lesser pupils. Unfortunately his insistence on speaking Latin to assistants in shops, or reporting people to MI5 for looking poor led to jealous accusations of ‘stupidity’ ‘arrogance’ and ‘time wasting’ but Jacob had by now endeared himself to the nation by threatening to sue the BBC for its leftist pretentions and there was no stopping him.

off to the school disco
Boys on their way to Eton school disco ca. 1986

Jacob’s arrival at Oxford was a game changer for the establishment which had been languishing in the academic third division for eight hundred years. This was the beginning of a glorious renaissence for the University which had already welcomed the brilliant minds of both Boris Johnson and Toby Young and was soon to witness the arrival of Daniel J Hannan; the greatest thinker of our age. Summoning the President of Trinity to his rooms JRM bluntly informed him that there was nothing he could be taught as he had already made his mind up about everything. But with typical generosity of spirit he promised to attend tutorials anyway – before tipping the Provost a ten bob note and sending him on his way. Mogg became President of the Oxford Conservative Union – where he delighted in wearing more impractical clothes than everybody else – and loftily telling those who had gone to secondary moderns that he was richer than them and therefore right about everything.

He left with a second class degree.

At this point many young men with Prime Ministerial ambitions might have selfishly entered politics – but Jacob was determined once again to ‘give something back.’ And so for almost a decade he altruistically worked for Rothschilds investment bank before setting up his own fund Management firm. Ever one to consider the most deprived in society, Jacob ensured that Somerset Capital Management was generously managed via subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and Singapore – thus giving employment to some of the most desperate people on Earth.

Jacob Rees-Mogg loved by all

Having saved the third world – Jacob thought it was time to save Britain from the encroaching EU Nazi superstate and teach the French teacher Charpentier a ‘jolly good lesson’ in the process. The rabidly anti-success Conservative party stifled his ambitions from the get go. Aged just 26 he fought a seat in Fife – where he was ridiculed by ungrateful working class people for brightening up their otherwise insipid lives by campaigning alongside his Nanny in a Bentley. Jacob lost – as the people of Fife – envious of his brilliance – voted in vast numbers not to have him as their MP.

To any lesser man it may have felt like the end of the road – but in fact it was only a beginning of a road to the end of a road.

Jacob’t famous impersonation of a man slowly realising he’s sitting on a pin

How “Project Fear” weaponises stupidity.

Wednesday brought a slough of doom and economic gloom to the scant Brexit smorgasbord. Treasury impact analysis was released that indicated that in a ‘worst case scenario’ withdrawal could cut the UK’s GDP by 3.9% over the next 15 years and Chancellor Philip Hammond set off on an eeyorish tour of TV and radio studios reiterating again and again that in every outcome quitting the EU would leave the UK economy poorer.

That’s the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling you that he and his government are actively pursuing a policy which they believe will be detrimental to the economic well-being of our nation.

To lighten the mood – Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, chipped in warning that Brexit and in particular a ‘worst case’ (those words again) no deal Brexit – would cause unemployment to rise, house prices to fall and quite possibly plunge the UK into the worst economic crisis in modern history.

“Fun, fun, fun!” as the Beach Boys so memorably sang.

The news went down in Brexit circles like an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis on a luxury cruise. Lacking the arguments to counter the report findings, the Brexiteers deployed ‘old faithful’ or ‘project fear’ as it is better known. Sensing perhaps that “PF” had grown a little stale, the trope was upgraded to ‘project hysteria’ and Rees-Mogg and chums spluttered their way around Westminster casting aspersions on Mr Carney, his CV, Canada, people called Mark and the use of numbers in general.

Those with long memories will recall that ‘Project Fear’ was first deployed in the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, but it only really came into its own during the EU campaign of 2016. It is (and it pains me to say it) in many ways a brilliant campaigning strategy because it weaponises ignorance. Anyone can deploy ‘Project Fear’ for the simple reason that you don’t need to know or understand anything if you have ‘project fear’ in your arsenal.

“But this detailed expert analysis shows….”

project fear
Now THAT is Project Fear

“Look!!!! He’s using PROJECT FEAR!!!!”

“But WTO rules will mean hard borders and leave food rotting in containers on both sides of the Channel.”

“Project Fear!!!! Project Fear!!!”

“Look do you really have any idea of what this will do to the pound, your ability to travel, the food on your plate, the value of your home…?”

“Listen to him! What does he know? Did he predict 2008? The ERM? The euro??? I don’t think so. We are sick of experts! Project Fear!”

Far easier to shout ‘Project Fear!’ than to dig into some boring article that lays out the fairly credible economic risks of May’s proposals or the very obvious folly of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. And so you hear it used as near constant background noise. “Is this all just Project Fear Mark 2?” LBC’s Iain Dale and his ilk ask listeners who phone in to tell him that yes it is.

But it is the depressing regularity with which ‘Project Fear’ is deployed by politicians that should perhaps worry us the most. It’s lazy enough when used by journalists but when trotted out by the ERG rump it becomes a smoke screen and a decoy. Far too often they get away with it because broadcast journalists give it a wink, a nudge and a free pass. That is very dangerous indeed. As the UK drives, foot on accelerator, headlong into the brick wall of March 29th – all the shouts of ‘Project Fear’ in the world won’t make up for our collective lack of a seatbelt.

Revolution 9 – my Beatles love affair

I remember when John Lennon died. I was in a Land Rover, being driven to school by a friend’s Dad, who ran a farm outside of Sawbridgeworth. He was a huge rugged being of flesh and flecks of straw, with thick wiry hair and the leathery weather-beaten skin of those who live perpetually out-doors. The news came on the radio and this farmer, massive bloke, with enormous craggy hands – started to cry.

I heard the news today – oh boy.

The Beatles didn’t loom large in my early life. My parents had been too old for them, my sister and I too young. I was raised on a diet of Bing Crosby and Noel Coward until someone (probably a cousin) took pity on me and gave me a record of late 70s hits. When I arrived at boarding school in the early nineteen eighties I had accumulated a proud collection that consisted of just three LPs. One of those was that first record – an early compilation called Rock and Roller disco on the Ronco label – that seemed to have nothing to do with roller skating disco music. The other was David Bowie’s life changing Changes One and the third was a collection of Beatles Number 1 hits that confusingly included ‘Love Me Do’ – which had never been a number 1.


I hated boarding school at first – largely because I was fucking miserable. I missed my home, my dog, my parents and my sister. I even missed the Bing Crosby records. I hated sport, I hated Latin, I hated the older boys and lived in fear of them. I lived in even greater terror of being beaten. I didn’t understand what the hell was going on and I loathed the lack of silence and privacy. I’d by now transferred the three albums onto TDK tapes and in between listening to the Sunday charts, like everyone else back then, I played those three records over and over and over again.

Now the Beatles have become an all pervasive part of British cultural history it’s easy to forget that in the early eighties the group had fallen out of fashion and become a bit naff. It was the music of everyone else’s parents’ generation. In the era of the New Romantics, Boy George, Duran Duran – outrageous fashion and big hair – The Beatles were not a band to be name checked. Schoolmates even mocked me, the way that schoolkids do, for liking something old and obvious.

As the eighties progressed I conformed. I got into music that every other self-conscious teenage boy was buying and I invested in a few other Beatles albums along the way – the ‘Blue Album’ and Hard Day’s Night. But it was only after watching the 20th anniversary documentary of the Sergeant Pepper release that I came out of the fandom closet and set out to collect the lot.

This was now around 1990 and everyone was disposing of their record collections in order to switch to CDs. You could pick up vinyl super cheaply and I was aided and abetted in this by the old hippy in the indoor market in Canterbury. Having worked out what I was doing that magnificent bloke put the Beatles and Bowie albums aside and then flogged them to me for three quid – nodding sagely and approvingly at my choices – like some extra-curricular professor of tuning in and dropping out.

And so, thanks to him I discovered these albums fluidly. Each purchase filled me with the sort of unmitigated joy that original fans must have had the first time about. I played them. I played them again. I played them until the grooves ran shallow. Help, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road – Revolver – Sergeant Pepper – what invention what progression what melody, poetry, ideas – brilliance and wit. I was evangelical about it. The covers themselves were art – and they hinted at possibility – of looking at life so very differently. And yes there are/were misses and failures – and there are many more than is often acknowledged. But even the Beatles failures are interesting.

The band’s recording career only lasted from September 1962 to late 1969 – a period of seven years – but in that short time-frame they took the base format of pop to levels and heights achieved by no other band since. You know that. Of course you do. Everyone does now – it’s a cliché to even commit it to paragraph.

beatles 1968
The Beatles in September 1968

The last Beatles album I collected was The Beatles – more commonly known as The White Album. I left it to last because it felt like homework. A lot of the songs are – or were back in the eighties – obscure. Some of them are challenging on a first or even second listen. One of them is akin to torture. But on display here is the full force of the talent and creativity of the band – and it almost overwhelms. It is their masterpiece. Lennon’s fingerprint is thick on it. The sardonic So Tired – the rollicking cow bell driven Everybody’s Got Something to Hide, the scorching Yer Blues. McCartney’s stretch from the laid back I Will and Mother Nature’s Son, to the finger blistering Helter Skelter and Harrison’s Dylanesque Long, Long, Long – this is the Beatles at their very peak.

But there’s a bigger reason as to why The White Album matters and what lifts it apart. And it rests in their least listened to – but most provocative – track.

On what was originally the fourth side of the album – on the penultimate listing – sits Revolution 9. An eight minute soundscape of madness – a bad acid trip – an exercise in situationist art – a ‘what the fuck is that’ rendered in semi-ordered chaos.

While essentially the work of Lennon, Harrison and Ono – and of course the engineers at Abbey Road – Revolution 9 was actually a continuation on a theme begun by McCartney who had been interested in Stockhausen’s sound experiments and had created his own Carnival of Light to which Revolution 9 (we are told) owes a debt in January 1967. So the track is very much in keeping with what the band were up to at the time and it as much a Beatles song as Hey Jude or Across the Universe.

If you’ve never heard it it’s almost impossible to describe. Heavy breathing. An orchestra warming up. Whistling noises. Ono whispering “when – you are naked” – screams….. snatches of music….. it is creepy, compelling and brilliant.

Heavily influenced by the much maligned Yoko Ono – if it had been produced by her, or any other contemporary avant garde artist this extraordinary trial by noise would probably have ended up in a cupboard in a vault in the Tate – dragged out occasionally and greeted with bemused grins. Instead – it sits as a track on a Beatles album that has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Indeed – within days of its release this cavalcade of weird would have been heard by millions of people. Very few if any of those people would have been exposed to such work – if they hadn’t been Beatles fans – and more crucially – if the Beatles themselves hadn’t pushed and exceeded the limitations of their medium – turning pop music literally into art. Since then – how many more have been exposed to this testing piece of acoustic experimentation? It’s an extraordinary thing that lifts the Beatles beyond the limitations of rock.

It’s easy among the tacky merchandising and re-re-releases to traduce the Beatles to product and jokes about the Frog Chorus. They were in fact quite probably the most important artists of the late Twentieth Century in any medium. That Revolution 9 was produced by the same band who sang Love, Love Me Do just five years earlier is why the Beatles – despite their over exposure – will continue to matter long, long, long into the future.

abbey road.jpg

My world – this week “Chloe Westley” on pencils, personal abuse and who funds the Taxpayers Alliance

Editor’s note: since the original version of this went out I have been contacted by Chloe Westley’s lawyers who have asked us to make it quite clear that this has not been written by her. In addition I have been asked to remove an image of Ms Westley. We are happy to comply with both requests and have replaced the picture of her with a chicken in a basket instead. Read on.
I have believed in Brexit ever since I finished working for Lynton Crosby on an election campaign in Australia and he suggested I contact Matthew Elliott to ask about coming to work in the UK on the Vote Leave campaign. I’d never heard of Brexit before that but I have been passionate about it ever since I got the job. People ask me why a British person couldn’t have done that role or the one I do for TPA and the answer is simple. But I’m not prepared to say what it is.
People often ask me who funds The Taxpayers Alliance and it’s not a big secret. It is funded by ordinary people who believe passionately that they should not have to pay taxes. Those people want to remain anonymous and why shouldn’t they? They have a right to privacy and anyway it’s hard to get good reception in the Turks and Caicos which is why I answer the phones and read out the things they tell me to say in London. It’s no big secret. It’s just we don’t want to tell anyone.
I believe in tax cuts because I believe in the ordinary people who pay me to say that. Why should anonymous hard working billionaires have to chip in for some child from Peckham’s education? Or an old lady’s knee operation. It’s disgraceful really. Those billionaires have already paid one set of health insurance and school fees when they sent their children to Ampleforth or Eton – wholly ridiculous that they should have to shoulder the costs for someone they’ve never even met. They also have their own knees to worry about. Bob Geldof and Richard Branson should pay for everything in the UK because they voted Remain. Ask most sane people if they agree with that and they’ll say yes.

Why should someone in the Turks and Caicos pay for an old lady’s knee operation in Peckham?

My Great Aunt Meredith was killed in WW2 when a heavy box of pencils fell on her head during a routine inspection of a stock room in Melbourne’s famous pencil district. This was at the height of the Blitz – and although that was going on many miles away in London my family always believed that the Germans were ultimately responsible because the pencils had been shipped via Hamburg. Growing up with the knowledge that Meredith had been a victim of the German war machine made me long for British freedom. Poppies are a personal thing and we shouldn’t judge people – but I wear my poppy with pride because of Great Aunt Meredith – unlike left wing fascists who literally hate Britain and everyone in it.

Artists impression of the pencils that killed Meredith

When I was growing up in Australia I had a book that had belonged to my Great Aunt. It was literally full of facts about Britain the greatest country on Earth. There were facts about the Empire – facts about King George the Vth who ruled over it all – really funny jokes about Irish people – pictures of Bobbies on bicycles and children with golden hair buying apples from cheerful men with straw in their mouths. You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived at Heathrow and didn’t see any of this. The King was now a woman – probably to placate feminists. The Sun wasn’t shining. And to this day I have not seen a Bobby on a bicycle or a girl with blonde hair buying apples from a man with straw in his mouth. When I told an Irish person how funny he was because Irish people are always doing stupid things he accused me of telling offensive jokes. That is typical of the kind of abuse I get for believing in a Better Britain.
If you are a lefty you can use sexist or racist language to attack your opponents and get away with it and that’s the law under the European Convention of Human Rights. You should see the mistreatment I get online. People asking me questions or challenging things I have said, or asking me to explain numbers I’ve tweeted – and worse demanding over and over again who funds the Taxpayers Alliance. I even get asked why I put down that I went to ‘St Andrews University’ on my Linked In page. OK I didn’t ‘physically’ go there but I sent them some emails with attachments and they sent me a certificate. Literally nobody else on the planet has come under such a sustained assault since Gandhi or Mandela or Jesus. Worse in fact because nobody ever asked Jesus about St Andrews University and his Linked In page. People ask me why I an Australian, with an Australian passport, who had only just arrived in Britain went to work for Vote Leave. Has anyone ever asked Lenny Henry why he backed Remain? No – because if they did they’d be called racists.

Typical scene of British life before the UK joined the EU

I think of myself as a poet first and an activist second. My poetry comes to me in the form of ‘words’ which enter my head and then mix together to create ‘verse.’ I write poems about Brexit, poems about the death of my great aunt at the hands of the Nazi war machine, poems about potatoes and poems about life. They are very personal. My poems don’t rhyme because it’s very hard to rhyme anything with ‘Meredith’ ‘Brexit’ or ‘potatoes.’ I know – because believe me I’ve tried.

My Aunt was killed by a box of pencils

They fell upon her head

The coroner came to see her and declared that she was dead

Those pencils came from Germany

The year was forty one

And yet people voted for Remain

Those lefties are so dumb.

If you believe in freedom

Then join the TPA

And when people ask me who you are

I’ll refuse to say.

SATIRE NO Merediths were hurt in the making of this satire …