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 …

Clucking madness – how Brexit may pluck the UK poultry industry and put chlorinated chicken on your plate.

We eat a lot of chicken in this country. 95% of us have it at least twice a week. That’s nearly 900 million chickens bred and slaughtered, another 400 million imported (mostly from the EU) and a grand total of 6.3 billion portions served in British homes and restaurants every year. Between April and July 2017 nearly half of the population ate a take-away chicken meal and in 2011 Chicken Tikka Masala was famously judged to be the nation’s favourite dish.

We’re clucking mad for it and while that is unlikely to change any time soon Brexit will affect chicken consumption as surely as it will affect anything else.

An awful lot of energy has gone into talking up the benefits Brexit will visit on our fishing industry but you won’t see Mr Farage near a poultry abattoir any time soon. And there’s a reason for that. Chickens aren’t sexy and slaughtering them even less so. As an island nation, the mythos of the noble weather-beaten fisherman in his yellow mac, steering his trawler into brooding seas to bring a little fishy, for a little dishy looms large. Nobody ever made a children’s book about the brutal process of bringing a drumstick to your plate. The mass rearing and mass slaughter of poultry lacks the essential romance of man pitched against herring.

Chicken farming is big business and an important contributor to the UK economy. Poultry supports £3.3bn of Gross Value to the UK economy (GVA) while fishing adds just £1.4bn. The industry employs 35,000 compared to the 12,000 who work dredging the sea.

Liam Fox – keen to see chlorinated washed chicken in the UK – he won’t be eating it

The poultry industry already struggling with tight margins to meet the demand for cheap and available meat is dreading the coming of Brexit and lobbying hard against. The situation is compounded because many employees are EU nationals and that means disaster if they all go home. 60% of the entire industry’s workforce comes from the EU and in some cases 90% of workers in factories are from Europe.

“It’s a brutal and hard job,” one former owner tells me “and British people simply won’t do it. All of our workers come from Poland or other EU countries and a lot of them will just go elsewhere.”

With the government suggesting that only high skilled workers will be welcome post-Brexit the poultry industry is facing a very uncertain future indeed. Rearing chickens, killing chickens, plucking chickens, gutting chickens, chopping chickens up and packaging them is not ‘skilled labour.’ Once the migrant workers have gone it is very unlikely indeed that British workers will step up to take their place. Brexit could make even basic chicken prodcuts harder to get – and considerably more expensive.

But if you’re worried that your KFC is going to suddenly cost a lot more then don’t panic just yet – because help (of sorts) is on its way. The poultry farmers of America are coming. Or rather – they’d like to. US farmers have long objected to all that horrid EU legislation because it means they are unable to export their birds into the large and hungry European market. You see, in order to export into the single market you have to abide by the laws of the single market – and those laws are tough.

You up for some chicken regulations? Well good – strap yourselves in and let’s go.

EU council directive 2007/43/CE sets out the minimum conditions for raising broilers. Barns used for raising chickens must have adequate light, food, water, ventilation and space. Workers have to have adequate training and a certificate attesting they have attended an approved training course. Holding areas must be thoroughly inspected twice a day. Barns must have hard floors with adequate clean bedding and have to be thoroughly cleaned, sterilised and inspected on a regular basis. There are rules on handling chickens. Rules on what they can eat. Rules on what you can do before during and after a batch has been raised. Stocking density must not exceed 33kg/mg ……. etc. etc. etc…….. boring isn’t it. A lot of EU legislation is. That’s kind of the point. The EU is brilliant at the dull end of things – that’s why Boris Johnson made up all that guff about bananas up.

Like I said – chicken production is not sexy. There are no boats. No stiff breezes. No salty seamen.

But that dull old Directive 2007/43/CE ensures that the meat which reaches your plate has been reared to standards higher than anywhere on Earth – that the animals in their brief lives have been shown some dignity (and yes it could be better) and that you and your family are unlikely to die or be hospitalised as a result of contaminated meat.

In the US by contrast there are no animal welfare laws surrounding the rearing of poultry. Yes. That’s right. None. Zero. Farmers can shove as many birds as they like into the sheds and provide as little light and ventilation as they deem necessary. Chickens in the US live their short existence shitting and pecking in confined spaces on earth floors, packed as tightly as is feasible and when they are carted off for the chop there’s no incentive or law insisting that the crap is cleaned up properly. New straw is put down over the shit and dirt and the process renews. It’s filthy, it’s unhygienic and it’s a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

Rather than bothering with all that pesky animal welfare stuff the Americans pack em high and then to ensure that the customers don’t all die, they sterilise the meat by washing the dead bird carcasses with chlorine.

Mmmmmm. Chicken bucket anyone?


Dan Hannan MEP is the son of a Peruvian chicken farmer and he doesn’t see a problem with chlorinated chicken. He’s not alone. Lots of Brexit voices from the guys at Guido Fawkes to Jacob Rees-Mogg have ‘no problem’ with it. And do you know why that is? Well it’s because they won’t be eating it. Because if America manages to import this stuff into the UK it will go to the bottom end of the market and end up in fast food restaurants and frozen meals. I doubt Jacob Rees-Mogg steps out at the KFC much. You rarely see Dan Hannan down the Ladywell kebab house. Good news for young ‘Octopus’ and the other kids because while everyone insists that chlorinated chicken is perfectly safe, the statistics tell a different story.

Take salmonella. In the US there are 1.2 million cases every year, 23,000 hospitalisations and 450 deaths. In the EU as a whole (and bear in mind there are 150 million more EU citizens than Americans) there were 1,766 hospitalisations in 2016 and just ten deaths.

Guido Fawkes intern Tom presents irrefutable evidence

So in essence something as mundane as your chicken nuggets, or your Balti, or that nice lunch time chicken wrap is affected by Brexit. If the EU migrants quit and the domestic industry suffers that’s not just a hole in the economy but a massive hole in your bank balance if – of course – you want a roast on Sunday or an M and S chicken sandwich. It will cost more. Probably a lot more. If the USA gets in on the action you’ll be eating an inferior product raised in unsavoury and unsanitary conditions. But hey – at least you’ll be able to cuddle up to your precious fucking sovereignty huh.

At least you’ll have that.

The EU is not the USSR. Jeremy Hunt’s deliberate stupidity simply demonstrates that Brexit Britain has jumped the shark.

Since the UK gave up being a major power and opted to be a live action sitcom instead it has faced many problems familiar to those who love the classic comedy format.

The term “Jumping the Shark” refers to the moment when great series go bad. That is when writers run out of ideas, or the material goes stale, or a key character leaves or dies or does something they wouldn’t normally do. Or when the whole cast up and move to a different location – like when Friends came to London and Joey met Fergie, or when the Tories decided to back Brexit and hold their conference in Birmingham.

Joey meets Fergie

The Tory Conference Special started promisingly. The gang booked The ICC, a venue that had been built with £49.7 million of EU funds and whose foundation stone was laid by Jacques Delors. Then there was the app thing and the Festival of Brexit thing. All good material, but then – is it just me or does nobody’s heart seem to be in it anymore?

You get the feeling that most of the cast are just sitting it out and waiting for reruns on Dave and the occasional royalty cheque.

Most – but not all.

With break-out star Boris Johnson off pursuing solo projects, hitherto minor character “Jeremy Hunt” has been given the Foreign Secretary gig and seen his chance to shine. True, the Foreign Office under Jeremy Hunt has become much like The American Office after Steve Carrell, or Les Dennis post Dustin Gee but one time remainer Hunt sees an opportunity. So he’s switched sides and hired his own gagman and tried to insert some of his own lines into the script –

“The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving. The lesson from history is clear!” Hunt told conference yesterday, “if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish – it will grow … and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape.”

And splash. Headlines grabbed. Shark jumped. Series destined to be cancelled sooner or later but Jeremy has his eye on the sequel and Jeremy doesn’t care.

jump shark
Fonz jumps the shark in pre-Brexit era aka Happy Days

Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 and for better or worse (currently) Britain is leaving the EU. Nobody is stopping the UK leaving the EU. How the UK leaves is a matter of negotiation and not a matter of intimidation. The EU is not the EUSSR. So when Hunt suggests otherwise he’s making himself a laughing stock to get some headlines – and as Foreign Secretary he’s pulling us all under with him.

The USSR killed millions of its own people, sent many millions more into labour camps, locked up dissenters and forcibly relocated millions of Kulaks to Siberia. The Soviet Union was a dictatorship. The Soviet Union crushed neighbouring countries, threatened to annihilate the West with nuclear weapons, interfered in the affairs of sovereign nations and murdered, tortured and bullied anyone who got in their way. There were no democratic elections in the USSR. Yes there were elections – but only approved members of the Communist Party could stand. There were no opposition parties. There was no UKIP or Five Star.

Nobody opted to join the Soviet Union. Nobody wanted to. Nobody could vote to leave. At times the people starved. Ordinary food and goods were in short supply. You waited a decade for a shit car – which probably didn’t work. Censorship banned anything and everything not approved by the State – from the pop music stylings of the Village People to Beatles mop tops. Unemployment was a crime. Independent thought got you locked up in the insane asylum. There was a Ministry of Jokes that censored humour.

The Soviet Union did not prosper. It stopped the free movement of people and in particular its people. If you tried to leave it or one of its satellite nations – they either locked you up – or shot you as you ran away.

Migrants fleeing wars didn’t want to go to the USSR because the USSR was the very opposite of the EU in every meaningful way.

Nobody perhaps knows this better than Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who in the 1980s, while Mr Hunt was Head Boy at the exclusive Charterhouse public school, was a member of the anti-Communist student solidarity movement in Warsaw.

Jeremy Hunt is wholly out of order. Jeremy Hunt should apologise. He won’t. Because Jeremy Hunt knows what he’s doing – he’s reading from the script.

We’re in “After Mash” the M*A*S*H sequel. And if you’ve never heard of it – there’s a reason for that.


Time to wake up Britain. The EU does not need us more than we need them.

Fresh from the disaster at Salzburg, with her back to the wall, the Chequers deal as dead as Gary Glitter’s career and the ERG circling, Theresa May has delivered a combative speech at Number 10. You can imagine the crisis meeting that led up to that one:

“What can we do now? Even Tusk is openly mocking us.”

“Nothing. We’re fucked.”

“I know, deliver a combative speech. Make yourself look their equal. Keep up the pretense that this is two equivalent sides negotiating a trade deal.”

“But everyone knows that’s bullshit.”

“No they don’t! That’s the beauty of all of this! Nobody has worked it out…….. Yet.”

And so Mrs May trots out in front of the press and puts on her best Maggie Thatcher face and says: “It is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposal without a detailed explanation and counter proposal.”

That’s telling them Theresa.

That’ll show em….

It sounds perfectly reasonable as well. I mean perfectly reasonable if you haven’t read Article 50. Because Article 50 says that it is the Union that negotiates and concludes an agreement with the exiting state and it is the Union that sets out the arrangements for that withdrawal and that it is the Union that sets out the framework of the future relationship between the two. And this Union does not have to play ball if it doesn’t want to.

This is not, nor has it ever been – a negotiation.

In the run up to the EU referendum one of the most popular tropes trotted out by the Leave camp was: ‘they need us more than we need them.’ Whenever a Remain voice started to explain the complexities of leaving the Single Market, or the issues surrounding security, trade, law, freedom of movement or how the many thousands of British citizens living in the EU would cope……. Farage or one of his mates would pop up and say:

“Ah but they need us more than we need them! German car manufacturers will still want to sell BMWs to Britain and they won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

is it worth it
“If a democracy cannot change its mind….”

It chimed well with the public, largely because it was a simple concept that people could get their heads around. Why deal with challenging questions when you can grasp simplistic platitudes. Unfortunately, as with a lot of Brexit catchphrases – see also “take back control of our borders” “take back our sovereignty” and “take back control of our fish” it was a pile of dead pollocks. The UK needs the EU for the simple reason that they are our biggest trading partner. While the EU is responsible for around 43-50% of all of our exports just 8-18% of all EU 27 exports go to the UK . The EU is the second biggest economy in the world and there are nations lining up to do business with them. They do need us yes – but not more than we need them.

But if truth was the first casualty of Brexit, the second was our negotiating hand. For in her resolve to appear steely and Prime Ministerial and determined to carry out “the wishes of the British people” Theresa May rushed to invoke Article 50 – without apparently reading it first. By doing so she effectively triggered the mechanism on the time-bomb without thrashing out the terms for entering the bomb shelter first.

It was clear from the start that the EU would not be doing things on the UK’s terms – largely because this would be to allow Britain to have a better EU deal outside of the Union than anyone has inside it and secondly, because they don’t have to.

The UK thus currently finds itself in a position akin to a tub of ice cream, on the back seat of a car, on a very hot day, trying to work out its future relationship with the Sun. And why? Well in part – because 17 million people thought it easier to parrot Mr Farage’s old pollocks rather than read and digest a page of A4 and a booklet thoughtfully posted through their door. I mean that would have been like homework or something…….

Spoon of warm cream anyone?