The illusion of activity at the BBC

Last week, the BBC chose to ignore a protest march against Austerity.

You may have heard of it: 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s new HQ to Westminster, the latest in a series of protests against the agenda of cuts and privatisation which are slowly, inexorably destroying the fabric of the British State.

But in spite of it starting at the BBC’s front door, the corporation chose to ignore the protest. That evening’s news bulletins were filled with 30,000 people having a party to celebrate the Summer Solstice; and the important news that a single Scotsman had cheered for England at the World Cup.

But nothing at all about any views which run counter to those of the coalition. There was (apparently) a 25 second mention on BBC Radio 4, and two days later a 30-second clip appeared on the BBC News website. But that’s it.

This is the latest in a long series of – speaking charitably – inexplicable editorial choices that BBC News have made.

In 2013, they had upwards of 15 reporters based in Manchester to report the Conservative Party Conference, yet felt unable to point the camera at the 60,000-strong march happening outside.

The BBC barely mentions a word about the fact that over 70% of NHS contracts are now in private hands, and that even Tory Health Ministers are confessing that they no longer control the NHS. Silence about that. Yet every story that casts the NHS in a negative light is given hour-long Panorama specials and shouty, scary headlines on the 6 O’clock News.

The Green Party, an actual political party with actual policies and actual MPs, gets nary a mention during the EU Elections. Yet UKIP, which has no MPs and no policies, and which actually lost 6% of its vote, is hailed as producing a magnificent victory and given round-the-clock exposure.

Ed Miliband, who is (at the time of writing) 6-8 points ahead in the polls, and has led polling for 4 solid years, is on track to win the next election. Yet the BBC reports that he’s in crisis, and leaves viewers who are unable to discover facts in other ways with the impression Labour has collapsed.

It’s very difficult to avoid thinking that this is a deliberate choice by the BBC.

But I’m no conspiracy theorist: it probably isn’t planned, and the BBC probably isn’t even aware it’s happening. There is no cabal of evil executives making secret midnight visits to each others’ lairs, and planning how to screw over the Northern, left-wing, working-class and ethnic parts of the country. That doesn’t happen.

It doesn’t happen, because it doesn’t need to.

No: the BBC doesn’t need to plan its bias; it emerges organically as a natural side-effect of becoming enmeshed with the Establishment that the media is supposed to be holding to account.

To hold a decision-making position at the BBC, you need to be bright, talented, educated, based in London, and well-connected. And people who fit that bill are highly unlikely to find themselves at the shitty end of austerity policies. They’ll have jobs. They’ll have property. They’ll have pensions. And even if they lose all of those things, they’ll land on their feet pretty damn fast, because they’re part of the largely privately-educated Oxbridge Mafia which helps out “people like them”, and always does just fine, thank you.

So how can the executives at the BBC have any experience or understanding of what is happening to people who aren’t a privately-educated Baron who attended Keble College, Oxford, like the current head of the BBC?

We all know they can’t understand normal lives. I mean that literally: we know it in our bones, but we know it as a fact, because an independent report by the University of Wales in 2013 found that the BBC has been “pushed to the right” and shows a consistent bias.

Of course, BBC News didn’t report that fact. Of course not.

By “pushed to the right”, the report means that the BBC unquestioningly accepts the views of corporations and the Conservative party, and under-represents countervailing opinions of Greens, nursing bodies, doctors, the Police Federation, local government, the Scottish, the Welsh, Labour-supporters, unions, scientists, charities and churches. Yet between them, those sections of society account for almost everybody who isn’t a current member of the Cabinet.

I find BBC bias disturbing because it under-reports my own (widely held) opinions, but even moreso because it represents an existential threat to the BBC. The BBC and NHS are, to my mind, the alpha and omega of British cultural and social life. Those two great institutions are written into the national DNA. The Heath Service is, as we speak, being ideologically dismantled by short-termist, blinkered, money-grubbing incompetents who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Thankfully the NHS is fighting back hard, in the shape of countless protests and the formation of a political party to defend it.

But the BBC is currently in the process of destroying itself. It needs no help from the Tory Party. It’s on a kamikaze mission if it continues to under-represent millions of people who aren’t former members of the Bullingdon Club, and who don’t approve of privatisation, austerity, the upward movement of assets and finance from the poor to the rich, and the dismantling of the state. Left unrepresented and ignored, those people are likely to stop funding a national broadcaster which has become little more than a propaganda tool for the Establishment.

As a result of being infested with figures from an ever-narrower socio-economic group (and to reduce the risk to its funding model) the BBC has given uncritical voice to every piece of Tory spin. But in doing so, it’s ignored the far larger problem on its left-flank: if we stop valuing the BBC, we will stop paying for it. And an inflation-matching licence fee will be wiped out by only a few thousand of us stopping paying.

It’s a real risk.

I made this very point in a letter to the BBC early this week, and wasn’t much surprised that a few hundred people retweeted the text of my complaint. I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Nor was I surprised that, 4 days later, I still haven’t heard a peep from the BBC’s Complaints department.

What did surprise me was when a nice man from BBC Points of View contacted me, and asked to film me for the programme. We chatted on the phone for 10 minutes, and I expressed, in a fairly eloquent way, the points I made above.

Now, I’m not a journalist, and I don’t habitually record my phone calls. So If Nice Mr BBC feels I’m misrepresenting him in the lines which follow, I apologise and invite him to correct me.

Nice Mr BBC told me Points of View were considering making a “half-hour special” programme about bias and the #NoMoreAusterity march, and whilst I was hardly going to be the star (something I’d dread), I would make a valuable contribution. I’m not someone who seeks fame, which is why this blog and my Twitter feed avoid the use of my real name. So I don’t want to appear in front of cameras: but I thought about all the people who felt strongly about the non-reporting of the #NoMoreAusterity march, and who hadn’t been offered a national platform to discuss the issue. I didn’t feel I could refuse to say something on their behalf.

So I said yes: I’d do it. Nice Mr BBC would travel from London to Stockport to meet me, film me for what was described as a “14 minute segment” of the show, and the results would be broadcast on Sunday. But in the meantime, would I mind drafting out a 90-second statement, which would form the backbone of my comments? He wanted to check it for legal issues, but wouldn’t make any editorial changes: he wanted my voice.

I did as I was asked, sent him a script I’d timed to 90 seconds, which expressed the key points made in this blog: a pattern of bias, the Cardiff University report, the march outside the Tory Conference, the silence about the NHS privatisation, etc.

And late last night, when Nice Mr BBC arrived at his hotel in Manchester, he called me back to discuss my notes.

The content was too long, he said. Although the segment was 14 minutes long, the part about the Austerity march would only be around 3 minutes. And we have to give time for a right-of-reply, which means the BBC Exec who produces bias news broadcasting 24 hours a day would have at least 50% of the segment to make his views. Again. And finally, he explained that Points of View is a current affairs show, so I couldn’t mention anything about previous marches, the NHS or the University of Cardiff report. It all had to be about one matter: the #NoToAusterity march.

I protested: the very point of my complaint was being missed, and I was instead being turned into content-fodder for a minor BBC programme. Nice Mr BBC said it was prime-time BBC1, an important platform, and that the Director General of the BBC would be watching; but I doubt it.

And even if that were true, extrapolating my broad point about a record of right-wing bias is going to be vanishingly difficult from a 30-second sound-bite about one incident: it would be like guessing I’m thinking about Finlandia by listening to me hum a single note in E-flat major. I know the boss of the BBC is probably a wily old bloke (always a bloke), but he’s not that wily. Any criticism I could make would vanish into a single-issue that could be lightly brushed off, and nothing at all would change.

But in spite of my reservations, I agreed to filming: it’s better than nothing at all. However, it does concern me that the BBC is simply making the illusion of change. They produce a programme, and a BBC News executive comes on to do his “right of reply” thing, and everyone goes home feeling like they’ve ticked their boxes: but nothing changes.

It’s the same problem I have with Twitter, even though I’m often pretty active on there. If you write a tweet about Cameron, and it gets retweeted a few hundred times, you feel like you’ve done something. But it’s just an illusion. Twitter is like a valve on a pressure-cooker, and each time an angry person shouts into the digital void, the parasitic elite who are sucking the life out of the country (indeed, out of the world) feel slightly safer. Each spleen vented on Twitter corresponds to one fewer person manning the barricades.

And I fear this Points of View will be the BBC creating another illusion of change. It will be an inverted swan, where we can all see the mad paddling, but beneath the surface everything glides along as it always did.

I was in two minds about filming today. Nice Mr BBC was nice, and professional, and guided me through the (rather unnerving) process very smoothly. He was exactly the shade of bland, unhearing blank that my English reserve required, given that my role in proceedings was to tersely criticise his existence. And he’d come a long way, was sweating profusely in the heat, and seemed very much out of his comfort-zone in the People’s Republic of Manchester. So I wish him no harm. I just wish what he was producing wasn’t merely a cover for the Continuity BBC.

For those who agree with my critique of the BBC: I hope I expressed myself well on the programme.

For those who are outraged by the lack of coverage of #NoMoreAusterity: I hope I made the case successfully.

But more than anything, for those who want the BBC to do it’s job, to hold power to account, and to report without bias: I hope the executives can read between my too-short lines, and make the changes that the corporation demands.

Because if they don’t, the BBC will lose its reason to exist. And that would be a sad day.

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I’m in a right Huff

I got invited to write for the Huffington Post today.

I really did. A nice man from Huff had seen my tweets, read some of my blog, and wrote a very kind email to me suggesting that I’d make a good contributor.

Of course it appealed to my ego, which is as susceptible to flattery as yours is. About 2 years ago somebody in the USA read my early blogs about cancer, found them funny, and asked me if I’d be willing to give up my job and move to the USA to write for the little show she was involved in: the Daily Show. I almost did it, except I then researched how long people typically last writing for the Daily Show (about 6 weeks), and decided it was better for me if I locked my ego back in its box, and stayed here doing boring website work and earning a pittance.

But this would be different: I’d be able to work from my home, writing articles and expressing opinions. What a way to make a living.

And then I asked about the remuneration. None. Absolutely none. And so, instead of contributing an article, I decided to contribute a letter explaining why this business model is an utter disgrace. I suggested Huff could publish the letter. I doubt they will, but I’ll be delighted if they do: not because it appeals to my ego, but because it would give me hope that the class of people who own the world and control all the assets may finally begin to see the error of their ways.

Here’s the letter I wrote:

Hi Seamus,

Thanks for the offer.

I own a business, and although many people listening to my political opinions might describe me as a socialist, just as many who watch me chasing new work would describe me as a capitalist.

I suspect, like many realists, I’m a mixture of both; the key failing of current economic systems across the globe is the failure to recognise the benefits and failings of both systems. The purity of market capitalism is what has brought us to the current state, and only a re-balancing via a more social-democratic approach can ultimately resolve the crisis in capitalism. Everything else is a race to the bottom that, following the logic of neo-liberal capitalism, results in one person owning everything, and the rest of us fighting for scraps from the table. And losing.

The problems of capitalism are exacerbated by the current trend to run a rentier economy: the capture and control of assets, and imposition of rents to access those assets. The controllers of assets don’t need to develop them or invest in them: they simply need to possess them, and the money will come pouring in.

A prime example of this is the ownership of land. The wealthiest families in the UK are those of the Earl of Cadogan and the Duke of Westminster, both of which inherited ownership of prime London real estate. They have done nothing to develop that real estate, nothing to earn it, and their ownership benefits absolutely nobody except for themselves. In fact, their total control pushes housing costs so high that the entire nation has become indebted to pay excessive mortgage costs, simply to protect their ownership of land that is, in national and global terms, economically dormant.

They are a parasite, and their deep pockets and lavish support for political parties has ensured our socio-economic system has become warped to support their parasitic greed. No party will suggest the rational solutions: if hard work makes us rich, let’s tax inheritance at 85%, so the children of rich men have to work hard too. But no: that would never do. What we must do instead is ensure rich men hand down ever-more riches to their ever-lazier children, in a total inversion of the key argument of capitalism. In this regard, pure socialism produces better capitalism than Milton Friedman ever could.

The rentier outlook is reaching every corner of the economy. “Buy-to-let” is a prime example: the utterly destructive policy of attempting to make anybody with a retirement plan into a landowner. It inevitably robs banks of their assets, and renders them incapable of lending for innovation or growth. Instead, the wealth of pension plans turns into small-minded, economically null property ownership and rack-rents. It bleeds the economy, making those with few assets unable to make any investments in their (or the country’s) future: instead they pour their money into rents, purely to prop up those who control the assets. Many – perhaps even the majority – of the population now work for no personal benefit: they simply support those who own the assets.

In 2007 the sky darkened with the wings of chickens coming home to roost. The global economy had become an inverted pyramid, those with few assets working harder and harder to prop up those with huge assets. It was inevitable it would fall over, and only massive social lending – yes, more money being taken from the poor to prop up the rich – prevented total collapse… for a while.

Little has changed since then, and when – inevitably – the next crash happens, it will be even larger, even more destructive. And societies will not be able to afford to bail out banks and corporations for a second time. It will be the crash to end all crashes, and change will be forced upon us all in a uncontrollable, furious way. Leaders who argue for a bail-out will be defenestrated (certainly metaphorically, and probably literally) by a raging mass of people who finally recognise that they’ve been feeding a monster since the neo-con revolution of Thatcher and Reagan.

I’m sorry to say that the “unpaid contributor” model of the Huffington Post is part of the problem. While I admire Arianna Huffington, and recognise that old business models cannot last forever, I simply can’t allow myself to participate in actions which are identical to the dangerous rentier economy I criticise above. Arianna Huffington is reported to be worth over $50 million, yet refuses to pay for the content which makes her rich. She controls the asset. I work for no reason except to support her. And in doing so, I undermine legitimate newspapers who are foolish enough to pay their staff, therefore being uncompetitive, simply because they want to ensure people can eat.

Arianna Huffington may profess her liberal credentials, but the business she operates is undermining the social fabric by expecting people to work for nothing at all. You stroked my ego by inviting me to write for the Huff. Then you asked me to pitch a story, give my time, my effort, my skills and knowhow for free, simply so you can sell more ad revenue and enrich your owners. It’s the very apogee of rentier economics. I can’t be involved.

You stroked my ego. I won’t deny I briefly glowed. But although I was initially flattered to be asked to write a contribution, I refuse to do so. Unless, of course, you take the courageous step of publishing this email. It will be posted on my personal blog, but, as with your kind offer, I shall also offer you the right to reuse the post elsewhere. Bonne chance!

And now I will return to my job, where I pay my employees for the contribution they make, in the hope that they have enough money to participate in society. I may never be as rich as Arianna Huffington, but I sleep very soundly.

Best wishes

Russ

Russell Brand

How can you tell the entire system is fucked?

It’s when Russell Brand – the egomaniacal sex-addict, former drug-addict, prankster, reality-TV host, actor and stand up – reveals more political wisdom and moral authority than the government, opposition, House of Lords, royal family, mass media, financial sector, academia, police, bankers and churches combined.

Watch Russell Brand vs Jeremy Paxman

Bloody immigrants.

The building you’re sitting in right now is held up with Spanish or Iranian gypsum. Most of your car is probably made in Germany, Mexico or Japan. The oil that powers it most likely from Saudi Arabia.

You drink beer from Belgium, vodka from Russian and wine from France. You gobble Italian pizza and scoff Chinese rice, flavoured with spices from Indonesia.

You wear American jeans and eat chips made from Venezuelan potatoes. Your coffee is Brazilian,​ your tea is Tamil, the sugar is Jamaican and the milk is only safe to drink because a Frenchman made it so. If you fancy a little flavouring, you’ll use syrup from Canada, chocolate from Colombia, or lemons from Portugal.

Your democracy is Greek. Your humour is Jewish. Your numbers are Arabic and your letters are Latin. Your pyjamas are Indian and your slippers are Turkish.

And you’re reading this in a language that’s a bastard hybrid of French, Latin, Scandiwegian and Irish.

How dare anybody complain about immigrants.

I remember when all this was fields

Burger
Some delicious dead thing

There was a recent Twitter trend #MyMumisaMotherfuckingBadass.

My post on this trend was about how my mum, aged 67, and on a Zimmer frame after 25 years living with Parkinson’s disease, walked 3 miles to see a Radiohead gig in a tent.

And then the next night, she did it again. Badass.

Bear in mind this wasn’t even OK Computer-era Radiohead. I happen to think OK Computer is the best album ever made, but it seemed to send Thom Yorke a little bit insane, and he reacted to its success by deciding to fuck with every music lover on the planet.

It was, it has to be said, a bizarre couple of years for Radiohead fans. Imagine Radiohead are a chef, and they’d just served you the best burger you’d ever eaten. It made you weep, it was so astonishingly good. And not just you: everyone agreed, it was a truly wonderful burger, fit to stand in the pantheon of all-time great burgers. It was rich and satisfying and curious, and it lingered on the taste bugs for months without ever souring or getting old. You just wanted to go back for more and more, and savour the ever-deepening complexity and creativity of this truly wonderous burger.

Then, a year later, Chef Radiohead changed his menu, and we all rushed back to find out what fresh wonders he’d created. But this wasn’t normal food any more. Sure, the Kid A burger could still be described as a burger, of sorts. There were ingredients; some of them recognisable, but many belonged in no burger you’d ever want to eat, such as lemons, a herring, coal and some wire. And try as we might, none of us really wanted wire in our burgers. I chewed and chewed and chewed, convinced I’d find something to like if I stuck with it and my teeth didn’t shatter. But eventually I spat it out and went back to eating the much more satisfying Dark Side-Order of Chips by Chef Pink Floyd.

But none of this stopped my mum, because she’s fucking badass. She walked to see Radiohead on her wobbly old legs, sat in the middle of the confused, nonplussed crowd on a fold-out chair the bouncers found for her, and moved to what Thom Yorke insisted was still, technically, music. Or maybe she was just moving to the Parkinson’s disease. It’s genuinely difficult to tell.

You see, unlike me, she’s never got old. She’s a widow now, and her Parkinson’s is getting to the stage where she’s considering going into a home. But do you know what stops her from doing it: she’d never be allowed to play Green Day at 120dB in the Perry Como Home for the Ancient and Beige.

But I’m getting old. I don’t feel it physically, and I don’t think I look my age. My knees are still working, I have most of my teeth and still far too much hair. Sure, I’ve lost a kidney, but I don’t think I was really using it. And I can’t smell a thing, but I can still hear when my girlfriend shouts at me, which is all a man needs to do.

But I see signs of decrepitude, and the first one is music. I can’t like new music. It’s all terrible.

When I was 14, and still recovering from the terminal horror of being caught losing my virginity by my own mother, I realised the best way to avoid those endless accusatory stares was listening to The Smiths.

Very little could keep my parents out of my bedroom as much as Morrissey mournfully wailing about humdrummery and his issues with William and Newport Pagnell, while I reeled around the end of my empty bed, longing for gladioli and pondering the best way to get my mum to agree to my painting the bedroom black. As soon as I played The Smiths my parents went out into the garden for a conference about “what the hell is wrong with the boy”, and started worrying about paying the phone bill for all the Samaritans I was clearly going to need.

At the very moment I wanted to be alone, The Smiths helped me feel I wasn’t. But now I feel alone again, because apparently I’m the only person on the planet who thinks Daft Punk is boring crap.

The only people in the world I currently hate more than Daft Punk are the bastards who put up the dividing wall between me and my neighbour, who has played Get Lucky to me over a trillion times. A trillion. That’s literally the number.

Sophie Ellis Bextor
Here kitty. I’ve got some cream for you.

I guess if you’re 14 and don’t remember the last century, you may be persuaded that Daft Punk have created a spectacularly innovative noise. But it’s only spectacularly innovative if you didn’t hear exactly the same noise from Groovejet 13 years ago.

The only discernible difference is that Sophie Ellis Bextor looks like an erotic, airbrushed cat with its head stretched over an ironing board, and Daft Punk clearly don’t, or they’d remove those fucking stupid helmets.

(Incidentally, I remember a best of list from 2000 which placed If This Ain’t Love as the 3rd best single of all time, which tells you how useful best of lists are).

Almost anything by Chic sounds fresher, and more original and a whole lot more fun than Get Lucky. The only “lucky” thing about that song is that people buying it aren’t old enough to remember Nile Rogers.

But I guess it was ever thus. As a Smiths fan I never liked Rick Astley, clearly, but he didn’t offend me as much as he offended my mum. When she first heard Astley’s hollow, robotic version of When I Fall In Love my dear, wobbly old mum swore for three straight hours, and never repeated herself. Now that’s creativity, you Daft Punk helmets (and I mean that in the sense of shiny, salty male genitalia).

Maybe it’s my age, and I’m missing something thrilling about modern music. But where is the David Bowie of today? (Other than David Bowie, obviously). Between 1969 and 1982 he released 14 albums of stunningly original material, each one of which pushed back the boundaries of musical experience. And none of them sounded anything like the previous one.

What’s Daft Punk’s style? Copycat Groovejet pop dance with the pretty lady replaced by a pair of French twats in what look like Liberace’s space-suit.

And what’s Bowie’s style? Folk, pop, discord, rock, world, dystopian musical, metal, African, techno, ambient, funk, indie, soul, glam, country, showtune, drum’n’bass, dance, thrash, German neo-classical and freeform jazz. Usually all on one album. You can buy anything he recorded for over a decade and it will be brilliant, challenging, intelligent, original and compelling.

(You can then skip forward to 1992, when he released his only album since Scary Monsters that’s actual genius. OK, he’s not infallible, but he had a pretty good run!)

And it’s not just Bowie, who might be a one-off and possibly an alien. Where are The Smiths of today? Where’s the Talking Heads? Sure, there are hints of it in Arcade Fire, but are they off making edgy New York punk, followed by a joyous funkadelic assault on the senses, followed by a polyrhythmic odyssey around South America? No. They’re ploughing one indie furrow with diminishing returns.

And for The Smiths you might copy/paste Belle and Sebastian, except they seem to have decided to move away from literate, gentle, studenty songwriting genius, and become a feeble Beautiful South tribute band produced by the Buggles of Video Killed The Radio Star fame.

Most music I hear today is the same music I heard in the 80s, washed at a high temperature until it shrinks and hardens and all the texture is removed by technology. Vocoder that, Will.I.Am, you drab, self-obsessed, vacuous hairstyle! Even in the 80s that kind of music was pretty dismal stuff. Other than 14-year-old girls obsessed with blow-dries, who actually liked Duran Duran? Probably the same mums who now like Take That, but it’s not music. It isn’t. Really. It’s posters, chat shows, teeth-whitening, and a row of stools (and I mean that in the sense of a line-up of turds, steaming on a fancy stage).

I’m not saying we’re completely bereft of gems. It’s just that in between we’re being fed a vat of pap, processed to a bland, soggy mess and marketed to within an inch of its life. I’m a veggie, but even I’m starting to ask of modern music: where’s the meat?

So after a few years, I decided to go back and try that undercooked, highly disappointing wire-and-coal burger that Radiohead had served me in 2000. And do you know what? It’s rather delicious. It just took me a while to get hungry enough to want it.

Fetch the butt-plug Mr Cunterblast

WordPress just told me that I missed our anniversary. That means I’m even disappointing software now.

The 15th of January marked a year since I started writing this bullshit, and tradition dictates that I should have gone out and, in a fit of irony that would even trouble the descriptive powers of Alanis Morissette, bought some paper for my blog service.

Remember paper? Crikey, it all seems so long ago.

So in an effort to make WordPress forgive me, tonight I took my blog out for the evening instead. First I took it my ripped-off copy of Wurd to see how many words I’ve typed; and then off to a word-cloud generator to see what it’s been about. I now know that my blog is twice as long as the novel The Life of Pi, and that I’ve spent an unfeasibly long time talking about cancer, sex and Simon Cowell.

(I also know that I’m likely to get arrested by Microsoft for having a ripped off copy of Word, but I spelled it Wurd, which is bound to baffle even the greatest lawyer. And in my defence, practically everyone else on the planet has a ripped off copy of Word too).

As a result of my research into my own blog, I’ve come up with some findings, and have decided to adapt The Naked Mole Rat into a $100 million 3D Bollywood epic, in which I’m stuck in a boat with a CGI version of Simon Cowell and have to decide whether to have kinky sex with him, or give him an aggressive and painful cancer.

It’s a real conundrum.

Actually, it’s not much of a conundrum. Simon’s getting no sweet, sexy lurve from me, which leaves him with the choice of death or death. A nation grieves. But the reason he’s not getting sweet, sexy lurve from me is because at least one of us (OK, let’s face it, it’s exactly one of us) is a raging heterosexual. And because all my romance is being directed to the lady in my life, who repays it by manipulating my head, as can be seen in this graphic depiction of our relationship.

She's so manipulative.
She’s so manipulative.

I rarely speak about my private life in detail, but for once I’m going to spill my beans and tell you that our relationship is about to go to new places. Specifically, Scotland.

I’m very fond of Scotland, and of all the people from there who I’ve met. I can’t say it’s been a representative sample, or that they’ve liked me very much. But I liked them.

It’s unrepresentative because I tend to meet Stots when, in exchange for a stuffed sheep’s stomach and a night in their bothy, I give them with enough money to buy a small island up there (approximately £78). And that kind of transaction always brings out the best in people.

And it’s hard to say if they liked me because it’s often hard to understand a bloody word they’re saying.

But I still like them. I like their attitude. On a drive up in the highlands once, I stopped at one of the tiny all-purpose stores you often find in deeply remote areas. It was a post office, off license, petrol station, butcher, fishing supplies depot, lumber-merchant and record shop. (Not a greengrocer. It is Scotland after all, and if you want to eat greens they’ll contemptibly direct you to a tuft of thistle by the roadside). The shop had the obligatory wall dedicated to tartan and shortbread, and an entirely startling wall dedicated to Native American Dreamcatchers, which seemed unusual until you realise how many Americans visit Scotland, and how gullible they are.

The shop was miles from the nearest plumbing, and the only member of staff was a short, incomprehensible object of indeterminate sex, radioactively ginger, and with webbed fingers and an advanced case of athlete’s head. So I didn’t hold out much hope when I asked to use the bathroom. It was in a lean-to against the side of the shop, and I expected a wet hole in the floor, at best. But in fact it was a fully fitted bathroom and shower, with soaps and shampoos and fresh towels laid out for anybody who needed them, and, wonderfully, a small pile of socks beneath a sign saying “help yourself”.

The climate up there puts pressures on anyone daring enough to be caught outdoors, and a shower and warm, dry socks can turn a walker’s life around. I’m taking the piss out of Scots because I take the piss out of everybody: but the shower, towels and socks were provided with generosity, and I honestly have no expectation of anything less from people in the top half of the British Isles.

I hate to say it but that open, welcoming, selfless approach to life becomes more common the further north from Westminster you get. Actually, I didn’t hate to say it at all: I like it. I like the fact that true human nature emerges if you simply leave people alone to be people, rather than forcing them to be greedy brutes in a greedy, brutal capital city. Whereas in the wilds of Scotland they have a different attitude: if you don’t hang together you’ll probably hang separately. So be nice.

I’ve expressed this opinion to people in the South of England, and been told that I’m a mad socialist fuckwit who is living in the 70s, and that the Scots are all violent thugs and a drain on the poverty-stricken folks of Surrey. And I’ve reported those conversations to people in bars in Scotland, and been told that the Scots don’t actually hate the English: they just hate the southern English.

Not that I’m any more romantic about Scots than I am about my anniversary with WordPress or my forthcoming week up there with my girlfriend. We’re going to be there on Valentine’s Day, but that’s just an embarrassing scheduling error. We’d both forgotten Saint Valentine existed (because he didn’t – even the Pope who canonised him recognised that “nothing is known about his life”).

Anyway, this 14th Feb there will be no violins or flowers, and I’m not just saying that cos she’ll read this blog, and I want to lay a false trail. The best she can hope for is that I won’t tie the ropes too tight, and will clean the ball-gag before it’s applied. And the best I can hope for is that she’ll apply plenty of lube before she does that thing to me with the object that’s slightly bigger than it looked on LoveHoney.

Other than that, it’ll be the usual mixture of visceral abuse about my hairy back, six-hour fights about how the duvet is shared out, and vain attempts to make her murder look like a tragic accident. I’ll be as cheeky as a 6-foot six-year-old can be, and she’ll respond with a torrent of abuse and profanity, and many, many slaps about the head and neck. I just hope I can persuade her to save her filthy mouth and spanking until we get indoors and naked, where her vocabulary is rich, varied, and remarkably inventive. I flatter myself that I have a wide lexicon and a seedy mind, but she still manages to startle me rigid. It’s a rigidity which comes in handy, when it works.

Damn being old!

I’m not old old, not like the mad racist who lives upstairs and must be avoided at all costs. We popped round to ask if he needed anything from the shops during the recent snow, but after 3 hours all we’d learned was that black people are ruining this country. I’m not there yet, and you have my permission to throw me down a well if I do. But I’ve reached the point at which my body starts to disintegrate, and indeed I got a head-start with the cancer that kicked off this blog a year ago. I’m grateful to the doctors, but have decided to never see one again after accidentally catching an episode of House.

Hugh Laurie, House
No wonder he’s grumpy: he’s wrong almost all the time.

This week, a man went to see House with hiccups, and after getting his diagnosis wrong five times the so-called “best diagnostician in America” finally worked out that the man’s marriage was doomed, along with his liver. He did this in much the same way as the people in CSI solve crimes, and the people in Church work out how the universe was created: random guesswork and a lot of mumbo-jumbo. This week’s patient thought he had hiccups, but apparently he had something which, from memory, had 3000 syllibals and ended in “itis”, and which every actor on set looked proud to have memorised.

I don’t know why anyone goes to see House anyway. He diagnoses patients without even seeing them, is wrong 9 times out of 10, and it’s pretty much always cancer. So House’s oncologist mate could solve the problem anyway, if he wasn’t too busy being slightly cross-eyed and wetter than a turbot’s handbag. And when the guest-star disease isn’t cancer, it’s something you’ve never heard of; so it’s a bit like reaching the end of The Usual Suspects and being told the villain is a Mr Ted Cunterblast, a total stranger who wasn’t mentioned during the previous 2 hours.

Ted Cunterblast is mentioned by Hugh Laurie though, in his previous career as a purveyor of amusing japes and elaborate swearing with Stephen Fry. (If you’ve never seen their terrific sketch show, imagine Armstrong and Miller, but with Armstrong and Miller being replaced by somebody who can be arsed doing a different sketch every week).

My girlfriend could learn a lot from Fry and Laurie, and I fully expect her to call me Ted Cunterblast upon our next meeting. Although part of me hopes she saves her filthy mouth until we’re on our own in a bothy in Scotland, so there isn’t a repeat of that time she loudly called me a twat in the children’s section of Ikea. I don’t think the Scots are ready for her vocabulary.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible the Scots have learned how to swear by now. I seem to remember Frankie Boyle using a bad word once, and Billy Connolly too. Not as bad as the word I used about him today, when I read this article in the Guardian, in which he was given a free £5,000 holiday and then proceeded to bitch and moan about the whole thing. Well don’t fucking go then! Give the money to some poor kids from Glasgow.

The acquisition of large amounts of money seems to turn even the best person into an utter bastard. Take Sean Connery, a man who bestrides Scotland like a colossus… from his home in tax haven of The Bahamas, where he pays not a penny in tax to support the nation for whose independence he vigorously campaigns. Why do so many nationalists have such a strong objection to spending any money at all on the country they claim to love? The Tories are the same, wrapping themselves in the Union Flag and bellowing at Johnny Foreigner for having the temerity to introduce laws to protect British jobs. But ask that noble, blue-rinsed defender of the UK to pay a single penny more tax to fund his own country, and he’ll let his wife out of the kitchen long enough to fetch his shotgun and let the dogs out on you.

I do find it galling to have the Tories “protecting” Scotland from independence at the same time they insist on “protecting” Scotland from the support of Europe. The EU seems to have funded 90% of the bridges north of the border, and if I were a Scot I’d kick England out, get married to Europe, and stay happy. If they do, I’m going to campaign for Manchester to be officially recognised as a district of Dundee, cos I don’t want to be trapped here with David Cameron.

So there you have it: my 91st blog, and the end of my first year as a blogger. Next year it’s the cotton anniversary and I’m going to get WordPress some knickers, but the year after that it’s the leather anniversary. Stick with me, cos then the filthy sex will really start to get interesting!

Piers Morgan DOES NOT fuck goats

Do you remember that time when the Daily Mirror libelled Frankie Boyle by calling him a racist?

It was fairly recent, and it was a massive story. Surely you remember all these things happening:

  • The managing director, chief executive and head of the Daily Mirror resigned
  • The Daily Mirror’s head of journalism was sacked
  • The Daily Mirror’s entire legal team offered to resign
  • The head journalist of the Daily Mirror did a corruscating interview with his own boss, in which he ritualistically tore him to pieces and was incredulous at the failings
  • The Daily Mirror ran headlines and the first 7 pages of its newspaper with massive coverage of the scandal and crisis for over a week
  • The Daily Mirror made a full, frank apology, as did its board and the trustees
  • Members of Parliament asked questions in the House, and spoke widely about the urgent need to reform the whole newspaper… including offering personal opinions about who should be the next editor and manager of the paper
  • The Chairman of Mirror Group Newspapers appeared all over the media, frankly answering questions about the role of the Mirror, and offering to scrap the newspaper and start again with a completely different team

Surely you remember that? It was very similar to all of those times the Daily Mail has been found guilty of libel since 2001, when all the Mail’s staff resigned in disgrace and the paper spent 10 full days apologising on every single page. As a reminder, these are the libels in question:

  • Alan Sugar awarded £100,000
  • Diana Rigg awarded £30,000
  • Elton John awarded £100,000
  • £30,000 award to Dr Austen Ivereigh, who had worked for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor
  • £47,500 award to Parameswaran Subramanyam for falsely claiming that he secretly sustained himself with hamburgers during a 23-day hunger strike in Parliament Square to draw attention to the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka
  • the former lifestyle adviser to Cherie Blair and Tony Blair, Carole Caplin received “substantial” libel damages

Isn’t that familiar either? It should be, because I definitely remember the Mail spending days and days in soul-searching, and the main stories on every page being about the crisis at the Mail. I remember Paul Dacre, the editor and chief exec, standing down with a humiliating public statement.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s only the BBC which has to do this kind of self-flagellating bullshit perp-walk every time a member of its staff makes a mistake. To be clear, the BBC fucked up, and they did it in some style. But they did not report that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile: they reported that a member of the public had claimed a “top Tory” was a paedophile, and Twitter and gossip – some of it already circulating – filled in the blanks.

Hands up if you definitely definitely definitely don’t fuck goats.

And yet somehow half a dozen people who have had flawless, exceptional careers in public service have to go. The BBC has to rip itself to pieces for days on end, and go through paroxysms of guilt. We demand it. And it’s an utter fucking nonsense.

In all of this, let’s not forget what we should actually be focussing on – criminals at large, who have cause misery to potentially hundreds of children. Not BBC executives or one wonky report. Yes, it was an error. In fact, it appears to have been about 10 errors, each compounding the last. But nobody died, and in actual fact I’d be surprised if Lord McAlpine could even sue for libel, considering he was never identified. Not even his job was – nobody said “McAlpine” or “Treasurer”. Other people leaped to that conclusion, and they fact that they were able to simply demonstrates that the rumours (albeit false rumour) were already in existence.

Hop on, you sexy thing.

For that matter I could state that a well-known panelist on a popular Saturday evening talent show is an utter cunt who fucks goats and squirts tart lemons into the eyes of kittens while sipping Martinis made from the tears of orphans. But if (and I should state that this is entirely for the purposes of illustrating my point) Simon Cowell or Pier Morgan decided to sue me for libel, it would be extremely hard, because I didn’t mention either of them by name. And I never would.

Not even if it was Piers Morgan.