10 MISTLETOE AND WINE
Anything but sombre, the musical term allegra refers to a composition that in English would be identified as cheerful or lively,. No point in searching around allegras for major chords but there are always surprises. An allegra was played at the first wedding of Pfeffel. In fact this particular allegra was composed for the event. Pfeffel arrived late and looked so scruffy that he was lent a pair of trousers for the ceremony. The allegra was presumably played while everyone was still sober and before the evening disc jockey arrived. The exclusive piece was called Allegra e Boris – Duetto Concertante per Violino e Viola all’Occasione dell loro Faustissme Nozze il 5 Septembre 1987. Some guests would have fallen asleep listening to the title. Playing an allegra at the wedding of Pfeffel made sense. The woman walking down the aisle and next to the pair of borrowed trousers was Allegra Mostyn-Owen. Of course, having an allegra composed for your wedding is not consistent with the trademark self-effacement we expect from Pfeffel.
Marriage was not what Pfeffel and Allegra expected. The couple divorced six years later. Once he realised he was allergic to Allegra, Pfeffel sniffled off. Goodbye to Allegra and perhaps say hello to viagra. The composer of Allegra e Boris and the rest was Hans Werner Henz. Hans was an interesting chap. He was gay, German, an avowed Marxist and a member of the Communist party of Italy. Hans composed musical pieces that honoured Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. Makes you wonder if Pfeffel and Allegra were doomed right from the start. For those who might be wondering, Allegra e Boris is not available to be streamed on Spotify.
And now there is another female allegra although we should not expect musical celebrations just yet. Until yesterday Allegra Stratton was employed as the Downing Street Press Secretary. But after a video was released of her joking with colleagues about the Downing Street Christmas party that Pfeffel somehow forgot existed, this Allegra, like much recorded music, is no longer in copyright. Allegra Stratton is the latest in a long line of scapegoats that have been selected and abandoned by Pfeffel.
There are people that admire the Prime Minister. They think the man is witty, has energy, is cultured and, most important, an electoral asset for the Conservative Party. And some people just find abundant blonde hair irresistible. A few of the admirers of Pfeffel like to think of themselves as friends. But neither admirers nor friends credit Pfeffel with loyalty.
No one, though, should have sympathy for the latest abandoned allegra who right now is anything but lively and cheerful. Allegra Stratton earned a living as a spokeswoman for a corrupt government. Well before Pfeffel appeared as a prospective employer Ms Stratton became infamous as a BBC journalist that in an interview bullied Shaneen Thorpe, a working class single mother struggling with the extortionate housing costs that disfigure London. Stratton framed the interview so it appeared that the mother was unemployed. Shanene Thorpe was actually in full time work. But Stratton had an agenda because in her opinion poor people, whether in full time work or not, should live with their parents and accept the limitations of their financial options. Her husband is the best friend of Rishi Sunak, the man that owns at least a dozen houses. Stratton may not have the communication skills that prevented tears when she read her resignation statement to the press but she does have connections and she does not give a damn about those with far fewer choices than those available to her.
Many years have passed since Christmas inspired piety in the British. Perhaps the seasonal self-indulgence began with Dickens. Memorable and fabulous ‘A Christmas Carol’ may be but the mix of economic greed and sentimentality unbalances the book. What happened last December at 10 Downing Street has horrified even sentimental loyal Tories.
Pfeffel has to be given credit for being slippery. Normally when a party takes place, offends the neighbours and contravenes the law the person who is punished is the homeowner not one of the guests. It helps to be powerful. Look how Prince Charles was awarded custody of his children after a divorce. Much has been, and will be, made of the hypocrisy and double standards that permitted parties to take place in Downing Street at the end of last year. There were more than one, and the latest number being circulated is five. Most ordinary people followed not just government Yuletide Covid guidelines but legislation. Relatives had to be kept at a distance, and serious sacrifices were made.
Not everyone behaved responsibly. Some, including students already burdened with debt, have been fined £10,000 for having parties. In December last year 2,000 people in London alone were prosecuted. If they were all fined £10,000 that would have given the government a Christmas bonus of £20m. Even Phillip Green could have a decent party with that load of potatoes. In response to the news of law-breaking in number 10, the Met initially stated that it did not undertake retrospective investigations and there was no evidence of a crime. Someone soon realised that all criminal investigations are retrospective and you need to investigate a crime before knowing whether evidence exists or not. A party in Ilford took place on the same date as the boozy event in Downing Street and this is being investigated.
All this would be difficult to understand except this is the Met. Whatever the virtues of Commissioner Cressida Dick independence is not one of them. Not only is there a record of the Downing Street Press Secretary admitting the party taking place and newspaper reports that quote dates, a policeman spent that evening, like all the other evenings, outside the front door of Number 10. There must have been at least one allegra that he overheard. The date Dominic Cummings was dismissed coincides with a date suggested for one of the celebrations. No one can say they did not have reasons for opening the bubbly.
The same day that an allegra was taken out of the catalogue, Pfeffel announced a Plan B to mitigate the spread of Covid and the Omicron variant. The announcement is late. The experts argue that these measures should have been implemented weeks if not months ago. Almost as worrying is how the announcement coincides with revelations that expose the contempt members of the government had for previous Covid guidelines. There is also the suspicion that the announcement of plan B has been designed to be a distraction from any turbulent allegras out there. Of course anyone serious about Covid management would not put Sajid Javid in charge of public health. A chest beating and wannabee Ayn Rand superman has as much compassion for the sick and disabled as a Premiership football manager under pressure has for his injured players. The only apparent qualification Javid has for the job is his peculiar resemblance to a Covid bacterial cell. Anyone that thinks this is unfair should imagine the bald head with a few mushrooms planted on top.
And, while we are on the subject of the neoliberal heroine, the one-time movie extra that failed as a Hollywood screenwriter and who is the inspiration for our caring Health Secretary, how about these for a couple of quotes from Rand. ‘Nothing can be learned about man by studying society.’ One is obliged to ask, even though ‘man’ created society and its various alternatives? This is more dumb than Dickens in ‘A Christmas Carol’ not connecting human nature to the economic greed of the rich. And talking about them, this is what Rand says, ‘They did not take it from those that did not create it.’ Of course not. They took it from others that did ‘create it’. Presumably labour is not a factor of production and the masters of the universe no longer need to worry about unit costs. Makes you wonder if the people in charge are just a little bit silly.
One bout of silliness appears to be coming to a conclusion. And for the sake of neatness it needs to be mentioned. The Tory Party has now been fined £17,800 by the Electoral Commission for failing to reveal how and who funded the cost of the £850 rolls of wallpaper in the Downing Street flat. Pfeffel has for some time denied that he knew anything about such payments and, who knows, he might still be doing it. Pfeffel is often indignant about his lies being challenged by something as inconsequential as proof. For Pfeffel, a steady chap is someone who remains loyal to a lie, telling the truth under pressure is capitulation. In May 2021 our Pfeffel stated that there had been no conversations with him about payments for the refurbishment of his flat. The Electoral Commission has revealed that Pfeffel sent a What’s App message to Lord Brownlow in which he requested money. Pfeffel regards himself as an intellectual, and perhaps he might be under his affected bluster. Curious, though, he is not. This intellectual giant has sat for over 12 months in a living room and stared at the not to be missed gold flecked wallpaper chosen by his wife. The two of them might even have listened to the odd allegra on their ghettoblaster. Yet not once has Pfeffel been curious about who could have possibly paid the cost of refurbishment. It always sounded like lies, and the Electoral Commission by imposing an almost maximum fine has confirmed the suspicions.
Christmas was never as important as Dickens pretended, and there are far more sinister schemes being planned by keeping his head down Sunak which should concern us more. But all that will happen sometime after the bleak midwinter has ended. Christmas is a time when we can relax and forget about the future and make one day in the present feel all important. On Christmas Day and perhaps after our Regency has spoken there will be a few citizens looking at what surrounds their plasma TV screens. They might be thinking that the Christmas excess has not had the impact on their household budget that they feared and in the New Year there could be an opportunity to change the wallpaper.
Howard Jackson has had eleven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Offended Shadows is now available here.