Boris Johnson – lies

PFEFFELS AND PIFFLES – A YEAR WITH BORIS

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.

PFEFFELS AND PIFFLES – A YEAR WITH BORIS

9 BEYOND THE SEA

In the movie thriller Hell And High Water a small-town Texan waitress complains about half of her wages going to her landlord.   Criticism of rentier capitalism is always welcome.  Even when it comes from those reluctant neoliberals at the Observer.  Last week, the not sure what he thinks about capitalism John Harris reported that a landlord rented a converted shed for £850 a week.  This left the tenant £150 a week to keep her alive and be in good enough shape to earn a living.   She may be cold in her hut this winter but at least the poor woman will save money on fuel.   All of which adds to the puzzle of why more British are not tempted by the good life and discount hamburgers that waitresses enjoy in warm Texas.   And if that is puzzling, some people are climbing into dinghies and risking their lives to cross the English Channel and reach the land where friendly shopkeepers have become grasping landlords.   

The people on the boats crossing the channel are not intending to slip unnoticed into English society.  Their objective is to be led to the nearest asylum centre, two-thirds qualify as asylum seekers and a lot of the remaining third are surprised to not qualify.   The British Government so far has not rented a big warehouse in Calais and pretended to be a superduper job centre, one which could sort out who actually qualifies for UK residence.   Sort out the paperwork and all the civil servants would need to do would be to put the migrants on a big and sturdy boat and take the lucky new Brits to their jobs as lorry drivers, fruit pickers, nurses and care workers.  None of this requires compassion, nothing more than self-serving common sense, which is just as well because those that expect compassion from Pfeffel are usually left with regrets.

First, some numbers or, to be precise without being numerate, the lack of them and the mystery of why specific figures do not exist.  Never quoted in the UK press or by Pfeffel and his mates are, one, what is the optimum population size or growth for the UK society and economy and, two, what is the level of immigration needed to maintain that optimum number.  Pfeffel is not good with numbers, especially if someone else is paying the bill, and Pritti Patel, a Home Secretary currently setting records for being charmless, is not good with much at all.   So no chance of a lead there.   We have had heated arguments and in coastal hotels invasions of self-righteous thugs uttering Brexit cries of ‘take back control’ while beating up migrants .   Yet few people are curious about those two somewhat important numbers.   No doubt there are political sensitivities.  In other words, rational thinking by elected politicians in modern Britain is a guaranteed vote loser.  The Dutch have their own patriotic movements and their share of difficult characters.  This has not stopped the government, though, from equating the relationship between the size of population and future demographic changes with a balancing tool called immigration.   Of course, that would involve an awful lot of British people accepting the need for a continual supply of immigrants.   Without anyone talking numbers in the UK there will be more stamping boots on the floor and not much else.   

Pritti Patel is especially averse to numbers.  This is the lady that insisted if hanging was introduced there would be fewer people executed by mistake than there are at the moment when no one is hanged.  I know that two pluses make a minus but this is way beyond my algebra.  It is logic as wonky as that at the end of the film Interstellar.  For publicity and self-promotion Pritti Patel likes to wear combat jackets that make her look like an armed policewoman.  With combat gear on her shoulders Patel has no need for numerical analysis.  Rosa Klebb knew how to stamp her boots.  The pair that she wore so memorably in the final scene of From Russia With Love would suit Pritti Patel quite well.   That particular pair of boots had a retractable knife in the toe cap.  But that is enough of her, Patel not Klebb who at least put a sardonic smile on the face of Sean Connery.   

The UK had 31,150 asylum seekers last year.  Germany, France and Spain managed a third of a million.   Mainland Western Europe is where the wages and benefit rates are higher and their governments have programmes to build social housing.  Migrants there have a greater chance of finding jobs as skilled workers in a high wage economy.  Again not much effort has been made to understand why some migrants press on for Britain.  Having relatives in the UK and knowing the language will be factors for some.   Scrambling day after day to get by and being obliged to sleep in tents at the side of railway lines in a refugee camp in Calais must also compel restlessness in people.   And after the efforts made to travel across Europe, going backwards is out of the question or appears to be.  There is only one place left to go and it is the brand new emerging federation of four one-party states called Britain.  Nor can we assume that all the decision making taken inside those cold tents was and is rational.   Dreams intrude.  Some folk might be inspired by a fondness for Premiership football.  There is an irony here.  More than one oddity wandering a coastal hotel corridor could right now be beating up a fellow supporter of his football team.   TV programmes like Downton Abbey also create a false impression of life in Britain.  This is why Americans hearing any working class English person assume they are listening to an Australian.  And indeed a few migrants might even have a haunting and long-lasting memory of brief acquaintances with the English that just makes them feel good about the country.   What is certain is that it has not been blonde haired and ‘not masturbated in ten years’ Pfeffel standing on a hill and waving them over, although the sexual conqueror does make promises.  

A humanitarian disaster has been created by military conflict and a steady supply of oppressive dictators.  Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria and Eritrea generate high numbers of migrants.   And it should be no surprise to discover that the initial reaction to be being bombed out of your home is not to regard the event as an opportunity for career development.  86% of those people displaced by war settle in neighbouring low income countries.  Like most of us, under pressure they look for the familiar.  The UK has the sixth largest economy in the world and takes 1% of refugees.   My research into packed dinghies in the middle of the English Channel is limited but in the newspaper photos the old are not at the front of the boats.  Half of the refugees of the world are under 18 years of age, and 40% of all refugees are children.  8% of all those seeking an alternative homeland are children that travel alone.  This suggests that although personal funds are important the places on the routes are being conceded to victims that back in the war zones and disaster areas are regarded as priorities, something like women and children first on the boats on the Titanic.  Use that metaphor and children and pregnant women drowning in the open sea is about as bitter an irony as you can get.

The lottery we call life worked for me in a way it did not for my 19th century Greek ancestors.   I was not obliged to seek refuge in another country.   I can travel freely and certainly as far as Calais.   There has been cooperation between the British government and the French authorities in the coastal port but it has focussed on security and keeping people out rather than completing a verification process that has to be completed eventually,  This, if done in Calais, would prevent people risking their lives and in some cases dying.  Political asylum is granted to those people that face persecution in their own country.   The Daily Mail and men with boots can stamp their feet as much as they like but the 27 people that drowned in the English Channel did more than just die.   Long before they died they were obliged to forfeit their rights.   

A warehouse to process asylum seekers is not built in Calais for the same reasons no one wants to talk about a continuing economic need for migrants to settle in Britain.  It would be seen as liberal and compassionate and bad for British fibre.  Pfeffel does not want to be seen resolving a French problem even if it only means relocating or outsourcing some administrative task. There may be a lot of communication between the British and French but it does not help that most of it is generated by turf wars.   And Macron regards Pfeffel as a clown and a knucklehead.   Well, even the les gilets jaunes admit that Macron had to get something right.

There are British innocents that think the EU is a body created by pleasant and reasonable folk that can offer the brutish British salvation.  Their scoundrels may not be a match for Pfeffel but the ones that they do have were not slow to put pressure on the airlines.  Extra regulations insist on an additional evidence requirement for travellers from countries afflicted by war and rampant dictators, evidence that is not likely to be forthcoming from hostile regimes.   In other words the EU has designed procedures that present obstacles to refugees that are seeking political asylum from oppression.   This results in those that wish to travel and claim asylum being obliged to pay exorbitant rates to traffickers.  The 86% that settle for life in neighbouring low income countries at least know that their fellow poor have been more welcoming.   And are perhaps more civilised.

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.