In defence of the Queen’s innocent Nazi salute

Harmless fun...the royal zieg heil
Harmless fun…the royal zieg heil

As a staunch royalist, I would like to express my own personal disappointment that footage of the Queen and Queen Mother innocently zieg heiling has been published by The Sun.

My own personal take is that it was harmless fun. My grandmother often spoke of how our family did the same in the 1930s before going to synagogue. It was just what you did in those days, and people lacking historical perspective should not think otherwise.

The Royal Family’s record on diversity and equality speaks for itself. You only have to look at the long line of royals marrying people of different races – and indeed social classes – to see that quite clearly.

Similarly, we should not take offence that Prince Charles gave an Asian friend the nickname Sooty, nor that Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi at a party, or called a colleague a “Paki”.

None of these innocent and harmless incidents should in any way damage the credibility of the Royal Family, and its divine right to rule over us.

On a day like today, the Queen and the Royal Family need our support more than ever. I for one will not be shirking my duty.
To this end, I shall be spending the day outside Buckingham Palace, singing God Save The Queen, goose-stepping and Zieg Heiling as I do so.

Harmless fun
Harmless fun… Prince Harry
Harmless fun...Prince Charles
Harmless fun…Prince Charles
Harmless fun... Prince Harry
Harmless fun… Prince Harry
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Literary romance – a poem

I was ostentatiously holding
a novel by Chimamanda
Ngozi Adichie, when the Nigerian
girl I was trying to impress, says

Are you carrying that book
in a half-witted attempt
to impress me?

You know me so well!
I say, which proves, she says,
that happiness and knowledge
are enemies indeed.

Happiness is elusive, I say,
like something you reach for
but cannot grasp.

She sighs loudly and replies,
something you reach for
but cannot grasp
is not like elusive.

It. Is. Elusive.

Perhaps elusiveness
is not so elusive after all,
I say, quick-wittedly,
at which the girl pushes me
into the Regent’s canal

and my head resurfaces
just in time to hear her say,
bloody Englishmen, always thinking
they are funnier than they are…

2015 General Election: 10 reasons why the Conservatives won

In the days immediately after the General Election, my Facebook feed was filled with people despairing about the Conservatives getting into power, and wondering how such a thing was possible. The general opinion was that the evil Tories hate poor people, want to sell off the NHS and create a country serving only the elite.

Yet, if this were true, how did they get 10 million votes and a majority in Parliament?

Here are a few reasons, in reverse order of importance (to build the tension for you, dear reader).

10. Nicola Sturgeon

A politician who has actually met some voters...Nicola Sturgeon
A politician who has actually met some voters…Nicola Sturgeon

Labour weren’t just outflanked on the right by the born-to-rule boys; they were outflanked on the left by the brilliant, utterly authentic Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP leader is the most convincing politician in the UK, and with the SNP’s momentum off the back of the referendum, Labour never had a hope in Scotland.

9. The TV debates
Like most people, I didn’t watch the TV debates. I was busy drinking red wine. But I did see that moment when Ed Miliband looked down the camera and made his appeal to the country…and shuddered. It was like being propositioned by a giant eel.

Thank goodness more voters weren’t paying attention, or Labour’s electoral defeat would have been much, much more convincing.

8. The media
We all know that the media is mostly run by right-wing oligarchs. There were a couple of ways Labour could have addressed this. Either, like Tony Blair, you cosy up to the media to win their support. Or, you use a combination of traditional campaign methods of leafletting and door-knocking, together with modern techniques of social media to get your message across. Rather than do either effectively, Labour had a weird pink van which they drove around the country to demonstrate their pointlessness.

Harriet Harman busy patronising women
Harriet Harman busy patronising women

7. Labour’s demonisation of rich people
In their twin policies of getting rid of the bedroom tax and introducing a mansion tax, Labour thought they had a winning formula. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite.

What Labour were engaging in was the classic left-wing mistake of asking people to be better than they are. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of humans. I think we are terrific. But if I was in charge of a political party, I wouldn’t think of asking people to vote for policies that do not materially benefit themselves, or people they know.

The bedroom tax is a hideous piece of policy and getting rid of it would make the world a bit better. Great: do it. Having a mansion tax makes sense as well, because rich people’s tax burden could be greater.

Both of these policies are fine, but they have very little to do with the concerns of the majority. And without significant policies which would help the, let’s say, 95% of people who are unaffected by either tax, it is Labour saying, “help poor people, attack rich people, don’t worry about yourself.”

Moreover, as Tony Blair annoyingly but accurately pointed out about three seconds after Miliband conceded defeat, you don’t win elections without supporting aspiration.

6. Pensioner bonds
Pensioner bonds, launched earlier this year by the Tories, were seen as an overt attempt to buy the grey vote. The old codgers duly said thank you very much.

5. David Cameron
People on the left tend not to notice, but David Cameron is quite good at his job. He is a very effective communicator. He keeps things simple, and manages to convince a lot of people that his interests, and those of his rich mates, are the same as the national interest.

Also, he managed to keep the Coalition together with very little infighting. Of course, the Lib Dems did a splendid imitation of a lapdog, but Cameron must have had some personal charm to keep things smooth.

In addition, and in a big change from Labour, he didn’t reshuffle his Cabinet every five minutes. You get the feeling that he put people in charge of a department and trusted them to do the job. This steady approach meant the Tories, whatever you think of their policies, have been remarkably unified.

4. The advantage of incumbency
It is easier to look like you should be in charge when you are in charge. And in the five years the Tories have been in power, the economy has grown (a bit) and nothing has gone seriously wrong. (For example, they haven’t got into bed with a twattish US president when he suggested killing a few hundred thousand muslims.)

3. Ed Balls
Ed Balls looks like a Nazi, and, in his strident, boorish, self-regarding approach to politics, acts like one. He is a charmless thug who makes you reflect that perhaps George Osborne isn’t that bad, after all. A massive well done must go to the people of Morley and Outwood for kicking him out.

Ed Balls brings his unique brand of thuggery to the football field
Ed Balls brings his unique brand of thuggery to the football field

2. The first-past-the-post system
Under almost any other democratic electoral system, the Tories would not be in sole charge of the country. As has been widely noted, UKIP got four million votes, and one MP. That could be the most unfair result in the history of our democracy. It is an embarrassment and hopefully all the other parties will campaign for this system to change. But because the system also benefits Labour, it probably won’t happen any time soon.

1. Ed Miliband
With this socially-awkward, political geek as leader – from a confusingly monied yet Marxist background – there was no way Labour was going to get back into power. As Ken Clarke said on the telly this morning, “politics, in the end, comes down to personalities,” and Ed Miliband’s personal ratings were always unwaveringly disastrous.

What a wonker.
What a wonker.

Ed Miliband was elected to the Labour party leadership because he is essentially a good natured, kindly, if rather otherworldly, person who wants to help people.

Yet the British public took one look at Ed Miliband and saw, instinctively, that they couldn’t trust him to go to a European summit and not embarrass them. Moreover, they saw that here was a man who didn’t know a thing about cricket or football or theatre or music or failure or boozing or sex. And when he did talk about politics, he talked in his indefinably strange, tongue-too-big-for-his-mouth way that would make Gandhi want to give him a clout.

Ed Miliband was the greatest gift the Labour party could give to the Tories. Cameron and co simply stopped referring to Labour – knowing that the party which created the NHS still has a big emotional pull for many people – and referred only to Ed Miliband.

The Tories, seeing this fatal flaw, quietly but relentlessly asked, and I’m paraphrasing here: “Do you want a commie weirdo in charge of the country, or do you want a team of public schoolboys who won’t interfere with your life too much?”

Ten million people – people who are primarily looking out for their own interests, just like everybody else – decided they preferred David Cameron over Ed Miliband.

And if Labour are to get back into power, they should stop trying to attack these people, but seek to understand them. If they do that, Labour might one day regain power.

Carl, Courtney and Kendrick – Richard’s album round-up

Carl Barat and the Jackals – Let it Reign

A record entirely untroubled by genius, but a jolly, Clash cliché-ridden romp nevertheless. The song titles seem to have come out of a Libertines random phrase generator – Victory Gin, Summer in the Trenches, etc – and the lumpen lyrical content (“when she goes, she really goes” apparently) exemplifies the need for Pete Doherty to come back from rehab forthwith. That happy circumstance would allow Carl to put down the biro and return to being in a band in which his main duties are having good hair and insouciantly smoking cigarettes.

Carl Barat doing what he does best
Carl Barat doing what he does best

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney-Barnett_4

This album is so laden with lovely lyrics it is almost obscene. Courtney Barnett’s mordant, jaunty take on life is entirely to my taste, and she makes the endeavour of making music seem so easy. On Pedestrian at Best she says

I love you, I hate you, I’m on the fence
it all depends whether
I’m up, I’m down, I’m on the mend

which is fabulous; and when she says

You’re saying definitely maybe
I’m saying probably no

she appears to take down Noel Gallagher in one neat couplet. Or rip a former lover. Or both. Either way, Courtney Barnett is a hero in my ears.

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

This new Villagers LP has done away with the playful, surreal songwriting of the previous album, and moved, perplexingly, toward songs of choirboy-ish yearning. Conor O’Brien is a delightful writer, and always worth listening to, but on some of the songs here he seems to be aimlessly noodling on his guitar, apparently oblivious to the fact that someone is recording him. Still, I like Villagers, and am going to see them in a fortnight, so I’m tuning my ears to thinking this one is better than it is.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Where the hooks go, Kendrick?
Where the hooks go, Kendrick?

To Pimp a Butterfly has all the standard issue Kendrick Lamar ingredients: great rapping, intricate storytelling, a dollop of preachiness, all woven together with classic funk. To that mix he has added poetic interludes, free jazz, quite a bit of screaming and some kind of bizarre, beyond the grave chit-chat with Tupac. All this leads me to think that this album is like prog-rock – grand and long and definitely impressive, but perhaps not actually good.

Also, when he says, “Shit don’t change, until you get up and wash yo’ ass” he seems to be pushing the kind of problematic pull-up-your-pants message advocated by the moralising rapist Bill Cosby. Fuck that, son.

In short, Kendrick is a genius, and I do love him, but I think this year I’ll be getting my hip-hop kicks from Earl Sweatshirt.

Warpaint – Warpaint

How do you come up with that album titke, Warpaint?
Long meeting, was it, coming up with that album title?

The members of Warpaint seem to have watched the Virgin Suicides and decided to form a band which sounds like that. Listening to this album you can imagine Sofia Coppola in an advisory role, doling out tips on casual indifference. The songs come at you with glances, making you desire them all the more. Warpaint is quite the most feline album I have ever heard: complex, cool, and with charms which unfold beautifully.

Quorn Savoury Mini Eggs

My 18-star review of Quorn Savoury Mini Eggs for Average Food Blog

AVERAGE FOOD BLOG

Quorn Mini Savoury Scotch Eggs
You know when you come up with an idea for a big project at work and you think:

“I’m over my head with this. I need buy in and sign off from someone senior. Like mad senior. Like crazy mad senior sign-off for this shit to fly like a motherfucker and shit.”

And, yeah, you may not have an internal monologue like an English white kid trying to act like an American black kid trying to act like a dick, but you get my drift. When I decided I wanted to write a blog about the highly important subject of Quorn Savoury Mini Eggs, I knew I couldn’t just go ahead, willy-nilly.

I needed to consult Average Food Blog founding father, chief rabbi and vegetarian king pin, Joshua Seigal. I went to his north west London abode to do just that.

I knocked on Joshua’s door. He greeted me civilly…

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Truth v Lies: dialogue

“You aren’t going to tell the truth, are you?”
“N-no.”
“You were! You were, weren’t you? You were going to tell the truth!”
“I wasn’t.”
“The truth. Of all things.”
“I was just going to say…”
“I don’t want to hear it. If you can’t think of a decent lie, don’t say anything at all.”
“I…”
“Even a cheap one. A cleesh. A fucking, aliens abducted my fat arse and took me on a circuit round the earth and I saw it, I saw it all, darling, it was blue, the blue bits, they were blue, and the other bits, they were other colours, and the aliens they spoke like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, they spoke like, “you’ll never believe who I had in my spaceship the other day.” “Who did you have, Pete?” “I’m glad you asked me that, Dud. I was in my spaceship.” “Right.” “I was in my spaceship, and who came and knocked on my door but Tony Bloody Blair.” “All bloody, was he, Pete?” “No, Dud, it’s just a turn of…” and they go on chatting and chatting like that, funny it was, at first at least, but bloody hell after you’ve had those two Pete and Dud aliens bantering for fourteen hours straight, you just want to get off the spaceship, that’s all you want to do is get off the spaceship and come back, in the morning, in the morning after you have spent the night abducted by aliens, all you want to do is come back, back to your wife.”
“That is – exactly – how it was.”
“That’s right. That’s how it wasn’t. And things that aren’t like that, aren’t going to happen again, are they?”
“They won’t.”
“Liar.”