Burn the heretic Parkinson

Michael Parkinson caused a flap last week when he had the temerity to slag off Jade Goody. Parkinson said: ‘Jade Goody has her own place in the history of television and, while it’s significant, it’s nothing to be proud of. Her death is as sad as the death of any young person, but it’s not the passing of a martyr or a saint or, God help us, Princess Di. When we clear the media smoke screen from around her death, what we’re left with is a woman who came to represent all that’s paltry and wretched about Britain today. She was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime, was barely educated, ignorant and puerile. Then she was projected to celebrity by Big Brother and became a media chattel to be exploited till the day she died.’

The Mirror
called Parky’s comments, which appeared in the Radio Times, ‘an astonishing swipe’. The Sun described his views as ‘an astonishing tirade.’ I think the papers were agreed: it was astonishing. But what is really astonishing is the tabloids’ hypocrisy and the fact that their memories are so astonishingly selective. It’s easy and convenient to forget that Goody was previously vilified in the press. That her image was superimposed on a pig’s body on the front pages of the tabloids. That she was mocked for being thick. That she was slated for her racism. Shilpa Poppadom, anyone? Her ignorance is now seen as endearing. Her racism now finds its apologists. She didn’t know any better. It was simply her way of trying to express herself. Oh, I see. That’s all right then.

Bishop Jonathan Blake called Goody, who became famous for being in Big Brother and shouting a lot, ‘The People’s Saint’. Hmmm. Right on, Bish. He says: ‘Jade stands out as an iconic figure in our cynical age of how, irrespective of the circumstances, one can avoid replicating the worst and instead aspire to and achieve the best… She lit a torch, visible across the world, of hope, resilience and faith.’ Yep, that’s right, there are kids in slums across the globe right now forgetting about being riddled with disease, talking about her over a cup of dirty water and pondering their chances of making it into the next Big Brother household. That’s right, Paolo, we can get rich and all we have to do is sleep and argue!

Simply by being famous and contracting an illness seems to be enough these days to qualify for the Madame Curie award and a mere shout and shimmy from canonization.
Illness, disease and dying happens to famous people. Never?! Would you credit it? Bloody hell. And that is the message. Full stop. Job done. Pass across the Nobel Prize. Goody highlighted the cause of cervical cancer in the same way that James Dean highlighted the danger of driving fast in a Porsche Spyder and Michael Hutchence spotlighted the issues associated with cracking one off while suspended off the floor by your neck, in that she died from it. Let’s not get carried away, Jade Goody was not Jane Tomlinson or Nicole Dryburgh. Illness did not elevate her life into a message, beyond the fact that dying happens to us all, even the young and apparently healthy. Goody didn’t raise money for cancer. Goody simply did what she’d been doing for the past seven years: her life was filmed for cash for herself and her family. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not exactly praiseworthy in itself. Now, why anyone should have found her life interesting enough to buy newspapers and watch TV, beyond the comedy value of seeing someone on screen who thought East Anglia was a foreign country (bearing in mind she was from Essex) is beyond me. But there you go. We are approaching a new Dark Age. An age that champions illiteracy and ignorance. Of quick gratification and shallow, gushing sentiment that means nothing. Because it sells. This is an age where journalism is reduced to reporting the latest pair of flip flops worn by some talent-less non-entity who became a national hero after they once broke wind on our screens. In five years time the headlines will be in text speak. JRDNZ NU TTS XPLD! :-0 I feel genuinely sorry for Goody, like I would for any human being. However, that doesn’t alter the reasons for her fame, which were pretty trashy and meaningless. And there was no specific altruism in Goody’s allowing the cameras to film her final days. Any message about cancer that may have been picked up by anyone watching was secondary to the business of making money in the way she’d been doing since she first shouted her way to public attention. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve no objections to her making money out of the bored and the gullible. Right from the start she saw an opportunity and took it. Fair play. You can’t blame her for that. Blame the media, blame the public. But let’s not turn it her story into something selfless and noble. She was filmed, she got paid. And the reason she got filmed was not because she was articulate and had anything to say. It was the reverse. It was precisely because she was thick and bludgeoned her way through life. And then she became ill and they kept on filming her, and she got paid again. The public response was: Shit, she’s only 27 and she’s got cancer! I’d better get checked out! A good thing, but hardly groundbreaking. Goody made a living by exposing all aspects of her life for the entertainment of the shoddy masses and she saw that through to the end. She wasn’t a saint. And if she was ‘an iconic figure in our cynical age’ then it was a bitterly satirical one. An sad indictment on modern so-called celebrity.

There is a sub-text to all this. It lies in a statement we’re all supposed to assume as a 100%, solid gold, certified fact. It’s an assumption made even by Parky. The assumption was summed up by The Telegraph, who said of Parkinson: ‘If the venerable knight had restricted himself to saying the hype over Jade had got out of hand, that she doesn’t merit comparison with Princess Di, he’d have been well within his rights.’ Well within his rights? You think? The assumption is that Jade wasn’t Princess Di, God help us. And who exactly is Princess Di that she should be held in such esteem? As a saint. As a paragon of unsullied goodness. As a martyr. As a beacon for our times. She did so much
for the cause of landmines.
Good on her. But then again she wasn’t doing much else, was she? Between ribbon cutting and collecting an income from the taxpayer. She might as well get busy. It was either that or lounging about at Kensington Palace watching Pebble Mill at One with Judi Spiers. Would she still have been as interested in the plight of Aids orphans if Loose Women had been on? Would we have prized her away from the sofa and Diagnosis Murder? She actually cradled one of those babies, you know? And her a princess! Yeah, and then she flew home to her pampered lifestyle and arse-kissing staff. And when it came to the landmines did she actually get down on her belly and get stuck in with the prodder? Kelly’s Heroes style. Inching her way forward, oblivious to the flies and the dirt until she nudges a Valmara 69. ‘Paul! I think I’ve got one!’ Mark the spot and keep moving, Hustler. No. Like Bono and poverty, she highlighted the cause. This morning I went into the kitchen and highlighted myself a Toffee Crisp. She was a model to single Mums everywhere. You think? Really? The £20,000,000 divorce settlement must have help put food on the table. No double shifts stacking shelves at Netto for Di. No worries about bills and getting the new school uniform. She was the best mother in the world. You genuinely believe that? At the time of her death she hadn’t seen her kids for weeks. She was the most beautiful woman in the world. A subjective choice, obviously. But I’d have to disagree. Was she in reality more beautiful than a thousand other women splashed across the papers and the TV screens? Would she have been held to have been the most beautiful woman in the world had she not been HRH?

Diana, like Goody, was elevated to celebrity status not through any talent or ability, not through any achievements, but was propelled by the insatiable boredom of the people and the shameless venality of the media. And her own need for attention. Like so many, she was a product of the public’s voracious appetite for trivia and dysfunction and the media’s need to shift units and make money. Celebrities are part of a huge soap opera. Celebrated for nothing more than their excesses of emotion, crassness, materialism and stupidity. Splashed across the newspapers, glossy magazines, the internet, the news channels. It’s a cast that includes Victoria Beckham, Paris Hilton, Jodie Marsh, Jordan and Peter, Kerry Katona. It’s a soap that’s just played out the death of Jade Goody. Diana achieved her fame by doing nothing more than marrying into a particular branch of that soap opera. The Royal Family. She became a character in that soap. Slighted. Betrayed. Cheated on. Her adulterous husband demanding a divorce. Take away the gin bottle, throw in a bit of Bulimia, and she was the Angie Watts of Buckingham Palace. ‘Ello, darrrrrrrrrrrrrrrling, can I tell you about landmines? The Queen Mum was Ethel with her Little Willy. Prince Philip has little more to tell us than Jack Duckworth. Simply because Diana was better educated and spoke more articulately than Goody doesn’t mean that she was any better. That she had anything more to say. That her fame was any more deserved.

Jade Goody’s autobiography has been published by Harper Collins a month after her death. It retails in hardback for £15.99. Her last autobiography sold approximately 100,000 copies. On the back of all the publicity this one should do better. The publisher’s will make a donation of £25,000 to Marie Curie Cancer Care. The selflessness of the machine just keeps on giving.

This weeks favourite quotation…

Rock n roll over

For, just as young white 60s kids were quite happy to hear rampant declarations of impending fucking just so long as those songs were sung by pretty young white boys, and not by the scarily horny mid-40s Negro originators, so were mid-70s white kids still quite happy to receive a carbon copy of their older siblings’ Heavy Music just so long as it was delivered to them not by Sweaty Arsed Leslie West and Leicester’s Graham Barnes, oops, sorry, Alvin Lee, but by the Rock equivalents of Batman and Spiderman.

– Julian Cope on Kiss

The whole article is worth reading. The bit about ‘Goin’ Blind’/Pete Townsend is priceless.

Flowers for Algernon

Throughout our lives what we hold to be true alters. Our perspective on that truth is relative to where we find ourselves at any particular point of our lives. Through circumstance and experience our belief evolves. Some beliefs expand, others are eroded. Some disappear altogether or are retained only as outline principles. Our system of ethics is something we receive from our parents, or those acting in that role. We are nurtured to understand a series of rights and wrongs. For better or worse, depending on what beliefs we are gifted with. If any at all. Morality begins at home. Wherever that may be.

 

Our ability to draw a sense of rightness from our earliest experiences is governed by our own innate needs. Our inherited personalities. Our genetics. Our ability to balance our personalities as we cope with our impulses and what we desire. Our egos. Even those fortunate enough to find that they draw strength from the gift of nurture will discover the path beyond that earliest experience is not simple. Life will knock off the edges. The way we present our beliefs to society is filtered through the pressures applied on us by our peers. We are pack animals. We fear our un-initiation. Our individuality is made to feel awkward in the face of the blank and apparent uniform of The Crowd. We feel to be the odd man out. And so, largely, we conform to a standard mode of behaviour based on the group we find ourselves in at any given time. For better or worse. When I’m in the crowd I can’t see anything, my mind goes a blank in the humid sunshine. When I’m in the crowd I can’t see anything. If that group finds swearing unacceptable, our instinctive sense of what is tolerable will kick in and whilst within that group we will not swear. If we find ourselves in another group, however, where swearing is a badge of membership we will often find ourselves effing and blinding fluently. And so on. Monkey see, monkey do.

 

Last month the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland was raised from eight to twelve. The move in Scotland brought the country in line with much of Europe. After pondering the matter philosophically, far removed from the nuts and bolts of any actual offences, the government ruled in favour a specious measurement of reason over the blunt reality of actual capacity. Defending rights against challenging responsibilities. The deed itself need not be capable of understanding. The ramifications of that deed in terms of comprehending the way it was processed by society – through the courts etc – was deemed vital. Temporary assistant chief constable Gordon MacKenzie, of Central Scotland Police and chair of the ACPO’s Youth Issues Group, said: ‘We agree that this [the new age of criminal responsibility] strikes the right balance between the age a young person understands that their behaviour is harmful and their ability to understand court proceedings.’

 

Modern government was nurtured in the cradle of post-War shock. Modern government lives in the twin shadows of Fascism and Communism. As a consequence modern government is predominantly liberal. Modern government seeks to devolve the individual of responsibility for their actions. It seeks to create a complex series of authorities and public services which act as an extended consciousness. A framework of public conscience. A benevolent Big Brother that baby-sits us all. It is a quiet crack at Utopia. Measured in statistics and target figures. Modern government provides the individual with a series of rights which are immutable. Any problems that the individual encounters or creates are immediately ascribed to flaws with the extended consciousness. The NHS. The Social Services. The Police. The Council. A failure to support. A failure to provide. A failure to understand. The goal is commendable. But it does not take into account the venality of human beings. It is a parent that refuses to see any wrong in its children. We are living in a society that makes no moral provision for the individual.

 

On Tuesday in Doncaster, South Yorkshire two brothers aged 10 and 11 were charged with attempted murder. The charges relate to an incident where two other boys, aged 9 and 11, were subjected to prolonged and vicious torture on wasteland. Gordon Brown’s spokesperson rushed to reassure: ‘In his view the overwhelming majority of children are well-behaved. Therefore I think he would be cautious about making a general sweeping statement on what [is] the basis of a disturbing but nonetheless single event.’ The Times was quick to state: ‘[The] two young brothers were in the care of social services and may already have been reported to the police when they allegedly attacked and tortured two children with knives, bricks and burning cigarettes, leaving one for dead.’

 

I watched The Jeremy Kyle Show this morning. Some find the programme amusing. I find it disturbing. It saddens me. It is evidence of the social experiment which successive governments have been carrying out for the past thirty years. Britain has been a laboratory for social change. The relaxation of the benefits system in the wake of industrial implosion. Personal responsibility devolved to local authority. The demonization of collective morality. Kyle’s programme supplies data from that experiment. Method, results, conclusion. Kyle’s guests are lab mice. We observe sniffily. We examine them with a smug sense of superiority. Watching them showboat. Going through their act for us. Bumping against the walls of the maze. Performing their behavioural tricks and turns. Exposing their system of beliefs and morals. Asserting their rights. Fundamentally oblivious to their responsibilities. And the conclusion is?

Jingle jangle morning

Beatles/Roses

This year is going to be a good year for buying the albums that you already own. The Beatles back catalogue of 12 albums plus The Magical Mystery Tour double EP and Past Masters 1 & 2 are being issued in new re-mastered versions. Richer, wider, louder. Cleaned up and twiddled. They’ll be full stereo versions of the first four albums. Each disc will be embedded with a documentary charting the relevant album’s making. They will be out in September. Still no sign of ‘Carnival of Light’ though.

 

In the summer the Stone Roses first album is to be re-released in a much-needed re-mastered version. The original CD version is a pale imitation of the actual sound. Mastered from copies of copies. Original producer Steve Lillywhite has been doing some knob twiddling with the original tapes. Notched up so it can actually be heard. Cleaning it back to the source sound. We’ll be offered the standard UK issue of eleven tracks plus B-sides, demos and the unreleased ‘Pearl Bastard’.

 

Get out the 12 string Rickenbacker. It’s time to get Pollocked again.

Shopping at Tesco’s

Shopping at Tesco's

I was walking through the frozen food aisle at Tesco’s on Wombwell Lane just up from the Stairfoot Roundabout in Barnsley on Wednesday morning, looking for Weight Watchers’ oven chips when I saw the poet Coleridge pricing up Viennettas. He looked well, considering. Like in the Northcote portrait just before he set off for Malta.

 

I paused, a bag of frozen peas in one hand, my nervousness held awkwardly in the other. The dilemma was to approach or not? And there you have it, the tempting mystique of celebrity; that’s one of its charms – along with the money – the aura of otherworldliness that surrounds it; like a force field. And there’s also the danger that if you get too close you’ll break the spell. Someone won’t be what you think they are. I once saw Wackaday’s Timmy Mallet going through the rubbish bins at KFC in Bolton like an urban fox and was so shocked and overawed that I couldn’t feel my fingertips for three weeks afterwards. There were some chicken skins stuck to his trademark comedy glasses.

 

That’s the effect fame can have on you, almost like a minor road traffic collision, or a small win on the National Lottery, depending on how it goes.

 

My shameful encounter with Jimmy Saville was like running into a brick wall.

 

But here I was on a normal, bog-standard everyday Wednesday morning, in a place I’d been a hundred times, watching one of the greatest minds there’s ever been. Here was the man who wrote ‘Christabel’ and Biographia Literaria, who re-popularized Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ten feet away from me. Stacking ice cream into his trolley. Six numbers, no need for the bonus ball. Jackpot.

 

I felt shivery and had a metallic taste in my mouth.

 

I visited Nether Stowey in the summer of 1999. Caught the good weather and got chased by wild ponies on the Quantocks. Even now, if you’ve read the right things, the whole place reeks of the summer of 1797. Wordsworth walking over the green fields from Alfoxden with Dorothy. Charles Lamb coming down to visit on one of his escapes from the East India Company. But the pull for me was always Coleridge. Flaming Cross once told me about the Angry Brigade – the 60s anarchist group – who had planned to blow up Dove Cottage and spray graffiti all over Grasmere announcing ‘Coleridge Lives!’ I sort of digged their bag, man.

 

Curious about what he might be buying I peeped into the trolley.

 

A party pack of Seabrook’s crisps sat comfortably on top of some Guinness Original and a big bar of Galaxy. There were some flour covered muffins, a frozen prawn curry. A four pint plastic bottle of milk. Some Whiskers cat food.

 

As if conscious of my look Coleridge half turned and gave me a quizzical glance. ‘Three for one,’ he said, nodding into the freezer, a trace of a West Country accent. Like honey and butter on a slice of crusty bread. ‘The Sara Lee gateauxs are marked down as well.’

 

I smiled, thankful for the opening. ‘Have they got any mint ones?’ I asked.

 

Coleridge nodded, dipping back into the open freezer. He held out a mint and chocolate Viennetta.

 

I juggled the frozen peas and the Viennetta into my basket.

 

‘Going for the offer?’ he asked.

 

I nodded.

 

‘You’d be mad not to,’ Coleridge confirmed, handing across two more frosty boxes.

 

I dropped the ice cream into my trolley and hesitated. ‘So,’ I said at last, determined not to let the opening close, ‘‘Kubla Khan’?’

 

Coleridge straightened himself up, brushing the chill from his fingertips. ‘Yes?’

 

I leapt through the window: ‘What’s it all about?’

 

Coleridge twisted his full lips. For a moment he looked weary, like a comic being asked to say his catch phrase for the hundredth time that week, and then the smile returned to his heavy lips. ‘It’s difficult to say,’ he admitted. ‘What do you think it’s about?’

 

‘Creativity and the nature of genius.’

 

Coleridge smiled.

 

Encouraged, I said: ‘And what about the writing of it?’

 

‘The Person from Porlock, you mean?’ he said. Coleridge thought for a moment and then grinned. ‘Now, that’d be telling, wouldn’t it?’

 

Getting him to sign the cardboard carton on my friendly bacteria, I left it at that and resumed my shopping. I didn’t want to be one of those boring buggers that badgered the stars. Take them as real people. Most of them wanted it that way. Except perhaps Kenneth Williams, but that’s another story.

 

It’s amazing the different feel you get in different supermarkets. Tesco’s has a sense of comforting affluence somehow. I think the bright lights have a lot to do with it. They’re selling optimism by the pound. Netto on the other hand, is like an end of line sale in a 1970s Moscow food hall. The depression wraps around you and sets in like flu. Pessimism aching your bones.

 

I did the rest of my shopping, spent a lot of time walking slowly and eaves-dropping behind a fat woman with swollen ankles who was talking to Samuel Johnson about last night’s edition of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ Then made my way to the checkout.

 

I was stood in line, waiting by the till, when I felt someone bustle against me and Julius Caesar shouldered his way past. Bleeding foreigners. They simply don’t know anything about queuing.

 

‘Oi, toga boy,’ I shouted, conscious that this was the man who’d defeated Scipio at Thapsus with inferior odds, but I felt like I’d gone too far and had to see it through one way or another. ‘Does tha wanna get to t’ back o’ t’ line, or what?’

 

He hesitated, pulling out his points card from the folds of his toga, flaring his nostrils and giving me a haughty glance.

 

I could tell straight off that he was going to brazen it out.

 

Brian Glover, who I’d seen earlier browsing through the box-set DVDs, was stood by the Aeros, just about to join the line for the checkout, said: ‘Same old faces, eh? Same old faces.’ Still holding his basket, he folded his arms.

 

As if suddenly self-conscious, Caesar had dropped the next customer board.

 

‘It’s at your feet, lad,’ Brian remarked.

 

Caesar scrabbled it up.

 

‘And how much have you got in that bleeding basket?!’ I asked, pointing at the bulging mass of stuff the Roman was pouring onto the rubber belt.

 

I pointed up to a sign above the till.

 

‘Ten items or less, mate,’ Brian said critically, echoing my own thoughts.

 

Looking significantly into his basket you could see he was embarrassed to be caught out with too many items.

 

He mumbled a hurried apology in Latin to the bored girl on the till. His forehead creasing through embarrassment.

 

‘I should bloody think so,’ Brian said, disgusted, behind me. ‘And I bet he wants to pay wi’ Switch.’

 

Caesar turned, obviously thinking it was me that’d spoken. Pulling out his bank card, he smiled and bowed graciously, but I knew he’d have me if he could. You could tell. Joaquin Phoenix looked like that at Russell Crowe in Gladiator just before they had their Coliseum settler, so I’d seen it all before. Roman spite. It kept me on my toes.

 

Coleridge walked up to the next conveyor belt, pushing his trolley, nodding to me and smiling. He glanced across where Julius Caesar was bagging up his purchases.

 

‘At it again, is he?’ the Sage of Highgate queried, motioning his head towards Caesar. ‘He was the same last week when there was that end of line sale on tinned pears. He had two baskets full. He nearly knocked Matt Busby off his feet.’

 

Caesar glanced sideways, scowling, then smiled at the checkout girl again.

 

Coleridge, grinning, winked at me. ‘Ita populi Romani exercitum hiemare atque inveterascere in Tesco moleste ferebant,’ he paraphrased.

 

Me and Brian were nodding, exchanging a glance of agreement.

 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Gravy Train

Gillray

I can understand the basic historic principle of the need to pay MPs and the need to cover their essential expenses. Until the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries the House of Commons had little to differentiate it from the House of Lords. Especially in the make up of its members. Democracy came at a cost. Only the rich could afford to sit in the House of Commons and not get paid. Consequently only the rich had the vote that counted.

 

The role of MP first became a paid employment in 1911. The first MPs were paid £400 per year. It was a good racket, even then. The average wage would not cross this £400 threshold until well into the 1970s. In 2008 the salary for a Member of Parliament was £61,820.

 

In the present day, amongst other allowances MPs are entitled to claim, are the cost of staying away from main home (up to £23,083), office running costs, they have a staffing Allowance (to a maximum of £90,505), they can claim stationary expenses, (£7,000), there is a communications allowance (£10K). The Green Book, which lists MPs entitlements, (defensively) states: ‘Members of Parliament are provided with financial support in the form of allowances to enable them to work effectively in Parliament and in their constituencies.’

 

The average salary in the UK in 2008 was £32,785.85.

 

Jacqui Smith was elected to parliament in 1997, following her selection via the now-illegal all-women shortlist process. She became Home Secretary in 2007. Three years ago Smith bought herself a £300,000 house in her Redditch constituency. The average price of a house in Redditch in October 2005 was £160,000. He web biography states: ‘Jacqui lives in Redditch with husband, Richard and sons James (13) and Michael (8).’ Smith has stated to Parliament that her main residence is in fact her sister’s house in London. The Redditch house, where her constituency is and where her family lives, is, she says, her second home. This has allowed Smith to claim £116,000 since 2002 on the Redditch property under the second home rule. Ker-ching.

 

As Home Secretary, combined with her MP’s salary, Jacqui Smith earns £141,866.

 

There is an argument that politicians should be paid highly in order to attract the best candidates. Well. It’s one way of looking at it. Considered under those terms, the mind boggles what paying less would get us.

 

Amongst Jacqui Smith’s expenses claims submitted in April 2008 was the cost of downloading Raw Meat 3 and By Special Request. Adult-rated scuzz on Channel X. Smith blamed her husband. Sat at home having his own cabinet re-shuffle. But the wank fodder aside, I ask myself whether the Tax Payer really needed to stump up the cost of the Smith family downloading Surf’s Up! Which the Home Secretary also claimed for. According to Amazon, Surf’s Up! is ‘a computer-animated sports mockumentary about penguin surfing contests.’ OK. I see. Perhaps Jacqui was putting in some research for the 2012 London Olympics and felt the claim was reasonable. Fair enough, I say. Don’t you?

 

Smith’s husband is also her constituency office manager. He is paid from her expenses fund. He gets £40,000 per year.

 

Let’s face it, the average UK Taxpayer has the piss ripped out of them. Paying into a National Insurance scheme that will never make good on any return because its funds are already being squandered. And still having to fork out for prescription fees (in England, that is). Taxed on money earned, money spent, money saved, money inherited. We fertilize the swathes of Benefit Fields with our taxes. We create fortunes for local councils so that they can chuck it away left, right and centre and still only manage to empty the bins once a fortnight. We pay for the Home Secretary’s husband to watch skank. We pay for the Home Secretary’s family to watch Ocean’s 13. Why? Don’t we care about what happens to our taxes? Do we just accept it? Is public expenditure a rolling juggernaut that we can’t stop? Too big and too complex to understand. Is it too vast and unaccountable to take note of the massive number of small claims that gobble up the cash? Are there too many snouts in the trough? MP’s expenses should be means tested. They’re not a right. They’re not a perk. They’re not a bit of cream to fatten up a wage twice the national average. I put a little cherry on top. We’re a long way from 1911. Democracy won’t be snuffed out if your MP has to pay for their own pornography. Does Jacqui Smith really need more help than her average constituent to make ends meet? When was the last time you handed your employer a receipt to claim back the cost of a visit to Cineworld and a big bag of Minstrels? Gordon Brown earns £194, 250 a year. Does he really need to claim back the cost of his TV license? Which he does. Is that £142.50 going to break him? Is that £142.50 going to compromise his ability to raise his sturdy Caledonian voice for democracy? Iz it back darn t’ pit for our Gordon if he dun’t get that free TV license? Or does he get paid enough to get his hand in his pocket and pay for himself?

 

Barracks Osama

Barack Obama leads the western world. Only elected to the senate in 2004, his rise to fame and political prestige has been stratospheric. Nowhere is this more evinced than in Microsoft Office 2007. Unlike Osama bin Laden. Unlike Che Guevara. Unlike Fidel Castro. Unlike Britney Spears. Unlike Justin Timberlake. Unlike George Formby. Unlike Gracie Fields. Unlike Mussolini. Unlike Saddam Hussein. Unlike Darth Vader. Obama fails the spellchecker.