We’ve reached that time of the year when major supermarket chains pay millions for soft focus commercials squandering profits they could have donated to the homeless and food banks; a time, when we spend millions more on the Victorian tradition of sending cheap and cheerful cards to people we haven’t spoken to all year, and television serves us a massive soggy pudding of endless crap. This is the festive time when we celebrate the birth of a Jew who preached peace and kindness while we continue to assist in the destruction of the land he lived in. He died for our sins. We make worthwhile his martyrdom by continuing to commit them.
Brain dead couch potatoes
Clive James would have a sack of fun with our festive television, the Christian event that switches off our brain. Maybe switching off will help choose a new prime minister foisted on us when we should be gobbling mince pies, not making a phony choice between two charlatans and a ditherer. The latter manages to march his troops in all directions simultaneously. Captain Corbyn cannot shake off his Bird’s Eye mascot image, a man who talks intensely of democracy but morphs, Jeykll and Hyde fashion, into a typical English colonial as soon as his brain and train crosses into Scotland.
The female of the species, Jo Swinson, looks every inch as if she is in a perpetual audition for the role of Supergirl. The nation she represents, England, voted to leave the European Union, but she wants to reverse that result, a simple goal from a simple soft soap seller. And the fattest of them all, stand up comedian Boris Johnson, parades around hospitals, scunnering patient and medical staff alike, his shtick, a topless weather forecaster making sure we don’t listen to his waffle but instead are mesmerised by his naked vanity and narcissism.
With Brexit set to dominate English life for a decade or more, a nation never free of its folly, dumping European co-operation a disaster for Scotland, Wales and Ireland, television news shows us one half of England searching for its marbles, the other half wondering if it should use Eton College for yuletide firewood.
An Etonian mess
I always though an Eton Mess was a fruit pudding with bashed meringue, but that has been superseded by Etonian louts hijacking the United Kingdom’s democracy.
We have Boris to keep us entertained playing Oliver Hardy to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Stan Laurel. Between pulling his penis out to please the ladies and pulling his shirt tail out to tease the men, he’s a never-ending series of Hal Roach one-reel comedy japes.
He speaks in grammatical sentences to sound knowledgeable but the breeze between the bluster tells us he knows nothing about anything, not even how many children he’s sired. Smirking his way through interviews and avoiding a direct, honest answer to every television journalist’s question, he fools uncritical voters into thinking he is the reincarnation of Winston Churchill minus the Havana cigar. How easily are some fooled.
Scotland the loser
Meanwhile, Scotland is treated as an interment camp by the British media, corralled into a province to be re-educated in the superior ways of English politics and mores.
Caught up in the mire of sleaziness, scumbag, corrupt politicians and neo-liberal plans to remove all democracy from society, Scotland has only itself to blame for losing its independence a second time in its history, most recently by the ignominious result of not getting a penny in return for its sacrifice unlike the occasion in 1707.
“If Scotland wishes to be independent”, opined the batty Margaret Thatcher, “It only need return a full quota of Scottish MPs to Westminster”. Ever since she made that reckless statement on the confident assumption the situation would never arise – it did and was ignored – unionist MPs have been frantically shifting Westminster further and further away from listening, keeping Scots occupied on a wild goose chase.
While Tory and Labour scratch their heads seeking ways to reduce Scotland’s democracy, the barmy among them think up devious ways to stymie self-determination. There comes a point where their machinations become preposterous: anti-democratic politicians call for two thirds of the electorate to say ‘aye’ whether dead or alive or in a hospital bed; reduce the Barnett formula; hold back much needed immigration to starve our institutions of students and staff; and right-wing company bosses can cast one vote on behalf of all their staff and workers, that sort of lunatic thing.
Nicola is our man
Our own much admired Nicola Sturgeon appears bound to Thatcher’s decree. There is the political ingenue rebuffed at every turn thinking she only need ask a little harder next time for a second referendum and it will be granted. She’s a one woman band, assuming Scotland has no gumption, no ability to fight back; she has to do it on her own. To attain that state of being, Nicola adopts empty slogans matching those of her ardent opponents, such as the ‘Gold Standard’ for good manners, as if a premium bank account offering a half percent more interest than a conventional account.
Tossing out a good but unwary candidate for election who tweeted an old cartoon about a rich atheist, she proclaims the SNP politically virtuous, cleaner than a dog whistle. Nevertheless, Nicola continues to make plain a lack of physical height when standing among tall MPs does not mean she won’t be heard.
“This woman is lying” shouted a Brexit Robert Kilroy-Silk lookalike only to receive the riposte, “Aye, but you’ve got form!” “I wish she was pitching for prime minister”, cried some English voters, lost for a hero to admire.
In an effort to show the British population and the world it is the most impartial broadcaster on the planet, the BBC refused to interview Boris on the Andrew Marr Show unless Boris, like the leader’s of the other parties, agreed to a one-on-one interrogation with Andrew Neil, a journalist whose Tory credentials are more opportunistic and successful than Boris’. Who would not prefer to be scolded by your dad than by some stranger you don’t like?
In the event, the BBC did what it always does, trip over its own principles and reversed their decision, on the basis a freed-too-soon murderous mental patient had run amok with a knife on London Bridge and Boris was now required to tell us what he is going to do about a madman the police shot and killed.
In the same surreal vein, tousled hair Boris refused to appear on Channel Four’s television debate concentrating on climate disasters caused by mankind. His place was substituted by a melting block of ice, an imaginative wheeze that did him no good.
He declined to discuss how he will help stop seas rising, incessant rain wipe out Somerset, and wilderness lands burn to a crisp. Boris is a man not much moved by koala bears on fire. He was too busy emitting hot air in other places, almost certainly advised not to upset his corporate paymasters by putting his name to what they call climate scaremongering, in reality, laws they hate interfering with their profit margins.
Clive James, sometimes known as Anderson
To cap it all, we had the death of Clive James, writer, poet, broadcaster and acerbic television critic who taught us that what we see on the ‘crystal box’ in the corner can be just as educational, doctrinaire and inaccurate as any other form of communication.
Until his appearance in the Observer’s Sunday arts pages, television criticism was considered lower than film criticism, not even on par with a column of football results. He put paid to that by writing with cleverness and wit. In a single sentence he could switch from ridiculing a sports commentator’s gibberish to quoting Baudelaire.
Praise for his accomplishments and love of life came from friend and foe alike, a few mourning in error the death of Scot, Clive Anderson. Contrary to the press’s lack of accuracy, leukaemia didn’t kill James. It was metastatic cell carcinoma – the fierce Australian sunshine he enjoyed boy and man turned out to be his worst enemy.
By his frailties James also taught us he was as human as the rest of us, cheating on wife, and praising Tony Blair’s illegal and cruel incursion into Iraq. That aside, this essay is in honour of his contribution to my happy days glued to his weekly column and his autobiographical books. For a man with a face as craggy as Uluru, formerly known as Ayres Rock, he could write a critique like Mozart composed an overture. It is ironic his passing coincides with the rise of political absurdity and mediocrity.
“I’m certainly against death”, he averred, close to his own, and who am I to disagree?