Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Brexit: The Squeezed Upper Classes

Image result for downton abbey servants

At Christmas one is positively inundated with post from "charities" attempting, often through flattery, to encourage one to part with one's savings in order to help preserve "tiger cubs" or "orangutans" from "deforestation" or men with guns. Putting aside the necessity of hard wood furniture for one moment, one has long held that the decline of "Big Game" hunting was a wholly adverse thing. In the past Uncle Bertie and his chums would shuffle off to Africa in the winter months and return in the spring, bearing agreeable animal skins - all wholly organic - that their relatives could dot about their homes and which were very effective at keeping out the draft from under library doors. Nowadays, one is obliged to employ a "carpet man" to come to one's house, make a lot of unnecessary measurements and "fit" something ghastly that leaves one's hall looking like a "sitting room" in a semi-detached bungalow in Basildon.

The long term consequence of this, inevitably perhaps, is that one is increasingly hard pushed to find a decent "animal skin beater" and one's treasured leopard and lion skins are left to fester. Worse still, the once thriving industry of "rug beating" like street-portering and chimney-sweeping is now in long, possibly terminal decline and young people are more minded to study "nail technology" "nursing" or "computer science" than a useful trade that will provide them with a lifetime of work.

The declining calibre of "service" in general has long been a source of concern to ordinary families across Britain and in recent years many have been obliged to hire sub-standard butlers, valets and even scullery maids from "Eastern Europe." Despite their best efforts, these inadequate "migrants" have often struggled to provide the discretion, genuflection or comprehensible English that one might take for granted in a good British servant. Nannying in particular has suffered a shocking degeneration, as cheaper "au-pairs" often lacking the basic skills of nurse-maidery, pram-husbandry and cheek-pinching have flooded the market - leading to an inexorable deterioration in standards. 

One has heard heart-rending stories of mothers having to bring up their own children, infants uttering unspeakable things in Latvian and young boys in green velvet meeting terrible ends as they peddle their tricycles - down the wrong side of the road. All of this is quite clearly the fault of open borders, mass unskilled migration and the tiresome and meddlesome EU that has sought to ban "big game hunting" and destroy the British nanny.

Here, as everywhere else, Brexit offers us an enormous opportunity. Turning off the tap of "Bulgarian servants" will create vacancies that can be filled once again by good British equerries, pages and footmen. Furthermore, the inevitable post Article 50 removal of the much hated, EU imposed "minimum wage" will drive down salaries and re-energise a healthy retainer sector once more, breathing new life into a long neglected and much treasured industry. 

The squeezed upper classes will be squeezed no more and the working men and women of Britain will once again be able to take up the mop, the poker and the silver cloth and go on with life as it was before. A win win for all.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

5 Years A Mogg: Jake's adventures in Twitterland

I do like a hidden track. There's a particularly good one on Ash's debut album 1977 which consists largely of drunk and incoherent people vomiting and swearing. I listened to it the other day by chance and it seemed oddly prescient in capturing the post Brexit mood twenty years before it happened. 

So here's mine.

My last tweets as @jakereesmogg were sent around the time of the result on the 24th of June and I had lined this post up to release afterwards, but the pandemonium that followed the resignation of David Cameron (and then everyone else) understandably drowned it out. As a writer I have had a knack of fucking up my big moments and this departure was entirely in keeping with my "serious" work. Whether hiring reformed alcoholics to perform in my plays who decide mid-run to 'have a relapse' or accidentally insulting actors about to read my film script to a room full of executives, or fainting stoned minutes before I was to be introduced to Harold Pinter, I've had more missed opportunities than Jason Donovan. So perhaps choosing the day of the most seismic event in modern British politics to bid adieu to my little twitter feed was a little ill advised.

Five years ago, in a bored moment, I opened an account in the name of Norma Major and started firing off tweets. Because? Well why not? I'm interested in politics and I wondered how many people would believe it. My Norma was a happy go lucky woman in her late 60s, who loved cheese and Leonard Cohen and who occasionally gave her pennyworth on politics, while writing a biography of a policeman who had stood on the door at Number 10 and written poems about all the famous people who had gone in. Unfortunately, the real Norma didn't like it and some articles started appearing in the Telegraph and elsewhere saying how upset she was; so I killed her, on her croquet lawn, in a live tweeted Dalek attack and re-emerged as "Jake Rees-Mogg." 

Yes. I know. Deeply immature. But you should have seen the responses!

I felt that having eviscerated Norma, I was hiding in plain sight but I had not fully taken into account the shifting sands of social media, the fog of confusion and the fact that people can quite easily be fooled by numbers. With alarming speed, what had started out as a joke to while away the odd minute here and there in my working week snowballed into an extended situationist prank. The Guardian, Telegraph, Standard, Times, Mail, Express and even The Daily Star took to quoting my tweets as *his* and suddenly the whole thing turned a little subversive. Once one media type started to follow me lots of other media types started to follow me. Then there were "political rivals" who 'took issue' with me, while liberal and left leaning people, who I might normally agree with, trolled me and called me a Tory c*** leading to my blocking people I might otherwise like and siding with people I didn't. 

As the 'other one' came out with big words and insane ideas it increasingly felt as if we were locked in some bizarre cat and mouse game to see who could be more eccentric. I had tweeted the word floccinaucinihilipilification some weeks before he famously said it in parliament and I began to wonder whether these astonishing coincidences, were him reading my feed or me reading his mind.

I took a decision early on not to reveal that the account was a "spoof" (such an ugly word). I took my lead from the Swiftian school of satire and as he got sillier, so did I. Then sadly, Jacob lost his sense of humour and shots were fired

I rather took offence at this - feeling, not undeservedly, that I had in many ways increased his profile and anyway, those who dug a little into my feed were swiftly rewarded with one's twitter motto The staggering thing was, that as time went by, fewer and fewer people did and as one's numbers went up a certain momentum gathered and one could seemingly come out with any amount of guff and people would agree with it. On one occasion I was staggered to see the "other one" on a certain late night news programme discussing the mansion tax, just hours after I had published a ridiculous spoof on this site arguing that big houses should be given tax relief to encourage a thrifty "servant sector." Two weeks later I learned from Private Eye that Mr Mogg had indeed been asked to appear on account of his "blog" only to respond that he didn't write "a blog."

Eventually a sort of entente was reached. An entente that led to my meeting Jacob on an edition of Radio 4's Broadcasting House . Jacob is undeniably a charming, old school gentleman and unfortunately it is much harder to satirise someone when one has met them, chatted to them, shaken their hand - and talked about Swift. We left the BBC best of pals and I had to pretend I was going the other way and then hide behind a hedge lest I were to start liking him more. 

But I persevered, partly because it was fun, partly because it opened a few doors, partly because like most writers I'm fundamentally vain, partly because this whole mad era in which we are living is ripe with satire and in the absence of an invite from Private Eye to take over from Hislop, this one man satire machine was - well - fun.

All things must pass. I have struggled a little in the last few weeks to keep my sense of humour in the face of Brexit. I also sense that twitter has come of age and that satirical accounts have rather had their day. I am a writer with ever decreasing circles of available time. I am nearing the end of a comical novel about referendums and EU articles; the great white rabbit's pocket watch is ticking and I need to reacquaint myself with my agent before she thinks I've died. 

I would  like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my stuff and say so many kind things about the account. It has given me enormous pleasure and I would also like to thank Jacob for putting up with it.

We live in strange and bewildering days and it is time perhaps to emerge from the rabbit hole and suck in the insanity up here instead. That said - my phone is *very much on.*

Yours aye


Friday, 22 April 2016

Obama Visit: A Good Time to End The Special Relationship

America has never got over her independence. Like a vexatious wife who has eloped with the game-keeper, she has spent the years since 1776 stalking the perimeters of the great estate, hoping against hope that she will be glimpsed or acknowledged; thrilling at the sight of the old house and the wizened matriarchs taking tea on the lawn, before retreating back into the arms of her sinewy lover and weeping (between damp kisses) over what she has left behind.

That is not to say that "America" has not tried to make her own way in the world of course. Indeed in her unique and often brash fashion she has done quite well. A little too tawdry on occasion and with an increasingly embarrassing attachment to lycra and "rock and roll" it must be said, but undoubtedly she has been an idiosyncratic member of the extended Anglo-Saxon family. And by and large The United Kingdom, who spawned and moulded her has been a benevolent patron.

That we have been so gracious and indulgent to "America" despite her petulance says a great deal more about the breeding of the United Kingdom than it does about the often rather coarse "United States." Inevitably there have been some contretemps along the way. One thinks of the unpleasantness of 1812 when the uppity colonials fell in with a bad crowd (The French) and took it upon themselves to be beastly in Canada. There was also the silly mid-century foot dragging over the Second World War, when they conducted themselves with all the tiresomeness of an ingénue, at a coming out ball, who can't decide with whom to dance.

Yet despite all our generosity and efforts to include her in things, whether they be wars or "international protocols", from the moment of our entry into the "Common Market" in 1973, America sought to replace us as the leader of the free world and in the process, it must be said, made a bit of a hash of it. British diplomacy in the Middle East, had long been conducted on established principles, by gentlemen in suits, quietly persuading chumps to hand over their oil. The Americans, by contrast, seemed to think from the off, that the best course of diplomacy was to gallop about the place in open necked "T shirts" hurling bombs at people and behaving like "Chuckle Norris". 

It was quite clear, from early on, that the Americans were secretly delighted at us being subsumed into the failed "European Project." Like the camel in Aesop's fable, they slowly pushed themselves into the tent - and us out - and now they are settled they have no interest in letting us back in.

Having got his hands firmly on the jar of Turkish delights, the mendacious, Janus-faced "President" Obama has no intention of handing it back. Outside of the "EEC" Britain could flourish in much the same way that Iceland, Norway or Albania have and Obama and his administration seem hell bent on nipping that opportunity in the bud. This is the real purpose of his visit today.

The so called "special relationship" has worked for far too long in America's interests and it is obviously time to say enough is enough. The United States,quite rightly, fears a resurgent British Commonwealth and of course we must reassure them that they are quite welcome to rejoin. But like the errant wife and the gamekeeper, begging for a little mercy, we must do so on "our" terms - the first of which is to leave the European Economic Community.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Why A Labour Government Would Be Like A Red Indian Attack

When one was a child one would, from time to time, take a moment away from Horace and allow oneself a short engagement with the "television" that sat in the corner of the library in the Eastern Wing. You probably did much the same. Quite frequently, on a wet Saturday afternoon, one would watch "cowboy" films featuring brave pioneers fighting off semi-naked "Indians" as they galloped about encircled wagon trains firing arrows and generally being beastly to anyone in clothes. Frankly, one never really took to the "Indians". Ghastly little people, seemingly determined to stop the progress so generously being thrown their way; the sort of chumps who never learned to speak English properly and whose idea of  'being industrious' was to sit about in deserts drawing graffiti on their tents. It is telling to note that before the arrival of the Europeans, the "Native" population in the United States had not erected a single Church, raised any skyscrapers or even built a decent parliament building. They were not called "RED" Indians for nothing of course.

One could draw a direct parallel with Labour. Indeed it would be perfectly fair to say that from the Fall of Major to the Relief of Gordon Brown, the Blair Years felt in many ways like an Indian attack on a homestead. A period characterised from the outset by lot of pointless whooping and wailing, interspersed with long haired men, sitting in circles smoking dubious tobaccos in oddly shaped pipes and asking each other:


"How" indeed. Very "New Labour" I think you will agree. It has long been one's opinion that the difference between a Conservative and a Labourite is that the latter asks "how" while the former knows how.

So to avoid another "Little Big Horn" on Thursday here are some reasons to vote Conservative:

  • A strong stable economy. The British economy increasingly resembled a sick labrador under the last Labour government. Where once it had stood proud and firm, pointing excitedly ahead at pheasants falling out of the sky, by 2010 it was limping along and barely able to pick up a parish magazine in its teeth. Frankly, if George had not become Chancellor when he did, a final visit to the Vets would have been necessary and we would all have had to put up with a lot of weeping children. 
  • A proper Prime Minister. Does Mr Miliband look like the sort of person one would trust to service one's Bentley? Of course not. So why would we trust him with our country?
  • Europe - if the Labour party are the Comanches, then surely the EU is a casino on a latter day Indian reservation. Rather shabby about the edges, a faint whiff of corruption in the air and a machinery adept at sucking us all dry of pennies.
  • Stopping the Liberal Democrats getting ideas above their station. Like overripe bananas this party is probably due its time on the compost heap. As with red telephone boxes and penny farthings they may once have seemed like a good idea, but they have outlived their usefulness. Only The Conservative party will keep this particular "yellow peril" in check.
  • The House of Lords. This necessary institution has been a dominant force in British politics for hundreds of years. Labour increasingly talks about its future with all the conviction of a Swiss gigolo accompanying a rich heiress to the Dignitas clinic.
  • A vote for the Tories is a vote for a party that still believes in doing things by sixes. Under Labour you will be at sixes -
  • And sevens.

And that my dear chums is it. There are less than forty eight hours to save us all from the chumps on horses.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The West Lothian Question and The Case for English Independence

It was Bob Southey who first noted that while the roll call of Scots who were architects, statesmen, economists, engineers and explorers accounted for nearly half of all the Great Britons of note, the list of those gifted with a sense of humour ran to one; and he had been dead for nearly 800 years.

The rise of Scots nationalism over the last quarter of a century has often felt as tiresome as it is unnecessary. While the English have consistently celebrated our Scottish kin across the Great Wall of Hadrian and welcomed their various "contributions" to British cultural life (however opaque they might be), it has invariably felt that the love and affection, like the traffic in so many of our lovely rural towns, has been increasingly 'one way'. Indeed, if it were not for Mr Southey's acute observation, one might almost be forgiven for thinking that the whole "SNP independence brouhaha" was nothing more than an elaborate "practical Jock".

In November 1977 Tam Dalyell posed his famous West Lothian question.

"How long will English constituencies tolerate members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on British politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

It was pertinent then, but in recent weeks with the SNP looking increasingly as if they might be able to tip the balance of power at Westminster, the question has become more so than ever. It does frankly seem quite ridiculous that vocally anti-Union chumps in skirts, who fought tooth and claw for an independent nation, should have the right to swan about the great halls of English power, putting their muddy feet up on things and telling the rest of us what to do. 

It is indeed, quite clear that in the event of a minority Labour government, The West Lothian Question would cease to be a parlour game altogether and become a matter of fact - and eventually, no doubt, a film starring some ghastly Americans. 

Given that Mr Miliband seems to have all the backbone of a lumbago riddled jelly fish, one can quite easily envisage a situation in which Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon and the rest of their pelagic friends get him cornered in the Commons latrines and flush his head down a bowl until all their demands are met. Tax rises will ensue and before you can say "Walter Scott once knitted me a sporran" we will all be turning out our pockets to pay for nail technicians from "Moffat" to go to finishing schools in Aberdeen.

I very much doubt that the good people of England will put up with that. I know for a fact that the good people of North East Somerset most certainly will not. Which is why I have come up with a rather good "Plan B". You might even call it a "modest proposal".

Should the unthinkable happen, let us the English declare UDI from everybody else (apart of course from the DUP). The economic case speaks for itself. The transport links are rather good and without Scotland and Wales the weather might even improve. It has long been one's opinion that a nation that does not have the need for a national costume and an instrument that sounds like a cat being drowned is really rather at ease with itself. Indeed an Independent England would no doubt rank in the very top tier of nations and we could all get on with our lives. 

My quill is sharpened, my ink pot is ready; is yours? 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Election Diary: On The Stump, "BlueKIP" And The Forgotten Saint of Thanet South

On the Stump

There are just two weeks to go until polling day and certainly in Keynsham and NE Somerset it feels as though "election fever" has pushed the mercury up to 95. As one goes about the place meeting 'ordinary' people and listening to their 'concerns' one is invariably struck by the realisation that most issues that bother constituents generally cut across party lines. Whether worrying about drunken neighbours taking pot shots with air rifles, or the threat of uncontrolled mass immigration into the hamlet of Stanton Wick, it seems that on a local level at least, most people simply want to 'get on with their lives' and eat occasionally. Oft-times one finds oneself rather touched by the comparative innocence of residents, fretting about minor things such as subsidence, bin collections, their healthcare and pensions, or imminent eviction, when the far greater threat to their lives and indeed those of their progeny sits, bloated and impious across the English Channel. As most people are slowly realising, the greatest issue facing this really rather lovely nation of ours is the European Union and our relationship with it. Indeed, until the good burghers of Britain are given a say in the matter, the question of our membership of this meddlesome bestial leviathan will remain unresolved. Only by voting Conservative will a referendum on our membership be guaranteed.


There has been much speculation about the role "UKIP" might play in forming a coalition if Nigel and his excitable chums win enough seats on May the 7th. It has long been my view that with their firm old fashioned values, hatred of "common" markets, fondness for the Commonwealth, dedication to our armed forces, disdain for political correctness and winning ways with white working class men of a 'certain vintage' UKIP members are natural partners of the Tory party. During the "dark ages" of the Blair years many of these voters grew weary of metropolitan politicians, prancing about the place, kissing each other and introducing unworkable legislation such as the "minimum wage" or "human rights and equality legislation". 

It was perhaps not surprising therefore that the early "noughties" saw a rise in extremist parties, as these chaps, fed up with limp, faddish and foppish policies drifted to the Lib Dems, the National Front or the BNP. It is to Nigel's considerable credit that he has wooed them back into the mainstream with  promises to close our borders, send back immigrants that aren't pulling their weight and generally return things to the way they were in the early 1950s, before interfering EU bureaucrats imposed petty legislation and the dreaded ECHR on us all. There is much to admire in the UKIP model and one trusts that if enough of these likeable eccentrics are elected, they will help form the next coalition government. A rainbow of two colours closer in hue than 'yellow' and blue.

St George's Day

Finally we turn to St George's Day. An annual celebration of all that is wonderful about England. Naturally we have all had to put up with the usual socialist yahoo nonsense about George being a Syrian sheep farmer called "Kevin" or other such balderdash. All quite irrelevant. The wonderful thing about patron saints is that they don't change with the fashion of the times. Having a dragon spearing, maiden ravishing knight as our protector and guide is a rather inspiring thing. However, in our devoted veneration of the great man, we should not forget that England itself has produced a rich and varied list of saints closer to home.   

One's particular favourite is Saint Eormonberg of Thanet, a Seventh Century Princess who spurned the overtures of a foreign king, intent on stealing her lands, by winning a miraculous wager with a leaping fawn and a bucket of cheese. Having fended off this French speaking barbarian she reigned happily over her people for many years before ascending into heaven on a fiery cloud.  If Mr Farage is reading, he would do well to take note.


Monday, 13 April 2015

The Welcome Return of The Political Duel.

On the morning of March the 21st 1829 two gentlemen, attended by their seconds, arrived at Battersea Fields intent on restoring their honour. One of those, the Prime Minister, Arthur Wellesley the First Duke of Wellington, will be familiar to you. The other, George Finch-Hatton the 10th Earl of Winschilsea, will not.

The great men had fallen out over the 1829 Catholic Relief Bill, with the chumpish Finch-Hatton spectacularly accusing the Iron Duke of "Popery". A remark, I am afraid, typical of a man who had an irrational hatred of all things 'Continental' and who had married three women called Georgina in quick succession. 

With steady hands, the two duellists, standing some twenty feet apart, slowly raised their flint-lock pistols, took careful aim, fired - and missed. The Duke was later to claim that he had 'shot wide on purpose' and as a Tory one is inclined to believe him; but Wellesley was a notoriously bad marksman, famed as much in his time for bagging fellow guests while out shooting grouse as he was for his victory over the diminutive Napoleon "Bonaparte".

Political duelling of course has a long and noble history. In 1762 the MP Samuel Martin peppered political rival John Wilkes with a brace of pistols. Wilkes died at the scene; Martin went on to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Thrice. In 1798, after a heated Commons exchange, William Pitt the Younger demanded satisfaction from George Tierney MP. Honour was restored on Putney Common the following morning and the two men forgave each other over a pie and a glass of warm ale, but theirs was not an uncommon clash.

Indeed, at one time sword fighting was so prevalent in the House of Commons that two red bands had to be painted between the front benches. The lines were calculated to be precisely two drawn sabres apart to prevent Whigs cutting off Tory noses. While some might see this as an early example of "health and safety gone mad" it did at least have the effect of improving debates and dispensing with the need for The Prosthetic Limb ante-chamber that now serves as a waiting room for visiting 'foreign dignitaries'. 

One was put in mind of all of this by the news that the rather magnificently named "Prince John Zylinski" has today sensationally challenged Mr Nigel Farage to a duel. At time of writing it would seem that Mr Farage has (rather meekly) declined. Perhaps Nigel has decided that he has better things to do with his mornings in the run up to a make or break general election than parry in Hyde Park with a member of the Polish aristocracy. I for one feel this is a missed opportunity. 

UKIP's "unique selling point" is that they are 'different' from the other parties and that they are the standard bearers for an older kind of Conservatism and a gentler England of the past. One in which one might very well call a spade a spade, or shoot a political rival in the chest before breakfast. UKIP are also of course the only party that openly calls for the restoration of personal firearms in Britain and this might be rather a good moment to demonstrate the positive consequences of such a policy. 

If Mr Farage were to rise to the occasion one can well imagine that the good people of "South Thanet", impressed by his swordsmanship, would be all the more willing to vote him into office and go along with his rather interesting agenda.

Indeed, if "Todd" Foreman wishes to take inspiration from Prince Zylinski and settle this matter in a simpler and perhaps more elegant way and to the satisfaction of all the good people of North East Somerset, I will be waiting for him by the bandstand in Keynsham Park, tomorrow morning - at dawn. I am even willing to lend him a spare rapier. 

Consider the gauntlet very much thrown "Todd".