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.