Hillingdon Lido

Hillingdon Lido re-opened at the end of July. Marge, who’s swum there since she was a kid, was the first back in. The water’s always freezing, so you need to get moving pronto; after four lengths you’ll be toasty, cares melting away.

But today she’s cross. The plaque Boris unveiled at the opening of the revamped leisure centre winks at her every other length. It fuels her outrage. Peerages for his brother, rich Tory donors and a shitload of Brexiteers — who rant about ‘unelected’ EU bureaucrats but are perfectly happy to accept seats in the House of Lords.

‘Lord Lebedev’ takes the biscuit, though. Billionaire owner of the Evening Standard. Son of a former KGB agent. And this a mere week after the Russia Report! The sheer contemptuous brass neck of it all!

Marge fumes her way through another sixteen lengths. The one and only upside: she does her best time in months.


After retiring twelve years ago, Geoff Harper moved to Nightingale Close in Ashford in Kent — ‘for the quiet life’.

His house is near St. Mary’s, an old Norman church that overlooks twenty-seven acres of idyllic farmland where bluebirds sing, wildflowers bloom and butterflies cavort. Verily, ’tis the Garden of England!

That same twenty-seven acres has now been bought by the government, without any consultation, as a post-Brexit lorry park for 2000 HGVs waiting to process their export paperwork.

Geoff voted for Brexit, and is trying hard to understand how Vote Leave’s promises of cutting red tape have led to lorries thundering past his house 24/7. A house, moreover, whose value has just plummeted considerably. He would very much like to blame the EU for all of this in some way, but a sinking feeling in his stomach tells him the discomforting truth. He’s been had.

Hope in the Dark

In all honesty, Monday was a real low. Sure, we knew we were going to lose given the parliamentary maths, but it still hurt watching Tory after Tory vote our amendments down. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to stop the NHS being part of any future trade deal? Or keep chlorinated chicken off our tables? No, don’t answer that.

I know what you’re going to say. Why bother. Because, mate, we’re playing a long game. We forced them to show their hand; now their votes are on public record. Ammunition for when the election comes round.

Apart from this fine glass of Belgian beer, there’s a Rebecca Solnit quote that’s keeping me going. ‘Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you can’t win. But hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.’

Amen and cheers to that.

We May Ask Ourselves

And you may find yourself
Running a confectionery wholesaler
And you may find yourself
Selling nuts, chocolates and sweets
And you may find yourself
In receipt of a large PPE contract
And you may find yourself
In a beautiful house
With a beautiful £108 million
And you may ask yourself
Well, how did I get here?

Letting the days go by, got mates in high places
Letting the days go by, no competitive tendering process
Who cares if the public asks, where has the money gone?
Once in a lifetime, our Covid Bonanza

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was?
Worse than it ever was
Much worse than it ever was

And we may ask ourselves
How does a confectioner land a PPE contract?
And we may ask ourselves
Where *does* that audit trail go?
And we may ask ourselves
Is it right? Is it wrong?

And we may tell ourselves (if we voted Tory)
My God! What have I done?

H/T Talking Heads, ‘Once in a Lifetime’

See also: ‘Follow the Money’

Heavy Weather

Yes thanks, I’ve had a pretty good pandemic. Focus groups view me as youthful, personable and competent — at least in comparison to all those other dimwits in the Cabinet. Someone who’s risen to the occasion in these unprecedented times.

A blind spot when it comes to Brexit? Certainly not. I stand by my comment: one thing I’m very humble about is the ability of economic forecasting to be that accurate.

No, my aversion to a new Brexit impact assessment has nothing to do with the Government’s gloomy 2018 prediction that our GDP will drop by 4.9% to 7.6% on leaving the EU. Or the fact that Covid has now made everything immeasurably worse.

Look. The future’s inherently uncertain. There’s really no point in trying to forecast anything.

Are we done? Great. Don’t suppose you’d mind if I borrowed your umbrella? It seems to be raining pretty heavily out there.


The Sun, Zoom editorial meeting, Sunday 12 July

Editor *sucks on a fag and exhales*: Right then. Gove’s launching his ‘Get Ready for the Shitstorm’ campaign, so we’d better look lively. I want a set of articles out tomorrow detailing all the extra Brexit charges in a helpful, sympathetic, but slightly surprised way.

Les: Like we never supported a Hard Brexit, or dubbed four years of expert and Remainer warnings ‘Project Fear’?

Editor *takes another drag*: Exactly. So Les, you do a sayonara to the European Health Insurance Card. We’ll call it ‘EHIC-UP’. Levi, you take mobile roaming charges… Headline: ‘Roam Fee’. And Qin can cover holidays and working abroad. I reckon a sassy ‘EU Need to Know’ for that one.

Levi: But Guv, won’t our readers think we’re a bunch of hypocritical bastards?

Editor *wreathed in smoke*: Hell no. They’re all too f*cking thick.

*Collective sniggers* *Zoom call ends*

Pillar 2

25 June 2020. Stan ‘Stats’ Robinson works in the bowels of a government building. He’s been number crunching for years, but this pandemic’s something else. Now he gets how data can mean the difference between life and death.

Leicester thinks it might have a new outbreak. It’s been pleading for updates for days. But he’s been under strict instructions to withhold Pillar 2 — the results of testing outsourced to firms like Deloitte. Some half-baked crap about ‘data ownership’. And that means the city’s been in the dark about 90% of its new cases.

Stan was finally allowed to send the info this morning, but he hates that he was part of this shameful delay.

Scrolling on Twitter, he sees the latest Covid figures from the Financial Times. It’s got a stats team after his own heart, using data to tell it like it is.

He leaves the office early, whistling a little tune. Then he calls the FT.

Double Whammy

29 June 2020. About tea time. Jeffries rushes into the Prime Minister’s office.

Jeffries: I’m glad I caught you before tennis, sir. I’ve got Michel Barnier on the line — he says he’s still happy to extend the Brexit talks. Deadline’s tomorrow.

PM: Tell him to f*ck off.

Jeffries: Sir… Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all calling for an extension. They’re really struggling with the fallout from Covid.

PM: Tell them to f*ck off.

Jeffries: Sir, the pandemic means our GDP’s likely to drop by 11.5% this year. Are you sure a January exit is wise? Perhaps extending might be a g—

PM: Nope. Non. Nyet.

Jeffries: But sir, how will businesses survive the double whammy of Covid and Brexit? It’s like chucking dynamite into a burning house!

PM: Just tell them all to…

Jeffries (wearily): …f*ck off, sir?

PM: Exactly. Now fetch me my racket, there’s a good chap.


Banana Republic1 1974~

Ernesto Suarez3 raises his hands in theatrical surprise.

“Luis,4 what a coincidence! Good to see you!”

The two men sit down next to one another at the banquet table.5 At some point during the lavish meal, Luis shows the minister architectural sketches6 for a new, billion peso property development. By dessert, there’s a quiet understanding between the politician and the pornographer-turned-tycoon.

After some discreet phone calls,7 Suarez fast-tracks planning permission for the development, thereby saving Luis a local government levy of 30 million pesos.8 Two weeks later, Luis drops off a thick bundle of banknotes9 at the minister’s party offices.

When the bribe is exposed, El Presidente10 defends Suarez and says he “considers the matter closed”.11

No one is surprised.12

1 UK
2 2020
3 Robert Jenrick
4 Richard Desmond
5 Tory fundraiser
6 Promo video on mobile
7 Private text messages
8 £40 million
9 £12,000 'donation'
10 Boris Johnson
11 25 June 2020
12 No one is surprised


4th anniversary of the EU Referendum

Exercise 4. Read the following text aloud. How far will *you* get?

‘The idea that Britain would be apocalyptically off the cliff edge if we left the EU is silly.’ ‘The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards.’ ‘Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market.’ ‘There is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal.’ ‘The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.’ ‘Brexit means Brexit ~ and we’re going to make a success of it.’ ‘The money saved from leaving the EU will result in the NHS getting £350m a week.’ ‘There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside.’ ‘The best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox, and indeed to bring this country together, would be, I think, to get Brexit done.’