Thrills and spills

24 June, 2013 (10:17) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

What a thrill this morning: looking out of the window, the boys and I spotted an elegant, lazy fox, brazenly loping across the field. He stopped for a sniff and a look about, trailing his brush in the dewy grass, and sloped off in the direction of the woods. Now this fox was not an innocent pet: he has doubtless killed many times and will do so again. But I love that I share my world with it.

I’d sooner share my world with it than the inhabitants of …, well, put it this way: one of the joys of my life is to go to the Daily Mail’s website each day. It’s like a trip to the zoo. I do urge you to try it.

The ‘reports’ are hilarious, and the endless ‘news’ about what ‘celebrity’ is wearing what, or where a soap star is on ‘holiday’, are massively entertaining. I can’t wait for the frenzy that will ensue when Kate Middleton has her baby.

I used to play a game each day to see how many of these people I’d heard of – the score was always in single figures. After a couple of months in which the same dullards appear each day, I have to admit I have now heard of them. But I’m not sure I could tell you what any of them ‘do’. Helen Flanagan? Aaron Carter? Tamara Ecclestone? Lucy Mecklenburgh? Anyway, remarkably, today’s edition did contain people I knew: Roger Moore and Michael Caine at a memorial service for Michael Winner, at which, the Mail revealed, somebody unveiled in the director’s honour – a “plague”. How appropriate.

I like going to the Mail because nothing more accurately sums up the vacuity of our national life than its obsession with royals, models, pop stars, soap actors and reality TV ‘stars’.

For example, today has reports of the weekend’s final of the TV ‘talent’ show The Voice, but as usual offers no mention of the show’s central, rich, irony: that judgment on the performers is passed by the towering ‘talents’ of Tom Jones, Jesse J and Will I Sodding Am. It’s like asking me to judge a mathematics exam, or a Chinese language paper.

But for absolute proof that our national cultural life is bereft, I refer you to today’s news about the latest plans for the commemoration of the centenary of the start of World War One.

Here was an epic cataclysm that brought suffering to many millions, shattered a world order and left a bitter legacy, for which we still suffer. How to address this most massive and complex of subjects?

Why, of course! With a televised recreation of the soccer match played in No Man’s Land during the famous Christmas truce of 1914! And leading the British team of serving soldiers – why, naturally, David Beckham!

You couldn’t make it up, could you?

God knows

Perhaps if Beckham scores, he’ll cross himself and give thanks to God, as seems to be the fashion for so many football players these days. And, indeed, the chap who tightrope-walked across the Grand Canyon, praying all the way.

I’m grateful to them, as they answer an essential theological problem that has stalked humankind for centuries: clearly God can’t do anything about all the innocent children dying of starvation, all the wars, all the suffering, as he’s far too busy looking after footballers and stuntmen. Poor God. Rushed off his feet.

What a caution

So Charles Saatchi accepted – how decent of him, to have accepted – a police caution for assaulting his wife Nigella Lawson. And, to follow up last week’s article, that’s the point at which we can all say what a scumbag he is.

There’s another thing, which I didn’t say last week as I thought it might undermine the point I was making, which is that it’s wrong to treat Twitter reactions as gospel and replace the law of the land with trial by social media.

What I wanted to say was this: there was bound to be nothing good about the bloke – he helped get Thatcher elected and he spends millions of pounds propping up Damien Hirst’s ego.

Hear hear – here?

All over the world people are demanding to be heard. In Brazil, sensible people are suggesting it may perhaps be not altogether just to spend billions of pounds on a stupid game while children starve in the gutters.

Ah, but when the soccer World Cup comes to Brazil next year all the rich people will spend their money and that will filter down to those poor children and there will be opportunity for them, say the capitalists.

Well, it’s my profoundest wish that the World Cup is cancelled and the multi-billionaire owners and players hand over a tiny proportion of their wealth to enable investment in projects which will provide employment at decent wages to poor people in Brazil, but that ain’t going to happen.

And a trickle-down of Wayne Rooney’s millions lifting a single Brazilian child out of gut-wrenching poverty? That ain’t going to happen either.

(All you really need to know about trickle-down economics is that Ronald Reagan thought it was a good idea.

You could add in the fact that a belief in trickle-down economics is what’s got us into this mess, or you could just leave it to, say Francis Wheen, in How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions (Fourth Estate, 2004): “ ‘What I want to see above all,’ Reagan said, ‘is that this remains a country where someone can always get rich.’ And there was no shortage of hucksters willing to explain, for a fee, just how this could be achieved.”

Or the American Democrat politician William Jennings Bryan in 1896: “There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

Or the New Zealand politician Damien O’Connor in 2011: “The rich pissing on the poor”.)


Anyway, there are protests in Brazil. In Turkey, working people are taking to the streets. In Greece, people riot against austerity cuts enforced undemocratically by the EU.

And in this country? In this country the utterly discredited Labour Party seems to be in the middle of accepting everything the Tories say. How can anybody with a background in the politics of the left – even if it is just one degree left of centre – refuse to condemn policies that hurt people?

Cuts that hurt disabled people, profiteering that condemns the poor to fuel poverty, education that enshrines advantage above opportunity, education that allows business to sponsor schools, health provision that enables you and I to be treated by Richard Branson’s smiling flunkies, health provision that opens the door to private firms so that, for example, virtually no ambulance provision in Devon or Cornwall is now in the hands of the public as a service, tuition fees that prevent disadvantaged people bettering themselves…. We could go on, but just tell me this: how can anybody who started in politics with the tiniest belief in fairness, opportunity and equality sleep at night if they are not against such things? How?

In this country we do have a new organisation called the People’s Assembly, which I urge you to seek out ( What it does is important: it says the left in this country has spent far too many years posturing and arguing among ourselves, focusing on divisions in the left rather than divisions the left can help heal. It says: let’s not have a party, let’s not have the pointless rows which enable the right-wing press to demonise us. Let’s just act as an umbrella organisation for everybody who believes hurting people for the benefit of the rich is wrong, to come together and protest.

It would be good if people supported an organisation that simply tries to say, as Brother Hamster pointed out a fortnight ago, that it is better to learn to make things, to be paid fairly for making things, and to sell things that people need, than to flounder around in the swamp, agreeing with David Cameron’s business chums that we really do need to continue basing our economy on shadowy bankers and their bonuses, call centres and charity shops.

The Labour Party could do with listening to Romayne Phoenix at the People’s Assembly’s event in London at the weekend: “I don’t care if I am in a minority, I will stand up for what is right.”

If Labour stop standing up for what is right, what is the point of them? Why elect them? We may as well stick with what we’ve got, Eton’s answer to the Beverley Hillbillies.

Bon voyage

Good luck to Edward Snowden, by now on his way to Ecuador. As you know, Mr President, from listening in to my phone calls with the good Captain Kay, I think it is so typical of your benighted country that instead of dealing with the issues on invasion of privacy raised by Mr Snowden, you are focusing on pursuing him.

It’s more important to punish the whistle blower than inspect the whistle. That’s something, of course, you have in common with our own Government.

You must, dear brothers and sisters, you really must do as I do: see those Americans talking on the news about Snowden? Imagine them wearing different dress, or with a different skin colour. Hey presto: no longer fighters for freedom, but crazed, obsessive, secretive religious fundamentalists intent on destroying our freedom.

Grey to green

Now, where’s the button that turns type green? Ah yes. It’s just that EL James, who wrote the bonkfest Fifty Shades of Grey, has earned £12.6 million in six months.

I’ve read it. It’s crap, in my view. It could even, in the wake of Charles Saatchi’s assault, be described as dangerous, in that it is a book about a young, virginal woman letting an older man knock her about for sexual thrills (she enjoys it, though – but I can’t help wondering how many Waynes and Waynettas have bought their Fifty Shades sex kit and ended up being hurt).

But mostly, of course, I’m massively jealous. I didn’t think of wizards and Quidditch, and now I haven’t thought of sado-masochism. So what particular sexual peccadillo is left out of which I could write a bonkbuster and make a few bob? Any suggestions?


Comment from spencearse
Time June 24, 2013 at 11:40 am

Did anyone ever find my Father? He’s been missing for some time now.

Comment from Stuart Fraser
Time June 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Odd, isn’t it? He hasn’t been leaking American state secrets, has he? Has anybody seen Edward Snowden and Brother Stents in the same room? Oh dear. I don’t think old Stents would like being waterboarded, and the Ecuador climate certainly wouldn’t suit him.

Comment from thematureone
Time June 26, 2013 at 6:47 pm

How can a minority know what is right?

Comment from the quito kid
Time June 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

We wish to advise you that if any person presents themselves as or purports to be StentsRus or Stents are anything they will not be permitted entry into our illustrious and highly esteemed country. Furthermore if you persist in spreading rumours that they are seeking asylum in our most sacred country, steps will be taken and, suffice to say, we are not averse to carrying out punitive actions across international borders.
Yours obediently
Central Ecuadorian Strategic and Technical Ministry Of Interior

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