Down with the Twitocracy!

PLUS: Todgers, trousers, BACS payments, Canada geese and much, much more!

It’s a year since the General Election – and if you were wondering who voted for Putting Cumbria First, it was me.

I don’t care particularly about ensuring superfast broadband for Langwathby, trans rights for hill farmers in Borrowdale, protected designation status for Cumberland sausage, or any of the issues I imagine they stood for.

And I can’t even remember the name of their candidate – although I think it may have been Alan.

I voted PCF because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Boris or Magic Grandpa, and because Lord Buckethead was otherwise engaged in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Screaming Lord Sutch is dead.

Some might argue it would have been more of a statement to draw a big cock and balls on the ballot paper, as I understand many people did. But that would have signalled a wider contempt for the democratic process, which is not the case.

I just happened to think then, as I do now, that Britain is going through one of its periodic phases of Twitocracy* , when those at the top are people you wouldn’t trust to run a raffle, let alone a country.

* TWITOCRACY: a place where everyone without skill and imagination may aspire to reach the highest level. OED

A year on from the Election, I think I’ve been proved right. Magic Grandpa didn’t last long once the curtain was pulled back, and the warm glow of Boris’s sunlit uplands was soon extinguished by the icy reality of having to deal competently with a national emergency.

Meanwhile the Twitocracy continues to seep into all levels of government, local and regional, where it is often at its most extreme — a phenomenon known as “Trickledown Twittery”, identified as early as 1975 by the noted Polish social commentator Jan Przbzwcyvsycz in his paper The Dunderhead Paradox.

“Given a sniff of power, plus the opportunity to use it, the low-level Twitocrat will burst from their deserved political obscurity like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from the sea,” Przbzwcyvsycz writes. “Only this Venus will be wearing her Speedos back to front.”

At the lowest levels of political relevance, there is no doubt that Covid has given the Twitocracy free rein to express itself.

Earlier this week Dale McLaughlin, a 28-year-old man from North Ayrshire, jet-skied across the Irish Sea to visit his girlfriend on the Isle of Man. He was immediately arrested for violating strict Manx lockdown laws.

Fair enough, you might say. Mr McLaughlin is probably not the brightest tool in the box (he thought the trip would take 40 minutes, when in fact it took him four hours) and had common sense prevailed he would have received a deservedly hefty fine.

Instead, sensing his Venus moment was at hand, the island’s chief minister Howard Quayle let it be known to anyone who would listen that Mr McLaughlin’s “incredibly reckless, dangerous endeavour”, which could have led to “others being called upon to risk their lives in a search and rescue operation”, showed a “flagrant disregard by mixing in the community and potentially putting lives at risk.”

He then stood back while the hapless Mr McLaughlin was jailed for four months.

In different times, a Scottish leader might have told this pompous little twit to shut his yap and get back in his box. They may even have arranged for Mr McLaughlin to be repatriated and given a ticker-tape parade through the streets of Irvine to celebrate his resourcefulness.

But no. The Twitocracy holds sway and Mr McLaughlin will rot in a Douglas gaol until the Spring, by which time his jet ski will have fallen to bits and his girlfriend will no doubt have married a signalman on the Manx Electric Railway.

Stories like this make you wince, but in the long term we shouldn’t be too concerned. Politics is cyclical, and Twitocracies inevitably crash and burn at the ballot box when the public tire of their antics.

My greatest regret is that by voting for Putting Cumbria First a year ago, thereby increasing by one their total of 1,069 votes in the Tory stronghold of Penrith and The Borders, I have somehow given them hope of winning the 2024 Election.


LEAVE TODGER ALONE

Congratulations to legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, who despite lockdown in Florida celebrated the marriage of his granddaughter Christie to a man called Todger Strunk this week.

Predictably the groom’s name provoked much hilarity, with jokes like “Do you take this Todger, to have and to hold?” doing the rounds on social media. But Jack did not win a record 18 majors by allowing himself to be fazed by jeering crowds.

Indeed in the rarefied world of professional golf, Todger Strunk is par for the course when it comes to unusual names. Some of the sport’s greatest players include the likes of Wiffy Cox, Wang Ter-Chang, Boo Weekley, Davis Love III, Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Funk and Duffy Waldorf.

Closer to home I recently played a round at Eden Golf Club with a man named Clive Bollocks IV, who is a highly respected land agent and charity fundraiser, and I didn’t find his name amusing in the slightest.

It’s too easy to take the mick when you hide behind a Twitter account. The keyboard comedians were notably silent when the great Peter Allis died last week, and he had a girl’s name.


A CHRISTMAS No 2

Staring blankly into space, as I do most days, my peace was shattered yesterday morning by the most dreadful noise coming from outside.

It’s hard to describe, but it sounded for all the world as if a Canada goose, having somehow become detached from its skein, had crash-landed in the courtyard, breaking its beak, whereupon it had immediately been set upon by three tom cats, one of which had its tail caught in a mangle.

The resulting cacophony of honks and yowls had attracted the attention of a rabbit, which had then been attacked by a predatory barn owl, and its terrified screams had set off next door’s terrier.

Hoping to stop the slaughter, I raced outside — only to find Peter the window cleaner listening to Liam Gallagher’s new Christmas song on his portable radio.

“Bloody awful, isn’t it?” Peter called down from his ladder. “Almost as bad as Yoko Ono’s singing on Happy Xmas (War Is Over).

Later, over a glass of eggnog, we discussed our favourite Christmas songs and decided it was a toss-up between Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens and A Spaceman Came Travelling by Chris de Burgh.

I would ask you to send in yours, but I know you won’t so I won’t bother.

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BOBA JOB

It’s been a bad year for Star Wars fans, first with the death of Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader, and now Jeremy Bulloch, who played bounty hunter Boba Fett.

The BBC devoted five minutes to a tribute to Bulloch, which was slightly surprising as Boba Fett was a masked character who only said about three words in the entire series, all of which were dubbed by another actor.

Indeed we only have Jeremy Bulloch’s word that it was actually him in the Boba Fett outfit.

Dave Prowse’s dialogue was dubbed by James Earl Jones, but Darth Vader was a far more important character. Prowse was also the Green Cross Man, so I can understand why he got the headlines he did.


CHEQUEING OUT

I have decided that internet banking has taken all the fun out of birthdays.

For as long as I have had an account, I have waited for my dad’s card to drop through the letterbox on December 16 just so I can rip it open and shake out the cheque.

On Wednesday the card arrived as usual, but with no cheque inside. Thinking he must be going senile I actually bothered to read what he’d written. ‘Happy birthday, son,’ it read. ‘Check your online account for present.’

I did, and he had indeed paid up via BACS. But the stench of disappointment lingered for the rest of my special day.

Maybe it’s an aberration and he’ll open his chequebook again at Christmas and I’ll have a card to shake. But if online is the future then I’m going to insist he pays in monthly instalments, just so we know where we stand.


A SUBSTANTIAL BILL

I am indebted to reader Hugh Dunn, a high-flying shipping broker, who has sent me this receipt from a recent executive business lunch held when London was still in Tier 2 of lockdown restrictions. As you will see, no expense was spared — especially when it came to the mandatory substantial meal which enabled Hugh and his colleagues to knock back 63 pints of Peroni and 12 glasses of prosecco spumante without breaking the indoor dining rules. If only Kay Burley had been so meticulous…


TROUSER UPDATE

Since I wrote about my struggles to fasten my new, 60s-style stripey bell-bottomed trousers last week, many readers have contacted me for an update.

Well, I’m pleased to say that as I write I am wearing them with room to spare, and by common consent I look incredibly cool. Needless to say I shall be writing an inspiring self-help book about my experiences, but in essence the three-step path to my success is as follows:

1)    Eat less.

2)    Exercise more.

3)    Take the trousers to the Syrian tailor in Longtown and ask him to let them out by a couple of inches.

I hope my story inspires you to achieve your goal in the New Year. Meanwhile here’s to you and your immediate bubble having a great Christmas, and all being well I’ll see you on the other side.