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Exceptionalism

In among the various examples of David Cameron being a pillock in her hugely entertaining diaries, which caused a minor furore a few weeks back, the otherwise spectacularly un self-aware Sasha Swire made one hugely telling and perceptive point, described here in Rachel Cooke's excellent Guardian interview Following a Downing Street Christmas party in 2011, for instance, she notes that the closeness of Cameron’s circle is “unprecedented… a very particular, narrow tribe of Britain and their hangers-on”. It’s “enough to repulse the ordinary man"This sense of Government by chumocracy was one of the less edifying aspects of the already pretty ropy Cameron years. An idea of a few good pals lording it up at each other's houses and doing a spot of Governing when it suited them haunted the back of a fag packet policies of that intellectually threadbare period (in the book, Dave boasts of "winning a war" in Libya, conflating it with the great day he's just had on the …
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The Free School Meals Own Goal

As you're doubtless aware, HMG scored a fairly spectacular own-goal this week, with the decision not to extend free school meals (FSM) over the half-term holiday.
The idea, advanced to tremendous effect by Marcus Rashford, was to ensure that no children go hungry when they're not in school. No one could argue with that, right? If we can all agree on one thing, it's that we're pretty anti-starving kids, right? And at a cost of a mere 20 million quid, which is chump change to a government which has wasted billions on Track and Trace that doesn't work, and hundreds of millions in contracts to their mates for PPE that doesn't work, it was a pretty cheap bit of good publicity.
Well, as it turns out, there's a sizable element of the Tory party (and the wider populace, we'll get to them in a minute) which is pretty pro-starving kids. You may have seen the speech by Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative member for Bassetlaw, in which he spoke about not wanting t…

My life as a semi-reformed reply guy

While not being much of a one for resolutions, as the state of my liver, waistline and career will testify, I have, of late, been trying very hard to stick to one promise that I made myself, a fair time ago. I have been trying very hard not to be a reply guy.You know the ones, the ones who can't see anything without rushing to reply, convinced that what the world needs now is not, as Dionne Warwick would have had it, love, sweet love, but a great steaming bowlful of their opinion.(and why yes, I am aware of the irony of espousing this position on a blog, the very epitome of an opinion piece, but the crucial difference is that if you're reading this then you're probably doing so through choice)I'll freely admit to being loudly opinionated, as anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this blog or my various social media will be aware. Stridently so, at times, maybe even obnoxiously so. But what I'm trying, very hard, to do, is keep those opinions off other people…

Gordon Ramsay and the semiotics of the full English breakfast.

It was bound to happen, sooner or later.A public which has spent a long time having to think and argue about serious things was just gagging for something trivial to get in a froth about. Sure, football's back, but is that trivial enough?Enter one-time chef turned full-time media personality Gordon Ramsay, and his iteration of that classic dish, the Full English Breakfast, the dish of which Somerset Maugham famously said "If a man wishes to eat well in England he should eat breakfast three times a day."Here he is announcing the Savoy Grill's breakfast
It's hard to think of a dish more deeply embedded in the national psyches of the nations which make up the British Isles. I should like, at this point, to acknowledge that Full Irish, Scottish and Welsh breakfasts are all things of pure beauty, I mean no disregard by referring to a full English in this blog (though Ramsay, as a Scot, should have known he was playing with fire). Roast Beef maybe, Fish and Chips proba…

Ruuuuule Britannnnniiiaaa

It's a sensible course of action when you're about to say something which might be touch contentious to get your excuses in early doors, so I'd better get my mea culpa in sharpish: I am entirely aware that this whole argument about Rule Britannia etc is an entirely confected culture war row designed to distract from the truly awful fist that HMG is making of, well, most things. I am, furthermore, aware of it's relative irrelevance when set against the slightly more important issues which face us, viz. global pandemic, imminent economic collapse, and incipient destruction of the earth's ability to heal itself. 
But I'm going to write a blog post about it anyway, I am that shallow. Soz.
It won't be a particularly long blog, you'll be pleased to hear, because it can be relatively easily summed up, to wit: incoming director of the ossified Proms thinks "hey, an audience free year might be the time to freshen up the schedule", reckoning the lack of r…

Dishy Rishi's Fishy Dishes

A great week for fiscally prudent gourmands, as this week marked the opening of the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme. An awkwardly titled affair (insert your own jokes here, actually, insert's the wrong word, different act altogether), which is intended to help the hospitality industry recover from the ravages of the COVID pandemic, it sees HM Treasury pay up to a tenner a head towards the cost of a meal.The Government paying you to go out for tea, what's not to like?Now, one could certainly make the case that this is the sort of innovative thinking required to steer the country through choppy economic waters, and evidence on the ground suggests that public uptake of the idea has been enthusiastic (we were rushed off our feet, busiest Wednesday ever*), Hats off to Rishi for daring to be different, and a big thumbs up for cheap steaks all round. Happy punters, full restaurants, a shot in the arm for an ailing industry.One could also make the case that this is an abso…

A brief moment of calm

Sometimes, there is a particular sort of stillness before things start becoming lively. The hackneyed phrase would, I suppose, be "the calm before the storm" but I'm not overly sure that that's the right one. Like most overworked drudges of phrases it has lost something of its original meaning and become universally applicable. In my case, I had such a moment of stillness yesterday, and it's hopefully not a storm that's coming.
I should explain. I've spent the last couple of weeks of my personal lockdown pottering about getting ready to open up a pub. This was not something I expected to be doing at the start of lockdown. Another overused phrase, though one of more recent vintage, is "life comes at you fast", grammatical pedantry aside it's a reasonable enough way of describing my recent change of circumstances. I've moved from employee to employer with bewildering speed. Owning a business again wasn't remotely part of my thinking a f…