THE ODD COUPLE
The only cyclist in London to stop at red traffic lights when there is no traffic to be seen (witnessed and applauded by this publication at Hyde Park)
We are baffled as to who is the lion and who the lamb, but they have definitely lain down together. Nigel Farage, godfather of Brexit and real-life cheeky chappie in a department-store window display of showroom dummies also known as the political class, and Peter Hitchens, Ex-Trotskyite apostate and well-travelled journalist-turned-prophet of doom, have agreed on something!
Their precise targets differ, it must be noted, but essentially the two men see the current British ‘lockdown’, as it has become known, as a matter which should arouse the suspicions of the British people. Those people, it bears pointing out, are now going to have to do a little bit of thinking, and will have time to do just that once they have finished all their jig-saws and binge-watched whatever nonsense is on Netflix just now.
Guillaume Faye, the late co-founder of GRECE – Groupement de Recherche et d’études pour la civilization européenne – and whose organisation later become known as the French ‘nouvelles droitistes’, or ‘new Right’, from the 1970s onwards, made two gnomic statements that deserve to be conflated under the present circumstances. ‘People will not pay too much attention to government’, he said, ‘while their shopping-baskets are full’. Well, they are not full now. Tack this on to another sinister prognostication, ‘One day everyone will wake up and all the magic will be gone’.
Well, government has been slowly taking the magic away for some time now but, like the frog slowly boiling in the pan, the British people haven’t really noticed all the time the supermarket shelves have been stocked with dozens of different types of breakfast cereal and biscuit. Freedom of speech has been gradually eroded, for example. You may sneer and maintain the opinion that that really only effects maverick hotheads like us, with our outspoken ideas about Islam, race relations, gender equality, gender itself, homosexuality and so on. Sure. But how many of you – or, perhaps, have either of you – reading this ever thought twice about making a joke in the workplace in recent months? Decided against a comment on social media? Had a little think about which websites you visit? See?
It is, of course, entirely probable that this measure really is erring on the side of caution. One mistake in a high-stakes game such as coronavirus is proving to be can do much damage to a politician and/or his or her party. It remains, however, quite possible that this is the first stage of a power-play by the political elite whose agenda is to limit freedoms virus or no virus.
We really should know by now that governments are not to be trusted. They are intrusive, technocratic and naturally authoritarian, and generally the sort of people you wouldn’t leave your kids with although, it is true, you have to, their futures at least. But are they really aiming for Soviet Russia 2.0? It does all seem a bit unBritish, old thing. Are we about to be marched off to a gulag in some blighted and failed seaside town for that pensive query on Twitter about how many genders there were, exactly? It seems a little far-fetched. But then, so did this last Christmas.
And then there are the criminal classes. They have been protected by the police and judiciary in various ways for some time now. Are they likely to heed a national curfew? And might they not be a handy addition to community policing? Who are you more frightened of being caught out on the street by? The police, who couldn’t catch a cold, or a postcode gang?
Back to the odd couple. Farage has raised the perfectly legitimate question as to why flights from virus hot-spots will still be landing at British airports when the people under their flight paths are not allowed to the local park? Hitchens, as is his way, is a little more acidic, Tweeting;
‘I’m mocking Alexander Johnson’s ridiculous, sinister government because I’m worried that tomorrow night he’ll come on TV to tell me I’m not allowed to mock the government. Unthinkable you say? How unthinkable was national house arrest a week ago?’
Incidentally, we have a small bone to pick with Mr. Hitchens. He calls Prime Minister Johnson ‘Alexander’ because that is, actually, Johnson’s Christian name, in the same way that he used to rib Tony Blair by calling him ‘Anthony Charles Lynton Blair’. But Hitchens has another wordplay he likes very much. Unfortunately, it is founded on error.
Mr. Hitchens – Hitchens Minor when his brother Christopher was alive – refers to pompous, overblown rock-scold Bono as ‘Mr. Dog Biscuit’. This would be amusing were is not for the fact that Hitchens is misremembering the name of a popular British make of dog biscuit, which was (and, we believe, still is) in fact called ‘Bonio’. Do they have no sub-editors at the Mail newspaper empire? We happen to know that standards have dropped since a good friend to this magazine upped sticks from the Mail and went on to ply his trade at a far more cultured newspaper. These days, you can’t get the material...
Photo credit: Nigel Luckhurst