Sunday, January 23, 2011


There are good reasons for many people to applaud recent events in Tunisia, a country I'd hitherto thought was no more than a bebop reference:

- The Tunisians have a chance to enjoy their own beaches as mottled Brits flee to Gatwick;

- Leila Trabelsi, the rather fetching former First Lady, will soon tire of Saudi après-ski and relaunch herself onto the international jet trash circuit; and

- Channel 4 News can give unthinking credibility to a whole new phalanx of clerical fascists.

But the happiest desert campers are we brave web bloggers, for one of our one has been thrust from his encrusted bedroom blinking before the twin beams of government.

Slim Amamou used to have mad hair prior to his prison crop, a novelty pipe, excellent name and retro specs. He looked like a Karl Radek tribute act, and now, courtesy of the Tunis Department of Corrections, could pass for a French rapper or London barista. Instead, he's decided to become his country's secretary of state for youth and sport.

Now, cynics among you will rightly dub this portfolio the externally-genitalled equivalent of the Ministry of Children and Tiny Cakes. This is nonetheless a major step forward for the Near and Middle East, where power usually rests with courtesy colonels, delusional god-naggers, demented faux-nomads, retired bouncers and someone else's relatives.

I wish Slim well in persuading young North African men to take an interest in sport, and draw from his success the conclusion that the Bloggers' Time Has Come. From Lake Vyrnwy to the Finland Station, we must set aside our coffee mugs, ironic t-shirts and imaginary girlfriends, and Prepare for Government.

For too long has This Glorious Coalition of Ours ignored my overtures, and I can see why. Unlike the sleek Mr Cameron, I have sacrificed grandeur of gesture on the altar of detailed policy. No more. The Cymru Rouge will shortly dispatch a passenger pigeon to That London with but one word inscribed on its entrails - "Because".

We were sipping lunch in The Tethered Goat the other day. The Dog, stunned by the government's announcement that he had to eat eight "potions" of fruit and veg a day, was struggling to name as many after Dazza had pointed out that "rhubobs" are technically stalks, "just like Daleks' eyes".

Into this bucolic symposium the K Man injected a note of woe. He'd returned from some sort of Approved School reunion, where a young lady of his distant acquaintance, whom he dubbed "bowsome an' sonsie an' bricht", had taken up with a "toaley-heided bampot" on whom the K "wuildnae pish in Knox's fumous fornace".

The K Man's dilemma was how to raise the veil from her delightfully bossed eyes without driving her deeper into the "bawheid's" embrace. "You'd think the government could do something about such manifest injustice," he opined "but as your legal adviser I can tell you there's no provision for separating a beeheidit lassie from a gomerel".

It suddenly came to me. "How about a Law for the Prevention of Unforeseeable Disagreeableness?" I began. "We could call it 'Tam's Law'" - for such was the unsuitable suitor's name.

I explained the workings of my bill. "I gather than any normal person who meets Tam immediately files him under 'Arse: pain, in the', correct? So we lock him up, or whatever, and when Liberty and other human-rights lobbies/Regent St emporia come creeping round, we simply offer to introduce them to their object of concern. Sorted."

I imagined the following exchange in the House of Commons:

Ed Miliband, Friend of the Downtrodden: "Could the Rt Hon Gentleman the Prime Minister please tell the House why Mr Tam Bawheid was taken from his tenement and posted to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a - and I quote - "go-it-alone one-man-army" - to take on the might of the Taliban, armed only with a Bronski Beat mix tape and a pair of PVC chaps?"

David Cameron, Oily Toff: "Mr Speaker - Bee-CAUSE!" [cheers from HM Govt benches]

Ed Miliband: "Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker, that trivial and dismissive response is typical of a Government that has -"

David Cameron, interrupting: "Would the Rt Hon Gentleman like to visit Mr Bawheid and assess his awfulness for himself?"

Miliband does so, and returns tanned, wiser and with a little less to say about Tam.

The possible applications of Tam's Law are as wide as a Chinaman's grin. How many boiled-beef, common-sense measures that hitherto got tangled in red tape, legal precedent and basic concepts of right and wrong could be settled with a simple, explanatory "because"?

Miliband, again: "The deportation of Imam al-Murjan to Algeria, where Amnesty reports that he has had a new top-up self-circumcision kit tested on his person in a number of frankly outlandish - "

Cameron, majestic: "Be-CAUSE!"

Miliband: "Mick Hucknall, Michael Winner, N-Dubz (except the girl) - how can the Prime Minister really expect us to believe that they volunteered for this alleged Venezuelan shark rodeo?"

Cameron: "I refer the Rt Hon Gentleman to my previous answer, which was Be-CAUSE! And, by the way, your brother's been in touch."

There are some who would compare the scope, intent and implications of my Unforeseeable Disagreeableness Prevention Law to Hitler's Enabling Act of March 1933, by which the Nazis turned the Weimar Republic into something cold, shiny and very fast.

They would have a point if they were dealing with normal politics. But, in a world where bloggers enjoy ministerial privilege, I can accuse them of breach of Godwin's Law - "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches" - and simply leave it at that.

The objection that a comparison with the Nazis or Hitler is sometimes not only justifiable but unavoidable carries less weight in the vast dormitory that is the Intern Net than being caught holding a meme when the music stops.

Moreover, our cabinet's so blue of blood it could serve as a upended row of curaçao optics at a Vampire Convention, so a simple drawl of "listen, one instinctively knows when something is right" ought to take care of most Radio 4 interviewers and backbench Liberal Democrats.

Indeed, many Liberals, Fabians and environmentalists of a more ruthless bent might find something appealing about no longer having to reason with the irritatingly enfranchised. Although I must insist that there is no provision in my bill for the public immolation of children, athletes or actress just because they can't get excited about global warming.

Just think about it: your daughter's overfamiliar classmates, IT personnel who ask what they can "do you for", the "Question Time" audience. All redeployed usefully elsewhere, like organising a Bach Choir tour of Mogadishu.

And all because.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quis custodiet idiotas?

The wisest advice I ever received came courtesy of Nurilbek Atajanov, deputy director of the Shymkent Brandy Distillery in Kazakhstan.

"Never drink five-star Shymkent brandy," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because we don't make any."

I was reminded of Nuri, who went on to design Kazakhstan's first combination ski-slope/catwalk for spry models, when considering The Guardian newspaper and the dismal advice it proffers.

"What are you doing, considering The Guardian?" the reader might venture, knowing how pressed I am for time. The answer is that the other reader has asked whether, given that newspaper's repeated failure to advance the progressive cause, The Guardian might be part of the Welsh plot to give the English and those easily mistaken for them a bad time.

These are serious charges. Like sappers, we Elders of Capel Seion don't make more than one mistake at a time, and The Guardian looks and smells like a great big Bong full of Wrong.

I have therefore undertaken a case study of three Guardian "advices", as the K Man would have it, to assess them for signs of crypto-Cambrian cupidity.

They are:

Operation Clark County
The Liberal Moment Has Come; and
"No Pressure"

These campaigns had several traits in common, apart from the albatross of Guardian endorsement:

They backed causes close to the liberal/progressive heart
They boasted sophisticated use of the media, and
They not only failed, but possibly harmed their objects of desire.

This does indeed-to-goodness sound like Welsh work, so let us peer into the anthracite pit and see what slurry it yields. Today we shall consider Disaster Number One:

1. Operation Clark County. Not, as you might imagine, an attempt to rename Glamorgan after Clarks's excellent radioactive meat pies, but rather a Guardian campaign to persuade the cussed, gun-hugging folk of that swing country in the swinging state of Ohio to cherish the lute-like sensibilities of Liberal Europe and vote against George W Bush in the 2004 US presidential election.

If you want to influence US public opinion you'd be well-advised to enist the support of fellow-countrymen whom the average American might have heard of, such as some golfers, "House" or Mr Bean.

You'd get them to do a breezy, 30-second television ad, ending with a signoff like "This illegal campaign broadcast was brought to you by the concerned citizenry of Notting Hill and Four Weddings & a Funeraland. Have an absolutely topping one".

In practice, a hector of Darwinists, thespians and book-writin' types sent letters - actual, pen & ink letters - clattering through the peaceful post boxes of their transatlantic targets, combining insults with a solipsistic sense of injury. Americans responded with an equally predictable brace of threats, invitations to involuntary dental surgery and thanks from Republican campaign managers.

The Guardian eventually acknowledged that this was doing little to advance Senator Kerry's cause and halted the operation. The result had been a swing towards the Godly if unlettered President Bush in Clark Country, alone of all the counties of Ohio.

It was as if all the good work of cultural ambassadors like the Spice Girls, Tony Blair and Helen Mirren had been crushed under a giant statue of Terry-Thomas relieving himself into a Jesus-shaped apple pie while waving a North Vietnamese flag.

Plus President Bush was helped back in for another four years of colliding with international affairs and the banking system like a flatulent toddler.

All very good, but was it Welsh? Intense research has uncovered two apparent culprits. Droll Australian dopebaiter Tim Blair claimed that The Guardian had simply acted on his suggestion. This had itself been prompted by Guardian tentacle Jonathan Freedland's novel complaint that he and other foreigners were not allowed to vote in the US election.

(As the Mighty Professor Geras noted, Freedland didn't demand the right to pay US taxes that would usually accompany such a privilege).

The Guardian denied the Blair Thesis, but failed to name names. So could there be a Welsh collier at the bottom or it all, deconstructing the campaign coalface? My conclusion is negative.

We Welsh like to parade our peccadilloes, not sheathe them in silence. Now, with hindsight Operation Clark County might loom doomed out of the liberal fog like a Citroën 2CV at a Tennessee demolition derby, but The Guardian wasn't to know at the time that the Jihad Jocelyns and mad lady librarians with Henry V hairdos who make up their readership would outnumber solicitous Atlanticists in the Clark County mail bag.

Common sense, empirical study of the data and an element of self-awareness would have made this obvious, but, chwarae teg, we are dealing with The Guardian.

Conclusion: Welsh involvement not proven (The K Man insists on Scottish Law, modified by Norse practices)

The evidence of the 2010 UK General Election and a cinematic campaign advocating the detonation of schoolchildren in defence of the envirnonment will be considered in due course.