In those days, His Royal Highness The Duke of York was as injudicious in his choice of acquaintance as he was ardent in his admiration of Unblemish’t Pulchritude. This was witnessed by the inclusion in his retinue of Mr Epstein, a luxurious man of business that dwelt on an island, within the picturesque archipelago named by mariners for the first Queen Elizabeth. To this Virgin atoll, the colonial Tiberius would coax credulous maidens, for the purpose of cruelly deflowering them in its verdant precincts, an enterprise he achieved by a generall display of enticing ostentation, and the untiring persistence of liberally rewarded Pandars. For this, he was at length thrown into prison, though e’er he could be brought to the Assizes he was found slain in the dungeon, it being impossible to determine whether by his own hand, or by that of the Ruffian his gaolers had put with him. A maiden of Mr Epstein’s set, one Victoria, brought a Suit against the Duke, proclaiming that years gone by he forced himself upon her, an accusation His Royal Highness would likely be forced to answer before the Colonial Justices. His Sovereign Mother was set to pay dear for learnèd men at law to speak for him, a question upon which the Mob was bitterly divided. Some factions held the Queen’s last shilling to be de jure everyman’s, and should not be cast at the wasteful defence of almost certain perfidy. Others held the Queen’s purse was de facto her own, and would be nobly emptied in an attempt to restore the tarnished lustre of the Crown and establish what must be the unquestionable innocence of a Royal Duke.
As the kingdom reeled under a two-fold burden of disease and privation, the Prime Minister and his cohorts foregathered in Manchester for a round of feasting and declamation. On the final day, when his Jamodars had spoken and the bacchanalia were for an interlude suspended, the Prime Minister himself rose to speak. Whereas his opponent Mr Starmer had elsewhere in Albion rowed with the weighty oars of sweet reason and cautious speculation, the Prime Minister plied the craft of discourse with the bright sails of levity and fable, the former to sustain the adulation of the mob, the latter to draw the veil of deceit over his iniquities. As to his trusted Minister Mr Gove discovered a-capering in a tavern, he said it was done to encourage timid folk to go forth, for the ravages of pestilence were now all but abated. As to his own near fatal distemper, he said lightly that the angels of providence had timely plucked him from the jaws of Hades. As to the Tartarean suffering endured by millions in the kingdom, in flames kindled at his own harsh bidding, in furnaces stoked by his own merciless Jamodars, he said nothing. His oration concluded, it was met with a hoarse cadence of rapturous applause, as when Mammon harangued the assembled Pandaemonium. Throughout the kingdom, the trusting mob read his oratory in hastily printed broadsheets, and such as were barely lettered rejoiced, when they saw its essence cunningly graved in lurid pamphlets.
At the time of the pestilence there lived in London a Mr Rosen, who wrote merry tales for children and served honourably for a while as their Laureate. One such tale was of a family that went forth fearlessly to hunt a Bear, despite the arduous terrain, and all manner of peril that Reason and Prudence would perforce connect to such an enterprise. The tale was greeted with tumultuous joy and hilarity by the infants that heard it, and the universal approbation of Parents, Grandsires, Schoolmasters and Booksellers. This applause served to heighten the already lofty pedestal upon which Mr Rosen stood, so that his wise utterances on all manner of ills and delusions, then prevailing in the kingdom, became as widely attended as his verses and fables. By ill chance, when the pestilence took hold, Mr Rosen was among the first to sicken, and sank into a torpor from which, it then seemed, even the most intense Hippocratic intervention would be insufficient to revive him. However, fair Providence intervened, and the Laureate was timely snatched from the Valley of the Shadow amid widespread rejoicing. When at length he had shaken off the clinging fetters of distemper, Mr Rosen turned his ingenious pencil to an account of his ordeal. This book was not merely ardent in its praise of Physitians, terrifick in its delineation of morbid peril, and completely descriptive of the palliative powers of Love. It also stood as a memento for the virtues of Physick, and a warning to those Politicians that would rob the purse of Hippocrates to feed the ravening maw of Greed and Ambition.
To be continued in installments…
The calamities he wrought, the Prime Minister answered with glib jest, and when this failed he resorted to sallies of polished mendacity. Though the mob had been won with the promise that their shores would no longer be gained by the swarthy alien, he was assisted in his endeavours by a court of ambitious Dravidians and Moors, whose families in kinder times had been amply nourished in the bosom of Albion. The first of these was Sunak, a subtle nabob who, though his own domestick coffers were ripe with the treasures of Ind, sought to impoverish further the wretches of whose precarious welfare he was now the unchallenged custodian. In those days, such of the mob who worked not or laboured for little, were sustained by a Pittance of twenty pounds dispensed to them weekly. This Sunak denied them, plunging millions into a sink of unrelieved poverty. A second minister, Patel, he tasked with the protection of Albion’s shores and the preservation of order within the realm. To this end, she commanded the Fleet to sail to and fro’ in the Channel, for the purpose of surprising French fishermen, or to apprehend leaky barques laden with wretches seeking the protection and succour which in former times they might have expected on these shores. So it was that the Navy, once the proud scourge of Spain’s Armada and the Nemesis of the German Tyrant, was employed at little more than overturning the fragile coracles of the blameless.
Another among the Prime Minister’s retinue of stony-hearted Jamodars was Javid, whom he appointed chief overseer of all Physitians. When he assumed the undeserved mantle of apothecary general, Albion’s subjects had for long been accustomed to a unique and beneficent regime of Physick, whereby every man, be he never so poor, might obtain receipts for his distemper gratis, their price justly furnished from the ample coffers of Taxation. Javid set about proscribing this banquet of Hippocrates, proclaiming that the sick and halt should rather throw themselves on the charity of kinsmen than burden the state treasury with their sickness. When droves perished in the unhappy wake of these leges sumptuariae, the Prime Minister urged the mob to consider not the length of their grandsire’s mortal days, nor the outcome of his chancres, but rather the fatter purses they might obtain, only by joyful labour and mute obedience.
Days ago these were just yellow socks. Now they are the Socks of the Heartless Philanderer. Yellow socks have been given a bad name. Some regret this, while others say yellow socks were never a great addition to a man’s wardrobe. Will yellow socks come to be known as “Hancocks”, eternal badges of shame? Or are they now a defiant symbol of the devil-may-care Lothario? It will be interesting to see the fate of yellow socks, those already owned and those yet to be bought.
The Hancock Scandal presents an ideal opportunity to revisit the Ministerial Code, a document setting out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duty. The full document – only 36 pages – can be read here. Below are two important sections: first, the foreword by Boris Johnson; second the Seven Principles of Public Life. This 2019 text is the latest version of the Code, shortly pre-Brexit and not a long way before Covid. Johnson’s foreword is especially poignant, when you consider the discrepancy between what was recklessly promised and where we are now: “We will seize the opportunities offered by Brexit, investing in education, technology and infrastructure, unlocking the talents of the whole nation and levelling up across our United Kingdom so that no town or community is ever again left behind or forgotten. In doing so, we will make our country the greatest place to invest or set up a business, the greatest place to send your kids to school and the greatest place in the world to live and bring up a family. To fulfil this mission, and win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety – and this code sets out how we must do so.” As to Hancock and Johnson, one can try to work out for oneself how many of the Seven Principles they have flouted while in office.
The Prime Minister
The mission of this Government is to deliver Brexit on 31st October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our whole United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth.
We will seize the opportunities offered by Brexit, investing in education, technology and infrastructure, unlocking the talents of the whole nation and levelling up across our United Kingdom so that no town or community is ever again left behind or forgotten. In doing so, we will make our country the greatest place to invest or set up a business, the greatest place to send your kids to school and the greatest place in the world to live and bring up a family. To fulfil this mission, and win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety – and this code sets out how we must do so.
There must be no bullying and no harassment; no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility. No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The precious principles of public life enshrined
in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times; as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service.
Crucially, there must be no delay – and no misuse of process or procedure by any individual Minister that would seek to stall the collective decisions necessary to deliver Brexit and secure the wider changes needed across our United Kingdom.
The time has come to act, to take decisions, and to give strong leadership to change this country for the better.
That is what this Government will do.
The Seven Principles of Public Life
Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.
Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.
Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
June 25 is OBON Day, a new adventure in national pride set up by OBON, the “One Britain One Nation” movement. On Friday, thousands of children equipped with Union Jacks will sing the OBON anthem, One Britain, One Dream, the rousing chorus of which is “We are Britain / And we have one dream / To unite all people / In one great team.” It is no surprise that the UK Government and The Department of Education are in full support of this jamboree. As faith in Boris Johnson’s government evaporates by the minute, OBON Day provides a welcome diversion from the disasters of Covid and Brexit. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, described OBON Day as “an amazing project” adding that the Government had “already asked schools to be able to participate in this and we are very happy from the dispatch box to reiterate that endorsement of this project and encourage them to play their part in it.” So, putting children in the front line of a nationalist push was a clever move on the part of OBON. It captivated a desperate government and drew support from a disillusioned public. Though the event has attracted ridicule and apprehension in many quarters, it remains popular in others and is likely to be well supported.
Some have inevitably likened OBON to the Hitler Youth, perhaps without realizing that Britain has a dishonourable history of its own when it comes to press-ganging children into a nationalist cause. June 1925, for example, saw the founding of the FCC, the Fascist Children’s Clubs, an offshoot of the women’s units of the British Fascisti, a forerunner of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. If your offspring joined this junior branch of the movement, they could expect a well-organised afternoon of activities: “I. Roll call and salute the Union Jack. II. Hymn and Lord’s Prayer. III. Historical and national subjects, lives of good men and women etc. IV. Games. V. Competitions given out for home work. VI. Patriotic songs and items of news. VII. General tidying up. Monitors take special charge of the Union Jack. God Save the King.” The following year a Mr Harrison Hill founded the Patriotic Song League. The first song he wrote for children proclaimed the virtues of nationalism in the face of the common enemy, which in those days was Communism: “We are all Anti-Red, and We’re proud of it, / All Britons, and singing aloud of it / If Red, White and Blue isn’t good enough for you, / And if you don’t like the Empire, clear out of it!.” Clearly, OBON would be the first to distance itself from historical movements like the FCC, pointing to its own avowed focus on “inclusion” and “tolerance” as evidence of very different ideals. Nonetheless, there are unsettling similarities to be found in the ideology of OBON and that of the far-right groups that took root in the Twenties and Thirties. What are they? A careful inspection of the OBON website reveals a great deal.
First, OBON has unwarrantably appointed itself guardian of the nation’s moral compass. This is a well-known characteristic of extremist movements. It says, my italics, that its aims are “to make Britain an international model of moral rectitude” and to “re-appropriate the flag of Great Britain so that it represents all people of good conscience”. So, if your ideas of what constitute moral rectitude and a good conscience are not congruent with OBON’s, then you won’t be admitted to the fold.
Second, OBON also sees itself, with breathtaking impertinence, as a custodian of culture – which again is a familiar badge of extremism, recalling the cultural depredations of Hitler and Stalin. OBON’s cultural aim, again my italics, is “to create a single culture that embraces and accommodates differences without over-emphasising and reinforcing them.” In other words, your cultural differences will be tolerated as long you submit to the overarching principles of the new nationalism, the new culture hastily cobbled together to replace the old. Step out of line, and you’re for it.
Third, the OBON website is littered with entirely gratuitous jingo carefully calculated to appeal to nationalist sentiment and sentimentality – yet another characteristic it shares with extremist movements of the past. For example, when introducing its CEO and founder, a former police officer, we are told that “it can be said with confidence that Kash Singh wore the Queen’s uniform with immense pride.” It goes on to say that Singh “feels proud to dedicate his role as the Chief Executive of OBON to Her Majesty and the people of this Nation.” The jingoism is visually intensified by the OBON logo, an embarrassing clip-art hotchpotch featuring British lions rampant as supporters, surmounted by the Crown of England. It falsely implies endorsement by the establishment and unsuccessfully tries to create an impression of tradition and heritage.
Fourth, worst of all perhaps, is OBON’s shameless cooption of ideals that we all strive for and that are attainable without recourse to nationalist jingo. OBON says it wants “a society built on compassion, tolerance and harmony based on mutual respect”. Well, don’t we all? But we all know from history that founding a nationalist movement is emphatically not the way to achieve this. All OBON seems to have learnt from history is this: that to give a dangerous movement traction in this day and age, one must cynically sugar the pill with the tame vocabulary of “inclusion” and “tolerance”. The only sense in which OBON might genuinely be described as “inclusive” is that people of colour are now welcome aboard the nationalist bandwagon in a way they wouldn’t have been in the 1920s.
If anyone is tempted to dismiss all this as unduly alarmist and consider OBON a harmless and well-meaning diversion, remember that extremist movements gain traction in hard times and thrive on chaos. They start from slender and apparently innocuous beginnings and grow into monsters. Kash Singh, who as a police officer won the Criminal Justice Award for his work during the 2001 Bradford riots, should know this well. If he has forgotten it, he should revisit history – and make a careful assessment of the people who write his copy and shape his publicity.
I have every hope that children will eventually resist the nonsense peddled by OBON and rebel against it. I leave you with an aggrieved report from Rotha Lintorn-Orman, the founder of the British Fascisti, describing how she was attacked by a group of uncooperative children in the East End in 1927: “We went down, a party of 15 strong, all women members, to further our campaign for the formation of the Fascist Children’s Clubs which are organizing around the country to counteract the propaganda of the Red Sunday School. Nearest the platform there were about 200 children, and the Reds behind kept on pushing at the back, so that the children were driven towards us. After a while the children started throwing things at us.” Good for them. Lintorn-Orman was forced to retreat in disarray.