The Plastic Hippo

March 25, 2012

The midnight hour

Filed under: Media,Music,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 12:59 am

The next 3,600 seconds, thanks to the return of British Summer Time, will not take place. Consequently, the following 700 words will be even more irrelevant than usual. The precession of the equinoxes, the Gregorian calendar and that Einstein bloke have a lot to answer for.

Many years ago, pounding up a late-night M1 in a long wheel-base Mercedes 406D truck loaded with a still slightly warm HiWatt, Vox and Marshall back line, the radio was the only company. During the lost hour between one and two, the night shift BBC DJ decided to risk playing records that had previously been banned by the BBC.

The airwaves were treated to “Je t`aime…moi non plus”, “Let`s spend the night together” by the Stones and “Lola” by the Kinks. Amazingly, “Lola” was banned not because it was the story of an encounter in a Soho club between a young man and a transvestite, but because the original lyric mentions Coca Cola. Ray Davies changed the lyric to “tastes just like cherry cola” which, given the irony of hindsight, makes the song even ruder. Davies played the game very cleverly, and his next hit “Ape man” had the joyous line: “the air pollution is fogging up my eyes”. Lou Reed, some years later, kept his head and secured airplay because BBC executives simply did not understand the lyric of “Walk on the wild side”.

Other tracks considered in times gone by as unsuitable for broadcast included “A day in the life”, “I am the Walrus” and “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” by a little known northern beat combo. Later, “Imagine” by someone called John Lennon was banned and “Give Ireland back to the Irish” prompted respected philosopher Alan “fluff” Freeman to rename the tune “a record by the group Wings” when it hit number 16 in the UK singles chart. When the sublime “To drunk to f**k” by Dead Kennedys hit the top 40, Tony Blackburn, another polymath seer, simply went from number 37 on the chart to number 35.

In its long and distinguished history, the BBC has banned recordings from such subversives as George Formby, Cliff Richard, the Beverley Sisters, Perry Como and Ken Dodd. During the Gulf War of 1990, Auntie Beeb banned “Bang bang” by Cher, “Imagine” again, “In the air tonight” by Phil Collins, “Killing an Arab” by the Cure, “Light my fire”, “Sailing”, “Walk like an Egyptian” and, astonishingly, “Boom bang-a-bang” by Lulu. Earlier, the BBC also banned “God save the Queen” and allegedly fiddled the sales figures to keep it from reaching number one. The time might be right for a long overdue re-release of the Pistol`s seminal single.

The night shift DJ probably thought it was a good idea to play these banned records during that lost hour assuming that only cats, dogs, insomniacs and tired truck drivers were listening. He was sacked a short while later and his likely defence against dismissal based on the axial movement of an oblate spheroid planet at perihelion and the general theory of relativity must have fallen upon deaf ears.

As we set our season forward to summer, we need to set our watches, clocks, DVD players, computers, phones and hopes back 60 years to a time before a welfare state. At that time, the BBC had in place the infamous “green book” of instruction on what was and was not suitable for broadcast. The “N word” was acceptable only if it was followed by the word “minstrel”. It was not allowed to impersonate Gracie Fields or Vera Lynn and jokes about rabbits, lavatories, “effeminate men” and lodgers were forbidden. This nonsense saw the birth of the Goons and Round the Horn and a genre of humour a quantum leap from smutty music hall gags into something hilariously obscene and very, very funny.

Inspired by the orders from above contained in the “green book” and the words that were not allowed, the wonderful Flanders and Swann composed this marvellous ditty.

As the lost hour passes, and with a failing, corrupt government lying and trying to curb free speech, we should start to practice our Vera Lynn impersonations.


March 23, 2012

Financially neutral

Filed under: Politics,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 1:11 pm

This humble blog would like to congratulate Chancellor Osborne on a magnificent, courageous and completely fair budget that is good for the economy, good for the country and will secure a better future for our once proud nation. Gideon has made Conservatives unelectable.

Regular readers will know that the plastic hippo has made no secret of his admiration for the canon of work left to us by a certain George Orwell. Dear old Eric Blair, however, even at his most satirical, could not have imagined that his Newspeak would be adopted as the lingua franca of an actual government.

In his novel 1984, Orwell conjured a world of dictatorship couched in the glib and oily art of a new language of deception and redefinition. Osborne, in his third budget, has mastered the use of Newspeak to oppose the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and take arms against a sea of troubles. He spoke of “rewarding work” and a “financially neutral” budget. Sadly, work has not been rewarded and his ruinous plans are far from neutral. The delicious irony that this year the UK will be represented at the Eurovision Song Contest by an old aged pensioner singing “Love will set you free” is particularly apt. If successful, Engelbert Humperdinck will no doubt record a version for the continental market entitled “Arbeit macht frei”.

The rationale behind cutting the 50p tax rate levied on very wealthy people seems to be that the 50p rate does not generate much income to the exchequer as most very wealthy people manage to avoid paying it anyway. Add to this the mutually exclusive argument that a 50p tax rate encourages the very wealthy to leave this sceptred isle and Osborne Speak becomes the very antithesis of logic.

Gideon, of course, is something of an expert on taxation. The income he receives from his daddy`s trust fund is technically classed as “unearned” and so is exempt from the 50p rate, the 45p rate or, indeed, any taxation at all. Similarly, his aggressive stance on stamp duty when buying and selling expensive mansions will not affect him. He rents out his mansions to the very wealthy who avoid tax and are allegedly deserting the country in droves. For good measure, he has cut corporation tax and removed tax relief for charitable donations. As an example of financial neutrality resulting in a 45p higher tax rate, the head honcho of the failing Barclays Bank, Bob Diamond, will benefit from a £300,000 windfall on this year`s £6million bonus. Work clearly sets you free, especially if you are a millionaire cabinet minister.

To pay for all of this, Osborne has turned on his own dwindling fan base. The leafy Tory shires are up in arms over pension tax thresholds and even the most idiotic and deluded Tory prince would shudder at yesterday`s headlines in the Telegraph, Mail, Express and Sun. Old people, who have worked hard and saved, tend to vote and tend to vote Conservative. Happy to see the ill, the disabled, education and the NHS thrown on the bonfire, the rattling of Zimmer frames and Royal Dalton china teacups is becoming deafening across the Home Counties. Osborne is toast.

In the increasingly surreal world of the coalition, political definitions and redefinitions need to be re-examined. The uncharitable might now describe the Liberal Democrats as irrelevant but that would be unfair. The real definition of Liberal Democrat is a party of two-faced, spineless liars lacking the intellect to comprehend that their only option is to crawl away to a dark corner and die of shame. The Orwellian or Osbornian definition of Conservative is a party of two-faced, spineless liars who possess enough intellect to divert guilt to another irrelevant and doomed political party at the same time as stuffing their pockets full of lovely cash. It is as difficult to define the Labour party as that task is similar to herding cats or trying to capture fog in a jam jar.

Engelbert is likely to do well in Azerbaijan even if none of us voted for the song or for the veteran crooner to represent us. The parallels with Cameron, Clegg and Osborne in terms of an absent mandate to inflict suffering are irresistible. Mr Humperdinck along with Mr Cameron might find that they will be ultimately defeated by grannies with more credibility.

The future might look like this.

March 17, 2012

Mothering Sunday

Filed under: Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 11:38 pm

Necessity, it has been said, is the mother of invention. It is not certain if that is what Frank Zappa had in mind when he composed the sublime “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mamma” but it is now government and not guitars that are after fecund womanhood.

Government has decided that it has become necessary to harm people in order to maximise bungs for banks, bonuses for bankers and a big, fat beano for the bastards ripping off Britain. As we are all in this together, the weakest and most vulnerable are obliged to suffer the most because, as our government points out, it is in the long term interest of the terminally ill, people with disabilities, children, the unemployed and the elderly to subsidise tax cuts for a very few, a very happy few, very wealthy Tory party donors. As necessity goes, it doesn`t get very much more inventive than that.

To their credit, the mothers of Britain are pitching in to make sure that the rich get richer. The recently published unemployment figures show that of the 28,000 increase, 22,000 are women. Cuts in child benefit, paid directly to mothers, will fund the abolition of the 50p tax rate to predominately male tycoons. A detailed report for the TUC states that the gender pay gap in the private sector is more than 18 per cent. In what is left of the public sector, even with the disaster of single status, the gender pay gap is around nine per cent. In the private sector, 50 per cent of women earn less than £15,000 compared to 20 per cent of men in identical jobs. Who loves you, mamma?

In light of the terrible unemployment statistics, the government spun the line that everything was fine because unemployment had decreased. The media swallowed the line along with the hook and the sinker as the figures for part-time work were slightly up. Erm…right. The government view seems to be that women prefer part-time work because it gives them the opportunity to cook, clean and skivvy whilst nurturing the next generation of the unemployed. Add to this the closures of Surestart Centres, astronomical increases in the cost of child care, the removal of employment and basic, human rights, the closure of refuges for the victims of domestic violence and the removal of legal aid for women being beaten to a pulp by abusive partners. One wonders what women have done to offend the government.

But help is at hand. A government spokesman said:
“We have set up the Women`s Business Council and are providing resources for volunteer business mentors who will support women who want to start or grow their own businesses.”

Fantastic. We can look forward to more women entrepreneurs like Emma Harrison who amassed a huge personal fortune through alleged fraud at A4e (Action for Jobs) at the expense of the jobless and the tax payer. Perhaps Nadine Dorries should be appointed business secretary and dictate to mothers the irresponsibility and foolishness of wishing to have a say in life, society and their own bodies.

On the eve of Mothering Sunday, some of the small people who share the house came and asked for money to buy cards and presents for their mum. In these dark days when the price of rough cider and cigarettes is going through the roof, they were offered the fatherly advice that a made present and card was more valuable than increasing the profits of Tesco or Asda. One barely literate child produced a card that said:
“The best mums have sticky floors,
Dirty ovens,
Piles of washing,
A mountain of odd socks
And really happy children.”

So, from Dave and Gideon and Nick and Nadine, happy Mothering Sunday. Mr Zappa, is sadly dead.

March 14, 2012

Desirable residence for sale

Filed under: Fiction,Society — theplastichippo @ 12:23 pm

New instructions:
For sale: a deceptively spacious sovereign nation with huge potential for improvement. Ideal for first time buyers or for buy to rent, the house, outbuildings and grounds are an attractive investment and a valuable addition to any property portfolio. Apply in the first instance to estate agents Cameron, Osborne and Pickles.

Formerly known as “Albion”, the property is now called “Great Britain” and has stood since the end of the Pleistocene ice age. Extensive mineral deposits and other natural resources occur in the many acres of pasture and woodland and these are available for purchase through a separate contract.

Since 1066, the owners have made significant improvements to the property, notably annexing various parcels of land that surround the estate. In 1945 the owners constructed a new west wing containing a nursery, a schoolroom, a library and a small clinic. Although now derelict, the west wing offers an opportunity for redevelopment as a series of fast food outlets.

In brief, the property consists of:
Vestibule and entrance hall fitted with a network of CCTV cameras, full body scanners, guest WC and child detention room. A discreet side entrance is available for more welcome visitors. Security can be further enhanced with regular patrols by the newly privatised Police Service for a modest annual fee.

Spacious through lounge with Sky TV connection leading to a kitchen/dinette luxuriously equipped with a microwave oven, a lighting socket and dirty laundry facility. Wall to wall floor and state of the art transparent windows enhance the charming character of this family living space. An opulent drawing room/lounge boasts not only a table, but also a chair together with many fittings to allow the lighting of energy efficient candles.

On the first floor there is a deluxe, well-appointed master bedroom complete with en suite WC, tin bath and watering can. Two million spare bedrooms, all exempted from the Department of Work and Pension regulations on benefit fraud, are available for sub-letting. A magnificent attic complete with rafters would afford ideal storage space for elderly, infirmed or feeble minded relatives.

The property is fronted by tungsten steel gates complete with two tasteful machine-gun nests modelled in a mock Rococo late Baroque style accompanied by Doric watch towers. A paved driveway forms part of the M25 and could provide parking for up to 10,000 cars.

To the rear are a number of picturesque outbuildings including a stable block that could be converted into servant accommodation at very little expense. The disposal of two existing brood mares known as Raisa and Rebekah will be the responsibility of the purchaser. A grade 2 listed barn in the English style offers scope for redevelopment utilising a mysterious arson attack. Additionally, there are workshops, a forge, a smithy and a cider press which have potential for income generation. Again it is the responsibility of the purchaser to dispose of the homeless people currently occupying the site.

Beyond the well fortified compound is “Clegg Meadow”, which is currently used to graze sheep. A planning application is in place for a change of use to allow the meadow to be developed as a landfill site for a variety of toxic waste. To the west, and on higher ground, is a magnificent ornate stone tower. “Miliband`s Folly” is in need of repair or demolition as it is about to collapse. To the east, “Osborne Water” has fishing rights to land Kippers and Red Herrings.

Access to the property could not be more convenient. With a high speed rail link running across the rear patio and the recently announced runway extension at the nearby international airport terminating in the herb garden, mainland Europe can be reached in a matter of days. The area offers excellent schools, hospitals, leisure facilities and shops located in nearby France, Belgium and Holland.

The true market value of this prestigious property is in the region of three trillion pounds sterling. However, government legislation has allowed this desirable property to be offered at just £500,000 or nearest offer, and with a deposit requirement of just five per cent, a luxurious home is now within the reach of people who cannot possibly pay off their debts. The vendor is determined to end the scourge of unaffordable debt by encouraging house hunters to take on unaffordable debt.

Viewing by appointment only.

March 11, 2012

Shirley you cannot be serious

Filed under: History,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 10:20 pm

There is something unbearably sad in witnessing a once formidable and respected political presence fall from grace. On the other hand, there is sadistic delight to be had in seeing a mendacious leadership of a fragmenting political party sign its own death warrant.

At their spring conference in Gateshead, Liberal Democrats first decided not to vote on voting not to vote on the selling off of the NHS. Then they voted to vote for a vote to back David Cameron`s agenda of destruction. Nick Clegg became increasingly worried. First he said that he would ignore the membership if they didn`t agree with him. Then he informed conference delegates that any rebellion against his Tory policy would be a victory for Labour and not a stand to protect a vital and cherished health service. Then, with a last desperate throw of the dice, “national treasure” Shirley Williams was wheeled out to end her distinguished career in a cess pit of betrayal and ignominy.

It is unusual for a party leadership to go from irrelevant to a laughing stock in such a short period of time and today sees the final absorption of the Liberal Democrat leadership into the Conservative party.

The real grass roots Liberals, however, realising that Lansley`s odious Health Bill is a crock of guano, did not capitulate in the name of party unity and misplaced loyalty to a parliamentary leadership grown accustomed to the trappings of power but not any actual influence. Clegg and his privileged cabinet Tories spoke of their influence in curbing the ongoing madness spewing out of Downing Street and pointed to their success at achieving nothing in the coalition agreement. No mention of the party manifesto or the slight misunderstanding over tuition fees or protecting the NHS.

For all the hot air, Libdems have done precisely nothing to halt Cameron`s plan to asset strip the state and fill the pockets of the rich. Libdem MPs and Peers do what they are told to do and troop into the Tory lobby when it`s time to vote on taking away the rights of children, people with disabilities and the vulnerable. Kicking beggars might be par for the course for Conservatives, but now Libdems will be remembered for stopping benefits to children with terminal cancer. Without any shame, they still sleep soundly in their second or third homes.

The party faithful, however, fearful of the possibility of verbal abuse and even physical attack should they dare to knock on doors in the run up to council elections in May, go back to their constituencies and prepare not to renew their party membership. After sticking two fingers up to Clegg, there is talk of a leadership challenge in the ranks of the rank and file and Clegg`s spinning apologists are already attempting to pour their oleaginous slime onto the troubled waters. “Just a minor piece of conference procedure”, they claim. “Nothing happened, nothing to see, move along now.”

The Deputy Prime Minister himself said: “It is not a Liberal Democrat health bill, but it is a better bill because of the Liberal Democrats. The health bill was stopped in its tracks and rewritten because this is a coalition government.”

The disturbing thing is that Clegg`s state of mind seems to actually believe this delusional nonsense. He has been assimilated into the Tory strategy of devastating the state in the name of more profit for the greedy and the avaricious and then tells the nation he is doing the exact opposite. “Nothing happened, nothing to see, move along now.”

Clegg and his well-off friends have abandoned any pretence at principle or liberalism and the Tories at the top of the Liberal Democrats intending to ignore the party membership will do so at their peril. Yellow MPs and local councillors staring annihilation in the face at the ballot box will, like all politicians, put survival first and distance themselves from their duplicitous and self-interested superiors. Support for Clegg will vanish and the veneer of an open and democratic party will disappear. The resounding silence from Clegg on the need to publish the health bill risk register is an indication that the process of amalgamation with the Conservative Party has already started.

With Liberal Democrat activists unlikely to defect to a woefully inadequate Labour Party, the alternative is to remove the leader, break the coalition and force a general election. With no credible opposition, the result would be chaos. Not that Clegg will care. Having bulked up his CV, he will depart on the gravy train to become an EU commissioner leaving his party in tatters.

Should the Libdems survive the ensuing carnage, their only hope is to elect a leader with a backbone strong enough to lead an independent party. David Laws and Chris Huhne are unavailable due to dalliances with illegality, Vince Cable is bonkers, Simon Hughes is below contempt and Danny Alexander has a previous engagement touring in the stage version of Balamory. That leaves Lembit Opik who, if he can persuade a gullible constituency that he is not actually barking mad, could form a coalition with the Monster Raving Looney Party. That prospect would be a vast improvement on the current bunch of dead dingo`s gonads slashing and burning their way through society under the cover the cutting the deficit. Oh, just for clarity, borrowing and the deficit has increased under the stewardship of the present coalition.

After an illustrious career, spare a thought for poor Shirley Williams ending up being duped by a time-share salesman like Clegg. As a Labour cabinet minister, she joined the picket line at the infamous Grunwick strike in the late seventies prompting complete head-case Sir Keith Joseph to describe her as a moderate “behind whom Red Fascism spreads”. She would surely not want to be remembered for that.

As part of the gang of four who founded the SDP, she was complicit in destroying the old Liberal Party and rendered the Labour Party unelectable for nearly a generation. Surely, she would not want to be reminded of that.

The SDP went the way of the old Liberals and now the Liberal Democrats face the prospect of being unelectable for a generation. Two political parties gone and two others wrecked. Surely she should do us all a favour and join the Conservative Party. Surely she…

Stop calling me Baroness Williams of Crosby.

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