The StirrerThe Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond



How about replacing the Union Flag with a butcher's apron? Go on think about it? Laurence Inman sets out to provoke - just for a change - with his musings on a day for Britain.

Regular readers of this column (Den from Nechells and my aged Mom) will know that I am partial to the odd acronym. The odder the better.

My latest favourite is APOC, which stands for Another Pile Of Crap. Those of you who lean towards the coarser end of the language-spectrum could amend this to APOS or APOB. It can also be extended: JAPOC (Just Another….) or YAPOC (Yet Another…)

You can do what you like with it really.

The latest APOOC (Another Pile Of Old Crap; you see - it extends itself!) has emerged from the clucking mouth of Ruth Kelly, the Minister For Whatever It Is She Does.

She has suggested that we have a Britain Day, when we celebrate our ‘values’ and indulge in characteristically British activities, like having a street-party with bunting, hanging those flags out of our bedroom windows, morris dancing, drinking warm ale while cycling down a country lane to evensong with a spinster on the crossbar etc etc.

As soon as I heard this I immediately realised in what dimension these people live, and where it is that they think we live as well.

It can be only be experienced on a distant planet known to astronomers as BBCHOMESERVICE1954. On this planet the inhabitants speak the kind of English last heard in Listen With Mother and Mrs Dale’s Diary.

Everybody is basically the same, sharing the same ‘values’ and believing that everything will turn out for the best.

But what are British values, and how can we reconcile whatever we think they are with the fact that significant swathes of the world’s population think of our flag as a butcher’s apron?

What values do we think we are imposing on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan? You’d think someone in the government might be able to elucidate, Tone himself perhaps, but all we ever get is ‘I hear what you’re saying on this….but we have to move forward….all I can say is I did what I thought was right….surely none of you wants Saddam back….’

That last remark will ring bells with anyone familiar with the works of George Orwell. In Animal Farm, whenever the pigs want to silence dissent among the rest of the animals, they urge them to consider what life would like if Jones the farmer were to come back. It invariably does the trick.

I think we are living in a lost chapter of Orwell’s other masterpiece, Nineteen-eighty-four.

We must always have an enemy. But, just as in soaps, the nasty characters gradually turn soft, so our bitterest enemies become our cuddliest friends. Like Gerry Adams.

But before we have time to think about the implications of this, another enemy appears, this time with an unpronounceable name and an ugly bearded face with terrible eyes that never leave yours as his picture looms closer and closer on the TV ‘news.’

If we temporarily run out of current enemies we can drag up one from the past to stand in.

Isn’t this very familiar ? If you know Orwell it is.

And we need a constant supply of hate-figures to keep us in a continual state of fear and suspicion. If the state can’t lock us up for months without charge, the nasties will take over. No child is safe from predatory paedophiles. No food is completely free of cancer-inducing chemicals. Too much sun will kill you. Not enough will cause depression. You are a loser because your bum isn’t as small as Nicole Kidman’s.

We are also supplied with people to love, or admire, or cry over. Every soldier is a hero, every old person is a saint, all who suffer are brave and dignified. In this parallel-world you don’t just get cancer, you battle against it. If you die, does that mean you didn’t try hard enough?

Can’t we have the real world back ? I don’t mind ambiguities and uncertainties. I’m reconciled to the fact of my inevitable extinction. I know I’m not perfect and that nobody I’ve ever known is or was either. If they were, I’d be bored witless. It’s okay. I can handle all this.

What I’m very much afraid I won’t be able to handle for much longer is the sight of people like Ruth Kelly treating me as if I were a two-year-old. In the immortal words of Paul Simon: I fear I’ll do some damage one fine day.

A national day Day For Britain anyone? What would it be like? And who would it represent? Leave a comment on our Message Board.


Leave a comment or raise new issues on The Stirrer message board.

©2006 The Stirrer