Wednesday, 27 May 2015

It's warm inside the bubble. Let's never leave it.

Morning all.

Despite the general gloom (a viciously rightwing government intent on grinding our faces into the dirt, environmental collapse, all the marking, deadlines etc. etc.), it's actually been a rather lovely few days for those of us here in Vole Towers.

Quite a lot of the weekend was spent in my favourite city, Manchester. If it wasn't for their football teams' blend of arrogance and entitlement, it would be the best place on earth. Fine food was eaten, beautiful beers were consumed in fine independent establishments like the Port Street Beer House, arty gifts were bought and we saw Ride, reformed and in amazing form at the Manchester Albert Hall, a venue suspended in decaying beauty. The same goes for the crowd actually. The band looked trim and barely aged, and the audience had unearthed all its shoe gazing and baggy clobber for the occasion: t-shirts from back in the day and a fine collection of Italian leisure wear last glimpsed on the terraces in 1991, worn by (mostly) chaps whose jowls, hairlines and paunches hadn't stayed quite so pristine. I sang along to all the songs, as did most of those present, and the band soaked up the adoration. By the time they name checked their favourite Manchester bands we were eating out of their hands.

Back at work, we hosted a talk by Narinder Dhami, author of 200-300 childrens' books (so far), ranging from novelisations of Bend It Like Beckham to her 'Bindi Babes' series and crossing genres from light comedy to (in her new novel 13 Hours) thrillers. With her mother and sister in the audience, she read extracts from the new novel, talked about basing characters and events on her childhood, avoiding 'issues'  writing, the work involved in being a prolific author, how to get published and stay current, her relationship with fans and the writing process itself. Afterwards we went for dinner and I spent a long time chatting with her husband about our mutual favourite subjects: leftwing literature and photography. It sure beats moaning about marking.

I took a few photos:

I spent the rest of the sunny evening on grass

Friday, 22 May 2015

Leaving them all behind

So, after a week of marking and funerals and sibling birthdays, we have a long weekend ahead of us. As it's raining, I'm going to Manchester where at least that's normal. I'm off to see Ride, one of the first bands I really fell for (see also Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Tindersticks, Elastica and REM).

Being deprived of music until I got to university in 1993, I caught the tail-end of shoe gazing, just as Britpop killed off all the genuine indie bands. Britpop added ambition, cocaine, Union flags, football laddishness and fun. Not all of these things were conducive to good music, though looking at my enormous collection of coloured vinyl 7" singles, I clearly wasn't a very discerning listener. I just bought everything NME told me to, and passively accepted whatever the staff of Cob Records foisted on me (unsaleable stuff by their bands mostly). They'd openly mock what I asked to buy, and they were largely right. Nobody needs more than one Cecil or Northern Uproar single.

Not that I'd deny my youthful taste in music. The point of being young is that however derivative a band's sound is, it's new to the young. Once I'd bought all the new bands' music I could, I found the albums they'd been listening to. Without the (literally) thousands of Gomez and Helen Love and Starsailor singles I bought, I'd never have found My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Stereolab, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Joni Mitchell, Galaxie 500, Low, Datblygu, Tystion, Fflaps, Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush, Scott Walker, Steve Reich, Field Mice, Huggy Bear, Catchers, David Wrench, Bikini Kill and all the others (all links to favourite songs).

So, Ride. Good hair. Introspection. Enigmatic artwork and designs. Mumbling. Softness followed by jarring LOUDNESS. Britpop wiped them out for not being ambitious enough but they seemed fairly big and outgoing to me.* I also liked that wave of one-word bands: Pulp, Salad, Ride, Blur, Lush, Verve and so on. My favourite Ride album is Nowhere: here's 'Vapour Trail'.

I also love this melancholic American cover version:

I've also had a soft spot for 'Twisterella', 'Leave Them All Behind' and 'Chrome Waves' from Going Blank Again.

All their albums have a place in my heart, but Carnival of Light is special - the sound of a band with the vision and cash for a sprawling, cosmic piece of work. Once you've got a children's choir on board, you're off and away:

Finally there's the song and album that broke them up. 'Black Nite Crash' is a riffing monster. I love it.

I think what was lost with Britpop was a sense that the music itself was important. So many Britpop bands (and almost all the ones that followed) seem happy to be the soundtrack to a football goals highlights package or adverts. The British indie scene was often smug, precious and introverted, but there was a commitment to a culture that went beyond commodity entertainment. Yes, Ride had a prog element, but however imperfectly, they made art rather than stuff that eventually got them a judge's seat on Britain's Got Talent.

So anyway - off to Manchester for a loud night's shoegazing. Enjoy your bank-holiday weekend.

*also the drugs. I read a very amusing interview with them in which the singer was obsessed with whether the tongues of his trainers could be seen peeking out from his trousers. In retrospect, it seems likely he'd refreshed himself over-liberally.

Friday, 15 May 2015

On tour with the Nightingales

Yesterday I went to the Grapes in Stafford to see my friends The Nightingales do a warm-up for their tour, supported by The Courtesy Group and deliberately unfunny comic legend Ted Chippington. I took some photos (the rest are here), though the lighting was dire (I hate using flash) and I reached the limit of what this camera will do (if anybody wants to offload a used full-frame Nikon at a mutually acceptable price, let's talk).

The gig was fun. It was a small venue, packed with men of a certain age. The commemorative prophylactics sold by The Nightingales (£2) were optimistic at best, redundant at worst. I suspect the band slippers sold rather better. The 'Gales have a new guitarist for whom this was his first gig - if there were nerves during their trademark 60-minute no-stopping set, they didn't show. The sound, too, was great: every note and syllable audible. Not always a good thing, but the new album is a joy. Typical of the 'Gales, their manager texted to ask me to bring a stapler, and when I got there he borrowed a couple of quid from me. I guess that makes me a patron of the arts. I want the stapler back though. Limited edition, that.

I'd never seen The Courtesy Group either. The shirts worried me slightly – props make me wonder why bands want to distract from the music – but they were fascinating: a mix of pop hooks with Black Country punk poetry (quite similar to this classic) and Beefheart raw sound. They persuaded me to buy their 2009 CD, Tradesman's Entrance.

Click on these to enlarge.

Al Hutchins, The Courtesy Group

Andreas Schmid (bass), Robert Lloyd, The Nightingales

Andreas Schmid, The Nightingales

Audience member

Hidehiko Nagai, The Courtesy Group

Robert Lloyd, Jim Smith, The Nightingales

Jim Smith, The Nightingales

Robert Lloyd, The Nightingales

Ted Chippington: this is funny because a lot of his jokes start with 'I was walking down the road'

Fliss Kitson, The Nightingales

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

British Blokes' Books

I know I shouldn't rise to this kind of clickbait even when it's notionally critical of the mainstream, because they're all culturally and methodologically suspect, but I did enjoy reading 'Books That Literally All White Men Own' (which is actually Some Books That A Number of Middle-Class Heterosexual American White Men Own).

I own and/or have read 29 of the American 78, though I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of many of even the ones I've read. I was surprised by some omissions too: if we're going to play Normative Gun-Totin' Yankee Bookshelves I'd have expected some PJ O'Rourke for the Republicans, or Bill Hicks if you're a Democrat, biographies of Hugh Hefner, Rush Limbaugh and various Fox presenters, and a lot more Stephen King.

Joking aside for a second, fiction is one of the main sources of normative identity models. From them we learn how we're expected to behave. The American list is basically men ruling, killing and shagging things, or feeling bad because times have changed and the usual suspects aren't letting them kill, rule and/or shag with quite the same impunity. Playboy, for instance, was a work of genius in the 70s, constructing an ideal masculinity out of gazing on naked women, wearing good tailoring, listening to sophisticated music on expensive stereo equipment, buying big cars and being smooth: masculinity as a commodity product furthering the interests of capitalism. 

What would a British Bloke's Bookshelf bear, excluding the American texts which might well make it over here? Here's my guess - feel free to add more in the comments section.

PS: I like some of these works. Guess which ones.

1. The World According to Clarkson. Punchy man, punchy prose! He's got opinions you know, and some of them are deliberately calculated to annoy people he doesn't like (females, the poor, lefties, liberals, homosexuals, foreigners, the state-educated, Midlanders, cyclists, pedestrians, ethnic minorities) for money. This is the kind of freedom of speech Theresa May is going to keep!

2-7. More Clarkson, obviously.

8. Andy McNab, Bravo Two Zero. Real men kill people and describe their guns in pornographic detail. But they sometimes feel bloody conflicted about it. Not for long though. He's been there, and you can too, vicariously.

9. Andy McNab, Bravo Two One

10. Andy McNab, Bravo Three Zero.

11. Nick Hornby, About A Boy. The message being that if you let boys like Joni Mitchell, they'll end up voting Labour, sympathising with Caroline Criado-Perez and never punching anyone. Girls are yucky. But you can't live without them.

12-25. Everything by Kingsley Amis. Particularly Difficulties With Girls and anything that mentions how absolutely bloody women, lefty pinkoes and foreigners are. Especially those who are all three. Oh, and the Welsh.

26. Martin Amis. Not the tricky stuff, just Money perhaps or the one about the police. Or where he has a go at chavs or Muslims.

27. Tony Parsons, Man and Boy. Cos men have feelings too, so long as they 'ave 'em a) in demotic and b) at the football.

28. A novelisation of The Italian Job.

29. Vinnie Jones's autobiography. Proper naughty.

30. The Bumper Book of British Breasts or some such, free with Nuts.

31. The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin. Not the soppy stuff mind. Just the stuff about birds being horrid and being emotionally damaged.

32. Fatherland by Robert Harris. Nazis! In Britain!

33. Jamie Oliver's Cookbook. You don't even need to cook anything from it. Just let the dollybird see it and she'll think you're on the right side of metrosexuality. Bish bash bosh.

Insert cock joke here

34. Bear Grylls' Survival Guide to the M25 or whatever.

35. Motley Crüe: the Dirt.

36. A Clockwork Orange. Nothing wrong with a bit of ultra-violence and the old in-out, in-out.

37. Ken Follett. Fall of Giants. Proper story, clever bloke, knows his history.

38. Roddy Doyle, The Commitments. We don't mind Paddies so long as they're not bombing stuff. They're the blacks of Europe you know. Good songs too. Guinness. Stag weekends in Temple Bar. The Wild Rover.

39-67. More books about the Nazis, Churchill, the Paras etc. Anything to remind you of the days when it was easy to spot who the bad guys were (the ones with the cool uniforms but bad moustaches and monocles).

68. Ben Elton, Popcorn. Bit of a smart-arse but got better once he stopped slagging off Maggie and that.

69. James Hawes. Funny hard-boiled stuff with good sex'n'drugs but no soppy stuff.

70. John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids. When the chips are down, you need a stiff upper lip. And a penis. Apocalypse is perfectly survivable if you have an officer-class penis.

71. An Ian Rankin or Christopher Brookmyre. They're both funny, clever and not afraid of a bit of claret on the carpet.

72. Frankie Fraser, Mad Frank's Diaries. He'd rape your grandmother but he'd say thank you afterwards. Diamond geezer. They broke the mould with him etc. etc.

73. Howard Marks, Mr Nice. Never harmed anybody, liked a bit of waccy-baccy. Good old Howard.

and of course if you're Irish:

Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy

The Complete Works of Ross O'Carroll Kelly.

You stick to those, my son, and you'll be alright. None of your ethnic/alternative sexualities malarkey or women's writing. Just bourgeois class tourism and a spot of fisticuffs.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Semper virilis: a statement on meritocracy on behalf of the Johnson Family

What-ho, chaps and chapesses. 

Bozza here, yours truly. Pater, who was an MEP, and my brother Jozza – also an MP and now a Minister - have asked me to explain to you villeins what a 'meritocracy' means. 

Apparently some of you are cutting up rough about so many Johnsonians running the show. Now this is what fine Roman chap Horace called an inverted pile of piffle. Alright, you say, why is that Jozza and Bozza get to run the country, just because they went to Eton and Oxford, and were members of the Bullingdon club along with jolly old Call Me Dave and Gidders and the lead writer of the Financial Times who gave Red Ed a damned good thrashing for his obsession with 'equality', whatever that is? The only 'level playing field' I like comes with sheets, pillows and someone else's wife. Huzzah!  

The new Cabinet

It's about time you oiky types caught up. The School, the University and the Buller are what we call meritocracies. They only let the best in. Trotskyists, our cousins from the colonies and women keep on moaning ad nauseam that they're 'exclusive' because they're restricted to men from Eton (and in act of charity, Osborne who only went to St. Paul's) but they're amazingly wrong. You have to shake the cornflake box and see what rises to the top. In this glorious country, those who rose to the top - indicated by their use of white tie and tails as casual wear - were yours truly, my brainbox brother, Gideon and somehow Dave. My old man was a very clever chap despite only attending Sherborne before Oxford, so naturally Bozza and Jozza are also very clever chaps (as is my sister Razza except she understands she can't run things being a chapess of the female persuasion). In fact Comrade Dave proves that the system works. Descended from Charles II via the wrong side of the blanket and the son of a funny-money chap of the kind lefties describe as a tax avoider, he's very much the kind of guy who had to buy his own furniture. Good job he's got a fruity wife from the top-drawer to help him draw a veil over his origin in trade eh readers? 

I know some of you will struggle to understand this, given that you have IQs under 85 – about the same as my beagles – but you need coves like my chums and me to look up to. How could you possibly aspire to that second lavatory without the example of the landed aristocracy occupying the jolly old corridors of power, business, the armed forces, the media and so on? A little inequality might give one or two of you a shove and look where you might end up? We gave little Johnny Major a go, and there's always that nice Mr Shapps who amuses us all with his magic computer tricks. He's 'not quite' if you catch my drift, and he's down rather well for himself. 'faber est suae quisque fortunae' as we say at the Athenaeum. 

So let's hear no more about the politics of envy from you toilers. It's all a bit infra dig. We've jolly well earned the right to run the show (and rather a lot of the folding stuff along the way) so don't worry your greasy little heads about it: vae victis and so forth. I rather fancy we've heard quite enough of the vox populi for now. Pop off back to your allotments, foot-the-ball and bingo secure in the knowledge that some bloody good chaps – and Dave –  have it all under control. And if you all behave, we'll let you have a brace of pheasant each when the season starts! Don't worry: our secretary Theresa's got your address. 

Alea iacta est. Which is Bozza for 'pipe down plebs and carry on'.* 


*And if you don't, we have another Roman tag for our administration: 
flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo 
Lex talionis very much applies - no more panem et circenses for you. Think on.

Friday, 8 May 2015

'You know nothing, Jon Snow'

Jon Snow knows nothing. Evan Davis knows nothing. ICM knows nothing. Ipsos-Mori knows nothing. Lord Ashcroft knows nothing. Party HQs know nothing.

In particular, I know nothing.

I'm not so stupid as to think that my social and social media circles reflect the views of the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus: my Twitter feed is disproportionately middle-class, PhD-heavy and privileged in a number of ways, as are my friends and family in meatspace. And yet, and yet. I've been out on the streets delivering leaflets for Labour in this depressed city. My students are culturally diverse and virtually all working-class. I read political coverage on paper and online every day. Although I expressed worries about a 'shy Tory' vote in the days running up to the election, I genuinely thought – as did every pollster and commentator – that Ed Miliband was advancing on a gentle wave of personal and political support, and that Labour would lead an administration of some sort.

I do not know how the pollsters got it so wrong. At this point, having demonstrated that I know nothing, further speculation from me would seem utterly pointless. Dick Tuck's 'The people have spoken – the bastards' might be gracelessly witty, but it's lurking in the back of my mind. Why would people vote Tory? The xenophobic campaign against the Scots appears to have paid off amongst English voters. The Scots seem to have abandoned any faith in pan-British parties to represent them and put it into the SNP in the hope that they really are a progressive post-68 nationalist party and not crypto-Tory ethnic essentialists. Labour in Scotland has rotted from within over the decades, the inevitable result of complacency, arrogance and all the special (sectarian) ingredients of that nation's politics.

In the end, I'm left with the conclusion that democracy works. People have got what they wanted. You can't blame the political parties - especially the Tories – for their breathtaking cynicism. While they tried to obscure some issues such as where cuts will come, we have to admit that a large enough group of English and Welsh people deliberately voted for zero-hours contracts, for the abolition of the Human Rights Act, for eventual dissolution of the UK and exit from the EU, against environmental protection and clean air, against union rights and workers' protection, for the privatisation of the NHS and the education system, for higher tuition fees, for enhancing our contribution towards nuclear holocaust, for global warming, for racial and social segregation, for total surveillance, for poverty-shaming, and of course for food banks.

Perhaps the famous British class system has never gone away, and the voters actually feel comfortable tugging their forelocks and installing the upper classes in power as though it's 1815, not 2015.

In sum, the voters have decided that there is no social contract, no moral or political bond between us all, that we have no responsibility for the wellbeing of others or our shared commons. The fantasies of Gove, Murdoch, Mensch, Osborne, Ayn Rand, Jeremy Clarkson, the hedge funders and financiers whom we saved at the cost of Sure Start, EMA and all our other social provisions are about to be put into action. We've had no shortage of personal and corporate lies, fraud and deceit over the past five years. The Chairman of the Conservative Party is a proven liar and con-man: we voted for him. The newspapers which hacked the phones of everyone from murdered teenagers to people who shared the same name as celebrities' relatives have been rewarded. The banks which ripped off individuals via PPI schemes, fixed LIBOR and other rates and – in the case of HSBC – knowingly aided drug cartels are going to be encouraged. Tax cheats will be pressed close to the government's bosom. Even more of our schools will be handed over to cranks, fundamentalists and arms dealers.

Meanwhile the elites on the liberal left such as the New Statesman are going to argue, alongside rightwing commentators, that Labour lost because it wasn't rightwing enough. I think they're wrong. The Scots voted for what appears to be a leftwing party. I don't think there's any mileage or point in Labour becoming any more neo-Tory. That's what the Lib Dems did and the voters preferred to go straight for the real thing. Without wanting to make excuses for Labour, it was also faced with an almost uniformly hostile media landscape, from the newspapers owned almost entirely by tax-avoiding non-coms via offshore shell companies to broadcast media which seems so entirely dominated by exactly the same people as the politicians. They mostly went to private schools, then to Oxford and Cambridge, where they knew the politicians. James Langley: Etonian. The Financial Times leader writer who condemned Labour's concern for inequality: a member of the Bullingdon Club alongside Cameron and Johnson. The commentators, whether BBC or not, are almost exclusively the 1% and find it impossible to challenge the dominant discourse.

Can I find any bright spots in this? It's some consolation that my local Tory MP Paul Uppal was deservedly ousted: a smug, lazy, arrogant, untrustworthy property speculator, he was the very definition of mediocrity.

On a very selfish level, I have one of these on my desk.

Despite occasional wobbles, I always thought the British were capable of a generosity of spirit and altruism that would keep life here bearable. After this election result, I'm starting to have my doubts. I like this country and its people very much, but it's not looking this morning like a country whose citizens care about each other very much. Exit from the EU and the break-up of the UK now looks only too plausible, and even if these things don't happen, an administration of Cameron, Gove, Shapps, Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, Osborne, Jeremy Hunt and co can only produce a country strong on envy, suspicion, xenophobia and meanness. That the British people consciously voted for it makes me wonder whether it's time to look elsewhere. Cowardly, I know, but I'm shell-shocked this morning.

If I don't run, what can I do? Working in Higher Education, particularly at this institution, I feel a responsibility to my students that far outweighs the exchange of teaching for cash. These (mostly young) people have never known a leftwing or even liberal polity. The vicious individualism of loans, debt, privatisation seem natural to them. Collectively, I can work harder (somehow) to rebuild a caring, socialist politics in the face of overwhelming odds. Personally, all I can do is repress the instinct to run and redouble my effort to embody the values of the left, which boil down to one thing: kindness.

I had such high hopes. I thought Ed Miliband was capable of greatness. I thought the electorate, battered by neoliberalism, was ready for a period of thoughtful altruism. I thought that having spent most of the past 40 years wearily fighting against the neoliberal tide that I'd be able to relax for a while, even enjoy life. I was ready for a rest.

I was wrong. As I said, I know nothing.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The view from the Metropolis

Sometimes I despair even of my beloved Guardian. I was annoyed a few years ago when it declared gastro-pubs 'over', before one had even opened here in the Land of Pork Scratchings. Yesterday's (otherwise positive) review of the Super Furry Animals' gig similarly got me.

Especially this bit.
The reunion marks the 15th anniversary of their Welsh-language album Mwng, and a mid-set four-song slab of its experimental accordion jazz and Pink Floydish echoes feels an indulgence.
OK. So a band whose members speak Welsh as a first language, singing some of their Welsh-language songs in Wales to a Welsh audience on the anniversary of those songs' first release is 'an indulgence'. I see. Or rather I don't, because I don't assume that I am the intended audience for absolutely everything because I'm from London.

Luckily the Super Furry Animals have a song for that and it's not in Welsh so the reviewer will understand it perfectly.

Meanwhile, have a track or two from that 'indulgent' album.

Election Advice From A Proven Winner

I won an election this week. A real, old-fashioned two-horse race with no prospect of coalitions, confidence-and-supply, deals, minority administrations or any of the shenanigans currently being attempted by the participants in the other – and frankly minor – election being held this week.

Yes, dear readers, I was re-elected by a landslide, on an admittedly low turnout, as the academic member of the Board of Governors. In return for my muted protests against the corporatisation of higher education, I get the key to the velvet-padded Executive Conveniences and a prime seat on the Juggernaut of Educational Decline.*

(This space is reserved for an illustrative clip from The Simpsons' 'Homer and Delilah' if one ever turns up)

In return, the Executive and my fellow governors receive my patented blend of cosseted idealism and weary sarcasm, with which they cope with considerable grace and forbearance.

Having triumphed as a Tribune of the People once more, do I have any advice to proffer my Westminster colleagues? Well as it happens, I do!

Firstly: accept that the closer you get to Power, the further away you are. Was it Yes Minister which described the levers of government as made of rubber? Decisions are either made in an inner sanctum and presented as a fait accompli, or dissolved beyond recognition. Most of the things you want to do are pointless anyway. In a globalised capitalist system, the most you can do is throw some sand into the gear. Not that there's anything wrong with doing that.

Secondly: as much as people moan, they like a vile, negative campaign. I recommended that Ed Miliband take a leaf from William Morris's book and promote the sunny uplands of the Socialist Future. Socialism is inherently optimistic because it believes that people are essentially good and look out for each other. Ed had a go, but the rest of the grim-faed pragmatists in the Party joined the Tories by raging on about immigrants, scroungers, the Scottish Traitors and so, endlessly, on. Result? A core vote tie which I'm fully expecting to turn into a stronger-than-expected Tory result. Negative campaigning works.

Thirdly: never meet the public. The late Dick Tuck once quipped 'The people have spoken, the bastards'. When Sid Vicious was asked what the man in the street thought of his music, his response was pungent: 'I've met the man in the street. He's a c…'. This is the key to the 2015 Westminster election, and one I took to heart. Beyond writing a paragraph-long manifesto (no nukes on campus, no illegal wars, be kind to animals and students, I will aspire to abolish marking and Bad Things under my long-term pedagogical plan, stick with me so I can finish the job), I studiously avoided meeting my electorate. I skipped meetings, left work under cover of darkness and pretended to be David Mitchell whenever anyone tried to speak to me.**

Similarly, my junior colleagues have done their very best to avoid meeting any voter who hasn't been fully vetted.

It's not just the Tories of course: I met Ed Balls, who appeared at the tram station to pose for photos with Labour activists, then left. Political content: zero. The thinking appears to be – rightly when it comes to both them and me – that the more people you meet, the more people vote against you. Instead, you organise what photographers call a goat-fuck so that while the event looks like a cynical pretence of engagement there, it looks like a massive crowd on television.

The same event from the preferred angle.

Which is what matters. It is, as Baudrillard might say, a 'simulation' of symbolic exchange. The concomitant strategy is to avoid all public hustings and debates: the Prime Minister ducked TV debates, Radio 4's long-standing Election Call, the Citizens' debates a couple of days ago and many other events. Across the country, Tory candidates – including mine – have decided not to appear, to the extent that it now looks like a strategic decision. Imagine being in Tory HQ and issuing this advice. 'It turns out that people who meet you vote for the other candidate. Hide, and appeal to their worst side via staged events about immigrants and Jocks'. What a triumph of democracy. Still, it worked for me and will probably work for them.

As the Guardian reports, one woman dragooned into a faux-rally held at her workplace appears to have been threatened for asking a real question rather than holding a placard and grinning inanely while a politician makes a speech consisting of disconnected nouns, the occasional imperative, the word 'passionate' and a swipe at Perfidious Caledonia and its hordes of heroin-munching, Irn-Bru-injecting, er, citizens of the World's Greatest Democracy.

Rolled-up sleeves? I'm just an honest worker doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay just like you guv. And doesn't George Osborne look uncomfortable surrounded by his own supporters (what a diverse and representative bunch of people they are too)?

Still, one of the advantages of an election campaign is that I can update my list of Companies That Don't Need My Custom Because They Support The Tories In Crushing Workers' Rights and Pay. Banks's/Marstons' Beer: goodbye. I'm unlikely to buy a JCB or Rolls-Royce soon either.

'I drove one of these, until those footballer chaps at West Villa made them a bit chavvy. Carry on, oiks'

Always, always wear high-vis jackets. It doesn't make you look like one of the entitled plutocrats Kevin McCloud subtly denigrates on Grand Designs at all.

'I'll have the platinum hip bath next to the eternity pool yah'
Organise a compliant media. It helps if almost all of them are owned offshore by non-dom tax evaders with little concern for the importance of the Fourth Estate and absolutely no sense of shame. Yes, the Mail, Telegraph, Times and Sun, I'm looking at you.

On the left, Reason 2 reads 'Stop SNP running the country'. On the right: 'Why it's time to vote SNP'. Let's just hope that nobody has access to social media, eh? Oh. As to the broadcast media, that looks after itself. Do all the sofa shows, if you have to do a serious one just recite the list of catchphrases and look, just don't worry about it: the few reporters on Newsnight, Today and the others who weren't in the Bullingdon or Oxford University Conservative Association with us are fixated by the same bubble stuff we like anyway yah? Get them on the campaign bus and threaten to leave them in Stoke or Rochdale or whereversville if they try to cut up rough OK?

Never apologise, never explain. Whether it's cutting taxes on the rich while beggaring the poor, tripling tuition fees, deregulating the banks, making absolute, racist and hypocritical promises to cut immigration with 'no ifs, no buts', just keep robotically demonising your opponents. Harp on about their broken promises while ignoring your own. Above all, never, ever suggest that governing a country is a complicated business which requires adaptation in changing circumstances. If the public doesn't crucify you, the newspapers will (unless they're your newspapers, obviously). This tactic worked very well for me. I made no specific promises, mumbled something about being responsive to the electorate, then went back to my desk. Most people don't vote. Those who do, appear to be the ones doing quite nicely thank you. Pander to their prejudices. Ridicule anyone who tries to engage the poor, young, sick and marginalised, like poor Ed Miliband having actual serious arguments with Russell Brand.

So in summary: take off your jacket; stage events behind closed doors; bash the Scots; launch a pre-emptive campaign against parliamentary democracy in case your opponents might be able to get a majority together; sell fear; blame the poor; say anything but say it with absolute confidence. 'Long-term economic plan'. 'I'm going to win a majority'. Whatever. But be ready to say it over and over and over and over and over and over and over. People don't want ideas. They want reductive mantras. What do we want? Reductive Mantras. Don't Let Them Sell Off Our Reductive Mantras. Long-Term Economic Mantras. Reductive Mantras: Winning Here. British Reductive Mantras For British Workers. End The Tax on Reductive Mantras. Stop Driving Away Reductive Mantra Creators. A Reductive Mantra On Every Table.

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

If you can scam some crowds and fake your virtue,   
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor silly hacks can reach you,   
If rich men count with you, but not the poor; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute  
With sixty seconds’ worth of waffle run, 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
And—which is more—you’ll be PM, my son.
So there you have it. If you can't see the sound good sense in my election-winning guide, you must be some kind of subversive lefty whinger. Your name's already on a list. See you on May 8th.

*Not really. We're actually rather democratic when it comes to the jakes. I'm not joking about the Educational Decline though.
** Sort of true. We share a birthday, opinions, style and looks to such an extent that nobody noticed I had his photo on my ID card for several years. People used to shout his name at me in the street. I once had lunch with an ex of his. She kept calling me David. I wondered if this was a good sign or a bad one. Bad, as it turned out.