The Sunday Times, Uncategorized

January 2nd, 2005

All right, you lot, here are the resolutions you need to keep

Making new year resolutions for myself is something that I gave up long ago; breaking them was depressing. However, I still make them for other people; it is so much easier to tell others what to do, and if they break my resolutions that is hardly my fault. I have tried to keep them simple.

Tony Blair: As a devout Christian you should read the Bible more, particularly that bit where it is written “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.

Cherie Blair: Spend more time with your family. A devoted mother would not take on so many extra engagements and an unelected spouse should stay out of public affairs.

The Queen: Stay out of politics. Taking a line — any line — on multiculturalism, as you did in your Christmas Day speech, was highly political, especially when a Birmingham theatre had been closed by an ethnic minority riot, and when the government was proposing to give tax breaks to second wives of ethnic minority husbands. For decades you have managed to stay out of politics; don’t follow the unwise example of your son, who has not.

Prince of Wales: Start trying to stay out of politics. That’s the deal — and it is an increasingly fragile deal.

Barclay brothers (owners of the Telegraph group): Install a condom machine in the offices of The Spectator.

Charles Clarke, the new home secretary: Every time you look in the mirror ask yourself what you are doing for children in so-called care. Astonishingly high numbers of these children find themselves illiterate, unemployed and in jail. Yet social services departments divert huge amounts of time and money from real need into wasteful obsessions with race, gender and sexuality.

Public-spirited servants everywhere — teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospital administrators, probation officers, prison officers: Follow the example of Mahatma Gandhi and respond to Whitehall oppression with passive resistance. Say no to paperwork. Refuse to fill in the forms and refuse to read the guidelines. Bin all the bumf. Only something extreme will convince Whitehall that public servants must be relieved of the crushing burden of bureaucracy.

It’s quite easy. A former primary school head teacher told me that she used to train her excellent teachers how to deal with pages and pages of ridiculous forms to fill in. First, ignore them. When the powers that be ring to ask why they have not been returned, say they didn’t arrive or must have been lost. If they are sent again, ignore them. If someone calls again, say you can’t understand them and need “support”. Blame the post, blame maternity leave, but don’t return them.

A consultant oncologist told me he fills in only the most essential forms. “Look at it this way,” he said. “How many consultant oncologists have they got?” Public servants of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your paper chains.

Local education authorities: Stop selling school playing fields immediately. Stop closing special schools that parents and children want to stay open.

Conservative voters in marginal seats: Grit your teeth and vote Labour. Blair, undesirable though he may be, is all that stands between us and the imprudent Gordon Brown and his wild socialist dreams. Do not vote Liberal Democrat: a poor majority for Blair will give comfort to Brown and the forces of socialist conservatism.

George Bush: (This is one I’ve made for him before, but he has persistently broken it.) Keep God out of your speeches. Everyone knows you believe you have a hotline to a higher father, but going on about it makes millions of people across the world angry and suspicious, even when they are not mindless America haters.

United Nations: Clean up the UN commission on human rights, which has for years been one of those intolerable scandals that people have somehow tolerated. Don’t think about expanding it: reduce it to exclude all countries that have committed human rights abuses. That would make it very small indeed, but there is no point in having a commission on human rights that includes kleptocrats and mass murderers.

European Union commission: Get your accounts audited.

Europhiles: (This is one I’ve often made before.) Explain in clear, foolproof English the advantages of the ever-closer harmonisation with Europe and of the European constitution. Europhiles always address Eurosceptics rather grandly de haut en bas, as if we are too stupid to understand the great European project. They may be right but it is not the way to win a case. The Eurosceptic arguments have been clearly put to great effect. If the Europhile sophisticates cannot come up with an equally plain and powerful case we shall be forced to think they have not got one.

Media folk everywhere: Stop using the expression “community leaders”. This is a piece of lazy sentimentality and can be counterproductive because these so-called community leaders do not necessarily speak for their so-called communities, yet the rest of the public imagines that they do. To lump all British Sikhs or Muslims or Ukrainians or Jews into one “community” is self-evidently a mistake. Who is to decide who represents them? The Archbishop of Canterbury certainly does not represent me, even though I am ethnically English and Anglican. These self-styled community leaders are often self- appointed and are accepted uncritically by reporters and commentators because they are vociferous or easy to get to appear on a programme.

Women’s Institute: Hang your heads in shame and apologise. You are supposed to stand for everything that is best about Britain and yet you tried to censor a television comedy as “offensive” to the WI — and succeeded: you persuaded the BBC to alter a sketch in the show Little Britain about two nasty ladies who belong to the WI. How could you? Britain’s Sikhs got a tremendous pasting for censoring a play; you should have been more harshly criticised since you claim to stand for “truth, justice and tolerance”, which surely includes tolerance of “offence” in the name of free speech.
Conservative party: Don’t make any resolutions. There is no point. This will be a good election to lose. Wait for Labour’s inevitable nemesis. Try not to give away any good ideas before then.

Happy new year.