Fantasy by correspondent-at-large Jacqueline (‘Jac’) de Savoir-Faire
In the aftermath of the government’s ‘Stop the Boats’ week, I spoke to a very senior editor (I will call her Sue, not her real name) at one of our leading broadsheet newspapers. She is very well connected – she is married to a very close confidant of the prime minister. Of course, I would never dream of naming my sources or breaching a confidence. We go way back.
I wanted to get her take on how the government thought ‘Stop the Boats’ week had gone.
Stop the Boats Week
“A great success”, she said. “The prime minister, whose idea it was, is very pleased. He wanted to show the country that even though numbers crossing the Channel weren’t coming down, the government was doing everything possible, only to be thwarted by the Labour Party, lefty lawyers, the courts, the French, the United Nations, and the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR).
“He also wanted to demonstrate that the policy wasn’t supported just by himself and the home secretary, Suella Braverman, but also to allow a wider number of ministers and MPs to hit the airwaves with their views. And this has happened.
“Ministers have been able to publicise their view that the vast majority of the British people want the boats stopped”.
“Thanks”, I said, “but there have been some embarrassing interviews too, haven’t there? Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson said that asylum seekers who refused to go on the barge should f*** off back to France, requiring both the PM and the justice secretary, Alex Chalk, to confirm that they thought that remark was reasonable. Chalk said he thought Lee Anderson expressed the righteous indignation of the British people. And Sir John Redwood quickly stepped in to say that the UK should withdraw from the EHCR by passing a quick and short bill in parliament. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said that the government would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the boats, which I assume includes withdrawing from the ECHR”.
“That’s true”, she said, “but overall, the week is judged a success”.
Stop the Doo-Doo Week
I reminded Sue that some Conservative MPs had branded Anderson a peddler of cheap populism. And a previous Tory attorney general, Dominic Grieve, had told the Independent newspaper that such foul language would make the Tories an even nastier party.
Sue replied that Dominic is a long-established rebel who doesn’t represent the current Conservative Party. “Anyway”, she said, “the PM wants to capitalise on his success with Stop the Boats week, and has now moved forward with his plan for a ‘Stop the Doo-Doo’ week. He wants to get on the front foot again and explain his message that the government is doing a great job reeling in this problem”.
“That’s astonishing”, I said, “what on earth can he have to say that’s positive on that subject?”.
“Well”, said Sue, “the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, is bringing in some very valuable reforms to the water industry – increased monitoring, higher fines for breaching limits, and company investment plans. And the PM himself has proposed some very innovative research into ways in which doo-doo can be processed, disposed of, or even used productively. Apparently, he has been working 24/7 with some advisers to attempt to bring some serious low and high-tech solutions into a very old-fashioned industry”.
“Please tell me more, Sue”, I said.
“Research contracts are about to be let, I understand, to a company called, obligingly, Crapper Unlimited. I think they are a wholly owned subsidiary of VK (‘Vamp Kang’), an Asian Finance house, though the actual connection between those two organisations may be rather opaque. The PM’s wife may have a stake too, but please don’t quote me on that.
“And what will these contracts require?”, I asked.
“I believe that the first contract will scope out the potential for underground storage of untreated doo-doo, including potential sites such as exhausted oil, coal and gas chambers under the North Sea. Once there, it would decompose over the years, and may be re-mined in later decades for productive use.
“A second contract will examine the potential costs and benefits of directly spreading the untreated doo-doo onto farmland. This could actually be a more natural way of fertilising the land without spreading chemically generated stuff bought in from Russia. If animal slurry can be spread, why not human doo-doo too? That’s the thinking.
“And finally, a third contract will look at the potential for self-sufficiency and home recycling of home-produced doo-doo. Instead of flushing it all away for someone else to deal with, why not install your own septic tank and miniaturize existing treatment methods? In this way, the public authority is spared the work, and the house or local community can benefit from the ecologically treated product. There may be other upside opportunities too, such as producing biogas to fuel a car, heat the home or fuel appliances.
“Two other ideas put forward were: encouraging people to bury their own doo-doo in trenches dug in their gardens and in public spaces; and emptying private swimming pools and filling them up with household doo-doo. I think the PM’s wife put her foot down about the swimming pool idea, but ‘digging for Britain’ is thought to have some legs.
“All these ideas are thought by the PM to be well worth exploring, using relatively small amounts of public money, and would form the heart of his relaunch agenda during his ‘Stop the Doo-Doo’ week. Therese would mastermind the schedule and events”.
“Sue, an amazing plan, but full of risks for the PM, I would think”, I said. “Public anger over untreated sewage discharged into rivers and seas is immense. Natalie Bennett (Green Party) has recently said that ‘the stench of pollution, the choking of our waters with sewage, plastics and farm runoff is evident to all’. This Stop the Doo-Doo Week would re-ignite that anger and provide ample material for lampooning and cartoons”, I said.
“The PM is aware of that”, she said, “but wants the government to set the agenda, look positive and proactive, and meet its critics head on. He is very energised”.
I thanked Sue, and we ended the call. Wow, I needed some deep reflection time on the meaning of all this, so I retired to my armchair, poured myself a generous glass of Merlot (on offer from Tesco this week), put on my favourite Boccherini, and quickly dozed off.
Reflections on three-word slogans
When I awoke, refreshed, I had some thoughts.
Firstly, ‘Stop the Boats’ and ‘Stop the Doo-Doo’ are three-word slogans. That strategy has proved successful in the past, as with ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Get Brexit Done’. They are abstract electioneering captions, without much definable meaning except to position the Tories in the eyes of the electorate as a party of meaningful and purposeful action.
Secondly, together with the PM’s five pledges made in January, Stop the Boats and Stop the Doo-Doo are a sign of desperation from a failing government, a cri-de-coeur, almost a death wish – we have failed, we are out of ideas, we want out but we are hobbled in for another year, so please pity us, and here’s a distraction. A kind of giant Freudian slip. ‘Stop the Doo-Doo’ could be read as such.
The prime minister is the personal embodiment of this. Chosen by his party to bring the party together and win the next election, he is very publicly failing to do either of those things, and he is very publicly making a personal fool of himself while attempting the impossible. So he is now grasping at straws.
What is so desperately sad and unforgiveable is that not only the PM himself, and his totally discredited party, are in very deep doo-doo, but they have dragged the whole country and most of its citizens down with them. Everyone now recognises this. After four and half decades of Conservative incompetence, misrule, arrogance, deceit, blatant partisanship and failed ideology, albeit with one 13-year interlude when things got better, the chickens have finally come home to roost and the doo-doo has well and truly hit the fan.