Whither now, dear Bazza?
THE FINANCIAL crisis gripping the regional newspaper industry means that I have finally lost my last paying customer. It's been a good innings so I'm not complaining, but where now for Mr Beelzebub?
I won't miss the Wednesday night slog, with 900 words to turn out (and occasionally churn out) between the end of Coronation Street and the midnight hour. And I won't miss writing for other people's newspapers. When I was an editor I could say more or less what I wanted in my own newspaper, as long as I was prepared to defend myself in court and on the streets. When you're submitting stuff to other editors, you naturally pull back a bit.
Maybe that's the answer. Freed from worrying about what other editors have to print, I can now be more potty-mouthed and more offensive than ever. And if you don't like it, don't come here.
Hmm, I'll mull it over for a while. Maybe a daily blog is the answer - although if the half a million of you who have visited this site had chucked in a penny a time, I'd be more amenable to banging on.
In the meantime, here's the last newspaper column, as it appeared in the York Press under the name of Mike Bentley.
I THINK it was the East German Stazi who were the most successful when it came to persuading children to inform on their parents. Now, inspired by these secret policemen, some of our schools are now in the same game, urging their Kindergarten Quisling pupils to go home and pester their mothers and fathers into adopting a healthier lifestyle.
“Please Daddy, don’t smoke that cigarette.” “No, Mummy, put the Chardonnay down.” It must be a nightmare, being nagged by your own offspring in what was once the comfort of your own home. No wonder digging an extra cellar appears to be an attractive pastime for hen-pecked middle class dads.
And it’s not going to stop there. The most alarming story of the week revealed that an army of snoopers is being recruited by the government to ‘nag’ colleagues, family, friends and neighbours into leading a healthier life. These so-called “public health mentors” will be enlisted by the NHS to offer on-the-spot advice to people whom they judge to be smoking, drinking, or eating to excess.
So eating a third fried breakfast of the week in the works canteen, having “one for the road” in the local after work, or smoking too many fags while waiting for the bus will lead to the office sneak sidling up to you and whispering a health warning in your ear: “You don’t want to be doing that …”
And what if you ignore these warnings? What then? Does the sneak then shop you to social services, who will come round and take your children away? Are you hauled before the Health Courts and fined or imprisoned?
The government thinks this initiative will help to cut NHS costs. I do hope they’ve factored in the increased number of office sneaks who will be presenting themselves in A&E with broken noses.
IT’S TIME to come clean. My name isn’t really Mike Bentley and I’m not just a mere newspaper hack. I’m actually a field officer in the government’s top secret Department of Misinformation. Sorry about that.
This is how it works. Fifteen long years ago, when the NuLabour project was first conceived, the shape-shifting lizards behind the grand scheme recognised that the Great British Public might not be entirely amenable to being treated like lab rats in this social engineering experiment and would need some kind of outlet for their anger. They therefore proposed to install supposedly dissident columnists on newspapers across the land through whom readers could vent their bile. Spleen Diffuser Agents (Grade 2) is our civil service name. Smoke and mirrors is our game.
(Littlejohn is one of ours, as is Rod Liddle. Not Jon Gaunt though; he failed the entrance exam.)
You see, while we were wibbling on about minor scandals, the major outrages were going on behind your back. While we were moaning about a family of fat people getting £20,000 a year in benefits because they were too lazy to work, hundreds of MPs were pocketing that amount and more by fiddling their expenses – all by the book of course.
While we were complaining about our imaginary relatives being left on trolleys in hospital corridors, the reality of the situation was over a thousand patients dying in one hospital alone because target-chasing managers refused to employ enough staff to clean the excrement off their charges.
While we were shaking our heads at a 27-year-old reality TV ‘star’ selling the rights to her own death for £700,000, a dodgy 50-year-old failed banker was using public money to fund a pension of that amount for every year until he keels over – not to mention a £3million lump sum.
And it worked, brilliantly, for many years. Good God, they even managed to drag the country into two pointless foreign wars without widespread revolt. People were more concerned with the rumours we were spreading about them being fined for putting the wrong kind of cardboard in their recycling bins, or how some anonymous school somewhere down south had re-written the words to Baa Baa Black Sheep.
But now it’s over. The bubble has burst. The bright shiny people of the Blah years have been reduced to malodorous, shuffling hulks, made stupid by lies and staggering from crisis to meltdown like zombies who’ve lost their sat navs. The project has failed and chaos reigns.
Our elected representatives seem to be institutionally corrupt, indulging in morally fraudulent expenses claims to an extent that would have Mr Plod feeling collars in any branch of commerce.
The nation faces financial ruin, lulled into a spending frenzy by an unsustainable property bubble. And while hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs, the public sector keeps on recruiting – and handing out pay increases.
The education system is a farce, where every child gets a full set of A-levels before going on to university still unable to read and write properly, and where their main ambition is to emulate a dead reality TV star who was famous for being famous.
We’ve surrendered any kind of control of our borders as far as illegal immigration is concerned, yet we’re about to force British citizens to fill out a form consisting of 53 intrusive questions before allowing them to leave the country. It’s now illegal to tell a joke about homosexuals, but extremist Muslim preachers can call for gays to be stoned to death and no-one blinks. And, in a final sign of the collapse of our civilisation, Pot Noodle have launched a Donner Kebab flavour.
So my work here is done. I’m being relocated to teach Advanced Spokeweasel on a politics course at a polytechnic down south. That’s all. Over and out.