Tag Archives: Tinman does politics

One Man One Vote

Our parliament, the Dáil, faced controversy this week after it emerged that TDs (members of the Dáil) have been voting on behalf of other TDs when they have been absent from the Chamber, including one who voted on six different occasions on behalf of the same colleague. A report by the Clerk of the Dáil into the issue has recommended an overhaul of the voting rules but has made no findings against any of the TDs involved and has recommended no sanctions. So that’s ok then…

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Today was the day.

It was now three weeks since I had won my seat in the Dáil, standing as an Independent candidate in a bye-election in my constituency and scraping home after not being regarded as a serious threat, essentially the Donald Trump of County Wicklow.

And now I was ready, proudly ready to represent my people as their TD, and eagerly looking forward to the impassioned speeches, the vigorous but fair debates, the thrill of cliff-hanger votes.

I straightened my tie, took a deep breath, and pulled opened the door to the Dáil Chamber.

It was empty.

Well, not empty. The Taoiseach, our prime minister, was walking among the seats carrying a large clipboard. He looked up as I entered, and looked confused, then annoyed and then, as if remembering that every person is a potential vote, solicitous and helpful.

“I’m afraid you’ve missed the public tour,” he said, “but if you like I could get a porter -”

I told him my name, a little coldly, a little disappointed that he didn’t recognise me.

He looked blank for a second, then his face brightened. “Oh, you’re the new guy,” he said. “The TD for er, um -”

“Wicklow,” I said, a little more coldly. The Taoiseach was from Dublin, and was thus inclined to regard people from anywhere outside Dublin as being from the wilderness of  Anywhereoutsidedublin.

“Yes, well, you’re very welcome,” he said, “if you hang on till I finish this I’ll show you around – the Bar, the Gym, the – well, that’s about it really.”

He looked down at his clipboard, then pressed one of two buttons on the arm of the seat in front of him. He moved to the next seat and repeated the process.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“We’re voting,” he said.

“Who’s we?” I asked.

“The Dáil,” he said patiently, as if he were talking to a small child. “The one hundred and fifty-eight members are voting.” He pressed a button at the next seat, and moved on again.

“But they’re not here,” I said.

“Of course not,” he said. He saw the look of surprise on my face. “Look,” he said, “remember the kerfuffle about TDs voting on behalf of their friends who weren’t actually here?”

“I do, of course,” I said haughtily, “I thought it was -”

“And remember how the Clerk of the Dáil said it was ok to do that?”

“That’s not what he said,” I corrected him. “He just didn’t recommend any sanctions.”

“Same thing,” said the Taoiseach, waving his hand dismissively. “Well, after that the practice grew. Some TDs were coming in with lists of twenty others to cast votes for. One actually started charging his colleagues for doing it. Well, naturally we had to put a stop to that -”

“I should say so -”

“- so all the parties met and decided that just the Taoiseach should do it. For everybody.”

“That’s shocking,” I said.

“It’s a bit of a pain alright,” said the Taoiseach, “but then I do get paid more than everyone else.”

“So you’re saying that they just turn up for the debates, tell you how they’re going to vote, then sod off,” I said, getting angrier by the second.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” he said.

“Oh, good, because -”

“They don’t turn up for the debates at all,” he said.

“What??”

“Why bother?” he said. “They’re not going to be voting anyway.”

“But there are official records of the debates,” I said.

“The Dáil staff draw them up,” said the Taoiseach. “Everyone sends an email saying how they want to vote, sometimes someone will say something like ‘and I if I was there I would have dragged a reference to my local hospital into the debate’, and the staff draw up a likely sounding debate from that.”

“That’s dreadful, making them do that,” I said.

“Making them?” said the Taoiseach. “They love doing it, they have enormous fun. They get to write jokes, and insults, and witty put-downs. They’ve made oratorical legends of quite a few TDs who in real life couldn’t say their own name without having to stop in the middle to think.” He stopped in front of the next seat. “This guy, for instance,” he said. “Hasn’t, according to the record, missed a vote since he was elected in 1982, passionate advocate of behalf of the people of his county, supposed coiner of the phrase ‘rain tax’ to describe the proposed water charges, and -” he pressed the No button – “I’ve never met him.”

“So what does everyone do instead?” I asked.

The Dáil in full session

“They stay working for their constituencies,” he said. “They get pot-holes fixed, or a new set of traffic-lights installed, or dig the first shovelful of earth for putting in a new bus shelter. Important stuff.”

“The stuff that gets them re-elected,” I said.

“Exactly,” said the Taoiseach. He looked down at the next seat, then at his clipboard. “Oh, this is you,” he said. And pressed the Yes button.

“Hang on,” I said. “You can’t just assume I was going to vote yes.”

“It’s the Fisheries Protocols (Special Provision In The Event Of A Border In The Irish Sea, With Regard To The Entanglement Of Nets) Amendment Act 2019, Second Reading,” said the Taoiseach calmly. “Which way were you thinking of voting?”

“Er, well, I don’t know,” I said. “I suppose I’d have researched it, talked to affected parties, listened to the debate – or, rather, read the debate, it seems, then thought carefully about it -”

“Horse manure,” said the Taoiseach. “We didn’t have an email from you because you’re new, but because you are new we knew you’d be here with one particular cause that you’re really keen to get support for -”

I nodded. “Monthly stipends for humorous bloggers,” I said.

“Whatever,” said the Taoiseach, “and for that reason we knew that in this very first vote you would side with the Government.”

I thought about it. “I suppose you’re right,” I said in a low voice.

The Taoiseach smiled at me. “Cheer up,” he said. “If it makes you feel any better, we’re going to lose this one anyway.” He pressed another No button. “Perils of a minority Government.”

I watched in silence as he went on, pushing his own Government, button by button, towards defeat.

“Why don’t you just change a few of the No votes to Yes?” I asked.

He looked at me in horror. “That would be treating democracy as a joke,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Louder Than Words

“I remember conversations I had with my private secretary, and he had with the Queen’s private secretary, and I had with the Queen’s private secretary, not asking for anything that would be in any way improper or unconstitutional, but just raising an eyebrow – even, you know, a quarter of an inch, that might make a difference.” (David Cameron, revealing how he suggested how the Queen could influence the 2014 Scottish independence referendum).

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He was back.

The Queen sat expressionlessly behind her desk as her Private Secretary opened the door to admit David Cameron.

Her heart sank, though her face gave no trace of this. She had trained it not to.

In the earliest days of her reign, in the world of grainy black-and-white TV, things had been easier. In 1968, for example, she had sat in her carriage the whole way around the track at Ascot looking furious, because four-year old Prince Edward had that morning written in crayon on the Throne Room wall. Nobody had noticed.

Then colour TV had been invented, and the zoom-in lens, and everything had changed.

Her dress code, to begin with. She now found that if she wore blue she was accused of supporting the Tories, and of supporting Labour if she wore red. She had taken instead to wearing shades like taupe, fawn and vanilla, and would then read that she looked washed out and tired.

Then analysts – Royal watchers, they were called, as if that was an actual job – were employed to interpret her expressions, as if they were trying to determine whether or not Timmy had fallen down a well. She countered that by developing a look that she liked to call her Resting Resting Face, and that worked for a while.

So the media started to interpret her lack of expression, and that was worse, because they had effectively a blank canvas to work with. The same look, often the same photograph, would be used as proof that she liked this person, disliked that country, disapproved of that Royal romantic match.

And she could say nothing. Her Private Secretary would issue the standard response that Her Majesty does not comment, etc, etc,. While her husband got to have some fun – to try Guinness, to insult random strangers, to crash a Rolls Royce into a tree – she remained bound to her impartial duty.

Which at the moment was to listen to her Prime Minister, and to wonder what he was up to now. The previous year he had held a referendum in which Scotland had narrowly voted to remain in the United Kingdom, and during which, when things looked to be going the other way, he had asked her for help, by the “raising of an eyebrow”.

Raising an eyebrow? That would bordering on hysterics for the Queen. He might as well have asked her to get a microphone and sing Don’t Leave Me This Way from the Palace balcony.

Now, it transpired, he wanted to hold another referendum. The Queen’s eyebrows remained unraised, her lips unpursed, her brow unfrowning as Cameron explained that it would be about leaving the EU, but that he didn’t really want to, that it would all be ok, that the people didn’t want to either.

Then why hold it, said a voice in the Queen’s head. Nothing at all, said the look on the Queen’s face.

He gave her the papers to sign, and she signed, having no option.

And people think I rule this country, she sighed to herself.

-ooOoo –

He was back. Again.

Thirteen months had passed, during which the Queen had become Britain’s longest serving monarch, had celebrated her ninetieth birthday and had turned down a huge amount of money to slip the words ‘because you’re worth it’ into her Christmas Message. Now she regarded David Cameron impassively as he stood sheepishly in front of her.

“Er, well, the thing is,” said Cameron, “we lost. So, well, er, we’re going to leave the EU. Which, well, when you think about it, is probably ok, I mean, we won’t be run by the Germans anymore, ha, h-” – too late he remembered the Queen’s ancestry – “er, I mean, we won’t be run by the Maltese and the Finns anymore. And I’m sure it will all go smoothly, and it won’t divide the nation, and -”

The Queen punched him in the nose.

Had any analysts been watching, they might have described his expression as “stunned”.

“Do I make myself clear?” asked the Queen icily.

“Yes, your Majesty,” said Cameron. “I will resign today.”

“You do that,” said the Queen. “Make up some guff about not wanting to lead the country out of Europe.”

Cameron walked from the room, dabbing at his nose. The Queen turned to the only witness present. He had worked for her for many years, and could read the expression in her lack of expression.

“I am your Private Secretary, Ma’am,” he said. “No-one will ever know about this.”

 

 

 

 

 

This Land Is My Land

Donald Trump reportedly wants to buy Greenland from Denmark…

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Winter was coming.

It was still only August, but then Autumn does not happen in Greenland. Soon the midnight sun would set, then snow would fall, at first gently, then not. Night would fall too, and remain fallen for months to come.

In a bar in Nuuk three men were sitting at a table, sipping from cold tankards. They sat contentedly in bearded, woolly-jumpered silence, happy to let their conversation take as long as their beer. Eventually Einar spoke.

“He has some nerve, though,” he said.

“Who has?” asked Kunût.

“Trump,” said Einar. “saying he wants to buy us.”

“Too right,” said Kunût. “He thinks he can do it just because they already have an Air Force Base here. That makes as much sense as him being able to buy France because they have a Disneyland.”

“Would we get a Disneyland?” asked Einar, sitting forward.

Kunût shrugged. “Who needs one?” he said. “A load of slides and so called high-speed rides. They should come here and try to walk uphill in November, or try to stay on a sleigh being pulled by muskox.”

“You’re right,” said Einar, sitting back again. “Good job the Danes told him to get lost.”

Aatuut spoke for the first time, but slowly, like a man who had been giving some things some thought for some time. “Of course, it’s got nothing to do with them,” he said.

“How do you mean?” asked Einar.

“Well, we’ve had home rule since 1979,” said Aatuut, “so it’s us the US would be buying us from.”

Kunût frowned for a second as he tried to work out that sentence. “Still wouldn’t matter,” he said. “We wouldn’t be interested.”

They sat in silence again, but it was a different silence, one with an almost audible hum of thinking going on beneath it. Eventually, as before, it was Einar who spoke first.

“Um,” he said, “how much is he expecting to pay?”

“Dunno,” said Aatuut, “but in 1946 Truman offered 100 million dollars.”

“I see,” said Einar. “And, um, just out of interest, what would that be today?”

“One point four billion,” said Aatuut quietly. “I looked it up.”

“Wow,” said Einar, “and there’s only fifty-six thousand of us. We’d probably get a couple of million each.”

“Yes,” snapped Kunût, “but so what? I mean, we’d all become Americans. We’d all have guns.”

“I don’t think they’re actually compulsory,” said Aatuut.

“There’d probably be a lot of fracking,” said Kunût.

“A lot of fracking what?” asked Einar.

“No, that was the end of that sentence,” said Kunût. “It’s a type of mining.”

“We have mining already,” said Aatuut. “Rubies, iron, uranium, you name it.”

“We’d have Trump as our President,” said Kunût desperately.

“And so what?” said Aatuut. “We’ve been owned before. Everyone’s had a go – Norway, Denmark, Portugal -”

“Portugal?”

“Apparently so,” said Aatuut. “I think they were lost. Anyway, the point is that they’ve all ruled us, and didn’t pay us for the privilege of doing it. Why not let  America have a go? We’d get Netflix, we’d get Starbucks, we’d get Obamacare (news sometimes takes a while to get to Greenland), and most of all, we’d get two million bucks each.”

“God bless America,” breathed Einar.

“But if we all got it,” said Kunût, “then prices would just go up. Puek would charge us more for beer.”

They all turned and glared at Puek, the bar owner, who’d been following the whole conversation from behind the counter. He smiled at them.

“Worse than that,” he said, “if I had two million dollars, I don’t see why I’d open the bar at all.”

Einar stared at him in horror. “Probably just as well,” said Aatuut. “We’d all have to speak English, and you’d have probably had to change the name. A bar called Puek’s might not thrive.”

The group glanced around the room, empty apart from the four of them. “Sorry,” muttered Aatuut.

“No problem.” said Puek. “Anyway, twenty-five thousand.”

Einar frowned. “Twenty-five thousand what?” he said.

“Dollars,” said Puek. “If you divide one point four billion by fifty-six thousand, you get twenty-five thousand.”

“Is that all?” spluttered Aatuut. “I couldn’t even buy a new fishing boat.”

“The tight-fisted git,” growled Einar.

Kunût grinned. “He can go and frack off,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Ears Filled With Soap

Responding on Twitter to a video in which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an explanation for his decision to suspend Parliament in September – a move which critics said was aimed at stopping MPs debating Brexit – Hugh Grant called him an “over-promoted rubber bath toy”….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is your child bored at bath-time? Does he find pouring water out of little beakers repetitive? Does his little toy boat insist on listing onto its side? Does he have no trouble, among all the suds, in finding Nemo?

What he needs is Boris Duck. Plastic yet oddly likeable, the Boris has now supplanted the Theresa Submarine as Britain’s leading bath toy, perhaps because his hairstyle resembles a loofah.

And why not. The Boris is virtually indestructible, a bathroom Captain Scarlet. Push him down and he wil pop back up. Land him in hot water and it will not harm him. Pour cold water on him and it will just run off.

As with all bath toys, there is absolutely nothing inside his head, but that does not seem to detract from his appeal.

Try him out. Lie back in the warmth and comfort and release him from your grasp. Watch him sail away, gaze fixed straight ahead, towards the end with the plughole.