GCHQ and MI5, politicians’ book sales, links between gun ownership and killings, and the shock of my passport photo

2 June 2019

We all assume that GCHQ and MI5 read everything that we email, blog or tweet (and I assume any that mention GCHQ and MI5 get read first) so I’ve been wondering if my implication last week that there seemed a possibility that Boris Johnson might not have quite all the qualities to make even a mediocre prime minister were added to 99,999 previous comments along similar lines thereby achieving the critical mass needed to decide he should be taken to court for lying.  A politician lying?  Whatever next.

There’s no denying that Johnson has a certain charm and could be entertaining in a social gathering of misogynist racists who aren’t too politically correct but I wonder how many people would trust him with their neighbour’s budgerigar.  I wonder also if Donald Trump’s describing him as a friend (along with Nigel Farage) might not work entirely in his favour.

However, people do find him entertaining and his 2014 book on Winston Churchill sold 7,006 in its first week and 30,000 in a week around Christmas.  Apart from indicating that people bought his book to give to someone else rather than to read themselves, these figures contrast markedly with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s recent book on eminent Victorians (all men apart from a Queen) which was universally slammed by the critics and sold 734 copies in its first week but even this dismal performance was beaten by Vince Cable’s novel ‘Open Arms’ that sold 68 in its first week in 2017 and Iain Duncan Smith’s novel ‘The Devils’s Tune’ which sold 18 copies in its first week in 2003.  (Watch the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ for a heart-breaking view of one man’s problems with IDS.)

Elsewhere in the political arena, records of members’ attendance at the House of Lords in 2018 show that 88 peers never spoke, held a government post or sat on any committee and 46 never even voted, not even on Brexit.  Peers who attend the House are entitled to a daily allowance of £305 when they clock in.  No record is kept of when they clock out.  They can also claim expenses and the median allowance claimed by all peers in 2018 was £30,180.

It’s not uncommon in charities for trustees to be deemed to have retired if they miss more than a specified number of consecutive meetings unless the board agrees they had good reasons (such as medical conditions).  Perhaps the upper house should apply the same sort of condition, that any peer failing to attend for more than a certain number of days each year without good reason would forfeit their right to attend.

On a less cheering note following this week’s knife attack on children waiting for a bus in Japan, a reporter pointed out that gun crime is virtually unknown in Japan where it is almost impossible for civilians to buy guns.  In America, almost 40,000 people were killed by guns in 2017 (nearly 60% of them were suicides) and a 2018 report shows that American civilians own almost 400,000,000 guns, an average of 6 for every 5 people.  If you take account of the people who don’t have guns, it’s clear that some nutters have arsenals.

I recently needed a passport-type photo (head and shoulders, glasses off) so I sat against a plain wall while somebody pressed the button on my camera.  I did realise I had a few wrinkles, some of which first started to appear in my teens, but I was quite surprised to see I have great canyons running down my face, the dystonia-inspired twist of my neck and shoulders is much more pronounced than I realised and even my eyebrows are going grey.  No wonder Posh Chick recently called me Old and Ugly.

(Isn’t canyon a lovely word?  There’s a song which includes the hugely evocative – to me at least – lines “Last time I felt like this, I was in the wilderness, and the canyon was on fire”.)

A few days later, I came across a list of the top ten early signs of dementia and discovered I’ve been suffering from three of them since my thirties.  If anybody does happen to come across my passport, I’d be most grateful if they let me know because I recently had to identify myself with my bus pass.

2 thoughts on “GCHQ and MI5, politicians’ book sales, links between gun ownership and killings, and the shock of my passport photo

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