Model Village (photo by Claire Tindale)
With the Conservative Party drifting further and further to the right this is a prime opportunity for Labour to really differentiate themselves. Keir Starmer has immediately made the ideological distance between the parties clear by drifting almost but not quite as far to the right. ‘For every step you take into autocratic reactionary nationalism, we’ll be just behind you Boris! Take heed sir!’ Keir shouts to himself in the bathroom mirror every morning – because you don’t want to be oppositional in public just for the sake of it.
‘For every time you make it the law for government buildings to fly the union flag, we’ll propose a law for government buildings to fly the union flag only when the queen is in residence in the United Kingdom. And also schools all of the time.’
A knock on the bathroom door – the bloody kids again. ‘Daddy, who are you talking to? I need to use the toilet.’ ‘Won’t be long dear! Daddy is practising his forensics.’
Regarding government plans to effectively outlaw all protest, I am sympathetic – and I say that as someone who wants to protect civil liberties at all costs, so long as it doesn’t impact on 1,000 years of inherited class privilege.
A couple of years ago, in my home village of Greatly-cum-Nutting, there was a huge outcry when my father wanted to demolish the local post office to make way for another branch of his miniature railway in the ever-expanding grounds of Hedges Hall. Unfortunately, the main opposition to this plan was led by the dishevelled local organic farmer Gerrardly Cromlyn, who despite gaining support from an anti-social gang of weed smoking layabout youths, was not liked by the rest of the villagers. They knew that backing Cromlyn was the only way to stop the post office from being demolished, but that would make him the hero and not themselves, who were much more sophisticated and clever. They also did not like his plan to use his farm to redistribute resources and his land to build social housing, which would drag down the exclusivity of the village and, worst of all, lower house prices.
The local amateur dramatics society were particularly vicious, constantly pinning insulting messages to the village notice board, usually after a few glasses of wine. ‘Cromlyn a bad man. He wants am-dram society abolished and replaced by a post-modern Marxist-Trotskyist-Stalinist reading group on woke farming’, one of them wrote after a skinful, just before a scintillating performance as Estragon in Waiting For Godot.
My younger sister Martina, despite being a Hedges, wanted to save the post office but still wrote scathing satirical attacks on Cromlyn in the Greatly Guardian every week. ‘Cromlyn, a man whose own scarecrows have a better dress sense than he does, didn’t just miss an open goal at the public meeting, but missed the entire ball, his boot flying off and becoming wedged in his mouth, and then mumbling something that was probably really, really boring.’ Savage!
The anti-Cromlyn opposition also organised a competition for who could write the wryest and wackiest placards but not even these inspired pieces of direct action could stop the inevitable. In the end, the post office was destroyed, my father personally driving the bulldozer. And now when the villagers see the miniature locomotive chugging past where the vital local amenity used to be, they can only think of Gerrardly Cromlyn, the man who helped to destroy their post office and almost lowered their house prices. A monster.
Simon Hedges is an ‘Award Winning Quality Journalist’ who can be followed on Twitter @Orwell_Fan