After you…

Consider, for just one moment, what Britain has to be ashamed of. We are participating in a war against Afghanistan in which the majority of Britain’s citizens don’t understand what we’re fighting for. One million people were ignored in the march against the war in Iraq, which subsequently proved to be a disastrous episode, only entered at the behest of an illiterate war-mongering tosser. When we were an empirical force, we mercilessly rampaged through countries, pillaging their resources and placing local people under the rule of thuggish soldiers, only relinquishing power when it was clear we couldn’t afford such exploits, not because it was the right thing to do.

We hold our noses whenever asylum seekers or immigrants try to better their life chances by joining us on this sceptred isle. We bail out banks to the tune of billions, yet cry foul whenever it is suggested we should give more money to poor countries, either to help them combat the climate change we are perpetuating with unnecessary 4x4s or to feed their people, who starve while we chuck away our fruit and veg the second it starts going brown.

Despite all this, there is one aspect of British life which brings on a state of paranoia better than any drug The Beatles took. That is the politics of opening doors. The advances of feminism have been a good thing – women are less likely to become a human gumball machine, despatching a new child every nine months.

However, a few short-haired, loony characters wearing dungarees and the facial expression of someone who has always hated men (the kind of woman that would make a drunkard in a pub say “the only thing that would sort her out is a good fucking”) take things too far. They say men should never hold open the door for women, as it shows that we remain chauvinist pigs stuck in the middle age, believing that women expend enough of their mental capabilities on knowing how the bread machine works, let alone the dynamics of opening a door and walking through it.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but in general, I hold a door open for people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, game show preference or whether they speak Swahili. Nonetheless, it is a precise science, because you don’t want to be left holding a door open for too long or you turn from a kind stranger into a doorstop.

By my calculations, if someone is within 5.6 metres behind you, there is a moral obligation to leave the door open for them. There is a hinterland between 5.6 and 10.3 metres, where the decision is at your discretion, but after that, you just look desperate to come across as a likeable, adjusted figure, happy to be late for whichever social engagement you happen to be walking towards, safe in the knowledge that you won a smile from a stranger and a mumbled word of “thanks”.

Another worry. When walking behind someone who is leaving multiple doors open for me, I don’t know how often to say “thanks”. The first time? Every time? Every other time? Only when your horoscope mentions the word “kelp”?

On the other hand, if I was to open a door for someone and I received no thanks in return I would be a little peeved. Even a little nod of the head would suffice. But if I opened a door for a green-haired dumpling carrying a rucksack full of Germaine Greer novels, only to be on the nasty end of a lecture about the way women have been treated disgustingly over the centuries and that by opening a door for her I was merely adding my name to the list of sexist bigots who have kept women firmly in their undeserved place, I would probably never open a door again.

When I open a door for someone it is not on the pretext that they couldn’t do the same thing. When I open a door for a black person, I’m not trying to atone for the centuries of slavery that his ancestors had to endure or make an anti-racist statement. I am being kind to a fellow human being. When I open a door for a disabled person, I’m not trying to demonstrate my sturdy prowess as a fully functioning human. I am being kind to a fellow human being.

When I open a door for a woman, I am not doing so because I believe they are incapable or not strong enough. It is usually because they are good-looking.


Fear of speed cameras

Perhaps it’s because I don’t drive, but speed cameras are so far down my list of things to get annoyed about, they occupy the same space as Claudia Winkleman’s left ankle. In fact, I’d go as far as saying I think they’re a good thing.

That doesn’t stop people hating the yellow and grey monuments to government interference with a passion. One YouTube video, alongside the words “Let’s just say I hate speed cameras and this is what I do every time I walk past one drunk”, features a young bloke clubbing a speed camera to death with a golf club. Meanwhile, the friend filming the incident can be heard giggling like a schoolgirl, clearly not aware the 3 WKDs he drunk earlier that evening could give him alcohol poisoning. Type “speed camera abuse” into a search engine and you will get more entries than if you typed in “lesbian tickle”.

Local newspaper The Argus reported in 2008 about an anti-speed camera campaign. “Speed cameras across Sussex are to be torched and blown up by a band of arsonists” it says. Since when was “band” the correct name for arsonists in the plural sense? Surely it’s an “explosion” of arsonists or a “kaboom”. To call them a “band” of arsonists give acne-ridden teenagers thrumming a guitar in their parent’s garage a bad name the world over.

The article continues, with the leader of the group, Captain Gatso saying: “The residents of Sussex are fed up with speed cameras. They are not seeing a reduction in casualties on the road”. Hold on a minute. How can people see reductions of deaths on the road? Unless you go around the county, like scavengers looking for road kill, taking pictures of the dead in their Peugeot C5s, how can you possibly know there is no reduction?

He even goes on to promise a “summer of zero tolerance against speed cameras”, which is like promising zero tolerance against picture frames or business cards, both being inanimate objects. Besides, when a thick twat destroys a speed camera, it’s not as if the camera fairies pick up the bill. The money is forked out by the local council, whose income derives from local people (many who are motorists) via Council Tax.

Even if speed cameras have no effect on casualties in a given location, I still struggle to see a rational argument against them. The speed limit isn’t exactly hidden. Every few metres another red-edged sign written in large black letters tells drivers how fast to go. Therefore, if you knowingly step over the limit by more than a few mph, how can you moan when two weeks later a £60 fine falls on your doorstep?

Adults spend time telling their children to accept the consequences of their actions, so why shouldn’t it be the same the other way round? “Daddy, you need to accept that you did a bad thing. The signs said 40mph, but you wanted to get home to watch the MasterChef final. Maybe you’ll think twice before you do it again”.

The Association of British Drivers approaches apoplexy when discussing the subject. “Thousands of motorists are losing their jobs, freedom and ability to earn a living” they say. Well, to have your license invoked, you need to rack up twelve penalty points. If you get caught by a speed camera going just over the limit, you get three points. I can accept the argument that any driver can unknowingly creep above the limit once. Perhaps twice. Even three times. But four?

As a “voice of the driver” the A.B.D. feels it has the right to moan about such matters. But many road-users turn from pleasant individuals to raving lunatics in the short space of time between walking up the drive to their car and turning the ignition key. To represent “the voice of the driver”, the A.B.D. would need to release all their press reports in motorist language.

“As I was saying, the main thing about the speed limit is that – what is this wanker doing?!! Yeah you! What a joke, and he’s allowed on the road? Oh yes, well it has been proven that increasing the speed limit has no affect on death rates even if… fucking women drivers cutting me up! Piss off. People like you need to have driving tests every few months. Yeah, that’s it, drive away you silly bitch! Where was I? Yeah, speed limits, well…”

With satellite navigation systems giving drivers ample warning about speed cameras, there may be a happy compromise. After all, if the stern-sounding woman on your TomTom tells you that in 500 yards you will encounter a speed camera, yet you remain over the limit, you can’t complain.

According to an A.B.D. poll, 82% of drivers think their speeding tickets were issued unfairly. And in news just in, the Pope remains Catholic and bears do still shit in the woods.

Election 2010

This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections of all time and it’s all down to Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader has electrified the campaign by winning the first televised debate. It was surprisingly exciting, although it wasn’t without its excruciating moments. The host, Alistair Stewart, seemed to have been inhabited by the spirit of Lassie, barking each leader’s name in turn with unnecessary urgency.

Despite being shown on ITV, there were no commercial breaks, which ITV bosses hoped would show how seriously the debates are taken by the channel. But no-one’s kidding us. Adverts would have been a disaster. Gordon Brown would thunder: “I am the man to lead you through this recession”. David Cameron would say: “Hard-working families have suffered the consequences of Labour’s actions for too long: vote Conservative”. Then Nick Clegg would plead to be taken seriously: “A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for real change”. How can these statements from the next prospective Prime Ministers possibly be followed by an advert for Cillit Bang? “Hi, I’m Barry Scott and I’m here to shred any sense of gravitas this debate may once have held”.

BBC News followed the debate with a comprehensive whinge from the uninvited parties. UKIP moaned that the leaders didn’t discuss immigration or the EU enough. The British National Party whined that there was not enough racism in the broadcast (I paraphrase slightly).

The Greens said the environment should have been the main talking point. Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party said it was disgraceful that Scotland wasn’t discussed. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists, did much the same. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Heather McCartney was next to be interviewed, expressing her displeasure that the leaders didn’t talk enough about prosthetic limbs.

Meanwhile, in the traditional world of campaigning, the humble political broadcast can still hammer home a point. Despite spending enormous amounts of money on slick broadcasts, the rise of Nick Clegg has forced the Tory camp into a partial retreat. Instead of fancy tricks or CGI masterworks, the Conservatives have instead opted for a nice, comfortable chat with that amiable leader of theirs, David Cameron.

The background of his broadcast represents the idyllic Tory-voter paradise. It features home-grown vegetables, wooden ladders and a mid-sized garden perfect for supper parties, allowing the family to hob-knob around with the upper echelons of society.

“People are desperate for anything different” he says, not even betraying the slightest sense of irony. After all, the Conservatives have been around since 1678. He could make the same point by saying: “To vote for something different, why not vote for Oxford University. Or the monarchy”.

But all this talk of change worries me. In four years time, the leader of whichever party gains control could say: “We promised you change, and my God, we have delivered. None of you have jobs. There are now no public services. Banks control our every economic activity. The NHS is merely a plethora of well-maintained buildings with shiny floors as we can’t afford any professional doctors and nurses. If you judge us against our promises of change, you will not have been disappointed”.

No Conservative election campaign would be complete without broadsides at so-called “values”. “What we need is people who stand up and say what their values are”. All right then, if you want people to stand up and share their values Mr Cameron, I am only too happy to oblige.

I think that you’re education, you’re upbringing, and your outlook is clouded by a permanent fog of middle-class life. Your idea of poverty is going on only one family holiday per year. You plan to give an inheritance tax gift to 3,000 of the wealthiest clans in the country, while cutting public services which the poorest rely on. Your Shadow Chancellor will repeal the 50% tax rise as soon as it is financially viable. Your supporters include Jim Davidson, Michael Caine (the one who threatened to leave the country if the top rate of tax was increased, but is yet to fuck off, much to my dismay) and Cilla Black. Hardly the sort of people you’d take election advice from.

You fail to ring-fence spending on decent things like Sure Start. You will swim against the economic tide by cutting public spending the second you reach 10 Downing Street, despite the need for public money to keep our finances above water. You believe that people have forgotten what Thatcher did. They are my values and I will scream them from any rooftop.