A silly Tory

IF you’re struggling to find a silver lining to the Tory surge, I have one for you: Alan B’Stard is coming back, or at least his son is. The creators of the unpleasant Conservative MP, played by Rik Mayall, said in a recent interview that the success of right-wing populism has made it necessary for them to bring back the sit-com that famously mocked some of the more enthusiastic embracers of Thatcherism. This time though, instead of Alan, the show will feature B’Stard’s son Arron, who is, if anything, a little bit worse than his father.

But there’s a problem. When Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks created The New Statesman series in the 1980s, the idea was to satirise Thatcherism and expose some of its worst excesses, but it backfired. Many of the targets of the satire rather loved it – if anything, their swagger became a bit more swaggery. Tory MP Edwina Currie saw it for herself. “One of two of them started playing up,” she said.

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The other problem is that satirising the Conservatives in the form of Alan B’Stard and now his son Arron exposes a slightly awkward fact: Tories are easier to laugh at because, on the whole, they are more willing to laugh at themselves. They have the most eccentric MPs, the most colourful scandals, and the best parties. And there’s nothing quite as likely to kill a laugh as an earnest left-winger. No wonder the men and women who write funny shows write most about the Tories –Tories have the most fun.

The right to Foam

The menu for this week’s Dirty Diary, ladies and gentlemen, is as follows. We will start with mousse de crèmeole, followed by bœuf salé, and finish with rouleau arctique et montée en ambroisie. In other words, we’re having Creamola Foam, corned beef, arctic roll and Ambrosia creamed rice.

Any why not? When did we get so ashamed of food from the 1970s anyway? Last week it was revealed that sales of white bread, which is pretty much the only thing I ate between 1975 and 1991, fell 3.7 per cent last year, which is the equivalent of us spending £1.4bn less on white in the UK. That’s a shame because sometimes only white bread will do.

Some of the slump is undoubtedly due to low-carb diets, but the other reason is people thinking they need to cut gluten out of their diet when they don’t. If you have coeliac disease, of course you need to cut out gluten, but I suspect much of the explanation for the 52 per cent rise in sales of the gluten-free Genius bread is that people think it will make their diet more interesting to other people. It won’t. It doesn’t.

Instead, I suggest we re-embrace the food of the 1970s as a little lesson for the future. Yes, when I was a kid, I ate Wagon Wheels and Angel Delight, Cola Cubes and even sweet cigarettes. I also enjoyed creamed rice and Creamola Foam and none of these things could ever be sold as healthy food. But the point is that in the 1970s, we were given those things sparingly – they were a treat at best, an occasional bit of sweetness as part of a regular, healthy diet. Now, 40 years later, sugar and salt are a much greater part of our diet, punctuated by faddy, low-carb, gluten-free diets when the guilt kicks in.

But there’s still time to learn the lesson of the 1970s: be good 90 per cent of the time and the other 10 per cent is all the sweeter. Break out the Wagon Wheels and wash them down with Creamola Foam. Seventies food is not as bad as you think it is.

Foglehardy adventures

There’s nothing I like better than the godchildren coming round to visit. “Here you go,” I say. “Take these sharp knives, this big box of matches and flammable material and go and play by edge of the cliff over there. And don’t bother me for the next five hours because I’ll be in the pub. Have fun!”

I exaggerate (a bit) but not completely because danger is, and should be, part of children’s lives. Don’t hide the matches. Tell them what matches are and show them how to use them responsibly. The same with knives. Get them chopping veg in the kitchen or using the knives to carve bits of wood and there’s a greater chance that they will learn the rules of safety at a much younger age. What makes a child grow up to be a pyromaniac I wonder? Could it be an obsessive parent telling them to stay away from fire?

I appreciate this danger-first policy will not be to the taste of many parents, but there are a few rebellious ones. The broadcaster Ben Fogle for example, has been explaining why he gives his seven and five-year-old children knives to play with. “My five and seven-year-olds have got knives,” he said, “whittling knives, they’ve got a sharp blade. They’ve had those for years now.”

Fogle also believes children should be able to take risks with fire as a way of avoiding risks when they are grown up. And he allows his son to play with snakes. Snakes! For parents in the Age of Anxiety, that sounds horrific, but think back to your own childhood. What were the best bits? What was it all about? It was the danger, wasn’t it? It was those moments where it could have gone either way, when your foot was on the edge. It was the risks you took, and the risks you avoided, that made you.

Grin and pare it

Talking of knives, there was news last week that hospitals are seeing more and more cases of “avocado hand”, ie injuries caused by people trying to cut avocados. Staff at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital say they are now treating about four cases a week of cuts associated with people trying to cut the fruit.

Naturally, some of these injuries are serious, and people have to be careful, but made-up doctors have also been telling me about some of the other middle-class injuries they are worried about. Such as spiralizer strain: the slight discomfort in the wrist from having to spiralize all vegetables now instead of just cutting them. Or Nutribullet ear: slight loss of hearing from having to listen to the constant loud whirring noise of vegetables and fruit being juiced every day. And the worst middle-class disease of them all: box set depression: the nagging, nihilistic feeling while watching a box-set that everyone else is watching one that is a little bit better.