Graeme Archer is a statistician and a former winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Blogging.
There’s a Doctor Who story from 1983 which I loved, called Snakedance. Other than featuring a young Martin Clunes wearing some sort of wraparound dress, it heaved with the pseudo-religious totems that appeal to teenagers. It certainly appealed to me, this story about the serpent hidden deep within the psyche. The worst monsters are those we create ourselves.
No-one, Graeme, is going to read on if you mention Doctor Who again, so for once let’s write about politics.
Have you seen Labour’s exciting new range of mugs? There are loads of them, five or six, one for each of the important pledges made by exciting Mr Miliband and his government in waiting. You can buy them on the Labour website.
Not all the mugs are new. Some of them have been lying on a seldom-dusted shelf since the late 1990s. Perhaps Mr Miliband forgot which kitchen he’d left them in.
This category contains the Balls mug, inspired, no doubt, by the whimsy of Lewis Carroll. “Drink me,” it simpers/bellows, “And I promise you’ll forget everything that happened between 2005 and 2010.”
The Balls mug, which is only available in brown, comes with a distinctive crack that runs all the way through to its interior – some say that if you press your ear against this crack, the eerie chanting of Labour’s Treasury team can be heard, like a seashell and the sea, but with none of the charm: “Their cup is full and o’er-flow-eth, so spend, baby, spend.” Although PC culture would have it that drinking from broken mugs is dangerous, Mr Miliband is sure that this somewhat shopworn vessel is perfectly safe for human consumption.
(About Snakedance, though. There’s a character called Ambril, the curator of a museum on Manussa that contains, among other things, an ancient head-dress called “The Six Faces of Delusion.” Ambril refers to the head-dress as a sign of his people’s ancestral foolishness: the head-dress contains only five carved, gurning faces, arranged in a semi-circle.)
Back to Labour’s pledge-cups. To celebrate the party’s commitment to the national health, here’s the Burnham mug, a fine example of Labour craftsmanship. Indeed, many appreciators of this form have said: “The Burnham is a real piece of work.”
Burnham mugs, which would make a thoughtful gift for anyone in your life who prioritises producers over consumers, were once made in the famous mid-Staffordshire potteries, but we don’t talk about that anymore.
Labour supporters can rest assured, however, that the Burnham mug is produced by a collective which refuses to charge anything for its handiwork, or to take a wage. To that end, this deepest-red health-pledge cup has “Profit is immoral” stamped on its surface. (Close observers might notice that the “im-” prefix seems to have been scribbled on hastily, “sometime after 2010,” according to our antique expert, Dr Kiosk.)
More avante garde still, there’s the “Control Immigration” mug, designed to “rub the noses” of working-class Labour voters in the dregs of a failed social experiment.
Fashioned by a long-time Labour supporter, a Mrs Duffy, the mug “should appeal to Labour’s northern supporters,” hopes Mr Miliband, from Hampstead. Luminaries of the British Left, like Dame Vivienne Westwood, can relax: “Control Immigration” mugs will probably turn out to be produced in an artist’s studio/sweatshop run as a tax scam far, far from Britain, and will be delivered to Labour voters the length and breadth of the country by the hardworking eastern Europeans that the mug is designed to demonise. “It’s called dramatic irony,” says Mr Miliband, hopefully.
Unfortunately, initial tests of the Duffy mug have proven unsatisfactory, with claims that it proved incapable of shielding anyone who carries it from being bathed in hot water. “It makes me sick,” says Diane, from Hackney. “I’ve a good mind to—”, but here we must leave Diane, and her party’s interesting approach(es) to immigration, and turn to the most famous Labour mug of all.
Globe-striding Labour artist Tony Blair, famous for his ex-role In Office, as well as for playing one of those trolls in that dreary Tolkien franchise, has come to the aid of his party. He’ll scrawl his bloody imprimatur over the mug of any Labour candidate willing enough to sup from his bowl. The price? A mere thousand of your Earth pounds. “What’s a thousand quid?” drawls Tony. “Or ten million, comrade?”
I think that’s four mugs. Are there five? Or six? I’ve lost count.
Let’s return to Manussa, where we left Ambril and the Doctor arguing over the Six Faces of Delusion head-dress, with its five wooden faces. “Put it on,” the Doctor says to Ambril, who does so. “Now count the heads again.” The sixth face of delusion, of course, turns out to be the wearer’s own. “I rather think that was the point; don’t you?” asks the Doctor.
I wonder if even Mr Miliband’s kitchens have enough space for all these mugs, especially the “Control Immigration” one. I expect he’s too busy with his exciting, go-ahead party, to count his mugs/faces of delusion.