DURING an online discussion of how the United Kingdom’s political landscape has become so bleak, a correspondent suggested it all started with a question from a BBC journalist.

Now bear with Squinter here. That might sound a bit bonkers, but when you hear the question you might indeed start to wonder.
It was during last year’s election campaign and in a Question Time special, host Emma Barnett asked Labour’s Angela Rayner: “As the party of big state, you’re talking about your first hundred days today. And what would you say in direct response to Aiden about stopping people from eating meat?”

The MP replied: “We have to get real because climate emergency is a real problem, climate change is a problem, despite what Nigel [Farage} thinks.”
Then it happened. The boul’ Emma asked Angela: “Would you nationalise sausages?”
You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Angela Rayner’s face just before she gives a one-word answer: “No.” But there’s little doubt that the question was a perfect example of the depths to which the Tories had dragged the public discourse – and the absolute willingness of the state broadcaster to go with them. After all, that was the election in which Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings sold the Withdrawal Agreement as an “oven-ready” deal which was the only route to to an orderly Brexit. And now the same two gentlemen tell us that they hadn’t understood what they were signing and the agreement needs redone.
Squinter went a bit further back with his story of when and how British politics went to hell in a handbasket. Back to October 2013, in fact, when Environment Minister Owen Paterson (late of this parish) was being interviewed about a pilot badger cull in west Somerset. After marksmen failed to hit the cull target, Mr Paterson continued to insist the cull was a success. A BBC interviewer said: “You’re moving the goalposts on all fronts.”
To which the Minister replied: “No, that’s not right at all. The badgers have moved the goalposts.”
Let’s be honest – it was all downhill from there, wasn’t it? Badgers interfering in the political process. Boris Johnson ditching his security detail to party in Italy with the billionaire son of a KGB agent. Dominic Cummings taking his wife and child for a 60-mile drive to test his eyesight. Brexit MPs making millions out of Britain’s economic woes by betting against sterling. Health Secretary Matt Hancock cracking jokes after-hours in the Commons bar about the deadly failure of the track and trace.
At this point nationalising sausages doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

Taskforce takes on that centenary challenge

THE full list of the people tasked with planning This Here Pravince’s centenary celebrations has been published.
The taskforce (let’s call them a taskforce – so fitting, dontcha think?) will divide into two panels: the Centenary Forum has 19 members and a chairman while the Centenary Historical Advisory Panel is made up of eight academics/historians


That’s 28 stout-hearted Ulster folk (or, at least, honorary stout-hearted Ulster folk) and the thrilling news is that Squinter has heard of at least six of them.
A statement from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) read: “The advisory group discussed a range of proposals to facilitate national recognition and international awareness of the anniversary, that will reflect on the past and importantly, build for Northern Ireland’s future. The centenary can be an opportunity to showcase what is best about Northern Ireland around the world; this programme of centenary events will reinforce the UK Government’s commitment to a prosperous Northern Ireland and levelling up through economic development and investment opportunities.”
The whole shebang is being run by the NIO, which, given its dread history, does not fill the heart of your average Fenian with hope. Let’s face it, there was never much of a chance that there’ll be any real analysis of what putting the statue of a gunrunner outside Stormont did to foster community cohesion and/or respect for law and order. But with the NIO calling the shots (metaphorically in this case) the centenary is likely to be more Kim Jong-un than John Pilger in its take on the past.
Given that there’s a minimum of 22 people in there that Squinter has never heard of, it’s entirely possible that the Falls and the Bogside might be well represented; it could be that the LGBTQ+ community has a strong voice; there’s only one obviously ethnic name on the panel, but you can never tell these days and it might be full of black and brown people. But from where Squinter’s sitting it’s pretty much a Prod Squad, which when you think about it is entirely appropriate given that what we’re celebrating is a Protestant state for a Protestant people. Be a bit silly to pretend that we’re doing anything else.
If either panel was set the task of identifying ten things about Our Wee Country that are really worth celebrating they’re going to struggle. Doubtless they’ll try to concentrate on personalities: a bolshie snooker player, a playboy footballer and a Scouse shot-putter, setra, setra. But what about actual ‘things’? What is there to celebrate about a gerrymandered, one-party state that actively excluded the minority and was propped up by a sectarian militia? The Giant’s Causeway? Even if you’re a DUP Young Earther you’re not going to pretend that that was created post-partition. The shipyard? Stop laughing at the back. Tayto cheese ‘n’ onion? Irwin’s Nutty Krust?
Squinter should point out that he applied for a place on the taskforce and made it to the final interview stage, but sadly failed to make the cut. So it could be that he’s just bitter. 
Although, come to think of it, in loyal Ulster wouldn’t that be the perfect qualification?