SQUINTER supposes that if the average Sun reader were to be made flesh he’d look pretty much like Lee Anderson. The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and MP for Ashfield is a living, breathing, walking disseminator of every loopy gammon front page the right-wing press have churned out in the past few years.
The former Labour councillor is nicknamed ‘30p Lee’ because he infamously opined that food banks wouldn’t be necessary if people budgeted better and claimed out that his local food bank proved that 30p is enough to provide a day’s worth of nutritious meals. He wants the Royal Navy to haul migrants from their small boats on to a frigate and bring them back to France, although he doesn’t explain how they’d get permission to enter French waters or dock at French ports in order to dump their human cargo. He's in favour of the death penalty because “no-one has ever committed a crime after being executed”.
Lee’s problem – or is it the secret of his success? – is that he says things out loud that most of his Tory colleagues have the basic cop-on to keep to themselves. Which is how he come to let the cat out of the bag in relation to how the Tories intend to try and reverse the massive poll lead that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has established with 18 months to the next election.
Recalling the 2019 election that saw him claim the Red Wall seat of Ashfield for Labour, 30p Lee said the Tories had three key weapons that gave them the firepower to win an 80-plus seat majority. He said Brexit, Boris and Corbyn (BBC, geddit?) were electoral gold dust for the party, which is probably true as far as it goes, but then he went on to tell us what we can expect to see.
“This next election, we haven’t got those three things,” he said. “So we’re going to have to think of something else. It’ll probably be a mixture of culture wars and trans debate.”
In other words, you won’t be hearing anything about the economy, education or health that has anything to do with, ah, the economy, education or health. You’ll hear about the economy only if a Tory is talking about woke banks or welfare cheats. You’ll hear about education only if a Tory complains about drag queen storytime in the classroom. You’ll hear about health only if a Tory is claiming that illegal immigrants are clogging up the system. If you want to hear about any of these problems without reference to people and things that have nothing to do with them then you’re out of luck, sadly.
The microphone’s on, the caller is ready, the bingo card is bought, so eyes down:
Stop the boats.
War on Christmas.
Britain is full.
Protect our kids.
Save our statues.
Scrap the licence fee.
The jackpot is yet to be announced, but given the riches that were reaped after the Brexit, Boris, Corbyn campaign of 2019, it’s bound to be an exciting one.
Funny old world out there, isn't it? (Not really, no)
OLD. Adj. Having lived or existed for many years; dating from the remote past; of long standing.
That’s what Squinter’s dictionary gives as the definition of the word ‘old’ and he can only suppose that the dictionary in the DUP press office is a rather different one or that they consulted the Ulster-Scots dictionary by mistake.
But what, Squinter hears you cry, is this sudden interest in the meaning of the word? Well, patience, my impetuous friends, and all will be revealed…
The DUP have selected a chap called Tyler Hoey to fly its colours in the upcoming local council election in Ballymena. Interesting guy, Tyler, if his social media history is anything to go by. He liked a social media post praising the 1993 UDA slaughter of eight innocent people in Greysteel. It was just one of a slew of references to the UDA on his timeline. He said that people concerned about the spread of Covid should be sent to the electric chair. And he cracked a hilarious joke about shipping containers as living quarters after the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a lorry trailer in Essex in 2019.
But – hey, ho – life goes on and lessons are learned and, as we know from long experience, the DUP are a forgiving and compassionate lot and always only too willing to forget the past and look to the future (stop giggling at the back).
After the DUP candidate’s social media activity was reported in the media, the DUP sprang to the defence of its new council candidate and Team Tyler whacked out the following response. “These are old social media comments from an account that was deactivated some time ago and the majority of which were the subject of a previous newspaper report more than two years ago. These were posted by a young man who has recognised they were not appropriate, apologised and sought to move on. Tyler is now more focused on raising his newborn daughter along with his partner and on working to represent the people of Bannside.”
Squinter’s not gonna lie: he wept when he read that, but wiping the tears from the keyboard he also recognised that a few things need pointed out. The first brings us back to that word ‘old’. Two, three and four years might be considered a lengthy stretch if you’re holding your breath, but in terms of events global and local it’s a lunch break. Boris Johnson was Prime Minister in 2019 for instance, not Pitt the Elder. In 2020 it was Covid that hit, not the Black Death. And in 2021 Li’l Nas X and Dua Lipa were big chart-toppers, not Ye Olde Flute Boys and Ye Lute Merrie Minstrels.
So “old social media comments”? Not really. Not according to the dictionary and not according to Time and Relativity for Dummies. And while it’s true that Tyler’s social media posts were highlighted in the past, the story wasn’t run again because there was nothing else happening or because somebody doesn’t like him, it was run again against the background of the DUP selecting him to run for council despite his colourful online persona.
The use and abuse of language is a recurring problem for most parties, but with the DUP it seems to be a chronic malady, as leader Jeffrey Donaldson demonstrated in this story from last Thursday – or this old story from last Thursday as the DUP press office might say.
Chuck Schumer is one of the most powerful politicians in the United States – and therefore on the planet, you might say. Speaking at the annual Ireland Funds dinner in Washington DC ahead of St Patrick’s Day, the Senate majority leader expressed his hope that Stormont would soon be back up and running.
He said: “Now the Windsor Framework has been announced, I sincerely hope it clears the way for the DUP to join Sinn Fein in a power-sharing agreement. I say to all parties in the North, but especially the DUP, let's get to the people's business, the business of power-sharing and self-governing.”
Jeff didn’t much like this as he sat in the audience dolefully scraping the remains of his dessert around the plate. And so when Sky News asked him afterwards about Senator Schumer’s call he said: “Senator Schumer is a highly respected individual and I listened to what he said very carefully. The DUP is currently working hard to address some difficulties we have identified with the Windsor Framework.”
Only joking – he actually told Senator Schumer to go aways and educate himself.
“I would urge the Senator to read some history books,” said Jeff. “Maybe he’d learn a little more about what really happens and the reality of the situation.”
Now poking your host in the eye is never a good idea at the best of times, but when you’re stuck in a political corner and your host is the most powerful country on Earth, the prerogative to be nice – even if you don’t particularly feel like being nice – is rather more pressing.
Not that Squinter thinks that Jeff’s words have Senator Schumer bent out of shape, as the Yanks like to say. The DUP leader commands 27 per cent of the vote in a tiny corner of a tiny island and unionism holds a majority in just two of that island’s 32 counties. But had New Yorker Chuck been inclined to listen to Jeff’s concerns and take them on board, telling him that he needs to educate himself was never likely to persuade him to act on it.
It's the Millwall school of politics again:
We are Ulster, loyal Ulster,
No-one likes us, we don’t care.
But while the DUP has always preferred to sit huffing on a chair in the kitchen listening glumly to the merry racket from the Paddy’s Day party next door, that didn’t matter too much when they were sitting in the big chair.
It matters now.