A pudding for a queen? Sorry, your Maj, but your governments have let you down. This is a distration, and like much of the last 70 years represents the ultimate in cakeism, ignoring the reality of decline and the need to manage it. Missed opportunities, nostalgia, mistakes, venality, and so on. If there’s a recipe for this, it’s a collapsed souffle with half the ingredients missing and the other half substituted for inferior alternatives. Which does you a disservice.
Any recipe is going to have to include a lot of aspic, although the gelatine will no doubt be infected with BSE from mad cows force fed their cousins by John Gummer, and if Edwina Currie has been anywhere near the eggs, there’ll be salmonella a plenty.
Let’s take a look at some of the other ingredients we can include down the years as we chart the decline of your realm.
Not your fault of course, but how you must have wanted to slap some of those PMs…
Suez pudding: In 1956 in the grip of a severe bout of gastro-imperatitis we had to pull back from a joint invasion of Egypt under US pressure, and instead of following France into the EU and a properly independent military policy, we opted for poodledom and repeated humiliation with a rather one-sided special relationship. A large dose of humble pie is needed for the cake. Humble pie being a whole lot of nothing, which in this modern age means palm oil, a much used bulking agent in UK-sold processed food. As an ex-chef, I can tell you it’s rubbish. A bit like…
Brexit – which mostly seems to be nostalgia for those dried white dog turds you used to see all over the place. Good for decorating our collapsed cake, I suppose, along with the great big lump of charcoal we get for not joining the European Coal and Steel Community when we were asked too because we still had those great power delusions (although in those days we could still have designed and built our aircraft carriers, nuclear bombs and jets at home, even if we couldn’t finance them).
Not enough chefs and definitely no Indians
The problem though is that with the increasingly hostile environment your government wants we’re going to be short of chefs and bakers to make cakes, let alone jets, or find the scientists and engineers to design, invent and build the things. Or nuclear bombs, for which we are now dependent on our special friends across pond.
Because repeated failure to reform the voting system means that governments can dismantle anything without much oversight or control in our winner takes all system. And few have been so destructive as Thatcher (at least until this Vote Leave government came along), who threw out the baby, the factory, and the vision with the dirty bathwater of militant unionism, which was criticised a few years later by the OECD – and as the French and Germans have shown, was not necessary. Modern European economies can still make stuff and support industry, with a bit of will and imagination.
But Britain is still away with the Cummings’ ‘industry of the future‘ fairies, helped in large part by having a recent opposition leader who spent more time away with the antisemitic aphids in his allotment than with an eye on the actual ball.
With regards to balls, nostalgics can at least point to one world cup in a sport though now dominated by some not altogether squeaky clean owners, be they Saudi or Russian.
Poodledom and poodledee
Still, at least we haven’t entered any illegal or unwinnable wars. Or have we? The problem with poodledom and wanting to be the steadfast friend is that your semi-psychotic friends drag you into good and bad things without asking.
Afghanistan – Iraq – Syria. Not a nice sequence. Which achieved very little and none of which was much shaped by what Britain might have wanted or could have contributed. There’s much wrong with the world and much that Britain could do, but open ended, plan free interventions for the sake of looking like you’re doing something – playing to the domestic gallery – achieve nothing. They look like Aden and Malaya, proxy colonial and cold war wars with an eye on the oil rather than goodwill to all mankind. Talking of which, Norway built a sovereign wealth fund with it’s share of the oil. We funded tax cuts so the Tories could buy a few elections and cover the cracks left by bodged privatisations.
So I guess our cake is going to be coated in some crude.
And cost an over-inflated amount due to sleaze, cronyism and corruption of which your reign has seen a hefty dose, I’m sorry to say, from the Christine Keeler business to Dido Harding’s test and trace, pockets a plenty have been picked and politicians a plenty have been bought. Talking of which, our cake needs a dose of something Russian, perhaps a report, perhaps five somethings linking Cambridge to Moscow as well. There is certainly a Eurasian flavour to it.
Propping up the unproppable
It needs something from Chile too, and a few of the other places where we’ve propped up some dodgy characters recently (think Kazakhstan and Blair‘s defence of their last dictator but one over some nastiness with demonstrators, earning him a fair few quid). It’s a monkey puzzle why we did this, but hey ho. Let’s add some wine and apples.
And some cucina povera for those left behind by the growing wealth disparities in the country which are now accelerating as generation rent is screwed over by the baby boomers, both in their monopoly over housing and their vote to leave the EU, entry to which seemed to have signalled some small recognition by Britain that it was now a middling sized country needing to work with its near neighbours.
Short, but sweet and swept away.
Make that a bitter pill instead of the traditional ‘fève’ some of you may have had in their galette des rois last week.
Or, if you were one of those recognised in the honours or elevated to that bloated upper chamber then it may have been ermine. It’s probably an attempt to reproduce that chamber that causes our souffle to collapse – a lack of bottom, as the Victorians used to put it.
A disunited soon to be former Kingdom?
And our collapsing cake is a nice metaphor for the state of the union, which may well not be long for this world.
Let’s recall back to basics – cakes need good basics. How we laughed at Major’s government’s inability to keep it’s collective trousers on. Which brings up Edwina Currie again, because back to basics was clearly not for everyone, but no, we might leave that off the ingredients list.
And yes, we got the structure of DNA and the clean air act and the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality, peace in Northern Ireland and – for now at least – an end to the death penalty, but…we lost the space race, the jet race, the car (industry) race, the computer race, etc.. We ran out of money to invest in these and made imaginary money from mortgages instead of investing in business and the education of our children. We did not build the regional finance system the Germans did and we did not invest in industry the way the French did.
We’ve gone from building nukes to asking the Chinese to finance an untested and possibly flawed French nuclear plant design at an artificially inflated price.
So much of this was self-inflicted too. We could have joined and accepted our new role and position in the world, we could have collaborated, but instead continued to behave as if our gunboats had not turned into rowboats and oxbridge punts. Not seaworthy and not armed with anything but some Eton mess, bluster and bombast.
Anyway, rant over. If her Maj wants a slice of torta di pere e ricotta next time I make one, she’s welcome. You may have guessed I’m a republican. Nothing against the Queen, who does a fine job at what she’s allowed to (she visited an organisation I worked for in the mid-1990s. Contrary to popular wisdom, we did not have to paint the place. We couldn’t have afforded it). It’s just that the Queen distracts from all the other things that have held Britain back for decades.
Where are the winds of change?