Sophie McCook

BBC Scriptwriter & Author of New Book Thinkless

According to the Clown International, (the organisation that registers official clowns officially. Yes, of course they need registering!), there are now fewer than 100 full-time ‘Creeping Lunatics Of Waking Nightmares’ in the UK. Times are tough, the maths behind clowning no longer adds up; jollity’s too tight to mention (in binary Clown language, too few hehehehohos to pay the IOUs) The downward flow is more linear than the spurted tears of a clown.

Luckily we have the Torified Westminster Government. Most Circuses have a name and I’m going to call this one ‘Zonin’s’, after the name of Westminster’s own champagne brand (consumption of which has gone up 72% in four years.)

The thing about clowns is, they’re supposed to hold a mirror up to our own frailties and dumb ass prejudices. Zonin’s Circus just hold up a mirror and hide behind it, shielding themselves from the kind of doors-falling-off, cake-in-face that would have you rolling in the aisles, if they hadn’t suddenly sold the aisles to a Chinese consortium.

Specifically, I’d like to linger on two bozos. They’re the ministers in charge of those services we thought were part of the whole ‘Cradle to Grave’ thing that Nye Bevin kept whining on about.

If the NHS is the thing lying inside the comedy cannon, Health Secretary Jeremy ‘No-Joke’ Hunt is the guy running around with the big boots, waving a dramatically sparking ACME fuse. It’s the World’s fifth biggest employer, and every UK inhabitant regardless of political bent LOVES the NHS so it’s a tough crowd. What will No-Joke Hunt do to our last vestige of 1950’s fairness, left over from a time when PathĂ© persuaded us to get over handing back the empire in exchange for The Festival of Britain and the right not be penalised (or advantaged) in health or education because of our class? It’s our last Hurrah, right?

Dr Jeremy has scooped out the insides of the NHS, has auctioned off the entrails to ‘body system service providers’ and created a zombie that is crashing around blindly as its limbs fall off.

So our image of the NHS might still be starched nurses feeding cod liver to grubby ration book kids, but it’s really a patched up monster groaning for “Brains”. Or “Funding”. And “Unified operational and management systems.”
But one headline in The Telegraph last week distastefully sums up how opinion of our model health device is flat lining- I give you: “Aborted Babies Incinerated to Heat UK Hospitals.”

Despite the paper’s implication, Jeremy Hunt is NOT in fact shovelling tots into a giant furnace to heat malingering bed blockers. But the truth isn’t great either. Hospitals can now bid to burn other Health Trust’s waste. Bidding is the current big thing in UK health – the auction goes like this (I believe):
‘Who’ll bid me for this care service of the vulnerable home bound?’
‘We’ll do it and limit the visit to getting up, wash and breakfast in 10 mins’
‘NO we’ll do get up and a wash OR breakfast in 7 mins.’
‘Hold on, we have a phone bid… SOLD to the agency who’ll get up with a baby wipe and muesli bar in 5 mins, using unqualified workers on zero hours!’

So back to the coal face. Ipswich Hospital’s incinerator is run by ..wait for it…a Private Contractor. These guys are in the market for anything. You wanna get some pesky remains off your hands? Name a price, Ipswich will burn it. If you’ve ever been heated by the waste-to-energy system in that particular hospital, now is the time to shudder. In twenty years what remains of the NHS will be treating the complexes that stemmed from knowing you leant against a radiator that may have… You know…NO, don’t think about it! (Ipswich Hospital was very quick to say that they themselves did not avail them of the quickie sickie service. Honest guvnor.)

Let’s move swiftly on to Education Secretary Michael GoGo Gove.

He is not a teacher, did not study child development or education. I admit he was once a child. He was member of a winning team in Grampian Television’s quiz show Top Club. More importantly, he did play a school chaplain in the 1995 straight-to-DVD comedy farce, ‘A Feast at Midnight.’ Maybe he came up with his policies then.

Anyway, Gove will not be content until newborns are graded as they read the new Pepsi-sponsored Pre-School reading primer; “Jill and John use ring pulls.”

Gove doesn’t care about cognitive milestones or physical readiness. Or imaginative play or mud pies for that matter. The UK is already placing its kids behind desks two years before nearly everyone else in the world. Now Gove’s getting some Japanese company to build harnessed restraints to keep those wobbley-necked babies sitting up and still while a hand crank helps them to jab at a touch screen. It’s called a ‘Baby Ofsteadi.’

Ok that last bit’s not true. But only because Mike hasn’t thought of it. But he does think three year olds should be getting their first reading lessons, whether they like it or not. Having kids learn about free play and the hard knocks and negotiation of unhindered, self-directed group games, about getting over cuts and bumps, about magic and mud and grass and climbable trees and balancing and hopping and rolling, that’s NOT done behind a desk. But it does create stronger, increasingly confident children who are more likely to ask questions, who are less likely to be cowed into acceptance. They are the voters of the future who would be liable to point and say ‘Look at that bunch of Clowns.’ No wonder Gove is trying to get them young.

Ps At a recent Zonin Champagne meeting in Westminster, Michael Gove loudly declared to the cabinet that “International entrepreneurs really want to come to London for Hot Sex”. Michael Gove. Hot Sex. Just thought I’d leave that image there… With this photo taken of him at the time.

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