Sunday, 28 September 2014

Brooks Newmark and the paisley penis panic

I can't lie. The breaking news about Conservative MP Brooks Newmark sending a rather revealing photo of himself to an undercover reporter posing as a lust-struck woman made me laugh. The story was ripe for insta-parody on Twitter - his name sounds like either a recruitment agency ("I always hire my accountants through Brooks Newmark...") or a posh menswear shop ("I decided to push the boat out and bought myself new socks from Brooks Newmark rather than Asda...), he was another Tory caught with his pants down, he was wearing paisley pyjamas. Paisley. I ask you.

As a result, Newmark has resigned from his post as Minister for Civil Society. At least he is still an MP so the taxpayer doesn't have to fund another by-election hot on the heels of Mark Reckless defecting to UKIP over the weekend. It will be up to his constituents to decide whether getting caught in a sting is a sacking offence.

Christ knows what the atmosphere is like at Newmark's house at the moment. Is his wife furious? Are the kids angry or just mortified? Frankly, this is none of our business just as Brooks Newmark sending a rude picture to someone he naively thought might fancy him is none of our business.

The outrage is a fauxrage.

What about the time Newmark said: "The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others." when his job encompassed responsibility for charities? That was way more outrageous than a moment of silly human frailty.

Don't even start with the "he was quoted out of context" defence. It was a smarmy, arrogant, patronising way of saying he didn't want any bothersome charities pestering him with their advocacy. Never mind that certain government policies might have led to the charities being busier than ever... Even the ones the Tories traditionally like such as Help For Heroes... Awkward.

Newmark's comments came in the midst of political wrangling over the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill - better known as the Gagging Bill - which became law in January 2014. That rotten, censoring, anti-freedom law is far more outrageous than a ministerial penis poking out of paisley pyjamas.

But what is very telling here is that Newmark got away with a pitiful attempt at a clarification after his mindless knitting comment, saying what he really meant to say was that charities "absolutely have the right to campaign" but should "stay out of the realm of party politics". So why didn't he simply say so in the first place? Also, it can be a bit hard for a charity to campaign against something a government has done without mentioning the people in government the charity deems responsible for the grievance. Anyone who doesn't think the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill is about censorship and silencing certain voices is kidding themselves.

So a patronising, dismissive comment about the very organisations with which he is meant to try and cooperate is fine under this government but a man has to resign for something that some may find immoral or distasteful but is certainly not illegal? This is not Saudi Arabia and for that we should be very thankful.

In the meantime, the Sunday Mirror has been under fire for running this story based on a sting after they broke the news. The whole thing does smack of a Sunday papers Tory sex scandal outrage from the 1980s. Retro. But this story exposes more than an errant wang. It exposes the true values of this government, and in particular the Conservative Party. I have no idea what the outcome would have been if an MP from any other party was caught in such a sting. Perhaps it would have been the same panic-stricken resignation rather than simply weathering the storm and moving on.

But weathering the storm and moving on would surely be the more grown-up way to deal with this pathetic excuse for a sex scandal. We do have much bigger fish to fry at the moment. In case you hadn't noticed, we're at war again.

This sorry story has exposed the Tories as the party that tries to win cheap political points with cheap jibes at charities in the name of stifled public debate. It is the party where doing something silly but legal is worse than passing a terrible law which goes against the freedoms it claims to stand for. On that count, well played to the Sunday Mirror for giving us that insight. It is now up to the people of Britain as to what they do with that information.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

An open letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand

Dear General Prayuth,

Thank you for your helpful travel advice to women planning a trip to your beautiful country. I have visited Thailand in the past and I would love to do so again so it is reassuring to know you are concerned about the safety of female travellers.

It is handy to know that I will not be safe in a bikini in Thailand unless I am, to quote your words, "not beautiful." This may explain an incident that happened to me last time I was in your country.

Let me elaborate. I was in Phuket for a week on my own when a man who was also staying at my hotel broke into my room in the middle of the night, crawled into my bed and pressed his erection against my back. I had been out with him and his friend at a bar that evening but I decided to go home early - the combination of cheap whisky and a bad Bon Jovi cover band wasn't really doing it for me, so I put myself in a tuk-tuk and returned to my hotel room - although not before the tuk-tuk driver grabbed my face and tried to kiss me as I paid, and not before the bellboy with the suspiciously long little fingernail asked me to join him on "motorbike to go to discotheque". 

The tuk-tuk driver was told where to go in no uncertain terms and the bellboy's offer was politely declined. I went to bed alone only to wake up a few hours later with the aforementioned penis rubbing against me. I said: "If you don't get out of my room right now, I will scream so fucking loud, the whole hotel will hear me." He left swiftly and went back to his own room. 

The worst consequence of all this was much awkwardness over the hotel breakfast buffet for the rest of the week. I did not end up being raped or murdered and I appreciate that the situation could have been far more terrible. But I still wasn't safe in your country. I realise that I am not 100% safe from violence in any country but at least you have offered me an explanation as to why this might have happened to me in Thailand.

Clearly, I am beautiful. 

And I wore a bikini by the pool and on the beach in Phuket. 

This powerful combination of my beauty and my bikini - even though it was one of those more modest ones with the big pants - made me a clear target for my fellow hotel guest and the halitosis-ridden tuk-tuk driver.

In order for me to ascertain whether I'd be safe in your country today, General Prayuth, I have included a recent photo of myself in a bikini. My holiday in Thailand was 16 years and a few kilograms ago so it could be that these days I fall short of your standards of assault-causing beauty.

Can I come to your country and wear a bikini with impunity at the ripe old age of 38 or will I still risk being attacked? Am I still looking OK for someone pushing 40? Your opinion on this matter is very important to me. 

Perhaps you can start posting notices at beaches and by hotel pools to specify the maximum standard of beauty a woman can possess before she must put on a neck-to-knee swimsuit and shield her gorgeous face with a large parasol. On what criteria will you create these standards? After all, ideals of beauty vary between cultures, vary over time, vary according to individual opinion, and are not universal. You may have to create a whole new government department to work on this one or a new branch of the police department at the very least. 

Alternatively, General Prayuth, you could give the victim-blaming horseshit a rest and acknowledge that acts of sexual violence can happen to any woman, regardless of whose standard of beauty she does or does not meet. You could show some respect to Hannah Witheridge, who died along with David Miller this week (who has not been accused of being handsome while wearing swimming trunks), and do whatever you can to ensure whoever is responsible is caught. For the person or people who attacked Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller are the ones to blame for these terrible crimes, not bikinis or pulchritude. 

Yours sincerely,

Georgia Lewis

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A draft speech by Jeremy Hunt that *might* have been found on the Cloud...

Good afternoon, everyone. Good to see you all looking so well in spite of it all.

I am here to announce a revamped NHS. In this age of the internet [NOTE TO ASSISTANT: DO WE STILL CALL IT THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY OR WILL THAT MAKE ME TREND ON TWITTER FOR THE WRONG REASONS???], we need to harness all the technology we can to save money [NOTE TO ASSISTANT: SHOULD I SAY "IMPROVE PATIENT CARE" HERE???].


I am sure you have all heard about our cutting-edge plans for GPs to do more consultations via email and Skype. This country is the birthplace of the English language, of fine literature that has influenced the world over the centuries, so I know everyone will be able to describe their symptoms to their GPs over email with an almost lyrical level of descriptiveness. Indeed, I fully expect that one day an enterprising GP will compile his or her most eloquent patient emails for a most entertaining book. [NOTE TO ASSISTANT: WOULD THIS REPRESENT AN ENORMOUS BREACH OF PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY???]

So I am fully confident that the people of this country will be able to describe such complex conditions as motor neurone disease and cardiac dysrhythmia with effortless ease!

And what could be better than only going as far as your webcam for a cheeky Skype consultation. In keeping with our fine tradition of saucy comedy, I am sure everyone is as excited as I am at the hilarious prospect of a friend or family member walking in just as you are bent over the iPad showing your doctor a particularly tricky anal boil or a booming yeast infection. Benny Hill would be so proud.

But, make no mistake, we are not stopping at email and Skype with the National Health Syberspace.

We will save millions of pounds [IMPROVE PATIENT CARE???] by launching a hashtag. Why should you be limited to seeing just one trained medical professional at a time when you can ask the opinion of millions of Twitter users across the world. Yes, tomorrow we will get #WhatIsWrongWithMe trending worldwide. This way, it will be easy to send your symptoms out to the whole world for easy diagnosis. Be sure to attach a photo for maximum retweets.

Send your photos of irritating rashes out to the Twitterverse! You will know in no time if it is a heat rash, measles, acne, chicken pox or shingles.

And who doesn't love a good Facebook video? The ice bucket challenge has been a jolly jape and we can't get enough of videos of someone else's kids dancing on the kitchen table to a middle-of-the-road radio station. So we will also be saving millions of pounds [IMPROVING PATIENT CARE??? HELP!] by simply urging you all to post videos of yourself, your family and your ailments.

We know there are some things that cannot be properly captured in a photograph or email so if you have a wheezy cough, a weeping sore or you are having a suspected heart attack or bipolar episode, just video it, post it on Facebook and tag the friends whose opinions you value the most. I am pleased to report this has already been happening to a certain extent, whether it is a clueless parent updating their status to inform the world their baby is running a temperature of 39ยบ rather than going to straight to one of the A&E departments we have closed down, or an attention-seeking idiot posting something about a terrible headache in the hope of getting a lot of "u ok hun?" comments.

So why not go one step further and share fun videos of your symptoms on your Facebook page? Your friends and family care about you so they are best placed to advise on whether you really need to see a GP or go to hospital.

We want to embrace the internet as the NHS's main diagnostic tool. After all, who hasn't turned to Doctor Google in the middle of the night to self-diagnose a potentially life-threatening condition? And we can save even more money [DO I MEAN TO SAY "IMPROVE PATIENT CARE" AGAIN HERE? THIS IS TRICKY] by hoping and praying that more people's health-related Googling leads them to homeopathy websites where they will simply spend loads of money on insecure websites buying useless potions or discovering the healing power of rainbows.

It is an exciting new future for the new, improved National Health Syberspace. If you have any questions about this state-of-the-art initiative, please tweet me and I will not bother to respond because, frankly, I am too busy tweeting patronising bunkum about how I spent an afternoon with the "hardworking staff" of an A&E department in a safe Tory seat at its least busiest time.