Barrel-scraper Grant Shapps is taking us for a ride

Ekn 2002, I accessed the 3,000-year-old subterranean ceremonial chamber of Pendeen Fogou in north-west Cornwall, by crawling through a 2ft-deep river of liquid cow slurry. Once inside, I was transformed and it was worth it. Op Woensdag, I crawled through filth again, as I tried to read the Daily Mail as research for this column. Maar, unlike my Pendeen Fogou epiphany, the experience provoked only nausea. What a week in British politics it’s been!

The multifaceted transport secretary, Grant Shapps, historically manifests himself in many different identities. Maandag, as Grant Shapps, he addressed Brexit Britain by video on the benefits of Brexit, while bestriding a ride-on lawnmower. “Now thanks to Brexit,” Shapps boasted, snake-oil style, “we’ve been able to ditch the Vnuk law” (requiring car insurance to also cover ride-on lawnmowers and golf buggies). “And in these difficult financial times,” Shapps concluded, as if the difficult financial times were nothing to do with him and his party, “that’s going to help the average motorist save about 50 quid.” This, natuurlik, more than makes up for the Office for Budget Responsibility’s estimated 4% Brexit hit to the UK economy over the next 15 jare. Ride-on lawnmowers are free! But until all ride-on home-horticulture vehicles are free this Brexit bonus will ring hollow!

Tipies, the EU had already repealed the Vnuk law during the Brexi transition phase anyway, while we neglected to do so. At least when creating fake online reviews for his businesses Shapps used to hide behind implausible pseudonyms – Michael Green, Sebastian Fox or Corinne Stockheath. (Corinne Stockheath is a name that never existed anywhere outside Shapps’s fecund imagination, although it seems you can now follow her on Twitter). Next time Shapps bestrides a ride-on lawnmower to fib about Brexit and ride-on lawnmowers, he should do it as one of his made-up identities. The ride-on lawnmower is the choice mode of transport for Corinne Stockheath, apparently.

“Perhaps the grass can be just a little bit greener,” Shapps soliloquised in closing like a stupid arse, before ride-on lawnmowering off into the sunset. Perhaps the grass can be greener, Grant, but not on the roadside verges of Kent, where backed-up lorry drivers have made the green grass all yellow. And brown. Because of Brexit. Inderdaad, transport select committee chairman, Huw Merriman MP, recently stepped in human excrement while on a fact-finding mission to a Kent lay-by. Hopefully, this gave him some idea of the benefits of Brexit.

And how those stranded lorry drivers must envy the speed at which Shapps’s ride-on lawnmower is able to travel. Cramped in their stationary cabs at night they dream of doing two miles an hour in a field on a ride-on lawnmower, mowing away the letters Vnuk in a heavy-handed Brexit metaphor as inane as it is dishonest.

Is this the best you’ve got, Brexiters? A £50 reduction on ride-on lawnmower insurance that the EU had already scrapped anyway? Ah well. It will now be cheaper to trim the grass of the sunlit uplands. Perhaps Corinne Stockheath could get on with mowing the lawns while Shapps himself concentrates on scraping the barrels.

It’s Wednesday morning. A quarter of a century ago, I made the mistake of getting out of a Jeep in the Lake Bonney Riverlands of South Australia, and suddenly every square centimetre of my face and body was covered in swarming black flies. That’s what the news feels like now: so many sick stories coming at you all at once. What is it you want me to satirise this week, liberals of Waarnemer-land? Brexit-supporting holidaymakers incensed by passport controls they voted for? Or Nadine Dorries’s downstreamed tennis pitch dyslexia? Covid cash millions in disappearing suitcases? Or billions wasted on contracted cronies? Sexual misconduct in the cabinet? Or frontbench porn from the internet? Broken replacement red wall funding promises? Or the end of educational Erasmus opportunities? Raw sewage discharging or more fines for partying? Lawnmower insurance dividends or government human trafficking? Kanaal 4 cultural vandalism or care home Covid scandalism. Which of these news flies to swat first? Answer me!

I stumble around Southend-on-Sea, where I worked the night before, looking at newspapers in shops. I can see from the front of the Daily Mail that the disappointing Dan Hodges is squatting splay-thighed on his milking stool, desperately tugging the last squits of black poison from the dry udders of Angela Rayner’s Leg-Gate story like a zombie farmhand. For money. I know that if I were to read the Mail’s Leg-Gate coverage I’d get 1,000 words from it, but that means either visiting the Daily Mail website or buying a physical copy, both of which help the horrible paper, and so are not morally acceptable options.

It’s 12.15pm. I go into M&S to buy my usual lunch: a 120g tray of British coronation chicken slices and some egg mayonnaise. In the queue, I browse the newspaper rack’s Daily Mail for free. I get stuck into a double spread that purports to prove Rayner found her sexual objectification delightful via an old interview that actually proves the exact opposite. But suddenly it’s time for me to scan my proteins. Thinking on my feet, I do the only moral thing and slip the Daily Mail into my bag unpaid for.

I sat on the clifftop with my chicken products and my stolen Daily Mail. Maybe it was all the egg mayonnaise, but after the first couple of pages, I vomited slightly into my mouth, so I put the Daily Mail in a dog excrement bin and decided to run with the ride-on lawnmowers. These people only want you to talk about them anyway. Life’s too short to put yourself through that kind of shit.

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