Did the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen cultivate lagoons of urine in his rural Leicestershire constituency? In 2014, the Environment Agency claimed lagoons at the Measham depot of his vegetable packaging and distribution company, AB Produce, emitted a pervasive urine smell. “It smells just like urine all the time – first thing in the morning until last thing at night,” a villager said. By 2016, more than 400 people had complained about Bridgen’s urine lagoons, which he claimed contained liquefied vegetables; they were asked to score Bridgen’s odour from one (“very faint odour”) to six (“the strongest odour you could ever encounter, which could make you physically ill”). Though the issue was resolved, whenever the Conservatives need a stink, the Creature from the Yellow Lagoon can be relied upon to kick one up.
In February, Disney decided to flag, but not censor, dated content in old Muppet Shows. Viewers were warned, for example, that Johnny Cash sang in front of a Confederate battle flag, now blacklisted by American retailers after Confederate battle flag fan Dylann Roof shot dead nine black churchgoers in Charleston. Bridgen, a Tamagotchi Farage, mechanically declared: “I would like to know which bunch of muppets thought this one up… If this continues kids won’t be able to watch any TV programmes which are not newly made. Is nothing safe?” The shows, previously archived, were in fact newly available, with brief statements before contentious but unaltered episodes. It will soon be illegal to be white.
Post-factual Bridgen is the political equivalent of a dog with a firework strapped to it, chasing a ball towards enemy lines, tail wagging happily, with little idea of what it is doing. The Conservatives value the culture war confusion the Yellow Dog causes, while knowing it would be a liability to allow his urine to flow too far south from Leicestershire, especially in poorly ventilated constituencies.
In 2018, Bridgen discussed Brexit on BBC Radio Ulster. Old Yeller didn’t seem to understand the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were different entities, believing being English entitled him to an Irish passport, via some imagined reciprocal citizenship with Cromwell’s former colony. Having baffled host Stephen Nolan, born in Shankhill Road, the Loch Piss Monster quickly hung up mid-call, pretending to have disappeared. But since Boris Johnson avoided questions by scampering into a Yorkshire fridge, Yellowbelly’s Belfast auto-kneecapping seems comparatively dignified.
Though it is easy to dismiss Bridgen’s pronouncements as verbal lagoons of urine, last Sunday’s Express headline-grabber was deceptively granular. On page 16, the Yellow Peril addressed the HGV driver shortage, expediently concurring that Brexit’s withdrawal of EU labour was good because “paying the minimum wage with a queue of migrants ready to jump in is not an option any more”. Hopefully, the Golden Cockerel’s unexpected concern won’t drive up the wages of workers globally or the prized Brexit dividend of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s vaunted “cheaper footwear” will evaporate. How pleasing to see workers’ rights espoused by Bridgen, whose party traditionally believes labour markets shouldn’t be subject to interfering ethics. Yellowman he cum fe mash dem again! Zungguzungguguzungguzeng!
Abandoning Marxist rhetoric, Bridgen then said the driver shortage isn’t due to Covid, the pingdemic or Brexit, but to the disappointing 90s cadaver Tony Blair, who encouraged working-class children to go to university, thus “placing less value on vocations”. Or, as the Yellow Kid really means, Blair didn’t tell the peasants all they were good for was driving lorries for AB Produce’s Measham urine swamp. Blair’s inane “the more you learn the more you earn” mantra encouraged customer-students to view the holistic university experience in degraded time-and-motion terms, but it provided hope, and the possible byproduct of social mobility, to millions. However, YouGov studies show the more educated are less likely to vote Conservative, so discouraging the working class from study is, like the Conservatives’ voter ID scam, a good way of rigging elections.
Fifteen years ago, during a period of mental instability, I appeared on a grammar quizshow hosted by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who patronisingly explained afterwards that privilege and inequality were natural and that my betters had my best interests at heart. Downton Abbey carpet-bombed the idea of benign aristocratic paternalism into the ITV viewing proletariat, class traitors such as Dame Maggie Smith and Dan Stevens softening the ground for the advance of Boris Johnson’s silver-spoon commandos into the red wall.
I was the first in my single mum’s family to go to university, aided by a posh part-scholarship and a charity fund for “waifs and strays”, your honour. (How I wish I were still a “waif”.) English literature and Anglo-Saxon! Study for its own sake! It blew my Brum-boiled brain. But Bridgen tells the less privileged to lower their horizons. For him, “levelling up” is levelling down. I suspect Boris Johnson doesn’t really want to extend his Bullingdon Club perks to Burnley Miners’ Club members either, however valuable their Brexit vote. I hope the King in Yellow is equally keen to tell upper-class parents their children should consider urine lagoon management instead of studying medicine or the philistine Brexiter James Dyson’s derided “French lesbian poetry”.
Bridgen asks for “an honest conversation on the worth of many degree courses… which add little to the economy or the life chances of students”. Does Brexit require the nation to be less well educated? But just as urine lagoons are inevitable consequences of vegetable processing, so disappointment and debt are inevitable consequences of the poisoned chalice of enlightenment that, if it is the right of the scions of privilege, should remain the right of all doomed romantics. Like others of his ilk, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, the Yellow Axolotl is dead in the head, dark in the heart and incapable of attaching value to abstract ideas. Bounded in lagoons of urine, they count themselves kings of infinite space. Without conscience or imagination, they sleep untroubled by bad dreams.