Corona Lockdown Diary – Week 3

Sunday March 29th

I’m pleased to report that my wife’s ‘fear of running out of bread’ phobia has now been replaced with ‘fear of missing Tipping Point’

‘What time is Tipping Point on?’

‘The usual time’

‘Have you recorded Tipping Point?’

‘Yes’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes’

In less pressing news the police, so far, have been very tolerant of those failing to social distance. The official Coronavirus policing policy defined by the ‘Four E’s’:

  • Engage
  • Explain
  • Encourage
  • Enforce

Personally I think that it’s gone on long enough and if I stopped a driver who said: ‘I’m absolutely fine to travel 50 miles for a daily seaside walk because I’m not showing any symptoms.’ I’d be tempted to give them a three second blast of pepper spray and enquire: ‘What about now?’

I mean it must be annoying for the thin blue line when people are jamming their phone lines with sensible questions like: ‘Can I go out for a second walk if I’m dressed as a dog?’

I tuned in to the daily Coronavirus briefing to see that they’d wheeled out the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick. As usual, salivating number-hunting journos kept repeatedly asking: ‘how long will the lockdown last?’ His co-host Dr Jenny Harris momentarily let her guard slip and actually answered!

‘It might be 3 to 6 months’.…The journalists all responded with frenzied scribbling and you could see in her eyes the dawning realisation that she’d walked into the trap, especially as Jenrick could be seen in the background palm-slapping his own forehead!

Sure enough the very next day….

Monday March 30th

‘6 MONTHS OF LOCKDOWN!’ is the headline news. When did journalists decide their job was to ‘create the news’ rather than report the news?

And it was also time for the mainstream media to stick the boot into the police. It’s really not been too difficult to predict the news cycle:

  • Week 1: Print news about ‘idiots’ breaching social distancing rules
  • Week 2: Demand that the police take positive action
  • Week 3: Print stories about ‘draconian policing’ and/or ‘bungling cops’ (rinse and repeat)

The papers were full of stories of police drones pestering dog walkers and police searching people’s shopping bags for Easter Eggs. You should not be going out for Easter eggs as they are non-essential items.

Should you choose to defy these instructions can you pick me up one of those Cadbury Twirl ones?

Now I’m sure some of this stuff is fake news – although let me tell you that there are a sprinkling of ‘no common sense’ cops out there. Not so much on the streets, to be fair, because the really stupid ones tend to get promoted to senior management and put in offices with their name on the door.

Here’s the thing – coppers don’t want to be the shop police. They’re policing robustly because that’s the order from the Home Office. Instead of hanging our police out to dry let’s have the Home Secretary do today’s Corona briefing to give clarity to public and police. Not wishy washy terminology but clear instruction…

I switched on the Coronavirus briefing in eager anticipation but no Priti Patel, instead Dominic Raab. The most interesting thing was the sudden very abrupt end – he didn’t so much wrap it up seamlessly as suddenly swivel around on the spot and walk away…”hello, hello… Dominic… Dominic…where’s Dominic gone?”

How bizarre!

Tuesday March 31st

Had a nice early walk and returned to find the press still plod bashing for policing social distancing robustly. It seems the UK boys and girls in blue can’t win and they’ll be criticised either way, whilst in contrast social media is full of clips of Italian police singing merrily in the street.

I think that ‘Policing Coronavirus’ would make a great ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ show. It’s got all the required ingredients – everyone’s got a view, there are consequences for every decision and there’s no right answer!

The phone rang and it was the Home Secretary Priti Patel. She’d been made aware of my tweets challenging her to take some responsibility and ordered me to come and see her directly for a bollocking. Fortunately I’ve already had my daily walk and that would not be considered essential travel.

Time for the tea-time Coronavirus briefing and it’s okay – everyone can relax Michael Gove is back! And at this point can I say well done to Robert Peston for the longest question asked in the history of television broadcasts? I’ve had full tour shows that were shorter!

Tonight’s journos were interested in testing or rather lack of and the response was Gove using the term ‘ramping up’ like the needle was stuck.

I’d never heard the term ‘ramping up’ a fortnight ago. I’ve ‘stepped up’, ‘damped down’ and ‘rolled out’ before but I’ve never ‘ramped up’! But all of a sudden everybody seems to be ramping up all day every day!

It seems to be that if you’ve promised to deliver but you’re woefully short of where you need to be and the media are attacking you then you can just hide under the term ‘ramping up’ like it’s a Klingon cloaking shield.

The good news is that today’s Tipping Point was very exciting and a lady won the £10,000 jackpot on the very last counter.

Wednesday April 1st

An email lands from Scotland informing that the iconic Edinburgh Fringe Festival will not be going ahead this year. Great shame, including for me as I was booked to go up this year, but very sensible. Many comedians have been unexpectedly thrown into financial hardship recently and well done to the Fringe for refunding their application fees.

My income comes from tour shows and corporate work all of which has been postponed for the foreseeable future. Thank heavens that I kept my old police badge so I’ve been able to dish out on-the-spot social distancing fines. And for those of you worrying that I’ll be breaching any rules – it’s OK I’m using one of these to collect the cash.

The Coronavirus briefing was a bit of a damp squib with Alok Sharma unashamedly batting most of the questions off to Dr Yvonne Doyle and more of the same wishy washy waffle.

Conversely President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines was much more direct with his ‘ramping up’ policy – anyone in the Philippines that ignores social distancing rules will be shot dead in the street! Don’t panic though, the Philippines are a week ahead of us with the virus – rest assured this tactic will not be rolled-out in the UK for the next 7 days. I suppose we could tag that on as the fifth ‘E’?   

Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce … Execute.

Thursday April 2nd

I realise that it’s wrong for me to dish out unofficial on-the-spot social distancing fines to subsidise my income and so instead today I managed to find my old police jacket and decide to seize Easter eggs from anyone that looks a bit dodgy. (The uniform still just about fits but probably won’t do by the end of the day..)

The first grab went okay – once I’d explained the importance of ‘essential shopping only’ the 9-yr-old handed over his Smarties Egg – although his younger sister but up a bit of a fight…

Friday April 3rd 

Episode 2 of my BBC Radio 4 show, about privacy, aired. I can’t help but listen with a critical ear but I was pleased with it.

On television every man and his dog seem to be doing their own presenting from home. Although I’m tempted to start my own home online broadcast I can’t because I don’t have a bookcase to sit in front of…

In the interests of balance – given that I’ve been critical of some of the waffly rambling bollocks at UK Daily Coronavirus briefings, credit where it’s due, I thought Professor Jonathan Van Tam was superb tonight. Just tells it like it is. More of this please

Saturday March 4th

Today’s news theme is ‘face masks’. Should we? Shouldn’t we? I get the reluctance around advising people to wear them. You know what some folk are like – the sun will come out this weekend, they’ll grab a face-mask, head for the seaside and forget social distancing.

Donald Trump has said that he will not be following US medical advice to wear a face-mask as he thinks the tan lines would look ridiculous.

 

Congratulations to the new Labour Party leader. If the name Keir Starmer sounds familiar to you it’s because he was Luke Skywalker’s uncle in Star Wars.

 

One of the Coronavirus conspiracy theories is that 5G radio signals are spreading COVID-19 and consequently news breaks that 5G masks have been torched in Birmingham and Liverpool.

Can I ask for anyone who believes that 5G spreads Coronavirus to help social distancing measures by wearing this official believer ‘T-shirt’..

 

I switch on the daily briefing but just switched it off again – life’s too short for Michael Gove twice in one week.

And while we’re talking about dafties I think I’ve found someone dafter than Trump: The Belarusian football league has kicked off with more than 3,000 spectators. President Alexander Lukashenko labelled coronavirus ‘a psychosis that can be fought with vodka, saunas and driving tractors’.

Ridiculous! Everyone knows it’s vodka, saunas and Tipping Point!

Until next time… stay safe out there.

Alfie x

Alfie’s Corona Lockdown Diary – Week 2

Sunday 22nd March

My latest BBC Radio 4 series IT’S A FAIR COP re-starts later this week. Hard to believe that this is ‘Series 5’, although I might go all Americano and start saying ‘Season 5’ as that sounds really cool.

I discover that the show is Pick of the Week in the Mail on Sunday and the Times – these posh folk love a bit of rough don’t they? I have to admit in all those years rolling about the pavement with aggressive drunken types outside Club 2000 in Scunthorpe I occasionally doubted that one day I’d be the radio programme of choice in the Sunday Times Culture magazine.

In other news the Prime Minister tells me that I can only have one walk (or other outdoor exercise) a day.

Monday 23rd March

My wife and I start the day with a nice walk. By the afternoon I begin to think I may have a problem with authority as I never have more than one walk a day, but on the very first day the Prime Minister tells me that I can only have one walk a day I now want a second walk more than anything I’ve EVER wanted in my life!

My wife (who also has a problem with authority) and I discuss the pros and cons of flouting the law and going out in disguise for a second walk… (the rest of this paragraph has been shortened in order to avoid incriminating myself)

The PM has taken on board the fact that the daily Coronavirus briefings are getting a bit repetitive and so the rumour is that tonight Theresa May and Michael Gove will be paying tribute to the passing of Kenny Rogers by singing a duet of Islands in the Stream accompanied by Boris on spoons.

Sadly, these were just rumours as there was no singing, no spoons and no Boris…

Tuesday 24th March

People are handling social isolation in different ways and I’ve no idea what the specific phobia: ‘fear of running out of bread’ is called but my wife seems to have it pretty bad.

Consequently I find myself cutting large amounts of mould off the Paul Hollywood part-bake rolls (that I found on top of the kitchen cupboard) before slipping them in the oven – my standards may be deteriorating quicker than I’d anticipated…

I’m bored and so I put the following opinion poll out on Twitter:

‘I have a very energetic dog that insists on going for a walk twice a day – what should I do?’

1: Ignore Govt guidelines?

2: Take a longer daily walk?

3: Eat the dog?

I’m only joking (I think) but I’m contacted by a concerned lady who implores me not to eat the dog but instead suggests that my wife and I alternate doggy walks. I tell her ‘It’s okay, I don’t have a dog………… anymore’. (Let me say at this point that I really don’t have a dog nor have I eaten one lately!)

Wednesday 25th March

Lots of debate in the media about when a ‘cure’ will be discovered and if a cocktail of other anti-viral drugs already available may help. I know that scientists all over the world are working hard for a ‘cure’ and I of course realise I’m no expert – however has anybody considered that green Swarfega your dad used to have in the shed? I think that stuff will kill anything.

Even if it’s not guaranteed to stop infection, if you strip naked and give yourself a liberal coating then if you do get stopped by the cops on your second walk they’ll never be able to grip you!

More stories in the press about people ignoring social distancing rules, including West Midlands Police breaking up more than 20 people at a public BBQ. Is anyone else really surprised that the human race has managed to, so far, avoid becoming extinct?

News breaks that Prince Charles has tested positive for Covid-19. Lots of social media outrage because he’s managed to actually get a test. I wonder if it’s anything to do with him being the 71 year old heir to the British throne?!

Boris gives the tea-time brief but he looks a bit ropey and I start some Chinese whispers that he may have got the Corona lurgy. I discover that Chinese whisper games are less fun when there’s just you and your wife in self-isolation. 

Thursday 26th March

I wouldn’t say that I’m starting to get institutionalised but I’m considering asking my wife to give me a facial teardrop tattoo using biro ink and a paperclip.

The results are in for my ‘should I eat my dog? poll’. I’m pleased to say that a mere 40% of the public wanted me to take that extreme course of action, whereas 50.4% of participants suggested ‘a longer daily walk’.

On the one hand it’s reassuring to know that most respondents are sensible but it has scuppered my planned next poll question: ‘Curry or stew?’  

News breaks that Boris has tested positive for Covid-19. I look to my wife for some crumbs of credit for my impeccable observation skills but instead I just get a tut and am asked ‘how many slices of bread have you had today?’ I’ve had some quiet gigs in my time but this is a really tough crowd!

Rishi Sunak delivers the daily Coronavirus briefing and this time opens his bag of money for the self-employed. They can have 80% to encourage them to stop at home – but can go out and get another job if they like! Might be me but I don’t get that at all…

At 8pm we go outside and clap to say thank you to the NHS workers. Lots of clapping all around us – feels nice.

Fri 27th Mar

I’m up early excited that my new Fair Cop series goes out at 11.30am. I attempt to draw attention to it by childishly scribing on pictures of important people!

The show is well received and people say nice things which makes me very happy.

That afternoon I watch a TV interview where Tony Blair tells the Government exactly what they should be doing to deal with this pandemic. Whenever there’s a crisis these former Prime Ministers become expert advisers – just a shame they didn’t peak a bit earlier really.

Speaking of the politically astute I tune in to the Coronavirus briefing. It’s not very often you’ll hear me say that I’m missing Boris Johnson but having listened to Michael Gove for half an hour…

At 8pm I was outside clapping for 5 minutes entirely on my own – thanks for leaving me hanging ya bastards!

Sat 28th Mar

It’s the weekend but you can’t really tell…

Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, did the teatime briefing. He’s a little bit Westworld and to be honest I’m missing the Boris briefings, simply because I’m a big fan of random unpredictability – you never know when he’s just going to stop mid-sentence and just blow a raspberry.

At last some good news as the Government announce a special concession that we can all spend an hour less in lockdown – by that I mean the clocks will all go forward an hour.

The next IT’S A FAIR COP episode, 11.30 am on Friday 3rd April, is all about privacy laws – which given the current times and the fact that the NHS is developing a Covid-19 Tracking App, it’s probably a discussion we need to be having.

Anyway that’s all for now, I need to nip out for a loaf…

 

 

 

It’s been a Funny Old Week….

Afie’s Coronavirus diary 15th – 22nd March 2020

Sunday 15th March

I wake up in Staffordshire after the previous night’s tour show in Leek. As the Coronavirus is continuing to spread the official Government advice is to ‘wash your hands, stay at home if you have symptoms or you’re aged 70+’. That means if things get really desperate we can’t even bring in Dad’s Army as they’ll all be self-isolating!

I drive to Nottingham and begin that evening’s tour show with a very silly gag: ‘Thanks for coming out for the last time in 2020’ – it was such a ridiculous thing to say that everyone laughed…how little did we all know what was coming?

Monday 16th March

Travelled onward to Lincoln for that evening’s corporate engagement. When I arrived at the hotel it was pretty lively, in fact I only just managed to grab the last parking space. There was sunshine, shoppers, and a buzz around the city. Although I did notice people were waddling about with bags crammed full and shelves starting to empty.

I was instantly drawn in to the herd hoarding mentality and made the decision to panic buy! And let me give a belated apology to those behind me in the Greggs queue – I now realise that two sausage rolls and a steak bake was just plain greedy!

As I relaxed in my hotel room I was too wrapped up in the adrenalin rollercoaster that is back-to-back Tipping Point followed by the Chase, to bother with the news, and so, when I turned up for pre-dinner drinks at the corporate function I was surprised to hear everyone panic gossiping about the Boris Johnson Coronavirus briefing.  

I was overhearing snippets such as ‘everyone should stop all unnecessary travel’. During dinner I learned he’d also suggested that we ‘avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and work from home where possible’. I have it on very good authority that if you’re married to a comedian the very last thing you want is for them to work from home!

As soon as my hilarious after-dinner speech was done I said my goodbyes and went back to my room, washed my hands, opened up my laptop and began to soak up the life-changing news. Social media was full of outrageous tales of greed and panic buying….

Forty eight hours ago we were a society that discretely followed the Asda staff person around the store tasked with sticking on the ‘whoops!’ labels…and now…we’re hunting in salivating rabid packs threatening Edna at the deli if she doesn’t throw you a bag of off-cuts!

Tuesday 17th March

I awake and switch on the telly to see the world was changing before my very eyes and things we took for granted were now beyond our reach. They’d even suspended EastEnders filming after the Coronavirus had refused to work with Phil Mitchell.

There were tales of doom, gloom and bankruptcy. On a personal level, cancelled gig emails started to fill my inbox – everything I had in my diary for the next few weeks had suddenly disappeared. I make my essential journey home to begin my new life of isolation.

The day’s Coronavirus briefing sees Boris introduce the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who gives an impressive assured performance – promises of tax breaks, grants and loans. In response people say ‘thank you’…for about half an hour and then immediately go for the jugular and say ‘that’s not enough’. They were right it wasn’t…

Wednesday 18th March

I catch a bit of Trump announcing he’s got Coronavirus completely under control. I’m starting to think that man may have a complex relationship with the truth.

The police are given emergency powers to detain infected people. This seems to cause a ‘police state’ stir on social media but I for one don’t believe the cops will be driving around throwing the elderly and vulnerable in the back of van if they look a bit ‘peaky’ – as they will probably be a smidgen busy doing other stuff. And in my policing experience bringing those infected with deadly viruses back to the nick doesn’t make you very popular!

At Boris’s teatime briefing everyone was hoping that the Chancellor would turn up again with further cash promises but instead Boris appeared with the two medical honchos and announces that it’s time for the schools to close.  

Not for everyone. Schools will remain open for children of the following key workers: police, NHS and toilet paper makers.

There follows an instant social media panic and Mom’s being interviewed on TV, worried that their sixth-form child genius (who’s been an idle bastard for the first eleven years), will not now be getting his well-earned university place.

I put out on social media the fib that the Government have just announced that GCSE and A-level students will be awarded grades using an ‘honesty box’ system where students will be asked ‘what do you think you would’ve got?’ I’m sorry to say that some people believed I was actually telling the truth!

Okay, my bad for fibbing but that particular piece of fake news is the equivalent of me saying that Elvis Presley has just ridden into Westminster on the back of the Loch Ness Monster bringing five magic beans that are the antidote for Coronavirus! Although Boris would probably try one just in case…

Thursday 19th March

The Queen steps in and tells the commoners to ‘calm down calm down’ – you tell ‘em Ma’am!

I watch a TV press conference with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Science Adviser. There’s a room full of journalists and someone coughing almost incessantly for at least 15 minutes and no one addresses this in any way – I found this almost surreal.

Everyone is waiting for the Boris briefing which is now getting the sort of viewing figures that Simon Cowell would chew his own arm off for -providing his veneers hold firm. Everyone is hoping to see the Chancellor flashing the cash but instead it’s the medical honchos again.

Boris is putting in his usual passionate performance and I’m sure he’s saying something really meaningful but the sound quality is so bad that it actually sounds like he’s talking through comb and tissue paper and no one seems to have the technical ability to sort it…

I was aware that there was a new number being thrown about ‘Twelve weeks – with careful planning we can crack it in twelve weeks’. Mate – how can you sort out the world’s deadliest virus when you’ve not even got the careful planning to sound-check the lectern mic!

Boris was still insincerely thanking everyone for their efforts, although he and the chemical brothers were informing that some people are being a bit naughty and they need to take social distancing more seriously. He was being a bit nicey nicey for my liking – I wanted him to throw in slightly stronger phrases like: ‘Try to think of others’ and ‘You’re killing innocent people you ***king morons!’

Fri 20th March

Some of the licencing sector decided to fight back and the Guardian ran with the story: ‘Tim Martin vows to keep his 867 branches of Wetherspoons open’.

I agree that Wetherspoons should stay open. In fact I think they should have one big lock-in with other like-minded individuals. CCTV coverage of this social experiment should be beamed into our homes daily until we open the doors in 3 months and see who’s left alive.

Mr Martin seems to know best and he is confident that ‘closing UK pubs will not stop coronavirus’. Perhaps it’s a well-known medical fact that Stella and reformed scampi makes the immune system invincible?

Boris seemed a tad upset with ‘nice but dim Tim’ and decided to go all alpha and announce that all pubs, clubs and theatres will close indefinitely, as soon as possible and in any case before midnight.

Boris Johnson 1 Tim Martin 0

At last the Chancellor makes a reappearance and offers to splash the cash for workers with the promise of up to 80% of wages paid direct by him. Okay, he still has to sort a deal for the self-employed but let’s face it – in one week he’s gone from ‘who the hell is that guy?’ to the most popular politician of the century.   

And as much as it pains me to praise a Tory – Boris does appear to be listening. Certainly in comparison to the last one – can you imagine Theresa May at the helm? She wouldn’t take advice from anyone and would’ve instantly been the self-appointed Coronavirus expert telling us to all ‘eat cakes while remaining strong and stable’

As I write this all my live work has been postponed for the coming months. I was a little concerned but now I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just landed a commission as gag writer for Michael Gove.

And as if things can’t get any worse the said news that country legend Kenny Rogers has died. My dad Big Alf was a massive fan and so I do hope he gets to see him perform live at the Heavenly Arena soon.

Saturday 21st

The press was full of pics of people having a ‘last hoorah’ in Wetherspoons. Because if you have to have soak up one last night of intelligent conversation, fine dining and culture, don’t look beyond Wetherspoons. In the history of capital punishment no death row prisoner when given the last meal option has ever said: ‘get me an early bird burger and a drink deal’.

After the news of theatres closing my solo tour has just come to an abrupt halt (dates currently being rescheduled). But never one to think of myself I decide to utilise my time and do my bit for the local community by visiting the addresses of elderly residents and shouting a gag through their letterbox.

It’s not like a normal Saturday – there is no sport. No wait – the Irish have dug-in and they’re having behind closed doors horse racing in Thurles. Seven races but no photo-finishes as the horses have to keep 2 metres apart.

After reading that there are plans to recall retired cops to help police the crisis I’ve began to watch Rambo re-runs to get me in the right frame of mind whilst waiting for the call.

After four days of isolation my hair has already started to grow!

I don’t wish to be all negative – there’s always a positive if you look hard enough. I’ve just traded my eldest son for a 12 pack of Andrex quilted so there’s still bargains to be had.

Speaking of bargains – I’ve also managed to pick up a Groupon for 3 months cheap gym membership…

In the meantime, after an emergency COBRA meeting the PM has taken advice from the Chief Medical Officer that laughter boosts the immune system and has ordered an urgent commission of ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ Series 5 to start next Friday March 27th at 11.30 am.  

Do have a listen, it’s been a funny old week and I think we all need a laugh …

Brexit – Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Alfie Moore applies his investigative skills to find the person or person’s responsible for the current political farce.  It’s definitely a crime but who dun it?!

Brexit – I’ll tell you who’s to blame….

The country may be catastrophically divided but we can unquestionably agree on one thing ‘Brexit is a shambles’.

Our great nation is in pain and I propose we start the healing process by doing what we always do best: ‘find someone to blame’. Where shall we start?

Johnny Foreigners: They came over here from their war-torn countries, applying themselves, working hard and becoming more successful than the lazy local indigenous types. Some people didn’t like that which created the perfect opening for this man…

Nigel Farage: A true man of the people. Providing that your ‘people’ are a pub full of angry EDL supporters serving out their football banning orders. Say what you like about Nige he could talk, and people hurting from recession then austerity, began to listen. That started to pile the pressure on this man…

David Cameron: ‘Call me Dave’ craved love and of course power. Yes, he was PM but when he saw that Farage was building an audience, he devised a cunning plan to quell the threat in one foul swoop – an EU Referendum! Hooraaaahh!

So, it’s all Dave’s fault then? Well, maybe and then again maybe not, as although Dave was a bit smarmy and over-confident in his remain campaign he should’ve been entitled to expect a bit of back-up from other political leaders, for example…..

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Jeremy, JERRRRREMMMMYYY! Has anybody seen JEREMY!? Where the hell was Jeremy’s Remain Campaign!? There didn’t seem to be one. There was a rumour that he was a closet Brexiteer – either that or he had a really sore throat for 9 weeks. Shall we blame Jezza (aka Whispering Sid) then? Perhaps, but what about the…

Leave Campaign: Aka ‘Fibs on a Bus’ team. Led by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. Interesting pairing these lads. They possessed the sum total of two charismatic politicians, although Gove had none! Which meant Boris was very entertaining and more importantly, believable…and some of us did believe, or to be more precise…

17,410,742 Leave Voters: That’s a big number but blaming those dozy dafties may not be conducive to national healing.

No sooner was the last vote counted than Dave announced: ‘Bugger this for a game of soldiers I’m off….ta-ra’. It was always going to get very very messy at this point. Surely no one was daft enough to take the job and press their own political self-destruct button? But wait….what’s that running through the corn fields eager to grab the poison chalice with both hands?

Theresa May: Article 50 (soon to be renamed ‘Article Shifty’) was invoked. Now in fairness to Theresa May, and as much as I hate being fair to Theresa May, by now we’d lost the remain battle, but we still had the opportunity to cut some sort of semi-amicable deal with our EU comrades. And so, with all the charm and interpersonal skills of an angry rattle snake with toothache, Theresa skipped off to Strasbourg to make a deal. It was proving very challenging but it takes two to tango and so should we put some blame on this man….

Michel Barnier: Still angry at being given a girl’s name, Michel wasn’t playing ball and his vague responses were like listening to fellow iconic Frenchman Eric Cantona at a post-match press conference.

May repeatedly asking: ‘What’s your best deal please?’ And Barnier just coming out with abstract seagull bollocks.

Although Barnier fell short of delivering a two-footed kung-fu kick he continued the football theme: ‘If you choose to leave the club then go on a free transfer’.

Can we blame Barnier and the EU then? Maybe not. Their club, their rules.

Theresa put her best compromise, the withdrawal agreement, to the House of Commons, three times. And three times John Smircow and the House laughed in her face. So, shall we blame…

MP’s: For not bending? Either way, Theresa was a broken woman and the Tory faithful voted in the only chance to save the day…..Boris! Boris! Boris! Boris!

Boris Johnson: ‘What’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’ ‘But what’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’ ‘Yes, but what’s your plan Boris?’ ‘We’re leaving on 31st October 2019’

As I write this Boris is in Luxembourg banging the table and telling Barnier and Juncker ‘how it’s going to be’. With all the street cred of a PM who has suffered more first week Commons vote defeats than any other in history. Parliament might be prorogued but that guy could fill the commons benches with inflatable MPs and still get voted down.

The nightmare continues and I’m still not yet sure who to blame…

 

 

How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? Why we love police jokes……..

“The perfect crime was committed last night, when thieves broke into Scotland Yard and stole all the toilets. Police say they have absolutely nothing to go on” – Ronnie Corbett

That’s a fantastic, timeless classic, that’s guaranteed to raise a smile whether you’re nine or ninety years old.  And another from the king of the silly police gag:

“West Mersea police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms” – Ronnie Corbett

Cop jokes are funny – it’s an irrefutable fact. But just what is it about the boys and girls in blue that make them such good gag-fodder?

My grandparents grew up laughing at the Keystone Cops, my parents grew up laughing at Carry on Constable, and I grew up laughing at Officer Dibble. There were similarities: Keystone Cops were bungling fools, the Carry on Constables weren’t much better, and Officer Dibble was always being outsmarted by Top Cat.

Cue the first distinctive stereotype that form the basis of police jokes.

1: Cops are a bit thick.

Me: I got stopped last night by a policeman.
Cop: ‘I’m going to follow you to the nearest Police Station’.
Me: ‘What For?’.
Cop: ‘I’ve forgotten the way’- Tommy Cooper

This stereotype has been running for over 400 years and I tell you who I blame – Shakespeare! One of his ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ characters was a Police Watchman called Dogberry who was so thick that he used more malapropisms than a Donald Trump late-night Twitter rant! Who can forget the Dogberry thigh-slapping classic:
“We will spare for no wit, I warrant you. Here’s that shall drive some of them to a nonecome. Only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication, and meet me at the jail” – William Shakespeare

Even through your hysterical laughter I’m sure that you spotted the gag? Yes, he used the word ‘excommunication’ instead of ‘examination’. Okay, that joke could’ve done with a bit of an edit. I mean, far be it for me to criticise the Bard, but that man had longer set-ups than Stewart Lee!

To be fair, I could be said to have kept the stereotype running with this little beauty:
“I was speaking at a police conference the other day and a very senior police officer actually walked out. Turns out he was offended…after some of my jokes had been explained to him!” – Alfie Moore

So, is it really true that coppers are a bit thick? Put it this way – I’ve been a cop for over 20 years and I had to Google the meaning of the word malapropism!

2: Cops are a bit fat.

In this country we’ve always subscribed to the image of the rotund, avuncular, red-faced village bobby (with the exception of plain-clothes detectives – who are all portrayed as alcoholics!) For the experts on ‘fat cop’ jokes we have to go across the pond where the association between cops and doughnuts has been running for decades.  There are various theories behind this – cops working 24/7 had limited food options. Although, ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ founder William Rosenberg actively encouraged officers into his premises to protect the stores. Tough gig! Whatever the reason the gags came thick and fast:

Cop: ‘Where are you going?’
Driver: ‘The donut shop’
Cop: ‘Why were you driving at 110mph?’
Driver: ‘Because if I don’t beat you there, there won’t be any donuts left’ – Anon

Once again, I’ve sometimes reinforced the fat cop stereotype on stage (but mainly in KFC outlets):
“I realised I was overweight when I recently chased an elderly shoplifter around Tesco …..and she lapped me!” – Alfie Moore

3: Cops are aggressive

‘How many cops does it take to throw a prisoner down the stairs? None, he fell Sarg’ – Anon

An aggressive police officer may even set their dog on you and if that happens try and follow this advice:
“If you’re being chased by a police dog try not to go through a tunnel, and then over a little see-saw, then jump through a hoop of fire. They’re trained for that”. – Milton Jones

Ironically our American friends seem to think the concept that UK cops are aggressive is ridiculous:
“In England the Police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime the police will say ‘stop, or I’ll say stop again!” – Robin Williams

4: Cops are corrupt

I’ve just got one response to this unfortunate stereotype:
“Anybody says that the police are corrupt can kiss my Rolex!” – Alfie Moore

5: Cops are a bit racist

Those with a nervous disposition and a penchant for political correctness should stop reading now:
“How many cops does it take to change a light bulb? None. They’d arrest the bulb for being broke and beat up the room for being black” – Anon

Stereotype? What stereotype?

Now, you’ve probably noticed that these stereotypes feel a tad on the negative side and you may be wondering how I feel about that?

The answer is that I’m absolutely delighted.

I believe that the British tradition of poking fun at authority figures is very healthy. The police represent power and authority and that attracts humour. We are allowed to make the jokes, and laugh at them, because we have freedom of speech. That’s why we share videos of the Baby Shark song playing over our Prime Minister dancing like she’s being tasered. It’s funny!

Sadly, not everyone has this basic human right. The most controversial joke, in fact the only joke, in North Korea today would probably be:
“Why did the Supreme Ultimate Leader cross the road? To get an official Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state approved hair cut” – Alfie Moore

I bet Dogberry would find that gag absolutistly hilarious… (as he realised that it was a clever malapropism callback :-))

Long live our love of police jokes and our freedom to tell them. 

Finally……….. a newsflash just in:
“After a series of crimes in the Glasgow area, Chief Inspector McTavish has announced that he is looking for a man with one eye. If he doesn’t find him, he’s going to use both eyes.” – Ronnie Corbett

For more of Alfie Moore taking a funny, and sometimes slightly irreverent look at policing tune in to the new series of IT’S A FAIR COP on BBC Radio 4 from Friday 7th September 2018

BBC Radio 4 ‘It’s a Fair Cop’ is back on the beat!

The new series of the hit comedy show It’s a Fair Cop returns to BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 31st May in its new time slot of 11.30am.  The first episode kicks off with Barry the Burglar  – which will surely resonant with all those who believe that an Englishman’s (and Woman’s!) home is their castle.

Once again former Detective Sergeant Alfie Moore swears the studio audience in as cops for the duration of the show and, as he reveals one of his true-life cases, invites them to say what they’d have done  – often with hilarious results.  Using his trademark blend of humour and experience of the law Alfie provides fascinating insights into the dilemmas that police officers face every day  – with plenty of laughs along the way.

In addition to airing at 11.30 am on Wednesday mornings throughout June It’s a Fair Cop will also be available on the BBC iPlayer to listen to at any time.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up (unless you’re driving of course – because that would be illegal!) and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

 

Who you gonna call?

(Originally published in Policing Insight and reproduced here for wider enjoyment)police call box2

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? ……Well despite only 25-30% of calls for service actually being crime related the answer in the UK would seem to be the police.

Last week an article in the Telegraph informed us of the latest ‘big cat’ sighting. Not one of those morbidly obese felines, being cradled by a small child, which goes viral on YouTube – but rather one of the non-indigenous variety that terrify the residents of a peaceful Bedfordshire village.

No wonder they were worried. Local Silsoe resident, and keen cocker spaniel-walker, Rob Terry clocked the beast and said “it would have a Labrador for lunch!’” Now as a cop I find that a curious account. It’s a bit like me obtaining a witness description of: “the offender was female and looked like she ate a lot of chips.”

Prized pets

In the 60’s and 70’s big cats were a popular fashion accessories and could even be purchased in Harrods. But in 1976 a change in the law meant that keeping big cats was illegal – which drove some exotic cat owners to dump their prized pets in the wild where they naturally bred. Now there are so many big cats out there that these days we hardly ever get a ‘big mouse’ sighting!

The only indigenous wild species of cat in the UK is the British Wildcat, which is a native of Scotland. The Wildcat is small in stature but a very feral, aggressive creature which hates to cross the border and is often affectionately nicknamed the Sturgeon.

Run Deborah run…

Further corroborative evidence that 8 out of 10 big cats prefer to live in Bedfordshire was provided by 62 year old Silsoe lass Deborah Hamill. Her terrifying account told how she believed that last year, she and her sister were chased by a panther, saying “we legged it, and only just made it back to the car”.

No offence Mrs Hamill but unless you and your sis are veteran triathletes and it was an aging, one-eyed, asthmatic panther on crutches then it would have probably caught you if it had wanted to.

A typical middle-class response to such sightings would normally be to storm the local Parish Council meeting insisting on giant cat litter bins in a bid to retain the Best Kept Village Award.  However Silsoe residents were genuinely concerned – because the location is a popular children’s play area, and to the discerning panther palette middle-England posh kids make an occasional culinary treat. (Rather like Northerner’s picking something from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range)

Ian Kelly, from the Parish Council sprang into action and after a frantic phone call announced, “the man from the RSPCA said not to feed it!”

There is evidence to suggest that the animal is quite able to feed itself judging by the odd savaged sheep carcass discovery. If you do find a dead sheep on your doorstep it’s always worth remembering that from the big cat’s perspective it’s just bringing you a little present.

ASBO Conditions

Ian went on to say: “We have asked police what we should do and they haven’t come back to us”.

Now we see where this article is going. It’s another ‘police failed to act’ story isn’t it? Even the last line of the article reads: ‘Bedfordshire Police did not respond to requests for comment’.

Well please allow me to respond. Firstly by apologising (because that’s what we always do first) and secondly by saying that we can’t really top the advice that the RSPCA have already provided. We could only follow it up with “don’t tickle its tummy and don’t stroke its fur the wrong way”.

I don’t know what police response you were expecting Ian: “We’ll put it on ASBO conditions not to eat sheep?”

I feel it’s important to manage The Public’s expectations by respectfully suggesting that they don’t get too excited in anticipation of a police response – which will likely be the well-worn log clearance classic: ‘Words of Reassurance’.

‘Big Cat Contingency Policy’

Yes I know that we can all remember the days when the police were more proactive as an organisation. When the old village bobby would just spring out of the shadows and give the big cat a clip around its furry ear. And if the big cat went back to his lair, and told his big cat dad, he’d probably get another one…. but those days are over.

The village bobby has long gone, along with the other 20,000 cops that were ‘surplus to requirements’. We could maybe muster a Police Community Support Officer, wearing a Davy Crockett hat, who’s done the College of Policing distance learning ‘Big Cat Whispering Course’. But even if they did spend a couple of weeks tracking the animal (for time due not overtime), once they were face-to-face the PCSOs would only have the power to detain big cats for periods of up to 30 minutes.

Don’t take this as official protocol, by the way, I’m sure some Bedfordshire Temporary Inspector on the Chief’s corridor will have knocked up a formal ‘Big Cat Contingency Policy’ document in their keenness to evidence ‘innovative risk management thinking’ for the promotion board.

Intergalactic public disorder

The British Police Service are good. So good in fact that people ring us for everything. People will even ring us to ask us who they should ring – we’re like Google with flashing blue lights!

Anything from found hamsters to alien sightings, people always contact the police. Although when it comes to alien sightings surely we’re the last people to ring given that our record is not great at dealing with ethnic minority groups. Inappropriately tasering a Martian could easily lead to all sorts of intergalactic public disorder.

On a serious note, if you do see a big cat the answer to: ‘who you gonna call?’ should be the police, as we’re pretty good at managing risk. If it takes a while to answer the call it’s only because we’re working our way through the other 70-75% of non-crime related incidents.

In the meantime I would ask the public to assist by taking personal responsibility for their own simple risk assessment i.e. if there are big cat sightings in an area – don’t walk your dogs or let your kids play there (or at least not your favourite one).

“I’ve never been to Scunthorpe…..”

Welcome to scunthorpe

Scunthorpe is pretty famous, but why?

Is it famous for having significant natural ironstone deposits which have been mined since the 10th century? No. Maybe it’s for Forest Pines – the internationally acclaimed championship golf course? Nope. What about for having the largest steel processing plant in the whole of the United Kingdom? Still no!

Scunthorpe is actually famous for two reasons:

Firstly, within the cyber world for an anomaly that IT boffins call ‘The Scunthorpe Problem’. Contrary to popular belief the Scunthorpe problem is not that people from Scunthorpe live there but rather the random grouping of letters in the middle of the town’s name spelling out a somewhat rude four-letter profanity – which in turn means it’s often automatically blocked by internet obscenity filters.

Who put the…..?

Long before it was an IT problem the town’s name was already a bit of a mystery and one of the Nation’s longest running rhetorical gags: “Who put the c*** in Scunthorpe?”

Let me tell you that I have been asked this question a lot – in fact an awful lot. Usually by helpful people who genuinely think I may have never been asked it before! In fact it was even the first question an audience member asked me when I walked off stage at the Perth Comedy Festival, Western Australia, and so I think we can now say that it’s officially an International Mystery.

Although not quite in the Seven Wonders of the World category, I still think it’s actually a legitimate question. In the Domesday Book (1086) the town was called Escumesthorpe.  Somebody, at some time, actively made the decision to change the name and actually put the c*** in Scunthorpe.  It’s there in black and white!

Wherefore art thou?

Earlier I described ‘The Scunthorpe Problem’ as arising from a random grouping of letters but perhaps that was an over-generous assumption on my part. It is possible that many years ago there was a town meeting, held in the tap room of Ye Olde Dog and Ducke, where an inebriated town elder suggested that the name be changed to encapsulate the most obscene, misogynistic and offensive word ever thought of by humankind (although it was probably a bloke). Maybe it was just a conscious rebrand to generate interest – after all Cockermouth has had enough attention!

The possibility that it was an accident is in many ways even more disturbing because you’d really have to be as thick as two medieval short planks not to spot it was there and fail to foresee the very obvious ramifications to follow. I mean the Beckhams might get away with dishing out daft names but they don’t have to pack their kids off to a Scunthorpe Secondary School. If they had I’d suggest that Romeo would be carrying a few duelling scars by now. I can just picture the teacher doing the morning register “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo?” “He’s scrapping behind the bike sheds again Miss”.

Ger int’ car Dave

The other reason why Scunthorpe is famous is because the rapper Tinie Tempah mentioned the place in a song. The number one hit, and 2011 Brit Awards best single, ‘Pass-out’ contained the line: “I’ve been to Southampton but I’ve never been to Scunthorpe”. That’s ‘cos we wouldn’t let you in Tinie, for Health and Safety reasons. We’ve got height restrictions, like Alton Towers, to stop little people getting bullied.

You see you’re of the hip hop, drum and bass genre whereas we’re more of the ‘what you effing looking at?….Ger int’ car Dave he’s not worth it’…genre.

The song in question was quite a protracted 4 minutes 28 seconds in length but would have been much longer if Tinie had chosen to systematically list all the other places to which he’d also not been. I don’t know about you but I often find myself wondering if this Plumstead lad has ever popped oop t’ North to have a sneaky peak at Chesterfield or Rotherham?

I notice on the first single from Tinie’s 2015 ‘Junk Food’ album (sorry mixtape not album – silly me) called ‘We Don’t Play no Games’ that he didn’t feel it necessary to list all the games he hadn’t played: “I’ve played Twister but I’ve never played Tiddly…winks!” (That line’s funnier if you rap it in a Tinie Tempah voice).

For those that like an edgier gangsta-style rap you may prefer Tinie’s 2013 single ‘Looking down the barrel of a gun’. In the song he explains that he’s looking down the barrel of a 12” Magnum  – but I’m sure you share my disappointment that he declines to inform us of all the barrels he’s not looked down…..So he’s sorta just left us hangin’ there bro.

Cruising to the Council tip

The funny bit for me about writing this is that I felt the need to do a little research in order to have a Tinie tease and so I listened to a clip of his album and thought….. “that’s alright actually” –  and now I often have his music on in the car.

Consequently I’ve become one of those annoying nodding Winston-dog types causing a drum ‘n’ base noise nuisance in my Peugeot 207 whilst stationary at the traffic lights. My wife says that for my birthday she’s getting me one of those over-large glittery decorated baseball caps so I can wear it back-to-front when I’m cruising on down to the Council tip with the gardening waste.

So I think what I’m really saying is: “Leave Scunny alone Tinie”….or rather Patrick – the name he was known by at Plumstead Primary.

I’m sure Plumstead was a perfectly nice place to grow up  – although I can’t actually be sure because I’ve never been to Plumstead… but I’ve been to Southampton.

Alfie Moore’s ‘take’ on Brexit week…

 This feature was originally printed in Policing Insight and is re-published here for wider enjoyment

Alfie Moore - Detective hat & braces_Idil SukanWake me up when it’s all over…..

It was Thursday 23rd June 2016 and I found myself standing in a voting booth, pencil poised. I allowed myself a last-minute ‘expert’ analysis on how the outcome would affect the world of policing. I concluded: a Leave result would mean further cuts in UK police budgets and fewer cops on the streets – whereas a Remain result would mean further cuts in UK police budgets and fewer cops on the streets. Hmm tough decision…..

I dragged myself home with considerable effort as I felt the distinct and terrifying onset of man-flu beginning. Oh dear, man-flu is a formidable enemy that strikes fear into the hearts of even the bravest warriors amongst the male species.

There was no decent television options to distract me. No footie – just a painful pause as the nation tried to recover from England’s bore-draw with Slovakia. Everyone seemed to be slagging Roy Hodgson off due to his questionable team selection tactics. Not me, I’m open minded, perhaps he’s a genius. Perhaps, in our world of ever depleting resources, the NPCC could even consider adopting his innovative team selection tactics by just putting our ‘second-string’ bobbies out in the week and resting the best ones for when it’s busier at the weekend!

I flicked on the news to see astronaut Tim Peake had returned to earth. After six months in space he said he was quite happy to ‘turn straight around and go back’. Well I bet his wife was delighted with that one! Perhaps he’d watched the England game or realised in was mid-summer’s day and I’d just put the central heating on!

Or perhaps having conquered space, he too, was starting with the onset of man-flu and feared the great battle ahead. I decided to drag my aching bones to bed. I couldn’t get excited about the referendum live results shows. After all the result was never in doubt: The bookies had stopped taking bets in the afternoon just as the odds on Brexit drifted to 7/1. Done deal then.

Spexit

The man-flu had given me night fevers and a disrupted sleep. I switched on my laptop at 7.am. to slowly realise, that just like Tim Peake, I’d woken in a different world. A world outside of the European Union. Social media was screaming ‘Cameron will have to go!’ All our material goods would be worthless and we’ll all be living in cardboard boxes before the week was out.

‘Wow we actually went and did it then?’ Was my first reaction. My second reaction was ‘I need to write some childish Brexit jokes’. I left the political satire to the experts and settled for the tweet:

“I’m probably most excited about Spain leaving the EU because I think the hashtag Spexit will look funny” (yes I know it was infantile but I’d got man-flu).

Anyhow, I couldn’t ponder too much as I had to drag myself to Brighton to perform a ‘humorous’ after dinner speech at an awards ceremony. Now if you think policing is challenging you want to try making 400 builders laugh after they’d just had £40 billion ‘written off’ their market value in the last 12 hours. You’re not allowed a stab-proof vest under your dinner suit either!

I bid the builders goodbye and left them to their hard-won awards. I may have been at the very grand Grand Hotel in Brighton but it was a Lemsip and off to bed for me. The next morning I apprised myself of the post Brexit political fall-out.

Seven stages of grief

Any good bereavement councillor would point out that there are seven stages of grief to pass through before coming to terms with a great loss. The nation had teetered out of the first stage: Shock, taken on board a good dose of stage 2: Anger, before blindly stumbling head-first into stage 3: Denial! Apparently loads of people had accidentally put an ‘X’ in the wrong box (probably the same people who’d accidently re-elected the Tories last year) and now wanted a second referendum to make it all better. Perhaps we should collectively pen a restorative justice-style letter:

Dear EU, we all do silly things we later regret. How about we all say sorry, nip down to Asda for some Ferrero Rocher and we forget all about it? X

The rest of the world must have thought we were a bit barmy but I think that they should bear in mind that we’ve got consumer protection legislation which means we’re used to having a ‘14-day cooling-off period.’

Things were hotting up fast. Cameron had fallen on his posh sword, Nicola Sturgeon had a smirk the size of a Highlander’s sporran, Nigel had a bigger one, and it appeared that Boris, that astute political strategist in fools clothing, had played a blinder! Or had he?

Also stepping out of shadows into the Tory leadership fray was our very own Theresa May. She’d kept her head down for a couple of days as she was probably busy re-writing (or do I mean shredding?) the Human Rights Act and then decided to throw her hat into the ring.

Now I’m sure that every cop in the country was thinking the same as me on hearing this news “Oh no –  not Theresa!” (often referred to in policing circles as Mother Theresa due to her nurturing disposition). ‘We don’t want to lose our Home Secretary who’s goaded guided us through difficult times’.

642.971

It was now Monday. The man-flu was still bossing my immune system but I had to be a brave little soldier as I was booked for a corporate in Warwickshire. Now this one was a bit bizarre and I suddenly found myself being chauffeured from a country mansion into a room containing 40 of the most powerful and influential men (sadly they were all men) in the global motor industry. I initially had absolutely no idea with whom I was dining. When the nice chap on my right told me he worked for Tata I said ‘that’s a coincidence I live in Scunthorpe’. That’s where our similarities ended he lived in India and when he said he worked for Tata he was the chap that oversaw quality control and finance for all Tata vehicles…which totalled quite a lot. Perhaps I’d have more luck with the chap on my left, he seemed very pleasant and on discovering I was a cop wanted to discuss ‘speed cameras’ which he ‘wasn’t keen on’. I glanced at his name badge which read ‘Richard Noble’. The name sort of rang a bell but I couldn’t place it until it very slowly dawned on me: It was the Richard Noble who’d held the land speed record for 15 years. Probably explains why he wasn’t keen on speed cameras!

Richard was good company and it turns out I wasn’t the first cop to be fooled by his modesty. He told me that a couple of years previously he’d been on a Speed Awareness Course and when some cocky traffic officer started to ask the class what was the fastest they’d ever driven they all started to shout up numbers whilst he sat there quietly. Then the traffic cop pointed to him and said ‘come on don’t be shy what’s the fastest you’ve driven when you’ve got carried away?’ To which Noble calmly responded “642.971 miles per hour”. My tales of policing the streets of Scunthorpe can’t compete with stories like that and I only drive a Peugeot 207 1.6 diesel but I did manage to eat my dessert quicker than him which I think still proves I have a competitive streak.

I got the feeling that this could be a tough crowd to impress but I strode up to the lectern in a confident manner and went for a topical opening remark. I said “I know I’m contracted to be paid in UK sterling for tonight but can I change my mind and ask for US dollars after recent events?” There was a few seconds silence. Nothing from the bloke who designed driverless cars in California’s Silicon Valley, just a smile from the head of Ferrari (perhaps the EU vote had upset him), but then the CEO of Aston Martin started to laugh and broke the ice. Unsurprising really seeing as the pound had lost 11% of its value and he quite liked to export super cars to the States with an 11% discount – I’d have been laughing too.

None of us were laughing for long when word landed that England had lost 2-1 to Iceland after a humiliatingly bad performance. I tried to look for the positive. Bearing in mind that the Yanks have gone off us lately, the Aussies can’t stand us after the cricket and rugby and now Europe hates us too it was probably a good idea to lose to Iceland as we need all the friends we can get.

Surely the only way this week could get any worse is if the ghost of Margaret Thatcher stood for the Tory leadership?

I said my goodbyes to the worlds motoring elite and disappeared back to the country mansion for another Lemsip and early night (and they say comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll).

“Tis but a flesh wound”

I was wrong about the week getting worse as the following morning there was talk of an autumn election. Some of the Labour crew didn’t fancy the fight with Corbyn at the helm and speculation of an attempted coup was buzzing in the news. More than buzzing actually as front benchers were resigning in droves. By the end of the day I was beginning to understand why they called it a ‘shadow cabinet’ as there were only shadows left. MPs were changing so fast that anyone applying could only be offered a zero hours contract!

As I write this an official vote of no confidence has now been passed against the party leader but still he refuses to budge. I’m a massive fan of Jez Corbyn, he’s a proper oldskool warrior. He’s like ‘The Black Night’ in Python’s ‘Holy Grail’, in the woods with no arms and legs shouting “come back you coward tis but a flesh wound”. I don’t blame him, as a copper I know all about resilience and I think he’s right to tough it out. After all he’s only lost 51 MPs so far, if it was the Police we’d claim its improved efficiency and say “the frontline’s not affected”.

I suspect that it will take the nation a good while to work through the stages of grief and arrive at stage 7: Acceptance but I do hope that I’m wrong and we bounce back quickly. Anyway I can’t worry about it and I’m off to bed with a Lemsip. Hopefully I’ll wake up in the morning only to discover that this barmy week has just been a really bad dream.

Bermuda Triangle makes PCCs disappear…

This feature originally appeared in Policing Insight and is now published here for wider enjoyment……….

AlfieMoore_photoby_IdilSukan_shoutyIt was 2012 when Theresa May first began to impose the Police Commissioner American dream on the unwitting British Public. I can see why she did it: Who doesn’t look at the US policing model of donut munching and race riots and think “wow we need a bit of that action over here”? Unfortunately it was a bit of a cobbled together rush-job that just confused people with 90% of the public voting with their apathy. Although to be fair with the lack of easily digestible information available at the time we weren’t actually sure if PCC stood for Police and Crime Commissioner or Portaloo Contract Cleaner.

Now in 2016 numbers approaching a heady 25% made the effort to vote this time around, albeit with the help of a local election ‘piggyback’. That’s a bit like when I can’t be bothered to go to the supermarket because I’ve run out of chewing gum but when I happen to be there for meaningful provisions I’ll always grab a packet of Wrigley’s at the till.

I still don’t think that the public are very clear on the role, and indeed the potential value, of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Pointy stick

As a cynical cop, for me there’s an even bigger mystery than “do we want PCCs?” and that is “why would anybody actually want to be one?” My local Chief Constable earns circa £142,000 whereas her PCC is looking at £74,000. In what other walks of life does someone on half your salary take full responsibility for your performance and also have the power to sack you – unless your name is Ronaldo?

This unloved underpaid role is not exactly a secure job either. Especially when you consider that this mysterious area of Policedom has swallowed up more unfortunate souls than the Bermuda Triangle – with less than half being re-elected after their four year stint.

And let me take the Bermuda Triangle analogy a step further: As I see it a PCC has three main groups to keep sweet – the public, the police and the Home Secretary. If they focus on one point of the PCC triangle then they automatically turn their back on the other two, who will be prodding them in the back with a pointy stick demanding their attention.

One thing that is absolutely certain is that the pointy stick prodding will intensify. The first batch of fledgling PCCs were given time to find their little baby feet. Let’s face it they’ve not exactly been under the spotlight unless they chose to be à la Ann Barnes (I still cringe, do you?).

Yes they’ve popped up with the odd innovative (that’s PCC speak for recycled) idea and put the odd Chief on ‘gardening leave’, but they’ve generally been allowed to kiss a few babies, keep their heads down and live a pretty charmed life. That’s mainly because recorded crime has continued to drop in spite of the thick end of 25% budget cuts. I’m sure that Theresa, the Tories, the Chiefs, the HMIC, the PCCs and the local witch doctor have all taken credit for crime numbers dropping but when they start to rise, and we all know it’s coming, do you honestly think for one minute that any of the aforementioned will rush to take one for the team? Ha ha! Don’t make me laugh……..

When the numbers go bad rest assured that same witch doctor will be commissioned to carve a wax effigy of their local PCC who, in the absence of a stab vest, will end up with so many pointy stick holes in their backs they’ll look like a ‘Pin Cushion Character’ (Maybe that’s what PCC stands for?)

Humber grumbler

Some are already toughening up and sharpening their own sticks: Humberside PCC candidate Keith Hunter didn’t go for the softly softly nice guy approach adopted by many of the first batch of PCC candidates. Quite the opposite. He was quoted in the Hull Daily Mail as referring to Humberside Chief Constable, Justine Curran, as “almost invisible”.  To be fair, Mr Hunter was raised on the streets of Newcastle and anyone who’s watched Geordie Shore will know that those folks like to call a spade a weapon and are fans of being quite direct.

He also hinted that she was on 6 months’ probation to turn around performance – which is a bit harsh seeing as I’ve nicked dwelling burglars in Humberside who didn’t get that much.

Yes, I have to declare an interest in this one: Humberside is my force and former Chief Superintendent Keith Hunter is my old boss. I also have to consider that if I decide to return to policing as a senior office via the Direct Entry Scheme I want my application viewed favourably by Team Hunter-Curran. I am joking of course – I’ve got far too much practical policing experience to ever be considered for the Direct Entry Scheme.

Now I’m no expert on diplomacy but surely that quote will create a bit of tension now that Mr Hunter has been successfully elected as Humberside PCC? Picture their first meeting: Chief Curran sat at her desk wearing her hi-vis vest and asking, “can you see me now Keith?” PCC Hunter responding with an attempted repair job, “listen I know I said you were ‘almost invisible’ but I said it in a very smiley voice pet.”

G-Man  

Others seemed to get quite upset with Mr Hunter including no less than Tory big-hitter Chris Grayling, who even went as far as to suggest that Mr Hunter “may be unfit for public office”. That was nearly a lovely bit of gossip before people realised that the sentence didn’t actually mean anything. It’s that ‘may be’ tag at the front that completely nullifies all that follows. It’s like me saying Eric Pickles may be a part-time amateur erotic pole dancer or Jeremy Clarkson may be a vegan – might be, might not.

Mr Grayling was accused of ‘mudslinging’ and to be fair the ‘G-Man’ does like to voice his opinion – rightly or wrongly. You may remember him backing up those Christian folk for discriminating against that gay couple by turning them away from their bed and breakfast? In fact David Cameron was so impressed with Grayling’s total inability to grasp basic discrimination law that he made him Justice Secretary.

Sister Theresa

But say what you like about Christopher Grayling he does know his policing as he was Shadow Home Secretary….right up until the Tories actually got elected – oops! That must have felt like religiously polishing your Dad’s car every Sunday until the day finally arrives that you pass your test and arrive home to be greeted open-armed by your proud father who, with a tear in his eye, produces the car keys and throws them to your sister….and she can’t even drive!  The metaphorical sister in this case being Theresa May, of course.

Dog dancing

Looking down the list of results I have to say that I’m particularly disappointed by the lack of independent PCCs voted in. Only 3 out of 40. This is one aspect of the role that I really don’t get. When policing is trying desperately to depoliticise itself why do we have any PCCs affiliated to a political party – surely they should all be independent shouldn’t they?

Sadly one Independent – Ann Barnes – didn’t stand for Kent re-election and was succeeded by the Conservative candidate Mathew Scott. Mathew had a very busy start as his first job was to get the carpet cleaners in for the dog hair and then the FAB1 van needed a respray ready for the next Channel 4 documentary.

After her ‘Meet the Police and Crime Commissioner’ documentary faux pas Ann Barnes is an easy target. But poking fun at her always feels a bit like picking on that kid at school with the snotty nose and plastic sandals and so I don’t do it. In fact as a fellow performer I recognise her talent and I’m actually a big fan of hers. I happen to know that she didn’t stand for re-election as she was busy rehearsing a dog dancing routine for Britain’s Got Talent. Still with her luck she’ll have a brilliant audition but just be edited to look very bad.

In 2012 the voting public were asked to embrace PCCs and they said “no thanks” but they didn’t go away. In 2016 they were asked again and the public said “still not convinced”. Well neither am I but they’re still not going away and so perhaps it’s time to consider them a resource to be utilised. So I for one am going to say to our new Police and Crime Commissioners “congratulations and welcome”….oh and “watch your back!”