A Week in Politics

We had this referendum, there wasn’t any doubt
As simple as a coin you toss, you’re either in or out.
The damage to the union was distant and unclear
The shortages, the extra cost dismissed as Project Fear.
We’ve lost our old identity, let’s sing a different song
Of times when we were confident before it all went wrong.
No deal, according to Michael Gove, was not the aim in view
But we’ve had enough of waiting so it’s time for something new.

We’ve faffed around for three years now, no ending is in sight
For the ERG, the DUP there’s nothing that’s quite right.
We’re looking for a hero to cut through all the crap
And Tory members are convinced they’ve found the perfect chap.
It’s true about a third of them have only joined this year
But don’t look back, full speed ahead, the future’s bright and clear.
A man who sticks to deadlines, who looks you in the eye
And pledges that he’ll sort the mess “Just do it. Do or die.”
Those who had warned against him seemed swiftly to forget
Amnesia can be induced by a seat in cabinet.
Right-wingers have the team they want, to out-Farage Farage;
There’s no room here for ditherers, Dom Cummings is in charge.
Those heady days in August when he had the perfect plan
And Boris owned the airwaves, we knew he was the man.
Those endless spending promises, the magic money tree
We’re moving into Neverland as soon as we are free.  

But now we’re in September and the sky is cold and black
Maybe the future is in doubt ‘cos Parliament is back.
A cunning ruse could thwart them – Balmoral, separate flights
Prorogue the bastards for a month, stuff democratic rights.
Though Downing Street insisted “Prorogue? there’s not a chance”
We now know this was carefully planned a fortnight in advance.
He waves away the protests, let Labour do their worst;
“It’s nothing to do with Brexit: the Queen’s Speech must come first.”

Dom Cummings is insatiable, committed heart and soul
He’s terrorising ministers, he’s taking back control.
An aide of Sajid Javid’s is escorted to the door
A policeman told to march her out – so what was all that for?
This is the crucial showdown and it’s made crystal clear
A rebel who opposes him has kiboshed their career.
That’s Hammond, Clarke and Stewart, and Nicholas Soames as well
Is Churchill’s grandson really going to rot in Tory hell?
There’s Philip Lee, appalled by this, he can’t take any more;
The Lib Dems are a better bet. He walks across the floor.
Rees-Mogg says Doctor Nicholls is trying to start a scare
But he’s relaxed, he’s lying down, you’d think he doesn’t care.
Cocooned within a fantasy, some glorious Brexit heaven -
When he wakes up the government have lost by twenty-seven.

The PM says they’ve scuppered talks, he’s cut off at the knees
But his magic new proposals are a secret no-one sees.
He needs a snap election, to help his power grow
And Labour always wanted one but now they’re saying no.
How can an opposition that never gets it right
Discover nerve they seemed to lack, mysteriously unite?
He’s can’t believe the rebels survived his acid test
How can they see a principle beyond self-interest?
He mocks that Corbyn’s chicken, who changes with the weather
But this is an alliance that somehow holds together.
Johnson’s head is in his hands. They’re cheating. It’s a crime
He’s running out of members and he’s running out of time.
He looks at the alternatives, the problem only grows.
Proroguing? Cancelling the whip? Whose bright ideas were those?

Aggression is the keynote, the atmosphere is rough
And Boris’ younger brother decides he’s had enough.
Rees-Mogg gets back at Nicholls, “Like Wakefield – MMR ?”
Now even Boris Johnson thinks that Jacob’s gone too far.
One Nation Tories are concerned. They write to him to say
Splitting the party isn’t smart so find another way.   
And “Corbyn is a big girl’s blouse”, “Cameron’s a girly swot”?
It goes down well at Bullingdon but statesmanlike it’s not.
Tammanjeet Singh Dbesi has a point he needs to make.
“Bank-robbers” “letter-boxes” are a dangerous mistake.
Attacks on women have increased and these jokes are to blame;
MPs applaud the passion, but Johnson feels no shame.
He might do something sometime, but Labour are much worse.
The notion that he got it wrong is simply, well, perverse.

The great campaigner’s desperate, he swears he’s good to go
But nobody will trust him so still the answer’s no.
Police cadets at Wakefield are forced to stand and wait
When Johnson’s due to give a speech; he comes an hour late.
The topic should be policing but he has to scratch that itch
Sooner than ask for more delay he’d choose death in a ditch.
He rambles on regardless until one starts to faint
And finally he gets the hint. Dignified it ain’t.
This line-up’s later criticised by an irate senior cop;
“We are a public service, not just a photo-op.”  

 When Boris was a youngster he could predict his fate.
He’d be another Churchill, a future head of state.
“King of the World !” he shouted, ‘cos power must be bliss
But no-one ever told him that it would be like this.

Houdini in a Helmet

Outside a club in Bristol the time is getting late;
They’ve beaten the West Indies so they’re out to celebrate.
Three beers, six vodkas, Jägerbombs – Ben’s had a busy night
And if a challenge comes his way he’s ready for a fight.
Two gay men being harassed; there’s threats, an ugly scene;
Ben Stokes and Alex Hales decide to intervene.
“Stokes was the main aggressor” a nearby policeman said;
The injuries were serious, it’s lucky no-one’s dead.
If you have watched the video it’s hard to see the sense
Of what Ben Stokes is offering – a plea of self defence.
But fortune smiles upon the brave and the jury all agree.
Ben Stokes has drawn his lucky card – GET OUT OF JAIL FREE.

Now it’s the World Cup final, New Zealand have been in.
Two hundred and forty-one they got; the run chase can begin.
It’s not a massive total but this game isn’t done
The Kiwi field’s a tightening noose, we work for every run.
England keep losing wickets and they still need fifteen
From one remaining over. Ben Stokes surveys the scene.
He knows exactly what he’ll do, refuse to give up hope.
A chance at deep midwicket but Boult steps on the rope.
Next ball, they take a scrambled two, Stokes dives across the floor
But the throw’s deflected off his bat and that’s another four.
Is this the way the story ends? It’s not the final page.
They’re run out on the second. Stokes kicks his bat in rage.
A tie. The super over for once comes into play
And by the tightest margin it ends up England’s day.
Man of the match? Ben Stokes, of course, so sing his praises loud:
84 runs from 98 balls, he’s knackered but he’s proud.
From such outrageous escapades mere mortals are debarred
But this is a magician for whom no trick’s too hard.

Fast forward then to Headingley where England face a rout.
They lost the first, and drew the next, the Ashes are in doubt.
Now they’re all out for 67, it can’t get any worse;
To think that Stokes could rescue us would surely be perverse.
The score is one four one for three, the target’s three five nine;
Joe Root is 64 not out and Stokes is next in line.
The slowest to double figures for twenty-five long years
As Stokes scores two from fifty balls, he’s Boycott, it appears.
Then next day Johnny Bairstow and a shining morning sun;
They score at six an over and the job will soon be done
But – don’t forget it’s England. The wickets start to fall.
It’s two six one for seven, we’ve got no chance at all.
Except, Ben Stokes is at the crease, and Ben Stokes likes to win;
Houdini in a helmet – let the miracles begin.
The final wicket partnership at fifty’s still not done
Jack Leach has played a blinder but he hasn’t scored a run.
Australia have their chances, they squander a review
Dropped catch, a fumbled run-out, there’s nothing they can do.
Eight sixes, at all angles, Stokes spreads the ball around,
Reverse sweep, as he’s stumbling, but still it clears the ground
And Jack Leach wipes his glasses, uncertain what he saw.
From forty-two despairing balls Stokes harvests seventy-four.
He’s given everything he’s got, defied the cricket gods
The Ashes are alive again. Once more, he beats the odds.
Such feats defy prediction, against the run of play,
Just as defeat is closing in – Shazam! He gets away.  
There is in him a force denied to ordinary blokes
In this uncertain summer we’re glad we’ve got Ben Stokes.  

A Fine Bromance?

He talks of borrowing Hunt’s best ideas
but when the laughter dies Hunt finds he’s out.
There’s no room in this cabinet for those
who won’t support the project. Caution, doubt
will only slow things down. Discussion? Please.
Just draw up spending plans, don’t say a word.
Releases are controlled. No interviews.

Europe are “friends and partners” but ignored.
Ireland’s and Scotland’s futures? God, who knows?
The Queen, the civil service, the MPs
are extras – while the stars are those who choose
to steal the movie. Watch it on your phone.
The focus narrows, and the picture clears:
Boris and Dom can do this on their own.

Living the Dream

This is the Brexit that we voted for.
forget the cautious experts, frightened fools
who lack the guts to face the future. Yes!
It is all possible. We can be free
of backstops, borders, all the boring stuff.
Boris will cut the knife crime, save our schools.
He’ll keep that promise on the NHS,
protect our businesses, preserve our dreams
because he’s found the magic money tree.
Europe is deals, agreements, compromise.
We’re taking back control, declaring war
on straight bananas, pettifogging schemes.
If they don’t like it they can lump it. Tough.
We’re getting what we voted for. All lies.

Winners and Losers

Use it. The first rule of the Twittersphere
is always be a bigot, come what may.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, supremo Brexiteer,
claims England’s World Cup victory is proof
we’re isolated winners – live the dream!

 He couldn’t be more wrong. Moeen Ali
describes arriving in this England team.
Jos Butler’s seen the beard. That’s not enough.
He needs to understand. He sits him down
and wants to know about the Muslim stuff.
So when they bust a gut to win the crown
champagne arrives, and Moeen steps away
that’s not a problem. He’s not being aloof
just different. It’s called diversity.  

Easy Answers

We’re in our millions, heading for the polls.
We’ve had enough of insults, sick of slurs –
the shady millionaires, the Russian trolls.
Nigel’s the man who got us off our knees,
who stuffed the BBC, who spoke his mind.
Sod experts, argument, corrupt MPs.
Enough of talking. Let’s just get it done.

So, raise two fingers and we’re on our way?
Policy statements? A withdrawal plan?
You feel so mad there won’t be a delay?
‘No deal’  ‘s not simple. Could go on for years.
You think Farage is going to stick around
to build a common future? That’s a joke.
You want the easy answer? Just revoke.

This Means More

It’s Barcelona/Liverpool, the semi-final stage
as Jurgen Klopp’s adventure begins a bright new page.
They’re going to the Nou Camp, a bit like going to war;
they’ll have to put a shift in; they’ll surely need to score.
It’s end-to-end, exciting, they pay with guts and heart
but a pass from Jordi Alba rips Liverpool apart.
Suarez is there to meet it, with joy he slides it in.
No muted celebrations, ‘cos Luis likes to win.
The reds have had their chances, but this is not their night.
They make the runs, get sight of goal, but nothing goes quite right.
A comedy of errors extends the lead: two–nil.
And then the maestro Messi is closing for the kill.
Free kick, outside the area. Good keeper, solid wall
but he still finds the corner with the perfect pin-point ball.
They’re champions, not for nothing; they’ve teamwork, skill and speed
and now they’ll come to Anfield with a comfy three-goal lead.

This is the crunch for Liverpool, the night they have to score.
Can they keep Barcelona out, and somehow still get four?
With their deadly strike-force trio they’re in it with a shout.
No Salah, no Firmino; there has to be a doubt.
But Jurgen is an optimist and hope is never dead;
this team will never walk alone, its heart is deepest red.
Time was the good ship Liverpool was leaky at the back
but with Van Dijk and Alisson they’re surely back on track.
Klopp spends the money wisely, the fans all think he’s God
and here’s the proof – a miracle: a large, united squad.
Origi and Shaqiri don’t often get to play
but when the chance is offered they’ll grab it all the way.  

 For Suarez and Coutinho the welcome’s extra loud;
the team sheet may be different but there’s passion in this crowd.
It’s not all one-way traffic, there’s chances either end
but the force is with the home team and Liverpool won’t bend.
This is a night for workrate, for running till you drop
for tackling anything that moves. Believe, like Jurgen Klopp.
Origi gets the first one. A rebound, sure, but hey
last time they didn’t get the luck but this could be their day.
Wijnaldum, super sub, slides in the sweetest shot you’ll see
then rises like a rocket to head in number three.

Trent Alexander-Arnold still has a point to make.
Klopp dropped him from the first leg. Was that his one mistake?
A corner. Barcelona are slow to get in place.
He risks a pass along the ground – two bounces, not much pace.  
A training-ground manoeuvre.Good for a laugh, you feel,
but in a semi-final? This kid has verves of steel.
Origi sweeps it in the net. Defenders gaze, aghast,
defeated by opponents too hard, too smart, too fast.
They’ve done the unbelievable – scored four and let none in.
The fans, the team, without their stars, have found a way to win.
Yes, miracles can happen. That is the golden rule.
They claim that “this means more”. Tonight, it does. It’s Liverpool.   

 

Follow My Leader

“And LEAVE means…” What? It’s anybody’s guess.
So many promises in that campaign.
No migrants? Money for the NHS?
Fuck business. Where is Ireland? It’s insane.
But May will sort it out with thick red lines
though Parliament is rubbish, she can tell.
MPs have other answers on their minds
but will she let them? Not a chance in hell.  

It’s Tory deadlock. Something’s got to give.
So Corbyn’s in there, facing fear and doubt.
He’s keen to find the right alternative
when oops! A Labour rebel. He walks out.

Revoke the article? Now there’s a scheme…
A happy ending. It was all a dream.

 

 

Against the Odds

Old Trafford’s disappointed, to lose at home’s the worst.
Is this the end of dreaming, has Ole’s bubble burst?
Beaten 2-0 by PSG. What’s more they were outclassed
By organised opponents, experienced and fast.

 So now they’re off to Paris. No chance, the pundits say.
The players unavailable could beat these, any day.
But Solskjaer knows the history of comebacks from the dead;
He never says it’s hopeless, he’s a winner, he’s a Red.

If we can get an early goal then that will sow some doubt.
It barely takes two minutes for that to come about.
Twin strikers hunting as a pair provoke a slack mistake
Lukaku’s rounding Buffon and United get a break.

The home side get a goal back. That lead was all too short
This PSG won’t just collapse, a battle must be fought.
United like a boxer are battered on the ropes
It looks like one-way traffic but they hang on to their hopes.

 A swerving shot from Rashford that Buffon cannot hold
And then Lukaku strikes again – this pair is solid gold.
Maria dinks it into goal. Relief, it’s given offside;
Last-ditch defending at its best, they’re fighting for their pride.

It’s not just hell for leather, it’s a carefully planned campaign
Behind the boss’s smiling face is a calculating brain.
There’s a player getting treatment when Solskjaer – he’s the man –
Calls players to the dugout to see the latest plan.

He shows them all the diagram, how everyone pulls back
Until the last ten minutes when they move in to attack.
A hopeful shot’s deflected – was that a Paris arm?
The VAR says penalty, and just one man is calm.

It’s mine, says Rashford, 20. You take the chance you get.
He waits until the bickering’s done them blasts it in the net.
United’s bench is drowning in a torrent of relief
As the box of sound is silenced in utter disbelief.

They didn’t play great football. Good passes? Just a few
But they believed until the end and that’s why they went through.
It took a dodgy penalty late on in added time
But as Ole said before the game – mountains are there to climb.  

The Brexit Bus

 So what’s the panic? What’s the fuss?
It’s all aboard the big red bus.
The brakes are shot but we don’t care
we’re heading off to God knows where.
The youngsters hover, hesitate
while pensioners decide their fate.
Some changed their minds and some are dead
but buckle up - full steam ahead.

Who ever could have prophesied
that we’d get taken for this ride?
The gloves were off, the rules were bent
and who knows how much cash was spent?
Jo Cox is dead, but this campaign
will stop for nothing – it’s insane.
The xenophobes want aliens out
so spread the hatred, stir the doubt.
The wards aren’t staffed, the fruit’s not picked
but at least they got migration licked.
It’s not far now, the cliff’s in sight;
we can’t slow down, so hold on tight.

It’s natural there’s teething pain –
some short-term loss for long-term gain -
so you might get these gloomy thoughts
of tailbacks at the channel ports,
stockpiling medicine, food stacked high.
bureaucracies that multiply
while business tries to look ahead:
the windscreen’s misted, lights are red.
The Irish border’s still not done;
replay the Troubles, anyone?
In/Out, they said. A toss-up bet;
who knew how complex this would get?

We’re heading for the cliff at speed
so now a driver’s all we need.
We watch, in growing disbelief
negotiations come to grief.
They’re making threats, they’re acting tough;
they work through bombast, bluster, bluff.
The EU watch our drama class
perform their never-ending farce.
While they make V signs from the back
the bus accelerates off track.

What we were offered, it would seem,
was not a route map, but a dream.
“I’ve heard the British people’s voice”
says May, “and I respect their choice.”
That dark campaign, confused at best,
meant voting motives can’t be guessed
but somehow she can read our minds
and what she sees are thick red lines.

Some Tories try to vote her out.
Don’t have the numbers. It’s a rout.
She tries to get her deal through –
loses by hundreds, not a clue.
“Resign” the opposition cried
so then her troops were back on side.  
She says she’s learnt. A range of views.
She will consult and then she’ll choose
but the only members she can see
are Tories and the DUP.
No motion in the house is passed.
Is constipation here to last?
May seems to be in trouble when  
“Let’s all go back and start again.”
She plans to renegotiate.
The EU? Well, they just can’t wait.

The clock is ticking, steering’s gone
but still the bus is thundering on.
there’s flashing lights and danger signs
but keep between those thick red lines
until we face the final drop -
can nothing make this madness stop?
It’s hell on wheels, it’s rock and roll
so tell me – who took back control?                                  

Playing a Blinder

SHE DID IT! Ditched her losing streak, and scored
a stunning win. The tabloid headlines scream
that Corbyn’s Crushed, Boris is Back on Board
and Tories are again the champion team.

So, what defines her quality, her class?
It’s not the dribble, or deceptive sway
that stops defenders dead; the stylish pass
that splits opponents, helps her side to play.
It’s not the shot that stings the keeper’s hands
from forty yards; the tackle like a rock
that fires the fans. She’s deaf to every call.
There at the corner flag the captain stands
counting the dying seconds on the clock:
nobody else is going to get this ball.

Architect of Chaos

The Tories have no leader – it’s a dangerous kind of lull;
Front runner’s David Davis, an honest man, but dull.
And then a smooth outsider slides up along the rails
‘Cos Cameron’s come to save the day; Bullingdon never fails.
He’s young and he’s articulate. OK, he’s still a toff
But you can tell he’s passionate - he takes his jacket off.
He prowls the stage without a note, he pulls out all the stops
The party needs a PR man with a taste for photo-ops.
Gay marriage, hugging huskies, he’s definitely green
This is the nicest Tory the press have ever seen.
His footwork’s light and nimble, he’s prepared to change his mind
Austerity is all the rage, the green crap’s left behind.

But now, here comes the big one. Europe. In or out?
He’s going to grasp the nettle, he’s not a trace of doubt.
A simple vote will lance the boil and put all minds at rest
George Osborne says it’s crazy but Cameron knows best.
It’s not a risky gamble, it’s not a dangerous bet;
He’s run a ton of close campaigns and never lost one yet.
Soubry, Morgan, Greening say “It’s negative. All men.”
“Calm down, dears. I know how this goes, we’ll all be friends again.”
With Gove and Johnson peddling lies he holds their critics back
“When all this fuss is over, we’ll need our colleagues back.”
He’d never fully realised how mean the press could be
But as this bitter war unfolds he almost starts to see
The can of worms he’s opened. But still he is the man.
Etonians never lose their cool. “That didn’t go to plan.”

Precisely what the future holds he doesn’t care a bit
But no way will he stay around “to clear up all this shit.”
The good folk of Dakota pay seven bucks a head
To hear about the vote he called, the government he led.
Who knows if it makes sense to them, how much they understand –
From Downing Street to a shed that costs well over twenty grand.
He’s scribbling in the garden, the memoir’s on its way;
When news is thin the press drop in to hear what he will say.  
“Not a disaster”, he proclaims, “there’s no need to get fraught.
It’s not ideal, but it turned out less badly than we thought.”
Is that what Mrs May says as she tries to sort this mess?
What Tories will sign up to is anybody’s guess.

As the shambling beast of Brexit comes near the final hour
His friends inform reporters that he misses being in power.
“Bored shitless” goes the rumour, though anyone can see
Shitless is something Cameron could never ever be.
He’s cooked our goose, this nation is sure to come a cropper;
We are the pig he shafted, he’s screwed us good and proper. 

The Ballad of the Stansted Fifteen

Home Office has a mission to create an atmosphere
They call Hostile Environment. It means: Get out of here.
So what if you were trafficked? They don’t care how you feel.
It won’t make any difference if your case is on appeal.
They’ll drag you on in handcuffs, there is no room for doubt.
Just count up foreign bodies and proceed to fly them out -
First stop will be Nigeria (you’re OK if you’re white)
It’s brutal and it’s racist when you take the Stansted flight.

You can mutter disapproval, you can write to your MP
But that won’t make the difference, won’t set these people free.
In crisis, words won’t do it; what history has found
Is change depends on action by people on the ground.
Fifteen broke into Stansted, they formed a human chain
They locked themselves around the wheels, immobilised the plane.
These were not mindless vandals, they knew there’d be a cost
But somewhere in the process all common sense got lost.

They’re charged under a statute from very different times,
A law passed after Lockerbie for terrorism crimes.
The only precedent we know where they’ve invoked this power
Was a helicopter pilot who crashed an airport tower.
Their judge pays no attention to the case for human rights
“The only thing that matters – did they affect the flights?””
The jury finds them guilty; he leaves them little choice
So now it’s up to all of us: who gets to have a voice?

There’s a right to legal process when officials fix your fate
And there’s a right to protest at injustice by the state.
They’re doing us a favour, the Stansted brave fifteen
By posing us this question: Now what does justice mean?
Deep down we have this feeling that says things should be fair
Not just for us, but everyone. It’s something we all share.
The only terrorising here is secret chartered flights
So here’s our answer, loud and clear – we want our human rights.

 

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Charm Offensive

July, it’s time to get a grip.
Right now, I have this Europe trip.
No other Pres – I am unique –
could do three summits in a week.
NATO, UK (that’s on its knees),
then Russia. That’ll be a breeze.

First, NATO. Obsolete, maybe –
they want support, won’t pay the fee.
Germany’s under Russia’s thumb,
that pipeline deal is really dumb.
May’s saying “Salisbury poison, yes?”
Wants me to pester Putin. Bless.

I cancel meetings, come in late,
disrupt agendas – let them wait.
The reason why I play it rough?
We need to sort the finance stuff.
I want all payments brought in line -
the target’s now two oh one nine.
I tell the press “That’s down to me”
but Merkel, Macron don’t agree.
The date, they say’s, two two oh four –
Exactly what it was before.  

Another plane, another day
and then it’s on to the UK. 
Although the people wanted out
looks like they took a different rout.
I gave Theresa some advice.
Too brutal, maybe. She’s so nice.
I told The Sun. They didn’t choose
to print it. Like I say, fake news.
What’s that? Their transcript’s down the line?
Sure, it was generally fine.
I liked the Boris Johnson part.
The guy’s a friend. That’s from the heart.
Like I told Piers, they love me here
‘cos I see immigration clear.
So, will I stand again? Might do
since everybody wants me to.

The highlight? Windsor Castle, tea.
I’ve kept the footage. There, d’you see?
Fantastic woman, blows my mind…
That’s me. She’s walking just behind.
What did she say? “This Brexit stuff
is complex…”maybe that’s enough.
Queen talk is what you don’t repeat,
that right? Not even in a tweet?

Then back to Turnberry. Love these greens.
So many memorable scenes.
Protestors and supporters. Sheep.
Five million pounds of policing’s cheap.
Two years ago, I’m sure it’s there
I sensed some changes in the air.
The day before on Brexit eve,
I said UK would vote to leave.
What’s that? There’s a correction. Hey,
turns out it was the following day.
Time to move on. I don’t regret
a thing, but still I shan’t forget
that look on sad Theresa’s face:
“You’ll ask about the Skripal case?”

US and Russia? Tricky stuff.
We haven’t been in touch enough.
Mistakes on both sides. Clear the air,
so Putin summarized, real clear,
on Syria, Iran, Crimea.
Co-operation in the main
but not too much about Ukraine.
And novichok? The Salisbury crime?
Never came up. There wasn’t time.

There’s talk of treason. That’s a joke.
Ok, so maybe I misspoke.
Would/wouldn’t…it’s so hard to guess
like girls whose No means maybe Yes.
Tore up the rule book? Well, OK.
What counts is what the voters say.
My fan-base sees, my fan-base knows,
just listen to the call-in shows.
Stuff diplomatic niceties –
they’d rather have a plate of fries
This woman rang to show support.
I’d like to share her parting thought:
“If they’re what kept out Hillary
thank God for Russia. Fine by me.”

Just Managing

So here’s to Gareth Southgate, an unassuming chap
We know when he’s appointed that he’s there to plug a gap.
He used to manage Middlesbrough who never won a thing
But now Big Sam has blown it in a journalistic sting.

It’s not the easiest job to take, the press are on your back
They’ll tell you where the team went wrong, they’ll list the skills you lack.
The Wembley crowd are vicious, add Twitter to the mix
Then worst of all that dread refrain – “Remember ’66?”

But Gareth’s not distracted, he does the job his way
He’s managed England’s younger teams, he knows these kids can play.
Forget big reputations, forget about the past
Create a style that suits the team, that’s skilful, fluid, fast.

No rampant solo egos, no stars who think they’re God
But a diverse mix of talent where what matters is the squad.
England with added teamwork, a sight we’ve seldom seen,
Defence, midfield, strikers - a smoothly oiled machine.

Tunisia is the first game – it’s one we’re meant to win.
We make a lot of chances but only one goes in.
They get the softest penalty; should we prepare for pain?
Just keep the faith, and at the end thank God for Harry Kane.

Next up is Panama and there's been talk about the heat
But the hottest things in this display are the England forwards’ feet.
There’s Jesse Lingard scampering, they’ve still not caught him yet,
A slick one-two with Sterling and a screamer finds the net.

They have this neat free-kick routine, from left to right and back,
Though Sterling’s shot is saved there’s Stones to head us back on track.
Manhandling means two penalties no matter what they say
Bang in the top left corner Kane blasts them both away.

He’s been a World Cup extra who never played a game
So Gareth keeps the squad involved, he treats them all the same;
They try to keep the structure, to press and move and pass
But even Belgium’s second team are still a different class.

Colombia is different, we dominate the play
But they have passionate support, they’re fighting all the way;
There’s fouls and provocations, to which we mustn’t rise,
Maybe Kane’s pen will be enough – and then they equalize. 

Our genius commentators are in their rut again
“But England haven’t blah blah blah since God alone knows when.”
They’ve still not got the message that this is something new;
As Gareth tells the players “Your story’s down to you.”

They’ve done the preparation, detailed analysis;
They trust in Pickford’s strong left hand, and Dier doesn’t miss.  
So yes, we’ve won on penalties, we’ve won a knockout game
We’re in uncharted territory where things won’t be the same. 

A nervy start with Sweden, we pass it into touch,
That free and flowing football that we wanted – not so much.
But those dead-ball rehearsals deliver bang on cue;
Two headed goals, some tough defence, and Pickford sees us through.

Now Gareth spreads the praise around, he credits all the staff,
He knows that if you work that hard you have to have a laugh;
Magnanimous in victory, he’s not the crowing type
He shares the moment with the fans but disregards the hype.

We could have reached the final, we had them on the run
Though Trippier’s goal’s a beauty it’s still the only one.
We’re looking fast and confident, the movement is sublime
If only we could freeze it, not go beyond half-time.

We start to lose it, lose it all, composure, skill and breath;
Croatia equalize and then they nick it at the death. 
They’ve won two penalty shoot-outs, they’re canny, hard as nails,
They ought to be exhausted but experience prevails.

Would the sunshine last for ever? Could the lads go all the way?
We know there’ll be a reckoning in the bitter light of day.
And Southgate's boys are gutted, they feel they’ve failed a test
But we’ll remember this World Cup for England at their best.  

They’re playing to a pattern but it’s not a rigid scheme
They understand the way it works, they know there’s room to dream.
They think ahead, they play at pace, they aim to keep the ball
They celebrate, communicate, enjoy it – best of all.

He’s a winner in a waistcoat, a maestro with a plan.
Who set the tone, who picked the team? It’s Southgate. He’s the man.
He’s modest and he’s decent but we sing his praises loud
‘Cos Gareth’s given us a squad of which we can be proud. 

 

 

 

                                      Paul Francis     francisliberty@btinternet.com

The Hard Sell

“We’re Cambridge Analytica, we’ve many cunning schemes;
If you’re running an election we can realise your dreams.
We hoover up the data, the nasty and the nice,
Our targeting of messages is deadly and precise.
We feed stuff in the bloodstream and then we watch it grow
But where those rumours came from no-one will ever know.
We’re the ultimate consultants, more hi-tech than the rest
And our fee is on the steep side – because we are the best.
You can pay it by instalments, you can pay it in a lump
But you know that we’ll deliver, just like we did for Trump.

Deter the opposition – we say ‘inoculate’ –
By conjuring up a vision of violence and hate:
‘Don’t bother with the ballot, the things they say aren’t true.’
We did it in Nigeria, and this could work for you. 
Our managing director is a master of disguise,
Pretends to be a businessman and tells persuasive lies.
We make outrageous offers and film them all the while
Then threaten with exposure – it’s blackmail, with style.

You need a tasty titbit, the smear that’s going to hurt?
We can supply the experts at digging for the dirt.
Ex-spies, UK and Israel, will go through private stuff
And manufacture scandal, if digging’s not enough.
We offer leisure holidays, in Southern France and Spain;
Complete your victim’s pleasure, with girls from the Ukraine.

Don’t worry. There’s no comeback. There’ll be no trace of blame.
We shift our deals to other firms and often change the name.
We worked in Eastern Europe; our hand was never seen –
Slipped underneath the radar and no-one knew we’d been.
Our network of connections is spread out far and wide
There’s academic projects within which we can hide.
You say you’re from Sri Lanka? No problem. Who would care
If we crossed another border? Deceit sans frontières.
Stuff that’s believed may not be true. Sounds bad – don’t get me wrong.
Here’s hoping our relationship is secretive and long.
It’s been a pleasure meeting you. I’ll walk you to the door.
Sorry? What’s that you’re telling me? You work for Channel 4?

These claims are quite outrageous. You’ve gone too far this time.
We always work within the law. Entrapment is a crime.
‘Have we no trace of conscience? Who ordered dirty tricks?’
The answer to both questions is identical. It’s ‘Nix.’ “

Top Man

Harrumph, Harrumph, I’m Humphrys, I call a spade a spade
I’m almost indispensable – just look how much I’m paid.
But I earn every penny (and don’t forget it’s taxed)
'Cos no-one else can match me – blunt, sexist and relaxed.

When Konta was at Wimbledon I wasn’t phased a bit
I knew she was Australian – how could she be a Brit?
The feminists got angry, they’re quick to take offence
The way I see it there’s their view – and then there’s common sense.

I’ve been around for ever, reported Aberfan,
When Dimbleby missed Question Time they knew I was the man;
I grill the politicians, I’m ready for a fight
They try to get a word in but they know that I am right.

I dominate the microphone, my condescending drawl
Dismisses other viewpoints, I know that it’s my call.
Now Carrie Gracie’s moaning ‘cos women get less pay
How much d’you think I’ve offered her to try to make her stay?

I had to put John Sopel right – “You won’t believe this mess.
You realise she’s suggesting that you should be paid less?”
Such chat does not prevent me discussing this on air
It’s only boyish banter – a ban would be unfair.

I should be free to speak my mind, though there’s the curious thought
That women have been silenced for voicing their support.
When prejudice is pouring out there’s no-one to say when
Cos it’s business as usual at the BBC for men.  

 

 

Code of Conduct (revised)

Rule 1. Exude an air of confidence.
Rule 2. Officials only cramp your style.
Don’t seek advice. Just use your common sense.
Keep talking, and maintain that winning smile.
Rule 3. If challenged by reporters, bluff –
“It was a holiday.” Or improvise:
“She’s training students, journalistic stuff…”
They’re harmless little falsehoods. No-one dies.
Rule 4. Retreat with style. Low key is good.
“I had twelve meetings…Boris knew…fourteen?”
“If what I said has been misunderstood…
all out of context…what I really mean…”
Rule 5. Don’t say “I’m sorry.” That’s uncouth.
Keep talking. Smile. Forget about the truth.