The graduates of Bullingdon, the Cameron/Osborne boys
Are oozing with entitlement and make a lot of noise;
The senior woman in cabinet is calm as Mona Lisa
Who knows what’s going on inside the head of Queen Theresa?

Home Office is the graveyard where all politicans lose
But all the media can find to comment on is shoes;
God help the eager immigrant who’s hopeful for a visa
Hostile environment’s the thing that motivates Theresa.

The referendum comes along to split the party wide,
Big beasts patrol the microphones but she stays safe inside;
George Osborne’s sums are not quite straight, they’re like the tower of Pisa,
It’s smart to keep your powder dry like canny Queen Theresa.

Once Leave has won the backs are stabbed, Gove shafts his mates in style;
Can Leadsom be the best they’ve got? Theresa, by a mile.
The leavers – Boris, David, Liam- are desperate to please’er
Only a fool strays out of line in the court of Queen Theresa.

So Brexit must mean Brexit. What’s that? We try to guess.
It’s yes to immigration bans, no cash for NHS.
She doesn’t want to spell it out; she stays aloof, like Caesar
Ex-pats are simply bargaining chips if you are Queen Theresa.

After the split from Europe will we be just a rump?
She’s sprinting to the plane to be the first to chat up Trump.
So yes, she’ll let him take her hand and later, he may squeeze’er;
She smiles, and thinks of England, long-suffering Theresa.

She’d like more houses built for rent, real gains that voters see,
Some government boosts for business, and job security.
But the history books won’t mention those, you can bung ‘em in the freezer
For Brexit’s all that matters in the reign of Queen Theresa.  

The President Speaks to the Nation

So now I’m talking here, direct
to you the people. You expect
to trust the words the media say
but Washington, New York, LA
are packed with journalists who do
a great disservice – that means you,
yes, BBC and CNN
(though Fox has honourable men).
Oh yes. The press are here with me
We’re glad to have them. They’ll be free,
to ask their questions. No surprise
that they’ll still write it up as lies.
I’m happy to collaborate
and if they want a scrap – can’t wait.
But we’ve made progress. Say it loud:
we’ve done good work. I’m very proud.

OK, who’s first? Where to begin?
Oh boy. Of course. It’s General Flynn.
You hint at diplomatic crimes
but I’ve made clear so many times
I never talked to them but twice.
Putin rang up, he was real nice.
Well done, the night I won the vote.
Inauguration:  all she wrote.
Flynn’s not a crook, a real fine man
and he did nothing wrong. The can
must still be carried. He misled
Mike Pence. That’s why I had his head.
But all this is a ploy they choose –
the Democrats can’t bear to lose.

The news says chaos. It’s obscene.
This is a finely-tuned machine,
this operation that I run.
A mere four weeks, and we have done
more stuff than previous regimes.
Obama in his wildest dreams
could never operate this way.
I won. I won. And did I say
I got the highest college share
of any pres since Reagan. There.
What’s that? You think that wasn’t true?
Obama? Clinton? And Bush too?
OK. That story’s maybe cold.
I just passed on what I was told.

Obama left me with a mess.
The Middle East. Korea. Guess
just who’s the guy to sort them out.
You got it. Me, without a doubt

The tone. The hatred. Gets me down
to hear reporters in this town
abuse me. I am not that bad.
My win, the ratings that I’ve had,
my business empire all suggest
of all the candidates, I’m best.
But I’ll tell you how this will play.
Tomorrow’s newspapers will say
“Trump raved.” Too good a chance to miss.
But hey, it’s great. I’m loving this.

Anti-semitic? Racist? Me?
Let’s treat this issue seriously.
I know myself and in my mind
I’m the most tolerant guy you’ll find.
I said I’d keep the Muslims out.
It made the liberals scream and shout
but my migration ban was fine,
the rollout smooth, along the line.
The only place where it fell short
was that we got a lousy court.
A bad decision held us back;
in no time things will be on track.
And by the way, my cabinet
could be the most impressive yet.
Fantastic talents, I’m quite moved.
Can’t wait to get them all approved.

Could you explain your cities plan?
I would be honored. I’m the man
who pulled in way above my share
of votes that were predicted there.
Afro-American, as well
as women and Hispanics. Hell,
I broke the mould. So, will you be
consulting with the CBC?

And who are they? Or must I guess?
Congressional Black Caucus, yes?
You’re black. Maybe you know these guys,
could introduce me, put them wise?
I’m just a journalist. No sweat.
I’ve got your name. I shan’t forget.

I don’t believe it. Here we go.
The big thing that they want to know:
when General Flynn was on the phone
to Russia, did he act alone
or was this authorised by me?
I told you. One-track minds. You see?
The thing they should be chasing down
is all the leaking in this town.
Top level confidential stuff
gets in the press. Not good enough.
What’s that? No, there is no mistake.
The leaks are real. The news is fake.


A Lousy Deal

In the campaign, the candidate attacks
the swamp at Washington, the way jobs fall
in global treaties, slipping through the cracks
as local guys miss out. But he’ll still call
the asset strippers, stars from Goldman Sachs
to run the country. More jobs? Not at all.
He picks his cabinet, and here’s the rub:
they’re all recruited from the rich men’s club.

To head Environment, a guy who’s fought
it many times; the greens get sleepless nights.
He wants pro-lifers on the highest court
to make it hard to grant abortion rights.
Rip up the few provisions which support
the poorest; losers learn that failure bites.
Celebrity Apprentice plays it rough
and if you haven’t got the diamonds – tough.

Press conference? Not for him. That model’s bust.
Who needs the ritual of Q and A?
If Facebook is the only source they trust
no-one will check the truth of what he’ll say.
The kids have got the algorithms sussed -
he trusts his gut, and tweets it on its way.
A family man; the kids will play their part
doing their daddy’s deals. It warms the heart.

Official briefings don’t inform his plan;
he’s smart enough to do it on his own.
He doesn’t rate the deal with Iran
and hassles China ‘cos they pinched his drone.
Putin, he reckons, is a decent man
but still he wants the nuclear silo grown
to challenge...who? Right there the vision fades.
But he’s got balls. Yessir, got them in spades.

The hi-tech companies will make a database
to let him track the Muslims, in and out.
Blacks and Latinos need to know their place
is off the voters’ register. Some doubt
about the wall, but not about the race:
the winner is the Great White sexist lout.
I’m scared. I’m tearing out my hair in clumps.
I tried to warn them when I bid No Trumps. 

The Ladder

There are those struggling to make ends meet who are paying for the benefits of others.” Theresa May, PMQs 2.11.16

We can’t look after everyone, some targetting is due.
It once was “working families” but we need something new.
“Just about managing” they are, we call them JAM for short;
Money for JAM is hard to find, there’s not much cash in place
But here’s a way of looking at the prospect that they face.

Our spending is a ladder that stretches to the sky;
Some items of expenditure may seem a trifle high.
It wasn’t all that long ago we bailed out the banks
We said “Eight hundred billion?”;  they barely murmured “Thanks.”
And then there were those pricy wars, Afghanistan, Iraq...
Another thirty billion that won’t be coming back.
We have this deal with Nissan. How much we cannot say
But just enough to see you through that dreaded rainy day.
A hundred and fifty billion in benefits is banked
But half of that’s on pensions, and they are sacrosanct.
The guys that you should focus on are those that have no work;
Five billion quid a year they cost, you ought to go berserk.
They’ve ripped it from your wallets, they’re cheating at the game
You won’t get richer but at least you’ve got someone to blame.

You’re tottering on the ladder, not sure you can hold on
But don’t forget this message when everything has gone:
“Do not look up” ’s the answer. There’s people in this town
Whose wealth is way beyond your reach. You keep on looking down.
We are the only party that truly understands:
Just look at those below you, and trample on their hands. 

The Man of the Moment

The world’s gone into meltdown
The signs are all too clear
The only people smiling –
Putin, and North Korea.
There’ll be a wall with Mexico
We’ll purge the NHS
And climate change? Forget it.
You want a future? Bless.
It feels like Armageddon
Our prospects are the pits
You might conclude the rational world
Is breaking up in bits.
But there’s one common factor,
One mastermind in charge.
It isn’t May, it isn’t Trump
It’s bloody Nigel Farage.


When Jeremy Hunt was at Culture, his future was somewhat in doubt,
He’d got far too close to the Murdochs, there were many who wanted him out;
His mate Michael Gove toured the studios, defending his buddy with ardour
“This guy is no chancer, but he’s a great dancer – he does an amazing lambada.”

The Lansley reorganisation has left medics all tearing their hair,
Hunt needs to create a diversion, a commission for quality care.
He’s testing the health of the system, he’s confident, agile and quick
With a twirl and a laugh, cuts the carrot in half and doubles the size of the stick.

The UK election is coming, and Hunt is out bending each ear
A seven day service for patients, ten thousand lives saved every year.
The evidence isn’t conclusive, the experts aren’t sure he is right
But once on the floor he can’t hear any more, keep dancing, and follow the light.

He goes on TV with this contract, the one that he plans to impose,
In the Commons he’s acting decisive; is it legal? well, nobody knows.
He says that his door’s always open, but the doctors don’t ever get near
If you never stay still you can do what you will and your room for manoeuvre is clear.

 There’s a deal to be had if he wants it, but Hunt doesn’t like compromise
He skips away, clear of commitment, he swerves and he sashays, he lies.
While Cameron and Osborne are cheering, a union deal is a sin;
They are confident men, it’s the pit strike again: “Have a fight, and make sure that you win.”

Young doctors are trying Australia; they say that it’s sunny out there.
They get better pay, shorter hours, and there’s excellent standards of care.
The training is good and the prospects are bright, the future is shining and new
But the thing they like best far outweighs all the rest: “They value the work that we do.”

Maybe now there’s an end to the madness. It’s Brexit. All change, enter May.
Health officials are told in a whisper that Jeremy Hunt’s on his way

But the sighs of relief are all stifled when it turns out the old boss is back
So how did he learn that extravagant turn that saved him from getting the sack?

It is time for his pièce de resistance, the impossible move – can you guess?
All foreigners purged from the service, a totally Brit NHS.
He smiles and he nods, he can do this. It’s beyond most political men
But the confident dancer will soon find the answer as Twinkletoes triumphs again.  



Please Bet Responsibly

Please Bet Responsibly

Roll up, roll up and place your bet.
It’s constitutional roulette.
Same old. Familiar routine –
general election in ’15,
Scots Independence. Magic touch.
Just scare them, say it costs too much.
The other lot are losers, so
play safe and stick with what you know.
They line up businesses and banks
to do the sums, to say No Thanks.
This change won’t mean financial gain
so common sense says VOTE REMAIN.

That’s rubbish, Michael Gove says, but
ignore the experts, trust your gut.
Dominic Cummings, on a roll,
proposes “Let’s take back control.”
You want more for the NHS?
Three hundred million, more or less,
is paid each week to the EU.
D’we want it back? You bet we do.
Watch out - the Turks are on their way.
Migrants? We never had a say.
If you vote LEAVE there is no doubt
we’ll keep the EU migrants out.

Farage is sure that he’s the star
but does his poster go too far?
Though Gove and Johnson don’t approve
they sense that UKIP’s on the move.
They’ll each get votes, that’s how it goes,
and so the LEAVE assortment grows.

Just what will make them change their mind –
the great ignored, the left behind?
They’re bitter, bolshie, but their voice
for once will count. They have a choice.
What are the issues which will sway
the votes on referendum day?
There’s regulations, payments, grants;
who’ll give the underdog a chance?
The cost of living, welfare state...
but where does immigration rate?
Election, just twelve months ago,
it ranked at number seven. Low,
you think?  Now, it’s the smoking gun
that tops the charts at Number One.

The level’s up, blood pressure too,
where people coming in is new.
No jobs, no housing, long neglect,
white working class denied respect.
Don’t trust the media, or MPs,
nothing to hope for, on their knees.
One simple cause is hard to name -
it’s newcomers who get the blame.

This can of worms must be addressed
but where’s the source that does it best?
The over-sixty fives say we
get info from the BBC.
The kids ditch papers no-one needs
since social media meet their needs
while UKIP voters in the main
depend upon the LEAVE campaign.
BeLEAVe in Britain, says the SUN
although that headline doesn’t run
in Glasgow, Belfast (They shape news
to make it match their readers’ views).

Two sides in conflict, fierce and mean.
The BBC steps in between
and climbs the ladder, rung by rung,
towards the tightrope that is strung
above these feuding factions. Strewth!
There’s phoney figures, lies and truth,
distortions that they might correct.
Don’t ask tough questions, don’t reflect
on dubious stories that deceive:
just alternate, REMAIN and LEAVE.

On Thursday night we go to bed.
Markets are up, cos Brexit’s dead.
On Friday morning comes the news:
REMAIN and Cameron have the blues.
So take it in, and give it large –
a win for Johnson, Gove, Farage.

The EXPRESS are chuffed, they’ve got it made.
The most successful press crusade
there’s ever been claims victory.
You should be proud, says one MP.
it’s everyone a winner day.
Goodbye, au revoir, auf wiedersehen
to France and Germany and Spain
who shackled us in slavery.
Now Britain shall at last be free.

Here comes the Daily MAIL now
but they say “Britain, take a bow.”
It’s not the MAIL, EXPRESS or SUN
but their great readership that won.
The winners in this jamboree?
Liz Hurley, and the BBC.
According to Richard Littlejohn
“decent forgotten people won.”
Now here’s a smiling hedge fund kid
who won two hundred million quid.

Europe looks on in disbelief.
So much destruction, so much grief.
Agreements, networks, torn to shreds –
they can’t work out what’s in our heads.
We’re out, but we were hardly in.
If you don’t play, how can you win?
We lectured Brussels, raised the roof,
demanded opt-outs, stayed aloof.
Farage returns, he’s back in town
to mock the people we turned down.

We could have backed the big idea,
promoted membership, not fear,
been one of many in a team
but maybe that was just a dream.
We are the English, on our own.
We think we’re better off alone.

For those who peddle racist hate
it’s fifty-two to forty-eight.
Result! The numbers never lie
so foreigners can say goodbye.
We see them, on a bus or train
we make it clear they can’t remain.
Insult a Muslim, scare a Pole.
We won. We’re taking back control.   

There’s other casualties. The vow
you heard last week is cancelled now.
The millions that we said we’d get
are nothing like that much. Forget
the bonus for the NHS.
There’ll be more immigrants, not less.
They said the Turks were on their way
but that won’t happen. Not today.
Just what was true in this campaign?
Who gives a toss? We stuffed REMAIN.

This was the verdict of the old.
The future has been put on hold.
Agenda for the next ten years?
Pick up the pieces, stoke the fears
of those who feel left behind.
Put rational government out of mind.

The wheel of fortune, wheel of fire
spins round, and lifts its victims higher
only to drop them from a height
for heavyweights are feather light.
Powered by centrifugal force
careers veer off their plotted course.
They fell, no matter how they strove -
first Cameron,then Johnson, Gove.

We’re meant to feel this afterglow...
a bit like the Olympics, no?
The nation, unified and free
steps up to claim its destiny.
But what we’re told’s not what we get.
Those expectations, all unmet,
evoke betrayal, rage, regret.
We should have known. It’s called roulette.





Purple Blazers

We are the guys you never see
The men in suits from DFE.
There was a time – you have to laugh –
That kids had places, schools had staff
That’s what the DFE was for.
But mere provision’s such a chore
We’ve scrapped that bit. We’ve turned the page,
Now blue sky thinking’s all the rage.

A worldwide survey feeds us news
That English kids have got the blues.
In tons of tests they fail to score,
They’re under stress, they worry more.
Teacher morale? An all time low.
Give half of them the chance, they’d go.
Recruits begin, in fear and doubt.
Don’t screw things up, or you’ll be out.
This lesson plan is what you do;
Try innovation, and you’re through.

They’re judged by OFSTED, frowned upon
And then, in three years’ time, they’re gone.

Parents compete, a ruthless race
To get first choice, to grab the place
Their child needs, but most will lose.
The smarter schools can now refuse
The kids who’ll drag their test scores down
So dropouts doss all over town.
We don’t keep track. Why should we care?
They simply vanish in thin air.
There’s schools that struggle, on the edge.
League tables are the iron wedge
That splits the bottom from the top.
Just drive it in, and watch them drop.


We have this cunning plan, a scheme
Where Cameron says - I have a dream.
Knowing that presentation’s key
He hands it to the Treasury.
Our plan, to gain the greatest reach,
Is placed in Osborne’s budget speech.

The purple blazers, that’s the thing.
The endless benefits they’ll bring
As schools across the land say please
We’d like to be academies.
These parent governors, we’d say,
Mean well, but they get in the way.
They’ll be replaced by experts who
Are known to’ve made a quid or two.
With them in place we’ll sort this mess –
The blazers guarantee success.

How do we know? There is no proof
Academy scores go through the roof
But we’re prepared to back this hunch
We had, last Tuesday, after lunch.
Academies were once a choice
That local schools could make; the voice
Of parents could decide, but hey
Parental choice was yesterday.
Local is fine, but on the whole
We’d rather keep complete control
So Whitehall will administrate
The nation’s schools. We just can’t wait.

That’s it. For better or for worse
We’re going forward. No reverse.
It’s purple blazers. That’s enough.
Forget the education stuff.
The how they think, and what they feel
Are complicated. We don’t deal
In theories. That’s a dangerous game.
We just make sure they look the same.
You’re scared the bill for this is steep.
Six hundred million quid. That’s cheap.

The possibilities are cool
For those who run this kind of school.
We deal them the strongest hand
They call the shots, they sell the land.
Hire out the building, live rent-free,
One ran a dating agency.
No regulation in their way
From OFSTED, or the LEA.
We have ensured that rules are lax -
All sorts of stuff slips through the cracks.
The superheads that government praise
Enjoy exotic holidays,
Promote their relatives, receive
A hefty bonus when they leave.   

This is the path we’re going to take
And sixteen thousand schools will make
This change. You ask: What will it cost?
Will good relationships be lost?
Will cuts reduce the money due?
Who’ll take control, if it falls through?
You ask, but you get no reply.
We don’t do questions. Don’t ask why.

Hang on. Some Tory councils say
Compulsion’s not the smartest way.
No need to alienate support:
Maybe this scheme should be rethought.
So, U turn in a busy road –
It shows that we’re in listening mode.
There’s no harm done. It’s still our call
We toss a coin, and watch it fall.                




Don’t turn around. The woman in the seat
behind is known to keep eccentric pets
– watch out for iguanas . Don’t repeat
this, but her husband’s run up massive debts
through gambling. No, I told you not to stare.
Natural to feel curiosity
about your fellow passengers, but there
is where it ends. Top level secrecy
must be maintained. The girl who’s just got on
might be a terrorist, but we can’t say.
Pretend you’re reading till the threat has gone.
You wonder how we know all this is true.
Don’t worry. That bus going the other way
has got a poem on it. About you.

October 2010

Renoir at Moulin Huet

Not Normandy this time. Guernsey is near
but warmer, with a golden August glow;
a mix of greens on granite greys that fall
incisive, slanting in the turquoise sea.
He finds this bay and stalks it like a deer.
Quick glimpses, as each twist along the track
unearths his prey, allows his sights to wheel
on to a different line, a fresh attack.
He loves the giggling girls, the way they squeal
galloping into waves, no hint of shame,
young creatures in the wild running free.
One month, and fifteen canvases. Some haul.
He drags his bulging bag of captured game
back to the kitchen of his studio.


for Edward Thomas

Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show
I tell the men. Although I have to read
your letters home, don’t let that make you cold
towards your loved ones. Tell them that you care.
I’m one to talk. What can I tell my wife,
my precious girls, the son I hardly know...?
is a clarity in army life
which even in this godforsaken place
gives me the sense of purpose that I need.
An end in view. At least I shan’t grow old.
I seem to be commanding. No-one knows
I write continuously, fill up the space
with only capitals to mark the moments where
my lines dive down, pretending to be prose.

“What about Michael Gove?”

Teaching friends were upset that I hadn’t been inspired by Michael Gove. I did try, but they weren’t published. Here’s a couple.

In the row over GCSE results, the Welsh minister wanted to order a re-mark, but Gove was determined to stop him.

The Welsh Labour minister’s dim
But our hero soon neutralised him;
It’s clear in the rules
That the whole nation’s schools
Must be governed by Michael Gove’s whim.


When Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was under pressure over the BSkyB bid, Gove toured the studios in his support, pointing out how well Hunt performed on the dance floor. “In particular, he is a superb Latin American dancer, and his lambada is amazing.” (Guardian 30.4.12)

Yet again Michael Gove has the answer.
As you wonder if Hunt is a chancer
And ask yourself why
He should turn a blind eye
Don’t forget – he’s a fabulous dancer.


And if that’s not enough, try my Gove poem,  The Confidence of Michael Gove.


Hugo ends up in Guernsey, forced to roam
because he can’t shut up. He’s on the run
with royalties enough to build a home.
“Three-storey autograph” - so says his son.
He raids the junk shops, finds chinoiserie,
commissions carving from a ton of oaks,
laying a trail of personality –
a lover’s secrets, Latin mottoes, jokes.
Up at the lighthouse top, he claims a den
where freedom’s champion can work all day,
then sleep. The mistress, and the family,
recede. Will Garibaldi come to stay?
Occasionally, he rests his busy pen,
stares out into the blue, where France must be.

The Morning After

We’re heading out of Europe
We never liked the smell
There’ll be English votes for English laws
And the Scots can go to hell.
We’ll tighten up the borders
The Welfare State will fade
The NHS will be sold off
There’ll be no legal aid.
The poor, the young, disabled
Will feel the sharpest axe
The banks will pay more bonuses
The rich will pay less tax.
To all you wealthy winners
Our thanks for your donation
You’ve five more years of Tory rule
- Welcome to one nation.


“Campaign in poetry, govern in prose.”
That’s how the cynic’s favourite motto goes
but not all leaders can be bought and sold.
There are idealists who break the mould
and offer us a chance we must not miss
to opt for better. D’you remember this?

This is a crucial moment, time to change,
to redistribute power, rearrange
control; remove it from the old elite
and hand it to the people in the street.
This government protects itself, holds back
the truth about expenses, or Iraq.
They’re secretive about themselves, and yet
greedy to know as much as they can get
about what you are up to. They can’t wait
to stretch the slimy tentacles of state
still further. Here’s how tyranny begins:
check e-mails, tap your calls, go through your bins.
Surveillance stretches anti-terror laws
to take in trivia beyond their rightful cause.
There’s hidden cameras, watching through the dark
school catchment cheats, dogs pooping in the park.
That officer who’s just come through your door -
can you be sure he represents the law?
We’ll change all that. We’ll let you know this time
the truth on government spending, rates of crime.
No bureaucrats will block transparency,
we have resolved to set the data free.
This government tried to make themselves look good.
They worked top-down, short-term. We’ve understood
clear purpose and consistent argument
provide the base for rational government.
No hedging, secrecy or dirty tricks;
what we need is a brand new politics.

At last, a manifesto with a plan
that sounds worth voting for. Who is this man?
(It made me want to shout out “Yes, we can!”
If we’d just had the nerve to back his line
and he had won, we’d all be doing fine...)
Cameron. 25th of June, ’09.