Killjoy to the world

Quake ye cantankerous gits: it's the third and final round of nominations in spiked’s hunt for the Miserabilist of the Year.

Miserabilist of the Year

Topics Politics

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Who knew there were so many miserable sods around? The nominations for spiked’s Miserabilist of the Year – the man, woman or organisation who has done most to spread doom and gloom about humanity and its habits in 2006 – have been flying in. From pompous penny-pinching local officials to politicians competing to see who is the most austere, illiberal, anti-fun killjoy of them all, spiked readers and writers seem to have had a bellyful of bores this year. So who really puts the ouch into grouch? Who puts that extra inch into being a grinch? Here are the third and final round of nominations in our hunt for the King of the Killjoys.

One of the small pleasures in the crazy Christmas season, as we rush around like headless turkeys in the run-up to 25 December, is hearing a good old cheery carol on a street corner or in a train station. Unless, that is, you’ve had the misfortune to bump into the Think Road Safety choir, who have been touring the country singing carols about….dying from drink-driving. That’s right – this fun gang of actors and singers have been wowing audiences in London, Liverpool and Birmingham with traditional carols rewritten to warn of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having a tipple. Joy to the world!

Nominated by spiked staff writer Emily Hill, who saw them performing in their long purple robes to bemused commuters at Liverpool Street station in London, the choir sing a version of ‘Jingle Bells’ which tells of motorists getting maimed (think ‘Jingle Hells’) and a version of that sweet ditty ‘Away In A Manger’ which begins: ‘Away in a lay-by, His rights being read, The silly drink driver, Hangs low his poor head…’ ‘I think we have a winner’, says Hill. ‘There’s nothing like a bit of carol-singing to perk up your stressed-out shopping experience or chilly Christmastime commute, so hijacking “Jingle Bells” to advertise a message of death is rather miserabilist. Especially as they were singing at a train station, where, you guessed it, people were travelling by train, utterly sans booze.’

Shirley Dent of the Institute of Ideas thinks the winner should be David Cameron, the floppy-haired, red-cheeked leader of the Tories, who for all his supposed ‘youthful flair’ (he’s 40 years old, people!) can be as curmudgeonly as any of those in the purple-haired, cobwebbed wing of the Tory Party. ‘He deserves the award for a number of reasons: for constantly warning that the Earth will explode if we don’t stop driving cars; for knocking down an Indian villager with his, er, big car, while on one of his whistlestop moralisitic tours of the Third World’, says Dent. But his most miserabilist gesture of the year, she argues, was to declare war on newsagents like WH Smith’s for selling big chocolate bars at half price to anyone who buys a newspaper or a magazine. Well, what else would you expect the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition to campaign on?

Cameron used the opportunity of a speech to the King’s Fund in London to complain about the Attack of the Giant Chocolate Bars: ‘Try and buy a newspaper at the train station and, as you queue to pay, you’re surrounded, you’re inundated by cut-price offers for giant chocolate bars…. Checkout staff have all been trained to push these products.’ Watch out for those chocolate-pushers, kids – and remember to just say no! Cameron got a bee in his bonnet about chocolate oranges in particular. ‘As Britain faces an obesity crisis, why does WH Smith’s promote half-price chocolate oranges at its checkout instead of real oranges?’, he asked. Dent says: ‘Is this really what occupies the mind of the Conservative leader: the masses’ alleged failure to resist the temptations of the chocolate orange? Talk about a Scrooge mentality. And losing the plot.’

spiked reader Paul Buddery nominates Craven District Council (‘what an appropriate name’, he says) in England, for demanding that the organisers of a village Christmas party carry out a risk assessment of their mince pies, mulled wine and marching band in order to meet council rules. The council insisted that posters be put up warning about the presence of nuts, suet and alcohol in the pies; that hot chocolate be served ‘at a temperature that cannot scald’; and that partygoers be kept a ‘safe distance’ from the marching band. The council also decreed that planning for a Christmas party of this size (1,000 local residents were due to attend) should have started in January; well, we can’t have any last-minute, spontaneous get-togethers, can we? Buddery said: ‘There are so many jobsworths these days determined to justify their existence by denying people fun that it is difficult to pick one miserabilist from them – but Craven Council must be near the top. And suet as a health risk? That’s a new one on me.’

Scottish reader Captain Ian McRae, who describes himself as ‘a retired sailor, inveterate pipe smoker and ex-pub frequenter’, nominates Jack McConnell, Scotland’s First Minister – ‘for stopping me, and thousands like me, from enjoying a smoke of my pipe while having a beer in the pub’. McRae says he hasn’t darkened the door of a pub ‘since this loony anti-smoking legislation came into effect in Scotland’. ‘If they had gone for a division between smoking and non-smoking pubs, much like Ireland’s singing and non-singing pubs, I would have been 100 per cent in favour, as bar staff and drinkers alike would have had a choice of venue. But the blanket ban is killjoy in the extreme.’ Meanwhile, Guy Herbert of the NO2ID campaign group nominates The Portman Group, ‘the brewers’ and distillers’ trade association devoted to enjoining us to “drink responsibly” at every opportunity, including by undercutting any fun message in any of its members’ advertising’.

Reader Marni California nominates the Trading Standards Authority, for telling a company which makes a product called Welsh Dragon Sausages that they cannot use that name in case some dolt thinks the sausages contain real dragon. Seriously. But you can all breathe a sigh of relief – from now on they will be known as Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages, removing any room for confusion among the stupid pork-eating masses. Angie Wilkes in Worcester nominated Worcester City Council for putting pig fences around local pear trees ‘in case someone was hit on the head by a falling pear’. Do they think we’re children who must be mollycoddled, wonders Wilkes? ‘I am bloody annoyed that I pay the council a good whack of money every year for them to waste it like this’, she said.

Three readers have nominated incumbent prime minister Gordon Brown. One nominated him for his wild exaggerations about terrorism, ‘which are even more out there than Blair’s’: ‘Brown wants to create a war economy and a war cabinet and a war mindset in response to what? A handful of cranks who should be policed and if necessary arrested, not transformed into the greatest threat to mankind.’ Another reader – Thomas Doyle – nominated Brown for his ‘generally grumpy and po-faced disposition’. ‘I think we can all agree that there is not a cigarette paper’s difference between Blair and Brown when it comes to political outlook, but at least Blair smiles. Brown always looks like he has been walloped across the face with a dead trout. On this basis, I predict that Brown will be an even more miserabilist PM than Blair has been.’

On the subject of terrorism, Bill Durodie of Cranfield University Defence Academy in England nominated Islamo-obsessives – both those who obsess and scaremonger over the threat posed by small groups of terrorists to the fabric of civilised society (‘when in fact such groups are isolated and very often incompetent’, says Durodie) and those who obsess over the possibility of an Islamophobic pogrom against Muslims if we continue to talk about Islamist terrorism (‘even though there were only 43 prosecutions for religiously-aggravated offences over the past year, 18 of them against Muslims or perceived Muslims’, says Durodie).

Sadhavi Sharma of the London-based education charity WORLDwrite nominates economist Muhammed Yunus – yes, he who won the Nobel Peace Prize and gushing praise from liberal commentators across the globe for his Grameen Bank initiative in the Third World. According to Sharma, however, it should be known as the ‘Gra-mean Bank’ for the ‘miserable sums of money it loans to the poor’. The bank makes loans of $200 or less to poor women (men are seen as untrustworthy, says Sharma) to fund very small, self-sustaining schemes, which ‘makes it very difficult truly to break out of poverty’. Interest rates can be as high as 35 per cent. On top of that, the bank insists that its debtors eat the right kind of food (lots of vegetables) and have small families (preferably one or two children only). How would you feel if some Barclays suit told you how to run your life? ‘Yunus deserves the Miserabilist of the Year Award for his stunningly low horizons for people in the developing world’, argues Sharma.

spiked staffer Rob Lyons nominates Jamie Oliver, the mockney celebrity chef turned saviour of the nation’s children. ‘His crusade to improve school dinners seemed worthy enough to start with – nothing wrong with people eating better food’, said Lyons. ‘But after stoking up his case with overblown health scares and dubious arguments about improving behaviour, the most recent instalment of his TV show demonstrated that the whole thing is informed by a very low view of parents – particularly working-class parents – whom he referred to as “tossers”. In fact, Oliver was the biggest tosser of the year.’

Speaking of tossers, Tom Scott of Falmouth nominates spiked’s very own Brendan O’Neill – or Brendan ‘Sourpuss’ O’Neill, as he puts it. According to Scott: ‘Brendan has taken every possible opportunity to suggest that climate change is a) not happening; b) not serious; or c) not susceptible to human intervention. Future generations will remember Brendan and his kind as among the most pernicious promoters of unhappiness in history – and all in the name of free-market fun. Well done Brendan!’ Aw, shucks.

Reader Ken Macdonald nominates Kay Wangland and Dina Almuli of the Women’s Environmental Network for telling parents that ‘if we use that great modern invention, the disposable nappy, we are eco-criminals’. ‘I’ve got two kids, one recently out of nappies and one still in them, and the idea of having to wash nappies, dispose of poo and subject my children to chronic nappy rash appals me’, says Macdonald. Welcome to Miserabilist Britain, where some people really would prefer that we were elbow-deep in shit rather than taking advantage of modern breakthroughs.

So who will win the first-ever Miserabilist of the Year competition? Quake ye miserable gits, for tomorrow – Wednesday 20 December – one of you will be crowned King or Queen of the Killjoys. In the meantime, re-read the first round of nominations here, the second round here, or revisit the launch of the competition here – and pop back tomorrow as we unveil the whiner.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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