The environment secretarys assurances about the UKs toxic air pollution do not inspire confidence
In January, a sulphurous cloud of French pollution drifted across from France to further stink out vast areas of Surrey, its stench so powerful that it overwhelmed the natural foul odours of Eric Clapton, who dwells silently in the hideous region, a subterranean blues truffle.
It was as if the smelly Gallic gas glob did not respect international borders, and had imagined it could just blow around on the wind wherever it liked, a giant goose feather fashioned only from farts, irrespective of our exemption from the Schengen area agreement. Clearly, a continent-wide environmental strategy is required.
In other apocalyptic news, last month all 10 million Swedes were sent leaflets warning them to prepare for Russian invasion by stockpiling their cellars with Swedish staples like meatballs, delicious cakes and pornography.
Our own response to the perceived Russian threat has been to delay the visa of the Putin-backing billionaire Roman Abramovich, who I once stood next to while watching 80s Los Angeles band the Long Ryders in a venue he owned. This was perhaps the only point of overlap in the simplistic Venn diagram of Russian oligarchs and alternative country pioneers, apart from the brief period when Oleg Deripaska played pedal steel for Jason & the Scorchers.
But the threat of Russian invasion is especially problematic in the peacenik nude bathing utopia of Sweden which, in 1980, took official measures to discourage retailers from selling war toys to children. Not knowing one end of a gun from another, Swedes will be fighting the oncoming Russian hordes in the streets with Buckaroos ™, Fuzzy Felts ™ and Slimes ™.
Ironically, street combat with apparently harmless toys is exactly the kind of unpredictable surrealist strategy favoured by Putin’s art-school propaganda adviser Vladislav Surkov, and will either result in an unexpected Swedish victory, or a Russian counter attack involving Stretch Armstrongs ™, Mutons ™, and Kerplunks ™.
I envy the Swedes the simplistic certainty of the threat of Russian invasion. Here Brexit means that, like the ladies in the flashbacks in The Handmaid’s Tale, we are sleepwalking into a rightwing coup without noticing. What supplies should we stockpile in our British cellars to survive subjugation by the Brexiteers? French horns? Kraftwerk bootlegs? Experts?
Those hated experts were in conspicuously short supply last week as the environment secretary M Gove responded to demands from the corrupt fat cats of the unelected EU that we take more serious steps to stop choking ourselves, our European neighbours, and our whole planet to death.
Have they learned nothing in their Brussels ivory tower? This is exactly the kind of interfering attitude that brought about Brexit. If British people want to choke themselves and their children to death in a foul smog of car fumes that is up to us, and it’s not for beret-wearing traitors like Monsieur Jacques Delors, Madame Michèle Yvette Marie-Thérèse Jeanne Honorine Alliot-Marie and Monsieur Eddie Izzard to tell us we can’t.
British air pollution levels are above those recommended by the World Health Organisation for 90% of our population, and fall far short of the meddling EU’s less stringent recommendations. But when we leave the deplorable EU the untrustworthy adopted nest-cuckoo M Gove has promised we will actually aim to better the shit EU’s environmental standards, even as he flounders towards deregulated food supply life rafts made of his friend Donald Trump’s maggoty meats.
The literary stereotype of an orphan is of a meek and hopeful lamb child. But take it from me, all orphans lie, and M Gove is no exception. Last week, in the heat of the Windrush backdraft, the vengeful adoptee also claimed, counterintuitively, that Brexit “has made the UK more welcome to migration and more open to more people entering”. The shamans of the Lakota nation, searching for someone to fulfil the ritual role of the heyoka, the crazy backwards clown, for whom all truths are inverted, need look no further than M Gove for their future holy fool.
You don’t have to be Doubting Thomas ®, from God®’s The Bible ™, to doubt the airy assurances M Gove bubbles through his lying goldfish lips. Pirate Liam Fox sees a buccaneering Britain, bustling with freebooting Tom of Finland businessmen in unbuttoned shirts, thigh length sea-chaps and skull medallions, and is unlikely to allow its forthcoming post-Brexit economic miracle to be hampered by costly self-imposed environmental legislation, me hearties.
Clearly, the pollution crisis needs a top-to-bottom strategy, with the immediate elimination of the internal combustion engine as its ultimate goal. M Gove has promised to phase out diesel- and petrol-driven cars by 2040, a tiny flatus puff in a vast tornado, 22 years of slow death away.
As usual M Gove and his west London friends, essentially the human equivalent of the all-controlling Orangutan priests in the dystopia of Planet of the Apes, will find a way of remaining untouched in their airtight Notting Hill survival biospheres, their constituents choking to death beneath the Westway outside.
The £19,000-a-year Notting Hill Preparatory school has begun fitting £5,000 air filters to each of its classrooms, and who can blame it. But one looks forward to an M Gove government implementing the same safety measures in every state school across the country, perhaps employing cost-cutting subcontractors with the same bottom-line attention to detail as the Grenfell Tower cladders.
Breathable air for school children, it appears, is to become an economic privilege, like private education, not a basic human right. When I blagged into a private school on an orphan’s charity bung in 1979, I was taken aback by the playing fields, the chapel, and the Welsh mountain geography-trip cottage. Back in those halcyon days, I took the idea that I’d be able to breathe the air as read.
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