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Piggate and the political moments which deserve national holidays

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Politics can be very alienating, unknowable and inaccessible, often deliberately so. Hundreds of decisions affecting your life are made behind closed doors every day. Decisions made by a select group of people on our behalf, despite our main interaction with them being ticking a box on a piece of paper next to their name once every five years. It’s a debilitating thing to consider how little control we can actually excise over the course of our country, or our own lives.

With this in mind, it’s important to revel in moments of immense political schadenfreude when we can. Events that allow us to laugh at our overlords and regard them as contemptibly absurd, even if they could just turn off all of our electricity and force us to invade the ocean over the course of a PMQs. 

After commemorating Piggate yesterday, we've compiled a list of such moments that need pencilling into the calendar and booking off work, for they are days that should be remembered and savoured annually.

Ed Balls Day

28 April (2011)

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There are three key components to consider when you ask "Why is the anniversary of Ed Balls Tweeting 'Ed Balls' in any way significant or worthy of memory?":

First: Ed Balls’ name is ‘Ed Balls’. It’s pretty much the funniest name for a politician to have. ‘Balls’ is in a pretty exclusive elite set of words which are essentially lewd but also neither particularly offensive nor mortifyingly twee. ‘Ed Nuts’ isn’t rude enough, while ‘Ed Scrotum’ would be far too anatomical, and there is no public figure on the planet who would be too proud to drop the Scrotum family name. Balls are the most inherently funny looking sex organ, and ‘balls’ is the perfect word to remind you of them without actually envisioning them.

And to top it all off, his first name is ‘Ed.’ It’s a beautifully weighted first name/surname combo. The brevity of ‘Ed’ perfectly counterbalances the ‘Balls,’ while the abbreviated ‘Ed’ also reminds you his full name is ‘Edward Balls.’ Edward Balls is basically a name Beatrix Potter would give one of her characters if she wrote about anthropomorphic testicles instead of woodland creatures. Ed Balls knows this. Ed Balls has tried to limit the embarrassing quality of his name, and his preferred name is still ‘Ed Balls'.

Second: Picture a 44-year-old Ed Balls turning on his computer and ambling over to Twitter, a platform his advisors had undoubtedly recommended he get on to reach the disengaged youth. Now picture Ed Balls wanting to know what these disengaged youths have been saying about him and putting in his own name. A 44-year-old Ed Balls definitely typed with one finger, and tapping it all in almost certainly took him a minute. He would have looked up his screen, his face contorted in concentration, his tongue jutting out onto his top lip. “Now then,” he would have announced to himself, as all old people do when typing. “Let’s see here…” He would have hovered over ‘Tweet’ and pressed his left mouse button a little too forcefully. “There!” Now picture Ed Balls’ confusion as he blankly blinks at his screen. Instead of displaying the Tweets about him he’d been searching for, he was confronted with a picture of his own face and his own name, saying his own name.

Ed Balls didn’t have the technological nous to realise the error of his ways, otherwise he’d have immediately deleted his Tweet. No, Ed Balls would have shaken his head and muttered something about not seeing “What all this Twitter fuss is about” and returned to watching James May On: Airfix. He just left it there.

Third: Having left it there, it now just looks Ed Balls had taken to the then-furtive and relatively untapped world of online because he had a message he needed to be heard, and that message was: ‘Ed Balls’ – his own name, one of the already-funniest names possible for a politician to have. Ed Balls had made himself look like a rejected Pokemon, a technological boob and an incompetent narcissist all within one fell Tweet. And in fairness to Ed Balls, he hasn't deleted it yet. He's kept it there, to live on and be Retweeted for all eternity. 

When the robots overthrow us, when the sea levels rise high enough to drown us all and when the earth is swallowed into the sun, Ed Balls managing to Tweet 'Ed Balls' will live on. Today is a day to remember of the infinite power to move, to inspire, to change a well choice few words can wield.

Gordon Brown's Gets Accosted

28 April (2010)

If you were putting on a panto and you had someone in your panto accidentally leaving their microphone turned on, exiting stage right and then proceeding to badmouth the person they were just talking to, you would have your panto taken away from you. “That is too panto,” your seasoned lead panto actor would say, rolling their eyes disgustedly. “I’m a panto actor, not a fucking panto actor. You’ll never work again, you panto hack. ”

And yet here it is, happening in real life, to hapless stopgap Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Having been inexplicably forced to chat with irate Rochdale resident Gillian Duffy for around five minutes on topics including pensions, her grandchildren’s holiday to Australia and where “all these immigrants are coming from,” Gord scarpers to the sanctity of his car where he decide not to turn his microphone off immediately, proclaims the still-being-broadcast interview “a disaster” and then calls Gillian a “bigoted woman.”

This one soundbite effectively killed Brown’s campaign, and therefore by extension, New Labour. Think about that: Gordon Brown calling someone expressing bigoted opinions a ‘bigot’ in the back of a car was possibly more responsible for ending a thirteen-year reign than getting embroiled in a war that has reshaped the landscape of the 21st century. Today is for remembering that life works in a mysterious ways. It also falls on the exact same date as Ed Balls Day, so the authorities have no choice but shut all the banks and let you sleep in.

Nigel Farage Doesn't Die

6 May (2010)

A real pitchfork in the road of history, this. In an alternate universe, Alternate Nigel Farage gets in a little bi-plane on election day in order to drag a budget ‘VOTE FOR YOUR COUNTRY VOTE UKIP’ banner across an empty field, and it crashes slightly more spectacularly and kills him. In this alternate universe, Brexit might never have happened and all that entails. (Alternatively: there could have been an immediate outpouring of sympathy towards UKIP and Brexit might have happened sooner.) It also wouldn’t have been quite as acceptable to look at the pictures of the wreckage and find them as funny as they undeniably are if it had resulted in a man’s death.

In our universe, Mr Farage somehow walked away, practically unscathed. Which means the photos are funny. You can go through each one and find something to laugh in each. For instance, in this one you can enjoy the slapstick angle he has found himself implanted in the turf. You can hear his companion going “Are you alright, Nigel?” and his muffled “Of course I’m not alright! Get me outta this thing!” response. In this one, he looks like a devious troll from a Grimm’s fairytale being pushed down his hole by the man on the right and vanquished forever. In this one (a two-parter), you can imagine him going: “Gerroffme, I’m fine” because he doesn’t want to look weak in the inevitable photos. In this one (the follow-up), you can have fun imagining that he didn’t realise quite how metaphorically disastrous a photo-opp of himself standing in front of the smouldering wreckage of a plane telling people to vote for his party while blood poured out of an open wound on his face looked.

This is a day to consider what might have been, but also enjoy what did.

Prescott Gets Punch

16 May (2001)

The thing about being a politician is that you get eggs chucked at you all the time, and what you’re supposed to do is endure it like a cadet being roasted by a drill sergeant. You don’t even acknowledge it. You let the man on the street bellow in your ears that you’re a stupid idiot liar and you wave and laugh awkwardly like “Haha! You got me!” and then you let your aides whisk you into the safety of the back of a taxi where you can vent all you like.

This is the trade-off for getting to spend everyone’s money on whatever you like. If you wanted, you could take everyone’s taxes and buy a TV station which was a constant loop of you saying “Go fuck yourselves, Britain!” and then make it illegal not to watch it constantly. All you have to do in return is not deck protestors in the face when they throw eggs at you, even though you clearly want to. 

John ‘Two Jabs’ Prescott didn’t respect this unspoken agreement. He copped an egg in the back of the head, saw red and cracked the thrower on the chin. Like, properly smacked him. On live television. Twice. That should have been the end of his career, and yet he continued. He even made that fact he was willing hit a member of the general public his thing – the subtitle to his autobiography is 'pulling no punches.’ Meanwhile, the protestor got taken away by police. 

Nobody Turns Up To Angela Eagle’s Leadership Launch

11 July, 2016

Stood in front of hot pink banners emblazoned with a cutesy signature of her name, looking for all the world like she was about to launch a particularly patriotic brand of lipstick in Claire's Accessories, Angela Eagle is announcing her bid for the leadership of the Labour Party.

After delivering her announcement, she turns to accept questions from the journalists assembled in front of her. She scans the room, looking for hands up. “BBC, anyone?” Nobody. The BBC are unusually lax today, she thinks. “No? Ok. Robert Peston, where are you?” Robert Peston isn’t there, but she gets a laugh pulling a ‘typical!’ face and goes again. “Michael Crick?” The laughs aren’t forthcoming this time. The silence is deafening. She rotates on the spot with her arms out, hoping to desperately will Michael Crick into being there by grinning at different parts of the room. The Curb Your Enthusiasm theme might as well be playing at this point.

What Angela Eagle doesn’t realise is that Andrea Leadsom has dropped out of the race to become Conservative Leader. Angela Eagle is being upstaged in her bid to become a leader by someone who no longer wants to be leader. Angela Eagle has failed to lead a discussion on her leadership in front of a slogan which reads ‘REAL LEADERSHIP.’ Angela Eagle dropped out of the race to become Labour leader not long after. You rarely get to watch someone's ambition go up in smoke in punishing real time, but here it is.

Here it’s fun to remember that politicians spend their lives scratching backs, attending mind-numblingly tedious meetings, handing out leaflets, listening to the problems of constituents who hate them, going on television and getting ripped in the press all because they are quietly biding their time for a shot at power. They willingly subject themselves to a lifestyle nobody could ever want all because they have some sadistic desire to rule over us. And sometimes they succeed and they get to make our lives as miserable as their whims dictate. And sometimes all these years of plotting and scheming blow up in their face in the most hubristic, humiliating and hilarious way possible. 

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Nick Clegg Loses His Shit

12 September (2012)

For years your street has been plagued by two sets of lads whacking their footballs at the houses. Just thumping them into your car, against your wall, dislodging the brickwork, destroying your nicely trimmed shrubbery. Every five years they pump it into your back garden and then force you to give it back to them. You basically enable them to kick at it you. Then Little Nick Clegg moves in and causes quite the stir. He seems a nice boy with neat hair and a big heart. He says if you give the ball to him, he promises he’ll get the to move the game to a park if you. He flashes his gumdrop eyes as wide as can be. You trust Little Nicky, you want him to do well in life. 'Oh go on then', you think, tossing him the ball. He runs off giving you the thumbs up. You made the right choice. Then he personally smashes it through your front window and into your goldfish tank, killing your goldfish. How could you Little Nicky? How could you?...

Now he’s at your door again. He’s got his hands in his pockets and he’s looking at his shoes. His mam’s made him come round to apologise. “About the ball…” What the hell do you want Little Nicky? Can’t you see the damage you’ve done? You point at your window, which still hasn’t been fixed, and your goldfish, which are still dead. “I know I said I wouldn’t, but I’m sorry.” He wants you to give him another ball because the bigger lads have stopped letting him play with them. Unbelievable. How can you ever trust him again? You slam the door in his face. He slinks away. He knows he did wrong. He knows he’ll never play ball again.

Today is for remembering never to let your guard down again, or you will get hurt.

Piggate

20 September (2015)

REX Features

Where were you when you found out that David Cameron had been accused of interfering with a dead animal?

I was on a nightbus coming back from visiting a friend and had become overcome with a bizarre foreboding dread when my phone lit up. Said friend had texted me demanding I “look at the internet. now.” Assuming that we’d either declared nuclear war, an incriminating photo from my youth had been leaked to the BBC or that one of my family members had just committed an unspeakable crime, I opened my browser in some distress.

The euphoric relief I felt on discovering that none of things had happened and that, in fact, our then Prime Minister had been accused of inserting his penis in an expired pig’s mouth was unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since.

Once, around the age of ten, I thought I’d witnessed my cat getting run over by a van and seen it’s guts splayed out into the air like horrible confetti. It turned out Tommy had scampered under the van at the same time as its back wheel had hit a stray binbag and the mog emerged unscathed.

Finding out that sordid allegations had been made about David Cameron’s university days instead of the horrific tragedy I’d inexplicably expected was somehow better.

It didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be real. Even though the man is a noted former member of Oxford’s elite wankers’ society the Bullingdon Club, whose members – among other things – are partial to burning £50 notes in front of the homeless, I couldn’t quite parse it. It seemed like something someone's dad makes up in the back of a pub, or like one of those hoax death rumours that seem to surround every children's TV presenter from your childhood.

But more and more verified sources began reporting it. It wasn’t just a rumour. It happened. The leader of one of the world’s biggest economies had sodomised a dead pig (Disclaimer: it might not have happened, draw your own conclusions.)

I was so giddy with excitable, uncontainable joy I wanted to be sick. I texted about ten other friends. I looked around and almost everyone on the bus had seemingly received the news at the same time. They were all also looking about themselves, equally astonished, trying to catch someone’s eye. Someone started laughing. Then we all started laughing. For ages. It was a unique moment of shared, spontaneous, communal ecstasy among total strangers that is otherwise exclusively reserved to sport, and even then they barely happen.

It is a perhaps damning indictment of our wider failing to engage with politics that Cameron’s lasting legacy probably won’t be the years of unnecessary austerity he enforced on a general public while simultaneously imposing welfare cuts, leading to a meteoric rise in food banks and homelessness; it won’t be that his reckless attempt to cement his legacy as our leader saw him agree to an EU referendum which has grave consequences for our economy both now and in the future; it will be a rumour that might as well have been written on the back of a toilet door.

All that being said, it was very funny. Regardless of whether he actually did perform that depraved sex act on a dead animal, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Dave for letting me and millions of hardworking Britons experience moments like that on the bus just once before we die.

John Major Gets Exposed As A Cheat

12 October (2002)

REX Features

There’s something ironically funny about John Major, the man whose “Back to basics” government essentially scapegoated single mothers as inherently evil for breaking up the nuclear family, being revealed to be a serial adulterer with another member of his own government. There’s something funny, but also deeply infuriating.

The revelations came out in 2002, five years after he had served his term, and his wife bizarrely forgave his four-year-long affair with Edwina Currie, which means he got away with dedicating his time in office to demonising women trying to raise children on their own completely unscathed – both politically and personally. It’s a sex scandal involving a man who pretty much made it his raison d'être in power to be anti-sex scandals.

Today is for assembling outside John Major’s house and rhythmically chanting extracts from Edwina Currie’s diaries until he runs outside, visibly shaken and evidently tumescent, floods of hot tears running down his shame-face and pleading forgiveness. 

Boris Johnson Rugby Tackles A Helpless Child

15 October (2015)

This is subtly but crucially different from the incident where Boris Johnson rugby tackled a German player in a charity football match, but the two need to be considered togethered. (May 3rd, 2006). Boris Johnson rugby tackling a German at a charity football match was embraced by the public. A big, blond, blundering old-school British toff running full pelt towards his opponent, fundamentally failing to understand the rules of football and still managing to get on over on them bloody Germans was an immediate sensation.

The clip seemed to embody our weird British patriotism; a pride in bullying others offset by being endearingly crap at the same time. We are the little guy sticking it right up ‘em in a distinctly Basil Fawlty way. In that moment Boris Johnson became Banter Johnson, regular panel show host, then London Mayor, then an MP and then one of the main figures in the Leave Campaign. Emboldened by his new persona, Banter Johnson could do whatever he pleased and the public would forgive him, the loveable rogue.

Nine years later, and Banter Johnson flattens another opponent as a PR opportunity, only this time his opponent was a ten-year-old Japanese boy. If there’s a starker reminder of the ludicrous farce of our political landscape, it’s that the man responsible for negotiating trade deals thought it would be a good bit of international diplomacy to nearly decapitate a schoolchild in Tokyo.

Boris Johnson trampling on a tiny infant in front of a crowd wasn’t so much moment we noticed the emperor had no clothes, as it was the moment the emperor pointed at his genitals and yelled “Look! I’ve got my dick out! And you can’t do anything about it! In fact, you love it!”

Then Brexit happened and Boris’ grab to become Prime Minister spectacularly exploded in his face. Then the politician who committed to publicly flattening other countries’ citizens, be they adult or child, found himself appointed Foreign Secretary as punishment. 15 October is a day to remember that Boris Johnson will now have to trash out negotiations in front of international statesman who don’t even trust him to play a simple game of touch rugby with their kids. 

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