The Smear Test

In a change to his advertised column, Sir Eugene Nicks of the All-Portsea Conservative, Regressive and Imperial Association (established 1799) reacts to the recent news about the Tory smear scandal.

My lords, ladies and gentlemen, you may lately have become savvy about the ghastly behaviour of some or fewer of my chums over at the Council. I condemn these un-Tory and un-Portsmouthian activities with all the brandy in my veins.

Is that their idea of a smear campaign? What amateurs! They went nowhere near far enough. In my political days we didn’t flannel about with accusing an enemy of organising some lefty prank she didn’t actually organise. No, we’d get those brylcreemed boys from military intelligence in to do a proper job of bugging, burgling and – in extremis – assassinating her until she had a bally good re-think about her conduct.

We had that crumbly old pipe-fiddler the Marquess of Bennshire’s phones tapped until our chap on the headphones got so bored of hearing about tea and shoshalishm – whatever that is – he hurled himself off London Bridge. When democratic means failed – and it’s such a lark when they do – to keep that other pipe-o-phile (Harry Quillston was it? I can barely remember yesterday let alone whenever he was around) out of Number 10, we even got the tanks out for a spin. What japes! Our message to that pork pie-loving technocrat was this: sorry old boy, you may have won some trifling little general election or other but we the establishment don’t much care for the shade of your plus-fours. Far too red, I’m afraid. Off you sod. There’s a good fellow.

And in my era we certainly didn’t tell the foe in advance what we were about to inflict on them. That’s about as foolhardy as trying to explain the concept of civilisation to someone from Southampton. Well all right, we weren’t perfect. There was that one incident when old Tarquin Spendt-Bullitt accidentally posted a detailed map of Madam T*’s bedroom directly to the IRA. Oh, and that other time when Sergei Traitorov – ‘Spanner’ we dubbed him in the fifth form on account of the strange and exotic things he could do with a hacksaw – stood on top of the Berlin Wall and shouted the coordinates of all our nuclear submarines in the general direction of Moscow. We should have guessed a lot earlier from that slightly foreign-sounding name of his that he may not have altogether entirely been one of us.

Something else that’s different these days is that slander schemes seem to play out in some shady foreign territory that, so I understand, doesn’t really exist apart from as an electrical signal on people’s visual wirelesses and patent alloy Babbage machines. Interweb-on-Sea, I believe it’s called. I know little about the place, but I am reliably informed that it’s even more appalling than Southampton.

Apparently, Interweb-on-Sea is inhabited by peculiar troll-like creatures who send ungallant messages to innocent civilians via Morse code and carrier pigeon. Rendered in an inferior version of the Queen’s English, such missives abuse the elementary rules of grammar as often as they abuse the honour and dignity of the fairer sex. Zoologists have determined that these beasts lose all their social skills by about middle age and end up gobbling enough anti-melancholia tinctures to send a Sopwith Camel to Pluto and back.

At least these PCC hobbledehoys understand the first rule of politics: you stand by your policies even if 99% of the public think they’re utterly loopy. With the benefit of hindsight I now believe that my decision back in ’83 to privatise myself was several stops short of Sanity Street. When a consortium of private equity firms from Shanghai started bidding for my chin and lower abdomen, there was the predictable outcry amongst the Bolshie bed-wetting brigade.

‘You can’t sell off bits of human beings!’ they whined.

‘But it’s the grand finale to the wondrous magic show that is monetarism!’ I howled back.

A few weeks later they got out on the byways and thoroughfares to demand that my big toe be re-nationalised in order to fund holidays to Ibiza for fallen women of ill-fame and young jackanapes who’d never seen outside a gin palace.

‘This is the unacceptable face of capitalism!’ they whined.

‘We’ve barely scratched the surface!’ I howled back from my hot air balloon, which was hovering above the crowd. I finally dispersed the cross-eyed commie curs by pouring blue rinse and caviar over their heads.

As soon as we heard that more protests were planned we unleashed the full force of the state on ’em: the Whips, the Black Rod and the Cricket Bat with Rusty Nails Sticking Out of It. No idea what happened to the ringleader but I’m told he now lives in an immobilised mobility scooter on the outskirts of Wymering.

Of course one must be equally vigilant about the enemy within; those in one’s own ranks who cannot be trusted. I was called back into service briefly under IBS to deal with that froth-lipped anarcho-syndicalist Ben Clarkey-Clarksworth. He was bang against taking out Johnny Foreigner and having a crack at Bongo-Bongo Land when, as you’ll recall, President Foreigner was forty-five minutes away from wiping us all out with Bongo-Bongo Land’s superior arsenal of pop-guns and water pistols. But fortunately I didn’t need to intervene – Ben’s love of jazz and cigars was deemed so passé by even the Conservative Party that he got nowhere in the leadership joust later that year.

No doubt our esteemed Civic-Colonial Governess who runs the whole show is busy dealing with what our American cousins quaintly call the ‘blowback’ from this scandal. Let me offer her some advice. And this time, dear lady, LISTEN! You have a bad habit for gaffes – the worst one before this the act of treason you committed when you painted the big wobbly boondoggle in the colours of Beelzebub himself – so I’d politely suggest that, from now on, you remain chary of your gob. Muzzle it, zip it up or even chloroform it, if needs be. Just don’t speak with it because that always drops you into a pickle, doesn’t it.

Learn from that other great Portsmouth Conservative – and close chum of mine – Peter Griffiths. He happily and quietly served as MP for Portsmouth North for a whopping 23 years precisely because he stayed mum about ‘the Smethwick slogan’ from earlier in his career. Of course I always thought that was just a harmless spot of horseplay, but the incense-snorting, sandal-stroking PC-KGB got in a jolly fuss about it. Had old Pete responded, he’d have only made it worse.

Let me finish by saying that the most curious thing about this whole affair is why these dullards would bother using a croquet mallet to crush a hazelnut. Why invite all this scrutiny and risk a nice, safe wheeze-for-life by gunning for minnows? Unless, of course, they have something juicy to hide. I do hope that’s the case; it’ll be much more fun.

After all, I only ever set the trolls, orcs and goblins – or the equivalent back then – on those who were getting uncomfortably close to sussing me out and ruining everything. I’m not at liberty to divulge what there was to suss out other than to say that there aren’t many public figures from Portsmouth who can claim to have ‘done the double’ i.e. been acquitted by both the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. Only I have that honour.


*May her name be praised.


Photography by Moshe Tasky.