Have yourself a killjoy Christmas
In the second round of nominations, spiked approaches the great and the good in the ongoing quest to expose the King of the Killjoys 2006.
Nominations have flooded in to name and shame the chief miserablist of 2006 - that sour faced person or institution who has done most to spread doom and gloom about humanity and firmly stamp the F U into ‘fun’ for all the rest of us. From the Lib Dem call to curb Christmas cheer on Oxford Street, to Newcastle City Council’s war against conker-creating chestnut trees, there has been no shortage of candidates. This week, spiked has sampled the opinions of celebrities and commentators on who’s done their utmost to make our lives drearier in the past 12 months.
One name that tripped off the lips, again and again, was that of inveterate party pooper, Ken Livingstone. The man who wants Londoners to ration their toilet flushes and their driving, must be bookies favourite for the title having earned the nomination of, amongst many others, writer Alan Sillitoe. The author of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning was particularly incensed by the widening of the congestion charge to West London. In fact, Sillitoe struggles for a single nomination: ‘It’s hard to know who’s the most miserable.’ He opines, ‘They’ve banned fox hunting, they’d like to ban tobacco, alcohol, sex - everything. They’re just a pack of miserablists in government these days. They want to ban all the joys of people’s lives.’
Agony aunt Virginia Ironside also nominated Livingstone because he acts ‘ruthlessly… and is slowly destroying London in the name of “greenness”’. Ironside also offers honourable mentions to Bob Geldof and Sir James Lovelock. Lovelock she highlights as triggering the current obsession with ‘greenness’ that allows Livingstone to ride roughshod over 4x4 drivers. Throughout the ages ‘human beings have always wanted an apocalypse,’ she explains. The latest variation on the theme is that ‘we have consumed so much fossil fuel the world is coming to an end. It seems too neat, this whole thing’. Geldof gets the nod for spreading a sort of ‘we are all to blame’ about Africa ethic through Live Aid: ‘I hate being manipulated emotionally in a direction that I don’t think has been properly worked out.’
Former Express and Independent editor, Rosie Boycott, nominated Prince Charles and home secretary John Reid for being ‘particularly dreary’ this year. She holds Prince Charles responsible for putting the kybosh on a host of modern building projects with his championing of antiquated architecture, explaining: he’s trying to ‘push the architectural landscape back into Regency times’. Conservative MP and former minister Ann Widdecombe lobbed in a last minute nomination for Chelmsford Cathedral, which is to replace ‘candles with safety glow light sticks’ at its annual Christingle service. According to Chelmsford Cathedral, the organisers ‘felt last year that there were too many tiny children crowded into the Cathedral with lighted candles placed in oranges and so an adjustment was arranged.’ (1) What festive fun the kiddies at Chelmsford have to look forward to!
Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins, meanwhile, nominates the local government Audit Commission, or as he prefers to call it, ’ the national red-tape factory’: ‘for reducing every local public service to a standard measurement of its own concept of quality. Its relentless targets and league tables squeeze every ounce of initiative and imagination out of public administration so as, (in the words of Alexander Pope) “to bring to one dead level every mind”.’ Almost as if by response, novelist J.G Ballard nominates Simon Jenkins himself, ‘because he’s always complaining. He’s a powerful writer who seems to find everything wrong with the world’ which Ballard finds amusing, coming ‘from the greatest supporter of the Millennium Dome’.
Others, however, felt that they couldn’t in all conscience nominate anyone as a miserablist, explaining that in the current political climate misery is utterly justified. Conservative columnist Peter Hitchens thus nominated himself, writing: ‘Why should I be cheerful? We have an education system that cannot teach children to read, or give them any exercise but drugs thousands of small boys with powerful chemicals to make them sit still in their boring classrooms…’ before railing against the criminal justice system, the health service, the government’s deceit over Iraq, the trade deficit, milky coffee, rail fares, consumer debt, binge drinking and reality TV. Sorry, Peter. Merely being miserable doesn’t count - you have to impose that misery on everyone else to receive this particular gong. And you can’t vote for yourself anyway.
Even the Duke of Depression himself, Morrissey, has worked that out. At a recent concert in London, he apparently launched a broadside on the celebrity chef with the one-man mission to lecture us all on how to feed our children: ‘There are just three problems with modern Britain: first – Jamie Oliver, second – Jamie Oliver and third – Jamie Oliver’.
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Amen to that (but not in Chelmsford Cathedral, of course).
Who’s the miserabilist of them all?, by Brendan O’Neill
(1) Cathedral puts out the flames of Christingle, Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2006