Who should be crowned King of the Killjoys?

From turning off the Christmas lights to cutting down conker trees: we want your nominations for Miserabilist of the Year.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

Oxford Street – that usually drab avenue of book, music and sock shops that snakes through central London – only looks nice for a couple of months a year, when some has-been pop band switches on its Christmas lights. The street comes to life, lifted out of its daily greyness by dazzling displays of red, green and blue arching over the road. I’m sure it even helps to lift shoppers’ spirits. How else do you explain the relatively low levels of Last-Minute Christmas Present Rage when people like me make a mad dash for the stores at 8pm on 24 December?

So it would take a pretty miserable sod, a cantankerous git of the highest order, to call for the lights to be switched off. Step forward the Liberal Democrats. This week, not seven days after All Saints (what did I tell you about has-been pop bands?) switched them on, a Lib Dem spokesman on the environment said they should be switched off, at least at night, and insisted that all bulbs used in future displays should be low-energy.

He worked out that leaving the lights on 24/7 for 59 days – from 9 November to 6 January – will send 80 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, the equivalent to the lifetime emissions of two cars that do 30 miles to the gallon. (Who said the Lib Dems don’t play a useful public role?) And if Oxford Street isn’t prepared to switch the lights off, then its retailers should at least ‘offset the carbon produced by planting 400 trees’, advised the green grinches of the yellow party (1).

Welcome to miserabilist Britain, where you can’t even have a seasonal lights show without someone trying to pull the plug; where it sometimes seems as though politicians of all persuasions are competing to see who can slap the fattest guilt tax on anything nice or fun or pleasurable. This latest outburst of joy-killing by the Lib Dems has it all: the ‘bah, humbug!’ sentiment of a Christmas-hating Scrooge; the anti-shopping prejudices of middle-class activists; and that cynical tactic of ‘sending a message’ to the apparently greedy and uncaring public by focusing on a flashpoint issue (no pun intended) that is bound to hit the headlines.

spiked is taking a stand against these sad sourpusses by launching a competition to name the Miserabilist of the Year, the King of the Killjoys, the man or woman who has done most to spread doom and gloom about humanity and its habits in 2006. We’re thinking of those who dress up austerity in green garb, demanding that we do less, consume less, eat less and have fun less in the name of reducing our carbon bootprint on the planet’s face forever. In their view, holidays are wasteful, shopping is a sin, leaving your TV on is an indicator of extreme moral turpitude, and getting around on anything other than a pushbike is a grime against humanity©.

We’re thinking of those health and safety officials who in attempting to ban accidents are effectively banning life. Newcastle City Council is surely a contender for the Miserabilist of the Year award after it sent men in cranes to strip the city’s horse chestnut trees of their nuts, lest local children risk life and limb by climbing up in search of conkers. ‘By taking the conkers off the problem trees it reduces the chances of kids getting hurt’, said Steve Charlton of Newcastle’s environmental services last month (2). By the same reasoning you may as well chop down all trees (in 2004 South Tyneside Borough Council actually did chop down conker trees, in order to put a stop to the pesky schoolyard game), dismantle playgrounds and hang ‘Danger: do not enter!’ signs on the gates to football and netball pitches, as that would also reduce the chances of kids ever getting hurt.

And we’re thinking of the new moralists who view sexual and social encounters between Ordinary People (aarrgh!) as potentially toxic and in need of policing. Yes that means you, the filthy-minded public health officials of New Labour whose latest big wheeze is to make carrying a condom as common as carrying a mobile phone amongst young people. Why? Because, as suggested by their posters showing a young man’s Y-fronts with the words ‘I’ve got chlamydia’ across them, we’re all dirty and diseased (3). And it means you, too, Conservative leader David Cameron, who says the authorities should have the guts to intervene in city centres where there are ‘high levels of drunkenness’ – that is, to shut down a Saturday night (4).

Let us expose these grouches who think fun is a four-letter word. Send me 150 words on your Miserabilist of the Year, explaining why he or she deserves our award, and in late December I will reveal the winner (or should that be whiner?). Email me at {encode=”” title=””}.

Visit Brendan O’Neill’s website here.

(1) London’s early festive lights turn greens into grinches, Christian Science Monitor, 16 November 2006

(2) Everyone’s going conkers, Brendan O’Neill, Christian Science Monitor, 14 November 2006

(3) See How the condom became a metaphor for caution, by Jennie Bristow

(4) Forget Tory boy, Conservatives are cool now, Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2006

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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