Selectors for the Blob have chosen their 1st XV. Fans of The Game sometimes ask, as they do about Barbarians RFC: ‘Who are these people, do they have any supporters and who exactly pays them?’ Well, now we have the answer to at least that first question.
Full back: Sir Philip Barton, head of the diplomatic service. Recovering from injuries after a sticky select committee hearing on Afghanistan. Sometimes drops the ball but popular with professionals for telling civil servants not to work weekends or more than eight hours a day owing to dangers of ‘burn-out’. Was holidaying at a family château in the Dordogne while Afghanistan was crumbling. Good to see a man lead by example.
Left wing: Former Guardian editor Dame Alan Rusbridger. The wily veteran punts the pig’s bladder upfield and gets the rest of the Twitterati to chase it, no matter if in touch or not. Had a stint at California’s Facebook. So delicate an ethicist would not normally mingle with naked capitalism but, as Dame Alan sighed, they needed someone of Olympian wisdom to improve themselves and protect humanity. And the money was good.
Right wing: Andrew Mitchell MP, ex-Tory whip who huffs and howls every time small-tax Tories try to trim the international aid budget. Any cut, avers ‘Mitch’, will result in hungry aid executives begging in Mayfair with flies on their faces. Mitchell is sponsored by charities such as Spin-Docteurs Sans Frontiers but the BBC, when denouncing lobbying, somehow forgets to mention this.
Outside centre: Sir Geoffrey Vos, new Master of the Rolls. Ran in an unexpected try against Fleet Street. The reptiles thought they could report freely on the Blessed Meghan. Vos put a stop to that. The judgment, arguendo, could buttress privacy laws for the boss class and their libel lawyers ab initio ad coelum de jure. Delighted Blob fans chanted: ‘VG, GV.’
Inside centre: Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the DCMS, who stays match-fit by pedalling a Peloton something like 30 hours a day. Healey drafts shortlists for the juiciest quango sinecures. One twitch of her cruel eyebrow, one leak of her fountain pen, and a ‘favoured candidate’ is dead goat. New Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has posed testing questions in open play but Healey’s cat-gut hamstrings, taut as ukulele strings, should see her home.
Fly half: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (capt, ex-officio). This time last year there were worries about the mercurial young playmaker, a former aide to the Cambridges. He was reportedly close to Dominic Cummings — a bad influence on any dressing room — and seemed to lack tactical acumen. Cummings went, Case developed a jinking sidestep and, now asked to conduct an inquiry into Christmas ‘gatherings’ at No. 10, he is well positioned to leverage territorial gains out of a wounded PM. Bearded. Smells faintly of Signal toothpaste.
Scrum half: The distributor position. Virginia Bottomley, ex-cabinet minister, works for headhunters Odgers. This makes her one of the most popular members of the Lords. Stay in Ginny’s good books and you’ll land that delicious quango job! The bluestocking was once PPS to Chris Patten and a council member of Ditchley. A cousin of the Jays and the (Tristram) Hunts plus manic Remainer Lord Oakeshott, she is married to burbling bore and Father of the Commons Sir Peter Bottomley. More connections than Crewe junction.
Props: Peter Riddell and Julia Middleton. The sturdy Riddell is long versed in the front-row art of applying the boot while refs looks the other way. Learned his craft at the FT and later had a fruitful (for him) spell at the Institute for Government, the Blob’s answer to Sandhurst. As public appointments commissioner, he made sure no unwashed bushmen (e.g. that appalling fellow Dacre) made it past the quango barriers. Middleton’s Common Purpose ‘charity’ teaches middle-rank pushers how to be ‘leaders’ and has been propping up the establishment for years.
Hooker: It was close between two thespy leftists. The National Theatre’s Rufus Norris was favourite until torpedoed by stinking reviews of his latest shows. They may have done for him. Shriti ‘the Shriek’ Vadera, a Labour peer, gets the nod because, as new chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she may get to choose the RSC’s artistic managers for the next decade.
Second row: No surprises, Covid enforcers Jenny Harries and Sir Jeremy Farrar are selected. Harries has been the authentic, warbly, officious voice of the finger-wagging public health sector, telling us to wear masks even after she admitted the evidence they did much good was iffy. When ministers flirted with liberalism, she and Farrar, the Sage scientist paid half a million a year, yanked them back into order and made sure the rest of us continued to be denied our freedoms.
Flankers: He may sometimes play with the wrong-shaped ball but Marcus Rashford, the multimillionaire football star who lectures the rest of us about poverty, creates counterattacks from unlikely positions. Che Guevara enthusiast Jess Brammar earns the other spot after becoming executive news editor at — cough — the impartial BBC. Brammar’s Tooting Popular Front views may be a little vigorous for Blob palates but in her new role she can make sure the population is fed a diet of gloom and disaster. Invaluable.
Number 8: The National Trust once offered Sunday Express readers a harmless day out at a stately home with a cup of tea and slice of walnut cake afterwards. Recent executives such as director-general Hilary McGrady have put twee-ness to the sword and turned the Trust’s historic sites into Marxist re-education camps worthy of a Solzhenitsyn novel. Disown the past! Re-interpret the future! And if Charles Moore tries to cause trouble, bite his ear!
Substitutes: Most Revd J.P. Welby; G.W. Lineker; R.J.N. ‘Rory’ Stewart, A. Adonis; D.L. Willetts (Resolution Foundation Wanderers); A.W.S. Marr; the entire front row of the Trussell Trust; J. Birt; J.T.D. Maugham QC.
Match sponsors: Stonewall.
Referee: J.S. Bercow (EU)
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