I’ve started donating to Oxfam. Here’s why.

jacob-rees-mogg-916644

I’ve never worked for Oxfam, and – although I’m on nodding terms with some of the staff in the extremely well-stocked Dalston outlet – I don’t know anyone who currently does. The moment I realised that most of the concern about Oxfam’s hamfisted attempts to handle allegations of inappropriate behaviour by individuals within its employ was when a local newspaper harrassed volunteers in a local shop, and then tried to present it as part of a cover-up – a ‘wall of silence‘.

It is puerile, salacious and utterly irresponsible to take serious events and present them in a way which will encourage misunderstanding and subsequent condemnation. While Harvey Weinstein was a Hollywood movie producer whose career ended suddenly when it was revealed that he had a sordid history of sexually abusing woman and had made concerted efforts to cover it up, Oxfam is not an individual celebrity. It is a huge organisation operating in all sorts of ways and which sometimes makes mistakes. That is the complex reality behind the prurient headlines and the gossip which follows them.

A moment’s reflection confirms that the suggestion that Oxfam as an individual organisation is engaged in a systematic campaign, at every level from senior management to volunteers in local shops, to abuse vulnerable people within its care would be risible if it didn’t have such deadly consequences. Today it transpires that the Swedish Government is to withdraw its funding from the organisation. Now, I don’t believe the world will be righted through acts of charity – most people who work for NGOs probably don’t believe this either. With some notable but dishonourable exceptions (as in any cause), they are intelligent and sincere people doing the very best they can in a partly haphazard fashion. In Oxfam’s case, of the handful of arseholes who behaved irresponsibly, the procedures to identify and hold them accountable could have been more rigorous and transparent. But that doesn’t make for a very good headline – and as the organisation’s CEO has said, some of those asking questions about what happened, particularly on the BBC, don’t seem especially interested in the answers.

The characters who are doing most to promote this story and spin the original allegations out of all proportion and context do not believe in foreign aid. Sensible people should be able to see through their agenda. It’s likely that the attacks on the work – indeed the very existence – of NGOs will continue. A mostly insincere prurient interest into the machinations of individuals employed by them will almost certainly play a major role in disarming vulnerable people of this weapon employed (admittedly, on their behalf) in the fight for justice and survival. Other lines of attack will emerge, partly through a media which the global far-right – from Jacob Rees-Mogg to Donald Trump – will happily dismiss as ‘fake news’ the moment it turns its attention to its figureheads.

Discrediting NGOs is part of the same act as defunding international organisations, and part of the same ideological sweep which urges the public to disregard the work of serious news organisations. We could also link it to the way in which anger at the financial system and at those who had encouraged its profligacy was rapidly diverted into rage at public representatives, how fury at million dollar bonuses was converted into outrage at hundreds wasted on duck houses. That masterstroke by the defenders of privilege and inequality was one source of the disenchantment with the entire democratic system which led to Brexit. So it’s no accident whatsoever that those who successfully scapegoated the EU and are dead-set on seizing their chance to create a deregulatory Year Zero are gunning for NGOs. As I mentioned above, I don’t believe that organisations such as Oxfam will ‘save the world’, just as I don’t think that the EU is all that it could or should be. I do believe that huge bureaucracies dedicated to protecting vulnerable people should ensure that their staff behave in accordance with their principles. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s not what these attacks on Oxfam are about.

America: Your political stability is secondary to the survival of the human species

n_msnbc_shitholecountries_180111_1920x1080.jpg

Although I don’t come from nor live in the US, I have written before about how much I enjoy visiting and meeting its people. What follows is written in a spirit of friendship as well as frustration.

I see that #howtofixtrumpinfivewords is currently trending. Here’s my suggestion:

Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy, Trump.

This is the thing: I don’t understand why Donald Trump is still alive. I can’t work out how, in a country which has so many weapons and where people are supposedly so attached to the constitutionally-hallowed ideals of Freedom and Democracy, no one has had the courage to act in accordance with those values.

The US is known as the Land of the Brave. Well, America, that’s not how it looks from the outside. I’m getting the impression that your population is made up of 280 million cowards. Maybe you’re all hoping that some aggrieved Haitian or Salvadoran will redeem you. Well, that would make sense. Contract the jobs you can’t be bothered to do out to some ‘shithole’ third world country.

I guess you’re concerned about the possibility of another civil war. Well, I’m worried about a world war. I’m terrified about a planet run by and for criminally insane demagogues with genocidal racist belief systems and access to infinitely destructive weaponry. This is something you have to stop happening. At this point, it doesn’t really matter how you do it. This has gone too far. Trump speaks and acts in your name.

I had an odd thought today: how many movies have I seen, stories have I read, conversations have I been part of on the theme of if-I-had-a-time-machine-I’d-go-back-and-kill-Hitler. Well, here we are. What do you need*? More target practice? Are you waiting for someone with a loudhailer to shout ‘action’? Do you think that people in the mid-’30s put all their hopes in the mid-terms, or prayed that the judicial system would stave off tyranny? Would that have been enough?

There’s a press conference taking place right now in the White House. Various correspondents are reporting on Trump’s (predictably) hypocritical words about MLK. They don’t seem to have realised that the event is being broadcast live, so their on-the-spot reports are moot. Keen to preserve their precious status as insiders, they’re silently expressing their dissent via Twitter. Hence, no one has had the courage to make a scene.

America: forget Twitter. That’s Trump’s chosen medium. It suits him perfectly – regardless of how many seditious hashtags trend, he comes out winning within his bubble, and so do you. It’s no more real than shadows on the wall of a cave, and as forms of protest go it’s only slightly more meaningful than shouting at the TV – in fact, the very best moments on Twitter can usefully be compared to the joy of doing so collectively. If you insist on restricting your political activity to social media, you will always lose, even as you believe otherwise. You need to be braver.

How then should you respond? Take a risk: put up posters, distribute leaflets and form a resistance group in the area where you live. Put social media to good use by connecting with other such groups to organise a massive march on Washington. This will require direct occupation, confrontation  and personal danger, and you need to make sure you don’t face it alone.

Please, don’t sit and wait in hope that November will bring the nightmare to an end. Historically, for the sake of the past and the future, and geographically, on behalf of all of us who don’t live in the US and whose own struggles and life chances are being jeopardised in your name, you have no right to be so blasé and passive.

Alternatively, try taking your cue from Hollywood, from all those movies that preach political violence as a form of redemption. So many heroes and superheroes risking their individual lives and freedom for their ideals, blasting their enemies to smithereens in the process. It doesn’t happen very much in real life, but maybe something like it needs to happen now. Perhaps one of those individuals who argued, against the pleading of their more circumspect peers, that it ‘didn’t matter’ who won the election might like to, you know, step up and try to redeem themselves. America is, after all, in desperate need of a hero.

*Some have argued in response that such a suggestion is ‘immoral’. Well, here’s a short extract from a conversation that has never, ever taken place:

Person 1: You know what I’d do if I had a time machine? I’d go back and kill Hitler.

Person 2: But that would be immoral/might lead to a catastrophic outcome/etc.

Epiphany

​A Worker Reads History

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.

(Berthold Brecht)

(Fernando Pessoa, ‘The Book of Disquiet’)

People who wouldn’t dream of denying the Holocaust or Climate Change are denying the war in Iraq

Fifteen years ago my country participated in an illegal invasion which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, orphaned countless numbers of children, created millions of refugees, and wholly undermined and discredited international institutions and the global rule of law. On the basis of very many conversations with compatriots over the years, I believe that the sense of disillusionment with parliamentary democracy which it generated also contributed to the fateful decision of my fellow citizens to leave the EU.

Yet, in 2018, I see people who regard themselves as progressives denying that the war had anything other than minor consequences. Defenders of one of the war’s main architects seem keen to dismiss it as little more than a detail of history, a minor stain on Blair’s otherwise spotless record. I have even seen one person claim that those who opposed the war were delighted that it took place as it served to discredit Blair. We are regularly accused of having an unhealthy, irrational and bizarre fixation, of ignoring the Labour governments’ record on all other issues in order to pursue a personal and petty vendetta.

I’m used to British people denying their own history, playing down the horrors of the slave trade, the opium wars, the brutal repression of colonial populations and so on. Doing so is generally a preserve of the right. Over the last few years it’s been disheartening to see how ubiquitous empire, climate and even holocaust denial have become on the now less-remote fringes of British politics. It’s an ideology according to which the suffering of others is not worthy of consideration or concern. The progressive traditions in British society – both liberal and Labour – are supposed to stand for something better.

Blair’s position on Brexit is, I believe, a sensible, even laudable one. Britain has been led to the edge of a cliff and is showing every sign of hurling itself off. However, there are very solid reasons why he is not widely trusted, and thus his role in creating the circumstances that led us to Brexit cannot be ignored. They partly lie in a refusal to address our history. Farage et al dismiss the blood-soaked legacy of the British Empire, based on an ideology that says the experiences of foreigners is a minor price to have paid for far greater glories. Insisting, as I have seen many do online, that the consequences of much more recent violent adventurism by the British State in our name are of little concern and that Blair’s reputation must be evaluated independently of them, implies not only a failure to acknowledge certain inconvenient truths about how Blair is – despite his undoubted success in other areas – viewed throughout British society. It also represents a deeply obnoxious and very British refusal to face up to our historical responsibilities. It betrays a set of values which aren’t actually all that remote from those of the unapologetic neo-imperialists who have, by concocting a venomous slow-cooked stew of deep-seated xenophobia mixed with legitimate resentment, suspicion and frustration, led us to Brexit. And as for those who argue that the Iraq War was ‘a very long time ago’ and has no relevance today, one can only assume they have never lost a child nor learnt a single thing about history. 

I’ve seen it for myself: Corbyn’s thugs are getting even younger, and becoming much more dangerous

Difficult as it is to write, I’ve come to believe Ben Goldsmith. He recently gave a shocking account, much derided on social media, of how a West London social gathering he was attending was rudely gatecrashed by a gang of Corbynista hoodlums, fresh from commemorating the Grenfell tragedy in their inimitably rowdy fashion.  Like most, I doubted from the lack of evidence that events actually took place in accordance with his retelling of them, but now I’ve seen up close how the Momentum faction operates and just how young some of its firebrand activists are, I feel inclined to believe that he may have been telling the truth.

Here’s what I experienced. I’d ask that you reserve judgment of me and my story until you’ve read what I have to say and seen the photographic evidence for yourself. I’m not by any means what anyone would regard as a Tory and I wouldn’t fit comfortably into any meaningful definition of a ‘centrist’. I’m a Labour Party member, I voted for Corbyn in 2015 and I’ve read the Guardian religiously all my life.(Possibly too religiously, if my shrine to Aditya Chakrabortty is anything to go by.)

As it happens, this whole furore started because of newspapers. I’ve recently been trying to vary my media diet (with mixed results), and so when I happened upon a copy of The Times in a local (Islington) café, I started to peruse the news section. Now, I’d be put out if anyone took me for a regular reader, but I was still entirely unprepared for the (in my opinion) utterly unwarranted response of a very young person who was sitting nearby. She or he (it’s getting hard to tell the difference nowadays!) wasn’t wearing any visible insignia of allegiance to Corbyn’s sect of ruffians, but from her age and rebellious demeanour it was clear that she had been seized by some sort of radical fervour.

You may feel disinclined to doubt my words. We do after all live in an age of fake news and highly sophisticated ideological manipulation. I can only urge you to believe the evidence of your own eyes; the following photos constitute an absolutely accurate and unadulterated record of exactly what happened. 

Happy new year, fuck the Tories.

Merry Christmas, f*ck your blue passports!!!

featuredphoto-678x381

I’m at Fiumicino airport queuing to get on the plane to go back to the UK for Christmas. Word comes down the line that there isn’t enough space for all the hand luggage. This makes sense. Most people travel with far too much stuff these days. Between me, my (Italian) wife and her parents (who’ve gone on ahead) we’re transporting seven bags of various shapes and sizes, containing not just the standard four hundred adaptors and chargers and six hundred panettoni but also rabbits, bears, elephants, one human infant and enough nappies to feed a nappy-eating army.

However, the news that our suitcases will need to go in the hold doesn’t go down at all well with the people ahead of me in the corridor, particularly with a posh-sounding woman and her friend from Liverpool, which is where we’re flying to. They’re annoyed at the apparent incompetence of the staff, who should (how?) have anticipated such an eventuality.

Someone of the attendants come to explain. Although it’s a Romanian airline, both the attendants seem to be French and don’t appear to speak Italian. This also makes sense, because English is the international language of air travel, and they probably spend their days dashing round between random European cities. It’s not a problem, or at least it shouldn’t be, because the queue is mostly composed of people flying home for the holidays.

Personally I’m not bothered by the slight inconvenience. We’ve got to pick up check-in luggage at the other end anyway. But behind me there’s a bald man in his forties with a strong English accent, which is unfortunate because he’s insisting on speaking Italian even though the flight attendant doesn’t understand it. Yoh facho kwesto veyagio chentoh voltey per anoh, he’s complaining. I-ya nev-ah ave-ah such-ah an-ah aysperience-ah. It’s basically the equivalent of the unwittingly hilarious foreign accents that we British love to take the piss out of, and I’ve done so in the past in class, for example by getting Spanish students to speak English with the strongest Spanish accents they can muster in order to focus on the differences. My compatriot fellow passenger sounds like someone who Has Mastered The Language, Thank You Very Much, and now expects to be honoured for it, even when (as in this situation) using it is redundant to the point of farce.

The attendant who is patiently dealing with his unreasonable requests speaks perfectly servicable English, albeit with a mild Inspector Clouseau accent. He’s polite and helpful. However, the Liverpudlian woman in front of me is also complaining about the situation, which she says typifies Italy, and she should know, because She Lives Here. She emphasises this point by repeatedly telling any Italians within earshot that ‘Non c’è logico in questo paese‘ – there’s no logic in this country. Beh, maybe she needs to focus a bit more on her grammatico. Or, as the Italians say, grammatica, which is their word for grammar, much as their word for logic, a word which their civilisation derived from Greek, is logica. Maybe she should just say what she wants to say in English, which after all is her language and which everyone present seems to speak perfectly well. Perhaps, while she’s at it, she might want to avoid making crass generalisations on the basis of a specific situation which doesn’t even have much to do with Italy per se.

In fact, another fellow passenger (Italian) helpfully intervenes, in perfect English. He explains that it’s not unusual and not really an inconvenience. It’s happened to him a dozen or so times. (He actually uses the word ‘dozen’.) She’s listening to him (I think she, you know, gets the gist) but is still responding in the language of Dante Alighieri and Joe Dolce.

I suspect that the woman, whose command of Italian is actually pretty commendable (quite possibly better than mine), may work as an English teacher. I’m basing on two things, which are actually one: 1) I myself am an English teacher 2) I’m given to projecting my own bad habits onto others. I have, on countless occasions in the past, bolstered my sense of self-worth by insisting on speaking foreign languages when it was completely unnecessary to do so, even though I make my living by helping, indeed encouraging, foreigners to speak English.

The friendly Italian man is presumably choosing to speak English in case there are people present who don’t understand Italian. It’s completely reasonable to assume that I might be one of those people. After all, you don’t get much more an international environment than an airport. Plus there’s the not-insignificant fact that we’re boarding a plane to England. (Maybe he even lives there.) It’s a linguistically fraught situation for those who see their command of foreign languages as a notch on the bedpost of their identity. I’ve written before about my own anxiety around language borders, whether in Portugal, Germany, Mexico, or Italy. I feel belittled and rejected when I’m trying to speak another language and someone switches to English. When I speak another language I feel like I’m making a claim, and desperately want to be recognised, validated. Who, after all, wants to be bloody British?!

The woman’s comment about ‘this country‘ also riled me, because in its petty-minded resentfulness I recognise my own bad habits. I’ve said things like this, probably even this week. Two hours ago I was stomping around the airport looking for a non-existent Terminale 2, cursing whoever designed the airport. Last week doing my application for citizenship I was damning in the strongest terms whichever stronzetto had devised the seemingly interminable and irrelevant questions. While doing my tax documents in Mexico a couple of years back I probably at certain points sounded to any purported eavesdropper like a proto-Donald Trump. It’s very, very easy to essentialise, to attribute any minor inconvenience to the entire people and culture of the country where one finds oneself.

She’s now explaining to us in English, from the perspective of someone who knows everything about Italy, that it takes some adjustment to live here. In England things work…differently, she says. Meaning: better. Meaning: My country is better than this one, the one I’ve chosen to make homeNon c’è logico, she repeats. But it looks beautiful and tastes nice, and that’s all that matters.

I’ve derided the expat mentality before, and it seems that here we have a living and whining embodiment of it. But maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps she’s had a bad morning. Travelling is stressful, especially when at any given moment someone might – horror of horrors! address you in your own language. So I respond, in a jocular but pointed fashion, that at least people here don’t get worked up about the colour of their passports.

She might have laughed, but maybe she’s not from the same tribe as me. Apparently someone tried to have a ‘Brexit conversation’ with her in her hotel this morning at 7.30. I feel tempted to point out that it’s a very common topic of conversation. People around the world are confused by a country whose good sense they respected doing something so clearly harmful to its own interests. A lot of people in Italy look to all northern countries as emblematic instances of organisation and good sense. I could point this out, but the stewards are here with the sticky labels for our bags. I thank them profusely in English, a language I’ve spoken all my life and taught for the last twenty years. Such people have been funding my lifestyle for two decades; it’s also foreign students that keep my hometown (Sheffield) in existence.

I get on the plane and tell my wife about what happened. It strikes me it would make an entertaining thing to write about on the strictly (well, hopefully) non-whiny expat blog that I keep. I start to take notes but then remember that we have parental duties to attend to and also that we have a long journey ahead and my phone only has 48% of battery life left. What a depressing number.

The girl next to us looks Turkish but turns out to be from Moldova. She speaks no English or Italian and my Romanian is limited to place names and words like seatbelt and fasten which I can see translated on the back of the seat in front. She seems not to have flown before, judging by her confusion upon that she can’t make phone calls once we’ve taken off. Despite the linguistic barriers, she’s brilliant at engaging with the baby and distracting her from her favourite game of Let’s Take Daddy-Waddy’s Glasses Off. (Her other hobby on aeroplanes is ripping up  inflight magazines, publications which I had thought existed in order to sell high-end nick-nacks and trips to more glamorous destinations, but whose main purpose is I now realise, to give parents a bit of a break.) Across the aisle there’s a guy reading an article in La Repubblica headlined ‘Russia, Iran e altri exploit del gaffeur Boris Johnson’. I wonder what the girl next to is off to do in the UK. It’s wrong to essentialise, but I know that Moldova is often associated with sex trafficking. Still, I hate when people make negative judgments about me on the basis of where I happen to be from to me. Like assuming that because I’m English and live abroad I must be a self-centred, self-hating, whiny and overly judgmental English teacher who thinks they’re some sort of uniquely gifted linguistic genius because they’ve sort of half-mastered a foreign language and who believes themselves to have a God-given right to more and better working options on the basis of their national origin. That’s actually, I hate to admit, not 100% wide of the mark. But I’ve got no interest whatsoever in acquiring a blue fucking passport.

Thought you knew how racist the Daily Mail is? Think again.

No one else seems to have commented on this particular instance of synchronicity, so I may as well do so: this year the Turner Prize was won by a (brilliant, black, British) artist (Lubaina Himid) who, amongst many other things, highlights Guardian front page images and the adjacent headlines in order to draw attention to hidden racist assumptions. Today, some sharp-witted Twitterer spotted this (see screenshot) stark bit of pre-1970s racism on the front of The Newspaper That Hates Britain. It echoes the Sun front page of May 2015, which clearly spelled out JEW to anyone tempted to put that incompetent bacon-sandwich eater Miliband into power. Anyone inclined to dismiss either front page as an accident would do well to look up Freud’s work on slips of the tongue. Whether it was a conscious choice or not, if the Mail were anything other than a racist newspaper someone in the chain of command would have spotted the juxtaposition and removed it. Instead, they all nodded it through in that mini-Wannsee conference held daily at 11am in South Ken. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the article in question was written by the wife of a leading cabinet minister and Brexit acolyte. No wonder Michael Gove hates experts; I wouldn’t imagine he’s much of a fan of contemporary art either. The Shock Doctrine mentality of politicians such as him, Farage and Hannan, all of whom see Brexit as their chance to rip it all up and start again, has long reminded me of the Khmer Rouge, who, right from Year Zero, made it clear that they saw artists as, to borrow a not-entirely-random expression, ‘enemies of the people‘.

Corbyn has spent his career challenging ‘the will of the people’. What changed?

Here is a brief list of policies of Britain’s democratically elected government that the backbench MP Jeremy Corbyn opposed on the basis of his principles:

  • The Falklands War
  • The invasion of Iraq
  • The Poll Tax
  • Trident
  • Post-2008 austerity

Additionally, throughout his backbench career Corbyn espoused and actively supported laudable causes in which both the general public and his party leadership showed little interest, including climate change, Palestine, an equitable peace settlement in Northern Ireland, Latin American solidarity, and LGBT rights. All of the above have been minority concerns in mainstream British politics for most of the last thirty or so years.

So Corbyn’s own career as a politician is an embodiment of the principle that the people can be wrong, that in any case its will can be misrepresented, and that it is the role of politicians to shift the voting public round to their point of view. Some people get involved in politics in order to pursue their self-interest; many on the right espouse a politics of self-interest in order to justify their own greed. We had been led to believe that Jeremy Corbyn believes in politics as a means of changing the world for the better for ordinary people, particularly for those whose interests are usually marginalised. 

That Brexit was a right-wing scam carried out in order to remake the country in line with the interests of Robert Mercer, Rupert Murdoch and Aaron Banks and in keeping with the ideological zealotry of Daniel Hannan, Douglas Carswell and Nigel Farage is now undeniable. It was never a case of exit, stage left. The mantra that the Brexit vote is an inviolable embodiment of the ‘will of the people’ is thus cynical and unprincipled. Labour has a moral and political duty to convince its supporters who voted leave that they were duped, and to persuade them that the EU, far from being the cause of their woes, was merely used as a scapegoat by self-interested businessmen and ideologically-motivated politicians. In the face of decidedly unpropitious international circumstances, Corbyn supported the people of Nicaragua against deeply reactionary imperialist right-wing forces in the 1980s – he needs to use his very real political influence to oppose those forces in the UK in 2018.

Elephants speak out against GOP: ‘We no longer wish to be associated with such a repugnant organization’

A representative of the elephant species has spoken out in the most strident terms against the US Republican Party, calling it an immediate threat to all life on the planet and to the human race in particular. He also asked that the GOP find another symbol to represent its brand.

‘It has long been a source of considerable embarrassment for the elephant community to be associated with the Republican Party’, said the spokeselephant at a press conference held in one of the larger rooms of the Washington offices of the WWF. ‘We were no supporters of Richard Nixon, and very few of us were in favor of George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. However, the spectacle of these last few months has, as we elephants like to say, taken the tusk’.

‘Not only have the nont exactly mammoth-brained sons of the Republican President boasted of hunting elephants and our fellow protected species’, he continued. ‘We have also had to suffer the indignity of becoming associated in the human mind with the most grave offenses against basic human and non-human morality. Without wanting to dwell on their actual enthusiasm for putting child sex abusers into positions of political responsibility, the venality demonstrated by Republican congressmen in serving the requirements of their superrich paymasters with regard to tax reform has been beyond scandalous. They have no concern whatsoever for the effects on your society or your economy’.

‘It’s also necessary to address the, if you’ll excuse the pun, elephant in the room. The Republican Party is an organisation which has, for the last few decades, dedicated itself to telling outright lies about the causes and consequences of environmental catastrophe, particularly with regard to the climate. Their greed and corruption is such that they ignore very real catastrophes and actively seeking to censor discussion of the topic, going so far as to ban the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ from government documents’.

‘This issue is one very close to the hearts of all elephants, given that we are a species whose continued existence is threatened. We therefore request that the Republican Party cease forthwith to use our bodies as symbols of their organisation. We would also like to point out the irony of a species usually considered, in human terms, mute, having to raise these issues in the absence of an appropriate level of concern among humans with regard to their own future. We, as elephants, find the Republican Party odious and repugnant; you humans must heed the warning of your intellectual Noam Chomsky, who quite correctly called it the most dangerous organization on the planet today’.

The elephant said that he was aware that given the long association of the GOP with his species, it may not be easy to disassociate the two in the public mind. As a gesture of goodwill he deposited a pile of elephant dung on the stage, suggesting that it would make for a more apposite symbol of what the Republican Party stands for.

Republican Party Chairperson Ronna Romney McDaniel was unavailable to comment as we went to press. Her secretary explained that Ms McDaniel was busy meeting some oxygen industy lobbyists and then had a Sandy Hook-themed NRA Christmas party to attend.

The elephant species is around 55 million years old.