If you really must know, it all went downhill for me and the campaign one freezing cold Monday morning back in early February. Like every other Monday morning I woke up bright and early, sat in total silence, spooned salted porridge down my throat and spent a good three hours studying the financial news in great detail. I remember being saddened to learn that a once popular chain of stationery shops called Paper Cuts had gone into liquidation over the weekend resulting in nearly two thousand scheduled redundancies.
‘It breaks your heart,’ I whispered, tears building in my eyes. ‘Those poor businessmen; will this pain never end for them?’
Determined to do all that I could for the economy I headed off to Harts Close with my placard and flask of tea, ready for another day of campaigning. You may already know, but Harts Close is one of the poorest estates in the north-west which is charmingly poor when you think how poor the north-west is in general. Even some of the affluent parts of the north-west look not unlike shantytowns in the developing world so imagine what one of the poorest estates looks like. But it’s all justified when you think how shiny our capital is. We mustn’t forget that spending hardworking taxpayers’ money outside of London is like putting banknotes through a paper shredder.
That particular morning I was the first to arrive at Harts Close, beating my fellow campaigners by a good ten minutes. I began to set up the campaign stall for our Spare Bedrooms Are a Crime Against the Economy petition, hoping to recruit some new members to the cause although I wasn’t holding out on this.
As I prepped the stall and waited for the other campaigners to join me, I was taken aback when I saw one of those appalling creatures leaving his home. With such high levels of unemployment at Harts Close he clearly wasn’t off to work hard and get along; he was off to, and it punishes my gag reflex having to say it, sign on.
With a leaflet outlining all of the key information of our campaign, I approached him though being extra careful not to get too close in case he was contagious.
‘Excuse me,’ I said. ‘I wonder if you’d be interested in signing our petition.’
‘I would do but I’ve got to be on the shop floor in less than half an hour. I’m afraid I haven’t got time-’
‘Haven’t got time to learn what you can do for your country?’ I said, cutting him off.
‘Sorry,’ he replied, dropping the attitude. ‘I didn’t realise you were collecting for combat wounded veterans.’
‘Then who are you with?’
‘My name is Maxwell Bashmore,’ I told him. ‘And I’m with the Taxpayers’ Battalion.’
‘The Taxpayers’ Battalion. We’re a charity which represents all taxpayers in the United Kingdom; even those who disagree with us.’
‘I’ve never heard of you.’
I proceeded to explain that the Taxpayers’ Battalion has been on Question Time forty-nine times in the last three years and that we have a website which receives no fewer than seventy-five individual hits per quarter. But none of this seemed to impress him. He just gawped at me as if I was speaking in some obscure unga-bunga jungle language.
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘That’s all very well, but what do you actually campaign for?’
‘Our main objective is to raise awareness that everybody is a taxpayer first, human being second. But once you realise that all you ever are and all you ever will be is a taxpayer, the human being in you quite rightly dies.’
‘And what about this petition?’ the panhandler asked. ‘What’s it actually for?’
‘If you really must know we are campaigning to strengthen the laws of the so-called bedroom tax so that we, the taxpayers, don’t have to subsidise you, the unemployed, with any more absurdly unfair spare bedrooms when a sleeping bag and a park bench meets the minimum requirement for a night’s sleep.’
‘But I’m not unemployed.’
‘Of course you are; you all are. And once this petition has enough signatures we’re campaigning to make sure that you’re no longer able to receive anything other than dried pasta and tins of spam after the next election. We think it’s only fair considering that we are taxpayers and you’re not, and therefore we should get to decide where every last penny is allocated which should only be towards strengthening the economy rather than funding the lifestyles of the unemployed. As non-tax paying subjects you should just be thankful that you’re allowed to breathe the same air as the rest of us although we are presently thinking of ways that we can tax oxygen for the unemployed, too. I’ve actually got some ideas which I’m going to run by our local member of parliament this afternoon. And he’s a member of the Conservative Party so there’s a good chance he’ll be on board.’
‘I’m not interested,’ this monstrosity told me while he started to walk away.
‘Not interested in saving the British economy?’ I yelped. ‘Not interested in helping your government to cut the deficit?’
‘Nope,’ he said as he continued to walk in the direction of the dole queue. ‘Not interested at all.’
‘That’s right!’ I told him as I shook my fist at his shrinking silhouette. ‘Go and hang around the job centre all day, getting free work experience at the taxpayers’ expense! It’s because of people like you that Paper Cuts went into administration over the weekend. How you all sleep at night…!’
‘Get beeped!’ he shouted while holding up his middle finger.
It probably comes as no surprise that this was a typical exchange with the residents of Harts Close. They just don’t want to listen to common sense politics. They are overwhelmingly joyous with the thought of dousing taxpayers’ money in gasoline and then setting it on fire. Every last one of them.
Before long the other campaigners arrived slightly later than usual. Well I say others; I actually mean Trevor and George. The campaign had consisted of only three members since its inception, but back then we were utterly convinced that the rest of the taxpaying community would slowly grow to accept that we were speaking for all taxpayers. I suppose we had the producers of Question Time to thank for helping us with this. And before you say it: no the BBC doesn’t disproportionately represent members of the far right as to reinforce the impression that the whole of Britain longs to live under a dictatorship. They’re quite clearly part of the biased liberal media brigade dreamed up by Trotskyists in an effort to covertly support the red menace during the interwar period.
‘Sorry we’re late,’ Trevor said. ‘We were delayed by a car crash on the dual carriageway. An ambulance held us up for about ten minutes.’
‘Were there any injuries?’
‘I don’t think so,’ George said with his whiny voice. ‘The driver looked a bit shook up, but she was able to use her mobile phone.’
‘And did you get out of your car and protest?’
‘Why would we do that?’
‘Because it’s quite clearly a waste of taxpayers’ money. If this selfish crow had suffered a compound fracture or whiplash then an ambulance, at a push, might be warranted. But if she was capable of using her mobile phone then she was blinking well capable of either driving to the hospital for a check-up or not using any tax funded medical facilities whatsoever thus saving hardworking taxpayers’ money. And clearly the latter scenario would’ve been the preferred outcome for the hardworking British taxpayer who we tirelessly represent through our working hard and getting along. And I bet she wore trousers, too, which is an absolute disgrace to women everywhere. She really is the worst person I’ve ever met in my life.’
‘Of course,’ Trevor said.
‘And don’t you remember the report I wrote last summer?’ I continued. ‘The average ambulance call-out costs the taxpayer exactly three thousand and fifty-six pounds and twenty-seven pence. Which is why we need to privatise the NHS – and fast. Poor people get a headache for five minutes these days and they think they’ve got a brain tumour; it’s a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. Not to mention all those lives which they save; day in, day out. And research suggests that five percent of those survivors haven’t ever paid taxes so it’s an absurdly unfair system we have. The Americans have got it spot on: if you can’t afford healthcare then you should learn to live with your illnesses and, if necessary, die quietly. Anyway; let’s get on with helping the economy back to good health so our hypothetical children’s children don’t have to spend their entire lives cutting the deficit. The unemployed are going to be leaving their homes any minute now and I’ve only managed to set up half of the leaflets. Well I say their homes, but we all know who picks up the tab at the end of the month.’
We proceeded to spend the morning like any other Monday morning; drinking from our flasks and campaigning against the unemployed. Every time one of these spongers walked passed the stall we would wave our placards and ask them to sign our petition to strengthen the laws of the bedroom tax. But they never did; they just kept on living their economically inactive lives without a care where our money was being spent. Some of them would tell us to beep! off while others would make rude hand gestures when they walked on by. And whenever they actually tried to express their uninformed opinions, we would put our fingers in our ears and drown out their voices by repeating our motto over and over. And if you really must know, our motto goes like this: let’s all face the facts; life would be better if we didn’t support the weak with our tax!
One day very soon it’ll be the national anthem.
It was close to midday when things went from bad to worse. We hadn’t obtained a single signature, and I could tell that Trevor and George weren’t happy with my earlier comments regarding their failure to protest on behalf of all British taxpayers. But truth be told the three of us had been on bad terms for at least a month. During our last meeting it had come to light that Trevor’s eldest niece was a member of the same local library we tried to close down last year while George admitted that he’s recently had to cancel his private medical insurance. This means they both might as well be placing taxpayers’ money in a space shuttle and sending it to the moon so that future alien visitors can place it inside a museum and laugh at it at our expense. Of course I had let them both know how disappointed I was at the situation and it had been straining our campaign for some time.
‘Shall we take a break, gentlemen?’ I said. Trevor and George looked at each other and then swung their heads back to me. ‘What is it?’
‘I’m afraid we’re retiring from the Taxpayers’ Battalion,’ Trevor told me.
‘You mean you’re giving up?’
‘Both of you?’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘To be honest,’ George said. ‘We think you’re just a little too obsessed with paying taxes.’
‘What do you expect?’ I snapped. ‘I’m treasurer of the Taxpayers’ Battalion! Of course I’m just a little too obsessed with paying taxes. And I won’t stop being just a little too obsessed until the welfare state is nothing more than a lump of rock and everyone has insurance for everything – even those who can’t afford it. In fact especially those who can’t afford it. It is all of our duty to see that this something-for-nothing-culture-of-entitlement someday comes to an end. But not including the monarchy, of course, because they’re good for the economy and are rightly exempt from the bedroom tax.’
But there was no convincing the pair of them. I could only watch as George and Trevor placed down their placards and walked away from our campaign stall, leaving me all alone at Harts Close.
Right there I knew that I had to campaign harder than ever. I had to do everything I could to strengthen the British economy…
…but first it was time to visit my local member of parliament. You probably know the chap; he’s called Montgomery ‘Monty’ Pyeman-Hondo-Basildon-Skrog III. He’s a decent gentleman who understands that the only thing which is wrong with the free markets are those people who aren’t working hard enough and getting along like all decent people were born to do. They think this world is for having fun or something.
So I went to Monty’s surgery at around about lunchtime. I walked straight to the receptionist’s desk and introduced myself.
The receptionist looked up at me. ‘Hello, Mister Bashmore,’ she said while combing her mousey hair with her fingers. ‘Glad you could make it. Monty is expecting you. If you’d like to follow me.’
I trailed behind the receptionist who led me down a labyrinth of corridors. Meanwhile I told her all about my love for this green and pleasant land. I also explained how immigration is technically responsible for every crime ever committed and that the European Union headquarters is an exact replica of Stalin’s moustache if you turn it upside down so it’s a ruddy good job we got out before they made us all speak Russian. I was reassured to see that she agreed with me wholeheartedly. However, she seemed quietly offended when I told her that her job was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.
When we finally reached Monty’s office she knocked on the door three times and waited.
From the other side of the door we heard: ‘You may enter!’
The receptionist pushed her way inside. ‘This is the one o’clock appointment,’ she said to Monty before disappearing the way she’d come.
I found Monty sitting at a Victorian writing table in his office, a quill pen in his right hand. He had a spectacular handlebar moustache and was wearing an old leather aviator hat. He was sitting beneath a large oil painting of the handsome Baroness Thatcher. Now there’s a remarkable lady! She knew the true meaning of democracy. If you really must know democracy has absolutely nothing to do with people taking control of their communities and everything to do with supporting the free markets. Every single democratic decision must strengthen the economy; no matter how many people suffer as a consequence. The economy must come first. If you don’t agree with this elementary fact of life then you’ve been brainwashed by cultural Marxism which, by the way, is a serious academic study.
‘Isn’t she a lovely piece of skirt?’ Monty said.
‘I mean the receptionist.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘She might be a lovely piece of skirt, Mister Pyeman-Hondo-Basildon-Skrog III, but she’s also a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.’
‘Please,’ Monty said while fixing his Union Jack dickie bow tie and making his way over to the fridge. ‘Call me Monty. I’m one of the lads really and this is why I understand exactly what the average working man wants which is to work hard and get along. Would you like a bottle of ME, ME, ME?’
‘And what’s that exactly?’
‘Is it British?’
‘Brewed in Middle England hence the name ME, ME, ME.’
‘Then don’t mind if I do.’
I watched as my best friend Monty opened up the fridge door and grabbed two bottles of beer. As he walked back to the table he cracked them open with a bottle opener. ‘I can’t wait for the big game at the weekend. I hope they play Johnson up front again and stick with the four-four-two formation. That seemed to work marvellously for them last weekend.’
‘You’re just like a normal person.’
‘Of course I am. I smoke cigarettes; I fancy women; I studied military history at university and I go to watch football matches at the weekend. Sometimes I even hunt defenceless wild animals with my specially trained pack of wolves and then watch as they get ripped to bits. It’s what real men do. So what can I do for you, Mister Bashmore?’
As Monty handed me a beer I proceeded to reel off my shopping list of policy ideas. These included things like no votes for the unemployed, introducing the whip for unskilled workers, banning all technology which has been invented since nineteen fifty-nine, giving the vote to small to medium sized businesses, competitive Morris dancing the new national sport.
Monty looked genuinely interested, nodding his head and twiddling the ends of his moustache. ‘Sounds like common sense politics to me,’ he said. ‘I’ll certainly put some of this forward at the coming Prime Minister’s questions. Especially the policy advocating compulsory business studies at infant schools. I’m surprised we didn’t include that in our last manifesto. Or perhaps we did. I must confess I haven’t had the time to read it properly. I just liked the title: Making People Work Hard and Get Along.’
‘So how are you finding your first week as Shaftsborough’s new member of parliament even though you’re from the opposite end of the country and have never even been here before in your life?’
‘It’s been a whirl. We have the corporate media on our side so nothing can possibly go wrong. They basically tell people who to blame which is never the people in charge and always those who have minimal influence on the political process, and the little people fall for it every time. This country really is a flock of sheep and we hate them all.’
‘It really is. And at any given moment there’s approximately thirty percent of the electorate which bought into this hilarious joke that we’re on their side if only they follow our instructions. We’re struggling to work out who this thirty percent of the electorate actually are because our policies quite clearly only benefit about six people in the entire country and they’re all worth more money than sense – hence the massive donations.’
‘But do you want to know what the clincher is?’
‘Please tell me.’
‘Every time somebody writes a protest song or a ridiculous short story which is attempting to be clever but is actually a load of fluffy hippy nonsense, another fifty people join our club.’ Monty paused and then looked over at me. ‘We’re like Medusa; try to cut one of our heads off and six more will grow back in its place. And we turn people to stone.’ He then looked at me. ‘So tell me again, old boy. What is it you do?’
‘I’m treasurer of the Taxpayers’ Battalion,’ I told him. ‘A charity which campaigns against the unemployed.’
‘Fantastic. You’re a true patriot.’
‘I love my country’s economy.’
‘Me too. Perhaps I’ll make a donation. I take it you could make good use of five thousand English pounds? I say, old boy; have you heard the one about the Belgian plumber?’
‘I don’t believe I have.’
So as Monty told this hilarious joke that insults women, environmentalists, wheelchair users and Islam he wrote out a cheque. Afterwards I thanked him and left his office.
I then made my way to my only job that day. I should explain that before I ended up here I used to be a self-employed children’s entertainer. I used my profession as an opportunity to teach children how to be a true patriot. That afternoon I was performing for a room full of six year olds. I can’t remember the occasion; perhaps it was one of their birthdays.
I started with my usual puppet routine where English Bob would demonstrate the failings of multiculturalism by having to speak Punjabi whenever he visited his local corner shop because the brown-skinned non-British subject behind the till couldn’t speak a single word of English. I then went on to the next lesson.
‘Right, children,’ I said. ‘Put your hands up if you want to answer a question.’
Immediately there were thirty-something little hands waving at me and a chorus of: ‘I do! I do!’
I pointed at this one little girl. ‘What’s your name?’
‘My name is Holly.’
‘That’s a fine British name, Holly. Why don’t you tell everybody what you want to be when you grow up?’
‘I want to be a nurse.’
This is a typical example of our lefty nation gone absolutely mental. Children nearly always want to work in the public sector; policemen, firemen, doctors. It’s as if they have this innate desire to want to help others. It was my mission to make sure that they all left Maxwell’s Laissez-Faire Circus Show wanting to pursue a career in corporate management.
‘No you don’t.’
‘No you don’t, Holly. Do you know what taxes are?’ Holly shook her head and furrowed her eyebrows. I then spent several minutes explaining to Holly the horrors of paying taxes only to see your hard-earned money being turned into hamster bedding by drug addicts and benefit cheats. Afterwards she agreed to show an interest in the retail sector. Another life saved from the rampant red menace.
Finally I taught them the most important lesson of all; the lesson which all true patriots learn way before they learn how to tie their own shoelaces.
‘Right, children,’ I said. ‘Who wants a sweetie?’ Predictably all the children began to scream with excitement. ‘There is just one problem. I only have this one packet of sweeties. Admittedly there are enough sweeties for everybody in the room, but that’s not how the real world works. So I’m going to give this packet of sweeties to just one of you and then I want you to eat them all. Even if you feel fat and greedy, and the other children go hungry; just eat them all and don’t share them with anybody else. Laugh in their faces and tell them that they’re not getting any sweeties. Can you do this for me?’
‘But I share with my friends all the time,’ came this squeaky voice.
‘Well you’re definitely not getting any sweeties then. Anybody else here likes to share?’
A few other children admitted to sharing so I told them that they’ve got no chance either. I then gave the sweeties to a child who promised not to pass them on to anybody else.
‘Sharing isn’t caring,’ I told them all. ‘Sharing is weakness. Be greedy, children, for this world is a wretched place and everybody is thy enemy.’
And that was the end of the show. You really have to get them while they’re young and beat out any niceness from their little hearts so they’re ready to step in to the boring world of doing business.
As I walked the streets in the direction of home I began to feel deflated. This was, of course, everything to do with Trevor and George’s sudden exit from the campaign. I told myself that the only way I could pick myself up was by going back to Harts Close with a megaphone and campaigning against the unemployed harder than ever.
It was four o’clock in the afternoon when I arrived for the second time that day. Most of the unemployed had been out on their shopping sprees and were now taking hard drugs in their mansions.
I put the speaker to my lips and began to yelp: ‘This is a message for the residents of Harts Close! We all know that you’re a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, but it’s not too late! You can turn your lives of dependency around and be free; free to work long hours and wear corporate uniforms! Free to buy things like televisions and computer games and legal drugs like alcohol if you really must; just make sure it’s British by checking the label. And everything in moderation because the British economy must come first!’
It was round about here that this little imp, dressed head to toe in cheap sportswear, tapped me on the shoulder and started to hurl abuse at me. ‘What the beep! are you going on about?’
I lowered my megaphone. ‘Would you like to sign the petition?’
‘The petition to strengthen the laws of the bedroom tax.’
‘My auntie died because of the bedroom tax.’
‘No she didn’t.’
‘Yes she did.’
‘No she didn’t. You’ve clearly read that in the biased liberal media.’
‘The biased liberal what?’
‘The biased liberal media. I’ll give you a lesson about life, little fellow; the biased liberal media is propaganda written by people who long for the days of the Soviet Union; days when everybody had to wear military clothes that didn’t fit properly and went to work on horseback even though the West had long invented the automobile because we’re far superior. And just so you know; loads of people starved to death under Stalin, too. Unlike here in Britain where nobody goes without. Is that what you really want to see happen to our green and pleasant land, little fellow? Is it?’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ this misguided little scamp said to me, becoming increasingly hostile. ‘All I know is that my disabled auntie died because the government stopped paying for her home. My mum found her dead in the kitchen shortly afterwards. Apparently the stress of having to move out had caused her to have a stroke.’
‘You should be careful what you read in the biased liberal newspapers or before you know it you’ll be wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and joining a union for champagne socialists.’
‘Champagne socialists. Listen, basically anybody in employment who criticizes the status quo is a champagne socialist. And, yes, the concept of a champagne socialist is a logical fallacy but I’m not interested in logic; I’m interested in common sense politics.’
‘Well, I didn’t read it in the papers,’ he said. ‘I learned it from my family.’
‘But that’s how good the biased liberal media are at lying to people; they can make you believe anything. It’s almost like hypnosis. The only news we can trust these days is the financial news written by patriotic corporations that love our country. Everything else is a big, fat lie told by champagne socialists who wear red socks and hate our freedom to buy things.’
To my surprise and disgust a policeman approached us. ‘Is everything alright?’
‘This little fellow here needs his mother,’ I told the officer. ‘Although I’m presuming she’s probably long overdosed on wacky tobacky reefer spliffs or whatever they call them. Can you see that he gets home safely, officer?’
‘Actually,’ the policeman said. ‘We’ve had a complaint about you, sir.’
‘What a complete waste of taxpayers’ money,’ I muttered. ‘What’s the complaint regarding?’
‘We’ve had numerous calls from local residents who are concerned about a gentleman disrupting the local community with a megaphone. He won’t listen when they tell him to move along.’
‘Apparently it’s like talking to a sculpture made out of human excrement. They’ve all been out on the street, asking you to move along, but you won’t listen. You just parade around the estate, telling people that they’re a waste of taxpayers’ money. I’ve actually been shown the evidence on several mobile phone devices. It’s as if you’re wearing industrial headphones the way you refuse to listen to anybody. They’re asking you to go away, but you just won’t listen. So I’m asking you kindly, sir, please will you put the megaphone away and move along.’
This, of course, was an outrageous lie. Nobody had been out to talk to me; they were all too busy smoking crack heroin drug pipes and watching repeats of Jeremy Springle to worry about what I was up to.
‘This is a scandal!’ I yelped. ‘I am Maxwell Bashmore; an upstanding, taxpaying member of the taxpaying community. I work hard and I get along more than anybody in the world! In fact I technically pay your wages so you should be doing exactly what I tell you to. Officer, I demand that you carry out a thorough investigation into these slanderous comments and make the necessary arrests.’
‘You’re not my boss and that’s not how slander works. Now I’ve asked you politely to move along, but it appears that you don’t want to listen to the law either.’
But it was no use; this officer proceeded to read me my rights and then he took me to the police station. All the while I calculated how much this terrible mistake was costing the hardworking British taxpayer and kept everybody present updated.
When I arrived at the station I got one free telephone call which turned out to be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. I made the call to my best friend Monty. It was the receptionist who picked up. When I told her who I was, she put me straight through.
‘Who is this?’ Monty said.
‘It’s Maxwell Bashmore.’
‘Maxwell Bashmore. We had an appointment earlier this afternoon. You really liked my policy idea about using homeless people for military target practice.’
‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘I remember now. The true patriot. Have you heard the joke about the Polish hairdresser?’
‘I haven’t got time for jokes and I never find them genuinely funny anyway.’
‘But this one offends transgenders, donkeys and children under the age of five all in one fell swoop. It’s hilarious.’
‘Please listen to me.’
‘What is it, Maxwell? You sound a little crabby.’
‘I’m at the station.’
‘The police station.’
‘I’ve been arrested for breaching the peace, but it’s a wild conspiracy theory invented by the entire political left who want to silence any kind of sensible debate with their political correctness gone stark raving bonkers.’
‘Don’t call here again.’
And with that the phone went down.
I should probably tell you that I haven’t spoken to Monty since that call although I know that deep down we’re the best of friends. He’s just like a normal person and he thinks about me every day. He really cares about the future of the British economy.
But it’s what happened next that really hurt: using taxpayers’ money I was taken to court and was found guilty of breaching the peace. It was, of course, lie after lie after lie. All of them lying out of their backsides; including the judge and the jury. All of them blinking traitors. Regardless I was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
But the misery doesn’t end there either! A criminal record meant that once I’d been released from prison I could no longer work with children. After using Monty’s donation to cover my legal expenses I was immediately faced with the predicament of having to either, and I loathe to have to say it again, sign on or go homeless. Like a true patriot I chose to go homeless which is how I ended up under this motorway bridge, drinking turps and huddling round this burning metal skip with you lot.
And if you really must know I’ve worked out that if I remain homeless for the next five years, three months and five days I will have technically paid back everything I have taken from the hardworking British taxpayer by refusing to receive any benefits. Then, when my life is finally back on track, I’ll be back to campaign until the welfare state is no more.
Rupert Dreyfus, 2016.