My dearest brothers and sisters,
It is two years since you did me the honour of despatching me on a voyage across the solar seas to inspect what the Britons call their ‘mother of parliaments’. I must own that, reviewing my previous report to you, I cannot absolve myself of an embarrassing naïveté about this curious tribe and their outlandish political arrangements. I am older now, and wiser. I trust that you will find in this, my latest couranto from the capital city of the Britons, a more trustworthy account of the strange mores of this people.
As on my first visit I have been received with the utmost liberality and warmth of spirit. The common people treat me as though I were newly arrived from the Provinces rather than a stranger from a remote planet. The only hostility shown towards me has come from some members of the superior classes, who find it difficult to understand other peoples. One of them made the unkind and perplexing suggestion that I should take myself back to the jungle on the coast opposite the port of Dover. (I have made thorough researches but I cannot find that the French people possess the tropical climate that would sustain such a jungle.)
I must first apprise you of a remarkable alteration since I was last here. A coup d’état has befallen the country. A small faction of well-born gentlemen calling themselves Conservatives – others call them Tories, or by a worse name – has seized the state for itself. Although the candidates of these oligarchs received only about a third of the votes in their ‘election’ – as I reported before, what the inhabitants here call democracy bears little kinship to what we Martians would recognise as authentic rule by the people – this claque, it seems, is allowed to do as it pleases, and without hindrance to make what alterations it wishes to the machines of the body politic, the better to injure its opponents and secure it in power for evermore.
Their leader is Mr Cameron. His enemies, who appear to be numerous, refer to his humble origins as a ‘PR man’. I am unclear about the meaning of this abbreviation. I have heard it said, by an unfriendly source, that it stands for ‘Pig Ravager’, but I can discover no sense in this interpretation. A more convincing conjecture is ‘Paid Rhetorician’ – one of those termed sophists by the ancient Greeks, ingenious disputants engaged for money to teach their pupils how to make the worse case appear to be the better. And this fellow, with his glossy and silken appearance, does indeed speak with a plausible air, except, I notice, when he is given to anger. On these occasions his antipathy to clever women and to men with inferior neckwear becomes all too evident. Mr Cameron, by the way, has broken with the tradition of wearing a wig.
Mr Cameron’s chief ally is a Mr Osborne. He too rose from lowly beginnings. His family’s poverty deprived him of a private education and obliged him to attend an inner city public school called St Paul’s. He began his career as a prentice decorator, hanging rolls of wallpaper in the houses of the rich, but entirely by his own efforts he has risen in status and wealth. He is said to be a subtle and resourceful thinker. The excellent scheme he promotes, I am told, is to punish and abase the idle and villainous poor, and to increase the wealth of the respectable classes. ‘There is no alternative to austerity‘ is his maxim, although his opponents claim that he does not apply it to his country friends, the builders of banks and hedges, and those banished to offshore islands. It is rumoured that he desires to supplant Mr Cameron as the first Minister of the country, and some wags have put it about that he has recently adjusted the pitch of his hairpiece with this object in mind.
What is remarkable is that, having achieved their unexpected victory in the national plebiscite, the Conservatives have now divided into two hostile tendencies, the Outers and the Inners. It seems that Mr Cameron, fearful of the influence of a group of dangerous soviet revolutionaries called UKIP, announced that the people would decide whether or not to leave the club or association of neighbouring countries known as the European Union. I confess I am uncertain about the meaning of the abbreviation UKIP. One informant – though she appears not to be favourably inclined towards the party, and may be unreliable – tells me it stands for the Union for Kindling Irrational Prejudice. It is led by Mr Farage, a French existentialist philosopher. He styles himself a Man of the People and is famed as a supper of the strong ale of rustic folk, but he is rumoured to have made his fortune in The City, a forbidden palace of money closed to the labouring classes.
All agree that adherents of UKIP are violently ill-disposed to the European Union. But they are not the only Outers. Most members of Mr Cameron’s own party are almost as hot in their desire to cast the country adrift from its continent. They include a Mr Redwood, still remembered fondly by the West Britons for his lusty rendition of their national anthem, Mr Grayling, who once won the gratitude of prisoners by forbidding them access to dangerous knowledge through the reading of books, and a holy friar known only by his initials, IDS (possibly they stand for ‘In Deo Servo’). This last is a devout missionary who has dedicated his life to saving the souls of the poor by removing their addiction to a dangerous and addictive narcotic known as ‘welfare’.
These and like worthy gentlemen, however, are not, even they would own, among the front rank of contemporary statesmen. But they have lately been joined by a weightier senator known universally as Boris. He hails from the steppes of central Russia, but his ingenious mind has mastered the language of the Britons, as well as ancient Greek and Latin and many others. Like Mr Farage he gives every external appearance of being a native, free-born Englishman. This is of some pertinence, since both gentlemen make their appeal to the People on the ground of their suspicion and dislike of foreigners.
The first office that Mr Boris occupied when he came to this country was as clown to the royal court. His position as Chief Wit led to his election as Mayor of London and he later gained a seat in Parliament in addition. I understand this doubling-up of posts is called ‘pluralism’ and was abolished as an abhorrent practice by the established Church many years ago, but it seems that political morals here are less exacting. He is lauded by the public prints as a ‘card’ and a ‘national treasure’, although cynics declare that he is fired solely by a personal ambition to supplant Mr Cameron. He is easily recognised by his bicycle helmet and his blaze of bright locks, which I believe are genuine. (He has a cousin in the American colonies named Donald, who is also a prominent and respectable statesman, although this gentleman, known for his exemplary lenity of manner and circumspection of expression, is more conventionally bewigged.)
I should state that there are other parties in opposition to the two I have mentioned. The Party of Labour is led by Mr Corbyn, a dangerous bearded demagogue whom the state media are instructed either to ignore or belittle, in the interests of maintaining public safety. His followers favour remaining in the European Union, but they refrain from giving succour to Mr Cameron’s cause since he is evidently so hostile to their interests, and because they wish to supplant Mr Cameron with one of their own number – though not, it seems, with Mr Corbyn. The formidable chief of the North Britons, Ms Sturgeon, is also a convinced and staunch Inner, but she is similarly reluctant to campaign at the side of Mr Cameron. Moreover, she vows that North Britons will most likely choose to forsake the rest of the country, if it elects to leave the European Union against their will, and will set up an independent state of their own.
You may be forgiven for concluding that Mr Cameron, by the gift of his plebiscite, has unsheathed a sword just as capable of biting him as of despatching his many enemies. According to the periodic takings of the temperature of public sentiment, the Inners and Outers can both claim to be in the van, although those who accept wagers on this matter maintain that the Inners will be victorious. But there remain many months of savage hostilities to be endured before the issue is settled.
I am reminded by these events of the words of our old Martian friend Dean Swift of Dublin, in his true narrative of the daring sailor Mr Gulliver, about the battle between the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians. This concerned, you will remember, a difference of opinion about which end of the boiled egg should be opened first. The wrangle led to years of revolution, wars and many deaths. I fear that the bitter religious schism of the Britons over Europe bears not a little resemblance to this famous egg fight. My recommendation to you, brothers and sisters, is that we do not pay a third visit to this absurd land until its inhabitants have learned to conduct themselves in a more mature and civilised fashion.
Your obedient servant,