I believe it was John Lennon and Yoko Ono who sang: “A very merry Christmas. And a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without Andrew Pierce.” (In the current climate of “cancel culture” and “wokeness”, can I make clear this is a joke? I may have rather put my foot in it, but I mean no ill will to the Daily Mail consultant editor and respected GB News presenter Andrew Pierce. I am certainly not hoping that Pierce is silenced in 2023. People say Pierce’s contributions to the national discourse are of no value, but I once saw a pigeon eating some sick off the floor as if it were a nourishing meal. Everything has its function. Anyway, my comments on Pierce are an allusion to that scene in Game of Thrones where Persiminnos Snake-Tongue is struck dumb by Count Cellidor’s Flamingo of Time. Will this do?)
Because of festive print deadlines, the column you are reading today was actually filed on 21 December, when the dog shit of Jeremy Clarkson’s latest grimly hand-milked hate emission was still hot on the Converse ™ ® shoe of social media. That December day was the shortest of the year, though it must have felt longer if you were lying on an icy pavement in Tiverton with a broken leg waiting for an ambulance. And that wait must have seemed even longer if you voted Tory or Brexit and finally had the clarity to realise your suffering represented a form of cosmic justice of which you were entirely deserving. The wheel turns. The wheelwright is crushed under it, still dreaming of £350m a week for the NHS, no foreigners and lovely straight bananas.
Perhaps the ambulance dispute has been resolved by the time you read this, though the problems that placed the ambulance service under such stress, such as the ongoing collapse of social care under the Tories and the general physical and mental sickness of a population broken by Brexit and an underfunded NHS, are unlikely to have been solved without an ideological volte-face. But how can any Tory MP do a volte-face? How can you turn your face to face a new direction when both your faces are already facing different ways as it is? Especially now our lack of access to the single market means Tory MPs’ faces, which are made in the industrialised Lorraine region of France from inedible horse meat, are in short supply and limited to two per politician.
Anything could happen, couldn’t it? There’s the rub! My Groucho Club buddies laughed at me when, last New Year’s Eve, I placed a drunken bet on Matt Handcock, then the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s special representative for financial innovation and climate change, appearing on television by the year’s end eating camels’ penises, sheep’s vaginas and cows’ anuses. But, in the end, I won enough money to turn my heating on all day when it snowed. Next week, I will place a bet on Matt Handcock’s penis being eaten by a camel, live on TV, by the end of 2023, but don’t go telling Harry Redknapp or it will negatively impact on my odds.
Everything is so volatile that filing this hate-filled screed 12 days in advance seems not so much an attempt at comedy as an attempt at clairvoyance. The narrative turbulence of the past few months makes pre-emptive political satire impossible. It is as if the Conservative party has decided that if it keeps sacking people, reversing policies and reconfiguring itself in new shapes, we will not recognise it for what it is. The current political arena is the desolate Arctic research station from John Carpenter’s The Thing. And Rishi Sunak is an eviscerated dog carcass with all writhing tentacles coming out of its guts. And that’s putting it kindly!
Who should be the target of my satirical barbs this New Year’s Day? I have said it before, but since I started writing my current touring standup show in August there have been three different Tory governments, necessitating an ongoing rolling rewrite for the top of the show’s topical monologue. The elderly bow-tied snare drum player waiting in the wings has to relearn his punchline rimshot cues nearly every night. The Truss government at least had the good grace to go down during the week I took off for the kids’ half-term, like a sick dog that takes itself under the shed to die, visible only by the cloud of maggot-hatched bluebottles that gathers as it decomposes, or the 1922 Committee as they are more commonly known.
The Sunak government, meanwhile, is like a cat that’s been hit by a car but is still writhing in the road, upsetting people waiting at the bus stop. The conflicted driver approaching at speed knows the most moral course of action is to end its misery, but instead it is left thrashing about, booking pointless flights to Rwanda, misrepresenting Mick Lynch and going on and on about Jeremy Corbyn. God! The Conservative government!! Can’t someone in a Range Rover just show it some mercy and drive over its head!!!
In an attempt to work out what I ought to pontificate about in nearly two weeks’ time, I shuffle the trusty tarot. But the cards all come up the same and they depict the image of small bald man shovelling his own mucous from his nose into his mouth, in a snot-based version of Handcock’s bushtucker trial. The cards have never lied. Will 2023 be the year that the Conservative party is led once more by Iain Duncan Smith? Perhaps. Worse things have already happened. At least we avoided Chaos With Ed Miliband.
Stewart Lee’s stand-up shows Snowflake and Tornado are both currently available on the BBC iPlayer. Basic Lee tour dates are here. Stewart appears in Stand Up for Ukraine at London’s Leicester Square theatre on 28 January, with Seann Walsh and Flat and the Curves