|LETTERS FROM LONDON
|REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
12 May 2018
Just when you are thinking ‘less is more’ - surveillance, it turns out to be ‘more
is more’. Evidently there is a data analysis company that is far bigger and thus
scarier than Cambridge Analytica (CA). What?! We know CA has created its
own spin-off, as you do, but this US company, Palantir, is already implicated in
UK intelligence gathering and European-wide projects. Oh dear. It just never
ends, does it? Oh, and it clearly never will until they have robots installed in
every residence to report on our every move and mood, yes, mood. Uh- no
kicking or hating that little family member. They will report you.
Palantir was co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, who just happens to be a
board member and major investor of – ta da - Facebook and adding insult to
injury, was a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team. How much
do we love this guy? There’s more. Once you know that one of their products is
‘Gotham’, sounds rather sinister, no? a system to identify corporate or
government leakers. Ah. Living the dream.
We know now that Palantir is covering Europe, but also the UK. Actually, it has
already worked for UK intelligence and was awarded contracts to handle vast
data sets on UK citizens for British spy agency GCHQ. Losing the will to live
yet? Palantir was also used as part of a GCHQ project to upgrade the agency’s
ability to collect blogs, tweets, and news articles. Well, now you surely have.
Reasons to be Cheerful
OK. Time for reasons to be cheerful and trust me, as you know there aren’t
many. Backbench MP, digital minister Margot James announced she was
suspending ‘with immediate effect’ a deal under which NHS Digital shared 3,000
patient’s details with the Home Office to check their immigration status. And you
know how much we respect the Home Office don’t we? We have been aware
that doctors have been warning that those who needed treatment were afraid to
attend their surgery for fear of being deported. Assuming the Home Office
simply thought: “No worries. We are hoping they will die before we have to
deport them. Budget restrictions you know. Austerity rules. Yes!”
It has now been shelved after James accepted an amendment to the Data
Protection Bill tabled by Health Select chair Sarah Wollaston and Labour MP
Paul Williams. See. Something to be cheerful about – that is until the Home
Office comes up with another idea to create a ‘hostile environment’ strategy for
those nasty immigrants.
Evidently there has been the UK’s first flat earth convention. Yes, yes, you read
it right. Flat. Eye-rolling required. Three days of sharing via networking,
speeches, You Tube clips, workshops, debates and team-building. Team-
building. Huh? Oh, I nearly forgot, science experiments. Seriously. Not joking.
Apparently, science is crucial to their beliefs. Really, not joking. But they do
distrust scientists. You know, the professionals who work with science…science
experiments…trying to prove the Earth is inside a giant cosmic egg. Wondering
who laid the cosmic egg? Utter madness.
“Now that we’ve got the internet and mass communication…we’re not reliant on
what the mainstream are telling us in newspapers, we can decide for ourselves.”
Right. Now there is a convincing strategy. Populist knowledge. Right. Must we
mention the unmentionable? Clearly we do: Brexit, populous ignorance, Fox in
If you missed the convention, assuming you did, there are plans for flat-earthers
to meet and greet in Canada and – where else – the US due to its impressive
success and huge attendance. Careful. Don’t get too close to the edge.
L'état, c'est moi
Madam Tussaud’s is offering Harry and Meghan in wax. Ah. Perfect. Massive
selfie queues surely forming already. Yawn. If you have an aversion to tourists,
royal sycophants and/or uncontrollable enthusiastic crowds you can simply buy
loads of tat.
It is estimated that the UK economy will be increased by nearly £1.1bn. Brits
alone will spend £250m. Oh dear me. What to buy, what to buy? Naturally the
tea-towel, always the tea towel. H&M have approved it after all at £9.95. A
bargain. It could have been priced at £9.99. “Like do I look like in love enough?
Eh Harry? Harry! Pay attention. The brand, the brand.” Now various Mr Kipling
cakes, without the happy fairy tale couple’s ‘approval’, are sold exclusively at
ASDA don’t you know. A limited edition at that. Hope that isn’t prophetic. Limited.
Those ‘luxury prophylactics’ also didn’t get royal approval. Well, why would
they? You know – the b a b y that the tabloids have promised to seal the deal.
Oh, four for £10. Assuming this isn’t a joke, Crown Jewels Heritage Condoms
offer images on the four naturally, but when you open the box, God Save the
Queen and The Star-Spangled Banner’ play. Well, rather – erm - unique for
commemorative tat, no?
The gift shop at Sandringham sells £6.99 mugs and £4.99 gold-plated spoons.
Bargain, bargain. Bookmarks, notepads and keyrings are flying off the shelves.
Staff said: “You’ve got to get in early.” Because every bit of tat will be gone?
Windsor is holding out. They won’t allow the royal-obsessed to buy memorabilia
until closer to the day of the event of the century. Otherwise, there are the usual:
fridge magnets, bookmarks, wafer paper cake toppers, pin badges, thimbles,
coins, cushions, T-shirts, stamps, diamond i-Phone cases, jewellery, but the
best must be paper dolls sold at Amazon in the US which look nothing like them.
$9.99, used from $5.97. Used? Already?
The chief executive of Brand Finance, David Haigh, informs us “It’s almost
unbelievable quite how insatiable the demand is for stuff connected to them. I am
often amazed at just how much hysteria you get.” He’s amazed? Who isn’t?
Personally, I don’t know one person who has bought a mug. OK. Mugs are
buying the mugs. Sorry, but… not one person who has any interest in any way
and just wish it would all just go away. Nonetheless, you could sit on the faces of
Harry and Meghan – on a cushion close enough to the TV it’s blurring, a mug of
steaming Earl Grey – or possibly Lady Grey tea, a plate of Morrison’s £7 royal
cake on your lap, waving a flag in your commemorative T-shirt. Or you couldn’t.
Clearly it has gone unnoticed that the wedding is – erm – rather American
‘inspired’. Curious for a ‘Diana wannabe’ becoming a member of the royal
family, no? The homage to America dress, the flowers, the food, the
bishop…what am I forgetting? Instead of selecting a traditional British fruit cake,
MM has selected a London-based pastry chef from California. All right. If you
insist: it’s a ‘spring-inspired, lemon elderflower cake’. Anything else? Oh, lest we
forget Harry - being ‘LA-ed’ via diet, exercise and surely mindfulness. Ah. He’ll
be totally made-over in time for the wedding. Hmm… Oprah replacing the
Queen? Just saying.
“A royal wedding is always an exciting time for Britain…but at its simplest a
wedding is a joyful union and a wonderful celebration of togetherness. And this
one happens to star a truly fascinating bride.” Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue,
Edward Enninful. Quickly. Quickly. Pass the sick bag.
Oh oh. The word is out. Those who work and serve at Buckingham Palace are
saying MM is, erm, "difficult". And we can translate that into British English can’t
we? What do they call her? "Meghan the Menace". Surely she is hugging all of
them all of the time – when the cameras are recording those precious images.
“I'm American. I’m a hugger.” Argh. Step away! Step away! Time to imagine
here: would you want a total stranger to lock you in an oxygen-depriving hug –
and not let go? Thought not.
The best: the wedding solution is simple. Ta da! It’s The Windsors! Not them.
The ‘real’ ones. The Windsors Royal Special airing on channel4 9pm Tuesday
the 15th. God Save the Queen all together now. It will be just brilliant! Surely you
have watched past episodes. If not, this is one not to be missed. Like Meghan’s
American wedding. Trust me here.
We are amused.