Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London.



Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter @stevejparry or by email at [email protected]

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The rebranding of a rotter

Showbiz, like medicine, has the power to heal. Okay, it’s useless if you have a verruca or diabetes but it does have the power to rehabilitate the most toxic of public profiles. Last year we observed just such an operation at the Emmys where talk-show hosts Stephen Colbert, James Corden and others performed the first phase in the complex cosmetic procedure of detoxifying Sean Spicer – Donald Trump’s notorious ex-press secretary.

Spicer’s punishment for this degrading of US democracy was a glitzy platform at the Emmys and a chance to rebrand himself as a lovable, self-deprecating pantomime villain – in fact he is the real thing

This is a man who massaged the truth like a sadistic physiotherapist, routinely lying and defending lies from the lectern of the White House briefing room. Who can forget his risible claim about Trump’s swearing in? ‘This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.’

It so wasn’t.

Yet Spicer’s punishment for this outrageous degrading of US democracy was a glitzy platform at the Emmys and a chance to rebrand himself as a lovable, self-deprecating pantomime villain – when he is, in fact, the real thing! The sight of ‘Big Daddy Showbiz’ wrapping its gropey old hands around him and welcoming him into the fold as a naughty but nice national treasure was grotesque. A more appropriate reception would have been some form of Cersei’s walk of shame à la Game of Thrones.

So instead of being cast into the wilderness, Spicer is raking it in as a novelty turn on the after-dinner circuit of elite events – making jokes, laughing it up and making light of his role in Trump’s White House fiasco. There are even reports that he’s been offered his own reality TV show. It’s yet to be made but has already received the largest audience to ever witness a reality TV show, period, both in person and around the globe…

And it’s not just Spicer. A stint in Trump’s West Wing is like appearing on Big Brother: you spend the entire time lying, fighting and screaming obscenities at whoever will listen until your inevitable, unceremonious exit. But then, instead of the boos and jeers you deserve, the world of celebrity embraces you as a self-aware, lovable ‘TV personality’.

Anthony Scaramucci, ex-White House director of communications, didn’t even last long enough for people to learn how to pronounce his name properly, yet is now a host on showbiz gossip site, TMZ. Within weeks of leaving the West Wing, I confidently expect to see Kellyanne Conway launching her own range of perfume on QVC… ‘Kellyanne’s Eau d’ Collusion: The scent of Kremlin.’ If she can sell Trump’s policies, she can sell anything.

I hate it when showbiz rehabilitates proper rotters like Sean Spicer. He shouldn’t be allowed to be in on the joke. He should be ostracized for his part in attempting to undermine democracy. What incentive does it give public figures to behave well if they know there are no reputational or lifestyle consequences for lying?

People like Spicer might be morally bankrupt, but it turns out that in showbiz and politics a soul is not a vital organ; you can do very nicely without one.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

The robots are coming!

I’ve been busy recently, weeks of long days and no weekends. As a freelancer I am, of course, obliged to say how glad I am of the work – though I must admit I do enjoy doing absolutely bugger all and, poverty aside, that’s what I’d do all the time. But to be idle, it seems, is to be indulging in the worst excesses of modern life: it is not viewed as useful, private, mental space, but as wasteful and feckless.

Sloth is capitalism’s least favourite vice. Fortunes are spent encouraging all the other deadly sins – lust, gluttony and envy are well represented on every billboard and TV channel. Yet sloth! ‘Don’t encourage that or the fuckers might actually take five minutes to think about the treadmill we’ve got them on.’

Modern technological advances, however, are making it look like millions of us will be left twiddling our thumbs – and whether that lack of work is liberating or devastating will depend on the battle to democratize technology.

Earlier this year the British government gave the go-ahead for the first trials of driverless trucks on UK motorways. Up to three lorries will be driven by a lead vehicle, with the final truck in the line bearing the slogan: ‘the future is ahead of you’. Not if you’re a truck driver it’s not.

And it’s not just the driving work that the robots are after. Worrying estimates suggest that half of all jobs in the US won’t exist in 20 to 30 years’ time. This would get talked about more if it weren’t for the fact that, with Donald Trump in the White House, people are more worried about whether the US itself will be around in 20 to 30 years – never mind if they’ve got a job.

It’s not just our work that’s being contracted out to the machines but our personal lives too. Sex robots are now an actual thing. Realistic dolls that have sophisticated movements that closely mimic human sexual behaviour – presumably by drinking too much, having a fight about whether to go back to your place or theirs, before stumbling through the front door, collapsing in the hall and banging each other like broken vending machines… Just me then?

Tech billionaires like Antonio Garcia-Martinez, a former Facebook product manager, are so scared of the future they’re already buying themselves remote survivalist bunkers in preparation for a total societal breakdown of their making.

Not all theories are so pessimistic about the future. Take the seductively named Fully Automated Luxury Communism. Supporters believe that technology provides us with an opportunity to create a positive post-work society. The luxury communists demand a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally-guaranteed housing, education and healthcare. What’s not to like?

If you ask me, and I’m aware you didn’t, it’s got to be worth a go before we wind up in a world where the rich are hunkered down in their fortified hideaways, filtering drinking water from their own urine, while the rest of us scrabble about, trying to keep a roof over the heads of ourselves and our shabby old sex dolls.

My worry is it’s only a matter of time before they come up with a robot that can knock out to order 600-word, mildly amusing rants about politics. Then I really will have time on my hands.

This capitalism theme park will make you shudder


'Everwinter' Post Apocalyptic Theme Park

KidZania is an unashamed shrine to the sterile, dystopian human-made landscapes. By comedian Steve Parry.

KidZania is an amusement park with 19 branches worldwide, each comprising of a small, indoor city where kids perform real life jobs in return for hard cash – or KidZos, a currency which, post-Brexit, is more stable than Sterling.

It claims to be an ‘educational entertainment experience’ with the motto ‘Get ready for a better world’. But after my four hours in the bleak consumerist Lilliput, I left certain that far from being a ‘better world’ KidZania was just as stressful, confusing and awful as the real one.

The whole thing starts with a perfect reconstruction of a chaotic airport check-in desk on the first day of the school holidays. Everyone is then tagged like petty criminals before the kids are sent off into the big wide world of work. I had to question my daughter’s life choices after she turned her nose up at a career as a pilot, rejected the chance to train as a surgeon and opted instead to put a shift in as a hotel chambermaid, for which she earned the princely sum of eight KidZos. A true proletarian.

The place is like something Adam Smith and Walt Disney might come up with if they had stayed up all night together drinking and doing good quality acid. They really don’t sugar the pill of life at the mercy of the market very much at all. My daughter’s career path hit a glass ceiling when she chose not to go to the University of KidZania, a move that could have increased her earning potential by up to 25 per cent.

KidZania is an unashamed shrine to the sterile, dystopian human-made landscapes that have become the high streets of so many of our cities. All the big brands are well represented and the main difference is that the kids approach the low-paid, low-skilled work with an enthusiasm very much lacking in the dead-eyed, zero-hours, wage-slaves working there for real. Child labour is alive and well and being sold back to us as entertainment at £25 ($32) a head.

Far from being educational, KidZania is a cynical, corporate propaganda exercise masquerading as a family day out. A sepia toned, cookie cutter version of capitalism that’s fun and, most dishonestly of all, actually works. A temple to Mammon with full employment, no debt, no homelessness, no food banks, and where it only takes 20 minutes to train as a heart surgeon.

Read also: The Demoralized Mind. How Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose

It was without doubt one of the most bizarre, crass and consumerist ghettos I have ever visited (and I’ve been to Dubai). When it was time to go we were forced to exit via ‘immigration’ ensuring we ended the day enjoying a fully immersive deportation experience. By the end, if there had been a textiles sweatshop for the kids to work in or Victorian chimneystacks to sweep, it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least. After all, that’s Capitalism kids!

Warning: may contain fake news


© pixel2013

At the time of writing, 2017 hasn’t yet thinned out the world of celebrity like its homicidal sibling 2016. Thankfully, the only global icon to die so far this year is the United States of America. And let’s face it, it was no Bowie…

Nostradamus I’m not, but after everything that has happened in the last year, who would bet against a batch of contaminated canapés at the Oscars wiping out half of Hollywood in a virulent bout of dysentery? The bookies are even offering odds on Kim Kardashian being Trump’s successor, and after 2016’s high-profile divorce from reality, I’m convinced anything is possible.

On that basis, I’m daring to dream and plan to lobby the Mayor of the District of Columbia for planning permission to create a grassy knoll opposite the White House. I think it would really brighten the place up. I’ve taken this seriously and have even committed the ultimate act of modern-day sedition by setting up an online petition.

Of course, my petition is a joke; in reality there is no campaign seeking permission for a knoll, grassy or otherwise, on Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s just an attempt to use this month’s column to generate my own fake news, as these days fake news seems to be where it’s at.

If things go according to plan, an overworked, under-principled content provider will pick up on the gag, ignore my obvious intentions and start frothing about sick, anti-Trump pinkos wanting to assassinate the president. It will be political incorrectness gone madder.

These days, it only takes someone to throw the most ludicrous idea into the clogged and congested ether for someone at a news outlet to pick up on it, recontextualize it for their own purposes and turn it into another piece of prime post-truth ‘too good to be true’ bullshit. It has ever been thus. It just used to be called propaganda.

The bottom line is news is a commodity and Trump clickbait sells. Journalists – or the Orwellian-sounding ‘content providers’ fast replacing them – are increasingly under huge pressure from their paymasters to dispense with journalistic ethics in the rush to capitalize on an audience hungry for spectacle, not specifics, for amusement instead of accuracy.

The temptation by news organizations to allow these unchecked not-even-half-truths to sit alongside genuine factual stories blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction, undermines real news and leads to a breakdown of trust between the public and the media. A breakdown exploited by an unscrupulous White House happy to swim in the muddy waters of misinformation and outright disinformation.

The media must bear some of the responsibility for getting us into this mess, but journalists can also get us out of it. This is why, as it celebrates its 500th issue, New Internationalist is so important. I look forward to another 500 editions, unless, come 2020, President Kardashian has closed us down and turned us into a lingerie catalogue. Face it, stranger things have already happened.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

Can rightwingers be funny?


Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015. S. Alexander Gilmour under a Creative Commons Licence

Let’s kill the headline stone dead before we start. The answer is yes. Check out, for example, one of the sell-outs at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, ‘Conswervative’, a stand-up comedy show by self-confessed rightwinger Geoff Norcott. Now, I haven’t seen the show (it’s not a boycott, I promise, I just haven’t had the chance), but the write-ups have been good and I can vouch for Geoff, having gigged with him a few times back when I was pursuing my dream of being a lower-division pub comedian. Plus, we’re Facebook friends, which practically makes us family. So, if you want proof that someone can be lovely and funny and wrong all at the same time, Geoff is your man.

However, much of the press for Geoff’s show presents the idea that being a rightwinger in comedy somehow makes you a plucky outsider, a laissez-faire Daniel in the liberal lions’ den of comedy. But it doesn’t. Admittedly, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the epicentre of stereotypical, right-on liberalism: imagine a city taken over by people who think not having lactose-free, organic Eritrean breast milk on your muesli in the mornings makes you some kind of lumpen scum. But the idea that the comedy industry, or even the Edinburgh Festival, is leftwing is about as believable as a Donald Trump election pledge. Like many rightwing commenters, Geoff is, I think, railing against an establishment that isn’t there.

On the surface, comedy – and the Fringe in particular – appears to be the apogee of arty-farty liberalism but, backstage, good old-fashioned capitalism is still pulling the strings. Many performers haemorrhage thousands of pounds every year in deals with one of a handful of promoters offering terms that make it almost impossible to break even, no matter how successful their show. And trust me, a suite of commedia dell’arte one-man mime performances based around Shakespeare’s male pattern baldness doesn’t need any help losing money.

More generally, wages for live comedy have stagnated or declined over the last decade and are often paid late or not at all. And as any medical or comedy professional will tell you, the funny bone is directly connected to the wallet. The worse you treat performers, the worse the art you get.

Discrimination against female comedians is rife, too. Indeed, it would appear that if, as claimed by some, political correctness at the top of the comedy industry has ‘gone mad’, then it has been strapped down and heavily sedated.

Things got so bad last year that a group of stand-ups actually decided to do something about it (aside from take the piss) and founded the UK Comedy Guild. They also gained recognition from the actors’ union for the first time in its 85-year history. This achievement is not to be under-estimated: getting 500-odd self-absorbed professional egomaniacs to act collectively is a tall order.

I’m looking forward to catching Geoff Norcott’s show on tour, and am sure I will laugh a lot and will try my best not to heckle. But if you want an establishment to fight against, don’t waste your time on the woolly, toothless liberals running arts festivals. Go for the real establishment – the scaly, sabre-toothed Conservatives running the world.

Net gains for politicians

Selfie with Hillary

Hillary Clinton - getting to grips with selfies. Paula Lively under a Creative Commons Licence

We are constantly told, probably by someone making money out of it, that the 2016 US presidential race will be won or lost on the internet. This is in many ways true – and is hardly the most original point ever made. Unless that is, you’re presidential contender Hillary Clinton, a woman who appears to have a weaker grasp of 21st-century technology than, I dunno, Benjamin Franklin.

During the New Hampshire leg of the campaign, Hillary got chatting with a voter who wanted a selfie. He explained that she had posed for one with his friend earlier in the week and it had ‘gone viral’, to which Hillary replied: ‘He went viral? Sounds like some kind of disease.’ Now, despite being no fan of Clinton, I’d be willing to file this one under ‘Crap Jokes’ rather than ‘Moronic Technophobia’ were it not for the fact that Hillary has form when it comes to IT idiocy.

Last year it also emerged that she has no idea how to use a fax machine and that she hasn’t the faintest how to send an email from a computer. Ironically this information was found on a private server in her house from which she had managed to delete over 31,000 ‘personal’ emails without any help from the FBI, which had requested to see them. I’m amazed she even knew how to turn it off and on again.

She also tried to stem the tide of youth votes to hopelessly in-touch septuagenarian Bernie Sanders by posting a major advert on the log-in page for, a service used almost exclusively by silver surfers who still use dial-up modems to access the ‘worldwide web’. I dread to think how much energy her team has spent wooing voters on the MySpace bulletin boards.

Hillary might possess all the technical know-how of someone who keeps their Nokia mobile phone in the kitchen drawer, but the same can’t be said for Republican candidate Ted Cruz. Cruz has embraced the internet as a way of impressing prospective supporters from the get-go, even making a YouTube video demonstrating that quaint ole Texas tradition of cooking bacon… using a machine gun. The message being: a man who makes his breakfast using lethal military hardware is surely a man of principle and integrity.

In general, politicians and the Net don’t get on, largely because – thanks to the internet – we now have more information about what they are really like than ever before. Although, as the case of US politician Anthony Weiner, who was shamed after posting his… weiner online, proves: you can end up with too much information if you’re not careful.

Perhaps the most misjudged attempt to use the internet to engage with the electorate took place in Hawaii last year, when, in his bid to become a State Senator, councillor Greggor Ilagan asked for support in using mobile dating app Tinder. He quickly abandoned the project when he was inundated with hot dates from horny voters of both sexes. I’m not sure if a similar strategy could help Hillary engage more effectively, but I’m certain Bill Clinton must be gutted that Tinder didn’t exist when he was running for Office.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

Big Bad World cartoon

In the eye of a Twitter storm

Twitter bird

Esther Vargas under a Creative Commons Licence

Since having a child, I’ve given up on a real social life and settled for a social-media life instead. I’ve gone from laughing in pubs and gossiping over coffee with people I know and like, to arguing via computer with people I don’t know and don’t like. Sadly, for a delicate flower like me, my new social circle clearly doesn’t like me one little bit.

I take full responsibility, however, for my recent journey to the online sewer, which was the unfortunate result of a bad mood, an exquisitely unpleasant radio DJ and access to a smartphone. This heady mix was enough to propel me, unarmed and unprepared, into the centre of a frenzied Twitter war with a professional Troll, the debris from which is still echoing around cyberspace.

To get you up to speed, here, in a Twitter-sized 140-character nutshell, is what happened:

Pompous bully viciously attacks frail, elderly black civil rights campaigner on radio & tries 2 make fool of him. I go crazy #fallsintotrap

Stupidly, I took the bait like a lion from a dentist and walked blindly into an ambush. Trouble was, I’d barely engaged with any of the actual content of the histrionic diatribe the host had been spouting and, instead of making a proper argument, just felt a visceral need to tell him and the rest of the internet what a monumental dickhead he was. This I did, and, if I’m honest, I probably went a bit over the top. But not nearly as over the top as the bigoted self-publicist himself, who expertly escalated my admittedly fairly childish remonstration, spinning it into social-media gold like a bloated, rightwing Rumpelstiltskin.

He began our exchange with a direct threat (it was not clear if it was legal or physical) before going on to post my picture and work details, all punctuated by a consistent torrent of high-octane bile.

Next, he encouraged his army of haters to join in the fun and games. In fairness, many of their comments were fairly amusing, like the one suggesting I become a Mick Hucknall tribute act. I was also struck by how people so obsessed with being English can have such a grunting grasp of the language.

Very quickly I realized I’d been an idiot for getting involved in the first place. I decided I was giving the shock jock exactly what he wanted and I was best off not responding. But it soon became apparent that not responding was in itself provocation enough for the bargain-bin Lord Haw-Haw, who attempted to reignite the row by announcing I was ‘a talentless old soak’ who had ‘run off crying to mummy’.

Even now, weeks later, I still regularly get people commenting on or retweeting posts about me ‘being a waste of organs’, looking like Ronald McDonald or being a Muppet, and if I’m honest I find it quite entertaining. It was, after all, my fault for engaging with the porcine provocateur to begin with. I shouldn’t have descended to his level, I know. But honestly, he was being such a gigantic arse!

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

Columnists can damage your health

In Australia, cigarette packets display grimly shocking images of the poor buggers who’ve come unstuck consuming the evil that lies inside. Many newspapers and websites should have the same warnings. Front pages should be emblazoned with pictures of previously healthy people keeling over. Because, however tempting they may seem, their contents can make you extremely sick. I know this because I ruined a perfectly good Sunday recently by absentmindedly exposing myself to the noxious vapours lurking in the fetid folds of the Sun on Sunday – Rupert Murdoch’s cut-price News of the World replacement.

It happened like this. My girlfriend was in a generous mood, so offered to go solo on the childcare for an hour while I indulged in that glorious Sunday morning ritual of a leisurely breakfast in the café. To relax, some people run a bath, light candles and listen to a whale-song CD. Me, I pop to my local caff for a chilled-out brekkie with the papers. Not this day.

I arrived at the café, ordered a Number Five (no sausage, extra bacon) and started foraging the magazine rack, where the only thing left was a ketchup-stained copy of the Sun on Sunday. I could have abstained, except, at that moment, ‘Nigel’, a supremely boring yet talkative neighbour, sidled through the door. I knew he’d want a chat – and a chat was not part of my relaxing ‘me time’ itinerary. I grabbed the paper, found a discreet table and got my head down.

Big mistake. After 20 minutes I was an apoplectic keg of impotent rage. I craved ‘Nigel’s’ banal banter. I craved anything that might unravel the barbed-wire ball of fury that had engulfed my innards. I only read two columns but it was enough. For the rest of the day I just couldn’t shake off the burning in my belly. Admittedly, the huge fry-up might have been a contributory factor.

The first column was full of glib, mean-spirited, misty-eyed Little Englander nastiness. The second served up a wilfully inaccurate, foaming-mouthed rant against a leading trade unionist, and actually delighted in the possibility of workers losing their jobs. Both deliberately whipped up fear and celebrated cruelty. If anyone out there is in training for the Race To The Bottom, these two columnists would make inspirational role models.

It’s my fault for getting drawn in; engaging with the phony polemics spouted by the tabloids, talk radio and Fox News gets you nowhere but an early grave. It’s also exactly what they want.

I have friends who spend their entire lives getting worked up by these people and their splenetic ramblings, bizarrely demonstrating how much they despise them by reposting links to their bile on social media saying, ‘OMG! You have got to read this!’

Well, no, you haven’t: it’s bad for your health. Far better to get angry about hospital closures, poor housing, welfare cuts, even ‘Nigel’ the Neighbour’s latest grumble, than let the professional provocateurs of the media stain your brain. That’s what I’m here for…

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

School places scramble shows snobbery at its worst

Recently, I’ve been thrown into the process of trying to find a school for my daughter. It’s a bit like the TV game show Deal or No Deal: pure chance masquerading as calculated choice, with a little bit of cheating thrown into the mix.

‘Choice’ in this context is a euphemism, plucked from the lexicon of 21st-century newspeak that’s become the phrase book of modern politics. In this context, choice means competition.

In London, where I live, there is an estimated shortfall of 118,000 pupil places, which makes the primary school application process more cutthroat than the Dads’ egg-and-spoon race at sports day.

Tragically, instead of seeing this crisis as a problem that needs solving, the British Education Minister, neoliberal ventriloquist’s dummy Michael Gove, has seized it as an opportunity to push market ‘values’ into the education system via the introduction of Free Schools.

Essentially, this amounts to treating schools as businesses that offer their product to parents who then make their choice, or, to use a better word, consume.

Yet in Sweden, one of the first countries to experiment with the Free School model, the system has been found to have a detrimental effect on both education and equality.

The problem is that failure is a necessary part of competition. In June 2013, JB Education, a chain of ‘for profit’ schools responsible for the education of 10,000 Swedish schoolchildren, collapsed – leaving pupils stranded. A chain of schools is such a horrible idea; chains of banks, chains of chemists or chains of daisies – but not schools.

Another chain of Swedish schools was recently bought on the stock market by a Belgian dog-food company. Apparently, the school dinners are horrible but the children sit when they’re told.

Such an erratic system creates fear among parents, and such fierce competition can make you feel like you actually have no choice. You cannot just choose that your child go to the school at the end of the road. So, what do you do?

The most uncomfortable thing about the whole experience is what I describe as ‘the enforced middle-classness’ it breeds, even among previously principled people. I have seen and heard stories of parents who portray themselves as lefties going to ridiculous lengths to get their kid into a ‘good school’.

The most popular one is to discover God. I swear (to someone other than God) that if the devil had kids he’d be going to church every other Sunday just to ‘keep his options open’.

Then there’s moving house. You should see the ‘to let’ signs that go up in the houses and flats opposite my local school when the application process opens. Locals like my daughter are pushed out.

But what I’d like to know is: what lesson do these parents think they are teaching their children? Exposing them to the brutality, snobbery and cynicism of the world before they’ve even broken the bad news about Father Christmas...

Next time Michael Gove visits a primary school to pontificate about how we all need to take a more hands-on approach to education, I hope he proves the point by flushing his own head down the toilet.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

Mandela, my hero!

When it comes to icons, they don’t come more iconic than Nelson Mandela. You have to enter the realm of the divine to even get close. He’s up there with the big boys like Buddha and Jesus. Alright, one big boy and one skinny boy with a beard and sandals, but still.

There was a time when the great man seemed as shrouded in mystery as any deity. It’s easy to forget that during his 27 years of incarceration there were no pictures, no words, just some grainy images and the occasional artist’s impression in the tabloids of what he might look like. These renderings inevitably appeared less like the great man and more like Eddie Murphy’s Grandma Klump from The Nutty Professor II (seriously, Google it). He was invisible, yet omnipotent. So when the news of his release finally came, for many of us in the anti-apartheid movement it was like a Second Coming.

However, unlike your average messiah, we saw Nelson Mandela with our own eyes. He walked among us, his creed clear and unambiguous. Despite this, a swathe of unsavoury passengers with very different beliefs has been hitching a ride on the Mandela bandwagon.

To my amazement, I learned recently that Prime Minister David Cameron considers Nelson Mandela a hero these days. This is weird, because back in 1989 – when the rest of Mandela’s supporters across the world were boycotting South African products and holding demonstrations and vigils calling for his release – Conservative rising star Cameron was on an all-expenses-paid, anti-sanctions jolly to white supremacist South Africa on behalf of the pro-apartheid lobby.

And it’s not just David Cameron who has changed his tune to Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika of late. Back in the 1980s, many of those in the British establishment now praising Mandela were leading members of the Federation of Conservative Students, the youth wing of the Tory party and an organization which not only branded him a terrorist, but also produced T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. It’s truly disgusting; I mean, who’d want to be part of an organization like that? I’ll tell you who. Past members of this illustrious society and its fellow student organization, the Oxford University Conservative Association (another bigoted gang banned from the Oxford Union in 2010 for telling a racist joke in an election hustings), include Foreign Secretary William Hague, Home Secretary Theresa May, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow and BBC political editor Nick Robinson.

Strangely, none of them have been too keen on quoting their real hero, Margaret Thatcher, in their recent hagiographies of Mandela. Perhaps that’s because she described him as ‘that grubby little terrorist’. Is it just me, or does anyone else think we should hit the brakes on this bandwagon and kick these gruesome opportunists off?

The attempted appropriation and beatification of Mandela by people once his enemy is not only an exercise in political face-saving, but an attempt to neutralize his political legacy. It must always be remembered that his release, and the subsequent end of apartheid, was won not just by his inspiring display of humanity but also by sanctions, strikes, riots, boycotts and protests by millions of people in South Africa and around the world. The real Mandela never asked people to get down on their knees and pray: he told them to stand up and fight.

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry


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