Happy Friday everyone and sweet mother of good God what a week it has been. Society Diary’s not entirely certain, but it’s pretty sure that Boris Johnson suggested building an actual bridge between England and France this morning. That’s the kind of hare-brained, zany and/or completely moronic scheme that’s going to see post-Brexit Britain through. Don’t even get The Sun started about the Bye-EU tapestry.
This week in charity sector satire, a veritable smorgasbord of delectable titbits: an MP is under fire for trying to claim £50 hospice donation back on expenses, the RSPCA has only gone and punned, and the Daily Mail is after the National Trust.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends!
There are few things more sacred to good, honest, God-fearing, Tory-voting, Monarchy-loving, upstanding members of British society than the cherished memory of Sir Winston Churchill. “Without him we’d all be sprechen ze Deutsche right now and eating boiled sausages and cabbage in lederhosen,” yer da almost definitely says, down the pub, with his mate, just before/after seeing The Darkest Hour at the local cinema. “Old Winnie didn’t roll over, like the Frogs – those cheese eating surrender monkeys”.
Interestingly this particular demographic (white, male, over 50, probably a football fan) and the sort of thinking represented above seems to also directly correlate with people who read the Daily Mail. So one can only imagine how upset yer da was yesterday when he opened his copy of the Daily Mail to find that THE NATIONAL TRUST IS ATTACKING WINSTON CHURCHILL BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT WOMEN TO HAVE THE VOTE.
Now, before we dive head-long into this latest flare up, let’s first look at the Mail’s long and illustrious love-hate relationship with the National Trust. Late last year, the Mail went into fits of hysterical rage because the Trust had set up an installation at one of its homes commemorating the memories of men executed in the past for the then ‘crime’ of being homosexual.
Even more gloriously though was what Society Diary likes to remember as ‘Easter-egg-hunt-gate’. When the Daily Mail went full Dacre because the National Trust had apparently removed the word ‘Easter’ from its events celebrating Easter, most notably its Easter egg hunt. All this despite the fact the Trust resolutely and repeatedly had in fact used the word Easter. The Mail went so far with that one, even Prime Minister Theresa May had to take a break from selling arms to the repressive Saudi Arabian regime to condemn the Trust on television. What a time it was to be alive.
Anyway this time around a man called Harry Mount has taken up the Daily Mail cudgels against the National Trust.
His column begins: “What has groping got to do with Britain’s most magnificent stately homes?” and goes on, in much the same vein, for an amazingly long time.
It’s got all of the Daily Mail’s touchstone culture war phrases; describing the National Trust as an organisation “obsessed with turning our heritage into an excuse for achingly PC campaigns”, noting it has attracted “widespread criticism for its gay rights season” despite the fact that the only people criticising the Trust for that was the Daily Mail, and describing an exhibition at Churchill’s former home Chartwell as a “hatchet job” which proves “the Trust has no qualms about belittling its benefactors”.
Diary’s favourite bit is when the author, about half-way through his frothing, indignant right-wing rage-seizure, suddenly realises he may be putting himself firmly on the wrong side of many parts of history, not limited to but including women’s suffrage.
“I’m all for the women’s vote, gay rights and a more equal society,” writes Mount. Well, thank the heavens for that. “But as a Trust member for some 30 years, I’m also for our greatest conservation body doing just that — conserving houses and landscapes, rather than pushing an overtly political agenda.”
*Long, exasperated sigh*
Fortunately the National Trust seems undeterred and pressed on with its events to mark 100 years of women's suffrage by issuing a press release wishing its most senior volunteer a happy 100th birthday today.
Joan Capel has been volunteering at Erddig Hall in Wrexham for more than 25 years and said: "I volunteered at Erddig to keep me active in retirement and have been repaid a hundred fold. My philosophy for life is that the woman who works and is not bored, is never old and I intend to repay Erddig by spending my centenary in January 2018 still serving it.”
The National Trust has started the hashtag #BeLikeJoan to celebrate. Diary humbly suggests that the Daily Mail consider being more like Joan.
Charity begins with MP
To political expenses scandal news now and the Worcester News has dug up a little gem about Tory MP Harriett Baldwin trying to claim back the £50 she paid for a ticket to a local hospice’s charity awards night in 2013. The claim was rejected by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Baldwin gave a statement to the Worcester News, saying: “In 2013, I attended an event as the local MP for which there was a ticket charge. The claim was rejected by the independent body responsible for verifying expense claims.
"I have every confidence in IPSA and the job it does delivering transparency to the way Members of Parliament carry out their duties. I make many donations to local charities but of course they are made from my own resources.”
The Worcester News points out that, since becoming an MP in 2010, Baldwin has “successfully claimed back £1.1m in expenses” which is a lot of expenses. Whether or not any of those were also charitable donations isn’t mentioned.
It sure seems that Mrs Baldwin has taken the old adage ‘charity begins at home’ to heart. This story would be bad enough without the added factoid that Baldwin was recently appointed minister for Africa in Theresa May's most recent cluster-flip of a reshuffle.
Good news for Diary, not such great news for the continent of Africa.
Terrible animal puns
Finally we turn to some truly a-paw-ling animal pun news. The RSPCA has published a list of its most “a-moo-sing” calls from the public it received in 2017. The charity said it was doing this in a bid to “share laughs this Blue Monday” and said some of them were “a real hoot!”
Some of the hilarious calls include: “A horse walks into a bar” where, yeah, a horse literally walked into a Staffordshire pub; “Are you heron a laugh?” when an animal collection officer was called out to assist a garden ornament heron stuck in a pond and “Get stuffed” where a man mistook a stuffed toy dog for a real, stuffed dead dog.
Ewe weren't kidding, RSPCA. Those puns truly were un-BEAR-able.