Taking It Back

Dear David Amess MP,

I’m really glad you retracted that moronic statement you allegedly didn’t write. The one that said that “The recent revelations that countless starlets have apparently been assaulted by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein are dubious to say the least”, that “this sudden flurry of alleged inappropriate advances beggars belief.” and then, a faeces grenade from left-field, “Just as with claims against Jimmy Savile here in the UK, why did no one say anything until now?”

Wow. A sideswoop Savile defence. That’s classy, Dave.

I’m glad though that you had the guts to blame a member of your staff because you really shouldn’t be expected to take the flack for the idiocy of someone you’ve wilfully employed to be your mouthpiece when you’re busy on other matters, like making sure Southend is shown off at its best in its year of being self-appointed Alternative City of Culture. (Only two months to go til the as yet undisclosed special end of year celebrations! I hope it’s something on the end of the pier. As you well know Dave it ain’t even a thing unless it’s on the pier.)

I’m extra glad you’re putting “instructions in place to prevent this happening again”. Do keep us posted as to what happens to this churl in your employ. After all, as much as I’m loathe to accept you are there by elected means, whoever is doing your job for you is not. If they’re messing up and they weren’t even elected, get them out Dave. Liability. You don’t need any more bad press to make you look like a numptie.

The fact it was a press release presumably means you/they thought your/their two-penneth on the Weinstein matter was write-and-share-worthy.
A question for you Dave. Who asked you? No, really – who did ask you? When was it an obligatory part of your day, paid by us, to comment on the goings on in Hollywood, or to put aside your sandwich to make sure gobby women everywhere got a sharp elbow in the ribs? That’s not in your remit is it? A knee-jerk reaction to a man you don’t know getting slammed for his consistently deplorable behaviour around women? Did you/your employee think it was high time that some of these women who got all uppity over being objectified and intimidated be put in their place, by you? What is their place, Dave? On their knees, not making a fuss?

Re the laughable “why did no one say anything until now?” – you do know that it is almost never the instinct of a raped or abused woman to march straight to the police to report it, or to even mention it to family and friends, don’t you? You do realise that by the time most women can stand and breathe and talk after an attack the DNA has passed from their bodies? You do know that because of the way Everything Works most women have absolutely no faith that their claims would be taken seriously and are reluctant to expose themselves to even greater vulnerability and pain? Furthermore, you do realise that cretinous comments like yours make you complicit in the further silencing of victims?

Let’s just suppose for the sake of optimism that you really didn’t make this statement you allegedly didn’t make. Let’s assume the person who issues your statements feels like they know you well enough to comment in lieu, that they really think you’d want to stick your head above the parapet to express sympathy for a rich man who is attracting overdue universal wrath, to attempt to give the unfortunate reputation of poor Jimmy Savile, loyal friend of the Tories, a bit of a polish, and to blanket victim shame? Because that’s worrying Dave. Because they’ve either got you wrong and should be immediately dismissed, or they’ve got you right and you’re the one who should be immediately dismissed. Which is it?

Sincerely,
Most Women

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Amess on your Doorstep

Don’t you hate it when you don’t say any of the things you’d like to because someone catches you unprepared? 

When Sir David Amess MP knocked on my door last Friday I was caught utterly off-guard and ever since I’ve been forehead-slappingly cross at myself for not saying better things to him. I suppose that is the problem with being a dithery writer and not a politician. I am not good on my feet, talking on the hoof. I like to have a nice sit down and type when I have stuff to say. I haven’t got the ease of spiel that a politician has. I am not commando-trained in on-the-spot rhetoric and bluff.

I was expecting my boyfriend to arrive any minute so the last thing I was expecting was a floppy-haired politician for whom I wouldn’t vote if you paid me a million quid. I was expecting a human I actually liked and wanted to kiss, not an elected stranger who made me do a quickly-controlled double-take of horror. I’d just got out of the shower and was in a state of ‘getting ready’ disarray – nail varnish remover soaked ball of cotton wool in one hand, my excited dog tail-wagging in the other, and was generally not dressed for greeting anyone in any capacity, political or otherwise. I certainly wasn’t primed for Sir Dave. Suddenly I was very conscious of my post-shower vest-clad boobs, and you can seldom be verbally impressive with a Tory prick when  you’re willing your tits to behave.

We just stared at each other for a bit first. I’m not sure if he recognised who I was, but there was definitely an instant wall of awkwardness as I opened the door; both his smile & his pre-prepared patter faltered as our eyes locked. We’ve met a few times in less fraught political climates, and I wrote a column about him a while back which according to secret sources apparently provoked Sir Dave to ask at a meeting “Who is this Sadie Hasler?”, but I wasn’t sure if he knew my actual face. And now there’s this column too. (Hi Dave!)

The trouble is – when I meet people in person I seldom take a dislike to them. If I didn’t know who Sir Dave was; what he stood for, represented, what he had voted for and against over the years – against gay rights and marriage, against terminally ill people being given assistance at the end of their lives; voted for hunting, and for war (see exactly how Dave has voted) – what I believe his party is doing to the country, the terrifying systematic dogged and irrevocable social, cultural, political, fiscal & ethical damage I believe the Conservatives will continue to drive through should they win the election, I might even have liked him. This slightly nerdy fop-haired man in a nondescript suit being trad Brit affable on my doorstep. Simple manners kick in, don’t they. It’s easy to like most people. But instead of offering the wafty affability of a brief hostess I wish I had been better at razing his hair to trembling bristles with my left-leaning savagery instead of falling into default doorstep manners. Why couldn’t I have rankled him with exquisite eloquence like another of my friends did –  who had him rock up round her gaff a few days earlier when she was wine-strong and feisty. It sounds like he probably left wishing he’d given that street a miss. Why was I just…mute?

I wish I’d been fully dressed and in verbose mood and delivered him an uncomfortable ten minute rant about all the things he’s done and hasn’t done that make me angry. That make many of my friends angry, that portion of the minority vote round here that desperately want to see him defeated. I wish I had been one of those people that are so effective at talking that I may even have made him think or rethink or feel a bit guilty about his long-reigning self-serving bigoted idiocy. It’s a nice fantasy. But in reality none of my words would have swayed him, just as none of his would have swayed me. Polarity of beliefs; natural ideological loggerheads. 

So I just said “Oh. Hullo. Yes, you’re right, my dog is a cocker spaniel.” and took his clammy fliers even though I knew they’d get whacked straight into the bin in a passive-aggressive act of revolt. In short, I’m rubbish. Like, really shit. I’m properly vexed at myself. Dave, if you knocked again, I’d be much better and probably chomp your pamphlet in front of you and then spit it back out in soggy defiance.

 I might also say “Why the fuck did you park in my boyfriend’s space when you could have just walked?” Seeing a Tory MP stealing a sacred parking space in infamously rubbish-for-parking Leigh makes voting Labour worthwhile in itself. Get him out.

Dear Sir David Amess MP…

Dear Sir David Amess MP,

Hullo! Nippy isn’t it? I’m typing this just round the corner to your office. I bet if I were to print this out, fold it into a paper aeroplane and lob it over it’d reach you quicker than the post but the truth is Sir David I haven’t got a printer so I’ll just stick it in the newspaper instead.

How was your Christmas? Did you get to chill out much or were you busy with work? I ate too much cheese. It happens. What can you do (except not eat cheese)?

Do you get to read this paper much, or do you get pertinent pieces cut out by your secretary for you to scan while you’re having a biscuit break? I’ve been writing this column (well not this one specifically) for over four and a half years now but it’s the first time I’ve written one to you. It’s ok if you’ve never read it. To be honest Sir David if you read my weekly witterings rather than tending to important political business I’d tell you to get back to bloody work.

How did the Alternative City of Culture launch on New Year’s Day go? Was it nice? Did you go? Was the clown good? I couldn’t make it in the end because a group of us decided to boycott it. Sorry. We used your event as inspiration and called our quiet rebellion No Culture Day. It involved doing literally nothing that resembled anything cultural whatsoever. It was a hard task on the nation’s favourite hangover day and by about 5pm I thought I was going to expire from not sculpting something thought-provoking from sea-clay while listening to Shostakovich but I got there. Phew.

The reason a group of creatives decided to announce on social media platforms that we were shunning culture for the day was because we didn’t want to appear complicit in our silence. You may have become aware that some people are reticent about you announcing Southend as the Alternative City of Culture following its defeat in the bid for Actual City of Culture. Some have been left a bit confused about what a city actually is, some worried the dissent might look a bit petulant to the rest of the country and queer our pitch for future bids, and some of us sat by the phone, waiting for you to call. We knew that if you were serious about programming a whole year of Culture,❤️💥🌟🌈 etc, in the town by the town for the town to represent the town, you would make concerted efforts to reach further into the town for said Culture. This year – the year you call to arms the creatives of Southend to give your personal project substance, context, and meaning – would be an exceptional opportunity to get to know some cool people you don’t otherwise get to talk to. It must be hard though, finding time to talk to the people when so much of your work takes you away from them. It’s a busy life isn’t it Sir David? I get that. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out at the lack of time to do everything.

I came to the Southend day you held at the House of Commons a few years ago. I think it was a preparatory event for your City of Culture bid. There were some nice people there. And a lot of nice suits. I tried not to get a bit blinky at the slight air of patronisation that can surround such events; the jocular implication that we simple seaside Southenders live on cockles and lactate Rossis ice-cream, but I stood by the table with the fizz and was fine. ( A nice Aldi Cava I assume, what with parliamentarians being so dedicated to saving the nation’s quid.) 

Standing around in shoes I don’t normally wear looking at old portraits that probably cost more than I will earn in a lifetime reminded me of the day Teddy Taylor showed my Politics A’ Level class around the Houses of Commons and Lords in the late 90s. It’s quite a nice place to hang out with all that history and bustle and cracking architecture isn’t it Sir David? I can well imagine being part of the cogs of history must feel like quite a heady whirl of privilege and purpose. I can also imagine that once you’re ensconced in that world you must grow protective of it, like I am protective of mine. We are all simple clans folk really, aren’t we. We’ve decorated our caves nicely but the hard-wired programming of being human remains pretty basic. Perhaps spending a great portion of your working life in that gilt club must make it hard to see beyond the gleam, to wander away from the campfire; perhaps your voting history is merely you voting with the pack. Weirdly, it’s easier to think you voted, for instance, against gay marriage because you’re toeing the old Tory line for an easy life than it is to think you truly don’t believe in your heart that everyone should be free to marry the person they love irrespective of whether they’re packing two nadgers, four tits, or whatever. Sorry for the language, Sir David. It is the fruity dialect of the common person and I’m happily stuck with it.

Yes. I suppose it must be hard to come away from the unrelenting bind of a stressful job in the most important institution in the country to find time to get to know the people who comprise your constituency, especially when some of those people are diametrically opposed to your own ideals. The truth is Sir David, the creatives you need to pad out your year of Culture are not likely to be those who voted for you. They are not wealthy businessmen, comfortable pensioners who like their people as anaemic as their tea, or people who like to give their vote to the unchallenged local party because it’s easier than thinking or changing anything. The real truth is most creatives are piss poor because we have chosen a life of lunacy in the Arts, because we’re drawn to little else, and we make our strange peace with not being amply remunerated for the life we choose. We count our riches out of different pockets. But we all make up the town and whether some of us agree with how you vote or not, while you are our MP, it is your town. And we are here too. Other people. Hi.

 
Your Cultural project makes me wonder what culture floats your boat enough for you to take up the mantle of enthusiast so publicly? Are you a theatre man? Feminist confessional new writing with a metatextual bent? Perhaps you like opera or Morecambe & Wise or burying your eyes in a Turner painting – or maybe when you have a quiet moment you listen to Mötorhead to get your juices flowing or perhaps you’re on the fifth listen of Black Star and mourning David Bowie’s passing like a lot of us. I don’t suppose many people think to ask you what culture sets you alight. Does that nark you out a bit or make you sad? You’re not a bloody machine after all. I like to think that a thing we all have in common is when we put down our work and our rules and the things which tire us or stress us out, we are all creatures who seek joy in something. Art is always there for us and it never diminishes, no matter how much we take from it. That’s pretty cool isn’t it, Sir David?
 

I suppose you get asked to attend a lot of things, probably involving cutting a ribbon somewhere, but I wonder how many people ask you to come out for a pint and a chat about the culture you’re passionate about. Now, I know you’re busy because you replied to a friend of mine – a wonderful artist named Scottee – saying someone else would be in touch. But I wondered if, in the interests of the town and the culture you’re personally celebrating this year, you might be the one to venture out yourself. I’m no PR guru but I think some shots of you holding a real ale with some people wearing Converse would be cool. (Some of them are gay though, FYI, but I doubt you’re their type so you’re quite safe.) It would be great. You could take your tie off. It would be winsome. You might even feel comfortable, happy, inspired, refreshed, or – dare I suggest might not be common in political life – real for a while. In short, fancy a pint? (We can also do coffee – we’re not heathens.) 

Because Sir David, if facepainting and a singular clown remains the zenith of the vision for your year’s foray into culture, we’d rather you didn’t do it in our name. Shall we discuss the other options?

Warmest,

Sadie Hasler

Columnist, Southender, playwright, leftie, lover of gays.