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  • Writer's pictureDavid Mathews

11 Downing Street – Jonestown, UK

Sidney dropped in for a coffee.

‘What d’you think, Dave, First World War generals? The Titanic?’

Sid was trying to find the right parallel to the Chancellor’s scorn for British manufacturers as he ruled out alignment with their major customers in the EU.

‘Throwing them to the dogs, Sid?’

My old mucker thought the metaphor fair enough, but fancied that the assault on industry warranted something more dramatic. He has a feeling for companies that make stuff, does Sidney. His favourite uncle had worked for GEC, and Sid had learned from Uncle Arnold how city investors, impatient for returns and contemptuous of mechanical and electronic gizmos, had harried this engineering giant into the ground.

‘In a sensible world, GEC would still be here and doing our 5G, wouldn’t they?’ said Sidney.

We discussed what other self-inflicted calamities Sajid Javid’s mad plan brought to mind. The obvious ones tended to be military, right back to the ancient Greeks. In more modern times, invading Russia came high on the list, along with trying to take over Afghanistan.

The Charge of the Light Brigade seemed a promising candidate. You know, almighty casualties, and no-one admitting whose fault the whole damn business was. Memorable poem too. But therein lay the weakness, Tennyson’s ‘…someone had blundered.’

‘This isn’t a blunder, is it, Dave? It’s deliberate. Like murder? Or suicide?’

Well again, Greeks and Romans were strong on suicide, with hemlock and so on, but they tended not to send others to their doom at the same time.

‘What about Jim Jones?’

The spotty lad with the dodgy fruit and veg down the market?

No. Sidney put me right. November 1978, Guyana. Revd Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple cult. The telly had shown us the ghastly business, the background of murders, conspiracies, abuse and paranoia leading to the mass suicide, much of it forced, it seems. Hundreds of children. Cyanide in the drinks.

But how to sum it up? Sid wanted snappy, and the government, as we know to our cost, loves a three-word phrase.

‘Do hyphenated words count as one, Dave?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘How about “Drink the Kool-Aid”.’

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