“Beatrice Webb refused to be a deb” – and other centenary clerihews
The satirist Craig Brown’s first published article appeared in the New Statesman in 1978. He fetes our centenary with choice clerihews praising everyone from Jemima Khan to Malcolm Muggeridge.
Refused to be a deb.
She thought life much lusher
In Soviet Russia.
The reputation of Sidney Webb
Continues to ebb
As they look through his files
Under “Stalin’s show trials”.
A C Grayling
Has only one failing:
Given the green light he
Holds forth like God Almighty.
Takes special care
To ensure his plays don’t lack
A very long speech about the
State of England delivered by
a disillusioned character,
preferably dressed in a mac.
When told to shut up:
Gave a thug a fridge;
He was naturally contrarian
When confronting the barbarian.
Outraged the Statesman wouldn’t print a
Poem called “Fucking Yankee Shit Wank Jerk”,
Yells: “But it’s a hugely important work!”
John Maynard Keynes
Helped workers lose their chains
And, by way of relaxation,
Wrote The Inflation of Currency
As a Method of Taxation.
Coos: “Wow, it’s so much fahn
“Associate-editing the Staggers,
“One of my absolute fave glossy maggers!”
Took a gamble
On WMDs; and lost,
To our cost.
Considered obeying orders the norm
And so didn’t react
To the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.
Went into rage a
Day after the Statesman laid bare
The (wrong) affair.
Wasn’t cast in Les Miz
Though they should have found room: he
Is sufficiently gloomy.
Favours radio talk-ins.
“Prof, we’re putting you through
“To God on line 2.”
J B Priestley
Was rarely beastly.
He preferred to sit on the fence
Of plain common sense.
Would eat and drink bonnily,
>Causing him to shout,
“In every fat man a thin one is
wildly signalling to be let out.”
Julian Assange Says: “Le patron mange
“Ici, because I’m now the chief member, see,
“Of the Ecuadorean embassy.”
>Has gone all touchy-feely,
Recently paying hommage
To Nigel Farage.
Had a talent to enrage,
Declaring: “Evelyn Waugh
“Is a writer we deplore!”
Proved too partial
To darling Mrs T.
(Oh deary, deary me!)
Didn’t tour well;
He could be heard to murmur
Rude remarks about Burma.
Took no part in
God Save the King:
It wasn’t his thing.
1 & 2 With only modest reservations, the founders of the New Statesman, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, supported Stalin through the Great Purge.
3 One of A C Grayling’s pieces for the NS began: “What religious people mean by ‘god’ means nothing to me beyond an incoherent cluster of concepts . . . ”
4 The playwright David Hare still contributes to the NS.
5 Despite heavy criticism, the actor Hugh Grant is resolute in his campaign to curb press freedom.
6 In 1955, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote a pioneering article for the NS against the “tedious adulation” of the royal family.
7 Harold Pinter would be sent into a fury whenever a publication turned down the opportunity to publish one of his poems.
8 John Maynard Keynes was the chairman of the Nation when it merged with the NS in 1931, and remained a guiding force.
9 Jemima Khan is the NS’s associate editor.
10 Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, guest-edited the magazine in 2009.
11 The late historian Eric Hobsbawm remained a dutiful member of the Communist Party even beyond the Soviet invasion of Hungary.
12 While still prime minister, John Major sued the NS after it printed rumours of an extramarital affair (though not the affair he had earlier enjoyed with Edwina Currie).
13 Martin Amis was the literary editor of the NS from 1977-80.
14 Richard Dawkins guest-edited the Christmas edition of the NS in 2011.
15 J B Priestley was a regular contributor; an article by him led to the founding of CND.
16 Cyril Connolly (pictured right) was a regular contributor to the NS in the 1930s.
17 Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is now residing at the Ecuadorean embassy in Hans Crescent, London SW1.
18 In an interview with the NS last month, the nonagenarian Denis Healey spoke fondly of Margaret Thatcher, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Nigel Farage.
19 & 20 When he was the editor of the NS, the Australian Bruce Page declared Evelyn Waugh his least favourite author; he also fired his columnist Arthur Marshall, allegedly for saying “Cooee! Isn’t Mrs Thatcher doing well?” while visiting the NS offices.
21 & 22 George Orwell, the author of Burmese Days, fell out with the NS editor Kingsley Martin. In 1962, Martin wrote The Crown and the Establishment, an argument in favour of British republicanism.
Craig Brown’s first published article ran in the NS in 1978