Dirty tricks, no nicks and standards

Marina on an electoral roll and thinking back to those Playboy days

Dear Marina

If one more person calls me to report a pothole, pledge a donation or join something called “the revolution” I’m throwing my phone out the window.

I keep telling them I’ve never heard of you and to f**k off. It was my son who spotted the same name on some leaflet people keep shoving through my door. What’s going on?

Disengaged, East Saltdean, near Brighton

Thank you for getting in touch. Given the number of Focus leaflets delivered through your letter box, it does concern me you’ve never heard of Marina Pepper.

I am one of your local Liberal Democrat councillors standing for re-election on 3rd May for East Saltdean and Telscombe Ward. That’s where you live.

Regarding the phone problem, there are three possibilities. Either we have a simple crossed wire, clever seagulls or somebody enjoys a prank.

Allegations of tampering are currently under investigation so I’d best not elaborate. But suffice to say it has not been lost on my crew that your disarming phone manner will have played an interesting curve ball to the electorate this week.

All calls are now redirected to my mobile until further notice at no extra charge to the caller. And please, in the spirit of sisterhood, register to vote. I notice you are not on the electoral roll. You have until 5.00pm on Wednesday 18th April.

Dear Marina,

Anna Nicole Smith was 39 years old when she died. You are 39 now. Given you're her age and with first-hand experience being in Playboy I thought you might be able to answer a question that's been plaguing me: Who's her baby's daddy?
So far three men are up for the task (or the fortune) of parenting six-month Dannilynn: Howard K. Stern, owner of the sizzling business, Hot Smoochie Lips, Inc., Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, who is already married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her former Australian bodyguard, Alexander Denk.
So, please, draw your bunny ears and contemplate which man you are hoping will come out as the victor following DNA tests.

Love H from the US

Playboy Centrefolds don’t wear ears – that’s Playboy Bunnies. They are croupiers and waitresses. We are ….I don’t know what we are……fine specimens of womankind I assume. Anyway, we wear – well, not much at all really. Although I do now, since that is what is expected of proper upstanding members of the community. But not underwear. It’s too warm these days.

Now we’ve cleared that one up, to your question. Who’s the daddy? Who cares? If a bunch of girl men want to carry on like a harem of cash crazed Texan gold diggers in some twisted narrative Hollywood inversion of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, I’m not going to waste time worrying. I have a mountain of Focus leaflets to deliver and a Tory party machine to beat by 3rd May

I wonder if any of the men in question would like to make a donation. They can contact me by clicking here.

Dear Marina

You were recently reported to the Standards Board for England over allegations of your conduct following planning permission being granted for a waste incinerator in Newhaven. Apparently you said opponents to the scheme had “followed the due process and now is the time for direct action.” I understand the complainant interpreted this to mean “a call for civil unrest outside the law.”

What should we expect Councillor Pepper? Riots or a resignation?
RG, Sussex

As the Standards Board has ruled – and I agree – “direct action” can include a multitude of lawful activities. Such as home composting, shopping wisely, leaving excess packaging at supermarkets, re-using, recycling, even demonstrating outside parliament: if you fill out a form and don’t tread on the flowerbeds.

Having said that, a number of great people and movements in history have broken the law to ensure better laws. To name a few: the Suffragettes, Tom Paine, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Ghandi.

If the people of Newhaven and the surrounding area want to change government waste policies and feel their only option – now Ruth Kelly has refused to call in the incinerator planning decision – is to take to the streets and chain themselves to the swing bridge in the centre of town, I can neither condemn nor condone their behaviour. I will however fully understand their sense of frustration.

Gotta go. Did you know I’m standing for election on 3rd May in the ward of East Saltdean and Telscombe? It’s a two horse race between Liberal Democrats and the Incinerator-hugging Tories. If you want to send a donation contact

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Tories play Game of Thrones while the White Walkers from Brussels advance

The whole premise of the show is a pretty good metaphor for the current state of British politics.

If you’re a fan of asking “who’s that, then?” and “is that the one who killed the other one’s brother?”, I bring great news. Game of Thrones is back for a seventh series. Its vast assortment of characters was hard enough to keep track of before half of them got makeovers. But now the new Queen Cersei has reacted to the arrival of the long winter by investing heavily in the kind of leather ball gowns sold by goth shops in Camden, and Euron Greyjoy, once a fairly bland sailor, has come back as a Halloween costume version of Pacey from Dawson’s Creek, all eyeliner and epaulettes.

The show’s reliance on British character actors is the only thing keeping me vaguely on top of the cast list: what’s Diana Rigg up to these days in Highgarden? And what about that guy who was in Downton Abbey that time, who now has the scaly arms? (Luckily, the next thing I watched after the Game of Thrones series premiere was the first two episodes of the revived Twin Peaks, which put my confusion into perspective. There, Agent Cooper spent most of his time talking to a pulsating bladder attached to one of those fake trees you get from Ikea when your landlord won’t let you have real plants.)

The day-to-day business of Game of Thrones has always been power – answering the question of who will sit on the Iron Throne, forged by Aegon the Conqueror from the swords of his defeated enemies. But its backdrop is a far bigger threat: the arrival of a winter that will last many years, and the invasion of an army of the undead.

That might seem like an unkind way to think about Michel Barnier and his fellow Brexit negotiators – inexorably marching towards us, briefing papers in hand, while Liam Fox frantically rings a bell at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel – but nonetheless, the whole premise of Game of Thrones is a pretty good metaphor for the current state of British politics.

The current internal Conservative struggle for power might be vicious but it is at least familiar to its contestants; they know which weapons to deploy, which alliances are vital, who owes them a favour. Meanwhile, the true challenge facing every one of them is too frightening to contemplate.

In 2013, this magazine celebrated the early success of the show with a cover depicting one of our terrifying painted mash-ups: “The Tory Game of Thrones.” Our casting has been strangely vindicated. George Osborne was our Jaime Lannister – once the kind of uncomplicated bastard who would push a child out of a window but now largely the purveyor of waspish remarks about other, worse characters. Our Cersei was Theresa May, who spent the early seasons of The Cameron Era in a highly visible but underwritten role. Now, she has just seized power, only to discover herself beset by enemies on all sides. (Plus, Jeremy Corbyn as the High Sparrow would quite like her to walk penitently through the streets while onlookers cry “shame!”)

Michael Gove was our Tyrion Lannister, the kind of man who would shoot his own father while the guy was on the loo (or run a rival’s leadership campaign only to detonate it at the last minute). Jeremy Hunt was Jon Snow, slain by the brotherhood of the Night Shift at A&E, only in this case still waiting for resurrection.

The comparison falls down a bit at Boris Johnson as Daenerys Targaryen, as the former London mayor has not, to my knowledge, ever married a horse lord or hired an army of eunuchs, but it feels like the kind of thing he might do.

We didn’t have David Davis on there – hated by the old king, David Camareon, he was at the time banished to the back benches. Let’s retrospectively appoint him Euron Greyjoy, making a suspiciously seductive offer to Queen Cersei. (Philip Hammond is Gendry, in that most of the country can’t remember who he is but feel he might turn out to be important later.)

That lengthy list shows how Conservative infighting suffers from the same problem that the Game of Thrones screenwriters wrestle with: there are so many characters, and moving the pieces round the board takes up so much time and energy, that we’re in danger of forgetting why it matters who wins. In the books, there is more space to expound on the politics. George R R Martin once said that he came away from The Lord of The Rings asking: “What was Aragorn’s tax policy?” (The author added: “And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?”)

Martin’s fantasy vision also feels relevant to the Tories because its power struggles aren’t about an “endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes”. Instead, everyone is flawed. In Westeros, as in the Conservative Party, it can be difficult to decide who you want to triumph. Sure, Daenerys might seem enlightened, but she watched her brother have molten gold poured down his throat; plucky Arya Stark might tip over from adorable assassin into full-blown psychopath. Similarly, it’s hard to get worked up about the accusation that Philip Hammond said that driving a train was so easy “even a woman” could do it, when David Davis marked his last leadership campaign by posing alongside women in tight T-shirts reading “It’s DD for me”.

The only big difference from the show is that in real life I have sympathy for Barnier and the White Walkers of Brussels. Still, maybe it will turn out that the undead of Game of Thrones are tired of the Seven Kingdoms throwing their weight around and are only marching south to demand money before negotiating a trade deal? That’s the kind of plot twist we’re all waiting for.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder