Fun in the pun

Top Gear, eat your proverbial heart out

First up, pun action.

Van-cy a trip? Van-tastic voyage. Just TWO of the excellent puns to be found in this story from New Zealand about two blokes driving a van (who would have guessed) across the Cook Strait. (An amphibious transport story can never have enough puns.)

But this is not just a tale of boating larks and derring-do. Hell no. Says Dan, one half of the van-driving duo: "We are definitely pretty stoked. It [the crossing] has got to be up there. She's pretty high in New Zealand achievements." Really Dan? What about Everest, or Lord of the Rings, or rugby? They're sort of OK as massive global triumphs go. But, having said that, did any of these great events/people/achievements allow for the following to take place?

By 6.27am, each had their first beer in hand and breakfast was being prepared.
"Mint mate . . . we might have a sneaky pie heated on the exhaust."

Clearly not. So, for the pie on the exhaust alone, I eat my words. This is great. Oh, and Dan's message to the youth of today?

Get off the PlayStation and go and turn something into something stupid.



Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Photo: Getty
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What the debate over troops on the streets is missing

Security decisions are taken by professionals not politicians. But that doesn't mean there isn't a political context. 

First things first: the recommendation to raise Britain’s threat level was taken by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), an organisation comprised of representatives from 16 government departments and agencies. It was not a decision driven through by Theresa May or by anyone whose job is at stake in the election on 8 June.

The resulting deployment of troops on British streets – Operation Temperer – is, likewise, an operational decision. They will do the work usually done by armed specialists in the police force protecting major cultural institutions and attractions, and government buildings including the Palace of Westminster. That will free up specialists in the police to work on counter-terror operations while the threat level remains at critical. It, again, is not a decision taken in order to bolster the Conservatives’ chances on 8 June. (Though intuitively, it seems likely to boost the electoral performance of the party that is most trusted on security issues, currently the Conservatives if the polls are to be believed.)

There’s a planet-sized “but” coming, though, and it’s this one: just because a decision was taken in an operational, not a political manner, doesn’t remove it from a wider political context. And in this case, there’s a big one: the reduction in the number of armed police specialists from 6979 when Labour left office to 5,639 today. That’s a cut of more than ten per cent in the number of armed specialists in the regular police – which is why Operation Temperer was drawn up under David Cameron in the first place.  There are 1340 fewer armed specialists in the police than there were seven years ago – a number that is more significant in the light of another: 900, the number of soldiers that will be deployed on British streets under Op Temperer. (I should add: the initial raft of police cuts were signed off by Labour in their last days in office.)

So while it’s disingenuous to claim that national security decisions are being taken to bolster May, we also shouldn’t claim that operational decisions aren’t coloured by spending decisions made by the government.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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