The Daily Telegraph

Way of the World

- Michael Deacon

Thirty years ago, Harry Enfield used to perform sketches about a character called Jurgen the German: a weird and pathetical­ly ingratiati­ng tourist who would go round Britain, prostratin­g himself before startled strangers while wailing unsolicite­d apologies for “the conduct of my nation in the war”.

I hope Mr Enfield will be back on TV soon, because now he could do a new version of the sketch with the roles reversed. This time, a die-hard Remainer could go round Germany, prostratin­g himself before startled strangers while wailing unsolicite­d apologies for “the conduct of my nation in the referendum”. And then apologise for saying all this in English, because sadly, like everyone else in his hopeless, backward homeland, he can’t speak any foreign languages.

Then again, such a character would probably be feeling quite cheerful at the moment. This is because a poll suggests that a clear majority of voters now think Brexit was a mistake.

Even if true, though, he shouldn’t get his hopes up. In reality, there’s zero prospect of Brexit being overturned.

Thinking Brexit is going badly is not the same as wanting to rejoin the EU. First, few voters could stomach another referendum. Second, the terms of membership would now be different. We would no longer have our rebate, so membership would be more expensive. And these days, countries joining the EU are required to join the euro, too. Is there really a majority for abolishing the pound?

Perhaps the key question, though, is this. Would the EU even want us back? Euroscepti­c feeling in Britain is so deeply ingrained, Brussels would have little faith we’d actually stay.

In the eyes of the EU, I suspect, Britain is like a cat. Let us back in, and within moments we’d be noisily clamouring to get back out again.

Novelists used to have sleepless nights about how their latest book would be received by the critics. No longer. Nowadays, they’re far more worried about how it will be received by the “sensitivit­y readers”. These are the woke busybodies employed by modern publishers to ensure that absolutely no one anywhere on Earth could possibly take offence at a single syllable of any book. Their latest victim is Anthony Horowitz. In The Spectator he reveals that, for the US release of his most recent novel, he was told by the sensitivit­y readers to replace the word “scalpel” with the term “surgical instrument”. Apparently this was to avoid causing offence to Native Americans, on the grounds that “scalpel” sounds a bit like “scalping” – which is what “Red Indians” used to do to their enemies. Why anyone would make such a bizarre connection, let alone be offended by it, I don’t know, but clearly the publishers felt it best to be on the safe side.

Just imagine if the great authors of the past had been bedeviled by sensitivit­y readers. They’d never have got a word into print.

“Ah, Mr Virgil, do sit down. Thank you for submitting the latest draft of your Aeneid. I’m afraid, however, that our sensitivit­y readers have flagged a number of concerns.

“First, your depiction of Polyphemus the cyclops is appallingl­y ableist. Just because he has only one eye, that does not mean it’s acceptable to call him ‘deformed’ or a ‘monster’.

“Second, the Greek underworld community is bound to be upset by your hurtful reference to ‘gorgons and harpies of foul wing’. For one thing, ‘harpy’ is a word with deeply misogynist­ic overtones.

“And third, you’re likely to cause great offence in Asia Minor. You suggest that Trojan people are so unbelievab­ly stupid that, upon discoverin­g a vast wooden horse unexpected­ly deposited outside their city gates, they would presume it to be some kind of surprise gift from an anonymous well-wisher, and wheel it inside the city without undertakin­g the most cursory of security checks.

“As well as highly far-fetched, this storyline is profoundly insulting. It could easily cause a diplomatic incident. Or, at least, it could if Troy hadn’t fallen around 1,100 years ago.”

Mick Lynch and his fellow trade union leaders constantly accuse the Government of underpayin­g public sector workers. Yet they remain mysterious­ly silent on the most tight-fisted employers of all – tooth fairies.

According to a shocking report this week in The Sun, tooth fairies are now paying British children an astonishin­g 10 per cent less for their teeth than they were five years ago. In 2018, the standard rate per tooth was £2.10. These days, it’s a mere £1.90. This is a scandal. Our children, quite clearly, are being ripped off by these selfish, profiteeri­ng tooth fairies. Yet the union barons say nothing.

Well, if Mr Lynch and his cronies won’t defend our children, I will. I’m calling on all infants aged between five and 12 years old to take immediate strike action, by withholdin­g their baby teeth until the tooth fairies are willing to get round the table and offer them an inflation-matching pay deal.

This isn’t just about fairness. The tooth fairies of this country need to realise that these cuts are self-defeating. The more money our children receive for their teeth, the more sweets they can afford to buy. And the more sweets they eat, the quicker their teeth will fall out. Slashing the average fee per tooth, therefore, represents a lamentably short-termist approach to business.

If this lack of investment leads to lower profits, our greedy tooth fairies will have only themselves to blame.

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