There are no shortages. Nothing is in short supply. Go about your business, writes Nathaniel Tapley
It may be that you, sitting smugly in the future, are fine. In fact, given that you’ve found time to relax with the country’s favourite magazine, you probably aren’t in the middle of tense negotiations to see which of your children you should lease to roaming bands of petrol raiders to ensure you get this week’s allotment of super-unleaded. So maybe October won’t be all that bad. shortages
It may be, in fact, that you’re sitting in a deckchair in the sunlit uplands, happily filling the sprinkler with diesel, sipping on a cool petrol-tinny, remembering that terrible kerfuffle last month that turned out to be no more significant than the Toilet Paper Wars of 2020, the Zinger Tower Disaster of 2018, or 1999’s Furby Famine.
If that hasn’t happened, and you’re reading this article on a piece of magazine you’re screwing into a spill to light a makeshift fire to ward off urban foxes, tubercular badgers, or the Iain Duncan-Smiths that hunt in the night, you should remember that what you’re experiencing isn’t a shortage.
There’s an ampleness of things that you want (food, fuel, shelter, turkey-slaying CO2), they’re just not in the place where you want them to be. The government does have a girlfriend made of petrol, she just goes to another school.
This approach, of course, doesn’t just have to apply to goods and services and life-saving medical equipment. The government could apply this to the concept of poverty itself: “There can’t be such a thing as poor people. Look! I’ve got oodles of money! Heaps of the stuff! The British public can rest assured that there’s no shortage of money biffing about the place.”
This approach could have proved useful in the past. Sir Robert Peel, ruddy-cheeked, pockets full of chips, waistcoat stained with dauphinoise, could have rammed platefuls of mash into his face while telling the Irish that there was no shortage of spuds. Oliver Cromwell could have calmly explained to the body of Charles I that there was no lack of heads to go around, they just weren’t distributed equally. Edward III could have told the people of England that the problem wasn’t there were too many plague-bearing fleas, it was simply their concentration on the bodies of human beings that was proving to be an issue. It’s amazing how many problems could be solved by redistribution.
Government by semantics isn’t a new thing, of course. Strategists have become very good at making sure that “dead civilians” become “collateral damage”, “lies” become “mis-speaking”, and “did not have sexual relations with” means “definitely got noshed off by”.
There’s an ampleness of things that you want (food, fuel, shelter, turkey-slaying CO2), they’re just not in the place where you want them to be
The current Schrödinger’s shortage, however, appears to be a slightly different phenomenon. In a startling moment of inadvertent honesty, Grant Shapps said in an interview with Trevor Phillips: “The government has to provide reassurance as well, otherwise people will say: ‘Look, I can see what’s happening with my own eyes.’”
It’s been clear that the country has been running low on vital assets for quite some time. The September reshuffle proved that the country was dangerously short of competent, presentable human beings who could feasibly serve as Cabinet members. You don’t choose Nadine Dorries if you have any other options. There are translucent things you can find under a stump that are better suited to be Culture Secretary than Dorries.
Let’s remember, for a moment, what first brought Dorries to the attention of the public: her claim to be able to live off the average income of someone on benefits on Channel 4’s Tower Block of Commons. Four MPs chose to live on low incomes to prove they could live the lives of tower block residents.
None of them covered themselves in glory. Labour MP Austin Mitchell insisted on leaving the tower block every night to go and sleep somewhere else. Iain Duncan Smith gave up. Tim Loughton showed off some unsettling dance moves, and glory was definitely not what Lib Dem Mark Oaten was covered in. But only Dorries felt the need to actually cheat, smuggling in a £50 note in her bra.
The English pride themselves on their stoic asceticism and forbearance, their ungrumbling acquiescence to Blitzes or rationings. That, of course, is because the English are the most deluded people in the world.
In late 1945, in the shortages caused by the aftermath of war the country took to stealing light bulbs from train carriages (the largest spate of burglaries London’s police remembered seeing). And, in what one hopes isn’t a portent for this festive season, those butchers who could get hold of turkeys slept in their shops with loaded revolvers to stop them being stolen.
Nowadays, it only takes the chairman of Tesco to go on Peston and say, “Oh no, I’d hate it if people were to get the impression that they had to dash to the supermarkets and empty the shelves, with no regard for whether they need the items, because of the shortages that may or may not… My job? I don’t see how that’s relevant,” before we’re all garroting each other over the last sachet of dried fajita mix.
We can’t sit back and smugly say “I’m all right, Jack,” if we’re not actually all right. If we suspect someone else is getting a better deal. If we’ve run out of the things we need to wipe our arses, drive to our workplaces, or asphyxiate our poultry. At that point, we’re all Nadine Dorries, loudly saying the rules are fair while smuggling cash in our bras and trying to sneak past the authorities. Schindler’s Tits.
So, there are no shortages. Nothing is in short supply. Go about your business. Personally, the only thing I’m running low on is hope.
Nathaniel Tapley is a comedy writer and performer on the TV shows you hate