Stephen Covey: ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ – in seven paragraphs


1. Ever since I completed my degree in Stating the Bleeding Obvious from the highly prestigious University of Utah, I’ve worked with people in business to achieve synergetic outcomes during holistic paradigmatic shifts. The overarching lesson I’ve extracted from this process has been to leverage simple, well-worn concepts into superfluous verbose nonsense. As a quick keyword search on WikiQuote reveals, Henry David Thoreau once said “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.” Another thing I’ve learned has been the importance of dropping profound-sounding quotes into my work to give the impression that I’m incredibly well-read and therefore extremely perceptive. We all experience problems in our lives. For example, my teenage son was once an immense disappointment to me. He was failing to satisfy the various performance-based architectures I had designed for him. And he was an uncoordinated gimp. But through a combination of outstanding parenting and intense prayer, my son quickly became a straight-A student, an all-star athlete and basically the greatest person who has ever lived. Follow the mawkish, commonsense platitudes in this book and your human capital (and your management-speak vocabulary) will grow as a result of enhanced internal and interpersonal functionalities. As [confirm source later] said: “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”

2. You might think from this book’s title that I have studied successful people, such as business leaders and innovators, and drawn out the qualities that contribute to their effectiveness. Wrong. Instead, I’ve just selected my own personality traits of which I am most proud, then cherry pick some famous people who appear to share them. I advise you to take these characteristics and incorporate them into your internal processes, in order to vectorise a dynamic paradigm shift. By which I mean: make a few changes and sort your life out. Paradigm shifts occur all the time. I haven’t always been an incredibly successful author of soft-skill pseudoscience. I had to change my paradigm from being someone who aspired to write intelligible books, to one who aspired to write one stuffed full of grandiloquent, palaverous shite. I had to examine my matrix of values, which act as a guiding force for any successful person. For example, I am not afraid to put on record that I abhor torture, rape and murder. These principles form a vital part of my strong character, an essential component of effectiveness. I also believe that we should be aiming to reduce current global levels of child poverty. My integrity and emotional intelligence mean that I WILL NOT argue otherwise. Showing courage in standing up for one’s beliefs is just one habit of highly effective people like me.

3. It is said that “A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step”. This is true literally, if you are going on a long walk. However, look closely and a second meaning emerges: big changes are often made up of many smaller changes. This is usually the first piece of advice I give. People approach me all the time and say: “Stephen, you’re clearly a highly effective person: you’ve achieved all your goals and have stayed grounded and humble. How can I be more like you?”. I tell them in plain English that they need to adopt an Inside-Out, upward-spiraling, values-driven paradigm shift. At first they look confused and ask if I’m a charlatan selling a form of knock-off Scientology. I am deeply offended by the suggestion. Scientology is nonsensical claptrap that relies heavily on complex jargon to obscure its basic hollowness. The Seven Habits are a fine-grained strategic staircase for personal growth. So it should be obvious that the comparison is ridiculous. This book is about Habits. To be clear: a good Habit is like a golden egg-laying goose, which for no apparent reason we shall call PC. The golden eggs we shall call P. Focus too much on P, and PC will be neglected. This is bad. That is the core message of this book. Got that? Good. Let’s begin.

4. I can exclusively reveal that effective people like me are proactive and take the initiative.  These people strike a healthy P/PC balance. They are true to themselves. Their values cascade in a virtuous circle. They buy in to using vacuous buzzwords to grossly embellish simple points. Isn’t it so obvious, when phrased in this way? The best way to become more proactive is to identify things over which you can exert influence. I call this the Circle of Influence™. Things over which you cannot exert influence, such as nuclear war and a tendency to be seduced by cliched garbage, are in your Circle of Concern™. A reactive person tends to focus on his or her Circle of Concern. Ah, I feel another smug, self-congratulatory anecdote coming on in the absence of any scientific support for my points. I once worked with an organization run by a dictatorial CEO, who was difficult to work with. In a seven hour seminar, I encouraged employees expand their Circles of Influence by working much longer hours and sucking up to the CEO so that he would look upon them favourably. Feedback data suggested that everyone felt 2.34% more job satisfaction after having their time wasted in this way. I personally felt 6.3% happier as a result of trousering a five-figure sum for imparting simplistic management-speak bollocks to a captive audience.

5. I recommend that you read this next section in a quiet, safe space as it is highly likely that your mind will literally be blown. The second habit highly effective people demonstrate is the ability to plan ahead. When you begin a car journey, it’s helpful to know where you are going! Am I right? One person who had the ability to plan ahead was Jesus Christ Our Saviour. Jesus knew that his time on Earth was limited and so used several effective time management techniques to perform miracles and reveal himself to be the Son of God. He was also very proactive (see Habit 1). To become as effective as me or, to a lesser extent, Jesus, you need to have the courage to rescript your own paradigm and exhibit personal leadership. Develop a personal mission statement as early as possible. Map out each year of your life in detail, from now until your death. Try to visualise being more successful. If you visualise hard enough, it will inevitably materialise in reality. Think about the “centres” in your life that matter to you (such as work, possessions and family) and learn to balance these competing priorities, rather than letting one become an unhealthy vector on your life path. I like to call this mental process “A normal person living in the real world”™, and believe it to be utterly revolutionary.

6. Habit three is the second creation: the actualisation of habits one and two. By this, of course, I mean personal management: putting first things first. Engineer for yourself a time management matrix, split into four quadrants. Quadrant I is for emergencies. Things that are urgent, such as buying food or overpriced self-help manuals from Amazon, put in Quadrant II. Make sure you take care of these first. Things that are less urgent, such as socialising or pulling your head out of your arse, put in Quadrants III and IV. You’ll be amazed at just how more efficient you’ll become overnight. Maybe you don’t quite grasp what I’m saying, so let me employ yet another infantilising, self-serving example. Pastimes that are important to me include coaching the soccer team of the local orphanage and volunteering at soup kitchens, because I happen to be a person of the utmost integrity. And I like to bask in my moral superiority over others. I make sure I prioritise these activities over Quadrant III/IV pursuits. You also need to learn to scale back some activities. If yet another charity approaches you and asks you to serve on its board of trustees, you may have to decline. This takes courage and confidence, two key components of Quadrant segmentation. But, as Nietzsche probably would have said, “The Quadrant II Self Management Paradigm is important”.

7. The fourth Habit is to always think “Win-Win” – always try to seek mutually beneficial outcomes where possible. This manifests itself in a belief in the Third Alternative: a higher, better form of consciousness that forbids looking at life as a zero-sum game. Effectively these are just words, words words with no meaning or substance whatsoever, but I’ve committed to seven Habits so I’ve got to pad them out somehow. A good example of the Win-Win paradigm is found in workplaces all the time. If you are competing with a colleague for a promotion, consider the Third Alternative: ask that you both be promoted. This will demonstrate initiative and problem-solving skills. The fifth Habit is work on your social intelligence. Don’t be a dick at work and piss people off for no reason, ‘cos it won’t get you very far. Next! The sixth Habit is synergize. In case you hadn’t realised, groups of people tend to work better when they work together towards a common goal. Who knew?! Put simply, efficient, solution-driven work frontiers proactively generate fully networked dialogues. Need I say more? The seventh and final Habit is “sharpen the saw”: balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. In other words, do a bit of yoga. You are now a card-carrying effective person. Welcome to the club.

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EL James: ‘Grey’ – in seven paragraphs


  1. I wake up in a sweat colder than the inside of my luxury AEG freezer, which cost $6,999. Damn, another dream about my Troubled Childhood. Probably explains why you’re only sexually aroused by nipple clamps and fisting, my subconscious chimes in. I go for a run. Today I’m meeting the tenacious Kate Kavanagh for an interview with the WSU student newspaper. I don’t usually give interviews, but I need a plot device. I read some emails about my incredibly successful business before arriving at my office at 5am. After closing a few multi-billion dollar megadeals, my phone buzzes. “Miss Anastasia Steele is here to see you,” my assistant informs me, using her voice. “Steele….but I was expecting the tenacious Kate Kavanagh,” I reply. “Never mind, show her in”. I catch sight of Miss Steele as she enters the room via the rectangular doorway. She has a small, sweet face that is a picture of romantic beauty. A pale rose, as Austen or Brontë might have said. My massive throbbing cock signifies its approval. She sits down nervously on a four-legged chair, explaining that she has taken the place of the tenacious Kate Kavanagh who has conveniently fallen ill. Her words bounce off me as I imagine her suspended from the ceiling of my playroom with a marrow in her anus. “G-g-g-gosh,” she stutters, literally a bag of nerves. After the interview concludes, in customary fashion she leaves. I must have her.

  1. I immediately order a comprehensive background check on Miss Steele, which reveals everything from her blood type  (A) to her bank balance ($623.14). Days later, I wait in my car outside the hardware store in which she works, for once my heart pounding harder than my gigantic member. Her face has haunted my dreams since our meeting, briefly taking over from the cliched recollections about my Troubled Childhood. I have never stalked a woman before. Or at least, no-one has pressed charges. I wander into the hardware store and spot her immediately, and my mind is consumed with romantic images of taking her to dinner and reading poetry together. Then flogging her senseless with a tree branch while she wears nothing but high heels and a pained expression. “Hello, Miss Steele,” I murmur. “Hello, Mr Grey,” she murmurs back. She looks flustered and vulnerable – just the way I like it – and I feel my huge penis stirring in response. I purchase some cable ties, masking tape and a chainsaw, all the while looking at her suggestively. I ask if she would like to have a coffee with me, or a glass of cool Sancerre. Her lips say “No”; her eyes say “Read my lips”. Playing hard to get are we, sweetheart? I persist until she agrees. After coffee, I save her from being hit by a car and inhale her scent, which is intoxicating, like alcohol. She’s the one for you, Grey.

  1. No! I scream as I awake from yet another tedious nightmare about my Troubled Childhood. I can’t stop thinking about Miss Steele. This is ridiculous, Grey. I go for a run. I track her to a nightclub, where she is drunk and defenceless. Perfect. I sling her over one of my two shoulders and take her back to my expensive hotel suite, where I watch her sleeping for five hours and seventeen minutes. When she wakes up, she bites her lip and looks bashful. My cock begins to harden, etc. An unimportant, cardboard minion emails me a non-disclosure agreement for Miss Steele to sign before we get down to ‘business’. By which I mean some world-class kinky bonking. We take a trip in my helicopter, which flies like a big mechanical bird over the pretty Seattle skyline. I can tell she’s impressed by these unnecessary displays of my dripping wealth. Not the only thing that’s dripping my subconscious interjects, in another diabolically awful innuendo. We land at Escala, my metropolitan abode. Ana looks nervous as we descend in the elevator, biting her lip and looking bashful as bloody usual. “Would you like to see my playroom where I tie up my women and brutalise them?” I whisper, sipping a glass of cool Sancerre. Her eyes widen and she gasps. I show her. Her eyes widen and she gasps. “I want to dominate you in all ways,” I say. “Keen?” Her eyes widen and she gasps. But she doesn’t say no. Bingo.

  1.  We run through the various things I would like to do her, such as painting her green and calling her a naughty avocado while I thrash her until she resembles Mel Gibson’s Jesus. “But Christian, I’m a virgin, so can’t we just have sex?” she bleats. “Don’t be absurd, Miss Steele,” I murmur, “that wouldn’t cause as much of a publishing sensation.” I also make several unsubtle hints at my Troubled Childhood, which as we know means that vaguely normal behaviour is out of the question. All the while, my cock is stirring like a rapey snake. “Let’s go baby,” I pant. “Spread ‘em.” I fondle her perfect mounds (i.e. breasts) and moist love glove (i.e. fanny). After several pages of thrusting we both literally erupt in juddering orgasms. Not satiated by my gigantic member, after a moment’s pause she’s back for round two. More juddering orgasms etc. The next morning, after I go for a run, we have breakfast. “How do you like your eggs?” she asks. “Thoroughly whisked and beaten,” I reply. Like my women. I explain to Ana that she will now have to obey my every command. She seems uncertain, so I buy her a new laptop and a car. This seals the deal. I drop her home before settling down to read a book by two economists about inequality. Joking! I consume a glass of cool Sancerre and begin stroking my stiffening penis and think about Ana’s round breasts [cont. 20 pages]…

  1. I find it difficult to concentrate on my interesting work while Miss Steele and I exchange grim flirtatious emails too awful even for parody. But then, just as I’m finishing a glass of cool Sancerre, Ana emails to say that she’s read the dominant-submissive contract I drew up using the keypad on my 512GB, 1.2GHz dual-core MacBook, and that she doesn’t want to see me again. My response, after I go for a run, is to track her down and confront her, as any sex pest would. Shit, this isn’t good, Grey. Her roommate, the tenacious Kate Kavanagh, forbids me from entering their apartment, but I charm her into submission. As usual. At first Ana is cold, as cold as the freezer I mentioned earlier. Like any strong independent woman, she relents and we bonk. “Do you like this?” I ask, as I do something utterly unmentionable to her special place. “Yes…Sir,” she quivers in response, which is like a magic flute awakening my gargantuan love truncheon. Her demeanour is cheeky. Almost as cheeky as rewriting the same appalling book from a different perspective and charging £8.99 for it. She agrees to review the contract. “Sir,” she purrs, “it’s about fifty pages since we last made love, and the readers are probably getting bored. Take me now!” I drone on a bit in my unconvincing internal voice about my Troubled Childhood before administering a masterful drilling.

  1. Ana and I meet for dinner. I pour an oyster down her throat followed by a glass of cool Sancerre, and imagine my penis taking a similar route later on (i.e. oral sex). I imagine chaining her to a crucifix and whipping her with barbed wire, but it’s important to note that I’m only turned on by this because my mum was a drug addict and one of her friends rammed a dildo up my arse. No wonder I’m so fucked up. Ana gets freaked out again and refuses to reply to my many, many emails. This displeases me greatly, so I go for a run. Later that week, I give a speech at the WSU graduation ceremony: an opportunity to stalk Ana whilst giving a poorly researched lecture about progress in solar technology, battery life and wireless distribution [citation needed]. I present Ana with her degree scroll and give her hand a rapey squeeze. “Why aren’t you returning my emails?” I hiss. She does not reply. My cock twitches at the sight of her beautiful features etc. Later, I schmooze my way back into her affections by being nice to her dopey Southern stepfather and plying her with champagne. Nice work, Grey. We review the contract for the eighty third time. After some negotiation, we agree that the use of antique Victorian genital clamps is off limits. Frigid bitch.

  1. We shag relentlessly for over two hundred pages, punctuated by some glasses of cool Sancerre and some early-morning running. Ana eventually warms to the idea of our dominant-submissive relationship, and takes several spankings and whippings until her pert behind looks like a dog’s cushion. It’s like she is literally talking to my cock. I occasionally break off to discuss my business operations in Darfur that literally no-one could give two shits about. It’s a charitable project, because actually deep down I’m a nice guy: it’s just that my Troubled Childhood (about which I’ve been dropping subtle hints) has affected my personality. Got that? This means Ana and I never sleep together, which makes her upset. We communicate over more interminable emails. She complains at my tone: I respond by thwacking her divine love bean (i.e. clitoris) with a riding crop, which she loves, and flogging her in much the same way the author is flogging this dead horse of a series. “This is torture!” she whines. “Mainly for the readers!” I shoot back. Eventually, my ridiculous personality alienates her. The atmosphere is like a paedophile’s funeral after another round of flogging followed by frustrating conversation. Ana leaves me. I am devastated so I go for a run, close a few more business deals, and make a shitty model glider out of balsa wood. Ana’s gone, but like any unstable stalker, I know I can win her back. That’s for the sequel though…
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Kevin Pietersen: ‘KP: The Autobiography’ – in seven paragraphs


  1. We need to talk about Kevin. Specifically, we need to talk about all the times Kevin has been persecuted and victimised by the powers that be in English cricket, who exist for the sole purpose of ruining Kevin’s life. Kevin has kept an encyclopaedic list of every grudge and grievance he’s ever experienced, no matter how trivial, so his ghost writer should have little difficulty in stringing them together into a vaguely coherent story. You’ve already heard about the early part of my life in my first autobiography, but in case you didn’t read it I’m just going to carelessly coMine was a family where we backed each other up in whatever we did. It was a fantastic childhood. Mum and Dad supported us in everythingpy and paste some bits. That should do the job. I moved to England in 2000. Soon afterwards I met my wife Jess, an average singer for the shit pop group Liberty X. Sorry if this sounds harsh but Jess knows I will always speak my mind – one of the many reasons she is attracted to me. Craven, agenda-driven journalists call that abrasive, I call it honest. Sadly I’ve fallen out with everyone I’ve met because they can’t handle a bit of honesty, with the exception of Piers Morgan, the most straight-up guy I’ve ever encountered.
  1. Let’s get down to business – slagging off those involved in cricket who aren’t as talented and honest as me, i.e. everyone. We pick up the story in 2008. We’d won the Ashes in 2005 mostly thanks to my brilliance, but we were whitewashed in Australia the following year where poor coaching was to blame. I stupidly accepted the captaincy when Michael Vaughan retired, but I was doomed to fail. Peter Moores, the head coach, was a nightmare and my teammates were horribly out of form. I made several mistakes too. I just can’t think of any right now. Moorsey wore me down. He kept asking me to attend team meetings and training sessions. I obviously refused because I thought they were a waste of time. When Moorsey insisted, I threatened to scream and scream until I was sick. This was very poor man management on his part. In this situation, a good coach would have recognised my talent and made one rule for me and another for my teammates. Sadly, Moorsey refused to indulge all of my requests and it was no surprise when he was sacked shortly afterwards. I issued a ‘back me or sack me’ ultimatum to the ECB before jetting off to South Africa on holiday. They sacked me. But I was delighted to return to my favoured role of undermining the management structure and sniping from a safe distance.
  1. In 2009, Moorsey was replaced by his assistant coach Andy Flower. Flowery was an even worse man manager than Moorsey. One of the enduring curiosities of my career is my bad luck in meeting so many dickheads in positions of authority. Flowery insisted on making senior players like Straussy, Swanny and me practice our fielding and engage in team building exercises. I thought these were stupid, and made no secret of broadcasting this opinion to anyone who would listen. And plenty who wouldn’t. But I really fell out with Flowery when I wanted to bin off playing for England for a while and make a ton of cash work on my game in the IPL. Flowery refused to make an exception for me, and our relationship never really recovered. I’m not one to bear a grudge by any means, but I will despise that man until my dying breath. Anyway, we won the Ashes in 2009 but I found the whole experience boring because I wasn’t man of the series. Some of my teammates played well but I can’t bring myself to say anything nice about them, so will instead focus on how badly the Australian team performed and provide another 173 examples of how Flowery hurt my feelings and refused to sacrifice all other aspects of the team to accommodate my brilliance. Arsehole.
  1. During the Ashes I struggled badly with several injuries, which didn’t seem to bother me when I scored well but became seriously debilitating whenever I’d just top-edged a slog sweep to deep square leg. I sought some medical advice regarding my Achilles tendon. In a typically appalling piece of man management, Flowery made me take a cab to the Lister Hospital rather than carrying me there himself on a giant throne. You wouldn’t treat a dog like that. The doctor took one look at my Achilles and said “This is the worst injury I’ve ever seen. I’ll have to amputate.” I said “No way, I love playing for England. I’ll play through this considerable pain”. That’s just the sort of guy I am. Fortunately, my injuries had a habit of clearing up immediately before I flew out to play in the IPL or the Big Bash. Around this time, Flowery came up to me and said “KP, I know you’re struggling: how can I help?”. I was so disgusted by his attempts to curry favour after he’d been so vile to me in the past that I was obviously left with little choice other than to tell him to fuck off, then drip feed details of the conversation to favoured journalists, who dutifully covered them in the media.
  1. Right, it’s time to talk about some of my teammates. Obviously I hated all of them apart from Trotty, Belly and Rooty, i.e. the ones who wouldn’t dare stand up to me. In order to be pithy and quotable, I’m going to employ a series of ridiculous analogies that are like sun cream in Antarctica. Completely pointless. Anyway, Priory, Broady and Swanny were the worst. They were like the school bullies. I remember one time in Cardiff when they gave poor Monty Panesar a wedgie and stole his lunch money. Another time, Broady didn’t invite me to his birthday party. But the ringleader was definitely Priory. I found him incredibly arrogant, vain and lacking in self-awareness. No wonder we didn’t get on. By this point the bullying in the dressing room meant my morale was like James Caan’s character in The Godfather. Shot to pieces. Inevitably it was this that caused my form to dip rather than, say, any technical deficiencies on my part. Again, Flowery should have stepped in and told the other players’ mums that their sons were being mean to me. But he didn’t, and instead had the nerve to drop me from the team. Yet more evidence that winning test matches was secondary to his pursuit of a poisonous vendetta against me.
  1. We won the World T20 in 2010 then I single-handedly retained the Ashes in Australia the following winter. These victories were all well and good, but I was completely miserable. I spent most of the time crying, in between slagging off Flowery and the ECB whenever I had a spare moment. The dressing room cliques had worn me down. I tried telling them about some classic bantz I enjoyed with Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh on the IPL gravy train. They were still funny by the fifth re-telling – I promise you. However, the players weren’t interested. What can you do? The thing is, I’m actually a very insecure person. People are confused because my insecurity manifests itself in me behaving like a belligerent, arrogant prick most of the time. In 2012, I started to hear rumours that some of the lads were mocking me via a parody Twitter account, @KPGenius. Look, I can take a joke but the stuff they were saying – like pretending that I was texting Barack Obama – it was so hurtful. Whenever I’ve had a problem with a teammate, I’ve had the common decency to tell Piers about it and let him slag them off on Twitter on my behalf. This was just so duplicitous. I cried all the water out of my body in front of Flowery. It’s so hard being me.
  1. At around the same time, I got in a bit of trouble for texting my mates in the South African dressing room criticising Straussy – known as ‘Textgate’. After my disgusting treatment at the hands of everyone…[cont. 100 pages], it was only a matter of time before my frustration boiled over. I went off in a huff and for a while it looked as though I might never come back. But then I tired of being out of the limelight, so pretended to reintegrate with the team. I was back to my brilliant best and won us the series in India in the winter of 2012, but Flowery was doing my head in. With the benefit of hindsight it was quite obvious that we were doomed to lose 5-0 in Australia in 2013/4. When things were going badly, I tried to perk everyone up by starting petty arguments with them all day, calling bullshit on every little thing I disagreed with and refusing to participate properly in team events. We got thrashed in Australia but my poor form coincided with a long-standing knee problem flaring up, so blame the physios. Then those idiotic wankers at the ECB sacked me, and none of my pathetic team mates stood up for me. Outrageous. Still, I haven’t given up hope of a recall. I’ll wait by the phone.
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Richard Dawkins: ‘The God Delusion’ – in seven paragraphs


  1. When one thrusts forward into darkness with his twin blades of reason and logic, it becomes obvious that holding religious faith is as morally reprehensible as paedophilia. Unless of course you are a moron, in which case I pity the state of your nano-brain and the pathetic life you must lead. That got your attention, didn’t it? I became convinced that all religion is pernicious bullshit at the age of two. I developed a bad case of hay fever and succumbed to a sneezing fit in a rare moment of weakness. An idiotic nursery teacher whose name I can’t remember had the barefaced nerve to say ‘Bless you!’. In response to this disgusting affront I delivered a thirty minute lecture as to why God doesn’t exist and that she was an insult to the human race. Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped with my forensic intellect and so religious faith endures throughout the world. Imagine a life without religion. There would be no suicide bombers. No Jehovah’s Witnesses interrupting Cash in the Attic. No wars. If Hitler hadn’t been forced to attend Sunday school as a child, would he still have implemented the Third Reich? Applying Darwinian reasoning we can only conclude: probably not.
  1. Malignant religious indoctrination begins at an early age. Is there a more grotesque form of child abuse than a traditional ‘Christening’ ceremony, in which unwilling innocents are subjected to a form of God-sanctioned waterboarding? Religious people seriously argue (with amusing conviction!) that such rituals are less barbaric than jihadist beheadings. If only they could take a step back and appreciate the stupidity of such statements. You would never find such nonsense going on in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the site of various important scientific breakthroughs relating to theoretical physics. But I am jumping ahead. The purpose of this book is to deconstruct the arguments for God’s existence and to demonstrate that all religions are intrinsically evil. Have you ever encountered a Muslim who wasn’t fixated on burning Western cities in eternal hell-fire? Didn’t think so. Ever met a Christian who wasn’t in the habit of stoning adulterers and slaying homosexuals living in sin? Thank you for proving my point. By comparing the best scientific discoveries with the worst religious intolerance in this repetitive manner, my argument becomes very compelling indeed. Provided your brain works properly, of course. If you disagree with my thesis go away and learn how to think logically, then tremble at the feet of the mighty Dawkins!
  1. I will not go out of my way to offend religious believers in this book. Although anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Old Testament will realise that that the God described therein is a nasty, malevolent shithouse. If you are offended by this statement, go back to the top of this paragraph and re-read the sentence in which I made it clear that I did not mean to offend. Do you understand the difference? Well done. For practical purposes, I shall focus on Christianity for the majority of this book. This is partly for ease of reference, but also because it’s more socially acceptable to slag off Christians and I don’t have the balls to criticise Muslims or Jews directly. And don’t get me started on wishy-washy agnostics, who believe religion to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. To those people I say simply ‘Shit or get off the pot’: there almost certainly isn’t a God so stop trying to be friends with everyone. Some well-known scientists, such as T.E. Huxley, declared themselves agnostics in the nineteenth century. I can only conclude that Huxley was either misquoted or joking, and I’m sure that if he was alive today he would be a committed disciple of mine and a militant atheist.
  1. Let’s move on to the arguments put forward for God’s existence. It goes without saying that they are all utterly nonsensical and it’s really beneath my dignity to examine them in this way, but I shall proceed anyway. Thomas Aquinas put forward the concept of a ‘First Cause’ – every effect must have a prior cause, and the only termination of this infinite regress is God. I mean no disrespect to Aquinas when I describe this idea as complete bollocks. Why should the regress stop at God? Who or what caused God to come into existence? Can you get your little head around that? Good – so you can see Aquinas was talking out of his arse. Later, William Paley proposed that since complex things appear to have been designed, that designer must have been God. Unfortunately for Paley, Darwin came along and blew him out of the water with the theory of evolution by natural selection, which is perfect and bulletproof. You’d really have to be the most blinkered Muslim to disagree with Darwin. While I’m on the topic, did you know that I have more Twitter followers than any prominent Muslim? What does that tell you? Correct: all Muslims are wicked and stupid. The power of reason expressed in a single statement. Well done me.
  1. There are, of course, other arguments that are said to ‘prove’ God’s existence. But they are quite obviously infantile and insulting, advanced by renowned charlatans such as Descartes, Hume and Kant. Sadly, their terrible ideas have been gobbled up enthusiastically over the years by people who should have known better. Even Bertrand Russell was momentarily convinced by one such argument, to his eternal shame. It follows that Russell’s title of ‘Greatest British Humanist’ may well be inappropriate. Modesty prevents me from suggesting an alternative recipient of that accolade, although I should note that I’ve never succumbed to such intellectual weakness. Russell certainly has fewer Twitter followers than me. Many will argue that’s because he died in 1970, but to my mind that is the kind of pathetic excuse peddled by idiotic Catholics. In my previous award-winning bestsellers, I set out my interpretation of Darwinian biological evolution in detail. Just don’t ask me about an equivalent bullet-proof theory for physics because…errr…we don’t have one yet. If only physicists like Stephen Hawking had my work ethic and brainpower, we might know more about the universe. Alas, dullards like Hawking spend valuable time appeasing religious nutters. That time could be better spent doing some proper work or, alternatively, provoking Muslims on social media.
  1. Now that I’ve conclusively proved that God doesn’t exist, it’s time to consider whether religion can have any positive function in society. The answer is clearly no but I set myself a target of 300 pages and I’m nowhere near. It really makes me sick to my stomach when I see people dutifully filing into a church or other stupid place of worship. Some people have argued that religion aids social cohesion and can provide a useful framework for living a good life. What drivel. If you go to church, then you must believe that the world is five thousand years old, that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, and all the other crap in the Bible. People are religious because they adopt the mentality of ants: religious participation is handed down through generations and people simply don’t know any better. In another of my brilliant books I described this phenomenon as the spread and reproduction of ‘memes’, i.e. entrenched cultural ideas and symbols. The more I think about my own idea, the more I appreciate its genius. Absolutely no-one wants to be religious. People are religious because either (a) their parents were; (b) their lives are empty and need purpose; or (c) they are mentally defective in some way. Case closed.
  1. I’m really warming to my theme of giving all religions as much of a kicking as possible, so let’s press on. In response to some of my previous books, I received some vicious hate mail from religious fanatics. One can only conclude that the sentiments expressed are representative of everyone who has ever set foot inside a church. Similarly, the attacks on 9/11 were carried out by radicalised Muslims. This proves that all religious beliefs ultimately result in death and destruction. It is quite clear that every major evil act in human history has derived from some form of religion. For example, Stalin was a secret member of an Amish commune. Mao was probably a closet Hindu. Need I say more? Conversely, people do nice things without being religious. Just the other day I gave away several signed copies of my bestseller The Selfish Gene. Did such altruism result from some latent religious belief on my part? Don’t make me laugh. In conclusion, and in case you missed the earlier subtleties, there is no God and you’re an idiotic gimp if you think otherwise. Darwin has answered every single question about the universe and if you can’t appreciate this, you’ve misunderstood my book. P.S. God is probably a gay.
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The 2015 General Election Campaign – in seven paragraphs



  1. The most positive appraisal of this election campaign I can muster is that it has been completely pointless. For every gimmick, giveaway and gaffe; every pledge, platitude and plea: nothing has changed. Labour and the Conservatives, the two parties that could conceivably form an overall majority in the House of Commons, remain as deadlocked in the polls as they were in January. The quality of public debate on the issues underpinning the campaign has been appalling. Policy detail has been generally subsumed into depressing narratives characterised by toxic misrepresentation, savage personal attacks and nihilistic scaremongering. Instead, the campaign has run along depressingly predictable lines: economic competence versus chaos (more on this below); savage cuts versus slightly less savage cuts; NHS ‘privatisation’ versus renewed investment; and so on. As the polls suggest, neither of the main parties has set out a compelling vision for Britain’s future. Nowhere near enough voters are convinced that their lives would be better, safer and more prosperous under a Labour or Conservative majority. The result is a profound stalemate. Both parties would rather take their chances in a coalition or minority government than expand their natural constituencies by offering genuinely radical and innovative solutions to the problems we face as a country. How did we get here? Below, I’m going to look at four topics that have generated the most drivel during the campaign – (1) the economy; (2) jobs; (3) the rise of the SNP; and (4) immigration and the role of UKIP.

The Economy – “Conservative competence vs Labour chaos”

  1. The centerpiece of the Conservatives’ campaign has been that they have rescued Britain from Labour’s mismanagement of the public finances; adherence to their ‘long-term economic plan’ (which prioritises pensioners over students – go figure) is the only way for the country to avoid a Greece-style disaster. The briefest examination of the facts reveals that this claim is ludicrous. In 2010, the Conservative-led coalition inherited a large budget deficit of about 10.5% of GDP. This was almost entirely a result of the global financial crisis beginning in 2008, which caused tax revenues to fall sharply and government spending (e.g. on unemployment benefit) to rise sharply. The Conservatives wilfully misrepresented the effects of this crisis as evidence of an eye-watering Labour overspend. There is little evidence for this. Before 2008, Labour ran a budget deficit of about 2.7% of GDP, in line with most other developed economies and certainly not an egregious figure. After the crisis caused the deficit to widen, the Conservatives claimed in 2010 that unless a programme of deep spending cuts began immediately, investors would take fright and stop buying UK government debt. In turn, this would mean the government wouldn’t be able to fund itself and would eventually default on its existing debt repayments: an economic apocalypse. This quickly became the accepted narrative as to the UK’s financial position and provided justification for the Conservatives’ philosophical desire to begin state-shrinking austerity. Unfortunately, their reasoning was nonsensical.
  1. In framing its argument for austerity, the Conservatives made repeated and unhelpful analogies between the UK’s financial position and that of private household. If an individual’s spending exceeds his income (i.e. he is in a deficit) he must cut spending, and he need not worry about the effect of his decision on the wider economy. A country’s finances work in a fundamentally different way. Cutting spending reduces the amount of demand in the economy, affecting growth. A government can continue to borrow in a deficit, provided lenders remain confident they will get their money back (i.e. interest rates remain low, which they were in 2010). Their confidence is partly based on the knowledge that the government can print more money to meet its debt obligations. An individual cannot do this. Therefore, the comparison is bogus. Economists generally propose that governments only make cuts when the economy is growing fast enough to absorb them. However, the Conservatives were intent on reducing the size of the state through its austerity programme in 2010 and made insane cuts when the economy was at its weakest, hollowing out demand and stifling growth. GDP per head grew at an average rate of less than 1% in the three years from 2010 to 2013. In the previous 13 years, incorporating the financial crisis, growth averaged over 1.5% per head. So growth in GDP per head was more than 50% higher under Labour than under the Conservatives. The Conservatives eventually took notice of this and effectively halted austerity in 2013, and the economy began to grow properly again. Regardless of what they say about deficit reduction, in this light it is frankly insulting that the Conservatives portray themselves as the party of economic competence. Depressingly, the Conservatives propose cutting again if elected, which will have predictably catastrophic results.

Jobs – “We’ve created a thousand jobs a day since 2010”

  1. Another linchpin of the Conservatives’ campaign has been the oft-repeated statistic of having created a thousand jobs a day since coming to power which, it is true, is more than the rest of Europe put together. Labour have generally embarrassed themselves in trying to pick holes in this figure, suggesting variously that the new jobs reflect a dramatic increase in zero-hours contracts (wrong); an increase in the proportion of low-skilled jobs (wrong); and an increase in the proportion of minimum-wage level jobs overall (wrong). So why do people feel worse off even though unemployment has fallen dramatically since 2010? The answer lies in productivity, a measure of how efficient workers are. Productive workers are more in-demand, pushing their wages to increase above inflation and therefore improving living standards. But in the UK, the average worker is now around 20 per cent less productive than an equivalent worker elsewhere in the G7, a trend which has dramatically worsened since 2010. What UK workers achieve Monday-Friday, other G7 workers have finished by Thursday evening. Domestic wages cannot grow in this situation. The only reason wages are now growing slightly above inflation in the UK is because inflation is zero. More people are in work but the government’s inability to tackle the productivity problem (by, say, investing in infrastructure, technology and training and supporting regional growth) means that those in work tend to feel worse off in real terms. By taking credit for growing employment whilst productivity has sharply declined, the Conservatives are effectively taking credit for declining living standards. This is madness. Furthermore, it is equally concerning that the economy is growing whilst productivity is falling, suggesting that the recovery is being driven by consumer spending rather than improved output, and is therefore unsustainable. Why Labour hasn’t run with these arguments is mystifying, depressing and infuriating.

The Union – “SNP support of a minority Labour government would be dangerous”

  1. This feature of the campaign has hurt my brain the most. Point One: Around half of Scottish voters will vote for the SNP tomorrow, for a number of reasons. Many will vote SNP out of a desire to bring about Scottish independence; many others will do so because they support the SNP’s radical left-wing, anti-austerity vision for how the UK should be governed. Whatever the reason, Scottish voters have been explicitly told by the Conservatives and Lib Dems that should they elect SNP MPs to the House of Commons, these MPs must have no influence, however slight, on the new government. The argument runs that because the SNP advocates secession from the Union, it is dangerous to permit its MPs to influence the business of government. This is an absurdly anti-democratic, disenfranchising position to take. Point Two: The Conservatives claim that a minority Labour government would be forced to abandon its manifesto pledges regarding fiscal consolidation, scrap Trident, and make various other disproportionate giveaways to Scottish voters in return for the SNP supporting its legislative programme. BUT this will only be the case if the Conservatives allow it to happen by voting down a minority Labour government’s bills relating to the public finances and the renewal of Trident etc. In other words, the SNP will only have a deciding influence on crucial government bills if the Conservatives allow them to, i.e. by sabotaging these bills out of spite and against the national interest. Complete and utter nonsense, and a desperate Tory attempt to discredit a Labour minority government. Don’t believe it.

Immigration and the role of UKIP

  1. One of the few pleasures of the campaign has come from watching the projected UKIP vote shrivel. The party is founded on distortions and naked falsehoods used to tap into latent prejudices and fears among the electorate. Immigration is good for the UK. Study after study has found no significant negative impact on employment/ unemployment from immigration. Migrants tend to be relatively young and replace retiring native workers in the workforce every year. Further, migrants (especially those from the European Union) are much less likely to claim benefits than natives, and overall make a significant net contribution to the public finances. Rather than being a drain on the welfare state, they help to sustain it. No major party is prepared to make this case, with the possible exception of the Lib Dems. This is UKIP’s greatest success since 2010: it has taken understandable concerns about unemployment, stagnant wages, and pressures on public services and, in the absence of an easily identifiable cause, blamed immigration for exacerbating these problems even though the facts say otherwise. I find it infuriating that Labour has shrunk from the challenge of making a positive case for immigration. It has allowed the right-wing press and residual UKIP sympathy among parts of the electorate to control the narrative that immigration is bad for the UK. One consolation is that as voters have seen more of the despicable Nigel Farage and UKIP more generally, the party’s projected share of the vote has declined. It will probably not make a major breakthrough beyond picking up a couple of seats. For this we should all be thankful. However, the debate around immigration will not progress until Labour or the Conservatives are brave enough to campaign in its favour, and commit to replacing irrational fear among the public generally with a clearer understanding of the overwhelmingly positive contribution migrants make to our lives.


  1. You may think from the above that I am a staunch Labour supporter and will be voting for them unquestioningly. Far from it. Labour’s campaign has been embarrassing in a lot of areas, most recently the ridiculous pledge stone it unveiled at the weekend. With some exceptions, it has kowtowed to the narrative that it overspent before the last election. It has bought into the Osborne-onomic thesis that says we should prioritise closing the deficit over achieving economic growth. Its candidates repeatedly claim that the Conservatives are privatising the NHS (they aren’t: they are outsourcing parts of its service, which you can argue is a bad thing but it isn’t privatisation). I find many of its prospective front-benchers, such as Ed Balls and Harriet Harman, pretty unsavoury. The most positive endorsement I can make is that they are the best of a bad bunch, discounting the Greens (mad), UKIP (mad and horrible), the Lib Dems (no credibility). I’ve found following the campaign closely to be a thoroughly depressing experience. All participants have compulsively bound themselves into a system where facts and evidence have been secondary to wilful distortion and the appeasement of vested interests. Reasons not to vote for an opponent have displaced positive reasons to vote for a particular policy agenda or economic vision. Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the voice of the nation’s youth Russell Brand, 40, got involved. And at that point I just gave up. Happy voting.

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Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Lean In’ – in seven paragraphs


1. It wasn’t easy single-handedly transforming Google from an obscure start-up in 2001 to a multi-billion dollar behemoth in 2004, which is when I got pregnant with my first child. “Don’t worry,” said Sergey and Larry when we touched base offline, “we’ll survive without you during your maternity leave.” I wasn’t so sure. I never thought I’d write a book. But then I spoke to hundreds of women less successful than me, who urged me to tell the stories of their little lives in a global bestseller. This book will be relevant for women of all backgrounds, incomes and lifestyles: from the elite ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ types, like me, all the way down to those who can only afford private childcare for three days a week at most. Let’s be clear: Not all women want careers, not all women want children, and not all women want both. That’s perfectly fine! Proper women like me DO juggle both, obviously, but not everyone is prepared to make the sacrifices I’ve made. You can’t have your cake and eat it, so sometimes you have to step up to the plate and face the music. So read on, lean in, and try not to sick up.

2. In my experience, the best way to begin leaning in is by going to Harvard. But perhaps you lack my focus and commitment to bettering myself and ended up at a second rate college and in a mid-level job. If so, well done you for trying! You go girl! You can lean in too. If only you could stop slacking and wasting your potential by needing more than two hours’ sleep a night, you might rise as high as me. Now, why is it that a shockingly low number of women hold directorships of S&P 500 companies? You might think it’s because such companies are ridden with institutional sexism, and tend to be run by cosy old-boys’ clubs of white males. You might think that they should therefore be forced to change their atavistic cultures and be held accountable for their inexcusable failure to promote a more representative proportion of women to leadership positions. But you’d be wrong! It’s because women aren’t trying hard enough! So put down your late night cup of tea and go and network at your local Rotary club until 3am, otherwise you’ve only got yourself to blame.

3. When we look at the reasons as to why all women lack the same ambition as their male counterparts, some frankly jaw-dropping generalisations become obvious. Women are far more likely to suffer from self-doubt than men. I know this because at Harvard, I occasionally felt as though my peers were cleverer than me. So many women experience this feeling at top universities, whereas men just sail through without any anxiety at all. I’m basing this mostly on a crude comparison with my brother, who is very confident. I have inevitably concluded that all men have the same mentality as him, and all women have the same mentality as me. Some women have broken the mould. One of my friends is a top neurosurgeon who spends her evenings doing non-profit work or helping her daughters make organic mung bean soufflés for their school bake sale (after she’s made a four course dinner whilst talking to her broker about her stock profile, the proceeds of which she plans to leave to the local orphanage). If only more women leaned in and stopped moping around, they might lead equally fulfilling lives. Once they do lean in, their career success immediately doubles. Then it quadruples. Then it grows exponentially forever. Let me show you how.

4. At Harvard, the smart girls I knew tended not to be very popular. This quite clearly proves that people resent successful women. Look at Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde, both of whom are universally despised. As we know, all men in business are power hungry savages who prioritise achievement over popularity. Have you ever met a successful businessman who wasn’t a sharp-elbowed bastard? Me neither. No-one expects men to have any redeeming personal characteristics in the workplace, whereas women are expected to be non-threatening and nice first and foremost. Displays of female assertiveness are strongly discouraged in most corporations I’ve never set foot in, and are frequently met with instant dismissal. My solution is revolutionary: women should combine assertiveness with a fixed smile which must be visible at all times. You might end up looking vaguely unhinged, particularly during disagreements, and your jaw muscles might ache beyond all measure, but it’s vitally important. Otherwise, men will almost certainly call you a witch and burn you at the stake if you voice an opinion about anything. This is just one of the facts of gender relations I learned whilst growing up in 1950s Iran.

5. Commentators have suggested the importance of finding an appropriate mentor at an early stage of your career. My mentor was my thesis supervisor at Harvard, Larry Summers, who got me a job at the World Bank and then appointed me as his Chief of Staff when he became US Secretary of the Treasury. This certainly helped me to lean in. But a trend I’ve noticed is that many women seek mentorships from other successful women in the hope that this in itself will propel them up the career ladder. I disagree, so STOP ASKING ME TO BE YOUR MENTOR, okay? I don’t have enough bandwidth. Mentoring is all well and good, but it is more important to take a helicopter view of your weaknesses in order to progress. We all have weaknesses. I’m no different. For example, in the early part of my career I naively indulged in some non-productive pastimes, such as taking vacations and having life-enriching hobbies outside of work and family. I quickly realised that these were a criminally inefficient use of my time, gave myself fifty lashes and threw myself into more work projects and networking events. Now, my main weaknesses are probably the fact that I’m too much of a perfectionist, and my love of heroin.

6. One of the first issues all new parents face is the coin toss to decide who has to give up part of their amazing job to care for the new asset on the balance sheet. Will it be the mother or the father? If you’re a single mum, or in a same-sex relationship – haha, yeah good luck with that. The birth of my first son was very difficult. Later, in my hospital bed, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation to show him when we got home, outlining some KPIs for his performance in being born, and how we could work together on structures for improving certain competencies going forward. The lesson here is simple – never miss an opportunity to practice leaning in. Over time, my husband Dave and I have split our parental duties 50/50, but not everyone is lucky enough to fall into a marriage as perfect as mine. On a first date with a new guy or girl, I strongly suggest working together on a comprehensive spreadsheet dividing your responsibilities as stakeholders in your future married and parental lives. Then you can drill down in a deep dive to prepare a strategic staircase for your objectives. Planning is everything.

7. It is perfectly natural that you might want to work fewer hours once you inevitably become a mother. All that is required is some creative outside-the-box thinking. For example: in most corporations mothers can work less simply by suggesting to the CEO, firmly but with the essential fixed smile, that more work can be allocated to single people, whose lives are basically pointless and so won’t mind taking up the slack because work is all they have. Some hard choices are also necessary. Sometimes you will have to turn down pro-bono speaking engagements on the East coast to have dinner with your husband. If your child is sick, you may have to briefly step out of a multi-billion dollar deal negotiation to arrange for the nanny to pull an extra shift. Some degree of leaning out is therefore tolerable. But the message I’m running up the flagpole is clear: it’s not institutions that need reform, it’s the attitude of women who work within them. Rather than look under the bonnet and challenge employers’ biases and outmoded working practices, we need to show more commitment! This is what we need to action going forward! So keeping leaning in and smiling assertively, and soon you’ll own a billion dollars in Facebook stock like me.

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Tony Blair: ‘A Journey’ – in seven paragraphs


1. Until 1994 I’d never really had leadership ambitions: I’d always assumed Gordon Brown would one day lead the Labour party, not me. Then our leader John Smith died. My editors have suggested that I “sex up” these early chapters to reel in uncertain readers. So that night, Cherie and I pushed our twin beds together: after we’d finished a torrid bonking marathon she cradled me in her arms and purred “I think you should be leader, not Gordon.” I had a quick pray and fortunately God agreed with Cherie. I was devastated for John, so it was with considerable anguish that I set about outmaneuvering Gordon for the leadership. I wanted to set out a bold, modernising ideology for Labour. In a very real sense. This meant torching eighty years’ worth of principle, working out the policies that were most likely to get us elected, then getting Peter Mandelson to reverse engineer the ‘New Labour’ manifesto based on our research. We took broadly conservative policies, changed the wording a bit, slapped the word ‘progressive’ on all related press material and stuck the Labour logo at the top. Before anyone realised what was going on, we had won the 1997 election by a record margin. On the seventh day, I rested.

2. At heart I’m an ordinary kind of guy. I like pop music, football and chips. I know my Rovers Return from my Old Vic. I can mix equally with world statesmen and cool cats from the music biz, like David Albarn from The Blur. The public lapped this stuff up during my first months in office, due in part to the work of my press man, Darth Campbell. I was very much “The People’s God”. We had several pieces of good luck early on. Princess Diana did us a good turn by dying, and when the Queen royally (haha!) screwed up her response I took the opportunity to weasel in with the Blair set menu of soundbites and faux-gravitas. I must admit I always found the Royals a bit freaky! And I know I’m not the only one. Cherie thought Princess Anne was a complete bitch! The honeymoon started to wear off once the scandals started rolling in – the Ecclestone donation, Robin Cook’s wandering willy etc. – but generally we were doing rather well given that no-one really had any idea what we stood for. Gordon hadn’t yet gone full psycho and the Cabinet was supportive: even the usual shit-stirrers like Clare Short were onside. I was basking in the glory of self-serving my country.

3. I’ve always had an affinity towards Ireland. To be sure, I have several childhood memories of holidaying there, so it had always been a personal objective to send a negotiating team to Belfast and then swoop in at the last minute to claim all the credit for a peace agreement. Getting the unionists and republicans around the negotiating table was bloody hard work, let me tell you, and it took a lot of outright fibbing to prevent the whole thing dying on its arse. “Guys, guys, guys,” I said, strumming my guitar at the side of the table. “The heavy hand of history is upon us. My legacy’s at stake here. Get a bloody move on.” Mo Mowlam might have played a role in hammering out the small print but this was very much secondary to my blue-sky, helicopter thinking. We struck a deal: I learned a great deal about dispute resolution during the process, which later worked wonders for Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are the ten key points. If your repressive dictatorship or shady conglomerate could benefit from this insight, or even if you’re having a nice dinner at which you’d like me to speak, please contact my agent for rates.

4. By 2001 we had executed some major policy achievements such as ID cards and the Millenium Dome. The Tories were a mess and we won a second term with ease. However, September 2001 marked the beginning of a bitter conflict that came to define my premiership and led to all-out war with a crazed tyrant. But more on Gordon later. In the meantime, 9/11 happened. In response, I wisely gave an open commitment to President Bush that the UK would support US interventionist foreign policy come what may. Perhaps it’s time to reflect that blindly adhering to this pledge resulted in the comprehensive shredding of my integrity and political legacy. Then again, with the Chilcot Inquiry yet to report and war crimes allegations lingering in the air like white phosphorus, perhaps not. George and Dick Cheney high-fived me at Camp David and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. It felt nice to be so popular. I had no qualms about hitching my brand of semi-evangelical cultural colonialism to their demented neocon bandwagon. How else were we going to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East and make the world a safer place? I’m looking forward to continuing my good work in my role as Peace Envoy.

5. Ok guys, it’s time to talk about Iraq. First things first: I’m not apologising. If you’re reading this with such an expectation, you might as well sod off. Look – we had very good reasons for suspecting Saddam Hussein had an active weapons of mass destruction programme. Alastair had met a bloke in a pub who’d visited Baghdad in 1983 and was sure he’d heard something about WMD at the time. Donald Rumsfeld had also had a dream in which Jesus came to him and told him about Saddam’s WMD. Our sources were impeccable. The joint intelligence committee converted this into a short story/memo. People were a bit miffed when we didn’t find any WMD. I feel that. But you have to remember – Saddam was a very naughty man. I know this is completely irrelevant to our stated reason for invading, but it’s a good way of retrofitting an argument that we were right to do so. The guy killed thousands of innocent Iraqis. Now, in the chaotic, bungled aftermath of our mission, those Iraqis just kill each other instead and hate the West even more than they did before. I had a chat with God and he totally gets where I’m coming from, which is cool. I just wish those tiresome people who keep trying to perform citizen’s arrests on me would agree.

6. My explanation for the WMD problem went down like a cup of cold sick with the electorate, and my popularity ratings went into a sharp decline. The Daily Mail and others kept calling me Tony Bliar and it was all very irritating. I thought – Blimey, get a life! The Tories were still in complete disarray under Michael Howard and that guy he took over from, Iain somebody? So we coasted to victory once again in the 2005 election. I’m afraid that by this time, and I don’t mind saying this, Gordon was being a complete prick and we were mired in enmity. I had sort of promised him that I wouldn’t seek a third term as leader, but then I realised that I quite liked being PM and changed my mind. People change their minds all the time. That’s the problem with Gordon. No social intelligence. Meanwhile, I was growing ever more confident in my role as spiritual guardian of the nation. I enjoyed my one-man healing tour after the election. Looking back, the high point was when I fed the entire 2005 Party Conference from just five loaves and two fish. But the papers weren’t interested in miracles as they were still bleating about Iraq. It’s a real shame, but what can you do?

7. I had just enough time left in office to comprehensively scorch Gordon’s inheritance, before it was time to think about moving on. Even Christ had to spread the word of the Lord beyond Nazareth. I’d have liked to vacate the Iron Throne on my own terms, but Gordon’s people were continually dissing me in public, which turned the screw and I was forced into announcing my departure. I don’t resent Gordon: I was genuinely saddened when he was humiliated during the 2010 campaign and thrashed in the election, after which his minions all lost their jobs. I forced through a pile of legislation that would later cause Gordon a huge headache (top-up fees, extending detention without trial, relaxed immigration controls etc.) before I rode off into the sunset to the open arms of JP Morgan, Kazakhstan and the Qatari royal family. And Rupert Murdoch’s wife, of course. So, guys, I’m afraid this journey is at an end. I know I have so much more to give to British politics before I take my eternal seat at the right hand of the Father. I look forward to basking in public adulation whenever I descend from my pile of cash in Lebanon and pop back to lecture the Coalition on its moral failings. Until then, God bless.

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Nigel Farage: ‘The Purple Revolution’ – in seven paragraphs


1. By the time you finish reading this sentence, over 150,000 unemployed Romanian single mothers will have entered the UK with the intention of claiming £40,000 per year in benefits and free cosmetic surgery on the NHS. It is a quite extraordinary statistic. Probably because it’s completely untrue. But the use of facts has never been UKIP policy. I’ve always been clear about that. Newspapers often misrepresent us as being a party that relies heavily on empirical data and expert analysis to gain a political foothold. What rubbish. Appallingly, since Britain joined the European Union in 1973, the use of facts has nearly quadrupled at the expense of distorted anecdotal evidence and fear-mongering. UKIP has fought to reverse this disturbing trend with increasing success, culminating in the 2014 European elections which we won with 27.1% of the vote. This should not be a surprise. Recent figures suggest nearly 106% of the population believe rising immigration is a concern. On this topic, UKIP is the only party prepared to say what no-one else is thinking. We are here to stay.

2. I was educated at Dulwich College, a magnificent public school in South London. The social mix was astonishing, my classmates ranging from sons of City bankers to sons of local bankers. I found the academic side of things a complete bore. The universities of the day were filled to the rafters with intelligent people keen to develop their skills. Not Nige’s cuppa. I went to work in the City as a commodities trader instead. The City was a strict meritocracy, provided your father was well connected. From what I remember, trading was great fun. I was in the pub most of the time. We’d go out for six hour liquid lunches and then stumble back to the office to catch the last couple of hours of the New York market. It’s bloody hard work dealing with pesky decimal points and small print when you’ve had a few pints. A client once instructed me to sell £500,000 worth of copper futures and I accidentally bought £5,00,000 worth of zinc instead. We laughed hysterically for hours. Needless to say, I rose through the ranks pretty quickly.

3. The City’s golden age came to an abrupt end in October 1986 when the government opened up the UK’s financial sector to foreign banks and handed a chunk of regulatory oversight to Brussels. News of these reforms broke unexpectedly and I nearly choked on my pint: I quickly ordered another three to be on the safe side. Followed by breakfast. Of course, American banks also profited from these changes, but they spoke English so it wasn’t so much of a problem. The new regulations changed the culture of the City from a chaotic old boys’ club, where no-one really knew what they were doing, to one of accountability and client protection. It was a disaster. Suddenly, well-educated foreigners started swarming in and doing our jobs more effectively and skillfully. I quickly tired of this new emphasis on competence and started Farage Futures, which was moderately successful until I wound it up in good standing in 2002. Anyone who says it was a failure and became insolvent is lying and can expect a letter from my lawyers. By this point, I realised my true calling was to rescue Britain from the damage being inflicted by fanatical technocrats in Brussels.

4. On Christmas Eve 1986 I felt a shuddering pain in my bollocks. I went to see a doctor, who happened to be Indian. Needless to say, I was misdiagnosed with an infection. Fortunately I went to see a proper English doctor a few days later. I had testicular cancer. I was very lucky. If it wasn’t for my profound belief that anyone who speaks with a funny accent doesn’t know what they’re doing, I might not be here today. The influx of foreign medical staff has inevitably led to a lower standard of care in the NHS. Mass immigration has stretched the NHS to breaking point because foreigners tend to be hypochondriacs. This is just common sense. I had another brush with the NHS when I was involved in a plane crash on election day in 2010. I had my doubts about the plane’s safety because it was Polish, but I was already on my fifth pint of Bombardier so jumped in anyway. It crashed, and I was hospitalised. I was cared for by a Romanian nurse. To my astonishment she didn’t mess anything up or recruit me to join a human trafficking ring, and I made a decent recovery.

5. People will read that and accuse me of being sexist. Utter drivel. Some of my closest relatives are women. Including my wife, who is German. To all those who accuse me of being xenophobic: I’m married to a foreigner for Christ’s sake! What infuriates me most is when people accuse me of having a sobriety problem. There is absolutely no evidence that I’ve allowed periods of teetotalism to affect my political judgement. All I ask is that the media elite get their facts right. Anyway, I was elected as an MEP in 1999 under the fledgling UKIP banner. The first thing to say about Brussels is that it’s a complete dump. I was staggered by the number of foreigners there who think that European integration is a good idea. WRONG. Almost all MEPs are corrupt and on the take. I aligned myself with some of the few good eggs in the place, such as Marine LePen and Geert Wilders. People say Marine and Geert are anti-Semitic and objectionable. To be clear, I do not advocate the public expression of xenophobic sentiments. As a friend, I’ve asked them to tone down the clarity and rely more on innuendo. What more can a chap do?

6. Support for UKIP has grown rapidly since the last election, when I took over as leader. Unfortunately, we have attracted some nutters in that time. I don’t mind admitting it. All parties have their fair share of racists, homophobes and misogynists don’t they? Do I want to lead a party comprised of moderate “politically correct” types? Of course not. Piss off and join the Greens if that’s your thing. We are a party made up of absolute lunatics real characters, and I make no apology for that. Over the last five years we have made real progress in modernising the party: I am proud to say that it is no longer a complete disaster zone, merely a shambles. We toured the country talking to real people about a whole range of issues: immigrants jumping the queue for social housing; immigrants having the nerve to talk foreign in public places; gay immigrants eating children’s pets. All the big ones. Core British values, such as the right for builders and plumbers to do shoddy work at inflated prices whilst clocking off in time for Pointless every day, are being eroded by immigration. It’s just not on.

7. UKIP gained additional credibility in the second half of 2014 when two Tory MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, defected to our ranks and won by-elections as UKIP candidates. Wooing Douglas was difficult. He wanted several assurances as to UKIP’s professionalism and future direction. I made up a load of stuff that seemed to convince him. Mark was quite literally a different kettle of fish. To be honest, the man’s a bit of an oddball. This made him a perfect fit for our platform. We unveiled him at our party conference, to the cheering of the tens of UKIP-ers who had bothered to turn up. It was like a bomb had gone off in Westminster. A Reckless bomb. And I was the maverick anarchist who had thrown that bomb into the House of Commons like a hot potato. As we draw closer to the 2015 election, it is clear that UKIP is a real force is British politics. Will we win more than a handful of seats? Who knows. I’m contesting South Thanet in Kent, so expect to see a lot more of my gurning sweaty chops between now and the election if you live near there. Right, that’s more than enough. I’m off to the pub.

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Suzanne Collins: ‘The Hunger Games’ (Book One) – in seven paragraphs

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1. I wake up. My time asleep was short. As short as these sentences. I look over at Prim, my angelic younger sister, and my mother. Because my dad was blown up in a mining accident five years ago, they are both vulnerable. This is their only notable characteristic. We are poor and just about scrape by. I don’t let it get me down though. I’m stoical and resourceful. But also kind and sentimental. To be clear: you’re supposed to root for me as a sympathetic character. Someone needs to provide for my family because we live in the unforgiving District 12 in Panem, ruled over by the Capitol. A totalitarian dystopia, is what I’m saying. Got it? I slip out into the forbidden woods to hunt. “Hello Katniss,” says Gale. “I’m Gale, your platonic companion. I’ve known you for years and now you’re sixteen and I’m eighteen. Why don’t you tell me loads of stuff that I already know, so we can set the scene for the rest of the plot? By the way, happy Hunger Games!” Gale’s words hit me like a ton of clichéd bricks.

2. “Of course!” I exclaim. “Today is the reaping, where a boy and a girl are selected at random from each of Panem’s twelve Districts as ‘tributes’ to participate in a televised fight to the death.” “Remind me why we do this?” Gale asks. “Because the Capitol wants to demonstrate its control over the Districts and deter uprisings,” I reply. “That sounds remarkably similar to the plot of Battle Royale,” says Gale. “Shut up,” I hiss. Crowds are gathering for the District 12 reaping ceremony. The female name is drawn – shit! It’s my vulnerable sister, Prim Everdeen! I immediately volunteer to take Prim’s place, strengthening my heroine credentials. I’m good like that. Some boy called Peeta is selected as male tribute. I immediately sense our relationship will be complicated, probably forging an uneasy alliance at first but giving way to mutual distrust as things go along. We are whisked away to the Justice Building to say goodbye to our families. I refuse to cry because I’m strong and emotionally resilient. When your dad is killed in a mining accident, you grow up fast.

3. To go straight into the Games at this point in the narrative would leave the book about two hundred pages long and that just won’t do. So there are plenty of pre-Games rituals to go through before the violent bits get underway. Sorry. A high-speed train transports us to the Capitol. I sample lots of nice food that we don’t get to taste in District 12 because, as I mentioned in the set-up, we are poor. We are treated to plenty of other luxuries before the Games. This satisfies my hunger, I think. I feel like a fish out of water, i.e. out of place. “Katniss, you’re really skilful with a bow and arrow aren’t you?” says Peeta. “That probably means you stand a decent chance when the Games begin.” “But you’re big and strong,” I reply, “probably on account of you being a baker’s son. So that gives you an advantage also!” Former winner Haymitch Abernathy is our standard issue tough-talking mentor and I hate him. But then I realise that he actually talks a lot of sense and despite his gruff demeanour, he is On Our Side.

4. Ahead of the Games we must take part in a flashy opening ceremony, go through intensive training, and film a live TV interview. “The tributes have different characteristics and strengths. Some are physically imposing, others cunning and strategic. This means that the Games are a battle of wits as much as fighting prowess,” says everyone for a hundred pages. I find myself dwelling on the contrast between the opulent decadence of the Capitol and the barbarism of the Games. It seems perverse that a hallmark of a civilised society is its desensitisation to on screen violence. Did someone say SUBTEXT? The other tributes don’t appear to ponder these big questions. Another reason to root for me. I can’t work out whether Peeta is playing a game by being nice to me before the Games. Flashback to when he gave me some free bread when I was desperately poor. So you can tell he’s not totally bad. But just to reiterate, we will soon be deadly rivals: there can only be one winner in the Games. It’s all so confusing. I wish Gale was here to explain everything.

5. Before too long the Games begin in a large woodland compound. There is an early skirmish for the available weapons and supplies near the starting point. I run in the opposite direction because the key message is brains over brawn, remember? I narrowly avoid a knife to the face. Several tributes are butchered instantly. Shit just got real. “Phew, I’m not dead yet,” I say aloud for some unknown reason. I run and run for miles into a valley before camping out in a tree overnight. Then I hear voices of other tributes approaching. Some have grouped together to pick off the weaker candidates. Conveniently they stop right below my hiding place. Peeta is with them! That traitorous coward. I’m sure everything is as it seems and there are no hidden agendas. In the morning I drop a nest of genetically modified terror wasps on them, killing a couple but getting a bit stung myself in the process. Peeta helps me escape, so maybe he’s a goodie after all? The tension is stomach-churning but let’s face it, you all know I’m going to win because I’m the heroine. And there are two sequels.

6. I rely on my wits to kill a few more rivals in various clever ways to prevent the plot from becoming massively repetitive. I am assisted by Rue, a young girl from District 11. She reminds me of my vulnerable sister so I must protect her. Oh, she’s been impaled by a spear. Oops. “Win it for me, Katniss!” she breathes, as she dies. I feel very sad. Suddenly, a voice booms throughout the arena, announcing a sudden rule change: now TWO tributes can win if they are from the same district! This means Peeta and I can win together! I spell out to myself. Plot goalposts moved appropriately to set up a more interesting conclusion, I eventually find Peeta, who is badly wounded. “We must team up and kill the other four remaining tributes,” I explain. “By the way, I think I have feelings for you that I can’t articulate.” “I also have felt this way for a long time,” he replies, “Let’s use up some plot space going through some uninteresting backstory. Why don’t you describe some of your happiest memories?”

7. Peeta’s wounds become infected. “I won’t let you die,” I bleat. “You have quite a big role to play in the sequels.” The remaining tributes gradually turn on each other until only Cato, the Plot Nemesis from District Two, remains alive. Peeta and I head back to the central area where the Games began. Cato is there too, certain to kill us. But then he is savaged by a pack of mutated super dogs and dies. Peeta and I have won! A voice booms out informing us of a massive stitch up: Peeta and I will have to fight to the death after all. Bastards. We plan to go all Romeo and Juliet and kill ourselves, before being hastily announced as joint winners! BUT – Haymitch informs us that our refusal to fight to the death has infuriated President Snow and we are now enemies of the state! The Games were tough, but perhaps the biggest fight is yet to come, I think: politics can be as cutthroat as any blood sport. That tees up the theme for the sequel by the way.

End of Book One.

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Morrissey: ‘Autobiography’ – in seven paragraphs

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1. In the beginning there was Steven. Naturally, my birth almost kills my mother when my inflated head ruptures her birth canal. I emerge into the squalid light discussing modernism, having been seduced by Proust in utero. Thus begins a lifelong love affair. With myself. My unenlightened parents, ever committed to being dim-witted, are poor Irish immigrants: trussed by their trust in God’s wisdom, their pitiful lives revolve around the potpourri of popery they call the Catholic church. My miserable childhood is spent absorbing Manchester’s unique bleak vistas: pain behind each pane as I stare in through the shabby shop windows on rain-swept Alexandra Road. Primary school is made hellish by teachers administering beatings with satanic relish. I am damned, my tear ducts remain dammed by dreaming of a future in which My Brilliance is recognised. Pointless alliteration threads my throbbing thrusting thoughts. My unkind mind swirls like an overwrought simile. This is the Book of Saint Steven: heaven knows it’s unreadable now.

2. My escape from life’s prosaic mosaic, the glum humdrum, lies in music and television. These provide me with a glimmer of glamour, a glimpse of what life could be like if I pulled my head out of my arse for a minute or two. Miss World is a snapshot of the quixotic erotic, the broadcast a technicolour antidote to the drab grey of my urban struggle. Miss Brazil waves (to me?) as she walks across the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, her dress even more purple than this prose. [Little do I know that I myself will one day command the very same stage when I become successful and rich (much more on this later)]. But alas, such ephemeral childhood joy: it is time for bed. I return to desolate reality: dismally genuine, genuinely dismal. The world turns upon its axis. Each morning elicits new mourning: no-one understands me and I am friendless. The stigma of being an enigma repels all. Or perhaps everyone just thinks I’m a complete twat.

3. My teenage years are spent in ironic detachment. I smile at each absurd word spoken by my teachers, a biased jury whose features curdle into fury at the knowledge that I am infinitely cleverer than they are. Music is my lifeblood: the essence of my pubescence. My list of heroes grows. T-Rex, Roxy Music and Lou Reed all speak to my soul, but the sole transcendent moment is when David Bowie releases Starman in 1972 and the world changes forever. Its louche effeminate mettle is a triumph over crass heavy metal. To this day I maintain that Hunky Dory is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, behind only The Sound of the Smiths and The Very Best of Morrissey. I listen to the New York Dolls day and night, feeding on the carnal energy of their music, and I am incited by their insight to explore my burgeoning sexuality. Girls or boys? To me just noise: the joys of the flesh secondary to perfecting my persona of tortured genius.

4. I leave school and my life is a void which I cannot avoid, and between 1975 and 1980 I am mostly unemployed, exhausted by my own pretentiousness. The situation is grave: my grave seems a welcome refuge. I MUST sing yet have no outlet, no connections, no stage. My flair needs a flare. I shuffle around music venues trying to catch a break with those who move and shake in the industry. They mostly tell me to fuck off. I travel to New York and London to seek opportune fortune, but find the streets are paved with shit. I miraculously make some friends, although after becoming famous I immediately stop taking their calls. One of them introduces me to Johnny Marr, a guitarist: he connects us with a drummer and a bassist and we become The Smiths. Immediately, artistic creativity pours inexorably from our pores. I am lead vocals: free as a hawk to paint the canvas with as many appalling mixed metaphors as I want. Just like that my life transitions from risible to visible, and success beckons.

5. The tortured poetic drivel I’ve written so far is bloody knackering, so I’m going to tone that right down and use the second half to comprehensively do over anyone who’s ever crossed or slighted me. The Smiths’ early records are rejected by idiotic labels like EMI. Their loss. Asinine producers reject us out of hand. We eventually sign on with the amateurish Rough Trade Records. With hindsight it’s clear that they were embarrassingly incompetent and owe their financial success to my genius. I don’t want to name names but producer John Porter was particularly useless. And fat. But then…we break through when our debut album The Smiths hits the charts. I don’t have the exact vulgar numbers in front of me but I believe it reached number two and stayed in the Top 40 for 33 weeks, selling 203,194 copies. I have emerged from my pendulous chrysalis. Steven is dead. Unfazed by this new phase I have become Morrissey. I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

6. Suddenly, The Smiths are elevated to the pop pantheon. Hit after hit is unspooled from my teeming brain, but I’m not going to bore you with the details. Instead, here are two hundred pages on the tedious legal wranglings with the record label that followed. In the background, Eighties Britain bows to Thatcher’s stature, discussing its disgust at being pole-axed by the poll tax but remaining in servitude. Innocent animals are legally killed for their meat, an act matched in frenzied savagery only by gory Tory destruction of the poor. Reviews for some albums are mixed but I’m not one to bear a grudge. Make up your own mind: I’ve spent a hundred pages revisiting them. Stupid journalists interview me, insisting on twisting my wonderful words: a concerted agenda to out me as a bender. Sell-out crowds across the globe adore me, yet some still abhor me: a tosser tosses a sausage that hits my face during a rendition of Meat is murder in Paris. I turn the other cheek. I have suffered for my art; ironically blind to the fact that such suffering has made me insufferable.

7. Then all of a sudden, one morning in 1987 The Smiths are no more. No insight on why that happened, but it wasn’t my fault. Morrissey must plough a lone furrow. After some pleading from those around him, Morrissey begins his solo career in 1994 with Vauxhall and I, which naturally swoops in at number one: its emotional cargo generates a farrago and fans are my followers rejoice. The tone becomes ever darker, fading to black as my obsession with death and misery seeps out. Friends come and go and come and go: my patience is low and I tell them so. Mike Joyce, the useless, craven drummer from The Smiths, decides to sue me for unpaid royalties. I lose at court, but I’m over it. Here are fifty pages on why I should have won and why the stupid judge is an idiot. Zzzzz. In disgust I leave England, long after England left me. My solo career is moderately successful and I continue to perform gigs in front of stupid fans I despise. Here endeth the lesson. I started something I unfortunately finished.

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