What possessed prominent Remainer lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC to club a fox to death with a baseball bat and then announce it on Twitter?
Along with Gina Miller, Maugham launched myriad legal challenges to Brexit under the Good Law Project. In my eyes, that made him a Remain hero, someone who stood for truth and decency. All this was shattered when Maugham tweeted: “Already this morning I have killed a fox with a baseball bat. How’s your Boxing Day going?” He said he’d worn his wife’s “too small green kimono” to kill the fox (which got trapped in netting while trying to get at the chickens he kept in his central London garden), “afterwards, nursing my hangover with a coffee”.
Were these meant to be amusing or humanising details? As criticism grew, he amended his attitude to be more reflective and contrite. Too little, too late. This was, at best, misguided liberal machismo in action.
Maugham contacted the RSPCA himself and the incident is being investigated. Of course, Leave-supporting news outlets loved it, but that doesn’t alter the fact that Maugham battered a trapped, helpless animal to death. While foxes are not a protected species, anyone viewing them as expendable vermin should be aware that this is one of the prime arguments used by foxhunters. Though urban foxes can be huge, they don’t tend to approach humans so there’s little reason to fear them. If Maugham was concerned for his chickens, couldn’t he have just removed them, letting the RSPCA humanely deal with the fox? Keeping chickens in your garden is arguably the kind of affectation that makes people hate the “metropolitan elite” but, if people wish to do so, they should at least make their enclosures fox-proof.
Worse, Maugham initially seemed proud of his actions – otherwise, why announce it on Twitter? It came across as alpha-liberal posturing: “Look everybody, I’m not your average neutered city dweeb. I just killed something.” Maugham went on to justify his actions by saying he’d previously shot and butchered rabbits: “Although I don’t enjoy killing things, it does come with the territory if you’re a meat eater.”
Oh, spare me. I’ve rolled my eyes before at the posturing “red in tooth and claw” bores, usually men trying to get their Tarzan-mojo back by killing animals, pompously claiming it’s the “only honest” way, while doubtless still getting 99% of their meat from the Ocado delivery. While this approach beats the horrors of abattoirs, it’s hardly cruelty-free, non-professionals really shouldn’t kill anything and those who farm organically don’t tend to brag about slaughtering animals on social media.
Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I fail to see any justification for bludgeoning to death a trapped animal. It wasn’t done for food or for protection, so… what exactly? Attention? Aggressive masculinity? Bragging rights? All attitudes and behaviour some of us are heartily sick of seeing from people whose core values we don’t share.
Should I rejoin Labour to vote for a new leader? Tricky…
Since the election result (or, as I call it, the Flattening), can centrists like myself even be bothered to rejoin the Labour party for the leadership contest? I, for one, balked at the idea of abandoning the Liberal Democrats; as much as they had a bad election, they stuck to their clear anti-Brexit message, finally laying to rest all that “Fib Dem” baloney. However, it’s been galling to watch Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings preen as master electoral strategists. (What was your strategy, again, guys: “Not being Jeremy Corbyn? The End”?) This could be a chance to get the Labour party back on track, especially as the Corbynites still seem to be hanging around like dangerous gas leaks.
Those who are determined to continue the disastrous Corbynite project shouldn’t be allowed to have everything their own way in the leadership contest. I’m also enraged by the blatant attempts to nobble Keir Starmer by pushing the narrative that “the next leader should be a woman”. While there are female contenders I’d love to see become leader – I voted for Yvette Cooper when she stood against Corbyn – it’s a disgrace to use self-serving faux-feminism to rig the contest even more in Rebecca Long Bailey’s favour.
If Labour chooses another Corbynite, they’re probably finished for good – they’d have to rebrand as some kind of quaint political pop-up or bien-pensant book club. Put like that, having a say in the Labour leadership election seems to be a good idea; you will need to do it soon to qualify for a vote. Yet even thinking about it is to feel engulfed by ennui – not to mention deja vu. To rejoin or not to rejoin the Labour party, that is the centrist question. Let’s hope that all the people who left Labour in despair aren’t too demoralised to consider it.
Trump on the cutting-room floor? What a wasted chance
Why did the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) cut Donald Trump’s cameo from its screening of the 1992 film, Home Alone 2? CBC says that it was removed for an ad break in 2014, before Trump became president. Nevertheless, Trump took to Twitter to accuse the Canadian prime minister of being behind the axing of the scene: “I guess Justin [Trudeau] doesn’t much like my making him pay up on Nato on Trade!” Yeah, that would be it – political revenge via the medium of a light entertainment franchise. Trudeau, consider yourself owned.
Seriously, I wish CBC hadn’t cut Trump’s scene. It should have left it in to illustrate what a desperate fame-whore he’s always been. Over the years, Trump has appeared in highly forgettable cameos in multiple films (including Zoolander, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Ghosts Can’t Do It). Moreover, when I used to watch Trump host the US Celebrity Apprentice, it was notable how he’d practically drool over the stars. It was mortifying (and revealing) how slavishly he respected and craved even moderate celebrity status.
So, while one appreciates that Canadians have a right to Trump-free viewing, it was a shame to lose the cameo, if only to make the point: America, here’s your president-in-waiting – a repeat-offender starfucker meriting barely five seconds of screentime.
• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist