Things I am going to ban when, by popular acclaim, I am elected your Dictator For Life in 2016.
1. Onions where the brown skin doesn’t come off easily. You know the ones: where the papery outer layer clings so tightly that you have to pick it off laboriously with a sharp knife and it takes forever. I hate these onions so much. I’m pretty sure they’re all foreign, though I may be mistaken.
2. Slimline tonic water. (See also: Diet Coke; semi-skimmed milk) ‘Oh? Is it really? Sorry about that. I think it’s all we’ve got.’
‘Aspartame? Oh, is that not good?’
‘Not sure I can tell the difference, to be honest.’
‘Don’t blame me. I don’t get any say in the shopping. She buys it because she thinks I’ll lose weight.’
Look: if you’re going to make me a gin and tonic, make it properly: ice, high-end gin, boutique tonic, lemon not lime; or not at all.
3. I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. (See also: all reality TV; everything on boxed set.) I’m sure I’ve said it before, but seriously: it is such a huge waste of life. The other day, I actually found myself cogitating over why a man called Brian — of whose existence I had been blissfully unaware until the show started — had been booted off so shockingly early. I had a brain, once, which studied stuff like Gawain and the Green Knight and the Dream of the Rood. But then, if you believe the urban myth about all your cells replacing themselves every seven years, we’re talking four incarnations ago.
4. E-cigarettes. Cowards! Take your cancer and your shivering-outside-on-the-pavement social stigma like a man.
5. People who don’t go foxhunting. Hateful, hateful people.
6. Adverts in cinemas. (See also: Christmas ads.) I’m with the Church of England on this: there is no surer sign that the devil walks the earth. Also trailers which completely mislead you as to how good a film is going to be. Why oh why did I allow myself to be gulled into imagining that Black Mass would be up there with GoodFellas?
7. Cyclists. I’m sorry. I know at least one of you is my friend. But sometimes when you’re a dictator you have to take tough decisions for the good of all.
8. Students. Richard Dawkins is right: ‘A university is not a “safe space”. If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.’ I won’t ban universities altogether. But the entrance test will include an additional paper with searching questions on trans–gender issues, triggering and ‘rape culture’. Anyone who passes will automatically be disbarred.
9. That frightful woman who does BBC Radio 4’s Any Answers. She’s just awful: so hectoring and disapproving and opinionated in an all-too-predictable BBC direction. Any Answers is supposed to be where Real Britain responds to all the drivel they’ve been infuriated by on Any Questions. Not a place for them to get sneered at yet again.
10. Signs that begin: ‘For your comfort and convenience…’ before forbidding you from doing something that, actually, you’d find both comforting and convenient.
11. Stupid ‘house rules’. Especially the Free Parking one on Monopoly. This is where all fines are paid not to the bank but put in the middle of the board and given to whoever next lands on Free Parking. This has the same corrupting effect on the Monopoly economy as treasure ships laden with gold did on 16th-century Spain’s. Players no longer have to worry about affording new properties and become more careless of asking for trivial rents on undeveloped properties.Worst of all, though, it makes the game last about five times as long as it should. And it’s not as though Monopoly doesn’t already last too long even when you play by the rules.
12. Roibos. Not tea. Not even close. It tastes like grown-ups’ Ribena, with all the fun removed. With the additional misery that it doesn’t even give you a mild caffeine lift.
13. All jobs with the word sustainability, equality or diversity in the title.
14. Passed (American for died). Oh, he just passed, did he? That’s fine. Had he died that would have been really serious. Terminal, in fact. But if he’s just passed, well he’s obviously coming back. Isn’t he? He isn’t?? He’s dead??? Well why didn’t you just say so?
15. Drawstrings on pyjama bottoms.Yes, they ought to be a good old-fashioned, lovely thing. But not only is it far, far too easy to urinate on the loose string during your final pee before bed, but when you roll over in the night it sometimes flaps heavily against you and wakes you up.
16. Pop-up restaurants. Pop-up anything, actually. Do I really need to explain?
17. David Cameron and George Osborne. I know it’s a truism — but they really haven’t seized the Corbyn-shaped, once-in-a-millennium opportunity to start rolling back the frontiers of state, have they?
18. ‘No offence Dad, but…’ followed by something so unimaginably offensive you can’t for the life of you think why you didn’t send your children to the glue factory like you kept promising when they were little.
19. Pugs. I love them but a) I think we’ve long since reached peak pug and b) if they were banned, I wouldn’t be so bothered that I can’t afford £800-odd quid to buy one.
20. ‘Are you interested in a half-price bar of Galaxy with your purchase?’
This is an extract from the Christmas issue of The Spectator. To receive your copy subscribe here.