contextualise this

Dear Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party,

I hope this letter finds you well during these unprecedented times. I know you have been busy of late focusing on matters of great national importance such as reinstating the imperial measures system and starting your cabinet minister apprenticeship scheme for unqualified and inexperienced MPs, but I do hope you can take a break from rearranging those deckchairs to read this letter, as it contains what I hope will be useful advice about a problem you seem to have overlooked.

“Hark! What is this problem of which thou speaketh? Maximus decimus meridius!” I hear you cry.

Well, I thought I’d better let you know that a lot of your cabinet ministers have been struggling of late – well, actually over the last ten years or so.

“Stuggling? Forsooth! What struggle at yonder window breaks? The Iliad. Homer, Ancient Greek!”, I hear you interject.

Well, unfortunately, I don’t have the time or space to answer that question fully so I’ll stick to the problem I was going to mention in the first place, namely the problem of context. Or, more accurately, the problem of being out of it. Being out of context is not a new problem. You yourself have been out of it on many occasions over the years, but it is becoming a grave problem indeed, primarily for you and your cabinet ministers. Why is being out of context such a problem? The answer to that is ultimately very simple. It is a problem because it means that you and your cabinet colleagues cannot say or do racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic things (INSERT FURTHER PHOBICS HERE) without being called out by the press and members of the public. This must be very irritating for you as I know you and the Conservative Party pride yourself on being able to say such things without consequence.

You have been a victim of the “out of context” pandemic many times over the years. In 2002, your comments about “tribal warriors” in Africa breaking out in “watermelon smiles to see the big white chief” were taken out of context. And in that same year your comment (in an article entitled “Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism”) that the problem with Africa was not that we were once in charge but that we were “not in charge anymore” was also taken out of context. To cap of that distressing year your comment that the Queen loves the Commonwealth because it supplies her with “regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” was also taken out of context. To say you must have been hopping mad at this blatant lack of context is an understatement. You must have felt as if you’d been hung out to dry like a flag-waving, suit-wearing idiot dangling from a zipwire.

In recent weeks, several of your cabinet ministers have also found themselves out of context. Some of Michael Gove’s comments from the 1980s and early 1990s have resurfaced this week, all of which have found themselves out of context. Examples include: “It may be moral to keep an empire because the fuzzy-wuzzies can’t look after themselves”; “Many of us are familiar with the fact that homosexuals thrive primarily on short-term relations”; and “We are at last experiencing a new empire: an empire where the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner”. How awful it must be for a man of such obvious intellect to find himself so hideously taken out of context.

As a final, chilling example, even your new Equalities Minister who, as we all know, simply by being called “Equalities Minister”, is beyond reproach and above all need to explain anything, has found herself out of context. In the past week, her 2018 comments about transgender women being “men using women’s bathrooms” have been…yes, you’ve guessed it…taken out of context. The poor woman. She must think the world has gone mad when she, as Equalities Minister, isn’t allowed to define what equality means.

I could list further examples of you and your cabinet finding themselves out of context but I’m sure you get the idea. Now, I don’t want to suggest for a moment that you or members of your cabinet are unintelligent, unqualified, promoted-beyond-your/their-capabilities, naïve or lacking in social skills, but it would appear that you have all failed to find a solution to the problem of being out of context. Which is why I’ve written to you today because, yes, I have the solution. And I’m happy to offer it free of charge.

It’s not actually that difficult a solution to find, so I’m surprised such high intellects as you and your cabinet haven’t come up with it yourselves. It involves doing one thing and one thing only: putting your comments in context! Sounds too simple to be true? Well, let me demonstrate. If back in 2002 you had put your comments about “tribal warriors” breaking out in “watermelon smiles” in context by prefacing it with the phrase, “I am racist”, then you would have simultaneously said racist things and provided context for it (namely, that you are racist). So simple, right?

It works for any of the cabinet ministers’ comments I have mentioned in this letter and for those I haven’t, including those that will inevitably surface in the coming years. And, to make it easier for any of your cabinet minister apprentices, I have compiled a beginners list of 6 context-providing sentence starters that you or they can use at all times to ensure you never find yourselves out of context.

  1. I am homophobic…
  2. I am transphobic…
  3. I am racist… (I think this one might just become one of your favourites!)
  4. I am xenophobic…
  5. I am sexist…
  6. I am classist…

Now, obviously, there are many sentence starters you could use, but I thought I’d keep it simple to start with by focusing on the most common for members of your cabinet. But, as you become more adept at providing context for your shocking remarks, please feel free to add to the list.

Well, that’s me done. I hope you have found this letter useful and I look forward to hearing you and your government providing context for yourselves in future years because, let’s face it, calling a racist a racist, a homophobe a homophobe and a xenophobe a xenophobe might just start to make the world a better and less Conservative place.

Kind regards,

R