One of the funniest political writers of recent times was Michael Wharton, who took the pen-name Peter Simple for his column in the Daily Telegraph. He had a wonderful line in caricature, carrying to extremes the antics of the millionaire Leftist, the trendy bishop, the pushing-back-the-limits television producer and the rest of the self-indulgent gang we all have to put up with. Oh, what would Peter Simple have made of Raquel Rolnik, who has just landed on our shores and added greatly to the gaiety of the nation.
This lady is from Brazil and glories in being a United Nations special rapporteur. The British government is in the process of trying to adjust the entitlements of the welfare state to the capacity of the economy. What attracted Mrs. Rolnik’s attention is a proposal to cut housing benefits for people who have spare or unoccupied bedrooms. A few days in the country were enough for her to report that this is an abuse of human rights. It’s rather rich to talk like that when 54 million of the 190 million Brazilians live without clean water or sanitation. But the best of it is what her elder sister says in an interview in the Daily Mail. Mrs. Rolnik combines a really solid Marxist formation with the practice of Candomble, an African-Brazilian religion that originated during the slave trade. According to the sister, when Mrs. Rolnik went to do her Master’s degree, “she offered an ebo — an animal sacrifice — to Marx, so he would leave her in peace.” Surely a solid Marxist like her wouldn’t want to be left in peace by the great man, would she? That’s only one of the enjoyable puzzles here.
How does the United Nations manage to find such people? Ebos all round when the going gets rough? Inventive as he was, Peter Simple couldn’t have taken satire so far.