OLIVER PRITCHETT 15 OCTOBER 2017 • 6:00AM
The idea that we won’t be asked about our gender in the 2021 census has been blamed on political correctness gone doolally, but I think it’s a move to head off an uprising by those of us who are suffering from form fatigue. We are repeatedly required to give our postcode and date of birth, the state of our feelings or opinion on something we have no opinion about, and our debit card expiry date, so when the census comes around, it’s no wonder there are so many Jedi knights. Here are some highlights we can expect from the Office for National Statistics report on the findings of the 2021 census:
Occupancy of yurts in the United Kingdom has increased by 946 per cent in the last five years. In Huddersfield, for example, more than a third of the population gave their address as “fifth yurt on the left after the traffic lights”. Dorking is the exception to this trend, as 88 families live in a hole in the ground and there are 46 owner-occupied de luxe caves.
Formfilla was the most popular name for girls born in 2021, while with boys it was Census McCensusface, followed by Insert Name Here. Anyone needing brain surgery should move to Milford Haven, where one in five of the population is a brain surgeon. Many more people are now pursuing careers as apprentice box tickers.
The national sense of wellbeing has improved over the past 10 years. Although they were not asked the question, 38 per cent of the people returning the form indicated that they were “fairly satisfied” with the experience of filling it in.
Minister of Gloom and the Department for Foreboding
A candidate for the new ministry?
Our trouble is that there is not enough gloom in politics these days. Philip Hammond is doing his best, but his so-called realism isn’t the out-and-out pessimism the public wants. Meanwhile, we are never going to trust upbeat ministers who insist on looking on the bright side.
It was an excellent idea to create the Office for Budget Responsibility, dedicated to the task of lowering expectations, but it should now be enlarged, given a wider remit and be renamed the National Institute for Foreboding. As I’ve said before, we must have a Minister for Gloom. His department would be housed in a dreary scaffolding-shrouded building in Whitehall named Drawback House and would have a brief to ensure that a correct proportion of naysayers were employed in positions of power. The department would also take over responsibility for health warnings, making them more generalised, to get across the message that, basically, most things are bad for us.
The Minister for Gloom would quickly become a national treasure, as loved as an Eeyore or a Meldrew. Indignant Radio 4 listeners would telephone the Today programme to protest at the way John Humphrys persistently tried to cheer the minister up. Enthusiastic crowds would greet the minister every time he (or she) went walkabout on rainy days or put on a hard hat to go and attend the closure of some factory. Hundreds of thousands of coffee mugs would be sold with the slogan “Stay Glum and Carry On”. After all, it’s what we do best.
Then the saloon bar know-alls will turn to each other and declare: “You can never believe the politicians. It’s obvious they’re hiding something. It can’t be as bad as that.”
In for a pound..
The look from the cash till lady, as she hands you back one of the coins you’ve given her, is reproachful. You read the words on the coin: “Bailiwick of Jersey.” So, there it is. You stand accused of being a money launderer, a fobber-off of unacceptable currency.
Who planted it on you? Was the greengrocer trying to distract you by being so cheery when giving you your change? Did the newsagent see you coming? The important thing is to get rid of it quickly. The collecting box inside the church is a possibility, but there’s an outside chance you could be struck by lightning. It would be justice to pass it on to that taxi driver who refused your Scottish tenner, but impossible to track him down now.
In the end, it goes in the odds-and-ends drawer, or perhaps dropped down a drain. There’s still a lingering sense of unease, as you distractedly jingle those old pound coins in your pocket.