Jingle bellend: The festive f*ckery of Harry Cole, The Sun’s chief propagandist and Brexit bullshitter.

... who writes today about Boris Johnson’s ‘triumph’.

As I write this edition, the UK’s Covid death toll stands at 69,051. The dark gift for the nation will be that number increasing as Christmas Day dawns. It is in that context that Harry Cole, formerly of Guido Fawkes and Mail on Sunday, but now smugly ensconced as Political Editor of The Sun, trumpets the Prime Minister’s “personal triumph” on Brexit. The country is fucked but still Cole stands applauding Boris Johnson as the shagger-in-chief.

Of course, looked at closely the ‘triumph’ appears to be limping to a trade deal which leaves the country worse off, with all of us less able to travel, all of us more likely to pay more and get less, and our international reputation similar to Boris Johnson’s approval rating among his ex-wives and girlfriends. But to relentless cheerleaders like Cole — who has kept on banging the ‘Boris’ drum even as the great leader was… um… banging his ex-girlfriend — their emotional investment in the Prime Minister must pay off. They can never and will never admit that the man they helped heave into Number 10 is a corrupt, adulterous, amoral incompetent.

Look at how Cole frames this story — as yet based entirely on government briefings — with talk of “EU red tape” and “meddlesome judges”. It’s the same kind of bullshit that Boris Johnson himself peddled back in the early-90s when he was skulking about in Brusells, inventing stories about banana straightening directives designed to turn the Tebbitite mouth-frothers at The Daily Telegraph puce.

Another way of describing much of that “red tape” would include consumer protections, from ensuring food quality to preventing phone companies from roasting us with roaming charges. Similarly, ‘meddlesome judges’ have made rulings based on human rights laws that the UK had a central role in drafting. Phew! I, for one, cannot wait to rely on the likes of Priti Patel to define what rights we do and do not deserve.

Cole applies so much spin to his stories that it’s surprising they’re not simply a series of unreadably blurred smears in our peripheral vision. He has never met a fact he can’t fudge, a figure he can’t fiddle, or a quote he can’t treat in quarrelsome bad faith. Harry Cole doesn’t write news, he writes fiction so loosely based on the facts it makes The Crown seem like a kitchen sink drama.

But, of course, this is simply Cole doing his job. It is a category error to think that he is there to give Sun readers reasoned analysis and an accounting of the facts. His job, for which he is well-remunerated despite what the cut and fit of his suits suggest, is to provide red meat for racists and reactionaries. Since the death of Johnny Cash, no man has walked the line with such dedication as Harry Cole.

Here, for instance, he is acting as a stenographer for a government source who has literally got him to write out a quote from the Neighbours theme tune:

Toxoplasma gondii is a tiny protozoan parasite that enters the brain of its host and radically alters its behaviour. Harry Cole suffers from a rare variant — Toryplasma gondii — which only affects political pundits and entirely replaces their own opinions and judgement with those of Conservative Central Office. The reward for these zombie hacks is continued access to anonymous sources, the chance to wander around the Tory party conference exchanging bonhomie with bastards, and the ability to pretend to care about ‘normal’ people while actually giving not one solitary shit.

Expecting Harry Cole to commit an act of journalism is as futile as waiting for Michael Gove to have a normal facial expression or Grant Shapps to admit that he is, in fact, also Michael Green, the ‘multi-million dollar web marketeer’.

As I write this, Cole is gearing up to go on the Today programme at 8.50 am UK time, where he will bluster and bullshit like Billy Bunter caught with his face in a tuck hamper. [Update: He got bumped for more Prue Leith] You can expect him to be all over the media today, offering his ‘analysis’ that hews so closely to Johnson line that it will seem like he is already on the government payroll. While he still takes his money and marching orders from the Murdoch company, don’t be surprised if Cole ends up in a cushy government role soon enough. He will have earned it through untrammelled obsequiousness.

There he is using an over-excited JUST IN to deliver a piece of prime gossip dropped into his eager maw by a government source. It’s designed entirely to frame the discussions in Johnson’s favour and put Michael Gove in the frame for the brickbats should the headbangers of the European Research Group — whose principal research is into fine port, plentiful cheese, and bigotry — decided to cause trouble.

Cole delights in the trappings of journalism — the ‘Political Editor’ title, slapping ‘Exclusive’ on stories even when they’re nothing of the sort, and shouting ‘Just In’ when he’s told… well, anything really — but he has little to do with the substance. His stories rarely unsettle the powerful — though he’d point to a string of bitter gossipy revelations over the years — or comfort the afflicted. He’s part-stenographer and part-gossip columnist, only his subjects are far less appealing than even the most low-rent reality stars; most ministers couldn’t manage even one good line on Gogglebox.

Anyone who offers scepticism about the deal the Prime Minister — and isn’t it interesting how he’s apparently telling Cabinet that Gove got it over the line but the press line is that it’s the ‘PM’s triumph’? — will be castigated by Cole and chums today. Dimbulb Dan Hodges is already pushing this line:

My head does need examining but it’s not because I retain doubt about the quality of any deal dashed through by a desperate Prime Minister and a defensive EU bureaucracy. Hacks like Cole and Hodges are always driven by narrative and not detail. The bear traps, minefields, and whatever other analogies you wish to draw, that may be hiding in the agreement will not be apparent immediately.

Simply whooping and hollering about the fact that any deal has been secured is foolish. But then, the British tabloids are a ship of fools and you’ll always find Hodges and Cole up on the poopdeck talking shit.

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Tomorrow’s edition of the newsletter will be a Christmas special rounding up the 10 most viewed editions of Conquest of the Useless so far. Merry Christmas and thank you for supporting me and this newsletter this year.