Kings of the castle! How our political leaders splash the cash – POLITICO


Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

Declassified is taking a break at its tax-free summer residence in the Cayman Islands to drink gin and think of more offensive nicknames for politicians. Back in September.

“We’re all in this together.” So said man of the people, Eton-educated pig enthusiast, and one-time British Prime Minister David Cameron.

But our leaders aren’t like us ordinary folk, with our supermarket own-brand cheese and need to remember what day the rubbish gets collected. Cameron’s eventual successor, Rishi Sunak (whose net worth, along with his heiress wife, Akshata Murty, was a mere £529 million, or €600 million, in the latest Sunday Times rich list), has decided that what his country needs is more chess.

He’s planning to install chess tables in parks, encourage the game in schools, and back the English Chess Federation to the tune of £500,000. No word yet on how much if any of that cash will be spent on vibrating anal beads, as allegedly used unfairly at the very top of the sport.

There’s nothing wrong with chess, of course. It’s a noble pastime and can have mental health benefits. But there is a war in Europe, a cost-of-living crisis, and a health service on life support, so maybe it would have been better for Sunak to focus on those. The chess plan already has been compared to the Cones Hotline, a number for people to call and find out when traffic cones had been used to restrict traffic flow that was introduced by John Major. It was perhaps the most ridiculed policy ever to be introduced by a British government.

Speaking of the rich, Thierry Breton, the EU internal market commissioner, has bought a castle. Located in the central French village of Gargilesse-Dampierre — ranked among the prettiest places in France — along the Creuse river, Gargilesse Castle was built by the Counts of Gargilesse in the 8th century (and if there isn’t a member of a death metal band called Count Gargilesse, then why not?).

To be fair to Breton, it costs about the same to buy a castle in au milieu de nulle part as it does to buy a middle-of-the-road jambon beurre in Paris.

Breton isn’t planning on living in the castle, according to his team, which is a shame as the man does some great work when he has time on his hands. He is, lest we forget, the author of three sci-fi novels — “Softwar,” “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all are worth checking out, if only for the cover art) — and helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” just north of Poitiers. Its tagline of “Expect the unexpected” is also the motto of the European Parliament.


Angela Merkel, Markus Söder and Ursula von der Leyen at the opera … The Wagner Group!” (thanks to Eddy Wax)

Can you do better? Email [email protected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

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Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag — there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.

“And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind,” by Elizabeth Kiernan

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

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