I bet that the Queen is kicking herself on hearing that the law against “being an incorrigible rogue” has been removed from the statute book just as rumours emerged about naughty footmen pinching her nuts.
The allegations about the royal snacks emerged during the News of the World phone-hacking trial. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, was quick to point out that they are “unproven”, but nutgate will doubtless pass swiftly into British mythology by virtue of being so charming. Rumour had it that royal protection officers were secretly nibbling from bowls of cashews and Bombay mix left around Buckingham Palace for the Queen, to the point that the Queen would mark levels on the bowls to try to catch them out. Is this true, or was the News of the World accidentally hacking into an as yet unpublished Alan Bennett play?
Any copper who would steal the Queen’s Bombay mix is undoubtedly an incorrigible rogue but, fortunately for them, this is no longer an offence, having been purged from the 1824 Vagrancy Act in an attempt to “tidy up the statute books”. This is the statute book that doesn’t really say that it is treason to deface a stamp and punishable by hanging, or that you can legally graze your sheep on Tooting Common, but nonetheless these apocryphal laws appeal to our sense of being cutely British.
What we really need, though, are some laws against the incorrigible roguery of the 21st century. In the week that the Everyday Sexism Project received its 50,000th report of tedious, relentless, drip-drip-effect sexism, we could use a law against leaning out of a white van to shout barely coherent claptrap at passing women, punishable by an hour in a cell with Jeremy Clarkson. (And I’ll stop being white van-ist when it stops being always a white van.)
There should be a law against Christmas songs in shops before 1 December, and another law about complaining about them after. We definitely need a law against any more Hobbit films, and a law limiting the amount of football that can be shown on TV in any given 24-hour period. (And any channel showing more minutes of old men chatting about what might happen in the football that is about to occur than actual football going on should be forced to put all those old men in the stocks.)
As a book reviewer, I’d like to see a law against beginning any Amazon review with the words “I haven’t read this, but …” and instant fines for publishers who call any book “the next Fifty Shades of Grey”. There should be laws against smug Facebook updates and self-promoting tweets. I’ve always believed that any person who has ever been a member of the Bullingdon Club should be automatically excluded by law from ever attaining public office. And while we’re about it, let’s just make a law against Boris Johnson.
Having thought about it, all of these offences still fall under the general heading of “being an incorrigible rogue”. Quick, the Queen, intervene and reintroduce it. Britain needs this law now!