If I had read the book Kippers (by Fred Atkins) in 2015, I would have dismissed it as overheated fantasy and a scandalous attack on the intelligence of the good people of Kent. I expect you are ahead of me: reading it in 2021 is a chillingly different experience.
In this, the sequel to Welcome to Kent: Sorry about the Racists, Atkins creates the dystopian world of the Democratic Republic of England, better known to you and me as the County of Kent (along with the disputed Metropolitan boroughs of Bexley and Bromley of course).
It comes as no surprise to hear that after a referendum, treated by everyone as a joke, we now see an independent Kent which has taken back control. The UK is now a rump state after the re-unification of Ireland and the success of Indyref2.
Kent is behind barbed wire fences and metamorphosed from the Garden of England to the Toilet of England as lorry drivers fling their two litre bottles of urine into Dover gardens while queueing for border control.
The creation of a contemporary satire is an interesting challenge for a writer in our post truth world: however ludicrous the lie, from 5G and the virus, chips in the vaccines to Trump as anti-paedophile saviour, someone will believe it and share it on Facebook. If lobbyists can enable Qatar to host the World Cup, then why shouldn’t Riyadh tender for the 2030 Winter Olympics?
Atkins employs a first person narrator in the person of, Lawrence Godwin, an agent for the UK intelligence services based in Greece at the beginning of our story. He is wisecracking, foul mouthed anti-hero trying to make sense of the duplicity of politicians and stupidity of the populace of his birthplace. He returns to the UK, to investigate the disappearance of his cousin Mo, but first he must queue to be allowed to cross into the DRE at the heavily defended border town of Edenbridge,
In the DRE, Atkins draws a picture of a political class vying against each other’s duplicity and greed. He creates the truly loathsome, government minister Bennett, ‘by some distance the most sinister member of the DRE cabinet and in a gang of sociopaths, that was saying something. He was also, among all the mercenaries, con artists, stooges and useful idiots who’d made independence possible, the only authentic traitor.‘
Godwin notes, ‘A hard-on for Churchill was essential in Bennett’s line of work’. The veneration of Churchill and the draping of every available surface with flags resonates with us today where pressers are positively tumescent with flags in ever increasing numbers. Similarly, the ludicrously named ‘Operation Sabre Tooth’ seems just as likely as Johnson’s Operation Moonshot. Atkins also nicely captures the use of the three word slogan specially tailored for the readers of The Sun.
The Kentish Independence party, the eponymous Kippers, has its origins in The Empire, a club run by the comedian Len Valley. ‘Naming his club The Empire was one of his subtler gags. England was the arse end of Europe, Kent was the arse end of England, Sheppey was the arse end of Kent, Leysdown was the arse end of Sheppey and The Empire was the arse end of Leysdown.’
As you may have guessed, Atkins is not afraid of deploying the ‘c’ bomb. ‘Fat was the first word that came to mind for most people when they thought about Len Valley. “Racist” was usually the second and “****” frequently the third.’
After a dramatic attack by the wonderfully named Political Correctness Gone Mad action group, Len Valley is replaced by a comedian who will not buy into the racist, sexist genre of comedy so popular at the Empire. He replaces the word ‘Sussex’ for ‘Pakistan’ and the movement for Kent Independence is born.
Clearly this book is not for those of a sensitive disposition: there is a sex scene that will live long in the memory and not in a good way. It may also raise the blood pressure of those of us who live in East Kent.
On the search for a new administrative centre, Godwin comments that ‘Dover was too bleak and Ashford was just too much of a hell hole. The Ministry’s solution was to re-brand the Medway Towns as a single city. For centuries they’d formed a giant, suppurating arsehole of a conurbation, a cess pit of narcotics, prostitution and pestilence that rivalled Marseilles or Piraeus for sleaze and criminality.”
The Kent Tourist Board will not be offering exuberant quotations for the cover of this book. Although it might be worth approaching the Swedes. It must be disappointing to be a Brexiteer still waiting for the sunlit uplands but having to make do with Sevington Inland Border facility, aka the ‘Farage Garage’.
This book did make me laugh out loud – however, for all that it is a chastening tale about how ignorance can be manipulated. The DRE is our contemporary society with all its xenophobia and British exceptionalism taken to a logical conclusion. When we hate people who are different to us , the differences we hate get smaller and smaller – and let’s face it, of course I’m not racist but….those people from Sussex…Can you help us reach more readers?