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Hands, face, space. Curfews. Don’t drink. Bend your knees. Conform, obey, comply – surrender. British life has become infested by bossiness.

Boris Johnson won power as one of life’s free-wheelers but his first year as PM saw a fever of finger-wagging. The real pandemic? Passive-aggressive ninnying by politicians, scientists and officialdom. From Sage with its graphs to BBC grandees telling us not to sing ‘Rule Britannia’, the National Trust with its slavery mania, to calorie counts on menus: why won’t they leave us alone? Theatre directors beat us over the head with their agitprop. Militant cyclists scream at us from their saddles. Meghan Markle ticks us off for not being more Californian.

Bossiness: did it begin when Moses came down from the mountain with his tablets? Cromwell beat Chris Whitty to it by four centuries and banned Christmas. A. Hitler, B. Mussolini and J.V. Stalin: they liked to throw their weight around, but today’s self-serving dictators are more subtle. They do it with a caring smile. Tell us it’s for our own good. They claim to be liberals!

Following his best-selling Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain and his 2017 Christmas favourite Patronising Bastards, parliamentary sketchwriter Quentin Letts storms back into hard covers with a vituperative howl against the ‘bossocracy’. They tell us what to do, what to say, how to think. Letts gives them a prolonged, resonant raspberry. He names the guilty men and women: Dominic Cummings, Prof Neil Ferguson, that strutting self-polisher Nicola Sturgeon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cressida Dick, Michael Gove, even the sainted Sir David Attenborough. Bang! They all take a barrel. And then there’s publicity-prone plonker Matt Hancock posing for photographs while doing his ‘Mr Fit’ press-ups.

Reasonable people have had enough of being bossed about. And when reasonable people stop respecting the law, society has a problem.

Reviews

As witty as he's defiantly unwoke, the inimitable Quentin Letts dares to say in a new book what we've all been secretly thinking
Mail on Sunday
Underneath the jocularity of Letts's style is a lot of real anger
Roger Lewis, The Times
Brilliantly critical, but always warm-hearted and fair
Rory Knight Bruce, The Field