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The government is full-on when it comes to empty gestures

Comedian MITCH BENN on the government's flag-waving and photo op filled response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Downing Street’s dim bulbs flag up Britain’s support for Ukraine. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing/Getty

Aside from the inherent irony of the fact that the defending side in this least humour-friendly of conflicts is being led by an ACTUAL COMEDIAN (way to make the whole of the rest of the industry look like lightweights, Volodymyr, thanks for that), there are, I’ve concluded, precisely zero jokes to be whipped up vis-à-vis the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

Something I do feel able to comment on, however, is the response to the situation back here in Britain, and in particular the almost spectacular emptiness of all our official gestures of support thus far.

Downing Street was lit up blue and yellow in nominal support of Ukraine, but it was worth noting that a) the blue and yellow blocks were side by side rather than blue over yellow like the actual Ukrainian flag and b) the Home Office was still (and at time of writing, IS still) refusing to make any special allowances for Ukrainian refugees trying to enter the country (although the immigration minister Kevin Foster did helpfully suggest that homeless traumatised Ukrainians could apply for seasonal fruit-picking work permits in the UK, so never let it be said that the government is utterly heartless).

So if our national policy with regard to Ukraine is to make ostentatious displays of solidarity while refusing to do anything to actually HELP, here are some more Possible Completely Empty Gestures Of Support For Ukraine…


We do seem to place a great deal of importance on bananas in this country; much of the petty Europhobia that got us into our current mess was fuelled by spurious stories about EU banana-shaping regulations.

So they would seem to be the ideal vehicle for a too-little-too-late gesture of support to our beleaguered Eastern European cousins. Turning things blue and yellow seems to have been adopted as the bare minimum “Go Ukraine” symbol, and bananas are halfway there already.

Just make it clear to whoever is put in charge of this initiative that we need to paint half of EACH banana blue (preferably the top half), not paint 50% of all our bananas completely blue. Details matter.


One thing everyone seems to have agreed upon is that it’s suddenly become essential to refer to the Ukrainian capital as Kyiv rather than, as has been customary heretofore, Kiev.

This is apparently because “Kyiv” is the Ukrainian pronunciation while “Kiev” is how Russian speakers say it (although since both languages use a completely different alphabet to English, the quibble over spelling seems a bit arbitrary, but like I said, it’s all about the gestures).

It seems logical that this distinction should extend to the culinary use of the word. Why garlic-stuffed chicken should be synonymous with the Ukrainian capital I have no idea, given that as far as I can ascertain, the dish was invented in France and named by Americans, but whatever, it’s gonna have to be Chicken Kyiv from now on or the Ukrainians might, you know, wonder whether we’ve 100% got their backs and we can’t have that now, can we?

(Same goes for Mini Kyivs. Are Mini Kyivs still a thing?)


In fact, send her to Ukraine ANYWAY.


They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it has to be said that ex-professional comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is doing a rather better job governing his own country than the amateur clown we’ve got running ours.

So, where to start? Eddie Izzard feels like a shoo-in for the foreign secretary (speaks a lot of languages), David Baddiel for Culture & Sport (likes his football and his books are way better than Nadine Dorries’s) and Jimmy Carr for chancellor (knows his way around tax codes).

Top job? That’s tricky. One’s heart says Billy Connolly, but he’d be First Minister of Scotland. Six weeks ago I’d have said Barry Cryer, no contest. Just NOT Ricky Gervais. We’d be at war with everyone within a fortnight.

(Where would I be? Backbench troublemaker, of course…)


Vladimir Putin
Is always disputin’
The borders of neighbouring lands
He’s pestering, vexing
Invading, annexing
He laughs as his empire expands.
Now Vladimir Putin
Thinks bombin’ and shootin’
Is all that he needs to do
But taking Ukraine
Has been proving a pain
Did he bite off more than he can chew?
Vladimir Putin
Has got the world rootin’
For plucky Ukraine to prevail
We’re praying they’re coping
And wishing and hoping
This rotten invasion will fail.
Vladimir Putin
Is putting the boot in
To restore Russia’s glory at last
His wish he’s fulfillin’
Cos Russia’s the villain
Once more like it was in the past.

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