Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ – local communities getting involved in policing. That’s what we need – like the Old West, deputise citizens to sort out local trouble. Form a posse to chase out bloody youths and their posse. It’s bloody political correctness gone mad at the moment – if my and mates were to give some little toe-rag spitting on the street a good spanking, we’d be the ones in the wrong! Bloody ridiculous! Bloody bleeding heart liberal judges! Summary justice, that’s what we need! Save us the cost of a trial too – help cut the deficit. Just string ‘em up in the street.” The words spill across a computer screen in a top secret laboratory, as a group of white coated scientists activate various electrodes embedded in the brain of a comatose subject. “It’s bloody marvellous, isn’t it?” enthuses Lord Quimwedge, owner of the Daily Excess and chairman of a consortium of newspaper publishers funding this project, as he watches from an observation gallery. “By tapping into the inner thought-processes of a ‘typical’ British bloke, we can get an accurate handle on how best to tailor our content to meet our readers’ opinions and prejudices.”

The project has drawn much criticism, with allegations that it is cruel and demeaning to the subjects employed. “It’s a complete misconception that any of our subjects can actually feel anything,” says Dr Julius Hambone, one of the scientists running the project. “The fact is that they are all in a permanent vegetative state following accidents or strokes – they have no hope of recovery. Luckily for us, their families have all signed waivers allowing us to conduct these vital experiments. It’s less undignified than ending your days as a drooling vegetable, being fed through a tube, isn’t it?” Quimwedge denies allegations that his consortium has paid the subjects’ relatives in return for their waivers. “Absolute nonsense, these people are allowing us the use of the burnt-out husks of their loved ones out of a deep seated concern for the advancement of news reporting standards,” he declares. “Take our current subject, Mr DM Reader, (not his real name, obviously) – he ended up comatose after suffering a massive seizure in front of his television, whilst ranting incoherently at Diane Abbott on This Week. His daughter was happy to let us use him when we told her that it would help the Excess become even more reactionary – apparently he loved the paper, reading it every day.”

Reader is the thirteenth subject so far used in the project. “They’re all selected on the basis that they represent a typical mid-market tabloid reader – predominantly lower middle-class, middle income and middle aged. Quite a lot of them are self-employed. Take Mr Reader, for instance, he ran his own gutter-cleaning business,” explains Dr Hambone. “We also want subjects who can withstand our treatments for at least a month – even a healthy human brain can only stand being zapped with thousands of volts of electricity a limited number of times; we mustn’t forget that the one’s we’re using have already been damaged before we start.” In order to assuage public fears over the project, Hambone has arranged a demonstration for the press. “It’s really quite simple,” he says, fitting a visor over the eyes of Reader, who is strapped, upright to a chair, the top of his skull removed to expose his brain, which has several electrodes inserted in it. “We feed them audio visual input – in this case television news reports about the opposition’s immigration policy proposals and the housing market – then we electrically stimulate the appropriate areas of the brain with the electrodes.”

As the white coated scientist turns various knobs on the control panel situated behind Reader, the subject’s reactions begin to spill out onto a giant wall-mounted monitor: ” Bloody refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers! Those loony lefties in the Labour party only want them to settle here so as to reduce house prices and ruin the middle classes.” Hambone explains that the inputs don’t just have to be news reports. “Anything can be used as a stimulus – movies, TV shows, scanned newspapers, radio, music, the lot,” he says, flipping a few switches on his console. “Let’s see what we get when we input some raw wild life footage – urban foxes, in this case.” Within seconds, Reader is responding to the new input: ” Bloody urban foxes – they’re worse than illegal immigrants. They come into our cities and live under our sheds without paying rent. Not to mention the fact that they’re stealing the bin contents which rightfully belong to British feral cats. Next thing you know, they’ll be going on killing sprees. That’s where Derrick Bird went wrong. If only he’d waited a couple of weeks before going on his shooting rampage in Cumbria, he could have blamed it all on foxes and got away with it. No jury would have convicted.”

Quimwedge is delighted: “There’s tomorrow’s front page – it’s got everything; illegal immigrants, mass murderers and a new hate figure in urban foxes! The way his mind free-associated the input with pre-existing memories and prejudices is just magnificent! That’s the beauty of this system, it allows us to bypass the conscious, rational mind, with all its filters for ‘decency’ and ‘social responsibility’, and instead tap directly into the uncensored subconscious.” The newspaper proprietor is keen to show that the system can be used to instantly gauge public reactions to popular media, getting Hambone to input a recent edition of the BBC’s Top Gear. The reaction from Reader is swift: ”That Jeremy Clarkson – he’s bloody right about those Muslim women in burquas wearing sexy underwear! My mate reckons he was at a club the other day and one of them was doing a strip-tease! Ended up with just her niqab on! Bloody tarts, the lot of them” Quimwedge is ecstatic: “We need never misjudge public opinion again. As soon as any celebrity says anything the slightest bit controversial, or the BBC shows anything too left-wing and offensive, we’ll know exactly what line to take so as to stay in step with our readership.”

However, even as Quimwedge is extolling the virtues of his consortium’s project, there are signs that things are going awry, as the comatose Reader continues with observations triggered by the Top Gear clip: ” That bloody Clarkson, he’s a mate of that toff Cameron, isn’t he? He’s using his bloody influence to get the speed cameras turned off – it’s all a plot to get more working class kiddies and old people run over to save money on schools and pensions. Bastards!” Hambone is quick to attribute this outburst to the inevitable decline of Reader’s brain. “As it deteriorates, he becomes confused and just talks gibberish. Pay no attention,” he explains. Hambone’s analysis isn’t shared by all of his colleagues in the scientific community. “These outbursts just go to show that even a damaged mind, warped by electric shock treatment, can still give us profound insights” opines Arthur Pikestaff, science correspondent of the Sunday Bystander. “Even a zombie with electrodes in its brain can apparently see that the coalition government is built upon privilege and the abuse of position.” As if on cue, Reader spontaneously bursts into action, spewing forth more observations: ” That crossbow cannibal killer – he’s a public schoolboy, just like Cameron, Osborne and Clegg. Probably all members of the Bullingdon Club – wild toff parties where they murder prostitutes and get away with it. And they want to switch the CCTV cameras off. Civil liberties? They just want their toff mates to get away with crimes more easily. Just like Jack the Ripper. That’s how he got away with it – no CCTV cameras in Victorian London, and he was a toff. He wore a top hat and murdered prostitutes…”