Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy slams bankers with new take on The Twelve Days of Christmas

JUST when the bankers thought there was no other way they could be castigated for their failures, along comes the Poet Laureate.

In a highly political take on The Twelve Days of Christmas, Carol Ann Duffy covers high-profile topics such as the financial collapse, MPs' expenses claims and the war in Afghanistan.

The Royal Bank of Scotland gets its own verse, with a special mention for Fred "the Shred" Goodwin and references to the tax-payer propping up the failing institution.

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The verse concludes: "We paid the bluddy pipers, but we dinnae call the tune."

Duffy's poem – The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009 – was commissioned by the Radio Times, which will publish it in full this week.

The poem begins by referring to a soldier, crouched in the dust in Afghanistan, tracing the smiles of his children in a photograph with his thumb.

In another verse, Duffy covers subjects from the greed of the bankers and global warming to the celebrity culture now dominating television.

There is also a mention for the leader of the British National Party. In a verse linked to the "six geese a-laying" from the original version, Glasgow-born Duffy refers to a "poisoned goose" which "laid Nick Griffin".

The poet – the first woman to hold the post of laureate since it was created in 1668 – also refers to the MPs' expenses scandal.

Rather than the usual "maids a-milking", the verse talks of someone milking money to "mend her moat" and milking Parliament to "flip her flat" – a reference to those MPs who "flipped" second homes to maximise expenses claims.

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There are also mentions of other major issues of the past year, including flooding in Cumbria, honour killings, dirty hospitals and the people of Wootton Bassett lining the street to honour repatriated dead soldiers.

The poem ends with a nod to this week's climate summit in Copenhagen, asking whether the politicians will "twiddle their thumbs" or "hear the drums".

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said poetry had long been used to question politics. He said: "There are many examples. I am thinking of programmes like The Thick of It. That is drama being used to dramatise issues such as spin and special advisers. I think most people will find that more interesting than dry books about Alastair Campbell." And he added that a lot of Shakespeare's works also made reference to issues of the day.

Ben Preston, editor of the Radio Times, said: "It's a wonderfully trenchant, funny, poignant poem which shows we've now got a confident poet laureate with a strong, distinctive voice who is prepared to grapple with the big issues. She will engage readers and win new friends for poetry."

When she became laureate in May, Duffy said she accepted the post to recognise "great women poets" of the past and to make her 13-year-old daughter proud.

The 53-year-old left Scotland aged five and lives in Manchester.

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009

We paid the bluddy piper

fir Scotland's Royal Bank;

Twa pipers each

fir Fred and Phil,

fir Finlay, Fraser, Frank.

Too big tae fail!

The wee dog laughed!

The dish ran awa' wi' the spoon…

We paid the bluddy pipers,

but we dinnae call the tune.