On balance, I think yes, Daniel was right. Pretty much ANYTHING can be improved with Dinosaurs.
Back in 2010, Mitch Benn – a comedian and songwriter of nearly godlike genius if you ask me, had his biggest hit so far with “I’m Proud of the BBC”, extolling the very real benefits that we all gain from auntie. Newsround, Newsnight, iPlayer website – the list went on and on. And it hit a chord with listeners and viewers across the nation.
Well, we’ll know what we had if we lose it. The recent reshuffle was nothing more than another stacking of the deck against public service broadcasting as we know it. True, Mr C has moved on, but the tune remains the same – beggar the Beeb, and give a helping hand to Fox – sorry, Sky News.
Does it matter? Well yes it does. Every Government since Harold Wilson has accused the BBC of bias against them, and many have threatened to emasculate the corporation. As part of the fall out of the Hutton Inquiry, the last Labour government may just have started the process. However it was not irreversible, and we are now in a much more dangerous situation.
After all of ten minutes thought, The Coalition decided to cut funding via a freezing of the Licence Fee, then to stop funding The World Service via the Foreign Office. Yes, our Government took one ;look at our greatest soft power asset and said ” fuck it”. And fuck it they have.
As jobs are lost across the corporation, Unions are leading a campaign to stop the cuts – UNITE, BECTU, EQUITY and others, posing an alternative to the cuts – savings on top salaries, and a proper, forward looking policy.
So where are the Labour MPs? Who is standing up for one of our great national institutions? One that unites us all much more than lousy weather, class snobbery and football? They, shamefully, seem as quiet as the grave, and I call that an outrage of the first order.
Maybe it is simply an unwillingness to talk about shared culture, or to sound anti- big business. Maybe this is some kind of twisted revenge for Paxman, The Today Programme and trying to be unbiased in its foreign coverage. I don’ honestly know, and if these are the reasons, it must stop now.
Just look at the people throwing mud at the BBC – The Daily Mail, Express, Murdoch, the Tory right and any weirdo who read Ayn Rand and never grew up…
Carlton TV gave us David Cameron, whereas the BBC has given us:
Round The Horne, Miranda, Who Do You Think You Are? The day To Day, Nigella, Panorama and Bagpuss, I Claudius, Absolutely Fabulous!
Sherlock, Fireman Sam, Bruce Forsyth and The League of Gentlemen, The Thick of It, Jeremy Hardy Final Score, everything on BBC Four…
And something that can never be replaced – Sarah Jane Smith – did I mention Doctor Who?
apologies to Mitch Benn, hope he doesn’t mind…
The reason I have not gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel the real that someone will slit my throat…
(Grayson Perry, quoted by Nick Cohen, pp 50 “You Can’t Read This Book” 2012)
…I worked on this opera about Jerry Springer. And, um, we got accused of being blasphemous, which was, came as a genuine surprise, ’cause it honestly had had really good reviews in the Church Times and Catholic Herald when it first went out in the theatre. So it was kind of weird, it all came a bit out of nowhere. We got 65,000 complaints when it went out on television. The BBC executives that commissioned it had to go into hiding, with police protection. And me and the composer were going to be taken to court and charged with blasphemy. But at the end of June, the High Court threw the case out on the grounds that it isn’t 1508.
(Stewart Lee,transcript from his show “90’s Comedian”, published in 2010, “How I escaped my certain fate…”)
Since its publication, “You Can’t Read This Book” by Nick Cohen has become one of the most important publications of the of the decade for anyone who sees free speech and free thinking as vital to the progress of humanity. After publication, there have been many reviews, mostly positive, of a book that takes an overview of the state of play for anyone who wants to tell truth to power, or simply be well informed. Having divided his arguments into three sections – “God”, “Money” and “The State”, Mr Cohen then rounds on the forces that he sees as being the enemies of truth.
With the lamented early death of Christopher Hitchens, Cohen is perhaps the best contemporary western journalist and essayist we have nominally on the left. I consciously say “nominally’, as he has been alternately the darling and the whipping boy for certain parts of the left liberal commentariat for much of his career. Oh how they loved his well researched attack on Blairism in “Pretty Strait Guys’, and how they pilloried him for his support for the destruction of the Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein, even if it meant supporting an unpopular war. Yet the fair weather friends of the far left, and their careless parrots within the wider currents of mainstream left/liberal thought would do well to cast aside prejudice and read a passionate, well researched and and literate defence of basic freedoms that without which, no truly liberating progress can come about.
I had no real intention to add to the pean of praise heaped upon his latest work, yet in a reply to a post I made on the 18th, I found myself reaching for my copy once again. Jaime Lynch Staunton, a writer and blogger asked the question:
Who is being cowardly and subservient to religion? How?
To do Jaime justice, I will divide my answer into two sections, and two posts
In 1989, one of the great English Language novelists of modern times published his latest work. As in previous works, it was an exploration of themes close to his own experience as an immigrant from the Indian subcontinent to Britain. Salman Rushdies’ “The Satanic Verses” was attacked by fundamentalist clerics in Iran (a dictatorship had previously praised his earlier work), and the Ayatollah Khomeni pronounced a fatwa upon him, his publishers, and booksellers worldwide. Numerous attacks on bookstores and translators ensued or we threatened, most notably in Japan in 1991, the murder of an academic translator, and in Italy the stabbing of another. To their great credit, both the British Government and the publishing industry stood firm, and Rushdie has so far eluded his assassins.
There was a backlash, aided and abetted by those who should, and did, know better. Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester South, came to the fore in this country calling for the book to be banned, in effect asking that Britain follow the lead of Apartheid South Africa. Predictably enough, Norman Tebbit weighed in, to kick an opponent when he was down. More disturbing was the response of some other western authors…
Most bizarre of all though, was the noise by a number of eminent writers and authors. John le Carre’, John Berger, Roald Dahl, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and others began a sort of auction of defamation in which they accused Rushdie variously of insulting Islam, practising Western-style cultural colonialism & condescension, and damaging race relations.
(Christopher Hitchens, in “Unacknowledged Legislation, Writers In The Public Sphere”, Verso, 2000. pp.127)
Rushdie even managed perhaps the greatest feat of ecumenicalism, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Vatican, and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel all issuing statements to the effect that the main problem with the fatwa was not the actual death threat, but the blasphemy committed by the writer. George Bush the first refused to follow in the footsteps of Vaclav Havel and Irelands’ Mary Robinson in upholding the international promise of the US constitutions’ First Amendment. Germaine Greer defended the rights of book burners everywhere, to her shame.
Eventually, the fatwa was lifted, as part of the ongoing diplomatic efforts of Iran to gain better relations and recognition in the west. Then in 2007, the now Labour Government gave Rushdie a Knighthood for services to literature. Again various radical Islamist organisations claimed offence. Predictably, many on the right criticised the award being given to a writer so firmly opposed to “Mrs Torture”, yet even some of them defended his right to write what he thought, notably Boris Johnson and Peter Hitchens, whilst claiming his work to be “unreadable”. In the same edition of the BBC programme “Question Time” the daughter of Vera Brittan and Liberal Grande Dame Shirley Williams could not bring herself to support the appointment, saying that it was ill-timed, begging the old partisan question “if not now, when?”.
Now, with the murder of an American Diplomat and staff in Libya, apparently over manufactured offence caused by a grubby little film, and the French call to leave muslim countries over some cartoons, Mr Rushdie has become the subject of another well-funded fatwa bounty.
But of course, this is only one man, and one book. Hilary Clintons response to the supposed “offence” caused by the film “The Innocence of Islam” speaks volumes:
…our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our Constitution and in our law. We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”
No British Foreign Secretary could say the same without contradiction on each point – historical, legal, and practical.
In December 2004, a crowd of up to 1,000 Sikhs protested outside Birmingham Repertory Theatre, some stormed the building, stopping the first performance of the play “Behzti (Disgrace), by the female British Sikh writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. The play explores themes of abuse and hypocrisy within the Sikh community, and is set in a Sikh temple. It is, very obviously, a work of fiction. The play was cancelled after two days of negotiation involving the police and local dignitaries.
The leader of this self-appointed group, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla justified his actions thus:
In a Sikh temple, sexual abuse does not take place, kissing & dancing do not take place, rape doesn’t take place, homosexual activity doesn’t take place, murders do not take place
As reported in The Sikh Times, Steven Glover, writing in The Daily Mail expressed “a degree of sympathy” and found it “hard not to admire” the protesters. It was perhaps no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church in Birmingham, in the person of Archbishop Vincent Nichol would make common cause against free thought in these words:
Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh Religion demeans the sacred places of every religion.
Of course, I should not have to remind any reader of the actions of Christian Voice over “Jerry Springer – The Opera”, the protests and threatened protests that forced 9 theatres to pull out of the nationwide tour, the level of threat which sent BBC staff into hiding…
The cumulative effect of these and others religious protests and threats has been, in one writers’ words to “internalise the fatwa”, so that many artists and writers self-censor, much as most did under the great dictatorships of the twentieth century. In the end, all authority, secular and religious, relies more on “the policeman in your head” rather than the policeman on the street. Although there are policeman out there, ready to pounce whenever one transgresses the shifting boundary of “offence”.
In the light of past scandals, the Arts Council is, as in the case of “Jerry springer” much less likely to grant money to any production that could cause offence to be manufactured. It is not hard to find a local politician, of any party, who will readily give voice to any loud “community” based campaign against whatever is seen as against any particular religion. The over used word “respect” is now the mantra when it comes to deeply held beliefs – as if simply believing something deeply enough makes it impossible to challenge. The Commission for Racial Equality conflates religion with race regularly, as do many others, which is insulting on both levels, if you think about it.
So, Commissioning Editors, Publishers, Producers as well as writers all tend to shy away from the new religious taboos – finding much more comforting and safe ways to shock us – a “Booky-Wook” here, a “Little Britain” there, but please, don’t offend the clerics too much eh?
Yes, sad but true, there is only ONE Boris Johnson.
To read the recent press coverage, some Tories, and possibly all Westminster hacks wish there were at least two, possibly three, with at least one in the House of Commons. One for City Hall, one to annoy Cameron, and one for “the ladies”. (Maybe another to make sure that the press is suitably gagged when any mention of his extra marital affairs and resulting possible offspring come up…)
Johnson has clearly been putting it about since the Olympics, parking his tanks on Davids lawn, getting the cheers whilst Hamface gets the boos, ignoring the debt he owes to previous incumbents and Governments for his good fortune, fudging figures and avoiding a scandal over provision for the London Fire Service. And it is working…
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (OE, Oxon) is the most popular politician in the country.
There are some signs that this may be a cause for alarm for his own dear leader, yet before we rub our hands with glee, let us stop to think for a moment. Johnson is popular with the public for a number of reasons, and a skilful media operation is one of them. Not being in Parliament, and therefore not being really in the Coalition helps. So far in his career, Mr Johnson has had no significant national responsibility, save being in the Shadow Cabinet, which means he spent his time, at best, say “well I would never do that…”. He even managed to get sacked from the front bench then.
So far in his career, Johnson has presented himself as something he isn’t. For example, although he has an Eton/Oxbridge background, and drops a classics reference at the drop of a microphone, he simply is not as posh as he would like us all to believe. Like many from the old “upper-lower middle class” (copyright Mr E.A. Blair), he spent much of his school and Varsity days aping the supposed manners of Waughs’ “Brideshead” set. His anachronistic language, his cultivated scruffiness, his shambling gait are all very much part of his mid-eighties “young fogey” image.
The BoJo & HamCam rivalry continues…
In his job as Mayor of London, he has been the cynics very epitome of a politician, in that he has so far been able to distance himself from both Central Government policies, and his own policies when they are unpopular, yet claim credit for anything and everything perceived as good that happens within his jurisdiction. He has, since being elected in 2008, been notably ruthless in his disposal of deputy Mayors, as long as he can evade any blame.
As of this week, fourteen letters have been received by the Tory 1922 committee to open nominations for a leadership election. Though hugely short of the forty-six letters needed, this comes less than three years into Camerons’ premiership, and within weeks of Tory part conference. Clearly there are concerns throughout the true blue mob that possibly they need someone less chillaxed in charge, someone other than The Hamfaced Crimson Tide…
I hate to agree with John Major, but last Sunday he did say one thing that fans of the Johnson forget – he is not an MP, and therefore cannot become Leader. True enough, a safe seat may be found, someone convinced to stand down, a by-election could be won, yet the history of Tory Leadership elections shows that it is never the original favourite who wins, as Heath, Heseltine, and David Davis know to their chagrin.
Personally, I think that he may prefer the job of Mayor, where you can ultimately cash-in with your Telegraph column, then blame central Government for any mess. Should ever stand for/become Leader of the Tories, I relish the challenge, because I doubt that his image would withstand the full force of public and media scrutiny that he would inevitably attract. He simply would not be able to keep his past indiscretions from becoming front page news.I also do not think that Johnsons’ right wing instincts actually chime with the general public. True enough, they finds him amusing, much in the same way that Jeremy Clarkson once was, but for a rightwing humorist, he is certainly no PJ O’Rourke, and as Clarkson knows to his cost, it only takes one slip to taint your brand…
So for me, the current shenanigans say more about Cameron and his weakness than they do about the popularity of Johnson.
The freedom to think what you like, and to express those thoughts, whether in print, on film, in speech or art without fear of censorship, imprisonment, torture or death. That to me is what free speech means.
Why is this so hard for some religious people to understand? My advocacy of evolution, or of Atheism come to that, should hardly cause a believing Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh or anyone else much heartache, other than perhaps regret that I may be punished at some future date by their respective deities.
In the space of barely seven days we have seen blood shed against a pretty bad film (by all accounts) that has offended some clerics in the middle east who have not seen this film. We have seen some christians in The Hebrides protesting that an award-winning evolutionary scientist and author is coming to their book festival in Lewis. And once again, a wealthy muslim fundamentalist organisation has put a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie.
These despicable acts of repression have been met with hand wringing by those on the liberal left who still have the decency to object to the curtailment of our freedom of conscience, which is after all enshrined in the U.N. Human Rights Charter. Yet outside of novelists and media types, where are the big battalions of politicians willing to defend our right to be offended? Who will stand up for the individual who dares to say what they believe to be true, even if they are mistaken?
Politicians of left and right keep as quiet as the grave, not daring to say a word to power.
Defence of each of the three subjects does not mean that you agree with any of their arguments, or like their work, or want to invite them to tea. What it does mean is that you are willing to defend their and your right to liberty of thought. There is no argument that can be made for the fanatics and fundamentalists who, like wealthy libel lawyers, infest the earth with one purpose – to shut you up and keep you ignorant. No argument citing “cultural sensitivities’, “provocation”, “islamophobia” or “atheist fundamentalism” can hold any sway when the shedding of blood of people with absolutely NOTHING to do with film production takes place.
There is no justification valid under the Sun for any of the actions that have taken place – it is not “western imperialism”, “cultural imperialism” or any other such nonsense that idiots of the western far left and despotic clerics of the middle east parrot to stock outrage.
This is a sad state of affairs for anyone to observe. We need to be stressing that religious tolerance, a keystone of our society, in no way means a cowardly subservience to religion.
I suppose that it was inevitable really, amidst the media hype surrounding Nolan’s third and final Batman film, during a US Election year, that something like this would come up.
Rightwing blowhard Rush Limbaugh has tried to start a little Kulturkampf over a cartoon inspired movie – according to Rush (or “fucknuts” as his close friends know him), this years’ extension of the franchise is overtly anti Mitt Romney and big business. Why even the main villain, the Homophobic, tyrannical Bane has a name that sounds like the vulture capitalists that dear Mitt used to work for…
…and the left takes the bait.
On Sunday, Labour List published a post by the Labour Student hack Connor Pope extolling the leftist credentials of the Caped Crusader, to whit;
He uses his great corporate wealth to fight crime, rather than amassing more wealth for its own sake.
Unlike Superman, Green Lantern et al, he has no special powers, just a cave full of gizmos.
He is quite a nice, though haunted, chap.
err, that’s it.
The post is followed by an ever increasing comment thread, as lefties and comic book nerds (the two groups being by no means mutually exclusive) sling fairly polite but meaningless nonsense at each other. This, like much of the Culture Wars of the 1970s and 80s, is besides the point, and also possibly a dangerous cul-de-sac to be driving down in Austerity Times.
For the record, I have enjoyed both the Burton and Nolan Batman films for what they are – escapism and nothing more. In fact, when comedian Reginald D Hunter described Batman back in 2008 as a rich dude who combats street level crime, whilst ignoring corporate criminals, I really see his point, although in the case of such a “Golden Age” comic hero, maybe he misses the point a bit…
In truth, since the 1970s, comics have produced a whole host of left-slanted stories and heroes to follow on both sides of the Atlantic. After cutting my teeth on the Beano, that home of militant feminism (“Minnie the Minx”), proto-Trades Unionism (“The Bash Street Kids”) and sheer joyous anarchic rebellion (“Dennis the Menace”), I moved on, like many boys of my generation top that other childhood staple, the War comic.
Its hard to imagine now, but in the post war years, there were a cornucopia of these – Valiant, Victor, Battle, and the Commando War Library (we could also buy pretty realistic guns firing caps and plastic bullets – all the better to act out our fantasies in the back gardens and parks). Not only did we have these, but pretty much every Sunday afternoon there would be a war movie – Dambusters, The Longest Day, Angels One-Five, Zulu … the list was seemingly endless, with seasonal variations (the Christmas war movie would be Where Eagles Dare or Heroes of Telemark – because they were set in the snow…).
My favourite was Battle, which weekly featured the memorable stories of “Charlies War” – set in the Great War, this had a recurring anti-war theme. Officers were generally heartless toffs, the (graphic) slaughter was portrayed as meaningless, and the hero, Charlie, was an East-End boy who came from grim poverty. Another hero, although I think he may have been in Victor, was Johnny Red – a WW2 RAF pilot fighting with the Red Air Force in the USSR. Naturally, almost every German was a Nazi, every Japanese was a fanatic (“Banzai! AAAIIIEE!!!!), and the Italians were comical. Plucky Brits died mouthing the words “Bought it Tommy…”, and Americans chewed cigars… Even in the 1970s it seems, the Henty-ish picture of the outside world that Orwell wrote about still held sway.
… yet there were, as I have stated, significant rebellions from the normal stereotypes. Being British products, the class war did creep in…
Later on, I graduated to 2000AD and its great left wing satire on the consumerist police state of the future – Judge Dredd, who’s very name came from a Ska protest song. In the Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha you had a critique of racism, Skizz, where the enemy was an Apartheid-era South African scientist, all these and more were, if not avowedly socialist, certainly to the left of the standard comic book. In the early nineties, even the venerable, conservative Eagle got in on the act, and Crisis published a revisionist, anti-Thatcher Dan Dare storyline…
The work of Alan Moore, Wagner, Grant, Morrison and of course Hewlett and Milligan has been, and continues to be subversive – both of the genre and often of society in general, and their influence has spread…
The Dark Horse Aliens Comics have provided much better sequels to the first two films than Hollywood, often dripping with bile against corporate culture.
So, I think that to debate the merits of one classic hero in the context of politics is kinda pointless. After all, while the left was busy fighting and winning the culture wars of the past fifty years, we were also busy losing the far more important economic one. Perhaps it is time to reverse this?
Well, you couldn’t make it up…
…or could you?
Well, today has been mixed in terms of news for Labour and Ken Livingstone, firstly some of the prominent Jewish Labour supporters who signed the leaked letter to Ed Miliband a few weeks ago have now posted an open letter on blogspot supporting Ken, and pretty much damning Mel Philips and andrew Gilligan.
Read it here: http://jewishlabouractivists.blogspot.co.uk/
I pretty much agree with everything posted above, and have indicated my support in the comments page.
The bad news was this morning’s ComRes poll for ITV Daybreak, which has given Mr Johnson an eight point lead across London. Ulp!!! Or as Johnson would say, “lawks!”.
However, there are a number of glaringly odd figures within the ComRes detail, for instance Ken getting 100% support in Kensington and Chelsea, or Johnson leading in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Let me just say that I would love Labour to win in Kensington and Chelsea, however I suspect that George Osborne’s neighbours (well, those that aren’t non-dom) won’t vote Labour any time soon. Labour List goes into more detail about this here: http://labourlist.org/2012/04/a-poll-with-holes/
Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to have a look at our old friends blogging for Boris, and as usual I was not disappointed:
A quick look at the Boris Johnson fan sites today confirmed that they are still as strange as ever, none more so than the frankly hilarious CYBERborisjohnson, written by Angie, or Angelneptunestar to give this one-time knitting magnate her other alias.
As with a number of other sites, such as “The Wonder of Boris Johnson”, the monomania seems to reach new levels of hysteria – you could almost imagine that mop-topped Boris was leading his very own Fab Four out on stage, deafened by the weeping & screams of such ardent fans to run through his greatest hits once again. And, to mirror those heady days of BritPop, the fans need a rival to hate – step forward London Labour’s answer to Blur, Ken Livingstone.
In recent weeks, Anne Sykes at “The Wonder of Boris Johnson” has pretty much posted a collection of pro Boris pictures interspersed with insults aimed at Ken & demands to “Vote for Boris!” So not much that is too current here, and, lets face it, its fair enough that a Johnson fan blog would err, back Boris.
Ms. Neptunestar over at CYBERboris.com has taken another path, and is pretty strident in her advocacy, not only of Boris, but also that Ken is a fascist stooge/red/just plain evil guy.
Her take on todays ComRes poll is not simply the expected crowing, but the bizarre assertion that Boris Johnson is on the verge of winning a desperate battle similar to Wellington’s defeat of the Maratha army at Assaye in 1803. For those not versed in military history, I should explain that Wellington’s vastly outnumbered soldiers won a decisive victory, paving the way for the consolidation of the British Raj. Until a fortnight ago, it looked as if Boris would walk this one, so a struggle it may be, but Boris certainly isn’t the underdog.
I do wonder how many British Asians will feel about such a reference to British conquest? Hardly sensitive is it? I suppose that Angie does have a point, Johnson is indeed like Wellington in one way. Both men were right wing Tories who failed to turn their undoubted talents in their respective professions into proficiency in the sphere of civil administration. Wellington, pretty much the head of the Army until his death, was so reactionary that many of the disasters that befell our brave troops in the Crimean War can be laid at his feet.
Characteristically, Boris sites have ignored the open letter mentioned above, but they would do, wouldn’t they?
Still, back on April 12th, Angie enlightened us on the burning issue of the day, to whit which Greek Goddess would Ken be linked to? Well, its Eris, Goddess of Discord (naturally). Boris is apparently linked to Athena, Goddess of Tennis Players bottoms (equally naturally). It may be that in June she will be able to tell us whether the stars are God’s daisy chain or not…
The usual guff about Livingstone is here in abundance – the guilt by association, the personal digs, I am sure this is all her own work, but if Linton Crosby is her neighbour, I would not be surprised. The one bright spot in all this black humour would be that people like Angelneptunestar spend so much time blogging, that hopefully they will forget to get the vote out…
Well, one thing about enforced idleness, you get to catch up on the telly. Thanks to a nasty manager in my un-unionised industry, I presently have more time on my hands than I need. So, after watching all of Downton Abbey in between job applications, I have been watching Julian Fellowes’ latest opus – “Titanic”. Tactfully released (along with the needless 3D version of that film) to coincide with the centenary of the disaster, and in no way a transatlantic cash-in…
Fans of period drama, and of Mr Fellowes, will be relieved to find that his portentous dialogue is still there, the much sought after period detail (Churchill growls his lines to an officer of the Scots Guards after the Sidney Street Siege), and that the romance of country house living survives – this is still, as Nick Cohen has already noted of Downton, “MTV for Tories”. Fellowes is on record as saying that he wanted to do something different as compared to “A Night to Remember” and other celluloid versions, or Beryl Bainbridges excellent “Every Man for Himself”. He claimed that the previous dramas had focused too much on the upper classes or plebs, and not enough on those he regards as his people – the middle classes.
It may be instructive to know what Mr Fellowes believes the “middle class” is, for his background and upbringing place him far above, say, the average wage earner. It may be better to say that he comes from the “lower-upper class”, as George Orwell described himself as “lower-upper-middle class”. The Fellowes’ are part of that gang that used to be called the yeomanry – not quite aristocrats, but not on their uppers either. Rather let us say that whilst being servants of the true masters, they were also truly masters of servants themselves.
His middle class is very wide indeed, which fits into most modern british class definitions, including self-definition. This perhaps is why he is so successful, for his country house writings do seem to find a wide audience that can identify with his characters. It allows him to create sympathetic characters such as an Irish Catholic engineer, escaping the hardship and discrimination of Belfast for example. There are some problems at the top, of course, but in general, officers are decent sorts, as are the better sort of bourgeois. Snobbery is highlighted and condemned, yet there is a nasty taste at the end of all of this.
In “Gosford Park”, his first massive hit, Mr Fellowes had the luxury of setting all of the action in one location – the great house. This allowed the author to create his own self-contained society – one which he clearly feels is ideal. in the first series of Downton this theme was expanded upon at length. The lower orders know their place, the Lord is kindly and compassionate, loyalty is a two way street. Suitably enlightened middle class types can be co-opted if they wish – it really is bright and beautiful – provided that the poor man stays at the gate.
Yet this outwardly paternalistic vision of an idealised Edwardian world shows glimpses of Mr Fellowes’ real conservative prejudices when the Suffragette Lady Sybil attends an election hustings. She is injured in a violent clash with working class toughs who violently object to the pro female suffrage candidate. Mr Fellowes, like all good members of his middle class, has an undisguised fear and hatred of the industrial workers. In the first episode of “Titanic”, in the very first scene, it established beyond any doubt that discrimination against Catholics in Belfast is caused by – you guessed it – working class protestants. The owner of Harland and Wolff Shipyards can state with no contrary evidence that he is an egalitarian employer as regards to religion – flying in the face of historical evidence. This is where we see the pernicious attempt by jolly good Fellowes to rewrite history to suit the modern Conservative Party. And he does this on a scale that is only matched by Boris Johnson in its infamy. It seems that from an early age the young Julian was taught that, as Orwell puts it, “the working classes smell”.
Let us lay his awful prejudices to rest. It is true that workers no doubt did rough-up Suffragettes, as did the police, and Oxbridge students of the Bullingdon type. They were encouraged and led in this campaign of intimidation by the Tories, who mobilised the very worst dregs they could find to physically attack these brave women and their male supporters- especially those from the Independent Labour Party, such as Kier Hardy, MacDonald and the later murdered Grayson. A mainstay of the Suffrage movement were the socialist women, such as Annie Besant and Christabel Pankhurst.
Far far worse is his depiction of the Belfast working class. Modern Conservatives have sought to ignore the “Unionist” in their party name, and to pretend that they had nothing to do with the heightening of sectarian violence across Ireland before 1914. Yet it was they who encouraged the slogan “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right” against the Home Rule Bill. The Tories went so far as to applaud and back the mutiny of serving protestant Army officers at Curragh, bringing Britain to the brink of Civil War. They called for the harshest penalties for Trades Unionists, yet clemency for a potential armed rebellion against an elected government. This is a matter of historical record. Their financial backers in Belfast also armed the UVF with smuggled german rifles.
In point of fact, the great 1907 Belfast Dock Strike showed a glimpse of a non-sectarian future. The strike, mainly protestant led, was solid in both East and West Belfast, and provided the unheard of spectacle of 12th July rallies where mass meetings and marches from working class districts denounced the religious divide. Even the Police mutinied against guarding blacklegs, but I doubt that dear Julian would have anything but revulsion for this. It inspired Jim Larkin and James Connolly, as well as the founding of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union a year later. Those unwashed plebs, the mob that Fellowes so fears, were the real hope of a better life for all, yet he casually, almost nonchalantly slanders a whole people, a whole class.
Period drama can, and has been better than this. Lets hope that The Boat can come in again soon…
Ok, hands up all those who are now enthused over the London Mayoral elections? Anybody? Anybody except Brian Paddick? No?… Oh well…
Could it be that since supporters of both the current and preceding Mayor have been running vindictive and negative campaigns for over a year now that voters, stupendously faced with the exact same faces as in 2008 are just a little pissed off? I mean, we all know that the two frontrunners hate each other, hell plenty of their respective parties hate them too. (Although in Johnsons case, most of the haters seem to be in the Cabinet.)
The former member for Henley-upon-UKIP has not been much of a success in his four years – a bike gimmick, some good PR, and that is about it. Oh, and costing Londoners dearly to see his pet Double Deckers replace the Bendy Buses. He has raised fares, rambled on about Wiff-Waff, and generally been on the wrong side of every issue to affect us in half a decade; Bankers – excellent chaps, not their fault, no need for regulation. The riots? Don’t expect him to be around if a brick hits your window, he’s on holiday. Policing? Lets just say that mathematics is not his strong point, so don’t expect the numbers to add up. The Levenson Inquiry? Not needed, this is all a Labour ruse, apparently (maybe he asked his bosses, who own The Telegraph Group?).
But my, he is a card, eh?
After all, who else would announce yesterday in Purley that he is in favour of some kind of economic devolution for London? Now think about this, most Londoners who come from the UK have family living outside this great smoke of ours. We know that outside the mostly affluent Southeast, inequality is high, and money needs to be spent in the regions. Not only is this superficially attractive, but it is pie in the sky – he is only saying that he will ask Gideon Whyborn for a rebate – with no guarantee that he will get it. Still, it sounded good, and well, Purley squire, famous place, nudge nudge…
Since his employment of Linton Crosby, the Australian right wing attack dog starting in 2008, bluff old Johnson and his supporters have developed a smooth and effective online campaigning team, and Livingstone has given them every opportunity to succeed. Now I do not believe that “Red Ken” is actually an anti-Semite, but he has been pally with some who are. Not, you understand, the likes of the Saudi Royal Family, they only deal with top people, like Margaret Thatcher and her son, but with extremist clerics.Oh, and taking money from Iranian Tv companies, as did Andrew Gilligan and a host of other unscrupulous coves. Ever since, there has been a sustained effort by “Bloggers for Boris” types to link Livingstone with Holocaust Denial, Anti-Semitism, and much else. Rather than debate the pros and cons of policy, these people have been resorting to the type of politics that leads to division in our capital, not unity. However, never let it be said that this is an organised campaign, or one of them will take you to task, and possibly threaten you with legal action.
Livingstone has been their best asset again and again, and his tax arrangements, although completely legal, have been a terrible blow. You see, Johnson and his Tory enemies in The Treasury have been happy to make London a tax haven, forgoing at least £1 billion in revenue to keep the super rich happy – yet it is the Labour candidate who looks like a tax cheat!
As a Labour member, I am committed to our candidate, knowing full well his weaknesses, and the quality of Labours policies as a whole. But the whole tone that these two retreads have fostered is one that gives me no cause for pride. With the Conservative candidate happy to run the same “doughnut” campaign as last time, pretty much ignoring inner London (well, he has done that for four years) because out won’t vote his way, and fostering a kind of communalist politics in North London by proxy, and the Labour candidate pretty much doing the same in reverse, I am not filled with hope for the future.
Last week Lady P told me that in the wake of the Budget, and fed up with Johnson, she was considering voting for anyone other than the Tories. Livingstone has put paid to her voting Labour.
Well, I don’t know about you, but “The Iron Lady” mania has left me decidedly liverish. Oh, its been fun to watch her former colleagues like Douglas Hurd line up to slam the oddly apolitical movie as some kind of betrayal, especially as he was one of the first to line up and stab her in the front back in 1990 – “disrespectful” indeed…
I suppose it might be the posters of La Streep in full Maggie-up staring out at me from every bus, sending me back to the 1980s, or the reported lack of fact ( for example, Micheal Foot gave a universally praised speech in favour of war with Argentina, one Tory Mp commenting that he had just “spoken for Britain”, yet he is portrayed a’la Sun Newspaper style as some kind of Junta stooge…)
Or could it be that, as I understand it, on opening night, Cinemas in London were pretty full, yet in at least one theatre in Manchester, only 70 people could be bothered to turn up – in an auditorium that normally holds 400.
I suppose this tells us something about her actual legacy.
Personally, I am much more excited by Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus” – which by all accounts has a pretty progressive attitude to the plebeians – a touchstone for any interpretation…