Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

Three More Heroes of Comedy Sketched – Alan Coren, John Wells and Roy Hudd

November 24, 2022

Here’s another three sketches of some of the people I consider to be great comedy talents – the satirist Alan Coren, and the actors John Wells and Roy Hudd.

I’m not quite satisfied with the picture of Alan Coren, as he really wasn’t jowly or fat in the lower face. But I do think he is one of this country’s greatest comic writers of the 20th century. He was for many years the editor of Punch, and just about the only reason in its last years to read the magazine. Coren’s method was to take a ridiculous story from one of the papers, and then write a ridiculous piece about it. Thus, a story about a ‘sexy actress’ missing her pet tortoise turned into a tale of the said reptile making an excruciatingly slow bid for freedom before finally getting caught. The beginning of package holidays to Spain with booze included turned into a tale of a totally blotto bloke trying to write back home. 1984 is rewritten as if it was about 70s Britain, where nothing works. The press runs headlines like ‘Come Off It, Big Brother’, the Youth Spy is annoying brat who shouts to its mother that Winston Smith has a lady friend, and Room 101 isn’t really terrifying because due to supply problems they can’t get a rat. They offer Smith a hamster instead, but he isn’t afraid of them and annoys them by telling them so. They inflict the hamster on him anyway, and he has to pretend to be frightened. Coren has been accused of racism because of a series of pieces, The Collected Speeches of Idi Amin, and More of the Collected Speeches of Idi Amin, in which he depicted the thug using the stereotypical Black pidgin English. I dare say it is racist, but as it’s directed at a brutal torturer and mass murderer, I honestly don’t care. Amin deserved far worse, and I don’t see Coren as personally racist.

At the same time as he was editing it, Coren also appeared as one of the contestants on Radio 4’s News Quiz, facing Richard Ingrams and Ian Hislop on the opposing side representing Private Eye. I read Private Eye now, but back then I far preferred Punch, which seemed more genteel and funny without being vicious. Punch died the journalistic death after Coren left it to edit the Radio Times, but he still continued to appear on the News Quiz until his sad death in the early ’90s. He eventually stopped editing the Radio Times and took up writing a column in the Times giving his humorous view of life in Cricklewood. These pieces are funny, but the really good stuff was earlier in Punch.

His pieces were collected in a number of books, some of which had deliberately bizarre names. In an interview on Pebble Mill he revealed how one of them got its particularly striking name. He rang up W.H. Smith to ask them what their bestselling books were about. They told him, ‘Cats’. He then asked them what their second bestselling books were about. ‘Golf’, they replied. He then asked them what the third most popular books they sold were about. They told him it was the Second World War. So, he called it Golfing for Cats and stuck a swastika on the cover. For his next book, he contacted them again and asked them what the most popular product they sold was. They told him it was tissues for men, so that’s what he called it.

Coren’s humour was distinctive – it was dry, but also slightly silly. Answering a question on the News Quiz about one of the members of Thatcher’s cabinet, he replied, ‘Oh – this is the ministry of Gummer’. A question about Prince Philip on an edition of the show in Edinburgh prompted him to reply, ‘This is the patron of this fair city, Zorba the Scot’. When the Tory election broadcast for the 1987 general election showed Spitfires and other World War II planes zooming about, Coren remarked that it was the Royal Conservative Airforce and pointed out that when the servicemen came back from the War, they all voted Labour. He’s been succeeded as broadcaster by his daughter, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, who is genuinely erudite and intelligent, and his son, Giles, who is a right-wing snob, and who made a sneering comment about people in council houses. Although Coren edited the patrician and eminently establishment Punch, he himself was a former grammar school lad, and there was a bit of class friction in the News Quiz between himself and the genuinely upper-class team from the downmarket Private Eye. I stopped listening to the News Quiz a long time ago because I got sick of the anti-religious sneers when Sandi Tokvig was chairing it and didn’t agree with many of the views of the panellists, who seemed to be stuck in the London bubble with a contempt for the rest of the country. Previous series are available on DVD, however, and they are well worth listening to, not least because of Coren. A great comic wit, sadly missed.

John Wells. He was one of the Private Eye team and was as patrician and establishment as the people that magazine skewered. He was the headmaster and French teacher at Eton. He was also one of the writers of the Dear Bill diaries in the Eye, which were supposed to be the letters of Dennis Thatcher to Bill Deedes, one of the writers in the Times. The book’s hilariously funny, especially when it describes Keith Joseph getting egged everywhere, but no-one can work out why it’s only him that does. Other highlights include him visiting the old folk’s home in which Ted Heath and Harold Macmillan are respectively housed, with Heath hating and ranting about Thatcher while Macmillan still hates and rants about Heath. As with Bentine and the Bumblies, this work of fiction excited the interest of the security people, who asked Wells where he got his information from. Wells replied that he just made it up, and he wasn’t getting any information from anyone. ‘Thank heaven for that,’ the rozzers replied, ‘We thought there’d been a leak.’ Wells had got the tone of Dennis Thatcher’s speech and mindset exactly right, in my opinion. He also appeared as Thatcher’s husband in the farce Anyone for Dennis?, which I can remember being put on TV. There’s a piece of very Cold War humour there, when the Russian ambassador fears that a nuclear war is imminent and talks about the brave Soviet soldiers with their eyes fixed on the last dawn, before collapsing with relief when he finds out that he’s mistaken.

Wells also appeared as a guest on a number of TV shows, including Lovejoy, and the radio shows The News Quiz and Tales of the Mausoleum Club. He had a camp manner, which he knew how to use for great comic effect. For example, when the teams were answering a question about the controversial portrait of the royal family that showed them all nude, he remarked that it was glad one royal was absent because ‘that would have been really gristly’. A question about the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland prompted him to describe her as a woman, who wrote covered in small, white dogs. Tales from the Mausoleum Club was a series of parodies of Victorian classic literature. One of these was a spoof of Treasure Island, ‘Trevor Island’, in which a gang of pirates go after the treasure buried on the island of Tombola. Wells played the pirate’s camp captain, who at one point remarked, ‘Oh damn, I’ve snapped my second-best bra!’

Roy Hudd. He was on TV quite a bit in the early 70s only to subsequently vanish. I can remember him from when I was at junior school presenting an afternoon programme for the elderly. While he vanished from TV, he carried on broadcasting on the radio, where he was the star of the satirical News Huddlines on Radio 2 with June Whitfield. He also appeared from time to time on other programmes, including as an astral seaside entertainer playing the Wurlitzer on the Reeves and Mortimer revamp of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). I’m including him here as he was also an expert on the Music Hall. Back in the 1980s he appeared on a Radio 4 programme about the original Peaky Blinders, who were so notorious that they even wrote Music Hall songs about them. The one he performed was about how they could drink a brewery dry. Away from such elevated matters, he also apparently appeared as the Litterbug in the 1970s public information film against littering.

Tolerant Muslim Preaching and Complaints of Misrepresentation in ‘Among the Mosques’

June 25, 2022

I’ve started reading Ed Hussein’s Among the Mosques, his account of his journey through Muslim Britain looking at its culture, differences, and values. He did so by going to the mosques and other Muslim cultural and religious centres in Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. While there, he met and talked to ordinary local people as well as the worshippers at the mosques, hearing their views and concerns. It was met with a storm of controversy when it came out because he talked about the conversations he’d had with Whites,, who’d suffered from racism, bullying and assault from Muslims in their areas. This was angrily denied, and a people went on Twitter to claim that the area he was talking about wasn’t Muslim but a posh White district. But the critics were talking about a different area from that visited by Hussein, and the book states this. The controversy seems to show the inability of some on the left to deal with the reality of anti-White racism by ethnic minorities.

But I don’t think the book does present a biased image of British Islam. Yes, in some areas, such as Dewsbury, the Islam practised – Deobandi – is austere and based on a theology of cultural separatism, in which Muslims are called to create and maintain a separate cultural and religious identity in preparation for the emergence of the caliphate. In other areas and mosques, the preaching and observance is more relaxed. Manchester’s Central Mosque is Barelwi, a sect based on the teachings of a 13th century Indian Sufi preacher. Their worship includes music, song and dance and the imam’s address was about interfaith tolerance as shown by Mohammed’s example.

Hussein writes

‘The imam continues to develop his theme of the need to change and improve ourselves based on our love for the Prophet. He encourages us to study the life of the Prophet Mohammed and how he acted towards people, even his enemies. Each time his name is mentioned the congregation again kiss their thumbs. The imam talks about the Prophet’s compassion, his kindness to his enemies, his message of co-existence with the Jews, Christians and pagans in seventh century Medina.

‘Are we such model citizens? Do we make our Prophet proud? he asks rhetorically, raising his hands with an exaggerated shrug like an Italian.

He quotes:

Qad ja’akun nur. Certainly a light has come to you.

That light is the prophet and the Qur’an, asserts the imam. ‘Are we radiating this light? Do our neighbours and friends in this country see us as carriers of love? The Prophet is shifa, he is healing. Has he healed our lives?’ (p. 46.) This isn’t that far from the various Anglican and other Christian clergymen in this country also preaching about the need for tolerance and love to heal ‘broken Britain’.

Earlier in the chapter he meets with a Muslim woman, Faiza, and her husband, who has come to the meeting as a chaperone as Muslim women may not meet strange men unaccompanied. She wears the niqub, and tells Hussein that she has reported three of her work colleagues to the HR department because they think she’s an extremist for doing so. She also talks about how the Muslim community in Manchester has been misrepresented thanks to the wretched suicide bomber at the Ariane Grande concert.

”One of the suicide bombers, Salman Abedi, was from a mosque in Didsbury here in Manchester,’ Faiza explains, adding in exasperation: ‘We have almost seventy mosques in this city. Yes, twenty-nine innocent kids died. And over a hundred were injured. For what crime?’ she shrugs. ‘One suicide bomber – one salafi – caused the incident, but what about the hundreds of Muslim taxi drivers who immediately took the injured to hospital? The drivers didn’t charge for this, but just offered their compassion and help. And why do we forget all the Muslim doctors and nurses at the hospital>’ Faiza is speaking passionately but intelligently.’ (p. 38). Elsewhere in the chapter he describes how all the mosques in the area condemned the bombing, but this wasn’t reported in the press coverage. And other Muslims tell him that they tried to warn the authorities six times about Abedi but were ignored. It’s a familiar story I’ve heard about other Muslim extremists – the congregation at the local mosque were worried, and attempted to alert the authorities only to be ignored.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it seems to me that Hussein is trying to present a fair picture of British Islam. Islam, like most other religious, isn’t a monolith but composed of a number of sects, which may differ considerably in their theology and practise. Indeed, the title of one book we had in the library at College on Islam was The Sectarian Milieu. There are serious issues and challenges from some of the more austere sects, which reject mainstream cultural values and integration. And Muslims are like everyone else – human beings -, and so may have their own prejudices and biases. And some are no doubt racist thugs and bullies, just like some Whites.

These issues have to be squarely addressed, not denied, or distorted so that all British Muslims become tainted due to the actions of violent extremists. If we don’t do this, then it’ll be left to the real bigots and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL.

Private Eye on the Massive Failure of the Pepper Commercial Robot in Japan

December 1, 2021

I found this highly amusing little snippet in Private Eye’s ‘Funny Old World’ column in their edition for the 6-18 August 2021. It’s report from the Japan Times about a Japanese company suspending manufacture and recalling thousands of their robots due to malfunctions and poor performance. The article runs

“We have suspended production of our Pepper robot,” a spokeswoman for Softbank Group Corp told reporters in Minato (Tokyo), “the AI robot, home companion and store assistant that we first marketed in 2014. We are in discussions with our French robotics unit about potential job reductions.”

Over the past seven years, 27,000 Pepper robots have been produced, and marketed as the world’s first AI robots, but many were sacked by the companies that bought them for inappropriate behaviour. “We bought one for our flagship Edinburgh store,” said a spokesman for Margiotta grocery chain, “but fired it because it kept telling customers ‘to look in the alcohol section’ when they asked it where things were.” Funeral director Osamu Funaki bought a Pepper robot to recite sutras during ceremonies, but sacked it after repeated malfunctions, lamenting “what if it refuses to operate in the middle of a ceremony? It would be such a disaster.” A Japanese nursing home purchased three Pepper androids to lead community singalongs, but dismissed them for repeatedly breaking down.

“Pepper did a lot of harm to genuine robotics research by giving an often false impression of a bright cognitive being that could hold conversations,” Professor Noel Sharkey observed. “But it was mostly remote-controlled with a human conversing through its speakers. I’m happy to see an end to it.”

This is less the ruthlessly efficient killing machines of The Terminator franchise or the similarly murderous androids of the early Tom Baker Dr. Who story, ‘The Robots of Death’ or any number of other stories in which the machines rise up to exterminate their human masters. It isn’t like Judge Dredd’s Megacity One, where automation and the use of robots has created a 95 per cent unemployment rate. No, it’s the Sirius Cybernetics Company from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, whose products are so uniformly terrible that the complaints division now covers the major land masses of three whole planets, as this clip from the Beeb TV series on Michael Snow’s channel on YouTube explains:

As for the robots being sacked, for comics readers of a certain age this sounds like they suffered the same fate as those poor machines that were sent down to be ripped apart by the frightening, but also frighteningly stupid demolition robot Mekquake in the ‘Robusters’ and ‘ABC Warriors’ strips in 2000 AD. Mekquake was always being frustrated at not being able to destroy the strips’ two heroes, Rojaws, a foul-mouthed sewer droid, and Hammerstein, an old war robot, who continually outwitted him. But if robots keep being manufactured with the same spectacular flaws as the Pepper robot, it probably won’t be long before someone invents a Mekquake-style machine to take care of them. Oh, by crikey, yes, as the thuggish old machine used to say!

Rojaws and Hammerstein prepare to meet Mekquake for the last time. From ABC Warriors – Return to Robusters, by Pat Mills and Clint Langley, (Rebellion: 2015, 2016).

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The Global Campaign, Volume 1

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The Global Campaign Volume 2

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For a Worker’s Chamber

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Privatisation: Killing the NHS

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Crimes of Empire

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Graham Linehan and DJ Lippy Discuss the Gay Protests Against Stonewall on Friday

October 20, 2021

On Monday broadcaster and comedy writer Graham Linehan posted this video in which he spoke to DJ Lippy, who is one of the organisers of a mass protest against Stonewall the Friday.

The gay charity is coming under considerable fire. Because it gave misleading legal information to the organisations seeking its advice on delicate issues like transgender rights, a number of them, including the Beeb, have cut ties with it. I’ve also heard that they’re being sued. An increasing number of gays and lesbians are also upset with Stonewall. They feel that its concentration on trans rights and other alternative sexualities has dangerously diluted the charity’s original purpose so that it no longer adequately defends and fights for the rights of gay men and women. Lesbians are particularly affected. For example I’ve seen numerous videos in which gay women and their supporters, like Linehan, describe how lesbian spaces have been invaded by biological, straight men demanding they have sex with them on the grounds that, as they identify as women, they are therefore lesbians. As this video also makes it clear, they are also concerned about the way the trans ideology is erasing natural, biological femininity. A recent issue of the Lancet on women’s health didn’t refer to women, but ‘people with a cervix’ and thanks to Stonewall’s advice, NHS Scotland has removed the word ‘mother’ from one of its leaflets. I will state again that I do not want trans people persecuted, abused, assaulted or denied jobs or opportunities because of their condition. I believe very strongly that people with problems with their gender identity deserve compassion and support. But this goes too far. It denies biological reality and, in my view, is dangerous because of this. The blurb for the video below explains the reasons behind the protest and where it is all happening.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/come-o…

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and their allies will take part in a national protest on Friday to ask all public and private organisations who have signed up to the Stonewall Diversity scheme to leave it and #ComeOutOfStonewall. They claim the charity no longer represents the interests of lesbians, gays and bisexuals and are critical of its authoritarian #NoDebate stance. What’s more they say the charity is misleading members of the scheme about the equality act, reflecting the law they would like it to be, rather the law as it is written. They are calling on these organisations #ComeOutOfStonewall and leave its Diversity Champion scheme. Stonewall has come under fire in recent months, and last week the Nolan Investigates podcast added to the pressure, asking serious questions about its relationship with Ofcom and the BBC. This follows on from the Reindorf Review which said its behaviour was having a ‘chilling effect’ on academic freedom at UK Universities Protests will take part in Belfast, Edinburgh and London. Protests will be held throughout the day, targeting many of the most prominent members of Stonewalls Diversity Champions scheme – including the BBC and Westminster. Their protest follows on from another event organised two weeks previously in which women’s rights activists dressed as dinosaurs targeted the offices of the Lancet and the Labour Party using the #HearMeRoar National co-ordinator Katy Worley said of Stonewall. “It’s thanks to the hard work of my lesbian and gay elders that I got to grow up in a world largely free of homophobia. But in the past few years I have been the victim of an alarming amount of homophobic and misogynistic abuse. This happens in spaces which are supposed to be safe for the LGBTQ+ community – often by those who identify as allies. I hold organisations like Stonewall directly responsible for this. They redefined homosexuality as attraction to the same gender, rather than sex– effectively erasing my sexual orientation. What’s more their failure to condemn this abuse has emboldened the bullies. We are here today to say Stonewall does not speak for us and we will not stop fighting until their anti-gay and anti-woman agenda is defeated.” London: Meet up: 12pm at the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square. Edinburgh: Meet up: 1.30 at Waverley Gate, 2-4 Waterloo Place. Belfast: Meet up: 3.45 at BBC Broadcasting House, Can the Plan. Stonewall Cymru have been hired by the Welsh government to both commission and implement the LGBTQ+ Action plan in Wales, bringing in self ID by the backdoor. They are yet again writing and marking their own homework. Aside from the ethical concerns this action plan would abolish sex in law, impacting women, lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Merched Cymru and LGB Alliance Cymru want to #CanThePlan and have released guidance and resources for responding to the consultation. It takes five minutes to complete using this resource, and you do not need to be in the UK to fill it out. https://merchedcymru.wales/can-the-ac… Add a personal note about why you oppose the abolition of sex in law. Personal testimony can be so powerful when lobbying the government for change. The consultation closes on Friday the 22nd of October the same day as the protest, so please fill it in and share on your networks before this date. Retweeting the information under the #CanThePlan also helps these groups share their message. You can support the work of previous, current and future protests via this crowdfunder https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/terfasa…

Here’s the video.

We Own It Rally for NHS This Saturday in London

September 2, 2021

‘We Own It’ are a pro-NHS group fighting the health service’s deliberate underfunding by the Tories and its piecemeal privatisation. I got this email from them yesterday telling me that they’re launching a press campaign and organising a rally. They’re encouraging people with experiences of waiting lists or having to pay for private treatment to share their stories with them. They will put them up on their website and intend to share those stories with the press. Their rally is set for midday Saturday opposite Old Palace Yard near parliament. The email runs

“Dear David,

Since we first got in touch with you about the launch of our waiting list campaign nearly a month ago, waiting list figures in England have already increased by 200,000. 

5.5 million patients in England alone are currently waiting for treatment. And the figure is also rising across the UK. The number of people on waiting lists is increasing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, reaching record levels in some places.

We know you love our NHS – it’s one of the best things humans have ever created. And our NHS staff are phenomenal. They’ve worked tirelessly to carry us through the pandemic. 

But they’re also working flat out to tackle waiting list numbers that were already too high even before Covid. 

Because the government has been cutting the vital funding our NHS needs for 10 years – while handing over ever more cash to the private sector.

So together it’s time we raise the alarm! We need to ramp up the pressure on the government and call on them to give our NHS all the funding and extra capacity it needs to care for people urgently and rebuild for the longer term. 

We can do this by sharing your stories with the press to show the human impact of being on a waiting list to access care or being forced to spend savings to go private.

Your story could have the power to make the government change their minds and give the NHS the funding it needs.

We’re talking to journalists right now who want to give you a voice by publishing your experience in the national press. If you have a story to tell, you can follow this link for more information on how to share it with us.

Many of you have already shared your experiences of being on a waiting list or paying for private treatment – thank you. We’ll be putting your stories up on our website soon. If you’re also happy to have your first and last name and a photo of yourself passed over to journalists, we’d love it if you could give us permission to share your details.  

We’re also hosting a rally on Saturday, September 4th in London to launch our campaign for the funding our NHS needs to tackle waiting lists and we’d love if you could join us:

12-1pm, Saturday 4th September – Opposite Old Palace Yard, Parliament, Westminster, SW1A 0AA 

If you’re based in London or able to travel there, and would like to share your story of being on a waiting list or having to pay for private care on the day, let us know by replying to this email – we’d love you to be able to tell your story at the campaign launch.

We’ve also got an action planned in Edinburgh – if you’d like to join it, let us know by replying to this email. 

If you’re not able to attend an action in person you can find out how you can get involved wherever you are in the UK here

Solidarity, 

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Anna and Zana – the We Own It team”

If you’re able and willing to help with this campaign, I’d encourage you to do so. One of the reasons our response to Covid has been so disastrous is because the cuts to NHS funding have left a shortage of acute care beds compared to other countries, such as Germany. I also noted an article that appeared in the press a few months ago reporting that the NHS was no longer the 1# health service in the world, but had dropped to 4#. This is no accident. As Mike has said time and again, the Tories are deliberately underfunding the NHS in order to transform it into a second class service, hoping that anybody who can will go privately. The contrived failure of NHS care also provides them with a convenient excuse to hand over more of it to the private sector, the same private sector that is responsible for the shortages and substandard care.

And Tory propagandists are already pushing for its privatisation. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, has put up another video demanding the privatisation of the NHS following a radio he took from a listener who had suffered through being put on a waiting list. I have every sympathy for that listener, but privatisation is making waiting lists far worse. That is something Belfield definitely is not going to tell his fans as he rants against woke lefties and entitled, university educated whippersnappers. He makes much of being a working class lad from a pit town, standing against the middle class, Guardian-reading left-wing elite. But it’s only the left that’s fighting for the NHS against the middle- and upper class parasites urging its privatisation, a privatisation that will be disastrous for working class people.

And despite the cuts, Tory propagandists are still complaining about waste in the NHS. Earlier this week Sargon’s little chum on the Lotus Eaters channel, Callum, moaned about ‘state-mandated healthcare’ and waste in the NHS because the health service or one of the trusts was advertising for a diversity officer on a salary amounting to tens of thousands. They’d obviously like to get rid of such posts, and see it as an example of where money is being misspent in the health service. I can’t say I’m happy that there are such posts with such inflated salaries, but there are good reasons why they’re needed. This year there have been complaints that Blacks and ethnic minorities have received substandard service from the NHS, especially regarding pregnancy and maternity care. There have also been complaints that ethnic minorities don’t receive promotion as much as Whites, and that they have suffered through being deliberately placed in the frontline of fighting the Coronavirus without the support given to Whites. Furthermore, I doubt any private enterprise would react any differently to such complaints. Indeed, in contrast to the propaganda that private healthcare companies are lean, mean and efficient compared to the NHS, they actually have a bigger bureaucracy, partly to deal with such issues.

The Tories are using their underfunding to push through the privatisation of the NHS. We need to support groups like We Own It who are fighting against them.

Short Video on Richard Trevithick’s Real Steampunk Bus

February 24, 2021

I’ve already put up one video about the great Cornish inventor, Richard Trevithick, who created the ‘Puffing Devil’, a passenger-carrying steam engine for use on the roads. I found this video on Patrick Reed’s channel on YouTube. Taken from the National Geographic channel, and narrated by Chris Barry, the actor behind Red Dwarf’s Rimmer, this very short video describes another of Trevithick’s awesome steam vehicles. This was a London bus. It was so ground-breaking and unprecedented when it was first demonstrated, that shops were closed as the streets filled with people desperate to see the new invention. The video shows a modern replica of the vehicle, and describes how it worked. By placing the boiler within the main water tank, steam could be produced at a higher pressure, and with the placement of its piston about the tank it was far more powerful than Watt’s steam engines. Sadly, however, the steam carriage was far too radical and ahead of its time to catch on.

Trevithick’s London “Bus” – YouTube

Nevertheless, Trevithick’s machine was one of the first of a series of steam carriages that inventors in Britain and elsewhere continued to develop throughout the 19th century. In the 1820s there was briefly a steam bus service in Edinburgh. That pioneering invention was halted because of problems getting through the turnpike roads the bus had to use, and opposition from the cabbies and their horse-drawn vehicles. This did not, however, prevent scientists and engineers continuing to experiment and develop new steam passenger vehicles. This culminated in the invention of the internal combustion engine when Karl Benz and others decided that coal was not a suitably efficient and powerful fuel for these machines, and so turned to oil and petrol instead.

History Debunked on the Anachronistic Casting of Black Actors to Play Ann Boleyn and Queen Caroline

December 14, 2020

One of the complains raised by some members of the right against the demands for more Black presenters and actors on screen is that it represents a form of cultural colonisation. The past is deliberately being re-shaped to suit the multicultural present. The right-wing internet YouTuber, Alex Belfield, has argued that by the Beeb’s standards, Blacks are actually overrepresented on television. At the moment British Black and Asian population constitutes about 13 per cent of the overall population, but form 22 per cent of the presenters, performers and broadcast on the box. It’s why he choose in one of his videos to attack the Beeb for wasting even more license-payers’ money on someone to head a diversity department. He maintained that the problem wasn’t the underrepresentation of Blacks and Asians in front of the camera. It was that they weren’t represented in the ranks of BBC management, which remained very White and middle class.

There are a number of recent and forthcoming adaptations of classic literature, in which Blacks and Asians have been cast in traditionally White roles. And so Blacks have been cast to appear in the children’s classic, The Secret Garden, Philip Pullman’s Fantasy series, His Dark Materials, and Dev Patel, who played the Master in the last series of Dr. Who, appeared in a colour blind, multi-ethnic version of Dickens and is due to star in an adaptation of the medieval story, Gawain and the Green Knight. There’s also a version of the Lord of the Rings planned by the Corporation, in which a third of the cast will be Black or Asian with Lenny Henry.

But this desire to recast White characters with Blacks isn’t confined to fiction. Channel 5 has announced that it has cast a Black actress, Jodie Turner-Smith, to play Ann Boleyn in a three part series about Henry VIII’s second wife. And Netflix has also chosen a Black actress to play Queen Caroline in its regency romance, Bridgerton.

History Debunked’s Simon Webb has posted several videos about this. He was rather incensed by the decision to recast one of the characters in The Secret Garden as Black, and describes how there was some popular criticism of a similar recasting in His Dark Materials. However, he says that left-wingers and progressives answered that by arguing that the role was fiction, and that Pullman never specified what colour the character was.

That argument, however, cannot be used to defend the false representation of Boleyn and Caroline as Blacks. He views this as a deliberate attempt to colonise the past so that it resembles what he describes as the ‘bastardised’ multicultural present. It is also not being done in a vacuum. There are Blacks, who believe that Queen Caroline really was Black, as was James I of England/VI of Scotland, and Edward III’s son, Henry, the Black Prince. This recasting of real, historical figures has to be resisted because it is actively falsifying history to make it appear that Blacks had a far greater role in shaping history than they did.

Here’s the video about Ann Boleyn.

Jodie Turner-Smith to play Ann Boleyn – YouTube

The idea that Queen Caroline was Black comes from the fact that she was partly descended from a thirteenth century Spanish Moorish prince. The Moors in Islamic Spain – al-Andalus – were Arabs and Berbers, rather than Black Africans. Caroline herself was so far removed from her Moorish ancestor that any Black ancestry she had wouldn’t have been expressed physically. She was a German princess, and so would have been White in appearance.

A black queen in Netflix’ new series Bridgerton – YouTube

See also:

New, multicultural versions of two classics of English literature – YouTube

TV Diversity Is NOT A Problem 🇬🇧 22% 📺 BBC Give Us Back The £100,000,000! – YouTube

Multi-Racial Casting Already in Theatre

I think there are also a number of other factors driving this trend. Multiracial casting has been around in the theatre for a very long time. I think as far back as the 1990s Black and Asians actors were being cast in traditionally White roles in Shakespeare. I remember an article in the Independent or the I came out a few years ago commenting that such casting was accepted by audiences, even when people of different ethnicities played members of the same family. There was also something of a furore a few years ago when the Black opera singer, Willard White, was cast as Odin in Wagner’s Ring. What seems to be happening is simply that this same process is being extended to film and TV. The Dickens’ adaptation that came out recently not only starred Dev Patel as the central character, but also had members of the same family played by actors of different races. It was made by Armando Iannucci, one of the brains behind the comedy news programme, The Day Today and other shows in the 1990s.

Few Explicitly Black Parts and the Metropolitan Bubble

I also believe that it’s due to the fact that there are too few parts specifically for Black and Asian actors. That’s been the complaint voiced by one of the Black activists pushing for the greater inclusion of Black performers when he was interviewed in the I a little while back. Blacks and Asians are minorities, and generally are under represented in the upper ranks of society. Hence the demand for colour blind casting and that directors should be willing to cast Blacks and Asians. It also seems to me to be also partly a product of the metropolitan bubble in which the media and its chiefs live. Over a third of London’s population is Black and Asian, and I think there’s an automatic assumption that somehow this is true of the rest of Britain. Some Black activists and performers have been really shocked to find that there are large parts of Britain with hardly any people like themselves. Years ago the late Black actor and comedian, Felix Dexter, appeared on the panel in an edition of the News Quiz, which came from Edinburgh. He expressed his surprise that there were areas of Scotland with hardly a Black face to be seen. While undoubtedly true, his surprise struck me as also a tiny bit racist in itself. There was an element of complaint in it, as if it was somehow a defect that these places happened to be nearly all White. It reminded me a bit of the comments by Victorian explorers about going into parts of Black Africa and elsewhere previously untouched by the White man. I’m sure Dexter and those, who share his views would have been horrified by the comparison, but I believe it’s a true one.

Selling Programmes to a Non-White Foreign Audience

I also wonder if it’s also driven by a need to sell these programmes abroad. Blacks constitute something like 10-13 per cent of the American population, and together with Asians constitute 25 per cent of the American population. I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will also be seeking to sell the programmes to Black majority and Asian countries, such as Africa, the Caribbean, India and so on. Hence the decision to cast Black and Asian actors may well come from a desire to appeal to foreign, non-White audiences.

Dangers of the Falsification of History

I wouldn’t have a problem with this, were it not for two reasons. I’m afraid that it really will result in a falsification of history. If it was just a case of TV companies trying to reach new audiences in line with present, multicultural sensibilities, I’d be perfectly happy with it. Provided that the audience understood that what they were seeing was fiction. They they understood that Queen Caroline and Ann Boleyn weren’t really Black, and that Victorian and medieval Britain weren’t as multicultural as today’s London. But I really don’t think they do. And this is going to be a particular problem with some Blacks, who believe that their history has already been appropriated by Whites. This is very much the case with Afro-Centric History and ancient Egypt. All the Black people I’ve met have believed that the ancient Egyptians were Black. This isn’t unreasonable. They portrayed themselves as darker than the other peoples further north and east, like the Minoans and the Semitic peoples of Canaan and the Ancient Near East. Examination of human skeletons from ancient Egyptian tombs show that many were more Black African in appearance than previously assumed, and certainly the sculpture of Queen Ty shows her as being very Black. On the other hand the Egyptians portrayed the African peoples further south, such as those of Nubia, to be much darker than themselves. I also don’t think that the ancient historians, like Herodotus, described them as Black. Herodotus was well aware of Black African peoples and tribes, like the Ethiopians, but he doesn’t describe the Egyptians as one of them, at least, not that I can remember. It isn’t unreasonable by any means to believe the Egyptians were Black, but there’s also room for debate. Unfortunately, I’ve heard some really bonkers conspiracy theories about the supposed White appropriation of the ancient Egyptians. One Black American I knew at college claimed that the reason so many statues from ancient Egypt had chipped or missing noses and lips was because the European archaeologists deliberately removed them in order to hide their African identity. It’s a paranoid, ludicrous idea, though you can’t really blame people for believing it. Black people have historically been abused and exploited, so it’s to be expected that this sense of exploitation, and that they are being deliberately denied a glorious history, should extend to one of the most famous and brilliant of ancient civilisations.

But I’m very much afraid that once the decision is taken to cast Blacks as real, historical figures, some people will genuinely believe that these figures really were Black, and that those evil Whites have falsified history once more to hide their true racial origins.

There is also the problem that recasting the past so that it appears more multicultural than it really was may also lead to modern audiences not realising just how hard a struggle Blacks and Asians had to gain their freedom. Nearly a year ago now Mr H of the YouTube channel Mr H Reviews raised this objection to the Beeb’s new adaptation of that horror classic, Dracula. The convent to which Harker flees for help and medical treatment in Budapest is shown as multiracial, with many of the nuns Black and Asian. He felt that this was anachronistic, though I’m told by a friend of mine with a greater knowledge of church history that the Roman Catholic convents in the city were staffed with people from the missions to Asia and elsewhere, so it’s possible there would have been Black and Asian nuns there.

In the case of regency Britain and the upper ranks of society, intermarriage between Whites and Blacks wasn’t unknown, but it was rare. A few years ago back in the ’90s Radio 4 did a programme about the Black son of a White planter or British aristocrat, who had a glittering political career as an MP and ended up, I believe, as the sheriff of Monmouthshire. One the other hand, when Major Moody came to write his report in the 1820s on whether Blacks were ready for their emancipation, he argued that they would never be accepted and treated fairly by White society. Part of his argument was that there were so few marriages between Whites and Blacks among the upper classes. Moody’s wife was Black, and so his report and its conclusion that the enslaved population of the British empire weren’t yet ready for their freedom was a real shock. But if Queen Caroline is presented as a Black woman, it obviously contradicts Moody’s own observation. And his observation and the argument it supports shows just how strong racial prejudice was among some sections of the populace in 19th century Britain.

Double Standards on ‘Cultural Appropriation’

My other problem with this is that of the accusation of ‘cultural appropriation’. This only seems to go one way. Black involvement and participation in White culture is actively encouraged and its absence condemned and deplored as a form of racism. But this doesn’t go the other way. When Whites adopt non-White culture, it’s condemned as a form of cultural theft. In the case of those cultures that have been colonised and nearly destroyed by White expansion and imperialism, like the Amerindians and Aboriginal Australians, this is fair enough. But there should surely be no objection to the casting of White actors as Black characters in works by Black and Asian writers and playwrights. Not if it’s done as part of a multi-ethnic cast and avoids the obviously offensive, like blacking up. But I’ve yet to see a White actor cast in a Black part in an adaptation of one of Wole Soyinka’s works, or Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I therefore feel that Webb has a point when he attacks it as a form of cultural colonisation. Because until Whites are allowed to play Black roles, that’s what it is.

I’m prepared to accept that the portrayal of myths and literary characters on screen is changing as society changes, and that mostly this harmless. Dickens, Shakespeare and medieval classics like Chaucer and Gawain are great tales, and should appeal to everyone, regardless of their colour. But I have grave reservations about the decision to do the same to historical figures.

It might be well intentioned, but too many people may believe it’s fact, and so a mythical, false history created.

Ed Davey Elected Leader of Hated, Failing Party

August 27, 2020

Ed Davey has beaten his rival Layla Moran and been elected leader of the Lib Dems. But according to an article in Monday’s I by Nigel Morris, ‘Liberal Democrats to crown new leader as party hits ‘rock bottom’, the Lib Dems are still in major trouble with the electorate. The article states that the British public may still hate them for joining the Tories in the coalition government under David Cameron and their leader, the noxious and duplicitous Nick Cligg. The article runs

The new Liberal Democrat leader, who will be crowned this week, will inherit a party whose fortunes remain at “rock bottom” following a succession of dire electoral performances, the polling expert Sir John Curtice has said.

The party’s support has fallen to a 50-year low amid signs that it is still being punished for its part in the Tory-led coalition government of 2010-15.

Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran are vying to become the Lib Dems’ fifth leader in five years, with the victor facing the daunting task of carving out a distinctive niche for a party at risk of being reduced to a bit player on the political stage.

The winner also must decide how to respond to moves by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, to steer his party towards the political centre ground.

Despite their initial optimism that they could attract anti-Brexit voters, the Lib Dems won just 11 seats in last year’s election, and two polls this week showed them languishing on 6 and 7 per cent support.

Sir John, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told I: “There was a brief moment last year when it looked as though they might be able to turn around their fortunes on a wave of Remain discontent with Brexit, but by polling day in December most of these voters had slipped through their fingers.

“As a result, the party finds itself still at rock bottom and having to start from scratch in persuading voters of its relevance and message.”

Although its vote share edged up to 11.6 per cent in December, it finished the night with two fewer MPs and suffered the embarrassment of its leader, Jo Swinson, losing her seat, plunging the party inito yet another leadership contest. Lib Dem insiders predict a close finish as Sir Ed, who has been acting leader for nine months and served in the Coalition cabinet, faces the insurgent appeal of Ms Moran, who has been an MP only since 2017.

Voting closes on Wednesday, with the result being announced on Thursday.

Mark Pack, the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire, said the party had some grounds for optimism, including increased membership, a growing local government base and stable finances.

“We cannot afford to be blase about the situation, but there is material for a new leader to have a decent opportunity,” he said.

“One of the clear needs is to communicate the positive vision we have for the country. People just don’t notice we are around. The new leader has to make voters feel we are relevant.”

Mike in his report on Davey’s election reminds us that this is the party of mischief. The Lib Dems targeted the Labour party in various constituencies with misleading graphs and polling figures claiming that Labour couldn’t win there. Davey and Moran have also adopted some of the popular Corbynite policies, like increased taxes for the rich and Universal Basic Income, that Starmer has dropped like the good, corporatist Blairite he is. There’s therefore a real danger that some Labour voters may go over to the Lib Dems, thus weakening opposition to the Tories even further. Because after the Lib Dems’ betrayal of their supposedly liberal principles to join the Tory government in the coalition, you really can’t expect them to honour their promises one bit.

And some of the centrists in the Labour party are also worried about the fate of the Lib Dems. A few weeks ago, Labour MP Ayesha Hazarika was in the pages of the I arguing that Starmer should work out some kind of partnership or pact to save them. Why? She confessed she liked them, and wanted to create some kind of anti-Brexit opposition bloc. I have no time for Hazarika. She seems to me to emblematic of much that is wrong with the Labour party under Starmer. She comes across as a Blairite, and I think her media prominence is entirely due to the fact that she is a young woman from an ethnic minority. Her parents are Indian Muslims, and according to Wikipedia, she went to Laurel Bank, a private girls’ school in Edinburgh. She’s thus a very privileged ex-private schoolgirl, who really doesn’t have anything to offer the working class. But due to her gender and ethnic background, she represents diversity and liberal values.

In fact, it could be argued that centrist, Labour MPs like Hazarika are a particular liability to the Labour party. The Tory media are currently whipping up White resentment against current affirmative action programmes and the anti-racist political consensus. You only have to look at Alex Belfield’s wretched output on YouTube, in which he posts rant after rant attacking ‘left-wing snowflakes’ and their attacks on Britishness and Whites. Such as attacks on the singing of ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ on the Last Night of the Proms, and an announcement by Channel 4 that one day next year will be entirely given over to Black presenters. And one of the other far-right websites on YouTube has put up a video on the ‘Demonisation of the White Working Class’.

UKIP’s core support came from older, White working class voters, who felt left behind by the mainstream parties. Blair and Brown turned the party away from its working-class roots to concentrate on getting the votes of middle class swing voters. They rejected traditional Labour policies and embraced privatisation, the free market and the destruction of the welfare state. But nevertheless they complacently believed that the working class would still support them as they had nowhere else to go. There is clearly a need to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in politics and parliament, but the selection of privileged, Blairite MPs like Hazarika threaten to further weaken parts of working class support for the Labour party. Because if working class voters don’t see Labour offering them anything except more poverty, and appearing to favour the BAME community instead, then some of them will respond to the barely coded racism of the Tories.

As for the Lib Dems, they are treacherous and completely unprincipled. They’ve shown that, whatever they may say about being a centre party and pulling the Tories in a more moderate direction when they were in government with them, they actually did anything but. It was Nick Clegg who wanted to raise tuition fees, for example. Cameron was prepared to give in to the Lib Dems, who had pledged not to raise them. Clegg, Cable, and Swinson have all shown that they are simply another neoliberal party of deceit with nothing to offer Britain’s working people except more poverty and despair. Instead of being given a life-line, the party should die.

And it would only be a good thing if the Blairite faction in the Labour party died out with them.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/27/ed-davey-elected-leader-of-the-party-of-mischief/

 

 

 

BBC Chief Says Corporation Could Axe News Programmes

August 22, 2020

Here’s another piece from yesterday’s I, for 21st August 2020. Written by Adam Sherwin, it reports the comments by the Beeb’s Fran Unsworth in an interview with the Torygraph that the corporation could axe the 6 O’clock and 10 O’clock News from its mainstream channels in a decade. The article runs

The BBC’s News At Six and News At Ten could disappear from television screens as the corporation’s coverage shifts to digital, its head of news has said.

Fran Unsworth said that a push to attract younger viewers meant that the BBC’s flagship bulletins could move from broadcast channels to the iPlayer within a decade.

Ms Unsworth said: “Ultimately, in 10 years’ time, we probably won’t be consuming linear bulletins. I might be wrong about that but I doubt it. There might be one (bulletin) a day, but video will just be in a different space… you know, iPlayer, your tablet, your iPhone.

One of the flagship bulletins, whose audiences have doubled during the pandemic, might survive, she told The Daily Telegraph.

Figures released at the start of lockdown showed news programmes’ ratings had risen.

In the week to 28 March, five of the 10 most-watched broadcasts were editions of the BBC News At Six, with the bulletin on 23 March attracting a TV audience of 8.3 million, nearly double its typical rating so far this year. The 10pm programme had reported audiences of six million.

But Ms Unsworth said that while young viewers had discovered the BBC delivered information they could trust during a crisis, the surge in TV news viewing was a temporary phenomenon.

The corporation has announced already that it will axe the Newsround afternoon bulletin, which has run for nearly 50 years.

The BBC is slashing more than 500 jobs from its news division in a bid to make savings of £80m. Reports and interviews will be shared between BBC outlets.

This is going to delight the Tories and the Murdoch empire, who would like to see the Beeb privatised completely. About 70 per cent of news consumed in the UK comes from the Beeb, and obviously Murdoch and his squalid minions would like to see this greatly reduced so that they can move in. And that means extremely biased right-wing news, like Fox in America. Or Sky News Australia, which is so right-wing it can only get further to the right by beginning with an evocation of the Eureka Stockade and calls for the reintroduction of the White Australia policy.

The Beeb is having trouble attracting a young audience. According to the reports I’ve read, they simply aren’t interested in it. And unless the corporation can find ways of attracting them, that means the Corporation won’t have an audience and so consequently, no future.

However, many young people have learned that the Beeb doesn’t produce information they can trust. Not after its constant, vicious smearing of Jeremy Corbyn and its blatant anti-Labour bias. And Scots viewers, I’ve no doubt, will remember how Nick Robinson very carefully edited down SNP leader Alex Salmond’s full answer to a question about the impact Scottish independence would have on Edinburgh’s financial sector. Salmond stated fully that they’d gone into it, and Edinburgh’s banks would remain in the Scots capital after independence. They wouldn’t leave for London. But this didn’t satisfy the Macclesfield Goebbels, and his answer was first cut so that Robinson claimed he hadn’t properly answered it, and then completely edited out so that he finally claimed that Salmond hadn’t answered it all. It was a piece of propaganda worthy of a totalitarian state. I realise that Salmond, despite his acquittal, is still under the shadow of the multiple rape accusations. But this is a different issue, and shows how desperate the Beeb and the British establishment were to discredit him when it came to Scotland leaving the union.

Millions have learned that the Beeb does not produce information they can trust. That’s why they’re turning to alternative news sources, like those on the Net.

I think it would be disastrous if the Beeb did abandon proper news bulletins on its broadcast channels, leaving that space to be filled by Murdoch and the other media magnates. I want it to get better, not to go completely. But through its concerted campaign against the Labour party, the Beeb has successfully alienated the very people, who would have otherwise supported it the most against Tory demands for its privatisation.

And so the Beeb has only itself to blame for the crisis it is now facing, whatever delusions Unsworth might have about winning back young people.

 

 

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

March 11, 2020

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.