Posts Tagged ‘Tony Hancock’

Poverty and the Insensitivity of the Queen’s Speech

December 30, 2018

A few days ago Mike put up an article reporting the backlash against the monarchy that had occurred as a result of the Queen’s speech. I never saw it as I find the speech horrendously boring, but I gather that Her Maj had sat in a wonderful gilded room, complete with a priceless gold Erard piano, and urged us all to be tolerant of each other at this time. People were naturally more than a bit annoyed to hear someone, surrounded with the kind of wealth most people can only dream about, telling the rest of the country in effect that they had better respect their superiors when poverty is massively increasing and people are fearing for their jobs, their homes and whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children tomorrow.

They also resented the fact that the royal family, as rich as they are, are subsidized by the rest of us through our taxes. Mike in his article reproduced a number of tweets critical of the monarchy, pointing out that the Queen’s comments that we should put aside our differences in the national interest was the type of slogan the Tories come out with.

One of the tweets by Mark Adkins went further, and said that it wasn’t just the monarchy itself that was the problem, but what they represented: the British class system that made breeding more important than anything else, and which concluded ‘This world view helps justify racism, snobbery and the demonisation of the poor. A Republic is long overdue!’

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/26/insensitivity-of-queens-speech-prompts-backlash-against-the-monarchy/

I’m not a republican, but this did show that the Queen was seriously out of touch. She could have made her speech in more sombre settings or even actually on the front line, as it were, at a food bank to show that she was at least aware how much some people were suffering. It all reminded me of the comments the 19th century German socialist writer Adolf Glasbrenner made about the Prussian monarchy of his day in his piece Konschtitution. The piece is supposed to be an explanation of the German constitution by a father to his son, Willem. It’s written in the Berlin dialect, and is written from the perspective of someone, who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like some of Tony Hancock’s speeches, when he started talking about aspects of British constitutional history, that he obviously didn’t know anything about. Like his remarks in the episode ‘Twelve Angry Men’ about Magna Carta being a poor Hungarian peasant girl, who was burned at the stake in order to get King John to close the boozers at half past ten. Or like some of the rants by Alf Garnett about how great Britain is, but without the racism.

Amongst Glasbrenner’s skewed explanation of the Prussian constitution are his remarks on the monarchy. These include:

‘The King does, what he wants; and against that, the people do, what the kind wants. The ministers are therefore responsible for nothing happening. The king rules quite irresponsibly… Should the people come to penury or starvation, so is the king bound, to say he’s sorry.’ He also declares that the form of the state is ‘monarchical-pulcinelle’, the latter word a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The commedia dell’arte was one of the sources of the modern British pantomime as well as Mr. Punch in the Punch and Judy show, so you could possibly translate the phrase into a British context by saying it was ‘monarchical-Mr. Punch’ The piece also has a line that ‘without Junkers (Prussian aristocracy), police and cannon freedom isn’t possible’.

Although it’s a spoof on the Prussian constitution and the classical liberal conception of the state, which was that it should simply guard against crime without interfering directly in society or the economy, it obviously has some relevance to the Tory conception of politics. This also stresses the monarchy, strongly rejects any kind of state interference, and also believes that freedom is only possible through the aristocracy, the armed forces and the police. Although the police aren’t being supported so much these days, as the Tories want to save money by cutting their numbers so that they protect the rich, while the rest of society are left to defend themselves from crime. Perhaps they still think we’ll all hire the private security guards like the Libertarians and Virginia Bottomley were so keen on as replacements.

More ominously, in the present situation over Brexit it also reminded me of a poem by the Liberal Serbian poet Zmaj Jovanovic, ‘The National Anthem of the State of Jutunin’ I found quoted in Vladimir Dedijer’s Tito Speaks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953). This is a memoir of the former Yugoslav dictator’s life and his break with Stalin and the Soviet bloc. It was printed in the last issue of Borba, a Communist magazine, when the Yugoslav king, Alexander, seized dictatorial power, dissolving parliament and banning political parties.

O thou, Holy God, keep our King alive
In good health, strong, proud and glorious,
Since this earth has never seen, nor shall
Ever see a king equal to him.
Give him, O Lord, the holiest gifts from heaven:
Police, gendarmeries and spies:
If he doesn’t fight the foe,
Let him keep his own people under his heel.
(p. 69).

I’m not accusing the Queen, nor the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in the royal family of planning to seize power and rule like an absolute monarch. But I am worried about Tweezer’s plan to put 3,500 troops on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Under the Conservatives and New Labour Britain has become a very authoritarian society, including through the establishment of secret courts, where you can be tried in camera without knowing the identity of your accuser and with evidence withheld from your lawyers, all in the interests of national security. We now have a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, publishing smears in the media against Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians and public figures in Europe and America for the British and American secret state. And Mike reports that Tories are now requiring EU citizens or the children of EU citizens resident in England sign up to a central registry, which may make their information available to other public or private bodies without telling anyone which. This is another very disturbing development, as it seems that the British state is determined to leave them open to official persecution. And I’ve said in a previous blog post that a priest at my church, who ministered in Australia, is worried that if Corbyn gets into power, the Tories will try to get the Queen to dismiss him, just as they had her to do Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam in the 1970s.

I support the monarchy, but it needs reform and the Queen’s lack of tact in showing off her wealth at a time of great hardship has only made matters worse. And I’m afraid the increasing authoritarianism of the Tory and New Labour governments could discredit the monarchy if and when there’s a backlash.

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Vox Political on John Whittingdale’s Bullying of the BBC

April 20, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political asks the burning question of why the BBC is allowing itself to be bullied by ‘sex row’ minister John Whittingdale. Whittingdale is, as Mike reminds us, the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. He has also had a relationship with a dominatrix, a former topless model, to whom he showed government documents, and spent an evening at a lap-dancing club, where he received the attentions of two of the ‘ladies’. He then spoke afterwards in parliament against legislation restricting their opening. Now it seems the Shadow Minister for those areas, Maria Eagle, has also accused Whittingdale of trying to bully the BBC into following his own ideological bias, especially regarding Europe. Eagle told the Voice of the Viewer and Listener conference in London that Whittingdale had increasingly tried to interfere editorially in the Beeb’s news content, including its coverage of the Brexit debate. Whittingdale, perhaps unsurprisingly, supports us leaving the EU.

It’s all a very good question. Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/20/why-is-the-bbc-letting-itself-be-bullied-by-sex-row-minister-whittingdale/

whittingdale Pic

The Minister for Fun himself. Now imagine that face above you, screwed up in sexual ecstasy, as the Fast Show’s Ron Manager once said of Gary Linker.

The editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop, also raised the issue on last Friday’s edition of Have I Got News For You why the papers had made little mention of Whittingdale’s extra-marital shenanigans, when they had no such compunctions of revealing similar scandals involving just about every other minister. Quite so. Some of us can remember the lurid days of John Major’s administration, when it seemed just about every other week a minister’s or MP’s career collapsed amid sordid exposes of mistresses, prostitutes, rent boys or simply wandering around Clapham Common seeking complete strangers to have dinner with. And one of the most notorious of these was the spectacular, and immensely hilarious revelations about David Mellor, who was supposed to have indulged his sensual appetites dressed in a football shirt. Quite apart from the fact that his name was only a final ‘S’ away from that of the gamekeeper in Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

But the press have been remarkably, and uncharacteristically restrained in their coverage of Whittingdale’s sexual escapades. You could be forgiven for thinking that there had been some kind of deal made between the government and the press barons, particularly those titles owned by one Rupert Murdoch, a serial media offender – his media are serially offensive – who fled from Australia to take up residence in America. Murdoch, Desmond and the rest of the newspaper magnates hate the Beeb with a passion, and would like it sold off so that they can step into the broadcasting vacuum. It looks very much like there was some kind of agreement by which they would like the other way, and not run the stories about Whittingdale, if he followed their line and did everything he could to make the Beeb’s position as a publicly funded broadcaster untenable.

It reminds me somewhat of a classic Tony Hancock episode, The Scandal Magazine. In that story, the Lad Himself tries to sue a scandal magazine, The Blabbermouth, owned by one Sid James, in order to protect his honour after it runs a story about him having an affair with an 18 year old woman. Trying to get Sid to retract the story, East Cheam’s most beloved former resident goes through various public figures he thinks will be sympathetic to his case, only to find Sid’s got something on all of them.

Hancock: The Big Five?
Sid: I got something on four of them, and I’m having the fifth one followed.
Hancock: The Chief Constable?
Sid: Nah. Have I got a story hanging over his helmet. ‘Oo locked himself in the back of a Black Mariah with a policewoman!
Hancock: So in other words, it doesn’t matter which door you open, Sid’s in first.

Except that this is for real, and unfortunately, the part of Sid is being played by Murdoch, Desmond, Dacre and the Weirdo Barclay twins, who collectively lack an ounce of the comedic charm and skill James brought to the big and small screens.

Years ago there were plans to revive the Hammer Horror franchise. That, unfortunately, seems to have gone quiet after a couple of films were released under the Hammer banner. Perhaps the film series to be revived should be the Carry On flicks. The comedic heirs of Talbot Rothwell could have a field day with Murdoch and the rest of that crew. It’s clear enough that they all deserve it.