TIERS OF A CLOWN

John Lydon once retrospectively referred to Bill Grundy as a very important member of The Sex Pistols ‘for one night only’ – and one night was all it took for his membership to deliver the goods. Following the Thames TV presenter’s live teatime altercation with the band in December 1976, they were dropped by EMI whilst he was suspended by Thames and swiftly dispensed with. Even if you weren’t around at the time, the incident has long been the stuff of legend and most are aware of it, so I won’t go into too many details. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that though the scandal lifted The Sex Pistols and the whole Punk subculture from underground cult to national phenomenon overnight as well as effectively ending the career of a man who was already fighting a losing battle with the bottle, the Met didn’t get involved. Those irate members of the public outraged by effing and blinding emanating from their tellies as they tucked into their egg & chips spurned dialling 999 in favour of deluging the switchboard of ITV’s weekday London franchise-holder, the party they actually held responsible. There were no police charges brought against Bill Grundy.

At the very dawn of the 1970s, one of Ken Russell’s typically outlandish and OTT musical documentaries for the BBC, ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, had caused such uproar that the Estate of the composer it featured (Richard Strauss) so objected to Russell suggesting their man was a Nazi sympathiser that they took out an injunction preventing the Strauss soundtrack being played in the film, thus scuppering any future repeat screenings. Mary Whitehouse, on the other hand, didn’t appear to have any problems with the Nazi aspect, merely the sexual imagery; she even mooted suing the GPO for providing the electric cables through which this filth could be transmitted into the nation’s households by the BBC. However, despite the uproar, there was also no police involvement. Where am I going with this? Well, guess.

I don’t know why anyone aware of the man’s past would be surprised, but I’m guessing those who are surprised simply don’t know much about his past. I’m talking about our favourite showroom dummy, Sir Keir Starmer. Yes, fresh from taking the knee, the Labour leader has once more exhibited his anti-democratic, anti-liberal and unabashed pro-authoritarian credentials before the fools who think he’s doing a good job just because he’s not Jeremy Corbyn. When interviewed by Nick Ferrari on LBC, the question of the Darren Grimes Met investigation came up. Remember, in his role as DPP Starmer vigorously pursued the case against Paul Chambers, the man who responded to a cancelled flight by joking online that he intended to blow Robin Hood Airport ‘sky high’; this was a case the CPS was prepared to drop until Starmer the crusader for justice overruled it. And we’re not even mentioning his enthusiastic pushing through of the post-Savile ‘Victim’s Law’, the consequences of which hundreds of families across the country are still dealing with to this very day.

Asked by Ferrari if Darren Grimes should be the subject of a police investigation, Starmer replied in his best post-unconscious bias training, Dalek squawk – ‘There’s got to be a level of tolerance, of course, but there is a point, there’s a line that can be crossed, and it’s very important that when it is crossed that there is involvement and in some cases, prosecutions.’ Yes, Starmer is so desperate to be seen as being on ‘the right side of history’ that he will say anything his team of advisors programme into his robotic speech patterns; but here he is actually being true to himself, for I wouldn’t have expected Sir Keir to have expressed any other opinion on the subject than the one he gave. This reply was utterly in keeping with his attitude towards freedom of speech and policing the internet that he displayed when Director of Public Prosecutions – and to reluctantly give him credit, at least he mentioned the Grimes case; apparently, the BBC hasn’t mentioned it once, completely ignoring it altogether. That’s impartiality for you.

Hot on the heels of that, Starmer then issued his first clear opposition to the Prime Minister’s latest muddled coronavirus policy – the so-called ‘three tier’ plan that grades danger levels and leaves some parts of the country (mainly north of Watford) sealed-off from everywhere else. Naturally, this will do wonders for the Conservative Party’s appeal in its ‘Red Wall’ seats, though when it comes to lockdown Liverpool, Boris was hardly a beloved figure anyway. Having so far nodded along to the majority of the Government’s approach to Covid-19, the Labour leader decided it was time to strike out and put forward his own personal plan. He has called for a ‘temporary’ national lockdown lasting up to three weeks. Great idea, Keir; what do you intend to do when the three weeks is up, I wonder?

Mind you, his timing was brilliant. Andrew Hayward, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Or SAGE, to get all Bond-like) has already condemned the PM’s three-tier master-plan in favour of a full-on lockdown – or so-called ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown – to control the pandemic, because that obviously works. Anyone feel like all of this is beginning to take on the feel of an old fairytale or an Aesop’s Fable? It’s like all these supposedly intelligent individuals are running around trying to catch a cloud to put in their pockets or something. And, irony of ironies, the WHO – no, not the one with Pete Townshend and Keith Moon, but the World Health Organisation – now appears more in synch with the outlook of the Great Barrington Declaration.

In an interview with Andrew Neil, Sir David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy on Covid-19, declared ‘We in the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus.’ So, the WHO, which from the very beginning has been regarded by world leaders – especially Xi Jinping (not so Trump) – as the go-to authority on what to do with the coronavirus, no longer believes eternal lockdowns are the answer; but a member of SAGE and the leader of the Labour Party know better and want the cycle to continue till the end of time…sorry, I meant ‘three weeks’. Yes, the three-tier idea is just as futile as every other dead rabbit Boris has pulled out of his top hat; but three-tier opponents seem to suggest if all else fails, simply close the country down again and hide away until it goes away – which, of course, it won’t.

That recognised hub of open, diverse opinion and a friend to every viewpoint, Facebook, today announced it was clamping down on any sign of ‘anti-vaccine’ sentiments, which will no doubt please another dominant corporation like GlaxoSmithKline as it invariably gets ready to mass-manufacture and rush-release a vaccine whilst excitedly working out how much it’ll be charging each individual country for the privilege of using it. Yes, the relentless drilling into the people’s heads of the official line continues apace, building on the damage already done. A YouGov poll published yesterday found that 40% of the Great British Public felt the PM’s three-tier brainwave didn’t go far enough; 15% thought it had gone too far; and 19% reckoned it got the balance ‘about right’. Forty percent think Boris’s new policy hasn’t gone far enough?! How far do they think it should go, then? Well, let’s ask Keir Starmer. Just don’t forget to recharge him before you press the button to receive a reply.

© The Editor

FAIR-PLAY FOR TODAY

Anyone raised on a Cold War TV diet of ‘Callan’, ‘The Sandbaggers’, or ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ will have realised early on that one easily identifiable hallmark of the ideological conflict that distinguished Us from Them was the concept of a free press or at least the freedom to express an opinion contrary to the consensus of the ruling class without fear of State censure. Viewing the wrong side of the Iron Curtain from afar, we in the West became accustomed to the consequences facing those from the East who dared to veer from the party line. As a precursor to Vlad’s unique liquidation policy, the likes of exiled Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was silenced as a critique of his country’s Communist government on the streets of London in 1978, when a poisoned umbrella tip applied to his leg in a bus queue curtailed his broadcasts on the BBC World Service as well as his life. That was an extreme example of the punishment dished out to rebel journalists from totalitarian regimes; if they were lucky, they might get off with a show trial and an indeterminate sentence in a Gulag. Yes, that was one way in which we could draw a clear line between Us and Them. That didn’t happen here.

What’s often forgotten in all this, however, is the clever way in which the powers-that-be of the Eastern Bloc justified their harsh treatment of ‘dissidents’ to their own people. They didn’t just remove prominent figures from the streets and offer no explanation for their abrupt disappearance; they went to the trouble of providing a reason they imagined would suffice, albeit of a kind not dissimilar to how China justifies the mass arrest and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in effective concentration camps today; the CCP brands those prisoners undergoing re-education as ‘Radical Islamists’, just as anyone questioning the wisdom of Moscow-sponsored administrations was branded an enemy of the State and a threat to national security back in the day.

Over here, any foolhardy souls contravening the Official Secrets Act could always face severe penalties, but so touchy were the security services during this period that the odd journalist would be plunged into hot water should they say certain things out loud. An infamous 1976 feature in ‘Time Out’ titled ‘The Eavesdroppers’ committed the cardinal sin of actually naming GCHQ at a time when even the existence of MI5 and MI6 was publicly denied; penned by British-based American journalist Mark Hosenball and Brit Duncan Campbell, the furore that followed saw both threatened with deportation on national security grounds, though only Hosenball was successfully forced to leave the country as a result of the article; Campbell instead suffered life under MI5 surveillance. During the Cold War, the ideological battle-lines were clearly drawn between East and West, but the ideological differences of the 21st century are less geographical and tend to share the same uneasy soil.

A Conservative commentator mainly active online – as are many in these days of increasingly partisan current affairs reporting within the MSM – Darren Grimes is not the most obvious candidate that springs to mind whenever one thinks of libertine radicals; but news was announced yesterday that our proudest bastion of fair-play policing, the Met, is investigating Mr Grimes on the grounds of ‘stirring up racial hatred’. I thought they got down on their knees before those guilty of such an offence? I must be mistaken. Anyway, this accusation stems from an infamous interview Grimes conducted with the reliably cantankerous and combative historian David Starkey at the height of BLM protests during the summer.

Already well-known for his outspoken opinions that perhaps often only seem so because everyone else in the public eye is either coached within an inch of their media lives or is mindful of damaging their career prospects, Starkey delights in provoking hostile responses, though even he may have come to regret some of the things said in the Grimes interview – albeit not as much as a star-struck Grimes may now be for not reining Starkey in a little and failing to challenge him once. Starkey’s punishment was to lose academic posts at Canterbury Christ Church University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge as well as his publishing contract with HarperCollins, whereas Grimes – who didn’t actually say anything ‘contentious’ during the interview – is now being summoned under caution by the Met to answer for his heinous crimes.

There are far more subtle ways and means of making a valid point about these troubled times than the glib, clumsy approach Starkey chose to take, but it would seem Grimes is more at fault for daring to air the interview warts-and-all. The official Scotland Yard statement reads, ‘On July 4 the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30. The matter is currently being investigated.’ Grimes’ response? ‘At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship,’ he said, ‘I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizen than by investigating this vexatious claim.’

What makes Grimes more vulnerable than he would have been way back when old-school ‘libertines’ invoked the ire of the establishment during the Cold War is that the battle-lines now aren’t between East and West or young and old or even left and right, but between those indoctrinated in the unforgiving segregationist dogma of Identity Politics – which our leading institutions are all completely in thrall to – and those who adhere to the archaic rule of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law. Under normal circumstances, the likes of reactionary posh-boy journo Toby Young would hardly be portrayed as a radical voice, but it’s a measure of how far we’ve moved from genuine fair-play that someone such as Young heads an undoubtedly necessary organisation like the Free Speech Union to intervene on Grimes’ behalf; as Young pointed out, are similar Met investigations being carried out into the Sky News presenter whose interview with rapper Wiley produced several anti-Semitic comments around the same time as the Starkey confrontation that proved so incendiary?

Of course, the establishment has always promoted the interests of the few over the many – usually because the establishment tends to comprise several similar groups sharing the same worldview, usually at odds with that of the many. We merely have a different set of ideological dos and don’ts governing that establishment in 2020 to the ones we had 40 or 50 years ago, and everything from airing common-sense truisms to outright provocation aimed at the establishment’s cherished value system is guaranteed to prompt reprisals in the current climate. It helps the establishment that the divisive polarisation of the culture wars means Darren Grimes will elicit little sympathy or support from those on the other side who, though they may regard themselves as opposed to any form of State censorship, will be extremely flexible if only ‘the enemy’ ever feels the full force of the establishment. But it doesn’t matter where your political allegiances are situated in a scenario such as this; assuming only the Darren Grimes’s of this world are liable for a Met investigation is a naive ostrich approach to what is a worrying and serious threat to free speech in this country. Think they’ll stop at him if they succeed? Dream on – and don’t forget to wear a mask while you do…forever.

© The Editor