Blow UpFour days tends to be the average maximum between posts on here, though I have nothing to really say today – nothing concerning the usual suspects, that is. I haven’t been sufficiently motivated by either Covid-related stuff or Identity Politics to compose a post since the last one; and that’s how it usually works – I never intentionally sit down and think ‘I must write something about coronavirus transgender racism.’ Whatever gets written usually just appears; it’s rarely premeditated, but I know when a post is on its way. Inspiration when it hits is a bit like seeing the Bat Signal in the sky; suddenly, without warning, it’s there and I spring into action. Well, when there is no Bat Signal hovering over Gotham City that’s generally when we get to the four-day mark. I can’t even default to my familiar standby of reviewing an obscure TV series from the 70s today, as I’m not currently watching one of them that I haven’t already written about on here. However, rather than this ending up being the shortest Telegram from the Winegum of all time, I shall instead ramble and meander a little, just as I sometimes do when I venture outdoors.

Of late, I’ve found ‘the walk’ that we were all encouraged to indulge in during Lockdown Mk. I (as a means of presumably preventing the nation from sinking into couch potato obesity) has become something I succumb to maybe just once a week, mainly because I’ve more or less been everywhere within walking distance now. I suppose I’m more amenable to the idea when it’s a nice day, naturally, and after a few drizzly and chilly interludes bearing a closer resemblance to October rather than August, the weather feels summery again. Therefore, today I decided to embark upon a stroll with no specific destination in mind; I did, however, find myself being drawn back to a location I’ve walked round several times this summer – the empty grounds of a nearby university campus. I say empty only in relation to its term-time tenants, for most students are obviously absent this time of year. Indeed, much like the hospital staff on the episode of ‘Yes Minister’ who don’t feel the need to fill their workplace with actual patients, I can’t help but note what pleasant places campuses are without students getting in the way.

With the majority of this particular campus having being built in the 19th century, it does have an easy-on-the-eye aesthetic appeal in terms of its architecture, and the vast expanse of greenery surrounding the buildings also adds to the ambience. The grounds border a public park, which means the whole site conjures the illusion of being somewhere a long way from an urban environment; the fact it’s not much more than ten minutes on foot from my front door proves that it’s a lot closer than the serene mirage suggests, however. What also plays its part in making this place such a pleasant spot to stroll through is the fact the absence of students reduces the noise levels. This time of year, the campus is like a benign vortex, a silent oasis that it’s hard to believe is just a stone’s throw from a ridiculously busy thoroughfare; living on said thoroughfare means most of the day the only sounds that penetrate my den are manmade: car engines, car horns, car alarms, in-car sound systems, and more than anything else, sirens – bloody sirens. I therefore notice it when I’m somewhere that has none of these sonic abortions, and the campus in question has none of them.

The phrase ‘Whispering Grass’ may evoke memories of Windsor Davies and Don Estelle if you’re of a certain age, but it also fits this place. That’s how lovely it is when all you can hear other than birdsong is the gentle ripple of the lawns in the breeze; what we would call silence can only really be referred to as such when it has something to be compared to; and when compared to the cacophony I’m accustomed to most days, this is silence. But, of course, it’s not silent; it’s merely softer than the norm, and it’s blissful. There are tennis courts in the grounds, but they’re all bolted up and packed away until the more sporty students return; there’s also a space that looks big enough to contain a fair-size football pitch, though the whispering grass there isn’t currently short enough for a proper kickabout and there’s no markings present; I suspect that’ll be attended to by September. That none of the areas catering for students into sporting pursuits are maintained as such when they’re away means these areas are amongst the most quiet and utterly deserted on campus. Anyone familiar with the scenes in seminal Swinging London movie ‘Blow-Up’ when David Hemmings’ photographer character wanders through an empty park without any dialogue or background music getting in the way will recognise just how striking the sound of ‘silence’ is; in fact, this part of the campus reminds me a lot of those scenes bar the bit where he finds the body in the bushes.

The only other people I tend to see out and about up there are either mothers with pushchairs and toddlers who are at that age when they want to walk rather than be pushed, or dog-walkers. I saw a walker with a six-strong pack a couple of weeks back and laughed to myself when I spotted the one dog that every pack has, the obstinate bloody-minded one in possession of selective deafness, the one who always drifts just that little bit too far from the rest, the one whose name is called out more than any of the others; he had a bell on his collar precisely for that reason, I guess. He also caught my eye on account of him being a miniature schnauzer, which happens to be one of my favourite pedigrees; this breed usually produces memorable characters and I used to know one who was indeed just that. It didn’t surprise me that the pooch in this pack stubbornly doing his own thing happened to be a miniature schnauzer.

A cartoon in the last issue of ‘Private Eye’ pictured a man walking a dog being asked by another man what breed it was, to which the dog-walker replied ‘Dunno, I only got him so I don’t look like a pervert when I’m down the park.’ I got the joke because it is true one can feel a tad self-conscious when walking through a park alone and without even a canine companion; I probably feel this more so because there have been times when I’ve had dogs and my presence in the park has therefore seemed ‘legit’. Bereft of a dog, I ordinarily wouldn’t be there, but ever since the first lockdown there’s been a greater impetus to be out for reasons other than simply shopping. That said, self-consciousness when one doesn’t have a dog matters less when strolling through a quiet campus; for all anyone knows, I could be a post-graduate drifter with no home to go back to – or even a slightly eccentric tutor.

There’s a definite out-of-season seaside town vibe to a campus in the summer, though I should imagine anyone else who ventures into this delightful vacuum in July and August will be as conscious as me that our little secret garden won’t be secret for much longer. Once the gates of academia are reopened, the character of the campus will inevitably alter and it’ll cease to be such a tranquil retreat till next summer. I feel a bit like Looby Loo, knowing she can only dance around when Andy Pandy and Teddy are elsewhere; the minute she hears them returning, her brief window of self-indulgence slams shut and she reverts to a lifeless ragdoll. Never having been a student myself, I’ve only understood the appeal of dreaming spires as I’ve matured; and though this campus isn’t Oxford, it nevertheless has a similar atmosphere I’m partial to, as long as it’s empty of students. Hope you didn’t mind this meander, by the way; I’ve never considered travel writing on account of not doing much in the way of travelling (bit of a hindrance, that), so this is as near as I’ll get for the moment.

© The Editor




It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time in the middle of the 1980s when all the artistic gains made in the name of 60s and 70s libertinism seemed in peril; we were on the cusp of a potential rewind back to the censorious era of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and the Hays Code. Channel 4, which has made its early 80s name as a fearless purveyor of ‘anything goes in the name of Art’, was a frontrunner in this sudden and abrupt reversal of attitudes when it introduced its red triangle season of films circa 1986. These were movies that nowadays wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) provoke outrage, but at the time appeared shocking even by the easygoing standards of a TV station that had promoted the brief usage of an expletive such as ‘frigging’ in a primetime soap opera (‘Brookside’). The fact that characters on soaps are generally the only people in Britain who never swear was something ‘Brookside’ momentarily challenged until it became as blandly unrealistic as the rest of them.

Channel 4’s red triangle season featured TV premieres for the likes of Derek Jarman’s Romanesque gay fantasy, ‘Sebastiane’, as well as Dennis Hopper’s ‘Out of the Blue’; for those who weren’t around, the red triangle in question would be a permanent fixture in the top left of the TV screen whilst the movie aired, which allegedly served as an early warning system for the unsuspecting viewer who might switch over from something less contentious on ITV or BBC1. Most of the films screened as part of the short-lived season weren’t that different in content from what had already been shown on Channel 4 – it had premiered the infamous Sex Pistols movie, ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, in 1985, for example; but the bizarre season can be seen in retrospect as a concession to the great moral backlash of the late Thatcher era, which also included Clause 28.

Back then, most of us watching thought that such unnecessary caution would be redundant by the time we reached the twenty-first century; we didn’t bank on our contemporaries raising children with so many layers of cotton wool wrapped around them that coming into contact with the classics by the time they reached university age would necessitate a revival of the same red triangle approach that Channel 4 had pioneered in the middle of the 80s. Lo and behold, however, the loathsome ‘trigger warnings’ have now even crept upon the works of one of England’s most revered wordsmiths like the kneejerk reorganization of the BBFC rules and regulations in the wake of the ‘Video Nasty’ moral panic of 35 years ago.

Apparently, students at Cambridge have been warned that certain masterpieces penned by an obscure playwright, name of William Shakespeare, might upset them; yes, the English lecture timetables have been marked with trigger warnings that take the shape of Ye Olde red triangle with accompanying exclamation marks. One play in particular has been singled out as specifically gory – and to be honest, it does read like the plot of an archetypal 80s Video Nasty in that a major female character is raped and then has her arms amputated by her rapists as well as having her tongue cut out.

Admittedly, ‘Titus Andronicus’ is a bit of a gore-fest, though is also one of the Bard’s most invigorating works, one in which the sibling perpetrators of the crime in question receive their just desserts by being baked in a pie that is then eaten by their mother. Elizabethan audiences were seemingly less squeamish than their equivalents 400 years later, perhaps because they didn’t question the eye-for-an-eye morality that was just as evident in the nursery rhymes they’d been raised on.

In defence, Cambridge University has claimed that such warnings are ‘at the lecturer’s own discretion’ and ‘not a faculty-wide policy’, though at the same time the esteemed academic establishment has admitted that ‘Any session containing material that could be deemed upsetting (and is not obvious from the title) is now marked with a symbol’. A representative from Derby University, Professor Dennis Hayes, commented ‘Once you get a few trigger warnings, lecturers will stop presenting anything that is controversial…gradually, there is no critical discussion.’ Critical discussion, for centuries a hallmark of university life, is now something to be avoided for fear of contaminating safe spaces. The impression given that universities today are akin to nurseries for mollycoddled adolescents who shirk from anything that contradicts the world as presented to them in infancy is hard to shake off when confronted by such ludicrous censorship; and if Shakespeare is fair game for the no-platform treatment, we really are f**ked.

The kind of guidelines familiar on the sleeves of DVDs now apparently apply to plays as well; if a sensitive seventeen-year-old objects to the content of something written by Shakespeare – and even the fastidious middle-aged Festival of Light brigade let the Bard off in the licentious 70s – chances are others will feel the need to be protected from centuries-old content that is hardly comparable to the kind of ‘adult’ material they’ve probably routinely scanned online. That ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been removed from some US school syllabuses on account of it being ‘uncomfortable’ is a classic example of illiterate idiots taking over the asylum; as some wag on Twitter pointed out in relation to the ‘uncomfortable’ factor in Harper Lee’s modern classic, ‘that’s the point’; but if even Shakespeare is targeted in this revisionist facelift, anybody seeking to say something about the here and now has no chance.

What that says about the world we live in, a world wherein British policemen are sent out wearing nail varnish to virtue-signal their stance against modern slavery when they’re in a better position to stamp out the practice than the rest of us, is profoundly depressing. But this be 2017 in the septic isle.

© The Editor


Better watch what you say in your comments today – disagree with me and I’ll be on the Hate Crime Hotline to PC PC; I’ll have you done for Petuniaphobia, and going by the new guidelines outlined by the Old Bill and their comrades-in-compassion the Clown Prosecution Service, anything can be interpreted as online abuse. Much as some find ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ the funniest thing since sliced Del Boys whilst others would rather be trapped in a lift with Kelvin McKenzie than watch it, definitions of what constitutes a cyber Hate Crime are subjective. Latest statistics reveal the CPS successfully prosecuted over 15,000 ‘Hate Crime incidents’ in 2015-16, though the Hate Crime category is so wide-ranging that it can encompass everything from a long-running vicious vendetta in which death threats are regularly tossed about to the guy who made a joke YT video whereby he manipulated his girlfriend’s dog into making a Hitler salute.

The latter not only highlights the ludicrousness of criminalising comedy (see Paul Gascoigne), but also seems to tie-in with the concerted clampdown on free speech that is well in advance of us on the other side of the Atlantic. An intended free speech rally in Boston at the weekend was gatecrashed by thousands of so-called ‘anti-fascist’ protestors, including the masked left-wing anarchists who go by the name of Antifa; following the heaven-sent Twitter comments of Mr President in response to the trouble in Charlottesville the week before, I wonder if the Donald pointed out that the violence this time round emanated not from both sides, but just the one – i.e. the anti-fascists?

Amongst numerous tasteless tactics in evidence was hijacking the death of Heather Heyer – the one fatality of the drive-in at Charlottesville; the protestors half-inched her image in the same way some here exploited the murder of Jo Cox for their own loathsome ends last year. Now the ‘movement’ has its first martyr, and even the picture of Heyer which was worn like a piece of corporate protest merchandise had a distinct look of the airbrushed Che Guevara photo that was de rigueur for late 60s student bedsits. Whatever she may have been in life, Heather Heyer has now been immortalised as a brand name for the Alt Left. Her family must be so proud.

The rally itself was intended to be unashamedly conservative with a small ‘c’, though everyone attending was naturally labelled ‘white supremacist/KKK/racist’ etc. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; there’s no moderate middle ground in this New World Order. And the world that existed before it actually didn’t exist at all; remove all physical traces of it and it never happened; get Google in on the act and cyberspace follows suit. Simple Ministry of Truth principles apply today. The intolerant McCarthyism of the SJWs has already polluted US campuses and rendered them uncomfortably reminiscent of Chinese universities during the Cultural Revolution, and this mindset has now spilled over into so many facets of American life that anyone daring to lift their head above the PC parapet is shot down in a way that would constitute a Hate Crime were it the other way round.

Back in Blighty, a naive notion of equality whereby cultural, racial and sexual differences are deemed an unnecessary weapon of division is the mantra of the moment, whereas the accompanying word is ‘fluidity’. Schools now generate the fallacy that we’re all the same – something that extends to the school sports day, whereby everyone who competes receives equal billing. Of course, the quality of education a child receives still being dependent on whether or not its parents can afford to pay for the best makes a mockery of this philosophy; and outlawing competition amongst pupils hardly prepares them for the world beyond the playground when it remains a crucial element of the rat-race. Parents that have repeatedly told their offspring how special they are have had such praise reinforced by teachers, yet the insulated Telly Tubby Land these pampered potentates are eventually released from is hardly the ideal training camp for the absence of gormless optimism that awaits them.

As recent as four or five years ago, I would’ve regarded myself as very much on the left, and while I’m a long way from the right (I remain contemptuous of IDS and Gideon), I do feel somewhat stranded at the moment – a bit like one of those athletes in the Olympics who fly under no flag. Politically, I’m stateless. The humourless, censorious finger-wagging serial banners that have taken control of the left are to me no different from the Whitehouse/Muggeridge/Longford collective that once operated from a similar standpoint on the right. It matters not to me which side of the political divide these attitudes inhabit; they go against so many of my core beliefs, and if it is the left that currently exercise these restrictions of freedom of thought and speech, f**k ‘em. I reserve the right to criticise whoever I want to, whichever party of whichever colour they represent. And I can do that without resorting to name-calling Hate Crime.

One of the unfortunate offshoots of being told what one cannot think or say is that it creates a vacuum for rational and sensible debate, one that is then filled by the egotistical gobshites and professional contrarians who love the sound of their own voices – the kind that don’t possess the intelligence or humour of a Christopher Hitchens. As these are then perceived as the only ones who express an alternative opinion to the consensus, anyone who harbours an alternative is inevitably lumped in with them. I detest Hopkins as much as I detest Abbott, so where do I go? I may have voted Lib Dem at the last two General Elections, but that was for a decent constituency MP rather than any party allegiance, and Old Mother Cable carping on about a rerun of the EU Referendum is about as relevant to me today as calling for a repeal of the Corn Laws.

Equality cuts both ways; it doesn’t mean usurping those who kept minorities oppressed and then oppressing the usurped. It should mean everyone – whatever their political persuasion – being on a level playing field and all voices being heard. But, politically, it doesn’t work that way anymore than the Tsar being ultimately superseded by Stalin meant the Romanov’s palaces were burned to the ground and the ruling class of Bolsheviks set up home in a community of garden sheds. The aphrodisiac of power is as appealing to those who don’t have it as those reluctant to let it go; and I’ll still be out in the wilderness whichever side grabs it. In 2017, however, I think the wilderness is the most interesting place to be.

© The Editor


Howard KirkA plotline running through ‘The History Man’, Malcolm Bradbury’s celebrated satire of 70s campus politics (both social and sexual), involves characteristic mischievousness on the part of the novel’s anti-hero, the promiscuous lecturer Howard Kirk, who spreads a rumour that an infamous eugenicist has been invited to speak at the university; this purely invented grenade that Kirk tosses into the lap of the lefty student activists who view him as being on their side sparks vociferous demonstrations that lead to the oblivious guest speaker receiving an early example of the ‘no platform’ treatment. Bradbury’s 1975 book accurately parodies the hypocrisy of the era in which it is set, both in the character of Kirk and in the advocates of campus free speech who believe the currency of speech only comes free if it mirrors their own opinions. Funny how we appear to have come full circle forty years on.

‘Power to the People’ was not only one of the rare memorable songs produced by John Lennon during his brief political phase in the early 70s, but it was also a buzzword of student activism during the same period. When the People had the opportunity to exercise the one democratic power at their disposal, however, few opted for the Marxist model promoted by the students whose very place at university was thanks to genuine Socialism at work via the post-war Attlee Government. If they had, Ted Heath wouldn’t have been elected PM at the peak of the sit-ins and demos that came to characterise the popular image of student politics at the time.

Four decades later, students possessed by a placard fetish have found a new cause over the past week or so – the result of another democratic exercise on the part of ‘the People’ that hasn’t chimed with their own point of view. They’re extremely angry and they will scream and scream and scream until they get what they want. It worked on their parents when they were children, because those parents caved-in to their every demand – unlike the parent/child relationship endured by the students depicted in ‘The History Man’, who no doubt received a clout round the ear-hole whenever they acted like spoiled brats. Perhaps that’s why that generation decided on a different approach to parenting once they graduated and grew up; and look what that has left us with.

The closing caption in the final scene of the superb 1981 BBC TV adaptation of ‘The History Man’ exposes Howard Kirk’s true colours when it reveals he voted Conservative at the 1979 General Election; I suspect Howard Kirk also voted Leave in the EU Referendum, for he would now belong to the age-group that has been portrayed as the assassins of Yoof in the wake of Brexit. Despite the fact that the baby-boomers, along with tweedy Tories from the Shires and BNP/Britain First white-trash stereotypes, couldn’t have swung the result without the same decision being made by millions who don’t fall into any of the camps carrying the can, they have been singled out as responsible for condemning a generation unaccustomed to not getting their own way to perceived oblivion.

Of course, there are far wider representatives of this generation, ones who can’t afford higher education anymore than their parents can afford to fund it, and their voices have been conveniently silenced by the gap-year backpackers who shout louder than anyone else. To assume everyone under the age of 30 is out on the streets demanding the Referendum result be reversed is to ignore those twenty-somethings denied the luxury of sponging off the savings of their parents, the ones struggling to make ends meet in minimum-wage dead-end jobs without the safety net of mummy and daddy to fall back on when debts need honouring.

It is amusing how the EU has been embraced so passionately by this particular social demographic, adopting the flag as their Facebook profile picture and painting their faces in it for the obligatory demo. Yet, when questioned in vox pops on the street, their actual knowledge of the institution is embarrassingly limited, bordering on nonexistent. The EU has suddenly become a ‘cause’, and like every T-shirt subject to the vagaries of fashion, it’s only a matter of time before it’s replaced by some other hash-tag fad. Declaring the older generation have robbed them of a future or swearing to never again give up their seat on the bus to a pensioner are the reactions of political virgins and/or the ignorant. They have been raised in a blame culture as well as one in which victimhood is chic, so now they can kill two old birds with one young stone rather than questioning why so many of them decided not to exercise their democratic right by actually voting.

Ironically, voting Leave was a far more dangerous and radical move than preserving the status quo, yet it’s perhaps apt that the genuine anarchy the decision could unleash is the consequence not of the faux-radicals waving their silly placards and stamping their feet, those conservatives with a small ‘c’ who believe the communal uniform of piercings, tattoos and unnaturally coloured hair somehow signifies radicalism, but their parents, grandparents and less-privileged contemporaries. Not that they would ever accept this from the womb-like safe space of their cosy echo chamber; they simply respond to being caught out as all children do, by name-calling, finger-pointing and crying. If, as has been reported, some Leave-voters now regret their decision, there must be just as many Remain-voters watching this pitiful festival of sour grapes and wishing they’d gone Brexit after all.

© The Editor


IsraelWell, at least all the right boxes have been ticked now. The election of Malia Bouattia as the new President of the National Union of Students is the perfect appointment. Female – tick; black – tick; Muslim – tick; Pro-Palestine – tick; Anti-Semitic – tick. Whoops, slight error there; I meant to say Anti-Zionist, which has nothing remotely to do with Anti-Semitism, of course. It’s cool to be Anti-Zionist, just as it apparently is in some circles to be pro-ISIS; not that I’m suggesting Ms Bouattia is, naturally. It’s just that publicly rejecting a motion put forward by her fellow students two years ago to condemn ISIS activities does suggest she’s not entirely opposed to the methods some adopt to cope with the ‘Zionist’ problem.

Funnily enough, I once had an ‘uncle’ (one of those non-blood relatives families used to attach that title to) who had been an officer in the Palestine Police when the country was under its guise as the British Mandate of Palestine, something it became following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War. The exit of the British from a state in which Jews and Arabs had co-existed in relative harmony for centuries to make way for the foundation of Israel in 1948 was not one of this nation’s proudest colonial retreats, but it seemed as though keeping the peace was more trouble than it was worth, as proved to be the case in Cyprus, another sectarian powder-keg, a decade later.

There was an organised Arab revolt in 1936-39 and this was followed by wartime and post-war increases in Jewish – or Zionist – terrorism. Both camps knew the modern state of Israel would be an eventuality, proposed as far back as 1917, and a tussle for control began long before Israel came into being.

The understandable post-war displacement of those European Jews who had survived the Holocaust presented the British authorities in Palestine with a refugee crisis, the symptoms of which are all-too familiar today. American President Harry S Truman intensified the pressure on Palestine to admit 100,000 Jews, yet the British were acutely aware of the potential dangers of flooding a small landmass with so many people representing one of the two dominant religions in the region and upheld an immigration ban despite world opinion. Violent Jewish reprisals followed, and the years 1944-48 were the height of Zionist terrorist incidents in Palestine, something the British forces present were unsurprisingly at the receiving end of, including my Uncle Joe.

The bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which served as the British HQ in Palestine, in 1946 resulted in a death toll of 92. Perhaps first-hand experience of such an incident was to shape my Uncle Joe’s undeniable Anti-Semitic opinions, the most extreme example of which was one he aired during my childhood, that those Jews who had died in the Holocaust deserved it. Not that such an opinion can be in any way justified, but it’s easy to see why he might harbour a grudge, fishing the corpses of his comrades from the rubble of the King David Hotel.

Somewhere, I still have his badge from the Palestine Police, given to me when I was far too young to realise what it represented; I’m still not quite sure what it does represent.

The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was set up after the war to look into the problem of Palestine and came to the conclusion that the country should not be either an exclusively Arab or exclusively Jewish state. President Truman wouldn’t acknowledge the committee’s recommendations and pressed on with calling for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees, something the British knew would lead to another Arab revolt. When the British requested US troops to prevent this from happening, the Americans baulked and the Brits decided to wash their hands of the problem by announcing the hasty termination of Mandatory Palestine and leaving it up to the United Nations to come up with a solution. The UN conclusion was to establish separate Arab and Jewish states, effectively partitioning the country.

Palestinian Arabs rejected the proposals, scheduled to take place the moment the British departed, with the Arab League threatening military opposition to the plan; and though the British reluctantly accepted it, they refused to enforce it as they regarded it as unfavourable to the Arab population. Zionist terrorist atrocities had turned British opinion against the Jewish cause, and the Brits declined to oversee the transitional period alongside the UN Palestine Commission, preferring to cut and run. Remarkably, the proposed partition was also opposed by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, though his was a lone voice amidst majority Jewish rejoicing.

On the eve of Israel’s birth, a civil war erupted in Palestine that the British again felt the full force of. This conflict accelerated the exit of the British and made the end of Mandatory Palestine something that couldn’t come soon enough for many in this country. As British rule rapidly broke down, Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion declared the state of Israel had been born, even though this declaration was unrecognised by surrounding Arab nations. The Palestine Mandate officially ended on 15 May 1948, bringing the curtain down on a thirty-year period in which the British had tried and failed to do what the Ottomans had succeeded in doing for far longer. And it’s fair to say the situation has never been resolved since.

The Palestinian ‘cause’ over the last seventy years has become a cause célèbre for every generation of would-be revolutionaries and right-on rebels; it shouldn’t instinctively lead to Anti-Semitic sentiments, though it has a habit of doing so, especially where those whose knowledge of its history is derived less from actual experience of its realities and more from propaganda garnered from the insulated cocoon of the demo and the debating society. That the new NUS President regards Middle East peace talks as ‘strengthening the colonial project’ highlights the fact that this dead-end is set to continue.

VICTORIA WOOD (1953-2016)

vlcsnap-2016-04-20-18h50m15s93Not acknowledging every notable passing on here has become necessary this year in order to prevent the blog being a permanent roll-call of celebrity obituaries. The death of Victoria Wood from cancer at the age of 62, however, I feel is worth noting. At the height of the Alternative Comedy craze in the middle of the 80s, she was something of a curious anomaly. Her BBC2 series of the time, ‘Victoria Wood As Seen on TV’, didn’t naturally sit alongside the likes of ‘The Young Ones’, but the fact it was positioned outside of the zeitgeist has given some aspects of it, particularly the superb soap parody ‘Acorn Antiques’, a timeless appeal on a par with Morecambe and Wise.

Wood had gained her first break on ATV’s 1970s talent show ‘New Faces’, though there wasn’t really a suitable vehicle for her talents until she linked up with actress Julie Walters in the late 70s, eventually resulting in an early Channel 4 cult comedy, ‘Wood and Walters’. This in turn took her to the BBC, where she finally had free rein to showcase her superlative comic writing and performing on a mainstream platform. Wood was unique at the time for eschewing confrontational and politically-themed comedy and instead focused her affectionate, subtle satire on (for want of a better word) the little people.

Gradually branching out into the more conventional sitcom world as well as straight acting, Victoria Wood didn’t belong to any comedy movement or any specific moment in comedy history; that she was one of the first women comedians on British TV to headline and write her own show tends to be overlooked because she was never ‘in-yer-face’; but it’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten. And one could argue the likes of Jo Brand, Catherine Tate and Tracy Ullman are in debt to her little-trumpeted trailblazing.

© The Editor


10608805_10202737948915124_1079367735_n[1] - CopyThough I’ve never subscribed to the opinion myself, there have long been some for whom Stephen Fry is viewed as a slightly smug PC luvvie and leading light in the so-called ‘gay mafia’ media establishment, beloved by certain sections of the left for his anti-Tory sentiments and endorsement of atheism, beloved by certain sections of the right for his embrace of old-school aristocratic tweeds, gentleman’s clubs and Shakespeare. For me, what Stephen Fry has always represented is a continuation of the subversive posh bloke within comedy, something that was pioneered by the likes of Peter Cook and Graham Chapman.

‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ was far more radical than ‘The Young Ones’ because it could sneak anything under the light entertainment radar on account of the surface safeness of two Oxbridge boys with the diction of cricket commentators. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie weren’t middle-class drop-outs slumming it with the common people by being overtly crude and self-consciously plebeian; it would have been far easier to have taken the Ben Elton route, but they instinctively tapped into what had made the Ministry of Silly Walks so funny – taking the most humourless, strait-laced elements of quintessentially English upper-class respectability and turning them on their heads.

Fry won further points with me for his TV series of a decade ago, ‘The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’, especially when this seemingly confident household name allowed himself to be captured on camera languishing in a depressive episode of wretched self-loathing. For anyone without Fry’s celebrity status who had been there, it was curiously encouraging to witness it happening to someone who had achieved so much within his chosen field, highlighting the fact that depression doesn’t recognise wealth and success any more than it recognises penury and failure. After a groundbreaking series addressing a major taboo and the ongoing marathon of ‘QI’, Fry’s position as that most overused of labels, a National Treasure, seemed secure. And then he had the temerity to say what so few beyond the blog and the twittersphere dare.

During the period when Paul Gambaccini was on permanent police bail while the Met desperately dug up every little bit of dirt they could to justify their persecution of a prominent media voice, Stephen Fry criticised the police tactics on TV. A cynic might say what happened to Gambo had been happening to both the once-famous and the un-famous for a long time without anyone speaking out against it, and alternative opinions were only being belatedly aired due to a respected broadcaster being the latest target of a witch-hunt that was already two or three years into its reign of terror. But that the likes of Stephen Fry should question the wisdom of the inquisition was a sign that it had reached such ludicrous proportions that it now warranted an overdue critique from a personality with considerable clout. Broadsheet columnists quickly followed suit and finally enabled the subject to be debated in a wider public arena without those asking salient points being branded witches as they did so.

Stephen Fry has now voiced the concerns many have been discussing online for months regarding regressive left censorship, particularly on British campuses. The generation of narcissistic little Hitler’s who are currently reversing the time-honoured traditions of universities as cradles of free speech and debate as they seek to impose their increasingly illogical and obsessive declarations of offence upon any perceived symbol of repression need to be stood up to. As their bullying, fascistic tactics are causing spineless university governors to crumble in the face of relentless intimidation that is labelling anything that veers from their cotton wool-wrapped infantile vision as ‘offensive’, more respected voices that carry some weight in media circles have to speak out against this insane tide of fanatical secular Puritanism. Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell have already fallen foul of an Orwellian army who recently proclaimed white gay men as another social demographic to be branded an enemy, and as one of the country’s most notable white gay men, Stephen Fry was probably in their no-platform sights even before he had the nerve to condemn their Stasi-like policing of what can and can’t be said.

Fry has rightly honed in on the immature spoilt-brat nature of this wave of censorious foot-stamping and its social media Rottweilers haven’t wasted any time in attacking his (add the appropriate prefix to ‘phobic’) assault on their totalitarian plans for a new world order. As with the Paedogeddon witch-hunt before it, this latest curb on the freedom to express a personal opinion contrary to the consensus has now got seriously out of control and requires people to stand up and be counted without fear of online reprisals. That Stephen Fry has done so is to his credit and gives hope to those of us who are observing events from the outside without his platform…or no.

© The Editor


‘To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life’ – Cecil Rhodes.

23On one hand, this quote by one of the great Victorian empire-builders could be seen as an affirmation of imperial supremacy; on the other, it could be seen as a celebration of certain democratic liberties that enable the British to question the status quo, fight for their rights and embrace free speech without fear of imprisonment, contrary to many European nations in the nineteenth century. Two-hundred years on, a western sense of democracy that Britain has always regarded as one its great international exports has once again been implemented into societies with no previous history of it, but the consequences of this implementation have been pretty disastrous.

Sticking the colonial flag in a foreign field and establishing the same political and social structures of the mother country, run by trained ex-pats from the mother country itself, is one thing; imposing such structures and then expecting natives with no prior experience to make them into a success independently is different. The naive failings at the heart of twenty-first century colonialism have spawned an extreme antidote that has stretched much further than the Mau-Mau ever managed.

Intolerance of anyone who doesn’t share their nihilistic worldview and of symbols representing the old order has become a hallmark of ISIS or whatever the media chooses to call them today – and labelling them a Death Cult isn’t going to strike much fear into western hearts, especially those who recall the early 80s Goth band by the same name. ISIS don’t merely declare war on the west; they also declare war on their own religion, seeing their interpretation of Muhammad’s preaching as purer than the rest, as though each different branch of Islam was a soap powder and the ISIS brand washes whiter. To prove this, they behead their perceived enemies and also destroy the monuments erected to Islam in a more enlightened past. And to criticise that faith in any medium is regarded as the signing of one’s own death warrant. Speech isn’t free; it costs – and the price is life itself.

Bar the beheading bit, all of this resembles another crypto-fascist crusade taking place at the moment, one that would be horrified by the comparisons whilst simultaneously reinforcing them. Just as the far-left and the far-right have more in common with each other than the moderate wings of their respective ideologies, ISIS share a kinship with the secular militant Puritans currently polluting the campuses of this country and those across the pond (not to mention certain corners of the Labour party), indoctrinating a generation with intolerant fanaticism.

When Muhammad Ali addressed a gathering of the Ku-Klux Klan in the 60s as a Nation of Islam representative, his presence wasn’t as incongruous as it might seem; both extreme groups shared the belief that black and white should lead separate lives. Both ISIS and the nameless coalition of blinkered Feminazis and ultra-PC serial censors that devote their time to being permanently offended are united in their aim to destroy the democratic right of free speech, free thought and free opinion.

ISIS regard homosexuality as an abomination; the Puritans regard heterosexuality as an abomination. ISIS attack anyone who dares to disagree with their brand of Islam; the Puritans attack anyone who dares to disagree with their demands on behalf of everyone who isn’t a straight white male. An ISIS aim is to eradicate evidence of a past that promotes a different perspective on Islam; a Puritan aim is to eradicate evidence of a past that promotes a different perspective on democracy. ISIS would rather resort to the blade and the bomb than negotiate with the enemy; the Puritans would rather resort to online vendettas than negotiate with the enemy. ISIS create a climate in which everyone is afraid to criticise the Koran; the Puritans create a climate in which everyone is afraid to criticise any non-white, non-male individual or ‘community’. ISIS monopolise public perception of Islam so that anyone who questions it is in bed with Donald Trump; the Puritans monopolise public perception of liberalism so that anyone who questions it is in bed with Donald Trump. ISIS exploit the political naivety and limited life experience of their recruits; the Puritans exploit the political naivety and limited life experience of their recruits. ISIS infantilise their followers by inspiring a childlike slavish devotion to a celestial father figure and promising a Paradise abundant with virgins; the Puritans infantilise their followers by inspiring a childlike inability to cope with an opposing opinion and promise panic rooms to recover from taking offence. Both absolve their disciples from adult responsibility and the ability to utilise reason by inculcating an unswerving belief that their actions are justifiable because opposition is wrong.

The current target for Oxford wing of the secular militant Puritans is Cecil Rhodes. Yes, that’s right – someone who’s been dead for almost 114 years. There clearly aren’t enough living and breathing ‘villains’ around to get angry about today. The Puritans see Rhodes as embodying everything they find offensive, an old-school imperialist at the vanguard of the British Empire; a man of his time whose beliefs are at odds with contemporary thinking, as could be said of most that made their mark in previous centuries. In other words, an utterly irrelevant objection. They have honed in on a statue of Rhodes and a plaque dedicated to the man who bequeathed the majority of his estate to Oxford University and established the Rhodes scholarship, something many students from former colonies have benefitted from. They want both removed because they find them offensive, just as ISIS want all historic monuments to Islam removed.

This isn’t necessarily new. I recall attacks on a statue of Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris in the 80s, made by those who hadn’t lived through six years of war and had no concept of what the Luftwaffe had done to this country’s major metropolises and the people who lived in them; my great-grandmother, then in her 90s, responded to the graffiti sprayed over the head of RAF Bomber Command’s statue with barely-concealed contempt. Harris died as late as 1984, whereas Rhodes is a man nobody alive today will have known.

If we’re going to start taking offence at statues of long-dead men because their outlook doesn’t square with contemporary mores, then why not remove statues of Washington or Jefferson, early US Presidents who made a handsome profit from plantations manned by slaves? Where does one stop and how far back does one go? Ask ISIS; they took offence at the ancient antiquities of Nimrud and destroyed them. Best keep an eye on Stonehenge, then; those scum druids sacrificed innocent women, children and transgender eunuchs, so why are we still allowing the scene of their offensive crimes to stand?

Residing in a perpetual present, where there is nothing remaining from the past to offend or upset that present and where language, thought and behaviour are all subject to stringent monitoring, seriously undermines the prospect of a future in which mankind can progress and develop as it always has done bar those moments when it is overwhelmed by dark forces. After all, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

© The Editor