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Month: October 2009

I’m all in favour of collective bargaining, and can understand the principles behind the Royal Mail dispute. However, isn’t striking at the height of a recession to maintain existing working terms, when countless thousands of jobless would happily accept the inferior terms on offer, bordering on the suicidal?

When so many high-profile child abuse cases are in the news, it’s sometimes hard for one to stand out, but this one manages it. Being so used to reading and hearing of terrible acts of inhumanity, I find my visceral reactions to situations like these increasingly rare. Rationally and logically, I abhor and condemn the acts, but it takes a lot to make me feel physically sick, as I did reading that report.

And yet in that terrible catalogue of events, there is a glimmer of hope, decency and humanity. The mother of one of the victims is quoted as saying: “[F]or those involved in paedophile behaviour to identify it in themselves and know where to seek help, society must be prepared to discuss this issue. We need to allow an openness within society of where to seek help, just as alcoholics go to AA and gamblers go to GA. Clearly the protection of children must take precedence, but if individuals could have been stopped or deterred, we as a family may not have found ourselves in this situation.”

I think this might be the bravest thing that anyone in the public eye has said for quite some time. Prevention is always better than cure, and prevention need not mean the extermination of all paedophiles or bricks through windows. Unfortunately, we won’t know what it does mean until we have the openness that this mother requests, and are able to find out exactly what compels paedophiles. Only then can the problem be managed effectively. If this were being said by a social worker or someone else with a need to maintain professional detachment, it would be easy for the ‘condemn first, don’t bother to ask questions later’ lobby to dismiss. However, it’s coming from a woman whose child was subjected to vile, awful acts of abuse by men she trusted to care for her child. Everybody should be listening to her right now.

Just seen some rough clips on BBC News. Dimbleby on stunning form. First question about the BNP’s adoption of Churchill. Griffin concludes his case for Churchill’s natural home being in the BNP with a snide dig at Jack Straw, talking about his own father’s WW2 service versus Straw’s father being a conchie. Dimbleby – nobody’s idea of a Trot – straight in: “What relevance does that have on the question?” (doubtless thinking “If you want to play that game, matey, my father was one of the first Allied personnel into Belsen after the liberation“). Griffin restates the slur. Dimbleby restates the question. Clip cuts off. Later, Griffin responds to suggestions that he said “Thank you, Auntie” with a statement that he doesn’t regard the BBC as Auntie, but instead as part of “nasty, ultra-leftist establishment” that is the enemy of Englishness. The response is pure tumbleweed. If the clips are representative, Griffin gets hung out to dry in the fairest possible manner. The British way, if you like.

Roll up for the first must-see Question Time since Ian Hislop ripped Mary Archer a new arsehole in 2002. As a man of the left, I have to say that Peter Hain’s posturing has done nobody on the liberal side of the equation any favours. I suppose the protest had to be made, in full knowledge that it would be rejected by the BBC Trust, and I’m just grateful that it was made by the risible Hain rather than anybody I respect. Attempting to silence the enemies of understanding aids their cause (which can also be taken as a comment on the Jan Moir situation).

Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting. If sparks fly, it’ll be worth seeing whence they come and where they go. If it’s dull and polite, that will be interesting in itself, as it’s the least likely outcome. I’ll be there with popcorn, a tumbler of something cheering and a big pile of cushions to throw at the TV.

For what it’s worth, Griffin got a laugh out of me on the radio news the other day, defending the party’s decision to use images of a Supermarine Spitfire on its literature. Some said it was an attempt to ally the BNP with our brave boys and girls in the public perception. Griffin said it was merely an emblem of the defeat of European dictatorships. What, Nick? Fascist dictatorships, you mean? The biggest laugh of all, however, came when it was reported that the pictured Spitfire was from the RAF’s celebrated 303 Squadron. That was the one composed entirely of the immigrant Polish airmen who came over to our side just before the Nazis occupied France.

UPDATE: Another laugh. After years at Teddington, TV Burp is now recorded at BBC Television Centre, and this week’s is being done tonight at roughly the same time as The Jack and Shite Minstrel Show. Question Time is good, but so’s TV Burp. Which is better? There’s only one way to find out…

So farewell, then, Ludovic Kennedy. Quite apart from being a television heavyweight from the golden age of current affairs, he was also a campaigning, crusading man of principle, whose book 10 Rillington Place led pretty much directly to the pardoning of Timothy Evans. He could do funny too, as his cameo in Yes Minister and his partnership with Peter Cook on A Life in Pieces proved.

Who’s the callow youth with the lovely Cleo Rocos’ arms draped around him? Its me, over a decade ago, in my early days as a hack on Publishing News, at the launch of her book Bananas Forever. Tony Mulliken of Midas PR was masterminding the publicity for the book, and, in an unguarded moment, I let slip to him my enormous regard for the late Maurice Cole and my profound love for his glamorous sidekick. Tony took great delight in introducing me to my heroine, who turned out to be every bit as smashing and pleasant as you’d expect. Although I was covering the launch for PN’s diary column, and was thus expected to merge into the background (as if that were possible with a foghorn voice like mine) and note down vaguely amusing occurrences, as well as taking pictures, rather than appearing in them. Tony, being Tony, however, said something like “Oi, make love to the camera, the pair of you”, at which she flung her arms around me, while I tried not to look like someone who’d just been grabbed bodily by a woman he’d quietly adored for years. Anyway, I found it on an old hard drive the other day and thought it would be fun to share. I know it’s the visual equivalent of an appalling name-drop, but it cheered me up when I saw it. I bumped into Cleo on several occasions after this at various launches and beanos, not to mention wandering around Fitzrovia, where I worked and I believe she lived, and she always made a point of saying hello. She was then and, I suspect, still is, just a delightful person.

Note well, I will be on BBC Radio Norfolk this afternoon just after 2pm, talking archive TV with the excellent Stephen Bumfrey, talking being the one thing I can still do largely unhindered. Broadcasting under the influence of co-codamol. Hmmm, let’s see how that works. Anyway, the whole affair is part of my campaign to take over whatever fragments of the frequency spectrum Iain Dale isn’t using at any given time. Today, Radio Norfolk. Tomorrow, the worl…ah, more likely Radio Suffolk. Still, it’s a start.

Ben Miller’s Radio 2 thing about Benny Hill is in my current queue of things to be listened to, and it will be interesting to see how it views Hill’s demise. The more I think about it, especially since a particularly thought provoking email on the subject from Matt Rudd, his worst crime was sticking with producer Dennis Kirkland for so long. Dennis was the perfect producer for him at one time, but not by 1989. I met Dennis once, and liked him enormously, but by the end of their association, his idea of what Hill should be doing had become outmoded. His continued belief in its validity can be seen in the shows he made at Central in the mid-1990s with Freddie Starr, which are latter-day Benny Hill shows in all but name.

I don’t think it’s madness to suggest that someone like Geoff Posner or Alan Nixon could have taken over and reinvented him. He was still a very capable comic performer, let down simply by material and format. The main sticking point would have been Hill’s neediness. Throughout his career, he needed reassurance and molly-coddling from his producers. According to Brian Tesler, studio tapes of Hill’s early shows are notable for the number of times when Hill stops and calls out for Philip Jones. The likes of Posner and Nixon would have understood and been able to supply that level of care, undoubtedly, but whether Hill would have trusted them is another matter. It’s an imponderable that nonetheless remains worth pondering.

Of course, had he lived even five years longer he’d have had the full wanky student ironic veneration treatment, for what that’s worth. Let’s not forget, though, his best stuff – the BBC shows and the earlier Thames shows – is top-notch TV comedy.

There’s a slightly strange sub-plot to all this arm business. Pretty much everybody who’s examined me at close quarters over the last fortnight or so, has observed what splendid working order the rest of me is in. This morning, a very nice physiotherapist reassured me that my good arm was so flexible that, when fully healed, even with a reduced range of motion, my right arm should be not that far off most people’s range of motion. This specialist in the hospital offered me stronger painkillers, expressing amazement that I was chugging along on the mild ones. I am lead, therefore, to conclude that I am a strong and healthy person.

Why, then, did the Neanderthal cunts who taught PE at school spend my formative years telling me I wasn’t, just because I couldn’t get excited about kicking a ball around? I wasn’t lazy, I wasn’t averse to exercise. By the time I was in the 4th form, I was cycling the 8-mile round trip to and from school daily on my 10-speed Falcon Rapier (or Falcon Rapist, as it inevitably became known). I just couldn’t see the point in what they were offering. If they told me to put on hiking boots rather than football boots, and let me go walking for the duration of the games period, I’d have been out of their hair and getting good valuable exercise in a manner that did not seem wholly futile.

I can only hope that physical education in schools has changed for the better in the intervening 20-25 years.