Why Should We Listen to Benedict Cumberbatch on Syrian Refugees?

Come to that, I wish all luvvies would just shut up and do what they’re supposed to do – in other words, act.

Simon Schama’s powerfully cogent argument on Question Time the other week, where he explained that if you don’t want to house them all in your guest bedroom you’re basically a Nazi — I thought I might pay the scalps a couple of hundred quid or so to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet at the Barbican.

Apparently the really exciting bit isn’t anything he does as the Dane but rather Shakespeare’s rarely performed postscript where Hamlet comes back to life in the terrifying form of a preening, hectoring Old Harrovian luvvie to berate the groundlings for their uncaringness. ‘A pox on the politicians!’ this apparition is wont to declare, more frightful than anything glimpsed earlier on the battlements of Elsinore. And even if you didn’t have a strong view before on those Syrians, you will by the time the collection bucket is rattled menacingly beneath your nose. Simply seeing Cumberbatch, all quavery and exquisitely modulated and indignant, is enough to dispense any doubt. As Homer Simpson almost once said: ‘Luvvies. Is there anything they don’t know?’

Well I can answer that. No there isn’t. I’ve learned from the newspapers, from the TV and social media that there’s not a single problem in the world, great or small, for which the luvvies don’t have the definitive answer.

Ever been struck by the fact that from Jane Austen adaptations to Poldark to Pointless, there aren’t nearly enough black and ethnic minority characters on TV? Well you’re bloody right. Former New Faces and Tiswas star Sir Lenny Henry says so. And it’s not about ‘tokenism’, God no. It’s simply about ‘driving up quality’.

What about ‘ravishing’ — is that a world we should still use? Not according to highly principled linguistic arbiter and sometime Scottish comic Frankie Boyle. He has been looking into its root derivation and was appalled by what he discovered: it’s a bit ‘rapey’, he once warned his nearly two million Twitter followers.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic? ‘A monumental act of selfishness and greed,’ says Emma Thompson — and she should know: she once played Harriet Pringle in the BBC TV adaption of Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War. Opposite Kenneth Branagh no less.

Fracking? Only the worst thing ever. Just ask the experts, like Dame Vivienne Westwood, who thought up the genius idea of putting safety pins and lots of extra zips, accessorised with dog collars, on outfits worn by people like Sid Vicious in the late 1970s.

Women’s pay inequality? An absolute blooming disgrace. Never mind the fact that in the West, women below the age of 40 are on absolute wage parity with their male counterparts — Emma Watson knows there’s still something scandalous going on, as you totally would if you’d been Hermione Granger in no fewer than seven Harry Potter movies.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

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