David Dimbleby Interview: Celebrating 30 Years of ‘Question Time’

The host talks terrified politicians, MPs’ expenses and why he told David Starkey to ‘shut up’

David Dimbleby, ‘Question Time’ host for the past 15 years, at home in Sussex

It’s a glorious late summer’s morning at David Dimbleby’s palatial Sussex residence on the edge of the South Downs. (At least I’m guessing it’s palatial – he did, after all, once sell his family newspaper business for £12 million – but our interview is being conducted well away from journalists’ prying eyes in the agreeable converted barn he uses as an office.)

Among the off-limits subjects we shan’t be discussing today are: His first wife, (cookery writer) Josceline; their three grown-up children (including successful restaurant entrepreneur Henry); his second wife, Belinda; their 11-year-old boy Fred; his little brother (and alleged massive rival) Jonathan; the BBC; his personal politics; his hobbies; pretty much any other aspect of his private life whatsoever.

Dimbleby, 70, has been chairing it for 15 years now. Sufficient time to confound all those critics who predicted he was too genteel or too reserved (or even too old, some said) to make any impact in the role made famous by the irascible, flamboyant, bow-tie-wearing Sir Robin Day (and rather less famous by the interim office holder Peter Sissons).

‘I don’t think he’d approve at all of the way I do it,’ he says of Sir Robin. ‘Robin always placed himself at the centre of the programme, whereas I’ve tried to do the exact opposite.’

The two worked together for a decade, covering party conferences for the BBC. Dimbleby remembers Sir Robin coming back from an interview he’d done with the Home Secretary and asking what he thought. ‘Well I don’t think he said anything particularly new,’ said Dimbleby thoughtfully. ‘Not his answers, you fool. My questions,’ Sir Robin said.

Dimbleby has a mischievous sense of humour. Later, by way of illustrating the kind of routine he has heard perhaps just one time too many from the Question Time panel, he breaks into an impromptu impersonation of Tony Benn. ‘What people forget ish that I wash in the Shecond World War. Don’t tell me about war. I know what war ish like. I wash a fighter pilot. I know how terrible war is.’

Together with his quick, ready wit, this puckishness can make him a deadly host. We saw a splendid example of this recently in his skewering of Tory Party chairman Eric Pickles. Pickles was flounderingly attempting to justify why his parliamentary duties made it absolutely essential for him to keep a second taxpayer-subsidised home, despite the fact that his principal residence is only 37 miles from Westminster.

The problem with parliament is that you have to be there at 9.30am on the dot, said Pickles. Dimbleby’s interjection was at once light-heartedly teasing and utterly merciless. ‘Like a job, you mean?’ he chipped in, to gales of audience laughter.

‘Eric Pickles did a thing which is absolutely fatal on Question Time: he tried to flatter and schmooze the audience,’ Dimbleby says. ‘You can’t do that because the audience is made up of people who watch Question Time. They’re up for it and well briefed.’

Personally, I find Question Time audiences terrifying. In another age, I can imagine them in mobs chasing old women down the street and baying: ‘Burn the witch!’

Not only do their politics come across as aggressively, cantishly liberal-left (the episode immediately post 9/11 being a particularly egregious offender, when a viciously anti-American audience howled down the US Ambassador), but they seem worryingly susceptible to cheering the most outrageous drivel, including the, to my mind, meaningless platitudes delivered by regular panellist Shami Chakrabarti.

Needless to say, Dimbleby begs to differ. Indeed, he believes the audience are the most important part of the programme. ‘I tell them this before it starts. I say: “It’s your programme and you must say what you think”,’ he says. And they generally do, groaning and booing and saying ‘rubbish’ whenever they sense one of the panellists is talking out of his hat.

‘Quite often you’ll have a minister coming up to me afterwards and saying: “I never realised they felt so strongly about that issue”.’ And no, he insists, the audience isn’t biased. How can it possibly be when it is carefully selected to represent as broad as possible a cross-section of society?

For the 150 places on each programme there are an average 500 applicants. These applications are then vetted by a ‘professional woman’ who spends an entire week sifting through them.

First, they are divided on party political lines; then by age, by sex and by ethnic make-up (the last weighted according to the broadcast location: for example, more blacks and Asians for an inner-London programme than for one in Cheltenham). Finally, to weed out any faint-hearts, they are told: ‘You realise this isn’t a programme to watch. It’s a programme to take part in.’

This month, Question Time celebrates its 30th birthday. It was born on September 25 1979, more by accident than design, and was never intended to last. The BBC had block-booked a London studio for the Parkinson show.

But, by Roy Hattersley’s account, ‘the governors decided that five consecutive nights of Michael Parkinson was more entertainment than the viewers could stand. So two days were set aside for something solemn. Robin Day – out of fashion but with years of his contract still to run – had nothing to do except write angry letters to the Director-General denouncing the declining standards of British television. Question Time was invented to make sure that for a week or two neither the theatre’s rent nor the performer’s retainer were paid in vain.’

The reason it has survived so long, believes Dimbleby, is its ‘simple formula’. ‘It meets an obvious public need: for politicians to be questioned by the public.’ But what it very much isn’t, he adds, is an updated version of the Brains Trust. ‘This isn’t a BBC presentation of British politics as the BBC sees it. It’s an entertainment programme, designed to excite people about political ideas.’

To this end, Dimbleby is not averse to encouraging a bit of argy bargy. Sometimes, he jabs in the sword himself; sometimes it comes from the mutual animosity of the panellists, as during the infamous episode when Private Eyeeditor Ian Hislop laid into Mary Archer (voted by viewers as their all-time favourite Question Time moment); and sometimes from his beloved audience, as when during the memorable broadcast from Grimsby – just as the Telegraph’s MP expenses scandal story was beginning to break – they tore into the MPs on the panel with relentless savagery.

‘Mrs Beckett, when are you going to give back the £72,000 you’ve taken after your mealie-mouthed answer trying to explain yourself? And Mr Campbell, how the HELL do you get through £800 a month on food?’ asked an angry-sounding woman.

‘It was an electrifying edition,’ Dimbleby recalls. ‘Everybody’s eyes were out on stalks, for here was the voice that terrified politicians. It was the first time they had met an audience since the expenses scandal broke, and the audience were ready to tell them exactly what they thought.’

It had a dramatic effect on the ratings too, causing audience figures to leap from 2.8 million to 3.8 million – a level at which it has more or less held since. To Dimbleby, this is further evidence that the expenses scandal marks a watershed in political history. ‘In 45 years I’ve never seen such a great gulf between politicians and the public.’

Indeed, he feels almost sorry for them. ‘It’s difficult for politicians. They claim to be part of the real world but they’re so protected from it their contact actually tends to be a bit sketchy. What they all believe and what the public believe are not the same thing.’

The best Question Times, he says, are ones where there’s a ‘whiff of danger – a feeling that someone is going to be derailed or fight a good point’. He likes the idea of a show ‘living on its nerves, unleashing the audience on an unsuspecting politician and encouraging intellectual conflict’. At the same time, he wants to give everyone a fair say – but not to the point where they start ‘pontificating’.

He has a fairly relaxed policy on personal abuse. ‘Politicians have got broad shoulders. Douglas Alexander didn’t seem to mind too much when David Starkey called him a “silly little man”.’

Starkey, in turn, was expected to take it on the chin when Dimbleby told him to ‘shut up’. (‘It’s the sort of language he uses and he was being so rude to the audience.’)

As for the episode when Hislop had a go at Mary Archer (‘Whenever the Prime Minister is accused of sleaze his first response is: “Look at all the Tories who are in jail.” Your husband is the reason Tony Blair gets away with it in parliament’), Dimbleby felt no urge to step in. ‘She tried to play the “poor me” card and Ian called her on it,’ he says.

I try to draw Dimbleby on his favourite Question Time moments but it’s no use – first, because he doesn’t remember (‘I never watch the programme and when it’s over all I’m thinking about is making the next one as good as it can be’) and second, because of his cautiousness when venturing anything that might sound like a political opinion.

Reading between the lines, though, it’s obvious that the politicians who most delight him are the Machiavellian operators (at one point, he goes into near raptures about the way someone like Lord Mandelson can say one thing with words, and the opposite with his ‘wryness of tone’ and his ‘signals with his hands and eyes’) and the ‘principled’ ones, like Geoff Hoon and Harriet Harman, who don’t run away from trouble. ‘However rough the water is, they’ll always come on the programme because they believe in their cause,’ Dimbleby says.

It’s a safe bet that he holds what he calls the ‘refuseniks’ – politicians who won’t come on the programme – in much lower esteem. Among these are Gordon Brown (no appearance since Labour came to power in 1997), Tony Blair (last appeared 2001), John Prescott, Jack Straw, John Reid and David Blunkett.

According to one of the show’s producers, politicians are more scared of going on Question Time than they are of being on Newsnight. Ann Widdecombe still shudders at an episode recorded in the dog days of the Major government when, as she sat down, the audience booed. Frank Dobson said his advice to a colleague about the show would be not to go on it.

Dimbleby’s explanation is that politicians can’t bear being out of control. ‘What they most dislike is the unexpected, the question that catches them off guard and the humiliation of being publicly mocked. BBC interviewers do not mock, Question Time audiences sometimes do,’ he once said.

The politicians prepared to brave the programme are provided by their parliamentary offices with extensive briefing notes and often coaching sessions, too, so that they know what their party’s official line is on any issue likely to arise. No panellist knows what the questions will be until they’re asked. Audience members submit a question the night before and the production team decides which ones to put forward.

Some subjects seem to excite an audience far more than others. As a rule, Dimbleby says, you won’t get much of a response if you talk about parliamentary matters, the BBC, or tricky ethical issues like euthanasia, abortion or IVF.

Far more ‘bankable’ are subjects like knife crime, drunkenness, drugs, the NHS, Afghanistan and, above all, the Iraq war. ‘That always gets people going,’ he says of the latter.

The biggest improvement to the programme since he has been at the helm, Dimbleby says, was the decision to increase the size of the panel from four to five. ‘The politicians all hate it because they have less time to speak and it means they can no longer gang up as they did to squash the hapless journalist or comedian on the panel.’

Doesn’t he find himself cringing, though, at the inanities that sometimes pour forth from celebrity panellists like Jarvis Cocker or Will Young?

‘Of course we’re taking a big risk when we have comedians and singers and showbiz types generally, but it’s a risk worth taking. Some of them, like Frank Skinner and Marcus Brigstocke, are excellent. And when you have someone like Will Young on, you’ll get perhaps 300,000 to 400,000 new viewers, none of whom will have watched the programme before.’

It has a high proportion of under 25 viewers, giving it by far the biggest youth profile of any political programme. Among the most popular guests, as voted for mostly by its younger viewers, are Tony Benn, Shirley Williams, Michael Heseltine, Boris Johnson and, yes, Shami Chakrabarti.

Needless to say, Dimbleby won’t tell me what he thinks of any of these people himself. He once said that he thought journalists with too strong a political position sometimes blinded themselves to important stories. Does this mean that over the years he has managed so perfectly to hone his position of neutrality that he no longer has any political views of his own?

‘I do have very strong political views,’ he says. ‘But as with most people, I’m a muddle of opinions, with views that don’t tally precisely with those of any particular party. I never tell anyone how I vote. Not my children. Nor my wife.’

As he says this, his eyes twinkle in that familiar David Dimbleby way you see on television when he’s said something catty and wants to soften the blow.

‘Crikey, what an operator!’ I think, at the end, when he engages me in some mildly flattering banter about an article of mine. He charms but never lays it on so thick that you feel you’re being practised on.

Imagine if he’d gone into politics: he could have been so devastatingly manipulative that he would have made even Lord Mandelson look like a clumsier version of John Prescott. Thank the Lord that instead he stuck to television.

Related posts:

  1. A speech, a radio interview, and the strongest cannabis I’ve had for 15 years
  2. An idle question, a deadly bite and 60 years of memories
  3. The BBC: Al Gore’s UK propaganda mouthpiece
  4. Celebrating Your Inner Crapness

 

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Loyal American Children Break into Spontaneous Praise of the Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama

Here’s some footage to gladden the heart: children at an elementary school in New Jersey being coached by their teacher to sing a song in praise of their Dear Leader. (Hat Tip: Steve Foley)

The lyrics are pretty snappy:

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must lend a hand [?] To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be clear today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said Red, Yellow, Black or White
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Next time my daughter comes home from school saying she has been studying Mary Seacole (again) for Black History Week, or compulsorily watching a video called An Inconvenient Truth or one her teachers has suggested she “Go Veggie” for a day, I shall play this video and be grateful for one small mercy:

No British primary school teacher, however rabidly left-wing and deranged (if that’s not a tautology?), is ever going to be coaching their class in a hymn of praise to Gordon Brown.

Related posts:

  1. My problem with Barack Obama isn’t that he’s black…
  2. Burqa ban: What Barack Obama could learn from Nicolas Sarkozy about Islam
  3. Is ‘Kojak’ Obama losing all his hair?
  4. Barack Obama: ACORN’s Manchurian Candidate?

3 thoughts on “Loyal American children break into spontaneous praise of the Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama”

  1. jay d says:24th September 2009 at 1:51 pmVery interesting James and thank you. Have posted with due credit and must say am much bothered by this. As an American I would not approve this sort of sieg heil praise even for someone I have approved of and voted for. Very disturbing indeed.

    Haven’t a clue how you find the time to write on so many subjects so often, but thanks for doing so.

  2. Pingback: Watch NJ School Children reciting The Pledge of Allegiance to Barack Hussein Obama and the Socialism For Which He Stands « VotingFemale Speaks!
  3. chris says:24th September 2009 at 7:08 pmThis type of childhood indoctrination is absolutely frightening. As a parent, who sent my children to American private schools, at a personal cost of over $7,000.00 per year per child, I am sick. My taxes are paying for this????? We are not permitted to praise God, yet these children are being told to praise a self proclaimed messiah? Please James, get the word out to all the liberal nut bags, that this is simply wrong!

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Why We Can All Stop Worrying about ‘Global Warming’ for a Bit

Three months to go until the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Three months in which we will be repeatedly assured by climate fear promoters such as Al Gore, George Monbiot, Ed Miliband and the risible Ban Ki-moon that this really is absolutely, definitely, totally and irrevocably the very last chance the world’s leaders will have to save the planet from ManBearPig.

(Just like they said at Rio and Poznan and all the other “let’s see who can rack up the biggest carbon footprint” global shindigs that eco-campaigners insist on staging, the better to stoke up their self-flagellatory eco-guilt).

But, for the global warming deniers among us at least, the panic’s off. Nothing scary or dangerous is going to happen as a result of the Copenhagen summit. It will be a talking shop, abundant with airy platitudes and earnest pieties, but signifying less than ****er all as far as economy-damaging Kyoto-style legislation goes. There will be a political statement of intent. But no binding “agreement”.

Here are few reasons why:

1. A bit like one of those mutant pandas I mentioned yesterday, the science has turned viciously against the warmists. Not that it wasn’t against them before.  But they have their work seriously cut out if they’re ever going to recover from the  speech given at the UN world climate conference in Geneva last week by Professor Mojib Latif of Germany’s Leibniz institute.

National Post columnist Lorne Gunter explains:

“Latif is one of the leading climate modellers in the world. He is the recipient of several international climate-study prizes and a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has contributed significantly to the IPCC’s last two five-year reports that have stated unequivocally that man-made greenhouse emissions are causing the planet to warm dangerously.”

Yet in Geneva, Latif was forced to admit that all those An-Inconvenient-Truth-style fantasy projections showing global temperatures rising inexorably with C02 levels were wrong. The world is getting cooler, not warming. It will continue to cool, Latif reckons, till 2020 or possibly 2030. By how much he doesn’t know: “The jury is still out.”

Which begs the rather obvious question: if the IPCC’s doomsday computer models didn’t predict this cooling phase, how can we be sufficiently confident in their other assertions to start basing major economic and social policy decisions on them?

2. The Chinese. Spin it how they will, President Hu Jintao’s two-minute speech to the UN yesterday was a massive blow to the Warmists. In classic “Tell the foolish gwailo what they want to hear, then carry on doing exactly what we want” Chinese diplomatic style, Hu Jintao promised “determined action”, while refusing to commit his country to any binding targets.

The Chinese are not stupid. Their priority number one (and two, and three) is economic growth, not assuaging green lobbyists.

3. People just don’t care about “climate change” that much. Environmental purity is a rich person’s luxury and with the recession most people have other priorities. In the latest Bloomberg poll in the US, for example, just 2 per cent of respondents considered “climate change” the most important issue facing the country.

4. Almost everyone knows deep down that the green lobby’s CO2 targets are pie in the sky. Says Stephen Hayward of the American Competitive Institute in WSJ Online

“Carbon dioxide is the result of complete fuel combustion. Apart from still-unproven technologies, there’s no way to remove it from the process. The only way to reduce emissions is to burn less fuel, which means less energy output.

“So, to meet the target the climate campaigners have set, the U.S., Europe and Japan will have to replace virtually their entire fossil-fuel energy infrastructure. For the U.S., the 80% target means reducing fossil-fuel greenhouse-gas emissions to a level the nation last experienced in 1910. On a per-capita basis, we’d have to go back to the level of about 1875.”

5. If anyone’s going to push these crazy measures through it’s President Obama. But, as Terence Corcoran sensibly points out, after the rough ride he’s had with his healthcare proposals, Obama is unlikely to want to outrage the US taxpayer still further.

“Mr. Obama, already fighting charges his medicare reform will boost taxes on the average American family by $3,000, isn’t likely to simultaneously mount an aggressive push for carbon control legislation that will add another $4,000 a year in taxes.”

6. Right, consider this my serious climate change piece for the week. Now, I can go back to trading childish insults. Phew!

Related posts:

  1. ‘Global warming’: time to get angry
  2. Global warming is dead. Long live, er, ‘Global climate disruption’!
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  4. Whoops! CO2 has almost nothing to do with global warming, discovers top US meteorologist

 

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The Date of the General Election Is…

The date of the General Election is:

May 6th. You read it here first.

How do we know? A contact whose property is used for General and Local election counts tells me he has received a letter from Whitehall asking him to refuse bookings for May 6th and May 7th and to re-arrange anything he has booked.

So May 6th – a Thursday (thanks Clothilde Simon) – is the one then.

18.24 Update: oh poo. According to a Labour Twitter thing when I posted this excitedly on Twitter, it’s just a local election date. Does this mean I’ve got it wrong? Damn! A scoop would have been so cool. Then again, they could be lying couldn’t they. If it’s Labour? I think I’ll leave the post up, just in case I’m right….

Related posts:

  1. General Election 2010: My mate Dave…
  2. I hate to say this but Cameron’s speech has just won him the election
  3. Lying, cheating climate scientists caught lying, cheating again
  4. Five reasons why the Conservatives deserve to lose the next election

 

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Prince of Wales to Give up His Aston Martin, Two Jags, Two Audis and Range Rover to Save Planet. Not.

According to the Prince of Wales’s expert calculations we have only 94 months left to save the planet from the perils of Man Made Climate Change.

Today he urges that we all do our bit by walking and using public transport a bit more, and using our cars less. I think this is an utterly brilliant idea. Like the Prince, whenever I drive around the country in my motor car, I find myself being quite repelled by the ghastliness of so many other road users. Their accents are frightful, their driving habits slovenly and their choice of music leaves a great deal to be desired. Quite a few of them, one imagines, don’t even have valets to put their toothpaste on their toothbrushes of an evening.

Get ‘em off the road and into buses, say I. Preferably buses without windows so one doesn’t have to look at them when one drives past in one’s bio-fuel-powered Aston Martin. Or one’s Range Rover. Or one’s two Jaguars. Or one’s two Audis.

And while we’re about it, let’s stop them all from flying too, shall we? It’s not as though any of these people achieve anything useful on their holidays, like galvanising captains of industry into screwing their smaller-scale competitors with their promises of carbon emissions reductions or painting sensitive water colours of hills near Sienna or climbing up and down Lochnagar with a shepherd’s crook.

Related posts:

  1. Why the Prince of Wales’s letters shouldn’t be kept secret
  2. Wales is in danger: why isn’t the Prince of Wales saving it?
  3. What did our grandchildren do to deserve the Prince of Wales?
  4. WTF? Prince of Wales tells disgraced CRU: ‘Well done, all of you!’

 

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Christian hoteliers prosecuted for calling Pope ‘Catholic’ | James Delingpole

September 21, 2009

Perhaps you’ve read the shocking story. A couple of Christian hoteliers in Liverpool have been prosecuted by the police for a “religiously aggravated public order offence”, after one of their Muslim guests complained they had told her that the founder of her religion was a “warlord” and that Muslim dress was a form of “bondage for women”.

I wonder what prosecutions Merseyside police are planning on next.

Liverpool elocution teacher brought to trial for alleging that in Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen?

Scouse astronomer prosecuted for declaring that night is best time to look at stars?

Liverpool zookeeper arrested after bear takes offence at outrageous suggestion that ursine species only defecate outdoors?

2 Responses to “Christian hoteliers prosecuted for calling Pope ‘Catholic’”

  1. Number 6 says:September 21, 2009 at 8:42 amAh, but had the all pious and peace loving mooslimbs suggested that we all should submit to sharia law and that the west is a wicked and vile place, hence the need to fly aircraft into the twin towers, do you think PC (how apt) plod would be clattering down the hallway in his hobnailed boots?
  2. Badger says:September 21, 2009 at 9:52 amI can picture the scene:
    “Morning! Tea and coffee is over there, minute glass of orange juice there… now would you like bacon and sausage with your eggs? No? Probably not. Oh, and Mohamed was a warlord, you know?”

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Dan Hannan Is Not a Racist

The deadly attack gerbils of the liberal-left have had a go at Dan Hannan.

The Daily Mirror, NuLav’s comically useless online propaganda outlet Labour List, and a sweet-looking boy named James Mcintyre who writes for the New Statesman, have all seized excitedly on some thoughtful, unexceptionable remarks Dan made about Obama’s “exotic” background.

Here’s what Dan said in his blog:

“Barack Obama has an exotic background, and it would be odd if some people weren’t unsettled by it. During the campaign, he made a virtue of his unusual upbringing. He was at once from the middle of the country (Kansas) and from its remotest edge (Hawaii). He was both black and white. He was a Protestant brought up among Muslims. He seemed to have family on every continent. Like St Paul, he made a virtue of being all things to all men.”

“On one level, the strategy worked brilliantly. But it could hardly fail to leave a chunk of people feeling that Obama wasn’t exactly a regular guy.”

And here, roughly, is how Mcintyre and his chums chose to translate it:

“My name is Dan Hannan. I wear a tall, pointy white hat with eyeholes cut into it. Our Enoch was right. Send ‘em all back to where they came from. No, wait, better than that: string ‘em all up. And if you think I’m the only fellow in the Tory party who thinks this way you’ve got another think coming. We’re racists, the lot of us. And this my friends is why you should not vote Conservative at the next election but vote instead for the supremely competent and utterly sane Gordon Brown.”

Now I have at least two main objections to this.

First, though it’s true that Dan Hannan holds culpable, deeply objectionable, utterly wrongheaded views about Obama, they have nothing to do with the man’s race or exoticism. They’re to do with the fact – as he brazenly admits – that he likes and admires the guy and supported his presidential candidacy.

But what I loathe and detest far more is what it tells us about New Labour and what they have done to the level political debate. As pretty much anyone with even half a brain cell now realises, Britain is almost irredeemably b***ered after 12 years under Blair and Brown. In this week’s Spectator, Trevor Kavanagh racks his brain and finally comes up with “peace” in Northern Ireland and the minimum wage as examples of two of New Labour’s achievements. Personally, I wouldn’t even give them those. They have been a total and unmitigated disaster from beginning to end.

How, though, did they get away with it for so long? Largely, I’d argue, by manipulating the media – and by extension – the voters more cleverly than the Tories did. New Labour would lie, distort, tweak, smear, exaggerate, spin, announce, re-announce, re-re-announce or anything else that was necessary to ensure that they came across as the party that could do useful things and which cared, while the Tories were the party of reaction, snobbery, racism and cuts.

This feeble and desperate attempt to smear Hannan and, by association, Cameron’s Tories is merely a continuation of the same old methods they’ve been using for the last twelve years. Two or three years ago, it might just have worked. Today, now that we’ve all wised up to their methods, it just comes across as wearisomely predictable and a bit sad – the death throes of a party which knows it’s a busted flush and knows that in the total absence of things to say in its own favour its last remaining hope is to try to slag the opposition.

I understand this. You understand it. But here’s the part that makes me worried and angry: I’m not sure that Cameron’s Tories yet do.

Even now, far too much of their policy-decision-making appears to be based not so much on doing the right thing as on avoiding trouble. The 50p upper rate tax. The ring-fencing of spending on the NHS. These are positions not of a party of principle, but a party whose inner circle reads silly articles like the ones above, and STILL actually takes them seriously.

Related posts:

  1. Don’t Vote For Hannan’s crappy blog
  2. Charlie Brooker on Hannan: not even close to being funny
  3. Reason no 12867 why not to vote Tory: the NHS
  4. Why would anyone want to vote Tory? (pt II)

 

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Clarkson, the Baronet’s granddaughter and a pile of poo | James Delingpole

September 19th, 2009

“I’m dumping dung at Clarkson’s gates so he might understand that his attitude will land us all in the —-,” said Westminster- and Cambridge-educated Tamsin Omond, baronet’s granddaughter, yesterday, as she danced up and down on the pile of horse manure she’d dumped on the Top Gear presenter’s doorstep while dressed as a suffragette.

Her parents must be so proud. But I ruddy well wouldn’t be if I’d forked out £9,172 a term for my daughter’s education.  That’s how much the current Westminster boarding fees are. If you’re a day pupil they are a mere £6,352 a term. I dare say things were slightly less expensive when little Tammy was there. But it’s still a fair bet it cost Mr and Mrs Omond an arm and a leg to educate their feisty and fearless young agitator.

What is it about privately educated, toffy rich kids and the modern green movement? Obviously there’s none quite so grand as Old Etonian the Hon Sir Jonathon Porritt (both a baronet and the son of a Lord), but billionaire’s son (and Old Etonian, natch) Zac Goldsmith is hardly what you’d call a smelly prole; nor is eco-columnist Charles Clover (a Wet – ie an old boy of Tamsy Wamsy’s alma mater Westminster), nor is George Monbiot (who went to Palladian finishing school for the nice but dim Stowe); nor of course is desperately WASP-establishment Climate Fear Promoter Al Gore. Then of course there’s Prince Charles, who, though something of a Hanoverian arriviste still knows enough not to eat the peas off his fish knife or drop too many aitches when he goes to dinner with his upmarket chum Sir Jonathon.

As for the Plane Stupid and Climate Camp lot – it is said that even if you went to a good grammar school, they still rag you for being a despicable  little oik, rather as George Osborne was by the Old Etonians during in his time with the Bullingdon Club. Even their protest banners are made from 100 per cent Egyptian cotton percale sheets from John Lewis (bought at full price, not in the sale).

But back to that private school question. I am currently making enquiries as to how I might best get my own offspring into decent public schools. Not being born to the purple like most members of the modern green movement, I may have to do so via a bursary. But from what I can see of the alumni of our great schools I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s worth it.

Surely, the point of sending your child to private school is give them a better education than they would have had in the state sector. They would emerge, you would hope, with a capacity for original thinking, an ability to look at the world empirically and understand the difference between objective truth and the mere clamour of the times and the ranting of the mob.

But apparently not. There is nothing clever or original or indeed counter-cultural about the modern green movement. They are protesters pushing against an open door. Any fool can go to Jeremy Clarkson’s house dressed in frills and chant drivel. What takes far, far more courage and originality of thought is to look at the world, see how much money is being made from the “climate-change” industry, see how much taxpayers’ money is being wasted in the name of environmental righteousness, see how much of our beautiful countryside is going to be destroyed in the name of ’saving’ it, then to take a stand and enunciate with your impeccable, public school diction: “Enough is jolly well enough! Up with this I will not put!”

Related posts:

  1. Jeremy Clarkson’s critics should be taken out and shot
  2. On the anniversary of Climategate the Watermelons show their true colours
  3. The curious rise of bottled water
  4. Climategate 2.0

Two Responses to “Clarkson, the Baronet’s granddaughter and a pile of poo”

  1. dilandinga says:October 5, 2009 at 10:13 amuhtC82 I bookmarked this link. Thank you for good job!
  2. ramspace says:October 5, 2009 at 10:23 amThese miserable thugs are celebrating at their website: IdiotMedia.UK They talk of “direct action” against “climate criminals.” They justify their criminal behavior by pointing to the dire state of the Arctic: “The Arctic is expected to be ice free in the summertime sometime between 2011 and 2015.” HA! Utter fools. I hope Clarkson goes on to make a billion dollars with an even BIGGER program that burns even MORE fuel.

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The Lesson of Arnhem and Afghanistan: Heroism Is No Substitute for Strategy

Sixty-five years ago today on a pleasant, sunny September day like this one (only it was a Sunday, not a Thursday) began the greatest battle of the Second World War: Operation Market Garden.

At least it’s the greatest if you’re British. Of course there were many more strategically important battles – e.g., Stalingrad; El Alamein; D-Day; Midway – but Market Garden, especially the battle for Arnhem and the “bridge too far,” is the one that has always caught the public imagination.

It was the battle that had everything: red berets (faarsands of ‘em); countless acts of superhuman courage leading to five VCs (one of which was won by Jeremy Clarkson’s father-in-law Major Robert Cain); classic British pluck and sangfroid (Major Digby Tatham-Warter disabling an armoured car with his umbrella; the dispatchers in a doomed Dakota pushing out vital supplies even as their burning plane plummeted towards the ground); a fearsome opposition (battlehardened SS who rated the British airborne troops tougher than any they’d faced); plus, most poignantly and frustratingly, the dozens of “What ifs?” which mean that every time you read about the battle, you can’t help fantasising about an alternative universe where this time – as of course, we think we deserve – it ends in an Allied victory.

But it didn’t. Quite right though we are to worship and adore the heroes of Arnhem, the unfortunate fact is that they lost. Operation Market Garden was one of the biggest Allied military disasters of the war. Of the 11,920 mostly British and Polish troops of 1st Airborne Division who landed at Arnhem, no fewer than 1,485 were killed, 3,910 escaped back over the river two weeks later, while 6,525 were taken prisoner – at least 2,000 of them wounded. We achieved little if anything of any strategic value. We didn’t open the way to the Ruhr industrial heartland, nor circumvent the Siegfried Line, nor end the war by Christmas. Worse still, we made life significantly more horrible for the Dutch – briefly liberating them before dashing their hopes on our withdrawal and subjecting them to many more months of brutal Nazi rule.

Yet even the months immediately afterwards, Arnhem managed to acquire a reputation as something to be celebrated rather than mourned. (We’re very good at this, we British: see also, Dunkirk; Scott of The Antarctic; Eddie The Eagle). Indeed this used to infuriate veterans of the 6th Airborne Division (the one that succeeded in all its major objectives on D-Day, including the coup de main capture by glider-borne troops of Pegasus Bridge; the taking of the Merville Battery). They’d be wearing their red berets in a pub and people would come up to them and say, awestruck: “Were you at Arnhem?” “No,” they’d reply crossly. “We WON our battle.”

Look, I could give you more of this stuff, loads more. I too love Market Garden and I love the men who fought in it, some of whom I’m privileged to call my friends. If you like what I’ve written so far, you will totally love my account of the battle in COWARD AT THE BRIDGE. And no I don’t feel at all embarrassed to plug it. It’s a bloody good read and I’m proud of it.

But there’s another book I want to mention which I think you should also read – a fantastically exciting, vivid account of life on the front line in Afghanistan by Sam Kiley called Desperate Glory. It’s so intense, yet lyrically done, you could almost call it war porn. It captures perhaps better than any other book I’ve read the smells, the sounds, the fear and excitement of modern infantry warfare. Read it and you fully understand why men want to go to war: because though its the most grisly thing they will ever experience it’s also the most exciting and fulfilling.

But what you will also carry away with you – not that you didn’t suspect this is already – is a sense of the sheer hopelessness of our involvement in Afghanistan. The Government’s failure to provide our helicopters and mine-protected vehicles is, of course, a disgrace which has led to many avoidable deaths and injuries. The bigger picture, though, is more depressing still. What the hell are we doing there?

Don’t get me wrong. My heart swells with pride and I get a tremendous boysy thrill when I read stories like the one about Lt James Anderson bayonetting a Taliban machinegunner and shouting “have some of this” as he riddled another with bullets. I feel much about our boys’ (and girls’) performance in Helmand as I do about their predecessors’ performance at Arnhem: What self-sacrifice! What magnificence!

But in Aghanistan as at Arnhem, heroism is no substitute for strategy. Operation Market Garden failed for lots of reasons, mostly failures of planning. No matter how well the men fought there they were always going to lose. The same is true, I fear, of Afghanistan.

What is the point of our presence there?

To kill as many of the enemy as possible? But the supply from across the border in Pakistan is endless.

To win hearts and minds? Then why are we destroying their principal cash crop – opium – and killing so many civilians (the Americans rather more often than us, it must be said)?

To conquer and hold territory? When the Soviets were in Afghanistan, they allocated a whole division of 12,000 men to Helmand. We’re trying to make do with 5,000.

To create some semblance of democracy? Yeah right.

Related posts:

  1. Was Daphne du Maurier responsible for the attempt to cross the ‘bridge too far’?
  2. Who is Lieutenant Dick Coward of Coward at the Bridge?
  3. Ron Paul is right. Military adventurism is a luxury we can no longer afford
  4. Stung into stupidity – or heroism

 

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Do the Conservatives Think We’re All Paedophiles Too?

The reason I ask is that I’ve just been reading the Conservatives’ latest report – Reversing The Rise of the Surveillance State. It makes all sorts of splendid and thoroughly worthwhile proposals such as scrapping the National Identity Register and restricting council access to personal communications data.

But what I don’t see is any mention of the most unpopular and intrusive surveillance legislation so far introduced by our Stasi state: the Government’s vetting organisation – the Independent Safeguarding Authority – which seems to imagine that all adults who work with children must perforce be paedophiles, unless they have been able to prove otherwise by filling out lots of tedious forms, waiting a very long time to work their way through the bureaucratic process and forking out £64 quid for the privilege.

As Professor Frank Furedi and children’s author Philip Pullman have argued, this barmy legislation –  the Government’s knee jerk response to the killing of two schoolgirls by a caretaker (from another school: so not even someone known to them) in Soham – serves to “poison” the relationship between the generations. Not only does it put off adults from volunteering to work with organisations like the Scouts and render routine activities – like ferrying other people’s kids to sporting events – needlessly complicated, but it sends out the message that any adult who lays a finger on a child for whatever reason (if they’ve fallen over and cut their knee in the park, say) is most likely an evil kiddie-fiddler.

Launching his document Dominic Grieve, the Tory Shadow Justice Minister, acknowledged some of this when he said:

We cannot eliminate the need for human judgment calls on risk, whether to children, or from criminal and terrorist threats. And we can never eliminate all risk, it is part and parcel of ordinary life.

Exactly. All commonsense, soundly libertarian stuff.

He goes on to propose a Conservative response based on five central principles:

Fewer mammoth databases, that are better run.
Fewer personal details held by the state, stored accurately and on a need-to-know basis.
Greater checks and personal control over the sharing of our data by government.
And stronger duties on government to keep our private information safe.

Again, all fine. But then just towards the end, he slips in a weasellish phrase which calls into question everything he has promised before:

“We are not looking to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But we do want to re-calibrate the relationship between the citizen and the state.”

It’s precisely this kind of temporising which we natural Conservatives find so utterly maddening about Dave Cameron’s pretend ones. They seem to want to have everything both ways: on the one hand we’re going to do this, on the other hand we’re not going to do it in so drastic a way that anyone who might potentially disagree with the change will find anything to which they can object.

The Independent Safeguard Authority and its vetting procedures – which require fully one quarter of the adult population to be snooped on before they can work with children – are a barn door sized target.

Will the Tories promise to do something about it – or do they too share New Labour’s view that every adult is a likely paedo?

Related posts:

  1. Gordon Brown: ‘Re-elect me and I will hang all paedophiles, restore grammar schools and create permanent world peace.’
  2. I have just seen the Conservatives’ future. Unfortunately, it’s in New Zealand.
  3. The Tory test that all Conservative candidates should pass
  4. Why the Child Benefit cuts have made me despise Cameron’s ‘Conservatives’ even more than I did already

 

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