Et Tu, Eddie Izzard?

Does anyone else share my dismay that comedian Eddie Izzard is thinking of standing, not just as an MP, but as a Labour MP?

In the days before Izzard, comedy was aggressively, tediously political: all you had to do in the Alternative [to] Comedy Eighties was say “Thatch” in a sneery Ben Elton voice to get a roar of smug, consensual, right-on approbation from the audience.  Izzard – and his contemporaries – changed all that. They took the politics out and put the humour back in. They made it safe for even evil fascist bastards (as they would no doubt secretly term people like me) to laugh at comedy again.

So why must they all insist on ruining it by outing themselves as card-carrying libtards? Ricky Gervais is a genius, one of the funniest people ever to walk the earth. But how, exactly does it help his reputation for fearless irreverance towards the politically correct pieties of the day when he talks about animal rights – and supports the campaign for guardsmen’s bearskins not to be made of real bear fur?

Peep Show: again, pure comedy genius. As indeed were the first few series of Mitchell and Webb. But now David Mitchell appears on Question Time and has a Observer column in which he finds new ways each week of saying “I think Tories are a bunch of chumps” and suddenly it becomes that little bit harder as a right wing person to laugh at his funny sketches about Nazis because you’re thinking: “If he had his way, he’d have people like me up against the wall and shot.”

I felt similar disappointment a few years ago when I heard Bill Bailey – dear, lovely, warm Bill Bailey with his peace-and-love long hair and his Klingon impersonations and his genial brand of gentle, surreal comedy – talking about fox hunting with such snarling hatred you could have mistaken him for a member of the ALF. (Duh, Bill: fox hunting is the BEST!)

Whatever next? Russell Brand turning up to  support a G20 protest rally? TVs “Mister Angry Geriatriac” Richard (”I don’t believe it”) Wilson revealing himself as a life-long Labour supporter? Baldrick from Blackadder turning out to be a member of Labour’s National Executive? US comedian Bill Maher turning out to a rabid libtard with not a scrap of humour in his entire DNA?

You may laugh, readers. But mark my words, stranger things have happened in the bizarre world of comedy.

Related posts:

  1. Evil, snarling, red-faced Tory toffs want to bring back fox-hunting!
  2. I’m sure Richard Curtis doesn’t really want to kill my children. Well, I say that …
  3. Spectator: Women can’t do comedy
  4. So now we can’t ever enjoy Peep Show again. Thanks, David ‘No but seriously, folks’ Mitchell


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Isn’t Black History Month a Bit Racist?

It’s Black History Month again. So the latest issue of Lambeth Life, the free magazine I pay through the nose for via my council tax, tells me. Apparently it’s “one of the most popular and exciting events in the council’s calendar.”

Highlights will include “calypso sessions, steel pan workshops and sessions focussing on African costumes and African masks, plus information and worksheets in all Lambeth libraries.” And a session in storytelling and percussion from Winston Nzinga. And a special exhibition dedicated to the work of black Seventies feminist activist Olive Morris. My kids are champing at the bit already.

What puzzles me about all this, though, is that I thought the Multiculturalist experiment was over. Now that even people like Trevor Phillips (of the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have come round to realising that Multiculturalism, far from promoting racial harmony, is merely a state-endorsed, taxpayer-funded excuse for chippiness, division and the cult of Mary Seacole, surely it’s time that Black History Month was consigned to the dustbin of history.

Related posts:

  1. History like it used to be
  2. Allen West: America’s next black president?
  3. Dan Hannan is not a racist
  4. Yippee ki yay, liberals! It’s Sarah Palin Month on Telegraph Blogs!


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“I gladly fell prey to a cougar” | James Delingpole

September 30, 2009

“Would you mind awfully if I seduced you?” asked the attractive older woman sitting next to me on the bus, placing one hand meaningfully on my bare, suntanned thigh.

“Er, no,” I replied.

And I didn’t. Not one bit. I was 19; she – it later transpired – was 36, a lecturer at London University. And if there’s one thing you want above all else when you’re 19, it’s uncomplicated, deliciously meaningless sex with a good-looking woman who is totally up for it, knows what she’s doing, and isn’t secretly wishing that you were a bit older and more experienced because that’s not what she’s after. What she wants is your youth.

The woman – I’ve forgotten her name, unfortunately, but then we didn’t waste too much time exchanging CVs – was what I suppose would now be called a “Cougar”. These are the Mrs Robinson types, celebrated in the new Courteney Cox sitcom Cougar Town, who like to prey on the tender flesh of young men half their age.


Courtney Cox in her role as a ‘Cougar’ in the new American TV series, Cougar Town Photo: SCOPE

When you put it like that it does sound slightly vampiric, and I gather that some feminists are up in arms at this “ridiculous and belittling” depiction of the single older woman and female sexuality, which, so they say, owes more to stereotypical male fantasy than reality.

Well they’ve got the “male fantasy” bit right. Until it happens to you, you imagine it’s the sort of thing that only happens in “readers’ true experiences” pages in girlie mags. That’s why, as the seduction progressed, I kept having to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

It was the summer of my first year at university, and I’d gone to the Greek island of Spetses because I liked John Fowles’s The Magus. There, on a beach, I positioned myself reasonably close to some nice-looking women who turned out to be a bit older than I thought. We got talking; we had an Ouzo or three; we took the bus back into town; and that’s when I received my kind offer.

There’s this great myth among adolescents that older women teach you all sorts of amazing sexual tricks. This isn’t really true – or at least it’s certainly not the most important thing they teach you. What I really learned from this magical, brilliant woman – thank you, whoever you are! – is that sex is something you can enjoy without hang-ups.

Too often in your early sexual years as a man, you’re made to feel as if sex is something you can only really get through trickery (either guile or more usually alcohol), that you’re a bit rubbish at it, and that you’re frankly rather squalid for having insisted on it so soon in the relationship. Older women have no truck with these games. They are as grateful for your efforts as you are for their instruction. It is the perfect symbiotic relationship.

That’s why I’m always deeply puzzled when a female teacher gets had up – and sometimes even put away – for having sex with one of her boy pupils. How can that possibly be right? First, it’s physically impossible for a woman to rape a man: if he’s capable, then he’s interested. Second, at least one – and preferably several – sexual encounters with an older woman is what every heterosexual male needs to make him better in bed and happier in his skin.


Silver Fox – A smooth and handsome older man who effortlessly snares young beauties with his wit and charm

Rhinoceros – A physically unappealing but asset-heavy sugar daddy with an array of trophy girlfriends and wives

Lion – A solid, faithful family man with multiple offspring and a stellar career

Gazelle – A lithe and beautiful twentysomething who preys on women old enough to be his mother

Cheetah – A sleek, heartless and youthful player who goes in for the kill – before bounding on to his next conquest

(to read more, click here)

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Gordon Brown: ‘Re-elect me and I will hang all paedophiles, restore grammar schools and create permanent world peace.’ | James Delingpole

September 28, 2009

They say his party is about as likely to win the next election as Polly Toynbee is to headline a 40-date sell out stand-up comedy season at the O2 Arena or Michael Moore to enter a burger joint and say: “I’ll stick to the salad today, thanks.”

But as Labour begins what many are saying is the last party conference before it is wiped off the face of the earth, I can today exclusively reveal Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ten point masterplan to revive his political fortunes.

1. All Britain’s paedophiles to be rounded up and hanged at special community events across the nation. Lever to be pulled by much-loved, longstanding local lollipop lady – or similar. Government to provide free packets of Hula Hoops and two family size bottles of Tango for each, street-party style event.

2. Drivers whom you generously allow to pull out in front of you when it’s your right of way – but who then don’t say “Thanks” with a friendly wave of their hand, to be recorded on a raft of new “Motorist Courtesy Enforcement” cameras, and sentenced to death by stoning.

3. A new National Dog/Cat/Golf/Koran/Goat Curry And Ackee Fruit Enjoyment Day in which Dog-, Cat-, Koran-,Golf- and Goat-Curry-And-Ackee-Fruit Lovers will be given a day off work to enjoy their hobby.

4. National Blame A Banker Day. Bankers to be paraded in shackles, like downed B52 pilots in Hanoi, before classes of inner city primary school children who can – under teachers’ guidance – heckle them and blame them for the collapse of the global economy.

5. All decent, hard-working members of the Middle Classes to have their salaries trebled, starting the week before the General Election. This scheme will be funded by taxing all Fat Cats earning over £300,000 a year at 500 per cent of their income.

6. National Paedophile Disinterment Day. All paedophiles hanged in 1. to be disinterred from their unmarked paupers’ graves and trampled on by members of the community. Children to be given the day off school. Free Tango and Hula Hoops and Party Rings.

7. Stiffer new penalties ranging from exile to hanging, drawing and quartering for anyone found guilty of allowing their chewing gum or dog poo to get stuck on someone else’s shoe. Or of being found in possession of an unacceptably large bonus.

8. Government finances to be restored by the creation of a new “Company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.” Lord Mandelson will be its chairman; it will be run by the Dragon’s Den team. Will very likely put British economy back in the black by 2011, unless of course Conservatives get in and it will NEVER happen and no one will EVER know what the “undertaking of great advantage” will be which would be an awful pity because it’s brilliant and when you hear of it  you’ll kick yourselves.

9. Swingeing, far-reaching and totally irrevocable curbs on banker bonuses. Plus a live, fat-tail scorpion to be posted through the letter box of every City worker to remind them how evil they are.

10. Rigour to be restored to the curriculum; grammar schools to be brought back; the West Lothian question to be answered to everyone’s satisfaction; illegal immigration to be stamped on; local post offices to be re-opened; all railway lines to be restored to pre-Beeching-Report status; AA operatives to salute motorists; global warming to be halved by 2020; colony of cheery puffins to be established outside Tate Modern by 2014; letter to be given to every household asking what they most want, with Labour government to deliver their needs by 2016. All this to be supervised by newly promoted Minister Of Unconfined Joy, Ed Balls.

The Prime Minister denied that these were the idle, cynical, desperate, ideologically bankrupt promises of a man who at this stage of the game would say anything, up to and including promising the creation of permanent world peace to get himself re-elected.

“And another thing,” added Mr Brown. “You haven’t heard yet about my plans to create permanent world peace by 2030.”

Related posts:

  1. Only a nutter like Gordon Brown would think it’s a good idea to scrap Trident
  2. ‘Wind farms cure cancer, save kittens, create world peace’ says new wind industry report
  3. Free Schools: the stake in the heart of the Progressive vampire
  4. Do the Conservatives think we’re all paedophiles too?


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Climate fear promoter Jo Abbess has a science degree. Well done, Jo! | James Delingpole

September 27, 2009

I’ve just had an email from someone signing herself Jo Abbess Bsc wanting to know whether I did a science degree. She has written it up at her online-CV-cum-website.

Jo who? The name rang a vague bell so I Googled her.  Abbess, it turns out, was the blog bully who last year demanded the BBC censor a true story on its website about global cooling. She didn’t like the way it gave succour to evil Global Warming Deniers.

So she wrote to the BBC’s science editor Roger Harrabin a series of finger wagging emails, one of which went:

“It would be better if you did not quote sceptics. Their voice is everywhere on every channel.” [Really? She should try watching BBC sometime]. “They are deliberately instructing the emergence of the truth. I would ask: please reserve the main BBC Online channel for the emerging truth.”

When Harrabin replied, not altogether unreasonably, that there were no factual inaccuracies in his story, Abbess made a threat:

“I am about to send your comments to others for their contribution, unless you request I do not. They are likely to want to post your comments on forums/fora, so please indicate if you do not want this to happen. You may appear in an unfavourable light because it could be said that you have had your head turned by the sceptics.”

Harrabin got the message. (Not as though he is exactly the most neutral of reporters on AGW anyway, as anyone familiar with his  “polar bears melt and Tuvalu sinks while the coal-fired power stations of cigar-smoking capitalists belch unprecedented quantities of CO2 into Mother Gaia’s lungs” style of eco-reporting will know).

He caved in and amended his story so that it accorded more correctly with Fraulein Abbess’s particular weltanschauung.

You can read the full story here at the Register.

And now the woman’s on to me, Lord help us. No, Jo, love – unlike you I am not blessed with a physics degree from Warwick University. But does my humble arts degree really disqualify me from commenting on the wilder excesses of the self-flagellating, misanthropic, tendentious, dishonest and hysterical “green” movement?

Does anyone really need a science degree to understand that a five fold increase in the polar bear population between the 1950s and now does not constitute a catastrophic decline?

Is it really that scientifically demanding to work out that if computer models show global temperatures rising inexorably with CO2, and we suddenly enter a ten- or twenty-year period of global cooling, then there’s something a bit untrustworthy about those computer models?

Fortunately, as an English literature graduate, there are at least some areas of the green debate on which I am unquestionably fit to comment. Take this piece of  doggerel I found on the Guardian comments pages the other day, on the kind of thinking we all need to embrace if we are ever to heal the world:

The new thinking has to be something like this :-
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
The only way we make it out of here alive is if we believe, and act as if
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies
There are no enemies.

The author of this poem, I would say, makes William McGonagall look like Keats, has a lightness of touch that makes Polly Toynbee look like Noel Coward, and a depth of political insight which makes Tinky Winky Teletubby look like Thomas Jefferson. I’m sure the author of the piece who signed herself “Jo Abbess” cannot possibly be any relation of the distinguished Warwick University physics graduate who wrote asking about my academic credentials.

Related posts:

  1. ‘Post-normal science’ is perfect for climate demagogues — it isn’t science at all
  2. Warmists overwhelmed by fear, panic and deranged hatred as their ‘science’ collapses
  3. Climategate: Science Museum’s green propaganda backfires
  4. ‘BBC’s biased climate science reporting isn’t biased enough’ claims report

3 Responses to “Climate fear promoter Jo Abbess has a science degree. Well done, Jo!”

  1. Bud says:September 30, 2009 at 1:51 amWho the fuck is Jo Abbess?Seriously, who?

    I mean, ignoring your non-existent grasp on the scientific issues of climate change, how have you managed to manufacture an entire crowing blog post about someone who no-one even knew existed until she emailed you?

    Grow up, James. Anyone with a degree in anything ought to know there is a difference between warning someone about losing credibility and censoring them, as if ‘Jo Abbess’ even had the power to do the latter. You more than anyone should know this, as the author of numerous irrelevent climate-denial crap.

  2. Samoys says:October 3, 2009 at 6:04 pmlot about you
  3. dilandinga says:October 4, 2009 at 8:46 pmMXAnbY I bookmarked this link. Thank you for good job!

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Lady Macbeth Sticks It to Berlusconi

Berlusconi: unimpressed by Lady Macbeth's exquisitely toned arm

Berlusconi: unimpressed by Lady Macbeths exquisitely toned arm

Check out the expression on poor Barack’s face. It’s that expression of pained forbearance every husband has worn at one time or another when his wife has landed him deep in the doodoo and there ain’t nothing he can do because she’s his missus, right or wrong, and it’s more than his life’s worth to tell her her mistake.

So I guess we’ll have to tell her instead:

Michelle, we know exactly what was on your mind when you hugged Merkel, Medvedev and, Lord save us, Gordon Brown, while pointedly snubbing Berlusconi. And of course we sympathise. Berlusconi is a lech and a creep. He is definitely not the kind of guy you’d want sitting next to you at a White House brown rice and tofu fundraiser for the Andrea Dworkin Memorial Foundation For The Empowerment Of Oppressed Wimminhood.

But he is still the Prime Minister of Italy.

Related posts:

  1. Christine Rice: your new favourite mezzo soprano
  2. Lady Thatcher was a statesman. Blair and Cameron are mere politicians
  3. Lilley sticks it to ‘Trougher’ Yeo
  4. Boris sticks his thumb in the wind


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Clive James: Keep Tokenism out of Literature

I wish I’d been at Australia House on Tuesday for the launch of 1464 page anthology The Literature Of Australia. No, not normally I wouldn’t, but I gather from those who were there that Clive James rather set the cat among the pigeons by having a dig at the book’s political correctness.

Presumably, as one of Britain’s three most famous resident Aussies, James had been invited along to the bash – presided over by the Aussie High Commissioner – to utter platitudes about how bloody great Aussie literature is. Instead, James wondered aloud whether it was really necessary to have included so much aboriginal literature.

The book’s editor Nicholas Jose protested that only 12.6 per cent (blimey, he actually knew) of the contents were aboriginal, and that furthermore the anthology had been put together on lines suggested by focus groups full of young people.

“And that’s the bloody problem, mate!” James replied. (Well, not exactly. I don’t unfortunately have a transcript of his speech. I got this from an Aussie friend who witnessed the event, enthralled. And from a brief report in the Londoner’s Diary). His objection, he said, was that this kind of tokenism did not serve the cause of literature. For a writer to be anthologised he ought  at the very least to have been recognised as worthwhile on the international stage – which few if any of these aboriginal writers had. By giving them 12.6 per cent of the book, James argued, the anthology editors had simply denied a place for other better Australian writers who ought to have been included but hadn’t.

You can imagine how well this speech went down. Like a cup of cold sick. One of the things we’re inclined to forget about Australia is that though the rural parts are full of what I’d call ‘immensely sound’ blokes and sheilas who think “bludgers” should be set to work down coal mines and believe man made global warming is a crock of kangaroo poo, the Aussie metropolitan class is an altogether different kettle of fish. As achingly PC and Burkini-endorsing as any libtard European.

Clive James, I salute you, sir! I know you probably hate me because I slagged one of your autobiographies once in the Spectator. But it took real moral and intellectual courage to say what you said in such company.

Related posts:

  1. Why I owe Aussie QC Raymond Finkelstein a pint
  2. Climategate: Green Agony Uncle ‘Dear James’ answers your Copenhagen questions
  3. Climategate: five Aussie MPs lead the way by resigning in disgust over carbon tax
  4. Australia shows us all the way by sacking its useless, pointless Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery


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Only a Nutter like Gordon Brown Would Think It’s a Good Idea to Scrap Trident

Do I sleep more safely in my bed at night knowing Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent? To be perfectly honest, no. Of all the most clear and present dangers to British security right now, I cannot immediately think of any that could be averted by the despatch of a Trident missile with a warhead the equivalent of 8 Hiroshimas.

But the reason for that is, like you I imagine, I happen to live in a place called “Now” rather than “The Future”. In “Now”, there are many grave threats which prey on our minds daily.

Among the obvious ones are:

Being blown up on the bus by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.

Being blown up on an aeroplane by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.

Being blown up on the tube by home grown suicide bombers from somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Dudley.

Being blown up in Northern Ireland by one of the resurgent offshoots of the IRA.

Running away screaming from a lecture on global warming by George Monbiot only to find yourself being sideswiped and crushed to death by the enormous, badger-like bum of eco campaigner the Hon Sir Jonathan Porritt.

And so on.

But just because these represent a terrible threat now does not mean they will do so in the future. Our Islamist brethren may have decided that, after all, they don’t want to force those of us in the Dar Al-Harb to grow beards or dress in tents and submit to the will of Allah. (Yeah right). Jonathan Porritt may have lost a little weight round his posterior, or even taken over from Jeremy Clarkson presenting Top Gear. That’s the thing about the future: it’s a mystery; anything could happen; we just don’t know.

But we can make educated guesses. One educated guess we can make after Barack Obama’s speech to the UN yesterday, is that the US is about to go through a period of foreign policy retrenchment in which it plans happily to leave its former allies (Israel, Britain, nonentities like that) in the lurch, using the diplomatic space bought by making conciliatory, we-feel-your-pain noises to basket cases like North Korea, Iran and Russia.

It’s a damned good money-saving scam, I’ll grant Obama that. But it might not work. It might WELL not work. And then what do we do?

The same could be said of our increasingly wayward, shambling Prime Minister’s offer to save a few bob – sorry, contribute to world peace – by scrapping one of our four Trident submarines. It will save, perhaps, £2 billion – which makes it sound like a pretty good deal now, but what about the future?

Gordon Brown doesn’t care about the future much because he hasn’t got one. But the rest of us do – or should.

Related posts:

  1. Gordon Brown: ‘Re-elect me and I will hang all paedophiles, restore grammar schools and create permanent world peace.’
  2. Any Questions
  3. Greens, like Nazis, see the entire world through the prism of one big idea: theirs
  4. The BBC: Al Gore’s UK propaganda mouthpiece


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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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