Universities’ Most Freakish, Isolated Minority: Non-Lefties

Like Catholics in Elizabethan times, they must congregate discreetly.

A few columns ago, I told the mortifying story of how I totally died at the Oxford Union. Today I’m going to tell you how I managed to avoid the same fate on a more recent trip to the Cambridge Union, where I spoke in a debate and opposed the motion: ‘This house would open its doors to refugees.’

Partly, I was just better prepared. One of the benefits of a public-speaking disaster is that it makes you particularly loath ever to repeat the horror. I can’t say I spent any longer on my speech. What I did do, though, was co-ordinate much more with the rest of my team beforehand (ex-MEP Godfrey Bloom, current MEP Roger Helmer, economist Alasdair Macleod) so that we knew what we were all going to say and didn’t repeat one another’s arguments. This forced me to write my speech a week early instead of at the last minute: something I commend to debaters because then the material sits in your head and matures and becomes familiar.

Then there is the simple fact that Cambridge is a much better-mannered place than Oxford. It’s not that the undergraduates are any less left-wing — especially not if they’re at King’s, where Jeremy Corbyn would be considered a bourgeois capitalist running-dog lackey. But Cantabrigians are more fastidious, austere and thoughtful than impetuous, thrusting, ostentatious Oxonians, and are consequently much less prone to shouting down their opponents.

But the main reason it went so much better is that I went in fully expecting to lose. (As indeed my team did lose, big time, by a margin of about 90 to ten.) This imbues in you the kind of grim fatalism the 300 must have experienced at Thermopylae or that gladiators no doubt felt as they saluted the emperor. There’s no stupid voice in your head going: ‘Maybe if I smile sweetly enough I can make them like me.’ Instead you think: ‘Sod ’em!’ You’re going to end up face-down in the dust, whatever you do, but at least you can take a few of the bastards with you.

I’m amazed — almost disgusted with myself, actually — that I was naive enough to expect otherwise at Oxford. But the thing people don’t realise about me — which I generally try to keep secret because it’s kind of off-brand — is that in real life I’m a really, really nice, sweet-natured, trusting, innocent person. And also one who lives in a fantasy world. So when I stood on the debating floor that time in Oxford, grinning dementedly, and tried to put all my listeners at ease by opening with an ad-libbed quip about Aids, I genuinely thought in my deluded imagination: ‘Ha, I’m going to win over these kids with my engaging mix of shambolic charm and no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is right-wing politics, just you see…’ This illusion lasted for all of the split-second it took before the boos and hisses began.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

Radio Reviewing Is Based on a Lie – That Radio 4 Is Brimming with Fascinating Programmes

Is there, for example, anyone on radio more irritating than Eddie Mair? Yes, her name is Anita Anand.

There are few jobs more dishonest than being a radio critic in Britain. I know this because it was how I got my first break 25 years ago as a columnist. In those days you used to get sent huge yellow envelopes full of preview cassettes, whereas now it’s all digital, but the fundamental lie is just the same: essentially you are telling the reader something they know not to be true — that BBC Radio 4 is a wonderfully civilised place to hang out, brimming with all sorts of marvellously fascinating programmes that transport you to another realm.

Yes, of course it does happen. In the same way that when Grozny was reduced to rubble in the Chechen wars, I expect there was some beautiful old building left standing, a mosque maybe, which you could have gone to visit. But if you’d then come back home and told your friends, ‘God, you really must go to Grozny. The architecture there is totally amazing,’ you wouldn’t have been telling the full story, would you?

So it is with Radio 4. (Which, as far as reviewing goes, is radio.) There are times — we’ve all been there — when you’re desperately trying to stay awake on a late-night drive or you’re slogging along a tedious stretch of motorway or you’re stuck in a jam, and to your rescue comes a documentary or even, on rarer occasions, a play so absorbing that time ceases to exist and you could happily stay there for ever.

Be honest, though: it’s not that often, is it? Definitely, I spend far more time shouting at my radio than I do blissing out to it. This is partly a function of the fact that the bulk of Radio 4’s daily schedule comprises so many programmes you can barely bear: Today — just maddening; Woman’s Hour — hateful, sanctimonious, man-hating wittering; You and Yours — bleeuurch; Costing the Earth — like being force-fed to death on sackcloth and tofu; PM — is there anyone on radio more irritating than Eddie Mair?; Any Answers — yes, there is and her name is Anita Anand.

And partly, of course, it’s because the BBC’s politics only ever go in one direction. They try really hard to be balanced, the BBC’s presenters. Unfortunately, no more are they capable of it than the scorpion is capable of not stinging the frog carrying it across the river. Like, the other morning Today’s Mishal Husain was trying to interview two people about the EU — one pro, one anti. She had no problem grilling the Brexit person but when it came to giving as hard a time to the Remainer she just couldn’t: not because she didn’t want to, I’m sure, but because she found it literally impossible to conceive of a single argument why anyone would want to leave the EU.

Its science coverage is almost worse, possibly the result of being an organisation full of arts graduates — even environment analyst Roger Harrabin is one — with hang-ups that they didn’t do a ‘proper’ degree. To make up for it, they put scientists on a pedestal: lo! The mighty keepers of the flame of knowledge with their white coats and bunsen burners.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

10 O’Clock Live Is Shedding Viewers. Oh Dear

Channel 4’s groovy, topical, political comedy show for the nation’s yoof 10 O’Clock Live is being hammered in the ratings. It launched in January with 1.4 million viewers. Now its audience has slipped to less than half that. Its commissioners at Channel 4 are putting a brave face on this. But it doesn’t sound like the definition of a great success story. I wonder why that could be.

Actually I know why, as I explained when I reviewed the abysmal first episode in the Spectator. (Since when, I gather, it has gone even further downhill.)
Just before Christmas, a TV production company asked whether I might be interested in appearing in a zappy new live and topical political series they were soon to launch on Channel 4.
‘It’s called 10 O’Clock Live,’ they said. ‘You probably saw our pilot. The one-off special with Lauren Laverne, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr? It got pretty good ratings.’ No, I replied. That isn’t the sort of programme I’d watch in a million years. Lefty comedians making lefty jokes to a lefty audience about politics from a relentlessly lefty perspective? No, thanks.
‘But that’s exactly why we’re approaching you. To give it a bit of political balance,’ they said. ‘You mean, to come on as your token right-wing nutcase to be reviled and jeered at?’ I said. ‘Nooo,’ they said. ‘We want every point of view to be represented, we really do.’ ‘Yeah, right,’ I thought. But I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait for the first episode.
And guess what? 10 O’Clock Live is so relentlessly left-wing it’s like attending one of those Maoist re-education lectures the Chinese used to impose on captured British and American prisoners during the Korean war. Only without the levity, rapier wit and penetrating intellectual sophistication.
Look, you’re just going to have to take my word for it that this isn’t a case of sour grapes. Really, I’m absolutely 100 per cent sure that had I been chosen to be one of the presenters, I too would have made just as appalling hash of the job as Laverne, Mitchell, Brooker and Carr do with such cackhanded verve, week-in, week-out.
But the real point about all this is that the problem with 10’O Clock Live has absolutely nothing to do with personalities. (As I say later in the Spectator piece, I’m actually a massive fan of all four of those presenters: I just think their talents are wasted on this particular misbegotten show.) The problem lies with its relentlessly left-liberal politics.
Now I would concede that greenie, left-liberal politics are more likely to be in line with its yoof demographic. But the programme’s tacit assumption that all people today between 18 and 34 are Israel-loathing, high-tax-loving, believers in an expanded welfare state, man-made global warming, waterboarding for bankers, compulsory homosexuality, free university education and so on is not only demeaning (and, to a degree, false) but also the makings of excedingly dull TV.
Sure, granted, a lot of the nation’s “uni-” “educated” yoof do think in this way. But what you get if you make a topical news programme in this way is an amen corner for the received orthodoxies of the green, liberal-left. What you definitely don’t is the cut and thrust of real, exciting political debate.
As much as anything else this is a psychological thing. There are many fine, entertaining figures of a right/conservative/libertarian persuasion. But if their job is merely to be tossed like scraps of raw meat into a bear pit of salivating lefties who wouldn’t know what a free market was if it bit them on the bum, they are simply not going to perform to their best advantage.
Not everyone reads the Guardian or the Independent, you know. (In fact, hardly anyone.)

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3 thoughts on “10 O’Clock Live is shedding viewers. Oh dear”

  1. JimmyGiro says:20th March 2011 at 10:16 amA depressed man asks the psychoanalyst what he can do for relief?The analyst replies: “The treatment is simple. The great clown Terrifini is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. Man bursts into tears: “But doctor . . . I am Terrifini.”

    I think the main problem with ’10 O’clock Live’ is the audience. Comedians, and popular public speakers alike, are inclined to react to the audience, which becomes their audience.

    Would Bernard Manning’s style of humour be the same if he were not playing to North Manchester working class men? Would Hitler have chosen a different angle if he couldn’t depend on the inherent anti-Jewish sentiment of the German people, in his early political career?

    If the organisers attract a crowd of brown shirts, the show is going to be different than if it was populated by people that want a laugh after a hard days graft. The Guardian reading crowd seem to want self affirmation rather than a belly laugh, as witnessed by the cheering and clapping, dominating the paucity of natural, non-forced laughter.

    When Nigel Farage, who was introduced amongst Pavlovian jeering, gave his typically cogent responses to David Mitchell’s questions, despite the latter desperately trying to force the answers to a simplistic level of xenophobia, the audience where stunned, and eventually collapsed into polite applause at the end.

    So I conclude that it is the neurosis of the audience that is wearing away the credibility of the show, and it took someone of Nigel Farage’s confidence to expose it.

  2. Velocity says:21st March 2011 at 1:24 amLeftie (and liberal) comedians are sooooooooo not funny. Dross in, dross out.
    But maybe you should take up the challenge James as first we need some right wingers (libertarians), second lefties are a (easy) target to be hammered and third times are a changing. and becoming more receptive
    They take the piss out of austerity you take the piss out of State bankruptcy
    They take the piss out of bankers you say it was the socialists that bailed them out
    They take the piss out of higher Uni fees you say State education is the most expensive liability
    They say Cameron is a clown you say ‘Agreed, but not as big as the last Labour Govt’
    They want more for the NHS you say the free market works better
    They want more for trains, green energy, Euro subsidies etc you say the free market works better
    They complain about cuts you complain about high taxes on everything (fuel, VAT up, ciggies, drinks etc etc etc)
    They want more Govt you want a whole lot less (zero someday when the penny drops)
    You could have a field day slapping these lefties in the face… remember they’re soft as shit and haven’t a leg to stand on after Labours destruction of the country… a missed opportunity James
  3. Colin says:22nd March 2011 at 9:52 pmI watch it, I laugh.

Comments are closed.

Life’s Too Short to Be Nice to Lefties

Now I know why so many people hate me. It came to me in a flash during dinner with a group of bright, articulate, well-balanced sixth-formers from Roedean girls’ school. I was banging on in my rabid right-wing way about the importance of free markets and the shortcomings of feminism and suchlike when I happened accidentally to vouchsafe that the proudest achievement of my life had been teaching my children to read. And it was as if, all of a sudden, I’d waved a magic wand and sprinkled myself in fairy dust. The mood softened. You could almost see the thought bubbles above the girls’ heads, saying: ‘Aaah!’ and ‘Gosh maybe he isn’t, like, so totally evil after all.’

‘Blimey!’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s where I’ve been going wrong!’ And a plan began to form in my head. My wife has long been telling me that I need to find ways of stopping people thinking I’m such a grade-one Berkshire Hunt, and my Roedean experience confirmed it. Clearly, from now on, I would have to attend all my speaking engagements accompanied by a puppy. With a lovely blue ribbon round its neck. And dozens of photos of me changing my kids’ nappies and helping old blind ladies across the road. And a fund of anecdotes, like the time I spontaneously invited a party of Congolese orphans with leprosy to come and join me in the jacuzzi. (‘Oh, never mind all the floaty bits, kids. These warm soothing jets are the least you deserve after the hell you’ve been through!’) And a T-shirt with a big smiley face on with the caption: ‘Oh. By the way. I’m really NICE.’

No, not really. In fact the conclusion I drew from my Roedean experience was the exact opposite: that in future I will try even less hard to make people like me at public speaking engagements. I think it’s time we on the right fought back against the tyranny of nice; time we told it like it is, without prettifying our arguments with love-me-do asides about how many kittens we saved from drowning this week, and without trying to show our audience how reasonable and balanced we are by conceding that our ideological opponents have the occasional point.

Read the rest in the Spectator.