I've started so I might as well finish. Either that or I'm a glutton for punishment. Quentin Letts' 50 people who buggered up Britain continues, and as he has 256 pages to fill, one would imagine we're only getting a heavily cut down version in the Hate.
21st is Tony Blair, and in keeping with the previous names on the list, this isn't for the reason why you think he might be. Not for Letts is Blair worthy of being on the list because of little things like lying over the Iraq war, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, for the way he casually diluted civil liberties, or how he ran a "sofa government" in which he was the be all and end all, the most presidential prime minister this country has probably had since Churchill during the second world war; no, Blair is a villain because of the way he casually left parliament as soon as he ceased being prime minister. While you can hardly argue that this was because Blair considered himself a superstar and that there was money to be made, as Letts suggests, anyone who seriously wanted Blair to remain an MP after 10 hellish years must be the sort of masochist which the government seems to be so terrified of.
22nd is Richard Brunstorm, a perennial Mail target, often referred to as part of the Traffic Taliban. There is a really simple way to avoid having to pay fines due to being caught by speed cameras: don't break the fucking speed limit. Speed cameras are for the most part not as objectionable as the basic CCTV camera, for the simple reason that it only records the details of someone breaking the law, rather than absolutely everyone as the latter do. Just for good measure, and to fill up the list, the inventor of the speed camera Maurice 'Maus' Gatsonides is in at 42.
At 23 Paul Burrell enters the equation. Few will disagree with the fact that Burrell is a particularly egregious example of someone cashing in on their work for someone famous, a horrible oleaginous pustule filling his boots. This has never been the real reason though for why such bile has been directed his way in the newspapers: it started when he sold his story to the Mirror rather than any of its rivals. Prior to that he was genuinely feted as "Diana's rock"; it's only now that he is ridiculed for what they formerly praised him for. And after all, for quite a long time Burrell was providing a separate narrative to the one which the press and its correspondents and columnists, often themselves writing books about Diana, wanted their readers to hear; he was a threat, hence he had to be dealt with. True, Burrell seems to have embellished and on occasion lied about his relationship with the Princess, but then so has the media which now so viciously assaults him. How dare someone who actually worked for the Princess profit from it; that's our job!
No quarrel with Letts over 24, Alex Ferguson, who has to be one of the most overrated and over indulged individuals in the entire country. No one else would be allowed to get away with what he does, his incessant sniping at referees when they dare to not award a penalty to serial diving offenders Ronaldo and Rooney, when so often the officials favour his team as decisions in both of the last Premiership games involving Manchester United have shown. His accusations that everyone is against them solve a dual purpose: to both intimidate referees before a game has even begun whilst ensuring that everyone else continues to hate his team, which he feeds off of. Football managers are hardly ever pleasant creatures, but Ferguson, despite his successes, does the game as much of a disservice as he does a service.
25th is a further example of Letts' warped thinking. His victim this time is Kenneth Baker, for two reasons: the dangerous dogs act and the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. Undoubtedly the DDA is one of the best or worst, depending on your thinking, examples of how legislation motivated by reacting to tabloid demands results in the worst of all worlds. Quite apart from the fact that Letts' employer has been in the forefront of other such campaigns, it very rarely leads to whole breeds being condemned, as the number of youths walking around with "pit-bull" type dogs proves. Letts though thinks that if dogs can be exterminated, why can naughty children not be occasionally thrashed? I think I'll leave you to ponder that one.
Letts' choice at 26th of Ronald Jasper, who introduced the Alternative Service Book into the Church of England is rather beyond my speciality, and the brutalist architect Sir Denys Lasdun is hardly likely to have many defenders. Pettiness and snobbery though raises its head again at 28, where Helen Willetts, of all those deigned to have buggered up Britain resides. Willetts, a weather presenter, apparently insults our intelligence with her "Chester accent" and by suggesting that you might want to wrap up warm when it's cold. She and her friends are "northern-accented show-offs" that are the "new ruling average". Quite obviously what the BBC needs are more southerners to make up for the northerners that are taking over the tattered corporation.
29th is Dame Suzi Leather, seemingly on Letts' list purely for being a Labour supporter in a position of something approaching power as head of the Charity Commission. She is an "unelected harridan who draws her money from the public sector and sticks her nose into other people's business, making their lives considerably less easy." Who could possibly disagree?
30th is Richard Dawkins, and proving that Letts obviously hasn't read the God Delusion, falls straight into one of the arguments which Dawkins challenges, the idea that religion, even if it cannot provide proof of God's existence "can sugar catastrophe and brighten chasms". As Dawkins says, there is little more patronising than the fact that we shouldn't challenge religion because it brings hope and solace to some. Whatever the opiate of the masses is, if it has such a horrendous and bloody track-record as religion, it needs to be taken on regardless of such excuses.
31st shows that Letts cares nothing for conservation by targeting Geoffrey Rippon, who handed our fishing rights to the EEC in 1973, while at 32 the creator of EastEnders, Julia Smith, takes a battering. God forbid that popular television actually try to consistently target genuine issues of public concern, whether they involve violence or misery or not; for someone that writes for a newspaper than revels in both, Letts seems remarkably squeamish about it being covered unflinchingly for a mass audience, especially when both are apparently so convinced this is what our modern nation is actually like. The biggest resentment, as usual, appears to be that they are having to fund it despite not watching it, and if they don't approve, then the rest of the nation shouldn't be able to watch it either.
33rd then, dear reader, is you and I. Or rather, "Webonymous". Letts doesn't take too kindly to those that "are timid to stand by the words in public, just content to hurl vitriol and hide from proper argument." Can't accuse Letts of doing that: after all, how else would he make make his wad if he wasn't employed by the Mail?
34th is the already mentioned Michael Martin, and while few can dispute he has been an abysmal speaker of the house, wasting money like water on trying to stop investigation into MPs' expenses, the snobbery again slips in, as the person who coined the moniker "Gorbals Mick" only can. As before, rather than it be Letts that's the class-warrior, outraged that someone who used to do manual work for a living be an MP, it's Martin that's re-heating the class war, favouring Scots over "southern Tories with fruity accents", while spitting fury at an "aristocratic Tory". Lowering the tone in the house and exposing it to ridicule isn't enough; Martin has to be doing it while Scottish and working class to truly upset the apple-cart.
Harold Wilson next takes a leathering for introducing the special advisor, which obviously inexorably led us to Jo Moore and Alastair Campbell, completely leaving out practitioners such as Bernard Ingham, who newspapers boycotted during the 1980s because they felt he had overstepped his role as a civil servant.
Onto the finishing straight, and John Birt is 36th. No objections on this one, although as Greg Dyke was also on the list, that's the two previous BBC controllers on it, even if for completely different and in Dyke's case idiotic reasons. It's a wonder Mark Thompson isn't either.
Ed Balls and additionally his wife are 37th. Letts it seems appears to have something of a fixation on accents, especially on those people who he vehemently dislikes. Here's his take on Balls:
With their accents, they seek to convey an unconvincing matey-ness. Ed (it is rarely Edward) speaks in a strangulated Mockney, which manages to be both staccato and foggy. It is also peppered by delay phrases, such as 'errr', and by little stammers. So bright! Yet so ineloquent!
Yvette labours for a northern twang, making her short 'a' even more aggressive when she is fighting off criticism. Few onlookers would guess she was reared in southern England - in Hampshire, thank you - or that her husband, who loves to attack David Cameron for his public school background, himself attended a fee-paying school.
Golly gosh, hypocrites who can't talk properly! To ensure though that Letts isn't himself going in for vitriol without proper argument, Balls gets the blame for the following:
This background to the Ballses sits comfortably with their record of 'nanny knows best' interference. The nonsense of tax credits? Classic Balls. Stealth taxation? Yet more Balls.
No fan of tax credits when lifting the poorest out of tax would be a far better option, but stealth taxation really is a conglomerate of different grievances that has become so ubiquitous as to become meaningless. Everything is a stealth tax and the nanny state is to blame for everything. Change the record already.
Again, no difference of opinion over John Scarlett at 39 for his role in the dodgy dossiers, while I'll take Letts' word for it over Graham Kendrick, before we come to Jock McStalin at last at 41, mainly for spending all our money in order to garner votes through those are subsequently employed by the state. This is an old conspiracy theory, and one far from proven. Also noteworthy is Letts complaining about the police always having new cars, which is ever so slightly rich coming from a newspaper that believes never enough can be spent on them, as long as they're the right sort of police and not politically correct individuals like Ian Blair or sinister darkies like Ali Dizaei.
41 deals with cricket and Tony Grieg, which I am completely unqualified to comment on (more so than usual), 42nd we've already done, and so it's onto 43 and David Blunkett. One of the problems of lists like this is that they contain people you can't stand yourself, but for entirely different reasons: Blunkett was a law unto himself, thinking that he could criticise judges for daring to contradict his policies, whilst laying the foundations not just for 90 days but also for the current overcrowding in prisons with his introduction of "indeterminate" sentences. Letts, on the other hand, criticises him for waiving restrictions on the EU ascension states, leading to the mass increase in immigration, which can hardly be pinned just on him when it was a whole government decision, and was also agreed on the basis that the rest of Europe would also open their borders, which they didn't; for introducing citizenship classes, as the poor kids subjected to comprehensive education should obviously be studying more demanding subjects rather than be instructed in the workings of society; and for the police community support officers, whom Letts suggests are scared of even confronting 13-year-olds, which even by the standards of the above is bollocks. Strange that Letts didn't mention the shagging of the Kimberley Fortier, or perhaps that might have stirred up thoughts of what he did to fellow sketch writer and supposed friend Simon Hoggart, who he sent up after he was also exposed as having had a piece. Letts parodied Hoggart's own Christmas round-robin letters book; perhaps Hoggart might be inclined to take his revenge this year.
At 44th Peter Bazalgette enters, mainly for his role in bringing Big Brother to our screens, which I might well have mentioned in the past. 45th then is Alastair Campbell, which surely must have been the easiest and most obvious choice on the entire list. Letts though is still willing to surprise us; this isn't because of his lying, sniping and spinning which brought our political culture to such a low point, but because he was a fanatic, according to Letts a "deeply unBritish" character. He "spread through our land totalitarian vehemence". Campbell might be a thoroughly unpleasant gentleman, but he was thoroughly right when so often identified the Daily Mail as being the ultimate in poison in our public life, an immoral newspaper which time and again upbraids others for not being moral enough. Letts' description is in fact worth quoting in full because of how well it also applies to the Mail as a whole:
Such vehemence of belief you find in this man. Such fervour of support. Such absence of doubt. It is unnerving, unnatural, the product, I'd say, of deep unhappiness. The reason it matters, and the reason he comes into our rifle sights, is that he infected our public life with this fanaticism.
It's little wonder the Mail and Campbell hate each other so: they both have exactly the same qualities while standing for completely different things.
46th is Harold Walker, who introduced "elf 'n' safety" to the nation, for the thoroughly disreputable reasons of increasing safety in the coalmines and preventing the half a million injuries a year which the workforce suffered. Try as he might, Letts can't blame Walker for the current implications of health and safety laws on the man with the best of intentions. It's rather like blaming Marx for Stalin or Mao: they might have been basing their own rule on his theories, but he was not responsible for the overall outcome.
Coming towards the end, Rupert Murdoch makes his appearance at 47. As somewhat predicted yesterday, this isn't because of Murdoch lowering the tone of the nation with the Sun and News of the Screws, for poisoning politics and ensuring that whoever wants to lead this country has to have the backing of an Australian-American who does his darndest to pay as little tax as possible, but because of what the bastard has does to the Times letters page. No, Murdoch isn't on the list for what he along with Graham Kelly brought about through the Premier League, or for foisting New Labour on us through the Faustian pact which he and Tony Blair entered into, he's on it because the Times letters page isn't as good as it used to be:
Today's Times letters page carries a lot of letters from public relations people, and the 'jokey' contributions are rather overdone.
The paper's change to a tabloid format crushed the elegance of the letters page. It lost its status. And a Britain without an authoritative, tightly edited Times letters page is somehow a less civilised place to live.
To which you can only say: get a fucking sense of perspective you smug, oily cunt.
Ahem. Nicholas Ridley enters at 48, for his contribution to out of town shopping centres and Stalinist-type housing estates, but from which you get the real impression that what Letts really objects to is any building on the green belt at all, the heighth of specious nimbyism that so frustrates anyone who lives within a few miles of the "countryside", 49 is Rhodes Boyson for starting the selling of school playing fields, which again he can hardly blamed for the continuing building on of, and 50 is Alun Michael for ridding us of fox hunting. Give him a knighthood I say, especially if it'll piss off Letts even more.
From yesterday's list of deadly sins then we are able to add snobbery, dislike of northerners despite rooting against Thatcher's imposition of the north-south divide, a tendency to think that it's perfectly OK to flagellate children, limp defence of organised religion because of how it can comfort some, taking exception to those who anonymously critique his quite brilliant sketches, and the sort of lack of perspective that only a Mail writer could have on Rupert Murdoch. I think Letts might just have a best-seller on his hands.
Labels: broken society, broken society bullshit, christmas books, Daily Mail, Daily Mail-watch, lists, Mail-watch, Quentin Letts