Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Quentin Letts vs the massive liberal conspiracy

You might think, as we sit here under a primarily Tory government, watching as it makes at least partly ideologically-motivated 'savings' to public services, that it would take some pretty massive balls to claim that the Left was running the country, right? Well! Enter, stage right, Quentin Letts, his giant, monumental balls resting in a shopping trolley as he trundles in, eager to make that exact point. In We may have a Tory PM - but Lefties and luvvies still run Britain, Letts attempts the quite extraordinary, beginning;
Over at Ofcom it is shrug-your-shoulders time. The broadcasting regulator had shown leniency to ‘edgy’ comedian Frankie Boyle after he made jibes about a disabled child — letting him off with no more than a rap on the knuckles. Boyle’s remarks were made on Channel 4, another public body. Chairman David Abraham and the channel’s liberal supremos were similarly disinclined to take the matter too gravely.
This is a pretty baffling tactic in itself. Firstly, the right hardly has the monopoly on being irritated and/or offended by Boyle's laboured, tiring, scattergun shock-making. He gets some leeway on account of being a comedian, rather than, say, someone actually running the country (more on this distinction later, Quentin!), but even liberal lefties aren't always massively keen on rape and incest jokes where the imagined rapist is a real, blameless disabled, mixed-race child. Hang on, reading that again, one might think that chastising Boyle for insulting such a person would be a sign of 'political correctness', and that leniency would be the more right-wing or libertarian position? Either way, it's a strange point to make a mere two days after everyone's favourite denim-afflicted right-wing tossbag Jeremy Clarkson was similarly let off over his hilarious Mexican stereotyping, much as he was when he made a joke referencing Ipswich's murdered sex workers. It's almost as if Letts is talking one-eyed garbage ('one-eyed' being another insult Clarkson hurled at left-wing colossus Gordon Brown and got a minor rap on the knuckles for). Later in the piece we find out just how wide the liberal tentacles that control Britain are spread:
Over on Twitter, meanwhile, millionaire actor and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard was regaling his faithful munchkins with his latest political apercus, attacking the Government’s cuts.
Who would have thought that famous transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard would be a liberal? Witness the power he wields; talking to people on at a Labour conference? Help me out here.
They all show the way that our politics is increasingly being influenced by unelected voices from the Left.
If only Eddie Izzard had existed before May 2010! We might have been spared Tory rule, for the socialist liberals to reign supreme. But alas.
The Yes To AV referendum campaign has been dominated by showbusiness personalities. Stephen Fry has been involved. Isn’t he always? So have Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in TV’s Blackadder, Oscar winner Colin Firth, militant atheist Richard Dawkins (ugh) and dreadlocked poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
The more you think about it, the more astonishing it is that Cameron is Prime Minister, right? He had defeat massed ranks of leftist forces that blocked his path; titans such as Baldrick out of Blackadder, and a poet. Letts continue to rage on in bewilderment;
Hang on. Are politicians not voted in by us? Do we not choose them to represent us and to be accountable? How can an inadequate ‘star’ such as the impeccably Left-wing novelist Zadie Smith be held up to scrutiny when she appears on BBC Radio to rail against library closures?
I agree to some extent that there can be problems with unelected and often uninformed celebrities and lobbyists appearing on the airwaves. This is hardly an exclusively left-wing problem though. Turn on the radio and you're as likely to hear Stephen Green, the Taxpayers' Alliance or any number of unelected anti-abortion campaigners mouthing off as you are to be subjected to the terrifying danger of a novelist talking about libraries. Letts dribbles on in this manner, apparently staggered to discover that artists are not typically fond of cuts/'savings' to the arts, gently accusing (with caveats) Phillip Pullman of being motivated by pure financial self-interest for not wanting libraries to be shut down. Eventually, once he's mentioned Stephen Fry and Judi Dench, he starts to run out of big-hitting lefties to complain about the staggering political influence of. At one stage he refers to "Actor Sam West, whose mother Prunella Scales (of Fawlty Towers fame) appears in Labour Party adverts". Yes, an actor whose mum was in Fawlty Towers! An actor I had to Google! He was in Howards End apparently! Who could fail to unite behind such a totemic figure?
No discussion of pay is allowed to pass on the public airwaves without a contribution from Left-wing journalist Will Hutton
Letts stumbles onto a hint of some kind of point here. But it isn't Leftist bias. The BBC and other news organisations are obsessed with, appearing 'balanced', as they are obliged to be. You have a climate scientist on? You need a 'climate sceptic' to argue with him. Pro-choice campaigner? Better get someone virulently anti-abortion to oppose them. Alternative medicine debate? Get one scientist and one homeopath and give them equal time, as if they're merely two equally correct alternatives. I'm happy to accept that actors and rock stars and comedians are overwhelmingly left-wing. There are reasons for that I could go into if I a) could be bothered to do the research and b) wasn't at work right now. But they're just mouths flapping in the wind, much like Clarkson and Littlejohn and Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama. None of them have managed to prevent Tory rule. They didn't even manage to prevent the rightwards slide of the Labour party either. It must be strange to be Quentin Letts, looking at a Tory-led coalition government, who in turn took over from an ever-increasingly centrist 'New' Labour, and argue that we are dominated by socialists and left-wing thinking because a few comedians and actors get some airtime to say they don't want libraries to close. Particularly strange given that he writes for the ever-popular Daily Mail, whose readership dwarfs that of the Guardian or the Independent. Some people are just never bloody happy, are they?


  1. //Are politicians not voted in by us? Do we not choose them to represent us and to be accountable? How can an inadequate ‘star’ such as the impeccably Left-wing novelist Zadie Smith be held up to scrutiny when she appears on BBC Radio to rail against library closures?//

    How does he know she isn't one of the "us" supposed to hold politicians accountable? I can see an argument that celebrities who make this kind of statement are just members of the electorate who happen to have enough name recognition for listeners to pay attention to them.

  2. That's the same hopelessly naive, socially irresponsible argument that leads to people failing to distinguish between taxpayers and fare-payers, or taxpayers and future pensioners, or taxpayers and public sector workers, or ...

  3. As you rightly say, many celebs do wander in making ill informed observations and in Sharon Stone's case, diverting money from one cause to the other because she felt was was qualified to talk about malaria prevention (please PLEASE read Marina Hyde's fantastic book on celebrity for these stories - quite terrifying).

    But surely Letts, as a journalist, is guilty of what he is preaching? He is a non-elected official talking about political decision making, trying to influence his readers to a certain way of thinking.

    And yes to all your points about how, ffs, if we are steps away from a socialist paradise, how come we're in a tory led coalition. honestly!

    But i think my favourite bit is when he calls Benjamin Zephaniah a 'dreadlocked poet'. Why not just poet? hmmm....

  4. Brilliant stuff. I often think that when columnists hit out at liberals in this way, it's because they know we're winning and they are scared. Good. Let's keep it that way.

  5. So if "impeccably left wing" writers like Zadie Smith shouldn't be allowed to comment on political issues, surely that goes equally for impeccably right wing writers like, err, Quentin Letts?

  6. Funny, I could've sworn that I heard Letts given an entire programme on Radio 4 last year to pontificate about the joys of closing libraries.

  7. alwaysopenallhours
    'Brilliant stuff. I often think that when columnists hit out at liberals in this way, it's because they know we're winning and they are scared. Good. Let's keep it that way. '

    According to Jonathan the liberals aren't winning though so I am not sure what you mean here. The very fact that 'liberal' thought and middle class liberal arty types are considered the key threat to the establishment (as opposed to the say, radical 'left' -who? exactly) shows how far right this country has gone.

    But my view of the media is different from Jonathan's in that I do not judge the power of an ideology simply by newspaper sales. I think he was inarticulate and stupid in his remarks but Letts may have stumbled on something of the hold the 'liberal' media does have on some things in this country.

    I am no fan of the liberals myself.

  8. Hi Elly!

    "But my view of the media is different from Jonathan's in that I do not judge the power of an ideology simply by newspaper sales"

    I don't think that's a particularly accurate representation of what I said. I mentioned in passing that the newspaper market is largely dominated by fairly right-wing or centre-right views (The Mail, Express, Sun, Star, Telegraph and Times), with only really the Graun and the Independent as particularly liberal (the Mirror has its moments I guess but slips in and out of line with the other red-tops). It's often claimed by the endless parade of right-wing columnists that they're somehow suppressed, as they write on fat salaries for their widely-read columns.

    I think right-wing ideas are flourishing in society, but that there's an increasing tendency to couch them in more liberal-sounding language, which gives the impression that we're dominated by wet liberals.

  9. Thanks yes sorry I was a bit broad brush there in my point about papers.

    I still think we probably disagree about the extent to which 'liberal' ideas influence society at large. I think my view is that 'Tory' or conservative ideologies and 'liberal' ones overlap a lot more than we give credit for.

    Maybe a crude example is how say, Suzanne Moore writes for both the Mail and the Graun, without really changing her content (maybe her sentences are a bit shorter in the Mail!)

  10. I wouldn't say Moore's a particularly useful example. Before she got the Guardian job people were asking her why she wrote for the Mail on Sunday and not the Guardian, because she seemed out of place there.

  11. But she's still been hired. She is not writing 'against' the Mail. The people who read the Mail don't ask her why she writes for it, only liberal lefties.

  12. I just disagree that it represents any kind of ideological overlap. Moore is easily the furthest left Mail columnist, a world away from Hitchens, Phillips, Littlejohn, Platell et al in terms of her politics. She certainly considers herself atypical of the Mail and I would agree based on what I know of her. That she writes for two different papers says little really unless she embodies the spirit of both, which I don't think she does. I couldn't imagine any of the above-mentioned columnists doing the same.

    I don't know if that's true about what Mail readers ask her or what they think, I haven't researched that scientifically.

  13. Setting aside what I consider to be a perfectly natural reaction to regard anyone calling themselves Quentin Letts as a complete arsehole, isn't this the sort of twaddle peddled by Amercian posturers such as Glenn Beck and the like? The setting up a straw dog of liberals, the attempt to claim the pervasive influence of liberals and the posture as 'I'm only a normal member of the public' who is saying what you all feel' are all part of the right wing victim culture.

  14. what is 'the spirit' of the Guardian then? Especially with relation to gender issues that Moore tends to write on.

    This is where the 'liberal' press such as *cough* the New Statesman becomes very very similar to the 'conservative' press in my view.

  15. You don't agree that there are broad editorial differences between the Guardian and the Mail?

    Anyway, I know we're all dying to read your thoughts about how the Guardian doesn't share your specific approach to gender issues, so why don't you just post a link to some lengthy blog post you wrote about that so all us not-liberal-enough-so-called-liberals can be educated about how the Guardian and the Mail are virtually indistiguishable? It'll make a great addition to my post about Quentin Letts' views on who runs the country.

  16. thanks Jonathan but I am talking about how 'liberal' ideologies and liberal people DO run aspects of our country, which is on topic.

    I do not have a post on this issue but I shall write one just for you. I do agree there are broad editorial differences between the Mail and the Graun, but I don't agree that the 'liberal' values of the Graun, especially with regards to gender, sex, sexuality, men and women's roles, class are not the 'dominant' values in our society.


  17. Which aspects do you mean? Can you give an example?

  18. cock. I just wrote a long comment and lost it.

    Will try again later.

  19. ok the aspects of UK society ruled by 'liberal'
    values as espoused by the Graun, I'd say included sex, sexuality and gender. Quite major aspects of society.

    e.g. Jim Shelley's review of Secret Diary of a call girl presents a morality that is also seen in The Mail, whereby sex workers are 'whores' who were slutty girls at school and that we should heap shame on.

    This kind of view is also espoused by feminist journalists and campaigners who have affected the law around e.g. lap dancing club licences, and criminalising clients of 'coerced' sex workers.

    and that review is even illustrated by quite a titillating picture of a nearly naked Billy Piper. Even though it says Billy Piper as Belle is a terrible 'role model'...

  20. and that is literally one example, not the basis of my whole argument your honour.

  21. Yeah, I read your blog about Shelley, he's a TV pundit who talks shit when he strays into social commentary.

    Out of interest, which feminist journalists and campaigners have espoused the view that "sex workers are 'whores' who were slutty girls at school and that we should heap shame on"? It doesn't sound like a view I've heard expressed by the feminists I know.

  22. He's a TV pundit who gets paid by The Guardian to talk shit yes.

    I will find some more references and links. But The Guardian is so anti-sex worker and anti-women who work in e.g. porn/lap dancing industry it is untrue. And the feminists who are lauded by The Guardian are ones who sex workers who campaign for their rights treat as 'the enemy' such as Julie Bindel, Gail Dines, Kat Banyard, Anna Thingy from OBJECT...

  23. Incidentally your opening line on your post below: '...a paper famed for its pearl-clutching prudery about sex' could or at least should apply to the Graun as much as the Mail in my opinion. The Mary Whitehouses of this world work for all the major publications I believe.

  24. ...and finally, here is some 'pearl clutching prudery' (a good phrase btw I might steal it)
    from The Graun today: