David Starkey blotted his copybook again, allowing one foolish word, ‘damn’ in a fifty-minute interview which of course got picked up by the left- wing cohorts eager to destroy him and all those like him. Of course, he shouldn’t have said ‘blacks’ either, but ‘black people,’ or better still ‘people of colour,’ or better still not mentioned them at all.
He no longer appears on BBC TV or radio, and has now lost his Cambridge Fellowship, a teaching job at Canterbury University, and his publisher has dropped him. Punishment by publisher also recently happened to J K Rowling.
We are getting ever nearer the time when our cultural Marxists will have achieved their ends; equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes, uniformity, the outlawing of risk of any kind particularly in thought and speech. Words, such as ‘damn blacks’ are seen not just as rude but as violent, requiring stringent control and condign retribution.
Ironically some of the people the Left greatly approve; Karl Marx, Gandhi, Mary Seacole, Mrs Pankhurst, Lady Astor, Marie Stopes, said far worse things than ‘damn blacks.’ All were racists and mostly eugenicists. They survive un-toppled because their admirers haven’t bothered to look up their true opinions.
At present the unsmiling Puritans hold the whole cultural and moral agenda in their power. A tragic casualty is humour, nuance, and increasingly British irony, but also flair and colour.
At the Oxford Union in 1916, Churchill said, ‘If you can speak in this country, you can do anything,’ meaning if you can speak well, people will forgive you for anything. We now seem to mistrust oratorical skills and wit. The ideal orator for the Left is the likes of Corbyn and Harriet Harman.
I am old enough to remember the 60s when TV and radio was replete with good speakers who were dangerously independent but always got away with it. I heard adults talking fondly about radio and TV personality Gilbert Harding, a terrifying alcoholic who’d risen from Wolverhampton orphanage to Cambridge University, and took no prisoners.
Like Starkey, Harding, who was homosexual, unable to ‘come out’ in those times, and notorious for his irascibility. He revelled in the title, ‘Britain’s rudest man,’ and ‘The bilious bachelor of broadcasting.’ His dummy in Mme Tussaud’s called him, ‘The most famous man in Britain.’
Ninety percent of TV owners in the 1950s watched What’s My Line? less for the quiz than for the chance of a live Harding outburst. Historian Andrew Roberts noted, once established on What’s My Line, he managed to undercut the enterprise’s gentility by announcing that one contestant was too elegant to hail from Leicester and once being plastered on air.’ He told another contestant they bored him.
He often lost his temper on air and once stated that women should be banned from universities. After one clash between Harding and chairman Eamonn Andrews, the BBC was swamped with nearly two hundred phone calls and six telegrams protesting about his behaviour.
Harding even argued violently with the puppet Archie Andrews.
The public loved him and he became increasingly unable to move anywhere without being stopped by adoring fans. He wasn’t always that smitten with them, once asking a mother on a train if her child was ‘crippled,’ as it was sitting down while adults were standing.
He compared his TV career to an Elizabethan bear pit. One wonders what Britain’s earliest troll could have achieved on Twitter, before he got banned for life.
Lord ‘Bob’ Boothby was another popular character in public life, also known as ‘Palladium,’ after the twice nightly theatrical show. Parliamentary private secretary to Churchill between the wars he led the delegation to get us into the EU from 1949 – 57 but best known for appearances on BBC radio’s Any Questions.
He advocated the virtues of herring as a food and called for homosexual law reform, ‘to remove the fear and misery in which many of our most gifted citizens were then compelled to live.’
Meaning himself. He was wildly bi-sexual. Referred to by the Queen Mother as, ‘A bounder but not a cad,’ from 1930 he had a long affair with Dorothy, wife of Harold Macmillan, but later moved on through two wives, to an east end cat burglar he met in a gambling joint and Reggie Kray the gangster, a story reported in the Sunday Mirror in 1964
Once the Krays were convicted, he embarrassed fellow peers by campaigning for their freedom in the Lords. Such inclusiveness didn’t bother the public or the BBC at the time, who remained charmed by his rakishness, in much more sexually repressive times than now, amused by his hinterland of sin. Today only his blunt speech would get him into trouble.
My memory of wild men in public life really started in the 1970s with George Brown MP. As Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary his drunken antics caused great amusement to an electorate depressed by economic chaos including devaluation of the pound.
At a function in South America, he’s said to have asked a gorgeously crimson-clad figure to dance. The recipient of his amorous intentions declined, giving three reasons; ‘Firstly you’ve had too much to drink. Secondly, this is not as you suppose, a waltz but the Peruvian national anthem for which you should be standing to attention, and thirdly I am the Archbishop of Lima.’
When presented to Princess Margaret at a reception he knelt to kiss her hand and couldn’t get up again. Quite a number of photos show him recumbent on pavements.
No one was too important for his forthright honesty. In April 1956 when Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin visiting the UK, invited a Labour Party delegation to dine with them, Brown had a well- publicised shouting match with them.
Invited on TV after the assassination of President Kennedy, who he claimed to know well, he was obviously drunk and had a fist fight with another guest.
He once boasted ‘Many members of parliament drink and womanise. I’ve never womanised,’ In fact his secretary, Maggie Haimes, half his age was his mistress.
On 2 March 1976, Brown announced that he was leaving the Labour Party in protest at legislation which strengthened the closed shop. The press was distracted from this bomb-shell when he fell into the gutter. The Times the next day opined that ‘Lord George-Brown drunk is a better man than the Prime Minister sober.’
Churchill was of course an eccentric, toothless drunk himself. Even Hitler (who was TT) commented disapprovingly on his drinking. He hardly ever got up until mid-day and worked from his bed accompanied by his pet cats, sometimes startling young secretaries by walking about nude. His would be protegee Boris is probably going to be the last of the proudly eccentric, fun loving bad boys.
‘But Boris is a buffoon,’ a Corbynite friend said recently, incredulous that someone so playful and wanton could be in public office. Her view is now a weapon in our culture wars.
We were once entertained on TV by Jeremy Clarkson, hated by the Woke because like Dr. Starkey enjoyed tweaking the Puritan nose. In 2011, he was forced to apologise after the BBC received 5,000 complaints and the trades union, Unison, proposed to picket his house, after he jokingly said on The One Show, ‘How dare public sector workers go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?’ Adding that he wanted to shoot them.
In what has become increasingly familiar language, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘We are pleased Jeremy Clarkson has seen the error of his ways. It is only right he apologises for the huge offence he caused to public sector workers and their families.’
The union had been busy seeking legal advice about whether he could be referred to the police for his remarks.
Writer Ian Dunt commented back then that: ‘We need to reaffirm some long-established British values; patience, broad indifference and perpetual sarcasm.’
A decade on it’s more important than ever to do that, those uniquely British values were among the greatest national characteristics a country could possess. As they gradually fade from memory and are unknown to the young, how can we do it? As David Starkey said when he was still a popular pundit on the BBC’s Moral Maze, ‘If you want freedom, you just have to go out and take it.’
Image Lindsey Dearnley