Tuesday, 31 January 2012

How The Failure Of McCarthyism Turned Cbeebies Red

When I was what is now fashionably termed a 'young adolescent', my parents decided that I was not watching enough television. In fact I was watching none. I am not ashamed to admit that the reason for this was a mixture of suspicion and snobbery. Popular culture in the 1970s and 1980s was characterised by men with long hair shouting, while women in dungarees prevailed upon young viewers to follow them through a series of square, circular and triangular windows. One's recent invocation of 'Bagpuss' in a speech to the House was wrongly assumed to be a tribute to the fluffy old cloth cat. In fact one was always far happier reading Horace than 'catching up' with the antics of that soporific feline and a soundtrack that consisted of 'folk music' being played on a 'banjo'. Worse. Even then, one could not escape the feeling that there was a hidden agenda at work. That somehow beneath the japery of Brian Cant and the tom-foolery of 'finger mouse', young minds were being indoctrinated, rewired, 'socialised'.

As long as pictures have moved there have been forces at work wishing to manipulate them. You are no doubt familiar with the history of early Soviet Propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s. The Romanoff family, who had for centuries selflessly served the interests of the Russian peasantry, were portrayed in a series of films as nepotistic despots, concerned solely with their own preservation, while their people starved and wept. Rot of course, but effective rot - and as was the case in one of our bathrooms last year, the rot spread.

By the 1950's the charismatic American Senator 'Joe' McCarthy had cottoned on to the fact that Hollywood itself was stuffed full of Communist sympathisers and Soviet Fifth Columnists. In a series of spectacular interventions  he proved beyond any reasonable doubt that, among others, Charlie Chaplin, Edward G Robinson, Marilyn Monroe, 'Zero' Mostel and even Daffy Duck  were part of a deeply entrenched Marxist conspiracy intent on corrupting the minds of American youth and the wider world with their 'socialist ideals'. Sadly, pressure by influential 'stars' ended the trials before they could finish what they had begun and many of the lesser known 'artists' (mostly writers) managed to slip through the fingers of the FBI. The grim determination of the 'Red' is well documented and I am sorry to say that many of them made their way to Britain.

From around 1950 these writers in exile, many operating under assumed names, found work in our nascent television industry. Perhaps the best known example was the shameful series The Adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, which was written by a number of blacklisted writers. In this 'entertainment' Robin is seen not as a foul villain of history, which he undoubtedly was, thieving from hard working burghers and embattled local politicians, but as a sort of hero, 'redistributing' wealth to the work-shy poor. Although originally aired on what is now called 'ITV' it’s terrible influence spread, as those responsible for its creation hired like-minded 'creatives' and instilled a 'leftist' agenda in British 'TV' that continues to this day.

As ever, the main target of this propagandist filth was youth. By the 1970s one could hardly tune in to 'Watch with Mother' without being assaulted by a cavalcade of populist Marxist causes. The Wombles were a clear and obvious attempt to inculcate young viewers with 'green' ideals. Illegal immigration was brazenly glamorised and sanitised in the tale of 'Paddington' a stowaway purporting to be from Peru (his documents are conveniently ‘lost’) who arrives in West London and is hidden from the authorities by a family of well-meaning liberals called 'The Browns'. One can hardly bring oneself to mention the odious 'hippy' values of The Magic Roundabout or the innuendo filled 'design for living' as proposed 'a trois' by the presenters of 'Blue' Peter. Later televisual insights on working class children provided by first Grange Hill and later 'Byker' Grove convinced one of two things. The need for more affordable 'private' education and the true extent of socialist 'infiltration' within the medium.

Suffice to say, the liberal indoctrination of young minds by children's television and particularly the BBC continues to this day. The bias displayed in the average edition of 'Newsround' as ‘leftist’ disguised as 'good’ causes are promoted, is enough to drive one to burn one's license. It continues to astonish me that the superb 'Fox News' Channel, routinely comes in for a bashing from the left, whilst this brazen ‘socialism’ slips by. One has no doubt in one’s mind that last year’s riots were at least in part caused by befuddled minds, enraged by a babyhood spent parked in front of the ‘Teletubbies’.

What can be done? The answer is very simple. Monitor what your children are viewing. Encourage them to question the veracity of their news sources from a very early age. And under no circumstances read them those dreadful 'Gruffalo' books. Give them Horace instead.

My warmest regards to each one of you.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Time Bandits, The Royal Yacht and the Ugly Face of 'Tory Bashing'

How the Great Western Stole Somerset Standard Time

On the 15th of September 1830 the inaugural service of the Liverpool and Manchester railway was opened by the then Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. As he sat in his carriage at some point mid way between those two great cities, he was espied by the local Liverpool Tory MP Mr William Huskisson. The two men had recently fallen out over a bill on parliamentary reform and Huskisson clearly thought this a good moment to make his peace with the Iron Duke.

Checking his watch and judging that the West bound train was not due for another five minutes, he gingerly stepped over the lines, but before he reached the carriage, Stephenson's 'Rocket' appeared out of nowhere, hurtling towards him at a speed upwards of 23 miles per hour. Clearly incapable of even rudimentary common sense, Huskisson shrieked loudly and clung onto the carriage door, which in turn swung open, leaving him staring down a full seven tonnes of cast iron and steel. Which then crushed him.

Huskisson died some hours later and his demise has gone down in the history of the railways as the first 'train fatality'. In fact he was really the victim of his own rank stupidity and a simple misunderstanding. Huskisson's watch was no doubt accurate, but he was the MP for Liverpool and the train driver was a 'Manchester man'. In 1830 these two cities inhabited different time zones, that were five minutes apart.

Indeed, until the mid 1850's Britain basked in the light of several time zones. Manchester ran some five minutes behind London, while Liverpool, Bristol and Bath were between ten and fifteen minutes behind that. Further west, the great city of Exeter was a full twenty minutes behind. However, as rail lines spread across the country like a vast spider's web this very sensible practice, reflecting local daylight needs, was increasingly deemed 'inconvenient' by the people of London, who frequently forgot to change their watches and subsequently missed their trains. But more than this, the 'ghost' of Huskisson loomed large and omnipresent and the nascent 'Health and Safety Industry' demanded that something be done.

The Great Western Railway exerted considerable influence on the governments of the day to standardise time and by 1881, even the great clock on the Tom Tower at Oxford had fallen into line.

Huskisson was an oaf. A man of few achievements beyond an unhealthy fascination with horticulture and an impressive collection of carved gate-posts. His chief legacy is his death and the subsequent modern obsession with 'safe working practices' that led to the standardisation of time. It does seem dreadfully unfair that the West Country should be forced to suffer upwards of twenty dark minutes more than the South East on winter morns, simply because a pompous fool failed to employ a little bit of common sense.

My amendment to the Daylight Savings Bill, aims to turn the clocks back to 1830 and I have every faith that common sense shall prevail.

The Royal Yacht

The loss of the HMY Britannia was a spiteful and malicious kick in the face of our monarchy instigated by Tony Blair after his victory in 1997 in a petulant display of 'republicanism'. I am in absolutely no doubt that the current unpopularity of the former PM is largely down to this one ill judged act and it is only right that the pledge by Sir John Major in 1996 that the yacht would be replaced is met by the current administration. Bearded, hemp wearing crusties across the land have been heard muttering darkly that the richest woman in the world should perhaps 'fork out for her own yacht'. As usual, these ill educated, pop music loving, layabouts have entirely missed the point. The wider British people have long risen to the occasion on such matters and the sight of Her Majesty boarding her splendid new publicly funded vessel shall surely give a hearty boost to this nation in these dark and unsettling times.

Cambridge and 'Tory bashing'

I am off to the Cambridge Union this very night to debate whether 'Tory Bashing' is the last acceptable public prejudice. I intend to argue very strongly that it is and allow me too share with you but one example.

Last week one of our bathrooms suffered a 'significant leak' necessitating a call to a local plumber. The chap who turned up had the gall to ring the front door bell and when re-directed to the 'tradesman's entrance' objected saying (limply) that if he couldn't come through the front door he would leave us to ' bloody well drown'. Happily I was on hand to resolve the crisis and despite the fact that he was wearing neither  tie nor jacket, gave instruction that he might proceed.

The pipe was fixed and I paid the gentleman the princely sum of two hundred pounds, with a handsome tip of an additional three. The plumber stared down at the gold coins shining brightly in his hands and promptly demanded: "Is that an 'effing' joke?" When I told him it was not he snorted "Effing Tories" before hightailing it to his car.

Replace the word 'Tories' in that exchange with any other ethnic minority and then ask yourself: Is that acceptable? I think not and I hope very much that you share that opinion.

I must up and away. A very good day to you all.


Friday, 13 January 2012

World Wide Mogg Blog: Salmond, Egg and 'Wee' Jimmy Krankie

World Wide Mogg Blog: Salmond, Egg and 'Wee' Jimmy Krankie: Some months ago an old chum from Oxford days rang to impart some rather frightful news. It appeared that his wife Susan had fallen for the...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Salmond, Egg and 'Wee' Jimmy Krankie

Some months ago an old chum from Oxford days rang to impart some rather frightful news. It appeared that his wife Susan had fallen for the charms of a double glazing salesman called Lief and intended to desert her aforementioned husband, their grade II rectory, three dogs, two horses and four delightful children  for a  new and more 'exciting' existence. Lief (an Antipodean late of Wellington) was a boastful exponent of the 'tantric arts', who dabbled in Buddhism and had plans to open a 'meditative retreat' in a mock tudor bungalow in Swanage. Poor St. John naturally felt more than a little intimidated by his 'love rival' and swiftly caved in to his wife's demands for a 'trial separation'. I shall return to Susan, Lief and St. John (and their relevance) later, for the curious arc of their modern morality tale has been much on my mind over the course of the last few days.

What is the United Kingdom if not a marriage? Admittedly with four nations involved, it is perhaps more akin to the 'continental style' relationships enjoyed by French Presidents and certain members of the Bloomsbury Group, but at its heart for more than a thousand years there has been an indelible bond between Scotland and England. It is true that as with all marriages there have been ups and downs in our long interweaving history. Indeed between 1313 and 1575 there were no fewer than forty major battles between the two countries and countless skirmishes. Later wars, culminating in the Jacobite unpleasantness, sealed together the fates of the peoples of our island with a mixture of gunpowder, despair and blood.

One might reasonably argue that the birth of our modern Kingdom, like marriage itself, was born from a kind of sacrifice and yet from that sacrifice we, the benefactors, have thrived. Indeed, as has often been noted, many of the greatest figures in British history have been Scotsmen. Without Mungo Park, David Livingstone and the oceanographer John Murray, the Empire might never have stretched further than the Isle of Wight. Without Adam Smith our modern banking system would barely exist. And without the noble bagpipe, Great Britain's contribution to musical invention would have amounted to little more than a limp pair of morris dancers' bells and the incessant 'warbling' of 'The Beatles'.

The Scots have increasingly been led to believe that there is a conspiracy at work here. That the English have somehow 'done them out' of their talent in addition to their oil. I would argue that our relationship has been symbiotic. Had Arthur Conan-Doyle remained in his native land, Sherlock Holmes would never have walked down Baker Street. John Logie Baird, the inventor of television was born in Dunbartonshire but it was to London that he came in order to make his name and crucially to find finance. Had he not done so Carol Smillie, Andrew Marr, Wee Jimmy Krankie and Lorraine Kelly might never have amounted to very much more than crofters, kelp gatherers or Presbyterian Ministers. It was the wider window on the world that England offered that made them 'global' stars.

Mr Salmond and his party wish us to throw away all we have achieved. Like an errant spouse he has made his mind up and would rather divorce than seek 'counselling'. That is his choice, as much as it was Susan's, but is it really fair to drag the labradors, the horses and the children down with him?

And so let us return to my old chum St. John. A fortnight after arriving in Swanage, Susan came home unexpectedly one afternoon to catch Lief engaged in an activity that even the twenty volume OED would be hard pushed to define. Realising her mistake she pleaded with her estranged husband to take her back, but it was too late. The damage had been done. St. John had 'moved on' (with his Lithuanian au pair as it so happens) and quite frankly, after the initial pain of being 'cuckolded' by a citizen from a junior Commonwealth nation, felt much better for her absence. Indeed, in a manner similar to the superb Augustus Leopold Egg painting above, her fate had been sealed from the moment she had allowed Lief and his window catalogues through her door.

One hopes most sincerely that Scotland shall not repeat Susan's folly and fall victim to the velvety flattery of the devious Mr Salmond.