Respect: Why ruin your day with a picture of Michael Gove when we can all enjoy a shot of Rowan Atkinson and Sir Tony Robinson as Blackadder and Baldrick in Blackadder Goes Forth?
It seems some prominent people are finding that the metaphorical chickens they had thought long laid to rest are now coming home to roost. The BBC inadvertently invited comparisons with a scene from V for Vendetta during the Million Mask March, after failing to cover a similar event in June, and now Michael Gove is facing embarrassment for things he said even further back in history.
For indeed and yea verily, it was January when Mr Gove in his role as Education Secretary tried to prove that his mission really was to set the UK back 90 years – by claiming that one of Britain’s most revered TV comedies, Blackadder Goes Forth, peddled left-wing “myths” about the First World War, “designed to belittle Britain and its leaders”.
He was quoted as follows: “Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage.”
One of the show’s stars, Sir Tony Robinson, weighed in with a quick response in contradiction, but now one of the show’s writers has added his two-pennyworth – and sure enough, it seems he’s going to have the last laugh.
Now, immaculately timed to take place right before Remembrance Day for the best impact, Blackadder co-writer Ben Elton told the BBC his latest novel was inspired by Gove’s jingoistic rant. Yes – he’s going to profit from words that Gove clearly intended as a rebuke.
Entitled Time and Time Again, the book tells the story of a man who travels back in time to stop World War I.
“I had been toying with the idea of writing a novel about the causes of the First World War but I certainly got some lead in my pencil when myself, Richard and Rowan Atkinson were all being blamed for a lack of respect for WW1 because of Blackadder,” he said.
“I think what Michael Gove said is clearly idiocy. Blackadder is well researched, it’s a comedy, it’s a satire, it satirises history which is a long and honourable British tradition.
“Blackadder was deeply respectful to the good things about WW1, which are, of course, that it showed the magnificent strength of the human spirit, the ability to love, loyalty and love of country.”
He was speaking to the BBC’s Front Row radio programme – and you can listen to the full interview by visiting the show’s mini-site and clicking the appropriate link.
David Cameron and Tory election candidate Chris Davies: A suit full of hot air next to a suit full of nothing at all.
Here’s one to file under “missed opportunities”: David Cameron passed within seven miles of Vox Political central and we didn’t know about it.
He made a surprise visit to the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Radnorshire, to talk about some agricultural scheme – but we don’t need to discuss that. Nor do we need to discuss the fact that the bronze bull statue in nearby Builth Wells town centre was found to have had its tail ripped off shortly after the visit; it would be wrong to suggest that the comedy Prime Minister was responsible but if he starts sporting a uniquely-shaped swagger stick, well, you read it here first.
We don’t even need to discuss the fact that Cameron arrived by helicopter, which is an exorbitantly expensive form of travel. Yr Obdt Srvt was watching a documentary about a Doctor Who serial made in 1969 and featuring a helicopter – just starting the rotors cost £70, which was a lot more money then than it is now! Next time you hear that there isn’t enough money around, bear in mind that this government always has the cash to hire out a pricey chopper!
No, Dear Reader – what was really shocking was the fact that Cameron allowed himself to be photographed with Chris Davies, the Tory Potential Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire – a man who this blog has outed as having no ideas of his own, who parrots the party line from Conservative Central Headquarters and who cannot respond to a reasoned argument against the drivel that he reels off. Not only that but the new Secretary of State for Wales was also at the Showground – his name is Stephen Crabb and he is on record as saying that the role is “emptied and somewhat meaningless”.
Bearing this in mind, those who didn’t attend the event, but would like to recreate the spectacle of David Cameron flanked by Messrs Davies and Crabb, can simply fill a few children’s party balloons with hot air, arrange them in a roughly human shape, and put a suit on them – that’s Cameron – then add two more, empty, suits on either side.
Discussion of empty suits brings us inexorably to the dramatic cabinet reshuffle Cameron carried out last week, in which he replaced his team of tired but recognisable old fools with a gaggle of new fools nobody’s ever heard of. The whole situation is reminiscent of a routine that Ben Elton did back in 1990, when he was still a Leftie comedian.
Still topical: Ben Elton’s ‘cabinet reshuffle’ routine from 1990.
The parallel with today is so close that the routine may be paraphrased to fit the moment:
These days the cabinet minister is a seriously endangered species, constantly culled by the boss… How stands the team today? All the personalities have been de-teamed, and Mr Cameron was rather left with a rack full of empty suits. So he reshuffled Philip Hammond, a suit full of bugger-all from Defence across to the Foreign Office. Then he reshuffled Nicky Morgan, a skirt-suit full of bugger-all who had been at the Treasury for 13 whole weeks. She was reshuffled to Education and is also now Minister for Women and Equalities. A suit full of bugger-all called Wright, who nobody had heard of that morning, became Attorney General. This is the British cabinet we are dealing with; not the local tea club.
Now Nicky Morgan, come on, be honest, six months ago, who’d heard of her? Hardly anyone. Since then she’s been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Education Secretary; nobody can say the girl hasn’t done well because she has. She reminds me of Jedward – everyone’s saying, ‘She may be rubbish but at least she’s trying!’
Who the hell is Jeremy Wright? He’s the Attorney General, that’s who. When he leaves home for work in the morning, even his wife doesn’t recognise him! ‘Bye bye darling – who the hell are you?’ … I confidently expect to see Keith Lemon elevated to cabinet status, with Gary Lineker becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer due to his amazing powers of prediction (“The Germans really fancy their chances, but I don’t see that”). He’ll be joined at the Treasury by financial wizard Jimmy Carr. Katie Hopkins takes over as Iain Duncan Smith so no change there.
This isn’t a party political thing. There have been lots of towering figures in cabinet before. Tebbit! Heseltine! … Lawson! You may not have liked them but at least you’d heard of them! These days, what have you got? The only reason a ‘dramatic’ reshuffle is ‘dramatic’ is because it takes so long to prise all their faces off the team leader’s backside, that’s why! They’re all stuck down there like limpets; they’re clinging on to the mother ship! If they all breathed in at once, they’d turn him inside-out.
That’s why they all speak so strangely – their tongues are all bruised and knotted from the team leader trying to untangle the top Tory tagliatelli flapping about behind.
Cabinet government is one of the safeguards of our precious democracy. It involves discussion, consensus, and it has produced great cabinets on both sides of the House. Churchill – the largest, perhaps the greatest political figure in the last century – a Tory, he was a constant thorn in the side of his boss, Baldwin. Wilson included Tony Benn, even though they were never friends, let’s face it. Heath employed Mrs Thatcher. They all understood that cabinet is a microcosm of democracy – but these days, it’s different. Nobody must dissent in cabinet. And nobodies are exactly what we’ve got.
There was more talent and personality in JLS – and at least they knew when to quit.
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