Good riddance to the freak show that shamed Britain (and no, it wasn’t Big Brother)

Back to the present today and another biting article from the sharpened pen of Richard Littlejohn. His target here is New Labour and that really isn’t the issue. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on political parties and he just so happens to have a very public platform from which to air his. I was going to just ignore this article as it really isn’t saying anything new and feels a bit like a slow news week filler (because the death of Ted Kennedy, continued election protests in Iran, the ‘end’ of the war in Darfur and continued ramifications of the ‘Libyan Inncident’ are seemingly not worthy of Richard’s comment right now). However, I couldn’t get past a few of the comments he makes which we shall look at now.

The entire article is written in what I imagine he hoped would be a witty and sly allegory between the end of Big Brother and of the New Labour party. So he uses contestants instead of MPs and audience instead of electorate… Anyway.

“New Labour has demeaned its contestants and audience alike, coarsened our culture, debased living standards, promoted a climate of bullying and exhibitionism and lowered Britain’s standing around the world. It has become a byword for corruption and incompetence, obsessed with sex, greed and racism.”

Well let’s just start with this shall we. Exactly how has our culture been coarsened by New Labour. What does that even mean? It seems now every time someone says something on television that is deemed immoral, insulting or just displeasing to the readers of Richard’s very paper, there are swift apologies, sackings, resignations and the sphere of freedom given to entertainment is contracted that little bit further. If anything, I’d say culture is being tamed and is much the worse off for it.

Britain’s standing around the world has been on a decline since people started pointing out that travelling about in boats, occupying and enslaving countries and calling them ‘ours’ was perhaps not the nicest thing and maybe we should give things back. Under Richard’s beloved Conservative party we saw the unnecessary and damaging war over the Falklands because we felt we had the right to some islands on the other side of the world. Britain supported the first gulf war, made no action to stop the atrocities occurring in many African nations throughout the eighties and nineties and put across such a euro-skeptic and isolationist from for most of those two decades it’s a wonder the Channel Tunnel ever opened.

Finally, how exactly are we anymore obsessed with sex and greed (we’ll get to racism in a moment). That Thatcher and Major governments were devoted to the accumulation of wealth and the building of a fully operational consumer society. As for sex, we saw just as many so-called scandals in the Tory party as we have in Labour. The truth is less that New Labour themselves have bred corruption and sleaze and more that any party in power for a long period of time will be to some extent overpowered by it’s own success. This isn’t a New Labour problem, it’s a power problem.

As for racism, I for one am glad we’re a country ‘obsessed’ with racism (if that is indeed the case) as perhaps we can use that obsession to lessen the amount of it that occurs. Richard is always so worried about his freedom of speech being limited he rarely stops to consider his responsibility of speech. The freedoms given to him to say whatever he likes about whomever he likes should be used with the respect they deserve, not to decry anyone of a different faith or with a different skin tone or (gods forbid) someone with less money or no job. If New Labour has instilled us with an obsession regarding prejudice then this is not something we should be critisising for. I don’t want to live in a country that’s regarded elsewhere as the place where ‘they don’t like anyone different’.

“Housemates included an effete public schoolboy, a former ship’s steward, a dour son of the manse, a blind man and his dog, a gay public relations man and his exotic Brazilian boyfriend, and a scary, former convent schoolgirl who quickly became known as the Wicked Witch.”

I have noticed a trend with Richard and other Daily Mail columnists to be much harsher on female politicians and public figures than male. They get the cruelest names, the most attacks on their looks and the constant disparagement of their ability to do their job. Of course this should not be a surprise to anyone as a fair number of the columns are solely about the non-existence of misogyny or how women have ‘never had it so good’. Whatever your views on Ruth Kelly, is it fair to label her as scary and call her the wicked witch whilst the men are pretty much given a label of what they are. Peter Mandleson is predictable defined by the fact he his gay and had a partner who was not British. Really Richard? Thirteen years and you’re still on that tired bandwagon?

“More than four million CCTV cameras were erected all over Britain so that every move of the audience could be captured, too, and used in evidence against people putting out their dustbins on the wrong day.”

Oh and this bandwagon too (ir should that be rubbishwagon). I will never understand why the rules of dustbins upset him so much. In a world where close to 2 billion people have no access to clean drinking water and a good 75% of them are also starving, I would think the fact out rubbish is taken away on a weekly or biweekly basis would not be something to fill pages and pages of newspaper every single month. We could of course go back to the Victorian era where everyone was white, no-one talked about sex, queers will killed and everyone knew their place. Oh and rubbish was generally left in the street or dumped in the rivers. Yes, I’m sure Richard would enjoy that life much better, especially if he had to work in a factory as he believes every unemployed person should be forced to.

“From the start, the show was mired in controversy, after one of the housemates, Cookie, was caught having sex with another contestant, a flame-haired civil servant called Gaynor.

Ally, the house bully, a recovering alcoholic and pornographic novelist, with a history of mental illness, forced Cookie to leave his wife or face eviction.”

Yes because being about to write erotica AND having overcome an addiction AS WELL as suffering from depression means you should definitely not be in power. Actually, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a job at all, better go on benefits wouldn’t you say Richard? I always felt sorry for Robin Cooke that he was made a total scapegoat for New Labour’s obsession with being the anti-sleaze party. I’m not condoning infidelity but as one in two marriages now ends in divorce it’s going to happen in parliament and sometimes, the details will leak. In the grand scheme, I’m not sure it should be punished or require public apologies but there’s a discussion for another day.

“[Blair’s] emotional reaction when the popular royal housemate, Diana, was killed in a car crash in only the third episode made TV history and proved to be the defining moment of series one.”

Yes, even Richard finds it hard to critique this one, especially as his favourite royal family did not come off so well from the whole affair. Better to just breeze over it I think.

“New Labour’s resident village idiot, Two Jags, was captured on film punching a member of the audience during the warm-up to the second series. He was the clown you loved to hate, always raiding the fridge while the other housemates were asleep.”

But surely Richard giving those protesting layabout sum the old one two is exactly what they need? Hasn’t the country wanted leadership that wasn’t afraid to apply the carrot as well as the stick? Or does that only apply when said leader is not a working class man from Hull? (Again, I’m not condoning John Prescott’s actions, violence is never, ever the answer and I do not want politicians in power who lash out because their suit get’s a bit eggy. All the same a surprising about face for Richard “bring back corporal punishment” Littlejohn).

“Then there was Blunkett, the first blind character, who formed a passionate attachment to the only American housemate, Kimberley, drafted in on the strength of her performance as Snow White at Disneyland.

Viewers were captivated by Blunkett unravelling as he launched a demented paternity suit to prove that he was the father of Kimberley’s baby.”

Of sex and infidelity, by my count, the Conservative 1979-1997 run is still in the lead.

“Today, the programme is a shadow of its former self. Only two of the original cast remain: dour, Scottish sociopath Gordon and gay PR man Mandy, the self- styled Prince of Darkness.”

NEVER FORGET THAT PETER MANDLESON IS GAY. HIS POLITICS DON’T MATTER, ANY GOOD HE DOES IS IRRELEVANT WHEN COMPARED TO THE FACT THAT HE IS A GAY MAN! HE HAS SEX WITH OTHER MEN!!! DIDN’T YOU KNOW? AND HE LOOKS A BIT LIKE A VAMPIRE. A GAY VAMPIRE. BECAUSE HE’S GAY. THE GAY.

“After Blair was evicted in 2007 and went on to become a global star, earning millions of pounds a year, Gordon attempted to become the main character, but ratings continued to slump and he soon realised there was nowhere to hide.”

Once again, if this is truly supposed to be a commentary on thirteen years of Labour government, Richard is somewhat ignoring some key events that have led to the current unpopularity of the party.

“Other housemates were drafted in, notably Jackboot Jacqui, a disciplinarian schoolteacher from the Midlands who marked her arrival with an ostentatious flash of cleavage. For a while, the tabloids were fixated upon her breasts and her enthusiasm for punishment.”

WOMAN HAS BREASTS! AND DOESN’T WANT TO COMPLETELY COVER THEM! Ok, I’m going to have to stop accidently hitting caps lock. Honestly for a man who writes so often about the Burqa and the Niqab, Richard get’s very upset when any woman decided to wear something any less than a nun’s garb. Unless they’re a ‘smoking twenty year old hottie’, then it’s “phwoar ma’am don’t mind if I do”. Am I being unfair? Possibly a bit and for that I apologise but this sort of comment after at least discussing some of the policy of the men in the party infuriates me. He takes Jacqui Smith and reduces her to nothing more than a dominatrix figure to be laughed at. How carefully Richard uses disciplinarian and then mentions her breasts and how she likes to punish. Not ten paragraphs ago he was talking about how New Labour had brought on an obsession with sex, I think we might be seeing where some of the impetus has come from..

“As New Labour has resorted to increasingly desperate and cynical stunts, viewers have stopped watching, the sponsors have dried up and the show has run £1.3trillion over budget.”

Well the budget is somewhat overrun yes, I don’t think anyone can argue that the current financial status of the country is relatively dire but I would love to know how any other government would have dealt with a global economic crisis of the scale we’ve seen across the past two years.

I also note in this whole article Richard doesn’t mention anything about what the government has achieved in it’s time in office. No comment on fox hunting bans, smoking age changes, improvement in education from the Major years (in terms of funding and teacher training), legalising civil partnerships, championing the Northern Ireland Peace process, devolution, regulating the House of Lords… some of these things are subjective but they have none the less been achieved. The government is far from ineffectual, they’ve done things I don’t agree with and things I do but to reduce the whole thirteen years to an allegory with a low quality reality TV show is simplifying things to the level of pointlessness.

On second thoughts perhaps this is nothing more than slow news week filler, even if it is filled with Richard’s usual stereotypes of women in power, gay men, liberal ideology and of course those ‘bloody bins’. Don’t worry Richard, under the next government, I’m sure that your favourite ‘dole scum’ will be hired to come and eat your rubbish on a daily basis. And you can whip them while they do.

“The final episode is due to be broadcast next May. We will all be glad to see the back of it.”

And how long will that last I wonder? And which party would you like to replace them Richard… oh, he’s gone home.

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And if you thought WPCs in burqas were ridiculous

If you’re going to start somewhere, it may as well be with the big guns. Richard Littlejohn has decided to explore gender identity in the police force. Let’s see what he found out.

From the title onwards, this article makes two basic and intrinsically incorrect assumptions.

Firstly, it assumes that “You”, as in “Me” or rather as in “Everyone” thought the idea of WPCs in burquas was ridiculous. I will be honest and say I’ve never really considered the matter but if I were to make a personal (and totally impulsive) judgment call, I’d say as long as the dress wear doesn’t interfere with the job, then it’s all fine by me but obviously there is a police uniform for a reason. Interestingly, when I went back to look at the article in question, it had nothing whatsoever to do with Muslim women in the police force wanting to wear burquas while on duty. It was, as Richard himself states in his opening paragraph:

“three soppy policewomen in Sheffield had kitted themselves out in full burqas and gone shopping, so they could empathise with fundamentalist Muslims.”

Now, he makes sure to get his opinion across whilst stating this fact with the words “soppy” and “fundamentalist” because, as we are all aware, only someone with the bleeding heart of Jesus himself would ever dream of trying to understand another culture by adopting their style of dress and, more importantly, it is only fundamentalist Muslims who wear the burquas. You know, the ones who want to kill us all. This statement alone could fill a column by itself but we are here on other matters, so…

Secondly, it makes the assumption that transgendered persons are totally accepted in society with no issue and that their being in the police force is so common place that they have no need for a special interest group to support that. Of course, this argument wouldn’t matter either way to Richard as he makes it clear:

“As I wrote at the time, police officers should be defined by the uniform they wear, not the colour of their skin, their sexual inclination or their religious beliefs.”

You know what? Fine. Absolutely fine. Being in the police is a vocation, choosing to devote your time in the service of the law and the protection of society. When you’re doing your job, those features that are used to define you should not impact on that job to any significant degree or bias could easily slip in, a trait police officers must try to quell. That said, just because you’re out there, doing your job and not thinking about your race, religion, gender or sexuality does not mean that others aren’t thinking about it including the people you work with.

What Richard appears to miss time and again (or possibly just gloss over) is that interest and support groups aren’t there to champion one section of society over another. They’re not their to stage a coup or make everyone’s life harder or separate us into more boxes than we already have separated ourselves. They are certainly not there:

“serving only to foster a culture of division, grievance, permanent unrest and opportunism.”

They are there to make sure that those who ARE in a minority, whatever that may be are treated with the same respect and understanding as the majority treat one another.

Let’s step back for a minute and let Richard do some talking shall we?

“Every time I bring you one of these stories, I wonder where it will all end. Now I discover that there’s a National Trans Police Association, too.”

He goes on to repeat the mission statement from the NTPA website and then displays some high levels of ignorance, especially as he is writing an article on the topic. In response to the fact that whilst they list many types of gender identities, they do not go as far as to assume they have infinite knowledge and have added a caveat, somewhat like “and many more” but with much more tact, a trait Richard fails to emulate.”

“Note the ‘but not exclusively’. You might have thought that any outfit encompassing transgendered, androgyny and intersexuals (whatever the hell they are) had pretty much covered the waterfront.”

“The criteria is so widely drawn that, theoretically, it could also include centaurs, who are currently under-represented in the ranks of the Old Bill.”

“There appears to be no limit to the number of obscure subcategories the police can split themselves into.”

He says more along these lines but you can read that in the article yourself if you so wish. In these three statements alone Richard has shown his lack of knowledge regarding sexuality, mocked those with gender identity issues by comparing them with a mythical being and once again made the assumption that this is all about splitting the police into different groups, rather than supporting those people in the police who do not fit the ‘traditional’ majority mould.

This it would seem though is not his main problem. All the above has merely been leading up to the point were Richard could stand it no longer and just had to write of this new case of liberalism gone made

“An application for Home Office funding is sure to follow and is almost certain to be granted.

It can be only a matter of time before a transsexual officer sues for discrimination after being turned down for promotion or demands that the police funds his gender reassignment surgery.”

It’s not about gender, it’s not even about special interest groups or support teams. It’s about money. How much will it cost? Will he have to foot the bill? As Richard lives happily and permanently in Florida, I think that even if the police started offering gender reassignment surgery to the whole populace, it wouldn’t impact too much on his bank balance. He continues:

“No doubt I’ll be accused of stirring up ‘transphobic’ hatred. For the record, I have no more objection to transvestites forming a club than I do to philatelic societies. But it should be done in their own time and not at public expense.”

Well, I won’t be accusing Richard of anything today. What he is and isn’t guilty of is up to you. However, after demeaning most gender identities, he goes on here to ignore all transgendered people and just focus on transvestites. Actually, rethinking, what he’s really doing is LUMPING all transgendered people together and calling them transvestites. He seems to be under the impression that the desire to dress in clothing which is not traditionally assigned to your gender and to have the physical and mental issues that come with being born a sex you are unhappy with, to feel no attachment to either sex or to feel you inhabit several genders are the same thing. I’m sorry Richard, as years of research from institutes around the world will show you, they are not even remotely the same thing and some would say they are not even connected in any way other than both can sometimes influence the choice of clothing and of course, come under the umbrella heading of “Gender Issues”.

Oh and he also makes sure to mention the money thing again.

He tries to recover with some sense of understanding:

“I acknowledge that some people have gender ishoos and are entitled to understanding.”

Sorry, just a quick aside, I have never understood Richard’s prediliction for misspelling words he seems to have personal problems with. Perhaps it would be worth keeping a tally of how often he does this. Anyway, back on topic, he also tries to show how much he embraces equality:

“Recruitment and promotion should be solely on the basis of ability, not race, religion, gender or sexual proclivity. Everyone ought to be treated equally.”

But is quickly returned to his real point, you know, the money one…

“The time, money and effort wasted pandering to minorities with an exaggerated sense of entitlement is scandalous – especially when chief constables are whining they haven’t got the resources to keep police stations open and put bobbies on the beat.”

I’ve done a bit of reading around and can find very little terms of chief constables “whining” about resources. There has been the occasional closure of small police stations over the last few years and some articles on the shift of focus to patrolling in cars rather than by foot but nothing to suggest that the force is trying to eke out a meager existence to the point where it can’t finance the same support groups you will find in almost every business in the country. Perhaps I am misunderstanding him. Once again, he is assuming that this group has formed because transgendered people are trying to get one over on him rather than just making sure they are treated correctly.

As Richard rounds up, he can’t help but confuse transvestites with transgendered persons once more as well as purporting the idea that this is all a ploy to overthrow the police uniform as with his opening statement about burquas.

“…at this rate it won’t be long before a cross- dressing copper complains that his stockings and suspenders are chafing under his blue serge uniform and insists on being allowed to go on patrol in a leather mini-skirt and an Amy Winehouse wig.”

It’s unlikely that ANY officer would be allowed to wear the above items of clothing, no matter what their gender identity or religion. Richard cannot let go of his belief that special interest groups are somehow there to change physical things when mostly the only thing they ever change is peoples perceptions, usually for the better.

I am left wondering how many times in his life that Richard has felt like the outsider. How many times has he been in the minority and felt that he was being oppressed, ignored, bullied or negated? As a white, wealthy, middle class male I would hazard a guess that the feeling of loneliness and alienation is not one which often crosses Richard’s mind. I could be wrong of course, this is pure conjecture. Perhaps he is very lonely indeed.

Addendum:

Apologies but I realised I forgot to pass any comment on the lovely little cartoon that adorns Richard’s column this week. Actually, I forgot to comment on the hideously offensive massive cartoon that uses half the writing space. In and of itself, it’s a pretty standard and slightly inane newspaper drawing. When brought into context with the article however, once again, it is stereotyping all transgendered persons into one tired old cliché. I don’t know much about the eponomous “Gary” but I suggest that he, much like Richard, should catch up on some reading from Gender Matters before continuing to deconstruct this exact vein of sexuality.