Well worth the licence fee

A vintage Today programme today, courtesy of some of my favourite comedians from the left, the centre, the right and the loony bin.

First came a semi-coherent diatribe from Jack Straw about how Iraq was wonderful and fine, and how it’s groovy that we’re going to send British troops to be commanded by the Americans in Baghdad because US soliders are fed up of dying there, and how Charles Kennedy Would Rather Saddam Were In Power. Wonderfully, Mr Kennedy appeared later on to deliver a powerful rejoinder, and to demand that Mr Straw apologise to him personally for that horrible libel.

As if that weren’t enough, the final segment of the show featured Mel Phillips debating gambling with Peter Oborne. Because most Mel articles seem to be about how Israel is great, Arabs are rubbish, and we should have more wars, I’d forgotten quite how strange her domestic political views are. She’s a bit like Polly Toynbee, except without the sense of fun or the compassion for individuals.

It’s hard to understand why someone who talks about people who’re short of cash in such disgustingly patronising terms (eg "in the Victorian era, we lifted the poor out of their squalor and drunkenness") that even arch-High Tories like Mr Oborne notice there’s something wrong, is respected rather than shunned by *anybody*.

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8 thoughts on “Well worth the licence fee

  1. I heard the Philips/Oborne bit too – one of the funniest clips on Radio 4 in ages. The recidivist voice of late Victorian middle class morality resurrected for our entertainment; it was a wonder she didn’t start up about the "residuum" and the dangers of intemperance.

  2. I haven’t read as much Dickens, Thackery, and even Thomas Hardy (for late Victoriania) as I might have, but Mel’s assurance that "in the Victorian era, we lifted the poor out of their squalor and drunkenness" tells me I should reread them with fresh eyes. I should reread Engels too, for that matter.

  3. Kennedy does say the war was illegal. If it was illegal then Saddam should be put back as the legal head of state in Iraq. erfuckinggo — he would rather saddam was in power.

    Who’s winning the latest Dungeons and dragons contest by the way?

  4. Hmm. Israel’s kidnapping and hanging of Adolf Eichmann was illegal (albeit richly deserved). I don’t think it’s fair to claim that people who objected to the move on the grounds of its illegality would rather he were put back in charge of carrying out the Holocaust.

  5. So why keep going on about the supposed illegality of the war? I couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff whether it was or not.

  6. Because there are likely to be other wars in the future, and if no one gives a monkey’s chuff about the illegality of this one, then… Oh hang on I forgot it doesn’t really matter if something is legal or not, as long as it’s already happened. Hmm… Why do we have laws and police then? They all seem to be prosecuting offences that have already been perpetrated. What a waste of time and public money.

  7. I suppose part of the problem here is that, for most "illegal" things, there is some justification for why the thing in question is "bad" (even though some may disagree with that reasoning: e.g. drug laws). Some people have been banging on about the war being "illegal", but haven’t actually come up with a terribly coherent reason as to why the war was wrong, bad, a poor choice for Iraqis etc. etc. (Or, to be fair, I haven’t heard the arguments nearly as clearly as I’ve heard simply that it’s "illegal") Consequently, the whole thing becomes a little circular, and supporters of the war are perhaps justified in questioning that, if the war was not "wrong", then why is it "illegal"?

    Of course, this argument doesn’t (IMHO) apply to Mr Kennedy. He is the leader of an opposition party, and thus has a duty to call the government to account, even if on purely technical points (he has also, repeatedly, made coherent arguments against the war which do not hinge upon international law). For Jack Straw et al to merely continually say that the Lib Dems must be supporting Saddam is, to not dignify it with a polite response, fucking stupid. The British government is bound by certain rules, the attorney general passed comment on said rules, and if the matter is to be laid to rest, we should be able to see that judgement. The refusal to publish said judgement does rather lead one to suspect that the case for the war being legal wasn’t terribly, how shall we put it, cut and dried.

    It is somewhat akin to me being caught doing drugs and then arguing in court that "who gives a monkey’s chuff about whether it’s illegal, it’s not wrong". I’d be laughed all the way to prison (or whatever). It’s a valid argument outside of court as to why the laws about drugs are fucking stupid, but overturn the law, don’t break it and then argue that it’s unfair. Imagine if the whole of society did this… there are very few laws (e.g. child sex laws) which I think are "universal" (there are even times when it would "right" to murder: if, say, the person in question was a terrorist about to kill a large number of people). That way lies anarchy it would seem (people committing illegal acts and then trying to justify why the act was "illegal" but not "wrong" after the fact), so why should things be different on an international stage? Needless to say, I think the current laws regarding not making war on other countries because we don’t like the leader are pretty sensible…

  8. I still vividly remember the fallout when the Director of Public Prosecutions was caught kerb-crawling, with lots of idiotic drivel being written about how it shouldn’t be a crime and prostitution should be legalised, blah blah blah, leading to a surprisingly widespread consensus that he shouldn’t have resigned over something so "trivial".

    I used distancing quotes there because it seems baffling to me that so many people missed this really basic point: the argument wasn’t about kerb-crawling or prostitution, it was about a man charged with upholding (in his case arguably embodying) the law being caught committing an illegal act. It didn’t matter one iota what the illegal act actually was – if it was illegal to pick his nose on a Friday and he’d been caught doing it, he’d have had to resign as well.

    To give him rather more credit than his defenders, he did indeed resign, and did so immediately and without prompting – and there shouldn’t have been any argument.

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