Monday, 29 August 2011

Why is my licence fee funding rubbishy propaganda from David Hare?

So, I’m an award-winning old lefty playwright. My latest stage play hasn’t received the usual rave reviews – in fact, some of the reviewers were a bit snippy, accusing me of being “old hat” and unable to move a plot along, and too concerned with left-wing sermonising  – so I’m a bit grumpy as I sip my Fair Trade coffee, nibble my ethically-sourced muesli while grunting approvingly at the Guardian’s brave anti-American stance and listening to John Humphreys tearing some ghastly jumped up tit of a grammar school-educated Tory Minister off a strip (I went to Lancing and Jesus, Cambridge, by the way) when there’s a news item about Israel launching a retaliatory rocket strike after several of its citizens were murdered by Hamas bombs.

I am furious. Those poor, defenceless Arabs. Will nobody lift a finger to protect them from the bloodthirsty Jew?I snap my fingers, which my French fashion-designer wife knows is a signal for her to bring me my iPhone. I check the Names and selects the BBC’s Head of Drama.

“David Hare here.”

“Sir David! What an honour! What can I do for you? Name it!”

“Haven’t done anything for TV for yonks. Feel it’s time the BBC stopped slavishly supporting the Israelis. I want to write a TV drama – hour and a half, two hours, something like that.”

“Fabulous? What the story, Your Eminence?”

“Haven’t got a story really, but it’ll be anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Establishment, anti-Government. Let’s see. Hero is an MI5 bigwig – I see Bill Nighy playing him. He and the Head of MI5 – Mikey Gambon? - are old college chums who used to go on anti-Vietnam War protest marches together.”

“Oh, great - they’re communist moles.”

“No, they’re not moles, but they’re both left-wing.”

“Is that likely, Your Highness? I mean most of our spies probably thought halting the spread of international communism was a good idea. Wouldn’t that rather be the  the reason they became spies in the first place?”

“Of course not! Spies become spies so they can fight against the spread of American-style democracy. Don’t you read the New Statesman?”

“Well, if you say so, Your Grace. But wouldn’t Billykins Nighy and Mikey-Baby Gambon be a bit old to be running MI5 these days? I’m Head of the Drama at the BBC and I’m only seventeen.”

“Well, I’m 64. Next you’ll be telling me I’m too old to write cutting-edge agit-prop drama!”

“Of course not, Your Celestial Supremeness!”

“Whippersnapper! Even though he’s in his Sixties, Bill Nighy is dead sexy - as so many chaps at our age are -  so he’ll have lots of ex-wives, one of whom Michael Gambon has married. Anyway, Nighy has a stunningly lovely young neighbour – Rachel Weisz? – whose brother was gunned down by israel troops while he was waving a white flag  - yes, they’re bastards, aren’t they? – and she just wants justice. Her father is a decent left-wing academic in Damascus, where they know all about open government. Gambon has a report which accuses the PM  (probably Ralph Fiennes: he’s good at unscrupulous shits)  of knowing that those barbaric Yanks are illegally detaining and torturing decent, blameless terrorists around the world. Prime Ministers are all bastards, aren’t they? And the Americans are bastards too.... Anyhow, Gambon dies of a heart attack and Nighy, knowing it’s more honourable to do what an old pal wanted you to do than serve your country’s interests just because you’re a public servant, gets justice for Rachel Weisz and disappears off into the sunset carrying a carrier bag full of loot. What do you think?”

“Er...why would the Prime Minister rather than the security services know about what the Americans were up to?” 

“A mere detail.”

“And what’s wrong with him knowing this and not telling everyone? Isn’t he supposed to have any secrets?”

“What are you - a fucking Tory? Look, because he hasn’t told anyone what he knows, the PM can’t pass on illegally-obtained information that might save British lives.”

“So what the Americans are doing is saving lives? And if the information is being tortured out of people, then surely you wouldn’t want the British Government to act on it.”

“Of course I wouldn’t - better a thousand terrorists have their human rights scrupulously observed than a single innocent citizen’s life should be saved! Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, all prime Ministers are bastards who should tell everyone everything they know the minute they find it out. See?”

“I suppose so. About Rachel Weisz’s brother - the BBC never misses an opportunity to stick it to the Israeli military. Why wouldn’t they have done so this time?”

“One more criticism and I’m off to those capitalist bastards at ITV!”

“Oh, okay. Just one more thing - representation.”


“Well, it’s all very... middle-aged and white.”

“Ah yes. Let me see. We’ll give Bill Nighy a hijab-wearing secretary. I expect there are lots of them working at the heart of the security services.” 

“Er... I suppose so. Anyway, your name on it will guarantee a BAFTA nomination, so I’d commission your laundry list if that’s what you were offering.”

“Great! I’ll get stuck in right away.”

That’s how I imagine one of the most dishonest, politically biased, worst-written pieces of left-wing propaganda I have ever sat through got the green light from our national broadcaster. 

How disgraceful.

As for Bill Nighy, is it my imagination, or does he wear the same clothes in every single role he plays these days? Well-cut dark suit plus well-cut overcoat with sober tie? Or well-cut blue flannel velvet jacket with no tie? And have his jaws been wired together? And can he do any other accent than Mayfair Cockney? And does he have any sort of emotional range whatsoever? Must be great being him - you turn up wearing your own clothes, you never have to do an accent, and you never have to act!Respect! 


  1. Even ignoring the bias, the formula is so dull, like much BBC product. "Let's have something gritty and challenging that will shake the establishment to its foundations, like Poor Cow in the 60's". Oh no. Let's not. Why not something that is well written and surprising in its originality.

    It's rather like the process by which business HR departments hire consultants. You have a list of four or five whom you know have a trusted methodology and carry such prestige that you won't get the sack when they cock it up. Much easier than troubling to find the person who will bring new ideas or a different voice to the job. Brought to you by the same people who think that the only way to elucidate contemporary politics is to have two guests talking over each other from opposing perspectives, with a referee.
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 01:17 AM

  2. Bill Nighy.They are currently doing a remake of the 1989 comedy "Week-end at Bernie's" [two young losers have to pretend that their dead employer is still alive so they cart him around in public swatting away the flies]. It is reported that Nighy is starring as the corpse. They approached Cyril Cusack, but he has been "officially" dead since 1993. Liam Neeson and Colin Firth turned down the role because they didn't want to get type-cast.

    I missed the muslim secretary working for the Security Services [possibly a leg-pull?] because Old Bill encourages narcoleptic attacks which were only broken by the appearance of the the very beautiful and talented Rachel Weisz. I wish Gambon would vanish off into an eternal touring production of "Waiting for Godot".
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 10:29 AM

  3. Talking of actors, as we were, and Bill Nighy, in March 1730, in Paris, one Adrienne Lecouvreur died of dysentery.

    Her body was taken away by the police and buried in waste ground, potters bar-style.

    Not because she was a pauper. Far from it, she was a star of the Comédie Française and a lover of Voltaire's. No, it was because "in the eyes of the Catholic Church, actors and actresses were deemed to be excommunicate"*.

    Voltaire himself was forever being sent into internal exile by the king, or exiled abroad.

    Imagine an ancien regime reborn today and sending David hare to live in Catford for six months.



    * (p.27)
    Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 09:18 PM

  4. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

    Yesterday's Guardian carried this*:

    David Hare is one of Britain's most successful and political playwrights. His work has taken on everything from the invasion of Iraq to the global financial meltdown, yet today he finds himself confounded by world events, and uncertain what to write

    Poor man.

    Sir David Hare is in a quandary. He doesn't know how to write about today's politics. "For me the experience is very much as in the late 1970s, expecting Britain to break down into anarchy, or to turn left – and Britain turned right. It silenced me for four years. I didn't know what to say."

    This is odd.

    Why is it odd?

    This is odd to hear because Hare has made his name by transmuting political actualité into art.

    That's why.

    Talking of a lecture/essay he delivered to the Royal Society of Literature, Sir David says:

    "I had to write that essay to explain what I'm doing because I'm so incredibly lonely as a dramatist – nobody does what I do, and some are dubious about it."

    As Lady Antonia Starborgling reminds us:

    "In the course of his long, distinguished career, David Hare has never failed to speak out fearlessly on the subject of politics in the broadest sense."

    By now you will be reading this in tears, but it is all of our duty to press on and ask, with the Guardian:

    Aren't these the times when politics in its broadest sense cries out as it never has before for Hare's treatment?

    No, that is above and beyond the call of duty, I can't go on, I must pass the mic to Sir David and let him finish:

    "I'm 63, but this is exactly how I feel about myself now. I don't understand the rules."

    Sunday, September 4, 2011 - 11:30 AM

  5. Where’s the fear in spouting left-wing beliefs??? Who would he be frightened of??? Our cultural establishment is entirely left-wing – there isn’t one of the buggers who wouldn’t agree with every word the old bore writes. The only way of being a politically brave playwright these days would be to write from a right-wing perspective – which would guarantee you’d never get another play staged anywhere in the UK!

    “Why not something that is well written and surprising in its originality?” you ask, Ex-KCS. I guess because none of the channel commissioner’s industry would be congratulating them for being “fearless”.
    Sunday, September 4, 2011 - 07:21 PM

  6. While channel hopping recently, I came across the film version of "On the Buses" on one of the retro channels. I couldn't help noticing that some of the behavioural norms of the period were a little out of kilter with present day values. I wondered whether there might be a role for one of our more socially aware dramaturges to refresh and enliven the old script for the contemporary audience. Perhaps Sir David himself could take this on as a useful way both of adding to our cultural heritage and staving off the loneliness and loss of purpose to which he refers.

    If you add that to DM's idea of an artists' colony in Catford, the beginnings of an exciting new era for British drama start to emerge.
    Sunday, September 4, 2011 - 08:43 PM