Monday, 25 February 2013

Being hectored by a left-wing Scottish lesbian on the M25

Val McDermid is a female crime writer. Yesterday she presented Pick of the Week on BBC Radio 4 (available here). Normally I wouldn’t dream of listening a programme hosted by a dour Scottish lesbian – life is far too short – but I was ferrying my son and two of his friends back to their university yesterday evening and, as I’d asked if they minded having the radio on, I didn’t want to admit I’d made a terrible mistake.

So I was subjected to 45 minutes of left-liberal propaganda. It was as if Ms McDermid was sitting beside me, wagging her pudgy finger and going on about what a naughty wee right-winger I was and how I’d better mend my ways or there’d be no organically-sourced deep-fried Mars Bar for my tea.

Amongst the many items she chose, we had George Orwell’s famous description of a hanging, which, predictably, had turned Ms D into a life-long opponent of capital punishment. (I tried to read one of Miss McDermid’s books once and it turned me into a life-long opponent of female Scottish crime fiction.) The item ended with a chronically unfunny Caledonian comedienne doing a riff about capital punishment, which I found incomprehensible.

Next up was Tony Harrison’s profanity-riddled poem “V”, a classic slice of "grim up North” working-class misery. The bit we heard was about finding his parents’ graves vandalised by spray can-wielding Leeds United supporters. (This didn’t make the M25 any more fun to drive round, I can assure you.)  Cue arch-liberal, Melvyn Bragg, who’d got the poem onto Channel 4 back in 1985 when, he claims, his LWT bosses refused to have it on the South Bank Show because of its “take” on the Miners Strike (take a wild guess).

Barg characterised the poem as a “roar of rage, like the Peasants’ Revolt… the uprising of people thought to be - but not - inarticulate, thought to be - but not - dispensable.” (Mind you, they proved pretty dispensable when it came to coal-mining.) Then someone I presumed to be Richard Eyre (could have been Blake Morrison - the nice satnav lady was telling me stuff at the time) accused those who objected to the poem being aired at the time (they were savage and vicious, apparently) of being guilty of “synthetically-engendered fury”. Or maybe they were actually furious that a publicly-funded broadcaster was airing a hymn of hate littered with multiple repetitions of words like shit, fuck and cunt. (Synthetic fury tends to be the preserve of the Left, in my experience.)

Big Val informed us that "the people protesting most loudly were the ones most afraid of the social changes they didn’t like”. Change, she added, ”energises us”. The idea that people who object to changes might not always be wrong because change isn't inevitably for the better doesn’t seem to have occurred the woman. (For the Left, all change is utterly brilliant, unless, of course, it involves cutting benefits or public sector jobs or taxes. That's bad change. Please try to keep up.)

We then got an item about how exciting Marseille is. I managed to accurately predict why the presenter found Marseille so exciting – yup, you guessed it too: immigration! He concluded that Marseille’s problems weren’t racial – they were economic. (The possibility that the city's economic problems might have their roots in endless waves of immigration obviously wasn’t raised.)

In case we hadn’t got the point, Val was on hand to assure us that racial prejudice was “ugly” and that it persists (who'd have thought?). “The best way to demolish our ignorance is by listening to each other.” But obviously we mustn’t listen to anyone who doesn’t believe that immigration is invariably an unalloyed success. We’ll be okay if we listen to people with the correct views, i.e. the sort who present programmes on the BBC.

Because there was always the possibility that some listeners might be too dunder-headed to get the point, the next item featured the winner of the Student Radio Award a piece entitled “Hello, I’m a Half-Caste.” (Well done, you!) This “lyrical soundscape” featured a black poet talking about race (just for a change). There was a bit of meritless doggerel about creating a “Half-caste Symphony” which, I swear, almost made me throw up.

I experienced another wave of nausea  when some all-purpose nicey-nicey liberal female informed us that there were still “terrible incidents of racial discimination in this country. It’s a social disease and we have to find a cure.” (The term “social disease” evidently doesn't mean the same as it did in my youth. I wonder if you can catch racism from toilet seats.)

Val – who evidently never passes up an opportunity to ram a point home – told us that “poems like that help me to understand what it’s like to inhabit someone else’s skin.” (I expect that happens quite a lot in her crime novels.)

About 30 minutes into the programme it was time for us men to receive our ritual liberal kicking. Yet another dreary women turned up to tell us about boys in Shakespeare’s day being trained to play female roles. Apparently they had to “learn to be in the female mind… boys learned to think emotionally.” You see, possessing male genitals renders one incapable of that sort of thing. (Thinking emotionally is, of course, the liberal ideal: horrid rough men with their silly, compassionless, rational thinking are the cause of all the world’s problems. Beasts!)

At this stage I was beginning to wonder whether a head-on collision might not be preferable to any more left-wing lectures, but my heart soared when Val began talking about the song “Route 66”. At last! - a subject that couldn’t be politicised! But then – oh God, please make it stop! – Billy Bragg’s name was mentioned, and here was the sonofabitch going on about his version of the song, transplanted to Essex, and the interviewer was asking him about how awful it was to grow up in Dagenham and be forced to work at the Ford plant (and, presumably, be forced to take wages for doing so).

Mercifully, the final item hove into view. A couple who kept a private zoo. Surely there was absolutely no way of shoe-horning a liberal message into this report. Only, of course, there was. The couple also had experience of looking after problem children. “You spend a lot of time looking after the unwanted, misbehaving, antisocial elements of society," the reporter prodded, to which he received the reply, "The good, sweet child is a bit boring. It’s the naughty one I find interesting.”

Of course it is, dear – because good, sweet people usually aren’t victims, and troubled ones allow you the opportunity to display compassion, which in turn makes you feel really good about yourself.

I have never felt so relieved to hear the theme tune to The Archers. Not relieved enough to actually listen to the blooody thing, of course. I asked my son to choose another station, and spent the last half-hour of the journey being bombarded by raucous pop music with incomprehensible lyrics. Bliss!

By the way, in an online article about McDermid, she lists her "real-life villain" as Margaret Thatcher. She read English at Oxford. Nuff said.


  1. Och Aye - ya ken whaur this is gangin' ya wee snecker

    1. I'm sorry - I don't speak Bulgarian.