Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Emma Thompson's tirade against Britain was both nauseating and quaintly old-fashioned

Britain stinks, apparently
In the early '60s, it was fashionable for our left-dominated cultural elite to portray Britain as a failed, dull, joyless, chilly little craphole whose mean, snobbish, penny-pinching bourgeoisie was clinging pathetically to memories of past greatness and whose downtrodden working classes were too docile and stupid to vote Labour. We had Harold Macmillan, the Americans had JFK. The French treated intellectuals with respect, knew how to drink, dress and cook, were brilliant in bed, and  made great avant-garde films that suburban Brits couldn't understand. In Sweden, everything - absolutely everything - was perfect.  Any two-a-penny satirist appearing on TV or radio could be as rude as they liked about Britain, and the audience whinnied appreciatively. How brave they were, these refreshingly unpatriotic iconoclasts, how free-thinking and unhidebound.

The Beatles, Mary Quant and the Mini (skirt and car) gave everyone an excuse to be a bit patriotic in a knowing, post-modern, Union-Jack-on-a-plastic-bag, Carnaby Street sort of way. But that soon faded, and we were suddenly in the dreary, strike-bound, begging-bowl '70s, with the English Disease (strikes, stagflation) in full spate and with a growing sense that the country was now ungovernable. Anyone "backing Britain" or harking back to its former glories sounded pompous and deluded. Anti-patriotism was rife: the airwaves were crammed with celebrities whining about their sufferings at boarding school, or in the military, or at the hands of dementedly sadistic nuns etc. Anywhere else on the planet was better than this dump.

And then came Mrs. Thatcher. The Prime Minister was unashamedly proud of Britain and its past, believed in its future, and was evidently wary of foreign influences. Patriotism crept out of its hiding place and the sound of unironic national pride was once more heard in the land, and there was much rejoicing.

Meanwhile, the wankerati seethed.

My impression is that the resurgence of quiet patriotism during the 1980s has never really gone away, except among the left-liberal academic-politico-cultural elite. For instance, from what I hear, university lecturers have never really stopped poisoning the minds of their students with a constant diet of anti-British pessimism: for them, time stopped somewhere between 1962 and 1968, thus avoiding the need to face the embarrassing fact that communism has been routed and that socialism has failed disastrously wherever it has been applied (Venezuela being the latest example), and that Britain has - with one or two Labour and EU-inspired glitches along the way - done pretty well for itself. Life was so much simpler back then, when capitalism was obviously doomed and socialism was evidently about to triumph.

So when some actor, playwright, artist or academic spouts the sort of anti-British nonsense that hasn't really been fashionable for 35 years or so, you have to assume they simply don't realise how out of touch, how comically fuddy-duddy they sound. When that irritating little drip Alan Bennett last year launched his weirdly anachronistic attack on England for "excelling at hypocrisy", it struck me that I hadn't heard that sort of tosh for years: people like Bennett used to say it all the time, but it now sounds as out-of-date as complaining about Watney's Red Barrel or about how, what with all this long hair, you can't tell girls and boys apart any any more, and isn't the food in British restaurants awful etc. Does the "national treasure" only hang out with the sort of deluded old fogeys who still cling to the notion that hypocrisy is a specifically English trait?

But, while Bennett's "getting on" a bit (forgive the ironic cultural reference) and might therefore be forgiven for not noticing that attitudes have changed ever so slightly since Beyond the Fringe, Emma Thompson's only 56, and yet her attack on Britain at the Berlin Film Festival yesterday had me wondering whether she was about to tell us that Harold Wilson was the man Britain needed to drag it kicking and screaming into the white heat of the technological revolution. Apparently, Britain is "a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe ... a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island."

Many years ago, this sort of rampant xenophilia would have earned wee Emma a pat on the head and a sweetie, as we all tittered at her boldness and lack of cant. I rather suspect that the response from most Britons these days would be, "Actually, I rather like my country. Go away, you silly actress." (Only the language might be a bit fruitier.) Thompson was speaking in favour of remaining in the EU, so, basically, her message was that Britain is a shitty, depressing little country which needs to be in the EU because - what? - the other countries are warmer, sunnier, more glamorous, more full of fun, and they don't eat boring old cake, and we need a bit of thir sparkle and joie de vivre to rub off on us?

But I mustn't be unfair to the treasonable twit. After all, she made some very pertinent socio-economic points, which deserve serious consideration:
'I feel European even though I live in Great Britain, and in Scotland as well.
'So of course I'm going to vote to stay in Europe. Are you kidding?
'Oh my God, of course. It would be madness not to. It's a crazy idea not to. We should be taking down borders, not putting them up.'
Well, of course we should be taking down borders - because, after all, what possible harm could come of doing so? I certainly can't think of any actual - or indeed potential - problems that might arise as a result of an open-borders policy. Can you? Thought not.

I suspect Stuart Jackson, the Tory MP for Peterborough, spoke for most of us when he said:
"I really couldn't give a monkeys what overpaid Leftie luvvie Emma Thompson thinks about Brexit." 
Thompson was in Berlin to promote Alone in Berlin, the latest film version of Hans Fallada's brilliant 1947 novel. Maybe she was in a bad mood because the Telegraph reviewer had said this about it:
It has a silly script, and gauche direction coming out of its ears – what’s left is a coarse, will-this-do quality which the spotlight of a competition berth has done no favours.
Let's hope those lovely, darling, adorable Europeans were nicer about it than Tim Robey, who was probably feeling miserable because he was feeling chilly and had eaten too much cake.


  1. Actually, I was just waiting for Emma to tell me which way to referend. Now I have made up my mind. Ooh Emma. Whisky-wow-wow.

    One minor quibble is this. There was plenty about Britain in the 60's and beyond to which you didn't need to be a rabid lefty revolutionary to object or poke fun. The Lord Chamberlain as theatre censor, the role of the judiciary in deciding what was obscene, the secretiveness of Government, the deference to rank, tolerance of bigotry, the number, then as now, of cronies in the Cabinet. There was a lot to satirise and a lot of it was neutral in terms of political positioning. I don't imagine Wilson felt any more comfortable with Cook and Private Eye (as it then was, before becoming a tame Fleet Street gossip column) than did Supermac and Douglas Home. It was more of a two-fingers to authority reaction than a definable political phenomenon. And I don't see it as unpatriotic in nature.

    I think what we have seen growing for some time is a sort of political Gaia movement, in which misguided souls like Emma and assorted celebs see future salvation in global or regional rather than national constructs. Hence the number of UN special luvster envoys and the preference of our politicians for international events with communiques which offer supranational answers to the world's ills, rather than the the hard and slow graft of sorting out what they were elected to do nationally.

    A massive mechanism for the redistribution of wealth like the EU, with lots of taxpayer-funded programmes to redress the balance between the greedy and the needy, is bound to appeal to the socialist ideal, which has always made it hard to understand why any one vaguely lefty would be a Leaver, other than for reasons of dimness. Emma has spoken. We should all listen. But I don't think your theory of a continuum from the satirists of the 60's to the A-listers of today holds water (Evian or San Pellegrino for Ms Thompson please waiter, and quickly).

    1. Okay, I'm on weak ground with '60s satirists - a lot of things were wrong with Britain at the time, as there always are in every country in every era, and Richard Ingrams and Christopher Booker, whatever their political affiliations at the time, were nobody's idea of standard-issue lefties: if anything, their attacks on the establishment were fuelled by patriotic anger at what was being done to their country. What I think they did, though, was to encourage other people - left-wing, not so bright, and without their love of country - to rubbish every aspect of Britain (apart from the unions and the NHS), because that's what they imagined the smart, funny boys were doing. Which they weren't. The echoes can be heard to this day on The News Quiz, Mock the Week and what have you ("What Have You" is, of course, a new, rib-tickling, Channel 4 satirical weekly panel show where left-wing Oxbridge comedians indulge in 30 minutes of frenzied mutual ego-masturbation).

      I was actually going to trace the line back at least to the '30s and refer to George Orwell's brilliant insights into much of the Left's relentless contempt for their own country. (Is it my imagination, or is this form of self-loathing particularly pronounced amongst Anglo-Saxons?)

      As for the political Gaia movement, I couldn't agree more: having failed to persuade the electorate, they look to unelected Third World bullies to constrain their own governments. I see Boutros Boutros-Ghali Ghali died two days ago. Got two short paragraphs in our newspaper - and that was two paragraphs too many.

    2. These are all fair points. While I am here perhaps I can point out to the late Mr Harris (below) that while he might have sung, in a sense, MacArthur Park, it was in fact written by the very much alive Jimmy Webb. Webb's own version is the last track on his superb Ten Easy Pieces (1996), but is actually the weakest song there, largely because the other nine are gems. A much underrated songwriter and a courteous and polite Southern gentleman. At a concert a couple of years ago, he asked the audience if they had any requests. Some one yelled out "Do What You've Got to Do", the old Four Tops hit, a favourite of mine which I had no idea he had written. He expressed surprise that it was remembered then played it, note perfect.

  2. Richard Harris [dec.]18 February 2016 at 09:11

    "MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
    All the sweet, green icing flowing down
    Someone left the cake out in the rain
    I don't think that I can take it
    'Cause it took so long to bake it
    And I'll
    never have that recipe again Oh noooooo, o-oh no-ooooo"

  3. Hannah Betts: Please, save us from the wisdom of the thesps:

    Of course, this lot specialise in flamboyant faux modesty of the “crumbs, no one should listen to little old me” variety. However, what they are is what they purport to rail against — an establishment. When Thompson committed the faux pas of addressing Princess Margaret before being spoken to, she remarked: “I’m so used to talking to [Prince] Charles.” Yet another reason to sympathise with our king-in-waiting.

    1. And the fact that the heir to the throne hangs out with people like Emma Thompson is yet another reason, perhaps, for hoping his wait goes on. And on. (Though I think Camilla would make an excellent consort - if that's the right term. I just wish she'd take to horsewhipping him when he starts droning on about climate change and organic farming.)

    2. Given his nationality and background the Heir is possibly not averse to a spot of flagellation [the traditional cry of Soho prostitutes :"Flag or straight, deah?"]. She should destroy all his letter writing paraphernalia instead. Also, I think it is healthier if he hung around with Emma Thompson rather than Ant and Dec [see recent TV programme about the Prince's Trust and his appreciation of extreme sycophantic behaviour].

  4. Really enjoyed reading this post and the comments. Thank you.

    It really is bad form running down your own country when abroad. I wonder what La Thompson is after? Perhaps she is a hysteric? She blurts out the strangest things. Interesting that lefties in the acting profession never aim their barbs at the United States as that is where the big bucks are to be earned.

    I am reminded of John Osborne's strange outburst [" Damn you, England!" ] in 1961 when he published a letter in "Tribune" which ended:
    "If you were offered the heart of Jesus Christ, your Lord and your Saviour - though not mine, alas - you'd sniff at it like sour offal. For that is the Kind of Men you are. Believe me,In sincere and utter hatred". It was something to do with the building of the Berlin Wall or Nuclear War or some damned thing. Slightly OTT?

    Moving more up to date, Martin Amis, the Warwick Davis of the British literary scene, published an interview in the "Nouvelle Observateur" in 2011 [just before he emigrated to America] in which he complained that in Britain celebrity, narcissism and tabloid superficiality are the villains: "All these excited models and these rock stars in short shorts."

    In between there are many other examples of unpatriotic luvvie ravings. Noel Coward summed it up best. On exiting the Royal Court after a performance of "Look Back in Anger" Noelly [yes!] turned to his little bum-chum and apparently said: " Wonderful play. I wonder what what he was so angry about?" Quite.

    Emma Thompson, you are a talented actress. Just put a bloody sock in it and get on with what you are good at!

    1. I imagine Osborne was severely pissed at the time. I also remember him penning a letter to (I think) The Spectator in which he demanded that everyone stop being rude about luvvies - actors, he assured us, are more sensitive than the rest of us, feel things more deeply, and were therefore allowed to be more emotional (i.e. hysterical) about current affairs.

      As for Martin Amis, I think he blames his English heritage for landing him with spectacularly crap teeth.

      My favourite Noel Coward anecdote involves the "c" word, so I can't share it with you. Sorry.

  5. I do have an anecdote about "Noelly" with the "sea" word which I can share. When he saw the poster for the 1954 film "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" with Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde he said crisply: " I don't see why not? Everybody else has."

  6. When Victor Mature applied for membership of the then very non - Hollywood Los Angeles Country Club, a committee member on the interview panel remarked " I understand that you are an actor "

    Came VM's reply : You obviously haven't seen any of my movies".

    He was accepted as a member.

    1. And that reminds me, when one of Voltaire's much-loved mistresses died the church refused to bury her in consecrated ground as she was an actress.

  7. When they were casting "Samson and Delilah" the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr said of Victor Mature "I don't like my leading men to have bigger tits than me." [That's enough anecdotes. Ed.]

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Noahide Legal Supremacy23 February 2016 at 13:02


    Curiously, there is no mention of settling any refugees in Israel.

  10. The Id Of The Yid23 February 2016 at 13:06


    Straight from the horse - faced Jewess mouth.

    1. Is your life really so empty and joyless that you feel compelled to haunt websites where sensible, well-adjusted people hang out, in order to post hate-filled gibberish under a series of unfunny aliases? What a sad little man.

      You've already demonstrated that you hate Arabs, blacks, Hispanics and Jews. Given that you've chosen to regularly leave steaming piles of malodorous troll-dung on this site, I can only assume that you also hate what you recently referred to as your "racial cognates". (You haven't mentioned the Chinese yet, I notice. I wonder why not.)

      I suggest three courses of action:

      (1) Seek psychiatric help - not necessarily for your unpleasant views, which are your business - but in order to rid yourself of the compulsion to air them where they're not welcome. I've noticed that your comments start off being fairly civilised, then become progressively more unpleasant over time, ending in out-and-out, foam-flecked anti-Semitism. Whatever your psychiatric problem is, it seems to be cyclical. The doctors will need to know this.

      (2) If you really want to spread your ever-popular message - i.e. that everything that's wrong with the world is the result of a vast Jewish conspiracy to destroy the Aryan race - set up a blog under your real name and blast away to your heart's content. There are lots of truly awful people out there, and I'm sure you'll attract a sizeable number of followers. Failing that, visit mainstream MSM websites and post your comments on them - preferably not quivering behind an alias: you'll reach a far wider audience.

      (3) Fuck off. For the second time of asking.

      Oy vey!

  11. Satire's job gets harder by the day.

    According to the newspaper formerly known as the "Daily Telegraph", Mark Rylance and Emma Thompson pose nude with fish for marine protection.

  12. How would the newspapers cope without Emma Thompson?

    The Times, 28 April 2016:

    Emma Thompson’s fracking stunt ends in flurry of slurry
    Oscar-winning actresses are more used to being showered with praise than pig muck … When Emma Thompson trespassed on a field in Lancashire yesterday to protest against fracking, however, the farmer was far from starstruck. He got in his tractor and towed his muckspreader in circles around the actress and her sister as they took part in a Greenpeace stunt … The sisters escaped the muck while several activists had to leap out of the way. A member of the Greenpeace team said: “It was potent and pungent. I would say it was pig slurry.”

    The Telegraph, 2 May 2016:

    Labour has secretly suspended 50 members for anti-Semitic and racist comments

    Emma Thompson, previously one of Labour's key supporters, admitted she will not vote for the party in the forthcoming Mayoral election because she no longer feels that the party reflects her views.

  13. David Moss. I believe our friend "Gobby" Thompson is about to release a film "Alone in Berlin"[based on the anti-Nazi Fallada book] which has been panned by the critics in spite of a good cast. Perhaps the producers have told Thommo that now is not the time for her to be seen as an ally of an overtly anti-Israeli political party and that she should beat a temporary tactical retreat.She can then go back to being Corbyn's "useful idiot" when it becomes apparent that the film is going to bomb anyway and she can go back to making Nanny McPhee 5 or 6 and being zany on Graham Norton.