50 People Who Buggered Up Britain
By Quentin Letts
Constable & Robinson – £7.99
‘’Big Brother may claim to offer a face of ‘real’ Britain but in its age selections and the concentration on showy characters with an oiky attitude it is no more ‘real’ than stage blood. Bazalgette, with a little justification, says that the programme holds up a mirror to our country and shows us what we have become. That, however, is a disingenuous and increasingly circular argument in that it ignores the legitimising nature of TV and the fact that Big Brother is now helping to create this society. Once viewers have seen forms of behaviour on the telly they suppose that they must be ‘OK.’ When viewers listen to the gormless, profanity-laden witterings of the twentysomethings on the TV screen they think they need not bother to mind their own language or attempt to become more eloquent. Big Brother cements into the public imagination the idea that we really are a nation of urban, childless, sexually incontinent dullards. Bazalgette, the behind-the-scenes circus master, may himself be terribly civilised, with the pukka accent and flawless manners of a privileged patrician, but it is as though he is determined that no one else should be like that. It is as though he is fuelled by some destructive desire to get his own back on this ruptured society and condemn it to even greater anti-intellectualism and long-term weakness.’’
So writes Quentin Letts with regards Peter Bazalgette, the fourth fantastically selfish, and most myopic of maggots, within the pages of this brave and most idiosyncratically interesting of books, 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain. Not exactly the most articulate of titles admittedly, but like all Ronseal products, it does exactly what is says it’ll do on the front of the tin. Or in this instance, on the front of the book – a read that really does home in on fifty people who really do have so very much to answer for.
Among them: Kenneth Baker (‘’Big Government should never be the Tory solution.’’), Richard Beeching (‘’All that toil, all those cuttings and embankments, tunnels and bridges – brushed into the bin like cold leftovers.’’), Andy Hornby (‘’Disaster is rewarded – that’s how it goes in modern Britain.’’), Janet Street-Porter (‘’While China remains a gerontocracy we have become a culture of cretinous juvenilia, mostly thanks to a sixty-plus freelance hack who fancies she can hold back the Grim Reaper by going to parties with Kate Moss.’’).
Might I add that the above merely skims the surface, which is why I found the book almost un-put-down-able.
To be sure, upon conclusion of its 277 pages, I felt as if I’d finished a really good meal. A meal well planned, well prepared and cooked with the utmost of care. For in truth, Letts has obviously done his homework, done his research, and executed his (and perhaps much of our) most profound disgruntlement with guts and grace, panache and purpose.
50 People Who Buggered Up Britain is worth buying just for the section on Princess Diana alone: ‘’The woman was a liability, a souffle of false ideas, a super-model with all that that entails. She was the glamorous tool of cleverer men, a plaything for the powerful, a delusion worshipped only by impressionable […]. Diana was dim. A long line of herbal-cure fraudsters, psychobabbling self-esteem preachers and emotional intelligence shysters beat a path to her palace door. She fell for them as readily as did the Prime minister’s wife, Cherie Blair. Whereas Cherie was laughed at, and rightly so, for being a nincompoop and a dingbat, Diana was feathered by sighs of sympathy, indulged simply because she looked pretty and helped to sell newspapers and magazines […]. Diana displayed welcome mercy to AIDS sufferers and to little girls orphaned and disfigured by land mines, but she nearly always knew where the cameras were and she played up to their lenses like the fattest ham in the butcher’s deep freeze. She escaped mockery only because she was a female ‘victim’ and because she was a member of the Royal Family – the very family she decided she could tolerate no longer.’’
Here. Here. I couldn’t have put it better myself.