Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

'A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money.' So said Ben Bernanke, now the chairman of the Fed, in a speech about how to ward off the 'extremely small' chance of deflation, which he delivered in 2002. Today, deflation looms, and Gordon Brown seems to want 'moneyfinanced' (i. e. paid for by printing money) tax cuts. The Conservatives have responded by promising to cut loose, from 2010, from their adherence to Gordon Brown's huge spending plans. They will be the responsible party. In terms of exposing Mr Brown on the prudence which was once his strongest point, the Tories are putting themselves in the right place for an election campaign. But their greatest problem is simple: suppose that Mr Brown is right, and is in league with Mr Bernanke. Suppose that the world does act in concert to despatch the necessary metaphorical helicopters to avoid a slump. Then the Tories look like dreary arithmeticians who want to condemn voters to self-reinforcing hardship. They now have a huge interest in British economic failure in order to be proved right. Mr Brown, much assisted by Lord Mandelson of Hartlepool and Foy, will point this out, again and again.

When told that stars such as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand should not ring up private citizens to boast, on air, that they have slept with their grand-daughters, some BBC 'entertainers' and their supporters protest at what they call 'censorship'. But censorship, surely, is an external force. The decision not to broadcast or publish something is rightly made by the organisation which does the broadcasting/publishing. It is called 'editing'.

One thing that emerges from the Ross affair, on which the BBC Trust reports this week, is that the editorial function was sacrificed in favour of 'compliance'. A compliance officer, whose job it was to check that various bureaucratic rules were being followed, ran round picking up all mentions of the f-word to make sure that they ticked the boxes of when its use is permitted. He did not link the f-word with the word 'grand-daughter', because the latter does not appear in the rules. The Ross/ Brand tape was then handed over to the editor who, knowing that compliance had been accomplished, did not bother to listen to it. It is a perfect BBC story: even when they think they are 'pushing the boundaries', they are actually tripped up by red tape.

A sinister aspect of BBC 'edgy' humour is that it delights in attacking old people. So, when I refuse to renew my television licence fee unless Jonathan Ross is sacked from the BBC, I shall give the £139.50 due to Help the Aged. It is therefore fitting that the Oldie magazine got on to Jonathan Ross before the storm about his telephone call to Andrew Sachs broke. In its October issue it published the results of a readers' competition in which entrants had to write a clerihew beginning with the name of a television programme.

David Rundle, of Cheltenham, contributed the following: Friday Night with Jonathan Ross/ Makes me exceptionally cross/ Since, having always shunned it, / I help to fund it.' Exactly.

A clergyman who owns a derelict cottage with no television sends me copies of two letters from TV Licensing. One thanks him for his letter explaining the situation and agrees that he does not need a television licence. The other says, in huge red letters: ' YOUR DETAILS ARE BEING PASSED TO OUR ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ', and threatens him with a fine. …

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