Magazine article The Spectator

Moving On

Magazine article The Spectator

Moving On

Article excerpt

In his two-part trot through the history of modern satire, Laughing All the Way to the Ballot Box on Radio Four (Sunday) John Sergeant talked of Harry Enfield's character of the 1980s known as Loadsamoney, the plasterer who earns a great deal of money which is all he cares about. It was a brilliant character, Sergeant told us, because it accurately presented what was seen as a new kind of person, someone who was prospering under the Margaret Thatcher government.

He might be right. I missed seeing the character at the time because I was travelling abroad so much, but listening to the clips in this programme it seemed to me that Enfield himself prospered mightily under Thatcher, probably more so than a diligent working-class plasterer. Who was there to satirise Enfield? Such is the nature of satire, though, and some of it doesn't last. Lord Healey made the absurd point that it was Thatcher's children who ran amok at the Heysel football stadium, people like the Loadsamoney character. As I've said before, people on the Left still remain unhinged about the Thatcher period. In the end, it backfired on Enfield when he found city types in his audiences applauding Loadsamoney. He dropped the character in 1989 and turned his thoughts to Tory Boy. Ian Hislop, of Private Eye and much else, thought that Edward Heath and Harold Wilson were excellent targets for satirists but that James Callaghan wasn't. Thatcher, as Sergeant reminded us, was sent from heaven for them. After finding Tony Blair difficult at first, he's now easily mocked.

The transience of a broadcasting career, as with satire, was evident in The Forgotten Broadcaster on Radio Four last week (Thursday), a programme about the work of Howard Marshall, a pioneering radio commentator and war reporter, once described as the Voice of the Nation. The peak of his career ran from 1933 to 1945 when it began to peter out, and he went on to co-found Angling Times and Trout and Salmon magazines; fishing was his main passion. The presenter David Rayvern Allen, with a contribution from James Hogg, an authority on Marshall's career, said the broadcaster moved effortlessly between sports commentary, state occasions such as the Coronation in 1953 and war reporting; his great scoops were the D-Day landings and the liberation of Paris. From the archive clips of his voice he spoke in an smooth baritone with great fluency and was able to use unscripted commentary at a time when few were allowed to extemporise. …

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