Magazine article The Spectator

A Dying Breed

Magazine article The Spectator

A Dying Breed

Article excerpt

In The Real Queen Mother (Channel 4, Monday), we were told that beneath those distinctive hats and behind that `fairytale' and `beatific' demeanour lurks a steely, ruthless right-wing Machiavel with extreme Victorian values, a staggering overdraft and a gift for propaganda which would have put Dr Goebbels to shame.

None of this bothered me, particularly, first because I'd heard most of it before and second because the programme still allowed for a positive reading of the Queen Mother's character: namely that without her indefatigable sense of duty and her gift for spin the monarchy might well have collapsed years ago.

What did worry me, though, was that I was personally acquainted with at least half the programme's expert witnesses: Geordie Greig, Hugh Massingberd, Andrew Roberts and so on. This gave me the nasty thought that, like the Queen Mum and her defenders, I too was part of a dying breed of out-of-touch traditionalists whose views had no relevance in Blair's thrusting New Britain. And I thought, `God, come the inevitable civil war, we're going to be seriously outnumbered.'

I mean, we're probably going to be fairly safe as far as the officer class is concerned, but where, I've often wondered, are we going to recruit our foot soldiers? And the other day, I thought I'd found the answer. Driving round the evil, smelly Elephant & Castle roundabout, I noticed two huge posters featuring the menacing, thuggish faces of Ross Kemp (the yobby one out of EastEnders) and Chris Ellison (the yobby one out of The Bill).

`Aha,' I thought to myself, `these are just the sort of fellows we need in a rumble. I'll bet they've no truck with metres and euros; I'll bet they remember Agincourt; I'll bet they think Blair and Irvine and Mandelson and Macpherson are a right bunch of tossers. With sturdy Essex-man types like these on our side, we might just stand a chance.'

Or so I imagined until I made the big mistake of watching their new 'television series. And I don't know whether it's because they've been infected by luvviedom or whether it's because they're just desperate to play against type but, whatever it is, they've both been hijacked by the dread forces of PC.

In Burnside (ITV, Thursday) Ellison reprises his Bill role as the copper so brutal and charmless that you can't help loving him. Except now, in some misguided attempt to make absolutely 100 per cent sure we can't help loving him, he has been revealed to have the heart of a warm fluffy liberal. He's tolerant and friendly towards his black, gay sidekick. …

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