Dorries – dog whistler in chief
January 17, 2022
It goes without saying that the current British government is an embarrassment at home and abroad. With Trump, for now, off the stage, and Berlusconi, for now, in retirement, Boris Johnson has the stage to himself as a global unifier as nations the world over laugh at him, and pity us.
One of the worst things about Boris is that sycophancy is the sole qualification he demands in his ministers. Sometimes sycophancy can, if only through coincidence, coexist with intelligence and even effectiveness – I give you Michael Gove. That said, sycophancy is an even less attractive quality when it isn’t married with the excuse of stupidity. The Culture Secretary need not worry on this score.
I’m all for some ‘realism’, and even a degree of popularism, being injected into cultural policy which is normally dominated opera buffs or ballet fans – a niche, within a clique, within a minority, who just want to spend tax payers’ money on their own highbrow-signalling hobbies.
But putting Nadine Dories in charge of culture is like putting Sweeney Todd in charge of your vegan restaurant. Though not even Nadine would normally be so crass as to tweet (no need to bother Parliament), a policy to stop BBC licence funding after freezing it for the next two years – i.e. a significant real terms cut. No, alongside other miserable ‘policies’ like deploying the Royal Navy to defend us from tiny dinghies of freezing migrants (Nelson may spin on his column), this is all part of ‘Operation save Big Dog’ – the big dog bit presumably referring to the abject right-wing dog whistle drivel designed to try and distract attention from the fact the PM has been caught consistently breaking Covid rules, and even more consistently lying about it.
Any regular reader will know I am far from a BBC super fan. It does need to sort out what it wants to be in the ‘new broadcast world’. It cannot go on trying to do everything. And it can’t go on justifying a fee as high as a premium SVoD when so little of what it does do appeals to so many who actually pay for it. And it is a national scandal that people – predominantly economically disadvantaged women – are still locked up and criminalised for non-payment. But there are a significant number of very important things that only a publicly funded broadcaster can do. Furthermore, to paraphrase Churchill (one of our previous PMs we can mostly be proud of), a licence fee is definitely the worst solution – except for every other one that’s ever been tried.