Later this year, or more probably in the spring of 2016, the following scene may play out on the steps of the High Court in London. An editor will appear before the cameras and say: ‘I am instructing my reporters stop investigative journalism until the law is changed.’ Continue reading →
For years, I have asked smug questions about women’s rights, which are repeated by many men and more privileged women than feminists like to admit. “What’s the problem? And why the fuss?”
The battles for the vote, the right to work and to control fertility have been won – in the rich world at least. Individuals suffer sexual violence and discrimination. But deplorable though their suffering is, it cannot detract from the extraordinary advances women have made in the past 150 years. Today’s blazing rows about young lawyers calling out old lawyers who make passes at them are mere mopping-up operations in comparison to the struggles of the past. Continue reading →
If you had told a British television executive 40 years ago that television drama would be the great art form of the early 21st century, he (for it would have been a he, with long hair, flared trousers and a hungry ambition) would have been in no doubt that British drama would still be “the envy of the world”.
In those days, the British compensated for the loss of empire by abandoning our “quintessential” understatement and bragging like drunks at a bar. We were the greatest. We were the tops. We had the best health service, best police force, best judiciary, best monarchy and, of course, best television.
Britain exported Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect and took our “rubbish” from America. Britain, and only Britain with its combination of public and private funding, could produce the popular quality drama the world wanted. We still export TV programmes. But overwhelmingly they are the “format” shows we used to import from America – Come Dine With Me, Pop Idol, The X Factor and the like. The great stories that move the world are made in the US and Scandinavia. Even George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, which feels so English, was written by an American and adapted by an American TV company. Continue reading →
Writers have always conscripted the Caesars to fight their battles. In 1934, Robert Graves turned Claudius into a liberal surrounded by tyrannical monsters, not so different from the tyrants who surrounded Graves in the 1930s. During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Gore Vidal assailed Americans’ belief that monogamous heterosexuality was “normal” by showing them that the Roman emperors abused men and women, boys and girls with bisexual abandon. Contemporaries did indeed regard Claudius as an eccentric because he only wanted to sleep with women. But as the defining feature of tyrants is their tyranny, Claudius’s readiness to execute opponents for real and imagined treasons is more striking than his taste in concubines. Continue reading →
The pretence that sportsmen and women are “role models” is impossible to maintain. It’s not just that no parent tells their teenage children to model their sex lives on premier league footballers or holds up Lewis Hamilton’s flight to a tax haven as a model of good citizenship. To be a member of the sporting “elite” is to live in a state of perpetual childhood without enjoying or even wanting the rights and responsibilities of a grown-up. Continue reading →
It is impossible for anyone involved in politics to write without lying. The act of joining a party and committing to collective discipline compels loyalists to “take one for the team” when required. They do not want to give aid to their enemies or cause distress to their friends, so they avoid the questions that anyone else would ask automatically.