Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Siôn Simon Syndrome

Back in March, discussing a Commons speech by Siôn Simon, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, I suggested:
there is a law that people accuse others of the faults they most fear in themselves, much as those who make most fuss about homosexuality are supposed to be repressed homosexuals themselves.
I wrote this because Simon accused Conservative Members of being "childish and ridiculous" while himself speaking in the most bizarre sing-song voice. So let's call the affliction Siôn Simon Syndrome - or SSS for short.

I think I have found another sufferer.

Last year I complained about Simon Hoggart turning his fire on soft targets like trainspotters. Now I think I know why I did it. It's SSS.

In his memoirs Give Me Ten Seconds, John Sergeant writes of his time as a reporter in Northern Ireland. As he says, "Belfast proved to be the real training ground for some of the best journalists of our generation." Among them were Simon Winchester, Martin Bell, Max Hastings, Robert Fisk and Hoggart.

They dealt with the inevitable tension in different ways. And Hoggart's method was to "build model aircraft in his room at the Europa Hotel".

An obvious case of SSS. Hoggart is sensitive about his model aircraft - aren't they a bit nerdy? - so he seeks to extirpate these feelings by attacking trainspotters.

Don't get me wrong. I think building model aircraft is a splendid hobby, and the world would be a better place if more people - and more children in particular - had hobbies. Nowadays we are all too cool to be enthusiastic about anything. But the diagnosis is clear.

Talking of Give Me Ten Seconds, its chief interest is not Sergeant's career in journalism but his brief stint as an actor. He appeared in Alan Bennett's 1966 comedy series On the Margin. (It was widely expected that Bennett would cast Sergeant's Oxford contemporary Michael Palin, but he thought him "too showbiz".) The tapes of it have long been wiped, but it contains some of Bennett's most famous sketches - his NORWICH monologue, for instance.

So does Siôn Simon Syndrome have a wider political application? I shall look out for more examples, but I have already found one area where it occurs.

Self-styled "radical Liberals" in the Liberal Democrats who complain about the Social Democrats in the party often support Social Democrat policies themselves without realising it. I suppose that counts as subconscious SSS.

No comments: