Friday, October 01, 2010

Calder on Air: Debut of a new column

After writing House Points for more than 10 years it was time for a change. Writing a weekly column can be a bit of a treadmill, and I was beginning to run out of.

So instead I shall be writing fortnightly about television and other broadcast media. You can see the logic: for the most part the creatures who inhabit this world are more objectionable – and powerful – than anyone you find at Westminster.

To sell this idea to the editor I had to promise to cover the heavyweight current affairs shows. But I suspect that in the long run it may be the less overtly political programmes that cast light on the way we live today.

Calder on Air

Does he sound like a prime minister? That’s what anxious Labour supporters were asking themselves when, against a background of Manchester rooftops, Ed Miliband was interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show (BBC1).

The news was mixed. Yes, he sounds like a prime minister – or at least like several former Labour leaders – but not with the encouraging results.

From Neil Kinnock came the ritual mention of public sector employees ("nurses, local government workers").

From Gordon Brown came the unwillingness to admit the seriousness of the problem posed by the deficit.

And from Tony Blair came a blizzard of dropped t’s: “think abou',” “se' of proposals,” “any par' of the country”. The set must have knee deep in them by the time he had finished, like drifts of popcorn cartons in a multiplex.

Marr’s interrogation began and ended with a probing of Miliband’s relationship with his brother. This was not a line of questioning that David Cameron had to face when he beat David Davis or Nick Clegg when he beat Chris Huhne.

If this is what is in store, it will be better for the Labour Party if David Miliband does go off to Harvard to sulk. It will be better for the rest of us too. If I hear Ed express his love for David once more, I shall do something violent to my television – which will make writing this column difficult.

Besides, so similar are they that many Labour members had to attend three hustings before they were convinced there really was more than one Miliband.

The pair recall the sixties comedians Mike and Bernie Winters playing the Glasgow Empire. Mike came on first and his patter was not going down well. When Bernie started playing with the curtains and then stuck his gurning face round them, a voice called out “Oh my God! There’s two of them.”

Rather than stoking fraternal rivalry, a better line of questioning for Marr to have explored would have been Ed Miliband’s championing of the “pressed” middle classes. The new Labour leader is surely on to something here, but isn’t it the 13 years his party spent in power that have done the pressing?

I can’t get enough of making the rich pay, but it is hard to do. They employ sharp accountants, they travel about and when you do catch up with them you find there are not that many. If Labour’s ambitions to expand the reach of government yet wider are to be realised, it is these middle classes who are going to have to foot much of the bill.

Running about, playing with knives, getting his knees muddy... Yes, Gareth Malone had a whale of a time on Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys (BBC2). Judging by the improved reading scores revealed in the final episode, the boys he taught seemed thrived on the experience too.

Let’s hope the publicity this series has gained will encourage the dismantling of the panoptican of drilling and testing that has built up in primary education. It would benefit boys and girls. As the headteacher who agreed to let Malone lose on her pupils said, “the enjoyment has gone out of learning”.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

Go on, throw something at the TV. You can always watch TV on the internet, even with a mobile phone and certainly on the now classic computer (sic - used to design mainframes and never thought we would get to this).