Life is as full of the amazingly obvious as it is with startling revelations. In the UK, we’re still reeling with the news that our Prime Minister, hapless David Cameron might be “a complete idiot.” Well, OK, nothing too surprizing there, for sure. There’s no harm being told the bleedin’ obvious every now and then. No, the surprize wasn’t that Mr Cameron might be “a complete idiot” it was much more shocking that these words came from the mouth of one of our venerable BBC’s most emminent political interviewers, the by now notorious Jeremy Paxman. And, even more shocking, Mr Paxman’s insight was offered to a large Friday night television audience on the entertainingly frothy Graham Norton chat show.
Jeremy Paxman has been showing signs of loosening up of late. First that beard and now the chilled-out bank manager look, tieless and scarily friendly. We are used to having an idiot for Prime Minister in this country, after all, it’s not the first time, but a cuddly light-entertainment Jeremy Paxman is truly shocking. At least he looked uncomfortable and out of place on Mr Norton’s trendy sofa squeezing up to Elton John and Judi Dench. We could, at least, believe that this was not Jeremy’s natural habitat.
He was, of course, arent’ they all, on the show to promote himself, his show and his book, all about the First World War. It’s the centenary of the beginning of the 1914-1918 World War next year and this was the occasion for Jeremy to tell us all about his plans and to do a bit of populist barrel thumping while he was at it.
First the David Cameron remark: Jeremy Paxman was referring to the Prime Minister’s speech about the plans for the national commemoration of the war that will be held next year. With clumsy insensitivity, Cameron referred to the events as a “celebration” conjuring up images of the spoof musical Springtime For Hitler. For this verbal slip, Jeremy Paxman accused our leader of being “a total idiot.” Well, as a non-fan of David Cameron, I find myself in the unusual position of having to damn the prime minister with faint praise. He isn’t a “total idiot” actually, an idiot no doubt and a terrible prime minister but, Mr Paxman, you too, I think, are using clumsy language here.
I suppose the great Paxman, so often lord of all he surveys, felt that he had to use clumsier, less accurate language in the chill-out zone that is the Graham Norton Show. He was taking the opportunity to educate us about the Great War and how he has, single-handedly apparently, found out the truth about that cataclysmic event and is now bringing that truth to us, simple Graham Norton fans out here, for the very first time. A bit like Moses descending from the mountain with those tablets of stone. All will be revealed, we are encouraged to believe, in his forth-coming TV series and the accompanying book where he has, all on his own, uncovered previously unknown facts and thought up startlingly original thoughts. It will be, I guess, even more revelatory and much more worth buying than, fellow guests, Elton’s new album or comedian John Bishop’s new video. Nothing patronising about Mr Paxman, of course. The great politician slayer, was trying to show us his saloon bar chummy side, his thinking man’s Nigel Farage.
In this glitzy environment, I suppose, he just got carried away with all the easy humour of it all so he told us that the Great War wasn’t, after all, what we all thought it was. No, he told us, it wasn’t like an episode from the TV series Black Adder or the play and, later movie, Oh What A Lovely War. No, Jeremy has found out that it was much more complicated than that. No hint that his secondhand observations were all easily gleaned from the on-going debate between academic historians and journalists, a debate that has been raging for years. Well, we can’t be expected to know anything about that can we, Mr Paxman. Maybe, in his rush to promote his war book, he made the mistake of thinking that it’s not just David Cameron who is a “total idiot” – he thinks the rest of us are too.
Talking about promoting books, my novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
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