The rise and rise of the celebrity bully

There was once a man called Jimmy Savile. He was powerful and did bad things. Although some people suspected as much, he was allowed to continue being powerful and doing bad things for two main reasons: he was a bully, and he was popular with the public. Those  were the bad old days. Nothing like […]

The emptiness of institutional caring

As well-drilled as a squadron of guards, the presenters and guests on the BBC have begun wearing the new medal of concern, the poppy. Each one of them – Huw Edwards, Alan Hansen, Clare Balding, every hack, weather forecaster and speakerine – is, we are supposed to think, expressing his or her own deep and […]

And now for the weather … it’s turning a bit brighter

Mysteriously, the BBC weather forecast has come to represent something good and timeless and genuine in a superficial, changing culture. For millions, those moments after the TV news when a nerdy, middle-aged type prances around in front of a map, talking about weather fronts and making bad jokes, has a peculiar emotional importance. It is […]

Misplaced smugness at the BBC

It was one of those moments of quiet smugness at which the British excel. The director-general of the BBC had delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Festival, arguing that the BBC is more popular than ever with the general public, that there is a gulf between the criticism of the corporation to be found […]

Sleek, corporate, safe – it’s time for the BBC to take risks

I wrote recently in the Independent that the high level of self-satisfaction within the BBC at the quality of its output was not exactly borne out by what we see on our screens every evening. I concluded: “Away from the discussions about salaries, relocation and pensions, the BBC needs to remember that its public remit […]

Parish councils and a quiet revolution

The dawning of this new age of happy liberation from the state (or should that be “miserable betrayal by the state”?) has provided few greater surprises than the suggestion that the parish council, that whiskery old joke beloved of sitcoms like The Vicar of Dibley, will play an important part in the great revolution to […]

Adultery and the BA strike – ‘Grounded’ on Radio 4

I have just had the pleasure of writing a play for the Radio 4 series, Fact to Fiction. My starting point was the BA strike – and how it changed one man’s life… The producer was Duncan Minshull and it is read by Paul Ritter. Here it is. [Or, rather, here it was. It is now […]

Planting trees is a facile option

It has taken some time but at last Britain has come up with a symbol to represent our commitment to the environment and concern for the planet. Our version of the polar bear on a melting ice cap is to be… the tree. It is now National Tree Week and it would be churlish to […]