I quite like Rod Liddle. Obviously, in the wake of Gilligan’s implosion live on air and the subsequent suicide of Dr. Kelly, he came out with a lot of abject rubbish in his attempts to defend the indefensible, but I put this down to a temporary bout of irrationality brought on by a misplaced sense of loyalty to his former employer. (We’ve all done it. I know I won’t have a bad word said about Mr. Stringfellow.) On the whole, however, I think Liddle is one of our better commentators and I enjoy his regular column in the Sunday Times (I wouldn’t know if he still writes for The Spectator as I won’t soil my hands with it. I’ll walk out of local newsagents with a copy of “Hustler” in a see-through carrier bag before I buy the comic for people who think the Daily Mail is political correctness gone mad).
So imagine my surprise when I opened this Sunday’s edition of the Times and read the bollocks below:
A member of the shadow front bench told me a mildly racist joke recently. Surprisingly, it made me laugh. I used to find racist jokes dismally unfunny but these days, because I’m not allowed to find them funny and might even be visited by the police for committing a hate crime if I did, they’ve taken on a samizdat quality. So – involuntarily, maybe, officer – I laughed. Context helps, of course: it’s funnier because the joke came from a civilised and intelligent human being whose job would be lost as soon as the punchline was delivered in public (go on, Dave, have another one of your witch-hunts). Much funnier than if it had been related by some fat, sweating, antediluvian oaf in a Manchester working men’s club. Then it would hardly be funny at all.
On the Bernard Manning thread, Graham and I spent the best part of 3 days trying to make a point about class hypocrisy. Where were you then, Rod?
To be fair to Liddle, he doesn’t leave things there. He gives us a few more paragraphs in which he tries to qualify what he means by the above: it’s not class prejudice, you see, it’s something to do with the “conformity” of humour, as in, Manning’s humour conformed (and therefore wasn’t funny), whereas Boris Johnston’s joke……er, I mean, whoever the Shadow Cabinet Minister happened to be……yes, his joke, was “non-conformist” and therefore a riot. What the “fat” and “sweaty” epithets are doing in the first paragraph is never properly explained, but one can only conclude that Liddle believes “fat, sweaty Mancunians” are irredeemably racist in a way that old-Etonian (we are talking about Cameron’s s front bench, here) politicians simply could never be. The fact that the former was a marginalized comedian who addressed 200 people at a time once a week and the latter could be helping to craft policy in the next iteration of Her Majesty’s government, doesn’t seem to bother Liddle. It’s garbage that makes his defence of the BBC circa 2003 read like the Gettysburg Address.
Anyway, it’s a good job Liddle himself wouldn’t ever go in for this sort of nonsense. So I’m happy to say that it was an entirely unrelated Rod Liddle who fronted Channel 4’s “Immigration is a Time Bomb” in March 2005, a program broadcast to millions which perpetuated every half-baked anti-immigration myth you can imagine (and some you can’t) and which was eviscerated by Paul Hoggart here.
So, we have respected commentator and former BBC Editor Liddle defending the prospective Cabinet Minister (who, crucially, is funny in a ‘non-conformist’ way), whilst simultaneously excoriating the working-class comedian (who, crucially, is ‘fat’ and ‘sweaty’……although, maybe not quite as fat and sweaty as he used to be).
It’s a tough one, trying to gauge who poses the greater threat to racial harmony in our country:
The presenter of “Immigration is a time bomb”?
The possibly mildly racist member of what could be the next government?
The dead comedian who told half-a-dozen racist gags once a week?
Talking of non-conformist humour, here’s a letter from Rod Liddle’s ex-wife, published in the Times not long after he’d cut short his honeymoon to be with his girlfriend, and a few days after Liddle had penned a piece for the paper about the occasion of his happening to be in possession of Viagra:
Sir, I had to laugh when I read my ex’s (Rod Liddle) account (Weekend Review, July 17) of how I came to find Viagra in his pocket. He painted a lovely picture of using it for research purposes only after purchasing it from Chinese Joe’s in Kuah Town, Malaysia.
Strangely, he didn’t bother explaining away the second packet I found some six months later, bought at a chemist in East Sheen, Surrey. Not so exotic, I know, but a lot nearer where his girlfriend was staying at the time.
You’ve got to laugh, Rod.