My dislike for that pompous little twerp Michael Gove has deepened and darkened since he began blaming Baldrick for the way Britain has ‘gone to the dogs’.
The Education Secretary, not content with urging contempt be heaped on the current generation of teachers nor with top-loading the satchels of the nation’s schoolkids through ever-earlier SATS tests and closed-curriculum examinations, has found a new victim for his McCarthyite bullying: Blackadder!
According to the minister that Whitehall mandarins call Noddy, we have lost our admiration for our former Imperialist Glory Years thanks to the un-British activities of Lefty satirists like Rowan Atkinson and his telly series simpleton sidekick played by Tony Robinson.
How? By brainwashing a gullible nation into the false belief that incompetent death-watch beetles such as World War One generals Haig and Kitchener sentenced millions of young men to early graves and, as a result, millions of women to a lifetime in mourning.
The indictment of the Bolshie, ‘conshie’ classes doesn’t stop there: it invites, by inference, a sneer of derision to be directed at war poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who betrayed their class by rejecting the Etonian call to “play up and play the game” in favour of the truth: that the ‘Great’ War was all murderous mayhem and mass graves hidden beneath muddy middens.
Played at home, this snide and hideous blame game is a class war still pursued by our most privileged: glorify your betters, ye ‘oiks’ and plebs, and remember your place as cannon fodder.
Played away – try spending some years fielding the argument in Australia – and nationalist resentment adds a bitter twist: didn’t a generation of Anzac’s finest lay down their lives for Churchill’s greatest folly, Gallipoli, while English Tommies (always ‘English’!) sipped tea and relaxed on sun-kissed landing beaches?
Actually, no; that was the great half-myth that first drove a wedge between the Mother Country and UK Mk II (with sunshine). While it is true that more than 8,000 brave but badly-led Aussies died in the campaign, a few miles away along that Turkish killing coast, 21,000 equally badly-led Poms perished, as did 15,000 French and almost 1,400 Indian troops.
What IS undeniable is the very point Gove seeks to refute: the ‘Lions’ of the Allied forces were led by privileged ‘Donkeys’ who marched out of the upper class dormitories of a dozen public schools into the British Army’s officers’ mess.
My anger at Gove (by trade a journalist, I am shamed to admit) is mollified by recalling my favourite lines from Blackadder Goes Forth, the finale to the series’ quartet written by those brilliant Bolshies Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, which occurs when Captain Blackadder learns that the Germans are stealing our battle plans.
“You look surprised, Blackadder,” says Stephen Fry’s absurdly over-ripe General Melchett.
“I certainly am, sir,” retorts our hero. “I didn’t realise we HAD any battle plans.”
“Well, of course we have!” roars Melchett. “How else do you think the battles are directed?”
Blackadder, even more querulous: “Our battles are directed, sir?”
“Well, of course they are, Blackadder, directed according to the Grand Plan.”
“Would that be the plan to continue with total slaughter until everyone’s dead except Field Marshal Haig, Lady Haig and their tortoise, Alan?”
“Great Scott!” exclaims Melchett. “Even YOU know it!”
Dear reader, the tears are rolling down my cheeks in recollection of such drollery.
You are right to be rendered apoplectic, General Reichsminister Gove; this filthy stuff is treacherous, treasonable . . . and TRUE!
:: THE death of the great Portuguese footballer Eusébio reminds me that the 1966 World Cup (which we won, youngsters) was neither England’s nor football’s finest hour.
We (by ‘we’ I mean Nobby Stiles) kicked the Mozambique-born Golden Boot winner off the park while Portugal did the same to Brazilian wonderboy Pele.
A trainee weekly reporter at the time, I was sent to ‘stake out’ the hotel near Manchester where the Brazilians were staying and although Pele knew no English and I had no Portuguese, I convinced myself I had squeezed a brief interview out of the superstar where Fleet Street had failed.
“He kept saying ‘Manyana!’” I reported excitedly to my editor.
“You stupid boy!” he roared. “He was telling you to come back tomorrow!”