News just in: Joanna Lumley takes over Japan...
Opinion: It’s all about ‘me, me, me’ these days. Paul Barnes isn’t impressed.
Now that the smoke of last week’s election has begun to clear, although the odd brick-end is still tumbling from the heaps of parliamentary rubble, it’s worth considering the way in which those six weeks were played out. Mrs May started by walking on water and finished on Thursday up to her nostrils in sludge, demonstrating that, among other things, it’s a grave mistake to base your campaign on a series of repeated slogans.
What offended so many was what appeared on day one, spelled out crisply in blue and white, the message that cruised the country on the side and rear of that big coach with the lady’s name writ large and the identity of her party confined to small print. Nobody close to her could pluck up the courage to whisper “You’re not the President ducky, merely an MP who got lucky.”
But the felony went on being compounded by the constant use of the first person singular: “me, me, me”, and “I, I, I”, seldom leavened by the use of collective credits such as “we” and “our”. I know I’m not the only one who is irritated by the presumed ownership of something that is actually shared. A political party is one instance; other examples are radio and television programmes.
Presenters should never be allowed to delude themselves that they are sole proprietors of the show they have the privilege to front. In nearly 50 years in the broadcasting business I’ve never presumed to refer to “my programme”; to present is to share. I have to curb my radio-hurling urges each time I hear references to “my guests”.
One or two examples should do. Some years ago Kirsty Young did a land-grab for that famous Desert Island. “My castaway,” she says each week. But when Roy Plomley first planted the BBC’s flag in the sand in 1942 he had the right perspective. “On our desert island,” he’d say, politely inviting the listener to share the guests’ stories and their eight musical choices.
On Radio 4 the woman on the Westminster Hour opens by announcing “My guests”, a gaggle of MPs and commentators, all addressed with matey first-name familiarity when some of them should clearly be kept at arm’s length and handled only with disinfected Marigolds. She might heed what the late Auberon Waugh wrote: “The role of journalists is to ridicule, humiliate and generally torment politicians ...”
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Preposterous claims to ownership in broadcasting go even farther. According to TV billings Joanna Lumley lately secured the freehold of Japan, after already annexing what’s now known as Joanna Lumley’s Nile. Still, I suppose that mighty waterway might provide a home for her absurd garden bridge now that London has wisely repudiated it.