Tag Archives: Brexit

Jonathan Pie, Spiked magazine and why the Guardian and Daily Mail are similar

Andrew Doyle co-writes the satirical Jonathan Pie character with actor Tom Walker. In yesterday’s blogAndrew talked about free speech.

I had not originally intended to ask him about that.

Now read on…


Andrew Doyle ponders existential question

JOHN: What I was originally going to ask you, before you started on free speech was What are you?

ANDREW: That is an existential question.

JOHN: Well, you write theatre performance, Jonathan Pie, musicals, run comedy nights, do stand-up comedy, write radio plays. What are you?

ANDREW: I suppose I am a writer, comedian and I write political articles for Spiked and I do literary research.

JOHN: Spiked is thought-of as being right wing, isn’t it?

ANDREW: Yeah. By people who don’t read it. But its origins are Marxist. It used to be called Living Marxism until the ITN libel case in 2000. Then it lost all its money and rebranded as Spiked. (It had been launched in 1988 as the journal of the British Revolutionary Communist Party until re-branded as Living Marxism in 1992.)

JOHN: Doesn’t this go with my idea that politics is a circle not a line? Extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing eventually meet in the same place.

ANDREW: I get this a lot. Comedians hate Spiked and people who self-identify as Left hate Spiked. I say “self-identify” because I don’t believe they ARE Left. Unless you care about class consciousness and the redistribution of wealth, you are not left-wing.

JOHN: And you care about them.

ANDREW: Yes.

JOHN: So you ARE left-wing.

Spiked – “believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote”

ANDREW: Of course. Everything I write is left-wing. Everything. Spiked is pro-freedom of speech, no ifs and buts as an indivisible liberty; pro democracy; believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote, because the European Union is essentially undemocratic and pro-corporate. Spiked is pro-migration with no such thing as borders; it does not believe in any form of borders whatsoever. It is anti-Trump, anti-New Labour, anti the Tories. It is anti-racism; anti the alt-right; anti men’s rights activists. It is pro-freedom, pro individual liberty, sceptical about climate change.

JOHN: Sceptical about climate change?

ANDREW: Yes. I am not. But, with Spiked, I agree with more than I disagree.

JOHN: The one thing you did not mention there about Spiked views was the current Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party.

ANDREW: It is very anti-Corbynistas. Hugely. Hugely.

JOHN: It seems very anti everything. What is it pro?

ANDREW: It is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, pro-democracy, pro the human race.

JOHN: Who else is supporting liberty that Spiked likes?

ANDREW: Well, there are so few people doing that.

JOHN: Is it pro any other organisations?

ANDREW: You mean party political affiliations? I don’t think it is pro any of them. There is not a political party it supports, which is sort of where I am at the moment.

JOHN: But, as a Marxist…

ANDREW: I never said I was a Marxist. I don’t think of myself as a Marxist.

JOHN: So what are you?

Living Marxism in its heyday…

ANDREW: I would say I am… I dunno… a Socialist? Somewhere between Socialism and Social Liberalism. Do you really want an answer?

JOHN: Yes.

ANDREW: I dunno. I think that’s where I am. I don’t trust any ideology. Why should you just choose  an ideology and stick to every point that ideology represents? Why can’t you say This element of Socialism is good and This element of Conservatism is good? Ultimately, I oppose identity politics in whatever form it takes.

JOHN: What is identity politics?

ANDREW: That the way you perceive people is through their particular demographic or group. Seeing people collectively rather than as individuals.

JOHN: Isn’t that inevitable? There’s a man over there in a T-shirt and another one is wearing a tie. I am going to have immediate pre-conceptions about them.

ANDREW: You are talking about prejudice. I am talking about self-identification. What I resist is that, just because I am in a particular demographic, then I should identify myself with that demographic. Everyone is an individual.

JOHN: So you think certain things are wrong. Why are you not into active politics? You are very, very bright, very thought-filled, very fluent.

ANDREW: You are very kind. No. I don’t want to be a politician.

JOHN: But all these people you disagree with are in control of the world and you think they are making wrong decisions.

ANDREW: I would rather just complain about it on the fringes. Every time you write any polemical piece, you are trying to effect some kind of change or, at least, trying to persuade people of the validity of your point of view. That is a valuable exercise, but I am not naive enough to think I have any type of clout.

JOHN: Is being a writer more influential than being a politician?

ANDREW: Maybe. I would not want to be a politician because, for a start, you have to adhere to the Whip and you sort of surrender your integrity to an extent. You have to compromise to get anything done and I am not a compromiser. I am not suggesting compromise is a bad thing, just that I am not very good at it.

JOHN: You studied English at Aberystwyth University. Why Aberystwyth?

Aberystwyth University – accidentally alphabetically lucky

ANDREW: Because it was first alphabetically in the list. I went to a shitty comprehensive school where we didn’t really have any guidance about where to go. Had Aberdeen University been there, I would have applied there. It wasn’t in the list.

So I went to Aberystwyth and, after that, I wanted to do a Masters in Renaissance Literature but they didn’t do one, so I went to York and then I wanted to do a doctorate in Renaissance Poetry and work with manuscripts so then I went to Oxford University and I became a part-time lecturer at Oxford, teaching the Shakespeare module to undergraduates. At that point, I was going to be an academic.

JOHN: Why the specific interest in manuscripts?

ANDREW: Because I was very interested in early modern literature – Renaissance. I developed a particular interest in a poet called Richard Barnfield. My thesis was on Richard Barnfield, Shakespeare and Philip Sydney. Shakespeare and Richard Barnfield are the only two poets of that era in England who wrote love sonnets from one man to another.

JOHN: Are you just interested in Elizabethans?

ANDREW: I’ve written introductions of republished versions of a novelist called Forrest Reid, who died in 1947. I’m writing a biography of him. Up until the 1970s, it would have been accepted he was the best novelist to emerge from Northern Ireland but, because of the fickle nature of literary trends, he was forgotten. They are a very specific type of novel. He was a pagan; he worshipped spirit gods; he was an animist. All of his novels are set in Belfast, but infused with this sense of another world lurking beneath the surface, centred on male adolescence.

JOHN: Why are you not still lecturing?

ANDREW: It’s quite lonely.

JOHN: I saw one of the Jonathan Pie live stage shows at the Apollo Hammersmith and the first third or more of it took pot-shots at what I thought was the easy target of the Conservative government, but then you turned it on the audience.

“…Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs…”

ANDREW: That’s why we have to have the first third in that way. So many of Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs. The fanbase is predominantly the liberal Left – Guardian readers – so, in order to have a show that essentially attacks the fundamental principles that they represent, you need to get them on-side. It’s a strategy. The first third of the show is exactly what you would expect.

JOHN: Is that the ultimate idea? To attack the liberal Left?

ANDREW: No. It’s not as confrontational as that. As with all satire, it is exposing the excesses and deflating the pretensions of those in control.

JOHN: Equal offence to everyone?

ANDREW: The character does not just scatter-shot attack everyone. The character believes certain things.

JOHN: What IS the character? A left winger who hates the Right but has doubts about the Left?

ANDREW: Yes. Basically he is an old school Bennite Leftie who is pro-Corbyn, Socialist, hates the Right, hates the Tories, hates what they are doing to the NHS, but also thinks the Left need to do a whole lot better in order to beat them… and that the Left keep losing because of their own shortcomings. And that’s where the frustration comes.

JOHN: Sometimes the phrase ‘Guardian readers’ is used as a put-down.

 ANDREW: Well, the Guardian and Daily Mail are very similar.

JOHN: Really?

ANDREW: They are both explicitly partisan and misrepresentative; they push an agenda relentlessly; and they are not to be trusted.

JOHN: Is Jonathan Pie risking his fanbase – the liberal Left – by attacking them?

Jonathan Pie’s 2017 book Off The Record

ANDREW: Sometimes. And sometimes you get your ideological opponents supporting what you say, which is a bit weird. But I think we have retained the sensible people who can stand having fun being poked at them. The people who think.

JOHN: So where do you go with the character?

ANDREW: That’s up to Tom. I just go along with it.

JOHN: Do you feel overshadowed by the fame of Jonathan Pie? No-one knows who you are.

ANDREW: No-one knows who I am, but that doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not hungry for fame.

JOHN: Not doing anything new?

ANDREW: I am working on a couple of musicals at the moment. One is about Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon in World War II for airmen who were surviving their terrible burns and had to reconstruct them.

JOHN: The Guinea Pigs. And the other musical?

“…but it’s really a coming-of-age story…”

ANDREW: Paperboy. It was recently staged at the Lyric, Belfast, based on Tony Macaulay’s memoir of being a paperboy on the Shankill Road at the height of The Troubles. But it’s really a coming-of-age story. Another musical I wrote is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s book Soul Music. He specifically asked us to do that book. Youth Music Theatre UK put it on in Kingston with 40 kids – but it has not yet got a producer to take it forward.


The last Jonathan Pie live stage show has just been released to download.

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Simple explanation of the Irish problem

With all the hassle over Brexit and the Irish border, I think it would be wise to bear in mind these two simple explanations of the British Isles, taken from 1066 and All That:

“The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and verce visa).”

“Gladstone… spent his declining years trying to guess the answer to the Irish Question; unfortunately, whenever he was getting warm, the Irish secretly changed the Question.”

One explanation of the British Isles (there are many conflicting explanations). This one on MapPorn

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The decline of British television comedy. The elitist iceberg of Brexit and Trump.

The Grouchy Club Podcast

Below is a short extract from the 100th Grouchy Club Podcast in which the (yes she certainly is) controversial comedy critic Kate Copstick and I ramble on about anything that takes our fancy, occasionally stumbling into the subject of British comedy. Occasionally, too, we stumble into cyber-trouble.

This may be one such example.


JOHN: There is a sort of bizarre snootiness in comedy where the Oxbridge elite…

COPSTICK: Oh yes…

JOHN: …who, by-and-large, don’t get (big) ratings for their shows – are very snooty about people who do get ratings. For example, Benny Hill.

COPSTICK: Yep…

JOHN: …who at the height – the height – of his fame and his ratings success and his foreign sales for Thames Television – He must have been churning money out like nobody’s business for Thames Television – was dragged into – was it Brian Tesler’s office? Someone’s office… and told they were getting rid of him because he was in bad taste.

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: He was staggeringly popular. I heard that when he died – I dunno if this is an urban myth – Chinese television broke into their broadcasts to announce it as a newsflash.

COPSTICK: I’m sure that’s absolutely true.

JOHN: But I mean he was staggeringly popular. They didn’t like him because they said he was sexist.

COPSTICK: But I think that… I’m going to get a bit political here, John…

JOHN: Oh God! We’re going to be in trouble!

COPSTICK: Only mildly…

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: …and fleetingly.

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: Just fleetingly.

JOHN: That’s never stopped her before.

COPSTICK: I think that is exactly the same thing – talking about the Oxbridge elite and all that running TV, so they say what gets dumped because they don’t like it – They are the ones whose voices are out there but Benny Hill had gazillions of viewers – I think that’s exactly the same thing we got with Brexit and the Trump vote – because the people at the top…

JOHN: This is Copstick!

COPSTICK: …the people at the top are completely unrepresentative of the mass of the voting iceberg that is underwater. And somehow, when the bottom mass of the iceberg rises up and votes for Brexit or Trump, it’s all Oh! Shock! Horror! How can this have happened? Well, it happened because it was always there. You just weren’t listening to it.

JOHN: Also, I was talking to someone the other day and said that, in my erstwhile youth, when they had sitcoms, they used to have them on at 8 o’clock or 8.30 at night or 7.30 at night. Nowadays, sitcoms are on at 10.30 or 11.00…

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: … because, in my youth, the sitcoms got massive ratings and now the humour, the comedy is not getting big ratings because it’s being scheduled and programmed and decided on by people who don’t like what the public like.

COPSTICK: Which is why Mrs Brown’s Boys is the highest rated…

JOHN: Yes and that’s only on at 10.30 because he keeps saying Feckin’ or something, doesn’t he?

COPSTICK: People are very snotty about it: Ooh! Mrs Brown’s Boys!

JOHN: I saw one episode and thought: Oh, that’s not really for me. But, of its type, it’s well done. I mean, Mrs Brown’s Boys and My Family must be, recently, the biggest sitcoms on…

COPSTICK: Absolutely. And surely somebody somewhere in some television company must see that.

JOHN: There is a lot of Emperor’s New Clothes going around.

COPSTICK: Ooh!

JOHN: I have to say Vic & Bob – sorry – I never ever thought they were funny. There was one pilot for, I think, Granada, which I saw and liked: it never got made into a series because no-one else liked it, but I have never ever ever thought Vic & Bob were funny. They were always in minority slots and, when the BBC I think it was tried them at peak time on a Saturday night they came a phenomenal cropper. With good reason. Because they ain’t funny… (LAUGHS) …in my populist opinion! (LAUGHS) But what do I know?

COPSTICK: I have almost stopped watching comedy on TV because there is very little that appeals to me and makes me laugh.

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The Brexit vote to leave Europe was a lie. Percentages were more like 10/90.

The pencil is more powerful than the pen?

The pencil is more powerful than the pen or the sword?

Yesterday, I was travelling in an Overground train in London and got chatting to someone who works as a plumber. Let’s call him Peter (not his name).

Peter the Plumber is maybe in his late twenties. I could be way out. He could be in his early thirties but, if I had to guess, I would put him at maybe 29 years old.

We bonded on a lot of things, though not everything.

He thought the police were corrupt from bottom to top. He thought the court system had nothing to do with justice and was a game for lawyers and judges. He thought the drug laws were ridiculous – it is legal to willy-nilly prescribe variations of heroin and cocaine for medical purposes but not marijuana.

He said he did not vote in elections because the whole political and ruling system was corrupt. If he were to vote for anyone, he told me, he supposed it would be Jeremy Corbyn. I suggested maybe the Green Party and he was not averse to that but, as he thought the whole system was unworkable, there was no point.

I suggested, if there were a candidate or a party he thought had the correct policies and beliefs, then, by voting for them and increasing their majority even by one, he was giving them more profile and more visible backing – he should vote for them even if he believed they had no chance of winning.

“Like Jeremy Corbyn,” he suggested.

But he is not going to vote in elections because he believes the whole system is corrupt.

“Why do they give you pencils to mark the ballot paper in voting booths?” he asked me. “The people who mark you down as having voted and the people sitting outside the polling stations have pens. Why do they give you pencils to vote with? Pencils are more expensive than pens.”

I said I thought it odd that, as far as I know, when policemen write down statements, they are required to do it in pencil not pen. (I could be wrong that it is a requirement.)

brexitmapbbcHe said he did not believe the Brexit vote to leave the European Union was correct. The vote was 52% to leave. “I think the real vote,” he told me, “was more like 90% to 10%.”

“In which way?” I asked.

“To leave,” he said. “No-one I know wants to be in Europe. The Scots have it right. They want to leave the UK because they don’t want this other place making decisions for them. They want to make their own decisions.”

Let’s leave aside the fact that a high percentage of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

Given the fact that many people who voted ‘Remain’ in the Brexit referendum find it unacceptable that there was a ‘Leave’ vote because everyone they know voted ‘Remain’… I thought it was interesting that youngish Peter The Plumber, who shows all the signs of being a true Corbynite and an anti-Establishment Left-Winger could not believe that the ‘Leave’ vote was as low as 52%.

Everyone thinks they are ‘normal’ and average and that their mostly self-chosen circle of friends and acquaintances are the norm. Everyone thinks they know what the majority of ‘normal people’ think.

Everyone is almost always wrong because they see and hear in their own bubble of ’normality’.

And, yes, I know if I write ‘everyone’ I should not write ‘they’ and ’their’ – I should write ‘he or she’.

But let’s not be pedantic. It is normal to use ‘they’ to mean ‘he or she’. Isn’t it?

Well, it seems that way to me.

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The vote to leave the European Union: democracy v totalitarianism v bullshit?

DailyExpress, 25th June 2016

The result of the Brexit vote was surprising.

The reaction of many on the ‘losing’ side has been interesting, if not surprising.

There was a 52%-48% vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU on a high 72% turnout on a national vote that was always said to be a ‘simple majority’ vote. As it happened, there was a 4% gap between the two sides.

People are now being asked in the interests of “democracy” to sign a petition to Parliament saying that the Referendum (presumably retrospectively) should only count if there is at least 60% in favour of the UK leaving the EU on a turnout of more than 75%.

The Scotsman, 25th June 2016

If the vote had been the other way round and people were going about trying to get this signed, they would be called Right Wing Fascists who had no respect for the democratic process.

I was also interested in a Facebook post which said:

“No but seriously. What kind of idiot political system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change when it isn’t supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive, and even a huge wave of anti-establishment populism can only muster 51.9% support for it in a referendum?

New York Post, 25th June 2016

“In the USA you can’t get a constitutional change unless it’s supported by the president, two-thirds of both houses of congress and 75% of the states. I know that’s making it tough to deal with the stupid bits of the US constitution, but at least you don’t get mad shit like this.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the answer to the question:

“What kind of idiot political system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change when it isn’t supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive and (it gets) 51.9% support in a referendum?”

…is Democracy.

The answer to the question:

“What kind of system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change voted for by the electorate to happen only if it is supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive?”

…is Totalitarianism.

What that says about the US is a matter for them.

Just to clarify matters, I studied British Constitution at school (it was a specific exam subject and, yes, it was a long time ago) and I am profoundly against holding any referenda in a representative democracy.

I think the legislature and executive should decide everything in a representative democracy but, if the executive in a representative democracy decide to hold a referendum then that is their choice.

The answer to the question: “What kind of system allows for a major and irreversible constitutional change voted for by the electorate to happen only if it is supported by most of the legislature or the head of the executive?”

…remains Totalitarianism.

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