Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Churchill vs Princess Diana

(20 May) This from Jeff Weintraub ...

To start with the aside
unlike Brighouse, I thought "The Queen" was actually quite a good movie ...
(In reply to Harry Brighouse's 'Its difficult for a republican to watch The Queen, and for several reasons. First, its not very good...')

I enjoyed "The Queen", too. But John Lloyd made an important point recently, in the context of British culture now. See below. The 'actor playing Blair' (Michael Sheen) also appeared as Blair before, in 'The Deal', a TV drama from 2003. Another appendix below (if it makes any sense). This, I think, is exempt from the criticism of the shallow and cynical nature of much political drama.

Five Days in London, May 1940? The story is pretty well known: I remember hearing a radio play about it a year or two ago.

There is another story, from after 1945. After the war, Britain faced terrible economic problems and sought a loan from the US. There were doubts on the part of many Americans as to whether such a loan should be granted, when Britain had such a left-wing government. But on a visit to the US, Churchill said of the leaders of the new government that, although they were Socialists, they were good men, "they  served in my wartime coalition."

That seemed to me to be an act of extraordinary patriotism.

('Mortgaged to the Yanks', BBC4, first broadcast 3 Jan 2007, by (Sir) Christopher ('Red Socks') Meyer, former British ambassador to Washington.)
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The weak in politics By John Lloyd     Friday Mar 30 2007 10:30 [extracts] 

Alistair Beaton's play King of Hearts shows a prime minister and leader of the opposition gathered at Windsor. The king, after three and a half decades as heir apparent, has had a stroke a few months after his coronation. He is dying. His eldest son is eminently suited to succeed him – except that he is engaged to a young Muslim woman and wants to convert to Islam. [..] As in his television plays A Very Social Secretary and The Trial of Tony Blair, Beaton presents what a significant part of the cultural and media establishment thinks we should think about trust. Briefly, we should never trust the people we elect to govern and manage our society.

As Peter Morgan's script for The Queen tells us, we can, on the other hand, have trust in the monarch. Just as the Queen emerged as the moral centre in the eponymous film, so the fictional Prince Richard, the character modelled on real Prince William in the King of Hearts, is almost the only principled character.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's moral muddle-headedness is contrasted with the steady faith of Nasreen, the Prince's fiancée. And this is the predominant reason why Prince Richard chooses to renounce his role as head of the Church of England and convert to Islam: "Because they believe in something."

Trust attaches only to non-elected authority and to unwavering faith - of whatever content. Here, amid the guffaws, is a radically anti-Enlightenment vision. Whether or not those who promote it are aware of the implications is open to doubt, but this is anti-liberal democracy lite, which can fall back on the rationale that it is satire, or just a laugh at the expense of public figures.
[..]

Trust should be a matter of the head - conferred on those you have reason to believe deserve it. Instead, trust has apparently become at least as much a matter of the heart. 
[..]  If we withhold trust from authority figures because they are authority figures and instead trust those with whom we feel apparently intimate, we have suborned reason to sentiment.

If a climate is being created in which it is wrong in principle to trust public figures (as opposed to using one's reason to determine when to trust them or not), then we are entering a new intellectual age that seeks, through art, to deprive politicians and public figures not just of all credibility, but of all possibility of credibility.  Our political conversation and our professed attitudes all point to a gigantic loss of trust. But what is really being lost is our capacity to reason.

us.ft.com - [ft.com/...]
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'The Deal' [notes from 2003]

... : totally brilliant - archive footage of Kinnock, Thatcher (also seen slumped in back of car). John Smith smiling at Brown's maiden speech. Brown and Blair making a nuisance in committee [though faced with an overwhelming Tory majority in Parliament], Brown quoting E.M.Forster '2 Cheers for democracy', Blair : no other Western European country interferes with Trade Unions' organisation. Smith holds up 5 fingers to Blair, for years. Smith on the train from London to Scotland joking about Thatcher [talking to one of her MPs about why people voted for him] '30,000 for me, 486 for you'.

Brown to Blair : don't be ashamed of being English - it's your greatest asset. Blair in Islington, worrying about pissing it away in opposition, while his friends make good money. Thatcherwasm.

[Brown on Blair standing as deputy in '92 : even with John's backing, he'd only get 30% of the votes.]

Brown to Smith about Blair : he's just a blow-in.

And I've only watched half of it.

[Brown : have we come this far to go crawling to the T&G (union) ?
Whelan : have we come this far to have a tory leading the party ? ]

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