I've been watching Sky News and its live broadcasting of the BBC's grilling by the Media Select Committee. Oh the delicious irony! It's a wonderful piece of theatre. Democracy at work - beats watching a public stoning or a hanging. But I can't help thinking that it should be Ross and Brand sitting there squirming, in their silly haircuts, rather than these two dark suited executives. One is drawn and balding and losing his rag. The other grey haired, calmer in appearance, but getting progressively redder in the face. High blood pressure probably. He looks like he might pop like a balloon. But that's unlikely.
Behind them, row upon row of journalists (one woman, unaware that she is on camera, is actually sleeping!) And in front of them, in a squared U shape, the committee itself: some members are soft spoken and apparently supportive (there's nice Scottish middle aged lady who talks common sense), and some are frankly out to get some scalps. Most are talking in my name: "The Public". It's all a bit Spanish Inquisition, minus the Monty Pythons and the funny hats.
What is it all about really? The fact that Ross is paid £6 million a year (at a time when so many people are tightening their belts)? The fact that Brand is a potty mouthed buffoon who attracts a seemingly endless stream of young models to his bed? (How does he do it? I'd like to be a fly on the wall.) The fact that they were crude? That it was in poor taste? That they questioned the virtue of a young woman? That the recipient of the call was an old man? The fact that we all have to pay a license fee which pays for this drivel?
Not sure. But I can't help feeling that it's to do with the strong wind of puritanism blowing over the country. They've been quite a few recent examples of people being hung out to dry over rather insignificant matters (in the scheme of things). It started with the whole Mosley/Nazi party scandal, now Drogba being called into account for throwing a coin (aimed at him) back into the crowd, the Brand/Ross fiasco, the Osborne/Mandelson Russian Yatch scandal... Then there's all the nannying by the State: the smoking ban (I support it but there is something sinister about it), the war against obesity, the attempts to curb excessive drinking, etc... But some obviously don't think it goes far enough: the Editor in Chief of the Daily Mail has accused the Government of hampering his duty to "report deviations from decency and acceptable behaviour."
Who made him Chief Inquisitor? And why isn't he wearing a funny hat?
Where's all this coming from? It used to be the kind of thing that only happened in America. And it used to make us laugh and feel superior, somehow more sophisticated, you know? We were Traditionalist Liberals not Unblushingly Louche (unlike our Continental cousins, The French). We liked a bit of spanking, we had Oscar Wilde (even though we killed him), we liked cross dressing, we'd even accepted our future king's mistress as his second wife.
So what has changed? Is it the painful awakening at the end of 10 years of easy money and prosperity? Is it really the financial crisis that's making excess and deviation from the norm unacceptable? To whom? Us, the Public? Have we been asked our opinion? I certainly wasn't.
So who's dictating this? The tabloids trying to run the country? (I feel like I know Murdoch because I graded his current wife's homework when we were at Yale.)
A friend yesterday - who is in his 60's - joked that "they" were probably planning to bring back the death penalty. We all laughed but rather nervously. It didn't sound quite as far fetched as it should. But what can I do?
I'll say a little prayer for Baby P.