50 People Who Buggered Up Britain Hardcover – 6 Oct 2008
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Nobody is better equipped to nominate the 50 people who have damaged this country most grievously in the past five decades, and [Quentin Letts] discharges his duty with flair and tracer precision. (Michael Henderson The Spectator)
Very Funny (Chris Guyver Public Affairs)
50 savage and witty pen portraits of those responsible for destroying Britain by the Daily Mail's star sketch writer, Quentin Letts.See all Product description
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It is, beyond question, very well written, using an impressively extensive vocabulary and it is generally engaging and amusing.
However, for me, it falls down in three areas.
First, I know that Letts wants to be confrontational, controversial, cutting edge, provocative, etc. but his “pen portraits” of the “malfeasants” are unnecessarily personalised, nasty and, sometimes, just plain cruel, such as:
“Diana [Princess Di] was dim. A long line of herbal-cure fraudsters, psychobabbling self-esteem preachers and emotional intelligence shysters beat a path to her palace door. She fell for them as readily as did the Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie Blair. Whereas Cherie was laughed at, and rightly so, for being a nincompoop and a dingbat, Diana was feathered by sighs of sympathy, indulged simply because she looked pretty and helped to sell newspapers and magazines. If Cherie Blair had not had such fat ankles perhaps she, too, would have been indulged by the public and its press. Perhaps.” – I accept that Di was dim and am just about prepared to accept that Cherie may be a nincompoop or dingbat (albeit she was / is a competent and successful lawyer) but, if she has fat ankles, why does that warrant mention here? – Nasty and cruel.
And, when writing about Sir Alex Ferguson:
“Ferguson, who can even make the habit of chewing gum look aggressive, is so imbued with fury that sometimes the skin of his face seems to boil. He has an oddly spotty complexion for an adult. It is as though the crossness is bubbling up within him, forming little pinpricks of pus-filled soreness on his nose and chin.” – I will go with the chewing gum thing (I hate it) but, if SAF has a skin complaint, why does that warrant mention here? – Nasty and cruel.
And, when writing about Alun Michael, the Government minister who pushed through the hunting ban:
“To look at he is not a striking proposition, a careworn creature with the hunched shoulders and lank hair of a natural loser.” – I will accept careworn (most MPs, certainly in this on the cusp of Brexit present look, careworn but does the lank hair warrant a mention here? – Nasty and cruel.
And on, and on, and….
Second, some of it is just plain weird; when writing about the adverse impact on kids’ health of selling off school playing fields, we get:
“….games can be a lifeline. They bring out a youngster’s character and can nurture a sense of purpose and general bottom.” – “general bottom” – what? – is this a public school thing?
Third, at times the author drifts into naivety, fantasy, self-delusion or lies, such as, when writing about the fox hunting ban, we get:
The hunters are “….some of the most upstanding members of the community.” and the hunt supporters are all oh, so, lovely: “….a doctor, a general practitioner who devotes his working life to the reduction of human suffering….farm hands, students, a surveyor, the wife of an Arabian Gulf oil worker, a taxi driver and a part-time undertaker….Several in the crowd were churchgoers.” and the “antis” were all swivelled eyed, thuggish, aggressive morons – let Letts go tell that to all the hunt monitors, observers and protestors, who have set out to peacefully record or protest against the, often illegal, activities of the “most upstanding” and their oh, so, lovely supporters and have been abused and attacked, especially Darryl Currington, a 58 year old former police officer who, whilst monitoring the Belvoir Hunt, was attacked by two employees of the Hunt, working in joint venture with four masked thugs, thrown down a fourteen feet embankment and suffered a broken neck.
I thought that Letts had missed three of the folks who would figure in my list but in “Bubblin’ Under”, an addendum (the up and comers to watch out for), he nails one of them, Simon Cowell; no mention, though, of the other two: first, Prince Chas - Princess Di gets in but Chas, who was, at the very least, complicit in creating the Di phenomenon and disaster, who does not appear to be any brighter than her and has messed, dabbled and interfered in all sorts of things (including alternative medicine, just what Letts bases his criticism of Di on); second, Dame Sally Davies, Top Doc and nanny-in-chief of the NHSS, whose idea of public service is that the public serve her (live their lives according to her writ and comply with every order, command or diktat she issues) and not vice versa .
Overall, a curates egg.