It gives me no particular pleasure to re-use this piece. I had originally intended to do so on a more pertinent date, but Channel 4’s revelations regarding the revolting and callous actions of Arron Banks, Kate Hoey and Labour Leave – whose reactions to this exposure will doubtless be sneering, indignant and snarling about being the real socialists respectively – have driven me to do so today. That this all should have been made evident on International Women’s Day simply renders it more despicable still.
This commences as it would have done with a new introduction that I wrote when I reused the piece elsewhere:
“I have very little to add here, other than that Jo Cox was a friend of someone very significant in my life and I was more deeply affected by her murder than perhaps is evident in this piece. We participated in the vigil held in Parliament Square, and some months later were attending a production of the political drama This House at the Garrick Theatre when Christopher Godwin, playing the MP for Batley And Morley, addressed the audience directly at the end of the play, paying tribute to Jo and asking them to donate to her chosen charities and lend their support to the Hope Not Hate campaign. This became a very emotional moment and I have never been happier to be there for someone”.
Had this been a different kind of a day, right now I’d be driving you all to distraction with relentless plugs for an article on the ridiculous ITV children’s programme The Mersey Pirate. It’s more or less done, to be honest with you, but I haven’t felt like writing those last couple of sentences and shuffling the images around. I haven’t felt like hitting the ‘Publish’ button. And I’m fairly sure most if not all of you wouldn’t have felt like reading it. The screengrabs of Echo And The Bunnymen and jokes about Billy Butler being washed overboard mid-broadcast can wait.
Jo Cox was only a couple of weeks younger than me. Our lives went in very, very different directions, and while she might well have seen The Mersey Pirate, she certainly did something more useful and worthwhile with her time afterwards. We don’t know yet why her life was cut so brutally and senselessly short, and to be honest we may never really know. Situations like this are not exactly noted for their clear-cut logical explanations. But while the true extent of its influence is open to question, the uncomfortable and unsettling truth of the matter is that this has come in the absolute eye of the storm of a nasty and troubling time.
We live in a culture where escalating threats are common currency and nobody does anything. Yet we all feed into it, and none of us does anywhere near enough to stop it. Public figures, notably Lily Allen, have told some pretty alarming stories recently, though it’s worth me sticking my head above the parapet and saying that I’ve had threats – on one occasion through the post to my home address – on the basis of things that I’ve written. I’m nobody. And I venture non opinions on subjects that I’m quite proud to say don’t matter. Think about that for a minute. We – and that’s literally we, all of us – have created a situation where it’s quite acceptable to focus your hatred, frustration and anger on an individual who you’ve never met and has done nothing to you, for no other reason than that they happen to be in your line of vision. We all stir and amplify this in so many seemingly inoffensive ways, whether it’s hurling abuse at politicians or vilifying reality show contestants; a sad inevitability that this should spill out into reality in so tragic and horrific and pointless a way. Kenny Everett, aware that he was terminally ill, once reflected how easy it is to make others into a “receptacle for your spare hatred” and we’d do well to think on that occasionally.
A while back, for a number of reasons, I decided that I’d had quite enough of contributing to it myself and resolved to try and do something more positive whenever I started tapping out words on a keyboard; to tell upbeat stories of achievement and innovation, to find good things to say about bad television, to defend the ‘bullied’ in popular culture. Hence Higher Than The Sun, hence Skiboy, hence trying against almost insurmountable odds to find – and then finding – a reason to challenge the widely-held view of Pip and Jane Baker’s writing career. Hence what someone recently described as ‘going soft’ on social media. Hence, well, giving the benefit of the doubt to The Mersey Pirate. True, someone will probably now dig out some Tweet where I’m snarky about a Doctor Who ‘superfan’, or take exception to some details of something I’ve written, but that’s the whole point. Not one of us is above this and we all need to try harder.
And yes, I am making this ‘all about me’. Because it’s all about all of us. It’s rampant and unchecked. We are all responsible and need to take that responsibility. So… be nice about something or to someone, won’t you? It all goes a long way.
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