Monday, 24 September 2012

Twilight of the Mavericks

Dan Atkinson's always excellent blog included this weekend a couple of fine quotes from fiction in the early 1970s about the way that the maverick was being forced out by unadventurous corporate thinking.

In Regan, the pilot TV movie that led to The Sweeney, a senior police officer spells it out: 'Jack, the days of the one-man band are over; now we're an orchestra.'

Len Deighton's novel, Yesterday's Spy (1975), strikes much the same note: '"The days of the entrepreneur are over, Steve," I told him. "Now it's the organisation man who gets the Christmas bonus and the mileage allowance. People like you are called 'heroes', and don't mistake it for a compliment."'

The struggle between the misfit maverick and a faceless bureaucracy was one of the great themes of popular culture in the 1970s, and one that helped pave the way for the rise of Margaret Thatcher. But it also played into a much longer strand in British society about the decline of the nation. This is a paragraph from my book, The Man Who Invented the Daleks, in a section where I explore the childhood reading of Terry Nation:

'John Buchan’s novel, The Island of Sheep (1936), the last to feature his secret agent Richard Hannay, begins with our hero on a suburban train in southern England, reminiscing about the great days at the turn of the century when "the afterglow of Cecil Rhodes’s spell still lay on Africa, and men could dream dreams". As he looks "round the compartment at the flabby eupeptic faces" of commuters returning home from the City, he reflects melancholically on the realities of modern Britain: "Brains and high ambition had perished, and the world was for the comfortable folk like the man opposite me."'

The economic dimensions of that long decline are, as it happens, examined in the highyl recommended Going South: Why Britain Will Have a Third World Economy by 2014, written by Dan and Larry Elliott.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


A couple of months ago, I was enthusing here about Iain Dale's publishing company, Biteback, and its predecessor, Politico's.

Rather splendidly, I read this week that Biteback has now bought the rights to the Politico's brand and that, 'under old management', it's back, calling itself 'the online political bookstore' and promising to carry the largest selection of political titles on the web. 'We want the site to become a destination for all political enthusiasts,' says Dale. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Janice Atkinson-Small vs Glam Rock

I am, as I've said before, a big fan of Janice Atkinson-Small, a UKIP member who blogs on the Daily Mail's Right Minds site. She's great fun, and there are few more entertaining things in the British media than her single-handed (and single-minded) assault on the English language.

Today, as far as one can discern her meaning, she seems to be rejoicing in Margaret Thatcher's reported dementia: 'For the first time I hope she is somewhere else in her mind when opening her newspapers and does not seek the sick joke of the bad-taste t-shirts sold by the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centre at the TUC conference.'

(I'm reminded of the Bishop of Leicester, whose quote I included in Crisis? What Crisis?: 'I never thought I should give thanks to God for being blind, but since my wife has told me what she has seen in the film, The Devils, I am genuinely grateful that I have been spared that.')

Ms Atkinson-Small goes on to denounce 'the hard left' as: 'A spent force who have to result to shock tactics.' And she reflects that: 'My generation remember the demise the UK car manufacturing industry which as a direct result of union action closed down with the loss of thousands of skilled jobs.' (All syntax, punctuation and vocabulary, incidentally, are taken from the original.)

But then she goes too far, saying that apart from union militancy in the 1970s, 'the only other memorable things about that decade - equally bad - were Heath taking us into Europe and glam rock.'

Now that's just being provocative for the sake of it. The wisdom or otherwise of joining the European Economic Community is a matter of political opinion. But glam rock was - and I speak objectively here - the highest achievement of post-War British popular culture. If she really was around in the early 1970s and doesn't appreciate the beauty of glam, then I can only conclude that 'she is somewhere else in her mind'.


I was in Yorkshire on Tuesday, doing a talk about Terry Nation and the Daleks as part of the 10th Saltaire Festival. And very enjoyable it was too: a small but very welcoming group of people, and a stunningly beautiful town.

My thanks to David Ford, of the Saltaire Bookshop, who invited me and to him and his wife, Vanessa, for kindly putting me up for the night.