"I'm banning you from buying the paper," Kelvin MacKenzie is reputed to have barked down the phone to a recalcitrant reader when he was editor of The Sun.
It seemed quite a good joke at the time, but now cultural figures are in all seriousness trying to ban the Prime Minister and members of his government from even liking their work.
First Paul Weller expressed distaste that David Cameron liked (and possibly misunderstood) his song "The Eton Rifles". Then the artist Michael Landy said he was "horrified" that arts minister Ed Vaizey had one of his paintings on his wall. Now, Morrissey and Johnny Marr of miserablist Eighties band the Smiths want Mr Cameron to stop liking them. The Prime Minister was a fan in his student days, and selected one of their tracks on Desert Island Discs.
"I forbid you to like the Smiths," declared Marr in a political outburst. Johnny Marr clearly is unimpressed by the notion that Conservative students and perhaps Conservative prime ministers can feel existential angst too. Marr's invective was swiftly followed by Morrissey, this time from the standpoint of a vegetarian appalled by Mr Cameron's stance on hunting. Mr Cameron was taunted about their hostility to him at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister is breaking new ground in being banned from liking specific artists. Mrs Thatcher was certainly name-checked negatively by all sorts of artists in the 1980s, but never that I recall forbidden to like their work. And why stop at politics in the banning game? Lady Gaga might wish to ban boringly dressed people from enjoying her music.
Come to that, who else should Marr and Morrissey be banning? Does the ban just encompass Tory ministers, or does it include Tory voters as well? The Smiths might be shocked to discover the variety of people who have them in their record collections. And what about those multinational capitalist companies that produce the CDs, the concert promoters, the venues? Does Morrissey on his solo tours ever take a peek outside his dressing room to survey the hot-dog stalls?
It's a dangerous path to go down, this deciding who is and isn't allowed to like your work, even if it's half in jest. The true artist puts the work out there and allows it to affect everyone in different ways. The fact that George Orwell can still be claimed by socialists and Conservatives is testament to the complexity of his work and that it is open to radically different interpretation.
The Smiths were never in that league, of course, but they should rejoice that their work could touch a chord in people of different political persuasions, could affect their thinking, could maybe even change them. And if none of those things, then let them just like the tunes.
I don't think David Cameron should feel embarrassed. Marr and Morrissey should. They have diminished their art and made it propaganda.
The sun never sets on Coronation Street
I haven't watched Coronation Street for a while but was prompted to do so this week, first by a remarkably good BBC4 drama about how the determination of its creator Tony Warren ensured it was broadcast in the first place, and also by the fact that it was the show's 50th anniversary.
Three things seem to have changed since I last watched. First, there was the "Corriegeddon" tram catastrophe – more suited to a disaster movie than a show about ordinary people leading ordinary but brilliantly scripted lives; second, there was the infuriating habit of a trailer at the end of one episode showing the havoc in the next and warning viewers not to miss it. Isn't the point of Coronation Street that it has a devoted following that doesn't need such heavy-handed injunctions to stay tuned?
But it was the third thing that alarmed me most. Several of the characters in this gritty, working-class Salford neighbourhood had rather alarming suntans, uncannily like those acquired by highly paid actors taking a winter break in the Caribbean. Indeed, Ken Barlow, with glowing tan and bouffant hairdo, reminded me of Barry Manilow in his prime.
Stop trampling on the clog dancers
In his lament for the way poetry is taught and perceived, Sir Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, claimed that members of the public rate it so poorly that they view it as they do clog dancing. Sir Andrew is right to champion poetry but unfair to reference clog dancing as the epitome of all that is ludicrous.
Let's hear it for the clog dancers, dedicated practitioners of an unfashionable but highly skilled art form. They should take a leaf from Sir Andrew's book and nominate a clog-dancing laureate. Clog dances should be devised to mark royal births and marriages, not least the one next April. And whoever is the clog dancer in chief should receive a knighthood.Reuse content