Saturday 30 April 2011
Richard Ingrams: Do we really need a lesson from the PM in Christianity?
This year David Cameron took an unusual step for a British prime minister and issued an Easter message, just as if he were the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury.
But although distancing himself from his admired predecessor Tony Blair, who famously let it be known via his spokesman Alastair Campbell that he didn't "do God", Cameron still managed to echo the platitudinous tones of the Rev A R P Blair, Private Eye's vicar of St Albion's.
Christianity, Cameron said, had made "an enormous contribution" to life in Britain, just as if it were an institution like the monarchy or the National Health Service. As for Easter, it was, he said, "a time when Christians are reminded of God's mercy and celebrate the life of Christ", a beautifully vague sentiment with no reference to the central tenet of Easter – the resurrection – or to anything that might puzzle or offend non-Christians or non-believers.
Easter reminds us all, Cameron went on, to ask "not what we are entitled to but what we can do for others". It's all about the Big Society, in other words. We should stop thinking about state benefits and handouts and concentrate instead on doing a bit of useful voluntary work.
If Cameron is determined to "do God", he will have to try to do it rather better than this.
Self-regard is so often the sin of the journalist
After all the indignation about Andrew Marr and his super-injunction comes what looks like a wave of sympathy for the unfortunate BBC pundit. Supporters point out that Marr was not solely concerned with saving his own skin but was keen also to protect the child whose father he believed he was. He has suffered enough, in other words.
Then we hear once again the cry, "What right has the press to pry into people's private lives?" And meanwhile, the press itself is accused of holding what seem like two contradictory opinions at once. One is the almost unanimous condemnation of phone hacking by the News of the World. The other is the equally unanimous condemnation of those judges attempting to introduce a privacy law to protect the individual from unwanted press intrusion.
None of this alters the fact that it is especially degrading for a journalist like Marr to resort to law when put on the spot. But there is nothing unusual about this. I know from my own experience of such matters that journalists are much more self-regarding than politicians, much more likely to issue writs for libel, etc. They ought always to remember the wise words of the famous editor W T Stead: "I would not take libel proceedings if it were stated that I had killed my grandmother and eaten her."
Let's complicate modern life further
I shall be voting No in next week's referendum, not out of any political conviction but because the introduction of AV would be just another thing to make life more complicated. Voting is already complicated enough. It used to be a simple matter of choosing between two parties – the Ins and the Outs, as they were known – but now the voter is likely to find seven or eight names on the forms.
It's not the only complication. I don't know how they sold tickets for the Olympic Games in 1948. Perhaps you could buy one at the post office or just go along on the day. As it happens, I have no wish whatever to attend the Olympic Games next year, but if I did I wouldn't have known where to begin.
For a start you could do it only by going online. Then you had to pay by credit card. You risked parting with your money without knowing for several weeks whether you had successfully bought the tickets, and then you might then be saddled with a lot of tickets that you would find difficult to resell.
Even if, despite all these complications, I were to change my mind and decide to go, it would now be a major challenge to do so. The ticket office closed at midnight on Tuesday – more than a year before the Games begin.
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