Officer Jones of the PC Brigade here, reporting for duty.
We’re investigating a spot of bother on talkSPORT over the weekend. Witness statements indicate that a much-loved British actor, famous for his colourful language, said something which may cause offence. Ray Winstone, alias “The Hard Man of British Cinema”, told a radio interviewer that he was ready to leave Britain because the country was “being raped” by high taxes. “I don’t see what we are being given back,” said the 56-year-old actor. “I just see the country being raped.”
For a wealthy man to compare his tax grumbles to a crime as horrible as rape is crass and lazy. At best, it makes him rubbish at metaphors and at worst utterly insensitive. But it’s not that bad. It’s not a serious crime and it won’t have a lifelong impact on its victims. Unlike, for instance, rape which impacts approximately 85,000 victims in England and Wales every year and results in an average of only 1,070 convictions. You can probably see the distinction.
That’s one of the reasons why the PC Brigade will not be calling for Winstone’s prosecution. The other reason is that the PC Brigade does not actually exist as a branch of British law enforcement. It exists only in the minds of those “straight talkers” who feel their wit curtailed by the expectation that they avoid offending people.
Had there been any substance to Winstone’s complaint, offended listeners might be regrettable but unavoidable collateral damage. Certainly we’d have been distracted enough to let a poor choice of words slide. Sadly, Winstone’s contribution to this debate is a gold-shoes-too-tight whinge, of limited interest to anyone other than his accountants. So is it such an imposition to go easy on the rape comparisons? That’s not being censored, that’s being considerate.
If it helps, he might like to think of the criticisms he receives over this talkSPORT interview as a polite invitation to investigate some of his unexamined prejudices, to cough up the phlegm of pub-received wisdom and inhale the fresh air of new ideas. When you’re reduced to insulting “convict” Australians, with a 200-year-old, colonial era dis – as fellow loudmouth Jeremy Clarkson was recently – it’s time to get some new material.
Hopefully, Winstone will see it like that. While Lord Sugar will always be my personal cockney grump of choice, Winstone comes a close second. And just as he fears he may be forced to emigrate if HMRC keeps insisting he pays his due taxes, I fear I may be forced to eBay my Sexy Beast DVD if he keeps comparing his trivial problems to rape. Should either of these sad eventualities occur, the impact on the rest of the world will be negligible, but we’d rather not be pushed to it all the same.