What a week for JK, Jimmy, and being a German

Were Rowling not very rich, a woman, and a left winger I doubt she would have attracted such opprobium.
  • @Simon_Kelner

Goodness me. I leave you in charge for a week, and look what happens! Before I disappeared, JK Rowling was regarded as a national treasure, Jimmy Savile was resting in peace, and most of the nation had never shown the slightest interest in golf.

The case of Joanne Rowling and the Deathly Prose (according to critics, her new work of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy, is "dull", "bleak" and "clichéd") is a curious one. A little over a month ago, there she was, centre stage, at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, taking her place as the modern symbol of English literature's most distinguished lineage, stretching all the way back to Shakespeare. If we knew then what we know now, would Ms Rowling have been there at all?

She has been so comprehensively done over by literary critics and, in particular, by the right-wing press that her presence at such an inclusive, national event would now be considered controversial. How can this be? Rowling, who wears her political leanings proudly (she is a Labour supporter), has clearly been cruising for a bruising, a victim of the ancient British pastime of reputation-trashing.

She's been party to some industry-standard publicity stunts in an effort to sell more books! How could she! She's shone a light on some of the prejudices of Middle England! How dare she! She's included scenes of sexual depravity and social dysfunction! This just isn't on! I have not read her book yet. I am fully prepared to believe that it's a tedious, one-dimensional piece of work, but what strikes me as interesting is the political aspect to much of the coverage.

Were she not very rich, a woman and a seditious left-winger (three strikes and you're out, I'm afraid, Ms Rowling), I doubt that she would have attracted such opprobrium. And the idea that, as the most successful children's author of all-time, she has somehow betrayed those who have spent their pocket money on making her a zillionaire by writing a book with uncompromisingly adult themes is manifestly bonkers.

As for Jimmy Savile, there's a political dimension here, too. Opponents of the BBC (for whom Savile worked, and who seem to have protected him) are using the unmasking of this alleged sex offender as an example of the Corporation's moral decay.

They are quite right to do so, too, but we have heard precious little about Savile's closeness to the Royal Family, who appeared to think he was a marvellous human being.

I shall return to the golf at some stage (I can sense the breathless anticipation already), but I would like to add a little footnote to my colleague Dominic Lawson's piece in this newspaper the other day. Of course, Europe's remarkable success in the Ryder Cup will not change the political settlement: the eurozone will continue to be in crisis, and popular sentiment in Britain will still be largely anti-Brussels.

But this must be also true: for a brief moment, we were desperately willing a German to succeed, and were moved by a Spaniard's tears. We wanted Europe to win, but we equally wanted America to lose. That surely made all of us – yes, even you, Dominic – feel just a little bit European.