Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and Culture questions: The Sketch. Warning: contains language. And truth to tell, it's some of the worst language you can hear anywhere. I hope continued exposure isn't making your sensibilities leathery.
"We'll take no lectures from the party opposite!" That's a phrase I've had to put in more than once. Vile – yes; coarse, stupid, disgusting – I agree, but it accurately reflects the language used in Parliament. But is that really an excuse?
"I don't think it right to provide a running commentary" on some perfectly reasonable question concerning BBC governors' pay? Doesn't that sort of reply deserve some sort of sanction beyond irritable ridicule?
But what? Ofcom? The Board of Trustees? Some noodle of a minister offering "a review of editorial guidelines"? No, you think corporal punishment is called for. The hot iron to the tongue – oh, how it sizzles! As a matter of fact I don't agree. But I can't help sympathise with your impulse. So let's hold them down and at least brandish the iron while they say...
"I should have thought he'd congratulate us instead of this carping criticism!" And, "I don't recognise those figures. What I will say however. That's not the issue, the issue is actually." There are endless others – but just when I've changed my mind the iron's not hot enough any more.
The recent fracas of Ross and Brand produced a very poor show in the Commons. We used to be so much better at indignation. "Appalling behaviour!" It just doesn't do the trick any more. Andrew Robathan said "young people" found this sort of language acceptable because they'd heard it on the television. But don't MPs have a duty to uphold standards? They're on television. Aren't they role models for our young people? As a matter of fact they're not, but the point holds, in its way.
But what a country we'd be if our young people turned out like Denis MacShane. "It's eff – eff – eff – eff – eff," he said. I counted them as he "dragged us through the linguistic sewer of our great language". He's quite clever, MacShane, but this sort of foam-flecked, Provisional Women's Institute handcuff-waving has put him on the wrong side of the House. He's even had his teeth whitened. The suede suited him better.
To sum up. Swearing isn't a sign of a small vocabulary. It's a sign of egotism. Calling a man a **** or even a **** doesn't tell us anything about him – only that you don't like him. In the same way, these public-life clichés ("Taking people fairly through the downturn" is achieving this state rapidly) don't say anything about the question, only the speaker. (That he's an ****.)