Terence Blacker: Could there really be life after Piers?

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It is a strange, heady moment. We are at a time of change, yet no one quite knows what that change will bring. It happened in 1979 and in 1997 and, in some form or other, it will happen in 2010: a big electoral shift will seep into the culture, changing attitudes to more or less everything.

Before that happens, we can enjoy a day or so when all is potential. It is the perfect opportunity for a brief John Lennon moment of misty-eyed fantasy as we look into the future.

Imagine there's no Piers Morgan... It isn't hard to do. Something quite unexpected will happen in late 2010. The widespread fascination with fame will become embarrassing and unfashionable. Primary school children will ask their parents why Jordan and Posh Beckham are mentioned so much on TV. The circulation figures of Heat and OK! slump and, in desperation to win back readers, they begin to report on cultural figures: Alfred Brendel, Anish Kapoor, AS Byatt and others. Responding to demands from the market, Hello! magazine introduces a culture section. Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan become joke figures – grinning, perma-tanned prophets of a discredited religion. Cowell emigrates to Dubai. Morgan becomes the face of Asda in a series of TV advertisements.

Imagine that small becomes beautiful... The 77-year-old man who has stopped lorries thundering through his village in east Dorset by using the pelican crossing has this week been presented as an amusing rural eccentric. Surprisingly soon he will represent a new kind of community action.

The localism to which politicians have referred turns out to be a more formidable force than anticipated. Local allegiances, being part of a small community, become socially desirable. When a public figure talks in general, global terms, audiences become restless. Soon, to be big is to be distrusted. Patronising a supermarket becomes a source of mild embarrassment. An attempt by Tesco to launch Village Tesco under the slogan "Little and Local" is condemned in the press as an attempt to undermine genuine small traders.

Imagine no more celebrity chefs... The strange early 21st-century obsession with watching other people cook and eat will suddenly wane. Within a year, it will be possible to switch channels mid-evening without a single programme set in a kitchen or a dining-room being on the screen. Famous chefs seek other employment – Jamie Oliver as a Lib Dem MP and Delia Smith as a Radio 2 presenter. Gordon Ramsay fails to become a stand-up comic.

Imagine no more waste... British people suddenly become aware that to complain about the expenses and waste among public servants while they themselves are casually wasteful in everyday life is hypocritical. There is less whingeing in the press about recycling. A campaign against unnecessary packaging is supported in Parliament. Such is the stigma attached to food waste that shop assistants on supermarket checkout tills take to asking customers: "Are you sure you need all that?"

Imagine less surveillance... The national debate about identity cards points up the degree to which the British are now being watched by authority. The sinister and stupid argument in favour of CCTV cameras, that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", is recognised as a signpost on the road to political control. Soon cameras are being dismantled.

Imagine intelligence returning to national life... With the decline of celebrity values, the sound-bite as a method of communication will be as ludicrous as an outdated advertising slogan. There is an impassioned interest in political debate, particularly in the House of Lords, where the lack of party allegiances allows a bolder intellectual sweep. The government sets up a Ministry for Ideas under Lord Bragg. In secondary schools, there is a surge of interest in Philosophy while, in the world of broadcasting, such figures as Zadie Smith, AC Grayling, Adam Phillips and Professor Mary Beard acquire the status of today's Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton. Nowhere is intellectual debate more elevated than on the internet, where bloggers abandon egotism and abuse in favour of the earnest, polite exchange of intelligent ideas.

Have I gone too far?


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