Shame on those who besmirch the empire builders

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
Knock, knock, knock; knock, knock, knock; knock knock knock knock knock. When, may one ask, will the knocking stop?

I note that the mud-throwers at the BBC have turned their sweaty attention now to Cecil J Rhodes, perhaps the greatest of British imperialists - and the only man in modern times to have given his name to a country. Will there ever be a country called Birtesia? I doubt it. Blairland? Graderica? Majorica? Not a hope. Yet Rhodesia will always be Rhodesia - or would have done, had they not changed its name.

Knock, knock, knock; knock, knock knock. Yes. The woodpeckers at the BBC are at it again. Tonight and for the rest of this god-forsaken month, the BBC will be screening a sensationalist recreation of the life and works of Cecil J Rhodes. Inevitably, Birt and Co have chosen once more to thumb their collective - and no doubt runny - noses at the licence- holders: over the course of nine tendentious hours, Rhodes is to be presented as a corrupt and greedy money-grabber, a sadist, racist and paedophile, whose disgusting passion was to get his hands on young boys.

Enough, I say! Cease this smut forthwith! The ordinary decent viewer has had his fill of the traducing of our great heroes. Examples are boundless. Not long ago, a television play about that great Edwardian physician, Dr Crippen, saw fit to ignore all that sterling medic's tremendous achievements in the world of general practitioning, instead concentrating its smutty attention on an unfortunate incident concerning his (late) wife which did so much to mar the poor man's last few months.

And it doesn't end there. The BBC's tradition of character assassination is as long as my arm. Longer, in fact. It is as long as my arm with the sleeve of my longest jersey pulled down as far as it will go: beyond my knee and almost to the shin. That is as long as the BBC's tradition of character assassination stretches. And let me add this: whatever they say, it will not shrink in the wash. Personally, I blame Keith Michell. Never trust a man with a lady's Christian name for a surname, particularly if he is an Australian. You may remember that 20-odd years ago Mr Michell gave the beleaguered licence-holders his version of The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Now, you and I know that Henry VIII was a man of singular achievement. The Battle of Flodden. The Field of the Cloth of Gold. "Greensleeves". Extravagant beard. Fine clothing. The lot. Yet what did the BBC choose to concentrate upon? Correct. The poor fellow's untidy entanglements with the ladies.

I doubt there are many men, alive or dead, who have not come a cropper, at one time or another, at the hands of a member of the UNfairer(!) sex. Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. All in all, not such a bad record, particularly at a time when other pastimes were scarce. Of the six wives, only two - statistically speaking, a paltry one-third - were beheaded, and one would be hard-pushed to argue that they did not deserve it. Yet the powers-that-be at the BBC chose to concentrate their attention on these unhappy beheadings, which took, let's face it, only a matter of minutes during the course of a very busy and otherwise rewarding life.

Why? Why is it that the shifty types at the BBC have seen fit to traduce every hero ever born of British soil? Can one imagine Mr John Birt, in his smart-alec spectacles and ill-laundered suits, athwart the barricades at the Siege of Mafeking? Is it conceivable that Mr Alan Yentob (dread words!) would have possessed the pluck - not to mention the requisite expertise in knots - to get off his backside and initiate the Scouting Movement? And would Mr Noel Edmonds have interrupted his inane japes for the briefest second to don an appropriate nursing tunic, light his lamp and administer to the wounded heroes of the Crimea? Bah! These highly- paid BBC slugabeds are made of jelly, and are thus forced to sneer at the heroism of others.

If the great Cecil Rhodes is not sacred, then who on earth is? No doubt they will next try to convince us that one of this nation's greatest monarchs, Richard III, was some sort of bad hat. Knowing them, they will concentrate on that lamentable accident in the Tower, when the poor man tripped over on to his sleeping nephews whilst holding a pillow. Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock: stop it, I say - stop it this instant!

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