According to the cringey Tesco Christmas advert, the UK is suffering from a “joy shortage”. Unarguable, I’d say, but not especially relieved by Joe Lycett, which is not what you’d expect from the TV funnyman.
I’ve just watched him dressed up in a kind of Sesame Street/Big Bird costume and (apparently) chuck £10,000 into a wood shredder. As it happens, Lycett didn’t look particularly chuffed by what he’d just done, destroying all that lovely money in a matter of seconds. He got through the cash faster than Elon Musk can buy a social media site.
As a protest against Beckham’s involvement in the Qatar World Cup it was – in a way – quite effective in attracting publicity (as you see here). Lycett understands the way the media works, often as not to undermine it. I particularly enjoyed the way he subverted Liz Truss live and in front of her when the then PM appeared on Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday morning politics show.
There are few people in public life who can simultaneously offend the BBC and the Daily Mail with such deadpan insouciance. He did something of the same when he changed his name to “Hugo Boss”. Now it’s Beckham’s turn to get shafted via the benderslikebeckham.com website.
Lycett well knows that his stunt and associated videos generated much more than £10,000-worth of attention in the media for the cause of LGBT+ people in and visiting Qatar. The Gulf State might have fostered the fond hope that hosting the World Cup would help boost its profile and generate some favourable coverage, but all I’ve seen is stuff about it being a human rights hellhole that treats migrant workers worse than animals and murders people who happen to be gay. And you can’t get a drink. Not an ideal holiday destination, even without the 50-degree heat.
Lycett, in that calm, matter of fact way of his, has stuck a stiletto blade into Beckham on the issue of LGBT+ rights – after all, he married Victoria “Spice” Beckham, which is, as Lycett points out, “the gayest thing a human being can do”.
The £10,000 represents £1,000 for every £1m that Beckham is going to get from fronting up the World Cup, and Lycett found a clever way of underlining how the world can get its priorities wrong: never mind the £10,000, think what £10m could do for those poor workers from the Indian subcontinent literally killed by the heat of working on the building sites, almost a modern-day version of the Burma Railway.
Yet… I can’t help feeling that Lycett’s expensive protest is no skin off Beckham’s snout, which remains firmly lodged in the Emir’s treasury in Doha, coming up for air only to pronounce some anodyne verdict on how the Brazilian squad is doing this year. Beckham hasn’t even acknowledged the existence of Lycett, let alone the stunt, and it was never going to shame a bloke who looks to be basically a bit shameless by nature.
So it doesn’t really matter how much cash Lycett destroys; Beckham will carry on. More to the point, I’m not sure the Beckham fan base cares that much. Gary Neville was much more thoroughly humiliated when he was unwise enough to appear on Have I Got News For You and took delivery of the obvious truth that “you don’t have to go and take the Qataris’ money to highlight abuses”.
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Neville squirmed like a worm caught on a Doha highway. But, again, it made no difference to Neville fulfilling his contractual ITV obligation to turn up there. The same goes for our old friend Gary Lineker, and, indeed, the BBC, Gareth Southgate, the England team, the Cymru team, Cristiano Ronaldo, sponsors such as Budweiser and McDonald’s, Gianni Infantino and everyone else involved in this doomed Fifa circus.
Lycett isn’t going to stop this juggernaut, or Beckham’s hypocrisy, but he can at best draw some satisfaction from the fact that this disastrous tournament is the mother of own goals for Qatar. Even Sepp Blatter has disowned the World Cup.
The Qataris have spent a very grand total of $200bn (£168bn)-plus over the past 12 years on building stadiums and the associated infrastructure for the World Cup. The aim was to boost their image and give their tiny – but oil-rich – nation a cuddly, friendly image. They might as well have asked Joe Lycett to shred the money on YouTube. With the right denomination dollar bills, it’d take about 90 minutes.
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