Dear Carol Vorderman: I salute your courage, but the wolves are gathering
What a thrill it’s been watching you tearing strips off everyone from Nadhim Zahawi to Michelle Mone. Your tweets about corruption and the chancers, embezzlers, spivs and hustlers who’ve been accused of making millions out of government contracts – and the ministers who’ve enabled them – have been rare sources of joy in these dark winter days.
It’s been your appearances on morning TV, though, that have had me cheering. Twitter is one thing, but rarely has the sofa on This Morning been put to such good use. Speaking truth to power from ITV’s soft furnishings, with Holly Willoughby looking on, qualifies as an almost revolutionary act in Britain in 2023.
Largely because no-one else is doing it. Not effectively, not speaking as you have, with fury and passion. Hence the Glasgow Herald’s decision to call you the “real leader of the opposition”. Even the Daily Mail has got in on the act, calling you a “surprise Leftie poster girl” and an “anti-corruption firebrand”.
It prompted a colleague to suggest that I write to you – one Welsh state-educated Carol(e) to another – with a few bons mots about what to look out for if you’re going to stick with the anti-corruption beat. All the lolz to that: as if I have any advice to give the former queen of Countdown. One of the most fearless things I’ve ever seen was another outing in This Morning’s studio, when you told middle Britain you couldn’t be arsed with monogamy any more and now enjoy the company of a number of “special friends” as Gyles Brandreth’s jaw dropped to the floor.
It wasn’t just your refusal to conform to conventional norms that felt so groundbreaking. It was the way you talked so frankly and freely, without a hint of apology. You spoke as if women had the right to live their lives without having to give a toss about societal expectations – imagine! Anyway, it presumably makes your recent forays into anti-corruption a walk in the park by comparison.
“Carol Vorderman helping bring down the government wasn’t on my 2023 bingo card but I’m very much here for it,” the Charlatans’ lead singer said on Twitter. While rapper Darren McGarvey said: “Welcome to Britain, where the only thing standing between us and the jaws of corporate tyranny is Carol Vorderman.”
The thing is, I think he may be right. Maybe you are the only thing standing between us and the jaws of corporate tyranny. Because what’s happening in Britain now isn’t normal. It isn’t politics as usual. And that’s what, in choosing to speak up as someone who’s said that they aren’t really political, you’ve so brilliantly pointed out. It’s corruption. And it has insidiously worked its way into the diseased heart not just of our government, but our country.
This isn’t politics as normal: it’s oligarchy – business, politics and power inseparably linked together.
You’ve said that you’ve been galvanised into action by the sheer scale of what you’ve seen happening. In a cost of living crisis in which the poorest in our country can’t eat or heat their homes, taxpayers’ money has been spaffed not just up the wall but into the bank accounts of ministers’ friends.
There’s nothing “political” in calling that out as corruption. It’s not and it shouldn’t be about left or right. It’s about right and wrong. But that’s not how it works in this country. And I can see how it’s already begun because some of my haters have moved on to you. They’ve even been tagging us in together. “Anyone else getting fed up of attention seeking Vorderman & her leftie rhetoric 24 hours a day?” said @patricia344130. “She’s a classic Champagne socialist. I wonder if she’s menopausal?” asked @TomCovenant.
The thing is that trolls are unpleasant, but you’re a middle-aged woman on TV so I don’t have to tell you that. But you’ve called out the prime minister, Rishi Sunak. You’ve been asking questions about whether he’s profited from a multimillion contract he awarded Moderna, and this is where it gets dangerous. Sunak is less of a mafia boss than the capo di tutti capi, Boris Johnson, but he’ll still have friends and gatekeepers. There’s a whole media ecosystem that feeds on favours and attacking you will be one way of currying them.
Watch out, also, for your colleagues. The most damaging attacks I had weren’t from anonymous internet trolls. Leftie tech bros were – still are – some of my biggest haters, to say nothing of the late-night tweets of senior BBC presenters. Misogyny is the last acceptable hate crime and saying creepy things about my perceived lack of sexual attractiveness went entirely unchecked. Here’s looking at you, Andrew Neil.
You’re a total fox, Carol, so I doubt you’ll get that but even now there will be young, ambitious men combing your Instagram feed to find your special friends (especially the astronaut you’ve mentioned – although, in fairness, we’d all like to meet him), while right-wing bloggers will be prepping their satirical photoshop skills.
Here’s the thing, Carol. Everything that’s happening now in British politics is a result of a series of failures to hold power to account. And it began with the unprecedented fraud at the heart of the Brexit vote and the systematic cover-up of it by the UK authorities and their runners and riders in the British press.
I tried to tell that story over the last six years and didn’t quite withstand the witch burning that ensued. But there’s a new Carol in town and you’ve given us all hope. Stand firm. Fuck the haters. You’re a role model for every over-50-year-old woman in Britain and everyone else, too.
Yours, in admiration, Carole x