On Wednesday, the professionally cross actor-songwriter Laurence Fox was taken off air by GB News, the newsertainment channel funded by the Brexiter philanthropist and banjo spaffer Sir Paul Marshall. Fox had performed a light comic monologue to a clearly delighted Dan Wootton in which he explained that only cuckolded incels would climb into bed with the left-leaning political journalist Ava Evans. “Who’d want to shag that?” opined the professional controversial opinionator, controversially.
But Fox’s joke did not align with the values of GB News and by midday he had been let go by the notoriously values-ridden channel. Later on, on BBC Politics Live, Tiny Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph, Britain’s worst newspaper, said that if Fox had been appearing as Macbeth at the National Theatre, he wouldn’t have been on GB News slagging off women and that he was only doing it “because he has been driven out of the mainstream”. I’m not an Olivier award-nominated theatre director (Oh, hang on! I am!!), but arguably it’s hard to suspend disbelief and be captivated by a Macbeth if you know the actor playing him has been burning Pride flags in his garden. And is it the job of the National Theatre to employ delinquent far-right-leaning actors in Shakespeare plays in order to keep them out of trouble, like some kind of iambic borstal?
I worked at the National Theatre on the multiple award-winning Jerry Springer the Opera for a year or so in the mid-00s (and you can click the link at the bottom of the column to bid for a vandalised copy of the libretto to raise money for refugee artists), which is lucky, as otherwise I would probably have been burning Pride flags in my garden while blacked up and claiming I wouldn’t shag someone. By the same logic, perhaps if Tiny Tim Stanley was appearing as Katsuro the Japanese tourist in the forthcoming National Theatre version of The Human Centipede, he wouldn’t have to spout his shit in the Daily Telegraph and could deposit it instead directly into the mouth of one of his co-stars, perhaps Daniel Hannan in the role of Jenny.
Perhaps Nigel Farage could stand on the roof of Lamb House in Rye, scanning the seas to film drowning migrants?
But what are the values of GB News exactly? They seem to include the one-world government theories of Neil Oliver, the anti-premarital sex, pro-life fundamentalism of the Rev Calvin Robinson, and John Cleese’s belief that all TV should just be John Cleese on a loop saying how everything was funnier in the old days before people who weren’t exactly the same as John Cleese were allowed to do comedy. But even though it’s easy to dismiss GB News as a kind of inverted image of the liberal elite echo chamber, the news equivalent of a man blowing bubbles through a straw into a filthy U-bend and then deliriously inhaling the excrement-infused gas that belches back at him, it may be about to exert its malign influence on one of our most treasured national institutions.
As I explained last week, the “grassroots” pressure group Restore Trust, which aims to drive the virus of wokeness out of the scone-strewn corridors of the National Trust by stuffing the board with its own “anti-woke” puppets, is backed by Neil Record of the Tufton Street climate crisis denial bodies Global Warming Policy Foundation and Net Zero Watch. Restore Trust uses easily discredited news stories in the Daily Telegraph and the Times (respectively about supposed specialist curator redundancies and nonexistent policy declarations) to support its position, with the former of these prompting a printed apology.
But what do the oil-funded libertarian lobby groups of Tufton Street, most recently responsible for smash hits such as Liz Truss’s mini-budget and whose suggestion that the government pass legislation to crack down on Extinction Rebellion reportedly shaped the 2022 police bill, want with the National Trust? Perhaps the removal of environmental protections on its 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres) of property might deliver the Policy Exchange’s ExxonMobil backers a planet-choking, Rosebank-sized oilfield, still hidden underneath the Kinwarton Dovecote? Or is attacking the National Trust’s attempts to be inclusive and accountable just another way of stoking the culture war that constitutes the anti-blob’s route to retaining power? Beware! Before you even think about going round Penrhyn Castle in north Wales, there may be a horrifying display board explaining how the property’s wealth was derived from 18th-century slave plantations and if you see it you will sick up your scone.
As I also explained last week, this year marks Restore Trust’s third annual Tufton Street-backed attempt to get its own placepeople on to the board of the National Trust, via the members’ vote at the AGM on 11 November. But after two disappointing years, in which the scone-munchers of the National Trust saw off Tufton Street-backed tools, now the heavy hitters of GB News are getting behind Restore Trust’s anti-National Trust campaign. On his own Offcom-baiting GB News show State of the Nation, the ectoplasmic undertaker Jacob Rees-Mogg approvingly interviewed Restore Trust’s director, Zewditu Gebreyohanes, while GB News’s star turn Nigel Farage favours the candidacy of Lady Violet Manners, whose family pile, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, has hosted Ukip fundraisers. But what would a GB News-run National Trust do precisely?
Perhaps Farage could stand on the roof of Lamb House in Rye, scanning the seas to film drowning migrants? Perhaps GB News presenter Oliver could row National Trust members around Strandford Lough, explaining both the Vikings’ influence on the landscape and how the Covid vaccine is part of a one-world government conspiracy? Perhaps Fox could show visitors around Monk’s House in Lewes, point at a painting of Virginia Woolf and say: “Who’d want to shag that?” And perhaps, at the very least, GB News presenter and Tory MP Lee Anderson would be allowed to daub the trust’s iconic White Cliffs of Dover property with his famous catchphrase: “Fuck off back to France.” Make sure you get online before the 3 November registration deadline, thwart the GB News agenda and vote for the National Trust’s own preferred candidates at its AGM on 11 November.
A vandalised copy of the score of Jerry Springer the Opera by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee is being auctioned in aid of refugee artists
Basic Lee tour dates are here
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