Saturday 17 December 2022

Concluding Postscript

Well, I have at last finished The Missing Will, and I promise this will be the last you hear from me on the subject. So... A couple of things: 
   Here is Michael Wharton (still some years before his newspaper career began) meeting Helga Greene, ex-wife of Sir Hugh Greene, who became Director-General of the BBC. Helga, who is very wealthy, very socialist and 'rather stern', interrogates Wharton about his politics: 'When I told her my political views, which were as decidedly "right-wing" as they always had been, she obviously did not believe me. She was one of those people whom I came to think of later as "Hampstead thinkers"; it was typical of them that they simply did not believe that a person who seemed intelligent and educated could have opinions different from their own.' I think it's more a question of 'could not' than 'did not believe', and it's a mentality that I've come across many times, particularly in phases of my life and career when I have enountered the Guardianista-BBC Massive in all its adamantine smugness. It long ago broke out from Hampstead and has become vastly more pervasive since Wharton's time, with all manner of dire consequences. I think it explains why the BBC is incapable of perceiving its own bias: since it is not seriously possible for an intelligent person to see the world in any other way, the Corporation's projection of its own world view is, to those involved, simply a projection of factual reality, not of opinion. 
   Wharton did manage to do quite a lot of work for the BBC in the Forties and Fifties, but soon fell foul of the Marxists who ran the Northern Region's Features Department and was 'let go' without ceremony. 'When I took my leave of Denis Mitchell [head of the department] he did not rise from his chair or make the least gesture of goodwill. Was I not a self-declared reactionary and enemy of the human race?' The Northern Marxists, unlike the Hampstead lot, had found themselves able to believe that he had views radically different from their own, and they had purged him accordingly.
  Even so, Wharton later found himself working (if that's not too strong a word) for the Talks Department in London, a department addicted to meetings and conferences (as was almost every part of the BBC I knew, for a mercifully short period, three decades later). He and his friend John Davenport found these meetings excruciatingly boring:
'One somnolent, sultry summer afternoon, when John and myself, after a certain amount of drinking, were at one of the interminable "Talks" meetings ... he suddenly fell asleep and rolled off his chair onto the floor. There he remained, snoring horribly, until the end of the meeting. Nobody took any notice. For the "Talks" producers, this tasteless incident simply had not happened.' Oddly, I got exactly the same reaction when, at a BBC meeting one morning, when I was still half asleep, I dropped a full cup of coffee onto the splendid carpet of the Broadcasting House council chamber, where the dark liquid spread out to form an impressive stain. This too, it seemed, had not happened. 
  Enough. I'll end by simply quoting the final paragraph of The Missing Will
'So, on New Year's Day, 1957, after a sleepless night of confused celebration, I sat down for the first time at my desk in the Daily Telegraph with one of the most appalling hangovers I have ever had in my life, and without a single idea in my head. I would have been incredulous, if not appalled, if I had been told I would still be there 28 years later, still spinning the faded dream with which this book began.' 

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