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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 17, 2006

That Wilson Plot Thing

There are several strange things about the revelations in The Plot Against Harold Wilson, which was on BBC 2 last night.

First of all, does anyone think it's kind of odd that these extraordinary events - within living memory - were being presented in that most degraded of documentary forms: the drama documentary? Has the BBC sunk to such a low that the first thing they think of when faced with a story that beggars belief is what can we do to make this interesting?

Members of the British Royal Family (later assassinated by the IRA) offering themselves as possible leaders following a planned military coup? Not interesting enough.

Senior army officers meeting in secret to plan such a coup? Tanks appearing at Heathrow Airport as part of an anti-terrorism exercise which was possibly a full dress rehearsal for the coup? Let's spice it up a bit!

The British Intelligence services spreading deliberately false rumours that Harold Wilson, Marcia Williams, and Dr David Owen were Communists and Soviet agents? And then starting to believe their own falsehoods? Can we set it to music?

None of the above - and much, much more! - was deemed interesting enough by the BBC for a straightforward and hard-hitting documentary, or an outing on Panorama, for example. No, people aren't going to be able to sit through all that boring stuff, so let's make a drama-documentary. Yeah, we like those, because then we can get some ac-tors in, and one of them can wear comedy false teeth.

Some of the plotters and paranoid nutters who started Reggie Perrin style private armies are still alive, for chrissakes! But, no, we'll get that bloke out of The Likely Lads in. We might win a BAFTA.

Also and furthermore, if there was ever a more telling indictment of the British news media, from the BBC on down, it was the little issue of sex. Faced with revelations about MI5 committing burglaries against the British Prime Minister, about an atmosphere of paranoia so intense that people thought Number 10 Downing Street was bugged, with tanks circling Heathrow and a massive conspiracy of the privileged classes, the press decided to hit upon the one thing guaranteed to sell newspapers and distract everybody good and proper: the rumours about Wilson and Williams having an affair.

This was living history, and it's extraordinary to think of the context for all these events. A Labour government supporting the US in an unpopular war in Viet Nam, for example. People were on the streets, and the Beatles were singing about Revolution. The difference between then and now is that - in the late 60s - the British Establishment clearly felt threatened, feared more than Paris '68-style riots - and planned to topple Wilson before anything like that could happen.

Ted Heath's 70-74 government were also under siege, as workers took to the streets and the lights went out. This was a fantastically interesting period of history, relevant today because immediately the Tories got back into power in '79, they went after the unions for revenge, and completely crushed them.

It was class war, a war against the bogeymen, the commies in the unions, against socialism, against the people. And we all lost, and now everyone is paying the price, as we've discussed before.

2 Comments:

  • The bit I love most about all of this sort of thing is the sheer vanity that most people have, thinking that they are on the same side now as the aristocracy, MI5, and those with power; that they are insiders.

    Everyone is a Working Class Conservative. They think they'll be standing with the successful, the aggressors, if anything happens to challenge the status quo.

    But they won't be. They'll just be squashed underfoot along with all of us other lackeys.

    All those people on the estate with their BMWs, cream sofas, Boxsters, and sunbeds, who want to do away with the NHS, the welfare state, and socialism, because they're doing alright for themselves, with their rudeness and selfishness and judgemental attitudes; they're the ones who have precisely the most to lose.

    Fucking celebrity lifestyles!

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:46 am  

  • Doh! I have missed this. I will comb the schedules for a re-run in any case - even if it is tabloid.

    By Blogger rashbre, at 6:19 am  

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