Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic Genius and Aidan Burley MP

Last night's Olympic opening ceremony was an absolute triumph for (Sir) Danny Boyle and Britain, showcasing our islands' story and reminding the world of our values. For me, one of the greatest strengths was that - unlike most other opening pageants - it didn't take itself too seriously. It remembered that one of our greatest strengths is the ability to laugh at ourselves - that's always been a restriction on the capacity of the far right and the far left to establish more than a foothold here - their pomposity always ends up being punctured.

You can argue that Boyle has spent £27 million on sticking two fingers up to David Cameron in front of the rest of the world, choosing his values carefully - and I did that on Twitter last night, but I think there's a deeper truth there that offers even less comfort to the PM. The national values on show last night, the direction of travel indicated by that magnificent, mad, melange of motion and emotion may be more representative of the Britain that we are and the Britain that we could be. It is not that Boyle was directing us leftwards, but holding a mirror up to the movement of the British people in that direction. We have changed and are changing still,   


Meanwhile, of course, there were those who sniped from the sidelines. Aidan Burley, currently the Tory MP for Cannock Chase, posted a couple of tweets criticising the 'leftie, multicultural crap' and demanding the return of Shakespeare. (That would be the poet and author who included cross-dressing and racial tension in his work. I'd steer clear of the Merchant of Venice and Othello, if I were you, Aidan).


After that tweet appeared, there then followed a period of silence from the MP, perhaps as what he had done sunk in under a concerted beating from Twitter, before a further tweet claiming that he had been misunderstood.

This morning saw him touring the media outlets and performing backflips and somersaults worthy of the GB Olympic gymnastics team, as he claimed that he was merely speaking out about the over-representation of 'rap' music, which is only - apparently - about 20 years old. (Actually, it isn't - it is in fact older than Mr Burley himself, which perhaps speaks volumes about his own relevance, if he uses that as a marker). Yes, Aidan Burley may be in his early 30s - possibly the 1930s - but that doesn't mean he can't hold tremendously reactionary views, harking back to a mythical golden age that he cannot possibly recall.

This is, of course, the MP who remains under investigation for attending a Nazi-themed stag party in France, with the stag photographed bedecked in full SS gear and raising his right arm in a salute. Nothing says multi- culturalism like dressing as a Nazi and toasting the Third Reich. In a country formerly occupied by them. I suspect Mr Burley may be having a chat with the whips about his future prospects in a meeting not involving coffee. Whatever else he thinks, Toryboy will find that tomorrow does not belong to him. 


Yesterday gave us a vision of today and tomorrow worthy of a modern William Blake. As Boyle put it in his programme notes
"We hope that through all of the noise and excitement, you'll glimpse a single golden thread of purpose - the idea of Jerusalem - of the better world, the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry, through the caring nation that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And that it will be for everyone." 
If you seek a manifesto opening, Ed, you could do a lot worse.

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