Review of Patronising Bastards:
|Stuff the prancing snootocrats|
Roger Lewis cheers a saloon-bar rant at finger-waggers, pseuds and media munchkins
By: Roger Lewis
For many years I lived in the Herefordshire Balkans, and this highspirited book by Quentin Letts, who describes himself as “a Marches blunderbuss”, reminded me of the many conversational rants I enjoyed at the Rose & Lion, Bromyard, over a pint of whisky with retired redfaced Royal Marines officers and Leominster carpet salespeople.
How we would have cheered at Letts’s pillorying of “windy head-wobbler Simon Schama”; “runty little property developer” Lord Sugar; “Peckham’s Eva Peron”, Harriet Harman; or the “glottal-stoppy mateyness” of Tony Blair. Letts’s putdowns, indeed, are hysterical and take the libel laws to the brink.
Theresa May is “so boring they should use her to dig for shale gas”. Alan Bennett made a fortune out of that “ooh-Betty Leeds accent”. Jeffrey Archer, prisoner number FF8282, is “an adornment to any black comedy”. The novelist Ian McEwan is “a mumbler who rocks on his feet and plays pocket billiards”. Richard Branson is a “public school O-level thicko”. Emma Thompson “camouflages her blazing intolerance with English irony” — “Those Footlights people perfect the art of being patrician without ever quite seeming it.” Charles Saatchi “lost four stone by eating nine eggs a day”, and his gastric blasts may well prove fatal to any passerby.
This is the kind of abusive jollity that reliably raises hearty chuckles among the middle-aged in the saloon bar. But Patronising Bastards wishes to look deeper, if more paranoically, at the “opaque snootocracy” who run everything — the “prancing snoots”, quangocrats, “left-wing clap-trappers”, “patronising plutocrats”, finger-waggers, “egomaniacal freaks” and “proselytising know-alls” who have flattened the British spirit; the vegetarian teetotal dieters and the “clean-living brigade” who are “unutterably joyless”; and the “elite’s media munchkins” who sniff out offence where none is intended.
Letts, the parliamentary sketch writer and theatre critic for the Daily Mail, alleges that such sorts — from the designers of the 2012 Olympic logo to Steve Coogan to the government’s chief scientific adviser — badger and belittle ordinary people with their celebrity tweets, “mission statements” and “forums” in Davos, which they fly to by private jet to talk about global warming.
Letts is suspicious of these “foundations” where philanthropy is an excuse for billionaire get-togethers and moneymaking. He wishes that businesses would stop coming out with corporate gobbledegook (empowering, pioneering, focused on impact — Letts finds many similar horrible examples) since everyone knows greed and profit are what count, so it is silly and condescending to pretend otherwise.
He is correct to point out that what is particularly pernicious is “the sheer deadness of the jargon”, which is everywhere prevalent: universities with their Research Excellence Framework; the plethora of data reports, impact assessments and indoctrination procedures. He takes aim at the compliance officers, communications enablers, gender neutrality awareness seminar coordinators and diversity and inclusion outreach officers — the phoney new “professions” where juicy sinecures are to be had and the key qualification is to possess no sense of humour. Education has been wrecked by the prevailing belief that “no oddball must be judged and every viewpoint is valid”, the upshot of which is intellectual paralysis because “discrimination”, the ability to tell one thing from another, is a dirty word. The Church of England vandalised its traditional liturgy to be more accessible, and with everyone having to be the same no one can be exceptional. You can’t even have ladies’ and gents’ loos; the Barbican introduced “gender-neutral toilet: with cubicles” and “gender-neutral toilet: with urinals”. By the time I had processed that, I was in danger of going all over the floor.
At the BBC cultural coverage is determined by elite grandees with shaved heads and earrings who “think the little people are too thick to understand art without having it dumbed down”. Kenneth Clark of Civilisation has been replaced by Sandi Toksvig, whom Letts bewilderingly dubs a “porcelain-petite heart-breaker”. At the other extreme Nicholas Serota, “a sterile figure” whose art galleries “scorn common taste”, has filled the Tate with conceptual junk.
Much the same kind of sod-the-public pretentiousness goes for fashion — as led by Dame Vivienne Westwood (he suggests she wear a T-shirt saying, “I AM A CAPITALIST, TAX-AVOIDING STINKING HYPOCRITE”) , who had the gall to tell us to vote Green at a time (2015) when she was accused of tax avoidance.
Earnest without being preachy, Patronising Bastards is a tonic for those who look about them and feel an insuperable sense of defeat, who scream with impotent rage at health-and-safety fascism, the “see it, say it, sort it” slogan on the railways, ambulance men and women calling themselves “paramedics”, Camila Batmanghelidjh in her “cod-tribal costume” giving public money to kids who spent it on drugs, and the sleazeballs and mediocrities in the House of Lords (“a recycling bin for failed and former MPs”).
Where I disagree with him, however, is that it was the chap in the street’s fury over all of this that made 17,410,742 of them vote for Brexit, which Letts calls “an act of thrilling dissent”. I honestly can’t see how dumping the EU will ensure better pictures at the Tate, the closure of “boutique” hotels (a Letts bugbear) or the reintroduction of Hymns Ancient & Modern and ladies wearing hats to Evensong.
University vice-chancellors are not going to stop paying themselves fortunes. Charity bosses won’t turn down six-figure emoluments. The Kinnocks won’t regret their huge pensions. Despite Letts’s splendid tirade, wealthy faux liberals will carry on speaking and dressing “like mechanicals — tattoos, mockney accents, crumpled clothes”.
This book put me in mind of Churchill, rallying the troops in 1940, girding them for “the battle for our island — for all that Britain is, and Britain means”. Leaving the EU is not going to put a stop to ignorance, stupidity and corruptibility, and nor did our being part of Europe create vice in the first place. Faced with the evidence Letts presents here, the enemy was already within.
Patronising Bastards How the Elites Betrayed Britain by Quentin Letts Constable, 305pp; £16.99
83% of Amazon reviewers have declared it five star:
“Excoriating dismemberment of all those celebrities/politicians who think their views and opinions are more important than those of the rest of us. Bliss.”- gtanner
“Loved every page of this very informative and funny book. I was taken aback by the sheer scale of nepotism, parasitic public bodies and “charities”, and the extent of their power and influence. High time the peasants revolted.- undine
“Quentin Letts, wonderfully erudite, forensically honest, tells it like it really is! I suspect he has made a few enemies with this book but they constantly put themselves forward for a ‘Patronising Bastard Award’ and deserve our disdain. Sequel please!”- David Williams
Not since Marie Antoinette said ‘Let them eat cake’ have the peasants been so revolting. Western capitalism’s elites are bemused: Brexit, Trump, and maybe more eruptions to follow. But their rulers were so good to them! Hillary Clinton called the ingrates ‘a basket of deplorables’, Bob Geldof flicked them a V sign, Tony Blair thought voters too thick to understand the question. Wigged judges stared down their legalistic noses at a surging, pongy populous.
These people who know best, these snooterati with their faux-liberal ways, are the ‘Patronising Bastards’. Their downfall is largely of their own making – their Sybaritic excesses, an obsession with political correctness, the prolonged rape of reason and rite. You’ll find these self-indulgent show-ponys not just in politics and the cloistered old institutions but also in high fashion, football, among the clean-eating foodies and at the Baftas and Oscars, where celebritydom hires PR smoothies to massage reputations and mislead, distort, twist.
Political columnist and bestselling author Quentin Letts identifies these condescending creeps and their networks, their methods and their dubious morals. Letts kebabs them like mutton. It’s baaaahd. It’s juicy.
Richard Branson, ‘Sir’ Philip Green, Shami Chakrabarti, David Beckham, Lily Allen, Jean-Claude Juncker and any head waiter who calls you ‘young man’ – this one’s for you!
The Speaker’s Wife is the award winning debut novel from Quentin Letts.
Part Westminster satire, part lament for the Church of England.
The Rev Tom Ross’s quiet and semi-alcoholic life as chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons is shattered when an evangelical church gives sanctuary to a white youth chased by the police for making an anti-Islamic protest.
Politicians rage about the Church of England giving a safe haven to a dangerous criminal and Islamists surround the church building, furious at the boy’s insult.
Meanwhile, charismatic atheist Augustus Dymock demands that the Church sell hundreds of its under-used places of worship. Ross finds himself caught in a world of bribes, violence and political spin.
‘The Speaker’s Wife’ mixes Westminster intrigue with searching depictions of an England which has neglected its beliefs. Deft satire is mixed with moving passages about the human condition and even a fairytale love story.
For all book sales please contact Rossiter Books, Ross-on-Wye:
The Corn Exchange
7 The High Street