Friday, 14 November 2008

Letts’ List

Last night, the taxi parked up outside the Madeley home and I unwound my travel weary body from the back seat where I had been dozing since I’d fallen there from the airport’s arrivals hall. I was somewhat dozily counting out my taxi fare in silver buttons and fur encrusted humbugs when the front door of the homestead opened and Judy came out to greet me. I was happy to see her. Manchester had been a demonstration of one Londoner's lack of charm and the north's abundance of tolerence. Only, Judy wasn’t in the mood for stories of business lunches. In her hands was a black plastic bag emblazoned with a familiar gold font and logo. There was a moment or two’s pause before I planted a kiss on my fair wife’s cheek. I recognised the Waterstones bag but was suspicious that I wouldn’t like what was inside.

‘I’ve bought you a present,’ she said as I finally gave up counting paper clips and pocket fluff and slipped the driver a crisp twenty.

‘That isn’t another of those “self-help” books, is it Jude?’ I asked, wary that the last time she bought me a book, it was written by a spiritual guru who she had also invited around to the house. He’d proceeded to explain why I should give him 50% of my income in exchange for regular sessions involving colonic massage and prune juice.

‘No,’ said Judy, ‘I bought this knowing that you’d definitely approve.’

The taxi driver seemed to read my mind. He gave an all knowing sniff as he counted out the change in two pence pieces.

A good ten minutes later, I was indoors and able to open the gift. That’s when I gave the cry of fright that might have woken local residents and made some early news reports in the South East. My outburst was warranted since I hadn’t expected to find Alan Titchmarsh’s smug grin staring up from my lap. My first instinct was to reach for my pocket and throw loose change into his face. However, a gasp or two later, I realised my mistake. Titchmarsh was in caricature and rather than having the literary equivalent of organic fertilizer dropped into my hands, I was holding a lumpy goodness, a book that I would recommend to all my friends.

Despite writing for ‘The Daily Mail’, Quentin Letts has made much sense in his writing career and rarely fails to register a few laughs with his parliamentary sketches. His book '50 People Who Buggered Up Britain' was a quick read – I managed it in an evening – but packed full of observations that you’d only dispute if you were... well, a Daily Mail reader.

‘Did you enjoy the book?’ asked Judy this morning. ‘I fell asleep counting your chortling. It was more regular than clockwork sheep.’

‘Chortling was the only response to a book as good as that,’ I answered, ‘though I was somewhat disappointed by Quentin’s list. There were some glaring omissions that made no sense. As the instigator of all that’s wrong with this country, Peter Mandelson’s name should have been front, centre, as well as following up in the rear as he’s so likely to do. And no lesser an omission was the name of John Major. His programme of “care in the community” was one of the most misguided health policies of living memory. I blame his obsession with “charters” for what came later with the creeping, sycophantic politics of the ever mendacious Tony Blair.’

Judy looked across the table at me with a look of profound shock. ‘I never knew you were so informed about politics, Richard. I’m impressed.’

‘Oh,’ I said, gazing at the back of my hand, ‘I occasionally glance at Iain Dale’s blog and dip into the Devil. I’m something of a socio-political commentator at heart.’

‘You are that,’ she replied. ‘You should write your own list. I bet you might even get into the hardback charts with a book like that.’

Whilst it was clearly a cheap dig at my ‘Fathers & Sons’ sales figures, I thought that Judy had a point and I set myself to producing my own list. For reasons of brevity, I’ve decided to call it: ‘Richard Madeley’s List of Another 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain’. There is only one rule for inclusion in the list: nobody must be in Quentin’s book. After all, I wouldn’t want to try to match his verdict on Titchmarsh (‘he’s more prevalent than the municipal begonia’) and his ‘Ground Force’ militia.

What characters the presenters were, the embodiment of spray-on change and of instant improvement – and as such a betrayal of the most fundamental necessities for any gardener, which are patience and the nourishment of the soul from slow, seasonal change. Alan Titchmarsh offered the gardening equivalent of fast food. Does he care about the rhythms of the year, of the pace of Nature?’

Anyway, after fifteen minutes activity up in my den, I’d finished my list. It was harder work than you’d imagine but here it is, open to adjustment in the coming weeks and all suggestions appreciated. You might be puzzled by some of my inclusions but each one is made for good reason. If it takes my fancy in the future, I’ll write at length about each of them. They have all contributed (or are contributing) to the decline in our nation and done more than most to hasten the collapse of civilisation.

Richard Madeley’s List of Another 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain

And & Dec (counts as 2)
Sue Barker
‘Big Daddy’
Fern Britton
Prince Charles
David Coleman
Angus Deaton
David Dickinson
Ben Elton
Michael Fish
Tony Green
Richard Hammond
Lenny Henry
Michael Heseltine
Benny Hill
Jules Holland
Jordan/Katie Price (counts as 2)
Ross Kemp
Robert Kilroy Silk
Neil Kinnock
Ken Livingstone
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Matt Lucas
Ruth Maddoc
Peter Mandelson
Paul O’Grady
Lembit Opik
Michael Parkinson
John Major
The Queen Mother
Esther Rantzen
Claire Rayner
Roland (the fat kid from ‘Grange Hill’)
Jonathan Ross
Paul Ross
J.K. Rowling
Salmon Rushdie
Arthur Scargill
Phillip Schofield
Norman St John-Stevas
Daley Thompson
David Walliams
Ruby Wax
Fatima Whitbread

Suggestions to the usual places: in the comments or to


James Higham said...

Love the list but more importantly, glad to see you back.

Brian said...

I know you hate nepotism, but couldn't you include Jonathan Ross's even more redundant brother Paul?

Dick Madeley said...

James, I glad to be back too. I could hardly stay away with all these important things to discuss.

Brian, you're absolutely right. The list is now amended accordingly. I saw him on Channel 5 a few weeks ago hosting a show about the paranormal. My blood pressure leveled out around the 190 mark.

The Twitch said...

I am surprised to see Cilla is not on your list.

The Twitch said...

....and hows about Jimmy Saville?

Lola said...

I'd add the repugnant Chris Moyles, even if he has endorsed your blog. And what's David Puttnam ever done to Britain? Chariots of Fire was quite a good film.

Dick Madeley said...

Twitch, Judy would never allow me to include Cilla in that list. And I still hope that Jimmy Saville will fix it for me so I wouldn't dare name him.

Lola, oh such good points and I'm tempted to make the dits. I know exactly what you mean... but... Well, if I include Moyles I'd have include dozens of other radio jocks. As for Puttnam, well, okay. I'll give you that one. He's out and Paul Ross is promoted to his own slot.

Barbara said...

Hey, I like Wossy.

I'll give you one - Peter Stringfellow. What a waste of space. And the Beckhams - we don't want them either.

percy stilton said...

I agree with Barbara , The Brand Beckhams should be banished from our shore...forever, but I fear they will just keep coming back. They are on a seperate list to the rest of us mere mortals...the supercelebs such as Vicky & Dayvid are the untouchables.

percy stilton said...

....o and i also agree...that Wossy is a total tosser, a pig in lipstick if ever I saw one and that goes for his mucky matey ,Brand too.

katyboo1 said...

Yvette Fielding would be quite high on my list if that's any help.

Anonymous said...

Why Ruth Maddock by the way? I would include Peter Purves instead as he ruined my childhood.

An Esther Fan said...

You are an ignorant man. Ms. Rantzen has done so much for this country. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Andrew said...

Erm, as an irishman I can only say "Get yer fookin' mitts off Bono!" He's an embarrassment, but he's OUR embarrassment.

No Janet Street-Porter? Chris Evans?

You might just have inspired me to come up with my own list of people who arsed up Ireland. Trouble is, it'd be all politicians. And Bono.

Dick Madeley said...

Barbara, Stringfellow is a good one. I'll have to see about making room for him.

Percy, I did wonder about Brand but it's all too recent. Give him a few years and let's see what kind of mess he can make.

Katybook, Yvette Fielding isn't bad but if I let one Blue Peter presenter in, I'd have to include the lot.

Mutley, you have a whole post devoted to this question.

Esther Fan, you're welcome to your opinion. Of course, you're wrong. But you've every right to be wrong.

Andrew, true but I think of Bono as 'the word's problem'. JSP is in Lett's list (he's very good on the subject) and Chris Evans has fallen from our radar. The damage he did wasn't long term. I look forward to your list. Can I suggest you put James Joyce at No. 1. He completely buggered up literature.

Anonymous said...

I have read your impassioned attack on Ruth, but I steal feel you are over reacting. I mentioned Peter Purves - what about John Lydon, the punk butter fanatic?

Dick Madeley said...

Mutley, I see your point about Purves but he's friend to John Noakes and that must count for something. As for Lydon, you must mark my words: he will be our saviour. He's the last authentic Englishman alive today. Free spirited and happy to hang his hat on a nicely buttered crumpet.

Reimer said...

John Lydon should certainly be on this list, given his noisy self-centredness and self-aggrandisement, a safety-pinned Young Tory from the early Thatcher blitzkrieg.

As for his being an authentic Englishman - he's got too much Irish blood to trump all other comers, quite apart from his hypocrisy in damning the country from his bolthole in the US, destination of many other non-English migrant nihilists impatient with the hitherto-tardy rate of destruction in Blighty (eg The Frankfurt School)

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