April 06, 2014

Tony Benn

Somewhere over the Pacific on my way to Australia I listen to an old Guardian podcast from 2006 with Tony Benn, presumably dredged up by the Grauniad as a tribute.

I can't say I knew much about him (except as a distant figure from my distant past), but it’s painful listening: he’s jauntily patrician, urbanely self-righteous, giving me the impression that he’s never even conceived of himself as wrong. The stars he navigates by seem to be people like Ramsay McDonald, Jim Callahan, and improbably virtuous shop stewards and miners (he refers to shop stewards as though they were an integral part of modern life rather than the often unlamented industrial equivalent of the dodo). He’s impatient with facts, brusquely brushing off obvious questions about the wisdom of British post-war attempts at industrial production (motorcycles, airplanes, etc.) with anecdotes and some pretty bare-faced assertions about how it would all have worked just fine if everyone had just listened to him.

Pretty much every anecdote he tells seems to be some sort of humblebrag that somehow or other revolves around him regardless of the actual topic, usually ending up with a mixture of unsubtle hints about how common his touch is, and more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger observations about how right he was despite what everyone around him was saying. Somewhere in the mix he says he’s learned a lot by just listening, but he sounds like a man who’s never listened to anyone, a man who long ago made up his mind about what he’s going to hear from people. He comes across as a dinosaur who believed that the Jurassic’s coming back any day now — just you wait and see!

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2 Comments:

At 4/08/2014 2:11 am, Anonymous Shetpen said...

Grauniad = Agranam!

 
At 4/08/2014 10:38 am, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

The agranam domain's available, ya know... you could start a new meme :-)

 

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