Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It ain't half daft for the BBC to ban my show for being racist: Dad's Army creator JIMMY PERRY on the BBC's refusal to show repeats of his other greatest hit
Here’s a funny thing, though it might not make you laugh. Dad’s Army, the show I created and co-wrote with David Croft, is repeated every Saturday and gets audiences of 2.2 million.
But my favourite sitcom of all, the one that recaptures the most extraordinary era of my life, will never be screened again.
It Ain’t Half Hot Mum has been deemed by the BBC too politically incorrect and even racist to be repeated.
I believe it’s equally as funny as Dad’s Army, and full of characters just as memorable — the blustering sergeant-major, the camp drag artiste and the Indian orderly who was more British than the Brits.
The comedy — about a Royal Artillery concert party stationed in India in the last months of World War II — was ribald and often farcical, but anyone who has served in the Armed Forces knows that is exactly what it’s like.
Like all the shows David Croft and I wrote together — including Hi-de-Hi!, set in a Fifties holiday camp, and the upstairs downstairs comedy You Rang, M’Lord? — this was deeply rooted in reality. And that’s the problem. Too many executives at the BBC have rather too little idea what reality looks like.
They are Oxbridge graduates trained by other Oxbridge graduates who learnt what they know from still more Oxbridge graduates. The real world doesn’t get a look-in at today’s BBC.
I’m 90 and my generation, by contrast, had about as much reality as anyone could wish for. During World War II, I joined the Home Guard: it was 1941 and I was the 16-year-old original of Private Pike.
Two years later, I was conscripted into the Royal Artillery as a gunner. In 1944, I was sent to Burma, where I spent four months manning a gun battery, before I was sent to Deolali, near Mumbai, and joined the concert party. We didn’t call it Deolali in those days — it was Doolally!
Like the characters in our sitcom, I was a gunner, and the standing joke was that maybe one day we were ‘gunner get home’.
They didn’t tell us until the war was over that there was no chance of that happening any time soon: with millions of troops in India and south-east Asia, and only a small fleet of troopships, getting back to Blighty was a long, slow business. David and I wrote that into one episode.
When the colonel tells the gang show performers that Japan has surrendered, Gloria — the mincing little star of the show, played by Melvyn Hayes — trots off the parade ground to pack a suitcase.
The sergeant-major is apoplectic. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ he bellows. A simple line, and it got one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard from a studio audience.
David and I didn’t write jokes, we wrote situations, so the comedy required great actors — and we had one in Windsor Davies, with his bulging eyes, needletip moustaches and booming Welsh roar.
The conscripts did think they were going home, and the sergeant-majors knew only too well that, when the men were demobbed, their empires would be over.
Another empire ended at the same time, of course — Britain’s. I was in India during the switch to independence, and for a lad from Barnes in London it was a strange experience. But I soaked all of it up, and any writer will tell you that such powerful impressions are bound to fuel your imagination in later life.
The BBC youngsters can't accept the world was a very different place then. To pretend otherwise would be lying.
India fascinated me. The languages, the smells, the great beauty, the immense poverty — the truth is, I was sad to leave.
We toured for two years, as our signature tune said, ‘From Bangalore to Singapore, from Rangoon to Bombay...and if you really liked our show, we’ll come again another day’.
We even found ourselves on the north-west frontier, which was ruled by bandit tribes. Our bearer was always with us, an educated and marvellously efficient man who went to extraordinary lengths for us.
Before an inspection, he would work furiously to make every bit of leather and brass shine, before picking us up and carrying us on his back to the parade ground. He did it to keep the dust off us: in that heat the earth was as dry as ash.
Once we were in position, he’d give our boots one final rub with his cloth. It’s bizarre to look back on that and realise that it once seemed normal — that’s how the Army worked almost 70 years ago.
And that’s what the BBC youngsters cannot accept. The world was a very different place then. We can’t pretend otherwise. It would be lying.
It might seem outrageous, even decadent, that a bunch of song-and-dance conscripts had to be carried around a parade ground, but that’s because we’re looking back from a 21st-century perspective.
The bearers saw their duties as deeply honourable, and took pride in performing them to the highest standard.
When I finally boarded for home in 1946, my bearer asked me, with a lump in his throat: ‘Can I come home to Blighty with you, sahib?’
His name was Rangi Ram, and we kept that name for the character who narrated It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
He always talked of ‘We British’ and he had two lovely catchphrases, when he was berating his juniors, which will be familiar to viewers with long memories — ‘Damn natives!’ and ‘Don’t be such a clever dickie!’
When a British officer corrected him, he would scold himself: ‘Sahib righty, Rangi wrongy!’
At the end of every episode, Rangi delivered some piece of spurious wisdom, with the words: ‘There is an old Hindu proverb . . .’
And then he would tell us a bit of nonsense, such as: ‘When you have cholera and Delhi belly, it does not stop your house from catching fire.’
Our lead actor, Michael Bates, was born in India, spoke Urdu and Hindi. He loved India, and so did I.
To play a character who meant so much to me, we needed a special actor. And we found one in the great Michael Bates.
He was born to British parents in India, the son of an Empire civil servant. He spoke Urdu and Hindi fluently, and sometimes he and I would talk in the pidgin Urdu that I had picked up in the Forces.
Like most children of Empire, he’d had an Indian nurse, an ‘ayah’, who taught him the best of her own culture. He never lost the ability to squat on his haunches — a great relaxation trick. He died tragically young of cancer in 1978, aged 57.
Michael loved India, and so did I. That shines through in every episode of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, and we made nearly 60. But because he is a white man wearing a turban and playing a native Indian, we are accused of racism.
People claim Michael was ‘blacking up’, which is simply not true. He just needed a little make-up to tan his skin, a trick that every newsreader uses these days.
We would have been delighted to use Indian actors, if we could have found any. This was the first BBC sitcom even to be set outside Britain, and we did not live in a multicultural society in the Seventies (the series ran from 1974 to 1981).
It was considered normal for Larry Olivier or Donald Sinden to ‘black up’ when they played Othello — today, that would be wrong, but those were different times.
We did get an excellent Bangladeshi actor to play the ‘char wallah’, the boy who brings the tea urn round. His name was Dino Shafeek, and if I remember correctly he was working in a restaurant as a waiter when he first auditioned.
It frustrates me that television today is run by people who don’t know their history. They don’t want to face the fact that, within my lifetime, Britain ruled a third of the world’s population — so they ignore it.
It’s such a waste: vintage comedy is a wonderful tool to help a new generation understand the past.
Many people in the industry will agree with me but can’t speak up because they might lose their jobs. I have the advantage of being 90, so I can say what I like.
It takes courage to face the past and confront sensitive issues. Sadly, by banning It Ain’t Half Hot Mum from our screens, the BBC is taking the cowardly way out.
Why women secretly love the thought of being ravished, by Martin Amis: Writer accused of 'glorifying sexual violence'
Martin Amis has been accused of ‘glorifying sexual violence’ after he said women secretly love being ‘ravished’ by men.
The writer claimed that English novels from the 18th century catered for ‘female fantasies’ because the heroines only ever had sex if they had been drugged.
He says women friends have told him it was a ‘good fantasy’ to have because ‘if you enjoy it it’s not your fault’.
His comments were immediately seized on by critics, who accused him of perpetuating the myth that women enjoy such encounters.
They also said he was contributing to a culture in which sexual violence was seen as normal.
Amis, 64, who was nominated for the Bad Sex award in 2012 for a section in his novel The Pregnant Widow, made his comments in an interview for the BBC4 show Martin Amis’s England.
They appear in this week’s Radio Times before the programme screens this Sunday.
Discussing the development of the English novel since the 18th century, he said: ‘In that formative period of the English novel, the only way that a heroine can have sex is by being drugged and that ties in with fantasies, female fantasies of being ravished.
‘I talked to women about this and they said, it is a good fantasy, especially when you’re young, because if you enjoy it, it’s not your fault.’
Amis said in later novels, women of the lower classes and decadent society ladies are allowed to have sex, but heroines are not.
He said the only exception is Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adding: ‘It’s perfectly clear that she is far and away the most sexual of Jane Austen’s heroines.’
Last night, clinical psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said she was ‘horrified’ by the writer’s remarks. ‘I find these kind of comments soul-destroying, as a woman and as a mother,’ she said. ‘This is the kind of thing you see in porn all the time. Women are depicted as objects at the whim of men’s desires. ‘Men are brought up not to take no for an answer when it comes to sex.
‘They are encouraged to think that if they push harder, women will enjoy their advances. Martin Amis’s comments just reinforce that view. 'He makes sexual violence seem normal, even desirable. It is sending out an awful message, not least to young men.’
A spokesman for Rape Crisis said last night: ‘If the implication is that women enjoy being raped, that’s of course incredibly unhelpful myth-peddling and potentially not just offensive but distressing to the large numbers of sexual violence survivors who’ll inevitably read the Radio Times interview.’
Several of Amis’s own novels – including The Pregnant Widow and his 1973 book The Rachel Papers – have been criticised for lurid sex scenes, which are mainly written from a male point of view.
In 2012, the author admitted that he thought women were better at writing about sex than men, because men often felt inadequate about their own performance.
At the time, he said: ‘I’d say the reason why women write better about sex – which is almost impossible to write about and no one has done it very well, ever – is that as a novelist you are in a God-like relation to what you create.
'You are omnipotent and the question of potency is embarrassing for men.’
Amis is married to American heiress and writer Isabel Fonseca, who is his second wife.
He has credited her with finally bringing an end to his womanising ways, and the pair have two teenage children together, Fernanda and Clio.
In June 2011, Amis moved to New York with his family to be closer to her parents as well as his best friend, the writer Christopher Hitchens, who has since died of cancer.
They now live in the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn.
Now Britain can't even deport a Mafia don to Italy: Their crowded jails 'would breach his human rights'
A Mafia don who has spent 20 years hiding in Britain cannot be deported to Italy because cramped prison conditions would breach his human rights, a judge ruled yesterday.
Domenico Rancadore has been living quietly in a London suburb since 1994 despite being sentenced to seven years in jail in his home country for running a branch of the Mafia involved in extortion, racketeering and drug trafficking.
But yesterday, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle ruled that Rancadore – one of Italy’s most wanted men – cannot be extradited due to a European Court of Human Rights ruling upheld in the High Court last week that chronic overcrowding in Italian jails breaches human rights laws.
Rancadore, who appeared in the dock wearing the same blue shirt and grey cardigan he has worn throughout, showed little emotion as he heard the ruling
At Westminster magistrates’ court, Judge Riddle said he had planned to deport the feared 65-year-old because he was satisfied the fugitive’s extradition was ‘compatible with the defendant’s Convention rights, including prison conditions’.
But his hands were tied by a High Court ruling last week when judges decided a Somalian businessman accused of unauthorised financial activity could not be sent to Italy due to a Strasbourg judgment that Italian prisons violated Article 3 of the Human Rights Act that prevents torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Yesterday critics expressed astonishment. Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention think tank, said: ‘These rulings and our soft justice system only encourage foreign terrorists and criminals to travel to Britain.’
Tory MP Dominic Raab said: ‘It shows what a shambles EU law is in this area. We have innocent British citizens being carted off under the European Arrest Warrant to face flawed justice systems or gruesome jails abroad. But we can’t send foreign gangsters back home.’
He said: ‘Mr Rancadore was one of the heads of an armed criminal organisation known as Cosa Nostra which is said to be one of the most powerful Mafia organisations in Italy, made up of thousands of members spreading terror in Sicily by imposing its rules and controlling the area and systematically murdering anybody who did not comply with the will of the members of the organisation.’
But to the surprise of Italian police who had been hunting for him since 1994, Rancadore was living in a bungalow in Uxbridge with his wife and two children until he was arrested last August by Scotland Yard.
Yesterday Judge Riddle said he was satisfied by assurances from the Italian Ministry of Justice that Rancadore would not be held in an overcrowded cell if he were to be sent back to face justice.
But last week Lord Justice McCombe and Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled in a separate case that in the face of ‘a systemic failure of a state’s prison system’, assurances given by Italian authorities were insufficient to persuade them that there was no risk prison conditions would breach human rights.
Judge Riddle said: ‘The judgment of the [High] court is binding on me. For these reasons Mr Rancadore is discharged.’ The Italian authorities now have the right to appeal the decision.
After seven months in custody, Rancadore – said to have a serious heart condition – was bailed on a £20,000 surety and told to report to Uxbridge police station daily.
His wife said: ‘He’s happy to be home. This isn’t finished yet. This is just the beginning, isn’t it.’
Rancadore’s solicitor, Karen Todner, said: ‘Mr Rancadore has been very misrepresented in the Press thus far. He made a deliberate decision 20 years ago to walk away from the Mafia and all that is associated with it. He has led a blame-free existence in the United Kingdom.’
Cleric's hate sermons from the village hall: Firebrand can broadcast to Middle East on his satellite channel because Ofcom is powerless to act
A firebrand Muslim cleric is being allowed to broadcast hate sermons to the Middle East from a pretty Home Counties village because the regulator Ofcom is powerless to act.
Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, 34, is accused of stirring up bitter sectarian tensions in the Islamic world via his UK-licensed satellite channel, which is based in a former Christian church hall in a leafy corner of Buckinghamshire.
His station, Fardak TV, is required to comply with Ofcom’s strict rules banning hate speech for any programmes that can be watched by British or European viewers.
But the communications regulator can place no restrictions on what he broadcasts to the rest of the world because this is out of its jurisdiction.
Sheikh al-Habib, who belongs to the minority Shia branch of Islam, has allegedly made remarks on air that are considered deeply offensive to the rival Sunni sect.
He was granted asylum in Britain in 2004 after being jailed in his native Kuwait for insulting some of the most revered figures for Sunnis.
Tensions between the two branches of Islam are at the root of much of the bloodshed that has plagued the Middle East for centuries, right up to the current conflict in Syria.
An MP warned that problems between Sunnis and Shias would also ‘bubble up’ in Britain unless action was taken to stamp out hate speech aired with impunity from the UK.
Last year Sheikh al-Habib led a campaign that raised £2 million to buy a former evangelical Christian retreat in the idyllic village of Fulmer in the Buckinghamshire commuter belt.
The large hall has been turned into a mosque that also houses Fadak TV, which is broadcast across the world by different satellites.
In a recent programme, Sheikh al-Habib was filmed cutting a cake to celebrate the death of one of the most important historical figures in Sunni Islam, the BBC reported.
The radical cleric also allegedly said: ‘Stay away from Shia, or the hand that helps fund those in Syria, we will cut it off, and I know what I mean.’
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said Sheikh al-Habib had also claimed on air that two male early Islamic leaders who are revered by Sunnis had a sexual relationship together.
Ofcom is investigating whether any of these remarks were broadcast to British viewers.
A second satellite TV channel, Wesal Farsi, based in north-west London, which is targeted at Iran’s Sunni minority, is accused of transmitting a programme in which a presenter called Shia clerics ‘devils’ and accused them of stealing from God. This station is not licensed by Ofcom.
Mr Mahmood described the material being aired on Fadak TV as ‘ten times worse’ than the sections of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses that led to the British author facing death threats.
He added: ‘If somebody was being anti-Semitic, we would take action. If somebody was being racist we would take action – even if it was an Asian person having a go at a black person. And it’s quite right to do that.
‘Because this is seen as intra-faith, nobody seems to be bothered. It is already causing problems in the Gulf and the Middle East. It will start to bubble up here as well.’
The MP called on Ofcom to stamp out sectarian hate speech, and said that the regulator should if necessary be given more powers and resources to investigate foreign-language channels broadcast from the UK. ‘We have got to put a stop to it, and it’s the responsibility of Ofcom to do that. If they can’t deal with it, then the police should step in,’ he said.
Ofcom investigated Fadak TV in 2012 after Sheikh al-Habib broadcast a sermon in which he questioned the sexuality of a Sunni successor to the Prophet Muhammad.
But the regulator concluded that there had been no breach of its broadcasting code and issued the station with ‘formal guidance’.
An Ofcom spokesman said yesterday: ‘Ofcom has strict rules forbidding the broadcast of hate speech on TV and we take this extremely seriously. When channels break these rules, we take robust action and have recently fined broadcasters. ‘We are examining the allegations made against Fadak TV, and if it is breaking our rules then we will act swiftly.
‘While people in the UK can watch programmes on the internet or on satellite from around the world, Ofcom has jurisdiction to investigate and take action when a channel is licensed to broadcast in the UK.
‘If individuals are preaching hate in the UK, this is a criminal act and should be reported to the police.’
Sheikh al-Habib could not be contacted yesterday, but he declined to comment when approached by the BBC.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.