Chris Evans and the charismatic denial

June 27, 2015


When Jeremy Clarkson was fired from Top Gear in March, Chris Evans was always favorite to rescue the BBC’s biggest-earning show.

At first, Evans made unequivocal statements about his lack of interest in taking over, and then announced he been had signed up to replace Clarkson.

His behaviours capture aspects of what might be called the charismatic denial.


Jeremy Clarkson’s high-speed career had crashed spectacularly. You might say he had been building up penalty points on his license to perform, even while he was transforming the BBC’s Top Gear TV programme into a global hit, transmitted to over 200 countries. Multiple controversies and his persona of the superstar petrol-head were essential elements in a show which was brilliantly filmed and produced.

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Tony Benn, ultimate class warrior [1925-2014 ]

March 14, 2014

Tony Benn was for several generations in the UK the ultimate class warrior

The news of Tony Benn’s death reached me this morning [March 14th, 2014]. I had learned earlier this month of his deteriorating health.

He attracted attention as a class traitor when he renounced his title 2nd Viscount Stansgate to remain as a Member of Parliament.  He became the bogie man of the largely right-wing media, and a charismatic figure of the left.

Possibly too idealistic and too easy to parody,  his earnest style was combined with an evident brilliance of mind and a personal fervor for working class culture into which he inevitably failed to fit.

He was a brilliant television performer and formidable political activist. He was to become a Member of Parliament (MP) for 50 years and a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

In office in 1964–1970 he served first as Postmaster General, and later Minister of Technology. In the Labour Government of 1974–1979 he was an energetic  Secretary of State for Industry. Arguably he was the most prominent left-wing figure of his age. The term “Bennite” was to the left what “Thatcherite”  was to become to the right.


In his later years he became seen as a man of personal integrity. A recent example [February 12 2014]  is the utterly unexpected outpouring of respect from readers of the Daily Mail following the announcement of his deteriorating health.

A personal anecdote

A little anecdote I recall from the 1980s.  The story took place in the bar of a well-known Business School in England.  A Benn supporter and an equally vehement opponent were exchanging hostilities. “He’s a madman. He’s got mad popping eyes” said the Benn opponent. “You’ve got mad popping eyes” Benn’s supporter shouted back.

Benn was not mad

Benn was not mad. He was a gifted dedicated politician. He never played the political games necessary for him to become leader of the Labour party which has continued its journey to the right much to Tony Benn’s disappointment in his later years.