George Osborne killed my nanny

March 20, 2014

Nanny StateThe Chancellor dealt a mortal blow to the nanny state in his budget. Or did he?

In the UK, there are two evil monsters in the popular bestiary, the nanny state, and the crazed demon known as political correctness. In his budget yesterday [March 19th, 2014] George Osborne appeared to have struck hard at the nanny state monster and her grip over the pensions of hard-saving workers.

At a stroke he handed control of pension funds back to their rightful owners. And with awareness of confusions caused by that sudden liberation, the grateful pensioners will be able to receive advice from ‘independent advisors’.

Irresponsible pensioners?

Might some liberated pensioners go on a spending spree, and then end as a burden on the state? Not at all, Danny Alexander assured us, and he should know as a coalition partner of Mr Osborne. Savers are responsible people not feckless losers about to splurge their liberated cash.

Getting away from nanny

Anyway, he implied, there may be a few old reprobates who head off to Ibiza and limp home penniless (or Euroless). That is a small price to pay for shocking the country out of the domineering control of the nanny state.

And we all lived happily ever after

Or did we? Mythical monsters are not as easy to kill off as natural species like tigers or rhinos. The nanny state may retreat, wounded but not destroyed. There may be stories coming up about unscrupulous advisers charging for dodgy financial advice over dodgy financial products. I know that’s hard to believe.

The cynical BBC analyst Nick Robinson went so far as to suggest that the pension changes were targeted ‘with laser precision’ at older voters who might be tempted away from the conservatives by the seductive offers from Nigel Farage and his Ukipian vision.

Next stop political correctness gone mad

As George Osborne rests from his labours, the country awaits a champion to liberate us from the dominance of that other monster, political correctness gone mad. I am thinking of starting the anti political correctness party [APCP]. If willing, Boris Johnson would become its leader, or maybe post-Ukip, Nigel Farage.

Credit for nanny state image

Image is from the venitism blogspot


An Idiot Abroad 2 and Life’s Too Short: ‘No better than a Victorian freak show?’

December 6, 2011

Terence Blacker in The Independent described the BBC comedy Life’s Too Short as “Comedy no better than a Victorian freak show”. The story raises questions about creativity, culture, social identity and thought leadership

Tudor Rickards

I had already written a Not a Review for An Idiot Abroad 2 which is reissued below. My post explored the emerging themes within the comedy of Ricky Gervase and Stephen Merchant. Blacker’s article suggests that its discussion points remain pertinent to their subsequent series Life’s Too Short.

It was hard to avoid information about An Idiot Abroad (second series) showing on Sky2. The programme had received extensive advance advertising on Sky as innovative comedy within a travel-show format. Its co-founder Ricky Gervase had been tireless in his enthusiastic plugging of it on the chat show circuit, supported by. At the time, Gervase and Merchant had become internationally acclaimed for their achievements first in the cultish British TV series The Office, and later in American media ventures of varying degrees of success.

The big idea

The big idea in the Sky programme was that Gervase and his creative partner Steve Merchant had stumbled upon a remarkable non-celebrity whose gnomic observations blew their minds. Said non-celebrity became a challenge, a project to bring to the attention of a wider audience who would share their delight in getting to know him. The title may have been inspired by Mark Twain’s once-famous book An Innocent Abroad which also had its share of disingenuousness built in to its humour.

Or as Sky puts it

The man with the spherical head is back! An Idiot Abroad returns this autumn as Karl attempts to tick things off his bucket list [unfulfilled dreams]…. Having struggled to find much to do since returning from 2010’s adventure – as he likes to put it, “when you’ve been in a programme called An Idiot Abroad, other job offers aren’t going to be flying in, are they?” intrepid misanthrope Karl Pilkington sets off for a second time in September.

As usual, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pull the strings from the comfort of their office, as Karl journeys further from his comfort zone and
encounters more confused locals and cultural differences.

Karl’s adventures

The result is part travel show, part improvisational art. Carl gets to visit touristy places and comment in ways which are more touristy than the accepted tourist show genre. Individual scenes make great U-tube materials: Carl on a camel; Carl and the not so great wall of China; Carl reacting to the non- Mancunian cultures of a tribe whose members worship Prince Philip; Carl in space. [Only one of the above is made up by me].

Carl Pilkington and the making of celebrity

Carl Pilkington was taken up by Gervase and Merchant after working together on a professional assignment. They related to him as a person of unusual quirky personality and saw the potential for celebrity-making. Their undoubted creative talents, so acclaimed in The Office, are evident in the structuring of this project. It shares part of its success with that of celebrity shows and the complex dynamics of social identity including vicarious enjoyment in both the success and the humiliation of ordinary people.

Carl Pilkington is presented as someone who has celebrity thrust upon him. It the background, the programme supplies the ingredients of humiliation and bullying of an ordinary bloke. The structure is neatly summed up in the blurb above. There’s a big brother somewhere operating in comfort as fools and horses prance for their entertainment.

Creativity trumps cruelty

Creativity trumps cruelty. There are various psychological defences to protect social identity. It is uncool to object to a bit of light-hearted fun. The charge of political correctness gone mad can be wheeled out. And Ricky Gervais can continue to plug this and his next project which involves yet more light-hearted fun involving a gifted artist, Warwick Davies, who becomes the chosen one to benefit from the Gervase treatment. The focal characteristic of the artist in question is indicated in the title “Life’s too short”

Footnote

The issue is far from unambiguous, but you would not think so from the maedia treatment. Warwick Davis makes the ethical case for the programme by noting that critics of the programmes “just don’t get it”.


An Idiot Abroad 2 : Not a Review

September 26, 2011


An Idiot Abroad had begun its second series on Sky 2 TV before I had overcome my aversion to its title and pre-publicity. Its back story raises disturbing questions about creativity, social identity and thought leadership

It was hard to avoid information about An Idiot Abroad (second series) showing on Sky2 TV. The programme had received extensive advance advertising on Sky as innovative comedy within a travel-show format. Its co-founder Ricky Gervase had been tireless in his enthusiastic plugging of it on the chat show circuit. Gervase and collaborator Steve Merchant had become internationally acclaimed for their achievements first in the cultish British TV series The Office, and later in American media ventures.

The big idea

The big idea in the Sky programme was that Gervase and Merchant had stumbled upon a remarkable non-celebrity whose gnomic observations blew their minds. Said non-celebrity became a challenge, a project to bring to the attention of a wider audience who would share their delight in getting to know him. The title may have been inspired by Mark Twain’s once-famous book An Innocent Abroad which also had its share of disingenuousness built in to its humour.

The idiot Abroad, as Sky puts it:

The man with the spherical head is back! An Idiot Abroad returns this autumn as Karl attempts to tick things off his bucket list [unfulfilled dreams]…. Having struggled to find much to do since returning from 2010’s adventure – as he likes to put it, “when you’ve been in a programme called An Idiot Abroad, other job offers aren’t going to be flying in, are they?” intrepid misanthrope Karl Pilkington sets off for a second time in September. As usual, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pull the strings from the comfort of their office, as Karl journeys further from his comfort zone and encounters more confused locals and cultural differences.

Karl’s adventures

The result is an imaginative programme which is part travel show, part improvisational art. Carl gets to visit touristy places and comment in ways which are more touristy than the accepted genre. Individual scenes make great U-tube materials: Carl on a camel; Carl and the not so great wall of China; Carl reacting to the non-Mancunian culture of a tribe whose members worship Prince Philip; Carl in space [I might have made up that one].

Carl Pilkington and the making of celebrity

Carl Pilkington was taken up by Gervase and Merchant after working together on a professional assignment. They related to him as a person of unusual quirky personality and saw the potential for celebrity-making. Their undoubted creative talents, so acclaimed in The Office, are evident in the structuring of this project. It shares part of its success with that of celebrity shows and the complex dynamics of social identity including vicarious enjoyment in both the success and the humiliation of ordinary people.

Carl is presented as someone who has celebrity thrust upon him. It the background, the programme supplies the ingredients of humiliation and bullying of an ordinary bloke. The structure is neatly summed up in the blurb above. There’s a big brother somewhere operating in comfort as fools and horses prance for their entertainment.

Creativity trumps cruelty

There are various psychological defences to protect social identity. Creativity trumps cruelty. Art transcends moral values. It is uncool to object to a bit of light-hearted fun. The charge of political correctness gone mad can be wheeled out. And Ricky Gervais can continue to plug this and his next project. It seems this will involves yet more light-hearted fun involving a gifted artist who becomes the chosen one to benefit from the Gervase celebrity makeover treatment. Parallels with shows orchestrated by ringmasters such as Simon Cowell are clear.


Battle of Ideas: Picking on the Apprentice

October 19, 2008

Alan Sugar acts out the leadership myth

Alan Sugar acts out the leadership myth


Creative leaders are idea warriors. Which is why many will be found engaging in the debate on bullying at work organized by The Institute of Ideas

The Fourth annual Battle of Ideas will involve over 1500 participants including strands on bullying at work, biomedicine, the family and (inevitably for election week).

The bullying at work session has marketed itself as Picking on the Apprentice. Leaderswedeserve has had a few points to make in the past on the television program. Like ourselves, The Institute of Ideas is more interested in hitch-hiking on the over-publicized programme to get at a far wider wider range of issues.

The bullying event will examine the recent case when a Marks & Spencer employee was fired for whistle blowing. And the example of Jason Toal, a black fireman bullied by colleagues who hurled racist taunts at him and allegedly soaked him with water and binned his paper work.

Other sessions will explore whether management consultancy and the professionals are in need of a stronger moral compass in the interests of the community, and (if that appeal is not enough) for their own post-credit crunch survival.

Political correctness running sane

Many people have developed a kneejerk reaction to describe their feekings of frustration and anger under the catch-all phrase political correctness gone mad. It might be interesting to trace the origins of this.

I have no doubt that themes within the Battle of Ideas will attract the inevitable media take of political correctness running mad . Which is OK. It is a comfort to think that debate offers a chance to develop more balanced views, and more importantly to act accordingly. On balance I’d say that is political correctness operating in a socially healthy way.

Acknowledgement: The Institute of ideas for the press release which prompted this post