Britain has a culture of pretence. Artists, comedians and journalists present themselves as brave speakers of truth to power, the smasher of establishments and the breakers of taboos, while all the time behaving as badly as the people they criticise. The hypocrisy is not the worst of it. Our culture suffers because the best satirists have often been natural conservatives who pitch the supposedly virtuous old order against ridiculous innovations of the present. As I have written before, Swift, Powell, Waugh and most of the rest of the great satirists followed Juvenal, who contrasted old virtuous Rome with the vulgarity brought by Greek flatterers and Jewish merchants who had so corrupted the eternal city that they left ?no room for honest callings?. Nostalgia is often false. But it is a devastating satirical technique. The old is comforting, familiar and tested. The new is confusing, faddish and dangerous. You do not have to be right wing to be a conservative, obviously. Nostalgia for the old social democratic order the conservatives were destroying with their weird market ideologies spurred the anti-Thatcher satire boom of the 1980s.
The trouble today is that you do ? rather obviously ? have to subscribe to a mushy version of left-liberal thought if you want to perform political comedy or write political drama for British radio or television. The former BBC presenter Dennis Sewell has produced an interesting pamphlet for the?New Culture Forum describing a system of soft censorship at the BBC, which excludes contrary writers. Although I disagree with his conclusions ? rather than abolish censorship, he wants to extend it to ensure the BBC balances ?left? comedy or drama with ?conservative? comedy or drama ? his case against the status quo is unanswerable.