Round-up: drinks on the Tube, Blair uniting religions, Mary Whitehouse, high fuel costs

As you can see, I have not blogged much this week, mainly out of being tired after getting up in the morning to do various driving jobs. However, it’s Sunday and I’m well and truly recovered, so I’ve decided to come back (actually, I did Friday and yesterday as well, but could not write well when I was tired).

Last Thusday, BBC2 aired a bio-pic of Mary Whitehouse, the woman who launched a “Clean Up TV” campaign (which evolved into the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association which is now MediaWatch UK) which lasted several decades and led to the establishment of the 9pm “watershed”, after which they can show sex and violence and swearing. She became a hate figure, not only because many people actually liked the things she was complaining about, or at least did not find every instance of it offensive, but also because she became notorious for complaining about things she had not in fact seen, and for seeking out excuses to be offended.

I found bits of the bio-pic, Filth: the Mary Whitehouse Story, enlightening, and there were highly amusing bits (such as when she and her fellow campaigners initially called their campaign Clean Up National TV), but reading reviews of the programme make me less sure about the programme’s honesty. The director-general of the BBC, Sir Hugh Carleton Greene, who refused to meet Whitehouse, was portrayed as a misogynistic boor, but according to the Guardian’s review, he “had reported the German invasion of Poland to the sleeping Poles and had seen all he ever intended to see of censorship”. There was one scene, near the beginning, where Whitehouse was shown happily cycling through a bucolic English country village past a bruised, battered housewife, and (although this must have been a bit I missed), there were speculations about her supposedly repressed sex life also. The film improbably suggests that Greene resigned in frustration after yet another missive from Whitehouse, but it’s commonly believed that the real cause of his resignation was an internal power struggle. Also, the Pink Floyd song Pigs (Three Different Ones), which explicitly attacks Whitehouse, formed the background music fairly early on in the programme, when Whitehouse was getting hostile letters, but it did not appear on record until 1977, more than ten years after this part of the story.

Yesterday some idiots decided to hold a party on the Underground, to mark the passing of the age when they could drink on the public transport system in London. I didn’t support Boris Johnson as anyone who has been reading me for a while knows, but this is long overdue; I find sitting around people who insist on drinking on the Tube (usually men, usually late at night) threatening and besides, I don’t want any of it on my clothes, thank you very much. I am usually in favour of civil liberties, but people’s right to travel and not feel threatened as they do so is more important.

The other day Tony Blair launched his Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which “aims to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world” according to its mission statement. I can’t help but be cynical about this whole exercise, as when he was in office, Blair went along with Bush all the way, and the prevailing agenda under Bush is not about uniting the “three Abrahamic faiths” but uniting two of them against a third. I would like to see a campaign aimed at uniting people of faith against oppressive secularism, and opposing ostensibly secularist or nationalist legislation which tramples on the rights of religious minorities while conveniently allowing followers of the majority religion to function unhindered, and if that is what Blair intends to do, all well and good. If it’s another vehicle for Blair to go round the world giving feel-good speeches to select audiences (who won’t ask difficult questions) while making lots of money, it’s not so good.

This week the price of fuel seemed to continue its inexorable rise, with diesel selling for more than £1.30 per litre (yes, litre) in many places in the UK, and truckers were complaining that they could not feed their families because they were spending too much money on fuel. I can’t help but think that the reason fuel is now getting scarce is because it has been wasted; some of these trucks have 14- or even 16-litre engines, not all of them used for moving abnormal loads, and a few years ago Scania discontinued a 14-litre engine in favour of a 16-litre one. An example of wasting fuel is the journey I had to make on Thursday, in which I had to go from Hastings to the Isle of Grain via Ashford, which involved driving for an hour and a half along “main roads” which are actually mostly windy and hilly country lanes (the A259 and A251), just to deliver one plastic sign to a building site in Ashford, which could have been sent by post or by courier. The difference between the two journeys is about 20 miles, completely out of proportion to the volume that had to be delivered (and the van was fully loaded). Companies really need to consider whether it’s necessary to send a van out for tiny deliveries like these.

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