JAN MOIR: First they came for our statues, then it was our Midget Gems…where will it all end?
From the sublime to the ridiculous, from sweets to sculpture, from Midget Gems to Eric Gill, where will it all end?
Let’s start with the ridiculous. This week the chewy sweets known as Midget Gems were rebranded ‘Mini Gems’ by Marks & Spencer after a disability campaigner claimed that the name could offend those with dwarfism, and even called it ‘hate speech’.
One complaint was all it took for the gems to be hurriedly rebranded, but why stop there?
Why not cancel Smarties, which seem to suggest there are also Thickies on the sweet shelf of life — how unfair is that?
Gummi Bears cruelly ridicule the appearance of dentally challenged ursine creatures while the very existence of Jelly Babies mocks the osteopathic status of infants, whose bones are largely composed of cartilage until the ossification process is complete.
Who will speak up for these wibbly-wobbly tots, so heartlessly ridiculed by this popular sweet, a glutinous effigy of pure hatred?
For this latest outrage by a concerned citizen who’s convinced himself he is on a noble crusade to right the wrongs of the past, I blame the recent case of the Colston statue in Bristol and the not guilty verdicts settled on the four protesters who pulled it down
If, once again, it falls to me to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted Curly Wurlys with the simple lollipop of truth and the trusty chocolate button of common sense, then so be it.
We all know you can’t depend on a Flake while, shush, please Wispa it, nobody even mention Minstrels.
In the pick ’n’ mix of cancel culture, perhaps we should not be too outraged at the renaming of a sweet, but the creep of wokeism sluices through modern life in a horrifying way, a mudslide of its own unstoppable intolerances. Just over the past few days we have had: a respected criminologist at Staffordshire University being investigated following complaints by students that he is a transphobe. His ‘crime’ was to express support for keeping jails as single-sex institutions — to protect female prisoners.
A Cambridge don caused offence by describing mixed-race academic David Olusoga as ‘eloquent’ — it was seen as patronising — while a generation of white male writers in Hollywood is discovering what it feels like to be pushed aside and overlooked as film companies struggle to keep up diversity quotas and employ people of colour and females.
In the UK, author Jacqueline Wilson has rewritten the Enid Blyton classic The Magic Faraway Tree into an acceptably woke gender equality version — as Enid would say, how beastly! — while David Baddiel has joined Dame Maureen Lipman to complain that Jewish roles aren’t cast authentically compared to other minorities — despite the fact that he once used blackface in a sketch, while she once appeared as an Anglican vicar on TV.
These days, everyone seems to be locked, loaded and set to woke battle stations, simply determined to find fault.
Look at the protester — certainly a few Smarties short of a selection box — who scaled a ladder outside BBC’s Broadcasting House in Central London and rained blows on the statue of Prospero and Ariel by Eric Gill, the artist who sexually abused his daughters and also his dog
So many are braced for potential offence — no matter how genuinely innocently it might have been administered — that I suspect they even welcome it into their humdrum lives, taking pleasure in the sense of power and disruption it brings.
Look at the protester — certainly a few Smarties short of a selection box — who scaled a ladder outside BBC’s Broadcasting House in Central London and rained blows on the statue of Prospero and Ariel by Eric Gill, the artist who sexually abused his daughters and also his dog.
Gill’s crimes are well known, but is this the way forward? Smashing off Ariel’s tiny stone penis and kneecapping Prospero with a masonry hammer while police officers looked on for four hours, wringing their hands?
Some of the greatest artists and creators in history were monsters in their private life, but does that mean their historical contributions are worthless, offensive and must be obliterated?
That makes us no better than the book-burning Taliban, who famously blew up two 1,500-year-old Buddha statues in 2001.
Back then we were horrified at their intolerance and barbarism, but if things carry on like this, there will barely be a statue left standing in the land.
Just a few hundred yards to the north of the Gill statue is a bronze bust of John F. Kennedy (slept with other women while married, tsk) and less than a mile away in Regent’s Park lurks a fountain adorned with a statue of Hylas and the Nymph.
Did someone say nymph? Surely got to be some bad business there. According to mythology Hylas’s father was a king (white privilege) and his mum a nymph (possible trafficking) and later he was abducted by more nymphs (no relation, but who knows?) when he was on a cruise. Where is my hammer? Lemme at him.
For this latest outrage by a concerned citizen who’s convinced himself he is on a noble crusade to right the wrongs of the past, I blame the recent case of the Colston statue in Bristol and the not guilty verdicts settled on the four protesters who pulled it down.
Some of the greatest artists and creators in history were monsters in their private life, but does that mean their historical contributions are worthless, offensive and must be obliterated? That makes us no better than the book-burning Taliban, who famously blew up two 1,500-year-old Buddha statues in 2001 (file image of students from 2007)
There was a failure of justice to be applied, a failure of the court to apply the law and a failure by the judge to direct the jury properly.
Part of the defending argument was that if the statue itself is an offence or deemed an indecent display, then a guilty verdict would be a disproportionate infringement of the defendants’ rights under the Human Rights Act.
Which means if you apply the same argument to the Taliban, to the Prospero smasher, to anyone else with a grievance against granite, they must be innocent, too.
The Prospero basher and his accomplice were eventually arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken into custody.
At one point he told negotiators (!) that the statue should have been taken down previously.
He said: ‘If this happened decades ago, I wouldn’t be here would I?’
You see? It’s not his fault.
Well, it takes liquorice allsorts, but it is still not right.
Fitzroy Gaynes, who is 64, is suing his health club for refusing to play any music that is more than 18 months old.
I share his pain. Who needs hip hop when you could have bebop? But why is it always the other guy’s fault?
Fitzroy could maybe put some earbuds in and listen to Matt Monro or whatever is his jam.
Maybe he could even move to a different health club, instead of trying to force everyone to adapt to his tastes.
Or am I being unfair?
Melania’s hat. . . yours for £175,000!
Did you clean out a few cupboards over the holidays? Well, you were not alone. Melania Trump is auctioning off a hat, while Olivia Newton-John is auctioning off some right old tat.
For reasons known only to herself, Melania is selling the rather lovely Hervé Pierre hat she wore for President Macron’s visit in 2018, along with a watercolour and some other knick-knacks. I’ve always loved that hat! Maybe I’ll . . . oh hang on, bids start at £175,000. Maybe not.
Meanwhile, the Olivia auction boasts some real treasures, ahem, including autographed pebbles, a porcelain koala bear, some old skirts, some lightly-worn shoes and boots, and a selection of six of her scarves, for which some hopeful fan has already bid £100. I’ve got my eye on one item: a handmade ‘river rock generously embellished with crystals’.
You’re the one that I want! Not really.
For reasons known only to herself, Melania is selling the rather lovely Hervé Pierre hat she wore for President Macron’s visit in 2018
Dame Vera’s art of living
Twenty of Dame Vera Lynn’s paintings have gone on display in the village of Ditchling, East Sussex. Curators found more than 300 paintings in her collection and were amazed by her output.
Not me. When I visited the former Forces’ Sweetheart at her home, she had turned the entire second floor into a 70ft-long recreation room.
‘Up there is my painting area, my office area, my play area and my sewing area,’ she told me.
She had always liked to keep herself busy — it not only kept her young, but in her very old age it kept her alive and active.
Back in the days of rationing and coupons, she once sewed herself a summer dress from four gingham tea towels.
When she first moved to Ditchling with her husband and small daughter, she made all the curtains, cushions, sofa covers and antimacassars herself.
That was just what her generation did. And her practicality and industry kept her going.
Dame Vera lived to 103, sewing, painting, living frugally.
‘Only my leggy-peggies let me down,’ she said, once she used sticks to get around.
Every day she had Special K for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, roast chicken for supper.
Her single indulgence was a big glass of red wine and a packet of crisps at 6pm.
Her paintings may not be the greatest works of art, but what a fine testament to simple strength of character and a life well lived.
The awards season is barely under way and already I am fizzing with the unfairness of it all. First Gillian Anderson won a Golden Globe for her ridiculous portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Crown last year, and now Jared Leto is up for a Screen Actors Guild award for playing Paolo Gucci in House Of Gucci. Under a welter of prosthetics, Jared plays the mildly eccentric Italian businessman as if he were a certifiable lunatic.
I don’t even want to talk about Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci. If current trends persist, he’ll win the Oscar for Best Supporting Ham.
So long, Sinitta — he’s a family man now
Lauren Silverman is engaged to her boyfriend Simon Cowell — at last!
Apparently Lauren ‘urged Simon to commit to family life and prioritise the present over hanging out with his exes.’
Good for her! She’s right, after all.
The couple first met in 2010 and have a son, Eric, now aged seven. They live together, their lives are entwined together in the loveliest of ways and they have a future together. So why not go the whole way?
There comes a time when every man has to put away childish things, and I don’t just mean Sinitta.
Simon has always liked to think of himself as an eternal bachelor, a rock biz troubadour — a man for whom the notion of domesticity and sharing and settling down was once horrifying.
Yet he will probably adore being a husband in the same way that — much to his own surprise — he absolutely adores being a father.
Perhaps he has realised in the final act that family life is not a trap and that it can be a source of the most profound joy instead.
So at the age of 62, it is growing up time at last for my dear friend, Simon.
Better late than never, but how marvellous for him.
Lauren Silverman is engaged to her boyfriend Simon Cowell — at last!