SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 23rd January 2005

The word on the street is people prefer posh


Is that a pig I see flying past my window? I never thought the day would come when the BBC acknowledged that the majority of regional accents are deeply unpleasant and most viewers and listeners would prefer to hear people speaking Standard English. Henry Higgins, where are you when we need you?

In a survey of over 5,000 people, the BBC has discovered that the most unpopular accents are those from Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Northern Ireland, while the ones people like best belong to Sean Connery, Hugh Grant and the Queen. In other words, guttural, street cred accents are out and Received Pronunciation is in.

As a long-standing critic of the BBC's love affair with strong, regional accents, I feel I've been vindicated at last. For the past 25 years, BBC mandarins have been promoting people with "working class" accents at the expense of people who sound "posh" in a wholly misguided attempt to win over ordinary people. Indeed, until now, the only way for someone educated at a public school to survive at the Corporation has been to pretend to be from a more humble background than they really are, the most glaring example being Tim Westwood, the Bishop's son who managed to secure a slot as a Radio One DJ by speaking in a ridiculously hammed-up "black" accent.

I've always suspected that this anti-public school bias was prompted by the guilt of white, middle-class BBC executives, many of whom went to Oxford or Cambridge, rather than any genuine belief that it would please the license-payers--and now the BBC itself has proved this to be the case. According to the survey, which was commissioned by BBC Audience and Consumer Research, not only do people prefer presenters who sound like they've been properly educated, but a majority of the British public would happily swap their regional dialects for Standard English.

"I cannot believe how thick my Geordie accent is," said one respondent. "It makes me very reluctant to speak at meetings." (It's unclear whether the Beeb had to employ an interpreter to understand what this man was saying.)

In a perfect world, the BBC would execute an abrupt U-turn and make the likes of Graham Norton, Huw Edwards and John Humphries take elocution lessons as a condition of remaining on the payroll. Come to think of it, forcing these prima donnas to "talk proper", with a panel of toffs pronouncing their verdict after eight weeks, might make for a very entertaining reality show. They could call it Posh Idol. With a bit of luck, they might even be able to get Ben Fogle to present it. Now there's a nice young man--and what a lovely accent he has!

THE NANNY STATE

Oh dear. I was disappointed to see that Supernanny, the television programme in which Jo Frost advises parents on how to cope with naughty children, has made its debut in the States. American men already think of British women as starchy, blue-stockinged, Mary Poppins-types--and seeing Jo Frost on television each week, with her stiff-upper-lipped, no-nonsense approach, will only confirm this impression.

Why can't the British export a show like Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City to the States? It's about time we let our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic know that not all our womenfolk are dead below the waist.

IS BIGGER BETTER?

What do the big winners of last week's Golden Globes all have in common? To refresh your memory, the films that won prizes included Ray, Sideways and Million Dollar Baby. Give up? They're all over two hours long.

Hollywood filmmakers have always taken the view that the longer a film is, the more likely it is to win prizes, and this year is no exception. The film expected to sweep the Oscars, The Aviator, has a running time of 166 minutes, while last year's big winner, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, clocked in at a whopping 200 minutes.

Still, while few films under two hours ever win prizes, not every three-hour epic picks up an award. So far, Alexander, Oliver Stone's 175-minute biopic, has yet to win a single gong.

CURTAIN CALL

I was sorry to hear that Andrew Lloyd Webber is considering selling his business empire. But I can't say I'm surprised. When he took the decision to invest a substantial part of his fortune in the film version of The Phantom of the Opera he broke the number one rule in the producers' handbook, namely, never to put any money into one of your own shows. This is such a well-known maxim, there's even a gag about it In The Producers. As of last weekend, Phantom had only taken $7 million at the US box office, making it a colossal bomb.

Nevertheless, I can't share in the huge outpouring of schadenfreude that has greeted the news of Lloyd Webber's misfortune. I don't have strong feelings either way about his musicals, but at least he's kept open the 11 West End theatres he owns. He claimed the reason he bought them five years ago for £90 million was to prevent them being snapped up by commercially-minded bean-counters. "The thing about theatre is you've got to take risks," he told David Frost in 2000. True to his word, Llloyd Webber spent several million restoring the Palace Theatre before unveiling his latest musical there last year.

So far, only four of his theatres have been put on the block: the Duchess, the Apollo, the Garrick and the Lyric. From a West End theatregoer's point of view, the best possible outcome would be if they were bought by Cameron Mackintosh. Sir Cameron, who owns seven West End venues, spent over £7 million refurbishing the Prince of Wales and is currently developing the Strand into a state-of-the-art multiplex, encompassing several theatrical spaces under one roof.

Lloyd Webber's difficulties are a salutary reminder that not everyone who appears on the various Rich Lists each year is in good shape, financially speaking. "Everyone thinks we've got a fortune hanging around, but in actual fact the company's got a big debt," he said in December. "I'm a very, very bad businessman and I don't think I've always been very well advised."

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter RT @afneil: Well I’ve never seen a penny of this. And until I do I’ll just keep holding of the feet of Remainers and Leavers to the fire. h…  (26 minutes ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski - the-american-interest.com
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film