This book was picked semi-randomly out of a second hand shop's three quid pile when in a rush to catch a train. The provocative title sounded interesting, and the author's name was vaguely familiar from Radio 4, so I was expecting something moderately entertaining and/or thought-provoking like Radio 4 output often is.
There is a saying that assumption is the mother of all cock-ups. Well, I really dropped a bollock here.
50 People Who Buggered Up Britain starts off as you might expect with a table of contents. This lists the acknowledgements, introductory material, one chapter each for fifty-five people, and a summary. So the title's wrong for a start.
The acknowledgements then provide the first warning sign: it thanks the Daily Mail library.
Moving on to the introduction, right there on the first page he bangs on about blacks, “Asian” (by which we can safely assume is his code for Muslim) bombers, and Christian values. The remainder of this diatribe continues the general theme of God and declining moral values until it stops abruptly at page four, presumably because his green pen ran out of ink.
As Jeremy Hardy noted on a recent News Quiz, he likes it when people say “I'm not a racist but…” because that means he knows they're a loon and saves time deciding whether they have anything interesting to say. And so it took just a couple of minutes to discover that Quentin Letts is a Daily Mail reading, God-bothering, right-wing, prize bell-end.
Still, morbid curiousity drives me onwards. If you were to ask random Brits for a list of odious folk, the same names of senior policitians and celebrity attention-seekers will come up again and again. And indeed Quentin's selection contains few surprises. It is in alphabetical order, starting with Jeffrey Archer and concluding with Harold Wilson. Curiously, when I looked between Suzi Leather and Callum McCarthy I failed to see Quentin Letts, which strikes me as a serious omission.
His selection of politicians and their advisers manages to be about the only fair and balanced bit of the whole book, drawing equally from both the Labour and Conservative parties. Each one gets their greed and bad decisions pointed out, although he adds nothing to what we already knew. An odd inclusion is Margaret Thatcher, because I had a mental image of Quentin being the kind of person with a signed photograph of her next to his bed. It turned out to be praise followed by a rant about how he disagreed with the way she dealt with the miners' strike.
The choice of non-politicians at least adds a bit of insight into Quentin's diseased mind. Jimmy Saville gets blasted for not conforming. Given that this was written before Jimmy was accused of being a paedophile, Quentin would no doubt suffer an embolism if he were to try writing it today. Janet Street Porter features due to speaking funny and also being non-conforming. Why, she's been married more than once, the slattern! Alan Titchmarsh's only crime appears to be that he happened to be on the telly when Quentin was running out of ideas.
He takes a pot shot at Rupert Murdoch, which I'm sure is completely unrelated to reports of him no longer writing for the Times. Sadly, he fails to document the method of his departure, which would no doubt have been riveting.
The money shots in this book are where the God-bothering shines through. Richard Dawkins is an “anti-Christ”, compounding his sins by having the wrong alma mater. The shame of going to Oxford instead of Cambridge! The Alternative Service Book earns The Very Rev. Ronald Jasper an entry, and Graham Kendrick gets his for writing hymns Quentin doesn't like. At the end of that, I'm amazed that God wasn't included for creating a universe that doesn't revolve around Quentin.
Incredibly, this drivel was a “best-seller”, apparently shifting 45,000 copies. At least I have the twin satisfaction of him not seeing a penny of royalties from my purchase and taking one of the copies of this tome out of circulation.
This is very much a book to leave in the loo. While the cover is made of shiny card that would get stuck in the U-bend, the pages within appear quite absorbent. Sadly, the Kindle version will rob you of even that pleasure.