Keep your wagging fingers off The Archers, Poll
It’s no good. I’ve tried and tried to resist the temptation to write about Polly Toynbee, because being ridiculed in The Daily Telegraph might only encourage her, but I’ve caved in. It’s one thing to have her writing crazy articles denouncing Tories for their deplorable baby-eating, granny-murdering practices, but she mostly does that in the privacy of The Guardian and it does little harm.
After all, she’s unreadable.
But yesterday she attacked The Archers for being insufficiently political and I was so incensed I actually read until the end. Ed and Emma Grundy are short of money, but “there is something important missing. Neither of them say a word about benefits, not child benefit or tax credits or childcare credits to help Emma at work. No mention of working tax credit to top up Ed's pay, nor of housing benefit for their rent.” Why might this be? Is it possible that the Archers team realise that its listeners seek a bit of R & R? Stories? Make-believe? Dare we say, a politics-free zone?
Nope. We’re too credulous. Polly knows what’s what. “The reason is easy to guess. If the Grundys started talking about benefits they would soon talk of benefit cuts, part of the reason their income is sliding.” This is serious. “When programmes like The Archers are silent on government policy, it's no wonder the public feels so disengaged”. She scornfully poo-poohed the producer, Vanessa Whitburn, when she explained on yesterday’s PM programme that she was giving listeners what they want.
The good news is that her humourlessness and mad tribalism proved too much even for Guardian readers. I had a look at some of the comments on the site and saw none supporting her. One of the contributors who took her seriously explained: “Typical rural communities are overwhelmingly conservative in their social and political attitudes. Any realistic discussions would decry the ban on foxhunting, be totally antagonistic to Defra and all its works, be anti-EU which imposes so many restrictions and regulations on farming, despise Gypsies, have absolutely no sympathy with benefit claimants if they had refused agricultural work that resulted in mass immigration of East Europeans, and so on. Be careful what you wish for Ms Toynbee.”
Most of them laughed at her. I liked: “When I watched Skyfall there was similarly no mention of the impact of austerity on MI6. Simply disgraceful pandering to our Conservative-led overlords. Or something.”
OK. I apologise for yielding to temptation, but The Archers is sacrosanct. Now I promise to try never to mention the dreary tunnel-visioned propagandist again.
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Ruth Dudley Edwards