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March 01, 2007

Peter Riddell and "Committed Comedians"

Posted by Jeremy Black

A senior Times journalist with whom I discussed the matter in January, agreed that Peter Riddell was over-exposed in the paper, but explained that his contract allowed him such frequent outings. Aside, however, from the predictability of his political slant, which makes reading them somewhat wearisome, he does come up with some odd views.

In response to Rory Bremner's impersonation of the Chancellor (who is doing a good, but misleading impersonation of prudence and fiscal competence himself), Riddell delivered one of his characteristically petulant attacks. In this, he decried "committed comedians" as a contradiction in terms. One wonders what he makes of the long tradition of British satire. I do not notice Riddell condemning the (very apt and impressive) caricatures in his own paper. Comedy certainly lessens respect for politicians and for the political purpose, but its capacity for lambasting humbug, cant and bombast is crucial to the political health of a free society. We will all be unsettled by some of the attacks, but should prefer them to the dead stability of censorship.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter.

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