The first offering from Simon Schama’s much-trailed ten-week stint on Radio 4’s A Point of View is pretty much as expected – Labour spin from a Labour supporter. According to Schama the narrowing polls prove that “we” the electorate really want bad tempered tough guy Gordon Brown as our leader, in defiance of those nasty anti-Brown newspapers and their politically-motivated narrative about the PM as a bully. (Remind me – where was Andrew Rawnsley’s book serialised? Oh yes, those renowned Tory rags The Observer and The Guardian.) In his attempt to convince us that Gordon’s the man we desire Schama gives much of his essay over to an embarrassingly unfunny imagined phone call between Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell (whose name he misspells). Schama’s services don’t come cheap; if this dire effort is a foretaste of what’s to come I think a BBC Trust inquiry could be in order. There’s not much that BBC bosses enjoy more than throwing bundles of cash at their favourite historian in return for his reliably left-of-centre take on events, but even some of them must be concerned at the quality of this opening piece.
And what’s with Schama referring to himself in the third person? He did in it one of the two oft-repeated trails for the programme (the other had him enthusing about Labour closing the gap in the polls), and he does it again in an interview for the Radio 4 blog. It’s an affectation that’s ridiculous in ego-inflated punch-drunk boxers, never mind fucking historians.
Update. Forgot to add, Schama does get one thing correct – suck up to your opponents and likely they’ll spit in your eye. Last week, in one of those depressingly common celeb-obsessed announcements that all political parties love, the Tories promised to involve big-name historians in their proposed overhaul of the national curriculum. One of those historians? Simon Schama.