Attack on The Archers leads to debate over multiculturalism
Richard Bacon accused of 'pandering to smug metropolitan elite' - but Delingpole takes his side
RADIO FIVE DJ Richard Bacon has ripped open a can of worms after laying into that national institution, The Archers. He described Radio 4's pastoral soap opera as "humdrum" and middle-class, prompting an unexpected debate about multiculturalism in Britain.
Writing in the Radio Times, Bacon (above) said he could not understand why people would want to listen to "fictional rural people chat aimlessly about their menial chores and the small business decisions they might take".
He also employed the classic rhetorical trick, beloved of sixth-formers, of branding anyone who disagreed with him a conceited liar. "I honestly believe there are two types of people in the world," he declared. "Those who find The Archers boring... and those who find it boring but pretend to enjoy it as they think it makes them look superior."
Unsurprisingly his views did not go down well in some quarters. And it was not long before the debate had spiralled into a furious argument over political correctness and the fragmentation of British society, mainly played out in the pages of The Daily Telegraph.
In an editorial, the paper dismissed Bacon's view of the Radio 4 show as the "self-indulgent maunderings of a smug metropolitan elite".
However, the columnist James Delingpole then took the debate in a surprising direction by admitting that he agreed with Bacon, but not for the reasons he had put forward.
"The Archers isn't hateful because it's about farming and nothing ever happens. It's hateful because it's not about farming and far too much does happen," Delingpole declared, before launching into a vitriolic attack on the BBC for making the series too PC.
Trampling into the political minefield last visited during the row over the all-white cast of the TV series Midsomer Murders, which has now introduced ethnic characters, Delingpole bemoaned the lack of white middle-class characters for the show's ills.
He quoted approvingly from a blog called England Calling, which criticised the presence in The Archers of a female vicar, gay pub landlord and too many ethnic characters - and described it as a "multicultural fantasy".
(Incidentally, the same blog has previously advertised its far-right credentials by describing the conviction of the Stephen Lawrence murderers as "a savage and sinister travesty of justice" and claiming that a racist Croydon tram ranter was reacting to the "claustrophobia of diversity".)
Bacon predicted a backlash from Archers fans - but did he expect to cause a row about multiculturalism in rural England? He should keep an eye on the letters page of The Daily Telegraph, where it's likely to unfold in the days to come.