Friday, January 27, 2006

An amusing conservative

Mr Dale’s blog invites Lib Dems to have a sense of humour at their own expense, before printing a puerile rewriting of the Twelve Days of Christmas mocking the Lib Dems. It’s the sort of thing that passed for humour among Members of the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s.

One conservative who really did know how to make fun of liberals and lefties was Michael Wharton, author for many years of the Way of the World column in the Daily Telegraph, who has died aged 92. Wharton, who wrote under the alias Peter Simple, created a vast array of characters from ‘progressive’ Britain – left-wing prelates and clergymen, social workers and agony aunts, many of whom lived in the fictional conurbation of Stetchford and rejoiced in the thought that ‘we are all guilty’ for society’s ills.

Wharton’s skill was to get inside the mind and master the language of those he sought to satirise. It was a quality he shared with other great right-wing humourists such as Auberon Waugh and PJ O’Rourke. His work was therefore so much more effective than the ‘What is the world coming to’ windbaggery of a Paul Johnson or Simon Heffer.

When was in my teens during the 1980s the best humour seemed to come from the right. True, there was the alternative comedy of Ben Elton et al but this seemed to consist mainly of saying ‘Thatch – what a fascist’ and the like.

What made Michael Wharton funny was his scepticism of all schemes for human improvement – one reason why he and his kind are hated by the Polly Toynbees of this world who see laughter as a distraction from the New Labour project.

The Daily Telegraph has a very good obituary
of Wharton. The Telegraph has become rather boorish and tiresome lately so I have been forced to defect to the Guardian, but this is very much in the old style. There is also a nice tribute by AN Wilson in the Spectator

1 comment:

Iain Dale said...

Iain, that's probably why I found it funny. I was a member of that august organisation in the 1980s! I'm sure there is a Conservative version floating around out there somewhere...