Friday, July 30, 2010

Staggers Lee

The New Statesman arriving on a Friday is now a mixed blessing, given the unflinchingly hostile line it has taken to the coalition from day 1. The only way is seems able to treat the new government is with retro 80s-style anti-Thatcherite rhetoric.

The theme of this week's issue is 'Politics and comedy' and includes an article on arts funding by alleged comedian Stewart Lee. Deploring the likelihood of cuts in state arts budgets, he comments: 'Artists are sensitive souls who may feel compromised by sponsorship' (article not available online so far as I can tell). But in that case might they not also feel compromised by taking state funds provided by a government that the Staggers editiorial describes (not wholly in jest, I fear) as 'dismembering the country'. One wonders whether artists might not also feel tainted by guilt by association through accepting the dismemberers' shilling.

Despite all this, I don't quite yet share Stephen Tall's gloomy conclusion that: 'I've given up on the Staggers. The book reviews are good but the politics are too formulaicly dull.' I like reading a weekly magazine and there is still good stuff in there: Peter Wilby, Rachel Cooke, Nicholas Lezard and so forth. And if the Staggers is frustrating reading for a Liberal just now, at least it's nowhere near as bad as the Spectator, which is going through a deeply unpleasant phase at the moment, dominated, as Jonathan Calder says, by 'right-wing American nutjobbery'.

2 comments:

Andy said...

"alleged comedian Stewart Lee"?

Look, I don't know whether I agree with Lee's views on this or not, since I don't buy the New Statesman, but that comment is just ridiculous and cheap. Lee is one of the best stand-ups working in Britain today. His work includes some brilliant political material.

I'm sure you have a point in regard to arts funding, but can we please not start randomly slagging off anyone who doesn't happen to be taking the line we might like them to?

Iain said...

Fair enough! I also decided that the 'alleged' was a bit cheap, intended to delete it but unfortunately forgot, so there it stands. I suppose to delete it now would be bowdlerising.

On the other hand Lee is not above being cheap himself - his routine on books which included having a go at 'celebrity hardbacks' was smug, mean-spirited and an attack on an easy target.