Saturday, October 30, 2010
I found out at the last minute this Thursday just passed that Alastair Campbell had a speaking engagement at Sheffield University. Interestingly the student group, 'The Exchange', who normally inform everyone on their mailing list of upcoming political speakers kept quiet on this one.
I managed to get hold of a ticket in the nick of time and attend.
I've never been so ashamed of Sheffield in my life.
There is simply no way the BNP, for example, would ever be able to have a speaker attend Sheffield University. Even if there were no 'no platform' policy, UAF and every other student group would be mobilised to stop it, and if they failed, protest outside in their hundreds and likely attempt to intimidate everyone going in.
How then is it possible that this serial distorter and murderer of the truth, who was amongst other things the chief architect for the fabric of lies that led the U.K. into that obscenity known as the Iraq War, was to be welcomed with open arms, his every quip received with warm chortles? This man has the blood of thousands on his hands through murder, injury and torture.
The host of the event, which was set up in an entertainment chat-show format, asked him expectedly softball questions. This was an irritant, but expected. It was the audience however who absolutely stunned me with their almost sychophantic acceptance of all of his talking points (such as the idea that anyone bringing up the deficit had some kind of pathological 'deficit fetish') and - most importantly - when they had their chance to question him themselves they went for the most mind blowingly anodyne and saccharin questions one could imagine.
Examples included 'what do you do in your shed?' and 'do you get free tickets for Wimbledon?' I spent most of the event shaking my head in absolute abject despair at the level of political dialogue. I continually put my hand up but did not get picked by the presenter. I'm not surprised, my body language must have looked very angry and aggressive and I spent the whole time staring at him, not clapping or laughing along with the ship of fools that was the Sheffield audience.
One of my friends wrote the idiocy off as just students being generally uninformed after I related this to her. I was sorry to tell her that the vast majority of the audience, which packed out the entire Octagon centre (1250 capacity auditorium) at the University, were not students and the average age was between 40-50. So these people have been fully cognizant of our wonderful 13 year journey with the Labour debt - and people - bombers.
Towards the end, the presenter allowed a 'quick fire round', where people could shout out brief questions that Campbell would then try to answer. It was at this point that he received his only difficult question of the night - one young chap shouted out "how right was Andrew Gilligan?"
When Campbell finally got around to answering this, his response was simply "Andrew Gilligan? Completely wrong on everything". That was it. I blew a gasket and started heckling. I'd purposefully sat in a prominent location, in a raised seating area at the back that gave me direct eye contact between the row separating the seating areas in front of me. "Andrew Gilligan was VINDICATED" I boomed down the aisle. The entire emasculated audience appeared absolutely shocked at my audacity.
Campbell repeated his line again at which point it degenerated into a mouth off between him and me. He said something outrageously idiotic which I can't remember, however it set me off into a long belly laugh which irritated him, and he said something like 'whatever facts the gentleman is privy to do not worry me'.
At which point I completely lost it and fully sounded off in a rant at him, telling him that I know he wouldn't be worried by facts, by his fake affectation to be down with the common man, (one of the questioners had previously asked him what it was he brought to the table for Tony Blair - his response was to claim that when he went to football matches he didn't sit in the VIP area, but deigned to mix with the 'common man' and therefore he understood the 'common man'),because he was a member of the political class, in the Westminster bubble.
He got shirty for a bit then remembered his snake-oil training and chose very carefully neutral words simply restating his position. I was shaking with rage and only began to calm down at the end when a nice chap and his girlfriend approached me and thanked me for standing up to him and said I was "very brave".
On the whole the evening really reminded me of why I'm glad to be leaving Sheffield. It is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, having failed completely to start evolving into a more cosmopolitan and forward thinking place unlike most of the other core cities, and is packed - still - with people in complete denial regarding the economy, who expect state handouts for everything, who think there is an endless source of money for everything and everyone. I frankly have no sympathy at all. Sheffield is going to deserve whatever bad things come its way - the audience in the room were certainly representative of the City's more influential and better informed people.
For shame Sheffield, for shame.
God help this city.