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Status anxiety

Would I still hate pontificating actors if they agreed with me?

I don’t ever expect to find out

28 January 2017

9:00 AM

28 January 2017

9:00 AM

I feel a bit sorry for Piers Morgan. On Tuesday, Ewan McGregor was due to appear on the sofa with Piers on ITV’s Good Morning to talk about the Trainspotting sequel, but he failed to turn up. Later, the actor explained on Twitter that it was due to the journalist’s remarks about the women’s marches that took place last weekend, in which he described some of the participants as ‘rabid feminists’ and suggested he should organise a men’s march in response.

I had a similar experience about five years ago when the actor Matthew Macfadyen pulled out of an interview he was due to do with me. Like McGregor, he said he wouldn’t have agreed to it in the first place if he’d known the journalist in question was a right-wing bastard — or words to that effect. This was for the in-house magazine of John Lewis, in which I had a regular interview slot. I think the editor had been having difficulty persuading anyone famous to sit down with me, because after Macfadyen’s bombshell I was sacked.

I thought about writing a thunderous op ed for the Daily Mail, pointing out the irony of a socialist depriving a working man of his livelihood as a matter of principle, but decided against it on the grounds that Macfadyen would probably be delighted to discover his little ‘protest’ had been so effective. Let’s hope the same fate doesn’t befall Piers.


I do find it intensely irritating when celebrities engage in political posturing, although I’m not sure why. I like to think it’s nothing to do with the fact that the opinions they’re spouting are so different from mine. No, it’s because they’re straying into areas they usually know very little about. Why assume the world is interested in your views about, say, man-made global warming just because you’re paid obscene amounts of money to lip-synch on a stage or stand up in front of a camera and say things written by someone else? It’s the arrogance of people like Leonardo DiCaprio that’s so galling, not their views per se. I’d be equally annoyed with Madonna if she had defended Donald Trump last Saturday instead of urging people to blow up the White House. (Yes, she really said that.)

But the truth is I don’t know how I’d react if, instead of cancelling his interview, Ewan McGregor had shaken Piers warmly by the hand, told him he’d voted Leave in the EU referendum and was appalled by that morning’s decision by the Supreme Court. It’s so inconceivable that if something like that actually happened — an A-list celebrity saying something politically incorrect — I would question my sanity. Then, once it became clear that I was not imagining it, I would question theirs.

And in fact, when it does happen, it’s often because the celebrity in question has temporarily lost it — at least, that was Alec Baldwin’s excuse when he was recorded on an answering machine calling his 11-year-old daughter a ‘rude, thoughtless pig’. Political incorrectness through reasons of insanity.

OK, just occasionally some ancient comedian or sporting legend of yesteryear does say something vaguely conservative in a moment of calm sobriety, but it’s so unusual that I just think how courageous they are. (Then again, if they still had careers they probably wouldn’t risk it.) It doesn’t happen often enough to test the theory that it’s the underlying self-importance of these painted ninnies that’s the really irksome thing, not the fact that they’re somewhere to the left of Jeremy Corbyn.

We’re about to witness a virtue-signalling tsunami now that awards season is upon us. We got a taste of things to come at the Golden Globes earlier this month, when Meryl Streep attacked Donald Trump for impersonating a man with arthrogryposis — this from the actress who won an Oscar for impersonating an elderly woman with dementia! Expect much more in the same vein, first at the Baftas on 12 February, then at the Academy Awards at the end of the month. It won’t be enough for the winners to thank their agents, stylists and make-up artists. No, they’ll have to make it clear, just in case anyone in the global television audience is in any doubt, that they really, really don’t like Donald Trump.

The irony, of course, is that it’s precisely because so many ordinary people associate liberal political viewpoints with these self-righteous, overpaid popinjays that Trump is now in the White House.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

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