50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D’s suggestion – House of Windsor]

13 Michael Gove – for not understanding the modern world and setting UK education back years when it was already well behind the curve [2016]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21 George Osborne – for knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as well as being a hypocrite) (and for having a Patrician haircut) [2016]

22 Philip Green – the Unacceptable Face of Capitalism in every sense (have you seen those chins and haircut? there’s a limit to what  a tan can hide) [25/7/16]

23 Jeremy Corbyn – the self-righteous non-leader/stooge who destroyed the Labour Party – reminiscent of…

Roger McGough – The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

24 Nicola Sturgeon – the epitome of Bad Faith

25 Boris & Dave : I’m taking the liberty of yoking them together in a double act by way of some small revenge: they deserve each other. Boris Johnson – for proving to be the bumbling idiot he always looked (despite an at times charming surface) & David Cameron – for sacrificing the United Kingdom (a rather good union at the end of the day) on the pyre of the EU Referendum for the sake of some of his Tories, the self-same Tories who undermined the crucial Voting Reform Referendum during the 2010 Coalition.

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

21 Peter Gabriel – a multifaceted, visionary musician who is a great collaborator [1/3/16]

22 Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

23 David Bowie – kept things fresh for a long time [2016]

24 John Martyn – brought true soul to Britain, the world is a much lesser place without him [2016]

25 Nicholas Winton – who saved 669 children from the Nazis (including Alf Dubs who is trying to follow his example these days) and kept pretty quiet about it most of his life, finally receiving full recognition in the late 80s


Bubbling under:

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I’m not sure about this one, keep wavering]


19 comments so far

  1. adam d on

    Made me think. Good topic for a monday morning.


    House of Windsor: Seperate state from monarchy. Time, royalty purleease! Ain’t you got no stately ‘omes to go to?

    Kilroy-Silk, and anyone else in UKIP and BNP.

    The Daily Mail.

    Jeffrey Archer.

    Dame Shirley Porter.

    Lynchmobs. Sarah Payne, Maddie, Baby P.


    Peel: “…fades in quietly”

    Ian Dury: “A seasoned up hyena could not have been more obscener”

    John Betjeman: “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!”

    Prof Eric Laithwaite: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

    Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures”

    Oliver Reed. Drink for England.

    Stephen Fry. Wit and and intellect *can* beat televised karaoke

    Martin Amis. For Money.

    Tony Benn: For showing no fear and sticking to principles. History will view him kindly.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Francis “Dick” Strawbridge MBE: Bodging for the environment in the most enthusiatic way possible.

    I’m a bit light on females, so

    Joanna Lumley. Mmmm.

  2. ArkAngel on

    Thanks, Adam – will adopt a selection from your suggestions, most of which chime with me

  3. Scanner on

    Positive – Dennis Skinner for his principles – he has principles where Tony Benn can only dream of them (good as he is)

    also Harold Wilson for the Open University.

    Negative –

    John Major for the National (C)Lottery (“a voluntary tax on stupidity”), Railtrack and (hand in hand with Heseltine) starting off the Dome.

  4. ArkAngel on

    Scanner & Adam, you both mentioned Tony Benn – I’m tempted but I ask myself: How much positive impact has he *actually* had? What say you…

    In the meantime, some recent suggestions via Twitter (the first also mentions Mr Benn):
    overthewire: What about Sinclair? Mandela? TBenn?
    aeioux: Morrissey for throwing a broken mirror up to us all

  5. practical psychologist on

    Here are ten people who saved Britain:


  6. practical psychologist on

    The idea of Britain means relatively little to me – in the same way that a Scottish person places Scotland first – hence the english bias:

    1. Prince Albert

    German of course but nominated for his enlightened attitude to public places and spaces. A remarkable number of British cultural institutions (from public museums to the Christmas tree) can be traced to him

    2. Alfred the Great

    Ok I am confusing England and Britain but he united most of the old kingdoms

    3. James Bond

    Who overcome the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart but who had never been naked in front of his wife.

    4. Roosevelt

    Don’t have to be British. We would not have got to 1945 without the Americans

    5. Michael Young

    For the Open University – Harold Wilson’s role was much less than he for one claimed, it was Jennie Lee who made the political running here. Living in France, where your life is pre-ordained from 15 you realise what an amazing institution this is. Educational aspiration at any age.

    5. Ian Botham

    If you were 13,14,15 in 1981 you will know why

    6. SS Empire Windrush

    What a ghastly, grey, one-dimensional place Britain would be without progressive immigration

    7. John Mayall

    Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Peter Green to name a few went through the BluesBreakers. We gave the world rock music and one of our biggest exports.

    8. Gamal Nasser

    Who finally rid us of the idea of ’empire’.

    9. Mary Quant

    Who allowed us to escape post-WW2 perma-fashion

    10. Peter Cook

    Anywhere I go in the world – recently places such as Haiti and Georgia – and I am told that Brits are most admired for their humour. Peter Sellers was the last of the music hall performers in style but Peter Cook the first to add the cutting edge to our humour which still puts us a step ahead of everyone else out there.

    11. Dusty Springfield

    Because she had soul – and the only white woman who ever has – an aspirational figure(the first brit woman?) for women who wanted a serious musical role model.

    12. Roy Jenkins

    The best post-war chancellor(even Thatch said so)and the man who, as Home Secretary allowed a number of Private Member’s bills to pass through the Commons that modernised and in some cases revolutionised British life. Should have been Prime Minster after Wilson. The master too of popular political biography (Gladstone, Asquith etc.)

    13. John Peel

    A music lover and musical iconoclast at the same time. Has anyone done more for teenage aspiration in Britain?

    14. Ralph Vaughan-Williams

    We have him to thank for the recording and preservation of traditional english music forms

    15. John Betjeman

    Who saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it

    16. Ken Tynan


    17. Ken Loach

    For placing us in reality – ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Kes’

    18. Liz Smith

    Perhaps the perfect englishwoman. A life of many ups and downs but whose humour, disposition and positive attitude tells us so much about what we are.

    19. Paul McCartney

    Wrote most of the best Beatles songs – we led the world in something for the first time in a long time

    20. Pitt the Younger

    Who seemed to make the right decision at the right time almost every time

  7. practical psychologist on

    My ‘Buggered up Britain’ list has a high number of politicians:

    1. Arthur Scargill

    The MP and former communist Kim Howells describes going into Scargill’s office at the time of the miner’s strike and noticing that the painting of Scargill on the wall was almost twice as big as Scargill was. This plus his habit of referring to himself in the third person tells you all you need to know about him. Whether you agree or disagree with her Thatcher felt she was doing the right thing. Scargill’s only interest was himself. The miner’s deserved better.

    2. Erno Goldfinger

    Trellick Tower is not an architectural icon. It is the symbol of a brutal view of how architectural egos felt that people should live post war. Perhaps this is where the importance of local community in Britain began to be eroded.

    3. Virginia Bottomley

    Her relentless description of us as ‘ordinary people up and down the country’ annoyed me intensely as it immediately put us in our place. This Tory patrician view was both patronising and neutering. She was the prime culprit although the bug has been caught by a few members of the current labour party. I AM NOT ORDINARY.

    4. Victoria Beckham

    She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.

    5. Tony Benn

    Was he ever right about anything? We have him and a handful of others to blame for brutal eighties politics personified by people like Norman Tebbit.

    6. Clement Atlee

    ‘A modest man who had much to be modest about’ said Churchill perhaps cruelly. Modern left-wingers take a rather romantic view of him. The voters booted him out rather quickly considering the landslide he had gained in 1945. That is rather revealing. A unique opportunity to create a dynamic Britain and yet within a few years France, Germany and others were showing us the value of social democracy without dogma.

    7. Norman Tebbit

    The ‘cricket-test’ was for me as racist as Enoch Powell’s utterances. So, as I now live in France should I, according to Tebbit’s logic, be supporting France when they play England in the six nations rugby? I imagine he would say not. Is it only those of brown skin who should re-allocate their loyalty to their new abode on arrival?
    8. Douglas Jardine

    Continuing the cricket theme…for instructing his fast bowlers to bowl bouncers at the heads of opposing batsmen during the ‘bodyline’ series in 1932-33. The moment when ‘win at all costs’ (including potential loss of life) began to invade sport.

    9. The Krays

    There was nothing remotely romantic about them even if they are now romanticised. One’s ability to pay up rather than one’s ability defined entrepreneurial survival in certain parts of London in the 1950’s.

    10. Phil Oakey

    For epitomising the early 1980’s and the worst era for British music before or since 1960. Five years of trash as I was growing up. A very personal choice this.

    More to follow…

  8. ArkAngel on

    PP, a fine list on both fronts with great annotation – will add a choice few to the main list above.

    With regard to Buggers #9, I’m glad to be able to report that my step-dad’s brother secured the first conviction against the Krays when they tried to get protection money out of him in his bag shop on the Finchley Road. The rozzers leapt out from behind a curtain and caught them in the act. This so got up the nose of Charlie Kray that he made a point of mentioning “the wiley shyster” in the book wot he rote ‘Me & My Brothers’. Me and my brothers delighted in quoting back this line back to our step-dad throughout our growing up.

  9. practicalpsychologist on

    Thanks ArkAngel. I found ‘buggers’ rather cathartic – a chance to release pent-up hate. Also nice to hear that this particular group of ‘rozzers’ were on the side of your step-dad’s brother.

    Being perhaps more ‘free market’ and entrepreneurial than it seems most of your readers but also very aware of her brutishness I would be tempted to put Thatcher in both lists.

    Paul Dacre merits inclusion in the buggers list.

  10. ArkAngel on

    50 people who buggered up Britain (and 20 who saved it) UPDATE: the 20 Goodies now complete (at least a first draft)

  11. […] who gave legal sign-off to the techniques, confessed that 24 – produced by Fox TV, no surprise the malign influence of Murdoch is not far away from human degradation – had “many friends down at Guantanamo”. Kinda […]

  12. 110010 « This Is The Heff on

    […] a fellow WordPresser’s blog titled ’50 people who buggered up Britain’ – https://aarkangel.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/50-people-who-buggered-up-britain-and-20-who-saved-it/. Oh, and the title of this post is the binary translation of 50 if you hadn’t already worked […]

  13. […] the spirit of the earlier, still in progress 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain – and to avoid, in these troubled times, a ball of anger seasoned with irritation and […]

  14. […] 50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it) […]

  15. theluckhabit on

    My goodness I had forgotten about this. My writing was so much better 10 years ago. I struggle for the right words these days (and to spell them). Time also reveals how one can change one’s view. Attlee certainly wouldn’t be on the ‘Buggered up Britain’ list now. Gove would be, along with his wife. And I agree on Corbyn – the decline of The Labour Party is – in an era when the word is mis-used – a tragedy. And how did we get to the point where it’s possible for people like Neil Hamilton to be rehabilitated?

    • catalanbrian on

      Has Neil Hamilton been rehabilitated? He is now a UKIP MEP which I am sure that you must agree is pretty close to being at the bottom of a pile of shit!

      • catalanbrian on

        Forgive my rubbish fingers that typed MEP instead of MWA!

  16. ArkAngel on

    Gove is in there at No. 13 – his Mrs would certainly justify joining him. Neil Hamilton is such a snurge he doesn’t deserve the attention. I must finish off this list now – 2 more baddies, one more goodie.

  17. ArkAngel on

    After your prompting today, TLH & CB, have completed both lists. Could really just move on and do another 25 of each… But that’s 8 years good work for now!

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