No religion or politics please, we're British
Talk about the weather instead
At the height of the Battle of Britain, during the most dangerous period of the Second World War, our country’s fate lay in the hands of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Dowding was in charge of RAF fighter command, the man tasked with coordinating our air defences against the Luftwaffe’s assault before any German invasion. He was also a man who strongly believed in the existence of fairies and a paid-up member of the Fairy Investigation Society.
Not only did the Air Chief Marshal believe that fairies were ‘essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom’ but, what’s more, he also thought he could communicate with the dead.
I imagine that the average Cockney, trying to catch some sleep on a Tube platform as the bombs rained down and their neighbours played The Lambeth Walk for the fifteenth time that evening, would not have had their spirits lifted were they told about Sir Hugh’s views on the pixie people, or his regular conversations to the afterlife.
They benefited from the mystery of celebrity, living in that golden age when we didn’t know what famous people thought about the world. Remember that time, before social media, when we weren’t aware that most of the musicians from our youth were complete cranks, who wouldn’t put a vaccine inside them because of some YouTube video they’d seen, despite spending most of the 80s and 90s shoving coke up their nose and God knows what.
What a lost Eden that was. Now, sadly, we have Twitter, which has given us so many insights into the workings of famous peoples’ minds. One such is Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day host who down the years has been very outspoken on the site, in particular about the wisdom of Brexit.
Indeed, Lineker was so vocal on that issue during the period when centrist parties were popping up everywhere, that The Times’s Philip Collins suggested he start a knock-off version of Macron’s En Marche called Centre Forward.
It’s a shame that never happened, since Lineker has strong political opinions, and if you read the BBC website, you might just be aware that the former Barcelona and Everton striker has been in trouble recently. His crime was to call the Illegal Migration Bill ‘an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people’ and done ‘in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’.
Lineker’s vocal opinions irritate some Tory voters, many of whom watch Match of the Day, and it certainly annoys Conservative MPs enough to demand an apology. However much they might object, I feel that it’s unwise for Conservatives to engage Lineker, since the first principle of a just culture war surely must be the same as that of a just war: make sure you can win.
Lineker is a popular figure; the 1986 World Cup was one of my strongest memories as a child, and you don’t forget the heroes of your childhood. He was a great player and he is also a very good presenter, affable and authoritative, and with the sort of gravitas you’d want in someone about to announce some dreadful news. (He is also responsible for The Rest is History, another reason to like him.)