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A domestic eruption

On Friday through to Sunday each week – from about 22.00 to 0100 hours – Northern Ireland broadcaster Stephen Nolan hosts a Radio Five current affairs/news show on Radio Five Live.

As my bedside radio is permanently tuned to said station and when I retire each evening I always press its ‘on’ button as I am getting into bed, there is every chance I would regularly hear Mr Nolan and his guests – but for the fact that I usually go to bed before 2100 hours and am therefore fast asleep (hopefully) when he comes on.

As a result I very rarely hear anything of his show. This (you and I might both argue) is a good thing because, if I did, it would only be in circumstances where either I had been tossing and turning in my bed unable to sleep since 2100 hours … or, alternatively, had been asleep – but only for between one and four hours, before waking up again.

The above in part or in whole explains why occasionally I do listen to Stephen Nolan and his guests … usually when, for whatever reason, I’m awake and/or have got up and made myself a mug of black coffee with which to set myself up at my computer … on the way to listening to some or all of Up All Night, Radio Five Live’s ‘through the night’ offering, which (for good or ill) is a constant accompaniment to my night-time activities.

That’s a bit of a shaggy-dog explanation as to why overnight – unable to sleep – I had awoken earlier than normal and was listening to the last hour of the Stephen Nolan show on Radio Five last night (Sunday into Monday), specifically the weekly segment in which he is joined by Bishop Stephen Lowe, the left-wing ‘renta-mouth’ clergyman, and Charlie Wolf, the US radio broadcaster of Republican (right wing) leanings who had made his career in the British Isles since 1984.

This is one of the UK’s more exasperating pieces of weekly radio broadcasting because it is deliberately set up as a provocative debate upon current noteworthy items in British news and current affairs. On each subject addressed – with occasional exceptions that prove the rule – you can bet your house upon Bishop Lowe presenting a broadly left wing perspective [I’d hazard a guess that, if he were a Labour politician he’d be more of a Corbynista than a Blairite] and Wolf a distinctly pro-capitalist right wing one, with Nolan acting as a laid-back referee.

On one view it’s fun broadcasting, not only because the debates become quite lively but because – whatever your own political views – there’ll be much being spouted that you agree or sympathise with … and a lot more besides that you don’t.

Whether you’re tuning in for the very first time, or know the protagonists of old, you swiftly recognise them as stereotypical adherents of their opposing views of the world (and never the twain shall meet) and gradually, over time, the arguments of the one you agree with less begin to irritate and annoy. I suspect that, even if you’re trying or pretending to be impartial, the identity of the one that annoys you most simultaneously gives away your own prejudices and political colour.

You can count that last statement as a confession, a disclaimer or possibly a declaration of personal interest.

Bishop Stephen Lowe

Bishop Stephen Lowe

I say that because, of the participants in this section of the Sunday/Monday night Stephen Nolan radio show it is Bishop Stephen Lowe who comes across as the pantomime villain  that gets my goat.

His left wing views – I’d imagine he’d admit only to that description, and challenge any attempt by me to add the word ‘extreme’ – come across to me as facile and incapable of standing up to any serious scrutiny.

I’d love him – and those like him – to be placed ‘on the inside’ of government for a month’s internship, exposed to all the complications of the real world, and watch just how far his perspective was changed by the experience. Being Lowe, of course, he’d probably decline the invitation because, as a hare-brained idealist, he wouldn’t want to learn about the real world. He’s much happier living in his fantasy one in which, presumably, every human being would live together in some sort of hippy utopia in which nobody would have to work, money grows on trees and every modern technological advance known to man would be provided free, as would of course every conceivable form of food and comfort.

Last night I caught the end of the Nolan/Lowe/Wolf segment.

The subject of the moment last night was the ‘spat’ between Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and General Sir Nicholas Houghton over Trident and Britain’s the nuclear deterrent.

HoughtonI had watched Houghton appear on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show in the morning and, when asked whether he was worried about Corbyn’s public statement a few weeks ago that he personally could never press the nuclear ‘button’ on a point of principle – with the caveat that the question was slightly premature because, in order for Corbyn’s statement to mean anything, he would have to be elected Prime Minister first – said that yes, if Corbyn became Prime Minister, he (Houghton) would have an issue.

Expanding on this, he explained that a deterrent only worked (on a ‘Okay, if you do that, I’ll do this’ basis) if you meant it. In this (nuclear mutual destruction) context, this required that, if necessary, you would use nuclear weapons. If you are not prepared to do so, whatever the circumstances – plainly, as night follows day – your country’s nuclear armoury is totally worthless. You cannot deter anything if you aren’t prepared to use the very force that would/might deter a hostile opponent. You might as well not have nuclear weapons.

Corbyn would probably respond “Exactly!” and claim that his policy was not only principled but highly cost-effective – you could save the cost of renewing or replacing Trident system at a stroke.

[I’m not here going down the obvious route of considering the arguments for and against nuclear weapons and/or pointing out that ‘the first duty of government is the defence of the realm, or country’.]

On last night’s radio programme, Bishop Stephen Lowe inherently defended Corbyn’s stance – or at least, Corbyn’s right as leader of a political party to hold his views. However, he was exercised about General Houghton, as an ‘unelected’ servant of the Ministry of Defence, making his views publicly known, claiming that he had no right to do this and thereby enter the world of politics.

At this point, unable to lay my hands on my supply of horse tranquiliser pills, I was fit to shouting at the radio [and okay, leaving aside for the moment that this reaction was the raison d’etre of the programme segment, whichever end of the spectrum to which its listeners belonged] at the hypocrisy of Lowe’s standpoint. The good bishop is now retired, so presumably no longer lives in a ‘grace and favour’ house or palace, but he conveniently chooses to ignore the fact that he has no more right than I have to bore the public with his views on matters of public interest.

My point was that, if Lowe can do it, why shouldn’t General Houghton? Especially since his thrust – that if you aren’t prepared to ‘press the nuclear button’, you don’t have a nuclear deterrent – is pretty straightforward logic.

Anyway …


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About Guy Danaway

Guy Danaway and his family live on the outskirts of Rugby. He is chairman of a small engineering company and has been a keen club cyclist for many years. He has edited Cycling Weekly since 1984 and is a regular contributor to the media on cycling issues. More Posts