Anyone who assumed that anti- Europeanism was the recent product of a we-won-the-war bitterness over Britain’s declining global importance telt keenly by the Norman Tebbits of this world, should check out The Poisoned Chalice to discover the real roots ot Euro-scepticism. The tirst programme, ‘A Kind 0t Betrayal’, which covers the immediate post-war years, puts together a meticulous and detailed account (admittedly sometimes too detailed) of why, despite the present Government’s rhetoric, Britain is so removed from the heart of Europe.
In 1945 Winston Churchill made a thundering pro-European ‘unity’ in Amsterdam, but the more perceptive commentators at the time noted that there was ambiguity about whether he saw Britain as part oi this new Europe, or merely a paternal sponsor. Whatever the intention, from the first attempts to unite economically the Allies and the Axis powers by establishing a single market tor the industrial raw materials of steel and coal, Britain opted to stay out in the cold. By 1957, six countries had signed up for a tully tledged Common Market, but not Britain.
According to Michael Elliott, Newsweek International editor and presenter of The Poisoned Chalice, tor
a two generations at British politicians l Europe become a ‘graveyard of
i political reputations’. Conservative i Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s
f standing in domestic politics was
I greatly reduced when the French
3 vetoed a British attempt to join the
l party late in 1962.
l The first programme shows
i remarkable newsreel footage of a speech by General Charles De Gaulle in which the French President
articulated in language stripped of the usual diplomatic niceties exactly what
i Europe thought of its unclubbable
; neighbour. A wounded Macmillan
, replied in kind, and British politicians have been impaled on the horns of the i European union dilemma ever since.
! ‘With the exception of Edward Heath, 1 no British Prime Minister has not suffered from Europe,’ says former
E Labour and SDP MP Boy Jenkins. ‘They 3 have all come back from the deadly swamps of Europe with some sort of itever.’ One wonders if John Major has i been inoculated. (Eddie Gibb)
; The Poisoned Chalice begins on Thurs 1 9 May at 9.30pm on BBCZ.
I Radio 2 Arts Programme: Robin Hood —
Man, MY‘III of? (Radio 2) Fri 3 May.
10.03pm. Unravellirig the person from the ;
propaganda appears to be a particularly 20th century thing to do and even icons from the distant past are unable to escape. Tonight it's Robin Hood under the myth- shattering microscope as scholars try to comprehend why the likes of Steeleye Span and Bryan Adams have been associated with an anti-authoritarian socialist and. it would now seem. a green warrior.
I Documentary: Never Forget — The Take That Story Part two OI two (Radio I i Sun 5 May. 7pm. This could otherwise be entitled Robbie's Revenge as the lad Williams tells his side of the Take That demise. How did the band react to his association with the Gallagher brothers? Was it theirjealousy or Robbie's disenchantment which meant the split was inevitable? Will we ever really know the whole truth'.’
I Sunday Play: The Secret Commonwealth (Radio 3) Sun 5 May. 9.25pm. A tender yet ultimately tragic tale ofthe affair between a 17th century Scottish mill-owner's daughter and The Trumpeter 0f Fyvie. The music. composed by the play‘s author John Purser. invokes elves. spirits. fairies and other spooky things you really want to hear on a ' Sunday night.
I Champions (RadioJ) Sat it May. l0.45pm. Mrs Georgina Ford-James. a 40- year-old grandmother from Leicester. had just about had it with petty criminals in her street when an unfortunate joy'rider
crashed itito a wall near her home. llei reaction was something w e've probably all thought about but never quite done she rushed out of her house and rugby- tackled the blighter. The story of a sell-
' sacrificing individual fighting for the little
person or the tale of a barmy lollipop lady
I Signs Of The Times v Radio 3' sat it May. 9.30pm. The week's ev erits are charred arid dissected by a panel headed by The latte Show is ririgtiiaster .\lark l.awsoii. All angles social. ethical and cultural will be covered by psychologists. philosophers and legal espei‘ts. \\'hai won‘t be captured will be l.aw son's irritating little habit of leaning forward and literally pushing his pen as he questions his guests. But hey. that's radio,
13 May. 9pm. long before Shaun Ryder had enraged the moral minority at l'l'ltlil)‘ teatime and Be/ had finally sussed out
l recorded this Brivton .-\cadeiiiy show from l-‘ebruary' of this year, livpect top moments from In (irttit li'lieii lit1i 're String/it. . .li'u/i.’ sticli as 'ls'elly 's Heroes and the irreverent 'ls’everend Black Grapc‘. ()ver‘-sensitiv e types should time out now.
I Kaleidoscope i Radio ~li 'l'huis to May. 4.05pm. Simply can‘t get enough of the
l .‘vlayfcst mayhem',’ Then here's more of
I the same with Paul Allen broadcasting live from the (‘itr/ens' 'l‘heatre. Janice Galloway discusses The link Iv lo Ree/i Brent/ting while your host peers into .1 Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition. Live music comes from folkies Shooglenifty. (Brian Donaldson i
i The Poisoned Chalice: Michael Elliott } exhumes the political graveyard 01 Europe
ptittiiig her life at risk'.’ Judge for yourself.
I In Concert: Black Grape i Radio 1 i \lon
that he was surplus to i'etpiiremeiits. Radio
l‘ntil .ltine I‘M-l. when he sticcuiiibed to the cancer which had tortured him as he tried t« i coitiplete his final pair of scripts. ltcnms l’otter was liritairik greatest liv mg television wiitei‘ .\ow and we have this on the authority of .‘vlelvyii Bragg himself he is simply "l‘\"s greatest dratiiatist'. \o quibbling. no qualiﬁcation with a ‘pt'obably~ or ‘perhaps' iust accept lliitl ii is \il.
llte I‘t'cv totts vv cck. two more of telev isioii's big hitters. (‘haiinel i lioncho .\lichael (irade and BB('l controller .'\|an \‘cntob. appeared together on breakfast telly to get their retaliation in first against the moral guardians from middle litiglaiid who could be relied on to fuliiiinatc against the contents of l’otter's lilthy mind being proiecied onto our screens on not one. btit two channels They too elevated l’oitci' to :i saintly position above the mere artisans oi the screen trade. He was. they said. not as other telev ision writers are. 2‘. hicli w as liy the two channels had agreed to this uiiprecendented co production of l’otier‘s last works.
It is perfectly possible to praise l’otter without burying him under hyperbole. btit there must be a suspicion that (irade. Yeiitob and Bragg are talking tip Karaoke (Sunday s. BB('l. .\loiiday s. ('haniiel it. and the sequel (‘ofii' l.tt.‘tii'ttv. because they know. til their hearts. it is riot the writer‘s iiriest work But still they are .‘oriiiiiitted. iii accordance with l’otter's dying wish. to transmitting around eight hours of television. twice over. which may riot actually be very good We are being invited to i‘ciiieiiiber the man who moved its as all during his last. strangely lifeaffirriiing interv ievv with Bragg. while making allowances tor the quality of the writing itseli
Judged. perhaps unfairly. on the iirst episode. Karrie/vi looks like turning into one of those series that you iecl you should watch. rather than look forward to with evcitciiieiit or anticipation, This must rate as failure 'l‘clevisioii by definition is a iorm oi mass coriiiiitmicatitin vv Inch has to appeal to a wide spectrutii oi people it was. after all. Potter's chosen medium
he was passionate about television and to his eternal credit never sneered while taking the cash as many have dotte before. l’oitci' w atited these two scrics to be a ‘l‘\" event but the danger was always that the substance would not live up to the hype.
SH \\ it} dries A‘ttl'ti'itlx look \it uriproriiisiiig .’ The title setpieiice establishes immediately that we are spinning on l’ottci's w heel with a Sits pastiche of two lovers lip-sy itching to a hit of yesteryear featuring the
seiititiiental refrain ‘\\‘hy must I be a teenager in love ." .\t the moment we first meet central character l‘anicl beeld t.-\lbert binncy i. he is undergoing an unpleasant medical procedure iiivolv mg a length of hosepipe which could only be called a barium meal by someone who had got the entrances and c‘siis til lltv‘lt' tltgcslhv‘ li’ttcl hopelessly v‘itlllllsc‘tl.
like l’otter himself. l‘ccld is initially diagnosed as suffering from a spastic colon before the doctors discover the spreading cancer in his gut. liceld is a perpetually drunk telev isioii writer working on a script called lv'iii'tiokt' who becomes coiiv inced that strangers are speaking his lines this circular story is slotted with references to Potter's life and previous work. even featuring a look alike which places the late author at the centre of the di'aiiia, in his last days. as he battled to colttt‘lcle these scripts. it seems l’otier wastia trying to produce new work. or even his best work bill to leave a legacy which could be picked for clues about his state of mind; a life flashing before the eyes oi a dying man. The result is a sell referential and largely indulgent
lv'tirtro/st is a parody of a Dennis l’otter play. particularly in the mannered (‘ockney speech patterns of the supporting characters and the impossibly beautiful lt‘iiii/ii' iii/ii/t' played by the fragrantly named Saffron Burrows l’erhaps understandably. the director must have felt more like the ittor oi the w ill than a television maker lhe lllllcll derided li’liti‘ki'yt'v 1v hich l’ottei' directed himself was cv idcricc enough that his v istoii may not always translate directly to screen; surely his memory otild have been better set vcd by allowing others to polish 2v hat was by definition a rush i' b ’ However. the apoplc\y which took hold oi lceld iii the first episode when he hears his chosen title song is to be replaced was Potter is stern warning that it should be made e\actly as he wanted
the evieiit to wliic'i the l’ottei‘ myth has been allowed to cloud the itidgeiiieiit of telev rsioii maker. was demonstrated later the same evening when \lclvyii Bragg interviewed -\lbcrt Money at length. and some. on The South Bank Show (Sunday s. Scottishi (b. er a long and boo/y lunch at lflecatgoi. Bragg lobbcd ttp soft tpiestioiis about the acting craft and getting irito character. allowing l‘inney. itielled by a steady supply of red wine. to ramble horribly By any standards this was a sloppy. back-slapping profile of l‘imiey. bitt screened straight after the tiist episode oi Iv'iri'aok't it began to look like nothing tttorc than an attempt to shore tip l’ottcr's reputation. lets hope (ii/t." [tigttiziv does a better job. tliddie (iibbi
86 The List 3-16 May '99.“,