Saturday 28 July 2012

The most "leftie" opening ceremony ever?

You may well have seen the Olympics opening ceremony. Insofar as these things are about whipping up patriotic hysteria and selling Great Britain to the world, I think Danny Boyle did a pretty good job. Certainly he ticked all the boxes, and with £27 million to spend he damn well should have done.

Yesterday I predicted that it would be a "politically correct propaganda-fest" and it did indeed turn out to be something like that at times. If all you knew about Britain came from watching the opening ceremony, you would imagine that at least 40% of the British population were ethnic minorities and another 10% were in wheelchairs. A tribute was paid to CND. Perhaps the most politically contentious part involved the National Health Service which was portrayed—as per liberal left orthodoxy—as the envy of the world. The audience was treated to the sight of dozens of happy children being treated in lovely, clean, MRSA-free hospital beds by attentive and caring nurses. Suddenly, apropos very little, sinister figures in black appeared and attacked the children. (Something to do with Harry Potter. I don't know what they're called. I haven't seen the films or read the books. I'm not ten years old). A hoard of Mary Poppins saved them from the evil intruders. It was that kind of show.

It has been suggested that this was a none-too-subtle allegory for the NHS reforms which the evil Tories are trying to introduce. Within minutes, the following graphic was circulating on Twitter (the words 'NHS' which were beamed up from the stadium during the ceremony—to the bemusement of most of the world, presumably)...

Speaking of Twitter, a Conservative MP called Aidan Burley sparked a 'twitch-hunt' when he described the whole thing as "the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen" in a tweet that was retweeted more than 2,300 times.

As is the way in the playground of social media, this unleashed a firestorm from, well, "lefties" who are now hoping for an apology/resignation.

Are they right to do so? It seems to me that all that is required to expose Mr Burley as a liar or fantasist is for his accusers to provide an example of an opening ceremony that was more "leftie". Perhaps they are able to give countless examples, but I can't think of a single one. My memory might be letting me down, but I don't recall anything from the Beijing opening ceremony that could be construed as political. Perhaps the Moscow Olympics of 1980 made overt references to Marxism. I don't know, but we are going back quite some years even then and it is for Burley's accusers to demonstrate it if so.

From my limited experience of watching Olympic opening ceremonies I think it is fair to describe last night's event as having more of a political edge than previous efforts and that the politics were of the left. But don't take my word for it. Let's see what some of Britain's foremost left-wing commentators thought of it...

If the people above were giddy with delight about the political content of last night's opening ceremony—and the NHS segment in particular—it seems to me that there is a pretty good prima facie case for saying that it was a tad "leftie". And since opening ceremonies are generally not riddled with political allusions, that gives it a good chance of being the "most leftie opening ceremony" that Mr Burley has ever seen. And since that's all he said, this sounds like just another storm in the Twitter tea cup and we should move on.


Anonymous said...

This was a fairly political moment at the Sdney 2000 games. It was the closing ceremony however.

Anonymous said...

I gave up after children in pyjamas singing and signing the National Anthem. I imagine it didn't improve.


MalmoMum said...

I thought the kids in beds were orphans like in Romania. Giving a different leftie stance...

Anonymous said...

I though the 'Sorry' meant 'I am sorry that you are still around'

Anonymous said...

Dark satanic mill chimneys belching out ,rivers of steel
choking the bouncing kids,flaming rings watering the eyes ,and yet poor Isambard Brunnel(Ken Branagh)
dare not light up his cigar
Let me light up my rolly and reflect on the kant.
Let us all be honest,all what was missing were 100 FT fibreglass statues of Marx,Engels,Lenin and
Che Guevera.
Here up North we still have the
choking chimneys ,in their shadows stand the derelict pubs
in which ,once, we escaped the
anguish of industrial toil
The only smoke now allowed is the lung wretching fumes from Bessemer Pots

New Jerusalem .Keep it!

Mr A said...

I thought it was an outstanding opening ceremony. I had a horrible feeling it would be embarrassingly "diverse" and multi-cultural, and while it clearly was these things, it managed to be so without being TOO embarrassing. The NHS thing made me cringe, though.

There was no logic to its inclusion.

It had nothing to do with sport.

If it was there to celebrate Britishness rather than sport, why not use something far more important (and less political) like, you know, the English language or British expeditionary ways/seafaring?

And the implied acceptance that this was obviously a universally applauded good thing, like fresh air or hugs from mother, also made me gag. The thing is a bloated monstrosity that costs a fortune, kills hundreds of thousands of year and which drives the neo-eugenicism which is the number 1 peril this country faces.

Still, that aside, Boyle did a great job. Spectacular, clever, impressive. And he generally had a good stab at a bad job. After all, when you think about it, the main thing that has shaped the British psyche is war. And you only had to look at the parade of nations at the end to see that Britain either founded, conquered or beat in wars 95% of the countries there. Fly pasts from Lancasters or recreations of Empire building would hardly something that could be included in a feelgood opening ceremony!

A great ceremony, the NHS bit aside.

JJJW said...

I thought the NHS bit was quite good.

It showed the massive overcrowding in our hospitals after tens of thousands of beds were lost through the closing of hospital wards during Labour's time in office, followed by the inevitable spread of lethal MRSA and C. difficile bugs.

In the end a battalion of Matrons (or possibly cleaners drafted in from an private cleaning company - they didn't look like medical staff) introduced better standards of hygiene, eradicated the bacteria and so, at last, the children could sleep safely in their beds.


tinks said...

The fact that we are talking in terms of left and right following an Olympics opening ceremony and that certain sections of that world are crowing would suggest the event had some serious political overtones.

Great spectacle, but definitely had some 'hang on a mo' moments. What was the NHS doing in there? (Image immediately used for political purposes!) The very good modern music bit started with a Mini out of which emerge a 'single mum' and her black child. All very right on.

A version of modern Britain which is from a PC manual.

Hopefully, we can now go on to enjoy the sport.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Straight from a PC manual, as Tinks said.

You forgot this tweet which summed up the delight of lefties nationwide.

Ivan D said...

I thought it was a great spectacle and I enjoyed most of it.

However some people feel about it now, the NHS is a uniquely British project that many believe was a brave and noble concept at the time of its inception. I have no problem with it appearing as such in a historical pageant. Did people expect Danny Boyle to give it a Trainspotting twist in this setting?

I was rather pleased that IKB was portrayed with a cigar even if it was unlit

I was moved by the presence of Muhammad Ali but I suppose many would consider the great man a "bit of a leftie" so perhaps he was included on that basis?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Snowdon

" ... to provide an example of an opening ceremony that was more "leftie"."

Surely they would also have to prove Mr Burley MP, whomever he may be, had actually seen it too.


Anonymous said...

Would anyone outside the UK have understood most of the references?

Why did Boyle's history start at the Industrial Revolution?

Where were King Arthur, the Magna Carta, Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale? Our wonderful architects and physicians from the 15th to the 20th centuries?

And all the dark colours and allusions. Terrible.

And why would the Committee have asked Danny Boyle to create such a programme, something which should have been a paean to the United Kingdom yet welcoming to our overseas visitors?

@DP: No, lefties don't have to prove anything, alas. Only righties do, to the nth degree, sadly.


Mag said...


Some may be interested in a little more information on the “Chapman Trick”. See comments section at:

Anonymous said...

oh dear. Is there anyone on this comments thread that actually understands the terms right wing and left wing. According to, sadly, both the blog and the thread that has followed it the answer has to be, no.
I am regarded as left of centre. I want to live in a society where people are not left to fall by the wayside. I want to live in a society where people are not left to freeze on the streets because they have the misfortune to find themselves jobless, through economic circumstance, disability or plain bad luck. I want sick people to get treatment (on the basis of need), I want the poor to be seen as human beings, but most of all I want the scum who think that (stolen) wealth makes them superior beings tied to stakes and ignited.

Christopher Snowdon said...

"...but most of all I want the scum who think that (stolen) wealth makes them superior beings tied to stakes and ignited."

Because in the end it always comes down to hatred and violence.

Anonymous said...

Ooh sad and inadequate reply. What is refusing the poor (smoker?) healthcare then, if not hatred and violence? Do you want to live in a society where being human is enough to have value or not? Isn't libertarianism about choice and not "worth"? Instead of a discussion about the undeserving poor can we have a discussion about the undeserving rich? It isn't the poor, downtrodden and powerless who make the rules it is the wealthy, powerful and self interested who make the rules. Do the have nots suffer?

Anonymous said...

The best comment I read on this was in Andrew Gilligan's column in the Telegraph.
It's not mine by the way.

"I was waiting for the part where the kids in the hospital beds grow up, become elderly, and then are dehydrated to death".

Olly M Pics said...

Angry Anon is Laurie Penny and I claim my £5.

Anonymous said...

You have my email Mr. Snowdon, not only have I provided it as a prerequisite for commenting on your posts, but I have written to you directly before. Please feel free to contact me and engage in this debate directly. I have considerable respect for your scholarship, but would be delighted to debate your political position. As far as I am concerned right wing and libertarian do not necessarily belong in the same sentence. If you wish to disabuse me of this notion, feel free.
Anon 14:23

Ivan D said...

Our anonymous socialist should understand that expressing a desire to tie people to stakes and ignite them tends to make subsequent attempts to appear reasonable less than convincing.

I do agree that libertarians are not necessarily right wing but I have issues with those who hide their hatred of others behind faux concerns for their fellow man.

As far as I can see, you have written a fairly affable piece that was not especially critical of Danny Boyle but does expose the likes of Campbell and Flynn for exactly what they are.

I have read it again and can't find anything about the undeserving poor or the deserving rich.

I suppose that the Guardianista must be even crazier than I had previously thought. I was already aware that they are supercilious and patronising so that aspect was less of a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Ticket touts disgrace: Row upon row of empty seats… as tickets sent to foreign VIPs go on the black market
Large areas of empty seats seen in stadia for the second day running
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe reveals students and teachers are also being called in at the last minute
Every tout arrested had tickets sent to foreign VIPS
Organisers Locog have begun an investigation into the ticketing fiasco

EMBARRASSING: Military recruited to fill mass empty seats at Olympics…

Read more:–tickets-sent-foreign-VIPs-black-market.html#ixzz224NKc0Mf


Christopher Snowdon said...

A chance to debate with an angry anonymous socialist weasel? It's my lucky day!

I may have had an e-mail from you in the past, but since you haven't identified yourself, it's a bit hard to tell. If it made as much sense as your comments here, it probably went into the spam folder.

BTW, what part of "For ease of reference for me and other readers, please leave a name. Anonymous comments will be deleted" do people find difficult to understand?