Yes, of course Tim Collard’s going to rise to the defence of Stephen Fry. Tim’s a self-confessed pinko, and so very much is Fry.
I, on the other hand, am not. Fry and I would probably agree with one another on minor social issues like drugs or homosexuality. But definitely not on the things that are really important, like the degree to which the state should have control over our lives.
Fry couldn’t have supported Labour all these years if he didn’t believe, fundamentally, in ‘progressive values’, higher taxes, and the vital role government has to play in improving our lives. For me, this outlook is an abomination. It’s against liberty and it’s against nature. It truly astounds me that a man of Fry’s intelligence can’t see this. How can you possibly be so well-read, so cultivated and yet connive with the very ideology which has conspired to make Britain more dumb, less socially mobile and demonstrably less free?
And how can he rail on QI against the cult of “health and safety” when, as he ought surely to know, that whole phenomenon is essentially the invention of socialist Eurocrats as an excuse for ever-greater state control?
But would I put Fry on top of Damian’s bonfire? Hell no. I love the guy and pretty much everything he stands for – apart, that is, from his politics. (I know writing somebody off totally because of their politics is something left-wingers do all the time; but I like to think that we right-wingers are – at least sometimes – above all that).
I like him because he is essentially kind and decent. (I believe he was as appalled and embarrassed as anyone by the lynch-mob frenzy he unwittingly generated over poor Jan Moir). I like him because, as a presenter and public speaker, he is charmingly warm, witty and avuncular while also being more erudite, articulate (and plummy-voiced) than almost any other popular figure dares to be in these grisly, ‘anti-elitist’ times.
What I like almost best about Stephen Fry, though, is that he is unfiltered and genuine. It’s an extraordinarily risky business for a manic depressive to expose himself so mercilessly in public through his regular Twitter updates. Sometimes he says things he subsequently regrets. Sometimes he gets hurt, as he did when one of his followers accused him of being boring.
But it’s this openness and vulnerability which people respond to and it’s why he has so many followers. He speaks to his audience with the intimacy and honesty of a friend. You may think any fool can do that, but they can’t. We live in an age of career safety, where the image of almost everyone in the public eye from politicians to celebrities is burnished and censored and groomed.
Fry, for better or worse, is the real deal. Mostly for better, I’d say.