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Tim Chipping

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

They’re trying to ban Christmas again. Except they’re not (whoever THEY are). No one wants to ban Christmas. That hasn’t stopped Theresa May assuring Express readers she’ll “stand up for our traditions generally and that includes Christmas”. Nothing like an imaginary attack on our way of life to give the impression you’re a strong leader. “As Prime Minister I’ll not tolerate cobras hiding in umbrella stands; cups of tea won’t explode and The Great British Bake Off will never move to Channel 4. Unless they offer more money.”

The myth about Christmas being banned to avoid offending other religions rears its stupid tinselly head earlier every year; it’s the conspiracy theorist’s Coca Cola lorry. But it’s always based partly on fact (or part of a fact.) This time it’s Dame Louise Casey’s report that one man in a community centre wanted to erect a “festive tree” to avoid upsetting some Muslims who existed only in his mind. This man is not a threat to our ancient Victorian customs, he’s simply an over-sensitive fusspot who causes everyone’s buttocks to clench when he speaks at meetings. I imagine. Neither will you have to call Christmas ‘Winterval’. That was just the name Birmingham Council gave to a marketing strategy. It was never suggested as a multi-faith alternative but it’s passed into lore as what THEY want to do.

That said, I wish Theresa the best of luck in standing up for our traditions. She’s welcome to wade into the blackface Morris debate any time she likes, provided she’s read all the PhDs, archived articles and Facebook posts that I have in the last month. And I’m still no closer to arguing everyone into a consensus. Even amongst the contributors to this publication opinion varies from anti, to neutral to one writer who never leaves the house without covering their visage in coal dust lest they be recognised.

Whether you accept Cecil Sharp’s conjecture that blackface was a disguise for dancers (or possibly maybe to do with paganism or something), or you’re convinced by the scant but unavoidable evidence that Border Morris adopted the trappings of minstrel shows (in 19th Century Britain it was bigger than The Beatles), I want to share these words from a more concise friend: “Does it matter what the origin is? If someone thought what you were doing was racist, why wouldn’t you stop?”

But that’s what THEY want, isn’t it? The PC brigade, the social justice warriors, the virtue signalling, erm, Beaver Scouts. As so many sides have already shown, a change of colour or pattern doesn’t make a difference to the dancing. This glorious 40-year-old reconstruction – based largely on imagination and guessing – can adapt and survive. But if there’s anything humans hate more than inequality and injustice, it’s change. In a society where what we thought was right yesterday is wrong today, perhaps what we mean when we talk of political correctness gone mad is “stop telling me to change!”

Jam manufacturers were once free to promote themselves with caricatures most people thought were harmless but were really a relic of the dehumanising way former black slaves were lampooned by minstrelsy. You can’t do that anymore. THEY banned it (they didn’t). Maybe what they should ban next is progress. What has that ever done for us?

Tim Chipping


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