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The unreadable in pursuit of the unelectable: Allison Pearson’s 'interview' with Lawrence Fox deconstructed...
The Telegraph’s obsession with the average actor turned appalling politician is instructive.
There are strong arguments for completely ignoring the existence of not only Lawrence Fox — a third rate actor turned tenth-rate politician who cannot outpoll Count Binface — but also column-wielding conspiracist Allison Pearson and her employer, The Daily Telegraph (Britain’s foremost fascist fanzine). But it’s my job to stare into the abyss, laugh when the abyss snarls, “What are you looking at?”, then bring you an analysis of exactly what the abyss is up to.
Pearson’s interview/profile of Fox is not a piece of journalism. It’s a mixture of propaganda and excuse for the actor and his cardboard cutout political party Reclaim, which exists only as a vehicle for his big-money backers to use him as an increasingly gaunt meat puppet.
The Reclaim Party is a rebadging of multimillionaire asset manager and former Tory/Brexit Party donor Jeremy Hosking’s stalled Brexit Express campaign. Hosking has funnelled more than £5 million pounds into Fox’s efforts, which allow him to get his views into the newspapers without having to put his face in the frame. There’s a telling moment in Pearson’s piece that makes that crystal clear:
How serious is Fox about a political career? Mimicking the fruity baritone of his backer and former Tory party donor Jeremy Hosking, Fox says: “Laurence, darling, we wouldn’t want you in charge of the Tube.”
Fox’s campaign for Mayor of London was never about gaining power. Even despite his deluded statue-defending, woke-hunting witterings, it’s been clear from the start that he knew he had as much chance of being Mayor as Sadiq Khan replacing him as Detective Inspector Lewis’ sidekick in a reboot.
The Fox4Mayor campaign is now in its final stages where it’s more blatantly saying that getting votes wasn’t and isn’t the point. It exists precisely to get coverage like that offered by Pearson in today’s Telegraph, which concludes that while Fox isn’t electable, he’s ‘worth listening to’ and ‘making good points’.
As Nigel Farage proved conclusively, not getting elected — in fact, repeatedly not getting elected — is no impediment to getting what you want in the British political system. That’s particularly true if you can, like Fox, rely on newspapers and broadcasters to give you time and space.
Fox is delighted with Pearson’s piece, which is unsurprising since she has been a frequent retweeter of messages both from him and the Reclaim Party’s official account. What Pearson has written doesn’t even pretend to be a dispassionate profile of someone who is, in turn, pretending to be a politician. It’s a fan letter.
The egregious arse-licking is in evidence from the first paragraphs. Pearson writes with more gushing than a specialist site for watersports fetishists:
I’m not sure what you call the opposite of a politician, but you wouldn’t go far wrong if you named it Laurence Fox. The Reclaim party candidate for London Mayor in the election on Thursday has a lively sense of the absurd, an inability to do fake earnestness and a willingness, bordering on the kamikaze, to express what millions of people are thinking, but no one dares to say.
When 42-year-old Fox builds up a head of steam, whether it’s about freedom of speech or the iniquities of lockdown (he wants it lifted immediately) or “coercing” people into getting vaccinated (“to bribe people with their own summer holidays is just criminal”) or the tyranny of the woke mob, he has the oratorical fervour of a Billy Graham armed with a flame-thrower. It’s wildly entertaining to be in the audience, but I worry that, in the end, it’s he who’ll get burnt.
All of that could be boiled down to a single sentence: “I like Lawrence Fox because he says the same kind of unpleasant, unevidenced, and ultimately selfish things that I write in my column every week.” That she ends the section with a bit of concern trolling just assures you that you’re in the incapable hands of Allison Pearson.
She continues by setting the scene and mentioning a friend:
We are talking at Reclaim Party HQ in central London. Fox and Reform Party leader, Richard Tice, have just announced a pact for the London elections. Reform is the Brexit Party rebranded and this temporary alliance has the blessing of Nigel Farage. Surely, Fox’s showbiz friends will be horrified that Farage is backing him for Mayor?
Pearson frequently retweets Tice, who she has rubbed shoulders with at events like the ludicrous but extremely telling ‘Brexit Batallion (Media Corps)’ dinner in January 2020. She is not a journalistic observer — she’s a player in these events.
The encounter between Pearson and Fox has the air of a gaslighters gathering — two experts in trolling, lying, dissembling, bitching, and snidery coming together to compare notes on their shared dislikes and delusions. Pearson recounts:
[Fox] admits it has been a real struggle to juggle the care of his sons, Winston, 12, and Eugene, eight, with the campaign. He shares custody of the boys with his ex-wife, Billie Piper. The blast area from their divorce is a crater and Fox is still picking the shrapnel out of what he admits is a sensitive skin.
It can’t be easy having an ex who is a member of the leftie acting tribe by which you are now reviled. Fox maintains a diplomatic silence for the sake of the children, although he does mention that Winston came home recently and said: “Millions and millions of people hate you, Daddy. Mummy likes Sadiq Khan.” Ouch.
Fox is the scion of an acting dynasty, went to Harrow, and while his acting career is in the toilet thanks to his antics and his music ‘career’ was an embarrassing mistake long before the Question Time appearance, he’s not short on cash. The notion that he is “struggling to juggle the care of his sons”, particularly as he has shared custody, is such ludicrous Fathers 4 Justice posturing that I expect to see him halfway up a clock tower dressed as Batman before the year is out.
The second paragraph of that section is a real peach: Fox’s “diplomatic silence” typified by making sure to tell Pearson a story from the Jackanory Big Book of Bullshit that didn't happen. The anecdote is custom tooled to play into the idea of children being brainwashed by the woke and has the secondary advantage of allowing Fox to take a shot at Piper, someone who really doesn’t talk about her ex-husband in interviews.
Finally, after all the foreplay, we get to the point of Pearson’s piece — explaining away the ineffectual appearance of Fox’s lunge for the mayoralty:
It’s certainly a stretch to see the charismatic, febrile Fox running the transport system. He finds it funny when his team calls him “Boss”. “I don’t want to rule,” he insists. But Hosking, who gave a chunk of his fortune to the Leave campaign, must have spotted something in him when he stumped up a rumoured £5 million to fund a new political party. In the same way, Farage used UKIP to bring about historic change with our relationship with Europe, I picture Fox as a valiant ‘guerrilla’ in the Culture Wars, galvanising the Resistance against the monstrous regiment of woke, subversively fighting tooth and nail for the Britain he loves.
Pearson says the quiet bit loud — something she often delights in doing — and explicitly compares Fox’s ‘strategy’ (if acting as a megaphone for a Brexity millionaire can be so grandly defined) to the one deployed by Farage. This delights her because the “culture war” is all she and her paper have to play with.
With the Right in government and increasingly applying the thumbscrews to the media and cultural institutions (more on that next week), controversialists like Pearson would have a problem if they didn’t pretend that the Left was winning the “culture war”. The Pearsons of this world need an enemy and if there isn’t one that actually exists, they’ll invent their own bogeymen — “the woke tyranny."
And to provide further ‘evidence’ of that tyranny in practice, Fox pulls another anecdote out of his binders full of bullshit. Pearson, who has as much in common with a real journalist as Fox does with his quite loveable vulpine namesake, takes it as gospel truth because it’s exactly what she wants to hear:
Fox has invaluable first-hand experience of the ‘enemy’. He tells me about a read-through where he explained to a producer that he had a problem with a drama script where every one of the seven supporting actors was diverse.
“I said, this character is his biological dad and the actors are different colours, so, well done on the diversity thing! Not so good on the plot thing.”
I had to stop typing for a moment there to do the ‘chinny reckon’ gesture for so long that I fear I may actually have elongated my chin to Jimmy Hill proportions. And, of course, Fox ends his storytime by concluding that it’s the anti-racists who are racist, not him, the man who goes on a suspicious amount about why diversity is a problem:
All screen marriages today are “mandated” by the Woke police, Fox says. “When you feel a bit of diversity is deliberate, it feels patronising to the person who has been plucked out of the diverse bucket to be shoved into a drama.” He says he finds it “quite patronising and slightly racist, to be honest”.
After a recitation of Fox’s family background and some of Pearson’s patented lachrymosity about the death of the actor’s mother last year, she treats us to some revisionist history about his Question Time appearance which only happened last year:
[He became] Britain’s Number One reactionary bogeyman after his appearance on Question Time last January. The panel was discussing the Duchess of Sussex’s treatment by the media when a female academic in the audience claimed the abuse Meghan had attracted was racist. Fox disagreed (“We are the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe”). Fox was then accused of being a “white privileged male” and he shot back that she was being racist.
That reads like Fox accidentally turned up to a debate show where he accidentally said something provocative before accidentally doubling down on it over and over again in interviews with a series of right-wing YouTube shows, podcasts, and, of course, The Daily Telegraph.
In actual fact, Fox knew exactly what he was doing, had already begun dipping his toe into the waters of ‘woke bashing for cash’, and used Question Time to kick off his career saying other people’s controversial quotes for money.
Fox’s retelling of what happened next lines up with his belief that he’s this reality’s central character:
He thought the broadcast had “gone alright” and had quite a few people contacting him to say “what a relief someone’s finally said it”. Then, he awoke to an exploding phone. The Twitter pitchfork mob was on the warpath. “Suddenly, I was denounced by the whole of showbiz. I thought, Oh, it’ll be alright. But it wasn’t. It just got worse and worse.” Equity called him “a disgrace to our industry”. Fox sued and won, but a 22-year acting career was destroyed overnight. “My agent was like, ‘I’ll stand by you, darling… Get out!’”
While he received plenty of pushback — and yes, some abuse — for his antics on Question Time, the story only had legs because he kept on with it, adding new ‘controversial comments’ to the pile to keep himself in the spotlight. Getting himself ‘cancelled’ brought Fox far more cash and attention than his self-funded foray into music. Becoming a cartoon for the Right was a business decision as his acting career stalled and his music career never climbed out of the toilet.
Because Fox says what Pearson wants to hear, she’ll cut him all kinds of slack and even finds a way to frame his retelling of why he was hauled out of Harrow as an example of wit rather than a crude anecdote from a deeply dull posh boy:
Laurence was once a “very very naughty boy” who got expelled from Harrow for having sex at the sixth form dance. With twins. “My choice of venue for said escapade could have been better,” he admits. (Middle of the dance floor on a bar stool). “My ancient housemaster turned to me and said, ‘Your penis was visible.’ Those were our final words.”
His waspish Wildean delivery makes me laugh, but there’s no doubt he’s deadly serious about his new mission.
What is his new mission? Well, he tells stenographer Pearson that it’s to fight “the disgusting religion of wokery” and get the Mayor of London to do more about knife crime. His real plan, of course, is to keep himself in the media, keep the funds flowing from his backers, and keep on saying unpleasant things to keep his personal outrage economy in rude health.
Pearson — Leni Riefenstahl without the skill or charm — ends this Triumph of the Witless propaganda broadcast by concluding:
Laurence Fox may not be anyone’s idea of a politician. Still, I reckon that he can perform an increasingly vital function, saying aloud what mainstream politicians are too frightened to say, challenging the stifling conformity of identity politics. An actor turned evangelist preaching an alternative gospel to the false religion of woke. Get on with it, Chum.
The notion that ‘mainstream politicians’ are “too frightened” to say the kind of things that Fox does is horseshit. Priti Patel makes similar and, in fact, more nakedly fascist comments regularly. Parliament is full of pub bores and petty racists who did one better than Lawrence Fox by managing to get themselves elected. Boris Johnson, Pearson’s former colleague, is Prime Minister and has a whole archive’s worth of ‘controversial’ columns to flick through.
Fox will continue to fascinate Pearson and the other parasitical creatures at The Telegraph because he a) gives what they consider good copy b) says what they are already saying in their columns and c) gives cover for the Conservative Party to force remodel the Overton Window of acceptable political opinions even further to the right. As long as he’s quoted, Fox has no need to get elected.