Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Which is Ritch?

Monday, 28 December 2009

My newsagent taking an extended Christmas break, and me being too lazy to leave the house before I absolutely have to, I’m still relaxing in my pyjamas with Sunday’s newspapers. The subject of this week’s Did I Say That? in the Observer magazine (a weekly feature, in which various quotes by a famous person are gathered up and put together for a sort of timeline of opinion and anecdote) is Guy Ritchie. For a special Christmas game, which of the following quotes is not by the macho mockney film director?

“That’s quite a gay shandy, but I figured it’s good after a scrap”

“He smiles like a bastard”

“Can you just drool out of the side of your mouth a bit, darlin’ ? That’s nice”

“Eight broken bones was a bill that could only be settled with pain”

“They print the kind of things they would never come up to you in the pub and say. If they did, you might suggest continuing the conversation in the pub car park.”

Did you get it right? That last comment - about how much easier it would be to punch critics in the face than engage in articulate debate - was not, in fact, from thug-loving geezer Ritchie. No, that came from an interview later in the magazine. With Neil Kinnock. Yes, Lord Kinnock, chairman of the British Council, former UK representative at the European Commission, ex-leader of the Opposition, the man who wanted to be Prime Minister. I’m simultaneously annoyed, pitying and horribly embarrassed for him. Really, Neil? Really? You still hold public office, and you want to tell readers that if a journalist criticized you in the pub rather than in the paper, you’d invite them outside for a bit of clumsy punching rather than engage with the argument?

  He learned nothing, old Kinnock. His opening words in this interview are “The feeling at Conference when The Sun switched to the Tories was a mixture of amusement and contempt. The general reaction was that it’s better to have a newspaper with you than against you, but we can manage very well without their support.”

  Thing is, though, Lord Kinnock, that’s why you never got to be Prime Minister and Tony Blair did. You just can’t react to a lack of support with “amusement and contempt”, not publicly. And you shouldn’t write off The Sun, or anyone else, so immodestly. In your time, you didn’t “manage very well without their support”. I’m not saying that Tony Blair did a fantastic job once he had it, but that’s what’s so depressing about the whole thing. Can’t anyone do both? Isn’t it possible to be clever about the public image, win support from the powerful places, and be conscientious as well? Neil Kinnock always seemed like he was a good man. But it was exactly that arrogance and complacency which scuppered him in 1992; 17 years later, he’s still doing it. Amusement and contempt never got a politician anywhere.

  As for laddish, mutton-headed, boysy bullshit about scraps outside pubs… I mean, that’s embarrassing enough from anyone, but the more intelligent you’re supposed to be, the more confident you are about choosing a life where “people skills” are important, the more embarrassing it is. Thus it’s pretty goddamn embarrassing from a film director, but from a political leader? Please. What would you do after you’d poked around and spat at each other in the car park, Lord Kinnock? Go back inside for “a gay shandy” ?

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Shoshana at 3:57 pm on December 28th, 2009

Victoria, just felt I had to reply after your refreshing and uplifting comment in the Observer on Sunday.

You will no doubt be interested in the following link:


RomanticRecluse at 7:28 pm on December 28th, 2009

I have some sympathy for Neil Kinnock, although not as much I used to and not when he comes out with things like that.  My sympathy is based on the fact that Kinnock had to lead a depleted ragtag army (including the miners and Militant) into an uphill battle against strong enemies (including Thatcher and the MacKenzie-era Sun), something Blair didn’t have to do.  Kinnock made mistakes and he took defeat in 1992 badly but I’m not sure Labour could have won anyway because the opinion polls were wrong due to “Shy Tory Factor”.

Kinnock mainly lost because the stack he inherited, the table he faced and the hands he was dealt were appalling.  He took his final bad beat badly but it was still a bad beat and John Smith and Tony Blair had it much easier thanks to Kinnock.

David at 2:17 pm on December 29th, 2009

Ah Victoria. I think you’ve read this one wrong. I don’t suppose for a minute he would seriously invite his critics into the pub car park. This is simply the reactions of a man who has had 25 years of vitriolic press coverage, much of it unfair.
The press reduced him to a the status of a a buffoon despite the fact that he was and is a serious man. Isn’t a sense of humour or a personality allowed in politics, as it would be accepted in everyday life.( don’t mention Boris) It doesn’t seem so to me, so we end up with David Cameron as our next PM. When we really might see the lights go out.
P.S. Just finished your book by the way. Loved it, even though I knew and still know nothing about poker.

charlie at 2:30 pm on December 29th, 2009

Kinnock??? ach he’s yesterdays man….what I’d like to see is David Cameron and Charlie Brooker slugging it out in a square go in the car park of my local. Jeez who would ya bet on…Cameron, the smug, egotistical, hard boiled toff OR Brooker, the smug, egotistical, hard boiled hack. A difficult call to make…my money’s on Brooker, no way can a dreadful snob get the better of a man with the damning face of a criminal. Surely. But they used to say that about Queensbury…it’s intriguing, Its going to bug me all day. In fact I’m off to the pub to pick a fight with some chronic bullshitter who dares to disagree.

Craig at 4:04 pm on December 29th, 2009

I wonder how Kinnock would react if you went up to him in a pub, punched the air & started shouting ‘Well alright! Well Alright! Well alright!’ He’d probably think he was being addressed by some uncouth yob…

Neil Kinnock at 10:32 pm on December 29th, 2009

Care to take this outside, Coren?

David R at 11:32 pm on December 29th, 2009

That reminds me of a scene in Star Trek when Scotty and Chekov are in a bar, and a Klingon starts insulting Kirk. Chekov gets up to fight, but Scotty tells him to sit down, saying “It’s not worth fighting for. We’re big enough to take a few insults.”

Then the Klingon calls the Enterprise a saggy old rustbucket, and Scotty starts a huge fistfight involving the whole bar.*

(* It was ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ episode. Cast list in scene:

Scotty - James Doohan
Chekov - Walter Koenig
Klingon 1 - Richard Burton
Klingon 2 - Dame Sybil Thorndike
Tribbles - based on an original wig by George Burns)

Andrew at 1:27 am on December 30th, 2009

The press held a long hate campaign against Kinnock and his ‘passionate nature’ gave them plenty of opportunities.

Politicians, of course, know better nowadays.  Which is why they never state their opinions for fear of cries of ‘split’, why they are stage-managed and presented as shop dummies by their spin doctors and why parliament, political conferences and cabinet government have been reduced to shams.

The end result is that a lot of people end up thinking that w@n*ers like the BNP are the only alternative to the old boys club.

It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic…

Razboynik at 6:39 am on December 31st, 2009

Does Guy Ritchie model his ‘patter’ on ‘Big Chris’ (Vinnie Jones) from ‘Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’?

AndytheDealer at 6:48 pm on January 5th, 2010

It’s a good job I’m not your boyfriend Vicky, I’d be spending quite a lot of time in A & E departments around Europe.

Firstly, the rich Italian and his minder in Monaco and now Neil Kinnock in a pub car park.

GreenDuck at 4:43 pm on April 26th, 2010

I agree with you Victoria, uncouth and undignified for a man of Kinnock’s standing. Being your boyfriend sounds a bit frightening though.

Victoria Coren

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