When I walk the dog on Thursday afternoons I almost always listen to the Spectator’s weekly podcast, during which Isabel Hardman, James Forsyth, Fraser Nelson and others discuss some of the political and cultural issues of the week. It’s excellent.
This week’s includes a conversation between Rod Liddle and Kaite Welsh about David Bowie and his legacy. I agree with Liddle that the best thing about Bowie was his music. He leaves behind a quite extraordinary body of work, much of which is part of the soundtrack of my life. When, as a teenager, I listened to Hunky Dory or watched Bowie perform on Top of the Pops, it was only ever about the music. I didn’t pay much attention to his androgyny or his drug taking. Later on, when he made political statements, they passed me by. Listening to this discussion made me realise I prefer to ignore the politics of my favourite actors and musicians. This is usually possible. I didn’t know until his death was announced this week, that the wonderful Alan Rickman was a “card carrying” member of the Labour Party, and knowing it now does not change my opinion of him.
Some are more noisy about it though. Those in the performing arts are obviously as entitled as anyone else to be political and it’s understandable that they might want to use their high profile to promote a cause. Benedict Cumberbatch, a superb actor, did this recently when he remained on stage after his play’s performance to criticise the Government for its response to the migrant crisis, but the way he did it grated with me.
“You feel this way because you’re a Conservative and actors tend to be left-leaning,” you might well say to me, and you’d probably be right.