Grumpy Old Sod

Nope, not a review of the new Morrissey album (don’t get me started on his latest loathsome attempt to whip up a few column inches of publicity that just happens to coincide with the release of his latest record).

I was listening to Adam Buxton’s podcast the other day, and he mentioned that he had just recorded an episode of BBC panel show Room 101.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it’s named after the torture room in Orwell’s 1984, where the Party subject prisoners to their worst nightmare, fear or phobia.

To do that, the items which invoke these feelings must be placed into Room 101, and it’s here that the BBC TV show comes in. The premise is that three celebrities suggest things which annoy them, and put the case for them being banished to Room 101. The host, currently comedian Frank Skinner, chooses one item per round which ‘wins’ and is booted into the room.

Buxton revealed that after you’re booked to appear on the show, you submit your list of pet peeves; the production crew then go through it and rule out any items which have featured on previous editions of the show. When you bear in mind that the show first aired on the radio back in 1992, and on TV in 1994 (with, it has to be said, a few years of silence in 1998, and then again between 2007 and 2012) that’s a lot of topics that you can’t choose.

And that, as Buxton points out, makes it rather difficult to pick things that truly wind you up that haven’t already been on.

I’ve watched the show since it first aired, and have often thought about what, in the highly unlikely event that I was invited on,  I would nominate. But this news means that I would be unable to re-nominate most of the ones that I would have chosen (predictive text, American Football, and clowns all would have been on my list).

So what would I choose now? And, more importantly, what songs would I choose to soundtrack them?

I should have written about my first choice a couple of weeks ago, for there was a prime example riding high in the news. For my first choice is:

People Who Give Public Apologies Without Actually Saying Sorry

The example I’m thinking of is not Weinstein or Spacey, both of whom gave what they claimed were apologies or expressions of remorse, but actually it was clear they were only sorry about being exposed.

No, the example I’m thinking of involves a politician – they’re particularly well versed at these sorts of apologies – who made an incorrect statement, was pulled up on it, but rather than simply saying they were sorry and correcting it, tried to blag their way out of it.

I say politician, but I actually mean Boris Johnson.

In March 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on a holiday to Iran; not a destination many would choose, I imagine, but she wanted to be with her family (who live there) for Persian New Year. The idea was to introduce her then one year old daughter not just to her grandparents, but also to allow her to begin to learn about Iranian culture.

On 3rd April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested just as she was about to board a flight back to the UK. Her daughter’s British passport was confiscated.

In September 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison “for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime”, a charge she and her family has always denied.

Fast forward to October 2017, and Zaghari-Ratcliffe was to be considered for release on parole. That is, until at a foreign affairs select committee meeting, Johnson said that he believed Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “simply teaching people journalism”.

His comments were subsequently cited in Iran as evidence that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was spreading “propaganda against the regime”, a charge which could add a further sixteen years on to her sentence.

Of course, when presented with the facts, Boris did the right thing and corrected his error, right? Did he heck as like.

First came a statement from the Foreign Office: “The foreign secretary expressed concern at the suggestion from the Iranian judiciary high council for human rights that his remarks last week at the foreign affairs committee ‘shed new light’ on the case.”

Then, in a statement in the House of Commons, Johnson said: “I accept that my remarks could have been clearer.”

Yes, they could have been clearer. They could also have been accurate, which would have been even better.

A week later, he was compelled to clarify further: “As I said in the House last week, my remarks on the subject before the Foreign Affairs Committee could and should have been clearer….And I acknowledge that the words that I used were open to being misinterpreted and I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family if I have inadvertently caused them any further anguish.”


Saying “I apologise if…” is not saying sorry.

The word “sorry” does not appear in any of those statements. Because he isn’t sorry.

I’m reminded of a quote from Denis Thatcher, not someone I name-check often for fairly obvious reasons, but it’s relevant here: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.” 

All doubt was removed about Johnson a very long time ago.

Some songs:


Squeeze – Trust Me To Open My Mouth

And I can’t really not post this, now can I?


Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in an Iranian prison. If you’d like to help the campaign to get her released, you can sign an on-line petition here.

More moaning soon.