16 FEBRUARY 1991, Page 39


Red romps

Martyn Harris

Compassion may have returned to the Tory Party but the arrogance, savagery and vanity of Alan B'Stard MP show no sign of flagging. In the last episode of the current series of The New Statesman (LWT, 10 p.m., Sunday) B'Stard had wangled a freebie to the Soviet Union and was heading, inevitably, towards entrapment by luscious Ludmilla of the KGB.

'I should warn you,' she told him, `that I am a man-eater.'

`Well you tuck in then,' said B'Stard with a confident leer.

All this, by the way, was taking place in Lenin's Tomb, so that as Ludmilla fumbled with his flies, B'Stard was able to exclaim, 'My God, the biggest stuffy in the Soviet Union.' • , In his days as an alternative comic Rik MayaII relied too much on grimace and gesticulation. As B'Stard he has acquired restraint and weight, literal and metaphor- ical, so that here is an element of real menace behind the caricature of amorality and greed. He gave by far the best per- formance in the stage revival of The Common Pursuit two years ago, and it is time someone cast him in the kind of comic heavy part which Ian Richardson plays, rather than always the heavily comic.

Back in the USSR and back to sex, The Media show (Channel 4, 9 p.m., Sunday) looked at the spread of sexual freedom under glasnost, and at the signs of an impending clampdown. The Bolsheviks of 1917 paid lip-service to sexual emancipa- tion and the overthrow of bourgeois moral- ity — to this day there is a bracing Scandinavian strain in Soviet society, as shown by the mixed saunas and nudity on public beaches and matter-of-fact treat- ment of abortions (which run at 7 million a year).

Stalin, however, seems to have resented the energies consumed by sex, which might have been better directed to worship of himself. Pornography was outlawed; homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviancy became criminal, even capital offences; sex was for the production of children, for the service of the state. Sex was dangerous; sex was subversive; sex was, above all, a private activity, and in the totalitarian state there is no room for privacy. The most chilling image of the programme was of Stalin in snow-white uniform, with a blood-red band around his cap, and in the background a white statue of himself carried shoulder-high above a crowd, in profane echo of the Blessed Virgin.

It was all hypocrisy. It is 'always the noisiest proponents of puritanism and 'family values' who have the mistress tuck- ed away at the dacha in Peredelkino, or the maisonette in Maida Vale.`The KGB of the 1950s represented purity and holiness,' a Soviet film-maker said. 'In fact they were not just thinking about sex. They were having sex all the time.' Even as Emma Freud's team were filming in Moscow the police were booting down the stalls of Playboys and Penthouses, but it was not purity they were restoring, it was sham. Finally, and apropos of nothing, I would like to congratulate the Hon Toby Young for his brave appearance on Channel 4 Comment (7.50 p.m., Monday) in which he repeated the message of his recent column in the Sunday Telegraph. This was that class discrimination in Britain now oper- ates in reverse, so that while it is a simple matter for any Liverpudlian illiterate to obtain a job as controller of a television channel, it is impossible for a white, Oxbridge-educated male like Young him- self even to enter the BBC trainee scheme. Amid the current canting talk of classless- ness and 'equal opportunities' this was a courageous argument, movingly express- ed, and by the end of it there was at least one viewer who had trouble in fighting back the tears.