The essence of Midsomer Murders, the source of its charm, is that it is set in a mythical, rural England where the villages have names like Badger’s Drift, Luxton Deeping and Monks Barton. The characters are quintessentially English, which means white (and often slightly loopy).
Though nominally set in the present, the series conjures up an England from an indeterminate period in the past. If it were suddenly swamped with characters wearing Muslim head-scarves or speaking with West Indian accents, the illusion would be shattered.
But none of this matters to the enforcers of political correctness, who seem to demand that Midsomer Murders reflect the multicultural reality of modern Britain. That this would destroy its inherent escapist appeal is of no concern to them.
A spokesman for ITV, which broadcasts Midsomer Murders, said he was “shocked and appalled” by True-May’s comments. The company’s over-reaction shows how defensive broadcasters have become in the face of attacks by zealots seeking to impose their oppressive orthodoxy.
There was nothing racist in what True-May said. He didn’t besmirch non-white British citizens or suggest they were inferior or unworthy. He simply stated what should be obvious to any viewer of his programme: namely, that it depicts a fantasy England similar to that portrayed in the books of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.
That ITV threw True-May to the wolves rather than upheld his right to remain true to his harmless artistic vision – one that has brought pleasure to millions of viewers – is a disgrace.
So now the enemies of free speech have another scalp to hang on their belts. True-May’s shafting came after veteran Sky TV football commentator Andy Gray was suspended for making supposedly sexist remarks off-air about a lineswoman – he questioned whether women knew the offside rule – and former England coach Glenn Hoddle was forced to apologise for repeating a lame but inoffensive old football joke about an imaginary Chinese player named Knee Shin Toe. (Gray was subsequently sacked when other off-air behaviour came to light, but that’s another story.)
You could accuse these people of being oafish, but heck – they’re football commentators, not Supreme Court judges. The hullabaloo over their verbal indiscretions shows that even sports commentary has become a minefield. Where, I wonder, will it end?
First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, March 29.