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Alan Bennett slams the Government, Gogglebox and even the Great British Bake Off

Published 01/09/2015

Alan Bennett has branded the Government as
Alan Bennett has branded the Government as "deplorable"

Talking Heads writer Alan Bennett has criticised the Government as "deplorable".

Speaking to the Radio Times, the 81-year-old playwright attacked the current and former prime ministers as he ruled out writing about politics: "I think this Government is deplorable. I thought the last one was deplorable. I thought Tony Blair was deplorable."

He also offered an opinion on the current Labour leadership campaign: "I think Jeremy Corbyn has given things a good kick in the pants and the fact that he has done so well shows that people are concerned about these issues. The Government would have you think that nobody is concerned about these things, but they are."

Deeply critical of the way the Government and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is handling the BBC, he called it "one of the few things we do better than anybody else" and insisted: "Any attempt to meddle with it or cut the licence fee is scandalous. Any other nation must think we're crazy to even think of diminishing it. It does things in sound and on TV that you get nowhere else."

A star ever since his 1960 collaboration as writer and performer with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook in the satirical Beyond the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival, Bennett has long been regarded as a national treasure.

The Yorkshireman's body of work includes plays The History Boys, The Madness of George III and their film adaptations and the famous Talking Heads monologues.

"I called them Talking Heads because at the time that was shorthand from TV producers for 'boring'. 'It's just talking heads,' they'd say. Yet I've always thought that a person talking directly to the audience is one of the most interesting things you could do."

Television remains a passion, but he isn't a fan of reality TV and even BBC One's popular Great British Bake Off comes in for some criticism: "I hate programmes such as Bake Off, where someone is sent home at the end of each episode. I loathe that. Because it's so competitive and brings out the worst in people. Everybody elbowing everybody else out of the way."

The playwright also pours scourn on Gogglebox, Channel 4's award-winning series about families watching TV: "I want to shake those people. I don't like the posh pair. And I don't like that gay couple, their tattoos put me off. I don't care for the women from Brixton. I like the couple where the man is more radical than the woman; he's bald and old."

The praise for Leon and June Bernicoff, Gogglebox's retired teachers from Liverpool, is also extended to Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry who, he says, "does well to do it at her age!"

Bennett confirms there will be no more Talking Heads. But what about another play? "I don't know. At my age, if you can get on a bus, that's a good thing," he jokes.

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