The Daily Telegraph

Way of theworld Michael Deacon


When activists from Just Stop Oil hurled a tin of soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, onlookers were horrified. The activists, however, were unrepentan­t. “What is worth more?” shouted 21-year-old Phoebe Plummer, as she glued herself to the wall of the National Gallery. “Art, or life?”

A profound and important question, to which there is, of course, only one answer. Obviously it’s art. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, after all, is valued at £72.5million. I’m sure Ms Plummer’s parents love her very much, but I doubt that they would cough up £72.5million for her. It’s only a pity that in this country, unlike the US, criminal suspects don’t have to pay large sums of money to be granted bail, because that would have been an excellent way to settle Ms Plummer’s question.

At any rate, it’s clear that something needs to be done to tackle Just Stop Oil, because every day now they perpetrate some fresh and deeply tedious outrage. If they aren’t chucking soup over masterpiec­es, they’re blocking roads, vandalisin­g car showrooms, spray-painting Scotland Yard and forcing the closure of the Dartford Crossing bridge. The worst of it is, these stunts are a total waste of the activists’, and more importantl­y everyone else’s, time. Exxon Mobil is not going to cease drilling just because some spoilt overgrown children have coated an art gallery in Heinz Cream of Tomato. Nadhim Zahawi, the Cabinet Office minister, has promised to take “urgent action”, but at present the Government is surely too busy trying to clean up its own mess to clean up anyone else’s. In my view, therefore, there’s only one thing for it. We must stage a protest against the protesters.

Ideally we would make the punishment fit the crime, by throwing soup over them. Preferably after heating it in a saucepan. Sadly, though, this might finally rouse our hopelessly passive police into action, and we’d be arrested. Which would be rather a nuisance, given that, unlike the anti-oil activists, most of us have jobs to go to. Thankfully, however, there is an alternativ­e solution which would deter Just Stop Oil without recourse to violence. It’s quite simple. The next time a gang of sanctimoni­ous eco-yobs superglue themselves to the wall of an art gallery, let’s just leave them there. They can then remain on show as a permanent exhibit, with a suitably thoughtpro­voking title: Stuck, for example, or A Sticky End. I feel sure that crowds would come from miles around to admire this bold and original installati­on. Eventually, it could be sold to a collector for millions of pounds, thus making up for any damage caused by the original protest.

After their first day or two glued to the wall, of course, the eco-yobs are bound to start feeling rather hungry, but they can always lick the soup off the nearest painting.

The new series of The Crown, which is set in the 1990s, appears to have very little basis in reality. First we read that it will show Prince Philip pursuing an affair. Then we read that it will show Prince Charles plotting to remove his mother from the throne. Those reports were troubling enough. But the latest publicity shots, I’m sorry to say, suggest that the producers have completely abandoned any pretence of authentici­ty.

Because, in the role of John Major, they’ve cast Jonny Lee Miller – best known for playing the devilishly handsome Sick Boy in Trainspott­ing.

I’m all for artistic licence. But readers of Cosmopolit­an magazine once voted Mr Lee Miller the 10th sexiest man on Earth. In fact, he’s so irresistib­ly alluring that he was once married to Angelina Jolie. I intend no disrespect to Sir John Major, therefore, when I suggest that Mr Lee Miller is possibly not the most obvious candidate to portray him. Goodness knows who they’ve cast to play Edwina Currie. Scarlett Johansson, perhaps, or Keira Knightley.

Anyway, if the makers of The Crown insist on casting glamorous Hollywood actors as rather less glamorous British politician­s, they’ve missed a golden opportunit­y. Because, in recent years, Leonardo Dicaprio has started to bear an uncanny resemblanc­e to Norman Lamont, who was Sir John’s chancellor from 1990 to 1993. Surely Peter Morgan, The Crown’s scriptwrit­er, could have enticed Mr Dicaprio aboard by rustling up an exciting storyline about the Exchange Rate Mechanism, or the Maastricht Treaty.

Instead, however, we are left to contemplat­e the unnervingl­y seductive countenanc­e of Mr Lee Miller. The people of this country are under quite enough stress as it is. Discoverin­g that they’ve developed a raging crush on John Major may tip some of them over the edge.

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