DRIVING into Stroud is like circling a drain, round and round, lower and lower, past the superstores which have sucked the life out of this Gloucestershire market town and so many others. Then we branched off and upwards, towards the Star Inn and Katie Hopkins’s gig.
The session was a return visit, a thank you to mine host Ken who had stepped into the breach last year, offering a last-minute venue when two others had pulled out in response to pressure from activists. Even then a crowd had gathered outside, banging drums to disrupt the performance, so also disturbing the peace of the local residents.
They were there again this time in the chill January weather, bearing their placards, quiet under the eyes of the police but still fairly numerous, having publicised themselves in the Stroud Times three days earlier saying that Katie ‘does not reflect the values of our inclusive and diverse community.’ As to that, the ‘residents of Whiteshill and Ruscombe’ are under-challenged: Stroud District is 97.9 per cent white and Whitehill’s three-bed semis go for around £400k.
Nevertheless Katie’s ‘views do not align with the inclusivity, tolerance, and respect that we hold dear’ and despite the spokespeople’s stated belief in ‘fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and safe’ we prudently had more officers on site, on the door and in the bar. One behind the taps was tense and biting his lip; a local lad who didn’t relax when I told him I’d been to school in Lydney but finally cracked a smile when I raised my pint of Liberty IPA and wished him ‘slàinte mhaith!’
Those who have seen Katie live or on Instagram will know that she is unabashed in her assertion of free speech and castigation of public figures and the self-righteous. The growing madness outside our front doors means that she will never be short of material. A recent news item is Stephen Hawking’s visit to Epstein’s island, inspiring Katie to unprintable (and thoroughly unjustified) fantasies, revealing her talent for speaking like a toneless ventriloquist and prompting her to muse on kicking off her main-stage Silly Cow gigs in a wheelchair. Daft, tasteless and dark; but born of the way that the Fleet Street newsrooms she knew used to kick around ideas – I recall Channel 4’s documentary showing how the Daily Sport’s editor came up with the ‘Shoot You, Sir!’ headline for Versace’s murder. Humour is anarchic, which is why it must be punished.
Punishment is what we got. The show was over, the audience were clustering around Katie or picking up their belongings and then from behind came a crash as the double-glazed door to the car park splintered under the impact of a heavy rock. Next day the Stroud Times loyally assured its readers: ‘There is no suggestion that the damage was linked to the protesters who gathered beforehand.’ They would say so, but I emailed the paper to make that suggestion: ‘It is not likely pure coincidence. The febrile atmosphere generated by campaigners was bound to inspire a thuggish moron.’
The wokies think they are on the side of justice but so did the Brown Shirts: be right; be passionate; use force. There can be only one ideology.
My mother saw all this in Thirties East Prussia. All the teachers joined the Party, except for the historian who was replaced by the caretaker (who needs book-learning when you know the simple answers?) They browbeat Mum; her classmates fought her in the playground; but Opa refused to let her join. The school library suddenly had gaps all over the shelves: no books by Jews and socialists.
Now another lot of Puritans are taking over, as though we have learned nothing from Cromwell’s joyless Protectorate, but then what history do they teach in British schools today?
It begins with the breaking of glass, ‘Kristallnacht’; where will it end?