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Joan Bakewell Q&A: “What would make my life better? More of it to come”

The television presenter on Brexit, Beethoven, and meeting Clement Atlee at university.

Joan Bakewell began her career as a television presenter for “Late Night Line-Up” in the 1960s. She served as Labour’s “tsar for the elderly” between 2008 and 2010, when she was made a peer.

What’s your earliest memory?

A tomato sandwich with the skin and crusts removed, on brown bread with butter. The war was on, so food mattered. It was fuel, not fun. So this was a special treat.

Who are your heroes?

Charlotte Brontë was my childhood hero: a woman who struggled to gain success and did it with a novel that idealised romantic love. Success was a good message, romantic love bad. My adult hero is John Maynard Keynes: he was right then and he’s right now.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?

Clement Attlee. I met him at the University Labour Club. He couldn’t connect to a young student admirer, but the welfare state happened on his watch so he clearly got something right.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Television in the 1960s. It’s always good to be in on the blossoming of a new discipline. The 1960s were a television golden age, not for the programmes but for the structures – BBC and ITV – that made them possible.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

As a woman, there’s no better time than now in the west. Class, gender and money matter in all eras. But historically, I’d opt for Elizabethan England.

What TV show could you not live without?

I’m something of a news junkie. Channel 4 News is my touchstone for global information and opinion… and for my first drink of the evening.

Who would paint your portrait?

Holbein. He offers truth and judgement without sycophancy. He makes women look thoughtful.

What’s your theme tune?

The “Prisoners’ Chorus” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Elgar’s First Symphony, or the Beatles’ “Let it Be”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

From my mother, to deal with my whining: “Life’s not fair; get used to it.” It has helped with disappointments. I passed it on to my children and they say it helps too.

What’s currently bugging you?

Brexit, naturally. I am appalled by how bad things are. But I’m a co-founder of 48% & Rising, a group pledged to supporting Remainer morale and promoting a brighter outlook for the future.

When were you happiest?

At school in the 1940s, at Cambridge in the 1950s. Everything seemed possible. All the things I cared about were improving.

What single thing would make your life better?

I wish there were more of it to come. My book Stop the Clocks is an elegy to old age. There is so much to love and enjoy about the world. I don’t want to miss it.

In another life, what job would you have chosen?

Would I have the patience to be an historian or scholar? The empathy to be a psychiatrist? Perhaps a tap dancer?

Are we all doomed?

In the immediate future the prospect looks dire. In the long term we are all stardust. What’s the alternative?

“Stop the Clocks: Thoughts on What I Leave Behind” by Joan Bakewell is published in paperback by Virago

This article first appeared in the 10 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, France’s new Napoleon

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.