Office politics at London Weekend TV were the psychological equivalent of Kosovan genocide

Am introduced on a radio programme as "the celebrity psychoanalyst who made Peter Mandelson cry on TV". Having failed to recover from this ignominious and not wholly accurate description, I do not do well. Returning home, who should I see driving down Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill but a glum-looking Mandelson. I reflect that however Machiavellian and dastardly he may have been in his political relationships, he did not deserve to be turfed out of his home as well as the cabinet for what was, in the end, a fairly minor cock-up. But people are cruel and maybe what goes around comes around.


Meanwhile in Kosovo the genocide tally reaches 10,000, and, over a quattro formaggio at the Pizza Express in Notting Hill, my normally wise and critical chum Tim is still maintaining that the war was "an exceptionally courageous moral act with truly humanitarian motives. Blair was faced with extremely difficult choices and, for the first time, a prime minister insisted that something be done to stop this kind of thing."

In between bites of my American hot (with extra cheese and sausage), I object that, by bombing, Blair removed the only real protection which existed for the Kosovar Albanians: the press and broadcast media and the OCSE UN force. Tim claims that the genocide would have happened anyway. But, in that case, why had it not happened already? Can there be any doubt at all that the Nato intervention caused these extra deaths as well as the deportation of 800,000 and the homelessness of a further 600,000 that would never have otherwise occurred? I accept that it was right to act against Milosevic but it seems hard to believe that bombing was the correct strategy.


The Sunday Times calls to ask why the genre of fictions based on serial killers in general and Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter in particular are so popular. I am reminded of a series of research studies published after the second world war.

The philanthropic editor of the Observer David Astor set up a unit at Sussex University to identify the social psychological causes of genocidal behaviour. (Although he has never made a fuss about it, Astor's other far-sighted benefactions included providing George Orwell with a home in which to write Nineteen Eighty-Four, supporting E F Schumacher, funding organic farming in the 1970s and helping Erin Pizzey to set up the first Women's Aid hostel.)

The most important alumnus of this unit was Anthony Storr, whose book Human Aggression, published in 1970, is still in print. It concluded: "The sombre fact is that we are the cruellest and most ruthless species that has ever walked the earth."


Having idly watched Channel 4's late-night round-up of the papers, The Sundays, and been appalled by the shallowness of both the papers being reviewed and the pundits on the programme (bring back After Dark on Saturday nights is what I say), I nonetheless dutifully tuck into the papers over my organic vegetable juice cocktail breakfast. For the first time in years I find much to interest me (mostly the Saturdays have destroyed the old excitement one felt opening a Sunday paper).

In particular I am astonished by a paean by Andrew Marr in the Observer to the diligence and ability of the men who spewed out of London Weekend Television during the 1980s and who are now, according to Marr, along with graduates of McKinsey, said to be running Britain (for example, the BBC tyros Sir Christopher Bland and Sir John Birt, Lord Bragg of Middlebrow, the wannabe London mayor Trevor Phillips and the wannabe BBC director-general Greg Dyke).

How could Marr regard this coterie as benign and talented, rather than ambitious mediocrities? Certainly few in television agree with him, regarding LWT-ites more as a virulent poison that has infected the rest of the industry. (Don't forget that these assorted millionaires were turfed out of their building after being taken over by Granada.) If you stop to think about it, even in its 1980s heyday LWT was always a schizophrenic combination of the most garish, embarrassing light entertainment (The Price Is Right) and the most constipated, anal current affairs (Weekend World). Worst of all, the culture at LWT was vicious and Machiavellian, with office politics that were the psychological equivalent of Kosovan genocide.

Do not take my word for this, listen to the wisdom of one who knew. He identified "a sort of LWT legionnaire's disease" in the air conditioning of the South Bank offices. "Nice ordinary people come in here and go out crazed and power-hungry," he said.

John Birt and Christopher Bland have long since made the journey across the river to the BBC and introduced these admirable qualities to an organisation that was once a pleasure to work for. As the BBC governors consider their options for a new D-G, they should bear in mind that the author of this accurate evaluation of the LWT culture was none other than . . . Greg Dyke.


A little girl in the park is talking to her younger brother: "I will eat you all up, beginning with your toes." He looks properly alarmed.

The potential for Hannibal Lecter, Kosovan genocide and LWT office politics lies within us all from very early on. It is ultimately up to parents and governments to ensure that our altruistic and creative instincts are reinforced and the cruel, sick side restricted. After all, what goes around comes around . . .