Don't mention politics! Rhianna Dhillon risks it on Radio 1

Perhaps what Dhillon was picking up on as patronising was that if you’re addressing a slightly younger audience you have a responsibility not just to keep distracting them with quotable outrages; their minds are less experienced.

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Greg James: the Thirty-Minute Takeover
BBC Radio 1

“In this age of politics, we all should know what we’re doing with our votes...” Rhianna Dhillon, Radio 1 film critic, is speaking to Greg James on his afternoon show about the new Russell Brand documentary that covers the various flagitious ways that bankers have avoided getting banged up over the 2008 financial collapse. She gives The Emperor’s New Clothes a so-so three stars and is clearly edging towards mentioning the election: streng verboten on Radio 1, unless you have the time to consider equably (and dully) all seven main parties’ PoV.

Previous to this, the 26-year-old had nailed Brand’s presentation style with exquisite casualness: “He’s great when he’s out on the streets talking to people, but when he slows down it just feels patronising. But maybe that’s because he was reading from autocue and the form just doesn’t work for him.”

The trailer for the film.

Spot on, but not great news for Brand, who will have hoped for more enthusiasm on Radio 1 at least, as his film is fully aimed at the teenage download market, with its many “That’s amazing!” facts entirely shaped to hook the station’s listeners in. For example, it would take 300 years for a cleaning lady to make the same money as the boss of the bank she hoovers. (Is that really shocking? Frankly, 500 years wouldn’t have surprised me. Or five millennia.)

Perhaps what Dhillon was picking up on as patronising was that if you’re addressing a slightly younger audience you have a responsibility not just to keep distracting them with quotable outrages; their minds are less experienced. And is there not something actively sinister about Brand’s teen-orientated “peace and love” shtick? That’s the phrase he starts using, like an old rocker-turned-Buddhist, when anybody questions his world-view. In Brand’s mouth these serious words seem besmirched, sounding more like a shield, a forestalling defence mechanism. They even sound full of hatred.

But back to the election. “Yes, well, we’re not allowed to talk about that,” crowed James, delighted that his interlocutor had slipped and slid on to the naughty step. “Send the lifeboats!” he yelled, dobbing her further in it, while Dhillon just laughed, with her usual, marvellous gusto. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 01 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Scots are coming!