Littlejohn is annoyed Benedict Cumberbatch is raising money for Syrian refugees

Groupthink papers tell government's critics to 'shut up'


A trend to watch out for when reading the press is how an idea can bloom in a number of places at once like a garden of ugly flowers.

Groupthink broke out this morning over who may and may not speak about the government’s policy on refugees.

Yesterday, more than 300 former judges and lawyers signed an open letter calling the prime minister’s plans to accept 20,000 hand-picked Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East by 2020 ‘too slow, too low and too narrow’.

The resulting articles betray a theme. A Daily Mail editorial entitled ‘Just leave the politics to politicians, m’Lud’ asks:

“Is it unduly cynical to point out many have made a fat living from clients resisting deportation – and stand to profit further from every new influx?

A Telegraph editorial, subtitled ‘The lawyers and ex-judges writing to David Cameron to criticise his response to the migrant crisis should pipe down and stick to the law‘, concludes:

“This blatant political intervention is made all the more egregious by the fact that the judiciary and immigration lawyers have a specific role to play in the process. They should avoid such posturing and stick to the law.”

Columnists too were on hand to echo these sentiments.

A piece by Max Hastings in the Mail is headed: ‘Keep your noses out of this most sensitive and controversial issue facing Britain, M’Luds’.

Meanwhile, the ever-lovely Richard Littlejohn has another heretic in his sights. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is charged with ‘haranguing’ his audience at the Barbican, where he is playing Hamlet, about the plight of Syrian refugees.

The swine has even been asking them to donate to Save the Children to help the millions displaced by the Syrian civil war.

This was too much for Littlejohn, who suffers none of the Prince of Denmark’s indecision. He demands to know:

How dare Cumberbatch seek to manipulate people, who have paid good money to watch him perform Shakespeare, into feeling guilty about the plight of migrants?”

(We’re back to ‘migrants’, you’ll notice.)

He concludes: ‘So spare us the puerile lectures, Benny Boy, and stick to the day job.’

Back in the Telegraph, Julia-Hartly Brewer handily amalgamates these two stories, with her headline:

“Luvvies and lawyers should shut up about the Syrian refugee crisis

In the latter three pieces there is an attempt at some class warfare, with rich celebrities and legal professionals overlooking the impact of migration on the ordinary Brit.

As usual, they ignore the net plus for the economy immigration brings and let the government off the hook for failing to use this wealth to invest in schools, homes and hospitals.

More interesting is how the sort of people who usually bang on about free speech being under threat from the tyranny of political correctness impose their own codes of expression. They decide who should and shouldn’t speak about refugees and migration, and indeed, what they should say about it.

As for ‘luvvies’ getting involved, if they are going to fill the pages of the same newspapers now complaining, they may as well use their fame to raise money for Save the Children.

Contra Littlejohn, passing buckets around after a show in theatres is common, voluntary, and does more to help those in need than his ghastly columns.

Celebrities and legal professionals have as much right as the newspapers to criticise the government. Their supposed offence in this case was to do so from a different perspective.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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