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How Prince Philip was turned into a pawn in the phoney culture wars

Stewart Lee
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Adrian Dennis/PA</span>
Photograph: Adrian Dennis/PA

Once, Richard Thomas’s Jerry Springer the Opera, to which I contributed unpopular elements, held the TV hate record, with 62,000 complaints. But last week it was out-hated by the BBC’s saturation coverage of Prince Philip’s death, which didn’t even win four Olivier awards and had no singing coprophiles. BBC appeasements of unappeasable bad faith actors backfire reliably. More than 110,000 people, missing EastEnders under lockdown, protested the all-channel mourning. That said, the complaints of our day were proper complaints, etched on to stone tablets and delivered by pigeons, not these “e-posts” they have now which any idiot can send. Indeed, it turns out that 116 of the people complaining were complaining that it was too easy to complain.

It is sad that an old lady has lost her companion of 73 years, grieving alone. And the supposedly controversial comments made by Prince Philip, that critics foregrounded, aren’t that bad, given that he was born 100 years ago and left normal life for the ermine cocoon of royalty in 1947. No one would expect Rip Van Winkle to wake up and understand the complex terminology of 21st-century transgender rights. Sadly, the duke was too far ahead of the zeitgeist to be declared a warrior of anti-wokeness and get a lucrative book deal. But only just.

The Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine’s agenda-setting tribute last week showed how the most tragic and personal event can be press-ganged into the Conservatives’ fabricated culture war. Though the duke was forbidden from expressing his own opinions in life, Vine has grafted hers on to him in death, riding his memory towards the hell of her own choosing, a Pale Horsewoman of the Apocalypse astride Bernie Clifton’s ostrich.

For Vine, Prince Philip’s passing represented, “more than the end of a single life; it represents the end of an era. Of a set of values and personal qualities that seem to have less and less and less place in the modern world; a kind of joyous, unapologetic masculinity that nowadays would – and routinely is – described by many as toxic.” For Vine, the unwitting Duke of Edinburgh is a symbol of that most oppressed minority of all – men! Unwilling to let the Jordan Peterson of carriage-driving rest unmolested, Vine goes on.

Vine’s fixation on the duke’s admiration for sausage holds water. His pet name for the Queen was 'sausage'

“The thing that always struck me as so wonderful about Prince Philip was the fact that he was unequivocally and unapologetically a bloke. It wasn’t only his tendency to put his foot in it. He lived simply and practically, never happier than when barbecuing sausages in the rain on a hillside in Scotland, and then putting those sausages into his mouth, the mouths of his family, or the mouths of delighted passersby. Or doing something complicated with a sausage. In other words, he knew what it meant to be a man. A real, grown-up man. And that, I’m afraid, makes him a rare gem in this day and age, when women are encouraged to consider even the offer of a sausage as an act of patriarchal micro-aggression. But you can’t fight nature. Or sausages. Men like him are as rare as genuine imported European sausages these days, because the modern world seems to despise them, and sausages, so much. How many young men growing up today, their minds addled with crazy brain powders, their Fairy Liquid hands as soft as their woke faces, even like sausages? Sausages that society no longer treats as treats but as toxins, that require the sternest eradication at the hands of the Commissars of Woke. But if toxic masculinity is loyalty, duty, courage, wisdom and sausages, so be it. Farewell then, Prince Philip, Prince among men, Duke of Sausage. Aw! Truly, this man was the Wokefinder General!”

Vine’s fixation on the duke’s admiration for sausage holds water. His pet name for the Queen was “sausage”. But Vine’s assertion that the duke channels the same masculine power that high-school incels claim they are denied is a stretch. If we look closely at the duke’s “politically incorrect gaffes” they suggest instead both a self-aware literary meta-commentary on his own persona, and a tentative embracing of woke values. Taken in isolation, the duke’s quip, “If you stand here much longer you’ll go home with slitty eyes”, to an English student in China in 1986, seems ill-judged. But two months later, to an English student in the Amazon basin, he said: “If you stand here much longer you will come home with a working knowledge of the shamanic properties of the ayahuasca root.” And a year earlier, to an English student in the Australian outback, he said: “If you stand here much longer you will come home able to make complex topographical mental maps by singing tunes in which microtonal shifts in pitch represent the rising and falling of contours. And chuck spears!” The duke displayed both a woke sensitivity to indigenous traditions, and a woke awareness of the obsolescence of his colonialist obligations.

The anti-woke infotainer Andrew Neil had hoped to use the duke as an avatar of anti-wokeness on his new anti-woke GB news show, Woke Watch. Neil denies knowing who I am online, as anti-woke Peter denied the woken Christ, but in reality I know the Weetabix-tonsured Wokefinder well. After the duke passed, Wheat-Head Zoomed me – an Olivier award-winning theatre director, remember – for artistic advice.

“Leapy my old friend,” Bisc-hair blabbed, “the comedy agency Blue Book Artist Management, who are also working the anti-woke market, reckoned they could get me the duke to mock the woke weekly. I don’t want to have to use Laurence Fox, although it would be cheaper. Do you think one could animate a hologram of Prince Philip’s head, like Patrick Moore on Gamesmaster?” “Yes Andy,” I replied, “then you could just make the Duke of Edinburgh say whatever you wanted him to say.”

A physical media 12” of the January No 1 hit single Comin’ Over Here by Asian Dub Foundation (ft Stewart Lee) is now available from Xray Productions. The acclaimed anti-rockumentary King Rocker (ft Stewart Lee) is streaming on Now TV