Radio review: The Moral Maze, My Name Is, and The Essay

28 February 2020

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Canon Rachel Mann spoke on The Moral Maze (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week) about trans-politics

Canon Rachel Mann spoke on The Moral Maze (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week) about trans-politics

YOU know that the times are out of joint when it is to The Moral Maze (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week) that one turns for a haven from the tumultuous arguments raging in the public sphere. There was a time when Michael Buerk and his heavies would happily knock ten bells out of one another over the morality of check shirts; but such is the register of public debate in the world of Brexit, Trump, and “woke” sensibil­ities, the show has become a safe space in a world of increasingly macro aggressions.

I have not been keeping tabs, but, from the way in which the discus­sion was introduced, it sounded as though the Moral Maze team had not done trans politics until last week.

What occasioned this late entry into the mud pit was a trans charter recently published by a campaign group in the Labour Party. Most eye-catching here is that the cam­paign group labels organisations such as Woman’s Place UK and the LGB Alliance as “trans-exclusionary hate groups”. The issue is as hot burning coals, and, unsurprisingly, it takes an expert such as Canon Rachel Mann, herself a trans woman and a mem­ber of last week’s panel, to manage 40 minutes with feet unscorched.

Others failed. The person re­­spons­­ible for the Labour charter, Torr Robinson, singularly failed to answer even the gentlest of queries about gender and personal identity, while the comedy writer Graham Linehan ex­­pressed regret for in­­­judicious re­­marks about puberty-blockers and Nazi eugenics made on a recent News­night pro­gramme. Mr Linehan is now dubbed “the most hated man on the inter­net”.

Perhaps we all need thicker skins. That appeared to be the lesson of My Name Is (Radio 4, Monday of last week), in which Hayley Griffin underwent “rejection therapy” to in­­ocu­late herself from the fear of, and hurt resulting from, rejection.

You can, at no cost to yourself except humiliation, submit yourself to such therapy: just go into a shop and ask for free stuff, and, when you are told “No,” try not to feel too bad about it.

But Ms Griffin’s was as much a political as a personal study. The gender pay gap is about women who do not ask for fear of not getting. And the #MeToo movement is about wo­­men who were afraid to say no. Were one to pursue all this logically, I suspect that things might get con­fusing. No clearly means no; but should we, therefore, be taking no for an an­­­swer? Let’s not disappear down that rabbit hole: we under­stand roughly what Hayley means.

On The Essay (Radio 3, weekdays last week), five comedians attempted to explain the inspira­­­­­tion for their humour. It was Adrian Edmondson (Monday) who gave us the most coherent account, describ­ing the pure joy of the utterly silly. His father, Fred, was a Methodist mis­sion­ary, not given to such emo­tional abandon; but he gets the prize for silliest joke of the week, for a gag about peeling onions underwater.

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