No friend of the worker: Corin Redgrave in 1968
The best way to picture the London intelligentsia is as an outwardly respectable Edwardian family at the dinner table. Many subjects are taboo, so sexually rapacious uncles and demented aunts are never mentioned. The dependence of the family's lavish income on the labour and taxes of others is always forgotten. It seems a traditional scene, but today's intelligentsia break with old bourgeois patterns in only one respect. Rather than engage in small talk, the family denounces the immorality of others. Everyone else is either gullible or wicked while only their motives are pure. This unbending self-belief ensures that self-satisfaction trumps self-examination and the self-improvement that goes with it.
When Corin Redgrave died, the BBC might have ignored his politics. Actors, by definition, repeat other people's words. Nothing they thought or did offstage prevented Corin from being a good actor and his sister Vanessa a great one. Although it is interesting to hear about their lives, as far as their substantive artistic achievements are concerned, their biographies are little more than gossip. Radio 4 pretended to take Corin's life in full, however, and proved that it is incapable of honestly reporting the failings of the upper-middle-class Left.
The flagship arts programme Front Row announced: "He often played powerful men, but in real life he railed against privilege, social injustice and war." Last Word, Radio 4's obituaries programme, found former associates who praised Redgrave's activism. He was constantly "looking at all forms of injustice and oppression", we were told, and "trying to make a better world". The BBC added its editorial authority to their encomiums when its supposedly impartial presenter declared that Redgrave was "a passionate campaigner on political and human rights causes".
Journalists are often criticised for simplifying. The hack's craft has its failings, but the demand to condense also instils in reporters the discipline of focusing on the story's point. "Give me the headline," shouts the editor, as the bewildered reporter stares at his notebook trying to make sense of his scribbles. "Where's your bloody intro?" The story of Corin's and Vanessa's politics is so straightforward that only the wilfully blind can miss it. The Redgraves spent their adult lives serving a repellent totalitarian party led by a rapist and a friend not of "human rights" and "justice", as Radio 4 pretended, but of dictatorship and terror.
The supreme leader was Gerry Healy, who kept the Redgraves and thousands of others in his power by deploying the classic cult tactic of spreading paranoia and fear about everyone outside his Trotskyist sect. The walls of the party headquarters in Clapham were lined with steel to block out MI5 listening devices. A fleet of vehicles waited in the car park outside so that Workers Revolutionary Party militants could make their escape if the oft-predicted fascist coup came. Traitors and Special Branch plants were everywhere, and members had to cut off all ties with everyone accept the chosen few.