The plan was obvious. The Rt. Hon. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Knight of the Thistle and starkest of aristocrats, was due to arrive for an interview in the bbc’s ‘Panorama’ studio on the evening of Monday, February 17th. For high mystagogue Richard Dimbleby, this occasion was too pregnant for commonplace procedures. Symbolism was imperative. No sooner had the symbolic ‘Panorama’ globe vanished, therefore, than the viewers saw Sir Alec sidling symbolically round a screen and into the studio, trailed at the proper distance by interviewer Robin Day. The aristocrats allow people to wander casually into their homes and sometimes even shake hands with them, do they not?—here was an aristocrat being shown into the Dimbleby demesne, in a neat reversal of rôles manifestly intended to show we are all upper-class, nowadays. It was all to be so cunningly natural. Sir Alec stalked sleekly forward and extended a limp hand to the owner. ‘Good evening, Sir. . . ’, began Dimbleby, as he took it with determined ease. Alas, the laboriously constructed symbol exploded before our eyes, as the contact turned his hand at once into the cloven hoof of the mere bourgeois. The illusion of a thousand evenings, the striving of centuries of English bourgeois gentilshommes, all evaporated in a flash. A vulgar technician stood quaking in his double-breasted suit, being polite to his superior.
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NLR I/24, March–April 1964