In Tough Crowd, Graham Linehan’s new book chronicling his battle against militant trans activism, the comedy writer reserves particular scorn for the three main stars of the Harry Potter films. When JK Rowling was monstered on social media for daring to speak up in support of women’s rights, those three actors – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – could have leapt to her defence. But they did not. Instead, they each loftily proclaimed their support for the trans rights movement.
“[They] instantly betrayed her,” Mr Linehan writes. “[They] deserve to be remembered as symbols of the most remarkable arrogance, cowardice and ingratitude.”
He needn’t worry. Because one day, I strongly suspect, they will be.
Obviously none of us is obliged to share the opinions of the people we worked for at the start of our careers. Whenever I sit down to write a column, I do not first ring up the manager of the Edinburgh branch of Bargain Books I worked at in summer 2001, just to check that my views on Sir Keir Starmer or the Duchess of Sussex meet her approval. Nor do I run my opinions on Black Lives Matter or Just Stop Oil past the former editor of J17, the long-defunct teenage girls’ magazine for which I was junior staff writer in 2003.
Those three former child stars, however, are in an unusual position. JK Rowling did not give them a paper round, or a Saturday job in their local corner shop. She gave them global fame – something they would have been unlikely to achieve without her. And so, even though they don’t share her views, their response should at least have been more respectful. They could have said in the immediate aftermath: “I will always support trans rights. However I am appalled by the abuse of JK Rowling. Nothing she has ever said is remotely bigoted or transphobic. She’s just speaking up for women, that’s all.”
So why didn’t they fight her corner? Are they absolutely beyond doubt that their views place them on “the right side of history”? Or were they simply scared of being cancelled themselves?
I don’t know. But I do know that, if “the right side of history” turns out to have been JK Rowling’s, their treatment of her will be the only thing that anyone remembers about them.
How to save the planet: boycott France
Voters love the idea of net zero – until they realise the sacrifices they’ll have to make. That, at least, seems to be the view of most British commentators. Apparently, however, things are different in France. Because a new poll suggests that, for the sake of net zero, the French are willing to ruin both their economy – and their holidays.
Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French expert on climate change, recently made a radical proposal. No one, he said, should be permitted to make more than four flights in his or her life. Two return trips, and that’s your lot.
It sounds alarmingly draconian. Yet, when the idea was put to the French people in a poll last week, they responded with wild enthusiasm. A remarkable 41 per cent said they agreed. And among the youngest age group – 18-24-year-olds – the idea was supported by a startling 59 per cent.
Such a result is extraordinary. Especially when you bear in mind that France attracts more tourists than any other country on Earth. Many of them, of course, are from neighbouring European countries, and so are unlikely to come by air. Millions of others, however, travel from somewhat further afield. Last year, for example, France received 3.7m visitors from the USA. I think we can assume they didn’t all swim.
France’s fastest-growing market for tourism, meanwhile, is China. Indeed, the French government has been working hard to attract more tourists from that country. After this poll, however, ministers will presumably have to adjust their sales pitch.
“Please come to France, dear Chinois. Just one very small thing: we must kindly ask you not to fly. But do not worry. We know the Chinois are famously keen on cycling. And the distance from Beijing to Paris is a mere 5,100 miles. So cycling to France shouldn’t take you much more than a month. Although try to avoid going through Ukraine. The roads there have been a little bumpy since your Russian friends blew them all up.”
If the Chinese aren’t impressed by this suggestion, though, France could be in trouble. Tourism accounts for eight per cent of France’s GDP, and more than 1.5m French jobs directly depend on it. If foreigners stop flying to France, penury awaits.
Still, this is what millions of French people – and a clear majority of the young – say they want. So let’s hope that the world respects their wishes.
In any case, while the results of this poll may be surprising, they do at least explain one thing. We finally know why French waiters are always so rude to tourists. They’re cross about our carbon footprint.
Way of the World is a twice-weekly satirical look at the headlines aiming to mock the absurdities of the modern world. It is published at 7am every Tuesday and Saturday