Anthony Clavane: He might be the most famous Morrissey, but David and Neil are far more interesting when it comes to the arts

Leeds-born journalist, author and playwright Anthony Clavane.
Leeds-born journalist, author and playwright Anthony Clavane.
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Earlier this week, the chief political correspondent of an American magazine made an important announcement. “I regret to inform you,” he tweeted, “that Morrissey’s brain has turned to oatmeal.”

He was not referring to David Morrissey, currently starring in The City and the City. Nor, indeed, to Neil Morrissey, best known for his role as Tony in Men Behaving Badly.

He was, of course, commenting on the latest musings from the most famous Morrissey of them all. Steven Patrick. The former Smiths front man had - hold the front page - said something controversial. Again. OMG. 

To quote the title of the singer’s 2004 album, The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores.

It’s over between Mozza and me. He was my idol back in the 1980s and 90s, but heaven knows he’s tedious now. This charmless man’s opinions on Brexit, halal meat producers and Sadiq Khan are of little interest. Mind you, in that now-infamous interview on his own website, he did make one pertinent point: it’s becoming increasingly difficult to locate the whereabouts of eggs in supermarkets.

The thoughts of the other two Morrisseys are, these days, of far more interest to me. Neil, for example, revealed he hated his time on Waterloo Road, a programme my kids used to love when they were growing up - although they always looked at me blankly when I explained he was once Tony in Men Behaving Badly.

And David has been very interesting on the subject of social inequality in the arts. For the past few years he has been pointing out, to anyone who will listen, that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are being squeezed out of acting. A new report, published on Monday, confirmed his contention that the profession is not a meritocracy. Working-class people, particularly working-class northerners like the three Morrisseys, are hugely under-represented in the arts. The old boy network rules.

This news is about as surprising as the latest off-colour remark from the Miserable Manc. It doesn’t, however, make it any less shocking.

The upper middle classes, who make up less than one in 15 of the population, dominate the creative industries. As Maxine Peake, speaking this week, put it: “I think we’ve gone backwards…People can’t afford it.” The report cited a number of factors for this, such as the prevalence of unpaid work and the insularity of privately-educated actors. There are many other reasons, including the decline of arts education and drama schools charging high audition fees.

There is, however, hope. Peake is a part of a new generation of women spearheading a northern revival in the performing arts. The way angry young men like Jarvis Cocker, Mark E Smith and - yes - Steven Patrick Morrissey, did in the 80s. And the way Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, The Beatles and countless others did in the 60s.

Step forward, Jodie Whittaker - the first Yorkshire incarnation of the Time Lord - Diane Morgan - who plays the hilarious TV presenter Philomena Cunk - and BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern, who shook up those smug, self-satisfied schoolboys on Have I Got News For You recently. “You’re a patronising git, aren’t you?” McGovern told Jeremy Paxman, speaking for the nation.

In Peake’s new film Funny Cow, which was filmed in West Yorkshire, she plays a female stand-up struggling to make a name for herself. In the 1970s club circuit, working-class women were expected to be either singers or strippers and were the frequent butt of misogynistic humour.

But as one of my old northern heroes, who seems to have morphed into a modern-day version of Bernard Manning, once sang: “That joke isn’t funny any more.”