Nick Ahad: Why the likes of Quentin Letts have had their day

Quentin Letts criticised the RSC and its production of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. (RSC).
Quentin Letts criticised the RSC and its production of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. (RSC).
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One of the difficulties of writing this column in rotation with my colleagues is that I often find myself wanting to rant about something, but come publication day, I’ve calmed down a bit.

There are benefits to having time and distance between an arts story breaking and sharing my reaction to it in these pages: I am able to take stock and look at a subject dispassionately, keep my emotions in check. So I am being entirely dispassionate when I say that Quentin Letts is everything that is wrong with the class-ridden, institutionally racist, backward looking, still-thinks-Britain-has-an-empire, cultural industry of Britain. That’s me significantly less passionate than I was several days ago. (I’m not tarring everyone with the same brush – there are some good people doing some great work to create equality in our cultural landscape, but Letts represents an outmoded way of thinking and anything we can do to hasten the extinction of him and his ilk, the better).

In case you missed it, Letts, of the Daily Mail, wrote a review for that rag of the RSC production of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. In it he wrote: “Was Mr (Leo) Wringer cast because he is black? If so the RSC’s clunking approach to politically correct casting has again weakened its stage product. I suppose its managers are under pressure from the Arts Council to tick inclusiveness boxes.” Letts, who attended the Cirencester prep school run by his father, actually questioned if someone got a role – at the RSC no less – not because he’s good, but because he’s black. As though Wringer were some privileged son of a prep-school headmaster slipped into the institution run by his father by virtue of accident of birth. The RSC issued a statement which said: “We are shocked and deeply 
troubled by Quentin Letts’ review in which 
he seems to demonstrate a blatantly racist attitude to a member of the cast.”

They didn’t need the word ‘seems’. It dilutes the truth, which is: Time’s Up for the likes of Letts. He’s a dinosaur, a throwback, his wailing review like the last gas escaping from a distended corpse, his snivelling suggestion that an actor is cast because of colour rather than talent a remnant 
of a soon-to-be-dead age where being born the 
son of a prep school headmaster meant that greased doors of opportunity slid open for you.

As the saying goes, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Letts is thrashing about because we’re marching towards equality and he is powerless to stop us.

We’re coming for you, Letts, and, unlike you, we’ve had to fight for what we’ve earned and we know you don’t have the stomach for this fight.