Former UK PM John Major supported ‘blasphemous’ film ban

Former UK PM John Major supported ‘blasphemous’ film ban December 29, 2018
Images via YouTube

Newly-released government papers reveal that John Major, above, who succeeded the frightful Margaret Thatcher, considered ‘abrogating’ from the European Convention on Human Rights if it ruled against Britain in a case involving a film banned for ‘blasphemy’ – Visions of Ecstasy.

Nigel Wingrove’s controversial 18-minute film depicted Carmelite nun St Teresa’s sexual fantasies about Jesus on the cross, and it was banned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), making it the first and only film to be banned in the UK for “blasphemy”.

Documents also revealed that Major was an admirer of the equally ghastly Mary Whitehouse, an evangelical Christian, who, as as President of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (NVLA) – later to become Mediawatch UK – came to be known as the nation’s “nanny” for her ceaseless war on “filthy” content in films, video, TV and radio.

When film director Wingrove applied to challenge the ban at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing it breached his freedom of expression, Major described the state of affairs as “wholly unacceptable.”

In a document dated August 1994 sent to senior government figures Major wrote:

I must make it clear that I would not tolerate a position which required the Government or the BBFC to grant a certificate to this film or to others of a similar type.

This is a matter on which I feel sufficiently strongly to be prepared to consider a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights if that were to be necessary in the final analysis.
I must say I find the position in which we find ourselves wholly unacceptable.

In a reply, then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd warned about doing anything “likely to weaken the fabric of the convention”, adding that:

We cannot, in practice, derogate from it except in cases of war or threats to the life of the nation.

But in a surprise ruling, Britain’s blasphemy laws were backed by the ECHR when it threw out Wingate’s challenge two years later.

Visions of Ecstacy was finally given an 18-rated certificate in 2012 after the common law offence of blasphemous libel was abolished in England and Wales in 2008.

Mary Whitehouse in a YouTube debate on violence in movies and video.

Major’s admiration for the Christian fussbudget Whitehouse also came to light in the government papers. When the morals campaigner retired from the NVLA, he wrote to her, saying:

Your campaign has played a crucial part in highlighting the widespread concern that we should not lower our standards of what is acceptable viewing on film, television and video; and you have been instrumental in warning of the perils if these standards fall.

You yourself are one of the best examples of how it is possible in a free country like Britain for a private citizen with energy, initiative and commitment to carve out a distinctive and valued niche in our national life.

One of Whitehouse’s most successful “accomplishments” was to bring a private prosecution against Gay News for publishing a “blasphemous” poem, The Love That Dares To Speak it’s Name.

Gay News, which published the poem in 1976, was found guilty, and fined £1,000. Its editor, Denis Lemon, was fined £500 and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment suspended. It had been “touch and go”, said the judge, whether he would actually send Denis Lemon to jail.

Later, Whitehouse failed in her bid to bring a private prosecution against the play Romans in Britain for “gross obscenity” because it depicted simulated anal sex.

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  • Götterdämmerung

    The same very moral John Major who liked to dip into a Currie…

  • Jennny

    Funnily enough, we here in the UK were having a rare hot breakfast yesterday and I remarked how I still fried eggs until the yolks were solid…as advised by agriculture secretary, Edwina Currie, in 1988. She mistakenly said then most of the UK’s eggs had salmonella in them. Egg sales fell by half and Major was furious, she got the sack and much damage-limitation exercising went on! But her name is still firmly associated with the egg crisis (Eggwina) by most of the UK old enough to remember the 1980s.

  • kaydenpat

    “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Caligula” and “Clockwork Orange” all come mind as movies which Whitehouse must have sought to ban as well. She must have been a very busy woman.

  • Paul

    That was John Major who was conducting an adulterous affair with Edwina Currie while lecturing the country about “family values”.

  • Brian Davis

    It’s a shame that a wonderful word like “fussbudget” has to be wasted on a humorless pest like Whitehouse.

  • Broga

    ” to this film or to others of a similar type.”
    I thought Major had signs of decency for a Tory. I should have known better. Why don’t they decide not to watch what they don’t want to see? Typical bloody Christian, they must decide what they rest of us watch. Interesting that it was revealed that MP’s used publicly funded computers to watch pornography and that was a big part of their viewing. Then the Vicar’s Daughter brought a couple of MPs who had been denied the Tory Whip for making sexual nuisances of themselves, pending further investigation, back into the fold to block a vote she knew she would lose. She needed their votes.

    Those in more civilised countries than the UK make be surprised that MPs get whipped. I can only guess but I suppose they have become addicted to having there arses whupped when they were at public (i.e. private) schools. This happens before a vote. That they are blackmailed is now an open secret. ” Get in line or your misses will know what you have been doing when you were working hard.”

  • persephone

    Well, it’s not like she was spending any time having sex, and she had to put all the untapped energy somewhere.

  • persephone

    Being in the U.S., I had not heard of Mary Whitehouse. OMG, she was a horror. She also had the same cognitive dissonance as most of the evangelicals here.

    She protested against footage of the liberation of the Bergen concentration camp being shown on TV, calling it filth.

    She also protested against footage of the Vietnam War being shown on the news, because it raised the level of pacifism.

    She was absolutely fine with sending people off to die in war, but she sure as hell didn’t want anyone to see it. Too bad she wasn’t drafted.

  • Jim Jones

    We really need some new, more extreme ‘unshocked’ memes.

  • Jim Jones

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.”

    ― H.L. Mencken

    (He also said, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”)

  • Jim Jones

    She could have won in Vietnam, single handed.

    Well, at least we should have tried that.

  • Jim Jones

    “Personal Services”

    Christine (Julie Walters) is a struggling single mother who reluctantly rents out rooms in her apartment to prostitutes to make ends meet. But when a financial jam forces her to sell her own body, Christine forsakes her reservations about her tenants. Soon, with help from veteran hooker Shirley (Shirley Stelfox), Christine transforms her apartment into a house of ill repute, her makeshift brothel servicing a passel of older male clients with decidedly kinky sexual appetites.

  • kaydenpat

    Lol! Ouch.

  • Barry Duke

    I’ll tell you what else she protested: the Anti-Apartheid movement. After she returned from a “morals clean-up” job in S Africa when it was still governed by white Christian supremacists, she gave interviews to the British press saying how happy Africans were with racial segregation. “Wherever I went,” she said in one interview, “all I saw were smiling coloured people happy with their lot.”

    Having escaped apartheid South Africa just hours ahead of an arrest warrant being issued against me for sedition , I was outraged, and wrote to every daily basically saying that the bloody woman was full of crap.

    Incidentally, she was VERY friendly with Margaret Thatcher, who fully supported the S African regime.

  • Barry Duke

    She even made her own son’s life a misery after she got bitten by the religion bug:

  • kaydenpat

    Fascinating read. I’d never heard of her before today. She sounds more like someone from the American Rightwing — Phyllis Schlafly comes to mind. Didn’t know there was a British version.

  • Broga

    Another evil crone.

  • Broga

    I’m a fan of H.L.Mencken. I was hooked after reading his reports of the Tennessee Monkey Trial. If you like literate and very funny polemic then Mencken is the man.

  • Broga

    Your comment reminds me of a course four of us were sent on in London. I was 20 at the time, lived in Cumbria, (long time ago), another was in his 30s and he was the person who introduced me to “The Freethinker”. There was another aged in his mid twenties and a 50 year old. Two of us were militant atheists, one “didn’t give a “monkey’s fuck” , in his words, and the 50 year old was a devout Christian, devoted to “good works”, important official in the church and he and his wife were regarded as exemplars of a “Christian Marriage.”

    The Christian wanted us to seek out prostitutes and became a bit of a pain in pushing this. In the end he went off by himself. His reunion with his wife was all loving and hugs when we got from the train. She thanked us for “taking care of him.” My “Monkey’s Fuck” friend watched them depart and said, “I hope he doesn’t give her the clap. If she does we will get the blame.”

    While Christian went to hunt for sex the three of us saw Billy Liar” with Albert Finney.

  • Broga

    This is off topic but as you, barriejohn and other suspects, are observers of the royal sham perhaps worthwhile. I wrote it to my children who share my opinions and I quote it as written. Perhaps our USA friends will be interested. It is Xmas so enjoy:
    “I missed the Queen’s Speech to the plebs this year as I do every year. How was the Queen transformed into “this year’s cartoon imperialist”. Summed up by one column, of many equally outraged, by “Pampered old scrounger preaching about the values of home from a golden chair as thousands of her citizens starve and sleep in doorways.”

    As if the gold chair wasn’t enough flaunting of solid gold booty the tsunami of fury came from a gold piano in full view and rumoured to have been owned by Saddam and worth enough to buy an entire palace. The result has been a “twitter storm” of abuse falling on poor Brenda’s royal head. There are rumours that the gold piano was deliberately placed there buy a crypto Republican serf used for doing the heavy lifting on the minimum wage. Others that it was a high placed courtier fed up with running Charles ‘bath, helping him get dressed and putting the toothpaste on his brush. In passing, we read that Charlie has salted away £340 million but is concerned about the homeless.

    There has been a sort of response from “The Palace” which is so poor I almost feel sorry for them. The gold piano was not filched from Saddam; it belonged to Queen Victoria.

    So there”.

  • Jim Jones

    He predicted Trump as president — in 1920!

  • Broga

    Mencken was a class act. And funny, as he visited destruction on the ignoramuses i.e. There is more science in the bible than in all the discoveries of all the scientists. Not exact but that is my recollection of the words of the main prosecution witness who also had stood as a presidential contender. “And so, it came to pass, that in 2016 the religious ignoramus won and God was pleased with His work and said it was good.”

    The non religious thought it was a disaster.

  • Mythie

    That woman tried to ban Doctor Who!!!!!!

  • kaydenpat

    The Horror!!