As you must be aware, 2014 marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. This centenary will coincide with the independence referendum in Scotland. These are of course two entirely separate events, and it would be cynical in the extreme to use the one in crude attempts to influence the outcome of the other.
That said, the PM has suggested it will prove difficult to keep them apart, if only because of the glorious role played by Scottish soldiers in World War One, that saw the peoples of Britain pull together so magnificently. So what we would like you to do is start off with programmes on the WW1 centenary commemorations and gradually work in the Scottish angle. And if a few other interesting points can be made along the way, why not?
Nothing too obvious, otherwise some malcontents will accuse us of exploiting WWI for political gain, or similar nonsense. Just make it clear what this great UNITED country of ours has achieved in its long and glorious history. Which is why it would be insane for anyone to consider sundering this great family of ours.
That’s the gist of it. Here are some specific centenary dates with ideas you might wish to mull over. We shall soon send over some ‘advisers’, to help you in your mulling.
JUNE 28 It would be nice to have a series of programmes on the brutal assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a gang of bloodthirsty Serb nationalists. It was this act, killing the heir to the Hapsburg throne, that started World War One. (Make it clear that it was these same Serbs who were solely responsible for all the trouble in the Balkans not so long back.)
Why not get Top Gear to do a show from Sarajevo in a model of the same car. The little one can play the assassin, Gavrilo Princip; the big one can play the Archduke, and the other one can play Mrs Archduke.
JULY 28 Marks the centenary of Austria-Hungary declaring war on the Serbs. Serbia’s ally, Russia, mobilises in support. Show Russian troop trains in snowstorms. (Maybe not, could reflect badly on our rail services?) Films of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Siberia. Have we got an interview with Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy, preferably in English?
How about Huw Edwards reading the News from Red Square? Weather forecast from outside the Winter Palace . . . ‘And finally, the weather here in 1914 was . . .’ You know, that sort of thing.
AUG 1 Is when Germany declared war on Russia. Play up ‘gallant Ivans’ angle, stress links between Russian royals and ours. Paint Germans as cruel militarists intent on ruling Europe. No fault of the Kaiser, of course (Queen Victoria’s grandson); decent cove, poor bugger hostage of his bloodthirsty generals. Have we got any footage of Kaiser Bill playing cricket?
This day also saw formation of World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship Through Churches. Excellent opportunity to show bunch of hand-wringing beardies; make clear how out of touch church leaders are. (Unless, of course, they agree with us.) The PM is very keen on this, not being too well disposed towards ecclesiasticals at the moment.
AUG 4 Britain declares war on Germany. Now comes the time to crank it up. Stress British unity, ‘all in it together’. There must surely be some film of the king and queen attending a Rangers v Celtic match? Or the Prince of Wales shooting something in the Highlands? See what you can do.
Good idea to have Question Time from Auchtermuchty or some such place with a panel of the ‘right’ people telling the Jocks what a frightful mistake it would be to vote Yes.
AUG 5 Argentina declares neutrality. Wonderful opportunity to put the boot into the Argies. Bring up the Falklands, particularly with footage of Scottish regiments.
You must also have recent film of people (preferably children) starving in the streets of Lithuania or Slovenia, so run it regularly so as to warn people – anyone, really – of the dangers inherent in independence. Show also scenes of poverty in Switzerland and Norway, proving how cruel the world can be to small countries.
The First World War was famous for its poets so the centenary provides an excellent opportunity to have a few ‘arty’ programmes on the less cynical, more patriotic, of them. Sturdy fellows in itchy uniforms striking heroic poses for the camera. Off the top of my head . . . Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling, W. B Yeats, Dylan Thomas. I’m sure you can think of a few more.
We appreciate that the British army wasn’t involved in this early fighting. Even so, with modern technology we feel sure you could splice in footage of British soldiers, particularly Scottish regiments. You know, kilts swirling, bagpipes wailing. Try to make it look like it was the brave and LOYAL Scots Wot Won It!
This covers the first month or so. We will be in touch again very soon with the next raft of suggestions. For our part we have arranged with Royal Mail to deliver Union Jacks, FREE! to every house – and croft! – in the land (Hebrides and Northern Isles included.) Number 11 wavered on this one but the PM was adamant!
So, rather than have these splendid banners of our unity lying around, being used as tea towels, or chewed by the dog, we feel it would surely make sense if you could periodically flash up the subliminal message, ‘Wave your flag NOW!’. And having mentioned subliminal messaging – about which of course we know very little – perhaps you could periodically put out, ‘Vote NO, you Jock bastards’.
Finally, we now have irrefutable proof that Alex Salmond is the Antichrist. We therefore expect the BBC, and all other broadcasters, to run a three-hour documentary the night before the Scottish referendum exposing this creature and saving the Scots from making a terrible mistake. Otherwise they will all be ‘Doomed! doomed!’, as Private Frazer used to say. (Subliminal messaging will be unnecessary during this broadcast.)
Lionel Jellybaby (Col.)
Bureau of Media Advice and Guidance