Heckling... in song.
November 19, 2007 5:54 AM   Subscribe

Walter Wolfgang, 82, was ejected from the Labour Party conference and stopped by police under the Anti-terrorism Act, for heckling Jack Straw. But when he spoke in Oxford... a Barbershop Quintet struck a blow for freedom of speech.
posted by Jahaza (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You try to get a barbershop quintet to sign a loyalty oath without singing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:06 AM on November 19, 2007

posted by matthewr at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2007


I guess they didn't have enough security on-hand to throw out four young men, but they did have enough to toss out an 82 year old man.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:53 AM on November 19, 2007

September 30, 2005?
posted by Mike D at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2007

Jack Straw - Poacher turned Gamekeeper. From wiki
"In 1969 he was elected President of the National Union of Students, having gained a reputation for effective student militancy after he appeared to lead a successful occupation of the University of Leeds in 1968.
Appointed as Home Secretary after the 1997 general election, he brought forward the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, increased police powers against terrorism and proposed a reduction in the right to trial by jury. These policies won praise from Margaret Thatcher who once declared 'I trust Jack Straw. He is a very fair man.'
In March 2000, Jack Straw was responsible for allowing General Augusto Pinochet to return to Chile."
In other words a normal political huckster.
posted by adamvasco at 7:07 AM on November 19, 2007

Mike D and Mercaptan, Walter Wolfgang was thrown out of the Labour party conference in 2005 for heckling Jack Straw, then the Foreign Secretary. Now in new post of Secretary of State for Justice, Straw has made speeches in the last couple weeks in the law departments at Oxford and Cambridge, and the video depicts him being heckled in Oxford by a barbershop quintet.

In comparison with other Cabinet members, Straw is generally perceived as fairly affable and competent, albeit dull. During his time as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, he was seen as pretty hardline, but this reputation has lessened over time as he was certainly more moderate than his successors, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke and John Reid.
posted by matthewr at 7:14 AM on November 19, 2007

What... no tasers?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:17 AM on November 19, 2007

Confusing post. It's always exciting to see minor incidents resolved several years later when everyone has forgotten about it.
posted by JJ86 at 7:25 AM on November 19, 2007

I was at Jack Straw's Cyril Foster Lecture. My reflections at the time:

"His talk was a reasonably generic discussion about the importance of identity in international politics. The most interesting point was when he was heckled by five young men in pinstriped suits, singing in barbershop quartet style. This was when he was trying to answer a question about how democratic it was to launch the war in Iraq. The tune was that of Rockabye Baby, the sole lyric “nonsense.” All told, it was so gracefully and effectively done that both the speaker and the Chancellor of Oxford (former Chairman of the Conservative Party and Governor of Hong Kong) thanked ‘the choir’ in their closing remarks.

People joke about how civil public discourse in the United Kingdom is, but this was a demonstration of exactly that humour, good taste, and effectiveness. To be fair, Mr. Straw also demonstrated the extent to which senior British public officials seem to be invariably excellent public speakers."
posted by sindark at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Uh oh. Bush is going to have to push back the Free Speech Zones another hundred yards [PDF].
posted by sdodd at 8:54 AM on November 19, 2007

I thought maybe they were protesting homophonia.
posted by Floydd at 9:36 AM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I attended his lecture at Cambridge shortly after this incident, and he actually mentioned it at the beginning, saying that it had been a put-up by the BBC (with obligatory jibe about it being a poor use of tax-payers money (the quartet, not the Beeb)), before requesting that any lurking comedy hecklers interject now so as to make things flow smoothly from then on.

He seemed nice enough, and certainly took it with good humour.
posted by djgh at 9:41 AM on November 19, 2007

September 30, 2005?

It changed everything.
posted by Brak at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2007

Safe beneath the watchful eyes.
posted by aerotive at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2007

Yeah, confusing - that sentence, as it would be logically read, says that it was Walter Wolfgang who got heckled by a barbershop quartet at Oxford.
I read that and thought, hold on, maybe it is poetic justice of a sort, but give the old chap a break!
Then it turns out to be Jack Straw who got heckled. And I still sort of feel the same way. I guess it's just hard to take an active disliking to Jack Straw.
posted by Flashman at 11:53 AM on November 19, 2007

When I was student I once saw a leftie throw a dustbin at speaker they didn't like, while their friends try to physically storm the stage.... now that's heckling.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Adamvasco: That summary (not yours, I know) seems unduly harsh. For starters, he was never a poacher - he was famously moderate as the leader of the NUS, even opposing the legalisation of cannabis (in the 1970s). He's got a long reputation for a rather centralist liberalism, even if it was tarnished at the Home Office, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is not the nightmarish Hitlerian assault on freedom some bits of the net seem to think it is.
posted by athenian at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2007

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