The long-serving BBC cricket commentator and journalist Christopher Martin-Jenkins died on Ist January 2013. The press and broadcasters in Britain were crammed with tributes which veered perilously close to the fulsome. This was more than a little strange because until the mid-1990s Martin-Jenkins had decidedly non-pc views on foreigners being selected for the England cricket team and doubts about the commitment to England of at least one much capped ethnic minority England player Mark Ramprakash. who was born and raised in England. A selection of CMJ’s comments on the subject of foreigners and Ramprakash are in the second letter to CMJ reproduced below.
To the best of my knowledge none of CMJ’s views of foreigners playing for England appeared in the tributes and obituaries. Not only that when I posted a comment giving details of his non-pc views on Cricinfo the comment went up but then was taken down. The cricket establishment was very determined that CMJ’s views should be buried.
When my article Is it in the blood? was published in the July 1995 issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly it created a howl of collective anguish from the politically correct British media and some politicians. Over 50,000 words of criticism and outright crude abuse abuse appeared in the mainstream press and broadcasters to which I was allowed no opportunity to reply (https://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/is-it-in-the-blood-peter-oborne-and-the-question-of-englishness/ Because of this I wrote to CMJ in 1996 asking for his assistance in bringing my inability reply to public notice. He refused. My letters below give the story.
After I had contacted CMJ he ceased to comment on foreigners or British raised ethnic minority players being selected to England. The fear of the pc police had got hold of him. But he did not merely stay silent from then on; rather he towed the politically correct line on the employment of foreigners.
Mr C. Martin-Jenkins 29 Cavendish Road Redhill Surrey RH1 4AH
I enclose an account of my dealings with the media since the publication of ‘Is it in the blood?’
You will doubtless wish to bring the hypocrisy, the self-serving censorship and the general lack of moral sense shown by mediafolk in this matter to the attention of the public through your newspaper and broadcasting outlets.
What is it that mediafolk are always bleating on about? The public’s right know…the Press’ duty to expose immorality in the public interest…? Something along those lines I think.
Mr C. Martin-Jenkins C/O Daily Telegraph London E14
Dear Mr Martin-Jenkins,
Thank you for your letter. You are being naive in suggesting that I approach someone like Charles Moore in an attempt to put my case before the public. Not only have I approached Mr Moore, but the editors of every other national Sunday and Daily, all specialist cricket magazines and the Spectator. All have refused to allow me a word in my defence. Mr Moore did not even have the courtesy to reply to the letter I enclose.
If you want a prime example of the absence of moral sense exhibited by mediafolk in this matter, read the comments about me written by Mathew Engel in the 1996 Wisden after he knew (1) that Frith had lied about his absolute support for my opinions (see letter dated 30/3/94); (2) that the title was Frith’s; (3) that Frith had edited the article and changed its balance and (4) that I had been denied any opportunity for reply. Engel also lied about knowing who I was in his Guardian column of 3/7/95. All this from a man who wrote in the 1995 Wisden:
‘It cannot be irrelevant to England’s long term failures that so many of their recent Test players were either born overseas and/or spent their formative years as citizens of other countries. In the heat of Test cricket, there is a difference between a cohesive team with a common goal, and a coalition of individuals whose major ambitions are for themselves…There is a vast difference between wanting to play Test cricket and wanting to play Test cricket for England.’
And in the 1996 Wisden:
“It is reasonable to believe that not everyone who has chosen to regard himself as English has done so out of any deep patriotic commitment.”
I have asked Mr Engel to explain the difference between his position and mine but he is unable to do so.
The corruption goes far beyond the press, as you will discover from the extended essay I enclose entitled ‘The liberal censorship’. The broadcasters have been every bit as cynically intolerant and self serving as the press – my experiences with the BBC are barely credible. Worse, everywhere I have turned for redress – from the PCC, the BCC, my MP, the judge who presided at the libel settlement hearings, the Bar Council and the Law Society – has been met with same blanket refusal to offer me even the form let alone the reality of justice.
You excuse yourself from publicly revealing my treatment and exposing the misbehaviour of your colleagues by the curious device of stating that you had no obligation to do so because you did not write on the subject of my article. Since when did journalists only feel an obligation to write about matters in which they were personally involved? Moreover, democracy only works if every man defends every other man’s right to free expression.
You also say that you are unconvinced by my arguments. Really, Mr Martin-Jenkins? Here are a few of your thoughts on the subject of national commitment:
August 1990 Radio 2 Sportsdesk (in a tone of profound complaint): “The selectors seem to be obsessed with West Indian born pace bowlers.”
‘Over the weekend both Robin Smith, born and schooled in South Africa and Graham Hick, born and schooled in Zimbabwe, have had their recent form closely analysed. You could easily have made a case for neither being retained for the third Test this week, when Graham Thorpe and John Crawley seem ready. Apart from a debate based purely on cricketing criteria, the latter two have been English since birth. Will not their dedication to the cause of England be that much deeper when they are tied to it by blood as well as money?’ Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ) Daily Telegraph 27/6/94)
May 23rd 1994 Daily Telegraph “… we shall not have a consistently successful England team…until we produce more Goughs; that is to say English born, English bred products of English schools”
‘Tony Greig and Ian Greig, Chris Smith and Robin Smith, Allan Lamb and Graeme Hick, have all used the England cap as a flag of convenience, a point reinforced when the first three left England for Australia on retirement.’ (CMJ Daily Telegraph 10/7/1994)
They [Southern African born England caps] tried their hardest as every England player does, and were more competitive than most. But were they trying to succeed in their cricket careers on behalf of England? Or were they trying to make England win at cricket? (CMJ Daily Telegraph 10/7/1994)
‘Colleagues on this touring party [1993/94 West Indies tour side] have suggested of him …that Ramprakash sometimes seems more at home with West Indian players, that his cricketing hero and chief confidant is Desmond Haynes; that he would be just as happy in the other camp [the West Indies]’ CMJ Daily Telegraph 16/3/94)
This matter is a general scandal Mr Martin-Jenkins. Are you still unwilling to help me?