By John Taylor, Lord Taylor of Warwick (Vice President of the BBFC)
Nice girl, pity about her guts hanging out. I've just watched a film where a Californian teenage girl had a bad day. She
was kidnapped, raped, stabbed and disembowelled. Not quite the American dream.
Believe me, I've seen worse during my first six months as vice-president of the British Board of Film Classification. Our task is to decide what films and videos are suitable for viewing by the public. We can ban, cut and classify. The big issues
are sex, drugs, and violence. There's a lot of it about.
I wouldn't choose to watch these films for fun. I get my thrills from party political broadcasts. When I started the job, I worried that watching Hollywood horrors would gradually pollute my brain. If anything, it has made me less tolerant of
obscenity and brutality. But you have to develop mental strategies to protect yourself. My experience as a criminal law barrister helps. (Also, as the black Conservative parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham in 1992 I lived through an episode
which could be described as X-rated!)
When I was first appointed to the board, I was warned there were no set guidelines for coping with disturbing films. Censors have different personalities and their own ways of dealing with things. Anyway, you don't get chosen for this kind of work
if Bambi gives you nightmares. But while I must concentrate on the screen and make notes where appropriate, there is another world going on in my head.
For example, when someone's bloodied head is blown off by machine-gun fire on film, I remind myself it's only a special effect. Furthermore, this trickery seems pathetic compared to the simple, beautiful reality of the brilliant yellow flowers on
display in the viewing room. And no gruesome film image can match the splendour of a waterfall as it cascades down a mountainside into a river. The mental image of the rushing water cleanses, sustains, quenches and refreshes. You watch the film
but you are not soiled by it. This is not daydreaming or losing concentration. It is my way of reminding myself that, despite the warped imagination of some film makers, good is a more powerful force than evil. A prayer or two helps as well.
The problem is, violence is not only on screen. A combination of the war in Kosovo, Jill Dando's murder and nail bombs have created a confused and insecure atmosphere in Britain. Because I knew Jill as a friend and had worked with her, the awful
impact of her death hit me hard.
Violence has been the feature linking the stories dominating our headlines recently. I fear that by exposing society, especially the young and impressionable, to a constant diet of screen violence we have created a harsher society where violence
is accepted as a way to solve problems.
Even in America there is a growing recognition that the drip, drip effect of screen 'designer violence' on teenagers who have access to guns is relevant to incidents like the tragic shooting of children in a Colorado school. Film is an influential
tool in the advertising industry. Such a persuasive medium can work for good and bad. Video presents the biggest problem. It is an excellent teaching medium. A video can be stopped, replayed, slowed down, fast-forwarded - a great instruction
manual in how to punch, kick, stab and shoot. A pounding soundtrack, raising the adrenaline levels, can greatly multiply the impact. You don't believe me? Just look at the blockbusters in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce
Willis became household names. They don't earn millions of dollars per film reciting poetry. Hollywood has no social responsibility, it produces whatever will earn the big bucks.
Last year, the Home Office published The Effects of Video Violence on Young Offenders. The report showed that offenders preferred brutal entertainment and identified with violent role models. In watching action films, they often skipped from one
frenzied scene to another, so the consequences of thuggery were not observed.
Vinnie Jones, the former hard man of soccer, won plaudits for his menacing performance in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels . Now he's set to become a Hollywood tough guy. Are you happy with him as a role model for young people?
Clearly violence has a number of causal factors. But we cannot afford to ignore the significance of film and video. The next film we have to view for video release is that old family weepie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Lord Taylor of Warwick is the sixth parliamentarian to face charges over the expenses scandal. He is facing charges in relation to
claims of £11,000.
It follows disclosures in December that he had allegedly registered a house in Oxford belonging to the partner of his stepbrother's son, without his knowledge or consent.
The peer is accused of declaring the property owned as his primary residence in order to claim second home expenses. Taylor has lived in Ealing, West London, since 1995. Peers who live outside the capital can claim £174 a night tax-free to
cover the cost of a hotel or a second home.
The 57-year-old peer resigned from the Conservative Party hours after the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that he was facing six charges of false accounting in relation to claims for overnight subsistence and car mileage between March 2006 and
October 2007. He will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court next month.
John Taylor was Vice President of the BBFC for 10 years until retiring in November 2008.
Moral high grounder corrupted by too much sex and violence?...
Nah, just a crook given responsibility to impose moral judgements on others.
Surely one of the fundamental ironies of censorship. The authorities don't trust the masses, so they appoint someone to decide for all, only to find that the censor is just as open to human frailties as everyone else. And given the appeal of the
role to the politically or financially ambitious, they may easily turn out to be even worse.
Lord Taylor of Warwick has been found guilty of making £11,277 in false parliamentary expenses claims.
He claimed travel costs between his Oxford home and Westminster, as well as subsistence for living away from home whilst in London. He was actually living in a flat in London.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty by an 11-1 majority verdict.
He has been released on bail pending sentencing at a date to be confirmed.
Taylor was a former vice-president of the British Board of Film Classification serving from 1998 until 2000.
He was actually appointed during moral times when the Government were keeping a close eye on BBFC presidential appointments. This was to ensure a bit of Jack Straw imposed morality after James Ferman had started the hardcore legalisation ball
rolling by passing a few hardcore snippets in R18 videos.
So much for their selection of moral high grounders.
Lord Taylor of Warwick, the first black Conservative politician to take a seat in the House of Lords, faces jail after being convicted of expenses fraud.
The Telegraph can reveal the full extent of his spectacular demise. For as the net was closing in on him, Taylor went ahead with a marriage – including a lavish ceremony and reception at the House of Lords – that
was to last just 24 days.
In a remarkably candid interview, Taylor's ex-wife Yvonne Louise, a wealthy evangelical Christian from Florida, tells of their wedding, their bizarre honeymoon and subsequent divorce.
Taylor, also an evangelical Christian, employed as his official wedding photographer the nephew whose damning evidence helped to secure his conviction. The photos of the ceremony, which took place in December 2009 but which
are made public for the first time today, show Taylor smiling for the cameras. But his grin masks the scandal about to engulf him.