Patrick McGoohan, Number 6 in The Prisoner, dies


Patrick McGoohan, lead actor in the 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner, has died in Los Angeles aged 80.

In the series, which was a surrealist libertarian masterpiece, McGoohan plays an agent in some secret government organization, who has a row with his bosses and wakes up next morning in a kind of fantasy village. It’s a place where everyone is known by number (his is Number 6), rather than names. Nobody knows or imagines anything outside The Village – as the place is called. The maps don’t even show anything beyond it.

It’s always a beautiful day in The Village. Everything there is benign, and faultless harmony prevails. Spontaneous parades and events take place all the time, and everyone seems keen to participate in them. But Number 6 just doesn’t fit in. He does not see why he should follow the strange rules and rituals of the others. He sees no merit in the trivial things they think important. One of them chastises him: ‘You have no values.’ He responds tersely: ‘Different values.’

The analogy with Britain today is chilling. Everyone is expected to fit in, to conform, and to rejoice in their conformity. Those who do not conform are publicly branded as immoral, and are scorned and vilified. But who is more bizarre? Those who follow the mainstream conventions imposed on them by the myopic political correctness of officialdom and the state? Or those who regard all that political correctness as shallow and destructive, and prefer to trust values based on experience and common sense?

As Britain’s values become subverted by the trite, dysfunctional, and bizarre values of the Westminster Village, I begin to feel for Number 6. Be seeing you.

Abstracted from Eamonn Butler's forthcoming book The Rotten State of Britain (Gibson Square)