Political Promise

In The Thick of It?

In Matthew Wheavil on January 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

During a recent Glasgow University lecture given by Charles Kennedy, on the subject of politics and the media, Matt Wheavil asked the former Liberal Democrat leader if he had ever watched ‘The Thick Of It.’

“Yes I have” came the reply and so understandably intrigued, I felt compelled to inquire whether he felt the BBC’s infamously profane and satirical portrayal of Number 10’s relationship with the media bore any accuracy.

Pausing briefly with a musing expression, he went on: “I think with any satire, there’s always a grey of truth.” He then drifted into an anecdote concerning disagreements with his former political advisers over election strategies – the gist of which was, he wanted to produce party political broadcasts showing audiences debating with and having a go at him. His advisers on the other hand thought such an idea was nuts and so it never came to fruition

While this was hardly revolutionary stuff, it got me thinking about whether politicians really do have an intimidating and sweary Malcolm Tucker figure looming over their desks, watching their every move. Alistair Campbell, who many claim was the inspiration for ‘The Thick Of It’s’ expletive loving Scot, has time and again denied any resemblance. The producers have also watered this theory down, declaring that Tucker represents a conglomeration of all the worst bits of former Downing Street Communication directors.

Even so, last week’s political events have given ‘Thick of It’ enthusiasts something to mull over: two vey high profile resignations – Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson and somewhat ironically, No. 10 Communications chief, Andy Coulson.

Let’s start with Johnson: stepping down for “Personal Reasons”, yet being replaced by Ed Balls, who unlike the former Postman and Trade Union leader, is more qualified and adept with economics. The more skeptical of us would thus point to Johnson facing media criticism over fluffing crucial technical lines when discussing the deficit as the reason he’s left frontline politics.

Is there a ‘Thick Of It’ reference for this one? Yes: the opening scene of season one, in which Tucker tells the sitting Social Affairs minister he’s done a great job but has to go due to his media reputation. “What do I say!?” pleads the politician. “Personal Reasons”, says Tucker, “That will give you adequate scope.”

Not that I’m claiming Johnson’s resignation was like this given the recent allegations over his wife’s extramarital behavior but you never know – with Ed Miliband facing enough media criticism over a voice that sounds like he’s eaten his own tongue, perhaps Johnson’s incompetency was too much to bare for the opposition leader.

What about Coulson’s phone-hacking related bow out then? Believe it or not the No. 10 Communications Director being forced to resign actually happens in ‘The Thick Of It’ too. Whizz forward to the end of season three’s penultimate episode: the press gets wind of Tucker’s manipulative ‘dark arts’ and is told quietly by the Prime Minister to resign for the sake of the Government.

I don’t know about you, but now I’m starting to wonder if ‘The Thick of It’ is some kind of political crystal ball…

  1. Good article – always interesting to know whether there is any accuracy to the satire!

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