Beyond Satire? Let's see...

Clarke's Comment

This week's news was dominated by three stories. Cronyism in the House of Lords appointments, the ongoing failure of test and trace and a pair of common or garden Tory sex scandals. By this government's standards, it has not been a bad week, broadly speaking.
Let's start with the peerages, which raised eyebrows across the political spectrum.
It is not entirely fair to single out the Conservatives for doling out honours to donors and pals; all parties do this and always have done, although, naturally, the Conservative Party are world-beating in this field. Out of the 22 political party donors who have received peerages in the past 13 years, 15 are moneybags Conservatives, four from the saintly Lib Dems and just three from perpetual underachievers Labour, who really need to pull their socks up in this increasingly competitive market.
But this would not be Johnson/Cummings© branded largesse unless it really went out of it's way to undermine standards in public life and to brazenly offend common decency. So, in addition to Lordships for Ken Clarke, Ruth Davidson and Phillip Hammond, who served their party well, there were snazzy ermine super-hero capes in the post for donor Michael Spencer (a snip at £6m), Evgeny 'Call me Sasha' Lebedev (of the millionnaire KGB Lebedevs), Phillip May (for services to Theresa), Ian 'Beefy' Botham, Farage-hugger Kate Hoey, noted IRA sympathiser and genicide-denier Claire Fox (for services to Brexit mendacity) and, if that were not enough of a V-sign to decorum, Johnson's own brother, Joseph 'Jo' Johnson, who courageously occupied the safe seat of Orpington for 9 entire years.
The accusation that the UK is beginning to resemble a banana republic has been hotly refuted by several dictators, despots and tyrants who resent the perceived slight to the integrity of banana republics.

In news that harkens back to a simpler, more predictable time in Conservative Party history, a former minister has been arrested on suspicion of rape. The news comes hot on the heels of the conviction for sexual assault of Charlie 'I'm a Naughty Tory' Elphicke, former Tory whip and MP for Dover, the first MP in a generation to have this distinction, in a party that prides itself on setting firsts. Elphicke gave up his seat last year and, thoughtfully, had his wife take it over at the 2019 General Election. Natalie Elphicke publicly dumped her husband on Twitter (the online platform that just keeps giving) shortly after the verdict came in, in a move that may or may not reassure residents of Dover of her good judgement.

Five months into the corona-virus crisis, our test and trace programme is especially notable worldwide for its struggles, particularly in the field of tracing. And also testing. Warnings that people may not respond to phone calls from newly-hired, semi-trained, unidentifiable or verifiable tracers were blithely and characteristically ignored by the Government. The idea of shifting the task to local authorities and familiar centres such as GP surgeries is now, belatedly, being discussed. News that the Government has wasted another £252m on 50m sub-standard masks will not shock anyone and neither, shamefully, will the news that the r-rate is rising and that local lockdowns are being imposed, more in hope than expectation of effective compliance.

In what might considered good news (let's take it where we can get it), we also learned this week of the return of Spitting Image, a satirical show that delighted, revolted and scandalised the nation in equal measure from 1984-96. The show harnessed the writing and impersonation talents of Rowan Atkinson, Ian Hislop, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, David Baddiel, Jo Brand, Steve Coogan, Harry Enfield, Rory Bremner and many other comic treasures. In its time, the show ruthlessly (and at times grotesquely) skewered politicians and celebrities and, rightly or wrongly, cemented certain political character traits in the nation's collective consciousness, including Margaret Thatcher's macho dominance, Ronald Reagan's simplicity, John Major's greyness, Neil Kinnock's ineptitude. Prince Charles' love of plants, (and his father's 'common touch'), Gazza's daftness, Mikhail Gorbachev's hammer and sickle birthmark and Norman Tebbit's thuggish biker jacket.
It's often said that we are living in a world that is becoming beyond satire; it will be fascinating to see how the new team has a shot. If the Boris Johnson puppet manages to out-buffoon it's flesh and blood counterpart, it will be a spectacular achievement indeed.


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