I don’t think my mind has ever been quite such a hive of incoming information as election night. The choice and range of coverage was extreme, and there were so many people I wanted to hear from, it seemed I was changing channels every few minutes. With a different feed going on my laptop too.
I was however inexorably drawn to ‘alternative’ takes, and those with a comedic/sardonic twist. Panels that had chosen to invite not only surly and serious politicians, but entertaining and insightful individuals who – unlike the former – are generally able to hold the attention and interest of an audience for more than 30 seconds at a time. I desperately feel a need to try and laugh at some of our current circumstances. Quite simply because, the combining factors of actual real-life political danger that could actually screw the world, alongside the impotence of being just one lone person and entirely powerless – well, the realities of the situation are anything but funny.
But there’s another reason too. Politicians (at least in the UK) have to be soooo careful to not say the wrong thing, not to upset constituents and voters. Not to accidentally make a generalisation, not to go on record saying anything that could be used against them. To be so squeaky clean and inoffensive in every last thing they say and do, that they either tend to be completely ineffectual – or the most dull characters the universe has ever conceived of.
Eg: the type of people who can’t think of – or at least own up to – a single naughty/human thing they’ve ever done… you know, beyond running through a farmer’s wheat-field. (Though technically, I’d have to say arming Saudi extremists and cosy-ing up to bigoted religious fanatics in Ireland is probably a tad “naughtier” Theresa, but hey… that’s just my perspective.)
Voters want ‘real voices’ – ‘real’ people, who actually speak their mind. Even if the aforementioned mind is a jumbled box of frogs. They want ‘real’ principles. Even if some of them involve eating babies. And it’s a lesson we should learn from the inexplicable rise of Donald Trump, for starters.
Bleary eyed and exhausted
Bleary eyed, towards the very end of the coverage on Channel 4‘s ‘Alternative Election Night’, an exhausted David Mitchell volunteered some of the most powerful and brutally honest words I’ve ever heard on a TV show. They seemed quite emotional, like he was almost on the verge of angry tears as he spoke them. Whether that was down to his marathon live coverage, or the sentiments he was describing is anybody’s guess – perhaps both? Either way, he really cut to the nub of what is wrong in our British society today:
Lots of the elected MPs or failed candidates have mentioned how “divided” – that’s been a word that’s been used many times – how “divided” Britain is. But I don’t think they just mean divided now, between the two main parties. I’m not sure that “divided” is necessarily the right word. I think the word is “unhappy”. I think we are an unhappy country. And it’s a difficult thing to quantify, but I would say we weren’t an unhappy country twenty years ago, and we are now. And obviously there are happy people and there are unhappy people always, but there is something… we feel like things are wrong, and sick, and unfair, and heading in the wrong direction.
Richard Osman, the lovable host/comedian/brain-box (not sure quite how you define him), and longtime TV producer behind the scenes, added something quite perceptive too:
Do you know what it is? It used to be that half the country would feel like that at any time, that’s the half without the power, and the half that were in power were actually “oh I can see sunny uplands and stuff like that”. Now BOTH sides seem to be furious. The people who won Brexit seem furious. The people who lost Brexit seem furious.
Jeremy Paxman, being the dismissive cynic he is renowned as, glibly replied: “why do people bother to vote then??”
The answer forthcoming? “Because they’re furious”.
If we were to take that analysis a little further, it suggests that part of the problem is perhaps it took things to get so bad, and for people to become so furious, before they started to engage with politics and the wider world around them. Heads have been buried in the sand for far too long (that’s my opinion any way).
Watch a clip of the discussion below:
— Alex McNamara (@Alex_McNamara) June 10, 2017
Hitting the nail with a sledgehammer
Of course, when it comes to driving home political truths with the force of a majorly pissed-off freight train, no one ever really tops Frankie Boyle. The man quite simply doesn’t care who he offends with his humour, because the whole point – which he raises continuously – is he’s joking. And we don’t have suppression of speech and/or humour in this country… yet.
But truth be told, sometimes humour can make us confront realities of a situation more viscerally than any amount of politicking from ‘wheat-field-saboteurs’. Boyle’s humour can veer off into the very uncomfortable sometimes, but his clarity of thought and wit are superlative. (I’m a particular fan of his writing for The Guardian: I think he’s better when reined in slightly.)
Such as this little ‘pearl of brutal wisdom’ in among his ‘Election Autopsy’ on BBC2 – a moment that literally stopped me in my tracks:
This campaign showed us that elections are an exchange of rhetorical artillery. And the lack of engagement from voters is something the media is complicit in. Theresa May can be interviewed by Paxman the week of the Manchester bomb, and not be asked how the bomber got to Libya and back on her watch while she was Home Secretary. Instead we got questions about the Falklands War, while we are selling Saudi Arabia bombs to drop on Yemen. The media is complicit in the whole thing, from cropping shots to creating scenes the parties want, to printing coverage that’s sometimes little more than a party press release.
With the support of the entire media, how could Theresa May have lost this election??
I was truly surprised the BBC showed it. His guests looked a bit stunned too – perhaps it was unplanned for, and a shock to them also. But I cannot help but wish our politicians were people who’d just speak plain, and tell it how it is. Perhaps not Frankie – he’d call someone a c**t on day one – but someone like David Mitchell I think would make a remarkably good and personable politician.
Frankie said a fair bit else in that particular skit, which we won’t repeat – we’ll let you watch for yourself! (WARNING: ADULT LANGUAGE.) But suffice to say, whether you approve of the ‘brutality’ and coarseness of his delivery, the point he makes is pretty bang on the money:
It’s good to hear somebody speaking aloud on TV what most of us know to be the truth. The establishment media and Conservative party can try all they like to now skew this as a defeat of Jeremy Corbyn, and Labour, but we all know what really happened. Despite every advantage that money, power, and smear can buy (and that’s a fair bit), Theresa May STILL failed to cement her grip on the country. In fact, she weakened her position immeasurably – forcing her into the hands of those with alleged links to ‘terrorists’.
Labour’s turnaround was incredible. And we’re not going anywhere.
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