Saturday 1 October 2016

Television review: Politics the addiction that is bringing us all down

* Brexit (All Channels)
* The Royle Family (BBC1)

Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30

Broadcaster Andrew Neil
Broadcaster Andrew Neil

I have written in these pages on politics as an addiction, and I think we can say post-Brexit that in these islands at least, it is now out of control. That like all addictions it is destroying the lives of many who are not themselves gripped by it.

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Certainly you will hear people saying light-heartedly that they are "addicted to politics", that they are "anoraks", but by their very light-heartedness you can see that they don't get it. That they view this as some kind of a harmless eccentricity, rather than what it is, an appalling disorder which afflicts an identifiable class of people and which is causing astonishing amounts of unhappiness to those who are left to clean up the wreckage.

While I have been trying to warn the world about this malaise, I have also maintained that it tended to be essentially juvenile in nature, the way that the journalists - who themselves are chronically addicted - were insisting on presenting these deeply damaged individuals to us as serious human beings.

I saw it largely as an insult to the intelligence, an offence against taste, and a terrible waste of everyone's time, albeit a sub-culture which was so consumed with its own trivialities it probably could not cause too much damage to the world of normal people. So obvious were the limitations of the addicts, many of whom can get through their entire lives on about five cliches, I tended to think that their capacity for destruction was similarly limited.

I don't think that any more.

And not only has their collective giddiness resulted in chaos on a grand scale, after Brexit it has also made them important, the way that any large crowd of amoral delinquents becomes important if they are not controlled. I find myself watching things like Daily Politics, presented by Andrew Neil, and Question Time, and Andrew Marr on the BBC on Sunday morning. I am flicking unthinkingly between Sky News and Newsnight and Channel 4 News, watching these terrible people being interviewed outside Westminster, hearing that immortal line, "May and Leadsom may both be women, but they have quite different views".

So there was no plan for what would happen after Brexit? You might as well expect a bunch of junkies with a thousand-pound-a-day habit to have a precise timetable worked out, showing where they wanted to be in five years time.

I have been trying to get this message to the world for a long time now - these people are not much good. Many of them are unwell, consumed as they are by this game of theirs, which really is only a game. And because they have been enabled to such extent by their co-dependent collaborators in the media, eventually they have dropped us all into it.

We are getting to know people such as Eric Pickles, who is some sort of a Tory "character", we know who Michael Gove's wife is, and we really don't want to know these things, but it's happening anyway. The contagion is upon us.

*****

Somehow in that creepy environment a brilliant woman such as the late Caroline Aherne is viewed as some kind of a light entertainer, while Michael Gove's wife is taken to be a serious figure in the affairs of nations. The Royle Family was Aherne's masterpiece, as it was not just hilarious, it also proved the fallacy of one of the central themes of western thinking for the last 50 years, the notion that television was "destroying the art of conversation", and otherwise contributing to the breakdown of society.

Aherne with her beautifully judged drama, demonstrated that on the contrary, television has if anything stimulated the art of conversation - not destroyed it. There is a difference.

Not only does it give us something to talk about, it triggers all sorts of other digressions that arise from the subconscious during a routine episode of "Holby City."

She showed that not only has it not alienated us from our fellow man, it has been a powerful force for good in bringing people into the same room for a common purpose, even if it is only to mock the activities of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen.

And if it is an addiction, it is the best that we have.

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