Wednesday 23 October 2019

Television review: Stuck behind the 8-ball again

  • Politics Live (BBC1)

Theresa May playing pool
Theresa May playing pool
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

The distinguished British writer and broadcaster Danny Baker recently declared that "we have a generation of politicians long advised by fixers and wonks, that a glib soundbite can solve any situation. Action is seen as laughably old school by this legion of glib invisible fixers. Now action is demanded. And they are exposed, helpless, useless…."

To be fair to me, I had been writing along these lines for some time, but I am still in awe of the scale of the uselessness which is now at last evident to all - you have to be, when you check in with the BBC around lunchtime and there's the political editor Laura Kuenssberg in Egypt covering Theresa's May's latest position on Brexit, whatever that is.

First though, she had to cover the game of pool. She had to speak about the short film of Theresa May playing pool with some Italian representatives.

She had to comment in that style of wry amusement that political editors adopt when they are talking about these light entertainments which are occasionally laid on by the legion of glib invisible fixers, largely so that reporters like Laura, freed from the burdens of high office, can comment in that style of wry amusement - and so the great wheel turns.

Now here is what the BBC's or anyone else's political editor could have said: "While these supposedly amusing images are meant to give a sense of the prime minister's human side, the existence of which has been seriously doubted of late, in fact they expose yet more of the inadequacy which is at the heart of her failures - they tell us that even in this terribly limited arena, her glib invisible fixers can't think of anything new.

"After all, the last performance of this nature was at the party conference when they thought that the best way to make her seem "human", was by having her dancing across the stage, or rather, showing her to be a very, very bad dancer - which itself was a direct copy of her only likeable public performance to date, when she danced in a really embarrassing way during a trip to Africa.

"So they've realised that this is how to draw attention away from her inability to relate to other human beings in a way that might be regarded as normal or friendly - you show her doing something really, really badly, and therefore you at least elicit some sympathy, or even pity.

"And we must assume that it was the glib invisible fixers who put this together, because it was hardly the PM herself, getting this notion that what she fancied right now more than anything, was a frame of pool with the Italians, and her being totally incapable of playing the game.

"So leaving aside the lack of imagination which is apparent here on the part of the fixers - though admittedly the material they have to work with is remarkably poor - we might also ask ourselves why a leader who is supposed to have some understanding of the lives of the people of Great Britain, should seem to find the most mundane recreations of British life to be so utterly alien?

"Therefore can we be in any doubt, that these supposedly innocuous scenes are telling us much that was not intended, telling us that the uselessness of this political class is apparent even as they're staging these wretched little diversions?"

Now, Laura Kuenssberg didn't say any of that, nor did any of her counterparts in the higher echelons of political broadcasting.

Because they don't think that's the way they should be doing journalism - though I think if you put my version up against theirs, and you called a referendum on it, you might find that I'd be winning by a small margin.

Or they might just put that question in a 'vox pop' to various elderly people who seem to have wandered in from The League Of Gentlemen, and arranged it so that half of them will go for my version, and half for the political correspondents. Because that's another of the ways in which they think they should be doing journalism.

And look how well it's working…

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