Sunday 16 December 2018

Television review: We want a hard McWilliams

  • Brexit, Trump and Us (RTE1)

David McWilliams
David McWilliams
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

If and when I am directing the next David McWilliams documentary, I would want it to be very like last week's Brexit, Trump, and Us, but without the Us.

There is this terrible old convention in journalism that sometimes you have to back up your opinions with the opinions of other people, usually by conducting a poll.

I hate polls. In fact I have only one rule in life, and that is to avoid anything that even vaguely looks like a poll. If I ever see a pie-chart in a newspaper, for example, I just turn the page.

It might turn out to be a pie-chart representing something of interest, but then again it might also be a pie-chart telling us that Fine Gael are up two points and Fianna Fail are down three points since the last poll, or maybe it's the other way round. And I do not want to take the chance that any part of my life, however small, might be wasted on such trivialities.

Naturally Macker tried to take that sad song and make it better, bringing actual human beings into a studio and moving them around according to taste in an effort to enliven this poll about Brexit and Trump and Us, to turn the old pie-chart into a living thing.

But as a member of the general public myself, I just wanted him to move on to the parts which were all Macker, all the time. Because frankly, in these situations, I don't care what I think. I care only about what Macker thinks.

I have no doubt that his opinions on these great macro-economic matters are far more interesting than mine, and indeed any pollster ringing me up to seek my opinion for these purposes would only be annoying me. On the one occasion in my life when I was called by a pollster, I found the questions so shallow, so boring, so essentially stupid, I instructed them immediately to ask Macker, for he is my proxy and the font of all my knowledge on things economic.

Freed from the constraints of public opinion, Macker brought us to some interesting places to talk to some interesting people, and this is what we want - visits to London and Paris and Marseille, even to Northern Ireland, in the company of our greatest living economist, who can tell us what we should be thinking, not what we are already thinking. Which may well be, "not much".

We have gone to the trouble in this country of creating this phenomenon called David McWilliams, the sort of chap the BBC used to produce all the time, someone with the brains to understand very complicated things, and the energy to communicate the essence of these things to the TV multitudes.

So we should be able to relax now, and to let him do our talking and our thinking for us. Whether it's a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, what we want is a hard McWilliams, telling us what time it is. And for the most part, in this latest production, that is what we get.

He wants us to stop being the "good Europeans" all the time, to realise that no matter what we do, the EU can't just throw us out, even if we defend our inalienable right to have whatever corporation tax we damn well like. That for once Paddy really is in a unique position here, with the old Brexit, he really is the special case that he always fancies himself to be, and therefore he needs to speak up for himself.

Now of course Paddy will probably do nothing of the sort. He has never sought to bother the Eurocrats if he can possibly help it, with his own petty concerns, about, say, paying zillions more than was decent to bail out the bankers. It is not what Paddy does.

But McWilliams is still right, and that is all that matters. And he didn't get to be right by getting too caught up in the views of various demographics.

When I want to know what I feel about the economy, I don't look into my own heart, I look into David McWilliams's heart.

He is the only demographic that counts here, a demographic of one.

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