Saturday 24 February 2018

5 things parties could learn from the snap election in The Thick Of It

By Jessica Pitocchi

There is wisdom to be learned from Malcolm Tucker.

If Theresa May’s announcement of a snap election felt like something out of The Thick Of It, there’s a good reason for that.

As today’s shock news broke, people online were quick to draw comparisons with one particular episode of the BBC political satire which sees chaos break out in the corridors of Whitehall as a similarly unexpected poll is called.

So what could the UK’s political parties learn from the Thick Of It’s fictional equivalents? We rewatched the final episode of series three to find out.

1. The chaos caused by calling an election is a good thing (for the government).

It appears May could already have been inspired by this one, as the people of Westminster and Twitter continue to react with surprise, shock and confusion at today’s news.

As terrifying director of communications Malcolm Tucker tells an overwhelmed Nicola Murray MP in the show: “See that f***ing jibbering? That’s what everyone is doing right now.

“We have grabbed the initiative.”

2. Become a master of spin.

When Nicola responds to Malcolm to argue that the government had only taken the initiative “for maybe five minutes”, he manages to turn it into a phrase that wouldn’t look out of place on a motivational poster: “Life is just a succession of five minutes.”

That kind of thinking on your feet can be vital in an election campaign.

3. If any of the parties have an unopened snap election plan, it’s probably time to look at it.

Over in the show’s Opposition HQ, spin doctor Stewart Pearson marches past desks telling staff to open the Snap Election Drill file found on the J-Drive.

He swiftly follows with “and if you don’t know how to access the J-Drive, hand your pass in at reception go and buy some silver body paint and pretend to be a robot on the South Bank” – so perhaps staffers could be advised to find this information out quietly by themselves.

4. The opposition should have focused target areas when it comes to “smart-bombing our beloved PM”.

This again comes from opposition spin doctor Stewart. In terms of The Thick of It, that would be the deficit, unemployment, lack of leadership and the economy.

We’ll leave it up to the Labour party to decide what those areas might be for the real-life PM.

5. There are good and bad ways of rallying the troops.

Cal Richard, the Opposition’s chief election strategist, takes a very different approach to Malcolm Tucker when it comes to getting the team riled up and ready. Yes, both involve a lot of shouting and swearing but the messages are still very different.

The Cal Richard style is downbeat and robotic, with dreary comparisons and nonsensical turns of phrase, such as “this government is maimed but it can’t be shamed”. It ends with stony silence and some awkward coughing.

The Malcolm Tucker version is much more impassioned and optimistic, effectively saying forget the haters and prepare to fight, and ends with a round of applause.

And the result of the Thick Of It’s snap election? A defeat for Malcolm Tucker and the government. Perhaps there’s more to politics than creative swearing after all.

Press Association

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