Posts Tagged ‘The Thick of It’

Time to get off Tony Blair’s foreign policy bendy bus

01/10/2012, 05:00:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I’ve tried to watch West Wing but, pace Westminster, always found it too hackneyed to endure. It may be an equally unutterable thing to say, at least within the beltway, but Armando Iannucci’s the Thick of It is becoming tired and predictable.

While we may be too gushing in our praise for Malcolm Tucker et al, Iannucci’s Time Trumpet never got the recognition it deserved or – in a case, given that Iannucci is one of the writers of Alan Partridge, of life imitating art – a second series.

Time Trumpet is a spoof documentary that purports to look back on 2007 from 2031. Tony Blair features near the start of the first episode. Iannucci’s commentary says:

“And we look back at this madman and how he ended up 20 years later dementedly wandering round the bins of downtown Baghdad.”

A dishevelled chap, the Blair of 2027, then appears and mumbles to himself:

“Further down the bendy bus, have your money ready please.”

All of which may be offensive to Blair and his most ardent supporters. While I am a Blair fan – he is, after all, the longest serving Labour prime minister ever, responsible for a tremendous amount of positive change – I cannot stop myself finding Time Trumpet hilarious.

We shouldn’t take ourselves or our heroes too seriously. And nor should we think our heroes beyond reproach.

We should – more than five years after he ceased to be party leader – be capable of having a mature debate about Blair. In some senses, this debate has already been had. Hopi Sen is right that it is Gordon Brown’s time as leader, rather than Blair’s, that has been under scrutinised and debated within the party.

However, debate about Blair has often generated more heat than light. Calm consideration has been particularly lacking around one part of Blair’s legacy in particular, a part that the Labour Party continues to live in the shadows of, foreign policy.


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The cost-free, universally popular, radical new ideas box

22/11/2010, 08:49:59 AM

by John Woodcock

It is no secret or surprise that ministers and advisers in the last government got hooked on seeing themselves satirised in The Thick of It. But there was one line in particular that summed up the exasperation of office so well that it was quoted back in Whitehall meetings: the line where an irritated adviser responds to a request for an agenda-setting new policy by sarcastically rummaging around in his “radical, cost-free, universally popular” ideas box and declaring it to be empty.

Partly, that just demonstrated how knackered the last administration had become and highlighted Labour’s need to renew and recharge. But The Thick of It did not simply dramatise the Labour government’s decline; the scene mentioned also points to the difficulty faced by any political party when the proposals it seeks to generate to win support actually need to be put into practice.

It is a problem the Tories and Liberal Democrats are facing in spades as they move from opposition to government.  Suddenly, the stuff that sounded so catchy on a single-sided press release doesn’t seem quite so realistic when in charge of the department tasked with implementing it.

Tuition fees are the obvious example, of course. Vince Cable even had the chutzpah to explain that he would never have advocated scrapping fees if he had known he was going to be in a position to do something about them – a line beyond satire. (more…)

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