Friday, January 08, 2010

House Points: Elf and safety meets The Thick of It

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Seasonal stories

It was a quiet holiday in Market Harborough. The Conservative-run district council had promised us a fun-filled late shopping evening on the last Saturday before Christmas, complete with a visit by some real live reindeer.

People came from as far as 40 miles away to see them, only to find that the council had cancelled the event at the last minute.

In case it snowed.

Of course, we all know these idiocies are really the fault of the lawyers and insurance companies, but it still made my Christmas to see the local Tories get a festive kicking from the Daily Mail.

And, just for the record, my blog Liberal England made the “elf and safety” joke well before the Mail did.


So I stayed indoors and watched television. More precisely, I watched a lot of DVDs and by far the best of them was the first series of The Thick of It.

This is the show that made a national anti-hero of Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed enforcer from No. 10 played by Peter Capaldi. (“I’m all ears. I’m Andrew f****** Marr here.")

But there is another character who takes us closer to the heart of the last dozen years of Labour government. He is Olly Reader, the policy wonk who came into government via Cambridge and a think tank, never setting foot in the real world in between. He likes to think of himself as worldly and cynical, yet is bullied by Tucker and everyone else.

It is Reader who comes up with the ministry’s new policies – usually in the back of a car on the way to a press conference when the ones the minister had planned to announce have just fallen through. These emergency policies have to be “something the public wants, incredibly popular and free”.

Which explains why we have seen Olly Reader policies from this government every day. A national spare room database. Mandarin Chinese lessons for all children. ASBOs for pets. Parenting lessons at 14. Art and music lessons for juvenile delinquents.

In fact, some of those are jokes from The Thick of It and some are government policy announcements from the past few days. I have forgotten which is which, but then I am not sure it matters.

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