Socialist Worker

Politics is ripe for satire—so why is TV falling short?

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2451

If one thing is proving predictable about the general election, it’s the tedium.

But the establishment’s austerity and racism consensus is ripe to be skewered.

Cue Channel 4’s Ballot Monkeys. It’s based around the four main parties in their battle buses. How could that not be funny? 

Labour’s inept and the Tories are trying to spin their austerity plans. And the Lib Dems complain that they get no coverage in the press apart from their tuition fees sellout. 

Labour intern Conor (Theo Barklem-Biggs), who’s “definitely” on the Living Wage, spends his time producing memes of Ed Miliband murdering his brother David. 

After all, how could anyone describe a fratricidal party leader as “indecisive” or “inept”? 

Ukip gets a slapstick treatment.

But there’s a problem in emphasising the struggle of “moderates” such as head of communications Gerry Stagg (Andy Nyman) to reign in the buffoonish “extremist” bigots such as Kate (Sarah Hadland).

Agenda

While it points to Nigel Farage’s fear of being branded racist, it plays down his own agenda.

ITV’s puppet show Newzoids is far better in pointing the finger at Farage’s racism.

Large parts of Ballot Monkeys is written on the day to make it up to date. 

So the first episode referred to John Major’s speech, Lib Dem Paddy Ashdown calling the Tories “bastards” on TV and Ukip’s racist comments about migrants being “Labour’s floating voters”. 

This is perhaps why it doesn’t quite work as satire—the real time bits don’t escape the reality of the general election.

In contrast, The Thick of It was able to lampoon the New Labour years and the beginnings of the Coalition.

It criticised the managerial nature of neoliberal politics—and was entirely believable. 

War criminal Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize couldn’t kill satire.

Let’s hope this general election doesn’t either.


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