At the last general election the writer Sally Wainwright, frustrated that all of the political parties were as bad as each other, decided that she would stand for parliament.
Although quickly deciding that she wasn’t really up to the challenge, the seeds of an idea had been sown. Now she has written the new series The Amazing Mrs Pritchard starring Jane Horrocks.
Angry at the state of politics and distrustful of the politicians on offer, local supermarket manager Mrs Pritchard stands on an independent ticket at the general election, determined to make a point.
When she wonders out loud why the politicians are calling each other liars, the women next to her points to a newspaper with Tony Blair on the cover and says, “Well he did lie over Iraq”.
The country’s voters, previously apathetic at the options available, turn out in their millions and elect Mrs Pritchard in on a landslide. Armed with the catchphrase “politics isn’t rocket science”, she finds herself with a line of candidates wanting to run under her Purple Alliance banner.
She cobbles together a manifesto by “borrowing from the left and stealing from the right” – no actual issues other than the war were mentioned in the first episode, and that only once.
The series is tightly scripted and well-acted but overly sentimental. And it’s all a bit too unbelievable. For instance, the Tory shadow home secretary is won over simply because Mrs Pritchard gives her a tampon.
Class is entirely absent in a feminism-lite view of the world, where the manager of a supermarket is so loved by the women who work on the checkout they all volunteer for her campaign and the woman supermarket owner puts up £10 million to pay for it.
But there is a sense of threat in the background – that the problem is the system not just hypocritical politicians.
In the second episode, the queen tells a nervous Mrs Pritchard not to worry – with 80,000 civil servants in Whitehall, and seven times that number in local councils, her capacity to do harm (or good) is limited.
Frank Capra in the films Meet John Doe and Mr Smith Goes To Washington pushed the innocent abroad as a way of satirising 1930s US politics. The Amazing Mrs Pritchard is doing the same for Blair’s Britain – but from the initial episodes it is unclear how biting the satire is going to be.
The possibilities are endless for sticking the knife into establishment politicians. Hopefully Mrs Pritchard will make the most of them.
The Amazing Mrs Pritchard,
Tuesdays BBC1, 9pm
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