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The Thick Of It: a scarily believable portrait of politics

This article is over 11 years, 9 months old
Sarah Creagh applauds Armando Iannucci’s hit comedy that returns to lampoon the divided coalition government
Issue 2320
Malcolm Tucker and company are back, but this time in opposition
Malcolm Tucker and company are back, but this time in opposition

Unprincipled, incompetent and ignorant, the entirely fictional politicians of The Thick of It are back for a fourth series.

Armando Iannucci, writer and director of the show, waited three years between series. He felt at first the coalition were getting on too well and there wasn’t enough material to work with.

But from pasty tax to LOLgate, he certainly has plenty to go on now, and the first episode of the fast-paced comedy is as cutting as ever.

It returns to the fictional Department for Social Affairs and Citizenship. The new minister, Peter Mannion MP, is forced to contend with a coalition partner, Fergus Williams MP, as his obnoxious junior.

The focus is on the launch of a new policy initiative dubbed the “network nation”. It’s renamed the “workhouse web” by the media after Mannion completely messes up the launch, much to the indignation of Williams.

At the launch, Mannion is unable to hide his technical illiteracy—and his racism after he is unable to pronounce a young Asian man’s name.


Although seizing the ample material provided by the obvious divisions within the coalition, the first episode doesn’t make much reference to the economic crisis and austerity policies of the current government. Maybe this will come out as the series progresses.

It’s all highly believable. There are the individual blunders in front of the press, like Fergus attempting to go in a revolving door the wrong way or Mannion being caught exiting his home at lunchtime on his anniversary with an empty bottle of champagne.

Then there’s the horrendous bullying atmosphere behind the scenes of parliament. The constant sexist and homophobic jibes between colleagues may be a bit much for some viewers. But no wonder they are all so vile if this is the environment they work in.

One of the most striking things is the complete lack of discussion of what the public might want or need. Actions are purely taken to get one over on the opposition (or coalition partner), or to further their own career.

This first episode is entirely based on the coalition side, so we miss everyone’s favourite foulmouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. He’s set to return in the second episode as the opposition settles into its new role.

The show is the least flattering portrayal of life behind the scenes of parliament you’ll have seen. But you’ll fear it’s also the most realistic.

The Thick Of It is showing on BBC Two on Saturday evenings. It is also available on the BBC’s iPlayer service

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