Imagine you’re a talented young TV screenwriter, looking for a smart new idea for a satirical comedy lampooning incompetent and uncaring politicians. You’re looking for a main character, ideally in high office and making decisions on a daily basis that shape policy. You’re probably going to make him a Tory because – let’s face it – that’s where the laughs are at when it comes to making fun of MPs for their comic nastiness value. The best comedy contains a kernel of truth too, so you need to be careful about such matters as your character’s political affiliation, personal background, appearance and history; all of these are potentially rich sources of laughter, whilst at the same time making your audience nod knowingly and say “Yes, I know that guy.” But beware: don’t make your creation too similar to, or identifiable with, any real-life public figure. That’s overkill; and anyway you’re probably better off going for an amalgam of several well-known public figures – more versatility of character there, and so more potential for laughs.
Until relatively recently, you could have done a lot worse than adopt the following pattern: your fictional man is pictured (right) – note the superficial resemblance to Rowan Atkinson’s “Mr Bean” character; the rubber-faced grin, the eyes that appear to betray barely a glimmer of intelligence. Perfect. This would not be a cuddly, genial chap though – he’d be an heir to some minor aristocratic title and the beneficiary of inherited wealth. He’d have been born with a silly name, which he’d later change for something he felt sounded more straightforward. His socialist mother would agree with him about this, if not about much else. Educated at a public school, he’d have progressed to Oxford, and followed the well-trodden path to power familiar to many Tories born to privilege and destined to inherit a fortune through no effort on their own part. Despite these advantages he would be an outspoken critic of what, with no apparent sense of irony, he’d term “a something for nothing culture”. On being handed control of the country’s purse strings, he’d set about tackling national debt by cutting everything in sight that benefits the poor and vulnerable, whilst ensuring that his banker mates in the City should continue to enjoy seven-figure bonuses and a reduced rate of tax for the highest earners. Lots and lots of scope for poking fun at clueless, selfish, old-school-tie politicians there.
Well – forget it. Think again. Back to the drawing board. Your ideal, fictional, made-up Tory Twit is a non-starter – because sadly he’s all too real. And really, it was looking so good – the model outlined above seems too stereo-typically an example of Tory Boy grown up and wreaking havoc for there to be any real risk of him actually existing. But step forward Gideon Oliver Osborne, who decided at the age of 13 to be George after his war-hero grandfather. Whether he considered ridding himself of the initials GOO is not recorded, but in keeping with its stance on authenticity and veracity, this blog will refer to Mr O. as Gideon – besides which, he just looks like a Gideon – there’s not any real bluff, honest George quality there.
Gideon is due to present his latest budget tomorrow and you can bet any last few coins you might have left – if you’re a victim of Tory/Coalition policies since 2010 – that there won’t be any good news for those of us “all in it together” at the bottom of the economic pile. On the other hand, you might like to wager a goodly chunk of your forthcoming £100,000 a year tax-cut – if you’re one of those “all in it together” in the million-a-year bracket – that you and your kind will be protected from the chill wind of austerity blowing through the real-life parts of our nation.
Gideon’s actions might confuse those who expect their politicians to practice what they preach (i.e. “The Gullible”). He stands four-square behind his opposition to those who have to live on benefit having a spare bedroom – even if, for reasons of disability, there are sound reasons why two adults might not be able to share a room. Gideon feels that this is an unfair burden on the tax purse, and he displays a characteristic insouciance about the bulk of evidence which points to devastating effects on the lives of those affected. Yet strangely, his attitude to his own housing situation displays rather less regard for the nation’s tax-payers than it does for the wealth and comfort of one Gideon Oliver Osborne Esq. His actions in respect of “flipping” his second home allowance onto a constituency property with an increased mortgage attracted some criticism, which must have been very hurtful for not-so-poor Gideon. This property was later sold for an estimated £400,000 profit. Very nice, squire, very nice indeed.
Gideon may not look too clever in his picture, but he’s certainly managed to do alright for himself since leaving Oxford. There were brief forays into the world of employment during which he acted as a data entry clerk, putting the details of the recently-deceased onto an NHS database, and he also worked for a week at Selfridges, during which he was responsible for folding some towels. Perhaps the seeds of future greatness were sown at the NHS, and indeed Gideon has continued to make his contribution to death statistics via his enlightened policies in respect of public expenditure cuts. Some say that it was in his towel-folding retail days that he truly found his métier, there being comparatively little scope for screwing up. For someone who has recently been reported as telling colleagues that his main aim is “to avoid fucking up the Budget”, towel-folding would seem a comparatively safe occupation – for himself and, indeed, for the rest of us.
So, what is my final advice to you, the aspirant TV writer? Well, I’d be tempted to wait a while yet, and see what else Gideon gets up to before putting pen to paper. It’d be a pity after all to fall prey to criticism that the fiction has failed to live up to the fact, and there may well be depths of ridiculous and callous policy-making that our esteemed Chancellor has yet to plumb whilst continuing, somehow, to make sure that his own inherited nest remains nicely feathered.
Watch this space.