Friday, 15 May 2015

Rory Bremner's Election Broadcast

Rory Bremner seems to have been away from television a long time. His regular series, Bremner, Bird and Fortune vanished without explanation from Channel 4 a while back. I am not sure how popular it was - I always enjoyed it, and even went to see it be filmed once, donkeys years ago now. But I know that when I was working as a subtitler on Channel 4's television programmes, the show was generally disliked by my colleagues. This meant I found myself working on it quite often, with everyone else avoiding it. We only ever managed to subtitle the repeat, as the first broadcast was edited too late for us to work on. Otherwise it would have had to be subtitled live, which wouldn't have worked. It was probably a slightly disappointing watch for hard-of-hearing or deaf viewers anyway - all a subtitler could do was write the name of who Rory was doing an impression of at the start of each line, which used up valuable word space and which hardly conveyed his talent for mimicry. But his impersonations do rely on facial tics and body language alongside the verbal mannerisms, so there may still have been something to be gained even without the audio. The John Bird and John Fortune segments were always my favourites anyway, and not reliant on impressions. Just the stunning mockery of government, civil service or big business tomfoolery in the glorious guise of George Parr.

Alas, John Fortune is no longer with us, but it was nice to see John Bird still included in this post-election analysis programme. The show, now on BBC2, had a very similar format to Bremner, Bird And Fortune - stand-up sections in front of an audience interspersed with pre-recorded video footage. But there was an interlude for a performance by another impressionist, which presumably lightened the load of the last-minute rewrites after the unexpected election result. In my view this didn't really add anything as - putting it mildly - he lacked Bremner's subtlety and we had already seen enough (better) impersonations of Cameron and Miliband. It was interesting that Bremner's format hadn't moved on at all from what must have at some point been rejected by Channel 4. But I am not sure how much he could have changed - or how much I would have wanted him to change.

There were Bremner's usual scary, thought-provoking statistics that newscasters hadn't mentioned and which require greater publicity. That more words went into plans to save polar bears in the Tory manifesto than into detailing their proposed brutal welfare cuts. That Cameron won his Tory majority with the same percentage of votes as Labour lost with in 1979. And that UKIP and the Greens only got two seats between them with a share of the vote that was only 10% less than the Tories. Whilst I am mightily relieved at the low number of seats won by UKIP, there is no denying that we have an archaic and biased electoral system that isn't working and isn't reflecting the views of all the British people. We did have a referendum about changing things at the start of the last Parliament, but the question was worded in such a way as to almost guarantee keeping the status quo. And it wasn't even offering proportional representation anyway, which is what the Lib Dems have always wanted. All eight of them that are left.

But it was very hard to laugh at Rory Bremner this week because the election result has left me utterly dejected, if not seriously slash-my-wrists level depressed. None of the polls warned us that a Tory majority was possible. I fully expected another coalition, as did probably everybody. We were in Holland when the result was declared, and I instantly wanted to claim Dutch political asylum on the grounds that my country had plainly gone mad. Who on earth votes for the Conservatives? Who on earth thinks that any of the cuts of the previous Parliament have been beneficial to anybody? Who on earth believes the Tory lies that the budget deficit was because of Labour overspending and not from pumping money into ailing banks which had so mismanaged their lending that they were now in danger of making us lose all our money? Gordon Brown saved, not destroyed, the day. Meanwhile the bankers have got off scotfree and we, the middle and low-income general public reliant on local authority services and free education and health care are being punished for their incompetence. And who on earth sees UKIP as an alternative - a bunch of racist, ignorant scumbags that other parties want to pander to? We have to stay in Europe. Otherwise in five years' time, after Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, we will end up living in an isolated England run by 1% of our landed gentry in an old public schoolboys' club and feudal society straight out of the 18th century. I fear the other 99% of us will be beggars on the streets. With my daughter about to start school and my health on the wane (being 42 hasn't been kind to me) I fear for our education and NHS services more than ever. The welfare state could be coming to an end. And it seems that many of the voters of Britain are too stupid to see this or too selfish to care.

On a positive note, there are some good things to share about the election to those of a left-wing view. We did come home, and thankfully our postal votes contributed to York Central returning a Labour MP and our local ward a Labour, a Green and a fantastic independent councillor who has done so many wonderful things for our neighbourhood in the past few years. One of my friends and one of my cousins are serving as Labour councillors elsewhere. And the biggest news for our family is that my aunt has just been selected to be Leader of Leeds City Council. The first female leader of a city council ever, and one of the biggest in the country at that. I can't imagine a tougher time for her to be doing the job, but I wish her all the very best, and send my heartiest congratulations. But while the Labour and Lib Dems focus all their energies on choosing (hopefully electable) new leaders, the Conservatives are going to busy literally taking away our human rights, and the majority of what is left of our public services. And we can't stop them. Or can we?

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