No, Prime Minister

This bit of satire came about from this very blog.
While bantering about on Going Postal, as one does, someone used the magical phrase, “The Great Progress.”
This inspired linking of May’s hopeful drumming up of support for her White-flag Paper, to Henry VIII’s tour of his rebellious Northern provinces. Monarchs would often leave London for the summer. To escape the filth and stench and bad humors. And the plotting of courtiers. The squabbles of Lords. The parsimony of Chamberlains and the rivalries of Stewards.
This seemed a perfect metaphor for May. Quitting her current, self-inflicted troubles for the countryside. Leaving the mess behind while she does nothing much but show her face in the country. To soothe the unruly. And just to remind people she is still the boss.

However, as the Progress and various other fitting Tudor characters, Francis Bryan. William Parr. William Compton and others, may not be well known to any readers on GP, who don’t have collections of Phillipa Gregory or C.J.Sansom the idea of a historical satire was shelved.

However, it did provide a useful finish to a Yes, Prime Minister parody,that I had been toying with, and that had a weak ending. The more familiar and easily envisaged Yes Prime Minister characters are much simpler to use. Readers being already very familiar with the original creations freely make, and keep, the association once a new skin is sewn onto them.
I found these short sketches work best when the television or radio or film character has as many characteristics as possible as the person who is being transplanted with them.

So when Private Eye did the truly excellent ‘Downturn Abbey’, Lord Grantham was David Cameron. And because he was a supremely elite, wealthy landowner, who was also good natured and concerned, tangentially anyways, with the poor, the references all worked. The ‘Big Society’.’Hug a hoody’. and so on. And the Matthew Crawley as Clegg was also great. A newcomer, not born of great wealth who suddenly is in the elites very home and demanding new ways of doing things. Even though he is wet behind the ears. Arms, legs..he’s basically just utterly wet.

With Clegg in coalition this was just perfect. Vince Cable was the Butler. Lower class born but middle class aspirant. Brown was the footman no one liked. And so on. The only disappointment to the whole thing was Private Eye didn’t make enough of it.

For me, the Dad’s Army parodies I wrote were the weakest. The Brown Adder, obviously a Black Adder parody, worked best.

Gordon Brown, then PM, was the scheming Lord. Always with a looming disaster from incompetent servants. Corrupt officials. hopeless companions. Political rivals. Endless money troubles. And unlikely lovers. It worked very well.
I might ask the host here if he would like to post some of the best of that old back catalogue here.

Although a reader, and sometime commenter of this blog, since it ‘Broke With Rome’ many years ago, in one of those Vatican purges the other places is subject too every now and then. And despite writing for other blogs under various disguises, I have never contributed an article here before.
So, be gentle.
Or,

‘if it cannot be gentle, then at least let it be quick.’

***

Dear BBC,

I hope you enjoy this idea. A pilot pitch to your current fad of remaking favourite old TV sitcoms, such as Open All Hours. Are You Being Served and Porridge. And giving them an unnecessary and transitional modern twist. With the same contemporary, Doctor Who style trend, of gender bending the main characters to give a fresh, if pointless and usually fatal spin, to the format.
Obviously, as is almost compulsory, post salary-gate, the central, dominant, character will be female.

This re-imagining for the modern era has the working title,

NO, PRIME MINISTER.

Bill Quangp MP, Going Postal
Jane Hacker. Prime Minister

 

In the pilot episode, the hapless, timid, panicky, indecisive and always ineffective, JANE HACKER, Minister for Internal Home Affairs, unexpectedly, through the machinations behind the scenes of Cabinet Secretary, Sir Olly Robbinby, becomes Prime Minister.

Jane immediately runs into difficulties. The usual Westminster fare of a divided, fractious cabinet. The hard left socialist opposition. The over-exuberant Americans. The NHS in crisis. The threats from the unions. The tricks of the Russians. Falling productivity. The Irish Troubles { This time represented by the DUP} And of course the intransigence of the EU.

All these wonderful themes from the original classic series, can be easily reused if just given a modern twist. That is easily done with a liberal sprinkling of dialogue involving – social media, smartphone, Quinoa, Airbnb. Foodbank. Tesla. Hashtag#Fad-whatever. And LBGTQ references.
It may be possible to give the series a tight shooting and edit deadline. To make each episode really up to the minute, News 24, Millennial focused, with that weeks current affairs references, jammed in. As they did with another old classic Drop the Dead Donkey.
{Also currently being re-imagined by BQP as “OMG-Facebook, you won’t believe it!” -working title.}

PS; We appreciate you do like to mention Olly Murs and Danny Dyer in every single one of your programs. So we will cram them in somehow.

Await your response to this idea for a brand new, old sitcom.

William Quango
BQ Productions
C/o room 40
Westminster, Palace of,
SE11AA

A taster for one of the episodes.

NO, PRIME MINISTER

Episode III
Brexit.

Scene – Outside the PM’s office –

The outside office to the Prime Minister’s office, sees a worried Principal Private Secretary,
Wooley Barnard, Theresa May’s PPS. He is examining an opinion piece in the nominally supportive Daily Telegraph. It was not supportive.

The cabinet Secretary, Sir Olly Robbinby enters. He notes Wooley’s glum expression, and asks,

“Another poor political poll? Barnard?”

“Erm..no Sir Olly…”

“Minister caught out like an Uber? Hiring themselves around the corporates and got stung by a Sunday Times fake Blood Diamond for export scam? No…?….Is it the Ultra Liberal-Panty-Waist-Softball, appointed to be director of Public Prosecutions that’s worrying them? ”

“Er..No Sir Olly..I mean, yes..it is, obviously….But no. That’s not the problem.”

“Then what is, Wooley? Love Island season finale didn’t go the way you hoped?”

“Its this Newspaper, Sir Olly. It doesn’t like the new Brexit White Paper.”
He hands over the offending column.

Sir Olly barely scanned it. He’d seen many such pieces over the last year. And many more over the last few weeks.
“A piece from the red faced Brexit Furies of that Daily Express rag, is it? A piece of Gammon!” Sir Olly beamed at his witticism and at poor Barnard.

“This is the Telegraph, Sir Olly. A usually supportive of the Prime Minister paper. Although a Brexit one.”

“Ohh..Barnard, really. The Telegraph isn’t supportive of the Prime Minister or Brexit. Its owners want as much EU subsidy and free press subsidy as they can bank offshore. And they only support someone likely to hand over knighthoods and honours. You do know the Telegraph only came out for Brexit about an hour before those ghastly, awful, votes about the UK leaving were finally counted up? The readers might want out. But who cares about them? Certainly not the owners.”

“But Sir Olly. It’s quite a personal attack..You know how she is about them.”

“A personal attack behind a Paywall, Barnard. No one will read it,” soothed the Cabinet Secretary.
And do you know how many daily papers they sell these digital days? Seven would be a good day for them.”
Sir Olly finally scanned the troublesome column.

“The Prime Minister has abandoned her Florence speech firmness as carelessly as a second rate assassin might discard a bottle of Novichok perfume. She has lost her Mansion House commitments as foolishly and unmistakably as a junior Thai soccer team in a cave.
She has capitulated. She has surrendered. She has rolled over and begged to be beaten by her European Masters. Beaten for her wickedness in attempting to even begin to suggest a bargaining with such mighty overlords. “

“Who’s this? Simon the Heifer? Or Quentin’s Sweats. Anyway, it’s really not that bad.,”
“Read further on, Sir Olly.”

Sir Olly did.

” The Prime Minister, Jane Hacker, has already taken it from the EU in every orifice. And now she wants to handle the negotiations herself! She doesn’t just flop. And fold. But bends at the waist. She says she will be firm! Laughable! The only firm things in the room will be the throbbing of the 27 members and the grip she has on her own ankles. The door will close and the teabagging will begin.”

“I see…Yes..That has come across rather graphicly, hasn’t it? Reads like a typical Mumsnet post, doesn’t it?”

“Sir Olly?” asked Wooley, “What shall I tell the PM? And what exactly is tea bagging? She’s bound to ask.”

“I have no idea, Barnard. I always insist on loose leaf. I don’t much care for these modern packaging methods. American ideas..Never been keen on them. Fast food and low tax societies.
.Such,..unpalatable ideas…Well..I assume it means something in much the same, ‘scenes of sexual content from the start’, as the rest of the piece.
What to tell the PM?.. Well she’s a Vicar’s daughter. So she won’t know what teabagging is either. Just tell her its a reference to..well.. To tea!
Say it refers to our national characteristic. The enjoyment of a hot beverage in times of crisis..erm..No don’t say crisis..We don’t want her hiding under the desk again for a week, do we.
Say, the enjoyment of a hot beverage. And SHE represents that ideal of tea. The very character of tea, is how the masses see her own character.”

Sir Olly gestured, a bold finger as he expanded on his theme.

“Strong. Warm, Dependable. Necessary. The gritty handed Workman’s favourite. A delightful sip. A saucer sup. .. Fresh….Quintessentially English..The appeal of an afternoon’s pleasantness. Rural England’s cake shoppe refinement. The very soul of the Vicarage itself.”

“That’s very reassuring Sir Olly. But I don’t think the paper do mean those things. They seem quite hostile. I think it means she is like a teabag. A used one..Sort of ..” And Bernard slumped himself down at the shoulders.
“Sort of..Squashed out. Cold. Soft. Unpleasantly wet…Grey…Weak..Saggy..You know..a used teabag is ..well..just a bit desperate and a little bitter, isn’t it?”

“Its up to you Barnard. Tell her my version, or tell her yours. But if you don’t want her flapping like a wet hen all week, I’d tell her my version. Now, is the leader of the nation available to see me?”

“Oh, erm..no, Sir Olly.”

Sir Olly looked at Barnard, annoyed. It wasn’t supposed to be a request. He was Olly Robbinby. It was a statement of intent.

“She is still away. On her tour of the Northern, remain voting, marginals.”

Sir Olly sighed as he remembered. “Oh yes. Of course. ‘The Great Progress.’ ”

“Well you did say you wanted her out of the way. For the summer.”

“Indeed I did Barnard. And a wonderful idea it was of yours. A tour of her people.”

“It was actually your idea, Sir Olly.”

“… To explain her Chequers Plan.”

“It was actually your plan, Sir Olly.”

“Do stop interrupting Barnard. ..Its was a good idea to have her away when important decisions need to be taken. Important that I take those decis…Erm…I mean important that the nation takes those decisions, that are required. Without outside interference.”

“Sir Olly, you aren’t suggesting Mrs Hacker is ‘outside interference,’ are you ? She is the PM, isn’t she?”

“Indeed she is, Barnard. But she is currently outside and I’m sure she is interfering in something. A custard cream production line in a biscuit factory, somewhere in the grey and drizzly depths of the Winterfell that is The North. So my point stands.”

“But Sir Olly, …if she’s not the one here, now, making decisions. Or more realistically, avoiding making decisions, won’t she duck any blame for any “unpopular” action and reneging on firm, repeated, promises already made ?”

“Barnard!” snapped Sir Robbinby crossly. ” Firstly..there can be NO unpopular decisions when it comes to reversing the appalling Brexit disaster!
And secondly, do you really think I’m so amateur I’d allow myself to be caught signing or instigating an actual commitment?
And do you really think I could be half-witted enough to end up taking the blame for such a thing? I’m not David Davis, you know!”

“Sorry, Sir Olly.”

“Right..Now if you don’t mind I shall use the Prime Minister’s office for the rest of the day. I find it very helpful if instructions originate from within.”

And with that, the Cabinet Secretary went inside and sat himself in his usual government recess place. At the desk of the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Norther Ireland.

TBC
 

Bill Quango MP courtesy of Capitalists @ Work
 

Audio file