Kick Up The Tabloids


When Vladimir McTavish asked me to stand in for this column, he left no other instruction other than make it topical and funny. A straightforward brief, I naively thought, and started jotting down the stories of the day and the hilarious left-wing approach I might take on them. What then became rapidly apparent was that any kind of comical slant on the news these days, was going to require a whole lot more imagination than I had first anticipated. I had just not realised the degree to which the role of the satirical comedian had been gratuitously undermined by the level of sheer farce that has come to characterise our political landscape.

Take the horse meat scandal for example. The very idea that people in Scotland would be overly concerned to find minute traces of more than one animal in their burger seriously underestimates the constitution of the national stomach (NB national stomach not being a reference to Alex Salmond). If you’re prepared to buy 24 burgers for 99p then I’m thinking you are pretty much up for the gamble. Similarly, if you’re a regular consumer of microwave lasagnes for one then presumably your life has reached a point of such tragic proportion that, finding out that even your food is lying to you will come as no great surprise.

In-fact, the only surprising aspect about this whole tabloid scare-orgy has been the baffling efficiency by which government’s crack food-testing teams have leapt into action at the first whiff of dead Dobbin. In what felt like mere seconds, they had found traces of pony in everything from a packet of beef Monster Munch to a ready-made trifle, leaving you wondering, if the government is indeed capable of responding this quickly to public fears, why it hasn’t done so before on all the other more pressing issues like bankers,…or the NHS…. or the bedroom tax… or any of the other major crisis that they are undeniably responsibly for?

It’s not that I don’t expect people to be upset about the mislabeling of food nor do I want to take away the right of vegetarians and vegans of looking that little bit smugger these days, (they don’t often get the opportunity, other than at Morrissey concerts and haven’t the energy levels to sustain it for that long anyway), it’s that it all seems a tad redundant to be getting this upset over the odd sliver of horse when the current austerity measures mean that the day when families are forced into sizing up the family cat is not too far away.

But how do you even take pot shots at the government anymore? The coalition now looks like an overly long episode of Yes Minister written by a group of Dadaists on ketamine. Just when you thought the Lib Dems couldn’t possibly do themselves more damage, they all but disintegrate under the type of grubby little scandal normally confined to the Catholic Church.

People have long since thought of the Lib Dem’s as the self harming goth kid lurking at the back of the adult party. Now to make things worse, it appears he had a semi the whole time. Yet some sympathy has to be extended to Nick Clegg who, with every successive TV appearance looks like he’s been locked in a wardrobe with a Dementor… (or to give it his full name, George Osbourne) which is why the Eastleigh by-election came as some light relief, not just because the Tories didn’t win but that they came third to a party whose previous candidate is probably going to jail and the BNP-lite… sorry… I mean UKIP…

In any other circumstances such a devastating defeat might hope to provoke a modicum of humility, but it’s become harder to ignore the fact that it very much looks like the evil Jedward that is Cameron and Osborne are now on a personal vendetta to destroy everyone poorer than them. I suspect it might all stem from some incident in their childhood when rough boys from the estate stole their football but regardless of the motivation, there’s now a disturbing megalomaniacal determination to their dogmatic adherence to these, obviously failing, draconian measures. Not even the loss of their precious triple AAA rating can dissuade them off course. It turns out it may as well have been a triple AAA battery.

So you see what I mean? The satirical comic has his work cut out for him these days. To parody a parody is a tall order. Perhaps the only way left to go for satirists is to follow the example of Italy’s second most famous comedian after Berlusconi, comic Beppe Grillo, who this week won the majority of votes in the Italian election…. That does sound like a lot of work though. I might just sit and wait on Vlad to come back…