Politics and TV: a toxic mixture


Politics and television: a marriage made in heaven, right? In fact if there wasn’t  politics, television would have more holes in it than a fisherman’s net. Sunday Politics, The View, Question Time, Prime Time – not to mention the Six O’Clock News, Newsline 630, Channel 4 News, BBC 24, France 24 and how’s your father.  All of them getting their nourishment, their daily bread from politics. The trouble is, television loves drama whereas politics, if it’s grown-up stuff, involves listening to what the other guy is saying and trying to find ways of working with it. The sad thing to say is that good politics makes bad TV and vice versa. I

There have been a number of headline instances lately. The most obvious has been  the jockeying for places on the great British TV debate: Nigel Farage delighted to be there, David Cameron trying to get out of being there, the DUP throwing a  hissy-fit that people act as if it don’t  exist.  The broadcasters say that having too many people on the debate line-up will mean spreading too thin, we’ll get no substance from anyone. They don’t mean it. They really mean that too many mongrels in the fight will be far less interesting than two or three prize bull-pits squaring up to each other. If you want proof, check out RTÉ’s schedule last night. Claire Byrne came on several times in advance of last night’s  Claire Byrne Live at 10.30 pm to promise us that she’d be presenting the show and that it would feature ‘a head-to-head’ between Joan Burton   and Gerry Adams.

Whether the imagery is drawn from boxing  or from two slavering mastiffs, the clear message is that what we all look for in politics is The X Factor,  a winner. What’s more, he or she will be a winner inside television’s allotted time-slot. Remember the presidential debate in the south a few years back? What drama!  What cut-and-thrust!  What excitement! And what high viewing figures! Who said people aren’t interested in politics?

Except that it’s not politics. It’s at best television and at worst show biz. What people are looking for on TV is a political leader that looks good, sounds good, and can zing off the one-liners guaranteed to hole an  opponent beneath the waterline. It’s not every day that I find myself agreeing with David Cameron’s advisers, but they were right to try  and keep him off the box debates. Because these flat-screen verbal punch-ups suck the life out of the rest of a campaign. We all have so much fun cheering on our man/woman or booing the opposition’s man/woman, all else seems  scrappy and fleeting. It’s high-wire stuff, and don’t we love it when someone – particularly the guy we don’t like – comes plummeting down to earth, mortally wounded.

For his view on such things alone, Tony Benn’s political career was worthwhile: he always insisted in judging his opponent’s policies, not their hair-style or their carefully-rehearsed one-liners.

Public-service broadcasting? Public disservice narrow-casting, more like.

10 Responses to Politics and TV: a toxic mixture

  1. Perkin Warbeck January 28, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Toxic is indeed a good description of politics on TV, Esteemed Blogmeister, not least when it is being aired by Eireland’s RTE.

    Where is as toxic as a dish of boxty laced with old arsenic dispensed by the anal-retentive..

    As was evidenced when the Yawnaiste or Deputy Leader went head to head with the poll topper in the Tawnaiste constituency under the forensically fair Chairpersonship of the not at all bad-looking darling girl from the Queen’s County, Clare Byrne.

    Oops, that slipped out ! Please scrap that crappy compliment.: a penitent Perkie has no hesitation in going into grovel mode as he shovels a shedload of apologies from his antediluvian PC to those who must be obeyed.

    Now that Les Harpies of the Dworkin Class are in control, never has the Harp been a more appropriate national instrument for the Free Southern Stateen .Or as Professor Emeritus J.Augustine Murphy of the Queen’s College, Cork, subversively terms it in today’s litter page of The Unionist Times: Republic of Ireland, which is mentioned nowhere in the FSS Constitiution. What a redoubtably advanced re-bel he still is, and at that age !.

    (Note to self: must forthwith abandon the ancient Warbeckian custom of holding doors open for the gentle gender. Ancient, yet sexist. Toxicly so).

    For some reason,one was reminded of another RTE programme under the forensically fair Chairpersonship of another Byrne: one, Gay. Not Leo, Gay. Though one might be excused for opting for the name, Leo rather than Gay, as Gay Byrne was the first one on RTE to courageously take a stand on the promotion of the Great Donkey Derby: 14-18.

    In which his own father Mr. Byrne (not Gay) was an enthusiastic participant. If not quite the full Queen’s Shilling on his return to the Free Southern State. When and where he displayed a distinct and disturbing proclivity for waking up in the wee small hours to arouse the neighbours with his John Bull-like roars.

    (As his son, who is Gay, has repeatedly reminded us, even though he, oddly enough, like so many in the public ear is an intensely privately person, according to himself).

    The Leo here, of course, being Leo of neutral Belgium, and who was the main reason why Mr. Byrne Snr (not Gay) selflessly took to the trenches at great personal risk to himself. Put his own ass on the line,so he did, in the Great Donkey D. For all the thanks he got by the ungrateful wretches of Eireland on his return.

    Leo of Belgium’s backstory is that he adopted long ago a, erm, hand’s off approach to the Congo, not unlike Strongbow, come to link with it, in the times of Archbishop Larry O’Toole in Dublin’s fair ciddy. This was the reason why G. B. (aka Gay Byrne) adopted a hand’s off policy to Fear na Feasoige agus an Fhainne in the immediate aftermath of the lifting of Section 31.

    That was the legendary occasion when the set of the Late, Late Show was magically transformed into the Stonebreakers’ Yard with the the thoughtfully chosen panel in the role of firing squad and Gerry Adams (for it is he!) cast in the role (after a careful selection process) as a seated James Connolly.

    Actually, back-firing squad squad might be nearer the mark.

    Oddly enough Section 31 and James Connolly both got namechecked on the Clare Byrne Show on Monday.

    In fairness (if one may borrow a soccer, oops, one McCann not use that McBanned word,, football term, just like Republic of Ireland) the Yawnaiste showed remarkable forbearance despite the most blatant provocation from G.A. There was Uachtaran Shinn Fein wearing a (gulp) Fainne (or ring in the leprechaun) in his lapel: an incitement to hatred if ever there was one, not least in that centre of excellence for Reptile Worship, RTE.

    Despite a blooded nose the gallant Yawnaiste chose to homerically bite her lips. Though her bedroom eyes could not disguise the words in Swahili, in which she is fluent, according to herself, which were swilling through her beancounting brain: Uhuru !

    But, according to the old adage, where there’s muck flinging there’s brass necks.When the term ‘Sleepover’ was broached in relation to the Yawnaiste and the Belfast Talks, one knew immediately, at last, the provenance of her Term of Endearment.

    To conclude with a mention a similar yet not dissimilar wireless station: Newstalk. Where this very morning, Kenny went head to head with Kenny. Or, ‘Pat my End’, as the prepublicity had it.

    Where all was Fire and Water (F.A.W.) when the topics of the abuse (virulent) suffered at the hands of the water protestors by the Prez (venerable) and the abuse (outrageous) suffered at the hands of an arsonist (butthead) by the Fine Gael y’are fellow constituency colleague of the Prime Minister were raised.

    When the K Host queried the K Guest whether he knew the identity of the Fire and Water (F.A.W.) protestors, the former thoughtfully filled the pause for the latter by dropping the S.F’ers into the mix.

    While the self-inflicting Pat on the Back Kenny is FAW ar mbuartha (our reason to worry) at the moment, let ye in Norneverland beware: ta se ag teacht / he is on his way.

    Soon, our F.A.W.ar mbuartha will be your F.A.W. bhur mbuartha (your reason to worry).

    But not too much worry: Big Chief Curry my Yoghurt will see to that.

    • Ceannaire January 28, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

      Devastatingly brilliant, old bean. Perkie, you’ll be Uachtarán na hÉireann, gan amhras.

      • Perkin Warbeck January 29, 2015 at 10:02 am #

        President Perkie, mo Cheannaire ?

        Perish the very t. !.

        One time Warmongering Warbeck would much prefer the peaceful role as Mr. Whippy and the far safer sinecure in his Van an Uachtair Reoite.

        Being driven around the outer burbs of Baile Atha Cliath with the theme song merrily playing on the tannoy ‘ She’ll be coming round the Mountebanks’ calling on all those screaming H2O hotheads to partake of his vast range of wall-to-wall ice creams.

        From Apple Cobber Crunch to Mint Nittany to Goo Goo Clusters to Eggnog Fudge Pecan to Peanut Butter Swirl to Caramel Critters to Wicked Caramel Sundae (everyday) to Soft Scoop Vanilla and Cornettos.

        (These latter will be restricted to Choc Cornettos: no Chucky-head Cornettos from the rival firm of Ben and Gerry will be on sale).

        For those who, erm, shout out the loudest (ie. the moustachioed members of the Dworkin Class) their reward will be Pistachio Cones while those who favour shirts of a loyalist blue will be guaranteed curried yoghurt and cans of cola at a specially subsidised rate.

        Order, always to the forefront of Mr. Whippy’s fine mind, will be in more than adequate hands, those of the Praetorian guard of ISIS. Dressed in black they will be easily identifiable as they squat on the roof of Van an Uachtair Reoite. Each will have a Magnum in his menacing hand.

        Raspberry Sorbets will be reserved for those crude-mouths who trade in personal insults.

        Fos fein, a Cheannaire, ta gach seans ann go bhfeadfadh Perkie an plean seo a phairceail da mba rud e go ndeanfai bun-ainm Arus an Uachtarain a athmhuscailt: The Vice-Regal Lodge.Ta se duailceach a dhothain chun glacadh le sin.

        Fiu, leis an Vice-Versa Regal Lodge.

        • Jude Collins January 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

          Perkie – I must ask you to restrain yourself. Children may be reading items on this site and “From Apple Cobber Crunch to Mint Nittany to Goo Goo Clusters to Eggnog Fudge Pecan to Peanut Butter Swirl to Caramel Critters to Wicked Caramel Sundae (everyday) to Soft Scoop Vanilla and Cornetto” verges very near to pornography…

          • Perkin Warbeck January 29, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

            (Entre Nous, Esteemed Blogmeister, but this massage-inducing passage has already been earmarked for Page 3 in the next issue of every political pocket-bulger’s must-read: ‘The Party Whip’. Say no more).

  2. Cal January 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    I think it’s human nature to look at the personality as opposed to the policies. See Barack…

    Closer to home, we’ve got, Joan Burton. Everytime I hear her, I cringe. Her policies aren’t to my taste either but primarily, it’s her public persona that completely turns me off.

  3. Iolar January 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Creative destruction

    Tony Benn defended the Welfare State, stating it was, “well fair.” One can only speculate how he might to respond to the fact that after eight months and a cost of £116,000 the Donaldson Report recommends that health chiefs should be given a £50,000 increase in salary. The recommendation is strange given that the author of the report expressed concerns about the appalling lack of leadership in healthcare services. The report is even more ambiguous about who is in charge, the minister for health, a civil servant or a chief executive(s). It is difficult to make a decision about the most appropriate comment about the Health Service during BBC interviews on 27 January 2015. Liam Donaldson spoke about the need to reduce, “red tape and bureaucracy.” The Health Minister discussed the need for change in the Health Service in the context of constraints of history and tradition. The same might be said of the body politic.

    The Roman Consul Caius Petronius was critical of reorganisation. He viewed it as an illusion of progress while at the same time producing confusion and demoralisation. We have had Area Boards, District Committees, Units of Management, Commissioning Services, Purchaser/Provider splits, Community Care (?) and now Transforming Your Care. Transforming Your Care now = Salary increase for the Chief Executive and 14 frozen meals delivered once a week to Older People.

    The Health Service cannot be run like a supermarket. The current problems in the Health Service arise out of health inequalities, inadequate budgets and staffing issues. The proposed closure of hospitals, wards, emergency departments, residential homes, nursing homes and a lack of care packages in the community is simply, privatization by stealth.

  4. michael c January 28, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Cal,have to agree personality does come into it. I did’nt see Gerry versus Joan but Mrs Michael C did and went on for some time about “thon oul cow and the oul voice of her”! (I am only quoting her remarks verbatim and publication does not mean endorsement !)

    • Jude Collins January 29, 2015 at 7:51 am #

      I’d get a test done for toxins in your dinner tonight, Michael C

  5. michael c January 29, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    No,I have nothing to fear from her indoors.Her wrath is only unleshed on anyone daring to bad mouth “our Gerry”.Hence the references to Joan’s “oul voice”!