At least it'll be funny...

Chris Hallam looks on the bright side of a possible Tory victory

Picture the scene. It is a Friday morning in the near future, perhaps June 2010. You turn on the TV only to find that almost every channel is dominated by the same striking image: David Cameron grinning and waving in front of 10 Downing Street, basking in the warm afterglow of the first Tory General Election victory in 18 years.

Regardless of whether if, like me, this thought sends you into paroxysms of horror, it’s still worth focusing on for two reasons. Firstly, as if the polls are correct, it seems fairly likely to happen within the next year or so and you might want to brace yourself. And secondly, because a Tory victory could well have profound implications for the comedy scene.

Traditionally, any change of government should provide a wealth of comedic material. First, there’s the certain prospect of a standoff between the grumpy stubborn Scot Gordon Brown and the wide-eyed upper-class Blair wannabe David Cameron at the next election. Then, in the event of a Tory victory, there should be even more opportunities. Think how the US comedy scene – particularly Michael Moore’s career –was reinvigorated by Bush’s ‘election’ in 2000 and you get some idea of the possibilities ahead.

As a target of satirical fire, Gordon Brown was always far funnier as Chancellor, as the nearly man, perpetually frustrated and desperately craving the premiership for a decade, than he is as PM. Now he’s got the prize, even though it may not be everything he wished for, he’s automatically less amusing. A new Cameron Government, in contrast, is rich in possibilities, just as the notion of Boris Johnson being Mayor of London is intrinsically funnier than that of Ken Livingstone still being in charge.

The victory of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 triggered a boom in political satire which lasted for well over a decade. Not The Nine O Clock News, Spitting Image, Drop The Dead Donkey and Have I Got News For You all began during the Thatcher years. Yes Minister, actually began shortly before her election but it and its sequel undeniably enjoyed their heyday under her rule. Anger at the Thatcher regime was also a major factor in launching the alternative comedy scene.

Of course, David Cameron is not Margaret Thatcher (thank God). And Conservative victory is certainly not inevitable. It’s also going too far to claim (as some do) that true political satire can only prosper under Tory Governments. As anyone who has seen In The Loop or any episodes of Mock The Week will tell you, satire has hardly been dormant in Britain during the last 12 years.

All I’m saying is that if the thought of all those red men going blue on election night sends a chill down your spine, take comfort from this thought: a new age of British comedy could well be about to begin. And who knows? With so much less to complain about, Jeremy Clarkson might even shut up for good.

Published: 22 Apr 2009

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