To be printed 18/03/10.
So, with the election looming and most people no closer to forming an opinion beyond which one they’d most like to slap*, our politicians are resorting to telly. Telly, the medium of the masses! We’ve had Gordon and Piers, David and Trevor, and I have it from a reliable source that Nick Clegg has been doing ads for a local sofa warehouse in Chalfont St Giles.
But they’re clearly getting it wrong. The self indulgence of the TV interview format is grating before it’s even started, with all those close ups of well-meaning puppy dog eyes and little frown lines they’ve cultivated worrying about the economy. Then there’s the wheeling out of the wives to deliver their spiel, on how said husband never picks up his socks and likes to eat Monster Munch in the shower, but none of that matters because he’s a rock and a hero and can make a mean spag bol and should definitely be running the country.
Meh. Mehhh. Much as I love Sarah Brown, and much as I have a passing appreciation for Smythson stationery (as in ‘I pass it in Selfridges on my way to linger round free samples in the food hall’), I think we need to leave the wives out of it. If our politicians want to do telly, let’s REALLY make them do telly. No soft-focus close-ups, no gushing family members, no incidental music. We should put them through their paces in a format that voters feel more comfortable with, something that reflects the true state of the nation’s collective psyche.
Considering the popularity of the two leading parties seems dependent in some quarters on who gets invited to Sam and Dave’s shepherd’s pie soirees or the Browns’ Downing Street tea parties, it seems apt to simply let the whole thing be decided by cooking. Yes, if politicians are ever going to stimulate proper interest among the apathetic youth of Britain, they need to do it through a medium we can relate to. But that isn’t rap, hoodie-wearing or pretending to dig the Arctic Monkeys. It’s Come Dine With Me.
Here’s how it would work: Brown, Cameron, Clegg and an as-yet-undecided fourth would take it in turns to host dinner parties, scoring each other on the basis of food, ambience, entertainment and hosting skills. While Gordon is in the kitchen trying to get his egg whites to go stiff, the cameras will follow the other guests on a ‘hilarious’ nose around number 10, trying on his ties and unearthing his signed picture of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, or something. Cameron’s menu would be all hearty-farty grub, the kind of thing he imagines the working classes eating after long days ploughing crops and painting nails (Findus Crispy pancakes, anyone?), finished off with, naturally, Eton mess.
Whether or not to give Nick Griffin a spot would of course be a tricky debate – endorsed, of course, by the promise of watching him chow down on a soul food starter, an ackee and saltfish pattie and a lamb biryani while making appreciative noises. We can only assume his own menu would be a lukewarm Ginster’s on a plate with some ketchup. Nom nom nom.
For Nick Clegg the endeavour would be worthwhile in simply helping everyone remember what his face looks like. While at the moment most of us see a suit with a hazy pink blob where his head should be, afterwards we would have a foodstuff to anchor the mental image to. We would think: “Nick Clegg – Beef Wellington” and then he’d instantly have some charisma. Or at least a flaky pastry casing.
So come on Channel 4, you’re missing a trick here. I’m not voting for Gordon until I’ve seen his clootie dumplings.
*Cameron because he has big, plump, rosy cheeks like a baby; Brown because his jowls would wobble in slow motion afterwards, like a rubber mask trying to fly off his head.