Let’s rediscover our sense of humour

I was really pleased to see the return of Rory Bremner to our TV screens this week. With the longest ever General Election campaign now well underway (keep calm, only three months to go!), a healthy dose of satire is very much welcome.

Back in the 1980s broadcasters seemed happy to provide us with plenty of political satire. Radio Four’s Week Ending had a modest but appreciative audience while the likes of Not the Nine O’clock News and Spitting Image were required TV viewing.

Today there are precious few such programmes on our airwaves. This is probably due in no small part to the blandness of our modern political leaders. Thirty years ago the likes of Norman Tebbit, Neil Kinnock and David Owen were distinctive and controversial enough for us to want to see them ridiculed. By contrast, would there be any point in a modern comedian doing an impression of, for example, Nick Clegg?

The only real political satire in the media national today comes from cartoonists such as Steve Bell in The Guardian and the excellent Matt in the Daily Telegraph.

Things aren’t much better at local level. When I first started working in local authority press offices, way back in the 1980s, most local newspapers regularly printed diary columns in which they would gently send up the behaviour of local dignitaries. In fact I well remember some Councillors being seriously annoyed when their names did not appear in these columns. As Oscar Wilde said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Sadly, diary columns in local newspapers are, like Spitting Image, now very much a thing of the past. I can’t help but think that we are all a bit poorer as a result. Perhaps we should remember the old adage that “the trouble with political jokes is that they keep getting elected”.


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