Primetime politics

Ed Miliband at PMQs 17 October 2012

I find politics exciting most of the time. I watch prime minister’s questions like it’s a boxing match. By which I mean I find it very entertaining, not that I shadow-box throughout it wearing a dressing gown while trying to stare out my neighbours. Even diehard fans like me have to admit that in the last couple of years it has become less of a spectacle. Not because the issues at stake are any less important, but because the leading personalities involved on all sides are a bit average. Gloria de Piero recently said that one of her constituents thought prime minister’s questions was like the Jeremy Kyle show. I wish. I would love to see that. ‘The reason, Mr Speaker, that people cannot trust the leader of the opposition is because he says he’s staying at his mate’s house but when I rang his mate’s house he weren’t there and even Dean told me he didn’t know where he was and then Sandra said she seen you down The Wheatsheaf with that girl from work.’ I don’t know whether I find that funny enough without having to imagine Ed Miliband replying ‘did I though? Yeah but did I though? Why lie? Why lie? Don’t touch me, don’t touch me’ before John Bercow ends proceedings with a DNA test that proves Ed and David aren’t brothers after all. OK, maybe that would be too much. Drop the DNA test.

Prime minister’s questions is not the only part of politics that has become oddly less dramatic during this period of intense economic and social upheaval. David Cameron recently acknowledged that the leaders’ debates of 2010 were ‘quite dry’. I agree, but he seems to think that changing the format of them is the answer. The last thing we need is politics conducted as a gameshow, even if the Lib Dems’ next election campaign could be called Total Wipeout. I’ve heard it said that politics needs to be more like The X Factor, but in what way? Would you have parliamentary business announcements made by Peter Dickson? ‘IT’S TIME … (dum, dum) … TO FACE … (dum, dum)… The environmental audit committee on insects and insecticiiiiides!’ Probably not. What people mean when they say this is that politics should be more open to the public and involve people that we care about. We know that it is, but it’s the behaviour of our political leaders that is alienating people, not the process itself.

Politics has to be professional now and you can’t have people going on Newsnight and spouting nonsense without any evidence (Insert your own Newsnight joke here). However, we have an opportunity in opposition to relax a bit and allow our leading politicians to be themselves. Even if that does mean they have to admit to liking naff music (Snow Patrol) or supporting a hated football team (Carshalton FC … Oh really? Tell that to Sutton fans). These are trivial examples but it is a great shame that the wider public only begins to really like politicians once they’ve been defeated. Usually because defeat itself humanises them and because afterwards they can be more candid. We should try doing it the other way round and allow a bit more personal expression into all levels of the political world. It would make politics more engaging and entertaining. Maybe then MPs wouldn’t have to go all the way to a jungle in Australia to talk to voters in Britain.

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Matt Forde is a stand-up comedian and talkSPORT presenter. Matt Forde’s Political Party comes to the St James Theatre on 13 February. For tickets go to mattforde.com

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