Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Where did satire go?

Nobody’s seen satire in Britain for a while. Where once we led the world, now we are now no more than a bit-part player. Could it be that our politics is so far beyond parody that satire is redundant? Did satire die with the repeatedly failed attempts to detoxify the brand of the Tory party? Or is the death of this most British of cultural practices really testimony to the increasingly deferential nature of British life – particularly in our national media?

Je Suis Baxter Basics

Undoubtedly, Viz is now the nation’s premier political journal. Untainted by the deferential straitjacket of so much national political journalism, the north-east’s finest and filthiest monthly is the closest you’ll find to biting satire on any news stand. Viz – like the region from which it has sprung – hasTLW Viz nothing to lose from saying what it wants. More than anything else, Viz is a social satire with a flair for mocking the national media and our increasingly feckless celebrity driven culture. Why is it necessary? Because we live in a country where a member of the cabinet has masqueraded under at least two separate identities and nobody seems to think this is, at the very least, worthy of question, or in any event, hilarious.

You lazy, lazy boy …

Maybe the prime minister’s indolent reputation precedes him in the eyes of other world leaders, but can this really be why Angela MerkeTLW David Cameronl and François Hollande and Barack Obama have jettisoned the chillaxing one regarding matters of Greece and the Ukraine? Maybe they tried to make contact and perhaps the default assumption in Downing Street these days is to treat every phonecall as a hoax call from a prank caller: ‘Alexis who? A reverse charge call from Athens? Look, Grant, I’m not an idiot …’


‘Why prattle on with this piffle?’ you ask. First, to introduce this week’s made up word: praffle. Its meaning is obvioTLW Chris Bryantus. However, those seeking precise definition should wait for the Christmas 2015 publication of ‘Reed’s Politisaurus’. As ever, you’re welcome. That said, there’s purpose in my praffle. Rhonda MP Chris Bryant was taken to task recently for suggesting that the arts had begun to resemble a preserve of the rich and privileged. Some singer or other didn’t like it and had a pop. Fair enough. Before anyone could scream ‘Leave it, he ain’t worf it …’ open letters had been exchanged in the Guardian. It was the most civilized of duels, with Bryant the victor.

Culture clubbed

But the spat mattered (see also ‘spattered’) because it helps to tell us where satire has gone. Britain is a diverse state, our nations stronger and better for our union, but England (by virtue of size and population) can lay claim to being the most diverse in terms of region, race and class. The spat betweeTLW Bob Hoskinsn Bryant and Thingy brought the accelerating trend of English cultural homogenisation into sharp focus. What Bryant did was to illustrate the growing power and influence of privilege in our society. The voices of privilege responded like the Bullingdon Club in a china shop; privilege hates being questioned and it hates being laughed at. As if to prove the point – and I’m sure entirely innocently – this week’s Bafta ceremony obituaries omitted one of England’s greatest ever working-class actors, Bob Hoskins. It struck a raw nerve for many. I enjoy campaigning in poetry, I accept that governing in prose is a necessity, but ours is a nation of many voices and only Labour can – or will – represent them all.


Jamie Reed is member of parliament for Copeland. He writes The Last Word column on Progress and tweets @jreedmp


Photos: Spitting Image; Viz; David Cameron: World Economic Forum; Bob Hoskins: duncan c

Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.

It takes time, commitment and money to build a fight against the forces of conservatism. If you value the work Progress does, please support us by becoming a member, subscriber or donating.

Our work depends on you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jamie Reed MP

is member of parliament for Copeland. He is shadow minister for health and writes The Last Word column on Progress


  • SATIRE [OED def]
    “Use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”.
    Suggested subscription for all MPs over 25 is Private Eye magazine @ £1.50 fortnight.
    Or re-read Chaucer’ Canterbury Tales.

    Satire is in the eye of the beholder. You must know how to laff in the first place. A Jaundiced, pessimistic PC vision on a TV screen switches people off and won’t work in winning 2015GE
    Labour can kick Tories iin May if they collectively lightened up a bit. Put smiles on kissers.
    Have you noticed how an Aussie can laugh at the serious stuff and cry at the smallest?
    Hate to say this but Aussie adviser Lynton Crosby makes Dave Cameron laugh [and snigger] a lot more these days.
    People’s [voters’] perceptions are based on gut instincts – they prefer a smile to a rueful countenance staring blankly out at them from their TV screens.- ask any TV media mogul.
    I mean who would you vote for? a smiling Barack or a grizzly old Rupert?
    No brains needed just crack a few jokes. Plenty of material over at WM 🙂

Sign up to our daily roundup email