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Coming into the home straight …

I begin my post today by apologising to Rust readers for addressing the current and bizarre state of politics in the UK, dominated as it is by the vexed issue of Brexit, of which – I’m sure in common with a large section of the British public – I am fed up, weary and heartily sick.

There’s a certain irony in the fact that, as a fervent believer in the theory that there is nothing more compelling and satisfying to the average punter than watching the looniest, narrow-minded, arrogant, silly and ridiculous terminally condemn themselves out of their own mouths, in a vaguely sado-masochistic manner I thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of politicians in particular being given free rein to air their ‘real’ thoughts in public (or should that be ‘having been sent into bat across any media outlet that will have them in order to peddle their party’s temporary line on any subject of immediate topical interest’?).

Yesterday – allegedly, because I did not watch or listen to any news or political programme myself – the Tory Party Conference began in Birmingham.

Last week the Labour equivalent, held in Liverpool, seemed to have gone pretty well, all things considered.

True the open policy sores in the Party were given an airing – cue references to the Momentum activist faction and de-selection of non-left wing MPs, the Brexit options, anti-Semitism etc. – but generally-speaking the gathering, its schedule and the hovering-like-vultures media types covering proceedings were well-managed plus Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave a good ‘end of term’ speech on Thursday lunchtime.

For all its weaknesses as identified by the right-wing Tory-supporting press – e.g. the ticked-box list of every underprivileged group that Corbyn could think of and promise support and greater funding for – you could tell that Corbyn had gone down well way beyond the braying party faithful in the hall because (according to the pundits) his speech severely rattled the Tory Party who immediately sent out its battalions to saturate the airwaves with as much counter-bile and derision as it could.

There is nothing more calculated to give an incumbent Government the heebie-jeebies, of course, than an Opposition party that seems to be resonating and making headway with the voting public at large at a time when the pressure is really on and its majority is effectively paper-thin.

As hinted above, the aspect of all of this that most tickles me is the eternal and unerring ability of anybody and indeed any organisation to make a fool of themselves by allowing a television crew to shine a light upon them as they really are and submit the results to the gaze of a viewing public.

One of the best/most hilarious television programmes I ever watched – in a manner not intended by its participants – was The Fishing Party (1986), an episode of the Forty Minutes BBC documentary series in which a group of empty-headed, public school educated, right-wing toffs were filmed at rest and play.

I have always had a one-word piece of advice to give anyone who ever consulted me having been invited to appear in a television programme of any description, or indeed have been approached about allowing a film or television production to use their home as a shooting location:


(The risks are not worth the potential upsides, however enticing they may seem in advance – and legion are the examples of homes being wrecked by the process).

It is advice that those who took part in The Fishing Party would have done well to heed.

Instead, no doubt flattered by being approached to let a television crew intrude upon their lives – and erroneously believing that these (in their own eyes at least) were exemplary and would be of interest and popular not only amongst their own social set but to the world at large – they made the fatal mistake of saying yes.

Then, through familiarity and also supposed ‘trust’ attained with the film-makers and their crew that inevitably comes from the sheer length of time it takes to make any film or television production, they first became complacent and then gradually laid bare their unsanitised attitudes, opinions and prejudices.

The fundamental risk (indeed deluded mistake) they were making, born of their own conceit, is that film-makers generally, however affable and friendly they may seem, cannot be guaranteed to produce an end product that will bear the slightest resemblance to the clever, witty, positive semi-‘home movie’ that the subjects of any documentary project will have fondly imagined in advance was going to result.

As those who can be bothered prepare to watch ‘the Tory Party at play’ this week, my advice would be to lie back and hopefully watch let its conference-goers being themselves.

In the UK the main political parties kid themselves that their annual conferences are opportunities to ‘get across their message’ to the public.

They are not. They’re actually simply a risky opportunity to make mistakes and errors that will turn voters off and thereby give advantages to the opposition, whether that comes with a capital ‘O’ or not. The Party that emerges best from this annual orgy bean-feast is the one that damages itself the least.

Though after this length of time it makes for ‘dated’ viewing, I here provide a link to a part (number 2) of the aforementioned controversial BBC The Fishing Party documentary, just in case Rust readers have never seen it, or did see it but have forgotten that fact, courtesy of  – YOUTUBE

[I apologise in advance to those who may find it distasteful and/or tedious. Alternatively, for those that enjoy ‘car crash’ TV, Parts 1 and 3 are also available from the same source].


About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts