TELEVISION / Party time: Thomas Sutcliffe on past politics in There Now Follows . . .

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
POLITICIANS want to move their audience with Party Political broadcasts and they almost always succeed. They move them into the kitchen or the lavatory. It might have been thought unwise to construct a whole programme out of television's most successful diuretic, but There Now Follows . . . (BBC 2) was a good example of how the channel's current passion for recycling can deliver something rather good. It might have been even better if it had included a little more hindsight (even politicians can tell the truth when enough time has elapsed) but, as some other archive programmes have shown, it's probably better to err on the side of briskness when you make people look through the family album.

The granddaddy of them all was Lord Samuel's broadcast in 1951, a live transmission which faded out halfway through one of his sentences as he shuffled through his notes. The age of the gentleman amateur didn't last long. The next night the Tories tried to give the impression of adversarial rigour with an interview of savage, no-holds-barred deference: 'It has often been said that the Conservatives are a war-mongering party,' the interviewer said nervously, 'Is there a shred of truth in that?'

The real pleasure was the shock of the old. Veneered by television make-up, the youthful faces of David Steel and Tony Benn (or 'Wedgewood', as he was known, on account of his peerless complexion) stared out of the past, full of broken promise. This parade of chummy condescension and reckless populism (Jeremy Thorpe talks to Jimmy Savile?) needed no satire, but you could forgive the makers their last little jab. After a Green Party political broadcast ('Don't let the world turn grey. Vote Green') you were left with John Major's drive-by emoting outside his old home in Brixton.

Comments