Lib Dems look away now: The Thick of It is back


If the Coalition cock-ups and ministerial meltdowns appear particularly well-informed when political satire The Thick Of It returns, then Nick Clegg may wish to interrogate his private office.

Aides to the Deputy Prime Minister have been only too keen to leak embarrassing details of life as the Government's junior partners, the writers of the Bafta-winning series have revealed. The fourth series of Armando Iannucci's acclaimed comedy, which spawned Westminster's post-Budget buzz-phrase "Omnishambles", will air on BBC2 next month.

Real life is reflected with the Opposition now in government but forced to share office space with their ambitious junior coalition partners, known as "The Inbetweeners".

Malcolm Tucker, the fearsome former No 10 enforcer, is at bay. In a shock turn of events, Nicola Murray, the previous "Dosac" department minister, has become Leader of the Opposition after accidentally winning an election through a block-vote mechanism that no one can quite understand. There are big changes in Whitehall, where Peter Mannion, the world-weary opposition MP with more than a touch of Ken Clarke, finally takes over the Social Affairs department. But he has to live with a "Lib Dem" junior minister who contradicts any policies Mannion dares to put forward.

Did the producers have a high-grade Coalition source? Sean Gray, series writer, said: "Armando got an email after a political awards. The person said 'I'm working in Nick Clegg's office until June. I'll let you know what happened after that'."

Gray did not disclose if the offer was followed up. His co-writer Roger Drew added that a female member of David Cameron's press office also approached the writers at a Westminster screening of Veep, the HBO satire the pair penned with Iannucci.

In a political world where Boris Johnson gets stuck on a zip-wire and U-turns are forced over a pasty tax, the writers' biggest problem is staying ahead of events. At one point they feared a script leak had been turned into Whitehall policy. The first episode finds Mannion announcing the "silicon playground" – school children design apps for free, with profits offset against future university tuition fees. "Next day Michael Gove announced exactly the same policy," complained Gray.

A judicial inquiry, sucking in ministers and advisers, provides the backdrop for the new series, although the subject is not phone-hacking.