That old game show called politics

'Jolly Two Jags Jack may beriding for a fall - a shame, as he provides some of the better light moments'
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The Independent Online

I don't want to show off, but I think I know why Big Brother is so popular.

I don't want to show off, but I think I know why Big Brother is so popular.

(If you haven't seen Big Brother, it's the Channel 4 show that shows people living together in a community and voting to throw each other out, one by one, especially a guy called Nick. Actually, even if you haven't seen it, you probably still know what it's all about. I haven't seen it and I know what it's all about, because people keep telling me about it. Not that they have seen it, either, but they have met people who have, and apparently it's about these people who are filmed living together in a community, and they're all horrible, especially a guy called Nick, who gets thrown out...)

Well, I think I know why, although you never meet anyone who has ever watched it, we all still pay so much attention to this programme made by Mr Bazalgette...

(I wonder if he is any relation to the Mr Bazalgette who solved London's sewage and waste-disposal problems in the 19th century. A man who makes disposable dross for Channel 4 may well have inherited his talent from his illustrious forebear...)

Well, as I was saying, although I have never seen Big Brother nor met any of the actors who take part in it, I do at least know why Big Brother is so popular this summer.

It's because the Labour Cabinet is on holiday, and Big Brother is the natural replacement.

The greater part of the fascination of the Labour Cabinet, we have been taught by the media, comes from wondering who is for the chop next at the hands of Tony "Big Brother" Blair. Characters are always being booted out. Some of the minor players are long gone. Anyone here remember Harriet Harman? Frank Field? "Doctor" Jack Cunningham? Peter Mandelson? All gone. They were in the game for a while and then were voted out.

No one was very surprised when "Doctor" Jack Cunningham left, because nobody much liked him or knew why he was there in the first place, and he seemed a natural outcast, but it was a bit of a surprise when Harriet was chucked out, because everyone seemed quite to like her, and it was much more of a surprise when Peter was voted back in. He had been kicked out in the first place because he was conniving and manipulative and had a disguised property deal up his sleeve, and nobody could make out if he was gay or not, but to everyone's amazement he came back via Northern Ireland. Must have done wonders for the ratings...

Do you think it is demeaning to treat the Labour Cabinet as if it were a TV show? But that is how we have been taught to treat it.

We are fed a constant diet of rumour and tittle-tattle about the characters, all conceived in soap-opera terms. We are taught that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are locked in a power struggle that will last till one falls.

We are taught that Mo Mowlam is so popular in the country, that Blair has to clip her feathers in Cabinet.

We are taught that Frank Dobson was inveigled into voting himself out of the Cabinet to get the job of London Mayor - and then never got it! What a great soap-opera twist that was!

Yes, we don't know much about what the Labour Cabinet policies are, but we have got the Big Brother habit about the characters in the Labour Cabinet, and we like to tune in now and again to find out which character is about to be dumped, and which reprieved, because frankly there is not a lot else to enjoy.

The programme is coming back to our screens this autumn, with most of the old, familiar characters, and there is a feeling abroad that we are in for some surprises this time round. Mo could be for the chop, I hear, and there is a 100-1 chance that Robin, the gingery Scots chancer, will be ejected, not to mention a possibility that Jolly Two Jags Jack may be riding for a fall, which would be a shame, as he provides some of the better light moments...

I don't watch this Labour Cabinet programme, of course. But I know lots of farming people who do, and they tell me that a character called Nick is definitely due for the chop.