Have the Lib Dems killed satire? Certainly, when you compare real life events to the comic script of ‘Coalition’, they have succeeded in outstripping it by some degree. Scriptwriters Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky have made themselves hostages to fortune by choosing as their focus the tussle between a most un-Clegg-like deputy PM and his principled energy secretary who resigns, provoking a by-election.
The problems of creating a genuinely Chris Huhne-like character for the latter role are clear, given the ongoing court-case. Strangely, though, life has started to imitate ‘Coalition’s art – it was written last year, long before the Eastleigh by-election was announced. But despite such a ‘fortunate’ coincidence, it’s still difficult to avoid the feeling that this is a show that’s more keen to imitate ‘The Thick of It’ than to really stick the satirical knife into modern politics.
The plot shows Thom Tuck’s permanently apoplectic, often very funny Lib Dem leader, Matt Cooper, telling his anti-nuclear energy secretary to announce an extensive building programme for nuclear reactors. In the resulting web of hypocrisy and incompetence, Phill Jupitus is arrestingly surreal as a faintly Mandelsonian minister without portfolio; John Dorney doubles up nicely as a nerdy PR and lunatic by-election candidate; and Jessica Regan adds emotional heft as Cooper’s permanently exasperated special advisor.
Yet ultimately this is a slightly old-fashioned comedy that, most damningly, won’t deprive any politicians of sleep. Plagued as they are by the slings and arrows of public and journalistic contempt, our credibility-starved leaders need fear nothing from this particular ‘Coalition’. Rachel Halliburton