Friday, 19 July 2019
I just watched the very last This Week with the incomparable Andrew Neil. What a loss to everybody this is. It will be missed by its devotees and its demise makes the BBC significantly poorer in terms of political balance. Complained about by ardent lefties as being driven by Neil’s aggressively right-wing agenda it was, of course, nothing of the sort. Rather it was a last bastion for independent thought and free expression without taking itself too seriously.
The last show was a masterclass in self-effacement and the willing participation in the kind of ritual embarrassment the show claimed as its own as commentators and politicos from left, right and right-on made utter tits of themselves, then showed up to be shown up in front of a live audience. Forget the ‘reality’ shows where former back-benchers pose as ordinary human beings for the edification of a thoroughly non-discerning public, This Week’s pastiches had none of the dignity of the bush tucker challenge or ‘real housewives’; they were amateur hour personified and what better portrayal of the frailty of the position of those with power or influence.
Naked under the Andrew Neil spotlight, This Week allowed for the widest possible set of views and woe betide those without the depth to back up their claims. Nobody was safe and many a pomposity was pricked as the expounders of lies and bent truths spluttered and stalled before the master interrogator’s inquisition. Neil was uniquely well-prepared and attacked all false claims, from either end of the spectrum, whenever falsehoods were being promulgated or out-of-context ‘facts’ used to support false theses.
To the left, Neil must have seemed like a right winger but ask any right winger who has been placed in those thumbscrews how much mercy was shown and they may well shudder at the recollection. Legion are the social media clips showing the evisceration of the high and mighty and the self-proclaimed champions of unworthy causes. Livid were the bruises and scars of battle as hypocrisies were exposed, bullshit batted away and crap countered. And he did all of this with a smile and a cheery, cheesy line.
We may never see its like again, yet we have never needed a sense of perspective so much. The opening monologue alone was worth tuning in for – a catalogue of catastrophic, comically inaccurate predictions, forecasts, earnest proclamations and plain dodgy prophecies presented earnestly over the years. If only some of those just as earnestly forecasting doom and disaster over Brexit could see just how foolish they appear to the rest of us. If only the never-Trumpers could give just an inch of grudging ground.
Let's face it, Jonesy, you're a bit of an arse...
But the fight goes on and Andrew Neil’s spirit will still stalk the corridors of power. Political discourse may have lost one of the few people keeping it grounded, but there are plenty of we amateurs on social media. Keep taking the piss, keep knocking them off their lofty pedestals. Before we can clean up politics we need to sling a whole lot more mud.