Quite pleased with my start to the day, finding an easy way to remember the Tory Leader Candidates "Gove May Leadsom Crabb to your Johnson or Hunt”. But the news conspires against satirists by a) changing by the time you have a joke and b) being more ridiculous than anything you can come up with through your imagination and soon the Johnson part of the aide memoire had fallen off (possibly due to Gove leading some crabs on to it).
It’s been very hard to work this last couple of weeks. Partly because the news has been filling me with profound sorrow and partly because it’s just impossible not to follow it at all times. I got in the bath as Johnson was about to announce his candidacy but the next time I checked social media I saw people making jokes about his withdrawal. Were they so far behind the news that they hadn’t realised he was standing (after a bit of confusion earlier)? No I was 15 minutes behind the news and the world had just changed again.
What a balls up this has all been. Two school chums vying for ascendancy have brought Europe down and God knows what will happen next and all they did in the end was fuck themselves (though I’d be very surprised if Boris doesn’t rise from his grave before too long and find another way to fuck us all over).
Back in the days when talking about murdering an MP was all a bit of a laugh, I had had my chance to dispatch Gove as he wandered unprotected (except by his own children) around the Westfield. But what might I have done for my country had I managed to bottle him to such an extent that he had to bow out of politics for a year?
As any fan of real time travel and alternate universes know the consequences might have been more dire. But at least I would have had the pleasure of hitting him in his smug, oleaginous face. Now he could be Prime Minister. I blame myself.
I had plenty of opportunities to remove him from the picture. Not only did I work alongside him (though never with him and I don’t really remember interacting with him at all) on the terrible Channel 4 show “Stab in the Dark” (though that was the first job I did that temporarily pulled me out of baked potato guzzling poverty as I got paid - and I still remember - a heady £700 a week for the time the show was on), but I also was at University at the same time as him. Again I don’t think I met him, as he was very much involved in politics and I was involved in comedy, but as far as I recall he was the Oxford Union President and I remember looking at the photo of the committee on the wall, with him in his kilt, creating a dichotomy that would confound any attacker. Should I hit him in his punchable face or kick him in his freely dangling balls? That moment of hesitation would allow him to spit his lizard venom in an attacker’s face and escape.
I went to the Oxford Union debating chamber once, in my first term, when they let you in for free and I was slightly enraptured by the spectacle and the history. I’d done public speaking at school and I could see this would be a fun place to show off, so a part of me might quite liked to have got involved, but it was very posh and I was very much not and more importantly it cost way too much a year to join (I think it was about £80 a year, but that was out of my reach - if only I knew about my Stab in the Dark thousands, waiting for me in the future).
Weirdly though I ended up going to the Oxford Union building a lot, because the fortnightly comedy workshop was held in the tiny Jazz Cellar in the basement (not quite) beneath the debating hall. The Comedy Workshop was a new innovation, created by future ambassador Tony Brennan and was directly responsible for bringing me together with Stewart Lee (and Emma Kennedy). It’s odd to think that as we came up with dumb ass shit in that sweaty box, upstairs future Prime Ministers were debating. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would have been there and I assumed David Cameron (but someone tweeted to say he didn’t debate there - I don’t know if that is true). Armando Iannucci, Stewart Lee and Al Murray were just three of the comedians learning their craft as the posh boys played at Prime Ministers. If only we had been storing barrels of gunpowder down there instead of knob jokes then we could have solved a whole lot of problems (and created different ones).
But it’s an odd juxtaposition. For all the attempts to change the political world with comedy, our best chance would have been 30 years ago with fists and baseball bats. And as many people observed, the people upstairs have managed to outdo the skulking Morlocks beneath at comedy as well.
A strange conjunction of politicians and comedians though. Seemingly an important period for both. Though the common perception is that light entertainment is packed with Oxbridge comedians, there hadn’t really been any significant comedy person to come out of Oxford since Rowan Atkinson and maybe Angus Deayton a decade or so before. And there haven’t been a huge number of famous Oxford University comedians since (Cambridge seems to have been more consistent in those terms). So it’s an odd coincidence that those future politicians and those future satirists were in such close quarters. If we couldn’t stop them then what chance do we have to stop them now?