This episode of The Thick of It, the first where both the Government and Opposition have been featured together, sees the two offices dealing with the furore that follows Nicola Murray’s (Rebecca Front) resignation.
While the Opposition simulates an attitude of ‘solemn respect’ for Nicola’s departure, the Government’s strategy guru Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin) prepares for the ‘Whitehall Arab Spring’ when the indefectible Dan Miller (Tony Gardner) becomes Leader of the Opposition.
Meanwhile, the wonderfully blunt Minister Peter Mannion , contemplates resignation over the Enquiry called into a Government policy that caused the death of a male nurse, Mr. Tickel. As the two offices continue to try and spin the story to their favour, the moment of peripeteia comes when the junior ‘inbetweener’ minister enlists ‘a thousand year old’ Glenn Cullen (James Smith) to leak an email that will condemn their coalition partners over comments about Mr. Tickel.
What unfolds, as a result of the political fracas of all three parties, is the unseen, distinctly ‘out-of-the-loop’ Prime Minister calling for a complete investigation into government practices on leaking – an ‘opening of Pandora’s box’ as Malcolm (Peter Capaldi), says. Indeed Malcolm, who had previously been comparing himself to the Queen, paraphrases the famous R.E.M. song, saying ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’.
The comparisons to this summer’s Leveson Inquiry into media practice are obvious as we see the corrosive nature of politics and how it has corrupted itself through the selfish aims of a junior minister. Of course these selfish aims are present in every character in the show and it is made abundantly clear how much being successful in the political sphere means to these characters. When Peter Mannion threatens to lay one of his advisors off, Phil Smith (Will Smith) pleads that this all he has and how he hasn’t had sex in five years, and doesn’t even enjoy it. He even goes as far as comparing Mannion to Aslan. Politics are these people’s lives and the show seems to suggest that the threat of this being taken away leads to decisions being made for their survival rather than the benefit of the public who they are appointed to serve.
These redolent and serious themes are not present at the expense of humour and there are still some classic lines such as Malcolm’s acid rebuttal to Nicola, ‘you’ve got all the charm of a rotting teddy bear by a gravesite’. As the show reaches the end of its run, it is only getting better, and the next episode promises much as the main protagonists in this culture of spin and lies face the Enquiry.
You can catch up with this episode here.