Few British satirical depictions have made our bellies ache like Armando Iannucci’s version of the inner workings at the political offices in Britain, where inept elected officials mumble and stumble their way through their day, all under the voracious and unforgiving eyes of their involuntarily appointed spin doctors. The series, in four iterations, take the viewer on a figurative, paradoxal roller-coaster of absurd political motivations, concealed agendas, battered minions under the pretext of assistants, and personal conflict as the Ministry of Social Affairs desperately struggle to make its national mark and catch the attention of its more prominent rivals on the political scene.
Season one starts with Minister Cliff being abruptly terminated by the holy terror that is media liaison and master of spin, Malcolm Tucker. Cliff arrives at his desk, only to find Malcolm waving the latest political tabloid in his face, with the dystopian message of a forced resignation. Although the Prime Minister clearly supports Cliff, the latest media smearing doesn’t look too good on paper, which is why Cliff has to go. Desperately, the soon-to-be former Minister pleads with Malcolm and brings up the alternative to sack the Minister of Transport instead, to which Malcolm replies that they can’t sack anyone at Transport, as they’re important. He then hands over a drafted letter of resignation, stating that the Minister is stepping down due to personal reasons and not because of the alleged media pressure. Although they were clearly going to toss him to the sharks either way, but wanted to offer him the chance to step down before being literally shoved out the door, which they officially deny as the official statement while at the same time briefing that they are pushing him due to the pressure they refuse to back down from in the first place.
Sounds confusing? Well, that’s politics, baby.
With Cliff gone, a new Minister has to step in to fill the vacant spot. For how long that is remains to be seen, as the whims of the British press and its vultures are ever circling the numerous would-be carcasses of political casualties. We get to follow Minister Hugh and crew as they fight for their very lives to stay ahead of the game, with the ever-present danger that is Malcolm and his ruthless henchmen, such as Jamie, an equally foul-mouthed Scottish compatriot with the ability to obliterate rainbows and who wouldn’t hesitate to stampede through a host of infants to further his schemes.
Right off the bat, Hugh and his advisors, Glen and Ollie, find themselves in a precarious predicament, when Hugh announces what he thinks is an officially blessed policy meant to tackle Social Security in a more gung-ho fashion. To his dismay, he soon learns that what “should” be announced is miles away from what should be announced, as he’s forced to publicly not announce anything at all. As the story already has caught on, he later has to confirm his announcement that was never announced while going live. That’s on his first day in office, by the way.
Even though the series is meant to be a satire, one cannot help but wonder how close to its source of inspiration The Thick of It really plays it. The sheer amount of ridiculous statements and contradictions released on a weekly basis does anything but refute the rumours that Iannucci has his own political palantir with direct pay-per-view access to the Cabinet at number 10.