the tories

So I intended to write a blog post last night, but I didn’t. What I did instead was painstakingly research the movement in the 1790s and 1800s to abolish slavery, so that I could appear to be a smartarse on Andrew Watts’ blog. You can see what he (and I) wrote here.

The thing is, Andrew’s right about the anti-Tory orthodoxy amongst comedians. I mean, I hate the Conservative party as much as the next stand-up, but not just for the sake of it. I was talking to another comic last night who was telling me he thinks that being anti-Tory is a good ‘default position’. Which to a large extent I agree with, but only as long as you have good reasons, based on what they’ve actually said they’re going to do. The trouble is, a lot of us lefty comics don’t; we still think of the Conservatives as the nasty party and that’s that. 

But if you don’t know why you’re arguing what you’re arguing, any joke you might make comes from nowhere and means nothing. It would give the illusion of satire but have no more meaning than a pun. I’ve heard comedians doing terrible jokes about how much they hate David Cameron for being vacuous. I used to do an awful bit about Boris Johnson in which the punchline was based on nothing more than calling him a twat. It gave the appearance of having something to say but really it didn’t; it was just abusive.

Contrast this with, say, Andy Zaltzman’s wonderful bit about the proposed tax break for married couples. If you haven’t heard it, basically it takes the idea of encouraging marriage ‘because it is the bedrock of British society’ to its logical conclusion, and it is very very funny. Because of course it’s not marriage that keeps society functioning peacefully; it’s a sense of common interest with your neighbours and your community, and legally-binding monogamy isn’t a necessary condition of this. Marriage isn’t the bedrock of our society; social identity and a feeling of shared goals and interests is the bedrock of society. One of the reasons I hate the Tory party now is that they did so much in the 1980’s to destroy communities and communitarian feeling by trying to crush the NUM and in doing so, cack-handedly and unsubtly crushing the economies that gave those communities a sense of common value. And you can’t put that back by bribing people twenty quid a week to get married.

Zaltzman realises this, and it’s why his joke works.

The reason most people, including comics, don’t write stuff, or even think stuff, as good as this is because it’s hard. I would really love to write a bit about Michael Gove’s plan to encourage all schools to bring back old-fasioned blazers on the grounds that that will make them better-disciplined (it’s like suggesting that all comedians wear rennaissance jester outfits because it will make our comic verse funnier). But I can’t be bothered to write it properly, so I haven’t.

Anyway. The point is that if you’re going to have a political opinion you should be prepared to do the work of backing it up properly by knowing what you’re talking about. 

There are good reasons to be annoyed/scared/upset at the idea of a Tory government, but the simple fact that ‘they’re Tories’ isn’t one of them.


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