There now follows an emergency appeal on behalf of the Liveried Association of Fools, Funnymen and Satirists.
Are you a Conservative MP? Have you sent a letter to Sir Graham Brady asking for a confidence vote in the prime minister? Please take a moment to think of what your actions mean for one of Britain’s neglected communities: the sketchwriters.
The Conservative Party has incredible shallows of talent
It’s easy to take us for granted. Sitting in the Commons, you look up into the press gallery and there we are, dropping pens on the heads of Labour MPs and watching to see which one of you is picking your nose. You may imagine that our lives are ones of relative ease, drifting from lunches to book launches with just the occasional pause to pass a personal remark about a frontbencher. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The life of a sketchwriter is one of constant anxiety. Not every day in Parliament, after all, sees a statement from Nadine Dorries about an idea that she briefed to the Sunday papers without considering that people might believe it. Sometimes, all that British democracy has to offer the hopeful satirist is an appearance by Paul Scully in front of the business committee.
One of the things that very few people appreciate is the extent to which the sketchwriting community is sustained by shameless, chaotic, useless government. It’s our bread and butter. We’ve enjoyed some great, great times in recent years, and all that could be put at risk by removing Boris Johnson.
There is a terrible danger that, seeking qualities like “competence” and “honesty”, the Conservative Party will undo everything that the prime minister has achieved in the last three years.
You’ll hear different views about this, of course. Some offer reassurance that whoever replaces him will be differently terrible. Perhaps it’ll be Liz Truss, escorted everywhere by a team of vanity photographers, or Rishi Sunak, inquiring how much we’d mind if he ran the country from Santa Monica.
And it is indeed true that now, more than ever, the Conservative Party has incredible shallows of talent. But it still would be wrong to take the current administration for granted. The prime minister is only on his fourth set of advisers. There is much, much more that he can hope to achieve.
It is, of course, only natural that, as a Conservative holding a seat with a narrow majority, you worry about the prime minister’s behaviour. Has he lost his magic, you ask? Far from it. He made his first ethics adviser quit in disgust, and he can make the next one go, and the one after that, too.
Some, of course, are disappointed in him, and we understand that, too. In recent months there has been far too much talk of fiscal responsibility. But we can assure you that Johnson’s instinct, like yours, is to promise both higher spending and lower taxes.
We believe the administration’s best days remain ahead of it
Others will never forgive his refusal, at the height of the pandemic, to turn the Conservative Party into the death cult that many backbenchers called for. It is true that the prime minister did seem to endorse the advice of scientists and doctors, and their boring obsession with keeping the public alive. But following the revelations of recent months, who can now doubt that, behind the scenes, Number 10 staff were doing all that they could to keep Covid transmission rates high?
In many ways, the biggest surprise of the last three years is how well things have gone. And, to be frank, we sketchwriters too hoped that by now the prime minister would have set fire to Tower Bridge or declared war on Cornwall. But we believe the administration’s best days remain ahead of it. Any group of people who can come up with the “Save Owen Paterson” campaign still has a lot to offer the satirical community.
Only in the last week we’ve had a completely pointless row about imperial measures. We have high hopes that, before the year is out, there’ll be an equally meaningless pledge to bring back capital punishment.
There are downsides to all this, of course, principally for people who live here. But there are advantages too. How much fun do you think it’s going to be telling jokes about a Jeremy Hunt government?
When you joined the Conservative Party, was it because you believed in stable administration, lasting institutions, the importance of personal responsibility, and other yawn-worthy ideas, or because you wanted to recreate the experience of dropping acid on a rollercoaster, but this time in government?
What kind of Cabinet do you want? The kind of tedious gang where Jeremy Wright is happy to be Attorney General and Tom Tugendhat is Foreign Secretary, going off and having yawn-worthy meetings with grey-suited foreigners, or one that resembles a clown car on fire, where Priti Patel is in charge of national security and Jacob Rees-Mogg is treated as an intellectual?
Please, before you do something that sketchwriters will regret, think.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe