October 22, 2007

 

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard

That’s the name of a 2006 BBC political drama, their answer to the American show Commander in Chief. PBS has just started to show it. I watched the first two hours last night, and found it rather alarming at several different levels.

Briefly, it is about a working-class woman who, while working as a supermarket manager, gets the idea to run for political office. The twist is that she wants to run outside all of the existing parties, because she thinks they are all drunk with power and politics. She wants to put government in ordinary people’s hands. She declares herself a member of the Purple Alliance (she likes purple), gets substantial funding from the supermarket’s owner (for very vague reasons), hundreds of others run on her party’s list across the country, and, guess what, she becomes Prime Minister of Her Majesty’s Government.

Sounds kind of kooky, but also inspiring in a kooky way. Does she remind you of anyone? For me, she is, of all people, a lot like Hitler. She basically wants to cleanse the corruption that has presumably gathered around the soul of Britain. She wants to bypass all existing organizations, presumably including labour unions, civil society organizations, and so on, and base governmental policies on the opinions of the person in the street, that is, Hitler’s das Volk.

Anyway, I hope the show was not indicative of the level that political discourse has sunk to in Britain under the ministrations of Tony Blair. At one point in the show, it hits Mrs Pritchard’s election committee that hundreds of people that they don’t even know have been elected Members of Parliament on the Purple Alliance’s list, and they wonder if there may be any criminals or other undesirable types among the new MPs. One of them wonders whether they may include any fascists. Another one is even more scared that there may be Marxists among the Purple Alliance’s MPs. The fact that Marxist ideology can be identified as undesirable, or even criminal, in a political candidate, and that it can be presented as equal to or worse than fascism, is hopefully not mainstream opinion in Britain today.

To the show’s cast, like its American counterpart, all of the horrors that Britain and the US have inflicted on Iraq are merely results of mistaken policy. Blair was presumably trying to do good in Iraq, but went about it the wrong way. And Bush is just a good old boy. The enemy, however, is genetically evil. Prime Minister Pritchard’s first duty in office is to deal with a crisis in Iran. Two British soldiers have been captured, and, we are told, the normal procedure in Iran in such cases is to torture and execute them. The fact that no such thing has ever happened in Iran, and has in fact only happened in British-occupied Iraq, is apparently irrelevant. The main thing is to save the soul of Britain. If slandering other nations is what it takes, so be it.

I also noticed some factual errors in the show, such as the mention of the Arabic-speaking province of Iran as the site of Iran’s nuclear activities. That province, in reality, is nowhere near the nuclear sites. Presumably, either the show’s writers did not know this, or else assumed that their audience was unaware of it. Either way, it is a small example of the lack of information that pervades discussion of world affairs in English-speaking countries. More ominously, the show as a whole is suggestive of the fertile soil on which all kinds of ultra-right, libertarian, and fascistic tendencies tend to thrive.

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