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The Death of Satire


Tom Lehrer once commented that US political satire died when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger in 1973.

Here in the UK, the election of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government in 2010 may not have quite managed to kill off political satire entirely, but it would be true to say the coalition certainly seems to be doing its best to strangle any remaining life out of it.

Just to prove the point, I have compiled a list of what were, in my opinion, the Con Dem Government’s Top 5 satirical moments of 2011.

Because, after all, it’s hard to satirise a government when it’s doing things like this:

Number 5 – Law & Order

Most of us, on both the left and the right, were expecting the usual Tory hang-em-and-flog-em, short sharp shock, party of Law and Order stuff, perhaps tempered by a few LibDem inspired caveats to protect civil rights, but instead what did we get?

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, blaming ownership of cats for rising crime.

You couldn’t make it up (except of course that she did).

Number 4 – The Environment

Meanwhile, we discovered that when the coalition said we would be getting the Greenest Government Ever, what they actually meant was that we would be getting the Philip Greenest Government Ever.

Number 3 – Education

It’s possible the mortal blow to UK satire could have come when the coalition openly boasted it was going to make university tuition fees more affordable to the poorest students ……. by tripling them.

Great satirical headline. Except, as we all know, it happens to be true.

Number 2 – Europe

After David Cameron’s veto of an EU wide agreement on the future of Europe, the Foreign Office suffered some translation problems when it told the Prime Minister the German government had described him as a big shot. They only got one letter wrong but in the UK we’d already realised that about the PM a long time ago…..

Number 1 – Health

There are so many examples of the government satirising itself here, it’s difficult to choose just one.

How about the Department of Work & Pensions informing the dead and dying they can’t expect taxpayers to pay for them just to lie around doing nothing all day?

Was that real? Well, not exactly …. it was suppose to be satirical. Except it turns out the DWP really did find sick people fit for work, just days before they died, so maybe it wasn’t satire after all.

And then there was the one about the NHS hospital sold off to a private US company which cut so many corners it decided to call itself ‘Circle’.

That was pretty much true.

But what about the government using tape loops of Andrew Lansley’s face on TV screens at the foot of patients’ beds to reduce hospital waiting lists?

Believe it or not, it was also true. Which was just about when things started to get really confusing.

But then the government finally ended up doing something so outrageous even I couldn’t be bothered to satirise it.


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