Spending less time with your family...

Wouldn't we like our politicians more if they didn't treat us like children? Wouldn't we like them m

I hate politicians. They are idiots. Pretty much without exception. One has a vague feeling that there might have been some more honourable ones, in some bygone era, but in reality those George Washingtons and Mahatma Gandhis and William Gladstones were probably as hollow and rotten and transparent (not a good combination, as their festering emptiness is on full view to the world) as the ones we've got now.

As I went to bed last night I decided that I hated Ruth Kelly more than any living person. It's not just that she is religious and thus opposes stem-cell research and total equality for homosexuals, though those are both good reasons. It's because of her bare-faced cheek at claiming that her decision to step down from the cabinet so she can "spend more time with her family" is not motivated by any other political agenda.

It seems she even acknowledged that the "more time with the family" thing was generally a euphemism used by people who were in fact making political capital out of their actions. But she really wasn't doing that. She was doing it because she genuinely wanted to spend more time with her family.

And yet, if that was the case, don't you think the timing of her announcement was rather foolish. Sure, she's stepping down to spend more time with her family, but decides to make that public the day after Gordon Brown makes the speech in which he attempts to save his chubby arse. (Oh would that we could actually organise the boot for outgoing Prime Ministers - I think it would make democracy a lot more popular if we were all involved in the firing as well as the hiring).

How stupid does she think we are? I hate anyone who so blatantly tries to pass off a lie, whether it's a politician or a newspaper editor whose front page promises us a comedy guide written by top TV star Catherine Tate, when we're bound to immediately discover on purchase that she only wrote the introduction and the rest of it was written by some nobody called Richard Herring (interestingly today the front cover heralded the Memoir and Biography Guide as "Introduced by Antonia Fraser" so they've obviously realised they were insulting their readers' intelligence - though they do use a photo of Keira Knightley in her latest film role to try and suck in the celebrity loving idiots).

It's obvious that the timing of the resignation means that there is more to this than her spending time with her family and yet she insists that it isn't, even in the face of overwhelming common sense. It is just a lie. She knows it's a lie. We know it's a lie. Why don't politicians tell the truth and stop treating us like idiots? This is why we hate them.

If she just said, "I'm stepping down because Gordon Brown is going to demote me in any case and I'm trying to do him some damage just as he looked like he might bounce back a bit and think that if he's still PM come the election I will lose my seat. And he does that really stupid thing with his mouth every time he speaks and it scares the shit out of me. And he had to get his wife to introduce his speech, which is only one step away from getting his mum to do it, saying, "Stop being nasty to my boy, he's doing his best. If I find anyone plotting against him I will be having a word with their mums,"" then we'd respect the sinister, pudge faced, granny-haired Opus Dei member.

But everyone has to play this game of pretending that the obvious isn't happening. So she calls Gordon Brown as "a towering figure", which no one thinks or believes, unless the tower is the leaning Tower of Pisa or one of the World Trade Centre Towers, literally seconds before it came crashing to the ground. I look at his stupid, wan, pouting face and can't even believe he is the Prime Minister. Does everyone else still think that Tony Blair is in charge? Because I really have to slap myself to remember that he isn't. Brown just doesn't have the bearing. Maybe none of us have given him the chance, but he still looks like someone who has accidentally stumbled into the role like Peter Sellers in "Being There" (though less effective) or King Ralph.

And of course though I hate Ruth Kelly (and can't believe that I am older than her - though this is pretty much true of anyone with a proper job), Brown is just as much to blame for hiding his lies in a perspex display case. He obviously was going to get rid of Kelly, but will never say that, even though we all know it. He might claim he was talking about David Cameron when he said it was "no time for a novice", but he really meant David Milliband. He knows it. We know it. Why doesn't he admit it? Wouldn't we like our politicians more if they didn't treat us like children? Wouldn't we like them more if they were candid? What does Gordon Brown really have to lose at this point? If he said "David Milliband is a scary eyed Brutus trying to stab me in the back and Ruth Kelly is a stupid Christian twat. I'm in charge and they can all fuck off!" wouldn't we suddenly have a new found respect for him? Wouldn't we think, "Hey let's give old King Ralph a chance"?" He's going down in flames anyway, why not go down as the politician who suddenly cut out all the bullshit and told it like it was. He might just survive.

In the meantime, presuming he doesn't do that, I am just waiting to see how long after Brown is overthrown it will take for Ruth Kelly to announce that she's realised that her family is quite annoying and she's going to spend less time with them after all. I think it will be less than ten minutes.

Richard Herring began writing and performing comedy when he was 14. His career since Oxford has included a successful partnership with Stewart Lee and his hit one-man show Talking Cock
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Why hasn’t British Asian entertainment built on the Goodness Gracious Me golden age?

It is 20 years since the original radio series of Goodness Gracious Me aired. Over two decades, the UK media portrayal of Asians hasn’t used its success to evolve.

Save for a handful of special one-off episodes, Goodness Gracious Me hasn’t occupied a primetime TV slot for nearly two decades. Yet still it remains the measuring stick for British Asian comedy.

The sketch show, which transitioned seamlessly from radio to screen (it started as a BBC Radio 4 series in 1996), has stood the test of time and is as much a staple of modern British Asian culture as Tupperware or turning up an hour late.

What Goodness Gracious Me did so expertly was to take a set of serious issues facing first, second and now, I suppose, third generation migrants, and turn them on their heads. 

In making light of the pressures of academic expectation or family drama, Goodness Gracious Me wasn’t playing down the poignancy of such concerns; it was raising awareness and combatting their uglier side with humour.

It offered resonance and reassurance in equal measure; it was ok to have an embarrassing uncle who insisted he could get you anything much cheaper, including a new kidney, because other people like you did too.

That Goodness Gracious Me was broadcast on a mainstream channel was also a victory for minorities; it made us feel integrated and, perhaps more importantly, accepted. Against the backdrop of Brexit, what wouldn’t we give for that treatment now?

Really, though, the jewel in Goodness Gracious Me’s crown was its willingness to recognise diversity within diversity. It is a relic of a departed era when discourse on TV around Asians was different, when the broad church of that term was truly represented, rather than reduced to one catchall perception of British Muslims.

Goodness Gracious Me offered insight into the experiences and idiosyncrasies – religious or otherwise – of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and even English people. It’s what made it so accessible and, in answering why subsequent programmes have failed to reach similar heights, this is a good starting point.

Without the flexible sketch format, the modern Asian sitcom Citizen Khan has struggled to cover multiple topics, and, by being specifically about a Muslim family, it leaves many non-Muslim Asians wondering: where’s ours?

I hasten to add that I feel plenty of sympathy for the British Muslim community, hounded by tabloid headlines that attack their faith, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that non-Muslim Asians are sitting pretty in 2016 and don’t need a similar level of support in terms of positive public perception.

The current volume of British Asian media products is fairly good. The BBC has its dedicated network, The Good Immigrant essay collection was one of the outstanding reads of the year, and we still have champions of comedy in Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar.

But I think ultimately it comes down to the broadness of appeal, rather than the quantity of products. Goodness Gracious Me was not only able to engage the full spectrum of British Asia; it transcended its target audience and was on terrestrial TV.

The British Asian media on offer now is up against it, released as the country’s attitude towards foreigners completes a full circle back to the same suspicion my grandfather encountered in the Sixties.

Fewer outlets are willing to explore the stretch of what it means to be Asian, either by denying it due consideration in mainstream shows or by peddling their own monolithic observations. The BBC Asian Network, for example, is laudable in its existence, but does little to engage the young Asians who aren’t into techno spliced with Bhangra.

The mainstream representations of Asians in Western film and television that are commissioned, meanwhile, are irritatingly limited and sometimes inaccurate. In an article for the Guardian last year, Sara Abassi lamented the disproportionate appetite for “gritty post-9/11 films about conservative Pakistani families”, and that the researchers of American series Homeland failed to realise that the national language of Pakistan isn’t Arabic.

When I interviewed the actor Himesh Patel for the No Country for Brown Men podcast, he suggested that the answer to re-establishing Asians in mainstream media, both here and in America, was three-fold. The first challenge to overcome was for outlets to acknowledge that not all Asians fit the same religious or cultural profile; the second was to be open to placing Asians in non-Asian specific products to better reflect their presence in society.

Patel, who is best known for his portrayal of Tamwar Masood in the soap opera EastEnders, made his third recommendation based on this role. He felt that characters should be written with only their personality in mind, making the ethnicity of the actor who plays them incidental. Tamwar’s awkwardness but underlying kindness, Patel said, was what defined him – not his skin colour.

Goodness Gracious Me, though a primarily Asian show and a comedy at that, actually taught some salient lessons about representation. It succeeded in providing a window into a multiplicity of cultures, but at the same time wasn’t a total slave to the politics of identity – several of the 100-plus characters needn’t have been Asian at all. It was reflexive to the times we lived in and a perfect advertisement for empathy. That is why we still talk about it today.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.