Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's the point of the parliamentary sketch?


Maybe it's just me. I read a few words of Ann Treneman's sketch in The Times, or Simon Carr's sketch in The Independent, or Simon Hoggart's sketch in The Guardian, and then quickly move on.

It's probably the same with Quentin Letts's sketch in the Daily Mail. Goodness knows. I can't read beyond more than a paragraph before wanting to throw up.

I don't get the parliamentary sketch.

Who is it for? How many read it? Is it the highlight of some readers' lives? Do they laugh? Or hoot? Or guffaw? Nod thoughtfully? What do they get out of reading it?

We have news channels, newspaper columns, topical comedy shows, online video, Twitter, blogs... What precisely is the gap that the parliamentary sketch uniquely fills in our national life?

But if there's one thing that I keep wondering more than anything else about the parliamentary sketch, it's this: These are clever writers; why are they wasting their talents on such a pointless art form?

It's rude. It's patronizing. It mocks what politicians look like, their faces, their clothes, their hair. It mocks their mannerisms, their stumbles, their gestures, their clich├ęs. It focuses on the quirky, the silly, the moments of pomposity or vaudeville.  It assumes politicians are ridiculous, venal, lying hypocrites of varying stupidity and incompetence. It compares them with fictional buffoons and farmyard animals. It speculates on their home lives, their relationships, their sexual predilections. And it casts aspersions on the parentage of their children.

But, most of all, it pays as little attention as it can to the content of what politicians are actually saying. It lampoons politicians but without the promise of insight into policy and power.

It is unedifying. It demeans our politics.

Besides, we've got Twitter for the funny stuff. And Twitter does it better.

So what's the point of the parliamentary sketch?

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