This is the last article you can read this month
You can read more article this month
You can read more articles this month
Sorry your limit is up for this month
National Theatre at Home
SET in the era between 1974 and 1979, when Labour struggled with a hung parliament, and written in 2011-12 when the same stalemate forced the Tories into coalition with the Lib Dems, This House is a salutary reminder of those times.
Writer James Graham’s rationale for the play, now available free online, hinges on those common acts of political expediency which throw light on the present by exploring the past. His great exposé of the real machinations of a working government, interspersed with moments of farcical brilliance, is a lesson for any voting public.
Today, the play has a new and different resonance. In 2012, there was perhaps complacency in laughing at a parliamentary system in breakdown but now we urgently require it to control the weirdos and work on our behalf. There’s still laughter but with a bitter edge.
Graham has certainly done his homework. Set in the Whips’ offices at Westminster, he reveals the moment-by-moment shenanigans of various Labour whips as they work, day and night, to ensure a winning majority for each Bill as it appears.
Forgotten are the policies that got them elected — what matters is the game and winning it. Principle is at odds with practice and the personal is often sacrificed for political advantage.
And the essential close-working between the Labour whips and their Tory counterparts, particularly in the character of Jack, accentuates their mutual understanding as colleagues rather than their opposed allegiances.
There are moments of true farce, as when MPs, too ill to walk, are piggy-backed into the chamber for voting. And there is poignancy as the lifetime struggles of individuals for the socialist cause bite the dust. This is real insight into the personal cost of public life.
Phil Daniels is a hugely authentic as the right-wing Labour chief whip Bob Mellish, while Reece Dinsdale as Walter and Charles Edwards as Jack hold centre stage with a mixture of personal and professional detail that engrosses.
What stands out is the focus not on the big known names of the time but on the ordinary MPs, called mostly by their constituency name, as the whips struggle to know them all.
“Mansfield is stuck in Belfast, “Rotherham has collapsed at the despatch box,” “Walsall North has committed suicide...no. He’s alive” and “Here’s a laugh, they say Finchley might be the new opposition leader... believe that if you like!” are hugely enjoyable.
Historically accurate and dramatically fast and fluid, the minutiae of the period will strike powerful chords with all who remember it and will be an eye-opener for those who don’t.
A clever, hilarious and hugely relevant exposition of Parliament at work, it’s a wistful reminder of what Labour might have achieved if the numbers had worked.
Available until June 4 on YouTube, youtube.com/watch?v=6vsSHyjEMrg
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.