Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip. Brexit may give satirists just what they need, argues McTernan ©Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA Images Where are the satirists when we need them most? The rise of Donald Trump, the triumph of Nigel Farage. There is just so much material around. Yet, in a postmodern way, the politicians perform their own parodies. How can you out-Farage Farage or out-Trump Trump? The latter problem has been solved brilliantly by Alec Baldwin on “Saturday Night Live”—he doesn’t mock Trump, instead he takes him seriously. A deadly serious impersonation is right because that is precisely what Trump is—deadly and serious. And it reportedly infuriates Trump. But the question remains what role there is for humour when, in the words of Hunter S Thompson, “the going gets weird.” This is not a new question. “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize” was satirist Tom Lehrer’s famous quip in 1973. By that time, however, he had been silent for eight years, not having produced a new satirical song since 1965. Lehrer’s work has stood the test of time. “The Vatican Rag” was composed to mark the creation of the second Vatican Council. Lehrer explained that the church ought to “redo some of the liturgical music in popular song forms,” arguing that he had a modest example of this. He then launches into a sublime ragtime which I can personally quote in its entirety, but the following lines will suffice: “Get in line in that processional, Step into that small confessional, There, the guy who’s got religion’ll Tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playin’ it safer, Drink the wine and chew the wafer, Two, four, six, eight, Time to transubstantiate!” The song features on Lehrer’s album “That Was The Year That Was,” a collection of songs he performed on NBC show “That Was The Week That Was” or “TW3”—the US version of the BBC show. And, of course, the cancellation of that show by the BBC in 1964 is often held to be the end of the sixties satire boom. The complaint that satire is dead is a recurrent one. We heard it raised again recently in a thoughtful piece by Zoe Williams. She quotes Armando Iannucci reflecting on the combination of extreme political correctness and Trump-like extreme incorrectness: “Iannucci believes that in this polarization—excessive sensitivity quelling humour on one side, radical insensitivity masquerading as humour on the other—comedy has come to replicate the new extremes of politics. ‘We’ve lost the third way,’ he concludes.” Though his show “Veep” is as brilliant—and affectionate—an exposure of the life that is politics as was the very different “The Thick of It.” (A show which was more inventive in its swearing than any New Labour staffer I ever knew. Though, to be fair, sweary Malcolm Tucker gave me a reputation even before I arrived in Australia to work as Julia Gillard’s Director of Communications—even though he was clearly Alastair Campbell, and I was—if anything—only Jamie.) Arguments are one thing, facts are another. It is, on the face of it, hard to satirise Jeremy Corbyn. It is not simply his rhetorical performances which in themselves cry out to heaven for pity rather than mockery, it’s “traingate.” How can you satirise a man who films himself sitting on the floor of train to complain about overcrowding in the knowledge that there are seats he could have sat in? The fact that there was film which Virgin Trains could release of his walking past empty seats was a better punch line than any satirist could have dreamt of. Of course, “traingate” itself revealed two things which are the fuel for satire. One, that spin itself unravels or can be unravelled. That is the idea behind comedian Matt Forde’s recent show “Unspun.” This series, on “Dave,” showed that there can be a pacey, funny take on contemporary British politics. Forde has an intuitive understanding of the mechanics of politics—and its absurdities. That’s not surprising—he was an excellent Labour Party organiser in a previous life. But his mockery is mainly affectionate not destructive—Forde believes in politics. And, in the main, in the decency of politicians. That aids him in his cool appraisal of how politics is actually done—it makes his witty exposures of how spin is spun all the more effective. But until recently it robbed him of that second element essential to satire—righteous anger. That was what was behind the vicious mockery of Corbyn the next time he boarded a train at Euston. “Got your ticket?” was the kindest thing people shouted at him. I say “until recently” because those who have seen Forde’s current magnificent show will see that he has a new driving passion behind his humour—it is anger about Brexit. The fact that the UK made the wrong choice in the most important decision since the war is proving bad for business but it may be just what we need for satire. We may be going down, but we will go down laughing.