It’s 15th December and the Royal College of Nursing is staging national strikes, the first in its 106-year history. I go to trawl the morning interviews with government ministers to see what their response is, but there are none. Since the rule of Rishi began, a deer-in-headlights minister explaining the government’s position (or paltering, depending on your point of view) has become a rare media occurrence. It’s almost as if our new prime minister has come to the conclusion that his frontbench is so witless that its members make things worse by explaining them.
As a satirist who is working on material for an upcoming tour and whose inspiration comes from politicians desperately defending indefensible positions, I find this makes my own position difficult. I have a decreasing number of terrible excuses to parody. With Rishi keeping his talentless cabinet in the shadows, I am forced not just to think like a tireless justifier of bullshit, but to think like a tireless Tory MP.
In order to convincingly inhabit such a politician on stage, I now have to dig into their minds. I have to live in their skin. But this comes with its own dangers. Back in 2020 when I first started posting clips on Twitter in character as a Tory MP, I would get messages saying “Rosie Holt resign!” And with that confusion, my fate was sealed. My character has the same name as me. The lines are already blurred. Rosie Holt will eat herself.
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Throughout December, Sunak takes the position that “his door is always open” to nurses, just not for negotiations. That leaves me unsure of what the door is open to. Claps? More claps? To get in his mindset, I stop watering my houseplant but sit and nod at it sympathetically once in a while. Towards the end of the month the plant is dead and brown but I keep it there because it is a staple of our British flat. “We are very proud of it,” I tell a guest loudly, but one night I watch the 2007 romcom Music & Lyrics—in which Drew Barrymore professionally waters Hugh Grant’s plants—and I think: “If only we outsourced our watering, I would have a beautiful Drew plant”. Those who can’t afford to outsource probably don’t deserve a plant. “You’re not working,” I tell the plant resentfully. I give it a little clap but it remains unmoved.
Also on 15th December, the Guardian (wokey paper) reports that a third of staff in Raab’s private team have made bullying allegations against him. I nostalgically recall the days of the bullying allegations against Priti Patel, when MPs queued up to insist she was actually lovely, or “robust and determined” as national treasure Matt Hancock put it. But with the ever-proliferating bullying claims, the ministers kept schtum this time, and I shake off my sentimentality and get into the Tory minister headspace.
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I take my aunt’s dog to the dog park. My aunt warns me that he has behavioural issues on account of having a terrible personality. After he terrorises a labrador, a cockapoo, three schnauzers and a dog of indeterminate breed, a demented sausage dog owner demands that I put him on a lead. I look at this person who is clearly a soppy Labour voter with no idea about self-determinism and ignore her, choosing instead to revel in my dog’s free enterprise in kidnapping the other dog’s stick and pissing on it.
As well as being a robust and determined man, Raab also allegedly delayed the evacuation of Kabul over email formatting. I think we can all agree a badly formatted email is a shocking outrage that should be widely reported. However, the horror of the email formatting is rightly supplanted by something even worse in December: the abomination of Harry and Meghan giving their side of the story in the royal family fallout. How disgusting this is. I binge-watch their documentary while continually refreshing Piers Morgan’s Twitter feed.
It is only on 17th December—when Grant Shapps drops a little video in which, through humour (a worthy and noble weapon), he helpfully tells the public to turn down their boilers—that I have a revelation. (Note: If you haven’t seen the video then you only have yourself to blame for your steep energy bills. The government is helping, but you are not checking Grant Shapps’s Twitter feed enough to see it.)
I realise we don’t need the government to explain themselves. Like Instagram influencers, they are refusing to explain and instead bravely taking control of their own narrative, starting with Matt Hancock’s aspirational time on a reality TV show. This realisation is cemented on 31st December when the prime minister releases a delightful new year video. In it, he reassures the public that he “just wants people to feel proud of being British, proud of their town… and proud of their leaders, actually” while talking down to them both literally and (the wokeys may argue) figuratively. Sufficiently won over by this new brand of politics, I suddenly know that my stage show, once a short-sighted satire but now a love letter to our leaders, is, along with the country, in safe hands.