A Very Social Secretary
Beginnings are all important in TV, y’ken. Channel 5 (officially Aerial Telly‘s favourite channel) for example, launched with The Spice Girls singing "The Power Of Five" and few would argue with how prophetic that turned out to be.
More 4, Channel Four’s adult channel pushed the boat out with A Very Social Secretary, a political farce on the David Blunkett-Kimberley Quinn affair.
The conventions of farce include a series of absurd and highly improbable events. No need to rewrite this one then.
"Quinn – the socialite editor and walking pin cushion who’d been in more rooms than a hotel cleaner"
It was a very modern affair: Blunkett – the no-nonsense Home Secretary in tune with working-class fears and aspirations and Quinn – the socialite editor and walking pin cushion who’d been in more rooms than a hotel cleaner. It could never end well.
Much of the comedy revolves around Blunkett as fish-out-of-water; the unsophisticated northern lad punching well above his weight in love as in life – making halfway endearing faux pas at every turn.
Bernard Hill does a good turn as Blunkett who sees himself as the protector of the urban proles against the Metropolitan chattering classes.
The contrast with Robert Lindsay as Tony Blair and Doon Mackichan as Cherie could not be more acute – the Blairs facing the tension created by New Age loon Carole Caplin. Both Blairs are image obsessed and both seemingly more concerned with holidaying at the villas of foreign billionaires than matters of state.
"She quickly gets down to some blind man’s boff which sends Blunkett’s perma rolling eyes into speeded up windscreen-wiper mod"
They ruthlessly lampoon the sex between Blunkett and Quinn, Blunkett shouting "Nipples! Buttocks! Knickers!" when Quinn asks him to talk dirty. She quickly abandons the idea and gets down to some blind man’s boff which sends Blunkett’s perma rolling eyes into speeded up windscreen-wiper mode.
Blunkett comes across a sympathetic fool. The hard man of Sheffield persona feels authentic – he seems resolutely unspun. The British left have historically ignored working class concerns about immigration and crime – something you could never accuse Blunkett of.
The scenes between Blunkett and Blair produced some of the funnier moments. What kind of woman should he be involved with, he asks Blair. "Some unemployed party activist with droopy tits?"
"Oh God forbid" says the PM.
"Everybody believes that David’s supposed to be a sad lonely old blind bastard" Blunkett moans and you know he’s right.
"’Everybody believes that David’s supposed to be a sad lonely old blind bastard’ Blunkett moans and you know he’s right."
A ruthlessly ambitious socialite editor manipulating a sightless Home Secretary into risking his career to help her nanny gain a visa – as political scandals go, it’s more tragedy than farce. Whether in-between The West Wing and repeats of Father Ted, More 4 can fare any better than Blunkett is anybody’s guess.
The best thing about it: Blair’s "little chats".
The worst thing about it: The occasional lapses into Bremner, Bird and Fortune satire
The verdict on A Very Social Secretary: Love is blind
Marks out of 10: 7.5