So, apparently, the world didn’t come to an end last Friday. Pity really, I have to go to Tesco later and an apocalypse would liven the place up a bit. We had an election – God, don’t I know we had an election, I mostly work from home and I watched most of it – and nothing happened. Two of the three major parties appeared to be campaigning in slow motion until the last three days. We had four-and-a-half hours of painfully stage-managed, over-regulated TV debates between the three party leaders, in which the two feasible candidates for PM performed, mostly, appallingly badly while the leader of the least major of the three major parties seemed to go into overdrive, and suddenly the numbers started to change, but then the nation went to the polls… and nothing happened. We’d been gleefully promised all kinds of mayhem in the entirely predictable event that the polls returned a hung parliament, but on the night the numbers stacked up with a sort of numbing inevitability. Nobody won, everybody lost. We didn’t even get a Portillo Moment – just Comedy!Lembit and Jacqui Smith biting their lips and wobbling on camera, and they’d both been doing that at least twice a week for years anyway.
There’s no party with an overall majority, which means that our various political factions have been engaged in closed-door meetings in various combinations since Friday afternoon. This, of course, means that our most cherished institution – the 24-hour news media – has spent the entire weekend analysing the crap out of a series of conversations that none of the participants care to discuss, on camera at least, giving us an almost orgasmic frenzy of kremlinological dissection of gesture, rumour and hypothesis, leavened with the implicit subtext that the sky may fall at any moment.
I just looked outside. The sky’s still where it’s supposed to be. So is the Sky dish. I’m shocked.
Our news networks, bless them, are running out of language to describe stasis. Nothing much happened during the election campaign, but nothing happened on a regular basis – a lot of people who look like middle managers appeared on camera walking through factories and supermarkets with their sleeves rolled up, low- and high-ranking members of all parties were caught saying regrettable things on camera/with the mike on, and potential embarrassments like Jacqui Smith and Comedy!Lembit were fitted with electronic ankle bracelets and confined to their constituencies on pain of death/multiple appearances on appalling reality TV shows. The sun rose, the sun set, and life continued as usual, apart from that week when a pesky volcano in the North Atlantic blew the campaign off the front pages by closing all the airports. But since we voted for deadlock, nothing has happened two or three times an hour, and we’re all struggling to keep up. Sorry, BBC, if the fourth meeting that nobody’s talking about finished three hours ago and the participants didn’t talk about it to camera beyond the blandest platitudes as they left, it’s not ‘breaking news’. There’s not going to be a quick agreement between any of the parties, because any deal, whether for a formal coalition or a more relaxed cooperation agreement, is going to involve at least one party leader eating a great big shit sandwich when the deal is agreed, and an even bigger shit sandwich six months to a year later if the deal goes south and we end up having another election. Two parties want a reform of the voting system, one doesn’t, and the one that doesn’t has the most seats. So, deadlock.
I should be concerned. I am concerned. I cast my vote for electoral reform. As I numbed myself into a news coma over the weekend, I signed online petitions, joined Facebook campaign groups, emailed MPs, officials and party leaders to show my support for major electoral reform. I want change. I do. I’ll happily sign petitions, write letters, attend marches and all the rest of it. But I also, on the third day of negotiations, want an immediate ban on media pundits and political journalists beginning sentences with “if”, “I don’t think”, “we shouldn’t underestimate”, and “we’re not getting much information, but”. If this goes on much longer, I’ll want the ban imposed by an army of Turok-Han carrying outsized cricket bats. Enough already.
The problem with nothing continuing to happen in the aftermath of nothing happening is that the dialogue just. isn’t. bad. enough. Tory politicians and the more hysterical factions of the press – get your hands out of your pockets, Daily Mail, I’m looking at YOU – promised us Armageddon if we were faced with a hung parliament. It sounded quite exciting. I had visions of barricades, mayhem, rending garments, public shouting matches, disaster-movie dialogue, perhaps a cabal of B-list action stars led by Jean-Claude Van Damme swooping into Whitehall on nuclear-powered unicycles to kick ass, restore order, and impose a fairer electoral system. Instead, I got a series of men in dull suits and bad ties mumbling about making constructive progress, and a group of protesters forcing the dismal Sky News presenter Kay Burley to go to commercial by standing behind her as she tried to conduct an interview and demanding, in unison, that she be sacked. Much as I might sympathise with the sentiment, it’s not a fair trade.
Faced with such disappointment, what does one do? Particularly, what does one do when one’s bank balance, this week, will not transport one to a remote hut on an otherwise uninhabited South Pacific island with room service and a stack of recent literary novels? Why, one turns to the cheesier movie channels, of course! What saved my weekend? “Céline”, a Canadian made-for-TV biopic of Quebec’s most uninhibitedly tacky diva, starring two actresses whose names I can’t remember as Ms. Dion herself, along with Franco-Ontarian musical theatre diva Louise Pitre as Mama Dion and Enrico “Keith Mars” Colantoni as the supremely creepy René Angélil. And it was, thank God, a telemovie to treasure, albeit for most of the wrong reasons. The actress whose name I can’t remember (and, obviously, can’t be bothered to look up) who played the adult Céline had two (constipated) facial expressions and, oddly, three noses. In succession, not all at once. The production values were magnificently valueless – Toronto and Hamilton stood in for, well, everywhere, and the props, costumes and most of the script were purchased from the Dollarama in Toronto’s Dufferin Mall. The dialogue was special. “Buy yourself some shoes, you deserve it!” “What happened to our dream?” “You must promise me you won’t touch her!” And my favourite – ” I’m not crazy about this song, René. And I’m not sure about this film. I mean, come on. Everyone knows the boat sinks!”. Ms. Pitre – if you’ve never heard her sing, go and buy her records NOW, she’s sensational – and Mr. Colantoni gamely attempted to lend the proceedings a dignity they did not deserve, mostly by wearing bad clothes and worse wigs with conviction and delivering their dialogue without corpsing or throwing up in their mouths. Sure, it was a horror show – but none of it took place in Westminster.
Yes, I know. I could just not watch the news. Get real. This week, the news networks and the grimmer offerings of the True Movies channel seem remarkably similar – I’m simultaneously repulsed by and glued to both. Thank God for deadlines.