It’s a Very Good Time for Satire

Book review by Noel Hamel


Bremner, Bird and Fortune, best known for their jokey TV show of satire and mimicry of public figures and politicians, aren’t short of work.  Now they have collaborated on a book – You Are here.  Bremner is the quick-fire, one-man ridiculer, whilst Bird and Fortune”s ‘conversation’ lampoon government.  Bird and Fortune have an honourable record of satire since the 60s.

You Are Here is light, yet incisive and witty, using statistics and facts to reveal truths, and using politicians’ statements to show them up as complete charlatans probably capable of selling their grandmothers as well as their souls for political expediency.  ‘They are beyond parody’ the book complains, adding, ‘We constantly struggle to match the level of absurdity displayed by governments and the media’.  You could think of the trio as our own Michael Moore, with less chutzpah! 

The book is full of useful and fascinating facts, clearly the result of painstaking research and careful consideration – it has a light touch, but isn’t lightweight.  How did I come to read it?  Well, I was feeling so low after the re-election of the US dream team, Dick and Bush (sexual innuendo intended), that I just craved something light which poked fun at the whole sorry lot.  My son has a small part-time job to help him whilst at university.  He bought it as a present with his first pay cheque.

I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of any commitment to causes or parties.  Some of the facts are eye-wateringly excruciating, like, ‘The Americans have spent over $26 trillion on defence since WW11 (that would be more than $26 million a day since the birth of Christ).’   ‘The British government had two committees looking into duplication in education, and neither knew the other existed.’  The book covers a wide range of topics including:  domestic issues, arms sales, trade, spin and, of course, Iraq.

There is a wonderful email from Blair on page 174 which reveals more than an entire library:  ‘We are perceived as weak . . . out of touch, somehow, with gut British instincts.  The government should think now of an initiative, e.g., locking up street muggers . . . and I personally should be associated with it. (My italics)

If you are interested in railways:  government subsidy is at an all-time record, 80% of which goes straight to the banks who bought all the carriages and lease them back to us at a quarter of their value per year, on long and un-negotiable terms!  They make a huge profit, yet do nothing for rail transport nor carry any risk!  Or how about Export Guarantee Loans, underwritten by taxpayers, for arms sales to dodgy regimes (if they need lots of weapons quick, on tick, they aren’t usually creditworthy), and when they default the bill just adds to the country’s debt, with accumulating interest.  Eventually it’s settled by a deal involving selling off the peasants’ water supply to foreign multinationals.  And no-one honest has a good word for Saddam Hussein, but some of the US and UK allies in the …stans region make him look civilised, wise and statesmanlike.  The allies in question just happen to be sitting on access to oil and gas; and of course they benefit from $$$$ and other assistance.

If you are interested in some easily-digested facts about our government’s ‘ethical foreign policy’, other scams for ‘restoring trust in British politics, or what ‘whiter than white’ really looks like, you’ll have to read.  And I recommend that you do.