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My soul dies every time an MP makes a naff pop culture reference


Politicians, just admit you love Chopin and watercolours and we’ll be done here (Picture: Getty)

Matt Hancock pretending he was a grime fan. Arctic Monkeys lover Gordon Brown not being able to name one of their songs.

Now Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer trading Line of Duty references in Prime Minister’s Questions this week.

Can politicians please stop pretending they’re down with the kids with this bandwagoning BS?

Necessary disclaimer alert! I am not any sort of political commentator, and won’t be pretending to be here, but I know my pop culture, so this is where we find ourselves today.

Anyway, addressing MPs on Wednesday, the Labour leader claimed the ‘Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to Tory ‘sleaze’ – adding that the PM’s inquiry into David Cameron’s lobbying activities for former financial firm Greensill Capital may not look ‘at very much at all’, yadda yadda.

When suggesting a solution, however, it seemed Sir Keir had Line of Duty on his mind as he proffered: ‘The more I listen to the prime minister the more I think that Ted Hastings and AC-12 are needed to get to the bottom of this one.’

Mother of God…

Ted Hastings and AC-12 name-dropped by Keir Starmer urging sleaze investigation

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Taking to the microphone, Johnson picked up on the BBC reference, sharing his rebuttal: ‘That’s why we’re putting in an independent review, that’s why we have tougher laws on lobbying… yes we are getting on with rooting out bent coppers.’

(This is where I should note I’m not saying people like the PM and Labour Leader don’t watch Line of Duty, I’m speaking on the wider use of pop culture clangers, which are often used to seem so totally hip and with it to the kind of audience their policies don’t appeal to or really take into account.)

The ‘humble’ politician of the people trying to employ some playful pop culture references in an otherwise dry setting is no new thing – these MPs have been trying to seem relatable for eons.

Health Minister Hancock previously claimed he was a ‘fan of grime’ when he was Culture Minister, which is something I find incredibly hard to believe. My cynicism tells me he was more trying to appeal those who are grime fans, who are, I imagine, definitely not voting for him, and that’s what annoys me so much about this whole shebang.

Serial pop culture offender Hancock also dazzled spectacularly when he tried his hand at parkour in 2018 to try that subculture. If you missed the moment, this nifty little slow-motion clip of him jumping from one concrete block to another and then onto the ground is brilliant.

Cue the Steve Buscemi ‘how do you do fellow kids?’ gif.

Or that time Gordon Brown said he loved the Arctic Monkeys but wasn’t able to name one song they performed, like I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor wasn’t one of the most well-known songs, pretty much ever.

‘Well, I mean, I have got them. But they are very loud,’ he said, chasing all that clout into the 1920s.

30 Rock Fellow Kids GIF by PeacockTV - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s clearly not just me who feels a chill when a pearl-clutching politician declares they’re a fan of something zeitgeisty they’re definitely not. When David Cameron said he loved The Smiths, guitarist Johnny Marr wasn’t having it as he tweeted: ‘David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t. I forbid you to like it.’

This is not a pisstake at the men and women who, sure, may be into these things they profess they are (without any hint of irony or self-awareness), but it’s all just a bit cringe for me to take seriously.

And out of everyone, world and country leaders are the ones we should be taking seriously. Especially in these *checks notes* unprecedented times. We need information and leadership, not comedians.

I’m not going to judge you harshly if you’re not name-dropping The Circle winner or #FreeBritney in your campaign speeches, promise.

I get that this might be a winning tactic to appeal to those who may not have thought to put your name on the ballot, but it just reeks of distraction to me.

How about they leave the entertaining quips on the zeitgeist to Chrissy Teigen and stick to the policy-making, or helping to get us out of this wretched pandemic instead of squabbling over who knows more Jed Mercurio lines.

Dare I say it’s wildly inappropriate as well (as is my column to a lot of you, I’d imagine). I’m not saying these MPs aren’t allowed to like something, or to say they do, but is such a setting the right place to say it if you mean it?

Why don’t you mention these apparent pop culture obsessions when you’re not trying to make the headlines or sway fence-sitters to vote for you, you bunch of stans? Make it a little more authentic and we might pick up what you’re putting down without looking at you with the side-eye previously reserved for Josie Geller walking through the high school hallway, pink feather boa blowing in the breeze, in Never Been Kissed.

There’s nothing that’s going to create a bigger divide between leaders and constituents than them trying to pander to our pop culture psyche (because that’s apparently the only language us heathens speak). Especially when it’s in such a naff fashion and clearly a big ol’ lie.

But as a member of the generation MPs seem to enjoy blaming for any sort of spike in the Covid-19 toll, it certainly irks me when they play around with these references like they want to appeal to us, or that they care.

Mel, stop talking about politics, you say. And I gladly will – when pop culture is no longer used as a distraction from the actual issues, because instead of a cool mum you just look like a weird uncle trying to jam with the kids at a barbeque.

To quote so many of you who chime in the comments under most of my showbiz stories: ‘People are dying, you know?’


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