Ben Elton’s BBC outburst shows how the Tories keep getting away with it

Ben Elton on the BBC Kuenssberg Sunak
Support us and go ad-free

Comedy writer Ben Elton was a guest on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg on 25 June. His appearance led to a somewhat enjoyable rant about prime minister Rishi Sunak’s “Orwellian, meaningless, evasive word salad”. While the outburst was fun to watch, it also revealed a depressing truth about why crooked politicians keep getting away with – namely the tendency of media people to simply believe what they’re told.

‘Mendacious, narcisstic sociopath’

Before the rant, the BBC’s senior softball-questioner Kuenssberg interviewed Sunak. During it, he proposed bold and exciting new ideas. These included (wait for it…) training an adequate number of doctors and nurses – a plan he described as something “no government has ever done”:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Kuenssberg nodded along while Sunak detailed his aim to do the absolute bare minimum. To be fair to the PM, should he follow through on his plan (unlikely), the ‘bare minimum’ would be a shit load more than any 21st century prime minister has committed to; to be fair to the profession of journalism, why didn’t Kuenssberg get into all this?

Following the interview, Kuenssberg said to Elton:

Now I have to say, Ben, you were looking distinctly unimpressed throughout that interview. Fair to say, I think you’ve never been a fan of the Conservatives, but what did you think of what Mr Sunak said?

Her “fair to say” comment was an interesting one in that you never see this sort of clarification in reverse – i.e. she’d never say to a Tory prime minister, ‘fair to say you’ve never been a fan of poor people’, or ‘you’ve never been a fan of compassion, empathy, or baseline human decency’.

Elton himself wasted no time in explaining exactly what he thought of “Mr Sunak”: “It’s not so much depressed as sad” he began, before saying:

if anybody was still watching after that extraordinary, Orwellian, meaningless, evasive word salad – I mean, I sort of – everybody else wanted to believe – and I sort of believe maybe he’s kind of a bit more decent, you know, and it turns out he’s as much of a mendacious, narcissistic sociopath as his previous boss. I mean, this man literally – he seems to be making a principle of the fact that he resigned from a government that he’d served loyally, and while he was chancellor of the exchequer under Johnson, he seems to act as being born into Downing Street six months ago was a miracle birth. No, he was a part of a 13-year cycle which has got us to this point.

He talks about foreign, other countries having the same problems. He doesn’t admit what he well knows, which is that they’re all doing better under [their own leaders]. … I genuinely wanted to believe that maybe the Tories had made a reset, even though they had elected a man who had loyally served under Johnson – a man who made a mockery of a parliamentary democracy, and clearly was venally motivated by self-interest. The fact that the Tories chose that easy option, for a man now to say ‘we don’t take easy options’, when they took the easy option, which was Johnson, because they thought it would keep them in power. And when they thought for a moment he wouldn’t, they dumped him instantly.

I mean, he’s the prime minister. He owes us honesty, and we got nothing but mendacity, evasion, and vanity.

Fooled again (and again (and again…))

Many people – especially those outside the media – were able to look at Sunak becoming the latest Conservative prime minister and immediately know he’d be terrible. What gave him away? Namely the word ‘Conservative’ in ‘Conservative prime minister’ – a word which is synonymous with derogatory terms such as:

  • Liar.
  • Crook.
  • Bastard.
  • Pig-romancer.
  • Whatever Liz Truss was supposed to be.

This is why it’s especially worrying when Keir Starmer says things like Labour are “the real Conservatives”.

If you can’t judge politicians by their blatantly dishonest promises, though, what can you judge them by? Their actions, actually – something Elton and others only seemed to realise in hindsight.

Featured image via BBC – Twitter

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us