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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 18:55 GMT
The Project
The Project

Newsnight Review discuss vaulting ambition and dodgy behaviour, and what the latest political television drama says about new Labour, in BBC's "The Project".

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


WILL SELF:
It was a bit like the Labour administration. In two parts, incredibly long, rather wearing and difficult to differentiate between many of the principal characters.

I give it full marks for realism on that basis. And it was disingenuous, so also like new Labour in that way, but not in the way its director or the way the players intended it to be.

I think they thought they were saying something ground breaking and new. I don't think they were. I don't think questions about fitting up Tory ministers who are filling their swimming pools in droughts or wearing a wire to a Tory Party conference has anything to do with the levers and springs of power in the land.

Anybody who has locked antlers with Alistair Campbell knows he always says he has better things to do with his time.

KIRSTY WARK:
This technique of mixing footage with drama and dramatised events is not new. Our Friends in the North used the same technique. Is it a historical record o a drama?

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
It's not a drama. It's so dull. The script has nothing to recommend it. The actors do their best of the. The lines are awful. I can't see that it will draw anybody into politics.

The BBC says "we want people to be interested ." This is not going to interested anybody, it's going to make them go to sleep. This is masturbatory television. Why must we watch ourselves obsessively doing what we have done.

TOM PAULIN:
It's a brave idea but doesn't capture the ideas. It doesn't get the adrenaline surges on top of others. It doesn't isolate the principals of old Labour and new Labour and put them in opposition.

There was a Peter Mandelson lookalike who becomes a Peter Mandelson, lookalike lookalike. There's none of the hard graft and cynicism of politics.

It's a load of undergraduates, having fun, wearing chuffed smiles going nowhere. It doesn't get the drive and energy of politics. And robustuous nature of it.

WILL SELF:
It's a sub-reality TV for political groupies. To be picking up on the point that Tom made, the real graft of politics is in the contact with the public of course. That is what we don't get to see.

KIRSTY WARK:
You don't get to see that in West Wing either.

WILL SELF:
I can't abide West Wing. I would walk five miles and stick my head in a drain than watch West Wing. It's a parody of what American Government is like, intended to keep the American public subdued and happy.

TOM PAULIN:
I think you can do it if you can dramatise politics properly. The Project doesn't do that. There's no beef in it. It's a plate of boring pasta.


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