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Not the General Election

The last knockings of the Not the Nine O’Clock News literary franchise and, by its creators’ own admission, the least. Whereas the calendars of previous years were packed with gags from a platoon of writers, here John Lloyd and Sean Hardie did most of the work themselves, finding out along the way that the 1983 campaign wasn’t quite the non-stop laugh riot it might have been. Add to that increasing disenchantment from the TV series mainstays (you’ll search in vain for any evidence of Rowan, Mel or Griff) and it looks like an ignominious end to a mighty comedy book empire.

Well, maybe a bit, but there’s still a selection of good stuff in this slim volume: comedy graphs; comedy pie charts; Denis Thatcher in abundance; “How the Cartoonists See It” (containing parodies of Tim Hunkin and Mordillo, yet!); plenty of photos of Roy Jenkins looking like Arthur Askey, or Martin Webster looking like the scum of the Earth; a parliamentary version of The Meaning of Liff (“Boyson (v.): to verbally obstruct the passage of one smaller than oneself”); the inevitable election day Radio Times listings (“11.45 Moomins in Voterland”); a list of MPs privileges (“the right to decline to taste anything offered to them in the street by Esther Rantzen”); an election coverage I-Spy checklist (“An ITV reporter interviewing a politician on BBC TV: 5 points, Robin Day eating: 2 points”); an impassioned plea for Weekending to stop doing jokes about Shirley Williams’s hair; plenty of all-round SDP-baiting and that picture of Cyril Smith rubbing his eye. All this and Lord Hailsham too! A valuable historical record.

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