16 Jul 2010 00:00:00.000
A new documentary — described in the Radio Times as ‘utterly superb’ — on 'New Labour' by a University of Nottingham expert is to air this weekend on BBC Radio 4.
Professor Steven Fielding's 'Dramatising New Labour' will ask if we can learn anything from the way politicians are portrayed on the small and big screen.
The programme features interviews with Downing Street 'spin doctors' Alastair Campbell and Lance Price, writers and directors David Hare (‘Absence of War’ and other New Labour plays), Alistair Beaton (‘A Very Social Secretary’ and ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’), Neil McKay (‘Mo’), Peter Kosminsky (‘The Project’ and ‘The Government Inspector’) and Stephen Frears (‘The Deal’ and ‘The Queen’)
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Labour figures during the Blair-Brown era — Clare Short, Adam Ingram, Andrew Mackinley and Stephen Pound — also feature.
Politicians are often accused of telling stories and ‘spinning’ the truth with the result that an increasing number of voters don't believe what they are told.
But that's only a part of the story: “It's true that many people are disillusioned with politics and have lost faith in their parliamentary representatives,” says Professor Fielding, who is Director of the Centre for British Politics based at The University of Nottingham.
“But in contrast, many are willing to believe the stories dramatists tell them about their politicians. Plenty of evidence suggests that screen dramas influence how people see politics. “
Dramatists have treated New Labour in various ways. There are dramas where the characters and situations are wholly fictional — but which strongly echo reality, such as the comedy series ‘The Thick of It’.
Then there are dramas that put real-life figures into fabricated stories, like Alistair Beaton’s black comedy ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’, which imagines that Blair is taken off to The Hague to be tried for war crimes.
In some people’s opinions, even series largely aimed at children, such as ‘Dr Who’, have taken on New Labour.
“There have always been dramatisations of real politicians,” Professor Fielding adds.
“Disraeli and Churchill have long been popular subjects — but they were made after they had died or left office. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alastair Campbell and the like are unusual in that they were all portrayed on the screen while still in power and very much alive.”
Professor Fielding concludes that as moving and as funny as they can be, these dramatisations of New Labour should be watched with care and the intentions of their authors respectfully scrutinised. They can shed a new light on real events and expose truths missed by the mainstream media.
But just like the politicians they depict, all dramatists are in their different ways spinning their audiences a line; their dramas are invariably politics by other — more entertaining — means.
‘Dramatising New Labour’ is broadcast on Radio 4 at 8.00pm on Saturday July 17, with a shorter repeat at 3.45pm on Monday July 19.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.
More information is available from Professor Steven Fielding on +44 (0)7595 369 364 ,