This is the fourth year I’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe. Back in June I trawled through all 3,500 shows to decide which to go to see. Normally, I spend three days there, but this year I squeezed everything into two. Somehow, this year it didn’t have the buzz I’ve experienced in the past. That could be because I know what to expect, but overall I didn’t think one or two of the shows I saw were quite up to the superb standards of the previous years. My two highlights were Geoff Norcott and Gyles Brandreth. Geoff used to bill himself as Britain’s ‘only Conservative comedian’, although he has a few rivals for that accolade now. I saw him on his last night and he was hilarious. He even had an audience walkout, with a middle-aged husband and wife walking out after a mild joke taking the piss out of Jeremy Corbyn. As they walked out they all got ironic cheers. Gyles Brandreth was performing in one of the bigger venues and sold out each performance. So popular is his show that even the Prime Minister couldn’t get tickets apparently.
Don’t you just love Australian politics? By the time you read this the country may well have yet another Prime Minister. Having toppled Tony Abbott in favour of Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party looks set to ditch Turnbull, potentially in favour of the new resigned Interior Minister Peter Dutton – a sort of Phil Mitchell look-a-like with no voter appeal whatsoever. The first attempt to get rid of Turnbull failed narrowly but his critics are going back for more and by the time you read this Turnbull may well be toast. So far thirteen ministers have resigned from his government. The Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and the Treasurer Scott Morrison are now also said to be challenging Peter Dutton for the succession. Dutton is also now in trouble with his eligibility to even be an MP being called into question. Nasty business, Aussie politics.
In ten days parliament comes back for a couple of weeks, heralding the start of the autumn political season. We’re entering a crucial three months for the Brexit talks, and therefore Theresa May’s future. The collective dander of her critics seems to be up at the moment, with Jacob Rees-Mogg taking the initiative by writing on behalf of the European Research Group to all Conservative Associations criticising the Prime Minister’s letter on the Chequers Accord. Boris Johnson is no doubt considering his next move, while other potential leadership contenders will be mulling over how they can improve their chances without being seen to be disloyal to the prime minister. It promises to be a tempestuous few months ahead in Conservative politics.
I don’t know if you caught Liam Halligan’s documentary about the downfall of Carillion, which was show on Channel 4 on Wednesday night. It was a brilliant insight into how a massive company was brought to its knees by corporate greed, and partly by the fact it got too big. The programme posed some very important questions for regulators, government and directors. But I do wonder why it’s taken so long for a major broadcaster to commission a programme like this into one of Britain’s biggest corporate failures. Why hasn’t the BBC done something similar? The easy answer is that their business coverage is lamentable and just concentrates on day to day issues. Gone are the days when The Money Programme would have ensured it held people in business to account. Nowadays, the only real coverage of business on BBC1 is the odd slot on BBC Breakfast. Sky News have a daily half hour business show, but apart from that, are there any others on a major TV broadcaster? I can’t think of any. The BBC gets £3.5 billion of public money each year. You’d have though they could use a bit of that to provide much better coverage of business and finance issues. If Channel Four can do it, why can’t the BBC?
A few weeks ago Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech on the economy which many interpreted as sub-Trump. It was full of economic nationalist measures and protectionism – a kind of Britain First agenda. Make Britain Great Again. Yesterday he was at it again at the Edinburgh TV Festival where he made a speech, parts of which Trump could have happily made himself. It was entirely designed to lessen trust in the media and encourage to think the media is entirely obsessed by churning out ‘fake news’. Unbelievable, and something an aspirant prime minister ought to be singly ashamed of.