Thursday, February 1

Party Like It's 2007

Helen Parton's a lady not for turning when it comes to praise of this new political drama

Politics always reminds me of great times being a smug student, sitting in a grotty pizza parlour in Hull watching Tony Blair storming into power while my then best friend, a Tory, sulked. But I won't go on about how good things were then in 1997, before myspace, microscooters and the Arctic fucking Monkeys (yes I'd rather hear about the Arctic Circle too, Gordon, you got that one right).

Because ten years on the makers of This Life have given us Party Animals (9pm, BBC2) a new drama about the personal and professional lives of a select bunch residing in the palaces of Westminster. Mostly being smug. And despite all my initial misgivings, it's good.

You wouldn't have thought there was room for it in the BBC schedules either, given the sublime Thick of It's return not so long ago and the fact that the This Life reunion was such a fuck up.

It begins with the likeable but undeniably ferrety faced Danny, a Labour researcher, leaving a key speech in some pub toilets the night before his Blair Babe boss was due to deliver it. Another equally ferrety faced Tory researcher (clearly you have to look like a northerner would want to shove you down their trousers to get on in parliament these days) steals it, thus giving his boss the chance to get one over in the House. Cue a huge bollocking from the (obligatorily Scottish) chief whip.

For a first episode, it's a bit try-hard and the cultural reference points are a bit in-yer-face - look they are PLAYING THE SCISSOR SISTERS in the pub, then the two lobbyists are TAKING COCAINE and people are DRINKING CONTINENTAL LAGER and SHAGGING. But you do begin to care what happens to these characters fairly quickly - whether that's sympathising with the hapless yet passionate Danny or wanting the Tory MP to get his comeuppance for shagging his researcher. And the hollowness and self-serving attitudes of all who walk the corridors of powers are beautifully nuanced from the sharp suits, even sharper dialogue through to the endless series of portraits of Tony and (call me) Dave bearing down from the walls. And as for the journalist who is portrayed as a posh, slightly slutty shameless networker - well that's not exactly inaccurate either.

The action all comes to a head when the party hard lobbyist gets killed, not something I could have seen coming - and neither could the taxi driver who ran him over, ho ho! That’s not to say there’s not things I’d like to change – the Blair Babe MP, played by ‘er what was in the first series of Teachers’, looks a bit too mumsy to be that bitchy and frankly the lobbyist guy that didn’t get killed should spend more time with his shirt off, but apart from that (ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE PUN ALERT!) it gets my vote.

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