Author Topic: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?  (Read 8014 times)

BritishHobo

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What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« on: January 28, 2019, 09:08:24 PM »
I've been rewatching The Thick of It in recent works, and it's got me thinking again about something I've always found odd, which is that a lot of people seem to see Malcolm Tucker as a heroic figure, a great sweary beast sweeping through politics and giving a good kicking to all the useless cunts in there. I've often read in reviews and discussions that people see him as someone who shares the values of his party and wants the best for his country. Nowadays you've got Twitter accounts and the like using his name and face to post political jokes and opinions, slamming the Tories and Brexit and so on and so forth.

It's odd to me because I've always found the total opposite to be true. Throughout the whole show I find that the only motivation he shows is a desire to keep power and influence. I see him as someone who'd betray any principle of his party if it means keeping favour with either the leader or whoever's likely to be the next leader. In In The Loop of course he basically helps start (a version of) the Iraq War based on what he knows is faulty intel, because he wants to keep his authority. There was a lot of love for his disdainful takedowns of American politicians, and his absolute disgust with James Gandolfini at the end for calling him English, but I think there's something properly brilliantly empty and hypocritical about that. No matter how much he jeers at the Yanks or spits with contempt as a Scot for being called English, he's acting as an unquestioning agent of a craven British state, toadying up to the Americans to kick-start a fucking horrible war for no reason other than that's what the lads up top want. And it all ends in series 4 with what a lot of people seem to think is a real badass 'state of politics' rant in the inquiry, but what I thought was Tucker floundering and deflecting at the end of an absolute humiliation for him.

This doesn't mean I hate the character, I think it makes him more interesting. He's a cause and a symptom of the influence of hateful tabloid journalism on politics. There's no bigger picture or consistent principles that matter to someone like Tucker, it's all about what will look the least damaging (for his allies) or the most embarrassing (for his enemies) in that day's papers. Which increasingly has become something that has almost crippled British politics. The most interesting thing about him is that he's not really as in control as he thinks, it's the news and the papers that are and always will be - he's just helping drive things into the dirt by playing along with them instead of standing up and offering an alternative.

I've said before that I do think he's a real hateful cunt - but written and played incredibly - but I'm really interested to see how other people view him.

gilbertharding

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2019, 10:18:28 PM »
He *is* Alistair Campbell. I'd have thought it was obvious he's a terrible, terrible piece of shit.


Obviously, he's also a brilliant character, brilliantly written and portrayed.

PlanktonSideburns

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2019, 10:44:58 PM »
bit like scorcese movies, we always remember their bluster more than anything. the power of being a rude bastard it seems

Nowhere Man

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2019, 11:08:09 PM »
Yeah i'd agree with all that. He's a brilliant character, but anyone looking towards him as some sort of idol or whatever clearly missed the message of the show. He's a cunt, but an admirable one all the same.

That's all down to the talent of the writing, and Capaldi's performance, mind.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2019, 11:24:09 PM »
I don't remember him getting much sympathy at the time, I could be mistaken. If he gets it now, presumably it's because Labour are no longer in power, and politics now is so much more aggressive that he seems more contemporary now than then. I mean, in retrospect, what was really at stake in 2005 (you might ask)?

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2019, 11:45:29 PM »
I think it’s the old adage that power corrupts. He’s the most well drawn character from the entire series in that I believe there is - or was - some element of morality and goodness in him that has completely eroded from the environment he works in.

He is indeed a power crazed Machiavellian bastard who’d put himself ahead of anyone else but his utter contempt for every single awful character suggests he acknowledges just how terrible the people he works with are. He seems most sympathetic to Glen who, although his own personality is caught up in the moral degradation of politics, I think has more of a moral conscience than the other characters. When he punches him at the party conference, Malcolm seems genuinely regretful and when Glen breaks down in Spinners and Losers tries to make amends with him at the end. He is also the only individual to try to apologise to the cleaning lady when Ben Swaine insults her but whether this is for the protection of the party from a PR nightmare is difficult to say - although he does emphasise that he would never talk down to her, indicating sympathy and perhaps empathy towards those less privileged (he does nothing to hide his disdain for those more privileged, privately educated Oxbridge sorts who he works with).

His monologue at the end of the inquest episode from series four reveals how aware he is of working in such a fucked up environment. That maybe reveals his ability to tell what’s right and what’s wrong so does that actually make him worse of a character (as opposed to the likes of Ollie who have no such awareness and is just a pure cunt) when he had the mental faculties to know? Perhaps not worse but it makes him quite tragic.

When you take a step back, it’s so bleak and there’s absolutely no redeeming character so yes, to see him as a hero type figure is to miss the point entirely that the makers were trying to get at - the fact that politics is a moral cesspit of power seeking self serving wankers (I speak somewhat with experience as I’ve worked within it, and as a younger individual who has seen and knows the next generation of politicians, nothing is going to change in the slightest - genuinely the most soul destroying working environment I’ve seen).

But yeah, Malcolm Tucker - a real monster. But I believe the environment he worked in turned him into one.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2019, 11:56:40 PM »
I think he definitely has a different attitude to 'civilians' compared to people playing the game. One of the only people he's properly civil to is his PA. And to a lesser extent Terri when she confronts him about going a bit mad.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2019, 01:11:13 AM »
I'd also argue that as much of a cunt Alistair Campbell is/was people have to remember the context of what the Labour Party had been through with Kinnock. The press shat all over him and the country defaulted to Tory forever so there has to always be some understanding that by controlling the output of Downing Street and keeping government communication on tight lockdown he was basically being a cunt to a load of cunts. Obviously, this all went to shit when they started wars and what not but the 1997 Alistair Campbell I have some begruding respect for.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2019, 07:00:47 AM »
He is also the only individual to try to apologise to the cleaning lady when Ben Swaine insults her but whether this is for the protection of the party from a PR nightmare is difficult to say - although he does emphasise that he would never talk down to her, indicating sympathy and perhaps empathy towards those less privileged (he does nothing to hide his disdain for those more privileged, privately educated Oxbridge sorts who he works with).
They do a similar kind of thing with Jamie. He's bawling someone out in a huge rage, turns round and bumps into a cleaning lady, to whom he offers a polite and sincere "I'm terribly sorry".

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2019, 07:05:25 AM »
I feel like you get some sympathy towards him during the very end, when he rants about how emotionally consuming his role in government is. Which, as you think about it, would be fucking awful.

I think in some of the extra material that isn't in the TV show flesh out some of his better qualities, like supporting progressive legislation etc.

Plus his entire purpose is to keep Tory cunts out of power. So for that he is somewhat sympathetic.

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2019, 12:47:25 PM »
I remember having stronger appreciation of the Malcolm Tucker character before the final series where I felt the lens of the show should have shifted away from him to focus more on what the Tories were doing.  But clearly the writers felt they had to maintain the Malcolm Tucker Show aspect rather than explore the opportunities of a satirical takedown of the new coalition government.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2019, 01:07:34 PM »
Many people working in politics are extremely tribal. Its their worklife, their social life, everything is devoted to the party. Tucker sees it has his job to defend the party at all costs regardless of whether he may personally agree with a particular policy, and he buys into that wholeheartedly. Probably with the justification that the overall end justifies the odd aberration.

So rather than it being specifically about ego I think he has convinced himself that what he does is right.

Norton Canes

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2019, 01:46:47 PM »
Lawful Neutral.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2019, 02:26:32 PM »
He is also the only individual to try to apologise to the cleaning lady when Ben Swaine insults her but whether this is for the protection of the party from a PR nightmare is difficult to say - although he does emphasise that he would never talk down to her, indicating sympathy and perhaps empathy towards those less privileged (he does nothing to hide his disdain for those more privileged, privately educated Oxbridge sorts who he works with).

I agree with the other stuff you've written but this is reaching. He says he would never talk down to her only in response to her accusing him of talking over her, which he was. And if you watch the scene again, Malcolm is losing his patience when he says, "and neither am I talking down to you". His concern is to stop Swaine's outburst becoming a story. As Culture Bunker points out, it was Jamie who was surprisingly considerate to the cleaner after he bumped into her, thus setting up the later argument with Ben Swaine. With Jamie it seems genuine, but the hard cut from Swaine's "Mrs Fucking Mop!" to Malcolm's hurried whispers by the staircase makes it clear that it's about him trying to put out the fire.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2019, 04:50:50 PM »
As Culture Bunker points out, it was Jamie who was surprisingly considerate to the cleaner after he bumped into her, thus setting up the later argument with Ben Swaine. With Jamie it seems genuine, but the hard cut from Swaine's "Mrs Fucking Mop!" to Malcolm's hurried whispers by the staircase makes it clear that it's about him trying to put out the fire.
You know, until I read your comment, I hadn't considered it was the same woman.

Looking at it again, I also note his accent softens considerably, which makes me wonder if it wasn't scripted.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2019, 05:55:08 PM »
I think there had to be something, & so it was written into his character, to get you to understand his motivation; he chose politics to exercise his talents rather than a more lucrative line of business, so some of his personal politics had to be made evident to get us to believe in other aspects of him.
in this sense, they absolutely nailed the real-life model for him. I'll never forget campbell's unscheduled appearance on C4 news; that was pure tucker.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2019, 07:43:15 PM »
I'll never forget campbell's unscheduled appearance on C4 news; that was pure tucker.

Do you know if the video of this is available online? Haven't seen it and don't know what to search for (tried the obvious terms)

Bennett Brauer

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2019, 09:12:09 PM »
Do you know if the video of this is available online? Haven't seen it and don't know what to search for (tried the obvious terms)

It's literally the first video if you search for Alastair Campbell Channel 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBWE7QzADe8

It's missing the bit where Jon Snow is told in his earpiece a couple of minutes earlier that Campbell's in the building (AC having more than once turned down Snow's requests for an interview - the last time on the phone just 20 minutes before he turned up). Also missing, Campbell telling Snow to kiss his sweaty balls.

BritishHobo

  • That is a really reductive impression
Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2019, 11:25:38 PM »
I remember having stronger appreciation of the Malcolm Tucker character before the final series where I felt the lens of the show should have shifted away from him to focus more on what the Tories were doing.  But clearly the writers felt they had to maintain the Malcolm Tucker Show aspect rather than explore the opportunities of a satirical takedown of the new coalition government.

He bothered me a lot in the third series because it felt like it was becoming The Malcolm Tucker Show, where his rants felt so much bigger and broader. I've appreciated it a lot more on this watch, looking at it as the dying days of the government. Tucker's been fairly confident before in Labour staying in power, but series 3 has them all facing a likely loss. Still though, all the stuff with Malcolm's resignation and return seems less about Labour and Campbell and more about how brilliant Malcolm is at plotting.

And then as you say, series 4 stays hard on him. I remain pretty convinced that they made series 4 more as a farewell to the characters than as a satirical show. The whole 'inquiry into leaking', and Tucker's departure, feel like attempts to wrap up the show as a show. There's a weird sense of finality even in the government scenes, despite the fact that the Tory government was in full-swing.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2019, 12:28:17 AM »
Agree with everything you just wrote, Mr Hobo.

Tucker starts off as an absolute nightmare, 100% evil. I remember first watching it and feeling almost sick at how toxic the work environment was. Inevitably, you spend enough time with a character and they become more nuanced, little details humanise them. It helps the character feel more real, but it also makes the satire less biting.

For me the stuff about putting the party first was always self-serving. Of course someone as cuntish as Malcolm would need some justification. I’m sureHarvey Weinstein, who Tucker was partly based on, said something similar. He’s in it for the art, look at Tarantino’s films, he made them happen, etc. I don’t think the final series really worked, but the stuff about him being hollowed our from the inside was great. You can’t take the character much further than that I don’t think. Unless he dies or something.

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2019, 06:24:27 AM »
Lawful Neutral.

Chaotic Neutral, surely

imitationleather

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2019, 08:22:16 AM »
Are we all agreed that Steve Fleming was a bit shit? I don't just mean it in that he was a bad person as per his character dictated, just that John Haig went totally OTT with his performance and it totally took me out of the supposed realism with TTOI. I sure never would have predicted, based on that hammy performance, that Haig would go on to star in the worst decade of the preceding two millennia, The Wright Way. Similarly, The Fucker in s03e08 was a big disappointment. Ah, he flies off the handle. Just in a far less skilful and funny way than Tucker. Yawn.

As others have alluded to, Tucker seems to me to be the most multi-layered and the best-drawn of all the characters in the series. The occasional allusions at a backstory without ever addressing this just support this beautifully. Thinking he's some hero and that his sweary rants are ledge is the kind of thinking which had led to us ending up with Jonathan Pie getting a successful career out of his terrible videos though. ANGRY POLITICS RANT MAN does not equal Malcolm Tucker. I'd say all these crap imitation could mean that character has a lot answer for, but he doesn't really. It's just huge swathes watching TToI not really understanding what they're seeing.

Endicott

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2019, 09:49:20 AM »
John Haig, the Acid Bath Murderer? /winky smilie/

Utter Shit

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2019, 10:24:38 AM »
Are we all agreed that Steve Fleming was a bit shit? I don't just mean it in that he was a bad person as per his character dictated, just that John Haig went totally OTT with his performance and it totally took me out of the supposed realism with TTOI. I sure never would have predicted, based on that hammy performance, that Haig would go on to star in the worst decade of the preceding two millennia, The Wright Way. Similarly, The Fucker in s03e08 was a big disappointment. Ah, he flies off the handle. Just in a far less skilful and funny way than Tucker. Yawn.

Definitely less believable than Tucker (or indeed Jamie or the Fucker) but I still thought he was entertaining in his own cartoonish way. In fairness it was only part of the performance that was over the top, if that makes sense - the rage was obviously exaggerated and a bit silly (CHOO FUCKING CHOO) but his earlier slimey attempts to ingratiate were right on the money IMO, the uncomfortable cheek-kissing with Nicola Murray in particular.

Slight change of subject - what does everyone make of Peter Mannion? I actually find him probably the most sympathetic character in the whole thing, despite him being a Tory...not without his edges ("some of my best friends are money-grabbing wankers"...) but he generally seems to be, if not necessarily in it for the right reasons, then at least not in it for the wrong reasons. He just wants a quiet life, seems to hate all the spin as much as anyone and comes across as a decent bloke when he refuses to use Nicola Murray's problems with her kids against her. Maybe I'm forgetting some other bastardry. Either way he's one of the best characters in the show for me, every line is delivered brilliantly.

neveragain

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2019, 10:30:01 AM »
The Fucker always seemed like a meta joke about the show's indulgences. Lots of worried faces and fearful whispering then it's just another guy swearing. And he's only in one scene, isn't he? Definitely felt like a knowing gag to me.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2019, 10:48:00 AM »
I thought that was more down to the coalition government thing causing them to make massive changes to the story and the character of The Fucker getting dropped as a result. Wasn't series 4 delayed a little bit too? Maybe a scheduling problem.

It was kind of enjoyable seeing The Fucker compared to his character in In The Loop. Whatever his name is anyway I haven't watched it in a while, thanks.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #26 on: January 30, 2019, 10:50:28 AM »
Slight change of subject - what does everyone make of Peter Mannion? I actually find him probably the most sympathetic character in the whole thing, despite him being a Tory...not without his edges ("some of my best friends are money-grabbing wankers"...) but he generally seems to be, if not necessarily in it for the right reasons, then at least not in it for the wrong reasons. He just wants a quiet life, seems to hate all the spin as much as anyone and comes across as a decent bloke when he refuses to use Nicola Murray's problems with her kids against her. Maybe I'm forgetting some other bastardry. Either way he's one of the best characters in the show for me, every line is delivered brilliantly.

Yeah, he was a Tory but seemingly not a hardline one, politics aside he seemed reasonably principled in his behaviour as a politician. It's also easy to feel sorry for him when people like Stewart and Will are in full flow.

Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #27 on: January 30, 2019, 11:00:08 AM »
I really liked Steve Fleming and Haig's performance. He's a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Funcrusher

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2019, 11:01:33 AM »
Being a Scot, with his small gang of Scots, amongst the effete English is a part of Malcolm's character.

dr beat

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Re: What do you reckon to Malcolm Tucker?
« Reply #29 on: January 30, 2019, 11:28:35 AM »
I've always enjoyed Haig's performance as Steve Fleming, I thought the whole point of Fleming is that he unconvincingly hides the fact that he's no less an ogre than Tucker, in fact perhaps more so but a different style of one.