One thing’s for certain, anyone watching The Politician’s Husband who believed all politicos were out for what they can get will not have had their opinion changed. Those of us who believe passionately in the work done by our MPs will have found the programme grimly frustrating. Is it too easy to write political characters as baddies? I’m under no illusion that it takes a certain type of ego to want to run the country (and I write as someone with ambitions that incline that way), but how helpful is it to have the democratic process painted so black?
For all that there were some lovely touches. Freya turned out to be both a faithful wife and a brilliant politician, ultimately winning the leadership election by being the only character to stay true to her ideals and principles. It has to be said that the ending was the least surprising twist ever (they both walked into Number 10 and you were supposed to assume husband Aiden was the Prime Minister, but David Tennant does wounded dog expressions too well to full off that surprise). It was not a particularly sensual drama but there was certainly plenty of sex. In writer Paula Milne’s world all MPs are rutting stags, clearly someone has been reading too much Edwina Currie. I am more than a little confident that it is not standard practise for an MP to rape their wife after a bad day at the office, this happened in the middle episode but I felt was a bit too much of a shock tactic. Freya struck me as strong enough to boot him out the door immediately after the attack.
While focus from other reviewers has understandably been on the central performances from Emily Watson and David Tennant, I think we should instead focus on Jack Shephard, as Aiden’s dad, and Roger Allam, as the Chief Whip. Allam was quite clearly born for this role, to the extent I suspect if he slipped into Parliament tomorrow no one would notice. I was particularly keen on the way we never met the Prime Minister, Allam’s character instead acting as an unbreakable boundary. I would hope this again was artistic license, and that David Cameron is a little easier to reach. As for Jack Shephard, he was the best drawn character, wonderfully astute and about the only one whose head had not travelled up his backside. Praise should also go to Oscar Kennedy, who gave a pitch perfect performance as the politicians’ son, suffering from Aspergers, by turns sympathetic and terrifying.
For me, the real star of the show was a lovingly lit and (I presume) faithfully reproduced Houses of Parliament. Shown in all its Gothic splendour, the set served as a testament that for all the petty squabbles that MPs may have, the Parliament still survives. External night shots portrayed Parliament as a beacon, drawing the power hungry to it. I think the old cliché ‘like moths to a flame’ probably sums this up.
I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of Milne’s drama was. I suspect she holds politicians in utter contempt; Milne certainly doesn’t seem to approve of the male ones. Unfortunately, The Politician’s Husband strove so hard to be a compelling thriller that it came off as overblown. For my own tastes, I would have preferred something that was a little less made for TV and a bit more factual, but this was an admirable effort.
Contributed by Victoria Prior