This brilliantly observed satire of party politics and spin doctors was commissioned by David Frost in 1966 and was a box office failure on release, although it has since gained cult status.
The cast reads like a who’s who of British comedy, with Graham Chapman, fellow Monty Python member John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Denholm Elliott and Arthur Lowe all showing up to lend Peter Cook a hand.
The laughs are patchy and the series of farcical sketches sometimes fails to hit the mark, but the tightly constructed story is a frighteningly incisive forecast of modern day politics.
The shadowy “coordination expert” Michael Rimmer (Peter Cook) gets a job with an advertising agency, swiftly rises through the ranks, and turns around its fortunes until he eventually runs the company.
He instigates a flood of polls aimed at English householders and sabotages his competitor’s reputation by sending a bus full of stooges to Nuneaton and telling the opposition’s market researchers they’re Buddhists. When the poll results show 95 percent of the Nuneaton populace are Buddhists, the rival agency’s reputation is in tatters.
His imaginative scheme enables him to predict the outcome of a by-election by polling the whole constituency.
Rimmer then enters politics at the behest of Conservative opposition leader Tom Hutchinson (Ronald Fraser) and sets out to capture a trophy wife to aid his political goals.
He quickly becomes Conservative Member of Parliament for Budleigh Moor (geddit?), becomes a cabinet minister and eventually moves into 10 Downing Street after slyly pushing the serving Prime Minister off a North Sea gold platform.
Rimmer’s futuristic vision of true democracy is that every eligible voter in Britain can cast ballots via a television remote control.
Alas, the electorate tire of the endless referendum questions and propel the ruthless Rimmer to the position of dictatorial President of Great Britain by relinquishing all decisions to him.
George A. Cooper
Sir Eric Bentley