With hindsight, Ed Balls was ahead of the curve.
It was a can't-look-away, chew-your-toes moment when the nation watched a former Secretary of State ride an invisible pony to the tune of a Korean club hit. And we discovered that we could be fond of those who ruled over us, so long as they entertained on the way.
Just as Simon Cowell's minions once merely had to issue a generalised invitation for people with talent, and are now reduced to trawling Porkhub looking for fetishes that will just about pass with a family teatime audience, politics has gone from being a vocation for people of conviction and experience to being a form of semi-residential care for those who can't be sectioned, because they've frightened all the doctors off.
Perhaps, once, we thought it would be interesting to have a blustering showman as Prime Minister, and a frustrated geography teacher who despises Year 8, as Leader of the Opposition. Maybe there are those among us, even now, who find it amusing that the political editor of the BBC has to try and explain how the s**t-posting, circlejerking and thread-jacking of bedroom-dwelling stinkteens can influence an actual general election.
If the best reality TV is highly-political – divided camps working to destroy each other, alliances, romances, enmities – then the worst sort of politics has to be when Parliament turns into the sort of third-rate reality TV show that even Paul Danan would give a wide berth, for fear it would destroy his brand as an unreliable maniac.
We should have spotted this sooner. Reality TV spawned Hatie Plopkins, James Jordan, and an S-shaped nail file, all of which we could arguably have lived without. Throw in the downward spiral of Jade Goody, all of Katie Price's marriages and public pile-ons that began with Nasty Nick for committing the crime of DISCUSSING THINGS, and the world would surely be improved by reality TV getting its tubes tied.
On the one hand, Gangnam Style. But on the other, that thing in the White House.
There's the Prime Minister, quote-tweeting himself and shambolically bollocking-on about the Northern Irish border like a drunk middle-manager at the work Christmas do, who knows nothing at all about the Northern Irish border and is about to piss himself before tearfully begging a colleague for a shag.
The rest of the cast include someone who thinks women get raped because they take their knickers off, someone who resigned as a minister despite saying he did nothing wrong, and someone who thinks Shylock isn't Jewish but just a really useful analogy for housing policy.
There's Nigel, who supports Brexit so much he wants to stop it, and there's Mogg, who says poor people only burn if they're stupid but "oh, offending anyone was the LAST thing on my mind".
Gone are the days when a politician resigned because they took responsibility. Gone are the governments with a plan or purpose beyond their continued survival. And gone, too, are the voters who were taken seriously enough that the politicians had to do serious work to impress them.
It's a numbers game, now. Clicks. Views. Just enough engagement, with just enough people, in just enough constituencies, to get a government of some sort which will, whatever its hue, invariably do much the same as the last one. No-one is trying to build a real movement for the people, yet they all try to claim they have enough zealots to qualify as one.
Where's the democratic exit strategy, when a whole country finds itself forced to choose between Strictly, Apprentice, and I'm A Non-entity, Please Vote Me Into Parliament? Well, take heart, dear reader. For it lies in the cold darkness of December 12.
No-one gets voted into the jungle, ballroom or boardroom. They put themselves forward, and when their humiliation is complete we vote them out. No politician is voted into power either, they just get voted into the sea.
And every reality strand withers because, after a while, Bedlam gets boring. When this talentless s**tshow asks us to make an effort on one of the shortest days of the year, in minus temperatures, darkness, ice and driving rain, there's every chance the result will be a Great British Bugger Off to all concerned.
A Parliament with poor ratings will go one of three ways – corporate sponsorship, telephone votes, or a self-destructive spiral that in a mercifully short time may just lead to apologies, renewal, and more fans.
Good luck, everyone. We're going to need it.
General election 2019
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