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I love Malcolm Tucker, and rate Armando Iannucci, but he should not have taken OBE

Posted on 17 June 2012 | 10:06am

Off to Queen’s for the tennis today, Royal Box hospitality with a few members of the sporting elite and UK Establishment, hoping that perhaps the UKE’s latest recruit, Armando Iannucci OBE, might be there so I can finally get an answer to the question: why did he take it?

I see from The Observer that he said Chris Hoy does not cycle any better or worse by dint of having taken a knighthood. But to my mind there is a big difference. Chris Hoy has never set himself up as a tail-tweaker of the Establishment. Armando Iannucci has. He has made his name, and considerable deserved wealth, on the back of it.

The twitter row I provoked yesterday went a lot bigger than I thought it would, and as ever, people tended to frame their responses according to set views. So I was working for the government at the time of Iraq war, and therefore cannot possibly criticise a satirist. Not sure I follow the logic. I have a set view about the honours system – I don’t like it, and about hypocrisy – I don’t like that either. As I said on Channel 4 last night – yes Channel 4 follow where twitter spats lead – I have no animus whatever against Armando, who I think is very clever, very funny, a worthy recipient of all sorts of awards and honours. But I felt this one was a bad one for him to accept, and that it would blunt his impact as a satirist. I think I am as entitled to say that just as he is entitled to say – wrongly – that modern politics is all about spin.

Let me also deal with one of the myths that many repeddled yesterday, namely that I find Malcolm Tucker and The Thick of It boring. Au contraire. Tucker is a great comic creation, and I confess to a little disappointment when actor Peter Capaldi said it was less based on me than Harvey Bernstein (I think). I also think The Thick of It was at its best brilliant. Where the myth came from was that I said on The Culture Show that I got bored watching the film version, In The Loop.

People say they like people in politics to say what they think, but this is an example of a case where that is shown not to be true. Saying what you think leads them to say, as many did yesterday, that I resented the linking of me and Tucker, and therefore had been sitting in wait for a chance to slug his creator. Not so. I was genuinely surprised Iannucci accepted an honour, and given I have views on the honours system, I said so.

His analysis of politics is that politicians never answer questions properly. Yet the purpose of my tweets was to get him to answer the question above. Why? Two tweets about Iraq and WMD had his many admirers chortling merrily. But it was an evasion so obvious Tucker would not have approved, any more than he would have approved of him taking the honour.

I sensed his defensiveness about it in his quote in the Daily Record, when he said if the OBE was an attempt by the Government to stop him taking the mick out of politicians, it won’t work. Fair enough. But what yesterday suggested is that he is a tad thin-skinned when he finds it is he, rather than people in politics, who are on the receiving end of accusations of hypocrisy and difficult direct questions.

As for all those who commented that I had a book to promote … That is a statement of fact. Burden of Power, diaries from 9-11 t the war in Iraq. Second installment in The Guardian tomorrow. Book in shops Thursday.if you click back to the homepage, there is a link to Amazon. Tata. Sun’s out. Canapés await. Tennis to follow.

  • tl;dr

  • Jfry8

    amazing hates the honours syetme BUt prepared to sit in the royal box etc…total hypocrite !

  • Anonymous

    I find it genuinely appalling that people still make comparisons about you working for Tony Blair’s government at the start of the Iraq War and ‘satire’. It is a farce of modern politics that policy makers and their advisers who make difficult decisions on the merits of evidence given to them subsequently have their opinions ‘invalidated’ by morons on twitter. As for the actual article, I agree – the OBE has too many connotations these days (it shouldn’t, but it does) so to accept it as a satirist is a strange decision. Regards. 

  • Mark Wright

    I divide the honours into two camps:

    MBE: For lollipop ladies and general proles in order to make ‘And finally…’ stories for the news.

    Knighthood: A gift to establishment figures in order to reinforce their social standing and influence as part of the British hierarchy. Seldom reported on the news despite the honour itself wielding considerably more clout than the MBE.  

    George Harrison summed it up best when The Beatles were awarded the MBE:

    “After all we did for Britain, selling that corduroy and making it swing, all we got was a bit of tin on a piece of leather.”


    Maybe Armando plans to ‘do a Lennon’ in the future and this is all just part of his machiavellian scheme to satirise the establishment yet further?

    P’raps not though, eh?  

  • Russell Wardrop

    The WMD line was satirical genius and Iannucci may feel he should leave it at that (he is unlikely to find a better punch line).

    But you are spot-on. When I heard he had accepted my immediate thought was, “That seems strange. Why did he do that?”

  • Andypalmer177

    Him receiving an honour isn’t hypocrisy. He is merely acknowledging others appreciation for his contribution. He is entitled to it and that’s got nothing to do with you. Lord Prescott on the other hand…

    • Richard

      For services to infidelity, bullying, hypocrisy and office shagging Prescott earned his peerage. Pure hard graft.

  • 1. hardly anyone believes you. 
    2. the’ tut tut’ displayed the superciliousness that helps people dislike you
    3. Armando is funny and you aren’t.
    4. Many ‘establishments’ would honour Armando for being a great comedy writer and satirist; only Blair would offer to honour you for helping him with his Iraq lies.
    5. you seem bitter and angry – I do hope you are.

    • Mel

      You seem bitter too – but that doesn’t matter. Are you funny? That seems to be the trump card.

  • Michele

    I suppose you should have known what to expect with your ‘OBE’ dig, he has one weapon in his armoury and it will always always be used in any dialogue between the two of you; it doesn’t need any backing up, it’s populist, cynical and it’s lies but hey ho …… he’s a satirist, he sees no duty on him to stick to facts even when off stage.

  • If New Labour’s former liar extraordinaire want’s to criticise comedians on very minor points of hypocrisy, he has that right, but he should also expect these criticisms to attract the spittle and boos he has so thoroughly earned from the British public.

  • Tuffgonging

    who cares? you don’t come out of this looking very good tbh

  • Dave Simons

    I don’t think the invasion of Iraq was about WMD any more than it was about the promotion of democracy. US Republicans had been spoiling for a fight with Saddam before 9/11 and the latter gave them an excuse to get on with it and reassert US power in the world after all the shock and humiliation of that world-changing event. The fact that Iraq was not involved in 9/11 was an irrelevance.
    The position that New Labour took in relation to US Republicanism had a history dating from 1982, when Old Labour was humiliated in the House of Commons by Margaret Thatcher over the Falklands. Tony Blair’s stance had a precedent in Neil Kinnock’s broadcast to the nation before the ground forces went into Iraq in 1991. Never again was Labour going to be humiliated over its policies on defense. New Labour was going to be as tough as, if not tougher than, the Conservatives, the supposed party of the tough-minded.
    In actual fact Old Labour had been tough before, for instance when Labour politicians in the 1930s Coalition government opposed Chamberlain’s appeasement policy relative to Hitler. Unfortunately Churchill was allowed to hog all the kudos for this while the Old Labour politicians got about as much kudos as Leon Trotsky, who was ahead of all of them.
    The detail relating to the build-up for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is very important, but let’s be clear about the overall policies that drove the detail.

  • Having seen that Twitter exchange yesterday I agree with Alastair. It didn’t seem that big a deal. I was surprised when Channel 4 raised it then The Observer this morning like some almighty row had taken place.

    I guess Iannucci is more conservative than his comedy suggests. His response to being called on it did seem a bit lame. Maybe we expect something more from a man with access to such a formidable wit.

    And for what it’s worth, reading your tweets Alastair, you don’t come over remotely Tucker-ish. Sorry if that’s not so flattering. Perhaps the “come the f**k in or f**k the f**k off” type stuff went with the old post. Like the job is one thing, the person another. As with spin-doctors, so with satirists.

  • Michele

    Isn’t it lying to accuse someone of it when you have zero first hand knowledge and when there are lots of sources of first hand witness evidence that you must have ignored?

  • Michele

     Who’s said they hate the honours system then?
    What have this lot of ‘honours’ …. decided by Cameron & Team and agreed with the Queen ….. got to do with a part of a building?

    You’re just a lemming drawn in by the media hype LOL (or were perhaps a tad sloshed?)..

    • Richard

      “So @ AIannucci OBE joins the Establishment he claims to deride. Malcolm Tucker and I do not approve of honours system,” Campbell said on Twitter.

      Rottie, down girl.
      1. You may have failed to notice AC
       was receiving hospitality in Royal Box at Queens.
      2. AC does not approve of honours system.
      3. Were you pissed?

  • Michele

     Ho hum ……..
    Urban Dictionary: tl;dr
    Literally, “Too long; didn’t read” Said whenever a nerd makes a post that is too long to bother reading.——-Yet the second nerd did bother joining to make his flounce. LOL – not Cam’s version

    • Richard

      FO YSB!

  • Michele

    I’m glad UN sanctions on the country have ended.
    I’m glad that countries like India are no longer busting them (to the benefit of only the very rich Iraqis).
    They never would have ended with SH in power.
    I’m also glad that SH and his cousin are dead, it’s not something I think or would say very often.

  • Anonymous

    The whole honours thing sucks so anyone who accepts one has a weak spot in their intellect somewhere.   A friend accepted one because it was an endorsement of his charitable activities and he believed it would help with future fundraising for same – but that’s about the only excuse I’d accept.
    Iannucci and others should reflect on who else has received honours in the last couple of years, and why – and he might then feel it’s all rather meaningless.Of course, satirists are by no means necessarily anti-establishment.  Look at Peter Cooke – he had a pop at Harold Macmillan but was apparently quite conservative himself.  Ian Hislop is another who lampoons politicians but is deeply and ever more openly conservative.  No idea about Iannucci but I agree that accepting an ‘Other Bugger’s Effort’ suggests he just wants to be liked.  Sweet.

  • Janiete

    I think satirists who dish it out should be able to take it. I assume Iannucci is embarrassed at the suggestion that his anti-establishment credentials might be rather shallow, or worse, merely an invention or platform on which to base his career.

    Who knows, perhaps he’s also been in favour of the Iraq war all along, but as it might damage his career, can’t admit it!

  • simon

    Alastair – come off it. You’re as much ‘establishment’ as anyone else.

  • Michele

    Yuk … I mentioned earlier that this gong was bestowed by Cameron c/o Her Maj ….. but maybe not.
    Iannucci supported the LibDems in 2010 (having said somewhere that he’d been wavering between them and Labour).

    I can’t decide which is worst, him having accepted the gong thinking it was initiated by Dave or by Nick (or not worrying either way).

  • Anonymous

    You have caused quite a fuss with this Alastair, which is nice – there is something sickly about the honours system. It seems that some are choosen out of a hat, or a pin put into a list of names blindfolded. Who is to say that one school crossing patroller is better than another. For instance, all nurses that work for at least twenty-five years in the NHS should get an MBE/OBE, dependent on rank at that point. But the NHS is a Labour idea, isn’t it?

    The armed forces is a very conventional in its makeup when looked into, but when push comes to shove, it is usually the more unconventional ones that get a VC or other, ones more indivitdualistic and anti-establishment in character and mentality, and not be ones who’d you think would be up the list for these type of honours of time service.

    It’s a strange system, this honours system, and seems to more connected to how often you doft your hat in your time, and not ever question.

  • Dave Simons

     Get rid of the apostrophe and you might be taken seriously.

  • Dave Simons


  • My opinion, shared by the overwhelming majority of the country, is that we were duped into supporting the Bush administration by Blair with the help of Campbell and others. I was one of the million or so who demonstrated in Hyde Park. 

    I think both Blair and Campbell are practiced liars who may even believe their own rehashed versions of events leading up to the invasion of Iraq. I don’t, and never will, believe them.  

    • Michele

       I’m glad you watch the language here if not elsewhere, potty mouth xxx

      So it’s all a matter of what you THINK, not what you KNOW, that’s what I said innit?

      What I THINK about what TB KNEW about Dubbya was that with or without other countries GBJnr would invade Iraq. 
      It would have been another Vietnam. 
      It would have been without restraint, without the example OUR soldiers set in Basra and without the philosophy that Col Tim Collins put in place for how OUR military would behave which he, in turn, had been briefed was to be the modus; the country and its history and its people were to be respected.
      TB ensured it became an international endeavour, there were to be witnesses, there were to be no weapons experiments such as those in Vietnam.

      We have lost some good people from our own military, that is what you should feel sick about, not about bigging yourself up in defence of a showbiz personality who has traded on the war for years.

      AC doesn’t have the right to demand an explanation from Iainnucci imhoo, he does have the right to tease him and boy oh boy oh boy hasn’t Iannucci shown what a cynical spoiled brat he has become (along with wealthy ….. I doubt any of his Iraq-inspired scripts’ proceeds have gone to any Iraqi charities but am willing to be corrected). 
      Perhaps we should refer to him as ‘Untouchable’ or ‘Spoilsport’ or even something like Out of Bounds for ………. suggestions beginning with E.

  • Ehtch

    Alastair, was I dreaming or did I see an ad on the telly yesterday, or the day before, that Halfords are selling a line in Chris Boardman bikes? I like the bloke, so I thought I’d mention it it, since I have posted a series of cycling vids on him, alledgedly him by the way, the first one I did, darting traffic in Wales downhill, past the Welsh National Library and Aber Uni,

    Not totally sure it is him, since last I heard his knees were knackered, but they could have been replaced in the last couple of years.

  • Ehtch

    oh jeezuz, that was a youtube link on there I did post, to people and friends I meet, this is the proper youtube link for here. Why am I starting to talk like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, and why am starting to talk like his apartment mate, Leonard, who knows – Sheldon – oh no, not cats? for gawd sakes Shelley…

  • reaguns

    Heh heh, it must be the euro 2012 theme cos that’s a cracking finish Alastair re the promotion! Could I suggest making a viral clip of you nutting Ianucci before the next edition – a sort of Scottish happy slap.

    On the euro 2012 theme, this spat reminds me of the current Keane vs Trappatoni one in that I like both protagonists.

    I think there is nothing wrong with Ianucci accepting an OBE and indeed he deserves one for his satirical work, I find no contradiction in that.

    I do however find a contradiction at him bristling when a target has a go back, as Alastair quite rightly points out.

    I must admit I thought it sounded like sour grapes when Alastair criticised in the loop, though I was surprised that he wouldn’t think this looked too obvious. Perhaps he is right, re saying what you think. But I have adjusted my position based on what Alastair says here.

    Anyway big fan of both, looking forward to new diary and to new series in the thick of it.

  • Clare

    My husband recorded episodes of The Friday Night Armistice on VHS in the late nineties and we finally got the chance to see them a couple of years ago.

    What stood out what how much was said about Iraq, even then.

    Many who are against the war say that we should have done more to negotiate with Saddam.  Well those episodes clearly demonstrated that we had been trying to talk to him for a very long time and before Bush came anywhere near the presidency.

    Thanks Iannucci for making that clear for us.

  • Ehtch

    say no more Alastair, who you complain, he has shown his underlining patheticness, his pathetic all through life need for establishment wotsit – chchch, shown himself up, hasn’t he Alastair. A true hypocrite. Knew there was something of a prick about him, and he got proprtionally worse to his hair loss. He’s let me down as well Alastair, he fooled me too.

  • Anonymous

    Just watching The Big Bang Theory when Leonard buys a sofa, and Shelley is a bit miffed when his lawnchairs he used are set aside,

    Song for Sheldon, very US in the middle of nowhere,

  • Michele

    This is a little off-topic although it’s still about satire and tendencies to go off-colour, drunk on success, make value judgements on people in much more difficult roles.

    Rebecca Front did a wonderful series of radio sketches a couple of weeks ago, acting with her brother Jeremy.
    The format was like the original method of Dead Ringers, combining two RL personalities in to one character.
    For the last episode the two RL people  sounded as if the impersonation was Patty Smith jumbled with Marie Colvin.
    The sneer content was completely shocking and I kept thinking I must be imagining it.  I might not have felt the same if MC hadn’t so recently been killed.

    I couldn’t be a war correspondent and on occasions have wondered whether some people get high on the adrenalin of it all ……… as happens with a huge capacity for staying awake, I know 🙁
    but am more aware recently of correspondents’ value.
    The interview that Shaun Ley did with a young-sounding woman from Human Rights Watch in Libya some months ago changed my mind, it was live and during it the girl rounded a corner and gasped as she described what she was seeing, then she started stumbling her words and apologising for upsetting listeners. 
    She was obviously winded and in shock but still apologising for other people’s feelings. 
    Shaun Ley didn’t want to lose her while she was in such a state or for her to be punishing herself for what wasn’t her fault.

    The words that I keep thinking when reading those defending Iannucci are ‘sneer content’.

  • Michele

     Is ‘do not approve of’ the same as ‘hate’ Richard?

    Did you overlook the jokiness of ‘Malcolm Tucker and I’ ?

    Down boy.

  • Michele

     Wow, getting all het up Rich?

    A twit claims he can’t be bothered to read a post yet bothers to post somewhere for the first time to say so.

    Irony Rich, just irony pet.

  • Dave Simons

     Is that ‘Far out, you sumptuous beauty’?

  • Michele

    ………….. preen …… 😀

  • Dave Simons

    Tony Blair was influenced by the large demonstrations by the Countryside Alliance, which were swelled by a mixture of the characteristic orchestration and bribery typical of big landowners and their minions. He should have been influenced by the larger and more spontaneous demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003. That he wasn’t says something about his political leanings and instincts. A million people demonstrating is a significant proportion of the population. I wasn’t on that demonstration – I was on holiday at the time – and there must have been millions more who would have supported the demonstration even though they were unable to attend. When people demonstrated against the Springboks in 1969 Harold Wilson cancelled the tour, and the effect on the upholders of the Apartheid regime in South Africa was stunning, as I’m sure Peter Hain will attest. I still think the Iraq invasion without UN backing was a colossal blunder, rooted in recent Labour history. The Tories, who, had they been in office would have gone along with Bush Junior, only more so, were the beneficiaries of that colossal blunder. Tony Blair scraped through another General Election afterwards but the writing was on the wall for 2010 before Gordon Brown became PM. However I don’t think the ‘practiced liars’ theory illuminates anything – I’m pretty sure TB genuinely thought he was doing the right thing (or, as Cameron keeps saying about other matters like a stuck needle, “It was the right thing to do”). I just think TB wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I know 2 Iraqis, hardly a reliably large sample I’ll grant you, but one thinks Saddam Hussein was the most evil murderer, who deserved to die, the other when I asked him “So was Saddam Evil or do you think the US just wants the oil and all that” said “a bit of both I think” in other words yes he is evil but were it not for oil he’d probably be allowed to carry on being evil and the spread of democracy would be put on hold.

  • Michele

     But the US haven’t ‘got’ the oil have they?

    The oil is no longer being burned off as had been happening for years, polluting the whole Earth, it’s now being collected cleanly and sold on the open market. 
    I believe it is being sold at the same price paid to other producers and hope it’s raising the quality of life for Iraqis.

    Contractors bid for the work in getting the hardware infrastructure built properly and I hope the highest bid has been another benefit.
    I think that’s how we got the North Sea oil flow started too isn’t it ….. as we didn’t yet have the expertise.

    Several ways of looking at everything, two Iraqis is hardly going to represent all iraqis.

  • Michele

     What with your initialism, your ‘pissed’ and your ‘shagging’ is this really the same poster that mithered about teenagers’ English a few months ago?

  • Ehtch

    oops, doffed even. Must us my dictionary more…

    I am still crap at spelling, in any language, my memory and brain function is naturally rubbish at spelling. That part of it’s room is taken up by other functions, you could conclude.

  • Anonymous

    Of course, I said that it wasn’t a reliable sample.

    I look at the thing from a colder perspective – are we and the iraqis in more or less danger now than if Saddam had been left in power, and I don’t know the answer. Remember Saddam was supported by the west for very good reasons – to control the more powerful Iran. Now Iran’s influence in the region is greater, but I don’t know which was better. Again, I trust the military intelligence and geopolitical analysts in US/UK more than I trust my own opinion or journos opinion on this one.

  • Michele

     There was never any pretence that we were in great danger ourselves from Saddam.  The 45mins furore  wasn’t about something capable of reaching UK (it would have been irrelevant anyway, given that at any time some nutter with a vial of germs could be coming down some steps at Heathrow).

    It’s strange that UK took the side of Iraq vs Iran during 80s.  Nuff said.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, when I say “them” being a threat to “us” I just mean middle eastern totalitarian extremists in general versus us the west in general terms, ie by starting more wars there, cutting off oil supplies, sponsoring terrorism, wasn’t talking about 45 mins and all that stuff, though of course we should keep an eye on their WMD plans too.

    I don’t think its at all strange that US/UK took Iraq’s side vs Iran. It has been a standard rule of combat for thousands of years, you support the lesser evil, or rather the lesser power (iraq) in order to fight the bigger power (iran), for the same reasons we supported Stalin vs Hitler, and the Taliban against the Soviet Union.

    I think the ancient Chinese called the strategy “Use a rat to kill a rat.” It was also employed by the British in Northern Ireland, denied of course, but british intelligence helped Loyalist paramilitaries assassinate Republican paramilitaries once they realised it was politically unfeasible to use the SAS to do the same.

  • My apologies’.

  • Ha.
    Harvey Weinstein.

  • doombadger

    Iannucci is a genius.