Malcolm Tucker

Written by @EllieDangerous
After relinquishing his TARDIS keys, Peter Capaldi teased a return to Malcolm Tucker; the chalk to the Doctor’s cheese. Now creator Armando Iannucci has revived him for a debate with Alan Partridge in The Big Issue. You can see approval rippling through Britain, whose political climate is so bizarre we're kind of living in a less plausible version of 'The Thick of It'. We need Malcolm Tucker, a spin doctor so accomplished he could probably rebrand Brexit as a remedy for badger constipation. Be warned: this post is a celebration of Malcolm. Ergo, it will contain swearing. So read the fuck on or fuck the fuck off.

Spoiler Alert
Actually, where better place to start than the fucks? We know it, Malcolm knows it — swearing can hammer down an otherwise limp point. It’s a solid means of releasing anger, rejecting repression, and rebelling against the startled flocks of Mary Whitehouses that endeavour to fly well above the filth. Malcolm, the Director of Communications for Number 10, welcomes the filth. He communicates by splashing around in it like a pig. (Don't ask me why there's a pig in Number 10, we're a year too late for that joke.)

In the first episode of 'The Thick of It', we’re introduced to Malcolm with help from storytelling’s most satisfying method of character introduction: foreshadowing. Before we even lay eyes on the bastard we can tell who he is by how others talk about him.

"Malcolm's there."
"Malcolm? Where? In there? Why?"
"It's just a social call."
"A social call? Jesus Christ."

Yes Malcolm is in there, and he’s on the phone, describing his terrified Minister as useless. Absolutely useless. As useless as a marzipan dildo.

This first instance of Malcolm Tucker filth is one of the best, and — even better — it’s just the tip of the iceberg. (Scottish swearing is extra funny, by the way. I'm Scottish so I should fucking know.)

Anyway, Tucker is a champion of the popular rule that swearing is neither the lowest form of wit nor the sign of a poor vocabulary. Malcolm appeals because he doesn’t need to speak like a ponce to have the biggest brain in the room. He plants moles, deals in bluffs and double-bluffs, and has Westminster on puppet strings. His ideas are bright enough for the opposition to steal — which, of course, he then uses to his advantage. A philosopher in wolf’s clothing, Tucker coined the term “omnishambles”, subsequently lauded as the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2012.

Perhaps his way of “coping” with colleagues would be less forgivable if they didn’t deserve it. Malcolm's Westminster is absolutely an omnishambles, from a Cabinet Minister being “so dense that light bends around him”, right down to Ollie Reeder making himself way too comfortable — “Feet off the furniture you Oxbridge twat, you're not on a punt now." Everyone can name a few people who should be shamed by Malcolm. Like Larry David, who is also a bawbag, he cannot curb his enthusiasm, shrugging off societal expectations so he can say what we can't.

This is not the only way in which Malcolm could be accused of being sympathetic. He seems genuinely to care. For every broken nose (sorry Glenn) there’s an actual ideology — hence the passion. Malcolm is endlessly frustrated by the floppy-haired elite and their unearned comfort; he’d rather they lived in a fucking cave.

We all love it when an antihero rides into the sunset, but nobody can hold on to their high horse in 'The Thick of It'. Not even Malcolm. As all sad clowns tell us, the best comedies have a hint of melancholy; and Peter Capaldi has good eyes for melancholy. So, for example, while we begrudgingly admit his ex-girlfriend is better off with Malcolm's arch enemy than with him, we still sympathise. And in the final series, when we spot a small child in the window of his house, we can’t help but wonder if he has a family we’re missing. A layer that makes Malcolm's failure all the more miserable.

And heaven knows he’s miserable when he’s arrested for perjury, squinting in the spotlight of the baying press. For a moment it seems like he’s about to launch into the tirade to kill all tirades, but all he says, after a moment’s contemplation, is... “It doesn’t matter.”

It does matter though, doesn’t it. Absurd parliamentary mishaps are going to have to keep playing out in the real world until we can get Malcolm back for good — but I guess it's fuckity-bye for now.
I read all the blogs, because basically I’m an unemployed fat fucking loser with nothing better to do with my time than sit in my bedroom like a fat spacehopper in a tracksuit, reading inconsequential, un-spellchecked shit, fabricated by other fat, foul, fucking losers.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 20 October 2017

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