It was a strange Interview.
In a short angry speech the Rt Hon Dennis Clarke announced his resignation as Home Office Minister on the grounds that: ‘The defeat of his bill to extend the law on youth crime had made his position untenable, and he could no longer support government policy.’
His sudden resignation added depth to a nationwide spate of stabbings which had already become a hot topic throughout the country, and he was eagerly invited onto ‘Ben and Bev’s Bright and Breezy Show’ to explain his position.
Alternating top gossip with profound events of the day, Ben and Beverley skilfully tailored their interview styles from sincere to jokey in a studio furnished like a comfortable sitting room plus a close focus zoom camera ready to home onto emotional moments.
Explosive laughter and high powered chat was already underway as the ex -minister waited to be called. It all radiated bubbly cheeriness, and now he had doubts about appearing on the programme. Dressing casually wasn’t going be enough to shake off the mien of a government Minister, and he was fearful he would appear before millions of viewers as a pompous lack-lustre party pooper. But too late, the door opened, and he was ushered onto a settee beside a rap artist who welcomed him with a grin and ‘Up Yours!’ tattooed diagonally on his neck.
Ben introduced him.
‘As you may know, Dennis Clarke has caused a stir by resigning as Home Office minister because…’ He turned to the ex-minister. ‘Because you can no longer support government policy on juvenile crime. Have I got that right?’
‘That is correct’ He felt stiff and formal.
‘And I understand that you want parents to be held legally responsible if their kids break the law?
‘Yes, I believe that parents are responsible for the welfare and behaviour of their children from the moment of conception.’ He felt doubly stiff and formal because he could never bring himself to say ‘kids’ in place of ‘children’.
Ben angled his head to the viewers.
‘And are you a parent Mr Clarke?’
‘I am, but call me Dennis.’ Even his attempt at informality seemed hollow and insincere.
Ben scanned both sofas. ‘Hands up any more parents.’
‘Up Yours’ and the Celebrity Chef raised their hands, and Beverly, the co-presenter chimed: ‘Don’t forget me. Two already, and one on the way!’ She patted her belly to congratulatory Coo’s and claps.
‘So make your case Dennis.’
Clearly he was being set up as a white male of a ‘certain age’ with white male of a ‘certain age’ views and started to panic. But wait a minute! This was the new trendy BBC, the BBC of tearful close-ups where emotion rules OK, and this was clearly an emotional forum. So forget hoity – toity impartiality and give it full welly.’
He turned to Ben.
‘And are you a parent Ben?’
‘Three kids and still counting,’ beamed Ben
‘And after last night I’ll be a parent of twins!’ proclaimed the illusionist.
Dennis waited for the whoops and laughter to subside.
‘Well I’m lucky to still be a parent.’ His voice rose as he spoke. ‘When Allan fell through the front door with a torn ear and blood-soaked ‘T’ shirt I wanted the breeders of those knifers to pay for it.’
‘Your son was stabbed?’
‘Yes – for fun I suppose.’ They videoed it; there’ll be money for it somewhere.’
The moment flashed before Dennis in video format; the studio fell silent; the camera closed in, and Ben and Beverley scored credits as he bent forward clasping his head in his hands.’ Any semblance to an ex government minister vanished. Here before them was a distraught father, and the mood darkened to one of concern.
Beverley positively exuded sympathy. ‘That’s dreadful Dennis I’m so sorry.’ She allowed time for the intensity of the moment to fade. ‘But do you know why your bill was refused?’
‘Cowardice – you mean from MPs?’
‘Yes, MPs scared of losing the parental vote. In private most of them said they’d support my bill.’ He shrugged. ‘But there you are – that’s politics.’
The celebrity chef gave voice to the growing anxiety ‘So what are they going to do about the stabbings and young crime?’
‘Dennis spoke offhandedly. ‘They’ll be ringing the same old bells I suppose. More police; more family support; better local services – I could go on’ He scanned their faces. ‘But why ask me? My bill failed. And you are the new parents; it’s up to you now.’
‘But you must have given it some thought?’
‘You can bet I’ve given it thought!’ He directed an expletive at the ceiling. ‘I think about it each time my son rasps for breath. I think about decent youngsters in A&E departments. And I think about my two-faced so called honourable friends in parliament!’
He felt better for the outburst then something came to mind and he added a whiff of humour to the air as he laughed in open disbelieve at what he was about to suggest.’
‘You’ve just had an idea?’
‘I have.’ He shook his head in bemusement. ‘But something tells me I’m really going to regret this.’
‘Then you must go on!’ chorused Ben and Beverly.’
‘There will have to be petitions – maybe even campaigns.’
‘Go on!’ urged Ben.
‘You are making this very difficult.’ He fidgeted awkwardly on the sofa. ‘I really can’t believe I’m suggesting this.’
‘But go on. Don’t stop now!’ Insisted Ben amid signs of suppressed laughter.
‘Then we must have a national debate’
‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’
‘Followed by a referendum of course!’
The studio exploded into groans and laughter, and wiping more tears from his eyes Evan added:
‘And that’s really shot my reputation.’
As the programme closed it was handshakes all round, starting with ‘Up Yours’ who promised to be a better dad. It had been a cathartic experience, and no longer feeling a ‘white male of certain age’ he made for the hospital to check on his son’s progress after the operation.