Did my ears deceive me on a dark and dismal Northern Ireland night last week? I could have sworn I heard you screaming from an upstairs bedroom window at Hillsborough Castle: “I’m the Prime Minister — get me out of here.”
Maybe it was Peter Robinson, or Martin McGuinness, but the most likely suspect was your good Scottish self. Unlike them and the others holed up in the castle, you had a bed to rest upon in which you must have experienced one of the worst political nightmares of your life.
It made for fantastic television. Here in Northern Ireland in the village of Hillsborough, County Down, we have the makings of a brand-new show which could achieve rocketing ratings as happened last week. I would call it: ‘Political Big Brother—get me out of here’.
We don’t need Ant and Dec to host the show nor do we have to send the participants into the wilds of the Australian outback or have them holed up in the Channel Four Big Brother house with Davina McCall standing outside. No, the Big Brother house is Hillsborough Castle. All our politicians are inside and are told to stay there for as long as is necessary to reach agreement.
Ant and Dec are UTV’s Ken Reid and BBC’s Mark Devenport and the part of Davina McCall is played by Stephen Nolan in drag. Once inside, housemates have the run of the castle but most of them rarely speak to one another unless forced to do so by Big Brother played by your good self, who has come all the way from 10 Downing Street in London to see them.
Big Brother has a cunning plan. He realises that the only way to get what he wants is to deprive the housemates of sleep. They enter the Big Brother house bright eyed and bushy tailed but soon they are hypnotised and are forced to stay awake long after their normal bedtime. The lights are dimmed and the atmosphere is soporific.
Occasionally a housemate peers forlornly from an upstairs window. Desperate for sleep, they reach a point where some will agree to anything. One or two escape into the freezing night and can be seen wandering about having a smoke behind the iron railings surrounding the Big Brother house.
Unlike the experience in the Australian jungle, they have no rope bridge to cross. Big Brother implores them to cross so many ravines in their minds that inevitably their heads as well as the viewing public’s are turned. Some housemates become seriously dysfunctional, displaying signs of paranoia but there is no way out.
Waiting outside the gates of the Big Brother house are a host of venomous media rattlesnakes. To avoid being eaten alive, any housemate who encounters them must smile sweetly and deny any political wrong-doing. Eventually the strongest begin to wilt in the face of Big Brother’s constant demands. Some housemates are so completely disorientated that it requires all their mental strength to hold onto their prejudices and differences. After six long days and nights, they are eventually broken.
Time is running out. Mind-sets begin to crack. Big Brother has left them to their own devices but he sends them a dire warning. If they don’t behave themselves, they face extinction.
Fortunately they do not have to eat a plateful of insects or crawl through a bed of scorpions. However there are other worse forfeits to pay. The housemates’ ears are bombarded with derogatory comments from outside the Big Brother house. They are told they are a bunch of wastrels.
“Not worth a truepenny damn,” proclaims Billy from east Belfast. “Total waste of time, get rid of them all,” says Marty from south Armagh. “Ought to be ashamed of themselves,” fumes Maisie from Malone. “A disgrace to humanity,” says Sadie from the Shankill.
They are also shown headlines from the Belfast Telegraph which reflect the public’s total exasperation and disgust with them. They are forced to listen to the Stephen Nolan show on Radio Ulster every morning. And they receive messages inside the Big Brother house that hundreds of workers are losing their jobs and even more face the dole unless housemates wise up and find some agreement with one another.
The excitement mounts as the clock ticks towards the end of the programme. In this show there is no question of only one housemate facing eviction. They know they can all be kicked out by Big Brother at the same time.
To spice things up, the producer introduces a new housemate — a ghostly figure wearing a bowler hat and an Orange sash. His appearance sends everyone into a frenzy including Big Brother himself. No one knows the identity of the man in the Orange sash but suddenly he makes an appearance in every room of the Big Brother house. After a week the housemates have had enough of him. They file out exhausted, mentally broken men and women. Somehow, they have survived the ordeal.
They cling to one another as they have never done before. They summon up sufficient strength to appear all sweetness and light for the television cameras. They have struck a deal between them they say.
In the final scene, they walk away from the Big Brother house. Standing in the doorway waving them goodbye is the man in the bowler hat and Orange sash. He disappears inside. The show is over. It has achieved incredible viewer ratings. The housemates hug one another and Big Brother returns to offer them his best wishes.
But what of the man in the Orange sash? Is he still haunting the Big Brother house or can he be exorcised for ever?
Don’t miss the next series of ‘Political Big Brother — get me out of here’ to be screened this coming July in glorious 3D Technicolor Orange
In the meantime, Gordon, many thanks for playing the part of Big Brother and coming to Northern Ireland to knock a few heads together. Not before time we all say.
“I’m the Prime Minister — get me out of here”. Surely that wasn’t you I heard screaming from an upstairs window at Hillsborough last week? Or was it?