Magazine article The Spectator

Everyone Likes Carol

Magazine article The Spectator

Everyone Likes Carol

Article excerpt

I had serious misgivings about Mummy's Wa r (Channel 4, Thursday), not least because of the cringe-making title, and the fact that, like every other television programme these days, it had to be presented by a celebrity. More or less the only way to become a celebrity is to appear on TV, and so the medium must constantly create from within itself the food it needs to survive. It's like drinking your own urine -- you suspect that, as a survival mechanism, it can't go on for ever.

Newsreaders become historians, comedians are turned into birdwatchers or organists, politicians reinvent themselves as weight-watchers, singers are dancers, interior decorators are roped in to debate the existence of God. Alan Titchmarsh is on almost everything. (Whatever happened to Charlie Dimmock? I hope she's all right. ) There is an endless carousel in which the same people crop up on makeover programmes, 'reality' shows, talent contests and game shows until Saturday night is dominated by Should We Join the Euro? Interactive debate with the cast of Celebrity Pro-Am Snooker, starring Emma Bunton, Dale Winton and Ann Widdecombe.

Carol Thatcher is a double celebrity. As the daughter of Margaret Thatcher she had a measure of fame in her own -- or rather, her mother's -- right. But winning I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here furnished her with her own genuine celebrity status, far greater among the steadily growing number of young people who are only vaguely aware of who her mother was.

So Channel 4 marked the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War by sending her off to the islands and, more briefly, to Argentina.

The reason it worked was that, as I'm a Celebrity showed, more or less everyone likes Carol. Unlike her brother, for whom no one except his Mum has a good word, she wears her family lightly. She is far from obsessive about politics, and you always have the slight sense that, if she wasn't who she is, she might not even have voted for her mother. The only time she ever saw her speak to Parliament was in the emergency Saturday debate in 1982. She is clever, unpretentious, game and slightly eccentric, which always goes down well on television.

And the programme was surprisingly moving, much quieter and more reflective than, say, Mummy's victory tour the year after the war. (She came up there with one of the finest of her many unconscious double entendres; invited to sit on a field gun and fire it, she inquired, 'will it jerk me off? …

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