Michael Howard, Mr Big and a Gang-Bang in the Prison Showers? What a Movie That Would Make

By French, Sean | New Statesman (1996), October 9, 1998 | Go to article overview

Michael Howard, Mr Big and a Gang-Bang in the Prison Showers? What a Movie That Would Make


French, Sean, New Statesman (1996)


Regular readers of this column may recall that one of my hobbies is the creation of scenarios for potential movies which I then make freely available to anybody to take, develop, pitch, as they think fit. So, you can imagine my excitement this week when I read about Michael Howard spending a night in Brixton prison, along with two hundred other people involved in the administration of penal policy (including, for some reason, the presenter of Gladiators, Ulrika Jonsson). They all stayed in the newly refurbished "A wing" and it was all in a good cause, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Howard (who, I should perhaps remind my younger readers, was the last, perhaps the last ever, Tory home secretary) wrote an article about his experience in the Guardian, from which I will quote just one paragraph, which shows that this was not exactly Nelson Mandela on Robben Island: "The bed was hard but I slept well. It was not particularly noisy and I read the Spectator before nodding off." My own sentiments exactly.

But my mind was instantly buzzing with possible ideas for movies. The obvious boring idea is a fly-on-the-wall documentary. If Howard had any sense, he would have arranged one himself, one of this new breed of documentaries in which former government ministers (Patten, Portillo) rehabilitate themselves by walking around in open-necked shirts. There would be "amusing" moments, as Howard was checked in, with winks and half-smiles as the warders asked him about sharp objects.

In the final scene, Howard would say with a twinkle in his eye: "I think we were all taught a lesson. I don't think Ulrika enjoyed being banged up all night. But seriously," and now the jaw would clench, "it does demonstrate that a firm and responsible . . ."

But that's not what I had in mind. Not at all. My first scenario has the working title of Short Sharp Shock. Two hundred judges, celebrities, a notoriously unpopular ex-home secretary and a blonde television celebrity are spending the night in a recently refurbished wing of a prison as a publicity stunt. But it all goes horribly wrong when there is a riot among the cons and they seize control of the prison. In the initial chaos there are a few acts of horrific violence as certain lifers take revenge on the judges who sentenced them and the ex-home secretary is painfully made to discover the meaning of the term "cell bitch" (in a scene which is condemned by the Daily Mail and results in the abolition of the British Board of Film Classification). …

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