“Lot’s of swearing, excessive alcohol intake, brief nudity, hints of lesbianism and the possibility of a three-in-a-bed sex romp, all played out live on TV is the shot in the arm British democracy needs,” opines leading media consultant Tristram Up-D’Arcy, who , with the backing of an influential cross-party Parliamentary Committee, is proposing to apply the techniques of reality TV to the moribund world of UK politics. “It’s all a case of hitting on the right format – we don’t want anything tacky like Channel Five’s The Farm , for example. The sight of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell wanking off a pig could prove hugely counterproductive. Not that we’re against a certain degree of raunchiness – a quick, even subliminal, flash of Tony Blair’s cock could work wonders for him in the polls.” Casting envious eyes across the Atlantic following the record voter turnout figures for the recent Presidential election, British politicians have finally admitted that radical steps must be taken if the UK’s political institutions are not to lose legitimacy as a result of voter apathy. “More than sixty percent – how do the Yanks do it?” ponders senior Labour MP Doug Finker, Chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Electoral Reform. “We could barely muster fifty percent for our last General election and subsequent local and European elections got even less than that! It’s not as if we’re doing anything different – vicious political infighting, unpopular wars, an untrustworthy and duplicitous government and a reactionary religious nut for a leader!”

Indeed, a far higher proportion of young people participated in the votes to evict Big Brother contestants than voted in any of the UK’s recent elections. “It’s not surprising really, is it? Just look at what the last series of Big Brother had – violent fights, live shagging, homophobia and transsexuals! What can the House of Commons offer in response? Boring debates, sleeping MPs and meaningless votes,” observes Up-D’Arcy. “The only time the public ever gets interested in politics is when there’s a treat of violence – such as pro-hunt protesters storming the Commons – or a juicy sex scandal! Now, if we could offer Oliver Letwin being bent over the despatch box and rogered senseless by John Redwood every day, or the prospect of Geoff Hoon and ‘Fatty’ Soames wrestling naked to decide the outcome of some boring debate on the redeployment of British troops in Iraq, I can guarantee the Parliament TV Channel would see a meteoric ratings rise!”

Whilst agreeing in principle with the idea of ‘reality politics’, Sir Leonard Backhouse, Conservative MP and Vice Chair of the Electoral Reform Committee, still has doubts as to the proposed format. “I’ve seen the pilot they shot – thirty MPs locked in a mock-up of the Commons for two weeks whilst they debate topical issues, with the outcomes decided by public vote and the poorest performing MPs expelled – and I can’t help but feel that it actually trivialises politics,” he muses. “Discussions of serious issues are reduced to the level of drunken brawls, with the participants resorting to crude threats and vulgar insults instead of reasoned argument. Not only that, but the impression it gives the public of their democratic representatives is very negative. The sight of a drunken John Prescott urinating on Liam Fox from the public gallery as part of his ‘closing argument’ in a debate on Trade Union reform, or a paralytic Charles Kennedy eating his own vomit, are hardly likely to fill potential voters with confidence.”

However, Up-D’Arcy rejects such reservations. “Look, we tried other formats which would have explored the philosophical differences between the parties, but they just weren’t exciting enough,” he explains. “About the best we could come up with was Party Swap, where leading politicians swap political parties for a couple of weeks – we thought there’d be real potential for friction as Tory leader Michael Howard tries to push right-wing immigration policies through the Home Office, for instance. Trouble was, they all bloody agreed on everything! It took Alan Milburn two weeks to realise he was in the Tory Party!” Indeed, the closest they came to discord was when John Prescott misunderstood the concept and thought he was being asked to swap wives with Mr Howard, and shouted, “Bloody Hell, I’m not shagging that old boiler”, across the Commons Lobby. The media consultant also disagrees with the idea that a Big Brother type format would alienate viewers. “Surely a drunken pub brawl is the average level of public political debate in this country,” he contends. “I think the average voter would be reassured to know that his representatives were just average blokes like himself.”

So enamoured with the format is Up-D’Arcy, that he’s already talking about exporting the format overseas. “Foreign political systems, particularly those in the third world, offer some very exciting possibilities,” he enthuses. “Instead of unpopular politicians simply being voted out by viewers, they could be assassinated as the result of losing a public vote! In dictatorships the viewers could vote for which of the ruler’s opponents is tortured, ad maybe even select the form of torture too! The possibilities are endless! For many of these people it could be the only chance they get to vote – participation could actually lead to a mass movement for democracy in some countries!”

However, not everyone shares Up-D’Arcy’s vision of reality politics as being a force for global democratic reform. “We tried this sort of thing once before in the Labour Party,” says Doug Finker. “Last time be had a leadership contest, we ran it along the lines of a talent competition, and just look at what we got – that bloody Tony Blair wowed the younger members with his rendition of ‘Smoke On The Water’ on his electric guitar, whilst Prescott got the traditional vote with his bluff northern stand up comic act! Robin Cook with his Highland Fling and Margaret Beckett’s contortionist act just didn’t stand a chance! Let’s face it, being able to put your left leg behind your head and pick your nose with your big toe, is just no match for a great guitar riff or knob jokes in modern politics.”