Mention of Farage leads our conversation towards Brexit and Graham’s forthcoming TV drama. ‘My town was one of the top 10 that voted to leave. The vast majority of my friends growing up would have voted leave and people in my family voted leave,’ he says. ‘So I feel a sense of responsibility about not favouring one side over the other and not depicting heroes where there are none.’ Earlier this year a rough draft of Graham’s script was stolen and leaked online, an experience he found ‘embarrassing, exposing and annoying — you are mucking about in the privacy of your own home, and thinking maybe this and maybe that, then it gets pored over by journalists and real life people, which felt unfair.’
Now that the rules of politics, identity and nationhood appear to be up for grabs, he understands that our communal sense of fairness is under threat. This summer part of his Brexit script was leaked. There was some hoo-ha: Brexit campaigners and even the former Trump strategist Steve Bannon denounced the script’s inaccuracies. Graham didn’t think this was fair. He pointed out that the script that was leaked was an early draft and that to find a way to dramatise the truth in a way that was entertaining as well as accurate — to do something that you couldn’t just get by reading a newspaper or listening to Today — he had to try ideas on for size. He understands how close to the bone so much of this stuff is for so many of us.
“What disappointed me is that it made the whole enterprise look insensitive or brash, whereas from the inside it feels delicate. So I was annoyed because I am not unaware of the responsibility of telling this story. I like to feel really inclusive and open. And so I was annoyed that that got stolen from me, that the scripts got sent to people I was in the middle of having a dialogue with.”
He voted Remain in the referendum. Did researching and writing it change his mind about Brexit? He’s not sure. He spent time with the Vote Leave camp and was surprised by how “suited and booted” they were in contrast to the “brash and cocky” image they projected. He is also fascinated in the minutiae of big campaigns, the granular details: how do you hire people? Where do you put the desks? Do you use WhatsApp or do you text? Who orders the pizzas? What kind of pizzas? He likes a constrained timespan for his stories: the five years of the Labour government in This House; 24 hours in London in Sketching. So eventually he restricted the timespan of Brexit to the ten weeks of the campaign. Would someone know, from watching the finished show, how its author voted? “Um . . . no. If they do then I’ve failed. I’ll have absolutely failed.”
It’s a great interview and as I said above, the interviewer already watched it. I don’t think we have a date (am I right?) but it seems it’s already finished.
A summary: according to them, Cumming is the hero/anti-hero of the piece. Not a mention of Rory Kinnear’s character! Cumming is a rude guy who says what he thinks and absolutely hates the establishment. He wants to center the efforts of the campaign on Internet meanwhile other more traditional strategists want an old style campaign. That’s the main conflict. Graham compares Cummings to Cromwell (there was a writer promoting a book about him) with the interviewer saying he isn’t so diplomatic as Cromwell and the specialist correcting him saying that Cromwell was actually also rude and interested in new technologies. The interviewer said Cummings is “on the tragic side” meanwhile famous faces as Gove and Johnson are “on the comic side”. I guess they are presented as the buffoons they are! He said they are the comic relief! He also said that it’s a fair representation of both sides but that there’s a suggestion of criminal activity by the Leave campaign. Graham said that’s his interpretation and not necessarily what he wanted! The scriptwriter then defended his posture of that it’s the right time to do a film about Brexit and that it’s not the definitive version of it. Just a movie based in concrete facts we know by now.
He is a clown indeed but I think he is also very intelligent. I remember El País comparing him to Trump when it was suspected he would be the Prime Minister and that was the conclusion: like him but smart which supposendly make it more dangerous although on the other hand he wasn't too stupid to try to be Prime Minister after he saw the mess they did! The biggest problem with people like him is that they are there for personal gain. Then there are people like Cummings that it seems really believe in what they are doing.