Plato and Hazel Blears do not often make it into the same sentence but they do share a common concern: from ancient Greece to the Salford Chipmunk, the arts have troubled the polis.
Admittedly Hazel Blears is not as extreme in her views as Plato, who sought to banish poets from his Republic for fear of their deleterious effect on the citizenry. Nonetheless Blears, speaking last year when still a Minister, expressed her worries about the corrosive effect of fictional accounts of politics and politicians on this country. Wondering why people might be deterred from participation in politics, she ruminated that one factor might be its portrayal on our TV screens. While Americans enjoy a tradition of uplifting political narratives from Mr Smith Goes to Washington to The West Wing, by contrast the British, she argued, are served with a diet of either the incompetent (Yes, Minister) or Machiavellian (House of Cards); two tendencies synthesized today in The Thick of It where clueless ministers are the playthings of conniving spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.