The Thick Of It Guide to Politics

Want to learn how politics really works? Well bin your newspaper and forget Question Time, you clueless ponce, because only The Thick Of It tells it like it really is. Read and learn.

Nicola Murray and Malcolm Tucker

The free press is an affront to decent, hardworking MPs everywhere. As such, it's perfectly fine to attack, censor and smear journalists any time you can. When faced with bolshy hack Angela Heaney, Malcolm Tucker assured her he'd blacklist her so she'd be lucky to get a job on hospital radio. And when columnist Simon Hewitt wrote an attack piece, Malcolm decided to "piss in his cornflakes, sadly only metaphorically" by having him smeared as the "borderline homoerotic" pal of a disgruntled former minister.

Journalists are the enemy Resigning is a good career move

The public, being morons, think that the process of resigning is an effective punishment for inept politicians. Actually that's nonsense. Unless the politician is being ousted for shooting up smack through his eye socket or performing self-abuse in a hotel room while dressed as Ronald McDonald, going a little bit early is actually the perfect way to get respect and position yourself for future greatness. It certainly worked for Dan Miller, the smoothest of operators (aka the "brushed aluminium cyber-prick").

Get into bed with the opposition (literally)

Attacking the opposition is good. Having full sex with them is better, if you want to gather gossip and drip-feed misinformation. The trick is to hate the person you're sleeping with. Well aware of this fact, Malcolm basically pimped Olly out to the other side, forcing him to continue his toxic farce of a romance with Emma and find out more about her party's plans. Of course, she ended up nabbing confidential ideas off him too. And they say romance is dead. Deal with leaks promptly

Like jowls and the occasional love child, leaks are a fact of life in politics. But that doesn't mean you should tolerate them. On discovering that Julius Nicholson had been passing info to the press, Malcolm and Jamie reacted swiftly and with appropriate force. First of all they attacked him with Chinese food – primarily chow mein – and then brought cheese into play, ordering him to "eat the f*cking cheese". This is a textbook example of exactly how to deal with leaks when they occur.

Live like a tramp

To work in politics means accepting that the rest of the country despises you and begrudges you any kind of comfort or happiness. As Malcolm put it to Nicola, "they don't like you having expenses, they don't like you being paid, they'd rather you lived in a f*cking cave". So expel all luxuries. And non-luxuries. That ergonomic chair essential for the health of your back? The public would see it as a "massive vibrating throne". Bin it.

Betray everything you hold dear

Principles are all very well... if you're an idiot. In politics, you've got to be a grown up, and that means compromising on all your most deeply-held positions at the drop of a hat. See Hugh Abbot, who was vigorously opposed to merging special schools with ordinary schools, and believed in the mantra that "inclusion is an illusion". So what happened when he was ordered to argue the exact opposite in front of a select committee? "Inclusion is NOT an illusion," he said. Passionately. If cornered, lie

Staying with Hugh and that select committee hearing – they actually found evidence he'd been lying to them, which is always a thorny issue for politicians. Basically, the rule of thumb is: lie, lie well, and lie often. Caught out in a lie? Lie about lying. Or, as Hugh put it, "I categorically did not knowingly not tell the truth. Even though unknowingly I might not have done." Job done.

If in doubt, make up a policy

There's no better way to get a government department in the news, or curry favour with the PM, than making up a policy. Nicola Murray had a great one about making kids play with more wooden toys, or something. Olly had an instant idea to increase the number of quiet carriages on trains. Hugh Abbot wasn't quite as good at spontaneous policy-making: his one was something to do with dog shit. It didn't really get much further than that during the brainstorming session, if we're honest. Be careful with focus groups

Now that politics has become unburdened by passion or conviction, the best way to tell your policy idea's any good is to throw it to a focus group. Let the smell out and see if anyone gags on it. But be warned: focus groups are full of actors PRETENDING to be the voices of Middle England. So resist the urge to go with the one person who just happens to agree with your policy. Chances are, they're just an elitist, Islington-dwelling, artisan cheese-eating ponce killing time before they're next up to play a vicar on Midsomer Murders.

Swap sides at the drop of a hat

Loyalty to the leader of the party is good, until their position becomes slightly unstable. At which point you must not only switch sides, but give them a good backstabbing to curry favour with whoever the new guy is. Malcolm understood this when he sold out the PM's legacy and made himself indispensible to new leader Tom Davis by destroying Tom's own spin doctor. And if you feel a twinge of remorse, remember what Malcolm once said. "Scruples, what are they? Those low-fat Kettle Chips?"

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