TV review: The Politician's Husband

In the corridors of power, there is no room more perfect for relaxation and contemplation than the gents’ lavvies.

David Tennant and Emily Watson play competitive husband and wife MPs
David Tennant and Emily Watson play competitive husband and wife MPs

And it is here, slugging from a hip flask handed to him by his soon to be ex-best friend, that Aiden Hoynes prepares to commit political suicide.

I think at some point in time we wanted Dr Who to make a leadership bid for the UK. He just seemed so fair minded, so good at problem solving.

But now, David Tennant is flunking his great attempt at political takeover.

This is The Politician’s Husband, last night’s highbrow drama on BBC2, and my word it’s serious.

The slow, rising violin is very serious. The grey palette which colours the show is ever so serious. Even David Tennant’s hair is pretty serious. He looks a little bit like Damon Hill.

Playing MP Hoynes, alongside Emily Watson as his wife and fellow MP Freya Gardner, he challenges the Prime Minister’s stance on immigration in parliament, believing support to exist around the unnamed ruling party.

But he has been betrayed by his colleagues, and finds his position as Business Secretary untenable. He’s out of power, fast, to sit at home moping and thinking about what might have been. Freya quickly moves in, offered a position in the cabinet, while plotting to use it to undermine the PM.

There’s a competitive edge between the couple, of course – to the extent that they even snipe and bicker while engaged in their … um … marital activities.

And ultimately she prefers politics as her bedfellow, her lust for power consuming her commitment to her spouse. She betrays her husband, throws him to the lions (well, Kirsty Wark), and toes the party line as he seethes silently at home, a glass shattering in his bony, furious, Timelord hand.

It’s safe to assume that the chat over supper is going to be a smidgen frosty when she gets home.

The landscape of political television has changed since The Thick Of It. Westminster has never seemed so catty, so absurd, yet so utterly plausible.

And The Politician’s Husband doesn’t so much invite comparisons as court them, even casting one of TTOI’s main protagonists – bumbling dinosaur Peter Mannion MP – as another MP in this.

The dialogue is clunky at times.

“To stay top dog, you may have to unleash the bitch within you,” Tennant tells Watson, before his Dad says: “You left Oxford and went straight into the hothouse of Westminster,” to ‘bury himself in the cess pit of power politics’.

Maybe it’s the little things that let it down – I don’t want to be a nerd about this, but I’m pretty sure that they use the wrong font for the headline on the front of The Sun.

As ever, Watson plays her part perfectly. It’s not an easy thing to find a poor performance from Watson, and she doesn’t disappoint here, layering class and subtlety onto a drama that otherwise plays things far too straight.

But she’s not helped by either the script, the tone, or the disappointing truth that The Politician’s Husband fails to get the pulses racing.

A hothouse of power politics Westminster may be, but sadly, the opening episode of this drama is rather more of a cold shower.

Thom Kennedy

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