Thank you, Love Island, for making broken Britain a happier place
There was only one story in town this week. It wasn’t Brexit. It wasn’t Diana. It wasn’t even the never-ending car crash that is Donald Trump and his weird, creepy family. Having said that, is it just me, or does Jared Kushner look like he’s been cryogenically frozen in his freshman year? Jared, Madame Tussauds called. It needs its waxwork back.
But forget all that. This week, the only thing that mattered was the final of Love Island. The hit ITV 2 show has gripped the nation – including politicians and political commentators. Not since George Galloway donned a leotard, got on all fours and purred, “Shall I be the cat?” has there been so much interest in a reality television show.
Even though I had a 5am start the next morning, I found myself live-tweeting the final with MPs, political journalists and a highly respected charity leader who was glued to her phone for updates as she was in Jerusalem two hours ahead of the UK.
But why? The show’s unapologetically sunny simplicity and lightness was like a tall glass of water for a nation thirsting for something other than angry folk shouting at one another about the customs union or a second referendum. The news cycle and what we see on our screens, including popular culture, have been dark for long time now. It’s all doom, gloom, human suffering, heartbreak, death, division, austerity, injustice – and that’s just Poldark. Plus, Love Island features lots of very easy-on-the-eye human beings, who are clearly dodging the pie counter at Greggs, and frolicking about in not very many clothes.
And there are things politics could learn from Love Island, although to be clear, I am not suggesting for one second that any politician anywhere tries to rock a thong.
1) Authenticity shines through all the gamesmanship and spin. Even though “muggy” Mike was the scheming lothario playing people off against one another, we ended up loving the honesty of Kem and Marcel, even though they were a bit naive and sweet. It was a bit like Jeremy Corbyn in the general election campaign.
2) We can smell a rat – even if he’s a Calvin Klein underwear model who quotes Naomi Klein. Jamie was a late arrival to the villa of lust and hooked up with the lovely, leftwing Camilla, who is a gentle wee soul. Camilla had had a rough time in the house. She cried a lot, especially when some beast called Jonny told her he didn’t believe in feminism. But then the brocialist hunk in trunks swept her off her feet and she found herself head over heels.
Could it last outside in the outside world? I was initially misty-eyed about “Jamilla” but that was soon knocked out of me by fellow Love Island political addicts. “Snake,” hissed an MP. “Oh yeah it’s Mr Fake,” declared a senior commentator. And I think they were right. When Jamie was asked by Caroline Flack whether they would be a couple on the outside, there was a series of slightly alarming pauses: “Erm … yeah … well … let’s see how it goes …” Camilla must have felt her poor heart freeze. To be honest, the signs were there. When they were discussing their ideal holiday together, he suggested they go raving in Ibiza; she wanted to take him to a refugee camp. Awks.
3) The brilliant narrator Iain Stirling is Scottish, so the union still very much works, thank you very much.
4) We don’t like people who are too nice and safe and – dare I say it – a bit too posh and straight. We like someone with a bit of an edge. With a flash of personality, fun, spirit, and even a temper. We want some signs of life. Theresa May would have sucked on Love Island (I realise my editor may make me rephrase that.)
The results were nail-biting. Our friend in the Holy Land was going mad. “What’s happening now?” she tweeted furiously. “Currently a Go Compare advert,” someone replied. Then Caroline Flack announced the results with Dimbleby-like gravitas. The couple who all the political people wanted to win didn’t! It was just like Brexit all over again. Hot, feisty couple Olivia and Chris came third and lost out to the people’s choice, Kem and Amber, aka Kember. They’re very cute and are basically the new Gavin and Stacey. She’s from Wales and he’s from Romford. The reaction from the political and media establishment to the result on my Twitter feed went along these lines: “We woz robbed!”, “Liv is the new Hillary!”, “I’m starting an APP group for Chris and Liv!”, “Je suis Liv …”
On it went. I’m surprised we didn’t demand a judge-led inquiry. We never learn, do we? The people have spoken. We must respect their decision. But here’s the big take-away. In these divided times, I believe Love Island may be the thing able to heal our angry country. There have already been high-level, cross-party talks between Labour and the SNP about an official Love Island state visit to the House of Commons. When I say high-level, I mean on a Twitter thread involving Labour’s Lucy Powell, the SNP’s Stewart McDonald, and me, but it’s a start. Can you even begin to imagine the stampede for selfies from the MPs? Actually, scrap that idea on health and safety grounds. I think the contestants have been through enough.
Ayesha Hazarika performs her standup show, State of the Nation, between 14 and 20 August, at 7.30pm, at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh