So far in my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid ever having to go on one of those awful team-building retreat things. I’ve had to suffer through a few team-building exercises while at work and that means I can fully sympathise with Peter Mannion in this week’s episode of The Thick Of It, as Stewart takes him and some lower-ranked government types away for an ideas session that Mannion hates literally every minute of (he calls it Stewart’s ‘Mind Kampf’).
To make matters worse for Peter, this away day happens to be a bank holiday too, so instead of relaxing at home, he’s forced to endure various energy-sapping exercises which increasingly frustrate him. When everyone has political ideas stuck on their heads and have to try and guess them, Peter is doing so half-heartedly, and gives up when he guesses at ‘diversity’ only to discover that it was actually ‘inclusivity’ which he thinks is basically the same thing, isn’t it? (The answer being no, obviously)
He then finds himself sitting in a circle with everyone else, as a ball is tossed around. Whoever catches it has to come up with a new policy idea, and then throws it to another person with the mantra ‘Yes and ho!’ Naturally, the ideas become more and more idiotic, until Stewart catches the ball and suggests getting rid of computers, which is the electronic straw that finally breaks Peter’s camel-like back. He demands the ball from Stewart and suggests getting rid of him instead, going on a furious (and hilarious) rant about Stewart’s nonsense jargoning might have been alright when the party was in opposition, but now that they’re in power and it’s ‘…all gone a bit JG Ballard’, it’s irrelevant and infantile.
It’s at this point that the group are interrupted (despite there definitely not being a ‘Do Disturb’ sign up), because Phil, Terri and Glenn have desperately been trying to contact Mannion and Stewart. The reason for this is rather urgent, as the oft-mocked Mr. Tickle (pronounced Tick-El, but said as tickle by everyone at DOSAC), an NHS housing campaigner, has killed himself. With Stewart, Peter and Emma away, junior minister Fergus and his special advisor Adam have gotten themselves into a mess following Mr Tickle’s untimely demise.
Fergus and Adam had been discussing a taxpayer-funded community bank with an attractive economist (there was some awkward not-quite flirting coming from both men) when the Tickle news broke, and she could hear some of Phil’s rather insensitive comments. In an effort to get rid of her, they rashly agree to this new policy, which would require £2billion of funding, something they really aren’t in a position to do. When Mannion and Stewart return to DOSAC HQ, they are far from thrilled at this news.
The problems are really mounting up now, as Tickle’s suicide is headline news (with the media asking Mannion if the government drove him to suicide), and a policy agreed to that cannot possibly happen. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there’s public embarrassment for Stewart and Peter as a photograph of them trying to get a mobile reception on their retreat hits the internet, and it’s not flattering. The only available reception was at the top of a slide in a kids play area, and the photo shows Stewart reaching for reception while Mannion appears to be using the slide.
Stewart seems to have a total breakdown after the photo leaks, and there’s no doubt that it’s been a horrible day for the government, and a day that is almost certain to be something Malcolm is all over in next week’s opposition episode.