BBC One ★★★★✩
IT IS not exactly going out on a limb to describe politicians as a slippery bunch, seemingly motivated by ambition more than principle. So you have to steel yourself to have the stomach for Roadkill (BBC One), in which writer David Hare and Line Of Duty director Michael Keillor present us with yet another set of schemers and backstabbers in the style of House Of Cards.
There’s a power play at the heart of a Tory government, prime minister Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) and rising minister Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) are circling each other like vultures scenting the blood of a career-wrecking scandal. As characters, these are variations on a familiar theme but what keeps Roadkill firmly on track is the sheer electability of the performances, with Laurie and McCrory at the top of their game.
Wisely, Hare doesn’t overplay the zeitgeist card and Laurie’s Laurence, all pent-up anger and fake integrity, steers adroitly clear of caricaturing any current minister. Shockingly, for all his brazen deception and innate arrogance, Laurence is a politician you can actually imagine putting your trust in. Not that Roadkill doesn’t have its bit to say on the state of the nation.
There are echoes of the way politics has played out in 2020 when Laurence puts a finger on his popular appeal during a radio phone-in.
‘People think of me as a character — and they’d much rather be led by a character than by zombies,’ he muses
He’s also a man who realises he has to seize the moment.
In another light-bulb flash, he notes: ‘Great Britain is going to be redefined as… what exactly?
‘It can’t all be nostalgia. This is the moment we start again as a nation.’
As he vomits up that pearl of wisdom, you get the feeling Laurence actually believes what he’s saying.
Which makes him the perfect modern politician — he’s even able to spin himself.