The two docudramas chosen for this essay are The Deal (2003) and Einstein and Eddington (2008). The first is a political story of significance to recent domestic and foreign policy in Britain. The latter is an enduring story of two men of science, whose discoveries and theories are central to modern physics and astronomy. Both docudramas were premiered in Channel 4 and reached a sizeable British television audience. Both films were appreciated by critics for their style and content. Yet, the focus and aesthetics of the two docudramas are quite different. This essay will evaluate the social relevance of each of these films in the broader context of the potential for docudramas for inducing positive social change.
The Deal is an interesting docudrama about two stars of recent Labour Party history – Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. The Labour Party won three successive elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005 under the premiership of Tony Blair. But Blair was not an automatic choice for party leadership when its then leader John Smith expired of heart-attack in 1994. Indeed, Gordon Brown was a senior to Blair in the party hierarchy and is thought to be a strong intellectual force for the party. But his major weakness was his moody temperament. Brown was also perceived to lack charisma and social grace which are essential in the political arena. It is in this context that Tony Blair made open his leadership ambitions. The ensuing drama of secret negotiations and political intrigue is the subject of The Deal. The film begins from Labour’s electoral disaster of 1983,
“the year both men entered the Commons, up to that fateful supper at Granita, where Tony ordered the rabbit and polenta and another glass of wine and Gordon grunted that he’d just have water. Eleven years earlier they had been friends, sharing an office, developing mild crushes on each other and performing a puckish double act in committee. Brown started off as Blair’s hero rather than the other way round, but no man is a hero to his office mate for long. Brown’s mistake was to remain too long Blair’s apologist.” (Billen, 2003, p. 46)
The social relevance of The Deal is not immediately evident. The Labour Party regime of close to 14 years from 1997 to 2010 has had many social, economic and foreign policy implications. The policies implemented and laws enacted during the period have affected British citizenry of all demographic categories. For example, central public institutions like the National Health Services and public industries underwent policy changes that were perceived to be more socialistic and inclusive. These changes had come at the end of a decade and half of Thatcherism – first envisioned and implemented by Margaret Thatcher and later continued by John Major. Though Thatcherism had the support of public mandate during its time, it has slowly acquired negative connotations in retrospect. Today it stands for aggressive right wing policy making at the cost of social welfare. (Sierz, 2003, p.75) The subsequent success of the New Labour under Blair-Brown leadership saw some remedy in social policy. It is this important turn around in British policy direction that gives a degree of social relevance to The Deal.