February 19, 2020 - 12:44pm

At an Intelligence Squared talk on ‘satire in the age of absurdity’ last night at the Union Chapel in Islington, Jess Phillips, Armando Iannucci and Jan Ravens discussed the difficulties of being a public figure in modern life. Phillips noted that high levels of online abuse had the odd effect of turning politicians into caricatures of themselves – and included herself. Here’s what she had to say:

Everyone hates you anyway so you might as well be just the worst caricature of yourself if you’re going to be faced with total vitriol all the time – there’s an element of that.

I remember, having had some sleepless nights and having Malcolm [Tucker] in my ear as I was sleeping. I was on Parliament Square and Alastair Campbell comes up as I’m talking to the political editor of The Sun newspaper, a man called Tom Newton-Dunn who’s a nice chap and incredibly posh. And I’d just been elected and he said to me: “Oh Jess we’d love to have you, you’re so The Sun newspaper” He said this to me in an incredibly posh voice.

I think what he was saying was that “you’re a bit common”. I took it well, but Alastair Campbell literally tore up behind me and started shouting at me and I felt like I was in an episode of The Thick of It. I felt like “Oh my gosh” I’ve watched too much of that telly at night. I do think that the caricatures that people inhabit, the thing that everybody knows about them actually inform the way you behave, or you think well “fuck it”, I’m just going to behave like that.

- Jess Phillips