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For the families and friends of the more than 200,000 people in this country who have died from Covid, this England will be very painful to watch. That pain will be compounded by the fact that so many scenes of the TV drama were made up to fit into a story that seems to aim to diminish Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie in the eyes of the world.
Yes, the drama is captivating to watch. But as someone who served in Boris’s cabinet and was health minister during the Covid pandemic, I have to say that the six-part series is dangerously tendentious.
Admittedly, the producers have posted a disclaimer for each episode stating that the drama is fictional, based on true events. But the fact that scenes are interspersed with real news footage makes it very deceiving. Also, many scenes with politicians and officials are eerily convincing.
I can indeed confirm that. Some of the events depicted, for example at the Ministry of Health and Social Care, are unnervingly accurate in their details about Zoom conversations and the positions of staff during meetings.
But as for the treatment of Boris himself, the series is personally invasive and cruel. And any fiction writer knows it’s easier to present what you wish had happened rather than present an accurate version of the truth.
Of course Sir Kenneth Branagh, as Boris, is fantastic. Who could see the actor in something and not be completely fascinated?
Some of the most unfair scenes include what can only be described as the screenwriters’ feverish fantasies, in which the Prime Minister tosses and turns in bed while tormented by dreams.
This was clearly invented. How on earth could they have known about Boris’ dreams?
It is true that vivid nightmares are one of the most common symptoms of Covid. I remember it clearly myself.
However, Sky Atlantic has used this as a way of heartlessly inventing dreams that the producers wish Boris had to cynically direct viewers’ inappropriate attention to personal issues, such as his relationship with his children from his second marriage, where each of them is given a name. individually.
As for Carrie, she is a woman who prefers to be out of the spotlight. She is extremely private and shuns publicity. During her time in number 10, she was probably photographed, filmed and interviewed far less often than the partner or wife of another recent prime minister.
Having been with her when the going got really tough, I can attest that her calmness comes into its own and she is a tower of strength, both for Boris and those around her.
Ignorant of the truth, the creators of This England had to concoct a storyline around her and clearly didn’t challenge any duff information they got from whatever attention seeker they liked to use to spice up their story.
The show cynically draws viewers’ attention to personal matters, such as his relationship with his children from his second marriage, naming each one individually.
The vast majority of Carrie scenes never happened. The character portrayed is simply not the person who recognizes or knows anyone close to Carrie
The fact is, the vast majority of Carrie scenes never happened. The character portrayed is simply not the person who recognizes or knows anyone close to Carrie.
She would never ask anyone to shop responsibly, as the series repeatedly suggests. There is an absurd plotline involving a secret friendship with a male friend that is pure – and poisonous – fiction. There are conversations, scenarios and apparent events that are just crudely made up.
All of these fabrications are cleverly intertwined with factual content about key government meetings about the pandemic where real life is replicated almost verbatim.
Of course Sir Kenneth Branagh, as Boris, is fantastic. Who could see the actor in something and not be completely fascinated? I’ve been a fan of Branagh ever since I saw him play Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1992.
Was his portrayal of Boris correct? Unfortunately not. Branagh must have used material and obtained information about our former Prime Minister that was inaccurate. During filming, a left filter was placed over the camera lens – as is so often the case with TV drama these days.
It is a tragedy that such a jaundiced image has been presented in This England – especially at a time when the eyes of the world are on this country. But I suppose I expected nothing less from a self-contemplating, metropolitan, theatrical class whose favorite sport is trying to score on the Johnsons.