Telly talk: The Project

Telly talk: The Project

THE video will be on at Tony Blair's house this weekend. Points Of View can expect a stern letter on Downing Street headed notepaper.

Award-winning director Peter Kosminsky doesn't pull any punches: "The Project is one of the most serious and worrying films I have ever researched."

Work started three years ago on the two-part drama, which tells the story of a group of three Manchester University students who become involved in politics during their studies.

Moving to London in 1991, one gets a job for the BBC, while the other two begin working for the Labour Party after Neil Kinnock's election defeat to John Major in 1992.

The first film, Opposition, follows their experiences in the years leading up to 1997, ending in Labour's landslide election victory which brought Blair to power. It's followed the next night by part two, Government, which concludes with Labour's second election success in 2001.

Like Peter's previous films, the drama is the result of exhaustive research - including over 120 interviews with key figures who worked for Labour before and after 1997.

He explains: "Our research led us inexorably to the conclusion that many of the people who were working for Labour did become profoundly disillusioned and many left, some voluntarily and some not so voluntarily. As broadcasters and journalists, we have a duty to highlight that problem without fear or favour.

"The Project is a fictional drama set within a factual framework," adds the director, whose previous works include Warriors and Shoot To Kill, about the John Stalker affair.

Partly filmed in Manchester, with the town hall again doubling for Westminster, it features Spooks star Matthew Macfadyen as Paul, who joins Labour as a press officer and ends up as Special Adviser at No 10. Maggie, played by Naomie Harris, is elected as MP for her home town, while Irene (Paloma Baeza) eventually moves to a job on Radio 4's Today programme.


"Paul has been my most challenging role to date," reveals Matthew, "but also one of the most rewarding. Throughout Labour's first term in government he gradually becomes disillusioned as he realises that they are sacrificing some of their main policies in an attempt to hold on to power.

"I would hope that young people might watch The Project, because we are living in a time where people are becoming more and more apathetic about politics - but maybe this could be due to a lack of good politicians!"

Peter shares the actor's concern. "I wanted to look at why it might be that these three people, who decide after the 1992 election to immerse themselves in politics, become disillusioned after 1997 in what should have been a fantastic period for them.

"When, after being in opposition for four successive governments, Labour finally came to power, that should have been a time when young people came back into politics, came back to the Labour Party. But, instead, after they were elected, they began to feel disenfranchised."

He adds: "Turn-out has fallen with every general election. The public seem less and less interested in politics in this country and less trusting of those who are involved in politics.

"I am profoundly depressed and frightened by the way we are progressing. Membership of political parties is falling and people of talent are not going into politics because, unless their motives are extremely narrow, they believe that they will be lied to. They believe that they won't be able to do any good because the party machine is too powerful and their voice won't be heard.

"One only has to look at the history of the last century to see what happens when people develop a contempt for their own political institutions. We mustn't forget that these institutions were extremely hard fought for. They didn't drop out of the sky. If the political process becomes so devalued that people lose respect for the process and no longer care whether they have these rights, then extremists will step into that vacuum."

The Project starts this Sunday, November 10, at 9pm on BBC1.