Make Me Prime Minister, review: it's The Apprentice, but for political wannabes

Alastair Campbell and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi outside 10 Downing Street - Channel 4
Alastair Campbell and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi outside 10 Downing Street - Channel 4

Have we the stomach for Make Me Prime Minister (Channel 4)? A real-life edition has only just yawned across the whole summer, and after that gore-spattered winner-takes-all cage fight, appetites may have been sated, tolerance thresholds breached. The idea of this reality TV caper is that members of the public might do better than the various prime ministers we’ve recently had.

This six-part elimination show with silly stunts and ruthless scheming is essentially a knock-off of The Apprentice. The dozen candidates who have set their goals higher than a job with Baron Sugar are all perfectly ordinary people you’ve never heard of, much as you’d never heard of actual prime ministerial wannabe Rehman Chishti MP. Apart from Jackie Weaver, that is. The viral lockdown star has negotiated an extension to her 15 minutes of fame and feels like an intruder from a celebrity version of the same show. “It’s Jackie f---ing Weaver!” said one starstruck co-contestant.

Split into two groups, in this first episode the candidates were tasked with choosing a leader and then drumming up an education policy which they then had to present to the press and to primary school kids. It’s a toss up which audience was scarier. One aspiring PM dressed up as a robot to promote her team’s idea of futuristic learning. To push for more outdoor lessons, another wore flowers in his hair and danced round a maypole.

You do wonder if everyone had internalised too many of Boris Johnson’s photo opportunities, as this is not how anyone else does politics. Either that or Armando Iannucci was pulling strings somewhere off camera. The whole thing is moderated, banterously but also quite kindly, by Alastair Campbell and Sayeeda Warsi. Their main message is that, before anything – ideas, charisma, a moral core – you need a rhinoceros hide to get anywhere in politics.

At the end of this episode it was goodbye to poor old Darius, who as a baby escaped the Taliban in the back of lorry and is still only 23. The main thing he’d learned is how to gaslight himself. “I thought I did really well,” he concluded after a televised hustings where he was trounced by the more plausible Natalie in a studio audience ballot.

Make Me Prime Minister shines a light on the basic practices and structures of a political operation, but never quite rises above cosplay. I’m not yet convinced it’s got my vote.