Rafe Hubris is the comic alto-ego of satirist and stand up, Josh Berry who, while studying at Oxford, regularly came across implacably self-confident, but horrific zero ability characters like Hubris. Berry says that his aim with the character is to mock that kind of Oxbridge self-confidence.
In a special edition of Renegade Inc., host, Ross Ashcroft, met up with Rafe Hubris to discuss his thinking on some of the pressing issues of the day.
With 65,000 Covid-19 deaths and counting, the incompetence with which the Conservative government has dealt with the crisis is one of the greatest tragedies of the past year. Rafe Hubris nevertheless rejects the accusation that in his role as Tory party lead adviser he mismanaged the pandemic, claims the death toll is inevitable and that the governments response has been compassionate.
The adviser cites the attempt by Michael Gove to ensure a testing programme exclusively for his daughter, in addition to the fact that many of his friends had their palms lined with millions of tax-payers cash for PPE, as examples of the governments ‘selflessness’.
“Theresa May said there’s no magic money tree but there is magic money in PPE. It was a really good way to help out a couple of mates, because I think ultimately that’s what politics should be just helping out your friends. We managed to do that very well”, says Hubris.
The adviser claims that Tory ministers are a friendly bunch and defends the actions of Priti Patel whose workplace bullying he dismisses as little more than a humorous jape and an exercise in elite bonding. Hubris admits that he works very little for his generous pay but justifies this by the brilliant job that he says he does. “It reveals something that’s endemically excellent about the political system”, says Hubris.
The adviser emphasizes that his Oxford education is not only an ideal way in which to navigate the said system to ones own advantage, but that it also reinforces a self-entitled and overbearing attitude that Hubris likens to Kipling’s, White Man’s Burden:
“It’s the Oxford Man’s Burden. You’ve got to spread the word and civilise the people who have inferior degrees from polytechnics like Durham and Exeter”, says Hubris.
It’s the sense of entitlement that comes with studying at Oxford that Hubris claims is the key factor that separates the wheat from the chaff. In the advisers view, Matt Hancock is the personification of this kind of dutiful and morally civilizing, yet duplicitous, mindset. Hubris helped craft Hancock’s media image which included the health secretary’s fake crying during his interview on breakfast television which Hubris commended as a ‘lamb to the slaughter’ performance.
Hubris also admires his former boss, Dominic Cummings, who he sees as a kind of Banksy-style enigma. Hubris justifies Cummings’ £45,000 pay off predicated on the relative lack of fanfare afforded to him compared to that afforded to nurses embodied in the ‘clapping for the NHS’ phenomenon. Hubris concedes that, in effect, he is an apologist for the monetizing of applause.
With regards to the post-pandemic scenario, and in light of an impending Brexit, Hubris’s main concern is how the UKs departure from the EU is likely to impact on him and his mates. The adviser, who concedes that nepotism has played a role in opening career doors for him, is openly scornful of the plight of the average man and woman on the street resulting from the decision to exit the EU.
The future of the British fishing industry post-Brexit is a concern for many but not for Hubris:
“The advantage that we have is that my family actually owns Torsa Island just off Scotland and a lot of those places and we’re pretty draconian at stopping people from coming in and stealing our salmon”, he says.
More broadly, the adviser is optimistic for the future. He expects that the Covid vaccine will be successful and claims it will initially be targeted at high net worth individuals followed by those lower down on the income scale.
Hubris’s outlines his rationale:
“The former are worth more because they earn more money. And generally people with money, anyone who’s ever been around people with lots and lots of money, will know they are great company. So you want to keep those guys alive”, he says.
Rafe Hubris is the comic alto-ego of satirist and stand up, Josh Berry who, while studying at Oxford, regularly came across implacably self-confident, but horrific zero ability characters like Hubris. Berry says that his aim with the character is to mock that kind of Oxbridge self-confidence:
“We have this society that is predicated on the assertion of self-confidence over ability which seems to sell and get you into high positions. Hubris is supposed to be a parody of that”, says Berry.
The casual cruelty of the Hubris character largely stems from his sense of insecurity and vulnerability. Berry says that Hubris has a sensitive side and is desperate to be accepted, but is also the kind of person people would try to avoid at parties.
The brilliance of the character is the way Berry has positioned Hubris as puppet master at the heart of government with people dancing around him. The idea emerged in the run up to the 2019 election when Michael Gove tweeted musician, Stormzy’s, lyrics back at him.
Satirically, there’s never been a more important time in the UK, but a lot of it punches down and hard when it should be punching up. Berry believes that reason for this is that television companies appear to be afraid of what is perceived to be edgy material which he says is what people say when satire really bites.
“The best satire makes you uncomfortable. It’s like what Frankie Boyle does. He makes people feel uncomfortable because he’s revealing truth. I don’t really think the satire we’re seeing a lot at the moment does that”, says Berry.
The satirist continues:
“There’s that very famous Chris Morris interview where he says it’s about placating the court. I’m paraphrasing, but he says you give a very nice dissection of how things are in the orthodox elite and you get patted on the back by the orthodox elite saying, ‘jolly good, can you do us another’?”
The best satirists like Morris and Sacha Baron Cohen are able to elicit bigotry. It’s that kind of edginess that many satirists are avoiding, often because the risks involved are often perceived as career suicide. Nevertheless, from Berry’s perspective, he appears content to situate Hubris within that edgy format.
Berry sums up the future trajectory for Hubris in amusing fashion:
“I think one of the lines that I’ve used for this is that he views himself as on the fabled Tory life trajectory, which is a good school, Oxford, Westminster, MP, PM, public speaking circuit, consultancy, Celebrity Bake Off, or Gogglebox and then death.”
In the short term, Berry sees Hubris as a columnist hoovering up the kind of faux victimhood rhetoric of powerful white men which, with the aid of social media feedback, has become increasingly prevalent in recent years:
“There’s a lot of sort of vitriol on the far left and an aggression towards these people. So I suppose you’re seeing a comparative aggressive counter reaction. We seem to have lost nuance a little bit because of the way that social media has created such polarity. And that’s depressing because you feel like the best satire that gets across nuance and subtlety seems to be undervalued”, says Berry.
The satirist argues that the extent to which British satire will begin to bite once again will depend on stimulating and creative voices from outside creating new formats and breaking into what is currently a rather stale and dogmatic bubble.
“It just feels a little bit dead to me at the moment. But there’s so much good stuff – Partridge, Sacha Baron Cohen, you know, all Chris Morris’s stuff was brilliant. So, these people are out there. It’s not as if we don’t have good satirists now”, says Berry.
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