David Byrne vs David Cameron
The combatants: Try to picture David Byrne in boxing gloves or a karate gi. You can’t: the two mental images, of “martial arts” and “the guy from Talking Heads”, are mutually incompatible. Byrne has never fought a day in his life. Even at school, when the other boys surely must have been bewildered by or outright contemptuous of his otherworldly ways, he probably would have reached for a guitar or a zen koan to resolve disputes instead of resorting to his fists. In an ideal world, we’d all do similarly. But in the real world, where semi-organised combat between partners matched up in the most arbitrary fashion possible dominates the airwaves, it’s a quick way to end up as a stain on the floor.
It’s not like Byrne’s up against that fearsome an opponent, though. It’s all but a cliche at this point to bring up David Cameron’s Eton upbringing, the class-based entitlement and casual, “this is for your own good” cruelty such a life has engendered in him. It’s still true, and he only gets depicted as a condom-headed grotesque in political cartoons because that’s genuinely what he looks like. The point is, Cameron’s not a man who gets his own hands dirty if he doesn’t have to. Being forced to fight his own battle might end up being a humbling experience for him, assuming he doesn’t find a way to wriggle out of it.
The result: The bell rings, and for a good few seconds David and David lock eyes, each approximating a boxer’s stance. They try to take it seriously. But it’s no time at all before they both break down laughing. This isn’t who they are, and they know it. Cameron enthuses about how much Remain in Light means to him, and Byrne almost believes him. He has the sense he should be a bit sterner with his opponent; he read an article the other day about families being priced out of London. In the end, he settles for suggesting how the city’s cycling lanes might be made safer and more appealing for commuters. At the end of their chat, Cameron refuses to settle for just a handshake, suggesting a blokey hug instead.
As they exit the clinch, Byrne collapses and is rushed to hospital, with Cameron declared the winner by default. The rumors fly. Concealed stiletto blade or fast-acting poison injection? The chief surgeon has his story, Cameron has his.
Michael Gira vs Michael Gove
The combatants: There’s more similarities between these two than you might think. Both have been through some shit. Gira was a drifter, a drug dealer and a prison inmate all before his 16th birthday, and toiled in obscurity for years before Swans became critical darlings. Gove’s life has been far less dramatic, but being an orphan can’t have been any fun, especially as a young Conservative adopted by Labour-supporting Scots. And there’s only so much insulation that MP’s expenses can provide against all those snide, ideologically-motivated critics questioning your innocent desire to return the UK education system to the Victorian era.
Both Michaels are motivated men, passionately dedicated to achieving their goals in the face of an often hostile public. For Gira, that means making uncompromisingly personal music and working, working, working for decades until your art gets the recognition it deserves. For Gove, it means drastically reconfiguring a country’s school system to both thwart the desires of those Marxist teachers’ unions, and to make sure that a generation of children come to see the world in the right way. Neither man enjoys a fight, but if they have to in order to achieve their dreams, then fight they will.
The result: It’s over before it even begins. Gira stands, arms folded, glaring at his opponent from beneath his cowboy hat. Gove steels his nerves, remembering all those he’s bested in the past. The pen is mightier than the sword. But no one has ever given him such a look before, and Michael Gove is a man who’s used to getting looks from people. In the end it’s too much for him to bear, and he throws in the towel.
Gira goes on to play a six hour set with Swans that night: the band is loud enough that they can be heard from passing aeroplanes. Gove goes back to the Justice ministry and cuts public defence solicitors’ salaries again, while Sarah Vine writes a Daily Mail column on the leftist bias inherent in combat sports.
Nicki Minaj vs Nicky Morgan
The combatants: Nicki Minaj certainly doesn’t take any prisoners, as any of her guest verses can tell you. That doesn’t mean she’ll brawl with just anyone, though. If she doesn’t think it’s worth her while, it’s not going to happen, and making Taylor Swift upset on Twitter is not enough of a challenge to count as a fight. She’s had bodyguards for years now precisely so she can keep this sort of bullshit out of her life. But once in the ring with someone like Nicky Morgan, it’s not implausible that she’d settle things swiftly and decisively, just so she can get back to whatever it is she’d rather be doing as soon as possible.
And let’s be realistic: Morgan’s not a fighter, in any sense. Having seen Michael Gove’s defeat from ringside, she feels a sense of duty to put in a good showing for her predecessor as Education Secretary, but her heart’s not really in it. If it were up to her, she’d prefer to go on a nice run with Minaj, maybe grab a coffee afterwards. Get to know each other, talk things out. Maybe explain that she only opposed the same-sex marriage bill because she thought that’s what her constituents wanted. She’s not one of those Conservatives.
The result: After a minute or two of bobbing and weaving and light jabs here and there, Morgan calls for time out. Isn’t there any other way to settle this? Minaj is willing to listen, at first. She nods through Morgan’s Rocky IV speech, keeping her polite face on. They’re both agreed on the importance of kids staying in school, and are almost warming up to each other personally. Until Morgan gets to the part about how “I think you could be a really good role model for girls, if you weren’t so sexual all the time”. With that, it’s all over. Minaj rolls her eyes ostentatiously before fixing them in a “really, though?” stare, then walks out of the ring. This isn’t even deserving of a meme-worthy putdown. She hops in the limo and drives off, in search of something more worthy of her time. Newspaper columnists across the country declare Morgan the winner, and praise her civility in the face of such an uncouth opponent.
Danny Glover vs Danny Dyer
The combatants: An interesting study in contrasts, this one. Based on his more action-oriented performances, it’s easy to think of Danny Glover as a man who’s taken some knocks, who’s fought his share of battles. He dealt with a Predator about as well as Arnie did, after all. But in the real world, violence is clearly not his thing. Throughout his life his political activism, whether in support of Occupy Oakland or in opposition to the Iraq war, has been entirely peaceful. He’s a revolutionary, but not a soldier. He can probably take care of himself if he has to, but it’s hard to imagine he’d be enthusiastic about it.
And then there’s Danny Dyer. No one on this list would be more eager to take part in a quasi-celebrity deathmatch, nor as certain of their fighting prowess. All that time he’s spent profiling London hard cases for Sky documentaries and playing wide boy rogues must have rubbed off, surely? It’s in the bag, ain’t it. Given how much of his life has been spent building his personal brand as the Pearly King of England, he shouldn’t have any trouble winning a fight or two. He pretty much has to win. If he doesn’t, all that time will have been completely wasted.
The result: Almost before the bell’s been rung, Dyer leaps out of the corner and presses his opponent, jabbing wildly and keeping a steady stream of patter flowing. In his mind, he’s the Cockney Muhammad Ali. For Glover, it’s like watching the episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em where Frank becomes a boxer. He’s not certain if that episode was ever made, but he feels like it should have been.
Dyer owns the show at first, forcing his foe on the defensive. But he can’t keep his mouth and his fists running for long, and his persistent remarks about the quality of Lethal Weapon 3 enrage Glover. He’s soon reeling from a barrage of Predator-felling haymakers, and before long Eastenders’ finest son falls, spent, to the floor. Glover dedicates his victory to the Kurdish PKK, igniting a mild outcry from Fox News. Upon awakening Dyer is confused and angry, but decides to be the bigger man and congratulate Glover nonetheless. He loved him in The Color Purple, after all.
Next week’s US-UK card will feature:
George Clinton vs George Osborne
Annie Clark vs Anne Widdecombe
Frank Zappa vs Frank Butcher
Captain Beefheart vs Captain Birdseye