The final nail-biting episode of the sixth series of Line of Duty was watched by 12.8 million people last May, the biggest audience for a television drama for 20 years.
Now more than 5 million people have watched a four-minute clip of AC-12’s feared officers interrogating the man at the heart of a real-life scandal gripping the nation: Boris Johnson.
The spoof video was posted on Twitter by its creators, the satirical artists Led By Donkeys, on Tuesday and was swiftly retweeted by the Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio with the words “brilliant work”.
Using clips from the television series cut with excerpts of Johnson’s statements on so-called “partygate”, it purports to show the prime minister being questioned by AC-12 investigators Ted Hastings, Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming as part of Operation BYOB.
“The facts are plain for everyone to see,” Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar in the TV drama, tells Johnson. During lockdown “people were making incredible sacrifices,” adds Fleming.
“But not you, oh no. You partied,” Hastings continues. “We’re satisfied that you knowingly and intentionally flouted the rules because you believe you’re above the law. Well, fella, you’ve got another thing coming, believe you me.”
“There are rules,” says Hastings. “The rules that bind us as a society and as a people.” “Fairness,” says Fleming. “Decency,” says Arnott. “Integrity,” says Hastings – over an image of Captain Tom Moore, who raised £33m for the NHS in the first lockdown before dying of Covid-19 at the age of 100.
Ben Stewart, one of the Led By Donkeys collective, told the Guardian: “When the police aren’t doing their job, who do you call for? You call for AC-12.”
Making the video had been cathartic, he added. “The impunity that has allowed Johnson to operate in the way that he has for years is finally being challenged. And we wanted to make a visual cultural representation of that by getting him in a room with AC-12.”
The video appears to include new material voiced by Line of Duty stars Dunbar, Vicky McClure (Fleming) and Martin Compston (Arnott). But asked whether they or Mercurio had assisted with making the video, Stewart said: “I can neither confirm nor deny that.”
When the group had finished the video, he said, “we thought we’ve nailed it, but it’s really difficult to tell until you put it out there. But it’s flying.”
Led By Donkeys worked with Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice to create a memorial wall of pink hearts opposite parliament.
“We spent a lot of time down there with bereaved families, painting hearts with them. And so we’ve come to see the party scandal, to a certain extent, through their eyes. There are people who sat in a car outside a hospital, unable to hold their loved ones’ hands as they slipped away from Covid, but they just wanted to be close to them.
“Johnson regarded the sacrifices that people were making in such a cavalier way and people are deeply hurt. I think it’s important that there is a price to pay for making these rules and breaking these rules, because people will live for the rest of their lives with [the impact] of abiding by the rules. This matters to people on a deep and visceral level.”