Monday, May 25, 2015

The Untrustworthiness of Cisterns

Well, some bank holiday weekend this has turned out to be - I've had to dodge multiple attempts by household objects to maim and kill me.  First thing on Saturday the push button which operates the flush on my toilet fractured as I pushed it down, driving the push rod it operates into the palm of my hand.  The mark it left is still visible.  I should add here that the cistern on my toilet is over twenty five years old, so the 'push button' mechanism isn't one of those modern ones with no mechanical linkage.  It is simply a rectangular piece of plastic which covers the top end of a plastic rod which is physically depressed to operate the flushing mechanism.  I had hoped that finding a replacement button would prove straightforward.  How wrong I was. I eventually turned to web, but found that I first had to identify the make and model of the cistern (it isn't visibly marked with these details).  I can honestly say that looking at photo after photo of toilet cisterns on plumbing supplies sites is the least exciting internet experience I've ever had.  Anyway, I eventually identified it as a Thomas Dudley Ltd Elite cistern - a type which hasn't been manufactured in donkey's years.  Consequently, whilst some sites offered the button as a spare, they were asking exorbitant prices - one wanted £16.50 for what is essentially a small piece of moulded plastic.  Somewhat bizarrely, I found that one supplier offering it for the relatively more 'reasonable' price of £10.50 actually have a retail outlet here in Crapchester.  Within walking distance of my house, in fact.  So, I'll go down there tomorrow (they've been closed all bank holiday weekend) and see if I can get a replacement button.

Having effected a temporary repair to the old button, so that I wouldn't have to keep taking the lid off of the cistern in order to operate the flush via the internal linkage, I thought I could relax.  But no, I soon found myself under attack again.  As I finally thought I was drifting of to sleep in the early hours of this morning (I've been having real trouble sleeping of late), I found my stabbed in the back by my clapped out mattress as a spring broke through the fabric and pierced the sheets.  Luckily, it wasn't a penetrating wound - I was turning over as it happened, so the spring scored across my back and side, breaking the skin and causing some minor bleeding.  I'm left with a still bloody painful wheal across my back.  Not surprisingly, I now found myself wide awake and it was light before I got back to sleep (I made the mattress 'safe' by rotating to move the holed part to the opposite and of the bed and put a thick blanket between it's surface and the fitted sheet).  Consequently, I've spent a lot of this bank holiday Monday catching up with my sleep.  And looking into getting a new mattress and bed.  my regular reader(s) will undoubtedly be thinking at this point that the whole incident is a case of chickens coming home to roost after my bed problems of a few months ago, when I repaired the bed rather than replacing it and the mattress. Well OK, obviously in hindsight I should have dealt with the matter back then and avoided being stabbed in the back by the ungrateful bastard of a bed. But as I'd just had to fork out for replacing the hot water cylinder after the disaster its leaking had caused in the kitchen, I just didn't have the energy to deal with replacing the bed as well.  Luckily, I'm off work all this week, so I should be able to resolve the situation fairly promptly.  The moral of all this is that you can't bloody trust anything - not even household objects which have previously served you faithfully for years!

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Friday, May 22, 2015

First Bread

I found it more than slightly disconcerting when Arnold Schwarzenneger turned up in a TV commercial for an insurance comparison site, only to find himself out acted by a pair of CGI meerkats.  But it really got weird when Sylvester Stallone started advertising Warburton's bread.  I mean, it's just not the sort of thing you expect to see in UK TV commercials: our idea of a star in such things usually doesn't go much beyond Joan Collins.  TV personalities who have appeared in some naff sitcom or reality series are usually considered sufficient to sell crap in the UK.  Which is why the appearance of two legendary Hollywood action stars in ads for insurance and sliced bread seem so bizarre.  Just why are they doing it?  I thought those Expendables films had done sufficiently well that Stallone no longer had to do crap to keep his face in front of the camera - and surely Arnie must have made enough in the past that he doesn't need to co-star with meerkats?  And let's face it, the kind of firms they are shilling for aren't likely to pay really big bucks.  Maybe they think that there's no chance these ads will ever be seen in the US - back in the day all manner of A-listers used to do TV commercials they'd never have lowered themselves to do in the English speaking world in Japan for this reason - but in these days of the internet, they must surely know that it is only a matter of time before they pop up on YouTube.

Obviously, these aren't the first Hollywood stars to appear in UK TV ads - I have fond memories of Orson Welles advertising sherry in the 1970s, for instance, and the likes of Bruce Willis and Al Pacino have appeared in Sky TV commercials.  But these were more understandable than Arnie and Sly - Welles always needed money for one of his off beat projects (he also liked sherry) and Sky has a lot of financial clout, with its pay TV service showing a lot of Willis' and Pacino's movies, (indeed, an increasingly important part of the financing for studio movies comes from the revenue generated by pre-selling their TV rights to the likes of Sky).  But Sly and Arnie are advertising pretty mundane products of the sort that you'd normally expect to see the likes of Danny Baker or someone off of The Only Way is Essex plugging.  However, they aren't the most bizarre Hollywood actors currently appearing in UK TV commercials: that accolade must surely go to Harvey Keitel and his series of Direct Line insurance ads, all performed in-character as Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction.  There is just something disturbing about seeing Keitel, with his trademark combination of menace and sleaze, supposedly sorting out insurance problems for Direct Line customers.  Mind you, we should probably be thankful that they didn't hire him to perform the ads in-character as The Bad Lieutenant - the thought of him prostrate on the ground after his TV has exploded, or something, screaming 'Why don't you fucking help me Direct Line? I tried to take out insurance, but I'm too weak', just doesn't bear thinking about.

Still, I guess that UK TV commercials must be lucrative, as I see that it isn't just Hollywood stars who are muscling in on them.  I've recently seen French actor Tcheky Karyo doing an advert for instant coffee. At least I think its for coffee, it involves dinosaurs, which confused me as they have no obvious link with the product, but I was too astounded to see someone I've seen in so many sub-titled films over the years doing a UK TV commercial to pay close attention to what was going on  Then again, there's no obvious link between French actors and British instant coffee.  At least when Gerard Depardieu did those TV ads over here a dew years ago they were for French brandy...

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mondo Cane (1962)



Today's random movie trailer is for the Italian film which launched a whole genre: Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life), the granddaddy of all 'Mondo Movies'.  An alleged documentary chronicling various weird and eccentric cultural practices from around the world, it caused something of a sensation when released back in 1962.  Of course, the world was a bigger place back in 1962 - nowadays, thanks to TV and the internet, there is virtually no corner of the globe so remote that we can't see it, hear it or read about it.  Everything is available at the touch of a key pad.  But back then, for the supposedly 'civilised' world of Europe and the US, much of the rest of the planet was remote and mysterious and films like Mono Cane had novelty value with their depictions of the weird and the wonderful.  

That said, a lot of the footage in the 'documentary' was actually staged by the film makers themselves.  Which is what the subsequent genre became about: sensationalised reconstructions of supposedly exotic, forbidden or completely made up rites from around the world.  As time went on, 'Mondo Movies' tended to focus on a single theme: witchcraft, cannibalism, sex, slavery and the like.  But, being the first, Mondo Cane presents the viewer with a smorgasbord of the bizarre, from a dog cemetery in the US to cargo cults in the southern pacific, via Chinese funeral rites, mating rituals in New Guinea, Italian catacombs and much, much more.  The trailer gives something of a false impression, with its jocular tone, as the actual film clearly sets out to shock and consequently maintains a relatively serious tone, (as befits a supposed documentary. 

I finally got around to watching Mondo Cane this week, having previously seen various other, later 'Mondo Movies'.   Whilst its power to shock has diminished somewhat over the course of more than half a century - bared breasts don't have the novelty value they held for audiences in 1962, for instance - some sequences, particularly those involving pretty graphic animal cruelty - remain quite disturbing.  Indeed, animal cruelty, nudity and a condescending attitude toward supposed 'primitive' peoples are characteristics which 'Mondo Movies' have in common with another, later, Italian genre, the cannibal movie.  Technically well made, with a memorable soundtrack, Mondo Cane is itself now a curiosity, a relic of a bygone, more 'primitive' age.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Law Abiding Subversion

Apparently it's not enough just to obey the law anymore.  Whilst you might have thought that being a law-abiding citizen was enough to make you safe from the state and its agents from curbing your liberties, Dave has decided - on the back of his 37% of the popular vote landslide election victory - that the British state faces such severe, yet vaguely defined, threats that it is necessary to restrict freedom in order to protect freedom.  Don't say I didn't warn you that we were on a downward slide to repression under these Tory bastards.  So complain to me - you voted for them.  Well, at least 37% of you did.  With every day which goes by, the need for revolution becomes ever more urgent - it's clear that the violent overthrow of this right-wing dictatorship is the only way to preserve our freedoms.  Now, having said that, will I find myself arrested and banned from the web?  Because, as I understand it, one of the legal things you can do now which won't be tolerated is expressing an opinion.  An opinion that Dave or Theresa May or some other fascist doesn't like.  More specifically, they want to ban people from expressing views that might be 'anti-democracy'.  So, as I've just called for the overthrow of a 'democratically' elected government, can I expect to get the 'knock on the door in the night?'

But to be slightly more serious, this country has been sleep walking toward repression for decades now.  Not just under the Tories, but under Blair's New Labour as well, there has been a progressive erosion of our liberties in the name of 'protecting' us from various supposed 'threats'.  But the real threat lies with our own governments who seek ever greater levels of control over all aspects of our lives.  I find it bizarre that this Tory government wants to scrap the Human Rights Act because it sees it as an obstacle to restricting our liberties - the Blair government introduced the Act, yet still increased surveillance levels and tried to bring in things like ID cards.  All in the name of saving us from those terrorists.  But what really disturbs is the quiescence of the British public in the face of these onslaughts on their liberties.  Nobody seems to care.  Can people really have been so brainwashed by the right-wing press that they actually now believe that that human rights aren't essential to their continued liberty?  It seems to me that people these days are more interested in  materialism than liberty.  Just look at that the civil unrest which accompanied the Blair government's increases in fuel duty - people were blockading oil refineries whilst the police stood by and did nothing.  Yet, when, around the same time, the government introduced the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which increased the scope of official surveillance of individuals, not to mention the number of bodies which could covertly spy on you, nobody went out onto the streets and rioted.  Really, what's wrong with people?  Well, I've got to go now and warm up the tank ready for the assault on Downing Street...

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Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Still the Electoral System

I'm afraid that I'm back to the politics today, (don't worry, I've been watching a lot more obscure movies of late, so there's more of that sort of thing to come after this brief political interlude), inspired by something I read over the weekend.  Last week I defended the pollsters, noting that the actual general election results (in percentage of votes cast, at least), were pretty much within the margin of error compared to the polls in the run-up to election day.  However, our 'first-past-the-post' electoral system skewed the results so that the Tories were rewarded with sufficient seats to form an overall majority, despite polling only 37% of votes cast - slightly less than they polled in 2010.  This point is further emphasised here, where it is pointed out that if less than 3,000 voters who voted Green had voted Labour in key constituencies, then the Tories would have been denied a majority.  Despite what some of the morons commenting on the linked article seem to think, the author isn't suggesting that Labour's 'failure' is somehow the 'fault' of the Greens and that you should hurl a blazing bin through the window of your local Green Party branch office.  He's making the point that our political system is so inadequate in terms of representing the 'will of the people', that even very small and localised fluctuations in electoral support between candidates can have major repurcussions.  In short, the existing system creates a situation where some people's votes are worth more than others.

All of which brings us to my second point, that in view of these issues surrounding the electoral system, Labour's poor showing needs to be put into perspective.  Rather than representing the complete electoral disaster that the press (and many Labour MPs and left of centre commentators) have characterised the results as being, it should be remembered that Labour actually increased their share of the vote compared to 2010 - more than a million more people voted Labour in 2015 than 2010.  Which is, in itself, remarkable, bearing in mind the party's complete surrender to the SNP in Scotland.  There was a letter in today's Guardian warning that Labour was in danger of talking itself into a negative narrative about the 2015 election results which could have serious consequences for the party's future.  They are, of course, quite correct.  By characterising the results as an unmitigated disaster, it allows some elements in the Labour movement to argue that the supposed 'leftward' move of the party was wrong and alienated voters, so they need to go back to Blairism and embracing business and austerity.  The reality, of course, is that this supposed 'leftward' drift by Labour actually seemed to attract voters.  Arguably, it was their failure to move even further 'leftward' - by articulating a credible economic alternative to austerity - that turned Scottish voters against them.  Mind you, it should be borne in mind that this 'leftward' drift consisted of decidedly non-radical proposals like restricting zero hours contracts and greater regulation of energy suppliers - if that can get you a million extra votes, just imagine what a proper radical agenda might achieve?  Anyway, I can but hope that at least some of the current candidates for the Labour leadership grasp these facts.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Sex Clinic (1972)

 
A real curiosity, this relatively unknown British sex movie from the seventies is fascinating on several levels.  Right from the off - the opening titles unfold over kaleidoscopic images of naked breasts being massaged, as a slow lounge bar-type piano number plays in the background - it comes over as some kind of daytime soap opera.  An especially smutty soap opera set in a 'clinic' dispensing highly dubious treatments to it's wealthy clients, (in addition to the breast massages being administered to the ladies, male clients get cold baths, birchings, mechanised testicle slappings and, it is implied, much more), but a soap opera, nonetheless. Which shouldn't be any surprise as, lurking behind the 'Elton Hawke' writer/producer credit is Hazel Adair, creator of legendary seventies ITV soap Crossroads.  Sharing the pseudonymous credit with her is Adair's usual partner-in-crime in the smut movie business, TV wresting commentator Kent Walton.  I must admit, the knowledge that the man who had been ringside during the Saturday tea time wrestling slot throughout my childhood, urging viewers to 'have a good week, 'til next week, grapple fans' had also bee behind Sex Clinic did make me feel somewhat uneasy whilst I was watching the film.  I couldn't stop my mind from straying into speculations as to what extracurricular activities his erstwhile colleagues from ITV's World of Sport might have got up to: did Dickie Davis organise illegal bare knuckle fights in his spare time, one wonders?

But to return to the film itself, in true soap opera fashion, plot lines involving the various staff and clients of the clinic proliferate, but the main driving force of the narrative is Julie Mason's (played by TV actress Georgina Ward), the clinic's owner and star therapist, schemes to scam money from her clientele. She tells each of them that the establishment is in financial trouble and that, in order to guarantee continued access to their 'treatments', they'll need to help her out financially.  Running parallel to this are plots involving a local estate agent's unrequited love for Mason, which she uses in order to get access to a pop star's mansion he's trying to sell so as to hold sex parties for her clients there, and her PA's, in turn, unrequited love for the estate agent.  Other storylines include the arrest of one of her clients for fraud, a female client's infatuation with Mason, (said client being played by Carmen Silvera of 'Allo, 'Allo fame and the machinations of a mysterious stranger (portrayed by Alex Davion, best remembered now for playing the lead in Titan's unfinished-yet-still released 1969 horror fiasco Incense For the Damned), who sweeps Mason off her feet. 

As well as offering plenty of titillation, Sex Clinic also captures the sheer, stultifying, dullness of seventies British suburbia.  Filmed against a wintry background of post war semi-detached houses with gravel drives, faceless hotel rooms and vinyl-bedecked bars, the film succeeds in conjuring up a distinctly British vision of Hell: a middle class mediocrity which suffocates ambition under a blanket of conformity.  Indeed, Mason's entire motivation for both the clinic and her ripping off of her clients is a desire to escape this stifling suburban milieu.  Her description of the childhood abuse she suffered at the hands of her father makes clear that, like her clinic, middle class suburbia's outward appearance of respectability masks all manner of dubious activities - a theme echoed in Davion's apparently respectable jet setting businessman's plotting.  It is this plotting which moves the film into its final act, where it turns from smutty soap opera into one of those fifties or sixties British crime movies which often made up the lower half of a double bill, as Mason finds herself framed for murder.

The whole thing is very slickly made, with a cast of familiar seventies TV faces bringing their customary professionalism to proceedings.  It's a little surprising to find Don Chaffey in the director's chair - something of a heavyweight for this kind of movie, only a few years previously he'd been directing high profile (and financially successful) fare like Jason and The Argonauts and One Million Years BC and would go on to direct for Disney before moving back into TV.  In contrast with his colourful fantasy films, in Sex Clinic he conjures up an effectively depressing vision of suburban dullness.  However, his direction never quite manages to move the film into top gear pace-wise and it does seem to drag at some points as one typically talky soap scene follows another.  Released under a variety of titles, including Clinic Exclusive and With These Hands, (the on screen title on the copy I have), Sex Clinic is, despite the pacing problems, a surprisingly entertaining and professionally assembled, slice of vintage British filth.  I mean, where else can you get to see Edith from 'Allo, 'Allo topless?  (There's another pub quiz question for you: in which British porn movie did Madame Artois get her norks out?)  And let's not forget that it's thanks to the Tories' effective privatisation of our health service that we can no longer get the services of clinics like this on the NHS.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spaced Out (1979)



It seems only fitting that the British film industry's contribution to the flood of cheap science fiction movies which flooded the market in the wake of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind should be a sex comedy.  After all, it was a genre which had pretty much kept commercial film making in the UK afloat for the better part of the seventies.  Spaced Out is every bit as cheap and corny as you'd expect, with no cliché left unturned.  In terms of production values it stands somewhere between a contemporary episode of Dr Who and the kids TV series Rentaghost.  In fact, in terms of its level of humour, Rentaghost is a good benchmark - an especially filthy episode with lots of sex and nudity, obviously.  Having said all of that, it is also a film impossible to dislike.  Personally, I found it immensely entertaining, much in the same way that seventies sitcoms are still entertaining: ignore the wobbly sets and - to modern sensibilities - non-PC humour and you'll find something surprisingly charming and innocent.

Whilst the spaceship interiors are all silver foil, flashing lights and bits of electrical junction boxes stuck to the walls, the exterior shots of the spaceship in flight are very impressive.  As they should be as they are footage from the Gerry Anderson effects library.  Unfortunately, the use of library footage also means that the spaceship changes shape, with shots of two different models being used - one for the ship in flight and a completely different one for its take offs and landings.  (Stock footage of the one used for the take offs and landings also turn up in the video for the Rah Band's 'Clouds Across the Moon', which otherwise has far poorer production values and design to Spaced Out).  But the ramshackle look of the ship's interior is consistent with the film's plot, which concerns a clapped out alien spaceship, a sort of intergalactic tramp steamer, being forced to land on earth to carry out essential maintenance, where they inadvertently pick up four earth people.  The ship's crew consists of three female aliens who have never seen a man before and have no concept of sex (which raises many, many unanswered questions about their reproductive cycle).  The earthlings, who were all in the London park the ship landed in, consist of teenager Willy, who was there to secretly whack off to his jazz mags, a bickering couple consisting of aloof pseudo intellectual Oliver and repressed Prudence, and boorish and sexually aggressive Cliff.

The plot develops fairly obviously from this set up, with the alien women, intrigued by both the earthmen's anatomy and Willy's wank mags, subject the men to various tests, before finally experimenting with sex.  Tensions between the earth people emerge, with Cliff having designs on Prudence, much to Oliver's chagrin, before the aliens determine that Willy represents the ultimate male body and so must stay with them to satisfy their newly ignited sexual desires, (Oliver has eyes only for Prudence whilst Cliff proves to be lacking in stamina).   Willy is persuaded to stay whilst the other three humans are returned to earth, before the ship continues on its journey, with Willy getting his end away with the captain so vigourously that it goes out of control and explodes in a strangely downbeat ending.

The closest thing to stars the film has are the late Tony Maiden as Willy, who had been a child performer in such TV series as Black Beauty, and the lovely Ava Cadell as Partha, the ship's engineer.  (At risk of being crude and sexist, I have to say that she had a truly magnificent pair of knockers).  Cadell was no stranger to this sort of film and gives a surprisingly engaging performance.  She later moved to the US where she eventually reinvented herself as the best-selling 'sexologist' 'Dr Ava'.  Perhaps the real 'star' of Spaced Out is director Norman J Warren.  A veteran of low budget British film making, Warren actually coaxed pretty decent performances from all of his cast and succeeded in giving the film an air professionalism, despite the meagre resources at his disposal.  Well paced and nicely edited, Spaced Out could, in the hands of a lesser director, ended up as just another soft core quickie.  Warren is probably better known for his efficient low budget horror flicks, (I have a real soft spot for Satan's Slave, whilst Terror is surprisingly effective attempt to imitate Argento-style Italian Giallo movies), and, a few years after Spaced Out, enjoyed some financial success with the Alien knock off Inseminoid.

Originally filmed and released in the UK under the title Outer Touch, the film was picked up for US distribution by Miramax, who made several changes - including the title - for the US release.  Most notably, the downbeat ending was excised and two vocal roles were redubbed.  The ship's computer acquired a camp US voice (as heard in the US trailer above) in place of the world weary British accent of the original, whilst the Wurlitzer (an automated psychotherapist in the shape of a juke box), originally voiced by Canadian Bill Mitchell, was redubbed by Bob Saget.  That's right, Bob Saget.  The same Bob Saget who used to be the voice of the older hero of How I met Your Mother.  There's a great question for pub quiz nights: which British porn film did Bob Saget appear in?  Whichever version of Spaced Out you see, it remains a likeable slice of seventies British sex comedy.  Surprisingly coy in some rspects (there are no full frontals, it's just bared boobs and bums on display) it really does come over as a slightly naughtier-than-usual sitcom of the era.  By the time Spaced Out was made the British sex comedy formula had pretty much been distilled to its basics: boobs, bums, bad jokes and sitcom stereotype characters.  Spaced Out pretty much delivers on all counts.  It's no masterpiece but, to everyone except those with hearts of stone, it provides eighty or so minutes of undemanding entertainment. 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Unscripted and Ungracious

As I attempt to steer this blog back on course after my recent excursions into political ranting - which formed a vital part of my mourning process following the general election result - I've found myself musing as to the conduct of Hollywood stars and the apparent belief of some that they are somehow beyond reproach for their conduct.  I refer, of course, to Robert Downey Jr and the way he took umbrage at a Channel Four News interviewer having the audacity to ask him questions about his past and which were unconnected to the movie he apparently thought he was there to plug.  His reaction - exiting the studio stage left in a walk out - serves to emphasise the closeted world in which many of his ilk live in, where they honestly seem to believe that they only attend press interviews to advertise their latest cinematic venture and that it should ultimately be about some fawning journo telling them how wonderful they are.  Because they spend their lives living in a bubble where their egos are constantly massaged by studios, producers, directors and hangers on, in order to keep the 'talent' onside and minimise the risk of star tantrums which could expensively delay already expensive movie projects.

Consequently, when the interview goes 'off script' and they find they can't control the agenda, they react badly.  In Downey's case, it was the posing of questions about his substance-abusing past which resulted in his walk out.  But really, with such a spectacular and well documented history of drug and alcohol abuse, including some jail time, did he honestly think that his past wouldn't be a legitimate area of discussion?  Particularly when he was being interviewed for a news programme, by an news reporter, rather than an entertainment reporter.  Surely he couldn't have thought that it was just going to be another puff piece?  His attempts to defend his walk out were, frankly, pathetic.  The main one was that the film he was plugging - another 'Avengers' movie - was a family orientated film, so discussion of things like drugs in the interview was inappropriate.  Like I said, pathetic.  By his own logic, if the film was so family orientated, then it is legitimate to ask why it then stars someone with such a public history of substance abuse?  Hardly a good role model for children.  In the end, his only response (once he was safely back in the US) was to publicly call the interviewer in question names, (before also going on to be rude about independent film makers because their low budget product is just so inferior to films about people in their underwear saving the earth from aliens).  But we shouldn't be surprised at Mr Downey's ungracious response to being asked about his past - I recall a similar reaction when Ricky Gervais made reference to his sojourn in various rehab clinics when he was presenting some award ceremony or other.  I suppose it must be shocking to someone like Downey to find that all that wealth and adulation, not to mention the services of expensive lawyers and PR firms, can't rewrite his personal history and that, like us mere mortals, he's stuck with his past misdemeanours for life.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

It's the Electoral System, Stupid

The more time I've had to think about it, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that we shouldn't all be so quick to condemn the pollsters for their apparent inability to predict the outcome of last week's general election.  Virtually all of them were putting both Labour and Tories on 33%-34% in the run up to polling day. The actual figures (Labour 30%, Tories 37%) are therefore pretty much within the 3% margin of error all polls allow.  The problem, as I've already ranted about, lies in our electoral system: 'first past the post' rewards 37% of the vote with over 50% of the seats, (it's even worse in Scotland, where less than 5% of the total UK vote can get you over 50 seats).  However, this doesn't mean that Labour can just shrug off its defeat as one of the vagaries of the electoral system: the fact is that they should have polled higher and more widely, reaching more voters in the Midlands and South (where they failed miserably to capture many key marginals).  Moreover, not only do they have to embrace electoral reform, but they have to find a way to win under the existing system.

What they shouldn't do is listen to the advice of has-beens like Mandelson, Blair and David Miliband.  Labour's defeat doesn't show that moving leftwards is a vote loser - indeed, just when did this shift left occur?  It certainly wasn't evident in their economic policy or stance on immigration, let alone their approach to social welfare.  It's clear that their attempt to be Tory-lite was what turned voters off: why vote for a pale imitation when you can have the real thing?  The kind of people they were trying to attract were never going to vote for them anyway and their traditional supporters were alienated.  It's all very well the likes of Miliband D, Blair and Mandy going on about how the centre ground is the key to success and Labour needs to build on the success of 1997, but that was nearly twenty years ago - time has moved on, what worked then won't work now.  They are the ones living in the past.  It's those working class and lower middle class people who voted UKIP or, worse, didn't vote at all, who are the key to Labour's future: they are the people the party used to represent and who feel abandoned by Labour.  The party has to convince them that it understands their concerns and wants to address them - they need to convince the Ukippers that their problems won't be solved by stopping immigration and leaving the UK as they are actually the result of a socio-economic situation created by government policies.  Likewise, they need to convince the young, the unemployed, the disadvantaged and the low paid that their best bet of alleviating their problems is by voting for a Labour government.  It won't be easy, but if they don't try, then there is no hope.

Well, the good news is that I think I've finally got the fall out from the election out of my system   You'll all be glad to know that, in reaction to that awful election result, I spent a large part of the weekend watching yet more schlocky movies.  So, hopefully, we can get back to the usual business here soon!

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

And So it Begins

Only a couple of days into the next five years of the new dark ages and already there are anti-Tory riots going on in London.  Not that you'd know anything about them if you were solely reliant upon the UK's mainstream media, who seem to be maintaining some kind of media black out with regard to the protests.  Thank God for the internet - no wonder the Tory bastards want to censor it.  Trust me, today it's internet porn, tomorrow it will be independent news sources.  Which is why I urge everyone to protest by looking at even more internet pornography than they do already - it's the only way we can safeguard our freedoms.  I know it will be hell, but we've got to do it.  If that doesn't have all those knee-jerk reactionaries out there harrumphing with displeasure, nothing will.  Actually, while I remember, there's a question I'd like to ask all those bastards who voted Tory out there:  did Dave 'Swinging Dick' Cameron keep his top hat on when he took you up the arse in the polling booth?  Because that's what it all amounts to: the political equivalent a quick knee trembler.  You might well have been flattered by the posh git's attentions at the time, but trust me, now that you've dropped your pants and he's got what he wants, he won't call you for another five years.

Jesus, you can see how much this election result has pissed me off: I'm still posting rants about it on a Saturday.  I can't remember the last time I posted anything on a Saturday!  Personally, I blame the SNP.  Well, today I do, at least.  Trust me on this, but a Tory majority in Westminster was exactly what they wanted - what will be perceived as an English Tory government will be used to further inflame anti-Union sentiments North of the border.  All that SNP talk of coaltions with Labour, or even just supporting a minority Labour government were cynically designed by the SNP leadership to whip up anti-Scots nationalist feeling in England and scare people into voting Tory.  But to return to the original point of this post: good luck to the protesters in London. Clearly they've heeded my long-standing counsel that it will need a revolution to change anything in this country.  Until we start putting some of the bastards up against the wall and shooting them, the city fat cats and their ilk will never take us seriously.  But to be slightly more serious - it was the failure of Labour to connect with the protesters who hit the streets five years ago and harness their energies, which played a large part in the party's poor showing last Thursday.  These people have perfectly legitimate grievances, but feel they have no option but to resort to street protests because they aren't being adequately addressed by mainstream politicians.  Whoever succeeds Ed Miliband needs to pay heed.

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