According to Simon Heffer, those aspiring to lead the Labour party are ‘not even fighting the last election, but rather the one in 1945’. Heffer, an infamous reactionary, cited Clement Attlee’s victory to establish Labour’s irrelevance to 2015. To his eyes, Labour’s victory occurred in a very different country, one that ‘still had a substantial working class [and] low living standards’.
Heffer’s Sunday Telegraph readers might agree that Britain today lacks class division and poverty. But he is certainly wrong about Labour’s aspirant leaders. For while the 70th anniversary of Attlee’s epoch-making triumph is almost upon us, their references to 1945 have been sparse and banal. Liz Kendall has mentioned the election, but merely to claimRead More
This is the draft conclusion to my analysis of Labour's campaign, for a special edition of Parliamentary Affairs and the Oxford University Press book Britain Votes 2015.
Labour lost the 2015 general election because it failed to convince enough English voters it could manage the economy better than the Conservatives and was led by someone widely perceived as lacking the skills necessary to be Prime Minister. The early phase of the short campaign began to mitigate these deficiencies but could do little more given the strong impressions implanted before 2015. In any case, the ‘coalition of chaos’ narrative that dominated the two weeks prior to the poll undid that work by concentrating attention on the supposed risk the country posed by Miliband’s lack of statecraft.
Ever since the fiscal crisis Labour had trailed the Conservatives as to which party people thought best able to manage the economy. The Conservatives’ lead did however vary and during 2012-13 it almost disappeared: but from the end of 2013 it started to grow as the economy slowly recovered, such that by April 2015 Cameron’s party was 18 per cent ahead ofRead More
As someone who has spent a fair share of my time watching films about World War Two, hoping to find what they tell us about the past they depict and the present in which they were made, I think Cameron's choice of A Bridge Too Far as his favourite war film says more than he intends.
Presumably Cameron hoped he would appeal to elderly and nostalgia-ridden Telegraph readers who – if the content of the paper is anything to go by – have a view of the past dominated by benign monarchs and brave British soldiers. Yet, for a Conservative it is a paradoxical film to choose. Released in 1977, the last time Britain struggled to recover fromRead More
In one corner, the old school pro, whose reputation precedes them and who can do no more than repeat their long-established, hammy, act. In the other, a plucky outsider many ridicule for being amateurish and simply not up to the job.
But enough of Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley, who hosted The Battle for Number 10 last night.
The first television encounter of this election was defined by what it was not. It was not a debate – David Cameron and Ed Miliband instead traded questions with Paxman and a docile studio audience. It was not a game-changer - too few will have watched it for that. And it did not, much, apparently, alter the perceptions of those viewers who did tune inRead More
When I wrote A State of Play. British Politics on the Screen, Stage and Page, From Anthony Trollope to The Thick of It I didn’t deliberately seek out fictions with a Manchester or Salford connection.
But when I started to see if I could construct a talk for the Post Box in what even the Guardian refers to as the 'Guardian-reading heaven' that is Chorlton on April 24th (the details of which are here) I found that a large number of fictions I talk about were set in the cities or written by or starred those who had lived in them.
This is a reflection of the importance of Manchester and Salford to Britain’s political culture, for asRead More
Last week I gave a lecture as part of my final year undergraduate Fictionalised Politics course, which looks at how representative politics - let's just call it 'democracy' - is depicted in Britain and the United States.
The basic proposition is that fictional representations matter because they do more than (imperfectly) reflect how we imagine our our real democracy: they can also shape how we come to think about it. I develop some of the themes in the course in my book A State of Play, which focuses just on British political fiction.
In the lecture I talked about gender as the ‘social organization of sexual difference’, the meanings ofRead More
Most of the reactions to the death of Tony Benn have focused on the man who turned left in the 1970s, embraced union militancy and became ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’. That was, however, Benn Mark II, arguably the less interesting version, and certainly the one less relevant to our own times, when the parties are desperately seeking to regain a connection with the people.
A while back I wrote a book about how Labour responded to the many cultural changes generated in the 1960s. In that decade Benn emerged as one of the party’s few leading figures who tried to seriously think though how the party might engage with at least some of them.
Benn Mark I was a fairly conventional politician. In the 1950s he was something of a revisionist and in the 1960s an enthusiastic if idiosyncratic member of Harold Wilson’s inner circle.Read More
Already hailed for its 'brilliant analysis' by John Rentoul my new book A State of Play was published on April 24th, and should be available in the book shops now, but of not, you can order it direct from from Bloomsbury.
The book speaks for itself, of course. And here's a limited preview of its contents. But just in case it doesn't, I'll be doing a few talks about the relationship between politics and political fiction over the next few months.
Further details and more dates will be added when things become clearer.
Tuesday April 8th: at the Social History History annual conference, I talked about 'Fiction and politics in 1970s television dramas'.
Thursday April 24th: at the Post Box in Chorlton, I talked about 'Manchester and Salford in PoliticalRead More