The general election of 1945 is one of the key turning points of modern British history. Labour won a thumping Commons majority and used it to introduce the welfare state, nationalise key industries and guarantee full employment. You have to have a heart of stone – or be an implacable Thatcherite – not to feel that there was something wonderful, heroic even, about that moment.
According to Ken Loach's documentary The Spirit of '45, an election held nearly 70 years ago remains relevant to a world in which the free market is triumphant. As he says: "It's time to put back on the agenda the importance of public ownership and public good, the value of working together collaboratively, not in competition." A key part of his argument is that as the British people onceRead More
While working as a film critic during the 1930s Graham Greene defined "a humorist in the modern English sense", as someone "who shares the popular taste and who satirises only those with whom the majority are already displeased". This led to what he disparaged as "safe and acceptable" comedies.
What with Malcolm Tucker's Top Trumps swearing, and its mockery of Britain's political class, you might think The Thick of It, which has returned to our screens for its final run, was anything but "safe and acceptable". Since its first episode in 2005 I have been among those who have delighted in itsRead More
Labour MP Gloria de Piero has just concluded research into why so many people these days appear to hate MPs. Echoing the research of political scientists, she has discovered that most people feel MPs are a "them" operating in a world very different to the one inhabited by "us". To bridge this chasm she reportedly wants her party to reconnect with the people by, among other things, having beer and sandwich evenings and opening its doors to different kinds of candidates. I wish Gloria the best of luck, but I doubt she will do more than scratch the surface of the problem.
For while many of those she talked to cited recent events – like the 2009 expenses scandal – asRead More
As my book on British political fiction comes closer to completion, I am now catching up on reading things I really should have looked at some time ago. As I prepare to finish the final chapter, on the New Labour years, ones defined by an increasing populist rejection of representative politics, I read Richard Littlejohn's one novel ...
Littlejohn was named in 2005 as one of the most influential journalists of the previous four decades, having written columns for the Sun and Daily Mail, two of Britain’s most popular daily newspapers since 1989. Both papers favoured a right-wing populist approach to politics, and Littlejohn’s columns invariably expressed, often in vituperative terms, a deep-set hostility to the Westminster elite. In 2001 he published his first novel, To Hell in a Handcart, loosely based on the real case of Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer who shot and killed a burglar and a year earlier had been found guilty of murder.
Serialised in the Sun, Littlejohn’s novel was described by David Aaronovitch as a recruiting pamphletRead More
I have entered the last stage of writing State of Play, my book on British political fiction since the late nineteenth century. Many of the posts on this blog are offshoots of the research that has gone into it.
Producing this book has been like running a very slow a marathon but I can hear the buzz of the crowd in the stadium, even if I can't quite see the stadium.Read More
In 2010 I made Dramatising New Labour, a documentary for Radio Four's Archive on 4 strand. It got some good reviews. Really, it did. The documentary was about how New Labour has been depicted on the screen and flowed from research contributing to this book and especially this article.
This was the first time I'd ever done such a thing and as I am about to start work on another radio documentary I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the experience and write progress reports on the new project. Increasingly academic are expected to make an 'impact' in what some call (dreadRead More
If you read a particular kind of newspaper, notably the Guardian, listen to Radio 4 or follow a certain kind of journalist or politician on Twitter you’d think that all of Britain has fallen in love with Borgen, BBC4’s Danish political drama, whose second season is now being broadcast on Saturday nights.
For latecomers, the series tracks the ups and downs of Birgitte Nyborg’s centre-left coalition government as well as that of her troubled private life while also charting the on-off relationship between Nyborg’s spin-doctor Kasper Juul and journalist Katrine Fønsmark.
To certain British eyes the series is remarkable because it presents politics as consisting of difficultRead More
Journalist-turned-Labour MP Gloria de Piero has just concluded some research into why so many people these days appear to hate MPs. Having been elected in 2010 she was not yet used to the feelings of intense hostility to which many more established members of the Commons will have become immune. Her essential findings are that ordinary people feel that MPs are a 'Them' operating in a world very different to the one inhabited by 'Us'. On that basis she reportedly wants her party to reconnect with the people by, among other things, having beer and sandwich evenings and opening its doors to different kinds of candidates.
I wish Gloria the best of luck; but I wonder if she will succeed.Read More