On the campaign trail with Nicola Sturgeon.


The classic baby shot with a good private quip to the mum to go with it.

The classic baby shot with a good private quip to the mum to go with it.

Nicola was visiting our constituency today.  For the first time in my life I live in a marginal seat and so it’s super exciting.  My vote now actually counts for something.

She didn’t make any speeches; it was mainly TV interviews.

But I was quite taken aback at her size.  She really is very petite indeed and that just adds greater irony to the way she is mauling the London big boys.

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A tiny wee lady from a council house upbringing (her Mum still lives in the same house) that went to a comprehensive school and is walking, no trampling, all over the Westminster elite establishment.

You couldn’t write the script could you.

However, before we get too carried away by that TNS poll.  The one below. A word of caution

TNS poll 27 April 2015.

TNS poll 27 April 2015.

The party activists I spoke to today were talking this down.  Anything in the 40’s would be a major achievement they said.

Some of the journalists I spoke to were warning of a subtle shift in momentum in England back towards the Tories and that Cameron’s dogged defence of his economic policy is resonating.  What’s more.  remember this many Tories do not show their hand in opinion polls as they find it a bit embarrassing so their vote may be stronger than pollsters can measure.

Of course that won’t matter in Scotland.  What will matter here is SNP turnout.  If we can mobilise our vote maybe, just maybe, that poll above might not be pure fantasy.

Britain’s most credible politician. Nicola Sturgeon, is about to recalibrate political possibility.


Nicola Sturgeon

This article in today’s Guardian really hit me.  It’s not a Scottish newspaper but Ian Jack clearly knows his facts and has done a ton of research to make the piece credible, not puff..

Admittedly it’s a big read, but an intoxicating one, because its author is both objective and balanced in his critique of Nicola. What most impressed me was the fact that she lost 8 elections across 15 years in unwinable seats as she learned her trade (whilst holding down a legal day job). By contrast The unholy neoliberal triptych of Cameron/milliband/Clegg lost one between them as they ponied their way from Oxbridge into career politician safe seats.

This article makes Nicola seem unprecedented. But I can think of a comparison. And she was female. And she was formidable. And she was brilliant.

The trouble is her Iron politics stank.

On May 7th I hope Scotland takes this remarkable article to heart and universally announces its utter disdain for Neoliberalism and the Westminster sham that we are paying for.

This is real politics from a woman that “gets” what matters to people in Scotland and really everywhere else in Britain where self interest isn’t the priority.

History can be made if we hold our nerve (and Independence is not even in the manifesto). So you can chill about that.

Wild Tales (aka Relatos Salvajes): Review


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Pedro Almodovar produced this suite of six short films all based on the theme of revenge, written and directed by Argentinian filmmaker Damián Szifrón and at times astoundingly photographed by Javier Julia.

(His use of bokeh in the final film on a Buenos Aires Rooftop is particularly worthy of merit – but I apologise for even mentioning it because I know how wonky that reads;)

So, in six short films there will be winners and losers and to get the bad news out of the way quickly they slightly outstay their welcome towards the end, partly because we’ve worked out how Szifrón thinks and so we can spot the plot twists a little too early.

But put that to one side and you have a sextet of extraordinarily original little gems.

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The advantage of being penned, directed and shot by the same team is that they really do hang together as a unit and there are a number of sit up in your seat bolt upright moments along with number us belly laughs.

The first of the six is something of a premonition of the Germanwings disaster but with a huge dollop of humour built in.

What follows includes a number of automotive moments.  Two of them have road rage at their core (or at least road tax rage) and both stand out.

The movie was nominated for the Foreign language Oscar but faced pretty stiff competition this year.

Me?  I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Szifrón.  It reminds me (in a different way of Amores Perros in that it uses a short film format to establish the credentials of great south American film making and that didn’t do Alejandro González Iñárritu any harm, as he has progressed to nominations for best picture with Babel and then rightfully take home the moolah with Birman this year.

Supreme film making of nearly the highest order.

Dark Horse the Documentary: Review


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Once in a while fairytales come true in real life.  This documentary charts the story of one of those times.

Louise Osmond unfolds her story in real time using a mix of interviews, reminiscences, TV footage and a variety of amateur video moments of varying quality, but the story is so compelling that some of the rougher bits merely add to the gritty reality of the tale set in the grimmest of Welsh valleys.  In a former pit village (Cefn Fforest, Caerphilly) that could certainly not be described in any way as idyllic.

It really is a ripping yarn for our times and concerns the career of a racehorse called Dream Alliance owned by a motley crew of 30 working class Welsh men and women, bred by the cleaner at Asda and mared by what could best be described as a bit of a dray horse with literally no discernible racecourse form whatsoever.  The sire perhaps had a bit more form, but hardly of Nijinsky proportions.

The subplot of the story is about class.  The most noble, most royal and most privileged sport of them all (apart from, say, polo) is horse racing.  So to enter the world of horse racing as a  bunch of 30 complete amateurs who could barely afford the £10 a week the syndicate they formed in their local pub to breed and then race a horse was more than simply a “challenge”  it was verging on the insane.

But slowly but surely Dream Alliance’s story is told, from the search for his mother and father to his birth (caught on CCTV), his childhood being raised on an allotment and then his entry (“like a snotty nosed comprehensive schoolboy arriving at Eton”) into Phillip Hobbs’ Minehead yard.

It’s perhaps ironic that Hobbs assistant trainer, Johnson White, who tells the story from the trainer’s side has every familiarity with the concept of silver spoons and was initially horrified at the prospect of these oiks and their second rate unschooled horse infiltrating his yard but at the end of the day money is money and given that many a mickle make a buckle the thirty Welsh dreamers had amassed enough of a muckle to give it a go.

I won’t spoil the story by going any further other than to say what now unfolds is Dream Alliance’s at times roller coaster career.  Told in almost breathtaking style.  There were three or four moments that had me close to tears.  Mainly in sheer admiration at Jan Vokes whose vision the whole idea was.

This is a beautiful documentary, truly heartfelt, and utterly compelling with a vestry, very warm heart and a tremendous fillip for all those dreamers out there who dare to be different.

Go and enjoy!

 

Know any stenographers?


Do you even know what a stenographer is?

The Urban Dictionary describes it thus:

stenographer is someone who types what people say. You have to listen carefully and type very fast to be a stenographer. On TV shows, you may have noticed someone typing everything the judge, lawyers, and witnesses say in a courtroom. That’s the stenographer.

So it’s the ideal subject matter for a tap dancing number as you tip tap away at your typewriter and that’s exactly the idea behind this number in my Youth Theatre’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  In this scene Millie walks the stenography test.

(It’s 1922.)

Millie (Emily Jackson) had sadly lost her voice on the day I filmed the rehearsal.

 

The Westminster Leaders Debate 2nd April 2015


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In truth the format didn’t really work.  There were too many protagonists for it to ever really become a proper debate.  The conclusion was a series of Party Political Broadcasts that some handled better, and seemingly more genuinely, than others.  In particular Ed Miliband looked like he was reading from an autocued manifesto.

But of one thing there can be no doubt at all.  The arrival of Nicola Sturgeon as a serious politician on the national stage.

Here is the result of The Guardian’s Poll of (snap) polls showing the average of all four polls released after the debate.

Cameron: 22%

Miliband: 22%

Farage: 21%

Sturgeon: 20%

Clegg: 9%

Bennett: 4%

Wood: 3%

Here is You Gov’s snap poll that shows Sturgeon actually WINNING the debate.  (How is that possible?)

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Here’s the result according to Twitter which puts her level with Clegg.

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This simply should not happen.

Personally, I thought Leanne Wood had an exemplary performance but she and Natalie Bennet (less good, but certainly commendable) did not convert their performances into rating points.

What I take from this then is that although I did not rate his performance Miliband actually emerged with some prime ministerial credibility.  Cameron didn’t blow it and Farage is becoming a loveable buffoon (along the lines of Boris Johnstone – but without his brains).  It seems the British public like his tomfoolery and are prepared to ignore statements (ar actually agree with them) like “We have to build a new house every 7 minutes to cope with migrants.”

Leanne Wood clearly played a too overt Welsh card to garner widespread support, but Sturgeon batted from a wider perspective allaying all those hideous Daily Mail/Torygraph slanderous headlines about the SNP trying to sabotage Westminster and only interested in one thing – the dissolution of the Union.

Instead what she demonstrated was a progressive Social Democratic agenda as opposed to a 20th/19th century socialist or, worse, a 21st century neoliberal politic.

Nicola Sturgeon has emerged unquestionably as the face of modern politics and has gained outrageous respect.  Hail Hail.

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