‘Truth’, immigration and the BBC

Image © Felix-felix

Robin Richardson

The Truth about Immigration was broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday 7 January, having been trailed in advance both widely and deeply. Viewers were promised it would be full of new clarity and insight, based on new and powerful facts and figures. Further, it would be imbued with unusual honesty from politicians and senior civil servants, and – even – from the BBC itself. In the event the programme was a shoddy and shameful shambles. Visually, technically, conceptually, ethically, politically and emotionally, it was the very worst kind of tabloid TV, an hour of bias against understanding, totally unworthy to be described as public service broadcasting. Read more of this post

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

In Defence of the War Poets

Katherine Edwards

Should the First World War be seen principally as a European and world catastrophe or as a British triumph? As we mark the centenary of the Great War, the debate on its commemoration has intensified, with the Education Secretary recently lambasting senior academics for their lack of patriotism.  Attacks on the influence of Blackadder are fast becoming just as much a cliché of the ‘revisionist’ school as the clichés the revisionists claim to be dispelling.  And where Blackadder is mentioned we can be sure the war poets – and Wilfred Owen in particular – will be the target of the next sneer. Hew Strachan is intent on demonstrating that ‘there was something more between 1914 and 1918 than futility and poems’.   Michael Morpurgo came under fire in the Moral Maze for citing Wilfred Owen.  More recently John Blake painted a scornful picture of teachers ‘sonorously intoning’ Owen’s poetry, placing much of the blame for what he considers to be the ‘myths’ taught about World War One on the excessive influence of Owen and Sassoon, who he claims, are misleadingly ‘sold as the authentic voice of the front-line soldier’. Read more of this post

Good Old George, The Life of George Lansbury by Bob Holman book review

LeftCentral Book Review

In 1933 George Lansbury was hospitalised, his injuries sustained whilst campaigning to keep the British Labour Party afloat.  No easy task, the party a rump after the 1931 election – Labour reduced to 52 seats, compared to the 287 won in 1929.  As Labour Leader he played a vital constitutional role during a precarious time for democracy. According to Stanley Baldwin, Lansbury`s leadership of the opposition, “helped to keep the flag of Parliamentary government flying in the world”.  A remarkable tribute, after all he had previously gone to prison in pursuit of his political beliefs, even participating in a hunger strike.  And his commitment to constitutionalism dimmed briefly in 1912 when he flirted with syndicalism. Read more of this post

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, a Review

Lincoln Green  

Image © Weglinde

Simon Reeve’s series of 4 programmes broadcast on BBC2 attempts to explain why pilgrimages take place, particularly in an age of scientific rationalism and relative medical competence.  The presenter is deeply affected by the physical beauty of the holy sites, the architecture of our great buildings and the hospitality of pilgrims and their supporters.  Nevertheless the programme frequently appears little more than a travelogue broken up with interviews and meetings with kind and courteous eccentrics.  Despite the superficial treatment of its content the programme does however introduce a number of issues and helps the viewer to understand why huge numbers of people of many faiths have felt the need to participate in what could be potentially a very onerous and life-changing journey. Read more of this post

Days of Hope (1916: Joining Up – Episode 1): Directed by Ken Loach (1975)

LeftCentral Review 

This outstanding four part drama begins in 1916; it initially concentrates on Phillip Hargreaves (Nikolas Simmonds) and his wife Sarah Hargreaves (Pamela Brighton).  The opening scene takes us to the Matthews homestead, where Ben Matthews (Paul Copley) meets a soldier and neighbour (Peter Russell) on leave from Flanders; he is carrying a gun and wearing khaki. The soldier in a passing reference to the Matthews family points out “bet their making a right packet, what with the war and the price of beef and all”.  Thus the stage is set for the paradox of the Great War on the home front, as Ben warns his sister that the Police have arrived on the farm to arrest Philip, a socialist and conscientious objector. This prompts Philip and Sarah to organise their departure, while Tom Matthews (Cliff Kershaw) provides the couple with money to make good their escape to London. Sarah’s father does this, even though he is an advocate of war (later attending a pro-war meeting).  Prior to leaving Phillip and Tom debate the issue around the dinner table, allowing Philip to forward a developing socialist analysis.  Despite the views articulated by Tom in opposition, his position is clearly an ambiguous one; he is reluctant to sanction his son’s premature army call up and refuses to view his son-in-law as a coward.  Read more of this post

It`s raining stones again…

Nora Connolly

Image © Tmaurizia

When will UK interest rates rise?  Pundits recently suggesting an increase likely prior to the next general election, a scenario which would allow the Coalition to spin the policy as a by-product of economic recovery. Given that any decision made in this regard by the Bank of England must be linked to an economic upturn. This introduces a potentially nasty paradox, as economic recovery, either real or illusory (the latter more likely) could have dire implications for many UK households currently struggling to make ends meet at this time. All things considered, it might be prudent to avoid household debt at the moment, a view which is shared by those now running the British economy, not the Treasury but the Bank of England, after yesterday’s very British coup.  The recent announcement by the Bank of England to withdraw the funding for lending scheme had an immediate impact as “shares in construction companies plunged”.  But more significantly the financial stability report leaves Treasury policy undermined, while at the same time cleverly placing future responsibility for any UK housing bubble at the door of number 11 Downing Street. Read more of this post

How many neo-liberals does it take to change a light bulb?

Nora Connolly 

Image © CharlesJshapr

We are all neo-liberals now. You might not like it but an insidious political metamorphosis has taken place, those in denial akin to the misfortunate frog unaware that it’s getting boiled out of existence. We are shedding our social democrat identity for an ugly neo-liberal form and the political implications for this are profound. Recently, I wondered why the economic meltdown of 2008 hadn’t undermined the neo-liberal project, a prescient query. Answers now provided by Professor Philip Mirowski in his recently published `Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Verso 2013)`. His thesis a pessimistic one, although it provides the Left with a much needed counter narrative to reconceptualise their collective notion of markets.   Read more of this post

The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes by Jonathan Rose, Book Review

Left Central Book Review

Jonathan Rose has provided a service to the working class, an increasingly ignored and demonised section of UK society; clearly there is more to this maligned group than the sobriquet, Chav. Although such hostility is not new; as the working class portrayal by EM Foster in Howard`s End indicates, the caricature of Leonard Bast, soundly critiqued in this text. Rose compares Leonard Bast with Manchester clerk Neville Cardus, he and a companion we are informed, “talked and talked…not to air our economic grievances, not to spout politics and discontent, but to relieve the ferment of our minds, our emotions after the impact of Man and Superman, Elektra, Riders to the Sea, Pelleas and Melisande, Scheherazade, Prince Igor”. Cardus a brilliant autodidactic represents a highly prevalent though largely forgotten feature of our industrial past. Today readers assimilate classical literature by first buying a`Beginners Guide`, it can only be imagined what the Scottish weavers of the Industrial Revolution would have thought of this. Mill workers carrying out intricate and tough manual labour, while next to them perched on a reading stand was a copy of the Iliad or the Odyssey. They read an entire canon of classical literature this way, an army of working class autodidacts, learning at their work station. Jonathan Rose like the Scottish weavers he so eloquently describes has seamlessly woven a vast collection of working class memoirs into a compelling piece of prose with an essence of John Clare. Read more of this post

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