Working Class heroes in British film

In a fim course, it came as something of a shock that the films picked out to portray working class life, were ones that featured individuals somewhat on the edge of the mainstream of working class people –  Arthur Seaton in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning“; Jo in “A Taste of Honey“; Billy Casper in “Kes“;  Jimmy Cooper in “Quadrophenia“; Renton in “Trainspotting“; Shaun in “This is England“; Jimmy McCabe in “Jawbone“.
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Film struggles beyond telling the stories of lead individuals, and doesn’t have the time to tell stories of individual development, especially through the world of work where you acquire knowledge, skills and experiences, that give you the confidence to say we the people can do things, cos we are together and we take responsibility.

Nor do any of the films talk about people that came from the working classes to be lead the country – Jack Jones, Ernest Bevin.  (There was a short tv series on Nye Bevan. Note, our greatest, Clem Attlee, George Orwell and Michael Foot came from more privileged backgrounds.)

It’s as if the best we can expect from the media of films is social liberalism.
It’s as if the progress in the UK has been Socialist, without the emphasis on special individuals.
Whatever, I feel like the country is missing some films that tells people. what we really are, and what we delivered., under Clem, under Harold, and even under Tony.

But in it all, a sense of disappointment that this is the list of films that show the British working class.  Surely, we deserved more.


Jack Jones documentary

Striking image for a documentary on Jack Jones, largely financed with union funds.
A reminder of a union leader whose political values and organisational capability led to him creating Britain’s largest union.
Often on the tele to get the values across and to ensure justice at the workplace was a media issue – kinda missing that in particular these days.
The documentary makes the point that low hours contracts are the casualisation of labour that was fought against for all those years.
Born in a deprived part of Liverpool, his commitment to the cause and for trade unions was “in your bones”, as Dennis Skinner put it.
Opposing fascism and fighting in the Spanish Civil War was celebrated, although his service as a Liverpool City Councillor (he was the youngest councillor) wasn’t.
Taking union organisation in the motor city of Coventry to a new level.
He was very well-known, and highly regarded by the public, and in retirement led the National Pensioners’ Convention.

For sons of 70’s trade unions activists like me, the documentary is not only a rehearsal of good values, but also an immersion in nostalgia as you recognise all the activists and leaders from the past.  Oh and Mike Yarwood.

It is surprising that documentaries like these haven’t already been made, especially by the BBC who had people like Michael Cockerill who could have done something with the life story.  This documentary has too many testifiers from now and not enough film from then.
Maybe something could then have been said about his time as a Councillor.  Maybe some recognition for advances made for pensioners by new Labour before his death in 2009.

The 36% needs to be the target

So I was hoping for that Euphonium ridicule march tune to be used this weekend, but the idea was floated too far back, so the comedy awards for the Trump visit goes to women dressing as characters from the TV series.
Astonishing then to see Theresa May in that long red dress.
But it seems sympathy is needed to cos being held by the hand in such an aggressive way is yet another form of sexist oppression.
On the other hand, she did invite him for an official visit.
Trump sought to crystallise how May’s Brexit white paper is not Brexit at all, even though logic says – No, we’re still leaving the EU.
The baby blimp was great.  Not least because of how supporters reacted.
If May was a loser from the visit, so was Piers Morgan.
Maybe I should spend time listing all the reasons why what Trump and his supporters are wrong, but of course, that was Sadiq Khan’s job to do that as he was picked out (after the attacks on Merkel and May) for failing London.  Yep, Trump is anti-women and anti-muslim.
Not so sure about the fascist attack line from the left generally, cos fascism is something more precise.
Anyway, the challenge remains persuading that 36% core of American people who support him no matter what.

A Very English Scandal

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A BBC tv series telling tales of Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott, and how Thorpe came to order the murder of Scott, but managed to escape conviction for it.
With a heavy dose of the oppression caused by Britain’s anti-homosexual law and practices added in.
The drama does confuse –
– clearly saying that Thorpe was wrong for arranging a murder, yet showing the suffering at the hands of Scott’s irregular requests for help that taunted his first wife (that might explain the irrational drive for his death);
– spelling out that Thorpe was getting off because people in power looked after each other, but also giving form to the judge’s most compelling criticism of 2 of the key prosecution witnesses – they did testify for money;
– suggesting that Thorpe have privately fallen for Scott cos of the propensity to be beaten up by others whilst on the pull, when at the outset it showed Thorpe finding Scott beautiful;
– explaining Scott suffered from mental illness, yet capable of persuading people to be very generous to him;
– its portrayal of Scott as a gay champion in court (“I was rude! I was queer! I was myself!”) is at odds with reports elsewhere – e.g. “Scott contended that homosexuality was an incurable disease, with which Thorpe had infected him“.
The first 2 and a half of the episodes fair whipped along, with a huge degree of laughter at some of the farcical elements, some implied strong sex scenes (Brookside’s first lesbian kiss now seems pretty pallid by comparison),  some genuinely touching scenes (Thorpe’s love for his first wife and the new baby) and some tragedy (Gwen Parry-Jones, a friend of Scott’s, drinking herself to death).
Some significant omissions –
– Harold Wilson thinking the South Africans were trying to frame Jeremy Thorpe;
– the gunman not being shown in the trial.
Biggest criticism has to be of the court section – more of the judge could have been shown to give more force to the biased nature of his summing up; less of the irrelevant journeys to and from gaol; using TV coverage to ram home the editorialising rather than court scenes to increase the drama.
Even with its mis-fires and omissions (inevitable I know), it will be one of the TV highlights of the year.
The story is fascinating and there’s a lot of documentaries available on youtube, albeit with a bit of self-righteous journalism.
What are the big lessons for today?
Well, not that nothing’s changed.  We’ve come a long way on equal opportunities.
For me –
– the shallowness of third party / individual Liberal party politics that was not to serve Britain well;
the jury being frustrated at not being able express concerns;
– that the court system is not accountable enough and that there are still things to work out to get to the truth and to justice more quickly and effectively.

Somerset Conservatives, the next to fail their people

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So after Northants has been taken over, and warnings issued about Worcestershire, Somerset is now at risk of bankruptcy.
For six years, Somerset Conservatives froze council tax, no doubt triumphantly.
Now they want a bail-out.
Oh sure, I’d give it them. Cos I don’t want the development of children or public libraries to suffer, even in Somerset – motto “all of the people of Somersetshire”.
But you just want to take these people and shake them for their complacency.
After Kay Cutts’ dog whistle, she will be disappointed to hear that no-one in Somerset is blaming refugees. Apparently, demand for children’s social services is a factor.
Somerset Conservatives want the Gov’t “to fix a ‘broken’ system of council funding” … where have they been?
Meanwhile, a bail-out, please, for all councils.

Funny Cow

A commanding, slightly care-worn, glass-ceiling breaking comedienne holds attention as she performs a heart-felt, sometimes funny monologue, and the films breaks out to tell the tale of how her confidence and defiance led her to be herself and be a national star.
Such a good film.  Go see.
And yes, my rating system is broken again.
(r:9.8; e:5, s:5, p:5).
Nostalgia too.  I kept recognising the cars.  My Dad being a social club’s entertainments secretary.
And I kept thinking of Marti Cane – who I did not like – I guess for political reasons.  Turns out the film draws heavily on her life-story and struggle.  And playing Sun City apart, it’s quite a story.
Guardian review.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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The movie.  And again I’m awarding top marks.  For a romance.   Apparently I’m going soft.  The movie it seems is predictable and too long.  Chintzy.  World War twee. And worse – Guardian review – 2 out of 5. But I was never bored and never felt the movie tried to heighten the tension in a false way.  Clearly the structure of the source book gives the spaces for each of the characters’ stories to be told.
I wonder if the tension was heightened instead for me by not watching any reviews of the film, and the knowledge of the Jersey lad sent to a concentration camp cos the Nazis confiscated his motorbike so he borrowed one of theirs (he was to die of TB in Nottingham a few years later).  Perhaps I filled in for the film for fighting oppression, and took too much from the celebration of coming together to discuss art.
(r:9.6; e:5, s:5, t:5).