Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Watching the repeat of Filth! The Mary Whitehouse story on the BBC last night, I was again surprised that Julie Walters had agreed to appear in it. To me, Ms Walters seems a liberal-minded person, almost the opposite of Mrs Whitehouse, and she admitted in an interview when the play was first shown that she never agreed with Whitehouse's views. And yet, it seemed to me that the play was much too sympathetic to Whitehouse, portraying her as a bit misguided and sometimes comical, but basically a nice, "cuddly" sort of person. This was never my impression of her - many of her pronouncements showed her as vindictive and intolerant in the extreme. The play also seemed unfair on Sir Hugh Greene, ex Director-General of the BBC, portraying him as a boorish, closed-minded buffoon and apparently ignoring the good work he did in "opening out" TV drama in the 1960s.

Trawling around for more information on the programme and the Whitehouse legacy (she died in 2001), I found this very interesting article about Whitehouse's relationship with her family.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Time to go

I voted Labour in the General Election and wanted another Labour government, in spite of its faults. However, I do feel strongly that it's now time for Gordon Brown to leave Downing Street and resign as leader of the Labour Party. It's clear that the Tories polled the most votes and for him to cling to power is just prolonging the uncertainty that is the last thing the country needs.

Perhaps our best hope (although it's a slim one) is for the Tories to form a government with the LibDems which might last a year or so. That would give the time for Labour to regroup under a new leader and, hopefully, come back to power at the next election.

Of course, anything could happen to the economy in the meantime but, if there's to be any hope of a real economic recovery, we obviously need a government that's as stable as possible soon.

Monday, 3 May 2010


We tend to forget that this fascinating city, with a vast store of history, beautiful streets to walk around, and quite a few free assets such as the Botanical Gardens and Arthur's Seat, is almost on our doorstep - well, an hour and a half away by train, to be precise. We're both keen to avoid the crowds of the Festival, and Easter last year was pretty busy, so this year we timed our visit a couple of weeks after Easter, at the end of April.
Something we hadn't seen before was Mary King's Close, a sobering reminder of the lives that many people had to endure a few centuries ago. More photos of the city in general on my Flickr pages.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Politics (rhetorical questions!)

As it now looks as if the Tory party is in the lead in election polls, I'm alarmed by the way spending cuts are being discussed. David Cameron has said quite openly that he's going to target areas like mine (the north east of England) in his cuts. It seems he wants to start making these as soon as possible and give tax cuts to his rich friends, instead of putting the burden of extra taxes on the better off, as it should be. While I agree that the deficit needs to be tackled, this was largely a product of the banking system. Shouldn't even heftier taxes be levied on the banks, then, and the rest on areas like VAT, rather than creating unemployment deliberately and increasing the benefits bill by sacking public service workers?

As you'll have gathered, I'm not a Conservative supporter. The LibDems have, in the past, seemed to me to have some sensible policies. However, Nick Clegg has shown himself completely out of touch with a large segment of the public on the issue of immigration, by suggesting an amnesty that would give the right of residence to families of some illegal immigrants.

The perception (accurate or not) is that immigration is already out of control in this country, and that many asylum seekers choose Britain as a "soft touch". This idea may not stand up to scrutiny but, then, why do so many non-European asylum seekers end up in the UK when the rules say that they should seek asylum in the nearest "safe" country to their country of origin? This is not a question of racism or xenophobia. No-one can deny that we are a small, overcrowded island facing some severe economic problems. When many retired and working class people see immigrants every day who are not allowed to work because they are still being processed by a dysfunctional system, and those indigenous people are themselves on a low income, then resentment builds up, and this has worrying implications for social cohesion in the UK. We need to be able to discuss immigration levels without being called bigots. While I've no wish to sound like Enoch Powell, surely the minimum the new government has to do is to tackle the Daily Express' "immigrant invasion" perception, even if this doesn't lead to a reduction in immigration?

Like many of us, I've lost most of my faith in policitians. I'll put my cards on the table and say that Labour seems the least of the evils to me, and I've already cast my postal vote for them.

I'm a bit baffled by the idea that people need the recent TV debates to help them decide how to vote. Surely everyone who watches TV or reads (proper) newspapers knows the policies of the main parties? If we make the decision on which party to vote for on the basis of a TV show and how well its leader performs there, isn't it all sinking towards the level of a "beauty contest"? I'm haunted by the fact that the voters in the USA (where the "TV political debate" idea originated) first saddled the world with George "Dubya" Bush on a very narrow majority, then - incredibly - voted him in decisively for a second term.