The Tory Eye Test


You know when you go to the optician, and they do that thing?

You know??

You peer through a contraption, that makes you look like The Terminator…

…at a circle of meaningless dots and they say: ‘This one?’ Then they swap the lenses and add: ‘Or this one?’

‘This one?’ With a sing song tone. ‘Or… THIS one?’

‘This one?’ Trying to vary the tune now. ‘Or this one?’ Sounding a bit like Jeremy Clarkson.

‘This one? … Or…. This one…?’

You’re sitting there, trying not to inhale the optician’s halitosis and thinking: ‘Bloody hell, mate, they look exactly the same, only blurry and meaningless in a slightly different way!’

‘This one? … Or…. This one…?’

By this point you’re wondering whether to choose one for the sake of it.

‘This one? … Or…. This one?’

Anything to make it stop.

‘This one? … Or…. This one…?’


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

…The Tory leadership contest.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone (The Sad Slow Death Of Radio Drama)

Yesterday, BBC Woman’s Hour proudly announced that from 17th May they are going to be on air for a A FULL HOUR! Their caps, their exclamation mark.

Get out the party poppers! No more drama!

Well, they might be celebrating with the emoji party poppers at Woman’s Hour, but back in the real world this is nothing less than a cost cutting exercise, signalling the loss of over 250 fifteen minute dramas – equivalent to sixty-four hours of commissioning – mainly of original work, which have been incorporated into the programme since 1998. It’s not just a body blow to the writing community, but this is work now lost for hundreds of actors, technicians, producers, directors.

Of course there is always a discussion to be had about scheduling. I would never argue that these things should be set in stone. There’s a good case to be made for Woman’s Hour having their whole sixty minutes. Good luck to them. Genuinely. But this isn’t a scheduling decision. That sixty-four hours of drama production isn’t magically going to appear elsewhere on the Network. It’s gone. This is just the most visible of a series of incremental cuts, hot on the heels of the erosion of the Saturday afternoon drama from a high point of forty original commissions to just twelve in the current year. No longer The Saturday Drama… it is now, effectively, The Monthly Drama. At the same time the weekday Afternoon Drama has lost fifteen minutes per week, which may not sound like much, but amounts to a further twelve hours lost commissioning, again, primarily of original work.

In total, Radio 4 has cut over a hundred hours of Radio Drama commissioning per year. At a time when the BBC is facing unprecedented pressures on its financing I can understand the attraction of a move that is saving them many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Drama is one of the most expensive of the radio genres. This is true. A sixty minute BBC radio play costs between £20,000 and £24,000, which might sound like a lot, but remember that you’d be hard pressed to bring in an hour of TV drama for less than £500,000 and most cost a lot, lot more. Once you’re into the kinds of SFX that TV audiences expect budgets regularly run into the millions, while on radio those amazing visual effects are conjured up in the listeners mind, so the production costs remain the same. Yes, some of the Audio Drama slack is being picked up by BBC Sounds but it’s hard to find concrete figures as to how much, and a back of the envelope calculation doesn’t get anywhere near them making up the shortfall.

‘Hang on a minute!’ I hear you say. ‘There’s still The Archers.’ Yes, that’s true – and the Sunday Drama remains largely untouched, although this latter slot is, according to the BBC’s own commissioning guidelines, ‘almost exclusively the home of dramatisations’. Meanwhile what remains of the Afternoon Drama is increasingly devoted to series and serials which tend to go to more experienced writing talent.

Not only is this a near critical erosion of Radio Drama, but the loss of this hundred hours is disproportionately targeted at original work, and the changes as a whole are hard to tally with the Corporation’s often stated commitment to developing voices new to radio. Where radio used to be a significant entry point into the industry, where the relatively low production costs allowed it to be a platform for untried voiced, now anyone looking for their first break is faced with an increasingly fragmented and bewildering commissioning system. Meanwhile as production shifts from in-house to independent production companies – a move that has been extremely successful in the world of television – when Radio 4 takes a chainsaw to its radio drama schedules, so they take the same chainsaw to the independent production infrastructure they themselves have encouraged, undermining the economic model that sustains it.

But it isn’t just writers and creatives who lose out. 

During the pandemic, drama has never been more important. Audiences have flocked to television – the BBC and all the streaming platforms – hungry to find solace and inspiration from the telling of stories. It is bitterly ironic that the only medium able to continue drama production virtually unhindered throughout lockdown… was Radio.

In an age when the television industry has placed drama front and centre like never before, BBC Radio 4 is choosing this time in its history to diminish its role and its responsibility to one of the greatest treasures to be found in the nation’s dramatic landscape, one that the BBC itself pioneered for nearly a century, and one that has been an inspiration to millions and a seedbed to countless artists and technicians across the decades.

BBC Radio Drama then…

Yes, there is an expanding non-broadcast presence for audio drama away from the BBC, but it’s a genuine tragedy that the Corporation seems so willing to let its status as the champion and benchmark setter of the genre slip away so carelessly. Or perhaps the decision makers are simply unaware of the consequences their actions are having.

These cuts have been happening over a period of years – and the loss of the fifteen minute drama has been challenged by the Talent Unions and Professional Associations since it was first mooted over a year ago, sadly to no avail. The timing didn’t help. There was little appetite in the creative community for attacking the BBC during a pandemic and at a time when the corporation is going through an existential crisis.

But with this very public celebration by the BBC – ‘now the drama’s gone the party can begin!’ – which left writers and creatives feeling unloved and unwanted…

…and BBC Radio Drama now.

…perhaps it’s time for a more public dialogue to begin. This isn’t a plea for an unsustainable status quo. Scheduling – and where audio drama has its platform on the BBC – most definitely needs to change, but it’s time for the industry, writers and the audiences who love to get lost in the unique imaginative landscape of a radio play, to let the BBC know how they feel, and demand that the BBC rethink its approach. An email to could be a starting point, or fill in a comment on the online complaints page at:

This writer of nearly a hundred radio dramas wants Radio 4 to learn to love drama again, and to make it – us – welcome on its airwaves, and to work with the creative community – who have felt almost completely excluded from the decision making process – to re-establish the BBC as the Gold Standard in our art form.

Yesterday’s Cold Mash


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When The Mash Report started I was really excited, hopeful for a razor sharp, banging new satire show. But I gave up after two programmes… partly because, as my wife said: ‘This isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is’. We’d stumble across it occasionally after that, and she would say: ‘This still isn’t as funny as it thinks it is.’ Before making me switch over.

Having said that, some of the Rachel Parris one-off pieces were very funny indeed and it was also at its most interesting and challenging with some of the Geoff Norcot exchanges. So I felt fine not enduring the whole thing live, just waiting for the occasional good bits (mainly Rachel Parris) to pop up as viral clips on FB or Twitter. But overall it had an alienating self-righteous smugness about it which had me reaching for the remote.

Give Rachel Parris her own show, someone? One where she isn’t in a 6:2 minority perhaps?

Satire at its best is surprising, exciting, dangerous and, most of all, challenging. Satire that assumes you agree with it – even if you do, especially if you do – is irksome and self satisfied. The Mash Report was, disappointingly, too often the latter.

Sooo…. is its axing a sign of right wing censorship at the BBC because Director General, Tim Davie, apparently, has his tongue glued to Boris’s backside and his aunt’s cousin’s poodle once shagged the Shitzu belonging to a Tory donor’s cleaner? The Daily Telegraph seemed to think so (but since when did I believe everything I read in The Daily Telegraph?) and so did lots of social media commentators running around like headless chickens waving their hands in the air and shouting THE NAZIS ARE COMING!!!

Fact is, I have no idea. If it was axed for political reasons then that is greatly concerning, but I haven’t seen any proof of that as yet beyond conjecture, supposition, paranoia etc. But if the Nazis are coming and it is a right wing putsch at the BBC, it’s even more concerning – because it should have been axed for not being good enough. (That’s satire, by the way).

A show doesn’t have a right to air time because I broadly agree with its political standpoint.

Either way, I’m struggling to mourn its passing because I’m hoping for something better. And as the late, great Peter Cook once observed, the comedy of Beyond the Fringe was heavily influenced by the German Cabaret of the 1930s that did so much to stop the rise of Hitler.

Who Wants To Be A Billionaire?


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Billionaires. Is it inherently wrong to have that much money? Is it ‘obscene’ (as John McDonnell said today)? Should we get rid of billionaires as some pro-Corbyn commentators (notably Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle on the Emma Barnett show) have observed in recent weeks? Or simply make it impossible to have more than a billion pounds in the uk?

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No one contributed more to the popular perception of wealth than German cartoonist George Grosz

Ok, so I doubt anyone reading this would disagree that the increase in economic inequality not just in the UK, but globally, is a massive problem. But is the answer to it (is the answer to anything?) to start a populist vendetta against a hundred and fifty people whose wealth exceeds what is essentially a random number, picked out of the air because it’s eye catching and easy to remember? I’m not pleading their corner – I’m simply asking the question.

Why do we have billionaires? Russell-Moyle believes that the mere existence of billionaires creates poverty. I watched Laura Parker from Momentum expounding on BBC2’s Politics Live the other day that the only possible way a person could accrue a billion pounds is by aggressive tax avoidance, exploitation and shabby employment practices.

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Momentum’s Laura Parker believes all billionaires to be inherently dodgy

I have no idea if all one hundred and fifty UK billionaires are guilty of this, although depending on where you research this JK Rowling’s earnings have topped a billion dollars and I would be surprised to learn that she was into any of those (although to be fair I don’t know that she isn’t, she could be up to all sorts of heathen and fiendish evil for all I know).

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J K Rowling evil and heathen – depending on her net worth

I tentatively suggest that other factors are at play here, notably maths and technology. Quite simply there are more and more people on the planet, who want more and more stuff and modern technology means that it is easier and easier to sell that stuff… to all of them. Meanwhile inflation has meant that value per unit of currency has fallen over the decades.

Obscene? Or just a thing which is the inevitable result of population growth, and global consumerism and the reality that supply isn’t – nor will it ever be – globally collectivised.

Not right. Not wrong. Just maths and technology. And, for sure, probably a bit of tax avoidance and general skulduggery along the way in some instances.

So. If we did agree that having a billion pounds or more was obscene and that ultimately anyone who fell into that bracket simply wasn’t acceptable as a citizen in the UK how would we set about dealing with that?

For a start is a billion the right number? Are we talking about a billion pounds, a billion dollars, or a billion euros? Or is it just the idea of unimaginable wealth that we don’t like? If we are going to use words like ‘obscene’ where does obscenity start and acceptability finish? I mean why not £640million or £569,482.83p? Is £379m just mildly distasteful?

For it to make any kind of rational sense, you have to set a figure – just as we set a figure for top tax rates. Without a figure it’s meaningless and that figure has to be based on some kind of rationale other than blind resentment.

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell has made a step towards this. He has made it clear that under a Labour administration no Chief exec in the public sector would be able to earn more than twenty times the National Living Wage. That’s somewhere around £350,000.

That’s a lot of cash to most of us, but small potatoes in CEO land.  And nowhere near a million, let alone a billion. Will it re-set the dial in terms of expectations? Possibly, but I doubt it. Will it stop the best people taking those jobs? I have literally no idea. My gut says that it would change the character of the type of person who applies for this kind of job, which could be a good thing… or not. I simply don’t know.

But there is an underlying message there from Mr McDonnell. We obviously want the best people to run the public sector but the acceptable remuneration for that is £350,000 per annum and no more. Implicit in this is that when you pursue more outside of the public sector you are effectively drinking and driving, you are using your mobile phone while doing 105 down the Motorway of life. Sort of like a premiership footballer, who earn, well, an obscene amount…!

Jeremy Corbyn Tweeted today: ‘Do you know what the establishment and the wealthy few are really afraid of? You.’

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According to Wikipedia, depending on what sort of year I have, my annual earnings usually fall between the top one and two per cent on the UK earnings scale.  In a good year, there are less than half a million individuals who earn as much as I do. Although technically speaking, I am on a zero hours contract… of sorts.

I really need to know who ‘the wealthy few’ are? I mean, if I’m one of them and I’m reading Jeremy’s Tweet… then according to him I’m AFRAID OF MYSELF!!!

If I feed my profile into the computers at Labour HQ I fear they will short circuit like the Nomad robot in Star Trek!

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James T Kirk was always confounding AIs with unresolvable paradoxes

Let’s assume that all of this comes to pass, and having money – or even aspiring to great wealth and prosperity becomes a social no-no – and exceeding a billion squids (or whatever random number) is outlawed, what do we expect those people to do?  There are many devout Corbynistas who say they don’t care and good riddance if the billionaires decide to bugger off. But is that really what we want? Whilst outlawing wealth reduces inequality on paper, it only does so by cooking the books and slicing off the top of the differential graph.

We have to remember what our objectives are. If they are simply ideological – ie billionaires can fuck off – then, for sure, we can achieve that, but there’s no guarantee that in doing that we alleviate poverty at the bottom of the income scale. If our objective is to alleviate poverty and redistribute wealth, then we have to keep the wealth in the country precisely so that it can be redistributed.

You can’t redistribute nothing.

Doing that isn’t easy, and there are a multitude of economic and political approaches to achieving effective redistribution. We could argue the toss about that for months, but I do know for sure that ‘banning billionaires’ or any associated Us-and-Themery won’t get us a millimetre closer to achieving that goal. It’s just populism. Divisive. Pointless. No different at its heart that the mentality of Donald Trump whipping up the crowd at one of his rallies, with the sole objective of fermenting yet moire hate. Are those the values of the Labour Party now? I do hope not.

Please can we be smart about this and think about what we want to achieve and not who we resent, or who we can blame simply for existing. We know exactly where that kind of thinking leads.

In the meantime, I’m going to ensure that my earnings stay at £999,999.99p and not a penny more. That way all my Corbynista friends will go on loving me.

First World Problems And My Pen Of Doom!


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As visitors to this page will know, back in the heady, carefree days of 2017 I was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to write a five-part drama imagining the UK plunging into a bloody civil war some time sort of now-ish.


This was to be no sci-fi melodrama but a tale of a Radio 4-style (i.e. middle-class) family’s battle for survival in the face of social and infrastructure collapse, set against a thoroughly researched and war-gamed political backstory.

I called it First World Problems. See what I did there?

To that end, I assembled an array of in-house BBC expertise, academics and parliamentary advisers and researchers – top people who mostly approached the task as a sort of dystopian parlour game, albeit often with a fair degree of wry amusement.

I sat down with one senior political analyst in the airy canteen at BBC Millbank. Well, for starters, we decided it would help if there was someone in the background of my scenario with the civil service in their sights. This was for the BBC so my hypothetical crisis had to work with governments of every hue. On the left that might be a fictional fixer in the image of, say, a Seamus Milne, and on the right it could be someone like, oh, I don’t know… Dominic Cummings?

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We dared to imagine this man pulling the strings at Number Ten. Absurd!

How we laughed.

That was two years ago, and it seemed little more than a flight of darkly satirical fancy. When Cummings’s tenure was announced in July, my stomach turned.

Back in the canteen, my oracle postulated that with the civil service under attack, I’d now need an irreconcilable rift in the ruling superstructure to make my story credible. What if, following a chaotic Brexit, the infrastructure is cracking under the strain: Northern Ireland is subsumed into the Republic, Scotland bolts for the exit with an illegal IndyRef 2.0 resulting in a unilateral declaration of independence? There’s a scramble for control of the nukes at Faslane resulting in an armed and deadly conflagration. The border is closed, and Westminster goes nuts. MPs from all parties try to rein in the Executive, who in turn declares a state of emergency and prorogues Parliament, literally locking the MPs out of the building.

“I mean, I can’t really see it happening”, mused my adviser. Well, as Eric Morecambe might have said, “All the right notes, even if not necessarily in the right order”.

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Eric Morecambe takes a look at my projections back in 2017

There have been rumbles about prorogation all summer, but commentator after commentator insisted it would never happen. It was staying safely fictional, until Wednesday morning.

Please God any resemblance to real events stops right here!

However, within minutes there was speculation that it would turbo charge Nicola Sturgeon’s drive for a second referendum. As to whether that would ever be granted, who knows? If Westminster tried to block it, it doesn’t feel out of the ball park to imagine an enraged Scotland doing it anyway. And if they did? There’s a creeping sense with the departure of Ruth Davidson that perhaps Mr Johnson (or Mr Cummings??) doesn’t really care if Scotland cuts loose. It would make it easier for the Tories to hold a majority at Westminster if they did, but a whiplash fracturing of the Union would, as in my drama, be dangerously destabilising.

My excluded fictional MPs form a Democratic Alliance, which sits in an alternative chamber across the city (today suggested by more than one political player in the real world).

The country splits across the middle, with the big metropolitan authorities – the northern cities – siding with the rogue DA, while the south sticks with the Government. The Royal Family is forced to take sides. We all expect Elizabeth to stay neutral but who knows what Charles or William would do faced with future decisions, especially if the democratic mandate is unclear. This, in turn, begs the question of the military and the police. To whom are they now accountable? To whom are they loyal? What happens if they are split?

Other advisers warned of food and medicine shortages (now being prepared for), not to mention the fragility of the National Grid with multi-generator cascade failures (tick) as the fine balance of our energy infrastructure is disrupted.

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When the power went, people ‘self evacuated’ and walked along the tracks.

Never mind lightning strikes, imagine if Scotland stopped exporting its power across the border to England. In my dystopian Tomorrow, they who control the National Grid Control Centre at Wokingham don’t just control our ability to keep the lights on, they control the internet, the mobile phone network, our ability to get petrol out of the pumps at filling stations, and the BACS system so integral to our cashless world. They control the country.

Far fetched? Ridiculous? Hysterical?

That’s what I thought in 2017, and just look at how much of that has either come true or is creeping nearer to the front of the queue ready to be ticked off the list. Even worse, look at how much we have normalised these things, how quickly we ‘get used’ to them. That, for me, is the most dangerous part of this. Only yesterday I was conversing with one of my former advisers who seemed content that apathy and inertia would stop any major civil unrest happening as if he hadn’t noticed that we are already careering down the slide with no idea what’s at the bottom. Like the old joke about how an optimist  is a person who falls out of a twenty storey window only to shout to an office worker on the tenth floor, ‘All right so far!’.

Just before I penned my radio epic I had delivered a first draft of a police procedural about a series of murders of gay men initially mistaken for terrorism but which ultimately turn out to be the work of a closeted muslim guy unable to resolve deep personal inner turmoil. I delivered it to my producer the day before the Orlando Club shootings about which there has been much similar (but as yet unproven) speculation. The BBC’s Editorial Policy team decreed I would have to rewrite the whole thing even though my script pre-dated reality. Last year I wrote another procedural about the murder of a man, thrown from the window of a Manchester Hotel. Pretty much exactly that happened almost exactly two months after I delivered the script. Although my hotel was absolutely fictional, the imaginative starting point had been the same building.

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The police forensic tent outside Manchester’s Britannia Hotel in September 2018

Of course, these are simply unsettling coincidences.

Or are they?

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The chicken or the egg?

When First World Problems finally aired in 2018 I was accused by organised Twitter trolls of trying to ferment unrest, but whilst the causal accusation is ridiculous, as with all dystopian fiction, if you can construct a possible narrative from your imagination, no matter how seemingly implausible, then that narrative can become reality. A few years back Prof Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw wrote a book about quantum physics called, ‘Everything That Can Happen Will Happen’, but in the realm of human behaviour I’m increasingly inclined to think this is true, quantum or no quantum. If a person, or a group of people, can behave in a certain way, no matter how idiotic, then sooner or later someone will. Just ask anyone who has ever had to design a safety system.

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When I first saw this I thought it was a spoof…  It wasn’t. Although I have to admit a certain pride at being considered worthy of the BBC Death Cult Team.

A month after 9/11, two dozen Hollywood screenwriters were reputedly called in to the Pentagon hypothesise about ingenious and dastardly ways hostile agents could cause death and destruction across the US. I’m having difficulty verifying this, but if they weren’t, then perhaps they should have been. The dystopian and nihilistic imagination isn’t just the preserve of storytellers.

If we can imagine something bad coming, it’s worth taking our imaginations seriously – that’s what imagination is for after all – and then, hopefully, we can head our nightmares off at the pass before they become reality.

Having said that, my wife wants me to use my Pen Of Doom to write a drama about how the Amazon Rainforest is saved, or even better, some dialogue featuring a few winning lottery numbers.

And what about my fictional middle class Radio 4 family? Well you can still hear what happens to them here

Suffice it to say when they flee the city to hide out in the now intensely nationalist North Wales, it doesn’t end well. They’re English after all.

Ethnic cleansing, anyone?

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Syrian migrants crossing Hungary in 2015.

This image was the spark for First World Problems. Although not ethnic cleansing per se, I wanted to examine how my comfortable, white, English, Radio 4 loving family could end up in exactly this situation in our own green and pleasant land.

I’m still praying that my dystopian hypothetical stays precisely that.

When Is A Penis Not A Penis?


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I blame the vaccinations.

I’m 59 and a few weeks shy of a trip to Madagascar to see the lemurs (before the whole island is logged to destruction) the practice nurse advised me not only to renew my typhoid immunity but to have an MMR booster.

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The Marmoset is looking forward to meeting one of his cute Lemur cousins in Madagascar

Cue eighteen hours of slightly trippy wooziness not to mention two extremely sore upper arms. So that was any creative work out of the window. Unable to sleep – because every time I rolled over the pain woke me up – I rolled, instead, down to the tram and headed into Central Manchester to wooze in front of a movie at the city’s premier arthouse cinema, Home.

What to see in the dog days of August? I’m not sure if it’s me, or the exodus of creative talent from traditional movie making to long form TV drama, but I often struggle to find films that really attract me these days. Summer is particularly barren… there aren’t even any blockbusters I want to see. Squinting at the programme on offer I opt for Danish indie movie, Holiday – written and directed by Isabella Eklöf whose screenplay for the dark-as-dark-can-be realist Troll drama, Border, so haunted me last year. I’ve vaguely skim read a couple of reviews of Holiday (i.e. looked at the star ratings) and seem to remember that critics have quite liked it. So in I go.

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Great poster for ‘Holiday’ starring Victoria Carmen Sonne

Ok. I need to be up front about this. I didn’t make it to the end so I am not offering any kind of considered critique of the movie itself. No one can do that without watching the whole of something. To do so would be dishonest and wrong.

I blame the vaccinations. Or The Penis. Or perhaps a heady (!) combination of both.


Spoilers ahoy – stop here and come back after you’ve seen the movie if you’re intending to take the plunge!

What follows below is a bit spoilery but not too much as it’s hardly a movie that depends on plot surprises. I sensed that most of the other people in the cinema knew what was coming (so to speak). Basically it’s the story of Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne), who (in film terms) is a sort of gangster’s moll (yes, the movie – and I – would eschew such dated and sexist terminology, but in critical terms that’s the genre/movie iconography we’re dealing with here). She’s on ‘holiday’ in Bodrum, Turkey, with her drug gangster boyfriend, Michael who is a violent, jealous misogynist.

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Lai Yde as Michael giving his best violent misogynist on a white sofa performance

For the 70 minutes or so I watched, Sascha is navigating his controlling, simmering violent possessiveness. He owns her. He owns everyone. But especially her – and she is his to use and abuse (graphically) as he chooses. The question those first seventy minutes poses is how much is she prepared tolerate? Is his assumed ownership of her somehow to her advantage? Is she helpless or is she complicit? Will she exploit it at some point?  Will she fight back?

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We get the point about Michael pretty quickly

As the holiday progresses she meets a friendly Dutch guy, Thomas, in an ice cream parlour and strikes up a more tender, if flirtatious (on both sides) relationship with him. Michael spots the connection between them and you know it’s not going to end well (although who knows, perhaps they all make up in the final reel and start a socialist commune in Aarhus. Like I say, I didn’t make it to the end.).

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Thijs Römer as friendly Thomas the nice Dutch chap

The whole thing is photographed at an unsettling and icy distance. The Turkish sunlight is bright and glaring – but never warm. We are never allowed to engage with Sascha – but we are invited to look at her, almost askance, to scrutinise her behaviour, and to judge her.

Then there’s… The Scene.

I should have read the reviews more closely.

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Kicking a lackey downstairs turns most movie drug lords a bit rapey

About fifty minutes in Michael has just beaten up one of his lackeys for messing up some drug deal or other, and he’s tense and angry, and so naturally he can only let off steam by vaginally, and orally raping Sascha and then ejaculating in her face.

Lawks a-mercy!

It’s played out in real time, in a continuous wide shot, in all its full frontal priapic and jizz-spurting glory.

Eugh. I’m literally hiding behind my iPad, thanking my lucky stars this isn’t a 4DX screening where they shake you around in your seat and spray your face with droplets!

I’ve seen some explicit movies in my time but this is just HORRIBLE.

Which I guess is the point. Although then I’m thinking… WHAT point exactly? My mind is racing.

I already know that rape is a terrible, terrifying, violent act. Do I need to see it? Does this actress really have to simulate abuse in this way to evoke this disgust in me? Hang on…. Is she simulating it? That purple greasy bell-end – moistened by Michael’s spit – looks pretty real to me – as does the glob of cum hitting her directly in the eye. (NB I am using this explicit language deliberately in order to express the graphic quality of the movie itself). So… what? Is the actress this guy’s partner in real life? What was the audition like? Even if she has consented to this, isn’t it still, effectively, abuse?

For sure, when the BBFC certificate came up at the beginning it did say ‘scenes of graphic sexual violence’ but I didn’t expect it to be this graphic. I look around and suddenly notice that the rest of the cinema is almost exclusively male. Men on their own. There are just two women in the screening. Did these guys know something I didn’t? Are they getting off on it? This is a foreign language ‘art’ movie, but what we’re seeing is the commonplace of a lot of pornography. A woman being horribly raped and the man firing off semen in her face. It is often said that the distinction between pornography and art is context, but any sense of context has completely gone now. Maybe I’m over thinking it – but my brain is now unable to watch or absorb the film as I try to decode what I’ve seen. But hey – ! – if I didn’t stop to think about it – if I didn’t worry about not just the story but the execution of the act for our entertainment – surely that would make me some kind of psychopath.


I hang on for another fifteen or twenty minutes… until the sexual violence starts up again and then I’ve had enough.


This scene may well have ended with an innocent game of Twister but I’m afraid I didn’t stay to find out.

I’m hopeful that this film, written and directed by a woman, has some intelligent point to make, and all will make sense eventually, but in my newly vaccinated state I can’t help but think that there is no point to be made (of which I wasn’t already aware) that would make this onscreen sexual brutality worthwhile. But then I think, I’m staying with this purely because it’s by a woman director – a Danish woman director – and therefore it must somehow be inherently ok – it’s ART for God’s sake! – but if this exact same story with these exact same shots came from the camera of, say, Michael Bay, I doubt very much that Home would be screening it.

I’m off – as are another two audience members (including 50% of the female contingent).

On my woozy way home I turn my iPad back on (it has other uses than purely as a cinematic jizz shield). Checking out a few interviews with director Eklöf she is keen to defend the scene by saying that it’s not pornography because there are no close-ups. Seriously? Never come across the idea of voyeurism as a form of pornographic titillation, Isabella? There’s more than one kind of porn. I think to avoid the porn tag you really REALLY have to be doing something far more clearly not focussed on the visual representation of the explicit sexual act. I wonder also if she is assuming that what she is showing is so horrible that by definition it can’t be considered pornography. If only. Pornography is in the eye of the beholder. So to speak.

The other thing I learn is that it was a prosthetic penis after all.

I would say that I found that hard to get my head around – but I won’t as it sounds like a truly terrible and somewhat confused double entendre.

Ok, so it’s a fake cock. Does that make it better? It looked so real to me I assumed it was as real as the penises in Baise-Moi or Stranger By The Lake (which were the genuine article, complete with steaming ball-fresh semen). So if I am fooled by the member’s seeming verité then surely I HAVE to worry about use of a degrading sexual act not just as a narrative device but as something done to an actress on a movie set for a piece of paid entertainment. On the other hand, if I know in advance that it’s a rubber prosthetic, then it’s fundamentally trivial. It’s only pretend and it’s all about the artifice, and I’m no longer really concerned about the character. I’m just wondering how they got the jizz to fly out so convincingly, and ‘wow that still must have hurt when he stuck it down her throat’. Imagine having to fill out the risk assessment on that!

It now does precisely what devalued screen violence does. Whilst you might be alarmed by watching someone getting punched or slashed in a movie, you know it’s all fake so it’s rarely affecting. Unless of course you are either a) gullible or b) excited by the simulation of violence for the sake of entertainment. Indeed, I have (purposefully) adopted a fairly flip tone in this blog as to some of the things depicted in Holiday – serious issues of course – but I can, because now I know it didn’t really happen. It was just rubber and maybe a bit of CGI. The artifice invites me to stand my seriousness down.

Like I say, I am offering no judgement as to Holiday as a movie – I didn’t see how it resolved which I sincerely hope was in a worthy/intriguing/challenging way – all I can comment on is the stuff I saw, but I know I wasn’t alone in being driven from the cinema… and if that happens then surely the movie has failed.
Who is it for?
Does Eklöf want me to stay or to leave?
And if I do either of those, what does it say about me?
Assuming I do hang around, what is it trying to say and to whom?
Most fundamentally of all, does that thing need saying, does it need saying in that way, and if so, why?

There are also wider questions about art and cinema here. Do we need the dangerous moments in cinema to be obviously fake – or does this reveal something problematic with the self importance of film drama – a fundamental flaw/confusion in its aspirations to realism? If something looks real should we assume it isn’t – is that a healthy assumption or just an abdication of responsibility? If we do know it’s fake – or discover the fakery after the event – does that make it any less problematic?

For God’s sake, when is a penis not a penis?!?!

I stagger home, and crash out, hoping to sleep off the worst of my vaccination, comforted by the thought that in a few weeks I’ll be in Madagascar and I won’t have to worry about such questions…

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Sweet little Lemurs who know nothing of explicit Danish art cinema…

The Revelation of the Marmoset


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‘Ande soe yt was thatte thye people of Albion looked acrosse the water to theire cousins yn the New Worlde who were rul-ed by a dylusyonal rhyhte wynged narssyssyste ande theye sayeth: ‘We want one of those’… ande theire wyshe was granted ande yt was trulye thye ende of dayes.’


The Uxbridge Guide To Euro Jargon


Someone recently asked me the meaning of ‘prorogue’, and so, herewith, my helpful guide to Euro jargon courtesy of the Uxbridge Publishing House.

Prorogue – Someone who engages in villainy for money – not just on an amateur basis. Particularly in reference to Conservative leadership hopefuls.

Quorate – An apple that’s been completely consumed.

Federal – Had your Aunty round for tea

Europhile – You resemble one of Adam Flemming’s ring binders (one for fans of BBC Brexitcast).

Plebiscite – When your neighbours stick a sofa on their front lawn and start drinking cans of Tennent’s. 

Declaration – When, after ten cans, one of them announces they are Declan Donelly’s cousin.

Border – How you feel after watching the Ten O’Clock News, Question Time, Newsnight and This Week in close succession, and they all discuss leaving the EU.

Irish Border – The RTE equivalent.

Withdrawal – How you speak after you’ve been to the dentist.

Brexit – What holding a referendum does to a country.

Posturing vs Politics


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Really? I’d’ve thought Donald would have dropped everything. I mean this is Jeremy Corbyn we’re talking about!

Hmmm… this is where the boundary between politics and posturing gets blurred. There isn’t an easy or comfortable answer to any of this – but it does require mature politicians – certainly those who aspire to the highest office – to think long and hard about how on earth they engage with the world – and some of the dickheads who run it – and stand up for essential principles whilst simultaneously protecting our citizens and ensuring the long term prosperity for all which is at the heart of Labour politics.

As Emily Thornberry made very clear on the Today Programme this morning it was important to attend state banquets with President Xi (he of mass persecution, executions and concentration camps) in order for Corbyn to raise these issues with him (although did he? Did he really?).

Aside from this honking double standard, I would have liked to have seen Corbyn addressing cross party rallies in favour of Remaining in the EU with equal passion. His selectivity when it comes to the causes he espouses is little more than opportunistic, politically simplistic and extremely immature.

And much as I love Sadiq Khan – and would happily vote for him if he were Labour leader – I don’t quite get why people are so outraged at Trump for Tweeting about him after Khan wrote in a national newspaper that he was (effectively) a fascist. I think references to fascism are over used, but broadly I agree with Khan. However if you call someone a fascist and tell them they’re not welcome in your city… are you really surprised if they tell you to fuck off right back?

Grow up everyone.

And I mean EVERYONE.

Here Is the News (I Agree With)


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Last week, as a proud alumnus of Manchester University, I attended the annual Cockroft Rutherford lecture, given by Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4. She argued the case for strong political journalism as a key pillar of our democracy, coupled with an analysis of why those who wish to subvert it have turned their weapons on those who seek to report on them.

You can see her whole lecture here. It’s about an hour long and the lecture proper doesn’t start until about twenty-five minutes in. It’s very entertaining and incisive. Well worth a looksee.

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In the colour factor corner…

However, in a largely convincing account of the nuanced meaning of due impartiality, Ms Byrne seemed to have a bit of a blindspot as to some of her own channel’s output. She took a good deal of righteous delight in attacking the BBC for giving undue airtime to climate deniers in the name of balance, conveniently forgetting that it was Channel 4 who led the way on this with The Great Global Warming Swindle back in 2007. She decided that a six part BBC documentary about David Cameron’s tenure as PM would be a waste of money – without having seen it (it may be, it may not be – who knows? There’s certainly plenty to say about his rise to power and, deride it or not, his pivotal premiership 2010-2016. Her uninformed, prejudicial dismissiveness was hardly setting a good journalistic example) and she took great pride in quoting a statistic that said that 90% of Channel 4 News’s audience believed that their coverage was truly independent, the highest of any mainstream news programme.

Duh. Of course they do. They’re Channel 4 News’s audience.

When people say – as many in the Cockroft audience did – that they think Channel 4 News is more independent, or more balanced than the BBC what they mean is, they agree with its very particular Guardian style Liberal/Left – and pro-Remain – agenda. They want Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy to express their righteous indignation at people with Right Wing/Brexit views.

I like Channel 4 News. I watch it every day.

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Jon Snow – concern etched on his face. His particular brand of liberal left hand wringing can be pretty wearisome. I can wring my own lefty liberal hands, ta, Jon.

I like The Guardian. I have a subscription. Not because these news outlets are impartial (which they aren’t) but because they have a very clear agenda, which throws a clear light on things, albeit from a very distinct angle. As long as you know what that bias is – and it is bias – you can evaluate what the truth may be. A bit like a Mark Kermode film review. I listen to Mark every week, but there’s no getting away from it, he likes all sorts of tedious shite – however, as long as I know what sort of tedious shite he likes I can work out whether the movie is worth seeing or not.

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A terrific critic, but oh Lordy, I’ve felt my life draining away watching some of the films he has recommended.

I prefer BBC News. Why? Well for the reasons Fran Unsworth  enunciated in yesterday’s Observer in response to this broadside the previous week.

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And in the red corner….

It tells me all sorts of things I DON’T want to hear. Its commentators come from all corners of the political spectrum, not just the ones I agree with. I have to work a bit harder to make my own judgements. The interviewers aren’t trying to express my rage (I can do rage on my own, thank you very much). It’s not presented to me wrapped up in a parcel of satisfying righteous indignation.

Many of my friends on Social Media vehemently disagree with me, insisting that while ‘we’ may be able to divine the truth from such output, most viewers aren’t bright enough, and will be easily swayed by, say, a Nigel Farage, unless the interviewer leaps on them and tells them – and tells the viewers that they’re wrong. Angrily!!

Bloody hell, that’s patronising. And not just a little arrogant as well.

Core to our democracy is the trust that people, by and large, are pretty smart and that everyone has the skills to make considered judgements providing they are given the tools. That’s far preferable than the presenters or interviewers editorialising on our behalf. That’s presumably why the BBC has invested so much into the Reality Check team and they are referred to most days on the BBC TV News. But it is our responsibility as an audience and as participants in the democratic process to make the effort not to go out and make a cup of tea when Chris Morris tips up, or when the fact checker feeds back on PMQs on BBC2’s Politics Live which he does EVERY week. Expecting to be spoon fed won’t help the democratic process – and hats off to the BBC for constantly pointing people to Reality Check web pages, Reality Check news items, the very brilliant More or Less on BBC Radio 4, The Briefing Room etc etc etc.

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This is the programme that does more than any other to tool the listener up to root out bullshit for themselves…

So I will never say: “Well of course I understand what’s going on but it’s the stupid masses who don’t… so they need to be told what to think.” I see an awful lot of BBC bashing social media from people who take that attitude, and it depresses me. Just as in drama – my own personal trade – no one ever wrote a decent script assuming the audience to be more stupid than the writer.

So, for this Marmoset, it’s bloody amazing that the BBC has the courage to go on doing this, and we should treasure it, not bleat on Social Media because it isn’t saying precisely what we as individuals think. The day it does that is the day it has stopped being News and become our own personal echo chamber.