Thursday, 25 August 2016

Why I voted for Owen Smith even though I think he's a bit of a dick.

I just voted for Owen Smith in the Labour leadership election despite the fact he strikes me as a bit of dick, despite the fact I think he will never be Prime Minister, and despite the fact he suggested we should have talks with ISIS. That was an idiotic thing to say and Corbyn and his supporters were right to say so. It was also an idiotic thing to say when Corbyn said it in January.

I've voted for Owen Smith because I believe Jeremy Corbyn is the worst thing to have happened to British politics in my lifetime. I say that as a man who was alive when Liz Truss made this speech...

I honestly, perhaps delusionally, think there's a chance Owen Smith could win this election. Probably about a one in four chance, but a chance nonetheless, and that's why I'm writing this post. It's a last ditch attempt to try and persuade some floating voters. Below are a list of the key reasons I think Corbyn has to go for the good of the nation. That might look hyperbolic but I mean it.

Let's start with the big stuff. He supported the IRA, he refused to say whether he'd support a NATO ally if Russia attacked it and he took money from the gay murdering, female prisioner raping Iranian regime to propagandise on their behalf.

None of those statements are smears. They are facts.

Now because this is supposed to be a persuasive blog post, I'll start with a concession - there are arguments in favour of all those things. I, like you, have a Chomsky book on my shelf which I tell people I finished reading. But when we get to an election, a real life general election, how do we think those uncomfortable facts about Corbyn will go down? I would suggest they will contribute to Labour's utter, potentially irreversible annihilation. Last election, the Tories beat Miliband with a picture of him eating a bacon sandwich, in the next one they'll be able to point out that the Shadow Chancellor praised the 'bombs and bullets' of the IRA.

Having conceded that there are arguments in favour of those things, I hope you'll allow me to point out that those arguments are bollocks. Starting with the IRA, as the article I've linked to points out, why didn't Corbyn support those Irish Republican politicians in favour of a peaceful solution and not those in favour of kneecapping? I've seen Corbyn supporters comparing him with Martin Luther King. Which route would MLK have taken? Jeremy is not anti violence. He is anti British violence.

In the link above about NATO, Corbyn says the following... "I don't wish to go to war, I want to achieve a world in which there is no need to go to war". Saying you would protect a NATO ally militarily if Russia attacked is the number one way of preventing such a war from happening. That's all you have to do. Say you'd do it and you near enough guarantee you won't have to. Just say it mate. It's a funny old thing I know, but it works. I believe the vast majority of the voting public understands this. I am aware of only one other major politician in the West who has talked about disbanding NATO recently and he wants to Make America Great Again.

And then there's Iran. I've seen Corbyn supporters suggest he was engaging in diplomacy. If he had gone on Iranian State television and in any way criticised the regime I might have been persuaded this was a useful exercise. He didn't. What he did, in effect, is align himself with a facist, totalitarian state simply because it opposed Israel and America. Shouldn't a left wing, liberal, supposed supporter of human rights be looking to stand up for those in Iran who feel the same rather than supporting their oppressors?

This is getting heavy.

Let's lighten things up with some electability stuff. In the words of Jennifer Aniston in that shampoo advert - 'Now for the science bit - concentrate'. Here is a graph of the Westminster polling averages since June 2015.

A lot of people have been saying that Labour were ahead in the polls before the coup to get rid of Corbyn. This graph from Britain Elects proves that's not really the case. There was a poll not long before the referendum in which Labour were ahead. One poll. When you average out the polls since he came in you get a much clearer picture of what is actually happening. At this stage in the electoral cycle Miliband's Labour was way ahead. Miliband lost. Corbyn's personal ratings are even worse. He literally has the worst poll ratings of any opposition leader since polling began.

There are two arguments against this.

1) Why do you trust the polls? Look at the size of the rallies!

Yes, the polls for the general election got it wrong but they were a LOT closer and as they always seem to do, they overestimated Labour's vote, they didn't underestimate it. As for the rallies, it's been pointed out that the Tories don't hold rallies and yet they somehow won an election. Nate Silver stuck a quote on twitter yesterday which I'm going to steal. It's from Walter Mondale the Democratic candidate for President in 1984...

"There's something going on in this country and the pollsters aren't getting it. Nobody who's been with me for the last few days and has seen these crowds, seen their response, seen their enthusiasm, seen the intensity of their response and how they respond to these issues, no one who's been where I've been, can help but believe that there's something happening in this country"

A week later, in the general election, Ronald Reagan won 49 of the 50 American states. FORTY NINE.

The other argument goes like this...

2) IT'S NOT FAIR!!!!!!

The media has not been supportive of Jeremy Corbyn. I don't think this is because the establishment are scared of him. I think it is because he and his team are BAD AT POLITICS. That traingate scandal is bollocks. It really doesn't matter. But when it was all kicking off, his team gave about eight different excuses and couldn't get through to Jeremy to devise a coherent response because he was making jam. Now, it is possible that that is not true. But be honest, you know deep down in your heart that it probably is. Then there's the way Corbyn responded when asked about it...

Now, you may agree with the way he responded to this and the 'ANGRY' in the video title does overstate it somewhat. He's right. The NHS is far more important.  But imagine Corbyn in the last week of an election campaign, under constant scrutiny.  I think we'd get a lot of this...

Now, that is how a normal person might react under constant pressure. It's also well funny. But is it how someone you can picture being elected Prime Minister would react? Yes, it's not fair but it's just a simple truth that the answer is no.

Is Owen Smith Prime Minister material? Probably not. But I do think he is capable of leading the Labour Party to mere electoral disaster rather than electoral oblivion. And in the aftermath I think he is capable of leading a functional opposition able to make things difficult for the Conservative Party. I also believe he is capable, and this is pretty much the nub of it, of keeping the Labour Party alive as a political force.

I accept that for a lot of people Jeremy Corbyn represents a kind of ideological purity. He represents a good guy against the forces of evil. As you'll have noticed, I don't agree. His record demonstrates that he is, I'm afraid, not that bright. But even if he is the Prep school educated, thirty three year long professional politician, Down To Earth Champion Of The Worker that the memes say he is - please consider whether he stands a chance of ever implementing a single policy.

I went on that Iraq War march in 2003 because I thought the war seemed like a bad idea. It did not occur to me that it would result in the British left abandoning virtually every single capable politician it has in favour of a false messiah.

This has been a long, po-faced blog post. That is because I haven't felt as strongly about something political since that war. Until recently I always did my politics on my own, in a darkened corner of a room. Now I am openly pleading with you to vote for Labour to be a party that has an influence on parliament and not just twitter. Unless you don't have a vote in which case, don't worry, I'm sure everything will be fine.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Was Britpop Shit?

Today there is so much stuff in the news about the 20th anniversary of Oasis's gigs at Knebworth, that twenty years from now people will be asking not 'Were you at Knebworth?' but 'Where were you when you found out it was the twentieth anniversary of Knebworth?'. I was there. On the second night, so 20 years tomorrow, which means my 'Christ, I'm old' hasn't kicked in yet. Being there on the second night meant that I missed out on seeing The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers but did get to see the 7,378th most memorable band of the 90s Dreadzone.

Here's what I remember about Knebworth. Me and my friend took a coach there which took a couple of hours, arrived at about midday and immediately found a spot where we stood for the next eleven hours. I am almost certain that I did not have a piss for the entire day. As someone who now urinates twice in an episode of Gogglebox, I can confirm that if I miss one thing about the 90s it is my bladder. I wish I'd got more done really. If I'd had known just how much of future decades were to be taken up by bodily functions, I might have written a couple of symphonies.

Was Britpop shit? Does anyone listen to Britpop anymore? I mean, does anyone ever stick on a Longpigs album? I fully signed up to Britpop. I bought the NME every week, I listened to Steve Lamaq, I bought that 7inch single which was just a recording of an argument between the Gallagher brothers, in the Blur vs Oasis singles battle I sat on the fence and bought one of each. Britpop just happened to coincide roughly with my pubescent need for a culture to join in with.

It feels to me like the last mono-culture of its sort. By 1996, being a British teenager and not liking either Blur or Oasis was unusual. It started as something vaguely alternative but ended up, until the Spice Girls, being almost entirely dominant. Britpop events like album releases or big gigs were regularly on the news. As a teenager, I felt like I was part of a movement comparable with the 60s. I wasn't was I? It was just some, mainly average guitar bands singing the sort of songs that Robbie Williams would go on to sing. If your mum will let you put a tape on in the car then it's not really an significant musical movement is it? It was safe and I don't mean 'safe' by its 90s meaning - I mean no one's mum was worried about them going to Knebworth because they'd already worked out that we were a generation of pussies.

I'm only really talking about my experience of Britpop really aren't I? I'm sure you were all doing crack with Dreadzone. But I really don't think there's been a British musical movement of its size since, nor one that was more disposable or entirely un-revolutionary ever.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

It's the waiting that kills you.

I'm waiting to hear if I've got a job. As an actor, your online presence is supposed to be all about giving the impression that you are constantly in work - casually posting photos with call sheets in shot, saying things like 'my taxi driver this morning' or moaning that you're struggling to learn lines - "I've just go so many!!!!". But I am not just an actor but also a writer whom people depend on to speak the truth and say what's on his mind - well today what's on my mind is that shouldn't my agent have fucking called by now?

We're often told that the people making the decision know if an actor is right for a role within seconds of them walking into the audition room. Well, I have a suggestion. Why not get rid of the whole facade? For every job, just get every actor in London to queue up, walk into the room for 5 seconds and give them an immediate yes or no? No more small talk, no more working on the script, no more perusing the CV - just an instant decision.

I realise this is unworkable and not just because it would lead to Tom Hiddleston playing every single role there is. I actually quite like auditioning. It gives you the chance to work on a script, get out of the house, sometimes you even get some free water. It's the waiting to find out if you've got the job I can't stand. In most cases, the odds are against you so you know that the chances are the whole pissing charade will end in disappointment. But if, like me, you depend on acting to make a living you know that you damn well need one of these suckers to come in at some point.

I mean, if it really came down to it, I could go and get a real job but who the fuck does that these days? Aren't all 'real jobs' currently done by Poles? The rest of us are waiting to find out if we've got that part in Doctors. It's not Doctors I'm waiting on by the way. I've unsuccessfully auditioned for that show twice I think, making me the last remaining actor in Britain yet to appear in the show. In my last casting for it, I was going for the role of a chef and was asked if I could chop veg really fast. I gave an honest answer of 'no'. Should I have said yes? We didn't do chopping veg at my drama school. We did Brecht, mask work and rapier fighting, none of which I've ever been asked if I can do, but no speed vegetable chopping - Christ, I wish I went to RADA, I imagine they do little else.

Of course, I should be able to train myself to erase potential jobs from my mind once the audition is done. That's what they should teach you at drama school - self hypnosis. 'You've got the part in Doctors!'. 'I've got the part in what?'.

I've just realised I've set myself up for a real fall. Anyone who, having read this blog, sees me in the next fortnight, is going to ask if I 'got that job'. Fuck it.

Fortunately, I do have something exciting other than the impending nuclear apocalypse (Vote Trump!) coming up. You know that book I wrote? Not only is it getting a second edition with a hot shit new cover and some bonus #content but I'm also recording it as an audiobook for Audible. That's good right? I mean, it's going to be a struggle explaining what Audible is to my grandma and deep down I expect she'll still assume that I'm sustaining myself in London through pole dancing, but it's exciting.

Monday, 1 August 2016

My friend Kris

My friend Kris asked me to write a blog post about him. Usually I don't take (or get) requests. 'Mate! Mate! Do you think you could do us a quick 700 words on the Chelsea Flower Show?'. The thing is though, I've got to somehow drag myself off the topic of politics and this request to write about Kristopher Robert Beattie has offered me an opportunity to do so.

You will have already noticed two things about Kris. One: he is the type of person (perhaps the first in history) to ask for someone to write a blog post about him for no discernible reason. Two: he spells his name with a K. That wasn't his choice but his parents'. I like it. It sort of says, "I'm normal but not that normal". It says - "Yes, I work in office supplies but on the weekend I smoke rollies and rock out with my buddies".

I haven't seen Kris in person for about five years. That's because he moved to Wellington, New Zealand with his Kiwi girlfriend and their half-Kiwi son. Since arriving there they have added to the collection, making a half Kiwi daughter meaning that they have, in total, one full Kiwi.

Kris and I became friends in roughly 1995 and, as I remember it, spent pretty much the entirety of the summers of 1996 and 1997 together. He was the first person (other than my brothers) with whom I remember laughing to the point at which I was in danger of vomiting. What we laughed at I do not really remember. There was one incident when Kris had a small squeezy toy frog. It was designed so that when you squeezed it, its tongue would curl out and flick. One night we squeezed it again and again. Sometimes the flick would be hysterically funny and sometimes it wouldn't. I have thought about that frog a lot. There is no way to describe what it was that made some flicks so funny and others not at all. There are hundreds of books written about how to be funny. There are hundreds of people who's job it is to critique comedy. I bet none of these dicksplats could explain what it was that made one of those frog's flicks funnier than another. 'For something to be funny it has to be true' - you obviously didn't spend four hours in Kris Beattie's living room on a Saturday night some time in 1997. Yeah, Saturday night. How old were we? About 16.  For some, their teenage years are about snorting ketamine - not us.

I guess I should try and describe Kris but he doesn't seem to have any photos of himself on Facebook for me to work off so I'm going to have to do it from memory. Kris's skin colour is ever so slightly yellow. He is racially white and, as far as I know, entirely English in heritage and yet he somehow looks foreign. But then, if you were to ask me to name which country he could be from I'd be totally at a loss. I suppose he looks half Greek, half orphan. He has a slim, somewhat elastic physique and is naturally comic in the way moves. He was a strong exponent of the curtains haircut so popular in mid nineties Essex. Despite his slim build, Kris eats a lot and I would take a guess that he is the only one of my friends to have salad cream in his house. Kris knows more than anyone I know about boxing, Olympic sprinters and lower league football. Kris taught me Blackbird on the guitar. Kris once half heartedly mentioned to one of his parents that he thought Bugs Bunny was kind of funny and for the next five Christmases he received Bugs Bunny presents and therefore had a teenage bedroom fully stocked with Bugs Bunny merchandise. Kris is the sort of person who probably knows what the capital of Ecuador is. Kris is probably the only person from Braintree funnier than his dad with honourable mentions going to our school friend Matt LeCount and former Prodigy haircut man Keith Flint. Kris is enormously likeable and yet he is also the sort of person who I could imagine asking me to write a blog about him and then telling me he thought it wasn't actually as good as he'd hoped. Unprompted, Kris once told another friend of mine that that friend was jut jawed. Kris once sang Happy Days to me in German, which I then stole and used in my stand up routine for five years. Kris has a very solid cue action but he sometimes lets himself down on position and is a little over reliant on stun shots. Kris is very good at accents. Most people would describe Kris as happy go lucky in nature but I believe that as he gets older, like me, he is finding himself prone to moments of angst. If I remember correctly, Kris was once the only non Asian person working in an Asian restaurant. Kris is more curious about other people than anyone I have ever met and I reckon is the only person from our year at school who could still name everyone from our year at school. Kris and I's friendship is probably the closest platonic one I've ever had. Kris was once a postman for a while. In 1998, Kris and I murdered a stranger together, buried the body and have never spoken about it since.