THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL – “Who started it? The British”

THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL

TX: BBC1, Sundays, 9pm, 28/10/2018 – 02/12/2018 (six episodes)
w: Michael Lesslie & Claire Wilson; John le Carré (novel – 01/03/1983), d: Chan-wook Park, p: Laura Hastings-Smith, m: Yeong-wook Jo (The Ink Factory & AMC Networks & BBC & Endeavor Content)

Yep, us British, we started a lot. As well as apologising for our role in the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, we should take heed of Peter Wilby in the New Statesman, who notes that we backed the dictatorship in Brunei in its inception, enabling it to stamp out democracy in that country. Thus, we bear some historical responsibility for a country whose laws currently punish homosexuality with death by stoning.

Recent dramas, too, have portrayed the after-effects of the British involvements in history. The Little Drummer Girl is a rich, engrossing version of a JLC novel, previously and less sure-footedly adapted for film by director George Roy Hill in 1984. This is another drama that explores the tensions and dangers of leading a double-life and develops at leisure JLC’s J.L. Austin and Erving Goffman influenced preoccupation with the performativity of language. What’s more, Park, Lesslie & Wilson ambitiously create an even-handed portrayal of the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, sadly every bit as relevant in 2018 as in its late-1970s setting.

Florence Pugh is one of a formidable phalanx of women who head the casts in 2018/19’s BBC drama season. Insouciant, idealistic yet at times devil-may-care, her Charlie feels right in a way that Diane Keaton’s rendition of the part just didn’t. With the story crammed into a 130-minute duration, Keaton is forced to become more of a passive object and loses control with several instances of hysteria. Pugh neatly creates an intelligent and slightly hedonistic Charlie, who moves in left-wing circles not that far from the 1970s milieu of Howard Schuman’s Rock Follies (Thames, 1976-77). Charlie performs a radicalism that is perhaps only partially faked; her divided loyalties and angst cut a bit deeper than some of JLC’s more standard Cold War characters, with their ultimately hegemonic pro-deterrence Atlanticist stances – as identified by Toby Manning.

There is an attention to detail in the trappings of tradecraft – bugs such as a rigged-up radio – that evokes The Americans (2013-18), and this is much closer to that programme’s murky tone than to The Night Manager (2016). That significant Eminent Dragon-packed hit drama featured to an embarrassing extent in The Guardian and other publications’ lifestyle, fashion and holiday sections. The Little Drummer Girl’s inability to attract the same sort of ‘soft coverage’ was reflected in its lower ratings and, while Florence Pugh’s background is fairly elite – independent boarding school St Edward’s School in Oxford – she shares this with none of her fellow cast members. As well as Laurence Olivier, its alumni includes figures like newsreader Jon Snow and the late, defiantly anti-establishment art critic, novelist and broadcaster John Berger.

Naxos, Greece. Vini Reilly. Vistas. Bottles. Pebbles. Words.

Like Killing Eve, there’s a relish in selecting unfamiliar music tracks – presumably to most British ears – to signify a cosmopolitan connoisseur-ship absent in TNM and Bodyguard. This is part of how these programmes are attuned to different audiences. As well as vintage Greek disco and the like, there’s The Durutti Column’s ‘Sketch for Summer’, perhaps mildly anachronistic as a January 1980 release being played in the summer of 1979 when it was recorded, is nevertheless wonderfully evocative of euro-romanticist radicalism. Vini Reilly’s band’s very name alluded to both anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and the Situationist International. Situationist theory enabled links between the 1960s-birthed ‘Psychedelic Left’ that Charles Shaar Murray was proud to be part of (as Mark Sinker’s A Hidden Landscape Once A Week details) and the Post Punk underground from 1978.

Unlike the film version, we are also shown Gadi Becker reading a book about Salvador Allende on the beach, notably in the same scene as we hear Reilly’s plangent music. Presumably such explicitly political touches would have been too close to the bone: the film was released in the UK in July 1985, not long before the Iran-Contra affair began. Referencing Allende implicitly anchors the TV version in justified left-wing outrage over the US backed coup against an elected socialist government in Chile in 1973.

From early in The Little Drummer Girl (d. George Roy Hill, 1984)

Hill is also much keener to show the Palestinians as a fearful ‘terrorist’ threat, using the iconography of the black balaclava used in so much 1970s-80s news footage. Park shows us proportionately much more of Khalil’s visage and other Palestinian faces. Park’s version is also repeatedly explicit in highlighting British culpability and, like detached BBC journalists in the Falklands War, ‘we’ are designated as ‘The British’: ‘The British always have the solution to other countries’ problems’, ‘The War of Independence, 1948. What do they call it? The Catastrophe. Or… Disaster. Who started all this? The British.’ It’s notable that the drama is set in 1979, a ‘theatre of the real’ that evokes the docudrama Death of a Princess (ATV, 1980) and Hanging Fire (BBC1, 1981) – two controversial addressing Saudi Arabia and Israel respectively, which JLC might have been aware of while writing his novel. Middle east controversies were definitely utmost in British news and culture of the early 1980s, along with the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Over six episodes, Lesslie and Wilson are able to give much more time to the Israelis, the Palestinians and Charlie’s urban, left-wing drama milieu, who barely appear at all in the film. We also have more time given to the British intelligence establishment and its distrust of the Israelis, through Commander Picton (Charles Dance, evocative of two facets of 1980s ITV drama, having appeared in bothThe Professionals (LWT, 1977-83) and The Jewel in the Crown (Granada, 1984)). Like Killing Eve, this is a plush transnational drama, just as rooted in European signifiers; the eclectic soundtrack also includes the European Classical canon. The architecture includes not just the Parthenon but 1960s-70s brutalism which grounds us in ‘grim 1970s’ terrain, especially with the last episode’s associative use of it as a staged terrorist incident is manufactured by the British and Israelis.

Both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict have a point from their own perspectives, rooted in historical circumstances; in this drama, both are shown to commit objectively bad, subjectively understandable acts. Which is maybe a bit much for complexity-averse British audiences in 2018. As well as its many incidental pleasures, this drama does far more to immerse us in unpalatable realities than the 1984 film version did.

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Brexit Britain: Day #1023 – Basil Fawlty to EU: “Give us a No Deal or you’ll be CRUSHED!”

So, the Brexit soap opera – series 4 is it, or 41? – has drawn to a close. Pleasingly, there has been much compelling television which engages with not just metropolitan London (the engrossing, zeitgeist-chasing Fleabag on BBC1) but also: down-at-heel Bognor Regis (the aptly discomfiting, sour Don’t Forget the Driver on BBC2), 1990s Northern Ireland (the magnificently refreshing Derry Girls, on Channel 4), 1970s-80s Yorkshire (Liza Williams’s astute, damning record of a society’s grim misogyny The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story on BBC4; why not BBC1?) and our very own Newcastle upon Tyne (David Olusoga’s A House Through Time, on BBC2, tracing a representative our-story of class, power, knowledge and culture).

It has also been a week when the Radio Times has proclaimed Connie Booth and John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers (BBC, 1975-79) as the UK’s favourite sitcom, which has also been interpreted as a warning about the isolated Little England mindset. One that wasn’t heeded. Somehow, many people have clearly overlooked Booth & Cleese’s encoding: laid-back liberalism and open-mindedness about women, the working class, the Irish, the Germans, black GPs and other professionals (not of the Bodie-Doyle kind!). Instead, they have aberrantly decoded Fawlty Towers as meaning that a besieged island mentality, angry paranoia and obsession with class status are desirable ends.

Speaking of Fawlty’s influence, what about that long-time MAY’S BRITAIN… favourite Mark Francois? This abuser of Tennyson and the English language (Europe will be “facing perfidious Albion on speed”, apparently), has not been tipped for the knacker’s yard of clapped-out Gammonry but for the Tory leadership…! By Telegraph columnist Charlotte Gill, who seems to have a latent desire for Tory oblivion, which would be just about the only positive by-product of an actual No Deal scenario. “A No Deal”, planning for which has been finally halted this week, is manifestly not the most popular option for the public, whatever IDS and Boris Johnson have claimed this week.

Gill’s unhinged punditry arrives amid inconveniently cautionary voices about the whole “Brexit” enterprise; not from usual suspects but from the Daily Mail‘s Peter Oborne on Open Democracy and James Kirkup in Brexiter-haven The Spectator. Oborne stresses the threat to the UK and regrets his lack of consideration for Northern Ireland back in 2016; Kirkup assiduously dismantles the myth that we would have ‘control’ or ‘freedom’ if we “go WTO”. Both reflect on actual scenarios we face now, not on the illusory fantasy Brexits that were hatched in many bonces in June 2016.

These were fantasies ludicrously indulged by the Prime Minister, as this January 2017 rhetoric captured on the front-page of The Times attests:

Somehow, the innate glory of Britain as a country put us in the driving seat, in a negotiation ‘against’ 27 other nation-states working in tandem and supporting each other… Somehow, for Brexiters, EU claims about not doing a trade deal without the backstop are bluff, yet a self-harming No Deal is not a bluff, but a desirable end!

As the second “Brexit Day” passed with barely a whimper; instead of mass public discontent, I sense rather tired annoyance and indifference. There was a whimper, an “off-grid”, “blackout” protest of maybe 3,000 (at best) social media diehards. Do they actually believe their propaganda that staying off work and sitting in the house with the TV off for one day could “bring the country to its knees”?

They exclaim: “No cars, no shopping, no TV, no phones!” Until we get our way and we get No free roaming on holiday, No EU food imports, No jobs from companies who have settled here over our 46 years of membership! No United Kingdom!

Well, I’m sitting in the house now, writing this and listening to house. Through the TV is playing ACID: MYSTERONS INVADE THE JACKIN’ ZONE, a compilation of Chicago Acid & Experimental House from 1986-93. A CD I bought in London two Saturdays ago. After having listened to Jens Lekman & Annika Norlin’s epistolary album Correspondence via the internet. I have played Mr Fingers’ ace ‘Washing Machine’ and also used a washing machine. Beat that! While they are free to listen to their Arthur Askey and Strawbs records on gramophone or vinyl and re-read Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech for the thousandth time without so much showing a leg… I think my activities will have as much effect on the world as theirs.

I seriously hope that this is my last Brexit post for a while, and the “Francois for PM” and “Blackout” incidents constitute an appropriately hapless, desperate damp squib with which to end this series of the Brexit soap opera. Sadly, I fear “Brexit” is going to be with us for at least the medium term. A nation has grown used to shouting at itself for three years, and, bizarrely, it likes it! Or, many do: especially those Leavers who like saying “get over it” and claiming to speak for “the 17.4 million”, but also that curious niche of Remainers who are desperate to rewind the clock to Cameron-Osborne’s neoliberal political programme of 2015/16.

As we enter a “Brexit Lull”, desired by all but those true believers in traitors and betrayals, there are other issues we might consider important. Greta Thunberg’s Friday climate change protests continue; David Attenborough is to broadcast on the subject on BBC1 next week. We might focus our minds on what happened one hundred years ago today in Amritsar, India, and while welcoming the fact that the Prime Minister raised the issue in Parliament, we should all urge her to apologise on behalf of the UK for what we did.

In writing about the 1978 Play for Today ‘Destiny’, I noted that the scene from David Edgar’s earlier stage play mentioning the killing at Amritsar of 400 unarmed Indian protesters by British troops ordered by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was excised from the television version. This showed a certain historical timidity in the BBC, which, while backing the play’s complex and even-handed dramatisation of many political voices, and showing the poignant death of Major Rolfe’s son in Northern Ireland, excised the historical facts concerning many more deaths in India in 1919.

We must remember, we must apologise. We must see ourselves as others see us, whether we want to do free-trade deals with India or Europe, or both or neither. I believe in the choice of a new generation and insist that we can leave Powell and Francois behind and heed the lessons of Fawlty Towers.

MRS WILSON: “March for Victory!”

MRS WILSON

TX: BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm, 27/11/2018 – 11/12/2018 (three episodes)
w: Tim Crook, Anna Symon & Alison Wilson, d: Richard Laxton, p: Jackie Larkin, m: Anne Nikitin (Snowed-In & PBS Masterpiece & All3 Media – for BBC One)

Mrs Wilson is the only docudrama among these BBC dramas I’ve addressed, being based on real events, with Ruth Wilson playing her own real-life grandmother. It is, to refer to Derek Paget’s definitions in his excellent No Other Way to Tell It: Dramadoc/docudrama on television (2011), very much a docudrama rather than a dramadoc, with the facts informing a drama that attempts to get to deeper emotional truths.

As Joseph Oldham has commented on Twitter, ‘It is like James Bond but as seen from the Bond Girls’ perspective’, with the shadowy Alec Wilson seen as charming rogue but only seen partially and with the roguery not passed over. Iain Glen is excellent as the dubious spy and novelist (24 novels, 1928-40), coming across as like a corrupted Roger Livesey. Ruth Wilson is exceptionally engaging as the tortured, betrayed Alison Wilson, equally able at suggesting her severity and plausible emotional repression as well as the necessarily volcanic eruptions as she comes into greater knowledge of her husband’s bizarre life.

Patriotism and its associated myths are seriously questioned, as we see things from Ruth’s perspective and Alec’s genuinely held patriotism may just be a desperate cover for his myriad infidelities. We see a “maverick” from the perspective of her wronged wife, and the precise nature of his dealings in the likes of Egypt and India in the 1930s and 40s remains opaque, even mystifying. Is he even an Oscar Wilde style ‘sphinx without a secret’? He definitely is a father whose guidance cannot be trusted, as in the repeated scenes of him reading one of his patriotic adventure stories to one of his sons: “Gordon was a brave soldier. He wasn’t afraid of the enemy, was he? No! He was going to win the war for his country. He led his soldiers over the highest mountains, across the widest rivers, marching onwards — march, march, march! March to victory!”


Episode 3: Alison, very impressed with her husband’s jingoistic bedtime story…

This scene is a more naturalistic docudrama variant on ‘Once upon a Time’ in McGoohan and Markstein’s The Prisoner (TX: ITV, 1967-68) with its pay-off that James Bond style escapist adventure that we have just watched is just a children’s story, used as diversionary propaganda to indoctrinate children in the Village. Compared to Bodyguard, which does have its scene of Budd harshly remonstrating with his child – “Don’t show weakness!” – it is a deeper questioning of “Sturdy Oak” masculinity and traditional militarism. Ruth Wilson, interestingly enough appeared in several episodes of The Prisoner’s 2009 revival, the same year as appearing in the adaptation of the late Andrea Levy’s Windrush narrative Small Island.

We have the now relatively rare case of a TV drama engaging with religion – these aren’t the days of Adam Smith (TX: Granada, 1972-73)! Though I am aware of Jimmy McGovern’s Broken (TX: BBC1, 2017), which I haven’t seen. Ruth finds faith as a way to come to peaceful terms with her shattered life – caught in the maelstrom of Alec’s labyrinthine existence, it seems to make perfect sense, as well as emphasising religion’s relatively greater centrality to British life in the 1960s, where the ‘current day’ scenes are set. Mrs Wilson does veracity well; the period décor, costumes, furnishings and hairdos are all present and correct and this explicitly feels like a plausible version of the 1940s and 1960s, with no transplanted 2018 dialogue.

The focus is on the domestic, cast into doubt and mutilated by the glare of the public world. This sense of disruption is conveyed by the intrusion of Alec’s past into Ruth’s present, following his death. We are treated to visitations from recent Terrorscapist TV fictions: Keeley Hawes, much more incisive as the luminously bohemian actress Dorothy Wick than as the Home Secretary in Bodyguard and Fiona Shaw conveying enigmatic gravitas as Alec’s snaking intelligences services “handler” Coleman, much as she did in Killing Eve. Dave Hill, always a welcome presence, is a Landlord, and has form in terms of appearing in film and television that interrogates national identity: A Day Out (1972), Bill Brand (1976), Britannia Hospital (1982), Remembrance (1982) and The Monocled Mutineer (1986) are just some of his previous credits.

Mrs Wilson is exactly right at three hour-long episodes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome or become overstretched. The ending, with its shift to the real descendants, speaks of a pragmatic decency in our national character that seems all the wiser in this age of inflated culture wars between liberalism and conservatism.

Now, to examine, after Raymond Williams and John Ellis, its place in the British television flow of 2018: after its end we are immediately told that ‘Poirot is here’. Following trailers for the now-traditional BBC Christmas Agatha Christie of The ABC Murders (BBC1, 2018), as well as Death and Nightingales (BBC2, 2018) and Luther (BBC1, 2019), we have grim-faced Huw Edwards reading the BBC News at 10 O’Clock on Tuesday 11 December.


The soap opera just keeps going… Unlike Mrs Wilson

This was the day that there was supposed to have been a vote on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, but the Prime Minister had bottled it, fearing a heavy defeat. Edwards speaks about a possible vote of no confidence by the Tory Party in May’s leadership – which later happened, revealing a fraught 63-37% split. There is a trailed story about lowering unemployment figures, but most prominent is domestic gloom (BBC London reporting more train fare increases) and international realpolitik through the EU spokesperson on the WA: “It is the best deal possible. It is the only deal possible.”

You are left wondering about the enigmatic, adventuring Alec, but far more about the consequences of his actions, and, inevitably, thoughts are drawn to many current day would-be British “buccaneers” and the likely consequences of how they wield power.

Brexit Britain: Day #1016 – Ever Decreasing Tory Circles & the Boothroyd-Ardern antidote

So, we are now six days away from a possible “No Deal” that would represent a colossal failure of governance. May cosmetically opens talks with Labour without seemingly being willing to give an inch.

Mark “French Mark” Francois leaves us in no doubt that Brexit is on the side of the angels by appropriating the language of the “good book”: “Forgive them, father, they know not what they do”, implying very ironically a lack of epistemological awareness on the part of MPs with a different view to him.

Meanwhile our favourite “haunted Victorian pencil” shows his mettle:

So is the Mogg-man an obstructionist happy to forever snipe and undermine the EU from the sidelines? Or, is he the ambitious would-be Tory power-broker feeling he has to look like he supports compromise and gesture towards economic realities by backing May’s deal at MV3? He is now trapped between these two stances, but instinctively veers back towards his comfort zone.

At least the army are all well behaved and not in any way evoking memories of GB75!

Whenever anyone claims that Labour are “just as divided”, show them this fascinating graphical representation of the voting patterns on Brexit, from The Economist magazine:

It shows that the Tories now consist of at least ten significant caucuses (maybe 13, if you count a 5-6 MP cluster as a caucus!). None of which has enticed a single MP from another party to join it other than self-styled “maverick” Frank Field.

The Tories move in ever increasing numbers of ever smaller circles. Apologies to Esmonde and Larbey!

Who should we listen to and learn from? Jacinda Ardern, in her response to recent events in her country, showing compassion and leadership. Betty Boothroyd, Dewsbury-born former Labour MP and Speaker of the House of Common, who was 21 days old at the time of the Wall Street Crash, quoting wise words here from Harold Wilson on the European question in British politics and using some of her own regarding Boris Johnson.

PRESS: “Our front page may have been a contributing factor…”

PRESS

TX: BBC1, Thursdays, 9pm, 06/09/2018 – 11/10/2018 (six episodes)
w: Mike Bartlett, d: Tom Vaughan, p: Paul Gilbert, m: Natalie Holt
(Lookout Point Ltd. & BBC Studios & Deep Indigo Productions & PBS Masterpiece – for BBC One)

Holly Evans and Duncan Allen

A steady grower of a series, Press was pleasantly verbose and took its time in exploring the particular milieu of journalists on two papers: the Sun-style tabloid The Post and the broadsheet The HeraldGuardian-esque, as strongly implied in episode 1: ‘The Herald started in 1936 as the Yorkshire Herald’. Writer Mike Bartlett was unafraid to expose the particular venal nastiness that has been increasingly prominent in our tabloid media discourse since Rupert Murdoch took over The Sun in 1969. David Suchet does a good job as George Emmerson, The Post’s owner and CEO of Worldwide News, suggesting the transnational power behind the scenes, exerting control over even his very self-possessed editor Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin). Chaplin is the stand-out performer, wringing an uncertain note of pathos in his portrayal of Allen’s private life, as well as his monstrous marshalling of his newsroom. Wisely, Bartlett complicates his amoral ruthlessness by creating other characters who seem to possess even less of old Gordon Brown’s compass.

It has its flaws. The This Life-style private life entanglements of the work colleagues across both papers are far from riveting. Paapa Essiedu does his best with the amoral reporter Ed Washburn. Ellie Kendrick is lumbered with the stereotypical hapless liberal Leona Manning-Lynd, a journalist air-headed enough to leave her notes and phone around when out for a drink with rival reporter Ed, when she goes to the toilet. Brendan Cowell – Steve Pemberton would’ve been better! – and Priyanga Burford have a relationship that I couldn’t care less about. Things are much more interesting when revolving around the idealistic northern tough nut Holly Evans (Charlotte Riley) and Duncan Allen, who encapsulates the broiling, manipulative cynicism of 2018 Britain’s true elite: the right-wing press. Riley, so adept at deadpan comedy in Swimming With Men (2018), is as good here playing grim tenacity.

Compared with the warm, northern provincial newsroom of Arthur Hopcraft’s Play for Today ‘The Reporters’ (BBC1, 1972) or the bustling Junior Gazette in Steven Moffat’s Press Gang (Central, 1989-93), Press suggests it’s a bleak time for “Fleet Street”, besieged by social media and dwindling circulations – as well as being physically dispersed beyond its Fleet Street locale for over thirty years. In the last episode, in a bid to persuade him to do the right thing, Evans reminds Allen of his old editor and mentor, who Allen then reveals was very much part of the fabled drink-sodden culture of old Fleet Street.

The people aren’t as stupid as he thinks…

The contemporary newsroom is presented as either mildly dysfunctional and reactive (The Herald) or ruled on fear and proactive (The Post). Allen’s attitudes are shown in his patronising of his Geordie assistant Lucy Redford (“She’s not the sharpest”), who in a notable scene in episode 5 breaks cover and reveals sardonically to Holly: “There was a reporter here who started leaking stories to other papers. When Duncan found out, he put the reporter’s mam on the front page. Labelled her “benefit scum”. (Quietly) He thinks I’m stupid. That’s what I want him to think.” It’s a shame that Lucy (Laura Jane Matthewson) doesn’t get any further truth-telling opportunities, but maybe that is the point: such voices are closed down. With such newspapers, you only really hear one voice – Emmerson, mediated by Allen, who discourages any distinctive voices among his staff.

Bartlett negotiated such ground successfully in his TV play – formerly on stage and radio – King Charles III (TX: 14/05/2017), which portrayed a fair few commoners’ outlooks alongside the dominant royals, even if it did have tendency to portray a baying mob rather than a passionate crowd.

The best episodes were 5 and 6, with the intertwining plots around terrorism – as symbolised by MI5’s shadowy “Resonance” surveillance project – and the suicide of school bully Danny Lyons, 17, who it is implied was hounded to kill himself by the paper’s disproportionate coverage of him as a ‘MONSTER’. The drama becomes less predictable; the scenes in the newsroom become ever more charged, after earlier episodes resembled a rather pedestrian equivalent of The Hour (BBC2, 2011-12).

Mercifully, Press never seems to see itself as a film, but a leisurely, unfolding television text – and the final episode bluntly dramatises the increasingly hysterical tenor of our baying press since 2017. It is a gripping, ethically engaged intervention against the terrorscapism of Bodyguard, rubbing our faces in the frightening world Paul Dacre and the Mail’s political editor James Slack have helped to mould.

There’s a nobility in standing against this tide; remember which paper broke the story of the Windrush scandal and consider this: would the likes of Duncan Allen have gone anywhere near it?

RIP, Scott Walker: the Outsider’s Champion

RIP, Scott Walker (1943-2019).

He was a transformational voice and exploratory musical modernist; no one has gone further into the ugly and beautiful. No other musical oeuvre has spanned ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ to the 22 minute-opus of oddity ‘SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)’. Only Bowie (and maybe Hollis) is remotely comparable, in making “the journey of a life” in music so fascinating. In the 1960s, he popularised Brel and chanson and produced some of the best music to listen to for heartbreak; I’ve lived through it with Scott 3 (1969), believe me…! Later, he detonated the ‘song’, culminating in the wondrous masterpiece Tilt (1995). His music is immersed in history and humanity, in its horror, ribaldry, melancholy and humour.

In addition to Bowie and Hollis, he stands beside Leonard Cohen, Robert Wyatt, Peter Hammill, Sun Ra, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush as a musical force that will endure.

‘Bouncer See Bouncer’ is at the summit of where music can go. It will resound in 200 years’ time. ‘Cossacks Are’ is the avant-pop cut-up of our dreams, Burroughs in the age of the Iraq War:

“A rare outcry makes you lead a larger life”
“You could easily picture this in the CURRENT TOP TEN”
“Medieval savagery, calculated cruelty”
It’s hard to pick the worst moment, it’s hard to pick the worst moment

Here’s a current top ten, nah twenty, of my favourites by Scott Walker. Bit pointless as you really need to listen to it all…

  1. ‘Jackie’ (1968)
  2. ‘Cossacks Are’ (2006)
  3. ‘The War is Over (Epilogue)’ (1970)
  4. ‘It’s Raining Today’ (1969)
  5. ‘The Old Man’s Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)’ (1969)
  6. ‘The Electrician’ (1978)
  7. ‘Butterfly’ (1969)
  8. ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’ (1967)
  9. ‘Plastic Palace People’ (1968)
  10. ‘Boy Child’ (1969)
  11. ‘Farmer in the City’ (1995)
  12. ‘If You Go Away’ (1969)
  13. ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ (1966)
  14. ‘Epizootics’ (2012)
  15. ‘I Don’t Want to Hear it Anymore’ (1965)
  16. ‘The Seventh Seal’ (1969)
  17. ‘Tilt’ (1995)
  18. ‘Blanket Roll Blues’ (1984)
  19. ‘Lullaby’ (2014) (w/ Sunn O))))
  20. ‘Bouncer See Bouncer’ (1995)

Brexit Britain: Day #1009 – Red Ed versus the Eton Mess

So, how’s Brexit going? We’ve had Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door trying to save us (from what?), we’ve stockpiled the ginger beer and sparkling water. Yet, a day after the fabled, written-in-stone ‘Independence Day’, we are ever less certain what is going to happen…

The Prime Minister has managed a successful… mutation from a robot into a zombie. When asked why the Prime Minister was holding a third vote this week, which she knew she was going to lose, one cabinet minister this week was reported as saying: “Fuck knows. I’m past caring. It’s like the living dead in here.”

You are seeing the bizarre spectacle of brass-necked Tories trying to blame Labour when they themselves are the government, and, at third asking, 28 ERG “Ultras” rebelled; if all Tories and the DUP had backed the Deal it would have passed.

You are also seeing the right, finally, turning on their ‘own’. James Forsyth in The Spectator claimed that this was likely to have the cataclysmic impact on the Tories’ reputation for competence that Denis Healey’s going to the IMF for a loan had for Labour in the winter of 1976 – which, as Forsyth rightly notes, was based on a miscalculation and needn’t have been done. If it’s a “No Deal” or a supplicant Brexit – with a Customs Union, or such – they are going to carry the can with both Remainers and disappointed Leavers. For different people, both options have the ring of “national humiliation”.

For the Tories, it will be deeply worrying that The Spectator is turning on them, as it didn’t just back Brexit in 2016, it backed withdrawal from the EEC in 1975.

When the supposed “centre” represented by May has failed to be in the least bit competent, then, in the words of W.B. Yeats, “the centre cannot hold”. Which may not be so good for the public – both Leave and Remain – if it leads to a Canada or Singapore style free-market Brexit seemingly desired by most Tory leavers. It will be a bit more bearable for all but the ERG & Tim Martin cult if it leads to a Norway style arrangement with a socialist turn in domestic policies and a proper end to austerity. Which could happen, if Remain ‘liberals’ and Corbyn supporters can find a workable alliance.

Ah! But it is alright for us, the British people, as we’re keeping the Tory Party together, which is what really matters…! Aren’t we?! Witness events in Beaconsfield. While another Tory austerity backer, Dominic Grieve is obviously far preferable to those who have forced him out of the Beaconsfield Tory party by 51 votes (only 313 voted). These are people presumably happier to stand alongside Stephen Yaxley-Lennon than an intelligent and serious MP who they disagree with on one issue. They are obsessed with this one issue and the man who proposed Grieve’s de-selection stood for UKIP in 2017.

Which brings us to… Erm, Change UK. Anti-system? They sound like some sort of soulless and convoluted public-private finance initiative! If they are the answer, I am really not sure what the question is. Maybe: “Do you feel nostalgic for the bland corporate aspect of the late-1990s?”

Didn’t quite think I’d ever really be saying this, but the DUP come out of Thursday’s events with credit compared with a certain two leading Tory Brexiter politicians… If you cannot base your vote on principle in something as important as this, then when can you? We knew already, but it gives final confirmation that they cannot be trusted.

I know Labour have been vacillating madly over this, but they’ve just about held the central line for a customs union style Brexit… Which only got five fewer votes than May’s deal in MV2.

The two sons of journalists and newspaper editors have just ceded their principles for pure (hypothetical) personal gain. This situation is so blindingly obvious that the penny has even dropped with Piers Morgan, perhaps the last man in the UK to realise that the de Pfeffel one is a **** and deserves all the articulate ire he got from Jonathan Meades. Now, the penny is dropping even with fellow shallow, power chasing fools! (albeit one who can get it right very occasionally, see his editorial stance at the Mirror over the Iraq War).

Think of that, these Tories are giving Piers Morgan the chance to pose as a sage commentator on events… Ed Miliband, meanwhile, has the last laugh.