Dear Steven Moffat: Before the Flood


Dear Steven,

For years now I’ve berated you for lazily reusing the device of the ontological or “bootstrap” paradox that the Doctor drew our attention to in the odd, fourth wall breaking cold opener to “Before the Flood”. ‘Google it,’ said Capaldi, invoking my other bête noir, the Doctor’s use of modern idioms. But I didn’t need to google it, Steven. I’ve been watching it for four fucking years. I’ve sat gawping, as the nation scratched its balls, wondering why you couldn’t just work an independent event into your time travel stories so they’d make a lick of non-linear sense, instead opting for this odious cheat that requires a lot less forethought and strips all the dramatic weight and consequence from cause and effect.

Clearly you’re sensitive to this criticism, so it’s my guess you instructed Toby Whithouse to take a hit for the team and make a philosophical quandary out of it. Now you can say that a) you’re not the only one and b) wasn’t it a fascinating philosophical puzzle when Toby used it? NOW do I see why it’s your device of choice? Well, no I don’t. The Doctor’s Beethoven story was indeed interesting, though I never want to see him address us directly again – this isn’t House of Cards, but presenting it as an aside – a mystery with no story implications, is one thing. Making it the engine of yet another episode is something else.

How the hell are we supposed to invest in the Doctor’s choices and revel in his genius, if his way out of impossible situations is an impenetrable loop fuelled by knowledge that comes from nowhere? What will it take for you and Toby and all the people you’ve brainwashed to embrace this idea, to realise adopting that structure is just as stupid as any other bit of deus ex machina, like the Doctor discovering a box in the middle of his enemy’s lair containing a piece of paper that tells him how to escape? If you or any of your scribes used the explanation box, viewers would say you’d given up, but you expect us to think we’ve had our brain tickled when you wheel out the self-defeating circular plot. Steven, we’re not stupid, even if we continue to watch the show.

Isn’t it time you were honest and just admitted that no one on Doctor Who has the slightest idea how to write themselves out of corners? If you opened up perhaps we could help. Maybe we could set up workshops and talk through story ideas until someone came up with a series of plausible endings. Then, armed with the knowledge of what we wanted to do, we’d go back through the script and seed the resolution is a series of scenes that weren’t dependent on our pre-determined ending to work.

Can you see how that would be so much more satisfying to watch? Joe and Jacinda Public could put down the brick they keep by the sofa for throwing at the television, just in case, and say ‘that was great. The Doctor was able to take advantage of the thing that resulted from Clara’s decision to do that thing which in turn came from the soul searching conversation she had with thingy. Man, I really feel like I’ve been on a journey with these characters and I can see how the force of their decisions impacted on one another to produce a satisfying and surprising conclusion. I’m glad it wasn’t all pre-determined and reliant on information imported from nowhere to work.’

So “Before the Flood” taught us that time travel, when used this way, is the enemy of great drama. Not that the non-time traveling components made a great deal of sense. I confess that consumed by irritation at Clara and the Doctor Facetiming one another and talk of Wi-Fi, more imports from the present day that will instantly date this story, I lost the thread of just what the Fisher King (Robin Williams looking a little rough since his untimely death last year) wanted. There was talk of conquest, which I suppose ended when he drowned, which left the question of the ghosts and how exactly they were formed and so on. Yes, I know it was something to do with the script etched into the wall of the Space Hearst and Electromagnetism, but I’ll be honest Steven, I switched off. The Doctor’s death was a technological cheat, as was his ability to defeat the Fisher King and win the day. In other words, we were presented with two great reasons why Toby Whithouse shouldn’t take over from you when you retire. He’s picked up all your bad habits.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: “If you love me in any way…” Clara, don’t you think you’re getting a little presumptuous?

P.P.S: Deaf Vision was interesting. Have any deaf people ever reported seeing sound represented by lines that form the outline of objects in their mind’s eye?

P.P.P.S: The episode’s big tick was attention to detail in one seemingly trivial moment. The Doctor’s hair, in his emergency hologram, was shorter, indicating he’d recorded it some time ago. Congrats to whoever insisted on that. I wish they were script editor.

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

Dear Steven Moffat: Under the Lake

Doctors Prompt Card

Dear Steven,

Following your opening two-parter, a couple of episodes that really emptied the viewer, leaving them sore and staring into a toilet bowl full of khaki coloured bits of goodwill, what was required was something to line the stomach – a story that would rehydrate weary Whovians and make them well enough to eat soup and other soft food. The first part of Toby Whithouse’s sub-aquatic story did the job nicely. I mean, it upped our fluids. Sure, it wasn’t a vintage episode, and it suffered from a lot of familiar problems – one dimensional supporting characters (why IS it so difficult to create memorable alien fodder?), padding (a lot of running down corridors) and pop culture references (the Doctor’s familiarity with Peter Andre can only put weakened fans at risk), but it was fun and at least there was coherence and a mystery to solve in an unfamiliar location. The classic Who template then, and very welcome after your initial assault.

If it was maddeningly derivative of the first three Alien movies, so be it – ripping off Hollywood’s obviously a directive in the series bible these days, but I did wonder if Whithouse had made as much effort as he could to disguise the building blocks of his story. The garb of the military types on the industrial lookin’ Scottish aqua base instantly brought to mind Aliens’ marines, and that was before we met Pritchard, the slimy company man fluent in money. We learned the ghosts mostly come out at night, mostly, and that they’d worked out how to use the base against their foes (I half expected someone to cry out, ‘how can they do that, they’re ghosts?!’). We saw the Doctor directing his minions using a schematic of the base, an attempt to lure the ghosts into a trap using live bait and a series of automatic doors, and to cap it all – a failing reactor. If the next episode doesn’t feature the destruction of the base and the ghosts blown out of an airlock (or at the very least covered in molten lead), I’m writing to Lord Hall.

Then, at the risk of making myself unpopular with deaf members of your brood, I was in two minds as to whether the appointment of an aurally challenged commanding officer was a plot wheeze or plan stupid. I can understand Whithouse needing a character who could lip read, having decided the ghosts would be unable to vocalise their words, but did her promotion ultimately make any sense? As the commander of a military group, might she not need to give prompt orders in emergency situations? The kind of life and death calls that sometimes had to be made in an instant? And could she really do that if the other officers had to wait for a sign translation? And what about the handicap of having to lip read your fellow crew members? What if the nature of the emergency meant they couldn’t face you, or your signer was killed in an underwater decompression incident? Then what the fuck would you do? So yes, it was great to see a deaf character in a high profile role on our favourite show, but she seemed to me an odd choice.

So “Under the Lake”, blandly titled though it was, delivered enough Doctor Who staples to return the viewer to health – this was meat and potatoes Time Lording. Yes, there were moments when Whithouse’s remit to keep it zany for the fanboys and girls made for awkward exchanges – references to clockwork squirrels, boy bands and the like (the latter wouldn’t have meant much to a group of early 22nd century characters), but the story sustained interest, Capaldi was well and truly in command, with Clara asking questions, as it should be, and the creepy cliffhanger was excellent. In short, cursed though he was with an acute case of genre movie influences, and obliged by you to insert lines like ‘you’re itching to save a planet’, which confuses the result of the Doctor’s actions with his motive for getting involved, Toby Whithouse showed he understood what bread and butter Who was made of…you know, apart from bread and butter. Makes you think that maybe the fucker should be doing your job and you should be contributing the occasional two-parter.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: The Doctor, with all knowledge of time and the universe, can’t sign? You’d think he would have insisted Donna Noble use it as a substitute for speech, so would have taken it up so he could occasionally answer.

P.P.S: The Doctor, we learn, once met Shirley Bassey. I’m not alone in wanting the rest of that story, am I?

P.P.P.S: Though I think it’s stupid that after 2,000 years of visiting Earth, the Doctor all of a sudden has no social skills or powers of empathy, I did enjoy his set of prompt cards. It’s a pity he didn’t have one last week that read, “come in Davros, let me teach you about human virtues”.

P.P.P.P.S: Clara told the Doctor she was fine on her own. Given her last boyfriend was the void that is Danny Pink, that struck me as a very healthy response and progress. Good for you, Clara. Good for you.

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

Dear Steven Moffat: The Witch’s Familiar


Dear Steven,

I had thought last week’s show was an ill-conceived mess; forty-five minutes of television that did to BBC viewers what Eric Gill did to his dog. But apparently I was alone. Serious journalists loved it. Patrick Mulvern, writing in the corporation’s old propaganda rag, the Radio Times, said boy, you delivered. Ben Travis in the Evening Standard thought it was “gripping” and “never over stuffed” and Den of Geek called it a “layered opener”. Well Steven, that told me. It told me something. I started to think very seriously about whether I’d mistaken focus for lack of focus, plot for fan service, and nerve shredding tension for stunt complications. And that was before I got to viewers’ tweets.

Perhaps, thought I, tuning into “The Witch’s Familiar” would clarify matters. If indeed “The Magician’s Apprentice” was a blockbuster opener, as the Radio Times claimed without prejudice, then the second part would pay off on all the good stuff set up in episode one. The Doctor would escape from Davros’s clutches, fight Daleks, escape into the void, meet his friends in the past and manoeuvre to prevent their deaths – perhaps daring to kidnap the young Davros and re-educate him, hoping to prevent the Daleks and his genocidal nemesis from ever existing. The Doctor would have a clear goal, he’d have to wrestle with his conscience when dealing with Clara and how much of her fate he could reveal, there’d be the ethical and temporal dilemma of whether to strangle the Daleks at birth, and of course the story would be full of tension, because as he was coping with an increasingly suspicious Clara at an earlier point in her timestream while trying to befriend the young Davros, the Daleks would be chasing the Time Lord throughout the universe, conscious their very existence was at stake.

But I should have known you’d have a better plan than that, Steven. Why go through that rigmarole when you can resurrect Clara and Missy with a technical cheat in the first thirty seconds, then spend the rest of the show with Davros and the Doctor engaged in a weird game of double bluff, in which each character’s in competition to see how many of the other man’s moves they’ve successfully predicted? Oh and let’s not forget Clara and Missy wading through Dalek shit. I have to say I never thought I’d see the murder droids attacked by their own sentient excrement, or indeed learn that they turn to crap when they don’t die. Given the impression some people had of last week’s story – not professional critics you understand, but bloody internet fanboys – it was brave to make “The Witch’s Familiar” about faecal matter. Lucky for you you’ve got so many fans who get paid to watch TV. Imagine what a detractor would do with a gift like that.

So even though this was a better story over two episodes and “Familiar” was more focused that the first part, I got the sense that overall this was the proverbial tale told by an idiot. What, ultimately, was this two parter about? Instilling the concept of mercy in the Daleks’ core vocabulary? THAT was the game changer?

Well no one could argue that such an idea, again, in another example of an ontological paradox, only occurring to the Doctor because of something he’d experienced as a consequence of something he’d already done in his future, wasn’t the most effective thing he could have achieved. Last week I suggested, like a cock, that young Davros should have been subject to a prolonged and, forgive me, merciless programme of character building, with the Doctor’s ethics, compassion and long-cultivated appreciation for humanoid life and dignity hotwired into the sprite before war brutalised him and made him a madman. But no. Talking about mercy so he’d internalise the concept (without acting on it) and walking him home (so he’d be safe to develop his fascist army) was thought to be enough. Thus ended the Doctor’s best ever chance of defeating his worst enemy without firing a shot and saving Gallifrey from the horrors of the Time War, restoring it to normal space, enabling him to go home and be happy at long last. But then we wouldn’t have had the “only other chair on Skaro” gag.

If the story was about nothing and amounted to a long game of ‘I thought you’d do that so I…’, then was our stay on Skaro enjoyable? If you boiled the episode down to its bare bones, which wouldn’t take long, then “Familiar” had two things going for it – the cold, foreboding atmosphere of the Daleks’ homeworld and an icy and sometimes moving performance from Julian Bleach. Had you gone with a less tricky plot – a script that wasn’t punctuated with the phrase, ‘ah ha, but…’, then his portrayal of an ailing Davros, looking into the abyss and wondering if it had all been worth it, might have carried real weight. But by making his exchanges chess moves in an odd game of one-upmanship with the Doctor, it undercut the drama of those scenes. How, exactly, could Davros have guessed the Doctor would offer him regenerative energy? That, given their history, seems to me the longest of long shots. And how did the Doctor, who’d only learned of his predicament hours earlier, anticipate this oddball scenario?

Our Time Lord, it seems, always knows what’s going to happen these days and has the perfect out-of-the-box solution ready to go, including teleportation devices that simulate death by Dalek laser, a means to make the TARDIS fragment on command, and a convenient pair of sonic sunglasses. Steven, for the sake of getting impressionable teens to punch the air, you’re prepared to dress up contrivance as clever plotting. Why not take a risk on a clever plot with some real story and character development potential? Go on, we’ll wait.

Finally, the Daleks. Only two things to say. First, I wondered if Clara’s imprisonment inside one of the pepperpots was a forerunner of/echo of/parallel manifestation of her other self’s fate in “Asylum of the Daleks” but I suppose it was just a reused idea, as there was no allusion to the episode at all. Second, you added the Doctor’s enemy to the long list of show staples that you’re determined to Moff-splain using cod-psychology. The Doctor chose young faces in the past because he had body issues and now we learn his enemies say “exterminate”, not because they mean exterminate as we supposed, and they’re hellbent on murder, rather it’s an imperfect articulation of high emotion. That, and not the “anyone for dodgems?” joke, was the moment I wondered if your creative energies are focused on the right things.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: Clara’s giant eyebrows: were they larger in this episode, or am I going mad?

P.P.S: When Davros asked if was a good man, I started to ask myself some searching questions. Not least, are you fucking kidding me?

P.P.P.S: So Davros programmed respect into the Daleks as a genetic defect; deference to a father figure. This is a quality that Davros understood to be essential when cementing his authority. As he’s internalised such a thing, it’s an even greater pity that the younger version wasn’t brainwashed – I mean, tutored by the Doctor. He’d have really listened to him. Could have saved a few billion lives. Still, onwards and backwards.

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

Published in: on September 27, 2015 at 00:37  Comments (3)  
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Dear Steven Moffat: The Magician’s Apprentice


Dear Steven,

Has it really been nine months since you last disappointed me? I’ve missed you and your Doctor Who fan fiction. Sure, without it I’m calmer, more at ease. I don’t get migraine or heart palpitations or anxiety or psychosis or nervous exhaustion or paranoia or gastrointestinal problems or nausea or impotence, but without those things I don’t feel myself. I don’t know where I am. I imagine you’d be the same without whimsy, conceptual miscellany and paradoxes.

“The Magician’s Apprentice”, the first in this new series of misadventures, assured me that we’re the same, we both need our defects because trying to overcome them is just too damn hard. I expect you spent the hiatus listening to people tell you that you should craft stories that had structure and weight and conceptual clarity and character development, rather than pegging a few ideas on a clothesline and calling it an episode. But to your credit you ignored these armchair critics. The fucking gall of them! Telling you, the Doctor Who show runner, how to write drama. Did they create Chalk? Or that Comic Relief sketch with Rowan Atkinson? No, so they should get back in their convention hall and have the good grace to buy merchandise, pay £40 for an autograph, and shut their space hole.

Anyway, it’s the kids that matter, right? And I’m certain that once they watched this first episode, with its logic farts, stunt complications and dramatic cheats, they’d get a nebulous sense of action and consequence and would fill in the blanks using their imaginations. Ah yes, the mind of a child: the cheapest script editor there is.

Adults, however, might have felt there was something missing from this story, despite the return of classic villain Davros, the planet Skaro, The Master/Missy, and the Daleks; historically big box office. What was it? Could the problem be that hook, the Doctor’s encounter with a young Davros in a handmine field (beware puns, Steven, you’ll be doing explosive old women called Gran-nades next)? It was strong fan bait, a moment designed to induce geek gasps, but as the titles rolled and the implications sunk in, both I and the glass of ginger wine in my hand realised this was just another example of you hijacking a little bit of the classic show’s mythos; a scene that had the imprimatur of your monstrous ego.

What, it’s not enough that Clara, your invention, is now integral to the Doctor’s survival and instrumental in the construction of his psyche, or that the Master, a classic nemesis, has been recast as the Doctor’s wayward friend, you’ve got to retcon the creator of the Daleks too? Steven, I can cope with filler like the Doctor somehow playing an electric guitar in twelfth century Essex, or the idea he transported a tank there somehow, because I’ll forget it as quickly as I hated it, but the Doctor creating Davros? What the fuck?

So the Doctor, hearing a child’s name is Davros, leaves him in a highly deadly situation despite having no evidence that the kid in question, who’s just some tyke on a battlefield (though it’s not clear what he’s doing alone in a warzone), is the young version of his long time enemy. But assuming for a moment that he’s absolutely sure of Davros’s identity, based on this thirty second encounter; resolute in his belief that no other child in the universe could be called Davros, then what would be the point of leaving him to die when the Doctor would know full well that he survived? Why not save him instead and use the opportunity of this chance encounter to try and inculcate some bread and butter values in the little bastard?

The Doctor could have taken him on adventures, shown him that compassion, heroism and self-sacrifice were noble virtues, while fascism, genocidal tendencies and mutant experimentation were occasionally ill-advised. He could have used his time alone with the boy to hammer home the message that even if you were, say, crippled in a Thal attack, you shouldn’t retaliate by creating an army of murder droids. But instead he leaves him there, knowing that doing so might just create acrimony between them and lead to universal holocausts like the Time War, not to mention all the other people who’ve been killed in the centuries-long crossfire.

But let’s not forget about Davros, because he too once had a brain…and a very keen one at that. Young Davros grows up of course, becomes crippled, goes mad and invents the Daleks, but now we understand his hatred of the Doctor is driven by that first encounter; the bastard with the box who left him to die on the battlefield and threw down his sonic screwdriver so he’d be readily identifiable in future. Davros knows and Davros remembers, we’re told, but Davros apparently, can’t think in a non-linear way. He knows the Doctor’s his mortal enemy, that the man he’s encountered many times loathes him because he’s his ideological opposite and the Time Lord hates conquest and the cold logic of the psychopath. So armed with that information, might Davros, as he careered toward old age and an encounter with the Twelfth Doctor, have realised that THIS was the reason the Doctor left him there? Because of what he became? Wouldn’t that recast the Doctor’s apparent callousness as an explicable reflex, like whistling and walking on by as a young Hitler struggled in the deep end of a swimming pool?

So neither the Doctor or Davros’s actions made any sense, given their knowledge of one another. That, Steven, would have been bad enough but you had to do it, didn’t you? You had to tease the most loathed time travel plot device in the universe, the ontological paradox. “Who made Davros?” says the Doctor, and a nation cried “fuck you” and threw its wine glass to the ground, destroying the last in a set that Saggy Membranes got me for Christmas. The Doctor left Davros to die because of who he became but he became Davros because the Doctor left him to die. Steven, I hope to go on holiday to Tuscany with you someday, but go fuck yourself.

This, and Davros’s belated revenge, was the pallid meat of “The Magician’s Apprentice”, a revenge he could have taken at any time during the Doctor’s previous eleven incarnations, but didn’t think to. He didn’t even mention his childhood encounter. Well, that was the villain’s ultimate motive but where was the story? Those trying to delineate the dramatic through line had a thankless task. Instead of finding an organic way to drop the Doctor and Clara into a mystery that would ultimately be revealed as the front for a Dalek trap to make the Doctor pay for the thing Davros had forgot to punish him for in every previous encounter, you skipped the difficult part and contrived to get the Doctor to Skaro using an avalanche of contrivances.

Why have a mystery when you can reveal the villain’s motive at the outset and spend a third of your episode having his henchman search for the Doctor, who once found, is taken without a fight? A fuck up like that could murder all the tension, but wait, you had an idea. Portending the Doctor’s death worked once, though we didn’t believe it then either, why not do it again? And why not have his will delivered by a character you had the good sense to kill last year but have since decided to revive? Though you’ll be buggered if you can explain how she survived. And fuck, if that’s all there is to the story – if it’s just getting a group of people you like together for a bit of chat and a reunion, why not attempt to revive the traditional Doctor Who cliffhanger with some deaths that no one watching will register as credible? Killing Missy and Clara would have been great, not to mention ruthless, if you had the balls to irreversibly, finally, do it. But wiping them and the TARDIS out – acts we know will be reversed using time travel, is a cheap trick. It amounts to a cliffhanger with no teeth…you know, if a story element had dentures. Haven’t you learnt the lesson of the Pandorica yet? I wrote to you about it, after all.

For drama to grip a story must have internal logic, something at stake and characters in tangible, “how the Matt Smith will they get out of this?” jeopardy. On each of these “Magician’s Apprentice” failed – not least because the final seconds, with a wide-eyed Capaldi ready to murder a child, told us that a) he escapes from Davros and b) he has the means to reverse everything we’ve just seen. Even that so-called cliffhanger was bunk, because if the Doctor wouldn’t wipe out the Daleks in “Genesis of the Daleks”, and save billions of lives, he’s not likely to do it now so that Clara can finish her dull Jane Austen lesson.

It’s good to have you back, Dude. Oh no, I wrote Dude, like some twelfth century Essex person.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: Why are there WWI biplanes on Skaro? I know the war went on a long time but did the Thals or the Kaleds really have time to procure ancient technology from another planet? How desperate were they? And if they could do that, why not just escape to another planet?

P.P.S: “The planes are frozen in time,” says the UNIT woman from Bugs, despite having no idea that’s the case. Could they not be caught in a beam or something, or be moving at a rate the naked eye couldn’t register? Who briefed her?

P.P.P.S: You’d think the Doctor would realise that insisting his companion travelled with him continuously would make the Earth safer, y’know, because his enemies may use a companion to flush him out? It seems he instinctively understood this in the past, when he had no truck with fitting in around his companion’s day jobs, but he’s become a bit cavalier since then.

The Initial and Often Tolerable Adventures of Curious Clara and her Wizened Companion:

The Fag End of Matt Smith’s Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

Dear Steven: It’s nearly time…

Me and Moffat

A perfect evening at the Paradox and Whimsy, Runcorn.

Yes, new Doctor Who reviews are coming and Steven can’t wait, but are you up to date?

Better be sure.

The Initial and Often Tolerable Adventures of Curious Clara and her Wizened Companion:

The Fag End of Matt Smith’s Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

See you back here on the 19th. Okay?

Published in: on September 1, 2015 at 15:21  Leave a Comment  
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Let’s face it, the Corbynistas have an extra chromosome: Tony Blair writes exclusively for Opinionoid


Look, politics is comprehensively botched right now, and it’s pretty clear which cult’s responsible: the Corbynistas. I don’t understand what drives them, because I’m a normal person of sound mind, but at a friend’s request (President al-Assad), and in part motivated by the same morbid curiosity one succumbs to when watching video footage of a disgruntled ex-employee murdering his former journalist colleagues during a live transmission, I read Rosie Fletcher’s impassioned defence of these half-wits in last week’s Observer. Well, she wrote eloquently, but I’d barely got half way through the piece when I realised she too was nuts.

Let’s not mince words, because we’re way beyond that now. If you support Jeremy Corbyn to be the next leader of the Labour movement then you’re defective. I can see you now. You’re terribly superior, aren’t you? Sickeningly pious in every argument you escalate and moral to a fault, your equally sanctimonious friends, cut from the same cloth woven of received wisdom and historical ignorance, love you for it. How wonderful to be a legend in your own mind, a font of pure intellect that stands tall amongst the obtuse masses. Good for you, putting the world to rights at your favourite gastropub, a product of the very aspiration and commodification of lifestyle you profess to despise, attending your silly discussion groups, and watching The Trews with Russell Brand (thankfully now defunct) and feeling clever for having all your half-informed views fed back to you like baby food on a plastic spoon.

From the window in my bullet and bomb proof Mercedes I watch you. I see you every day, walking the streets with your identikit partner, a testament to the narcissism that informs each and every relationship you’ve ever had. I hate your designer glasses and your arty t-shirt. I hate that you’ve spent a fortune to make yourself look dishevelled. And I despise you for marking everything you do with a pin on that oversized lapel of yours, because apparently believing in a cause or visiting an institution isn’t enough, you have to advertise it, else who’d know what a cultivated and intellectual curious paragon of cool you were? It must be wonderful being a walking set of clichés.

But politics is a serious business, not an interesting little conversation filler for the barely conscious, and frankly, if you can’t take it seriously, you should keep quiet and leave participation to those who know something about it. Why not stick to the subjects you can talk about with authority, like your idealised self and the fantasy world you imagine you’re living in?

Across the world, from the United States to Scotland, politics is being hijacked by the mentally-ill and barely functional. When you have the audacity to tell these idiots that they’re challenging an orthodoxy that works pretty well from where I’m sitting, then they plug their ears and start playing with themselves…somehow. ‘For Christ’s sake,’ I’ve told them, ‘we’ve been through all this before. Don’t you idiots ever learn? There will never be a viable alternative to the way we live now. All other models are broken, and I should know because I played my part in breaking them.’ Yet still the degenerates don’t listen, and now we’re looking at the prospect of unreconstructed opposition to Thatcherism at precisely the time my earnings are set to top £80m.

So that’s it then. The Labour Party is finished. Corbyn will become leader, not because he deserves it, but due to the machinations of a student cabal that’s determined to condemn us to long term irrelevance. Defeat in 2020 is certain and you can probably kiss 2025 goodbye too. It saddens me, it really does, that Labour will have to go through the lengthy and debilitating process of crushing idealism and lofty notions of equality for a second time, the experience of two cycles of eradication the only way to comprehensively defeat these high-minded ideas, insensitive to the needs of Middle England, for all time.

How fucking depressing that we’ll have to watch the Tories restore the country to the highly stratified and offensively unequal country we inherited in 1997, in order to realise that the only way to win is to say we’ll follow the same trajectory. If we’re lucky enough to go on and re-take power, and are seen to do little, bar minor changes like the minimum wage, then the promise of New Labour will be restored. I pray for that day, a time when the drooling fadinoids with an extra chromosome return to obscurity and the senseless preoccupation with their empty lives.

More from Tony:

Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 13:28  Leave a Comment  
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Corbyn’s Millions


Tony Benn once said that every generation has to re-fight the same battles. Yet even he might have been surprised by the Corbyn insurgency, the commanding lead of the Great Beard, that’s torn the scar tissue from Labour’s early ’80s schism and reignited the battle of ideas that Tony Blair thought he’d settled with his answer to the Nagasaki bomb, New Labour. The project, as it was sometimes known, was supposed to be a decisive blow against the very idealists, the kind of members that Denis Healey witheringly called ‘innocents’, that had lived under the party’s nails since the days of Michael Foot. Blair offered the prospect of power but in exchange demanded an acceptance of the Thatcherite consensus. A desperate Labour Party played along, content that it was better to live on your knees than die standing, arms linked, singing the Red Flag.

Blair inherited a Labour Party which was desperate for acceptance following a decade and a half of rejection. Like a human left on the shelf for all that time, it was prepared to make compromises with itself in order to feel the intimate, warm embrace of the people. But sadly the similarities with a broken person, lacking self-esteem and validation, didn’t end there. Labour closed its eyes to the worst excesses of the Mandleson, Brown and Blair project; it took the beatings and told itself it was loved. In time the party machine took it for granted that the idealism that characterised the Bennite wing of the party had been crushed, that it had gone the way of the Whigs and Cyril Smith’s diet book, but the so-called modernisers had forgotten something.

For many, socialism, or the ideas loosely associated with it, was not a fluid concept. One couldn’t adapt it to fit monetarism like updating an old TV show for the big screen. New Labour’s founding assumption was there weren’t enough left wingers in a First Past the Post election to win a majority in parliament; that deeply ingrained vested interests in society, cultivated by Mrs Thatcher, had to be managed, rather than reversed, and the beneficiaries courted to maximise the vote. Such an approach locked the Bennites in a windowless basement cell, told them their views were a destructive fantasy, and that subsequently there was no place for them in modern politics.

The truth about what happened next may just determine the future of the Labour Party.

The Corbyn view of history goes something like this. In the early ’80s, the Bennite wing of the Party, committed to power from below – opposed to nuclear weapons, rejecting Europe, suspicious of market forces, was marginalised following Benn’s defeat in the deputy leadership contest by a group of turncoats; careerist hijackers who moved the party to the right to win power rather than make the intellectual case for socialism. The country, noting the shift, gave up their principles, took Maggie’s shilling and accepted the new orthodoxy as natural.

The idea that Conservatism had to be courted to win became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The electorate, hitherto galvanised by a choice of futures, found themselves offered variations on a theme. Many lost interest in politics as a result. The denial of choice inevitably left millions, mainly saplings that naturally questioned old orthodoxies, voiceless in an ostensive democracy. When Jeremy Corbyn’s unpolished, unaffected, old school socialism stood naked next to three guileless by-products of Post-Blair compromise and confusion; the cherry pick candidates, eying a menu of bland social democratic options; the children of Benn, long denied a champion for social justice and a world built on egalitarianism, not profit and economic utility, rallied to their saviour. Finally, socialism would have its chance. There would be a second coming. This, says camp Corbyn, is indicated by the surge in Labour membership and proves the existence of Corbyn’s missing millions; the once apathetic masses long removed from the franchise, now returning to the fold, ready to get involved at the ballot box.

The Blairites, not surprisingly, have a somewhat different interpretation. They say that ’80’s in-fighting, rather than being an important battle of ideas, was a self-indulgent civil war that alienated the electorate and ignored real world problems in favour of intellectual naval gazing. They say that Benn’s ideas were naïve and never had any prospect of winning mass support. They say that Labour’s move to the right saved the movement from irrelevance in an age that embraced individualism rather than collectivism, family rather than community, tangible self-interest over abstract social responsibility and choice (or the market) over utilitarianism. New Labour didn’t destroy Labour, it rejuvenated its appeal by positioning itself as a cuddly alternative to a hard hearted Tory Party; a movement that would make Thatcherism work for everyone.

Yes, millions of votes were lost in the New Labour era but this was a symptom of content amongst the populous. The government was competent and the opposition shambolic, so why bother voting? New Labour’s declining vote share wasn’t a sign of failure but success; they’d given the electorate less to worry about, less to be angry about – all the important battles had been fought and won. No one was interested in a re-match. A country that’s stable and prosperous and broadly satisfied with the opportunities on offer doesn’t get excited at election time. Turnout was down but the millions who stayed away weren’t disillusioned, they were products of a post-ideological age. They were politically ignorant, assuming they thought about politics at all, and didn’t feel existentially threatened or materially impoverished like their parents. The struggle, in whatever form it had once taken, was over. Sure, there were social problems, but everyone agreed on the model that would address it. You didn’t need to vote to consent to something as natural as flatulence.

In the Blairite view of history Corbyn’s supporters are a naïve few – Neo-Bennites too young to remember the old battles, who’ve only known Thatcherism and lament its many victims, unaware that the alternative has already been comprehensively discredited. Yes, some say it was stamped on and never tried, but most political historians accept that there was never a majority for socialism, parliamentary or otherwise, and there never will be. Even Clement Atlee, say Blair’s baerns, wanted a planned economy, not the wholesale dismantling of capitalism.

For the Blairites the millions that Corbyn imagines are out there, waiting to be converted, don’t exist. A few hundred thousand idealists, they say, should not be confused with the millions of people who don’t vote and probably never will, because they know nothing of the arguments and care even less. To win, says Tone’s Drones, you must work with the people we know about – the 30 million or so box crossers who remain engaged throughout an electoral cycle and are minded to register their views when the time comes: grounded, pragmatic voters who are fad proof and don’t have Twitter accounts.

So who’s right? Is there a giant constituency of voters to be mined if Jeremy Corbyn becomes (and can remain) Labour leader, perhaps enough to circumvent the monetarist mass that’s thought to determine elections, or are they a myth; a psychic crutch for a small group of politicians who can’t accept that Britain’s a small c Conservative country that likes evolution not revolution and policies they can associate with their liberal conscience, making them feel better about themselves, but will not support any erosion of social advantage for the sake of the less fortunate? After all if you’re a socialist you have to sleep at night, right?

Those voting in the Labour Leadership election best be sure they know the answer to this question before making their choice. The consequence of getting it wrong could be severe. If Corbyn’s right, Benn’s time has come, sadly a year too late for him to notice. The path to power, in that instance, is courting the disaffected and awakening the slumbering socialist masses from their squats. If Corbyn’s wrong, and the ’80s are back, as some believe, then Labour are set to endure another spell in the wilderness, sans the map showing the way out. It feels like too great a risk, with too many incessant warnings from history banging on the door like a pilot locked out of his cockpit by a suicidal madman, yet the choice has been complicated by the alternative. No Labour member wants to play roulette with the Labour Party, but they’re not wild about turning it over to the featherlight, vapid, vacillating, and just occasionally obnoxious trio that stand in Corbyn’s way either. Little wonder, with just weeks remaining, that the gun remains firmly pressed to the temple.

I want my BBC


Last Thursday John Whittingdale proved his title of Culture Secretary was ironic with the publication of a Green Paper on the future of the BBC. The document carefully vouchsafed the corporation’s role at the heart of British life while floating ideas for how this enemy of the government’s friends, principally champion of the incurious, News UK, and disappointed middle age mirror, the Daily Mail, could be shrunk, marginalised and ultimately privatised; a set of objectives one can group under vandalism. If you were moved by the destruction of Nimrud by the fascists of ISIS, wait: the government’s about to make that look like graffiti on a post box. The medievalists only wanted to corrupt history after all. Whittingdale, backed by the hereditary privileged stupidity of George Osborne, targets our future.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Tories are out to eviscerate the only UK broadcaster that’s consistently held them to account, bettering the scrutiny offered by institutionalised and vacillating opposition parties; they’ve been intent on undermining the BBC’s universal service for 70 years.

Churchill, outraged by the corporation’s critical coverage of his 1945 election campaign, later had ITV spitefully created to undermine Lord Reith’s benefaction to the nation. The Thatcher government went further, first deregulating television so the country’s creative economy was spread as thin as possible, then wrenching ITV franchises from experienced broadcasters with fine production pedigrees and handing them to consortia who knew as much about making quality programming as you do. The idea was to create an ecosystem where public service broadcasting was the exception not the rule. In such an environment the licence fee would look as archaic as the ration card.

With the proliferation of pay TV, niche channels and online media, you’d have to be brainmulched not to realise that the BBC looks increasingly conspicuous. Its enemies cite this as a reason to destroy it. Why have this flat tax funded behemoth when there’s so much other media available at thrice the price? Sure, the newspapers and Murdoch networks struggle to do anything other than entertain – inform and educate being areas they’d rather not touch as there’s no money in it, for the incurious get so very bored with that shit, but the existence of an organisation that has a broader, more sober view of what media can and should do, is an outrage to them.

Of course the real reason the Beeb’s enemies hate it, and here I refer to people who think about such things not fans of MacGyver repeats on CBS Action who resent paying for networks they never use, is because its reach and prominence frustrates their attempt to inculcate their junk values into the population. In the world the Mail and Sky dream about, the bulk of the public would be made up of Orwellian proles, kept docile with simple entertainment and assured in their conservative beliefs by a helpful, nakedly manipulative press.

Having the BBC around must be like living with a scrupulously even-handed liberal, who dares to question everything they’re told and open the subject up to discussion. The annoying bastard is minded to consider everyone in the house, not just themselves, sometimes daring to suggest they try new things that may conceivably broaden their horizons. The audacity of this housemate! The paternal arrogance! One can see why it would better to live in an environment where you’re never challenged or subjected to new home grown experiences.

So those that would kill Aunty and bury her in a plot with once great ITV companies like Granada and Thames; companies that challenged the government of the day and were rewarded with annihilation; pretend the debate’s about tax and media plurality, when in truth it’s an underhanded attempt at terminating thought, punishing an orthodoxy that (on paper at least) privileges universality over demography, and closing off alternatives that impede their attempt at establishing cultural hegemony.

It would be disingenuous to pretend that some aspects of the government’s BBC critique aren’t reasonable. But both those who support the corporation and privately will its destruction can point to similar themes with very different solutions in mind. The BBC’s universal service requires it provides something for everyone. The Tories look at the corporation’s output and say, “why the Voice? Why Strictly? Why chase ratings?” but that’s the wrong question and the programme examples are facile. The BBC must maintain a high audience share to justify its universal funding but there’s no reason why popular programming should be safe programming.

Forget imperial expansion, if the BBC’s been guilty of anything these past twenty years it’s timidity. The corporation could and should be trying to develop new formats, redefining popular tastes. Instead it’s pandered to them, leading to schedule stagnation and a loyal but apathetic audience. There’s more staples in the BBC’s TV schedule than a stationary warehouse. Few of its biggest hits, either on TV or Radio, were commissioned this century.

Worse, the Beeb has fallen into the trap of trying to stake a multi-channel presence in the world of digital TV – an unnecessary move given its privileged position at the head of the electronic programme guide. The result has been fragmentation, niche broadcasting, and with it the disastrous decision to create channels aimed at largely imaginary strata of the British population.

Once BBC TV would make a show for either of its two main channels, within a broad remit, and take a punt on finding an audience. Now it imagines the audience and makes the programmes it thinks this unknowable group wants. The result? Patronising, Reith-reversing channels like BBC3; uneducating its audience in what television can be for younger audiences.

So the government claims the BBC’s risk averse, and that’s true – the role both it and New Labour played in fostering that timidity brushed aside. But the idea that you dismantle a cultural asset because it’s frightened to innovate is palpably absurd. The Beeb, contrary to the rhetoric of crisis engineered by its enemies, is in pretty good shape. One Savile doesn’t make a summer, or indeed a case for abolition. Most of the BBC’s services are excellent and welcomed by those licence fee payers who had the nous to seek them out. The Tories say the BBC’s trying to do too much, but why shouldn’t it develop new online tools, for example, if it has the resources to do so? Isn’t looking for better ways to deliver local news or weather reports serving the people who pay their fee? Isn’t the benefit of the licence fee that there’s a pot of money to try these things?

There are many people in the country who resent stumping up for Aunty. In some respects this is understandable. Perhaps the fee should be variable in some cases, based on ability to pay. The sense of unfairness to those who’ve never been enticed by BBC TV or Radio, the idiots, must be palpable. But such people only speak for themselves. I pay for services and infrastructure I don’t use, I pay for people and spaces I’ll never see. But I believe in universal health care, maintained communities and welfare for those who need it. Oh, and free education. By the same token I believe that broadcasting shorn of the commercial imperative should exist for everyone in the country, whether they opt to consume it or not. If public service broadcasting becomes the province of a small, paying elite, it will be diminished and inevitably limited in its ambitions.

If we had a government that supported the BBC, guaranteed its independence and told it to think the unthinkable, promising that audience share wouldn’t prejudice charter renewal, we could have HBO, or whatever byword for innovative TV you want to use, on a scale unseen anywhere in the world. As things stand we must hope there’s a few people in the Culture Department and Treasury who know the value as well as the price of the licence fee, so are minded to preserve what we’ve got, until their successors set it free to make good on its promise.

Published in: on July 22, 2015 at 14:29  Leave a Comment  
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The Corbynite Manoeuvre

Jeremy Corbyn MP

There’s been an awakening in the Labour Party. Have you felt it? Jeremy Corbyn, the Bennite leadership candidate who only made the ballot thanks to condescension from modernists in the PLP, convinced a token showing for what used to be an intellectually vibrant wing of the party would placate the dinosaurs who still believe in guff like social mobility, redistribution and peace, is now the surprise frontrunner.

What does this mean? For the Blairite commentariat, pretend centrists like John Rentoul, it shows Labour have lost their minds. If the Wilderness years of the ‘80s and ‘90s taught politicos anything, which is debatable, then surely it was that Thatcherite monetarism, economic self-interest and the free market was as natural as your mother’s teat. It’s remained the consensus, surviving 13 years of New Labour, because everyone agrees that Thatcher won the argument on everything. Sure, the country’s divided, social mobility’s in reverse, social justice – however you care to measure it, whether it’s the availability of cheap housing, low rents, well-paid jobs or access to higher education – is a joke, but other than those fundamental aspects of British life, everything’s worked out rather well.

When seasoned so-called moderates on the backbenches were signing Corbyn’s nomination papers, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes, they were convinced this last gasp showing for the old orthodoxy would persuade its advocates that it was time to pawn their CND badges. It was just a bit of fun and a crushing defeat for the benign beard would send a clear signal to the electorate that Labour had shed its ideological baggage. No sir, no one in the Labour Party believed in social equality anymore and you could can take that to the deregulated bank.

It didn’t occur to the Blarites, or indeed those admirers of Ed Miliband’s ultra-soft socialism, the kind you could taste, if not see, that Labour members who joined the party because they didn’t accept the Thatcherite consensus (and whisper it quietly, found it an affront to society), may be bored of the politics of triangulation. Hell, they may even hate that proxy for the status quo – the hallowed centre ground.

Spoon fed vapidity and platitudinous bullshit for twenty years while the durable unegalitarian infrastructure erected throughout the ‘80s remained largely untouched, these anarchists – we’ll call them ideologues – actually expected a real debate about whether the party should change direction. That’s right, not a token version like 2010, when the old firm was represented by alienator-in-chief Diane Abbot (whose redistributed votes cost David Miliband the leadership; a warning from history), but a journey into Labour’s tattered soul. What does being a member of the Labour Party mean in 2015? Who do you speak for? Does it matter if most of the population see themselves as middle class these days? Post-Thatcher, is self-interest and God the same thing and if so, how do you sell killing God?

Granted the last question can be worded a number of ways.

Tony Blair understood that triangulation wins elections but only because you start from the position that the status-quo is natural. You create a little political space by erecting a roomy big tent; large enough for soft Tories and social democrats to share cocktails and canapés. Everyone else is pushed outside and labelled an extremist or hard liner. It’s a formula for continuity. Sadly, it’s also a recipe for political stagnation.

Jeremy Corbyn’s excited Labour’s grassroots because he refuses to position himself to reassure Middle England voters. He doesn’t care for their beliefs and he’s not inclined to pretend otherwise. His positions on some issues, Irish reunification for example, lack nuance (it’s a policy born of anti-imperialism that ignores realpolitik), but Labour members are listening to him. Why? Because as a backbencher who’s refused to take the New Labour shilling he’s been free to speak his mind for the last thirty years; he’s a man who’s doggedly refused to compromise his Bennite beliefs.

His opponents, by contrast, are machine ministers who’ve been media managed in clinical white rooms. They’re victims of the professional politician career trajectory they’ve openly embraced. If they sound weak, like three middle managers who have no strong views on anything, bar the necessity of their own candidacy, then that reflects a truth about Labour’s mainstream in the post-Blair era. Corbyn’s an unlikely prime minister-in-waiting, but by virtue of having something to talk about – anything – and having clarity of purpose, conducive to the kind of passion you can’t fake, he’s left his straw opponents looking very fragile indeed.

The tragedy for the electorate, whatever the outcome (which may include a Corbyn victory and a prompt coup to remove him) is that we’re left with a disunited opposition with no clear path to power. The Conservatives have a tiny majority, a bastard’s dozen, but until Labour rediscover their courage and radicalism, and find a leader who can galvanise and inspire the millions who aren’t satisfied with the status quo – those who know the centre ground is shaped like a lemon, it may as well be 120.

Grey by E.L James (Exclusive Extract)


From a thief’s hard drive to Opinionoid in one easy click.

So this bird comes in, she’s fit as, tits like Christmas presents, and the little sort sits at my desk, eyeing my Jim and John Thomas, partners in cock and balls since 1989. I say to her, with my mouth, ‘what’s your angle, babe – I’ve got a meeting in ten so keep it trim.’

‘I’m Ana,’ she says, sucking off the words, ‘my friend Kate was supposed to be doing this interview but she got sick so I’m here instead. I hope that’s okay.’

‘What was wrong with her, growler trouble?’ I says, ‘cos I’m a funny bastard. She looks put out, like, but I’m rich and she ain’t, so it don’t really matter what she thinks. ‘You got a surname?’ I says. The ol’ Grey charm’s on the pitch, shirt off, swinging it about, working up the crowd.

‘Steele,’ she says.

‘What, like the fuckin’ metal?’ I laugh at my own zinger. If I hadn’t been a successful business man, like a gazillionaire or whatever, I’d have been a stand up comic for sure. Christian Grey at the ‘ammersmith Apollo, Christian Grey at the O2. Christian Grey, buy the DVD for Father’s Day.

‘I’ve got a few questions,’ says this Ana, but I’m not interested in ‘em. I’m thinking about her tassels and muffler, and what I’m going to do to her when, like every other bird, she follows me back to the ‘ouse. She’s asking about my company now, about what we do and that, but all I can see is that arse – the fat ripplin’ like the puddle in Jurassic Park, as I thwack it with a rolled up copy of TV Quick.

‘Ana,’ I says, ‘are you a dirty bird? Do you like a bit of slap and tickle?’

‘Mr Grey,’ she says, ‘I don’t know what you want to me to say.’

‘Say yes please,’ I says, and I get all excited – the old man coming up to say hello. But as he does I feel sad. I think about the old days, when I used to get locked in a room and told to sort myself out with a roll of sandpaper and a plastic band for m’ bollocks. I feel guilty and a bit embarrassed, like I’ve been caught moisturising. ‘Sorry bird, you’ll have to go,’ I says, ‘some other time, yeah?’

She gets up to leave, looks pissed off. I walk with her to the lift.

‘I’m sorry if I offended you in some way,’ she says, ‘I can send you a transcript if you need to approve anything?’

‘Nah, you’re alright darlin’,’ I says, ‘I was just thinking about the time this older bird I was shacked up with put her fist up me and worked me like Orville, but I don’t think you want to know about all that.’ The lift comes and I push her in. ‘Later peaches,’ I says, and the doors close.

What a fuckin’ day.

Grey is published later this month.

Published in: on June 10, 2015 at 17:10  Leave a Comment  
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