Another week, another murmur about splinters in Westminster. This time, though, it’s a splinter that would affect both Labour and the Conservatives. James Chapman, George Osborne’s former spin doctor, has floated the idea of a new centrist party called the Democrats, and claims that a handful of ministers from both sides have “been in touch”. I won’t go so far as to say it’s the answer to a question nobody asked. There’s been questions ever since Corbyn’s rise about how to hold left and centre-leaning Labourites together, just as there have been about pro and anti-Brexit Tories. A new centrist movement that mops up disenchanted MPs from both parties is an answer. It’s just not an answer that helps anybody.
Trump, in his remarks on Saturday, refused to align himself against the so-called alt-right protest movement. His decision to maintain a neutral stance on the activities of the racist and anti-Semitic right has opened him to charges of hypocrisy; Trump is now refusing to speak plainly about the nature of a particular terrorist threat, a sin he continually ascribed to his predecessor. But the issue here is substantially larger than mere hypocrisy. Obama carefully measured his rhetoric in the war against Islamist terrorism because he hoped to avoid inserting the U.S. into the middle of an internecine struggle consuming another civilization. But the struggle in Charlottesville is a struggle within our own civilization, within Trump’s own civilization.
Normally these sorts of letters are about his Mum. It’s been a few months since the last wrangle and the postman’s been on time for once, so that’s something. Brian takes the official-looking envelope into the kitchen and sets it down on the counter. 25 Castleton Road. There’s no hurry to open it. He’s used to throwing forms or money at what’s left of her problems. All in good time. First he clunks the mechanical arm of his espresso machine and spoons fine earthy grounds into the basket he cleaned out, as always, after yesterday morning’s coffee. He’s not the type to leave muck in his kitchen overnight. He wipes spillage off the marble worktop and sets the machine trickling. The emerging smell welcomes him into the world and makes him feel that a day’s work will be possible after all.
The Wardrobe Ensemble, who have previously looked at relationships and sex in the 1970s and how it still relates to today have in their latest endeavour jumped forward a couple of decades to 1997. The setting is a local comprehensive school, looking at the staff and student relationships within the context of both Tony Blair’s recent election victory and the UK’s success that year in the Eurovision song contest. The story is mostly told through the impressions of a German classroom assistant Tobias who is new to the School, exploring many of the issues and events that were topical in 1997, from New Labour to Tamagotchi’s. The cast play both students and teachers, which means some quick changes.
“This is a true story,” says Fargo’s opening tagline. “At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” This is an untrue but apt prefix for an iconic tale of bloodshed and deceit. Fargo was the first film by Joel and Ethan Coen to receive an Academy Award, winning the 1996 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. With its dark humour, vivid neo-noir cinematography and lush Carter Burwell soundtrack, Fargo is a crime drama typifying the Coen brothers’ unorthodox style of filmmaking. In 1987, Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundergaard conspires with thugs Gaear Grimsrud and Carl Showalter in Fargo, North Dakota to kidnap Lundergaard’s wife and blackmail his wealthy stepfather into handing over a lucrative ransom.
On Tuesday, reaction to a new British proposal designed to avert a damaging rupture in trade when the country leaves the European Union underscored the deepening troubles in Britain’s contentious path to negotiating its withdrawal. After months of internal feuding, Britain’s government said it wanted to remain — temporarily — in something similar to the European customs union immediately after the withdrawal, scheduled for 2019, to avert the types of border checks that could cause chaos at British ports and at the border with Ireland. British business groups, relieved to see a way to manage the short-term risks of quitting the European Union, welcomed those plans, seeing them as a means, perhaps, to buy two years of stability
I’m sure I am not alone in feeling scared, uncertain, angry, and powerless in the current political climate. Between Brexit and Trump, the world is a scary, unsettling place. As always, when in doubt, it is often best to bury your head in a book which challenges your world view or at the very least serves as a suitable distraction from the horror of day to day life. That’s my motto anyway, cumbersome as it is. The world-weary volume serving to distract from the news of Nazi protests and impending nuclear doom this week was Begat: an entertainment for the Trump epoch by Richard Major, writing as Felix Culpepper, published by Indie Books.
Life is a tricky thing. What is the purpose of it all? Where are we going? Who am I? These are three questions that bombard the mind of Gameson’s protagonist, Win, as she has an existential crisis of Buddhist proportions. She undergoes a death of self, a destruction of her memories and personality in order to attain enlightenment. It is the ultimate form of impermanence, a recognition that the soul does not truly exist. Who she is has nothing to do with her past, but is determined only by her mindset and her level of focus in each and every new moment. She stands aloof from her family and utilises an approach of non-attachment to everyone and everything. And as such the dangers of such a mindset are explored with touches of humour and equal measures of seriousness.
As images poured onto my Twitter feed of swastika-tattooed meatheads and torch-bearing neo-Nazis last Saturday, I kept asking myself the same question: "Why is no one talking about the guys in camo holding assault rifles?" As a Brit, public protest brings to mind busloads of placard-bearing students having a shouting match with lager-slurping skinheads, not grown men dressed up as soldiers wielding military grade firearms. The 32 heavily armed and well-equipped men photographed patrolling the Charlottesville protest were members of a makeshift militia. No, we're not talking about a war-torn banana republic. This is 2017 America. Resembling a group of renegade mercenaries from an Andy McNab 'novel', they came with the supposed purposes of keeping order, protecting people from violence and, of course, "defending free speech".