...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Day 2065: But What is Steven Byers FOR?


"Lord Blairimort Returns"

When lost fragments of his homeworld (America) were discovered in a galaxy far, far away [R: wrong franchise!] Lord Blairimort disappeared without trace. But after a long summer holiday searching, he found only depressing cinders orbiting the burned out ruin of a minor (pop) star. His quest a failure, Lord Blairimort resolved to return to Britain to continue his mission to bring us Truth (as he sees it), Justice (ish) and the American Way!

Look, Brian Singer found it difficult enough to make a go of this when he was casting gooder-than-good SUPERMAN in the lead: you can IMAGINE the trouble the Downing Street spin engines are having getting THIS off the ground!

(The Conservatories have announced this as this "SPIN OVERLOAD"; I think that I will call that announcement IRONY OVERLOAD!)

Now, it might look like the Labour were trying to feed the press a line of "the Prime Minister is very busy, don't you know" – suggesting that Lord Blairimort would concentrate on the Middle East crisis and on "pressing domestic issues" (or the IRONING, as we call it) – but REALLY this is just saying what the press office is EXPECTED to say.

The REAL spin from the Labour at the moment is to cover up the government's ABUNDANT failures with Westminster Village gossip about how long Lord Blairimort will last before being arrested retiring with honour.

The professional JOURNALISTS of the country seem to have all bought into the idea that most IMPORTANT issue of the day is NOT war, plague, famine or ITV's ratings but the soap opera of Lord Blairimort's impending defenestration dignified stepping aside.

Either THAT or they have all decided that they want to convince us that they are nothing more than DISGRUNTLED HACKS, disappointed that they did not get a job writing on EASTENDERS!

Yes, it is ALL GOOD FUN watching a once unified totalitarian party fall into in-fighting as they squabble over who gets which scrap of what legacy. But frankly, that happens with ANY DICTATORSHIP. That is why they do not last.

(Monarchies, as opposed to dictatorships, require INSTITUTIONS to keeps them going, and institutions like to get COMFORTABLE. Hence fewer JACKBOOTS. The MOST comfortable that you can be is actually not to rule the country at all, so eventually you arrive at a BRITISH DEMOCRACY. But that's not important right now.)

Does it really INFORM or EDUCATE us any to know that the Lord Woolsack, Tony's Chum Charlie says it's not time to change the PM or Mrs Tessa the Culture Secretary says the uncertainty is causing uncertainty? What ELSE are they going to say?

"Come Mr Frown, take power at once and sack us, like we know you want to!"

"And I for one, welcome our new prudANT overlord!"

No, it may not do the Labour much GOOD to have the press concentrating on their battle for the succession. (It's going to be Mr Frown. Next question…) But it does them less HARM than anything ELSE the press might be concentrating on. Like why they aren't running the country instead of having their little succession spat.

What the Labour REALLY wants, though, is a good old fight with the Conservatories.

The complete absence of any kind of Conservatory policy is, of course, getting SILLY.

Even Mr Balloon's one time BOSS (the one who was driving when the POUND went over a CLIFF at the QUARRY) has started to notice!

But it DOES make it difficult for the Labour to land any kind of PUNCH on them, especially when all Mr Balloon seems to do in parliament is say how much he agrees with all the government's policies and how terrible it is that they don't do them EVEN MORE!

That may mean that Mr Balloon is no more use to the country than that NODDING DOG that advertises car insurance…

(Blairimort: Can I introduce tuition fees that will cost up to £30,000 a student?

Balloon: Oooh, yes!

Blairimort: And can I privatise the health service, even though private medical practices cost the taxpayer vastly more money?

Balloon: Oooh, yes!

Blairimort: And can I have a car with my own chauffeur called Les?

Balloon: No, he's got to be following me on my bicycle… oh bugg…)

…but it also means that Lord Blairimort does not have a handy BOGEYMAN to hold up and say: "Look… I mean… you've got to vote for us, or these guys… will be eating your babies, you know… come on… just look at them!"

So what IS a poor monomaniacal Prime Minister with a god complex supposed to do? Walk on water?

(Blairimort: Well, look, obviously… I can and… you know… I would… but…)

In the absence of a Conservatory monster, they would have to INVENT one!

Oh Look! Enter stage RIGHT, the former Minister for Burying the News about Burying Bad News, Mr Stephen "pants on" Byers.

First he appears in the Telegraph making a Conservatory-esque call for a TAX CUT, then he turns up in the Times demanding a Conservatory-esque spending review (spot all that coded language about "not turning the clock back"! He might almost have added: "well, not further back than 1981"!)

Who is this POSSIBLY supposed to benefit?

Well, not the Conservatory Party, for starters.

By setting up some "nasty right-wing" policies, Mr Byers gives the Labour something to hit against: this could be DESIGNED to shore up the oft-mentioned "core vote", the working people who genuinely support the sort of policies usually derided as "Old Labour" (which the Unions have started calling "Classic Labour" – to distinguish it from "Labour Zero", I would guess).

This strengthens support for the Labour, mostly among people who have not switched to voting Liberal or Conservatory but who are just not bothering to vote at all – the THREAT of baby-eating Conservatories could be enough to give them a reason to turn out.

But it goes FURTHER than that: when a bunch of ill-thought-out right-wing proposals pop up in print, who are the obvious people to ask for comment?

The Conservatories are caught in a bind here – do they SUPPORT these ideas in principal and ADMIT that they are baby-eating right-wingers; or do they REJECT them, which ALIENATES their own "core vote" and ALSO draws attention to the emptiness of their own policy cupboard!

"Not just a straw man, but a bear trap too!" Daddy Alex cleverly summarises.

It certainly LOOKS like Mr Boy George has got in a flap and dashed off a few tax dodges, apparently intending to fund them by steeling from the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.

Quiz: whose tax plans were described as:

"a panic measure written on the back of an envelope"

So that's the Conservatories shafted, then.

But Mr Byers cannot SERIOUSLY think that HE has a hope of re-entering front-line politics. Not with his track record (his RAILTRACK record you might say!). And even if he were that DELUDED (he IS a friend of Lord Blairimort, so do not rule it out) even if he were though, THIS kind of manifesto is really, really not going to win him the leadership of the Labour, now is it?

But it MIGHT get him a PEERAGE if what the Labour is calling for now is a marvellous futile gesture. Fly over to Germany. Don't come back.

Now, who's got some terrific headlines for giving a good thumping to the nasty right-winger?

"Mr Frown Returns!"

Day 2064: Star Wars Lego


My Daddy Richard has a PROBLEM. It is something that he finds it difficult to talk about. He has a secret CRAVING that he is unable to give up. Like many people with this problem he manages to conceal it and can even appear to lead an ordinary life, but every so often he will "fall off the wagon" and INDULGE himself all over again. There are secret dens of VICE called "shops" where he can go to get his "fix" or he can even place orders over the Internet.

Yes, it is true: he is a LEGOHOLIC

Which is GREAT for me – look what I'VE built today!

Take the money / open the box

Read very carefully

Choose the pieces

This bit goes here

Fix this bit

Stick this on the top


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Day 2063: Is Perpetual Motion a Con?


Perpetual Motion is a scientific FANTASY, a dream like turning lead into gold*.

To keep moving FOREVER, a machine that would have to produce AS MUCH as or MORE energy than it consumes. Forever.

So that would be a LIMITLESS SUPPLY of FREE energy.

Think of it this way, since matter IS energy (that's what EINSTEIN says, anyway) then you could create something out of literally (and I MEAN literally literally) nothing.

Which is, unfortunately, IMPOSSIBLE.

So, in order to find out how he creates something out of nothing, we asked the inventor… MR BALLOON!

Mr Balloon explained:

"Look, I'VE changed MY mind, now it's up to you; it may be impossible but it works!"

It seems that the KEY to Mr Balloon's theory is to generate simultaneous POSITIVE and NEGATIVE stories on the LEFT and RIGHT.

So while Mr Balloon WARMS the soft-hearted left with his APOLOGY for a foreign policy that not only did he have nothing to do with (well it IS a foreign policy) but is also fifteen years out of date, his chum Mr Boy George Osbourne injects the hard right with a COLD-hearted tax cut plan.

The result of these opposing stories is SPIN!

Mr Balloon is hoping that he can create enough SPIN for his Conservatory Party to achieve TAKE OFF without visible means of support!

Of course, this sort of "power from nowhere" device was first pioneered by Lord Blairimort, so you can see why Mr Balloon is mimicking it.

The reason for Mr Balloon's trip to South Africa is obvious even to a fluffy toy like ME: he has blotted his copybook recently over foreign affairs by failing to take any kind of position over the War in Lebanon. So he wants to appear on the "world stage" and say something that SOUNDS impressive, and what could get more headlines than something that SOUNDS like it is a big U-Turn.

Not that this really IS a big U-turn: ask yourself how many world leaders would say "we're sorry we backed those sanctions, it's a real shame that the Apartheid regime fell isn't it, Mr Mandela? Mr Mandela? Please stop backing away, Mr Mandela!"

As usual, Mr Balloon's idea of BRAVERY involves picking a fight with people who have ALREADY LOST. This is actually quite clever, as it is unlikely that they will punch him in his flabby head.

Other things that Mr Balloon is likely to consider "apologising" for:

  • Conservatory support in 1845 for Protectionism under the Corn Laws, led by founder of modern Conservatoryism Mr Disraeli (and his spiteful spiking of the Irish Bill that brought down his own government).
  • Conservatory support in 1819 for the Peterloo Massacre, led by then Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth which they followed with the introduction of draconian crackdowns on civil liberties to prevent "radicals" from holding meetings and to control newspapers.
  • Conservatory support in the 1670's for the Divine Right of Kings (specifically, James the VII and II), led by Baron Jeffreys (yes, he is THE Judge Jeffreys) which ended up with King James, er, getting a bit out of hand and, er, having to be, er, removed a bit (not deposd, dear me no) to avoid a second Civil War.
Far be it for fluffy little me to suggest that Mr Balloon might want to try picking something a bit more UP TO DATE to take on his own party over, but aren't the main world issues facing a potential prime minister today actually: Middle East conflict; free movement of people in Europe; international environmental action; and America?

The Conservatory Party is pretty BACKWARDS in all of these areas; it should not be that hard to pick a fight! Mr Balloon seems to be MISSING an OPEN GOAL here.

On the other fluffy foot, the OBSESSION with things in the PAST makes Mr Balloon fairly typical of the Conservatories. Just look at all the fuss that they are trying to make about the PREVIOUS Liberal Democrat Leader – possibly because they cannot take on the CURRENT ONE!

As my Daddy Alex suggests, it is possible that this OBSESSION lies in a yearning for their GLORY DAYS, back when Mrs Thatcher could impose the POLL TAX on the country on a WHIM.

Mr Boy George's tax promise (version 94…) is, it is EQUALLY OBVIOUS, part of the same strategy: the promise of red meat for the right wing and the illusion of soft soap for the soft left. (Or VICE VERSA.)

Trying to cover his tracks by saying that it is to PROMOTE PENSIONS is a bit SEE-THROUGH even for Mr Boy George.

This is more like promoting SWIMMING by abolishing stamp duty on mansions that have their own SWIMMING POOL!

There are other and better ways to re-invigorate people's pension plans, but none that lubricate the wallets appeal to the principles of rich city types so well as the offer of a few bucks off the cost of their gambling trading. Mr Balloon, who comes from a family of rich city gamblers traders, no doubt had not thought of PERSONAL GAIN when his chum suggested this wheeze.

It would be interesting to know whether Mr Boy George will CUT service for the poor in order to pay for benefits for the rich. (Although any suggestion that Mr Boy George is behind THIS mystery disappearance would be TOTALLY inappropriate!)

Protectionism for the interests of a small rich minority; belief in the divine right of these kings of the stock market; massacring the well being of the common people. Maybe Mr Balloon really SHOULD be considering those apologies!

*Actually, you OUGHT to be able to turn lead (which is heavier) into gold by smashing some of the PROTONS and NEUTRONS off of the lead nucleus. Probably with some sort of LASER! It is a bit FIDDLY though. And your gold would probably be a bit RADIOACTIVE. Still, glow-in-the-dark gold might be FUN!

Alternatively you could make gold by fusing IRON atoms, but the energy involved is literally (and I MEAN literally literally again) astronomical: it usually only happens inside STARS when they go all EXPLODE-Y in a SUPER-NOVA.

Meanwhile this chap claims to have invented a REAL perpetual motion machine. It is based on magnets and apparently, the secret is all in the POSITIONING.

Perhaps he could give Mr Balloon a lesson or two!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Day 2062: DOCTOR WHO: Mostly Garmless


In Dr Who’s EXCITING adventure on "Terminus", he meets a great big huge fluffy monster called THE GARM (also known, for reasons that are OBVIOUS to anyone who knows the plot of "Terminus" as THE BIG BANG DOG).

My daddies have been listening to David Tennant read the final story of Dr Who's recent adventures in book form. This book is called "The Resurrection Casket" and this features a great big huge fluffy monster called KEVIN. No relation.

Oh dear, it would appear that Steve Cole’s “Feast of the Drowned” was the fluke and we are back to the rather more mundane, even obvious for range editor Justin Richards’ latest.

With a vague notion of commissioning "past present and future" novels for the three-at-a-time release format that the BBC have adopted for their ninth and tenth Doctor tie in range, this then notionally constitutes the "future" setting of the three. Not that it really shows, as the story adopts all the forms of a "pirate" yarn, merely shipping them off to some notional future and substituting spaceship for sailing ship etc. Yes, Justin has recreated "The Space Pirates".

The conceit is reinforced by having the local spatial anomaly (which I would have liked better if it hadn’t been called the "space" name of "the ZEG") prevent the use of electrical based technology, including the TARDIS. Justin claims that this is to present familiar challenges that people have to overcome without the familiar technology. It really isn’t, though – electricity doesn’t work but steam power does so just replace all the usual (unexplained but they work) electrical technology with (also unexplained but they work) steam-powered alternatives. It is quite the most boringly literal interpretation of “steam punk” that you could come across.

(Dave Stone did something very similar, substituting familiar technology for self-winding clockwork in his New Adventure "Death and Diplomacy" published in 1996. Of course, for Dave this was a typically elaborate joke.)

"ZEG", incidentally, stands for "zone of electromagnetic gravitation" suggesting the author either knows more about grand unified theory than anyone alive or maybe is just bunging words together at random to get the acronym that he wants.

When Justin introduces such a novel and inventive idea (even if it's not his own idea) but then completely fails to explore it, you are left with the sinking feeling that it is only there to prevent the Doctor and Rose just leaving in the TARDIS.

So, instead of following the interesting idea, we get "Treasure Island" in space with the serial numbers filed off. Like that's never been done before. Is it really necessary to point out the hero is the lad Jim, or that the pirates are being cursed with the Black Spot, sorry, Black Shadow?

Actually, it's not Jim it's Jimm, and Bob is Bobb: a painful attempt to make the names more "spacey" that fortunately doesn’t come across on audio and I would have been spared if Justin himself hadn’t mentioned it in the brief interview with the author bit at the end of disc two.

So, the Doctor and Rose find themselves on Starfall trapped in the ZEG and embroiled in the affair of the lost treasure of pirate captain Hamlek Glint. All very well so far, and you might expect a fairly rip-roaring boys own adventure quest to follow (or at the very least something not dissimilar to Christopher Bullis “The Ultimate Treasure”). But instead Justin opts to spend a great deal of time setting up an immensely tedious back story that doesn’t so much telegraph the story’s twists as hires a skywriter to announce them to the world in mile high lettering.

Robbie the Cabin Boy (more “Cap’n Pugwash” than “Treasure Island”, there actually) is the only human member of Glint’s otherwise all-robot crew (Alex points out there’s a Robbie the not-Robot joke buried in there). And by an amazing coincidence, Jimm’s uncle Bobb has a replica of Glint’s treasure as part of his collection of Glint memorabilia. Super-wealthy Glint obsessive Drel McCavity (yes, he is only called that for the dentist joke) has a wife who has mysteriously disappeared and a mysterious chest that he insists on keeping with him at all times: what could it contain? Jimm’s collection of Glint action figures identify the robot pirates and their weaknesses, that couldn’t possibly be handy to know later, could it? The ostensible "mystery" element of the story – who is bumping people off with the curse of the Black Shadow – is severely undermined by having a list of suspects that consists of McCavity and… that is all.

All of which means that the first disc is almost over before we have bundled onto a ship (not the Hispaniola, so there’s a steam Hiss gag missed there) in search of the pirate Glint’s lost ship and his lost treasure, and the all robot crew are acting suspiciously (you’ll never guess why). Unlike the previous two adventures, the cliff-hanger at the end of the disc comes across as rather undramatic.

The centrepiece of Glint’s treasure is, naturally, the titular Resurrection Casket – apparently forming a central part of his legend as an unkillable pirate fiend. The problem with this is that, as the way the casket actually works is revealed at the end of the story, Glint cannot possibly have used it during his piratical career – so how can it be such a key part of the legend? It does, of course, turn out to be a "be careful what you wished for" and the fate of wicked McCavity is… well, even if we gloss over the old "his own weapon turned against him" shtick, we still have to say that his final comeuppance has been done before in Doctor Who, at least twice.

The characterisation of the Doctor and Rose comes across as sparky but all too often lifted directly from the television: particularly the point where the Doctor goes into "Climb Every Mountain" that as good as quotes the "No that’s 'the Lion King'," moment from "The Christmas Invasion".

Kevin the Garm - sorry, he's a beastly hairy monster controlled against his will by a device that ends up given to him and thus set he sets himself free by destroying it; now which story does that reference? So, Kevin the Garm is given a very sub sub-Douglas Adams personality of "only doing my job". David Tennant voices him charmingly, though.

Other characters are a bit on the two-dimensional side, though, which is normally less of a problem when Justin is writing his more plot-dense fiction. Here though it just underlines that all of the plot functions are entirely obvious. Alex tells me that there is one character entirely excised in the abridging – it is telling that he only realised that the character had gone missing when he was thinking "oh yes, someone died in this scene".

As with all of Justin's Doctor Who fiction, the living dead appear in this novel: the way that Glint appears is, I will concede, clever (although you should be able to work it out well ahead of the revelation); in contrast, the half-zombie robot Salvo Seven ought to have been incredibly creepy but instead is just slightly camp. (Not as camp as Cannon-K, but that’s probably down to David Tennant’s choice for the voice.)

There are much better ways of doing pirates on steam-ships in the future. For a start, don’t make them SPACE ships – have them stuck on a planet that requires them to use steam power, sure, but then sail about on the sea. Space travel ought to be IMPOSSIBLE under the conditions that exist here so don’t make it integral to your plot. Don’t invent ludicrous sounding space sharks when you can use real sharks. Don’t introduce a threat to the TARDIS (she cannot escape the ZEG) and then immediately thwart it by having her at the docks for space craft that can carry her out of the zone.

The biggest problem that the BBC books have is, I’m sorry to say, that Justin Richards in no use at all as an editor. Particularly when he’s editing himself. (I’m relived to see that for the upcoming fourth set of books for the first time he hasn’t commissioned a slot for himself.) The early BBC books for the eighth Doctor edited by Stephen Cole (yes, that Steve Cole) got a bit out of hand, but when Justin took over he killed the range dead by simultaneously erasing all the existing Doctor Who mythology and at the same time introducing a tortuous recent history involving the Doctor having lost his memory, Gallifrey having been maybe erased from history and a sub-Master-esque villain called Sabbath (entirely unrelated to the character of the same name created by Laurence Miles in "The Adventuress of Henrietta Street"). In the interview on disc two he has the cheek to talk about Doctor Who's "baggage"!

The current BBC publications are much more constrained by the existence of an actual television series than the eighth Doctor’s ongoing adventures were, which eliminates Justin's ability to alienate the readership by superimposing his own continuity over the one they were expecting. But it still seems very hit and miss whether the books will fit with the overall themes of the season in which they are ostensibly set. Also, he has a difficulty in telling the difference between child-like and childish.

Oh, and there was nothing in the audio version that could put a year to this adventure, making it the only story post "Rose" without a definite date.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Day 2061: Okay, it’s way more than Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “Lib Dem Blogs Aggregated”


Oh I give up! I cannot keep my fluffy list down to JUST SEVEN!

I was going to tell you about Mr Rob Fenwick on "The posh sounding Northumbrian", who has interesting things to say about Sir Mr the Merciless' latest video.

But there is also Mr Joe Otten who writes "Joe’s Extra Bold Political Blog", and wants to tell us more about Pluto. (Daddy Richard agrees with him, even if they are both WRONG! Pluto IS a planet or where does all the PLUTONIUM come from???)

And there is INVALUABLE internationalism from Mr Tony Ferguson on his "Ballots, Balls and Bikes" (oooh, what a name!), who writes pieces that no one else would cover, like this on alleged threats to the life of the Thai Prime Minister!

Technically disqualified from my seven days by not posting anything in the last week is Mr James Graham and his "Quaequamblog!" Though when he DOES have something to say it will usually be something ACERBIC that cuts to the essential heart of the matter. Take this example of him PRICKING the BUBBLE of Mr Tony Benn, the ORIGINAL Phoney Tony.

I would not want to leave out Mr Colin Ross on "Colin Ross News", who is mostly a factual reporter but always keen to encourage the Liberals in his local area (and EVERYWHERE!), with a positive outlook, even for tales like this by-election bad news.

Nor can I forget Mr Paul Walter on "Liberal Burblings" who has been so VERY nice about me (I blush to say) and who is one of the few people to be good enough to expand his views when presented with new facts. Here he is contemplating the choice of holiday reading of the Monkey-in-Chief. Yes, it’s shocking: the Monkey-in-Chief can READ!

And certainly not least are all the heroes of "The Apollo Project", with their Liberal Review, but PARTICULARLY Mr Steve and Mr Peter. Terrific thinking, rapid response, sly satire. Apollo was not just the god of the sun and music and prophesy, but was also the name given by NASA to the AMAZING missions that took humans to a new world for the first time.

As my Daddy Richard is fond of saying: "LET’S BUILD ROCKET SHIPS!"

And the final big fluffy hug is for Mr Ryan Cullen: thank you for having us all!

Day 2060: Seven-ish Blogs in Seven Days: “Love and Liberty”


As I am telling you all about the blogs that I like to read, you REALLY cannot expect me not to mention MY DADDY ALEX and his "Love and Liberty".

Daddy has impressed lots of people with his political writings (I gave him LOTS of help!) but he DOES have a life outside of politics too, and to prove it here are some of his typically enthusiastic thoughts on the Avengers.

(Yes, I KNOW it is dated a week earlier – but I sat on the back of my chair and watched him type it in, so I also KNOW when most of it was REALLY posted!)

This also seems like the right place to mention Mr Simon Guerrier on "0tralala" who is not STRICTLY a Liberal Democrat blogger, but often has very Liberal things to say. And also he owns the new ATTACHÉ-CASE of JAMES BOND which my daddies are TOO MEAN to get for me. Harumph!

Here is Mr Simon on James Bond!

Day 2059: Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “Liberal England”


No one should miss out on one of Liberal Democracy’s hottest writers, Mr Jonathan Calder on "Liberal England".

There was – as always – plenty to choose from this week, so I have gone for a PARTICULARLY choice piece, a poignant review of the lessons to be learned from BBC docu-drama "Accused".

This isn’t typical of Mr Jonathan’s writings, but only because he is so ECLECTIC, covering a wide range of issues and in a wide range of styles from throwaway one-liners to an in-depth thoughtful piece like this.

He is also a close friend of LORD BONKERS – so I am hoping he can get me into my favourite London Club: the House of Lords!

Having said that, I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to also pass on a recommendation for Mr Iain Sharpe on "Eaten by Missionaries". Quite the opposite of Mr Jonathan, Mr Iain’s posts are quite rare. For example, we were lucky to get a few posts from him this week, including these reflections on the Scottish Smoking ban.

Day 2058: Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “No Geek is an Island”


Continuing my telling you about blogs that I like, never far from my fluffy foot is the button for Mr Will Howells and his "No Geek is an Island".

Mr Will is much more PITHY than I am – or, as some people might say, he gets to the point while I am still winding up to my first GAG! His pieces are generally short and to the point, and he keeps his eyes open and covers a very broad range of subjects.

Here, he is one of several Liberals to offer some SUB EDITING to the Grauniad over their coverage of their latest poll.

Day 2057: Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “Forceful and Moderate”


Femme de Resistance provides EXCELLENT and PASSIONATE commentary on "Forceful and Moderate"

Here she has, like ME, decided to write about the fairness of inheritance tax.

Unlike me, she makes her case with charismatic directness. She continues EVEN MORE excellently with this! I wish that I could write things so well!

If inheritance tax leaves you cold, you might prefer the much-deserved whacking she gives to the Daily Mail over the purposelessness of articles therein.

Day 2056: Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “A Liberal Goes a Long Way”


I always enjoy seeing a new posting from Mr Stephen Tall on "A Liberal Goes a Long Way", even though he seems to have an UNCANNY knack of getting in first with things that I want to write in MY diary! On the other fluffy foot, he says them VERY WELL and I usually agree!

He also uses VIDEOS that are VERY COOL. You should watch them!

I could recommend ANY of his diaries, really, but here are his thoughts on topping the Google charts!

Do not worry, Mr Stephen – WE read you!

While I am about it, I shall also plug his very excellent (if rather WORRYING!) thoughts on the Monkey-in Chief.

Day 2055: Seven Blogs in Seven Days: “Lynne’s Parliamentary and Haringey Diary”


Soon it will be time for the LIBERAL DEMOCRAT conference and this year there is to be a SPECIAL PRIZE for the Best Liberal Blog of the Year.

It will be very, very difficult for people to decide who DOES deserve this prize because there are so many very, very good diaries to read. I should like to tell you about some of the ones that I like to stick my big fluffy nose into for a good browse.

First to come to my attention is Ms Lynne Featherstone on "Lynne’s Parliamentary and Haringey Diary"

This week she writes about the place of the weekly political game of "pin the knife in the Prime Minister’s back".

Ms Lynne writes a diary that contains a mix of a lot of stuff about what she is doing in her parliamentary job together with the occasional longer piece that are more commentator-y. It comes across as being an honest account of a very busy life, and it is GOOD that she is able to take the time to say these things. Ms Lynne’s constituents are lucky to have someone who wants to communicate with them. I think it is quite brave as well, as it comes across as genuine and unspun – and we can all think of political people who have come unstuck by being too honest in their diaries.

You should also take a look at Sir Mr the Merciless’ so-called blog (although I am NOT SURE that he writes it all himself). Here is his explanation of why Lord Blairimort's foreign policy is RUBBISH!

All citizens will enjoy his blog… on pain of death!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Day 2054: Caravan Holiday


Last week we were amazed to hear a very funny joke on "The NOW Show" on Radio Four.

Remember Mrs Bucket the foreign secretary's preferred holiday? They guessed that the only way to get in touch with her might be one of those emergency messages that are sometimes broadcast after the news with Charlotte Green:

"This is an emergency message for Mrs Margaret Bucket of Derby, believed to be caravanning in the south of France. Would Mrs Margaret Bucket please get in touch with the foreign office, it is concerning her foreign policy which is dangerously sick."

(We suspect Mr Rory Bremner, being their special guest star, may have helped them write this joke.)

This week it turns out that Mrs Bucket should have listened!

Thirty or forty of her own local party have decided that they have had enough of her and are leaving her caravan to head on over to join Sir Mr the Merciless.

Caravan? We will need a BUS to fit them all!

Defections at a local level from one party to another DO happen all the time. But usually only in gangs of one or two. Thirty or forty at once is quite out of the ordinary and will be something of a BLOW to the Labour, and to Mrs Bucket in particular.

At the last general election, the Liberal Democrats overtook the Conservatories to become the main challengers to Mrs Bucket in her Derby seat, and reduced her majority to 5,657 or 13.1%. You would have thought that this was pretty safe, but that is no reason to be careless about losing a LARGE CHUNK of your local party! Perhaps Mrs Bucket needs to spend some more time LISTENING to the people she is supposed to represent, and not OBEYING the will of Lord Blairimort.

As one of them said: "When Margaret Beckett refused to back a ceasefire and instead sided with George Bush it was the breaking point for us."

Foreign policy is DIFFICULT. Sometimes, the people that you think of as friends behave like TOTAL NUTTERS! (Looks hard at the Monkey-in-Chief, for one.) It is at times like that that you need to be BRAVE and tell them that they need to calm down and stop EXPLODING people.

The war in southern Lebanon has not worked out very well for anyone involved. This should not be surprising because war is not USUALLY a very good way to sort out problems.

Mr Ehud Omelette, the Prime Minister of Israel, has ended up with egg on his face after trying to be all HEROIC and WAR-LEADER-Y. The army reservists are protesting about being dropped into BATTLE with no proper plan. And the Israeli military is left having to admit to a FAILURE.

Meanwhile, The Monkey-in-Chief, by basically letting Mr Omelette let off as many bombs and missiles as he wanted to, has made it look EVEN MORE like he does not give two hoots for peace in the Middle East, the so-called Road Map. Even the Minister for Magical Accidents has had something to say about that!

(Being the Magical Minister, of course, it was something RUDE!)

Lord Blairimort, of course, surprised nobody by doing exactly what the Monkey-in-Chief wanted, which was nothing. And Mrs Bucket didn't get where she is today without knowing when to keep her trap shut. (And even if she DIDN'T know that, there is still the object lesson of what happened to Mr Jack Man-o-Straw when he spoke out against the Americans! I say spoke out, more like whispered. I say whispered, more like didn’t support them strongly enough…)

Thank goodness that Sir Mr the Merciless was there to speak up for common sense and the need for a United Nations backed ceasefire.

It is no wonder that Mrs Bucket's local party have unhitched from her caravan and come to join the wagon train of the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS!

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'… Rawhide!

Day 2053: Pluto A-Go-Go



No sooner do I write a diary explaining why there are now TWELVE planets in the Solar System than POOF! Four of them DISAPPEAR again.

(Thank you to Mr Will for pointing this out; and thank you VERY much to the International Astronomical Union for chucking them out in the first place.)

This is as bad as DOCTOR WHO! The planets Vulcan, Mondas, Voga and possibly Telos (if that is "planet 14") all do appearing and disappearing acts. Not to mention the mysterious "Planet 5", which is Time Looped by the Time Lords. Oh, and the Moon, too!

All of this puts Little England's IMMIGRATION problems into perspective, I think you will find!

Over the last couple of years a lot of people from the East of Europe have decided that they would like to come and work in the West of Europe.

Mostly they have come from Poland, which is a lovely country but has entirely too much BEETROOT in it's cuisine for my taste, and this is probably why they have all chosen to come here.

(Actually, if they were looking for better cooking, then they ought to have gone to France or Belgium, but those countries are not letting them in!)

At the same time, there has been an announcement from Mrs Ruth Kelly who is the person who does all the things that the Minister for Magical Accidents is still being paid for. Mrs Ruth is also a member of secret cult OPUS DAVE, which I was sure was something to do with Mr Balloon… perhaps she is a secret CONSERVATORY. No, wait, she is in Lord Blairimort's cabinet – there is nothing secret about it.

Anyway, Mrs Opus has said that there must be a BIG debate about "ethnic tensions" which is NOT that bit at the back of your ankles (that is your Achilles Tensions) but in fact is about people not getting on with people.

"We must look for ways for people to get to know their neighbours and to stop people feeling a sense of 'separateness'," said Mrs Opus seated on the far side of her very big desk.

"We must look at all aspects of what keeps our cultures apart," she added, "while obviously ruling out any examination of whether sending children to schools based on their faith might in any way keep cultures apart."

You must not think that the Labour are buying votes with faith schools: they are TRYING to but it won't work.

I think that it is a VERY GOOD THING that all of these people have chosen to come here and do jobs that need doing. It will help lots of companies in our country that need workers – in fact the most worrying thing would be what would happen if there WEREN'T people coming to do all the jobs that need doing.

This current period of immigration will also help to spread prosperity to the former Eastern Bloc. By coming here to earn more money than they could back home, many people will set themselves up for when they return to have a better life. And if they make their own countries more prosperous then there will eventually be more people for us to trade with and more jobs overall!

I think that given all the trouble that the people of these countries have gone to in order to join the European Club of Nations it is only fair that we let them have the benefits too. After all, that is the BEST thing about the Union. It helps to spread the things that we think are GOOD IDEAS by letting people see that there are good results from doing things this way and giving them the opportunity to choose to join in.

We have a RESPONSIBILITY to these people that we have encouraged to join. That is the sort of thing that you might expect Mr Balloon to include in his "responsibility revolution" – although funnily enough, he doesn't.

The thing to remember is that all of us are a part of the community together, regardless of where our great-grandparents were born. And we have a RESPONSIBILITY to all of our communities too. (Funnily enough, Mr Balloon does not seem to mention that either.)

As usual, the Liberal Democrats are the ones who have something to say, and Mr Clogg our spokesperson on home affairs has laid out the problem.

We need to persuade the people of France and Belgium to SHARE their lovely cooking with the people of Poland so that they will never have to look another beetroot in the eye again!

Still, it could be worse, at least Poland hasn't gone POOF the way Pluto has!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day 2052: What is Mr Balloon Hiding?


More boring numbers today, I am afraid.

The electoral commission has released the latest set of figures from the political parties about loans and donations in the months from April to June this year.

They are a BIT CROSS because in spite of an agreement by all the major parties to declare ALL of their outstanding loan, one of the parties has decided not to.

Who could it be? I will give you a clue: they begin with a "C" and rhyme with VONSERVATORIES!

You are shocked, I know!

As Lord Rennard says:

"Public confidence in politics is likely to suffer further unless all political parties are open and transparent."

Given that they will be made BY LAW to reveal this information after September, why would Mr Balloon break another promise by keeping this secret now?

Then my eye falls on the figure for donations to the Conservatories, a frankly ASTONISHING 5.9 million quid! And I wonder to myself, hmmm, is Mr Balloon rushing around trying to get enough people to give him honest looking donations so that he can get rid of those HIGHLY DODGY undeclared loans before the September deadline, by any chance?

Meanwhile, Mr Balloon's chairperson and chum in charge of cover ups, Auntie Maude, tried to throw us off the scent by saying:

"Labour is now almost entirely dependent on the unions for funding. In return, they're getting pet policies and bungs with taxpayers' money."

This is very INTERESTING because Auntie Maude's party has received four individual donations that add up to a grand total of £2,895,000 – which is MORE than the whole of the £2,519,807 which the Labour received in total from Trade Unions in the same period.

It is also, in fact, almost HALF of the donations that the Conservatories received. (MORE than half, if you don't include the £1.1 million that the Conservatories get from PUBLIC MONEY!)

Perhaps Auntie Maude would like to EXPLAIN what "pet policies and bungs" these four donors are getting from the Conservatory Party.

Because by Auntie's logic, the Conservatories are in hock to a small shadowy clique and are trying to keep very quiet about it.

Of course, we have seen for some time that the Conservatories are trying to cover their own tracks by FLINGING MUD at everybody else. This is a very UNDERHAND tactic – they know that if they can make enough people think "oh, they are all as bad as each other" on this issue then NO ONE will be able to mention it – least of all mention how BAD the Conservatories are. Rather than cleaning up their own act, they try to make everyone else look dirty too!

It does not help, of course, that Lord Blairimort has gone out of his way to assist Mr Balloon in this by giving out peerages like toffees to any and every donor to the Labour. It certainly LOOKS like you can buy yourself any political favour that you want from this government, whether it is a delay to a ban on tobacco advertising, or a passport, or a comfy red-leather seat in the House of Lords Club.

But the Conservatories now like to throw up their fluffy feet in mock horror, and say "oh, and you thought that WE used to be bad!"

Well, the Conservatories DID used to be bad, and we have NOT forgotten "cash for questions" and "the simple sword of British Truth" and the sordid business of sending Matrix Churchill directors TO PRISON to cover up for ministers' dirty arms dealings with Saddam Hussein!

(People should hardly be surprised that the NAUGHTY behaviour carried straight on. After all, they only replaced Major John's Conservatories with Lord Blairimort's Conservatories!)

But unfortunately, for us and luckily for Mr Balloon, people seem to have fallen for Mr Balloon's TACTIC and they think ALL politicians are BAD – instead of spotting the more obvious answer that it is the Labour and Conservatories who are FUNDAMENTALLY the SAME.


Mr Stephen has some ideas about this: here!

Day 2051: Introducing… the PLUTONS!


Pluto is a planet – and so is its wife!

(Also, Xena and the once-a-planet then-an-asteroid now-a-planet-again Ceres.)

Here is a map of the NEW LOOK Solar System in order to help you find your way around.

You are here!

Although there are now twelve planets, there may soon be EVEN MORE. Another twelve possible contenders are already on the list for consideration, including three in the asteroid belt and another nine in the Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune where Pluto and Charon and Xena already are.

Suddenly it all feels very CROWDED around here!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Day 2050: Tom and Jerry Foolery


Today we learn that children’s television channel Boomerang is to EDIT the versions of classic Tom and Jerry cartoons that they show. Why cut down these little slices of CARTOON HEAVEN, you ask?

No, it is in order to remove any bits where we see our 2D heroes SMOKING.

The people who have complained to OFCOM say that they are worried that children might imitate them.

This seems very BIZARRE to me!

Never mind that the next minute they might be hitting each other with household objects, ohhh scary stuff one or other of them might take a puff on the dreaded WEED!

The argument they come back with is usually along the lines of "why would advertisers advertise if TV never changed anybody’s mind?"

And it is true: some people will IMITATE some things that they see on the television. Some people will see a COOL detective series and think that if they dress the same way that will make them cool too. It doesn’t, of course; it makes them look SAD! TRAGICALLY, some cars suffer from paint jobs that are copied from "Starsky and Hutch" or worse, "The Dukes of Hazzard" (shudders).

But these are NOT advertisements. They are not set up to say: "this is cool, these are cool people, it is because they SMOKE!"

The cigar in cartoon form usually used as a SYMBOL; it is a shorthand way of saying: "Look! CONSPICUOUS AFFLUENCE!" Tom smokes a cigar when he is SHOWING OFF. And there is almost always a PAY OFF for this hubris – how many cartoon cigars can you think of that do NOT end in a explosion?

Blink, blink go big eyes in blackened outline of pussy-tat with remains of offending cigar still in mouth to make the point.

Is this ENTIRELY saying "smoking it’s a good thing"?

My daddies’ generation are probably the first really ANTI-SMOKING generation. They were lucky enough to grow up in an era when people KNEW that incinerating sticks of tar and nicotine while they are in your mouth leads to gooey tar and poisonous nicotine all over your LUNGS turning them from fluffy air-filled balloons into rubbery trampolines that oxygen bounces off. And yet, AMAZINGLY, my daddies managed not to have this knowledge wiped from their brains by a few images of a cartoon cat with a cigar!

This is not really about "historical integrity" – though it is always a shame to snip bits out of something fun just because you do not agree with the thought of people seeing those bits. It is much more about not TRUSTING children to make up their own minds. If you want smoking death-o-sticks to be ILLEGAL then MAKE it ILLEGAL (Lord Blairimort is making things illegal at a rate of one a day anyway, I’m sure he could slip them in.) If you don’t want them to be illegal then that means that people are going to have to be able to choose to buy them even if it is STUPID.

Seriously, there is a WORLD of anti-smoking propaganda out there, and kids can GET THE MESSAGE.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Day 2049: Death and Taxes


Listening to yesterday's Saturday morning political show on Radio 4, Daddy Richard nearly choked to death on his elevenses at the OUTRAGEOUS remarks of a Mr Grover Norquist, president of some people called "Americans for Tax Reform".

"Give an inheritance to a Republican and they found the Rockerfeller Foundation; give it to a Liberal and they booze it away or snort it up their nose!" he spouted.

"Doesn't your current Republican President have an inherited fortune and convictions for drink driving and cocaine abuse?" was the reply Sheena McDonald ENTIRELY FAILED to use to put this lying loon in his place.

Mr Grover (the Republican Muppet who lives in a dustbin, presumably) was SUPERFICIALLY on the show to make the case against Inheritance Tax. This morning former Nu Labour minister, Steven Byers - one of the few people to resign from Lord Blairimort's government without being replaced by Dr John Reid - pops up with the idea that the government should abolish Inheritance Tax. I wonder if yesterday's radio show counts as a trailer?

My fluffy friend Mr Frank Luntz came up with a clever wheeze about this to help out his chums in the Republican Party (who are very rich because they got lots of money from their daddies).

To convice lots of Americans who struggle to live on middling or low earnings, the ones who always get called "Average American Joes" (what if their name ISN'T Joe?) to convince them that it is BAD to take money from the estate of billionaires, clever Mr Frank had the Republicans start calling it DEATH TAX, as though it was a tax paid for DYING.

By an AMAZING coincidence, Mr Byers today calls Inheritance Tax "a TAX on DEATH"!

"Calling it 'Estate Tax', most folks think 'I haven't got some fancy European estate' so it doesn't apply to me. But call it 'DEATH TAX' and EVERYONE thinks it applies to them!" said Mr Grover - rather blowing the gaff.

Of course, it ISN'T a tax on the person who has died AT ALL. It is a tax on the FREE MONEY that the people who inherrit get without having to do any work for it.

It should be called the MONEY FOR NOTHING TAX!

If the taxman does not get his money from the MONEY FOR NOTHING TAX then he will have to get it by taxing MORE of the money that people have worked hard to earn. And increasing taxes on EARNED income would only make it harder for most people to make ends meet and leave them with LESS to give to their children in the end as well!

Mr Grover Muppet in America would probably say that you could cut the MONEY FOR NOTHING TAX by cutting the amount that is spent (except for the BIGGEST slice of spending: the spending on bombs and guns and missiles and probably laser death-rays too). Mr Grover Muppet would probably say that he should not be taxed for selling his mother, either.

In this country, Mr Byers knows that he can make his suggestion and it will put Mr Balloon's Conservatories on the back fluffy foot, because Mr Balloon does not have the option to cut spending, what with vaguely alluding to maybe saying that he might promise that he won't cut public services. Mr Balloon would be back to raising on the money that people have worked hard to earn and using it to give to very rich people to let them off tax on the money that they HAVEN'T worked for!

Mr Byers, it seems, wants to steel the Liberal Democrat idea for GREEN TAXES, but unlike the Liberals, instead of giving the money to EVERYBODY through a general cut in income tax, he want to give it all to the RICH!

It is clear that Mr Byers is very concerned about inheritance. Specifically, who will inherit when Lord Blairimort goes. (Clue: it's not going to be you, Mr Byers.) He begins his piece with a long SOB STORY that he then admits is completely MADE UP. This means that he has FIXED all the facts to be as HORRIFYING as possible without having to do any real research. Some people might call this a bit of a CHEAT!

BUT, even though he is EXAGERATING there is a bit of a point in what he says, because otherwise how would he get people to believe him at all?

It is very understandable that people want to pass on some of their hard-earned money in order to give their kids (and BABY ELEPHANTS!) a better start in life. But this does lead to some inequality of opportunity. People like Mr Balloon, say, get FAR MORE of a head start than most people's mummies and daddies can EVER afford to give them. It is much easier to cycle to work (once a week/with chauffeur following) knowing you do not have a mortgage on your million-pound home to worry about!

So there is a BALANCE to be found. People should be able to give reasonable amount to their elephant whoever they want but not so much that it is SILLY. The difficult part is deciding where that balance ought to be. Here are some pointers to help you: TEN MILLION pounds is OBVIOUSLY enough that if you got it you wouldn't have to work again EVER. So that probably qualifies as SILLY. TEN pounds will by you enough sticky buns for the day. So that is going to be WAY less than REASONABLE. The balance is somewhere IN BETWEEN!

Mr Frown has not kept his eye on this (or has he?) and the balance has now tipped the other way because house prices have gone up and up so much that lots more people are getting taxed. The average price of a house is now £250 thousand pounds, and Inheritance Tax starts at £285 thousand pounds. It is all too easy for ordinary people to end up paying! Mr Frown assures us that only 37,000 people are doing so, but this is DOUBLE the number before Mr Frown came to the Treasury, and a lot more will be caught - or at least FEAR that they will be caught - if he carries on the way he is going.

This is BAD too: people might start to think that Mr Frank and Mr Grover are RIGHT (not just very far right) and that it IS an unfair tax - rather than it being a tax on an unfair ADVANTAGE for PLUTOCRATS.

Tax should be FAIR and be SEEN to be fair. Calling something a "DEATH TAX" is just a SMOKE SCREEN to stop people from seeing where the REAL unfairness comes from.

As for Mr Grover spluttering NONSENSE about inheritances being snorted up the nose, all I can say is I am GLAD that Mr Balloon would never do ANYTHING like that!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day 2048: DOCTOR WHO: The Feast of the Drowned


We have listened to another audiobook about Dr Who and Rose's adventures. This one was SCARY!

I think it was MORE scary because I was IMAGINING all of the monsters rather than watching them on the telly. They are scarier in my fluffy head! Anyway, I will let Daddy Richard tell you all about it…

This was so much better all all round.

I think that the quality may have lifted David Tennant as well – perhaps, like Patrick Troughton, he is an actor whose best work is inspired by the material – as his reading of the Doctor came across much more as a performance in character, and in general all of the characters felt much more alive. Not that either David or Pat are ever bad, as such, but occasionally you feel that they are doing it as a job of work rather than living it. Especial kudos this time goes to David's "Baron Silas Greenback" voice for sinister Commodore Crayshaw, which was both deeply creepy and strangely hilarious at the same time.

"The Feast of the Drowned" is a very traditional Doctor Who form: a classic ghost story with a science-rational twist. The premise of relatives haunted by their drowned loved ones is (probably literally) as old as the sea, but here is it retold with deliciously creepy imagery - delivered with relish by Mr Tennant – that quickly grips and intrigues.

Why are the ghosts appearing how are they doing it, who is behind them? Stephen Cole has clearly thought this through carefully as all of these questions are explored over the course of the tale – some of the answers are stock sci-fi clichés of course, but they are pleasingly deployed and well mixed with new ideas and perspectives.

Clues are nicely laid up in the early part of the story and the pace is well designed so that the Doctor remains just a little ahead of the audience – always the best way: if you are left thinking "ooh, I could have got there" but are still behind him it makes you think of him as a smart cookie; if he just knows the answer because of his outer space brain then you think he's just a show-off (or that the author is cheating!).

We are also given a very visual and richly describable nature to the more monstrous "water ghosts" (for want of a better term) who first appear about a quarter of the way in and gradually build in threat as a good monster should. Their ability to turn into a rush of water and reform – like a faster and more thrilling T-1000 – makes them very novel for Doctor Who (compared to most of the TV monsters that, notoriously, lumber). In the included interview, Steve confesses that he came up with the concept at least partly because it was something that TV series probably couldn't do. At the same time, of course, he's done the Robert Holmes trick of taking something so familiar that you forget it's there and turning it into a deadly threat: suddenly every dripping tap or discoloured patch of carpet is terrifying!

There's still a bit of outrageous hand-waving (space salts, indeed!) but it matters not, because you have followed the Doctor on a (fairly) logical path to arrive at the explanation. Unlike "The Stone Rose" the answer isn't "it's science that can do anything 'cos I say it can!" It also helps that the main thrust of the story is not a mystery of "how did that happen?" but a thriller of the "can they stop them in time" mould.

As you'd expect for a "trad" adventure, the story draws deeply on the rich legacy of Doctor Who's first twenty-six years. There are strong echoes of "The Sea Devils", "The Ark in Space" and "The Curse of Fenric", among others. That isn't a problem: the scenes that they echo are well remembered because they are iconic, and Steve reuses those memes to excellent effect.

Equally, he plays well the 2006 drinking game (how apt for such a watery tale!) with Ghosts in London providing a particularly strong resonance with the year's apparent themes of returning dead and emotional yearning. The story is entirely different from "Army of Ghosts" and yet still foreshadows it.

References for "impossible" and "oh my god" alongside scavenged alien technology also make appearances. Lose points if you took a drink for "I'm so sorry", though. Cheekily Steve gives the line to Rose as her first words in the novel.

He does an excellent job of writing for the Tenth Doctor, catching that quick as lightning mind and his ceaseless jabbering front over a deep strength and power, whether it is bluffing his way into Stanchion House only to find himself forced into the office he only claimed to be headed for, or when he's in the lab and under attack, or in the final confrontation. Rose too is recognisable as the strong and loving adventuress characterised by Billie Piper. This is the Doctor and Rose as we love them from the latter half of the 2006 season – even though the story obviously takes place before School Reunion again.

(Yes, it's another twenty-first century London story with Mickey as a guest, but somehow the scenario hasn't gotten old. I think it's that this is quite unlike the model of those TV episodes with this setting: rather like "Terror of the Zygons" is a UNIT story with a completely different zeitgeist.)

Apart from the regulars, the only real guest cast are Rose's friend Keisha, villainous Crayshaw and heroine-of-the-week Vida Swann who might as well be Grace Holloway with her serial numbers filed off. Great line though as Rose spots the Doctor approaching on a stolen out-of-control tug boat with another blonde: "where does he get them?" All the characters – even the watery ones – are fully fleshed out, with the possible exception of Keisha for reasons I'll mention in a moment. Even cameo characters, like Ann, another woman being haunted, or the cleaning lady detained by the security lockdown, avoid being written as ciphers, which is a nice bit of writing.

Having only listened to the abridged audio version, I had to turn to Alex to tell me if there are any crucial elements omitted. Jackie Tyler, I suspect, is the most obvious cut – after the Doctor she would surely be the closest "loved one" to receive a visitation from ghostly Rose, certainly before poor old tin dog Mickey, but she has been excised from the plot, which is a shame. We like a bit of Jackie! Alex also tells me that there is a stronger arc for Keisha, who has a history with Mickey and a more notable if less agreeable character. In the audio she is – I am sorry to have to say it – a bit wet.

Like "The Stone Rose", the two CD format is used to create a suitably gripping cliff-hanger when Rose herself appears as one of the ghosts. It's a terrific and suitably haunting moment, but there is a problem. As Alex pointed out straight away, this means that it's obvious that all the ghosts can be rescued since we know Rose cannot be dead. Still, most cliff-hangers are of the "how can they possibly escape that" variety and it doesn't spoil them to know that of course they will.

I must confess that I was not that impressed with "The Monsters Inside", Steve's Ninth Doctor adventure from last year, but with "The Feast of the Drowned" he's found his form.

Highest prise: this story fully deserves a place in the 2006 season. A great addition to the range.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Day 2047: The Fluffiest Bunny in the Whole of Toytown (aka Up, Up, Up the Greasy Pole)


Isn't it interesting, the way that the same idea goes around?

In this case, the rise and rise of Dr John "not an attack dog" Reid.

I have been thinking of putting my woolly brain to work in order to write about him and suddenly there are a spate of other people getting in ahead of me!

I think this is because Dr John has made a big splash in recent days by SINGLE-HANDEDLY defeating terrorism and making the world a safe place for bunnykins. (Transport CHAOS and panicked responses to CLAUSTROPHOBIA and HAND CREAM notwithstanding!)

Mr Jonathan, Mr Charles and now even Mr Smithson of Political Stirring dot com (not to mention MY DADDY) have all already brought their keen views to bear.

There are several facts that are now WELL KNOWN about this KIND and GENTLE-HEARTED individual.

The first is that calling him an "attack dog" is not only a HORRIBLE CALUMNY but also a sure-fire way to get your throat ripped out a gentle dressing down.

(As everyone knows, a gimlet stare, a reputation for putting pressure on witnesses and the brutal enforcement of the party line is NORMALLY the sign of a political bruiser, but when combined with a GLASGOW ACCENT it is merely an indication of DEEP INNER PEACE.)

The second fact is that he was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain between 1973 and 1975. Since then he has OF COURSE learned that putting the SECURITY of the STATE above individual freedoms is a sure sign of TOTALITARIANISM and therefore quite wrong. Anyone who thinks that he might have retained such a misguided Marxist philosophy should see fact one.

Of course, the full BANKRUPTCY of the Communist system would not be revealed until the Glasnost or Openness of Mr Gorbachev, but even by the 1970s it had become clear that people in Eastern Europe were so DELIGHTED with their lot under the soviets that their JOY had to be contained by columns of Russian TANKS rolling into Hungry (1956) or Czechoslovakia (1968).

Which, INCIDENTALLY, is where the term TANKIE for people who continued to support the communists after this time comes from.

Dr John has commonly put about the quote: "I used to be a Communist. I used to believe in Santa Claus". That reminds me – has anyone asked him if he STILL believe in Santa Claws?

The third fact that is becoming commonly reported is his three day stay at a luxury hotel as guest of his friend, the war criminal Radovan Karadžić. This was in 1993 at the height of the Balkan War when 70% of Bosnia was occupied by the Serbian Republican Army. Still, no doubt that gave them something to talk about.

Dr John has had an extensive ministerial carreer! He has had lots and lots of experience during his nine jobs in nine years. (Not like certain stick-in-the-mud stay-in-one-job people mentioning no names but he's Chancellor of the Exchequer) Here are all of the exciting things that Dr John has been up to:

  • 2 May 1997: became Minister of State for Defence;
  • 1998: became Minister for Transport;
  • 17 May 1999: became Secretary of State, Scottish Office
    (replaced Mr Donald Dewar, who had resigned to go and be first First Minister);
  • 24 Jan 2001: became Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
    (replaced Mr Peter Mandelson, who had just resigned over the Hinduja Passport Scandal);
  • 24 Oct 2002: became Minister without Portfolio and Party Chair
    (replaced Safety Elephant Charles Clarke, who had to replace Estelle Morris who had just resigned);
  • 4 Apr 2003: became Leader of the House of Commons and President of the Council aka. Lord Privy Seal, House of Commons
    (replaced saint Robin of Cook, who had just resigned over the Iraq War);
  • 12 Jun 2003: became Secretary of State, Department of Health
    (replaced Mr Alan Milburn, who had just resigned to spend more time with his family);
  • 11 May 2005: became Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence
    (replaced Mr Geoff "Buff" Hoon, who was fired for being rubbish);
  • 8 May 2006: became Secretary of State, Home Office
    (replaced (again) Safety Elephant Charles Clarke, who was (again) fired for being rubbish);
  • 13 July 2007, became Prime Minister
    (replaced Lord Blairimort, who had just resigned after being arrested for the accidental brutal murder of Mr Frown…)
The keen eye may discern a PATTERN emerging!

During one of his longer stints – as Northern Ireland Secretary – he was profiled (that's NOT racially profiled!) by two leading newspapers. All right, by the Independent and the Grauniad. Many of the funny stories about him can be found in these pages, including how none of his terrified colleagues would dare say a bad word about him!

A story that appears in BOTH papers – so no doubt it is one he is PARTICULARLY proud of – is the one about how he was in the bar at the Labour Conference in 1983 and when someone suggested that the party was split by the strife between the Marxists and the non-Marxists he quickly put them right:

"We are the Judean People's Party and the People's Party of Judea are SPLITTERS!" he said.

Such was the laughter that Mr Kinnock himself came down to the bar to appoint Dr John special advisor on the spot. The Labour never looked back and only fourteen short years later that decision PAID OFF!

Since being anointed appointed to the post of Home Secretary, or Minister of Justice, Dr John has made it his practice to protect and support all those working for him with his classic defences of: "it's nae ma fault", "blame the other fella", "let the Talons of Weng-Chiang shred your fleeeeaaaash!" and most famously "they're nae fit for purpose".

Who could ask for a more loving boss?

It is GOOD to know that our civil liberties – and maybe even the running of our country! – are in the hands of a man who would never BULLY or threaten; a man who would never employ NEPOTISM (no matter what the commissioner for standards might have thought); a man of whom it has been said:

"I have known John Reid as a Communist, as a member of the Scottish Labour Party and now as a general in the New Labour Army. His march across this ideological battlefield has been seamless with not a hint of embarrassment."

(that was said by Mr Gorgeous George Pussycat who knows a thing or two about living without a hint of embarrassment!)

Dr John is someone who truly knows the meaning of American statesman BENJAMIN FRANKLIN's words when he said:

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Oh, do not ask him to help out if you are POORLY, though – never mind what he said when being made Health Secretary, his Doctor-hood is in the 19th-century West African slave trade from a Marxist perspective, so he wouldn't know one end of an aspirin from the other.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day 2046: Built to Last Six Months


I have accidentally received the following NOTE from Conservatory Headquarters:

"What ho, Binky! First thought for the change policy thingy, just needs a few changes, would you mind, old bean? Change any of the lingo that would frighten the hoi polloi. Keep on changing, Dave

"Our Party seeks to quash freedom, keep opportunity to ourselves and avoid responsibility. Because we don't trust people, we help government grow stronger; by taking away your autonomy, we help ourselves grow stronger. We believe that there is no such a thing as society, but we are the same thing as the state."

I am not CERTAIN, but this MIGHT be something to do with Mr Balloon's announcement that he has discovered his principles.

Or rather that he has discovered his principles AGAIN – the astute reader may have a STRANGE sense of DEJA VUE.

This would appear to mean that Mr Balloon's first statement of principles has not lasted as long as my diary. Which is IRONIC – back in February, Mr Nick Assinder of the BBC said:

"Let's hope Mr Cameron's agenda is "built to last" longer than his predecessors'."

Ho very ho!

But, TRAGICALLY, it wasn't.

It seems that Mr Balloon has rushed back from his holidays and caused no end of fuss. Upsetting the Minister for Magical Accidents and now rushing out this. Perhaps his holiday photos are not ready yet so he has had to spring a re-mastered and expanded edition of his "Built to Last" instead?

How soon, our Greatest Hits albums come out, these days!

This time, though, Mr B's statement of principles comes with examples of policies.

Well, I say policies; I mean policy aspirations.

Well, I say policy aspirations; I mean some fluffy-foot waving in the general direction of maybe one day having a policy. Or something policy-esque… Ooh, look, bunnies!

It is full of lots of big fluffy warn hearted expensive wish-list items like huge increases in drug rehabilitation (privatised) and support for special schools (Eton); promoting the building of affordable eco-friendly homes and promoting the building of eco-friendly affordable homes (yes, that IS in there twice); and increasing overseas aid to 0.7% of national income (spot the LIBERAL DEMOCRAT policy!) so it is a GOOD thing that Mr Balloon says he won't cut taxes unless there is enough cash left in the magic money monkey! (remember HIM, Mr Balloon?)

There are some GOOD things, like the flip-flop on ID cards which they would now abolish.

And there are some BAD things, like:
  • increasing student tuition fees;
  • or abolishing the Human Rights Act (to replace it with a Rights for Humans Act);
  • or the coded nonsense about getting people off Incapacity Benefit and back to work;
  • or the promotion of flexible working (i.e. unpaid overtime) like it's a good thing;
  • or opposing ANY European Constitution (or possibly NONE, since they qualify this promise by saying they'll oppose a constitution that "creates a superstate" which no constitution would actually do!);
  • or promising to answer the West Lothian Question (code for disenfranchising Scottish and Welsh MP's, but not Northern Ireland Unionists in the event that Mr Balloon need their votes in a hung parliament) thereby weakening the United Kingdom in their own favour.

And there are some TOTALLY FATUOUS things, like:

  • "Liberating the enterprise of public sector professionals";
  • and "Action on public health that helps everyone to lead healthier lives";
  • and "Supporting the shared experiences that bring us together and promote well-being".

Oh, and among their GREEN ideas: "Encouraging greater corporate responsibility by offering a lighter regulatory regime" sounds a funny way of going about things, too.

We should welcome the Conservatories recognition of their need to be better on minority representation:

"Taking action to ensure more women candidates, candidates from black and minority ethnic communities, and candidates with disabilities."

Can you spot anyone missing from that list?

The last word should belong to Mr Balloon:

"That is the mission of the modern Conservative Party: a responsibility revolution to create an opportunity society – a society in which everybody is a somebody, a doer not a done-for."

The last word SHOULD belong to Mr Balloon, but that is just rubbishy management-speak dribble, so I'm going to have the last word myself.

Mr Balloon, if you want to create a distinctive identity for yourself and your Conservatories, you are going to have to do something a bit less OBVIOUS and EMPTY than this. Or the last one. Or the one before that.

People are going to start thinking that you don't really MEAN it!

I do hope this does not mean we are going to see that baldy man from the BBC regurgitating all his old puff pieces about how ground breaking and wonderful his chum Mr Balloon is. It is bound to get my Daddy Richard shouting if he does!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 2045: Strength through Unity; Unity through Faith; Faith through Total Cobblers


It would appear that I am not the only woolly-headed person to have been watching "V for Vendetta" this week.

Many people would probably be very relieved to hear that the MINISTER FOR MAGICAL ACCIDENTS has been locked in a room with a plate of pies and a DVD player and has not, in actual fact, been left in charge of running the country (that is THIS man's job, apparently – more on him later).

Unfortunately, the man Lord Blairimort calls a complete BAR STEWARD seems to have gotten the wrong end of the stick. Business as usual, then, at the Office of the Deputy Laughing Stock (formerly the Ministry of Making it Look Like We Take Old Labour Seriously).

What the Magical Minister seems not to have understood, is that the man with his face on an ENORMOUS television screen may be in charge of the government but he is NOT the hero! The entirely fascist ideology of "either you support the government or you support the terrorist V" seems to have stuck in his head as though THAT is the main point of the movie.

I am not, for once, being over-the-top in calling this "fascist": "Strength through Unity" is THE central tenant of fascist ideology, all the way back to the Romans where a "fasces" was a bundle of sticks bound together – separately the sticks could be broken, but together they were too stupid to realise someone had set fire to them!

Only yesterday, I was criticising Mr Balloon for using the old "You're not being tough enough!" canard.

Well, barely had that duck stopped quacking, than along comes the Magical Minister with the announcement that Mr Balloon was: "almost beyond belief."

"At a time when we should all stand united in the face of alleged terrorist threats, he seeks to undermine that unity."

He may as well have just stood there and yelled "Unmutual! Unmutual! Unmutual! Unmutual!"

"You're either with us or against us" is an ENTIRELY FALSE choice between two groups of people both of whom believe that EXPLODING the other side will win the argument.

I am against BOTH of you. Now go and stand in the corner until you can play nicely!

Long running BBC comedy the Newsnight Show was busily throwing themselves into this same FALSE DICHOTOMY last night: but probably just so that Ms Kirsty Waaaaark could get to stand in a dramatic pose in her new black dress at the head of the programme.

"Is it time to pick a side in the War on Adjective?" she announced like she was auditioning for the Weakest Link.

NO, Ms Waaaark, it REALLY isn't.

You cannot pretend that there is some "big debate" between Mr Balloon and the Magical Minister.

They are BOTH pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-big "England Prevails" style authoritarian government.

A proper journalist would be pointing out that they are squawking MEANINGLESS rhetoric at each other.

A proper journalist wouldn't be buying into the escalation of insanity that their new bidding war of: "You're not tough enough!" / "No, you're got to agree with us or YOU'RE not being tough enough!"

This is just a PANTOMIME!

Opus Dave: "Anyone you can bomb, we can bomb harder!"

Magical Minister: "Bomb them, than you can harder we would in the proper way be bombing, than you!"

Opus Dave: "No you can't!"

Magical Minister: "Can we yes!"

Opus Dave: "No you can't!"

Magical Minister: "Oh yes I put it to you we can! Can we YES! We can YES! And I am unanimous in that!"

The genuine debate – and there IS a genuine debate to be had even if no one at the Newsnight Show is interested – is between the people who BLINDLY follow the NEO-CON agenda of "no arguments: kill them till they're dead and then kill them again a bit!" and the people who think that there may be a BETTER ANSWER.

Isn't the WHOLE POINT of Western Liberal Democracy that we get our strength from DIVERSITY and NOT from unity?

We EMBRACE alternatives and we LISTEN to lots of different answers.

That doesn't mean rolling over and accepting Sharia Law; but it does mean not dismissing the whole of the rich culture of Islam, the religion that kept science and mathematics alive during the dark ages, just on the basis of a small bunch of loudmouths who call for a return of a Caliphate. It's not like there aren't enough loudmouths in America lauding the famously FLUFFY and BUNNY-ISH Roman Empire.

Surely one lesson of the last hundred years is that if only you have ONE big answer and it turns out to be WRONG, you topple over and DIE!

Lord Blairimort is supposed to be in favour of finding the THIRD WAY. If ever there was a time to be looking for an alternative to a simplistic choice between left and right, west and east, rich and poor, goodies and baddies, bonkers and, er, also bonkers then it is NOW!

Instead Lord B is just parroting the Monkey-in-Chief and name-calling about an "Arc of Extremism".

(Daddy Richard says something VERY rude about Lord Blairimort puckering up and kissing the Monkey-in-Chief's Arc of Extremism!)

We have got to stop dividing people into US and THEM like no one can wander between these groups. We have PARTICULARLY got to stop saying that people that we call THEM should be EXPLODED!

Ali and Ben and Chris all support Manchester United. That's right, they live in Southend. Ali and Ben both vote for Mr Balloon, but were against the Iraq War; Chris supports Sir Mr the Merciless but thought that it was a good thing to get rid of Saddam. Ali and Chris both go on holiday in Europe, but Ben prefers to take his children to Disneyworld in Florida. Who cares that Chris goes to the mosque on Fridays or that Ali is getting civil partnered married to her girlfriend. They all want Lord Blairimort to go.

Who is with us and who is against us? And do you REALLY think any of them should be exploded?

Our differences DO NOT have to be divisions.

And the Magical Minister should go back to watching DVDs that are more his level.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Day 2044: Balloon caught in Crossfire


Why am I like Mr Balloon?

No, it is not a riddle.

There have been two VERY SERIOUS news stories recently – LEBANON and TERRORISM – and neither I nor Mr Balloon have had very much to say about them.

Or rather, while we may have had plenty to say, we have not SAID it.

Mr Balloon's silence has led to him being caught in a crossfire of criticism.

From the right, Mr Simon Heffalump (no relation!) and from the left, the Grauniad leader.

As a soft toy, people expect less of me than the leader of the Conservatory Party so there have been no editorials in national newspapers calling me RUBBISH. Although I HAVE as good as appeared on the Newsnight Show!

Today, Mr Balloon has been forced gracious enough to make a news conference on the subject!

Today is a GOOD day to do this, because the fighting has stopped and you do not have to risk OFFENDING anyone on either side by saying that they should stop fighting, or what they would call defending themselves. It is harder to tell people to stop what they call defence even, or sometimes especially, when it could also be called an attack.

The best defence MAY be a good offence – but that still makes it offensive.

Mr Balloon has taken the opportunity to defend himself by attacking both Lord Blairimort:

"Look, just because I've got nothing new to say," says Dave, "don't think that I won't use the tired old cliché that the government should be doing MORE to stop the bogeyman."

AND attacking leading British Muslims:

"British foreign policy cannot be held to ransom by people who throw bombs around," says Mr Balloon, giving his unquestioning backing to Lord Blairimort's belief that British foreign policy should be dictated by America.

The best defence MAY be a good offence – but that still makes it offensive.

Like Mr Balloon, I have been trying to avoid talking about the DIFFICULT and COMPLICATED issues in the Middle East because they are TOO difficult and complicated for my woolly head to come up with an answer.

People get VERY, VERY cross about this business – I know that my Daddy Richard does: he has never been more PURPLE! But crossness does not help.

What has helped, for which I am grateful and relieved and quite a bit surprised, is the UNITED NATIONS. They have managed to come to an agreement about a ceasefire that meant that both sides actually ceased firing. (Mostly.) TALKING has actually got something done. I can only hope that the peace lasts.

Perhaps they can now try and talk to each other without worrying about high explosives falling on their heads.

There are some things that they will never be able to agree on – that is pretty obvious since there are people on both sides who want the other side to cease to exist. So you cannot deal with those things for the moment. Try to deal with the things that CAN be dealt with and maybe, maybe in the end you will find that you do not NEED each other to cease to exist for you to get along.

It is all too easy to fall into a TRAP of characterising the opposing viewpoint as EXTREME, UNREASONABLE or ILLIBERAL. That is the point at which we stop listening to what they are trying to SAY.

One thing that seems to be overlooked is this: although we think of the terrorist groups as JUST terrorist groups, in the Middle East they are also groups who provide schools and medical relief. This makes them a part of the communities – you might say that they have a SINISTER motive for this (and maybe they do) but it also helps people who need help.

So why don't we do the same?

Big trade summits and meetings of world leaders do not help people. It is little things close to home that help people. We should stop trying to strut some world stage and concentrate on the basic things that people need and see if we can provide them: food and water, light and shelter, and not being exploded.

We've already promised to increase the amount of overseas aid. Use some of that existing aid budget and us it to set up some schools with "EU Schools" in large friendly letters on the side; pay for the teachers and the books and the school dinners and the pipes for water. Pay for doctors and medicines and a building with "EU Free Health" painted over the door.

This would be a GOOD way to give something back to the people of the Middle East who have not got very much to begin with.

It would help to give help directly to the people who need it – by-passing any worries about who governs these places. And it would help us to know them as people, not victims of an unending conflict; and help them to know us as people.

It would need to be done with complete RESPECT: we would have to be giving them the help that they WANT. And it would have to be done by very, very BRAVE people because there are lots of ways that it could become very, very dangerous (and we should PAY them very, very well for their work).

"Think global; act local" does not have to be JUST about the environment.

Mr Balloon may huff and puff about spending more money from the magic money monkey on counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism and crypto-terrorism [R: erm…] but his spokesperson probably put it best when she announced:

"Mr Cameron would not be making any specific policy announcements"

Perhaps I am not so similar to Mr Balloon after all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Day 2043: V for España


Another exciting movie has arrived on shiny DVD today: it is called "V for Vendetta" and it stars Elrond as V and Queen Amidala as EV.

This is a movie that I should have sneaked into earlier in the year when it was on in cinemas, but we FORGOT! Fortunately, it is now available for me to let my daddies watch it on my television.

It's certainly incredibly BRAVE to make a movie like this in the current time: a complicated movie that asks the audience to decide whether the central character is a SUPER-HERO or a TERRORIST. A movie in which destructive acts are ultimately PRAISED as being able to be positive. And a movie which demands that the audience take more RESPONSIBILITY for their government.

Visage of a Villain?

"V for Vendetta" is based on a GRAPHIC NOVEL by famous beard Alan Moore and famous artist Dave Lloyd who used to work together on Dr Who's comic adventures.

It was a GOOD movie – possibly even a GREAT movie, but maybe not quite great ENOUGH to do justice to the original.

There are some especially EXCITING bits, like when they BLOW UP Her Majesty's Palace of Westminster, but also some very SCARY, even HARROWING bits, with EV being caught and tortured, and these managed to capture some of the heart of the novel. It is worth giving the movie time to get to these parts rather than worrying about the MAINLY SUPERFICIAL changes to the order of events or some small details that they have made.

Although these change the NUANCE of the story (and generally tend to WEAKEN some of the impact) you can understand that they felt it was necessary to trim back some of the – admittedly SPRAWLING – plots and subplots of the novel in order to make a movie-length movie!

Mr Will has also written about this movie but as someone who has not read the original, so he has a more independent perspective.

I, however, have had had my fluffy nose stuck into daddy's copy of the novel all day and will tell you a LOT more about the book and the film measure up!

The movie concentrates on the MELODRAMATIC thrust of the novel: the actions of a masked man known only as V that lead to the overthrow of a fascist regime that has seized control of England.

(For once, Hollywood has an excuse for it being "England" and not Britain, because the novel explicitly separates the land ruled by the dictatorship, mostly around London, from a Scotland riven by civil war. Not that the movie remembers to mention this!)

V himself is, of course, mad as a concrete fruit corner. On toast. But if it’s madness then it’s the madness of the world he inhabits.

In the movie, his obsession with the letter V comes at you in a rush in the opening scenes and makes him seem almost completely gibbering (though in fact I think he is in fact quoting rather a LOT of the chapter title from the novel!). But in the book it seems that the whole WORLD is obsessed with the letter V or the number 5 and that V’s madness is really the only SENSIBLE response you could have to this!

The movie concentrates (and not UNFAIRLY) on the central idea that is defined by V's quote:

"People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people!"

In doing this, though, they leave behind the novel's theme of TRANSFORMATION.

The main change is to the character of EV. She is older than in the novel and works in television not the munitions factory and is less desperate than the novel has her. There is no hint that this EV might try to earn money for food by working as, er, a lady of the night! Unfortunately, this is slightly to miss the point of EV's character arc.

She is transformed by the events of the novel from a child – V even reads children's stories to her in book one – into a woman capable of being her own agent.

She starts with a childlike understanding and obedience – but she is also INNOCENT, in the true sense of "without knowledge of GOOD and EVIL" and thus she is almost the only character in the novel not CULPABLE (by V's rules) for England's dictatorship. V makes it a part of his mission to confront her with the full EVIL of that dictatorship and by doing so AWAKEN her to adulthood and LIBERTY.

By making her "stronger" at the beginning, the film makes her WEAKER at the end: she ought to share the guilt for letting England BE a dictatorship, for accepting her part in it as an adult. And because she is not free of that guilt, she isn't the right person to inspire the rebirth that V wants but cannot be a part of.

A SUBTLER change is to Adam Sutler, who is called Adam Susan in the book – and given that this was first written when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister and as a largely anti-Mrs Thatcher piece, there is some significance in the fact that Mr Susan has a woman's name.

The film makes Mr Sutler RESPONSIBLE for the terrorist crisis (note: this is a GOOD update of the original idea that makes the movie MORE topical!) that got England into a dictatorship in the first place. This makes him CORRUPT – he has used evil means to MANIPULATE the people. In the novel, Mr Susan just TAKES ADVANTAGE of the chaos and disorder after a nuclear war (that Britain didn't take part in) to seize power. He is HONEST – to the extent that he truly and HONESTLY believes in fascism. This shifts the BLAME for the dictatorship from the "evil man" to the PEOPLE! It is the people's UNWILLINGNESS to take control and responsibility in their own lives that make this an opportunity for him.

The film (perhaps necessarily for a HOLLYWOOD STORY) has him executed in V's presence as part of a CLIMACTIC BATTLE scene; the novel sees him broken when V's actions reveal that all his power is a TRAP, and he is left alone and loveless. He is assassinated by a MINOR CHARACTER, almost a nobody, as just another near random part of the web of chaos that V has precipitated.

He is transformed from central VILLAIN into just another VICTIM of the dictatorship.

Again, this is a difference of NUANCE. It was very nice to see them use the dramatic IMAGE of V setting up a huge pattern of dominoes in order to see them all topple when he upsets the first. But they do not seem to have realised that this is also a dramatic METAPHOR for the way that his actions destroy the dictatorship INDIRECTLY. V takes away the POWERS of oppression and so sets the people FREE: to an extent he almost does not CARE how the destruction that follows is acted out, certainly he does nothing to DIRECT IT – that would be ANATHEMA to him.

The Hollywood version is too LINEAR for this – the enemies must confront each other at the moment of climax. But in the book, Mr Susan is NOT V's enemy. Mr Susan is just a symptom and a victim of V's enemy.

There was one subtlety of the novel that I was SAD to lose. Although the SECRET POLICE are referred to on and off as "FINGERMEN" it is never made explicit what this is supposed to MEAN!

The novel is clear on this point: the fascist dictatorship has constructed an ICONOGRAPHY around its MASTER COMPUTER called FATE. Mr Susan represents the "HEAD" while his lieutenants are assigned to the EYES, EARS and MOUTH of Fate. Mr Finch, the detective, works for the "NOSE"! The Secret Police is the "Hand of Fate" so obviously its agents are the "FINGERS". This is a keen insight into the IDEOLOGY of "Strength through Unity": all the "organs" of the state are EXPLICITLY one body.

That V chooses this as the dictatorship's ACHILLES HEEL is also symbolic. It is revealed that he has a crucial edge over the dictatorship because he has built his own version of their master computer: he has literally CONSTRUCTED HIS OWN FATE, and through this gained power.

Mr Susan, on the other fluffy foot, WORSHIPS Fate, is subservient to it and is thus like all the rest of the people not willing to take his own decisions, and be responsible for them. The revelation that V can change Fate at will is the betrayal that breaks him.

Incidentally, I suppose it was IRRESISTIBLE to have JOHN HURT as Mr Sutler appearing before his lieutenants on the giant BIG BROTHER screen – and this is a GREAT image of the movie. But why have they gathered for a meeting somewhere where he's NOT? This is less dramatic but makes more sense the other way around – in the book, obviously – when they are in their work places and appear on screens for HIM.

The last change is for Mr Chief Inspector Finch of New Scotland Yard. He is the policeman put in charge of tracking down V and EV after they escape from a patrol of Fingermen after curfew. The novel plays strongly on the AMBIVALENT nature of this character. He is a policeman and so in favour of ORDER, but he is not a fascist, not a part of the dictatorship. They TOLERATE him because he is very good at his job; and he TOLERATES them because they let him DO his job. He is, in some ways, the ANTI-Commissioner Gordon character.

This ambivalence is further reinforced by Mr Finch's relationship with pathologist Dr Delia Surridge. When she is killed by V, Mr Finch is morally OUTRAGED because he sees her as a GOOD WOMAN who has worked long and hard as a Doctor. But then he reads her diary and discovers that she was in charge of EXPERIMENTS on PEOPLE – including, probably, V. And after that he does not know what to think.

Over the course of the book, he becomes more and more driven to find V, as though convinced that this one act of order will somehow undo the increasing dissolution of the society around him, even as he himself starts to unwind: he seeks to put the GENIE back in the BOTTLE. Finally, he resolves to go to the concentration camp where it began and like V and EV before him he passes through a rite of discovery.

He too is transformed, but from an upright figure of the law into a shambolic agent of retribution, and in this incarnation he is able to penetrate V's mindset and hence his Shadow Gallery. Thus it is Mr Finch who is able to shoot V: not the MATRIX style BATTLE of the movie, but a resolutely unimportant end.

His business done, Mr Finch has the most ENIGMATIC ending: he just walks away.

Perhaps the movie cannot cope with such UNCERTAINTIES. Although Mr Finch is in it conducting his investigation, his dénouement is handed off to the more OBVIOUSLY villainous character of Mr Cready, head of the secret police, leaving him rather like EV with little to do at the end of the story.

She pulls a lever; he lets her.

Despite the pyrotechnics, it's not really the most STUNNING way to conclude their stories. He doesn't get to become a murderer; she doesn't get to become a legend.

The movie is great fun and worth a look at, but if I were you I would spend the same money getting hold of a copy of the graphic novel which will reward you FAR MORE!