Saturday, May 05, 2012

Local elections, an outside view on prime ministers

So what do the local elections mean exactly. There's been a massive surge in support for Labour, a drop in Cons vote, and the lib dem's numbers have continued to collapse. Importantly Labour out-performed the goals the conservatives gave them, a big failure in expectation management on the tories part, meaning that these results must have taken them by surprise. In particular, it was predicted that Labour would get under 700 (in fact Tom Watson on twitter was saying around 450 would be good), which they beat, that Boris would crush Ken, which didn't really happen, and the SNP would gain Glasgow, which didn't happen.

So are these mid-term blues? Well theres no doubt in mind that had these elections occurred in the weeks before the budget the results would have been very different. In the aftermath of a regressive, very conservative budget, there have been a series of political mistakes made by the conservative government, followed by hanging on to Hunt, and of course us being in a second recession, has made their numbers drop. So the question is, will things change or stay the same?

Well... its hard to say. The election date is fixed in 2015, unless the coalition collapses (at which point all bets are off really), and thats a really long time. The economy could recover, the Murdoch stuff will have gone away by then, and all will be a memory. I do tend to think elections are for the incumbent to lose- the best opposition can do is look governmental. People are drawing connections to Hague, who did well in 2000 and pitifully in 2001, but that situation was different. At the time, the government had an untouchable majority. Frankly anyone expecting a one term Labour government when they had over 400 seats was dreaming. Of course, the conservatives didn't even manage to take back many seats in that election, but bear in mind that it is pretty evidence from 2011 that unless a miracle happens, the liberal democrats vote share is going to utterly collapse in the general election, and their seats will probably mostly fall to Labour (I think. I haven't analysed it, but as I'm aware the conservatives have gobbled up quite a few lib dems seats already. Also, its surely left wing support of the lib dems that will disappear next election, not right wing support), and the conservatives do not have a governing majority.

I don't know what vote share the conservatives got in the 2000 local elections: BBC gives the number of seats, but not the actual vote percentage, so its hard to tell what that actually reflects.Still, anything could change. The question remains whether Ed Milliband could be voted for. I don't believe he's that insubstantial, but he comes across really badly in media appearances, and I'm not convinced he'll do well in the debates if we have them.

Some conservatives have claimed that Cameron should be got rid of, that the party needs to shift to the right. This is frankly as foolish as those who claimed Blair needed to shift to the left. When you are losing votes to the left, you don't shift further to the right! Centrists get elected, Blair demonstrated that very effectively until the war in Iraq and time made him lose his tarnish.

Similarly, I'm not convinced by these "Boris for prime minister" calls. I honestly believe that if Labour had fielded a better candidate that Labour would have the mayorality right now, indeed the voting strongly implies it- several noted Labour activists spoke out, having got tired of Ken and his anti-Semitic baggage. I don't know if Ken is an anti-Semite, but there are a lot of politicians, and most of them don't have to deal with accusations of anti-Semitism. Why? Because they tend not to say anti-Semitic things. Its not that hard.

So yeah, all in all a very good day for Labour, and Ed Milliband in general, but the conservatives can win this. Discipline is the way forward. Getting Downing Street in order, avoiding these small and large mistakes they've been making recently, and honing their image, and they can defeat an opposition that until a few months ago looked weak. As for Labour, they need to do their best to look as prime ministerial as possible, and keep on pressing home the attack that the Conservatives haven't fixed the economy, and are as sleasy as ever. I suspect, at this rate, that it'll come down to the economy. If its still this grim in three years, which it very well may be, then I believe Labour will get back in power. If by some chance the economy managed to turn around, then the Conservatives will have the message they need for another term.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Cabin in the woods

To begin with no spoilers, Cabin in the Woods is a fun and funny horror film. Its not for people who dislike gore and violence in general, as there are some slightly unpleasant scenes midway trhough the movie, although they do serve a larger purpose: they are not quite violence for violence sake as in some noted horror staples. If you have no problem with this, Cabin is worth watching, and I’m fairly confident you (yes, you) will enjoy it. One thing I would warn is that, at least for the genre savvy, the film doesn’t actually have the big twists you might expect. The premise of the film has been pretty much explicitly stated by about 15-20 minutes in, and while there are some fun developments, they’re not necessarily completely unexpected.

So, to spoilers, and a full and frank discussion in which I totally give away the end of the film. Cabin in the Woods follows two joint narratives: 5 teenagers out in the woods being slowly (well, not very slowly to be honest) picked off by some crazed zombie rednecks and some corporate drones who control every element of their deaths. The drones (as is revealed implicitly about 20 minutes in, and then explicitly around an hour or so in), must ensure that the deaths occur, and in the correct order, as if they do not the ancient evil which slumbers under the earth will arise and annihilate humanity.

There’s humour to be had out of the premise, and this film certainly has it, especially in the closing third, where the various monsters are unleashed on the facility via a ludicrously placed button. There's some cute shout outs to horror fans, obvious ones being the ring, evil dead and hellraiser, and I'm sure there are more for those who are more genre savvy at me.

Now, pretty obviously, the film serves as a metaphor. This is in no way subtle, and Sigourney Weaver's character is even called the director. The question is, what is the metaphor? The teenagers are the actors, not in control of their destiny, and punished for straying from the script, and the facility are the film makers- jaded and hammering out yet another production, determined to stay on budget and on time. But what of the ancient monsters. The most obvious, and possibly mean spirited interpretation is that the ancients are the audience, demanding the murder of the actors in the same old tired way, the same loop repeated again, and that to break that pact would lead to the falling of horror. But I wonder if this can't be spun in a more positive way. The ritual is a way of keeping the audience passive, sated but not interested, and perhaps Whedon is suggesting that while creativity and originality might destroy film making (and the studio's money), maybe it might make it better.

On a brief note, I think theres a pretty obvious undertone that all these projects are being sabotaged. Its never given who, but for all the projects to fail, and in such specific ways: the failures of the drugs given to the actors, the failures of the explosives, the failure of the faculty's defence mechanisms when the monsters get released: even the monsters getting released in the first place. I like that thats sitting in the background. I don't see how this film could possibly have a sequel, but it allows room for some fun speculation.

So yes, I would recommend Cabin in the Woods, and I would like to watch it again. I think that it would bear repeat viewing well.

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