Posts Tagged ‘Siôn Simon’

Sunday Review: Dhobi Ghat, No One Killed Jessica

23/01/2011, 03:00:29 PM

by Siôn Simon

Relatively few of the Indian films on release in the UK these days are what one traditionally understands by “Bollywood”.

No One Killed Jessica, for instance – which is packing them in at the moment – is a melodramatic political thriller with a message. The characters do not suddenly break into song or dance. The original soundtrack by Amit Trivedi is no more obtrusive than that of any Hollywood film. (Though the terrible soft rock crescendo of the last half hour would probably have been at least curbed in California).

The two main characters are strong single women. (To be fair, this is a Bollywood first, but it’s not exactly common in any other country’s films either). So assertive and modern are the lead pair that one of them says fuck to her boss a lot, likes casual sex and does yoga upside down in her office, while the other is the de facto head of her family. Traditional Bollywood stereotypes are firmly behind us. (more…)

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The Sunday Review: the King’s Speech

09/01/2011, 02:30:00 PM

by Siôn Simon

I dislike Colin Firth. Not as an actor; he is thespically adept. Nor in a truly personal sense; I don’t believe I have ever met him. My only relations are to have sent him a letter on behalf of her majesty’s government.

He had won some prize or other. I think it may have been a golden globe. I was the film minister and a letter of congratulation was presented to me to sign. I did not really see the point. I did not imagine that Mr Firth would be likely ever to read the letter, or to care if he did.

My officials assured me to the contrary and advised me to sign. There are many occasions on which it is important for a minister to reject the advice of his officials, though to do so is rarely without pain or consequence. This was not such an occasion. I signed. (more…)

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The Labour right needs a new leader

18/10/2010, 12:30:37 PM

by Siôn Simon

Many and dreadful have been the proclamations of its end, but New Labour is not dead. Uncut, as much as any, has mourned its passing. But to do so was an emotional spasm. Recollected in tranquility, there is hope beneath the hyperbole.

It is true that “New Labour”, whatever that meant, is no longer a dominant doctrine. It had been the ascendant national ideology since Blair became Labour leader in apposition (sic) to a philosophically bankrupt Conservative government in 1994. And it had been dominant within Labour since before it was invented. When Neil Kinnock became leader, in 1985 he opened a philosophical furrow which all his successors have ploughed since.

One of its currencies was linguistic nuance. And only in that coin can one understand the immense significance of Ed Miliband’s conference speech. According to the fragile, case-sensitive lexicon of New Labour, it was the brutal evisceration of a 25 year project. The keepers of the New Labour flame – those of us who have been fighting the fight since the Kinnock years – were devastated. Far more so than has been widely reported or understood. (more…)

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The week Uncut

17/10/2010, 04:04:00 PM

George and Liam have been fighting again. And it looks like the defence secretary is claiming victory on this one. Other departments are likely to be less lucky as the Chancellor sharpens his knife ready for the spending review on Wednesday.

But this week was all about Ed. He entered the chamber as the young pretender. The media waited for the slick PR machine that is the PM to swat him aside. Ed stood up, a little shaky at first, and then, very slowly but surely he started hitting him. And he didn’t stop.

Yes it was only his first PMQs, and there are plenty of rounds to go, but he did something very important. He gave the Labour benches something to really cheer – for the first time in a long time.  Cameron now knows what he is going to face week in week out. The game has changed – the new boy knows the rules, and can play rough too.

In case you missed them, here are Uncut’s best read pieces of the last seven days:

Dan Hodges interviews Ed Miliband’s consigliere, Peter Hain

Tom Watson promises the new boss that he’ll stop behaving like a child

Siôn Simon gives his verdict on Ed’s first PMQs

Jessica Asato makes the case for the Oxbridge wonks

Pat McFadden offers a sensible review of the Browne report

Anthony Painter kicks off a debate on the role of the state

James Watkins says Labour mustn’t leave the countryside to the Tories

Uncut looks at the new generation front bench

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Siôn Simon on Ed Miliband’s first PMQs

13/10/2010, 01:14:18 PM

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Not for a moment have I missed sitting on the green benches. Not for a wistful split-second have I wished that I had the choice again. As I’ve watched them twist and turn in the Westminster wind, and remembered how it feels, there’s been nothing but relief that it isn’t me any more.

Until today. Ed Miliband’s first prime minister’s questions was a great parliamentary moment. A performance of such assurance and aplomb on the first day of such an inexperienced leader that it will be long remembered.

All new party leaders begin by promising an end to the punch and judy style of traditional PMQs. They never mean it. Substantively, Miliband doesn’t mean it either. It’s not a debate; it’s a fight; and he wants to win. But presentationally – and may the ghost of Frank Johnson forgive me for the phrase – he just changed the game.

At a stroke, by simply willing it, he halved the heat and pace of what has always been a stupidly uproarious affair, and effortlessly took control.

At first he seemed so slow that one feared the worst. But he held his nerve and within a minute was completely in command of the occasion. (more…)

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Conference sketch, by Siôn Simon

28/09/2010, 05:11:53 PM

A glance at Ed Milband reveals his origins. He is dark. Not just his glossy, black hair, but his eyes. And not just the brows or the glinting coals at the centre. The sockets themselves are subfusc.

His beard is light. In some ways he looks girlish. But his full, fleshy lips have a masculine sensuousness. And they are dark.

In short, he is Italian. His original name was Milibandini. His ties are thinner, too, than British ties. But this is also because he is from a New Generation. Only Mr Bradshaw’s ties are thinner than Sr Miliband’s.

Neil Kinnock does not look like this. He is red and freckled. Mr Kinnock is Sr Miliband’s friend. (more…)

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Bold predictions in the internet age, by Siôn Simon

21/09/2010, 01:49:35 PM

Dan Hodges announced this morning that David Miliband has won the Labour leadership. Which is not literally true; it is a bold prediction, presented in the form of what Frank Johnson used to call a conceit.

My father – perhaps anticipating a theme – used to warn me that “there is a thin line between brave and stupid”. Dan Hodges is not stupid. Far from it. This is a brave piece.

Frank Johnson, when teaching me how to write newspaper columns, used to enjoin: “Make bold predictions. If you are wrong, nobody will remember. But if you are right you can always remind them.”

I passed this reassurance on to Dan Hodges yesterday.

James Macintyre employs the technique in the New Statesman today. I take the opportunity to do it myself here: on 2 August, before the bookies’ odds had narrowed, I said in Uncut that Ed Miliband was an evens bet:

“Ed Miliband, like his brother, has succeeded in converting his patronage-momentum into real political capital which should have made him an evens bet to be the next leader. It hasn’t – the bookies put David well in front – but Ed is the better value brother, because evens is the political reality.”

I still think this is accurate. It’s close. Lots of people have written how close it is. Not many, especially of those who are paid to call these kind of things, have been brave enough to make the call.

Frank Johnson was the great newspaper prose stylist of his generation and an underestimated editor of the Spectator. He was a deep mine of wise and idiosyncratic advice about writing. “Be counter-intuitive” was at the centre. The word “albeit” and the phrase “the fact that” were banned at the periphery. As they are on Uncut.

And he was right, in his time, about making predictions. But he is wrong in the age, which he largely pre-dated, of the internet.

Rather than test the benevolence of the blogosphere, in which case, I also offer this prediction of mine, written at the 2007 Labour conference.

It turned out to be wrong. As I have often been reminded.

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It’s time the leadership also-rans came clean about their second preferences, says Siôn Simon

02/08/2010, 02:57:17 PM

It is polite to pretend that there are five candidates for the Labour leadership. But it is not true. The next leader of the Labour party will be David or Ed Miliband. Everybody knows that.

There is an important battle for third between Diane Abbott and Ed Balls. Which latter has a lot to lose by coming fourth. He entered the contest as a leading figure of his generation. His extraordinary promotion to cabinet rank within two years of entering Parliament (like Ed Miliband’s) had been exceeded in its rapidity only by that of Peter Mandelson just under a decade earlier.

Like Mandelson, Balls and Ed Miliband were beneficiaries of the extravagant patronage of a grateful new leader drunk on glory. Unlike Mandelson, neither was initially ready for such high office. In Balls’ case, he was up to it administratively, but struggled in Parliament and on the broadcast media. Ed Miliband was better presentationally, but worse in the department. Both are better now. Though neither is as good in either respect as was Peter Mandelson. (more…)

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The week Uncut

26/06/2010, 01:37:54 PM

A fullish week for June: a big Commons debate on the strategic defence review, an ‘emergency’ budget, the first ever select committee elections and David Miliband’s desert island discs.

The most important thing in all of which was George Osborne’s demeanour. It was a political coming of age. An uncertain boy made man by the advantages of office. For the first time in his Parliamentary career, he knew what he was talking about.  He had the facts at his fingertips; the fat ballast of her majesty’s treasury behind him. (more…)

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Siôn Simon’s budget sketch

22/06/2010, 02:16:43 PM

Gentlemen in suits no longer call at one’s door selling things. Sometimes shaggy young men in football shirts turn up with baskets of sponges and rags. But the days of polite young men selling insurance and encyclopaedias seem to have passed.

In their stead, we have this nice young fellow on the television. He is smart and well-spoken and has learned a lot of information. And he brings us things we need with solemn charm.

Not all the words he says make sense. And sometimes he seems to say things which sound as though they might not be true. But he looks very well washed. His hair is shiny. He is going to rebalance the economy. (more…)

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