Monthly Archives: May 2011

Wallis and Edward

It is strange how history parallels itself. Since the Royal Wedding, I have researched our current royal family, about whom I truly knew little. It became like the story of Elizabeth I: I kept hearing about the previous generation and how their actions had a clear impact on the current. In the Tudor story and film Elizabeth, I found that I must know who ‘the whore Anne Boleyn’ really was to understand why Elizabeth’s claim to the throne was arguably tenuous. Understanding Anne actually told me far more than that and introduced me to a woman every bit as fascinating and remarkable.

Reading about today’s royal family is exciting because it is the same kind of epic history, but still unfolding, with the possibility to interact with it. We don’t know the end of the story. I like to read stories where I don’t know the end; it is a shame that classics and history are half known to the general public so that there is rarely the pleasure of complete discovery for the first time. We know the Titanic sinks and that Mr Rochester does marry Jane Eyre. We know that Elizabeth I doesn’t marry and that Anne Boleyn is executed. Those events are best discovered like a film that starts with the end and you have to learn why that end is arrived at.

Reading about Prince Charles – whose story is still being made and whose ending is not known – I kept coming up against warnings about being like Uncle David, whose regnant name was Edward. This seemed to be the ultimate threat, the most dreaded comparison. The shadow of Edward VIII’s abdication was and perhaps is still looming in the memory of the royal family, though many of them were born after that event and even after his lifetime. I previously knew only that Edward abdicated to marry; I knew nothing of to whom, except her name and that she was divorced. However – any books, films and perhaps people are quick to fill in my blank that this was a feckless, selfish couple; she, a crude, loud American siren. And brave old Bertie conquered his stammer and stepped into his shameful brothers’ shoes and gave us the current royal lineage, with the strong Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at his side, known to us today as the late Queen Mum.

This year, I have seen three films about that era: The King’s Speech, Bertie and Elizabeth, and Any Human Heart. They all add to what the biographies say. David/Edward says little in the films, and neither does Wallis Simpson, but their small parts are almost caricatured in not being flattering. Only in 2001’s Bertie and Elizabeth was there a hint that he carried on with his duties, despite being exiled and stripped of his title, and still had popularity when he met people.

Yesterday, I watched the 2005 film for television, Wallis and Edward. I wanted to hear their side of the story. My instinct had been to wonder if Edward and Wallis were really so dreadful and to feel sorry for Edward. Who else but royalty cannot reject the work our family lines up for us? You can refuse to be a doctor as your parents hoped or to carry on the family business, but this is one firm you cannot leave. I find his abdication speech very moving. He says he can’t be king and do the best for his people without the woman loves. I understand that. Who else has ministers and laws telling you whom you should marry? Why is the anti-Catholic law still in place? The prime minister has no such scrutiny, yet PM Stanley Baldwin felt that he could manipulate his Sovereign on that matter. Easy to deal the duty card to someone else when it’s not your companion that’s being dictated.

Jean Brodie says “…Stanley Baldwin who got in as prime minister and out again ere long”. This has stuck with me – that it’s the headmistress, Miss Mackay, who admires Baldwin and has the slogan near his picture, ‘safety first’. The complex antiheroine loves truth, beauty, art, and esteemed Axis European leaders whose getting in and getting out caused immeasurable suffering. I think that regarding the Windsors, Stanley Baldwin can also be charged with causing suffering – not with the mass torture and execution of fascist dictators, but his prejudice fuelled pressure had an effect on the nation and his government as well as ripples of hurt and stress for the whole the royal family, Edward and Wallis especially.

I wish that Wallis and Edward had ended not with the end notes that they were ostracized for the rest of their lives and that Wallis died a recluse, but that Baldwin resigned and the sympathetic friend Churchill was who became our famous, perhaps iconic prime minister, and that Wallis and Edward’s lives and duties carried on beyond their wedding day.

Wallis and Edward is well written and the DVD’s interview with writer Sarah Williams is very illuminating. It’s her first made script, inspired by coming across a book on Wallis in America that perhaps indicated another light was possible on the woman so hated and decried over here. In Sarah’s telling, the Queen Mother comes across as scheming and controlling. King George V is not portrayed well in any of the films, always been bombastic and cold and autocratic, a negative force on both brothers. David/Edward is neither hero nor villain, but complicated. Wallis is not grasping at the English throne, but would rather see her love alone on it and lose him than cause constitutional crisis. She is always the one with caution, showing sadness and fear when things escalate. Rather than Wallis leaving yet another husband callously, it’s he who leaves her. She is willing to put her second husband before the king, but it is Ernest Simpson who asks for the divorce. There’s none of the crude, brash presumption in this Wallis, played by Joely Richardson. Joely’s an actress who plays symptheic protagonist roles and so this casting makes us willing to warm to her and suggests that’s what we are supposed to do.

It’s easy to see Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII parallels in that a man falls in love so passionately that he is prepared to go against his ministers and shake the constitution to do so. Henry, like many kings, took lovers of married women, and this was accepted. Edward VIII was advised to do the same, without marrying her, but this film has Edward refuse to take such a double standard. Wallis, like Anne, is not aristocracy and her husband, like the men of Tudor paramours, angles their women towards the king to reap the benefits for themselves. Ernest Simpson is a nice partner who bravely confronts the King with his intentions – he does not want to leave Wallis unless she is well looked after.

The parallels with the current royal family are also powerful. Charles and Camilla’s wedding was announced during the filming of this drama. Had that happened earlier – or when Charles becomes king – a similar crisis could have emerged. I also recently saw the Channel 4 docudrama series, The Queen. It covers Charles and Diana’s break up and a parallel in living memory with Princess Margaret. Margaret wanted to marry a senior employee, Peter Townsend, but eventually gave him up for duty. I wonder how much of ‘Uncle David’ would have been behind that decision and the Queen’s views on both her sister and her son’s marriages. Being the daughter of the other brother, the one thrown into the limelight by the decision of the abdicator, one can surmise at how that affected Queen Elizabeth’s beliefs. A girl at the time, it may be that her parents influenced her ideas about it as she perhaps can remember little herself; I don’t think she had much contact with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as David/Edward and Wallis became.

I would like to do further research on Wallis and Edward, and am open to the more sympathetic view. Like Anne Boleyn, it seems she has been demonised, but it is better that she does not remain so for centuries if it not deserved.

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Fallen In Love

A review of a new production on ‘Anne Boleyn’s secret heart’

I was very excited to see this new play by Ipswich based theatre company Red Rose Chain, who say they had people crossing the Atlantic to see it and reviewers from all the national papers. They quote historical biographer Alison Weir’s positive comments, although she is thanked in the acknowledgements as being a key part of the research.

I have been passionate about Anne for several years and she formed a major part of my research degree. I was interested in how popular contemporary sources portray her, and how things have entered the canon of knowledge -ie what is seen to be true at any one time.

The canon regarding Anne has changed since the 1980s. Her enemies’ vilification programme was successful for 4 centuries, until several independent researchers of different backgrounds realised that there was another Anne than the Jezebel-esque ruthless upstart. Film has been slower to catch up, still portraying her broadly this way, and Philippa Gregory’s novel and now movie have tipped popular perception for the initiated back towards negative.

This summer, I’ll see two new plays on Anne, hoping that they might offer more of the fresh perspective that sees her as a heroine as Jean Plaidy, Vercors, Joanna Denny and Eric Ives have done.

Fallen in Love was disappointing for its portrayal and its execution – and no, not the one at the end of the play.

It wasn’t that I could detect historical inaccuracy, but that the portrayal fitted the conventional old style view – Anne as perhaps complicated, perhaps with a sympathetic motive, but not even as Prof Ives said – someone one admires but not likes. Naive Anne suddenly becomes hard, and we miss that trajectory out due to a major shift in time. The naiveté is shown through silly voices and exaggerated running about and frivolity.

I confess that I have never warmed to George Boleyn, and it is a shame that he is such a part of this play. Writer and director Joanna Carrick gives him the best lines – making out that it is he (not Anne) who is the religious reformer, the one who hates corruption but can also see genuine faith in some of the monks who are being so horribly butchered. She even lets George say the wonderful alleged final speech that Anne wrote to Henry about being raised from Commoner in stages to the highest honour of all – martyr.

A story about Anne that does not feature Henry feels odd. Small casts are tricky, and this duo didn’t hold the necessary interest for me. I didn’t know that it would just be Anne and her brother, and when this became apparent, my enthusiasm sagged. I also didn’t like the casting of Anne – again, a personal matter, but she didn’t act in a way that made you understand why the most powerful monarch of the western world was so smitten with her that he took such great steps to be with her. And – why this woman was deemed so dangerous that she was killed swiftly and then demonised.

That last part is something I have never found to be satisfactorily explained.

Fallen in Love is not the strongest title, suggesting a chick lit appraisal of one of Europe’s great moments of history. I had expected, therefore, a love story – and presumed this would be one of the few that would show Anne in love with Henry: often the affair is portrayed as onesided. I believe one intended interpretation of the play’s title is, as Gregory and Warnicke alone suggest, that Anne’s incest charge was actually accurate, with which I and most other scholars vehemently disagree.

I have particular tastes in theatre, leaning towards physical theatre and cross media as ways to best use the stage as a way of telling a story powerfully. This was a very traditional talk continuously play with too little room to act physically; the set is designed round a bed which also holds up the tee pee. The epic story doesn’t work in a small tent with not much of set. The post death scene with feathers and dancing was the best -for theatricality and innovation, and a welcome break from over egged young thespian voices.

Practically, there were also problems. Passing trains and football in the park didn’t help the authenticity. The tickets are expensive for what they are – £15 to sit an a marquee on uncomfy chairs with poor toilets, and a simple kiosk for refreshments. They have 2 evening shows back to back, meaning you can’t get in the carpark until the previous show has gone. This contradicted the ticket’s advice of arriving at least 15 minutes early. It wasn’t clear from the crude map that the Hall is not accessible from Gypeswick park, although it seems logical to assume it is. Retracing steps, having found the prohibitive high fence, wastes several minutes.

There was a free short aftershow by a community theatre. As much as I wish to encourage people to find their artistic feet, I have to say that this was a painful experience. What jarred most was not poor acting quality, but the incessant swearing. Dramatically, to swear constantly means you have played your trump card until it has no meaning. There are no more organ stops to pull out when the tension rises. The director warned it may offend ‘sensitive’ people, but sensitivity and a dislike of foul language are not connected. The action and dialogue were lost under the cursing. Group penned Guiltless Ghost is a play about transposing Henry, Anne, George and Jane Parker to a group of four friends on a modern housing estate, all on mobile phones and in chav gear. It forgets the high born grandeur, religion and politics at the heart of the Tudor story, and that Anne Boleyn does not lend herself to a kind of Gavin and Stacey directed by Shane Meadows or Peter Mullan. The bit that made me scoff into my hands was the closing voiceover quote that gave the piece its name. Halting, with a very Ips-witch rising accent, it made what might have been an interesting idea into a farce.

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I Love You Phillip Morris

The trailer and DVD packaging suggests a laughathon but this is misleading. Those wanting a lighthearted, feel good escape movie will be confronted by some heavy material, including heart break and terminal illness – dying is in the first scene. And those not wanting a silly buddy movie will be wrongly put off a true story which is touching and has some important issues.

It’s those issues that make me write.

The DVD extras make no mention of a campaign to release Steven Jay Russell, who has been in prison in solitary confinement for 13 years. His crime officially is for being a repeat offending con man and escapee. However, being in Texas and under Bush’s presidency, the film hints that the real reason for this severity might be his homosexuality.

Russell says ‘nobody gets hurt.’ In fictional con movie The Brothers Bloom, another Steven says ‘the best tricks are where everyone gets what they want’. The crimes committed are mostly impersonation. Although never trained as a lawyer, Steven Russell performed very well as one. He says in the film to the judge that he didn’t want to see his client – ‘a humble woman’ – roughbeaten by the slick serial litigator for the other side. The judge saw his point – and so do I.

Reading this week about the early King Henrys of England, it emerges that the power of law came from this era – something still in force in England and therefore arguably taken to America by settlers. Many of us internationally feel angry with finance and government at present. The other pillar, law – a ‘service’ many of us can’t afford – is in cahoots with other pillars to enforce a system that often isn’t just. Law should be about justice and protecting the innocent, but so often it’s an expensive form of bullying and is more concerned about property than right. That Steven used it for his own ends is what many people do anyway. He wanted to release his partner from prison – who had served on a minor offence, so he impersonated those who had the power release Phillip. He helped the ‘humble woman’ win her case.

But mostly Steven was motivated by love. It was often twisted into materialism where Steven believed money and gifts buy happiness and that obvious status symbols are our birthright and the signs of success. His partners – Phillip at least – didn’t need that life to believe Steven loved him or treated him well, and it ultimately led to over a decade of separation. Steven made money by putting large amounts of his company’s money in high interest accounts whilst it sat there between transactions. That to me that is acumen, not a crime. It didn’t seem to be hurting anyone – unlike the financial problems of now. He lived the life of investment bankers – and yet very few of those have suffered, especially not those at the top. Instead, their country has bailed them out with public money. Although Steven took a large cut from that fund, it was interest that wasn’t being made without his resourcefulness and the company benefitted as well as him. What would have been better was to have told the board rather than do it secretly – although one asks if the board would have let him keep any of it and if they alone would have benefitted from his idea instead. It seems the fierce punishments for fraud really relates to the value put on money and possession.

Another real life conman was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can. His reward was to be head hunted for a new career that utilised his gall, not punished for it. Why is Steven Russell so different? One wonders if what really upsets the establishment is not the innocent people are duped but that their precious professions are tainted by unqualified outsiders who can ape them and do just as well. It is not that I condone con artistry – and was shocked at his feigning AIDS – but that the punishment for Steven is far too high. He has not harmed anyone. The watershed at end of the film might have changed him, as he realises that that high lifestyle is not necessary and that being a conman hides from being his real self. Instead of being able to put that into practice, he has been locked away for all but one hour each day since 1998, separated from Phillip and the rest of the world.

 His sentence is a ridiculous 144 years – the number beloved of Jehovah’s witnesses and the book of Revelations – more than most serial killers and sexual abusers.

This is disproportionate punishment and is another misuse of public money as well as warped justice.

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I, Elizabeth review

by I, Elspeth

The play is a one woman show where the audience become privy to Elizabeth’s more private thoughts on the pressures of her to marry and to execute her Scottish cousin who had just landed in her realm, seeking solace, and to name or produce her heir, in a time of acute religious upheaval. It is all actual quotes, arranged to tell a story.

Writer/performer Rebecca Vaughan knows her stuff to an impressive level, and is just as articulate out of role as when playing the great queen. If your local theatre has a question time opportunity, I recommend staying after this 70 minute play and be amazed at her energy to discuss her subject with such enthusiasm and knowledge.

The original inspiration was the collected works of Elizabeth I, which led Rebecca to a vast amount of primary source research. She chose out of that 70 year life and two score year reign one year (1568) where lots of dramatic possibilities were happening. Like the first Cate Blanchett film, Rebecca found that the pre Gloriana era, the not yet supreme, assured, and avowed Virgin Queen was more interesting to write about than the later reign that perhaps is still firmer in popular memory.

It might seem a feat to keep us interested for over an hour, without a set change, any music, obvious scene breaks, or any props save a chair. Those who have had the pleasure of seeing Austen’s Women know that Rebecca Vaughan is capable of commanding our attention in that scenario, but I, Elizabeth is even a greater challenge: playing one character in one time, continuously talking, and hardly moving. The only feature to mark it out is the zinging light, a deliberately vague device to suggest another presence or tension, whether it be time, God, her own mind; but it gives a sense of urgency and unpredictability to the play.

It takes a while to adjust and immerse oneself in the Tudor language, though methinks it was more convoluted at the start. It becomes more modern, and sometimes more familiar. As someone who has also studied Elizabeth academically (though Rebecca’s learning is superior) and especially looked at her presentation in modern fiction, I have got used to hearing certain alleged sayings, often modernised. There are some which may be apocryphal which enter the cannon. Here, Rebecca has only used Elizabeth’s own words, and the only changes are to insert the name of a person or to change the tense. It is startling to learn what Elizabeth did actually say, and how popular sayings have been altered and re-entered popular collective history in a modernised form. As one audience member commented, this is easier to understand than Shakespeare is to the uninitiated.

I, Elizabeth by Dyad Productions premiered at the Edinburgh festival in 2010 and is continuing its nationwide tour in 2011.

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DVD extras

 I love to watch these. Having them must enhance DVD saleability. If you are not interested, you don’t have to see them and rarely pay more for them, unless it is a deluxe edition. But it means that for those wanting to learn more about the film, that there is something in the DVD that is not to be had in the cinematic experience. A DVD without extras is, to paraphrase the musical Annie, a night without a star. It is not something I will buy or even borrow.

I often find these extras disappointing and frustrating. I wish I could feed this back to film distributors so I am writing it here.

I guess that like other viewers, I watch extras right after I’ve seen the film, or perhaps the next day. When you’ve seen a film you are then in the mood to hear more. Perhaps you have to take it back to a video shop or library soon. I’m not going to load up a DVD to see a few minutes of a featurette on its own, especially as getting the DVD player warmed up and sitting through the pre menu screen adverts takes 5 mins. Having sat through trailers at the cinema, I do not expect to do so again at home – it’s what a DVD (as opposed to watching it broadcast on television) is about. These actually serve to annoy audiences into not watching DVDs. Although this is not a personal admission of it, I wonder if this fuels piracy, where presumably adverts and trailers are absent.

So why do DVD extras have so much of the film in and why do they share so much of the same material? This is not the synoptic problem of the gospels – we are not hypothesising about the existence of Q source here. I’m simply asking, why bother your audience with extended sequences that they have just seen, and have three featurettes using the same quotes and clips? It assumes we’ve forgotten the film or the previous featurette and it assumes we must watch them over an interval of time, which is unlikely.

Perhaps most viewers have not been on a film set, but we have all seen these action behind the scene shots of people rushing round with cameras and fluffy booms. We also know that this is not a real fly on the wall insight into how a film is made or what working on that particular set was like. Such images take up valuable space and time and add nothing to our understanding of the film or TV series. What I like to see is a coherent explanation of the film’s genesis. Featurettes are often jumbled, not really explaining where the idea came from. I am interested in the historical research behind films and why choices have been made to depict in that way.

I’ve listened to many commentaries and been impressed by few, often giving up. There seems two kinds of commentary. The first is a group of cast and crew being silly together, talking over each other and praising each other. There is little value in these. Then there is the solo commentary. But this has the danger of being a monotone. Lectures and speeches are usually shorter than a feature, and the speaker on DVD extras often aren’t gifted at engaging us with a monologue. Often it’s the director giving the one person commentary, and there’s often self indulgence there which is chief reason I’ve heard that people switch off. Directors often say inaccurate statements – eg the King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper speaks of a major location being in a Georgian building, which for anyone who knows about architecture, is blatantly not. We come to what is the function of a commentary, and there may be at least two answers. Perhaps there needs to be two on a DVD: the anecdotal or technical one, and one which is more a commentary in the scriptural or literary sense. I want to know what’s really going on in the scene – what’s the subtext I missed? How does all the elements of the scene (known as mis en scene) help build up an image or message? Like a good cryptic crossword nothing should be wasted and the choices of clothes, framing, music and set design will all enhance the mood, character, emphasis and perhaps even plot. Partly, I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, and also I like to fully appreciate the work of all the departments.

 In film, too much is made of the director. Producers are very keen to appear in DVD extras as their role is less recognised to the audience. It feels they are desperate to come to the camera and make their efforts known. Harshly, I don’t often share that, especially as they take screen time away from other departments. Film is collaboration and it is what each person brings that has made that film what it is. I like it when each team or head of department can introduce themselves and their vision. But it would be better to have documentaries broken down into chapters, or just have shorter ones. I hate starting a featurette, unsure if this is six minutes or an hour, and having no idea what it will cover. The most important person of the crew is the one that most gets overlooked. The King’s Speech is an example of how the writer was featured so little that I couldn’t work out his accent. It’s the script that attracts the talent and money to make a film. Although the final product will be down to all those contributing and ultimately overseen by the director, the script is the basis of all they do. It is also likely to be the part that has taken the longest, being written rewritten and developed long before the preproduction starts, having been fought to be made perhaps over many years, and then rewritten again, even to the last minute. And yet the scriptwriter is not the name attached to the film we as an audience will know.

So I would like:

no trailers at the start

clear timings of each extra and what it includes, breaking long ones down; no clips unless it illustrates a point

no footage of filming unless it clearly shows something particular and informative to allow all departments to speak, especially the writer

Commentaries with different purposes, and an awareness that silly repartee has little interest to those outside

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Morally Bankrupt

That’s what our system is at present.

It’s all about those in power making those without more powerless.

It’s about taking more from those who already don’t have and keeping them at the bottom, floundering between poverty and insolvency, barred from various roles.

It’s about public shaming, as if everyone in financial difficulty is a would-be swindler and public danger.

I refer to Britain’s sneaked in new bankruptcy rules, which are not well known. Whereas debt relief companies are as aggressive advertisers as loan firms, they rarely mention the full implications and problems with bankruptcy. Even the government’s website doesn’t mention these new rules, which cut the allowable free monthly expenditure from £50 per month to £10. These are obviously written by someone who has never been poor. What do they think £10 a month buys?! For one already struggling and under stress, this is a 3 year sentence that is likely to lead to illness and depression, or at least very deep unhappiness and ostracization. And made by people for whom £10 is barely noted when they come out of the wallet.

I am not for unbridled lending and silly borrowing, or for those who take on things they cannot repay. But the fact debt is so prevalent is because of factors to do with our society and its attitudes, more than irresponsible and feckless people.

The whole credit rating system is based on values that banks like. It stupidly looks at your address – as if who you live with or who has lived there previously is any indicator of you. It means fallings out with grown up families and houseshares who do not want to be brought down by someone under their roof with a low credit rating. It means a new occupier, a complete stranger, at an address of poor credit scores works to put that rating back. And as if moving or job changing or ad hoc income are in themselves a bad thing. It’s a system inherited from American investment markets, people who themselves have ad hoc but extortionate incomes based on very unsound and immoral factors.

In Britain – and this isn’t some thing we can call ourselves ‘great’ over – we legally allow banks to sting customers for going over their overdraft limits – sometimes a couple of quid, or even, pence. These fees can escalate to an uncapped rate. It’s over £20 per week, and many of us only get paid monthly. So this means borrowing to stop the £20 becoming £100 by the end of the month, which can then kick in again later and re-set the whole process off, even when you have paid your fees and gone back within your limit. Banks can then demand you pay the money back, even after they have automatically taken the fees and left  some cases without use of the account.

Complaints procedures can take many months,  even years, and involving the Financial Ombudsman makes the case even more laborious, who are not sympathetic or helpful. The FO says it is not a lobbying institution but claims to be impartial, yet many of its rulings by its own admission upset both sides and often fall on the side of the huge corporate greedy bank, not the poor individual.

Debt management programmes are little better. They are not keen on written contact, but want to speak to you on the phone to and then you to share very personal financial details, asking more of you than they’ll tell you about them, and hiding their true fees. The group Christians Against Poverty is a misnomer. They do nothing to reduce the poverty that debts cause; they also do not fight the customer’s corner, but get the individual to comply with the banks. No wonder then that ex Barclays CEO calls it ‘win win’ – for the debt company and the bank, yes; but there’s no going into where the debt came from, and seeing  if is really is a case of poor money management and careless spending. More likely it is about aggressive lending or unfortunate circumstances.

The British High court test case of 2009 regarding banking fees was unsuccessful, but that seems a very poor way to look at this. It involved that other pillar that needs reform, overpaid, power hungry lawyers, in whose interest it was not to open the worm can that would unhinge their fellows in the banking world. But the case started in motion the public awareness that these fees are not necessary or reasonable and that you do not have to accept them.

Around the world, we’re angry at the financial downtown and how our governments have used public purses to bail out the rich bankers who caused the problem and have not suffered its effects. In Britain, we’re facing cuts by a government we didn’t vote for because of this.

They need to be aware of how the public feels about banks and governments, and how we are no longer willing to be squeezed by faceless, uncaring machines.

 If you agree, I urge you to write to your MP and to sign my petition which is at this link

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An Alternative Political System

Tomorrow we in Britain vote for whether to change how we vote. I argue that our system needs a radical shake up.

There should be no ruling party; all parliaments should be hung. Our three generations of current and suceeding monarchs appear more worthy rulers than many of the prime ministers in living memory; perhaps the Royal family should have more than a ceremonial role in our politics. I believe they are no more distanced from ordinary people than politicians are.

I would like to put an end to party politics and have more independent voices in our local councils and in Westminster’s seats.

The reason not everyone votes is not apathy but the feeling that no party represents their views, and that no party is really better or different. There is also the feeling that we’re not really being listened to, like the ‘opportunity to comment’ on the cuts.

Although AV seems quite laborious, I will be voting yes because we need a change. It’s to say ‘not happy with current system’ – but I wish there was a box to say ‘want something else – but neither of the above’. I wish we could say that with candidates too.

We should be able to say who we’d like locally and who we’d like to be in parliament, as separate votes.

I would like to see an end to wards and constituencies, and being tied to the person who is standing for that area. What if they are useless, or of very different views, or known to me? To then whom can I turn? I think we should be able to approach MPs on their interests and views, as we can with Lords and MEPs.

And I wish there was a box for ‘stop running our country like a hard headed business and return to the values that matter’.

I’d put an X there.

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