Monday, 23 December 2019

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

Episode IX was released last Thursday and I went to see it, obviously. I still remember sitting in the Forum Cinema Lime Street in 1977 watching the first film, episode IV and saying to my friend next to me, "I don't remember the first three!" to which she said with a smile on her face "They haven't been made yet".

George Lucas has not made a Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith, but that has not stopped him from imagining where his franchise might have gone. As long as there has been a Star Wars series, Lucas has talked openly, even after selling Lucasfilm to Disney, about how his version would have wrapped up. The story of the Skywalker Saga, which will end with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has been in the planning for the better part of 50 years, and for most of those, the only person that could see the whole picture was George Lucas.

According to Lucas, there were always plans for a Star Wars sequel trilogy. But the conception of the story only started in earnest as he prepared to sell Lucasfilm, the idea being that he could send whichever conglomerate bought his company in the right direction on a new set of films.

Along with a return from the original cast, which we got in Disney’s sequel trilogy as well, Lucas’ sequels supposedly covered the stories of Anakin’s two grandchildren, who were supposed to be around 20 in the films, so it was not "Phantom Menace again". In the book, The Art of The Force Awakens, one of the characters, a Jedi named Kira, is described as a "loner, hothead, gear-headed, badass." The other teen was most often referred to as Sam, and mostly appears depicted with a blaster, which seems to indicate that he did not have Force powers himself. Kira and Sam eventually morphed into Rey and some of Finn, which makes sense: Lucas had been developing his sequel movies with the help of screenwriter Michael Arndt [Toy Story 3], who went on to receive a writing credit for The Force Awakens, the first of Disney’s trilogy.

Lucas has always had a difficult relationship with Star Wars fandom, and classifying The Force Awakens as a movie it will like is not exactly an endorsement. According to the filmmaker, he has always been disappointed that fans did not really, in his estimation, understand Star Wars, and to him Disney and J.J. Abrams’ film was a reaction to that fact.

For all his struggles with Star Wars fans, particularly their reaction to the prequel trilogy. It does seem that George Lucas wanted his version of the story told. As much money as the Lucasfilm deal made him, it is hard not to see Lucas as a little bit disappointed. Lucas himself may have summed his feelings up best in The Story of Science Fiction.

Myself, I still prefer the books.

Monday, 16 December 2019

GE 2019 Result

Party                                    Seats    Vote share
Conservative                         365     43.6%
Labour                                  203     32.2%
Scottish National Party          48       3.9%
Liberal Democrat                  11      11.6%
Democratic Unionist Party     8        0.8%
Sinn Féin                                7        0.6%
Plaid Cymru                           4        0.5%
Social Democratic                 2        0.4%
Green                                    1        2.7%

It started with the exit poll broadcast at 22:00 at the end of the voting day as everyone tuned in to their particular favourite media channel, the shock was real, could this be true, everyone started to play down the fact that there could be a conservative landslide.

However as the night rolled on the reality began to dawn. One of the markers that had been set by the media was the great red wall, an imaginary line between North Wales and York. Some of the counts in this area were notorious for being the first to reveal their result and as some of these seats that had been Labour since the beginning, the fact that they were now turning blue set the pace.

At the end of the night it was realised that the people had their say, they were fed up with three years of prevarication by politicians and they wanted #Brexit to finish.

You might say that it was Boris’s finest hour. This is the beginning of the end for the Remainers, but it is the start of something that could be extraordinary for Britain. The faction for remain wanted another referendum, if it had happened, the result would have been this overwhelming no. No to that insufferably arrogant Remainer Parliament blocking the referendum result because they knew better. No to Jeremy Corbyn whose antisemitism knows no bounds and has gone out of his way to circle the issue rather than confront it. He could not even accept his responsibility for the failure of the day and fall on his sword and decided to stay on and reflect!

Boris Johnson has acknowledged that a huge swath of Labour voters have 'lent him their vote' and it is now down to him to satisfy their needs.

Monday, 9 December 2019

GE 2019 Final Week

The general election for 2019 is this Thursday 12th December.

Parties involved and current poll standings:-
43% Conservative
33% Labour
13% Lib Dems
 4% Plaid Cymru
 4% SNP
 3% Brexit
 3% Green

Election analysts have long projected the number of seats for each party by assuming a “uniform national swing”. This is calculated by taking the difference between each party’s share in current national polls and the results at the last election. This figure is then added to the party’s results in each constituency in the previous election. However these are forecasts and not results.

Surprisingly these figures have not changed much over the last twelve months, and I wonder if the usual theme of elections has been lost this time round, such as health, education and defence because #Brexit has such a strong hold on everyone, mainly because it didn't happen on the 29th, March the 22nd April or 31st October.

The 2017 actual result was:-
42% Conservative
40% Labour
 7% Lib Dems
 3% SNP
 1% Green
 1% UKIP
 3% Others

What will it look like next Friday morning?

Monday, 2 December 2019

GE 2019 Manifesto Week


Boris Johnson has launched the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, with the slogan Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain's Potential. The 59-page manifesto comes 18 days before the general election. Speaking at its launch in Telford, Shropshire, the prime minister said the choice facing the country in this "closely fought" contest had "never been starker".

Here is an at-a-glance looks at the key commitments:
The NHS and social care
50,000 extra nurses to be recruited
50 million extra GP appointments a year
£34 billion extra funding a year for NHS
Cross-party agreement sought to solve social care crisis
40 new hospitals
Free hospital parking for selected patients and staff

Labour has promised an "investment blitz" across England to bring "wealth, power and prosperity" to communities. The party launched regional manifestos for each part of the country on Friday, including pledges on transport, housing and jobs. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the announcement would "bring our country back together".

But Tory minister Jake Berry said it was "a clear distraction from Corbyn's failure to set out a Brexit plan".

Launching the manifestos in the East Midlands, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the plans would "make sure we deal with the climate crisis", but "harness opportunities at the same time".

"Labour will govern for the whole of Britain, handing wealth and power back to every community and giving everyone a better life... rebuilding our public services and kick-starting a green industrial revolution that will bring prosperity to every region while tackling the climate and environmental emergency head on."

Liberal Democrat:-
Stop Brexit...
Stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in public services and tackling inequality.

Tackle the climate emergency by generating 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.

Give every child the best start in life by recruiting 20,000 more teachers as part of an extra £10 billion a year for schools.

Build a fairer economy by providing free childcare from 9 months and giving every adult £10,000 to spend on skills & training throughout their lives.

Transform our mental health services by treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health.

Green Party:-
The Green New Deal will invest in our shared future, funding improvements in:

including the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy.

including the provision of better insulation for all homes that need it, the delivery of major heating upgrades for 1 million homes a year and the creation of 100,000 new energy efficient council homes a year.

including the delivery of a public and sustainable transport revolution, which will allow people to travel cheaply and safely on new trains, buses, cycleways and footpaths.

including support for businesses to decarbonise and the provision of training to give people skills to access millions of new green jobs.

Food, Farming & Forestry:
including the planting of 700 million trees and support for healthy and sustainable food and farming systems.

including the creation of a Universal Basic Income, paid to all UK residents to tackle poverty and give financial security to everyone.

New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives. This will be a combined investment of over £100 billion a year in the Green New Deal, with an additional investment in Universal Basic Income.

The Brexit Party have confirmed they will not be releasing a manifesto.

Monday, 25 November 2019

GE 2019 The ITV Debate

Last Tuesday the ITV held a 'debate' between the PM Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

It was not a debate in the real sense more like two individual interviews glued together. There was an audience with questions, which were longer than the answers, but every time one of the two prepared a response, it was cut short by the host. I am sure the 50 minutes could have been used more prudently to allow each side a chance to get their statements across.

Hosted by news presenter Julie Etchingham, the head-to-head marks the first time since 2015 that both the Labour and Conservative party leaders have taken part in a TV debate. It is telling on how well leaders perform in these kinds of debates, which can make or break their popularity with voters.

Boris Johnson faced dismissive laughs when confronted over whether politicians respected the truth as both party leaders struggled to convince a sceptical audience during the programme. Mr Johnson started off strongly as Jeremy Corbyn was unable to give a convincing answer on his Brexit policy for the first 10 minutes, but both were then hit by moments of disdain as they moved onto issues of the union, anti-semitism and the toxic debate that plagues politics. Jeremy Corbyn was mocked over his Brexit policy by a live television audience after he refused nine times to say whether he thought Britain should leave the EU or remain.

The final audience question was "What Christmas present would you give each other"? Jeremy Corbyn joked he would leave a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens under Boris Johnson's tree. Boris Johnson had the audience and ITV Leaders' Debate moderator Julie Etchingham grinning with his response. The Conservative leader said: "I would probably leave a copy of – since he made a literary effort – my brilliant Brexit deal which allows us to come out.

It was too short and interrupted [by the host too much] to say whether one side or the other had come out on top. However, a draw at least allows Jeremy Corbyn to give a sigh of relief as their polls fall ever lower and could be considered a win!

Monday, 18 November 2019

GE 2019 Who is leading?

One of the threats to a Conservative majority is the Brexit party standing in the other seats after saying they would not stand in the 317 seats held by the 2017 conservative. There is a chance that the Brexit party will take seats from the Lib Dems where there is a strong leave base, as the Lib Dems are fully remain.

There are no threats to the Labour majority as it will not happen, not while Jeremy Corbyn is leader, however, just changing the leader is not enough for any party just to sweep the board. The Labour party are not working for a majority they are working specifically to stop the Conservative majority.

In 2015 the Brexit party took one seat from Labour and three seats from the Conservatives. What Nigel Farage would like is to have enough seats to be a bridge between all parties like the DUP are now. This is still unrealistic but there is a real chance that the Brexit party can damage all the others which will create another hung parliament.

One of the crucial statistics currently being shown is that 60% of leavers in Labour seats will vote conservative and 40% of leavers in Labour seats will vote Labour. this if true will be a huge help to the Conservative campaign.

Who is going to grab the 'new' vote? This time round there are those who could not vote in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 election because of age, they have been witnesses to the Brexit scandal, how will their vote affect the overall picture, are they keen enough or are they more interested in the environment and climate change?

More questions than answers but there is plenty of time to get them over the next four weeks, which are going to be very difficult for pollsters to predict.

Monday, 11 November 2019

GE19 - Battle Lines

If there is to be one winner, what needs to be done by the parties to achieve this?

One phrase flying round is "The Red Wall" this is an area across the North West that extends from North Wales all the way across England to Yorkshire. If the Conservatives can win more Labour strongholds here a majority is possible.

One conundrum at present is what effect the Brexit party will be during this election, will they devastate the Labour party or the Conservative party, if the Brexit party does well, there is a good chance that there will be no majority for anyone.

The Lib Dems have their eyes on moderate Conservative seats in the South where the Conservatives are becoming tired with the Brexit mantra. In London, the Lib Dems might have more success without trying because Labour are struggling in the capital, not just because of Brexit.

What can Labour do to gain a majority in GE19?

There are about 40-50 seats that the Conservatives hold that are considered marginal and Labour need to work hard to pull these seats towards themselves. Another example is where Conservatives are standing down this time. The capitol is going to be difficult for Labour this time round. Of course all Labour really need to do is stop the Conservatives getting a majority, and frankly that should be a no brainer.

The Lib Dems have agreed a deal between the Greens and Plaid Cymru covering 60 seats which is 10% of the total, no one knows how this will pan out, however, if the three control these 60 seats it will have a crucial effect on a Conservative/Labour majority position.