A charming idealist or a wasted opportunity - it's unsettling to think how my perception of Johnny Nolan has changed. I first saw A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was 15 and most recently last Saturday, though I have seen it many times in the intervening 27 years. Usually with repeated viewing I notice the faults, no performance can be perfect, but I was surprised to find it was my reaction to Johnny that was different. It was the first time I could properly feel the frustration of his wife, I'd always understood but this time I felt it. This disturbed me a little, worrying about being too harsh, but I let myself off with a warning. He is a drunk, a pipe-dreamer but also a purveyor of hope… until you get to know him. Yet I am conflicted for he is a kind generous man and genuinely loved, surely the greatest of achievements? I don't know why this film in particular affects me so much. James Dunn who won an Oscar for his portrayal had problems with alcohol throughout his life and Peggy Ann Garner who played the central character was married three times and died of cancer having outlived her daughter. Such is life; to me however she will always be Johnny's daughter Francie Nolan, and as such perfect, though whether that's a healthy outlook I'm not so sure.
I met Stanley Baxter once. He asked me if the next train went to London. I said yes, it did.
I think you ought to know I'm feeling very tired. Shortly after the election I dreamt the Conservatives had formed a coalition government with the Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou - I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’ve not been sleeping well, perhaps it’s the finite variety of work that makes it so difficult to drag myself out of bed or the mind-numbing drive on the motorway; there and back again, and again, and again… a developer’s tale. This may explain the loss of my debit card to a non-functioning cash machine this morning, followed by an inability to remember my account number when phoning the bank; not so long ago I forgot my PIN number. Either I’m tired or it’s the onset of dementia. Or maybe I should go for a swim.
Despite telling myself that enough was enough now the election was over, I've had a difficult time withdrawing from the Twitterverse; it's gotten so bad I've started to use words like... Twitterverse. It's only a matter of time before I start talking about the blogosphere and with it enter a cycle of self-loathing that results in me disappearing up my own... well, you know. It's a great way to meet different people with different ideas but every so often I have to shake my head and remind myself that the inhabitants of this social networking world aren't necessarily representative of the real world. In some ways this is comforting because there are a lot of angry people out there.
Last week's 'outrage' revolved around the 55% rule proposed by the new Liberal Democrat / Conservative coalition. The proposal is that it will take a 55% vote to dissolve parliament - a power currently wielded by the Prime Minister alone. Cue much indignation from people prompted by woefully inaccurate reports (from the BBC amongst others) that this meant it would now require more than a simple majority to vote out the government. Not true of course, it still only requires a simple majority on a "no confidence" vote to force the government to resign, like it always has. The difference is that the onus would then be on parliament to form a new government without resorting to a general election.
I'll not go into the full argument because I'm spent just thinking about it, suffice (for me anyway) to say that instead of one person being able to call an election it would take the cooperation of two parties; the opposition is at no greater disadvantage than it ever was. The 55% to dissolve may seem unusual but is similar to that of a fixed term parliament, where dissolution is seen as an exceptional event rather than something that can be engineered. Take for example the Scottish parliament, which requires a 66% vote for dissolution.
Neither have I the inclination for a long and I suspect rambling discussion on the advantages of such a system, personally I have my doubts, I only mention it because fixed term parliaments were in the Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos. True, the coalition isn't a perfect representation, it can after all dissolve if both parties agree, but if Labour supporters are going to cry "constitutional scandal" whilst ignoring the plans of their own party then it's going to be an irritating five years – assuming the government, or do I mean parliament, lasts that long.
If the last few days have shown us anything it is the inevitability of the grubby behind the scene deals which are guaranteed by proportional representation and result in manifestos that no-one has voted for. The odd thing is that before all this started I was leaning toward some kind of PR so long as a way could be found to maintain the local representation afforded by our current first past the post system. But on reading various left-of-centre articles it seems the driving force wasn't so much "fairness" but a desire to stop the Conservatives by any means, irrespective of the wishes of the electorate. Now there's a surprise.
I'm only going to write this once (I'm lying, but then so is everyone else) - the only thing of which we can be certain is that the election reflected the parties we voted for, not the parties we voted against. If someone (anyone?) could please explain this to anyone (everyone?) in the Labour party I would be eternally grateful; especially that god awful Alastair Campbell who frightened free thinking individuals everywhere yesterday by seemingly appearing on every news channel simultaneously. Campbell provokes an apoplectic reaction from many who remember only too well the brutal unsubstantiated spin unleashed on those daring to hold an alternate view. On the one hand he makes me turn away in disgust, on the other I am emboldened to stand up and be counted since, and I don't want to sound melodramatic, he is the spawn of Satan… and he must be stopped.
One good thing, possibly the only good thing, about the UK election result is the genuinely new experience of feeling sorry for the Liberal Democrats. If they form a pact with the Conservative Party they will be 'damned' by many on the left who, not understanding the need for compromise in the national interest, are only interested in unity on their terms. A pact with the Labour Party isn't enough for a majority; that would require the participation of some of the national parties – the SNP and Plaid Cymru for example. But these national parties would extract a heavy price for their cooperation leaving England to bear the brunt of any public service cuts when dealing with the budget deficit.
The fairest outcome for the UK - fair being a word I heard a lot during the campaign - would be a coalition with the Conservatives - but does the Liberal Democrat party have the courage to do what is best?
I don't think I can remember an election being so exhausting. Social networking has a lot to answer for but it afforded the opportunity to see the unvarnished side of politics. It was occasionally vicious but always real; that's not to say it was true. I'm still amazed at the idiocy of many on the left who continued to plough the 'Michael Moore' approach – a charitable comparison – in slandering the Tories at every opportunity. There were some on the right too and I have to remind myself that Twitter is as much a tool for expression as it is discussion, though surely some must realise how counter-productive such malicious nonsense is? Tomorrow if the result has gone the right way I'll have to read more of it, and if it doesn't it'll be the same; funny how so many preach tolerance without any understanding.
Turn up the volume and drown them all out. My music of the moment is an album by The National - Boxer. This is an album that brings it all back and I'd not even heard of them until last week – it turns out Twitter can be a positive force too.