Friday, 9 April 2010

Get Carter and Blog

I managed eight good hours of sleeps last night which I attribute to more fresh air and physical activity than usual. I still woke with a Sahara desert mouth which makes me question if the use of Flomax will be a good idea. This ask your pharmacist medicine is being advertised as helping all those, like me, who have a regular need to pee, particularly during the night. Having adjusted to a regime of a kind which gets me from bed to toilet down a couple of steps to landing and back without having to turn on lights I am hesitant about embarking upon change with unknown consequences.

I suspect this universal human inclination to mistrust change will govern the outcome of the General Election more than all the words now pouring at us from politicians.

However there is more unpredictability this time, which whatever the opinion polls are saying could produce surprises on the night. In fact the opinion polls have been too simplistic to provide a meaningful guide to changes in political positions of those contacted even in the marginal constituencies which is the only meaningful indicator. A lot of people will feel free to show their displeasure about some aspect of the government or their local politicians stances and behaviour, knowing their individual action will have no effect on the first past the post result.

Conversely in the Marginals knowing that a protest vote or abstention could lead to a disastrous individual result and an overall national change, the party faithful will work harder for the two major party candidates whether the contest is between the two or with a Liberal Democrat.

The political opinion polls cannot discriminate between those who have made up their mind and have no intention of changing between now and when they vote and those who remain genuinely undecided. There are always those who say one thing and vote differently.
Then there are the regional differences and issues. In Scotland there is likely to be more change in support for Labour rather than Conservatives because a degree of home rule has been established and the Scottish Nationalists have held power, although not overall power. This is a guess prediction on my part. Voters in Wales are likely to listen to politicians who promise greater devolution and in Northern Ireland, it will be domestic issues rather than those facing the UK economy and foreign affairs which will dominate. I hope one day Shinn Feign will take up their seats in Westminster which I believe would enhance their cause, although not immediately as nothing should be done to encourage those with extreme views unwilling to compromise from returning to violence and open defiance of legitimate government

It is on mainland England that that the outcome of the voting is more unpredictable than elsewhere, and I believe there are several factors which are likely to influence the final outcome.

How many of the those eligible to vote will do so, especially among first time votes and those between the ages of 18 and 24 who are yet to marry take on the responsibilities of a home and a family?

How many of the new arrivals to the UK over the past five years or those who have become citizens over the past five years will vote? In particular what will be the Muslim vote, especially in areas where there is a National Front or extreme right wing party standing?

What impact will the expenses scandal have on the decision to vote, especially in seats with the sitting member is standing down? Will this help the minority parties more than the major?

What impact will the ongoing War in Afghanistan have, especially as many who opposed the action of the Government will also remain hostile to a Tory management of Foreign affairs and deployment of the armed services?

What impact will the three televised debates involving the three main parties have on the electorate and will this help the Liberal Democrats more than Labour and Conservatives?

Will the personalities, backgrounds and families of the two leading contenders prove a major influence together with the traditional demarcations about class? Will promises about reforming Parliament, especially the House of Lords have any significant influence?

My belief is that all these issues will affect some people more than others and this is why all the parties will tailor what they stress according to the nation, region and local situation they are canvassing.

However I also believe that the overriding issue will be income and expenditure for individuals, families, and for jobs, with few if any caring about the actual size of the national debt or the level of government expenditure. This is where the Conservatives in my judgement made major mistakes throughout the past two years. They have attacked everything which the government has done regardless if it worked or not. They have acted more in the interests of the political party than the nation. It is evident to anyone who has paid any attention that if the Conservatives gain power they will immediately introduce savage cuts in the public sector freezing pay and the filling of vacancies and cancelling future contracts. There is a great myth about calling a cut an efficiency saving. I know, I watched politicians trying to skin what they have already been forced to strip clean time and time before over the past forty years
The Conservatives will as a direct consequence be forced to put up VAT to 25% during the life of the Parliament if they are serious about eliminating the national debt. This is because income tax has become taboo except for taking more from the very rich. They are committed to doing something about inheritance tax which has to be paid for and they have nailed their flag to the mast of not raising national insurance contributions. What this means is plain as a pikestaff to everyone More on VAT. The fat cat businessmen who are presently campaigning against the National Insurance rise have to pay the amount on they total earnings thus if they earn £2mliion a year they are required to give £1.2 million or so to the Government by way of income tax and NI contribution, leaving them only 800000 to spend.

However the majority of people who traditionally vote for the Conservatives will think this to be a good thing anyway, along with introducing greater immigration controls on anyone who does not provide cheap labour for the capitalist paymasters and unfortunately there are too many of those who do not vote conservative who will be affected by the other issues already mentioned to have the desired counterbalancing effect.

In my judgements the key in the Marginals will be the response of those dependent on state benefits-the young unemployed, the long term unemployed through disability and health, mental and physical, the young single parent, the ex prisoner, and the increasing large number of those who are into retirement without an occupational pension top up.

They should all understand that while Labour will tinker and refine, establish new controls and hurdles for entering and remaining in a state benefit, they know in reality, the application will be fair with some, albeit limited discretion. They also anticipated a Conservation. regime will be more ruthless and unbending. This is not the simple black or white as it appears. There is a puritanical and punitive streak in sections of the working class, reflected in Labour politicians, usually at a local level. Yet I have also encountered more one nation, tolerant and understanding men and women among the Conservative politicians at national and local level than I have among Labour. This has always created a political dilemma for me, siding with the underdog and understanding where are at and have been. Perversely the Conservative Party under Cameron has been driving out these High Tories because of their views on race and sexual politics and in some ways Cameron is finishing the job which Margaret Thatcher started. With any Conservative victory having been exclusively funded by Lord Ashcroft, using money rightly that of the British government, it will depend on his views on such matters as immigration, House of Lords of Reform, on taxation, public services and state benefits which will dictate the government policy. He who pays the piper calls the tune, you know!

Nor it is possible to rely on what past governments have done or not done as a basis for assessing what they will do in the future because of the different personalities and styles of the leaders and because of different circumstances. Given the predominant Presidential style of Prime Ministers over the past thirty years, with Thatcher, Blair and Brown, supported by Cameron’s campaigning style because of the weakness of the rest of his potential Cabinet who are either tarnished by the past or do not have the experience of office to put before the electorate, it does all boils down to who do you want to run the country over the next four to five years? No one should take seriously any promises made at election times.

I would like to see Brown leading a minority Labour Government requiring Liberal Democrat support to get legislation through. This would be the best of worlds and in the national interest. I also want a strong Conservative opposition to counter the swing to extreme right because if Cameron was to have a significant defeat in the polls it would end his courageous and largely successful attempt to shift the Tory from its reactionary heart into the rational middle ground and could quickly see the emergence of a strong extreme right, which is always simmering just below the surface of many voters.

I am tired now although it is early evening on Friday after a successful couple of hours working at the back. I have reorganised the decorative flagstones at the rear after cleaning spilt compost and decayed vegetation. The main work of the afternoon was taking down paintings, photographs and prints from the wood frame I created in the second year of my residence here, and then the decorative plates from the top shelf together with the six wine goblets bought at Valouris during that first summer in the South France some thirty five years ago.

I then made an initial clean although hot water and elbow grease will be necessary before repainting plus a good hour’s work on the areas where water penetration has led to some fungus. I will need to give thought tomorrow to how best to repair and seal. The final act was to sweep the floor and clear one of the two water drains. There are a few daffodils in bloom, a few Iris and large white hyacinth of the three planted, but given that another was done until January, any flowering is a bonus.

Only a few days ago, on my visit to Newcastle via Jarrow and returning via Gateshead I remarked that the infamous Trinity Centre car park in the town centre used for an important the black crime drama set on Tyneside, Get Carter, with Michael Caine, was still to be demolished to make way for a new supermarket shopping precinct. By coincidence Get Carter was being shown last night on TV. There are only under ten films if I see advertised I will abandon whatever was planned to watch, sometimes as background, usually giving undivided attention. Casablanca remains at the top, The African Queen (also Bogart), Dr Zhivago, Nashville, Quo Vadis, the Shoes of the Fisherman, the Wicker Man and Get Carter are the others which come immediately to mind.

Michael Caine again plays Alfie in terms of having sex with anyone at any time who appears available. However this time he is a man on a mission. Professional criminals, especially killers have usually developed their own code of morals which helps justify what they do. Caine plays a character without morals or loyalty. He had sex with his brother’s wife leading to lifelong doubts about who fathered his only child. His return to Tyneside is tribal. He does not believe his brother got drink on whisky and drove his car into the Tyne. He spends the first night at the home of his brother with the coffin ready to be sealed and attends the funeral. His duty completed he tries to locate Albert Swift, his brother’s best friend and a man who knows what is going on the Newcastle underworld. He makes friends with a barman at his former local played by Alun Armstrong. He encounters Ian Henry as Eric Paice a hit man working for Cyril Kinnear the Newcastle crime boss played by John Osborne who has a formal relationship with Carter’s London employer Gerald Fletcher played by Terence Rigby. When Caine ignores orders not to go to Newcastle or to return immediately after the funeral, Fletcher sends George Sewell along with Peter the Dutchman to insist on his return using local fixer Thorpe, played by Bernard Hepton to give the message.

Om his first visit to Kinnear he is befriended by the mans playgirl and is put on the scent of Cliff Brumby slot machine king along the East coast. It is Cliff who is building the restaurant at the top of the car park where he meets Carter to bribe him with money to rid his main competitors who wants to buy him out. Carter says no.
Over the course of the course of film Carter learns the truth. His or his brother’s daughter (Petra Markham) was seduced by Ian Henry with the help of his brother’s once a week partner Margaret and they use the girl in a sex film, playing a school girl seduced by an old man with the help of Kinnear’s playgirl Anna. Kinnear funded and distributed the film. It was the best friend Albert Swift who informed the brother and this led to the brother being silenced after threatening to expose what happened. Kinnear organised the death with Ian Hendry forcing the whisky down the man before pushing the car into the river.

Carter’s revenge is just as viscous. He knife’s Albert Swift to death. He knocks out Brumby, who had asked to meet the daughter after seeing the film, and then throws him over the top of car park onto the windscreen of a passing car. He locks Anna in the boot of his car which gets pushed into the river by Hendry and Sewell after a failed attempt to capture Carter on the cross Tyne Ferry, during which time Cater kills Peter the Dutchman. He then forces Margaret to take off her clothes early one morning in the grounds of Kinnear’s home, and then injects her with a fatal does of heroin. He then tips off the police about a drugs party having gone on at the house as well as posting a copy of film to the vice squad. Kinnear and those present are arrested.

Along the way the landlady he had bedded is beaten up by Fletcher’s men, as is the Alum Armstrong. In the final scene of the film he forces whisky into Ian Hendry before killing him and putting him into a coal waste disposal platform into the north sea. Just for a moment the audience and Carter believe he will get away with it and run off to South America with Glenda the live in partner of Fletcher who he says he loves. However we the audience know that this will not happen, if we have paid attention, because we heard Kinnear arrange for another hit man to deal with Carter. The last shot of the film is that of Carter’s body being washed by waves on seashore.

Britt Eckland plays one of the women, but I cannot remember which. The only person who appears to have survived all this unscathed appears to be his or his brother’s daughter Doreen. The film remain enjoyable because of the scenes from throughout the North East, the engaging music played by a jazz trio led by Roy Budd. The music is dark, stereophonic, unique and memorable. There is also an appearance of the Pelaw Juvenile Jazz band, drums and kazoos and marching. It was time for bed, then as now.

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