Toryboy (with Q and A), Greenwich Picturehouse 15 March

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This documentary followed film-maker  John Walsh as he abandoned his lifelong Labour affiliations after working on a Gordon Brown vanity project, then went through the new open selection process for Conservative candidates and stood in Middlesbrough and tried to confront Stuart Bell the sitting and inactive Labour MP.  There were also some animated sections explaining how UK elections work, depicting Stuart Bell reading from a self-penned pornographic novel, and we saw how John and his sidekick Other John came to terms with Middlesbrough and being Tories.

I think the film just about stayed away from bash-the-working-class deprivation tourism, but it’s not clear that anyone would have gained any impression of Middlesbrough other than Featureless Northern Shithole.  It’s also not clear that it had any argument put forward other than ‘Desperately Seeking Stuart’.  John Walsh was certainly extremely engaging–both in person and on film–and you could see why selection panels would have gone for him.

It was also hard to see what kind of a Tory he was in the post-film discussion.  He said quite rightly that what Middlesbrough needed was a good Labour MP.  When asked whether there were not equally useless Tory MPs in the shires, he answered that there if people had problems they could afford to hire someone to sort it out, while in Middlesbrough they couldn’t now that Government grants had been whittled away and so they relied upon their MP doing things for them.  So Middlesbrough needs an active Labour MP and  lots of public money–nothing to argue about there.

Actually I don’t think anyone had a kind word to say Middlesbrough or its inhabitants during the course of the film, unless 15 seconds of Chris Rea were meant to provide the positive side…

People in the audience were quite shocked to learn that John Walsh had spent £ 15,000 of his own money seeking election, and it would have been £ 30,000 if it had been a winnable seat.  I don’t remember him having a convincing answer to how normal people could become Conservative MPs, or indeed how he was doing anything other than aping Michael Moore.

You can buy a download of the film for iTunes here.

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