Electoral Boogaloo

vote labour jeremy corbyn uk general election 2019 polling card ballot

I was going to have a party tonight, actually. I’d spent a while idly – well, no, I spent absolutely ages putting quite a lot of effort into coming up with party food puns, some more successful than others. Haribo-ris Johnson. Doritjo Swinson. Jeremy Corbynoffee Pie. Laura Pidcocktail Sausages. Westminstrels. Political Party Ring Biscuits. Prawn Butler. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s, depending on how the exit poll looked. John McDonald’s, for a slightly easier option.

Anyway, not doing that, mainly because I wouldn’t be able to make a very good banoffee pie. Still, when 2025 rolls around, and Prime Minister Angela Rayner is up against LOTO Rory Stewart, I will be sure to make both a flan and a stew.

I’m voting Labour, obviously. Since I’ve been eligible to vote, it’ll actually only be the second time I’ve voted for them, and the first General Election too – in 2017 I was living in what is genuinely one of the few Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginals in the country. The bar charts were right for once: Labour genuinely couldn’t win there.

This time around, though, I’m in a Labour safe seat. Which, frankly, I’m glad of: yes, technically, last go around my vote made more difference, and I really probably should’ve put at least a little bit more thought into postal voting at home to make sure the Liberal Democrat candidate definitely wins, but in 2019 I really do just want to vote Labour. I want to vote for a manifesto I believe in, rather than against one I don’t. As a choice, it ultimately hasn’t been particularly difficult – a Labour government would be genuinely transformative, and is in fact genuinely necessary. It’s not just about Prime Minister Corbyn – although he is obviously manifestly better than a cruel, venal Prime Minister Johnson. (Or, not that it’ll ever happen, Prime Minister Swinson – I’m convinced that Jo Swinson is one of the most cynical and morally vacuous politicians on the national stage at the moment. You only have to look at her handling of Phillip Lee’s defection to the Liberal Democrats to see that there is no single principle she holds, or marginalised group she claims to support, that she won’t abandon the moment it becomes politically expedient.)

No, it’s a vote for a party with sufficient political imagination and ambition to conceive of a world where better things are possible, where suffering isn’t treated as an economic necessity or intractable reality, where genuine change can happen. Of course that’s something I want to believe in, to vote for, to try and bring about.

Anyway, I’ve been looking up what I said last go around – in messages, on blogs, that sort of thing. Mostly I seemed worried. Also bemused at a Conservative-leaning friend – I know, I know, but I think she’s grown out of it now – who opted to vote Green as a protest in her Labour safe seat. No, I still don’t get it.

I am less worried now. Actually, I’m feeling unexpectedly, serenely confident. It’s based on not much at all; probably it’s just a coping device. I’m not expecting a majority – at the moment, I suppose the best we can probably hope for is a Corbyn-led coalition, but the Conservatives as the largest party. It’s not ideal. But, hey, you never know. Polling seems not to have accounted for a potential surge in youth turnout – I know, I know, but I’m hopeful all the same – and people do seem genuinely motivated. So… maybe…?

Either way, though, I am determined to be a bit more on it from now on. In fact, I finally joined the Labour party this go around. I’d always valued the fact I wasn’t a member of a particular party – my thinking, essentially, that I don’t feel any specific connection to a party, and I’d rather just vote for the most viable left-wing party wherever I ended up registered. Not anymore, though. For the moment, at least, I want to be part of something. So now I’m a member of the Labour Party.

Anyway. I haven’t actually voted yet! I’ll be off to do that in a few hours. Got my red jumper on. And my red socks. Here we go!

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Politics Index

Best of 2019 | #10 – The Good Place 4×09, “The Answer”

the good place the answer daniel schofield valeria migliassi collins ted danson william jackson harper michael chidi best of 2019 top ten review

For the most part, I actually do not particularly like The Good Place.

I often find it twee and overly saccharine; as a character drama, it rarely convinces; worst of all, it’s almost never funny. Far moreso than any television show currently airing, The Good Place makes me feel hugely out of step with both critical consensus and the zeitgeist as a whole. (Somewhat ironically, my favourite stretch of the show has been the much-derided third season. Go figure.) Every time it’s appeared on a best of the year list, I’ve been mystified – the fact it’s routinely showed up on best of the decade lists, often in the top twenty or so, is entirely baffling to me.

More than once, I’ve thought about trying to articulate the things that bother me about The Good Place – a few weeks ago I almost wrote a piece I was going to title “The Bad Place” – but it’s never really felt worth it. Unlike, say, Game of Thrones, this critical darling – however much I don’t connect with it – never really felt like it warrants a concerted attempt at a takedown. (For now, anyway; I am quite keenly of the belief that The Good Place is going to age much more poorly than its direct predecessor, Parks and Recreation.) Besides, even if I’m not convinced it’s that good, I don’t think it’s actively bad per se – I mean, if nothing else, I’m still watching it each week. I do enjoy it, however qualified and caveated that enjoyment is.

The Answer – one of the last ever episodes of The Good Place, given it’s coming to a final conclusion at the beginning of next year – is, maybe in light of that, an odd choice for this list. Neatly enough, though, this feels like not only the best episode of The Good Place’s fourth season, but also a fairly neat articulation of all the things I genuinely do love and enjoy in a show I’ve often struggled to get to grips with.

It’s a midseason finale, presented essentially as a clip-show – the sort of cheap contrivance sitcoms use to save money – though here that structural conceit is instead styled around largely new footage. (Clever, but not innovative – the gold standard for this device is surely, as with most sitcoms, Community.) Still, it’s a neat way to reflect on Chidi’s life: taking in all his worries, anxieties and doubts in their entirety. And, much more importantly, it’s a neat way to finally recentre Chidi within the narrative, after side-lining him for too much of this season.

Which is, of course, illustrative of The Good Place’s chief strength, and the reason it’s never quite lost me: that cast. Not only the most attractive ensemble this side of Riverdale, the cast of The Good Place are surely amongst television’s most charming. Granted, I’ve never been especially convinced by the show’s comedy credentials – it’s the only show on television I could imagine making a 30-50 feral hogs joke, and I do mean that as a criticism – so for me the appeal has always been primarily in terms of those performances. You could credibly highlight the performance of any of the regulars – they’re all that good, all in their own way the ‘best’ of the cast. It’s better to just appreciate their chemistry as an ensemble, though, because singling any of them out misses the point – it’s not how good they are, it’s how good they are together.

The Answer feels like the first episode this season that really gets this – or the one that comes closest to it, at least. Finally, Chidi – or, actually, more accurately, finally William Jackson Harper, the best actor in the cast – is actually emotionally and narratively present, rather than just flitting about the edges. Yes, it’s a showcase episode for him in much the same way Janet(s) was for D’Arcy Carden, the best actor in the cast (an excellent episode, even if it too wasn’t actually as innovative as it’s often credited as).  As a Chidi character study, it’s often poignant, with a sweet sort of levity to it as well, the sort of thing that’d stand out in any show.

But it also, at last, reunites him properly with the other characters, learning something from each: the value of spontaneity from Jason (Manny Jacinto, the best actor in the cast) the significance of failure from Tahani (Jameela Jamil, a better actor than an activist); his first kiss with Eleanor (Kristen Bell, also the best actor in the cast), a neat reminder that everyone who dislikes that relationship is wrong; that final, devastating moment with Ted Danson, the best actor in the cast. Sure, the whistle-stop tour version doesn’t quite emphasise the cast as an ensemble, but it does let them all sparkle. The intimate, thoughtful introspection of The Answer – setting aside the afterlife-lore that’s become as complex as it is twee in favour of something grounded in real emotions – is easy to point to as a high-water mark for the show.

And that’s it from The Good Place, until the (probably, in one last bit of structural playfulness, in real time) two-part finale next month, with the actual answer – even if that’s no answer at all. For a show that I’ve often found frustrating, and don’t think quite deserves the reputation it’s gained – there are two, arguably three, further entries on this list that do a better job of interrogating morality under late-stage capitalism and what we owe to each other – this was a neat reminder of all the ways in which The Good Place actually is, well, good, even when the show itself has recently lost sight of that a little.

So that’s why it’s snuck into tenth place on this list – because I feel like I’ve finally got a little closer to the answer myself.

Check back tomorrow to find out my ninth favourite television show of the year! Well, I say that – I am actually already a little behind where I wanted to be with this, and it’s the election tonight, so that’s obviously going to take up a chunk of time. But I am determined to keep as close to schedule as I can!

Click here to find the rest of the Best of 2019 list – or, click here to filter by television shows and here to filter by television episodes

Facebook | Twitter | Blog Index | Television Index