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Doctor Who: Resolution review – old foes and Brexit gags in spectacular satire

I have to say that I have pretty much been a lifelong Dr Who fan, though not an obsessive. I like the fact that the stories mutate much like the Doctor’s regenerations. Yes its a variable feast but it can still surprise and delight even after all this time. 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Doctor Who: Resolution review – old foes and Brexit gags in spectacular satire” was written by Mark Lawson, for The Guardian on Tuesday 1st January 2019 20.01 UTC

Having upset some traditionalists by skipping a Christmas Day special in favour of a New Year’s Day spectacular, Doctor Who’s show-runner Chris Chibnall compensated by bringing back the show’s most famous enemy.

The episode was a Dalek origin story, although a two-minute prologue seemed designed to attract the Game of Thrones fanbase too. Hairy blokes in coats that looked recently ripped from goats stood around wood fires on war-torn land. A growly voiceover explained that the ancient Britons had fought an enemy so terrible that his conquered corpse had been sliced in three, and the portions stored around the world, starting at a Pacific island and a Siberian freezescape.

I made a mental bet that the rest of the super-warrior would be found under Sheffield, which turned out to be the case. After only 11 episodes in charge, Chibnall is already growing his own in-jokes. As well as audibly coming from Yorkshire, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is returned there at every possibility. So the squid-like innards of a Dalek, usually hidden within that man-sized pepper mill on castors, were inevitably dug up by archaeologists working in the S1 postcode.

As well as making the series more Earthbound, especially around the West Riding, another mark of Chibnall’s tenancy has been topical commentary. The first season was explicitly pro-ecology and anti-Trump, and implicitly anti-Brexit.

So liberal-friendly has the show been, it was a surprise in this special that the Dalekian inner jelly didn’t turn out to be called Jacob Rees-Blob, or that when the extraterrestrial glop was enclosed in a plastic bag, it wasn’t the packaging that proved to be the biggest threat to the planet.

With 88 days to go until the UK is supposed to leave the EU, however, there was one pointed political reference. When the Doctor tried to call on the cross-border Unified Intelligence Taskforce to help save Sheffield from extermination, she learned that Britain was no longer a member after falling out with her “major international partners”. Another satirical gag was aimed at the cross-planetary force threatening to exterminate the BBC.

When the Daleks broke the internet, a mother warned her children that no entertainment was available. “Not even Netflix?” pleaded a child. But no, even that modern superpower could not defy the croaky rollers.

Presumably coincidentally, the overall theme overlapped with this year’s Queen’s Christmas message by stressing the need for national and community unity. The final scoreline was: United Sheffield 1, Daleks 0.

Another Chibnall signature was entwining the extraterrestrial with the domestic. The absence of Bradley Walsh’s doctorial sidekick Graham from one key Tardis mission was so odd that you initially assumed a filming clash with The Chase, but it transpired that the character had been grounded in order to discuss responsible parenting with guest actor Daniel Adegboyega, as the absentee dad of sidekick Ryan (Tosin Cole).

Having shown in Broadchurch an exceptional skill at writing family dynamics, Chibnall now extends this exploration into the broadest church of all – the universe. The show ended with a parent-child hug.

That interaction poignantly wasn’t open to the main character, in a performance that gave us a bonus extra day of some of the best TV acting of 2018. Between intermittent radiant smiles and sharp one-liners, Whittaker’s dominant note in the role is a sense of lonely responsibility – carrying the cares of the solar system on her shoulders – which the scripts keep underlining.

Preparing to face down the Daleks again, she is warned, “You can’t do it alone!”, but shrugs: “Always have done.” When an Earthling notes that dads are complicated, the Doctor ruefully replies: “So I’m told.” She is parentless, childless, partnerless, but everyone needs her.

This Doctor feels like the world leader we want for these times. Sadly, though, she won’t be on screen again until 2020, the producers having asked to make the next episodes slowly. Quality control is the reason for the delay, and the classiness of this first series finale gives Chibnall a high bar to beat, but ensures that viewers will want to watch him try.

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Article 50 could be reversed, government may argue in Brexit case

Interesting. So we can leave then change our minds?
This should be fun then.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Article 50 could be reversed, government may argue in Brexit case” was written by Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, for The Guardian on Saturday 12th November 2016 06.40 UTC

Government lawyers are exploring the possibility of arguing in the supreme court that the article 50 process could be reversed by parliament at any time before the UK completes its exit from the European Union.

Prominent academic experts have told the Guardian they know the government’s legal team has sounded out lawyers about the potential change of tack, which some argue would lead to a victory in the case brought by Gina Miller and other campaigners.

Prof Takis Tridimas, an expert in EU law at King’s College London, said: “I know that the issue of revocation is a live issue in terms of the supreme court hearing.” He had heard that the government had commissioned research on the subject, he said.

Earlier this month, the high court ruled that the government could only invoke article 50, which begins the EU exit process, through a parliamentary vote. The case was decided on the basis that, once article 50 was triggered it was irreversible and British citizens would inevitably lose rights granted through the 1972 European Communities Act.

Royal prerogative powers – the government’s executive authority – cannot be used to repeal rights granted by parliament, the three high court judges concluded in their ruling, which was sharply criticised by several tabloid newspapers, including the Daily Mail which described the judges as “Enemies of the People”.

If the government argued that MPs could vote to revoke article 50 during the exit negotiation period, some academics say, the outcome of the government’s appeal to the supreme court would be different, because it would imply that the sovereignty of parliament had not been removed.

Dr Eirik Bjorge, a senior law lecturer at Bristol University and an expert in EU law, said: “If the government decides to – and is allowed to – argue that the article 50 notice can be revoked, then it is all but sure to win in the supreme court. In those circumstances it cannot be said that, once the trigger has been pulled, the bullet will inexorably hit the target and expunge our rights under the European Communities Act 1972.”

   <figure class="element element-video element--supporting" data-canonical-url="https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2016/jun/29/what-is-article-50-brexit-video-explainer" data-short-url="https://gu.com/p/4mqd2" data-show-ads="true" data-video-id="2578097" data-video-name="What is article 50? – video explainer" data-video-provider="guardian.co.uk"> <video data-media-id="gu-video-577251eee4b030d83eb4b037" class="gu-video" controls="controls" poster="">  </video> <figcaption><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2016/jun/29/what-is-article-50-brexit-video-explainer">What is article 50?</a></figcaption> </figure>   <p>Tridimas is one of those who believes the article 50 process could be reversed before the UK’s exit from the EU had been completed. “My view is that it is reversible,” he said. “There’s nothing in the wording of article 50 which says that it cannot be withdrawn. The Vienna convention on the law of treaties says that they can be reversed unless they state otherwise. The point of no return is two years after notification has been given [to the EU].”</p> <p>Prof Paul Craig, an Oxford University expert on both EU and constitutional law, said the triggering of article 50 should be revocable by parliament. “It is a cardinal legal principle that a party is not bound by a contract or treaty until agreement has been reached,” he has argued in a blogpost. “The consequences of not being able to revoke would be particularly severe: withdrawal would have to proceed even if invocation of article 50 triggered an economic meltdown in the country.”</p> <p>However, Craig said, enabling parliament to give its approval at an early stage might have dangerous consequences for democracy later on: “There is a deeper paradox in this litigation.” <br></p> <p>He said the claimants, who he said would like Britain to remain in the EU, were “willing to risk everything for some parliamentary voice at the trigger stage”, but this could result in a decisive parliamentary vote to invoke article 50, which would be difficult to undo subsequently.</p> <p>“The government wishes to exit the EU. It conceded the article 50 point knowing that it might then lose the immediate battle, and would therefore have to seek parliamentary approval, but was confident enough that this would be forthcoming, and that thereafter the war was won, since the triggering, once done, was irrevocable.”</p> <p>The government has already submitted its initial grounds for appeal at the supreme court. The papers do not indicate any shift of emphasis so far in the way the case will be presented, although it is possible that could change before the hearing in December.</p> <p>A government spokesman said: “Our position is clear: the country voted to leave the EU and we will respect the will of the British people. The government told the high court that as a matter of firm policy, once given, the article 50 notice would not be withdrawn. Because legal proceedings are under way it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

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Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe

An interesting perspective.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe” was written by Andrew Rawnsley, for The Observer on Sunday 27th March 2016 05.04 UTC

Napoleon wanted generals who were lucky. Napoleon would have liked David Cameron. He became Tory leader when Tony Blair’s electoral magic had faded and his days were numbered. Lucky Dave then fought the 2010 election against a Labour party that had been in government for 13 years and was showing its age.

His rival for the premiership had presided over the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s and, on his own account, Gordon Brown was not a politician suited for the television age. When Mr Cameron failed to parlay those advantages into a parliamentary majority, he borrowed one from the Lib Dems, who did sterling service sustaining him for five years while destroying their electoral base in the process.

He gambled the United Kingdom with a referendum on Scottish independence. Labour did the heavy lifting to keep the UK intact and its reward was to be toxified as Tory collaborators in the eyes of many Scots. The devastation this wreaked on Labour support north of the border played to his advantage at the 2015 election by allowing the Tories to scare English voters with the thought that a Miliband government would be a marionette of the Nationalists. Lady Luck also smiled on him when the pollsters, by calling the election wrong, helped smooth his path back to No 10.

I don’t put all this down to blind chance. That would be to underestimate Mr Cameron. He would not be approaching his sixth anniversary at No 10 were he not highly skilled at exploiting the opportunities that time, chance and opponents have presented to him. Like all successful leaders, he has made the most of his good fortune.

The trouble with luck is that she eventually runs out. She seemed to be bidding farewell to this prime minister last weekend. He had been hit with the most dramatic and damaging resignation of his premiership when Iain Duncan Smith quit the cabinet in a fit of vitriolic vapours. By Monday, the budget was unravelling faster than you can say fiasco and George Osborne had gone into hiding. Mr Cameron had to face the Commons that afternoon. This should have been a horrible experience for him.

Yet still he was in luck. Good fortune smiled on him in the bearded guise of his main inquisitor. His prayers for relief had been granted by St Jeremy, the patron saint of prime ministers in peril. Presented with a priceless opportunity to skewer the prime minister and take apart his claims to lead a one-nation government, Mr Corbyn decided the most effective approach was not to mention the self-defenestration of IDS and his excoriating attack on the cabinet which he had just left.

The Labour leader did not, as some have had it, kick the ball over the bar. He didn’t even try to connect his foot with the ball. I am still trying to fathom why not. Had no one told him that a significant element of the job description of leader of the opposition is to, well, to oppose? Was he too preoccupied drawing up lists of suspected traitors among Labour MPs to prepare for this important engagement at the dispatch box? Was he too busy tending to his allotment and nurturing his marrows to have watched any news? Maybe I am over-thinking this. Maybe he is just hopeless.

If that performance had Labour people looking on in stunned disbelief, there was worse to come two days later at prime minister’s questions. By then, Mr Corbyn had managed to find out that a member of the cabinet had resigned. But it was too late. Bringing it up 4 8 hours on only served to remind everyone that he had failed to stick the ball in the net two days earlier. On top of which, someone on his team carelessly lost a list which divided Labour MPs into five categories of loyalty and opposition to the great helmsman of Islington. The list fell ino enemy hands. So we all now know that his chief whip is designated “hostile” and so is Labour’s candidate to be mayor of London. “Core group negative” includes Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson, the leader of the Labour In campaign.

The Tory leader used the exposure of the list to crush the man opposite. “I thought I had problems,” he jeered after saying they could put him down as “core support” for Mr Corbyn remaining as Labour leader. A half hour that ought to have been torture for the prime minister turned into a humiliation for his opponent.

The most devoted of Mr Corbyn’s followers will say that this mockery shows that the Tories are frightened of the Labour leader. Let me try to break this as gently as I can. The Tories really, really are not scared of Mr Corbyn. Most Tories are more likely to lose sleep worrying about whether they put out the cat than they are about the Labour leader. For reasons I will describe in a moment, the Conservatives would be better served, and so would the country, if they were a bit more frightened of Labour. The other thing people will say is that parliamentary knockabout excites only people who live in the “Westminster bubble”. No one “in the real world” cares about this meaningless theatre.

I agree that it is theatre, but it is far from meaningless. Parliament still matters for holding the prime minister to account. It matters more under this prime minister because he rarely deigns to grant substantial interviews with heavyweight media interrogators and only holds news conferences when he has absolutely no choice. The prospect of being tested by the leader of the opposition should, at the very least, make a prime minister nervous. It should keep him on his toes. Since he started facing Mr Corbyn, Mr Cameron clearly finds PMQs so effortless that the ease with which he cruises through them must embarrass even him. It also matters because how the party leaders perform in the Commons influences how the media rate and report on them and that plays its role in shaping public perceptions. It also has a significant impact on the morale of their parliamentary troops. At the end of that PMQs, you didn’t need any lists to tell you what Labour MPs thought about Jeremy Corbyn. It was written on their funereal faces. An encounter which should have united them in exploiting the government’s divisions and disarray turned into an occasion in which the Tories roared on their man as he ridiculed the Labour leader.

My first column of this year remarked that it is highly unusual for both major parties to be doing the splits at the same time. As this year grows older, things are getting even stranger. We now have a feedback loop in which the divisions in the Labour party feed those among the Tories and vice versa. Whatever their manifold and manifest differences, one thought unites nearly all Conservatives – that the next election is as good as won for them. This is encouraging Tories to think that they can behave however they like without fear of punishment at the ballot box.

The empty space where an effective opposition ought to be is an incitement for the government to be complacent, cocky and slapdash. That arrogance has consequences, as we saw with the budget. At the same time, absent an opposition that they fear, Tory discipline is breaking down. The prime minister’s internal opponents are emboldened to be more aggressive in their rebellions against the Tory leader. The language exchanged about Europe becomes more poisonous. It lessens the chances of putting the Conservative party back together again on the other side of the referendum.

In normal times, we’d expect this to have a positive effect on the opposition. The spectacle of Tories tearing into each other like a feral bunch of ferrets ought to be uniting Labour in a conviction that the next election is winnable for them. In these extraordinary times, Tory division has the opposite effect. It is not bringing Labour together; it is amplifying Labour’s internal turbulence. Labour MPs see a Tory party which is bitterly split and despair that their own leadership seems utterly incapable of profiting from the opportunity that it ought to present to them.

A few Labour MPs have broken cover and openly called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Many more talk privately of an attempt to oust him once the EU referendum is over. Whether this will come to anything, we will see, but I would caution Mr Corbyn not to place too much reliance on that list as a guide to the mood in his parliamentary party. It has Labour MPs down as neutral or friendly who are, to my knowledge, hostiles.

While talk of toppling their leader grows on the Labour side, regicide is also on the minds of a significant number of Tory MPs. Among them, there is much chatter that David Cameron will face a leadership challenge after the referendum, whether he wins it or not. It is possible that, before year’s end, there will have been attempts from within both the major parties to oust their leaders. What would once have seemed wildly improbable is now quite easily conceivable. The terra becomes yet more incognita.

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