Director's Diary

An Honest MP in the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire?

I thought I’d break from my documentary tradition of picking on Labour MP John Healey for this film.

In Get Over It, we filmed him spontaneously signing my petition for a cinema in his Rotherham constituency, just one of a thousand signatures in just a couple of weeks before I was turned away by Odeon, and instead helped establish a community cinema just along the road from his constituency office in Wath upon Dearne.

In Escape from Doncatraz, I grilled him about New Labour’s attack on Iraq and the connection between that and an increase in refugee applications, at a time when the party was torn between its socialist principles and nationwide accusations of “opening the floodgates,” making it very difficult for him to answer my questions.

This time, I thought I’d go right into the heart of The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire: If you recall the Thatcher-era TV show A Very British Coup, you’ll know that the parliamentary seat for Sheffield Central was held by party leader Harry Perkins, a popular socialist who must face the dark reality of the British political system.

Of course, the harsh reality is that the first-past-the-post electoral system leaves little chance for a fully democratic process, while the mainstream media have set the agenda so that non-issues like welfare spending and immigration are actually, remarkably, considered “concerns” by the majority of the voting public.

With that in mind, it was certainly straying from the script for Ed Miliband to become Labour leader. The flag-bearer for New Labour, Tony Blair, had already hand-picked the “heir to Blair” and his name was David. Miliband, that is. One of the first politicians to back Ed, the more progressive candidate, was none other than newly-elected MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield.

So today, I visited Paul Blomfield at his humble office not far from his beloved Bramall Lane, and brought up the New Labour project, to look at where it failed, what the difference is between Labour and the Tories, and how it feels to be MP in the “People’s Republic of South Yorkshire” – as Irvine Patnick called it after being the last Tory MP in the area, surrounded by socialists.

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With the Battle of Orgreave and the Hillsborough Disaster covered in the film as well, it’s inevitable that we talked about the Tory agenda in the area, and what we have to fear from the prospect of their victory at the next general election.

Although the film does not endorse any one political party, Paul Blomfield was an interesting interview, and came across as one of the few really progressive MPs promoting democratic socialism, which means the spirit of ol’ Harry Perkins clearly lives on.

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