Can anything derail The King’s Speech?

On Baftas weekend, a look at this year’s blockbuster British film.

Last year's Baftas set the tone for the awards season, with five winners of top-tier awards – The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow, Christoph Waltz, Mo'Nique and Up – going on to glory at the Oscars.

This year, of course, the chatter is all about The King's Speech, which has 14 nominations. But, as the Independent's behind-the-scenes guide to the awards notes, it could suffer from having its votes split betwen the Best Film and Outstanding British Film awards.

The Independent article also offers an interesting analysis of why so few films get all the attention. (This year, it's The King's Speech, Black Swan, True Grit and The Social Network.) Although 207 films were entered in the various categories for the Baftas, the average number seen by the academy's 13,000 voters was 37. Understandably, most people don't have time to watch 400-plus hours of movies in the run-up to the awards, and so the films with the biggest marketing budgets and a critical head of steam benefit from their high visibility.

This year, that means that the top gongs at the Golden Globes were split between The King's Speech and The Social Network; the latter did better at the London Critics' Choice awards, beating the British film four to one. The Screen Actors Guild, meanwhile, gave Colin Firth and his film an award each, with Natalie Portman taking Best Actress and The Fighter the other two movie awards.

The other obvious trend during awards season is the bias against "commercial" films. As the Telegraph notes here, the Harry Potter franchise has had 23 Bafta nominations over the years but only one win (for production design). Similarly, last year's Oscar votes went to the determinedly small-scale Hurt Locker, rather than Avatar. (Say what you like about the blue aliens and the plot that was oddly reminiscent of Pocahontas, but James Cameron did invent a whole new type of film-making . . . )

Not that the Baftas are averse to films that happen to rake in the cash. The King's Speech is about to pass $200m worldwide at the box office, from a reported budget of £15m. (By comparison, The Social Network, with the advantages of a well-known writer and director and a subject that everyone has an opinion on, has taken $220m.)

The Guardian's Andrew Pulver and Xan Brooks report that the success of The King's Speech gives hope to the "lost middle" of the world film industry – movies that are neither giant money-hoovers nor tiny indie flicks. If so, a Bafta triumph would be a huge boost for a sector shaken by the scrapping of the UK Film Council.

The full list of Bafta nominees is here.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.