They’ve made a huge mistake...

...by making Arrested Development online only.

Unlike most people blogging about Arrested Development, I won’t be offering any opinions as to whether the show’s fourth season managed to live up to the astronomical expectations built up by fans after its previous incarnation was cancelled seven years ago.

That’s because it’s currently only viewable (legally at least) on Netflix, and I really don’t fancy watching it on a tiny laptop, with lines of dialogue served like amuse-bouche in between marathon bouts of buffering.

So as not to cast aspersions on Netflix’s service, I’ll admit it’s the same across the board: my wife bought the new Batman on Tesco’s Blinkbox service last night, but after it took us three minutes to slog through the Warner Brothers logo, we gave up and resolved to postpone watching Citizen Bane until we next saw the DVD on sale.

Yes, I am unfortunate in that, for whatever reason, the electric string that carries internet TV into my house does so at a painfully slow rate (although I’ll blame Virgin Media anyway). But my options still remain limited, and streaming-only launches such as Arrested Development’s leave me lukewarm as a consequence.  

It is not just me and a tiny minority of electrically-challenged cavemen that feel slighted, either. Just look at the grumble-tsunami generated recently at the suggestion that Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One console would require a constant internet connection even to play single player games.

For those living in new premises and waiting out the epochs mandated by providers before broadband services can be activated, those living in areas with poor provision, and even those who (dare I say it) just don’t much like doing things on computers, it’s frustrating indeed when companies decide we are ready to move our entire lifestyles online.

Of course, the argument in the case of Arrested Development is slightly redundant in that, even were it being broadcast conventionally, I would have to arrange access to an American network to view it.

Nevertheless, it does strike me as unusual that, with all the fourth season’s episodes being released onto Netflix simultaneously anyway, there is no concurrent DVD release. Well, not that unusual – there are clear branding and competitive advantages to Netflix being the only place people can go for their hit of Gob, Buster and the rest.

But even so, if Netflix had made a plastic circle available with the series on it, they would have my money by now. It’s the same argument that gets trotted out every time the Death of Print discussion takes place – people like to possess objects.

Whenever I am implored by the producers of a piece of media to “own it on digital”, an internal pedant seethes; I would not own a house if it was passed to me, brick by brick, by a surly foreman in between long slurps of tea. Nor can I own a TV show when it is delivered via sporadic squirts of electrons. Extend my metaphor and prove me wrong by all means; I’ll still be a lost customer for Netflix.

Photograph: Getty Images

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.