Re:View – ‘Toryboy’

The Arts

It’s important not to be misled by the title of this terrific documentary, which seems to promise an attack on Conservatives but is in fact an evenly balanced study of voter apathy.

John Walsh is a London film-maker and lifelong Labour supporter who became disillusioned with Gordon Brown’s party, and decided, against all his instincts, to stand as a Conservative. He was immediately elected as a candidate in Middlesbrough, a depressed and rundown Northern former steel town. His opponent is the invisible Labour incumbent Sir Stuart Bell, a spectacularly useless MP who has been elected seven times in a row without even being seen in the constituency. Bell has not run public surgeries for over fifteen years, and employed his crooked son, who ended up in prison for thieving.

Walsh finds himself up against a level of disinterest so high that the people of Middlesbrough appear to have been drugged. Those who do vote will only vote Labour because their families have always done so, even though their elected MP hides out in Paris, won’t answer the phone, didn’t bother to turn up when the mills shut down and didn’t respond for Middlesbrough after it was described as the worst place in Britain.

Walsh is naive, not a polished speaker (his megaphone cry of ‘Vote Conservative or I’ll kill you’ reflects his growing frustration) and he’s feeling his way through a process that’s less ‘West Wing’ and more ‘Keeping Up Appearances’, but he’s also up against an incompetent central office, a deeply slimy opponent and the Royal Mail, who fail to deliver his campaign leaflets.

The tension rises as Walsh hunts out his opposite number Bell, who can’t even be arsed to turn up for the candidates’ debate. The outcome is, as you’d expect, deeply depressing.

This is the kind of small, committed documentary that gets overlooked when awards come around, but is a snapshot of our country’s political apathy in microcosm. It’s heartbreaking to see people blindly supporting their own demise as if they’re playing some kind of long game they’ll probably never live to see the outcome of. Oh, and it’s also very funny.

6 comments on “Re:View – ‘Toryboy’”

  1. Gretta says:

    Very recent general elections here resulted in a 2/3-3/4 voter turn-out, which in turn has lead to the Greens and the Maori Party asking for an investigation as to why the turnout was so low. A few months back there was a by-election where the turn-out was only about 30%. When I shared my horror of this, my American friends popped up and said ‘30% would be a great turn-out in some places in the US.’ It took me a little while to realise they were being serious.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, they were and we have just had local elections in which 24% turnout was not unusual. Our little corner of Facebook was littered with cries of “I’ve voted, have you!?” but all to no avail. There weren’t even as many signs out as usual and there wasn’t much choice in our vote for mayor since we’d never heard of the only other candidate.

  3. Pretty recently available typical elections listed here lead to your 2/3-3/4 voter turn-out, that might includes bring on a Vegetation as well as Maori Social gathering demanding a study as to why a turnout appeared to be hence very low. A couple of months backside there seems to be your by-election where turn-out appeared to be approximately 25%. Whenever i embraced this scary of your, this US associates jumped right up plus reported ’25% has got to be superb turn-out occasionally in the states. ’ Them had people a little while so that you can comprehend these folks remaining really serious.

  4. Manxstar says:

    Don’t patronise us. Here in Middlesbrough we were electing a government, not just an MP. Are you seriously suggesting we should have signed our own death warrants by voting Tory?

  5. admin says:

    If you’ve seen the film (which I hope you have as it concerns your lives) you’ll know this had nothing to do at all with voting Tory or Labour, but about blindly following family habits when somebody – ANYBODY – should have run this sleazy do-nothing local MP and his thug son out of town, preferably with burning torches.

    The guy and his gangster pals has pissed away your hard-earned tax money on his French holidays, and instead of putting up your own candidate, SDP, Tory or Monster-Raving Loony party – you RE-ELECTED him! Words fail me.

  6. Brandon says:

    Walsh is the first emergence of a British Michael Moore. I’m not a fan of either party, but you are spot on about the voter apathy being a suicide note the people of Middlesbrough are writing for future generations. This comment from Manxstar really proves your point about the naiveity of locals, scared of change/outsiiders. Well done to you Chris for keepIng the story of this film alive. I saw it on DVD as the few cinema screenings there were had Q&As and were all sold out. That says it all. Vote Toryboy!

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