Posted by: davidjmarlow | 12/09/2013

Cameron’s subterranean blues, and falling in ‘love actually’ with a fluffy kitten

I suspect most of us have met women who ‘oooh’ and aaah’ with abandon at the merest glimpse of a fluffy kitten. In my experience, the fluffy kitten aficionados of the fairer sex have the sharpest and most vicious of claws, and the most powerful of canine barks AND bites. And so it came as little surprise when I stumbled by chance upon a comment from a self-titled ‘fluffykitten’ in the Guardian 6th September piece ” David Cameron, this isn’t Love Actually. Give up on the greatness guff“. With admirable restraint and a mastery of understatement, ‘Fluffykitten’ was moved to post…

” Hugh Grant as PM even after a lobotomy would without any doubt run rings round our red-faced, bullying, compassionless, educated-well-beyond-his-intelligence, over-privileged, over-fed, pathological liar of and pathetic excuse for a Prime Minister.”

This wonderful prose can stand on its own, or be used pretty regularly by avid Cameron watchers; but contextualising fluffy’s (if I can be so familiar) specific miaou is both good fun and of considerable merit.

The background to the Guardian’s piece was a purported comment by a Putin press aide on the eve of the G20 summit in St Petersburg that Britain is ‘just a small island…no one pays any attention to them.’ With a riposte in the bizarre tradition of ‘life imitating art’, Cameron chose to give his ‘Britain is a small island…’ speech (about our supposed greatness) in a direct parody of Hugh Grant’s similar intervention as British PM in the Richard Curtis 2003 film ‘Love Actually’. He even copied Hugh’s ‘joke’ about David Beckham’s right foot – substituting this with a more contemporary reference to One Direction (one of whom is gracing the Keepmoat stadium as a bit player for Doncaster Rovers).

I find ‘Love Actually’ an enjoyable, if slight, watch – so I am grateful to Cameron and fluffykitten for motivating me to revisit the piece. If our ‘pathetic excuse for a PM’ deploys it as a reference point for defining ‘Britishness’, it is worth considering what ‘Love Actually’ tells us about our identity.

The film follows the fortune of a number of Brits as they search for love in the run up to Xmas. Most of the stories are shallow if amusing. What I found interesting about these vignettes as a collective symbol of the PMs assertion of our insular greatness is that, on taking a further look at them, they tend to suggest precisely the opposite.

I’ll come back to Hugh as PM shortly. But going through the rest as far as I can remember, those who succeed in the search for any meaningful love and contentment can only do so by looking beyond these shores. Most notably, the Colin Firth character falls in love and marries his portuguese one-time housekeeper. Liam Neeson ends up with Claudia Schiffer. Liam’s son ends up with an american schoolfriend; and the US also provides the love/lust interest for a couple of young lads looking for an uncomplicated ‘good time’.

Those who constrain their love interest to these shores end up with anything but…

There are only two moments of genuinely moving drama in the film. The first is Emma Thompson’s betrayal by her husband Alan Rickman, and her tears when she opens his Xmas present for her. She expects it to be some expensive jewellery, but actually gets a Joni Mitchell CD – he has bought the jewellery for his mistress. I challenge even fluffykitten not to share Emma’s tears as she listens to ‘Both Sides Now’ contemplating her husband’s infidelity.

andrew lincoln love actuallyThe second memorable episode for me is Andrew Lincoln’s declaration of his unrequited love of Keira Knightley (who has married his best friend) with his co-opting of the famous Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues video.

Curtis’s, maybe subliminal, message is clear. Britain is only at its best (i.e. ‘great’) when we open ourselves up to an honest, almost reverential, internationalism. Firth and Neeson find sincerity and depth with their Portuguese and German soul mates. Thompson and Lincoln find solace through an iconic 1960s US protest song and a reflective classic by a Canadian songstress. If you stick to these islands, you end up betrayed, unrequited, or perhaps with a Bill Nighy groupie (but that’s another one of the stories).

And so, finally, back to our two PMs – Hugh Grant and David Cameron. What is revealing about Grant’s speech is his rationale and motivation. He  takes on the US president (a cross between a lecherous Clinton and a politically-redneck Dubya) and the UK-US (very un-)special relationship, not because of a matter of high principle – say Syrian war crimes; but because he has tried to have a grope of a woman Grant fancies – you know that girl who was married to one of the Mitchell brothers in Eastenders and who does the yoghurt ads!

The read-across to our current incumbent is complete. I should finish with something clever on the ‘subterranean blues’ of the old etonian elite currently representing the shallow insular little-Englander side of our country – but fluffykitten has put it much more succinctly than I ever could!


  1. Hello David, I am Fluffy Kitten! most flattered and love this, thanks.

  2. […] The ‘search for meaning’ has been a consistent theme of this blog – most recently in the Scotland referendum. That cynical deceit spawned the current plethora of devolution debates across the UK, and particularly in England. It raises the ‘meaning’ question of how to enable ‘good’ from a rotten contrivance by our deeply flawed “…excuse for a Prime Minister.” […]

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