Why Europe’s shift to the right may cost the Tories

On her recent visit to Washington, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves presented herself as the perfect candidate to be the next chancellor in the modern mould: an environmentalist, interventionist and protectionist similar to Joe Biden and Olaf Scholz. Reeves champions what she calls ‘securonomics’, a sister of Bidenomonics with an environmental twist. But the trouble with Reeves’s approach is that just as she makes plain her direction, much of Europe is heading the other way. Take Finland. Until recently the country was led by Sanna Marin who, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, became the face of the international centre-left. Marin was voted out in April’s general election and as of this

I may never recover: Sisu reviewed

When I went into the Sisu screening I knew only that it was a Finnish film, so was expecting an arthouse drama, maybe featuring bearded men in nice fisherman knits and herrings being salted, rather than this hyper-violent, viciously bloody exploitation flick from which I may never recover. It is a swift 90 minutes and will please those who desire this experience, and it is clever in its simplistic, empty way. But if it’s not your genre, you will almost certainly find yourself praying: ‘Dear God, I’ll never tell another lie if you just make this end.’ The film begins with a title card saying that ‘Sisu’ is a Finnish

What’s Helsinki’s nightlife like?

Finnish lines Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she had taken a test for illegal drugs after being filmed at a party at which some people were shouting ‘flour’ – Finnish slang for cocaine. What’s Helsinki’s nightlife like? — The Hostelworld website identifies a Helsinki venue, Kaiku, as one of its 20 top clubs in the world. — names Helsinki as the second best city in the world for socialising. — However, rated Helsinki as the 16th most expensive city in the world in which to buy a pint, although it did come out cheaper than Oslo and Stockholm. Screen out Cineworld was reported to be on the

Sanna Marin and the rise of fake controversy

With an honourable exception for the Beastie Boys, I can’t stand the use of ‘party’ as a verb. It immediately reminds me of ‘Party, party, party, oikies!’ – the war cry of the drunken potbellied Afrikaaners who once roared in their bakkiesonto our Namibian campsite at about 2 a.m. and proceeded to be, well, Boerish. It’s a usage that smacks of creepy men in movies inviting young women into their cars, or footballers in search of questionably consensual sex. It has passed from a frat-boy Americanism into a tabloid euphemism for illegal drug use and sexual sleaze without ever quite passing through a phase of meaning, actually, having a party.

Nato is no longer ‘brain dead’

Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join Nato today. Them joining the alliance will bolster Nato’s presence in the Baltic and make it easier to defend Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The alliance now has a clear, strategic purpose again Turkey had objected to the two countries joining, regarding them as too soft on Kurdish separatists, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees as ‘terrorists’ threatening his country. But having received some concessions on that front, Erdogan has dropped his objections. There’s also speculation that the US will sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey in exchange for its cooperation on this matter. It is remarkable that Sweden, a country which has so

Is this the birth of a Nordic Nato?

In the past six weeks, Finland and Sweden’s security policies have changed more than they have over the past six decades. In much of what they do, the two countries come as a couple and were militarily neutral during the Cold War – but their defence cooperation has only deepened since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. Now, the two are about to break with their long history of non-alignment. Their applications to join Nato are likely to come in the next two months. At a press conference in Stockholm this week, the prime ministers of the two countries – Sanna Marin and Magdalena Andersson – came close to admitting they want

Will put you in mind of Lost in Translation: Compartment No. 6 reviewed

Compartment No. 6 is set aboard a long train journey across Russia, a country we don’t hear much of these days (I wish!). It has won multiple awards, including the Grand Prix at Cannes, and is by the Finnish filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen, who has said of his films: ‘Basically, they are boring.’ It’s true, this is not eventful, even if the restaurant car does run out of hot food at one point. This is a character-as-plot film and if that isn’t your style it is going to feel like a very long journey indeed. The trip is from Moscow to Murmansk, which is way up north. It is days long

If you didn’t love Jansson already, you will now: Tove reviewed

Tove is a biopic of the Finnish artist Tove Jansson who, most famously, created the Moomins, that gentle family of hippo-like trolls with the soft, velvety bellies which I remember reading about as a child when I was laid up with chicken pox. (The collector’s editions published by Sort of Books have restored the original artwork, are dazzling, and will take you right back, minus all that Calamine.) Biopics of artists are often more miss than hit. I’m still recovering from that Jackson Pollock one where he completes his first action painting and is told: ‘You’ve done it, Jackson! You’ve cracked it wide open!’ But this avoids the usual pitfalls,

Euro 2020: Finland and Russia’s less than epic rematch

Finland: 0 Russia: 1 (Zhukov, 45) Following an earlier, epic, encounter between these two plucky teams, Adolf Hitler commented: ‘We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.’ He had noted the parlous performance of the Red Army during the initial stages of the 1939 Winter War and thus convinced himself that invading the USSR would be a doddle.  We have those Finns to thank, then, sort of, for the Allies’ eventual victory. Famously, they routed the Red Army because they had the sense to wear white gear in the snow, while the commies wore green. It was a game of two halves, mind, and

How border closures halted Covid-19 in Finland

Back in April, I listed five measures governments can take to prevent the spread of Covid in order to prevent any need for economically devastating lockdowns, drawing on the experience of some Asian nations. Four of the measures (test and trace, healthcare capacity, facemasks, and good communication about distancing) have all proven their worth, but the fifth may be the most important of all: imposing border checks in time. That’s exactly what Taiwan did well. It has managed to keep its number of Covid cases down to just 842, with a population of nearly 24 million, by halting flights from China early on and implementing strict quarantine rules. In Europe,

John DeLorean: man of mystery – and full-blown psychopath

DeLorean: Back from the Future was one of those documentaries — for me at least — that takes a story you thought you sort of knew and makes you realise a) that you didn’t really, and b) what a great story it is. The programme began, as it was pretty much duty-bound to, with a clip of Michael J. Fox and the time-travelling DeLorean car from the movie that inspired Wednesday’s means-less-the-more-you-think-about-it subtitle. A series of captions then introduced us to John DeLorean himself: a man who ‘had everything’ (cue shots of a much younger ex-model wife and some Rolexes) until he ‘risked it all’ in the mid-1970s, when he