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ToryBoy The Movie is a 2011 gonzo-style British documentary feature film directed by and starring John Walsh. It follows Walsh as he becomes a political candidate for the Conservative Party in the north east England constituency of Middlesbrough.

ToryBoy The Movie
ToryBoy The Movie official release poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Walsh
Produced byRoger James
Distributed byFremantle Media
3DD Productions
Release date
  • 11 May 2011 (2011-05-11)
Running time
100 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom



A staunch Labour Party supporter all his life, Walsh had become disillusioned with the party. When David Cameron opened the door to allow non party members to run for the Conservative candidacy ahead of the 2010 general election,[1] John Walsh decided to do just that and document his experiences on camera.[2] He came third in the election; Stuart Bell remained the MP of Middlesbrough,[3] but increased the Conservative vote to its highest in thirty years with an 18.8% share of the vote.[4]

The filmEdit

The film was based on the 72 hours of footage made by Walsh on the campaign trail.[2] It made the case that Labour's Stuart Bell should not be the Member of Parliament (MP) of Middlesbrough, as Bell was absent so often from Middlesbrough that he is an unsuitable candidate. Walsh showed the finished film in a free showing a year after the election.[5] On the Who Can I vote For? website a humorous warning is given, "this film contains strong language throughout and scenes of politicians that some viewers may find offensive".[6]

Walsh paid homage to the great title designer Saul Bass and recreated his angular animations to create a fresh approach to telling this story. “This map cap comedy best captured the visual style and the transition of the film was making from a serious expose of the political shenanigans in the North East, to a political satire.”[7]

Walsh said that he took a risk making this film in an article with Digital Journal "For something like this, an investigative film, there will be some who think that I have exceeded my brief as a candidate. I would say that it is right to look at injustice and in this country people have died so that we may all have the right to question those in authority and those in public office."[8]

The Northern Echo discussed the possibility of the film forcing a by-election as a result of its findings. Walsh said he had been serious about becoming an MP and had self-funded his £15,000 election campaign. "When I got to Middlesbrough I found a town that politics had forgotten and a MP who was there in name only, a truly depressingly affair.”[9]

Critical receptionEdit

The film received positive reviews, with a high score of 8.8 on IMDb.[10]

In 2011 the film was nominated for the Grierson Awards for "Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme".[11][12] The Radio Times film review by Jeremy Aspinall on the film's re-release gave it four stars, and called it "A revealing and droll fly-on-the-wall documentary. It's a fascinating odyssey illuminated by pithily informative animations. Who would have thought politics could be so entertaining?".[13]

Details of the film's award nomination was covered by the Middlesbrough Teesside Gazette.[14]

The Irish Post Walsh’s “documentary about a rookie Conservative candidate aimed to provide an insight into British political culture, and in doing so uncovered the next big political scandal.” [15]

According to Richard Moss, the BBC's North East & Cumbria Political editor, "some silliness aside, it is a thought-provoking insight into the way our political system works or doesn't work on the ground... But I'm not sure he quite nails down a case against Stuart Bell.. And John Walsh doesn't help his case with some of the content in the film."[3] Liberal Democrat commentator Mark Pack wrote on his blog that "John Walsh portrays life on the campaign trail as it really is. It is a hugely enjoyable documentary, which mixes humour, drama and education".[16] A screening at the Frontline Club took place on 22 November 2011 followed by a Q&A with John Walsh.[17] Samuel Scott from review site DVD Compare gave it a B- and wrote "I found this documentary very intriguing and very honest. John is a very likable character, and I wouldn't hesitate in voting for someone with so much passion for a second."[18] Doc Geeks commented that the film was "a blunt exposé combined with a tinge of lightheartedness. Satirical animation cleverly frames Britain in its political context".[19] On his blog, novelist Christopher Fowler wrote that ToryBoy The Movie was "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."[20]

When the DVD was released Ben Kamal interviewed Walsh for the Aberdeen student newspaper Gaudie, and wrote "I was prepared for some careful sneering in the interview and subsequent write-up. This did not (and could not) transpire: firstly because of the film, which comes across as Frank Capra scripted by Evelyn Waugh; secondly because of Walsh himself. He is warm, patient and generous, to my own shock I liked him and if you watch the film you'll like him too."[21] "Dave", a reviewer at the website 60 Minutes With, wrote "ToryBoy the Movie is a fantastic documentary and one in which you will be cheering for John despite what political party you follow. His journey from his Labour roots through to a Tory campaign is superbly documented and will have you both laughing and feeling his frustration in equal measure."[22]

The Northern Echo article by Lucy Richardson she reveals that “at the pre-election hustings, where Sir Stuart does not make an appearance, he tells voters that he will have Sir Stuart jailed before Christmas if elected.”[23]

Two years after the film release, Lord Michael Ashcroft wrote on his blog: "I’d defy anyone with an interest in politics not to enjoy this film".[24] He went on to say that "despite the zany tone of the film, it also has a hard-hitting message which questions whether one MP in his safe seat, and perhaps other MPs in similar situations, do enough to justify their salary and expenses."[25]

In April 2017 the political Guido Fawkes website also known as Order Order, ran an article entitled “Inside The Greatest Election Scandal of All Time” says that Walsh “lifted the lid on the real-life world of political campaigning.”[26]

Vice Mangazine’s Joe Zadeh’s article suggests a link between how Labour in Middlesbrough lost the votes of blue collar people and its shift to the right. He cited ToryBoy The Movie as an example of this shift.[27]

In a podcast interview with BritFlicks Walsh talks about ToryBoy and the difficulties in making the film and also his plans to develop lost Ray Harryhausen film projects.[28][29]


Although not explicitly inspired by the film, Neil Macfarlane, in a report for local newspaperTeesside Gazette, asked "Are Teessiders getting enough from Sir Stuart Bell?" when he failed to answer over 100 telephone calls made to his constituency office.[30] The Gazette story was picked up by national newspapers. The Independent asked "is Sir Stuart Bell Britain's laziest MP?"[31][32] The Guardian fact-checked the "laziest MP" claim and found that the laziest MP was Roger Godsiff but the report did confirm that Sir Stuart Bell did not maintain the pivotal role for a MP, an office in their constituency.[33] The Labour Party said it would be totally unacceptable if constituents had been unable to contact their MP. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party expect the highest standards from Labour representatives. It is totally unacceptable if the public cannot reach their MP.[32][34]

Sir Stuart Bell did have a right of reply, which appeared in the short film ToryBoy The AfterMath.[35]

The film's re-release in 2015 caused more controversy after a showing in Middlesbrough by Teesside University was cancelled to avoid breaching union rules on political neutrality in the run up to the general election. According to Walsh's interview with Teesside Gazette[36] the film was booked in by the Student Union, but at the last minute the screening was halted.[37][38] "I think it's a shame really," said Walsh. "It's a unique opportunity for students to hold me to account."[36] Teesside Free Education Campaign activists, writing on the website of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, mentioned the union cancelling the film: "A few weeks after the student elections, a planned screening of the film Tory Boy, made by the 2010 Tory candidate for Middlesbrough about his experience standing in the area was cancelled, despite having been screened at schools and colleges up and down the country without controversy." [39] The North Crowd featured an interview with John Walsh website where they showed the actual print work that was created by the Student Union.[40]


The film received a re-release in cinemas in 2015 in the lead up to the 2015 general election.[41][42]

Community cinema screenings were given and included a Q&A from Walsh.[43]

After a digital download version of the film was made available during the 2017 general election.[44]


The film used older film ques from films across the last six decades to create a unique soundscape. Radio Times described it as "a fascinating odyssey illuminated by pithily informative animations and music from films like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Midnight Cowboy.".[45]

Home mediaEdit

ToryBoy The Movie was issued for the first time on DVD 1 October 2012 by FremantleMedia. It included extras on the making of the film and gave Stuart Bell a right of reply, where he denied the allegations levelled against him in the film.[46] The film was also made available as a high definition download on Vimeo [47]


  1. ^ Chris Irvine (24 May 2009). "David Cameron to 'open up candidate list to everyone'".
  2. ^ a b John Walsh interview, Young People In Politics, n.d.
  3. ^ a b "Tory Boy takes on Sir Stuart Bell in documentary film". BBC News.
  4. ^ "BBC News - Election 2010 - Constituency - Middlesbrough".
  5. ^ gazettelive Administrator (5 August 2011). "Toryboy The Movie documentary up for award". gazettelive.
  6. ^ "John Walsh for Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough in the 2010 General Election". Who Can I Vote For? by Democracy Club.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Jeremy Aspinall. "Toryboy the Movie". RadioTimes.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "ToryBoy: John Walsh portrays life on the campaign trail as it really is". 1 March 2012.
  17. ^ "ToryBoy visits the Frontline Club".
  18. ^ DVD Compare 14 April 2015
  19. ^ Doc Geeks November 14th, 2011
  20. ^ "Re:View – 'Toryboy' - Christopher Fowler".
  21. ^ [1] 25 February 2014, p.6
  22. ^ 60 Minutes With, 15 November 2016
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Lord Ashcroft: Two years on, a controversial film gives a witty, thought-provoking snapshot into the general election". Conservative Home.
  25. ^ "Two years on, a controversial film gives a witty, thought-provoking snapshot into the general election - Lord Ashcroft". 6 May 2012.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ gazettelive Administrator (6 September 2011). "Are Teessiders getting enough from Sir Stuart Bell?". gazettelive.
  31. ^ Jonathan Brown No surgeries for 14 years - is Sir Stuart Bell Britain's laziest MP?, Independent, 7 September 2011
  32. ^ a b Richard Moss Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell fights laziest MP tag, BBC, 9 September 2011
  33. ^ Polly Curtis (8 September 2011). "Reality check: Who are Britain's laziest parliamentarians?". the Guardian.: "Bell has been an MP for nearly 30 years and has had a distinguished career in parliament as a frontbench spokesman on trade and industry in opposition and the spokesman for the Church of England in the House of Commons and member of the House of Commons commission until last year. He's part of a breed of politicians – also including the Tory Edward Leigh and Labour's Gerald Kaufman – who have been extremely active parliamentarians but not always maintained an office in their constituency. One measure of their parliamentary work is the proportion of votes they turn up to."
  34. ^ gazettelive Administrator (8 September 2011). "Labour launches probe into Middlesbrough MP". gazettelive.
  35. ^ "John Walsh: ToryBoy – the aftermath (or: the Town That Politics Forgot…)". Conservative Home.
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^ John Walsh (April 2015). "ToryBoy The Movie – banned in Middlesbrough". Conservative Home.
  38. ^ Matthew Brown Student Union involved in row over planned screening of controversial Toryboy the Movie, The North Crowd 27 April 2015
  39. ^ Teesside Free Education activists Our year with the ‘worst union in the country’ September 21, 2015
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Satirical film ToryBoy The Movie returns to big screen". The Irish Post.
  42. ^ "BAFTA-nominated Greenwich filmmaker's controversial ToryBoy returns to cinemas before election". News Shopper.
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Inside The Greatest Election Scandal of all time.", Guido Fawkes, 28 April 2017
  45. ^ "Toryboy the Movie – review - cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online". Radio Times.
  46. ^ "Middlesbrough MP Stuart Bell dies". 13 October 2012 – via
  47. ^ walshbros (4 December 2016). "Watch ToryBoy The Movie Online - Vimeo On Demand" – via Vimeo.

External linksEdit