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Alice Jones: Why it's all right to mangle an accent


Ecky thump, there's nowt gets us so switched on as accents.

Am I reet? The release of One Day this week has been overshadowed by much carping about Anne Hathaway's turn as Yarkshire frump, Emma, and in particular about her wobbly Northern brogue. Hathaway's accent is not good. Not good at all. She sounds like an Austen-era Valley girl choking on a Pontefract cake, but leaving specifics aside, I wonder if there's another nation that gets so pernickety over these things.

Last night I went to a screening of Nicolas Winding Refn's terrific new film Drive, which stars Carey Mulligan as a young mother in LA. And earlier this week, I saw the excellent Beauty Queen of Leenane, set in deepest, darkest Connemara, at the Young Vic. It never occurred to me to doubt the accents. I just sort of assumed they were right and sat back and enjoyed the show.

My double standards are typical of the attitude whereby if a Brit makes it big in Hollywood, it's cause for celebration, but when the other side of the cultural exchange kicks in and someone like Hathaway, pictured, comes along, we become patriotic to the point of xenophobia.

Do Americans sit there cringing when our Eton-educated actors try out their best Baltimore? Do Russians chuck things at the screen every time our sort-of Slavic Bond villains pop up? Or is this another example of our little island's ingrained obsession with class and origins? One day, maybe, we'll learn to let it lie.

Perhaps it was Steve Jobs' resignation that inspired me, but yesterday I made a little technological breakthrough of my own. I logged on to YourKen.org. Why? Well, mainly so I had something to write about here, but also because I was curious to see what Ken Livingstone's attempt at an Obama-style online campaign looked like. With less than year to go until the London Mayoral elections, Livingstone is apparently hoping to "harness" (always harness – makes it sound vital and macho) social media sites in order to win over the youth, inveigling the odd keynote policy into their riot invitation-filled news feeds.

The site encourages supporters to sign up to deliver leaflets, man the phones or tweet the word, in return for "volunteer points". The five most active volunteers each month win the prize of a dinner with Ken (what's second prize? I hear you cry) and you can keep track of your rivals on an "Activist Leader Board", Xbox Live-style. So far the leader is Shelly Asquith, self-proclaimed "Livingstone flunky", but there's hope yet: I got five points just for logging on.

The odd thing, though, is how difficult it is to get on the site in the first place. Before browsing you have to provide a name, address, password and links to your email, Facebook or Twitter. It feels intrusive, in a way that Obama's updates never did. Presumably they'll use the data to bombard us around election time. But I've a suspicion it could be used for punishment – forcing us to paint the house of our nearest Labour MP, perhaps – should we be found criminally lacking in activist points come 2012.

Last week The X Factor returned to ITV, a thing which seems to come round earlier every year, like Christmas displays at the supermarket. In fact, given that the show reaches its climax just in time for the seasonal No 1, that must mean we're now officially on the countdown to Christmas, too. Don't thank me, thank Cowell.

Anyway, it's back, and this year's watercooler warbler – for there must be one – is Kitty Brucknell, a producer's dream in leopard print.

In an audition which boldly mixed Lady Gaga and Anastasia, Kitty threw everything into the pot – a sob story of rejection mixed with Twitter-baiting arrogance and sprinkled with delusion. In many ways, she's the natural, confused end product of a decade of talent shows – a soundbite-generating automaton who is nakedly in it for the fame. And while we all know that's the score, we still prefer our wannabes to display a faux, homespun, pulled-up-by-the-bootstraps humility, while we boo and catcall those villains who dare to reveal their evil ambition. Talking of which, isn't it about time you booked your pantomime tickets?