The Houses of Parliament are the home of British democracy, more or less divided between two parties, the Conservatives and Labour. The conservative way is to exploit man against man, but the socialist way is the exact opposite, they don't just let anybody in as you must win a majority of votes, and it so happens there is a by-election soon which will demonstrate the efficiency of that process. Take the Tory candidate, Robert Wilcot (Ian Carmichael), who has reluctantly given up his position as a television personality on a panel show called What Is It? to contest the seat; he is the nephew of a peer, Lord Wilcot (Alastair Sim) and feels confident he can win comfortably. What he doesn't bank on is his political rival...
She being Labour candidate Stella Stoker, played by Patricia Bredin in an interesting item of stunt casting, as she was famed at the time, if not quite as much now, for her entry in the first Eurovision Song Contest, Britain's briefly titled All, and briefly lasting too, still the shortest song ever to he heard at the event (well, it's a long night, you don't want to hang around). Her showbiz career didn't last an enormous length of time either it had to be said, but her leading lady role in Left Right and Centre went down in a minor part of history as one of the few British comedies to take on that cornerstone of its society, the electoral process. There is, however, a reason why it isn't regarded as a classic.
This arrived not long after the Boulting Brothers gave the nation its definitive fifties satire I'm All Right Jack, which appeared just as the public's thirst for taking the powers that be down a peg or two was beginning to gain some traction, but the creators of Left Right and Centre were not exactly heavyweights when it came to commentary on society at large. Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat were not untalented by any means, but their main contribution to comedy was to produce the St. Trinian's films that the public lapped up, and they were not exactly Beyond the Fringe when it came to their humour. Thus here was a film more wrapped up in the possibilities of a Romeo and Juliet romance across the political landscape as Wilcot and Stoker find themselves falling in lurve.
Carmichael would have seemed to be the man to go to for showing up the inadequacies of the system with an innocent if slightly pixelated air, as he was a mainstay of the Boultings' most popular efforts, but while he was indulging in similar shtick here it was in a film very pleased with itself for its high concept but lacking the wherewithal to do much with it. For this reason it has let down some viewers looking for a more barbed approach when they find a romantic comedy with a novelty setting, but that was not to say it was a total bust when it came to making the observations. Most notably, it enjoyed pointing out for most voters choosing between the parties was Hobson's Choice, as no matter who you voted for the Government always got in.
We think of such cynicism about all the parties promising the same things in different words to ensure they will get your support no matter if they actually come good on those promises or not as a modern state of affairs, and yet here was a film made in the late fifties that illustrated the more things changed, the more they stayed the same, especially as far as politics went. It wasn't emphasised, more lightly commented on, so otherwise you might be pondering this was all very well, but couldn't we have more Alastair Sim? He was second billed, above Bredin (who doesn't sing here), and the designer of the opening titles appeared to be under the impression he was playing one of the candidates - the notion of Sim and Carmichael as rivals in an election was a more interesting one than perhaps we got. However, he really only had two or three sequences where he was important, using the publicity to further his business interests and exploit his stately home to make a fortune, again a nice observation but not particularly savage in the long run. Professionalism all round saved it. Music by Humphrey Searle.