BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
Dec 12. An extraordinary thing happened on TV last night - staid old Question Time very nearly turned into Central Weekend Live, ITV's old bear pit of a political debate show. The producers booked Russell Brand as their heavy artillery in a bid to out-manoeuvre Nigel Farage, hoping that his right-on posturing would deflate Nigel's polished populism. In the event the show was stolen by a geezer in the audience called Rob with a cane, but before we get to him some thoughts. 1) If you're upping the quality of the panel, why settle for just three good people? The two female politicians – Labour's Mary Creagh and cock-loving Conservative communities minister Penny Mordaunt – might as well have been playing Candy Crush for all they contributed. Posh Sunday Times columnist Camilla Cavendish was brighter and more articulate than both. I'd have booked Isobel Hardman for the Tories and Stella Creasy for Labour.
2) Russell has won praise for his pre-scripted line on Farage: "This man... ain't Arthur Daley, he is a pound shop Enoch Powell, and we've got to watch him." Well, Minder aficionados with long memories will remember that the sainted Arfur stood for election in an episode called The Balance of Power. They'll also recall that the great man was not keen on VAT, or Europe or "the loony left or the macro-bionic minority" – but appealed instead to "people who wear suits and understand the value of a sov." There's little doubt that today he'd be a UKIP candidate. I'm not so sure about Del-Boy, he'd probably find it quite handy to have access to a constant stream of authentic Scotch whisky distilled in Albania.
3) Farage's counter-attack "I'm not the wealthy one on this panel tonight" was more effective. 4) Multi-millionaire Russell attacked Nigel for his rich friends in the City who he blamed for the banking crash. Farage may have rich friends, but Labour's Peter Mandelson had/has richer and sleazier ones, and it was Labour's Gordon Brown who bailed out the incompetent bankers with our money, not UKIP.
5) Russ's jibe about grammar schools misfired. Grammar schools were a tool for social mobility, they helped bright working class kids rise up and in some cases become Prime Minister. Labour abolished them. The posh kids are back in charge.
6) Russell had a pop at Nige's "booze and fags down the pub" persona. But that isn't put on, it's the way he is... just as Russell had/has a hard drugs and affectation down the squat persona. 7) The idea that anyone who wants to control immigration is "racist" is, as Camilla eloquently pointed out illogical nonsense; it's also counter-productive. 8) The SWP contribution, a scruff-bag with purple hair yelling insults at Farage and threatening "I'm coming for you" really didn't help. She'd be a shoe-in for Jeremy Kyle though. 9) Russ played the Enoch card while consciously styling himself as a pop culture Che Guevara. Which historic figure was responsible for more deaths? 10) Memo to Mary Creagh: if you criticise Russell for talking over you it doesn't help your case if you then talk over other people.
Brand and Farage agreed on one thing – politics is too narrow and controlled. "Everyone in parliament is a career politician." As to Rob with the cane, he managed to silence Russell more effectively than anyone on the panel simply by challenging him to 'Stand for Parliament then!' and writing off his reply "I'm scared I'd become one of them" by reminding him he'd had the strength to overcome drug addiction already. Could it be that Russ won't run for office because he can't abide the thought of losing?
Dec 5. If I had a hat I'd take it off to George Osborne. It takes some front to assure us he's going to reduce Britain's deficit by borrowing more. It's like a fat bloke telling us how much weight he's going to lose on his New Year diet while opening a tab at Hotel Chocolat and doubling his weekly KFC order. Geo is increasing borrowing by more than £200billion - £42billion a year for five years - and the BBC tells us how savage the cuts will be. The world is as mad as a wet hen. On one hand politicians say we have to all tighten our belts (by 'all' they of course mean everyone except them and the seriously minted) while on the other hand they agree to cheerfully hand over an extra £1billion to the EU and pledge a whopping £13billion in overseas aid. Which means we're borrowing money to line the pockets of corrupt governments around the globe. Good old us. If we invested that dosh in engineering and border controls it might actually make a difference. God clearly created economists to make the Met Office look good, and politicians to give arseholes a better name.
Nov 30. Thanks to everyone who has asked how I am doing after the crash. I still have the double vision and find it hard to concentrate for long periods – hence the lack of blog activity. The doctors now think the problem is neurological. Let's hope it'll sort itself out soon. In the meantime, here are a few interviews I've done recently with magazines and foreign fanzines, plus the odd radio transcript.
Q) As we know this year was published your last book? - Riff-Raff, Rebels & Rock Gods: An Extreme Memoir From The Golden Years Of Rock. Can tell us a bit more about this? What is main theme? Is it based on your early publications in Sounds?
A) Yes, the book is based on my Sounds days in the UK between 1978 and 1985. I've packed in some of my favourite articles expanded with extra material from my contemporary diaries and notebooks. It has The Exploited in West Berlin before the Wall came down, Hanoi Rocks in India, Iron Maiden breaking big in the USA, Ozzy in New York and Florida, the Angelic Upstarts' notorious prison gig, which was wild, Judge Dread in Germany, which is filthy, the Cockney Rejects at the start, the Specials in New York, ZZ Top in Las Vegas plus Ritchie Blackmore, UFO, Max Splodge, The Selecter in Dallas, Texas, Twisted f***in' Sister, and the wonderful, untamed Rose Tattoo. I wrote it because people kept asking me about the Sounds days, and I wanted to get my memories down on paper while I still had them! It's available as an eBook, a six-hour audio book and due to public demand it's now a print-on-demand paperback from Amazon. And yes, I have already started work on Volume 2.
Q) Okay, who will be in Riff-Raff 2?
A) Definitely The Clash and The Jam, and Def Leppard as they were breaking the States. I'm also going to include Gary Moore in Japan, Ian Dury on the road in Scandinavia, The Blood, The Ruts, Blondie, U2, Motörhead, Status Quo, Squeeze, Saxon, Slade, Sham, the Sex Pistols, Big Country, Dexys, Dead Kennedys, the Mo-Dettes and The Business. Maybe Linton Kwesi Johnson, maybe Crisis. I'm also going to include my article on the Butlin's Festival of the Sixties which I would day was one of the funniest things I ever wrote and which got me a life ban from the holiday camp, although that was later waived. I'm not sure if I'll do this as an audio book though. Maybe just a straight book. We'll see.
Q) Why did you quit Sounds?
A) Because at the time I thought rock papers should be written by the young, and the passionate and the hungry. Too many rock writers became jaded old hacks. I didn't want to go that way.
Q) Do you ever regret that?
A) Yes and no. If I hadn't had quit I would probably have gone on the road with bands like Nirvana, Operation Ivy and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I would probably have interviewed Oasis, Green Day, Social Distortion and Rancid early doors and been around to witness Guns N' Roses in their pomp. I'd have caught up with Metallica. Imagine touring with Mötley Crüe – the stories, the scandal, the drink... you'd need a liver of iron! But I wouldn't have experienced the tabloid jungle, and probably wouldn't have enjoyed the TV career I lucked in to. I just interviewed Lars Frederiksen for my podcast; fascinating bloke, a great songwriter and very passionate. If I write that chat up for Street Sounds I'll include him in Riff-Raff 2, as well.
Q) Yes, tell us about Street Sounds.
A) It was my idea. I wanted to do something to counter the malign influence of Simon Cowell. The modern music scene is a bit of a paradox. It's never been easier for bands to get their music heard in theory but in reality, it's never been harder than for them to get noticed. Now the big corporate record companies control pop again, it's like the old Tin Pan Alley days but worse. So it's difficult for new bands that don't conform to break through. I wanted to provide them with a platform, but I wanted it to be as close to a fanzine as possible – a labour of love. I suppose it's driven partly by nostalgia, and partly by frustration.
Q) So have you now discovered any young bands comparable to the 1978 generation?
A) I think so. I like The Backhanders from Manchester who seem to have a touch of the early Stone Roses and Oasis about them – attitude and tunes. I am keen on the Blues Pills and the Brompton Mix. The Q write modern anthems. If you like it heavy then check out Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. On the Oi front I like Lion's Law from France, Bishops Green from Canada, Duffy's Cut from Philadelphia, Stomper 98 from Germany, NOi!se from Washington, Rust from Australia, Booze & Glory from Poland via London, and our own East End Badoes. Plus the Harrington Saints, Patriot and the Old Firm Casuals. On the punk/pop side I rate Night Of Treason, who have a real Clash feel to them, and Beach Slang – pop-punk from Philly. Chris Pope writes great songs, for rocksteady hear the Delegators. for pop Ska with a pinch of rock'n'roll listen to Buster Shuffle. The best indie band in Britain for my money are Missing Andy. There are terrific bands out there, you just never see them on Later with Jools Holland.
Q) But magazines are so retro...
A) Yeah, I admit it was counter-intuitive decision. I was going to do it as a website originally. Everyone will tell you that magazines are dying. But then everyone used to tell us that vinyl was dying. I like zines, I like physical products that exist outside of cyberspace and that is why I am editing StreetSounds, although as a concession to modernity we have now made it available as a download. About 4,000 people see every physical edition even though the distribution is piss-poor and we have no promotional budget. My philosophy is that if we make it, people will come. If I'm wrong, I will have only have wasted two years of my life! I do my podcast on Radio Litopia for the same reason. I play punk, Ska and any independent music that I like. Now 40,000 people around the world listen to it and that number is rising.
Q) Obviously Riff-Raff wasn't your first book - you write about music, football hooligans, detectives... which book is most precious for you?
A) That is like asking a father to choose between his children. I think my best factual book is Hoolies about UK youth cults, and my best pulp fiction novel is The Face although the new one Facedown has a lot of energy – I wanted it to be a proper page-turner. Of the musical books I enjoyed writing the Iron Maiden and the Cockney Rejects books the most, and Jimmy Jones was a labour of love.
Q) Facedown was described as 'darkly humorous' and 'sexy pulp fiction that rattles along like a Japanese bullet train'.
A) Nice. My favourite review said it was like 'Mickey Spillane with a dash of Micky Flanagan' which is absolutely what I wanted it to be, pulp fiction with laughs.
Q) Tell us about the story.
A) It's about an angry vigilante who bumps off criminals who he believes have been treated too leniently by the courts. There's a link to a why-oh-why newspaper columnist, but for people who enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, it provides a way for retired undercover cop Harry Tyler to come back to life – his death was faked at the end of book two. People kept asking me what Harry Tyler would do next. For all his flaws as a human being, they seem to really like the character. And I did too because he was based on two brave but flawed individuals who I know and love.
Q) It's quite political.
A) There is a political subtext, but isn't there always, with everything?
Q) Are you tempted to re-enter the political arena?
A) I have been asked, but no. I'm not a politician. I only stood at the Woolwich & Greenwich by-election because I wanted to raise the issue of an English Parliament and an English Bill of Rights, which are both now part of mainstream political debate. I am utterly opposed to the EU and to the insidious spread of the state, and deeply suspicious of all ideologies. But there are better people than me to make the case against all of that. I don't like bigotry, I don't like crowd-think, I don't like the way the Labour Party has lost touch with the working class or the way the Tories have forgotten that freedom and anomie should go hand in hand. Miliband is no Clement Atlee, and Cameron is no Macmillan. They all in thrall to corporatism, high taxation, excessive immigration and of course Brussels – the gravy train for political failures. I am, I suppose, a conservative anarchist, if such a thing exists. I wouldn't say I was a libertarian because they don't seem to give a stuff about community. I like our customs and traditions, I understand the comfort religion brings even though it evades me. The real problems are we have allowed the state to become too bloated and self-serving and forgotten how fundamental freedom of speech is. It's not putting it too strongly to say that our political elite have betrayed the UK, and England in particular – we're losing sight of who we are. Which explains the rise of UKIP, who don't have all the answers but serve neatly as a v-sign to the establishment. Not everything about the old Britain was bad. We should cherish the good values we have - freedom, peace, neighbourliness and family – more. I hate the way media commentators seem to think it doesn't matter that industries are destroyed, communities are devastated and hundreds of thousands are on the dole queue. I hate the way they despise the working class and working class values. I also hate the way the urban middle classes try and turn their tastes, their prejudices, into moral crusades. Freedom of expression, choice and thought are under constant threat. A real political radical would defend them because the self-serving, so-called elite are busily building our funeral pyre and are far too keen on using our freedoms and our sovereignty as kinder wood.
Q) What do you think of modern comedy?
A) Not a lot! Too much modern stand-up is like placebo comedy. It looks like comedy, it feels like comedy but it isn't actually funny. I like Lee Mack, and I like Lee Evans – it's a shame he's retiring without ever finding a decent TV format for his talents. I do like Micky Flanagan too but think he's in danger of doing too much too soon. The second DVD wasn't a patch on his first, and his new travel show is lazy. I hate the "that'll do" attitude to anything, and his Detour de France comes with a bucket-load of it. Odd though that the so-called comedy revolutionaries of the 80s were right-on student types but the ones the public take to are the down-to-earth ones like Peter Kay. I feel for the old-timers who TV won't touch because of their age. Mick Miller and Bobby Ball have had some telly breaks largely because younger comics have championed them. They should give Adrian Walsh and Johnnie Casson a shot. I still love the old Cockney comics like Micky Pugh who should be in EastEnders to cheer it up a bit like Mike Reid did. Keith O'Keefe is brilliant. I like off-the-wall comedy too, and always have done, but it seems an awful long time since The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh. It's even longer since Phoenix Nights. We really feel the lack of great sitcoms at Christmas time.
Q) What are you writing next?
A) Good question. I've got three books on the go, a comic fantasy novel, a book about the cultural significance of The Sun in the 80s and 90s, and a very detailed one about the early Oi years which
is about one third finished. Oh, and the first ever Street Sounds annual
should be out any day now.
Q) Finally, what's happening with your Gonads? We hear you've retired them.
A) Ha, reports of our death are exaggerated. We've just recorded a brand new 25 track album, which will be out next Easter. It's called Greater Hits Volume 3 – The Complete Cobblers. At the moment we're not playing live gigs, but we are open to offers, especially different and interesting ones. As am I. Constantly.
Nov 21. UKIP snatched Rochester & Strood from the Tories yesterday with 42.1 percent of the vote. Labour trailed in a poor third, while the Lib Dems were practically rubbed out. Clegg's clods were lucky to beat the Monster Raving Loonies who on balance have more sensible policies. It's increasingly clear that the electorate are using UKIP as a stick to beat the establishment. This was a vote not just against the political class but also against that elitist mindset that dominates the BBC and the chattering class as a whole. It was a vote against people like Labour's Emily Thornberry who seem to despise England, against snobs who tell us how wonderful the European Union and unchecked immigration are, against climate change liars and hectoring PC bores, against ministers who tell us we must tighten our belts while we see bankers rewarded for failure, against trendy educationalists who have sabotaged our schools, and against remote politicians who send our armed forces to fight in foreign wars they can't begin to justify. The elite have abandoned the people and the people have rewarded them with two lovely black eyes. Cue more UKIP-bashing from trendy TV 'comedians', who are largely from the same class and who have enjoyed the same privileged educations as Cabinet and Shadow Ministers. They don't get it. The rule book is being re-evaluated here, the old excuses won't do. The future they had lined up for us is being rewritten.
Do I think UKIP are the answer to our problems? Not for a moment. They're right about the EU, but beyond that their policies seem to be in disarray with senior figures apparently making them up on the hoof. They're doing more desperate u-turns than a Top Gear road-trip through Argentina. This makes them appear opportunist. The party once had a clear libertarian agenda which it is quite shamelessly abandoning. Where does it really stand on the NHS, collective bargaining and repatriation? Are the Faragists prepared to bin solid principles like classical liberalism to nick a few votes? UKIP talk the language of everyday folk across a whole range of issues from ridiculous green taxes to sex education in kindergartens via hideous wind farms and unmerited overseas aid, but unless they can come up with a solid manifesto they can stick to, they will inevitably fizzle out. If they do, though, and if the manifesto is coherent, then they will get us the referendum on EU membership that the establishment has long denied us and they could well grow into a permanent fixture in coalition governments. We know what you're against, Nige, now tell us exactly what you're for.
There is no credible alternative to UKIP on the British left. The comrades have lost touch with the working class as thoroughly as they've lost the plot. One far-Left conference earlier this month even debated the idea that the murdering bastards of ISIS were somehow a "progressive" force. Hey, why stop there? Maybe Ebola is progressive too, maybe Somali pirates are "freedom fighters", maybe Judy Murray can dance and Stevi Ritchie can sing. The same conference seemed wedded to the idea of staying in the EU. But Bob Crow and Tony Benn both insisted that EU treaties were "nothing more than a cast-iron manifesto for monopoly capitalism." A new movement may well arise from the old political left that realises that the EU is a major part of the problem and that will oppose all-powerful multinationals, bloated corporatism, the outsourcing of essential industries and the over-management of public services in everyday language. But it's not happening yet.
The Tories are trying to spin the 28percent swing against them in Rochester as a disappointment for UKIP because they didn't crush them by even more. That's chutzpah for you! Cameron threw money, Cabinet ministers, MPs "and the kitchen sink" at this seat, and the electorate chucked it right back at him. The real alternative to all the above lies within the sleeping giant of the English electorate. After the Scottish referendum debate, many English people would like us to have a new deal too. The major parties are keen to devolve powers to Holyrood but what about us? We don't want piss-weak devolution to cities and another layer of bureaucracy; we want a strong democratic English Parliament. We want fairness and a constitutional settlement. And as devolution can't be undone the justice of the case is clear cut. Any party, Labour or Conservative, who offered a fair deal for England would be rewarded at the ballot box. If they promised us a referendum on the EU, not years in the future but as soon as possible, and pledged to make St George's Day a Bank Holiday too, the keys to Number Ten would be in their hands. If no-one does, there will be an opportunity for a new English people's party to emerge, devoted I'd hope to fair play, aspiration and minding our own business.
Nov 18. Thanks for all your good wishes after the crash. The bad news is I've been diagnosed with post concussion syndrome - which explains the double vision, tiredness and headaches; the good news is there is no internal bleeding. So I've just got to rest, and go back in a week's time to see if there's any improvement. For now, no driving, no drink, and no stress the doctor said. (Though quite how no stress sits with no drinking escapes me). We hear horror stories every day about the NHS, but all of the staff I dealt with at Princess Royal A&E were pleasant, hard-working and very thorough. Decent, dedicated people doing a tough job well. Garry Bushell, News At Ten, sober...
PS No blog for a bit either unless something major happens - like Charlton thrashing Millwall on Saturday...
Trying to ward off the UKIP threat, Yvette Cooper said today that Labour want less "bad immigration." She wants "fair movement not free movement" (of labour) but how will they achieve that within the EU? Nowhere in Yvette's speech does she even begin to say. The only free movement she's worried about is that of her traditional voters moving of their own freewill to Farage.
Nov 17. Cameron is giving £600million in foreign aid to "fight climate change." It's almost like he wants UKIP to win Rochester. When they do will the PM realise his slippery stance on the EU risks splitting the Tory Party permanently?
Sad to hear that the great John Holt died last month. The Jamaican reggae star who gave the world lovers' rock had a voice like golden syrup and notch up a string of hits in the 70s – and wrote 'The Tide Is High' for the Paragons, although Blondie's version is better remembered now. His 1,000 Volts Of Holt album is a timeless joy, while John's 1983 roots reggae track 'Police In Helicopter' reminds us that he never lost his bite. John Holt's last performance was in England, where he was much loved. Holt collapsed on stage at the One Love festival in Milton Keynes in August. Sadly he never recovered.
Nov 13. Got along to the GP today and have been diagnosed with mild concussion. I am also suffering from double vision, which should make reviewing Kendra Wilkinson quite a challenge...
Nov 12. After last night's experience, I've felt dazed and confused all day, so all together: "Condition normal." I did manage to make it briefly to Street Sounds' second anniversary party – full write-up over on the Gonads blog.
Particularly fine were Manchester band The Backhanders who recapture the earthy spirit of early Oasis and the Stone Roses. The party food was special too - a slap up pie and mash supper courtesy the wonderful London Pie & Mash Company Ltd. Street Sounds issue 9 is out now featuring my chat with Lars Frederiksen, plus Neville Staple, Cock Sparrer and much more – all for £2 plus p&p from here.
Nov 11. A German aggregate lorry smashed into my car on the M25 tonight. He was coming in from a slip road and hit our passenger side, spinning the car round before hitting us again and leaving us stalled facing on-coming traffic the wrong way round! We're still shaken but are feeling lucky to be alive. An experience like that makes you realise how easily the gift of life can be snatched away from you. A huge thank you to the Highways Agency who were fast, friendly and extremely helpful... also to the Rav 4 designers for making their vehicles so solid...and to my son Rob & daughter-in-law Holly for rushing to the rescue when the insurance company kindly offered to drop us off at local train station after my wife had spent an hour with the paramedics!
Nov 7. Just back from Mexico, I notice that the world's second most terrifying blindfolded high wire act, Ed Miliband is still refusing to plummet to an honourable retirement – despite the fact that his own backbenchers are drumming up a hell of a gale. Now you could argue, reasonably, that Cameron is just as despised by his own party who would clearly prefer to see a genuine Conservative, like David Davis, at the helm of their party. But in comparison, slippery Shameron appears to have authority and a degree of (undeserved) credibility. It's Ed who is in the hot seat, and the whole future of the Labour Party could well be at stake. The big problem is Labour are out of step with popular opinion, and increasingly out of time. The recession and the banking crisis should have created fertile ground for the Left to flourish. But voters know that Labour spunked away a fortune the last time they were in government and deliberately encouraged barking mad levels of immigration. Their credibility is blown, which is why millions are turning to Nigel Farage.
I argued before anyone else that Alan Johnson would make a more credible Labour leader. Under Johnson they might conceivably win the next election. But where would nice-guy Al stand on the big issues? He can't deal with immigration because the party is too in love with the EU. Suspect on tax, welfare and green issues, the Labour leadership no longer have any big vision. Or even a point. Essentially all they can do is sell themselves as a nicer and less posh (and that's tenuous) version of the Tories. Labour has ceased to represent the working class. These days, it represents the Hampstead egg-head, the public sector, social liberals and various minorities. Working class people know it isn't about US any more. It certainly isn't about working class aspiration and self-improvement. The system is rigged against the people, and Miliband, Balls et al are part of the problem. The time is right for a new opposition.
This is why at the opposite end of the political spectrum from UKIP, Russell Brand finds an audience for his message of "Don't vote, there's no-one worth voting for." Brand has right on his side when he attacks multinational corporations and irresponsible bankers. But his vague alternative of de-centralisation and meditation is unlikely to put bread on the table. He is Dave Spart with a better vocabulary.
Very few people want the NHS destroyed, or an aloof political class, or corporate brigands buggering up the global economy; and very few people believe it's right that the world's 85 richest people have more money than the poorest three and a half billion. But we need someone to spell out a genuine alternative and give us something worth voting for, because the old 'alternative' of state-controlled economies, the tyrannical one-party states that the Left once enthusiastically embraced as the answer came with a shocking price tag of death, torture, gulags and failure.
*ONE thing Russell Brand is dead right about is the New Era estate in Hoxton, East London. When Hoxton became fashionable, Edward Benyon, (brother of Richard Benyon, Britain's richest MP) and US property firm Westbrook snapped up the 92 flats, and then backtracked on the deal to keep the estate as affordable housing. Russell writes: 'They have told the families that the rents were going to go up to "market rate" and they had to cough up or jog on... Boris, their elected mayor, is on the side of the property developers, not ordinary people.' You can help the New Era residents keep their home by signing their petition here.
Barroso's demand, that the UK pays the EU a backdated surcharge of £1.7 billion couldn't have come at a better time – for UKIP. Because we stayed out of the eurozone and tightened our belts while our economy picked up, we now have to sub member states who didn't. It's basically a tax on prudence, and even Nick Clegg would have trouble defending that one. It works out at an extra £65 a year for every family on top of the £525 we already pay Brussels directly. (And that's without factoring in indirect costs like higher fuel and food bills, and VAT). Germany and France, to nobody's surprise, are in line for a rebate. What a racket.
*A REPORT from University College London has found that non-EU immigration between 2001 and 2011 has cost the us a whopping £118billion. But naturally the BBC are playing that down and leading on the report's finding that EU immigration over the same period has benefitted us to the tune of £20billion. Whoopedoo! Sadly that's only true if you don't factor in the effects of 'free movement of labour' on housing, transport, policing and the NHS – and if you forget that many of those fit young Europeans are going to get old and sick here... The main author of the report is the wonderfully named Christian 'Miyold-Manza' Dustmann, the same Christian Dustmann who assured us eleven years ago that immigration from the EU would be no more than 13,000 per year and possibly as low as 5,000. It has been forty times greater.
Oct 10. This blog is now closed until November. As I type at 6.30am, the big news is that UKIP has taken Clacton from the Tories and perhaps more significantly has come within a Keir Hardie whisker of nicking Heywood & Middleton from Labour... which proves Cameron was wrong with his 'vote UKIP, get Miliband' mantra. In Clacton, if you voted UKIP you got UKIP; in Greater Manchester it was a case of vote Conservative, get Labour. The Heywood result was a body blow for dozy Ed Miliband whose election strategy for 2015 has been: secure our core vote and then link up with the Lib Dems to form a new 'left'-leaning coalition. This no longer computes. The Lib Dems are looking total wipe-out in the face, and even Ed must now realise that he can't afford to neglect the disillusioned and undecided. A real Labour leader would be telling us how he'd build houses, create jobs, enforce sensible border controls, encourage small businesses, bring back grammar schools, reform the NHS and safeguard working class living standards. But maybe that kind of stuff doesn't play so well in the elevated circles he mixes in. Besides, how can Labour address voters' fears on immigration when the last Labour governments operated the most reckless open door policy this side of the wardens forgetting to lock the gates at Broadmoor?
Oct 9. Did you manage to stay awake during the Lib-Dim conference? After that, Nick Clegg's job must be about as secure as Nora Batty's washing line in a force ten gale. His claim to be occupying "the centre ground" is ludicrous, unless his tent pole is now pitched somewhere near the middle of Neverland. "Judge us by our record" he said. Happy to do that, Nick, because judging by the Lib Dems' record you're clearly a bunch of shameless bare-faced liars who I'd trust about as far as I could throw in a wind tunnel. The sanctimonious smoothie had the nerve to attack other politicians for preaching "divisive... us and them" policies. But who is more us-and-them than Cleggy? His "us" is the corrupt Brussels establishment, his "them" are the poor tax-paying suckers he wants to fleece to keep his pay masters happy.
Oct 5. Disgracefully David Cameron has blocked a gallantry medal for Corporal Stewart McLaughlin, who died in a ferocious battle during the Falklands campaign. Liverpudlian Stewart, 27, known as 'Bullet-proof' was killed by rocket fire after leading a number of daredevil charges towards Argentine machine-gun and sniper posts during the Battle of Mount Longdon. He was said to have "fought like a demon." Cpl McLaughlin was recommended for the honour by officers shortly after his death in June 1982, but the handwritten citation went astray before it could be typed and sent to London. His commanding officer, Lieutenant General Sir Hew Pike, has taken the unprecedented step of writing a new citation, insisting the corporal's heroism deserves formal recognition and stating that his actions were 'absolutely instrumental' in determining the outcome of the battle. He writes: 'At one point he ran forward under fire to pull a wounded man back into cover by grabbing his webbing, his example reassuring those around him that he did not seem fazed by anything and if they too were hit he would get them back to relative safety. McLaughlin realised that it was only a matter of time before they incurred more casualties so he shouted, "I'll count one, two, three, then we all go." About a minute later he did the countdown and shouted, "Come on lads, I'm bulletproof, follow me!" 'He then ran forward towards the gunfire, followed by the rest of the section, who all reached the cover of the rocks unscathed. Members of the section commented later that it was the bravest thing they had ever seen.' Despite this testimony, Cameron has told Stewart McLaughlin's family that he won't be posthumously awarded. If you disagree with this outrageous decision please sign this petition.
A bizarre new force is threatening to shake up British politics. The Reality Party – a fracking-bashing, one-world coalition backed by Agent Provocateur co-founder Joe Corré – has lined up three candidates for next year's General Election and plan to unveil a slate of others. They are confirmed to stand in Thanet, against Nigel Farage, in Salford South & Worsley, and in Salford & Eccles where their candidate has already been announced as master of reality Bez, from the Happy Mondays. He seems certain to appeal to pilled-up wasters everywhere. But what are the chances of them getting out of bed in time to vote?
Oct 4. The boss of John Lewis has apologised for calling France “finished”. Quite right too. Under President Hollande, foreign investment has plummeted, the economy is stagnant, taxes are ludicrously high and its private sector is in recession. That’s not finished, it’s f*cked.
This is odd. My pulp fiction novel The Face has popped up in Amazon’s Top Ten of true crime eBooks. If I were Piers Morgan I might claim this is because the writing is so authentic, the South London setting so evocative that Amazon believe the story of undercover cop Harry Tyler versus crime baron Johnny Too to be real. But I’m not Piers, mercifully, so I’ll just say thanks for buying it.
Oct 3. My chat with Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen is now up and running at Radio Litopia. Here we are impersonating black-eyed ghoulies...
The Mail on line is claiming that a tasteful picture which Candice Swanepoel has posted on Instagram of herself topless save for a Hawaiian lei is a selfie, even though her hands are clearly not holding a camera. Maybe their judgement has been impaired by the Swane fever that is sweeping the nation. Maybe she has telekinetic powers. Or maybe a black-eyed ghost was involved; no doubt the Star will soon enlighten us. In the meantime in the interests of research, I have made the puzzling snap my screen saver so that I can study it for more clues. It may take some time.
Jeremy Clarkson has denied claims that Top Gear set out to deliberately provoke Argentineans by driving through the country in a Porsche with the licence plate H982 FKL. Clarkson says the FKL didn’t stand for Falklands. Of course not. I don’t want to speculate what it might actually stand for, but I believe that the last word is Liar.
Oct 2. I’m on Steve Wright In The Afternoon today, with Sir Roger Moore and George Ezra. Wait till George hears what I’ve chosen for the duet...
Prince William had taken legal action against photographers to protect Prince George’s right to privacy. His lawyer argued that the royal baby must be allowed to live “as ordinary a life as possible.” Let’s see, his home is a palace, his babysitter is the Queen, his toy soldiers are actual soldiers... that’s some ordinary.
Don’t believe David Cameron. He has no intention of opting out of the European Court of Human Rights. He knows full well that we can’t be free of the Strasbourg court’s rulings without leaving the European Union, which Sham Cam has no intention of doing. The European Commission made this crystal clear in 2011, stating – ‘’respect for fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights is an explicit obligation for the Union under Article 6(3) of the Treaty on European Union.’ An ‘explicit obligation’. There is no opt-out clause in that. What’s tragic is the ECHR’s original intention was a sound one; it sought to protect the individual against the power of the state. But court’s bizarre rulings since the 1990s has completely undermined its foundations. Cameron had a better conference than wet Ed Miliband, but only because he lies so well. His claim to have forced the EU to slash its budget in 2013 were a proper laugh or else you’ll cry moment. He knows full well they just rolled more than £20billion worth of unpaid bills into the 2014 accounts. I wouldn’t trust him on Europe any more than I’d trust Eric Pickles to safeguard a pork pie or Jo Brand a chocolate éclair.
Voters who back UKIP at the next election risk “going to bed with Nigel Farage and waking up with Ed Miliband,” claims Cameron, failing to add that anyone voting Conservative risks going to bed with him and waking up with Merkel, Barroso and Juncker. Go to bed with Farage and we might eventually wake up with our sovereignty back... Here’s my question, who do we have to go to bed with to wake up with Candice Swanepoel? They’ll get my vote.
More black-eyed ghouls in today’s tabloids. You know what this means? Ghosts sell papers. A fiver for the first black-eyed ghost spotted at the Lib Dem Conference. Ridiculous maybe, but still more likely than the Lib Dems retaining their seats next year. Most of their voters have already vanished into the ether.
Oct 1. Doctor Who fans should check out this best-ever version of the show’s theme by DMG featuring Salvador Dalek.
Sept 30. ‘Screaming black-eyed ghosts’ are haunting Britain, according to the Daily Star. Scary, but not quite as unsettling as squawking Black Eyed Peas. Or indeed Theresa May’s speech at the Tory conference, where she essentially promised to clamp down further on free speech. We don’t need new laws to “stop extremism”, Theresa. We need to tackle the mindset that allowed sedition to flourish in our inner cities, which would mean putting the entire political class in the dock for decades of lies and neglect of our values. This charmless speech was May marking her territory for a future leadership bid. People say she looked “tough” and “like Maggie Thatcher”. It looked to me like she’d forgotten to take the coat hanger out of her jacket.
Sept 28. David Cameron is on the Andrew Marr show later today. Given his new interest in mimicry, let's hope Marr treats him to a quick flash of Brooks Newmark...
The married Charities Minister has been forced to quit after exposing himself online ('while wearing paisley pyjamas') to an attractive blonde PR girl admirer who turned out to be an undercover reporter working for the Mirror. If he'd looked in his own mirror, he might have seen through the scam. Why would a hot/phony Tory activist 'Sophie Wittam' be after his 56-year-old body? But then male egos are easily flattered. Some thoughts: 1) The story boils down to 'heterosexual male falls for beautiful woman', apart from potentially wrecking Newmark's marriage all the late night flashing proves is that Newmark's judgement is impaired – but we knew that anyway because he was in Cameron's cabinet. 2) Not exactly Watergate, is it? 3) With the way today's Tories are, it's nice to find a straight one. 4) Paisley pyjamas? 5) After working in and around Fleet Street for nearly thirty years, the words glass houses and stones spring to mind.
More bad news for Cameron – a second Tory MP, Mark Reckless, has defected to UKIP who are shaping up to over-take the Lib-Dims as Britain's third party. Membership has shot up to 38,000, they got more than four million votes at the Euro elections and next month they'll have their first MP. It is no longer possible to write off Farage's barmy army as a single issue one-man-band. UKIP, as the FT noted this week, appeals strongly to Britain's "left behind"; older working-class citizens concerned with EU waste, Westminster bullshit and irrational immigration. Which is why the party's growth is just as worrying for the Labour Party as the Tories. Even Len McCluskey can see that Labour is losing the working class. (And of course the far left "abandoned the class" decades ago). UKIP have detractors on the libertarian right as well as the left, but for the moment, nothing seems likely to slow the party's momentum. They're Chelsea against Villa, McGinley at Gleneagles. All bets are off; anything could happen...
Sept 26. What a night for TV. Amateur singers versus pro-celebrity (i.e. pro-amateur) dancing versus amateur TV critics on Googlebox. Such choice, such excitement! Mercifully my local is running a cut-price real ale night.
The Commons has voted to support military action against Isis/Isil in Iraq. It's Operation Third Time Lucky. Quite how we can knock out an enemy in one country when most of its resources are in another escapes me. But I'm sure our politicians know what they're doing; it's not like they've ever mucked up a military campaign before...
Sept 25. Royal update. Queen no longer purring, Philip now growling, Charles still barking...
The Labour Party conference reminded us how useless and out of touch the 'people's party' has become. Anyone who sees bumbling gaff-prone nerd Miliband as a potential world statesman needs to get checked out for glaucoma. How much more appealing would Labour be with someone like Alan Johnson at the helm? Down to earth, working class, witty, self-educated – that's my kind of Labour MP.
Sept 24. My new podcast is up and running at Radio Litopia with special guests Buster Shuffle playing live in the studio, and additional musical delights from 1 Eye, The Q, The Wrath, The Courtesans, No Resistance, Blackwolf, Supertonic Sound Club, Iaeshaa, the Riders Of The Night, DDC, The Antagonizers ATL, the Damned Vandals, Edelweiss and young English upstarts, The Fallen who have their own say on the West Lothian question... Hear it here.
Sept 23. I've just pre-recorded a chat with good old Steve Wright, one of
the few BBC DJs whose reputation remains unsullied by recent scandals. (No
DLT jokes by request). We kicked about such trifling matters as Piers Morgan
and the state of TV, disagreeing as usual. But we also managed to chew on my
latest Harry Tyler novel, Facedown, which is now available as an audio book
from here. (We're planning to make The Face and Two-Faced into audio books too.) The
chat should be on Steve's Radio 2 show on Thursday week.
Ed Miliband forgot to mention the deficit in his big (dull) conference
speech today. Well you can't blame him. The economy is not his field.
Ed's big plan is a mansion tax to save the NHS. Yeah, soak the rich, help
the sick. Simples, innit? Except hold up..not every £2million gaff looks
like Downton Abbey. Estate agents Knight Frank have found that 71per cent of so-called 'mansions' have five bedrooms or fewer – and it seems more than eight out of ten of them are in the capital. So as Boris said today this is largely a tax
on Londoners. But what if your house is worth £2mill because the area you
live in has become desirable over the years, like Shoreditch, but you
haven't got a spare £20K to bung Ed every year? What if you're mortgaged to
the hilt? Presumably you and your kids will be out on the street. You could
always take an equity release to pay it, of course, but with the current
interest rate on borrowing you'd effectively be paying an inheritance tax of
76per cent. Ouch. Labour's proposed tax is said to be popular with voters,
but it wouldn't just hit swanky bankers and Russian oligarchs. It'd also
clobber middle class homeowners, many of whom will be older,
many of whom will have everything they've got up tied up in their drums. And
for what? The Centre for Policy Studies reckons that the tax would raise
£1billion at most, which is small beer compared to the throbbing debt vacuum
at the heart of our economy. Ed's plan is lazy populism that appeals to our
baser instincts. It boils down to "They've got a nice house, let's piss on
Sept 22. I remember watching the 1973 Labour Party conference and being full
of hope for the future. Harold Wilson seemed to promise so much...and then he
delivered so little. I don't expect much from Labour Party conferences these
days, and nothing at all from Miliband. But Ed Balls banging on about the
£75billion deficit today really took the
biscuit... as smarmy Ed has obviously done many, many times. Does anyone
alive believe high-tax, big-spend Ed would have the first clue how to deal
with a £75 bill black hole – other than to get his shovel out and make it
bigger? It would be a rare MP who pointed out that we should simply stop
spending money we haven't got on costly nonsense such as EU membership and
overseas aid to countries that are better off than we are. If we slashed the
state, and actively encouraged manufacturers and businesses rather than
penalising them it would create jobs and so reduce the number of people
signing on. Is it more crazy to advocate a Britain that makes and sells
things, as opposed to one that merrily carries on spending like a
number-blind crack-head who's misheard the winning Lotto numbers?
Sky News searched the streets of Manchester today trying to find someone,
anyone, who trusted the Two Eds, Balls and Miliband. They couldn't find a
single soul. How we laughed. The problem is people tend to see the Eds as a
pair of clowns. They're not; they're actually a sign of the coming
apocalypse. Just two more horsemen to find...
Sept 21. I recorded a new podcast today with the wonderful Buster Shuffle, a
young London band operating in the space between Ska-pop and rock with
echoes of Madness, Blur and Chas n Dave. In a sane world they would be
topping the chart. But then in a sane world Missing Andy would be headlining
festivals and the Brompton Mix would be on the Radio 1 playlist. This is not
a sane world.
400,000 'climate change protestors' are said to have marched through New
York today ahead of tomorrow's UN climate summit. Ho hum. Back in 1970, as a
15-year-old radical, I was wont to quote from Friends Of The Earth
propaganda which stated categorically that civilisation had fifteen years
left before pollution killed it dead. It was a debate clincher. We're right,
and you're destroying the planet. Answer that and stay fashionable. That
hysteria was subsequently ratcheted up by the green lobby with alarmist
claims that the Arctic ice cap was disappearing, polar bears would be
extinct and we'd never see snow again – all based on false
computer-generated predictions. The ensuing panic has left most of Europe
blitzed with ugly, useless wind farms, and a generation of cynical
politicians who see green issues as a sneaky way to up taxes
and tell us how to live our lives. Naturally, New York's hot-headed
campaigners (actually unquestioning conformists) ignore inconvenient truths
like the small fact that the world is actually cooling... The words 'global
warming' are no longer used; they've been down-graded - first to climate
change and then to 'global weirding' which sounds like Lady Gaga has somehow
taken control of Mother Earth and is dressing up the trees in Marilyn Manson
cast-offs and various off-cuts of meat. Meanwhile many serious scientists
continue to say that the real culprit for climate anomalies is that big
yellow thing we sometimes see in the sky.
It was Al Gore who warned that the North Pole would vanish by 2013. There
was actually fifty per cent more ice at the Arctic in 2013 than there was
the year before. Meanwhile a research expedition ship became trapped in the
Antarctic ice on Christmas Day. Three attempts by icebreakers to reach it
failed. The ice was too damn thick.
Sept 20. Sam Bailey was on Through The Keyhole tonight. Her first-ever
recording 'Too Late' by Girls Next Door is out on vinyl in a week or so. Sam
co-wrote and recorded the song with my eldest daughter Julie way back in the
90s. Sam denied a Daily Mirror story that Simon Cowell turned down the
chance to sign her back then. I know it's true however because I
actually played Simon 'Too Late' a year or two later. He liked it, and said
if the girls were on TV he'd "sign them up immediately." It's very likely
that Sam didn't know this as she'd left South London by the time and was out
of touch with my daughter, but the Mirror story was bang on; it did happen.
Simon also particularly liked 'Photograph' by new country artist Leah
McCaffery, who I later married... but that's another story.
Sept 19. I wake up at 6.30am to hear that Scotland has voted to uphold the
Union; the United Kingdom is still in one piece... for now at least. But all
the time we remain in the European Union the pressure will grow not just to
tear the UK apart but also to slice up England into regions. The alternative
is to keep fighting for a clear-cut referendum on the EU and for the
creation of an English Parliament - which is the only real way to fix the
democratic imbalance caused by devolution, now made worse
by panicking Westminster politicians promising the Scots devo max and a
lifelong supply of cake they can have and eat too.
STOP PRESS. Today's Standard reveals that Cameron is promising that "the
voices of England" must now be heard. About time too. So when do we get to
vote on the Barnett Formula? David? Dave? Nope, he's gone quiet. The West
Lothian question will be addressed though. How can it be fair that Scotland
can have home rule and full tax-raising powers while they still send 59 MPs
to Westminster to legislate for the rest of us? You'd have to be a masochist
or Ed Miliband to defend the status quo. Ed's 'Labour' Party want to keep
things they way they are because it suits them - 41 of those Scots MPs are
Labour. Ed's talk of a constitutional convention is a delaying tactic, to
keep the issue buried until after next year's General Election. Like the
Eurocrats, Ed would much rather dice and slice old Albion into regions. The
real alternative is a federal UK... hand in hand with a simplified tax
system, proper border controls and a bonfire of red-tape and bureaucracy. A
Greater Britain devoted to enterprise, industry, innovation and achievement.
Maybe we could invite Southern Ireland and Northern France to join us.
Sept 17. Isn't it incredible that the only establishment politicians to come out of the No campaign mess with any credibility are Jim Murphy and Gordon Brown? Granted Gordon had no democratic mandate to make the promises, but the speech the former PM gave today was quite brilliant. He not only spelt out our shared history but also the things the British have built together. Brown connected with voters in a way he never managed to do while in power. Just think, if Gordon hadn't SOLD OUR GOLD at a knock-down price we might all be as well off as the Jocks... The most laughable campaigner was Ed Miliband who, when he wasn't bumbling around more out of his depth than Ant Man in an Olympic swimming pool, was urging English councils to fly the saltire to show solidarity with the Scots. His councils won't even fly the English flag on St George's Day! Gertcha.
Sept 15. Whatever the outcome of Thursday's referendum, we know for
certain that it will change our country forever. If Scotland votes Yes,
Labour will be out of power for a generation south of the border. But
a No vote, giving Scotland 'devo max', will make English voters wake
up and smell the haggis. Even Conservative MPs are realising that the
inequities caused by New Labour's lopsided devolution are unsustainable.
Yesterday, John Redwood wrote 'England cannot accept a position where
Scotland fixes its own income tax and also sends MPs to Westminster
to help set an income tax for England as well.' His solution was the
one I have advocated for years: the creation of an English Parliament.
Were the Tories to adopt home rule for England as an official policy,
they might even take the wind out of UKIP's sails. As a unionist politician,
Nigel Farage has had little to say on the unfairness of the current
set-up; indeed he was out campaigning for the establishment's desperate
super-devolution bribe which will cost English tax-payers dear. The
great tragedy is that Britain as we know and love it didn’t have to
die, and is only at threat now because our ruling class, and the political
caste, left and right, have completely lost faith in themselves and
in our values. (See also our courts, our teaching profession, the Anglican
church etc etc) The real alternative to the Yes brigade’s phony independence
and the No camp’s short-sighted devo max gamble is a united but
federal UK free of the EU, free to make our own laws and free to trade
with the world on our own terms.
Sept 12. So sad to hear that John Bardon has died; a great actor, a funny man and before being Grandad Jim in EastEnders probably best known for playing Jim Davidson’s father, Dad London, in Up The Elephant & Round The Castle. John was a superb stage performer, particularly when he performed as Max Miller in Here’s A Funny Thing which was shown on Channel 4 in 1982 and never repeated. A real shame. R.I.P.
Something else that was never repeated to my knowledge was the brilliant BBC series Turns, devoted to Music Hall acts. Presented by Jimmy Perry, who co-wrote Dad’s Army, Turns featured rare and magnificent clips of performers like Pimlico’s Gus Elen (who liked his ’alf a pint of ale), Marie Lloyd and Little Tich. It was a lost world of comic genius and accents long since dead. I’d love to see it again.
Good piece by Brendan O’Neill on how the No campaign are ‘saving the union by killing it’ with devo max:
Sept 11. Alex Salmond says the big debate is about Who Runs Scotland. An easy question to answer: the European Union do. Now stop pretending you’re advocating “independence” and deal with the real issues.
Sept 10. The 'Better Together' campaign stumbles to another own goal today as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband head north in a blind panic. Poor old Caledonia; first Gordon Brown, now the Three Stooges. Two liars and a berk. This trio of discredited and widely disliked figures representing the clapped-out Westminster establishment are desperately trying to repair a mess that became inevitable as soon as Blair kick-started the devolution process. There will not be a happy ending. If the Scots vote no, the rest of us will be saddled with extra bills whether we like it or not. If they vote yes, Salmond's economic promises will be exposed as a cruel con-trick. In the short-term, the Scots will face a deep recession as investors flog off Scottish-based assets and depositors whip their cash out of Jock banks. Most of their financial services industry will have it on their toes. In the longer term, they'll be forced to make massive cuts in public spending. Wages will fall, unemployment will rocket. This isn't scare-mongering, it's what proper grown-up economic experts and financial analysts are predicting. Salmond can bluster all he wants about North Sea oil and gas, but he must know that revenues from that are plummeting. Production and takings are under a third of what they were in the 90s, while Scotland's debts have shot up to £88billion in the past five years. A separate Scotland would be forced to swing the axe and cut deep.
This has been a horrible campaign, driven by Trolls, propaganda and lies. How does Salmond get away with pledging to protect the NHS when in Scotland he already controls it? Yesterday, he had the cheek to compare the Yes campaign with Mandela's struggle against apartheid – as if England were an aggressor nation rather than a loyal partner for centuries. All of that shared history, sacrifice and achievement could now be flushed down the khazi of history – and what hurts most is that next week's outcome might well be decided by the votes of disinterested EU nationals north of the border while ex-pat Scots are denied a say... like the rest of us. People forget that the whole point of the devolution caper was to break up the UK to feed us better into the Euro-mincer. To rub that home we're now hearing fresh calls for regionalisation of England – something English voters have already comprehensively rejected. Calls for an English parliament, for an English Bill of Rights, and for a referendum on our EU membership continue to go unheard and un-trumpeted. But the effects of the Scotland Decides campaign can be felt all over the country. Everywhere I go I talk to people who are angry about being treated as second-class citizens in our own land. The political elite and the BBC might be pro the union, but the reaction of everyday English folk is quite different. They dislike our MPs' desperate begging and bribing, abhor the hatred and intolerance of the Yes campaign, and are angered by Salmond's anti-English propaganda. If we had a vote next week, England's answer would be fuck em.
Sept 9. Gordon Brown leads "Vote No" fight-back, scream the morning headlines. Gordon Brown? Were Krusty the Clown and Frank Spencer not available? The man was a political disaster. He should have been sacked for flogging off 60 percent of Britain's gold reserves at rock bottom prices, costing the country upwards of £4billion. If the "Yes" bandwagon does steamroll its way to victory, against the odds, the uselessness of the No campaign will have a lot to do with it.
All this talk of more powers for Scotland makes no mention of English tax-payers having to subsidise it. How about justice (and home rule) for England? The West Lothian question and the Barnett formula must be addressed. It's time to draw a line in the sand!
Sept 8. The Carol Harrison chat is now up and running here.
Sept 7. I've just recorded a new podcast with my old friend Carol Harrison, of EastEnders fame – although she'll always be Gloria from Brush Strokes to me. We first met 41 years ago when both of us were teenage members of the International Socialists in East London. She was without doubt the most beautiful woman ever to flog the Socialist Worker outside the Royal Albert dock. It's fair to say that Carol is more sold on those old socialist certainties these days than I am, although I do share her enduring love of the Small Faces, the East End band who are the subject of her new Mod musical All Or Nothing (on in Worthing this coming Saturday as part of a Help For Heroes weekender – see poster below). Our chat will be up shortly, followed by podcasts with Lars Frederiksen of Rancid and the Old Firm Casuals and the author turned film producer Dougie Brimson.
P.S. I met Steve Marriott a few times back in the day, usually in the company of Iron Maiden in the States – on one occasion he'd just been detained by US border guards on the suspicion of being an illegal Mexican immigrant. Ay, caramba! He was a lovely bloke, funny and blessed with one of the great rock voices. Maybe time someone erected a bronze statue of Stevie in Little Ilford Park, Manor Park – the closest one to Itchycoo...
Sept 6. If you want to know what the Tories really think of working class people read Matthew Parris's article in the Times today. Parris, a former Conservative MP, lays into the Essex seaside town of Clacton complaining 'These are not wealthy retired professionals (almost 40 per cent of residents have no qualifications at all) and if you associate tattoos with youth, Clacton will surprise you... only in Asmara after Eritrea's bloody war have I encountered a greater proportion of citizens on crutches or in wheelchairs.' He sees a town that 'represents a Britain that's going nowhere... ' where 'Lycra is the textile of choice'... it's 'tracksuit and trainer, tattoo-parlour Britain' where bungalows go for £95K. It must have been hell for the poor love; there wasn't a Nobu or a Le Pain Quotidien in sight.
The stench of snobbery is overwhelming. Parris dislikes working class England so much he could be a Labour politician, a Guardian columnist or a BBC apparatchik. He sneers at Ken Dodd being a coming attraction on the pier, and mocks a harmless Bee Gees tribute show... Doddy? Dear God these awful plebs probably buy seaside postcards and remember Benny Hill with affection too... how naff.
How many of the good people he runs down were in wheelchairs because they'd seen military action or been let down by the decaying NHS? Matthew doesn't ask. How many of those unqualified residents would have done better if politicians hadn't scrapped the grammar schools? What would he make of those dreadful tattooed louts Winston Churchill, Edward VII and King Harold II?
Parris concludes that the Tories should 'let go of Clacton' in order 'to win Cambridge' (where he was educated, after private school). His sort of people. You can't help but suspect that all mainstream politicians feel like this – remember Gordon Brown and the bigot remark? They're much more comfortable with folk in £1 or £2million houses with Estonian au pairs and the right, fashionable opinions. And we know it. That's why people are angry. That's why UKIP are on the rise. And that's why Douglas Carswell will be re-elected in Clacton-on-Sea. It's also why Rupert Murdoch made sure he met Farage in New York yesterday. It wasn't the first time – they met five days after UKIP pushed the Tories into third place at Eastleigh in March last year too. Old Rupe can see that UKIP could end up holding the balance of power after the General Election. That other radical of the free market right Maggie Thatcher didn't sneer at the working class, she seduced them by letting them buy their council houses – and got elected three times on the bounce. The times, like The Times, may well be a-changing.
Sept 5. We are quite used to hot air balloons in this country, but has there ever been such a convention of gas-driven blimps as the ones we see at the NATO conference? They like to talk tough, but action? That's not their field. You can understand NATO's reluctance to steam in to Iraq given the mess they made the last time (see also Libya) but for the leader of the free world to say "We haven't got a strategy" was utterly pathetic. Yet as the clamour for war grows, let's ask why ISIL/ISIS are provoking the West with their beheadings. Could it be they actually want Western intervention believing that it will strengthen their cause in the long run? It strikes me that the best strategy is to let the Turks, Kurds, Iraqis and other interested neighbours sort out these swivel-eyed fanatics. ISIL are over stretched. They are already being beaten back by the Kurds, with Iranian help and US air strikes. They can and should be smashed without any US or UK boots on the grounds - even if that means holding our noses and dealing with al Assad. In the meantime, if Cameron and Hague want to talk tough maybe now would be the time to stop slashing defence budgets. It's a nasty world out there.
Sept 4. Sad to hear that Joan Rivers has died; she was the living proof that female comedians could be as sharp, fearless and outrageous as any man – until today. I only met her once, in LA back in the 80s when she was hosting her own late-night TV series, The Late Show, and I'd gone along with Ozzy Osbourne who was a guest on it. She was just as funny off-camera as on. I loved her acerbic wit and her tireless work ethic. Joan didn't care who she upset. "Madonna is so hairy. When she lifted her arm, I thought it was Tina Turner in her armpit... Mick Jagger could French-kiss a moose. He has child-bearing lips... Elizabeth Taylor, when she pierces her ears gravy comes out." She did gags about herself too: "On our wedding night, my husband said, 'Can I help you with the buttons?' I was naked at the time... .My love life is like a piece of Swiss cheese. Most of it's missing, and what's there stinks"... Rivers (born Joan Malinsky) was 81 and still gigging. She had turned herself into an industry (and a gay icon); her work will carry on making money for years.
I only ever saw Joan come unstuck once - when she told Bernard Manning he was a pig. Bernard shot back "The price of bacon, that's no insult." He didn't miss a beat.
Should British-born jihadists fighting for ISIS – now apparently known as ISIL - be refused entry when they return to the UK? No, just rounded up and interned when the war kicks off, as it inevitably will. We're on the verge of an epic conflict between the forces of civilisation and barbaric darkness, and the longer the West leaves it to fester, the harder it will come back and bite us on the arse. What happens next depends on how quickly Obama can locate his vertebrae. In the meantime, let's name and shame every two-bob right-on fanatic who advocated aggressive multiculturalism, branded everyone who questioned their mania "racist", "islamophobic" or worse, silenced debate and watched as thousands of British-born Muslims comprehensively rejected our values.
Sept 3. Boris Johnson is wrong about a lot of things, but Boris Island – his proposed four-runway Thames Estuary airport – isn't one of them. The Davies Commission is at best completely cuckoo to dismiss this excellent idea out of hand. Britain needs extra airport capacity; we already lag well behind Paris (with four runways), Frankfurt (four) and Amsterdam (six). Racket and pollution levels rule out expanding Heathrow – already Europe's noisiest airport – and Gatwick hasn't got the capacity. A brand new 24-hour airport constructed on the Isle of Grain in Kent would create at least 200,000 jobs, with many other knock-on benefits, and is the perfect solution. But as usual vested interests and timid politicians have combined to scupper ambition and imagination. UKIP should swing behind it.
Sept 2. Brace yourselves for new naked celebrity shocks. I hear those fiendish cloud hackers have got hold of Susan Boyle, Kathy Burke and Kellie Maloney...
Sept 1. Irony Corner: Ashley Slater, rejected out of hand by The X Factor last night for being "too old", had a Top Three hit while in Freak Power with the sublime Norman Cook penned 'Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out' – a song which is infinitely cooler than anything Cowell & co have ever been involved in.
The theatrical agent and manager Peter Prichard OBE, who sadly died on Saturday, lived a fuller life than any modern day 'celebrity'. As well as managing the likes of Max Wall and Bob Monkhouse, Prichard dated Ginger Rogers, helped revive the career of Mario Lanza and once saved Nat King Cole from the Ku Klux Klan. After learning his trade with showbusiness impresarios Lew and Leslie Grade, Prichard became European Talent Co-ordinator for US television's legendary Ed Sullivan Show, convincing Ed and his producer Bob Precht to book an unknown Liverpool band called The Beatles. Asked if his protégé was Jewish, Lew Grade replied, "No. But it doesn't show in his work!"
Aug 31. I find it hard to reconcile the Paul Ross I know with today's Sun splash - 'TV Ross: My gay drugs romp shame'. As a mate, I wish him and his lovely wife Jackie all the very best. I'm glad that she's standing by him and feel sorry for the pain they must both be going through. Everyone mucks up occasionally; it's what makes us human. But they're good people and I sincerely hope they'll get their lives back together soon.
Here's the odd thing about the Sun's story though. Paul said it all started when he was worried and depressed about the prospect of going bankrupt after receiving a hefty tax bill... and so he went dogging, snorted meow meow and fell in love with a geezer. Eh? You're worried about money and so you go dogging? Wouldn't your first instinct be to go to the bank manager? Unless the dogging spot was the only place he was guaranteed to see him without an appointment. Second question, if you go dogging to score meow meow, shouldn't it technically be called catting?
Aug 28. Just passing through to say that my chat with former Iron Maiden guitarist Dennis Stratton is up and running here.
Mark Steyn's insightful analysis of the disgraceful and shocking Rotherham child-grooming horror says it all.
Tsk. Robin Williams gone, Joan Rivers critical... someone put an armed guard on Chris Rock quick. What's God got against funny?
Sad to hear about the death of Colin Mcquillan of Belfast street-punk band Runnin' Riot. He was a good man, taken too soon. More than a thousand mourners turned up for Colin's funeral on Wednesday which says a lot about how loved and respected the man was.
Well done Douglas Carswell for having the guts to put your beliefs before political compromise. Carswell has seen through the pretence of Cameron's alleged "tough" stand over the European Union and bravely acted on his conscience. I hope voters in Clacton re-elect him, and that Dan Hannan jumps ship too. One subject that UKIP remain silent on however is the plight of English voters. When the Scots vote no to phony independence, they will be rewarded with more power and more subsidies at the expense of English tax-payers. As it is the UK Treasury rewards the average Scot about £1,400 more than the average English voter. It isn't just prescriptions and student grants either. Scottish politicians are over-represented in Westminster with a say on English matters creating a democratic imbalance that is not reciprocated north of the border. I'm for the union and for genuine UK independence, but this state of affairs is unsustainable. The terms of our relationship must change. The Barnett Formula needs to end and the West Lothian question must be settled by giving English voters control of our own affairs. Scotland should lose its extra subsidies and Scottish MPs should relinquish their right to vote on laws that apply only in England. Real democracy requires the creation of an English Parliament. And to get that, we need to build a cross-party movement from the grass roots up. Who's with me?
Did you watch Alex Salmond on Scotland Decides? He really is as slippery as the snake oil he should be selling.
Aug 12. This blog is closing down for a bit so I can get cracking on the second volume of Riff-Raff Rebels & Rock Gods. The Neville Staple podcast should be up later today, Bushell On The Box will continue to appear and the latest Street Sounds is now on sale. See you in September.
Genuinely sad about the death of Robin Williams. He was a colossus of comedy, a brilliant stand-up performer and a fine actor. Heaven just got a whole lot funnier.
Aug 11. It looks like Scotland will vote no to independence in five weeks time. The recent TV debate between Alex Salmond and Labour's Alistair Darling showed that the SNP doughboy has no answers to the key questions, specifically how he'd fund his brave new nation/EU serf-state. Slippery Salmond knows that Scotland has shelled out more than it has collected in taxes for more than two decades, which is why he was so flippant and evasive. There is also the small business of the £6billion black hole at the heart of the SNP's spending plans. Is there more to this than meets the eye though? Could it be that Salmond doesn't actually want full independence at all and is just counting on a large minority 'yes' vote to screw yet more money out of Westminster (and consequently English tax payers)? Scotland already enjoys special privileges and fiscal advantages compared to England. If the Scots vote to stay in the union they will demand and expect more. As usual the English will lose out. I've made my thoughts on this clear many times, I like the union and all it stands for, but the time has come for the English to have a say on our future too. We need to look out for ourselves. With or without Scotland, we need an English Parliament, we need a new and comprehensive English Bill Of Rights and we need a real debate about the only national divorce that really matters – leaving the EU.
An English Bill of Rights, Magna Carter for the 21st Century, would enshrine in law and guarantee to protect those rights and freedoms that we seem to be losing daily: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association and peaceful assembly (the right to protest) and freedom of the press. Citizens would be guaranteed the right to vote, the right to life, liberty and security. Citizens would be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, they could not be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, and they would have the right on arrest or detention to be informed of the reasons. Accused persons would be able to retain and instruct counsel without delay, have the right to be tried within a reasonable time and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. All individuals would be equal before the law and have a right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. These are the basic freedoms that men and women have fought and died for over the centuries, from the Peasants Revolt to the Chartists, via the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Levellers. It was Magna Carta – 800 years old next Summer - that first placed the law above the government and became the corner stone for other great constitutions including the USA's. It didn't do much for the serfs and vassals at the time but the germs of all of the freedoms we held dear before we joined the 'Common Market' can be identified within it - free contract, property rights, free elections, equality before courts etc. Now the state is holding secret trials, the need for a Bill Of Rights has never been greater. This is big important stuff and we need it in writing. We didn't get rid of the divine right of kings to replace it with the divine right of civil servants, Eurocrats and career politicians.
Ironically when it comes to freedom, the old-fashioned political Left (who claim to be part of this progressive tradition) are often the worst offenders. It's the far Left who have led the retreat from free speech around the globe, setting out to demonise anyone who dares to question their pet theories – see climate change, taxation, Sharia etc etc. These clapped-out pseudo-Marxists are part of the problem. So who speaks for the English now? No-one I can see. It really is, as the Gonads song says, up to US to make a stand for England's green and pleasant land; and to quote another punk band, talk minus action equals nothing.
**A big thank you to my old sparring partner Steve Ignorant who stepped in at the last minute on the literary stage yesterday when Joey Keighley didn't make it. Steve's book The Rest On Propaganda is now on sale.
Aug 10. If you're up at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, I've got a terrific line-up of guests on the literary stage this afternoon including Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes formerly of the Lurkers, Segs and Dave Ruffy AKA the remaining members of The Ruts and the living legend that is Leith's own Irvine Welsh. My other scheduled guests include Chicago novelist Bill Hillmann, veteran Canadian punk/activist Joey Keighley and Ian Glasper, who has charted the history of eighties punk more diligently than any. According to the programme notes I may even be interviewing myself at some point. Try and get along. It should be blinding.
Aug 9. What a mess the West has made of Iraq. Christians are getting out of Dodge, the Yazidis are heading for the hills and other minorities are running for their lives as the Islamic State sweeps through the land murdering at will. The poor bastards were better off under Saddam.
Aug 8. You shouldn't ever booze for two days on the trot, according to a busybody nanny state quango called Public Health England. For once they might even be talking sense. I find it's best to keep drinking for at least three days to get the full benefit.
Aug 6. Boris Johnson is going to run for Parliament as the start of his long anticipated bid to be Tory leader. He's painting himself as being tough on the European Union! Really? Boris is the bloke who wanted to expand the EU to take in Turkey! Don't believe a word of it.
Aug 3. I've just recorded a new podcast with 2-Tone legend Neville Staple. It'll be up and running in a week or so.
Boris Johnson is going to charge diesel cars an extra tenner to drive in London "to cut air pollution". Would these be the same diesel cars that governments were encouraging us to buy for more than a decade? It surely would.
Sad to hear about the recent death of guitarist Teenie Hodges, best known for his work with Al Green and Ann Peebles. Born Mabon Hodges in Tennessee in 1946, he started playing guitar for his Dad's blues band when he was 12, going on to play on Sam & Dave's 1965 hit 'I Take What I Want'. As part of the Hi Rhythm Section Teenie also recorded classics like 'Let's Stay Together' and 'I Can't Stand The Rain'. He died of emphysema in June.
Aug 2. Went to see Guardians Of The Galaxy last night and loved every minute of it. The movie subverts the conventions of superhero films while smartly delivering everything you'd want from one: action, pace, great direction (from James Gunn) and plenty of laughs. The oddball guardians consist of Groot, a talking tree-being ("I am Groot" is the limit of what he says), Drax a streetfighter with skin like flock wallpaper, Rocket a sarcastic genetically modified racoon who looks like a meerkat on steroids, sexy, green-skinned Amazonian fighting machine Gamora and Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) the gang's main man. If Captain Kirk had been a space pirate he'd have been Quill (played by Chris Pratt). Snatched from earth as a nine-year-old boy mourning his Mum, Peter grows up into an intergalactic bounty hunter with only a tape of early 70s hits to remind him of home. What Guardians lacks in originality it makes up for in grin-driven pace; it's the most enjoyable superhero romp since the Avengers.
Winding me up this week: the ludicrous price of cinema pop-corn, Madonna's Gaza intervention, the government's continued belief in ugly, expensive and inefficient wind-farms... (continued Red Lion). Not winding me up: Orlando Bloom vs Justin Bieber, winner presumably to take on Nicola Adams for the all-female catch-weight crown.
They were talking about bondage on Towie. Would Chloe let Elliott tie her up? "No I ****ing wouldn't," was the immediate retort. Of course she wouldn't. If Chloe was tied up she couldn't do her make-up, she couldn't do her nails, she couldn't shop... Respectable working class women have many fine attributes but an open mind about sexual experimentation is rarely one of them. You need one of those posh Chelsea birds for that kind of thing.
STOP PRESS: sorry to hear that Ronnie Rocka has died. Guitarist Ronnie, ex of the Angelic Upstarts, Splodge, HM Kids and many more, was a good guy who will be much missed.
AUG 1. Yet another karaoke singing show starts tonight on Channel 4. Wouldn't you think someone in TV would have the gumption to re-create a format like Whistle Test or So It Goes? Apart from Jools Holland's show, there are no openings for remotely original rock bands on telly – and Jools's booking policy is as baffling as the scoring system on Mock The Week. Yet there is life beyond Simon Cowell. I'm particularly fond of The Interrupters from Los Angeles (ska-punk roots, libertarian views), Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovel (proper heavy rock) and the Blue Pills whose bluesy brand of psychedelia deserves an airing... as do Elin Larsson's soulful vocals. Frustratingly, BBC4 is forever repeating documentaries about classic rock bands while doing sod-all to break fresh talent.
July 30. Another day, another depressing news report of child deaths from the Gaza Strip. I have a lot of time for Israel. It's the only properly free and democratic state in the Middle East, and it has been attacked regularly by Hamas who have the express intent of bombing it out of existence. Yet even Israel's friends find their response disproportionate. Hundreds of Palestinian kids have been killed this month. "Hamas use them as human shields", we're told and no doubt they do, but does this justify using undiscerning brute force against a civilian population and the blitzing of schools in clear contravention of the Geneva Convention? We need to ask why Hamas hate Israel so. Leaving aside the small matter of whose land is it anyway, and the way Israel has used the terrible kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers to kick the shh you know what out of non-military targets (it now turns out Hamas were not behind those kidnappings), the main reason for the festering hatred is Israel's continuing expansion into Palestinian territory. There are grievances on both sides. Israel wants security, the Palestinians want justice. The big question is what do Israel want after the battle and what will they give in return? Do they intend to re-occupy Gaza? If so, then what? Netanyahu needs to spell it out because neither cause is advanced by the current crisis.
The best thing about Ed Miliband is his fake Tinder account, which comes with lines like "I'm a socialist on the streets but an anarchist in the sheets." The real man is less entertaining. In fact Labour's entire message is grim: they want your money, and they'll tax your arse – even if you're dead – to squander the cash you've worked hard for on all manner of state-imposed nonsense. The constant harping about legal tax avoidance is part of this mind-set. Statists genuinely believe what's yours is theirs to piss away in whatever way they see fit. But as Lord Justice Clyde wisely said in 1929: "No man... is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, to arrange his legal relations to his business or property to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel into his stores." Our tax system is crazy, punitive, counter-productive and vastly over-complicated. How much tax are we paying just to fund the tax system? A single tax rate with a decent personal allowance of say £15,000 would raise just as much revenue as the current system while encouraging enterprise.
July 27. My latest podcast is up and running at Litopia with special guests the Pukes, Hackney's finest mostly female ukulele punk combo, and a Rebellion themed playlist.
July 26. Just watching the women's netball. Who knew it gets so physical, or that the Dorises who play it are the size of adolescent giraffes? It was like a scene from Brobdingnag. Must-see TV for any man who ever got turned on by the Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman.
Random things winding me up this week: the Tesco boss given a £20million pay-off – why reward failure? Pygmy politicians itching to re-boot the Cold War. People, mostly blokes, on trains who put their boots up on the seat opposite – someone has got to sit in the crap you've walked through. Berks wandering the streets with Google glasses and iPods, completely disorientated, lurching about the pavement like simple-minded zombies, and walking in front of cars. People who clog up the self-service tills in Morrisons with baskets blatantly ignoring the 15-item limit. People who feel the need to have loud, pointless, brain-numbingly dumb phone conversations in crowded train compartments where there is no escape from their tedium... until we install democratically controlled ejector seats: "what do we reckon, chaps, he's noisy, he's boring, he's got sod-all to say, he's out the ****ing roof." SPLAT.
July 24. Neat Matt cartoon today: three runners on the podium at the Commonwealth Games told "Scottish and Commonwealth athletes get their medals for free, but the English have to pay."
Enjoy the sun while you can. It's only a week or two until we get the first Christmas ads.
July 23. A bloke contacted me from Q magazine yesterday wanting to talk about Oi. I did speak to him for some time. He was talking about Oi as "a lost tribe" and seemed surprised to hear that scenes still exist all over the globe. I got the impression that he had already made up his mind what he was going to write, so expect another stitch-up. The last time this happened a geezer from the Guardian came round my house and despite professing sympathy for the way Oi bands had been stitched up by the Mail ended up writing a piece that claimed Oi fans in Southall's Hamborough Tavern had been throwing petrol bombs at themselves! He also took his by-line off the article. Odd isn't it that when Oi is understood around the world and even academics are beginning to appreciate what it was about, we get the same tired old knee-jerk prejudice at home.
The Queen's horse has tested positive for morphine. All together: "Just say neigh."
July 22. I've been promising to give Bev Elliott eight inches of fun for decades, and finally I've managed it. Here is the punk queen of Soho earlier this morning with my latest book, Riff-Raff Rebels & Rock Gods, which covers the golden years of the late 70s and early 80s...
July 21. I've just seen Jo Brand on TV claiming that I started giving her bad reviews after she slagged off Margaret Thatcher. There is no truth in this whatsoever. I gave her bad reviews because her material was weak, and that's it. When she did something great - as she did much later with Getting On - I praised it. Besides, if I'd turned against every 80s comedian who'd had a pop at Maggie, I wouldn't have had a good word for anyone. Yet I remember writing positive reviews of a whole swathe of what were then called 'alternative comedians', including Rob Newman, Alexei Sayle, Jerry Sadowitz, Vic and Bob and the great Lee Evans. I interviewed Rob and Lee back in the nineties, not to mention Harry Hill, Al Murray, and Paul O'Grady who could hardly be described as a right winger. The only real criteria with comedians is: are they funny. Jo's three jokes ran out of steam pretty quickly.
July 20. I recorded a Rebellion-themed special edition of my The Hungry & The Hunted podcast today, with studio guests The Pukes. The mostly-female punk ukulele-pluckers have risen from enthusiastic amateur strumming in dark London pubs to become festival stalwarts. Strangely they took umbrage to my suggestion that ukuleles and punk rock go together "like strawberries and vindaloo... "; can't think why. The pod comes with brand new songs from the Old Firm Casuals and The Boys, the new single from Louise Distras, and quality tracks from Operation Two Fold, Infa-Riot, Madball, Section 60, Speakeasy and the Skoisters. Of course no show would be complete without a snatch of Pauline Black, and a side order of Gonads... it should be up by the weekend.
July 18. It seems likely that pro-Russian separatists are behind the barbaric shooting down of Malaysia Airline Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, and the horrific murder of 298 passengers and crew, including at least eighty children. Compare and contrast Obama's lame response to how Reagan reacted when the Soviets shot down a Korean plane in 1983. Ronnie rightly called it "a crime against humanity" that "must never be forgotten." The official Kremlin line, of blaming Kiev, won't hold. Russia must be told to co-operate with a full international inquiry or become a pariah state, ostracised from the rest of the world and facing the toughest possible sanctions. Putin should hand over the people who fired the missile, compensate the families of the victims and help find a peaceful solution to the mess he and the EU have made of the Ukraine. We also need to establish why civilian planes were flying over a war zone. If the answer is just to save money on fuel, heads must surely roll.
July 16. When I heard that Michael Gove had been made Chief Whip, I assumed the education minister had been allowed to bring corporal punishment back into our schools. Instead Gove, the one Cabinet minister who actually believed in something, was demoted as part of Cameron's cosmetic make-over to make the Tories look more electable. It's all PR of course. Those new women ministers aren't strutting the Downing Street catwalk because they are the best available talent but because the resulting pictures are an effective publicity stunt. Eurosceptic Phil Hammond has been made Foreign Secretary to create the illusion that Cameron intends to 'get tough' with the EU. And Gove has been shafted because his education reforms produced so much rage from the teachers' union that he was deemed to have become toxic to the wider public... even if he was right. Cameron would rather go to the country on a platform of teeth and tits than an ounce of solid backbone.
July 14. Here as promised are a few words about Dave Legeno... Dave, who died recently in California, is best-known as the fearsome Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, but the demons and death-eaters of the movie are nothing compared to the monsters Legeno took on in real life. As a Cage Rage fighter, he faced and defeated some of the sport's toughest men including the Dan "The Beast" Severn and street-fighting legend Kimo Leopoldo. Kimo was his fourth ever fight, and he was the 500-1 outsider. The heavily tattooed US mixed martial arts expert looked like an LA gang member. "He was world class and had a black belt in ju-jitsu," Dave told me. "While I had lost my first three bouts... He was a seriously dangerous individual. Even my corner man wished that I wasn't fighting him. I just forgot how dangerous he could be and thought about how dangerous I could be." Legeno battered his veteran opponent in three minutes and 21 seconds of the relentlessly unforgiving first round. "I kneed him early on – my only worry was that I'd broken my knee on his face. I did shatter his nose. My heart was pounding, my blood was racing. This was forty seconds in to the fight and I realised I was beating him. I didn't stop; I just kept on going at him. And then I got him in a guillotine choke... " With Dave's arms locked around his neck, Kimo lost consciousness. When he came to, he couldn't get up for ten minutes.
The actor, who was fifty when he lost his life, had been a pro-wrestler, but none of his bouts had prepared him for the bloody full-on fury of Cage fighting. His first match had been against Alan Murdoch. "I'd given him a real beating and was amazed he was still standing," Dave recalled. "Then he got me in a submission hold and the ref stopped the fight – 'to save me from myself,' he said. These men were different class. They could take punches that would fell an elephant."
Legeno started cage-fighting in 2005, aged 42 - just to prove that he still had it in him. Back then, he stood out more for his theatrical ring entrances than his pugilistic prowess: "I'd gone straight in at the top-flight international level. My second fight was against a Japanese guy who'd had seventy bouts." After his third loss, he realised he'd have to take it more seriously and relocated to the US for intensive training. His dedication paid off. Dave, six foot three, smashed Kimo and then took on ex-UFC Champion of Champions Dan Severn – his toughest ever opponent. That brawl went fifteen ferocious minutes over three intense five minute rounds. Legeno – fighting as 'Death Wish' - won by unanimous decision. He built up a loyal following including his own acting idol Steven Berkoff, who raved about him in The Spectator magazine; and went on to face and beat Alan Murdoch in a decisive rematch. But when he signed to play savage werewolf Fenrir Greyback for three Harry Potter movies, production company Heyday insisted that he stay out of the cage for the duration of the filming.
"I understand why they made me stop," Dave told me. "When I was making Rise Of The Footsoldier I fought and won a bout on a Saturday night and turned up on Monday with a black eye for filming. That wasn't too bad in a film about hooligans and gangsters but it have wouldn't played too well in a family-orientated fantasy."
Dave Legeno's film career started with Snatch in 2000. He went on to appear in 44 Inch Chest (with Ray Winstone), Centurion (with Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) and Command Performance (with Dolph Lundgren). As well as his three Harry Potter movies, Dave also popped up as Tudor, the sneering heavy who threatened poor old Nana Moon in EastEnders, a brutal assassin in ITV's The Fixer, and John Lennon's chauffeur, Les in Lennon Naked with Christopher Ecclestone. Less praiseworthy was his role as a he-man with the ability to 'cure' lesbians in a comedy sketch disgracefully filmed in my front room. Born the son of a black cab driver in Marylebone, Legeno grew up in leafy Buckinghamshire, becoming a skinhead and leaving school at 16 to work on demolition and building sites. At 19 he took off for North America and spent eight years roaming through the US, Canada and Mexico working in bars as a doorman singing in bands and picking up money in unlicensed fights. Working in the evenings left him free to study drama in the day. He returned to England in 1990, again working as a bouncer and debt collector in London and then, after being shot at one time too many, Dave became a pro wrestler training at the East End's famous Peacock gym alongside Lennox Lewis. He was first drawn to acting by reading Shakespeare, but it was the Berkoff play West that really hooked him. "I read it before I was old enough to have been in a fight or to have fallen in love," he told me. "But the writing inspired me. I knew one day I'd be old enough to feel the things he wrote about." He was offered a role with Berkoff in a stage production of On The Waterfront but it clashed with training. Instead the legendary director came and watched the fight. "That was like all the elements of my life were slotting in to place – my love of literature and theatre had come together with my love of testosterone-fuelled clashes. I had to win that day because in Cage fighting what scares you most is not getting a black eye or a broken nose; it's looking bad in front of people you care about."
In the US, Dave trained with the American actor Don Frye, who he called "the toughest man I know; he had both of his ankles broken by Ken Shamrock but carried on and won the fight. Incredible."
When he wasn't acting or training, former bar-owner Legeno fronts his own rock band – "I don't like dance music," he growled. Between takes on the Potter film set he would get out his guitar and jam with Tom 'Draco Malfoy' Felton in his trailer. He had been joined on stage by the likes of Mickey Goldtooth and Rob Spragg from the Alabama 3. His debut album 'Mean Streets' is "a rare collector's item," he would say straight-faced, adding: "found only in my Dad's garage."
The big man was always tight-lipped about his personal life. "It's a mess," he would laugh. But he does have a grown up daughter called Wendy. "I used to read her the Harry Potter books when she was young, and so now she's a beautiful woman it was wonderful to be able to take her to the premiere. We were lucky enough to be picked up in Surrey in a limo and walk up the red carpet together. I introduced her to all the stars and they were so polite. They're great kids, really positive and incredibly well-adjusted."
Wendy's mum had been diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic with paranoid psychosis. Dave's romantic relationship with her had been brief, but he cared for her for years. Inside that big body was a big heart to match. He was a good man, and a loyal friend, deadly serious about his acting. Dave kept himself fit, and always pushed himself to the limits – it looks like that was how he came to be hiking in the hellish temperatures of California's Death Valley this month. I'm still shocked by his loss; my thoughts are with his family.
July 12. It was more than 82 degrees Fahrenheit today – proper Summer weather – so when better to play a shed-load of sizzling Summer songs? Here's my Top Ten: 1) Heatwave – Martha & The Vandellas 2) Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran 3) School's Out – Alice Cooper 4) Summer In The City – Lovin' Spoonful 5) Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks 6) Summer Breeze – Isley Brothers 7) Peaches – The Stranglers 8) Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles 9) Here Comes The Summer – The Undertones 10) In The Summertime – Mungo Jerry. Don Henley is bubbling under with Blondie and Billy Idol.
STOP PRESS. So sorry to hear that my friend Dave Legeno has died. Dave who found fame as Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, had been hiking in Death Valley in California. The former cage-fighter was a bright articulate focused guy who took his acting extremely seriously - and he'd set his heart on playing my undercover detective character Harry Tyler in the long planned film adaptation of The Face. He was a fine man, a gentleman taken too soon. I'll write a proper tribute in a day or two. In the meantime, my thoughts are with his daughter, Wendy.
July 11. The SWP have taken some stick today – and rightly – for their sick jokes about that poor teenager who got mauled to death by a 39-stone polar bear. Horatio Chapple's crime was to have been a pupil at Eton College. 'Now we have another reason to save the polar bear,' chortled the Socialist Worker. Because all these posh public school kids must all be put up against the wall and shot, right? Except hang on, when I trained at the Socialist Worker it was edited by Paul Foot, the brilliant campaigning reporter who was educated at... Ludgrove prep school and Shrewbury public school. George Orwell, another genuinely great socialist, was educated at... Eton College. How many other SWP Central Committee members had a public school education? I'm pretty sure Paul Holborrow did. Alex Callinicos, the party's leading intellectual, went to a private Catholic college in Zimbabwe. His mother was the daughter of the very gorblimey Lord Acton. David Renton, a barrister, and until recently a prominent member of the SWP is another old Etonian who studied history at Oxford. Maybe they should all be rounded up and fed to hungry polar bears too... this tradition of the posh revolutionary goes all the way back to the founder of Britain's first Socialist party, the Democratic Federation (which later became the Social Democratic Federation). He was Henry Hyndman, another old Etonian, barrister and Oxford graduate. According to Caroline Benn: 'Hyndman's approach to audiences was to speak in the tall silk hat and frock coat of the upper-class gentleman he was, thanking his working-class audience for supporting him and his kind, and belittling them for their gullibility in accepting the yoke of capitalism. Even Hyndman's most loyal supporters always had a 'chill sinking of heart' at his stockbroker appearance and continual harping on his 'upper-class origins... ' His habit of breaking into Latin in the middle of his speeches didn't help, either. Che Guevara came from an upper class family, Lenin and Trotsky's folks were well-to-do, Mao's dad was a wealthy farmer, Engels's Dad was minted, Castro went to boarding school and private school... and of course diplomat's son Joe Strummer went to great lengths to keep his City Of London Freemen's boarding school education under wraps. So many leading Marxists come from privileged backgrounds you might conclude that their ideology is essentially bourgeois. It certainly rarely chimes with working class opinion or indeed working class interests. What kind of people think teenagers should be killed because of who their parents are anyway? The same sort of people who assure us that heaven on earth is possible, as long as we're prepared to give all power to the state and kill a few more million along the way... and they wonder why we're cynical.
July 6. My hour-long podcast chat with Roy 'Mr Symarip' Ellis is up and running here.
Quick update. Alan Johnson is being urged to run as a stalking horse to depose electoral liability Ed Miliband. Labour certainly need to get shot of Dead Ed, who seems more out of his depth than Warwick Davis in the Marina Trench, and former postman Johnson is one of their most down-to-earth, likeable and recognisably human MPs. He was an original Mod too. Unfortunately by his own admission Alan lacks the drive to be PM. In his diaries, Chris Mullin quotes Alan Milburn as saying that Johnson was 'a nice guy who recognises his own limitations. People assume he has hidden depths but he doesn't'. Johnson responded: "'I think that's quite fair, actually. I did know my limitations. You have to know what you're good at and you have to know if you're biting off more than you can chew." His judgement is pretty whacked too. Not only did Al consider himself in tune with Communist Party thinking years after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia opened most Marxist eyes to the grim reality of the Soviet empire, but also when he was in office he voted strongly for the Iraq War and very strongly against calls for an investigation into it. Alan voted for more EU integration and against a referendum on EU membership. His heart might be in the right place, but his head frequently isn't. By running against Miliband, Johnson's backers hope he would flush out more substantial contenders for the leadership role, of whom the favourite I'd imagine would be Yvette Cooper – or Mrs. Balls as she never calls herself. Expenses-fiddler Cooper would certainly make a better leader than Ed, but a quick look at her voting record suggests she'd do little to make Labour more representative of popular opinion. According to husband Ed Balls she is also a bit "last minute dotcom" and does no housework, which should swing the Loose Women brigade of goons behind her, if not Godfrey Bloom, but what does it say about her judgement that she married old Balls-Up in the first place? My favourite Labour MP, if you're asking, is Kate Hoey who wanted a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and voted against government policy on Iraq, ID cards, extended detention without trial, university tuition and top-up fees. Naturally she isn't in the running.
Last year I suggested that the showbiz paedophile scandal went all the way up into the Establishment. This week it has emerged that a dossier detailing allegations of a 1980s Westminster child abuse network is one of more than a hundred potentially relevant Home Office files that have mysteriously been lost or destroyed. The dossier was given to Leon Brittan back when he was Home Secretary by the campaigning Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens; Brittan appears to have mislaid it. It stinks of a cover-up. Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk – who helped remind us of Cyril Smith's charmed life of perversion - probably understates the truth when he comments: "The public view will be that there is something fishy going on. The public will understandably think these documents have gone missing because it helps protect the names of those identified in them. That is the conclusion that many will come to, and who could blame them."
Years ago I employed Andy Coulson on the Bizarre column which he went on to edit very well. He was hard-working, bright, diligent and ambitious. He was also great company. I don't condone phone hacking – according to an old friend at News UK my mobile was hacked too - but I'm sorry that Andy has been made the fall-guy for something that was practised by many newspaper groups, including the sanctimonious Guardian. The biggest creep in this whole affair is our Prime Minister who employed Andy as his Director of Communications, and has now shafted him with indecent haste. I'd have had more respect for Cameron if he'd condemned the crime but stood by the man.
Is Hillary Clinton the "most famous woman in the world", as Radio 4 claimed this week? More famous than the Queen, Lady Gaga, Beyonce Knowles or Oprah? Hmm. She certainly seems to be the BBC's choice for next US President. But what is she actually famous for? We've seen plenty of pictures of Hills on foreign junkets but could any of us name a single overseas situation she has improved? Hillary was one of the idiot warmongers likening Putin to Hitler a few months back. Could Jackie Mason be right when he observed: "Hillary Clinton says she's the most qualified because she was married to a President for eight years. Now let me ask you, if a brain surgeon quit his job, would everyone in the operating room say, 'Wait, let's get his wife'?"
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