April 15. Two recent Populus opinion polls have put the Tories
virtually neck and neck with the Labour Party. They’re on 33%
to Labour’s 35% and 34% to 35%; and the gap is closing - a poor
reflection on Miliband’s performance in opposition. With Cameron
able to point to an economic recovery, Labour could well lose
the 2015 general election. Here is how I think they could turn
things around: 1) Take a leaf out of Obama’s book and concentrate
on bread and butter workplace issues, like pay discrimination
- women in full-time employment earn on average 10% less than
men do, and that figure rises to 20% less if you include part-time
workers 2) Campaign to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour. These
issues would go down well with Labour’s core vote. Ed could boost
the party’s popularity in other ways too, but these mean slaughtering
a few sacred cows. Like 3) On Europe, Miliband could severely
nobble UKIP’s spurt in Labour constituencies by agreeing to a
referendum on EU membership within months of getting elected –
and then put the social democratic case for staying (socio-economic
rights and protections) to the electorate. 4) On education, by
restoring grammar schools Labour would reverse plummeting social
mobility. 5) On MPs’ expenses, Miliband could draw a line under
the scandal by proposing either a set allowance or a rise in MPs’
salaries (the former would be more popular). 6) On the economy,
question the sustainability of Osborne’s “growth” – is it real,
i.e. productive, or merely fuelled by government spending? Ed
could propose immigration reform to protect wages and restrictions
on foreign property ownership to keep urban housing affordable.
7) Make it easier to start and run small businesses, and workers’
co-operatives, by slashing red tape. 8) Back Co-op workers against
their feather-brained and feather-bedded board… I don’t expect
Miliband to take up any of my last six proposals, which is why
the best way to make the Labour Party viable would be to find
a new leader, preferably one with working class roots and some
real-world experience. Something needs to be done because the
growing gap between rich and poor, the squeezing of the middle
class, and the feeling that ‘whoever we vote for we all
get screwed’, fuel electoral cynicism and the appeal of
fringe parties. Politics appears to be in the hands of a small
caste of privileged liars whose biggest mission is to line their
own pockets – not true of all MPs of course, but it’s a widespread
feeling. The people at the bottom of the heap know they are being
screwed like a Napoleonic whore when the fleet’s in town. The
average citizen is losing out across the board – on jobs, wages,
housing, health, education and pensions. And if the economy is
growing, the benefits aren’t filtering down in a hurry. No wonder
people are either apathetic or angry. The whole system needs reform.
Giving us a genuine incentive to work, and a real say in how our
society should be run would be a bloody good place to start.
April 13. The PacMan is back, man! Manny Pacquiao’s unanimous victory over Tim Bradley earlier this morning (UK time) was thoroughly deserved. Two years ago, he was stitched up by the judges who outrageously handed Bradley his WBO welterweight belt. This time there was no doubt. The 35-year-old Filipino southpaw was simply the better man; he was sharper, faster, smarter, hungrier and more effective, setting the pace for most of the bout. But inevitably PacMan’s victory is already over-shadowed by the biggest question in professional boxing: why can’t he fight Mayweather? It’s the tear-up the whole world wants to see. So why is it still unlikely? Simple – blame the suits. Relationships between Floyd Mayweather’s promoters, Golden Boy and Pacquiao’s promoters Top Rank are akin to the one between Kiev and The Kremlin: Cold War chilly. They won’t do business. Unfortunately Golden Boy also promote Amir Khan, Macos Maidana and Danny Garcia…which is why Manny is likely to fight Marquez next – for the fifth time – if the Mexican beats Mike Alvarado in Inglewood on 17th May. Top Rank’s Bob Arum has said: “The only people that can make Floyd Mayweather fight Manny is the public.” Sadly the chance of fight fans boycotting the Maidana bout on 3rd May, not buying tickets or Pay-Per-View, are about as slim as my chance of lasting a round with either of them.
In other fight news Paul Myners lost his battle with the Co-op
this week. A board member called Myners’s resignation “a victory.”
Yeah, it was a victory all right, a victory over reality. The
Co-operative Group is about to unveil losses of more than £2.5billion.
It has net debts of £1.2billion, and has been up shit creek since
way before the Rev Flowers revelations, recklessly piling up debt
by snapping up Somerfield in 2008. Only last Friday the Co-op
Bank confirmed it had lost £1.3billion last year. Myners is not
a Thatcherite shark; he was ennobled by the Labour Party. He tried
to push through sensible reforms to put the Manchester-based mutual’s
house in order. He proposed putting experienced business heads
on the board as non-executive directors, replacing the present
financial illiterates who were party to the failed Lloyds TSB
acquisition bid and last year’s £1.5billion recapitalisation.
Chris Kelly’s independent report is likely to name the guilty
men - and boost Myners’s proposals to reform the corporate structure.
If the group’s annual meeting rejects them, they will be like
turkeys voting for Christmas; they’ll be signing the 170-year-old
mutual’s death warrant. The Co-op may be a cherished brand but
lenders won’t prop them up forever. How long before they are forced
Every now and then I get messages from people annoyed that I don’t think the same way I did 35 years ago. But life doesn’t happen in a void. We grow up, we deal with problems, our views change, our tastes change. I can’t stand that juvenile box mentality: “If you like Ska you can’t like Iron Maiden”, “You can’t talk to him because he votes for a party I don’t like/doesn’t dress like it’s 1981/isn’t content to doss through life in a permanent drunken haze” etc etc. As it happens, I’m perfectly comfortable liking punk rock and Bach, high-tech innovations and church architecture, Ivan Reis and J.M.M. Turner. And if anything I’m more convinced now of the need to fight for individual liberties. Isn’t it sadder to stick to your blinkered youthful beliefs against the evidence of experience? Dogmas are there to be questioned.
April 8. My new audio book Riff-Raff, Rebels & Rock Gods is on
sale now. Subtitled, Confessions From The Glory Years Of Sounds,
it packs in six whole hours of memories from a time before Simon
Cowell when rock was real and pop was genuinely exciting. The
cast of characters includes Ozzy and Iron Maiden unleashed in
the USA, Hanoi Rocks in India, the Angelic Upstarts’ notorious
prison gig, Rose Tattoo on the road, the Specials in New York,
the Exploited in Berlin, The Selecter, Ritchie Blackmore, Twisted
Sister, the Cockney Rejects, Judge Dread, Max Splodge and those
legendary hell-raisers UFO – all for £7.50! Follow this
link to download it straight to your computer
In 1978 I lucked my way into a staff job on the rock weekly Sounds.
NME said punk was dead, but I was going out and seeing great bands
every week – the Ruts, the Skids, the UK Subs, the Members and
later the Upstarts and the Rejects. It was a magical time. I saw
the Specials play their very first gig as the Specials supporting
the Clash in Aylesbury. That was my first review in the paper!
When the Mod revival started, I was there; and I was there for
the birth pangs of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal too. Even
to write these words unlocks a flood of memories: getting tongue-tied
when I met Joe Strummer, going on the road with The Jam, becoming
mates with Jimmy Pursey, eating pizza with U2, reviewing their
demo tape, compiling the Oi albums, being mesmerised by Debbie
Harry, being bamboozled into managing the Rejects, watching Def
Leppard conquer the States, Ozzy Osbourne shaving off my eyebrows,
getting rat-arsed with UFO... many, many times. Life is a drink
and you get drunk when you’re young...For six years I had the
best job in the world, then like a fool I walked away from it.
And for the next three decades I’ve had people asking me about
those glory days. What was Weller like? Is Ozzy really nuts? What
crazy conspiracy kept the Gonads out of the charts...? You can’t
put your arms around your memories, but you can sure as hell write
a book about ’em. These were the best years of my life. I hope
you enjoy them... because if you do, I’ll record part two and
that will feature Ian Dury, The Clash, The Ruts, The Jam, Motörhead,
Phil Lynott, Crass, Slade, Conflict, Gary Moore in Japan, The
Skids, Seething Wells, Def Leppard, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Bob
Geldof, The Mo-Dettes, The Eurhythmics, Bad Manners, the Business,
the Last Resort , Status Quo, the great Butlin’s festival of the
60s and Engelbert Humperdinck. Those were the days, my friends...
April 5. It was Clegg v Farage round two in the week, and the
Lib Dem leader lost hands down. Even if viewers aren’t sold on
UKIP, they can spot a wrong’un and slippery Clegg tried to pull
the wool over our eyes at least twice. Firstly by claiming again
that Brussels only generates seven per cent of UK laws and regulations
– the figure is closer to 70%. Secondly by denying that the EU
has “an aim to militarize.” Clegg called this “a dangerous fantasy
that simply is not true”, which suggests that he’s either misinformed
or he’s lying through his teeth. He must know that the EU already
has its own battle groups consisting of ‘highly trained, battalion-size
formations (1500 soldiers each) - including all combat and service
support as well as deployability and sustainability assets.’ (quote
from their own website). Only last September the EU Parliament
approved a Report entitled: EU Structures: State of Play & Future
Prospects which called for a fully fledged EU Military Headquarters,
stronger EU Battle Groups, and more financial expenditure on military
equipment. Also last year, Martin Schulz, the speaker of the European
Parliament said quite clearly: “If we wish to defend our values
and interests, if we wish to maintain the security of our citizens,
then a majority of MEPs consider that we need a headquarters for
civil and military missions in Brussels and deployable troops.”
A recent article in the Telegraph added more. ‘The European Union
is planning to “own and operate” spy drones, surveillance satellites
and aircraft as part of a new intelligence and security agency
under the control of Baroness Ashton’, it revealed. ‘The controversial
proposals are a major move towards creating an independent EU
military body with its own equipment and operations. Officials
told the Daily Telegraph that the European Commission and Lady
Ashton’s European External Action Service want to create military
command and communication systems to be used by the EU.’ In November
Brussels approved a plan to produce military drones from 2020
onward. All of this of course makes perfect sense if your long-term
goal is the creation of Europe as a nation state, but harder to
explain if your strategy is to pretend you’re not planning that
at all. Like Clegg and all our other empty suits do...
Ed Miliband was all up for including Farage in the leaders debates before the 2015 General Election... until now. What’s changed? Well, a) he’s seen him in action against Clegg and b) he’s realised that UKIP are just as much a threat to Labour votes as they are to Tory ones. I don’t think any second-rate, self-serving Establishment politician could lay a glove on Farage in this kind of encounter. You’d need to pit an articulate working class radical of the Left against him, because like Nigel, a true socialist also treasures our hard-won liberties, and our right to run our own country; a true socialist would also have a better shot at countering Farage’s brand of Thatcherite economics, even if their solutions (nationalisation, trade barriers, a larger state and much higher taxation) are a proven recipe for disaster. Bob Crow, who I had been lining up for my next Litopia podcast, would have been perfect. Who else is there?
Coming soon: my new audio book Riff-Raff, Rebels and Rock Gods
– a journey through the glory years of Sounds in the company of
Iron Maiden, The Specials, Ozzy Osbourne, UFO, The Exploited,
Twisted Sister, the Selecter, Hanoi Rocks, Rose Tattoo, the Angelic
Upstarts, Judge Dread, Ritchie Blackmore, the Cockney Rejects,
ZZ Top and more... Watch this space.
March 28. A few months after he joined the Sex Pistols, Sid
Vicious hooked up with beautiful 16-year-old Norwegian Teddie
Dahlin who was acting as translator on the band's 1977 Scandinavian
mini-tour. Smitten Sid, 20, had split up with girlfriend Nancy
Spungen at the time, and begged Teddie to come back to England
with him. If her horrified mother hadn't confiscated her passport,
Sid might not have got back with Nancy, and might not have died
tragically in New York nineteen months later. The course of punk
rock history would have changed. In my
latest Radio Litopia podcast, Teddie talks about her books
A Vicious Love Affair: Remembering The Real Sid Vicious and Fast
Living: Remembering The Real Gary Holton which charts the suspicious
demise of the legendary Heavy Metal Kids front-man and TV star.
My other guests are Cockney piano player Frankie ‘Boy’ Flame,
and Phil Templar from New York Oi band The Templars. The lively
show features largely brand new tracks by Stiff Little Fingers,
Bishops Green, Chris Pope, Rust, Nick Welsh, The Antagonizers,
Laurel Aitkin, the Evil Turkeys, The Outfit, Superyob, The Warriors,
Jonny Cola & The A Grades, Epic Problem, and Close Shave. The
show will be posted here
within 24 hours.
Sorry to hear that Steve Moore has died. Steve worked with Alan Moore (no relation) on comic strips for Sounds back in the 70s before moving on to 2,000AD, Doctor Who Weekly, Warrior and Fortean Times. Steve was born and lived most of his life in Shooters Hill, south east London, and was eulogised strangely in Alan Moore’s Unearthing. He said he always knew his tombstone epitaph would be ‘Steve Moore – no relation.’
Diana Dors’s sex parties are back in the news, thanks to the Max Clifford trial. The late great Bob Monkhouse told me he’d gone along to one of them at her West End home in the 50s. Available young women, mostly dancers, were on tap, and Diana’s first husband Dennis Hamilton soon led Bob to a private bedroom with an obliging beauty. There was a catch though; unknown to the comedian, other party guests would gather in the room above to watch celebrities shag through a massive two-way mirror in the ceiling. Clever Bob worked out he was being set up as a peep-show and his ardour, if not his ’ard-on, dampened. Much like a News of the Screws hack, he made his excuses and left.
I write about the Clegg-Farage debate over at On The Box on
Sunday, but let’s look at the three controversial issues arising
from the televised showdown. First Clegg claimed that leaving
the European Union would cost us three million jobs. But this
figure only concerns jobs linked to the EU as an export market;
it is nothing to do with British membership. Jonathan Portes of
The National Institute of Economic & Social Research called the
claim “totally implausible and certainly not based on evidence.”
Clegg wouldn’t (and couldn’t) explain why the EU would want to
stop trading with a non-member UK. Secondly, there was UKIP’s
claim that EU membership costs the UK £55million a day. That figure
doesn’t really add up either, although it’s probably an under-estimation.
It’s difficult to calculate the actual sum as it involves direct
and indirect costs. In 2010 the UK directly contributed around
£6.9billion to the EU budget. We got about half of it back, but
Brussels told us how to spend it. The indirect costs included
the Common Agricultural Policy could be as high as £17billion
per year according to the Global Britain think tank, while the
Common Fisheries Policy costs us £4.7billion a year. The cost
of Brussels-imposed regulation is thought to be at least £48.7billion,
and on top of that we’d have to add the cost of bailing out struggling
member states like Greece. Farage’s figure is wrong, the EU actually
costs us a lot more than £55mill a day. The final and biggest
supposed controversy was the UKIP leader accusing the EU of having
“blood on its hands” over Ukraine. Clegg has said he was “shocked”
by Farage’s “extremism.” Tory minister Andrew Lansley called it
“outrageous” and demanded that Farage withdraw his comments. Unfortunately
for Lansley, the accusation has formidable support among his fellow
Tories. In a new Bruges Group film, Norman Tebbit muses: “It must
look to a Russian that this is a rather aggressive posture being
taken by the European state.” Tory MP John Redwood accuses the
EU of provoking Putin into flexing his military muscles. While
another Tory, Bernard Jenkin (MP for Harwich & North Essex and
enthusiastic nudist) describes those who want action against Russia
as Euro-neo-cons spreading instability within Eastern Europe.
He says that the EU’s actions are “on the way to causing a civil
war” in Ukraine. At the other end of the spectrum, the Trotskyist
Fourth International has also accused Berlin of “fomenting civil
Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality album has just been re-released on vinyl, along with their debut album, Black Sabbath and Paranoid. Masters, the band’s 1971 third LP, was short but massively influential. This was where Sabbath consolidated their trademark sound, with guitarist Tony Iommi tuning his guitar down to C sharp, making the band’s already awesome heaviness darker and deeper – a trick rock guitarists still copy. The stand-out tracks are Ozzy’s hymn to cannabis, ‘Sweet Leaf’, the gloriously riff-heavy ‘Into The Void’ and protest anthem ‘Children Of The Grave’ (‘Revolution in their minds, the children start to march... ’) Stoner metal and doom metal started here.
Demented German Stalinists have accused me of being a rabid
right-winger because nine years ago I stood as a general election
candidate in Greenwich & Woolwich. Let’s be clear about this.
I stood on a platform of creating an English Parliament and calling
for an English bill of rights. If anyone can explain to me why
these demands are “right wing” or “extreme” in any way, I’d be
extremely grateful. The big problem for the Stalinists is that
I stood on an English Democrats ticket. Was this a mistake? The
party chairman Robin Tilbrook, an Essex solicitor, assured me
that they were a pan-political campaign, promoting a cause that
crosses the boundaries of the tired (and inaccurate) old left/right
divide and which was relevant to all democrats. The second time
I met him was at a Campaign for an English Parliament meeting
inside the House of Commons. As far as I can see, the campaign
had and has more Old Labour supporters than right-wing ones. I
was never a member of the party, but I took them at their word
and stood on my own terms. Later developments made me, and many
others, question their judgement. But I still think Robin is a
good egg – I never once heard him say anything remotely ‘dodgy’
– and I advocate the cause of an English Parliament to this day.
Compared to Tilbrook, the anti-democratic, libel-prone, intolerant
Stalinists are the proper wrong’uns.
Why do old-fashioned Marxists believe so strongly that they, and only they, are in the right when their history is so full of shocking mistakes, brutality and mass murder? The problem is that if you believe as they do that Marx was to history as Darwin was to science then your convictions become incontrovertible truths, in your head at least. But as my clever friend Matt reminds me, Karl Kautsky called the Russian Revolution right. Lenin falsified Marx to justify the Bolshevik uprising, Kautsky knew no good could possibly come of it. He called them dictatorial “Blanquists” rather than Marxists; Lenin called him a “shit-head”.
March 22. The more I think about Scottish independence, the more it winds me up. The English are part of this union too, so why don’t we get a vote on our future? It’s like a marriage where the wife says she’s thinking about divorcing you, she’s got this other fella, Brussels, on the go, but it’s her business, so keep your nose out, pal, you’ve no’ got a say in it. Granted it’s a complicated marriage, a polygamous one, Wales and Northern Ireland are also in the bed, and Brussels has been screwing all of us while telling us we’re made for each other (the slag); but essentially the analogy is right. What irks is that for decades now, the English have been bending over backwards to keep Scotland happy – giving her extra cash, devolving power, and spending fortunes on her Parliament while allowing Scottish MPs to keep having a disproportionate say in ours. It’s ended up with Scotland getting Holyrood, Wales and NI having regional assemblies, and the English having... sod all. We’re supposed to make do with the old UK Parliament, even though it remains weighted in Scotland’s favour. So the Scots make their own decisions, while the Scottish Labour block vote helps keep Miliband strong in Westminster – no matter how England votes. You don’t need Rachel Riley to work out that this effectively gives the Jock electorate two votes to the English electorate’s one... which surely stinks like a Glasgow khazi after fifteen pints of wee heavy and a deep-fried haggis. I don’t dislike the Scots, but I’m sick of hearing them whining about Thatcher’s 1989 poll tax. Slippery liar Blair and Gordon ‘prudent’ Brown did a lot more damage south of the border - they raided the coffers, attempted to split England up into regions and deliberately encouraged reckless levels of immigration. It was as if they wanted to wipe out England all together. So what are the English going to do? Are we content to let our tartan partners wear the strap-on, or are we finally going to wake up and stand up for our democratic rights too? The English need to put England first. We need to demand a referendum on EU membership and we need to campaign for our own Parliament. Because even if by some miracle the UK were to leap free of the corrupt Brussels monster tomorrow, the current national set-up is more unbalanced than Casey Batchelor doing handstands in a strong gale. It has to change. Ideally we need a proper internal federal structure, giving English voters the right to run our affairs just as the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish do. The English Parliament should sit in the Commons, with a second house, representing UK interests replacing the Lords, which has been tarnished by an influx of creeps, toadies and yes-men - another unwelcome legacy of the old New ‘Labour’ pantomime.
March 19. Everyone is saying how good the budget is but as far as I can see the country is still £1.2 trillion in the red, with debt rising, while productivity is flatter than a crepe suzette that has been used all night as a lurv mattress by Gemma Collins and Arg... If that’s good, I’d hate to see their idea of bad is. It’s being called the beer and bingo budget because Osborne snipped a pittance off the price of a pint and halved bingo duty “to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy”... which would be wonderful if this was 1960 and TV was still in black and white (Wot? No jellied eels rebate; no discount on brown and mild?) Cutting income tax and halving stamp duty land tax would have been considerably more helpful, Geo, old fruit.
Here I am earlier tonight with Joe ‘King Arthur’ Pasquale at Spamalot. I followed the likes of Terry Alderton and Heather Small, who I’m often mistaken for, to play Sir Knight Not Appearing Tonight. This joyous, barking mad Monty Python inspired musical is now closer to an upbeat adult panto than the lavish pastiche of Broadway it once was, but it’s still certain to tickle Python fans. Bonnie Langford’s vocals are surprisingly strong. (And what she gets up to backstage is just as funny as what the audience see out front).
March 15. This blog is closing down for a bit. Toodle pip.
March 14. First Bob Crow, now Tony Benn... someone put a guard
around Vanessa Redgrave quick. To lose one iconic figure of the
Left in a week was sad, two is tragic; three would suggest that
God was running some sort of sick sweepstake. The former 2nd Viscount
Stanley Anthony Wedgewood Benn was a lot posher than Crow but
just as principled (out of office at least). A brilliant orator,
Benn was a great believer in democracy and like Bob Crow he was
adamantly opposed to the EU. In 2007 he pleaded with Gordon Brown
to give the British people an EU referendum. He called it the
“most bureaucratic, terrifying system in the world” and said that
the Treaty of Lisbon was “being imposed on us on the grounds it's
tidying-up... if tidying up involves tearing up the British constitution
it’s a very interesting definition.” The Labour government refused
us that referendum, despite having promised one in their 2005
manifesto. Speaking at a Labour Euro-safeguards campaign fringe
meeting, Benn said that the “absolutely undemocratic” EU should
be reformed and power handed back to nation states and elected
politicians. He also spoke out against the “death of democracy”
with the increasing dominance of unelected supranational bodies
and multinational corporations. Tony Benn was wrong about many
things, but he was right about that. Benn was one of the last
voices from an era which valued mavericks, an era when politicians
dared to stand up for their actual beliefs. You might not have
agreed with the likes of Powell, Benn, Thatcher or Foot, but you
knew they spoke from the heart. Farage is cut from the same cloth,
which is why he connects with the public. They’re a different
breed from today’s spineless hustlers. If Farage speaks
for the free marketers, who speaks for socialism now?
March 13. Nigel Farage is denying accusations that he had an affair
with an aide. There is no evidence whatsoever, and it sounds like
malicious cobblers. The only people Farage is likely to screw
are the political establishment.
March 12. Ed Miliband is against British citizens having a say
on our continued membership of the EU. So much for being “the
people’s party” so much for democracy. Ed says it’s “unlikely”
that Brussels would want to transfer more powers from member states,
which is a bit like saying it’s unlikely that President Putin
will ever be seen out in public without a shirt. He knows full
well that “ever closer union” is the EU’s clearly stated goal.
The arrogant but unspoken message from the insipid Labour leader
is that the political class know best. For those with short memories
these weasels all promised us a referendum on EU membership before
the last election – even Clegg. Cameron offered us a cast-iron
guarantee, which he promptly discarded. Now he reckons we can
have a referendum in 2017 if we vote him back in. Why must we
wait? Ah, he says, because he wants to “negotiate new terms.”
What utter hogwash. He might as well claim to be negotiating new
terms with the Atlantic Ocean to cut back on waves. The cynical
berk is fully aware that a) Government powers handed over to Brussels
can’t be given back, and b) he’d need a majority agreement from
the other 27 member states to renegotiate anything (see Article
48 of the Lisbon Treaty). Merkel confirmed this when she was over
last month. So rather than trust Cameron and wait three years,
why don’t we turn the 2015 general election into a referendum
by voting against ALL establishment politicians. In memory of
Bob Crow say: No2EU, and yes to democracy.
March 11. Sorry to hear that Bob Crow has died. He was the sort
of bloke you’d want running your union: tough, principled and
completely down to earth. Bob was a self-proclaimed member of
the awkward squad; loved by his members and feared by management,
which is exactly how it should be. Old school socialist Crow was
also fiercely Eurosceptic fronting the No To EU, Yes To Democracy
platform - because he knew the EU was hugely anti-democratic and
a disaster for the British working class. He will be missed.
Shocked that Charlton’s new Belgian bosses have sacked Chrissie
Powell; a real shame. He was a decent man who did a good job in
tough circumstances. It’s true the Addicks have had a rotten season
but flogging Kermongant can’t have helped and it’s hard to feel
too thrilled about Powell’s replacement Jose Riga. Let’s hope
Chris gets another gig soon.
March 9. Last night on BBC2, Stewart Lee turned his comedic fire
power on UKIP. Using his usual method of demolishing straw men
(employing quotes he later admits are made up) and reducing arguments
to the absurd, Lee pilloried concerns about immigration taking
the issue back to prehistory. It was, inevitably, as honest as
a 1960s spiv playing Chase the Lady down Oxford Street. But here’s
what worries me: the BBC, paid for by all of us, are happy to
broadcast a UKIP-bashing comedian, but can you remember them ever
allowing a comic to rain wit and sarcasm down on the Greens or
Respect? It doesn’t happen. Can you imagine them employing a pro-UKIP
stand-up? Not a chance. Yet aren’t left-wing arguments just as
nuts? Imagine it: “I met a bloke the other day who said
we had to let a load of psychopaths out of prison and tell their
mates on the run that they would be immune from prosecution for
their crimes because if we did that there would be peace all round
and everyone would be as loved up as an 80s rave... ”
Who was this obvious madman? “Tony Blair.” “I
met a bloke who said that if we all rose up, got guns and overthrew
the capitalist system and then handed all the power to the state,
we’d be able to create heaven on earth. Of course we might
have to kill a few million people along the way, and lock up dissidents,
and give up freedom of assembly, free speech and X-Boxes, and
cope with food shortages and bread queues... but it’d all
be worth it in the end; I know because I read it in a book... ”
The trouble with using a right-on comic like Lee to bash Farage
and co is that he is a modern day snob. He devoted one show to
taking apart Only Fools & Horses, the most popular sitcom of our
lifetime. What are we to make of that? Perhaps Del-Boy would vote
March 8. Fella came up to me at Charing Cross station today
and asked if he knew me because I’d been on TV or because I worked
on the railways. I told him I worked in the signal box at Hither
Green and he went away happy.
March 7. Production on the movie version of John Niven’s Kill
Your Friends starts next week. This terrific novel about the British
music biz isn’t so much a satire as a demolition job. Set in 1997,
it paints a darkly funny and witheringly accurate account of the
industry at the fag-end of Britpop; a world where ‘thieves and
pimps run free and good men die like dogs’. Its lead character,
A&R man Steven Stelfox, is deeply unpleasant, big-headed, cocaine-driven
and utterly believable. My only concern is how much they’ll have
to water down the character for the big screen. Nicholas Hoult
is playing Stelfox...
Cameron’s daft posed picture of himself on the phone looking
serious while discussing the Ukraine crisis with Obama has been
sent up gloriously by Rob Delaney and a host of others on Twitter.
The real joke is his pretence of being a major player in this
unfolding nightmare. Britain’s policy options have already been
exposed as little more than: go through the motions and do nothing.
To that we can now add: tweet dramatic picture. Yeah, that’ll
show the Kremlin all right. The diplomatic emergency has also
shown up the weakness of the European Union (EU foreign policy
reflects German interests and they’re too tied in to Russian gas
to rock the boat.) Why should Putin take Baroness Ashcroft seriously?
No-one else does. The Russians went into Crimea because they knew
they could. The stakes are high for Putin too. If he allows Ukraine
to break away from Moscow’s sphere, Belarus and Kazakhstan will
surely follow. Marsha Lipman in Moscow reports that that there
has been an increased crackdown on dissent within Russia this
week. She says: “There was a tiny anti-war demonstration in Moscow
just a few days ago... People were roughed up. Several hundred
of them - in fact, three hundred and sixty out of just over a
thousand - were detained. And this shows that, probably, the Kremlin
is getting desperate.”
Loving the allegations from the Max Clifford trial, but isn’t
it odd that he is said to have referred to his penis as “tiny”?
Shouldn’t a PR man be in the business of inflating the truth –
or to use the common parlance, bigging it up?
March 6. Tonight’s Question Time came from Barking, where the
audience were so overwhelmingly in favour of open-door immigration
that anyone who dared to suggest that maybe we’ve had quite enough
of it for now thank you, was shouted down. One man with contrary
views, who claimed to be jobless and homeless, was patronised
by David Aaranovitch before walking out to cheers of approval
and applause. It was like seeing someone at the UKIP conference
receive a standing ovation for demanding we replace the Queen
with Angela Merkel. Had anyone got up and expressed similar non-BBC
views on say capital punishment you felt they would probably have
been set about with pointed sticks. Like Lewisham, we can only
conclude that the good people of Barking have had a remarkable
change of heart since the 2006 council elections. Because the
only other explanation is that the BBC1 producers loaded the audience.
And that’s unthinkable, isn’t it?
March 5. Here’s
my nice long honest and funny chat with Jim Davidson.
Voters think David Cameron is ‘posh and out of touch’, Ed Miliband
is a ‘weak idiot’ and Nick Clegg is a ‘spineless liar’, according
to a major new survey. Very perceptive. But where are these people
when BBC1 recruit audiences for Question Time?
The Beeb might scrap BBC3. Will we miss it? The channel’s greatest
achievement was Gavin & Stacey, a sitcom that could easily (and
more logically) have been launched on BBC2. Ditto Being Human
and Torchwood. Monkey Dust, darkly and dangerously comic, sadly
died when Harry Thompson did. And the magnificently bonkers The
Mighty Boosh has been off air since 2007. What else decent have
they had? Uncle, Ideal... umm, is that it? BBC3 has been around
for eleven years and I can’t even come up with eleven great commissions
from them. The best shows on BBC3 right now are Family Guy and
American Dad, quality imports that seem thrown away here.
March 4. My new punk and Ska podcast is up and running right
now on Total Rock, with guests Rhoda Dakar and Angie Brown, plus
songs from Booze & Glory, Stief A’Billy, Control, the East End
Badoes, Chris Pope, Secret Affair, Dave Wakeling, Kill For Eden,
The Angry Agenda, the Damn Vandals, the Versatiles, System Of
Hate, Bad Manners and a whole load more. It’s about as laid-back
and organised as a fist-fight in the House of Fools. Hear it here.
March 2. Russian forces have seized the Crimean Peninsula. In
a worrying echo of the 1936 Sudeten crisis, Putin has moved to
“protect” the Russian-speaking citizens of Crimea and by doing
so has turned this into a dispute about ethnic nationalism. His
illegal invasion has pleased many Crimean citizens - who are about
58 per cent ethnic Russian - but it has understandably horrified
most of the rest of the country. To the men and women who risked
their lives deposing Viktor Yanukovich in Kiev recently, their
struggle is all about independence from Russia. The Russian press
is calling them “ultranationalists”, Red Ken claims they’re mostly
fascists – even though their main demand is for greater ties with
the West. There are extremists involved, but they’re a small
minority. One sensible short term solution might be to split up
the country, ceding Crimea and parts of the east to Moscow, and
allowing the rest of the Ukraine to pursue their dream of freedom.
But there isn’t much sign of sense at work here. Will the threat
of economic sanctions be enough to keep Putin’s forces in Crimea?
If not, has the West got the balls to stand up to him? We’ve been
down this road before – precisely 161 years ago, when Tsar Nicholas
1st sent the Russian fleet to sink Ottoman ships in the Black
Sea. That sparked the Crimean War, which you might remember Russia
lost. The tragedy is the Ukraine people will be no better off
inside the EU. The West only offers an illusion of freedom and
prosperity. The real revolutionary slogan would be: Neither Moscow
nor Brussels, but genuine independence.
Comedian Paul Eastwood has horrified media nitwits with his gags
at the UKIP conference. Referring to the Olympics, Eastwood quipped:
“Team Somalia – they did well, didn’t they? They had to apologise.
Didn’t realise sailing and shooting were two different events.”
The joke police got their knickers in a twist about this, but
given the established link between Somalia and piracy it’s clearly
based on observable facts rather than racial prejudice. (The last
time I looked sixty seafarers were still being held by Somali
pirates; according to UN estimates, they received around £247million
in ransoms between April 2005 and December 2012.) If Graham Norton
had come up with that line no-one would have batted an eye. Paul
also said: “Poland did well. They took home bronze, silver, gold,
lead, copper – anything they could get their hands on.” Now this
was a shocking joke, not to mention an insult to the Poles – everyone
knows Romanian gangs have been behind the boom in metal thefts.
Feb 28. I recorded my Total Rock podcast today with Rhoda Dakar
(late of the Bodysnatchers and the Special AKA) and Angie Brown,
fresh from her experience on BBC1’s The Voice last weekend. What
a great colourful character she is – funny and bubbly with a rock’n’roll
past involving the Dirty Strangers and the Stones. Angie also
toured with the Happy Mondays and has a life-long love of Ska.
People who think in boxes might dismiss her as “just a dance act”.
They need to get their heads out of their backsides. The woman
has a massive soul voice worthy of sixties Stax; I hope she records
a solo album that shows it.
The latest issue of Street Sounds is out now, bursting with
punk, Ska and Mod features, cartoons, news and views. It’s still
pretty underground; endearingly enthusiastic and amateurish but
determinedly blue collar. Grab a copy from here
for £2 + postage.
The paedophile scandal rolls on, with former cabinet minister
Patricia Hewitt today admitting that the organisation to which
she and her former Labour Party colleague Harriet Harman belonged
to was "naive and wrong" to accept the assurances of PIE that
it was a campaigning and counselling organisation. PIE was affiliated
to the National Council for Civil Liberties for eight years from
1975 to 1983. In her first public statement since the scandal
broke, Hewitt said: “I got it wrong on PIE and I apologise for
having done so. NCCL in the 1970s, along with many others, was
naive and wrong to accept PIE's claim to be a 'campaigning and
counselling organisation' that 'does not promote unlawful acts.”
She went on: “As general secretary then, I take responsibility
for the mistakes we made. I should have urged the executive committee
to take stronger measures to protect NCCL’s integrity from the
activities of PIE members and sympathisers and I deeply regret
not having done so.” That’s the way to kill a story, Harriett:
own up, accept you were wrong, apologise and move on. Is this
the end, or do you suspect like I do, that the link to child abuse
runs much deeper into the Establishment?
Feb 27. Lee Rigby’s killers have been banged up for life. I’m
sorry, that’s not enough; they should have been hanged. I don’t
buy the argument that executing these wicked men would have created
‘martyrs’. The Jihadists have got ‘martyrs’ coming out of their
dishdashas, what difference would another two make? Instead, we’ve
given the terrorists two political prisoners for them to spend
the next forty years protesting about. And what are the odds,
given our wishy-washy political class – surrender monkeys to a
man - that they’ll be out with a comfort letter in a decade or
so? The only martyr here is Lee Rigby, brutally murdered on a
London street in cold blood. These sentences make us look weak,
not strong. Hanging his killers would have more just.
Feb 26. Was the link between organised paedophiles and the National
Council for Civil Liberties as casual as Harriet Harman suggests?
To hear her talk it was as if the PIE infiltrated the NCCL (for
years) almost by stealth. On Monday’s Newsnight she said “any
organisation could pay their affiliation and join”. Yet as my
friend Matt reminds me that there is far more to the link between
PIE and the academic Left; if you check out the ‘progressive’
mags of the time, such as Big Flame and The Leveller (copies of
which can be found at the British Library), you’ll unearth a shed-load
of pro-PIE articles. Some were tied into the Gay Liberation Front
but a surprising amount came via women's groups. If I remember,
the line was: men (the ‘patriarchy’) had repressed sexuality in
all its forms, including children’s. That argument was used within
the NCCL as well. It wasn’t an accident; it was part of their
ideology. A real can of worms.
Fifteen people across London have been nicked in a series of
dawn raids targeting notorious crime gang the Adams family. It
was part of an operation codenamed Octopod. Have you noticed how
the cops always love to raid at dawn? You don’t often hear of
tea-time raids, or siesta raids. The message for the criminal
underworld is clear: never go home until after breakfast... Mexican
drug lord El Chapo Guzman was also nabbed at dawn last Saturday.
He’s alleged to be the biggest cocaine distributor in the world.
And here’s what I heard: the top names on his speed-dial were
1) Reverend Flowers 2) Cara Delevinge 3) Those guys you see loitering
in the bogs at the Brits...
I’m still not sure what to make of events in the Ukraine. You
can understand people wanting to be independent of Russia, but
breaking away from one corrupt undemocratic regime to join the
EU is like fleeing a burning building to get hit by a petrol bomb.
The Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych legged it
a few days ago. If Putin can’t reinstate him, maybe George Galloway
can get him a gig on the next Celebrity Big Brother.
Feb 25. STOP PRESS. Sickening to see that John Downey, the main
suspect behind the IRA’s horrendous 1982 Hyde Park bombing, has
just walked away a free man because of a police blunder. This
was an appalling atrocity. The Provos had packed 25lb of gelignite
surrounded by 30lb of nails into the boot of a Morris Marina.
When men from the Household Cavalry rode past, the device was
detonated. Four soldiers died, 31 others, including bystanders,
were injured and seven horses were destroyed. Downey’s fingerprints
were linked to the car, and he was arrested at Gatwick last May.
But today Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that Downey will not face prosecution
because of a letter – dubbed a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ – sent
to him by mistake by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in
2007 saying that he was not wanted by the cops. Nearly 200 suspected
terrorist fugitives received similar letters, effectively granting
them amnesty following a deal struck by Tony Blair and Sinn Fein
leader Gerry Adams. During the case, the court heard that he should
never have received the ‘comfort’ letter as he was still wanted
by Scotland Yard, yet the letter was sent and Downey will never
face prosecution. To rub our noses in it even further it appears
he could now be entitled to thousands of pounds in compensation
for ‘wrongful arrest and imprisonment’. We’re told we have to
swallow this as part of the alleged Peace Process. Time will tell
how well that turns out. In the meantime, our criminal justice
system has failed the men who were murdered – Lieutenant Anthony
Daly, Staff Corporal Roy Bright, Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper
Simon Tipper. At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
Incidentally, Downey’s bail sureties included Roy Greenslade,
the oleaginous former Maoist and ‘media expert’ who works for
the Guardian – the paper that supports any country but our own.
The Labour Party is playing this paedophile scandal in completely
the wrong way. Harriett Harman’s immediate response should have
been to declare outright that the National Council of Civil Liberties
were out of order to tolerate the PIE in the late 70s and early
80s. Instead on last night’s Newsnight, she wriggled and prevaricated.
Under a sustained grilling from Laura Kuenssberg, she finally
and reluctantly expressed regret, but her first instincts were
to ignore and then deny. In reality these well-meaning right-on
useful idiots (to use Lenin’s phrase) were hoodwinked by cunning
child-rapists who used the language of liberation to pull the
wool over the eyes of professors, lawyers, social workers and
politicians. They were conned, it was wrong and they should admit
it. To pretend otherwise is shameful.
Feb 24. South London dance legend Angie Brown appeared on The
Voice’s blind auditions on Saturday, performing her 1992 Bizarre
Inc smash hit ‘I’m Gonna Get You.’ It was a massive rendition,
but not a single judge turned round. Doesn’t this suggest that
either the contest is rigged/orchestrated by the producers or
the judges don’t know star quality when they hear it? ‘I’m Gonna
Get You’ sold two million copies worldwide and topped the US dance
chart – as did the follow-up ‘Took My Love.’ Angie’s powerhouse
performance this weekend rocketed the song back into the iTunes
Top 100. Lovers of the Brixton girl’s feisty and distinctive vocals
will be chuffed to hear that her new single, 'Fight
No More’ is out today – very garage house it is too.
As it happened, we couldn't stay too long in the pub last night
as Jim had a constant stream of nice people wanting their pictures
taken with him. Ah, the healing effects of Celebrity Big Brother.
I'll let you know when the podcast is up.
Feb 23. My friends at the Mirror tell me the paper is strapped
for cash, and yet I see that Trinity Mirror’s former CEO Sly Bailey
is in line to collect shares worth £800,000 next month. Bailey
was a disaster for the company. Trinity Mirror’s value slumped
by 90% during her time as boss. She was notorious for cost-cutting,
but strangely the one thing she never got round to trimming was
her own hefty salary. In 2011, with pre-tax profits down by 40%,
Sly pocketed £1.7million. Nice work if you can get it. They finally
got shot of her in 2012, with a generous £900K pay-off. Now she’s
set to benefit again from the company’s executive pay scheme.
Ker-ching. Talk about one law for them, and another one for us...
Alex Turner is blaming his bizarre, rambling Brits speech on
“nerves”. Apparently they come by the pint.
I’m interviewing Cockney comedian Jim Davidson for my podcast
tonight, assuming we get out the pub before the studio closes... details to follow.
Feb 22. The Mail has exposed the historic links between senior
Labour Party officials and organised paedophiles – but don’t expect
the BBC to cover the story. The Labour bigwigs include the party’s
Deputy Leader Harriet Harman who was the legal officer for the
National Council for Civil Liberties’ (now Liberty) when the Paedophile
Information Exchange was part of that organisation. P.I.E. wanted
MPs to allow sex with children as young as ten, if consent was
‘genuinely given’ and the child ‘understood the nature of the
act.’ They campaigned to legalise incest, and lower the age of
consent to four. Jimmy Savile could have been their poster boy.
On P.I.E.’s behalf, Harman wrote a four-page submission to MPs
trying to water down a proposed ban on child porn. Patricia Hewitt,
once Labour’s health secretary, was the NCCL general secretary
at the time. And Harman’s husband, Jack Dromey (now part of Miliband’s
frontbench team) was an executive committee member for more than
ten years. The Left were very keen on supporting the P.I.E. –
I was part of a demo sent down to ‘protect’ one of their meetings
from furious parents in East London. It was a turning point for
me – I agreed absolutely with the parents, and this night was
one of the key reasons I left the International Socialists. Under
Labour control, children’s homes in Islington were rotten with
abuse and paedophile rings. An inquiry found that dozens of sexual
predators worked for the council under then leader Margaret Hodge
(formerly Labour’s Children’s Minister (!), now chairman of Parliament’s
Public Accounts Committee.) Her lawyer husband Henry was another
NCCL exec member... So will Harman and co now apologise? Don’t
hold your breath. They’re more likely to keep schtum and hope
it goes away. The BBC - still wedded to the simplistic “if left
is right then right is wrong” Tom Robinson view of the world –
are doing their best ostrich impression too. But it’s important
for the Fiddlers’ Three to face up to their mistakes and admit
“We were wrong.” With Operation Yewtree still investigating historic
sex crimes, what possible reason could they have for staying silent?
If they don’t speak out, wouldn’t a reasonable person assume that
they’re still apologists for this vile group?
Feb 20. We’ve just had the wettest winter since records began,
according to the Met Office. Their records began in 1910, but
other records started in 1776 – and it’s been the 16th wettest
winter since then. Christopher Booker notes that 812mm (32 inches)
of rain fell between November 1929 and January 1930, which trumps
the Met Office’s provisional figure of 486.8mm between 1 December
2013 and 19 February, 2014. Let us not forget that just three
months ago these clowns predicted we were on course for a Winter
that fell “into the driest of our five categories.”
Feb 19. Ninety-nine servicewomen in Afghanistan and 102 in Iraq
were sent home for falling pregnant between 2006 and the end of
last year. That’s what I call active duty. Apparently the big
clue was the ‘Baby On Board’ signs on the back of the tanks.
Feb 18. The wait is almost over. My rock memoir - Riff-Raff,
Rebels & Rock Gods - is being released as an audio book on the
4th April (4/4/14). It covers a whole range of thrilling and provocative
bands, often in bizarre locations. So as well as big box office
names like Ozzy and Iron Maiden, the collection includes Hanoi
Rocks in India, the Exploited in West Berlin before the Wall came
down, ZZ Top in Vegas, the Angelic Upstarts' prison gig, the first
US tours by the Specials and The Selecter, Judge Dread in Germany,
Rainbow in Scandinavia, Twisted Sister, the Cockney Rejects etc.
It’s been a real labour of love, too. I’ve gone back to my original
notes and diaries, written them all up and then recorded the results.
Old friends, like Mick Geggus, Rod Smallwood and JJ French have
been helpful and supportive and the whole process has been tremendous
fun. The book should be available to pre-order next month. Watch
this space for details...
According to Buzzfeed, in 30 years time we’ll have hangover-free
alcohol and clothes that repel dirt. And you know what? We’ll
still be waiting for the Tories to give us a referendum on Europe...
Feb 17. Just watching tonight’s two televised live debates on
immigration and benefits. When did TV discussion shows come down
to who can shout the loudest? Why fill a TV studio with idiots
who just want to drown out views they disagree with? Depressing.
Carry On Oi – an album I compiled the best part of 33 years
ago - has just been re-released on vinyl by Plastic Head. We had
our backs properly against the wall at the time I put this together.
Oi had managed to upset every shade of middle class opinion from
the hippy left to the Tory right. Rock pseuds hated us, we were
getting blamed for the summer riots and the Daily Mail had gone
into over-drive, absurdly calling Sounds (which covered more black
music than the rest of the rock press combined) “the fascist bible
of hate.” Carry On Oi was my way of hitting back. The message
was defiant, uncompromising, and occasionally funny. Listening
to it again now, I’m pleasantly surprised both by how well the
tracks stand up and how hard it would be to misinterpret the lyrics
and sleeve-notes. Songs range from the Last Resort’s terrace anthem
‘King Of The Jungle’, which lionises hooligans, to the solid South
Wales socialist anger of The Partisans. There are tracks from
Blitz, Red Alert and the Business – who put Garry Johnson’s poem
Suburban Rebels to music, attacking right-on protesters as “the
sons and daughters of well-off bankers/Tom Robinson’s army of
trendy wankers”... in contrast to the picket line solidarity of
Oi The Comrade. The second Business number ‘Product’ is about
marketing and alienation. There’s Infa-Riot, The Ejected, the
4-Skins sending up their media image with ‘Evil’, Peter & The
Test-Tube Babies with their pathetique nonsense and even The Gonads.
And just to make sure even the thickest detractors got it, the
album was dedicated (among others) to Wat Tyler, Winston Groovy,
Amnesty International, the Prisoners’ Rights Organisation, George
Orwell and long-dead dockers’ leader Ben Tillett. Most of the
featured bands are still going today, and many of them have influenced
much bigger bands all around the globe. Within weeks of Carry
On Oi being released in 1981, I was contacted by Black Flag in
the States who wanted to include a song on the next comp – and
did. Many followed. I still get young bands getting in touch now,
from Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, and Eastern Europe. The media might
have bought into the bullshit but youth around the world got what
we were really about. I’ve had nothing but stick for decades over
my involvement in Oi music, largely because of the transparent
lies the Mail printed at the time. History will judge us and the
truth will out.
Feb 16. The standard Tory line against UKIP up until the next
general election is going to be: ‘vote UKIP, get Miliband’, the
old Red scare. But if you vote Tory, you get Miliband’s policies
anyway because in power there is barely a happenth of difference
between the two parties. Forget what they say, judge them by what
they do. A case in point: European Union Commission President
Barroso, on today’s Andrew Marr Show, revealed that all of Cameron’s
waffle about “renegotiating key powers back to the UK” has been
about as honest and above board as the EU accounts. Barroso made
it clear that any significant reform of the EU would require treaty
change and any such change would require unanimous agreement.
In other words, it’ll never happen. He also let slip that to date
our government has presented precisely zero plans for renegotiation,
and that open door migration between member states cannot be changed.
That’s what a single market means – as Ministers fully realise.
All talk of “clawing back powers” and creating “a new relationship”
with Brussels is Buster Gonad-size cobblers. Vote for any Establishment
party and you get Establishment bullshit.
Feb 14. The Lib-Dims lost another deposit in Wythenshawe & Sale
last night, racking up a feeble 1,176 votes. Clegg’s chumps are
going downhill faster than Matthias Mayer, plummeting by a whopping
17.5%. They are now as discredited as the BNP, although they of
course retain their undeserved and disproportionate influence
in government – and will do pretty much anything to hang on to
it, up to and including going into Coalition with Kim Jong-un
if they had to. They’re utter weasels.
UKIP did pretty well, coming second from nowhere; their vote
was six times higher than it was in 2010 and they smashed the
Tories into third place. But they need to take many more votes
from Labour; in truth they need a win to make real headway and
time is against them. Labour's victory looks impressive until
you realise they managed to appeal to less than one in six potential
voters. The real winner? None of the above.
Hacking scandal update: Piers Morgan's Life Story henceforth
Piers Morgan's Life Sentence? Stranger things have happened.
Feb 13. Journalists have been in touch over the last few weeks,
looking for an English voice to back Scottish independence. Essentially
they want me to say: “Stuff the Jocks, let’s re-build Hadrian’s
Wall and bring on an English Parliament.” It’s not that simple,
though. For starters ‘Scottish independence’ is a complete con.
Scotland might become independent of Westminster but it would
still be ruled by Brussels. They’d be as free as a salmon in a
sandwich. It’s like a convict in a prison yard getting to wear
Of course ‘Home Rule for England’ would be a good thing, but
it’s a meaningless slogan within the European Union. What annoys
me more is the fact that the Scots get their referendum while
the rest of us are denied the “cast-iron” one Cameron promised
us over the EU. We can’t have that vote because it could bring
about Real Change, rather than a cosmetic one. I don’t even buy
Cameron’s apparent opposition to Alex Salmond's fake nationalism,
because the Tories would benefit greatly from losing the Scottish
Labour vote. In reality, Cameron, Salmond, Milliband, Clegg and
Barroso all want the same thing: ever greater union, ever less
democracy and ever greater rewards for those merry turncoats on
the gravy train.
Feb 12. Today’s Times runs a list of the Top 20 guitarists which
wilfully ignores most of the acknowledged six-string rock gods.
Hendrix and Page are in, but not Clapton, Beck, Blackmore, Slash
or Brian May. Naturally there’s no Steve Vai. More surprisingly,
the list is weak on the punk and post-punk guitarists who redefined
the electric guitar in the late 70s and early 80s. When punk kicked
open the doors of the music business to a flood of young bands,
it also ushered in a new wave of guitarists who weren’t content
merely to mimic their predecessors. Musicians like John McKay
(The Banshees), Robert Smith (The Cure), John McGeoch (Magazine),
Tom Verlaine (Television), Keith Levene (Public Image), Stuart
Adamson (The Skids/Big Country), Johnny Marr (The Smiths) who
is in their Top 20, and The Edge (U2) all took guitar-play in
radical and stunning directions. Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) was
more traditional, but his Fender Twin reverb turned up to the
max was the backbone of the band’s sound and became the template
for guitarists such as Steve Whale (The Business), and Mick Geggus
(Cockney Rejects) who created and inspired street-punk which in
turn influenced bands such as Rancid, Blink 182 and the Briggs.
Wouldn’t a TV show focusing on the brilliant creativity of New
Wave guitarists and the Second Golden Age of the Electric Guitar,
involving expert testimony from contemporary guitarists, be great
viewing for viewers (okay, mostly men) of a certain age? It would
reward nostalgia freaks and music aficionados alike and maybe
inspire some young whippersnappers to build on that fine legacy.
I’m closing this blog down for a while to concentrate on a new
book. Back in a bit.
Jan 20. UKIP have suspended a councillor for saying the recent
floods were an expression of God’s anger about gay marriage. Although
according to some sources, the opposite is true and for the first
time in history it’s about to start raining men. We need to test
the theory. Let’s send all our gay couples on a package holiday
to Bongo-Bongo Land. If the South of England dries up and spouts
palm trees over night, God’s pleasure will be evident. If geezers
in leather pants parachute down from the clouds, we’ll know the
Weather Girls got it right. Councillor David Silvester (no relation
to disco star Sylvester) has caused problems for UKIP, but that’s
the risk you take when you sign up Tory defectors. The truth is
the Farage brigade aren’t the only party to harbour fruitcakes
in their ranks – they all do. There are senior folk in British
politics who believed in the Euro, which is even more bonkers.
In my distant days as a far-Left activist I met people who thought
that Eastern Europe’s police states were bastions of human progress
and freedom, that Chairman Mao was a force for good and that each
and every human being is a potential Einstein – and if you believe
that think how much damage you could cause to education once you
came to power. Oh hold on... I remember one Labour Party militant
in East London who got angry to the point of apoplexy at the very
mention of the word charity. People worship many strange gods.
But as we chuckle, spare a thought for Mr. Silvester who, after
watching the soaps and TV chat-shows for a week, is now busy building
himself an ark.
Jan 19. Jim Davidson is looking increasingly isolated on Celebrity
Big Brother, which is understandable as he’s sixty and is surrounded
by loud dull drunken child-adults with no conversation and a liking
for the worst kind of cheesy pop. I feel his pain. Jim has put
up with a lot, and held his tongue admirably, but he’s obviously
bored out of his head in there and only came alive today when
he hosted the mock talent show. Whatever the outcome, he’s surely
done enough – and received enough obvious public support – to
land a new TV show of his own.
Jan 17. Last night “Frank Carson’s dressing room” was trending
worldwide on twitter because of the extraordinary row between
Linda Nolan and Jim Davidson on Celebrity Big Brother. What happened
in Frank’s dressing room? Speculation is rife, but the answer
is simple: Linda was supporting the late great comedian up in
Blackpool over the summer of 1995 when Frank realised that money
was going missing from his wallet. Small sums - £20 one night,
a tenner the next - were vanishing regularly. It happened so frequently
that the cops rigged up hidden cameras in his dressing room –
and caught Linda’s late husband Brian Hudson helping himself to
a score. He was only ever charged with stealing £20 because that’s
all that could be proved, but Frank was in no doubt that Hudson
had been taking his cash all season. He was furious, and so were
most people in showbiz circles. Jim, who was a good friend, was
so livid that he threatened to sort Brian out over the incident
– if memory serves they had to be pulled apart. This must have
all come back to him as he’s sat there trying to work out why
Linda has been so off with him all series. The former ‘Naughty
Nolan’ is doing herself no favours with her sour attitude and
shit-stirring on this show. She’s Narky Nolan now. PS. Linda did
my ITV series in 1996 and was a lot of fun, but she turned up
at my house with Brian and my wife at the time made damn sure
he was never left in a room on his own.
Jan 16. Jan 16. R.I.P. Trigger. Sad to hear that Roger Lloyd-Pack
has died; this wonderful rubber-faced actor might have starred
in a Harry Potter movie and played Owen in The Vicar Of Dibley,
but he’ll always be Trigger to me. The pubs will be ringing
with Only Fools & Horses quotes tonight.
Jan 13. Ed Miliband is the new champion of the middle classes.
They certainly need one! Pensions are shrinking, energy costs
and taxes are rising, savings are being eaten away by low interest
rates, and decent jobs are increasingly scarce. For the average
two-parent family with one parent working income has stagnated.
Unfortunately for Super-Ed no-one is likely to forget that he
was in government when pensions went into free-fall under New
Labour. Gordon Brown did nothing to stop the loss of jobs in manufacturing,
nor to boost wages. And as his Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband gleefully
heaped on Green taxes. He’s always been part of the problem, never
What we see as middle class values – self-reliance, hard work
and the belief in bettering yourself – were traditionally shared
by the aspirational working class too. The core value – work hard
and be rewarded – is surely better than the Benefits Street alternative
which is laze about, knock out ten kids and get rewarded anyway.
If welfare pays more than work can you blame the feckless for
putting their feet up? Rather than demonise the poor, though,
the real solution is to create jobs, maybe even start making things
again. As the old song says: ‘Oh why don't you work like other
men do?’ ‘How the hell can I work when there's no work to do?
Hallelujah I’m a bum, hallelujah once again... it’ll take a revolution
to free me again.’
The row about François Hollande’s affair continues to rumble.
Turns out he’s been doing to Julie Gayet what his government have
done to the French economy. This story will courir et courir.
But is it much of a story? A French politician having a fling
is about as surprising as an English one fiddling their expenses.
What’s tomorrow’s headline? Hollande eats cheese? Hollande drinks
Jan 10. Sad to see pictures from Clerkenwell fire station after
it and nine other London stations were closed yesterday. It’s
not just personal memories - my Dad was stationed at Clerkenwell
and Shadwell before transferring to London Fire Brigade HQ in
Lambeth. It’s more that these are completely the wrong kind of
cuts. When trimming public spending, surely it makes sense to
lay off pen-pushers and management baggage rather than front-line
services? Closing these stations will save £28.8m, but at the
cost of 552 fire-fighter jobs. It also inevitably increases the
risk to public safety. Clerkenwell was the third busiest fire
station in London.
Just watching last night’s Question Time, from Goldsmith’s College.
Blimey, hasn’t Lewisham changed? At the last Euro elections in
2009, UKIP had just shy of 5,000 votes. At the General Election
the following year, the Tories had 26,890, many of whom, you’d
suspect would be Euro-sceptic, as would a good many of the Labour
voters. Yet somehow BBC1 managed to find an audience for Question
Time which was entirely “on-message” regarding Europe, immigration
and so on. UKIP’s Paul Nuttall went down like Francois Hollande
at a marital fidelity rally. It was like debating Celebrity Big
Brother and finding everyone in the crowd loved Liz Jones and
Luisa. Or turning up at White Hart Lane tomorrow and finding the
entire ground supports Palace. Could they all have moved, these
thousands of terrible Euro-doubters? Or is there a fishier explanation
such as, whisper it, audience fixing? A preposterous suggestion.
The BBC insist that the Question Time audience is scrupulously
balanced with participants invited from a cross-section of political
parties, ranging from Labour to the Greens via the Socialist Alliance,
the Lib-Dems, and the Deptford branch of the Sandinistas.
Never mind the quenelle, why don’t all lovers of earthy blue
collar comedy adopt a secret semi-Masonic sign of our own? We
could call it The Kinnell, in honour of Cockney comedian Jimmy
Jones, and every time some pompous middle class bore like Marcus
Brigstocke turns up on telly we could make The Kinnell to show
our disapproval. Perhaps a discrete two-fingered salute moved
up and down the right cheek, or to use another visionary Jimmy
Jones creation, the five-knuckle shuffle.
Today’s Sun confronts the stark truth that the sacrifices made
by British troops in Afghanistan will have been in vain. The Taliban
are on course to regain Helmand province as soon as we pull out.
Tragically, 447 UK servicemen and women gave their lives for nothing.
I hate to say I told you so, but I did...
Jan 9. The BBC’s decision to “tell the truth about immigration”
was at least a first. Immigration has long been the Bombay aloo
of British politics with anyone raising the issue however mildly
being dismissed as racist, “far-Right” or worse. BBC political
editor Nick Robinson admitted that the Corporation has failed
to cover immigration adequately for at least the last two decades.
In the programme, Robinson gently mocked ordinary people at a
New Forest county show for not knowing what percentage of the
UK population were born abroad. Wow, Nick, I wonder why they were
so unsure. Do you think that maybe it’s because state-funded radio
stations and state-funded TV channels have stifled debate and
misled us all for years?
Various Labour former ministers popped up to say they had got
immigration wrong. Jack Straw expressed “regret”; Blunkett, more
bullish, said if the Blair government hadn’t opened the doors
people would have come in anyway, while shadow Home Secretary
Yvette Cooper said there should have been more debate, which is
nice of her. Although like Cameron, when it comes to issues that
the liberal elite disagree with the people over (immigration,
crime and punishment, the EU, grooming gangs etc) Labour have
been keen to avoid any conversation whatsoever. In the Sunday
Times at the weekend, Robinson said the BBC had made a “terrible
mistake” in censoring “warts-and-all” coverage of immigration.
“They feared having a conversation about immigration, they feared
the consequence,” he said. They still fear it – which is why the
Question Time audience is so uncharacteristically right-on and
Even Robinson’s documentary was loaded with false assumptions,
the most glaring being his suggestion that immigration equals
prosperity, and that to limit it would mean less growth and lower
wages. Not so. The last House Of Lords study on the Economic Impact
of Immigration found that immigration ‘has very small impacts
on GDP per capita’. That’s right - all the chaos and
over-crowding, all the strain on hospitals and schools, is for
nix. I’ve gone through the pro-and-con arguments about immigration
here before and in my book The World According To Garry Bushell
so I won’t regurgitate them again here. The simple truth, still
not told by the BBC, is that immigration is great for bosses who
want to keep labour costs down, but terrible for the British working
class whose wages are undercut, whose jobs are lost and whose
life prospects are diminished. Still if it keeps Kensington and
Chelsea in cut-price au pairs so be it.
There was a more revealing BBC South East report by Rachel Royce
on the effects of a decade of Polish immigration to Kent and Sussex,
where Polish homelessness is likely to reach more than one in
seven by 2015. You can see it here.
Like most people I think immigration should be sensibly controlled,
although after The Ashes, I am willing to let in anyone who can
Jan 8. Boris Johnson has described Deputy PM Nick Clegg as a
“prophylactic protection device”, or condom. Has he thought this
through? If Clegg is a condom, this makes Cameron a massive plonker
– and I’ve cleaned that up. By the way, the Prime Minister’s hairdresser
is getting an MBE. Understandably, Boris’s prefers to remain anonymous...
My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that
the storms were evidence of climate change, as opposed to being
evidence of weather. We had worst winds in 1969, and, according
to the Met Office, higher storm surges in 1953.
Jan 7. The EU are busy establishing a new European Public Prosecutor
who will be able to use the European Arrest Warrant against British
citizens. The EAW suspends Habeas Corpus and allows other countries
to arrest our people in our own country and bang them up pending
trial. EU apologists says it’s okay because anyone they
nick is still protected by the European Human Rights Act. Here’s
the difference: under Habeas Corpus, a person may not normally
be detained for more than a few hours without being charged in
open court. And a charge can’t be brought unless the investigators
have already gathered enough evidence to show there is a prima
facie case to answer. All the ECHR offers is entitlement ‘to a
fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent
and impartial tribunal’ (article six). Nowhere does it specify
what is “reasonable”. In many EU countries, and in the “Corpus
Juris” proposed embryo EU-wide criminal code, it is six months,
extensible. After Andrew Symeou was extradited to Greece from
North London under an EAW he was held in a hell-hole prison for
11 months before appearing in court where it became apparent that
there was no serious prosecution evidence against him. His extradition
went ahead despite compelling evidence of mistaken identity and
evidence that the charges were based on statements extracted by
Greek police through the violent intimidation of witnesses, who
later retracted them. The ECHR also makes no provision for Trial
by Jury, no Right to Silence. It has no provision against trials
in absentia, or double jeopardy, or hearsay evidence, or prejudicial
media reporting before a verdict. There is nothing to stop previous
convictions from being read aloud and used to establish guilt,
and no need for judges' impartiality to be assured by their having
had experience as defenders as well as having served as prosecutors.
It is an absolute disgrace. It overturns English Common Law and
abolishes our hard-won liberties. Why is it not being debated?
Jan 6. Sad to hear that Simon Hoggart has died. He was a masterful
sketch writer, as this passage from November reminds us: ‘Another
day, another U-turn. This is less a government than a dodgem car
ride. Sparks fly from the roof. Attendants bellow unintelligibly
from the sides. Nominally driving, ministers crash into each other.
Sometimes they fling the wheel round and nothing happens... ’
It was Hoggart who wrote of Mrs Thatcher: ‘There was always the
gleam of a drunken navvy looking round a bar for the chance of
a fight.’ Wonderful stuff, his wit, warmth, intelligence and impatience
with nitwits and sycophants is already sorely missed.
Dermot Murnaghan duped Nigel Farage into agreeing with an extract
of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech. It was a cheap shot.
Like getting Ed Miliband to agree that every woman who can work
should be enabled to ‘under the principle of equal pay for equal
work’ and then denouncing him as a rabid Maoist.
This may be the beer talking, but I believe I need another beer.
I wasn’t going to drink, this month, honestly I wasn’t. But tonight’s
EastEnders drove me to it... and Secrets of the Living Dolls is
still to come... That red-haired one looks disturbingly like country
Jan 5. I’ve reviewed Channel 5’s ridiculous Top 50 ‘Greatest
Stand-Up Comedians’ over on the On The Box page. If you didn’t
see the show, the producers included David Baddiel but completely
blanked Chris Rock. They had Jo Brand in their Top 10 while giving
Jackie Mason and Steve Martin the bum’s rush. Michael McIntyre
was at Number Six, ahead of Richard Pryor. I’ve no disagreement
with Billy Connolly being number one, but was surprised to learn
that Sarah Millican at 15 is considered funnier than Peter Kay
(16), Joan Rivers (23), Bill Hicks (33) and Frankie Howerd (44)... The question is: did C5 cleverly construct this Top 50 to wind
up viewers to the point of apoplexy or did it accurately reflect
the prejudice of the clueless executives who put it together?
The presence of Ben Elton at 32 suggests the latter. These were
people whose idea of what comedy should be was forged in the late
eighties when the rising tide of right-on university graduate
stand-ups persuaded TV bosses to apply a Pol Pot Year Zero policy
to comedy. ITV sacked Benny Hill, BBC1 laid off Les Dawson. Even
the Two Ronnies were pilloried by the Not The Nine O’Clock News
team. Blue collar gag-telling comics, so popular on ITV’s The
Comedians, were purged in favour of those who saw stand-up as
a form of therapy or social work. The posh boys won the culture
war and the long-term results of this can be seen every week in
the schedules. TV comedy, as Bob Mortimer recently pointed out,
is now largely in the hands of Oxbridge graduates. As a consequence,
satire has died (as comics share the same assumptions and prejudices
as our rulers) there is no longer any mainstream laughter in prime
time and the Christmas comedy larder, once home to Eric & Ernie
and the Trotters, is shockingly bare. Well done, everyone.
THE exception of course is Mrs. Brown’s Boys, the Xmas Number
1, which basically re-jiggles the kind of jokes Jimmy Jones told
as a sitcom. Naturally comedy snobs hate it. Would the show even
have been commissioned if its loveably coarse creator Brendan
O’Carroll hadn’t been Irish and a drag-act?
THE all-time great comedians missed by Channel 5 include Max
Miller, Tommy Trinder, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Ken Dodd, Jackie
Mason and Rita Rudner. There was no room for Sam Kinison, Jim
Davidson, Jerry Sadowitz, Jerry Seinfeld or Mike Reid either.
And surely any serious student of humour would make a case for
George Carlin, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Milton Jones and Lewis
Black? There are many fresher stand-ups better than some of C5’s
choices, like Aisling Bea, Jim Jefferies, Terry Alderton, Doug
Stanhope and Louis CK. Andrew Dice Clay had a bit more of a following
than Tim Vine (who is great in five minute chunks) and surely
Dara is a more impressive performer than Alan Carr? There are
many great neglected British comedians who should be on TV now
but aren’t because they’re not hip – such as Adrian Walsh, a craftsman
in the Bob Monkhouse mould, and Cockney comedian Keith O’Keefe
who is a great gag-teller, and a genius ad-libber. My old favourite
Micky Pugh has never wanted fame, but in my view should be in
EastEnders in a kind of Frank Butcher wag-at-the-bar role. There’s
always a wag at the bar in an East London pub, except in Walford...
IN Marxist dialectics, a thesis always creates an antithesis
which eventually produces a synthesis. So it has been in comedy.
The old guard of Bernard Manning and the blue collar comics kick-started
the opposing middle class wave of Ben Elton and co. Their synthesis
has been the likes of Peter Kay and more recently Micky Flanagan
who are working class comedians doing observational material brilliantly,
although in Kay’s case not often enough. (And I hope Flanagan
gets his own show soon but keeps creative control of it, he’s
doing too many bad telly gigs at the moment.) But that said, I
still get off on seeing a great old pro like Mick Miller work
an audience. Long may he continue.
Jan 4. R.I.P. Phil Everly, the youngest of the Everly Brothers,
who has died in Burbank, Los Angeles. US miner’s sons Phil and
Don melded country harmonies with rock’n’roll and notched up nineteen
amazing hits between 1957 and 1962, including ‘Bye Bye Love’ and
‘Wake Up Little Susie.’ They were such an influence on Lennon
and McCartney that at one stage the Scouse pair called themselves
the “Foreverly Brothers.” The Everlys also inspired The Byrds,
the Hollies and the Beach Boys. Phil died following complications
from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.
Jan 3. P.J. Harvey’s old Left edition of Radio 4’s Today Show
has caused a stink, but it was really a rather dull affair – clichéd
and unsurprising. How much livelier could the programme have been
with genuinely radical voices and challenging opinions? I’d book
Brendan O’Neill to make the case for why free speech trumps political
correctness, Bjørn Lomborg to debate climate change with James
Delingpole, and Ed Husain to ask who on the modern Left is on
the side of Muslims who support secularism and pluralism. And
if we can’t get Nigel Farage to grill a Cabinet member about their
EU lies, I’d invite Bob Crow and an investment banker to debate
who the real anti-social elements in modern society are.
Developers could be allowed to destroy ancient woodland under
a proposed “bio-diversity off-setting” scheme – i.e. if they agree
to replace old forests with new trees. The government says this
is the only practical way to deal with the demand for more housing.
Really? Wouldn’t planned and limited immigration be more practical
and less destructive?
Jan 2. Here’s an early contender for serious book of the year.
Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair
which argues that our mainstream political parties have become
so disconnected from wider society that our democratic system
is curling up and dying. Voter turn-out, like party membership,
has plummeted all over Western Europe as political elites turn
their backs on everyday concerns and conspire to stamp their will
– or more accurately the EU’s will - on the rest of us. Real decisions
are taken by bureaucrats and bankers, nation states lose control
of their borders and economies and popular opinion is crushed
underfoot. The biggest mystery in all this is why so many on the
Left stay locked in to the EU ‘project’, and how those left-wingers
who can see through the charade can marry their beliefs with Labour
Party membership. They’re like a cuckolded husband who won’t give
up on his cheating wife no matter how many times he catches her
in bed with shady geezers from Brussels. It’s time for a UKIP
of the Left.
Jan 1st 2014. Happy New Year! I’ll post my TV awards over at
On The Box on Sunday. But here is my pick of the cultural highs
of 2013, starting with Book of the Year: Lost Victorian Britain
by Gavin Stamp; Best biog: Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography,
Volume One: Not For Turning by Charles Moore. Film of the Year:
Django Unchained. Album of the Year: AM by the Arctic Monkeys;
Top Punk Album: For The Love Of It All by the Old Firm Casuals;
Protest Album: Dreams From The Factory Floor by Louise Distras
(remember when we had factories?). TV Show of the Year: Game Of
Thrones. Best wishes to all my readers, and good luck - in our
damaged, decaying, tranquillised and infantilised culture we’ll
Some of today’s papers, along with a few opportunist politicians,
seem to be trying to drum up hatred towards immigrants. But why
target the poor Romanians and Bulgarians? You can’t blame them
for wanting to make a better life for themselves. If there are
too many immigrants heading for the UK, the people responsible
are the fat-cats who benefit from this ready supply of cheap labour,
the European Union and its Free Movement policy, politicians of
all establishment parties who want to be part of the EU, and the
newspapers that encouraged us to vote for those parties. It wasn’t
the Roma who conned us into the ‘Common Market’. It wasn’t the
Bulgarians who caused the banking crisis. It’s madness that we
can’t control our borders, but we should blame our rulers, not
the immigrants – and sign
the People’s Pledge.