BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
May 16. Many thanks to my friends, family and neighbours for making my sixtieth birthday party so special tonight; in particular to Mod DJ Paul Hallam who played a mighty fine mix of classic Ska, soul, punk, Trojan reggae, Northern Soul, Motown and sixties r&b. It only took a blast of the Clash to lure the old punks onto the dance floor, though it has to be noted that certain veteran pogoers could barely last the entire distance of 'White Riot' and it isn't a very long song. Thanks to all who came, not least Vicki Michelle who still looks radiant, and old pals from the Cockney Rejects, the East End Badoes, Infa Riot and living legend Garry Johnson himself (see www.the-gonads.co.uk for the pictures and gory details). It was a magical night with a simple message: Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.
More than 700 people attended last night's Talking Liberties events at the British Library in London, angry poets being a far bigger draw than Liberal Democrats these days. The pre-gig discussion kicked off with Garry Johnson's vitriolic 'The Young Conservatives' which could easily have been written yesterday, it was said; although I'm fairly certain that Gal is no longer as certain of the alternative as he once was. And let's not forget that in power the "Left", if we still use that out-dated concept, have proved keener on suppressing liberties than expanding them. Highlights for me included Linton Kwesi Johnson, who I first interviewed for Sounds in 1979 popping backstage to wish us luck, brilliant poems from the wonderful Salena Godden and the headlining performance from emcee, poet and rap artist Saul Williams and his band.
This blog returns in a month or so.
May 15. I'm talking about ranting poetry this evening at the British Library with Tim Wells, Salena Godden and Suzanne Moore. But in the meantime, here's a taster with Tim.
R.I.P. blues legend B.B. King who died in Las Vegas yesterday aged 89. It's hard to over-state how important the guitarist was. B.B. influenced everyone from the Stones and Eric Clapton to U2 and Billy Gibbons, and by marrying country blues to big city rhythms he helped popularise electric blues – the bedrock of rock – more than any other artist. King made his Gibson guitars, which he famously called Lucille, produce a uniquely emotional, gut-wrenching vibrato sound that would be copied in probably a million teenage bedrooms. "When I play her, it's almost like hearing words," he said. "And of course, naturally I hear cries. I'd be playing sometimes as I'd play, it seems like it almost has a conversation with me. It tells you something. It communicates with me." The "B.B." in his name stood for Blues Boy. He was actually born Riley B. King in a shack in Mississippi. The former tractor driver with the deep, throaty groan of a voice had his first hit in 1951 when '3 O'Clock Blues' topped Billboard's Most-Played in Juke Box Rhythm & Blues Records chart and on the Best Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues Records chart. He notched up more No. 1s on Billboard's various R&B charts with 'You Know I Love You', 'Please Love Me' and 'You Upset Me Baby'. His best-known hit was probably 1970's 'The Thrill Is Gone'. Eric Clapton called B.B. King: "Without a doubt the most important artist the blues has ever produced, and the most humble and genuine man you would ever wish to meet. In terms of scale or stature, I believe that if Robert Johnson was reincarnated, he is probably B.B. King."
May 12. With Ed Miliband on the lash in Ibiza, various Labour heavyweights are throwing their hats into the ring to lead the party. One contender is Chuka Umunna, seen as a British Obama, by umm Chuka Umunna. On the surface he has a lot going for him. He's bright and articulate, but does Labour really need another public school educated lawyer at the helm? I think the MP for Streatham would be the death of the party. As would Cooper or Kendall or the arrogant and sanctimonious Andy Burnham, who is badly tarnished by the Mid-Staffs tragedy.
Driving the party further to the Left, as Len McCluskey advocates, would simply hasten Labour's decline – does Len not remember Michael Foot? The best man they have is still Alan Johnson who isn't in the running. Johnson is bright and down to earth, he has worked in the real world, and he's seen as moderate and pragmatic. Labour's bigger problem though is their economic baggage. Under Labour governments, borrowing and debt both rise – that's a fact. The party is perceived as being hostile to enterprise and devoted to high taxes and state intervention, populist politics that as the French know and the Swiss are learning always backfire in practice.
Will Oasis reform without Noel Gallagher, as the Sun suggests today? From Noel's point of view it would probably be a blessing. But Oasis without Noel it's like Slade without Noddy Holder or UKIP with Farage. Essentially they'd become their own tribute band. They'd get work, they'd make money but I wouldn't want to go and see them.
May 11. Comedian John Moloney joins me for my latest podcast talking about his new Radio 4 series The John Moloney Show, his comedy heroes, public school 'alternative' comics, The Jam, West Ham and much more here.
Influenced by Les Dawson, Dave Allen, The Jam and West Ham United, John's stand-up comedy is a finely crafted blend of wordplay, one-liners and cat molesting. His radio producer says that observing him at work is "like watching a masterclass unfold. He's like a conductor and the audience is his orchestra." Born on the fringes of East London in Ilford, a part of Essex where he says "a man feels over-dressed if he has two ears", ex-teacher Moloney is now the driving force behind the acclaimed Balham Comedy Festival which returns in July. He has strong and perhaps unexpected views on class, comedy and stadium comedians, and a background in traditional Irish music.
May 10. Issue eleven of Street Sounds is out this week featuring Kevin Rowland, the Amphetameanies, Christine Sugary Staple, Reverend Horton Heat, Crashed Out, Besserbitch, Punk & Disorderly, more Dropkick Murphys, America's Hard Left band, Justice For Henry, Joe Symes & The Loving Kind and much more – and it's still just two sovs (plus p&p). You can pre-order it now from this location.
May 9. Here are a few interesting aspects of the general election results that have attracted less attention than the fall of 'big beasts' like Balls and Cable. For starters, the BNP were virtually wiped out. Gorgeous George Galloway lost in Bradford West – they had no Respect, mate. The Sinn Fein vote was down. No Class War candidate got more than double figures – no doubt their supporters were too busy daubing slogans on war memorials to get to the polling booths. While Bez's bid to mobilise the anti-fracking pill-poppers' vote left him languishing in sixth place with just 703 crosses to his name. That's the real reality party, mate. And despite massive media coverage Al Murray's spoiler campaign on behalf of "FUKP" in Thanet South won the comedian precisely 318 votes, which would be a lousy result even for the Monster Raving Looney Party. Farage lost in Thanet South too, but he took nearly one third of the vote – and UKIP took control of Thanet District Council. The party amassed more than 3.8million crosses across the country, up ten per cent on the 2010 results (and nearly 14 per cent in Yorkshire). They have one MP for now, but wait until the next by-election. How is that even vaguely democratic? Dan Hannon's case for proportional representation has never made more sense. Last month he noted that our first-past-the-post voting system was "designed for two blocs: a government and an opposition"... but now we have four or five parties with genuine public support. Hannon writes: "The old argument for first-past-the-post – that it boosts the larger party and so provides stable government – no longer applies. These days, it throws up anomalous, unpredictable results that are only distantly related to how many people supported each party." He advocates a Royal Commission to put alternative options before Parliament in time for a referendum in about three years time. It'd be a good start, but of course we also need to reform the entire electoral system. It can't be right or fair that it takes more voters to elect MPs for one party than another, or that Scotland is wildly over-represented in the Commons. Britain also need to address dodgy postal votes, reform a House of Lords full of cronies, and create an English Parliament.
Perhaps the biggest losers of all were the media, who bombarded us with a mixture of trivia and bogus predictions day in day out for weeks on end and were left completely wrong-footed by both the exit poll and the results. The news media might impose an agenda, but reality and their skewiff interpretation of it are often poles apart, especially when it comes to matters that don't tally with their liberal worldview.
Democracy in action. SNP 1,454, 436 votes = 56 MPs. UKIP 3,881,129 votes = 1 MP. Green Party 1,157,613 votes = 1 MP. Buckfast all round!
May 8. A great start to the day as Ed Balls lost his seat followed swiftly by Vince Cable and almost every Lib Dem you've ever heard of, except Clegg. As I write Ed Miliband has just resigned. The public reacted to his "Hell, yes" with a resounding "Fuck, no." Nigel Farage came second in Thanet South and stepped down immediately, although he must be chuffed that UKIP came second or third across most of England. They even beat Plaid Cymru in a couple of Welsh seats. The most worried man must be the victor, David Cameron who now has no Coalition partner to blame for not fulfilling his manifesto promises. It's hard to see how even this most slippery of slippery gits will wriggle out of his commitment to an In/Out referendum on the EU.
Most of the election campaign consisted of various prominent politicians from all parties making wild and occasionally contradictory promises: more state spending but no tax rises, extra billions for the NHS, a unicorn for every family... all paid for presumably by a Lotto win or a Wonga loan. The incredible SNP surge was the inevitable result of the devolution scam started by self-serving but short-sighted Labour politicians. Let's pray it awakes the sleeping giant of English national liberation, and quickly.
As the country celebrates the seventieth anniversary of VE Day, London streets are full of young women in 1940s Lindy Bop dresses, stockings, bright lippy, victory rolls, and Lauren Bacall hairstyles. The kind of look that makes a man pray for an air-raid and a long night in a dark shelter.
May 1. If it’s May Day, it must be Steven Berkoff... I spent a pleasant few hours with the legendary actor, director, and all round renaissance man today. The resulting podcast will contain fire, brimstone and thoughts on feminism and fidelity that might not sit too well with ITV’s Loose Women. We’ll post it just as soon as the lawyers have cleared the great man’s George Galloway rant...
April 30. The Sun today tells us we should vote Conservative emphasising Cameron’s strength on such issues as EU membership, defence and immigration. What tripe. Even one of his own candidates, Kelly Tolhurst has attacked the PM for “overseeing uncontrolled immigration”; our defence spending barely meets NATO requirements – experts expect the British army to be disgracefully cut to its smallest size in 250 years in the next Parliament, and we know Cameron’s claim that he will “renegotiate” the terms of our EU membership is utter bullshit. Seeing Dave pretend to get “passionate” and “pumped up” was the funniest scene of the week – until Miliband stumbled off the stage like a geeky man’s Norman Wisdom tonight. Cameron might look polished compared to the economically illiterate Labour leader but all I see is a plum-faced, over-privileged PR man without a genuine belief in the world. If you do vote for him, as the lesser of two evils, remember to hold your nose.
Three party leaders, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg appeared on the Question Time tonight. Who won? Definitely the audience.
April 28. Here’s a nice long chat with the very funny Terry Alderton... and the voices in his head.
R.I.P. Keith Harris. Quite shocked that the BBC’s Six O’Clock News felt his death merited just 15 seconds of coverage in the midst of interminable election non-stories. Orville was speechless... Harris was Britain’s most famous TV ventriloquist in the 1980s, with that ruddy nappy-wearing duck. I was more a Nookie Bear man, and agreed with Cuddles the Monkey that Orville would be better off on the menu in a Chinese take-away. PS. If you ever see me in a pub, ask me about Keith’s chat-up techniques and his unusual way of umm, “venting” his frustrations.
How unlucky was Keith Harris? Three divorces and he still never lost custody of that poxy duck.
April 27. Just back from a hugely enjoyable working weekend in Blackpool seeing the likes of Buddy Lee compere a seaside variety bill at The Viking Hotel, punk-loving Ken Webster and his “outrageous comedy hypnotism” at the Horseshoe bar and Mr Joey Blower whose rude and riotous weekend afternoon sessions at the Merrie England bar are magnets for stag and hen parties. Where other than Blackpool could you find a legless hen party at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon wearing tasteful “On it till we vomit” t-shirts just a few hundred yards from a small far-Left demo policed by twice as many cops in what felt like a monsoon?
Ironically the protesters’ slogan “Everything for everyone” was pretty much what the hen party women were offering...
Where else would a very drunk man ask me if I was Gary Busey – yes mate, direct from Hollywood. Where else would friendly dwarves pursue you down the pier? And where else would pal who knew I was coming ask if I fancied doing Steve Royle’s lively, funny show on BBC Radio Lancashire and not let on that it was recorded in Blackburn until after I’d agreed...
Big thanks to Ken Webster, Buddy (pictured), Steve Royle, Joey Blower, to Karen and Paul of Birch Villa BnB and Emma, my long-suffering manager and tireless weekend chauffeur!
PS. The Prom on Saturday felt like hurricane season. It brought the old Mick Miller (?) gag to mind: the wind was so strong on the North Pier I saw a Siamese twin looking for her sister...
April 23. Happy St George's Day! There wasn't much about it on TV, but
Londoners turned out all over the capital to drink to England. Cheers!
April 20. My ranting poets podcast is now online here, with studio guests Tim ‘Teething’ Wells and Emily Harrison, with Salford’s own JB Barrington joining us via Skype and Seething Wells sadly failing to come through via the Ouija board. Tim and Emily will be performing with Attila the Stockbroker this Thursday (St George’s Day) at Vout O Renees in Prescot Street, London E1, from 7pm, in what is billed as an evening of ‘lost’ Ranting poems ahead of a new Stand Up & Spit series. My own favourite verse, if you’re asking, is by the late, great Spike Milligan: ‘I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky/I left my shoes and socks there, I wonder if they’re dry...’
April 18. I spent an enjoyable, beer-fuelled afternoon with Barry Cain yesterday. At no time did he ask me to dress up as a musketeer or a burlesque dancer and pose for a barking mad photo story, which is both a relief and a disappointment because Barry and Tim Lott were the brains behind Flexipop. This cheekily subversive music magazine became a publishing phenomenon with sales of more than 100,000. Launched in 1980, each issue came with a unique flexi-disc, basically a flimsy plastic single, with a brand new song provided by such pop giants as The Jam, Depeche Mode and even Adam & The Ants who recorded ‘A.N.T.S.’ to the tune of ‘Y.M.C.A.’ The mag also subversively smuggled rogues like the Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects into its teeny-bop pages via bizarre and barmy picture stories (the Rejects as highway men, the Upstarts reliving the Sound of Music, the Meteors as mad zombie cannibals etc). It only lasted for 27 issues; it folded in 1983 shortly after upsetting Smiths, but Flexipop – The Book is now at last available for pre-order here. It’s pricy at £24.99 a pop but it’s a proper feast of eighties nostalgia.
Rod Liddle has come out for the Labour Party in this week’s Spectator for one very good reason: social inequality. Rod is a professionally awkward bugger but he’s right when he points out that the gap between rich and poor has grown “almost exponentially” over recent years, and that Labour is the only party with the “instinct... to address that problem”. Instinct yes, ability, no. Liddle’s argument only makes sense if you forget that Labour abolished one of the main tools of social mobility, the grammar schools – in the name of equality they made society less equal. And that during their time in power the party made a fetish of the super-rich. Under Ed Miliband Labour seem to have become thoroughly anti-business again, proposing an arsenal of punitive taxes which will misfire here as surely as they did in France. Ed’s not the solution, but Rod has got a point. Social inequality is accelerating, with inequality of opportunity galloping alongside, and yet Cameron’s idea of a socially diverse cabinet seems to stretch from the City to the diplomatic service via hedge funds and the law (as a brilliant Brookes cartoon suggests). Something needs to be done, but what? The current set-up, welfare state capitalism, treats both our citizens and communities as disposable statistics, but is there any alternative other than a state-run command economy, the old socialist dream which has failed in every incarnation? I believe there could be. Another alternative would be to spread ownership throughout society. When John Rawls wrote about a ‘property owning democracy’ he didn’t mean people buying council houses, he was talking about dispersing ownership of capital in order to prevent a tiny elite from having a near monopoly of the means of production and as a consequence, controlling both the economy and the political agenda. (As we see today). Achieving this social reboot would mean standing up to multinational corporations as well as supranational bodies like the European Union, so it would take balls. (Not Ed). It would mean expanding democracy – for instance, via a canton-style system – and making it easier for small businesses and co-operatives to thrive. It would mean leaving the EU, hacking back the state, rejecting the way our economy is currently run – i.e. on an unsustainable tide of rising debt – and scything back the unproductive and parasitical layers (ever-growing management, bureaucracy, quangos etc). It would also mean valuing manufacturing, learning, aspiration and self-improvement above non-productive greed. It’s a vision of workable anarchy, if you like – minimum government, maximum freedom; genuine power to the people. But for that to happen we’d need a new grassroots movement. Voting Labour is not the answer.
April 17. Last night’s BBC1 Challengers Debate was farcically biased, with four left-wing politicians ranged against UKIP’s Nigel Farage and an audience apparently on loan from a Left Unity conference. The three female party leaders looked like the worst-ever episode of Snog, Marry, Avoid... (Answer: avoid Natalie Bennett, snog Rab C. Sturgeon – after 19pints of McEwan’s and a bottle of Buckfast – and marry Helen Wood). But don’t set up a joint bank account with any of them. In common with most politicians they appear to think money grows on the trees brain-freeze Bennett no doubt likes to hug. Nutty Nat seems to believe that if we do away with frivolous nonsense like defence and border controls we’ll all be happy because villains, terrorists, sociopaths and hostile foreign governments would vanish overnight in the event of a Green Party victory. Aussie Bennett claims she became a UK citizen because she loves the country, so why does she want to change so much of it? She’d get rid of horse-racing and cheap holiday flights for working class families, and given half the chance she’d price us out of cars and roast beef dinners too. The media maintains that UKIP attracts cranks, the Greens have one for a leader. This has been a hell of a week for political lies, with the manifestos promising pie in the sky for all without offering any clue as to how it will all be paid for – the country is still massively in debt after all. Farage was booed but you don’t have to be a Kipper to agree with his point that it is impossible to control immigration while Britain remains a member of the European Union. He is also completely correct to say that EU leaders are planning a European Army. It has been part of their strategy for years because the big vision has always been the creation of one single Europe-wide country, or Europe A Nation as Sir Oswald Mosley called it. Politicians who pretend otherwise, along with those who claim the EU can be reformed, are simply lying. More on the debate on the OnTheBox column on Sunday.
The Crown Prosecution Service say Labour’s Lord Janner is too ill to stand trial for historic charges of abuse, which is very convenient both for Janner and the Labour Party. But here’s my question: why wasn’t he charged years ago? Janner was named as a child abuser way back in 1991, during the trial of the notorious pervert Frank Beck who preyed on kids as young as eight at the children’s homes he ran in Leicester. Dozens of witnesses gave evidence during the three month trial, saying how Beck forced them to perform oral sex on him or were raped or buggered by him. Beck named Janner as a fellow abuser and a witness corroborated the claim. He was investigated at the time, and again in 2002 and 2006 when he was well enough to be charged but documents related to Janner were not passed to the CPS after the 2002 investigation. We’re told the decision not to prosecute in 2007 was taken by local officials. Rather than disown the MP, the Labour Party elevated him to the peerage.
April 13. I recorded a new podcast yesterday with the London skinhead poet Tim Wells, an entertaining fellow despite supporting Leyton Orient and an excellent Ska DJ to boot. Make that a DM boot. He's not one of 'wandering lonely as clouds' herberts stumbling into golden daffodils, but one of the witty, occasionally angry, backstreet upstart poets inspired by reggae, punk and protest. This new wave first broke in the early eighties when the likes of Seething Wells, Garry Johnson, Ginger John and Attila The Stockbroker found new audiences for their brave new verse. And before them was Salford's brilliant John Cooper Clarke (who I first interviewed for Sounds way back in 1978). We were joined in the studio by Emily Harrison, 22, one of the modern poets who are keeping that rebel spirit alive, and via Skype by J.B. Barrington... I'll let you know when it's online.
I was always fond of Garry Johnson who described the East End as "a city of tower blocks, Alcatraz without the rocks", wrote the undeniable Labour MPs Ain't Working Class, and summed up snobbery with his poem Dead End Yobs: 'But even if you make it, certain people will say/ "You're still no good and you'll be no other way/Cos you don't talk proper, yer accent ain't true blue/You was born in an 'ouse in 'Ackney with an outside loo"... '. The gap between Garry's poetry about speed and stolen cars and Attila banging on about Albania was wide enough to fit Tennyson's Valley Of Cauteretz in... These angry working class word-spinners didn't realise that they were part of a proletarian poetry tradition which dates back to the Chartists and which will be celebrated next month at a British Library event called Talking Liberties: Ranting Poets, 'Zines & Angry Kids of the '80s.
PS Tim Wells has also penned a fine tribute to Cockney comedy maverick Jimmy Fagg on his stand up and spit blog. (From left to far-left: Emily Harrison, me, Tim Wells)
April 9. Isn't it insulting for the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon to use the term "red line" regarding her opposition to Trident missiles? The thin red line was held by the Sutherland Highlanders 93rd (Highland) regiment at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. The Times correspondent William H. Russell reported that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British operations base except the 'thin red streak tipped with a line of steel' of the 93rd. What would those brave, determined men have made of Sturgeon's wishy-washy stance on defence? Or indeed of the EU... a new survey shows that Scottish voters would rather have a referendum on the EU than another vote on independence which Sturgeon is hinting at. Don't expect the political establishment to take a blind bit of notice.
April 8. Why do we want New York's Michael Bloomberg for London Mayor? What does he know about the needs of Londoners? If we must import a foreign mayor, why not Toronto's Rob Ford? At least he knows how to throw a party.
April 7. Tony Blair is back! Saint Tony popped up on the Six 0'Clock News to
tell us that EU membership is "too important" to be decided democratically -
essentially voters can't be trusted to make the "sensible choice" of staying
in this corrupt, failing nightmare. Saint Tone's judgement is flawless in
all matters of course, as can be shown by his proud history of other
sensible choices. Such as 1) Taking us into the entirely counter-productive
and probably illegal Iraq War. 2) Telling us in 2002 that we would be "crazy
to stay out of the Euro" and that keeping the pound would be a "betrayal of
our national interest". 3) Deliberately encouraging record levels of mass
immigration. 4) Lumbering us with his useless carpet-chewing successor
Gordon 'pension raider' Brown 5) Trying to push through English
regionalisation. etc, etc. And now he's back, this shameless political
fraud, this patronising freebie-addicted failed Middle East peace envoy,
this smug arrogant weasel with his bank accounts bulging with fees from iffy
autocrats, daring to tell us why we can't decide our own future. It actually
beggars belief. Especially when we know that 55per cent of Labour voters and
our biggest unions also want a referendum on EU membership.Of course Blair's
intervention is nothing to do with Britain's welfare and all to do with his
lucrative future on the world stage. I almost feel sorry for Ed. Saint Tone
backing Miliband is a bit like Bluebeard declaring for Dopey. Who next?
Gerry Adams? The Yorkshire Ripper? The ghost of Stalin via an Ouija board?
Gertcha. Not that I'm suggesting we trust Cameron, mind. He's promised us a
referendum in 2017 - well, why wait? Labour won an election in 2005 on a
manifesto pledge to give the British people a referendum on the EU
Constitution. It clearly stated: 'We will put it - the EU Constitution - to
the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a 'Yes'
vote.'. And on May 13 2005 Saint Tony himself told The Sun: "We will have a
referendum on the constitution in any event - and that is a Government
promise." Lie after lie after lie. All three major parties have promised us
a referendum; not one of them has ever delivered. And politicians wonder why
the public has such a low opinion of them.
April 4. There will be a march this afternoon in North London demanding justice for Henry Hicks. Henry died last December after crashing on his moped while being pursued by two unmarked police cars in Holloway, London N7. He was 18 years old. Henry’s family have established the Henry Hicks Foundation, Linda Robson is a trustee and demand for a full inquiry is growing. Details here.
April 3. So after the big debate, with no clear winners, it looks increasingly like we will end up with either another coalition or a minority government – most likely Labour (who are on course to receive their lowest ever vote) propped up by a the SNP, the Lib Dims and an iffy rag-bag of tiddlers. So that’s England and the economy stuffed... at least we haven’t got any gold left to flog on the cheap. Our electoral system is now so skewered by devolution, dodgy deals and the obvious need for boundary reform that the wishes of most English voters look odds-on to be over-ridden. How long we’ll tolerate such a state of affairs is the question no-one in Westminster cares to ask or dares to answer.
The TV debate was bland fare, a far cry from the sort of public tear-ups party leaders like Harold Wilson and Alec Douglas-Home endured in front of thousands of animated voters at the Birmingham Rag Market. These made the weekly farce of Prime Minister’s Question Time look like a game of patty-cake. I remember watching Harold Wilson speak at a rowdy open meeting in 1973, held I think in the packed assembly hall of Eltham Green comprehensive school (Boy George's old alma mater). Wilson was brilliantly lucid and completely unfazed by either the heckles or the International Socialists demo outside. Could you imagine Miliband or Cameron risking that kind of public exposure? Today, press events are tightly controlled, the journalists vetted and the answers pre-scripted to the point of tedium.
Back in my Sounds days, when I was a Labour Party member, I interviewed Neil Kinnock for the paper just before the 1983 election. He was warm, garrulous and spoke from the heart. Unfortunately his undiplomatic off-the-cuff remarks about Arthur Scargill were picked up by the national press and used as a stick to beat him with. More regrettably after losing the 1987 and ’92 elections as well, Kinnock quit and leapt with his entire family onto the EU gravy train... the natural home for political failures.
Nigel Farage is in trouble for his remarks last night about HIV health tourists. Yet official figures show that more than half of those recently diagnosed with HIV were born overseas. You may not agree with everything Nigel says, I know I don’t. But it says a lot about modern politics that he can be roundly condemned for “scare-mongering” simply for telling the truth.
April 2. THIS time, no-one agreed with Nick. But tonight's ITV Leaders Debate only really heated up when Nigel Farage pushed the others' buttons. Moderated by Julia Etchingham, who looked like a younger, hotter Anne Robinson dressed as a sous chef, the two-hour marathon will have done little to change viewers' minds. No-one mucked up spectacularly, although Nutty Natty Bennett from the Greens seemed most out of her depth. Cameron appeared less glib than he had done under fire from Paxman; Miliband less evasive but over-rehearsed. He really needs to stop gurning. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's house-trained wildcat, impressed, although when she talked about the need for Scotland's voice to be heard many will have wondered when it isn't. The wee hobbit talked a good fight, but it's very easy to be anti-austerity when your bills are being subsidised by English taxpayers. Farage, sweating like a dray-horse with pneumonia, seemed the most genuine; Leanne Wood (I'd hoped she might) the warmest, Clegg plain feeble. The seven-strong line-up resembled Fifteen To One, sadly without the eliminations. Six of them were pro-European Union. So much for choice. Oddly defence and Islamism weren't important enough to be discussed.
Sixty years ago more than nine out of every ten voters backed either Labour or the Conservatives. The main parties stood for very different things then; now there's barely a fag-paper between them... which is why fringe parties are blooming. Immigration is still the issue that rattles liberals the most, yet even Plaid Cymru's Wood acknowledged that Nigel Farage was right when he said our politicians can't control the rate of migration while we remain part of the EU. It isn't racist to oppose open borders, it's common sense. Uncontrolled mass immigration puts an intolerable strain on jobs, health, housing and schools. How can millions integrate? Labour now acknowledge that their record on this issue in government was damagingly misguided (read demented) – but if they think they can sweep that under the carpet with a few comedy mugs, they're mistaken. All of this comes back to the European Union, which is why UKIP has grown so. The socialist case against the EU has been hushed up by the establishment in collusion with the media. For a cross party referendum campaign see
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Oi music, the blue collar punk movement often referred to as streetpunk. To celebrate, my band The Gonads are proposing to record an all-star version of the Cockney Rejects' definitive anthem 'Oi, Oi, Oi' featuring some of the scene's best loved musicians AND a choir consisting of Oi fans all over the world. The song will be recorded in south east London but anyone who wants to will be able to add their voice to the chorus. All you will have to do is record an audio clip and send it to a special email address which we will set up. That way the record will represent every part of the world. Oi started in the backstreets of London but has had an enduring echo around the globe. The Rejects sang "The kids they come from everywhere, the East End's all around' – and it is. Oi is the voice of working class punk, nothing more, nothing less. The special three track ep will celebrate that. It will be available as CD and download. There are plenty of exclusives on offer, and a big chunk of the profits will go to Care After Combat. Full details here.
March 31st. Honoured to have been invited to the Care After Combat Inaugural Gala Dinner tonight – a great turn-out for a cracking cause...
Earlier in the day, I recorded a podcast with brilliant comedian Terry Alderton. And if this is the picture I took when I was sober, you can imagine how blurred they were after the gala... It comes to something when you bump into Nigel Farage and you're more pissed than he is.
March 29. Below is a photo of the day Howard Stern annointed me his "Ambassador in
England"... and I still haven't had the Ferrero Rocher...
March 28. My latest The Hungry & The Hunted new music podcast is up and
running at Litopia with guests Alan McGee and Alias Kid playing live in the
studio. Featuring tracks from Ming City Rockers, The Amphetameanies, Shotgun
House, Iron Chin, 1Eye, The Crunch, Bambu Sauce, Last Seen Laughing, Kombi
Killers, The Cundeez, Phoenix 23 and more.
Buy tomorrow's Daily Star Sunday for a chance to win a copy of The Specials'
first album - still sounding as fresh and brilliant as it did 35 years ago.
The Specials by The Specials is re-released on Monday, along with More
Specials and In The Studio. All come with a whole CD of extras apiece.
March 27. Jeremy Paxman was on top form last night, subjecting Cameron and Miliband to the kind of grilling we don't see on Masterchef. Or now, sadly, Newsnight. Paxo kebabed the party leaders mercilessly. He clearly wrong-footed the Prime Minister with his questions about food banks, which have shot up from 66 to 421 under his tenure. "You talked about Broken Britain and fixing it," Paxman said. "You haven't." Ouch. The PM was on the ropes and it showed. Paxo kept up the pressure. ZAP! Have one on demeaning zero-hours contracts, you shiny git. BIFF! And your rich banker buddies. POW! And how about Immigration! Taxation! Government borrowing! Europe! The stuffing continued to a degree that even though most of today's papers declared Shameron the winner, the PM had in truth been badly exposed. Yes, he'd recovered his composure but Paxman's aggressive sparring showed that any decent opponent could land one right on his glass jaw.
So he's lucky he won't be facing one... Miliband despite being schooled on how to move and how to address the studio audience like chums, never seemed entirely convincing. He ducked their questions, preferring to coast along with memorised answers which sounded what they were – pre-scripted. Facing Paxman, he looked like a condemned man watching prison authorities assemble a gallows. Admitting that the Labour government's immigration policy had been "farcical", Ed refused to put a cap on EU migrants and looked decidedly slippery over Europe, Scotland and the so-called mansion tax. At the end he seemed so shaken that Paxo asked "Are you all right, Ed?" It's now being said, with some degree of truth, that Miliband wasn't as bad as his supporters feared while Cameron wasn't as good as his lot had hoped. Which is not much consolation for either the Labour Party or the electorate. The only winner was Paxman.
Labour's faith in 'social Europe' baffles me. The EU is entirely anti-social in its treatment of its people. Over 30% of the young working class are jobless in eight member states, and in Spain that rises to a whopping 50%. The EU is clearly to blame; the system encourages cheap foreign labour to undercut local wages, while the single currency prevents countries from rebooting their competiveness through devaluation. Very social. At home the Tories offer us more of the same – low wages, low productivity, job cuts, austerity and yet more immigration. Is that really a vision for our future? Britain's population will exceed 70 million by 2010, all in the name of "growth" that never seems to benefit the common man. Old certainties, the liberty our forefathers fought and died for, are being eaten up. Innocent until proven guilty? Gone. An Englishman's home is his castle? Going. Freedom of speech? More at threat from the "progressive" so-called Left than the fogeyish Tory Right. Global capitalism and its handmaidens in Brussels are twisting our country out of all recognition, and wringing the working class out to dry.
The prospects look worse for England and the English. Who speaks for us? None of the above. The country is being carved up in the interests of a global system that gives nothing back. It's hard to see what we get out of it. Our kids can't get decent jobs, first-time housing is unaffordable, our high streets are gentrified or homogenised, and if we tighten our belts much more we'll cut ourselves in half. Our views aren't even represented politically. Rather than present a real alternative, Labour are happy to offer more of the same, with the help of the SNP, which brings me to what Tam Dalyell called the West Lothian question. Essentially, why should Scottish MPs have a vote on purely English matters while England's MPs can't discuss Scotland? The English put up with a lot , but there is a limit to how long the people of the UK's biggest country will suffer being treated like second class citizens. So many issues are now devolved that we can't talk about British education, transport or health policy any more. The current arrangement is unfair to English voters. Scotland and Wales have their own Parliament and Assembly but they are still over-represented in the House of Commons. Scottish and Welsh MPs preside over English matters. English MPs have no reciprocal right. The Barnett formula gives about one third extra spending to Scotland for EQUAL need despite the worst poverty areas being found south of the border.
In these circumstances, with democracy stifled and liberties curtailed, the demand for an English parliament becomes a revolutionary one. We need our own parliament to ensure that legislation affecting England is proposed and implemented by MPs accountable to the English electorate alone. We need a referendum on EU membership for the same reason. Our future doesn't lie in Europe; it isn't our destiny to be over-regulated and bossed about by petty-minded Continental bureaucrats. We need to fight for an independent England that shapes its own destiny and trades with whoever we please as part of a greater anglosphere of English speaking peoples dedicated to freedom, liberty, tolerance, justice and enterprise. When he was sentenced in 1834, Tolpuddle Martyr George Loveless wrote: 'God is our guide, from field, from wave, from plough, from anvil and from loom; we come our country's rights to save, and speak a tyrant faction's doom. We raise the watch-word liberty; we will, we will, we will be free!' Now is the time to echo those words and fight to win back the freedoms we have lost. Once again lets us raise the watch-word, liberty. We will, we will, we will be free.
March 25. An updated version of my 1001 Reasons Why EastEnders Is "Pony" is now for sale as an eBook. Here's the Amazon link.
March 24. I recorded a new podcast yesterday with Maz and Sean from up-and-coming Manc lads Alias Kid and their mentor Alan McGee of Creation Records fame. The great McGee and I have at least two things in common – firstly, a keen interest in new and non-sanitised rock music and secondly a desire to know whatever happened to my old Sounds buddy Dave 'Dave Angry' McCullough. Last I heard, Dave was said to have wed a wealthy Septic and retired from the hurly-burly of life. No doubt he gets all the exercise he needs walking her guide dogs. Alas Kid play live in the studio on the show which also features tasty tracks from Ming City Rockers, the Cundeez, the Amphetameanies, Bumbu Sauce, The Crunch, 1Eye, Shotgun House, Knock Off and more, and should be posted by Saturday night.
March 23. What did the shrieking middle class mob who drove Nigel Farage and his family out of a pub yesterday dinner-time think they'd achieved? Because judging by the radio phone-in shows today all they actually managed to do was generate a mass wave of sympathy for the UKIP leader. You might not like what a politician stands for, but terrifying his kids makes you the wrong'uns in most voters' eyes. What will Dan Glass and co do for an encore? Barbeque the family budgerigar? The only way to beat UKIP is through rational argument, and that would require politicians who actually believe in something. Do we have any? Glass and the rest of his intolerant, abusive, group-think crowd should take a good long look at themselves in the mirror, then they might realise that they're the fascists now.
March 22. Best TV of the week: England vs France at Twickenham today, real heart-in-the-mouth, adrenalin-pumping drama which had me, and no doubt thousands of others, yelling at the telly as our boys won by 55-35 (despite trailing 15-7 after 26 minutes) – and were just one measly converted try away from outright Six Nations victory. Highlights? George Ford's incredible conversions, Courtney Lawes bringing down France's fly-half Plisson, and seven glorious tries, bringing our Six Nations total to eighteen... Low point? An England team still lumbered with the British national anthem rather than one of our own. Bring on Jerusalem, and roll on the World Cup!
March 21. The new Joe Strummer movie, I Need A Dodge, premiers at Koko in Camden on Wednesday 25th. My mates The Crunch are playing before the screening with an all-star line-up performing Clash and Strummer songs afterwards. Should be a great night.
Sorry to hear of the passing of Twisted Sister's drummer AJ Pero who has died aged just 55 apparently from a heart attack. Anthony Jude Pero, originally from Staten Island, New York played on the first four Twisted Sister albums, leaving the self-proclaimed "Sick Motherf**kers" in 1986. Singer Dee Snider says: "His sledgehammer assault on the drums helped drive Twisted Sister and I to greatness, and inspired me to rock every single show. My heart breaks knowing I will never feel the power of his beat behind me, or turn to see his face smiling broadly from the sheer joy he got from doing what he loved." AJ died while touring with his other band, Adrenalin Mob.
March 20. It is not my job in life to defend UKIP, who are big enough and ugly enough to defend themselves, but I can't help feeling this latest "expenses scandal" is being massively blown up by the media. MEP Janice Atkinson's chief of staff, Christine Hewitt, got secretly filmed asking for a moody bill in a Margate restaurant. Basically she tried to do the EU out of £2,000. UKIP immediately suspended Atkinson, and both she and Hewitt are being investigated for fraud. They did the right thing quickly, unlike say Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper who exploited the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) to the tune of £44,000 a year by claiming their Stoke Newington residence as a "second home" and as far as I can see are still very much two of Labour's biggest beasts. Or Lib Dem David Laws who charged £40K for living in his partner's home but is still in government. Or former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the home she claimed to share with her sister (while her husband charged porn films to the poor old tax-payer)... cheeky chappie Tory Derek Conway who had his son on £10K a year as a "part-time research assistant" while he was actually studying full-time at Newcastle University... and our dear former Prime Minister, the saintly Gordon Brown who paid his brother £6K of our dough for cleaning services and submitted the same plumbing bill twice... My personal favourite will always be Douglas Hogg, MP, who charged voters £2grand to clean his moat. Well it's a big job. They say power corrupts, but a lax expenses system turns 99per cent of recipients into fiddlers... PS. That restaurant bill was actually £900. Not bad for thirty thirsty UKIP folk. Margate sounds like a bargain. PPS. Questions the media won't answer, Number 97: Why is there more out-cry over Hewitt's £2K than the on-going scandal of EU corruption? According to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem fiddling costs the EU at least £99BILLION per year, but is "probably higher". Bribery remains widespread and VAT fraud is colossal.
March 18. I can't get too excited about Osborne's budget, mostly because the Coalition promised to "eliminate" the deficit and we're still £90billion in the hole, with public spending set to rise by £5.5billion over the next year. So much for austerity. Sure, the debt-to-GDP ratio has declined but that's down to falling inflation and nothing to do with Geo. If you want real change – a Chancellor willing to pare back the state and set rational limits on the immigration that's eating away at working class wages – there's nothing for you here.
March 17. Out on 30th March, folks, special edition re-issues of all three Specials albums... the first two still sound great.
March 13. Sorry to hear of the death yesterday of Terry Pratchett, whose witty fantasy novels made him a global phenomenon. Hilariously, today Pratchett fans started a petition demanding that Death (a regular character in his books who always SPOKE IN CAPITALS) bring him back! Let's hope Sky reshow The Hogfather and The Colour Of Magic as a tribute to his brilliance. I think Sir Tel would have appreciated The Murdstone Trilogy, a warm funny send-up of lesser "phantasy" novels, written by Mal Peet who also sadly passed away earlier this month. It was Peet's first adult orientated book, a sharply observed satire and a joy to read.
March 11. How devious of Newsnight to try and spin the Clarkson row by having him defended by posh Kirstie Allsopp and monstered by pretend man-of-the-people Owen Jones. The obvious implication being don’t lose sleep over this wealthy reactionary warthog. Nice try, but it won’t have dented Jeremy’s popularity one iota. People love him precisely because he isn’t part of the right-on liberal establishment. He’s that rare thing, an off-message voice in the institutionally biased Corporation. And don’t they just hate the fact that BBC2’s biggest hit is also their most un-PC show? The Beeb would be nuts to sack him though, firstly because he makes them millions – Clarkson is Top Gear – and secondly because he the solitary fig leaf disguising their rather narrow, Guardian approved agenda... That isn’t paranoia. Academic studies show that the Beeb gives twice as much coverage to pro-EU voices as they do to critical ones. If Clarkson is punching BBC employees – and god knows they deserve it - then I hope his next target will be the creep who commissioned the patronising Great European Disaster Movie, a rather shabby recent drama about how terrible it would be if the European Union collapsed. (You’ll wait a long time to see them make a film about how catastrophic it would be if we stayed.) Has Newsnight ever examined the corruption and financial incompetence at the heart of the EU or its anti-democratic nature? Of course not. The Beeb also chose to be deliberately one-sided in their coverage of the climate change debate, contrary to the requirements of their charter. David Bellamy says he was frozen out of TV for daring to question global warming, a theory the Corporation treats like holy scripture. And as I may have mentioned before, my bookings dried up the moment I campaigned for an English Parliament. On a broader level, the BBC are part of the culture of censorship we are becoming. On tonight’s Newsnight, Owen Jones tore into Clarkson accusing him of “racism, sexism and homophobia” – the standard line of attack. Don’t engage with the argument, deflect it with smears. Clarkson is far too smart to be a bigot. He is an odd bod, though, not posh by birth but privately educated through his parents’ endeavour. So how did a plummy sounding, badly dressed bloke talking about cars become a people’s hero? Precisely because he punctures the pomposity of those who presume to police what opinions we’re allowed to have and what we are allowed to discuss.
Where to guv? ITV... Sky??
This blog won’t be back full time for a while yet as I’m still recovering from the after effects of last November’s crash. On a recent hospital visit I was treated by a warm and very smart Italian specialist who had the best comedy accent since Mind Your Language. He also had a very pretty, very petite brunette colleague with tiny hands, also from Italia, who did various reaction tests on me. As she stroked my face for what felt like eternity, the doctor said hilariously: “Hey, this is not Italy! You’re not supposed to seduce him!” If laughter were the best medicine, I’d have been cured on the spot...
While I’m here, here’s my latest new music podcast featuring Brighton band the Bar Stool Preachers playing live in the studio, http://litopia.com/bar-stool-preachers/ The show also packs in tasty tracks from Alias Kid, The Boys, The Crunch, Iron Chin, On Trial UK, Christine Sugary Staple, The Amphetameanies, X-Ray Junction, the Young Offenders and more.
Here is some old tramp, with the Bar Stool Preachers - one of the many exciting young bands
not getting the breaks they deserve in the jaded world of modern pop.
By a handy coincidence, the Preachers, Alias Kid and The Boys feature heavily in the current issue of Street Sounds, along with chats with the likes of the Dropkick Murphys, Chris Pope, Rhoda Dakar and the great Garry Johnson. You can order it from here or swerve the postage and pick up a copy from great independent shops like All Ages and Oi Oi The Shop in Camden.
STOP PRESS. Here I am at Bez's bed-in, between the Happy Mondays' dancer and his girlfriend Firouzeh on a reasonably happy Friday. We debated his anti-fracking cause on camera. I'm sceptical, but in this increasingly apathetic world I admire anyone who has the balls to make a stand for what they believe in. Bez's party, now renamed We Are The Reality Party, are said to be running second in Salford & Eccles. Could he do the unthinkable and over-turn the Labour majority? Bez certainly got me thinking about this poor kid's death:
While I'm here, the current issue of Street Sounds, which we're reading in the picture, is out now, featuring the Dropkick Murphys, the Boys, Chris Pope, Alan McGee's new protégées Alias Kid, Rhoda Dakar, Garry Johnson, punk and Oi in Argentina, and much more. Get it from here or from great independent shops like All Ages and Oi Oi The Shop in Camden.
At the other end of the political spectrum, earlier in the week I watched UKIP MEP Tim Aker go down a storm with about 70 local deaf people. No other party bothered to send a speaker. Labour said they would, but didn't call back; the Tories didn't even bother to reply. And of course Bez was in bed. Makes you wonder how many constituencies will 'do a Clacton' - if only to give the political class a boot up the jacksie. If Mark Berry is appealing to one lost generation, the apathetic working class young, UKIP connect largely with an older generation who feel they've lost their country and their voice. In their very different ways, UKIP, the SNP and Syriza in Greece offer something the establishment can't – hope, change and a listening ear.
that might be.
Feb 4. ISIS has released gruesome footage of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being torched to death by his captors. A sickening and barbaric war crime that makes you despair, although no doubt someone woolly-minded nitwit from the BBC will be on hand soon to tell us that it's not helpful to call the perpetrators terrorists. Maybe radicals or militants, would be better... or offended men of God... shall we have a quick focus group?
What do Islamic State and their supporters around the world hope to gain by their repulsive actions? Victory, clearly – and with good reason. Terrorism has proved the most effective tactic for "national liberation" for more than half a century. It's how the FLN forced the French out of Algeria, how the Mau Mau drove the British from Kenya and how the IRA achieved their place in government. Terror works, and that's why it thrives. The people who burn other people alive or shoot cartoonists or kidnap children can only do so because they believe absolutely in their cause, whether it be to drive Johnny Foreigner out of their homeland or to rid their region of an "infidel" religion. What can be done in the face of such belligerent certainty? What do the leaders of the West have to offer the world? The fashionable belief that all cultures and customs are equally valid has made us sitting ducks. If we no longer believe in ourselves then why should anyone else? Our politicians can waffle on about freedom, tolerance and equality until the cows come home, but their spines crumble when faced by opponents who are powered by a faith we can despise but cannot match.
Feb 3. Bez is to emulate John & Yoko's infamous bed-in. The Happy Monday's dancer will stage a seven day bed-bound protest at London's Montcalm Hotel next week with his girlfriend Firouzeh Razavi. No doubt other Madchester characters and minor celebs will pay him a call, and the sheets will hit the fans if anyone decides to bring along a sniffer dog. The stunt is a direct copy of the 1969 'Bed-In For Peace' when the Lennons laid in for a week at the Amsterdam Hilton; the difference being that Bez is not protesting against war but against shale gas fracking. "Frackers" are the new bogeyman for the modern, green/hippie crusty underground. What Montague Burns did next. But not everyone on the Left swallows the hysterical propaganda. Here is a guide to anti-fracking whoppers from spiked online. The only thing Bez says about his bed-in that I can fully agree with is that it'll "take the hassle out of what to do for Valentine's Day".
Feb 1. What does it mean to be a conservative in 2015? My latest podcast guest is Professor Roger Scruton, one of England's leading philosophers and the author of How To Be A Conservative, along with many other provocative and intelligent books which question the dominant left-liberalism of modern Western thought. The son of a working class Mancunian Labour Party supporter, Roger's contrary views were shaped by the 1968 Paris uprising when he realised that he was on the other side, the side that wanted to preserve rather than destroy. Scruton went on to bravely champion dissidents in Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism, and was banned from Czechoslovakia for his pains. One of the many subjects that concerns the prof more recently is the fate of England. He criticised English voters being excluded from the debate about Scottish independence last year, and has said that given the opportunity he would vote for English independence. His book England an Elegy was a stout defence of English values and virtues. In a free-flowing chat, we discuss intolerance of dissent on university campuses, free speech, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party's failure to conserve, the culture of spin, modern art and the Church of England. And I ask why he thinks that the belief in human progress is unreal. Literacy is widespread, we've beaten many diseases, our people are relatively prosperous. Isn't that progress? Is Roger Scruton really just a pessimist?