Basslines and Protest Signs Part 39: England’s Dreaming

By | December 18, 2019 at 1:00 PM
Lily Allen at the El Rey (photo by Justin Higuchi)

Last week in the UK the Conservative Party swept aside the Labour party with historic numbers, as Boris Johnson democratically retained his position as Prime Minister and the far left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was left in tatters. Now, Johnson will feel emboldened to go ahead with his Brexit plans and, as we have seen, the majority of the country is onboard with him.

Few statements could make this English-born, America-based writer feel as nauseous as that one above. Being a Brit living in Trump’s America is particularly rough right now—the rise of the far right is everywhere and there’s no place to turn (besides, you know, the blue bubble of California). The people have spoken, twice now if you include the Brexit vote, just as they did here when in 2016 (yes, I know Trump lost the popular vote and all of us on the left can cling to that but we also knew about the electoral college before election began). Russia meddling aside, this is what we have to deal with. The right wing is strong in both countries. But why?

What has led to that dangerous level of nationalism? The “it’s our country” mentality that this writer thought was dead and buried after the ’80s. Political commentators such as Katie Hopkins are wallowing in nationalism, openly insulting British Muslims on Twitter. Let’s not mince words here: Racism is rife.

Nowadays, mentioning racism inspires hollers from the right — accusations of “political correctness gone mad” and “playing the race card.” Frankly, that’s a whole heap of bullshit. There’s no such thing as political correctness, just correctness. And if people don’t want to be labelled racist, then they should quit being racist. It ain’t rocket science. Make no mistake, the words of Katie Hopkins when she gleefully tweeted that “nationalism was back” and that “we’ve got Boris and a blue collar army” could have been accompanied with the sound of her polishing her jackboots. These are dangerous times.

English singer Lily Allen knows it. The NME reported that her Twitter account was deleted recently, after the tweet: “Some say it was Brexit, some day it was Jeremy, personally, and I know no one wants to hear it, I think that racism and misogyny runs so so deep in this country and that Boris won because of his attitude towards those things and not in spite of them.”

Ginger Wildheart (photo by Emma Farrer)

She later posted the same thing on Instagram. Of course, she saw a deluge of conservative voters attacking her but she’s apparently more able or willing to cope with it on Instagram.

Not every musician was dismayed by the results, with former Faces man Rod Stewart congratulating Johnson on his win. The next time he attended a soccer match at his beloved Scottish team Celtic, the fans let him know how they felt about that. Ged Grebby, founder of Show Racism the Red Card which aims to get rid of racism in soccer, loved it, saying
on Twitter:

“Brilliant by Celtic fans: ‘Tories not welcome’ – Celtic fans aim banner at Rod Stewart during Hibs game after singer’s backing for #BorisJohnson.”

One of the greatest living British songwriters, Ginger Wildheart of The Wildhearts, put it all out there when he posted on social media:

“I live in a right wing country.‬
I imagined British people had a conscience.‬
I dreamed Socialism was possible.‬
I convinced myself that the vulnerable would be cared for.‬
I’m not comfortable living amongst so many selfish cunts.‬
I hate Britain. This is not my country.”

In doing so, Ginger echoed the feelings of so many good and decent people, feeling alienated by the populist opinions and pro-Brexit rhetoric sweeping the nation. During times like this, it’s always worth turning to Billy Bragg. The man usually speaks sense and now was no different. He wrote on Facebook:

“The election of a Conservative government with a sizeable majority has come as a terrible blow to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn like myself. We had hoped, somewhat against hope, that, as in two of the previous three elections, we might have been able to prevent Boris Johnson from getting a majority. But that was not to be.

Although the Tories only increased their vote share by 1.2%, Labour’s dropped catastrophically by 7.9%. Many of those who supported the party in 2017 stayed away this time. Commentators have been quick to blame Corbyn for this disaster and there is evidence that his unpopularity with voters played a part in the result. But was it the decisive factor?”

Billy Bragg (photo by Kris Krug)

Bragg went on to explain what most of us knew — that Corbyn probably lacked
the charisma to “sell” a Labour government — he’s not polished, not a car
salesman. But…

“His willingness to take up unfashionable causes was an attraction to those looking for a radical departure, but the leader of the Labour Party will always be a target for the right wing press and past associations came back to haunt him. 

As a result, his personal ratings were worse than any Labour leader, yet he was able to win more votes than Blair did when he won the 2005 election. In fact, the 10.2m who voted for Corbyn’s Labour Party on Thursday was only a fraction down on the 10.7m who gave Blair his second term in 2001.”

Then he took a look to the future, noting that Johnson isn’t as popular as past leaders such as Margaret Thatcher but rather was able to ride on a Brexit wave.

“From its roots in the trade union movement, the Labour Party has always been about holding the powerful to account – in the workplace, in the financial markets, on the environment. The principle of accountability needs to be applied rigorously to the Tories in the coming parliament and must also provide the foundation for the policies that the party develops and the narrative that it deploys to win back the trust of the electorate.”

One can only hope so.