Thursday, April 29, 2010


I've written a piece about the state of the contemporary Left for those nice kids over at Indieoma. The site's readership is heavily US-based, so that's why I've tried to limit the usual British colloquialisms (probably dismally failed in this respect) and mentioned 'backstage at SXSW' instead of 'in the Glastonbury VIP tent'. If you're a paid up member of a left wing party the piece will probably piss you off, and I may well have screwed up on the brief, but have a rummage around the rest of the site while you're there, as there are loads of articles and interviews, including worthwhile contributions from K-Punk and Nina IT. 

This write-up triggered a shedload of memories about Luton Sixth Form College, for some arcane reason. In 1993, it seemed that the Anti-Nazi League teleported into Luton from straight outta nowhere, and then seemingly rushed back there a few months later. I'd already fallen foul of ANL diktats concerning badges and attire, but the real facepalm moment was when one of their bright sparks declared the group had 'mobilised in Bury Park to stop the BNP'. Utter codswallop: 1) the BNP might have been stupid, but they weren't so crazy to head down there without serious weight of numbers – which, given their laziness and preference for boozing it up, they usually lacked. Chasing a weedy-looking student across a car park at closing time or smashing windows was more their style 2) the Bury Park Youth Posse really didn't require lollypop-sporting honkies to fight their battles for them 3) none of the Bury Park residents I knew ever saw more than a couple of ANL guys running a stall on the odd Saturday afternoon. Actually, if they'd really wanted to stop the BNP, they could have jumped on the 31 to Dunstable, where you could regularly catch five or six ming-mongs flogging The Flag to an uninterested public outside the library or the Winston Churchill pub, before some portly copper would trundle over, ask them to move 50m along the pavement, and waddle off again. 

I knew this Muslim girl, Shaheen, and some ANL boy who fancied her gave her a Fun-Da-Mental cassette single, telling her she'd like it. "Why did he give me this crap?" she later moaned. "Just because they're pakis?" Unfortunately for him, she was more of an Alice Cooper loyalist. She actually had a C60 filled entirely with the song Poison and would play that on her Walkman, on perpetual repeat. Ah, those halcyon, pre-Spotify days...

I was doing a Politics A-level and, one day, there was some sort of 'meet the politicians' summit in London for sixth formers, so a few of us got bussed down to the Barbican to attend. We were in this auditorium, with various backbenchers talking about the electoral process and taking questions. One of the other sixth form groups comprised a bunch of five kids who looked way cooler than our lot; a girl with piercings, a camo T-shirt, fishnets and DMs; some guy with Sid Vicious hair and a red star on his army surplus get the picture. We just looked like the Bash Street Kids (me as Plug, natch), but I had messy hair and army boots, so I tried to catch her eye a few times during a long monologue on the pitfalls of proportional representation (by the way, I got an 'A' in Politics, so if any sixth formers need help with their coursework, just bung me a monkey and I'll sort it). I was already planning to bunk the afternoon sessions and go to Kensington Market, and thought she'd be dead impressed if I offered her the chance to wander around a joss stick-scented emporium of industrial records, studded wristbands, sky blue hair extensions and 57 varieties of 'Misfits' T-shirt. 

Anyway, the microphone was being offered around the audience and the girl from the other college put her hand up. Wow, talk about bad cold reading: out came this crystal-cut, home counties accent. "I'd like to arrsk...why are there so few black people in Parliament?" she enquired in her best Paxman drawl. 

Luckily, this dead straight football fan, Phil, and a Muslim guy, Faruk, were up for the High St Ken challenge, so we jumped the Circle Line there around 1pm. Phil was muttering stuff about weirdos and freaks but couldn't stop gawping at goth girls, so I had him pegged as a closet vampyr fancier. I bought my first copy of Second Annual Report by TG there, that afternoon - a fiver, with a water-stained cover. Well, it was a blank cover anyway, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to bag such a rare item (look, we didn't have eBay back then, and I didn't even have a CD player - you youngsters really have to astrally project yourselves to another dimension on this one).

So, we headed back around 3.00, to catch the last speaker session and get the bus back to Luton, me hoping our Politics teacher didn't ask himself why I was suddenly clutching an LP-shaped plastic bag. John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, was meant to be onstage but he couldn't make it in the end, so they sent some understudy to fill in instead. It was some gormless, baby-faced pillock, who kept laughing nervously and who didn't seem to be able to answer any of the questions. Seriously. This older guy was standing behind him and looked embarrassed on the audience's behalf. 

"But why should we vote Labour if you're going to punish entrepreneurs with higher taxes?" some 17-year old Tory geek in a paisley jumper demanded. The Labour prat just rictus grinned, went "Uh huh huh! Well...", and the older bloke had to step forward to the mic and announce that they wouldn't be taking any more questions. It was a wash-out to say the least, and I wondered why my dad had told me to always vote Labour, come rain, hail or shine. 

That nervous, giggly idiot's name? Tony Blair. 

When John Smith flipped his motor, I thought, Oh boy, are they fucked.

great stuff! Both of them.

Is indieoma for young people by any chance? The small font size would suggest it is not intended for old fogeys like me. :-(
Ha ha! I'm not sure, think it's quite a mixed bunch. Either that or we're just so used to Blogger / Typepad layouts...
Wow, I had a tape of Poison looped over and over again. It is a very good song.
I do really miss Ken Market.
PS 'a good barney'?
Shit, they're not going to get that one. Actually, even I don't get it? I wonder if I can change it
This post is riddled with errors. It wasn't Shaheen, it was Jasmin who had the ANL guy after her and the Alice Cooper tape. And John Smith didn't die in a car crash. My memory got waylaid by that joke at the time, "What's the difference between John Smith and Ayrton Senna? John Smith's wife gets to keep the car". Think they died on the same week. Jesus, I really need to start re-reading posts before I bat them into cyberspace.
yeah, I did wonder about that, on the plus side, the Americans may not know he died of a heart attack. Though they also may not know what a 'pranny' is.

I thought it was a good piece though.
Oh well, I had to export a bit of slang, they must be bored of using 'douche' by now
The Yankees love our chirpy vibrant culture and language innit. Don't pander to them TOO much :)
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