Tag Archives: politics

The great Ed Miliband makeover

Ed-Miliband-006
Last week I wrote of the ‘image’ problem that Ed Miliband – and by extension Labour – has. I highlighted the fact that the latest polls suggest just 26% of the electorate think Miliband is doing his job well and a whopping 64% think he is doing it badly.

To put it bluntly, this is not the sort of image that a potential Prime Minister in waiting wants.

Interestingly then in today’s Times ($), Sam Coates writes:

‘Labour’s new American election strategist will give Ed Miliband a makeover to make him more appealing to voters, amid jitters among senior party figures over a dip in the party’s poll ratings.’

This ‘American election strategist’ is of course the six figured salary man, Mr David Axelrod who oversaw Obama’s two election victories.

The Times article goes onto state that the Miliband makeover will,

‘look at Mr Miliband’s performance in front of the cameras. Until recently this was not a feature of Labour’s election planning. ‘There is no strategy for Ed the person,’ one senior figure said recently, despite widespread criticism of his performances. The party has been aware for several months that this is an issue. It has conducted focus groups in which members of the public were shown clips of Mr Miliband on television. The participants reacted badly.’

Or as the Daily Mail so tactfully puts it:

Ed’s dismal ratings: Four years on, he’s still less popular than Brown’

That’s right, whilst in opposition to an incredibly unpopular government, Ed Miliband is still less popular than Gordon Brown was in the dying days of the New Labour disaster.

It is interesting to see that this is on the Labour radar but one wonders, what’s the solution other than a coup d’état of the Labour Party leadership?

Can Labour win a majority in 2015 with Ed has the helm?

I don’t think so.

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Politics, passion and underground protest music

Put bluntly, Anglo-American popular music…whether it’s metal, rap, teen-pop or indie-rock, cannot help but stand for a depressingly conservative set of values”John Harris

Harris expresses a sentiment many of us feel – in our hearts of hearts, we know that there is something missing in modern music – a politics, a passion, a sense of protest.

The music mainstream is characterised by ‘soulless music, artless lyrics, goalless movements and heartless gimmicks’ and yet under our feet a revolution brews from the stages of music venues across the country.

This revolution has no base other than music’s third world, the underground.

I refer to the underground, as the ‘third world’ to reflect the Peruvian American rap artist Immortal Technique’s observations…that the underground has all the natural resources, the talent, the man power and the passion, but has none of the access to the music markets that remain so manipulated and dominated by the powerful few.

Just like the third world though, the underground also spawns creativity, protest and resistance.

While the mainstream stays eerily quiet, the pulse of popular resistance beats on. Musicians are coming together to articulate what many of us feel but are unable to express. These musicians are uncaring of the marketability of their work.

They offer the discerning listener a raw, passionate and articulate response to the injustices we see and feel.

While traditional structures teach us that the love between two men is immoral the music of the underground gives us the poetry to resist this prejudice.

From The King’s Will’s ‘Love Against Homophobia’:

To some people 
My love is somewhat alien;
When he comes up, they start subject-changing, and
In some states he’s seen as some contagion -
In those zones, he stays subterranean;
Some love my love; they run parades for him:
Liberal citizens lead the way for him:
Same time as some countries embracing him,
Whole faiths and nations seem ashamed of him:
They’ve tried banning him,
God-damning him,
Toe-tagging him,
Prayed that he stayed in the cabinet,
But my love kicked in the panelling, ran for it -
He’s my love! Can’t be trapping him in labyrinths! -
Maverick, my love is; he thwarts challenges;
The cleverest geneticists can’t fathom him,
Priests can’t defeat him with venomous rhetoric;
They’d better quit; my love’s too competitive:
He’s still here, despite the Taliban, the Vatican,
And rap, ragga in their anger and arrogance,
Who call on my love with lit matches and paraffin -
Despite the fistfights and midnight batterings -
My love’s still here and fiercely battling,
My love’s still here and fiercely battling,

In this underground world, lyrics carry the sentiment of a generation growing up surrounded by violence and prejudice that we are unable to articulate a response to.

The underground does not demand protest but offers a fertile space for resistance to grow.

The underground crosses causes, continents and musical genres. Just as under the streets of Harlem you will find the dirty beats of subversive hip-hop, so under the soil of Middle-England you find the subversive chords of new-folk…and no, I’m talking about Mudford and fucking Sons.

Chris T-T for example expresses the concerns of the rural working classes as he takes on The Countryside Alliances’ (we’ll call them ‘the cunts’ for short) hypocrisy when he sings:

You loved the fucking poll tax, you propped up Margaret Thatcher
And you didn’t give a fuck about Tony Blair
‘Til he threw your hobby back at ya

Of course, a world-wide underground does not escape attention. Immortal Technique comments on this in his track ‘Open your eyes’ when he says, “When they [The  Record Companies] need new assets, new artists to prostitute…, when they needed new concepts… they came to the underground”

Often music that pushes moral, social and musical boundaries becomes the pre-fix to new trends – new marketable trends. Subversive characters are marketable – think of John Lydon and his butter adverts.

So how should we, as consumers, respond to artists who rise up from the streets and onto the record company’s balance sheets?

Should we walk away from the likes of Frank Turner who sing of liberty and freedom whilst playing at the G4S/ATOS sponsored Olympics? No, of course not.

There is nothing inherent about protest being distinct from populism, and certainly nothing inherent about poverty and protest. Billy Bragg stands as a testimony as someone who has ridden a wave of popularity and prosperity and remained, relatively speaking, true to his values.

When Turner is quoted in The Guardian saying that “Rock n Roll will save us all” and that “anyone can take the stage” – The Guardian ‘raises an eyebrow’. For the rest of us it offers a signpost to resistance that surfaces in the mainstream.

When protest music such as Bragg, Turner or even Dylan rise up on to the airwaves and newspaper sheets of the masses, we should be pleased but we should never lose sight of where it came from.

The Underground.

Only in here will you find the raw passion, politics and protest that we are missing in most of our modern music.

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I am off to drink cider and roll around in some mud for a while – can that be political?

We are not just having a dig at Bono - shame!

That’s right ladies and gents – I am off to deepest darkest Glastonbury to drink cider and roll around in mud for a few days. Glastonbury is without doubt one of the best music festivals in the world (putting aside my gripes about this year’s “headliners”).

Yet, there is no real rest for this particular political blogger. Glastonbury is also unique for the amount of awareness raising it does for a number of causes that are close to my heart including, Oxfam, Wateraid and Greenpeace.

This year however, the festival is going one better. There is a grass roots movement happening organised by Art Uncut which aims to highlight the tax dodging of Bono and U2 (who are headlining the festival…As I said, no comment on the choice of headliners). Art uncut explains Bono’s situation as follows:

Before 2006 U2 Ltd, which deals with U2’s royalties payments, was registered in Ireland, the band’s native country, for tax purposes. At the time, Ireland had an astonishing policy of allowing artists to pay zero tax on royalties. In 2006, quite sensibly one might think, the Irish government decided to cap the income which can be subject to this exemption at 250,000 Euros per annum. Following this change in the law, U2 Ltd decided to move their tax affairs to Holland in order to pay less tax.

As such, they are dedicating a whole weekend of protesting to this situation including a high-profile protest at the gig itself. I look forward to seeing what will unfold. They insist that this is not just “having a dig” at Bono (which is a shame because I think that’s a pretty good reason in itself) but to raise awareness of the ethics of taxation. Christian Aid estimates that poor countries receive $160 billion less because of tax dodging. The Art Uncut movement make a full explanation of the problem here.

Glastonbury will defiantly provide incredible entertainment, from the mighty Gas Light Anthem, to the beautiful Laura Marling to the not so beautiful (but still lovely) Mark Thomas. It will also however, put ideas and causes to the forefront of people’s minds.

Whether or not people remember them after a few glasses of West Country cider though remains to be seen.

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