Benny’s asked me to contribute something ‘opinionated’ to his blog and being over-awed (and somewhat frightened) by his towering physique (I once saw him bench press a black hole) I am left with no option but to comply. Unfortunately, that means I have to actually write something and considering my default position is ‘Curmudgeon’, it seems that there will always be a corner of this blog that is forever bitter, twisted and uncomprehending of a world beset with frivolity. So, without further ado, BRING ON THE BITTER. Yay.
OK, so there’s at least a year until the next election, but already an impending sense of doom is settling in comfortably amongst my other myriad fears that jostle daily for my attention. I’m no stranger to election fear and I usually embrace it like a warm blanket, but this year there is something truly menacing lurking in the wood shed….the prospect of a Tory landslide. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the Labour Party these days. Being a dyed in the wool lefty, the last 12 years have been like a break up that just won’t fucking end. I was fully stoked in 1997, glory days that they were, but the lustre soon started to fade as soon as it became apparent that New Labour was nothing more than some sort of Thatcherite Trojan Horse that slowly, but very surely, trashed everything the Labour party stood for. It’s a lot like being a Weezer fan. 1997 was like the release of the Blue Album. Solid tunes, a sense of belonging and much cap doffing to sacred cows (increased public spending = the opening riff to My Name is Jonas, minimum wage = references to ’12 sided die’ In The Garage). A heady brew indeed and one that it was impossible not love. My name was down, I bought the T-Shirt, the good times were rolling. Then came Pinkerton. To many, this was the seminal album, but for me there was something slightly sinister about it….just like New Labour circa 1999-2001. On the one hand, there were standout tracks that nodded towards a new direction while staying loyal to it’s roots (peace moves in Northern Ireland = The Good Life, equality legislation = El Scorchio), but on the other there were the ones that made me feel just a tiny bit uncomfortable (Mandelson = Rivers somewhat disturbing rantings on Tired of Sex, Blair’s questionable intervention in Kosovo = the entirely questionable Butterfly). On the whole though, I was willing to forgive. The bulk of it seemed pretty good and despite the niggling doubts, I was happy to stick with the bandwagon. Having said that, I seem to recall voting Lib Dem in 2001. That’s probably less to do with Labour and more to do with my absurd rule of never voting for an incumbent. I still do it, but don’t know why.
2001 and 2003 equate in my mind to the Green Album/Maladroit era (I realise that this metaphor is becoming increasingly untenable but I haven’t got a plan B, so you’re just going to have to lump it). Neither are truly bad albums. By the same token, neither are truly great albums either and listening back now, you can’t help but kick yourself for keeping the faith so unquestioningly when the warning signs were there. Same goes for Labour. 2001 to 2003 weren’t awful years, but the signs were there that the wheels were coming off. I had very, very grave doubts about the intervention in Afghanistan , but the shock of 9-11 did much to put those fears to the background. Similarly, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the role of big business (think PFI) and the NHS reforms that looked great on paper but actually turned out to be brutal and counter productive. There were a few solid singles in there…Mo Mowlam did a great Hash Pipe while Robin Cook made a hearty stab at Keep Fishin’, but were they really enough to sustain something that was looking increasingly wobbly and tired? Evidently not.
So roll on 2003 and Labours Make Believe moment. While the release of Make Believe result in a critical pounding and Iraq result in the death of maybe millions, they both equate to heartbreak for me. They represent the point when you wake up, drenched in sweat, reeling from the knowledge that you’ve been had. It didn’t get any better either. Iraq and Afghanistan continued, cruelly consuming lives and treasure while the ghosts of Labours Thatcherite policies returned to haunt us in the shape of the credit crunch (which very much equates to when I saw Weezer in 2006. It broke my heart). Labour may have a new frontman now, but it’s too late. They smack of a tired tribute band, begging for gigs in C-list Japanese venues. But you know what the worst thing is? The craw that sticks in my throat? The alternative. The Tories (playing Keane to new Labour’s Weezer) are now on the banks of the Vistula, bearing inexorably down on Berlin. Barring a miracle (or an Alan Johnson led coup if he would just grow a pair), they’ll be at the doors of the Reichstag Bunker before you can say ‘Razorlight’. The Lib Dems are talking the talk, but they’re stuck at the 18% mark and simply have too much catching up to do (they’re like one of those technically great bands who never make it to the mass market….think Cable…the band, not Vince). Best case scenario’s a hung parliament and those odds are looking increasingly thin. Labour, for all their promise, turned out to be shits. These guys don’t even bother to pretend.
So there you have it. It’s one big clusterfuck and we all get to have a bite. Brilliant. Fuck Blair, fuck Brown, fuck Rivers, fuck Cameron and most of all, fuck Keane.