Saturday 19 March 2011

Tripped over nostalgia

Last night I went on a nostalgia trip. It involved standing in an absolutely rammed and frankly, over sold Academy 1 in Manchester watching the Levellers, supported by The Wonder Stuff, as they played the entirety of Levelling the Land end to end.

Shouldn't this be in your other blog Lou? I hear you ask. Well actually, no. But you're going to need to do some dot joining because I can't do it for you.

The band played an intro projected onto a massive screen behind the stage. It's been about 20 years since the album was released and a lot has changed...and yet nothing has changed.

To understand the music of the Levellers and specifically Levelling the Land, you have to understand something about the South West of England before it became over run by 4 x 4's and Farm shops, but you also have to understand something of the preceding 10 years of British politics. The South West used to tick to a different rhythm to the rest of the country - but it also had different tolerances and different expectations of the travelling community, as well as an understanding of the even more intricate subtleties of hippies, tinkers, crusties, sound system collectives, gypsies and travellers - subtleties that I don't think other parts of the country had reason to know or understand. As a result, perhaps, of this and a proximity to Glastonbury, the South West was a hotbed not only of Levellers fans but also of people who were politically aligned that way too.

I idly wondered what the gig would be like last night, whether the crowd would just be there because they knew One Way and 15 years or whether I would be joined in knowing every word.

As the intro flicked through shots of Thatcher talking about the Falklands, Scargill rallying the miners, back to Thatcher arguing back, to Blair and then Cameron a chorus of boos rose from the crowd, quietening as they subject changed away from politics, swelling again as they same faces flicked onto the screen.

It struck me then, that I am not alone in my politically atheist stance. It wasn't until recently, sat in conversation with someone far wiser than I that I finally managed to articulate that that is what I am. I don't vote in national elections because I simply can't decide. I can't. I don't have an allegiance to any one party, but what I do have is an enormous respect for some political figures, and an enormous disdain for others, and their political colours are absolutely nothing to do with the emotions attached to them, which those people invoke.

The crowd last night were still angry about Thatcher. They are still immensely annoyed with Blair. The boos for Cameron were quieter, but I believe in time they will perhaps be as loud, if not louder. They were a crowd of people, ramming a venue on a Friday night, expressing their displeasure with political figures. So, engaged then? Care then?

And yet we live in a world where they can find little to cheer for, I should imagine. Little to find hope in. Small light at the end of the tunnel. No one to inspire, no one to lead, no one to carry a flag for the middle generation, not Y or X, who are lost and abandoned in the middle of England, sickened by the EDL and the BNP, frustrated and intensely angry at the Liberal Democrats and not quite resonating with Labour or the Conservatives. So who do they vote for?

No one at all.

And it leaves a gap - a gap which became clearly highlighted in the Barnsley election results as the Liberal Democrat candidate flailed under the BNP. It seems to me, we are missing a party in the middle for the people in the middle and if we don't get one, if we can't find one, if no one steps up to the plate, we are going to see things get much much worse before people react out of fear and desperation to ensure mistakes aren't compounded. I refuse to believe this country is one which wants the BNP to make decisions on their behalf. If we aren't careful and we don't pay attention, unfortunately that is exactly what I fear will happen.

Here ends the post which, I hope, managed to stay on the right side of political alignment. Because I have none, though I wish I did so very very much.

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