Posts Tagged ‘Wolverhampton’

Alexei Sayle on Comedy and Politics in Yesterday’s ‘Metro’

September 28, 2019

Alexei Sayle, one of the pillars of the ’80s Alternative Comedy wave which spawned The Young Ones, French and Saunders, the Comic Strip and Ben Elton was interviewed in yesterday’s Metro (27th September 2019). The man’s 67, but still angry – although the interview also says he’s mellowing – and stars in a series on Radio 4 set in a sandwich bar and due to have a headline gig at the Southport Comedy Festival. Speaking to the paper’s Jade Wright, Sayle talked about his career, the state of modern comedy and attacked austerity, the Tories and supposedly ‘moderate’ politicians, who support them. It’s interesting in that Sayle also champions Jeremy Corbyn, without the paper trying to attack the Labour leader in response or a snide aside. The interview on page 51 and continued on page 54 is entitled ‘Sayle Now On’. It’s too long for me to type it up as a whole, but here’s the bits where he mostly talks about politics, along with his family background and the lack of left-wing comedians today.

Alexei Sayle might have been in the comedy business for 40 years, but he’s not lost any of his flair for contemporary analysis. His take that ‘austerity is the idea that the 2008 financial crash was caused by Wolverhampton having too many libraries’ has been spreading like wildfire on social media. May that’s because, as he claims, there’s a surprising shortage of anti-establishment comedians.

‘There’s a gap in the market. Even if they didn’t believe in it, you’d expect someone to do it, just for the money,’ he says. ‘there were loads of left-wing comedians in the 1980s. Where are the new Ben Eltons now?’

His new Radio 4 show, Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar, in which the Wolverhampton library gag first appeared, is the Liverpool comedian on his usual erudite, and angry, form. As is evident from the show, he’s become a passionate advocate for Jeremy Corbyn and the grassroots movement he has created. ‘When people sneer at Jeremy Corbyn, it drives me nuts,’ Alexei says. ‘To hear him being called a racist by racists, it’s beyond belief. And yet I have friends who are taken in by this s**t.’

‘I hear him talk, and it makes sense, then it gets deliberately misrepresented by people who have something to gain from that, people who are very much part of the establishment.

Alexei grew up in Liverpool. His mum, Molly, was a pools clerk from a Lithuanian Jewish family and his father, Joseph, was a railway guard. Both were members of the Communist Party. But, while always political, he was keen from a young age to find his own voice. ‘I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think things are changing’, he says. ‘Voters are seeing through the politicians who claim to have moderate views, but actually what they’re saying is really quite extreme.

‘For a long time the politicians from all parties were all fighting over the votes in the middle. Politics went from strongly right-wing to mildly left-wing and there were lots of voices that didn’t get heard at all, loads of people who didn’t vote.

‘You had all these modern, careerist MPs who were almost indistinguishable from each other. But austerity has disproportionately affected young people and other groups who felt there was no one to speak for them. There are new people registering to vote all the time. Maybe they have more hope now.’

So is Alexei more hopeful, too? ‘Yes,’ he says, before pausing. ‘Maybe. More so lately. Suddenly, from nowhere, they have a genuinely left-wing leader and new voices who are vocally opposing austerity as the political ideal it is.’

‘It was never a necessity for force terminally ill people to look for jobs or to close libraries. That was a series of political decisions that didn’t really save any money any way. Now we have a leader who will speak up.’

I was never a fan of Sayle’s comedy myself, as I simply didn’t find it funny. Much of it just struck me as just abuse, without anything really deep being said. But here he’s pretty much right. The only thing I differ from him here is when he says that things have gone from extreme right to mildly left-wing. Blair was always a member of the Thatcherite extreme right. He and the rest of New Labour really did want to sell off the NHS, although I think he definitely believed in making sure that medical care was free. And he also introduced the work capability tests that have caused so many desperately ill people to be thrown off benefits, to live and die in starvation and misery. What differed about Blair is that he was genuinely anti-racist, pro-gay and anti-sexist – so long as they supported him – and was careful to sound slightly left-wing. Even when he was aiming at the same voting constituency as the Tories, using the same ministers, who had crossed the floor from the Tory party, like Chris Patten, and was taking money from the same corporate donors.

But people are waking up to how they were fooled and the country run down by the ‘moderates’ as well as the Tories and the Lib Dems. People do feel they have hope for a better future under Corbyn. As for comedy, the complaint on the right is that there are few right-wing comedians and that it’s all biased against the Tories. Which is rubbish. Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat also wrote a blog piece complaining that the contemporary aspiring comedians he’d seen really don’t have anything funny to say. Their act simply consists of them telling the story of their life. I’m not in show business, so I have no idea why this should be so. It might simply be that the people who aspire to be comedians have been inspired by the autobiographical, observational comedy of people like Sayle, but don’t really have anything to say. It may also simply be that as the left-wing comedians of the 1980s matured and were overtaken by other comics, there was a reaction against the older generation’s political comedy. Even so, shows like The Last Leg are still managing to put a well aimed kick to the Tories. But perhaps, if more people are being inspired politically by Corbyn, this will also spur a new generation of angry left-wingers to subject the establishment to bitter scorn and derision. While showing that there can be a better world without people like Johnson, May, Cameron, Swinson and the rest of them, of course.

 

Radio 4 Programme Tomorrow on Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech

April 13, 2018

Radio 4 tomorrow, 14th April 2017, are marking the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech with a programme in their ‘Archive Hour’ series at 8.00 pm. Entitled ‘Archive on 4: 50 Years On: Rivers of Blood’, the blurb for this on page 117 of the Radio Times runs

Amol Rajan reflects on the Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s incendiary 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, and the impact it continues to have today. And for the first time the speech is broadcast complete on British radio, as actor Ian Mc Diarmid reads it in full. The text of the speech included observations on immigrants taken from Powell’s Wolverhampton constituents, and ended with a reference to a moment in Virgil’s Aeneid, when the prophetess Sibyll predicts a civil war in Italy with “the Tiber foaming with much blood.’

The paragraph on the programme on the opposite page, 116, by Jane Anderson, the magazine’s radio editor, gives the following additional information:

It has been 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered his incendiary Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative party meeting in Birmingham. Only a short section was recorded at the time and so, like presenter Amol Rajan, I have read the speech in its entirety. The post-Brexit vote echoes are rather chilling. What shocked me most, however, was not Powell’s own words – he was an incredibly bright and eloquent man, whatever his political views – but those of his constituents, as read in full here by the actor Ian McDiarmid: “Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she (an old lady) saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.”

Lord Adonis has already expressed his very strong fears about the programme. According to today’s I, he has written to Ofcom expressing his deep concern that the programme should be broadcast at this time, and requesting them to order the Beeb not to broadcast it. The I‘s article also states that Ofcom has no power to tell anybody what or what not broadcast. The Beeb has also issued a reply stating that broadcasting Powell’s infamous words does not constitute endorsement.

No, it certainly doesn’t, and the selection of a British Asian presenter for the programme does indicate fairly clearly that this is not going to be an endorsement of Powell’s vile views. And there’s an irony here in the choice of actor to read the speech. If memory serves me correctly, Ian McDiarmid, amongst other roles, was the Galactic Emperor, AKA Senator Palatine, AKA Darth Sidious in Star Wars. Of course, there are probably very many other good reasons why he is the right person to read the speech. But for all the Star Wars fans, it’s still going to be the Dark Lord of the Sith reading out Powell’s evil speech.

I’ve no problem with it being read out in its entirety, if it’s properly critiqued. This is why I don’t have a problem with German universities issuing an annotated version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. If you want to combat evil and racism, you have to study it, and take it apart to refute it. And Powell’s wretched speech has cast a long shadow over British politics. Yasmin Alibhai-Browne in one of her column’s in the I mentioned how some Whites mutter comments about Enoch being right without going any further. The NF used to sell Union Jack badges, which had around the edge ‘Enoch Was Right’. And last year or so Simon Heffer and other right-wing journos from the Torygraph and Heil published a volume of articles celebrating the noxious old monetarist, Enoch at 100.

The impression I had was that Powell, otherwise known as ‘Scowly Powelly’ as the other kids at school used to call him, really wasn’t racist. He could speak Urdu, and sincerely admired Indian culture. On the other hand, a friend I used to work with, who was very active in the anti-Apartheid movement, said that could have just been from a desire for promotion. British civil servants in India were paid more if they could speak an Indian language. He also initially believed that Britain had an obligation to support and treat well its imperial subjects. What he was unprepared for was the hostility to the new coloured immigrants from ordinary Whites in his constituency.

And the issues outlined in the speech are still with us. I’ve heard people complain about Whites being forced out of their neighbourhoods by Blacks and other immigrants, who wanted to take their houses. I’ve seen this complaint directed against Muslims by the Islamophobic ‘counterjihad’ websites. And the Tories are still playing on these fears. Mike earlier this week put up a piece about the Tories producing a pamphlet directed at the residents of one area around London. This threatened that if Labour got won the council elections in May, then they would increase the area’s links with the inner city so that the area would be awash with crime and drugs. In other words, a middle class White area would be deluged with Blacks and Asians, bringing these problems from their urban ghetto.

I also understand that some of the events Powell alluded to in his wretched speech were completely bogus. A friend of mine, who was very anti-racist, told me that they tried to investigate Powell’s allegation that old ladies had had excrement pushed through their letter boxes by ‘grinning picaninnies’. They couldn’t find it. Never happened. Another friend also told me that another, similar incident, was also imaginary. Another old lady had claimed that a black man had forced his way into her home, and defecated on her carpet. That never happened too. The old lady, apparently, was a nasty piece of work continually making up vile stories about her neighbours. She was, however, supported by a Black family next door, who looked after her, and who seemed to regard her hateful slanders as a bit of joke. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ and its lies and falsehoods in the book, Bloody Foreigners: A History of the English.

I am also not convinced that everyone who voted for Brexit is racist. Some left-wingers voted for it because the EU is a very neoliberal organisation, which does have policies promoting privatisation. For left-wing critiques of the EU, read Lobster or Counterpunch. Many people undoubtedly voted ‘Leave’ because they wanted to give a shock to the elites governing this country, without actually considering that it might actually happen. Unfortunately, they won. And most of the people, who did vote ‘Leave’ probably were racists, as Tom Pride and so many others have pointed out.

So I’m going to say that people have a right to listen to this programme, and hear what Powell actually said, regardless of the dangers. I sympathise with Adonis, but at the same time, I don’t like anyone – including former New Labour ministers – telling me what I may or may not listen to. I sincerely hope that the Beeb will in this instance try to live up to it role as a public service broadcaster, and provide a suitably incisive critique of it. Regardless of whether Boris, Heffer and the rest of the Tories want it or not.

Mirror: Farage Wants to Wealthy to Abandon NHS

March 18, 2015

Yesterday’s Daily Mirror carried the story UKIP leader Nigel Farage wants wealthy to abandon NHS and advocates two-tier health system reporting that the Fuhrage had urged those who could afford to do so to opt for private healthcare. The Mirror also reported that on Pienaar’s Politics’ on Radio 5 Live, the Purple Duce claimed that private healthcare offered a better service than the NHS. He also supported foreign private healthcare firms entering the country, on the grounds that they brought a lot of money into the economy. The article states that this is just the latest attack on the NHS by Farage, and cited the video of Farage’s speech way back in 2012 in which he stated he’d rather see people pick up private health insurance than have £100 million in tax annually spent on the NHS.

The article also notes that Farage wasn’t the only one to attack the NHS. Bill Etheridge, one of Farage’s Euro MPs, had stated that certain elective operations should not be performed by the NHS. This would cover non-essential and cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment.

He also claimed that only 20 per cent of the country’s top youngster should go to University. These kids would then have their education totally financed by the state.

The Labour MP John Spellar attacked his recommendation, saying that it would mean that higher education was reserved solely for the elite from private schools. It would also wipe out some of the new university towns such as Wolverhampton and Birmingham City.

And he also made the point that if Etheridge and Fuhrage had their way, non-essential but nevertheless important operations like hip replacements would be very difficult to get.

The article began:

Mr Farage said: “If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes… private medicine brings a lot of money into this country and is no bad thing”

Wealthy Nigel Farage today called on people to abandon the NHS and use private health firms instead.

The UKIP leader said anyone who can afford private healthcare should pay for it.

Furious critics said it proved he supports a two-tier health system.

“If people can afford it, should people go private? Yes,” Mr Farage said.

Grahame Morris, a member of the Commons health select committee, said: “Nigel Farage has let the cat out of the bag.

“UKIP are proposing a break with the fundamental principles of the National Health Service.”

The article’s at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/amazon-review-nigel-farage-book-5352039

I blogged earlier in the week about the profound disadvantages of private medical insurance. Rather than being more efficient than the NHS, it is more expensive, more bureaucratic and specifically excludes certain, expensive conditions that are difficult or impossible to treat, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. Or at least it did when Robin Cook published his own pamphlet attacking the marketization of the NHS nearly thirty years ago. I really don’t think much has changed since. The people, who really benefit from private medical insurance are the wealthy and the well, the two sections of the population, who really don’t need it.