which indirectly links to this report about Radio 4 losing listeners. Speaking from personal experience I’d say its listeners are not going to “commercial rivals” so much as to podcasts. But I’m only one data point.
You could spend a lot of time wondering what makes Theresa May tick.
She says she supported remain and voted to stay in the European Union. So her increasing fervour for Brexit has been one of the most confusing factors in British politics over the last two and a half years.
Taking over the Tory leadership after David Cameron resigned was always going to be a poisoned chalice. No-one would have had a good time in that position, except maybe a genuine hard quitter like Jacob Rees-Mogg. That’s probably why Gove and Johnson pulled out.
If she truly believed that staying in was best, though, she would not have rushed into triggering Article 50 (nor would she have gone to court to fight for her wish to do so by diktat; luckily National Hero Gina Miller had the nation’s back on that one).
If she had used more care, collaboration, and consideration, she might have had an easier time when Article 50 finally was triggered and the negotiations started. In fact if she had been more thoughtful in the first place she might even have said something like, “The vote was close; the country is clearly divided. We will discuss the possible ways forward in parliament and with the rest of the EU, and come back to you, the people, for confirmation when we better understand what Brexit means.” 1
But no: “Brexit means Brexit”: she knew up front what it meant, and never deviated. Even if the majority of the country had no idea what it would mean.
She then proceeded as follows:
ignore any idea of cross-party talks and so involving parliament (the UK’s sovereign body) in the negotiations;
trigger Article 50 as soon as she could;
negotiate with the EU27 almost in secret;
have inflexible “red lines” to appease the hard quitters, leaving herself no room for compromise in the negotiations.
It’s a truism, even a cliche, to say that she puts the Tory party before the country. But the only way I can explain such a dramatic change of heart is that her love for the Tory party overruled her knowledge that being in the EU was, is, and will be the best situation for the UK. And that she somehow convinced herself that she could heal her fatally-divided party.
In fact, the very thing that Cameron was trying to do by calling he referendum in the first place.
“Tory eurosceptics” used to be a common enough phrase, but it denoted a tiny fringe of the party: a few loons like John Redwood. But in trying to appease them, two Tory leaders and prime ministers have turned them mainstream and brought us to where we are today, on the brink of leaving the EU without any kind of agreement for our future relationship.
And their party is as divided as ever.
That’s fanciful, of course. But it’s what a sane, thoughtful person, who cared about what might happen to the country would have done. ↩
This is the book that I mentioned before Christmas. The subtitle is “Reagan, Thatcher, and the Last Stand of A Band That Mattered,”1 which captures well its structure. It interleaves the politics of what was happening on both sides of the Atlantic — the miners’ strike, Reagan’s nuclear brinksmanship, the Iran/Contra scandal — with what was happening with the most political of the original punk bands.
It’s interesting to read a history of a time you lived through and were, however tangentially, involved in. Andersen and Heibutzki more than do justice to their material. The research they must have done is impressive. I know personally that Andersen came to the UK on a research trip, but aside from that they have interviewed the threenon-originalmembers of The Clash, Kosmo Vinyl, and various other people who were involved or just had something useful to say.
And they must have spent a lot of time listening to concert tapes and studying set lists — which doesn’t sound like a chore to me, it’s fair to say.
I learned two major things: first, I’d forgotten how good Cut the Crap is. I haven’t listened to it in ages, and when I went to do so on Apple Music, I found it isn’t there. Nor is it on Spotify. I have it on vinyl, but I don’t currently have access to a record player.
Luckily Amazon and CDs both still exist, so I put some more money the way of… Bernie Rhodes, as it turns out.
That’s the other big thing I found out: how — difficult, let’s say — Rhodes was. Not least since he signed the band — well, Joe and Paul: the others were effectively employees — into a contract that gave him, Rhodes, control over the album, as well as the name “The Clash.”
But worse was the way he treated the new members while they were with the band. Constantly haranguing them, telling them they weren’t up to scratch, shouting at them… it’s a wonder they stayed. It sounds like an abusive environment.
Joe could and should have stopped it, but it seems like he was still to some extent in Rhodes’s thrall — Bernie did bring the band together, after all — and possible suffering from depression. Certainly he was drinking heavily, and during that time his dad died and his mum got ill, and he became a father himself. It was a difficult time for him.
I have more to say about the album, but I think that’s for a separate post. For now, this is a great rock book about a little-discussed time in the history of my favourite band.
Good to see the proper use of the Oxford comma there. ↩
It looks like British social awkwardness elevated to the scale of a constitutional meltdown. It is the stiff upper lip chewing itself to pieces rather than name the cause of our suffering: not the deal, not the backstop, not the timetable, not Brussels, but Brexit. The poison in our system is Brexit. We need a path to recovery, not May’s frantic hunt for a stronger, purer dose.
Went to see Billy Bragg in Islington on Friday. A benefit for Hope Not Hate, the anti-fascist organisation, it was the most mainly-political gig I’ve seen from Billy in — well, maybe ever. By which I mean, ‘Sexuality‘ and ‘Upfield‘ were the only non-political songs he did. And at least the latter of those actually is political (“I’ve got a socialism of the heart,” after all), despite being about meeting angels.
He was on great form. He’s turned sixty now, and was joking about having a bus pass.
Support were The Wakes, a Glasgow band with obvious Irish connections. Very much in a Pogues mould. I only heard the tail end of their set, but thoroughly enjoyed it.
Oh yes: and I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen Billy when he didn’t do ‘A New England.’