89 Not Out: Day 56, Waiting for the Great Leap Forward?

S&C contributor and Pompey Politics Podcast host Ian Morris shares his experience of the lockdown, as someone with diabetes. It’s Day 56 and Ian has a discussion with Billy Bragg, or at least with whoever represents him on social media…

Monday 11th May, Day 56 of 89.

Beef with Billy.

I have always had a strange relationship with the music of Billy Bragg, the renowned leftie, folk and protest singer. He has written some of the most poignant lyrics (‘Between the Wars‘ or ‘Milkman of Human Kindness’), clever lyrics (‘Accident Waiting to Happen’), and he can even belt out a pop classic (‘New England’, also sung by Kirstie McColl).

This said, our politics are not aligned.

I believe in the gloomy ‘To Have and To Have Not’ he wrote the most offensive line I have ever come across in any song, ever. The song tells of a young man struggling to find work when Billy asserts ‘…the system has failed you, don’t fail yourself‘ makes me queasy typing it. 

I follow Billy on Facebook as a lot of his writing is genuinely thought-provoking and some of his reviews of musical history are truly inspired.  Yesterday morning his feed popped up with this:

 ‘I’ve never once felt during this crisis that the government has been on top of things and this latest shift in messaging from Protect the NHS to Protect Capitalism at a time when the UK infection rate is hovering around 5000 new cases diagnosed each day doesn’t give me any confidence that [they] have got their act together.’

There was then a meme that read: ‘Back to work – Catch the Virus – Protect the Billionaires’ (see image below).

Screenshot of graphic taken from Billy Bragg Facebook page.

This irked me – not the first bit as this is an opinion held by many, but the assertion that any change was to protect capitalism and billionaires. So I came back with:

Well done for waiting for the actual announcement before decrying it and sewing division, top effort. It’s almost like your bias has overridden your ability to think critically.’

The astute amongst you will already have noticed this should have been ‘sowing’ rather than ‘sewing’. This comes back to bite me on the bottom regularly. 

I thought no more of it until I got a notification that ‘Billy Bragg and 13 others mentioned you in their comments’.

I  was surprised I had not expected an answer back. We then spent most of the day going back and forth, me advising to wait for the announcement, Billy intoning the banking crash of 2008, and saying that ‘stay home’ was clear and ‘stay alert’ wasn’t. I pointed out that ‘stay home’ had at least four caveats, so was hardly as binary as he suggested.

And so on. You get the gist, all of the way up to the Prime Minister’s announcement. 

Although I portray this as a duel between two learned minds, it was interspersed with lots of others suggesting I was not a wise man, that I was probably a racist, that I should be following Cliff Richard rather than Billy Bragg, and of course the word ‘sewing’ featured heavily in the feedback. 

Then there was the Prime Minister’s announcement.

I liked the tone and delivery but for me the contents were bilge, filth even. I won’t pull it to pieces here, but suffice to say the go back to work message wasn’t a great start. We will keep social distancing whilst sending 4-6 year olds back to school didn’t resonate well with me either, and I braced myself for another week of social media fun.


Don’t miss Ian’s diary each day, keep an eye out for new entries here, along with past editions of the Pompey Politics Podcast. How are you managing the lockdown at the moment? Get in touch with us over on Facebook or Twitter and let us know your experiences and any hints and tips you’re finding helpful right now.

Image credit: Ben Shread/Cabinet Office, via Wikimedia Commons.

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