Horrified last November by images of the burning effigy of Grenfell Tower, I resorted to song and recorded Nice/Not Nice.
Today we learn that in defence of one of the perpetrators, Paul Bussetti, his lawyer claims his actions to be no worse than those of the Prime Minister, directly quoting Johnson’s “flag-waving piccaninnies” and more.
Here are some statistics from our local food bank, Eat or Heat, a non-political organisation keeping people alive in our small but perfectly formed piece of east London. And what they say is this: from Stellaville to Iain Duncan-Smith Land, compared to this time last year, there has been a huge increase in the number of people needing to use their food bank, referred in many cases by government agencies; agencies of a government that exists to ensure their safety and security but fails miserably to do so.
While pantomime Tories preen and keynote screech about investment and opportunity and demand double spaces after full stops, people are dying; the phenomenon of in-work poverty is disregarded.
These statistics don’t tell lies, the new man in No. 10 does.
Yes, we know loads of songs about this, and yes this is why we are so heavily invested in We Shall Overcome, but some days we are just plain angry.
Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water of her crocodile tears. A fresh Tory leader with the charisma to succeed in Brussels where she has failed seems unlikely; no-deal versus no-Brexit is now the pundit’s favoured battleground, with or without a second referendum.
Dying with May’s career is my Brexit Prayer, performed once at the Fish & Bicycle Club, but there’s renewed interest in former London mayor and foreign secretary Johnson, as the wholly unrepresentative rump that is the Conservative Party membership elects a new prime minister.
Does Johnson have what it takes to make the deal that May failed to, or does Brussels see him for the loathsome charlatan that he is? Speculation at Protest Towers is that the job’s going to an outlier with Johnson waiting to pick up the post-exit pieces once the dust has settled.
In any event, we know a song (or two) about him.
Yes, it was the first day of May 2008. Yes, I did stay up half the night listening to the results coming in. I couldn’t quite believe it. Maybe it was my natural optimism*. Maybe I couldn’t quite get my head around people threatening to vote for Boris Johnson because Boris being Mayor of London would be a laugh. Maybe I just couldn’t see past Ken Livingstone**. Ken had made the job his own over the previous eight years, a big personality, with vision, and maverick enough to be anti-the government of the day and pro-London. There was good and bad with Ken of course, the revival of London buses and free travel for under-18’s in full time education on the one hand, the privatisation of London’s fleet of fire engines on the other. Being back in the Labour Party didn’t hurt in 2004 but this time out it probably didn’t help. The (perceived) bigger maverick got the vote.
Not that there was much in it. 1, 043, 761 people had Boris Johnson as their first preference vote, a statistic that I have quoted from the stage on more than one occasion. First day of May 2008. And not long after, a song was born.
The idea to write about all that dodgy stuff in Boris Johnson’s recent past; the racism, philandering, dodgy-dealing, arranging to have journalists beaten up etc., came quite quickly, but the Mayor Boris Blues just didn’t quite hit the mark. As fellow song writers will know, there’s got to be a hook and there’s got to be an angle, and both of them came together around the idea of Have I Got News For You. It also gave rise to one of my favourite couplets of all of those that I’ve written:
“Anna Fazackerly, now it’s me and you, getting screwed by the bloke off Have I Got News For You.”
But it’s nearly over. The London mayoral election happens again on 5th May this year and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson won’t be standing. Having treated the job of Mayor as a part-time gig for the last eight years, he’s leaving to concentrate full-time on his campaign to be the next leader of the Tory party***.
So there’s been talk of retirement. Not his, but in the band there are voices suggesting that we retire Have I Got News For You.
I’m against it. I think it stands up as a historical document that’s worth airing from time to time. I also think that it’s a valuable tool in our armoury against a Johnson-led Tory party, as and when that happens. But mine is just one voice. We’re definitely going to sing it at one of the next two gigs as they’re either side of the vote, but after that it might be up to you lot. You know where to find the Protest Family. You tell ’em.
* Yeah, right.
** We’re not here to talk about that.
*** Of course he’s going to deny it.