Tag Archives: protest family

Nudge

 

Three cheers for the PM off the quiz show.
Covering our wages while on furlough.
But why didn’t he do it three weeks ago?
Instead mostly we just get nudge.
Nudge.

Three cheers for the PM off the quiz show
Who didn’t listen to the WHO.
We’re standing on the precipice, don’t you know?
And mostly we just get nudge.
Nudge.

Three cheers for the PM off the quiz show,
For shutting Bannatynes, the Rose, and Cargo.
But I read it first in the Metro
‘Cos mostly we just get nudge.
Nudge.

Nudge:
Makes you think that your neighbours are your judge.
Nudge:
Designed to make your opinion slightly budge.
Nudge:
Is Cumming’s tool but it’s used too much.
Nudge:
When you need leadership but just get fudge.

Three cheers for the PM of the shit show.
The cracks are appearing in the braggadocio.
The tube is as dangerous as the siege of Jericho.
Let the passengers off, or just nudge.
Nudge.

Bog Roll Billionaire

 

He’s got himself to the front of the queue
He’s got himself a touch of the ‘flu
He’s emptying shelves in aisle number two
He’s a bog roll billionaire

He’s got long-life milk, hand sanitiser,
All the Stella and most of the cider
He’s got no time for a government adviser
He’s a bog roll billionaire

The bog roll billionaire’s gonna be okay
The bog roll billionaire didn’t care much for other folks anyway
He says “Charity begins at home,
In my ex-council house, when I’m on the throne
I’m a bog roll billionaire”

He’s got a ton of pasta, a ton of rice
He’s got sauces in jars that aren’t very nice
He might let you have one, but at twice the price
He’s a bog roll billionaire

He’s got frozen cod, he’s got frozen plaice
He’s got three sacks of spuds, just in case
You know he’s parked in a disabled space
He’s a bog roll billionaire

The bog roll billionaire’s gonna be okay
The bog roll billionaire didn’t care much for other folks anyway
He says “Charity begins at home,
In my ex-council house, when I’m on the throne
I’m a bog roll billionaire”

A Christmas Message

Xmas MessageThe Queen’s widely previewed but rarely watched Christmas message will be delivered in a royal blue 1 cashmere dress by Angela Kelly adorned with the sapphire and diamond brooch given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1840. In it she’ll encourage the country to put past differences behind us by referencing D-Day and describe the unveiling of her favourite son as a rapist and a liar as “quite bumpy” 2. Essential viewing for fans of carefully guarded language and calls for unity from super-rich folk who will do little else to achieve it.

Boris Johnson 3 meanwhile, clearly didn’t get the memo about national unity and focuses his Christmas message on Christians alone, referencing them three times in a 350-word statement while addressing a country whose own census data recognises several other major religions, Christianity’s declining popularity, and a rise in the number of people declaring themselves to be of no religion.4

On the subject of the census, Herod the Great’s Christmas message is that it, along with the Massacre of the Innocents, is just fake news.

We have yet to hear from Donald Trump, the festive season has gifted us impeachment after all, but his Christmas message will no doubt follow a similar pattern:

  1. A Christian message.
  2. Gratitude to the armed forces for freedom, democracy, etc.
  3. Gratitude to the police 5 and any other public servants working on Christmas Day.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, bucks the trend by using his Christmas message to point out that Baby Jesus’ instruction to love thy neighbour isn’t reflected in the doubling of rough sleeping in the UK over the last six years of austere Tory rule.6

And that’s our message to you too this Christmas. It’s a tough old world out there that looks set to get tougher, so look after yourselves and each other and, however you identify, however you celebrate, if you’re a victim of the system, their system, we’re on your side, making music to bring hope, healing, encouragement, entertainment and outrage.

Hold your loved ones close this Christmas if you can, and think about those that can’t. Let’s all come out fighting in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Steve

Xmas Fist

 

1. Obviously.

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50895486. And listen out for Air Miles Andy, at gigs and hopefully on record soon.

3. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-minister-boris-johnsons-christmas-message-24-december-2019

4.https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/religion/articles/religioninenglandandwales2011/2012-12-11

5. Always the police, followed by nurses. Rarely do the other services get a special mention.

6. https://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyn-my-christmas-message/index.html

Cleaning up Outsourcing with the UVW

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The good news is that when your job is transferred from one company to another, you’re protected by a piece of legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, or TUPE for short.

The bad news is that lots of stuff: employer pension contributions, childcare voucher schemes, flexible working arrangements, the location of your office; isn’t protected by TUPE.

The good news is that your contractual terms and conditions: pay, holiday entitlement, period of continuous employment; are all protected by TUPE.

The bad news is that any of your protection under TUPE can be overridden if there’s an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) justification, and boy, are the big outsourcing companies good at finding one of those.

If you’re being outsourced then there’s never been a better time to join a trade union.

Back in 2015 we told you about Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums when our mate Phil, a GMB rep at the time, took the Royal Parks gardeners out on strike after they were outsourced to OCS, who promptly found an ETO justification to strip everyone of two weeks pay a year as well as taking liberties with a number of other terms and conditions.

Now, new kids on the block, the United Voices of the World are bringing Royal Parks workers back out. The parks’ cleaners are demanding a living wage, sick pay and a proper holiday entitlement. It should be a matter of national shame that people indirectly employed by the monarch earn a pitiful £8.21 per hour.

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Every picket line should have one

Me and Funky Lol caught up with the UVW on their picket line at the University of Greenwich this week.[1] There the café workers have already shamed hospitality outsourcing firm Baxter Storey into paying them a living wage, now they’re demanding sick pay and an end to under-staffing after one chef collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital after an 80-hour week.

But they’re not going to stop there. UVW members, who are mainly migrant workers, women and first time union members and strikers are taking action right across the capital. They include the cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital (Sodhexo), the cleaners, security guards and receptionists at the Ministry of Justice (OCS), the security guards at the University of East London [2], the security guards at St George’s University (Noonan) and the cleaners at 200 Grays Inn Road, home of ITN, ITV and Channel 4.

The UVW know what they’re doing, they’re making the invisible visible, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing up for the very people without whom the city would just grind to a halt.

A change is coming; we know a song about that.

Steve

[1] We might’ve sung them a few songs

[2] A strange twist. The security guards at the University of East London have been taken back in house, but TUPE-ed back to their original employer on their worsened, outsourced contracts.

Snowflake

CoverAnd so I sat down to write Where Tina Goes. Romantic as that sounds, it wasn’t at some antique writing desk, or in a room with great natural light and a pretty view, it was on the 06-something Chingford to Liverpool Street train for the first day of a course I was on.

It went pretty much to type. I got my thoughts down in order, the rhymes fell into line without too much force, the song had a beginning, a middle and an end; and said what I wanted to say. Standard Steve White/Protest Family fare. But something nagged at me that it wasn’t right, that I could do better.

I let myself stew over it for the day and went back over the words that I’d written that evening. And started crossing stuff out. Not the ideas, they were sound, but everything that the ideas didn’t need in order for them to come across far more succinctly and powerfully than they had in their longer form. “Martin knew something was wrong, but Tina was pretty cool” says so much more than what I’d originally written, by saying less. It was the lesson that I’d learned writing From the Euro to the Pound learned all over again. Billy Bragg says something similar when drawn out over the art of songwriting, just listen to the opening of Levi Stubbs’ Tears for quite how evocative a few well chosen words can be.

But if me at my most verbose is your thing, fear not. This double-EP also contains a classic piece of my writing. Think Like a Taxpayer is wordy, rhythmic, full of rhyme and slap-bang in the middle of Protest Family territory, protesting about tax justice very much in the vein of Pay Your Tax, with a nod to Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book.

Yes, From the Euro to the Pound is here too. I had a long debate with myself about whether there should be a solo release of this song. There’s a lovely Protest Family version already worked out, with Maddy Carty sharing the vocals with me, that (in my opinion) is the definitive version, and I think those of you that have caught us performing it live will agree, but it sits at the heart of a shift in my writing style and introduces the characters that also appear in Children in the Crosshairs and Royal Wedding Tea. I think I owe it to you to let you hear all three songs and get to know this couple as well as I have.

From the Euro to the Pound finds them split up, with a young family, in a cloud of austerity, redundancy and domestic violence. Children in the Crosshairs is later, speaking of separation and shared experience while Royal wedding Tea visits them sooner, still together and happy, despite some differences in their ideas about the Royal Family.

Past solo releases from me have generally filled the gap between Protest Family albums and given me the platform to share the songs that I like to play solo that will never make it onto a Family playlist. While that’s still true to an extent with Snowflake, we are a little way off the band hitting the studio. Doug’s struggles with illness and the benefits system, bringing Simon in in his absence, Andi’s (admittedly very quick) absorption of the Family’s back catalogue and our negotiations/coming to terms with percussion have all slowed us down, so there are more songs on this solo effort from me that either are, or will be Protest Family songs, and the better for it when they are.

You should really know by now what you’re getting with a solo release:

I play the bass, but not as well as Doug or Simon play the bass.

I play mandolin family instruments, but not as well as Lol plays them. (Although I’m still the band’s Irish bouzouki player, officially).

I play percussion, but not as well as Andi plays percussion.

(I’m probably the fourth best guitarist in the current Protest Family line-up, but they’re all playing other instruments, so hey, look at me!).

I don’t play the banjo.

I write a bit.

Flippancy aside, I think that what I’ve done is of value. To me, to us, to the movement, to the struggle for a better, fairer, nicer, more just world and way of living. And it’s shared with you in that spirit: pay what you want, pay what you can afford, pay what you think it’s worth, pay nothing with a clear conscience, I’m happy to give it to you, but listen, enjoy, share and pass it on. What the internet and social media gives us is double-edged; we can share our art, our craft, our work with the world so easily, but so does everybody else and it’s instantly diluted. I’m genuinely excited by the message and presentation of Where Tina Goes, the songs that started with From the Euro to the Pound and all the others, but people who aren’t me and you need to hear them if they’re going to make a difference, so please share them on if you feel the same.

Steve

Too Political

So I was recently accused (after what I thought was a rather good show) of having become too political, and by extension, less fun. I say “I”, I guess “we” but as the lead singer and main songwriter I suppose I have to bear the brunt of any such accusation.

Whilst it’s true that we have been infiltrated by the hard-left, I’ve always tried to maintain Attila The Stockbroker’s spoonful of sugar approach to writing songs. For instance the songs about Boris Johnson are funny. The point is to take a politician who uses buffoonery to such a great effect to get his own way and to laugh at him, not with him. At the same time though, the songs tackle his racism and his negative relations with the trades unions head on.

Never Mind Your Bollocks, a song ostensibly about breast cancer in men, and prompted by Doug’s dalliance with the illness, tackles industrial disease and takes a backhanded swipe at the 1%. I am a safety rep after all.

And the old songs, even the ones that pre-date The Protest Family are political. Well politics is hard to avoid, it’s interested in you even if you’re not interested in it. Take Summer In Sainsburys for instance. It’s about major corporations bullying workers in the supply chain and pissing on the punters while telling them it’s raining, isn’t it?

But this has been brought to a head by George of The Jungle. I’ve got a lot to say about the Syrian refugee crisis and our government’s shameful role in its creation and in our response, but to write about it I needed an angle, and the patron saint of England being detained in Calais despite his obvious qualifications and because of the country of his birth seemed like the right one to me. If not funny it does at least meet the criteria for those sub-categories of wit: sarcasm and irony.

Perhaps I should be more robust in my acceptance of criticism. My bandmates certainly think so. But I think this is worth addressing and although this blog is a start, ultimately I’ll do it in the form I’m most comfortable with: a song.

Look out for Cheer Up Mate and see if it passes the Protest Family scrutiny process.

Steve