(...spoiler alert: mine are Green)
Happy St Patrick’s Day! May your Guinness flow freely and your Irish heritage be celebrated, however tenuous it may be!
Well friends. I’ve not written since bitterest midwinter, and now here we are in the middle of…. Ever-so-slightly less bitter spring. What have I been doing? Where have I been going? Well, plenty. But as Kirsty Wark would say – more on that story later. Today I’ve decided to use this website to publish a message beyond pure self-promotion (although there’s gonna be plenty of that too, AMIRITE! Skip to the bottom for news on a TOUR but listen to this lecture first!)
The UK general election is in little under two months, and I’ll be voting Green. I can’t imagine that pronouncement will be a great shock. For anyone who’s ever spoke to me, seen me gig or followed me on Twitter, it won’t exactly be an Eastenders-drums moment. In fact, my coming out of the Green closet will probably be just as surprising as my coming out of the actual closet – the difference is, I’m more nervous about this one.
I read today that Jack Monroe has joined the Green Party, and in response, experienced a load of grief from the side we’re all supposed to be fighting on together. Once again Labourites closed ranks and hollered at her from all directions about wasting votes and helping Tories and won’t someone PLEASE think of the women? They are arguments I’ve had on Facebook, on Twitter, and in pubs up and down the country. But I’ve realised that’s a cop-out. Because the one place I haven’t argued Green is the most important place I need to – on stage.
Does anyone care what I think? Probably not. But I make my living from being a “political songwriter”, whatever the hell that means. For the small number of people on the planet who think I make good points in my songs about politics, I should put my money where my ideology is. It’s not enough to ply my trade vaguely on being “leftwing,” and that’s exactly what I do. Every time I play a gig for a trade union, every time I accept a slot on the Now Show, every time (well, that one time) the Guardian call me up for a comment on politics in art, I’m benefiting from being a Political Songwriter. So bring it on. Let’s get political.
I wrote a song a couple of months ago called Whatever’s Left. You probably haven’t heard it. It’s only made public ears at two gigs, both where I was totally confident I was among friends. It has, however, been scrawled on set lists for almost every gig I’ve done since I wrote it. But I’ve chickened out. Mostly because of this final chorus:
I’m going down the only hopeful road I’ve seen / Trying to find something working in a broken machine / And if the only red politics I’ve seen are Green, then I’m going for whatever’s left
Some of you know bandmate Jess, ex-partner-in-relationships but still-partner-in-percussion-and-in-crime. She’s a big fan of the new song. The other day we were talking politics. She told me that she’d convinced a friend to vote Green simply by admitting that she will be herself. It got me thinking that there’s no point having pro-Green songs I won’t play. In fact, being a fringe party on the verge of graduating properly into a mainstream party (the polls suggest the Greens are set to make massive electoral gains), it’s even more important to step up to the plate and nail my colours to the mast. So that’s what I’m doing. My mast, it is Green.
But there are those pesky arguments. Let’s get them out of the way.
You’re helping the Tories! How stupid are you, Tory-helper?!
I’m not helping the Tories. I’m hurting Labour. I’m hurting Labour on purpose, because the ideological trend of Labour post-Blair has been to the right, to the right, everything we own in a box to the right, and that box is marked “stuff to privatise”. Nobody who’s actually left wants this Labour. They feel like they’ve got a gun to their head, held by people like Polly Toynbee, because for so very long all anyone has said is a vote for anyone except Labour is helping the Tories. Here’s a truthbomb, folks: that kind of rhetoric is helping the Tories. Just the ones wearing red ties.
When a party thinks they have electoral support whatever policies they push, that’s not democracy. Maybe if Labour actually take a real beating electorally, they will examine where it started to go wrong for them, and start to shift back to their roots.
What are you smoking, hippy? The Greens can’t win! It’s a wasted vote!
Okay, the Greens can’t win in 2015. That does not make the vote wasted. Who, on the left, the true left, actually can win this election? A Labour landslide would not make me happy. I want a sea change, I want to re-examine the ideology our entire society is based on so we can stop looking at our lives solely by what profit they will turn. I’m part of a generation that has been sold out on education, tuition, public services, house prices and countless other things. There’s nothing on the table for us. Does that mean we eat what we hate for the rest of our lives? Or that we put effort now into changing the menu for future generations? And yes, that metaphor is food-heavy, but I’ve got Jack Monroe and her recipes for social justice on the brain. What I’m saying is: play the long game.
But I read the Greens have a bad policy on sex work and women and drugs and Natalie Bennett had a bad interview so all society is doomed under Green rule!
The Green Party is a young, growing, developing movement. If you like 90% of what they’re saying, get involved and change 10%. Join and campaign and shape the politics of the party. Don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t match your ideology to every letter. You will never find a party that will do that. And if you’re telling me the Greens are worse ideologically on any of those issues than Labour, then really, there’s more difference between us than tactics – in which case – go Labour, and god speed to you.
We should be on the same side!
We should. We should. A thousand times, we should. If you’re left, and I’m left, and you’re going red and I’m going Green – don’t hate me. I’m just a girl, standing in front of the rest of my life, trying to stop the rhetoric from moving ever-more to the right. You don’t have to agree with me. But if anyone, any single person out there thinks that what I have to say about this stuff is in anyway important, I need to be honest. All my career people have compared me to Billy Bragg, what I do to Red Wedge. Red Wedge was a different time. They had something red to sell. A Labour party they could get behind in all good conscience. I don’t.
Ultimately, I have to go with my heart. I have to accept that standing on a platform, however small, and speaking and singing about politics means there will be some folks out there who listen. And for those listening to me, I can’t bring myself to sell you this Labour. I don’t believe in them. I’m not trying to sell you the Greens – but I’m saying that’s where my heart is. So go with yours. But do it for the right reasons. It is not a pipedream to think we can affect political change in our lifetime.
So, what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going on the Election Countdown Tour! All throughout April you can see me plodding around the country offering my acquired-taste brand of new and old political material, plus some songs about Bob Dylan and breakups because YOLO, at a variety of venues as high as Edinburgh, as low as Portsmouth, and as across as Cardiff and Norwich. Please do come to the election countdown tour and we can have a beer and chinwag it over. For dates, please check the GIGS page.
Also! There’s a new album a-brewing, but I’ll tell y’all about that next week.
If you made it this far, both reading to here and sticking with my music, as always thanks for your time. Solidarity.