going to change the world. so might as well make the best of it. Then kids comes along. priorities change and. before you know. you‘re listening to Simply Red rather than singing “The Red lilag‘. So has New Bragg gone all warm and cuddly on the politics front'.’
‘lt's not so much warmer and cuddlier. but what happened in Eastern Europe asked trs all what we believe. and my bottom line is that I believe in compassion.‘ he says. ‘That‘s how I came up with the idea of socialism of the heart. which is
deeper than just an intellectual reaction to something you read in Mars or The Guardian. but
something you saw in your heart was
wrong. That‘s what inspired the people in Newbury at the by-pass. They are not ideological at all. but they want to live in a society based on something other than greed and exploitation. That‘s my criteria. rather than an ideological class analysis.‘
To the remaining few on the unrecon- structed lel't. who by now have probably retreated to a safe house somewhere in the London Borough of Lambeth. this might sound suspiciously like warm and cuddly talk. The idea of ‘socialism of the lieart‘ —- a line taken from Bragg‘s new single. ‘lipfield‘ — makes an appearance on last year‘s William lilo/ca. though the album is more preoccupied with the personal than the political.
But just because Bragg has rejected socialist dogma does not mean he has snuggled tip to Tony Blair‘s brand of double—breasted. centre-left politics. If asked. he‘ll say he still considers himself a Labour voter with time for politicians like (‘lare Short. whose outspoken views have marginalised her within the parliamentary party. But the days of Bragg calling up his mates to stand on the same platform as the Walworth Road top brass are long gone.
‘What we set out to do with Red Wedge was stimulate some debate amongt young people about whether or not the party was worth electing.‘ he says. ‘We were trying to focus the youth media on the opportunity to get Thatcher out. I don‘t think they would allow that kind of freedom again. They just want ra-ra and PR. I‘d just say something really stupid if I was on a Labour platform. like rich people should pay more tax than poor people.‘
ll’i’lliam Bloke was Bragg‘s first proper album after a five—year lay-off. when appendicitis prompted him to ease up on the gas of his musical career. There were personal reasons too: he realised the constant touring had turned him and his girlfriend into strangers. so he made a conscious decision to make time to get re-acquainted. Such a success was this DIY relationship counselling that she ended up married and pregnant.
But the politics changed too. With Thatcher gone. the bogeywoman of the left disappeared
and. with her. a lot of the point of his march— and-demo approach. Then the Berlin Wall came down. which coincided with the collapse of the militant tendency as a power within the Labour Party. John Smith was finishing what Kinnock had started: the left had gone legit. and anyone who didn‘t was out. ;\'oel
Gallagher's simplistic support of Blair is rather
easier for Labour to handle than the inevitable
questioning that dealing with Old Bragg would have involved. A few points of principle remain unshaken. however.
‘l‘ve been doing stuff with the Liverpool dockers.‘ says Bragg. ‘The connections that were made during the miners‘ strike is something at grassroots which offers ordinary people the opportunity to express their views and get their voice heard. Organised labour is
iWE'VE ALREADY HAD Glenda Jackson, the actress IMP, Sebastian Coe, the athlete HP, and Gyles gBrandreth, the TV game show MP Within the jrnonth, Number Ten could become a rockin' resulence when Tony Blair, former lead singer of the Ugly Rumours, unpacks his tea-chests But Tone ain't alone in mixing politics wrth rock 'n’ roll.
Runrig’s lead singer Donnie Munro is another man With a plan to rock the House. The Ross, Skye and Inverness West constituency -r currently held by Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy — could turn red if enough people put an X in the former Edinburgh University rector's checkbox.
Other pOp luminaries flying the red flag include I Paul Weller, Mick Hucknall » who proved that he was Simply Red by donating £50,000 to the cause - Oasis manager Alan McGee and both halves of Everything But The Girl, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt
Blue is the colour for a few promirnent figures in the rntrSrc world, including Lord Andrew Lloyd
'The real radical stuff is not happening in guitar music -— it's happening in dance. There aren't so many political songs any more.’
Which sideare you on?
Donnie Munro: Labour
one of the better opportunities to create a better society. I have great hope for the trade union movement if they can get out of the factories and into the community. because that‘s where the future lies.‘
Though he has undoubtedly changed. the difference between New Bragg and Old Bragg is perhaps more what the Tories would call a matter of presentation than policy. He is still heart-felt and passionate. lt‘sjust that both politics and music have changed since the days when Bragg could appear on the cover of NME one week and pen an article in the New Statesman the next. ‘The real radical stuff is not happening in guitar music — it‘s happening in dance.‘ he acknowledges. ‘There aren‘t so many political songs any more.‘
Billy Bragg still knows a few. even if he doesn‘t sing them with quite the same adolescent anger.
Billy Bragg plays the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on Thurs 10 Apr.
Webber —- who has kindly agreed to emigrate if Labour wins the election, thus creating a double whammy ~ Phil Collins, Gary Numan and of course, the Thatcher-loving Spice Girls —- though Victoria Spice, possibly because she really, really wants to live up to her ’Posh’ moniker, has been the most vocal in her alignment wrth the Tories.
The Liberal Democrats don’t chart Quite so highly in the rock 'n' roll department, though they do boast suppert from a political ex-Animal. Their campaign song 'One Man Working’ was written by Geordie groover Alan Price.
No track listing of pop party politics would be complete without The Proclaimers and their devotion to the Scottish National Party. Last seen celebrating Hibs’ Victory over Aberdeen at Easter Road last month, the boys should have something to sing abOut after 1 May All together now: ’tvlajor no more, Howard no more, Rifkind no more, Portillo no more ' (Andrew Burnet)
é Victoria Spice: Tory
4—17Apr i997 THE ll3T11