In 1985, Punk-rock poets and new-wave saviours dropped weight behind the fight to rid the United Kingdom of the heinous Tories. Big names from the UK rock, pop and indie scenes added their vocal support for the Labour Party campaign. This became known as the Red Wedge.
In the years before, Margaret Thatcher had destroyed working-class Britain, leaving dole queues, soul, blues and misery. The breadline grew, and the rich got richer.
Against this backdrop of miners’ strikes, mass unemployment, and a show of strength against the have-nots, the likes of Billy Bragg and Paul Weller got together to host gigs in support of a change in the political status quo. With help from acts like The Communards and Madness and even a (then) left-wing Morrissey; the Red Wedge used their dulcet voices to speak out for political change.
But the Tory Party stayed in power for another eleven years, eventually beating all of the socialism out of the left-wing Labour party. A neoliberal, centrist New Labour then took control in 1997 amidst triumphant britpop outings to Downing street. But as New Labour entered the house it was clear that the left had left the building, and, in the words of the great Jarvis Cocker, ‘socialism gave way to socialising’. Thatcher’s privatisation plans were hurtling forward under Tony Blair. The UK witnessed sanitised and softened midfield politics doused in good-time spending. The country seemed to grow more tolerant, though, and there seemed less reason to protest anymore.
Then the 2008 financial crisis hit, and we needed to bail out the banks. As we chucked all out quantitatively-eased cash down the financial sector sinkhole, the Tories took back power. To solve the cashflow crisis, they taxed the poor and middle classes and washed their hands of the welfare state. In the years that followed, the underclass learned the language of right-wing populists and began blaming it on immigration. Suddenly, politics became uglier than it had ever been and a polarised nation voted for a schism at the polls.
So here we are today. Three years into a Brexit showdown that breeds lies, stupidity and a lack of solid facts. The sad face of race hate and ignorance lies deeply embedded in the psyche of the nation, and as we drift aimlessly to the voting booths again this winter, we try and draw sense out of the senseless waste that we have created.
Where is the Red Wedge of 2019? Where is the grime-soaked mouthpiece willing to put their career on the line to add voice to a seamed cause? Where are the indie bands that have a point to make whether you agree with them or not? Even the voice of ‘80s socialist-sense, Morrissey, has defected to become a Brexiteer with a little-Britain boomer brain.
The lack of harmony in The Divided Kingdom could be repaired by those who have the voices to give it a new song to sing. When the media drowns in lies and derision, surely the words of someone admired by the many could help the cause of the political parties that have something sensible to offer?
While Boris can literally spin undeniable, undemocratic bare-faced lies; he can do no wrong. But as soon as Jeremy Corbyn wants to tax the rich and save the health service, he is a traitor and untrustworthy. Where is the Red Wedge now to wipe the smear away from the truth? When times get tough, we need punk-rock poets and new-wave saviours.
Peter Wyn Mosey is a freelance writer based in Llanelli, Wales. He has written and performed comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, and regularly posts short stories and poetry on his website Peterwynmosey.com. Medha Singh is music editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse, and a researcher for The Raza Foundation. She functions as India Editor for The Charles River Journal, Boston. She is also part of the editorial collective at Freigeist Verlag, Berlin. Her first book of poems, Ecdysis was published by Poetrywala, Mumbai in 2017. She took her M.A. in English literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and studied at SciencesPo, Paris through an exchange program, as part of her interdisciplinary master’s degree. She has written variously on poetry, feminism and rock music. Her poems and interviews have appeared widely, in national and international journals. Her second book is forthcoming. She tweets at @medhawrites from within the eternal eye of the New Delhi summer. Image: From a Red Wedge pamphlet, c.1985.