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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

LICHFIELD INTERROGATES: Dave Haslam

Dave Haslam is a globally-renowned DJ, broadcaster and writer who performed at the Hacienda more than 450 times. His books include Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues, Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs, Not Abba: The Real Story of the 1970s and Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City. I interviewed Dave recently to talk Manchester nightlife and music past and present, Djing, New Order and Factory, his fantastically-received Close Up interviews, Brexit, Labour and more. 





You DJ’d at the Hacienda over 450 times. What are your favourite and least favourite memories of the club? 

As you imagine, that era is a little bit of a blur and I really just have a prevailing memory of what it was like especially around 1989-90 when it was pretty much bedlam, very busy and exciting when everyone was writing about The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and New Order and it felt like we were at the centre of British music. At the same time, as a DJ you have to somehow take a step back. If you throw yourself into it all, things go very wrong, so it was that weird mixture of being part of something very exciting and chaotic whilst being almost an observer from the DJ box and watching it all unfold. 

The things I remember most about the Hacienda in terms of individual memories are the gigs, which tend to be recalled easier, so I think The Smiths in 1983 was one of my most abiding memories. I didn’t see Madonna, but New Order played there regularly so I saw them a lot. I guess one of the other nights I do remember is the night when someone pulled a gun on me, which isn’t what you normally expect when you go to work, especially as a DJ, so that was a very unexpected and frightening moment and a low point. 

If you plot those 450 DJ appearances, the majority of them were between 1986 and 1990 just before the club temporarily closed. I went back for a while in 1991 and 1992 then returned again for the last six months. I was aware in the early-to-mid nineties that there was a negative edge that wasn’t there previously. By the mid-nineties, a lot of other clubs had caught up and the idea that we were at the centre of the music scene had drained away, especially when you consider places like Cream in Liverpool, plus there were movements like the Camden and Britpop thing, so by the time it closed it could be argued that it was time for it to go. 

Can you think of any current venues in Manchester that rival the Hacienda? 

I do think in Manchester we have more good venues than in the late eighties. Albert Hall is one of the greatest venues we have ever had, and it’s a great place to see bands and DJs. The whole story of how the building was recycled is brilliant and it is perhaps a better venue than the Hacienda for gigs; if you went to see a band at the Hacienda, either the venue would be half-empty or if it was full, half the people wouldn’t be able to see the band because the sight lines and acoustics were quite poor. We also now have venues of all kinds, including clubs like Hidden and gig venues like Gorilla. The only thing I think we are missing is a flagship venue like the Hacienda but I think one of the reasons people have such fond memories of it is that there weren’t actually that many places to go out in town at the time. 

Compared to now, Manchester wasn’t renowned as a great place to go out in the mid-eighties; students weren’t coming here for the nightlife even though the music scene was well-known. Most of the clubs that would leave you feel very unwelcome if your music taste was slightly out of the mainstream or if your haircut was slightly out of the ordinary. There was quite a lot of violence around. 

The Hacienda could be seen as a bit of an accident of history in a way, with things happening in the right place at the right time. The associations with New Order and Factory meant it was instantly cool – even when it was empty, it was a cool place to be. We just happened to be working in a team determined to do different stuff of real value - with Factory and New Order subsidising what was occurring so we could afford to be a bit uncommercial, especially at the beginning. Although we have great venues in Manchester now, we can’t expect every generation to be making history as that just isn’t how it works. Everything came together for us, and also of course we also had Tony Wilson shaping, defining and talking about what we were doing. 

I think one of the other important points is that we weren’t seeking fame or money. It was a labour of love and an underground club that just happened to get very big. In a way, a lot of the origins of the club were small-scale, unambitious and organic, whereas now a lot of things that happen tend to be more over-hyped, marketed or under more commercial pressure than we were. A lot of clubs and people won’t have the luxury of someone like New Order subsidising what they do. 

I still think Manchester is a great place. I now have two kids that are now old enough to be enjoying the nightlife themselves, and they have, in many ways, better choices than I had in the 1980s as a customer before I became a DJ. 

How was your music taste formed? What first made an impression on you in your formative years? 

Way back, I think Motown had a massive influence. I am just about old enough to remember the very late sixties, and you heard Motown everywhere at the time, on the radio, at the football, at the fairground. That was when I realised that music was going to part of my life and a constant soundtrack. When you saw Motown groups on the TV, they just seemed so classy, switched-on and cool. I was really young, but even then it really resonated with me. 

As you become older, you change, and you become aware of other stuff. I think when you start to discover stuff outside of the charts is also a very influential moment. As a teenager, realising music that was more than just what was on Top of the Pops and daytime radio was life-changing. I discovered John Peel, Joy Division and more at this point. I still listen to a lot of new music and love hearing new stuff, but what really triggered my interest was a combination of Motown and Factory mainly. 

What are your favourite songs to play in DJ sets? Which have stood the test of time? Do you have any contemporary favourites? 

My list of favourite tracks can change a lot depending on mood and many other factors, but I think there’s one tune that’s definitely in my top three somewhere and that’s ‘Ain’t Nobody' by Chaka Khan, which I started playing when I began my DJ career over thirty years ago and I still play. If I play that record in a club and it doesn’t go down well, it either means I’ve played it at the wrong time or the audience aren’t the right one for me. It’s kind of a tester record. Possibly ‘Blue Monday’ too, although I did have a spell of getting bored of it at one point. However, I have started playing it again recently. 




Rufus and Chaka Khan, 'Ain't Nobody'

Speaking of New Order, what did you make of Music Complete? 

For me, New Order can’t do any wrong. I like the return to the synth-based sound. I like the combination of everything they bring together, but I particularly love the electro-pop side. I felt the new album was of that type, and I really liked ‘Stray Dog’, the Iggy Pop track, which was really unexpected. Being lucky enough to know Stephen and Bernard, I know they will never choose the default position of opting for the expected and obvious. They are always looking to challenge and redefine themselves, which is why they are still a great group. They are always evolving in the way they want to evolve. 




New Order, 'Stray Dog'

What do you think about the current Manchester music scene? Do you think new bands resent the Madchester association and the weight of the past? Have the city’s leading musical lights held new acts back? 

I don’t think it’s bad if bands in Manchester do resent that. I think having an older generation to rebel against is what you need as a rock ‘n’ roll band. I remember the bands that were around in the late seventies and eighties including Stone Roses, Smiths and Joy Division hating a lot of what other bands were doing. They wanted to do things their own way and express themselves. The Stone Roses didn’t even want support bands because they felt like they didn’t really have any allies. The Smiths also felt they stood alone and Joy Division ploughed a very idiosyncratic furrow in what they did, and I think that’s part of how things should be. 

Having said that, I don’t think the new generation of Manchester bands realise how lucky they are to be part of a city which such a great musical reputation, which gives bands from the city extra credibility. So, new bands can have the best of both worlds: an older generation to rebel against and being able to rely on the reputation. If you are a talked-about band in Manchester, you automatically become the coolest band in Britain. If you make it here, you can make it anywhere. 




Everything Everything, 'Distant Past'

One of things I like about the current scene is that the best young Manchester bands don’t sound anything like what came before. Everything Everything are a strong example. They’re obviously not a new band now but they do feel like a post Hacienda-generation band, who are doing something new. I loved Everything Everything from the moment I saw them at the Roadhouse in front of 12 people. I never expected them to do as well as they have because I thought they might be too “out-there”. I also really like PINS, and the fact they are a girl band – most of the Manchester music scene has been dominated by male groups. 




PINS, 'Girls Like Us'

When I did a fanzine in the 1980s, I used to get criticised for not writing enough about local bands and focussing on US acts like Sonic Youth a lot. I used to respond in two ways: firstly, I don’t think music should be judged by postcode. Just because a band live down the road shouldn’t mean they have a bigger chance of becoming my favourite band than someone from New York or Paris. Music is international. Secondly, I used to say I will champion any band I am into enough. What tends to happen now is that I will only name one new Manchester band a year when people ask me which local acts I am currently championing rather than reeling off several names. I see it my job as to just get behind one, rather than namedrop various acts just because they are from Manchester. 

What made you sell your record collection? 

It’s a year since I said goodbye to my record collection and sent my records down to Seth Troxler, and I have not come to regret it. Even when I walk into cellar and see the empty shelves, I don’t feel any regrets. I just found I wanted to play music that wasn’t available on vinyl. My view as a DJ has always been that I should play whatever I want – I would take my favourite 200 or so records to a club and play them in the best order I can to turn other people on and to fill the dancefloor. If there’s a track I want to play and it’s not available on vinyl whilst I’m stuck in a vinyl-only groove, I’m just going to get frustrated. I found myself not playing the vinyl and opting for digital recordings again. 

As well as that, I had a Zen-like moment where I thought I could resist the tyranny of physical stuff and just get rid of it all, whilst allowing it to live on; Seth said he loved the collection and would continue to play it. He is only 30 so has a long career ahead of him. He plays a lot of great gigs and is in Ibiza every summer. 

The idea that the records were better off in my cellar being unplayed rather than being carted off to Ibiza, Australia or the Far East and for DJ sets seemed like nonsense. They have a life of their own – it’s like kids leaving home, travelling the world and having great success. I had affection for all the records but the time was right for them to fly the nest and make their own lives. I do have to listen to WAV – I don’t play MP3s. The difference between the quality of 12” vinyl and MP3 is depressing. 

I’m looking for the best quality I can in a digital world. Nonetheless, the weird thing about the modern world is that YouTube is better than my own collection in many ways. I do regularly come across brilliant stuff from 1982 or 1983 that I would have played to death in my sets had I encountered it before. I’m still discovering stuff that I wish I had access to 35 years ago, so the internet is a great resource. 

How did the Close Up interviews begin and which have been the most memorable? 

I actually started out as a journalist doing my own fanzine, interviewing bands and writers, and did some work for the NME and other magazines. The interviews began because, around fifteen years ago, I was talking to a friend about how I loved researching and doing interviews. I loved meeting people but didn’t enjoy transcribing and editing so much. I thought I could find a way of doing interviews but only with the bits I really loved. It took a while to start the Close Up interviews, but the moment finally came when I was asked to take part in the Manchester International Festival seven years ago and I started with a Guy Garvey interview. 

I think the format is so pure, with one very enthusiastic, interested and switched-on interviewer talking to an inspiring, interesting, iconic and creative person with a view to going a bit deeper than an audience might expect. The audience can watch an unedited, unrehearsed interview unfold in front of their eyes. I’ve interviewed some of my favourite writers, actors, actresses and a whole load of my musical heroes such as Nile Rodgers, David Byrne, Neneh Cherry and John Lydon, who was possibly my favourite. John is one of the most important people in our culture, let alone music, and it was fantastic to see him there, in real life, just metres away from me in a slightly difficult but also helpful and playful mood. It felt like the cumulation of everything I’d ever wanted to do. 

The Nile Rodgers interview was also amazing – I could tell the audience were feeling everything very deeply and loving the moment. The appreciation of what was happening flowed over me and Nile. I’ve also interviewed Paddy Considine around five times. When I first started doing the interviews I thought I would be talking to each person just once, but Paddy seemed to come to the conclusion that each interview should be part of a series and we should meet up once or twice each year – we plan to do another one at a bigger venue than last time in Manchester when his new film Journeyman comes out. To be able to commit to a series of interviews means you continue from where you left off each time. Paddy is a funny but also honest and thoughtful guy. I feel inspired to be a little more vulnerable when I am with him because we are both so honest – the interviews are always funny but also very intense. We end up talking about things that are very intimate and close to us. Over the series, we have really begun to trust each other. 

What was your reaction to Brexit? 

I was gutted really. Gutted. I think, although I have various friends who had very complicated and well-meaning reasons to vote to leave, which were usually to do with democracy and who has ultimate control over the laws of the land, I didn’t agree with their rationale but understood that they had some intellectual argument for their decision. However, I felt they were hoodwinked into supporting something deeply reactionary, unprogressive, divisive and horrible. However well-meaning some of the Leave supporters were, the prevailing mood was nasty and it was about an insular England, not even about Britain, England. I’m not using the word “racist” and I never did, but I thought that symbolically Brexit said that the country had given up being progressive, international, modern, inclusive, open and had instead become a small-minded little island, blaming everyone else for its own demise. The real enemy was never the EU. The idea that the EU is our real enemy is ridiculous. 

I have interviewed more than one Jeremy Corbyn supporter recently, but your social media posts suggest that you see things differently. What are your thoughts about the current Labour leadership?

You’re trying to get me in trouble! Ultimately, politics is a negotiation between principle and practicality, and some compromise is always necessary, unless you are a totalitarian leader. I feel that Corbyn and his supporters are unable to understand that there are people with reasonably similar views to them but who have decided that the Corbyn way is not the best way. Corbyn and his fan club don’t seem to realise that those people have something to contribute to the argument and the movement and the idea that if you are not 100% pure, you’re against us is something I hate. I think the Labour party should be a broad church and the leadership should be strong enough to bring together and keep together a very big collaboration of people from all backgrounds with possibly differing views about some of the issues, but I feel that the Corbyn way has, in a way fed the mood of divisiveness. I found that his way is as much “us and them” as the Brexit way, in the same way the Leave campaign was. 

The Leave voters would say “if you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us and you’re a traitor”, whilst the Corbyn way seems to say “if you’re not 100% with us, you’re against us and you’re a Blairite”. I found his campaign and his leadership style to be divisive. 

I appreciate that the membership has grown, but the people who vote Labour and potentially would vote Labour are the people who matter. I’m interested in the millions of people who want an alternative to the Tories and it’s their wishes and their lives that need reflecting. The Labour party in some ways belongs to its members but in other ways, its founding principle was to seek power for the workers, who are more than the members. The millions of people who voted in the Labour MPs are the ones that matter, and their voices and concerns are multiple and various. 

It’s easy to call someone who isn’t 100% signed up to Corbyn a Blairite or accuse them of being on the right. I don’t think there is a single Labour MP who is a member of the party or who has sought to be elected as a Labour MP who is a closet Tory. There’s no point denigrating people who have been elected by Labour party supporters and voters. Those MPs are representing millions of people and shouldn’t be denigrated – the leadership needs to be canny enough to move beyond left and right and I think that Corbyn doesn’t understand that. 

What were your highlights of 2016? What are your plans for 2017? 

The highlight of 2016 was spending the day with and interviewing Roisin Murphy at Liverpool Sound City and coming over to Manchester for an event at Gorilla. I think Roisin is a superstar and is a very creative, energised, clever person. I am doing a few things for Manchester International Festival in 2017 and have begun work on book five – at the moment it’s a secret project but will be spreading the word on that when the time is right. Every year I look to have some good DJ dates in the diary. I know that if I have a good DJ night I know that all the shit about Brexit, Corbyn, Manchester this, Manchester that, old age, selling your records, mid-life crisis etc doesn’t matter, because I know if I am behind the decks, playing the music for an audience that loves it, I’m flying for weeks afterwards. As long as there’s one of them every month, I will survive.

Thanks, Dave!


I am also on Twitter again as 
@lichfieldinter1, reluctantly. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

BEST ALBUMS OF 2016

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

1. Kanye West: The Life of Pablo

2. Future of the Left: The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left
3. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
4. Rihanna: Anti
5. Skepta: Konnichiwa
6. Shura: Nothing's Real
7. David Bowie: Blackstar
8. Pet Shop Boys: Super
9. Lady Gaga: Joanne
10. Beyonce: Lemonade

Sunday, January 1, 2017

BEST TRACKS OF 2016

Terrible year for music really, and really hoping to see the back of tropical house, mopey MOR men with acoustic guitars and future bass this year, although I do worry about what they'll be replaced with. The worst track of the year was clearly that wretched cover of Dancing On My Own but what were the best? Find out below. Radio 1's Dance Anthems has told me that bangers ain't dead, they just can't cross over.

More Lichfield Interrogates interviews in the pipeline, including a Hacienda legend. Bit of a coup if I do say so myself.

TRACKS OF THE YEAR:

1. AlunaGeorge feat. Popcaan: I'm in Control
2. Kanye West feat. Kendrick Lamar: No More Parties in LA
3. Izzy Bizu: White Tiger
4. Radiohead: Daydreaming
5. David Bowie: Lazarus
6. Blinkie: Don't Give Up (On Love)
7. Kungs Vs. Cookin' on 3 Burners: This Girl
8. Clean Bandit feat. Anne-Marie and Sean Paul: Rockabye
9. Rihanna: Kiss it Better
10. Robbie Williams: Party Like a Russian
11. The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk: Starboy
12. High Contrast: Remind Me
13. Banks: Gemini Feed
14. Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj: Side to Side
15. Nadia Rose: Skwod
16. Laura Mvula: Phenomenal Woman
17. Dua Lipa: Be the One
18. Tiga: Shoes (Green Velvet Remix)
19. Kattison: Up and Down
20. Kölsch: Grey
21. Two Door Cinema Club: Ordinary
22. Glass Animals: Life Itself
23. Mystery Jets: Bombay Blue
24. Offiah: Trouble
25. Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris: Hype

You can listen from 25-1 here.

Also 2016 marked the start of Dave and Sully, in which me and my pal Sully get together for a lengthy one-on, one-off session, normally on a Thursday night, without knowing what each other have picked as he slots his choices in between mine whilst squinting. Putting this on shuffle is one my favourite activities as the database of bangers covers a host of genres and eras. 


Listen to the Dave and Sully Jukebox here

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

LICHFIELD INTERROGATES: Carl Neville

Carl Neville is a writer and author originally from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. His non-fiction works include No More Heroes? Steroids, Cocaine, Finance and Film in the 70s and Classless: Recent Essays on British Film, whilst his debut novel Resolution Way was published in May 2016 by Repeater Books. I caught up with Carl to talk about his books, Brexit, Corbyn, and representations of the working-class in the media.




Can you tell us about the inspiration for Resolution Way?


I suppose the inspiration for it was what looked like, around four or five years ago during the coalition, an acceleration of financialisaton. I was very struck by the coalition’s rhetoric and was horrified by developments like the vilification of the poorest in our society, which had admittedly been happening to a lesser extent before, but I never thought some of the ideas that were being expressed would be accepted in modern-day England.  I spent time thinking about what the national trajectory was as well as the net-based economy for the young and so on. That formed the basis of the dystopia. 


I could also see parts of London where I’d lived gentrifying and had friends that had been pushed out of Deptford and Lewisham. I was aware of many of the struggles around housing. Things dovetailed to give the idea that things in the future would look much worse than they are now but with many of the underlying features of the neoliberal city being kept. 


When I first thought about writing it I thought I’d do a kind of twin dystopian/utopian novella, but it ended up much longer than I thought it would be, partially because Alex Niven encouraged me to write a much lengthier book than I had planned. This was for the best as it forced to me to justify many of the elements of the story. The utopian half of the book was based around the idea of a non-neoliberal Britain that had moved onto something rather post-capitalist but would keep traces of prior working-class struggle and institutions. 


Even though I started writing it a number of years ago I knew it would be based around a doubling-down  on neoliberalism. So, I did think that things would get very grim until neoliberalism had been defeated twice and then we’d be able to return to some form of stabilisation. I thought in the long-term things would improve. Obviously, it took me several years to get to the utopian part of the novel. By the time I reached that point, Corbynism had arrived, the narrative on economics had shifted to a degree on the right and we have hopefully moved closer to the utopian part but at the same time things have worsened in certain areas. Nonetheless, there’s more positive stuff going on than there was ten years ago. 





You have repeatedly defended Corbyn on your blog – do you still stand behind him? 


Absolutely, I’m not sure why anyone who was initially enthused by the campaign would have subsequently dropped out. It depends whether you think this is about Corbyn himself or not. If you think we need to find a figure like Cameron or Blair then you’d be horrified by Corbyn, but if you think he represents a break in business as usual, you’ll see Labour under Corbyn as something that is challenging neoliberalism, fighting racism and trying to deepen grass roots engagement. Corbyn as a figure is not actually very relevant to me – the project is something that appeals to me. There doesn’t seem to be a good substitute for Corbyn appearing so it’s essential that the ideas continue to be pushed and that those getting behind him to force change are supported. 





What are your feelings on the direction of supposedly left-leaning media outlets like The Guardian? 


My interest in Corbyn and Momentum is unwavering essentially. I have actually just completed an MA dissertation on Corbyn’s representations in the Guardian and other media outlets. The Guardian seems to be fully behind the neoliberal project as far as I can tell. People like Jonathan Freeland and Polly Toynbee I find difficult to feel are on the left or are advocates of anything other than Blairite neoliberalism. What I find hard to understand is why they are so unenthusiastic about the Corbyn project. If Corbyn and the MPs that are supporting him were career politicians who were looking to enter finance or something after politics you could understand the hostility. 


Corbyn’s politics seem to be fairly uncontentious stuff like Keynesian economics and renationalisating the railways. The Financial Times actually published an article about John McDonnell where they described him as a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”, which seems correct. What is he proposing that’s likely to terrify business and industry? Also, the Tories seem so likely to make such a hash of Brexit that there are many people in finance feeling really pissed off with the Government. It’s not inconceivable that the Labour party might be able to offer a less unhinged, more investment-led and generally appealing alternative even to leading business and finance figures. 


One of the methods the media have used is to represent Corbyn’s supporters as a hysteric cult. It seems like anything that challenges the belief in neoliberalism is characterised as a form of irrationality, with anybody who opposes their sort of hegemonic “rationality” being portrayed as a naïve dreamer, emotionally incontinent or someone who has fallen under some sort of magic spell, and it just goes on and on and on. This sort of cognitive dissonance means the idea of Corbyn’s supporters not being detached from reality is filtered out. Corbyn’s critics in Labour are so ideologically-wedded to their position they just keep repeating the same things. 


I have met many ordinary, well-organised, civil, intelligent people within Momentum from different generations and the idea that the movement is littered with obsessed groupies is just madness. I have met no Corbyn supporters that have been as rabid, embittered, misanthropic and angry as his detractors. A lot of people work in the NHS, immigration and social care and have genuine concrete concerns about the way things are going yet they’re being dismissed as idealistic idiotic hippies, largely by supposedly “left-wing” people. I think the reputation of publications like Guardian has never been lower. It’s hard to feel anything other than incredulous contempt. We’re talking about people who have done very nicely out of the last twenty years and really can’t understand why we can’t just embrace another Blair-esque figure again, which betrays a total inability to grasp the challenges people are facing almost ten years into a global financial crisis. 


In your book ‘Classless’, you said the British cinema of the previous two decades had been largely unrepresentative of British society and issues related to class and class struggle. Do you think things have improved or worsened since?


I don’t think things have worsened, I think British cinema has actually become a lot more interesting – in fact I think that’s the case for cinema itself over the last ten years. There are more things I’m interested in seeing these days whereas the 2000s involved many reheated, refried Britpop tropes with very little going on. However, I don’t think we have seen the emergence of any working-class directors with any real experience of working-class life. I think cinema has improved but not in terms of anything that addresses the working-class. 


Part of what Classless was about was me going to my local video and tape exchange and finding that certain things seemed to be particularly popular amongst young, skint, working-class lads. There were some quite interesting themes and patterns, such as Danny Dyer being a pop-sociological tutor to the unwashed masses. 


What were the most important films for you growing up? What has inspired you recently?


When I was a kid, I used to have a sort of tension with my dad who I always wanted to take me to the cinema but hated sci-fi and fantasy and would refuse to watch those films. He would instead insist that we watched more adult-orientated things like Network, The Hill and other weighty realist dramas. I remember watching The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Ace in the Hole, Sunset Boulevard and other Billy Wilder stuff. There were many plays that were turned into films, witty noir films with elements of political, socially-critical realist cinema, but I also had a yearning to watch fantasy movies. There was a great deal of interesting stuff on Channel Four in those days too. In my writing, I think I have tried to fuse these very different worlds, so there’ll be elements of Ken Loach alongside David Lynch, things that may seem like incompatible influences on paper. 


For those who haven’t encountered No More Heroes as yet, can you tell us more about your theory about the relationship between Arnold Schwarzenegger and neoliberal economics?


I suppose I considered the seventies and the advent of neoliberalism to be a return to themes such as vitality and images of regrowth and rebirth. There’s a famous Reagan broadcast where he says “it’s morning in America”, so it’s about the idea that things were starting again. Around this time, you had a return to larger-than-life heroic characters in contrast to the downbeat, downcast and pessimistic cinematic figures of the sixties. 


I thought that Schwarzenegger and his career as an Austrian immigrant, working his way up and becoming a huge star in the eighties as well as his physical appearance seemed to tally into the American Dream of the 1950s after the post-Watergate pessimism of the 1970s. He was also a great advocate of Milton and Rose D. Friedman’s Free to Choose, which was particularly popular in the early stages of neoliberalism on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the iconic image of masculinity and the ultimate heroic American figure. So, there was a fairly uncontroversial dovetailing of Schwarzenegger as an image, a narrative and an advocate of neoliberalism. 


What are you currently listening to? How have your tastes developed over the years?


I suppose when I was a kid I had the usual Top of the Pops epiphanies that many people had so I think I developed an interest in music through the TV – we weren’t a musical household in any way. I think my big epiphany was Once In a Lifetime by Talking Heads. I was instantly moved by it and found it incredibly powerful and emotional in ways that I couldn’t understand at the time. It has a tragic, questioning grandeur to it that had a massive impact on me. I think outside of pop music, hymns and carols also had an effect on me, giving me a strong interest in language, which was very valuable as a working-class kid in a shipyard town. I was struck by the linguistic side of hymns. 


My sister’s friends used to bring a lot of Bowie albums round, and I also developed a huge interest in Springsteen. I think this goes back to my dual interest in sci-fi/fantasy and realism in movies. I didn’t see any contradiction between the likes of Bowie and Springsteen or know of any discourse about them being sort of opposing forces. In the long-run, it has been Springsteen that has been the most consistent musical pleasure. I think, although I have gone far and wide in terms of what I’ll listen to, much of what I like could be seen as rather mainstream and pedestrian in many ways. Where I’m mainly at is accessible, emotive rock and folk. 


I also really liked hip-hop when I was younger. The John Peel epiphany for me wasn’t the usual C86 stuff as much as when I heard Go Cut Creator Go by LL Cool J one night, then I Need a Beat later on. I think hip-hop is something that has been permanently exciting and interesting since its emergence – I think Kanye for instance has consistently produced incredibly interesting and exciting records. I guess he is the hip-hop equivalent to Bowie in that he is always experimenting with different styles and constantly searches through the underground even if he doesn’t do Bowie-style identity-swapping. Some of the tracks of The Life of Pablo are just superlatively great and unusual. I also like the latest Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q but I have found Kendrick Lamar to be a little too earnest and pedestrian. I also like a lot of Afropunk. I missed an Afropunk festival this year as it was vital left-wing Guardian journalist Dawn Foster’s birthday. I hope she reads this interview so she knows I sacrificed the festival to go to it! 


Can you tell us about your relationship with Repeater and the mass resignation from Zero?


I hope I don’t misrepresent anyone or anything with this answer, so apologies in advance if I do. I think the guy that owned the umbrella company in charge of Zero just became impossible to work with for certain people. He seemed to be an extremely trying and difficult person and the writers had an option to get out and took it. The staff who moved over to Repeater were all people I personally liked and had always found incredibly supportive. I get the feeling things are going very well and issues like distribution have been resolved. I think quality control has improved too – Zero were releasing a lot of books and I think there was a lot of overkill with very similar books being published. 



Carl circa 2004 on Deptford High Street


Which novelists and journalists have had the greatest influence on you? 

In terms of journalists, I’d definitely have to say David Stubbs and Simon Reynolds, because I read them in Melody Maker when I was a kid and I loved their purple prose. They were far away the best writers at the paper during that period and were perfect if you were a 14-year-old goth-in-waiting. Fiction-wise, I have certain favourite books but I’m not sure if I have any loyalty to any particular author. I have come to science-fiction very late, and I never liked a lot of post-punk literature like Ballard, Dick or any of the similar things you’re supposed to like if you’ve gone off to do philosophy. I quite liked the Beats like Burroughs, Henry Miller and a lot of US fiction. I just tried to read as widely as possible, though there is so much stuff out there I do feel like I still have significant gaps in my knowledge. 


What was life like in Barrow-in-Furness? 


It is hard to say as my own relationship with the place has changed quite a lot. When I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to get out, and when I did return I felt a lot of burning anger and shame about my lowly proletariat background. Also, as a lanky teenage Goth growing up there I remember a lot of fear on Friday and Saturday nights. It could be a violent place at weekends, so I had an agonised relationship with it. However, I feel very neutral when I go back as an adult. I have travelled a lot now so I don’t feel as beholden to the place as being part of my identity. I feel a certain desire to defend its reputation because people that I love come from there but at the same time I don’t want to spend a great deal of time there. So there are elements of the classic love-hate relationship a lot of working-class people have towards their hometowns. Once you enter the wider world you start to experience strong conflicting feelings about where you belong. Do I think it has affected my work? I think that being working-class has definitely affected what I write.


My dad was extremely interested in politics and ideas, didn’t have a lot of opportunities for formal study but spent time teaching himself German, watching Newsnight, reading The Guardian, doing the crossword every day, being interested in grammar, venerated articulate and intelligent people and my mum was much the same, reading a lot so they were part of that working-class tradition of self-education, which is why I always react very badly to certain caricatures of working-class people.


How do you feel about the way the working-class are portrayed in the media? 


I was speaking to Rhian E. Jones who wrote Clampdown: Pop-Cultural Wars on Class and Gender for Zero recently about the notion that the working-class are a specific type of thing. The reductiveness in how the working-class are portrayed is quite offensive. It seems like there is an over-emphasis on the deferential working-class, who tend to be royalists, love the British nation and have a proud sense of our imperial past. There’s no doubt that that element of the working-class does exist, but once you get to the 1990s and the end of history that David Stubbs’ talks about, you realise that there’s a flattening of the image of the working-class into something that’s England shirt-wearing, laddish, nationalist, royalist and will happily doff their caps towards the queen. 


The end of history argument is that the middle and upper classes are the ones that shape history, and in this shift away from the  proletariat as a potentially revolutionary force we end up with a ‘sensible’, deferential working-class becoming the only working-class voice. Brexit showed that there’s a huge emphasis on “white van man”, who represents a conservative set of viewpoints and aims, and he becomes the working-class as such. The non-white van man elements of the working-class end up being not only filtered out but seen as something that can’t exist or something that could never have existed, an illusion or a delusion, because history always belonged to the middle-class. 


Corbyn is sometimes criticized for turning his back on the working-class, by refusing to be anti-immigration and so on, but in fact he’s turning his back on this image of the working-class and this version of  history. It’s a scandal to the people in who are invested in the idea of White Van Man that influential figures have appeared and pointed out that there is a tradition of working-class protest, art, occupying political positions, self-education and internationalism. The working-class is split, complicated with vanguardist and conservative elements, yet certain people will only see an end-of-history stereotypical mass of essentially simple nationalists who have to be thrown a few bits of race-baiting candy every so often and then they’ll be satisfied. 


Thanks, Carl!

You can buy Resolution Way here.

Read recent Lichfield Interrogates interviews with BBC Tees' Bob Fischer here 
and former Labour MP and campaigner Chris Williamson here.

More interviews on their way. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

LICHFIELD INTERROGATES: Chris Williamson

Chris Williamson is a Labour party politician who held the Derby North seat between 2010-2015. He was leader of Derby City Council twice and has also been a social worker and welfare rights officer. A prominent vegan and animal rights activist, Chris is former vice chair of the Local Government Anti Poverty Forum and was on the front bench as a shadow minister for communities and local government between 2010-2013. On the left of the party, Chris was one of 16 signatories that signed an open letter to Ed Miliband asking for Labour to oppose further austerity measures. I spoke to Chris recently to talk about Corbyn, Momentum, the right of the Labour Party and the history of the movement. 



Do you think Jeremy Corbyn can win a general election and, if so, how can he win over the naysayers? 

I do believe he can win a general election. We do have to work hard together but we’ve never had such a big movement of motivated activists in my lifetime. We could have a million members by next year – when there’s such a big mass movement covering so many parts of the country it presents a big opportunity to get Labour’s message of hope across to the wider electorate. It won’t be easy thanks to media and establishment bias, but what Jeremy is aiming to do is create a new consensus. 

The post-war consensus lasted until 1979 before it was replaced by the neoliberal consensus and continued through the Blair years. We may have knocked the edges off but we largely bought into it. We invested in public services but we were more exposed than other parts of the world when the crash came. We should have regulated the banks and closed the tax havens whilst we were in power, ensuring that the nation’s wealth was redistributed to ordinary people. 

Jeremy’s economic policies resonate with ordinary people and we need to focus on that rather than the soap opera being perpetrated by certain Labour MPs and other veteran figures around the party. People talk about us losing five million voters between 1997 and 2010, but we actually lost three million of them between 1997 and 2001. Millions of people are making a conscious decision not to vote because nobody has been offering an alternative to neoliberalism. Jeremy’s policies about regulating private rented housing, building more council homes, abolishing tuition fees, reintroducing maintenance grants, investing in the economy to create jobs and renewable energy will have a positive effect into the private sector. 

We have a positive, hopeful message that I think will resonate with people. When you look at polls on some issues, Jeremy’s ideas are much more popular than the media acknowledge. Once we get everyone in the party singing from the same hymn sheet, there’s every reason to believe we can win people over. 




Are Corbyn’s opponents in and out of Labour taking him more seriously than they would like to admit? 

I think so. It has been said that certain people aren’t angry because he can’t win an election but are in fact concerned that he could. A very tiny percentage of the population that are determined to defend the status quo will do everything they can to undermine him, but it’s clear that the party is recruiting people at unprecedented rates in spite of the actions of certain figures inside Labour. We have done far better in all but one of the parliamentary by-elections than in we did in 2015 and have fared well in the local elections too, whilst gaining a number of Police and Crime Commissioners in areas that aren’t known for Labour support. 

Some of the duplicitous assaults Jeremy has received are amongst the worst I have ever seen in politics. Now we have social media, which isn’t a panacea, but is a very useful tool for challenging the mainstream media narrative and gives people an alternative to the lies perpetrated in the media.  Jeremy wants to implement Leveson, which obviously means he’s going to attract the ire of the Murdoch regime and others. 



Did you expect the coup to be successful?

At first, I was not totally confident that we would prevail due to the orchestrated resignations and the attempt to keep Jeremy off the ballot paper. However, when I met him on the eve of the no-confidence vote he looked incredibly relaxed so I then stopped worrying that he would buckle under the pressure. It actually seemed to have a more negative effect on the people around him. Once the National Executive Committee vote went through I was confident we would have the support and thought we could actually increase Jeremy’s mandate, which we did, despite the attempts at gerrymandering and the purge which took place to root out his supporters. Had the members denied their right to vote had their say, Jeremy’s mandate would have been even bigger, perhaps as much as 70-80%. 

Will they attempt another coup? 

I think it’s unlikely now – they have thrown everything at this, yet Jeremy has enhanced his mandate. I think there is now a begrudging acceptance amongst enough of the PLP to make it less likely. They know that they will probably lose again. They also know they will be held responsible if we fail at the general election, because people do not vote for disunited parties. 




Do you think Theresa May has the potential to be an even worse PM than Cameron?

Very much so, particularly because she is seen as a more credible and more serious figure. She seems more sincere than Cameron, which is dangerous because her policy agenda is so concerning. On one hand she is playing on people’s fears and aping UKIP, but on the other hand she is talking about wealth redistribution, probably because of Jeremy’s influence on the agenda. The rhetoric is fine, but how will it play out in reality? I do think we will see backtracking in some areas such as welfare reform as we managed to force them back in those issues even when Cameron was the leader. 

I do think Jeremy has shifted the political narrative, and I don’t think we would be in the same place if he had lost. He has forced the Tories to talk on our terms, which is beneficial for the party and makes it easier to get our ideas across. It’s reminiscent of when we were aping the Tories. I think at the last election, our stance on immigration and commitment to austerity-lite didn’t go down well at all with the progressively-minded voters. We deterred the progressively-minded yet didn’t win back Tory or UKIP voters. Many of my left-wing constituents in Derby North told me it was “safe” to vote for the likes of the Greens because they thought Labour would win Derby North by a landslide, when in fact we lost by just 41 votes there. We will need progressively-minded candidates in seats like Derby North in 2020. 




How can Labour win back those sceptical about immigration? 

We clearly can’t out-UKIP UKIP, yet we were seeking to win the argument on their terms in 2015. I think part of the problem is that we have ceded ground on the immigration issue over the years and haven’t emphasised the benefits of immigration enough. Furthermore, we haven’t tackled the issue of wages being undercut by migrant labour. We need to focus on things like offering a higher minimum wage and investing in the inspection regime to ensure it is properly enforced. There have only been a handful of prosecutions for employers paying less than the minimum wage. 

We also need to invest in the economy to create more secure, better-paid jobs and ensure there are sufficient houses to go around. We also need to dispel the myth that the housing crisis is being caused by immigration and build more genuinely affordable social housing, whilst regulating private sector rents. Most people have more in common with migrants than the people who are ruthlessly exploiting migrant workers. I think if we can create better jobs and invest in housing, concerns about immigration can be softened. 

Do you think Labour really have significant problems with anti-Semitism or is this merely a convenient stick to beat Corbyn with? 

I think it is a very convenient stick. I have been a member of the party for decades and can honestly tell you, hand on heart, that I have never come across any examples of anti-Semitism or racism. Some figures have also claimed that the party isn’t a safe place for women, which is also absurd. It feels like we are living in Orwellian times, with a party that’s renowned for its positive stance on equality being portrayed as a sexist, racist and anti-Semitic organisation, when in reality those charges would be a more appropriately levelled at our opponents. 

I know that many Jewish Labour members have been appalled at the way that the party has been portrayed as something it absolutely isn’t, for political motives. Very prominent members of the Jewish community in and out of the party have condemned these tactics – it is utterly disgraceful to accuse someone like Corbyn of not caring about these issues. He has made it clear that we will not tolerate racism, anti-Semitism or misogyny. These accusations are the politics of the gutter. 




Did you expect the UK to vote for Brexit? Should the working-class be concerned about the outcome? 

I did not think the vote would go the way it did, though I expected it would be close. I think Jeremy’s argument was the right one, but it was drowned out by the debate between big players in the Tory party. I think a Tory Brexit has the potential to be problematic in terms of things like workers’ rights being diminished, but a Labour government would have more room to maneuverer when it comes to state intervention. Jeremy thought the EU did need reform and it is often seen as a capitalists’ club. Leaving the EU is another reason why the PLP needs to unite behind the leader. A Tory Brexit could have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in society. 

Under Labour, we would have extra room to bring about a new consensus and pursue a whole new direction, unlike many times in the past when incoming governments have pursued similar aims to their predecessors. The Tories didn’t fundamentally disturb the post-war settlement when they came into power in the fifties – they actually vied to build more council houses than Labour. Once Blair came in, we continued in much the same direction as Thatcher and Major, allowing privatisation and neoliberalism to carry on. 

What made you opt for a life in politics? 

I joined the Labour party forty years ago after being inspired by the history of the movement and how it had championed the underdog and brought about fundamental change. I wanted to be a part of that and saw it as an exciting proposition. I was an apprentice bricklayer when I joined and was recruited by Philip Whitehead, who held Derby North from 1970 to 1983. After around 15 years I was elected to Derby Council before becoming leader, and I became MP for Derby North in 2010. I have also been involved with animal rights organisations like the Hunt Saboteurs’ Association and the League Against Cruel Sports.

I always thought the Labour party had always been a driving force for progressive change, with most of the positive political changes in the country like equal pay, the NHS, clamping down on race discrimination, the Minimum Wage and the Open University having come from the party. I think we could have achieved a lot more between 1997-2010 but we still did many positive things. I think a Corbyn government could be even more progressive than the Atlee era. 

Also, I would certainly consider contending the Derby North seat again. It does feel like unfinished business, and I do relish the prospect of being part of a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. 

What have you been involved in since May 2015?

I have helped to establish Momentum locally and have sought to engage people in political discussion in community meetings. I have toured the country during both of Corbyn’s leadership campaigns and have helped to set up an advice service out of my former constituency office to provide local people with support. Additionally, I have provided support to Easington MP Grahame Morris. I have enjoyed all the background work, but there’s no substitute for being out there on the frontline as an MP. Being able to intervene when people are being treated unfairly is hugely rewarding. 

The demonisation of Momentum is all nonsense – it was inevitable that it would be met with hostile media coverage, but the truth is that the movement is all about motivated people coming together to build on what Corbyn has already achieved. It has motivated previously disengaged voters, and even sceptics have admitted that the criticism it’s faced isn’t valid, especially after The World Transformed conference. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a small number of people saying inappropriate things under the Momentum banner, but that takes nothing away from the good work being undertaken by the movement. 

Momentum has kept existing members enthusiastic who may have otherwise walked away and given them the opportunity to meet like-minded people, and helped us to retain new members who haven’t been welcomed with open arms by their CLP in some areas. It has been an excellent force for good. 




Can I get your thoughts on the recent reshuffle? What do you think about Blair’s rumoured return to frontline politics?

I am very pleased with the outcome – I am pleased that Jeremy has held faith with those who stepped up to the plate during the orchestrated resignations. People like Clive Lewis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner (who has been a revelation) and Richard Burgon have done an excellent job. The cabinet now reflects the country and the membership much more convincingly. I think people now see voices that are like their own and people that are like them, which should enhance our credibility and convince more to join. 

I think the appointment of Nick Brown as chief whip is a good one – he has the experience and is great at managing personnel. 

As for Blair’s comeback, it would be disastrous. He is a toxic figure. He would have had a much better legacy had he quit in 2001, but his actions after that will define him. A comeback would be a non-starter. I doubt any CLP would select him. The NEC balance of power is now with Jeremy, and I don’t think he would put himself through it anyway. Perhaps he could set up some sort of alternative party – but we all remember what happened with the SDP band of traitors, who essentially handed a landslide victory to the Tories. 

What would you say to someone who is considering joining the party but is cautious due to the malcontents? 

No organisation is perfect, but it’s better to be inside the tent trying to achieve a more progressive vision than outside of it. I have been dreaming about the kind of progressive Labour leadership we now have all my life. In fact, there is now no need for anyone to vote for a leftist alternative like the Greens. There are millions of non-voters to engage and even a bulk of UKIP voters. It’s important that we don’t underestimate Jeremy’s appeal to the young too – his age is irrelevant. Like Bernie Sanders and Tony Benn, he has incredible appeal to neglected young people. 

One of our biggest problems over the years has been getting young people engaged, on the register and out voting. We need to take inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement when they were on a huge registration drive. Look at the phenomenal turnout in the Scottish referendum vote – when people feel engaged and the message is strong enough, they will go out and vote. There are also international examples like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, where there was massive investment from the oil revenues in housing, healthcare and a high minimum wage – poorer people turned out in droves. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of people who haven’t heard the message. 

What do you think about the Michael Foot comparisons? 

I don’t actually buy that bollocks anyway. In the early 1980s, when Foot became the leader after the SDP, we hit 50% on the opinion polls, won back the GLC and various councils. The thing that actually undid us wasn’t the supposed “longest suicide note in history”. There were two main obstacles, the Falklands Factor and the SDP splitting the centre-left vote – and the Tory vote actually went down from 1979. At that time, we didn’t have an alternative way of communicating with people. The assault on Tony Benn was as relentless as what Corbyn has faced, but we had no real efficient way of getting our message out. We can now correct mainstream media nonsense immediately. However, Foot’s leadership was not the total disaster it was portrayed as. 

Neil Kinnock famously attacked Militant, which was a tiny and much more hardline movement compared to Momentum and he moved the party further away from the left, yet it did us no good and he lost us two elections. He was also responsible for Tony Benn not becoming the deputy leader in 1981 due to the electoral college system and the abstentions he led. The 1983 boundary changes saw Tony Benn’s seat being carved up before he won a by-election in 1984 after Kinnock took charge. I believe if Benn had become the deputy leader, he would have gone onto lead the party and the course of history could have been very different. In 1981, when Tony marginally lost the election, we actually saw Kinnock looking dishevelled, offering someone out for a fight whilst Tony remained characteristically dignified.

Speaking of Tony Benn, what are your thoughts on his son? 

The Syria speech and over-the-top applause were clearly all about humiliating Jeremy. I actually worked for Hilary when I was on the front bench. He was a very cautious guy – personable and friendly enough, but his politics were very different to mine and his dad’s. He shares a lot of the same mannerisms, but there’s a suggestion that he didn’t want to be defined by his father. I think Tony Benn would have been delighted to see Jeremy elected. 

It often seems like the malcontents are trying to stamp out progressive left-wing politics from the mainstream, effectively leaving us with a one-party state. 

People like myself and others put up with Blair for so many years – I was never happy with him from day one but I accepted his mandate, saying we still would do what we could realistically do within the confines of what was laid down. However, what this lot have been doing is simply unbelievable, inexcusable and unacceptable. They are refusing to even give Corbyn a chance – couldn’t they give him three years to prove himself? They have been attempting to sabotage his leadership since day one – and even before. 

Figures like Simon Danczuk? It’s hard to believe he’s a real person at times. 

He’s a caricature. I actually know him. He actually invited me to his wedding. After I was sacked from the front bench, we sat on the Communities and Local Government Committee together. He did some good work on that and the Cyril Smith investigation, but when it all started to go to his head and his profile became bigger, he seemed to change. His behaviour regarding Jeremy has been completely unacceptable – I tried to convince him to accept Jeremy’s mandate but it fell on deaf ears. I think he was fit for parliament at one point but this is no longer the case. The media have used him and spat him out. His earnings from media work were actually the highest in parliament at one point, when he was writing for our political enemies like the Daily Mail and The Sun. He is actually from a working-class background too, which makes his stance a real shame. 




Surely not all 172 MPs were aggressively anti-Corbyn. Do you think a fraction may have been coerced or manipulated by more powerful figures? 

Absolutely. However, when I was in there, there were quite a few professional careerists. For instance, the former chief whip asked me what my career plan was when I was a new MP. I told her I didn’t have one and she seemed taken aback, telling me all of my colleagues had key milestones. I said I was never going to turn a front bench position down but I was mainly focused on doing my job and representing people. 

When Liam Byrne urged us to back the benefit cap, I made an impassioned plea that we shouldn’t be attacking the victims of Tory policies. We of course should have done more to tackle high rents when we were in government, but this issue had been high on my own agenda for years. I soon started to wonder to myself why nobody else had spoken out, even though they had congratulated me in private. It quickly dawned on me that vast numbers of MPs were worried about not blotting their copy book in case it hindered their career progression. I think the majority of the PLP incorrectly calculated that nobody would be able to withstand the pressure Jeremy was under. 

I expect a lot of the MPs thought that if they didn’t resign, their future standing and career chances would be seriously affected and they would be confined to the back benches forevermore. As soon as it became clear that Corbyn wasn’t going anywhere, I suspect a lot of them panicked. 

I was surprised to see figures like Lisa Nandy and Louise Haigh joining the attempted coup.


Yes, I was hugely disappointed in Lisa Nandy. She has been on the receiving end of some disgusting abuse on social media, but I don’t believe that it is coming from genuine Corbyn supporters? Plus, in any case, the perpetrators are a small minority. I did get on with Lisa really well, she’s very strong-willed and was excellent under Ed Miliband. I do get a lot of abuse on social media myself, as do most people in politics, but I pay no attention and just block those responsible if necessary. 





Do some right-leaning Labour MPs invite abuse by being deliberately provocative? 

Certainly, there a handful of absolutely awful individuals who have made various nasty below-the-belt attacks on me and others. They have talked about me “throwing away my seat” and gloated about me not winning the NCC nomination. In fact, delegates were offered free drinks for voting against me – they were well-organised in getting their delegates in early, but I’m not sure the delegates that were there truly reflected the membership – this is another reason why the left of the party do need to become more organised. The bureaucratic side of politics does put a lot of people off, but it is entirely necessary. I do think it’s best that people refrain from sending vitriolic comments in response to deliberately antagonistic posts. 

The outbursts by some against Corbyn in the House of Commons have been disgraceful. I had a run-in with one of them when I was on the front bench and speaking out against the benefit cap – he unleashed a torrent of foul language, accused me of “grandstanding” and asked me who I thought I was – before long, he was joined by another prominent MP and she joined in with him.  The disruption of PLP meetings by some of these characters, since Jeremy was elected leader, is totally unacceptable. 

I would be delighted if these saboteurs were deselected – there has to be some sort of limit as to what is accepted. The boundary changes may help resolve things, but certain individuals have no business representing the Labour party. We do need more people in the Labour party that share Jeremy’s vision, as the malcontents will use every trick in the book to try and derail it – it becomes harder and harder for them to achieve that with a strong progressive membership. 

How do you relax away from politics?

Politics takes up most of my life – I am now getting to a time in my life when I am experiencing more ailments despite being a lifelong vegan. We do like walking and cycling, and I do like reading and watching sport. Politics has been all-consuming – even on a recent holiday in the Cornwall where support for Labour is swelling I ended up speaking for the party at an event. Even when I am relaxing, I keep a close eye on the political scene. 

Cheers, Chris!