Celebrated International Workers Day with a crowd of other well-meaning white middle-class couples worried about their pensions. We came together to watch the sainted Billy Bragg and to remember when there was fire in our bellies instead of a worrying amount of fat.
Billy himself, bless ‘im, continues to blend relentless positivity with a clearsighted view of the world and the bad guys. It was at once energising and poignant to hear spluttering rage directed onto the heads of the Tories again, and as for Nick Clegg – well, Bragg voted LibDem at the last election, tactically, to keep the Tories out. You can probably imagine what he thinks of them now.
Highlight, musically and politically, was Billy’s cover of Woody Guthrie’s Ain’t Got No Home. Here’s the original:
Here’s Billy doing it in 2009:
And here, somewhat surprisingly and quite importantly, is a quote from last week’s edition of The Economist:
Youth unemployment is especially high, and joblessness among the young leaves lasting scars. Strong productivity growth has been achieved partly through the elimination of many mid-skilled jobs. And what makes this all the more worrying is that, below the radar screen, America had employment problems long before the recession, particularly for lesser-skilled men. These were caused not only by sweeping changes from technology and globalisation, which affect all countries, but also by Americaâ€™s habit of locking up large numbers of young black men, which drastically diminishes their future employment prospects. America has a smaller fraction of prime-age men in work and in the labour force than any other G7 economy. Some 25% of men aged 25-54 with no college degree, 35% of high-school dropouts and almost 70% of black high-school dropouts are not working.
As Woody (and Billy sang), those men ain’t got no home. When The Economist, Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie find themselves in agreement, we should all take notice.
And no-one in the world sings the Internationale like Billy Bragg. If there’d been a barricade outside the Festival Hall, I would have manned it.