Show Hide image

Noel Gallagher: Looking back in anger

Noel Gallagher explains why he regrets posing with Tony Blair, prefers Thatcher to today’s politicians – and rejects the idea of working-class guilt.

Gallagher: “Ed Balls can frankly lick mine on his way to and from obscurity”
Portrait by Alan Clarke

Do you regret endorsing Tony Blair or New Labour?

Nah, not really. It was a great time in history. The grip of Thatcherism was being smashed. New Labour had been brilliant in opposition. When Tony Blair spoke, his words seemed to speak to people, young people. Call me naive but I felt something – I’m not quite sure what it was, but I felt it all the same. I do regret that picture at No 10 that night, though . . . I can still smell the cheese!

Would you go for tea with David Cameron?

Maybe. He looks like he could do with a good strong cup of Yorkshire. I don’t mind him, to be honest. No one actually takes him seriously, do they? All that “call me Dave” gear – hilarious.

Which politicians do you admire/despise?

Not many. What’s to admire, anyway – the way they fiddle their expenses? If I have to, though, I’d say: Winston Churchill, for his name alone. Dennis Skinner, because he absolutely takes no shit off the toffs, and Tony Blair because he played guitar and smoked a bit of weed (allegedly!). Somewhat predictably, the despise list is a bit longer. I won’t go into it here, I haven’t got all day, but in the interests of fairness and balance I’ll say . . . off the top of my head: Diane Abbott, [Ken] Clarke, Portillo, Boris-f***ing-Johnson, that little ginger bitch that ceremoniously gave back the money she’d fiddled during the expenses scandal, Norman Tebbit! Peter Mandelson! George-f***ing-Osborne. If I don’t stop now, this could literally go on longer than Be Here Now.

Who would you vote for if there were an election tomorrow?

I’m not sure I would vote. I didn’t feel last time that there was anything left to vote for. Doesn’t seem that anything has changed, ergo . . . ?

Do you think you pay your fair amount of tax as a rich person?

No. I think we should return to the Sixties when we paid 80 per cent tax so government can piss it up the wall on the war machine and bailing out the banks and funding ludicrous “initiatives” to help “stimulate” the economy. The economy that successive governments oversaw the destruction of. I think I pay just about enough, thanks . . . and you?

Do you believe in God?

Sadly no. And I don’t believe in the devil either. Or ghosts. Or Father Christmas, for that matter.

How do you feel when you see politicians at public events?

 Public events I don’t have a problem with. Although when you see them backstage at Glastonbury you are thinking: “Really, just f*** off.” I’m amazed “Dave” hasn’t popped down for the weekend to get down with the middle classes. When I see them at (for want of a better term) showbiz events, that really winds me up. We were at the GQ Awards recently and the gaff was crawling with them; they were even giving speeches and getting awards. Boris-f***ing-Johnson got an award for “Politician of the Year”. I was speechless an award like that even exists, and he was boasting – in a Nineties rock-star full-of-cheng style – at how brilliant he must be due to the fact that he’d won the same award three times. Will.i.(haven’t got a f***ing clue) Hague was there while that crisis in Syria was blowing up.

I genuinely thought these people would have more important things to be getting on with. Clearly, scratching the back of said magazine and its editor takes precedence over all. Shameful behaviour. Though not as shameful as ours, eh, Rusty?

Did you trust politicians in the Seventies and Eighties more than contemporary figures such as Osborne or Ed Balls?

You could trust them in the sense that you knew exactly where you stood with them. Neil Kinnock, for example: no grey areas. He knew who he was and what he stood for. Thatcher, even. We knew she was the enemy. She hated us; we hated her. All was right in the world.

This new generation are media opportunists, shilly-shallying flag-wavers, the musical equivalent of Enya. If they were a colour, they’d be beige.

I have no doubt that George Osborne would’ve practised his weeping the night before Thatcher’s funeral. He might be the most slappable man in England, the kind of man that would watch Coronation Street or EastEnders to get a perspective on the working class.

Ed Balls can quite frankly lick mine on his way to and from obscurity.

Whom will you tell your sons to vote for?

Politics will surely be dead as a f***ing parrot by the time the two young lords get the vote.

Can music influence politics?

Not really. Musicians would have you believe otherwise, of course. On the other hand, music can and does shape society – and society in the long run eventually shapes politics. But if you’re suggesting that “Dave” hears the new Fatboy Slim tune “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” and suddenly advocates 24-hour clubbing, then you’re mental.

Are the working class represented in modern politics?

 I don’t think so, and that wouldn’t be by accident either. The de-education of the masses has seen to that. Sad but true.

Do you suffer from working-class guilt?

Working-class guilt – if such a thing exists – exists only in the offices of the Guardian. Only in the mind of the Guardian journalist who feels he’s let his right-on parents down by not writing for Socialist Worker.

Working-class guilt is for the middle-class Observer columnist what wishes he wasn’t such a joyless square; who feels bad that his favourite bottle of rosé costs more than £9.99. The rest of us, on the other hand, are too busy living to give a shit.

Do you ever vote?

Not if I can help it.

How could we re-engage people who feel that politics “isn’t for them”?

Good luck with that! Politics itself isn’t that bad. It would seem it’s central to our very being – y’know, being British and democratic and all that. The trouble with politics, like most things in the world, is the people that are in it. Politicians. How can people relate to politics if they can’t relate to politicians?

Should we regulate or legalise drug use?

Not sure that would be the best idea. Decriminalise the use of psychedelics? Maybe yes. But heroin – the fleetwood [Editor: as in Mac/smack]? Cocaine? Nah, not for me. To open the door to every tourist drug monkey in Europe would be a nightmare. There’s enough tourists here anyway! Have you been to Amsterdam?

Are we all doomed?

People will always find a way to soldier on. Even at its worst there’s enough to be proud of in this country: music, football, the arts and fashion. These things come and go in cycles. I mean who could’ve foreseen during the darkness of the Eighties how incredible the Nineties would be?

Hang in there, I say. The magic is coming. And when it does come, next time do yourself a favour: get involved, enjoy it. It never lasts that long.

 

This article first appeared in the 23 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Russell Brand Guest Edit

Warner Brothers
Show Hide image

Nigel Farage's love for Dunkirk shows how Brexiteers learned the wrong lessons from WWII

Film has given Britain a dangerously skewed perspective on World War II

For months now it’s been hard to avoid the publicity for what seems like an epidemic of new World War Two films for 2017. June brought us Churchill (starring Brian Cox), which concerns Operation Overlord and the allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. A month later, in July we were pushed back four years, to Dunkirk, with Christopher Nolan’s film of the evacuation of Allied troops from French soil in the summer of 1940. April had already brought Their Finest, a comedy about making a - let us not let the irony go unacknowledged -  stirring film about the evacuation of Dunkirk in the event’s more or less immediate aftermath and November will bring us Darkest Hour, some events in which will predate all three earlier films, as Gary Oldman’s Churchill struggles through the earliest days of his war premiership.

This glut is peculiar. There are no significant round anniversaries to commemorate (e.g. Dunkirk is 77 years ago, the Normandy landings 73). More, we’re meant to be in the middle of a series of commemorations of the horror and waste of the Great War of 1914-18, but that seems to have slipped away from us in the political turmoil that’s engulfed this country since 2014. Instead, it’s to the Second World War we return yet again. To modern Britain’s founding myth.

It’s a coincidence, of course, that these films should come along together, and at a seemingly odd time. They were developed separately, and films takes so long to conceive and produce that no one could have anticipated them arriving together, let alone arriving in a toxic Brexit Britain where they seem like literally the least useful things for anyone in the UK to watch right now. As works that will inevitably, whatever their own creative intentions and merits, be hi-jacked by a press and political culture that is determined to gloss its opposition to the UK’s membership of the European Union, and its appalling mishandling of the process of exit with garbled references to, the conflict the films portray.

This is an impression that is not exactly dismissed by Nigel Farage posting to twitter of an image of himself standing next to the poster for Dunkirk, along with a statement in which he encourages all young people to see the film. For what reason, we’re entitled to wonder, does he make this encouragement? Does he admire the sound design? Or the aerial photography? Or is he just a big fan of Mark Rylance and Harry Styles? Or perhaps he is, inevitably, indulging in a behaviour that some might call "nostalgic"? Of pining for the past. Except, of course, nostalgia requires an element of pain. The suffix "algia" the same as employed when referring to chronic conditions. For Farage and his ilk there is no pain in this behaviour, just the most extraordinarily banal comfort.

Farage is asking us and asking the young who voted against his chosen cause by an overwhelming majority, and who are are sickened by where he and his ilk have brought us - to share in his indulgence. To enjoy, as he does, those fatuous analogies between the UK’s isolation between Dunkirk and Pearl Harbour with its imminent failures in European politics. To see that "escaping from Europe with nothing is at least better than not escaping at all". Or to believe, once again, in a "plucky little Britain, standing up against the might of a wicked mainland European tyranny, its back against the wall".

All this, confused, indeed nonsensical, as it is, is being invoked, as surely as the anti-EU right have always invoked Churchill. This is despite his own family recognising him, as the EU itself does, as the fervent pro-European he was. Indeed, he was one of the founding fathers of the whole post-war pan-European enterprise.

What Farage and his behaviour demonstrates, yet again, is that British culture, in many ways, learned not merely the wrong lessons from the war against Hitler, but exactly the wrong lessons. It’s a lesson that found its most enduring, poisonous expression in Margaret Thatcher’s breathtaking assertion that the European Union was a "third attempt" by Germany to take over the world.

In contrast to the rush of war films in cinemas, television has recently given us glimpses into theoretical worlds where Nazism did succeed in conquering the planet, in Amazon Prime’s The Man In The High Castle and BBC One’s SS-GB. There are lessons too, in these alternative histories, proper lessons that we have collectively failed to learn from the real one. Which is that fascism or authoritarianism are not diseases to which anglophone countries are somehow miraculously immune due to [insert misunderstood historical fetish of choice].

The Man in the High Castle, particularly in its more subtle first series, goes out of its way to show Americans that their lack of experience of collaboration with Nazi occupation is a result of circumstance, even luck. Not because collaboration is a peculiarly European tendency. SS-GB also worked hard to demonstrate the helplessness of occupation, and how that leads to the sheer ordinariness of collaboration. Both show the understanding that while fascism from the outside is funny accents and funny uniforms, fascism from the inside is your neighbours informing on you and the absence of the rule of law.

That experience of occupation, of subsequent complicity, and humiliation, felt by many other other European nations, is absent in Britain. Farage’s fellow Leaver Liam Fox, without anything resembling self-awareness, asserted that "the United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history". Fox’s remark summed up, again seemingly unintentionally, the oafishness of the principle Brexiteers. A group who exemplify a culture that boils a vast and unimaginably complex conflict down to the title sequence of Dad’s Army - an animation in which a Union Flag is forced off the European continent by a trio of Nazi triangles, and after returning home bobs around defiantly. A group who, in a strange and witless inversion, have fantasised themselves into a position where they see the Britain’s membership of the European Union as the occupation the country once avoided.

This is the UK’s postponed tragedy. At a timethat European countries experienced national humiliations which fundamentally reconfigured their understandings of their place in the world, the UK got yet another excuse to shout about how much better it was than everyone else.

I’m a child of the very late Seventies. I grew up in a world where (British) boys’ comics were dominated by war stories rather than science fiction or superheroes, where literally everyone knew several people who had fought in World War Two - and almost everyone someone who could remember World War One. That war was the ever-present past. I am, as a friend who teaches history neatly phrased it "Of the last post-war generation." After me, the generations are post-post-war. They are free. The moral clarity of the war against Hitler has, in the end, been a curse on British culture - a distorting mirror in which we can always see ourselves as heroes. 

But, not, of course, all other generations. The war generation collectively (I make no claim that there were not exceptions) understood what the war was. Which meant they understood that the European Union was, and is, its antonym, not an extension of it. Unlike their children and the eldest of their grandchildren, they had real experience of the conflict, they hadn’t just grown up surrounded by films about how great Britain was during it.

The Prime Minister who, or so he thought, had secured Britain’s European destiny had also, as he related in his autobiography, seen the devastation wrought by that conflict, including by shells he himself had given the order to be fired. Like Helmut Kohl, whose worshipped, conscripted older brother died pointlessly fighting for Hitler, and Francois Mitterrand, himself captured during the fall of France, his experience was real and lived, not second hand.

This can be seen even in the voting in 2016 referendum. That the young principally voted Remain and the old voted Leave has been often noted. But if you break that over-65 vote up further, there’s a substantial flip to back towards Remain amongst the oldest voters, the survivors of the survivors of World War Two. After all, someone who is 65 today was born nearly a decade after the war ended. It was their parents’ war, not their own. A war that has been appropriated, and for purposes of which those who fought in it would, collectively, not approve.

Let’s return to Dad’s Army, after all, BBC Two does often enough. Don’t Panic! The Dad’s Army Story (2000) a cheerful history of the sitcom great written and presented by Victoria Wood contains a telling juxtaposition of interviewees. The series' surprising continued popularity is discussed and Wendy Richard (born 1943) expresses a nostalgia for the war years, and how people banded together during them. This is a sentiment which Clive Dunn (born 1920) bluntly dismisses. “Like most people I had a foul war,” he says, and disgust and horror briefly pass across his face.

It’s the difference between those who remember war, and those who only remember war films.