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

Getty
Show Hide image

"Labour are as pro-Brexit as the Tories": what do Sinn Fein's MPs really want from Westminster?

Its seven MPs are much less sympathetic to Corbyn's party than popularly imagined, and won't ever take their seats.

Should the Conservative minority government fall, what is Jeremy Corbyn’s route to power? The counterfactual as popularly understood goes like this: Corbyn would pick up the phone to his old pal Gerry Adams and convince Sinn Fein’s seven MPs to abandon the habit of a century and take their seats.

There are countless reasons why this would never happen, most of them obvious. One is more surprising. Despite Corbyn’s longstanding links with the republican cause, the Labour party is not all that popular among a new intake, which is preoccupied with one thing above all else: Brexit.

No wonder. Sinn Fein’s long game is an all-Ireland one, and the party believe the UK’s departure from the EU will hasten reunification. In the meantime, however, its priority is a Brexit deal that gives Northern Ireland – where 56 per cent of voters backed remain – designated status within the EU.

Pioneered by the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party as an antidote to Brexit, designated status would allow the six counties in the North to continue to enjoy the EU’s four freedoms. But the idea is anathema to unionists and the UK government, and Sinn Fein sees little evidence that the Westminster establishment will make it work – not even Labour.

“They are as pro-Brexit as the Conservatives are,” says Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy. “We’re anti-Brexit. We want to see the right of the people in the North who voted to remain in Europe respected.”

Simmering resentment over what the party perceives to have been broken promises on Tony Blair’s part – especially over legal protection for the Irish language, a key stumbling block obstructing the resumption of power-sharing – makes the already implausible deal even less likely.

“The Irish language act was something that Blair agreed to,” says Molloy. “So when people talk about us taking our seats, they don’t realise we would be backing a Labour government that wouldn’t be living up to its commitments either, and would be just as pro-Brexit as the Conservatives are."

That criticism may well surprise a lay audience whose working assumption is that Adams and Corbyn work hand in glove. But it is perhaps the best illustration of Sinn Fein’s parliamentary priorities: its seven MPs will not in any circumstances take their seats but use their Westminster presence to lobby ministers and MPs of all stripes while running constituency offices at home (they are unsalaried, but claim expenses).

Crucially, its MPs believe abstentionism strengthens, rather than weakens their negotiating hand: by their logic other parties need not and do not fear them given the fact they do not have voting power.

They will use their leverage to agitate for special status above all else. “Special status is the biggest issue that we are lobbying for,” says Molloy. “We feel that is the best way of securing and retaining EU membership. But if we get a referendum on Irish unity and the people vote for that, then the North will automatically join the EU.”

But that wasn’t always the received wisdom. That assurance was in fact secured by Mark Durkan, the former deputy first minister and SDLP MP beaten by Sinn Fein last week, after an exchange with Brexit secretary David Davis at the leaving the EU select committee. The defeat of the three SDLP MPs – two of them by Sinn Fein – means there will be no Irish nationalist voice in the commons while Brexit is negotiated.

Surely that’s bad news for Northern Irish voters? “I don’t think it is,” says Molloy. “The fact we took two seats off the SDLP this time proves abstentionism works. It shows they didn’t deliver by attending. We have a mandate for abstentionism. The people have now rejected attendance at Westminster, and rejected Westminster itself. We’ve never been tempted to take our seats at all. It is very important we live by our mandate.”

If they did, however, they would cut the Conservatives’ and Democratic Unionist Party’s working majority from 13 to a much more precarious six. But Molloy believes any alliance will be a fundamentally weak one and that all his party need do is wait. “I think it’ll be short-lived,” he says. “Every past arrangement between the British government and unionist parties has always ended in tears.”

But if the DUP get its way – the party has signed a confidence and supply deal which delivers extra cash for Northern Ireland – then it need not. Arlene Foster has spoken of her party’s desire to secure a good deal for the entire country. Unsurprisingly, however, Sinn Fein does not buy the conciliatory rhetoric.

“They’ve never really tried to get a good deal for everybody,” says Michelle Gildernew, who won the hyper-marginal of Fermanagh and South Tyrone back from the Ulster Unionists last week. “The assembly and executive [which Sinn Fein and the DUP ran together] weren’t working for a lot of groups – whether that was the LGBT community, the Irish language community, or women...they might say they’re going to work for everybody, but we’ll judge them by their actions, not their words.”

Molloy agrees, and expresses concern that local politicians won’t be able to scrutinise new spending. “The executive needs to be up and running to implement that, and to ensure a fair distribution. If there’s new money coming into the North, we welcome that, but it has to be done through the executive.”

On current evidence, the call for local ministers to scrutinise the Conservatives’ deal with the DUP is wishful thinking – Northern Ireland has been without an executive since February, when the late Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister and triggered a snap election.

The talks since have been defined by intransigence and sluggishness. James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary, has had to postpone the talks deadline on four separate occasions, and has been criticised by nationalists for his perceived closeness to the DUP.

The final deadline for the restoration of an executive is 29 June 2017. Sinn Fein has called for Brokenshire to recuse himself in favour of a neutral chair. “His hands are tied now, completely,” says Molloy. “The Conservative party were always questionable on where they stood – they’ve always been unionists. The issue now is whether they can act neutrally as a guarantor to the Good Friday Agreement.”

He believes that question is already settled. “Legally, they have to act to ensure that nothing happens to damage that agreement – but we’ve already breached it through Brexit. There was no consultation. The people of the North voted to remain and it hasn’t been recognised. It totally undermines the consent principle.”

Just how they and Brokenshire interpret that principle – the part of the Good Friday Agreement that specifies the constitutional status of the North can only change by consent of its people – will be key to whether they can achieve their ultimate goal: Irish unity.

Molloy and Gildernew say the fact that 11 of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies voted to remain in the EU is enough for Brokenshire to call one within the next five years (though polling consistently shows that a clear majority of the province’s electorate, including a substantial minority of nationalists, would vote to stay in the UK). They are confident they can win, though, failing that, Molloy envisages it as the first in several referenda on unification.

But beneath the optimism lies the knowledge that the British government are unlikely to heed their calls. And, willingly absent from the Westminster chamber, they say the UK government’s discussions about Brexit are illegitimate. They see their real powerbase as elsewhere: in Dublin’s Dail Eireann, where Sinn Fein is the third largest party, and the chancelleries of Europe.

“That’s where most of the negotiation will actually happen,” says Molloy. “The EU27 will make the decisions. They won’t be made in Westminster, because the British have already set out what they’re doing: they’re leaving.”

But with seven MPs already lobbying ministers and a united Ireland unlikely to happen in the immediate future, Sinn Fein itself won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

0800 7318496