Captain Ska on "Liar Liar"

An interview with the campaigning musician who hopes to be Christmas No. 1.

Captain Ska is a musician from Camberwell in London whose anti-cuts single "Liar Liar", which launched on Monday, is a contender for this year's Christmas No. 1. Since the video went online at the beginning of October it has run up over 128,000 youtube hits and attracted comment from the Observer and the BBC.

Is the "Liar Liar" refrain in your song directed at Nick Clegg?

The song is anti-coalition and anti-cuts. Clegg is dreadful but likewise so are Cameron and Osborne. The whole idea of the cuts is totally wrong.

Is making political music a new thing for you?

It's new. I'm a freelance musician and have been writing songs with a slight political edge for awhile but this is the first time I felt really angry and that's why I decided to get involved.

Have you thought about the effect you want to have with the song or is it just an outlet for your frustrations?

I'm really angry and think that other people should be too. My initial thought was to have an outlet for some of my frustrations but now the song seems to have taken a life of its own. I wasn't at the protest on Thursday but my song was.

What do you think about what Nick Clegg's comments referring to opponents of raised tuition fees as "dreamers"?

That's outrageous, absolutely outrageous. Clegg is a liar. He's obviously been waiting for a bit of power for awhile. He's got his place in the government. That he can say what he said is outrageous. This is the end of Clegg. It's probably the end of the Liberal Democrats. It will be a very long time before people vote for them ever again.

Do you think the protests will change the political landscape of this country?

They will make a difference, yes. I spoke to someone the other day who was my age in the eighties when the poll tax riots were happening. It wasn't the violence that made a difference; it was the mass mobilisation and general feeling that something was wrong. When you had 5,000 people marching in small provincial towns and local MPs seeing it, that's what made a difference.

It feels to me like nobody is behind these cuts, no one thinks they're being done in the best way, even people on the right seem to think it's being done too quickly. I know there were a couple of Tory abstainers in the vote.

So you're optimistic about the future?

Last week's vote on tuition fees was a disaster but I don't see this government lasting much longer. At some point in the next few months the Liberal Democrats will realise that unless they start to vote against things they're not happy with then they're going to be political history. I don't think the government's going to last much longer and it's really important that we keep up the pressure, especially on Liberal Democrat MPs. They are in a difficult situation and we can put pressure on them to make them think about what they're doing.

You talk a lot about your anger but seem very calm in person.

Well, I think the anger I've got is similar to a lot of people's. You don't have to be screaming and shouting to think that things are wrong. Outlets for anger can come through a lot of things and for me it's through my song writing. Last night, when I saw the vote come in that's possibility the most angry I've felt. I thought "wow this is really happening. We really are ruining the country. It is just happening." I had hoped that more MPs would abstain but they didn't and the vote was passed. So what started as medium amounts of anger, enough to make a track and put together a video has now risen.

I also think that more important than being overtly angry is having your point of view out there. If you can enter the general subconscious with your point of view that this is wrong then you're going to reach more people. You can shout and shout and be heard by 100 people or you can talk moderately and thousands of people will listen and that's what the anti-cuts movement needs.

Proceeds from "Liar Liar" will go to False Economy, Crisis, Disability Alliance and Women's Health Matters

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.