Tools down it's festival time

Brighton werewolves, saying the N-word and rusty nails through your nose

Dear Marina

As a born, bred and proud resident of Portslade, I have always treated you B-right-on people with suspicion. So it came as no surprise when I heard that Brighton police are putting more officers on the beat at a full moon. Is it because everyone there is a werewolf or something more sinister?

Worried, Sussex

More sinister, definitely. It’s a knee jerk response to people engaging with the natural world – have you ever wandered in the darkness on a moonlit night? Magical.

The full moon has always brought people outdoors. Pre-street lighting the big houses in the country held their balls on a full moon to make it easier for people to find their way. Successful trysts, ditto. But poaching’s better on a dark moon, for obvious reasons.

If people are allowed to go about their business of meeting up with friends in public spaces they might start having genuine fun, instead of being stuck at home in front of the telly.

And we all know that genuine fun has a tendency to encourage humanity to actually care about life. Next individuals might talk and together decide to act on their cares and before we know it we’ll have a cultural revolution on our hands and the G8 will have to keep its promises and the power will reside with the people. You can understand the authorities wanting to take precautions.

I feel a full moon protest party coming on. The kids are going to howl with laughter.

Dear Marina

Did you watch Big Brother? Emily “there’s a new music and it’s called indie” Parr has been booted out for saying the N-word. Now I know she’s a Tory voter but it was a bit harsh, don’t you think?
Jade, Essex

Oh Jade. I haven’t got a TV owing to it not liking being switched off properly every time – it was designed to be left on standby – what’s that about?

Anyway, having trained the kids up proper, the telly stopped responding to a positive current. So no, I haven’t watched BB. Or read a newspaper or even listened to the radio (my son sat on the wind-up’s aerial. You can vaguely still get Radio Five, but other than that it’s all French).

To what are you referring when you use the word harsh? Her expulsion or her use of the N-word? How did she use it? If it’s any help, I’m on the road quite a bit these days, preparing for a festival I’m helping to organise in September (www.outoftheordinaryfestival.com).

Among the Traveller community, I meet some of the most creative free spirits on the planet who have much to teach the housed population. When I meet them, they’re hired.

As I travel on with some I’m occasionally afforded a small insight into what it must feel like to be truly offended – hurt – by the use of the N-word.

The word Traveller itself is a dirty word in some mindsets. And yet it is the official term for a disparate band of tribes many of whom have no more in common with their fellow travellers than the fact that they all experience prejudice.

Much like Blacks, Muslims, Asians, Chavs, young people, old people and the rest. I guess we all live with prejudice. I’m a single mother of two, Liberal Democrat revolutionary, so called witch and your mum’s a lesbian. Are we in agreement? But when the opportunity arises to speak out and act against it, speak out and act we must.

Hence BB has refocused its editorial policy on such matters. Fair enough. Although since we’ve all had our sensibilities crushed by your unique take on cultural affairs, in this context the girl's removal might well be construed as harsh by many. Others will say lessons have been learned. While others still will contest that they haven’t been learned at all.

Keep in touch Jade. I’m off to some festival at Herstmonceux Castle this weekend, then on to Glastonbury. Maybe catch you at Secret Garden Party in July. I’m in the Feast of Fools tent. After that Small World and then Out of the Ordinary. Jade you are going to just love my zero waste strategy.

Not only will festival goers be expected to sort their paper/cans/plastics/compost, they must also, should they bring supermarket items on site separate out the non-recyclable packaging.

This will be returned to the relevant supermarket sources – en masse. Well what’s the alternative? Why should Out of the Ordinary pay to dispose of it? We’d rather spend the money on more artists. God, the world needs them. I think a bit of widening of your horizons is in order. Why not come and help? We could call it Community Service. It could be the makings of us all.

Dear Marina

My 18-year-old son, who sports a red Mohican and rusty nail through his nose left for Germany last week telling me he was “going to put the boot in.” Reading my Daily Mail, I realise now he’s been off lobbing rocks at Vladimir Putin and his G8 chums. What I can’t understand is why he’s so angry when all the G8 seem to want to do is give money to Africa and sort out climate change. Am I confused?

Bewildered, Surbiton

If you want peace, prepare for war. You must be so proud of your son getting fired up in his war paint and going off to play his part in making the world a better place.

Without our young guns sorting out the publicity, we’d never notice the G8 met and made promises.

Well done you for bring up such a well rounded young man. Now we just have to work out how to steer the G8 in a more positive direction than its usual round of Talk Global Do Fuck All Local.

Just one word of caution: don’t let your son go out with a rusty nail through his nose. As a Daily Mail reader, you must surely have been warned on the health pages at some point that it can’t be good for him.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.