Morrissey: "I nearly voted for UKIP"

The singer unburdened himself in a recent interview with Loaded.

In an interview published in the latest edition of Loaded magazine, Morrissey has described David Cameron as “gratuitously violent,” and expressed his desire to see Yvette Cooper “thrown into the sea”. In the most politically charged interview of his career, Morrissey also said he felt it was difficult to imagine Ed Miliband as Britain’s Prime Minister, and spoke of his admiration for Nigel Farage and UKIP.

Sensing Morrissey was in the mood to talk politics, interviewer Ian Edmondson invited him to pitch his manifesto for the country, to which the singer replied:

I’d naturally scrap the Honours List because it now exists only for anyone who supports the monarchy. I’d outlaw the craparazzi, who infringe upon the new stalking laws and who are a social danger; no third runway at Heathrow because, as we all know, it would be another kick in Mother Nature’s teeth; abolish DST/winter clocks because the affect of shifting time disrupts public safety, medical devices, travel, sleep, entertainment, sports, energy, all computer settings – so why bother? I’d outlaw vivisection but I’d allow anyone who supported animal experiments to put themselves forward in place of the animals. I’d ban zoos and circuses and anything similar that causes misery; I’d re-introduce red and green rear-platform Routemaster buses nationally, and have them re-powered with modern euro engines and exhausts – clippies and conductors are as essential to British life as the NHS; I’d ban foie gras from it’s final smugglers cove at Fortnum and Masons; I’d hang on to sterling, yet withdraw from the Europe Fan Club, and I’d plough the wasteful cost of being euro back into the NHS; I’d stop foreign aid because we’ve been nice enough in that department, and I’d allow the British people to hold on to their own money.”

Morrissey, a known republican with fierce anti-royal views, then began his now commonplace attack on the royal family:

“The royals must obviously resign and retire in the interests of the country, because they have proven to be an unfailing global embarrassment and they alone make England seem like a silly place to live. They are the laughing-stock of the world and their hold has gone.”

Morrissey’s opinion of David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher was equally as scathing:

As far as I understand it, he shoots stag for fun. This strikes me as being more gratuitously violent than anything that took place in riot Britain of 2011. If I kicked a dog I’d be fined £200, yet we’re asked to accept Cameron shooting down a majestic stag just for a hoot. Weird world, isn’t it? There are people doing life terms in prison who have done less damage than Thatcher. She was deeply unjust, and she hated anyone who didn’t fit in with her own philosophy. She hated the Irish freedom fighters, she hated the miners, she hated the English poor, she was the only European leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit, no interest in the arts, and I just don’t think she has overcome all the hatred she aroused in people. If you were unemployed in late 70s Britain, Thatcher made you feel much worse about yourself, and she was certainly responsible for much of my depression when I was 20, and you feel repercussions from that period throughout the rest of your life. Even Heseltine couldn’t stand her, so how were the rest of us to feel?

He continued his dissection of British politics by pouring scorn on the idea of Labour leader Ed Miliband ever becoming Prime Minister:

As for Ed Miliband I don’t think anybody anticipates that time [becoming prime minister]. In fact, I even forget that he’s there, and if vocal clarity is an essential for any political leader, then I’m afraid Ed is screwed. It’s a shame Claire Short lumbered after Blair into the Iraq abyss because I thought she was otherwise quite sane.

Then came the line which has grabbed most attention on Twitter: his admiration for Nigel Farage and UKIP:

I nearly voted for UKIP. I like Nigel Farage a great deal. His views are quite logical – especially where Europe is concerned, although it was plain daft of him to applaud the lavish expense of the Royal Wedding at a time when working-class England were told to cut-back, shut-up and get stuffed.

Morrissey rarely gets through an interview without promoting animal rights, and this was no exception, this time comparing the meat industry to Auschwitz:

My main concern is what’s known as the meat industry, which is of course the death industry, and is destroying the planet in several ways, its destroying people’s health in several ways, and is a modern Auschwitz for the animals. As long as the abattoir exists in modern society then the human race is not humane at all. If you think animals are slaughtered humanely then you should try it for yourself sometime – you won’t be laughing.

He also saved some of his ire for Yvette Cooper and Theresa May, two politicians he claims refuse to answer questions directly:

Being a politician is all about concealment, and not enlightenment. The worst exponent of the filibuster is the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper. I have seen her interviewed many times, and there are no circumstances under which she will actually answer any question put to her, yet she prattles on with her replies saying only whatever best serves her. Jon Snow for Channel 4 recently tried to demand either a yes or no reply from her, and it was quite incredible how she felt no obligation whatsoever to answer in a helpful way. She ought to be thrown into the sea. On the other hand, Theresa May for the Condemns will answer every question by saying ‘I’ve made it absolutely clear, and the government have been absolutely clear’ and she’ll repeat ‘absolutely clear’ within each response so that over and over we are hypnotised with Theresa May’s technique of being ‘absolutely clear’, even though she can’t be clear about whatever it is she’s certain she’s being absolutely clear about. It’s an almost sleep-inducing spell where the listeners will believe the words to be true if they hear them parroted out ad nauseam.

[As for politicians in general] whichever way you look at it, it’s all benefit fraud, but when done by MPs it’s given a softer name – as if our learned friend’s haven’t quite created the misery for themselves, and here they are carrying a burden that isn’t really their own. Meanwhile, an obese Wakefield mum who over-claims maternity benefit for Little Sacha gets the Fraud Scum treatment by The Sun, solely because she doesn’t have any friends in outer temple chambers. Imperious politicians robbing from the public purse is reported as being such a terribly unusual thing, when you really must wonder who’s at it right now and simply hasn’t been caught.”

Quite how a former left-wing feminist has ended up declaring his admiration for Nigel Farage in Loaded magazine is a mystery to many. While his position on animal rights will continue to please his fans, and his return to defending the poor will be welcomed, some of his views - such as our relationship with the EU and his desire to see the return of old-fashioned buses and clippies - seem completely out of touch with modern British society. However, it’s his position on foreign aid which is arguably the most disconcerting. For a man who has built a career out of writing sensitive lyrics that seek to include outsiders, the idea that Britain - one of the wealthiest countries in the world - should suddenly stop providing aid that is helping to save millions of children’s lives in some of the poorest countries in the world, is desperately sad. In fact, even for his most ardent fans, some of his views are becoming unacceptable.

Morrissey. Photograph: Getty Images

Rob Pollard is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @_robpollard

Photo: Getty
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Cambridge Analytica and the digital war in Africa

Across the continent, UK expertise is being deployed online to sway elections and target dissidents.

Cambridge Analytica, the British political consultancy caught up in a huge scandal over its use of Facebook data, has boasted that they ran the successful campaigns of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 Kenyan elections. In a secretly filmed video, Mark Turnbull, a managing director for Cambridge Analytica and sister company SCL Elections, told a Channel 4 News’ undercover investigative reporting team that his firm secretly stage-managed Kenyatta’s hotly contested campaigns.

“We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing – so just about every element of this candidate,” Turnbull said of his firm’s work for Kenyatta’s party.

Cambridge Analytica boasts of manipulating voters’ deepest fears and worries. Last year’s Kenyan election was dogged by vicious online propaganda targeting opposition leader Raila Odinga, with images and films playing on people’s concerns about everything from terrorism to spiralling disease. No-one knows who produced the material. Cambridge Analytica denies involvement with these toxic videos – a claim that is hard to square with the company’s boast that they “staged the whole thing.” 

In any event, Kenyatta came to power in 2013 and won a second and final term last August, defeating Odinga by 1.4 million votes.

The work of this British company is only the tip of the iceberg. Another company, the public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, has apologised for stirring up racial hostility in South Africa on behalf of former President Jacob Zuma’s alleged financiers – the Gupta family. Bell Pottinger has since gone out of business.

Some electoral manipulation has been home grown. During the 2016 South African municipal elections the African National Congress established its own media manipulations operation.

Called the “war room” it was the ANC’s own “black ops” centre. The operation ranged from producing fake posters, apparently on behalf of opposition parties, to establishing 200 fake social media “influencers”. The team launched a news site, The New South African, which claimed to be a “platform for new voices offering a different perspective of South Africa”. The propaganda branded opposition parties as vehicles for the rich and not caring for the poor.

While the ANC denied any involvement, the matter became public when the public relations consultant hired by the party went to court for the non-payment of her bill. Among the court papers was an agreement between the claimant and the ANC general manager, Ignatius Jacobs. According to the email, the war room “will require input from the GM [ANC general manager Jacobs] and Cde Nkadimeng [an ANC linked businessman] on a daily basis. The ANC must appoint a political champion who has access to approval, as this is one of the key objectives of the war room.”

Such home-grown digital dirty wars appear to be the exception, rather than the rule, in the rest of Africa. Most activities are run by foreign firms.

Ethiopia, which is now in a political ferment, has turned to an Israeli software company to attack opponents of the government. A Canadian research group, Citizens Lab, reported that Ethiopian dissidents in the US, UK, and other countries were targeted with emails containing sophisticated commercial spyware posing as Adobe Flash updates and PDF plugins.

Citizens Lab says it identified the spyware as a product known as “PC Surveillance System (PSS)”. This is a described as a “commercial spyware product offered by Cyberbit —  an Israel-based cyber security company— and marketed to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

This is not the first time Ethiopia has been accused of turning to foreign companies for its cyber-operations. According to Human Rights Watch, this is at least the third spyware vendor that Ethiopia has used to target dissidents, journalists and activists since 2013.

Much of the early surveillance work was reportedly carried out by the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. More recently it has turned for more advanced surveillance technology from British, German and Italian companies. “Ethiopia appears to have acquired and used United Kingdom and Germany-based Gamma International’s FinFisher and Italy-based Hacking Team’s Remote Control System,” wrote Human Rights Watch in 2014.

Britain’s international development ministry – DFID – boasts that it not only supports good governance but provides funding to back it up. In 2017 the good governance programme had £20 million at its disposal, with an aim is to “help countries as they carry out political and economic reforms.” Perhaps the government should direct some of this funding to investigate just what British companies are up to in Africa, and the wider developing world.

Martin Plaut is a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Eritrea and, with Paul Holden, the author of Who Rules South Africa?