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20 September 2016

Sleaford Mods: I fell foul of the Labour purge

The band's famously outspoken frontman on the paranoia surrounding the party's leadership election.

By Serena Kutchinksy

Sleaford Mods are one of the most political bands in Britain. Jason Williamson, their famously ranty frontman has built a career spitting out streams of working class disillusionment over angsty beats. A benefits advisor, until almost two years ago when he gave it up to focus on music full-time, his life experience has shaped the savage realism of his music. His awareness of the cold, hard reality of austerity politics inspired him to join the Labour Party last year in a bid to support the left-wing leadership bid of the then outsider, Jeremy Corbyn. A year later, he has found himself suspended from the party and unable to reaffirm his support for Corbyn in the party’s latest leadership election. He shares his experience with the New Statesman.

My sole reason for joining the Labour Party last year, was to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. It’s been up and down for his leadership, the Parliamentary Labour Party has made no secret of wanting him out, but I have stuck with him because, in my opinion, he speaks a lot of sense. Then last week, I got a letter saying the party had suspended my membership, ruling me out of voting in this year’s leadership election. The official reason for my expulsion is online abuse. Ok, so my output on Twitter is a bit aggressive, a bit vocal, but so is my music. I’m no different to anyone sitting in the pub with their mates communicating their absolute disgust at the political debacle unfolding around us.

After looking back through my Twitter feed, I suspect the reason they might have suspended me is because I called the Labour MP Dan Jarvis a “c**t” in a tweet on 9 March – although I didn’t include his Twitter handle so the comment was not directed at him. I had just read an article in The Guardian which claimed there was talk of him stepping up to be leader. He had all these Blairite mannerisms and was saying “Yes, inequality is something we need to look at” — it just seemed like the same old bullshit. So, I tweeted “he’s a posey c**t”. Another user exchanged with me on the matter but I didn’t think anymore of it because I didn’t mention Jarvis directly.

I have said similar things about Owen Smith, Hilary Benn and a few of the others who are against Corbyn but I’m just exercising my right to freedom of speech — these are the people who are destroying the Labour party. I’m not a huge fan of Labour, nor am I an ardent socialist, but what does the left have apart from Corbyn at the minute?

The situation has become totally absurd. Everyone’s paranoid. A friend of mine was so worried that he would get suspended from Labour for publicly sympathising with the Green Party in the past, that he made his email untraceable. Others have gone through their timeline and deleted anything that might make them look bad. What is going on?

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Twitter is in some senses a public forum — my band has 30,000 followers — but in another it’s a private space. It’s just me slashing off my thoughts to my followers, as I would do to the crowd during a gig. I didn’t go looking for a fight with Dan Jarvis, so I don’t understand why I’ve been targeted and suspended. I was just expressing my frustration at a party that is imploding at this crucial moment when the nation is facing years of Tory rule. What are you supposed to do? Sit there and talk intelligently about it? Sit there and bite your tongue? No, it just gets too much sometimes.

I swear a lot, so do a lot of people, but as a musician I try to bring politics into my lyrics because it’s important, especially now post Brexit — it’s so close to all of us. Seven years ago, before the coalition government came to power, nobody was talking about politics in public. Now, it’s gone haywire — people have always loved to moan about the “nasty party” but this is another level of anger. I’m not fussed about the Labour Party kicking me out, I just want Corbyn to get in again. It’s infuriating — I’ve paid them money for the past year and they won’t let me have my say just as the leadership contest is about to happen. It stinks.

Jeremy Corbyn probably wouldn’t like the music I make. He would probably rubbish my lyrical style — he seems a reasonable, intelligent man. I don’t think he would stand by me for one minute, but that’s not important. He seems sincere, while his latest challenger Owen Smith definitely doesn’t. I’ve been amazed by the some of the stupid comments Smith has made in this campaign, even allegedly talking about the size of his penis in public. We need to start changing the fabric of today’s society and stop hurting those people who have the least — Corbyn seems like he could offer some salvation to those in need. The polls might say he won’t win a general election, but how do we know? I’m suspicious of what I read a lot of the time. My view is — let the bloke in and see what he can do.

I won’t be joining another party. I only joined Labour because I wanted an alternative to the economic policy of the Cameron government. I wanted a cure and Corbyn made me feel something.