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Jailhouse rock

‘Everybody in the whole cell block was dancing to the jailhouse rock’ Elvis Presley 1957

ImageI went recently to a public meeting about the government’s proposed ‘gagging’ bill. It was packed and angry and Stroud’s Tory MP found himself trying to defend the indefensible. He’d been very badly briefed by his own party, couldn’t cope with the well-informed questioners, and was driven to a position whereby he feebly asked us to take his word for it that ‘this bill is well-intentioned’. Cue jeers of derision.

In fact, we all know the bill is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech and freedom of action, and I believe it’s a sign that the government is rattled by its authority and stability being increasingly undermined by extra-parliamentary activity.

The bill has been driven by fear of trade unions and this has now been coupled with fear of the political impact of charities. I guess the success of the anti-poll tax campaign in bringing down Thatcher – extra-parliamentary action par excellence – must still haunt Cameron and co.

Opponents of extra-parliamentary campaigns routinely deride what they designate ‘one-issue’ activists, but campaigners against the arms trade, fracking, GM crops, hunting, page 3 girls, you name it, know that opposition in parliament gets you nowhere, and apparent support there soon dissipates or is betrayed.

Campaigning via the net has largely bypassed the tactics of the parliamentary game and raised world-wide pressure to free, for example, the Greenpeace Arctic sailors and the Pussy Rioters. In truth, both sets were rescued by Olympian political expediency on the part of KGB Putin, but without popular opposition to their imprisonment and to Putin’s hostility to gays, would he have given way?

A feminist slogan of the late ’60s which achieved wide currency was ‘the personal is political’ and three of the young women who make up the Russian so-called ‘punk band’ Pussy Riot have found, to their cost, that acting on these words can get you thrown in jail. Now, after a long struggle – and not for the best of reasons – they’ve been released.

In my November column, I wrote about the band The Red Propellers and its searing song, ‘Military Secrets’, about Chelsea Manning. The band is painfully personal and fiercely political in a way which was once a taken-for-granted component of rock music but now seems largely absent.

Its song about Pussy Riot, ‘Shattered Glass’, is maybe even stronger than ‘Military Secrets’ and its scorching drive and pounding riff has, for my money, a far greater impact than the anguished murmurings of the liberal press.

 

Thoughts turn to Jessica Ennis

Spinning on a golden platter

When what really should matter

Is Pussy Riot in a Russian Putin jail

Like a dark fairy tale

Like a religious inquisition

For taking a political position…..

 

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot

It’s not a

Fair fair fair

Fairy tale

It’s not a

Fair fair fair

Fairy tale

Put Putin in jail

Put Putin in jail…..

 

Shatter the glass

Shatter the glass

Shatter the glass

Shatter the glass….

 

You can still hear ‘Military Secrets’ on YouTube.

By the time you read this, a recent gig by The Red Propellers should be available on YouTube and you can decide for yourself.