Today dear reader is one of the most important days for this country that we’ve faced in decades, certainly since 1979. I wrote a piece a couple of years ago on the day of 2017’s general election, and while I got a couple of “shut up and sing” type emails, most visitors to this site understood where we’re coming from and indeed of the long and enduring link between music journalism and politics – just look at Rolling Stone and some of its most important writers over the years. We are also a Liverpool based website, and proud of it, a city which has been devastated by the largest cuts per head of population in the UK since 2010. Today then, as Ken Loach’s team said yesterday, represents a fork in the road – a day when we can choose to go one of two ways.
We can carry on the way we have been, not just for the last 9 years, which have been particularly gruesome, but in reality for the last four decades. A free-market society where the strong survive and the weak are not just viewed as weak but also responsible for the situation they find themselves in. A society where big business writes the rules, even if it doesn’t play by them, and where start-ups are priced out of the market by tax-avoiding multinationals. A society heading down the US road of decimated public services, privatised to squeeze out maximum profits for shareholders while investing little to nothing back into the thing they’re meant to be providing. An every man for himself society (and it is always about the men) which turns the other way, that crosses to the other side of the road. Insular, vindictive and blind to anything other than overt nationalism and “taking care of your own”.
But of course there is another way. We can start to think of ourselves as a collective “We” – looking after each other and trying to repair some of the deep-rooted structural damage which has over the years affected all parts of this country. Starting to invest properly again in our public services so they’re there for all of us when we fall ill, need support or just want to make our lives better. Building new affordable housing, so property isn’t just bought up by rich investors who make more money leaving it empty than they do from letting it out. Investing in a new green industrial revolution to bring high skilled jobs back to those communities forgotten by successive governments over many years, while meeting the challenges of climate change. Looking after our old people, who’ve worked all their lives, so someone like (Sir) Philip Green can’t just run off with billions while his employees lose their pensions. Having the confidence to look around, look at our diversity, and say – yup, this is who we are. Modern. Forward-looking. Inclusive.
Labour offers a solid programme to address many of these injustices, as do other progressive parties across the UK. The right party for you to vote for will differ from constituency to constituency, and hey, that’s not for us to tell you what to do. But let’s be frank about this – as a site which focuses on a form of music perhaps more closely associated with the US than any other (the clue is in the name), the genre represents a country whose president has done immeasurable damage to its status around the world, and we in our own little way day by day hopefully repair some of that damage by giving a platform to all that’s good about it. And if americana artists can speak out against the injustices which occur on a daily basis across the Atlantic, it’d be remiss of us as a site to not do the same when it’s on our own doorstep. And be under no illusions, all Johnson’s bullshit comes from exactly the same place – the “bum boys”, the “women who look like letterboxes”, the “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles.” Johnson is about the othering of those groups who don’t fit in with the modern Tory party’s deeply sinister neo-Conservative narrative. Setting us against each other. Blaming the migrant for the lack of good housing. Blaming the person on Universal Credit for not having a job. Blaming the homeless person for being on the street. So long as we blame people for their misfortunes, who cares when (and fuck me, this is still a staggering statistic) the UK’s six richest people are wealthier than the bottom 13.2 million.
Music is about bringing people together. Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie – some of the greats of our movement – would all be standing in solidarity with us if they were here today, their music a beacon of light for those without a voice. That’s what you can be today with your vote – that beacon of light – and whatever doubts you might have about the opposition and whatever form of government coalition or otherwise which might come out of this, surely it’s better than where we are now. We are better than that.
Hope is an overused word – ask any Obama supporter – but hope is exactly what’s being offered today. The most stark choice we’ve had in many people’s lifetimes, and one that won’t wait for another five years. Don’t choose fear. Don’t build walls. Vote today for hope.