11 Days Remaining

Saturday 22nd
posted by Morning Star in Arts

WHAT a week. On Monday, Brighton & Hove Albion FC, the club I’ve supported since I was six years old, clinched promotion to the Premier League. Along with most of Sussex, I became a puddle of beer.

On Tuesday, May called a snap election for June 8.

There’s a link between the two, with a stirring message of hope for us all.

Labour have no chance in the forthcoming election, say the mainstream media.

The five unelected billionaires who control most of the national press have instructed their brown-nosing puppet “journalists” to pour scorn on Jeremy Corbyn from all sides.

The BBC, terrified of being accused of bias by those who themselves are biased, slavishly follows suit.

Opinion polls give the Tories a 20-point lead. Foregone conclusion, the commentators say.

But, exactly 20 years ago, they said the same thing about Brighton. With two games to go in the 1996-97 season we were bottom of the bottom division, 92nd out of 92, and heading out of the Football League into the Conference.

We fans had risen up and, after a long fight and a lot of direct action campaigning, finally got rid of hated chairman Bill Archer.

But he had sold our Goldstone ground to property developers.

We were homeless and knew that the following season, probably outside the Football League, we’d be playing home games at Gillingham, a round trip of 140 miles.

The end of a once-proud club, said the pundits. Despite the fans’ brave campaign, Brighton can’t come back from this.

How wrong they were.

In the penultimate game of the ’96-’97 season, our last-ever game at the Goldstone Ground, we beat Doncaster 1-0 and went to Hereford needing a draw to stay in the Football League. We got it.

We fans went to Gillingham the following season determined to bring the club back to Brighton as soon as possible.

We told Brighton Council that unless they found us a home in the city we’d stand against them as the Seagulls Party and rewrite political history on the Sussex coast.

Ordinary people, of all ages, social backgrounds and political persuasions united in a determination to save our club and bring it home. Two years later we got our new temporary Withdean stadium, albeit ramshackle and far too small.

Then began the battle for our new home at Falmer. It took 11 years, countless demonstrations and protests, two public inquiries, a few local election campaigns and a Top-20 hit single.

But, in 2011, we moved in. Secure in our new home things got better and better on the pitch and, last Monday, amid scenes of unbelievable happiness, we secured promotion to the Premier League. Last night I was at Norwich hoping to see us clinch the Championship title.

From the gutter to the stars. And all because a bunch of dedicated, determined people — most of whom had no previous experience of protests and campaigning or of politics — united in action.

It could have been a cherished open space, a theatre, anything valued by a local community. In our case, it just happened to be Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In my 40 years as a political activist and poet, it’s probably the most successful campaign I have ever been involved in.

The powers that be tell us ordinary people can’t make a difference, that the media will prevail, that money-men will always win. Our story at Brighton proves them wrong.

It took us 20 years and in this election campaign we have seven weeks. But the principle is the same. Get out there. Argue with friends, acquaintances, workmates, strangers. Nail the media lies. Organise to kick the Tories out by any means necessary — tactical alliances, vote swaps, you name it. We are the people. We can do it. We can win.

Just like we did at Brighton.

  • Attila is performing at Great Yarmouth Football Club tonight and the Smokehouse in Ipswich tomorrow.